My View Today

And it is stupid cold. If it weren’t windy, I could be out trying to photograph frozen bubbles. It is snowing heavy enough that it was a challenge to get a pic of my front Maple that wasn’t blurry. I didn’t quite manage it.

Snowy Fall Maple
Snowy Fall Maple

I’m hoping the snow stops soon and gives the streets a chance to melt off because MC drove to school today and he has never driven in snow. It wouldn’t bother me if he were a few short miles from home, but we live really close to the farthest edge of the district, which means a good 20 minute drive on 50+ MPH highways and a few side roads. We did tell him to take the bus home if it was still bad when school lets out. Now we get to see how well he listened.

Oh, and a bit of a brag moment… MC got accepted into his top 2 colleges. We are now in wait and see mode on any scholarships.

Happy Halloween

For the first time since my kids were tiny, Halloween feels so different and I just don’t have the motivation to do everything I have for years. I’m not doing the garage this year. I’m not dressing up this year. I barely got up the energy to do a pumpkin (mine’s on the left), though it was only BG and I carving this year. The weather is so NOT helping. Upper 20s and snow do not put me in the mind of Halloween.

Snow on Maple Leaves
Snow on Maple Leaves

I’m still doing my best to make it fun for my kids, but they are teenagers so it just isn’t the same. Their idea of fun is for me to make a bunch of awesome finger foods and spend the night grazing, so that’s what I’m going to do. I think BG is going to dress up and answer the door. She was a little disappointed we weren’t doing the garage, but she understands. It is a lot of work to put in when kids aren’t going to show up. The new construction has changed how kids go through the neighborhood and we got skipped last year even though kids know we put on a great show. She did say last night that it was probably a good idea we didn’t do it when she saw that we were going to be lucky to hit 30 today.

Like so many things, our Halloween tradition is changing to fit how we are changing. I hate it from the standpoint that I have always adored Halloween and have always gone all out. I’m also really kind of glad to not have a crap ton of stuff to do. I can just sit back and relax for once.

Just Realized…

I have lived in this house longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. A little over 15 years. This beats the last record that, if I remember correctly, was about 14 years.

Not that this is any particular day that would have triggered this, just something that popped up in the book I just started that made me think about this fact. Just one of those “Huh. Wow!” moments that is kind of cool. It’s a little mind breaking that there is a pretty high probability that I’ll be here (happily so) for many, many years to come.

I can only imagine all the family memories that will continue to seep into these walls as the years go by. Walls that have only ever experienced the memories of this family. Just some really nice warm thoughts on a really dreary, rainy day.

 

It Begins

I so adore starting my Monday cleaning a massive hairball off the wood floor. *sigh* And this is just the start of the insanity because dance starts this week for BG. This means that her assisting days also start this week. I only discovered last night that I’ve got to scramble this afternoon because MC has his gaming club right after school. That means I have to leave as soon as BG gets off the bus so I can run and pick MC up, race home back home, grab BG and take her to her first class she assists. Then I get to sit in my car for a hour while she does it.

This bit of crazy really won’t last but maybe a couple of weeks because we just almost have the car situation worked out and he will start driving himself to and from school. It doesn’t relieve the stress of Wednesdays when BG has to be at the studio at 4 but wouldn’t get off the bus until nearly 3:30 which is about the time we need to leave to get her there on time. I’m probably going to have to be picking her up from school on Wednesdays. Until MC gets comfortable doing this drive (which includes a stint on the highway) BG won’t be riding with him. We all have decided that we all need to be in agreement that he is ready before she will do that, that includes BG being comfortable with it. I have no time frame for that piece.

Have I mentioned that with BG assisting this year, I’m going to have to be at the studio, in my car, 3 different times a week? The 4th time she is there long enough for me to drop her off and come home or get stuff done. The other 3 times is only an hour so it makes no sense to drive the 20 minutes home to only be there for about 10 minutes before doing the 20 minute drive back.

