Tag Archives: creativity

Aloha!

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In an effort to add some levity and sunshine to our days, we have begun adding a themed dinner into our weekly menu. The idea sprouted with the girls and we decided to run with it. Trapped at home and living the same days over and over like the movie “Groundhog Day” we though a themed dinner once a week might be something fun to look forward to.

The girls led the charge with our first themed dinner. Building the night around supplies already on hand, they decided on a luau.

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Earlier that week we added two coconuts to our grocery pick-up order, thinking it might be fun for Tyler to experience breaking open a coconut. Pairing this activity with food on hand and a box of luau decorations in the basement led to a fun night at Patchwork Farm.

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They girls took responsibility for transforming the dinning room into a tropical paradise, complete with sand, shells, and Aquaman (of course!)

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The finished effect of their efforts were charming and cheery!

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Working with what we had on hand, I put together a dinner of rice, barbeque pork sandwiches and a pineapple melon salad with flower cut-out cookies for dessert.

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As dinner was cooking everyone was sent to their rooms to dress for our trip to paradise. Hawaiian shirts were donned and everyone received a lei, including all the dogs.

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We all came to dinner looking festive (at least those who opted to participate in the fun),

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And we enjoyed a delicious dinner while listening to the sounds of the tropics.

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After dinner we headed outside to open our coconuts.

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Toby drilled out the eyes so we could drink the coconut water within,

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And then cracked them open so we could enjoy the meat.

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We ended the night by watching the musical, “South Pacific.”

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We may be trapped at home, but thanks to the creativity and effort of Gracie and Molly we all got to escape to paradise for a few hours.

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Aloha!

 

 

Date Night during a Pandemic

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On Tuesday night we received a lovely surprise. Our kids had made reservations for us at a swanky new restaurant in town. Given all the extra stress in our lives lately, they thought we deserved a date night.

Before anyone takes up arms against our night on the town, let me clarify. We did not leave Patchwork Farm for our fancy meal. Instead, the kids brought date night to us. Zach came up with the idea and pitched it to the others who embraced it wholeheartedly. It was such a loving gesture and we were touched by our children’s thoughtfulness.

Our first clue that anything was amuck came as we reentered the house from outside and were greeted by this sign:

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It was Braden’s handiwork. We were then set to our room to get ready for date night while the kids worked like little house elves in the kitchen. We were told to dress in our finest attire, as this was a five star establishment.

All the kids were involved in this loving surprise for Toby and I, and each had a responsibility for making the evening happen. Some cooked, some decorated, while others wrote out the menu.

When we were gussied up we headed to the dining room where we were greeted by one of our waitresses for the evening.

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She sat us at the best table in the house.

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The ambience was romantic.

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Braden had decorated the dining room with mood lighting and Zach had created a playlist of songs which served as the soundtrack to our evening. He made sure to include songs that were personal to us, including our wedding song.

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Once seated we were given our menus.

Tyler was assigned the task of creating the restaurant menus. He typed up the food and drink selections and then showed the others. When Molly suggested he make the menu “more festive,” he went back to the computer and added a google image of fireworks:

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Because nothing says “festive” like pyrotechnics!

We sat and enjoyed the complimentary garlic knots while visiting and counting our many blessings.

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Then dinner was served. Chef Grace headed up the kitchen staff and made us a delicious dinner of Cajun Chicken Pasta.

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The portions at this establishment were unusually generous for such a swanky place!

Dinner was followed by dessert. Molly and Rusty were in charge of the dessert portion of the meal and made homemade lemon bars. They were delicious!

Then the manager (Zach) came out to check on us and inquire of our satisfaction before leaving the bill:

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It was both hilarious and touching. In fact the entire evening left us feeling like millionaires. We are blessed beyond measure! The efforts put in by each of our children to create such a special evening for Toby and I made us feel incredibly loved!

Don’t worry, we tipped them very well!!

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Our cups overfloweth…

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(I mean that figuratively, not literally. Molly was a very good waitress. ) 🙂

 

 

Snap* Crackle* Pop!

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I love Halloween. I love the cool weather, the falling leaves, the smell of bonfires, the itch of wool sweaters. I especially love the opportunity to tap into the joy of creativity as we work to come up with the year’s costumes.

