Thursday, July 2, 2015

Five on Friday : Pictures from my Phone

Joining in again this week with Amy's (Love Made My Home) "Five on Friday" linky party. 
Once again, here are 5 photos from my phone that illustrate the week we had here in our neck of the woods. 
Number One: Chocolate Fudge Cake
I've been baking a "cake a week" since the beginning of April.  I have not missed a single week and every single cake has been delicious, if I do say so myself!  This week I made a Chocolate Fudge Cake by request of my oldest son.  I topped it with a butterscotch nut glaze and our family of five ate it in one sitting! 

Number Two: Re-connecting Over "Connect Four"
Have you played this game?  We love it around here and it is played often be every member of the family.   This week, while the older two kids were at a playdate, I had the opportunity to re-connect with our youngest son over one of our favourite games.  He's a different boy when he doesn't have to compete for anyone's attention. We talk happily about the day's events and make plans for the next. He fills me in about Star Wars and his current  Lego construction project.  It really is quite lovely spending this quiet time with him.  
Number Three: Summer Vacation
Summer officially began here on Monday morning.  All five of us are home for the next 10 weeks (hubby and I are both teachers!) and we try to do something a little bit fun everyday.  This picture is from Day 1 when we loaded up the car and headed for the library, poised to pick some excellent new summer reading material.   
Number Four:  My Baking Assistant
Our oldest son, Bryn, is tech-driven kind of kid.  He would play on his ipad, laptop or NintendoDS non-stop if we let him.  During the summer we limit his tech-time so that he can explore a variety of other pursuits during his free-time.  Sometimes he has real difficulty finding something else to do when he has been forced to unplug.  So, at least once a week, he is going to meet me in the kitchen and follow a recipe start to finish to create something yummy for the family.  It will be good practise reading, following instructions, measuring and completing a challenging task.  As you can see from the picture below, he didn't mind helping at all this week.  Chocolate-covered spoons make an excellent snack!
Number Five:  Canada Day Corn Toss
July 1st is Canada Day.  It is a holiday here and every year we attend a huge BBQ with several families in the small town in which  I grew up.  Each year a large part of the day is the annual "Corn Toss" tournament.  If you don't know the game, it's pretty easy - two teams of 2 players  take turns tossing corn-filled bags into the hole of a slanted gameboard.  Below you can see our daughter, Afton, giving it her best go.  Look at the effort in her face!  Kevin and I took home the "runners-up" award for the tournament - two bags of Werther's candies.  Not a bad prize if you ask me!
Not many plans on the cards over the next few days.  In fact, Kevin and I suggested to the kids that we do as little as possible for at least the next 72 hours!
We leave for Italy one week from today so I guess I should start thinking about organizing and packing for that at some point, too!
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Our Completed Travel Trailer Renovation!!

I've been promising these pictures FOREVER and I finally had few minutes at the end of our camping trip last weekend to snap several and now I'll share them here!
Here is an exterior picture of our well-loved Shadow Cruiser.  Not much has changed on the outside (yet!) except a new roof, new tires and new brakes.  Not exciting, but completely necessary none-the-less! (Yep- she's little - only 14 feet long, but all five of us fit perfectly inside. You'll see.)
How about some before pictures?  Ugly curtains, stained floors, water damaged walls, and ugly upholstery. Eww....

More "before" : An inside kitchen we won't use, scratched-up cabinetry and staining.  Double ewww....

As soon as the weather was warm enough this spring, I started transforming these ugly surroundings.  One weekend in May I taped off all of the surfaces and painted 3 coats of light blue over the sponged-painted pink and baby-blue vinyl wallpaper.  Be gone 1995!!
On Mother's Day my hubby asked what I wanted to with my time.  My only request?  New floors in the trailer. Two hours and 1 box of peel and stick tiles later, the trailer had a lovely looking brand-new floor!
On another day in May, my mother came down to help me sew new curtains for the trailer. We ripped out the old sea-foam green monstrosities and created new "nautical" shades for the many windows inside our little vacation home. I pined and ironed, she sewed. We were done in no time.   Thanks, Mom!!
Ready for some AFTER shots now??
Bryn and Afton's beds.

