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My First Blog Post – Snow Days!

2021

Snow Days!

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more! Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Every year I wish for snow. Just one snow day to say we had one, a day to get out and have fun with the kids, to make snow angels, pull each other in the sled and to feel like the snow gear we bought this year was worth it! Some years we get a snow day and some years we don’t. I’m happy to report that 2021 has just given us our first snow day – several days in fact! Perfect timing too, as it came right as a holiday weekend was approaching.

Credit Photo Filled Adventures

There is something magical about the snow beginning to fall. It leaves us watching in wonder “Will it stick? Is it just going to melt? How deep is it going to get?”. The joy and wonder of the world becoming white, something that happens so infrequently where we live, makes the child inside us reemerge for a few days. Thoughts of snowball fights and building snowmen, then coming inside to enjoy some hot cocoa and thawing out by the fireplace.

There is also such beauty in the once green trees, gently covered in white. White accents all along the trees, outlining each branch as if it was painted on.

Credit Photo Filled Adventures

The hush that comes over the neighborhood is so peaceful. Fewer cars are driving past, the birds are tucked away in their nests keeping warm, the hum of the nearby freeway suddenly quiet…the only sound left is the snow gently falling, getting deeper and deeper. So quiet in fact, that even the young ones take notice!

Credit Photo Filled Adventures

And of course the kids just love the snow! They love nothing more than to run through the deep snow, to have an adventure they can only have during winter. Appreciative that they finally have the snow gear which allows them to stay out longer without becoming wet and cold, and new sleds to pull each other around in! Even our dog who normally doesn’t like wearing a jacket, seemed extra appreciative of the additional warmth it added.

Credit Photo Filled Adventures

Snow also gives us an excuse to get outside during Winter – to romp and play without getting soaked! It can be tough to get fresh air and exercise most days during winter, with the amount of rain that comes down in Western Washington. My favorite form of exercise comes in the form of play and yes, the snow delivered! When the snow gets deep, it takes much more effort to walk through, not to mention run through. Those little darlings are just so sweet when they ask you to pull them in the sled, but when they ask for you to go faster? Of course you just go! You get that heart pumping and thigh burn in, why? Because it’s fun! There is no better reason to be sore the next day, than to say it was because of the fun you had!

Now if I’m being completely honest here, I am also glad when the snow days are over. I wonder if some of some of the magic is lost when all of the adult responsibility comes into play? Wondering if you’ll be able to make it to work the next day, concerned about icy roads because you have to drive, making sure your kids aren’t too cold and their clothes are dry. Another thing I watch and monitor are the roads. Just how thick and slippery are the roads? Should we drive or should we stay home?

Credit Photo Filled Adventures

We are completely excited for the snow when it comes, and I feel just as excited when it starts to melt and the world begins to reemerge again. And despite it all, I keep secretly hoping for another snow day next year!

Perfect day for a car wash!

“Everyday of your life is a another lesson. If you learn the lesson well and apply it; whether positive or negative, you determine what happens in your tomorrow.”

~David Kofi Awusi

Our van is beautiful again, not because of a drive-thru car wash but thanks to our kiddos! 

What a valuable lesson it is for kids to grow up knowing they can do the work themselves, and it really just takes a little time. When there is extra money coming in, the luxury of going through a carwash or a drive-thru for food, can be fun, convenient and less work. Giving these opportunities to realize they can do things for themselves, is going to help them financially in the long run, plus teach valuable skills! 

In college there were kids who had never done their own laundry or cooked their own food. Simple life skills weren’t taught, or expected of them before leaving the house. That memory alone has shaped the way we are raising our kids. They help us with laundry, folding clothes, baking, cooking dinner, setting the table, and cleaning up before doing something fun like watching a movie. Helping feed and take the dog out, occasional outdoor work and washing the vehicles are also thrown in. As they get older, we’ll start teaching them how to use the lawn mower as well. And I suppose in 4 short years, we’ll also be teaching our oldest to care for and drive a car (no!!!)! 

Today’s fun was washing the van! It was such a nice day outside, and they’ve helped me wash cars before so this was not new. It was not hard at all to get them out there to help me, as we try to instill some life lessons in what we are doing. “I could do this by myself, but it would take much longer, and wouldn’t be as fun. So if we all work together, this won’t take very long!” 

