The ramblings of a woman,
wife, & mother, who loves:
Jesus / my man / the three,
learning about parenting /
mamahood / childbirth,
cooking foods healthy /
international / yummy,
pretending to garden /
write / design,
attempting to run /
exercise / lift weights,
enjoying traveling /
camping / adventures,
finding ways to love /
serve / sacrifice for others.

It is not to say she does these things
with style or grace, or even skill.


When Fiction Comes Alive

January 29, 2015 - 7:41 AM

Travel Log: 5 August 2012


Have you ever read the trilogy Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary CorrespondenceThey are, by far, three of my most treasured books. I fell in love with them ages ago in a bookstore in Soho, but it wasn't until years later that they came into my possession when we inherited the books from Josh's mom's collection.


Written in a style called "epistolary novel." (A new word I just learned, but one that brings me great joy knowing it exists, as some of my favorite books are in this style.) It means that the story is told through a series of documents, usually letters, and, in the instance of Griffin and Sabine, postcards, too. Part of the beauty of Griffin and Sabine is not only the rich illustrations that correspond with the postcards and letters, but also the simple pleasure that the letters are seperate pieces of paper and can be removed from envelopes in the books. 


And then there is the story.


So beautifully crafted, so romantic yet surreal, in both illustrations and in prose wound together, the story unfolds of a man and woman who have never met, yet their lives are connected through their art as they can see into each other's lives, sense a strong connection with one another, yet unsure if the other one exists or is a figment of their imagination. With each new book, the story becomes more developed.


Part of me, also, longs to tie the word / concept of serendipity to the trilogy. When I think of serendipity, my internal definition means, "A circumstance that brings two or more objects together in an unplanned yet perfect way, as if they were always intended to make one another complete." The true definition brings such phrases as "fortunate happenstance" and "pleasant surprise."


All of this to say, Josh and I experienced a real life, serendipitous, Griffin and Sabine, extraordinary circumstance, in our AirBnB home. From our first moments of entering the home and being blown away by the artwork and creativity, unbeknownst to each other, both of us had this surreal feeling, that in the depths of our minds and hearts, we were experiencing something oddly familiar through the mere objects in the home.


The funny thing about spending time in an AirBnB is that you are "getting-to-know" the person you're renting from without "knowing" them because you are living as they live and with their things. We knew the owner of the home was spending the month of August in a cottage on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. Her son, who lived in the same city, stopped by our first day there to welcome us and see if we needed anything. It was in speaking with him we were given our first snip-its of information about who his mother is: an art advocate who dabbles in art herself, a world traveler having lived and traveled for sometimes long periods of time in Alaska, Costa Rica, South America, Africa, and Asia, and a strong and driven person who once traveled from east coast to west coast with a pet donkey in her convertible.


Putting together who she was from what her son said and what we were feeling while living in her home, after a few days, I turned to Josh and said something to the effect of, "Is it just me, or does she not remind you of your mother? Like, the similarities are eerie and uncanny, yet pleasantly wonderful?" 

His response? "I was thinking the same thing. And her name is Wendy, too."


Throughout our month in Wendy's home, this feeling of warmth and depth mixed with surreal, dream-like familiarity, and an intimate connection with a woman we have never met in person, felt like we were Sabine and she, Griffin. We could see clearly into her world as if we always belonged.


Throughout our month in Wendy's home, it was always the little things that reminded us of Josh's mom - the wooden snake hanging from the staircase, the collection of curios, the mix of found objects. I began taking a photo every day we were there of a new discovery in the house.


Throughout our month in Wendy's home, I would often remark to our Three comments like, "When dad was growing up his house was an art museum just like this... Grandma Wendy was such a creative woman she collected such beautiful pieces like this... Grandma Wendy's sense of humor about art was very similar to this... Grandma Wendy..."  


Later on during our month in Boulder, Josh's dad came out to visit us and he, too, felt the same surreal, yet intimate connection. We still have yet to meet this wonderful woman face-to-face, we've only connected via email, but in my final email to her I told her our feelings of strong connection to her to which she wrote a beautiful email in response, along with, "What a glorious note. I am amazed and touched by your story of Josh's Mom, and so happy that the house and the spirit of me in it reminded you of her."


And then, in her closing words, she happened to mention the name of her grand daughter who was just waking up and she needed to tend to.



Leaving for and Arriving to Boulder

January 24, 2015 - 10:02 AM

Travel Log: 4 August 2012

We enjoyed a month in IA before leaving for our month in Boulder, CO. During that time we enjoyed a skateboard competition, state swim meet, first ever week-long day camps and first ever week-long overnight camps, and a day of RAGBRAI. All the while, I was packing up for a month away, both physically and mentally.

