Camping Before the Rains

Georgette took us on our second camping adventure.  This time we headed to Clinton Lake and spent two nights enjoying nature and our home on wheels.

Nature brought us something we weren’t expecting – Cicadas.  According to my research, this is Brood XXIII, which emerge on a 13 year cycle.  There were so many that we needed to speak a little louder to be heard over all their singing.  They sound would build as it got later into the morning and throughout the afternoon.  By dinnertime, they had quieted down considerably, but were still flying from tree-to-tree, at times seeming to fall from the sky.  Naomi and FS1 were not at all fond of these singing, flying insects.  And when I say not fond of them, I mean one landed on Naomi’s leg while we were eating and she immediately began shaking and screaming for someone to get it off her.  Then she spent the rest of the weekend with her legs up on me or the picnic table bench attempting to avoid having another one attack her leg.  FS1 wasn’t much better, but he did get to the point of flicking them off the picnic table.  However, he could not walk around our campsite without his eyes fixed on the ground to make sure he wasn’t coming into contact with any of them.  FS2 was absolutely fascinated with them and would watch them carefully with a big smile on his face.  Apparently though, cicadas must know that little fingers coming at them is DANGER because as he reached out to touch one, ever to slowly, it flew away.  For the rest of us, they were an interesting annoyance, but they should only be around for a short time and then gone for many years thereafter.  Overall, dealing with them on one camping trip wasn’t that big of a deal and I’m sure we will talk about the cicada camping trip for years to come.


Our dogs, Jada, Jagger and Zoey are becoming quite the camper dogs.  I’ve been very pleasantly pleased with their behavior.  They quietly hang out at the campsite and are pretty well-behaved on walks.  Every once in a while Zoey one of them would begin to bark, but would quickly realize that barking at the campground is against the rules.  Apparently, some dogs didn’t get the campground etiquette memo 🙂  I hope their good manners continue on our future camping trips.


Hubby and the girls were able to do a little fishing on our trip.  They managed to bring in a few keepers and during the couple of hours they were at the lake, it was Naomi – 0, hubby – 1 and Lili – 2.  Lili is turning into quit the little fishergirl.

For me, the highlight of camping was cooking breakfast on my cast iron griddle over an open fire.  Somehow, eggs and bacon taste better while camping 🙂

Getting away, spending time outside, the smell of campfires in the air, and sitting back with my legs propped up under the trees, just relaxing (while occasionally flicking a cicada off my leg) was enough to make me forget that I wasn’t miles and miles and miles away from home.

We packed up and left the campground late morning, a bit worried about the weather forecast.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with any rain until we had been home a couple of hours.  Watching the weather is important, unless you want to be setting up or breaking down camp in the rain.

Our weekend trip brought some new discoveries and we now have more warranty items that need to be taken care of.  Georgette will head back to the shop for another visit.  This is just part of new RV ownership.

We are also beginning to make a list of things we want to change/add.  Like closet organizers to give us better utilization of our limited storage space.  More containers for food storage, which allows for better utilization of limited cupboard space.

I’m sure you see the theme.  We still have unused cabinets, so there is room for more “stuff”, but we’re trying to avoid taking more than we absolutely need and we want to utilize the space we have in the most organized way possible.  A place for everything and everything in its place is the way to go.  Someday we’ll get there.  I hope!!!

Day Camping

Last weekend we went on our first camping trip in Georgette.  This weekend we’ll head out on camping trip number two and next week, Lili will head out on her first week-long day camp trip.

I’m a little envious and somewhat nervous about her venturing out on this camping adventure.  She is going to Art and Science in the Woods, hosted by the Sun Foundation.  She will spend the week on her major, “All About Birds” and each afternoon she will learn something different from Native American art and culture to drawing and sculpting.  It really is the perfect fit for her.  Being out in nature while learning art and science, but it’s also the first time she is spending hours each day for five days out learning and exploring without me.

She won’t be totally amongst strangers since 5 other kids from our homeschool group will be there.  One will be with her each day learning about birds and am quite sure she will leave camp having made several new friends along the way.

She’ll have a great time while I spend the week playing chauffeur and hearing all she has learned each day.

On Friday though, we will head out to pick her up, but this time we get to stick around to see what the kids have done all week.  It’s an opportunity for all of us to learn and experience a little Art and Science in the Woods.

Here’s to great camping experiences for all of us over the next 8 days.