Sometimes they fight over who gets to spray the van down, so we have them take turns. One will spray it down while the other two wash, then they take turns rinsing. They work pretty well together, outside of the occasional, “Hey, you got me wet!”, which is the main reason we only wash on warm days. 

Life lessons are important to learn, but the more fun you can make them at an early age, the less trouble you will have getting them to help you as they grow up. They will simply be used to it! 

What life lessons do you add into your regular household chores or projects? 

Favorite restaurant on San Juan Island

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”

Kurt Vonnegut

During a recent trip to San Juan Island, my husband and I had the opportunity to try four, almost five, different restaurants on the island. There are two we enjoyed more than the others, but there is one that came out on top! Not only the drinks, the food and the service, one restaurant in Roche Harbor stood out! 

Herb’s Tavern

Herb’s Tavern is located in Friday Harbor. We wanted to check this one out because of the fish and chips picture we saw on Google Maps. However my husband had read a review saying that there was only one waitress, who was also the bartender AND the cashier. Sure enough when we arrived, the tables were almost full, there were a few people already waiting and there was only one waitress. We decided to look elsewhere for food. 

San Juan Island Brewing Company

The San Juan Island Brewing Company, located in Friday Harbor, had a very pretty building and was ready to serve people outdoors. Another great thing was their online menu, that we viewed with our phones vs printed menus that would need to be cleaned. The site was very organized, and provided a nice mobile experience! The clam chowder was a little disappointing though, as it was liquidy, the potato chunks were pretty large, and though it tasted creamy it wasn’t super flavorful. The salmon salad I ordered and salmon burger my husband ordered, were bland and dry. For those who enjoy wine, beer and burgers, we are sure they’d love this place! We were just hoping for some cocktail drinks and tasty fish.

Friday’s Crabhouse

Friday’s Crabhouse, located in Friday Harbor, was our third favorite restaurant. The top floor bar area had a great view! 

Friday’s Crabhouse view from the bar! Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

The seafood platter was delicious, especially the fried scallops, and the salmon chowder was filling. The drinks were good, just had too many small ice chunks that we had to chew. This restaurant was a little more casual than we were looking for. There were no waiters for the tables. We ordered at the bar and when our food was ready, they didn’t know where we were sitting, so they had to call out “Josh?” “Josh?” Although it could be fun when everyone is tipsy, it was a little too casual for us. The other thought we had at this restaurant was “Why would you put the bar on the top floor? Wouldn’t the tipsy ones fall down the stairs?”

Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

BlueWater Bar & Grill

BlueWater Bar & Grill is also located in Friday Harbor, and was our second favorite restaurant. The fish and chips tasted delicious and my husband loved the taste of the fries. The crab cake I ordered was also very good and even better when I added their hollandaise sauce on top! 

Fish & Chips, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures
Crabcake, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

We ended up coming back a second time, as we really wanted to try their breakfast menu. We both ordered Eggs Benedict, mine with sausage and his with crab cakes. Both were very satisfying! Their hollandaise sauce was creamy and smooth, and had almost a cheesy flavor to it. 

Eggs Benedict, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

Roche Harbor Resort 

Roche Harbor, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

Roche Harbor Resort is in Roche Harbor, which is on the Northwest end of the island, and so a little more removed from the hustle and bustle of Friday Harbor. The clam chowder had small cut potatoes and was very flavorful! It was creamy and not too thick, plus super flavorful. The flavor likely enhanced by bacon. Just enough to brighten up the flavor. 

Clam Chowder, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

We weren’t super hungry when we arrived, so we ended up sharing a meal. We shared fish tacos, which we weren’t sure would fill us, but after a drink and the clam chowder, we were stuffed after only two tacos! The fish pieces were large, the toppings on top and inside were super flavorful and delicious! There was a slight heat from the sauce, which was an avocado and lime sauce, but it went well with all of the flavors. My husband even complimented the chips and salsa that came with the tacos, which tasted very authentic and more homemade than others he’s tried. 

Fish Tacos, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

We also ordered their cheesecake for dessert! If you like cheesecake at all, you will love this! Creamy and sweet, and the berry compote on top went well with the flavor of the cheesecake. I have tried several versions of cheesecake (I am slightly addicted), and this one tasted amazing. I almost didn’t want to share with my husband! 

Cheesecake, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

To drink, I had a pineapple mojito. Mojitos are my current favorite drink – sweet, and yet a bit of zing with the mint and lime. Sweet and sour mixed! My husband got a Long Island Iced Tea, which he loved. They had several mixed drink options and even had a vast wine selection. 