For the past few years we have come up with a group costume for Halloween. In past years we have gone as…

The toys from Toy Story:

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The Wizard of Oz gang:

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The emotional characters from Inside Out:

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And the beloved characters from Disney’s Peter Pan:

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It is always a fun process brainstorming as we put our heads together to come up with the group costume for the year. In the past, the girls have spearheaded much of the efforts, so this year the boys had to step up their game and tap into their own creativity.

With smaller numbers this Halloween (being down Molly, Grace and Ozzie) we were looking for a group costume for either 3 or 5 people. Luckily there are many famous trios to pick from. We let our stomachs do the choosing and picked this iconic breakfast trio:

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Rusty dressed as Snap:

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Tyler dressed as Crackle:

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And Braden dressed as Pop:

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It was a blessedly simple set of costumes to pull together which was a blessing as Halloween zoomed up quickly… hot on the tail of the wedding reception.

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Saturday, October 26th was the Trunk or Treat at church, and our first opportunity to take our costumes for a test drive.

In addition to Snap, Crackle, and Pop, our room was also manned by a carton of milk and a spoon.

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The weather outside drove the trunk or treat festivities inside where families decorated classrooms rather than trunks for the trick or treaters roaming the halls.

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As a nod to our theme we handed out Rice Krispie treats.

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We has a wonderful turnout for trunk or treat with many kids dressed up for the event, eager to fill their buckets.

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It was a blast seeing all the costumes.

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Everyone went above and beyond. Some of our favorite costumes were group costumes.

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Dinner brought even more party goers as everyone gathered in the cultural hall for hot soups and yummy desserts.

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At the end of dinner prizes were awarded for best costumes and the boys were thrilled to be one of the winning groups.

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How grateful I am for fun memories made with these three…

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Snap * Crackle* Pop…Rice Krispies!

Home Sweet Home

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On the Monday following Grace and Zach’s reception they arrived at our house at noon to catch a ride to the airport. They were headed off on their honeymoon and Molly and I were acting as their chauffeurs to the airport. They were on their way to Florida where they would board a cruise ship for a five day cruise to Mexico.

At the airport we bid the honeymooners goodbye. It was an emotional farewell for Molly who would be back in Idaho when they returned from their vacation. The week had spoiled us with an abundance of family time, and for these two sisters, who are also best friends, the time together was a gift.

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After tearing Molly off Gracie, we bid the happy couple farewell and happy travels before heading back home where we made the most out of our last 24 hours with Miss Molly.

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The following morning we returned to the airport at 4:00 am to send Molly on her way.

Once all my kids were safely launched, I indulged in some much needed rest and recovery from the month previous. Life had been a non-stop, emotionally draining, physically taxing whirlwind since mid August and all I wanted was to sit and do nothing for a day or two…

And so that’s what I did. Aside from the most pressing tasks, like schooling and meals, I took a break from all other responsibilities so that I could recover.

By the end of the week I had rallied enough to focus on a project I planned to take on while the honeymooners were away. Zach and Grace had both been so busy working full time, attending school, and preparing for the wedding that they hadn’t found a spare minute to do anything at their apartment. It was filled with boxes brought over from their rooms at home, and stacks of gifts generously given by friends and family, making it look more like a storage unit than a home. Knowing Grace was filling overwhelmed at the idea of returning home from her honeymoon and jumping straight back into school and work the following day, with no idea when they would find time to set up house, I decided to surprise them.

My love language tends to be acts of service and I couldn’t think of a better wedding gift for my daughter and new son in law then to transform their apartment into a home. I spent Saturday working at their apartment and had a wonderful time organizing and decorating. It was like playing with a full size doll house!

When I was done I surveyed the home that would be the birthplace of their future together as a married couple and couldn’t help but smile. As I locked up I whispered a prayer for their marriage and their future as a couple…

That this little apartment might be a place of much growth, much love, much prayer, and much happiness for my oldest daughter and the man she has chosen to spend eternity with.