The packing physically was, and is, second nature. I know how to mazimize the space in our Volvo and in our Yakima box, I know how to choose just the right amount of clothes for the kids and I, I know how to help the kids pick out the right amount toys to bring along, I know how to pack gear for climbing and biking, and I know how to pack electronic devices from laptops to routers. (And, if it does take place during the school year, I know how to pack for that, as well.)

Packing mentally was, and continues to be, an evolution of emotions for the three and me. Though they seem to be sporadic, our emotions do follow a process that can be charted of highs to lows to highs to lows to stabilization. The highs of the excitement of anticipation of going to a new location, the lows of realizing we will miss family and friends, the highs of the excitement of travel and arriving at our destination, the lows of realizing we will miss family and friends not being with us, to the stabilization that comes with settling into our new home, making new friends, and getting back into a normal swing. 

During this adventure, unlike our previous travels to CA and UT where we stayed in vacation rentals that are generally decorated sparcely, we would be staying in someone's actual home. In addition, unlike our CA downtown adventure where we didn't have neighbors and our CA suburb adventure where you couldn't even walk on the streets, this Boulder home is in an actual neighborhood, very similar to our own home in IA, and is within walking distance to things like the ped mall, creek, and library. This part was crucial for us in helping make the stabilization process go more smoothly than it did in CA. However, unlike our own home, we would be staying in an art museum-esque, cottage-like in design but spacious in build, home. And the owner's caution of fragile things was remarkably understated. Oh my.

When we arrived to the house at 7:30pm, after a full 12 hours of driving, I went in hoping that I wouldn't have my normal freak out but once I walked in, I knew it was inevitable. The AirBnB photos captured the adorable qualities of the house but paled to capture the depth. It wasn't simply original oil paintings on the wall, kind of art museum-esque house. It was everything, everywhere. It was bronze sculptures and handmade Inuit dolls, African masks and embroidered doilies from South America, antique dining tables and chairs, and the priceless pieces covered every table, counter, corner, bed, floor, wall, shelf, ceiling, and ledge.

living room

The home is long and narrow, with a spiral staircase reaching from the second floor master bedroom suite to the basement bedroom. Half of the main floor, the living room, is valuted and open to the second floor's loft area office. While the original construction of the home was early 20th century, the interior of the home had been remodeled in the previous two years with a perfect balance of refinishing original touches to adding flawless compliments, from the covered balcony / porch off the mater bedroom to the new claw foot tub in the master bathroom, then donned in priceless pieces.


The alcove / balcony / porch from the second floor master bedroom where I spent every morning.


The view out to the alcove / blacony / porch with my laundry hanging out to dry.


The master bathroom was everyone's favorite and this is one of my favorite photos ever.

The exterior of the home belongs in a Hans Christian Anderson story. The cream stucco finish with dark wood trim highlighting the high pitched gables was reminiscent of our time in Austria. And the yard. Oh, the yard. Long and narrow to match the house, surrounded by a dark stained picket fence, the landscaping of flowers and ground cover was expertly chosen and maincured - perfect for fairies to play. There is an arbor with grape vines and seating, a large patio with dining seating (that we truly used for almost every meal), an antique bench and minature Buddhist pagoda for more fairy play, and a perfectly placed rope swing on a sturdy little tree.


A rainy day bringing out the vibrant greens of the front yard.


Having the adorable New Zealand neighborboy over for drawing on the back patio.

However, our first night in Boulder, even with the overwhelming beauty of the home, the sweet touches the owner left for us like breakfast and snacks (something lovingly common to AirBnBs and not so much to VRBOs), and the deeply felt thankfulness for safe travels, reality set in as our little one got hit by one of their massive migraines that bring both pain and vomit, and was brought on by excitement, altitude, and inadequate water intake. (Hence, why now we overly stress water intake, water intake, water intake, days before and while traveling when going to higher elevations.) That first night there, we were also thankful for how clean the home was in order to make the bathroom floor a bedroom.



Grandpa's Cabin in the Summertime/Heat

January 8, 2015 - 2:39 PM

Travel Log: 2 July 2012

We made the journey across northern Minnesota from Grand Marais to north of Walker in order to spend 4 nights at Grandpa's cabin with Grandpa and the Quickert 5.9. (5.9 as Maren was 8 months pregnant with lil' Justus! :)!) Unlike winter, Grandpa's cabin in the summertime is as typical lake life as is expected in Minnesota. We call it a cabin because it was once a tiny 2 bedroom, outdated cabin/shack until Mark bought it, doubled its size, and remodeled everything, beautiful kitchen with all the amentities, air conditioning in the summer and wood burning stove plus heaters for the winter, inside and out finished in pine siding. (Well, all remodeled except the guest bathroom, hopefully that'll be this summer, :)!)

gpas cabin

The surroundings are beautiful, too, a large flat grassy yard, perfect for badminton or croquet, with a long shallow shoreline perfect for little ones, a speed boat for tubing and fishing, a pontoon for all to fish from, and a massive screen porch for mosquito protection but also with a western view to watch breathtaking sunsets. It is a gorgeous lake house more than a typical cabin, :)!

