My Top 5 Northern Indiana Must-See Sights

Since arriving home from our trip to northern Indiana, I have been thinking about all the things we could have done but didn’t while we were there.  And that has convinced me that we need to go for another visit.  Like this weekend.  OK, not really, but we would if we could!

With that said, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of my most favorite places in northern Indiana with you, just in case you’re ever in the area and want to have some fun.

Drumroll, please…

  1. Lake Michigan.  Go straight to the lake.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  We didn’t make it to the lake this trip, but that’s probably a good thing, because as nuts as my kid is about sandboxes, we’d still be there today.  She would have lost her mind upon seeing the beach.  We go to Washington Park in Michigan City the most often, where you can see the Chicago skyline on a clear day.  Love it.   And it’s not just a great beach during the summer…also totally gorgeous (and not crowded) in the winter months, too.  Please go.
  2. Lighthouse Place.  Conveniently right across the street from Lake Michigan and Washington Park is Lighthouse Place, the best outlet mall in the world.  Sarah and I spent a glorious afternoon there last week, and I purchased many, MANY things for my children.  It got a little out of control at The Children’s Place outlet, but holy moley, there were majorly good sales.  It made me very happy.  The only downside was that the Vera Bradley outlet wasn’t open yet, and I was planning on shopping there for a new and improved diaper bag…but that turned out ok.  More on that later.
  3. Potato Creek State Park.  Love me some Potato Creek in the summertime.  We didn’t make it there this trip, but that’s probably because Jon wasn’t with us.  Potato Creek is his idea of how to spend a vacation.  Trails, hiking, biking, FISHING, camping, barbecuing…it’s the best day outdoors you’ll have in a long time.  Totally relaxing.
  4. Shipshewana.  In my brother’s neck of the woods (kind of) is Amish country.  Shipshewana is nirvana for people who love the simple life, farming, baking, sewing, and just plain living.  Besides the fact that the country scenes in this area are simply beyond gorgeous, there are shops and auctions and flea markets galore.  Cheese factories, homemade pretzels, hand-carved pieces of furniture…there is so much to see and do and taste.  It’s the type of shopping and sightseeing even my husband can handle, and that’s saying something.
  5. St. Vincent de Paul.  Yes, it’s a thrift store.  And yes, it’s one of the places that I always, no matter what, visit when I’m home.  St. Vinnie’s (as my father lovingly refers to it) is always chock-full of bargains.  And since I’m always hunting for bargains, it’s a match made in heaven.  You never know what you’re gonna find, but you can almost always count on it being a heck of a bargain.   Goodwill and Salvation Army don’t even come CLOSE to St. Vinnie’s on the spectrum of thrift shopping.  And be still my heart, they’ve opened a second location in the South Bend area…sigh.  Heaven on earth.

So that’s my heart felt list of 5 of my favorite northern Indiana stops.  There are loads more, of course, but these are some of my “old faithfuls” that truly make me feel like I’m home.

 

Rapid Trip to Rapid City

This weekend, Tresia and I made a whirlwind trip to one of my most favorite places in the whole wide world – Rapid City, SD.  The Big RC.

LOVE that city.  And I’ve missed it greatly…it’d been way too long since my last trip there.

Trying to talk my hubby into relocating there so I can move back.  OK, not really…but maybe we can have a vacation home there someday.  A girl has to have her dreams, right?  On our trip, Tresia and I planned it all out.  We’re going to take our hubbies and retire to the Black Hills and live next to each other so that we can carpool to the senior center for Bingo night.  Perfect!

Anyhoo.  I digress.

We traveled to the Big RC for a few reasons.

  1. We needed a girls weekend out of town without our kiddos.
  2. We heard about a HUGE indoor garage sale that’s held in RC annually, and decided the time was right to check it out.

So we headed out Friday and took our time driving up.  Made a few stops on the way there, including to the infamous Wall Drug, which is always fun.

Here’s Tresia with her new boyfriend.

And her groupies.

And her new BFF.

And her scary rabbit friend.

