My New Kitchen Tool

I finally bought it! I have been debating this kitchen tool for over a year now and finally pulled the trigger. It’s nothing fancy, nothing new to the market, and not a fad like the Instapot craze…..it’s a simple toaster oven.

I know, I know, they have been around forever. My husband actually grew up having one in his childhood home his entire life. Although, I did not and never found the need to have one since I always found myself cooking for a family. However, now I will admit….I love it!!! Since becoming empty nesters and often times finding my husband gone for work and only myself to cook for, this is so much faster, easier, and cooler in the summer months.

So far I have made a small casserole for myself and the daycare children for lunchtime.

IMG_1415

I have also made fish,

IMG_1417

chicken and cheese tortilla melts,

IMG_1444

stuffed zucchini boats, IMG_1449

along with sweet potato fries, nachos, black bean burgers, and pizza melts.

I love that it takes minutes to preheat, minutes to cook, and does not heat up my entire kitchen to prepare one/two serving dishes.

Little by little I am learning how to revamp my/our life to be a family of one or two and occasionally three when our son stops back in to eat at home. I am loving trying new veggie packed recipes that I could never get away with in the past. And believe it or not, being empty nesters is working out pretty well for us all. I am happy, dad is happy and spends more quality time with our son than before, and our son seems pretty happy himself being on his own. Now I just have to figure out what to do with all my 9×13 casserole dishes since I don’t see a lot of usage for them anymore.

So tell me all you other empty nest parents out there…..what was the biggest change when your kids moved out on their own? Was it cooking, cleaning, living a childless lifestyle, reconnecting with your spouse, etc?

 

The Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan-Part 2

It’s amazing to me how much we can pack into one day when it’s all we had in cooper country. We saw so much and explored everything from waterfalls to old abandoned buildings.

IMG_1569

One of the unique places we stopped was an old abandoned mill of some sort. This is typically not something I would explore but our son and my husband had this one their to do list of places to see.

IMG_1572

IMG_1573

IMG_1574

IMG_1584

Directly across the street from this building was a piece of old machinery also left behind for people to explore. I was not game for this adventure…but both my boys went and checked it out up close.

IMG_1570

Then my son, being he has been here many times before, wanted to show mom what this area calls a mountain. Since we have explored and climbed a few real mountains, I always find it amusing what other areas consider to be a mountain. However, elevation is elevation and I love it no matter where I can find it.

IMG_1481

IMG_1482

IMG_1484

IMG_1489

After a full day of beach exploring, hiking, and just seeing what this area had to offer we headed back to the hotel to clean up before heading out to dinner.

IMG_1527

IMG_1552

IMG_1541

IMG_1567

After dinner our son said he was planning on heading out for a picture of sundown, which normally I would have joined him but I simply was just too tired from the day. So I tossed him the keys and dad and I went to bed. I remember vaguely him coming back, hearing him in the hotel room, and the next thing I knew we were all awake and wondering what the heck that earsplitting noise was????? Well, we soon figured it out, I glanced at the clock next to me……3:00a.m…….as our son raced to the door to glance out into the hallway to figure out was this really happening?? Sure enough it was……the fire alarm was blaring and strobe lights in the hallways were flashing like the northern lights!!!! We quickly grabbed our valuables, threw on shoes, and headed outside with the rest of the people.

IMG_1597

Being the town and area we were staying in were not large, it took a bit for the volunteer fire department to show up and thankfully within 30 minutes we were all cleared to enter our hotel once again and go back to sleep. Which is much easier said than done…..take my word for it!

IMG_1596

All in all, it was a great weekend. Some adventures were better than others and I am sure you can pick out which one we could have done without. However, we also learned from some of them…the emergency evacuation to be exact. I would highly recommend visiting this area of Michigans Upper Peninsula if you have the chance.

****To read part 1 of this trip click here.

The Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan-Part 1

This past weekends we visited the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan….also known to many as copper country. Our son has been here many times with a friend that has a cabin in this area but dad and I have only visited once a few years ago. During that visit we had no time for exploration what so ever since we were touring a college at the time. Which meant this time was strictly for fun and adventure….which we sure had. Here is the first part of our trip.

We left after work Friday evening for the 4 hour drive to our hotel. As the sun set in the sky we were eagerly awaiting the end of a long work day plus the drive to our destination. Knowing that if we arrived late Friday night we would have all day Saturday to explore made the long drive a bit more tolerable.

