This has been an unprecedented year to say the least. Cancelled plans was the theme for this year. Not the theme we were hoping for, but it’s what we got.
The thing about cancelled plans is that you start reminiscing, looking over old photographs and sifting through travel trinkets. It was this reminiscing that brought us to our fun Christmas project! Our vintage travel themed Christmas tree!
It was a lot of fun going through all the items we’ve collected from our travels throughout the years and figuring out how to incorporate them into a Christmas tree. From our Voodoo doll and alligator head (yes, I said alligator) from New Orleans to all our shells from California, Oregon, Florida and Maine; we had a lot of fun things to make ornaments from. For the rest, I was able to find some vintage globes and other colorful balls. I chose my color pallet from the colors found in the vintage travel posters on display in my living room.
Since we went with a slim tree, a standard tree skirt just wouldn’t do. Instead, we found a vintage suitcase at the antique store and covered the tree stand with a cashmere scarf. We bought some vintage travel stickers and covered the suitcase with them. The rest of the stickers were used for gift wrapping. There’s just something about a brown paper wrapped package tied with twine and covered with travel stickers that screams vintage!
And yes, even though our son is 20 years old, I still write ‘From Santa’ on all his gifts! It’s just no fun writing mom & dad over and over again.
This project was so much fun to put together! I hope 2021 will allow us more travel adventures, but until then, we’ll just be enjoy the memories of the adventures we have had the pleasure of experiencing. Happy Holidays from the Adventuring Andersons!
Even with diligent planning and preparing, a trip can look amazing and adventurous on paper but the reality turns out to be a huge disappointment. Such as we learned this past July, when we decided to test our adventurous nature and stay in an 1880’s homestead. No running water, no electricity, out in the middle of nowhere in Interior, SD just south of Badlands National Park. The homestead sits on a family farm, about fifty yards from the White River. The weather forecast for that weekend was topping at around 100 degrees for a high and 80’s for a low.
No electricity? No problem! We have a badass camping lantern. No running water? No problem. We have the river close by and we bought some Dude Wipes, yes that’s right, Dude Wipes for a wet nap shower. We also bought some backpacker meals, firewood, a small pot and about 6 gallons of water. We were ready. We were pumped. This was definitely going to be a unique experience.
But little did we know, that fate had its own plan for us. The drive down to the homestead was absolutely breathtaking. A winding river valley, lush and green and rolling hills. It was very picturesque. Finally, the moment has arrived! We were there! We got out of the car and started walking towards the homestead, when suddenly we were attacked! It initially started off slow, but the more we disturbed the grass the more vicious it became. We were being attacked from every direction, we couldn’t escape! We were surrounded with no way out! I ran back to the car and grabbed the only weapon I had. I couldn’t see them so I blindly aimed………..then pulled the trigger. I doused myself with as much Off repellant as I could stand. Then I courageously ran back to my husband to save him from those blood sucking little demons.
It helped, a little. We stepped inside the homestead hoping for a reprieve from the massacre. There were screens on the homestead windows, but there was no breeze so it was like sitting in a sauna. The screens also were full of holes so, you guessed it, there were mosquitoes in there too.
Now normally, the Badlands and surrounding areas don’t receive much rain. They have a more desert like environment. But this year was a very wet season which creates the perfect environment for mosquitoes to breed.
At that point we weren’t sure what we were going to do. There was no way to cook our food in the homestead, so we’d have to go outside and build a fire at some point. We thought perhaps, a fire would deter the mosquitoes. But we were wrong. We barely got the fire lit. Well, maybe since it was so hot, we’d hang out in the river to cool off. Remember how I said, it had been a really wet season? Yep, the river was flooded and moving pretty fast. So, no swimming on this trip. And unfortunately, when I’m bitten by a mosquito, the site welts up to the size of a silver dollar and I already had three large welts forming on the back of my arm.
We were defeated. We were literally soaked in bug spray. The little bastards must have been some mutant hybrid demon, that our puny mortal bug spray had no effect on. So, we decided to move on.
We looked nearby for different lodging, but what we found was either full or just a little to sketch for our taste. So inevitably I started looking online for lodging in Rapid City. And I found the perfect place. The place that would make up for the whole horrible start to our vacation. Glamping!
So, at this point our trip took a complete 180. We went from roughing it with no running water or electricity to a canvas tent with a king size bed and private bathroom. We had stayed at Under Canvas in Keystone last year and loved it, so we couldn’t wait to experience it again. And guess what? There were no mosquitoes there! Hooray! We still ate our backpacker meals, we just didn’t have to boil our own water. They were actually pretty tasty and very easy to clean up.
