KOA Camping: Mini Reviews from our Summer Roadtrip

forsythKOA

We camped 5 times this summer while  driving up and down the East Coast on our Epic Family Roadtrip. The first night was at a state park in Ohio but the other four trips we stayed at KOAs. This was my first time staying at a KOA and I was a pretty instant convert. What’s the difference?

The first thing I noticed about the KOAs compared to a lot of other campgrounds is simply the ease of booking. With over 485 locations throughout North America, it seemed like there was always a KOA within spitting distance of the routes we were driving and their website was incredibly easy to book with. Most of the KOAs have great maps of their campground so you can figure out where you want to stay and what you’ll be able to do there. I didn’t have to guess how far away the campground was, which site would be better to stay in or whether or not I’d have to pay for parking. Everything was easy. For a long road trip, this was a godsend!

Here’s a roundup of the four campgrounds we stayed at:

dc-campground-chessKOA

Our first KOA experience was at the Capitol KOA outside of Washington D.C. in Maryland. I think this was the perfect KOA to start with because they had everything going for them. The staff was super friendly and helpful, our tent site was within spitting distance of the playground which the kids adored, they had a lot of cool amenities like a jumping pillow, a giant chess board, outdoor billiards, ping pong and badminton. That night they showed a movie on the side of the office / store – it was so family friendly and was a nice break after a day of walking through Washington D.C.

Going to DC? Be sure to check out the shuttles to D.C. offered by the campground.

DC-campground

The next night we drove through to North Carolina where we stayed at the Enfield / Rocky Mount KOA. After driving through ferocious traffic, we were pretty exhausted and honestly didn’t make much use of their amenities. BB did play with their giant checker board (admittedly not as cool as the giant chess board). We were admittedly disappointed in the firewood they had available which was unfortunately too wet to get a good fire going but with the constant rain that plagued our vacation this was difficult to avoid.

NC-koa

After spending a lovely week in Florida visiting my dad, we drove north to the Forsyth Georgia KOA (did you see that beautiful picture at the top of this post? That’s from the Forsyth KOA). When we got to Forsyth my husband took advantage of a deal they had going to upgrade to a KOA Kabin for only $10 more per night! It was just a simple cabin with a full bed and a bunk bed and a small desk but it also boasted Air Conditioning!!!! This was music to our ears on a hot July night and a fantastic treat after making not terrific time driving yet again. Rather than setting up camp after a long drive, we unloaded the car and got right to the best part of camping: the camp fire! We also loved their playground which had a nice mix of classic playground equipment and fun new structures to play on as well.

forsythkoacollage

So the next morning we drove to the Bowling Green KOA and I’ll admit it, I totally splurged on another cabin. It wasn’t the same great deal but it was the same amount of totally worth it. Honestly, we barely glanced at the amenities at this KOA because we were busy exploring caves (more on that later, I promise) but their website boasts mini golf, a pet playground, paddle boats, arcade games, horseshoes, volleyball, a swimming pool and more. In addition to being near Mammoth Cave and The Lost River Cave, it’s also near Dinosaur World (which we didn’t see this time) and the National Corvette Museum (which I went to when I was a little girl). So they’ve got a lot going on!

bowlinggreenKOA

What kind of camper are you? State park? KOA? Backyard?

Tent / RV / Cabin / I’ll  be at my hotel, thanks!

What I’m Into Lately: August 2014

coffee love

We’re two weeks into the school year and slowly finding our rhythm. BB has adjusted to life as a kindergarten girl like a champ and MM is slowly getting used to the heftier workload that 3rd grade at a private school demands of him and I’m slowly accepting that my son is horridly unorganized and absent minded. We’ve got a long weekend ahead of us to enjoy all of the things we love when we’re not doing the weekday grind. Hopefully it recharges us and leaves us ready for another week!

I’m linking up again with the lovely Leigh Kramer to share the things I’ve been into this month: like books, tv, music, and great online reads.

