Thursday, July 30, 2020

Monthly Musings: Summer Vacations & Staycations

Through the What's Up Wednesday link I've discovered a new blogger, Holly who blogs at Pink Lady. When Holly mentioned on Monday that she was hosting a link up for today, AND it was a post to answer questions AND the questions were about vacations/staycations -- well, if you know anything about me, you know I was all in! Also hosting this link up is Patty who blogs at Good Better Best.

1) Top 5 items you pack when headed on vacation?

I really struggled with this question. I had my family helping me and everything. I was trying to think of things that I take no matter what -- if I'm going on a warm weather vacation, going to my parents' house for Christmas, or going away overnight. Maybe I limited myself too much :) Sam was also very disappointed that I refused to add "clothes" to my list because I felt like that was a given. So here are five things I pack, no matter what, that other people might not place as much importance on:

    1) Books to read, or now my Kobo, I guess. Although to be honest, we're flying to my
        parents' tonight and I have my Kobo and some books. I just don't want to run out :)
    2) My camera. We bought a digital SLR about seven years ago and it goes everywhere
        with me. I don't take my phone with me all the time, but my camera will get packed.
    3) Lots of shoes! I realize everyone takes shoes but I always over pack on shoes. I can
        go light on everything else but let me take my shoes!!!
    4) Slippers or indoor flipflops, depending on the season. I HATE going barefoot so I
        always have a separate pair of footwear for inside.
    5) Necklaces. I am addicted to necklaces so I always have quite a few with me.

If you want to read more about how I pack, I did a post on that here for our packing process for our cruise this past January. (Although I don't write too much about what I pack.)

2) Packing cubes? Yes or no?

I haven't bought any yet. I was going to buy some as my birthday present in May but the pandemic hit in March and it felt unnecessary to buy travel items. However, I really do want to get some at some point. Maybe for Christmas???

3) Do you prefer warm or cold destinations?

I had to think about this for a bit but then I realized I love heading somewhere warm in the middle of our winter. Of course, I also love heading somewhere slightly cooler in the heat of our summer. So it really depends! We've had two warm weather cruises in January and have gone to Mexico in February. However, we've also gone to Iceland and the Yukon and Alaska in July!

from our Southern Caribbean cruise, January 2020

in The Yukon, July 2019
trip to Iceland, July 2018

4) Favourite vacation location of all time?

I struggled with this one a little bit but then my husband reminded me how much I LOVE New York City. And I am not a big city person! However, my love for New York knows no bounds. I'm thankful that Dave has family just north of the city so we have an excuse to visit every year (or so).

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in January 2019.
However, if I had to pick a vacation to do over again, I would definitely choose our trip to Kenya to visit friends in July 2017. We chose to go to Kenya because our friends lived there, otherwise it would not have been on our radar. And we would have missed visiting an amazing country.

Pictures from our safari, when we also visited a Maasai village.

5) Given our state of affairs, what are your staycation tips?

We have done a couple of staycations. My tips are to say "Yes!" as much as possible -- ice cream for breakfast - Yes!, three rounds of mini golf in a row - Yes!, stay up past bedtime to watch movies - Yes! Saying "yes!" makes it fun for everyone.

We also eat out to keep food simple. After all, I want a break too. We also get input from everyone in the family but we have a few special surprises up our sleeves. Having some unexpected fun makes it special too.

If you want to read about our staycations you can see one from December 2013 here, and one from February 2016 here and here. You can see that we combine simple things with special things. We also had a staycation in August 2018 but I didn't blog about it. I think we might need to plan another staycation for the fall...

6) Camping? Glamping? Or!

Glamping, but only if it's in my parents backyard! We sleep out in the tent, have a weiner roast and marshmallows at the fire pit, and we're only steps from indoor plumbing. Plus all the food stays in the kitchen so we don't have to pack it. It's a win for everyone!!!

7) How many states have you been to?

I did a Q&A post recently and this was one of the questions. Thus I figured out I have been to 27 states and all ten Canadian provinces and one of its three territories. (Since I'm Canadian, I had to throw that in there!) Also, as I explained in that post, I don't count states where I've only been to the airport.