The next morning we were up early and headed for Custer State Park to find the buffalo. The last time we’d driven through the park we didn’t get to see them at all. So this time we were determined. The drive is beautiful early in the morning. We only saw 2 other vehicles out for a drive. When we were about halfway through the park we stopped at a visitor center and they gave us an approximate location for the buffalo and the mules that call the park home. And we found them! Although they were not that close to the road, they were still close enough that you could hear them grunting.
Now this can’t be said enough. Buffalo are not the lovable, docile creatures they appear to be. Buffalo and very grumpy and will knock your ass down if you encroach their personal space. Now, as I’m writing this, I’m starting to see a stark similarity between the buffalo and me when it comes to personal space. Hhmmm.So, I guess you could say that buffalo are my spirit animal. Keep your distance!
After leaving the buffalo, we headed in the direction where the mules were said to be hanging out. Just like in Yellowstone, there was a traffic jam where the mules were hanging. There were multiple families with kids feeding the mules apples and granola. A word to the wise, the mules get a little aggressive when there’s food around and will push their way in to grab some. So keep and eye on your surroundings and watch your fingers! If your fingers are in the way when they come in for a bite, they will get you! Not on purpose of course.
Even though I didn’t have food for them and they didn’t want anything to do with me because of it, I still managed to get two of the greatest selfies I have ever taken!
The rest of our trip was spent relaxing and driving the winding mountain roads. We took a drive on needles highway and stopped for a short hike. We eventually ended up in Hill City and stopped by Prairie Berry for lunch and then over to Miner Brewing Company for a couple drinks.
Robert Burns said it best “The best laid schemes of Mice and Men often go awry. And leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy”. We left for the weekend with one adventure planned and ended up having a completely different one. Fortunately, it turned out to be a pretty great experience compared to how it had started.
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald-The Great Gatsby
Every year on January first, people all over the world make resolutions to improve their health or become a better person. But why January? I get that it’s the start of a new year on a calendar, but it seems to me that fall should be the time to make resolutions.
Fall is nature’s way of telling us to let go of things or habits that are no longer enriching our lives. There’s a quote that I come across every fall that says “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.” I wish I knew who wrote it, because it really resonates with me and how this season makes me feel. Things are changing all around us. Children go back to school to start a new chapter in their lives. The air is becoming fresh and crisp. The leaves are changing their colors and succumbing to the winds. The energy all around us in changing. So why not us? Why wait until the year on the calendar changes? When everything around us is telling us that change is beautiful. Why not now?
This fall, my resolution is to take better care of myself through exercise and the food I eat. How about you? How will your new chapter start?
Did you know that the Andersons make their own wine! Believe it, it’s true! Mostly we make our wines using wine kits. They’re really easy and can be found in any wine supply store or online. My favorite part of the process is coming up with the names and designing the labels. When our wine making started, it was supposed to be a hobby for Reed. But it has since progressed into something for us to do together and we have a pretty good time doing it. Neither of us will be hired as a sommelier any time soon, especially since we only like sweeter wines. But who cares! Hobbies are meant to be fun!
We don’t have a special room built for wine making, we just transform the kitchen into a production area whenever we need to. It works out great! It’s hard to go wrong with the wine kits as long as you sanitize everything.
We do however, have a small closet we transformed into a wine cellar. It’s not climate controlled, but it’s located right in the middle of the basement and maintains a very steady temp. It’s right next to our wet bar that we lovingly call The 55th Street Pub. We love it!
We have made one batch of wine completely from scratch, but it was quite the task. You need a lot of grapes to get the appropriate amount of juice. Our friends, The Schmidts, happen to have some grapevines and were kind enough to let us harvest their haul. But like I said, you need a lot of grapes. So we ended up supplementing with a couple pounds of blueberries. We don’t have a juice press so to extract the juice from the fruits, Reed scooped them into a mesh bag and juiced them all by hand. That was not a quick task by any means.
In the end, we managed to get about 15 bottles and it didn’t taste too bad considering we accidentally double fermented it! And that is how our Schmidt Faced wine was born!
I don’t know if we will ever make a from scratch wine again after all that, but it’s always a possibility! Wine making is a fun hobby and what’s even better is that we always have a gift on hand to bring for birthdays, holidays or housewarming!
I’d like to sign off this post with a beautiful poem about wine.
