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Kladder Update: Bonfires, Baby Showers & All That Is Fall

 Provin Trails in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Provin Trails in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

I'm just over here making all the soups because, at last, (we knew it was coming) our Michigan Fall weather finally showed up. Last week I made an incredibly easy butternut squash soup recipe using the crockpot and it turned out fantastic. I ate the leftovers for lunch today and with the cooler weather, it tasted even better! Not to say that we haven't enjoyed the warm temps and sunny skies... 

This past weekend was perfect for hosting the annual Smith Family & Friends Bonfire at my folks house down in Schoolcraft, Michigan. It's a tradition well over 10 years old now that includes a potluck dinner, beer pong tournament and of course, a massive bonfire. Each year my Dad calls into the local fire department to let them know the date of the event. By now, we've learned to warn them so they aren't rushing out to every 911 phone call. A weekend out in the country is just what our family needed after a busy week at home. 

Since our last update our basement got carpeted (just waiting on trim and paint for it to be complete), I chopped my hair, we started a new house church with friends from our neighborhood, I attended my first Women's Golf League Board meeting and we somehow squeezed in family photos. Thank you, yet again, James Fry for the fantastic photos. 

On the 13th I hosted our dear friend Amber's baby shower at our house. Her and her husband Jon are expecting a baby boy in early January. Amber writes a blog as well and you can read more about her adventures HERE. Amber went to high school with Jeff and she and I became close after Jeff and I started dating. The shower was great: we played games, ate lots of cheese, drank Hugos (a new cocktail I was turned onto during Germany travels), opened gifts and chatted all the girlie stuff. It was a successful event and the mom-to-be left with a car load of goodies and in return, Amber gifted me a bottle of vodka for playing hostess. All that to say, Pro Tip: forget the thank you note, send vodka! 

On the 11th Jeff and I were invited to a Farm to Food event in Alto, Michigan (about a 30 minute drive from GR) hosted by USA Today in partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The 3 course dinner was prepared by Chef Sarah Welch of Outstanding in the Field in Detroit which was followed by a very surprising and delicious dessert of Captain Crunch pancakes by Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli.  All parts of the meal incorporated dairy including the signature cocktail, a milk-washed punch. While we ate, USA Today facilitated a moth-story-telling portion of the evening where we heard from 3 speakers including a representative from Feeding America, Chef Giorgio (who made the dessert) and one of the owners of Swisslane Farms (where the event was hosted). All in all the food was fantastic and we left feeling pretty solid about how much milk Natalie consumes. Part of our participation in the event was signing away rights to use the photos and video scheduled to be released in a few weeks. Curious to see how the coverage turned out and I'll be sure to share it when it's published. 

And as much as I'm at peace with the cooler weather, the rain however, can stop anytime. I had really hoped to make it out to Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Klackle Orchards this week for family date nights. I'm still holding out hope for clear skies this Saturday for The Zoo Goes Boo at John Ball Zoo. If not? I'm certainly down for a return visit to Koetsiers Greenhouse where they bring the outdoor fun inside! If you're looking to get out of the house with the kids in this mess, Koetsiers is the place to be. For $10/kid you get hours of bouncy house, corn crib, tractor racing, pumpkin painting fun! And... AND, it comes with a bag of popcorn. Kladder approved. Bonus, you can pick up mums and more while you're there. Be warned, they don't have donuts so plan accordingly. 

Our costumes are ready and we're looking forward to Halloween fun on Rosewood next week followed by our first family of four vacation to Palm Springs, CA. But before we go, for the love of all things holy, we're sending as many positive vibes as we can to mother nature for good trick-or-treating weather! Stay dry everyone! 

POSTSCRIPT - Stuff we're into lately... 

  • Big Bobs Pizza - Tucked just off the main drag in Gaslight Village behind the dry cleaners you'll find Big Bobs Pizza and it's perfect for all your family dining needs. It's on our list of where to 'happy hour with kids'. Last weekend we took our own advice and the pizza did not disappoint. 
  • La La Land, the movie - Yes, we finally just watched it. Jeff hated it. I loved it. But no one warned me how sad I'd be at the end of it. Good date night in paired with a bottle of wine. 
  • Vander Mill - Great spot for dinner with family. I recommend the veggie hash. 
 Veggie Hash at Vander Mill in Grand Rapids, MI. 

Veggie Hash at Vander Mill in Grand Rapids, MI. 

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Kladder Update: ArtPrize, Autumn & Travel

 Natalie running wild and free at Fredrick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI. 

Natalie running wild and free at Fredrick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI. 

