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Milwaukee Zoo Trip 2015

Every year Hubster’s work sponsors a picnic at the Milwaukee zoo and we always try to make it. One year Hubster was in a wheelchair due to an injury to his knee. Last year he insisted I stay in a wheelchair because I was only a few days away from my due date.
That yellow sign behind me says “Baby on Board”
They always do such a great job providing lunch, drinks and attraction tickets. One of the attractions we went to was the dinosaur exhibit. We tried that about 3 years ago, and Kayne was just as scared this year as he was then. 
Our first stop was the petting zoo. Rayna gave the goats hugs as is normal for her with animals. She has this high-pitched squeal she makes when she sees an animal and she pats them really nicely. She’s already an animal lover.
My boys tried out the ropes course this year, which was so cool to see too. Rayna and I hit the air conditioned shops for some souvenirs while they were doing that. Kayne got a necklace with an encapsulated scorpion. Just up his alley.

Then, we walked through all the requisite exhibits.

At one point, Kayne excitedly pointed out a momma peacock walking across the path with her babies. After the video, the momma peacock decided to fly over one of the motes around one of the bear exhibits. Everyone stood around and watched to see if she was really just going to abandon her babies. But actually, after hesitation, unsure of themselves, they each flew, one by one, to momma.
A video posted by Jessica Collins (@boun_seejess) on

After that, we headed back to the petting zoo and had one last run through the ice cream shop and headed home. Another amazing summer day!

Monarch Butterfly Migration

We had a magical day last weekend at the Butterfly Gardens in Appleton, WI. A friend suggested that place after I told her that we missed the big beautiful migration that happened in Stephen’s Point.

Baby caterpillar

It just so happened on that weekend, they were also participating in the Monarch Migration. Each family was given a monarch. We got to tag our own monarch and release it outside. They check each butterfly for OE and identify it as male or female. We got a female. The cool thing about tagging is that if any other nature centers that participate on their way to Mexico find your butterfly, they will give you a personal call or email. 

My mom and sister also came along, so we both had butterflies to release.
We took our envelope with our butterfly outside to their butterfly gardens. They have an amazing field of butterfly-attracting flowers with a mowed path in the shape of a butterfly. There’s a lookout tower over the field, which is where we bade farewell to our flying beauties. It was a neat moment.
Next, we explored the trails and looked at more butterflies in the wild. It was about 95 degrees and humid, but we didn’t care.

After the trails, we headed inside to the butterfly house. They have a greenhouse-like house where you can go inside with hundreds of butterflies. They give you a Q-tip dipped in Gatorade so you can try to catch them. It was so cool to have the butterflies right in your hands. We spent a lot of time out in that house.
My nephew Amadeus was complaining about not being able to catch anything. When he finally did get one on his Q-tip, he actually caught two of them! They were “cuddling.”
There was also a little pond with turtles and frogs. 
We happened to find a few butterfly wings from some dead monarchs (they only live about 6 weeks). I’m hoping to figure out how to make something neat out of them. The boys want something too, so I’m trying to figure out what to make with them that won’t be too girly.

Turns out Kayne’s first science unit in school will be about butterflies. I have a feeling he might be ahead of the game:)
I really loved our day with the butterflies. It’s such an amazing memory.

Wild Rose Camping Trip

A few weeks ago, we went on a family camping trip. Yep, 10-month-old baby and all. Admittedly, I was pretty worried about how Rayna would sleep, but we had taken a short test camping trip earlier in the summer. I was thinking that that trip would be a good primer for a longer trip. And it sorta was. Rayna slept awful the first night but did pretty well the next few nights. We scrapped the travel bassinet though and put a bunch of padding on the floor between the two back beds and put up a baby gate as a makeshift crib for her. It worked perfectly, even for naps!
Anyhow, on to the trip. We stayed at a campground in Wild Rose, WI called Camp Luwisomo. It’s a Lutheran campground where one side has huge buildings and halls for retreats and the other side has a public campground. I wish more people knew about this place because it’s absolutely beautiful and absolutely affordable! But there was no one there.