Visiting Alaska last summer

8) Have you ever traveled by RV?

Yes, when I was in Grade 9 I traveled with my grandparents to visit my aunt in Kansas for spring break. We took their RV and I really enjoyed it.

9) Most random place you have been to?

I don't even know how to answer this one but I'm choosing "The biggest ball of twine in Minnesota." We were planning a road trip, through the States, to visit my parents in 2016. I was reading a Pinterest article about "the most bizarre things to visit in each state" or something like that. I said, "Hey, we could go to the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota."

Dave perked up, "That actually exists?!?!?" Weird Al Yankovic has a song about it (which you can listen to here) and Dave thought it was a made up thing. When he found out we would only have to drive an extra 45 minutes (on a 72 hour road trip) to see it, well... you can read about that detour here! Lesson learned: Don't share random things you find on Pinterest with your husband! Hahaha!!!
Dave made a road trip CD for that trip, and that song was on it, and we listened to it about a thousand times. By the end of the trip, we had the song memorized and even sang it for a coffeehouse at our church later that year.

10) What is the first place you are traveling to when the pandemic is over?

Well, we're flying to my parents' tonight but I don't know if that counts. It feels more like visiting my parents than traveling somewhere. I'm hoping we'll get to travel to Los Angeles for my husband's cousin's wedding next spring. They had to postpone it from this past May :( I'd also really like to get to Europe with our kids. We were just starting to dream about how to do that in the next couple of years when the pandemic hit...

Thank you Holly and Patty for hosting this fun link up! If you decide to answer these questions, let me know. I love reading about other people's vacations almost much as I enjoy taking them!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What's Up Wednesday: July 2020

Welcome to What's Up Wednesday for July. I'm linking up with Shay at Mix and Match Mama and Sheaffer at Sheaffer Told Me To.
image from here

What we're eating this week... We're still loving our CSA and all the fresh veggies we've been getting lately. I also love that we get edible flowers and I've been enjoying them in all sorts of salads. Yum!!!
Our raspberry patch was producing for a few weeks and we enjoyed going out and picking them to eat right away. I added some to my ice cream one night. I LOVE yellow raspberries especially :)

What I'm reminiscing about... We went back and forth and round and round and finally decided to go visit my parents in Saskatchewan this summer. Thus, I am totally reminiscing about previous Saskatchewan summer visits. My parents live in the country and we enjoy visiting them so much!
Rachel loves mowing with my dad.

I love reading on the deck
The kids love playing mini golf!
And we love weiner roasts, campfires and sleeping in the tent.
And of course we LOVE seeing Oma and Opa!!!

What I'm loving... Dave's parents have been taking the kids a couple of times a week for Grandma and Grandpa Day Camp! The kids have loved seeing them in person again and I've loved having some time to do some errands, read, or just get other things done.

We've also been able to go to our pool and the kids even took swimming lessons last week. Their swimming has improved so much since last summer and I love how much they love it.

What we've been up to...  Besides swimming, we've also been up to a bunch of relaxing summer things.

We were able to have our first in-person, small group from church gathering. We had it in one family's backyard and they built a climbing wall during quarantine. Rachel was very excited to check it out!

A rundown building in our neighbourhood is finally being dealt with. The construction company put up a really nice fence and community members were invited to create works of art to decorate the fence. We went and checked out the art which had been created thus far. We can't wait to see more!

Rachel and I baked pretzels the other day. They were delicious and we will absolutely be making them again. They require using a lot of dishes but don't take that much time to make.
The kids have been doing all the puzzles lately. We bought some new ones during quarantine and they've also been keeping us entertained on these really hot afternoons.

What I'm dreading... We are flying to Saskatchewan (as opposed to taking three or four days to drive there) and, thanks to Covid, I'm dreading the airport and airplane travel. It is such a privilege to be able to go and see my parents but, ugh, I'm not looking forward to the "getting there and back" portion of the trip.

What I'm working on... I mentioned this in a post last week but I'm currently doing a virtual walk of the Camino de Santiago from France to Spain. I'm trying to be more active overall so I'm only counting intentional walks for this trek. (Another option would be just to count every step I take in a day through my FitBit.) However, I'm pretty far behind on this right now so I'm trying to take lots of walks to make up some distance.