A bulletin board hanging on one wall where I have started a collection of photos from various camping trips.  I'll be adding to this!

Camden's Bed - there used to be a shower/bathroom stall in this corner of the trailer. It was ripped out (because we knew we'd never use it!) and replaced with a bed and some storage.  I made the little curtain to hide the fire pit supplies we store underneath. 

Gone are the sink and stove too.  We would never cook inside in such a small space!  Why keep what we wouldn't use? Instead we have a lovely hard wood countertop and tons of storage underneath.  And what trailer doesn't need some colourful art hung on its walls?

The scratched up cabinets got a re-facing with some beadboard wallpaper and ribbon.  This is much cleaner and brighter looking!

This is where Kevin and I sleep.  It's a cosy double-sized bed and it fits us just fine. Don't you love my beach house pillows? I fell in love with this fabric and had to make a bunch of pillows for  the trailer.  They fit my beachy travel theme perfectly!

I love pennants! I made a couple sets to hang in here. Behind the mirrored cabinets is more storage.  Really, all this trailer has now is storage and sleeping space. We eat, cook, play and relax outside when we camp.   

And how do the kids feel about their new "home away from home?" 
They adore it - almost as much as me!!

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Guns, Cannons and Kids: Visiting Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake

My husband and I are always looking for new and exciting things to do with our kids - especially during the summertime.
Quite often are days are planned using good old TRIP ADVISOR where we find things we may never have known existed! 
We recently camped in the Niagara region of Ontario and were looking for something to do with the kids on a sunny Saturday morning. The number one thing to do in the area (besides visiting the countless wineries!) was to hang out at  Historic Fort George. 

Our kids love historic places - especially ones with cannons and guns!

We paid our admission fee and were handed our farthings.  We needed to hand these to the gatekeeper who stood watch at the entry of the fort. 
When the soldier stepped out of the gate house, my family stepped in!!
Here is some historic information about the fort for those who are not up on their Canadian/British/American history:
During the War of 1812, Fort George served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army. These forces included British regulars, local militia, aboriginal warriors, and corps of freed slaves. Major General Sir Isaac Brock, "the saviour of Upper Canada" served here until his death at the Battle of Queenston Heights in October, 1812. Brock was  initially buried within the fort.
Basically- In 1812, Canada was still a British territory and the Americans REALLY wanted the valuable land here around the Great Lakes.  The biggest battles between the British and American forces took place during this time. 

Fort George is named after the King of England at the time - King George III (1738-1820) hence why his initials decorate the fort and all of its equipment. 

George Rex
The fort is located in some of the most expensive real estate here in Ontario.  We had a good chuckle when we saw this cannon pointing out of the fort and right at a multi-million dollar home!
During the 1800s, British soldiers wore bright red so that they could be seen through all of the smoke that muskets and other guns created during a battle. 
In the working kitchen, we learned how "Darbyshire Cakes" are made and about all the exotic foods the army officers ate.  Because this is Canada, the British officers tried moose, black bear and even raccoon meat. 
This is a "Firkin," the fridge of the 1800s.  It was used to keep liquids, butter or fish cold. 

Inside the head officer's home, we saw that even though a war was going on, the high-born leaders of the British army still lived as well as they would have if they were back in England.  Fine china, crystal glasses and imported specialty foods (like coconuts and pineapple) were part of the daily routine. 

This was the lower officers' "mess hall."  Many men ate together but they ate and drank well!
My oldest son was the first to notice the "gun d├ęcor" in the officers' hall.  He told me he thought it was "a bit violent" but "still really cool!"

This man was dressed to represent a low-born Militia soldier who was likely Canadian-born and had to supply his own gun and equipment .

This soldier represented mid-level British soldier whose family could afford to clothe and equip him in the full army uniform and could purchase him the latest in rifle and musket technology. 
He gave a fabulous and often hilarious lesson on how guns of the time worked - or sometimes didn't work, in battle.  At the end, Bryn was very eager to get close to this soldier's gun and to ask a few questions about the war. 
 He admitted after that he though this fort was one of the coolest places he had ever visited. 
Whew! It's not always easy to please a nearly 11-year-old boy!

