Unplugged And Roughin’ It

It’s tough to even find the words to explain just how AMAZING this weekend was!


I grew up going camping at least 4 times a summer with our family friends, the Klatka’s and Popiel’s. With 6 adults and 14 kids, there was rarely a dull moment. Those camping trips are some of my most favorite memories growing up and I will cherish them forever.

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My friend Kimi suggested that we plan a camping trip with just us “kids.” Yes, even in our 30s we are still the kids. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and I was looking forward to making new and exciting camping memories with my childhood friends.

Tyson and I had originally planned on bringing Qwynn with us, but the more we started talking about all the logistics, the more we thought it might be less stressful and more fun (for everyone involved) if we left Qwynn behind. Luckily, my wonderful and very generous co-workers had offered a few months earlier to take Qwynn for a weekend, and we decided this would be the perfect opportunity to take them up on that offer.

It was our first time leaving Qwynn for more than an evening or night. I knew she would be in great hands, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little nervous. Especially after finding out 3 days before the trip that there would be no cell service at the campsite. The first time leaving Qwynn AND no way to check in! Could I handle it?? I quickly realized that I didn’t really have a choice, so I just kept telling myself that everything would be fine and that this was the best decision for all of us. Plus, I was anxious to have some fun with my friends, sister and husband!

I thought about Qwynn most of the 7 hour drive to the Allegheny National Park. It ended up taking almost an hour longer than expected to get to the campsite, arriving just before 1 am. When I saw just how primitive the area was, I was reassured that we had made the right decision leaving Qwynn back in NYC.

I was bummed we weren’t able to get there earlier Friday night and was extremely excited to spend the whole next day with everyone. It was supposed to rain all day, but I was definitely planning on making the most of my time there. We stayed up until 3 am chatting around the fire, and even though we went to bed so late, I was of course up by 7:30 am.

The rain was already coming down, and I laid there listening to the pitter-patter against the tent. Not for very long though. I was too excited to check out the beautiful oasis that was waiting for me outside our tent. And, I also really had to pee! I grabbed my umbrella and quietly unzipped the tent door so I wouldn’t wake Tyson.

I was kind of relieved that I was the first one up. The scenery was so beautiful and the rain was refreshing and peaceful. I stood there alone just watching the raindrops fall on the water and relishing in how amazing it felt to be there in that moment. To be in nature. To be disconnected from everything else. It was exactly what I needed after an emotional last week of school!


I actually didn’t mind that it was raining. If the weather would’ve been nicer, I would’ve felt an obligation to go hiking and explore the area more (which also would’ve been fun), but the rain gave us an excuse to just sit around, eat, drink beer and enjoy each other’s company. So we did exactly that. All day. And it was perfect.

Right before lunch, a nice local man ran into us and informed us that they were predicting thunderstorms that night with winds up to 50 mph. Eeeek. He seemed concerned for our safety and thought we might want to reconsider staying the night, even suggesting a motel not too far away. None of us were prepared to leave though. Luckily the two small cabins across the woods from our campsite were available, so we packed up all our sleeping tents and moved our party over to the cabin. The rain slowed down for a few hours in the evening and it gave us just enough time to enjoy a delicious dinner and yummy s’mores over the fire.


This trip was the first time in so many years that I got to just hang out and relax with my three best girlfriends. No weddings. No other events or parties. No obligations whatsoever. Just hanging out, being with each other. Reminiscing. And laughing. There was so much laughing!

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I definitely missed Qwynn, but I was surprised at how little I actually let myself think about her.  By the end of the trip I was completely confident that we had made the right decision. It would’ve have been so much harder dealing with the rain if she would’ve been there with us. And it was so great to be 100% available for my friends who I don’t get to see nearly enough. In fact, because there was no phone service, we were all able to be completely present with each other. It was absolutely fabulous! And Qwynn ended up having a pretty fun-filled weekend as well, complete with her first visit to the Natural History Musem.


We all agreed that we need to make this past weekend a tradition moving forward and we were already brainstorming possible locations for the next summer. It would be so wonderful if we were able to continue a tradition that had been set into place by our parents nearly 30 years ago.


Valerie Anne

Easy DIY Mermaid Costume

When Tyson’s brother first invited us to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, I debated how much I wanted to get into it. I didn’t want to go all out, but I decided it might be fun to at least make Qwynn a simple costume. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money or a lot of time on it either, so I gave myself a $20 budget and headed to Michaels!

I knew that Michaels’ fabric selection was limited, but I was able to find 4 small squares of different green fabric designs. The problem is they didn’t have any fabric pieces large enough for the base of the mermaid skirt. I continued walking through the store and eventually came across the t-shirt section. Lightbulb!

What an inexpensive way to get a large piece of fabric! As I looked at the t-shirt more the vision just came to me—I turned it up side down and I now had a floor length skirt with a hemmed waist…essentially. I grabbed a light green small adult t-shirt and continued on. I found a piece of glittery pink felt that I thought would work perfectly for the seashell top. With my coupon (Michaels ALWAYS has coupons), my purchase total for everything was just under $10!

