Thursday, June 30, 2016

Family Time

The last few days have been a whirlwind of family activities. One of the great things about visiting is mealtimes. Kristen loves to cook and try out new recipes, and when we are here we share the cooking and take turns providing parts of the meals. This week Kristen made homemade Coconut Chocolate Chunk ice cream, and homemade waffle cones, too. Which were enjoyed by all.
Bob and I took Ben and Rob to the local rock shop where they had fun picking out some treasures. Ben chose a shark's tooth as one of his picks and confided that he was going to put it under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy to find, but I told him that she was likely too smart to fall for that one!

Auggie has been to the vet for his annual checkup, and Bob and I are moving through the list of doctor's appointments. Isn't it amazing how many annual appointments you have as you reach a certain age?

Today Bob goes off to help Tim and Bernie on a house project, Kristen has errands with the boys, and I am home to do some organizing. And hopefully some weaving will happen, since spending time with family has taken precedence over that lately!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Friday and Saturday Fun

So far, since arriving in South Jersey we have been pretty busy. It's so much fun having three of our grandsons next door. They enjoy popping over frequently to hang out with us. On Friday morning I dashed off for a quick doctor's appointment (the first of all our annual check-ups) and a little later went to our son and daughter-in-law's house to see what they've been doing. Tim and Bernie purchased their first home a couple of years ago and they've been working hard on fixing it up ever since.
After seeing all the changes on the house, we went out to dinner at Carolina Blue (great Smokehouse Burgers and sweet potato fries!) before heading on to Fourth Friday in their town.

We had fun browsing through local thrift stores and a music shop, as well as a classic car show. Bob and I may have to return next month for this event, too!

On Saturday our granddaughter, Eve celebrated her third birthday by inviting the family to a local playground and then an ice cream parlor. There's nothing better on a hot day.
This place has a circus them with an animated display, which kept the little ones amused while they enjoyed their cold treats.
Today will be for running errands and enjoying time with our loved ones. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Harvest Hosts and the Final Leg of This Trip

We left Lake Powhatan bright and early on Wednesday morning and headed north. Our plan was to get at least halfway to my daughter's house in South Jersey by evening, so we stopped for the night at a Harvest Hosts site in Bridgewater, VA called Bluestone Vineyards. What a lovely spot!
Our hosts directed us to the large overflow parking area which was level and perfect for our needs. After getting settled we went over to the Tasting Room to check out the wines. Five dollars apiece got us each a taste of five different wines and we chatted with the woman in charge of the tasting.
 Outside is a very nice patio with tables and chairs to sit at while enjoying a bottle of wine and the incredible views of the valley.
This is Amish country, and we saw several horses pulling families in their iconic black buggies as we relaxed later in the coach. They waved at us as we watched them trot past.

The next morning Bob and I got back on the road, taking the route skirting Baltimore to get to NJ. I discovered I could check the box to "avoid tunnels" on our Good Sam Rand McNally GPS, which made it so easy to avoid the tunnel north of Baltimore. It is illegal for any vehicle carrying propane to use that tunnel so we detour around it on rte 695. 

Before too long, we were through Delaware and crossing into NJ. An exciting moment! It has been 10 months since we were back.
 It was great fun to see the family again and we shared a meal as we caught up on everyone's lives.  The children ran around as our dogs became (re) acquainted and it was a glorious time.  This was worth the hard days of travel, to see everyone again!

And later, I checked out the goodies that I had ordered and shipped to my daughter's house.
A 15 dpi heddle for my Ashford Knitters Loom and Sample-it looms, a Sigga heddle for band weaving, and two new weaving books with loads of inspiration and charts (even though neither is in English!) Theres so much fun ahead for this summer!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Folk Art Center

We had a lot on our plate today and unfortunately we're unable to do everything we wanted to do. But that's OK--it just gives us a reason to return to Asheville, NC.  Our original plan was to relax all day. We have a lot of miles we will be covering in the next two days and we have been pretty busy. But there's just so much to see and do here that we couldn't resist.

