Wednesday, August 12, 2015

There and Back Again - An Expected Journey (aka vacation)

In case you were wondering, the reason I was absent for a week and a half was because of family vacation. But, as of last Saturday night, I have returned! And I have a small collection of motley tales to show for it.

But first, an introduction. We rented a vacation home on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River, close to Stillwater (which is on the Minnesota side). This was our second time there, and we couldn't have asked for better weather: it was sunny and warm, but not humid or overly hot. And the best part? There were almost no mosquitos. Hallelujah!

We spent our ten days relaxing in the cabin, shopping, swimming, and doing a bit of sightseeing. Spending uninterrupted time with my family was amazing--now that I'm employed, I value vacation and family time even more. No phone calls, no computers, no work shifts, nothing. Just us. I even took a break from writing.

On to the motley tales! Prepare for copious amounts of pictures.

Day 1 (Thurs. July 30)
Woke up early, loaded the van, and drove all day. We reached the cabin in time for a late supper and watched Bolt afterward. (We rented a pile of movies to bring along, but didn't watch nearly all of them.)

Day 2
Relaxed on one of the cabin's many decks in the morning, during which time I finished the book I started on the drive the day before. In the afternoon, we did a little shopping, then had supper at Quickfire Pizza in Stillwater, MN. If you're ever in the area, stop there--they serve drool-worthy pizza.
Me and Mom
I took the opportunity in the evening to sketch, something I've done very little of recently.

Day 3
We were blessed with beautifully warm weather for swimming at Square Lake.

In the evening, we watched Spy Next Door and laughed at Jackie Chan.

Day 4
Big homemade breakfast of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast. This was a Sunday, so we listened to a CD of a message from church. Then more chilling, reading, and sketching (on my part), and afterwards--shopping again.

Day 5
There's a trail behind the cabin that leads down to the riverside. Steep and full of switchbacks, it's a good quarter-hour hike. My dad and siblings and I armed ourselves with walking sticks and started out. Now, this trail is no big, bad mountain of a climb--but even so, it's enough of a workout and enough of a novelty that I couldn't help feeling like some intrepid explorer.
Partway down, we came across a fallen tree propped up on one of its brethren. Being the brave adventurer I am, I chose to venture across it. Okay, to be honest, my dad tested it first to make sure it wouldn't break . . . and I scooted across in a sitting position rather than standing (which would've put me higher off the ground, you see) . . . but even so! The drop was fairly steep, and I'm not overly fond of heights. Not terrified either; heights and I just have an uneasy alliance. So it did take a smidgen of bravery to stand up at the far end and pose heroically while my willing photographer--ahem, Dad--snapped some pictures from below.

Down by the riverside, camera back in my hands, I went into shutterbug mode.
Me and Cece (that's her nickname)

Me and Dad

Kitty (also a nickname) is not
cooperating with my selfie ;)

Five intrepid explorers!

This day continued to be eventful, for in the afternoon, all six of us went tubing down the Apple River--something we've never experienced before. We lashed our tubes together, and after much squealing over the water temperature and flailing about as we dumped ourselves in, we floated off. Soon we mastered the art of steering around the riverbends . . . most of the time. Some of us got very close looks at trees hanging out over the water. (I kid you not, I was nearly impaled.)
Not to mention the fact that the river was higher than usual, concealing all manner of rocks beneath the surface. We exchanged numerous cries of, "Lift your butt! There's another rock!" as we floated along. But all in all, 'twas a pleasant experience. The other tubers we passed must have wondered at our silliness and laughter.

Over two hours later, we came to the rapids. We'd been warned about them, but had been told they were short and fairly mild, so we chose not to cut our ride short by taking the exit. We wanted adventure, of course! Unfortunately, this adventure involved an accident. Josiah's tube had loosened somewhat from our bunch. Near the end of the rapids, he somehow lost balance and flipped backwards--headfirst--into the water. You know when you see someone falling or dropping something, and time seems to slow down? You see it vividly, you want to reach out and stop it, but you can't because it's happening too fast. Seeing my brother fall out was like that--a moment of frozen panic. I yelled something as we kept rushing downstream, leaving him behind. Dad jumped out, braced himself against a rock, and held onto our connected tubes. (Totally the kind of hero-fighting-the-current thing you see in movies.) Drenched, stumbling over rocks and struggling to stay upright in the current, Josiah made his way back to us.

Other than a few scrapes on his feet and the loss of his glasses, he was fine, thank God. The water was only waist-deep, and the way he fell headfirst, it's a miracle he didn't hit his head on one of the many, many rocks beneath the surface. We all felt a little shaken, but by the time the three-hour ride was over, we were starting to make jokes about the incident.

And then, as a rather fitting conclusion to our adventurous day, we spent the evening watching The Adventures of Tintin.

Day 6
Mall of America. All day. Lots of walking. Lots of shopping. I myself had only a few purchases to show for it, which was okay. It was my fourth time at MOA anyways.
Cece, me, and Kitty

Day 7
The best breakfast EVER: cinnamon buns from Cinnabon and coffee, partaken of out on the deck in the morning sunshine. It was heavenly, I tell you.
This day was fairly standard . . . more relaxing, more shopping around. Watched Daddy Daycare.

Day 8
Ate out for breakfast and spent the morning being totally touristy on Stillwater's Main Street, which is beautifully quaint, with all its little shops.

