Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas! - Our 2019 Letter

Another year has gone by, and we are again writing to wish you a blessed Christmas and a wonderful new year.  2019 was the year in which we had four teenagers at once for a few months, and with that came busyness, change and a lot of joy.
Having said that, our year started on a somber note as Ken’s dad Terry passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve.  The first part of January brought the memorial service and a houseful of family here for a few days. We loved the time with family but miss Dad and Grandad very much.
After Terry’s passing, Ken’s mom decided to sell her house and build a house on the lot across the road from us. Construction is almost done, and she is living in it now, after staying most of the summer and fall at our place. It is a blessing to have her nearby.
Mara (20) had the biggest change this year. She became engaged to Thomas on New Year’s Day, and they tied the knot on May 18th. Our house was abuzz with preparations as the day approached, from making of dresses, bow ties and vests, to bringing the woods into the church building for decoration.
The newlyweds are living in Topeka, Kansas while Thomas finishes his final year at Washburn University.  Mara has spent her time in such enjoyable activities as foraging for wild foods (amazing what you can find in the city) and volunteering in a greenhouse near their apartment. Over the summer, Thomas had an internship with a railroad company and is now tutoring during the school year.
Jonathan (18) is in his senior year and has been working at starting a videography business. He is focusing primarily on weddings for now, with hopes to expand further later on. Jonathan leads our home school co-op’s high schoolers film-making project last year. They had such a blast that they are working on a new film this year, with Jonathan heading things up once again.
At the suggestion of Ken as well as his boss, Jonathan applied for and received a scholarship to Camp RYLA this year. Although he wasn’t sure what to expect, he really enjoyed RYLA and found it very useful in building leadership skills.
                Aaron (16) continues to be our active, outdoor child. As this letter was typed, he was busy outside the window building and trying out a snowboarding terrain course. This summer, he built a huge mountain bike jump and, after an upgrade, proudly called us out to witness his first run, which unfortunately ended in a mighty crash and a broken collar bone!
Aaron followed in the footsteps of his older siblings this summer by going to work at Big River Scoop, our local ice cream shop.  This enabled him to save up money to buy two mountain bikes and a guitar.  (Mountain biking is definitely his favorite hobby, and has learned to play guitar quite well.)  He and Jonathan went to teen weeks at Flaming Pine Youth Camp and enjoyed it a lot.
Megan (13) reads a lot, finds most of her schoolwork easy and is incredibly creative. She continues to draw almost every day.  She loves to sew and has made many of her clothes. This year she began remaking clothes and came up with some pretty cool creations. She also made a fancy old fashioned dress for herself, using a pattern she designed just by studying a doll dress. 
Just recently, Megan made a doll, a bunch of doll clothes and a wooden dollhouse for a cousin’s third birthday. Megan enjoys children and has taught a Sunday school class for younger kids at church. It is fun to watch her prepare and come up with creative ways to teach them a Bible story.
Ken stays very busy with Pine Country Insurance but has also been working on development of an online app for insurance agencies, in collaboration with his younger brother Daniel. 
Abbi’s wedding floral business is still going well. Homeschooling has become a breeze, as the kids do much on their own – except the rare times they ask for her help with an Algebra problem that she doesn’t remember how to do.
One of the highlights of Abbi’s year was a summer program that put on at church called Heroes in Hebrews. She had a blast planning for it with a small group, working on it with the whole congregation and then teaching all the kids who turned out.
Aaron insists that we tell about Kitchi. His highlights: hunting rabbits and having Nana here.
Ken and Abbi celebrated their twentieth Anniversary by going to the US Virgin Islands in January.  Leaving behind minus forty temps, they enjoyed absolutely beautiful weather and warm water. Their AirBnB perched near the top of the mountain had a magnificent view of the cityscape and blue-green waters far below.
Shortly after Mara’s wedding, the other five of us flew to Washington DC in June and enjoyed touring the town. We were able to tour the White House, sit in the Senate Chambers while in session and watch a play at Ford’s Theater. Mt Vernon, riding rental bikes around town, seeing the Davidsons and a trip to the Atlantic Ocean were some other highlights of the trip.
On Labor Day weekend, we traveled to northeastern Iowa and met up with Mara and Thomas, where we explored Pike’s Peak and the historic little town of McGregor along the Mississippi River. We also enjoyed exploring the ice caves in nearby Decorah. 
Ken and Abbi discovered the joy of night-canoeing this fall. With the busyness of life and the shorter autumn days, they were having trouble getting out in the water very often. So they tried canoeing after dark and found they loved the peaceful water, night sounds and view of the stars.
Theater has been another fun activity involving most of the family. Mara, Megan and Aaron acted in The Reluctant Dragon in April. Last month, Aaron, Megan and Abbi were in the Broadway musical Annie. Jonathan ran the sound booth for both shows, plus a third during the summer. The Bemidji Community Theater is a vibrant and fun community. We truly enjoyed our time spent in it and appreciate the friends we have made.
                We are grateful for so many things this year. Having you in our lives in certainly high on the list!    

