31 March 2018

Marengo Cave

Though the start of spring break was anything but warm and technically, we already had a spring break trip, we still wanted to take advantage of Jack having Good Friday off and do something fun. The week off of school for the girls was admittedly boring, basically filled with unstimulating-yet-necessary activities like spring cleaning.
Finally! Raven got to come with us on a trip.
So, we picked Marengo caves as a destination, packed up the car, and fueled up at a delicious Chinese buffet before roughing it in the great outdoors.
Yes, Claire loves sushi. And chopsticks.
Normally, we are tent campers but seeing as the weather was rainy and cold, we decided to up our accommodations to a cute little cabin near the caves, complete with electricity and heat. Thankfully, the four older kids slept like a rock but Zoey wasn't so easily convinced. Lights were out by 9:30pm but it was a good hour before everyone was quiet. Then all through the night, I heard every creak of the bunks, every whimper, whine, sigh, snore, and rustle. Zoey seemed to as well and woke up several times, rather concerned that she wasn't at home in her bed. All in all, I think Jack, Zoey, and I got a good 20 minutes of uninterrupted sleep.
That didn't stop us. We were up bright and early the next morning (mostly because we couldn't get everyone to sleep later because they'd all had a good night's rest) and were up in the chilly rain, cooking breakfast.
Raven hates when she has to be tied up since she's sure she's in trouble.
Jack masterfully got a fire started...
Putting his survival skills to use.
...and we ate like kings and queens...toasted bagels and cream cheese, eggs, bacon, orange juice.

And s'mores.
 Can't be any worse than a donut for breakfast, right?
We were surprised how many people showed up to the cave but luckily, we got our tickets fast enough that we didn't have to wait long for a tour.
The girls were super impressed with the fact that it was children who initially discovered the cave back in the mid-1800's. They heard dripping water and climbed on their bellies down a sinkhole to discover it. Call me crazy but I don't think I would have been brave enough to do that.
Now, Marengo caves is a privately owned national landmark and give several different types of tours. It's full of all kinds of fascinating formations, from soda straws to crystal palaces...
It's amazing how fast the cave is changing. Those cups are less than 100 years old!
...cups that previous visitors left and are now solidified in the forming rock...
A giant slice of bacon stuck in the rock.
 ...to bacon.
We sprung for the two tours at a discount and spent about two hours down in the caves.
The second tour passed through the upper chamber of the cave, which in general, was much more open and larger than the first tour.
They even used to have square dances in the cave since the acoustics were good and the cave was large enough. Sounds like a weird but strangely fascinating use for the space.
By far, the favorite spot on the tour was a mud ceiling that was chalked full of coins.
It's said that if you can get your coin to stick or you knock someone else's coin out, your wish will come true. Since Jack and I didn't bring any coins, the girls scavanged on the ground and chucked a few into the ceiling. The guide said every few years they come through and pull each coin out and consider it a donation to the cave system. Another fun quirk of the cave!
The rest of the time we enjoyed the bizarre structures...
...and animal life, like this little brown bat (though we were hoping to see some blind cave fish).
There was a point when Zoey's exhaustion caught up with her and her shrieks and wails echoed through the cave.
'Bout had it.
So, lucky her, she took a half hour nap, right then and there.
And all was right with the world.
All in all, a very cool cave system (which only reiterates Jack wanting to have one in our backyard. Um, if I spot a sinkhole, I'll let him be the first to crawl in and check).
Back up above the surface, we looked around the gift shop and bought a few trinkets, talked to the slightly creepy Willie cave guide...
...and did a little gemstone mining.

Our kids would make excellent prospectors.
 And, Jack treated everyone (including myself) to a very messy stick of rock candy.
The trip home was uneventful (other than the traffic) and the kids spent most of the time snoozing or watching a movie. No animals had run away while we were gone (including the fish...Jack made sure to check)...
...and the evening was spent comparing fossils and gemstones from their mining haul.
Overall, a very fun, quick trip enjoying what natural beauties Indiana has to offer!

