Winter is a time to refocus

The first couple of weeks of the new year is a time of reflection for me.  I usually take a break from the busy things in life and try to refocus on what is important to me.  That is why I haven’t posted in a couple weeks.  I don’t usually set specific goals at this time of year.  I do take the time to think about what is important to me and try to refocus our time to reflect those activities.  This year, I want to focus on more time doing things I enjoy.  Crafting, playing games with friends, and writing.  The hubby and I want to focus on moving forward with the goal of building a new house or remodeling this one.

 

I have spent time working on knitting my cardigan.  I’m at the last inch of the front.  It seems like a never ending portion of the sweater.  I cannot wait to cast off and try it on!  The sleeves, of course will also take me forever to do with their endless stockinette stitch.
warmcirclecardigan

We have been trying to get out and spend more time playing games with friends.  I’ve discovered a few new ones that I would love to add to our collection.  Splendor and Tsuro were quite fun and at the top of my list for new games to purchase.

Splendorgame

The hubby and I have spent time looking at shiny new cars and pretty new houses.  Long term goals and all that.  For the here and now, we have been cleaning and organizing in our home.  Clearing clutter and making time to rearrange for a fresh new look.

I have a few projects that I would like to complete in the new year.  I would like to complete the cardigan before my birthday in February.  (40!  eek!)  I have a new series in the works for this blog and involves starting up a YouTube channel.  I’ve been busy writing posts for DIYcraftz.  At work I have two student teachers observing in my classroom each week.  Their excitement for the career has me looking at my classroom with a fresh set of eyes.  I am glad to have their inspiration this time of year.

What have you been focusing on so far in 2018?  What projects (craft or otherwise) have you been working on?  What do you want to complete?  Did you set New Years goals?  How are they going?  

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winter refocus

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Holiday Traditions: The Christmas Tree

Every family has a their own holiday traditions.  As the month of December gets started around our home, these traditions roll in with the Christmas tree.

When my husband and I began our lives together, we didn’t have much.  Both of us agreed we didn’t want a Christmas tree covered in random ornaments bought at the local department store.  I had a few glass balls from my Great Grandmother, and a few from my childhood.  That first year, we went and each chose one ornament we felt was significant to us that year.  Our tree was not one that was picture perfect for a magazine, but each ornament on there had a story and we loved it.

Each year since, our family has continued the tradition of adding an ornament for each family member.  We each choose one that has meaning to us that year.  Our Christmas tree has filled up over the years. Now it is splendidly full of all the personality our family brings.

Another holiday tradition for our family is making our own ornaments.  Each year when my children were growing up, we would make a set of ornaments.  We made clay candy canes, yarn weaving on toothpicks, paper chains and snowflakes, and so many others.  One of my favorites was the decoupage ornaments that we made a few years ago.  I went to the local second hand store and purchased a few glass ball ornaments that had seen better years.  The color was chipped and coming off.  Most of them were missing their tops.  More than a few of them had cracks and chips in the glass.  Paintbrushes in hand with Modge Podge and Christmas fabric, my children and I recycled the old ornaments into something new and beautiful.

Every holiday season, I love hearing my children dig through the ornament bins to find the ones they picked or made.  Each ornament hung in just the right place for them.  When they are ready to have their own Christmas trees, I will go through and pack up their own decoration set to start them off.  Passing on the tradition of a Christmas tree decorated not just in pretty ornaments, but in memories too.

If you are interested in trying out the decoupage ornaments, I wrote up a DIY tutorial over on DIY Craftz recently.  They are super fun to make!  Just enough messy for the kids to really have fun, pretty enough to enjoy for years to come, and easy enough for the whole family to make their own.

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Black and White Photo Challenge

Last weekend a friend posted a fun challenge on Facebook.  Take one photo each day in black and white for one week.  No people, no selfies, and no explanation for the photos.  I’ve really enjoyed the process.  I decided that I would set an alarm on my phone for 5pm each day.  Then take a picture of whatever was in front of me.

Head over to instagram to check out my photos in the series.  I’d love to see more people join in the fun.  I’m using the hashtag #blackandwhitephoto.

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Family Cleaning Day

Each weekend, our family goes in a lot of different different directions.  Sometimes we are rushing to get the trailer loaded for a weekend trip.   Sometimes it’s all about grocery shopping and errands out of town.  One thing that doesn’t usually get skipped is a family cleaning session.