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Still Feeling Thankful

I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving! I hope your heart is just overflowing with thankfulness to our Creator God who made everything for us and who sent His Son Jesus to redeem us and give us hope and peace.

We were blessed to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with many of our family and a friend joining us. It was a day of singing of Thanks to the Giver of ALL good gifts, sharing what we are thankful for, preparing and enjoying an abundance of good food, games, laughter, a new baby and lots of love.

Heidi and Lars (niece and nephew) spent a few nights with us before Thanksgiving and the day before we were doing our normal song of the morning (we are just working our way through a hymn book) and our song was one of Thanksgiving. We had fun singing it together and then I suggested to Jonathan that he video it (as he loves to do that anyway) so that I could share it in celebration of Thanksgiving. Here it is, I hope it blesses you some way....

On Thanksgiving Jonathan did some more videoing and here is his compilation of Thanksgiving day. This was taken before the game playing began and before we actually dug into all the food that was prepared (including 15 pies! We did not eat them all. :-) )

 We had a lovely group of 22 people - but one was not yet a month old so she didn't do much eating.

These 3 boys make our lives much fuller. We feel so blessed to have these three nephews living close by and bringing so many smiles to our faces. Candles are for blowing out, are they not?

Speaking of blessings.... Parents/Grandparents that we get to see often, work together with and serve God with in His church. God is so good!
 A game we enjoy is one called the game of "Things". It takes some fun thinking.

 Some of our yummy pies. Though the meal was at our house I by no means did all the work. Everybody pitched in to make things, clean up and do all the work. It makes holidays pretty easy.

 Hanging out and visiting or singing is always fun too.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving!

I just finished reading through the Psalms and was really blessed by some of the verses in chapter 147. I want to share them with you.....

"Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make music to our God on the harp.
He covers the sky with clouds;
He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of a man;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love."
Psalm:147: 1,3-11

I find it pretty cool to observe in these words just how observant and concerned God is about everything going on in our world - He takes care of the brokenhearted, He knows everything about every star (that are countless to us), he provides for all the cattle and listens to each little raven when it says it is hungry. 

 He supplies us with everything that we need. How can we not praise Him and thank Him?

God made the horse to run well and he made our legs to work in amazing ways. We can look at either Man or Horse when they race and be completely impressed and realize just how amazing God's work is but that is not what is truly important to God. What he really wants - far beyond us having a strong body - is that we would fear Him and hope in Him.

The idea of fearing God may not be a super popular one right now but it is vitally important. He asks it of us. He loves us and gives us everything that we need but we are asked to fear him. To believe Him and His word and to believe that He is good and merciful but that He is also just and we need to obey. When we choose to do that it is not a horrible, stifling place to be but rather a place of rest and hope. It is a place of fellowship with our Creator God who is full of unfailing love.

