6 things this non-camping mom learned about camping with a 6 year old.

By “non-camper” I mean a few things. 1) I don’t really know how to camp. I’m sure at some point in my life I’ve slept in a tent but I’ve blocked it from my mind and replaced it with memories of trips that included showers and running water. 2) I hate to camp don’t love to camp. Camping has just never been high on my list of fun activities. Hiking, being outdoors, fire pits, absolutely. But throwing in that overnight piece is where most of my camping experience stops.

 

I do understand, though, that not only have I married a camper (thank God because where else would I get the supplies for this trip?) but I also have a camper-in-training who thinks it’s the best thing in the world.

 

That being said, a Mommy & Me trip presented itself for Henry and I to get some much needed bonding time and it just happened to be on a camping trip. So I decided–what’s the worst that can happen, and signed up (Ginni hadn’t told me her snake story, yet, thank you very much.)

 

Here’s what I learned.
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See: Non-Camping mom and very-excited-to-be-camping son.

1. Bring a two-person tent, but only if you’re staying one night. (But really, why are you camping for more than one night in the first place?) Chris gently told me that the tent he was giving us to use was a little…well, small. I shrugged thinking it wouldn’t be that big of a deal…until I saw the other tents. The tents with little screened in foyers and canopies that covered the make-shift tent/ground porches set up with legit coffee makers and all. The reason I say this is if you have an eight person tent, I would expect it would take about eight people to put it up. If you have a two person tent, you can pretty well manage with yourself and your six-year-old cub scout who wants to help (and is taller than the tent when fully constructed.)

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2. Amazon Prime a power pack. Yes, camping is about unplugging. But unless you’re willing to also carry around your Nikon DSLR for 20,000 steps, you’re going to use your phone for your camera. Also, don’t put too much into unplugging completely. You’re in the woods. You need your phone.
3. Bring along reading material. You won’t read it. You’ll be too exhausted to read anything when it finally is lights-out but bring it anyway. If you start hearing owls hooting and bugs buzzing and start thinking about how many giant spiders you saw today, (I won’t even get into the possibility of anything larger than a spider) you’ll need that book to take the edge off. (I chose Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and I’m obsessed.)
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4. Follow the plan, but make room for your own free time. This camping trip was one where the schedule was planned from 8:00AM-10:00PM. Each activity was fantastic, but at about 1:30, when we had already logged 13 million camping steps (different than regular steps), I knew we needed some downtime. We came back to the tent, Henry listened to an audio book and I read (see, it did come in handy!) until we both regained energy to get back on schedule.
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Not all camping activities were violent, I promise.
5. He’s stronger than I give him credit for. Yes, there were whiny moments after 5 long hours of hiking from place to place but when it came down to it–this little boy is braver, stronger, and more independent than I want to admit realized. Case in point–I fully thought we would be fishing sans-bait until he dug deep into his little cup, pulled out the wiggly worm, and lanced him through the hook without a second thought. While that may not seem like the biggest deal, we’re talking about a little boy who would normally be team-worm in this scenario.
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6. It’s worth it. The heat, the exhaustion, the bugs, the giant spider that I stomped to death is no longer with us, the lack of shower, it’s all worth it for this face. I got more hugs this Saturday than I have in the week combined (and that’s saying a lot because Henry is a hug-boy.) He was fully in his element and the camp experience will be one we both cherish because mommy stepped out of her comfort zone for one night to embrace the little boy he has become.
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*#7 would be wear bright green matching shirts so you don’t get lost in the woods.

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Simple Art.