Last month Jayden completed a pretty big milestone in his life. Our handsome young man graduated from high school! We could not be more proud of him and what he has accomplished. This fall he will be attending tech school as part of their network administrator program.
We threw a graduation party in his honor at our home, and me being the proud parent that I am, I went overboard as is my usual. 🙂 We had remodeled our garage a couple of years ago and turned it into an entertainment space. The color scheme we chose for the garage just happen to go really well with Jayden’s school colors. It turned out to be perfect!
Since Jayden is going into a computer related field, not to mention that the kid is amazing at everything that has to do with computers, we decided to use a computer theme. A good friend of mine made Jayden’s micro chip cake and also did three different flavors of cupcakes each with its own computer themed topper such as a mouse, the CTRL ALT DEL keys and the power button. They all looked and tasted amazing! The cake topper is a custom bobble head which I ordered off Etsy and no party is complete without M&M’s customized with Jayden’s face! I had actually found a Groupon for the custom M&M’s and got a pretty good deal on them.
In continuation with our computer theme, we decided to use our smart TV to display a slide show of pictures of Jayden throughout his life rather than have physical photos displayed. It didn’t take up any extra space and it was really easy to pull images onto a flash drive and plug it in. After I was done looking through pictures and reminiscing of course!
Since we live in South Dakota and you never know what the weather is going to do, we rented a tent and had it set up over the driveway to provide an area with extra seating and cover in case of rain or snow. The weather however, turned out to be perfect. It was an overcast day and it was neither too cold; nor too hot which we were extremely grateful for since the day before was windy, rainy and cold. We were so thankful for the weather that day and also all of our amazing friends and family that stopped by to wish Jayden well. We love and appreciated all of you!
Don’t have the budget for a big family vacation? No problem! What if I told you that you could have a fun family vacation right at home? Not possible you say? Well, I beg to differ. Ever heard of a staycation?
A staycation is a vacation you take at home or with minimal travel from your home. And it has many benefits such as financial savings, much needed R&R and quality family time. As impossible as it sounds, it can be done as long as you make preparations and set some ground rules beforehand.
If you’re kids are older, involve them in the planning process. Let them choose what activities they want to do and when they want to do them. If your family likes structure, create an itinerary together. If your family loves spontaneity, place all your activities in a hat and draw one out each day. Try new restaurants on staycation, or gather take out menus from all your favorite restaurants and have food delivered. If eating out every day is not an option, plan a freezer meal day and put together some easy meals that everyone will love. You should also plan to prep your home ahead of time as well. Have a marathon laundry day and get the whole family to help clean.
Set Ground Rules
It’s important to also set some ground rules for your staycation and the entire family should be involved in its creation as well. Ground rules could include all or some of the following:
No screens (phones, tablets, tv)
No working from home
No outside plans with friends
No independent activities
Just like any vacation, you’ll need to plan a budget. Set money aside for your activities, eating out or splurge for a housekeeper to clean for you while you’re vacationing. You can set aside money ahead of time and plan your activities based on that amount or you can plan all your activities, then decide if you’ll be able to do them all or if you’ll have to remove some.
Fashion some Fun!
See a movie: Rent a movie to watch at home or go to the theater. Many theaters offer matinee prices if you go earlier in the day. Better yet, hit up the drive-in! Living on the Eastern side of South Dakota, we’re just a short drive into Minnesota to hit up the Verne Drive in.
Have a Movie Marathon: Let each family member select a movie. After each movie, talk about what they liked or didn’t like about it. Who was their favorite character and why? Get some fun popcorn boxes and the boxes of movie theater candy to make it feel like you’re really at the theater.
Go camping: Find a state park close to your area or just go camping in your own backyard. If you don’t own a tent, no worries! Build a blanket fort and sleep in that!
Take A Class: Many communities provide community education classes covering a variety of subjects. Some are free but most cost a minimal fee.
Explore your city: Research your city like a tourist. Look on Pinterest or visit your local chamber of commerce and pick up a free city guide.
20 Things to do in and around Sioux Falls:
Go to a movie
Visit the Science Museum
Go to the Farmers Market
Go to a sporting event ( baseball, arena football, basketball or hockey)
Check out nearby State Parks
Go brewery hopping
Attend sangria Sunday or Thursday Night Porch Series at Strawbale Winery
Nestled into the woods just outside of Keystone, SD, lies a haven. A haven that brings camping in the woods up to an entirely different level. A level high above sleeping on the ground in a pile of pine needles and pooping into a hole in the ground. Now, I know some people think that this isn’t real camping unless you’re hauling your own gear through the woods and pitching your own tent, sleeping in the dirt and building your own fires. Well, let me just stop you right there so that I can inform you that after you’ve surpassed that milestone age of thirty you tend to wake up with stiff necks, achy backs and extreme exhaustion from sleeping on the ground. At least, if you’re me you do, which makes the thought of camping in a tent sound absolutely awful. So don’t discount this new era of ‘glamping’ until you’ve at least given it a try.
