Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Light Saber Keeper

In case you are wondering what I do with my time when I'm not RV'ing. Here you go:

SURVIVAL!

Yep, as a mom of three very energetic, creative and adventurous kids, it really is all about survival.

My youngest, a little six year old ball of fire, loves Star Wars, pirates, sword fighting, Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles and other such active games which require weaponry (or a stick he's found in the woods that can be used as a sword or weapon).
 
Now in the woods, where there's plenty of room for sword-play, and where sticks can be thrown back into the woods after the game, this is not a problem. However, when I am sneaking into his room, or ahem, when the tooth fairy is sneaking into his room under the cover of darkness, and she trips over some weapon and it lights up and makes Star Wars noises, and it scares the poor Tooth Fairy nearly to death, and she bites her lip so as not to scream out in agony because her shin...I mean HER SHIN!!! Ouch!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure!

Anyone remember these books from your childhood? Well, they're labeled classics, which make me feel really old, but other than that, they were awesome books! You would be reading along, and then come to a place where you have to make a choice about your next step. You'd either choose wrong and kill yourself off, or choose wisely and move on to the next challenge.
Yesterday was a bit of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type of day for us. We had planned to visit Muir Woods on a Sunday. Since the woods are several hours from our house, and since we know Muir Woods State Park is a very popular place, we planned to leave early in the morning for our day trip. Everything was packed up and ready the night before, so early Sunday morning, we fed the troops and hit the road.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Love Yosemite? Hate Crowds?

If so, I'm with you. Look, I get it, the scenery is spectacular, the water is crystal clear and refreshing. The massive granite cliffs, the grassy meadows dotted with wildflowers and butterflies, the roaring waterfalls...Yosemite has it all! The only thing it's missing is readily available campsites, but we'll even put up with that hassle in order to view its majesty. The one thing that is difficult are the crowds. Because Yosemite is so spectacular, it does get very crowded. So many times we want to visit on a three day weekend or holiday, because, let's face it, that's when we have the extra time off! But the thought of dealing with the traffic jams, the throngs of people, and then the possibility of not even being able to enjoy the beauty without someone else elbowing into your space...it really makes you wonder if it's worth the effort at all. Well, I think it is. And we found some ways to enjoy the beauty all by ourselves!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Real Butterscotch Sauce

If you haven't gathered by now, I love food. And my absolute favorite sweets belong to the delicious caramel, butterscotch or toffee family. Most of my friends and family are chocolate lovers, but my kryptonite is amber for sure. One of my favorite, and very easy to make caramel-ly treats is homemade butterscotch sauce. Now if your idea of butterscotch is the flavor of the chips for cookies- this will NOT be that type. This is more like a caramel sauce, but slightly richer. The only difference between this sauce and a caramel sauce is that it's made with brown, instead of white sugar. The best news of all is that there are only about 20 minutes between you and this heavenly concoction!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Yosemite: Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

Yosemite. I have a love/hate relationship with this park. I love the roaring waterfalls, the sheer cliffs of granite, the beautiful lush trees and the glorious sound of the rushing river flowing next to me. I love pushing myself to my limits, then forcing myself to go even further; to reach the top of the falls. And what a magnificent reward at the top; rainbows made by the waterfall's own mist, a whooshing flood of water rushing down a granite table, so close you can almost feel its force. This is what draws people to the park. So.many.people. And that brings me to what I strongly dislike about Yosemite. Its popularity makes it crowded, busy, and very difficult to get camping reservations in. But these views...I just can't stay away!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tri Tip on the Grill

For a delicious, quick and easy summer dinner, you can have this beauty ready in about 30 minutes (or a little longer if you like your meat more well-done). You cook the meat on the outdoor grill so no heating up the house. And the zucchini are so easy to make, even my 11 and 8-year-olds love to cook them. Win, win, win! Let's get cooking!

Roasted Chicken, Artichoke and Pasta

This is a great summer dinner that the kids love. Artichokes are in season right now, and they are very popular at our house. I usually steam them on the stove, but I wanted to try them roasted this time. I loved them this way, but 2 of my kids slightly prefer them steamed. That didn't stop them from devouring these ones!

French Bread Pizza

My kids (and my) favorite meal is homemade pizza. But making the crust does take time. This recipe is a great shortcut to a pizza-ish meal! It's one of our few, quick, easy dinner recipes, so it's great to keep in the kitchen arsenal.
French Bread Pizza
One loaf (we use this one) French Bread
Sausage (we use Mulay's Mild Italian)  or ground beef (Costco has a great organic option)
Mozzerella Cheese (we buy organic whole milk mozzerella at our local grocery-it's delish!)
Tomatoes (dice)
Fresh Basil
Other ingredients we often add include: bell peppers, red onions, olives, zucchini, shredded romano cheese. 