We ended up with the entire campground to ourselves except one other family behind us that we befriended. We’re thinking they were Mennonites and we loved getting to know them. We shared S’mores around a campfire and lots of chats. And the kids played with each other every day.
Each day we did a small little something with lots of rest and taking casual drives in between. One day we went into town and visited the fish hatchery. Sadly, it has diminished since we were last there several years ago, but it was still fun to buy feed for a quarter and watch them feed.
This is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen!
Funny enough, I have an image of him exactly like this from the same place, 5 years ago:
And one more for good effect

Anyhow…
Another day we went into town and played miniature golf and had ice cream:
Hubster and I tied for first place!
Our campground also offered a cute little miniature golf course that we tried too.
Another day we went into town to dinner and found a cute hiking path. They even had fresh spring water that we filled our water bottles with.
While on the trail, I made one fabulous #pinchbouquet
This was another diner nearby…so which is it?
And finally, on the last day, before we packed up to go, Kayne got to go on his very first horse ride. The campground offers guided rides for kids his age and he was so enthralled!
We brought some carrots for the horses

They also had free-range goats that were pretty friendly.

First signs of fall in August?

And just for fun, here’s a picture of an electric chair, I kid you not, they had on display in a thrift store in Wild Rose. Even though I knew it wasn’t even remotely in operation, I still sat at the very edge of the chair, not touching any part of it. It gave me the creeps.

Once we got home, we found this little hitchhiker on my Tone It Up Fit, Fierce Fab book.
This simple little trip was exactly what we needed as a family. Every night of the trip, we curled up and watched movies together. We took the days as casually as anyone ever could. We didn’t spend very much money either, so that didn’t weigh on anyone’s mind. It was just another perfect trip!

Perseid Picnic

Do you have any family traditions that you hold sacred? I have created one for our family that I hope my kids will remember and carry on. I love the fact that it’s very unique and unexpected.

Every year during the Perseid meteor shower, I’ve woken up my son to go watch the shooting stars. It’s kind of a magical experience watching shooting stars and being up in the middle of the night with your mom. Almost like a secret….

A photo posted by Jessica Collins (@boun_seejess) on

It’s fun to add the picnic element to it too. Midnight picnics? What kid wouldn’t want to sneak away and have that extra special experience with their momma? Just sayin’.

The meteor shower happens in August every year, so search the peak dates for next year and put it in your calendar. You won’t be disappointed (unless it’s cloudy of course).

I shared our past Perseid picnics here and here.

Family Recipe Binder

If you’re anything like me, you know how important it is to keep a file of all the recipes you’ve tried and enjoyed or use on a regular basis. I tend to forget some of my family’s favorite meals if they’re not listed in front of me, so having them all in front of me saves time and brainpower when it’s time to meal plan for the week.

Our favorite (mostly healthy) recipes had been printed and thrown into an ugly crinkly folder for YEARS. I’ve had intentions for at least the last 5 years to get our recipes in some kind of better order, but never quite had the interest to do it. Somehow, recently, I finally got hold of some recipe book inspiration and ran with it. Even Hubster is appreciative of the outcome.

Before
And after

What I did was put every recipe inside a plastic page protector. I love the page protector idea because I tend to obsess about not spilling things on recipe pages. Instant splash protection! Then, I organized the recipes by meal and put them in a simple white binder.

I found some stylin’ file dividers and labeled the meal types so everything is super easy to find. I can’t tell you how many times I flipped through the pages in that red folder searching for recipes when they were all just thrown in there.

Finally I searched for “retro nature border” on Google (cuz that’s how I roll) and did a little editing and added text to turn it into a cover sheet. I cropped a small part of that same design to create the spine title.

I love that this book is completely customized to our family’s taste. You know how when you buy a cookbook and you only use a handful of recipes from it? Yeah, me too. That’s why the binder idea works best. You only keep what you love! Seriously, besides this recipe book, the only other cookbook we’ve always kept is the timeless Better Homes and Gardens one.

I was going to scan all the recipes and create a digital file of them all. But who am I kidding? I don’t have the patience for or interest in that. I love referring to paper copies and usually end up printing recipes off anyway. I am a very visual person when it comes to food, so I wasn’t very attracted to the idea of little recipe cards either. Must have pictures!

I also started a list on a Google Doc with all our family favorites listed out on one sheet. That way we can choose 5 or so dinners per week at a glance instead of trying to search our brains for ideas.

