Simple Apple, Pear & Cranberry Pie

Hello, Fall. I’ve missed you terribly. You didn’t write. You didn’t call.

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - Inside NanaBread's Head

I love fall fruits, especially apples and pears. Earlier this week, a blogger tweeted that she’d just tried her first SweeTango apple and it blew her mind. She mentioned her favorite apple had always been the honeycrisp, and that’s what caught my attention. Honeycrisps are my favorite apple, too. So my next visit to the grocery store, guess what I looked for? You got it. And was she right? You betcha. Crisp, super sweet and beautifully colored, I’m afraid these are going to become my new apple obsession. They are spectacular. Pie worthy, in fact.

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - The Fruit

For this pie, I sliced my apples thin and my pears even thinner. I usually like a big chunky apple pie, but for this one, I wanted thin slices piled high and dotted with dried cranberries. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - Sliced Fruit

Here’s food for thought… I watched an episode of Cook’s Illustrated on PBS and they used fruit pectin powder to thicken a peach pie. Say what? Now I’ve used pectin for years when canning fruit, but it never occurred to me to bake with it. Makes sense, if you think about it, so I decided to try it with this one. And since I used instant tapioca granules to thicken my peach pie this summer, I wondered what would happen if I did both. For science. Why not, right?

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie Thickeners

Combining apple juice, sugar, instant tapioca, pectin & vanilla extract, I made a slightly thick, gently sweetened, vanilla-kissed filling that paired perfectly with the apples and pears and created a nice balance for the tart cranberries. Once the mixture was thickened, I just poured it over the fruit and tossed it to coat. So quick and simple. The tapioca still looks a little cloudy here, but don’t worry – it’s clear and unrecognizable once it’s baked.

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - Fruit & Thickeners

After that, it’s just dough, butter, blah blah PIE! Man, how I love pie. But seriously, there’s only one pie dough recipe for me, and it’s Kirsten’s ‘No Excuses Pie Dough’ from ComfortablyDomestic.com. Once you make this one, nothing less will do. I make it in batches, wrap it in plastic, seal it into heavy bags and pop it in the freezer so I can produce pies on a whim. And that’s another reason I love this recipe – Kirsten’s dough freezes beautifully.

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - Kirsten's Pie Dough

Just thaw, roll on a floured surface, and pop it in a pie tin. And then concentrate on stuffing every last bit of that filling into that shell. Top with a fat, rustic lattice, crimp the edges, brush with melted butter and sprinkle generously with raw sugar crystals. Easy, right?

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - Ready for Baking

It really is easy. The only hard part is the waiting – for it to come out of the oven when it smells so amazing, for it to thicken and cool, for dinner to end so you can cut it. It’s always the waiting part that gets me.

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - Warm from the Oven

NanaBread’s Apple, Pear & Cranberry Pie:
1 recipe for Kirsten’s ‘No Excuses’ pie dough
1 1/2 pounds (3 large) SweeTango apples
1 1/2 pounds (3 large) Star Krimson red pears
1/2 to 2/3 cup Craisins dried cranberries (to taste)
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
3 tablespoons quick-cook tapioca granules
1 tablespoon powdered fruit pectin
1/2 to 2/3 cup granulated sugar (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons raw sugar granules

Start by making the pie dough and chilling it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or the freezer for 30 minutes. While your dough is chilling, prep your fruit and filling.

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and pears. I sliced my pears a little thinner than the apples since they take a little longer to bake. Place in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the dried cranberries.

In a small saucepan, combine the apple juice or cider, tapioca granules, pectin and sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the sugar is melted and the mixture begins to bubble. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.

Remove the pie dough from the fridge and roll out a bottom crust, placing it gently into the pie tin. Roll a top crust and cut into wide strips (1 1/2″) so you can form a rustic lattice top.

Pour the filling over the fruit and toss to thoroughly coat all the fruit. Spoon it into the pie shell, pressing it gently into the crust to compact the fruit. Lattice the pie dough strips onto the top of the pie, then roll the lower crust edges around the edge of the pie tin and crimp all around.

In a small bowl, melt the butter and brush the entire crust. If there is melted butter left, simply pour it over the top of the pie. Sprinkle the entire pie with the raw sugar granules.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (375F) for 45-60 minutes, turning every 20 minutes, until light golden brown. Watch it once it starts to brown. Everyone’s oven is different, and yours may take more or less time depending on how hot it runs. Once golden brown, remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool completely before serving (4-6 hours).

Apple Pear Cranberry Pie - Cut Pie - Inside NanaBread's Head

This pie was so good! It’s going on my ‘must make’ list for the holidays now. I might even rank it above all former apple pie recipes as my new favorite. Maybe even above most other pies in general. It’s definitely invited for Christmas.