The beauty of having teenagers is that I can assign each person a room or area and have the whole house clean in less than an hour.  Even on weeks when we don’t do much more than the minimum all week, I know we can have the house clean in a morning.

What weekend event do you do each weekend?

family cleaning

Dinner And A Movie

dinner and a movie

Ever since we bought our trailer, I have wanted to watch this epic film.  I love Lucille Ball in everything I’ve seen.  Her special brand of slapstick just tickles me.  I had seen bits and pieces of this movie, but never the whole thing.  It took me a few months before I finally ordered it off Amazon.  It arrived a few days later and we were ready for dinner and a movie.

Hubby and I decided to have a night in.  I cooked some pork chops, kernel corn, and fried apples.  We settled in together to watch “The Long Long Trailer”.  Oh my!  I laughed until I cried.  Hubby and I kept looking at each other and commenting about our own adventures on the many road trips over the years.  My favorite scene is when Taci is trying to cook dinner while they are mired in the mud.  As the eggs slide right off the frying pan, I remember all the times I ended up cooking dinner in the rain while we tent camped.

Bonus recipe!

My great grandmother used to cook fried apples every single night.  I stayed with my great grandparents for a couple weeks when I was fifteen.  She cooked the same thing every night.  Each person got a fried chicken thigh, about half a cup of mashed potatoes with pan gravy, and half a fried apple.  I got real tired of that dinner.  When they both passed away later that same year, I actually missed the fried apples.  Thankfully, while I was there, she showed me her recipe.

You will need:

apples (I prefer more tart apples for this, but any will work)
cinnamon
sugar
butter

 

fried apples peel

Peel, core, and slice the apples.  I like to use my fruit peeler because it peels, slices and cores the apples all at once.

fried apples rings

I cut each spiral cut apple in half for bite sized apple slices.

fried apples sliceStart to fry the apples in a frying pan with some melted butter over medium heat.

fried apples spiceSprinkle the apple slices with cinnamon and sugar.

Stir frequently while the apples slowly fry over the medium heat.  You want to cook them until they are just starting to become translucent, but don’t turn into apple sauce.  They are a wonderful side dish for pork chops, or just a lovely snack for fun.

*This post contains sponsored links from www.amazon.com.  I was not paid to do this post or review of the The Long Long Trailer .  However, if you use the link to purchase I will receive a small compensation.  Thanks for checking it out and helping to support my bloggy habits!*

Destination: Thousand Trails Chehalis

thousand mini golf title

When we bought Bessie, our new travel trailer, we received a one year membership to Thousand Trails.  Normally, this membership would cost us $565!  Because we live and purchased in the northwest region, we have 18 campgrounds available to us to try out.  We decided to start with the one that was closest to home and we were not disappointed!  We started with Thousand Trails Chehalis.

I love that we can be camping, but still have almost a resort feel.  There are lots of trails, two pools (one family, one adults only), basket ball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts, lots of trails, two lodges to gather at, a small store, plus so much more!  There is a mini-golf course, though the last time we went, it was closed for repairs.

thousand pool

Their campsites are mostly partial hook up, though there are a few that are full hook up.  There are several dump stations on site, if you aren’t able to score one of the full hook up spots.  The entire place is nice and clean.  All the rangers and staff have been very welcoming.

If you have a membership, I definitely recommend this campground.  I know we have been enjoying it multiple weekends this summer!

thousand site

Food Destination: Miners Drive In

Miners burgers destination

If you are ever in Yakima, Washington, you should totally bring your appetite to Miner’s Drive In!  Their delicious burgers are the size of a frisbee.  Their shakes are thick, and big enough to share.  The onion rings are made with fresh Walla Walla Sweet onions, making them some of the best I’ve had.

Whether you choose to sit in the dining area, or outside at a picnic table, your sure to leave with your belly full.  Even my two teenager boys are satisfied with their portions!

Miners selfie

Lessons Learned: Packing for the trip.

Five lessons I have learned when packing for an extended camping trip in the trailer.

