Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day Camping Trip

Ron was off work for Memorial Day, so we scheduled a last minute camping trip to Cypress Black Bayou Recreation Center.  When I called, the RV sites were full, so we were going to be in the "overflow field".  However, due to the weather, there was a cancellation and we ended up with a back-in site that was just right!  The park is located only about 45 minutes away from our house, which made it ideal for arriving after work.  It also allowed me to return to town for a couple of hours on Sunday to teach my Sunday School class.   While the weather forecast was not good at all for the weekend, but we decided to chance it anyway and we were rewarded with storms that skirted the edges of the area rather than hitting the lake itself.

We arrived in time to set up the camper, cook dinner and sit by the fire.
Saturday morning, we took the dogs for a long walk and enjoyed the stillness of the morning as the sun shimmered on the lake.

The birds were busily flitting from tree to tree throughout the weekend.   We saw a group of baby woodpeckers in tree,
lots of red-winged blackbirds,
another young woodpecker exploring the lakeside,
and lots of cardinals.  I especially enjoyed watching my favorite variety, bluebirds, as they watched us from their perches among the tree branches.  This one stayed still long enough for me to snap a few pictures.
After depositing the dogs back at the camper, we decided to take a hike before it got too hot.  We walked over to the Nature Center, which was a really nice place to learn about the different varieties of birds and animals that are native to the area.
Along the hike, we saw the tiniest little toads hopping around, as well as a nice-sized bullfrog.
But, my heart jumped up into my throat and I screamed when I almost stepped on this in the middle of the trail.
He was LONG.   I don't know if he was cold or scared, but he didn't move.  Ron assured me that he wasn't poisonous (turned out that he was a Mud Snake), but it took a few minutes for my pulse to slow down again.
The rest of the weekend was captured with our phones because the showers were always looming overhead and I didn't want to chance getting caught with my DSLR.  We took the kayaks out for a little while and did a little fishing, but the winds were so strong that the fish weren't biting at all.
Sunday afternoon, we had better luck.  The piers were closed due to instability, so we just fished from the shore.
The wind was still pretty strong and swept our lines onto the pier more than once.
Ron used the kayak to get it loose and we went on to catch quite a few fish (which we just threw back).

There were more campfires and we even popped corn that was mighty tasty!
While we had great cell service in this spot, we were mostly "unplugged" and had nothing to do except relax and enjoy being outdoors and together.  We've already scouted out which site to ask for next time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Summer Instagram Bucket List

With May quickly coming to a close and summer on its way, I decided to come up with an Instagram challenge that will take me all the way until school begins again.  I had hoped to do a 100 Days of Summer, but quickly figured out that my summer is not NEARLY 100 days!  So sad!!  Instead, how about a bucket list of 69 prompts? (because that's how many I could fit on the page easily)  It will start the first of June and conclude right after I go back to school.  Feel free to follow along and join in the fun.  Use the hashtag #MTSummerBucketListChallenge.


I find that these prompts help me remember to take a picture a day.  When I first started creating them, I printed out the pictures and made mini scrapbooks.  But, recently, I have found a relatively inexpensive, no-labor alternative.  Chatbooks!  Chatbooks creates small photo books of 60 pictures from your Instagram feed for $6---free shipping.
I loaded my whole Instagram feed and I have the option of printing one, five or ten books at a time until I catch up.  Then each time you accumulate 60 pictures, they notify you and a new book is shipped.  Each page features the picture, the location and the caption that you used.
At this time, I am still playing "catch-up", but I love looking back through the books.  (that one on the far right was actually a custom book that I made before I figured out how the whole thing works. That one was labor intensive and I had to pay shipping on it.)
I have to give a shout-out to my friend, Pam Brown, for introducing me to another photo collecting device---the free Collect app. (Sorry, Android users.  I think this app is only available for iPhones at this time) It is a place to collect a picture each day, along with a caption, etc.  I have been doing it regularly for almost a year now and generally try to choose a picture that shows something about what is going on in my life so that it serves more as a "photo journal" than following prompts, etc.  It's very easy to use and stores the pictures in a calendar format so that it is easy to see if you skipped a day.  You can also set your phone up to provide a notification if you forget a day.
Although I haven't used some of the other features (which cost extra, I think), I do categorize my pictures with hashtags and just learned that I can back them up in Dropbox.  I've even seen several Project Life albums lately that use screenshots of their Collect photos because it provides a very clean layout with a caption.

