Wind Beaten

Holy wind! The drive north through Oklahoma and Kansas, right through Iowa and to Illinois kicked our butts gas mileage wise. Not only has the price of diesel skyrocketed, the winds continuously throttled our trailer, crosswind for ¾ of the journey. Compared to our average fuel mileage towing of 18 mpg, we averaged 15 mpg with the winds. Egads … It may not sound like much of a drop, but when travelling 2000+ miles @ US$4.19 a gallon average for diesel fuel, I certainly take notice! At least we made it safely to Sycamore, Illinois, where we were hoping to spend a few days with our dear friend Barbie June. Feels good to be ‘home’.

 

Sitflying in Skydive Dallas

What a gorgeous calm sunny day at Skydive Dallas! Only a hint of wind flip-flopped the windsock on the massive green fields of emptiness. Before darting northbound to Illinois, slaDE and I managed to make 2 skydives before continuing onwards with our trek. Fabulous and frivolous sit jumps that had me giddy with excitement at my new skydiving pursuits. A whole lotta fun checking out some new skills. The learning curve shall be steep!

Kudos to Whitney for the beautiful photo she took of my hubby sitflying over Ambergris Caye, Belize. 🙂

Skydive Dallas

Driving north to Canada is usually a straight forward decision once the threat of snow is not an issue. Diversions were the last thing on my mind for this trip (although snow was still a factor for many places), but a sudden set of catastrophic tornados has been sweeping across the southeastern states, in direct convergence with our route northbound. We really didn’t realize how close until we stopped at a Thai restaurant (Pat-Thai = amazing!) just east of Skydive Dallas. There, the TV was broadcasting severe weather warning alerts for the local area, with images of giant killer tornados that had hazed through a neighbouring community. Uh oh. Not sure how to deal with that??! The skies looked fine, with big puffy clouds. No green and bright yellow skies reminiscent of a freaky passing weather system close-by. Should we stay put or retreat to the dz, hoping to miss the path of destruction? After a quick dinner, we sped towards Skydive Dallas, watchful for any unusual meteorological activity. Luckily we dodged any difficulties and landed safely enough to park our Airstream and check out the new-to-us dz in Whiteright. The first and third final load of the day just took off after we arrived, and it was almost sunset. They too have been severely winded out by the harrowing Texan winds this past month. Still a tad too windy for my liking, but the forecast for the following day looked promising. With a place to plug in for the night, we were as snug as a bug in a rug. But wow, the temperature has certainly dropped compared to Houston!

A New Arrival

The day had arrived. Time for us to hitch up our trailer and make our way north. Our friend Amy has been on the verge of giving birth for what seems like forever :). And just in the knick of time for our departure, little Beckett Miles Wernig was born.

The beauty of being Camping World members is having the ability to drop our trailer in the parking lot of their stores. Having the freedom and time to travel sans Aurabella without paying for a night at a campground is indeed liberating. In this instance, we could leave the Airstream in the lot for the evening, giving us an opportunity to visit Amy, Nate and the baby at the hospital. Fabulous! There is something so vastly incredible and precious in holding a baby on their first day of life. So innocent and vulnerable.

Having the flexibility to divert our plans for a day is awesome, especially in instances like this when life has its own schedule.

 

A Texan Farewell

The desire for adventure and travel has seemingly always been within me, and Airstream living is a perfect match for me, for us. I feel most alive when travelling, discovering new places, different foods and more often than not , new friendships and communities. The nature of travel is forward motion … changing locations, and often time zones, at an alarming pace (compared to the somewhat ‘sedentary’ lifestyle of a 9-5 + mortgage living). This is its greatest challenge and its greatest strength, paradoxically. The challenges of saying goodbye to friends whom we make a great connection with can be somewhat difficult. The sentimentalist in me makes it never easy, to be sure. But then again, why say ‘goodbye’ … for me, its another way of saying “I may never see you again”; farewell on the other hand offers room for future potential. This is where the beauty of Facebook and other social networking sites come into play … maintaining the ‘facetime’ connection over the interweb. What’s especially wonderful and comforting is knowing that we are always welcome back. An extended family awaits us here in Texas. Not only do we depart with a giant smile and plenty of hugs, we have plenty of wondrous memories to care us through and onwards to our next destination!