Adventures, Part 5 and 6

Our last day in Denver was spent at the Museum of Nature and Science.  We love a good museum and walked in not expecting a lot, but wanted to get some more educational opportunities in place for the kids on the trip.

The nice thing about having low expectations about something is you are less disappointed when something isn’t as good as you thought it would be.  This museum however, was not a disappointment at all.  It was very crowded, thanks to several school groups who were also visiting that day, but our only disappointment was that we didn’t get there earlier.

I did take pictures, but FS1 and/or FS2 are in the photos and I cannot publish those photos publicly.

We headed back to the hotel and I began packing for the next leg of our journey – Texas.

A good nights sleep.  Some breakfast.  The Suburban packed.  We were off.

We weren’t going to drive very far though.  One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing on the trip was on our way to Texas.  It was a cloudy, cold and windy day for an outdoor adventure, but I was not going to miss this site.

First stop, Garden of the Gods.

Holy Cow!!!!!!  I wish it would have been warmer and sunny, but this place is beautiful and I’ll leave you with some of the photos I captured.

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It’s All Good and Wonderful

They were all talking about it.  All the meteorologists that is.  States to the north and west of us got hit hard and it was heading our way.  During the wee hours of the morning, we had thunder, lightening, rain and wind.  Fortunately though, it was mostly a lot of noise with somewhere between 1.5 – 2.0 inches of rain.  We very much-needed the rain though, so it was very welcome.

With my little anxiety attack over a possible Derecho behind me, life went on as usual.   Homeschool, riding lessons, laundry, cooking, cleaning, yada, yada, yada.  Then today we went on our weekly outing with the homeschool group.  We so look forward to our weekly get-togethers.  None of us know from week to week what we’ll learn and today was an awesome learning experience.

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One of the families in our group took in two orphaned baby raccoons and the girls were in awe.  Actually, Lili was a bit frightened.  After all, they do have long sharp claws and he was trying to hold on to Lili just like he would mama raccoon.  Naomi, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of these babies.  Typically it’s the other way around with my girls.  They got to learn about feeding the babies, stimulating them to pee, and how to hold them.  The kids went to the creek, caught minnows and fed them to the babies.

Then it was time for the babies to leave.  They will be going to a nature preserve and wildlife area to be cared for, but what a wonderful learning experience for the kids.  It was a special treat and yet another reminder of how awesome it is to be a homeschool family.

**For those who may be wondering about the marks on Naomi’s pretty little face, she has apparently hit that clumsy stage.  She fell on the sidewalk skinning her forehead, nose and knee.  A few days later she fell on the sidewalk again pulling the scab off her knee.  Then a few days after that she fell again and skinned her other knee.  This is going to be a very long summer and I obviously need to buy stock in Band-Aid.**

Dandelions, the Super Food


It seems that many will do whatever it takes to rid their yard of those little yellow flowering weeds. For a matter-of-fact, we were once in that same camp. Then we moved over to the “I don’t care” camp and just mowed right over them when we cut the grass.  I have now moved into a new dandelion camp.

For years, I’ve heard of people making dandelion wine, but since I don’t drink wine,  I had no desire to give it a try. I had also heard of using dandelion greens in cooking, but again, I never had a desire to give them a try. Recently, I came across an article touting the benefits of dandelions and I was amazed!!!  This little weed that many try to kill has awesome health and healing benefits.  For example, it can prevent or cure liver diseases, such as hepatitis or jaundice. It will act as a tonic and gentle diuretic to purify blood, cleanse the system, dissolve kidney stones, and improve gastrointestinal health. Having trouble with your weight? Eat dandelions for weight reduction. Dandelions can also be used to cleanse your skin and eliminate acne. Constipation or diarrhea? Dandelions can help both problems by improving bowel function. This little yellow flowering weed can improve blood pressure, prevent or cure anemia and has the ability to lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half. Eat some dandelion to reduce acid indigestion and/or the buildup of gas. This super weed can even prevent or cure various forms of cancer, diabetes and has no negative side effects.

All these years I’ve tried to kill dandelions when in fact, I should have been protecting them, picking them, and feeding them to my family.

With my new-found knowledge, the girls and I headed outside to pick dandelions.  We picked only the flowers to make Dandelion Blossom Bread.



