getting ready to road trip….Yay!

As soon as I got back from Arkansas & warmed up (yikes, it’s been a friggin cold winter!) I continued my long time birthday tradition of visiting Andre’s Bakery at the Kansas City Plaza for my fave tea & a napoleon.  My mother would get my birthday cakes here when she was alive & I love just taking this moment every year to enjoy this yummy treat.  I am so grateful for the Mother who raised me. 

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On any nice day & a lot that aren’t, my group of walker-friends hit the trails.  When they’re too muddy, we walk the hills on KU’s campus, other paved trails…anything to be out & walking.  These super fit women (I’m the one in the worst shape of all of us!) are always willing to say yes.  My competition is their bikes….they are big road bikers.  But putting in walking miles with them is great!  They have kept me sane during a super long freezing cold winter, they are interesting, funny, smart & chatty.  An 8 mile walk just seems like a joy with these women!  (We’re missing Kathy in this photo…she was my first friend in this group & so grateful she has introduced all the rest of us!)

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Gaslight Gardens is a tiny little bar (the outside bar is waaayy bigger than the inside one) in North Lawrence.  One day on their FB page, they posted they were making Grasshoppers.  Immediately memories filled my mind…my Mom drank those.  I’d never had one before…I thought they sounded a bit weird…mint & chocolate.  But, I wanted to try one.  The walking group had parked in the lot right across from the bar, so after 8 miles on dirt, I crossed the road & ordered my first Grasshopper.  It was really good!  Probably not enough for me to go out & buy all those liquors, but it was good enough I’d order another one sometime.  At this tiny 8 seater bar, was the owner & a BBQ contest guy & his wife.  We all started visiting with each other…the owner & I having some good friends in common & the BBQ guy telling me a whole new way to make chili.  Between the drink & the company, proceeded by a great walk, it was a delightful afternoon!  I really miss interactions like these—they are few & far between these days.

Danny & I are still trying new cocktails, but have our favorites we drink most often.  But, the new thing we’re doing, is learning about the the spirit we’re drinking…the distillery, their history, where they are, what other liquors they bottle…it’s been kind of fun as we sit & share our cocktails.

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Mardi has come & gone already.  I usually hang out with my friend Cheryl for this & St. Patricks Day.  But, she made the smart move to live in Cabo for three months this winter.  So, although it was a nice sunny day…not too cold, I missed my fun friend.  We were swapping videos all morning….me in the parade & her by the pool, walking by the marina, getting all tan & fit & not bundled up in layers of warm stuff!

But, I went to the parade anyway.  It’s such a home-grown event.  A band made of many locals & the rest of us, all dance down the sidewalks of Lawrence while they play & once in awhile, we go into some of the businesses—making it crazy for those who work there, but joyful for their customers.  Here’s some scenes from the day:

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The above beignets were delicious & some chicory coffee as well.

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The band always ends at Freestate Brewery; 1/2 way up the stairs inside.  My tradition is to bug out of the parade for the last couple of blocks (as they veer off Mass Street briefly) & make my way to the bar at FS.  I ordered up their once-a-year Hurricanes & wait for the ending of the parade & the lively songs & atmosphere that follow.  The other great thing is Maisie…she’s been bartending at FS for years & I always see her on Mardi Gras. Maisie loves to travel, & she’d just gotten back from a trip.  So, we set up for me to come back another Tuesday, during the slow part of the day, & chat (while she worked) about her latest trip.  (Which I did on the following Tuesday & it was so awesome to visit with her & talk travel!)

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Cheryl will also be missing for the upcoming St. Patricks Day Parade which is huge in Lawrence.  I’ve not figured out my costume yet, but I’ll be there…in green & ready to party!

About the only project I’ve done is this one:  I’d read about a school teacher who had her class all draw monsters.  Then she made a stuffie from each one that matched their drawing.  So, when I was in Florida last month, I asked the girls to draw a monster & name it.  It was an interesting project, & I’m not sure how well it turned out, but I’ll take them to the girls, along with their drawings, next time I’m in Florida.

Claires—The Fluftball Cutie

Emma’s named Mia

I put their names on the back.

So, I like to think of myself as a minimalist…but I got that self-awarded badge ripped away one Sunday.  There’s a wonderful women’s organization in Lawrence called, 100 Good Women.  They do alot for the Lawrence Community.  Each year they have three sales…one is accessories, one is clothing & the last is books.  I’ve only been to the clothing one a few times & it’s great.  The very BEST thing about these sales, other than the money they raise funds all their awesome projects?  Everything is just $1.  I’ve gotten some great, high quality & fun   clothes in the past.  But, I’d never gone to the accessory sale before.  

Some of you know, I’ve gotten into the study of Horology…the study of watches.  I had a few of my own, & I’ve really loved learning more about watches.  But, there’s nothing in me that wants to own a $5,000 or $30,000 watch.  But for a dollar?  I went a little nuts.  In my defense, I bagged up 40 pieces of jewelry to donate—which is the other cool thing about this sale.  Women bring stuff when they arrive, it gets put out throughout the day while everyone shops,  So, you can go re-visit tables all afternoon.  Funny that while I was going through my jewelry to donate, I came across two old watches buried in some old jewelry.

At the sale, I’d picked up a total of 13 watches, but eventually, went & sat down & checked each one out & got the number down to 6.  I wasn’t looking for anything expensive, I just wanted unusual or functional.  Of course, while I only spent $6 for the watches (& I also bought a warm hat & a sarong), none of them had working batteries.

I felt fortunate that Danny was eager to help me figure this all out.  He has a watch battery changing kit, so we spent a couple of hours, figuring out what batteries each watch needed & one needed a new band.  As of this writing , they all work great, with the exception of one of the old one’s I’d found.  It’s now gone to tick no more.

One of my favorites though?  Even though I’ll probably only wear this one a couple of times a year is the brown Winnie the Pooh watch (top row, second from the left).  It has Pooh in the center & tiny little bees are the hands…flying around the watch.  A tradition the girls & I have, is that each morning one of them gets to pick out the earrings & watch I’ll wear that day.  I can’t wait for Emma to see this one…it even has little bees engraved on the band.

But of course, then how was I going to store/display them?  I was out of room where my previous watches lived.  I tried a couple of different things & of course I didn’t want to spend any money.  I found an old painting I’d done years ago, stored away in my craft closet, added some nails right through the canvas, hung it on my bathroom wall behind my door…& Voila!.  Just as with my earrings, I enjoy choosing a different watch to wear each day.  

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Of course, winter time always finds me reading alot.  Especially with so much cold weather this year, it’s great to snuggle up with a book.  I’ve set a bigger reading goal for myself this year…120 books.  Somedays, though, it’s kind of hard when Sammy’s favorite place to sit is on top of my book in my lap.  

I’m already feeling so guilty for leaving her this spring & summer.  I’m a bit worried about her….I’m really good at worrying.  Bob, our boy cat, won’t miss me at all.  But Sammy will.  Danny is a much better cat Dad than I am a cat Mom, but she loves me in spite of that.  So, I let her sit on my book whenever she feels like it.

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Danny has decided to keep working this year….sadly, not going to retire yet.  I’d hoped he’d be with me on most of my upcoming adventures, but it’s not going to happen in 2023.  We’re no closer to figuring out our next chapter with him retired, selling the house & moving, & all the other gazillion questions that come up when you make huge life changes.  Of course, me being the irresponsible one in the relationship, I keep saying we’re not going to have all the answers up front.  But, we’d both probably be homeless or possibly dead, if I’d made all the decisions in the past.  But, I’m ready for him to start living a little, laughing more, getting rested, giving his body a break & hitting the road with me!

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But, it’s that time of year…Trip planning!  While alot of my friends that travel are great about making all their reservations & precise plans, I’m not.  I just hate being tied into an exact timeline.  Of course, this comes back to bite me in the butt when I don’t have a place to camp or I arrive at some places when they’re closed or always at low tide for coastal blow holes…you get the picture.  But, that’s the way I travel.  Plan A always turns into something “else"…sometimes better, always different & once in awhile, one of those “take deep breaths” moments.  But, it’s all an adventure, right?

So, I started early this year & began with the new gear I needed.  I didn’t need much this year…a new headlamp (I bought a hybrid lamp that is USB powered, but also uses batteries.  I want batteries if I go backpacking.).  A new battery for camper….my old one lasted six years, but it was time to get her charging powers back up to awesome!  The last thing I bought, was a biggie for me. And one, I’ve almost bought a few times before & I’m still skeptical about it.  I did alot of research on a big power bank & chose the Bluetti EB3A.  A 10# machine that takes up a chunk of space in my floorboard, but that should keep all my stuff powered up.  I don’t use solar….it just doesn’t work with how I travel, so mine will mostly be charged while I”m driving, using the cigarette lighter.  I’ve already had a couple of glitches with the Bluetti Customer Service, which has made me growl a few times (my main method of displaying I’m super frustrated), but the unit seems to work fine.  I’m trying to figure out exactly where it will live in Camper.  I certainly hope it’s worth it.

Besides new gear, there are always the mundane things like trying to get meds for a super long road trip; my backwards county doesn’t allow me to pay my car tags any sooner than May 1 & I have to jump through a couple of hoops just to do that.  I have one shot for Danny to bring my license plate sticker to me, when we meet up in Florida in June. So, I’m trying to get all my ducks in a row before I leave…if not ducks….pills & car stickers.

