(Almost) Free Family Fun Day in Virginia

…and West Virginia and Maryland.

Having moved from one of the most highly populated, highly cultured areas of the country, I often get the question:  “What is there to do around here?”

Silly city folk.  The answer to that question is almost always “something outside”.

Beard and I used to enjoy hiking a lot before we had Bitsy Girl, and I’m ashamed to admit that we hadn’t gone hiking at all since we had her.  Nearly one year ago.  We decided this week it was time.

We use one of the most versatile and well-visited hiking websites I’ve ever seen to pick out our hike.  It’s called Hiking Upward.  This site includes hikes in most areas of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.

You can search hikes in a particular area, and each hike has its own page complete with almost any detail you would want to know about it.  You can look up the length of the hike, the approximate time it takes, relative difficulty (they have a scale of 1-5), elevation change during the hike, whether or not there are beautiful vistas, streams, camping sites available, and how much solitude you are likely to enjoy on your hike.

You can find directions to the starting point, as well as a map.

The most useful part of this site, though, are the reviews.  Anytime we look at a hike we read several reviews on it.  Typically people will detail their experience, how difficult they thought it was, and any key points that you should know, like you need a 4WD vehicle to get to the starting point.

Yesterday the DP family used this website to find a hike called “The Priest”.  Unfortunately due to some direction mix-ups, we ended up at “Crabtree Falls” hike, and were subsequently rained out of the hike.  Despite that, we enjoyed a beautiful drive in very pretty country and mountainside, plus a lunch at the starting point of “Crabtree Falls”.

We’ll probably try again in the next week or so (and check the weather before hand), and I’ll be sure to post pictures of the views.

Why did I post this now, though?  Because I realized that we had a fabulous day, even sans hike, for not very much money.  We drove a little over 100 miles overall, paid $3 to get to the hiking start spot (which isn’t common), and packed our own lunches.  Hiking really is a great way to have a lot of fun for not a lot of money, and I wanted to share Hiking Upward because it is a great tool to use to find the perfect hike for you and your family and friends.



The Great Fly Massacre of 2012

As I talked about a few days ago, yesterday we had some family and friends over for Beard’s graduation celebration.  All went well:  food was good, company was great.

As with any barbeque party, we expected people to be coming in and out of the house to use the bathroom, get drinks, etc., and with the door being open so much we expected a few uhh, unwelcome visitors to make their way into the house.  Namely, we expected Malcolm and Nadia to weasle their way inside.

If you haven’t read my “About” section I talk about how both Malcolm and Nadia (our cats) used to live inside until, after living with us almost a year and a half, they decided to stop using the litter box. Ever since then they have lived outside.  We never had them de-clawed, so we knew they could fend for themselves in the “wild” of our neighborhood.  Occasionally we are left gifts of mouse or chipmunk carcasses, but for the most part, our feline friends still feast on Purina One Cat Chow, just the same as they did inside.

Anyhoo, not to get off track.

We had expected Malcolm and Nadia to make their way inside, but we hadn’t counted on other unwelcome guests: guests of the winged variety.  By the time everyone left last night we had about 15 flies sleeping on our living room ceiling.  Disgusting, yes.  I agree.

There’s not much we could, or really wanted to do, at the time, so we waited until today to take care of them.

And folks, here you have it:  the silly Beard moment of the week.

Armed with an old school fly swatter, my sweet husband defended my honor by killing 17 flies in our kitchen this afternoon.  As a woman not so keen on flying, winged insects, this afternoon, my husband is my hero.

Beach Babes

For Memorial Day weekend Beard and I took Bitsy Girl to the nearest beach.  We had taken her to the Outer Banks last summer, but she was only about 8 weeks old and really couldn’t absorb what was going on around her.  This time we chose Smith Mountain Lake, a fairly local man made lake with tons of shoreline.  The Smith Mountain Lake State Park has a nice little beach, and since Beard never works Tuesdays, we thought that would be the best day to avoid crowds and help our little Girly enjoy the sand, sun and water.

Here are some highlights:

All ready to go, but hating me for making her wear hot pink flip flops.

Testing the sand.  Luckily the sand wasn’t too hot, otherwise I never would’ve gotten her to touch it.

Daddy is protecting her from the gross wet sand, but she’s loving the water.  I caught her mid-splash, actually.

She got pretty confident and wanted to stand on her own.  That’s my adventurous girly. 🙂

At the end of the day she was all smiles.  I think it was a good first experience at the beach for the little Bits.

While packing to take a baby to the beach for the very first time I had lots of things running through my head.  I’m a first time mom, remember.  I had visions of my daughter being carried away by an undertow (of which there aren’t any at this particular body of water) or her eating fistfuls of sand and ingesting some nasty garbage along with it.  I wanted to have everything we would need.

At the same time, I have minimalist tendancies, and I want to really only carry what I would find absolutely necessary.

