Starved Rock State Park, Utica, Illinois

Summer vacation is winding down and I decided I needed to do something fun with the kids before school starts back up again next week. I decided to pack a picnic lunch in a backpack and drive the whole 5 minutes over to Starved Rock for a hike. I usually like to go to Matthiessen but decided we would head to Starved Rock this time. I went to my usual place, St. Louis Canyon, but the small parking lot was full. The entrance to St. Louis Canyon is right across the street from Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Lodge. It has a nice trail and neat waterfalls. I had to go to my backup though. I parked at the back of the Starved Rock Lodge public parking lot and went in by the bald eagles totem pole. It is closest to French Canyon. We hiked in through French Canyon and a little further up the trail before we found a spot next to the trail to lay out our blanket and have a picnic.

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After lunch, we hiked some more. We went past Pontiac Canyon and stopped at Lover’s Leap Overlook by the dam.

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Then we turned and headed back toward the parking lot. The trail was easy. It was just me with three kids ages 7, 5, and 2 and I didn’t feel unsafe at all. Even my two-year-old hiked the whole way. Living by Starved Rock, we often hear emergency vehicles headed toward the state parks and know that often that means someone has wandered off the trail and gotten hurt. People need to remember that this isn’t a manmade amusement park. It is nature. We stayed on the trail and were fine. There are even signs there to remind you to do just that.

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If you are looking for a trail to hike at Starved Rock with minimal stairs and some nice overlooks, I’d recommend the path we took. It is still a hike, but I would say it is pretty easy. The kids proclaimed it: “The best day ever!” It was a fun time and a good way to end summer vacation.

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Grocery Shopping List for Week Long Beach Vacation

We went on a beach vacation to beautiful Lakeside, Michigan with our friends last month. When we booked the house for the week, we knew that we would do a lot of cooking and less eating out. Before we went, I made a shopping list on GoogleDocs and shared it with Jamie so we could figure out what we already had, what we needed to buy, and any changes that we needed to make to the menu. On our way there, we stopped at WalMart in Michigan City, IN and got the things we thought we needed. This list is for 2 families:: 4 adults and 6 children between the ages of 2 and 7.

  • Breakfast: waffles- 2 boxes, eggs- 2 dozen, milk- 2 gallons, sausage, jelly, butter, syrup, hash browns, Cheerios, oatmeal
  • Lunch: bread- 3 loaves, lunch meat- 4 lbs., chips- 3 bags, mac n cheese- 2 boxes, spaghetti o’s- 2 cans, pretzels, gogurt- 24, ketchup, mustard, frozen peas, peanut butter
  • Dinner: frozen corn, pasta- 2 boxes, pasta sauce- 2 jars, garlic bread, lettuce- 2 heads, dressing, frozen pizzas- 4, meat to grill- 2 packs hot dogs, brats- 2 packs, hamburger- 2 lbs, chicken- 10 breasts, vegetables to grill, hamburger buns- 2 bags, hot dog buns- 3 bags, grill seasoning, strawberries, bananas, grapes, apples, carrots, peppers, onions
  • Extras: cookies, candy, apple juice, lemonade mix, pop, beer

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It was helpful to break down what we could buy ahead of time and what we needed to buy on the way. We didn’t want milk and frozen food sitting in the car for over 2 hours. When we stopped in Michigan City, we dropped the guys and kids off at a park and Jamie and I went to the store and tried to be as efficient as possible.

Lakeside, Michigan

We just returned from a week at the beach in Michigan. We rented a house with our good friends and tried (mostly successfully) to entertain 6 kids aged 7 and under for a 24/7 playdate. Almost every day was a beach day. It was a short (ish) walk to a private entrance to the beach from our house. The beach in southwest Michigan is beautiful. The water can be a bit cool but on a hot day, it felt great.

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We brought sand toys to build sand castles and some cars to drive around the castles. We had watering cans and boats to play in the water. We also brought a football and floaties. There was a sandbar not very far off shore that the bigger kids and the adults (except for me) liked to swim out to.

The water is quite clear there and really very nice. After playing and swimming and building, the kids were glad to have juice boxes to get refreshed. We froze them before we left and they were perfect and cold for a hot summer day. Lakeside, Michigan and the surrounding area is a great place for a beach vacation, especially if you don’t live close to the ocean.