Long Island Iced Tea & Pineapple Mojito, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

The service was excellent! The hostess asked if we’d like to be seated outside or inside, and took us to a table right away with a gorgeous view. It was evening when we visited, so they even had outside gas heaters turned on and ready for us. 

View from Roche Harbor Resort, Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures
Shadows from the setting sun! Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

Our waitress (who I’ll call Jane, to maintain her privacy) was the best waitress we had all weekend! She gave us just the right amount of time to order, the food came out quickly, and every time we were done with one thing she was there to give us the next. We had just finished the clam chowder and she came out and took our dish. Less than five minutes later our main dish came out. Literally as we were scraping the plate of our main dish, she came out with the cheesecake. I said “Wow, it’s like you knew we were ready!” She asked at that point if I’d like another drink, and because she asked at just the right time, I said “Yes”! We both thought, “This has been our favorite restaurant so far and wow, that waitress was on top of it!” We would return to their restaurant again! 

Have you been to San Juan Island? What other restaurants would you recommend?

Motherhood and Mother’s Day

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.”

~Unknown

The way you celebrate Mother’s Day changes over time. As a child, I remember picking flowers for my mother and making her breakfast in bed. That was my favorite thing to do for her, and it became sort of a tradition! Then you become a mom yourself and the way you look at Mother’s Day begins to shift. YOU are now being celebrated and get to watch your children establish their own tradition of how they want to celebrate you. Being a mother for almost 11 years, the way I think about Mother’s Day and my children has continually changed. 

I loved how much my babies needed me when they were young, their sweet sounds and how soft their skin and hair were. But there is something even more awesome as they begin to grow and need you in a different way. They now look to you to guide them and encourage them to explore and try new things. In some ways I miss those innocent baby days, but watching my little ones grow up, fills me with awe every day over the littlest things.

Ages and Stages 

So far my favorite age range has been years 2-5. During these preschool years I find them excited to try everything, helping me bake, doing crafts, singing duets with me and exploring the outdoors. My youngest daughter is in that stage now, and we have so much fun together! We dance, sing, and play ball together outside daily, and have a special reading and bonding routine as I tuck her in for bed at night. She also loves to help me bake waffles, cakes and cookies. The other great thing about this age, is their fascination with learning every new thing possible! I love teaching her how to read recipes, measure and mix ingredients. And I always use baking as a teaching tool for Math! “If we have 4 strawberries, and I take one away, how many are left?” and even at four years old, she is catching on quickly! She also loves to paint and for this year’s Mother’s Day, she helped me do just that! I wanted to paint our home front door, as I’ve always loved houses with a colored door and never took the time to do so, until now. She was my big helper and we knocked it out in no time! 

Painting the door: Photo Filled Adventures

My two boys have passed the preschool stage and are onto the next stages. One is 8 years old, almost 9, and is beginning to really learn what he likes: drawing, video games, listening to music, taking walks, running, playing outside and strengthening his skills in math. He’s always been a busy one from the time he could walk. We knew from a young age he would be good at sports – so competitive, learning many things early simply by watching his older brother. His love of soccer and basketball keep him busy outside and staying active! 

My oldest is 10, and will be 11 soon. He has already shifted into some pre-teen tendencies: sleeping in, spending more time on his own, reading novels, creating his own music playlists, getting involved in something at school simply because he is interested in it and a voice that’s squeaking all over the place! I’m not ready for my baby to be heading towards middle school and being almost as tall as me! He struggled with online school the first half of this year and lost some of his confidence, but the second half of the year with a new teacher and many hours of my husband’s efforts in not only making sure he stayed caught up, but also understood what he was learning. His main struggle was math, and now he’s ending the year testing two grade levels above in math and one grade level above in reading! Watching his confidence grow and the effort he is putting in again makes me so thankful for amazing teachers and my amazing husband who cares so much. 

Photo Filled Adventures

Mother’s Day changed as they got older! 

Another thing I love about motherhood and when children begin to grow, are the awesome Mother’s Day projects they bring home! When they are very young, they have no idea what Mother’s Day is. As they get older, this holiday means so much more when you hear those little voices saying “Happy Mother’s Day” and bringing home handmade gifts. I won’t be able to keep all of their projects over time, but the ones they bring home for me are the most special!

