Category Archives: camping

Field trip bags

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trailerHello there! I want to send a big thank you and welcome to all the visitors my little blog has had this summer from the Country Living website. I was so honored to see my Yellowstone included in the “14 Gorgeous Camper Decorating Ideas” article, and was overwhelmed (almost to the point of going into hiding!) by the traffic my site garnered for a couple weeks. If you are here to read about my Yellowstone, you can click on this link to get only trailer-related blog posts. I’m hoping to post new camping pictures soon, but I admit we’ve not taken it out even once all all this beautiful summer. My third baby has not been the greatest sleeper, and somehow we’ve just not found¬†the time. Maybe I’m just worried to break the glass on the windows that finally got replaced? I’ve got fall camping plans percolating in my head, and will be sure to share photos here. In the meantime, I’m feeling weak and guilty for not having taken her out–make me an offer, and maybe I’ll sell and start over. ūüôā

field-trip-bagsIn spite of our lack of summer camping we’ve still put a lot of miles on the children this year. Last spring I got frustrated with my kids turning every small trip or homeschool field trip into a “gimme gimme” occasion in even the smallest gift shop. I don’t usually indulge them, but they still beg (and annoy me). I noticed most tourist site gift shops sell scouting-style patches embroidered with their logo, and that they are usually reasonably-priced. I sewed a canvas tote bag for each child, and used my embroidery machine to add their names. Then we started collecting patches on excursions and field trips, and now much of the¬†front of their bags are filled up, ony 6 months later!

filed-trip-bags-afterThese bags have served dual-duty in providing something for us to look for and purchase in gift shops, and holding the sundries (water bottle, snack, sunhat, etc.) that each child needs on our trip. We wrapped keepsake keychains around the straps and I used this handy fabric glue to adhere the patches.

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July camping

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tableWe’d not been camping all summer. Our little Yellowstone has a shelved closet in place of what was originally a tiny bathroom. I never wished we had a bathroom, but this summer of my third pregnancy I’ve been rather disinclined to leave those particular comforts of home. We did finally carve out time for a short trip, however, and I’m so glad we did, in spite of several night-time walks my dog and I took to the public bath house.

setting-the-tableIt rained in the afternoon but we had perfect, temperate weather by evening. We couldn’t have asked for better July camping weather. Dorothy set the table while I cooked over our fire.

duskOur darling trailer served us well. I really should get the broken windows replaced but just haven’t had the heart.

nature-hikeWe enjoyed some hiking through O’ Bannon Woods next day.

My trailer might be cursed

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It’s taken me a little while to gather up the energy for this post. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and perspective to have a proper laugh over events that really aren’t funny as they are happening.

We sold our beloved red trailer and bought our ’67 Yellowstone in June. It took a few weeks and a team of elves to get her nearly into camp-ready shape. We tried to take her out in the heat of July but were thwarted by problems with our doorknob. The rest of July was just too unbearably hot to think of camping. August was pleasant but somehow we were never able to go. More than one weekend Rob or I suggested that we might finally make it away for a long-awaited inaugural night in our trailer, but for one reason or another no 24-hour space could ever be carved out to get away.

In the meantime, I made progress on our doorknob issue. The actual replacement knob was just too expensive to consider. I found a similar knob that I thought would work, but when it came in I found that the inside knob prevented the thing from closing if it were installed, and that the opening on the side of my trailer door could not quite accommodate the hardware. I ordered the handle version of the same knob and asked my kind brother if he’d cut a larger opening on the side of the door. He was glad to do this but had not yet had a chance to do it when mid-September rolled around.

