Halloween Camping

We love fall and our favorite fall activity is Halloween. I do find it a bit bittersweet, the fact that the end of camping season is near but Halloween is so much fun that you kinda put the doom of what is coming out of your mind for a while.

A few of our local state parks have started hosting Halloween Campouts (Watkins Mill State Park and Wallace State Park). We sorta stumbled onto the first one and had such a great time that we keep going back. Last year we even won the Scariest Campsite Contest and earned ourselves three free nights of camping. We used that reward and booked sites at Watkins Mill State Park for the 3rd Annual Halloween Campout this past weekend.

When the judges brought us our first place prize last year they said, “You really blew us away and we can’t wait to see what you come up with for next year!” I am sure that was some kind of standard reply they give to everyone but we took it to heart and looked at it as a challenge. Could we top the Mad Science Lab we did last year?

zombiekidsMaybe I should pause here and explain who all is involved in this haunted camping trip. The Taylor’s and The Todd’s have been at every single Halloween Camp-Out at Watkins Mill. Last year we extended an invitation to The Merriman’s because they are fun and love Halloween as much as we do. This year, the Todd’s had to cancel due to a conflict with Z’s sports schedule. So, I invited my friend Meg and her family. (Do you remember Meg? She wrote a blog post for us called Growing Up Camping.) Then we have my dear Mother who comes to help and participate the day of the Halloween party. We also have other friends who attend the same camp-out so it is nice to spend time with so many great camping friends!

zombiesWe settled on our theme for the year: Zombie Prom. We decided a prom had three main elements we needed to create in our campsite. First we needed a DJ. You can’t have a school dance without someone playing music. Second we needed a photo attraction. I am sure all of you out there have a “memorable prom photo” from back in the day. And finally, we needed a refreshment table with cake and punch.

I would say we it took us about 2 months to pull together all of our decorations. Finding formal attire we could muck up at a price point reasonable to us took a little while. In the end we told our family members that as long as they had something to do with high school we would be happy. So, we ended up with a Zombie Prom Queen and her date, a Zombie baseball player, football player, a few cheerleaders, and even a Grimm reaper responsible for collecting the departed souls.

img_8460We used two easy up tents as our frame. We covered the tents with inexpensive black dollar store plastic table cloths to create walls. Not only did the walls give us an area to transform, it also kept us hidden from the watchful eye sight of other campers. I think this helped create an excitement around our campsite as everyone’s anticipation kept building about what was inside that tent. On top of the black walls, we hung up some red plastic table cloths that we unevenly cut into strips. I remember back to my high school days and we used rolls of crepe paper to create the walls of our dances. Hours were spent hanging the crepe paper and twisting it in the same direction and taping it to the floor. We wanted our Zombie Prom to look like it had been pretty at one point but had been discarded and forgotten until this one night.

img_9026-1Our original plan was to have red and white plastic tablecloths cut to look like crepe paper streamers but when we got to the campground I realized I had picked up round tablecloths and not rectangle ones. Meg was quick on her feet and suggested using the rounds as valances on top of the red and it worked out well!

img_8970For our photo attraction, The Merriman’s and I made a giant 6 foot 3 inch coffin out of cardboard. We were gifted the shipping box of a whiteboard and set about measuring and cutting. Once cut, we painted it black and duck taped it all together. Our original thought was to have someone “pop” out of the coffin and provide a timely and funny photobomb but in the end, we left the coffin closed because it felt stronger. We added chains and a “beware of zombie’s” styrofoam sign to the coffin. Around the coffin we had a candelabra with zombie candle’s, skulls, and a flower arrangement of dead flowers.  The Merriman’s and I also made a sign to sit in front of the photo attraction that said “Zombie Prom “#3rdAnnualHalloweenCampout #WatkinsMillStatePark.