There are reasons I’m pushing her to learn to drive ASAP. I’m hoping she will be able to get her license as soon as she turns 16 after the first of the year.

It’s a good thing I like to read.

And He Passed!

MC is officially a licensed driver! I’d say, watch out on the roads, but… he is probably a better driver than I am. This event was a bit delayed for him for a variety of reasons out of his control, so I’m really excited for him.

Next up is going to be BG. She is old enough to get her permit and start learning to drive. Seeing how insane her schedule is with dance and being an assistant this year, I’m really going to push for her to start learning as soon as she can so she can take her test as soon as she turns 16. As it is right now, I’ll be taking her to the studio at least 4 days a week, so having her be able to drive is going to be critical.

Now to attempt to work out the whole car situation. Joys of parenting in a suburb.

Bright, Sunshiny Day

It begins. I just saw MC off for his first day of being a Senior. My brain still hasn’t quite wrapped itself around that concept yet. Maybe I’ll have gotten a handle on it before he walks with his cap and gown. Maybe.

For now, I’m going to have a cup of coffee and one of our traditional first day of school treats: donuts. Then I have to wrestle our oldest cat off to the vet. Hopefully that will keep my mind from tying itself in knots over the Senior thing and the quiet in the house. At least for a while.

Eagle Trail Hike

Our first hike of the trip was the 2 mile Eagle Trail. I really wanted to do this one in particular because of some of the pictures I’d seen online. They had shown that it had a lot of different interesting features. What I didn’t pay any attention do was the difficulty. Difficulty isn’t something that I’d ever really paid a whole lot of attention to, mostly because there isn’t anything like that around here.

Tree Root Covered Trail Floor
Tree Root Covered Trail Floor

For this trail, the difficulty wasn’t in incline or altitude change so much as how uneven a surface you were walking on. If it wasn’t a woven crisscross of roots, it was haphazard rocks. There were a couple of points near the water’s edge where the trail got incredibly narrow, which was fun when you ran into people hiking in the other direction.

Mossy Rock Lined Trail
Mossy Rock Lined Trail

The first third or so of this trail was heavily wooded with a few smaller rock formations along the way. It was such a rich, dark vivid green, it was almost unreal. I hate that none of my photos even come close to doing it justice.

Wooded Pathway
Wooded Pathway

It sort of reminded me of the kind of scenery you’d see in some fantasy movie with an enchanted forest, but not the dark, creepy kind. It was so pretty there under the trees. I could have spent hours in there just taking pictures and would have if it had just been me and not the entire family.

Moss and Fern Covered Mall Cave
Moss and Fern Covered Mall Cave
Rock Step Pathway
Rock Step Pathway

Once you got closer to the water’s edge, there were a lot more rocks and the landscape and feel of the space really changed, becoming harsher. Even though we were really close to the water, sometimes within a few feet, there weren’t a lot of places to see out onto the water because it was still really heavily treed.

Small Rock Wall Topped In Misshapen Trees
Small Rock Wall Topped In Misshapen Trees

One of the things that was really fascinating along this hike were all of these little cave like areas. Some were way bigger than others, able to hold multiple people and others would have been barely large enough for a small animal den. None of them went very deep into the rock, but were enough to give a sense of space and wonder. These were some of the kids favorite places to explore along the way.

Rocky Caved Area With Lone Tree
Rocky Caved Area With Lone Tree

The middle third of the hike was this really rocky area along the base of the bluff and the water’s edge. This was one of the most difficult areas of the hike because of all the rocks and how many narrow paths you had to take. There were more points where you could see out across the water, but there were still a lot of trees along the shoreline, which is something that kind of surprised me in general about the peninsula.

