Category Archives: travel

Summer Vacation

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So I took the summer off! At my house, the academic school year has a nice pace to it. We stay busy but on a nice schedule; we work, rest, eat, play. During the summer it seems that everything goes nuts and each week looks different than the one before. My kids did camps, we traveled, we did all the things homeowners have to do in summer (paint! caulk! clean!), and we caught sleep when we could. I was so glad to shed our schedule and start our whirlwind summer back at the end of May. Now I’m extraordinarily glad to be back on our school year schedule. If it’s true that the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time, I definitely get the most out of it by giving the summer everything I’ve got and then settling oh-so-happily down to our cozy routine in the fall. Ahhhhh.

I’m going to share a few favorite pictures of our big family vacation. We made smaller trips within our state and to visit friends, but our summer highlight was the 9 days we spent driving to Williamsburg, Virginia; on to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; and then back to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The kids mostly traveled like champs. Daphne can be a tyrant on the best of days, but all the kids logged our miles (1800!) with patience and didn’t start turning on each other until the last day, when that sense of being almost-home broke the spell of adventure.

wmsburg-dorothy

My kids learned about the Revolutionary War last year in school. Williamsburg felt like a natural place to wrap up our study. Both big kids went in costume and we spent two days experiencing the Revolutionary City.

williamsburg-muster

Worth was particularly taken in by the weapons and the militia drills. He had such a serious soldier face that his mother (ahem) wasn’t sure if she actually liked it on her five-year-old.

sharks

After two fun days in Williamsburg we drove on to the beach in North Carolina. We stayed on Kill Devil Hills. The Outer Banks were seeing a rash of shark attacks during the time we were there, which might have concerned us more if the water hadn’t been too cold and the waves too high for the kids do to more than get their feet into the water.

sandy-boy

After many miles in the car and lots of listening to historic interpretation, Worth was more than ready to take on the waves and the sand.

pout

This is Daphne’s pouty face. When something didn’t go her way, she refused to acknowledge anyone while staring at the ground. Poor kid. #unsympathetic

wright-monument

We visited the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk. I found this excursion to be very inspiring. The idea of flying for the first time is so amazing! The kids, impressed by our tour guide’s words, told everyone that we visited the “graveyard of impossibility” after we got home.

beach

I didn’t make the kids’ matching beach outfits, but I did bribe them with ice cream to pose nicely for my tripod. I also Photoshopped out a photo-bombing passerby!

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From the Outer Banks, we went back through the Williamsburg area and visited Jamestown, then on to Charlottesville to see Monticello. The kids were getting slightly immune to the charm of historical homes by the time we reached Jefferson’s mountain, but that is such a nice site with such kid-friendly offerings that we all had a good time anyway. After our night in Charlottesville we took the exit for Skyline Drive and twisted and turned through the top of the world to Skylands, a lovely old lodge tucked up in the mountains. The highlight of the gorgeous drive was seeing a mother bear with her cub.

bear

Though I pulled over as soon as there was a safe place, I could not get a very good photo of the mother and baby bears. We treated the kids to plush bears as souvenirs and my husband (such a good sport!) posed them in the grass so I could photograph them instead. Look! It’s just like what we saw in the clearing next to the road.

bears-in-the-mist

There was a mist over Skyland much of the time we were there, but it was so pretty itself that it was hard to begrudge it the dimming of our mountain views. It was also downright chilly, which was not a possibility I’d packed for. The kids must have thought their parents were very generous on vacation; first plush bears and then cuddly new hoodies all around!

waterfall

We hiked, played and enjoyed good food in the mountains.

mountains

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a vacation more! Dorothy is still young enough to enjoy all our family fun wholeheartedly, and although Daphne’s toddler antics can be challenging (and noisy in restaurants and hotels!), she’s old enough to be a part of the fun herself. Of course I’ve ordered my book of trip photos from Blurb.com, and I’m sure I’ll entertain myself by glancing through it over my afternoon coffee in the winters to come.

I hope you have had a great summer too!

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A travel mirror

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I frequently wear my hair up and get irritated in hotel rooms when I can’t check the back of my head. I love my Eddie Bauer toiletry bag because it’s so well-designed and sturdy and perfect–there are some classics that don’t need much improvement. But the one flaw is that it lacks a decent mirror. The teeny one that is attached to the kit with hook-and-loop tape is surprisingly hazy, and only shows part of the back of my head at best. I did some shopping for a mirror I could just slip into my new auxiliary travel bag that holds bulkier things like brushes, but it seems that all mirrors are either a) too large to be portable, b) too fragile to be portable, or c) too small to see the whole back of my head.

