Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Second Half of our Annual Two Weeks off...

    This post is disgustingly over due I know. I can’t say that I feel that guilty about it though. Charlie and I have been on the go since we got back from our last park on this trip. We came home to the James River at unheard of levels for this time of year, and so many raft trips that the only time we are in dry clothes is at the fire station. And you know what?  I have just been enjoying not having any homework and not having to be on the computer. I’m going to get back into the swing of things though I promise. So here is the review of the second half of our state park tour. Late but better than never.

            The next stop on our state park endeavor was Natural Tunnel. This park has been the hidden gem of the trip. It is a small park with a few trails. One of the best trails was “Lovers Leap.” The trailhead was right in our campground and a fairly easy walk. First you walk an old fire road for a bit then all of a sudden you are looking out over this huge gorge. The lookout was great, a nice cool breeze and some shade. The hike continues down and around the rim of the gorge and gets to an overlook where you can really see the natural tunnel- hence the park’s name- and the train tracks that run through the tunnel. The view was spectacular. The campsites were neat and well kept and not too close together. The bathhouse as well was super nice and clean. I can’t say this enough, but a clean and well-kept bathhouse can make a trip in some ways. This had to be one of our favorite places to stay, and for very good reason. We met two of the nicest people on the planet. Known to us as “Moose and Dixie,” they had to be the most welcoming people we have met so far, and they loved having the pups around. Charlie and I were all but adopted by them. They are retired and spending as much time as they can in their camper going where ever they please. They are the type of people that you want as grandparents ya know? Plus they drank us under the table, which is always impressive. We will most definitely be making the trip back out here; it is absolutely worth the drive.
            Next we made a day trip to both the Wilderness Road State Park and the Southwest Museum. Wilderness Road was interesting. They don’t offer much in the way of camping; you’ll need a tent and to bring your own water. No RV camping though. They have recreated Fort Martin, which is pretty cool. It is very typical of things you would find say at Jamestown. There are also re-enactors there to guide you around. They informed us we missed about 600 re-enactors that were there the weekend before for a re-enactment. I admit part of me snickered. Being from “the North” there is always a cynical part of me that snickers at re-enactors. I had honestly never encountered them until we moved to Virginia. But I digress. I’m sure it was impressive. I am still curious how you get the job of hanging out in a re-created fort, cleaning old guns, and wearing funny clothes and get paid by the state to do it.
            The Southwest Virginia Museum was quite lovely. Again it was more a school field trip type of place, but Charlie brought up a good point. It is probably a great local attraction in that there is only a certain amount of their extensive collection of artifacts on display at any one time, so the exhibits change. They have some 20,000 artifacts that chronicle life in Big Stone Gap VA during the 1890 coal boom. The grounds of the mansion are beautiful and great for a picnic lunch, one of which is held Sundays in the warmer months. There were a bunch of quilts on display the day that we visited and some arts and crafts of local artists. I got a very cool local vibe from the place. I was disappointed however when I found out that they did not have a patch.
            Once again we hit the road and headed to what we were hoping to be one of the best parks yet. Boy were we disappointed. Very disappointed. Breaks Interstate gave me a weird feeling as soon as we got there. You know when you go to a place and it just feels weird and the people around you seem weird too? Well that was Breaks for me. Now I was trying to keep an open mind and we still are, but here is what has us not thinking we will be back. So first off the campsites, they were decent. Nothing too impressive, but we id like how they were set back in the woods. We stayed in the “D” campsite, which was hard to get to, as the signage around the campground is rather confusing. We are hoping that this experience was maybe a fluke thing and just limited to the “D” campground, but the bathhouse was atrocious. They are very outdated, which would have been fine if they were clean. In the women’s side the soap dispenser had corroded the electrical box pretty much off the wall, the