Time off in my happy place

“Find your happy place.”

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The fire pit in the back yard. One of the greatest places to be, in my opinion.

I have several “happy places,” but one of my favorites is my parent’s backyard. I’ve always loved coming home on weekends, pulling into the driveway and seeing my dad on the lawnmower cutting grass and mom walking around filling tweety bird feeders and tending to her flowers and vegetable garden. The sun is shining, the trees are full of bright green leaves, there’s music playing from a set of speakers strategically set up at a screen door, and the fire pit has a little fire burning in long preparation for a steak dinner. It’s instant relaxation.

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An oasis in the northwoods.

Pull in, grab a beer and sit in a chair by the fire and, well, do nothing but chit chat and chill out. Perfection. The only problem is I don’t get as much of this home time as I used to. Our weekends just aren’t long enough to make the trip up as often. But when we do… It’s pretty awesome.

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Mom's garden.

We had this week off of work, so Adam and I started by spending a couple days on our own, unwinding in Ashland, WI. We had no specific reason to visit Ashland other than it was a town we haven’t really spent much time in. It was our 14th wedding anniversary on June 9, so we drove up there on Monday morning and spent a couple of nights there. It took a day and a half to finally realize we were on vacation, and it was a great way to start the week. I ate ice cream at two ice cream shops within an hour. Yup. Vacation time.

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A nice run along the Lake Superior shoreline.

After our little Ashland getaway we head south to Phillips. We spent Wednesday evening with Adam’s mom visiting Rhinelander, had dinner, did a little shopping, saw a movie and ate ice cream. Again. There’s never too much ice cream.

The next day we slept in late and head out of town to my parent’s house for the rest of the week. We were hosting our annual canoe and kayak trip there over the weekend. In past years we’ve had up to 30 people out for the trip, but I slacked off on the invite-pushing this year, so we had a much smaller crew. While quite a few of our regulars were sorely missed, we still had one heck of a good time. We always manage to make the best of it.

It rained on Saturday the whole time we paddled the river, but the rapids were roaring and whenever we’d go through them, the water would splash up over the front of the kayak and fill the inside with a few inches, so in the end, the rain didn’t matter too much anyway.

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Rain jackets and kayaks. It's okay!

And there was only one tip-over. Mom and dad took an unintentional swim towards the end of the Stonewall rapids and I helped drag them to shore where they emptied their boat of water, got back in and continued on down the river. That’s whatchya’ do!

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Bailing out the boat.

Eventually the rain died down and we were able to enjoy a dry night around a campfire. Man, oh, man, did the food come out. Everyone brought good stuff and we basically just laid it all out and stuffed ourselves silly. We had a great fire with a “magic log” that my dad rigged up. It was a giant pine stump stuffed with copper so the fire gave off a rainbow of colors just after the sky turned dark. It was pretty much a perfect day and night.

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The magic log.

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The magic log later on in the dark. Pretty!

The next morning my dad made his famous egg breakfast on a giant cast-iron skillet over the fire (30 eggs!) and after finishing that off we lazed around until the sky cleared up and the sun finally came out. My cousin Annie and one of her friends showed up and joined us for a tubing trip down the Elk River. What a perfect last little trip to wrap up the weekend.

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Tubing! In sunshine! Finally sunshine!

But actually, it wasn’t over yet. We grilled more amazing food and ate way too much again. My grandma, Aunt Rita, Aunt Judy, Uncle Kenny and Aunt Beth all joined in for dinner, fire and good family visit time. We even played some cribbage before finally calling it a night.

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Got to see my grandma and some other family. Grandma was really excited about her t-shirt. She's so freakin' cute.

I relaxed this week. I ate too much, had a few (too many) beers, and generally abused my poor body in vacation mode. It’ll be happy to get back into its routine when we get rolling in the truck again.

I’m almost ready to go back to work. Just one more day. Or ten would be okay, too.

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I just don't want this to end.


Tonight I love my parent’s backyard… who needs a beach scene when you’ve got this kind of oasis? And company? It’s heaven.

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Steaks!

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Nom!

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This is quite typical of a fire during canoe weekend. This one's from a few years ago.

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Our little paddling crew of 10 this year.

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Our friend, Mr. Eagle.

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Fishing in the rain.

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Good-night, and see you next time.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

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