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Plan A will be my longest trip ever…we’ll see how it all ends up.  And, it looks like it’s a bit of a segmented trip for various reasons.  That’s not my usual way of travel, so I’m bringing my extra-flexibility along with me.  But, I couldn’t be more stoked for this road trip.  

One very, very big change has already occurred.  I’m super bummed that the Canada part of my trip is no longer in the plan…it’s just not going to work this year, at this point.  When Id added that into the original plan, Id thought Danny would be with be.  So, with that part of the trip being nixed this year (because of a timing issue), maybe hell get to go with me next year after all?

And while, I won’t see my cats for months, I will be meeting up with Danny three times this summer…more than in years past, so I’m grateful for that!  Very, very grateful!  

Because of all the moving parts to this trip (& I dont mean the 4Runner), I have found myself with several different packing lists & six different travel segments.Oh boy!  In some moments it seems overwhelming, but then I feel so grateful I get to go & tell myself over & over not to overthink this….not to overthink this…not to overthink this….…not to overthink this….

Before I take off on my spring/summer road trip, Danny & I are leaving together in a couple of weeks to fly out to see the boys in California & are so excited!  So, I have a packlist for that trip, which turns out is very, very short.  We got the low price tickets (not in any way were they cheap—flying to Arcata is super expensive! but these are wonderful gifts from the boys for our birthdays this year!). But this “level” of ticket,  doesn't allow us to bring a bag for the over head bin…just an under the seat bag.  I have done this before & don’t have any problem fitting a weeks clothes into a small backpack….but Danny is not a minimal packer & likes to change clothes every day & has way higher hygiene standards than I do.  He will be challenged with this trip!  But we’re so stoked to see the boys & Leia & Jordan…I can’t wait!

Then, just two days after were back, I take off for a very different kind of adventure for me (which is why I’ve been busy getting ready!).  I’m helping someone else try to achieve their goal & project, & I’m excited for that!

This road trip feels very different for me, but I’m ready for changes at this age (hopefully all good changes, right?)  So, my normally tidy house has exploded with gear!  I have everything that will go up into the Thule (my road box) in one corner, my filled dry-food bag, a too big array of everything I charge before I leave on a trip, my backpack for California, a duffle for clothes my first segment (because I will be parking my 4Runner & leaving her for a couple of weeks—YIKES!), gifts for the girls for two other segments….it’s such a well organized mess.  Camper is about as packed up as she can be & we’re both nearly ready to go. .

Lets get these adventures started!

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(You can follow along on my Instagram page (@vik.hill), where I post more frequently than here.  The website is more detailed, but doesn’t get updated as often.  Let me hear from you!  I love, love, love to follow other travelers journeys, see their photos, & hear about their trips too.)

long, boring winter

The girls really liked the headbands I took them last October, so I made more.  They Facetimed me one day & I pulled out all sorts of random fabric & they just chose what they wanted.  A pretty fun & easy project.  Finished them in a couple of hours & shipped them on their way!

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Green Chile Week!  I took three trips to New Mexico last year & told Danny we’d have a Green Chile week sometime to try some new recipes.  Some recipes I got from a New Mexico cookbook, some from a New Mexico magazine & other just random internet searches.  It was definitely a success, pretty fun to try a new dish every day, but a lot of cooking.  My freezer is filled with the leftovers!

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Green Chile Mac & Cheese, roasted veggies & Hatch Chile Margarita; Green Chile Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, & Green Chile Moscow mules 

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Green Chile week happened to coincide with Thanksgiving week (Danny’s brilliant idea).  I was super stoked about this since this is my least favorite holiday & I’ve made a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the past hundred years.  But…this year I had Green Chile Cranberry sauce over goat cheese along with some cranberry cheddar cheese for an appetizer & a super delicious Hatch Green Chile shrimp with coconut rice, Green Chile salad & dessert was pumpkin shortcake with apples & maple cream & a Chimayo cocktail to drink.

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Green Chile Posole (this was sooo good!); Green Chile smashburgers & Negro Modelo

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Brats with Green Chiles, slaw & radishes & NM Bosque Brewing ; Sara’s recipe for Green Chile Frittata & Tequila Sunrise.

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We finished the week off with Green Chile & Pecan sundaes…OMG so good!  Theres a place in Las Cruces called Caliches Frozen Custard that serves these.  When I was there last spring, I had one & it was sooo great.  So, I found sort of a knock off recipe, made it then we ate these…YUM!  A wonderful ending to our Green Chile Week.

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We did our traditional Black Friday beer shopping picking up a couple cases of Bourbon County Stout & Wilitized…super yummy beer!

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One of my favorite Lawrence Christmas traditions is SantaCon.  I get to meet up with my old friends from Bike & Beer Wednesday & dress up in costume!  This year I took an old Elf costume & revamped it into one I like much better.  It’s always a fun time & while Danny won’t dress up & participate, he always drops me off then meets up with me at the last bar we go to.  Love these people!  (But it was freezing-ass cold today!)

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We invited a friend over for an evening I put together my first charcuterie board.  I loved it!  I’d watched a youtube video & bought most of the ingredients at Aldi.  It was super fun to put together & yummy for us all.  I just put it in the center of the table & while the three of us chatted the night away, we munched on all these goodies.  It would turn out I’d make a smaller one a few days later just for me & Danny.  We both think this will also be great to do while camping.

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Since we went nowhere for Christmas (I had suggested Louisville for the Kentucky Bourbon trail)…the weather was horrid, nasty, dangerous, miserable  (about every winter adjective you can come up with), we stayed home.  Danny got to relax, which is great, but I was freakin crazy bored!  But, since we weren’t on any fun Bourbon trail, we created our own.  On two separate nights, we had Bourbon tastings….it was fun, interesting & definitive.  Most of all we know we both like Bourbon…a lot!

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I set a goal this year to read 100 books & I ended the year with 112.  I love reading & still feel so grateful for libraries, authors, illustrators, etc.  I never take reading for granted!  I now have more books on my “want to read” list than I probably have time for in my life!  So many creative, imaginative & amazing writers in our world…it’s such a joy for me to pick up a book & dive in!

I walk the trails as much as possible & don’t know what I’d do without these wonderful women I walk with! (Missing Lesa in the photo).  Our New Years Day walk!

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Since I’ve been trapped inside because of the weather so much & home for a long period of time, I’ve spent time trying to be a good cat mom.  Our kitties are growing older & I am continually worried about them.  So, here’s some cute cat photos….they are so sweet!  Sammy hangs with me more than Bob, so I have more photos of her.  

Sammy’s favorite thing to do is to plop down in the middle of whatever you are doing…she's excellent at this!

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Bob is a bit a of a loner until Danny gets home, then he becomes Danny’s shadow.  No cat was ever loved more than Bob by Danny & vice versa.

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As I write this, my Camper is packed up for my first trip of 2023. This trip will only be a week or so…I’m really trying to avoid driving on ice & camping in freezing temperatures, but I’m stoked to be visiting someplace new, trying out some new trails & eating & drinking my way though some new towns.

Winter makes me feel trapped & I can’t seem to embrace it as I get older…I just want to escape the crap weather for warmer places.  I’ve got some upcoming trips on the books & I’m am so happy about that!  

And, Sammy found her way into my duffleas usual.

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winter in kansas

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Homework & Interests
The older I get, the less of I love winter.  It’s pretty to see the snow falling or stacking up on the trees, but I don’t love the cold & more than anything I don’t like driving in foul weather.  In this season, I spend more time in Kansas & indoors…sooo not my favorite thing.  My reading ramps up to crazy proportions & if I’m going to get creative & “make stuff”, it’s during this season.

This winter I added some new distractions, which I am enjoying. 

1. Learning Spanish:  after my trip to Mexico last November, I brought the 3 words home with me that I learned to speak & was focused on learning more of the language.  After trying a couple of apps, books, audiobooks, I found the Coffee Break Spanish Podcast & that seems to be a good way for me to learn (so fun because it’s taught by two Scottish people; so I’m learning Spanish with a Scottish accent. Just awesome!) I am also writing down the words & phrases (phonetically). I’m learning just to try to stamp it in my brain a little better.  It’s slow going & I’m listening to the lessons over & over & over, but it’s working.  I know more now than I used to & I can’t wait to travel again & use it.

2. Horology:  I only stumbled upon this hobby because of a singer/song writer I’ve been obsessed with for the past couple of years.  Ed Sheeran, a British born musician, loves horology…the study of the measurements of time, clocks, watches, sundials, etc.  Mostly, he is a collector of watches.  It’s been fascinating to follow this over-the-top hobby & to go from zero knowledge to just the tip of the iceberg.  Learning about these precise & sometimes outrageously expensive time pieces, is interesting but does not make me wish for anything like this for myself.  My taste is simple & eclectic. I just bought a new battery for my 10 year old Timex  (this was the one that was recovered from the bottom of a beautiful Mexican Cenote…oh the memories!). I also own a Mickey Mouse watch, another analog watch with 2 time zones on the face & a beautiful (my most expensive) ‘art’ watch—a really funky watch that’s hard to set, but makes me smile when I wear it (I bought it in a gallery in Florida when Sara first moved there).  My niece was sweet enough to give me her Apple watch, when she upgraded.  I bought a couple of bands for it & went thru the motions of setting it up.  I’ve worn it on multiple walks & hikes & like that it tracks my mileage.  But, my I have found it a bit ‘needy’—it has to be recharged everyday & it’s constantly buzzing, chiming & ringing.  It definitely is not going with me on my travels.  So, even though I don’t wish for fancy, expensive, rare or high tech watches, my ‘study’ of horology has been good…it’s definitely made me look more closely & appreciate the preciseness of the design, the different faces & complications of watches.

