Hudson the Camper

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Goodness. This post has been a long time coming. In case you've missed the rest of this story, you can find previous posts on Hudson the camper here and "his" Instagram page here.

The quick summary is that spring 2016, Dave humored his slightly crazy wife and bought her a 1964, 14 ft camper off of craigslist. I named him Hudson and have since updated and painted just about every square inch of the thing. We've used it before, but finally last week I finished the last couple things that needed to be done to truly call him done.

Dave did the hard stuff like tires and lights and putting up with me. I painted the interior and exterior, wallpapered, installed a new light, figured out curtains, added a matress and cushions, installed the sink, added new hardware and decorated.

My initial style inspiration was this mood board:

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Using the color scheme from a Hudson Bay Company blanket and other classic camping items, like Coleman coolers and enamel mugs, I wanted to keep things simple and unfussy, but also cozy.

To give you an idea of what I was working with, here are some before shots. It was structurally sound and the layout worked well, but everything else was rough.

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With those images in your recent memory, here's Hudson now:

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The exterior got a couple good coats of paint and a new yellow stripe. Dave wired trailer lights, put on new tires and made the hitch all safe and legal. 

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The seating area got a new light and cushions. I also hung curtain wire and hemmed my grandma's old bobble curtains to fit. The nice thing is that when we don't need them the curtains tuck away into those corners.

One of my favorite things is that the table can collapse down and make a bed. Originally it couldn't do that and it felt like a huge oversight, so I fixed that.

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The "kitchen" area also got a bunch of paint, new knobs and wallpaper too. The sink came with the camper and I'm assuming was the original one, but everything else was missing. It took me a long time to just say "good enough is good enough," saw the hole into the counter and stick that drink dispenser there as a faucet. I stuck an empty kitty litter box under the drain and called it good. There's something so freeing about not holding myself to perfection when working on a project — things get done!

After using the set up for a weekend, we couldn't love it more. Of course real plumbing would be even better, but since we're just camping it's so nice to brush our teeth indoors and have a place to wash our hands.

Obviously the rest of the under sink cabinet stores our fuel and propane.

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Having a real bed when we go camping? Yes Please! 

The mattress isn't anything special and the full size is a bit smaller than our king at home, but it's so cozy and set up so nicely, we both slept way better than in a tent. My favorite is that little shelf for my phone and glasses — since I get the wall side of the bed, of course. 

I also sewed up those pillow cases as a last minute addition and I think they're the perfect camp flannel. My Hudson Bay Company blanket gets the place of honor on the bed as well.

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I also got my green Coleman items — lamp and cooler. My parents had one when I was growing up and they scream "adventure time" to me. Both are thrift finds and it makes me love them all the more. The cooler fits perfectly into the bottom of the "pantry/closet" and the lantern moves around as it's needed.

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The top part of the pantry is a linen closet and since I have an addiction to throws it's pretty much just full of cozy blankets. Since it's been rather warm, we haven't needed them yet, but I can't wait until we do.

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A small thing that made a huge difference was taking time to find a place for everything and organize. I brought a packet of little screw in hooks and added them everywhere — inside the cabinets, on the walls, under things, anywhere that made sense. Now the mugs, kettle and towels have places they belong and it makes cleaning up so much easier. In such a small space it's a good thing because three out of place things create an instant feeling of messy.

I also took a little time on our camping weekend to watercolor a couple little paintings to fit in the coat rack/mirror we have hanging by the door. It felt like the final cherry on top to the decor and theme. One is a misty pine tree scene and the other is a welcome with Hudson's name and date on it.

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Our double sleeping bag is a $5 garage sale find. It's down filled and so warm. I especially love the tag on it and the promise that it's the sleeping bag "for the rest of your life."

