Category Archives: travel

Beach outfits for the cousins and a lunch idea


We’ve been on the move again. My awesome parents flew the whole family with them to Florida for some fun times at the beach. The last time we’d all been to the beach together was to celebrate my Mom’s retirement in 2010. I made Dorothy and her cousins matching dresses to wear on that trip, pictured below. They were so cute running around in their little coordinating beach gear that I knew I had to do the same thing for this trip, plus some shorts for Worth. I bought this fabric and used McCalls MP339 as a basis for the dresses and just improvised Worth’s little shorts. The pattern was simple and adorable and the sizing was right on except for the straps, which had to be shortened considerably from what the pattern called for. I added the ruffles to the top and bottom. The kids collected smiles and coos everywhere we went, and they liked their matching outfits so much they wore them for two days straight.

This was the 2010 picture, with sweet little Maggie just 3 months old and Worth only a dear hope!

I’ve been going through some photographs from the last couple months and I found these two that I’d taken this spring but not yet blogged about. This one above is a picture of our “toothpick lunch.” Dorothy and Worth are not the pickiest eaters I’ve encountered, but they aren’t exactly omnivorous when it comes to food either. One of the strategies I find very useful for feeding them at lunchtime when I know we may not have their favorite foods on hand is to declare that we will have a “surprise lunch,” and that they must play away from the kitchen while I fix it. For some reason the pleasure of having the table set with food laid out on their plates (like a restaurant!) is so compelling to them that they may eat food they would otherwise not have selected. One day I really couldn’t come up with much that looked like lunch in a just-bef0re-grocery-time refrigerator and pantry. I had some cheese sticks the kids rejected because they weren’t the right color (the horror of yellow cheese when one prefers white!), some crackers they didn’t like, some fruit. For some reason the line from the original Fancy Nancy book, about sandwiches tasting better with frilly toothpicks popped into my head. I sliced some fruit, cut up the despised crackers and smeared them with a little hummus, cubed the rejected cheese sticks, located a few other bite-sized goodies and arranged them on a breakable platter I wouldn’t ordinarily use for the kids, then I got down our cocktail toothpicks and set out an assortment of colors. The kids totally bought the “toothpick lunch” idea. They loved the colored toothpick frills, they giggled, and they ate every single thing on the platter. The color of the cheese or the substance of the cracker was never even mentioned. I’m absolutely going to use this idea again.

Finally, Dorothy has been into puppet shows lately. We have a small store-bought puppet theater but the game would be just as fun with a cut-out cardboard box. I’ve printed some scripts for her from a website I use as a resource to our homeschooling. She’s had a blast coloring simple paper doll forms into the characters for each script, gluing them to popsicle sticks, and then putting on performances. She can spend a long time doing this on her own, and I’ve also divvied up characters with her and participated in her performances. I love that she always dresses her narrator characters in black–how did she know? In this photo she’s holding Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.


For my happy canine camper


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…

Working on the interior


No time for a real post, but I have to share some photos of the progress I’m making on sewing for the interior. Some of you saw the teaser to this post on Facebook–the photo I paid my daughter $1 to pose for, under a wool blanket in the heat!

Camper madness takes over


Disclaimer: This post is coming from the slightly OCD Renata that once brought you trailer textiles and a camper fridgie. What can I say? I get focused on one thing and beat it to death. I’ll clean the bathrooms some other week; right now my energy is consumed with Camper. It’s not a bad life, really.

First, I got stuck under a grumpy 2-year-old at my computer and needed something to do while I sat there and held him. So I created a camper graphic to put on a new yard sign for our campground. Here it is.

Then today I found these totally awesome mid-century Samsonite suitcases at an antiques/junk store and bought them because I’m traveling by air on a trip next month and clearly I needed these old blue cases to avoid confusing my luggage with everyone else’s on the conveyor belt. The wheels and handle still work perfectly, the lining is intact, the keys were included, and the metal is shiny and perfect. I get the feeling they were mostly stored instead of used. The original “Ladies’ and Men’s Packing Guide” was still tucked into the big one, advising me to “use shoemitts of fabric” to pack my shoes. I swooned, because I’m into that kind of thing, you know? The original Samsonite tag was also still on the big case, never inscribed, but I think I’ll tuck it away with my packing guide for posterity and decided to make my own instead.

