Summer Started…With A Bang!

    Last Friday marked the first day of Summer 2013. It was also the day we flew to Texas for our first summer trip. On Saturday Jesse’s cousin, Kelly, got married to David.

    Isn’t her dress amazing?!?

    The wedding gave us the opportunity to visit Austin. We enjoyed seeing the Capital and all of the Texan pride. It was also fun to spend time with Jesse’s mom and Larry as well as his Aunt Chris and Uncle Dennis (remember Philadelphia?).

    My favorite discovery in Austin was a shaved ice truck called Sno-Beach. Neenah, Wisconsin (where I grew up) used to have a shaved ice stand called Sno-Shack. It was one of my favorite summer stops. I loved it so much I owned their t-shirt and only threw the t-shirt away when it developed large holes. I was so excited to find Sno-Beach in Austin, and my favorite flavor, Tiger’s Blood. Yum!

    My favorite bump picture so far…

    After Austin, we road-tripped over to San Antonio. We were interested in the history of the Alamo and loved the restaurants on the River Walk.

    We decided to split our trip home into two days with a day in Branson, Missouri in the middle. While in Branson we visited the Big Cedar Lodge, saw an illusionist, and enjoyed Joseph by the Sight and Sound Theater.

    This trip was only the beginning of a busy summer. Can you keep up? Can I keep up?

      Trip Update…

      Right after school is out, Jesse and I are headed to Austin, Texas with Larry and Cyndee to attend Jesse’s cousin’s wedding. Thinking about a trip to Texas reminds me that I still have two trips I haven’t blogged.

      Last fall my mom and I took our first girls’ trip. I think it will be the first of many because we had a BLAST. I had a long weekend off from school, so we headed to Savannah, Georgia for some warmth before winter really began.

      The following were some of my favorite things about Savannah:

      The best BBQ and sweet tea from a restaurant in a strip mall!

      We waited in line for two hours for this fabulous meal from The Wilkes House. I am still craving the delicious fried chicken!

      We even went to a cooking demonstration. We pulled up to this “cooking school” and wondered what we signed up for, but the shrimp and corn chowder was our favorite course!

      On this trip my mom and I discovered a big difference in our traveling styles. I am all about the fine dining, and she is all about the sight-seeing. We did a little bit of both.

      We started our trip with a trolley ride overview of the city.

      The trees with Spanish moss were amazing!

      My mom enjoyed touring a historic home.

      We also visited the First African Baptist Church where slaves were hidden along the Underground Railroad.

      Not to mention walking, walking, walking through cemeteries and squares.

      So, where to next, mom?



        One of my favorite things about traveling is the anticipation and planning stage. Next week I will fly off to Savannah, Georgia for a girl’s weekend with my mom.

        So far we have booked our flights and hotel. We will be staying in the Historic District within walking distance of many of the main attractions. On Saturday night we will be attending a session at a cooking school where we will be preparing food for a fancy dinner party. Mostly, we will relax in the sunshine, eat at fun restaurants, and enjoy spending time together.

        I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

          Magic Kingdom…

          I need to keep posting because I am quickly falling behind on documenting our adventures.

          We spent our third day at Magic Kingdom…classic Walt Disney World.

          Our favorite rides included Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. Jesse was devastated to find out Big Thunder Mountain was closed for remodeling. We snacked on Dole Whip and waited in the longest line for the smallest glass of water.

          Throughout our trip, Jesse began to admire the vision of Walt Disney, and the brand he worked so hard to create. We relaxed on a railroad ride around the park and enjoyed a spooky ride through the Haunted Mansion. The visit would not have been complete without a spectacular fireworks show on a balmy Florida evening. It snowed Monday in Minnesota, so I am especially missing the warmth and magic of our trip.

            Hollywood Studios…

            The next day we headed to Hollywood Studios…previously MGM Studios. This was our favorite Disney park. We mastered the FastPass and rode lots of fun roller coasters. We started the day on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It goes 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds.


            We also rode a couple of rides that made me feel a bit queasy. The Star Wars ride and the Tower of Terror were not my favorite! I didn’t even try Mission: Space.

            We really enjoyed the shows at this park. We saw Lights, Motor, Action. The stunts were amazing. We also saw Beauty and the Beast, The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and American Idol Live. American Idol was really fun as they had live singers audition and perform in front of a live audience. We then got to vote for the vocalist who moved on to the finale evening performance.

            We finished the day at Hollywood Studio’s evening show of Fantasia. It had awesome effects, fireworks, characters, and favorite Disney tunes.

              The Happiest Place on Earth…

              Jesse and I spent spring break at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We spent one day at each of the Disney parks and an extra day reading next to the pool. The weather was great. The time together was refreshing. We had a blast.

              Our first day we visited Epcot.

              After entering the park, we went straight to the most popular rides…Soarin’ and Test Track. Test Track takes you through different tests they do in creating cars and Soarin’ flies you above the scenery of California. Jesse also braved Mission: Space, but with my history of motion sickness, I decided to sit out.

