Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Mother's Day Glamping Weekend

The weekend before my daughter's wedding, I wanted to make a detour through Asheville on our way to Minneapolis, because I have always wanted to see the Biltmore Estate and a traveling exhibit of costumes used on the show Downton Abbey made that an even more appealing idea right now. The only way we could afford to add this extra step to our trip was to camp instead of staying in a hotel.

A cold dinner at a rest area on the way to North Carolina:
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The campground that we stayed in was easy driving distance to the Biltmore. It was also pretty and mosquito free.

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The only problem we had with camping there, happened when we arrived, just before closing time.
We checked in with the campground attendant and arrived at our reserved campsite, only to find that it was already occupied by a group of people sitting around a blazing campfire. We returned to the camp attendant, told him what had happened, and he went to check it out. It turns out that the campground was full for the night with prepaid campers (which was supposed to include us) and these people had shown up and found that our campsite was not yet occupied and made themselves at home, thinking that we would not show up and they could use our already paid for site. We spent almost an hour in the car in front of the attendant's trailer, as he removed the opportunistic campers from our spot. It was after midnight by the time we got the tent up and the air mattresses pumped up. That doesn't mean that we all fell into a deep and restful sleep, though. Every time someone drove along the road behind our tent, DH and I were fully awake and worried that it was the campers who had been removed from our campsite coming back for vengeance. The truck revving it's engine at 3 a.m. was particularly worrisome.

Sunday was much better. Most of our fellow campers were packing up to leave or going off to have adventures when I was making breakfast.

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I didn't want to start a campfire and smell like smoke when we went to the Biltmore, but we had plenty of things for a lovely cold breakfast in camp and our one-burner camp stove works well for making coffee.

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The Vanderbilts sure built a beautiful home! It's like the American version of Hogwarts and Downton Abbey combined.

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The view from the house is amazing!

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Photography is not allowed inside the house, but it is as magnificent as you would expect from a structure that looks like that on the outside. There are three above ground floors to walk through, as well as the basement that contains kitchens, servant quarters, a gym, a swimming pool, and a two lane bowling alley.

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The Downton Abbey costumes were scattered throughout the house.

There was another good reason to visit the Biltmore Estate this time of year. May is the month when the flowers around the estate are blooming in their greatest numbers.

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If this were the American equivalent of Hogwarts, this is where herbology class would be held:
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The Biltmore was created to be self sufficient. The estate is vast and driving is necessary to get from the house to the area where the hotels, winery, and small farm area are. If it's a hot day, I highly recommend walking through the cave under the winery.

There was a small petting zoo/farm area that contained mostly chickens and goats. Blaze made friends with some chickens.

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My souvenirs from the Biltmore were a patch to sew onto the suitcase and this tea cup:

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We went back to camp, had a relaxing evening by the fire, and a much better night's sleep.

In keeping with the idea that we were just visiting a school of wizardry, it really looks like Blaze was conjuring up a fire.

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These people who were staying at the campground had a fancy set-up. The gray tent made out of tarps was a mess tent almost as big as a two car garage. The far side of it was open, so that when I walked past, I could see that it was full of shelves and supplies.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ula's Wedding

Ula is now married.

It was 54 degrees and rainy when the outdoor wedding took place last Thursday, but Ula has always had an affinity for water and a friend told me that rain on your wedding day is good luck.

The father of the groom did an amazing job of making sure that everyone stayed dry, by providing a canopy for the ceremony and several large beach umbrellas for the guests.

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May I present, the newly married couple:
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My children:
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The beautiful bride and the proud mother-of-the-bride:
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The next couple to show up to use the stage at Wolfe Park:
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The wedding may have been damp and chilly, but the reception at Psycho Suzi's was tropical.

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The food and the vegan chocolate cake were excellent!

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I made a compilation of the short videos I took during the ceremony and the dancing at the reception, but this video needs to stand alone. This is the father-daughter dance that set the tone for the other fun that was to follow.

Random wedding fun:

Blaze arm wrestling one of the bride's maids:
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This was an incredibly long road trip, in a short amount of time. I'm so tired that it's hard to think straight, but I'm very glad we went. We picked up my mother in Illinois and took her with us and I'm glad we did that, too. She kept talking about how much fun the reception was.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May the Fourth Be With You!

It's Star Wars Day.

Thanks to 1 a.m. cookie baking, this is what our lunch looked like today:

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015

Thanks to free comic book day, we have lots of new reading material. DH went with us this year, which really added to the variety of new comic books be brought home.

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In Tallahassee there are three stores that I know of that participate in Free Comic Book Day and each store does it differently. We stopped at two of them today.

The Bookshelf on Monroe St. is the most fun store to go to. Costumed super heroes roam around the store and customers are encouraged to show up in costumes.

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Free face painting was also available.

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The free comic books are pre-bundled into bags, so you do not have a choice of which comic books you will receive, but the bags are sorted into comics that are appropriate for children and ones that would be better for adults.

Comics and related items were also 25% today.

In addition to comic books, The Bookshelf is a used book store, with a good selection and reasonable prices.

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There is a pretty green space right behind the store and a picnic table, where we were able to look through the contents of our bags of comics.

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Our second stop was The Cosmic Cat in Railroad Square, which is a very small store that sells only comic books. There was a waiting line to get inside, because the size of the space meant that a limited number of people could fit in the store.

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I liked their system of distributing comic books. They had the free comics laid out on shelfs and each person could choose any three.  This would have caused chaos in a larger store, but because this was such a limited number of people at a time, it was very well monitored and titles were being promptly restocked as soon as they started to run low.

To add to the festive atmosphere of Free Comic Book Day, MAYhem Sweets and Treats, the cake pop food truck, sat just outside the door.

When we left Cosmic Cat, Blaze and I took turns with the camera and posing at the sculptures in Railroad Square.

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We ended up with three duplicates (not shown), but here are the titles we came home with:
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Shakespeare in the Park

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It rained most of the day and I decided that the picnic I had planned wasn't going to be possible, but the rain stopped just in time for us to go to Cascades Park for the Southern Shakespeare Festival's free performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, inspired by the 1960s. The sun even peeked out for awhile, just as we were leaving the house.

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Before the main show, there was a group of middle and high school students called the Bardlings, who performed scenes from the play. The sound system was not working right and turned off on a couple occasions, but the kids did a great job of continuing the scenes without being distracted.

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The 1960's interpretation of a Midsummer Night's Dream was great! A live band played music from the 1960s, that was well suited to the scenes and characters, and was a lot of fun to listen to.

Titania sings "Respect":
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Blaze was laughing so hard during some of the play, that I felt compelled to hush him, for the sake of the people around us.

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On the way home, we talked about how things would have been different if Blaze's older siblings had seen this version as their first play.

 A Midsummer Night's Dream was the first play I ever took my older children to. Miko was 3 and Ula was 5. We were spending the winter in Palestine, Illinois and I took them to Lincoln Trail College to watch a performance. A harpist played before and during the play and it made a huge impression on the children. I was the audience for many short plays that the children put on that winter, but every single one started with the playing of the lap harp.

Crafty Crow