Another week begins tomorrow and it is the first official day of summer here in our home!  We have planned as little as possible - reading, puzzles and a trip to the library.
Sounds perfect to me!
Have a wonderful week!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Five On Friday - Five Creative Works in Progress

Yesterday was the last day of school! I sent my 29 kindergarten students off on their summer vacations and I get to start mine tonight after I finish cleaning up my classroom!
Summer time means FREE time and I look forward to getting back at a few of the projects I have let slide as the school year progressed.  Here are my top five crafty projects that I hope to get completed in the next few weeks:
Number One: My English Paper-pieced Hexagon Flowers
Truthfully, this quilt won't be DONE in the next few weeks, but I hope to get several more flowers stitched, especially while we are travelling in Italy. So far, I have only worked on this project while we've been on vacation. So far, I have flowers made in France and England and I am looking forward to adding some Italian flowers, too!

Number Two: "Circle in a Square" Blanket
I'm making this to add to the afghan collection in our family room.  Now that the dog insists on his own blanket, I need one more for another human member of my family.  I am about half-done these squares and should be completed by the end of July. 
Number Three: ABC Animal Quilt
This week, three friends have announced they are expecting (including one set of twins!) so I have a few baby projects to get done this summer. I have the piecing complete on this quilt and the backing and binding bought, so now I just need to layer it all together and get the quilting done!

Number Four: London Cross-Stitch
I'm half-done this one too.  I have a cloud, a tree, a car and the remains of a building to complete. Cross-stitching is slow-going, but it is all worth it in the end!

Number Five: Flower Garden Quilt
So many flowers, so little time....until now!  I can't wait to layer this quilt top up with the vintage sheet I bought for the backing.  My daughter is already requesting  a park picnic on it as soon as it is done!
Next - I'm going to go and check out all the other blog posts left by people who are joining in on Amy's Five on Friday linky party.
Then - I'm going to start getting ready for our second camping trip of the season.  Let's hope the rain holds off.  Being stuck inside the travel trailer all weekend would absolutely stink!!
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Camping in the Jordan Valley

After having to cancel a previous camping weekend because of rain, we were eager to get out on the road with our travel caravan and sleep under the stars!
We headed just an hour down the road on Friday night and found a luscious green paradise not too far from home.

Upon arrival, we took some time to walk the camping sites to get to know our new "home" a bit better.  The camping venue is located in a valley, surrounded by towering trees and lush countryside. 
Near our site, there was a well maintained fruit orchard that we walked through each time we headed to the bathroom.  It made a necessary journey a much more pleasant one! 
The kids located the play area as soon as we arrived.  They spent hours sliding, swinging and digging in the sand.  However, their new favourite game is "tether ball."  They had never played before so I had to teach them the rules and techniques.  I remember this game fondly from my childhood and now my own kids have found the joy in it, too!
There's our cute little 14-foot travel trailer.  It's shorter than my mini-van!  I've almost got the interior renovations done so hopefully I can show you the inside in the next few weeks!

After supper, we headed to explore the green-space further afield.  Lots of wild-growing ivy (which reminded us all of our trip to France last year) and pretty clover-shaped water plants in the little stream that trickled through the park. 

This tree was massive and had all the right parts for tree-climbing for all three of the kids!
Before the sun went down, the kids went back to the park and I was able to do a little bit of this!
As soon as it became dark, out came the sweaters and we built ourselves a fire. 

I had packed all the fixin's for S'Mores - marshmallows, chocolate squares and 2 kinds of biscuits -  gluten free for Kevin and Camden and graham crackers for the rest of us! We ate far too many, but they were delicious!
We had a fairly restful night in our cosy caravan.  The younger two were up at 7am looking for warm tea (I was glad to oblige) while Hubby and Biggest Boy stayed cosy in bed a little while longer. 
Overall, it was a wonderful first camping trip for the summer season.  We REALLY liked this particular campground and we are already planning a return trip for August.  Next week we are meeting my mother and her extended family for a big family reunion/camping weekend, too. The kids ( and me!) are already excited and looking forward to another marvellous weekend in our trailer. 
Just 4  more days of school around here and then it's SUMMER!
So much to look forward to.....