Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Annual Cousin's Camping 2014

This past weekend we went camping.  Yep, remember when it SNOWED on Saturday....that happened!  Let's back up a little bit.  Remember when we went on the best RV trip ever a few years back with some of Ryan's cousins.  Well, little did we know, we'd started an annual trip right then and there.  We didn't end up planning a trip in 2012 because, well, who knows why, but I'd guess a baby, a move and life had something to do with it...but in 2013 the cousins were back at it again.  Our 2013 trip was on one of the hottest weekends of the year so it only made sense that our 2014 trip would end up being on the first cold weekend of the season.

It was cold, but I'm super proud of our group of sticking it out and deciding that we were going to have fun rain or shine.  Abby however, was NOT convinced!

Here's the thing.  I have GREAT memories from being a kid and doing big group camping trips like this.  I think there is something to be said for getting used to being away from the TV and spending some time outdoors enjoying what's all around us.  I want Abby to grow up knowing the smell of campfire in her hair and the feeling of not wanting to crawl out of a warm sleeping bag in the morning.  I want her to appreciate that we don't need screens and toys to have fun....playing outside, building fake fires with sticks and just having the freedom of the outdoors is just as fun, if not more!

Back to the trip.  This year we ventured to the Elroy Sparta trail in western Wisconsin.  It's a 30 mile bike trail that runs along an old train track bed and includes 3 tunnels!  We stayed at the Tunnel Trail Campground which is usually exactly the type of campground that I try to steer away from (I've found that the state parks are usually the best) but it was a really beautiful place and we loved that it was right on the bike path.

Everyone arrived early Friday evening and we set up camp.  Friday night was cool but the weather held out and we stayed up late enjoying the fire and just catching up life with each other.  Saturday morning though, that was the hardest part.  Sometime during the night the rain rolled in and switched to snow.  Yes, snow.  Not a lot, but enough to put a light dusting on the cars.  Jamie/Zach and Ryan and I have campers so we were pretty snuggled in, but Brenna/Chris and Sarah/Dan were tenting it with space heaters and warm sleeping bags.  Greg/Meg bunked in our camper and I am pretty sure they didn't regret that choice one bit!

I think Dan had it the worst because he somehow didn't have a sleeping pad under him and spent the night shivering wondering just why exactly  he wasn't at home in his comfortable bed with the heat on.  He was a good sport!

Saturday morning we were all pretty slow to crawl out of bed.  Something about hearing the pitter patter of rain drops on the tents just didn't equal motivation to get up and start cooking breakfast!  Eventually though we got up and got going.  The promise of delicious egg sandwiches with fancy bacon does wonders on a cold morning.  The guys started a fire and we all huddled around keeping warm and chatting while the babies took a quick nap.  By the time the girls woke up the temperatures were raising and the sun was even peaking out every now and again.

We decided that the whole reason we came to this specific campsite was to try out the bike path so we pulled all the bikes off the cars, did a few quick repairs, pumped up a few flat tires and loaded the babies into the Burley for a bike ride.  I'd camped here as a kid and remembered the tunnels being cool and kind of scary.  I thought I remembered they were pretty dark but I didn't want to get everyone all hyped up about them and find out they were a few feet long and really not that cool.  Luckily a fellow camper came over when he saw us working on the bikes and gave us a few pointers on which way to go and confirmed that the tunnels were in fact pretty dark.  So we grabbed all the head lamps we could find and set off on an adventure.  Lucky we did!!  The tunnel we went through was over a 1/4 mile long and DARK.  Of course, somehow we missed the sign that said "WALK BIKES IN TUNNELS" so we peddled through all silently wondering if everyone else was as scared as we were.

We rode for about 15 miles with a stop off at one of the local bars.  We treated ourselves to a warm place, fried everything (curds, onions, sweet potatoes, pickles) and a few beers figuring we'd earned it after freezing our butts off outside for nearly 24 hours.  One thing I love about Wisconsin is that the local bars will NEVER disappoint.  This one for instance came stocked with its very own husband and wife team that managed and owned it.  Tessa and Chet are set to get married in just two short weeks from now with their SIX kids by their side.  We heard all about the other three business they ran including a landscaping company and a wood cutting business.  HA!!  At any rate, they had good beer and decent food and we were entertained by their stories.