When I got home I searched through all my craft stuff to see what else I had that would be useful. I found some green ribbon left over from Qwynn’s first birthday. I also dug out Qwynn’s old pink sparkly skirt that was too small for her from the goodwill bag.


Now usually when I decide to make something like this, I end up spending so much more money than if I would have just bought it already made. My projects also seem to take wayyyy longer than I anticipate. This project however was so easy, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick it went and how little I spent on it.

For the mermaid skirt, I started by putting the t-shirt on Qwynn and pinning the sides to get an approximate fit.


I used the pins as a guide and drew my mermaid skirt shape.


I do not own a sewing machine and I wouldn’t be able to use it even if I did. Luckily I have discovered a wonderful thing called sewing tape! It is about $5-6 at Michaels, but with a coupon you could easily get it down to $3-4. The only other thing you need is an iron. I used the iron-on tape to “sew” the sides of the skirt and the bottom hem.

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I was originally going to make the fins out of the t-shirt and continue the scales all the way down, but I discovered that would make the bottom too tight and impossible for Qwynn to walk, so I cut the fins off. Instead, I cut approximately 1-inch strips of the fabric and hot glued them to the bottom of the skirt, layering them to get a full look. This was a great solution because I didn’t need to be very exact in cutting the strips since I was okay with a more ragged look. And it didn’t take long to hot glue them on either.


For the waist of the skirt I cut tiny slits in the collar ever two inches or so and thread the ribbon through it so I could tie it snug around Qwynn’s waist.

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The final step for the skirt was attaching the scales. I only covered the front to save time. I cut three different sized scales out of card stock to use as tracers for the fabric.


Tracing and cutting the scales was by far the most tedious part of the project, so if you are not a control freak like I am ;-), I suggest recruiting help. I attached all the scales by using about two-inch pieces of sewing tape along the top of each one.


For the seashell top, I used the sheer fabric from Qwynn’s old pink skirt, a small pink hair rubber band for the center, and shells cut from the pink felt. I attached the shells to the sheer fabric with hot glue.


Qwynn already had a light-colored t-shirt to wear under the shell top which was the final piece to the costume. That, and a big smile! 🙂


I am still so shocked at how smooth this project went and I am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out! Best of all, I came out way under my $20 budget!!

Valerie Anne

Homemade Play Dough…It’s So Much Better!

Yesterday, we finally ventured out from our rooftop and headed to Brooklyn to check out the popular Smorgasburg and newly added Renegade Craft Fair. At the craft fair I came across a booth that was selling natural play dough.

It was amazing! Smooth, velvety and not dry or clumpy whatsoever. It also smelled wonderful! So much better than the store bought play dough, which is probably one of my least favorite “kid” smells ever (after poop, throw up and formula, of course.) This dough was so amazing, I would have let Qwynn play with the sample for hours. But the sun was hot, and she was completely okay with the alternative option…ice cream!

This play dough was so fabulous though, I just had to buy some and thought it would make the perfect birthday present for one of Qwynn’s classmates. I chose the adorable Cupcake Set, which included 3 jars of dough, a small cupcake tin, a small rolling pin, and colored rice, beads and pom poms to use as decorations. Such a great idea! Definitely check them out!

Of course Qwynn asked to play with her store bought play dough as soon as we got home. But it was so clumpy and dried out that we had to throw it away. So after she woke up from her nap today, we decided to make our own play dough!

FullSizeRenderI have made play dough before with my kids at work, but we use a fairly simple recipe and the dough usually does not last very long. I wanted to try making a natural play dough that wouldn’t dry out and would last longer. I googled “play dough recipe with…” and listed all the ingredients I wanted to use and I came across a recipe that worked great!

We didn’t have any essential oils, food coloring, or glitter, but we were able to find substitutes for some of these things. We used turmeric to make the dough yellow and cinnamon to scent it. We also only had whole wheat flour, but I think white flour would have given us a better consistency and color. Even still, I noticed that this play dough smelled and felt so much better than the store bought stuff and it didn’t dry out as much. It has only been one day, but I am confident that this play dough is here to stay.

FullSizeRender_1What is so great about making your own play dough at home is that you can experiment with so much (oils, scents, colors, etc.) and it is an absolutely wonderful way for kids to practice cooking!

FullSizeRender_2Qwynn played with this dough for an hour straight tonight and it fit perfectly in the left over gelato ice cream container we saved from the other day. Win, win!

Valerie Anne

Trader Joe’s Tuesday: Cinnamon Apple Crescent Rolls

This is such a fun and easy treat to make with young kids! All you need is croissant dough, apples, butter, cinnamon and sugar. Toddlers will just love being able to spread the cinnamon sugar butter and roll the crescent rolls all by themselves. These are great for breakfast on the go or a quick snack.

Cinnamon Apple Crescent Rolls


Mix 1-2 tablespoons of softened butter, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl. Peel and cut 1 large apple into slices. Cut Crescent Roll triangles in half and spread some of the cinnamon and sugar butter onto each triangle. Place an apple slice at the wide end of each triangle and loosely roll. Bake according to the Crescent Roll package directions.

Enjoy warm!


Valerie Anne