paint was peeling everywhere and there was trash scattered all over the place. After I picked up the trash, and made sure all of the toilets were flushed it was a little better. Yes I am the person who cleans up a park restroom; people are so gross and I don’t ever want to be accused of being a part of the problem. Besides it’s not that hard to make sure the toilet flushes or that you throw your trash in the trash can! Now for the men’s side… I wasn’t brave enough to look after Charlie came back from taking a shower only to tell me that he hadn’t taken a shower. Here’s why. Apparently the first shower didn’t have much water pressure, about enough to wash your hands in and that’s it, the second one was stopped up but he thought, “I’ll just quickly rinse off and head back to the camper.” Well as he was about to step into the shower, a serpent like creature (he could not confirm or deny if it was a worm, snake or whatever- he didn’t stay around long enough to find out) came swimming up from the drain and proceeded to enjoy the shower that Charlie wouldn’t. I didn’t even try to tell you the truth I was ok with being a little stinky.
            One of the weird things about where we stayed was that there was a lot of traffic through the campsite. Now we later figured out part of the reason was because there are a lot of “driving trails” we called them. You can drive just about anywhere to just about any overlook, but good luck finding a hiking trail. The other reason we think is that one guy appeared to be living there. Who knows?
            After Breaks, and not soon enough we were on our way to Hungry Mother. The campsites here were great and very scenic. We stayed in the B campground and it was right along a stream and very beautiful and not too close together. Hungry Mother offers a ton of hiking and biking trails, and a large lake to swim in. I would feel very comfortable bringing a canoe here, but there are some motorboats that come through. There are canoe rentals and paddle boats as well. We ran into more rain and people during our stay here but we were noticing that as it has gotten warmer and closer to Memorial Day the crowds are getting bigger. Again rave reviews for the facilities here, especially since we didn’t have to share them with the local wild life. We did have a bachelor group of mallards that hung out around the campsite, floating around in the stream. They were very entertaining to watch. This park I imagine gets very busy in the summer, as there is a convention center and other facilities that accommodate larger groups. So as always my advice is to plan ahead and make reservations.
            From Hungry Mother we day tripped to Claytor Lake. This park is much like Smith Mountain. There is a huge lake with a very nice marina. Again a large amount of motorboat traffic, but a great place to bring your boat if you have one. Again not a place that I think we would hang out much. It was a VERY nice park, but our boats don’t fit in there and there isn’t a ton of hiking trails, definitely a place for fishermen.
            Douthat was the last stop on this round of parks, and according to Charlie the best park of the bunch, and I have to agree. Douthat offers a beautiful lake that Seven thoroughly enjoyed swimming in and Charlie and Angus enjoyed the fishing. The campsites were tucked into the woods a bit, which really gave it a camping feel. The facilities were slightly outdated but they were clean and well kept so it didn’t matter. We had a great time playing in the lake and playing in the streams. Charlie didn’t have any luck with the fish but it didn’t really matter because we had such a good time. The morning of our departure could not be better timed though. When we went to bed the night before we were one of three campers in the campground and when we woke up, the invasion had begun. Before I could get the pups fed and under control a very nice lady was asking if she could put her tag on our campsite and what time we were leaving. I wanted to think that she was being rude, but she was very nice about it. We could not pack our stuff and get out of there fast enough. We have officially decided that Memorial Day is not the time for us to go camping. EVER. Way too many people with very obscene campers, and yes there is such a thing.
            As our trip came to a close I was sentimental about it. I wasn’t quite ready to go home, but then again I was. The cool thing was we came home to a garden that had exploded while we were gone. I was afraid that it was all going to die off, but apparently we got plenty of rain at home too. It’s back to work, and boy there is plenty of it, the James River is being very kind to raft guides this year. We still have a few more parks to go before we finish the list. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tour of Virginia