So for those of you taking a trip to the beach soon with an infant or toddler, I’ve come up with a few things that really are essential to everyone having a good time:

  1. Sunblock.  I really like Coppertone, and I would never use less than SPF 50 on Bitsy Girl.  She is not a particularly pale baby by any means, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I let her get a sunburn.  While we’re talking about sunblock, might I remind you that proper sun protection includes a hat, some sweet shades, and maybe even a sun cover-up (big T-shirt).  I always bring a hat for the Bits, and if you have a more pale baby, a sun cover-up wouldn’t be a bad idea.
  2. Swim diapers.  If baby is going to be in the water at all, these work wonderfully.  They are a bit pricey, but they are most definitely worth the extra cash.  They don’t get puffy and soggy, and they hold in urine very well.  My friends tell me they don’t do a great job with solid wastes, but I have no personal experience to back that up.  We used Huggies Little Swimmers because that’s what our local grocery store carries.  I was amused by the little Minnie Mouse cartoons on them, and they did their job just fine.
  3. First aid supplies.  If you are going out with a baby or child it is always a good idea to have some bandages, antibacterial cream, water, and maybe peroxide on hand.  Since we were going to a State Park with a visitor center 20 feet from the water, we omitted this from our packing list.
  4. “Toys”.  Why in quotations?  Because anything can be a toy.  I grabbed a few of Bitsy Girls non-plush, non-battery-operated toys, then a few plastic cups and food storage containers.  At her age, she likes to fill up and dump cups with all sorts of things, including sand.   Beach toys do not need to be expensive, large, cumbersome, or unitaskers.  They can be anything that can be cleaned off and you don’t mind getting a bit wet and sandy.
  5. Towels.  You don’t need a million, just one or two.  Usually if it’s warm enough to go swimming, it’s warm enough to sit comfortably outside while wet.  Baby won’t be catching a cold from being wet, so don’t be obsessive about drying every inch of her.
  6. Water and snacks.  As a family, we never, never, never buy food “when we get there”.  Not only is it not usually in our budget, but food at concession stands isn’t really known for its nutrient content.  Of course we bring some treats along, like Goldfish, but I like to know what it is we’re putting in our bodies.  I also like to bring plenty of water; you never know what the water tastes like when you get there, and I will not by bottle water for $3 each.

You may notice a few things missing from this list that you normally bring to the beach.  Swimmies or a flotation device, perhaps.  Although those can be nice to have, I would hardly classify them as necessary.  If you hold your child the entire time they are in the water (which is not difficult due to water’s great buoyancy), you won’t need a flotation device.  And, of course, I would suggest you always hold your baby or toddler at all times when in the ocean, even if they are wearing a flotation device.  Currents and undertows can carry away a small floating child much more quickly than you think.

That pretty much covers it, folks.  Some things you could pile into one duffel bag is all you need to take your favorite little person (or people) to the beach.  I hope this post helps you to breath, relax, and enjoy the fun in the sun with family and friends.


An Epic Garage Sale Find and Some News

Most people like to sleep in on a Saturday morning to catch up on some precious zzz’s.  I don’t.  Well, for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I naturally wake up before 7am every morning.  No matter what time I went to bed.  It’s a wonderful trait to have; I assure you.

Anyway, since I’m not sleeping on Saturday mornings, I have other things I’d like to be doing.

Like going to garage sales.

Or yard sales, as my husband insists I call them.  “They aren’t held in people’s garages, usually,” he says.

I don’t care.  Where I grew up we called them garage sales no matter where they were.

This past Saturday I had to drive Beard into the city to go to work; so I thought it would be a great opportunity to scope out some of the garage sales there.  The city is much larger than the town we live in, so by sheer volume, there are more garage sales, and therefore much cooler things to find.

I had nothing in particular in mind, just hoping to find something that caught my eye.  I picked up a few things that would be useful to us for less than $1:  a white outlet cover we needed for the newly painted kitchen and a refilling water dish for the outdoor kitties.

The best find, though, was something so surprising to me I could hardly believe it:

The high chair on the right was bought by my mother more than 25 years ago in a garage sale in New Jersey.  She knew she was having another little one, and the only way to find a good quality wooden high chair was to find a used one.  I believe she made the cushion herself.  My little heinie sat in that high chair.

I found the high chair on the left at a garage sale not 15 miles from my home in Central VA.  For $15.  More than 25 years after my mother bought the original.

Let me show you how awesome this match is:

Yes, folks, that is the same woodworking.  These are pretty much the same high chair.

I felt pretty good about this purchase, needless to say.

For those of you regular readers on this site, you may be thinking, “You only have one Bitsy Girl; why do you need two high chairs?”

The answer to that, my friends is simple:

Our little Bits is going to be a big sis.  The newest member of the DP family should be arriving around Christmas 2012.

A Big Day for a Little Family

Yesterday was a very big day for the DP family.

Beard graduated college.

Yes, you read that correctly.  My husband is officially a degree-holding college graduate.

If feels like this day has been a long time coming; in some ways it has, but in other ways it hasn’t.

When we started dating my sweet Beard was working hard and had taken a wide and random assortment of classes at a few colleges.  He hadn’t found anything he loved.  Well, except me, of course.

Just over six months later we were engaged, and Beard had found a program worth trying at a local vocational college: Information Systems Engineering.  Yes, that does sound like a hard degree.  And that’s because it is.  You see, my husband is a very smart man, and knows his way around computer.  So he’s pretty much my super hero.

He took it one semester at a time.  Sometimes he worked part time, sometimes he worked full time, but he always worked hard in his classes.  He took night classes after we had Bitsy Girl so he could play Mr. Mom while I went to work during the day.

He made it through public speaking and English composition, even though he thought he couldn’t.  He made Dean’s List every semester.

And yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, I watched my husband shake hands with the president of his college and receive his “diploma” (read placeholder).  At the end of it all we met in the parking lot of the graduation venue, he with his shiny new diploma in his hand and beaming, and me with my grand pile of bags and a camera, excited to hug my graduate hubster.

If I say nothing else about it, this alone must be said.

I am so proud of him.