Since I'm the only one that can see these photos, I can store photos of the grandkids here without worrying about them being seen on the internet.  I wish I'd had something like it when my kids were little---how cool would it be to have a photo a day of your baby's first year?!?!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Happy Campers

Over Mother's Day weekend, we took our first camping trip in our new camper.  We went over to Tyler State Park, where we have tent-camped before and set up our camper before anyone else arrived.  Guess what campsite we were assigned?   Yep, our lucky number!
Carmelle, Chad and the kids came over after everyone got of school and Callie, Jordan and baby D came over just after dark.  The weather didn't cooperate with us at all Friday night and Chad and Carmelle realized they'd forgotten their rain cover, so Adellelyn and Michael were thrilled to discover that they would get to stay in the camper with us while their parents made a trip into town to buy a tarp.   Adellelyn was particularly excited by the fact that the trailer had its own potty, despite the fact that we were parked directly across from the campground bathrooms.   Baby D did not enjoy camping at all Friday night and kept his mommy and daddy awake most of the night, but they treated us all to beignets for breakfast Saturday morning.


It was the first time the Texas group had tasted beignets, but they quickly discovered that it doesn't get much better than fried batter and powdered sugar!  ;-)
The rain cleared up long enough for us all to go down to the lake, stopping to splash in a few puddles along the way.

The big guys fished in canoes and kayaks
while the younger guys and Adellelyn enjoyed their first swim of the year.
Adellelyn scooted around like a little water bug, as she looked for fish and other critters.
Until she saw some ducks, that is.
It was baby D's first experience with a beach and he was quite fascinated by the sand.
Each scoop of sand slowly made its way up to his mouth,
but his mama kept a close watch, splashing his hands before they reached his face.

After a lightening break under the pavilion, Callie and I decided to take a hike around the lake.  She loaded baby D into the Ergo and off we went, while Jordan went back to the camp to take a nap in his hammock.
With more storms on the way overnight, Callie and Jordan opted not to risk another sleepless night in a tent and packed up and headed home.   Before leaving, the grandkids presented me with a wonderful Mother's Day gift---a pillow with the hand prints of each grandchild.   I LOVE it!!!!
The rest of us cooked burgers for dinner and later enjoyed s'mores.
Did I mention that we ended up having to bring both dogs with us since we had no one to care for them at home?  Well, Joy did great---Emmi, not so much.  She was a bit anxious about the whole experience and barked anytime I was out of her reach.   In addition, the red dirt, made for a very dirty dog.
Sunday brought more scattered showers, but also more swimming (this time with Papaw),





more bird-watching,
and more bug hunting.  
And, while I'm not really afraid of spiders, this creeps me out!!!!
When it was time to pack up, everything seemed to take much longer than we expected.
We used the dump station for the first time, as well.  That, too, took longer than we planned because the hose broke as we were getting things hooked up.   Carmelle, Chad and the kids met us there to say goodbye.  Both of the kids were pretty curious about the dump process, but it also gave us time to eat a little watermelon while we waited.

The weekend included 6 adults, 2 children, 1 baby, 5 dogs, 2 tents and 1 camper.  And while there was lots of rain and lots of dirt, there were also:
card games inside the camper and conversations outside,
good food,
a little fishing,
swimming in the lake,
bonding with family,
and with nature,
and beauty in unexpected places.
All in all, it was a great weekend!