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A Tropical House Sit

So excited to add our first guest post to Grow In Grace Life!  Meet Nicole and Michael and read on about how this couple from Australia set off into the world and found a way to affordable travel by watching other people’s homes and pets. I hope you are as encouraged as I am about this means of achieving your adventure dreams!

House Sitting – The New Way To Travel

When we decided to pack up our old ‘white picket fence’ life to travel the world long term, we knew we would have to find a way to make it an affordable lifestyle. There were several options we looked at including couchsurfing (staying on someone’s couch or spare bed for a few days for free), woofing (working for your accommodation usually on a farm or such) and hosteling (cheap dorm style accommodation).

I’ll be quite honest with you – We were not at all enthusiastic about any of these options. We didn’t want to have to be on the move every few days; while happy to work in exchange for a bed, we didn’t want to be stuck in remote areas; and we are way to old for hostels (which is quite sad to say because we are only mid – late 30s).

There was one other option I thought of, one that sounded very appealing indeed! House sitting.

We had actually house sat 13 years prior, while we were building our first home together. It was a great way to save money while paying a mortgage on a house we could not yet live in. So instead of paying rent, we house sat.

So house sitting was not a foreign concept to us. But what we needed to find out was the availability of house sits worldwide. Needless to say, after a little research I discovered that international house sitting was actually very popular with hundreds of sitting assignments being offered every week.

Well, to say we were excited about the prospect is an understatement! We now had a way to not only save money but to travel in a way that suited us perfectly!

We have now been traveling full time for 13 months and in that time have completed 8 house sits around the world!

Many people ask us what types of homes do we get to look after when we house sit. Are we stuck in the middle of nowhere? Are the houses nice or run down? So I wanted to shed some light on what kind of house sitting assignments with some examples of real house sits we have had around the world.

House Sitting in Colchester, England

House Sitting in Colchester, England

Colchester, England
This was the first house sit we had outside of our home country Australia. We were unsure what to expect because we saw only 1 photo of the house prior to arrival. But we were keen to spend time near London so we weren’t really that concerned what the house looked like.

What we found was an adorable cottage style home with a lovely sundeck outside – you know, for all those sunny London days. And the most gorgeous Tibetan Terrier named Sophie.

We didn’t have a car to get around (something we normally make sure is included in the sit) but it was only a 20 minute walk into town and 10 minutes to the local grocery store.

The homeowner, Alison, was such a lovely person and while she was spending a month in Australia, we were taking care of her home and Sophie.

Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach, Florida
We have had 5 house sits in Florida (yes, we love that state!) but this was our first. And let me tell you, not a bad way to start our US house sitting leg!

This beautiful home was just a short 2 minute walk to the beach! We would start our day by walking her babies, Alfie and Pumpkin, along the beach for an hour as the sun was rising over it.

After our walk, because it was summer, we would take a dip in her pool, which was surrounded by a beautiful tropical garden.

We would stay inside the air conditioned home most days, hanging out with the dogs, taking dips in the pool and doing what we like to do best – Relaxing!

San Fransisco House Sitting

San Fransisco House Sitting

San Francisco
We had been to California a few times before and always loved San Fran so when this sit became available just 30 minutes from downtown SF we jumped at the chance to become a ‘local’ here.

This 3 level house has been recently renovated. My favorite things about this house: The heated floor tiles in the bathroom, the huge most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on and the large hot tub under the stars!

We took care of Charlie and Terry, a very aged dog and cat, that we had a very hard time saying goodbye to! Charlie loved his daily walks as much as we did; It was fall so the leaves started changing colors then falling which was really quite beautiful to watch over the month we were there.

We have two house sits coming up in a lovely French Canadian village in Costa Rica. And then, because we can, we will be living in a lovely home in Barbados for 2 months.

Not a bad life for a couple who are ‘homeless and unemployed’ right?

House sitting allows us to afford the lifestyle of our dreams – We get to travel the world, live in beautiful homes, save loads of money and meet amazing people as we go. I couldn’t imagine a better way to travel!

So when people ask, “Why do you house sit while you travel?” the answer is “Why wouldn’t we?”