What I'm excited about... BASEBALL IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is from the Blue Jays season opener. And I'm currently watching the Jays and Nationals game. Baseball just makes me sooooo happy I don't even care that we won't see a game in person this year.

Also, this message from my beloved Blue Jays just made me cry. I'm such a sap.
Dear Blue Jays Fans, It has been a while since we experienced OUR normal - family, friends, and fans gathering and sharing Blue Jays baseball… together. The world has changed so much since we said, “see you in the spring.” We pressed pause on the game we love. We stopped, listened, and reflected. We came together as a nation to give back to those that needed it most. It is now time to press play on a new Opening Day and on a game that, although looks a little different, is the same one we know and love. What has not changed, however, is the anticipation of Opening Day’s first pitch, first hit, first out, and the story the nine innings will tell. While today we cannot be at Rogers Centre with you, we know you are with us every pitch. Distance makes the heart grow founder. We wish it didn’t has to be this way, but know it will make our return home that much more special, and it makes us appreciate you, our fans, even more. Together. #WeAreBlueJays Enjoy Opening Day! Your Toronto Blue Jays

What I'm watching/reading... For what I'm watching, see above :) As for what I'm reading, I participated in a readathon (sort of) this past weekend. I read for 24 out of 48 hours and below are all the books I read. I wrote a post about my readathon, and the different books I read, yesterday and you can read it here.

What I'm listening to... Baseball!!!

What I'm wearing... We've been wearing masks over here. We got some really cool ones from my friend. And then I ordered a couple of special ones for the kids from some young adults from our church. Since I have no sewing skills, I'm so thankful that many people are making masks for us.
Masks we got from a good friend of ours. I LOVE all her great fabrics.

Sam got Darth Vader and Rachel got both a unicorn and a bunny.
The embroidery on these is amazing!

What I'm doing this weekend... Hugging my parents!!! Whoooo hooooo!!!

What I'm looking forward to next month... We'll be in Saskatchewan for two weeks. I'm looking forward to sleeping in the tent in Mom and Dad's backyard, having wiener roasts, eating the fresh veggies from Mom and Dad's garden, and happy hour on the deck! Whoooo hooooo!!!

What else is new... We've never owned a TV in our entire relationship. In fact, I think it's been twenty years since I've lived in a house with a TV. We stream baseball games or Disney+ on our computers. However, our best friends had an extra TV which they were looking to get rid of. So now we have a TV -- which is basically just a bigger monitor (with better sound) for our computers. Ha!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

My Own Personal 24in48

So if you've followed me on Instagram for any amount of time, you'll know that I LOVE participating in readathons. One of my favourite ones normally happens twice a year -- 24in48. The idea is that you read for 24 hours in a 48 hour period. The founders decided not to run 24in48 this July due the awareness of Black Lives Matters and wanting to allow space for more reading events hosted by Black people. I understand their reasoning completely.

I had already suspected an official 24in48 wasn't going to happen and had already decided to do my own this past weekend. I have a huge stack of library books that I want to read and I tend to read between ten and twelve books in a 24in48 weekend so I thought this would be a good way to get through some of them.

Since I haven't written much about what I've been reading lately, I decided to do a "real time" blog post. (I didn't actually write this blog post throughout the weekend but this will give you somewhat of an idea of how the weekend went.) So enjoy my own personal 24in48 documentation:

4:04pm Friday -- I hadn't decided exactly when to start my readathon. Normally 24in48 starts at midnight but I thought I might start mine a little earlier. However, I wanted to watch the first Blue Jays game of the season so...