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Slice baked (and cooled) bread and place on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
3. Top with grated mozzerella and sausage (if you are using other veggies, you can add now too). 
4. Bake in 375 degree oven for just a few minutes, until cheese is melted.
5. Remove from oven and top with fresh diced tomatoes and chopped basil. 

Serve to some very happy people and enjoy!

Ingredients

Just sharing some of our favorite ingredients for baking:
We now use mostly organic ingredients in our baking, and I really can taste the difference (plus my daughter no longer has hives, so that's a huge bonus!). This flour has been especially great in every single recipe we make. I just took a quick picture because people often ask what I use to cook with. These are many of my baking staples.

Summer Blondies

These cookies are named after my sweet daughter who first made these delicious nuggets for us this summer. She used to be a little blondie, running around outside with her tiny bare feet, and wispy golden hair. Sigh. I miss those days. Sort of. But anyway, about the cookies...we couldn't get enough of them. Try them. Seriously. The recipe is exactly the same as our Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, but with the white chocolate swap, they taste totally different! These are my absolute favorites (today).

Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our favorite chocolate chip cookies (right now) are a tiny bit crisp on the bottom, but soft, chewy and delicious when you bite into them. These are the best ones I've ever tasted, and I'm not normally a chocolate chip cookie fan (GASP...I know...I know). So here goes-

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Where does all that water go? Conserving water while RV-ing

One of our biggest challenges when rv-ing with three kids is water conservation. We teach our kids how to use water conservatively, but we still want them to practice good hygiene. And with 5 people, and one little rv, that means we use our water tank up quickly. Being new to rv-ing, the first thing I had to learn was where the water from each faucet, shower, toilet came from and went.

Fresh Water Fill without hookups- Winterization Valve Siphon

We love our rv's small size. It's easy to drive, maneuver and park almost anywhere. We knew it would be a small space for five of us, but our View is so well designed that we always have plenty of room (for us). Despite teaching our kids how to conserve and use "camping water" when washing their hands, or flushing, it's almost inevitable that we will use our fresh water tank up within 2-3 days of camping. These kids get DIRTY!! And I like my RV kept (relatively) clean! So nightly (quick) showers are a must for us. 
I mean this is the face of a happy, dirty kid that NEEDS a shower.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Airplane Food

As an rv-ing family, we drive to about 99.9% of our destinations, but sometimes driving just isn't very practical. And on those occasions, we fly. I like to travel in the rv for so many reasons...sleeping in our own beds, eating our own food, saving money on airfare and hotel and (extra bonus) I just love a great road-trip. But some things are worth the hassle of flying, one of those things....HAWAII!! Yes, Hawaii is definitely worth the airfare and all of travel prep.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Travel First Aid Kit(s)

Over the past few years of travel with kids, my first aid kit has evolved a bit (goodbye teething tablets, hello ace bandages!) But it's definitely a necessity. I use a 2-kit system. My Travel kit is always packed with what I feel are our normal necessities for an everyday injury. I prefer this kit to be bag-style with handles, because I throw it in our regular car when I'm driving around town, and at the house while we're home. I considered keeping a separate travel kit in the rv, so it wouldn't be forgotten, but I don't like to keep the liquid medication or sunscreen in the heat of the rv storage. So this was added to my pre-trip prep list and (knock wood) it hasn't been forgotten yet! I can't tell you how many times I've used this for my kids (or others) while out and about. Just make sure to replenish supplies as you use them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Visit to the Giant Sequoias

We were all astounded by the size of this trunk. Little guy, not astounded enough to stop chomping his apple for a pic, but whatever.
After a frustrating evening spent trying (unsuccessfully) to get a camping reservation, I decided to plan a day trip for our family instead. Have I mentioned how hard it is to get camping reservations in California? Okay, maybe I've gone into that before, but anyway, it's a real pain!   Extremely annoyed that I didn't have any luck finding a spot at my favorite campgrounds, and determined to avoid another Clear Lake disaster, if possible, I decided to go on a scouting expedition for new camping opportunities.

Quickie RV Nightlight- no battery drain!

 Anyone who's camped with kids knows that as soon as you think you know exactly what they like, those darn kids change things up on you! Yep, my kiddo who has previously insisted on total darkness for sleep, suddenly was afraid of the dark. So, in the middle of the night, while dry-camping (no hook-ups) in our RV, I "Macgyvered" a solution. I didn't want to leave an RV light on all night, and drain our RV battery. So, I found one of our little cheapo kid flashlights (about $1.99 at amazon, walmart, or target) and turned it on next to our water bottle. It illuminates the bottle and gives a cozy little glow in the RV. Not too bright for those of us that need to sleep in the dark, but bright enough for those who are a little scared of the dark.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

One Hour

This year, my youngest is in half-day kindergarten. This has been really great for both of us.  It allows both of us a gradual transition to full-day school next year. However, since my older girls are in school full time, there are often little blocks of time between pick-ups or drop off at school that can make getting "real" things done tough. Lots of time people ask, "what do you do with that hour?"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Who cries during "The Chicken Dance?"

