I know this is a way late post (like way late) but we visited Holland Farms back in October and I finally got around to editing the photos. I didn't want to rush around editing and posting photos simply to have a "fall thing" to post about around Halloween or Thanksgiving, so it's been fun to edit these over the past few months and reflect back on our fun memories.
My sweet daughter started a phase back in August where she would wear fake glasses. They're Harry Potter glasses, but she thought they were Mr. Potato Head glasses. Of course the glasses accompanied us to Holland Farms, as they do everywhere. In early December they got lost or left somewhere, and thankfully at Christmastime sweet Aunt Danielle ordered her another pair (plus two backups!) for Christmas. I love looking back at these photos with her play glasses, especially since Salem is convinced she needs them to help her see.
My handsome six year old has lost a couple more teeth since these photos were taken. It's so easy to forget how quickly kids change. A literal day can go by and big changes happen. Last week he came home from school and had pulled out a tooth that I didn't realize was even very wiggly. I love having pictures to remind me of all these seemingly insignificant changes that shape my kids a little differently each day.
The farm offered a variety of activities. Too many to do in one setting, actually. We could've easily spent a full day there (we only had a few hours the particular day we went) or even gone a couple of times and enjoyed it. There were also plenty of activities for all ages. It was far from boring, for sure.
The kids carefully picked their pumpkins, a task that took probably 30 minutes and lots and lots of discussion. I hope I always remember these little parts of their childhood. Lincoln wanted a huge pumpkin that was almost too big to carry, while Salem wanted a cute tiny one. But then they would change their minds and look for the opposite. It took a while, but they did finally discover their dream pumpkins.
Poor Lincoln dropped his pumpkin as he was carrying it back to the car. The pathway went right beside a pond and it was sort of a downward slope. His pumpkin rolled straight into the pond. There may have been a few tears shed for his perfect pumpkin, but I let him have mine. (All entries to the pumpkin patch come with a free pumpkin.) Oh well.
I think it's pretty rare (and amazing) that the farm doesn't charge any photographer's fees for professional sessions there. It's a beautiful location, albeit crowded, and it's quite generous of them to allow so many people to use their location as a backdrop for photo sessions.
For my midwest family and friends, ^here's a link to the website. Also, WHY is boiled peanuts a thing down here in the south? I just can't bring myself to try them...
But I noticed the website has recipes about how to cook them and they're available for purchase at the farm. It's one cultural thing about the panhandle that I haven't been able to figure out.
And my sweet husband. He insisted on taking my picture, which he usually doesn't or I won't let him. Looking back I'm really grateful that he took this picture even though I objected at the time. I'm always the one behind the camera, so there's minimal pictures of me. It was thoughtful of Jon especially since pictures mean a lot to me as a photographer. I really want to do better at getting photos of me with the kids and photos of just myself that way one day the kids can look back at them. I love looking at pictures of my parents and grandparents from the past. Those are actually some of my most treasured keepsakes.
Soo now in late January, everyone knows about our pumpkin patch experience. :P
I'm really hoping to do better at blogging in 2020 about our experiences everywhere. But I guess better late than never. :]
So I found a recipe online for homemade French bread but I tweaked it a bit and like my version better. Hence, the blog post. (Aside from my slightly varying version, I hate all the advertisements that make me scroll a ridiculous amount on the other one.) This recipe is super basic and a good option for anyone who is new to bread making or just looking for an easy peasy meal side. I'll post the original recipe at the bottom of my post.
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ cup warm water
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (and some extra for dusting)
Seasonings of your choice for toppings (here I used sea salt and poppy seeds)
Serves 8 // 139 calories per serving
Mix the yeast, sugar, and warm water together with a whisk. Let it stand for about 5 minutes; the sides will look slightly separated and there will be a bit of foam in it.
Add kosher salt and whisk some more. It will get really foamy now.
Next add the flour a little at a time while mixing with a spoon (I usually add the first cup, then the second cup, and then the last half cup.) It should mix together fairly easily, forming dough. Form the dough into a ball and flour the sides lightly. Leave it in the bowl and cover it with a towel. Let it rise for an hour and fifteen minutes.
