Vacation is for the Dogs

Well, the dog. One of the reasons that I was initially hesitant to adopt a pet (especially a dog!) was the fear that the fur balls would interfere with our summertime lifestyle of spontaneous road trips. Not to worry! After (as in, the day after) a quick trip across the country with my sister, that spark was lit and Clint and I decided to squeeze in one more trip before heading back to school. We toyed around with different ideas about what to do with our 5 month old 25 lb puppy before deciding to pack her in and head out on the open road! After throwing some clothes into a duffle and packing Scout an overnight bag of food, treats, and toys, we were ready to go to New England the next morning.

Traveling with a dog is no joke – especially for brand new “pet parents.” I never thought I would be one of those people who take their animals everywhere, but here I am, dog in tow wherever I go! We chose to camp on most of trip, because we are just tent-camping kinds of people. One of the biggest adjustments that we made to our travel style was the speed of the trip – sloooow and lots of breaks! Normally, we get in the car and drive as far as we possibly can before hunkering down for the night someplace on the way. This trip, we stopped in northern Virginia and the Delaware Water Gap en route to Cape Cod.

Once we neared Boston, we thought it would be crazy not to see the city, so we decided to check out Hotwire (old faithful!) for a hotel. Surprisingly, we were able to grab a room at the swanky Hyatt Regency for an awesome price AND they were pet friendly (with a hefty fee). Initially, I was very unsure about bringing my rowdy dog into some nice hotel, but the staff could not have been any more accommodating. Turns out, a lot of people really love dogs. I would suggest making sure there is a grassy area nearby for your dog to … you know. We ended up walking over to the doggie park at the famed Boston Common to walk Scout in the morning and at night after sightseeing.

As far as city life, this country dog was a CHAMP! She loved everyone and really enjoyed the exercise. Restaurants were obviously a challenge. We still love good food, so we hit up some food trucks by the harbor, got takeout Chinese from Chinatown, and splurged on room service.

Once we were out of the city and on the Cape, we used the AllStays app to find a campground that allowed dogs. Most do, but you never know. We stayed at the State Park (always my favorite – mostly tent campers there and usually not a lot of “riff-raff” as my Dad says). We spent a lot of time hiking and letting Scout swim in the beautiful ponds. We did venture up to Provincetown one day to go to the beach, which she loved.

All in all, I feel like the small sacrifices we made were well worth the experience of traveling with our big fur ball in tow. I think that meeting so many new people really helped our puppy with her socializing skills, and it may have helped us too. So many nice folks approached us to talk to Scout. We had an amazing trip, only made better by puppy cuddles in the tent and marshmallow treats by the campfire. I only wish that Little Red the kitten could have made it ;)

In Praise of Small

So apparently the average size of a new house built in the United States is around 2,400 square feet. The average price tag is nearly $200,000 in North Carolina. This is nothing new, and its definitely the norm for newlyweds to dream of living in a McMansion one day. In fact, I think its becoming socially weird to not want this. When we went through our nightmare renovation last year (I can’t believe its been a year!), many people remarked on what a nice “starter house” we would have once it was all over. We’ve lived in less than 1,000 square feet since we got married four years ago, and have no plans to upsize. Sure, everyone is quick to say that when we have kids we will want something bigger/better/newer/nicer. But all of those things come with a hefty price tag, and we are totally happy where we are right now. Do my future children deserve a bigger house?

I will never forget having a conversation with someone about my age during the process of buying our first place. His words followed another comment about the “starter house” idea : “Well, you can upsize because you’ll always have a mortgage.” I understand the sentiment – buy small, sell, and use the equity for a down payment on a better place. But when does this process stop? Should I still be paying a mortgage at 80 years old? Honestly, its just not worth that to me. I would rather raise my children in 950 square feet and use my financial freedom to let them experience the world. In fact, hopefully this quaint little place will be free and clear by the time the kids arrive in the picture. A lofty goal, but not out of reach.

Let me admit, I was once part of the McMansion dreamers. Not long after we graduated from college, Clint and I bought a beautiful piece of land on a pond in a pretty upscale neighborhood. It was a great deal. We purchased the property knowing that there was a 2,400 square foot minimum building restriction in place. It didn’t take us long to realize that this was not our dream, but society’s dream for us. We would have had to work for years to build that “dream house” and decades to pay for it. Sounds a bit restrictive to me… all for a media room, a home office, and a formal living room (all three of which are comprised by my cozy family room here). After a couple of months, we quickly sold the land for a profit that would become the cash that renovated our new place. I hope that other young people can start to see that it’s okay to live small – your starter house can be your forever house :)

Cutting The Cord

Lots of people have asked me about this subject, so I’m going to write up a quick post for the record. It has been about a year since Clint and I decided to “cut the cord” with our satellite TV. Our catalyst was moving, which gave us about a month of no TV before moving in with my parents to work on our house. We have been going strong for about 6 months here at the new house and will never go back to paying for satellite.