We eat so many apples in our household. We're talking Costco sized portions of apples. So, as you can imagine, fall harvest is an agreeable time for us Kladders. This weekend I made Pumpkin Apple Sauce (see recipe below) and despite the summer like temperatures outside, inside it smelled just like Fall. Over the next few weeks we'll take full advantage of Autumn by visiting as many of the orchards, pumpkin patches and cider houses as we can. Goodness I love Fall in Michigan.

But before we skip ahead to apple picking and hayrides, lets touch on ArtPrize. Each year the event seems to come and go at a quicker and quicker pace. Over the last couple of weeks I can't tell you how many times I've heard friends and family say, "We never made it down this year because..." and the list of things that got in the way vary. And we hear you, we've certainly got our list. But our commitment to ArtPrize is slightly unique: I moved to GR for a job with ArtPrize over 8 years ago (I now work at Steelcase) and plainly said, it's something Jeff and I (and now the kids) really enjoy doing together. So it shouldn't take you by surprise that we 'ArtPrized' 5 times this year despite me being out of town for one full week of work during the event. Proof that we do, indeed, love us some ArtPrize. 

I share all of that to say (and to give more meaning to) our opinion about the event this year: we were left wanting more. Is it just us, or was their less art? Is it just us, or were there less venues? Where was Site:Lab this year? Is it just us, or did we see that piece last year? Why isn't this venue packed right now?... it's Saturday afternoon.

This year in particular, there was a slew of opinion articles/blogs speaking to the 'formula' for winning the public vote at ArtPrize. Even the jurors mentioned it during their critical discourse during the final week: something big, a giant drawing or paining, something with a cause behind it... and so on. After 9 years of the same event, are the artists tipped off as to how to get the most votes and win the cash? We're not sure. We're certainly not experts. We're just lovers of the event. But to our friends who 'never made it down' to see the art this year... you didn't miss much. 

Sorry to be the Debbie Downer. Let me leave you on a high note regarding ArtPrize. If there was ever a true Cinderella of the event for 2017 her name would be Red Dirt Rug, which is kind of fitting... dirt rug... Cinderella. You get it. Red Dirt Rug was a time based piece that was installed at the WMU building by artist Rena Detrixhe. By laying out 200 gallons of sifted earth on the floor in a 300 x 480 rectangle and stamping hundreds of soles of shoes into the surface, she created what looked like an oriental rug. It was something we'd never seen before which is not a statement you hear often at ArtPrize these days. Red Dirt Rug did win both the public and juried award for the Time-Based category. Moving on... 

I traveled to Germany for work last month and you can read more about that HERE. I love traveling for work, especially when it means getting to visit Oktoberfest on my free time! Jeff didn't skip a beat while I was gone and upon my return home Natalie seemed more amped about her traditional German Cookie Necklace and Kinder Surprise Eggs than my arrival. Ah, well... she's two (the excuse I tell myself). 

 Real life visual: 9pm return from Munich, Germany to Miss Natalie jazzed about her gift. 

Real life visual: 9pm return from Munich, Germany to Miss Natalie jazzed about her gift. 

These days Natalie is SUPER girlie. We're talking nails-painted, must-always-have-a-ponytail AND a bow-in-her-hair (even when she goes to bed) girlie. She loves all the jewelry and this past weekend I put a bath bomb in her tub for the first time and she was all giggles; it was adorable. The aftermath of glitter will likely remain for weeks to come. Sorry, Thomas. 

 Bath bombs are the new bubbles! 

Bath bombs are the new bubbles! 

Thomas passed the 6 month marker two weeks ago - time. is. flying. He's such a happy guy with his 5 teeth, chubby cheeks and laid-back personality. He's easy to crack a smile and loves him some one-on-one attention. This weekend while shopping at Target with my Mom and the kids (Christmas is coming!) I picked up some adorable jeans and cords that make him look so grown up - whoever said dressing boys isn't fun was never introduced to the Cat & Jack brand. He's rolling and scooting and eating little bowls of real food. I've had to trim is hair twice with scissors which is hilarious to us because Natalie still hasn't had her hair cut yet. 

Jeff was out all last weekend with friends for their annual Guys Golf Trip which is what allowed for Grandma time at Target Saturday morning. And after a busy couple weeks at the office, spending time with my Mom and the kids is just what the doctor ordered. We shopped for Christmas (I wasn't kidding earlier), picked up the essentials (and the nonessentials) and had lunch at Panera, who, by the way, took away the broth bowls from their menu! This likely happened forever ago which tells you how often I eat at Panera. 