Eagle Trail Rock Formation Cave
Eagle Trail Rock Formation Cave
Tall Rock Bluff
Tall Rock Bluff

By the time we got past the last of the bluff area, things got back to being similar to how the hike started before thinning out even more. Even though it was only about a 2 mile hike in all, it was still pretty intense. I didn’t get any pictures after the rocks. Mostly because I’d already taken way too many and what I was seeing wasn’t much different, but also because I was about out of gas and getting cranky. I discovered the backpack I was using had a rough spot that rubbed on the skin on my shoulder since I was wearing a tank top and had to have my hand around the strap to protect it. We were all pretty wiped out at that point and were more concerned about just getting done. As exhausting as it was, it was an amazing hike.

First Wisconsin Sunset

The very first night we got into Door County, we took enough time to get checked in to where we were staying and drop off our bags before we headed right back out even though we’d been in the car for well over 11 hours. We wanted to scout out a few areas before the next day and we needed to hunt down some place to eat.

The first place I wanted to check out was a place to get a good view of the sunset that I’d found on Google maps. It looked to be the ideal spot.

Late Afternoon Lake Michigan from Door County
Late Afternoon Lake Michigan from Door County

I especially loved the small pool of water with only a small strip of shore between it and the lake. When we checked the spot out, only 1 person was there with their dog. Little did we know that everyone else on the peninsula also thought it was the ideal sunset viewing spot. When we came back after doing a bit more scouting, it was packed with people. Since it wasn’t an official park, there wasn’t any parking and the road just dead ended at the shore, so everyone was parked along this narrow twisty piece with a really steep incline.

Clouded Sunset on Lake Michigan
Clouded Sunset on Lake Michigan

There were very few spots to stand to get pictures as the shore was lined with people in chairs and sitting on the rocks. I was really thankful that the area right in front of the little pool was open. I did have to avoid a couple of heads and dogs trying to photobomb me, but I managed to get several awesome shots.

Sunset Clouds Reflectio
Sunset Clouds Reflectio
Clouded Sunset Sky on Lake Michigan
Clouded Sunset Sky on Lake Michigan
Dead Tree In Water At Sunset Lake Michigan
Dead Tree In Water At Sunset Lake Michigan
Clouded Sunset on Lake Michigan
Clouded Sunset on Lake Michigan

We only stayed until the sun dropped below the cloud line before we left. We were exhausted from the drive and wanted a chance to just go chill out for a while without being surrounded by people and gnats. The clouds gave us a stunning sunset, but made it impossible for us to get a good night for star viewing so we didn’t even attempt it that first night.

Clouded Sunset on Lake Michigan
Clouded Sunset on Lake Michigan

Getting School Minded

This is that crazy week that seems to be full of getting the kids ready to go back to school. Yesterday was registration for both MC and BG, but it was the last for MC. That is one of those gut knotting moments when you get an in your face reminder that one of your babies isn’t so much a baby any more. This will be his last year in high school. He will actually be graduating this year. With honors. I know this is only one moment in a long string of moments that will happen this year to hit me like this. I also know that all of them will be over and gone in a blink of an eye.

BG is taking yet another step into finding out more of who she is as she has been invited to be a dance assistant at her studio this year. It is sort of a big step for the awkward, slightly introverted girl she is. That means she will be adding another two hours to her time at the studio every week. It also adds at least one more performance to her end of the year recital, which was already getting an additional performance because she is now in the oldest group of dancers, reaching her own not a baby anymore milestone.

My babies aren’t babies anymore and haven’t been in a long time, but it still hits when you see these moments and recognize them for what they are. My kids are growing and becoming little adults and I’m so not ready for it. Are you ever?

Newport State Park, Wisconsin

Our last day in Wisconsin was crazy busy and really had three distinct pieces. Two different hikes and then the star viewing. The two separate hikes we went on ended up being over 7 miles in total, the second hike being the bulk of that mileage. Considering I’m not overly active, that was nearly miraculous.

The second hike was in the Newport State Park area when we went to to scout it out for the dark sky viewing. It was such a nice area, we decided to check out the trails while we were there. Trails that ended up being WAY longer than we intended to hike, but by the time we realized that, we had to hike pretty much the same distance to get back out as we had to get where we were, so turning around wouldn’t have made a difference in the distance.