To stream TV from the internet, you will need some kind of device. We chose the Roku HD for its cost effective price point, but you could also go with the new Google Chromecast (no Amazon Prime, though), the Amazon Fire TV, or any of those newfangled gaming consoles. We also bought a Roku Streaming Stick for another TV in our house and love it – plus it is only $49!

Although there are plenty of free channels available on our Roku, to get the most access to content, you will want to subscribe to some kind of streaming service. We currently have Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. We also bought an HD antenna to get out local channels.

Here’s how the cost breaks down (for 1 TV) -
Roku Streaming Stick – $49
HD Ultra Thin Antenna – $9
Total hardware costs – $58 (less than we paid for one month of satellite!)

Our monthly costs are $7.99/mo for Netflix and ~$8.25/mo for Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime also includes free two-day shipping (why we got it in the first place, years ago), a Kindle lending library, and streaming music. All in all – a great deal!

Adventures in Kidhood

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As our school year drew to a close, Clint and I were excited to set off on another beach adventure with one of our favorite kiddos. I’ve already recounted our trials in traveling with a toddler a couple of years ago, now we have ourselves an official “big boy.” After remarking to Connor that he was “my baby,” he quickly informed me that he’s “already been a baby, and now he is a person.” Thanks, kid!

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We discovered that travelling with a kid instead of a toddler does not require fewer bags. Our car was again packed to the brink with clothes, swimsuits, beach umbrellas, sand toys, snacks, coolers, electronics (both mine and his – 3 iPads between us all!) and about a million other things.

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Although we set off with grand plans of water parks, movies, aquariums, and other exciting events, we ended up spending almost all of our time hanging out at the beach or the pool making friends. Hearing the phrase “Wanna play?!” from the mouths of children reminds me of that childhood innocence and the deep belief that everyone is inherently your friend. I think that adults could take a few tips from our younger counterparts in that regard.

 

All in all, we had a great trip. The three of us were exhausted by the end of the trip – Connor was even asleep before we pulled out of the condo parking lot! Clint and I stopped for a quick dinner with Mimi and Grandpapa (Connor’s 2nd shift stand-in parents) and then headed back home to get ready for our next trip!

 

I Survived Third Grade- Volume 2

I wrote about the first day of school back in August, so it only seems fitting that I wrap up my thoughts about this school year. As I left my empty classroom today, after learning that I will be moving to my third classroom in as many years, I definitely had a bittersweet attitude about my experience this year.

I absolutely loved my students, but it was a difficult and trying year. So many changes and challenges to overcome along with my students. Watching them grow into these interesting little people was the highlight of my year. Here’s to another year! But first, let me find my book and a cold drink for the next 2 months….

Road Trip Essentials

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Two words: pack light! Besides the obvious camping gear, here are a few things that were most handy on our month-long journey by car.

A good daypack is absolutely key! I used this REI Flash Pack has a roomy main compartment, two stretchy side pockets, and a nice place to put a water reservoir. It is also pretty budget friendly!
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Spotify Premium is well worth the $10 monthly subscription fee. Playlists can be made available offline on a mobile device, which was great for the many miles traveled with no cell service!

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I wore this pair of black, stretchy crop pants more often that I’d like to admit. They are comfortable for long drives as well as outdoor activities. They dry quickly for impromptu laundry in a sink. These were around $20 at Target, but you can certainly get fancy and spend much more at REI or Lululemon :)

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Baby wipes were a last minute addition to my car bag and I ended up replenishing them throughout the trip. They were fantastic for cleaning up car messes, taking off makeup at night, and the obvious on-the-go hand washing.

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Good luck travelers!

Book Shelf: 52 in 52

This year, I resolved to read 52 books in 2014. Really, this “challenge” is just an excuse for me to do more of what I love! . I’m tracking my progress using Goodreads. Join in!

Here are my favorites from this quarter:

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When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
This book opens with the frightening scene of an infant abandoned in the woods, discovered by a hunter in the area. The two characters’ lives intertwine over the tumultuous years to come. This was one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time!

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
This quirky novel definitely kept me guessing. The title character, Bernadette, is a mother with a mysterious past. She abruptly disappears, leaving her teenage daughter and husband to search for clues. I know it sounds like a thriller, but the plots moves in and out of what I consider realistic. Certainly an interesting read.

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The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna
I LOVED this book. Ireland, a bit of history, flashbacks, great character development, heartbreak, and love – what more can I ask for? The ending was an amazing twist!