27 March 2018

Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

These Brussels sprouts are very polarizing...half the kids hated them (though they love Brussels sprouts roasted with just salt and pepper) and the rest of us loved them. Guess since I'm the chef, I get to decide what we have for dinner and as far as I'm concerned, these were d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F and lightly grease a large baking pan. In a large ziplock bag, dump the Brussels sprouts in and top with olive oil. Seal the bag and shake to coat. Sprinkle in breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Seal and shake to coat. Dump onto pan and spread evenly. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sprouts are soft. Serve hot.
Enjoy!

25 March 2018

When Life Gives You Snow

The beginning of winter and on through the new year definitely felt like winter. Wind, frigid cold, snow. Then, February felt like spring and March? I don't think Mother Nature has made up her mind.
Raven doesn't care who's petting her as long as someone is scratching her ears.
 One day it felt like spring...
 ...then back to winter...
Fresh eggs!
 ...spring...
 ...winter...
 ...a day of springlike weather...
 ...then back to winter...
 then back to spring...
Hercules and Snickers warming up on the boiler.
 ...before another spell of winter...
...a nice stretch of spring...
...then yesterday, a very decided return to winter.

Okay. Maybe it wasn't that many flipflops but it sure felt like it.
Of course, the massive, late-season snowstorm hit on the very worst day possible. Not only were we busy, but it was a day chalked full of driving. Yay. First, I picked up the babysitter, then Jack and I headed north forty-five minutes to the temple. The snow was still coming down once we left and I took the babysitter home.
Thank goodness for four-wheel drive and ABS. And knowing how to drive in the snow (which a lot of people don't seem to know how to do...)
In the evening, Jack and I were going to attend an annual charity gala but it was canceled while I was on the way to pick up the second set of babysitters. So, I made a pitstop at the grocery store to grab a smorgasbord dinner for Jack and me and once I got home, we put the kids to bed early and told them they could read so we could pretend to have a nice dinner like we would have been having.

Because who wants to dress up all fancy and eat delectable food and have grown up/sans children company, while listening to famous singers and supporting a good cause when we could eat at home, shushing the kids down the hall and watch the snow come down?

Not us, of course.

(Seriously, it's a good thing Jack can turn anything into a fancy, special occasion. Give him a raw potato and he'd probably carve it into the Eiffel Tower and make it taste like Gordan Ramsey prepared it himself).
The storm was a unique combination of just-freezing temperatures and a whole-lotta snow, so the roads were slick ice beneath large banks of snow. Church was canceled and we had an incredibly rare morning of sleeping in (by sleeping in, I mean 7:30), a leisurely breakfast, family church time, and once the weather warmed up, outside to take advantage of the perfect snow.
Poor Zoey. No snowsuit for you.
Unlike the previous day, today was warm and sunny. The snow packed perfectly for snowballs...
 ...and an entire family of snowmen.

It isn't often that the kids get to play in the snow multiple times a year, mainly because our part of Indiana just doesn't get a lot of snow on average. I guess my wish for more snow came true!
Aren't we beautiful?
We went inside for a while to warm up and waited for Zoey to fall asleep so we could go out again...
She zonked out on the couch before I could get her to her crib. Watching people build snowmen is hard work!
Jack stayed in to listen for Zoey and I took the kids out for one last use of the sledding hill for the season. Of course, I always get my workout in because they insist I'm a workhorse that enjoys pulling them around.
We skidded down the hill...
 ...and climbed back up...
 ...only to sled back down again.
Look! We're flying! Sort of...
 Evelyn made her very own snowbaby...
 ...and Claire made what else? A snowcat.

(In Hercules' likeness, of course).
 We chucked a few more snowballs at each other and even Raven got in on the fun.
So, while it would be nice to be sunning on some warm beach (which it seems like the whole of our Indiana friends seem to be doing this week), we tried to make the best of our weird start to spring break with the motto: when life gives you snow, make a snowman.
Hot chocolate all around!
(Although, if that's the last of the snow and cold weather for a while, that'd be okay, too. Hint, hint, Mother Nature...)

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