It feels so good to finally have our recipes organized! How do you organize your recipes?

A Trip to the Trampoline Park

My little boy turned 7 at the end of July (what now?!?! Ha!). Instead of a party, we treated him to a special day at a new trampoline park with one of his good friends from school. I didn’t even realize we had one of these parks in the area, but I’m sure glad we found it! I’ve been seeing trampoline parks on Pinterest and Instagram and thought how we’d love to try one, but we’re always the last place to get these kinds of things.

The boys played for an hour while Hubster and I each enjoyed a half-hour while the other was taking care of Rayna. I’m so glad we did! We had tons of fun ourselves. And holy workout! I didn’t realize how sweaty I would get! We jumped, we raced, we played games and we all played like kids.

Not only did the park have tons of trampolines, they also had trampoline basketball, trampoline dodgeball, a slackline and foam pits. They had a huge pillow thing you could jump into off a diving board. And they had a climbing wall for only $1 extra.

When I asked if he had a good birthday, Kayne replied: “A good birthday? I had an awesome birthday!”

Before
 And After

After jumping, we treated the kiddos to pizza and treated Kayne to some of the best cupcakes in town. All in all, I’d say it was a successful celebration of our boys’ birth. Love that kid!
**If you have a trampoline park near you, do give it a try!!! It’s the most fun we’ve all had in awhile, and it’s a really great workout!

A Drum Circle Experience

There’s a little bit of hippie in me and every once in awhile it comes out in a free-spirited blend of essential oils, a backyard tepee, a flowy bohemian skirt, or a community drum circle.

This past week, Kayne and I participated in our local drum circle. He had experimented with drumming at the farmer’s market and was willing to give the drum circle a try. Plus, I like to treat him to special one-on-one time when I can, and this was a great opportunity to do that. I’ve always thought he might enjoy something like this.

The drum circle was set up at a park in town instead of their normal headquarters in a nondescript storefront. The outdoor setting had a nice nature/community/open air element to it. Passersby would stop to watch and passing kids were handed maracas and other noise-makers to try.

I love what it says on their website: “Rhythm is universal. It is inside and all around us. From our heartbeat to the cycles of the seasons, it is more a matter of opening ourselves up to remembering and feeling than a music lesson…Using creativity we all possess we will make beautiful music ‘in the moment.'”

Drum circles are really both a physical and emotional experience. I’ve been trying to incorporate more spiritual and mental fitness into my life, and I think drum circles encapsulate a whole bunch of wellness practices:

1. It’s a community builder and great social activity. You’re meeting people and you’re all working together to build something pleasant. A drum circle is a very open group of people.
2. It’s a practice in mindfulness. One of the frontline treatments for my anxiety-related issues is mindfulness. Meditation not only lowers your threshold for stress, but it also helps you live in the present and let worrisome thoughts pass on by. It may sound a bit new-agey, but it’s really grounding. And it’s really effective. It sounds too simple to be very effective, but it is profound!
3. It’s creative.
4. It’s physical and gets me out of my head, where I spend too much time ruminating and analyzing.
5. It’s therapeutic. There are studies about the use of drum circles, and music in general, as an effective form of therapy.
6. The being outside part is also therapeutic.

Bottom line: I’m kinda hooked!

So now, when I’m at work, you might find me listening to drum circles on YouTube which sort of produces calm energy and helps with my concentration. It’s like the musical rhythm gets me into a good work rhythm too. Ok, hippie moment over…

Washington Island Trip: Part Two

Yesterday, I shared a little bit about our introduction to Washington Island, WI. Today, I’ll share a little bit about what we explored while we were there. We did a little bit of sightseeing each day with a whole lot of lounging, dock-sitting, reading and napping in between. Just our style and just what we needed.

One of the first days we were there, we went hiking at Mountain Park. It is a huge climb with a staircase that has over 100 steps to get to the top. At the top, you have to climb a billion more steps to get to the top of the lookout tower. For the rest of the day, my poor not-up-to-pre-pregnancy-toughness legs were all wobbly. But the view was amazing! It gave us quite the bird’s eye view of the island layout. BTW, I love my Snugli baby carrier that I believe I found at a rummage sale. Rayna just loved being carried in that thing, on my back. We did a lot of non-stroller-friendly sightseeing and this was the only way to do it. Join the #babywearing movement, yo.

