Summer vacation at Grand Pines Resort

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Warning, lots of awesomely bad iPhone pictures ahead!

So I mentioned that we’d been on vacation for a week, and here’s where we went:

We were at the Grand Pines Resort, in Hayward, Wisconsin – about a six and a half hour drive from where we live in the northwest Chicago suburbs. Grand Pines is a pretty neat place – we stayed in a cabin big enough to hold my dad, brother, and the four of us and still be cozy. Grand Pines is home to the original Famous Dave’s restaurant, and the cabins are decorated exactly like the restaurants are – lots of antlers and random antique sort of stuff covering almost every surface. It’s fun.  :)  One cool thing about the cabin rentals is that they all come with a pontoon boat you get to use for the week. So obviously our vacation included a lot of time on the lake, fishing, driving around, and swimming:

But there’s more to do in Hayward than just spend time on the water. We also visited a little zoo (where the kids got to feed baby deer!), went go-karting, and saw a lumberjack show:

Of course one of the most important parts of any vacation to me is the food.  :)  We spent plenty of time eating ice cream, feeding the ducks, and drinking a Bloody Mary that qualified as a meal all on its own:

All in all it was a really great trip, and if you’re in the area I’d definitely recommend spending a week at Grand Pines if you ever get the chance. It was by far the most relaxing week of my entire summer, and I’m so very thankful my family was able to take this trip. I’ll leave you with a picture of a gorgeous Northwoods sunset. I hope you’ve all been able to take in some beautiful surroundings and fresh air this summer!

Wordless Wednesday {7/24/2013}

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We spent the last week on vacation in northern Wisconsin (longer, photo-filled post coming soon!), and I just loved this picture I got of Daniel fishing off our pier at sunset:

The first week of summer

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We just got back from a road trip! Our first week of official summer break was spent on vacation – we drove from Chicago to Texas to visit my husband’s family. We were there for five days, and got back last night. The trip was a lot of fun, and the kids were absolutely AWESOME in the car (it’s about a 17 hour drive – we split it into 3 days on the way there, and 2 on the way back).

I’m back at work already today, but will be posting some road trip tips later this week. I tried to grab an iPhone photo at each state sign we passed – the only one I didn’t get was the Illinois sign on our return; it was pouring rain at that point and I kind of just wanted to get home.  :)

I hope your summers are all off to as great a start as ours has been!

A Weekend in Tucson {With Kids}

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So I’m just now getting to write about our spring break trip – life has been absolutely nuts lately! We had a really great time in Tucson with my dad and brother over a long weekend in March. We rented a house via VRBO – if you prefer a hotel I’ve heard great things about the Loews Ventana (our house was in the same neighborhood as the Loews). We were there from Thursday to Monday morning, and I actually feel like we could have used a few more days – who knew there was so much to see and do in Tucson?? Without further ado, here are 5 spots in Tucson to visit with the kids:

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – part zoo, part museum, part nature center. Lots of fun! Easily navigated paths wind throughout the mostly outdoor museum, where over 300 animal species are on display. There’s a good reason why tripadvisor ranks this the number one pick in Tucson. Allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need, and be sure to grab lunch at the Ocotillo Café, yum!

Saguaro National Park – I truly believe everyone needs to experience the beauty of our country’s national parks, and Saguaro doesn’t disappoint. We visited the east side of the park, which is a bit flatter than the west, but equally awe-inspiring. The Desert Ecology Trail is a quick, paved walk that anyone can do, even the youngest of hikers. The Freeman Homestead Trail is a little more adventurous, but still very family-friendly – it’s a 1 mile walk that my four and five-year old were both able to complete (though Daniel was carried a bit at the end). Whatever trail you choose, be sure to bring water and a camera!

El Charro café – two words: carne seca. I can’t even begin to describe how perfect this deliciously dried beef is. And it’s okay if your kids aren’t into Mexican food, even the chicken nuggets were yummy. We went to the Ventana location (twice). Service was great the first time we went, so-so the next, but the food was consistently awesome both times. Seriously, get the carne seca. You’re welcome.

Mt. Lemmon – drive about an hour and you’ll reach a place where the towering saguaros of Tucson are a distant memory. The Catalina Highway leads 26 miles up to the town of Sumerhaven, where pine trees replace cacti, and the air is much cooler than it was down below. Go for a walk in the woods, and be sure to stop and get some fudge at the general store (mint chocolate was one of our favorites!).

Trail Dust Town – kind of a hokey little place (I hear Old Tucson is, shall we say, nicer, but it was also much farther from our house, so we went with Trail Dust Town), but lots of fun for the kids. There are a few rides (a small ferris wheel, a carousel, a train) and shops to explore, a shooting gallery, and a wild west show that had Daniel cracking up for a half hour straight. Eat dinner at Pinnacle Peak (I highly recommend the pit beef), and if you want to really leave your mark be sure to wear a tie to dinner – they’ll cut it off of you and pin it to the wall. Really.  :)

A few other places I’ve got to mention – El Guero Canelo has some seriously yummy food (try the hot dog or a torta), Kartchner Caverns is about an hour out of town, but really pretty (especially good for older kids who’ve not seen caverns before), I hear Sabino Canyon is gorgeous and a lot of fun, and the Biosphere (remember that?) is about an hour north of town. The weather when we went (late March) was pretty mild – sunny and warm during the days and just a little cool in the mornings and evenings – but I hear the summer heat can be downright brutal. It can take a while to get from point a to point b in Tucson (so many stoplights!), so check directions ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Have you been to Tucson? Anything else you’d recommend?

Fear of Flying

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I don’t have many fears. Spiders. Drowning. Ruining my favorite pair of shoes. But my  biggest fear? Flying.

I haven’t always been this way – I’ve been on well over 100 flights in my life; travel isn’t a new thing for me or my family. But I’m flying solo this weekend, and I am scared.

I’ve spent literally hours over the past 2 weeks pouring over crash statistics. I’ve written letters to my kids and husband just in case I don’t make it home. I’m obsessing over the fear.

But I think this has nothing to do with getting on a plane. I’m flying to Nebraska to work on a project I care very much about. Leaving my family for two days to focus completely on something *I* feel passionate about. This is uncharted water for me.

It’s scary to thrust ourselves into the unknown. There is a fear that the benefits won’t out weigh the risk.

But they DO.

It would be easy to stay home. To not put myself out there, to not face my fear. But what would that achieve? Nothing. I don’t want to do nothing, I want to do GREAT things. I want to show myself and my daughter and all the other women who look up to me that it’s possible to move past fear into action.

I don’t want to fly, I want to soar.

But before I can do that, I gotta get on the plane.

So this weekend I will take one last look at my statistics, hug my kids tight, and head to the airport. I’ll put on a brave face, grip the armrests tight, and count down the minutes til I’m back on the ground. And ultimately I will step off the plane knowing that I’m doing everything in my power to show my daughter that she should never let fear keep her on the ground.That she should embrace every opportunity she has to soar.

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