Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Camping @ Yellowstone

We just got back from a wonderful family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. I was a little nervous about how Zachary was going to do traveling, but he did great! Malachi has always been a trooper when it comes to vacationing, so I was pretty sure he'd be fine. 

We saw and did a lot of things while we were there for 5 days, so I'll probably break this up into a few different posts. I just don't have time to sit and write a super long post at once with two busy boys around.

I thought today I'd talk about where we stayed. I would totally recommend camping while visiting Yellowstone. It probably would have been easier to stay in the cute little town of West Yellowstone in a motel, but we all really enjoyed camping and enjoying the outdoors all week. 

We drove the 12 hour trip to Yellowstone from our home the first day. We left our house at about 3am and managed to arrive at our campground around 4 or 4:3pm I think. 

We stayed at a campground about 10 miles outside of the park. It was about half the price of staying inside the park for the week and much less crowded. Plus, it gave us the opportunity to go fishing on the lake by the campground and to be able to drive through town each day for gas and whatever other supplies we needed. Gas and supplies in West Yellowstone were expensive, but not as much as actually IN Yellowstone.

Since Zach is still not quite walking regularly on his own, we put down a tarp next to the tent for him to play with his cars and trucks. We brought some games to play with Malachi and fishing poles. They played a lot with their Hot Wheels vehicles in the dirt.

I don't have a picture of it set up here, but we have a Zodi Instant Hot Shower with it's own shower tent, so we all had showers a couple times (heaven!). We also have a screen tent to keep the bugs off (a MUST! there were horrible mosquitos everywhere the first day!) The only thing I think I would like to get for future trips is a better cooler. I think the one we have has gone on a few too many hunting trips where it's gotten rough treatment and it didn't keep things as cold as I would have liked.

We got up early two mornings and got into the park right as the sun was coming up. Awesome!

On our way home we went a different direction and stayed for one night at a campground in the Sawtooth National Forest. Another beautiful view.

Unfortunately I gave bad directions when we left the second campground and we got going to wrong directions THROUGH the Sawtooth National Forest and then down the Pondorosa Pine Scenic Byway - beautiful - but not exactly on our original plans.... a several hundred miles out of our way. Oh well... we got to see some lovely scenery!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pike Place Market

This past week some of my husband's out of town family came for a family reunion. I missed a couple days of it due to work and a child with heat exhaustion (it's been in the 90's here! For DAYS! Crazy), but I did make it for the last couple. The last full day they were here, we took them to Pike Place Market. It's one of the touristy location everyone who visits Seattle should see.

Malachi had a great time. My husband had a cousin with a couple kids Malachi's age, so they became fast friends! His cousin's who live here are all teenagers, so it was fun for him to have buddies his own age for once!

We also visited the Gum Wall near Pike Place. This was a new experience for me - honestly I didn't even know it existed. Apparently people go there just to stick their chewed gum on the alley walls... GROSS!

That red piece in the middle is Malachi's. Ewwww.....

The boys were troopers - they weren"t grumpy and listened really well. It was extremely packed at he market and I was terrified of losing one of them, but everything was fine.

Now I am in frantic planning mode for our camping trip coming up next week to Yellowstone! I am working almost everyday up until the day before we leave, so I'm getting a little panicked! Should be fun though. =)

Book Review: Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

Book Details
Title: Full Steam Ahead
Author: Karen Witemeyer
2014, Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764209673
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary
When love simmers between a reclusive scientist and a wealthy debutante, will they abandon ship or is it full steam ahead? 

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.
Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.
After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.
Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

My Review
This book was interesting in the fact that it talked a lot about Steamships. It really went into the dangers of the boats and how so many people were killed because of the unstable nature of the boilers.
This book was told from the POV of Nicole Renard and Darius Thornton. Nicole ends up running for her life (and her family's lives) to a tucked away estate in Texas. She means to just take a job for a short time to hide from those following her, but she gets engrossed in the work of the eccentric owner who works himself to the bone trying to find a way to make steamships more safe.
As I said, the book is interesting. I like the  characters alright except I felt they were not completely realistic. Nicole was a little too independent and I was pretty sure a single, rich girl would not be traipsing about the country by herself and have it not be super noticeable, but the rest of the story was interesting, so I decided to ignore that part of the story I didn't like. 
If you like stories that are very historically correct then this one is probably not for you. If you like a good story set in a different time and don't really care how accurate it is, then you'll probably like this one!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Woodland Themed Birthday Party!

I thought I'd share a few pictures of Zach's 2nd birthday party. We did a Woodland Theme. This is also how his bedroom is decorated, so I thought I'd just carry it through to a birthday party. Of course I scoured Pinterest for ideas and I think it turned out pretty cute. =)

First the food: I had my husband cut me these little wood rounds from his firewood stash in the backyard for my labels. I stole that idea from someone online.... can't remember where though. I used a collection of similar ideas from several sites to make up my food names and selections. I had Teddy Grahams in the bowl "Don't Feed the Bears", fresh fruit in the decorated white cups for "Forest Berries", banana chips for "Chipmunk Chips", gummy frogs and worms (Malachi was super impressed by the fact that there were gummy worms! lol). My mom made me some really cute Owl cookies (which I apparently never took a photo of) and those cute little acorn candies (Hershey kiss, peanut butter candy melt and a peanut butter chip). I also made some little cream cheese sandwhiches. One with salmon cream cheese and one with regular cream cheese and cucumbers. Yum!