In August, when our schedule prevented us from camping, we did make a date with some friends to go together in September. We still held out a hope of going by ourselves before that date, but in early September our towing vehicle overheated and had to be taken in to a garage. We were hoping for a minor radiator problem; instead we discovered that our old Discovery needed a whole new-to-it engine. This was unfortunately in keeping with all the other experiences we had in the first two weeks of September, what with the plumber, the electrician, the waterproofers, electrician again, and the sad state of Rob’s primary vehicle making us wonder why our karma took such a nose dive. But I got through the upheaval in my home and the pain of writing the checks by fixing in my head an image of how much fun we were going to have finally camping with our friends. We were to get our old ‘Rover back on that Friday, and would load it up and head for camp with our friends after soccer practice on Saturday. I daydreamed about the dog finally napping on her little bedroll, about finally getting to use all the sweet accessories I’d had so much fun collecting, and in general of relaxing in that space and using the night away as a barrier between the problems we’d been having and the new week that was to start on the other side.

Now, I’m 36 years old and I’ve had things break before. I really do know that when cars are supposed to be done on Friday that they sometimes aren’t. I know that getting through stressful events by focusing on one that may not happen is not really a good coping strategy…but somehow in the heat of it all I lost that wisdom. So when Friday morning came and I phoned Rob to make arrangements for picking up our ‘Rover and found out that it wasn’t actually ready at all, I should have dealt with it better but I didn’t. Instead, I’m sorry to say, I, um, lost my shit. I cried like a baby. I cried about my kitchen sink, and my dishwasher, and my basement, and the wire to the garage, and the hole in the back of Rob’s car hood, I cried because I knew that I should actually get a grip and be grateful that our family is whole and healthy, I cried about the money, and mostly I cried because I really, really, really wanted to finally use my damn trailer and I couldn’t.

Rob said we should go camping anyway. We had a tent and we had supplies, we had friends planning to meet us, and we had all the s’mores ingredients I’d already bought. I knew he was right. I didn’t want to break our date just because we couldn’t take our trailer. I occupied myself with other things for an hour or two to calm down and then I sat down to make a list of the things I’d need to gather to go tent camping. Then I started crying again. Almost everything we needed was in the camper. I was going to have to go in and out of my trailer a hundred times to unload and repack all our sleeping bags and gear, and I felt like root canals, childbirth, cat poo cleanup, or that “Call Me Maybe” song on endless loop would have been preferable to taking our camping gear out of the Yellowstone without ever having used it in there. I promise I really did (and do) have perspective on where my Tiny Ass First World Problems fit in the grand scheme of things, but that perspective isn’t actually all that helpful when you’re in your kitchen losing your shit over a disappointment that may not be worthy but is still very real.

I thought about ways to get myself out of unpacking the trailer. The most achievable scenario seemed to be renting a truck to tow it to our campground. We spend a certain amount of money on each family member for Christmas; if I petitioned to use my Christmas money this weekend to secure a rental truck no one was likely to complain. In fact, the kids seemed very enthusiastic about the idea (they were disappointed too, after all) and I think Rob must have felt like anything was better than me crying about it again. I discovered that the rental car companies would not rent me a car to use for towing, but that I could secure a U-Haul pickup with a hitch for a reasonable price. I went to make my reservation and discovered that most of the area’s U-Haul pickups were already reserved for the weekend, but that I could pick one up 10 miles away in Indiana. I’d have to be driven over by Rob and the kids, be charged for mileage back to my house, hitch the trailer and drive the 28 miles to our campground, then do the whole thing in reverse the next day and have the truck back within the 24 hour rental space. I didn’t even hesitate. Mileage charges for Christmas, a time constraint, and the extra hassle couldn’t possible be as bad as unpacking my trailer to go tent camping. I reserved it.

We were a happy band of campers that Saturday morning. We checked off the soccer game, packed our cooler, picked up the U-Haul truck. I wasn’t bothered that I didn’t have the new doorknob on the trailer yet. The old one still shut but just wouldn’t lock. I bungeed it to the handle-grip next to the door to make sure it wouldn’t come open in route.

I invited Belle up into the passenger’s seat of the U-Haul and we left home, with Rob and the kids following me in our family car. (The family car, for the record, does not have the towing capacity to handle our Yellowstone.) Our friends sent us a text message that they had arrived at our campground and secured a nice site for us to share. I sent back the happy message that we were leaving and planned to be there soon.