Unlike the North Shore, the rest of Minnesota was experiencing a painful heat wave of high 90's and massive humidity. Within moments of arriving to the cabin, the kids were in their trunks and in the water with their cousins, and bouncing around from fishing to swimming to trying to do both at once.




From the photos above, it looks like a normal day on Grandpa's lake, peaceful and calm. But around 8pm, the weather turned, massive clouds began forming across the lake on its west edge, the winds picked up, and the rains came. In a heartbeat, we were being pounded by a massive thunderstorm with tornado-force winds. (Later, we learned tornados did actually touch down in surrounding areas.) The 11 of us all huddled in the safest spot in the cabin and discussed if the tiny crawl space would fit our group. The power went out as the storm raged and the screened in porch was taking a beating. The lawn looked like a lake itself from the torrential rains.

Around 10:30pm, the power had not come back on, but the storms had calmed enough that we felt like we could send the kids to bed safely. Unlike city life, the water at the cabin is powered by electricity. We had no electricity and no running water from faucets or water in the toilets. And even though it was night, the lessening of the storm brought back the heat with a vengeance. We all went to bed hoping that when we woke the power would be restored.

Travel Log: 3 July 2012



Unfortunately, the dawn did not bring the power. Thankfully, we had cereal for breakfast, some bottled water on hand for drinking, the next door neighbor had an outhouse we could use, a lake to try and cool off in, and a grill for lunch and dinner. Grandpa Mark found a generator for sale but it would take him over 6 hours to get it and return. During that time the rest of us closed all the curtains and tried to make the house as cool as possible. Even with all the lake playing, we were running out of water and our over-heated spirits were waning. We opted to make the (car air conditioned!) drive into town in order to go to the ice cream shop (and buy more drinking water) for some relief. Just look at these sweaty cuties and their melted ice cream!


We arrived home hoping the power would be restored, but it wasn't. Mark was back with the generator but it only produced enough energy to power the refrigerator and a small fan. We focused the fan on the beautiful pregnant woman and prayed the power would return - but to no avail.   

Travel Log: 4 July 2012

After going 40 hours with no electricity, no running water, and intense heat - we called it. 

Being hard core campers, Maren and I were bummed. If we had known we were going camping without such amenities, we would have packed differently and been better prepared. But after 40 hours of trying our best to stay positive and make do - we called it. It was heart breaking for everyone, as we cherished our rare times together, but it was done, we couldn't stay as long as we had planned.

Within four hours on the road south to home, we got the call that the power was finally restored at the cabin. If only we had hung in there a little longer! But as it was, we had made it to our favorite Thai place in the Twin Cities area and had just settled in to enjoy our Fourth of July in typical A Christmas Story style and decided not to make the drive back up. We still had another 6 hours to home, but spending those 6 hours in an air-conditioned car was heaven on earth.


Classic Lodge Life

January 7, 2015 - 12:11 PM

Travel Log: 1 July 2012


We weren't quite ready to give up the North Shore, but we couldn't stay in our current cabin any longer since they were booked, so we made quick reservations to stay a night at a familiar lodge located just south of Grand Marais. The Cascade Lodge has a history dating back to the 1920's but was primarily built as it stands today during the 40's and 50's. It was designed in what you would imagine as classic lodge style - a large rustic lodge with hotel rooms, having a massive great hall with seating (originally used for dining but now a separate building serves that purpose), piano, and board games, and a basement filled with arcade games and ping pong. It's funny to me that the whole set up reminds me of the show Newhart for some reason, :)!

They also offer a variety of sizes of log cabins for rent, which is where we opted to stay for this visit and where, 7 years earlier, Josh and I had stayed for a beautiful winter anniversary trip of snowshoeing. We jokingly wanted the exact same cabin we had before so we could see if they had fixed the wood burning stove. Someone, not naming any names, may have almost burned down our cabin the last time, charring the door's handle, ha!