I have found while reading parenting and lifestyle blogs that one of the common factors they share is the struggle to get those beautiful pictures off the phone and printed in your house. I wrote about this a couple of months ago and, while I’ve been doing better, it’s definitely something I have to actively work on. That’s why I’m thrilled about this next piece.
Now, I should preface this to say, I used Kelle Hampton’s blog Enjoying the Small Things as inspiration for this artwork. By inspiration we should probably just say plagiarism. I did not, in fact, realize until the poster arrived that I pretty much just straight up copied her entire print. And I’m okay with that because I absolutely love it and, while I don’t know her at all, feel like she would be the type of person to be okay with it, too.
I read her post From Camera to Walls a couple weeks ago and thought…I could do that. I absolutely loved the giant print of her daughter holding a camera framed using vintage poster hangers. I chose my favorite recent picture of Henry from our wedding (also the one that’s of him looking through a camera, because my subconscious took over) and went to Snapfish. I happened to hit it just right, with all prints being 70% off and this beauty blown up only cost me $5.99 shipped. (I’m also learning if I can’t get it shipped to me, it probably is just going to sit in the Target photo section until someone gives up and throws it away.)
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Ok, looking at this picture you have to see why it’s one of my favorites–and why I didn’t even stop to realize it looked just like Kelle Hampton’s. I adore Henry’s love of all things photography and this picture just reminded me of it. At the wedding he wanted to badly to pick up the camera himself and take pictures. I look at him sometimes and see just what a big guy he is but in this picture I see the little boy in those cheeks, and little eyelashes, just so excited to learn and explore but also so sweet and still innocent.
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I digress.
I also ordered a set of vintage poster frames from amazon. There were so many to choose from but these had good reviews and free shipping and that’s all I needed. You can find them here: Modern Wooden Painting Frame Magnetic Wood Photo Frame
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The picture arrived in a little over a week and it took about 2 minutes to put together and hang. That’s the simple art I can get behind.
Have you seen lemon wreaths taking over? If you know me, you know I love a good wreath and I’ve definitely been drawn to the kitchen/spring/summer/happy feel of the lemon wreath. But, I’m sorry internet, $50-$75 is just a little too high for me when it comes to lemon wreath expenses. I have seen a number of diy-ers making their own and though…I could do that.
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At Michael’s last week I found this wreath for 50% off and used my 40% off coupon to purchase the lemons. Then I used my 15% teacher discount and I think the whole thing totaled about $25 dollars plus tax. And it took me about 5 minutes to put together, which, as I said on instagram, is about all the time I have these days to devote to create lemon wreaths.
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There’s still much to do in the way of art but these are two pieces that took no time at all and are no my favorite things to look at.

A Simplified Life. Chapter 6.

This is one of those chapters that I read at the right time. I’ve put down A Simplified Life for the last couple of weeks while we are wedding planning and moving and when I picked it back up this week the next chapter in line for me was:, which is focused on loving, serving those we love, and finding simplicity in relationships. Titled Simplified Hospitality, I definitely got the most out of the concept of serving your immediate family in ways they love. (I should point out, as I did on instagram this week, that Emily Ley makes it very clear the difference between “serving” and being “subservient,” thank you very much.)

It was a touching chapter for me, especially for the way she encourages readers to find ways to love your children how they specifically need to be loved. I’ve been working through some of this with Henry lately but couldn’t quite put it together just what that meant and this chapter said it all for me perfectly.

 

Henry is a home-body who loves one-on-one interaction and strives for praise whether it’s at home or school. He is sweet and sensitive and I’m learning to focus more on the simple ways we show love through action.

For us, this looks like cooking dinner together. That’s a hard one for me because I’m not a great cook and don’t really particularly love to cook. But Henry does. He loves to be in the kitchen and wants to help with every.little.detail. I would rather throw it all together while he’s watching tv, (or order take-out and watch tv with him for that matter) but I know at the end of the day he will remember us cooking together and the love he feels in the kitchen more than anything else. So one of my more recent goals has been to cook more together.

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This also looks like showcasing and celebrating his artwork. Henry loves to draw more than he loves just about any other activity. But he particularly loves when you celebrate what he has done. That’s why one of my next tasks is to create a place to display his artwork in our new home. I’ve been searching Pinterest for ideas and trying to find the right space, and think I’ve nailed it down. I want to give his hard work the recognition it deserves and lately it’s slipped through the cracks.
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Emily Ley talks in this chapter about learning your child’s “love language” just as you would your spouse or best friends. It’s a simple concept that is easy to overlook but one that is so important and meaningful right now. While I don’t know a ton about love languages I know this–one of his is definitely quality time together, which seems like an obvious but for me it’s now focused on defining what quality means most to him.
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A simple wedding.

Last night we held a small celebration to celebrate our wedding and, of course, one of our main objectives was keeping it simple. And, since this is a blog about my trying to simplify my/our life, that’s what I’m writing about today.