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Love is in the Details

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Once the wedding day came a close, and we bid the bride and groom goodbye for the night, it was time to turn my focus to the reception. There was much to do in preparation for the celebration that followed the wedding two days later. In an effort to plan an event that was both beautiful and affordable, we opted to make Grace and Zach’s reception a home-grown affair. Luckily this homey theme tied beautifully into Gracie’s vision for the day.

As we began making plans months ago, Grace shared her vision for her reception. She wanted a vintage feel that made guests feel as though they were coming over for a family dinner. Since we don’t have the space in our dining room for 200 guests, we opted instead to turn the church’s cultural hall into home through the use of decorations from our house and heirloom photos. The theme was “home is where the heart is,” and that theme was a joy to bring to life. I am a firm believer that love is in the details and it is our hope that through the details in the dĂ©cor our guests felt loved and felt the love Grace and Zach share. Here is a sneak peek at the reception hall prior to the celebration.

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Using Toby’s trailer we loaded up furniture from home to transform the gym into a reception hall.

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Continuing with this “family dinner for 200” theme, we opted to serve different homemade soups, along with salad and bread.

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We used pumpkins to serve as signs to identify the various soup choices.

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In the lobby we set up the “guest book.” Using the beautiful antique desk given to Grace and Zach as their wedding gift from my parents, we created a homey little vignette to greet guests.

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The bride and groom opted to pass on a traditional guest book, choosing instead to purchase a family bible with note taking margins for their guests to mark their favorite scripture and pen a message of love.

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For our younger guests we prepared activity boards as gifts to entertain them during the ring ceremony. Each clipboard came with colored pencils and wedding themed activity/coloring sheets.

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Pittsburgh Cookie Table Sign

For those readers not from the Pittsburgh area, you might not be familiar with the traditional cookie table. This sign was displayed to explain why cookies are served in addition to wedding cake at most Pittsburgh wedding receptions.

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The cookie table as it slowly filled up with cookies donated by family and friends.

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“To go” bags were provided so guests could take cookies home to enjoy later.

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Grace and Zach wanted to make their reception as much about celebrating family as they did celebrating their own love. They accomplished this through a lot of thoughtful and personal touches, including incorporating loved ones’ wedding songs as part of the DJ’s playlist for the evening, and in doing so allowed couples the chance to enjoy a slow dance to their own wedding song.

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Apple cider was the drink of the night at their October reception.

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Their beautiful cake was made by our talented friend, Kelly. Gracie’s request was a “naked cake,” one that was thinly frosted and decorated with fresh berries. It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

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The couple opted to have a ring ceremony at their reception so that family and friends could witness the exchanging of rings. In creating a space in the reception hall for that to take place, we opted against a traditional arch and chose instead to create a “arch” using old ladders and vintage details to create a more unique “arch” for the ceremony.

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The head table where the bridal party would sit.

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The tables themselves were decorated with mismatched vintage tablecloths, framed family photos, decoupaged houses (lit from within to glow when the lights were lowered), and mismatched glassware with fresh cut flowers.

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In family-style serving, each table had a cutting board with a loaf of bread in addition to salt sticks to accompany the soup for the meal.

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Our “party favor” was an individual apple pie at each place setting, tagged with the pun, “Appley Ever After!”

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The table numbers were recreations of old library cards to tie into the antique books that were displayed as part of the centerpiece at each table.

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The finished effect made me smile.

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But it wasn’t until the overhead lights were turned off and the room was lit only with strings of mercury glass lights that the place really began to feel magical.

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Photos of the actual reception will follow soon.

We opted to hire our talented friend, Holly, to capture the evening through photos, thus freeing me up to simply enjoy being mother of the bride and enjoy the magic of the evening. As soon as we get those photos back I will share with all of you, but I couldn’t resist giving you a preview of our magical evening with Zach and Grace.

A Happy little Housewife

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In May of 1955, Housekeeping Monthly published an article entitled, “The Good Wife’s Guide,” detailing all the ways that a wife should act and how best she can be a partner to her husband and a mother to her children…

1.) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.

2.) Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

3.) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

4.) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

5.) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

6.) Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

7.) Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes.

8.) Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

9.) Be happy to see him. Free him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. Listen to him.