IMG_1451

We arrived, checked in, and immediately went to bed. We had all agreed to wake early(6:30a.m.) to begin our day Saturday.

On the agenda were a few waterfalls,

IMG_1453

IMG_1465

IMG_1497

IMG_1500

IMG_1514

some geocaching,

IMG_1512

IMG_1532

and some trail hiking.

IMG_1472

IMG_1553

IMG_1515

IMG_1464

Everything we went for was accomplished and then some, during our day in this area of Michigan. I found that I love Michigans abundance of fresh edible berries all along their trials. Wow, we would never come across all this yummy goodness here in WI.

IMG_1508

IMG_1452

I will end here for now but if your curious to see what else we explored in the Keweenaw stay tuned to part 2 next.

 

 

August Already??? How Can That Be?

Where has summer gone? It’s August already I am not ready for summer to be almost over! Although, our August calendar is full and September is filling up quickly so maybe the best of summer is yet to come.

Alright, I know its been a while but life got a bit hectic once again. I flew solo this past week since my husband was once again on the road for work. Which meant we did all we could to get everything done that needed to be done and also spend a day together before he left. We decided to float the river once again since its relaxing and we both needed a few hours to relax.

IMG_1399

It was a floating trip that paid off since he found a very nice fishing lure stuck in the bottom of the river. IMG_1398

Then the week happened and it was busy! Hence why there was no postings last week. I simply did not have time to sit and type.

Friday then rolled around and as he was on his way home making his way through airports, I was packing and preparing for our weekend. We had a day planned at a friends cabin that was sure to include water, sun, and campfires! I threw together a quick broccoli salad and grabbed the beach towels and sunscreen. IMG_1425

We left a bit early since I had my heart set on stopping at the farmers market near where we were headed. I bought a bunch of fresh veggies for the week ahead.

IMG_1426

We then arrived at the cabin to find sunshine and warmth. This is not always the case here since it’s often cooler by the lake, but I was happy today was not one of those days. We boated, stopped at the beach, and prepared dinner on the open fire.

IMG_1429

IMG_1430

IMG_1431

It was a great day. Weather was perfect, company was fun, and the water was warm. What more could we ask for?

Sunday was then catch up on chores day. We typically have one day of play and one day of work every weekend. I prepared baby food, veggie dip, and pre chopped veggies for the week ahead. My husband did oil changes and other things on his “Honey Do” list like normal. This week is jam packed with stuff. Our annual date event we go to is this week, we also have plans to visit somewhere we have never been. And believe me, we have been almost everywhere in WI….and surrounding states. So I am excited to explore more of what our area has to offer. Hopefully the weather cooperates and I will have something fun to share with you all real soon.

IMG_1405

Have a great week!

Recent Meals….Still Learning To Cook For Two

I have been so busy that remembering to take a picture at meal time has been forgotten quite often. Although, don’t fret, I have been cooking as usual but gosh have things changed when it comes to cooking and grocery shopping.

Here are a few meals we have enjoyed recently. My husband has always wanted to take a steak, chop it up, and make a hamburger patty out of it to see what the difference is from ground beef. Well, this finally happened and surprisingly it was pretty darn good. I am not a big beef fan so I was hesitant to try it. However, I must admit, I believe we may have it again since it was so good. IMG_1363

IMG_1367

One evening we had sweet chili chicken, couscous salad, and zucchini.

IMG_7053

Another evening was lemon shrimp with capers and spinach over pasta.IMG_6939

And last I want to tell you about this fabulous sauce I picked up on my last trip to Trader Joes. Gyoza dipping sauce has become a new favorite around here. One night I prepared this chicken veggie stirfry and another night I finished the bottle by tossing together a chicken and leek skillet meal that we simply loved. Each took about half the bottle…so two meals out of one jar. Like usual, I wish I would have bought more but you never know when something new comes out if you will like it or not. However, I am already researching how to make my own Gyoza sauce….and it looks pretty darn simple. IMG_1384

Let’s touch on grocery shopping here quickly. In all honesty, I am still adjusting to buying and feeding two people at meal time. I even have found myself able to use a small cart at the store instead of the jumbo grocery carts. IMG_1362

It takes me less time to put groceries away once I arrive home. And I never use all my reusable grocery bags anymore like I once did before. And the bill at checkout time is a shocker…but I am loving it. So little by little I am adjusting to the new way of meal planning and shopping. Now if only they would make hamburger/hotdog/ and bread loaves in half sizes….I would be very thankful!

