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camping, take 2


Since we had nothing scheduled this past weekend, we decided to take a trip out to Shenandoah National Park and give camping another go. We planned on leaving Friday at 4pm and coming back home on Sunday. Our first camping trip was only overnight (we were home by 10am on Saturday) and at a park much closer to home. At the least, we figured it would be much cooler temperature-wise in the mountains.

In a move that was appreciated at the time, Brendan took down the car-top carrier as soon as we unloaded from the cottage a few weeks ago. This meant that our packing was confined to the back of the car and the dog would be riding at the kids’ feet. We didn’t anticipate this would be too much of a problem. Let’s just say it was a learning experience and we learned the dog needs to be in the back of the car and the carrier on the roof. Not that he misbehaved, just that it would have been so much more comfortable for everyone.

The sky and the forecast turned a bit ominous on our drive out west. But it was not raining when we arrived at camp. It didn’t look like it was going to hold for too much longer, so we opted to skip the trip to the campstore for wood and just use a BIC FlameDisk (basically a giant sterno) for cooking some burgers and dogs. The tent went up much quicker than last time and the kids and I made up some silly scary stories. Bedtime came early for all of us too. Just in time for the rain to start. At about 1am Bridget woke up and had to use the bathroom. And it was pouring. Thankfully Brendan wasn’t about to reserve us a spot far away from a toilet. He took her down and they came back. Then Johnny woke up and was scared so he crawled into my sleeping bag with me, and naturally was squirmy and not really sleeping. Then Bridget woke up again and had to go to the bathroom again so I took her down. Then we convinced Johnny to go back to his own bed and sleeping bag. But he still woke up at least two more times. It was not the most restful night for any of us.

It was still drippy and rainy in the morning, so Brendan took advantage of a brief break to boil us some water for coffee/oatmeal while the kids ate cereal in the tent. It didn’t stay dry for very long, but luckily there was a single umbrella in the car. After that we were all going slightly crazy, so we all got into the car and went for a long drive down Skyline Drive. We stopped off at a trailhead just before Big Meadows intending to hike down to a waterfall, but it ended up being one of the few trails that dogs are not allowed on. So we buckled up the (now very sad) kids again and headed down to the Visitor’s Center at Big Meadows. It was pretty foggy still (because we were up high enough in elevation the whole time that we were inside the clouds. Down at around 1500 feet it was much clearer) but the ranger we spoke with assured us that unless there was thunder and lightening the Blackberry Festival scheduled for that day was still happening and she gave us a route we could hike with the dog and that would be easier on the kids that put us just at the bottom of the waterfall we had wanted to see.



The hike to the waterfall was much easier than the hike back. The trail was a well-maintained fire road and not hard walking at all, but the kids were just not having it. Somehow we did manage to make it back to the car in one piece.


Then we enjoyed some of everything at the Blackberry Festival: Blackberry lemonade, blackberry cobbler with blackberry icecream and blackberry pulled pork.


Of course that didn’t seem to shake all the crankiness, so we took another drive towards Luray. It was a bit harrowing actually at a few intersections, the clouds were so dense that it was very hard to see. In town, it was much easier and we got a good look at the cloud cover that was surrounding us. It didn’t seem to want to break any time soon.

Then came the difficult decision: do we stay another night or do we go home a day early? I was not looking forward to cooking dinner in the rain and then eating in the tent (again). And neither of us was exicted by the idea of another night of bad sleep. The kids were disappointed to leave, but really it was the best decision. One day we’ll be able to camp for a full weekend.


We did take a different route home and came upon a distillery that we went into intending to take the tour. But Johnny wasn’t thrilled by the idea from the start, so we backed out. We did buy two bottles — one single malt whisky and one single malt spirit (in short: legal moonshine) from the store though we have yet to try them.

I always find rural Virginia stunningly beautiful, and whatever part we are driving through, I immediately want to live in. I am adding Sperryville to the ever-expanding list.

Of course, the sun came out yesterday and we pulled out another FlameDisk and made s’mores on the front porch.