Sorry, Pumpkin Pie. I’m breaking up with you.

It’s not you. It’s me.

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Sew Busy: Embroidered Tote Bags

Sometimes when I start on a craft project, I have a hard time stopping. Pacing is not really my thing. A few weeks ago, Big Sis came down for a weekend and I dragged out a handful of embroidery ideas I’d found on Pinterest, along with a few fabrics to pair them to. Once we gathered the supplies to pull it all together, I became obsessed. Like nine bags in a week obsessed. Intervention, anyone?

Now I’m not crazy. There is a story behind my stitching. These lined shopping totes are intended for our annual Hoegarden Weekend, that magical time when the females in our family gather to shop, antique, play board games, cook, snack and break out the croquet mallets. Here’s a peek at what I’ve been up to, and who’s already claimed what.

The “How I Roll” Camper Bag
Camper Bag

Camper Bag close-up

Sister #3 has already laid claim to this one, sight unseen. She has a thing for campers and as soon as she heard it was in the works, she called dibs. I love the colors – so whimsical and fun.

The “Runs With Scissors” Bag
Runs With Scissors Bag

Runs With Scissors Bag Detail

I made this one with Mom in mind. As a life-long quilter and seamstress, it suits her to a T. She has spent a lifetime teaching the five of us every type of craft – from knitting to sewing to embroidery to, well you name it. Red is her color, and this fun bag will be perfect for transporting supplies back & forth to her Cozy Quilters meetings each Wednesday. Hope she likes it!

The “Make A Wish” Dandelion Bag
Dandelion Bag

Dandelion Bag close-up

This one is mine. I love the color & patterns in the print, but most of all I love the simplicity of it. I’m not letting this one go, no matter how hard they wish.

The “Nerdy Hooter” Tote
Owl Bag

Owl Close-Up

I didn’t name this one, my daughter did when she laid claim to this bag. She fell in love with this cute, sassy owl. The bag is lined in a cute owl print, as well. As a first grade teacher, her class will love it. And it’s large, which makes it perfect for bringing her work home each night.

The “Sleep Under the Stars” Bag
Camping Under the Stars Bag

Camping Under the Stars close-up

I made this one with our Baby Sister in mind. She’s always loved camping, and with her son in Boy Scouts, they get the chance to practice their camping skills often. I especially love the animal print. Check out their cute chevron tails! If The Baby wants this one, she’d better mark her territory quickly.

The “French Knot Flowers” Bag
French Knot Flowers Bag

French Knot Flowers Detail

So…many…knots! But I love how the flowers turned out. I like to think of them as firework flowers. As a button enthusiast, this one makes me happy. The bright colors of the bag and lining are so cheerful.

The “Bee Happy” Bag
Bee Happy Bag

Bee Happy Detail

Speaking of happy…this cute bee was one of the first bags I tackled. To make the wings stand out, I painted a thin layer of iridescent opal fabric paint before stitching on the details. Extra layers of thread on the bee body make it slightly 3-dimensional and the colorful floral print seemed a natural choice.

The “Don’t Bug Me” Bag
Chevron Bug Bag

Chevron Bug Bag close-up

Bees don’t have all the fun. This little chevron cutie is paired with a vine & flower print and was inspired by the tiny bugs in the print. The eyes are vintage gemstone buttons scored at an estate sale this summer. Too cute.

The “Let’s Get Swept Away” Bag
Swept Away Bag

Swept Away Close-Up

And last, but certainly not least, this adorable ‘swept away’ bag was made with my niece (K) in mind. Big Sis thought her baby would love it. There’s so much promise in the design, and so many opportunities in life to get swept up in. It’s not just a bag, it’s a motto. No pressure, K. You can choose another bag if it speaks to you (even though she’s blonde & adorable like you).

Swept Away Detail

I got totally swept up in this project, and I’m not quite done yet. Big Sis is working on her own embroidered front panel featuring a vintage bicycle, and once she’s done she’ll send it back so I can finish it to match the others. There are also plans to make small bags for our two littlest girls (both 5 years old). Four generations of crafty females in our family make me so proud to be a part of it.

What was the last craft project you got swept up in? -jeanne

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The Uncommon Goods-ness of Gnomes

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Onesie & Blanket Duo - cutest baby gift

When opportunity knocks, sometimes super cute things await. Such was the case when Uncommon Goods asked if I’d be interested in sampling goods from their baby gift collection. Since my friend Madelyn announced she is expecting her first baby in January, the timing was perfect. I couldn’t resist, and chose these gnomes. I knew they’d be cute, but I had no idea they’d be so well-made.

