Big Family Pictures LOST : Cape Breton & PEI Travel and Hardly Anything to Show For It

Cape Breton Create Photo Collage Online Free

We’ve now been traveling more than 1,000 Days but come December this year its actually going to be 3,000 Days since the Epic Trip that changed our lives.  The one that got us over the fear-hump that had kept us from big family travel.

I’ve told the story before of how in 2006 Everette’s sister (& family) and mom lost virtually all they owned in a freak storm that tore their roof right off their house.  And about 9 months later my (Karen) own sister lost her house to a fire.  Well, that was 9 months of us observing what loss of all material things looks like, and what rebuilding and starting over again looks like up close.

Within about 20 minutes of talking to my sister the day after her house burned down Everette and I looked at each other and basically said, “Let’s go help them rebuild!”

Only three weeks later we were driving across the big nation of Canada in 2 vehicles packed with our youngest 7 (of 9) kids….and our life has never been the same since.

We’ve had some wonderful experiences in the past 8 years since then….unfortunately some of the photos documenting those adventures have been lost on USB’s and locked into external drives.  We have memories of much of it, but you know how those fade over time.  And many we just don’t recall without some prompting.

I was able to piece-meal some pictures of our time in Cape Breton to represent some of what we did.  Unfortunately our visits to Baddeck and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, and the Fortress of Louisbourg are gone.  And the incredible first winter at our house in River Bourgeois: the seal that laid on the ice for 3 days (& Everette and Toveli touched!); the red fox running across our property; the catapults the kids built in the forest.  No images of ceilidhs; the girls tap-dancing; Rauchelle sailing in the boat she co-owned with 3 old men!

Even more so, the incredible trip south: explored Pier 21 and climbed the Citadel in Halifax; fell in love with the colorful shops at Mahone Bay; jumped amongst the rock base of the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove; enjoyed Joyce’s chowder at the very southern tip of the province at Clark’s Harbour; to the reaches of Digby Neck and Briar Island; the low-tide mud of the Bay of Fundy; the beauty of Annapolis Valley.

On another trip we crossed the Confederation Bridge and explored the red earth of Prince Edward Island, counting more red foxes than ever in our life.  And that incredible hawky-hawk that Everette spotted (private joke, sorry!)  We ate lunch at Summerside; saw more Anne’s than we could count, & the iconic Green Gables (though the season hadn’t started yet); played in the sand at Cavendish Beach; mulled around Charlottetown before taking much of the coastal road back to Cape Breton.

All of our excursions in Atlantic Canada were fabulous.

Unfortunately I can’t show you the beauty.  Almost all that I have left are our home-based photos of our time there.  But in the end, isn’t it the people that we share the adventure with truly what matters the most?

And so I share what little I have of those 2 separate years we spent on Cape Breton.  You’ll see how little the kids were when we started this nomadic lifestyle.

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Meeting Someone You Met Online: Risking Her Own Capture and Murder

Meeting-Someone-You-Met-Online

Have you met somebody in real life that you first connected with online?

Back when the internet was new to all of us and we were wading around in its depths trying to figure out safety parameters, it was advised to never meet up with somebody you had only met online.

Yes, undoubtedly there are horrific events that have taken place after somebody met an online acquaintance in real life.

I know people are still very apprehensive, and there are certainly reasons for concern.  However, I personally believe in expecting things to work out rather than living life in fear of all that can go wrong.  There are tips to take to make meeting an online contact in real life safer.

Personally our family has now met a handful of other traveling families in person because we or they have discovered the other one online and we chose to make our paths cross.  All of them were safe and fun encounters, and some of them have remained friends.

Two of our daughters have met up with people they met online by various means.  The younger of the two met other teens in a closed online writing group, and our family stopped in to meet her on our travels thru Colorado way back in 2012.  In 2013 she caught a ride with the same girl to attend a writing camp with others from the writing group online.

The elder of our girls has befriended a few guys online thru playing games and after extended times of being friends she has actually met several of them in real life.

And then there’s online dating sites.  I personally know several people who not only used the services, but married somebody they discovered via the online dating site.

It’s a new day!

Back in June Everette and I spent Father’s Day in a whirlwind weekend away at a conference with SFM (love that community!!) We ended up with a sucky 10 hour layover at DFW airport.  Fortunately for us my online friend Cindy was willing to risk her own capture and murder by suggesting that she pick Everette and I up and take us for a break for a few hours.