2 c flour

2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 c dandelion blossoms, all green sepals and leaves removed

1/4 c oil

4 T honey

1 egg

1 1/2 c milk

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl, including petals making sure to separate clumps of petals. In separate bowl mix together milk, honey, oil beaten egg. Add liquid to dry mix. Batter should be fairly wet and lumpy. Pour into buttered bread tin or muffin tin. Bake 400F. For muffins 20-25 min, bread for bread up to twice as long. Test for doneness

I did add a little glaze to the bread, for some added sweetness, but it really didn’t need the glaze.  The bread tastes of honey and my 4-yr-old loves it.  My 6-yr-old ate several bites, then decided she was done.  She isn’t a big fan of honey though and her little sister was more than happy to finish her piece 🙂  Hubby chose not to partake.  Next time I think I’ll cut back on the honey a bit, but overall, I thought it was a delightful bread.


Without a doubt, I will be including dandelions as part of our diet.  With all the wonderful health benefits, how can I not.

What a Wildlife

The girls and I were out enjoying another beautiful day here in Central IL. We took homeschool to Wildlife Prairie Park just outside Peoria for a few hours of exploration. This is such a great resource for us here in Central IL that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit we haven’t been there is a few years. For a matter-of-fact, I couldn’t remember if Naomi had ever been there, but if she did go, she was maybe 1 and that’s been almost 4 years ago. Needless-to-say, they have made a few changes since then and did I ever get excited to see what they are working on now – a Pioneer Farmstead!!!!

It’s still a work in progress with plans to put in farm animals that kids will be able to visit and pet, but what I did find there was my future homestead garden.

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Mine will be bigger than the one at the park, but I saw it and knew this garden set up was in my future.  I can see me spending a great deal of time locked up in my garden cage 🙂

We saw so many animals at the park today.

Bison grazing


These animals are just amazing and I love watching them.  They are so majestic!

From there we moved to see all the other animals that roam the State of Illinois – the gray wolf, black bear, red fox, silver fox, cougar, bobcat, lynx and more.

We read about the animals, learning much along the way.  Then, as we returned to the entrance of the park, I saw another animal out grazing with the bison. We headed over to check it out and there stood a herd of elk, eating corn.

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They were maybe 5 feet away from the fence, standing there eating and watching us as we watched them.  We examined the way the dominate elk kept the others away from the corn.  We waited and cheered on the under dog as they stood at the sidelines awaiting their opportunity to come in and get a few kernels for themselves.  We watched nature up close and personal for probably 20 minutes and eventually pulled ourselves away.

As we left the park, the girls and I decided that we needed to make regular visits to Wildlife Prairie Park this spring, summer and fall. It’s a great place to learn and explore many of the things nature provides us here in Central Illinois. Plus, I’ll need to go back and more closely examine my future garden 🙂

Now I leave you with some pictures of our little field trip and some of the amazing animals I captured in picture.

Giant Monarch Butterflies.

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Bison and Elk

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Beautiful girls with horse.


The Great Horned Owl


Red-Tailed Hawk


Red Fox

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The cutest bison at the park.


And I saved the best for last.

Happy, happy girls!!


Education Brought to Us By Nature

During warmer weather, many member of our local homeschool group have a weekly get-together at a local park for fun and exploration.  There is play equipment for those who want to play.  There are some woods with trails and a small creek for those who want to explore.  It’s a big beautiful park, just perfect for our group.

We were only able to join the group a couple of times last fall before the weather got too cold and everyone retreated to warmer meeting places. Last week we joined the group for the first time this year and all three of us looked forward to being there again today.

It’s been very good for my girls, especially my oldest, who needs time to warm up to new people and new situations. She definitely enjoys staying in her comfort zone. Her safe place. Unfortunately, staying in that place isn’t always the best and last week, when her little friend didn’t show up to the park, she became a bit anxious. That someone, who makes her feel comfortable, was not there and she was not happy. She was being forced to move outside that box of security and I wasn’t sure she would leave, but she did. It took some time, but she began engaging with other kids and by the end of the afternoon she had created new friendships.

