Oh Maroon 5 & Kelly Clarkson…We are so bummed to have missed you!

View of the theater from our camp site

View of the theater from our camp site

Way back in the spring my husband and I were listening to the radio and heard an ad for Maroon 5 & Kelly Clarkson coming to The Gorge Amphitheater in September. The girls love their music, we figured it would be a fun, family concert and The Gorge is an awesome venue to see any show. We knew in late September it might be a little cold but it will be okay. We planned to go over in the camper, spend the weekend and have a great time rockin’ out.

Well, the weather had other plans for us.

We headed to Eastern Washington on Friday night after school, the weather was fine as we drove over, even nice enough for us to have a glass of wine outside before going to bed Friday night. When we woke up on Saturday morning, the crowds were coming in for the show, the Terrace Camping area was filling up and people were getting excited. Our family passed the time by playing cards, frisbee, a little volleyball and walking around checking out the area.

Hanging out before we head to the show.

Hanging out before we head to the show.

By 5pm, the concert doors were getting ready to open and we were ready for the show. At this time it was pretty windy, in fact the wind was pretty strong all afternoon, blowing people’s tents and canopies all over the place. We had an early dinner and packed up all our blankets, extra hats, gloves, tarps, etc. Making sure we were prepared for whatever weather we encountered, we were going to make it through that concert!

But the weather and the show producers had other ideas. After the opening band, Rozzi Crane performed, there was a bit of slow down in action. People kept moving back and forth on the stage moving equipment, for what we thought was for the next act. But in reality it was being taken down. We started to see crowds of people leave the amphitheater, as we huddled under our blue tarp, staying dry from the rain that was now blowing sideways, I would not leave until I heard that the show was officially cancelled. And then, our friend Adam Levine came out and told the crowd “This sucks guys!” … yes it does Adam! And then running in from off stage is Kelly Clarkson, “I had to run over here from my bus, sorry guys we have to cancel”. LAME! That is what we all said. We get it the wind was blowing sideways, there was huge metal scaffolding on the stage that these performers were going to have to spend the next few hours under in the wind and rain. If anything fell, they would be dead. We get it, Safety First.

Pop-star Nadia waiting for the show to start

Pop-star Nadia waiting for the show to start

But I must say we were a little more than disappointed. Poor Nadia, who desperately wants to be a pop-star when she grows up, really wanted to get some pointers from KC on stage. I will give props to Ticketmaster, they are refunding everyone’s tickets and even our camping. And I didn’t have to make one phone call, we got an email and it will be back on our credit card. In the end, we basically got a free weekend of camping. I was secretly hoping that Maroon 5 was going to pop over to the Terrace Camping for some coffee and donuts on Sunday morning and do a few acoustic songs… no such luck… a girl can dream!  So, until next time, we will remember maybe no concerts at The Gorge after Labor Day and we will have to wait and see Maroon 5 indoors next time they come to town.

Huddled together, still having fun, even without a show

Huddled together, still having fun, even without a show

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il dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing

beach2I need to start this blog off by saying I am blessed, truly blessed, and I will never take that for granted! Anyone that reads my blog has realized that most of my posts are about vacations and trip recaps. That is for a few reasons, first, because I like to keep a journal or record of all our trips and second because I love to travel. It brings me joy, peace and calmness.

In front of the John Rutledge House Inn - getting ready to start our scavenger hunt.

In front of the John Rutledge House Inn – getting ready to start our scavenger hunt.

We recently got back from a lovely ten-day trip to South Carolina and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My family of four headed out to South Carolina on Fourth of July (red-eye flight that went surprisingly well), we stayed in an adorable and quaint Bed & Breakfast called the John Rutledge House Inn. This was a cool treat for our family, because Andrew’s family has Rutledge heritage on his mom’s side, so we felt like we were at a distant relative’s home. We signed up for the Family Fourth of July Package, which included picnic dinner with chairs to watch the fireworks over the harbor, scavenger hunt fun and dinner out with babysitting for the kids. The fancy dinner out, with rickshaw transportation and babysitting for the girls was really what sealed the deal for us. We ate at an amazing restaurant, Circa 1886 and the girls had tons of fun with the hotel staff and other kids staying in the Inn, playing games, watching movies and eating pizza. The one thing I loved about Charleston was the Southern hospitality from everyone, and the city has tons of cool history that we learned about in our scavenger hunt. We also visited Fort Sumter (where the civil war started – which reminds me I know very little about the Civil War), the USS Yorktown Battleship and Charleston’s super cool aquarium.

