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.


Knitting Revolution: a Mother / Son Bonding Time

February 29, 2008 - 12:24 AM

On our recent trip to AK, Kari invited me to join the Knitting Revolution! I happily joined, knowing our two 9-hour one-way drives (with a cabin and a fireplace lodged between) were the perfect grounds for such a knitting attempt on my part. Knowing my world, this was my one and only shot to do it and finish it, save for it to sit for all eternity - incomplete. My project: I would knit a pretty-in-pink scarf for our little Miriam who had been wearing her daddy's businessman's-gray scarf all winter long.

I will be the first to admit I quickly became a knitting grouch when I realized that I got car sick while knitting and feared that there would be no way for me to get it done. Thanks to some rain and cold, a warm fire, and a whole lotta positive encouragement from Kari, I got it done within the final moments of the journey. Even though, it is a fun revolution, I declared I may never knit but for 2 more scarfs, one for each of the boys. However, those scarfs would have to wait for another vacation and were in my mind, near impossible tasks.

Happily, Miriam loved her scarf. The boys loved it too and they requested their own mama-made scarves with large child eyes of wonderment and pride that their mom can make something they could wear.

I was hooked... yarn and knitting needles.

Zeke also wanted me to teach him how to knit and last night I started Zeke on his scarf. I taught him all I know, which wasn't much, and he began knitting. Once he had the system down he says, "Mom, you should knit something too so we can knit together."

Wooed by his loving smile, I sat next to him and started knitting Max's scarf. Within moments I realized I was jealous of all the times Josh has gone fishing with the boys. I do believe this is the first "relaxing" hobby we have done, just the two of us, and for the next hour, Zeke and I sat on the couch, knitting away, watching AI and the other 3 cuties have a dance party around us, and having priceless conversations...

"Do you like knitting Mom?"
"I like knitting with you Son."
"Are you a good knitter?"
"No. You are doing a great job though."
"Thanks. I can only do it with God's help."
"Yeah, I can't do anything without God's help."
"Me neither Son, me neither."

And it continued, more precious with each passing moment, and all I could do was sit there and smile on the verge of tears.

I would never have guessed a hobby that brought out a brassy, get-r-done spirit in me on my own, would with my son, make me want to have all the time in the world to sit and knit and find ways to carve more hours out for this hobby with him.

He already has our Saturday planned: in the morning we will watch cartoons and knit (since he can knit without looking, a skill I don't have) and in the afternoon we will go sledding... unless he isn't done yet, then we will knit some more.

Russian Roulette Dining (SHORT!!!)

February 25, 2008 - 10:43 PM

On our way home from our retreat this weekend we were invited by some friends to join them at a joint in Tiffin called Slim's. They didn't know anything about the place but had a gift certificate and we, again, fell in love with the name and excitedly joined them.

Just off the main highway on Main Street is a nothing fancy red exterior, 2-story bar, complete with a parking lot for snowmobiles. It has only a couple small windows in the joint making it so that upon entry ones eyes go dark and see nothing but smells of years and years of tobacco. This is really our kind of place.

It continued to be your typical small town bar, one waitress (bartender), locals in their snowmobile pants, and no real rules of engagement for how to order, etc. But above the smoky haze you could smell good ole fashioned bar style crinkled potato french fries cooking... heaven to my nose.

We moved to a back table and our party rose to 8 adults and two babies (save for the second hand smoke). I must say, I really appreciated their table tops. I would off hand guess they we pine 2x4 by 6' planks that were covered with a thick layer of clear gloss/lacquer, that really stuck out and you knew that the surface you were eating on was clean.

The menu was full of hearty fare: burgers, Philly cheese steaks, fried fish, mini tacos, cheese balls and onion rings. It did include a few rules of engagement though: " We apologize in advance for any screw ups... If you have any comments you can write them on the back of a twenty dollar bill and hand it to the bartender and they will take care of it personally." They also had great weekday deals for lunch but the weekend prices were still inexpensive.