4-year old Mother’s Day gift: Photo Filled Adventures

8-year old Mother’s Day gift: Photo Filled Adventures

Though I try to keep them, I think I’ll eat this one!

8-year old Mother’s Day gift: Photo Filled Adventures

What ages and stages have you loved the most? What have been your favorite Mother’s Day memories? 

Dalles Mountain Ranch: A windy but beautiful adventure!

“Like wildflowers; You must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.”

E.V.

My husband heard about this state park and ranch filled with flowers, so we decided to take a detour on our way to Eastern Washington to check it out! Dalles Mountain Ranch, which is part of the Columbia Hills State Park in Lyle, Washington. 

Getting there

Driving down Highway 14, heading East, you’ll see the sign for Dalles Mountain Ranch and a road on the left and then a dirt road on the right. Don’t pass it! Be prepared to drive the 3+ mile dirt road. Before a few of the corners the signs will say they suggest a speed of 30 mph, but that didn’t make sense to us as we were only driving 10 mph! Any faster and the van would start vibrating from the dirt road. It looked like the road had been grated, to prevent people from going too fast, but even so we were still passed by a few folks not concerned about it! We decided to spare our van and drive slowly. 

Dirt Road – Photo Filled Adventures

Columbia Hills State Park – Photo Filled Adventures

On the left along the way, you’ll see a cute little stream coming down through the rocks. You may not think much of it, but if you take the photo at the right angle, it turns out really nice!

Stream – Photo Filled Adventures

Flowers and a view! 

There are beautiful flowers growing all over! I didn’t know what they were called so when I got home, I looked them up (as I had no reception at the park). Turns out the yellow flowers are Gaillardia Aristata aka “Blanket Flower”, which are in the sunflower family. They definitely look like sunflowers! Except they grow in small bunches, almost like daisies. 

Blanket Flower – Photo Filled Adventures

The Lupine flower (purple), complimented the yellow nicely! There were several blooms, and even more that hadn’t quite bloomed yet. Later in April through May will likely bring even more! 

Lupine Flower – Photo Filled Adventures

And what a gorgeous view! Flowers for miles…

Quite a View – Photo Filled Adventures

Same flowers, in the hands of a professional!

My husband is an awesome photographer and he not only took photos of the flowers, he brought them back and worked his magic! You can check out more of his work here: www.jgsolomon.com 

Photo Credit – JGSolomon

Photo Credit – JGSolomon

Photo Credit – JGSolomon

Trails Galore! 

There are several trails and places to hike at the park. Just make sure to check out this guide to the trails and the cautions. There are certain areas where there are snakes and ticks, plus you don’t want to get turned around! 

Trails – Photo Filled Adventures

Climbing the Trails – Photo Filled Adventures

Windy! 

Be aware, there is a ton of wind up in these hills. You open the car door and the wind swings the door open for you, so be careful! It’ll whip your hair around quite a bit, so bring a hat! By the time we came back into the car, our ears and hands were cold. I wondered what it would be like in summer with the wind still here, but the summer heat as well. 

Hold onto your hat! – Photo Filled Adventures

Even our dog was being blown around!

Wind Blown – Photo Filled Adventures

Don’t go too far! 

If you continue down the dirt road, you’ll get to a sign that says “Primitive Road, no warning signs” – and they aren’t joking. It starts out pretty similar to the rest of the road, but then you’ll start hitting potholes and as you begin to climb the hill, the rocks get bigger and much more pointy and sharp. We feared for our van tires, so found an inlet to turn around. There is a pretty nice view up there though, so if you have a back road vehicle, you should be fine!

Rocky Points – Photo Filled Adventures

Columbia Gorge View – Photo Filled Adventures

On your way out

As you leave the park, you may even see the bulls of the farm saying goodbye! There were several, but this one gave us a smile! 

Photogenic Bull – Photo Filled Adventures

Have any of you visited this park at different times of the year? If so, what was your experience like? 

16 years of car payments, finally over!

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.”

Antonio Brown

The road to being debt free has been long and windy, filled with blood, sweat and tears, and a little exhaustion thrown in. Though we have a bit more to go, our first goal for 2021 is complete! After 16 years with a car payment, we finally made our last car payment! Here is that journey.

