Category Archives: camper

Camper elves!

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So the timing of my new camper acquisition didn’t seem too great. I pulled it home on a Tuesday, got sick with a summer cold next day and spent the remainder of the week dragging around the house feeling lazy and yuck, finally got up enough energy to paint part of the exterior (see last post) over the weekend, then left for Philadelphia with the kids. After all the excitement of getting my little Yellowstone I was let down at not being able to work much on it.  But then something magical happened! On the day before my trip to Philly my maternal grandparents came by to see the new camper. It turned out that they had also owned a late-60s Yellowstone of about the same size and layout. How fun! Granddad remembered every detail; Mamaw’s fingers couldn’t stop themselves from doing a little cleaning around the kitchenette while they were there looking around. I got the grand idea to leave the camper over at their house during my trip. I could tell Mamaw wanted to scrub it a little and I figured they’d have fun just having it there on site for a few days. So I pulled it over to their house and left it, all dirty and full of miscellaneous supplies, in their driveway and waved goodbye. The kids and I spent a jolly five days visiting friends and family and driving 1400 miles.

When I left the camper at Mamaw’s the entryway looked like this (above).

And when I came back it looked like this!

And when I left the back wall (with water damage under the window) looked like this.

And when I came back it looked like this!

It turns out that a little more than cleaning went on while the Yellowstone was parked at my grandparents’ house. My mother and her parents (all pictured here with my kids) caught vintage camper fever in my absence. They might have started just cleaning, but they ended up completely refurbishing the interior. Granddad replaced the damaged and missing veneer on the back wall and in other spots, Mamaw cleaned every nook and cranny, together they stained and sealed every surface, stained and rehung all the cabinets with the new hardware I’d left behind, painted the metal parts that needed repainting, and then on the day I drove back across the Pennsylvania Turnpike Mom laid the new floor while Granddad (did I mention that he is 85 years old?) went behind her with the base shoe. Wow! It looks fantastic! It was really fun to see what they’d done, and to savor the idea that my beloved family had such fun on this project while I was gone. It felt like camper Christmas going through it today with all the surprises! I think they all had a great time doing it too and we all enjoyed the big unveiling today. Now I get to pull it back home and finish the exterior paint, and then I’ll be straight onto my very favorite tasks of sewing the new cushions and curtains and outfitting it with all our supplies. I hope I can talk my grandparents into making a little excursion with us once it’s done, even if it’s just a daytime camp-out at a nearby park. Now this is a family business!

In which I use aqua paint twice

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Two unrelated projects, two different kinds of paint, but one color scheme. Here we go:

Folding chairs, rescued from my basement. They came with the house. First I spray painted them…

…then made fabric covers for the back and a nice padded foam one for the seat. I’m keeping these in my garage to pull out when I need comfy seating for child-watching in my back yard and swing-set area. Love making something cute out of old forgotten items left in my basement!

And the new camper. Unfortunately I haven’t finished this job because of threat of rain, but I have one coat on most of three sides. It looks sweet. Here’s the door side before (can you find me in this photo?)…

…and after. Check out my rims! It’s hard to tell exactly what the original blue shade was on here, but I think I probably went just one notch brighter. I love it so much that the first night I had to keep peeking at it our my bedroom window, just to take one more little look at the awesome aqua stripe. My husband has started teasing me about it, which I totally deserve. I can’t wait to finish up the exterior paint job and really make some progress on the inside. It’s going to be so cute! I’ve been watching (and winning) some online auctions for vintage Pyrex dinnerware, with turquoise and flamingo (reddish pink) bands. It’s going to look perfect in this little camper. You know me and dishes, right? I can’t pass up the opportunity.

She’s here!

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So almost two years go I bought my first camper, all ten feet of it. Rob and I were enthusiastic but anxious–would we use it? Could we tow it? Would it smell odd? I did not believe the nice woman at Fine Design Camper Sales who told me she was selling me my “starter camper.” I thought we’d be lucky to get our money’s worth out of it. Well, I guess the joke was on me. Not only did we enjoy camping in it, I also sort of fell in love with the whole vintage trailer scene. Fast forward to today…when the very same Sherry sold me my second one! Can you tell Worth loves it as much as I do? It’s a 1967 Yellowstone. It needs work, which you can be sure you will be reading more about.

