Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Vacation in Pictures

I took over 400 pictures during our summer vacation this year. I picked out my favorites and that was still more than 50. I decided that was still a few too many for the blog so here is just a sampling of what we did during our time on the Northern California Coast and the Southern Oregon Coast.

Eureka, California has a great little zoo. All the boys - big and little had fun. 

The little boys mastered the spider web. 

Cutest spider I have ever seen!

The Sequoia Park had the most gorgeous dahlia garden. This one was larger than Clayton's head! 



 A quick stop for the Sky Trail. Up, up and away!


 And then we made it to the ocean. Hello Oregon!



 Fresh oysters were destined to be on our menu and they were a couple nights. 

 We traveled back to California to spend the morning in Crescent City, California 
for a fun small town 4th of July parade. 

 Of course I found my fellow Farm Bureau folks in the local parade. 

 No small town parade is complete without the Shirners. I think every parade I have ever seen in a small town has had the Shriners as a participant.

And old cars too!

 Back at our Oregon Vacation Rental, we had front yard fireworks. The boys enjoyed them and Jake had a great time setting them off. 



We hope you found time to enjoy family this summer and the 4th of July holiday too!
Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vacation Home Rental - Tips and Hints

In my last post, I offered my thoughts on why your family might want to rent a vacation home and where you can go to find the right one. If you missed that post you can read it here.Today I want to share my strategy for packing, prepping the house and enjoying your vacation in a vacation home rental.

As you can imagine, after five different rentals in five different houses, I have a few tips and suggestions for making your stay feel like a vacation even if you have to cook and do laundry. 

All of the vacation homes (unless noted in their description) are equipped for you to just bring your clothes and toiletries.  Towels and bedding are always provided.  Kitchens are usually stocked with the basics - plates, pots and pans, cups, coffee pot, cooking utensils and silverware. 

Pay attention to the details. Do you like to grill? Make sure there is a barbecue at the property that you can access. Is the beach close? Do they mention beach towels? You may need to bring these with you. Is the lake close? Is there room to park your vehicle and your boat? Does the rental have phone, TV and internet? These details should be included in the online descriptions. If not, just ask.  An email or phone call to the property manager should get you the answers you need to whatever your questions might be.

The Kitchen
The pantry in a vacation rental will be sparse. You will probably have the basic spices - salt, pepper and whatever has been left by a previous renter. For example, I bought of bottle of vanilla to make some cookies while in Oregon.  The lid of the (really inexpensive) vanilla cracked. Rather than bring it home and risk it spilling, I left it for the next person to use. You will probably have access to some baking soda, flour, sugar and coffee. Your vacation rental should include paper towels, toilet paper, dish soap and if your lucky a roll of foil and plastic wrap. 


What you bring with you will depend upon your method of travel, how much you plan to use the kitchen for cooking and what retail establishments your destination offers. If you are driving like we did, you are only limited by the size of your vehicle. Additionally our destination had a large super center to shop at so we opted to buy most of our food stuffs when we got there.  We packed a small plastic tote with our favorite bottle of olive oil, our go-to grilling seasoning, some salmon seasoning (we were at the ocean,) crab cracking utensils, my hubby's favorite grilling tongs and a few sippy cups for the boys. I also grabbed a box of resealable plastic bags - I use these for some much more than food storage - and threw it into one of our suitcases. We also brought an empty ice chest to use on day trips and for bringing cold items home when the trip ended. 

After we unloaded our luggage we surveyed what the rental house had and didn't have that we knew we might want to have handy during our stay. Our first stop was the grocery store with a shopping list designed around a loosely planned menu.  We could have dined at the numerous restaurants that Brookings offers, and we did have a few restaurant meals, but we feel so much more comfortable making our own. After all if we didn't want to cook, we would have stayed at a hotel.  

