Sunday, September 20, 2015

IDMommy Projects: Our Camper "Remodel!"

We got a camper!!
I'd be willing to argue that 2015 was our best summer ever.  A big part of that is due to us getting a camper part way through the summer.  We've been tent camping together since we got married almost 16 years ago, but lately I had been looking forward to (not) sleeping on the ground and hiking to the restroom less and less. I guess I'm getting old. I have been looking at pop-up trailers for years, but my husband discovered and sold me on a hybrid camper.  With a hybrid we get the benefits of both a hard-sided and a pop-out camper.  It's small enough to haul with our Jeep, but plenty of space inside and we can use it with or without the beds popped out.  There is a full bathroom with a shower, and we are now spoiled with heat and air conditioning when we really need it.  And a mattress.  OFF the ground.  We found this camper via Craigslist and it fits our family perfectly.  It's a Starcraft hybrid camper, with a queen and double bed that pop out. There are a bunk beds inside as well.  One of our boys really wanted the top bunk bed, and the other wanted the pop-out, which was perfect. No fighting! The lower bunk we use to hold our bags and stuff, while we sleep in the larger queen bed. I am now just as excited as the boys for the next camping trip!

Of course, being a designer, I just couldn't resist replacing all the boring mauve, baby blue, and fake wood veneer with some retro fun!! Here are some photos of the transformation that our camper saw throughout the summer!

Kitchen area...I painted all the fake wood, and left the real wood trim.
There are a lot of blog posts and pinterest pics out there about "glamping," with all sorts of glamorous photos of campers that look like they are right out of an interior design magazine spread.  Keep in mind that while I did try to take photos of our camper while it looked it's best, even "glamping" isn't glamorous all the time! Most of these photos were taken in our driveway while I was working on things.  Once this bad boy gets out into the wilderness, it is more often seen littered with pretty leaves, great walking sticks, cool rocks, and little containers of bugs, butterflies and caterpillars...just the way a camper should be!!  While I always am working to keep our little space in order, it's not all perfectly neat while in use.  After all, I'd much rather be focused on making camping memories than keeping the camper pristine!
I re-upholstered all of the cushions in silver, black, and sparkle red vinyl!! The camper had just been reupholstered with the flower canvas, which really was pretty cute.  But, this really fit better with the overall theme and brightened up the area.  I also had cleanability in mind here, and wanted dinette cushions that my boys could spill on and I could simply wipe up!

Curtains and other upholstery! I found this adorable camper fabric on and replaced all the pink curtains!  The tie-back's I crocheted with black and sparkly red yarn, and then bought sparkly mint green buttons from the fabric store.  All I did was yank the old ones out of the wall, and staple in the new ones with a staple gun!  I used more of the curtain fabric to reupholster the padded boards on the bunk beds and above the doorway as well.  Really easy to do with a staple gun!

The frig is covered with some fun plaid adhesive-backed vinyl! The cabinet door to the right of the frig has some clear plastic frames where I can hang photos of camping memories.

Cabinet knobs! I shopped around for a while but knobs are expensive. So, I decided to spray paint the boring bronze ones, then painted little trailers on them with acrylic paint and gave them a couple coats of clear coat!

Paint does wonders!

I got these fun paisley bird and branch vinyl graphics on Amazon and scattered them around the dinette area.

This peel & stick tile from "Tic-Tac-Tile" is awesome! You can cut it with scissors and just stick it on! It made a really cool backsplash without adding tons of weight to the camper.

 I knew we'd have fun with a camper. I have fond memories of camping in our little pop-up as a kid, and knew I wanted my boys to create memories like that as well.  But, even I didn't realize just how much fun we ALL would have, and how much MORE I would look forward to camping now!  I love that I don't have to spend 2 weeks hauling stuff out of the shed, washing everything, and taking inventory every time we camp.  It's so nice to have most of our gear all situated in the camper, and be able to just pack our clothes and go!  We also save SO much money now on dog kennels, as we can take our dog Lucy along with us.  She does GREAT in the camper and loves it! She is a 115 pound great dane mix and her and her bed fit perfectly under the dinette table overnight.  It couldn't be a better fit for all of us, and we're looking forward to years of memories to come!

The start of our family's camping memories!

We've just scheduled what will likely be our last camping trip of the season, and then plan to make some repairs and improvements before the snow starts flying.  I'm already looking forward to next spring!

Monday, September 7, 2015

11 Reasons for Little Boys to Love Chicago

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Chicago.  I got engaged at the top of the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) back in 1998.  Chicago was the half way point of the many drives my hubby and I took on our trips back home to MN when we were living in Ohio.  I've been there several times for business trips while working for Best Buy, and really fun design conferences while I was president of the MN chapter of IDSA.  My last trip was a gift for my Mom on her 60th birthday...just her and I exploring the city for a weekend.  So, when the opportunity arose to take our boys to their first trip to Chicago earlier this spring, I was as excited as them!