3. Rivers…where they begin & end:  I’d started this project last winter, but put it on hold when I went to Florida for the bulk of winter.  This year, I decided, I take the project one state at a time.  So, I’m starting with the state I’m traveling to next.  I’ve plotted out where the rivers start & flow & hopefully that information will help me focus on & understand the rivers I cross when I hike or drive by during my travels.  We take water for granted: wasting it, encouraging misuse of it by antiquated laws, allowing corporations to spread their toxins in it, etc.  I’m still feeling a super-connection with that muddy Colorado I floated down last summer & now yearning for more of that.

Claire & Emma
We’ve missed our grand daughters so much this winter….we haven’t seen them since Christmas.  Claire turned 7 & Emma is now 4.  Claire is very much a Harry Potter fan & chose  to dress as Hermoine for her Halloween costume, so she has a Wizards robe.  One day she asked me if I’d make Emma a Hogwarts robe & gave me all kind of details about where to find the right patch (“order it from Amazon”), how it was lined, I could find instructions on a You Tube video & lastly she told me, “just do the best you can”.  I love doing things for these girls!  I had the robe made (harder to do when you don’t have the sweet little person here to measure) within two days, had ordered the patch & then added a couple of Gryffindor scarves I made & shipped it off.  I hope they have a blast playing Wizards!

My birthday gift to myself:  When I was in Florida to see the girls last December, I had a plan & a template.  I’d read about a business in Denver called The Scarf Studio…where you can create a design & they would print it on a scarf.  So, I printed off the templates before I left & one afternoon, I asked the girls if they’d each make a design for me.  And they did!  I promptly sent it off to the Scarf Studio once I was back at home & anxiously awaited my little treasures.  The studio turn around time was fast, but the Post Office was not.  After the post office held my scarves hostage for three weeks, the studio re-printed the scarves & sent them out again.  This time they were only held in post office hell for 2 weeks, but I got them!  (And then the originals ones arrived 5 1/2 weeks after they’d originally been shipped.) I love wearing them!  I tell myself it’s like wearing a little hug from each of the girls!  PS:  Check out their adorable signatures….love it!

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Frank the Gargoyle
And here’s where I admit I’ve gone a little crazy.  Just like the “Frank the Gargoyle” Facebook page that got me into this nuttiness, my Frank had to endure his own costumes this winter.  But, as it’s now spring & I won’t be back until it’s much much warmer, Frank is now free of any clothes, costumes & craziness.  He’s happy to just be himself!

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Friday Night Cocktails
Danny & I have gone out for years on Friday nights for dinner & some good beer.  We used to go with friends & it was always fun.  But, when 2020 hit it seems everything changed (in more ways than this).  Our friends moved away, staffs changed, prices went up, but mostly we just can’t find good food & atmosphere together.  So, the birth of “Friday Night Cocktails” happened.  Every Friday night since January, we have dinner at home, proceeded & followed by a new cocktail of the week.  While we know a ton about craft beer & own a super impressive collection of beer, but we knew nothing of cocktails, liquors, garnishes, or barware.  And, while this new hobby hasn’t been cheap, it’s been super fun!  I now have an extensive collection of cocktail recipes, garnish tools, random barware I’ve been shopping for from Goodwill stores, my own shaker set & a much much larger selection of alcohol.  I also have created my own rating system for the drinks we try…it’s super scientific—yucky, just ok, yummy & super yummy.  Our last FNC was last week.  We’ll be on hiatus while I’m traveling.  However, I’m intending to do significant cocktail research while I’m gone!

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road trip ready…
Well, its the time of year that always gets me excited…time for a road trip!  

I’m ticking off all the boxes…trips to my Doctor, my Dentist & the eye Doctor.  

My 4Runner…(which I call Camper to distinguish from the daily driver which is also a 4Runner) also got some check ups: new back brakes, new tires, a water pump & timing belt, an oil change & new plug for my radiator.

Now both of us need to just be like the Energizer Bunny…just keep going & going & going!  (No problems with either of our health this year!)

My gear list was short this year…I buy good stuff so it doesn’t wear out very fast.  Except for my shoes…I bought 2 new pair of hikers & can’t wait to get my feet on dirt, sand, rock, water & fun!

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Since my emergency brake can’t be fixed, I also bought a set of chocks for parking on those steep mountainsides;  a BLM camp book; purchased a subscription for the Gaia app -which I haven’t learned to use yet, but I have downloaded all my maps to use when I have no service.

Reads:  I always love reading books about the state I’m traveling to…some history, a cookbook, some fiction or by local authors.  Always a fun way to anticipate your travels.  My reading list for this trip topped out at about 8 or 9 books.

And, then I have spent hours trip planning.  I tend to make it complicated up front, so it’s easy to use & flexible while I’m on the road.  That’s an ongoing project, probably right up until the time I leave.

And packing.  I know alot of people hate this part, but I love it.  I have an over the top-crazy-extensive packing list which makes it easy.

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A friend of mine from Bike & Beer Wednesday, passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago.  It was a shock to everyone that knew him & he knew a lot of people. Justin was friends with a diverse group of people.  He was one of the most fun, active & funny guys I’ve ever known.  He was diagnosed with Cancer just 4 weeks before he died; he was 53.  During his funeral party, I saw so many old friends….so many I hadn’t seen in a long time; lots of hugs, tears, laughter & memories.  Covid has kept us all apart, but this tragedy brought us all back together in a very, very sad way.  It’s heartbreaking.

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Life twists & turns & is in constant change.  As I write this while mourning the death of a friend, our world is at war—causing thousands of unnecessary deaths & horrible destruction; the stock market is the “bear” I’m most worried about; gas prices are up 30%, Covid is settling down for this moment & the day before I leave on this trip, I’m going to attend our super fun St. Patricks Day parade.  Ups & downs; over & over.  At my age, life begins to feel like one big crapshoot…from health, to finances, & relationships.  

I don’t know whose quote this is, but I love it….

“A state of grace is the kind of balance with which you ride the chaos you find around you” 

Take care my friends!

good bye 2021…December, 2021

I had a wonderful year of travel in 2021…hiking in new places, exploring & camping for hundreds of miles, adventuring out of my comfort zone & out of my country.  I always want more, so one of my hopes & goals for this year is to keep going & going & going.

There are so many different kinds of paths in our lives…some are the kind you love to be on, taking you into the forest or the top of a mountain with beauty all around; some are life changing, horrible & no one wants to be on that path; but some are just leading into the story of your life…always changing, sometimes taking you up a difficult climb & sometimes plunging you down into the unknown & sometimes filled with wonderful unexpected surprise.

The last path is the one I feel like I’ve been on in 2021 & one I hope to negotiate & learn from in 2022.

2020 will always be such a distinctive year in our time…the virus that changed what we knew as normal.  But the ramifications of so much that happened that year & flowing into last year, feels like it has changed life even more…or at least in my microscopic piece of life.  

I probably steer away from pop-culture, politics, & current events too often just to try to maintain some sort of sanity.  It’s difficult these days to know what the truth is, about so many things. I am good at spending time alone on the road & on the trail; I do this for months each year. But, I’ve always been outgoing, super-social & fun loving. I have always treasured my relationships & time with family, friends & acquaintances…they mean everything to me.  I still have a love of humans & believe that most people are kind & that we all have some good things in common; I’ve not become so jaded that I want to step back from the world, even while our world feels very divided.

But, I feel like in 2021 the world wants to step away from me.  

This year I have questioned a lot about myself: doubt & certainty have wrestled with each other.  I have looked deep inside for answers. There has been so much “quiet” in my days… more than I would like, especially when off the road & at home.  I walk, I read & listen to music. While I love to do all of those things, they are not replacements for the human connection.  And part of me feels starved for the joy that I’ve always found in those relationships. 

I’ve always thought I was good with change… but this path feels more difficult to traverse. 

And yet, there is a light inside me that keeps me moving forward.  I will move up this rocky trail with determination &  uncertainty both at my side, trying to learn as I go, keeping my mind & heart open. I’m not sure what’s around the next bend, or what lies ahead.

Today is the Winter Solstice & while we have the coldest part of our winter facing us, the days will get lighter, brighter & longer.  As my Yule log burns tonight, I’m making a point to let go of all the sadness & negativity from 2021 & wish upon the flames for all good things in 2022.

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And, then I need to get busy turning wishes into reality.

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super random stuff…

I’ve been home from my last trip for 35 days…seems like forever.  The longer I live, the more I wish to be traveling…all the time.  It feels like a flaw, yet I know deep in my soul I am the happiest on the road & exploring new places.  To say I feel trapped by winter is a huge understatement, yet I keep trying, year after year, to embrace the stillness that winter brings.  I keep failing.

So, I try to stay busy…get things done; learn new stuff; update or repair what needs fixing; research & get whatever gear I might need for upcoming trips.  I always come home from my season of traveling with a huge long list of things to get to done.  Things most people would find trivial & boring, but it keeps me focused & makes me feel ready to hit the road again as soon as I can.

