Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our Third Annual Family Camp-out

Every September for the past three years we have gathered our friends and embarked on a camping trip at a local county park, Smithville Lake. We started off with 8 families, 14 children, and a total of 30 people spending one night under the stars.  This year we had 12 families, 16 kids, and a total of 36 people and for the first time ever we had more people spend two nights and not one.

The weather this year resembled the first camping trip three years ago. Our first night was pretty brutal. The wind was strong up till about nine p.m. and then the clouds blew away and the temperature dropped.  Those of us who have been to every camping trip had a jolly time of reminiscing about the similarities! 

Each year we have some type of "organized" activity. I based this year's theme on games from my childhood. My mother always took us to small town celebrations where we played the funniest games. This year's theme was Family Competition.  Luckily for us the cold, windy, foggy weather burned off as the day progressed and we were left with a sunny, warm and perfect late summer day. (Anyone else get sunburned?)

We asked each family to make and bring a "family flag". We lined them up at the start line of our games. 

Our first game was an old fashioned Shoe Kickin' contest. Each family member got a kick and we averaged their score. The Bell family won the contest but the Sampson dad has the longest kick! After a lunch break the games resumed with a game designed for kids under the age of 5. Their game was a Penny Scramble. I hid various coins in cornmeal and the kids had to scramble to find as many coins as they could. Little Jetta was the big winner of this contest! 

Other games we played were the three-legged races, sack races, Chubby Bunny, and a football toss. Each game brought about a good laugh and wonderful family moments! I should say The Peterson family officially won the three-legged races,Allie and Kimber won the child/adult Chubby Bunny contest,  Jenny won the football toss, and I am happy that most of the women found a way to beat their husbands in the spouse vs spouse sack races.  Cheating was allowed in the race!

Another tradition at the family camp-out is a craft. Normally we do t-shirts but this year we made camping lanterns. The Dads stepped up and organized the craft since it involved drilling. The Moms did not complain as it game them a chance to sit and relax! OR, be silly...

The Real Housewives of Smithville Lake...ha ha! In case you can't tell those are marshmallows in our hands. When was the last time those Beverly Hills ladies went camping?

Of course we have to discuss food at the family camp-out. We made foil packets for dinner on Friday. We made eggs in a bag on Saturday morning and they were a big hit! We used a fish fryer to boil water and each person made their individual bag and cooked their eggs in the bag in the hot water.

Saturday lunch is our traditional Walking Taco's. Saturday night has become a traditional hot dog buffet. We provide many different ways to cook hot dogs on a campfire and let people get crazy. Thanks to Kimber, we also had campfire jalapeno poppers, and of course we had smore's. Have you tried the worlds best smore yet?

Luckily for us, we woke up on the second morning and the sun was shining with a pretty sky. End on a high note, huh!

Thank you to each and every person who joined us. We have such a great time on this camping trip and that is because each of you brighten our world. Can't wait till next year. Mark your calendar: third weekend in Sept. If you have never joined, you should really think about it!

See you next year!

In case you were wondering this was my families 8th camp-out this year!  We have one more left in the year.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Single Digits to Disney World

Disney World.

Some parents cringe at the sound of it. Some parents tolerate it for the love of their children. Then there are the category of parents like I am in. I live for visits and trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. And our countdown to return to this magical place just hit single digits!

Hot on the trail of our last Disney World trip (March 2013) I began making plans to return with some good friends of ours. They have a little girl the same age as The Short Chic and thought it would be awesome to go as a group so their daughter would have someone to share the experience with.

As we began planning and decision making (on property vs off property/ driving vs flying) my husband suggested we reach out to a friend who has a Disney time share. He had offered us some time in the past. Not only did he agree to sell us some points he also agreed to go with us.

That is how we became #DisneyPartyofTen !

Slowly we have observed milestones in our countdown. We customized our Magic Bands. Six months ago we made our dining reservations. Ninety days ago we made our Fast Pass selections. We have ordered tickets. We have even purchased our dining plan.

This is the first trip were we will actually stay on property. This will be our first experience with the Dining Plan. We will be attending Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. We will be attending the Not So Spooky Halloween Party!

This past weekend I completed every single pre-Disney craft project on my to-do list. What kind of pre-Disney craft projects did I have? Well, let me share them with you!

Halloween Costumes:

Since we are going during the Not So Spooky Halloween Party, halloween costumes were in order. Our three youngest members are dressing up like Princesses thanks to Bippity Boppity Boutique. The rest of us will be Crayons. I made a total of 7 costumes: Green, Yellow, Blue, Purple, Gray, Maroon, and Fuschia. Yes, we have hats to match!

Group T-Shirts

Honestly, this started off with a simple idea. How fun would it be to have matching t-shirts to wear on the trip down to Orlando.  They were so cute and easy to make it just kinda snowballed. In the end we each have five matching shirts to wear during our seven day stay.

Shirt one:

Girls have polka dots and bows. Men have chevron strips. Names on the back in Disney font. 

Shirt Two: We call him "Fancy Mickey". How cute is he!!

Shirt Three: Zebra Mickey. Girls will have red bows. We will appropriately wear this on the day we are at Animal Kingdom!

Shirt Four: Camo Mickey. The group wanted to wear him to Animal Kingdom but I did not want the animals to think we were hunting them. Of course that assumes they would be able to see us! :) 

Shirt Five: FrankenMickey. I love this shirt! We will wear him the day we are at The Magic Kingdom for the Not So Spooky Halloween Party.

Okay, non-Disney people. Yes, we will look dorky. Maybe a little corny. But we will look like a group and have fun doing it. Besides, anyone want to place a bet we are not the only group there with matching t-shirts?  Okay, and another huge benefit: half of our packing is done!

