Back in AZ–Part 2

20170111_155926
We left Tucson and headed for my mom’s in Mesa.  Aside from a small trip back down to Tucson, we stuck around her place for a while. We visited family and friends and just relaxed.

20170114_190121

cousins ❤

We were able to go to the Arizona Science Center, for free, using the Mesa Public Library’s Culture Pass. It was nice to ride the lightrail all the way from the east valley to downtown and not have to find or pay for parking. The Science Center was so much fun and it was a great way to spend a day “schooling”.

Another place that we were able to go to for no charge, was the Japanese Friendship Garden. It was a very small place, but a serene and calm and beautiful space amongst the skyscrapers. I couldn’t even hear the drone of the vehicles on Interstate 10 that zips nearby. Speaking of which, the park next door to the gardens is on top of the tunnel that I-10 in downtown Phoenix goes through. All these years I assumed skyscrapers were on top of that tunnel!
20170322_125040
20170322_125836We did a little hiking along the Salt River in hopes of seeing the wild horses roaming. We didn’t see any but had a great time anyways.

We went to the Ostrich Festival in Chandler with my mom, brother & his kids. We saw Eddie Money and Starship perform. We watched high divers and acrobats. And the girls rode on their very 1st ferris wheel!
20170311_18434720170311_190729
20170311_185020Lilly celebrated her 6th birthday which is always fun to do with family around. She chose ice cream cake, pizza and watched the real life Beauty & The Beast at the theater, after a round of glow in the dark mini golf.
PhotoGrid_1490560180834
She also celebrated the break of a bone. Her first. Her and Violet were racing full speed on their bicycles and had a collision. Her pinky finger suffered a small crack. She was so excited to get an Xray (they even gave her a copy of it!) and a cast: a sparkly blue cast.

Before the cast incident, the day she broke it, we had plans and a hotel stay in Tucson at Desert Diamond Casino. They have a free program for veterans where you can get 1 night a month. We’ve loved going there and swimming over the years. So, there was Lilly, bruised swollen finger and jumping and swimming in the pool. So strong and not a care in the world. It wasn’t until the next day that her finger looked worse and we decided to take her in to get an xray.

Jeff spent days scraping the old decals off the RV. They were sun damaged and cracking and just looked crappy. Now that they’re removed it looks cleaner. Good job hunny!

20170402_151507

We also took a side trip to California to visit one of my best friends and the girls’ first trip to Disneyland!! (post coming soon)

Happy 1 year Nomadiversary!

May marked our one year of living fulltime in the RV. ONE YEAR! Our one year nomadiversary! And we’re all alive! We have had ups and downs. We have had trials and triumphs, ah-ha moments and lots of fun. It hasn’t been easy the whole way. For instance, our Internet often sucks, hence why it’s June and this is just now getting posted. I’d never want anyone to think this lifestyle is the easiest because it’s not. But we wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s been a wild ride and I’ll share our highlights in this post.

Our ever changing yard!

Some of the spots we have found have been extraordinary! We’ve spent the night on the beach, lulled to sleep by the crashing waves. We’ve had Pronghorn Antelope prance through our “backyard”. We’ve stayed at numerous vineyards, one where we drank copious amounts of wine, got to clean the vats and enjoyed the company of the owner for multiple nights. We’ve stayed at numerous friends and family’s front (& back) yards. We’ve stayed outside of the glass company where Jeff gets all of his glass & equipment from. And outside the glass school. We’ve also stayed for the occasional night in not so glamorous places: Walmart, truck stops and roadside rest area parking lots. We’ve stayed in the desert, surrounded by the sounds of coyotes and a blanket of stars overhead. All of those places have been free or next to free. We’ve stayed at a few regular RV parks as well and those have been wonderful experiences. However, if we’re going to pay for a site, we prefer natonal forest, BLM or state park campgrounds. 

The View!

Our view is never dull or boring. 

Play!

Everywhere we go, we try to find a local playground. It has been a lot of fun seeing the different playgrounds in different cities and towns. Of course, the kids love this part. 

Splash!

We have immensely enjoyed swimming and playing in the water any chance we get.