After we left Wall Drug, we ventured to the Badlands, where we saw this little gem of a sign:

(Which, of course, I had to send to my husband to my prairie dog loving husband(ahem)…but found out the hard way that the data plan on my phone does not work in the Black Hills area.  So just a little caveat to you iPhone-ers out there who may still be on an Alltel plan…when in western South Dakota, your phone will ONLY be a phone while in the area.  No apps, no internet, no texting, nada.)

So once we arrived in Rapid, we did some major shopping at their majorly fabulous new shopping area and the always fantastic Rushmore Mall, and then ate supper at the oh-so-yummy Fuddruckers.  Next we stopped in to see my good friends Amber and Jeremy.  Our visit was way too brief (I’ll just have to go back soon for another one, I guess!), but it was fabulous to see them and their kiddos.

Got a few hours of shut eye, then headed to Black Hills Bagels (which I have been craving for WEEKS now), and had the most divine breakfast EVER.  Tresia had this amazing cinnamon knot, which was topped with about a half pound of cream cheese topping (aren’t you just dying to stick your finger in that frosting??  YUM)…

And I had  “Hogs ‘n Chicks” breakfast bagel sandwich, of which I am still speechless over, three days later.  It was the BEST breakfast sandwich I have ever had.  We ate at 9 am and by 1 pm, I still wasn’t hungry, which is a small miracle for this pregnant woman.  Amazing.

From there…we went to the indoor garage sale!

Over 200 booths.  Big fun!  We both found some treasures…mine included a baby gate (yay!) and a double stroller (woo-hoo!).  There were loads of people at the sale, and we were tuckered out by the time we saw all the booths, but it was fabulous.  Totally worth the drive.

And so after the sale, we made one more last shopping stop, and then headed home.  It was a fast trip, but packed with goodness.

Unfortunately, I returned home to a very sick little baby and a husband who had metal shards stuck in his eye.  Not good.  Everyone’s on the mend now, thank goodness.  Good to be home!  🙂

Homage to the Staybridge

I’m staying in Lincoln tonight, in town for a meeting on Thursday.

I told my husband before I left that I might not come home.

Not because I don’t love him to death. (I do).

Not because the house isn’t sided. (It is).

Not because my living still looks like a construction zone.  (Well, it really still does.  But I’m getting used to it now and will probably miss all the tools and the power saw once they are retired into the basement.)

But because I am staying the night in my home away from home…The Staybridge Suites.

OK, if you’ve ever had an inkling to stay overnight in Lincoln, Nebraska, do yourself a favor and stay at the Staybridge.  I stayed here once a few months ago and was super impressed, and am growing more in love with each visit.

No, it’s not the Embassy Suites or the Cornhusker, but it’s still pretty darn great in my opinion.

In fact, you should probably begin planning your trip to Lincoln right now, and plan to spend the majority of your time in town in your Staybridge hotel room. We didn’t get here until about 10:00 tonight (we did some major shopping when we got into town), and now I am feeling very heartbroken at the thought of having to leave first thing in the morning.

Next time I will plan to arrive at 3:00 in the afternoon and will stay until checkout time no matter what.

So the Staybridge is one of those hotels that’s mostly meant for long-term guests, but is still super great for people who are just staying a night or two, too.  I think (I could be wrong) that each and every room has a small kitchen and living area.  So we’re talking full-size fridge, DISHWASHER, sink, little stove tops, real dishes, etc, etc.  Granite countertops. Fabulous feather pillows.  Fitness and laundry room.  AND it has the best breakfast within a 17 miles radius.  I eat much every time I eat breakfast here.  OK, so that’s only been once so far, but I plan to pig out tomorrow morning, too.

I am sharing a room with a colleague tonight, and we were granted a complimentary upgrade.  SO.  We both have our own separate bedrooms AND bathrooms on either side of a common living and dining room, which is fabulouso.

PLUS, our 1st floor room is what Kayla called a “pool side suite,” which made me giggle.  It has a door leading outdoors to the pool and hot tub.  Granted, the wind is blowing 112 mph, and it feels about 14 degrees outside (hello at last, Fall!), but it’s the convenience that counts.