10.) You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

11.) Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

12.) Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where you husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

13.) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

14.) Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

15.) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

16.) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

Soon after Gracie got engaged we began wedding talk. We discussed possible venues, menus, and colors for her bridal party. Grace was easy going about it all, as is her natural personality. The one definite in her mind was her vision for her bridal shower. She knew exactly what she wanted…

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A retro, 1950’s, “Happy little housewife” bridal shower,

And Molly and I were only too happy to oblige!

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This was a theme we could have a lot of fun with!

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On Friday we headed over to church and spent the day decorating and preparing for the shower.

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The theme lent itself nicely to decorations we already had on hand, as this is the look of my home.

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We just loaded up our living room and kitchen and used it to transform the church gym into the shower of Gracie’s dreams.

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It was a fun theme to decorate for!

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On Friday night, following Gracie’s bachelorette party, we drove over to the church so Grace could have a preview of her shower. She wasn’t with us when we were decorating, as she had work, so she got to experience the thrill of seeing it all completed.

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We also used that time to assemble the favors that came together with the help of my friend, Bonnie. She suggested we stop by Grampa Joe’s Candy shop to buy authentically 1950’s candies to fill our treat cups. The finished results were a perfect final touch!

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We were blessed to have family come in from out of town for Gracie’s special event, including my mom and grandmother from Ohio, and my sister and niece from Michigan.

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The boys that belong to these special ladies also tagged along, as we planned a special event for them as well. While the girls were brunching, Toby took all the boys to an out-of-this-world vintage arcade for some guy time with the groom-to-be and the guys in the family.

Meanwhile, back at church we finished up the last of the preparations as guests began to arrive. Many came decked out in aprons hoping to win the prize for the best apron.

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They also came bearing a favorite family recipe to share with the bride-to-be.

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Rather than traditional bridal shower games, which isn’t Gracie’s style, we offered activities located around the perimeter of the room for guests to peruse and participate in if they wished. Some of our stations included:

“Sign the apron for the Bride-to-Be!” :

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“A good housewife always sends thank you notes!” table where guests could address an envelope to themselves for thank you notes:

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“The Price is Right,” a game where guests had to guess the prices of a 1950’s grocery shopping list:

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And “How many Kisses for the soon-to-be Mrs.”:

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Grace greeted guests as they arrived, dressed to the nine’s as a perfect little housewife.

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Her bridal party was also sporting 1950’s era glasses.

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Even the mother of the bride embraced the theme!

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Molly also had an important job as guests arrived. She tagged each gift and card with a bingo number which would be important for later in the shower.

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The bridal shower began with brunch. We were blessed with many helping hands who pitched in to produce a scrumptious spread of bacon/egg casserole, artichoke casserole, stuffed French toast, cheesy potatoes, fruit salad, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a variety of yummy muffins topped with 1950’s happy homemaker tags.

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We were touched by all that came out to support Grace and Zach, and wish the bride-to-be blessings of love for her new life.

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After brunch we announced the winners of our bridal shower games and explained our final game of the party…BINGO!

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At each guest’s seat were vintage bingo cards that we found at a thrift store two months prior. I wasn’t sure what we’d do with them but they were so cute and so in line with our vintage theme I knew I had to incorporate them into the shower.

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It finally came to me that by tagging each gift with a bingo number we could enjoy an old fashioned game of bingo while the bride opened her gifts.

The prizes for our bingo winners were dish soaps that were dolled up with fabric aprons. The game was a hit and the dish soaps were too!

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As Grace opened the gifts, so lovingly and generously given, she had the assistance of her bridesmaids and her new niece.

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Molly penned the list for thank you notes, Lydia and Olivia brought her gifts to unwrap and whisked the open gifts away,

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And sweet Natalie was on wrapping paper clean-up…a job she took very seriously!

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The gifts that Grace and Zach received for their new home were so varied and so very generous. They were immensely blessed by the kindness of their guests.

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It was a wonderful bridal shower. Grace felt loved and the shower of blessings bestowed upon my Gracie girl filled my heart with gratitude for all the good people in our lives.

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That afternoon, while still in 1950’s dress, Grace filmed this little ASL ditty for Zach… in honor of  50 DAYS until “I DO!”