We kept driving up and up, following these tiny little signs and cairns, not sure how long it was going to take us to get there. Finally, we came around a bend in the road and starting seeing these canvas structures of all different sizes peppered throughout the landscape. We really had no idea what to expect when we got out of our car. But everything from the check in to check out was pretty amazing. A very friendly hipster from the east coast gave us a very warm welcome and tour of the property. He hauled us and our bags to the tent in a golf cart and was able to provide a power source for Reed’s bi-pap machine since there’s no electricity in the tents.
The night we got there was chilly and rainy, but there was no shortage of warmth around us. There’s a small restaurant in the visitor tent. They have a very limited menu, but everything on it is executed very well. After we dropped off our bags, we headed over to the restaurant for supper. I ordered the grilled trout with vegetables and Reed had the flank steak with fries. Both were amazing. Even more amazing, we ate our supper just outside the visitor tent and were able to watch the sun set over Mt. Rushmore while we dined. Breathtaking.
There are a number of tent options available through Under Canvas Mt. Rushmore. Some come with a private bathroom and some don’t. The option we chose was called the Stargazer. It was given this name, because you can literally lie in bed and watch the stars through the Plexiglas area above your head. It was cloudy and rainy during our stay, but the clouds did clear enough that we were able to see the big dipper, which was still pretty awesome.
The tents themselves are pretty spectacular. After pulling back the canvas flaps, you walk into an element of luxury you don’t usually equate with the great outdoors. The tents have wall to wall wood floors, a kind sized bed, comfy leather chairs, a wood burning stove and a beautiful cow skin rug to finish it off.
This place is the epitome of relaxation and comfort. The beds are amazingly comfortable and with 2 comforters and an extra blanket you’ll never get cold. The 24-hour coffee, tea and hot chocolate bar is an added bonus as well. You can even arrange to have coffee delivered to your tent in the morning! A community fire pit is set just down the hill from the visitor center. It’s fully stocked with everything needed to make your own s’mores. Bottom line is, we had an amazing stay. The only downside was that it was only for one night. We will definitely be back for a longer stay.
The smells of fresh-cut flowers and wood fire pizzas on a warm Saturday morning. Can life get any better than that? Yes it can. Because among the flowers and pizzas, you’ll find a cache of fresh local produce, fresh-baked goods, meats and cheeses. In my mind, the only thing missing that would make this picture complete is wine.
I must confess, my husband and I normally come down to the farmers market a couple of times a month just for the wood fire breakfast pizzas. They’re delicious. Made with fresh ingredients and a very light thin crust. We’d grab two to go and a couple of coffees, then head across the way to have a picnic and just enjoy each other’s company in the peaceful setting that is falls park.
This time however, we decided to explore the market a little deeper and put together an entire meal made with only locally grown/sourced food. After walking up and down the market several times, we finally decided on walleye, chard, carrots, corn salsa and rhubarb. On the way home we stopped and picked up some locally made beer and locally made ice cream to finish off our meal.
In a world where you have to buy special cleaning solutions to clean all the chemicals off your grocery store produce, it’s in your best interest to visit your local farmers market and buy directly from the source. Also there’s just something genuinely satisfying about supporting your local farmers and knowing exactly where your food came from. Having grown up in a small farming community, I know firsthand how important they are to their local economies. So get out there and support your local farmers and ranchers!
Needless to say our meal was completely amazing and we can’t wait to do it again. Our completed meal was as follows: grilled Cajun walleye with corn salsa, grilled carrots with farm honey and creamed chard followed by rhubarb pie topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Needless to say, it was amazing! We had never had chard before, but it was excellent and I recommend you try it. Enjoy the pictures below from our day!
We’re South Dakotans born and raised and even we haven’t seen or experienced everything our beautiful state has to offer; but we’re working on it! For now, we’d like to share some of our adventures from our Black Hills vacation.
Situated in the western half of the state, lies some of the most beautiful country in the Midwest, the Black Hills and of course the Badlands. The two display vastly different terrains and a distinct beauty of their own.