We’d gone about a mile into our 28-mile trip and had not yet reached the highway when the trailer door flew open. I pulled over and surveyed the situation. The bottom of the handle-grip to which I’d bungeed the doorknob had come off the side of the camper and lost its screw. The top still seemed to be firmly attached. I went inside the trailer and collected duct tape, made sure no items inside had shifted to where they were likely to hit the door and force it open again, and then duct-taped the door shut all around. I made a loop with the tape and re-attached the handle-grip to the doorknob as well, for extra security. We laughed cautiously at having to stop so soon into our journey but felt like we’d remedied the situation and traveled on.

We were on the highway traveling through Louisville’s west side when my duct tape job gave way. The door to the trailer flew open with so much force that the door’s window shattered in a spray of glass. The metal handle-grip detached from the side of the trailer and flew through one of the trailer’s back windows, also shattering it. Rob immediately phoned my cell to ask if I’d seen it, but really, how could I have missed it? We were near an exit and we took it, pulling into a vacant lot right off the highway. Rob and I got out of our vehicles and stared at the broken glass shards that were all that was left of the door and back windows. Rob put his arm around me and kept saying, “I’m so, so sorry.” I knew he really meant, “please do not start crying again. Please.” I fetched the trash can from inside the trailer and we disposed of what glass was left in the broken windows.

At this point we decided to try bungees again. I had a stout bungee in the back of our family car and with the windows out we had more possibilities for places to hook it. We got the door shut very firmly and duct-taped again more thoroughly for redundancy. We made it across the state line and were only a couple miles from the exit where we’d leave the expressway when the door swung open again. We took an exit and made for another parking lot. The bungee had shredded like dental floss. I don’t know if it was an old bungee, maybe a little brittle after a lifetime in the back of my car, or if the force of the door was just too much for even a bungee in good health.

We were only a few blocks from a hardware store I knew of, but Worth had fallen asleep. If Rob left me with the trailer in the lot he’d have to wake the boy up to take him inside the hardware store. We couldn’t wake a sleeping kid; I abandoned the U-Haul and the trailer in the parking lot and crammed myself and my fifty-pound dog into the front seat of the family car. Dorothy, Belle and I sat with sleeping Worth while Rob went in and purchased a bucket of fresh bungees. We made it back to the trailer without waking our boy, got Belle transferred back to the U-Haul, then set about securing the door with as many bungees and at as many points as we possibly could.

Once we finally pulled in to the park which housed our campsite I felt like we we’d come much farther than we had. The grumpy lady who took our money asked skeptically if we had reservations. I thought “bitch, you are not going to keep me from camping here.” I assured her we had a spot and drove off without listening to whatever else she had to say to me. No dominatrix gatekeeper with a librarian complex was going to stop me now. We were united with our friends, parked the trailer at our spot, and then I parked the U-Haul at the lot designated for extra vehicles. Another camper told me he liked my truck. I didn’t whack him.

The next 18 hours passed with far less drama. Some of our party got covered in ticks, but at least that is a possible hazard that always comes with camping. The children had great fun burying small cars in dirt and then exhuming them; the grown-ups drank a lot of wine and beer. Our dog went into overprotective watch-dog mode and growled at everyone outside our party all night long. But it was fun. It was fun to finally put down the bunk and hoist Dorothy up. It was fun to unroll the bedding and sleep on my polka-dotted cushions. Our friends’ homemade wine was delicious, and it was even better to drink it out of the aqua-swirled cups I’d placed in the trailer cabinets with such great expectation. We walked, we sat, we drank, we talked. The weather was perfect, the food had all the smoky flavor of a real fire. Ahhhhhhhh.

I’d like to end the story there but unfortunately there is a wee bit more to it. We stayed in happy camper mode a bit too long the next morning and were in a rush when we finally bungeed everything closed, hitched the trailer back to the U-Haul and pulled out. Our configuration of bungees this second time around didn’t seem to be as well-engineered as the day before and the door started swinging open and then quickly, violently closed as we drove down the state road near the campground. We did what we could but were still concerned about getting home with out incident. After our first stop to rearrange bungees I realized we were probably not going to make it home in time to turn around and return the rental truck within our 24-hour window, and two days of U-Haul rental was a more generous Christmas gift than I’d intended to claim. I phoned my parents, who lived much closer to our campground, and appreciated their willingness to house my trailer until we could get the door secured.

