Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

My 9-year-old Dressed Me For a Week

 

 

It’s been months since my writing voice has been heard.  My writing inspiration fell right out the window (as well as my clean house) when I went back to work full time in October. But, inspiration or not, Little Miss dressing me for a week must happen EVERY YEAR and I must write about it.

Now Little Miss turned 9 in February and has talked about dressing me on and off since then but wouldn’t commit. I was willing to wear whatever she came up with whenever the time may be. I don’t get judged at work as my clientele is a room of 5-year-olds who, by the way,  thought the vintage 1989 poufy sleeve magenta extravaganza I wore on 80’s day made me look like a princess. So the months passed and she’d mention “the week” and I’d say OK but it wouldn’t happen. Until it did. Here we go.

Sunday

sunday cropped

Sunday #1

Sunday can be a 2 outfit day as we often go to church. This Sunday started out with a burgundy animal print dress topped with a cropped white sweater. Accessories included white dangly stone earrings (my hair is tucked behind my ears so you can see them), a sterling heart necklace and grey platform sandals. I was not dressed with my watch but asked if I could wear it as I kept looking at my empty wrist for the time. I taught the littles in Sunday school this morning and the dress was casual enough that I could get on the floor to sing songs and read books if I tucked my legs to the side.

Sunday 2

After church I changed into my casual outfit of a white tank covered with a pink and red tunic-y top. On the bottom I’m wearing capri denim and my feet are in Little Miss’ favorite pair of shiney silver flats with patent leather toes. I’ll be hanging around the house this afternoon and meeting friends for a casual dinner.

Both outfits were fine, and while the shoe choices are not quite to my liking, I can deal.

Monday

 Monday 1 Little Miss is on a swim team so there is no sleeping in for her this July. We have to be at the pool by 7:30 am. Some of this is my fault. As part of the swim team, parents need to volunteer so many hours at the pool. As a girl with a retailing and marketing degree (pre-teaching) I earn my hours by running the snack shack in the mornings during practice. This is the outfit that I wore to the pool. So far pink is the color of the week. I’m in a pink t-shirt that has flowers on the bottom, paired with black cargo capris and white sandals with orange and turquoise stones. I have small circle medallion earrings and am holding my brown shoulder bag as that’s the purse Little Miss picked out.Monday shoes

 This is the shirt she picked out for me to change into after working in the snack shack. I had a little mishap with chocolate syrup. I was seen in this outfit at a pizza place Little Miss and I went to for lunch and at the grocery store.

I’m going to call this pink Monday as both tops were in that family.

Tuesday

Tuesday 1Monday shoes (2)Tuesday 2Little Miss picked out my outfit for today on Monday evening. She layed the outfit down on the floor like a Flat Stanley and put many combination of shoes next to it until she got just the right ones. She then went through my earrings holding each pair up to the outfit assessing whether the pair was appropriate or not. It was very meticulous.

To the pool this morning (without a snack shack shift) I wore a knee length black flowy skirt paired with a pinkish t-shirt covered in seqins. I glittered and glided onto the pool deck. The shoes were pink flats with a snake toe accent and my earrings were large silver hoops. I wore a necklace of a small silver circle that “matched” the hoops. I felt overly glamerous next to all the other parents in shorts and t-shirts.

In the afternoon we had a sudden change in plans (as is no plans to actually having plans) to meet up with some friends to hike at a local park. Little Miss deemed the sequened concoction too fancy for a little hike so I got to change into a purple t-shirt  and some khaki shorts. She had me wear my “very bright” sneakers to give me some added color.

 

 

Wednesday

Wedwed2On Tuesday evening Little Miss picked out my outfit. It may look familiar – she also picked it out for me to wear when she was six. After picking it out she had a big discussion with Buddy about how my entire outfit was only black and silver. Buddy  asked lots of questions about exactly which parts were black (dress, leggings and shoes) and which were silver (earrings, bracelet and necklace) and Little Miss explained the entire thing to him. Little Miss picked out a pair of kitten heel black shoes. I normally don’t wear heels just for errands and stuff but it looked fine.