Smith Mountain Lake just before the thunderstorm
  Our states park tour is continued on our annual two weeks off and first up was Smith Mountain Lake State park. This park is right on the lake, but the only lake front camping you will get is in the cabins. The cabins are nice we drove through them to see what they were about. There were a lot of fisherman with bass boats occupying the cabins so I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you fish and have a bass boat this is going to be a great place for you. There were also some very nice places to fish off the bank. I will say though that if canoeing and kayaking is your thing this might not be the best place. At least not around the state park. There may be other places on the lake that are perfect for this, but where we were there was a lot of motor boat/jet ski traffic that would make a paddle slightly nerve racking and not that safe. It is however a beautiful lake and if you find a quiet spot to paddle let me know I would love to come back. Of course I have also been told that maybe I should give those new fangled motor boats a try instead of just paddling.
            We stayed one night at Smith Mountain and it was lovely; clean campsites and facilities. The camp hosts as always were friendly. The camp ground does fill up fast especially once it gets warm so make sure to call ahead for reservations. It was Mother’s day weekend on a Saturday so that might have had something to do with it, but we ended up with the last open site with reservations so call ahead. 
Angus sniffing the camera
            Up next was Fairy Stone State Park. The big attraction here is that there are these stones shaped like crosses that according to legend were formed by the tears of fairies after they had learned of the death of Christ. We didn’t go stone hunting; Angus and Seven would have dug the whole place up. We did however spend some time on the beach and Charlie got to fish. The beach there is nice, and I venture to say man made but no matter it’s a great place to swim and rent canoes and paddle boats. That is exactly what we would have done had it not been 60 degrees and windy, but sitting on the dock in the warm sunshine was super nice.
Waiting for Dad  
            This doesn’t sound like a big deal but one of the things that really stuck out to me was that the bathrooms and showers were all in the same room. Many of the campgrounds have these separated in the same building. It was so nice to go into one room use the bathroom then go hop in the shower instead of lugging all your shower stuff to the bathroom then having to lug it all to the showers after you are done in the bathroom. Again sounds trivial but when it’s cold out this can make all the difference.
Yep it's a tower
            Shot Tower Historical State Park was next. And well it’s a tower. It doesn’t sound it but this tower is rather significant because it made lead bullets and other munitions during the civil war. It is really just a historical site so there isn’t a lot to it, but there are some picnic tables and it is really beautiful on the top of the hill. The trail at the bottom of the tower connects to the New River State park so you don’t have to make a dedicated stop at the tower you can stop and New River and bike/hike to the tower.
View from the campsites at New River 
            The New River State Park just has primitive campsites no room for RV’s or campers. It is really picturesque. The river flows right along some of the campsites, and there are several islands that you can get to by boat to camp on as well. The staff at the camp store/office were super friendly and very helpful. Charlie and I are hoping to plan a paddling trip here in the future. Things to remember though are that the river flows north so take that into account when planning a paddling trip. Also get the Blueway Virginia/West Virginia maps to plan your trip. Don’t worry a detailed trip narrative on this will be coming in the future I’m sure.
Listening Rock overlook
            Grayson Highlands State Park is perfect if you have a backpack and want to head down some of the best trails that Virginia has to offer. The name says it all though, it is up high so be prepared for wind. We are told it is windy almost all the time here, which in the summer I am sure is delightful. In the beginning of May it’s still pretty cold. Along with your hiking boots make sure to pack your warm socks. The claim to fame here are the wild ponies that roam what is called the “balds” or basically the large fields on top of the mountain. So far we have seen none but in all honesty we didn’t look very hard. Most of the trails that take you were the ponies live we felt were too long for Seven just yet, but we do have friends who have hiked the portion of the AT (Appalachian Trail) through the trail that have seen them. So basically if you hike the trails that promise to see the ponies apparently you can’t fail unless you go blind during your hike.  We took the dogs on the Listening Rock trail. The map says that it is a moderate trail with handicap access. Don’t be fooled though. The whole time we were trying to figure out how a handicapped person would do this. Well there is an overlook that is wheelchair accessible, but that is about it. It wasn’t the hardest hike that we have ever done, but it was pretty strenuous and the footing is not the best as there are a lot of rocks, that and I had Seven so the difficulty is raised for me anyway. With that said it was an amazingly beautiful hike. Most of it is in the woods, but it is open enough that you can see for a good distance. The Listening Rock overlook is pretty awesome. All you can see are mountains all around you and the humongous Christmas tree farm that you pass on the drive into the park. Don’t get blown off though, this is probably the windiest part of the trip. Side note I am convinced that Grayson County is the Christmas tree capitol of the world. There is almost nowhere you can look where you don’t see another Christmas tree farm.
We have worn them out
            Now for the down side to Grayson. THERE IS NO HOT WATER! This is an absolute huge bummer when we are getting stinky and would like a shower; we have been stinky before, 10 days in the Canadian Wilderness and we’re still together, so I think we can manage. The campsites aren’t that bad. They are a little tight though. We had to try a few out to make sure that we could get the camper level and that the fire ring wasn’t going to be too close to the trailer or the truck. As it turned out though we didn’t really need to worry about the fire pit because it was too cold to stay out very long and way too windy. Thank goodness that Charlie didn’t take the heater out of the camper, other wise we would have froze during the night. The second night there proved to be a lot less fun than the first. During the day we took a trek out to Hungry Mother to do some recon on the place and take a warm shower. We restocked on some supplies and headed back to camp. We made it through dinner ok and I managed to sew a few more patches on the curtains but then the winds picked up and I mean picked up, like fear that the camper was going to roll down the mountainside because we had been blown over. Clearly we weren’t but it was touch and go there for a while.
            So we have hit the halfway part of our trip and we are having a great time. It is so nice to just hang out.
            Next Up: Natural Tunnel, Breaks Interstate, Southwest Virginia Museum, Wilderness Road, Hungry Mother, Claytor Lake, and maybe Douthat. Plus I will recap the camping menu and how awesome this little gift we received called the Camp Chef has been. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