Only 50 days to go!!

 

 

Pretty as a Picture!

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The area we have been sailing this past week is as pretty as a picture.

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The views are stunning…

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Well-deserving of a portrait.

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So, on Wednesday afternoon we pulled out the brushes, paints and easels we packed, in preparation for our planned painting party.

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We usually plan a craft or two when we vacation together and as we were planning this houseboat vacation Lana suggested we bring supplies for everyone to paint a memory of this houseboat experience. So, we each gathered the plethora of supplies we have acquired as a result of our kids’ membership in mural club, and planned an afternoon painting party on Norris Lake.

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Tyler, still chasing down fish, opted not to participate,

But everyone else gathered on the top deck to paint.

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The scenery inspired creativity.

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Some opted to paint the views from the upper deck of the houseboat,

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While others chose to paint a particular favorite memory from this vacation.

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It was fun to watch everyone work and see their personal artistic styles unfold on the canvas before them.

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Here are some of the finished works of art:

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What a perfect way to memorialize a wonderful week with friends!

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Scrapbooking: Cheaper than a Therapist!

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Easter week was one of those muddied, happy/sad weeks where joyful, celebratory moments roll in on the heels of heartbreak and vice versa, leaving us all with emotional whiplash. These are the very hardest weeks for me to navigate as my desire for a life of black and white living meld into a perpetually grey existence. Gone are the days that can clearly be labeled a success or a failure. Instead we find ourselves riding the rollercoaster of trauma-affected parenting that take us on a ride filled with breathtaking views at the top followed by stomach-flipping drops to the bottom. This up and down thrill ride doesn’t occur over the course of a month, or even a week, but often in the space of mere minutes.

And to say that sort of frequent change in altitude (and attitude) is draining, would be the understatement of the year!

As I type this I can clearly picture the faces of family and friends who are nodding their assent to my depiction, as they, too, are on a similar roller coaster that never slows down and never allows riders to disembark. What got you on the ride might be circumstances far different than mine, but if you are “crisis living” and navigating life currently in survival mode, I know you get what I’m saying.

This week was one of those happy/sad weeks filled with many happy/sad hours of emotional whiplash as I celebrated joyful highs and heartbreaking lows,

And it all started with a girls’ week away.

This past week I joined four of my nearest and dearest friends at JB’s Retreat for a few days of cropping.

Every year I run away from home for a few days. This annual escape began over a decade ago when my big kids were little tykes. This annual getaway began when a friend who sold Creative Memories started organizing a scrapbooking getaway for her customers at a local Bible college. For 2 1/2 days, and for minimal cost, we would be blessed with the opportunity to spread out our paper and pictures (with no fear of little fingers touching), work uninterrupted (without having to break for diaper changes or meal preparations), and just scrap without interruption. It was a lovely and always a very productive reprieve from responsibility. It became something I look forward to each year. I was able to enjoy a mini vacation for a few days, but could do so without feeling any guilt because while I was away, I was using my time to bless my family by recording our family’s history

I love to scrapbook. I find it to be a delightful melding of photography, storytelling, and creative expression…3 things that bring me great joy. Scrapbooking has been an important creative outlet for me over the years (although less so now that I have the blog that meets some of that need.) I also have an inner drive and passionate desire to record my family’s story. Since I was a young girl, I have been a journal writer. Through scrapbooking I have been able to combine the need to record our life’s journey with my love of photography. Unfortunately, being a wife and Momma doesn’t allow me as much time as I’d like or need to stay on top of keeping everyone’s scrapbooks current. This is another reason why these annual scrapbooking weekends have become such a blessing. Over the course of a few days I can scrap a year’s worth of memories.

My conviction about the importance of having a recording of our stories and capturing the moments of our lives through photographs has only increased since we entered the world of adoption. I see how the lack of personal history in the form of scrapbooks or pictures hurt my boys, making me all the more determined that their current story be recorded and recorded well.

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This annual scrapbook weekend also serves the added purpose of being a time of rest and renewal. I am able to step away from the busyness of life that consumes my days and focus on self-care, stillness, laughter, and creativity…all balms to my soul. And I can do it without feeling that nagging momma guilt, because my time away is gifting my family with something special and important.