Little Miss has been my photographer this week. For Wednesday’s photo shoot she wanted me to stand in front of the window. I think it’s hard to see my outfit but she liked how the light shone behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday

ThursOur day consisted of our morning at the pool for swim practice followed by a trip into Washington, DC to visit the National Building Museum. The kids LOVE riding the metro so that’s how we made our way into the city. Our ride took us right past where My Man works so we hopped off the train,  met him for lunch, and hopped back on to head to the museum. Usually when I’m meeting my man for lunch I like to dress nice. Everyone around is in suits and their working clothes. I like to blend. But, Little Miss was looking out for my comfort.

LM – Mom, we’ll be doing a lot of walking today so you are going to wear your grey sneakers.

Me – OK

LM – And you need to be comfortable.

Me – OK

So comfortable I was. Today marks the beginning of the 3 day denim capri run. Today’s denim is a pair of cargo capris. This was paired with a purple t-shirt with birds on it. On my feet are my trusty grey Converse sneakers.

And, I’m very glad I was comfortable. The reason we were headed to the National Building Museum was for a temporary exhibit called The Big Maze. This life size maze will be at the museum until September 1, 2014. It was very fun to navigate –  we ran around like to get back in line to go through the maze just like we were running to ride a big roller coaster at an amusement park again and again. We ended up going through 8 times! I had never been to this museum before. If you like architecture, the museum itself is gorgeous. There is also an exhibit on natural disasters and how architects are designing buildings to withstand earthquakes and high winds. If you are in DC, the museum is worth a visit.

 

 

Friday

FridayOn Friday we had a lazy summer day. Little Miss dressed me in a blue and white striped top, denim capris with a big cuff, and black flats. I wore this outfit to swim practice and back home again. Sometime in the afternoon we headed to the pool to swim and lounge around in the sun. I didn’t ask Little Miss to pick me out a bathing suit for our trip to the pool. It’s not that I didn’t think she’d pick out a cute one… and for a 40-something year old woman I’m pretty OK with my body in a bathing suit… I just don’t know if I can handle putting a picture of myself in a bathing suit on the internet! Maybe next year…

LM – Mom, lift your foot up I can’t see your shoes.

Me – This feels weird. Does it look weird?

LM – A little, but not bad. It looks like you’re walking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday

IMG_1679This morning I had yoga. Little Miss said I could pick out my own outfit. When I got home I mowed the lawn, weeded the garden and washed the dog. Again, Little Miss had no interest in dressing me for those activities. But, for date night, she dressed me. My Man and I are lucky enough to have some good friends nearby who trade baby sitting with us. We get to actually watch their baby (and get our fill of sweet baby times) and they get to see what it’s like hanging out with a couple of big kids.

Our date night was pretty casual. My Man and I were headed to dinner (Okras– Cajun food in Manassas, VA. You can sit outside to eat),  a trip to Lowes (seriously – shopping without kids is a gift), and ending with a trip to an ice cream shop (Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot in Clifton, VA – seriously delicious). For our date Little Miss had me wear a white top covered in tiny black polka dots, dark denim capris, white dangly earrings and black flats. It was a well chosen outfit for our evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Sunday. The week is over and it actually felt a little weird to pick out my own outfit.

What I learned:

  • Little Miss is a careful planner. She’d think about my accessories and clothes combinations very deliberately.

    Little Miss - wet from the pool.

    Little Miss – wet from the pool.

  • Little Miss likes the colors pink and purple.
  • Little Miss likes to dress me in denim capris (and I own many variations)
  • Little Miss likes the familiar. Most of the clothes I wore this week I’ve owned and worn for years.

As always I enjoyed spending time doing an activity with my girl. I trust her style and her taste and I’m looking forward to doing this again next year… if she wants to.

 

 

 

 

What to do With 12 Pounds of Apples? Apple Crunch!