Shopping Suggestions
  • Buy the smallest size container of necessary condiments - mayo, ketchup, mustard.
  • Ignore 2 for 1 specials. As tempting as they may be, you will likely only need one of whatever it is. 
  • Consider a 1/2 gallon of milk rather than the whole gallon. (With two growing boys, we still bought the gallon.) 
  • Cereal, crackers, lunch meat, cheese and salad dressing.  You only need one of each. Now is not the time for everyone to pick their favorite flavor or variety.  Unless of course you are prepared to 1) take it home or 2) discard whatever is remaining when your stay concludes. 
  • Get some paper plates. After all you are on vacation and this will ensure a few less dishes you will have to wash.
  • Reusable plastic cups. Our rental had beautiful glasses. I have two rambunctious boys. Plastic cups are a necessity. And since it is summer time you usually can pick up four for less than $2. 
  • Buy a small bottle of your family's preferred laundry detergent.  Their may be one in the vacation rental already but having the same one you use at home might save a family member from an unnecessary skin reaction. 
  • Choose food items that you can eat more than once. Fresh salmon one night became salmon cakes the next night. Steak and potatoes for dinner become steak sandwiches for lunch or steak, eggs and potatoes for breakfast. 
**Tip**
Does the town your vacationing in have a dollar store? This a great place to pick up those reusable cups, beach buckets for the kids or random kitchen utensils that the house does not have. Example - our last rental only had one pot holder. I bought two for $1 at the dollar store and left them for the next renter.

Going Home
We didn't eat everything we bought when we arrived at our vacation rental home so it needed to go home with us. We also bought a few local foodie type items - cheese, cheese and more cheese - that we were taking home to friends and for our own indulgence. That's where the ice chest came in handy.  But what about all of the dry goods? Cereal, crackers, bread, chips and the other items were brought to begin with needed to be transported home so we picked up one of those 18 gallon plastic totes. The lid is locking so nothing was going to fly out from the back of our truck and I can always use another tote at home.How about you?

We did throw out a few things. We had one egg, a few pieces of fresh fruit (fresh fruit can't cross the state line into California,) about two scoops of ice cream left in the freezer and a few leftovers from previous evening. All of this went into the trash. There was a box of frozen juice popstoo and we had only eaten four of them. I wrote the date on the box and left them. Maybe the next renters would have kids that might like these. If not they could throw them away.

Unexpected Perks
While on our vacation, one of our little guys came down with a 24 hour stomach bug. Having the extra space of a real house made it easy just to hang out all day and watch movies (that we rented from one of those one day movie rental dispensers like Red Box.) No one was on top of anyone and my sick little guy could rest without having to share a space with his brother. Keeping his brother out of that space was a whole other story but we managed. 

And finally...


Take time to enjoy the vacation. 
We are already planning next years trip and looking for the perfect house online to rent. 

Do you have a favorite family vacation tip?
Thanks for reading. ~mrs. c



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vacation Homes - To Rent or Not to Rent?

We just wrapped up our week long vacation on the southern Oregon Coast. We also just completed our 5th successful vacation home rental.  If you have always wondered about renting someone else's house, I'm here to tell you this is a vacation option worth exploring.

You are probably wondering what do they cost and where do you go to find one? I hope I can answer a few questions and give you a few of our family's hints and tips for a successful vacation in someone else's house over two different blog posts. This first post will discuss finding a house to rent and what they cost.

Now keep in mind that these houses are second homes and investment properties for the owners; they are not their primary residence so you are not going to see family photos on the wall or clothes hanging in the closet. It really is just like a hotel without room service and daily housekeeping. And don't worry, you don't have to clean the toilets when you leave, housekeeping comes in after you leave to ready the house for the next renters. 

Cost
Vacation home rentals can cost as little as or as much as you are willing to spend. There really is something out there for everyone. Consider your budget. Maybe you have plans to stay in a hotel on your vacation. The per night costs of a vacation home are most times comparable or even better than the per night of a hotel. Rentals usually always require a refundable deposit and a non-refundable cleaning fee. You will also pay local tourism taxes too.  

Have you ever wanted to travel with another family or members of your extended family? For instance maybe Grandma and Grandpa want to go too. Just need to find a bigger house. Rental options include apartments, condos. townhouses, cottages and homes with as many rooms as you will need. 

Finding your perfect rental
To begin your search I recommend www.vrbo.com or www.homeaway.com. You might also do an internet search for local real estate or property management companies in the city you plan to visit. Here is the link to the house we just rented in Brookings, Oregon. http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p299201vb. You can check a homes calendar and book the days you want directly from the website. You can also see pictures of the properties, read about the local sights and read the reviews from former renters.

The Great Escape in Brookings, OR
So why do we choose the vacation home rental over hotel accommodations?
We are a family of four with two young boys and hotel living for a week is not as luxurious as I might like it to be but the vacation home is ideal! The boys have their own space, mom and dad have their own space, we can cook if we want to (and we do) and I can keep up on the laundry. Doing laundry may not seem like a chore you want to deal with while on vacation but trust me, this makes unpacking awesome! 