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Onesie & Hat Close-Up

Both the onesie/hat set and the blanket are made of recycled fibers. If you think recycled implies a lesser quality, you would be mistaken. These were flawless in every way. The fibers are super soft and snuggly, the colors are vibrant, and the gnomes scored a solid 10 on the cuteness meter.

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Onsie & Hat - it's just too cute!

Here’s what I learned (and what I love) about Uncommon Goods:

1. Founded in 1999, they are headquartered in New York City in the old Brooklyn Army Terminal. I know where I’m going the next time I visit NYC.

2. They are committed to supporting artists & designers; half of what they sell is handmade and most of their products are created right here in the USA. As a home crafter, I appreciate this more than I can express.

3. Approximately one-third of their products are made from recycled and/or upcycled materials. As an avid recycler, I love and support this.

4. They have B Corp status, which means they use the power of business to solve social and environmental issues. That B seal also means they meet rigorous standards on issues like wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community. A company with a heart? You betcha.

Even if you don’t buy into the mission, you would be a fool to miss out on the quality and variety of products offered. Even The Complete Package, my beloved husband, gasped aloud “Wow…that blanket feels amazing. It’s so NICE!” Who says men don’t notice such things? He’s all mine, ladies.

Uncommon Goods - Recycled Cotton Fibers

Uncommon Goods - Recycled Fiber Label - Green 3 Apparel

What I love most is how they pulled it all together – great design, recycled materials, handmade products with a high level of craftsmanship, and made in America. Seriously amazing. All of it.

Somewhere in southern California is a wee baby who will someday be swaddled and soothed by these sweet, cuddly gnomes. And somewhere in Houston is a blogger who is appreciative of the folks at Uncommon Goods and their commitment to quality, creativity, and community and who, just for a second or three, contemplated keeping that snuggly blanket for herself. (Hint: it’s me.)

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Blanket

Disclaimer: Uncommon Goods offered to ship products from their selection of Baby Gifts and/or Personalized Gifts. I chose the gnome items from the baby collection, which were sent at no cost to me. I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own. Readers know I only share items I love and feel strongly about, and these sweet gifts certainly fit that bill. -jeanne

Uncommon Goods Info

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‘Not A Recipe’ Donuts

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - Mini M&Ms - Inside NanaBread's Head

Blogger friends and I are always sending each other links to recipes found on Pinterest. Sometimes it’s because ‘OMG you need to make this!’ and other times it’s because ‘OMG why would anyone make this?!’ Example: the cake made by layering Twinkies into a pan and covering them with frozen strawberries and Cool Whip. I’m not saying which category that one fell in, but it does bring up a comment frequently heard in foodie circles:

“If you start with a mix or packaged food, it’s not a recipe. It is a creation.”

I get it. I didn’t hand craft a donut dough for these. I started with a can of refrigerated biscuits. Which brings up another comment frequently heard in non-foodie circles:

“Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

My position is firmly on top of the fence. A good 80-90% of what I make is from scratch, but sometimes quick and easy is what we need. And these are easy. Incredibly, beautifully easy and perfect for those Saturday mornings when all you want is a big cup of coffee and to get breakfast on the table in a hurry.

NanaBread’s ‘Not A Recipe’ Donuts:
one can (16.3 ounces) Grands Butter Flaky Biscuits
canola oil for frying
miniature chocolate chips (2 cups, divided)
miniature M&M candies (1 cup)
heavy whipping cream (2 tablespoons)
unsalted butter (1 tablespoon)

Start by heating 2″ of canola oil to 325F in a deep, heavy pot. While your oil is coming to temperature, unwrap your can of biscuits and cut center holes.

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - Ready to Fry - Inside NanaBread's Head

Fry until golden brown, turning once. Remove to paper towels and repeat until all donuts are fried. Cronut? We don’t need no stinkin’ cronuts!

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - Fried to a Golden Brown - Inside NanaBread's Head

Now you could shake a little powdered sugar over these to get them in your pie hole quicker, but I wanted chocolate. Don’t judge. We all have those days.

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - Toppings - Inside NanaBread's Head

I put one cup of miniature M&Ms on a saucer and one cup of miniature chocolate chips on another. The remaining cup of chocolate chips went into a bowl with the heavy whipping cream and butter, then into the microwave for 90 seconds. Once melted and whisked, I had a bowl of glossy, gorgeous ganache to dip my golden orbs in. No, not THOSE golden orbs, silly! These.

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - Ganache Glazed - Inside NanaBread's Head

Plain chocolate glazed are yummy, but chocolate on chocolate is crazy good.

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - Mini Chips - Inside NanaBread's Head

The key is to dip the donut into the ganache, then let it sit for a few minutes. It gives the ganache time to set up a little before dunking them into toppings. It also gives you time to lick the chocolate off your fingers.