About a month ago the kids and I had to drop off My Man at the airport. He was going to be gone for 3 weeks and to take all of our minds off the fact that we would be missing him terribly I decided that directly after airport drop off we should enjoy the splendid fall day and go pick some apples.

In all my 41 years I had never been apple picking. Sure, I used to pick crab apples off the tree behind my cousin’s house to chuck at my brother, but heading to an actual orchard and frolicking among the trees I just had never done. I did a little googling and I found a place west of my home that still had apples on the trees. It was called Stribling Orchards. We had a super time. We started off by buying hot dogs wrapped in foil and ate them at a picnic table with some Cokes to chase them down (no way could I do some serious apple picking with an empty stomach). We then checked out the orchard map and decided it was just a pain in the butt to try for a certain kind of apple so we just wandered – and picked all the apples we could reach. Throughout the orchard there were folks with long apple picking contraptions that we did not have. What we did have was a mom who was willing to hoist a 50 pound kid up on her shoulders to reach higher. Little Miss, Buddy and I had a great time! We picked red apples and green apples and little apples and big apples and by the time we ended and weighed our haul we had picked 12 pounds of apples.

Most people automatically go for the apple pie solution when faced with this many apples, but since I had received a fancy pants Le Crueset french oven for my last birthday I decided to put it to work. I made a recipe called Apple Crunch that I found in a little book called 101 Things to Do With a Dutch Oven (which is actually the same thing as a french oven). It was easy to make, every one liked it, and I would have to say it is best served with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

Apple Crunch

Dutch Oven Size – 12 inch

  • 15 – 16 apples, peeled and sliced (I used half that amount)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 1 TBS cornstarch

Topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter

Place apples in Dutch oven sprayed with nonstick spray. In a saucepan, heat sugar, water, vanilla, and cornstarch until thickened. Pour evenly over apples.

Combine topping ingredients and then sprinkle over the apples. Bake at 350 F for 60 minutes.

Fall Camping in Virginia

I love to go camping. I like setting up my little outdoor home. I like cooking outside. I like sleeping with the sounds of the woods all around my tent. I like the smell of camp fire. I like eating hotdogs cooked on skewers over that campfire and a meal topped off with a s’more or two. Luckily I have a family who enjoys camping as much as I do… so if we have a long weekend in October we are going to spend it camping!

Of course just about everyone and their mother may also choose to go camping on a lovely fall weekend in October.  If you plan on hitting a campground you may just be hitting it with a bunch of other folks. Our new digs have us within an hour of the Shenandoah National Park. This is a gorgeous stretch of land with a winding road traveling along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a popular destination for many a city dweller who wants to check out beautiful fall foliage. There are four campgrounds in the park and most of the spots are first come, first serve. There are hundreds of spots and so we think we should find something for the weekend. There had to be some room… especially if we got there early on Saturday. Plan: wake up early on Saturday with car already packed, get on the road ASAP, arrive at Shenandoah National Park, secure camp site, commence having outdoorsy fun. What actually happened: woke up early-ish, spent hour packing the car and checking the tire pressure and filling up tires, got on the road, got hungry, stopped at Chic-Fil-A, arrived at Shenandoah National Park where sign at gate said ALL campgrounds were full. Crap. 

We did have a plan B because we know us and getting on the road at the crack of dawn to beat traffic, or crowds, or heat of the day just doesn’t happen. Plan B was to head a little further west to the Gorge Washington National Forest. Not only are there several campgrounds in the forest but National Forest is just that… Forest for the Nation and it’s totally OK just to camp anywhere you darn well please. (Just be prepared if you do this. There will be no camp store to buy firewood, or ice, or a faucet where you can get drinking water, and no toilets. Not even a stinky pit one.) The super nice Park Ranger at the gate of Shenandoah National Park gave us a heads up where we may be able to find some sweet spots to camp. “Head east on 211 towards New Market. You’ll head down our mountains, cut across a valley, and head up the next mountain. When you get near the top of the next mountain, before you get to New Market, take a right at the road with a brown sign that says to something camp. It’ll be  paved for a bit but then turns to dirt. There are a bunch of places to camp on this road.” So we did what she said and we found the mother of all camp sites.