First up was a walk. We try and make that a priority for health's sake, and too often we make excuses not to do it. This area is so beautiful. Campsites are far apart with lots of privacy and trees, which makes for a quiet and peaceful stay. Bob and I walked down to the lake which is small but is a big hit with families. You can see the small swimming beach on the opposite shore.
 Next we took a drive to the Folk Art Center, run by the Southern Highland Craft Guild. One of the camp host couples, Rob and Laura, recommended this place as a must-see. We were not disappointed.
This place is amazing. It features a museum of Appalachian crafts, a great store with the most beautiful locally handmade items, and the largest craft library in the United States. There were over 2,600 different weaving books in this library. Plus books on lace making, woodworking, beading, spinning, knitting, crochet, ceramics, and more.

These books, pamphlets, periodicals and videos have all been donated to the guild library. While these items do not circulate, people are encouraged to make copies of pages of these items. I had a field day in there and could have spent all day. Bob walked around the museum, talked to people, and browsed the stacks for woodworking books. Many of these items are long out of print ant cannot be found on the secondary market, so it was wonderful to have access to them.

On our way out we stopped to talk with Barbara Miller who was weaving on her Dorset loom.
As it turns out, Barbara used to RV and that loom has traveled all over. She gave us some great ideas on where we might want to volunteer at some point.

Bob and I really wanted to visit Cathy Gerson's studio to see her ceramic creations but it was getting late and traffic was bumper to bumper. We will put that on the top of our list to see next time through. So much to see, so little time. We can imagine ourselves spending a month here one day.

Tomorrow we are back on the road.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Asheville, NC and the Biltmore Estate

On Sunday Bob and I got up earlier than we usually do (6:00 am) and were on the road by 7:20, which may just be a record for us. But we were on a mission! I typically wait until a day or two before we need a new campground before I start thinking about where we will land next. So I had missed the reservation window for reserving a site at Lake Powhatan Recreational Area in Asheville, NC. This place had good reviews and better prices than the private campgrounds in the area, so I called on Friday evening to see if we could score a reservation. No go. All the reservable sites were taken, but there were "lots of walk-up sites," according to the agent. All we had to do was show up by noon to snag one. And that would be 250 miles away.

I called the next night, in case a reservable site had become available. No such luck, and now there were only four walk-up sites open. So we set off Sunday not knowing if we would have a place to camp that night.

At 7:30 am on Sunday there was no traffic going through Atlanta, and the trip was smooth and uneventful until about ten miles from the campground. Then traffic ground to a halt. It took an extra half hour to get to our destination but I was still optimistic.

The ranger at the booth told me there was only a one-night site available. Oh dear--we really wanted at least two nights! She checked her database several times. How about a dry-camping site with no hookups? Not ideal--no AC, which makes me nervous when leaving animals behind and sightseeing. Then her partner looked over her shoulder and said, "How about this one? I think 40' rigs have gotten into that one."

Yay! Full hookups and a nice site that we fit into just fine! Later someone told us that was an act of God to get a walk-up site with full hookups. Had we known that, we never would have even tried.