Firsts

This year was packed full of 1sts for the kids.                                                                      -Lilly lost her 1st two teeth & had her 1st broken bone & cast                                           -Violet learned to ride a pedal bike (no training wheels ever!)                                      -they officially started school (preschool & kindergarten)                                                 -1st trip to Disneyland                                 -1st official haircuts                                          -girls’ 1st time kayaking,  rock climbing, at  a drive-in movie, sledding, ice skating,  playing in fall leaves & slacklining               -their 1st time riding on a boat, a ferris  wheel & a ferry.                                               -1st time meeting a lot of family members and old family friends

Sights (& Sites) 
-several towns along historic Rte 66.             -Meteor Crater.                                                 -2 NASA space centers                                  -16 National Parks & Monuments               -9 State & County parks                                  -7 museums                                                   -13 attractions & roadside oddities              -4 lighthouses                                                    -a few waterfalls                                             -2 historic covered bridges                              -many scenic drives                                         -visited 20 states.   

We’ve had a blast and can’t wait to see what this next year brings. 

Happy travels 🙂 

Home Sweet Home–back in AZ pt 1

20170119_175157
We returned home to AZ for a couple months. Home is now a relative term, considering home is wherever we park. But we claim AZ and will always return. In my opinion, the winter and spring are really the best time to be there. Coming from all the cold, it was refreshing to be in the warmth, sun shining down on us, bare feet in the grass at the park.
20170129_172917

The main reason for us going back to Tucson, was a glass show and Flame Off that Jeff was a part of. It’s a competition held at Sonoran Glass School, which is where he learned to blow glass and he has participated in numerous glass competitions there. This year he was asked to MC a part of it as well. As always, he had a blast creating his piece. All the artists’ pieces went up for auction. And as always, we enjoyed watching him compete. Seeing all the other artists’ work was fantastic! We LOVED looking at everyone’s creations.
PhotoGrid_1486247784867FB_IMG_1486599111680received_101791348164790720170203_223758

For the majority of the time we were dry camping in the desert at a little spot called Snyder Hill. It’s on BLM land, free to use and very convenient of a location. We were maybe 5 miles away from our old house. We were greeted every evening with a show of colors during sunset and the starry sky. We met a family of 4 travelling full time for a while in a VW bus. All of the kids became instant friends and it was nice to see them play almost daily. It was a nice reprieve from their time in TN with barely any kids to play with. They were sad to see their little buddies Jackson and Colton leave.


We took a trip up to Kitt Peak to view the telescopes, take in the views and check out the solar telescope. It had been a while since we were last up there. Years. And we learned from a docent at Kitt Peak, that the solar telescope will be closing next year due to funding. The largest solar telescope in the world. It’s used not just for solar viewing. We’re glad we got to see it once last time. Lilly was very bummed at this news. And so were we.
20170129_12291820170129_115423

20170129_122303

There was a lot of snow up on Mt. Lemmon, the mountains that border Tucson to the north. So we borrowed sleds and headed up the mountain to find a sweet sledding spot. We didn’t even have to drive to the town at the top to find great packs of snow. The girls had a blast sledding, making snow angels, and Violet’s favorite; eating the snow. Some snow got into Lilly’s boot, which hurt her and she swears she’ll never going sledding again because of that. But I think she’ll change her mind.
20170127_142726

20170127_151027


We celebrated Violet’s birthday. We always open gifts 1st thing in the morning and then the bday person gets to choose what to do for the day and what to eat. She chose to see Moana (again), play at the park and eat Subway. Easy peasy. My friend made her an amazing Moana cake too.
PhotoGrid_1485233409912
20170123_103010

At one point during our visit we ended up with our friends Anna & Zach at a county nursery where we were invited inside to look around. They take care of plants that are momentarily displaced with road construction. They also grow native plants for local parks and green spaces. The kids asked if they could help in the greenhouse and were given a baby Saguaro cactus for volunteering. Each of the saguaros were just 3 years old. I was so proud of them for volunteering.
20170124_11031320170124_110100


We went to one of our favorite places: the Sonoran Desert Museum. We no longer have passes to get in and my friend Brianna invited us to come along and use some passes she had. We also went to Saguaro National Park west side so that Violet could earn a Junior Ranger badge since she was too young when Lilly earned hers there. My friend Jackie met up with us for a late breakfast and park day. Time was also spent at our friends Carmin & Will’s home for dinner and playtime. We went to a birthday party at our old neighbor Rochelle’s house and our friend Teresa invited us to another party at a Peter Piper Pizza. The girls were in heaven! We sure missed all of our friends: kids and adults alike. We didn’t even get to see a fraction of our friends in Tucson. Next time we’ll have to aim to see more.
20170125_114725
20170212_13000320170212_12590820170212_120804