She was given warnings on her end that we might not be trustworthy, that ‘Karen Johnson’ could easily be an alias.  Cindy’s biggest concern was that we would kidnap her and force her to Mexico to be with alllllll our kids!

No, Cindy didn’t seem concerned at all.

Doesn’t mean she didn’t take any type of precaution.  And so should you (and me!)  If you are meeting someone you met online there are a few things to consider.  Note: these will vary depending on if your ‘meeting’ is for a transaction, or you’ve established more of a personal relationship online.

  • Always meet in a public place.
  • Let your friends and family know what’s up.  Share what information you have about the person you are meeting along with your scheduled meeting place and time.  They can even be discretely present 🙂  like sitting at another table nearby in a cafe or restaurant.
  • If you’re making a transaction such as selling/buying off of Craigslist, then having a friend go with you is appropriate. Maybe not so much if its an actual date 🙂 But consider this:  instead of your first meet-up being officially a date, why not arrange for the potential to meet up with you and some friends instead?  Then if you all get along and its mutual, go alone for a date.
  • Have your cell phone charged and easily accessible.  Set up your phone with an app like Moby that allows you to purposely share your location with your trusted friends/family.  The app isn’t as safe as taking somebody with you, but not all situations suit a third-wheel.
  • There’s no reason to reveal too much information about yourself online.  However, at the same time its good if you can gather as much information about the other person as they are willing to share.
  • I always snoop FB profiles and other social media to see what type of person they AND their friends are.  If their friends seem unsavory then I am less likely to pursue any friendship.
  • Its also highly recommended that you speak with the person on the phone before ever agreeing to meeting them.  Even for those of us telephobians you can easily discover whether the supposedly 20-something chick is a forty-something dick.  And for those who can read vibrations better, it can be a telltale to stay away.  Or not.  Skype is another option.
  • Never get into a vehicle with someone you don’t know to be trustworthy.  That’s an obvious.

So, Cindy and I arranged on short notice for her to pick us up from DFW airport and take us out for lunch.  We had never talked on the phone, not over Skype either, but we were involved in a few of the same business opportunities, had had many online chats over a couple of seasons and felt very comfortable about the arrangement.  I also had Everette along for the ride.  Yes, we went in her vehicle to some unknown destination….a whole lot of Don’ts.

And I lived to tell about it.

Now, I don’t mean to be smug.  It could have all turned out bad.  But here’s how it turned out….

 

Grapevine-Olive-Oil-Unlimited4Life-Entrepreneur

 

Grapevine-Texas-Eiffel-Laptop_Lifestyle

Cindy took us to Grapevine, a western looking town of course because this is Texas!  We sampled a kazillion flavored balsamic vinegars and olive oils (like in Tubac, AZ) as appetizers before she treated us to lunch at a cute place filled with Eiffel Towers that served up yummy food.  You can tell we were under tons of stress meeting up!!!! Fear written all over our faces.

Grapevine-Texas-Laptop_Lifestyle-Unlimited4Life

So Cindy….it was great meeting up with you.  Thanks for the ‘date’ and all the laughs.  Thanks for being a real friend in spite of it starting online. Your daughter is always saying how wonderful of a person you are, and I see it for myself now.  I’m glad we met up for real.

 

 

What Do Jack Daniels and Bones Have in Common?

They are the same thing!!

Well, the same DOG to us, anyways.  This was Bones back in the spring when he arrived as skin and bones but with a great personality intact.  Tina found him outside of a gringo-frequented grocery store and brought him back to Hotel Perico.

Rescued from outside a gringo-frequented grocery store.

Rescued from outside a gringo-frequented grocery store.

Tina and our kids nursed him back to health and watched him grow into those huge paws of his.

He was finally adopted by a Mexican man who doesn’t live too far away from the hotel.  He named him Jack…Jack Daniels.  And obviously he’s been treating Bones/Jack very well.  He’s brought him up to the hotel for a few visits including the other day when we got a few shots of him.

What do you think?  Great improvement, huh?

Jack Daniels NOW

Jack knows his way around here and tuckers out not only checking the whole place out each time, but now he has some big dogs he can play with.  Epic and Honey run around with Jack in the big soccer field.  Well, honestly its Epic who runs like a greyhound while Honey and Jack take turns cutting corners trying to catch up to her.

The residents here at the hotel always seem excited to see Bones/Jack return for a visit.  Delighted to know he’s doing well with his human, and that he’s glad to see the rest of us, too.

 

Worldschoolers Unite: Well, 3 Families Did!