  1. Teen boys do not do a good job packing clothes.  At least, not mine.  This often means they have too little underwear and too many hoodies.  I have two choices for this, I can micromanage them and go through their clothes before we leave (frustrating for all).  Or, I can let them deal with the consequences, and see them wear the same outfit for more than they should.  I most often choose the latter.
  2. Dogs are not helpful when packing the trailer.  Two of our dogs love camping.  When they see me start putting things in the trailer, they often plant themselves on the couch in the trailer.  They refuse to move or leave for fear of being left behind.  This is especially frustrating when we aren’t leaving until the next day.
  3. We always forget something important.  It doesn’t matter how many lists I make and check.  It doesn’t matter if I start packing a week in advance, or we decide on a whim to go.  We will forget something.  Examples over the years have included: pillows (often), cast iron pan, towels, clothes (see number 1), hatchet, lighter, medications, camp chairs, etc.  We are getting better about this, but every trip, at least one thing will be forgotten.  Usually, we just deal without it.  Sometimes we decide it is worth purchasing on the way.
  4. Cell phones are great when parking the trailer; until you don’t have any service.  When parking the trailer, hubby is in the truck with is cell on speaker.  I am behind the trailer watching for obstacles and helping to line it up.  This works pretty well.  No yelling across the campground, very little “what did you say?”.  We have yet to camp in a spot without any service.  I’m sure this is coming, and it is going to be frustrating.  I’ve already added “walkie talkies” to our wish list for the trailer.
  5. You can never have enough water and food.  I tend to over pack for food and water.  Chalk it up to paranoia of being without services and trapped by some unforeseen event.  I always over pack food and water.  I have never regretted this decision.

What are some lessons you have learned when packing for a trip?

Marco packing

Lessons Learned: The right gear makes your life easier.

Having the right tool for the job always makes the job more efficient.  Having the right gear when towing and camping makes your life easier.  For some of the gear, it makes your life safer too!

Extended mirrors on the tow vehicle are a must have in my opinion.  We drive a large truck with big mirrors.  With our mirrors at their regular placement, I cannot see down the side of my trailer very well.  Most of my view is blocked by the trailer itself.  With the mirrors extended, I can see all the way down the side of the trailer.  With the small beveled mirror on the bottom, I can see the road all along the trailer to cut down on blind spots.  In the picture below, we are going around a corner, and I can still see a fair amount down the side of the trailer.  The more you can see, the safer you are going down the road.

A cordless power drill makes set up and take down so much easier!  We keep a handheld cordless power drill in the storage bay with our set up / take down gear.  Hubby put a socket on it that fits our landing gear.  No fussing with that silly bar to get the gear up or down, ZIP ZIP ZIP ZIP and all four feet are down.  Setting up in a new site is quick and easy.  While hubby gets the tongue jack set up, I quickly walk around the trailer putting down pieces of wood for the landing gear and putting in the wheel chocks.  Once he has the tongue jack secure, he walks around with the cordless drill and just zips the landing gear down.  Then he pulls the level out, I run the electric tongue jack to level the trailer.  We are generally set up within ten minutes.

All the comforts of home are already there.  When we bought Bessie, hubby and I agreed, we wanted the trailer to be as ready as possible to just hook up and go.  We wanted to be able to just grab some food, a change of clothes, load up the dogs, and hit the road.  So, we gathered and bought household items to live in the trailer.  I color coded as much as possible.  When we come back and do laundry, it is easy to tell what towels and washcloths go in the trailer.  All the brown or purple go in the trailer.  An extra set of bathroom items are already in the medicine cabinet.  I knew I didn’t want to be dependent on paper plates.  I bought a cheap set of dishes for the trailer.  They are a different color than our in home dishes, so children can easily tell what needs to go back in the trailer after we bring them in for sanitizing in the dishwasher.  I bought an electric coffee maker for when we have electric hook ups, and have my percolator for when we don’t.  I keep all my camping pans and cooking utensils in there, so we are ready to prepare a meal.  I also keep a small amount of shelf stable food in the trailer.  Over the past few months, we have slowly built up the trailer to be as set up as possible without packing.  If I wanted to go camping today, all I would need to grab is our pillows, daily medications, some clothes, water, and fresh food.  I love knowing that we are that close to getting out and camping.

the right gear

Politics

I had planned to post my reaction to the presidential race yesterday evening.  But then it just kept going, and I went to bed.

What an amazing example of the democratic system.  This has been the first presidential campaign that I have really followed from start to finish.  Never before have I stayed up so very late on a work night, refreshing my Google page every few minutes, to see history made.  Because history was made.  I am not asking who you voted for.  I’m not going to say who I voted for.  No matter what side you are on, this years presidential campaign has been the most dramatic and world wide attention getting elections that I can ever remember.

I hope that our population can slow down and see our friends and family that we may disagree with politically for what they are.  Friends.  Family.  Let the next few weeks be a healing time in relationships that were stressed or hurt because of political views.

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