Anyways, here was my aspirational TBR. I tried to be aware of adding in books about racism and by diverse voices.
10:12pm -- The Jays won their season opener against Tampa Bay and I decided to start reading at 10:30. Dave and the kids were in bed and late night reading is usually one of my most productive times.
10:39pm -- I was finally ready to go. And yes, I do readathons as much for the excuse to eat great snacks as I do for the reading!!! And I didn't mean to start with The Guardians by John Grisham but I was halfway done it and decided to just finish it off.
1:54am -- After three hours of reading, and with only thirty pages to go in The Guardians, I decided to head off to bed. I was pretty tired.
10:08am -- I got a later start than I had intended on Saturday but I was finally ready to continue reading with some fresh blueberries, some coffee-hot chocolate and two books. I'd taken The Dutch House out of the library in early March and still hadn't gotten around to it. I did read about forty pages at the pool at the end of June but I needed to finish it. So I started my morning off with that one.
12:20pm -- I made good progress, got sucked into The Dutch House, and finished it in a couple of hours. I read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett quite a few years ago and, for me, no book of hers has measured up to it. However, The Dutch House was definitely better than State Of Wonder and Commonwealth. I probably need to re-read Bel Canto and see if I like it as much. I also finished The Guardians. Again, I want to re-read some of Grisham's earlier works. I liked that this one looked at the innocence of black men (especially) on Death Row but it felt like something was...missing...
2:30pm -- I started Cilka's Journey, and switched to reading outside, in the shade on the driveway since it was a hot day. Everyone raves about The Tattooist of Auschwitz but I thought this book, by the same author, was way better. And since some of my great-aunts spent time in Siberia, I really resonated with this book. I finished Cilka's Journey at about 6:30. (I did try to read one of the books on racism for about half an hour but it was very dense and I decided to not finish it. Boo.)
Then I picked up A Good Neighborhood. This book made me uncomfortable to read. It was about a man who used his white privilege for selfish reasons and ended up ruining people's lives. It was just so sad. The author writes about how she basically felt she had permission from Zadie Smith to write from Black people's perspective and I don't know if I agree with that. I'd love to have a book club about this book because it just didn't sit well with me for a number of reasons. Have any of you read it? What do you think about some of these questions???
Around 11:15, I picked up The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West. This book made me think. The essays are powerful. It made me feel both sad and hopeful for our world. I crawled into bed around 2am and read until almost 3 to finish this book. I just couldn't put it down. Plus only eight hours left to read on Sunday felt very do-able.
I started my morning around 9am with The Wife Stalker. This book was due at the library which is why I reached for it next. I finished it around 1pm but I have to admit, it didn't really hold my attention, I didn't love it, and (spoiler alert) the very last sentence of the book makes it end very murkily, which I hate. I LOVED The Last Mrs Parrish by this same author (these same authors?!??!) and think it might have been their best book.
Around 1pm, Dave took the kids swimming, I took a quick lunch break, and picked up this book of essays. While I didn't appreciate the author as a person (I don't agree with her on-again, off-again affair with another staff person while they were both in other relationships), I did enjoy this look into working at The White House. It made me want to try and get a job there at some point! I guess I'd have to ditch my family or convince them to move! Ha! And clearly there would need to be a different president.
By 5:40, I only had an hour left to read. My Sunday reading felt like it went really quickly. I picked up When Stars Are Scattered for Sam because of a recommendation from Allena. Rachel has read it a few times and I really liked it too. I feel like it's a good book to help kids understand life from a very different perspective. And it was a very good reminder to me of how privileged we are to be waiting for life after this Covid pandemic in our North American comfort.
Technically, I had about six minutes left to read to reach 24 hours when I finished this book. I picked up one of Rachel's Rainbow Magic Fairies books to help me finish off the time. Those books are as insipid as I imagined they would be but Rachel LOVES them and I can totally see why!
And here is my final stack of books read along with my time. I finished with two and a half hours to go of the 48 hours. It took me a little longer to finish because I ate supper with my family and we talked with my parents for about half an hour.

It felt very different doing a 24in48 without the social media community. I had only me to keep me motivated. However, I also didn't get distracted by social media so that was also good. I am quite proud of the fact that I managed to finish this without external motivation.

Sadly, my library due dates dictated what I read to a certain extent and I don't think I did a good job of reaching for a lot of diverse books. I also don't think the non-fiction books on racism are good readathon books because I want to digest them slowly as opposed to powering through them for a readathon, if that makes sense.

And now I probably need another readathon because I have five more holds to pick up at the library, four books to read on my Kobo, and this is my current library book stack: