Thursday, July 30, 2009

More sand dune pictures

I wanted to include more pictures from the dunes. These were taken by LittleA and LittleE on their dune journey from the campground to the Lake Michigan shore. BigJ and Dad also went along on the hike. It's has been an annual tradition for the past 4 years that we have been going to Warren Dunes.
This first climb from the campground is known as Mt. Randall. It is VERY steep and feels like it's going straight up. It's a tough way to begin, but a great challenge. Especially for us older folk!
The kids run up so quickly because they don't sink down into the sand as much as we do. Show Offs!
I haven't tackled Mt. Randall in a few years, since LittleJ was born. Awww, too bad (not!).

Thankfully, there is a way around for those of us not up to the challenge. There's always next year.

We like to call it the Great Dune Sea (ala Star Wars), but of course it really isn't that big. It takes about 30 minutes to arrive at the lakeshore, keeping up a good pace.
There are a few shady spots here and there for a break, but not many.

It's definitely best to start out early in the morning before the sand gets too hot. That way walking barefoot won't burn your feet, and it's so much easier without shoes or even flip flops.
Some places have dune grass and scrub growing, while others are completely barren.
It's all beautiful and amazing though.

Occasionally, blooming plants can even be found.

I leave you with this beautiful sunset, looking out over Lake Michigan from the highest point of the dune climb.

See our little car down there? It's also quite a hike to the top but the view is amazing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lake Michigan Camping and Travels

Lake Michigan is one of our all-time favorite places to vacation. The water and beaches are fantastic- clean, clear, beautiful, and refreshing. One of our favorite campgrounds is Warren Dunes State Park near St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, MI.

The girls are busy setting up their tent while the rest of us set up the second one.Here's our finished campsite--good size lot with some grass and partial sun. It worked out great. No complaints of tree roots while sleeping either. That's a huge plus! We'll put up the canopy over the picnic table after we get back from the beach.
The boys relax with some yummy strawberries and blueberries, and wait for the girls to get ready to go to the beach for a swim.Getting to the beach from the campground is either a foot journey over the dunes which takes about 30 minutes, or a short 5 minute drive. As you can see, we usually drive. The kids and Dad trekked the dunes early the next morning though. It's a huge hike for LittleJ at this point, but maybe next year. They love it! The girls made their dune documentary which I'll have to upload later. In the background is the main sand dune. It's also quite a hike to the top but the view is amazing. Finally made it down to the beach. LittleJ loves the giant sandbox! The water temperature was around 65 degrees. It took a while getting used to, but in the end it felt great!LittleJ got all tuckered out the second day at the beach. I would opt for a few more degrees on that water temperature though. Woo! It certainly cools you off!! Here is everyone beginning the climb up the main dune. They all make it to the top except for LittleJ and Dad who only get to the first log.
After leaving the campground, we decided to take the scenic lake drive north instead of the highway. We stopped in Holland at the state park and found the waves to be much bigger. The posted water temperature was 67 degrees.
In the background you can see the breakwater pier. We walked on over and out to the end.
And here is the Holland lighthouse that sets closer to shore. I love lighthouses and we have been to several along the Great Lakes. Their history is fascinating and many are open to the public.

LittleE says she would love to live in Holland near Lake Michigan. I totally agree!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum

We started our vacation by going to the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, OH. We were there last Monday, July 20th, the 40th Anniversary of the first moon landing. Admission was half price and they had some freebies like these great stickers.The line to wait wasn't too long--maybe 20 minutes. It was a bit crowded, but you were able to go at your own pace without too much trouble. We had visited here before, several years ago, but BigJ didn't remember it, so we thought it would be nice to go back on this special day.
Once in the door they have wall displays of the different Ohio astronauts- 24 in all, as well as a display of the history of flight. Hanging from the ceiling is this great replica of the moon and a moon landing module.

There are a lot of different displays about a variety things regarding space travel, such as Armstrong's space suits and flight logs, an actual Gemini spacecraft, and a plantetarium/theater where they show a film about Armstrong and the famous Apollo 11 moon landing.

There's also a small moon rock on display. Did you know the astronauts left their oxygen backpacks on the moon so they could use that storage space for the moon rocks they brought back?

LittleE is trying her hand at landing a shuttle in the flight simulator. I think she crashed.

There's much, much more to see than what I have here. BigJ decided to buy an Apollo 11 mission patch at the gift shop along with some astronaut figures. Did you know the Apollo 11 astronauts broke tradition by choosing NOT to have their 3 names put on the mission patch design? They did this to honor the approximately 400,000 people who made the first moon landing possible. It's a favorite OH field trip!!
Some books we read for the trip: Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh, and What Would You Ask Neil Armstrong by Anita Ganeri.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Game of the Week

I love a good educational game and my criteria is simple: The kids want to play it because it's fun, not educational!

And this is definitely a fun one.
The rules are simple: 3 minutes to connect your state cards in order. What's the order? Any order, as long as they share a border.

The game comes with 50 cards, one for each state, and 4 maps. Each player receives a map for reference, and all the cards are dealt out. When the timer starts, line them up in the longest chain possible. Hawaii and Alaska are wild, since they are not in the continguous states, and if you are able to go from coast to coast, extra points are scored.

When the 3 minutes are up, we each share what we have, checking to make sure the borders connect. The points are tallied and the person with the most points is the winner. It's that simple. Just the way I like 'em. It's great for geography and math review, but most of all it's FUN!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Saving Money with Econobusters!

I have a list of blogs that I frequent quite often and this is one of them.

Econobusters has all sorts of money saving tips and ideas. And don't we all need to save these days wherever we can.
I hope you find something here you can use. I sure have.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 4th : Good Food, Good Fun!!

Hope you had a fantastic July 4th! We picked up the girls from church camp and had a nice picnic dinner: grilled marinated pork loin, sweet corn,.. anda strawberry cheescake trifle. YUMMMMM!!!We headed to the fireworks in a neighboring town. Not sure quite where we were going but met up with some friends. The show was great! The traffic was horrendous getting back out of town, but we made it home before midnight.
On Monday we went to a local state park to their swimming beach. LittleJ wasn't too happy at first, but later on he thought it was great.

The girls showed him how to toss the sand at BigJ.
Dad and BigJ enjoyed a splash together.

It was a little cool, but I'm sure we'll go back again on a nice hot summer day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yummy Carrot Bread

Yesterday we made carrot bread. It's one of my all-time favorites that I have been making since 4-H days long ago. LittleJ loves to help me cook, but I have to keep him away from the ingredients because he also loves to dump!The recipe comes from a cookbook done in my hometown as part of their bicentennial celebration in 1976. As you can see it is pretty worn.
Here's the finished product already half eaten.

LittleJ has eaten most of it himself!


Carrot Bread
1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup oil, 2 eggs
1 & 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon
1 jar junior baby carrots
1/2 cup walnuts
Mix sugar, oil and eggs, beat well.
Sift flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.
Add carrots, nuts, and mix well.
Bake in a greased and floured med-large size loaf pan for 50 - 55 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 1 large loaf and freezes well.