While we didn’t have any TV or Wifi access, we did want a little something to do at nights before the kids went to bed, so we went to the local library, opened up a card, and rented some movies. Hubster happened to bring his computer along, so we were able to do that. We’re still trying to introduce Kayne to all the original Disney characters that we met as kids, including Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan and Snow White. At Disney World, he had no idea who half the classic characters were!

Another day we dedicated to swimming. We visited Schoolhouse Beach, which is one of 5 beaches in the whole world with smooth stones like this. Although this beach is rocky, and I would suggest wearing water shoes, it was crystal clear and THE best place for swimming on the island in my opinion. Cold though. Very cold. Rayna took her very first swim in these waters. She lasted about two seconds. Haha.

Only picture of Rayna that doesn’t show her screaming
We also swam off the dock by our cabin, but
the bottom was pretty mucky.
We also went to a little ice cream social event that seemed to be one of the “big” events while we were there. We had hamburgers and ice cream, all-American style. There were activities for the kids too. One of them was a station to build things out of scraps of wood. Not sure why WI was in the scrap pile, but it was. Kayne wanted to build a birdhouse, so he tried his best. But Rayna started telling us she was sooo done, so I quickly swooped in and tried to “fix” the birdhouse, which made Kayne mad. I rectified the situation by getting him all excited about creating a fairy garden with it. We decked it out with a flower garden, swing, walk path and pool (Gatorade lid). I just LOVED doing this little imaginative project with him. We’re going to build one at home too.

Another day, we checked out a few museums including the Jacobsen Museum, which had a lot of native artifacts and a cabin that Jens Jacobsen built. We also visited a nature museum and a butterfly house which had a huge butterfly garden out back.

Then there was, you know, the local coffee shop, bookstore. And lots of outdoor play time.
Cute scene behind the coffee shop
We spent a lot of time on our picnic blanket
My infamous pinch bouquet. These dainty flowers were the cutest!
I don’t know what it was about Door County, but there were several of these buildings with grass growing on the roofs. Hubster pointed one out and wondered how they mow the grass up there. I turned around and looked back and saw there were goats on the roof! That’s how they mow the grass!
Washington Island bookstore with grass on the roof 
See the goats up there at the peak?

I love turning our trips into teachable moments, without forcing it. In fact, I even wrote a whole post about how we do it. We bought a Critters of WI book for Kayne and read up on a few of the animals we saw. We also bought him a net at one of the bookstores so he could explore the little fish, butterflies and bugs on the island. We stopped and explained a lot of the things in the nature museums that he was curious about.

It’s hard to see in this pic, but a momma deer
and her two fawns nonchalantly
crossed the road in front of us. Sooo cute!

You know, sometimes you just have to catch
those picture-worthy opportunities. Bahaha!
This was a trip we won’t soon forget. Kayne keeps talking about what we’ll do “when we go back.” Not sure if/when we’ll go back, but I’m sure glad he enjoyed it so much he wants to return!

Next up, we’re headed camping trip in August and we just can’t wait. We still haven’t perfected Rayna’s sleeping arrangements in the camper, but we’ve done it once before this spring with a folding bassinet, so maybe she’ll get used to it. Lots more sun and relaxation in our future.

Washington Island Trip: Part One

This year, we decided to take our big family trip to Washington Island in Door County Wisconsin. We live pretty close-ish to this gem but have somehow never been there. This was the most last minute planning I have ever done in my life! We took our vacation days long in advance and knew we were going somewhere, but didn’t know where. We were going to do our regular trip to Wisconsin Dells, but Kayne broke his pinky and we didn’t think he’d be able to do a lot of the fun stuff in waterpark city. So, I considered Baraboo, I considered way “up north” somewhere, I considered home-sharing in Madison, etc. Hubster was pretty much fine with anything. I finally landed on Washington Island, and it was exactly the trip that we needed! It was full of relaxation and nature, the two things we needed most during this time.

On our way to the ferry, we made a pit stop at a rest area that turned out to be the halfway point to the North Pole!!!

I also decided to start a weaving project on the car ride. You know, just cuz.