An update on the Big Brown Dog and other news


As you can see she is still in good spirits. But then again
She really loves a belly rub.
  I am glad to say that we are in the home stretch! Only about 2 ½ weeks left of The Big Brown Dog’s “prison sentence.” Seven is dealing with all of this wonderfully. She still has to be on a leash or in the crate most of the time, but it is getting better. She is able to put more weight on her leg now and her limping has decreased as well. When she first came home she had the dreaded cone to keep her from chewing at the incision site. The problem with the cone was that she couldn’t get into and out of the crate because of the size of this crazy thing. Thankfully the vet tech offered some good advice. She said that there was an alternative. So to the pet store I went and the donut I got. I can’t say that she liked it, but it had to be way better than the cone. Plus it was a great pillow for her when she slept. She got the staples and stitches out last week and we finally got to say goodbye to the dreaded donut. Now comes the hard part. She’s starting to feel better and I still have to keep her still and quiet. Yeah right. We still have to sedate her, which makes me feel like a bad parent, but unfortunately it is kind of necessary to get her back to her old self again. But I am glad that she is feeling better. All she wants to do is run and is acting like nothing has happened. She is still just a bit confused as to why she is on a leash in the yard, but we are getting closer, which is great news because frankly she has become high maintenance all of a sudden. It has all been worth it though to get my happy dog back on track.
Coop almost ready!
The garden is growing fast
            In other news that garden is up and going and we are closer to having chickens! The city finally got their act together and passed the motion to allow for urban chickens. I can’t wait. We can only have four hens, but I think that is a great start for us since there are only two of us and well I have never done this before so four seems manageable. The coop is almost ready to go and I have to hand it to my husband he did a great job. A few more adjustments and we are in business. Tomatoes and squash will go in the ground as soon as we get back from vacation along with at least another two raised beds if I have my way. I have broccoli that is almost ready to eat and the cabbage looks delicious! Carrots are on the way as well and I am very excited to see how they turn out. We have a potato patch in the works as well as some ambitions to get a green house built so that we can sustain a little more of this through the cold months. I also have plans for the hubby to build me an outdoor canning station. He may not know this yet but it’s going to be awesome and he is going to be busy.
Had to add a shot of Angus.
Aren't they good looking?
            Probably the most exciting news is that I am no longer a college student but a graduate! I turned in my final paper the other day and it was a huge weight off of me. Now to figure out what to do with the free time I might allow myself to have now that I don’t have to have my nose buried in the books. It won’t be much free time as I have started teaching some fitness boot camp style classes (so much fun!), and rafting season is starting to get into full swing. Next on our agenda is to continue the state park tour and hit up the western part of Va. A whole two weeks off! I’m getting excited to get the camper on the road. I will have plenty of pictures and park reviews along the way. I hope that everyone’s spring/summer is off to an exciting start! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

I have finally lost my mind... I think.

            I am going to eat a lot of crow with this post. A lot. Like about $3,000.00 worth. For a long time I always thought that I was a sane person. I really did. Little did I know I am no saner than the crazy cat lady down the street. Here is how my discovery went down.
One of my absolute favorite pictures of Seven.
This is her in a nut shell. 
            The Big Brown Dog has been limping for about 2 months now. At first not bad just after she had been running around a lot.  We just thought well she is older this kind of thing is going to happen. Well it has just gotten worse. Now it’s every time she gets up, and it’s real bad if she has been running around for a while. It has gotten to the point that while she is standing she lifts the offending leg. At first I was concerned that it was her hips. So off to the vet we go. They gave her some meds and I could tell that she was feeling great after the first few doses. She was acting like her old self and running around like a puppy. I was hoping that the round of anti-inflammatory medication was going to do the trick. That lasted for a while, but then went back to limping. Well we went back for a second round of meds and that worked a little but it has just steadily gotten worse. So we went back to the vet and he suggested that we get x-rays done just to see what is going on in there. He said that he could feel the swelling in her left hind knee and that he thinks that the joint is unstable and that there could be some ligament damage. Not surprising for a dog that chases everything. And I mean everything; squirrels, trucks, school busses, snowflakes, the mailman- the list goes on and on. The vet said that surgery might be an option and then gave us the price tag of about $2,500 to $3,000. This is where I realized I am one of those people, because I almost, almost didn’t bat an eyelash at the price tag. Now really Seven doesn’t get much fancy treatment, but this time is making up for all of that time that she was treated like a dog. The up side is it's not her hips.
Her "hour a day" outside. Oh come on I take her out more than
that. She just hates being on the leash. 

Hating "House Arrest"
            The hard part is that there are two different surgeries that she could potentially have. The first being much cheaper than the second but the second surgery is a definite fix to the problem. There is the potential for her to tear things again with the first surgery. So now came the dilemma how much is Seven worth? Well to me she’s worth the world. That dog and I have been through so much. As cheesy and cliché as that sounds to say about a dog. Then there is the fact that she is still a very active dog. She acts like a puppy. It’s not like she is an older dog just laying around – then this blog post would be on the art projects that I have been doing to distract me from all of this. I guess the hardest thing of all is watching her limp and restricting her from running around. It’s heartbreaking really. You can tell she is bored. It’s almost worse than the time I took her canoeing. She really hated that. At times she almost looks depressed, and there was a time that she didn’t finish her food. I immediately called the vet after that incident; said it was most likely pain that was causing her to not want to eat. This dog never doesn’t want to eat. She is doing a little bit better though she now has a pain medication along with the anti-inflammatory. We have started calling her the inmate. She does not like house arrest anymore than we do, but I am willing to do whatever I have to for her. How can you not for a dog that has only ever asked for breakfast, dinner, a good pet every now and then and a tennis ball?
Patiently waiting for her.
I can't wait to get her back to this.
          Our consultation with the
surgeon is this week. So fingers crossed. And then some divine intervention might be helpful to get her through her recovery. Yep it’s official I’m a crazy pet person.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

State Park Tour 2013

            Here is a little update on how our Virginia State Park Tour is going.