Looking down on Stillwater

the gals
Midafternoon brought rain, so I curled up in the cabin and read for hours.
I snapped this on a
different, non-rainy day.
Day 9
More of the same out and about stuff mixed with cabin time. The sun came out in time for ice cream at this little place called Nelson's. Their portions are deliciously ginormous and nicely priced.
Anyway, it was nice that the last two days consisted mostly of downtime at the cabin. All the shopping was getting a bit tiresome for me--maybe it's because I work in retail?--and quiet was exactly what I needed to top up the relaxation tank.

Day 10
Homeward bound! It's good to go on holidays, but it's also good to come back.

Some miscellaneous noteworthy things . . .

Nothin' better than a homemade burger.
White chocolate berry mocha

I'm a big fan of Cherry Berry's
frozen yogurt.
The exchange rate between Canadian and US dollars is not so good for us Canadians right now, so I didn't spend a whole lot. But I did buy a couple movies and some music (Lindsey Stirling's Shatter Me, Owl City's new album Mobile Orchestra, and The Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack). And of course, books.
  • Illusionarium by Heather Dixon (Deb, I bought this because of you!)
  • The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan (I'm collecting the series entirely out of order. Nine bought, three to go!)
  • The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (As much as I don't want to compare her to her father, Ted Dekker, I suspect I will be. But I'm fully expecting she'll be her own writerly self, and that her book will be awesome.)
So that's where I went and that's what I did! Now I've come back to my own pillow, my house, my daily routine . . . back to work, writing, blogging, and everything else. Home sweet home!


  1. Wow, what fun.I love a good family vacation sounds like you had a blast.
    Omygoodness the rapid thing sounds terrifying I would have been freaking out.
    The food looks divine *drools* also great pictures love it when people post pictures.
    I had wondered where you had gone of to, now I know. Happy to see your back.

    1. We sure did, thanks! LOL, it wasn't quite as bad as I made it sound... Glad you liked the pics, and thanks for the welcome back! ^_^

  2. Nice photos, I love the one of the cabin. Of course, I also love the photos of the edibles. Mango ice-cream, oh yeah.

    1. Thank you! Haha, you'd think this was turning into a foodie blog or something...

  3. Oh, how FUN!!! Looks like you all had an absolutely fantastic time. I'm so glad. ^_^

    But oh my goodness, that tubing incident. o.O I'm so, so, so glad everything was okay. Poor Josiah! You guys are so brave. As one that's deathly afraid of drowning and whose only water experiences are basically swimming in shallow pools, I am in awe at your bravery and adventurous spirits. I'd be way too chicken to even try it. *shudders* Water and me don't get along I fear.

    I love all your pictures. You guys are adorable! <3 I'm so happy it was such a fun, relaxing time for you! I am glad to have meh Tracey back though. Hehe.

    (Also Lindsey Stirling, Owl City, and Hobbit music. o___o Those are some delicious purchases right there!)

    1. It was fabulous! ^_^ You're so sweet.

      Me too. Honestly, though, most of the tube ride was very calm and relaxing...sunny, slow to moderate current, etc. I'd do it again. :) Just not the falling out part. But aw, poor Christine. I hope you never had some terrible water experience that caused that fear... :(

      Haha, thanks! ^.^ It's good to be back.

      (YES, 'TIS GLORIOUS. Listen to "My Everything" by Owl City if you haven't yet. Probably one of my favorite songs on this album.)

    2. The funny thing is, I've never once had any terrible experiences in the water. Nothing bad has ever happened, and yet I've feared it since I was very small. It's just one of those silly fears that has nothing to do with anything. XD And I DO actually enjoy swimming, I just don't go to the deep end very much...

      OH MY WORD. I just listened to that Owl City song and now I HAVE to get the CD. NOOOWWWW. Well, I've already been flailing about it because I must have ALL the Owl City songs the moment they come out, but now I need it even more. I looove when he does Christian songs. GAH. So beautiful!

    3. Sounds like me and heights. (Or me and spiders. Neither fear makes any sense...)

      YOU MUST GET IT NOW. It's so good. There's actually a total of two or three overtly Christian songs on that album. Love it when he sings those!

  4. Sounds like you had a pretty boss vacation! I loved the pictures, especially the one of the snail in the sand. It was really beautiful.
    Oh and I gotta say, I also have an uncertain alliance with heights and think you're pretty Dauntless to go out climbing on a log. :p

    1. Yup, I did! Glad you liked the pictures. *whispers* But there was actually nothing inside that shell. Heheh. I did, however, see a snail on the front doormat of the cabin. And a frog on the barbecue, but that's besides the point. XD
      Awww, now that's a compliment. ^_^ Thank you, Sarah!

  5. It sounds like you had a fun trip! Tubing is so fun and I'm glad your brother is okay. Mango Ice cream yum! Mango is my favorite flavor! And you have awesome taste in music. I love Owl City's new album and I've had the Battle of Five Armies Soundtrack for a while now. ^ ^

    1. Definitely! Yes, SO much fun--and we're all glad he's okay too. :D Oh, really? I can see why it's your favorite. Haha, thank you! ^_^ I haven't actually, ahem, listened to my soundtrack just yet... It's still unopened, waiting for a good, solid writing day where I can listen to the whole thing at once. :P

    This is exciting. xD
    Anyways, apparently you were in the same state of where I live and I really really love the Choosing. (Especially the cover. It's gorgeous.)

    1. NO WAY! :D That's so neat! I've vacationed in MN a number of times.
      Have you read "The Choosing," then? It looks fabulous (of course--that's why I bought it). Yes, the cover is stunning. ^_^

    2. Awesome. :D
      *nods* I read it last month. There were some pretty obvious dystopian "cliches," but otherwise it was awesome. ^.^