              We appreciated being in Epcot during the Flower and Garden festival. Horticulturalists made organic creations of lots of different Disney characters.

              We at lunch in “Germany” and enjoyed seeing the “streets” of many different countries.

              We had a few sprinkles while we were listening to a Canadian celtic band, but we had a bench spot under an umbrella. The rain stopped by the end of the show.

              We were tired at the end of the first day but ready for another day of action at Hollywood Studios.

                100,000 Miles…

                Some of you may wonder at the title of our blog. Six months into our marriage, Jesse’s car died. We were able to trade in Cameron for Urma. We have owned Urma for 5 years, and we have driven 100,000 miles in our car. On average, we drive 20,000 miles a year.

                Let me use the last four week as an example.

                We began celebrating Christmas with the Smith-Sutherland family. We met at a water park in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. For the first time in two and a half years we were ALL there. This is quite the feat because one of the Smith families now lives in Kenya, but they were able to travel home for the holidays. From Lake Geneva, we drove to Chicago to continue the Christmas festivities.

                At the Waterpark
                The Smith Kids

                We returned home on Monday because we had to work Tuesday-Friday. On Friday afternoon we drove to Neenah, Wisconsin for the Lashbrook family Christmas. My grandparents from Indiana also joined us in Wisconsin. We played games, exchanged gifts, and even went to an arcade for one evening of fun.

                Christmas Eve
                Christmas Day

                We drove back to Minnesota on Wednesday to celebrate a friend’s wedding. Saturday morning we flew and drove to Upland, Indiana for Jesse’s grandma’s wedding. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with the Sutherland family and enjoyed the reception, post-reception party, and after the post-reception get-together.

                Grandma Sutherland's Wedding

                Sunday morning we drove to Chicago for the immediate Sutherland family Christmas before returning to Minnesota on Monday.

                The Best Gift of Christmas

                The next Friday I drove back to Neenah, Wisconsin to celebrate a baby shower for my sister-in-law Alaina.

                We do a lot of traveling but always enjoy the time it gives us to spend with friends and family. Now, our suitcases are finally unpacked, and we are looking forward to some time at home!

                  Friend Thanksgiving

                  This year we decided that one Thanksgiving was not enough. The Saturday before Thanksgiving a part of our small group combined our efforts to create a Thanksgiving dinner before Thanksgiving.

                  We had a 13 lb. turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, scalloped corn, salad, rolls, apple pie, and pumpkin creme brûlée. It was a feast…and a great time of being together as friends.

                    For the Third Time…

                    Labor Day Weekend we set out on our third adventure on the Superior Hiking Trail. Thankfully, this was our least eventful trip.

                    This year we invited my dad to join us backpacking. He has backpacked portions of the Appalachian Trail with my brother and my uncle, so he was excited about the opportunity to backpack again.

                    We planned to hike a total of 20 miles from Caribou Trail to Bally Creek Road.

                    The first day we hiked 4 miles in and camped at a lovely campground next to a moving creek.

                    Jesse with our tent
                    Dad with Ross and Megan's tent (thanks for letting us borrow it!)

                    Our second day was the longest and most difficult. We planned to hike 11 miles. We finished the first 5 miles in one hour and forty-five minutes. We couldn’t believe it. Sadly, the next six miles took about an hour each. We were hiking through the Cascade River Valley. It was beautiful, but we hiked from low ground to high ground.

                    On Sunday we hiked the remaining 5 miles.

                    The interesting thing was that we didn’t see any Lake Superior views. Each time we climbed a bluff we were looking out to the west. The one time we could have seen the lake (from Lookout Mountain), it was so hazy we couldn’t see anything.

                    Enjoy the views we did see!


                      We finished our Italian adventure in Rome. We were tired when we arrived in Rome and exhausted as we left Rome, but we completed our mission: to leave no sight unseen and no dome unclimbed.

                      Our first day in Rome, we traveled to Vatican City (its own independent country). We were lucky enough to be in town on the last Sunday of the month because the Vatican Museum was free…but we had to wait in line for an hour just to pass through security! The Vatican Museum houses Greek and Roman sculptures dating back thousands of years as well as the famous Sistine Chapel. After lunch, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world. To climb its dome was 323 steps only because we paid two extra Euro to take an elevator instead of climb the first 231 steps.

                      The bronze canopy is seven stories tall!

                      We took our first night walk along Via del Corso and through the historic district. The ancient ruins glowed in the moonlight as we viewed history from long ago.

                      The Roman Forum

                      Our last day in Rome we spent seeing the ancient ruins. We visited the Colosseum, toured the Roman Forum, and visited the Pantheon. We were struck by how OLD everything was. Our last evening we dined in Campo de’ Fiori, visited Trevi Fountain, and walked to the Spanish Steps. It was amazing and romantic to enjoy Italy with one another. We loved learning, seeing, and experiencing another country on our greatest adventure yet.