I think we've all been there. That moment when you watch your child do something and you swell up with pride for them. I sure have. I think it's because we've watched them, held them, been on this journey with them....and then in these special moments, we see them soar. I remember the strong will with this one. She was determined to do things on her own. She wanted her own space. She hated the car with a passion. A furious, red-faced, screaming infant passion. Nothing I could do would appease her. And as frustrating, and infuriating as this was for me as a mom, I did have to begrudgingly admire her strength and her unrelenting determination that she would.not.give.in!

Anyway, in the years that have followed, I've truly been in awe of this girl's drive, her strength, and her ability to work her way towards her goal. Her dad and I have fostered this in her, but I know with all of my might that this will is all hers. She is one of the most determined, hard-working people I know. And she's 10.

She's done math problems I really don't think I could do now (and most definitely not without a calculator). She finishes her home and school work prior to a family vacation. She furiously memorizes scripts that her teacher says she can use a paper for; because she knows it will look more authentic. She loves math and science and art.

But this morning, I am teary-eyed for a different reason. My scientific, mathematical, factual little girl has really evolved over this past year. She joined the "Spirit Club" at school and has been giving speeches and presentations. And this morning, as the school's pep rally began, a Beach Boys song came on, and my little girl started dancing. She killed it! But more importantly than that, she had a HUGE smile on her face the whole time. I am so proud of her because she is constantly pushing herself, and growing and learning new things.
 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Yellowstone: West Thumb

Yellowstone Park was so enormous, it was a bit overwhelming to decide which portions to see each day. We did a bit of research before our trip, but even so, we didn't really feel the magnitude of its size until we were driving through the park each day. We kind of stumbled upon West Thumb because of its proximity to our campground. It looked really interesting as we were driving by, so we pulled in to explore. And, it was so interesting we ended up going back twice. We all had fun exploring this portion of the park.

Here's a useful map for this portion of the park:
Map of West Thumb
 
This interactive map helped with navigating the entire park:
Main Map of Yellowstone

I also had downloaded the Yellowstone National Park by Chimani app on my phone. It was extremely helpful. If you download it directly onto your phone (or tablet) you don't need to have cell service or use your data plan while you use it in the park. It does take quite a bit of space on the phone, but it was well worth it!

In one easy walk, you can truly get a feel for the landscape of Yellowstone; where thermal features mingle with the raw beauty of the lake and forest. It's really one of the most unique things I've ever experienced.
 
 The kids loved walking on the wooden boardwalks, and navigating around the little geysers and thermal features.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Local Produce

One of the best things about living where we do, is the abundance of fresh food. We are really fortunate to be able to grow vegetables, fruits and herbs nearly all year long. And the Grocery Store near us has an excellent selection of organic, fresh and delicious foods. We could not be more grateful. But one of our favorite people to visit is "Farmer Cliff," an organic farmer who lives just a couple miles from our house. He grows delicious lettuce, squash, tomatoes, and other organics delights and sells them so affordably that I just could not believe it! I found Farmer Cliff by searching, "Organic farms near ____ (my city)." You can try searching, "organic foods, freshly grown foods, etc." and see what you come up with. Many cities now have Farmer's Markets, or you may get lucky enough to find your own Farmer Cliff!
Today when we visited the farm, I was only going to pick up some fresh local honey. But Cliff let the kids visit his new hen houses and insisted that each take home a very fresh egg. They were thrilled! It's amazing that we can live right here in the suburbs and still benefit from farm-fresh produce and wonderful fun on a real farm. We love our town!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bacon- STAT!

Ah bacon....the thing that dreams are made of. Okay, maybe a little dramatic, but I do love my bacon. And so does the rest of my family. In case I haven't mentioned this yet, this crew gets horrifically cranky when hungry. And since we don't really eat packaged meals, preparing a quick breakfast was challenging at first. I found having muffins, pancakes, or banana bread pre-made and brought with us was extremely helpful. But for that real protein punch, having bacon was even better! At first, I used to cook the bacon on our griddle outside the r.v. This works well, but definitely takes time. When beach camping (with electric hook-ups) this is no problem at all. I mean, who wouldn't want to spend time cooking bacon like this?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sutter's Mill: Coloma, California

After hiking the Monroe Ridge Trail last weekend, we decided to continue to explore the little town of Coloma. Our kids (and we) are fascinated with the Gold Rush era, and it's so interesting to explore the pieces of history that are still standing from that time period. It's like a history book coming to life! The hike spilled us out just a few feet short of the ginormous monument to James Marshall. It was so sunny and hot outside, I had a hard time getting a decent photo, but please bear with me. I still had to try to get a photo of California's first monument. Despite the sun, hopefully you can still get an idea of how impressive the monument was!