During the Flame Off we were allowed to park and stay next to the school. That was very nice and very convenient. While Jeff had his glass show, the girls and I were able to walk downtown for ice cream and a visit to the Children’s Museum. I’ve always loved the old adobe homes in the area around the school so it was nice strolling the street lined with them as opposed to zipping by in the truck. We spent one afternoon at the Gem Show. Apparently it’s the largest of its kind, in the world! The girls also received their first ever haircut (small trim) in their life. Not counting them cutting it themselves 😉
20170203_181010

20170201_170511PhotoGrid_1486438951385


Our boondocking came to a screeching halt when we fried our inverter. The new one that was less than a year old. Less than a year of use. Lots of money. Ugh. It drained the life from our batteries, which were almost a year old. I may as well been blowing my nose with dollar bills. This happened while Jeff was swamped with the glass show and competition. So he couldn’t help with anything. We spent the evenings via camping lantern. Thankfully it wasn’t hot or cold outside so we didn’t need to worry about the furnace or A/C. It took a few days for me to get someone out to look at the trailer. Finally we learned what exactly was fried and set up a plan to have it fixed. But we couldn’t afford it right away. We toughed it out. And it ended up taking over a month to have the money for it. We already had an appointment to get our awning fixed, which ended us in a night at a hotel. With a pool! The kids didn’t mind the cold water. I received a new tattoo, a Christmas present I had gifted myself months prior, and covered a part of my existing arm tattoo.
20170210_15505720170210_120021

Once we got the RV back we headed up to the Phoenix area to see my mom and family. And to wait on our RV power repairs.

The Road that Keeps Going and Going–Texas

20170107_145619
Texas welcomed us with open arms. We crossed the state line at night and stayed at a roadside rest stop/welcome center. We woke to find that the visitor center had lots of great info, maps and a boardwalk with interpretive exhibits through the Blue Elbow  Swamp! It felt like we were at an attraction, not a rest stop. What a great little place to stroll. We didn’t see any alligators, but there were signs posted that they’re there.
20170104_084614
20170104_085434
20170104_090008
We stayed just outside of Houston and thanks to a friend’s friend, we were able to set up camp for free behind the local VFW. We even had water and electric hookups. We spent a lot of time with my buddy Sara and her sweet little boy Michael. It was so great finally meeting him! Sara and I hadn’t seen each other in about 7 years. Catching up was fantastic and as easy as ever. Thanks for hosting, cooking some delicious food and exploring downtown with us. It was neat seeing a park with the city skyline as the background. We walked along the river, underneath the freeway underpasses that twisted and turned above us, played in crunchy leaves and saw a huge hawk perched on the play structure.
20170104_163844
received_994704020635520
20170104_173205We couldn’t be in the area without a trip to the Space Center Houston.  We had SO much fun there! Aside from checking out all the exhibits, we took a tram tour and got to see a mockup of the International Space Station and the Orion capsule. That was fantastic to see it from such a close distance. There were a couple shows we attended: one was a chemistry show and the other was showing life in space on the space station. Not once, but twice Lilly volunteered to go on a stage and was picked from the audience. It was amazing watching her up on stage participating. She was pretty witty for a 5 year old. At the end of the space station show, she was presented with a photo of an astronaut as well as her very own bottle of recycled urine (aka just water). She thought that was absolutely hilarious!
20170105_104942

20170105_125307
20170105_111614

20170105_132031
20170105_143638
20170105_150811
received_996095930496329Next on our Texas route was San Antonio. It worked out so serendipitously that we were taking I10 and it happens to go past where our friends live. In San Antonio we visited and hung out with our great friends Natalie and Kendall. We hadn’t seen them since they moved right after Violet was born. We stayed at a campground just down the street from their house. We were able to hang out with them the whole time we were there. Natalie was our tour guide and we ventured to Pearl for the farmers market where we had coffee, ate fresh mouthwatering food, sampled empanadas and sauerkraut and the kids colored in chalk on the ground and ran wild in the grassy area. When we were done at the market we strolled along the famous River Walk for a bit. The kids stopped, with hot cocoa in hand, sat down, and said they were having coffee. Old souls.
20170107_114736
20170107_105603
20170107_11511020170107_120624
received_996095970496325After our afternoon at Pearl, we headed over to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The kids worked on another Junior Ranger badge.
received_996094197163169
20170107_150344
received_996094670496455
received_996094257163163
Jeff celebrated his birthday while we were in San Antonio and it was great to spend it with close friends. They treated us to a day at Top Golf. What a fun place! Music, food, drinks, golf games on a driving range. The gist is that you have to hit the ball into a certain hole for points. Kind of like a golf meets skeeball meets darts. If that makes sense. The kids enjoyed themselves so much that they STILL keep talking about it and any time they see a driving range they assume it’s a Top Golf and request to go.
20170108_113256.jpg
20170108_113745
20170108_113931
20170108_120858
We made Kendall’s family’s pierogi recipe, all from scratch. In all my years of eating them, I’ve never made them but always wanted to. It was a group effort. Even the kids helped out. Sauerkraut mushroom and potato were the fillings we opted for. The night ended with a song, cake and hugs goodbye to our friends. Until next year! Texas is huge and we still had a lot of ground to cover. We would spend the next day and a half just driving, still in Texas.
received_996953817077207
20170108_181847
20170108_185221
Happy Birthday Jeff!

Rainy Week in Biloxi

20161231_134052When we left Tennessee we headed towards Arizona but made a few pit stops along the way.  Along I-10 we stopped 4 times to visit with friends. Friends we haven’t seen in a few years; a couple friends I hadn’t seen in well over a decade!
20161231_094307
20161229_152612
Our first stop was in Biloxi, Mississippi to visit with our friends Launie and Jeremy. We originally planned to park in the empty lot near their house but in the end decided to park in the neighbor’s driveway. Even though it took a long time to get the trailer correctly into position, parking in the grass would’ve turned out to be a nightmare! It rained. And rained. And did I mention rain?
IMG_6594
IMG_6541
Jeremy had to pull us out of that mud. This was just from the first night of rain. Had we parked the RV back there, it would’ve been quite the unwanted adventure! This 1st day though, we did have clear skies and were able to go to the INFINITY Science Center and toured the Stennis Space Center. So much to see there and all so fascinating!
IMG_6561
received_990275894411666

20161230_105439

The weather didn’t allow us to spend much time at the beach. Being so close to the beach but not going every day was agonizing for the kids. We were walking distance away! So one day, between rain clouds, we visited the beach for a tad. And we did typical tourist things in Biloxi: ate at a buffet, visited the giant shark mouth, and meandered the gift shop aisles.
20170102_101317
20170102_100355
20170102_101540received_993321060773816

We also went to see Moana at the movie theater, we explored a local beachside park, saw the world’s largest rocking chair, and we rung in the New Year with our friends.  The girls earned yet another Junior Ranger badge; this time at Gulf Islands National Seashore. The skies were clear enough that day for us to visit.

IMG_6570

We spent some quality time watching movies, chatting, and making silly faces. Typical rainy day activity.  (thanks for some of these pics Launie!) We had a great time catching up. When we left we stopped along the way to have lunch with my old friend Julie before continuing on to Texas.  See ya next year! Hopefully with less rain;)

Time Flies

20161105_175729
Our time in Tennessee seemed to fly by, yet went slowly too. It’s weird how that can occur.  We filled most free days by doing something, going somewhere, seeing someone.
PhotoGrid_1490941156716
20161105_180006PhotoGrid_1490941994016
20161217_141124
There is so much history in TN; in the area we stayed in. We barely scratched the surface. We visited Cannonsburgh in Murfreesboro where we wandered the old homes and saw the world’s largest cedar bucket! The kids got a kick out of that. We visited the Chattanooga Choo Choo, all dolled up in holiday decorations. Daily I drove by historical marker signs, old cemeteries, and battlegrounds. Right before we left the area, we visited Stones River National Battlefield where the girls earned another Junior Ranger badge and we were fortunate enough to witness the ceremony being held at the National Cemetery. Being that we’re both veterans, it was important for the kids to see this. We helped lay the wreaths on the graves for the Wreaths Across America event.
20161202_134828
IMG_3445-1
20161217_115626
We were so happy that we were able to spend Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas with Jeff’s family. It was nice being close to them for the holidays. We were even able to continue on our tradition of making Christmas cookies for friends and family: in my sister in laws amazing kitchen with DOUBLE OVENS! How sweet that was!
20161126_133826
PhotoGrid_1490940445636
20161217_124912
We did have a bittersweet moment and our sweet 18 years young kitty Chamele peacefully left us. The girls were with Grandma and Grandpa, I was at work and Jeff was at home with her all day. He stayed by her side until she took her last breath. She made it until right before I got home from work. It was like she was trying to hold on to say one last goodbye but just didn’t quite make it. We decided to have her cremated and per the kids’ request, she travels on with us. We sure do miss her.
PhotoGrid_1480132444586