What a hectic weekend….glad that weekends aren’t our only time to socialize.  The laptop lifestyle provides a flexible time schedule….we do actually have to work, but we can adjust our day/week/month to what suits us better. So getting 2 big traveling families together worked out best for a Monday afternoon and we invited our neighbor/friends Mark, Renee and their daughter, E to join us. The Inions have been in this area of Mexico for well over a year, and somehow we never knew it when we were here in early 2014.  But this time around we’ve run into them several times in town, just never got our families all together. With 2 big families you have an instant party.  Inions travel with their 9 children, and we with only 7 of our 9.  So between our 2 families we have enough for a full-fledged baseball game!! But we didn’t.

Stacey Inion with her youngest son, and Mark D.  Everette and Brent manning the BBQ

Stacey Inion with her youngest son, and Mark D.          Everette and Brent manning the BBQ

We had a Barbecue, and some played cards while others played frisbee on the open field.  There was plenty of talk….comforting talk where you are free to share not only your successes but more importantly your struggles without feeling judged for living outside of ‘Normal’.  Ideas were thrown around of how to handle some of our difficulties such as dealing with insurance, tourist visas and mail while you internationally travel.  No judgement, just help and camaraderie. These fearlessly independent world schooling families paused long enough for an afternoon together and a quick photo-shoot.  Before everybody goes on their merry traveling ways. You can check out Stacey’s post here.

What watermarked

Johnson-Tongue

Johnson tongue always showing up. Rude group of people. But you can see which parent to blame 😉

pic courtesy of Stacey Inion

pic courtesy of Stacey Inion

1,000 Days of Travel

Hard to keep things straight.  Our big family has been traveling most of the time since Sept 2007, so that’s 2,866 days…

since 2007

but we did move to Sooke (south Vancouver Island) to start a business and stayed 23 months.  So take that off the grand total and…

1,000 Days!!

1,000 Days!!

We’ve made it to ONE THOUSAND DAYS of Travel.

Its been a hectic week, and all my good intentions of putting together a montage of our 1,000 days of travel thru western USA and Mexico didn’t materialize.  I’ve got a bright kitchen now (we’ve been renovating) but the montage didn’t happen until later this afternoon and I only covered the USA in 2012.

But I chuckled as I went over the pictures and videos from not-quite 3 years ago.  I have some pretty silly family members that make me laugh.

And so I hope you’ll get a laugh, too, and enjoy it.  It’s only eight minutes long….but like I said, its only the USA so there’s still all of Mexico yet to come.

Stay Tuned for Baja California, Mexico.

PS  Very Late in posting this since the internet has been atrocious this week/end, even notifying that it would take more than 111,050 minutes to upload.

I Basically Met Michael on His Way Out

One of the greatest things about our big family travel in Mexico has been the fantastic people we meet.  Well, that goes for travel wherever, not just Mexico.  My kids agree, whole-heartedly.

Sure, there’s been some great activities:

but all of the activities are made even better in their memories because of the people they associate with the event.

Michael-collage

Staying here at Hotel Perico is good, but it’s made better because of the visitors that stop by and stay awhile!  Over-nighters come and go quickly, but those that stay longer tend to connect with at least somebody in our family.

Our kids are out and about all the time and are often peoples’ first introduction to our family.  Or Everette meets them because he’s cooking supper down at the terraza, or ‘covering’ over at Reception.

Me, I’m often the last to meet them because I have my face attached to a computer. Or my nose is in a book.  Or I’ve fallen asleep while listening to some subliminal audio.  Or I’m cleaning up dog hair or dirty dishes or dishes with dirty dog hair.  I don’t know what happens to my days, but I am 99% Home-Body.

When I finally do my own introductions the person already knows all about me!  It’s creepy, when from my perspective I’m meeting a stranger but from their perspective they already know who I am.   Security HectorToday I met Hector (this is not hotel security…this was outside of the bank) and he already knew that I had 9 kids.  And he says my husband told him that I was beautiful.  Thanks, Everette!!

I’m hopeful they aren’t telling people all our personal secrets….embellishments, possibly, but don’t tell all our secrets!

Well, Michael was one of those guys that basically met all the family except for me for the longest time.  I don’t think we even had a proper introduction, Michael and I.

He would quietly swim some laps at the pool while the kids and I were down there, or he’d say Hi! on his way to the office.  He was quiet, & reserved.  But we really never had a conversation, did we Michael?  Until maybe at your Farewell party where I commented to you that we hadn’t really talked before!!  Weird.