When people hear South Dakota, they automatically think Mt Rushmore. Now don’t get me wrong, Mt Rushmore is a very important landmark and brings thousands of visitors to our state every year, but South Dakota has so much more to offer that many people don’t realize. We’re a very family friendly state. There are so many things for kids to do here, that they won’t know where to start first but they’ll definitely want to see them all!
The first stop on our South Dakota adventure was the Badlands National Park. The Lakota name for the Badlands is “Mako Sica” which translates to “land bad”. Badlands National Park displays 244,000 acres of dramatically eroding landscape, which means that if you visited the park every year you’d never see the same park. The Badlands exist because 75 million years ago the Great Plains were covered by a shallow sea. The park offers a number of hiking trails and allows primitive camping as well, as long as you sign in on your trails. The beauty of the land formations may take center stage of this gorgeous area, but there’s also plenty of wildlife and fossil beds as well.
Shortly after leaving the Badlands, we arrived in Keystone, SD where we had arranged our hotel stay. From the city of Keystone, Mt Rushmore is just a quick drive up the hill. Mt. Rushmore, the most recognizable icon representing South Dakota displays the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln; four men whose leadership left an incredible impact on America as we know it. The mountain was carved by a sculptor known as Gutzon Borglum, who passed away a few months before its completion leaving his son to complete the project. An avenue of flags lines the pathway to the viewing balcony for Mt. Rushmore. The Presidential trail offers different views of the faces and is an easy trail to navigate. It also allows you to view local wildlife around the park. We didn’t stay for it, but in the evenings there’s a nightly lighting ceremony.
There’s so many great places to visit and activities for kids in the Black Hills that we can’t possibly talk about all of them in one post so we’re just going to highlight our favorites.
The Cosmos: the Cosmos was so much fun. It’s weird and it messes with your mind and it’s completely awesome! Balls roll uphill and standing straight is a 45 degree angle. As the story goes, the Cosmos was discovered in 1952 by two college boys looking for a place to build a cabin. When they came upon this area, the “laws of logic and physics seemed to be turned upside down”. The tour takes about 30 minutes and is very inexpensive. Anyone 12 years and older is $11 per person, $6 for kids 5 years to 11 years and 4 years and under are free.
Reptile Gardens: Reptile Gardens holds the Guinness Book of World Records for world’s largest reptile zoo. The giant tortoises were probably our favorite part! They offer a few different shows throughout the day, one being the alligator show where at the end our son was able to pet a baby alligator! They also have a collection of birds and a Prairie Dog town.
Big Thunder Gold Mine: At Big Thunder in Keystone, you’ll take a tour through an actual gold mine. You learn about how the mine was created, what tools were used, and the history of its original owners. After the tour, we had the opportunity to visit their museum which boasts the largest collection of Black Hills gold mining equipment. If you’re feeling super adventurous, you can also try your hand at gold panning. You get to keep what you find and they guarantee you’ll find something!
Rushmore Cave: Rushmore Cave is absolutely stunning! A couple of stalactites and stalagmites were photographed by National Geographic. There’s even an area where you can spot a pigs nose! The tour lasts about an hour and costs between $10-$16 dollars per person. It’s really incredible and should be on your South Dakota vacation list. After our cave tour, we headed over to the Gunslinger 7D Interactive Ride, which was our son’s favorite part. You get to choose from different scenarios and fight aliens or even zombies. Your seat moves and vibrates while you’re trying to fight off the enemies
Sylvan Lake: Another picturesque place you need to visit is Sylvan Lake located in Custer State Park. If the drive leading to Sylvan Lake wasn’t beautiful enough, when you finally reach the lake you find yourself inside a postcard of some far away land. There’s plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming and small watercraft such as paddle boats and kayaks.
1880 Train: I loved trains when I was a kid. I remember getting an electric train for Christmas when I was around 8 years old. Getting to ride the 1880 train was a real treat, it’s a working steam engine! The train runs between Keystone and Hill City, so you get on in either city. We got on the train at Keystone. The trip takes about an hour one way. Along the way, we had the opportunity to see the remnants of old mines, some wildlife and the National Forest.
Wall Drug: On our way back home, we decided to stop for the “free ice water” at Wall Drug. It’s a very touristy stop, but it has an interesting history (which you can read about here) and kids love it. There’s numerous fun photo ops in their backyard, quirky displays and some of the most delicious fudge I’ve ever eaten! It was a great end to our short little trip. We hope, you’ll come visit our great state this coming summer. You won’t be disappointed!