So I bid ‘Adios Amigos’ to all our Floridian / Belizean / Texan friends as we head north. Canada calls and I’m really looking forward to visiting with my family and friends! Looks like we’ll need to put the fleece sheets back on :).

Love to y’all 🙂 Maybe see you next winter??!

Big Way Camp at Skydive San Marcos

It’s been a pretty ‘dry’ winter for skydiving for me. Perhaps about 40 jumps in total over 5 months between Florida, Belize and Texas. You’d think that with ALL the gorgeous weather and cheap skydives (cheaper than Canada for sure!), I’d have stockpiled many a jump. However, sadly that has not been my reality. More often than not, wind has played a huge role in me not skydiving to my full and desired potential. Ah well, probably plenty more jumps than many of my Canadian friends. So I am NOT complaining. Just providing a snapshot of my winter recreational pursuits. I must admit, it truly has been a SPECTACULAR winter. Belize proved to be the most epic vacation and travel experience of my life. No amount of skydives could ever top that! However, I was feeling a bit fidgety, suffering withdrawal from participating in big way skydives. Hence, I leaped at the opportunity to join in the weekend Big Way Camp at Skydive San Marcos (just outside of San Antonio). As has been a consistent Texan past-time of Mother Nature, the winds were howling and threatening to landlock those wishing to get their knees in the breeze. Despite the conditions, Harry Hopkins and RD Latimer went ahead and taught the big way skills needed for those wishing to join large group formation skydives. I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of experience levels signed up for the camp. It was great to learn many new things as well as watch others grow and blossom with their heightened awareness. Despite the winds, our group made 2 big way jumps. The winds were indeed squirrel-ly and pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. Yet I made 2 skydives with the group before deciding to give it a rest. Wisely, the others decided the same. Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air rather than wishing you were on the ground than in the air. Been there, done that. No fun, indeed! As I’ve come to know: don’t ever let the opportunity to practice in a safe, structured environment pass you by! If feeling unsafe, I can always skydive another day …

What really sparked me about coming to Skydive San Marcos was the opportunity to visit with some dear girlfriends who used to jump at Skydive Houston but had moved locations due to many logical reasons. Had I not come to see them both here, I am certain I would have missed the Ladies altogether. Ah, gotta love my Texan girlfriends. Sweet!

 

Dekan

I haven’t played charades since I was a child, but today, I was introduced to a new game called Dekan (Naked spelled backwards :)). Seven new friends joined in on the fun with slaDE and I. Each person had to list a person, place and thing on separate pieces of paper. All the items were then placed in a box and three teams of three were formed. With each round, moving from team to team, we had 30 seconds to guess as many of the words pulled from the box as possible until all the slips of paper were described.

  • 1st round involves describing the word without using the word.
  • 2nd round involves using 1 word to describe the word picked.
  • 3rd round involved a pose to describe the word. Nothing could be verbalized (like charades).

What a funtabulous game! We were roaring with laughter for hours.

PS Dekan is ‘Naked’ spelled backwards. But who tells their friends that they played a game of Naked charades on the weekend and had a blast??! 🙂

Revolting Food!