Not one, but two

16 years ago I bought my first vehicle. I was in college, had an amazing boyfriend (now husband) and was working my first summer job. After I saved a few paychecks, I found a car I could buy at a minimum payment of $200 per month. It was a sweet little Toyota Camry, that had only been owned by a grandmother who rarely drove anywhere. Where this story really begins is when I said “Of course I can afford that!”, even though the payment was just less than what I was making. 

A few years later, as my husband and I were about to get married, that one car turned into two. Two car payments, though still affordable with our combined incomes. A little black Kia Rio that turned out to be a lemon, quickly turned into a silver Toyota Corolla. A cute and comfy commuter car with great gas mileage. 

Toyota Corolla

In 2008, after having bought our first house and with the prospect of owning a giant Newfoundland dog, I HAD to get a bigger vehicle! By this point the Camry was recently paid off, and we were just feeling good about ourselves. That is when we tested out a Honda Ridgeline, and were instantly in love. To this day, we miss just how comfortable that truck was! Thus began not one, but TWO car payments….again. I didn’t even keep the dog! 

Honda Ridgeline

Decisions like this, much like having children, take two to make. If I am being honest though, it really came down to my lack of financial education and being used to strapping our money to the last dollar. It was also my ability to win an argument and prove just how much money we could scrounge to make it work. We have definitely learned a lot since then. Fortunately finances (good and bad) have not gotten between us. We must really love each other!! 

First attempt to reduce debts

Our first big jump into saving money, came when we had our first child in 2010. I returned to work when my son was six weeks old, and we began paying for daycare on top of the two car payments. We realized quickly it was not going to work. It was then that we looked at our finances again. “If we can just get down to one car payment, only one of us work full-time, we’ll save on daycare and it’ll balance out”. Forces definitely aligned, call it fate or God’s plan, it all started lining up!

We went to a car dealership with the Corolla and the Ridgeline, to see if we could walk away with just one vehicle. It came with some negative equity, but what they gave us for the two vehicles was enough to justify the trade in and got us to the payment we needed. We parted ways with our beloved vehicles, and entered into the world of another Kia, Sorento this time…and another lemon!! I mean, driving down the freeway no longer able to accelerate. Thinking back, I am not sure how we made it to the mechanic, nor how we made it over the mountains to get back home. We brought it back to the dealership with the diagnostic list a mile long, and asked for (demanded?) a different vehicle. 

Orange is the new black

Welcome our new vehicle, an orange Jeep Patriot. It was a comfortable vehicle that was fun to drive on trips. We tended to over pack when we went on those trips, would stuff the back to the brim, and then outgrew it quickly. I also knew that we were going to have a third child at some point and would have a hard time fitting them all in the back bench seat. In 2015, the “opportunity” came to get another vehicle. 

One Summer morning as we were getting ready to leave the house, the Jeep would not start. We called a tow truck, who took it to a dealership. It turns out a pretty critical part that allowed the Jeep to function was under a national recall, and there was almost no way to replace it. Obviously we did not plan for this to happen, nor did we have savings at that time, and were once again in the position to find a different vehicle. 

A van, NOT a minivan!

As we were looking around the lot, I was gravitating toward the minivans. We had a family, of course we needed the space! But my husband did not want to become a minivan family, so we began looking deeper. He spotted a white van, which I thought looked like a European style mail delivery van. A Dodge Ram Promaster. I thought he was joking at first, but when we got inside, we began picturing ourselves in this vehicle. 

Not only could it fit five of us, the back of the van had a huge cargo space which would fit all of our camping gear, plus more! We were sold! Yet very upside down with this car loan. With all of the previous car trade ins and negative equity, we walked away with a loan much higher than the van was worth. 

Finally paid off!

Almost six years after purchasing the Promaster, which has been an amazing vehicle, my husband and I came together again to tackle our debts. Through some hard, but necessary financial lessons, we came to figure our way out. Or really, our way forward. We will spend 2021 getting rid of the things that are holding us back, so that we can do what we want – go on adventures!

Early March 2021, after several months of saving any extra money we could, we took a cashiers check and completely paid off our van! What an incredible feeling it was! 16 years of having a car payment, and finally free of that large monthly bill. I was only briefly let down when the bank teller said they do not have certificates to give. I was hoping for a certificate of completion, or something that said “Congratulations you paid off your loan!” But he told me that is not something they have available. Was I just being ridiculous hoping for that? I mean, this has been 16 years of our lives – a long time coming! This was big deal! Oh well. The receipt showing a $0.00 balance will have to do! We may even frame it. 