Here’s whats been going on in my rather boring home life in Kansas:

My poor 20 year old 4Runner has had a tough year.  I get it.  It seems my body took some hits this year also, but we’re both fortunate that we can be put back together & neither of us are ready to give up on our road tripping outdoor lifestyle. Besides the new transmission that she got while on the road in California, once home she got new back brakes, new tires, an alignment, & the leak fixed from the new transmission.  She’s still lacking an emergency brake, about 10” of her tailpipe & we’ve been talking about the preventative measure of getting the water pump & timing belt changed….that’s expensive, but it’s something that could definitely strand me if it quits working.  But, she’s really good to go if I get the opportunity…. it’s been an expensive year for Camper.  She’s still my first pick of vehicles & every mechanic who has worked on her (which the list is long…my Toyota guy here in Kansas, one in Florida, one in California, & one in Colorado) is super encouraging of investing in my 3rd generation 4Runner rather than buying a new one.  I agree!

 This is always the time of year I figure out what I need for next year.  I’m not one to upgrade to the latest & greatest.  I buy great quality gear the first time around & it lasts forever…& you get this weird attachment to your outdoor gear, or maybe that’s just me.  But for the past two years, our tents have taken a beating.  They’re both pretty old, but the constant hot sun on the fabric has made them brittle.  Then, the past two summers the winds have been tortuous it seems.  One rip led to a huge rip, then several more…on both tents.  I’m wanting to start backpacking again, so it was time to research, choose & invest a new tent.  I am a little crazy about research…whether it’s a piece of gear or gifts for my granddaughters, I go down the deep rabbit hole of research.  Decisions seem to take me forever, but I know I’ll probably have that piece of gear for years.  At this age, I think, “Oh, this will probably be the last tent I ever buy”…till death do us part.

I narrowed it down to two tents:  The MSR Hubba Hubba or the Nemo Dragonfly.  I want to see, set up & lay down in a tent before I purchase it.  I chose these two from REI & had them shipped to the house.  It was my intention to take BOTH back when I’d made my decision & wait for the ‘chosen one’ to go on sale.  But, of course, the day AFTER I ordered them, one went on sale & the 20% coupon came out for members.

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They both arrived & I was like a kid in candy store, but I was actually in my living room.  I set both up & started to investigate…the zippers, the room inside, the way it would stake out, the weight, the size….it went on all afternoon.  When Danny got home from a long hard day at work, I asked him to crawl inside each one & feel what it would be like to sleep inside it.   

I really thought I’d go with the MSR Hubba Hubba….but

in the end I chose the Nemo Dragonfly.  It was lighter by almost a pound & I love the dark mesh on top so if you leave the rainfly off, you can see the stars better at night.

I called REI the next day & asked if they’d give me the 20% coupon off over my already purchased tent…& they did!  Then I promptly took  the MSR tent back to the store. Yay!  I’m ready to go backpacking anytime!  Who wants to go with me?

There’s only one other piece of gear I need for my upcoming trips & that’s at least one, maybe two, phone chargers.  The two that I had been using died last year & I’ve yet to replace them.  But I will…to me it’s an essential piece of equipment for car camping & keeping things charged is always a challenge.  There are a gazillion choices out there & that will be one deep rabbit hole of research & probably pricey, but thats my last piece of gear to add for 2022.  

Backcountry stuff but not gear…
There were two Black Friday sales I took advantage of this year…one was a Pro Membership to Gaia.  It’s a app that will let you download all kinds of maps & do sort of a live tracking to keep you on the trails even when you don’t have service. It can also show you backcountry roads & possible camping sites.  I’ve sort of gotten badly lazy & not always taking maps with me when I’m in new places.  This probably shouldn’t replace a real map, but it’s better than no map.  Now I just need to learn to use it.  When I recently went hiking in Kansas, Gaia didn’t even have the trail in it’s library (not surprised…more on this trip later)…so I couldn’t practice using the app.  It’s gotten great reviews though & I just need to learn how it works now.

The second Black Friday special I signed up for was a basic Wilderness First Aid course, done on Zoom by an ER Doctor associated at a University hospital in Utah.  It was pretty basic, but probably covered most things you’d encounter in wilderness situations.  There were 30 of us in class…complete with questions we had to answer, gory photos & a test at the end.  I knew most of what to do already, but there were new things to learn & I always need things like this repeated.  I’ve added this to my to-do list, to listen to the transcript at least once a month.  I’m hoping it just seeps into my brain & if I’d ever need it (boy do I hope I never, ever do), I’ll just instinctively have it stored in my brain & really be able to come through for myself or someone else.

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Spanish Lessons
Speaking of learning, I have had it on my list for years, to learn to speak Spanish.  I’ve also ignored this list item for years.  So, when the Mexico trip came up quick & fast, I dived into the language just to try to learn some basics.  I have books from a Spanish course I took when I worked at the college, but that was years ago.  I carried those books in Camper all last spring & summer to be ready to learn on the road…but I continued to ignore them.  So, once back home from Mexico & having mastered “Hola” & “Buenos Dios”, I wanted to continue to learn.  Speaking only three words is rather pathetic, so I started listening to “Coffee Break Spanish”.  It’s a podcast but somehow it resonates with me.  I’m writing the phrases down phonetically, so nowhere close to how it’s actually spelled, but just trying to get the pronunciation right instead.  I do two lessons a day & miss about 2 days a week, but I’m slowly making progress.

A Sewing Project…
Usually in the fall, I have multiple craft/sewing projects.  It’s the only time of year I drag out the sewing machine, glue gun, rotary cutter, pompoms, glitter, etc.  But, this year I only had one.  Sad for me, since I still like crafting once a year.  I usually make a Halloween costume, a SantaCon costume, some stuff for the grand girls, & so on.  The lonely item on my list for this year was two fleece skirts.  I’m calling these “bun warmers”.  While I was in the Grand Canyon on a float trip, one of the guides told us about another guide who owned a company called Funluvin’ Fleece.  I looked them up once back on land & loved their stuff.  I always wish I could buy from small businesses, but sometimes I just can’t afford their prices.  And, it’s not like I NEED it, but it’s just something I’d like to wear.  Then I wondered if I could make a couple myself.  I found a simple pattern for free online, found a sale at a fabric store & took an evening to make the skirts. They were easy, way way cheaper than buying them already made & I love the way they turned out & fit.  The crazy desert pattern was supposed to be my ‘trial’ skirt, but I ended up loving it…it just may be too wild to wear out of the house, but maybe not.  I have tights, boots & fleece pullovers to wear with both…should be nice & cozy.

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She buys a gadget…
I really hate it when I do things like this.  It was the day I was out with my sister-in-law on our annual birthday celebration for her.  We tend to do the same things every year, but I always look forward to my time with her.  I’m not a big shopper, but I do kind of enjoy it when I’m with someone else.  I shopped with my Mom & Grandmother a lot as a kid.  And I always wish I could do this with my daughter, Claire & Emma, but it never happens.  So, back to my new gadget.  We always go to Nordstroms gift department which is decorated for the holidays & filled with stuff I’ve usually never seen.  Being one who doesn’t watch TV or shop much, I’m usually the last to know (like years later) about a great product.  We found various boxes by a brand called “Dash”.  They were small kitchen appliances in pretty colors: one made waffle sticks, one made donuts, tiny bundt cakes & the one I bought, made little bitty pies…just a smidge bigger than the palm of my hand.  Anyone who has shopped with me, knows I’m horrible at making $20 decisions (unless it’s a beer!).  I can overthink it to death!  Even after I had it home, it sat in the box, haunting me everytime I’d walk by it.  I purchased it because I thought it would be a nice addition to my once a month cooking…making Danny small sweet or savory pies to freeze…perfect for one person.  And, I was thinking…" if the little girls ever get to come back to visit at my house, how much fun it would be to make tiny pies".  Well, it finally made it out of the box, got cleaned, got used & here’s the end result….

I made 12 pies on my first attempt, learning as I went.  I made 4 turkey pot pies, 4 apple pies, & 4 quiches.  Danny ate one of each then we froze the rest.  No going back now….the gadget is mine to keep.

Meet our new family member…
Frank the Gargoyle.  Go ahead & call me crazy & take away my "minimalist badge”.  Before last Christmas adopting a gargoyle had never entered my mind.  Then I found the Facebook Page called “Frank the Christmas Gargoyle”.  I found it early & started reading the entries.  In a nutshell, a slightly depressed woman started dressing up the gargoyle that sat on her porch, in Christmas garb.  One thing led to another & soon she had a whole porch filled with crazy Christmas creatures.  Then it got hilarious.  A neighbor whom she referred to as “Karen” started writing her nasty letters, turning her into the HOA & then the Mayor.  The gargoyle kept getting more & more friends as the complaints came.  And the FB page, kept getting more fans by the thousands.  By the end of Christmas, the lady had found a purpose, although pretty random & slightly crazy & I wanted a gargoyle.  I had lots of company, hundreds of people started buying gargoyles & naming them.  It’s the little bizarre things in life that sometimes bring a smile to your face, & I loved this page!  I told one of my friends about wanting a gargoyle….a really tiny one…& during my spring road trip she texted me that a friend had given her one & did I want it?  Fast forward to this fall when I was back & my friend & I hadn’t managed to get together for me to get my gargoyle from her, when she texted me she’d some really small ones at a pop up sale near me & told me the time & place when they were open next.  So, early one Saturday morning, I went to gargoyle hunting.  It wasn’t much of a hunt & I knew I had to bond with the right one…remember, I’m picky & I don’t part with a $20 easily (except for beer) & I knew I only wanted one…THE ONE.  When I got to the place, there was only one gargoyle.  He looked at me & I looked at him.  We stared at each other.  He was the right size.  He had a serious look on his face.  I picked him up & looked closer….& then we bonded.  I knew this was MY Frank!  My search for a gargoyle was over & his search for a family was done too.  I texted my friend & it turns out she wanted to keep the friend-given gargoyle for herself & I shared the FB story with her.  She posted a photo last week of her bow-dressed gargoyles & I think she has four!

