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right now

Jan 9, 2011

Christmas in Minnesota - Part Two! (warning- LONG!)

I have finally gotten all my photos loaded on to the computer!  It saddens me that I'm not much of a photographer, but it is what it is... that's another one of my "someday goals"!  
For those of you who follow Mama Pea's blog, A Homegrown Journal, and her daughter Chicken Mama's blog, The Tales of Chicken Mama, Lady Homesteader, you might have seen some of the fun we had already!  Yes, it's true:  I got to meet up with fellow blogger friends over the holidays and had a wonderful time!  Everything you might have surmised from their blogs is absolutely spot on, and then some.  They are both some hard working, fun loving, witty and loveable gals!  Mama Pea sometimes mentions Papa Pea in her posts, and he is absolutely a wonderful guy!  Chicken Mama asked us if it was ok if she did a little "itinerary" for our week there, and wow, was it!  We really made some great friends, and great memories over the holidays... the kids are still talking about it daily!  Talk about great hosts, not only did we have some fabulous dinners out with them all, but our first night in town after driving all day we didn't even have to head to the store to stock the little house we stayed in:  we were invited to Mama & Papa Pea's home for some of her famous soup!  We also had some of her now-famous 2010 strawberry harvest, homemade apple sauce, I could go on... jealous?  Granted, I have strawberries, but how cool is it to partake in that unbelievable harvest she had this year?  What was it, 1000 lbs LOL?

Okay, let's go... there's lots of novice photos here!

Leaving the Twin Cities of Mpls/St Paul (my neck of the woods) headed north...
the kids were mesmerized by these tires!

The frozen port of Duluth...
still headed "north-er"...

It's a good thing Mama Pea & crew invited us for dinner, because when we got to our house, this was all we had brought from my parents' house:  local brew & cheese curds!
A little college dorm-ish when you have kids to feed.

Inside the little house, the kids had to flip a coin for who got to sleep in the wall bed

Finn fell asleep right away that first night

Next a day of sledding was up on the itinerary-
I even went down, it was very icy and fast!

Below is the view from our house in town

Another shot of the harbor

Below is the house we stayed at, perfect!

Another day was a work day in the morning for "the guys", followed by a snowshoe hike on the Pea Homestead, the views are breathtaking from their ridge.  One of the reasons we decided a few years ago to make this area our home after the military... the views and the fact that it is still largely wild and unpopulated.  Save for the tourist season of course, this area's geography, remoteness, and cold winters help to keep "the riff-raff" out.  Hubby laughs when I say that, but it's true!  You must love winter here, and not in the abstract sense, but in the sense that you need to dress not for fashion, but for necessity and warmth, this place is not for the crew that likes the occasional ski vacation, this is the real deal!  Hubby has family in Fairbanks, Alaska, so I know they are nodding their heads in agreement right now!

Below is a view of the Big Lake from atop their ridge

Hubby & Loch were dropped off in the morning for a half day of helping Papa Pea clear the trail from a recent blowdown they had.  I heard Loch was a great help.  Of course the below photo is with a non-running chainsaw, but we know where to send him for training when he's ready!  Hubby absolutely loved being able to be outdoors and productive working with his hands and chainsaw that day vs. being out to sea working 16 hour days in 125ยบ weather!

When I showed up at lunchtime to pick up the guys, they were being treated to hot chocolate courtesy of Mama Pea, so Loch's first exposure to this kind of real work was rewarded by yumminess, so he thinks pretty highly of the whole event!

They must have done a great job because when we all met back up for the snowshoe hike in the afternoon, we had a beautiful clear trail.

Above, Chicken Mama showing off the beautiful off-grid cabin, the "Hafweh Haus" she built on Mama & Papa Pea's homestead.  Below, Loch and Finn having a great time leading the pack.

Chicken Mama and Finnegan stopping to pose for the camera - her dogs Maisy & Tucker always near


Loch & Finn found the hunting shack/lookout/stand pretty cool!

Finn after a long while hiking and still looking happy!  See, all that terrible "mom-training" must have paid off!

A rare photo of my family all together!

Chicken Mama showing off her mad creek-jumping skills

Below, the girls!  Mama Pea, Chicken Mama & I
Someone should ask poor hubby & Papa Pea how slow it is hiking with 3 bloggers with cameras in hand!