Newport State Park, Wisconsin - Pathway
Newport State Park, Wisconsin – Pathway

I took way too many photos of pathways while hiking because I love the look and feel of pathway shots. Sadly, I don’t think I’m all that great at actually taking them in a way that truly captures the feel of the paths I was on at the time.

Newport State Park, Wisconsin - Pathway
Newport State Park, Wisconsin – Pathway

I also didn’t end up taking a whole lot of pictures on this hike because, while it really was beautiful, it was also kind of a horror show. We battled clouds of gnats and mosquitoes and I don’t know what else for nearly the entire 5 miles or so. I needed both my hands to wave around like a complete spaz in order to fend them off. It was incredibly annoying as we had bug repellent, but because this hike was kind of a last minute decision and hadn’t really run into issues with our other hikes we chose not to go back to the car to get it. Big, big, BIG mistake.

Sunlit Gnat Cloud
Sunlit Gnat Cloud

The above picture wasn’t taken there, but is a perfect example of what we hiked through. As annoying as the bugs were, we didn’t think all that much of it until about 12 hours later when MC’s hand looked like someone had inflated it full of air and turned it into a hand balloon. I still don’t know what bit or stung him, but the antihistamines seem to be helping, though slowly.

Mine took closer to 24 hours to show up. Looks like I brought my own version of the stars home with me in my own personal constellation. My other shoulder and lower legs look pretty much the same.

Constellation of Bug Bites
Constellation of Bug Bites

That particular park ended up being one of the best and worst parts of our trip. Once the bites quit itching so badly, I might be able to let go of that part of it and just remember the best parts.

Dark Sky Viewing: Stars And The Milky Way

We had several goals for our trip to Wisconsin. Take a couple of hikes. Scout locations for both sunrise and sunset photos since we were on the peninsula and could easily get both. See the stars under a seriously dark sky. My part was seeing if I could pull off taking pictures of those stars. We went so far as to schedule our trip for the new moon time frame to ensure the darkest possible setting. I have to say that we lucked out epically in that we had two different nights of perfectly clear skies.

When we left, we needed to scout out locations for this, not knowing there was an actual designated dark sky viewing spot on the peninsula (because we apparently didn’t do quite enough research before leaving home). The first attempt, we found a small boat ramp that was really secluded. It was kind of eerie being there by ourselves in such dark conditions. I managed to get a couple of shots that weren’t great, but I got stars and the general “cloudy” effect you see in the milky way.

Before going out, I’d done some research for basic settings to get the effect I was hoping for, but I didn’t have the lens those instructions were based on so I had to do a lot of playing. My camera doesn’t allow for a set timer longer than 30 seconds and that is really what I needed here. For longer exposures, I needed to hold my shutter button, which caused quite a bit of shake (I was freezing and shivering, so it was nearly impossible not to get shake).

After we got back to where we were staying we decided to do a bit more research and found the dark sky viewing area in Newport State Park. Turns out it is one of only 48 parks in the world to earn International Dark Sky Park designation. Funny how we didn’t manage to see that fact until right before our last day in Door County. We debated going as it would be our last night and would require us staying out well past 10pm at minimum to get to see the really good stuff. We decided to check it out during the day as we didn’t have a ton scheduled and decide based on what we saw.

I am SO glad we did because I played with my settings a bit more and managed to get some mind blowing shots. They are far from perfect because I really don’t have the right equipment to do these the right way. But for it only being my second attempt ever at trying to take pictures of stars and the milky way, I’m kind of stunned at how well these turned out.

Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure
Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure

The image I used as the feature image in this post is one I took really early on, so there was still some faint light in the sky after sunset. That is what allowed me to get a bit more color in the shot that I couldn’t get with some of the later ones. The one above was taken closer to 10:30, which was still apparently not the ideal time, but we were under time constraints.