It contained the paperwork from when it was new, including this awesome old sales brochure. I can’t wait to repaint the faded turquoise stripe on mine! (This one looks too classic to do anything too creative with the paint.) The interior of this little 14-footer looks just like the photo on top, but, you know, with forty-five years of wear to the birchwood and fixtures. Again, I can’t paint over the inside but I am looking forward to restoring the wood and having fun with new fabrics. This one has the original aqua appliances. Sweet!

And am I wrong, or is that actually me in the bottom corner picture with the baby in the stroller? I think it might be. We’ve just now been reunited. Fun times ahead! As the brochure says, “From the compact fourteen foot to the spacious twenty-seven foot, there’s a model to suit almost every wish plus a travel trailering promise of happy, carefree times.” Indeed!

Mothers’ Day and matching spring skirts

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Well, the red camper is gone. It rolled on off behind a young couple who is going to take it to Bonnaroo. I think they’ll all have a great time. It did feel a little strange to see my favorite project headed away from me, but I’m very excited about finding the right next camper for my family. Selling it felt a a tad sudden, but on our last camping trip the sleeping arrangements just felt too crowded. I’d always pictured the kids tent camping next to us as they got too big to share our red camper, but I don’t think I realized how much time would pass between outgrowing our sleeping capacity and the threshold for being able to sleep alone in a tent. Since our last trip I’ve found myself strangely drawn to the Craig’s List classifieds, and it seemed like a smart idea to go ahead and list mine so I could actually move on the right thing for us when I found it. I truly didn’t think I’d sell it so fast–right before we have camping reservations with friends this weekend! We decided to go on and tent camp and have a nice laugh over my haste, but this morning found Dorothy with a stomach bug so we’re staying home anyway. I do have a day trip planned to look at a potential camper one day this coming week so wish me luck! The lady who sold me my Fleetwing told me it would be my “starter camper” and I didn’t believe her. I guess the joke was on me! Maybe vintage trailers are like potato chips…

We gave the gift of spring t-shirts to our mothers for Mother’s Day a couple weeks ago. Dorothy drew and colored a charming flower, I scanned it and used Photoshop to remove the background, then I uploaded the image to Cafe Press and ordered the shirts. It would have been so much faster and cheaper to use printer transfer paper, but the shirts from Cafe Press make much nicer gifts. Unlike the transfer paper shirts they have no special washing instructions, they hold up over time very well, and you never accidentally sandwich pet hair between the shirt and the transfer when you’re ironing it on (past experience speaks). Both grandmothers have been wearing their shirts proudly.

I’ve also been at my sewing machine a lot lately. I’ve made three more versions of my favorite skirt pattern, including the one pictured. Dorothy loved the print of this skirt so much that I let her talk me into making a matching one for her. I didn’t use a pattern for hers but I wish I’d kept a paper version of what I cut out for it because it turned out so well. We’ve enjoyed running around town together being matchy. I know her enthusiasm for this won’t last forever, so I really do savor the strangers’ smiles and her enjoyment of our matching outfits.

My camper is sold!

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I listed it on craigslist a few days ago, but because I’m, um, emotionally attached to the item it took me a few days to get the courage to own up to it on here. Don’t laugh–the next owner is going to love it too. And of course I’m not getting out of the vintage camper business, I just have my eye on a new one with an extra bed so my son can get booted to his own sleep space and will quit kicking me in the ribs all night. I think an extra two feet or so of camper will serve us well. So hurry up and share the link to mine, so I can sell it and buy the “new” one! Eek!

ETA: Camper is now sold and listing is no longer active. Thanks!

The sad story of a broken camper window

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We recently took Little Red on a very fun camping trip with some friends. In preparation for our weekend I took one of our camper windows, which had cracked over the winter, to a local glass place to have it replaced. I was a little worried about removing the window but it unscrewed easily. I hung cardboard in the empty spot and hoped for no rain during the time the window was out. Fortunately, the glass was replaced very quickly and without great expense. I felt so DIY-empowered. Until I went to rehang the window…

at which point I apparently over-tightened the screws and cracked the new window in two places. Ouch. And it really wasn’t in the time or money budget to try it again, so I duct-taped the broken window and went camping with it like that. Given the amount of foot traffic our camper generates in a campground I have to admit it was a little embarrassing to have so many eyes on my paint job and duct taped window, but what’s a girl to do? At least the tape job seems to be watertight; our camping trip involved heavy storms (followed by lots of mud for the children to play in–lucky kids!) but the window and tape held up. One of our camping friends snapped this photo of all of us in front of our petite camp residence du rouge.