 Loch's great eye spotted a fresh kill in the snow, it was determined to be a woodpecker.  He saw the kill site in the snow just off the trail, noting the blood spots and feathers.  This feather with the blood speck was taped into and became the first entry into the new Field Journal he got for Christmas.  Later on the hike a probable wolf kill of a deer was spotted beside the trail, all that was left was a ribcage and skull... very cool stuff for little kids with inquisitive minds!

 One of my favorites:  the guys -  Hubby, Papa Pea, Finn & Loch.  I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they were clearing the trail earlier.  Papa Pea is a retired teacher, and it shows - he is so kind and patient with the kids and I am sure Loch just peppered him with questions!  Kids can sense a good teacher and Loch's questions sometimes are akin firing a machine gun, they never stop!

Mama Pea ruling over her land  :)

Papa Pea calculated that we had snowshoed about 4 miles - with kids still smiling!  I was so proud of them that day, of course they were having so much fun and had so much to look at and experience that they didn't even notice and would have gone on and on if nobody was watching!  Proof that they still need adults - otherwise they would be frozen in Canada somewhere if they followed every little side trail they wanted to!

Chicken Mama showing off the advantages of hiking uphill on the first part of the trip... getting to ride downhill!

No internet, no tv, no video games.... nice!

 Other interesting highlights:

Kids meals at restaurants that are actually good!

I won't say much about the below photo other than... woohoo!  Mama Pea & Chicken Mama took me one afternoon for a lunch out and then to their private yarn heaven! I want to protect all involved, but let's just say that they have definitely have the hook-up when it comes to beautiful fiber and prices that can't be beat -  I'll just leave you fiber junkies to cry amongst yourselves and work it out...

When they dropped me back at our house, I felt like a teenager trying to sneak in the house with all those bags of yarn I was carrying!

 Yes, I know... I'm a little anti-color LOL!

We finished out our week of activities with New Years's Eve at our little cabin.  We were really hoping to get to spend the day/night out at Chicken Mama's homestead, Swamp River Ridge, but an ice storm prevented us from doing that.  That's my excuse for a summer trip!  I was really looking forward to seeing everything she is doing there being off grid and seeing the lovely Swamp River Ridge, but weather rules the roost up here.  The rest of us were close or in town already, so she braved the roads to make it in and spend the evening with us.  There was wonderful food, drink, and lots of charades!

Below is Finn, he got the hang of charades right away, we forgave him for making up new stuff halfway through his act LOL!

We had a gift exchange, the kids received some nice duck/game calls that promply got packed at the bottom of the rooftop carrier when we left the next day, can you imagine 1300 miles of that LOL?  I was hugely surprised by a wonderful gift of a deer hide - apparently Mama Pea & Chicken Mama remembered that I rescued a beautiful chair with great wood details on it from the curb last year and was in search of a hide to cover it with.  They somehow got with hubby via email while he was out to sea to find the rough dimensions needed for it.  Amazing!  Now I am really worried about doing it justice... I have a lot of research to do.  Or I'll tackle it when my mom visits, she is great with this stuff.  I will post that when the project is near to fruition.

Below is one of the state forest trails we were wanting to snowshoe but the ice storm prevented it, so we have an excuse for next time!  We managed to get some photos of it at least as we were getting ready to leave.

Below, the trip home wouldn't be complete without the last chance for White Castle!

I can't even explain how awful and icy the roads were the day we left, but the Subaru made me proud, and I must say it's also my super-sweet driving ablility, HA!!!  Seriously though, I'm the one with experience, so I drove so I wouldn't have to constantly yell at hubby and white knuckle the passenger side - when I'm driving I'm perfectly calm though!  The kids saw a whole lot of road kill that day...

Also on the way home, the best McDonald's!  First let me say I HATE McDonald's, but the one in Wisconsin Dells is the bomb, the kids love it and look forward to it every visit on the way home.

Every animal/fish in the state of MN/WI is represented here, most are taxidermied holding drinks or fries LOL!

Terrible shot, but after a straight thru 26 hour drive, we're "home sweet home"!

So now I can say I've introduced my hubby and kids to winter in the place I want to move to someday, and they took it like champs, loved it even!  Of course, the true test would be end of Jan/beginning of Feb, LOL!

