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Hockey this Winter

20 Mar

This winter was fairly mild with only about a week or two of below zero weather, and not all crammed together to make a consecutive two weeks.  Last winter we had about a month straight of -30 and -40 weather.  The kind of weather when you step outside and think why on earth did I choose to live here.  Up North here we must gasp for breath because lungs don’t appreciate that sort of harsh environment.  But not this winter, we might be getting “soft” up here because we had such a balmy winter.  Well, maybe not.

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We had a glorious wonderful winter full of nice weather and jam-packed full of hockey.  Oh sweet hockey.  I really do love playing hockey.  And one of the best new developments is that Jared is really coming along.  I would not go so far as to say the student has become the master but yes he has some nice hockey skills.  He even fooled me with some toe drags at the end of our “season,” to my dismay and his delight.

We live in Cook, MN.  It is far from malls and traffic and shows and events.  We have to make our own fun up here and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Instead of heading to the next big thing, we invite friends over for game night or sit around kitchens eating whatever the fridge can produce.  Or better yet, we head to the rink.  Jared and my idea of a date night is paying a babysitter, who usually ends up sitting in our house for a few hours while the kids sleep, and we head to the outside ice within walking distance, or we head to Babbit.  Yes Babbit.  Babbit is a teeny tiny town that holds a wonderful inside ice rink.  The rink manager was telling us last week that on high school game nights, you couldn’t even squeeze your way inside this place.  “And we even had gosh darn cheerleaders!”  This rink at Babbit used to be a central meeting location for high schoolers and families but has now been reduced to hosting our Thursday and Sunday night men’s league.

We get our kiddies ready for bed, give last minute babysitter instructions and then drive the hour to Babbit.  Thankfully the owner of White Eagle Resort drives Jared, me and another Cookite in his nice truck with heated seats and things that talk to you.  I usually get dressed alone and the rest of the dudes get dressed, then we head out to skate, sweat, shoot, mess around and get an amazing workout all while playing this game we all love.  It is wonderful.

Sometime around late December the outside ice in Cook was flooded and the pickup games ensued.  We usually had enough players for a 4 on 4 game.  The city of Cook just recently opened a recreation center called the Doug Johnson.  It will be a great asset to the community and can be rented for events, birthday parties, whatever.  I am glad we have such a great meeting place in Cook.  The best part of the Doug Johnson ice was it took roughly 57 seconds to drive there.  Jared would drive the fourwheeler over to plow off the snow so we could quickly get down to business.

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The first weekend of March, Jared organized a hockey tournament- only four teams entered the tournament but slowly and surely we are bringing hockey back to this little town.


We are Back

12 Mar

Sorry about the yearlong hiatus.  I took a yearlong break from blogging and am ready to jump back into sharing our adventures and life with y’all.

Why did I leave and why did I come back?

I left because I had to pass a licensing exam for my current part time job and that took up most of my free time.  I had to study when the kids were in bed etc.  I was also getting tired of blogging.

My am I back?  I have missed blogging.  A few days ago I looked back over the many posts I have done in the past years and love seeing how our life has changed and how cute the tiny kids used to look.  My blog is a wonderful way to sort of scrapbook my way through their childhood.  I also like saving me recipes on this blog.  I check back here every St Patty’s Day for recipes as well as for my recipes for wild rice soup and monster cookies.

Not a whole lot of reasons- but enough for me to stop and enough for me to come back.


We had a great, exciting winter full of winter walks, hockey, four wheeling, cross country skiing, trail cam discoveries, fishing and friends.

It is good to be back here.



First Season in the Books

26 Mar

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I thought I needed to put down some thoughts on the ladies first hockey season, before it feels like it never happened.



First of all, I cannot believe the difference of the girls skills between the end of October when our season began to the last weekend of February.  When we stepped onto the ice for the first practice, one of the coaches asked, “So, is this the first time they have tried skating?”  Yeah, that is where we started.  Sophia improved from spending approximately half of practice wallowing on the ice, rolling around claiming that this was her very last practice ever and there were some very large crocodile tears that accompanied those words.  I had to wear skates for the first few games because if Sophia got too far away from the bench during her two minute shift, she would never get back to the bench in time for another girl to take her place.  So when the two minute buzzer would sound I would hop over the boards, pick her up, and then skate her back to the bench.  I had to do that for the first few games and then got to wear boots for the rest of the season!

The beginning of the season was a tremendous challenge for Aleah because she was not good at hockey.  Aleah likes to be a high achiever and isn’t used to being at the bottom rung.  During practice she was constantly glancing all around her at the other girls who were so much better than her.  Many, many times she wanted to quit- to just walk away from the hard stuff.  To turn her back and never return to this hard sport where everyone (besides Soph) was so much better than her.  She wanted to return to the spaces she felt confident- the places where she was already excelling.  But I continued to drive them the 45 minutes to hockey practice and as time wore on she became more and more confident at her skating, passing and shooting skills.