We are excited to start applying that money each month toward our next debt, with our hope of being debt free in 2022. Our first financial goal of 2021 is complete! 

The deep stuff that has made all the difference

One thing I have noticed in the many years we have been together, is that my husband and I may fight over the little things, but when we come together to tackle big problems and begin making solid plans, things tend to work out, really well. It is a little weird how everything begins to line up. It could be that planned goal we both work towards, that helps us make daily decisions which keep us on track.

One piece missing to this story, is the amazing sacrifice my husband has made over the years to help our family. Taking on what seemed like random jobs at times, and working rough hours so that we can throw money at our debts, and save money on daycare. He works at night and takes care of the kids during the day, helps them with homework, takes our daughter to story times and runs errands. Graveyard is a tough shift to work, exhaustion that even I do not fully understand, and yet he rarely complains. A quality I struggle with myself. I am looking forward to the day he no longer has to leave for work at night. When we are no longer strapped by our debts, what other opportunities and adventures might present themselves? We do not fully know yet, but are excited to find out!

16 years and 6.5 vehicles later, we are finally done with a car payment!!

Please, somebody turn my head away from that RV I saw – it is NOT a need! 😉 

The Promise of Spring

“The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”

Harriet Ann Jacobs

2021 is finally offering relief as the clouds have begun to part. Western Washington is known for its grey season – many months of dark cloud cover and RAIN! This year has been no different – a very wet, rainy winter. March has finally offered a glimpse of what is to come!

Sunset and moon. Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

During the long winter months there is a feeling of being trapped inside, to avoid the rain. Last night I ventured out to find a clear evening filled with a brilliant blue sky, a few clouds in the distance and the moon shining bright. I breathed in the cool but not cold air, which reminded me that there is warmth coming! Air that felt and smelled like the deep freeze of winter had passed, and the promise of spring had come to greet us once more. A deep breath in, and long deep breath out. 

The mushrooms in our back yard even seemed to rejoice at the warmth, which in combination with the recent intense rain, had allowed them to grow with a vengeance! Circling around the vertical log, climbing higher and higher towards the sky. 

Climbing mushrooms. Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

The sound of the frogs croaking in the distance on that crisp evening, seemed as if they were announcing “the sun will return tomorrow”, and felt like a promise unto itself. Little did they know how much that sound refreshed my mind, and gave me peace knowing the next day would be filled with warm sunshine.

Sun through the thistle. Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

This morning was perfect for reflection, a reminder of everything I have to be thankful for. The fresh, slightly cool air filled my lungs as I watched the sun peak over the distant hills and through the clouds. The sunrise provided just a slight pink color, combined with the blue sky behind and the white fluffy clouds.

Sunrise through the clouds. Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

The promise of spring just around the corner – freshly mowed grass, birds chirping outside, flowers blooming and darting around as they too enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Blooming Daffodil. Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

Even grass seems to stretch for the sky, as if saying “Thank you for life!” The droplets of dew shining off of each blade of grass.

Through the grass. Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

Young children are just as excited for Spring as they watch their seeds spring to life on the window seal. There is beauty in the innocence of a young child, who does not yet know how life is formed, witnessing first hand how much change can happen in just one day or just over night. Teaching that even our own lives thrive and grow like the seeds, with just a few necessary ingredients – food, water, warmth and most importantly – LOVE!

Blooming Magnolias. Photo Credit: Photo Filled Adventures

The sun and warm air has lifted our spirits, and given us hope once again that we can enjoy the outdoors and go on adventures. It has lifted the fog that seemed to hang over our heads during the cold and wet of winter, and allowed us to dream again. Dreams of sunny days spent exploring the nature that surrounds us and going on adventures in the unique and beautiful landscape God has provided! 

What are you thankful for this Spring season?

Kristy

“The best day ever!”

“I urge you; go find buildings and mountains and oceans to swallow you whole. They will save you, in a way nothing else can.”

– Christopher Poindexter

I was anticipating an upcoming weekend catching up on laundry or maybe doing some yard work when my kids told me they have two days off of school and a four day weekend. Apparently I had forgotten to put this in my calendar. I quickly looked at my work schedule to see if I could take a day off and then I checked the weather. We only live 1.5 hours away from the coast and though a day trip is feasible, we always wish we didn’t have to drive home exhausted. So I booked a night at the coast and immediately got excited about an upcoming trip! A small but needed vacation, one we haven’t taken in quite some time.