First, let me tell you–we were incredibly lucky to have found the venue we did. It’s a small farm in Kernersville, Smith Hollow Farm, that is owned by the nicest people and the setting is just perfect for what we wanted–outdoors/bbq/kid friendly/farm/lake/firepit/etc/etc/etc. The really nice part, though, was that we honestly felt we didn’t have to decorate. They have made the space so beautiful with hanging lights and wood accents, that it is a perfect spot just as it is. I did put together some table toppers and a few little things but we especially chose this location because of the simplicity in decorating, honestly believing most of it had been done for us.

The whole night, in fact, was designed so that everyone (including Chris and myself) could relax and not feel stressed or pulled in any one direction.

Here’s how we designed a simple wedding:

Table Decorations: 

The table decorations are flowers I picked up from Michael’s over the last couple of weeks while they were on sale. They were part of their spring flowers and while they are fake, I love that they don’t look like regular fake flowers. Side note: these are also what I will be decorating our entire house in now that the wedding party is all done.

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I also picked up pretty glass jars wherever I could find them, which was mostly Target and Michaels. Target dollar spot had the pretty textured ones and Michael’s has a whole selection of metal plant holders. Wait until that 20% coupon on everything, including sale items, and you’ll be all set!

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Most of the signs came from Target as a last-minute find and even our guest book was a dollar spot find.

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We also didn’t have a color theme, which was probably one of the best choices I’ve made for the wedding. It allowed me to say “this is pretty and I want it in the wedding” even if it wasn’t a specific color. That freedom was much greater than I would have thought.

Favors: 

I should preface this with the fact that I’m allowed to say it’s simple because I didn’t do a ton of the work. Chris is the one who went to Lowes and bought 50 succulents and then to Walmart and bought 50 tiny canning jars the day before the wedding because I saw an idea on Pinterest.

But never mind that…I was really happy with the favors because they were simple enough to put together, didn’t cost a million dollars, and (I hope) something people thought were cute and wanted to take home. Option B was Mentos wrapped with notes that said “mint” to be together so you can all thank me later for skipping that one. Okay, thank Chris.

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Activities: 

The last part I really can’t take credit for, except in choosing a location that had kids activities built in. We had a fire pit for smores, hayrides, farm football, cornhole, and more. Kids could visit the farm animals with their parents and run around. I found all these cute “things for kids to do at a wedding” ideas on Pinterest and not a single one of them would have happened because there was just so much fun stuff to do at the location itself.

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I have a million more pictures to share, and trust me, I will. But, I wanted to get this out there—our party was simple so we could spend time with the friends and family that came to celebrate with us. And just because it was simple, doesn’t mean it wasn’t full of love, great food, and great times. It just meant we were also able to enjoy it in the process.

Our simply lovely wedding.

When I started this blog in an effort to find and embrace simplicity in our daily lives, I was also mid-wedding planning which is one of the least simple things you can do. We knew from the beginning, though, that we wanted a wedding that was, in fact, simple and focused on making a commitment to each other, in a place we love, with a few friends and family, and without much else. We also knew we wanted to share this celebration with a much larger group, but in a slightly different way, so we also planned a party/BBQ/reception in the next couple of weeks. But for the ceremony the mantra was: simple, simple, simple.

We were married outside of Asheville at a lovely winery, LongLeaf Vineyards that overlooked the mountains. Rain was scheduled all day so the week before I ordered (thank you amazon prime!) white umbrellas and rain boots…just in case. The rain clouds parted for about three hours and, while they made adorable props for pictures and were useful in the mud, we thankfully didn’t need the umbrellas for the actual monsoon weather we were thinking it would be. (Huge props to our friends who didn’t bat an eye at the thought of standing with us on a mountain in the pouring rain.)
For the weekend we rented a gorgeous airbnb home in Black Mountain that fit all of us with extra space and allowed us the comforts of a house with the flexibility to stay in, cook, and wander, but with the convenience of a hotel. We came back after the ceremony and had amazing cake by Ginni and a beautiful dinner by Chef Tyler. We relaxed, built legos, watched the mountains, ate some more, and just settled in to mountain life for the weekend.

All of that being said…I’m just going to leave these pictures right here and get back to packing!

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Flowers from Pine and Petal Weddings on Etsy!

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Stay Calm.