            First off I am determined to make some really sweet tour t-shirts. It only seems appropriate. I mean every great tour has a t-shirt right? Not sure on the design yet but it is forthcoming.

Putting all of our patches on the curtains
Reminds me of my Girl Scout days and my sash
            More importantly here is how the parks are shaping up thus far…
Our first trip was to Shenandoah River State Park (Front Royal Va). The weather was a bust; it poured down rain most of the time, but had it not been for the camper we never would have gone so I consider the trip a success. The park was very clean and very empty. We were the only ones there besides the park staff, which was great actually. The park offers several hiking trails which unfortunately due to the several inches of rain that fell we didn’t get to do much of. There was one trail that was graveled that we took the pups on with minimal mud puddles. It took us by the river and was a lovely time since we had been stuck in the camper most of the day.
            On the same trip to Shenandoah River, we took a day trip up to Sky Meadow. Again the weather was not the best; cold and rainy, so we didn’t get to do much exploring. The visitor center was very nice and the girl there was ever so pleasant and helpful. Always nice to meet someone pleasant when you have been cooped up in a camper with two dogs that are wet.
Pet Ladybug Ruby. She still lives at
the beach though
Gabe's awesome find.
            Recently we took the camper east and headed for the coast. We decided that we would stay at First Landing State park and beach it for a few days. The campsites were good, a little sandy but you can’t help that. We stayed close to the water right near the boardwalk that took you to the beach. It was nice to hear the waves at night. And again not too many people. But with it getting warmer I am sure that will start to change. Our nephews joined us for part of this trip and had a blast. I got some great pictures of them. It’s hard not to though they are so cute anyway.
Flying the kite with Uncle Charlie... kinda
            After a night of s’mores and I dare say the best dessert ever of Reese’s eggs and graham crackers, Charlie and I decided to head over to Kiptopeke State Park in Cape Charles VA. Have to say not impressed. Many of the campsites were in an open field, which in the summer means no shade at all. There are some huge lodges that looked like they would be great for a large group, especially if that group were into fishing. There is a pier and boat launch in the park and there were a lot of trucks with boat trailers in the parking lot. Other than that I don’t think that Kiptopeke has a lot to offer us anyway.
Sand Angels. Not sure why he did it
but he did
            Our next stop was Chippokes Plantation State Park (Surry Va). This place is hands down one of the best places we have camped. And that goes for both the tent and the camper. We have made it a point that if we are just doing a day trip, that we at least go through the campsites and check them out. The tent sites there look just as awesome as the camper sites were. One of the best features, the swiveling grill grate with the dutch oven hook. Made cooking our ham steak a breeze. Charlie now wants one in the backyard. Again the bathhouses were very clean and very warm which was awesome as it was chilly. The sites were tucked in the woods but open enough. The best thing was that it didn’t look forced. It wasn’t a huge field like Kiptopeke, but the campsites were plenty large enough with plenty of trees around. The Plantation there is quite lovely. We drove through to check it out, but I would like to go back when they are running tours. There is a beach there that would be great for small kids, and apparently there is an abundance of pre-historic sharks teeth that get washed up from the river bottom. Weird to think if sharks in the James River. We didn’t go search for any as low tide was after dark but it is definitely on the list to come back to, and maybe with the nephews. The trails are well marked and looked clean. We didn’t do much hiking as we were headed to York River State Park for a short day trip.
James River Ferry. The one picture of me on this trip.
Look close in the side mirror
          The cool part about York River was where we were coming from we had to take the James River Ferry to get there. Now York River doesn’t have any campsites so it is for sure a place for a day trip. They did offer some nice picnic areas and several horse trails if you are lucky to have that kind of four-legged friend. We took the pups on a short walk down to the river. Again nice trails and a great visitors center with artifacts. The fishing here is apparently a great attraction as we saw several people walking around with fishing poles.
         For our trip in May this year we are tossing around the idea of heading west and hitting almost all of the parks left on our list. It’s either that or paddling somewhere. I think that next year we start a tour of all the national parks. I wonder if our little trailer could hold up that long?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I have a feeling it’s a losing battle