With October fully upon us, we're looking forward to the start of the holiday season. We've got our Halloween costumes ready, plans for trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving gatherings are in the works and Christmas shopping is well underway. Enjoy the changing colors of our surroundings and take time to smooch your family extra today! 

POSTSCRIPT - Stuff we're into lately... 

  • Bare Apple Chips - From Costco and eating them by the handful. Organic dried apples (only apples and nothing else!). 
  • Being Mary Jane, the TV show - Recently needed a new 'me' show to watch and started Being Mary Jane. Something to have on in the background while I fold laundry. High powered single female who's navigating work, family and love. Some mindless matter for you! 
  • Hands Free Pumping Bra - Real mom talk: I do not know why it took me this long... why!!!! If you haven't, try it. Life changing. 
 Pumpkin Apple Sauce in progress! 

Pumpkin Apple Sauce in progress! 

PUMPKIN APPLE SAUCE

Place all ingredients in slow cooker on low for about 5-8 hours; stir occasionally; near end use mashed potato smasher to blend ingredients; I left mine slightly chunky to preference. 

  • 9-10 medium peeled/cored apples (of your choice)
  • 1 T cinnamon 
  • juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1/2 C vanilla cashew milk (or water) 
  • 15 oz can of pumpkin 
  • 1 T vanilla 
  • 1/4 C maple syrup (or brown sugar) 

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Kladder Update: Fredrick Meijer Gardens, Rosewood Avenue & #RWGR

 Natalie enjoying the Great Lakes Garden (water pools) at the Lena Meijer Children's Garden. 

Natalie enjoying the Great Lakes Garden (water pools) at the Lena Meijer Children's Garden. 

We are very sad to report the closing of one of our favorite happy hour spots, Mangiamo! It's where Jeff and I shared our first date and where we celebrated the night of our engagement. And more recently where we 'happy-hour'd' with neighbors. They're closing their doors as a public restaurant and will transition to an events space. They can take away our happy hour lawn... but they can't take our memories!!! 

True story, we started brainstorming ideas about Halloween costumes already. Real talk, it's only two months away. Fall is on it's way, folks, and we're doing our best to soak up all the last bits of summer that remain by spending plenty of time dining on patios, enjoying Fredrick Meijer Gardens and, surprise, golfing. We've got lots to catch up on... 

The first week of August kicked off with our annual neighborhood block party. Last year we were confined to one of our backyards due to the never ending construction of our street, but this year the kids had free reign of Rosewood covering the newly paved avenue with side walk chalk and water balloons. There was a bounce house, tons of food and a piƱata. The high was certainly watching the plethora of kids playing together which is only meant to escalate as babies continue to make their debut. The low was breaking my toe which isn't even a good story: I accidentally kicked brick edging on our sidewalk while walking. I spent two hours in the ER waiting for them to X-Ray and reset my left baby toe, only to send me home with 3 rolls of tape and Tylenol. 

The toe breaking wasn't the best timing - the next morning we headed out for a week long family trip to the U.P. where it would have been ideal to have full use of my foot. Read more about our trip HERE.

We recently enjoyed a few summer nights (and mornings - Natalie LOVES the children's area)  at Fredrick Meijer Gardens listening to music in their fantastic amphitheater. FMGs is regularly open late on Tuesdays but during the summer there's an added bonus with free concerts (for members) featuring local bands that are completely kid friendly. We also had tickets to Twiddle & Railroad Earth last week Monday which was a Rosewood Neighbor outing. FMGs remains a Grand Rapids gem. 

Last weekend we headed towards the lake shore for a summer party with Jeff's clients in North Muskegon. My mom took the kids for the night allowing Jeff and I a night out together. Our Friday night was countered with dinner Saturday with the kids and Jeff's parents for Restaurant Week Grand Rapids at Reds at Thousand Oaks. Dinner was excellent and was followed by an evening boat ride at the lake. And Sunday we snuck away yet again for some day golfing while a sitter watched the kids for a few hours. 

This week I've been in Chicago for work shooting video with Microsoft. I love traveling for shoots and spending my days on set. Jeff does an incredible job holding down the fort while I'm gone - he's the champion of Dads - and we've got great support with daycare and our sitters. I'll likely be doing a bit more travel for work the remainder of this year with trips currently planned for both L.A. and Munich, Germany in the next month. 

Heading back to Grand Rapids today with more outdoor patios on the forecast for our weekend. Have a fabulous weekend!  

 On Set in the Steelcase Chicago Showroom with partner Microsoft. 

On Set in the Steelcase Chicago Showroom with partner Microsoft. 

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