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Now the only thing crazier than wanting then buying a gargoyle is to dress a gargoyle.  I did question my sanity as I pulled out bits of red fabric & white trim & stitched Frank a cute Santa hat & scarf.  He now sits on the table on our front porch, taking in the scenery in the front yard, watching the birds that flitter by, the traffic on the road, the Amazon & UPS delivery men than drop packages at our door.  Danny & I say “Hi" to him every night as we turn on the twinkly lights that shine on his porch.  He likes the twinkly lights…not everything about gargoyles are fierce.  

A trip camping & hiking in Kansas…
I tried.  I’ve never loved my state.  The longer I’m in it, the more I don’t want to be.  In a desperate move, I decided to take one more camping trip before the end of the year.  I couldn’t go far…it’s already snowing loads in Colorado; it gets dark every night by 6pm & the temps are dropping to more-than-chilly.  I seriously couldn’t remember ever camping in Kansas before.  I loaded up Camper for a two night trip & hit the road mid week.  I drove the boring highway through the plains for nearly 3 hours finally stopping at Wilson Lake State Park.  There are two entities that regulate this park; one side by the state & one side by the Corps of Engineers.  There were some rolling hills as I approached my turn off.  No one was here.  I stopped on the State Park side, got a map & talked to the woman at the Visitors Center about camping & hiking.  I took about an hour to drive around the lake looking for the perfect campsite. Every one was available.  They were $10 a night. The trail I wanted to hike today, was on the Corp side, so I drove over there.  I found a nice campsite on the lake, dropped my chair, unloaded my firewood & drove back to the trailhead.  This was the Rock Town trail… a whopping 2.5 miles (so glad I drove 3 hours to hike a teeny-tiny trail).  This one is known for it’s rock formations on the edge of the lake.  I took off through a field of grasses blowing in the wind & quickly made it to the lake & to the TWO rock formations.  

The color in the nearby rocks was really cool…certainly not what you see in this state, more like Utah & Arizona.  I photographed & took long looks at the colored rocks.

Here are the two formations.

I think I spent almost as much time crawling & climbing on the rocks & getting this selfie, as I did on the whole hike.

Okay…that was nice.  Super short but nice.  I drove into the next town about 10 miles away called Lucas (great name!)  It’s known for a place there called the Garden of Eden.  It was super weird.  Lots of super religious overtones…somewhere between creepy & interesting.  

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But the rest of the town is pretty much nothing.  So many Kansas towns are like this.  I didn’t even see a grocery store & it seems in the middle of nowhere.  Leaving the town I passed a huge…super huge cemetery.  I think there were more dead people there than alive in the town.

I drove back to my campsite on the Corp side of the lake.  Its free if youre not at a hook up site.  But when I got back it was so windy!  I was parked on a point & I didnt think Id be able to make a campfire if I stayed there.  I packed up my wood & my chair & drove down the hill towards another part of the lake but lower, hoping to find a break from the wind.  I passed one other camper who was camping in big huge trailer.  I drove over to the far side & didnt see one other person.  I found a site & even though it was an electrical site, I figured no one would care.  Then I walked to the bathrooms which were locked up tightoh well (the other site Id been at had an unlocked bathroom).  I made a salad, sat on the picnic table, ate & stared out at the lake.  There was one fisherman in his boat but it was all pretty quiet.  As it got colder, I hauled out all my wood & built a fire & watched the sunset light up the sky.  That was very pretty.

As darkness started to fall as well as the temperature, my fire kept me warm, but I ended up using all the firewood I brought.  I was pretty sure at this point, I wouldn’t be staying another night.  I had a long hike I wanted to do tomorrow, but I wasn’t feeling like I’d want to stay another night.

I crawled into Camper when the fire died, talked to Danny, then read for a short time.  I had hardly slept the night before & I was dead tired.  I loved tucking into my bed in Camper again.  I  can’t explain how much I enjoy traveling in my version of a camper.  I fell asleep quickly & early, only to wake up in the middle of the night for a few hours then doze back off.  As soon as the sun was just starting to rise I woke up…I love this!  It’s how it is everytime I spend time camping…tucking in at dark & waking with sun (even if there are hours in between that are icky).  I watched the sun light up the sky, threw on my jacket, grabbed my coffee stuff & made a cup.  It was cold but I loved sitting on the table, watching the sky light up while drinking my hot strong coffee.

I packed up & drove over to the State Park side, paid my $5 & found my trail.  The woman at the Visitors center told me to start to the right; the bikers went left.  I needed to use the bathroom, but it was also locked up…seriously?  I took a 5.5 loop, hoping to add some distance onto that when I finished.  I took off through another grass field with hay bales all around.  To sum up this hike…I pretty much was never more than a mile from my car.  The trail builders tried hard & succeeded to get 5.5 miles out of this trail, but you essentially went back & forth & round & round, only seeing the lake a couple of times, but all the hay bales frequently.    I’ll just end this by saying, I was over it by the time I was done with the loop.  I got in my car & left. I drove to the next “big” town, called Salina & had lunch & a good jalapeño beer at Blue Skye brewery & then I went home.

I have a friend who lives a life that I know would make me crazy, but I really admire her a lot.  She travels around Kansas taking amazing photographs of cemeteries, old statues, libraries, prairies, etc.  She quilts, she cans, she gardens, but most of all she loves her life in Kansas. She sees such wonderful beauty in this state.  I am in awe of her & how she does it.  

Yet, it’s not me & never will be.  I ended this trail & this whole camping trip, trying not to think of it as a waste of time & bitching about walking in circles looking at hay bales.  I told myself, instead, what a lucky woman I am to have hiked hundreds of miles on amazing trails, to have seen so much breath taking beauty & camped in magnificent places.  

A trip down memory lane…
My mother in law, who passed away 1 1/2 years ago, had a best friend named Betty.  Betty is such a happy person, never without a smile & she is 94.  I know she feels lost without her best friend & most of her other friends have died as well.  Danny & I try to call & visit her as much as possible.  A few weeks ago I had taken her a tenderloin from a place she’s talked about for months.  During that lunch, she recounted her childhood, which was difficult.  I asked her last week if she’d like to take some time & I’d drive her around to places she remembers from her childhood & I’d drive by mine too.  So, we took a few hours & did that.  

This was my house I grew up in until 7th grade.  Funny how things look so much smaller.

The house my Mother, Grandmother & I lived in & rented 7th grade through my senior year in high school.

And, this was the house Danny & I lived in our first year of marriage.  Yikes!  It’s the only other house we’ve lived in besides the one we live in now...

The houses all seem so drab now & poor.  I never lived around rich kids but I went to school with them.  I knew we didn’t have much money & I was being raised by a single Mom.  But when I look back on growing up in my family, I feel so lucky & fortunate to have been loved by my Mom & Grandmother.  

Betty & I had lunch at hamburger place that has tons of memories for me with my Mom.  It was a good day & Betty enjoyed herself.  I know we both miss Phyllis.

Black Friday Tradition…
A few years ago, Danny & I discovered a beer we love.  It’s one of my #1 beers (I have two #1’s).  It’s only released on Black Friday & is usually limited by the number of bottles one person can buy.  So, we started the tradition of going from liquor store to liquor store, buying up our limit & spending a boatload of $$$ on Bourbon County Stout (this is NOT a tough decision).  This year was no different, except we only had to go Lawrence.  We lucked out big time, when one store offered to sell us all they had & another store sold me a case …that’s unheard of!  This is 14% beer…we call it a share-beer, because we typically only drink it when we’re together & can share a bottle (I’m drinking one as I write this article & I’m sure it’s enhancing my writing skills!)  Yay!  We have enough to get us through the year!

Christmas Lights…
I love Christmas lights!  We’ve never put them up outside our own house, but the inside of my house is filled all year round with twinkly lights….on the front porch, over my fireplace, in my front window & in my bedroom….out of control twinkly lights (& of course, I have some in Camper too).

I love to drive & see the displays everywhere.  I always take an evening, usually alone but bring along a cup of hot tea & drive around Lawrence to check out the holiday lights.

Then I always make it to the Plaza in Kansas City to look at their lights!  This year I took a long walk up to Loose Park waiting for the night sky & darkness before heading back to the Plaza.


Love all these brightly lit towers!


A little sliver of the moon showing.


Another Christmas tradition I enjoy is visiting the Festival of Trees at the historic Liberty Hall in Lawrence.

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I walk my local trails several times a week, either alone or with  2 or 3 super awesome women.  I have a list going of new trails within 25 miles; I’m trying to walk someplace different at least once a week.  There is just something wonderful about being outside…I can be in a crappy mood or have a slight headache, but get me out on the trails in fresh air, & all the negative floats away with the wind.  I’m enjoying every good weather day we have & trying not to think about cold dreary winter days in Kansas.

Danny & I have decided not to decorate our house for Christmas this year.  We have no family coming to celebrate & it just seems depressing.  I have my winter tree I put up every November through Februarya homemade wooden tree with twinkly lights, red birds & a tiny bit of sparkle. My shopping has been done for awhile, all has been shipped & delivered.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas & hope yours is filled with family, friends, laughter & most of all love.

Day 33 at home…yikes!