BOOKS I READ:

  1. ***** One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde – Finished August 10, 2014 – I was absolutely blown away by this book which is impressive when you consider it is 6th in a series. The fact that the author was able to surprise and delight me in book six is really rather remarkable. There are so many elements to this book (and this series) that it seems impossible to describe but I particularly loved the descriptions of Bookworld and also the description of experiencing the real world for the first time through a Bookworld character’s eyes.
  2. **** Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch – Finished August 27, 2014 – I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t know much about Rachel Dratch before reading this aside from “that funny girl on SNL” but her stories both made me laugh and truly resonated with me. From the cool tidbits about her time on SNL to stories about her dating life and family life, this had a little bit of everything.
  3. *** Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon – Finished August 28, 2014 – The artwork in this graphic novel is beautiful and of course I enjoyed getting a glimpse into what happens to all the main characters after the series finale, but the overall storyline was very difficult to follow and overall I just felt it didn’t compare to the television show, not that this is surprising really.

I Am MalalaRight now I’m reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai which my book club will be reading at the end of September. It’s actually the UW Go Big Read selection so I’m just one of an enormous amount of Wisconinites reading it right now. If you haven’t heard of this book here is a description from goodreads.com:

“When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.”

TV SHOWS I’M MARATHONING:

We’ve been watching Scandal on Netflix this month – totally late to the party but loving it. We just watched the first episode of Season 2 today and I’m SOOOOOOO anxious to find out what happens next!

I’m also watching Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model and we’re still loving The Colbert Report and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson who we will miss a lot when he leaves the show at the end of the year. ::sobs:: We’re at a lull right now otherwise as we wait for the Fall season to begin which will really be any minute now.

MUSIC I’M JAMMING TO:

Lots of girl power music this month. These are three songs I’ve been listening to borderline obsessively.

LINKS I’M LOVING:

9 Signs Your Daughter Might Be a Mean Girl: I was relieved to see that my daughter seems to be in the clear so far.

Back to School: The 70’s vs. Today: So I’m not quite this bad but I totally busted out the bento boxes this year.

I thought age 4 would be better. I was wrong. I seriously could have written this one.

Building Your Own Pergola: Part One. The hubby and I are kinda sorta talking about doing this.

What are you into lately?

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me.

bookish

This bookish tag has been making the rounds on my Facebook page and I loved it so much I decided to post it here, too.

Here are the rules:

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and do not think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just books that have affected you in some way.


(In no particular order…)

  1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I read this after graduating college and I’d been feeling a bit down about everything. I’d done some things I was less than proud of, disappointed a few friends and was not sure where I would be going in life. Lots of uncertainties. This book was very therapeutic for me. By the time I finished reading it I found that I liked myself again. I was truck by Scarlett who often did things that others would disapprove of and maybe even she disapproved of some of it but you still root for her and she still rises to the occasion and remembers that tomorrow is another day.
  2. Lamb by Christopher Moore: This was my first Christopher Moore book and probably his best. It was also the first book that I loved so completely that I gushed about it to everybody and made my friends read it immediately. I think I learned more about religious history from this book than anywhere else in my life so if I’m horribly mistaken about anything it’s Biff’s fault.
  3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I’m one of those weird people who never sat down and read this book until I was a grown woman with kids. Boy was I missing out! I can still remember the first few chapters seeming so stiff and old fashioned and then suddenly something shifted in my brain and it was just amazing and I kind of wished everyone spoke like a Jane Austen novel. How can anyone read about Darcy and not be permanently affected.
  4. Harry Potter by JK Rowling: Aside from being one of the most popular books in the world for kids and grownups alike; aside from having sort of grown up while reading these over the span of several years; aside from the obvious, this book was a major part of my early relationship with my husband. We bonded over our love of the books and I can still remember working the release party for the last book at the bookstore where we both worked.
  5. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: The first book in a long line of sequels, Jasper Fforde blew my mind pretty early on but more impressively, he continues to blow my mind with each book. I have a very difficult time describing this series but basically it’s chock full of literary references, traveling through dimensions, illegal cheese, mysteries, evil giant corporations and love. These are complex books that suck you in and make you feel like you have lived through an epic adventure by the time you are done reading.
  6. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: This is a book that I read and loved as a kid and then got to share with my son recently. We all watched the movie with Michelle Trachtenberg, too, and loved it. This book really resonated with me as a writer and sort of reclusive introspective type. I adored Harriet as a kid and continue to adore her now that I’m a grown up.
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: I read this in college. It was probably the first dystopian story I ever read and it’s stayed with me for a long time now. From the grim aspects of the book to the random sparks of humor. This book is a masterpiece.
  8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: This was one of the first books I read along with the book club that I joined a few years ago and it’s still one of my favorite book club selections. It’s also one of my favorite epistolary novels (a book written as a series of letters) and the main reason I keep trying new ones. This story made pretty much every member of the club want to travel to Guernsey immediately and I’d still pack my bags immediately at the chance.
  9. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner: I’ve read and loved a lot of Jennifer Weiner books. She has characters that really draw you in and become real to you as you read and writes about very universal topics for we women readers, but Goodnight Nobody deserves a spot on this list if only because after reading it I cannot read Goodnight Moon without thinking of this book and feeling a touch of melancholy when I get to that page.
  10. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: One of the first teen dystopian novels I read, in a long line of many, many. If you like The Hunger Games or Divergent or any of those books, you have to read the Uglies series immediately or you aren’t really in the club. For me this was the one that started it all and the one that set the precedent for the following. I am sure someone else can point to another earlier book that defies this statement but it was my first and thus it’s quite special to me.