She had been trying for most of the season and I could see in her eyes how badly she wanted to shoot that puck past the goalie.  While we were at a tournament in Brainerd, she scored her first goal ever.  Immediately after she scored, she raised both arms up into the air and held them there for about 10 seconds.  She was smiling so giant that I thought her mouth was going to reach around her head.  I saw the hard work that went into that goal.  I saw the tears and frustration behind those tough practices.  As the head coach cheered for Aleah, he glanced over at me with tears welling up in my eyes and asked, “You going to be okay over there?” And I beamingly assured him that I was quite alright.  Never better actually.

Of course we got the big game puck and will have to do something cool with it.


All in all, hockey was a wonderful experience.  Yes we spent some time in the car and yes we missed a few naps, but we also learned how to work through hard stuff and to be rewarded for it.

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After a practice towards the middle of the season Aleah said to me, “Hey mom.  Now I know why you like hockey so much. It is because it is SO FUN!”  You got it girl.  Hockey is so fun and I am glad we can go down this road together.

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Front Entrance

9 Mar

It is currently 43 degrees outside and the great meltdown has begun.  The roof is raining down the melty snow and it sounds wonderful.

We spent the morning outside discovering toys that have long been lost and remembering how good the sun can feel.  As I looked at our front entrance, I realized it could use a little help.  The snow makes everything look clean and fresh, but now that the white stuff is disappearing the front walk looks plain and boring.  Soooo, I did what any person who attends every single garage sale around- I looked in our shed and our greenhouse.  Boy did I hit the jackpot.

Here is the entrance to our house before the makeover:



And here is the after:


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I am going to paint the stepping stone, I made out of rhubarb leaves and cement, sometime in the near future and I think we will be good to go.

What spring jobs are you looking forward to tackling?

Homemade Granola Bars

23 Feb

I am trying.

I am trying to make healthy things for my family.

I am trying to make healthy things for my family to eat but it is so hard!

We go through days using all organic, non-GMO, no sugar, super healthy food, but then we fall off the band wagon and go through McDonalds. What is wrong with us?  Ugh, I hate it.  Yes, yes, don’t be hard on yourself… it is hard when you have kids and are traveling and don’t have time blah blah blah.  But seriously.  I want my family to consistently and constantly eat healthy food.  Of course we would all sweeten our birthday cakes and everything else with maple syrup instead of sugar but we aren’t all made of money, right?

Look at the ingredients of this Nature Valley granola bar, it makes me mad sometimes-


So in an attempt to take one more step away from packaged food I decided to homemake granola bars.  Woohoo.  This is better and more handy than simply making granola because it is portable and awesome.

I found this stellar recipe that involves ONLY 5 INGREDIENTS!!!  Isn’t that amazing?  No corn syrup, no granulated sugar and my favorite- no ingredients that I cannot pronounce!

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  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet nour or medjool)*
  • 1/4 cup honey (or sub maple syrup or agave for vegan option)
  • 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (gluten free for GF eaters)

Head over here at Minimalist Baker for the complete instructions.

Just one small step in the right direction.

Snowpant Straps

11 Feb

We love winter.  We spend a whole lot of time outside in the white fluffy stuff and cannot have our gear holding us back from the fun.  Hudson’s cousin, Lincoln, gave him a great snowsuit when LIncoln moved to California from Wisconsin (they are currently wearing shorts out there and playing in the sand).  The one problem with this snowsuit is that the legs ride up when he sits down or rolls around on the ground throwing a fit.  So after messing around in the snow for a few minutes the pants were always riding up and his cold little calf skin would poke out =(

So I took some fleece and used the stretchy side to make a little stirrup.  It took approximately 2 minutes to sew these straps onto the bottom of his snowsuit and will make a world of difference for the rest of winter.


We can warmly go for sled rides and even make snow tunnels without our little calves getting chilly

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and eat lots of snow because it is so delicious.

Children’s Museum Fun

9 Jan

l grew up in Northern Wisconsin and around the time I was in my lower teens the NorthWoods Children’s Museum opened.  It was really fun to be involved with a few other families in making our own exhibit.  And now it is a wonderful place to take my kids to when we are visiting my mom and dad.  Here are the kids playing around an igloo made out of milk jugs!  The exhibit is also filled with little strips of white paper, which of course is the snow. unnamed-6 The kids gathered up the snow and then asked me to head up the forest tower and dump it on them. unnamed-7 unnamed-5 After dumping it on them once I knew I had to do it again with my camera, the look of pure joy on their faces is amazing! unnamed unnamed-3 unnamed-2 unnamed-1 unnamed-4

All finished off with some snow angels!