_________________________________________

Nicole and Michael are an Australian couple in who gave up their careers, sold their possessions and left their ‘conventional’ life behind for a life of travel. They have been living a nomadic life for 13 months and see no end in sight.

They recently launched Suitcase Stories, a website where they share their stories, travel tips and destination guides. Their main goal for this website is to inspire others to travel and to show people how long term travel is not only possible but affordable.

You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

For more info on house sitting tips, please read: http://1dad1kid.com/2013/02/27/my-housesitting-guide/    http://1dad1kid.com/

Talon and Tigger have had multiple experiences with house sitting across the globe!

The Happy World of House Sitting.. A Guest Post from Suitcase Stories

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The Lady in the front row

Season 3 Episode 1 Showing

Before most of the world got to see Season Three of Downton Abbey, we were able to attend a premier showing at a historical vintage theater in Richmond ,Virginia , USA.  The  Byrd Theatre & Foundation – Home. was built in 1928 and was the perfect setting to get a sneak peek at the first hour of season three. Along with my oldest daughter, we brought along two of her friends. The fun part was that we dressed in period costume that was encouraged by PBS who sponsored the free event. By now everyone has seen it, or will tonight depending on your time zone. Before the showing , we were surprised to be treated to a performance on “The Mighty Wurlitzer” by organ player Bob Gulledge. He played numerous musical pieces from Phantom of the Opera, Oliver and other Broadway Show tunes.

Downton Abbey Premier Showing at the Byrd Theater

Downton Abbey Premier Showing at the Byrd Theater

Long lines wrapped around the building to get inside

It was so much fun to see most everyone dressed from the turn of the century and up until the 1920’s. At the entrance to the Theater were two vintage cars from the era and local character actors greeted us upon arrival into the lobby.  Many were dressed as the Earl of Grantham, the Dowager Countess , as Mrs. Patmore , Martha Levinson and  Lady Mary Crawley.

Earl of Grantham and  the Countess

Earl of Grantham and the Countess

I Won’t Ruin the Surprise

The audience had a really good laugh when we first were shown a recap on  Downton Abbey  season 1 and 2 on the movie screen. For those who are new to the show, you will get a picture of the story line up until now on this comical clip:

Video: Downton Abbey: Official Seasons 1 & 2 Recap | Watch Masterpiece Online | PBS Video.

 

Arriving in 1912 Style

Arriving in 1912 Style

Downtown Abbey at Byrd

Lovely Ladies

Lovely Ladies

Mrs. Bucket?

Mrs. Bucket?

The Mighty Wurlitzer

The Mighty Wurlitzer

Downtown Abbey at Byrd

The "downstairs" staff

The “downstairs” staff

Feed the Byrd

Feed the Byrd

Will Bates be Freed?

How did his wife die? What will become of Downton Abbey after the Great War? How will Cora’s mother Martha Levinson help save the Castle? This first show of season three was fantastic.  Just love Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine ( and many years ago I was lucky to have met the super friendly Ms. MacLaine in person and speak with her). The two of them have the best dialogues! We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Premier and  appreciated the Byrd Theater and our local WCVE for sponsoring this great event.

This winter we can all be entertained and escape to a world most of us will never experience. Life in a castle manor and all of the pomp and protocol of living a life of such stature , wealth and royal blood lineage.

To keep updated on the next Downton Abbey show, see here: The Downton Dish Season 3 Ep 1 | THIRTEEN – New York Public Media.

Party DownTown for Downton Abbey

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Home..Where Ever We Are, There We Are

Where is home? As long as we are together, that’s where it is.

Any Soft Spot Will Do

Any Soft Spot Will Do

Camping Out on a Chapel Floor

Camping Out on a Chapel Floor

  For us at the time being, it is a roof over our heads, a shelter, a place of comfort. Our collections of belongings and things.  Fertile soil surrounds us to grow food, flowers and to enjoy nature..and solitude. The creature comforts are there..a huge cozy couch, multiple beds, clean sheets, a fireplace, thousands of books, heat and air conditioning at the flip of a switch. Closets and dressers full of clothing. And then there’s the excess things.. chotchkies, tools, garden equipment, kitchen clutter, junk drawer mystery items, extra furniture in the attic, saved letters from the past , our old stamp collections and extra linens. More things than we actually need ; vintage china, antiques passed down from the relatives..souvenirs of their lives,  piles of papers, ubiquitous electronic wires and such, scattered toys, fabric, random items that overwhelm us, more piles of things we don’t know what to do with, the stuff of life in a home.