After my contract was up with Amazon, we went down to Chattanooga to stay with Jeff’s parents and to celebrate Christmas. We had fun ice skating, exploring the Christmas lights at Rock City and spending quality time with the family before we headed west.


received_10105032307986313


Until we meet again!
xoxo
PhotoGrid_1490941595086

Seasons Change

IMG_20161021_223141

Right now we’re in the desert and everything is teaming with life and glowing green with pops of color from wildflowers and cacti in bloom. Spring has sprung! It seems so far removed from our experience in the opposite direction; our time in Tennessee during the fall.

20161010_122943

IMG_20161109_154252

We arrived when the trees were full and the days were still long. The air was warm. The sunlight glistened on the broad green leaves and shimmered high above our heads every time the wind blew through the canopy. The sound of leaves flittering about, still attached to branches, hitting into one another. Music.

20161110_121324

And then everything started to change. Soon, the forest around us went orange and brown. The sky that was once only seen through peek-a-boos between the leaves suddenly became this immense blanket of blue high above our heads. We no longer had the shade. And something magical happened that the kids have never seen.

IMG_0131

IMG_0150

The quintessential showing of fall time: piles of fallen leaves. One day the kids were outside playing and a gust of wind blew through the trees, taking the leaves from their perch and down to the ground in a rainshower of leaves. They stopped playing and stared up into the sky in wonderment. They had never seen the changing of leaves or witnessed them falling. They were in awe!

IMG_0047

For the next few weeks they raked piles and jumped into them. They ran through them. They buried things in them. They laid in them. They tried to get the dog to run through them.
IMG_0112

IMG_0066

They ran full speed ahead into the piles. They jumped off chairs and tables. They had so much fun playing in the leaves. It was amazing watching them enjoy it so much. Our little desert babies. They had never seen such a sight!

IMG_0128

We alsao spent a great deal of time walking on the crunchy leaves. I love that sound! Crunch, crunch.  I feel so grateful to have had the chance for the kids to experience this; something that I remember fondly about my childhood. And now even though we’re back in the desert, we’re watching all of the barren trees bud and quickly turn green. The circle of seasons and life continues.
IMG_20161109_154002

Our intro to hiking in Tennessee

20161021_134800

I think our time in Tennessee was the most hiking we have done with the kids in such a short amount of time. There were weeks that we didn’t get to go out and explore due to weather, my work schedule and Jeff’s shows. But we were able to see a lot and still barely scratched the surface of places to explore in middle Tennessee. We already have plans to see more when we return next fall.

20161110_120833

20161110_113447(0)

IMG_20161110_112041We visited the Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, TN and loved the area! We were the only people on the trail. In some areas you couldn’t even see the trail as it was covered in fallen leaves. Thankfully, the trail was marked on the trees so we weren’t lost for days in the woods. We tried to find Machine Falls but couldn’t find a path to view it.  So we continued on the trail and ended up at the top of the falls.  Or rather, where the falls should have been but because of the drought the falls weren’t flowing.  It will be interesting to visit again and see the falls actually falling;)

20161021_140907

20161021_140605

20161021_135213

Not far from Chattanooga, across the state line in Georgia, was Cloudland Canyon State Park. Oh my goodness we HAVE to go back there! What a gem. Beautiful views and a fun visitor center where we got to pet a rescued and soon to be rehabilitated opposums! They are very soft.

