Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

While we were camping this summer, DD met a young girl from Oregon.  Her mother and I exchanged addresses so the girls could be pen pals.  Also, one of DD's good friends moved to Wisconsin, so she will start writing to him too.  Since then, I have been looking for a stationery set.  I remember when I was a kid, there were so many great stationery sets.  My cousin and I used to send stickers back and forth...often we would send the same stickers back and forth to see how long they would last.  They lasted a long time!  Also, a very good friend of mine spent the summer with his grandmother in Puerto Rico, and we wrote the whole summer.  I had writing paper with pictures of ice cream cones, and it smelled like ice cream.  So, I was really excited to go see what was out there now....DD and I went from store to store looking, and there was absolutely nothing.  There were notepads and decorated paper for printers, but no writing paper with envelopes.  Then I started looking on the computer, and it took me awhile, but I finally found something wonderful.  It's from an Etsy store, and I can't wait for it to come.  I told the pen pals' parents about these wonderful sets too.  They're a little pricey, but they seem to be good quality and there wasn't much to choose from. Even if there were, I have a feeling we would wind up getting this one anyway because it's so cute. The name of the store is Sea Urchin Studio.  She has another wildlife one with hedgehogs on the paper, one with unicorns, one with mermaids, one with dinosaurs, and one with monsters.  They're all really cute. Again, this is just stuff we like.  So I hope my daughter comes to appreciate the fun of having a letter in the mail from a friend and how much fun it is to write a letter over more than just a minute or two like an email or post.
Here is the link in case you're interested.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Master Camping List

This is the list we use to pack and check everything off when we go camping.  If you're new to camping, it's a pretty comprehensive list to start with.  :)

Master Camping Packing List
2 gallon bags (we put an outfit and pajamas in each one for each day...this way, if it falls in mud, it's still dry.  It's also easy to just take out four bags for everyone to dress for the day instead of rummaging through a bunch of clothes)
air mattresses
air pump
bbq tools
bungee cords
camp chairs
citronella candles
clean clothes/underwear
clothes pins
coleman fuel
coleman stove
coolers (with shelves to keep food out of the ice water)
directions and reservation information for campsite
dish basin
dish drain
dish soap
dish sponge
fire gloves
fire starter
firewood (we don't get this until we're near or at the campground because it's dangerous to surrounding trees to move wood from one area to another due to bug or disease infestation)
first aid kit
food bin
hamper (we have a collapsable one)
hand sanitizer
hand soap
insect repellent
jackets & hats
laundry rope
life vests
light sticks (glow necklaces for night lights)
marshmallow sticks
mattress mats
mountain pie makers (we like the toas-tite pie iron)
paper towels
plastic clips
portable toilet
sandals for camp
shower soap, shampoo, conditioner, scrubbers
sleeping bags
table cloth
table cloth clamps
tea pot
tin foil
toilet bags
toilet paper
tooth brushes toothpaste
trash bags
trash can
waffle iron
walkie talkies
water dispenser
wet wipes

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Song Without Music

You Pull Me Back Up Again

I always want so much to please you

But I get so caught up in the world

I worry and feel that my faith is so weak

How can anyone see you in me

I just keep failing over and over again

I don’t feel your hand upon mine

Although I know that it’s there

I struggle to feel like I’m closer to you

Although I know you’re right here

I just keep failing over and over again

But you You pull me back up again

Every time that I fall

Yes, you pull me back up again

No matter how often I call

All I can see are my failures

I can’t be who you want me to be

All that I do is the wrong thing

There is no goodness in me

I just keep failing over and over again

Sometimes I feel like I just can’t go on

I forget to use your strength, not mine

So many days I feel tired and alone

I forget that you’re here by my side

I just keep failing over and over again

But you pull me back up again

Every time I hit the wall

Yes, you pull me back up again

No matter how often I call…

yes, every single time that I call.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dutchess County Airport

The airport supports an enormous sky
that cradles creek ripple clouds.
Light from the absent sun bends through air and water;
these God's hand uses as His delightful palette
to create this evening's landscape.
Cricket calls are carried on the night's breeze
and rise above the din of traffic.
Electric light shines from the hangar of helicopters
whose propellers wilt sadly, like flower petals;
they must wait to regain their place in the sky.
The parked planes nestle for the night, and
the small, blue lights illuminating the taxiways and runways
look like fairies scattered over the field.
A flashing light in the distance announces an approaching plane
that seems to move so slow as to hover.
It begins to sink lower in the sky,
but instead of approaching, it disappears behind a hill.
The longing runway must wait for another arrival;
this promise of plane was not meant to be.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rocking on My Porch

The outline of the billowy cumulus clouds,
announcing fair weather,
mimic the line of tree tops
across the sky.
An accidental splatter of orange
tinges the top of one tree,
heralding the arrival of
meteorological autumn.
The black-eyed Susans gather
so densely around the base of
my mailbox that they could almost be mistaken
for a cheetah lounging in the warm, filtered sun.
The sound of songbirds is absent among the
call of the last few cicadas longing for a mate.
One at a time, three monarchs flutter
south on their way to Mexico
as crows discuss their plans for fall
among the canopy of the trees,
and the crickets sing their daytime lullaby.
The cool breeze animates the leaves
to add their rustle to the symphony,
and a flash of red heralds the arrival of two cardinals
offering percussive tweets.
And here am I rocking on my porch,
being blessed by it all in a rare solitary moment
already interrupted by my son's
heartbeat rhythm stomping
onto the wood,
asking for his sister and rattling along with his
toy John Deere key set, pretending to drive.
The trick is trying to recapture the moment -
but it's slipped away.
No matter,
I'm enjoying the moment that's come.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Camping Gear We Use

This is just stuff we's not a sponsored post.