This week she was a different kid. She seemed to have a new-found independence and she began to soar. She ran off with kids she had not played with in the past and there were many smiles and much laughter. One of the boys was celebrating his 8th birthday and brought some fun equipment for exploring nature.  With my girls and some other kids tagging along, they headed down to the creek in search of natures treasures.  Several minutes later excitement exploded like fireworks on the 4th of the July.  They had caught a snake.  Okay, my girls didn’t actually participate in the catching of the snake, but they were there watching as the snake was caught and placed in a net and brought back for the moms to see. My oldest was beaming with excitement, while my youngest was beaming with uncertainty.  Should she be excited or frightened?  She just wasn’t sure.  My oldest touched the snake and allowed it to wrap itself around her hand.  My youngest sat back watching and talking about the danger of this non-venomous snake as the adults explained all the positive attributes of this particular snake.

These are the kind of homeschooling experiences I want for my girls. Experiences that allow them to learn thru childhood exploration. Experiences that leave an impression. I want them to look back on their education and remember that day at the park when the snake was caught and how they examined the snake, one up close and the other from a distance. These are the kind of experiences that  trigger interest and that interest creates opportunity for learning.  Today’s experience most certainly leading to a study of snakes.

We will continue to meet at the park as often as we can. My girls will build friendships, create memories and experience education brought to us by nature.

Lili closely examining the snake.
Lili closely examining the snake.

Finally!!! A Spring Day

We are finally getting a real spring day here and it couldn’t come at a better time. There is a lot to be done outside and we are armed with supplies to get it done.

Last year we completed a deck and patio project.

First, hubby and girls built a fire pit.
First, hubby and girls built a fire pit.


Our rebuilt deck leading down to our new patio.  The fire pit is lonely no more!!
Our rebuilt deck leading down to our new patio. The fire pit is lonely no more!!

That project now requires some landscaping be done and I had decided last year that I would be putting in some small shrubs around the patio and along the deck. Of course, those plans have now changed, as most plans around here do.  Having a real need for more garden space, planting shrubs just didn’t seem like a good idea.  So instead of shrubs around the patio, I will be putting in pots filled with herbs. The space around the deck will be filled with plants that will attract butterflies and bees, which are of great benefit to the garden. I’m also putting in a small flowering tree that will eventually provide some shade to the deck. There will still be space for additional pots of herbs around the deck as well.

The nice thing about using pots for my herbs is that I can take them with me when we move to the homestead.

I’ve ordered everything and they should arrive later this week, so today is my day to get the ground ready for planting – cleaning up dead growth, leveling the ground, putting down landscape fabric and mulch. A lot to do on a beautiful spring day!!!!


Sunny Days Are Here Again

It appears we’re going to have dry weather for a few days.  Woo Hoo!!!!  I was beginning to think we were going to need to use the wood from our fallen tree to build a big boat.  But alas, the rains and storms have moved out and I’m looking forward to some quality time with the great outdoors.

We still have a fair amount of clean up that needs to be done from our fallen tree.  Fortunately, we (primarily hubby) were able to get quite a bit of the tree cut up and the debris moved despite the rain.  Our son even came over one day to help stack wood.  I had moved so many branches and logs myself that hubby told me I could do a Geritol commercial.  He says it was  compliment, although I still question if he was simply implying I’m now part of the geriatric community and could start buying Geritol 🙂  LOL!!!!

The garden is looking rather water-logged, but that hasn’t stopped the weeds from flourishing.  I’ll be out this afternoon with my trusty hoe ridding the garden of green foliage that shouldn’t be there.  I also have two more tomato and pepper plants that need to go in as well as some cucumber and zucchini.  Overall, the garden isn’t looking too bad though and I’m hoping the yard will be mowed this afternoon as I could sure use some more grass clippings for the garden.

Rain certainly does a good job of making everything a bright beautiful green.  I’m quite sure the ground has soaked up enough water to keep things green for many weeks and I am so happy to have a few rain-free days.


When Lightening Strikes

A tree will fall.

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As far as we can tell, the only damage to our house is a gutter.  It even missed the neighbor’s car that was parked out front of our house.

Unfortunately, this is a 50+-year-old tree that provided tons of shade along the front of our house.  For a matter-of-fact, when the contractor was bidding on building our house, he suggested we flip the design to save the tree.  Then mother nature came for a visit and our lovely shade tree is in two pieces.  A piece of history gone and a lot of money out-of-pocket to get the rest of the tree cut down.

Now we have the task of removing the downed half and having the other half removed.  Hubby feels this is a good opportunity to go out and buy that chainsaw and gear he’ll need one day on the homestead and I am already beginning to think about what kind of tree I would like to plant in its place.   I’m thinking a flowering variety of tree would look very nice 🙂