I went to print out the card to tuck into my new homemade luggage tag (the fabric is a laminated cotton) but couldn’t find a design that seemed right on the Avery website, although I often find really great printables there. Then it struck me that this was an excellent opportunity to use my own new graphic, so I designed a card with it and stitched it in. I think it looks perfect, and now I’ll have a little piece of my camper with me as comfort when I’m trying not to vomit at 32000 feet. (Campers=good; flying=bad.) Then I decided that my children need t-shirts with the same graphic (don’t they though?) and maybe even me too. So I headed over to Cafe Press, where I discovered that it is cheaper for me to offer my own graphic as an item for sale and subsequently buy it myself than it is for me to just privately design and purchase my own product. Sort of annoying. But why not? Most of my search engine traffic here is from people who google campers, so maybe they need Renata-designed camper merchandise too, right?

So in case you happen to fall into that category here is the link to my brand-new Cafe Press store, where you too can join the vintage-camper-graphic-wearing crowd. Or something. Who knows what’s next? Maybe I can convince Cafe Press to start offering fridgies.

Our NOLA and Orange Beach road trip


So I think I mentioned that I took quite a handful (ahem…825) of photographs on our recent vacation. I finally combed through them today and picked the hundred or so best for a Blurb book I’m hoping to make before a coupon expires. I wanted to share just a few favorites on my blog, but excess seems to be the name of the game for me and vacation photos. I narrowed it down to twenty-three I simply had to share.

The first two go together. “Real food,” southern-style, at a truck stop in Alabama. Wouldn’t mistake that menu for one from a Yankee state, would you?
Although we’d already eaten lunch we had to try something from a place with so much local flavor, so we came away with these deep fried peanuts, which the package informed us to eat “shell-nall.” Well, we did. Dorothy declared them nasty, Worth spit his out. Rob seemed rather neutral. I loved them! Ate the whole bag over the course of the vacation. I thought they tasted rather like high-fiber peanut-butter filled pretzels. Yum.
This photo was taken walking down Canal Street on our first night in New Orleans. All the lights and craziness had us mesmerized after our long drive, and Dorothy couldn’t keep her little germ-magnet hands from exploring the city along with her eyes. Bourbon Street revelers threw beads to Dorothy from a balcony and she scrambled all over the ground scooping them up with joy, having no knowledge of the racier version of that tradition. A panhandler told her she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and she believed him completely and glowed with pride.Worth was given a little freedom to explore out of the stroller with the help of our monkey backpack, which is a contraption that would have horrified me before I became a parent myself. Now I figure it’s not a child leash because I’m not yanking on it; it’s saving my kid both from screaming and from being struck by traffic. Worth buys into the idea that it’s just a cute toy that allows him to walk just like his sister, without the indignity of holding Mom’s hand. We stuck beads on the monkey for fun and got laughs all over the French Quarter.Each of my family members took in New Orleans in his or her own way. Worth looked for sticky things to touch. Rob and I looked at architecture and sweets. Dorothy looked for ways to spend her souvenir money. She found a small plush cat at an expensive little doll shop on Jackson Square and it became her constant companion for the rest of the trip.Rob became the happy owner of a new Stetson at the awesomely old-school Meyer the Hatter. He used to be a regular at the store when he traveled to New Orleans for business. Now their hat selection was one of the things that drew us back as family vacationers.Dorothy and I took the street car through the Garden District and out to the end of the line and back, just like the character Jenny the Giraffe in a book we’d read before our trip. I loved how the book had prepared her to enjoy the ride. She was thrilled when we passed the same landmarks Jenny had introduced us to, and she enjoyed herself more just by having some context for the experience. Her kitty seemed to enjoy the ride too.After so much excitement, however, Dorothy pooped out halfway through the return trip. I thought it was sweet that my fiercely independent girl could still nap with her head on Mom’s lap.Sleep was nowhere near Worth’s mind when we seated him in front of beignets at the Cafe du Monde. I’d made beignets from a mix earlier in the summer to get us excited for our trip, but they were definitely not like the real thing. Worth looked at the powdered sugar and just dug right in, face-first.
There is something that brings out the kid in everyone at these little sea-side gift shops. Worth and Dorothy still had money to burn (thank you grandparents!) during the second leg of our trip, and we were all happy to hit some beachy souvenir shops when we arrived at our next destination a little too early for hotel check-in.
The campy charm of the gift shops is a little timeless, I think. Other than the slogans on the shirts, have they really changed much since my childhood, or that of my own parents? We loved the shark entrance of this one in Gulf Shores.

Worth took to the beach immediately. I’d expected some hesitation about the sand or the waves, but my boy was full of fearless joy the the whole time. He met the waves head on; he ate sand.

I hope the size of this picture shows the detail that made me include it. Worth’s face is covered in sand.

Dorothy immediately made new friends each time we went out to the beach. If she couldn’t remember their names she’d just boss them around by saying, “friend! take this,” etc. She played age-old beach games with children from Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana while her father and I chased our sand-eating son.