  I hope that you have found the joy in fearing and hoping in God.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Plump "New" Pillows

    We own quite a few pillows. One (or so) for each of us of course and then we like to have some for the large groups of company we sometimes host as well. Many of our pillows looked like they have seen better days but as I am not fond of either just throwing things out or going shopping for new things I tried to figure out a plan to remedy the problem. 

I collected our ugly pillows and the ones that were in the wrong shape. First step was to wash them with hot water and send them through the dryer. Then I cut off the old cover and pulled the batting so that they were all fluffed up and in good shape.

   I had been looking in my cloth stash for fabric that would work well for covering them when I remembered that we had an excess of pillowcases anyway. So I took pillow cases that were not part of a set and I turned them inside out and sewed them about an inch and a half smaller on each seam. I cut the excess off and then I turned them right side out again and stuffed the naked pillow in and then I sewed the end up. TA-dah! a lovely "new" pillow.

  They look so much better now and for those that like fluffy pillows they will like their feel better too. Unfortunately I rather like a flat one and now I going to have to work at getting it back to the way I like it. But I do feel so much better about putting these on the beds of company.

    It was a very satisfying project to use things that I already had on hand to fix up items in our house. I just thought I would share the idea in case it was useful for anyone.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Life Lately

 What is going on in you all's lives? Life sure keeps moving on and changing around here - it is fun but it sure does feel like you need to be on your toes and aware so you don't miss something!

   Though I think it would be fun to write many individual posts on different subjects that hasn't been happening very well here lately so this will be a post of many different things that are going on in our lives. A few snapshots of how God has been blessing us..... I wish I could share real snapshots on more of them but my picture taking has been almost non-existent lately so for the most part I'll have to use words.

 A major part of our lives lately has been our involvement in Community Theater. Way back in August Aaron, Megan and I tried out for the Musical "Annie" (Little Orphan Annie). We were picked- Megan as one of the main orphans, Aaron gets to play numerous roles: Dog Catcher, Cordell Hull (A Cabinet member), Secret Service and even Santa Claus. That one is rather funny to us as that is a fairy tale that we have generally avoided in our house. I was chosen to be Mrs. Pugh the cook in Mr. Warbucks' mansion. I also get to play a homeless person in Hooverville. I had not been very acquainted with this musical but we watched it (on Youtube) before trying out. After watching it I discovered that there was quite a bit of swearing in it. I didn't want to be in something like that so I asked the directors about that and they said they wouldn't be leaving that in. For the most part they have done as they said but unfortunately in a couple of places I guess they thought it was part of the story to leave it. For the most part I find the script very interesting and full of true historical details. That is of course up my alley. It isn't perfect but life generally isn't.
 We have generally practiced 3 times a week and we open in 2 weeks. This has been more challenging (I was especially surprised for how I have been challenged musically) and more fun than I expected. It has been fun to better get to know the people in Theater. The kids have done other productions but this was the first one for me.

My Mother-in-law has been able to move into her new house across the street from us this week and that is exciting! After my Father-in-law passed on in December she decided to sell their house and buy the lot across from us and put a house there. She ended up buying a modular home and then has had a garage built onto it. She house sold in June and so a little before that we got her moved over to our place. Most of her stuff went in storage but she had a little camper trailer and a big van with a bed and stuff in it and so she camped out here. She did camp out for much of the summer just using our laundry and bathroom but ended up moving into the house in the last couple of months. I have enjoyed our times of music together (she loves music as much as I do) and our times of spiritual discussions. There also have been challenges with adding a very opinionated person to our quite opinionated household and patience with each other as we dealt with schedules that didn't jibe real well.  As our family works towards having less stuff (still very much a work in progress) I unfortunately think we have a harder time dealing with other people's stuff. Having a lot of stuff added to our household was actually one of the most challenging things for us and we were happy to help her get it moved to her new house. It is going to be so nice and handy to have her just across the road from us, God really blessed in that! One of the things that I especially love about Sharyl is the way she enjoys a good adventure. When I ask her if she wants to go berry picking or take a hike to look for wild foods or anything of that nature - her eyes will light up and if at all possible she will say "yes" and off we will go. Now that Mara is gone from home and as the others get older and move away I will especially be appreciating Sharyl's willingness to go adventuring with me.