Did anyone watch Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution‘ last Tuesday? I don’t believe that this is considered reality tv. The is more a documentary of life as we know it. This season, Jamie is focusing on the LA school system. And it appears that he’s up for a HUGE fight. And a challenge. For example, the amount of sugar and the ‘food’ fed to LA school children is outrageous and criminal. He showed some sample meals being served up to the kids (all in plastic, of course). I really had no idea. Tame them with sugar they say! No wonder obesity is an epidemic in North America. Flavoured milk contains at least 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Drink this sugar-laden milk daily and that adds up to 2 gallons of sugar per year per child! Now, who is thinking that milk is so wholesome and beneficial in our schools? Give any kid and option over plain unsweetened milk vs flavoured, and see how many choose the latter. A high percentage I am guessing. According to this article in the New York Times, “71 percent of the milk served nationwide is flavored”. Flavoured milk is just soda in drag, IMO. Now who is suffering from a calcium crisis (Sugar has been implicated in upsets to the calcium / phosphorus balance which in turn depletes bone density — next to calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body)! This is a complete and total nutritional booby trap with an excess fat and sugar. Where the schools are teaching children “that they don’t have to drink milk unless it is sweet, that foods aren’t good unless they are sweet, and that schools think flavoured milks is good for them“. How backwards is that??!

Why does it appear to be (to me, anyway) that Jamie Oliver (a foreigner, no less) is the only one who really seems to be the one headlining and taking a huge stand on this issue within the school system? If you did watch the show, I’m hoping that you were inspired enough to spread the word, eliminate ‘pink slime’ from your diet and cook healthier more nutritious and whole-food meals. Click here for some of Jamie’s recipe ideas. Healthy doesn’t have to be hard! It does however take effort. But don’t all the worthwhile things in life?

By the way, what exactly is pink slime, you might ask? This yucky goop added into the school lunches of America’s children is a homogenized mix of the vilest dregs and runoff of the meat processing industry (think sludge and slime). This basically comes from all the fat, tendons, sinew, skin, pieces of meat that can’t be sold (think roadkill, aka not fit for human consumption). The remnants are spun in a centrifugal force machine, washed in a water and AMMONIA solution (to kill all the salmonella, e-coli, bacteria), rinsed, drained and then ground into mince. The pink minced result is considered now to be fit for human ingestion (before this process, it would have been used in dog food or chicken feed). Legally, 15% of this pink slime (considered a thinner or filler) can be added to school food or sold to fast food chains and all the big chain grocers. Think hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos, etc. Pretty disgusting.

I’m grateful that we weren’t fed in school and I brown bagged it for the duration of my youth. Simpler is better. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches ruled my world (when peanuts weren’t really an issue or allergen). Thanks Mom!!

America’s children need and deserve better quality food in their schools. Teach children about whole foods and the effects of the rubbish being fed to them through the media and the school system. Teach them how to cook and support their own well-being. You can make a difference as well. A start would be to follow this link, signing the petition in support of Jamie Oliver’s the Food Revolution. : http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/sign-petition.

If you are really interested in where your food comes from and what implications food has on your health, I would highly recommend that you watch these documentaries. They will change your life and your beliefs and understanding around the food you consume:

The Making of a Diaper Cake

I’ve never had the joy of raising a child, so I’m quite a novice when it comes to various things baby. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent many a night babysitting and caring for children. But babies? Not so much. So I delved in to the realms of internet tutorials / Facebook advice from new Mama girlfriends for all things related to diapers. After very little deliberation, I figured that a diaper cake would be a unique and much-desired gift for our friends Amy & Nate, who are due any day now with their second child.

I began by cycling all over Eagle Lake in search of environmentally friendly diapers and additional ‘attachments’. Seventh Generation (or diapers that were chlorine free and biodegradable) was my go-to preference, but I could only find those sizes in the newborn and Size 2. I opted to throw in a package of Luvs Size 1 diapers so that I could cover all the avenues without providing too much of 1 size (if that was possible?!). After all was bought and assembled, I found myself with a puppy dog blue theme resonating throughout my purchases. This was not a purposeful design sought after, but a nice bonus in the end.

Here’s a basic tutorial if you feel inspired to make a diaper cake.