OBXtasy - view of house from the beach

OBXtasy – view of house from the beach

After 3 nights in Charleston we packed up and headed North for the main reason we were on the East coast. For the next leg of the vacation we were meeting up with my family (my parents, sisters, brother and all their families – total of 16 of us). We rented an amazing beach house in Corolla, NC on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We found this great house, OBXtasy, four years ago when my sister, Debbie, was pregnant with her son. We usually made Deb and her family travel to meet us, but since she was 8 months pregnant we came to her, since the Outer Banks is just a 2-hour drive from her house in Virginia. After spending a week there we all fell in love, so we had to go back. We arrived on Sunday night after an 8+ hour drive from Charleston, and immediately fell into the groove of beach life: dinner with the whole family around the giant table, cocktails on the deck listening to the waves, playing games and catching up with family.

Hanging out on the deck

Hanging out on the deck

And the kids were as happy as they could be, hanging with ALL their cousins, sleeping in the bunkroom and staying up later than usual! The next day (and really all the following days) we did a whole lot of nothing; swimming, sitting on the beach, boogie boarding, taking walks and runs on the beach, eating great meals, taking photos, reading and just hanging out.

There was one day we felt like we should get out of the house and each family did their own little adventure. Our family, plus my brother, decided to rent Jet Skis/Wave Runners, our 30 minute adventure was super fun times, zooming around on the water, wind in our hair and just being crazy. The girls loved it and we were happy we did something a little different. We found these Jet Skis because they were conveniently located next to the crab shack in Duck, that we ordered our dinner from, a bushel of crabs, which was now a tradition from the last trip. This is such a fun way to eat dinner, pour out crabs all over the table and dig in!

Storm rolling in

Storm rolling in

Dinner!

Dinner!

Despite a few thunderstorms (which were pretty cool to watch roll in) and a few hours of rain, we had tons of sunny, warm weather where we all enjoyed “il dolce far niente”, which in Italian means, “the sweetness of doing nothing” – and isn’t that what vacation is all about.

My Family

My Family

Thanks to my whole family for allowing me to share our awesome experience! – Until Next Time my friends!

**This video pretty much sums up the whole trip, my amazing husband made this video with a combo of his GoPro POV Underwater camera and time lapsed camera images using an IKEA egg timer:

Spring Break 2013 – Oregon Coast – Camper Style

dsc_1167Now that we have the camper we have been making a point to use it.  A lot of people say they know people that have campers or RVs but they never get used. Well, we are not going to be those people, yes it does get me a little exhausted getting ready to head out for the trip, but once we are on the road, I never really want to go back to our stable home, I really prefer our mobile home! 

For Spring Break this year we decided that since we have spent the majority of the winter in the snow, it was time to play in water and try some surfing, so we headed down the Oregon Coast. This was going to be our first chance to explore the state beaches and see what they had to offer so we can decide where to go back.dsc_1245

Our first stop was Cape Look Out State Park. It is a just South of Tillamook, Oregon. It is a really big area with lots of hiking trails, plenty of hook ups, and a lovely beach. One of the (small) drawbacks was that you had to cross the main road (where traffic comes to the different camping areas) to get to the beach. Which made me a tiny bit nervous so I wouldn’t let the girls head to the beach alone. But again, it was only about a minute walk to the beach, we had hook ups and were very close to the bathroom.

dsc_0050We did not surf at this beach but we did take a long walk in the misty rain. We had the beach to ourselves and found a number of treasures, including shells, sand dollars, kelp jump ropes and a swing made out rope and driftwood. The lovely thing about the camper is that after this long walk in the rain, we have a nice, warm place to change clothes, eat lunch and regroup, so that when the sun came out we were all ready for more beach time and sand castle building. We also love being able to bring our own food and make our own fresh dinners.