Last weekend we took a little 3 day trip to the Outer Banks. It was super-nice weather the first day so we dug in the sand and collected shells on the beach in the morning, took a little walk in the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge after that and played on the playground. Because the next day was full of rain. So we took a ride to the aquarium and around the island a little bit. And yes, we all went a little bit insane. Even a trip to the junk store for coloring books and souvenirs and another trip for frozen yogurt didn’t totally solve the problem. Still, we survived and it was all-in-all a pretty good trip. 

cottage 2011 part two


After a month apart, Johnny and I flew back to Ohio and were reunited with Brendan and Bridget and were soon joined by cousins (and their parents too, of course). 
We spent time at the beach, and went to an amusement/water park in Erie.
And then, Brendan and I left for Toronto for a few days (more on that a little later).
 It’s been a really great summer. Soaking up the last few weeks before Bridget starts Kindergarten.


We had a really nice visit with Brendan’s brother’s family last weekend. There was a winter carnival at the kids’ school, a birthday party, cousins galore…

messes, home-brewed beer, a lesson in chocolate melting…

and brrrr, it was super-cold. Bunches of fun for all of us. 


Thanks to a generous gift from Brendan’s mother, we spent Monday overnight to Tuesday at the Gaylord National Harbor and took the kids to see ICE.

I think though, that Johnny would have been happy with the balcony.

At some point while we were in line, our point and shoot got dropped and appeared* to be pretty broken. The lens wouldn’t close or focus. So we were left with our camera phones in what turned out to be a pretty low light situation.

Poor Johnny had pretty much had it with being carried by the time we reached the ice slide, which was packed. So we left Bridget and Brendan behind to slide away while we finished up the exhibit and got warm on the other side. Bren was pretty happy to be able to go down the slide himself (we’d heard it was a kids only activity). I really would have liked to linger a little more and look at all the details of the sculptures, but it was so crowded I always felt like I was in someone’s way.

The next morning we had breakfast with the Grinch. Bridget was thrilled at the sight of him (though you wouldn’t know it from this photo)** and surprisingly, John really couldn’t have cared less. Now, if the Grinch had touched his precious cantaloupe, there might have been a problem.

It was crazy crowded, but mostly pleasant.





*Before the kids were both asleep, Brendan had ordered us a new camera, that is meant more for video. And sometime yesterday he had the broken camera fixed, but it was too late to cancel the order on the new camera. It was delivered today. If I hadn’t seen and held the camera when it was broken myself, I’d be more suspicious — he’d asked for the new camera prior to Christmas.

**I might be softening on my Disney stance just to see her smile (I really don’t want to go)…


Over the long Columbus Day weekend, we packed up the kids and headed to Ohio to visit with Pat, Steph and the kids at their new house. Heading to the pumpkin patch has become sort of a tradition around this time, as it’s always close to Hannah’s birthday.

We headed to the local apple orchard, had a some delicious cider and donuts.

Johnny thought about taking a step or two.

And then we celebrated Hannah’s birthday with some of her friends from school. (I love this picture because it looks like Johnny is a little ladies man!)

The kids always have such fun together (and grownups do, too).

[All the photos in the gallery]

more memories

Yesterday, Bridget asked about one of the photos from our honeymoon that’s hanging up in the dining room. It was that question that led me to pull out our our travel memorabilia. 

The photo was one from our day near Amden. In my opinion, it was easily the most picturesque place we’ve been. And as I’ve written previously, we had a lovely room and enjoyed the company of some guests and the proprietors.  But my blog post didn’t reveal the name of the place we had stayed. Thus, I pulled out the big accordion folder where I keep all our travel ticket stubs, brochures, receipts and postcards. Of course, I had notepads or pamphlets from all the other Swiss places we stayed except for this one. Fortunately, we still had the big book of Minotels from the trip and this one was marked (not that there were many in the area to begin with) – The Bellevue in St. Gallen. Perfect. 


The hotel isn’t a hotel anymore.  It’s a Buddhist retreat. I guess that means that we won’t be able to go back and visit. Not 100% a bad thing though; now we can’t be disappointed that our stay the second time is not as wonderful as our first. 

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Brendan joined the party on January 2, 2004. He's cool now.

Jessica has never been cool. She is OK with that.

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