Nestled in a valley, just below the forest road, by a babbling stream with awesome climbing rocks we found a site that has been used many a time… and it’s no wonder. It’s perfect. There’s plenty of flat space for a tent (or more), a nicely constructed fire pit, woods to tromp in, a stream to play in, and no one around for miles. Sure cars would go by from time to time, but come night-time it was just our little family having a super time. We explored the woods, Buddy pooped in a hole for the first time, and our dog frolicked and played. We found two nice little kid friendly hikes within a couple of miles of our site. The first is just off of route 211 on forest road 274 and is called Story Book Trail. It is an easy 1/4 mile paved trail that ends at an overlook. From here you can see all of the Shenandoah Valley. When we visited, the leaves were just beginning to change and there was a swath of color you could see on the mountains. The other trail we found was about 5 miles north from route 211 on forest road 274 and was called The Lion’s Tale. This was a short 1/2 mile nature walk. Along the way it told the story of a mountain lion who had lived on the land a very long time ago. The lion explained what the land looked like when she lived there and how it had changed. The kids thought this was great and talked about their friend the lion for the rest of the weekend.

After our two nights in the woods (all uneventful except for the day we left. There was a white SUV that kept driving back and forth very slowly down the forest road. The last time it passed an old man, with a long white beard, wrapped in an old quilt was walking along the road next to the car. Just past our camp site he veered off into the woods. I have no idea where the old guy went and we didn’t see the SUV again. Odd, huh?) we packed up and started heading back to civilization. We decided to drive back home through the Shenandoah National Park. We entered at the entrance on Route 211 and headed north towards Front Royal on Skyline Drive. This is one of the most beautiful places in the US. And while the park is crowded, and you share every overlook with people galore, the vistas are breathtaking and the colors of the leaves changing made the views all the more stunning. And, if you stop and hike into the woods on any trail, you’ll have a little bit of privacy for a while.

We don’t camp as much as we’d like. Weekends are often filled up with soccer games, birthday parties, chores and life. When we do get away, we like to head somewhere beautiful and if it’s off the beaten track then so much the better.  Our original plan may have been foiled, but it was OK because plan B ended up being much, much better.

My October Walk

Today is blustery and cold. Snow is falling and the wind is blowing. A few days ago it was a perfect October day… blue skies, crisp air, gorgeous Virgina! This is my October Walk.

 

 

 

Outdoor Alabama

It’s February. The month of grey days, cold winds, snow on occassion… or is it? In Alabama February has come with warm days and lots of outside time.

When I first moved here I bought a book called Hiking Alabama and one thing I noticed… in every photo there are no leaves on the trees. Now I know why! It’s so darn hot in the summer and most of the fall that being out in the woods and taking a little hike just would not be any fun. But 70 degrees in February… going for a little trek through the woods is perfect!

We headed north (birthday weekend-Hello Forty) to Oak Mountain State Park. It’s a  big park, and even though it is just off the interstate, I felt like I was miles away from busy. We headed to the camp ground and were assigned a camp site…. site #31. We didn’t get to drive through and pick a site that looked good to us which was weird…. but we did have the option (after paying) of heading into the camp ground and picking a different site if it was available. Site #31 was fine – just surrounded by other campers and situated between two roads. We drove around and decided that a different site would suit us much better. It was 20 feet off the road up a hill… it was worth lugging all our gear up. On one side of us were woods, on the other a camp site that also involved a trudge up a hill, and behind us more woods and a 100 foot rise to the top of a ridge.

Our camp site was perfect! We ate lots of yummy camping food (S”MORES! and Jeff makes a killer dutch oven pizza), tromped up the hill behind our site, made fairy forts, checked out the animal rehabilitaion center, did a couple of little hikes, and enjoyed it all, bug free because it’s FEBRUARY!