Over time that weekend retreat evolved as some friends moved on and new friends were gained. It went from being Becky’s planned excursion at a bible college to something a group of us co-op moms picked up when that era ended.

For the last few years we have gone away scrapbooking for 3-4 days. The first few years were spent at Scraphappy, a charming little house rented out to scrapbooking groups like ours, but a few years ago when we went to book it, we discovered it had closed without notice. There was a moment of panic, as all of us really live for this creative retreat, but then we rallied and began searching for an alternative location.

That is when we stumbled across Red Door Retreat.  This getaway was located near Sandusky, Ohio. It was a beautiful place, and it worked for that year, but the drive and the set-up of the house wasn’t ideal so we kept searching.

Two years ago, we tried a new place, one that Lana and Tauni discovered. It is called JB’s Retreat and its affordable price, beautiful views, and close proximity to home made it practically perfect!

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I left Tuesday morning with a van full of papers, photos, gifts, stickers, and enough food to feed a small nation. Typically, I ride with Lana and Tauni, but this year I drove separately. This was because we had some extra guests this year, and in the end, it was a blessing I had driven separately because in my absence things imploded at home, requiring me to take my leave a day early.

Our extra guests were three teenage girls.

Three of us scrapbooking veterans have daughters graduating this year.

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And these three graduates also happen to be best friends, just like their mommas, so we decided to open our getaway to our graduating girls when they volunteered to be our kitchen staff for the week.

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It sounded like a great deal to us, as we wouldn’t have to break from our creative pursuits to cook meals,

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And the girls were excited to get a mini vacation with much free time to play, interrupted only by their responsibilities at meal times.

Their presence was a blessing. It was fun to have that special bonding time with the girls and they truly did bless us by taking on the responsibility of cooking and clean-up.

When they weren’t in the kitchen cooking the girls spent their time doing school work, watching movies, enjoying the farm animals that call J.B’s Retreat home,

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Participating in a fun sewing project with Miss Wendy,

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And pampering themselves with the thank you gifts they received from the moms.

They soon discovered why our annual scrapbooking retreat is the highlight of my year…

Between the gifts of love exchanged between friends,

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The late-night hours filled with belly-aching laughter,

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The opportunity to emotionally recharge through good conversation, yummy food, and restful sleep,

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All while getting to indulge in creative pursuits…

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Who could ask for anything more?!

This year my creative project was to scrapbook our February vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios, and I did pretty well, getting 124 scrapbook pages finished before a late-night call on Wednesday evening that resulted in an abrupt end to my vacation.

This trip really clarified the emotional state of my hurting children. It soon became clear how dependent they are (in their current state) on my help to co-regulate them when they are struggling.

I ended up leaving Molly at the retreat, in the loving arms of my friends that are like “Aunties” to my kids, and they wrapped Molly up in their loving care while I went home to deal with the crisis at home. It was a good call. Molly was able to enjoy some extra, much-needed respite, and I was able to help Toby diffuse things at home. The next 24 hours were filled with huge safety issues that resulted in a trip to the emergency room and hospitalization for Ozzie after a series of dangerous behaviors that climaxed with a failed suicide attempt.

It wasn’t the week-long retreat I had hoped for, but I’m grateful for the hours of respite I was able to grab hold of while I could. It was a gift to step out of the storm for a few days, rest, be encouraged by dear friends, focus on some long-overdue self-care, all while enjoying some bonding time with Molly.

It wasn’t a perfect week. I probably wouldn’t even call it a “good” week (there was too much heartache mixed in),  but there were blessings to be found, and those blessings were a gift!

Here’s to recording the moments of our lives…

The good, the bad, and the ugly!

Pancakes and Painting Party

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As part of our co-op’s bi-weekly gatherings, Miss Corrina planned a second, amazing activity for our group.