Autograph Books: 

The minute we told The Short Chic we were returning to Disney World she has been dreaming of meeting Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. She can't wait to get their autograph books. We made cute autograph books using cardstock, brads, and a sketch book. Autograph books inside Disney can cost up to $20.00. We made ours for a fraction of that.

Princess Purse: 

Inspired by Queen Elsa herself, the two little girls can carry their autograph books around in a purse. Easy to make with a half of yard of material, some trim,  and a glue gun!

American Girl Wear:

I know The Short Chic won't travel without her American Girl doll, Isabelle. So on a pure moment of crazy, I made her doll and her friend's doll t-shirts with iron on decals that match our shirts. Okay, then I decided they needed skirts too!

There you have it. Pre-Disney crafts. Finished. The only thing I have left to do is pack. And clean house. I really need to clean my house since I have spent so much time crafting!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tour of Missouri: The Great Pershing Balloon Derby

Any other weekend it looks just like a farmer's field accessed by a country road off an under-traveled state highway. It is no different than the other farmer's fields that surround it.

That all changes on Labor Day Weekend. That is when the farmer's field  transforms into a launching pad for a Hot Air Balloon Festival that has been occurring every Labor Day for the past thirty-eight years. The Great Pershing Balloon Derby occurs just west of Brookfield, Missouri every Labor Day weekend.

 The festivities need a small amount of luck; the weather conditions have to be perfect to fly a hot air balloon. So, if the rain stays at bay and the winds are low it is worth the drive to this north-central community to see the balloons.

The schedule is pretty much the same every year. There is a flight and night glow Friday night, Saturday and Sunday evenings of the festival. There is also morning flights on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings. There are small town festival activities Saturday as well; a parade, free entertainment, baby contest, and a dance.

We decided to camp at Long Branch State Park the weekend of the Derby. It was a 40 minute drive to and from the state park to the launch site. We arrived at the field around 4:30 p.m. shortly after the gates opened. We easily found a place on the grass for our chairs and picnic basket right near the boundary flags separating the balloonist from the crowd.

Food and novelty vendors helped pass the time until the launch was scheduled. The weather was questionable and the balloonist took their time deciding if it was safe enough to launch. Luckily for us, they waited long enough and the conditions became favorable! Once a decision was made, the balloonist raced to a spot on the field and raced to launch.

We were so close to the action! The night we were there around 30 balloonist took the field and later the air. The crew carried out the baskets, dragged the giant balloons out and began the process of filling them with hot air. It seemed to take forever for them to fill and stand up tall but then next to no time before they we taking the sky.

Watching the balloonist leave the ground and watching the sky fill with the hot air balloons is just an amazing site! The Short Chic loved every second of it and immediately began asking if we could come back again next year.

Several of the balloonist lifted and sat right back down so they could return and do the night glow. In the night glow, the balloons are filled with hot air but they do not launch. Instead the propane burners light the hole balloon up against the fading night sky.  During this part the crowd is invited to duck under the boundary flags and walk up close to the balloonist. The Balloonist even have trading cards made up and hand them out to the crowd.

All day The Short Chic had begged to ride in a balloon. She had declared it one of her life's dreams (mind you at the age of 6)! She quickly changed her mind when we got up close to the balloon and she heard the loud noise of the propane burners. She could not get far enough away!

Tour of Missouri: Long Branch State Park

Labor Day Weekend we achieved one of our 2014 goals. We visited our fifth state park in a year and earned our Camper's Award from the State of Missouri.

Long Branch State Park is located in Macon, Missouri right at the intersection of 36 and 63 Highways. For those of you from the Kansas City area it reminds me a lot of Smithville Lake. The lake is completely the focus of this state park.

We explored the lake by driving around. It was apparent really quickly that this lake is huge. Not only did we find Long Branch Lake but we also found Macon Lake. Both entertained us.

Long Branch has a camping area with electric hook-ups but they also have primitive camping available as well as hike-in camping. Our campsite was located in a tree grove which provided great coverage from the sun.  The shade coverage provided us with amazing sleep both nights because the sun was kept at bay. We also enjoyed two rain showers during our holiday weekend.

We like to hike during our state park visits. Long Branch Park only has four hiking trails. Two of them are long; really long - in excess of 3 miles long.  Most of them were also in full sun with little shade as they were in areas we have come to know as "Prairie Restoration Areas".  Meaning, no shade. We selected a path with some shade that was under 2 miles and hiked it; The Lakeview Trail. The Short Chic thanked us. The Dog thanked us too.  The Dog is over hiking! We found many Missouri Wildflowers on our trip. They flourish in Prairie Restoration Areas.

Long Branch has a public access beach that we visited and enjoyed the cool water on one of the last warm days Missouri was forecasted to have. The swimming area is nice with gradual slopes that allow everyone to play in the water. The Short Chic and her Daddy made a sand castle before calling it a day.

The location of the state park was convenient for us as it allowed others to visit us. My mother, oldest brother, his girlfriend and some high school friends all visited us at the campsite. We selected this state park due to its proximity to the annual Labor Day Balloon Festival at a nearby town. If you were looking for things to do outside the state park, you could visit the childhood home of Walt Disney (Marceline, Missouri) and tour the local museum.

This is our 7th camping trip this year. Our sixth state park (including Katy Trail State Park).  This was the first camping trip that we encountered the walking stick. He showed up at our camp site the morning of our second day and hung around all weekend. At one point, The Walking Stick decided to leave the post he had been guarding and decided to introduce himself to The Short Chic. I am sure the entire campground heard her scream. That makes two creatures she has no need for (the crawdad and the walking stick).

Happy Camping!