I love you, Staybridge.

Forever yours,

Jen

PS.  As soon as I get home and have a chance to take some pics, I’ll update you via photos on the belly and the house. This is my second time in Lincoln this week, so life’s been a little crazy the past few days. (For the first trip to Lincoln I had to stay at the Country Inn and Suites, NOT the Staybridge.  Sniffle, sniffle, tear!)  I’ll be in touch!

Thankful Thursday: Broken Down

Jon has declared August 8-14, 2010 as “The Week for Things to Break Down.”  Allow me to fill you in.

We had a lot of fun on our whirlwind trip to San Diego, but I was wiped out by the time we got home Saturday night.  As a welcome home present, we walked into the cozy house to find we had no running water; apparently our pressure tank thingy was in the process of dying.   It was a great reminder that life without running water is hard.  It has since been fixed, thanks to my wonderful husby, and I no longer take turning on the kitchen sink for granted.

In addition to the cozy house drought, my car has apparently decided to join in on the fun, and is currently parked at my in-laws’ place because that’s as far as it wanted to go yesterday evening.  “Check engine soon” lights scare the bejeevers out of me, because you never know just how serious of a problem you have on your hands.  My instincts tell me this is a pretty serious problem.  And when I tried to use our pickup as a back up vehicle, all I heard when I turned the key was the famous “clickclickclickclickclick” tell-tale sign of a dead battery.

So.

As we wait to see what else poops out on us this week, Jon and I have decided that we would like to go back on vacation.  In the meantime, all the calamities have made me thankful for a bunch of stuff that I generally take for granted!  That in itself is something I am thankful for this week.

Here’s my list – What are you thankful for today?

31.  A working kitchen sink and washing machine and dishwasher and toilet and garden hose and lawn sprinkler.

32.  A vehicle that gets me from Point A to Point B and everywhere in between.

33.  MY bed, MY pillows, MY shower.

34.  History lessons that help me appreciate what we have in this great nation, and how we got here.

35. Military men and women who give up so much to protect and honor our country.

36.  Being married to a manly Mr. Fixit.

37.  Making memories with the fam that will last a lifetime.

38.  Sitting on the back porch and holding my favorite little Jack Russell on my lap.

39.  Fresh-off-the-vine cucumbers.

40.  Air conditioning, air conditioning, air conditioning.

I Heart Traveling

It doesn’t matter where or why or for how long.

I like to travel.

Nothing thrills me more than packing a suitcase and hitting the road, camera in one hand, map in the other.

My eyes love new views, my feet love new terrain, my mouth loves new cuisine.

And even more than all that, I love being reminded that there is a whole big wide world out there, beyond my little reality.

When I travel, I’m stretched past what is comfortable and familiar and easy.  I”m placed in unfamiliar situations with unfamiliar people.

I need that every now and then, especially when I get sucked into the “me” vortex.  I like being reminded that my way, my life, my viewpoint, my tendencies, aren’t the only way.  They’re simply mine.

I love that we have a God who loves variety.  And I love getting out and seeing that variety – people, places, and everything in between – first hand.  It’s not about how far I roam.  It’s more about what I’m learning as I go, and seeing the world through His eyes.

We’re leaving for San Diego in the morning – my brother-in-law is graduating from Marines boot camp, so the whole fam is traveling out for the occasion.  I’m trying something new on this trip – it’s called traveling light, which is code for “not lugging a laptop in my carry-on.”  Not sure I’ll be blogging at all until we return this weekend, but I am sure that I will have some good blog-able moments from the trip, so be in touch!

1000 Thoughts Floating Around

Prior to going to CPYR, I knew nothing about horses.

I now officially know next to nothing about horses, because I did pick up a few tidbits of horse-related info while at the ranch last week.  It wasn’t enough to make me run out and saddle up, but I at least am not 100% clueless anymore.  Now it’s more like 98.3%.  Improvement!

There were a couple of horse sessions that talked about working with horses and preparing them to be used around kids and inexperienced riders.  Also had a session on hoof care/trimming, which hopefully Susan got a lot out of because most of that went way over my pitiful head.