I have been trying to walk everyday…get out for 5 miles or so & get on the trails…mostly just the one trail I hike.  It’s a tiny little mountain bike trail that parallels the brown & muddy river.  At it’s longest it’s about a 9 mile loop & that includes a couple of hills that are maybe 30’ climb.  I do enjoy this trail, but the same old thing gets boring pretty quick.  I made a list of local parks & trails & vowed that once a week I’d try something new.  And, I have.  But, I’ve also found unmaintained, poison-ivy covered trails….I know not a ton of people in Kansas hike & those that do, seem to love it, not minding the flat brown scenery & short distance.  Besides being a trail-snob, I’m unwilling to drive 6 hours to hike a 2 mile trail…that’s just me.  

I did take an urban walk last week in Lawrence, to find some of the many murals in this quirky town I live near & claim as my own.

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And I didn’t even find them all.  The next day, Danny & I went into Kansas City, hunting some specific beer & I found a few more  downtown.

I may not be much of a museum person, but I do love finding murals when I travel & even when I’m at home.  I love a town that will embrace the arts, in so many raw forms.

Usually in the fall, I get busy crafting.  Making a Halloween costume (my favorite holiday), Christmas gifts, any fun projects I can think of.  But, this year I’m lacking in all of that.  I’m not going to spend Halloween with the grand girls (boo! hoo!) & no plans to need a costume.  I’m practically done with my Christmas shopping; having bought everything early since I doubt we’ll be seeing the girls over the holidays so Ill need plenty of time to wrap & ship their gifts.

The only fun project I did, was to create some spooktacular! stuff to send to Emma & Claire for Halloween! (So bummed I dont get to spend this fun day with them!)

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At this point, I bet you’re wondering why you’re wasting your time reading this boring blog?  It feels like its been a boring month here at home. October has some gorgeous weather, & I have enjoyed mornings in the rock garden drinking coffee, evenings on the porch sharing a good beer with Danny & many meals sitting outside eating dinner.  We celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary this month too.  

But, I am not one that loves being quiet or still.  I love to go & do stuffall the time.

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by my friend Sherry Ott.  She is a professional traveler & has had an extraordinary life around the world.  Her website, Ottsworld is filled with world adventures & great info.  She is also a foster-kitten mom when she is at home…I love her kitten-stories. I met her a few years ago & we became fast friends.  We’ve hiked together, I’ve met her sweet Mom & Dad & she’s kindly let me stay at her place in Denver a couple of times during my travels.  She had the opportunity to guest host a podcast for her friend Traveling Jackie & Jump Adventures.  And, she asked me if I’d be her first guest!  I was excited because I love to talk travel & car camping!  We’ve done a couple of other things together before….an article & an IG story.

And, so we visited about all things car camping while she recorded.  Here’s the link if you want to take a listen!  After the session, we visited about what’s going on in our lives & caught up a bit.

Then a little trip magic seeped into the conversation.  Sherry had a trip planned & had invited her niece & a couple of friends to join her.  It was coming up fast, but she threw out the invitation to me.  I told her it was a long shot, but I’d look into it.  It would be my first international travel where I would be flying into somewhere.  Then there was Covid making it feel riskier.  I’ve had a lot of expensive car repairs lately to my 4Runner, so the money thing was also on my mind.  I don’t speak the language or know the currency of the place.  So many what if’s?  Then, while talking it over with Danny the next night, he said, “You’re letting all those what if’s get in your way”.  And, that was all it took.  He was right & I knew if I said no to this trip, I’d regret it.  So, I booked my flight & bought some foreign currency & am trying to learn a few basic phrases in this new language. 

So, check back soon & read about my next adventure.  Say yes! to life, to new opportunities, to discovering new places & to adventure!

busy…in the best way ever!

A lot has happened since my last update in December….so here goes.

One of my projects I forgot to post from last fall, was Emma’s pillowcases.  At 2 3/4 years, I knew she’d been growing out of her crib soon, into a ‘big girl’ bed & that meant she finally gets a pillow.  I wanted to be ready (& lets face it, there’s not much to do at home, particularly in a Covid year), so I bought the fabric & began to sew.  I got them all done pretty quickly & sent the first one off in November.  

Here’s November & December:

This is January (you all know I”m trying to learn to make balloon animals, right?) & March.

Emma’s birthday is in February…so she gets two that month!  One to celebrate her special day & the other for Valentines Day!

April (Easter) & May

June & July

August & September

and the last one she’ll get is October.

My pillow case project was fun to make for the girls & Claire still enjoys changing out her pillowcases each month.

On a Wednesday night in early January, Sara's long time Nanny decided it was best for her to take a leave of absence when they made the decision to stop virtual school & put Claire in face to face kindergarten.  I got a call from Sara on Thursday morning to see if I could come down & help out until another Nanny was hired & the long time Nanny was ready to come back.  

I SAID YES! …in a heartbeat, without a doubt, you betcha! & on & on.  My heart was filled with happy for the opportunity to see the girls & get to spend time with them.  I had a Covid test right away then went into overdrive to pack, rearrange a loan closing with our bank, & most importantly, get my projects done to take to the girls.  I’m a planner & tend to get most things done way way way early.  Only a few times has it caused a problem & I’m just more calm when stuff gets done & marked off the list.  I was super happy this time I had all the fabric & other ingredients I needed for my pre-trip projects. Then I went into crazy mode to get ready & leave on Sunday morning for the 20 hour drive to Orlando.

I’d been checking out the Princess In Black series of books from the library & reading them over FaceTime to the girls for a couple of months. I decided for their Valentines Day gift, I’d make them the costume & get them the books. So, fast & furiously, I went into costume-making mode.  Always a challenge when I don’t know if it will fit or not, since I don’t get to see them that often.  But, I made them & was pretty happy with the end result.  

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As, it turns out, so were they!  Emma dressed in hers multiple times a day when I was down there & we read at least a couple of the books everyday too.

I also made hot cocoa bombs for the first time to take with me.  They turned out OK…think the only way I’d do this again, is if they were here with me to join in the fun!


Then I spent the next 7 weeks with a full heart, lots of hugs, nightly walks, tons & tons of reading, crafting, gaming…all that great stuff Grandma’s get to do when they spend time with their grandkids.

Then, it was time to come home & I’d happily missed most of winter.  Very happily.  My pattern for my yearly cycle has been the following:  

January--March:  Planning travel for spring & summer, getting all my gear ready, maps out…super excited!

April--August or September & sometimes October—travel, hike, photograph, repeat, repeat, repeat!  Love these adventures!

November--December--I make stuff & I make lists & I shop on Amazon—a lot.  Fall is the time I craft…make stuff mostly for the little girls, but if I’m going to create…it’s in the fall.  It’s also the time of my favorite holiday—Halloween.  So, it’s not unusual to find my house sometimes in disarray in the late fall & early November, with fabric strewn all over; glue guns out; pencil & paper designing stuff & me up late at night or early getting it done.  

I also get my Christmas ready early.  Remember…most years I’m not with my family & they live on both coasts, which includes long & frustrating shipping times, if I choose to go through the USPS….which mostly I don’t.   This is the reason, I’m on Amazon a lot.  They can get stuff delivered quickly & efficiently.  Love them or hate them, they are my go to store.  So, Christmas gets done & delivered early…I’m not the type of personality that is happy when stuff gets done late.

When I arrived back home the beginning of March, I had a few things to catch up on.  Danny’s is great at keeping our quiet little house clean, but I’m kind of a nut about cleaning, organizing & minimizing.  And he’s a 100% great guy…but he doesn’t dust (only one of his very, very few faults.) So, I spent the first couple of weeks, making the house all clean & sparkly again, making up with my cat, catching up on some reading, seeing a couple of friends for lunch & finally, after months, getting my haircut by my fantastic sister-in-law….boy that felt great!  I also schedule all my annual medical & dental appointments in mid March, so I had a week of eye check ups & new glasses, teeth cleaning, lab work & a visit with my Physician.  Super happy & grateful to report…all is good.  I’m not-very-anxiously waiting on a colonoscopy that is happening at the end of this month…but just want it over with & a good report…then I’m done!

But, the trip planning has begun!  New Mexico is still in big time locked down, although they are #1 in vaccinations…way to go NM!  I’m still not in the group to qualify for a vaccine & Kansas ranks like 49th in distributing vaccines (another reason the state sucks), but I hope to have mine before I hit the road; but if I don’t I’m going anyway & maybe I can get one along the way.  So, this year, I’ve decided to trip back to my most beloved Utah (central to south part)!!!!  

The southern part of Utah is home to wide open spaces, tons of camping, several National Parks & so much red desert beauty!  I’m so stoked! So, I didn’t totally ‘unpack’ when I got back from Florida.  My bed is still in Camper, but otherwise it’s been detailed & thoroughly cleaned & devoid of all sprinkles & crumbs from when the little girls & I spent so many hours in Camper reading & happily munching on cookies.  My red room—or living room—has lots of camping stuff stacked on the table, in a chair or two & a tiny bit on the floor.  I can’t wait to load it all back where it belongs before I hit the road in mid-April.

Before that trip however, Danny & I will fly to Orlando to see the girls…he for a few days & me for a week.  Then I’ll come home, pack up Camper & leave for my spring road trip.

I’ve also added or replaced a few new things for this year.  Here’s the latest added gear & a couple of sort of un-necessary things:

A shower.  I had debated about this purchase all throughout fall.  Last summer, with everything lockdown & closed up, I had three showers in 80 days.  I wanted something small, portable & easy (my motto).  We have a $5 solar shower, but I don’t find it that easy.  First off, you have to lay it out in the sun all day, which requires both sunshine & one spot to leave it at—not always easy if I’m moving from place to place.  Then you load it up with heavy water, & lift it above your head & attach it to your luggage rack (easy for Danny; not so much for me).  Then you take your chances on how warm the water is.  I didn’t use it at all…not once (Danny used it several times though).  So, this new shower had been on my radar all fall & I decided it would become part of my gear.  I can heat up water, add it in, hang this on a tree or on my luggage rack.  It has a great flow…I think it will be an awesome addition…although I still won’t pass up an opportunity to shower at a nice rec center if they ever open up.