New Babies have been a fun part of our life lately. In just a little over a week 3 new babies were born in our church group. One of them is my niece! So we have been working on taking meals and organizing meals and are working to organize a party to celebrate. Babies are such a blessing. For two of the moms their last birth had not gone very well and it was such a blessing that this time it went really well and quite fast. God is so good! The picture above is of Megan with her cousins - Buirlen and Beulah. It is fun that these 3 new babies from church all have middle names that are plants: Ivy, Magnolia and Rose.

Dizziness has been something I have been dealing with lately. It does seem to be getting better so I am pretty thankful about that. Some mornings in the last couple of weeks I would try to get up and just have to lay right back down because I couldn't manage to be up. Sometimes I would just have to steady myself, sometimes I would feel very much like I was going to faint and sometimes I would feel like vomiting. Anyway some days it would last almost all day and then some nights it would be really bad as I would lie down in bed. When I wasn't dizzy I often felt cloudy. Today has been a really good day and I am hoping I am on the mend. I have seen the chiropractor about it and taken some blood tests. It possibly is low blood pressure - we don't know for sure. If it persists much longer I will probably go to a regular doctor about it. Not feeling good is hard but I honestly think it is good for me sometimes. It leaves me feeling much more thankful for the days that I do feel good and it leaves me feeling more sympathy and compassion for others that have physical struggles. I know this has given me much more understanding for some of what Mara has gone through with her health struggles - which praise God seem to be not bothering her so much anymore!!!

Last week Aaron celebrated his 16th birthday. He has been getting very into Mountain biking in the last couple of years and so I said I would take him somewhere fun to go Mtn biking for his birthday. I did also have wedding flowers to do that weekend so it couldn't be very far away. Our neighbors (who are avid mtn. bikers) told us about a neat new trail in Cohasset, MN called Tioga Mountian Bike Trail. That was only a little over an hour away. So last Saturday Aaron, Megan and I headed over there and my sister Martha and her family joined us there (it was kind of in between our homes). It was a gorgeous day, there were lots of trails for different abilities and they had a lot of fun elements. Aaron and Lars (my nephew) biked nearly the whole time were were there (over 5 hours) and the rest of us biked some. We didn't have enough mountain bikes for all of us so we had to take turns and most of us didn't have the stamina to do it all day anyway. I was really thankful that my dizziness of the morning had passed by the time we got over there - doing curvy, narrow trails on hillsides with bumps would have been not so fun to do while dizzy. Aaron had a wonderful day! He had ordered a new to him bike just before this and had been excited to use it but when it came the frame was cracked. That was a big disappointment but with some help from Grandpa we found a welder that was able to fix it on Friday and it worked great for this outing. We were super thankful! He didn't charge that much either.
Megan and I have been trying to do more art lately. We are setting aside time each Thursday to work on it. Currently we are doing a History, Writing and Art book which is fun. We will try other things after that. Art is something Megan really loves and I want to encourage her to improve in it. I have decided when it comes to having color in her art she tends to be rather impressionistic.

  Anyway, that is a bit of our life. What is going on with yours?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

This is My Father's World Music Video

On Tuesday of last week we had a beautiful sunny day (following quite a number that were rainy and cool) and Jonathan said it was time to go shoot a music video. Filming is something that he is really into and he had wanted to us to work on a song to record. I had chosen "This is My Father's World" as I love the words and the tune. Aaron unfortunately wasn't very fond of it (too slow!) and that shows a bit in the video. We had recorded the audio of the song a couple weeks prior and then added the video last week. I hope you enjoy it.