So here we are until Wednesday and it's a very nice campground. On Monday morning we went to see the Biltmore Estate. At 250 rooms, it is the largest house in the world.
Biltmore was built by George Washington Vanderbilt at the age of 25 in 1895. It was patterned after the great European estates, but with modern American technology, and took only 6 years to build. This huge house has central heating, indoor plumbing, an indoor heated swimming pool, a 23,000 book library, a bowling alley, billiard room, and a fitness center. The Estate was also featuring an exhibit of wedding gowns in films, with the gowns displayed in almost every room that was open to the public. This place is a popular wedding venue. I had read that no photographs were permitted in the house but we were told we could take pictures as long as the flash was off. This made me very happy. Here are a few of the 89 photos I took:
The Banquet Hall features a seven-story high ceiling and Flemish tapestries, plus a huge pipe organ for guest's musical enjoyment.
The Billiard Room
Kate Winslett and Alan Rickman wore these costumes in the 1995 film, Sense and Sensibility.
The Breakfast Room
The Music Room
Helena Bonham Carter wore this gown in the film Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, 1994.
George Vanderbilt's bedroom
Edith Vanderbilt's room. Doors lead to closets, a bathroom, and her lady's maid's room. Society people in that time changed clothing 6-8 times a day. A staff of 40 took care of every need. Today, between 1800 and 2200 full and part time staff work for Biltmore. There are no volunteer positions...everyone is paid staff.
The Halloween room, in the basement, was a party room on October 31.
The Bowling Alley
The Indoor Swimming Pool holds 70,000 gallons of water.
Outdoors, the gardens are formal and very beautiful.
The house is surrounded by 8,000 acres of forest and lake. Originally the estate encompassed 125,000 acres, or 195 square miles. 

George Vanderbilt died at age 51 from complications following an appendectomy. His widow sold off most of the land to remain solvent. George and Edith had one child, a daughter, who inherited the estate.

Bob and I spent a few minutes thinking about how our lives were better than the Vanderbilts:
  • We dress when we get up and are good for the whole day.
  • Other people mow around our rig and maintain the grounds, but we don't have to employ them.
  • No pesky balls to attend.
  • We rarely receive letters begging for money.
  • We don't care about what "society" thinks of us.
Life is good!

Tomorrow we have a quiet day planned as we gear up for our final push to NJ.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

To Georgia to see Friends

We have been having a very busy week. When last we left you, dear blog reader, Bob and I were heading for Alabama on our way to Georgia. We spent Thursday night at Bama RV Park and enjoyed our night there. We were one of two rigs in the place (except for rigs being stored there) and we had the wifi signal all to ourselves. It's the little things that make us happy!
This park caters to the football crowd, specifically University of Alabama fans, since the stadium is only five miles down the road. I'm willing to bet there are some big parties held here in the fall, but it was nice and quiet for us.

Then we were off to Georgia, where we stayed at Little Tallapoosa Campground, a lovely little county-run park about a half hour from our friends, Mike and Retha. You may recall that we stayed in the same campground with these friends in March and Mike suffered an accident there, breaking his leg in several places. Quite a few people have asked for an update and we are happy to report that Mike is much better. While he is still not allowed to do heavy yard work, he can walk without a cane and drive. Bob and I were happy to see how well he is doing.

We pulled in to our campground at about 2:30 on Friday and soon headed over to see our friends. And what a welcome we got! We sat talking and catching up; then Retha cooked us a yummy tilapia dinner.  The next day we returned and they took us to their favorite Cajun restaurant in Douglasville.
Oh boy, was that great food! We all had a cup of the best seafood chowder I've ever tasted. My crawfish bread (crawfish and sauce poured over French bread with cheese on top) was divine, and Bob's Andouille Sausage Po' Boy sure looked great, too. What a wonderful meal.
After lunch, our friends took us to their local ukulele shop. I never even knew there was such a store. Uke Republic had a marvelous selection of ukuleles, including this banjo-lele. I want one of these! 
It's a ukulele that sounds like a banjo. I've been inspired to try again to learn to play our ukulele. Mike plays very well, so he gave Bob some pointers on playing. 

Retha again cooked us dinner and we enjoyed hanging out at their lovely home. We got to see how they feed their twelve Japanese Chins--each one has his or her own crate to eat in, so no one steals the other's food.
Here they are, waiting patiently for "Mom" to bring dinner. Auggie had fun playing with the Chins outside in their large yard while we sat with a glass of wine. Such a nice visit!