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I was hoping I could use my collapsible sink, but I think it’s going to be too flat…the water will disburse & the new shower needs something more concave.  I also need to replace my ‘pee bucket’…an ongoing search that’s turning out to be a real pain…so I ordered the bucket in the photo below.  It’s too big for the pee bucket though.  I was thinking I’d send it back, but when I realized my collapsible sink wouldn’t work for the shower, I thought this bucket would work great.  So, I kept it.  I found a mesh bag that both the shower & bucket would fit in & all of it slides nicely in my personal-kit bag.  Looking forward to a little bit cleaner summer than last year.

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I also bought this tiny emergency blanket to keep in either my day pack or backpack.  I’ve never had one of these before & it’s filed under “things I buy that I hope to never use”…just like all the insurance we buy, tools for car emergencies, etc.  I hope I can look back on this purchase when I’m old & say…”wow, I really wasted my money on that!” (…but in the meantime…)

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I’ve had my same poop digger for years & years.  This has been on my ‘wish list’ for about the last 5.  And I really am hoping to go backpacking & in my ‘old age’ want to lighten my load as much as possible.  So, add in my new little red trowel.

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I thought I wanted a couple more packing cubes…I love packing cubes!  Note:  I’m kind of a crazy shopper…want to see & touch stuff before I keep it….and I’M SUPER PICKY (because I know whatever I purchase, I seem to keep it for so many friggin years!)  So, I first ordered an off-brand of packing cubes…nope…those got sent back the next day.  Then I found my Eagle Creek old cubes on sale…they got ordered.  But, before they were shipped, I cancelled. Then I went down the rabbit hole of researching waterproof bags…this would give me a little bit different alternative way to pack in addition to my packing cubes.  While I couldn’t afford the best (Sea to Summit or Osprey brands), these colorful, different size bags, I think, will work.  They aren’t waterproof, but water resistant….anyway, I’m giving them a shot.

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Two other small purchases are a GSI coffee mug (that I can take on the trail with me then carabiner to my pack) & a new brand of roll on sunscreen recommended by my professional traveler friend, Sherry Ott of Ottsworld.

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My biggest, both in research, money & sort of freak out monitor…was a new camera.  I’ve carried a big DSLR for years…the same one.  It’s old, it’s heavy, but rather beloved.  For the past couple of years, I rebelled against carrying it on hikes that I’ve hiked before & already have about 100 or more photographs of & just used my phone.  So, I began each hike with…”do I take the big camera or not?”.  Then I decided to upgrade my phone & take advantage of the great new camera.  

But, after much painful thinking & decision making, I bought this point & shoot.  Known for it’s awesome macro capabilities, it’s tough exterior that repels drops, falls, water submersion, dust, etc.,  I bit the bullet I made the purchase.  I was concerned because most of my photography is scenic…not macro.  I am going on a huge trip in August that might see my stuff getting wet, so I know that factored in my decision too.  Now that I’d made the hard decision (hard for me anyway), I need to start learning how to use it.  It comes with many bells & whistles & I wanted the time to learn some of it before I took it on a trip.

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Last but very very least…I added a couple of ‘decorative’ touches to Camper.  I always feel ‘wasteful’ & like it’s adding ‘too much’.  I love space-both in my home & in Camper--…open space, empty space & uncluttered.  But, I also love color & twinkle lights….so here’s what I added.  I’d been trying for months & months to think of something I could add to the ceiling of Camper.  I spend a lot of time staring ‘up’ when I’m laying in bed…I thought of a hundred different ideas…but no way to affix any of it to my headliner without possibly messing it up.  One thing I bought didn’t work at all…so now I’m stuck with it trying to figure out a purpose for it (it’s non-returnable).  Then, that means I’m done; I’ve quit spending time on a dead-end project, money & time…I just need to leave it plain.  But, within all that process, I bought these fun lights!  While they currently have no specific place…they are tucked in Camper & will come out to light her up some wonderful night just when & where I need them to!

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One company I love, is a Florida company called “Natural Life”.  The ‘Live Happy” flags that have flown in Camper since her beginning are from there, as well as the lights shown & mentioned above.  While in Florida with the little girls, I found these cute flowers hangers.  Two are in my bedroom at home, but one is currently filling this ugly ‘space’ near my bed & holding my travel ‘disco ball’.  Sounds crazy, but I’ve had the disco ball going inside Camper before with the little girls when we had a pajama party one night.  I’m sure I’ll love the colorful strobing lights…especially maybe during high winds or an especially crazy thunderstorm; but I know everytime I plug the disco ball in & blast the music, I will smile remembering the three of us dancing inside camper during that pajama party one night.  Those memories mean so much!

The other addition is called a mini Kalimba or a thumb piano.  I’m not much of a music maker, although music is a huge part of my life…can’t imagine a day without it.  But, I have friends on the road that play banjo or guitar or harmonica, etc.  I wanted something tiny, portable & simple.  I actually had buyers remorse when this arrived & decided to send it back.  Amazon, said…’no, we’ll refund, but just keep it.”.  I thought it was a sign.  A silly sign, but I made space for it in Camper & have learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while I was in Florida & am learning Happy Birthday (because how fun would it be to play that for another camper on their special day?)  But, mostly now, I remember Emma…little three year old Emma, picking it up, using her thumbs to make the tiny tinkle noises & singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’…& I don’t care how silly it is, my smile is huge & the memory fills my heart!

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Remember the pouf (footstool) I made for my bedroom last December?  Well, it was one of the first projects I re-visited when I got home.  Arriving back from Florida at 8:30am in the morning & walking into my bedroom, its big ugliness jumped out at me.  I didnt love it when I finished it last December, but I thought its functionality would win me over.  But, the morning, I got back I knew it had to go.  I loved all the little squares Id made & embroidered though, so my design mind went into its crazy mode.  A few days later, Id cut the lovely little squares off & deconstructed the pouf.  I ended up making a garland from all the little squares & it hangs near the ceiling above my bed.  I like it much better & so far, haven’t missed the pouf at all.

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I think that’s it for now.  I’ve been researching new backpacks (mine is 25 years old), new tents (mine got shredded in wind storms last year), a new sleep pad, a new backpacking quilt & a new water filter.  All in hopes of bringing backpacking back into my life.  But that’s all big money…& probably not in the cards for this year.  I will need to use what I have.

But, I’m excited to start my spring trip planning, packing, dreaming,  then finally going & making it happen.  

One last dream…that Covid get’s kicked to the curb & we all have our normal lives back with a new appreciation of what it means to spend time together, to smile at each other with more than just our eyes, to hug, to talk to strangers…to embrace life without a deadly virus.  I want that dream for all of us!

Safe travels to all of you & keep me posted on where you’re going & your adventures!

pandemic fall & winter...

What a strange & weird year 2020 has been.  Covid-19 is still wreaking havoc with the world & 1/2 the country is still at war over the election results.  2020 will definitely be a year to go down in history.

The good news is that a vaccine is being distributed beginning yesterday; Sara was one of the first to get the shot.  320 thousand people have died in the US from this horrible virus & it continues to infect thousands everyday.  

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Danny came down with mild symptoms—loosing his sense of taste & smell—the night before Thanksgiving.  He tested positive on the Friday after the holiday & began his quarantine.  I also had to quarantine, but mine was a little longer, since, technically, I kept getting exposed until he wasn’t considered contagious any longer.  I have never been home for 20 days before; rarely leaving & not seeing any friends.  The only time I left, was a run to the library, grocery store & liquor store—all which did drop off’s in the back of my 4Runner.  I walked twice on trails where I knew I’d encounter no one. Other than that, I was home &  symptom free.  My test came back negative…which seems crazy that I didn’t catch the virus from Danny, but since it’s pretty random how it affects each person, I’m grateful I didn’t get it.

Speaking of Danny, one good thing happened this fall.  On a day off for an out-patient medical procedure, he found & bought a truck!  A 2010 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 with a shell.  He’s excited to do his own build out for camping with me next summer.  So, he will retire his 1996 Tacoma with nearly 394K miles & literally, breaking in 1/2.  

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Fall is the time I generally do projects around here…craft & other wise.  I didn’t have too many on the list, since I got most of them done during lock down last spring.  But, there were a few & now all of those are done.

Ugly Pillow Project…
I had ordered one of the cheap special promotions off an Instagram ad for a personalized pillow cover.  The photo looked like it was printed on plain canvas.  My intent was to use this pillow in Camper when I traveled.  But, once I received the pillow, I didn’t like the fabric.  It’s a shiny woven fabric & looks cheap (it was cheap…what was I thinking?)  The company is supposedly out of Utah, but I’m doubtful where this is really made.  So, I named it the Ugly Pillow Project.  Right away I knew this pillow was too big & impractical to put in Camper.  I’m not one to own throw pillows…up until last year the only ones I had, came with the sofa’s I own.  But, I did buy one when I went to Texas last year, then I made my Crested Butte pillow (heres the finished product) during lockdown. 

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To the Ugly Pillow, I added felt fringe I made & made felt appliqués, now I really like it Awesome Pillow!  But three throw pillows are enoughno more pillows!