Here are some behind the scenes pictures....
 Our friend Will came to help with the filming. He is from our homeschool group and he and Jonathan have done quite a lot of filming together and really enjoy it.
 We needed to know our positions just right, to get the lighting just so and so many other details.
 So many things go into filming that I have never thought about when you see movies/ ads/ whatever by others but when you do it yourself you surely find out!
 It was still a bit chilly but Megan thought bare feet would be the best look.
 We filmed in my parents pasture so while Aaron had some downtime he went and found one of their old bikes and had fun figuring out a mountain bike course.
They have a pipeline in their pasture so it makes for a nice open space. It is lovely!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Fabulous Fall

 I love that God created different seasons for us to enjoy and I am particularly fond of Fall. I love the bright, sunny, blue sky days but I also love those rainy and cool days and even the bits of snow (which we did experience this last week) that make me enjoy the coziness of home - sitting by the fireplace, working on a sewing project or doing some baking. The colors of fall are so fun as well. I thought I would share some pictures of what Fall is looking like around here....

I have developed a new recipe for Apple, Rhubarb, Strawberry (those we froze earlier in the year and I am pulling out to use now) Jam that has turned out wonderfully both times I made it.
 Field corn from our garden drying on the wall while decorating our dining room.
 The dehydrator has done a lot of humming this season while drying us a nice supply of apples. They are yummy! Last year I bought an Excalibur dehydrator as the old one was literally falling apart. I am loving the new one!
 Candle making! It all started with Megan making a doll (that needed to be waxed) and ended up with this. So fun! It will also be fun to use them.
 A fall mantle! I was able to rescue the marigolds from the garden after we had gotten snow on Friday. I was so happy that they were still okay. We didn't get any frost until Friday which is amazingly late.
 Orange roses - leftover from a wedding. I am loving them.
 Since the garden outside is going "to bed" I decided to bring some of it inside - to our bedroom. I like it!
 Roasted fall veggies!
 This past weekend's bridal bouquet. With acorns! :-)

I hope you are having a lovely fall!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Life as Mom - the 2019 addition

This evening at supper we were visiting (I love the opportunities that we have to sit down and visit and eat together almost every morning and night!) and were trying to remember the details of a story when Megan was quite young - I hadn't written about it in her baby book but then I remembered that I could check my blog, I shared many stories on here. I just found a brief mention of that story but I did have fun going down memory lane and reading a bunch of old posts. 
I found this one from 11 years ago called "Life as Mom", I thought it would be fun to do a new up to date version. I still feel just as blessed as ever to get to be a Mom. Here is some tidbits of that last week or so......

 -Enjoying seeing Jonathan lead as we and a group of teenagers went through a challenge course together.
-Working together with all of my kids still living at home to accomplish the tasks on the challenge course along with many of their friends. Pushing ourselves to our physical limit and getting the tasks done together.
 -Watching Megan push herself beyond her comfort zone to develop relationships with others. Today she reached out to be a friend to one of my new piano students. That isn't always very easy for her and I was proud of her.

-Aaron willingly going with me to help out with the pig butchering and getting right in there and helping.

-Singing together with my kids. I love it! We miss Mara from our daily singing but have had the fun addition of my Mother-in-law Sharyl quite a bit lately.

 - Aaron reaching out to a new boy that came to church and inviting him to Wednesday Bible study (and he came too!).

-Jonathan really working to get to know a new boy in our homeschool co-op and trying to make him feel involved and welcome.
 -Having competent helpers in the kitchen.
-Getting to visit with Mara regularly on the phone.
- Watching Mara and Thomas work on reaching out and encouraging others.
-Watching Jonathan do a presentation at Rotary with confidence. It was especially meaningful to me as he was doing it alone after planning to do it with some other teens who had backed out. Also he didn't really want to do it but he did do it and did it well. They had sponsored him and others and sent them to RYLA a Rotary camp for a week this summer. He really enjoyed it the camp. Today's talk was to tell them about it.
-Working together with Aaron and Megan at Theater as we participate in doing the show "Annie" (a Broadway musical). This leads to a lot of singing together which is pretty fun.
-Watching Aaron get better and better at Mountain Biking and jump building.
-Watching Jonathan get better and better at video shooting and editing. (Stay tuned for a new music video that he has us scheduled to shoot tomorrow morning.)
-Watching Megan make a pretty cool new dress for herself - without a pattern just copying from one of the dresses that one of her porcelain doll's was wearing. She has been amazing me with her sewing skills lately. I really need to get some pictures!
-Hearing reports of Mara and Thomas living on their own and running their own home just fine. I wish I could be around to check it out in person but it sounds like they are doing great and that makes my heart happy.
- Aaron getting 100% on his spelling test today. That is a milestone for him and it is so lovely to see his progress.
-My kids working so efficiently and effectively to get their school work done each day. This stage of having kids in 8th, 10th and 12th grade is certainly much easier than it was 11 years ago.