We met up with three other families on this trip and had an excellent time. All the kids banded together to form their own little tricycle gang and I’m not sure my own kids will ever be happy camping with just our family again. One of my favorite parts of the trip was when a nearby camper stopped by to chat and told me she’d snapped a photo of my camper and put it on Facebook. Funny! Maybe her photo will get back to me somehow.

I took a crochet project with me to keep my hands busy around the campfire. I’d seen this cotton yarn in the “cottage” colorway recently on Knitpicks and thought they must have made it just to go in my kitchen. The reds and blues and yellows look just right with my Pop Garden Paisley Ice curtains. I bought some inexpensive white cotton bar mops and am crocheting borders on them in the bright yarn. I’m currently working on my third in the four-pack. I’ve done two borders from this book and improvised the other. I was a little worried that the color of the yarn would fade as soon as I washed these in hot water with my other dishcloths but I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. The yarn seems to be holding its color really well after the first couple washes.

If you are wondering why my stove knobs are missing then a) you are very perceptive, and b) you must not have a two-year-old. They are in a basket on the counter at a height only reachable by grown-ups.

May camping

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I have somewhere around five sewing or house projects right now that are almost done, so watch out for a torrent of upcoming blogging.  You’ve been warned! In the meantime my family and I took a quick getaway in Little Red this weekend. We drove out to Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, which is between Lexington and Cincinnati. We drove through some gorgeous horse farm country and charming Paris, Kentucky. (Says Dorothy, “Do they have an Eiffel Tower?”  Excellent question, but seems not.)

The campsite was damp but pretty. This campground had two features we really liked. First, the playground is centrally located and visible from almost every campsite, so frisky five-year-olds can run and play without waiting for the slow-poke grown-ups to catch up. Second, the heads to several trails are located right by or in the campground so families like ours don’t have to schlep children by car or long and winding road just to start a family hike through the woods.

We realized just a bit too late that the park had a Pioneer Museum, which would have been so fun to visit since we only last week finished reading the Little House on the Prairie series. We did get to check out a trail, the battlefield and monument, and we’d just driven down to the boat dock to explore the creek when we ran into a handful of half-naked teenagers covered from head to toe in mud and decided maybe we should go back to the campsite instead. At first I thought they were actually completely naked teenagers covered in mud and memories of our adventures in Mercer County ran through my head, but at second glance there did seem to be bikinis and trunks somewhere under all the muck. I have no idea what they were up to, but Dorothy only commented that they sure could use a shower (yup!) and rear-facing Worth didn’t see them at all. I heard the girls in the campground shower later talking about fall classes (anatomy! advanced chemistry!) and I’m sure they were actually, ahem, very nice girls. There may or may not have ever been muddy bikini-wearing in my past.  I’m not saying. I definitely didn’t take advanced chemistry.

Back at camp we had dinner and a campfire. It was damp but not raining and Rob had a rough time getting the fire started. We’d almost given up on the campfire cooking to use our little red camper microwave instead (we’re talking about warming pre-cooked chicken sausages and foil packets of potatoes I’d pre-roasted here, not putting a whole pig on a spit or anything) when the fire finally took off quite zippily. We’d just begun to nosh on our smoky hot food when it did actually start raining hard and we fled for the comfort of our tiny camper. We’ve never been so glad to have graduated from tent-camping as this trip. It rained the rest of the time but we were cozy inside with our art supplies, Rob’s newspaper, my camper journal (above), matching pirate pajamas for the small set (below) and the pleasant sound of rain on our roof.

We headed home first thing this morning since hiking in the rain with children isn’t really our thing. The trip was short but sweet!