There are so many things for all ages and genders to love in Chicago, but being that we were seeing it through the eyes of our 2 boys this time made me realize what a great trip it is for boys especially! Here are a few reasons why, in no particular order...

1. The Cloud Gate
Also known as "the Bean," the Cloud Gate sculpture is really fun for everyone.  Adults walk underneath like kids, looking up in awe and not paying attention to where they are going, lie down along the edge to get a picture, and kids just blend right in.  It's a place where everyone acts a little silly, enthralled with their own reflections, and imaginations run wild!

2. Maggie Daley Park
I thought the boys would enjoy a walk over the BP "Bridge to Nowhere," only we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it no longer leads to nowhere! At the other end now lies an incredible new park with one of the coolest playgrounds we've ever seen. Being a Saturday morning it was pretty chaotic there, but wow did our boys have FUN!! 

3. Gino's East 
Where else will your kids be allowed to draw on the walls and even the furniture?! Even with seriously over tired boys, we managed to wait the usual 45 minutes it takes to bake a genuine Chicago deep dish pizza without any meltdowns.  The boys got crayons almost immediately upon entry, colored their placemats, had some cheesy bread, explored the upper level, rode the elevator, left their marks on the walls, and waited for their pizza without asking for my phone to play games!

4. Transportation Galore
Planes, Trains and Automobiles never fail to catch the boys' attention. We took a Taxi for our first ride but quickly switched to Uber as they are a fraction of the cost and so much nicer. The boys get excited over all forms of transportation, so even a cab ride was fun!  They perked up and forgot about their tired feet whenever the El train passed by, and likened the tiny cars from our skyscraper views to their Hot Wheels tracks back home...

5. Fire Trucks
The first morning we awoke to find our boys hiding between the curtains and the window quietly whispering "WOAH!" and "Oooooh, did you SEE that?!"  After we rolled out of bed they told us they were watching a truck on fire, being put out by fire fighters! Later we found out that they were actually filming a scene for Chicago Fire right outside our hotel.  Pretty cool for little fire truck fans!!

6. Navy Pier
The first thing the boys wanted to do when we woke up the first day was ride the Ferris wheel! Yeah, I know it's a total tourist trap, but still worth a stroll through.  We must have gotten some sort of early bird special by accident because our $7/person entry to the Ferris Wheel ended up being a pass worth 2 rides each. So, the boys got to go on a couple other rides as well! What little boy doesn't love being hurled through the air on swings?! It's definitely a fun and unique way to enjoy an amazing open air view of the city from up high.

 7. Lego Towers
The boys loved going up in the Hancock Observatory (now 360 Chicago) and the Willis Tower Skydeck! They were really impressed with the giant Lego models of each building that were there, too....

8. Heights and Spying from Above
Besides just enjoying the amazing views from above, we had fun being spies and zooming in on stuff the boys wanted to investigate with my camera. On the left is a photo of the beach, viewed from the Hancock Tower, where we noticed that someone had written a marriage proposal in the sand! The image in the center is of some prisoners playing basketball on the rooftop exercise yard of the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The far right the boys got their thrills stepping out on the sky deck!

9. Construction and Danger
Wherever you walk there is bound to be some ordinary Chicago occurrence that will fascinate little boys.  Here we had fun watching a window washer at work, as well as a jackhammer tearing up the street.  Our boys never grow tired of heavy equipment, noise, dirt and danger! If you can catch the lift bridges opening up, it's sure to be a hit.

10. Museums Galore
There are a lot of great museums in Chicago...

- The Museum of Science and Industry
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- The Field Museum of Natural History
- Adler Planetarium
- Chicago Childrens Museum
- Shedd Aquarium
- Peggy Notebaere Nature Museum
...and many more...

The only one we had time to hit in our short trip this time was the Art Institute of Chicago. Sam was really excited to see so many familiar paintings and favorite artists! He happens to have an AMAZING art teacher and told me all sorts of fun facts about particular paintings and artists that even I never learned in my years of college art history classes.  Their armor exhibit was a hit with the boys too!

11. Lincoln Park Zoo
I grabbed a ride via Uber with the boys to the Lincoln Park Zoo while Daddy was working, and it was great! Unfortunately we got there shortly before closing, so we didn't have a ton of time.  The great thing about this zoo though is that it is FREE, so you don't have to feel like you need to cram every square foot in on one visit to get your money's worth.

The zoo was really beautiful and manageable for us on foot.  After the hour or so that we had there, they were tired and ready for dinner so we tried one last, great Chicago pizza place: Giordano's!

Giordano's was my favorite pizza...but Gino's was my favorite crust. Both amazing!

All in all it was a GREAT trip and the boys can't wait to go back! To top it off, we even managed to weave in some requirements for Sam to earn a travel related Cub Scout "belt loop!"


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