We dumped the trailer at my parents’, dropped off the U-Haul in the nick of time, then piled once more (dog on my lap) into the family car to get back home. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired after such a short trip. My nice brother came to my aid a few days later, installing the new knob and even pulling the trailer back to my house for me. We think we’ll get our Rover back this week, and Rob already has a new camping destination in mind.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. We’ve gone to a lot more trouble than I ever intended to have a little family fun. The adventure reminded me a bit of our day trip to Mercer County, without all the poo and nudity and with a little more genuine frustration. I’m still working on laughing about it properly. I’m hoping that after this experience and the one before it, the next time I post about traveling with our Yellowstone I’ll just be gushing about all the fun we’ve had. Yes, indeed.

An attempt at camping and a 4th of July dress

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Well, we tried to go on our first camping trip in the Yellowstone. I’m just going to copy and paste the status I wrote on Facebook about the experience, as I’m not sure how I could sum it up any better here: “This stage of life is really all about making family memories. So some day my kids may recall the time that our travel trailer was not quite ready to camp in yet, but Daddy wanted the family to accompany him on a business trip, so Mom stayed up until midnight trying to figure out how to air condition the thing and then packed in a haze and hurry after church, and we made it to Elizabethtown, but then Mom tried to go inside the trailer at a gas station to get something and the only door key broke. And then how we sat in a blazing hot Lowe’s parking lot while Daddy tried to have a new key made, only they don’t make that shape of key anymore, so we bought grease instead and tried very hard to open the door before the key split the rest of the way but we couldn’t, so we drove back home and the dog practically kissed the ground she was so glad to be back and Mom made a pitcher of margaritas for herself and let the kids eat the junk food we’d packed for the trip. Ahhhh, my kids will say, those were the days.”

The photo is my poor hot, sweet boy asleep on the sofa when we came back. We’ll try again soon and I’m sure things will go better. First I have to find a new doorknob, which I’ve not been all that successful with so far.

I’ve taken a break now from all things trailer-related to do a little sewing for people. Myself, first off. I’d bought this fabric a few weeks ago to make a dress to wear on the 4th of July. I feel like sewing it on Independence Day itself counts, right? It’s mid-afternoon and the dress is done; I was on time with the project. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I cobbled this pattern together myself from a bodice I liked the idea of but had to alter (Butterick B5176) and the skirt pattern I always use (Simplicity 2758). It has a zipper up the side under the arm. It fits comfortably and I love a dress that is wash and wear. The fabric has the very fancy schmancy name Imperial Pheasant Paisley and Butterflies and is from Fabric.com. It is more pink in person than it looks on Fabric.com, but I like it and the pinky shade makes it seem more appropriate to wear on any other old day of July too.

I am cracking up in the second photo, as you can tell. I insisted to Rob (who is not our usual family photographer) that he quit taking my picture from navel-level, which is pretty much the most unflattering possible vantage to have one’s photo taken from, so he climbed our kids’ slide and promised to save my camera if he fell, then snapped the shot. Thanks, sweetie.

For my happy canine camper

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It’s a good thing we have supportive families. If my mother hadn’t come and cleaned my kitchen (thank you, Mom!) and my in-laws didn’t have my daughter for a sleepover, I would never have been able to ignore the rest of my life quite so thoroughly these couple of days while I sew for my trailer. It’s fun to get wrapped up in a project.

This morning I tackled the issue of Belle’s sleeping space. I made her a little doggie bedroll. It’s a quilted cover with sturdy upholstery fabric on the bottom over a core of 1 inch foam. The cover is removable for washing. She seems to like it.

It can be easily rolled up for storage when not in use.

Now if I can figure out how to build a mudroom on the front of this 14-foot trailer so I can wipe down her muddy paws before she comes inside…

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!