On Sunday morning we got up early and headed for Asheville, NC. And I'll tell you about THAT tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New Band Started

On Monday Bob and I left beautiful San Antonio and drove 285 miles to the Escapees park in Livingston, TX, a few hours northeast of San Antonio. We made good time, getting there before Carolyn, one of my fellow Ravelry members, arrived. Carolyn drove there with her husband  to buy my Columbine wheel. I really haven't been spinning much so it didn't make a lot of sense to be bringing it everywhere. I had first advertised it when we were in Tucson a few months ago but there were no local people interested. Carolyn was really patient, waiting for us to drive through Arizona, California, New Mexico, and finally Texas before we came to a campground near her. She left happy, and I was pleased my wheel found a new home.

Going to Livingston is like going home...our mail is sent there, people are friendly, and it is familiar since we've been there several times now. We only stayed two days but it was nice being there.
While here I warped up my 12" Ashford Knitters Loom with a 13 pattern thread Sunna heddle for a sampler band. I'm using 8/2 cotton for the ground threads and embroidery floss in five colors for the pattern threads. Details are on my Ravelry project page here.
On Wednesday we left Livingston and drove to Louisiana for a night, on Thursday we should be in Alabama, and on Friday we'll be in Georgia for a couple of days to visit our friends Retha and Mike. We are really looking forward to seeing them again. We are eating up the miles and are in "traveling mode" until we get back to our visit with family in NJ.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

San Antonio, TX

This weekend certainly has been the highlight of our season. Bob and I have been spending as much time as we could with our family, who have traveled from various parts of the country to celebrate the marriage of my niece, Michelle, and her new husband, Danny.
 The newlyweds in the beautiful and historic Mission Concepcion in San Antonio.
Here I am (in the center) with my siblings: l-r, Wendy, Jim, Cheryl, and Gail. We had such fun at the reception. 

It has been a wonderful, yet exhausting weekend, and tomorrow we start our journey to NJ. So I will leave you with some of my favorite photos of the Alamo and the beautiful Riverwalk area. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sleep Number Bed

We arrived in San Antonio yesterday afternoon, stopping in the way into the city to pick up our new mattress from Sleep Number. It was in two large boxes and I was glad we picked it up when we had the motorhome because only one box fit in the car and the other was put in the aisle of our coach. We settled into our new home at the campground  San Antonio and started opening up the boxes. 

It's a bit of a chore setting up a Sleep Number bed and fortunately it came with good instructions. Bob and I worked together and after a couple of hours or more we got the thing together and inflated. Wow, what a comfortable bed! I had a great night's sleep on it. 

We are waiting for mattress removal guys to come and take away our old mattress, since we can't just find a dumpster and toss it. But at least these folks clean up old mattresses and donate them to people who need a place to sleep, so I feel good about that.

The rest of this week will most likely be taken up with wedding activities and family gatherings so I may not be posting for a few days. But have no fear, I will return!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On the Way to S.A.

When we are on the move between longer stops life becomes simplified. We tend to depart between 9:00 and 10:00 am and settle in for a few hours of watching the world go by. It's fascinating to see changes in topography, but I don't get as much handwork done. A lot of these roads are too bumpy to weave on, so I turn to my Kindle and read.

Last night (Monday) we stayed at a little hole in the wall place, not far off I-10 in Van Horn, Texas. As is typical of these campgrounds, people are friendly when approached but no one will actually knock on your door, so it feels pretty private.
Living on the road can be as social as you want it to be. You can stop and chat with people or not, depending on your preference or your mood. Bob, because he spends a lot of time outside tinkering with the rig, often has a set of friends in a campground that I've never met. I enjoy socializing, but I have a lot of activities to keep myself amused and don't hang around outside as much. It all works out though, because not being joined at the hip gives us a bit of space. Every couple needs that at times.

This morning we continued along I-10 east towards San Antonio, Texas. It's pretty desolate around here with nothing but hills and desert.

We stopped for the night Tuesday in a little campground where we are just about the only visitors, except for a herd of deer that stopped in to drink from a nearby stream. They hung around for a few minutes before dashing off.
Tomorrow we should be in San Antonio!