I was a little unsure about how to spend Worth’s souvenir money. Although he doesn’t talk much he has a way of making his opinions known, but he hadn’t seemed to develop any real opinions about gift shop items until we found Gawk on Orange Beach. Worth offered Gawk the pacifier out of his own sandy little mouth right there in the gift shop, so I knew we had to take that parrot home. Sweetly, boy and parrot snuggled in the hotel bed.

One afternoon we took a dolphin cruise. Rob and I were impressed with the number of dolphins we saw (many), and the kids were really impressed that I bought them chips from the boat’s snack bar. Vacation, baby!


Me with my chip- and sand-filled boy.

We took the children to an old fashioned mini golf course. There were plaster mermaids, tiki gods, all the good stuff. It turns out, however, that our little family may not be quite ready for mini golf yet. Worth wanted to throw the balls (see him here, trying to pry Rob’s out from under his foot) and Dorothy had no interest in playing a game she was unlikely to win. Oh well–now we know.

My family patiently displayed on-cue affection in front of my tripod on our last night on the beach. We have a photo of Rob and I kissing Dorothy on another beach when she was Worth’s age, and I wanted to recreate that photo with the four of us. My sweet family, on record!

Dorothy used the last of her spending money to buy (drum roll, please) another small plush cat, this time with matching plush carrying case. Amusingly, the two cats and their purse still seem high in the toy play rotation at home, even several weeks out. I guess she knew what she wanted. How silly of me to think that souvenirs should say something about the place they came from–these kitties say something about my little traveler!

And a tired-out boy, sun-kissed, sand-filled and still fully dressed. These are the memories I want to keep!

A knooked hippie hat

We went on vacation last week to New Orleans and to Orange Beach, Alabama. It was such good fun that it was even worth the total wreck it has now made of my house. I’m not sure how it is that returning from travel can destroy a house so quickly, but it can. Something about the laundry and the picnic supplies and the tired. I’ll catch up sometime. (When I’m dead? I hope not.) I’ll post photos after I have a minute to sit down and comb through all, um, 825 shots that I took on the trip. (I’m afraid that’s no typo.)
In addition to all the sightseeing, swimming, and keeping my kids from drowning that I did on vacation I also finished my next knooking project. I used this pattern but in a funky rainbow print. It’s going to be my cure for second-day hair this winter. The final project is more hippie than my mental image of it was, but it’s kind of fun. I’d hate to get stodgy anyway.  🙂 The Knit Picks Chroma yarn is deliciously soft and comes in other colorways–I’m tempted to come up with a project just to use more of this yarn. The pattern translated easily from knitting to knooking, so now I’m really gaining confidence. I ordered a set of knooking hooks from eBay, but they have to ship from China so who knows when they’ll get here. I purchased the crappy set that Wal-Mart sells, but the hooks are so rough that they must be sanded before they can be used, and the shape of the hook makes me unhappy–it is difficult to use. I’m hoping a good retailer picks up on the need for good knooking hooks soon and makes more metal ones. The locker hook I posted about earlier is the easy to use but only comes in one size.

The house projects continue


We took a trip to Columbus, Ohio. Our puppy traveled well but we did feel like a traveling circus (a circus in a gas-guzzling rental car, since mine is still in the shop) barreling across Kentucky and Ohio with our collection of children and dog, ready to descend on the usually calm and tidy home of my sister-in-law. She’s good-natured, though, and seems fond of us anyway! I took this photo of some baby birds in the tree outside her home. The monks who wrote the beautiful puppy book I blogged about earlier suggested that dog ownership would make me see the world in new ways and they are right. As I get to know Belle better, I also notice that I have a more keen awareness of all the animal drama playing out around me. From other dogs on the street to the screechings of the poor mama bird as I photographed her children, I’m grateful for the new dimension puppy companionship has added to my life.


We visted the Santa Maria replica on a hot afternoon. Worth has developed a fascination with boats lately that unfortunately did not seem to extend to this one. I think it was too large for him to realize he was in a vessel rather than on the shore. We at least managed to keep him from going overboard, and the rest of us enjoyed the tour. 

When we got home from Ohio my mother and I embarked on our biggest interior painting project yet–the kitchen cabinets. Is my salt shaker rolling his eyes at us? Perhaps, since there is a great chaos in the kitchen. But I think (hope!) that it’s going to look great when we’re done. 

Painting cabinets is not for the faint of heart. I did it once before, when we lived in Oak Park, Illinois, and it was a big project then without kids or pups. Still, it’s now nearing completion and I’m excited to share before and after pictures soon!