After the bike ride we headed back for dinner and another cool night.  Thankfully there was no more rain after the early morning drizzle and we had an easy dinner planned (Italian beef and potatoes).  We stayed up late (and by we I mean everyone else....I went to bed early!) and drank too many beers.

Sunday morning we didn't have much planned so we cooked up breakfast, cleaned up, packed up and headed out.  By this point in our cold muddy trip Abby was pretty much over camping.  When she woke up Sunday morning she said "Mommy, I want go baK home"  Emphasis on the "K".  After hearing me say we have to eat breakfast first she revised her tag line to "Mommy, Abby eat breakfast and go baK home...ok?"  I know she loves being outside and having all the fun adults to entertain her (especially her best friend in all the world "Greggy") I think the cold, mud, and lack of any real place for her to sit down and play had gotten the best of her and she was ready to call the trip over.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

1 Family x 12 (September)

We've finally decided on the "rules" for which team Abby will support when the Bears and the Pack play.  Home field gets the baby.  I was just sad that my little peanut had to support the loosing team this time around.  

Funny story - at breakfast that morning Ryan was trying to get Abby to say "Go Bears".  Her response: "Go Pack Bears".  She get's us....

Go Pack, Go!  That is all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's on my Kindle? - Fall Edition

You guys - I have SO MANY books I want to read...and so little time.  If I'm being honest I've read a few of these already over the last month or so and there are a few books from my Summer edition that I didn't get to...but that's the way it goes.  If I've read it already, I'll include my thoughts....if not, I'll include the synopsis from Amazon.

**I've started using Amazon Affiliate links here.  What's that mean?  Consider it my little piggy bank.  Basically, if you click on one of my links AND purchase the book, Amazon will add a few little pennies to my piggy bank at no cost to you.  Easy peasy!

The Things They Carried - This book was actually part of my high school reading list so it was a rare re-read for me.  There are so many good books in the world that I rarely go back to re-read a book.  I'd referred to this book in conversation with a friend about perspective and knew it deserved another reading.  Sad, but good.

All Fall Down - I'm reading this one as we speak.  I'm about 20% through and it seems good enough.  An easy beach read for anyone that's looking.

One Plus One - "Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever."

The Last Time I Was Me - I've not read this one yet, but I love Cathy Lamb to the moon and back.  After reading Henry's Sisters I was hooked.  I have a feeling that this one won't disappoint.

Some Luck  - This one doesn't come out til next week but Mom and I are big into generational novels so this one looks right up my alley.  "On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart. 

Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.   

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy—a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers."

Forth of July Creek - Pulled this one from my former English teachers book list.  Knowing him, it's a good one.  "After trying to help Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow comes face to face with the boy's profoundly disturbed father, Jeremiah. With courage and caution, Pete slowly earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the coming End Times.
But as Pete's own family spins out of control, Pearl's activities spark the full-blown interest of the F.B.I., putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed."

Big Little Lies - "Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). 

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay. 

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive."

We Were Liars - You guys, this one is SO GOOD.  It's written for young adults so it's a quick read and that's all I'm saying about it.  Read it...thank me later.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Paint the Rainbow (Quilt)

Guys - isn't it pretty??  I've finished up another quilt that I wanted to share with you.  Actually, it's been finished for some time now, but I wanted to get it mailed off to the newest little baby in my life before posting pictures of it here. This quilt is called Paint the Rainbow.  The pattern is called Confectionery and from this book.  I started this quilt back in January after finding out that one of my very best friends, Kristina, was pregnant with their second.  I didn't KNOW she was having a girl when I picked the fabric, so it was a bit of a risk to go with so much pink/purple...but I was hoping I'd be right.

Baby Brianna was 5 weeks early and is the first baby to beat me to the finish line....I blame her early arrival.  Despite the fact that this pattern came from a book called "Easy Weekend Quilts", it took me MUCH longer than one weekend to finish this one.  I think it would be more accurate to say that you could finish the TOP of this quilt, in 1 weekend, IF (!) you had all the fabric pre-cut.  The assembly of the top was really quite easy.  But, quilting is so much more than just that top piece.

I choose a VERY tight loopy quilting.  It created beautiful texture and the quilt is ever so soft because of it, but, it took me to quilt this puppy.  Like, think 15-20 hours of little tiny loops, over and over and over again.  Luckily, I choose this super fun variegated thread so even the this long process stayed fun!