img_8974The DJ was the easiest and maybe the funniest part to set up. We have access to a life-size medical skeleton that we like to call Bob. Bob was always going to be the DJ for the prom. We were going to call him “Bob Bones” and use bone lettering to make him a DJ sign for his booth. However, the presidential debates happened and Ken Bone made himself an internet sensation. So, we changed Bob’s name to Ken, gave him a mustache, put a red sweater on him, and called him Ken Bone, DJ 4 Hire. We put Beat headphones on him, rested his hands on a turntable and a laptop. I even found a brand new mirrored disco ball on Craigslist and hung it from the roof of the tent. We used our red/green garden lasers to caste light onto the disco ball so the entire prom spun with light.

img_8968We always knew we wanted cake and punch at the refreshment table but really debated over fake cake vs real cake. A month or so ago, I stumbled onto a tutorial from another RV blogger, Gretchen about a fake cake she had made in the past. (Gretchen has two blogs one for home, Boxy Colonial, and one for the RV, Boxy Colonial On The Road.) I knew immediately that this was the type of cake we were going to have. So I set about buying cake forms with my 40-50% off coupons and used some Plaster of Paris I had at home to frost the cakes. I used old Mardi Gras beads painted black for decoration and made clay roses uses Sculpey clay I had on hand. Ironically,  I never figured out how to make roses with frosting but my clay roses turned out amazing! We added some old flower arrangements painted black to the table along with some blood red punch with eyeballs and had a spooky looking refreshment table.

img_8475Outside the tent we created a grave yard with styrofoam headstones and compost dirt. We put strobe lights and warning tape up. We also lit the pathway from the road to the tent with solar lights and we ran floral wire between three trees and taped red glow sticks to the wire to give the effect of floating red candles.

img_8965Reflections from the night:

This was the most forgiving theme we could have picked. It did not matter how inexperienced we were at mucking clothing up, it looked great. Not a single one of us felt confident with our make-up skills going into this but we nailed it! The Plaster of Paris got bumped around a bit as it cured, it didn’t matter it looked like it was a decade old.

I am not sure how many parents at the Halloween campout knew who Ken Bone was. He was funnier to us than any visitor!

We had a line to visit our Zombie Prom all night long. In hindsight, we should have created a front entrance and a back exit. Our photo attraction got a lot of attention and it slowed down the traffic flow.

img_8996We ended up taking first place again! It was a shared victory with all the kids and all the adults who helped plan. We all went to bed with big smiles  and maybe some sore muscles from all the dancing we did. People greeted us with their hopes of seeing us next year and looking forward to our site. It seems we have a reputation to uphold.

There were other really cute sites in the campground. A short drive around, we snapped some photos of our favorites.

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This was our campground host. They used their Class A cab to create a giant monster face and even used the grill for a mouth. I also love the Halloween pail totem pole.

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The Short Chic and I saw this large frame made of PVC pipe during our morning walk. We wondered how they would use it. Well, it was nice to find out. I am not sure if they purchased this or made it but they put a giant Frankenstein cover over the PVC frame.

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This trio of skeletons sat around a campfire roasting marshmallows all weekend. The fire was very realistic and crackled and popped just like our real fire did!

img_8471A trio of witches brewing up some special potion just for Halloween. They had motion sensors and startled me when I got close enough to activate them.

img_8469This camper has been pickin his banjo a long ole time.

img_8473This group skeletons look like they are enjoying camp life.

If you have the opportunity to go camping for Halloween, we encourage you to give it a try! And if you are interested, we will back at Watkins Mill State Park next year for the 4th Annual Halloween Camp-out. See you then!

Play, Pause, Reset

We are victims of our own destruction at times. The schedule we keep; no one sets it for us. The hours we keep, no one sets them for us. Our children’s extracurricular activities, we said yes to those. So when I feel like my life or my family’s lives are running at a speed I can’t keep up with I know I can only blame ourselves.

img_7927Our youngest had a day off from school this past week. A fact that I seemed to overlook until the automated message came out the Thursday before to remind all those parents like me who can’t see the forest because we are dodging the trees. We could not go out of town because we still had cheer responsibilities Friday night and Saturday afternoon. We returned to a local spot and set up our base camp a few miles north of our own home at Smith’s Fork Campground.

img_7929The Todd’s schedule would not allow them to join us, their lives are just as hectic as our own, but they were able to come and visit us for dinner Saturday night. In addition to the Todd’s my cousin and his family joined us. We enjoyed a campfire, smore’s, and adult beverages, as well as laughs.

