Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celebrating 10 years!

In June, we celebrated our 10 yr anniversary!  Hard to believe that 10 years ago our families were both on an Alaskan cruise & we were married in Juneau.  At the time, we figured we'd be celebrating our 10 year back in Alaska... but with the move & building of the new house, this just wasn't the year to do it.  In the midst of a busy summer, we did manage to at least get away for a weekend (sans kids, thanks to the in-laws!).  We headed to a Pine Grove Bed & Breakfast in Reedsburg, WI & spent some time exploring the area.

Our B&B was outside of town, so our first evening we decided to bike into town for dinner.  It was only a couple miles & it was a nice night for a ride.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at Donny's, a spot that seemed to be quite a hit with the locals.

There was a nice fire pit down by the pond, so Mike got the fire going while I grabbed the wine!  We enjoyed both nights out by the fire. 
This B&B is unique in that all the rooms are stand-alone units.  Our room is in the building just behind me.  We had the top floor of this "cabin" (the bottom is just storage).  Then in the morning, they bring a wonderful breakfast spread to you... Mike really liked the not having to socialize with strangers aspect of this B&B! 

After breakfast, we figured out our game plan for the day.  First stop was hitting the Wollersheim Winery about 1/2 hr away from us.  It is nestled in the river valley & has a beautiful location.
 We took their tour which was quite interesting as this winery dates back to the mid-1800s, though for some period of time in the mid 1900s, it was just a farm.

 And of course, all good tours end with a tasting!  We enjoyed the winery because they actually make some good red wines that aren't sweet.  A lot of the local wineries in the midwest tend to make sweet & fruity wines, which just aren't to our liking.

They have beautiful grounds & have done a really nice job of bringing a little "Napa Valley" to the midwest! 

After leaving the winery, we headed to Baraboo, WI... home of the Ringling Bros. Circus Museum.  That wasn't on our agenda... instead we biked from there to Devil's Lake State Park to do some hiking. 

We weren't the only ones with that idea!  Guess it didn't help that it happened to be the day of some 100th year celebration or something along those lines.  The park was BUSY! 

 After our busy day, we found a great dinner at Monk's in Baraboo.  Good beer on tap & good food!

We enjoyed our breakfast on the porch each morning & were thankful to have nice mornings to enjoy eating outside! We really enjoyed our quick but fun weekend away!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Visit to the Farm

At the end of June, we had a visit from our friends Miriam, Ella (7.5) & Berit (5.5)... friends of ours from the cities.  The kids were so excited to see each other!  They had been eager to visit the farm & wondered if they have to go get their own eggs & milk... & if we had a toilet in our house!
Brandon & Ella immediately began working on a puppet show for us.  It was quite amusing! 

Then the girls decided it was dressup time...
 ... & spent some time mooing at the cows!

Brandon & Ella have always played well as she is a rough & tumble girl... gotta love a girl who will light saber fight even if she is in her best evening wear!

The kids enjoyed dinner in the screen porch & then it was off for movie time...

The next day we headed to Lake Winona for some biking & playtime. 

After our bike ride, we grabbed lunch & headed to LaCanne park to play at the swim beach & playground.
 Melanie & Berit

 Brandon & Ella

 The tire swing is always a hit with the kids!

We had a blast with our friends & as always, the kids were sad to see their friends go!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We ♥ Camping!

To say that we love camping is an understatement... which is probably why we had our kids out camping as soon as we could. Brandon, being a December baby, was sleeping in a tent at 4 months (April) & Melanie, being a May baby, was out at 5 weeks old. They seemed to take to it quite easily... guess it is in their blood!
Since we also enjoy canoeing & bought our own the year we got married, we also got them out early on for that as well & they have done amazingly well pretty much from day 1.

So it is only natural that with our love of canoeing & camping, the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) was one of our favorite camping spots prior to having kids. It is an area that borders northern Minnesota & Canada & is an area that you canoe-in & camp (kind of like backpacking in a canoe). Obviously with that kind of camping, one can’t bring all the luxuries that one can stuff in a car... so all things are pared down from the camp “essentials” to food (no cooler & generally dried stuff is lighter & packs with minimal space). Some people do insane trips where they paddle & portage daily, putting lots of miles on & finding new camp sites every night. We always took the more sane (or lazy, some might say) approach & had a couple lakes we liked that were 3-5 miles in, mainly paddling & only a small portage (if any)... we would set up camp & stay in one spot, fishing the lake we were on & doing day trip exploration to others if we felt the need. Generally there are only a few designated campsites per lake & it is amazing how peaceful & quiet it is with no motorized boats, no electricity, no running water or facilities... just nature! It is an awesome place to take in amazing star-filled skies, all sorts of wildlife & the northern lights if one is lucky. 
Given that these are the types of lakes I grew up with in NM (left, Cochiti Lake near Abq, NM), I'm still in awe of how green & beautiful the lakes of Minnesota are.

When Brandon was not quite 2, we had a longing to get back into the BWCA & since he was such a good little canoeist, we decided to give it a go.

It was a fabulous trip & we got a great spot on one of our favorite lakes... and Brandon quickly learned the word WALLEYE! And by the end of the weekend we were all tired of eating fish! (a very good problem to have!)

Us & our gear... getting ready to load up the canoe & paddle out.

2 years ago, we were again missing the BWCA but weren’t sure we were ready to try that adventure with both kids just yet & instead found a little “loop hole” to the whole trip & discovered there are some very rustic camping spots on the fringe of the BWCA but that one can drive to & then did day trips into the BWCA to explore & fish... much easier with 2 kids!! It still has most of the benefits of the BWCA since the campgrounds are so rustic (i.e no showers or water) & only have 3-5 sites but the bonus is you can drive right up. This time we targeted a different favorite spot & once again had phenomenal fishing. There is a chance that Brandon might never again experience 2 days of fishing THAT good!

Last summer, we had a unexpected hiatus from camping... partly due to mishaps (Melanie got the stomach flu the morning we were supposed to head out for Memorial weekend, followed by Mike & I later that day) & partly due to all we had going on with house building & temporary living in downtown Minneapolis. I can honestly say that I missed it... & was very much looking forward to making up for lost time this summer! So as soon as Brandon was done with school in early June, we planned a long weekend to head back up to the BWCA for some camping & fishing. We got a great spot right where hoped to be & then only had a 3 mile paddle in during the day to fish one of our favorite lakes.
Our campsite

A perfect view of the lake! ☺

Melanie would disappear into the tent to periodically to feed & take care of her dog Bella that she had brought along!

The boys enjoyed a litte late evening fishing

From our site, we had about a 3 mile paddle into our secret fishing lake.  The kids like going through all the lily pads in the river that is between the lake we were camped on & our "honey hole". 

The fishing wasn't "phenomenal", but our standards are pretty high... we had good enough fishing to have 3 meals of fish. Guess you'd call that pretty good fishing!

Melanie gathered lots of lily pads & flowers & made a nice arrangement with them.

Brandon likes to saw wood... & let's just say, Mike doesn't mind sitting back & not having to cut firewood.

Melanie caught a fish while her line was barely out & was just floating in a crevice between 2 rocks... she thought that was pretty funny!
We had an awesome time camping in one of our FAVORITE areas!