Normally, when we travel to the North Shore, Josh is completely unplugged from work, it is a true vacation. However, for me, this day, the first of the month, I actually had work to do. Our administrative assistant was on maternity leave and I had to complete invoices. I set up a mobile office in the great hall of the lodge with my laptop and printer, while Josh and the kids enjoyed all the amenities of the area - hiking along the Cascade Waterfall in nearby Cascade State Park, playing in the lodge basement, and jumping into Lake Superior. Thankfully, they came back for me at the end of the day so that I could see the waterfall and witness their bravery firsthand...

We drove back up to town to have dinner at the infamous and delicious Sven and Ole's Pizza Joint and then drove to the lookout at the start of the Gunflint Trail in order to watch the sun set and listen to the bird calls, bidding us a final farewell to one of the most beautiful places on earth.



Visiting the Least Visited National Park

January 7, 2015 - 10:27 AM

Travel Log: 30 June 2012

The least visited National Park (in the lower 48 states) is Isle Royale National Park. Isle Royale is the largest island located in Lake Superior with its widest measurements at 45 miles long and up to 9 miles tall. There are no roads on the island, no permanent residents, but it does offer 170 miles of hiking trails making it popular for week long backpackers where the goal is to either travel from one tip of the island to the other or to circumnavigate the entire island. (Something I'd love to do!) And, even though it is a 1.5ish hour ferry ride from Minnesota and a 3.5ish hour ferry ride from Michigan, the island is technically considered part of Michigan. Silly Michigan snagging the island for copper first!


We made online reservations for the ferry departing from Grand Portage, Minnesota. We woke up very early to make the drive from Grand Marais to Grand Portage, packed up a daypack of food and water, and packed up fishing gear for the boys (since they could fish without having Michigan fishing licenses), and headed out. In rare form, the 1.5 hour ferry ride was calm on our way to the island.


Once on the island, we learned about the Junior Ranger Program that the National Parks Service offers. For as many national parks as we have been to, I couldn't believe we had never heard of this before. Each park offers a different set of hoops that a person has to jump through to receive the junior ranger badge displaying the park visited's name. Sometimes it is filling out an entire booklet, sometimes answering a quiz from a park ranger, and sometimes you can just look cute. Whatever the hoop, our kids did this here for the first time and have loved doing at other national parks and monuments since.


We hiked into the interior of the island to find little inner lakes for the boys to fish in and we hoped to spy an elusive moose. A hundred years prior, moose swam over from Canada and settled happily on Isle Royale. Years later a pair of wolves made the crossing on the frozen lake. Interestingly enough, since the 1950's the balance of predator and prey, moose vs. wolf, has been studied and recorded by scientists. In the mid-ninties, when Josh was there for a hiking trip across the island, the island was teeming with moose. When reminded of it, he always proclaims, "There were SO many moose! They were everywhere!" Because the animals are studied so closely, we learned that the population of wolves was down back then due to a person (illegally) bringing their dog to the island that had a virus that infected the wolves. However, upon our visit this time, the population of moose and wolves were way down due to a current disease affecting the moose and without moose to eat the wolf population was down. How amazing to have such a contained ecosystem to study at your disposal! 



The ride back to Grand Portage was cold and bumpy. Everyone welcomed the, now, 2.5 hour ride as a way to rest from the day's hiking. This proved to be a blessing also because we decided to stop at the Grand Portage National Monument on our way back to Grand Marais.

The Grand Portage National Monument tells the history of the fur trading industry of the late 1700's. They have a newly constructed welcome center that tells the history and has artifacts, but the truly wonderful part of the monument is the Historic Depot. Although the buildings are replicas built in the 1930's, they have taken great measures to recreate the trading company accurately with a great hall, kitchen, canoe warehouse, gatehouse, and on the outskirts an Ojibwe village, voyageur's encampment, and a historic garden. During the summer months, the Historic Depot literally comes alive as an interpretive exhibit. They have an incredibly knowledgable stafff that dress and work as those of the time period. There was a man working in the kitchen, making authentic recipes with authentic tools and sharing the results with visitors. There was a man in the canoe warehouse who was building an authentic canoe of the period, using the same tools, and, admittedly, on his 4th summer working on the same project. There was a woman tending to the Three Sisters garden and another woman tanning a hide to make new shoes for herself. (It is not unlike Living History Farms in Iowa, but this is free and, no offense, the high level of skill and detail by the Grand Portage staff doesn't compare, :)!)


Herring, filleted, held on a board by wooden nails, and placed inside a fire to cook, and samples are served.

After acquiring another national parks' junior ranger badge, we headed back to our cabin on the shore for a quick dinner and then back outside for a visit to the lake once again. We have yet to tire of the lake.