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The rest of the long weekend was spent decompressing and relaxing. Every space for resting was utilized to the maximum. No alarm clocks; we slept past 9:00 a.m. every day of the weekend. The Boy and I each took late morning naps under the awning in a lounger and as soon as Wayne’s attention was diverted to fishing I climbed back in bed for another late afternoon nap while The Boy curled up on the coach.

img_8907Many weekend camping trips are filled with activities and running. During those weekends we hardly see the inside of our camper other than to shower and sleep. But occasionally it is nice to hit the pause button. During these weekends I am glad I took the time to make our camper feel like a second home.  There is no place like a home away from home to allow the body and mind to reset.

 

Farewell Miss Norma

In August 2015, Norma Jean Bauerschmidt became an internet sensation.  Days after her husband of 67 years passed away Norma found herself sitting in a doctors office being diagnosed with cancer and facing treatment options. The 90 year old woman squarely told the doctor she was not going to be doing any treatment options, she was hitting the road! And she did.

 

norma-trending-large_trans7mg_60o0rriiwrzvppge3mas08iywehanrog-y58hhmFor the past year I have been one of thousands who have followed Miss Norma’s story through their facebook page, Driving Miss Norma. Miss Norma joined her son and daughter-in-law and traveled 10,000 miles in a 36 foot RV. They have traveled the country in the past year and posted inspirational photos along the way.

Last week, Miss Norma at the age of 91 passed away. Her end of life celebration is tomorrow, October 7 in Friday Harbor, Washington where Miss Norma spent the last of her days. If you are in this part of the country, the end of life celebration is open to the public. But if you are not able to attend, you can still honor Miss Norma’s life by simply spreading joy in your world. She loved cake and root beer floats.

Miss Norma’s story has touched me for several reasons. Obviously being a RV traveler  and enthusiast, I am taken by anyone who hits the open road for an extended time. While I need to work right now, one day I plan to live my days out as a nomad just as Miss Norma did.

The other reasons Miss Norma’s story touched me in such a significant way is that I, just like Norma, have sat in the doctors office and been handed a cancer diagnosis and weighed all the treatment options available to me. Yes, I am a cancer survivor. Six years ago, as my Time Hop app is now reminding me daily, I was battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Many of you here don’t know that about me. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and every year that I pass my diagnosis date I am reminded that my life is forever changed:

  • I do not want to put off doing what makes me happy. There is no time like the present to live a happy life. Life is too short to put off things that you “one day want to do”. Make the time for those things now. Honestly, that is why I love our RV so much. We are able to travel and spend time as a family doing those things that make us happy.
  • Life is full of adventure; even if you can’t hit the road for a 10,000 road trip, there are places to explore and adventures to be had in our own back yards. Go and explore!
  • Life is too short and precious to carry around heavy baggage; let it go! From relationships to personal choices don’t carry around negativity. This is probably another reason I love camping so much. You hardly ever encounter a grumpy camper.
  •  Be present and make memories often. I get it, I like my technology as much as the next person, but sometimes we just need to put it down and be present enough to make a memory with a loved one. When I was diagnosed all I could think about was my children’s lives without me. Even when I managed to not think about it during my waking moments, it seeped into my dreams at night. So, yes, we make the time to play checkers, catch fireflies, or play Bocce ball. We go for hikes and we teach ourselves how to Geocache just so we can look back on all of our shared experiences and smile. Even when they were not so successful!

Miss Norma’s decided to forgo treatment and to hit the road. She made a decision to take control over the time she had and to live each day to its fullest. I respect the decision she made and each day I saw her Facebook post, she inspired me.  As Miss Norma is honored tomorrow, lets be inspired by her once more. We do not need to wait until we are handed a medical diagnosis to change our lives. We can do that today!

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Our thoughts and prayers are with Miss Norma’s family and loved ones. Thank you for sharing her with us. I hope our love and support can comfort you in this time of loss.