I made this funny tree for the front door out of a roll of brown paper and some scrapbooking paper. Its a little goofy, but I thought it was cute. My friend Stephanie made this awesome cake. She has made all the birthday cakes for my boys' parties and I think they get better every year! This one had cute little frosting animals and mushrooms all over it. I found Zach on top of the dining room table a few days later munching on the animals!

Here's the birthday boy. His favorite part? The balloons. =) 

Can't believe my baby is TWO!! I'm a little traumatized if I'm honest. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sick Days

Some days just don't go as planned. We had a big week last week. Malachi had Vacation Bible School all week and I volunteered and then Zachary's 2nd birthday (sniff, sniff) party was on Saturday. We were running from one thing to the next. Well.. yesterday when I was at work, my little newly-two boy got sick. Too much fun apparently finally caught up with him.

So this was today. No fun. We had a pajama day. I was up with this guy at 5:30am catching up on Downtown Abbey episodes I am STILL trying to get through (I've seriously been trying to watch Season 3 for months now....) I was supposed to be at book club - but sometimes we just need a day at home, right? Sometimes I am I SO thankful for a day to do nothing. I'd rather it not be because my baby is sick, but we still got a lot of good moments out of the day, so I'll take it.

Hoping for a fever-free day tomorrow and another day at home. =)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Book Details:
Title: Echoes of Mercy
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
2014, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 978-0-307-73127-2
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
Sometimes  a secret must be kept for the truth to be revealed.

When a suspicious accident occurs at the Dinsmore’s Wold-Famous Chocolates Factory in Sinclair, Kansas, Caroline Lang goes undercover as a factory worker to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event and how the factory treats its youngest employees – the child workers. Caroline’s fervent faith, difficult childhood, and compassionate heart drove her to become an investigator for the Labor Commission, and she feels compelled to see children freed from heavy adult responsibilities and allowed to pursue an education.

Oliver Dinsmore, heir to the Dinsmore candy dynasty, has his own investigation to conduct. Posing as a common worker known as “Ollie Moore,” he aims to find out all he can about the family business before he takes over for his father. Caroline and Oliver become fast friends, but tension mounts when the two find themselves at odds about the roles of child workers. Hiding their identities becomes even more difficult when fate brings them together over three children in desperate need. When all is revealed, will the truth destroy the love starting to grow between them?

My Review:
This story is told from the POV of Caroline, Oliver, factory manager Gordon Hightower and Letta Holcomb. There are a lot of characters in this story, but it was well told and I did not feel like I had a hard time keeping them all straight.

Caroline had a traumatic childhood and was rescued by Noble and AnnMarie  Dempsey. Noble works for the Labor Commission and now Caroline works for them. She is asked to go to the Dinsmore Chocolate Factory to investigate under-age workers at the factory AND the suspicious death of the last agent who was investigating the factory.

Oliver is also working undercover, but for a totally different reason. He’s trying to learn the family business and figure out ways to make the factory better by working as a laborer in the factory himself and he doesn’t want his true identity revealed.

Gordon Hightower is the factory manager. Mr. Dinsmore plucked him out of orphanage when he was a boy and gave him a “better” life working in the factory. Hightower has risen to a place of trust and power within the company… but is that enough for this man?

Letta, Lesley and Lank Holcomb’s father dies and leaves them alone. Letta is determined to provide for her family – whatever it takes. Caroline befriends the girl and becomes attached to the trio of children. But they have a hard time trusting anyone.

As I said, there is a lot going on here, but the story is woven together very well. Each has their own story to tell and somehow they all blend together. I felt that the characters were intelligent and interesting. They were realistic and not stupid – which is something that always gets me in these types of novels. I appreciated the romance between Caroline and Oliver wasn’t rushed although I was always pretty sure of its eventual outcome.
Not everything was predictable though. I wasn’t sure up until the end what was going to happen with the Holcomb children and if they were going to end up with a family, on their own or in an orphanage.

This was a very enjoyable story and I would recommend it.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this  book from Waterbrook Press through the Blogging for Books program for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Introducting Chapter Books

A couple months back I found a set of the first 10  Magic School Bus chapter books on a local free/wanted/for sale site. I wasn't sure Malachi would be ready for something with only minimal pictures, but he loved watching the Magic School Bus cartoon, so I thought I'd pick them up anyway. I got the set of 10 books for $5 - which considering each book originally cost about that much was a pretty good deal. (This person also sold me over 20 Magic TreeHouse books for another $5!)

Well, come to find out - Malachi loved listening to these books! We've finished the set we have and have started on some new chapter books. We've started Dinosaurs Before Dark #1 in the Magic TreeHouse series and I just got the first Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book by Betty MacDonald. He does an awesome job of just sitting and listening to the stories. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has even less pictures than either the Magic School Bus or Magic Treehouse. 

I am thinking of what other books I might be able to read to him now! This opens up a whole new set of options!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Nothing was received for this post.

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