What? Where are all the donut holes? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - Is Eight Enough - Inside NanaBread's Head

Okay, so I ate the donut holes. Someone had to. Please forgive me blah blah blah, I beg of you. Would it help if I bribed you with a donut?

'Not a Recipe' Donuts - I saved you one at Inside NanaBread's Head

You’re right. I have no shame.

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OXO’s #WhatAGrillWants – and what this girl wants is some smokey meat, sweet corn & fried green tomatoes

What’s missing from my website? Please don’t say humor, good writing or appetizing recipes. What I was shooting for is ads. There are none on my blog. It’s a personal choice made when I started blogging four years ago, and one I’ve stuck with since. It’s not a monetary or political issue, it’s just that I started blogging to share with friends and family, and ads never felt appropriate.

What you will see – products I occasionally share for one reason only – because I love them. OXO is one brand I stand firmly behind. Their products are well made, sturdy, easy to use and affordable. Because OXO supports the blogging community and blogs of all sizes, they created the Blogger Outreach Program. As a part of this program, I am occasionally selected to try random products. This month, it was OXO’s ‘What A Grill Wants’ collection.

OXO - What A Grill Wants Project

Included in package:
1 pair of 16″ grilling tongs
1 meat tenderizer
1 silicone basting brush
1 dressing shaker
1 corn stripper

That the box arrived just prior to the July 4th weekend was a bonus. We immediately plotted our attack. First up was playing with the corn stripper.

OXO Corn Stripper - What A Grill Wants

We started by grilling ears of fresh Texas sweet corn. Char = flavor.

OXO Corn Stripper & Grilled Corn - What A Grill Wants

Once they were cooled, The Complete Package grabbed that stripper and put her to work. The key was to start at one end apply the proper amount of pressure. {cue the uncontrollable giggling}

OXO Corn Stripper Collage

The Complete Package’s Review: (Overall Grade = C+)
1. He wasn’t sure it was any easier or quicker than using a knife.
2. The cutting blade tended to clog, which meant you had to stop & clear it.
3. Because one end was open, kernels tended to fall out constantly.
4. Cut kernels tended to be more pieces than whole kernels.
5. Pluses: OXO’s quality is always high & the ergonomics were good.

My Review: (Overall Grade = B)
1. I thought it WAS quicker than using a knife.
2. I also had issues with the blade area clogging occasionally.
3. A cap would be nice, as I somehow dumped corn all over the counter.
4. I had no issues with cutting whole kernels because I applied more pressure.
5. I love the size – it fits easily in your palm for ease of use.

What I also found was that the OXO corn stripper tended to remove ALL of the corn from the cob, while a kitchen knife tended to just shear off the tops of each kernel. This photo illustrates what I mean.

OXO Corn Stripper Comparison - Stripper vs Knife - What A Grill Wants

The cob in the front was denuded with a chef’s knife. You can see the flat surfaces of the cut kernels where the bottoms of the kernels are still attached. The cob in the back was cleaned with the OXO corn stripper, and you can clearly see that the entire kernel is missing. All that remains is the fibrous walls surrounding each kernel. Less waste and more volume of corn was a plus for me.

What did we do with all that cut corn? We made kicked-up creamed corn.

Grilled Creamed Corn

TCP’s Creamed Corn:
2 cans (15 ounces) sweet creamed corn
2 cups roasted sweet corn, stripped from the cob
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients; simmer over medium heat until warm.

Now, I’m not usually a fan of creamed corn because it tends to be mushy and flavorless, but this was really good. The char and flavor of the roasted corn really shines, and I found myself basically eating it right out of the pan with a spoon. I have no shame when it comes to corn, and I am unapologetic about it.

The Complete Package also broke in those 16″ tongs by grilling a pair of pork tenderloins. There’s something about meat smoked over post oak lump charcoal that touches my very soul. TCP’s pork tenderloin turns out juicy, smokey and perfect every time. For me, the mark of good smoked meat is that it needs no sauce and this needed nothing short of a napkin and some personal restraint.

TCP's Smoked Pork Tenderloin

TCP’s Smoked Pork Tenderloin:
3 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed
Morton’s Nature’s Season Salt
Hungarian paprika
post oak hardwood lump charcoal

Start by removing the pork tenderloin from the package and rinsing them thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels and remove any fat or silver skin. Sprinkle the meat liberally with Nature’s Season Salt and paprika.

TCP starts the smoker by stacking oak lump charcoal into a chimney and lighting it. When it is white-hot, he pours it into the smoker section of our grill along with a metal pan of hot water to create humidity. He then opens the grill vents on the opposite side of the grill to pull the smoke through the smoker. Placing the pork tenderloin over indirect heat, he smokes the pork for approximately 90 minutes at 250F, flipping once at the halfway mark, until the internal temperature reaches 160F. Removing it from the grill, he then wraps it in aluminum foil and allows it to rest on a cutting board on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes. Then it’s just a matter of slicing and serving. To sauce or not to sauce is a personal matter, but this pork needs no adornment.