The first time I went tent camping was 26 years the day this year.  I went with my boyfriend and some of his friends from college...and we had a girl's tent and a boy's tent.  The camping bug bit me big time.  I loved waking up in the fresh air of the outside, the smell of the campfire lingering on my clothes, and the fun food we made to eat, and life surrounding me everywhere (especially wooly aphids, which although they are pests, look like tiny flying sheep).

I started a camping list then of recipes and what to bring, but I only got to go camping one more time after that before I was married...that camping trip was awful.  It stormed, and it rained so hard that people came up to our tent in a canoe to see if we were okay.  We spent the rest of the day at the laundromat.  Not fun.

Of course, from that I learned that it's wise to choose a campsite at the top of a hill, and not the bottom.  My husband and I got a great big tent and the first year we brought our nephews.  That was a lot of fun.  Four years ago we started camping with our own children, and we've managed to get things down to a science...including what sort of tent works well...not the first one we bought.  So, I will share what we do!

We initially had a Coleman Weathermaster Tent, which we bought back in 2004.  It leaked, no matter how well we took care of it, or how much we sprayed the seams to waterproof them.  The rain fly only covered the top of the tent, so water ran down the sides and through the seams.  Also, the little roof outside the front door caught rain and channeled it into the tent too, which made a royal mess.  It seems as if the newer models are getting good reviews, so I assume Coleman made some improvements over the past 14 years, although it still looks like the rain fly still doesn't cover the whole tent.
Our most recent tent we have is an REI Kingdom 8.  During our last camping trip, it poured almost every day, and we were warm and dry inside the tent.  The rain fly goes all the way down to the ground, there is a garage attachment that keeps a large area outside the entrance to the tent dry, so there's someplace to take off your shoes before you go into the tent, and you don't have to stand out in the rain.  Also, it's a space that's big enough to set up chairs, so the days when it poured all day, we sat in our camp chairs in the garage reading and playing games.  Inside the tent there is a room separator that we never use, but you can make two rooms.  There are pouches all over the tent to store all sorts of stuff.  There is plenty of room for a queen size mattress and two twin mattresses with plenty of room in between where the kids can play, or where you can walk across the tent from the front to the back.  The rain fly folds back so the front room becomes a screen room when the weather is nicer.  The front and back doors open up to let lots of fresh air get through.  In the back is also a little vestibule area, which is just the right size for a port-a-potty set up, so we don't have to go out in the rain to go to the bathroom.  It isn't difficult to set up (much easier than the old Coleman we had), and it's easy to take down.  It's a great tent.  The only drawback is that the material seems to get caught in the zippers all the time.  REI has come up with a new design for the Kingdom 8 too.  We got the old model on clearance with gift cards we earned with reward points from our debit card.  I expect it to last a long time.  A new Kingdom 8 with the footprint (which is a custom tarp to go underneath), and the garage (an extra outdoor room big enough for four chairs) would be about $700.
This is a view of our tent front to back
This is a view of our tent back to front

This is a picture I took from Google Images of a family using the garage as we did.

This is what the tent looks like with all the rain flies closed.
We use a Reliance folding portable toilet with disposable bags filled with gelling powder in the little bathroom area.  We turn a crate upside down as a table with hand sanitizer and also as a place to put a lantern, and we hang a roll of toilet paper from a bungee cord that is hooked into the holes on the crate.  That was DH great idea!
This is another picture I took from Google images of a nice lady showing what a Reliance Fold-n-Go toilet looks like in an REI Kingdom tent's vestibule...the vestibule completely closes over as you can see in the upper picture.
Oh!  Most important, put down a camp mat to insulate you from the cold ground, and use a sleeping bag appropriate for the temperatures you'll be sleeping in.  The first year we camped in the Catskills we had neither of these and we were freezing at night.  Now we're very husband is even a little too warm.  :)  Air mattresses and pillows from home make sleeping really comfy, but you can get away with just an insulating pad and sleeping bag.

We also used an Ozark Trail slant leg canopy, which we got at Walmart for $40.  It's so much cheaper than any other we looked at, and we weren't sure it would even last through one camping trip, but it did.  It did a great job of keeping our table dry when it rained and shady on the one day it didn't rain.  It was very easy to set up and very easy to take down.

We put all our kitchen gear into a plastic bin that we turn sideways like a cupboard while we camp. I used a shelf to make two levels, and I used two baskets so I could pull them out like drawers.  I used even smaller baskets to make one of the baskets two levels so I could put gadgets and serving utensils underneath and the silverware on top. We put the dish drain on top.  We use the same white shelving in the coolers to keep the food up away from the ice so it's not floating around in the ice water when it melts.

For night lights, nothing beats glow necklaces from the dollar store.  They are bright enough to help you find your lantern, but not so bright that they keep you up.
The last big item we got is a boat called the Intex Excursion 4.  It folds up into a small, portable bag, the oars come apart to fit, and it comes with a foot pump.  It took about a half hour to inflate all the parts, but once we did, it was very sturdy.  All four of us fit comfortably in the boat and my husband expertly rowed us around the lake.  It was really lovely.  Then we deflated it, and put it away.    It costs about $40 more now than when we bought it, but it's still very reasonable at $124 on Amazon.
I have a master camping list that we use to get everything together and then as a final checklist, as well as a shopping list for the food we usually eat, as outlined on the menu.  It's not fancy...the first year we went camping I went fancier, but my kids are such picky eaters that it was a lot of work for just two people.  I'll put that stuff in another post, along with recipes for Dough Boys, Hobo Burgers, and Mountain Pies.

Three Gifts of Metal

I am thankful for three gifts of metal: my wedding ring, our reliable cars, and my stainless steel carafe that keeps my coffee hot all morning.  :)