             I posted a while ago on how my craft room/study has a life of its own. Well not much has changed I guess. There is still entirely too much stuff in there, but it is getting better organized.
            So a side note to set the stage here. One of my best friends Lyndsey and I have this thing, and this thing is IKEA. I will never forget the first time we went there. I had heard about IKEA but I had never experienced IKEA. And let me tell you it is an experience. And I will pass on the advice she gave me before we left. “Measure the space you want to fill and then measure it again. Go the first time and look and touch everything figure out what you like write it down, then make a second trip.” It’s good advice. The hardest thing about going into an IKEA is that you feel like a total failure coming out of there the first time. It is amazing what they can do with 1200 square feet that you can’t do with 12000. Coming out of there the first time I felt like I lived in a cardboard box, and a very unorganized one. It is hard to go in there and not want to buy the whole store but you really have to pace yourself and not get too excited. There really is an art to shopping there. This is also the point in the trip where Lyndsey gently reminds me that they engineered the room that way. They got to decide where the windows and the sink go. We unfortunately do not have that option. And I am sad to say that I am sure that the guys that built our house have never been to an IKEA. I am slowly forgiving the builders of my current residence and becoming less overwhelmed and a more scrupulous and systematic shopper.
All chewed to pieces. The picture is sideways
but you get the point.
            For some reason our trips always start out with Lyndsey wanting a chair. “I just have to pick up a chair.” She likes chairs. Last time it was a desk chair and now one for the living room. Of course I was on board immediately! We hadn’t seen each other since my wedding in October and what better way to reunite! We also brought along my other favorite Rotha. She’s great and added a good energy boost to the group and it gave me a chance to show off my veteran IKEA shopper skills to a newbie. This trip I had nothing in particular that I was looking for so I was along for the ride. Well about the time we got to the kitchen section an idea struck me. Why not find a skinny table/desk that I could put the sewing machine on. I have come to the conclusion and resolution that the craft room just needs to be a craft room, and not try to be an office too. With school winding down it’s getting easier to make that happen. I looked at every desk table and sideboard that they had. Then I saw it. It’s perfect. Skinny enough it doesn’t stick out from the wall too far; tall enough I can stand up and work at it, shelves for storage and two drawers. This sideboard has got to be one of the more perfect purchases I have ever made. I would have never thought that the way to open up my little craft room and get it organized would be to buy another large piece of furniture.
All clean and organized...For now anyway
             Now I am hopeful that for the moment I have one the battle but I am not naïve enough to think that the war is over. But I have changed my strategy. I have decided that it is just the craft room now. I have ended up doing most of my schoolwork in other places anyway so I think that if I just make it the craft/sewing room I might have a better handle on things. Of course this could just be trying to trick myself into thinking that I have a room organized and taken care of. I might just be kidding myself. But as of April 27th I will no longer have schoolwork and I will have a master’s degree so I might as well have some fun in that room.
            So after I found my awesome sideboard I then had to find a seat. Now the perfect choice was a barstool. Its very simple and just my style and for $15 it couldn’t be beat.
            We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We always do. But our evening wasn’t done. We had a birthday to celebrate; Lyndsey’s husband. And out to dinner we went. Now before I get to the next part please remember that my dogs lived a charmed life no matter what they tell anyone. On this particular night though they were not happy and decided to let me know about it. Along with a new sewing table I got some fabric, a salad spinner that I was particularly excited about, a railing system with some containers to hang for all of my sewing accoutrements, and some new sheets and a comforter. Well when I got home, I still had the sheets but they had been opened and slept on, the salad spinner DOA, and even the metal railing system was chewed along with almost all of the plastic containers. What really sent me over the edge was the fact that they chewed a hole in the fabric; right in the middle of a fold that was of course in the middle of the fabric. I lost it. I completely lost it, and thank goodness that Charlie wasn’t home. Naturally the only thing to do was channel that energy since there was no way that I was going to bed. At about 02:45 am I had finished putting together my barstool, sewing table and then got it organized. I enjoyed it for about 5 minutes then crashed in bed. The dogs slept in the living room, which was for the best really. We were still not on speaking terms.
            I’m happy to report that I am speaking to the dogs again. It took a few days to get over, but we worked through it. Plus the way that I look at it, it’s just a good reason to make another trip back to IKEA. I wonder what chair Lyndsey will find this time?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Best Thing in Camping Since Well Camping

            I have to admit I was expecting a total disaster. That’s how stuff like this usually goes for us. I am told that we aren’t the only people on the planet that these things happen to but I have yet to see the proof. But…this whole camper thing has turned out better than I could have ever hoped for. There was only one minor issue. Well a $138 issue.
All the stuff I had to get organized and packed in the
Camper. What a mess.
All packed up and ready to go 