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That said, I learned lots of other stuff unrelated to horses.  Learned lots of stuff about youth ranches and non-profits, about 501 (c) 3’s and insurance, vision and mission statements.

But most of what I learned had nothing to do with starting a faith-based non-profit.

I’ve been trying to wrap up all I experienced at CPYR in a nice, little, neatly written post.  But there’s just too much. Every time I try, I just start babbling about things that don’t make sense to anyone but me.   I can’t summarize all that happened last week in a nice little post because God is doing so much through them.  It would take a month’s worth of posts to share everything with you.  I won’t do that to you – but I will share a couple of “aha” moments that I had in my time there.

I learned how important it is to make a place warm, inviting, welcoming, comfortable.

I learned about LOVING people.  Really deep-down loving them…not just seeing through them and looking past them, as I’m prone to do in day to day life, but embracing them just as they are, regardless of my mood.

I learned how important it is to be transparent…meaning I need to be honest, forth-coming, sincere in everything I say and do and write.

I learned that prayer matters, and praying with an expectant attitude really matters…which is probably a “duh” statement, but all too often I underestimate God and what he can do if I would just give him room to move and stop trying to control everything.

I don’t know what will come from attending this clinic.  I know Susan really feels led to do a similar ministry, and I hope that it happens, but for now we are waiting and praying in expectation that God will open the doors for what He wants from it, whether it’s  starting a new ministry a few months or a few years from now, or even not at all.  We will  follow him in faith and with expectant hearts to whatever lies before us.

Leaving On A Jet Plane

As I write this, I’m at PDX in Portland, waiting for our flight to Denver.  I always like to arrive at the airport INSANELY early, and today was no exception, so since I have about 2 hours to sit and wait, I thought it’d be a great time to write a last post on our Oregon travels.  More posts to come on the clinic at CPYR, though.

Three random things we have fallen in love with about this great state:

  1. No sales tax.  If something costs $8.99, you pay $8.99.  How great is that?!  Love, love, love it.  Nebraska, please take note.
  2. All the gas stations have gas attendants.  Kind of caught us off guard the first time we had to stop for gas, but I think it’s super cool.  And they all had great attitudes and just seemed so happy to help us.  It was fabulous!  They told us that Oregon is the only state in the nation to still have gas station attendants.
  3. West of the Cascades is wet and mossy and…wet.  East of the Cascades is dry and desert-y.  Two seperate, distinct environments within 150 miles of each other.

After we left the Bend area yesterday, we headed to Sisters.  There are three pretty big mountains, and they are called the Sisters – North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister.  We read a story about the history of these mountains.  They were originally named by a group of Methodists crossing the mountain range in the 1840’s, I think, and they were named Faith, Hope and Charity.  I thought that was a pretty neat tidbit.  Anyhoo.

The ranch overlooked the sisters, but the cloud cover was always pretty heavy, so we never got a great view of them.  We got to see them for the first time as we drove to the town of Sisters.  They’re still snowcapped, so it’s kind of hard to distinguish them from the clouds above…but they are there.

We stopped in Sisters for lunch and left 4 hours later.  LOVED this town.  We ate lunch at a fun little BBQ place, then walked around looking at all the little shops.  My fav was a little art shop that showcased artwork from local artists.  I even found a building for rent that I think we should consider relocating the fitness center to.  Rent is only $2450 a month. Tresia? What do ya think? 🙂 I love Sisters.

After that we just followed the road through the mountains, once again experiencing sun, rain, and snow. And lots of beauty.

And we finally saw a logging site, so here is a picture just for my husby, the aspiring logger.  It’s hard to tell in the photo, but this hill is crazy steep.

It was a wonderful week.  We had an amazing time traveling and visiting this state.  It’s diverse and unique and beautiful and God made it all.  We loved it and I’m so glad Susan brought me along because it was just what I needed.  Sad to be leaving…but I am returning home refreshed and renewed and ready to see my man and my dogs and my house.