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After two nights it was time to head south for our next destination, Beachside State Park – just South of Newport, Oregon.  One thing I loved during this trip was my morning walk on the beach, just a short outing, a little me time to say hello to the beach and the waves. When I got back from my walk, we started out mornings like we do at home: a little coffee, breakfast and reading the news, etc. Since it was Monday, we knew we might have some work emails to tend to, this Monday, Tax Day, Boston Marathon Day, I was checking the news/Facebook and was excited to hear about the US runners that had finished in record time. But sadly, shortly after hearing that news, the tragic news of two bombs exploding at the finish also came in.  My feelings for this could go on and on – my shock and confusion of why someone would do something like this to such a strong willed, amazing community still gives me chills. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families.  But this is about our trip, so I will continue. After Andrew and I tried to comprehend the news, we squeezed and hugged our girls a little tighter and we got ready to enjoy our beautiful day with our family. We had lovely weather and took our time heading down the coast, stopping at multiple waysides/rest stops to take in the views.  We arrived in the afternoon at Beachside State Park, a camping spot right on the beach! Our spot was literally next to the beach access walkway, which for some might be a draw back, in the height of the summer I imagine there would be a lot of foot traffic but for us in April it was not a problem. The highlight for me was again the proximity of the beach. We could hear the waves when we went to sleep, we could see the beach from our bed and the girls could happily run to the beach to build castles while we made lunch or got dinner ready.  The first night we had an amazing dinner, fresh caught salmon, veggies and rice. Not too fancy, but delicious. A lot of times I get ideas in my head and it’s hard for me to get them out until I act on it. One of my fantasies for the trip was to find a local fish market where we could get fresh caught fish to bring back to camp and grill. It’s not a lot to ask, but what we found was so great, a little fish market in Newport, right off the docks on the Bayfront, called Local Ocean Seafoods. It was a fresh fish market and restaurant. The first night we picked up salmon and the next day we headed back for lunch for more fresh caught fish.

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Since Beachside had such a great proximity to the beach, this is where we did most our surfing/playing in the water. Once we were all suited up in our wet suits we headed out! The sun was shining and it was warm, we played in the waves and in the surf and wore ourselves out. None of us really stood up on the board and the waves were not very big, but we were playing in the water and we were warm and it was April!

After two nights here we had to say good-bye, for this trip we decided two nights at each spot would be enough. I could have stayed at Beachside longer, but there was more to see and of course, we don’t have unlimited time. The next destination was Nehalem State Park, just outside of Manzanita, OR. This park is also amazing and gigantic. It wasn’t packed in April, but you can imagine the place filling up throughout the summer. There was a playground next to our site and we were just steps away from the beach access, again a little too far for the girls to go alone, but the park wasn’t and they enjoyed playing there, even in the rain! The first night we got there we took a nice long walk on the beach into Manzanita for dinner and a few groceries and then the next day we took the camper to Seaside where we did a little surfing at The Cove. Thanks to our friend and surf coach Lexie, we knew when and where the waves would be best for the family. Another perk of the camper was when we parked for surfing – we had ALL our stuff with us, we could have lunch, change, etc and then just step out the door and surf. I’m telling you, taking your house everywhere you go is really convenient!  Although it was a bit cloudy, we were still able to catch some fun waves and play in the water.

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After a couple nights in Nehalem we pack up and headed north for the trip back to Washington. On our way home, we planned some crazy fun for the girls, gave ourselves a little extra space and clean showers by booking one night at the Great Wolf Lodge. We had a great day and night playing at GWL, we had friends meet us there and that was especially fun and a great change of pace after being just the four of us for the week.  It was also a bit of a culture shock after 6 days of quiet beach time, we jumped into pretend waves and tons of people, but it was still fun. The Howling Tornado got us screaming and the girls loved playing in the arcade. And the next day we were all ready to get home, which was perfect, we had a short drive back to Seattle and had the rest of the day and weekend to clean up and get ready to transition into reality.

dsc_1283Although the camper is going to stay parked for a few weeks now, we are always thinking about our next trip and when we can get back on the road. It’s too bad that work and school thing gets in the way of all our fun plans! Until Next Time! – kg

Weekend Redeemed!

photo (21)It has been awhile since I have had a chance to write a recap of our last ski/camping weekend. I have been busy with some other exciting projects. As I had reported in a previous post, we have had our share of challenges when camping at the ski area. Luckily, our past camping weekend has been redeemed! When we headed up for our last weekend of ski lessons, my husband and I gave our girls plenty of advance notice of what the weekend would entail and we made sure that we all had the same expectations. We found out that by talking about what we wanted to get out of the weekend ahead of time and what we wanted to avoid, we all knew what to expect and we all ended up happy. Not to mention, there was a great festival going on at the ski area the day we were there, the sun was shining and we had friends and family enjoying the day with us.image (4)

The weekend was fun and relaxing and we even had some fun conversations about our next camping adventure, which will be a trip down the Oregon Coast over Spring Break. More to come on that… until next time!