I wish Cook had a Children’s Museum, especially for these times when it is below zero for multiple weeks in a row, oh well- we will just have to visit grandma and grandpa some more.

2014 in Review

2 Jan

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Merry Christmas

25 Dec


As I write, our yard is being re-coated with snow after a week of warm fog, cold drizzle, and sloshy puddles. Our tree sparkles in the living room while Christmas music plays and the woods become white once again. All is well. However, a recent episode of The Middle convicted both Caitlyn and I about the silliness that often befalls Christmas letters. I mean, are our lives really that simple, sweet, and straightforward? Of course not! And if all we want are the highlights, can’t we just wait for those year-in-review videos Facebook puts together for us in a few weeks?

So let’s get a few things straight: Life is complex, peculiar, and challenging. Sometimes it doesn’t go so well, and sometimes it goes wonderfully. But Christmastime isn’t just for celebrating how dandy our lives our, it’s for celebrating that fact that The True Light that gives Light to everyone has come into the world, and we need it always. Life is full of highlights and lowlights, and Christ came for it all.

Now, about our lives (and yes, we’re only giving the highlights. If you want the lowlights, call). Life in Cook continues to be exciting and fulfilling. Last winter was what the kids would call, Epic. The snow reached 40 inches in February, and we were jumping off our roofs, sending the girls into piles of fluffy powder. Winter this far north certainly lingers, often with fervor, but we find ways to enjoy it! A wonderful reprieve came in March when we visited Jared’s folks in Colorado. We spent warm days sunning ourselves in the green grass, but also went to the mountains for what the kids call shredding. The girls skied the bunny hill with Nana and Papa while Jared and Caitlyn snowboarded at 13,000 feet. We also encountered two moose on a hike near Estes Park. Northern Minnesotans have to go to Colorado to see moose – go figure.

Summer was just as adventurous and enjoyable as we’ve come to expect. June was busy with our church’s VBS program, followed by a trip to Eagle River for a farewell weekend for Courtney (Cait’s sister) and Daryl Ellis as they left for their new pastorate in Southern California. In July we enjoyed a Bangs Family Reunion in Fergus Falls, celebrating Jared’s grandma’s 80th birthday while connecting with relatives from all over the country.

When we finally settled back in Cook for July, we were anxious to enjoy our own neck of the woods. We take every possible opportunity to swim at area beaches and enjoy our beautiful lakes. Aleah and Sophia graduated out of life jackets as they confidently jumped, paddled, and swam like the perch they share the water with. Hudson cruised the beach, learning to throw rocks and disturb his sisters’ sand creations. We also ventured into the wilderness for several family camping trips. We dove for clams in Voyageurs National Park, roasted Marshmallows with friends at Pfeiffer Lake, and ate fresh Pike along the edge of the Boundary Waters as the Maples, Oaks, and Aspens filled the shoreline with fall colors. We love making the most out of this wild and exciting place we call home.

We continue to enjoy our annual trip to Muskegon, MI for the Belcherama family reunion in early August. The time with family is a cherished tradition, and late night Mafia with the cousins never disappoints. As August came to a close, Aleah (and two nervous parents) prepared for all-day kindergarten. She has thrived in school all fall, and we love seeing her progression into a little girl who reads and writes! Sophia attends school two days a week, and spends her other mornings at home with Caitlyn, doing puzzles, dancing in the living room, building forts, and generally being quirky. Hudson is constantly putting on shoes and boots (often not his own) while trying to escape from the house so he can explore the woods on his own. He’s pretty determined.

Our new adventure this winter is girls hockey! Aleah and Sophia both play on an 8-U team for Hibbing, and while the early practices were a struggle, they are learning fast. Caitlyn helps coach the team, and has been deeply rewarded as our daughters follow in their momma’s skate marks – playing a sport she loves. Looks like Hudson and I will be spending some time behind the glass this winter. Have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year! Love, The Bangs


Blueberry Cottage

8 Dec


Every kid needs a fort.

Yes, those blanket forts inside your house are absolutely wonderful for a few hours but kids need a real fort.  A place where they can escape and play imaginary games and end up somewhere amazing and magical.DSC_0043 DSC_0045 Throughout the summer Jared and the little ladies built such a place. It took all summer to gather up the free wood and find pockets of time here and there to continue its progress. DSC_0050 DSC_0048 Construction came to a halt when a mommy robin decided that the new fort was a perfect place to begin her little robin family. DSC_0106 Eventually the walls were all up and the girls got to paint.  We agreed upon a color as close to blueberry as we could find and so named the little house, “Blueberry Cottage.” DSC_0456 So there she sits in our frozen tundra, smothered in snow and offering a perfect escape from the cold winter wind. I wonder what fun adventures our family will have in there this winter? unnamed-2 unnamed-3