Diaper Cake Tutorial

The supplies I used

  • 1 very helpful assistant and friend (thanks Momo!)
  • a stiff cardboard base with white paper used to cover it (I used my microwave turntable as a template)
  • glue
  • 1 package Seventh Generation (Size 2) diapers (used for the bottom layer) — these smell like baby powder: strong and artificial smelling, I think
  • 1 package Luvs (Size 1) diapers (used for the middle layer)
  • 1 package Seventh Generation (Size Newborn) diapers (used for the top layer)
  • a 3 pack of 9 oz baby bottles (medium flow silicone nipple, BPA free)
  • 1 16 oz bottle of cornstarch baby powder
  • 1 fleece baby blanket + 1 baby safety pin
  • a 2 pack of pacifiers (silicone nipples, BPA free)
  • 1 pacifier and holder (silicone nipple, BPA free)
  • 1 teether rattle with 3 BPA free links
  • a 6 pack of teether links
  • 2 nice quality cotton bibs
  • 1 TY puppy dog stuffed toy for the top
  • large rubber bands
  • small clear rubber hair bands for securing the diapers in a roll
  • 1 blue bow ribbon
  • 1 spool of blue polka dot wire ribbon (enough to wrap bottom and top layer with a foot to spare)
  • 1 roll of decorative ribbon
  • tape and stapler

In addition, a package of Seventh Generation chlorine-free baby wipes and leftover diapers will be gifted.

* I bought one pack of Seventh Generation newborns (up to 10 lbs), one pack of Luvs size one diapers (8-14 lbs) and one pack of Seventh Generation size 2 diapers (11 − 17 lbs) – approximately 138 diapers total. The leftover numbers of unrolled diapers were 20 Newborn and 10 Size 1. Depending on the size(s) you buy, you could go ahead and roll a good portion of the diapers in advance if you like, but you don’t know exactly how many you will need as it depends on your base size, the number and size of diapers purchased, and how big you want your cake to be (how many layers and what size diameter?). We just winged the whole process along the way :).

Instructions:

  1. I needed a stiff cardboard base to support all 3 layers. Once I found a good quality cardboard box, I cut out a 15 inch diameter circle with box cutters, using the microwave turntable as a template. I then glued simple white wrapping paper to ‘pretty’ it up. You could use doilies as well :).
  2. First, we rolled the largest sized diapers for the bottom layer. The open end of the diaper was rolled to the inside and secured around the middle (1 wrap is plenty) with a clear rubber hair band.
  3. We then placed the baby powder onto the middle of the base to centre and support the diapers surrounding it. 4-6 rolled diapers were parcelled with a large rubber band and then placed around the powder, radiating from this centre point. A large rubber band was stretched around the entire base to give it a bit more of a circular shape all the while hugging the baby powder in support. 48 Size 2 diapers were used in total on the bottom layer.
  4. I stuffed several baby bottles in between the diapers on the bottom layer, to give the middle layer a bit more support.
  5. On the second layer, we rolled 40 Size 1 diapers. The whiteness and pattern on the Luvs diapers offset the natural unbleached look that I was looking for, so I secured a baby blanket around this middle layer with a diaper pin (thanks to hubby for his tactile fingers — it was a very snug fit).
  6. On the top layer, I planted a baby bottle on top of the powder, using tape as a way of positioning it (not real secure per se). 20 Newborn diapers were secured around the bottle, and then bundled with a rubber band. My stuffed puppy dog toy hugged the top bottle by clasping its legs with a rubber band.
  7. To decorate the layers with ribbon, we wrapped blue decorative cord around the bottom and top layers, so as to cover the rubber bands. Over that, a blue polka dot wire ribbon gift wrapped each of those layers.
  8. We then placed the pacifiers, teething links, rattles and baby bibs wherever they seemed to fit, using the ribbon to tie if necessary.

 

Well, after several hours we had a beautiful diaper cake that both of us were proud of. Being it was my first go at making such a creative gift and I winged it for the most part, the whole process took longer than expected with two of us. However, we had a blast, and I’m sure if you decide to make such gift, by allotting a few hours to experiment yourselves, you could come up with something unique and just as charming. Any questions? Feel free to email me!