Last weekend we took Hud up to Dave's parents cabin and took full advantage of the beautiful fall weather. We biked, kayaked, dirt biked, explored and generally enjoyed good coffee, food and fun people. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Finally, it's been a goal of mine to figure out how to make easy and quick videos of our adventures. So I forced Dave and myself to take videos on my phone and when we got home I combined them into a quick little video. It's so far away from perfect, but I have a feeling it's the sort of thing that will be precious to us in the future. I'm a bit embarrassed, but thought you might like the little video tour of Hudson at the beginning. You'll notice in it that we took the cats camping, but that's a whole other (crazy) story. 

Small Joys: Summer

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As I pack up to leave on a couple different vacations for 3.5 weeks, I can't help but feel like my blissful summer at home is coming to an end. I know when I get back I'll still have a couple weeks of summer, but the golden days we've been enjoying will be past. I'm not one to wish away summer on the first day of September, but I'll be starting a new job and we'll be fitting last minute adventures into the weekends before things wrap up for colder seasons.

It's been a summer for the books. Despite things like wayward cats, the biggest issue I've had with this season is how quickly it's flown by. I feel like we pay our dues during the long Michigan winter and then summer comes and goes in a snap. We spend the days feeling energized and happy from the warmth of the sun, so that even our work seems easier. The evenings are full of grilled dinners, golden light and fireflies. Every five days we get a weekend filled with adventures and friends. I would be hard pressed to imagine a better way of life.

I'll remember this as the summer I finally felt like this place became home. 

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Gathering up things that brought joy this week and taking a moment to be grateful.

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We finally made it up to the lake last weekend and it was just as dreamy as it always is. Clear turquoise water, boat rides, long chats and good food are things that just can't dissappoint.

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We finally got a rug for our living room. We've had it for a while, but I think it deserves a call out of its own. I've been eyeing it for months and it finally went on sale enough to grab it. When it arrived I was so surprised by just how comfy and soft it is. A+ in my book.

(close up in the picture below)

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Two weekends ago my foot got smashed between two jetskis while we were out on Lake Michigan. It wasn't anyone's fault, but a situation that turned sketchy pretty quick. I don't think I've ever been more sure that I'd broken a bone. Miraculously, it ended up being a severe bruise but nothing else. I've had a rainbow foot for a couple weeks and spent a couple days icing it, but I'm back to walking normally. Because I'm so grateful that it's not broken, I haven't even felt like the bruising is a bid deal!

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Been spending lots of time with this crazy. Since she's been back, we've cuddled lots. Right now she's sleeping next to me and just twitched in that goofy way that animals do when they're dreaming.

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Finally, I've recently started reading again. As a child I devoured books by the stack, but after college I took a couple years off of pleasure reading. I'm getting back into it and I love it. I'd love any good suggestions you might have!

The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into autumn — the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.
— E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

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Ellie's Grand Adventure

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Well, it was a crazy weekend. If you followed along on social media you know that on Thursday night things got rough around here when Ellie disappeared from our yard in less than 15 minutes. Up until now the cats have had supervised free range of our yard, but we're super careful not to let them go far. Well, somehow Ellie managed to bolt so far that we couldn't find her despite searching for hours. What I wouldn't give to know what startled her!

(sidenote: Just last week I told Dave that I was truly content and happy with our life. There wasn't anything significant I'd change if I could. As you'll see, that was probably not a smart move. ;) )

The thing that made all this even more tricky was that we had a planned vacation starting the next morning. We were supposed to take off at 4:30am for Maine as a late anniversary trip and to go to a friend's wedding.

We went to bed hoping Ellie would show up during the night. Of course that was the night that we had a severe thunderstorm complete with hail and torrential downpour. To say Dave and I slept that night would be an over statement. Between the two of us we might have had 4 hours of fitful sleep.

We did end up leaving for the airport with aching hearts because we thought for sure Ellie would show up in the morning when Dave's parents stopped by to look around for her. By the time we landed in Boston and heard from them that she hadn't shown up, we realized she was probably lost for real and began to feel like we'd made a terrible mistake. We started posting her picture online so that people could keep an eye out for her and organizing friends to stop by the house and check for her.