I was intimidated as all hell because the viewing area had probably half a dozen or better photographers set up. Being the rank armature I know I am at this made it even more so. Not that they would be seeing and critiquing me, but it was still intimidating. Especially when you see everyone with red lights instead of normal flashlights (so as not to mess with the photography). We got there early enough that flashlights weren’t needed, so we weren’t one of the ones that got shot the dirty looks and even a few comments when they came through with blindingly bright flashlights. FYI… Don’t take a flashlight to a dark sky viewing area.

It was so dark, though, I was worried I’d have someone run into me or my camera on their way down the path, so hubby put his flashlight in his pocket and turned it on whenever someone came close, giving off this really pale glow to warn oncoming traffic that someone was there. He played body blocker for me while I played with the stars and my camera. The kids sat on a bench behind us staring in awe at the sky between crazy teen goofing moments. I don’t think I want to know what anyone near them thought of us as parents because they were being off the charts goofy (not annoying or loud, just crazy goofy).

Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure - Straight Up View
Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure – Straight Up View

MC really wanted me to get some shots that weren’t at the horizon, so I attempted to make adjustments in the dark and shot upward. I had wanted the horizon and trees in my shots to give a sense of scale, but these were still interesting. They would have been much better if I’d taken them with a longer exposure, but I made sure I could get these shots in that 30 second window by really upping my film speed. Some of these were taken at 6400 and some were taken at 12800.

Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure - Straight Up View
Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure – Straight Up View

That high a film speed makes the images a lot more grainy than I’d like, but I still got the general effect, so I was thrilled. The two things that really made these so much harder to get better quality than I would have liked was that I needed a much wider angle lens and I really needed some sort of shutter trip wire that I could hold that would prevent me from shaking my camera at the longer exposure times. I don’t know that I’ll ever get another opportunity like this, but if I do, I’m going to seriously consider investing in those two pieces.

Even with these being on the blurry and grainy side, I’m massively proud that I was able to get these.

Start At The End

If you’d noticed it’s been a little quiet around here, that’s because I’ve been on vacation. We just got in last night and all I had time to do was unpack, start laundry and crash. Today has been all about getting all the things done that I didn’t have the energy to do last night. I have a lot of catching up to do on everyone’s blogs that I’ve missed, but I’ll be around soon. I’ll also have some posts about an amazingly awesome trip to Door County, Wisconsin. And of course loads and loads of photos. Seriously. It was probably the best photo trip I’ve ever had. Granted, I think the new camera had something to do with it, but really the scenery did all the work. For now, I’ll leave you with one of my last shots of the trip. The stunning sunset out the car window on the way home.

It’s A Banana Bread (Muffin) Kinda Day

My family actually left me some bananas to work with again. I am stunned. And obviously in the mood to bake. I decided to do the mini-muffin version just for something different. The recipe is still the same, I just changed the cooking time to about 20 minutes. They do lean towards the lighter color side than the bread because of that shorter time, but they are still just as tasty. Needless to say, these are already getting gobbled up.

*My base recipe for bread makes about 3 1/2 dozen mini-muffins.

Christmas In July

Anyone that has followed this blog for any length of time already knows about my crazy nutcracker collection and that my Hubby feeds this every year by getting me a new one, usually based on a theme for the year. He cracked me up beyond belief earlier in the month when he decided to start hunting for this year’s nutcracker early to make sure he got one that fit what he wanted for his theme this year. A nutcracker that represents me publishing my book and becoming an author.

What makes this even funnier is that my Hubby cannot hold on to surprises. At all. So when he manages to actually find one and get it ordered? It sits for about 2 days before he can’t stand it anymore and then it is suddenly Christmas in July.

Charles Dickens Nutcracker
Charles Dickens Nutcracker

I’m in love! It is so perfect.