Canada and My Over Active Imagination

January 5, 2015 - 7:24 PM

Travel Log: 29 June 2012


I was not exaggerating. 8AM. This was where we were. The Three throwing rocks, building dams, trying to spear minnows, making foot spas, etc, and I was reading. Josh; however, was off on a biking adventure. His plan was to ride his bike from Grand Marais, MN to Thunder Bay, Canada (over 80ish miles away). We were then planning to meet him there for a late lunch. We stayed right in this spot until it was time for us to leave, 4 hours later. No joke. 4 hours. One spot.

foot bath

We really didn't want to leave, but we drug ourselves away at the last minute and drove to Thunder Bay in order to meet Josh at Prince Arthur's Landing at Marina Park. Prince Arthur's Landing ended up being more wonderful than we planned offering a splash pad area, sweet skateboard park, beautiful public art throughout, and a marina teemng with ocean-sized sailboats for "ooh's" and "aah's."


It was while admiring the sailboats that a random woman approached us. 

We had set up our camera for a goofy self portrait when a woman asked if she could also take our photo but with her camera. She said she was trying to get back into the photography business, was going to be taking some family photos in the near future, and wanted to take our portrait with the current lighting for her research. It sounds like a legit situation, but I couldn't help but feel weird about the personal questions she was asking us and how she seemed like she was tailing us around the marina and how to seemed she like she followed us to our car and... it was very un-nerving. 

And then, my over-active imagination kicked in... 

What if she was taking our license plate and planning to have us arrested for something we said or did while she was tailing us and she isn't a photographer but works for the Canadian Mounties and actually followed us to lunch and is going to be waiting for us when we leave the pub to arrest us or she is going to follow us back to the US and, and, and... holy moly! I am ridiculous!

I'd like to think this is the only time I've let my imagination get the best of me, but it isn't. Goodness, it just happened last weekend...

It was Saturday night, 11:30pm, freezing cold and windy out, we had literally just arrived home, walked into our house, and were hanging out in our basement with the kids when a ring came from our front doorbell. I went to the door and turned on the light to see a young woman, maybe 25-28 years old, with a carry-on luggage bag saying through tears, "I'm lost." 

I immediately responded, "Oh, sweetie, you're safe now!" As I pulled her into our house, I hugged her tightly, as she hugged me just as tightly in return.

We welcomed her into our home, feed her tea, helped find a hotel for her to stay in, and drove her to the hotel. She was incredibly thankful and appreciative for all we did and seemed hopeful for being on the right path for the night. 

As soon as Josh left to take her to the hotel, my over-active imagination went into over-drive. 

Wait, did she say she was walking around for an hour and a half? She didn't feel as cold as someone should for such a night when I hugged her. Wait, we had our various electronic devices sitting around the house, right in front of her. What if she was scoping our house to rob it later? Wait, her footprints started from the right? Maybe she was dropped off by someone to the front door in order to confirm that the house was empty and her counterpart was actually going to the back and we happened to slip in the house between the timing. Wait, did the map of where she showed me where she was going to look like she was starting from exactly in front of our house? She was probably scoping out our house all night!...

Even though I got my imagination under control that night, a few days later...

Oh no! We all left the house at the same time to go see a movie, maybe she's come back and they have been waiting for us to leave this whole time... THEY'RE ROBBING US RIGHT NOW!!!!! ... Holy moly! Make it stop! I am ridiculous! Oy!

It's always at such times that I go back to one of the first verses I had the kids memorize, "Fear of man proves to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." While that doesn't mean to me just because I trust in the Lord bad things will never happen, it does remind me that overall, no matter what, I shouldn't be fearful of what man can do to me here on this earth.


Thankfully, last Saturday, just like back in ole Canada, the truth overcame my over-active imagination and soon enough, we were back to our spot on the shore, throwing rocks, buildings dams, making foot baths, etc, and I was reading until the sun gave out. We stayed right in this spot until it was time for us to go inside for a late night dinner, 4 hours later. No joke. 4 hours. The same one spot.



Welcome! I am glad you're here! If you are new and would like to get caught up on what's going on, check out these quick links to get you started:

About Me and This Blog...

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2012 to CA, MN, CO
   Ladies Trip to Napa Valley
   My Parents Rode in a Plane!

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2012 to MN and CO
   Vacation to the North Shore and Cabin
   Boulder for the Summer
   Life in Boulder

Begin Our Adventures of Winter/Spring 2012 to UT
   The Drive to CO/UT Begins
   Vacation in Moab
   Living in Moab / Denver

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2011 to CA
   The Drive to CA Begins
   Living in the SF
   Living in the Suburbs
   Coming Home to IC

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2010 to Eastern Europe
   Life at Czech English Camp
   Travels in Germany & Austria
   Travels in Czech & Poland


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