Rain, rain, rain
            We managed to get to the campsite relatively easily. It rained most of the drive up there but we had kind of expected that to happen. And I say relatively easily except for a few minor hiccups. First Charlie realized that he had only brought one pair of shoes. Of course at a point where there was no turning back to get them from the house. Next was just the general nervousness of pulling a camper that could disintegrate at any moment with a truck that could very easily meet the same fate. There were a few times that I caught myself holding my breath. The highlight of the trip up though was the really awesome BBQ place we stopped at. So good. Once into Front Royal we stopped at a K-Mart and Charlie found some very charming camouflaged shoes. Problem one taken care of. After K-Mart we got to the park and got everything set up and without getting rained on. Well for that moment anyway. The park rangers were super nice and had us considering a career change almost immediately. They did however look at us a little strangely because well it is January and we were camping. Normally I would have looked at us strangely too.
            I can’t say enough about the campsites. They were so well maintained with gravel spots for the camper and around the campfire. This turned out to be one of the most important aspects of the whole trip.
Awesome campsites 
            After we set up house we got the pups fed and started a campfire. Well that lasted about 20 minutes. Then the rain came. Which honestly hadn’t bothered me that much, because it was cold and damp and we had a cozy camper to curl up in. Then it rained and rained and rained. It rained a lot. Good thing is that the camper keeps most of the water out. There are a few spots that leak but mostly just get saturated not a dripping leak. Thank goodness. So instead of letting it get us down we cooked dinner on our adorable stovetop. Chef Charlie whipped up some great hot dogs with peppers and onions. Now it doesn’t sound like much but to a mother of two very excited puppies who had been running around all afternoon it was the best meal ever! Plus while he worked I got to stretch my artistic abilities and color in my Peanuts coloring book. After dinner and a quick clean up we made the dreaded trip to the bathhouse. And let me just say the only reason it was dreaded was because it was pouring down rain, that and I had to take Seven with me. The bathhouses there are amazing. I mean nothing like the Hilton (not that I have been in one) but better than going in the woods in the pouring down rain. Which by the way I would have gladly done too, had there not been a choice. That is after all what I am used to. The best part about the bathhouse for me was 1. The hot shower and, 2. The fact that I could use my blow dryer after that hot shower. I have to admit there is something to be said for being able to take a shower and then get my hair dry afterwards while camping. I have a lot of hair so this is a big deal.
Favorite spot, curled up under the table.
Home sweet home
            So night one was rather uneventful. The next day the plan was to take the pups hiking. Well the place was totally saturated so we decided that we would stay out of the woods and hike on one of the gravel trails that the park had. So glad for that trail, the camper was getting a little cramped. After that a quick jaunt into town, and then up to Sky Meadow to walk around. Right. Well we made it to town, and then I noticed that the truck was smoking just a bit. At first I just thought that it was just steam since it was super cold, but on further inspection we noticed that the antifreeze was leaking. Well Charlie had had this problem fixed before. To make a long story a little shorter when he had it fixed it wasn’t done correctly. So to a mechanic we went along with our two wet smelly dogs. It didn’t take long to get it fixed and the dogs were relatively well behaved while we waited. In fact they were kind of the hit at the shop. So needless to say Sky Meadow was out by the time we got the truck taken care of. So it was an evening of puzzles, Yahtzee and some DVDs.
Thank goodness we made it home before all of this 
            The next morning brought a much-needed break from the rain so we ventured out to Sky Meadow. What a good-looking park. It was very well kept and if it hadn’t started raining again then we would have explored more. But the dogs were happy to get out and about and were sleepy the drive back. Our last evening was quiet and cold as the first real winter storm of the season was starting to roll in. Luckily we made it all the way back to Richmond mostly in just rain. And clean up wasn’t that bad much easier than having to clean up from our normal camping trips. I can’t wait for the next trip. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

This Whole Camper Thing…

            As usual getting the camper ready has been harder than we expected. We shouldn’t have been surprised nothing like this goes as easy as we would like it to, the perfect example being our bathroom remodel. But like every tough situation we find ourselves in we buckled down and got to work. Now I won’t take any credit for fixing the camper. My role has been mostly to reassure, and keep heads level. I am the interior decorator, and I will toot my own horn about that. Charlie has done an amazing amount of work to get the camper ready for our January trip. What we first thought was going to be an easy fix to seal a window turned into replacing most of a wall and then resealing a window. The sink didn’t pump and the propane didn’t work so all of that had to be replaced. There were lights that needing replacing and some cushions that needed some cleaning. I am happy to report that all his hard work has paid off and we are up and running. There were times when he hated that camper, but he prevailed. This is one of the reasons I love him so much. No matter how frustrated he gets he always gets the job done. I do the best I can to keep it all in perspective for both of us. We tend to get way ahead of ourselves when we get excited about something.
Meet Gladys yes I named my sewing maching.
Fabric for the "Dining room" curtains
            So now it is my turn to contribute to the camper. When we first got it I asked Charlie what I could do and he said sew curtains. Well shit… The last time that I sewed anything was in my 6th grade home economics class. Heartburn ensued. But I had to pull through. He had done so much and worked so hard that I could not screw this up. So I sat down with the Singer that I got from Mom last year for Christmas. We were going to become friends or I was going to sew my fingers together in the process. I read and reread the manual, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Then I had to wind the thread in a bobbin. It was one of the more anxious moments of my life. First you need at least an associates degree in engineering to thread the machine to even put the thread on the bobbin. Then you have to try to control your nervous foot as you press the pedal to wind the bobbin. Somehow I made it through that. Then I had to thread the needle. Again another degree to figure the thing out. Then you have to get the thread from the bottom of the machine to the top. At this point I was about to vomit, but 6th grade was starting to come back to me. So now that I had this damn thing threaded I had to get the fabric ready. Now in wanting to do all of this right I of course consulted pinterest and youtube, like any sane person would do. That’s when I realized that I would be doing two things that I kinda loath; laundry and ironing. Damn it. But I was going to do this right. So I washed the fabric and then ironed the whole thing. Next it was time to measure and cut the fabric. This is probably the most frustrating and nerve racking part of the whole thing for me. Well after a few attempts and several pricked fingers, I got all the fabric cut and pinned ready to roll. Then I remembered one thing I read about pressing the seams. Seriously I have to iron again?! Did I mention how much I just LOOOVE ironing? After a short-lived tantrum I set the iron up again and pressed the seams. I’m glad I did it made things so much easier.
Finished Dining Room curtains
The Bed Room curtains
            Here it was the moment I was waiting for. Time to actually use the sewing machine. Take another Pepcid, take a deep breath, and push the pedal right? Well that pedal is tricky. I pushed it gently at first and nothing happened, I pushed a little harder and the damn thing took off. It is a fine line between warp speed sewing and the 5mph sewing that I am more comfortable with. The first curtain looks a little sloppy I won’t lie, but it did get easier as I went along. Then I was on a roll. I also made a tablecloth! Take that 6th grade. In your face! Ok I’m gloating sorry. But as you can tell I had a really good time, all my fingers are still separate, and I am looking for my next project. No worries though you won’t see me on project runway, unless there is a curtains edition. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thank Goodness that’s over with… Now on with the Quest