After settling into our hotel, we left to find some dinner and ended up at a dine-in restaurant. A few bites into his meal, my son says with a sigh of deep satisfaction, “This is the best day ever…” My husband and I looked at each other and mouthed, “What is he talking about?”

What about today made him think it was the best? I quickly thought back on the day. We cleaned out and packed up the van, got on the road, told the kids to settle down several times as they were wrestling in the back, checked into the hotel, told them to settle down again as they were racing through the room and then went to grab something to eat. They were once again asked to settle down in the restaurant as they were being goofy, using their straws to blow apple juice at each other and getting restless. Of course, this is a parent’s perspective.

As I continued to think about his comment, I wondered if it was because we used to travel everywhere. We would go on adventures as a family almost every weekend. Though most of those were small adventures, checking out different parks around our area, day trips to the coast and visiting friends, we were often on the move. Once we began staying home more due to COVID, we all got restless very quickly. The best adventure we could muster was getting them outside to play in the backyard, or in the soccer field nearby.

I realized that this was one of the first trips we had taken in a long time. And it had been even longer since we’d eaten out in a restaurant together. I highly doubted the grilled cheese and fries were the best he ever had, but in combination with getting out together as a family and enjoying what felt “normal”, overwhelmed him with feelings that he missed. 

My son’s comment was eye opening for me. It showed me that our kids needed this trip as much as we did – a change in scenery. We are going to spend the rest of the trip letting them run, play and have adventures they can’t have at home!

What ways are you helping your kids with the shutdown and change of pace?

~Kristy

P.S. – Thanks to my husband J.G. Solomon for the featured image! While I was taking photos with my phone, he captured the amazing sunset and reflection with his professional camera!

Pushing fear aside to venture into the unknown!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

— Dale Carnegie

My husband and I have taken risks in the past, leaving jobs to pursue our own business, dabbling into sales businesses just to get further into debt and have our ambition crushed. Since then I have spent many years content with a 9-5 job. Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful to have a job! One that surrounds me with amazing people and the ability to help others, but I’ve always felt like there was something more out there. Something different I should be doing with my life.

My husband is a photographer, and an amazing one at that! Ever since he brought home his first DSLR camera and I began tinkering with it, the photography bug hit me as well. This has also turned into an interest in videography, and video editing. My “bug” however comes in spurts of excitement and enthusiasm that only lasts a few days, weeks or even months, and then falls victim to the 40+ hour work week, children that need fed and a house that needs cleaned…plus sleep. Who really needs sleep anyway?

So here we are, almost 14 years later since we were married, and we are embarking on another journey together – one that is scary and full of the unknown looming before us. For the planner inside me, this unknown makes the fear creep in. Laying out a plan to become debt free is easy for me. There are numbers, often set incomes, and when you do the math right, you get results! When I start looking at the “what-ifs” of a creative venture, there is so much unknown, skills I don’t have yet and doors that haven’t yet opened. Even writing this out makes me see that what has held me back for so long, despite all of the questions I feel need answered first, really comes down to fear. When did I become so afraid? 

My husband has been my constant cheerleader, though at times I wish he would just be content as well (isn’t that easier?!) but he is there pushing, and sometimes prodding me to get out of my comfort zone. This is definitely why we argue sometimes – I’m just not ready to get out of that comfort zone. I don’t want to hear it, and now realize I haven’t wanted to tackle the fear! But almost every time he pushes me, it turns out I actually need it. As annoying as it is sometimes, our conversations almost always spark thoughts and ideas that had already been there, I just hadn’t given myself space and time to think about and capture them. For as much as “we don’t have in common”, we have the most important things – a deep love for each other and a desire to see each other succeed!

Almost one month ago I started this blog, a YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram account, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time! Who knows where this is going to lead or what doors will open, but you know what? It’s time. I just need to START! Take the first step, try things out, FAIL, and keep trying. Push fear aside, trust my husband, trust God, make plans, learn new skills…BREATHE…and start putting one foot in front of the other.

Where this will lead me, nobody knows! But we are taking that next step together, and that is the most important part. 

The best (new) way to make Cinnamon Rolls!