So, we started with our first ferry ride across the lake. None of us had ever been on one, so it was interesting do drive up, ride over the water and drive right off again. We made our way to our cabin, which I had reserved, sight unseen, because they didn’t have a website. It was the most adorable, charming thing I’ve seen! There was no TV and no WiFi, so we were forced to go unplugged, which was reeeeeeally nice. The cabin had a nice-sized living area with two bunk beds and a fold-out queen-sized couch. We set up a Pack N Play for Rayna. We had our own kitchen and bathroom with shower for a very reasonable price. It was nice because we could bring the dog and baby and not have to worry about our family’s noises bothering our neighbors or being too confined in close quarters. We also could prepare all of our own meals.

Cutest porch nestled in the trees
Our backyard!!! Even saw deer out here a few times!
Steps up to the house
They had the most beautiful property
and quaint little landscaped areas

Our hosts were so accommodating. They were so friendly and attentive to us. They live in a house on the property and rent out two cabins in their backyard. They invited us to a bonfire the first night. The wife even dug out a whole bunch of games for Kayne and played soccer and golf with him for at least a half hour. How sweet is that? One night, the daughter, who was visiting from Germany, even brought us over a yummy German dessert she had made from scratch that had a hint of a beer flavor. I wish I remembered what it was called.

Across the street from where we were staying, the owners owned a patch of land on the water with a peninsula where the swimming was fiiine. They even had a boat that they told us we could freely use.

Even the poochy took a swim
Look at that view!

We did a little bit of sightseeing the first day, just to get an idea of the layout of the island, and we went grocery shopping for the first few days’ worth of meals. That evening, we took a long walk down the road we were staying on. Saw a huge disgusting millipede! And all the mailboxes seemed to have these quirky little displays.

 I’m sure at one time this looked cute, but in its current condition, a bit creepy.
I was super surprised that the island wasn’t overly tourist-y. Sure, there were just a few requisite cute little shops, but for the most part, the island is all about experiencing nature, history and community. One of the shops was a lavender shop, but even that was based on local traditions and had a lavender farm attached to it. The town seemed to be populated more with locals than anything, so the experience was more authentic than “painted on,” if you know what I mean.
So, this was the beautiful introduction to the island that we had. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with Part Two of our trip with a few more details about the places we visited.

Weekend Highlights: A Quick Glimpse of Spring!

**I started this post several weeks ago on my phone, but still thought these memories were worth recording:)

Well, we were finally reminded of what 60 degrees feels like here in Wisconsin this past week after what has felt like a cold desolate winter. Is that dramatic? Well, that’s how it feels. The sidewalks are literally swarming with dogs on leashes, bicycles, strollers and roller blades. You fellow Wisconsinites know exactly how the first heat wave of the year phenomenon works! People. Everywhere.

Titus and I took advantage of the temps and went out for a morning sunrise run. My first outdoor run of the season!!! We’ve also been picking up Kayne from school on-foot, with the baby in the stroller. And we even happened upon one of these neat lending libraries we’ve seen finally popping up in our city.

Our family spent an entire weekend letting our cheeks tilt toward the sun. After enjoying a lunch out on the town this past weekend, we headed over to the dog park, but the mud up to the armpits of every dog out there made us reevaluate our plans. After trying another dog park that didn’t look any better, we finally made our way to a local park with pet-friendly trails. Earlier, we had stopped at a cheese factory and picked up some fresh cheese (the freshest WI cheese possible), sausage, crackers and jam to picnic on.

I dabble in babywearing every now and then. Trail walking necessitates it. Rayna isn’t usually very content facing me, so we’re still adjusting and trying to figure out what works for us.

The trees out on this trail were exceptional for climbing!

And someone had built this super amazing fort thing among some of the trees. This is the kind of hideout my kid dreams were made of! We’ll be back here, for a picnic or spring break or something.

Another little lean-to someone built. Makes me wonder who’s been hanging out here.

After church the next day, the kiddos and I headed out to another favorite trail along the river to get a good leg stretch in again. We know that we are not out of the woods yet with snow being only March, so we get our leg stretchin’ and sun soakin’ in while we can. These little reprieves in the weather are always just enough to make the last few weeks of winter/early spring seem tolerable.

See what I mean? Wednesday we woke up to white stuff, but by the afternoon it had all melted. Spring, you little tease.

I can’t wait for summer! To say the very least…