Holiday On the Road

As we settle into the new year, I wanted to jot down some of the highlights of the holidays. This year for Christmas my family hit the road and headed South to California. The idea was a fun, family vacation with my parents, my sisters, their families and my little brother. We planned to start the holidays at my aunts in Camarillo, CA and spend the rest of the trip in the quaint beach town, Huntington Beach, CA. My husband and I decided to mix up the trip (and save some money) by driving down. I think this was one of our best choices of the trip. It was very relaxing driving down the 101 through the Redwood Forest, along the Pacific Coast, seeing all the beauty that is out there. During the trip through the Red Woods we discovered another traveling company, 7cees.org (looks like a very cool organizaiton). We made a detour into San Francisco so our girls could see the Golden Gate Bridge and met a friend in Palo Alto (thanks for the cookies April!). We took our time and enjoyed the ride. And of course, as I promised my girls we made sure to drive through a tree!

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On Christmas Eve, we started our day by watching the surfers and playing at Pismo Beach. Then we arrived at our hotel to swim and freshen up before we enjoyed the Seven Fishes Dinner with my extended Sicilian Family. There was plenty to eat and drink and lots of songs sung and laughs had. It is always a treat to meet new cousins and connect with the ones we don’t see very often.

Christmas in a hotel room is an interesting adventure, with 2 little girls that still believe, the story of how Santa finds us in our hotel room, gets in and puts out presents is actually a little creepy. I am pretty sure my 8 year old knows whats going on but she doesn’t want to let on. On Christmas morning the presents appeared and we tore them apart and then enjoyed some complimentary breakfast at the hotel! Christmas in California is another interesting experience, the sun was shining, it was warm and I was able to take a walk with no coat – what a concept. I do enjoy the snow on Christmas, but if there is no snow, I will take the sun!

The next day we headed South again, on to Huntington with a stop in LA to visit with the cousins. We visited Kermit the Frog’s house (a neighbor of cousin S & H), the Hollywood walk of Stars, met Shrek and ton of other crazy characters, we took an awesome walk in the hills and had some delicious Mexican food on Hollywood Blvd. When we arrived in Huntington Beach, we were the last ones, which means we got last pick on the rooms. Of course, I don’t like to complain but unfortunately our room had 2 doors and was basically a breezeway to both sides of the house. Needless to say, not much privacy. But of course that didn’t stop us from having fun. We completely enjoyed the Beach, we took runs & walks on the beach trail, Andrew and I ran almost 7 miles barefoot on the beach. The girls had a fun day splashing in the water. I spent that afternoon paranoid they were going to get pulled into the riptide. I figure if I lived in CA near a beach, that is something I would have to get over.

Of course when in So Cal, you can’t miss Disneyland! We started by fueling up at IHOP, which included another cousin visit! Then we hit the park. My sister Chrissy took charge and we all followed. I tried to make sure all kids were accounted for and then just followed along. Even though the park reached maximum capacity (80,000 people) at 10:30am, we still got on all the great rides, we learned the 5 year old twin cousins both love roller coasters and we had a super, fun time.

During the entire trip we had tons of amazing dinners and lots of lively conversations. And still fit in plenty of downtime. We did smores on the beach with our big bon fire which is so cool in December. And we watched lots of surfers catch some amazing waves. It is such an amazing culture – the Beach Life – get up, go surfing, head to work. Or take a run on the beach, pop into the ocean, then on to real life. I definitely think I could get used to it. To finish the year and the end of our trip, we spent New Year’s Eve day exploring Marina Del Ray by sailboat, another side trip to visit cousins S&H. The evening of NYE was mellow as we had to pack up and travel home the next day.

Overall the week was great. I was happy to spend time with my family that I don’t see very often. Since my sister and her family live in Virgina and my brother is in Montana, these vacations are the only chance we get to spend time together. I am grateful we had the opportunity to have this trip. I had some great talks and walks with my family and I am happy for that. As for the romantic, quiet vacation with my husband, well, that we will have to plan another time. This was not that trip. This was about the larger family, cousins hanging out together, family dinners and tons of chaos. After this trip, I am ready for another, the trip down the coast is a fun adventure that I hope we get to try again. Maybe another trip to Disneyland or just a week to hang out on a new beach! We will just have to wait and see, until next time. — kg