Thursday, July 31, 2014

Outdoor Concert

Every Thursday evening this summer, our town has hosted outdoor concerts on the "Town Hill."  We have been lucky to have good weather on the Thursdays we have attended the concerts.  This evening was the last one for us - and Julia went out with a bang by eating a ginormous bomb pop.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Literate Kitty

What happens when the girls leave a magazine open on the floor?  Rosie takes advantage of doing a little evening leisure reading.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Home Stretch

We only logged 370 miles today, which was the home stretch.  Naturally, I timed the driving around where we would have lunch.  There are only three Chick Fil-A restaurants in all of Massachusetts, and we always take advantage of being near one!
 After nearly a month on the road (and close to 5,000 miles), the Pilot deserved a cleaning.  We girls got rid of the bug collection on the outside and the rock collection on the inside.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

On the Road Again

We drove 522 miles today, stopping for lunch (where Evelyn and Julia got some headband/ears) . . .
 . . . and once we got to our hotel, the girls burned off some energy by taking a dip in the pool.
 And supper?  Well, since today is National Ice Cream Day, we had ice cream at Beartown Peaches n Cream in Corning, New York.  Totally homemade, totally delicious!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Abraham Lincoln National Historic Site

While en route from Illinois to Indiana (as we make our way back to Massachusetts), we made an impromptu stop in Springfield to see Abraham Lincoln's home.  We had less than two hours to visit this historical site, which meant we did a quick, self-guided tour...and we didn't have time to tour the inside of Lincoln's home.
 Luckily for the girls, they were able to complete the activities in their Junior Ranger books without touring Lincoln's house.  We walked through the neighborhood, learning about what life was like in the 1800's in this area of Springfield.
 The most interesting thing the girls learned about was what people ate back then - especially the "walking onions" in the garden.  (Google it - they are really cool.)
By the end of our morning, the girls were awarded their fifth Junior Ranger badge for this summer's road trip.  Strong work, girls!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Art Show at the Joslyn

The girls attended a day camp at the Joslyn Art Museum every afternoon this week.  As a grand finale, the students were showcased in an art show today, the last day.
 The girls were so happy their grandparents - both sets! - were able to come to their art shows.  Here, Evelyn is explaining her painting and sculpture to her Grandpa Phil.
 Julia had three drawings and paintings on display.  She LOVED showing off her masterpieces to her family - anything for an audience!  Both girls thoroughly enjoyed their time at the Joslyn.  I'm so glad it works for them to have an authentic art day camp experience such as this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

60-Year-Old Doll Dresses

One of the things my grandma gave me (among the many items I will haul back to Massachusetts) are two doll dresses.  Grandma Shirley hand-made these dresses in the 1950's, after she had sewn dresses for her four daughters.  In addition to making up her own patterns for her daughters' dresses, my grandma made these dresses completely on her own.  And who knew that they would fit dolls that are popular in the year 2014?  I think Evelyn's doll (Kit) and Julia's doll (Emily) look simply adorable in their new/old dresses.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Old Family Letters

A box of old family letters - mostly written to my Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Leland - has been circulating around my mom's sisters.  Lucky for me, the box of letters was at my parent's house this summer.  I could have spent hours (days?) reading through all of them.  Something I found really interesting was how many cards and letters my grandpa saved.  And I found those cards and letters to be the most fascinating.  There were a ton of "get well" cards addressed to my grandpa, while he was in the hospital with polio in 1952.  It's amazing that he lived through the iron lung treatments.
 I also enjoyed reading the humorous letters my grandma wrote to my grandpa while they were engaged.  In once letter, my grandma asked, "Does your mom enjoy reading my letters?"  Ha!  I also thought this Christmas check was pretty funny -

Monday, July 14, 2014

Old Market Pictures

This evening, we went to Spaghetti Works for supper.  Unbeknownst to us, it was kids' night, which meant the girls ate free AND they got balloon animals.  Jackpot!
 The light (or lack thereof, since the buildings create lots of shadows) make for good pictures in the Old Market.  It seems that my favorite summer pictures are usually taken there, and this year was no exception.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

At the Lake

Another Nebraska summer tradition is hanging out at the lake near Decar Creek.  Julia still isn't too sure about swimming with the fishies, so she preferred to hang out on the floats.

After swimming for awhile and eating grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, the girls fished with their Uncle Matt.  Julia likes to say she's fishing, but what she really does is watch other people fish...and then claim their fish as her own.
As usual, we mostly caught blue gills, but Evelyn also got some smaller bass, too.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Make-Your-Own Lincoln Logs

Evelyn found some scraps of wood in her Grandpa Luster's garage, which she thought looked a little like building blocks.  After securing one of the narrow pieces of wood in a clamp, Evelyn used a chisel and mallet to make Lincoln Logs.  So creative!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Horses and Cows and Cats . . . Oh My!