Mother And Son Day Out….We Had One Of The Best Burgers Ever!

Saturday my son and I spent the majority of the day together and it was quite nice. I never in a million years would think he would ask to join me in my plans for the day but surprises happen and this was a surprise. I had planned to travel about 45 minutes from home to a local community for a city wide garage sale event. And since our son recently moved out, he has a few things on his list that he still needs and asked to join me.

We left bright and early Saturday to arrive in Algoma, WI by 8a.m.. Needless to say my husband had no interest in joining us….he had a “honey do” list a mile long anyhow. We toured the town and shopped until my son had $3 left in his pocket and then we called it quits. My SUV was full, our pockets were empty, and by the end of the morning so were our stomachs. We needed to fix this last problem so we had been hearing about a fairly new hamburger restaurant that is operated by a very successful high end dining establishment also in the same city. Skaliwags 2…..or Skaliwags Burger Co. is right around the corner from the original Skaliwags and this one only sells burgers. Located on the main drag in this small city….604 4th St., you can easily locate it and have one of the best burgers I have ever had in my life!!!!

IMG_1386

This place is tiny, very clean, restaurant staff was very friendly, and the food was worth the small wait. IMG_1387

IMG_1388

They have a number of sides you can choose from. Burgers are prepared to your liking. And many are chef inspired creations that you must try.

IMG_1392

Our day was completed after this meal…you can only imagine why. We were exhausted from garage shopping all morning and then having one of the best burgers ever. If your in the Algoma, WI area, I would highly recommend a brief stop at Skaliwags 2.

 

Trails Are Picked Out And Now It’s Time To Train For This Adventure

Recently our son stopped over for a visit and I tossed out to both my boys (husband and son) a suggestion that we really should consider looking at preparing a training schedule for our upcoming trip to Sedona, AZ. Surprisingly enough, both agreed! This brought a small chuckle to my inner self. It’s funny how when mom (me) plans a vacation it takes 10-12 weeks to prepare for this vacation. We know this because after attempting once to do one of these vacations without training….we have all learned the hard way. Training makes what I love to do on vacation so much more pleasant in the long run. IMG_5837

So this is what we came up with. We agreed 10 weeks should be enough time to accomplish what we need. I have already picked out all our hikes, summits, and activities that will take the toll on our bodies. All the rest of the fun should be easy and just plain fun. We know the area already since we have visited once before so we all agreed incline strengthening is the most important.

IMG_5690

Along with some higher mileage walks/hikes added in, this should prepare us for the adventures we have planned. Planning was the easy part….now finding time, energy, and the area where we can do this is the tricky part. Although, I think I have it set. Here is the plan….

First, let me say WI is flat!!!! In the past we did steps to help us prepare at a near by track field. This year, however, we will not be doing those steps. Why you ask??? Simply stated, they are concrete and torture, to put it mildly!

IMG_5139

Plus, we know we will not be boulder climbing, for the most part, like in the past, so a hilly incline to climb up and down numerous times is more what we need. Thankfully, we have a new grassy hill near our home and it will be perfect.

IMG_1360

Second, we know we need to up our mileage from our normal walking/hiking distance. So we have a great hilly trail on the UWGB campus that worked perfectly for our last vacation and we plan to use this same trail again to up the distance for this upcoming trip. Three laps of this trail almost add up to 10 miles which is perfect.

IMG_8381

Plus, we have many rail trails that go on forever. We could easily take our pick of rail trails and just walk until we can’t walk anymore.

IMG_1351

Last, finding time will probably the hardest part. We are planning on twice during the week in the evenings and once on the weekend. Add this with my normal daily early morning workouts and I should be plenty exhausted. Although, I still plan to take Fridays off of all exercise since, after all, it is Friday and every body needs a rest day. If my husband is on the road traveling for work this schedule could get a bit tricky for him. He works long hours on the road so he may or may not miss out on some training days. He typically takes workout clothes to hit up his hotel gym but sometimes this works out and sometimes it does not depending on his schedule. It will be what it will be.

Like usual many people ask us every time if its worth all the work we go through to go on vacation. I can honestly say, no matter how much we dislike the preparation, the reward is so worth it. Anyone that has had a goal and has accomplished that goal by putting in hard work to get there will know…..it is so worth the effort!Mom Cathedral End low logo-1

If your in the Sedona, AZ area and have any recommendations for us let us know. I would love to hear from others what they found to be the best hikes, restaurants, places to explore and so on.