I fear I am missing major books but in the spirit of rule following, these are my 10. I am noticing a lot of strong female characters in this list – that might be the only true defining thread there. Other books that are just jumping and screaming to be mentioned: Anne of Green Gables, The Red Tent, A Wrinkle in Time, Fangirl, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and easily a dozen others but you get the idea.

What 10 books would be on your list? Tell me in the comments or share them on your blog (and leave me a link so I can check them out!)

10 Things I Learned Watching Reality TV

lessons from reality TV

I’d like to pretend that I’m one of those people who only watches lofty, educational programs on PBS and BBC but the truth is I’m an equal opportunity television enjoyer-er and yes I’ve watched my share of reality television. I think that statement means something different to everyone. Some people who say they watch reality television are talking about shows like Hoarders and Say Yes to the Dress. Some are watching Ducky Dynasty or Dancing With the Stars. Some are totally joking and would never.

My personal preference for reality television is competition style shows that give you a glimpse into different careers and hobbies. I was a big fan of TLC’s Trading Spaces back in the day and loved me some What Not To Wear. I still watch Project Runway religiously and I swear I’m watching America’s Next Top Model because I’m a photography buff. I’m also into cooking shows like Food Network Star, Cupcake Wars and Food Truck Road Trip though I watch those more sporadically. And though I know reality television is considered fluffy substance-free stuff, there is a lot to learn from these shows if you ignore the drama and pay attention.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned while watching reality tv:

  1. If you want to win something, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and go for it. Take chances.
  2. If you are struggling to do something – step back, reevaluate and Make It Work! There is always another solution.
  3. When people say “I didn’t come here to make friends” they are going to be a storm cloud of drama. But a lot of the time they really were hoping to make friends. Be nice.
  4. Florian hates red velvet cupcakes, so stop it guys. Maybe watch an episode of a show before appearing on it. Also use natural ingredients. Red food dye is not a flavor.
  5. If it’s an unconventional challenge, don’t use fabric. If they wanted you to sew a dress out of fabric, they would have sent you to Mood. Follow directions.
  6. Rules for having your picture taken: Find the light. Work your angles. Smize. – that means don’t look dead inside, guys. My five year old can do it, so can you.
  7. Something something pitch something something pentatonics something something cabaret something. Dawg. Translation: Sing well if you are on a singing competition. Maybe take music lessons.
  8. Ignore the drama and focus on your craft. Be nice to people and they will probably be nice to you. Don’t be a jerk.
  9. Not everyone is destined to be a star. This is okay. This is normal. They aren’t looking for the Super Nice Person Who Tries Really Hard – but those character traits will be stellar for your real life.
  10. Have fun – if you aren’t having fun doing it, we won’t have fun watching it. And also – why do something that brings you no joy?

Mama Kat challenged us to share 10 things we’ve learned from reality television (as one of 5 prompts for this week’s Writer’s Workshop). Are you playing along? Let me know in the comments section below!

What’s your favorite tv show?

Mama’s Losin’ It