            So I had wanted to continue my post from last time about the craft room. I wanted to gloat about how proud I was of myself that I got it cleaned up and organized…then Christmas happened. No gloating here, the room is a mess! It was clean for about 2 hours though. So I guess there is some hope that I could get it straight again. So moving on.
What it looked like almost clean. Then
Christmas threw up in here. It's still
a freaking mess! One day it will be clean.
One of the many shadow boxes I made
for Christmas presents.

Now I am not a total scrooge but I am happy that Christmas is over. Well may be relieved a better word. It was a handmade Christmas for the most part so I have been a busy elf over the past few weeks. A lot of it revolved around the wedding; various shadow boxes and photo albums, and some of it food. Have to say I am kind of tired of looking at wedding photos. There are amazing but there were a lot. I am hoping that next year it will be more about food.
            This brings me to my latest obsession, Julia Child. A few months ago I broke down and bought myself a kindle, and the first book that I purchased, well the only one I bought, I'm cheap, was a biography on Julia Child “Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child” by Bob Spitz. I highly recommend this book. It could be life changing for me. Growing up I would catch her on PBS and always thought that she was pretty cool. I mean this huge woman and that voice. How could you not get sucked in? After watching her I would then run into the kitchen to then host my own cooking show that mostly involved pulling a bunch of pots, pans, spoons, and canned goods out and clanging them around. Thank goodness I couldn’t reach the knives.
            I never really appreciated cooking good food until I got older. And now there is no stopping me. This book is totally enthralling and has inspired me. She had such an amazing life. If this firefighter thing doesn’t work out I’m running away to Paris and devoting my life to food. The hubby is totally enabling this new and growing obsession. For Christmas he got me both volumes of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Game on. Now I can’t say that I have lofty goals of cooking my way through the entirety both volumes but I do plan on reading them both cover to cover and giving it a go. Charlie isn’t the only enabler. My aunt and uncle sent me a cookbook filled with recipes from Maine. I also received some great pickling and canning cookbooks from my in-laws that will get put to great use, especially when we get the garden fired back up. The collection is growing, and I am running out of room in the kitchen to keep them. I am going to have to get creative in my storage or just add on to the house.
Here's our baby!
Inside needs updated.
But I can handle that 
            Now that Christmas is over and things have settled a little bit, Charlie and I have out pet project to work on. We bought a camper! A 1972 Serro Scotty pull behind camper. It is official! We’re now camping snobs. This is going to be like staying at the Hilton for us. Running water, a bed, and electricity! A big change from dehydrated food and sleeping pads. Now don’t think for a second that we are going to forget where we came from and not use those sleeping pads! This is a game changer for us though. Once we get her up and running, a lot more camping opportunities open up for us. Now there will be no more excuses of it’s going to rain, or it’s too cold, or it’s too hot. No excuses, except for maybe snow and ice, but those are only for safe traveling purposes. Though I am sure that Mr. Holland will push that limit too if given the chance.  I can’t wait to get it on the road. There are a few things that need to be done to it, but nothing too major that has to be done to it for us to start enjoying it. The 1972 interior is on the list to be updated. Surprisingly this thing is in really good condition. Some cleaning up and a few touches here and there and we are in business. Which brings me to “The Quest.” Now this was Charlie’s idea but I was on board immediately. So “The Quest” is to visit all, and camp in as many as possible of the state parks in VA next year. There are 35 of them. It’s gonna be a long year. I’m up for it though because it is going to be great fun. Especially since we can take the pups with us, to liven up the campground if it needs it. We all know they are good at that.

            Our first trip is coming up mid January. I’ll let you know how it goes…