Funny side note... Either a.) they weren't expecting a big lunch crowd or b.) they figured all who entered were family... but in the middle of the walkway was a beautiful, big, old wooden door with carvings of Native Americans on it being glued back together with huge 4' long metal clamps. 9" of said clamps were sticking out right on the path to our table just begging to decapitate one of us.

Soon enough, the waitress/bartender started shouting out orders, "Who had the Philly cheese and mini tacos?!" And the delicious food began arriving one by one every couple a minutes. I love this kind of fare because you honestly know that the food you are getting is not going to throw you any fast balls and you get what you get.

The O's shared their cheese balls and onion rings with everyone and they were exactly how you'd imagine them. The Philly cheese steaks came out looking delicious. The burgers were good and my fish and chips (i.e. crinkle cut french fries) were just right. If only we had all shared a round of Coors Light Silver Bullet in bottles*, it would have been a prefect meal.

I would highly recommend Slim's to any of you passing through Tiffin and find yourself hankering for some good bar food. Just watch out for clamps... oh, and the restrooms have questionable images on the doors.

*A random stranger from a small town in Kansas helped us out in a jam when out alternator went dead and the only thing he asked for in return was for us to get him "a six pack of Coors Light Silver Bullet in bottles." Thanks so much Shawn and Crystal for your kindness all those years ago!

Russian Roulette Dining (LONG!!)

February 25, 2008 - 11:43 AM

(Josh and I got to spend another weekend sans cuties. We are both really thankful they have all been safe on their adventures apart from us, but wo/man are we glad to have them in our arms again!)

Josh and I love finding dive's that surprise. Sometimes it is a place with amazing seafood, or a good greasy burger, or great ambiance. Our approach to dining is like Josh's approach to ordering coffee. The barista puts it better than I when she says to Josh, "You always get something different every time you are here. I can never figure out your 'regular' drink."

Saturday night we ended up in a small Iowa town at a restaurant solely because of it's name*. Then to seal the deal, the reviews we had read on Google prior to going made the place seem like a lily among thorns AND they had a decent looking website... we were sold.

First, to the high points: We loved our experience, location, the wait staff, in-house bread and wine.

Experience: No matter what else you read from here on out, hear me now and believe me later, we completely enjoyed every minute of our evening. Ups and downs did not spoil a moment and only made the entire event more enjoyable for us. Others may have responded differently, but thankfully for everyone involved Josh and I take these events all smiles. This typifies a great dining experience for us.

Location: Located off the town square, it was typical Iowa town storefront, unappealing and uninviting but in small towns that is not necessarily a bad thing and speaks nothing of the quality on the inside. Inside it was two long and tall halls connected by small openings with no visual barriers inside each hall. The layout did not lend itself to private conversations or small gatherings secluded in a corner. You came there wanting to be found by everyone else in town. The walls were painted light mint green and had old windows for artwork. I have always loved old windows as wall hangings however, over the windows were plastic wreaths or baskets that distracted from the windows. Not saying there is anything wrong with that, because still, we are still in small town Iowa and you cannot judge restaurants by their decors.

Wait Staff: The wait staff were hopping. Our waitress was having the busiest night "in forever" but she remained smiling though she had no time for small talk. And, as you will learn later, when problems arose she dealt with them very graciously and responsibly.

Bread: They did bake their own bread at the restaurant and it was a very nice touch. Their sweet bread was great as served. Not to jump in with a negative too soon, but their regular breads would have been better piping hot, a little lighter and oven-fresh. (i.e. it wasn't made moments before you arrived, maybe early in the morning?)

Wine: They had 6 wine choices, one of which was from a local winery I have never tried. I stayed safe and had a blush and it was wonderful and fruity. I enjoy wine but am not a snob about them so you can take or leave my comment here. I have had other local Iowa wines before and this was a new, pleasant surprise that I would happily try again and would be very interested to try their other varieties.

On the Meal...

