Monday, December 8, 2014

Rewind : Got Milk?

Another "rewind" post as I get my blog caught up on life in the last few months...

In August, we made a trip back to Iowa to visit my family. It is always great to just spend time with them, but it's also fun to play tourist there.  We have found plenty of fun things for our family to see and do while we are there. The highlight of this trip was a visit to Hansen's Dairy in Hudson, IA.

Hansen's Dairy is a locally owned and family-operated dairy. Most days you can schedule a guided tour where you can learn about their farm, their cows, the process of milking, and get some "hands-on" experiences. To top that off, you can meet and feed their pet kangaroos and wallaby, as well as taste some of the delicious products. The kids absolutely loved this hands-on field trip, as did all of the adults.

After riding in a tractor-pulled wagon from the visitor's center to the farm next door, we first visited the kangaroos and wallaby. They are the mascot of Hansen's Dairy, added to the farm after one of their sons took a trip to Australia. You can pet and feed them.




Next, we got to bottle-feed calves. As a child, my brother and I often did this on our uncle's dairy farm. It was fun to see my kids doing it.


 
Aunt Steffoni taking a turn
 
The day we visited, a calf had just been born. They mentioned that they were looking for an 'A' name since they name the calves with the letter that begins the mother's name. They were thinking August since she was born in August. I suggested our last name, which is a rare name. There surely hadn't been another cow named Ardente in their farm's history. Sure enough, they took our suggestion and there is now a cow named Ardente growing up on the Hansen farm. We even got to take a turn bottle feeding her.



Next we learned more about how they care for the herd and manage the different parts of the farm and milk business. We visited the milking parlor and took a turn trying to hand-milk one of the cows. Both myself and Lillian were quick learners and could have gotten hired for an opening they had.



One of the highlights of the visit was the tasting back at the visitor's center. We got to shake a small amount of cream in a jar to make butter. Levi loved it and ate a TON of the butter with crackers. We sampled chocolate milk and each got to pick one flavor of their ice cream to enjoy. In addition, they had hands on activities for the kids.




We liked their milk products so much, we now bring them home to Illinois and have my mom bring it to us when she visits. The kids cheer when we have Hansen's Dairy "kangaroo milk". I'm happy to support a "local" business and get a better product too. If you're in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, I would definitely recommend a visit to both their farm and one of their retail locations.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rewind: Summer Fun

My last blog post was way back in the summer. Life has kept moving and my blog has sat here silent. When I first started my blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could share about my daily life-family happenings, recipes, sewing, fun places I visited. I still hope to do that because if nothing else, I want this blog to document our life. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to do some "later posts" to recap our life over last few months.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *

Our summer started with our vacation to South Dakota, but we had plenty of fun throughout the summer. Since John is home during the summer, it means we have lots of family time and the freedom to go places and do things. We spend our summers coming and going.

At least once a week, we head to the beach by John's parents' house. It is a private beach and we usually have it to ourselves. The kids are free to play in the water, sand, and go fishing.




 
Summer wouldn't be summer without some hiking and camping. We camped at Lake Le-Aqua-Na for the first time. It was a nice, peaceful campsite with shorter hiking trails-perfect for our little hikers.
 


 
We made a few trips to our friends' lake house in Lake Carroll. It is a wonderful retreat and the kids love it there. It's a mix of boating and country fun.
 
 
 

 
 
And if we didn't have enough fun with the Kennemers in Lake Carroll, we continued our fun with miniature golfing.
 


 
 
And of course...popsicles!
 

 

 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Our First Family Vacation

In June our family set out on our first family vacation. Last summer my mom had passed through the Black Hills as part of a vacation to national and state parks out west. She thought South Dakota would be a good choice for our family. Looking through the visitor's guide, we knew there would be plenty to keep everyone in the family happy-camping, hiking, kids' attractions, animals, and plenty of beautiful scenery. We were not disappointed! It was an awesome trip.

My kids are used to riding in the car. We make regular trips to visit my family in Iowa--a four-and-a-half-hour drive. Just to be safe I pulled together extra car-friendly activities that I found on Pinterest. They were troopers during the whole trip. So, without further ado, here's a photo recap of our trip.

Hitting the road...car selfie!

Falls Park, Sioux Falls

Camping in Oakwood Lakes State Park

Getting close with the wolves at Bramble Park Zoo

Levi getting a close-up view of one of the tigers
Driving a covered wagon at Ingalls Homestead


Lillian ready for school in a one-room schoolhouse

Laundry time!

The "covered wagon" we slept in at Ingalls Homestead.
It's actually modeled after a 1880s sheepherder's wagon.

Tuning up a car at Children's Museum of South Dakota
Badlands


Mount Rushmore
Buffalo herd along the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park
At the top of Harney Peak
Levi hiked the whole six-mile trail on his own.
Lillian hitched a ride on John's back.

Devil's Tower

At the top of Lover's Leap.
Lillian hiked this three-mile trail on her own.

A family selfie along the trail

Here's a run-down of the places we went on our vacation:
-Falls Park, Sioux Falls
-Oakwood Lakes State Park (camping), Bruce
-Bramble Park Zoo, Watertown
-Children's Museum of South Dakota, Brookings
-Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet
-Ingalls Homestead, DeSmet
-Badlands National Park
-Black Hills National Forest
-Custer State Park (camping--Grace Coolidge Campground)
-Mount Rushmore, Keystone
-1880 Train, Hill City
-Devil's Tower, Wyoming
-Bear Country USA, Rapid City
-Spearfish Canyon Scenic Drive
-Needles Highway Scenic Drive
-Iron Mountain Scenic Drive
-Wildlife Loop Scenic Drive
-Hiking in Custer State Park-Harney Peak, Lover's Leap

For general information on South Dakota tourism, visit their tourism page.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Lillian Turns Three!

I've been blogging about birthdays a lot in the last few months, but I can't help it that we have three birthdays in the spring at our house. This will be the last one, I promise.

Our little girl, Lillian, turned three last week. She was very excited about the idea of being a "big girl".

Since we can't celebrate just once, we had a family party on Saturday and a little friend playdate this week. For her party, she requested an Elmo theme. Last year we did a Sesame Street themed party and what she was hoping for this year was for me to make the Elmo cupcakes again. That was not going to happen, but we agreed on an Elmo cake. I could count on my father-in-law to come help make it happen. He is a great partner in cake-making. I do the baking and we come up with a plan together. He executes the cake-carving and handles most of the frosting. It turned out so cute!



 
Earlier this week, we had a birthday playdate with another family. It works out well because the boys are the same age and the girls are the same age so they play well together. Plus, they have a baby sister who Lillian is in love with.


At three, Lillian is quite the talker. She has a lot to say and knows plenty of words to get her point across. She is so observant and picks up on everything that goes on around her. Since she was a baby she has been very "determined". It's fun to see this determination and independence in her, though sometimes it works against us. Lillian is full of personality, sweet, and loving and I'm so glad she's mine.