Don't you just love the backing for this quilt?  It's perfectly girly.  It's called Glee by Tamara Kate for Michael Miller and I knew I needed it for this quilt as soon as I saw it.  For the front I used a fat quarter Rainbow blender pack and starting this quilt in the dead of one of the coldest winters we've ever seen was just what I needed.  I purchased the backing and fat quarters from one of my favorite modern quilting sites called Stash Modern Fabric.  It measures about 60x60.

I bound it with this pretty pink fabric I had on hand: Canyon Stripe in Pink by Michele D'Amore for Bernatex.  I think it was just the girly punch this quilt needed.

I'm still working on perfecting my machine binding.  I think I might need to do a few mini-quilts for decoration in my sewing room to practice before binding my next big quilt.

This quilt is so bright and happy and I'm so pleased with how it came out.  A friend asked me how long I thought this took me to make, start to finish, and I'd estimate somewhere in the 75 hour range.  For anyone that's never tried making something from scratch that number seems INSANE.  Well, lets be honest, that IS insane.  But, I love doing it and my greatest hope is that this quilt will be filled with grass stains, ice cream drips and dirt because that means someone loves it!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Abby's second birthday

Phew!  I'm almost caught up on the blog.  Last weekend we celebrated Abby's second birthday.  Man, two all happens so fast.

Thankfully the weather held out and though it was warm and a little sticky we got through the day without rain and the pool was even warm enough for at least Ryan to get in.  It's been such a cool summer that we've hardly used the pool at all.  That and the fact that Abby has been terrified of the pool all summer hasn't helped.  We were so excited that Ryan and Kayden could finally coax her in even if it was just for a few minutes.

Abby has NOT been afraid to go in her little purple pool though.  I think her favorite part of the whole party was when we finally put some water in the pool and let her and all her little baby friends jump in.  They had so much fun and luckily I'm friends with some smart mommies because everyone had a second set of clothes to change into.

This little trike is one of Abby's favorite birthday gifts.  She doesn't quite understand how to use the pedals but that's ok because Grandpa and Grandma McGrath were smart enough to get one with a push handle for Mom and Dad :)

Oh, and a Mickey balloon from Auntie Erin, now THAT was a win!

I was so excited to get to meet this new little one.  Her name is Brianna and she's Mike and Kristina's new baby.  She was born 5 weeks early so her quilt isn't even finished yet!  The good news is that I couldn't keep it a secrete any longer so I've already given Kristina a sneak peak.  Now I can share pictures of it with you guys!

Brianna was just the tiniest sweetest little thing.  I thought Abby was small at 5lbs 6ozs but this little peanut was down to under 5 lbs after being released from the hospital.  They got out just in time because they usually want babies over 5lbs before they release them.

Aside from the trike, her new sand and water table, and balloons, the cake, that was her next favorite part.

We'd been talking about birthday's and signing Happy Birthday and working on "blowing" for a few days before her party so I was excited when she actually knew that she was supposed to blow out the candle.  It was a little too windy that day so I'm pretty sure the candles went out as soon as we moved the flame away, but oh well, she thought she blew them out herself.

Eating the cake though, THAT was the best part of the whole day.  She was a little tentative with it at first and Ryan really wanted her to do the whole smoosh it in your face thing.  She wasn't a huge fan.  My girl likes her silverware, what can I say?

I know there are a million pictures in this post but how can I resist these "I love cake and frosting so much" pictures?

Have you ever tried to watch a 2 year old open presents?  It's like wrangling cats!!  It's fun for them for all of about 3 seconds until that first present is open and then all they want to do is play.  Especially when all the other kids are running around playing.  Look at how cute and perfect Bradley is sitting...just waiting til Abby invites him to play.

So - I actually did most of the opening but boy did Abby make out this year!  She got tons of coloring stuff which is great because it's one of her favorite things to do.  She'll even sit down with it for more than 3 minutes which is saying something for a 2 year old. She also got some clothes for fall, and some brand new toys that she's been loving on all week.

This girl and her purses!  She loves them....

Yes, I have a wrapping paper problem.  It's called "I fold it all up nice and reuse EVERYTHING!".  I haven't bought wrapping in years people, YEARS!  Try it won't regret taking the time to put it away nicely.

Baby Stella's mom was in charge of the camera during the party and boy could you tell!  I had a whole lot of pictures of this little lady.  This one just happened to be too cute not to post.