  Life certainly changes as the years pass but it is still sometimes challenging and always very blessed. I am so thankful for the grace that God lavishes on us and the strength He provides!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Labor Day Weekend Camping Trip in Iowa

 Last weekend we had fun meeting up with Mara and Thomas (who we hadn't seen since just after their wedding in May when they headed down to Kansas) for some camping in Iowa. It was a really fun weekend. It was fun to be together, we saw some beautiful creation that God made and we had fun seeing the character of some of the little towns we were in.

A statue in Waukon that made us think it was trying to copy "our" Paul and Babe. Hence the funny photo.
   We camped in Waukon, Iowa (North Eastern Iowa) in a campground we had used very quickly on our trip to Texas last year. Aaron and Megan really wanted to go back to that campground again and all of us thought it would be fun to visit that area (Pike's Peak State park and small towns on the Mississippi) again as it looked like a neat area. Last year we had been on a tight schedule and we just didn't spend the time there that we wanted to.

    We got there Friday night after dark as Ken had needed to work until noon. But we found our campsites without much trouble and got set up. Mara and Thomas pulled in around a half hour after we arrived.

  The next morning after making and eating a good breakfast we headed down to Pike's Peak. When we got to McGregor, Iowa (just down the hill from Pike's Peak) we had to stop because the road was currently being used by a parade. So we were wanting to explore that town a little anyway so we found a place to park and got out. By the time we parked the parade was over but we got to the little central park and found a group of bagpipers and they played for a while and we had fun listening to that.
You never know what cool things you will come across when you are out exploring. I do really love listening to bagpipes and good Scottish music.
 Then we walked downtown. We went to "By the Spoonful" a coffee/ ice cream and specialty food shop. I had hoped to get some extra things that we needed for our picnic lunch there but it was a little pricey and didn't have much of what I needed. Ken and Jonathan did get some coffee however. We ended going to an Aldi across the river in Wisconsin a little later to get lunch stuff.
 We also went to "The Paper Moon" a book store with character.
 You could buy a blind date with a book there. I think that is a cute idea.

 After going to Aldi we headed up to the State park. I am not sure if this is true of all state parks in Iowa but this one anyway doesn't have an entrance fee. This is the fun view from the Pike's Peak overlook.
 We really enjoyed hiking on the trails there. We went to Bridal Veil falls but my camera had died by that time.
 Aaron loved all the different cliffs available to get on the edge of.

We found a bunch of old grape vines in the woods that we could swing on. It was quite a bit of fun. It brought back fun memories of college days in Iowa and the vines we found then.

  Aaron had brought his mountain bike along and there was a bike trail from Pike's Peak down to McGregor so he went off on that. The rest of us hiked a little more and then drove down to meet him in McGregor. Then Ken took him up for another run down (he thought it was a lot of fun) and the rest of us checked out some more little shops.
 At one antique shop Megan tried out this ensemble.
  We found out that the Ringling Brother Circus had been inspired and started while the Ringling family lived in McGregor. That was pretty cool. Actually we found out about many cool characters from McGregor. It is now just a small town of around 800 but in the 1800's there were 5,500 people there and it was a booming town. There was a free (donations excepted) historical/dramatic tour that was going on this particular weekend either on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon and Mara and I wanted to go. So we went back on Sunday afternoon and learned about a Pirate and his wife, a millionaire that was into silver mines, boats and trains, a trick pilot and his pilot wife (Tuffy and Esther -they were fascinating!) , Andrew Clemens a deaf child/man who made incredible sand art from local sand of natural colors (We saw some of them and they were simply amazing) and several more.
 Mara in front of a cute cabin that was downtown.