OXO 16 Inch Tongs - Great Length for Grilling - What A Grill Wants

TCP’s Review of the 16″ grilling tongs: (Overall Grade: A+)
1. He loved the longer length, as it kept him from burning himself.
2. The silicone grips with thumb indention provided great grip.
3. The scalloped edges of the tongs provided a better grip on food items.
4. He loved the easy to use lock/unlock mechanism at the back of the tongs.

OXO 16 Inch Tongs Collage

In addition to the smoked pork and creamed corn, I also made fried green tomatoes. Please tell me you’ve had these before. It’s a southern favorite, and a clear sign that summer is upon us.

Fried Greed Tomatoes - Golden Brown
To make, start with firm green (unripe) tomatoes. Big slicing tomatoes work best. Here’s what you’ll need.

Fried Green Tomatoes - What You'll Need

NanaBread’s Fried Green Tomatoes:
2 large green tomatoes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Morton’s Nature’s Season Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
canola oil, for frying

Wash the tomatoes, remove the core, and cut into 1/3″ slices.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Remove the Core

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, season salt and pepper; whisk until well blended. Dredge each slice of tomato in the flour mixture, coating both sides, and lay them on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Once all slices are dredged, allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes to absorb the flour.

Fried Green Tomatoes - First Dredge in Flour

After 10 to 15 minutes, the flour on the tomatoes will look damp. When it does, pour the milk into a container for the second flour dredge.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Dredged

Dip each slice into the milk, then into the flour mixture for a second coat. Tap your fork on the side of the flour container to shake off any excess flour.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Dredge Collage
Place the freshly dredged tomatoes back onto the parchment paper, until all slices are coated twice. Why coat them twice? Well, the first coating of flour is not enough to adequately cover the tomatoes and keep them from splattering when fried. The second coat, along with the milk bath, creates a thick coating to help protect the tomatoes inside and create a crispy, crunchy coating.

Once your tomatoes are coated, add about 1/2″ of canola oil to a large skillet. Heat on high until the oil is shimmering and blazing hot. Carefully lower a few tomato slices into the oil (don’t crowd the skillet) and fry until the edges are clearly golden brown, then flip and fry until the second side is golden. Remove to paper towels and keep warm until all are fried. Serve immediately.

This time, we used the OXO dressing shaker to make a balsamic vinaigrette to drizzle over the finished tomatoes. It was a good call. While the tomatoes were frying, TCP whipped up a quick dressing.

OXO Salad Shaker - Balsamic Vinairgrette Ingredients

The OXO dressing shaker made this come together in a snap. Because volume measurements are printed on the side of the shaker, you can measure directly into the container. The one cup capacity is perfect for a quick vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic and a pinch of salt.

OXO Salad Shaker - CloseUp

From there, you just screw on the lid, close the pour vent on top, and give it a good shake. We both loved this salad dressing shaker. And because the pour top seals to keep it closed, you can store unused dressing in the shaker. Just pop then entire thing into the fridge. (Overall Grade = a solid A.)

Fried Green Tomatoes - Finished with Balsamic Dressing

So we used our new OXO tongs to grill up some pork tenderloin, used the corn stripper to make quick work of grilled corn for creamed corn, and whipped up a quick vinaigrette for our fried green tomatoes. OXO delivered what they always do – fun, function, and affordability. It’s not only #WhatAGrillWants, it’s what THIS GIRL wants. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a plate of grilled goodness with my name on it. Hello, Summer!

Fried Green Tomatoes - Finished Meal

Special thanks to OXO for sending ‘What A Grill Wants’ products for me to play with via their Blogger Outreach Program. I was under no obligation to blog about these products, but because we love OXO & their products, I chose to share. All opinions are my own, as always.

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Utah: we really kept them hopping!

Okay, so I shared where we stayed in my last post. Now it’s time to share what we did during our vacation in Ogden & Salt Lake City. The question should be what DIDN’T we do? Here’s a rundown of our week with the grandkids and all the fun we had. And boy, was it fun. Exhausting, but fun. We wore those kids out!

A drive through Ogden Valley & the Pineview Reservoir:
The drive up Ogden Valley into the Wasatch Mountains began just blocks from our vacation rental. After a brief stop for Farr’s ice cream (the kids had Play Dough, which tasted like Fruit Loops) we were on our way to the scenic loop around Pineview Reservoir through the tiny townships of Eden and Huntsville. We stopped at a campground on the south shore so the kids could swim. What a breathtaking place to soak up the sun and take advantage of the clear cool water.

