Friday, September 28, 2012

Online, All Day

I think most of us have written a list of things we'd like to accomplish in our lives.

Back in 2003, my first list was inspired by the website  2007 brought us the term "Bucket list" and one of my favorite bloggers Mighty Girl calls hers a Life List.

My list has seen many incarnations.  Today's lives on Pinterest, you can probably hunt it down there if you'd like to have a look.  It is silly (Tie John Elway's shoes), sentimental (Write letters, like I used to), over ambitious (Kiss an elephant) and everything in between.

I've had my sites set on accomplishing a few of my list items this summer and one of my most simple list items was a pleasure to tackle:

Hang my clothes on the line. 

Why did I want to hang my clothes on the line?  Clothes on the line are so beautiful.  The practice of hanging clothes relaxes me and reminds me of my grandma.  And using electricity to dry clothes when I have a breeze outside that will make them smell amazing and dry them for FREE, is maybe a little wasteful.

So one day this June, the children and I got into our sneakers and walked to our neighborhood supermarket.  At the market we procured the supplies to create our very own clothesline.  Simple clothesline specific rope and wooden clothes pins. The line strung up between the fence and tree as soon as we arrived back home. 

Then, underpants and all, we clipped it to the line. 

Our double line can accommodate a single load of laundry perfectly.  Summer warmth and breezes dry a load in about 45 minutes in our dry climate.  A perfectly peaceful pace.  Easy enough to wash a load or two per day, fold and put away before you even have time to let it pile up again.

But, I'll admit, it didn't last long.  The heat came, and brought with it my laziness, and swimming days, and worrying about the automatic sprinklers.  Suddenly the dryer didn't seem so silly after all.  I haven't hung a load out in quite some time, I'm ashamed to admit.  I do a better job of over-complicating my life than I do of simplifying it.  That's the whole truth.

But writing this post has inspired me.  How about a fresh start?  There are plenty of warm days left this month and next.  I commit to myself that I'll hang at least another load or two before the winter comes.  This is me, simplifying, then de-simplifying, then re-simplifying.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

To Vacation Simply

The other day my husband and I had this talk about how we seem to have lived our vacations in reverse.  We started our marriage with a stupid-expensive 4 day honeymoon to the Bahamas.  It was only in the last year that I realized we could have stayed stateside, for twice as long and half the price. 

It was lovely, we wouldn't change it and all that, but my goodness!

We've secreted away our tax refund each year and taken ourselves on a vacation.  Most of those years we spent every last penny on an all-too-brief visit to Disneyland. 

Here we are so many years later, after having stepped our goals into our new reality and all we ever want to do is go camping.  Our National-Park-to-visit list is growing and we  have become insatiable in the matters of national park camping.  Read on, I'll share the financials of the two options below.

I love Disneyland and I'm confident I'll visit it again someday, but when we first set our eyes on Zion National Park, far off in the distance, after a full day of driving, we were forever changed.

 and the view just keeps getting better.

I really hadn't even looked at pictures of Zion before we went.  I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I booked it because a book I'd bought many years ago about the Grand Canyon included a small section on Zion.  I'd always thought that whenever we decided to go to the Grand Canyon, we'd go to Zion as well.  When we arrived and set up camp none of us could believe what we were seeing.   

Best trip anecdote?  How about how I forgot my camera battery charger at home?  Luckily, my family was just behind us and was able to go into our house and get it for us.  My camera was only dead for half a day.  We don't have the number of Zion photos we'd like, but the photos don't do it justice either way.

Vermilion Cliffs - We didn't make the side trip to actually see Vermilion Cliffs, because I didn't even know it existed until this moment.  So amazingly beautiful.

Our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.  We came in at sunset and stopped for a moment, before we went to our campground.

Our second glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
wait for  it . . .

The fog came in and out all day and it was beautiful.

Bean burritos over the fire = our family's favorite dinner in all of recorded history.  So smoky and delicious!

Moments before I took this photo a woman with a European accent stopped and photographed us sitting by the fire.  She smiled, gave me a thumbs up and said, "very good."  The novelty of our tent and fire pleased her in the motor home laden campground, I think.