After his initial shock of “this is way out in the boonies and boring”  wore off a bit that first week, he seemed to be more active and engaged with the kids and his surroundings.  It’s totally understandable…Michael comes from NYC.  Not NYC proper, but close-enough, like Manhattan or something like that.  So when he steps out his front door he’s in town.  IN the city.

Not here at Perico!  Here you’re surrounded with space, and green, and a drive into any town of any size, shape or form.  Don’t get me wrong, Perico is a great place.  If it didn’t have plenty of up-sides then we wouldn’t still be here, would we?  But being out of town can be both good and bad, and coming from the Big Apple I can see this being…..remote!

So it was a big adjustment for Michael coming not only to Mexico, but to Perico.

And then getting plunked down in the middle of a loud gang of rainbow-coloured munchkins.  That’s Culture-Shock.

He couldn’t really ignore our kids, because his big-little sister (or should I say older-little, right Layne!?) got Michael and the kids hanging together as she is so good at herself.

Michael is the younger brother of Tina who helps manage the hotel here.  Because Tina welcomes our kids into her world, there was an obvious, mandatory overlapping when Michael arrived.

Tina organized events, like another day at Tobolandia.  They swam or played frisbee out in the field.  There were work projects she initiated to use the available work force…(p.s. did the dog run get finished?)  Some nights I’d go into the back of Reception and find Michael, Tina and the kids zonked, watching movies.

Michael endured some unusual conversations with Laars, I’m sure.  Talks of castles, and rocket ships, and his future inventions.  Michael listened to Laars explain how he was part dog…but Michael wasn’t convinced.  He was most certainly humored, but he wasn’t convinced.  And neither am I.

Anyways, we’re glad you stopped in at Hotel Perico, Michael, and at least our kids got to know you somewhat.  They talk about you, and the time while you were here. All very fondly.

We wish you well in your endeavors in the Big Apple.

Party On!

 

 

2 Burner Stove or Less Simple Recipes

In 2012 we left our 2400+ sq ft home with full kitchen to live out of this….

Our van at the Twin Rocks Cafe

Our van at the Twin Rocks Cafe

 

 

 

 

back of van packed

 

 

 

 

 

15 passenger van and various arrangements of tents over time (roof and ground tents).  Nine of us.

 

 

So this iswas our Kitchen…it morphed depending on our location, situation, weather.

inside palapa3

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the kitchen the kids and I set up at Kino Bay, wrapping a palapa with tarps so we had some sort of protection from the sand storms we were blasted with.  It also kept some of our possessions a little more out-of-sight and left only one entrance.

Like my father, my kids’ father does the camp cooking.  He says for the most part he enjoys it.  His biggest challenge is coming up with enough variety.  But here he is, I think at Oxbow on the Colorado River, cooking up supper for the hungry crew.

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When camping we have the 2-burner stove, and sometimes a campfire.  Our red dutch-oven became permanently black, loosing its lustre blush that once graced my suburban kitchen.  It found itself buried in coals too many times.

We have a slow-cooker, kettle, coffee-grinder and Blendtec blender, but of course those require electricity.  On occasion we’ve made smoothies in restrooms at campgrounds!

Our kitchen here at the hotel is currently morphing.  We have a full size oven/stove waiting for the gas line to be dropped through our roof.  And have a full-size fridge with freezer.  So we are movin’ up in the world!!  (I’ll share soon about some of our new transitions.)

But all along we’ve tried to keep food preparation and storage simple and usually to a minimum.  For 2 years our ‘fridge’ was a huge cooler, half full of ice block to keep for more than 2 days while we were off road somewhere.  But its soooo nice now to have a fridge!  One of my pet-peeves, however, are fridge doors full of condiments you can’t make a meal from!  So I focus on less condiments and real foods.  Everette leans towards variety and toppings.

We’ve discovered some food sensitivies that are quite major, actually.  They tend to morph a decently-pleasant child of ours into a vicious hair-pulling blood-scratching angry person we hardly recognize so we try and really limit all grains.  Some of us avoid most dairy.

So in that respect this Vanlife Cookbook I’m posting here is not very conducive to cooking simply for our family.  They rely heavily on grains (including wheat, corn and rice) and plenty of dairy.  But hey, not everybody is like us.  So I thought I’d forward it on to you!

The ingredients are easy to find staples in most places, and the idea is that these meals are made in less than 30 minutes with 2 or less burners.

Hope you like it.  Head over to Sprinter Van Diaries and thank them.