On our way home we decided to do a little more exploring. We saw a sign for Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park and exited the interstate. 15 miles off was this little park… it was full of old-timey buildings and held the ruins of a huge furnace that was working full force during the time of the Civil War. The park is a bit on the lame side – the camp sites were crammed right next to each other – but it was a fine place to eat a little lunch and let the kids run on their playground. It does have a very cool old-school metal merry-go-round that has this pump mechanism so you can get yourself spinning without a pusher.

 While we were there we noticed a sign for The Lower Cahaba Historic and Recreational Corridor.  One park featured on that sign wouldn’t be too out of the way so we decided to explore a bit more… and we found a gem!

It’s called Perry Lakes Park. It’s behind a fish hachery, with no signs what-so-ever on the main highway… but if you can find it you won’t be sorry. There are well maintained hiking trails that skirt along small beautiful lakes full of Cypress trees with spanish moss hanging down. There is a 100 foot tower to climb that had all of us higher than the trees. There were very pretty woods, a river to check out, and some out-of-order bathrooms that were located in these very modern architecturally interesting structures that seemed in place and out of place at the same time.

This was a perfect birthday weekend.  Not only did I get to hang with my favorite people in the whole world, I got to be outside in the woods and feed my inner adventurer with some exploration.

Things Alabama

I know I’m only going to live in Alabamy for a  year and because of that I am on a mission to explore, explore, explore!

Two weekends ago my little family took a road trip north a-ways to a place called DeSoto Caverns Family Fun Park. Not only is there a cave to check out, but there is a plethera of “wacky park attractions” (their words, not mine) you can do as well. We decided that since this would probably be our one and only trip to such place that we would do it up!

The cave was a pretty good size –  lots of stalagtites, mites, etc. and we were the ONLY ones on the tour – I guess January is not the height of checking out Roadside America worthy sights. Midway through the tour which involved lots of rock formation flashlight pointing,  we were asked to sit for a lights show. I’m thinking cool lights on rocks. It went pitch black (cave black) and then a bunch of multicolored lights lit up the cave, along with a spray of water shooting 50 feet straight up in the air and then… a deep voice booming, “In the beginning…” We got the entire story of Genesis (and I’m not talking Phil Collins) set to lights and shooting water… in a cave. That was on Saturday. The next morning we didn’t go to church because we already did the day before … in a cave.

The wacky attractions were pretty fun. There was a big maze we ran through, the kids dug for crystals, we played miniature golf, J rode a pedal go-cart, we all rode a train… but the piece de la resistance was the toilet ride. I seriously almost knocked myself over riding that toilet I was laughing so hard. And since we were the only ones visiting we got to ride and ride and ride and ride!

Potty Racers(this photo does not depict any member of my family)

I’m an outdoorsy kind of girl. I’m also a city a girl. I enjoy both…but on a day in January that is nearly 70 degrees I’m going to choose the woods to spend my time. So… last Saturday we decided to check out a trail we heard of called Swayback Bridge Trail near the town of Wetumpka, AL. This trail is mainly for mountain biking but hikers are welcome too. It was very cool with lots of routes you can take with different distances depending on how long of a hike/ride you want. The trail wound around all sorts of trees and was very pretty. We  hiked a one mile loop – not too far into our hike – we entered a grove of Loblolly Pines. I took a deep breath and inhaled that wonderful woodsy smell that you get when surrounded by pine trees. I said to my family, “take a deep breath – doesn’t that smell good?” and Buddy answered, “smells like trees and mountain bikers.” I think I laughed for the rest of the hike.

And on another Alabama note, Little Miss is the first of our family to succomb to the southern accent. The word there no longer is one syllable as it comes out of her mouth – it is they-rrr. As in look at that tree over they-rrr.

So, they-rr you have it. Come to Alabama to learn about God in a cave, ride a toilet, and smell some trees and mountain bikers.