We did try out an icecream shop while in town too. Mara can't have dairy but they had pie made with lard (not butter) in the crust and she enjoyed that.

  I had looked for a church to go to on Sunday but the ones I had checked into didn't work out so we ended up having our own little church service. We found a quiet place in the park and Aaron played the guitar and we sang, Thomas shared some scripture and thoughts that he had prepared and we discussed them and then had communion together. It would have been fun to visit some church but it was neat to have our little church together too.
 The campground provided free wood which was nice and we enjoyed having several campfires. Other neat things about the campground/Waukon City park was all the cool playgrounds, a volleyball court (that we had fun using), some pretty paths and a swimming pool with a water slide and diving board. That swimming pool had been a big attraction but unfortunately they had already emptied it for the year. That was a big disappointment for some. I guess I should have checked on that ahead of time. The playgrounds were really cool even though we didn't have little kids. We explored them several evenings in the dark and had fun going on an old, cool merry-go-round. Then we had an exciting game of tag at dusk in a castle style one. There were around 5 or more totally different playgrounds in that park.
 I had fun making this basket as a gift for Mara while on our trip. She has been doing a lot of wild food foraging and I thought maybe she could use it for that. Speaking of that we found and got to pick and enjoy quite a few blackberries at the park. That was a fun surprise.
 Across from the entrance to the park was this dairy place that sold their own homemade ice cream, cheese and cheese curds. We figured we should go and check it out. I had found out about it ahead of time when I was seeing if I could find a good deal on 40 pound cheese chunks somewhere. The place that I used to get them from closed so I have been on the look out for a new supplier of economical cheese. I was so excited when I found out that they had them and then I asked the price. Even with it being a 40 pound block the cheese was still over $5 a pound. I can buy it a lot cheaper than that in small chunks in our grocery stores so I didn't get any.

 As we were leaving on Monday both carloads had to drive through Decorah, Iowa on our way home. I had read about a cave there so we went to check it out. It is called the Ice Cave as is tends to be quite cold and have ice in it a lot of the year. There wasn't any there right now but we had fun exploring the caves.
 This cave was down a closed road so we had  to walk a little ways but it wasn't that far. Once there you can go in without any entrance fee. It is owned by the city and you enter at your own risk. The main cave wasn't huge (though I think if we would have slithered on our bellies we could have gone on to another section) but it was fun to explore anyway.
 Then we proceeded to explore the area a little more, do some hiking and climbing on the rocks and we found that there were more caves.
 It was a really pretty area and just full of interesting rock areas.

 We found another cave that went back in a little ways and then just had this short tunnel farther. Thomas decided to slip through horizontally and Mara, Jonathan and I ended up following him. Aaron and Megan were exploring elsewhere at the time and Ken didn't want to try going through that little spot and was left outside to call for help if needed. :-) We were quite obviously not the first people every to go back there as there was some old bedding back in there and some painting on the walls.
 I haven't gotten to do very much cave exploring before (we just don't have them up here) so it was really fun for me.

 After that we parted ways with Mara and Thomas. We probably won't see them again until Christmas time. It was so nice to get to spend that weekend together.

We headed north of Decorah. Not to far away was the town of Burr Oak, Iowa. This was a place that Laura Ingalls and family lived in but she didn't write about it. It was where they went after the grasshoppers wrecked their crops at Plum Creek. Their only boy died just before living here (while staying with some family on their way) and Grace was born here. I wanted to stop here as I have seen most of the other places she lived (I really the little house books as a child and I still do) and I wanted to add this to the list.

   We didn't take the time or money to take a tour but we had fun looking around outside quickly and went into the gift shop.
 The Ingalls family lived (for a while anyway) and worked at the Master's Hotel which is still there today.

Our trip home went well and as always it is good to be home again! :-)


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