Our co-op has evolved so much over the last decade as the needs in our group changed with the passing of time. As our children grew out of the early elementary years and into middle school, and then high school, our vision for the co-op evolved as well. We no longer needed the holiday parties and structured classes that were so important when they were little. Last year it was decided we had outgrown the co-op’s original function and now our needs were more social. Last May we retired a part of our life that was such a keystone of our week for so long. Unwilling to walk away from the co-op family that had become such an integral part of our life, we opted to adjust our vision for the group.   Rather than meeting every Wednesday for lessons, we decided to meet every other Friday for a learning/social activity. Each mom signed up for a month. This gave everyone a break for the other 7 months of the school year, while also allowing each mom to get creative and plan two activities built around her family’s interests/and or desires.

It has been a lot of fun seeing the wide variety of activities and field trips planned throughout the year, each one so different than the one before, and each fun and engaging in their own unique way.

Miss Corrina was our March mom. Her first planned outing was a historical tour of Darlington. For her second planned activity she went in a completely different direction with a hands-on art activity.

It was held at our old co-op building and the activity was a painting class taught by Corrina’s sister-in-law who teaches these “ladies’ night out” painting classes professionally.

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When we arrived, the lunchroom was set up with easels, canvases, paint and paint brushes allowing us all to participate as we were guided through the step by step process of painting this sample painting:

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Our group was comprised of elementary students up to grandmothers and everyone had a blast putting on their artist hat and getting creative.

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We were led through the steps in a way that lifted the intimidation of trying to create such a complicated piece of art,

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And everyone had a blast painting while visiting with friends.

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The process took 90 minutes and the end results were as varied as the artists themselves.

It was so much fun seeing everyone’s finished products.

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Our activity concluded with a pancake lunch and play time with friends in the gym before it was time to head back home to get the last of our school assignments done for the week.

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St. Louis City Museum- Round 2

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If you are taking a trip to St. Louis you ABSOLUTELY MUST visit the City Museum. Kids or no kids – don’t even ask what it is – put it on your bucket list RIGHT NOW.

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We first discovered it a year ago while on our cross country bus trip. Our first stop was in St. Louis and we were looking for something fun to do since it was Tyler’s birthday. We went, not knowing what to expect, and found it to be absolutely mind blowing.

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The first thing I read about (when researching the City Museum) was the famous 10 story slide (YES I absolutely said TEN STORY SLIDE) but I was not prepared for the sheer excitement, incredulous wonder, and core exhaustion that would accompany us!

The City Museum is like a living breathing work of art. An old shoe factory originally- it is evolving constantly with new additions.

In fact they have said:

“Usually, the way something gets built is a board gets together and comes up with a mission statement, and they do a search for an architect, and they go through an approval process, and they start raising funds, and by the time something gets built, they forget what it was for in the first place. When we get an idea here, we start building it that afternoon.” -City Museum

We found that to be true. We were amazed by all the new additions to the museum since our visit 10 months ago.

This place is incredible. Just look at SOME of the playground outside!

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It is no easy feat to walk through there if you’re terrified of heights like I am! It IS, however, the PERFECT place for my daredevil husband and kids…especially Tyler! Safety with the feeling of terror. There are (almost) no rules except for a few safety height requirements. The building is meant to be climbed on, in and through.

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My three boys heading in three different directions down three different tunnels!~

City Museum was collectively one of the top highlights from our trip around the country, so when we were mapping out our route to get to Texas for my brother’s wedding we deliberately routed ourselves through St. Louis so we could enjoy another day at one of the coolest places on earth!

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Here is a little history of the City Museum found on WIki:

“City Museum is a play house museum, consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building.

Popular among residents and tourists, the museum bills itself as an “eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.” Visitors are encouraged to touch, climb on, and play in the various exhibits. “Don’t touch the art” is never commanded; although safety docents are present on each of 11 floors.

The City Museum has been named one of the “great public spaces” by the Project for Public Spaces,  and has won other local and international awards as a must-see destination.

City Museum was founded by artist Bob Cassilly and his then-wife Gail Cassilly. The museum’s building was once an International Shoe Company factory and warehouse but was mostly vacant when the Cassillys bought it in 1983. Construction began in January 1995.

The City Museum opened to the public on October 25, 1997. Within two years, it was drawing 300,000 visitors a year.

The museum has since expanded, adding new exhibits such as MonstroCity in 2002, Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft in 2003, and World Aquarium in 2004.

Cassily remained the museum’s artistic director until his death in 2011.