FYI, this information is from the Seventh Generation website regarding their ‘eco-friendly’ diapers:

Seventh Generation Diapers are
• Premium Absorbency
• Free of Chlorine Processing
• Free of Fragrances & Latex
• Free of Petroleum Based Lotions
• Hypoallergenic
• Tan in colour

Their diapers are made of chlorine free wood pulp fluff, sodium polyacrylate (also referred to as SAP or absorbent gel), polyolefin nonwoven fabric, adhesives, polyolefin film, synthetic rubber elastic strands. Chlorine processing can produce chlorinated hydrocarbons, which have a negative impact on the environment. By choosing not to process with chlorine, we help reduce the overall amount of chlorinated toxins released into the environment, and in that way we’re helping to make the world a healthier place for you and your family.

All disposable diapers, including Seventh Generation’s, rely on man-made materials to deliver the high-level performance that parents expect of modern diapers. These materials are mostly petroleum-derived and are not renewable, which adversely impacts the environmental footprint associated with these products. At Seventh Generation, we are pleased to offer an alternative that is not bleached with chemicals containing chlorine, and are working hard to further improve the sustainability of our diaper products.

About Chlorine
The wood pulp used in our diapers has not been processed with chemicals containing chlorine. This prevents dangerous chlorinated toxins from being released into the environment through the pulp production process.

Fridge Trials

We picked up our new fridge from PPL Motorhomes … a beautiful new Dometic RM2820. By purchasing the fridge through a local dealer, avoiding the shipping costs by picking it up with our Dodge truck, and with slaDE installing it himself, we saved over $800! That’s quite the savings on such an important and expensive appliance. Because an RV fridge should be shipped and stored upright, we needed to take the tonneau cover off and empty out the truck bed. Made for ease of transport, to be sure, but the vibrating sound of the tie-down ratchet straps still had me nervous with the thought of a heavy fridge becoming dislodged mid-trip.

JP from the drop zone helped slaDE maneuver the old fridge out of the slotted hole, replacing it with the shiny new silver fridge. It seemingly was an almost perfect fit. However, we discovered that 1/16th of inch had to be shaved off the side wooden cupboard edge. That meant we had to: find ourselves a roto-zip (not a tool we normally travel with :)), remove the current new fridge, saw off the necessary wooden girth, vacuum up all the wayward sawdust and refit the fridge before hooking it up to cool and then use. Phew! I think slaDE and I have had enough for one day. Tomorrow we’re in search of a roto-zip!

Lessons learned in our fridge replacement?

Remove all drawer pulls and oven handles before navigating the fridge through a narrow pathway
• Disconnect all cables before removing the fridge, and take note (or a photo) of how they were connected and orientated
• Use a piece of carpet to drag the fridge out of the trailer instead of placing it directly on the wooden floor
• Protect the wooden cupboards from being gouged (thankfully ours are black — a Sharpie marker works wonders on hiding any slight blemishes!)
• Shopping around and self-installation really paid off
• Researching and learning from other people’s mistakes was very helpful (airforums.com — The Airstream Knowledge Sharing Community)
• slaDE says that replacing an RV fridge is not as difficult or involved as it sounded to be. Common sense goes a long way!
• Move slowly if you are going to replace the refrigerator yourself. Don’t feel rushed or pressured, especially if the fit is not perfect and modifications need to be made.
• Have a vacuum cleaner handy if modifications need to be done
• Don’t be afraid to ask a Professional for help (i.e. we called the Airstream Service Department for advice and input — that’s a biggie for me).
• Have a backup plan. If installing the new fridge yourself turns out to be a complete nightmare, have a place where you can take it to for installation by a Professional.
• Have a go-to friend with a spare fridge where you can store your food in until replacement is complete (or use an ice chest)