Tuesday, November 13, 2018

6 Perfectly Pumpkin Dishes For Fall

The minis and I embraced pumpkin spice season. We made pumpkin play dough, we had a pumpkin patch for imaginary play at daycare, we bought many pie pumpkins and tried various pumpkin pie recipes. There's our tried and true recipes we stick to each year (pumpkin muffins, cookies, and pancakes), but in branching out this year we now have a few new favorites (hello, pumpkin chili. Drooling just thinking about it). 

Here are our our 6 favorite pumpkin recipes straight from the minis voting booth (because that's a thing in our house):

1.) Pumpkin chili
This was the unexpected dinner hit of the season. I decided to give it a go because I was growing tired of our go-to vegan dinner recipes. Obviously the recipe is for one person, so I had to figure out how to make it family size (which mostly just means me dumping things in), but it was an instant hit with the minis, which makes it an instant hit with me.

2.) Pumpkin pancakes
While we love homemade pumpkin pancakes, Trader Joe's also has a pumpkin pancake mix that is awesome!

3.) Pumpkin ravioli
Another Trader Joe's find. All I did was put butter on the top and serve. The minis loved this simple Saturday lunch and have requested it numerous times since.

4.) Pumpkin muffins
My sister-in-law turned us on to these years ago and they're still a yearly hit. I wouldn't exactly call them muffins since you're using a box of cake mix, but I grab a can of cream cheese frosting to put on top and make them into cupcakes for an after dinner treat.

5.) Baked cinnamon pumpkin slices
I wasn't too sure about this, but we all wound up really liking this one (several daycare kids as well).

6.) Pumpkin chickpea and red lentil curry 
Another one I wasn't completely on board with but was really happy we gave it a try!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Northern Minnesota Getaway

We braved northern Minnesota the last weekend of October and survived! It's not really anything to brag about, but as soon as we tell people where and when we went for our last weekend getaway we were met with "oh, that's not the best time of year to go there." Yeah, I get it. It's usually cold and can be snowy already up there by the end of October. But we lucked out, kinda.

Temps were in the low 40's (something we're used to living here in Iowa), but rainy our entire trip. We didn't let it stop us though! In fact, it made our trip unique in the fact that we had a State and National Park (mostly and completely) to ourselves. I doubt we'll get an experience like it again.

The minis had a four day weekend off from school, so we headed up north Thursday afternoon. Before we were able to leave, we had a list of errands to run. I somehow always wind up spending my days off at the dance shop buying new dance gear for Lil Miss E. We made our typical Bucks trip before heading out to down to Park Rapid, MN, home of Lake Itasca, also known as the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

The minis had plenty to keep them entertained in the car: toy catalogs and vampire teeth, courtesy of Grandma Harmeyer.

The minis had been asking to see the Mississippi head waters since we went to Dubuque (read about that weekend getaway here). Oddly, the seven hour drive turned into a nine hour drive with stops on the way up. On the way back home, the drive only took (barely) seven hours. I'm not sure how we managed that one, but regardless, it was late and dark when we arrived at our cabin on Duck Lake in Park Rapids, MN.

It was pitch black out when we arrived at the cabin. The minis fell into bed (they had been asleep in the car) and it was instant relaxation for us.

The next morning we bummed around the cabin for a while, taking in our cabin and surrounding grounds. We really lucked out with our cabin. It was the perfect cabin for our weekend, which was great because we didn't have too many choices. 

Most of the resorts in the area close down in the "off season" (any months other than May through the first weekend in October) so that left us searching Airbnb. Our requirements for the cabin was that it have a fireplace, views, big beds, a full kitchen, and WiFi. I will admit to being a bit sticker shocked when I first started my research of the area. After having been there, I can see why the prices are so high: big tourist area. We luckily found all of our wants for around $800 for four days.

The perfect cabin for relaxing in the wilderness.

Our cabin had three sheds on the property: a wood/tool shed, an outhouse, and a random shed that had a creepy chair directly in the middle. I quickly shut the door to this shed when I peered in. It gave me Halloween movie sorts of goosebumps.

We made our way into town by late morning. Park Rapids is a cute and touristy little town that (I imagine) can be quite busy during the summer months. Resorts seemed to fill the area lakes, although most resorts and quite a few businesses were closed this time of year. Luckily, I'm one who likes to do my research about the places we visit, so I knew our options around town were limited. However, that wasn't an issue since our three main goals for our getaway were as follows: relax at the cabin, then relax some more, walk across the Mississippi River, hike in Voyageurs National Park.

Driving through town and stopping at a local grocery store for coffee, was our tour of the town as we made our way to Itasca State Park. Even though it was raining and our only goal was to walk across the head waters, we wound up in the Park for several hours hiking in the light rain, climbing a fire tower, and talking with the only other people in the Park at the same time as us (who also happened to be from Des Moines, Iowa. Small world). Read more about our time at Itasca State Park here.

Our fun day concluded with pizza, popcorn, a fire, and a movie as we lounged around the cabin.

Pizza party and the movie Jaws while the fire got started.

Popcorn and hot chocolate in front of the fire. A night full of wonderful things.

Our day at Voyageurs National Park was an experience of a lifetime! Read about that day here. Because of our long day trip we didn't spend much time at the cabin that day. The morning after our day trip to the Canadian boarder we had to head home, but we got in some good exploring of Duck Lake around the cabin.

The minis weren't ready to leave the cabin, and honestly, I could have used a couple of more day in the area. The only sunny day we saw was the day we left, of course.

We made the most of our drive home with Cheetos, car naps, and a stop at Giordano's pizza in Minneapolis.

This was just the relaxing weekend I had pictured in my head, but better because we didn't have to fight crowds and had truly unique experiences. I won't discount another trip up to northern Minnesota in the future, however I'd really like to visit in the winter for one simple reason: snowmobiling!