I won't go into details, but lets just say our emotional state was not the best. Ellie is our first pet together and is a really special part of our love story, not to mention she's a huge part of what makes our house a home. We really battled against a lot of terrible feelings Thursday through Sunday, the biggest being guilt for having left home in the first place. I don't know if I've ever seen Dave that discouraged in our five years together.

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Somehow we got through Friday and Saturday and made it to the wedding Saturday evening. It was so good to be at the wedding and be able to celebrate our dear friend's marriage. That was by far the best part of the trip.

So that night, we were lying in bed complaining that our flight home wasn't until Sunday evening, when Dave started looking at flights that would get us home earlier. He found one that was relatively affordable and would get us home at least 12 hours earlier. We booked the tickets, threw our stuff in our bags, slept for 4 hours and then drove back to Boston through the sunrise. It felt so good to be headed home, where we could DO something to try and find Ellie. Things fell together really well for us, from the car rental place being open at 7am, to catching the bus to the airport and even getting seats together on the flight.

We got home around 1pm and a friend met us at home to help with the search. I got to work making huge "Lost Cat" signs and Dave did a preliminary search of the neighborhood. We even changed into fresh clothes so that they would smell the most like home and leave the scent wherever we went. 

After putting up the signs all over the neighborhood and checking at the local humane society, we started going door to door all up and down our road with flyers. When someone who usually hates talking on the phone and meeting strangers gets over their introversion and does all that, you know things are extreme. It felt so good to do something, but every false lead made our hearts sink. It was hard to keep our spirits up.

By six, we were so exhausted and discouraged. Thankfully we had friends who had come over to make us dinner. I don't know what we would have done if they hadn't been there with a hot meal and hugs. We hadn't had a real meal since Saturday morning and things looked better after refueling. We were going to head out and do a thorough search of the whole area that evening, thinking Ellie would probably be moving when it was cooler and darker.

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As I got up from our table and looked out our screen door, who did I see but Ellie! She slunk onto the front porch and sniffed the things we'd left out there to help guide her back. She almost looked like a different cat, she was so skinny and skittish. But I knew it was her right away. I was so scared she'd run away again as I unlocked the door and hurried outside to grab her.

Once she was inside we realized how tired, thirsty and hungry she was. It had been almost 3 days exactly to when she ran off and we don't think she found much to eat, drink or rest during that time. She looked unsteady on her feet and emptied her food and water bowls multiple times that night. We on the other hand smothered her with kisses and hugs.

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To say we were happy would be an understatement. We just couldn't believe the ordeal was over. And to think that if we hadn't taken that earlier flight, we wouldn't have been around when she showed up! It made it all worth it!  

We've been on cloud nine ever since. It may be hard to understand if you've never had a pet go missing, but it's a special sort of torture to know your fur baby is out there and you can't help it. She could probably get away with murder right now and we'd just let her. The one thing we won't be allowing anytime soon is outdoor time.

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Create: Charred Corn Tacos

So I'll probably never be a food blogger.  I don't have the urge and am not nearly tidy enough in the kitchen to take pictures of the cooking. I also dig into the food too fast to get a pretty photo of it. BUT. When I discover something this amazing I have to share. It's practically a duty to let you all know about these tacos.

I grew up with flour tortillas, which were fine, but this summer I discovered how yummy a warmed corn tortilla can be. Then I grilled a couple corn cobs on a whim (too lazy to boil it) and threw some peppers and onions next to them. Something magical happens to those veggies as they get a little charred by the flames. They require no more fussing than a squeeze of lime juice and a little salt and pepper and bam — best salsa ever. Add the salsa to a tortilla and other amazing things like avocado and cheese? Perfect summer dinner.

I'm not exaggerating when I say we had these 5 times in one week. They're that good.

Since it's hot and sticky and I don't really love cooking when there are other fun summer activities to get on to, these have been perfect. I use some precooked meat, throw the veggies on the grill, and we have a fresh, delicious dinner in 15 minutes. The secret is that the grilled sweet corn and fresh cilantro make the whole taco so flavorful that these could be served at a fancy shmancy taco place.