Ogden Canyon Drive

Ogden Valley Drive - Farr's Ice Cream stop

Ogden Mountain Drive - Wasatch Range from Pineview Reservoir

Pineview Reservoir - Lilly & Jonah in the sand

Pineview Reservoir - Sibling Love

Huntsville, UT - view of the mtns near Pineview Reservoir

A day at the Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden:
This fun park is located at the mouth of Ogden Valley on the edge of town. We arrived just before it opened and were surprised to see a pretty good line forming. As it turned out, we were there on a free day. Bonus! We started by walking through the indoor museum, but it was the outdoor area that the kids truly enjoyed. The paved walking path meandered through a beautifully landscaped and hilly area dotted with dinosaur statues. It wasn’t long, though, until the kids spotted the playground area and all bets were off. Still, they had a great time and we enjoyed the rolling hills and view of the mountains.

Ogden - Eccles Dinosaur Park

Ogden Dinosaur Park - Lunchtime

Ogden Dinosaur Park - Lilly tames the beast

Ogden Dinosaur Park - Meat Eater

Ogden Dinosaur Park - LOOK OUT!

A hike through the Ogden Nature Center:
On the northern edge of town, the Odgen Nature Center is a combination of a windswept prairie, desert garden and small forest. We enjoyed the collection of birdhouses that dotted the walking path from the parking area to the visitor’s center. Over 100 birdhouses that were part of a local contest were stationed along the path. After a visit to the gift shop and puppet theater, we hiked around the grounds following the paths to the bear den, observation tower and several ponds. While the only wild creatures we encountered were a swarm of rogue mosquitoes, we had a great time hiking the trails and looking at the local wild flowers and grasses. We also enjoyed the small collection of birds that were being rehabbed at the center, including a bald eagle, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, a few owls and a turkey that was allowed to roam the grounds freely.

Ogden Nature Center - Gift Shop & Visitor Center

Ogden Nature Center - Hiking the Birdhouse Trail

Ogden Nature Center - Lighthouse Birdhouse

Ogden Nature Center - Bee on Wild Flowers

Discovery Place Children’s Museum at Gateway Mall in SLC:
Best. Children’s Museum. EVER! You know when you spend five hours in a museum and the kids beg to stay longer that you’ve found a good one. Jonah & Lilly absolutely loved the Discovery Place in Salt Lake City. We played a few hours, took a break for lunch, came back for a few more hours and they STILL wanted more. Play stations they loved included the Construction Zone, the Farm-to-Market area including a grocery store, and especially the rooftop terrace area that included a real rescue helicopter complete with command center and mini-hospital with triage and ER. That rooftop terrace was their favorite, as they spent hours changing costumes, piloting the helicopter, and playing ER doctor, nurse and patient. They talked about it for hours after we left, and asked if they could go back the next day.

SLC Children's Museum - Construction Zone

Discovery Place SLC - rooftop rescue helicopter

SLC - Discovery Place - Dr Lilly on Call

SLC - Discovery Place - Triage Area

SLC - Discovery Place - Jonah in the Wind Tunnel

That last shot shows Jonah in a Hurricane Simulator. Even though it only lasted 60 seconds, wind in the tube peaked at 75mph, which was pretty intense. It also proved to be a valuable lesson for us. While Jonah loved it, Lilly got spooked and clung to him, screaming as the wind grew stronger. She was fine as soon as it shut off, but it helped clarify a few questions about our next adventure.

iFLY Ogden:
We talked about this with the kids before we left for Utah and at that point, both Jonah & Lilly planned to participate. After our museum wind tunnel experience, however, Lilly opted out and Jonah went full steam ahead. After sitting through the training video with a room full of adults, Jonah suited up and was ready to fly. He looks so grown up to us at seven, but next to his flying group, he looked so tiny. Still, he was pumped about getting into that air chamber while some of the teens in his group were nervous. Here’s our fearless flyer.

iFly Ogden - Jonah in his flight suit

iFly Ogden - Jonah Geared Up & Ready to Fly

iFLY Ogden - Jonah Waits for His Turn

iFly Ogden - Jonah in Flight

iFly Ogden - Jonah & Instructor Soaring

That last photo was snapped just as the instructor picked up his feet and they shot up to the top of the wind chamber. Twice! It was thrilling. After the students finished their rounds, the instructors played in the wind chamber showing off some of their moves. One guy would go so high you couldn’t see him, then shoot straight down like a rocket, turn just as he reached the cage floor, and fly out the door landing standing up on the bench just outside the air chamber. We all gasped. He was Super Man. Jonah came out of his experience high five-ing the instructors and bouncing with excitement. I think he will definitely remember his flight, and thanks to The Complete Package, who recorded it on his ION camera and the iFLY DVD, he can relive it over and over.