On a review we read that the chef had studied culinary arts in other locations and then started this restaurant in his hometown. The menu had an over abundance of items from old fashioned prime rib to pomegranate and molasses pork (displaying his culinary schooling I assume). The menu was long and intensely flavored with words that you wouldn't expect to see in small town IA, like beurre blanc or shitake mushrooms.

We ordered steaks, Josh a sirloin and a ribeye for me. I really wanted to try the pomegranate and molasses pork but I had once seen a show that had this mint chocolate lamb dish and remember how horrid it was said to taste, that I decided to pla

Insignificant Dyno on Groovy

February 22, 2008 - 12:19 PM

(If you are on Facebook, you may have seen this.  I post it here mainly to see how one does post videos on my blog.)

As mentioned, in order to start this climb one had to hold on and reach up a leg about 4+' high. Due to my size and newness to the sport (actual climbers would do this problem differently either being more flexible or using smaller holds or using their palm for support, etc), I had to jump (aka dyno) up to a hold that I was confident I could grab and though a little unorthodox worked. The sole reason it worked was thanks to my friend Leslie training me the last month. Thanks Leslie!!

I also want to point out that I am wearing all those clothes because it was really cold out there and windy and lightly sprinkling and your fingers froze on the rocks very quickly. (And I am talking to myself as to what moves I am going to do next after I get myself up to that point.  The whole trig side of climbing, :)!)  But it was so much fun!  I can't wait to do it again!

(Let me know if it plays or not!)

Teaching an old body new tricks... Rock Climb cont.

February 20, 2008 - 10:13 PM

When friends invited us to go rock climbing with them I thought, "Cool! I have always wanted to try that!" And in my mind, I envisioned an indoor fake wall with brightly colored, large hand holds and ropes. Or an outside one, with the same large holds for both hands and feet and ropes. And in my mind, I envisioned my childhood days of climbing up trees to their highest points and not thinking anything about it. And in my mind, it was effortless.

I then watched a rock climbing video and started paying attention to our rock climbing friends and I soon learned it was not exactly what I envisioned.

I learned that rock climbing is not only (though it really is with some problems) about muscle or flexibility but also a lot about experience that makes one have the ability to think through the different problems and solve them quickly in order to use less energy and strength so that when problems arrive that require the former, one is ready. I was also learning about 2 kinds of rock climbing: bouldering (gymnastics on rocks) and sport climbing (ropes and such).

Because I knew nothing about the logistics or skill behind these sports and we were going on this trip I wanted to do what I could to be in the best prepared position (taking into consideration that I am a wife/homeschool mama/bookkeeper/etc and have only moments of free time). My real (and only) bright idea was to get my muscles in shape so it would be easier to learn the thought needed.

I don't know how your muscles are, but mine have never been actually been tested or toned in all my 30+ years of life. The closet thing to actual weight lifting I did was in high school during early bird PE and just lifting weights whenever the teacher entered the room. And, the only actual sport/athletic thing this old body has ever done was 6th grade basketball. Needless-to-say, even though I love Richard and my Nordic, I did not think their cardio workouts were not going to meet my need.

I then enlisted the help of my good friend and personal trainer in training to help me in this task. My expectations were fairly low for myself but I wanted to give it a hardy shot. We would meet once a week where she'd show me and we'd do the week's work-out and then I would get up at o-dark-thirty twice more that week doing the same thing. And honestly, don't tell anyone, I have grown to enjoy it... a lot.

Last weekend, I got to see if it helped or not. As said, we went to HCR and did a little bouldering and 2 rope climbs. I have not yet learned the "sit-start" in bouldering and am still learning to hold onto odd/small holds and found myself where I could start with a particular hold but I had to jump for it. (Which is called to "dyno," and most do this while on a climb and sometimes people do it from ground when required on a route. I was, however, doing it on a route that had a sit start.)

Then while starting my first ever rope climb, it began on a rock that was cantilevered at least 4'+ up from the nearest stepping stone/ground. (Again, for a normal climber they could push up with their palm or grab a smaller piece of rock, and they would have found a way to use more leg strength than arm strength, and done it much more fluid than I. But I am not that normal yet, I am awkward and very novice.) I knew with what strength I had gained I still needed a more secure hold. I reasoned I could jump up to a bigger hold and pull up my foot afterwards, another dyno, Dana style.