Transfer the risen dough into a cast iron skillet. (I got a little too excited about my bread and forgot to snap a picture of my risen dough. Sorry haha.) Be careful not to pop or flatten it too much while transferring! Cover again and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
Use a brush to glaze some olive oil on the top of the dough. Sprinkle sea salt and poppy seeds on top of the dough. (You could use any seasonings or none at all. I've used sea salt and Italian herbs & seasoning as well. It's all reallllly yummy. Sometime I'm going to try Parmesan like the original article suggestion, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.) Put the skillet in the oven uncovered and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
I would love to know if anyone makes this and uses their own seasoning/topping combinations. I love basic bread- I make this recipe 1-2x a week at our house- but I'm always looking for a way to spruce it up. But for now, happy eating. :D
Original recipe: http://www.lifeasastrawberry.com/easy-crusty-french-bread/
Since my last blog post I've moved to the Florida panhandle, and so far I have nothing but love for this state! I was Googling things to do for fun in the area and noticed there's a plethora of state parks here. For Labor Day I asked the kids if they wanted to go hiking or go to the beach, and thankfully it was a unanimous "hiking, mommy!" (There's still plenty of tourists here and they all want the sunny beaches.) We chose Blackwater River State Park simply because it looked small on the map and it wasn't right on the coast, so we hoped there wouldn't be tons of tourists there.
Park entry only costs $4 per vehicle. Pretty cheap for a whole day of fun, if you ask me. There were kayak, tube, and canoe rentals available. We saw lots of campers and people fishing although I was surprised we didn't run into a single hiker on any of the trails. Blackwater has over 600 acres of land and lots of signs warning to not touch or attempt to feed alligators. I'll admit to being a little disappointed we didn't see any. There was a lot of beautiful trees and foliage, so I was surprised I saw almost no birds, bugs, or animals. Especially since everything was relatively undisturbed.
Being a Midwesterner I found it so strange to be walking through the woods surrounded by trees yet walking on a sandy path. The woods I've been in previously have all had dirt floors. It was a sure sign that I was in a southern state park! That and the palm trees. It was a pretty awesome first time experience for me. I found it so undisturbingly beautiful and calm in a way I had never experienced before.
^My sweet Salem doing her best bear impression. The kids were hoping to see a black bear too, which [thankfully] we did not haha.
So Blackwater River State park opened in 1968 with 360 acres and in 1981 the Florida Forest services gave it an additional 230 acres of land. Something I found interesting was that the park brochure boasted of hosting 20 caches for geocaching within the park. I did that back in the day and thought geocaching was a thing of the past! I think it's pretty cool that a state park would incorporate an activity like that- just one more thing to try and get more people outdoors and off their couches.
The one slightly disappointing part of the day was that the longest trail was inaccessible due to flooding. Parts of it was completely swamped and I just wasn't brave enough to attempt wading through it, especially with the alligator signs everywhere. But with that being said, we still did the shorter trails and spent a solid four hours hiking (at a leisurely pace, taking time to stop, eat lunch, and let the kids enjoy the playground). I'm guessing this isn't the norm though, keeping in mind that it's early hurricane season and the panhandle had just gotten a lot of rain.
"Rocks and waters, etc., are words of God, and so are men. We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love." - John Muir, the father of our national parks system
There was a fun little park near one of the camping areas. It wasn't too spectacular but enough for the kids to burn off some energy and take a break from hiking. There were bathrooms and a couple picnic tables; it was quiet and empty, really the perfect setting for a picnic lunch with our little family. I was so surprised there weren't swarms of people at this gem of a place.
Something that surprised me was the lack of bugs. I came armed with bug spray, fully prepared to engage in war with mosquitos. But, there were none on the hike. I have no idea where all the bugs were. They certainly weren't in the woods. I don't know if it's a seasonal thing or perhaps the area in particular, but we just didn't get bit up. (Not a complaint though!)