20161011_151321

20161011_160537


We visited Old Stone Fort State Park in Manchester numerous times. It was interesting seeing the change in the falls with the changes in the rainfall. The park had no entry fee and was a short drive from our campground. There was an easy path and waterfalls which lured us back again and again.

20161202_142252

IMG_20161124_065520

20161202_100813Our campground was atop a hill and provided us with a nice, quiet, windy dirt road to walk up and down. There were also greenways both in Manchester and Murfreesboro that we enjoyed strolling along.

IMG_20161027_173054We became members of the children’s Discovery Center in Murfreesboro and there happened to be a walking path along the swamp. Any time we would go to the center, we would explore the outside area as well.

Beginning of Fall–Our Time in Tennessee

20161004_194237
It’s hard to believe that many months have already passed since we were in Tennessee. This RVing life has made it possible to live by anyone and anything we desire. For as long as we want. Sure, it has come with challenges, but the benefits have outweighed those. This last fall we spent a few months in TN where I worked at an Amazon fulfillment center that just so happened to be less than 2 hours from Jeff’s parents and sister and her family. And one of his cousins lived even closer. It was fantastic to be so near and spend the holidays with this part of our family that we normally don’t.
20161002_151343
PhotoGrid_1490337571481
Our free time was filled with a parade, a fair, hiking, playing, laughing, snuggling, eating delicious food, making new friends and exploring new places. One weekend a couple of his cousins came to town for a visit and all 15 of us went to a farm to play and pick pumpkins.
PhotoGrid_1490340235453
20161029_123530
We celebrated Halloween while in TN. Amazon hosted an open house and trunk-or-treating. Then on Halloween we hosted a party at the campground. So, the girls got to dress up twice!
20161002_162802PhotoGrid_1490336928586We also spent Thanksgiving with his parents. And the rest of the campground. Someone at the campground hosted a potluck Thanksgiving. It was nice to cook one dish as opposed to a whole meal. A community meal for this day may be a new tradition! We also learned that our oven doesn’t work in the RV. We had never tried it before, but found out when we tried to warm a dish. Our neighbors happily took care of it for us: the warming of the food, not the oven. We still have no working oven.

We had lots of fun in Chattanooga when we would visit our family. The downtown area is so beautiful and it seems there are always free, family friendly events happening. Just strolling along the river and people watching was a joy. The kids quickly learned to love the art of sledding: on a cardboard box down a grass hill. Once they got a taste of that, they wanted to do it any time we saw a grassy hill.
20161015_150334.jpg

That face pretty much sums up the fun that was had.
(more TN adventures to follow…)

Summer Fruits-picking our own

IMG_20160824_232304

 

We just consumed the last of our frozen summer fruit. For years, even before we had the kids, we would go to a nearby farm or orchard and pick all we could and then spend all day prepping, cutting, peeling, freezing, blending, canning our bounty. And in the middle of winter (if you want to call January in AZ winter) we open a container of summer peaches and it is magical. I’m drooling just thinking about it. There is something satisfying about picking my own food fresh from the tree or vine or bush, seeing where and how it grows and then consuming it. I chose which were ripe, plucked them and brought them home. It’s an experience that I love. And I think the rest of the family concurs.

20160824_122223

 

When we were in Indiana/Michigan this last summer we went to an orchard with my cousin and her kids. It was a day with rain in the forecast and we encountered some light rain but opted to go anyways. We picked apples and pears and peaches and blueberries and raspberries. There were black raspberries! I didn’t even know those existed! And we had the entire orchard to ourselves!

The kids went from picking to exploring to picking again. Violet ate copious amounts of berries. She was apparently the taste tester. We left the orchard with a load of fruit and berries.
20160824_113714FB_IMG_1472069913897

We spent the next week or so eating the fresh, juicy pears and peaches as they ripened. We made applesauce. We froze the berries to be used later for smoothies, yogurt or to simply snack on. I decided to flash freeze them this time so we could pull them out individually as opposed to a big glob if they are frozen all at once together in a bag. Frozen berries are a scrumptious snack! The kids love them.

Spring and summer are almost upon us and I can’t wait to find more orchards and farms along our journey so we can pick more. The only thing holding us back is our teeny tiny RV freezer.
FB_IMG_1472069757259**For a view of this silly girl in the blueberry patch, follow this link to watch the video.