Speaking of flying, we visited Hill Air Force Base & Museum:
It’s hard to miss this museum when you see the planes in the outdoor exhibits from the highway. We passed it several times during the week and each time, Jonah would point them out and ask if we could go see them. Of course! We started with the indoor exhibits then worked our way through the airplanes outside. Besides the airplanes, we also had a great view of the mountains and saw several airplanes practicing for the air show that took place the next day. The kids enjoyed the exhibits and were thrilled to get a toy plane from the gift shop. Jonah picked a stealth bomber while Lilly picked a stunt plane.

Hill AFB - Aerospace Museum - Old Planes

Hill AFB - Aerospace Museum - Awesome Paint Job

Hill AFB - Outdoor Exhibits & Mountains

Hill AFB - Outdoor Exhibit - Cargo Plane

The Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City:
I’m not going to lie – we took the kids to this museum just to see the dinosaur exhibit. What surprised us was we found so much more and enjoyed all of it. With five floors of exhibits, we started at the top and walked our way down. This was a great place to spend half a day and it had just enough hands-on interactive exhibits to keep the kids interested. The Complete Package and I also enjoyed the architecture and views. The dinosaurs were still the star of the show, but the rest of the museum was terrific as well.

SLC Nat History Museum - Exterior

SLC Nat History Museum - Display Wall

SLC Nat History Museum - Dinosaur Hall

SLC Nat History Museum - Dig Site

SLC Nat History Museum - Ancient Bison

After the museum, we popped into a small cafe downtown for Belgian frites, burgers & waffles, then hit the LDS Conference Center to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly practice, which is open to the general public regardless of religion. After dodging thunderstorms outside and taking a brief tour of the center inside, we settled in to watch the choir. Growing up, I’d seen them from time to time on television and have always marveled not only at the sheer size of the choir, but how perfectly heavenly they sound. With approximately 360 vocalists and 110 orchestra members, it’s not just large – it’s HUGE. Seeing it in person was amazing and a really special treat.

SLC - Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Public Practice

A drive out to Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake:
Our last adventure was one I think The Complete Package & I enjoyed more than the kids – a drive to Antelope Island to see the Great Salt Lake. The geology and science behind the region was a little beyond both kids, but they enjoyed seeing the American bison (not buffalo, as I was schooled) and a few pronghorn antelope. While we found the landscape beautiful, stark and fascinating, the kids were bored and bickering in the back seat. Ahh… reality. Still, it was a ‘must see’ and we can only hope they’ll look back someday and remember seeing it in person. Here are a few shots from our day at the lake.

Salt Lake - lake& mtn view from Antelope Island

Salt Lake Park - Bison on Antelope Island

Salt Lake Park - Jonah & Lilly & the bison statue

That’s Jonah telling us if we find rattlesnakes, he’ll karate chop them.

Salt Lake Park - Jonah Master of All He Surveys

That’s Jonah, looking for rattlesnakes to karate chop.

Salt Lake Park - Pronghorn on Antelope Island

Salt Lake NP - Buffalo & Tourists

For the record – YES, that is a wild bison as big as a truck out on the beach, and YES – those are families with very young children getting dangerously close to him. WHY?!?! We had our own close encounter with the bison, even though it was unintentional. When we noticed a group walking near the road, we stopped the car so the kids could see them. When they turned and crossed the road in front of our car, we all held our breath collectively.

Salt Lake Park - Antelope Island bison crossing

We’ve been in bison jams in Yellowstone but it never ceases to take my breath away when they come so close. This small group with two babies crossed right in front of the car. We had to keep the kids from squealing with excitement. It’s hard to be quiet when you’re young and bison are right outside your car window. Heck, it’s hard for adults, too!

The Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island are really lovely. The contrast between the salt flats, desert flora and rocky terrain against the water and mountains is both surreal and stunning. It’s a little like being on the surface of the moon, with a view of Salt Lake City in the background. And that contrast is what makes the Salt Lake area beautiful. It’s a mix of high desert and mountain landscape. It can be lush one moment (Ogden Valley & the Pineview reservoir) and stark the next (the salt flats). It’s thrilling one moment (iFLY) and supremely relaxing in yet another (evening sunsets on the back patio). You can be as adventurous (mountains & rivers) or as zen (museums and parks) as you like, and have access to all of it within an hour’s drive.

We spent seven full days in Ogden and Salt Lake City, and still didn’t make it through our ‘must see’ list. If we are able to return, we’ll take those scenic drives through Big & Little Cottonwood Canyons up to Park City and Sundance. If you haven’t visited this part of Utah, maybe it’s time to add it to your bucket list.

Salt Lake Park - view of causeway & lake

Travel Links from Our Trip (click to open):

HomeAway.com: Vacation Home Rentals

Farr’s Ice Cream in Ogden, Utah & images of Farr’s Ice Cream

Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, Utah

The Ogden Nature Center in Ogden, Utah

Discovery Place Children’s Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah

iFLY in Ogden, Utah

Hill Air Force Base & Aerospace Museum north of Salt Lake City, Utah

The Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, Utah

Bruges Waffles & Frites in Salt Lake City, Utah

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah

Antelope Island State Park & Great Salt Lake in Syracuse, Utah

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Utah: they wanted to see mountains

It happened because they wanted to see mountains. ‘Real mountains with snow on top’ they said. So last week, The Complete Package & I took our two young grandchildren – Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug – to Salt Lake City and Ogden in Utah to see the Wasatch mountains. Real mountains. With snow on top.

Wasatch Mountains - Ogden, Utah

Why Utah? That’s a legitimate question, I guess. Our answer is “Why not Utah?” It is beautiful, and the Salt Lake City to Ogden area offered us a unique opportunity to not only show the kids mountains, but also a high desert environment and the Great Salt Lake. More bang for our buck, if you will. While we stayed in Ogden most of the time, we were close enough to explore and play in Salt Lake City. And while the mountains were mere minutes away, so were the activities of both cities. It was a really good choice.

For this trip, as we do for most vacations, we found a vacation rental home at HomeAway.com. The craftsman style house we chose in the historic district of Ogden was perfect for us. It looks small. Don’t let that fool you. This house had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a breakfast room, formal dining room, sitting area, living room and a basement laundry room. It also had a great fenced backyard for the kids to play in when we spent time at the house.

HomeAway Rental - from the webpage

Ogden Rental House - Living Room

Ogden Rental House - Sitting Room

Ogden Rental House - Kitchen

Ogden Rental House - Kitchen Kitsch

Ogden Rental House - Breakfast Nook

Ogden Rental House - One of 4 Bedrooms

We loved the craftsman-style details of the home, but I especially loved the vintage kitsch that gave it personality. For antique junkies like me, it was a dream come true. Every room was adorned with pieces of the past and touches of fun. Check out the funky upstairs bathroom and some of the old paint-by-number pieces from around the house. They are a blast from my past.

Ogden Rental House - Upstairs Bath

Ogden Rental House - Vintage Paint-By-Numbers

The kids were really good about not trying to play with all the antiques. Instead, they were focused on the big screen TV, the fenced backyard and the front porch. Each evening, we spent time playing in the yard while the sun set. I’m including a diagram of Jonah & Lilly’s use of the backyard living space. I’m all for giving children a creative outlet, but if I hear ‘Let It Go’ one more time…

Ogden Rental House - Back Yard

Most mornings, their attention was focused on the front porch. Jonah loved to sit on the front steps and whittle the sticks he collected from everywhere we went. Sticks and rocks, sticks and rocks. That boy LOVES sticks and rocks.

Ogden Rental House - Jonah Whittles on the Porch

Lilly fell in love with the porch swing. If she wasn’t swinging in it, she was pushing it or laying across it. Some day, boys will line up to woo her on a porch swing like that, but not too soon. (Somewhere, her parents just shivered.)

Ogden Rental House - Lilly & the Porch Swing

Oh my gosh, we love these kids so much. They have our hearts, for sure.

Ogden Rental House - Lilly & Jonah on the Porch

When the weather was nice, we took evening strolls to explore our historic neighborhood. We especially loved the street behind ours, which was lined with huge trees and beautiful old mansions from a bygone era. To say it was lovely is to sell it short. It was like stepping back in time, which was magical.

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks1

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks3

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks2

I fell in love with the tiny barking squirrels in Ogden. They ran the phone lines each evening, and every time Jonah or Lilly started singing those squirrels would join in with their high-pitched yipping. It was hilarious. Throughout the week, they would come close enough to check us out, but not so close that we could touch them. This little guy ran circles around a tree, then started popping out of the knothole on the right like a jack-in-the-box. It was adorable. I tried to convince him to come home with us, but he was having none of it.

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks - Furry Friends with Arrow

Lilly, who loves all creatures, also found a neighborhood friend. Not as furry or cute, but just as friendly. Meet Turbo.

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks - Lilly's Snail

Next up: what we did with the kids during our week in Ogden & Salt Lake City. It involves flying (but not in planes), swimming (but not in the Great Salt Lake), bison (not buffalo), and a few of these monsters. KIDS – LOOK OUT!!!

Ogden Dinosaur Park - LOOK OUT!

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Filed under Family Stuff, Travel Tales