April camping

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We made our first 2011 trip in the little camper! The trip was the perfect mix of length of travel (not long), length of stay (not long), and low-key activities.  We visited General Butler State Park, which is only about an hour from home. Last fall when we started camper camping I noticed that all the big outfits had family name signs they put out in front of their campsites, kind of like campground calling cards or announcements.  I liked the friendly idea but didn’t think one of the large, imposing wooden signs would go very well with our streamlined setup so I designed and ordered this little lightweight yard sign. It says “It’s all right to be little bitty.”  Now we’ve really got it all!  (wink)

We toured the historic home on the premises, we hiked, played dominoes, and checked out no fewer than three playgrounds. We ate a dinner of pasta that I’d prepared at home.  Dorothy made friends with the girl at the camper next door and created beautiful art at our picnic table.

Worth developed what I’m afraid may be an abiding love of mud puddles.  If you think this brownie-streaked face and pea-smeared hair looks bad, well, you should see his mud-stained bottom. 

At home I’ve been working on setting up a square-foot garden in our new yard.  I recently used colored yarn to mark off the squares.  I brought the rest of the yarn I used for the squares (it’s all acrylic) to our campsite and taught Dorothy how to make God’s Eye weavings. I love that she’s now old enough to do some projects that are fun for Mom too. We sat cozily in our camper before bed and wound our yarn around sticks we’d found at our site. The simple weavings looked pretty on our camper wall last night (photographed), and now they look great hanging on the trellis of our garden bed.

I think one-night camping excursions are just right for where our family is at right now.  We all had a good, relaxing time, got to spend quality time without the distractions of home, were able to fully take notice of the changes spring was bringing to the outdoors, but were able to tote home dirty dishes for our dishwasher and skip the icky camp showers.  Perfect!

Sorghum cookies

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This picture is blurry, but it’s hard to shoot a moving target.  Dorothy is displaying the apron I found at a thrift store recently.  Guess where it’s destined?  This lovely turn in the weather has inspired me to make camping reservations for us at some state parks we want to check out this spring.  I’m so looking forward to our first 2011 trip!

Today in the kitchen I experimented with a local ingredient I’m not very familiar with.  I had picked up a recipe for sorghum cookies at the state fair last summer and had yet to try it.  I altered the recipe to suit our diets and our taste, and they were really quite tasty.  As Rob said, “I still don’t really understand what sorghum is, but it makes very good cookies.”  Exactly.

Here’s the recipe in case you decide to Bake Kentucky Proud as well (or something):
1 cup plus 2 TB sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup sorghum
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and line three cookie sheets with parchment.  Whisk together flours, soda, and salt in a bowl or large measuring cup, set aside.  Cream butter, oil and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, add egg, vanilla and sorghum.  Beat well.  Add flour mixture in two parts, beating well after each addition.  Stir in oats, chips and coconut.  Drop onto prepared cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool three minutes on the sheet, then transfer to wire rack.

The caterpillar

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A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out something nice to do with a particularly cute caterpillar drawing of Dorothy’s and this is what I ended up with.  It’s a custom t-shirt from Cafe Press that we will give to Dorothy’s cousin for Christmas.  I hope it isn’t too redundant with the joint venture Dorothy and I made for the same cousin last winter, but since that gift was appreciated, this gift in the same vein probably will be too.  Dorothy really enjoys feeling like she contributed to the making of any gift, and the benefit of a professionally done t-shirt is that it should wash nicely, unlike (unfortunately) the print-at-home transfers, which require fussy care to stay nice.  I removed the white space from the caterpillar image using Photoshop, then saved the file as a PNG with a transparent background to make the design.

I took advantage of the warm weather this morning and did some more camper painting.  I still have not had the chance to finish what I started with the handkerchief paisleys, but this morning I made solid progress on the opposite side.  I purchased new, good quality brushes and they make all the difference in the world.  Maybe I should have thought of that before, but the difference was really amazing.  It was like I was trying to chop vegetables with a kiddie knife before!  This time the paint went on much better and the lines look more smooth.  It was faster going, too, so if I get another golden moment while both children are asleep or occupied and the weather is right I will get back out there.  Otherwise, the camper may have to stay incompletely decorated until the spring.

As for our housing situation, who knows.  We’re working on a response to a set of nit-picky repair requests from our buyer.  We made a fair offer on the Good Memories house, but have no particular confidence that the owner is ready for the kind of reality check that would mean taking our reasonable offer.  I’m sure something will work out (Renata clutches at optimism), but at this point we’re certainly curious about just how that will look.