You can fill your taco like me and proportion everything just so, or you can do it like Dave and pile it so full that he can't even pinch it shut at top. By the end of the meal he can make a whole taco from just the droppings that have fallen out while he was eating.

Also, these are just as good without the meat, so if you vegetarian or just don't have meat in the house, these are still a winner.

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Consider this recipe a guideline, the ingredients are so fresh and simple that it would be nearly impossible to mess up. We use whatever is in the fridge and throw it on the table to go on the tortillas. The salsa is the real star of the show. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears corn
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper or a handful of smaller red peppers
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb pre-cooked, chopped meat of some sort (chicken, fish, pork, etc)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili powder (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • corn tortillas

Additional optional toppings (go a little crazy with these):

  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
  • cheese
  • chopped lettuce
  • avocado
  • sliced cabbage
  • grilled pineapple
  • lime wedges
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Instructions:

  1. Heat grill to high. 
  2. Slice onion lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. shuck corn. Cut pepper in half and remove stem and seeds. 
  3. Place vegetables over flames and cook until slightly charred. 
  4. Remove and chop veggies into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper and dress with the chopped cilantro and lime juice. 
  5. Season meat with chili, cumin, salt and pepper. 
  6. Heat tortillas either in a skillet or wrapped in aluminum in the oven. 
  7. Top each tortilla with veggie salsa, chicken and all the other toppings your heart desires. 

a toast

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My little sister, Magdalena (always Magdi to me), got married a little over a month ago. It was a wonderful day and a really fun weekend. Dave and I still look at each other and say "I miss that weekend. That was fun." 

Well, she got her pictures back and I thought I'd share a few of them as well as the little toast I was honored to give at their reception.

Good Evening.  

I’m Esther, and I am very happy to be here tonight to celebrate the wedding of my baby sister Magdi to this tall dude. My mom made me promise not to make anyone cry, so I’m going to do my best.

Thank you all for being here today. I know some of you have come from far and no matter the distance I know it means so much to Magdi, Christian and our whole family.

Magdi, I still remember getting to listen to your heart beat through a stethoscope while still in utero, so you might say we’ve been friends since before you were born. With 23 years of knowing Magdi under my belt, I may be the closest thing to an expert on Magdi. So, Christian, as the bossy, know-it-all big sister, I thought I’d help you out and share some insight.

First things first, in case the 5 coffee making devices you two registered for weren’t a sufficient enough hint, always make sure Magdi has a steady stream of coffee. I’m pretty sure half her blood content is caffeine and I wouldn’t suggest depriving her.

Secondly, if Magdi ever suggests you have a sleep over with goats and chickens, politely decline. I once said yes and we ended up with fleas.

Additionally, if you haven’t yet, you’ll soon learn that Magdi is a girl with a soft heart. I once woke up in the middle the night to her sobbing across the room because a Doctor Who character had died. Be careful what movies you let her watch!

Don’t be surprised if you stop being called Christian and just become “Magdalena’s husband” especially in Hillsdale County. She’s known everywhere she goes, and those around her are defined by their relationship to her. Case in point, I’ve been “Magdalena’s Sister” for years.

Finally, if you know what’s good for you, don’t keep her up late to get stuff done or to settle an argument, just give her a kiss and send her off to bed. This girl doesn’t operate well without sleep and woe to anyone who gets in the way of her and her bed.

Christian, that’s about it, you are now prepared for all that lies ahead. You have chosen a wonderful woman to be your wife and all I ask is that you take good care of her and keep her laughing.

In conclusion, how appropriate that on the same fair grounds that Magdalena won countless 4H blue ribbons she’s celebrating her biggest trophy yet — both literally and figuratively.

All joking aside, from the bottom of my heart, it gives me great pleasure to finally call you my brand new very tall, little brother.

Please raise your glasses to Magdalena and Christian. May the happiness you have tonight only be the start of a wonderful life together.

P.S. I made my mom cry anyway, but I think by that time she was already a lost cause and anything would have got her going. ;) 

Photo credits: Luna Dolce Photography