There is usually a yard for our active kids to play in and a refrigerator that I can stock with the snacks a two year old, four year old and their 40 year old father demand. We always choose homes in locations close to the activities we enjoy. For our family this is the ocean. For your family it might be the lake, a riverfront or downtown in a city with bright lights.

Here are pictures and links to the other four rental homes we have rented in the past.

We rented this one on our honeymoon. I hope to go back to this one again someday. Maybe for our 10 year anniversary? Hint, hint if you are reading Jake. 

It was just the two of us for this trip and we just needed to get away so this little condo was perfect. 

This was the first vacation with a baby. He was 5 months old and traveled so well for this lengthy car ride. 

This trip we invited my parents to join us. The house was large enough to accommodate our then family of three plus my parents. 

In my next post I will offer some tips and suggestions for packing for a vacation rental stay. What to bring and what to buy when you get there. Stay tuned. 
Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c


My First Stitch Fix in Pics

I have been eagerly awaiting my first Stitch Fix shipment. I will admit I have been incredibly jealous of the photos posted by my friends of their recent Fixes. It made me begin to wonder what would be in my box? Will I like what my stylist sends. I have my own stylist! Did I fill out the questionnaire as honestly as I could? Will the clothes fit? No need to dream about it anymore, my wait is now over. It has arrived!! 


I have to say the box was so tiny. Is there really five items in there? There was. Two summer tops, one dress, a pair of pants and a pair of earrings. My first reaction was maybe I shouldn't have said I was okay with jewelry as part of my fix. I was feeling cheated on a piece of clothing. But I quickly got over that and started to try it all on. 


Let me start by saying that it all fit! Let me reiterate what kind of points this scores for Stitch Fix and my Stylist Tracy. The fact this entire box fit was so fulfilling for me. I often feel limited by clothes offerings because of what I think looks good, what fits and of course what I am trying to cover up. 

So if you are a Stitch Fix newbie, let me give you a little explanation to what all the hub-bub is over this unique service. You visit the Stitch Fix website, sign up, answer a questionnaire about your sizes, likes, dislikes and type of clothes you wear. You choose how often you get your fix, for example every month, every quarter or just whenever you ask for one. The choice is yours. You pay $20, your styling fee, and you get the Stitch Fix box in the mail with five items. Your box also includes style cards for each of the items suggesting how you might wear them with pieces you already own and instructions for returning what you don't want to keep. There is no obligation to keep any of the items. Your cost at that point is only $20 for the personal styling. If you choose to keep one, two, three or four of the pieces, you pay full price for each. Your $20 styling fee is also applied as a credit towards your purchase. If you buy all five items, they take 25% off the total, plus your $20 credit. Make sense?

So here is my fix. First a sleeveless shirt dress. 


It's perfect for work, church or date night. It is a sheer fabric that includes a full black slip. The red belt in the picture is mine. The style card suggested some colored shoes but sadly I don't have the right ones for this dress. Yet. So what do you think?


Next up are the high waisted black trousers. The fabric of these pants are super stretchy. I would call them a skinny pant. I will also tell you that they fit well and held everything the way it needed to be held. But the most important factor is that my husband liked these pants on me!

In fact my hubby Jake liked most everything in the box. He is also the photographer for this fashion show. Thanks Babe! I know I asked you to take these photos while you were trying to watch Deadliest Catch. Thank goodness for our DVR. He was able to pause and take photos. Yes, ladies I know I am lucky. Back to the fashion. 

I paired the pants with the coral colored sleeveless blouse in my Fix and my Nine West wedges. Funny story. I own these wedges because of the Pioneer Woman. I'll save that for another post.  




So what do you think? I love the color of this blouse and the comfort and style of the pants. I also have on the earrings that were sent in my Fix. They are gold and I NEVER wear gold. But they are super cute. 


Here is a close-up of the earrings. Again super cute and really very simple and light weight. 


The last piece in my Fix was this turquoise-teal tank top. This is rayon so I did have to iron it before I took a photo of it. It is hand washable but it might become part of my dry cleaning collection. I have a horrible track record with laundering rayon.  Back to the outfit. Here is the style card. The card suggests jeans and shorts which would totally work for me too. 


So I paired this top with the pants again, my black patent flip-flops from Target and a long silver necklace and silver earrings. During the fall I might throw my denim jacket over the outfit. 