So here's the math:

We camped for a total of 4 nights at $18 per night.

We had to purchase a new tent, which when divided over the number of nights we've camped in it so far cost about $8 per night.  The rest of our gear we already had or borrowed.  I'm not calculating the cost of food because whether you're traveling or home, you have to eat.  Camping food is simple and cheap.  (I think I spent about $120 at the grocery store including tons of ice, sodas, chips and other luxury items.  Add that number to my total at the bottom, if you wish.)

Our trip ran a loop of  over 2000 miles (we went to my cousin's wedding afterward), but for the sake of this exercise, I'm just including the camping portion of the trip.  That is 1558 miles of driving at 22 miles per gallon which is $283 in gasoline.

Cost of admission to our national parks varies from park to park.  We purchased an annual family pass for $85.  We were able to use it at least three more times before it expired.  I'll add the whole cost of it to this trip report.

Each of our children chose a souvenir at Zion for a total of $30.  I also sent quite a number of post cards which cost about $15.

We ate out twice while camping (once because of an extreme, sudden downpour), two meals while in Vegas and fast food on the road home as well.  Total cost of those meals: $129

We also stayed in a hotel in Las Vegas on our way home, which was a mere $24 for the one night we stayed.

Everything else we did was entirely free.  Hiking, whittling, et al.

So for our 5 day family vacation, full of fun and memories we spent $662. 

Now, I'll calculate the cost of a similar amount of time on a Disneyland vacation.  We'll consider two travel days and three in-park days, an off-site hotel . . . here goes:

Round trip from my house - $178 in Gasoline

3 day tickets for four: (Disney considers age 10 and up to be adult, so I have to pay adult price on all four tickets now.  Just for the sake of argument, I'm using the cost of two kids tickets and two adult tickets.  I'm also only going to count the price of the 1 park per day tickets, which saves us $120 over park-hopper tickets.  There are sometimes sales or discounts if you buy your tickets at Costco or some other Southern California retailers, so that could save you a bit more) $850

Food: Assume you packed a cooler for the drive both to and from.  Assume you also ate all breakfasts at the hotel and had no extra drinks or snacks.  For the three in-park days you'd spend at least $300 for lunches and dinners.

Souvenirs: That's up to you, you can go crazy or not buy anything.  Assume we didn't buy anything for this trip.

Hotel: Super 8, mid-week, shoulder season, 4 nights at $68 per night

Grand total: $1600

This is what Disneyland would look like on a budget, obviously, you could spend much more than this as well. 

I think both vacation options have their merits.

BUT COME ON!  $662 for a 5 night family trip?  Seriously, that's a screamin' deal!  Try it.  You won't regret it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Boho Tween

It was time for a major clean out of my daughter's boho meets hippie chic bedroom.  She's 10, she's crafty and she likes to hang on to a lot of stuff. 

We carried out 6 laundry baskets of clothes, toys and various flotsam and jetsam.  We brought back only what would fit into the 3 small baskets, one IKEA closet stacker and bookshelf we already had.

She's mostly replaced the daily usage of toys with nail polish and vogue magazine.  But the stuffed animals and American Girl remain.  She's on the cusp of learning to build her own life, still cataloging the remnants of the one I built for her.  So while the deep clean needed to be done and wasn't an act chosen out of sentimentality of any kind, I found my sentimental self within it.

Here is her room, refreshed and lovely.  Frosted in signs of a girl on the edge of being a grown-up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


It's apple season.

Today I commemorated the occasion with web-surfing related to a theoretical apple picking excursion.  How 21st century of me!  Imagine my elation when free apples were offered by two different people - and the opportunity to pick them on the very day I had planned to make into apple picking day.  I'll call this a small miracle, and be wide-eyed and thankful for it.

                                                                                                                                 Photo courtesy of flickr user msr

I haven't posted in months.  I was on such a roll there for awhile, but everything sort of got set aside.  My parent's separation and ultimate divorce was the cause. It was (and in many ways, remains) a brutally sad time in our lives. 

But it's time for me to move forward.  Building up our lives from where we left them.  It's the first day of autumn and I'm going to start my building with apples.