The river was the one part of the park that was packed; it was filled with tubers and kayakers both in the water and along the shore. We didn't explore much of that area, mainly because the kids wanted to hike. I'll be honest, because I live so close to the actual ocean I don't really understand the fascination with river water activities. Also, I'm a little bit afraid of alligators (haha). I know most likely they would be hiding in the many acres of swamp and woods within the park that are restricted from public access, but still the thought frightened me. So tubing just wasn't my vibe.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day. Blackwater River State Park is an impressive little place. It offers a good variety of activities for the family or individuals, it's exceptionally well cared for, and it offers a place of quiet and tranquility away from all the tourists. I highly highly recommend it.
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." - John Muir
So my time in Delaware is quickly coming to an end with just about 4 weeks here left. I thought it would be appropriate to post some photos of DE and write up a little blog on my thoughts about the year I've spent here. The obvious bonus for me, as a Midwesterner, has been the weather. It's been completely delightful. There's absolutely no humidity or wind. When I first arrived everyone said "Oh just wait for the fall and winter- it gets so windy!" So I waited and waited. I guess when you're used to lake effect wind, the occasional Atlantic breeze isn't noticeable. The temperatures were extremely mild, but I'll be honest, I also think it spoiled me. I found myself freezing during the cool early morning temps when I visited my family in Indiana in early June. The old Alisha would have been outside in a tshirt, not a sweatshirt.
Let's talk about "scrapple". HUGE RED FLAGS, PEOPLE! I tried to like it, but I just couldn't get past the fact that it's basically the grossest parts of meat you can imagine (head, heart, liver, etc.) compressed into a patty. But for some strange reason, it's like a symbol of Delaware...eaten with eggs and toast at every diner in the state.
This is a view from my absolute favorite part of the state, Bowers Beach. It's bay side, so there aren't big, beautiful, crashing waves like at Rehoboth Beach. It's pretty empty most of the time, I'm guessing because it's mostly only locals that go there. What I really like about it is that it's safe for my kids. I could go lay out in the sand and let them splash around in shallow water without having to worry that they'd get swept away by the undertow. Rehoboth Beach was only nice to experience once in a while; the boardwalk has great food and souvenirs but it gets pricey and is always extremely crowded. So Bowers was our go-to. There's free parking at Bowers and it's not a far walk. Plus there's The Bayview Tavern, an inexpensive little place that's great for ordering beach food to go. They have the absolute best greasy hot dogs and cheese fries; they will put everything in a nice to-go container which makes it easier to sit on the beach and eat.
When it comes to doing local things, Delaware is pretty disappointing. Now granted, I'm speaking from a mom's perspective mostly. There isn't a state zoo or children's play areas (besides one chic-fil-a and one small bouncy house place). I was really surprised even the mall didn't have any kind of playplace. There is one children's museum but it's all the way up in Wilmington, so it isn't something we went to very often.
The bonus for this state is that it's only a day drive away from a plethora of awesome places out of state. While we were here we visited Philly several times (Philly zoo, Legoland, historic Philly, and Sesame World), the New Jersey aquarium, and Assateague Island twice (where the wild ponies roam). Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania was also a beautiful day trip. I regret not making it out to explore Baltimore, Washington D.C., or New York City, which are all relatively easy to explore from Delaware.
There are some neat nature areas locally that are lovely for hiking and observing wildlife; my favorites include Little Creek Wildlife Area, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Delaware has others that I wasn't able to explore (White Clay Creek State Park, Fenwick Island State Park, and Killens Pond State Park) but I've heard they provide excellent outdoor activities. There isn't rigorous hiking like you'd find in the Smoky Mountains or other rugged terrain, but it's still a fun place to enjoy nature. (Or just take photos!)
Delaware was a hard state to break in, I'll be honest. But there is a lot of hidden beauty within it if you're willing to search for it. Over the course of this last year I've learned to be flexible in many different situations, to take what life gives me and be content, and to turn many rough circumstances into something fun with my children. The truth is that sometimes the hardest seasons of life are the ones that have actually turned me into a stronger person in the long run. I'm so excited to be moving on to my next adventure in the Florida panhandle, but I'm quite thankful for the time I've had on the East Coast first. It's been swell, Delaware.