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We planned the last week for months and the one thing we knew was we wanted a wedding that was intimate, simple, and focused on joy over stress. At the time we didn’t know we’d also be closing on a house and then moving a week later. When you look back on the last couple of years it’s an overwhelming feeling to be here and happy and incredibly fortunate. So, instead of letting the stress take over, we are working hard to find a place of gratitude for this amazing space we get to call our life right now.

It was also very fitting that while adventuring through Black Mountain that we found a painted stone with the message “stay calm.” I carried it in my purse all week as a simple reminder to not let the anxiety take over and just enjoy the moment.

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The wedding weekend was a whirlwind and, while pictures will be on their way here shortly, I’m definitely trying to let it all sink in how much love and happiness we felt this weekend.

Best. Favorite. Necessary.

Now we prepare for our next chapter and this week will be spent with many late nights and extra cups of coffee while we pack and get ready for our move on Saturday. It is absolutely perfect timing that Emily Ley is hosting a “Ruthless Declutter Challenge” this week that is one giant spring-cleaning-meets-simplicity focused plan of action. I’m using it as a guide: if I don’t want it in the new house, it’s not getting packed! The mantra from Emily Ley for the week: Best. Favorite. Necessary. The first day (today) is focused on the kitchen. So I’ll pour another cup of coffee and ruthlessly declutter.

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(None of those mugs are being decluttered).

 

One Week. And Paint.

In one week we close on our new home. We won’t actually move until the middle of April but we have a few projects that we are focused on before that big moving day. Mainly painting. While we’re so eager to actually get moved in, I can’t tell you how nice it is to have time to paint a few rooms without furniture in those rooms.

The one we knew immediately how we wanted to paint was the dining room. In Chris’s old house he painted his dining room and living room this fantastic gray color (Pewter Cast) and we agreed before even purchasing the house we would paint any future dining rooms gray.

This isn’t the best image to represent the true color but it shows how much the white trim and accents pop against the darker gray. We already have white artwork picked out that should really be striking once we get that room all done. The rest of the room will be decorated with wood accents to help soften the space.

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Gray in Chris’s old dining room. How amazing is that built in??

Here’s what the Pewter Cast looks like on Sherwin Williams:

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Source: Sherwin Williams

For the master bedroom we chose Weekend, which is a Magnolia Home paint color. This color is a little out of my comfort zone (which consists entirely of gray) but we were both really drawn to it and it has the warmth and coziness I am looking for.

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Source: Magnolia Home
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Source: Magnolia Home

We will also be painting the living room fireplace next week. It’s a darker gray, which I normally would like but the tint is a little off from what I’m looking for. Here’s the fireplace now:

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We’re choosing something much lighter, and much closer to the wall color, with HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams “Grayish.”

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So instead we’re planning to tone it down a notch with.

Lastly, Henry wants his room painted to look like outer space. Black to be exact, but mommy won veto powers over that suggestion. Instead I’m leaning more towards something like Salty Dog from Sherwin Williams. It has a brighter feel to it but will still give the same effect of the night sky when we put stars on the walls.

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Source: Sherwin Williams

We’ve been painting for weeks at Chris’s house and I thought talking more about paint would be the last thing I would want to do today. But I’m super excited about these choices and getting to put these touches on our own home. In one week!

I built that.

Y’all. I built something. A coffee table to be exact. Using big girl tools and all.

This is completely out of my comfort zone.

A couple of months ago we made a random stop at a sweet (and big!) consignment store in Winston-Salem which then led me down an internet path where I stumbled upon a woman right here in the triad who offers construction classes for ladies: Simply Janelle Designs (And who also gave us the most amazing trip idea but more on that later.) With the new house on the horizon, and a few pieces of furniture added to the “to buy” list, I was excited about the opportunity to try my hand at making a few pieces instead. (I’ve already signed up for the bench and the console table for future classes!
Now, a few things to note because, yes, Chris could have made this for me for only the cost of materials or taught me himself. But:
  • All of his tools are locked up in storage somewhere.
  • A townhome is not the most ideal setting for a construction site.
  • It would have involved an extra trip to Lowes (okay, five extra trips to Lowes).
  • I really just wanted to do it on my own. 