So the big question. What am I keeping? All of it! I was only going to keep the two tops and the pants but after further review of the total cost of the three pieces versus the cost of all five with the 25% discount, deciding to buy all five was a no-brainer. What are all five of these pieces costing me? About $200. I usually don't make clothing purchases for myself this large all at one time. On the other hand, maybe this concept of getting a few new pieces every month or so will eliminate my need for the one piece here and one piece there approach I take now. Again, you can choose what the average price of each piece in your shipment will be during the questionnaire process. 

We have limited shopping options in Chico and I don't have time to go perusing in the downtown boutiques Chico does offer. Being able to get this box in the mail and try these clothes on in the comfort of my own room is a lifesaver for my busy lifestyle. And being that I do respect my husbands opinion, the other bonus was I got his feedback too on these items. I will never get him to sit outside a dressing room and give me feedback unless of course we are at Sportsman's Warehouse or Bass Pro Shop.  

So are you ready to get your Stitch Fix yet? If you are, I would kindly ask you to consider using this link. If you do place an order for your Fix, I will get a credit after you get your first Fix. I thank you in advance.

So what do you think? Should I keep it all? Should I send it back? What would you keep? And when are you going to schedule your first Fix? 

Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c










Thursday, July 3, 2014

Smores in the oven!

9It's that time of year when s'mores are in season. We have yet to go camping this summer (trip is forthcoming though) and I have been craving s'mores. It does not help that each grocery store I frequent has an end cap dedicated to graham crackers, Hershey bars and marshmallows. Well today the marketing executives won - I crumbled under the peer pressure I felt from the $1 coupon being offered for purchasing all three items. But I have no campfire? That's okay. We made these s'mores in the oven! 

Let it be known I am not being compensated by any of the brands represented in the picture. That being said, I highly recommend you go with name brand ingredients for this simple and fun treat. Nobody does marshmallows like Kraft and Nabisco has the market cornered on the crackers too. And the Hershey bar and Reese's peanut butter cups - there is no substitute. Of course they are your treats to make but you can't say I didn't warn you. 

This is easy. 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grab a cookie sheet and alert the kids. They can help with this one. 


Have the kids place 12 cracker halves on the cookie sheet. 


Next place six marshmallows on six of the crackers. 


Unwrap the candy bar and the peanut butter cups. 

Stop, have you never had a peanut butter cup s'more? You my friends are about to have a life changing food moment. 

Break the Hershey bar into four pieces and have the kids place on four of the remaining crackers. Remove the paper from the Reese's peanut butter cups and place on the remaining two crackers. 



Place in the preheated 400 degree oven for 4-5 minutes. Watch them. Do not leave the kitchen. Besides its only 4-5 minutes. 

The marshmallows will get puffy and the chocolate will be shiny and soft. 



Since these are hot, an adult should handle the assembly. Flip the marshmallow and cracker over onto a chocolate covered cracker and press lightly. 

Pour a glass of milk and serve. 


If you are like me, you will give the chocolate only ones to the kids and save the peanut butter cup ones for you and the spouse! 

And there you have it, s'mores without having to light a campfire. 



This recipe was approved by my kids and my husband as evidenced by the chocolate smiles. 

From our family to yours, have a spectacular 4th of July! ~ mrs. c

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hooked on fishing

There is an awesome program in our local community, and from what I am told, also takes place in other places too. Nonetheless Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs is a free fishing day for kids under 14 that takes place at Horseshoe Lake in Upper Bidwell Park. Before this annual event they plant 8000 pounds of catfish in the lake! There is a one fish per child limit and frankly, the only way you are not going to get a fish is if you choose not to put your line in the water. To make it easy for anyone to participate, they provide poles, bait, assistance from local fishing gurus and free fish cleaning. There is nothing bad about any of this program. We wanted to be there early because anyone who knows anything about fishing knows you go as soon as the sun comes up. Duh! We were not there that early but lets just say we left so early that I did not get to watch The Pioneer Woman this morning. That's okay. Being there to watch my boys catch their first fish was the best reason to get up early on a Saturday morning. And I took lots of pictures so let this be your warning, this blog post is long and loaded with pictures of my favorite little boys and my favorite fishing guru, my husband.









Can you see the intensity in his face? 




 My favorite picture of the day. 

Dalton's catch!

He is so proud. Look at that smile.



As the fish grabs the worm, Clayton said, "I think something is happening here." Dad helped reel him in. 


Clayton was excited for the catch but is not a big fan of the slimy fish. 

And tonight dinner was courtesy of my little boys. Fish tacos. Yum!

I hope you made memories today that will last a lifetime. I know we did. 

Thanks for reading! ~mrs.c 

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