Fall cabin camping

This was our third cabin camping trip at Baker Near-Wilderness Settlement this year.  In some ways, it was our favorite one so far.  Although I love all the seasons in their glory, fall really does take the prize for the most beautiful scenery, and on weekends like this, it also has the best weather.

On our other trips I have devoted considerable amounts of time and effort to capture our trip on camera, and though this has been fun and satisfying for me, it’s kept me from really engaging in the adventure.  So this time I just shot a few pics and didn’t carry my camera around.  I missed some camera-worthy moments, but am reminding myself that memories last a lifetime, even without a bunch of pictures.

I love that we have a new tradition that we all can love together, and one that we can afford to keep up for many years to come.


Mother’s Day vacation

We spent the weekend at Baker Near-Wilderness Settlement, our second time there this year.

We love this place.  Not only only is it a simple, stress-free getaway close to home, but it’s cheap, too.  For us, being a one-income family means not taking tropical winter vacations.  Or driving new cars or donning fresh, trendy hairdos…

…but for $115 for a cabin that sleeps 8 (split with another family=CHEAP), who can go wrong? Our weekend in the (almost) wild left us feeling connected and rejuvenated and looking forward to next time.  We were also reminded that making memories does not always mean spending lots of money.

The settlement has eight cabins, each with eight bunks, table and benches, an outdoor fire pit, and a wood-burning indoor stove.  The cabins have no electricity or running water, but what they lack in amenities, they make up for in charm.  Staying here made me feel like like I was Laura Ingalls for a couple of days.

The Lodge at Baker is open 24 hours a day and has modern amenities, sans shower.  A large refirigerator and other storage areas are available for our use. Cooking and dishwashing happen at the fire pit.  An incredible, knowledgeable staff is around 24 hours a day to help and entertain us.  The staff coordinates activities all day long–enough so that no one could imagine being bored here or having nothing to do.

We made our stay as simple as possible by bringing cold, premade food and using paper plates and disposable cups and utensils.  Last time, we made our stay as complicated as possible by having greasy sloppy joes and washable plates and utensils. I know, our disposable mindset was not very earth-friendly or responsible.  It was, however, oh-so family friendly and much easier than washing dishes at the camp site.  I figure we can make up the difference the rest of the year by using cloth napkins and diapers, right?

We did not go canoeing, but I love how canoes look stacked on top of one another like this, so I posted the picture. The kids were too young to go on the lake. I didn’t mind; my fear of open water keeps me on dry land as much as possible, anyway.

That is Alisha at the top. Not me.

This is Anna watching Alisha climb to the top.  I think she wanted to do it, too.

This trip would not have been fun without our trusty Ergo baby carrier. Or without breastfeeding or co-sleeping, either, for that matter.

Click here to see our photos from our winter stay at Baker Near-Wilderness Settlement.

Mama Mia spa night and rant about Godiva

Mama Mia date night, complete with a visit to the (pretend, at-home) nail salon, hair salon, and homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries…

(which, if I may say so myself, are WAY better than the overpriced chocolate-dipped strawberries we had at Godiva at the Mall of America on Saturday night. They were TEN dollars for SIX of them, and they were pretty flavorless and unripe to boot.  We made thirteen of these, using plump, ripe, organic berries with organic dark chocolate and it was a flavor explosion–and only about $3 for all of it).

I love our new Mama Mia date night ritual. It’s such a special way to reconnect with my biggest girl and to wrap up the weekend in preparation for the week ahead.

the homemade ones

if you look closely, you will see Anna’s tiny hand reaching up onto the table.  She gets very jealous when I pay attention to Mia and has a hard time with Mama Mia dates.

here is Mia looking out at the squirrels eating the food she put out there for them (unrelated to our date, but I thought it was a sweet picture so I posted it).

Happy Monday to all of you!

my new lens

My newest little toy is a Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 AF lens for my Nikon D90 camera.

It is a teeny little thing, which, at first glance, seems like it wouldn’t do much of anything.  After reading up on photography in the last weeks, I’ve gathered that everyone from amateur to pro loves this lens.

I am so glad I bought this little thing, because I couldn’t be happier with it.  It lets in a ton of light, focuses quickly and clearly (as long as you hold it still!), and takes far better closeups and portraits than my 18-105 lens.

I was amazed by the amount of detail I could capture and how close I could get to the tree below and have it be in perfect focus–another thing my other lens could not do.

I’ve been reading and watching all the YouTube videos I have time for, learning about photography and lighting and little tricks of the trade. I am amazed and humbled by what I’ve found, and kicking myself a little bit for not focusing on photography when I was working on my art degree. I love taking pictures and I love that it’s something I can easily fit into my otherwise busy life.

I have so much to learn; I’m glad I have a lifetime left to do it!

princess for a day

Before Mia was born, and even in her early years, I was adamantly opposed to anything “princess”.  My ideas about princesses had come from watching Disney films and reading (awful) Disney books, in which the (usually) white, blond, blue-eyed, helpless girl is rescued by a strong and capable prince.  She has nothing going for her but her good looks and status and can’t do much of anything because she is wearing a hoopskirt. Please.

Through the years, I have been stubborn.  I have avoided princesses as much as I possibly could.  Yes, I know this sounds terrible and controlling and mean…but let me explain.  Although I haven’t encouraged any princess-type play, I haven’t discouraged it, either.  Above my own ideals, I value freedom. I want Mia to feel free and safe to explore and play whatever her heart desires. So I let her be, and from the sidelines, encourage discussion about those underlying meanings, more or less to make myself feel better.

Despite her mother’s stubbornness, Mia has inevitably learned about this world of princesses.  Though she has never seen a Disney princess movie and maybe doesn’t quite understand the princess stereotype yet, she has acquired a few little figurines, learned their names, and suddenly loves everything princess.

So I found a compromise. An answer to please us both. Something we could love together, while keeping this imaginary world of princesses alive.  Let me introduce Rosamond, the Princess of Colchester!

Princess Rosamond is the main character from the book, The Well at the End of the World by Robert D. San Souci.  The story and illustrations are equally beautiful, and best of all, Rosamond is a tough, intelligent, and selfless princess.  The story is much like Cinderella, but with a contemporary twist; Rosamond has a cruel step-mother and step-sister, but with her loving heart and wise mind, she doesn’t let them determine her fate or the fate of her ill father. When Rosamond reaches the well at the end of the world on her quest to save her father, she is rewarded for her good heart with riches and a promise of true love.  The riches mean little to her; the greatest reward is that her father becomes well again. When she has healed her father, she shares her riches to help the needy. In the end, Rosamond gets the ultimate reward and falls in love with a prince, and for all the right reasons: they laugh together, they enjoy reading books to each other by the fire,  and most of all, they love each others company.  Now *there* is a princess I don’t mind my daughter looking up to!

Today, Mia made a crown just like Princess Rosamond’s.  She wore the crown along with her fanciest dress and took loving care of her little sister (even though little sis was tugging at her dress and trying to eat her crown)….because that is what princesses do!

The Well at the End of the World

by Robert D. San Souci