All in all it was a great day.  We had tons of family and friends come to visit and we ended up with tons of leftovers (I'll remember that for next year).  We're so thankful for everyone that came out to help Abby celebrate. We're one lucky family!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


There isn't really a good theme for this post other than "the random pictures we took while camping that don't fit into a good post" so here goes nothing.  As you know, two weeks ago we traveled through Canada and Ohio on a whirlwind trip to Niagara and a family reunion.  Well, if you know us, you'd be able to guess that instead of springing for hotels on this trip we camped the entire way.

Let me be the first to say that camping with a 2 year old is NOT the easiest thing.  Well, maybe I should say, traveling.  Camping is really no different than any other travel.  You drive a lot (kids don't usually love that part),  you do activities at weird times of the day (naps fall by the wayside and that makes kids grumpy) and you're all sleeping in the same space (meaning once they are miraculously asleep you give your husband an elbow to the ribs whenever he needs to get up and pee because he drank too many beers).

When we got to the family reunion though Abby was in cousin heaven.  There were tons of kids for her to hang out and play with.  She was by far the youngest (well, unless you count this cute little baby Cora) but I was so grateful to have some of the older cousins take charge and play with her.  Cousin Maddie even took her for a full afternoon so that Ryan, Mom, Dad and I could all go kayaking on the river.  It was amazing!!  I got 3 hours of "adult" time and even got to squeeze in some time to read a book.  I might have even got a quick nap in.  After nearly a full week of having Abby all day, all the time, I was SO HAPPY to get a break.  So, Maddie....I know I've said it already but THANK YOU AGAIN!  You're amazing.  Summer nanny job??!?!?!

Our campsite in Canada was amazing.  Believe it or not, after booking plenty of camp sites in my life I've gotten really good at reading those little ant farm like maps and picking out the prefect spot for us to camp.  At this site we were all the way at the end of the road and only had an neighbor on one side of us.  Mom and Dad were even able to set their tent up back in the trees where we could hardly see it.  We ended up being in the area of the campground where the seasonal campers stay so they were all super friendly and quite to camp near.

Other than a general lack of sleep and schedule, Abby did great camping.  She's a real trooper. "Skeego" bites and all, I think we've successfully started raising an outdoor kid.  Trust me, she still loves her Mickey Mouse time on the iPad.  You can't win them all I suppose.

The campground in Ohio, Mohican State Park, was just as beautiful as Canada, though not nearly as remote.  There were tons of touristy things to do within miles of the campground and we certainly took advantage of them when it came to activities like the Kayak trip and climbing this big fire tower.  From the pictures (and even from the ground) it didn't look that scary.  But let me tell you, about three flights up and it started to freak us out.  We'd originally set out with Abby in tow but by the time that we reached the third or fourth flight Mom started to chicken out and I was secretly thinking I would too.  Ryan forced me to go to the top and I'm glad I did, but I was even happier to have Mom and Abby back on solid ground.  

I've got another full post coming on the reunion itself and tons more photos to share so I apologize for this slightly random assortment of stories and photos.  More organized posts to come!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ritterbusch Family Reunion

Isn't that graphic cute?  My cousin Susie made it right before the family reunion and it has the names of all the Ritterbusch family included.  I love it.  She even said she'd have t-shirts made if we wanted them.  Sign me up!!

Other than everyone getting together for the family reunion Cathy also asked people to bring whatever family photos/memories/memorabilia they had and they set it all out for everyone to look through.  Above is a picture of the family farm that the kids all grew up on.  I think the barn is still standing today though the farm is no longer held within the family.

The Ritterbusch coat of arms.  Note:  At first when I saw it I thought those snakes were pretzels...fitting since I was a Freeport Pretzel in high school.

Cathy did a great job of planning out activities for the group while we were there.  On was this family hike to two waterfalls.  Somehow we got the meet up location wrong though.  We were at the end of the hike while everyone else was at the beginning waiting for us.  Fear not - the solution:  meet in the middle!!

A quick "girls only" photo at the falls.

Aside from the family hike Cathy also helped organize a family kayak trip (no photos of that one, I didn't want a wet camera....and, you guessed, Ryan fell in), a family 5k (my parents were in charge of the finish no running for me *smile), and campfires with smores for the kids every night.

The reunion was so fun and it was great to get together with this fun loving group of people.  We really should do it more often.