Then I was at the Dollar Tree the other day and I saw that they have surprisingly clear mirrors of a decent size for, you know, a dollar. So I bought one and decided to turn it into a travel-safe mirror. I popped the glass out of the plastic housing it was in and glued it to really sturdy piece of davey board cut just a little larger. Then I cut another piece of davey board the same size to make the other side of a little padded travel mirror portfolio. The board and the fabric give the glass protection, a hook-and-loop tab serves as a way to hang it from my travel bag in a hotel room, and then closes it all up securely when it’s time to go. I used Waverly’s Starry Eyed Peackock fabric to match the new luggage tag I posted a few weeks ago.

Our vacation handmades

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beach-bums

We took a family vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, this summer. I put together matching outfits for the kids. Matching outfits on vacation serve the dual purpose of looking cute (in real time and in photographs) and helping me keep track of everyone more easily! I used fabrics from the Michael Miller Shore Thing collection. Dorothy’s dress was a little halter pattern from Girl’s World, and Worth’s was the cute pattern from Sewing for Boys I had also used on his fox shirt last winter. I think Dorothy’s pattern would have been more flattering on a less willowy girl–I had to add some ruching under the best to give it a little shape.

matching-outfits

Daphne’s dress is just a simple little halter with ties over the shoulders, and she got matching bloomers from the plaid. The outfits were breezy and comfortable for the kids, and were so fun for me to see in action!

me-tai

I took this babywearing selfie, since I’m often not in the pictures. This carrier came off my sewing machine just over a year ago, and it has gotten almost constant use! I love the mei tai style carrier.

purch

I made myself several new bags for our trip. I often find that we take evening beach walks to find shells or get ice cream, and while I need to carry my wallet, room key, and sunglasses, I do not want to tote my beach bag or even my purse. I sewed this small pouch with a long strap to throw over my shoulder and carry just the essentials. It was handy for the beach and has gotten quite a bit of use back at home too.

beach-bag

I had quite a bit of laminated cotton left over from a project of recovering my kitchen chair seats. I decided it would be good fabric for a new beach bag. I needed a new one anyway, now that we had grown to a family of five beach-towel users! I lined the bag and made pockets out of a brightly-colored striped sheet, then made a little zippered pouch to match. I downloaded the embroidery file for the monogram from the JoyfulStitchesEtsy shop and have loved it so much I’ve been stitching it onto everything! I thought laminated cotton worked well for the bag in that sand and water could be easily brushed off, but not as well in that it wrinkles badly in a hot car.

mermaid-shorts

I wish I had a better photo of this project, but this one will do. I found this adorable mermaid-printed cotton last winter when I was looking for something else, and I bought it not knowing what on earth I’d use it for. I made the girls matching bermuda-style shorts and they’ve worn them together all summer. Love it when my girls dress alike! I found their matching green tops at Children’s Place. I used their other shorts as a pattern, sewed on decorative  lavender drawstrings, and made a leg-band facing out of the lavender. There was just enough of the mermaid fabric left from the project that I got a little mermaid coin purse to carry my quarters in to the beach laundry-mat!

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. 🙂

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.

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.

Summer

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Has it been a month since I’ve blogged? Summer flies! Been busy around here, but not had many completed projects to share. Here’s some of what my family has been up to.

cherry-ice-creamMade homemade cherry ice cream for a rainy but fun 4th of July. (Add 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cherries plus 1/2 tsp almond extract to your favorite vanilla ice cream recipe.)

texas 2013 (4)Drove almost 1000 miles to Fort Worth, Texas, with my mom and two kids to visit my aunt. Had a great time relaxing and listening to my son call my aunt “Nana’s sister” while she equipped them to ride horses, rope each other, and stay away from cacti. Then had to drive almost 1000 miles back–eek.

green-bedBought two unfinished bed frames, two unfinished dresses, two metal nightstands, and two tiny tables at IKEA to outfit the room that will be shared by Worth and the new baby. Put them all together, stained and sealed the dressers and beds (green!), and am still working on pulling it all together in a cute shared room.

push-popDrove out to the Kentucky Renaissance Fair, where we ate not-so-historically-accurate snacks and discovered that Renaissance=fairies, for some bewildering volume of the participants. (But it was fun anyway.)

embroidered-bibTurned some plain IKEA bibs into personalized baby gifts for some friends with my embroidery machine.

Hope your summer is fun-filled too!

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.