**This also works well for those who make cinnamon rolls from scratch!**

Thanks to FredMeyer for the idea! Kroger makes Ooey Gooey Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls, which come with a cinnamon mixture to put on top of the rolls before you bake them. We have tried them two times now and love how much it adds to the taste! The two downsides to the pack they sell, is that they only come in a pack of four rolls. This becomes an issue with a family of five! Also, every time I’ve tried to buy more, they have been sold out.

I was craving these rolls and decided to figure out how to make the top mixture. For those who make cinnamon rolls from scratch – kudos to you! I have not mastered making cinnamon rolls from scratch so we usually buy them. We like the big fluffy rolls, so we bought Pillsbury Grands which come in a pack of five.

If you are one that doesn’t buy store bought and prefers to make your own, trust me this trick will work with yours also! 

Before putting the rolls in the oven, mix together this topping and spread it on top. 

Butter, Cinnamon and Sugar topping

  • ¼ cup butter (we used sweet cream butter) 
  • 1.5 tbls cinnamon 
  • 1 tbls brown sugar

Make sure the butter is room temperature and soft, but not completely melted. You want to keep some firmness to the butter or it won’t spread well on the rolls. You can either leave the butter on the counter for a few hours or simply warm it in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until it is at the desired softness. Another trick that helps is to set the butter (still in the wrapper) on top of the stove while the oven is preheating. Just turn the butter onto each side until they have softened. 

To bake the rolls, I prefer to use a pie pan as it keeps their shape mostly round. I previously used 8×8 square baking pans, but then the rolls around the edge become half square and half round. Obviously this does not impact the taste, I just prefer round rolls. Plus, an 8-9 inch pie pan fits five large cinnamon rolls around the perimeter really well without forcing them to squish together. 

Mix the butter, cinnamon and sugar well with a spoon or whisk. Evenly distribute the mixture on top of the rolls and spread with a knife, before putting them in the oven. Follow the instructions on the package for the amount of time needed to bake. Our oven tends to run hot, so we always reduce the time by a minute or two so we can check them first, to prevent over baking. 

While baking, the butter mixture melts on the top and around the sides. This adds a sweet crunch on the top and bottom of the rolls. The butter also bakes into the bottom of each roll and almost caramelizes it. 

Cream cheese frosting hack:

Often with store bought cinnamon rolls, the small container of frosting that comes with is not enough to cover each roll, at least the amount we prefer. So how do we get more out of it? 

Add cream cheese! 

You’ll need:

  • 2 oz cream cheese 
  • 1 tbls sugar (or to taste) 
  • 1 container of provided frosting 

Warm the cream cheese in the microwave until it is soft, or if you’ve left it out, wait until it is soft enough to mix well without clumps. It will take less than 30 seconds to warm in the microwave, as it is a small amount of cream cheese. Add the sugar, and frosting from the container. Whisk together until creamy and smooth. 

The sugar is optional as the amount of sugar already included in the provided frosting may make it sweet enough, even when mixed with the cream cheese. One of my children is not a fan of the cream cheese mixture when it is on the tart side, so I add just a touch more sugar to sweeten it.

Adding the cream cheese not only enhances the flavor to make it more like a rich cream cheese frosting, it also bulks it up so that you have more to work with.

When I make these again, I’ll try a batch of frosting without the store bought addition for those who make them from scratch. Likely it’ll be a combination of cream cheese, butter and sugar. 

Frosting the rolls:

After removing the rolls from the oven, let them cool for at least five minutes before frosting. You’ll notice the top is a darker brown and slightly crunchy. Though it looks dark due to the cinnamon and brown sugar – it is not burnt. The crunch is not hard on the teeth and remains easy to eat – crunch on the outside, soft in the middle!

We love our cinnamon rolls completely covered with frosting. This frosting recipe provides just enough to cover all of the rolls with the perfect amount. Add equal amounts of frosting to the top of each, then spread with a knife. You will have plenty of frosting for not only the top, but around the edges as well. 

The end result? 

These are absolutely delicious! I literally kept saying “Mmmmm. Oh my, mmmmm.” There is something about the butter that bakes into the bottoms. It adds a slight crunch and reminds me of a sweet, caramelized buttery cookie. The frosting is just the right amount of tart cream cheese to sweet ratio and compliments the flavor of the whole cinnamon roll really well! 

I will never make cinnamon rolls the regular way again. This is the new way!! 

When you try it, let me know what you think in the comments below!