A circus ring on the third floor offers daily live acts. The City Museum also houses The Shoelace Factory, whose antique braiding machines makes colorful shoelaces for sale.”

The entire building is one magnificent piece of art, all intended to be touched, climbed on, explored and experienced. In a world of helicopter parenting and “Do not touch” signs this “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” encourages exploration and imagination.

They make a point of not giving out maps to the museum and instead encourage you to simply explore.

Behind every corner was a tunnel entrance or the start of another adventure. For Tyler it was heaven on earth, although  ALL enjoyed it!

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The museum is comprised of multiple floors of adventures, each with its own theme:

First Floor

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“The original part of the museum, the first floor is home to a life-size Bowhead Whale that guests can walk through and view a large fish tank from the mezzanine or the always popular “Puking Pig.”

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Also on the first floor, are a number of tunnels that run across the ceiling, hiding above a sea of fiberglass insulation cut to give the impression of icicles.

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To get into these, one can climb up a Slinky, which is an old refrigerating coil (donated by Anheuser-Busch),

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or through a tree house which leads into a giant hollowed out tree that leads to a cabin on the other side of the floor.

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The floor itself is covered with the largest continuous mosaic piece in the US, which then morph their way up columns, consuming every section of this floor. In one area is a tunnel known as the “Underground Whaleway” which runs beneath the floor and into the “Original Caves.”

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Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft

One of the museum’s most popular attractions, the Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shafts run through the center of the Museum, and go all the way to the 10th floor.

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Opened in 2003, the Caves are an elaborate cave system hand-sculpted by Bob Cassilly and his crew.

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From every direction, a different creature is staring back.

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Since 2007, the Caves have also held a 1924 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from the Rivoli Theatre in New York City.

The Shoe Shafts were developed from structures built for the International Shoe distribution operation. To get the shoes from various floors to the loading dock, staff would place the shoes on spiral shafts. The Shafts opened in 2003 with one three-story spiral slide, and five years later added a ten-story slide that starts at the roof and goes down to the Caves’ entrance.”

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Shoelace Factory

The Shoelace Factory has shoelace machines from the 1890s. Visitors can order custom-made laces.

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And outside you will find: MonstroCity!!!

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Located in front of the building, MonstroCity features two Sabreliner 40 aircraft fuselages suspended high in the air,

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A castle turret,

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Four-foot-wide slinkies that can be crawled through… one very high that leads to a slide,

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That is Molly WAY up there!

And two ball pits, one for young children and one for older ones, each pit being filled with large, rubber dodge balls.

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The Cabin Inn is an early-19th-century log cabin located beneath MonstroCity. Originally the home of the son of Daniel Boone, it was owned by the Hezel family for more than a century and is now a bar and entertainment venue.“

The Roof

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The roof has a small old-fashioned Ferris Wheel.

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It also has a slide that goes under a small pond.

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The pond has stepping stones that go from one side to the other.

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The roof also has a school bus that had actually worked once, extending past the edge of the building.

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Visitors can walk in the school bus and open the door from the driver’s seat.

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Also found on the roof are a giant rope swing contained in a free-standing aluminum dome underneath the roof’s centerpiece; a giant metal praying mantis.

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It is possible to climb a series of enclosed metal ladders inside the dome (of an old planetarium) to an exit at the top.

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The view from the top!

The entire experience was mind-blowing…a feast for the eyes and for all the senses. The attention to detail, the creativity and artistic detail made for incredible photo opportunities, although the grandeur simply can’t be captured by a lens.

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The little details made it an photographic treasure hunt as all of us stumbled across one cool shot after another.

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We were there 7 hours and could have stayed another 7. It was definitely one of the coolest places we have EVER been. For $12.00/ person we felt we got our money’s worth 100 times over! Honestly, I cannot even begin to tell you how A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. the City Museum is. These photos do it NO justice as most of the pictures I took just looked like abstract chaos of intertwining branches, rooms, rock, tile, coils, and everything else that the museum is created from. You absolutely have to experience it for yourself – it will blow you away.

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But be forewarned – at the end of the day you’ll be utterly exhausted but dreaming of your next visit to the City Museum!