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However…during lockdown last spring, I ordered a new quilt for Danny’s bedroom.  When that was done, I no longer needed the European sized pillows for his now-obsolete shams.  I wasn’t sure what to do with these practically new pillows…they were taking up space with no purpose…not something I like.  So, I came up with idea to cover them in a soft flannel fabric…one each for Claire & Emma to use as floor pillows or whatever, the next time they come to visit.  So, that’s what I did.  Thank goodness, I’d already bought the fabric before quarantine & had the felt (my felt pile never diminishes, no matter how much I use!) to make fringe for the edge.  Now we just need to little sweeties to come for a visit! (Oh, we need that sooooo bad!)

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I also have managed to put fairy lights everywhere (well almost) throughout the house!  I added some to the fireplace & we both love it!  I love the way the glow from the lights seems to make the darkness of cold winter nights, warmer & peaceful.

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The last project came about when I tried to store the rest of my felt away.  I decided to use what I had (couldn’t go anywhere to pick out anything new anyway) & make a pouf (footstool) for my bedroom.  I didn’t have the colors I really wanted, but it turned out OK & it’s functional.  I wanted it for the rocking chair in my bedroom so I can sit & read at night (I also added fairy lights & a pom garland to the ceiling in my bedroom).

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Then it was time to get ready for the holidays.  It’s been my tradition, ever since the kids moved away, to get an early start.  All that shipping needs to take place.  And, this year, I made the choice to buy most everything from Amazon…somehow they get the gifts there on time or early…something the USPS has been struggling to do (at least with my stuff) for the past few years.  You can pay for Priority…but it doesn’t do any good & there’s no recourse.  Just an ‘Oh well” & this year they can blame everything on Covid.  So, I was pretty much done before my quarantine.  I ended up only mailing three manilla envelopes & one box through the post office.  It took 9 days for the box to arrive in Orlando…but it finally did.  One envelope to California after 12 days; the others just arrived today (lost track of the number of days; it’s been so long). 

We didn’t figure we’d get to spend Christmas with Sara’s family in Florida, since we were there last year, but we’d hope to go down for Claires 6th birthday in early January.  They have made other plans, so now we’re hoping for Emma’s 3rd birthday in February. We’re missing those sweethearts so much!

We  don’t put up too many decorations or a tree when none of the kids are coming home, so it’s all minimal this year.  I did make a twig tree to put up in the window & made a little “Claire & Emma” shrine with their photo ornaments & hand print ornaments (made those when were down in Orlando in October).  So our Christmas will be slightly boring & lonely without any family.  I am cooking a small special dinner in which I’m hopeful that Danny may have some of his taste & smell back by then…if not, I’ll enjoy it.  And, as always, we'll have some great beer!

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Of course, I’ve done a ton of reading this year too.  Probably more reading than ever before.  I track my books on a site called Goodreads, & as of this post, my total for this year is 108  new books & I’m still reading.  What would I do without books?

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So, 2020 will be ending soon & no one is sorry to see it go.  I’m so grateful that this crazy virus has not affected our family or any friends in any catastrophic way…because it has done that to so many.  It’s a horrible, random virus.  And, we all have hopes the vaccine will make it a thing of the past…never to see it again.

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There were goals I didn’t complete this year as far as travel goes…most all international travel was stopped.  I fell short of camping 100 days in my 4Runner….but fortunate to have spent a glorious 91 days sleeping in my little home-away-from-home.

I ended last years blog with an article titled “2019…A Year of Uncertainty”.  Wow…I had no idea what was coming…it was like a tornado, hurricane & earthquake all in the same year…a shit-storm with Covid-19.  The whole world has suffered this year.

Danny’s mother passed away last May, in her own home & with two of her children next to her.  One of them was Danny & I know it was one of the hardest things he’s ever experienced…to let her go.

I’ve still not gotten too comfortable with Uncertainty….even though Covid-19 has given the whole world ample time to try this year.  But there’s hope…there’s always hope.  And mine is for the world to heal from this virus, for our country to heal from this election, & all of our friends & family have a fantastic 2021!

20 days home & I’m packing again….yipee!

It’s always a little strange driving down my road after I’ve been gone on a long trip…this summer’s was 81 days.  I’ve lived down this gravel road in the country for most all of my adult life…since I was 21 (way tooooo long to stay in one spot!).  So, it’s definitely weird to pull onto this super familiar road & have it feel….foreign.  Then coming into the house, is always the same.  Danny’s usually at work, so it’s just the cats.  They stare at me, surprised I’m not dead because I’ve been gone so long.  Then I blankly look at all the mundane (I know this is a first world thought & I’m fortunate to have all these things that make life easier) things like the lawnmower, the dishwasher, the vacuum, the kitchen full of pots & pans, the bed…all of which you would think I’d have missed living outside all summer…I didn't.  The only thing I longingly embraced, was the shower.  There were too few of them in this Covid year.  The other surprising thing I noticed, was that I had forgotten all the Pandemic projects I’d completed while in lockdown.  When I drove in the driveway, I noticed bright red adirondack chairs in the front yard; the directional signs on the pole; the new cushions & welcome mat on the porch…& it went on & on even as I went into the house.  On my long boring drive back to Kansas, I told myself I’d clean out & get rid of bunch of stuff when I got back.  But I realized as soon as I walked in the door (& would continue to realize it as I went into my closets), that I’d gotten rid of & cleaned out stuff during the lockdown; there’s not really a lot more to remove!

But I soon began the chore (yes I love to pack, but unpacking is more of a pain…& you don’t get to go on an adventure when you’re done) of unpacking, cleaning gear, & cleaning out Camper.  One cat was immediately glad I was home; the other took a day or so to allow me to pet her!

I had missed the evenings when Danny & I share a beer & sit around talking.  His job is crazy busy & particularly awful this year, so we dont have that opportunity as much as we used to, even when I am home.  We used to go out to dinner frequently or to a brewery or two, but Covid has nixed those opportunities also.

But, then we got the good newswe get to go see Emma & Claire!!!  We will be driving downnot flying, not stopping to eat out or stay in a hotel on the way down.  Whatever we can do to make it safe to see our grand girls, Sara & Kevin.  It will have been almost 8 months since we last hugged them!  And, we have missed them so much every single day!  We went into travel mode as fast as possible, Danny getting a week in September off work, & me making his flight plans back.  As, of this writing, I’m hoping to stay a bit longer with the girls.  The rest of the plan hasn’t been made yet…guess I’ll just wing it!

Claire was super excited too.  She’s come up with all kinds of fun things for us to do & I’ve added to that list as well.  One of her ideas was a request to make her a “Rainbow Girl” costume.  This isn’t a character from a movie or show, Claire just made it up & gave me some guidelines.  Then she asked if Emma could have a Firework Girl Costume--two days after thinking how on earth I could make that, I visited with Claire & she revised it to “Sparkle Girl”….that I could do!

In between getting everything ready for Florida, I have seen a couple of friends for lunch, but have avoided any & all big crowds.  When we have eaten out, it’s almost always been outside with tables spaced at least 6’ apart.  We are doing everything we can to stay Covid-free to make this trip happen & to arrive healthy & welcomed.  I have been back on my bike & hitting the river trail frequently, always alone, hoping to try to stay in shape & get my mind & body back outside.

Here’s a glimpse at the costumes…I hope they fit because I know those girls have grown a lot in eight months!

Emma’s I sort of cheated on.  I’d forgotten my good friend Kathi, who owns a dance studio, gave me this extra costume she had left over last year.  The girls haven’t been up to the house in so long, I didn’t remember it was in my closet until Claire asked me to bring down two costumes they play dress up with when they do come here.  Then I saw it…& I thought it was perfect for Sparkle Girl & hoped that it might fit this sweet 2.5 year old.  I ordered some sequined slap bracelets for her wrist & ankles & made her a wand.

Then I found a book to add to the fun!

Claire had requested some clips for her hair (the 5 pieces of netting on the top of the hanger) & something for her boots (the two blue rainbow clips sitting on the neck of the costume) besides the costume.  Otherwise, the creativity door was wide open.

And Claire needed a matching book too (I love this series of books!)

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So, the dining room table is filled with all kinds of goodies & fun filled things ready to pack in Camper…new pjs, Crested Butte t-shirts, my ballon animal kit (requested by Claire…I’m so not very good at this yet), shrinky dinks, beads, ingredients to make salt dough ornaments, Hocus Pocus rolls & more.

I’m also baking lots of cookies & caramels --most will be shipped to California to Pete, Leia & Luke—but we’ll keep a few in the car for our trip down, then I’ll bake some tiny ones for the girls & Sara (Kevin’s not a sweet eater).

Last week in Crested Butte it snowed about 10”-12”…hearing that makes me know I can’t be out there camping—even with a nice day here & there, the nights are getting colder, the days are shorter, the hunters will soon arrive, the smoke this year has been bad, & soon those snows will be bigger & more frequent. Fall is usually the only month I really like to be here…crisp mornings with a cup of coffee on the porch, sunny days but not hot, cool evenings without as many bugs…maybe even a fire or two in the fire pit.  Not sure where I’ll be in October this year though. Neither Danny or I are looking forward to winter.  

We’re 5 days & counting until we can hug those precious girls…we’re both over the moon excited!

day 82…lockdown is over...

and I’m outta here.  

(So much has happened in the past 41 days.  But it will wait to be written about another day.)   Wweroiweuprou                                                                                                                                                 © Vicki Hill 2023