Highlights of visiting Phelps County, Nebraska always include riding the Gator in the pasture to check on Great-Aunt Diane's cows . . .
 . . . collecting eggs and petting new kittens on Great-Aunt Leann's farm . . .
 . . . and, a new highlight for Julia, riding Great-Uncle Tim's horses.  Julia and Evelyn sat on the coral fence, waiting for the horses to get bridled and saddled.
 Julia received a quick tutorial on where to hold on and how to steer Buster . . .
 . . . and then they were off!  After being led around the coral, the girls were ready to ride the horses completely on their own.  Julia rode Buster, and Evelyn rode Duke.  In addition to being working horses in the pasture (checking on and rounding up cattle), these guys are also used to giving rides to new riders.  This was a major highlight of the summer for Julia - she has been asking for months to ride a horse.  What better place than on a Nebraska farm?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Going Underground at Wind Cave National Park

We got to the visitor's center around 8:30 this morning, which gave us plenty of time to secure tickets for the 9:30 Fairgrounds Cave tour.  We also had time to explore the visitor's center prairie habitat exhibit before going underground - the girls learned even more about the plants and animals we explored yesterday.

The Fairgrounds Cave tour was a little over an hour and a half, which was the perfect length of time for the girls.  This tour explores areas of the cave system that have boxwork and popcorn formations, which are unique only to Wind Cave.  Boxwork is at the top of the picture below . . .
 . . . and it's easy to see the popcorn in the picture below.
 It didn't take long for Julia to wiggle her way up to the front of the line (behind the park ranger) on our tour.  She didn't want to miss a thing - and I'm sure Evelyn was also glad to be in front so she could hear everything the park ranger had to say.
Julia and Evelyn absolutely LOVED their first cave tour.  Julia just liked wandering through a cave, and Evelyn enjoyed learning about the different features and formations of this particular cave.  When the half-mile tour, with a total of 450 stairs, was over, the girls were itching to do it all over again.


When we drove into Wind Cave National Park this morning, the first thing we saw was a herd of buffalo (maybe the same one we saw yesterday evening?).  We pulled into a parking area, where several buffalo were using the sign as a scratching post.  It wasn't long before one of the bigger buffalo - the one on the left in the picture below - decided to use my Honda Pilot as a scratching post.  That was exciting for us girls in the car, getting bumped and nudged by a buffalo!
 We watched the buffalo herd for at least 30 minutes, as we all took turns  poking our heads out the moonroof to get a better look.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wind Cave National Park - Day One

There are so many things to do at Wind Cave National Park - both above and below ground - that we planned to spend one and a half days there.
 After checking in at the visitor's center and picking up the girls' Junior Ranger booklets, we set out to hike the Prairie Vista Trail (1 mile round-trip).  Evelyn studied the prairie habitat in 4th grade, specifically the prairie at Wind Cave, so she was really excited to see first-hand the things she had learned about in school (in Massachusetts!).
 We saw and heard lots of meadowlarks . . .
 . . . some cacti had flowers blooming . . .
 . . . and we saw plenty of the girls' favorite prairie critter, the prairie dog.  Julia and Evelyn were amazed to learn how helpful these little rodents are to keeping the prairie habitat alive.
 After our prairie hike, we girls headed to a completely different habitat in the park - the Rankin Ridge Nature Trail (another 1-mile round-trip hike).  This hike took us through a ponderosa pine forest to the top of one of the park's mountains.  While hiking Rankin Ridge, the girls' Junior Ranger booklets encouraged them to think about the importance of two habitats - prairie and forest - meeting together and what that provided plants and animals who lived on the edge.  It was really something else, being able to hike two completely different trails, just a few miles apart.
 As we left the southern end of the park this evening, we came across a buffalo herd crossing the road.  We pulled off the road to watch the buffalo for a few minutes (from the safety of our car) before heading to our hotel for the night.

Black Hills Central Railroad

Who's ready for the first train out of Keystone?  These girls are!
 The nice thing about riding the Black Hills Central Railroad historic train from Keystone to Hill City at 8:45 a.m. is that we practically had the train to ourselves.
 It was a very scenic ride up to Hill City, with lots of trees, rocks and streams.  Unfortunately, the train makes a lot of noise, which scared away most of the wildlife.  We only saw a couple of brave groundhogs and one lone deer.
 The early train from Keystone to Hill City is a diesel, but the locomotive for our return trip to Keystone was a steam engine.  The girls liked listening to it huff and chuff as it made its way up and down the mountain.
 It was a very relaxing, fun morning riding the rails.  And Julia got a very unique souvenir, especially for someone living on the east coast.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mt. Rushmore

Continuing our "President's Day" tour, we ate lunch at Teddy's Deli in Keystone - it's no surprise that Julia wanted to eat here, is it?  We all had very delicious sandwiches, so we're glad Julia spotted it.
 After lunch, we headed up the mountain in search of our second sight-seeing stop . . .
 . . . and we found it!  Both Julia and Evelyn had been really looking forward to seeing Mt. Rushmore, and they were ecstatic when they finally saw the real thing.
 We meandered along the Presidential Trail to get a close-up view of the sculpture.  The girls liked looking at the rocks in the debris pile, looking for evidence of dynamite sticks that were used to blow the rocks off of the mountain.  (I think Julia took the picture below.)
 Naturally, the whole time we were at the memorial, the girls worked on completing their Junior Ranger booklets, including a BINGO game.  They marked off every space except for seeing the memorial lit up at night.  Sunset was around 9:00 (Mountain time zone), which was too late for us east-coast girls.
 We spent close to four hours at Mt. Rushmore this afternoon, doing just about every possible hike, talk and activity possible, as well as wandering through the museum and informational displays.  Did Julia and Evelyn like it?  The smiles on their faces easily answer that question - YES!