I learned how to use a kreg jig (and, let’s be honest, what a kreg jig is.) This is similar to the one she used and comes with just about everything you need, including the clamp.

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Source: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Kreg-K4-Pocket-Hole-Jig-Master-System/3278831

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I loved every second of it and definitely learned new skills that empower me to take on new projects at home. I keep saying “I know I could build that” but never actually do.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know I’ve already starting collecting new books to help me learn more. I’m also in love with Shanty-2-Chic, a website created by women with tons of free furniture building plans. Now that I have a few basics, watch out!

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Simplicity Podcasts.

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Here’s a picture of me in a car. Probably listening to a podcast. Also waiting for HomeGoods to open.
Getting ready for a trip always leads me to seek out a new audio book. Two weeks ago I wanted something to continue with my simple-living mission but couldn’t quite find the right fit. I love audio books but if I’m going to listen to one person talk for 8 hours, it has to be a voice I can handle.

 

I am just getting into podcasts and decided to do a little exploring in internet land about simple living podcasts for my drive to work in the mornings. That brought me to A Welder’s Life Blog https://www.awelderswife.com/2017/09/favorite-simple-living-podcasts/ in which she features her favorite simple living blogs. I half picked “Cohesive Home” randomly and half because it was a really pretty blog.

I was a little nervous going into this podcast because Kate, one of the authors (?) podcast-ers (?) has two children and lives in a tiny home and that’s an immediate red flag for me. But when you read their “what we believe section” Kate and Melissa call themselves “lazy minimalists” and I so I didn’t close their page just yet.

Which is a good thing because within five minutes of listening to their first podcast I was pretty much hooked. Mainly because of their reasoning for creating their podcast–to create a community of people who wanted to live simply but didn’t want to live minimally. Emily Ley also writes about the same concept–living minimalist is an extreme, rarely actually attainable by anyone who is also normal. Living simply, Kate and Melissa say, is more focused on intentional choosing of what you do with your time, your number of responsibilities, and deliberately selecting what you own.

While I don’t want to get completely sidetracked with this podcast, it lines up nicely with what I’m currently reading. However, there are items that I feel like I will need to return to if Emily Ley doesn’t address them–children’s artwork guilt being the number one concern that I am also avoiding like the plague.

love the episode on “Kids Spaces.” It delves into an issue I find incredibly hard to overcome. There are a lot of great points made and the message is clear: the more kids have, the more mess they can make and the less “white space” is available to them to create and play. Kate and Melissa say

“I’ve noticed…if they are just surrounded in clutter, they lose that inspiration to engage in imaginative play. ..They can’t see past the clutter, like we can’t.” This really hit home for me. If I can’t process when the house is a mess, how can I expect Henry to?

They also relay that it’s important to start

Management of the stuff–one day’s mess carries over to the next day. How this is just as bad for us as it is for kids.

I’m also a little obsessed with the idea of a toy library (hello–librarian over here!). The toy library works like this:

  • Most toys are organized in bins and stored out of site (say a basement or garage)
  • Bins are labeled with toys inside.
  • Kids select 1-2 bins to play with in their rooms. 
  • When they are done playing with those toys, they go back in the bins and swap out for a new set of toys.

This is the prettiest picture I could find of one: 

 

 

With a garage in the future house, this may be a possibility. It looks like it’s time to purchase some bins.


In other Podcast news, I love Jolenta and Kristen over at By The Book and here’s a link to their Marie Kondo review. If you’re looking for a real-life review on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (or really just any self-help book) they’re the ones to check out!

 

Girl’s Day.

This weekend I was given the absolute best girl’s day I could have asked for. First, we had high tea at O’Henry Hotel. As long as I’ve lived in Greensboro, I’ve never had high tea! It was perfect.

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We ordered the “O’Henry Tea,” which really just includes each of their finger sandwiches and a pot of tea each.

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Next we went to one of my favorite places in Greensboro, Mad Platter, where we all painted pottery and ate more macaroons.

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I tried really hard to pretend to be Rifle Paper Co. I can’t wait to see how they turned out.

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When I had a blog years ago, I loved sharing times like this and there’s definitely part of me that missed that part of writing. As I navigate this new space, I’m looking forward to sharing more moments like this where, in the middle of chaos and busyness and uncertainty, we can all take a day and just have, simply, a fantastic time.