The trick worked and I made it up the hardest part but I tell you what... it was much thanks to my friend who was patient enough with me to teach me how to lift weights, wow! How much that helped!

In the end, we all had our nicknames... I was Dyno, we had a Sit Start, a Hot Pants and a Burley Man. All names just as wonderful as the names of the rock climbing routes, like Trouser Chili, memorable and priceless.

Oh... and would I do any

Poop... by any other name, it is still poop.

February 19, 2008 - 11:04 AM

Josh and I spent an extended weekend with our friends Joe and Kari down in Arkansas at a place called Horseshoe Canyon Ranch ( Even though the primary function of it is a dude ranch (, the new owners soon discovered it was ideal for rock climbers of bouldering, trad. and sport climbing and it is now a wonderful mid-US destination for climbing.

BUT, because it's primary function is a dude ranch, they have goats and horses galore that roam free in the entire place and do you know what that means? Poop, poop, and more poop... with a little more poop, and some bigger poop and a whole lotta more poop. Crazy poop of all shapes and kinds literally EVERYWHERE.

And I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

Pellet poop from the goats, circular grassy balls of horse poop, dog poop, etc.

Every few feet, more poop, and then some more.

The views around the canyon were breathtaking but you had to make sure you stood still to take in those views otherwise you found your foot in... well... poop. Walking up the canyon to the walls and boulders you were constantly avoiding horse and goat poop, walking on the roads there was poop, at the foot of the stairs to the lodge there was poop.

One place we climbed was in the goats favorite pooping ground and we dubbed it poop chute alley...

Poop Chute Alley

See what looks like all the dark brown mud? Those are 1/2" diameter pellets of poop. Your only escape in this area was to walk on top of whatever rocks you would find.

But I tell you what, poop or no poop, it was a beautiful place! Thanks Joe and Kari for taking us! I honestly cannot wait to go again!

You can thank or blame Zeke and I...

February 12, 2008 - 10:15 PM

... For the SNOW!

That's right, it is all because of my son and me.*

Not global warming, not el nino, not hurricane patterns... simply the little prayer of a 7 year old and the bold statement of his mother that God must have thought funny enough to respond to.

See, before Thanksgiving Zeke was chatting with me and asked when we were going to get snow. I said, "In your day, February... but in MY DAY, we always had snow by Christmas and tons of it. You'll be lucky if we get snow by Valentine's Day."

Zeke then proceeded to pray to God. He asked that God would make the snow really high in the backyard, by the hill, that it would be as tall as the hill (about 4' tall). He wanted a lot of snow this winter.

So what happened? Well, two days before Christmas we got hammered with snow. And over the course of January, we have had snow, on average, every couple days. Last week we got between between 1 to 2 feet depending on who you talk to. And it keeps coming.

I keep laughing. And I think God is laughing with me.

Not in a spiteful way, or an "I'll get you" sort of way, but in a "Dana, you are going to get a kick out of this winter" sort of way. And wo/man, have I ever! I keep laughing... it keeps coming... Sunday said for snow only on Monday this week... today, we had snow. The radar showed no clouds, no nothing and all of a sudden, out of nowhere literally, a cloud is right above our area and we are seeing snow.

Zeke, is simply tickled but in a completely different way.

The snow piles in our front yard make great tunnels and the back yard is a great sledding zone... heaven! I don't know for sure if it is as tall as he was praying for but the winds make it pretty tall in the corner, which is sufficient for his little heart.


*Oh, of course, God makes the snow, not us. And He created weather not us. It's me being silly not sacrilegious.  Oh, blasted me for being terrible at sarcasm!


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


Fam Q
LM - Czech Guru
RM - CSS Guru
Mrs. Windham
Joe Pyle Wedding Photographer


RSS Feed

Cramer Family 5