There is no way I could ever thank my wonderful hosts for the week, but we are sure going to try!  This trip confirms my belief that all us bloggers are really good people, after all, nobody is making us take the time to share ideas, advice, their families and lives with each other - we do it because we enjoy helping others and getting help and advice in return!  What a great week it was, I have a feeling all of us would get along famously should we ever have a "convention"!  I still say if I ever win the lottery I'm setting up a commune for us!  Everyone seems to have different strengths and weaknesses they have made public already, so our private office elections should be a breeze!  


  1. Oh, my, what a great post! Talk about bringing back great memories.

    In my heart of hearts, I know that your last paragraph about all of us bloggers being so compatible is totally true. I feel saddened to think that all of us living in close proximity is just not a possibility but, omigosh!, look at all we have gained and how our lives have been enriched by the relationships formed through blogging!

    The Pea Homestead (I'm afraid that's going to stick, Erin) can hardly wait until you're able to make that permanent move to da nort!!

  2. Holy moly....that was a long post, but you had me a cheese curds so I continued:) You take great pics....don't stress out and compare your work to others...I've done that myself and look at it in this way....Their pics inspire me to take a critical eye to the camera and make me a better photographer. I love your snowy landscape pics. They are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing...a fellow Midwestern blogger now in Tucson:)

  3. What a fantastic trip you had and I love the tree pictures. But then I live in BC in the mountains so I have to love trees.
    And that yarn! Ohhhhh I can't wait to see what you knit with all that. I actually bought some more yarn for another hat but I have to finish the first one before I can start.
    Hurry up and win that lottery cause I'll come live on your commune at least until I'm chucked out. LOL!

  4. Mama Pea, the Pea Homestead it is!

    roherbot, that WAS long! I am anxious to get on with regular size posts now that I have finally wrapped up our long vacation!

    Sparkless, too bad you haven't gotten your share of the snow this year

  5. I'm glad you all had fun up there and that hubby and the kids survived winter! It can be really fun (as long as you have somewhere warm to go and you don't have to do much driving!). It's also fantastic that your kids loved being out in nature. So many kids nowadays are so sucked into technology that they miss all the cool things out there (including dead animals).

  6. What a great trip this has been for you guys. I loved all the snow pictures and that you were able to spend so much time outside. It's great that you were able to meet some blogging friends and that you had so much fun together. I love the yarn you picked out! Can't wait to see what you're going to knit with it...

  7. We are all wishing we could have been right there with you's! And wishing we could win the lottery and set up post somewhere heavenly as well!

    You hit pay-dirt on the yarn! Can't wait to see what you will crank out with all of them!

    And it's so wonderful that your entire family loves and appreciates the great outdoors. I have to add that I love the pic of MamaPea on her perch! :o)

    If you ever decide to throw a convention, count me in!!!

  8. So much good stuff going on in this post! So cool you had a nice visit, and it is just gorgeous up there.

    That yarn has color Erin, and lots of it.....earth tones they are called, or neutrals, right!?!? Lovely colors you picked IMO, just lovely! (And besides, if you had picked some bright pink or other ultra-vibrant hue I would have assumed you sustained a head injury while sledding. Just saying.)

  9. Looks like you guys had a great vacation! Love seeing pics of people enjoying my neck of the woods. Hope you get to come back soon!

  10. This is so awesome Erin! I looks like you guys had a truly fun filled week. What a wonderful way to connect with other bloggers off grid.

    If you're ever in Massachusetts, feel free to stop by!

  11. We saw two trucks of those tires here the other day. Kids thought it was the coolest thing ever and kept telling me to slow down/speed up so we could stay abreast of them.

    So gald you guys had such a good time and that you're safely home.

  12. So much fun, so much beauty, so many friendships. What more can I say?

  13. I saw your first photo and said "I know exactly where that is!" You went right through my old stomping grounds! Glad you had such a great time with Mama Pea. When you do retire up there, don't be surprised to have visitors sometime, it's only an eight hour drive for us! Lol!

  14. Looks like a vacation to remember. Mama and Papa Pea seemed the most gracious of hosts. They should open there home as a B&B. We'd love to visit someday.