Gold Country: Coloma, California

This weekend we decided to take the kids to explore a little bit more "Gold Country" in Northern California. We drove to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, California. The drive was beautiful this time of year. We saw rolling green hills speckled with orange poppies and other wildflowers. We are so thankful for all of the rain this winter!

When we arrived in Coloma, we parked at the North Beach parking lot (state park fee was $8). There was ample parking for both cars and RV's. Much of it was shaded. There are also extremely clean restrooms here with flush toilets. Well worth the minimum park fee. A short walk through the shaded park leads you to the visitor center and replica of James W. Marshall's sawmill. We were all excited to see this, and stretched our legs a little while checking out the mill. Pretty impressive!

Monday, April 4, 2016

"Our" Birds are Back!

Last year we were so happy to discover a beautiful looking bird swooping in and out of the little hiding space under our roofline. We kept watching and trying to capture the speedy little guy on film. It was not easy! The only window where the hiding spot was visible for us was from our laundry room upstairs! The crafty birds were building a nest. Finally, I was able to get a photo of the bird, which my friend helped me to identify as an American Kestrel. Here's a picture of the "Daddy" on our house. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Learning

I always thought that as a Mom, I'd be teaching my kids. And some days I am. But many days, I am the one learning from them. My youngest little boy is wild, and crazy, and loving and sweet, and rambunctious and hilarious, and just a handful. When I tried to fit him into the same mold; and teach him the same way as my other kids, it was frustrating to say the least. I think it's fair to say it was frustrating for both of us. Once I realized I had to change things up a bit, both life and the learning process has improved drastically.

So on our hike the other day, when my little ball of energy said to his sisters, "if we wait patiently enough..." it was a lighting bolt moment for me. This kid can definitely be patient and (relatively) quiet. He just needs the right incentive! I need to keep this in mind for the future.

I really love to watch my kids loving and appreciating nature as much as I do. Even little frogs and tadpoles are so exciting. I'm optimistic that they won't lose this enthusiasm for nature, I mean, it's been 40 years and I've still got it!

Between Trips


Sunday, February 28, 2016

It's not all fun and games

There is actually quite a bit of work that goes along with RV'ing. While we love the lifestyle, owning and using an RV does require maintenance. Every trip requires planning and preparation. Most of us know that once we get home, the work continues. And the laundry...ugh, I won't even go into the laundry! But for us who love the open road, experiencing nature, spending quality time with our families, the hard work is worth the amazing times we have on each trip.

Last week we went on a whirlwind weekend trip to San Diego to spend time with our family. Driving down (and back up) the California coast in springtime is a beautiful, beautiful thing. We saw almond trees in full bloom, patches of brightly colored wildflowers covering the hillsides, and fields of fruits and vegetables beginning to blossom. And we saw bees, lots and lots of bees. The busy pollinators (along with their other flying friends) hit the rv with alarming frequency.

When we got home and surveyed the damage, we couldn't believe how many bug carcasses dotted the rv. We did a quick rinse at home, then looked for a carwash that would accommodate our tall rig. We found one 10 miles away! So we packed up a picnic lunch, grabbed the kids, and went to work.
We try to include the kids as much as possible in the work portion of our RV ownership and maintenance. Our RV enables our family to go on many fun and exciting adventures that we all enjoy. While my husband does take on the bulk of the maintenance duties, and I normally do much of the trip prep and clean-up, we ask the kids to help out with age-appropriate tasks. We both feel it's important that they understand that owning a vehicle does require extra work and that we all need to care for her properly. We also notice that they are more careful while eating (for example) now that they are responsible for vacuuming under the table and their carseats after each trip. Sometimes they grumble a little (just being honest here) but normally they are very good sports and have become very good at their responsibilities. I was seriously astonished at how much of a help my kids were on our last solo (mom & kid) trip.

We hope to teach them that we can have fun even when we're working. We all laughed and joked as we scrubbed off bug guts and got soaked with car wash over-spray. Even our one grumbly kid soon forgot her crankiness and scrubbed and laughed as much as the rest of us. After we finished, we praised them and admired our sparkling clean RV once again. Hopefully days like this teach them to be thankful for the things we have, and to take care of things they own. Or they may just decide that RV'ing is too much work and they do not want to do it when they grow up. And that's perfectly fine with us. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Freedom!

Being a kid today is so different from when I was growing up. When I was little, we roamed the neighborhood (and in my case, the untouched desert surrounding our Arizona home). Some of my best memories are of playing for hours with a group of neighborhood kids, including my siblings, under Palo Verde trees in the desert. We bmx biked, we ran, we built, we had fun! And none of this fun was done under the watchful eyes of our parents. We were all on our own...and it was AWESOME!