One of the things I love about how my Hubby does this is that I never know exactly what I’m going to get. I kind of guessed what his theme for the year would be, but since I don’t ever go out looking at nutcrackers myself unless I happen to see them when I’m out around Christmas, I don’t know what kinds of possibilities are even out there. It’s always a surprise. Most of what I have would fall into the traditional range, but I have a wide range of traditional to modern to unique to completely off the wall wacky. This one falls more along the lines of a traditional nutcracker, but because it has a specific theme, it only hangs on the edge of traditional.

One of the things I love about this one is that it does have that classic feel to it, but still isn’t. The details on the books give it so much more, but it is still simple and elegant. I adore that this has a nameplate.

Sadly, my new guy got packed back into his box to wait for the holidays so he can go on display with the rest of the horde.

Daylily: Looking Up

Last night was MC’s crew game night. One of the guys wasn’t originally going to come, but ended up being able to at least be here for a while if not overnight, so I think it was kind of a momentous event for them. Then I got a moment to be THAT mom. The mom that your kid’s friends actually speak to, which is a feat in itself with this group as they are all massive introverts (one of the guys I see in the few seconds after he walks in the door, never to be seen again until he leaves).

Continue reading “Daylily: Looking Up”

Planning

This is an older image taken on a previous trip, but it feels fitting as it was probably one of the best family vacations we’ve ever taken. We are deep into the planning stages of our summer vacation. We still have to make a couple of decisions before we can actually book anything, but we are miles closer now than we were even a week ago. I also went out and, FINALLY, got myself a good pair of hiking boots, so now I’m more than ready.

One of my goals for any trip we take is to at least have a couple of amazing photo opportunities. The other is to get at least a snippet of time to spend with my amazing cousin. Everything else will just be icing on the vacation cake. We can’t do a very long trip this year, just a few days or so, because there are so many other things going on, but I’m determined to make the most of those few days.

Fingers and toes are crossed that nothing new pops up between now and then, but… that kind of isn’t how my household and life tend to work.

Gotta Laugh

We gave MC permission to skip the less than half a day that was the last day of school. This is so not something I EVER do, but… the kid got not only straight As all year, but maintained 100% in something like half his classes. He can have a frickin’ break. This did mean calling him in, which Hubby was in charge of, but he had to say he was sick. In a way, it wasn’t a complete lie, he was feeling a little sore because he played kickball the previous couple of days.

The funny thing about it all? BG wanted to go the last day (same grades and had zero absences the entire year) because she wanted to see her friends. Guess who ended up actually sick? BG. Poor girl. The last day was Friday and by Monday, she was miserable. Sore throat. Achy. Low grade fever. Major congestion. She did this for a few days before I took her in because her temp when up. They checked for strep but they said there was just some nasty viral stuff going around.

The sore throat and aches have gone away, but now she has a horrible cough. The kind that makes you want to cry every time you do cough because your abs have had it and are screaming at you. She comes down about every hour or so to whine that she feels like crap and wants me to somehow miraculously fix it.

Now, I totally shouldn’t laugh because I KNOW how bad she is feeling. I know, because this is me every winter. All winter long. And all I hear from both kids is “Sheesh! Quit coughing already!” or “You’re fine mom! That lung you just coughed up is nothing, let’s go!” I now get to give her tons of crap about taking the meds she needs (which she hates) and try really hard not to be a bad parent when I laugh.

I got to give her extra crap today because she is going to hang with a with a group of friends for someone’s birthday and they will be playing pickleball. She will be doing it while coughing with sore abs. I do feel bad, but I’m laughing a bit (and she is trying hard not to laugh along with me) because she insists on still going even though she feels like crap.

Summer Break and Plans

It is officially summer break for my kids and I have zero actual plans. We aren’t a “book every moment of summer” kind of family. My kids like to chill, hang out in their spaces playing games or listening to music, so it isn’t exactly a really busy time for us. That said, BG has gotten way more social over the last year and I have a feeling that is going to extend into summer. She is also talking about doing at least the summer dance workshop at her studio because she is interested in becoming an assistant next year. That is all still open and not decided just yet.

Continue reading “Summer Break and Plans”