Illiana days

Shane’s been wrapping up home projects galore over the past couple of weeks — painting trim around a back door, laying stepping stones, organizing the garage and tool shed, linking two rain barrels to a downspout, sanding his old garden statue to prepare it for a new paint job… In between, we’ve been watching our garden grow, spending time with friends, and hitting the Midwestern highways.

IMG_6415 Molly’s bucket of potatoes is flourishing. Next year, she’s due for an upgrade to a real plot. This harvest will likely equal side servings for one meal, and we would all appreciate many more.IMG_6405In this pot we have a week-old nub of celery that has sprouted new leaves. This is an experiment in growing celery from the base of a cluster we had purchased at the grocery store and would have otherwise thrown away (since I cannot add to our compost bin right now until we empty of it of its “cooked” batch). Prior to planting in soil, the nub rested in a dish of water in the sunroom for a few days, until the new leaf growth was underway.
IMG_6418IMG_6372Finn had been asking for homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream for some time, so on a slow afternoon, I picked what we needed from my generous neighbor Ming-Ming’s mint patch and began the triple-infusion process that the recipe requires. After hours of tending, we sampled the sweet treat, and Finn proclaimed the ice cream “too minty!” Molly loves it, though. 
IMG_6373While all that infusion was occurring, we were moving armloads of stuff around the garage and sweeping up all the residue left behind from last fall’s renovation work; fine vinyl siding dust was in every nook and cranny. Shane tends to aim freely toward the garbage dumpster; I’m the bowerbird who sidles by every so often to see what might be inside the bin without just cause. Here’s a box I pulled out to redirect to the recycling bin after pausing to snap this photo. So much of what we own has served various purposes, and this is one funny example.
IMG_6374We took advantage of this week’s gorgeous (cool and sunny) weather to get away for a couple days, spending a night at my grandparents’ house in southern Illinois before making our first visit to Holiday World, an amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana. Just after kissing Gram hello, we headed to the old pasture for a walk and exploration.
IMG_6375 IMG_6376Shane gave Molly a boost onto the top of a big round hay bale. Finn, though, indicated he didn’t want help. He told Shane to stand aside, took a few running steps, launched himself forward and upward, and… bounced off. We all burst into incredulous laughter!
IMG_6377 IMG_6378 IMG_6383 IMG_6387 This guy was able to accomplish Finn’s bale-mounting technique!IMG_6384IMG_6394 IMG_6393 Blackberries!IMG_6390 IMG_6396Molly’s find? A toad!
IMG_6397I didn’t take pictures at Holiday World the following day since I didn’t want to carry the camera while going on rides. The kids and Shane enjoyed themselves at the smallish but very clean and family-friendly park. After the first (very rough) roller coaster, my brain and body felt pretty battered, and I didn’t enjoy the rest of the day very much.

I was happy to wake up to sunshine and calm the next morning at the rural Comfort Inn where we had spent the night. After breakfast, we walked around the grounds of St. Ferdinand Monastery, the home of the Benedictine Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana. We chatted with a few of the nuns, sat quietly inside the church for a few minutes, and visited the gift shop, where we purchased an assortment box of the sisters’ “divine” cookies, a blessing card for Molly, and a tiny St. Michael medal for Shane. This wasn’t a planned site visit, but it was a nice surprise on our trip, and I know we all enjoyed the stop.IMG_6399 IMG_6401 IMG_6400After a half-day of driving north through the beautiful patchwork of rolling hills in our neighboring state, we reached Turkey Run State Park, where we rented kayaks and spent a few hours meandering down Sugar Creek. This was my first time out in a kayak (Molly and Finn had learned to paddle at 4-H Camp), and I loved it. It was a relief not to have to negotiate with a fellow paddler aboard the same canoe, as I’ve done on most other river outings. The current was fairly strong, so most of the paddling we did was for the sake of steering, but we did enough that I felt like we had a nice upper body workout, too. Next time we make the trip, I hope we’ll go for a longer time and be able to take a picnic. Unfortunately, I’ve got no snaps of this outing, either! Too worried about losing a camera in the water!

Back at home a day before out-of-town friends were due for a visit, we scurried to prepare. Or, the kids played while Shane sanded old Juan and I did laundry, changed sheets, mopped floors, and shopped for groceries. Something like that. IMG_6404I worked fast so I could squeeze in an impromptu visit with another very special friend who was in town for her daughter’s swim meet.  🙂  Beth and I met while in college at the U of I, and the times we’ve gotten together since graduation have been all too rare but will hopefully increase in frequency again as our little birds begin to take flight and not need us around our nests quite as much.
IMG_6406IMG_6412 IMG_6416 At the farthest reach of our yard, Molly’s got a little fairy outpost now. We planted some Irish moss and Stonecrop amid the rocks. With a little bit o’ luck, the greenery should spread some and create a tiny flower-dotted lawn for visitors.IMG_6414

Molly got some more decorating help from our friends this weekend (although their sweet little brother is not in this photo, unfortunately). Look at all those grins… they were non-stop!

IMG_6408Their mom and I attended a great live performance at Krannert Center in Urbana last night called “That’s What She Said,” which was produced and performed by a group of women, many with whom we are acquainted. All of the personal stories shared with the audience were moving and relevant, even if not universal. We both regret not having gone to the first performance a year ago, which was another unique production by a varied cast. I hope you’ll read the description of the show at the link above, for the concept is much bigger than entertainment. It was really a powerful reminder to make the effort to truly see and understand the individual behind the roles they play. And for each of us, despite our fears, to peel away those outer layers from time to time to reveal to others — and ourselves — who we really are.

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