But what is the true meaning of home?

Is it our material possessions and accumulated masses of things? Or is it us, ourselves, being together, that makes up a home?

Lunch together

A Picnic Lunch Together

Take an Account of What Matters Most.

Is it our “stuff” or “ourselves” that truly matter? What is a thing compared to a human that we love ( and are related to)?  So what of the stuff and objects that can not go with us into the next life..the life in eternity. It’s just burdensome and a bondage. Can we be free to be with each other, our family, and not be so attached to physical belongings? We are in this world, but do we really need to be “of it “?

As I go through our “things” and try to decide what to do with them, I think on this. My happiest thoughts and memories are of the moments of us being together. Our experiences, our talks, our nurturing and caring for each other. Not the material gifts we get ..it’s the cherished times. The laughs, the love, the memories. The roof over our heads does not amount to what home is. It’s us. No matter where we are.

Climbing and Growing Together

Climbing and Growing Together

Grow Where You Are Planted.

Some of us tend to yearn to be somewhere else. We need to remind ourselves that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, yet, there is so much more beyond our safety net that may need to be explored. If it’s our own fears and ego that keeps us stagnant, then we should try to break free of that. This is a big beautiful world. Why not venture out with your family, and see what that means? Home means many things to all of us. It depends on your society, your status, your current lot in life. Who says that it will remain as it is..home? As long as you are together, that is home. Even if it is in transit, in a mansion, in a bamboo hut, in a cozy abode, a house boat, a tent or in a temporary dwelling.

Where ever you are, there you are.

Grow Where You Are Planted

Grow Where You Are Planted

 

Where do you think you live, in a barn? !

Do you live in a castle on 500 acres, or in a mud adobe with dirt floors?  A suburban house with a yard, or a bamboo hut? Does it really matter ( in the scheme of the important higher meaning of life)?  In our town there are barns for horses that are newer and more beautiful than some people’s homes. I’ve even heard of a lady who lived in an outfitted chicken coop.  And friends of ours lived in a barn with their large family while they were building a new home on their land. They were quite content, all of them living simply ( no running water) and making due until one day a big black snake was spotted near the Mothers bed..then they decided to upgrade a bit.

Do You Think You Live in a Barn?

Do You Think You Live in a Barn?

A Governor's Palace

A Governor’s Palace

If you have a mansion and a “museum worthy art collection”, and no love, than what do you really have? If you have a space that comforts you and a lifestyle that serves you, yet no one who cares for you beyond your belongings, what of that? These are things we need to ponder. My “stuff” is not me..the meaning of me. I am thankful and grateful for the home I now live in that houses our family and keeps our children safe. But if I cling to the notion that the” bricks and mortar” are our refuge, then I may be sorely disappointed.  It could vanish in a moment.  An old friend of ours recently lost their home to a fire, due to Hurricane Sandy. In an instant, the structure and belongings could vanish. I try not to cling to the things of this earth. But it is not easy to think this way, and I am not there yet. Loving and caring for people is what really counts.What matters to me is others. Especially my family.

A Good Tree for a Nap

A Good Tree to be Together in

Home is Anywhere, As Long as it is Filled With Love

During this Holiday season I want to focus on our love for each other, our being together and paying attention. Not the frantic searching and shopping for the piles of gifts to be put under a dead tree in our living room. Instead, we are inviting others into our home, sharing a feast with them and family, and spending the time to talk with one another. To care.

We have a roof over our heads and walls to protect us. A place to invite others in and plenty of food and dishes to set a place for them.  Our children are here and nearby. Some day soon I am hoping that we can venture out of the country as a family. Being together, no matter where. They will all be adults before we know it. I want to cherish the times with them, no matter where we call home. 

Home is us together, where ever that may be.

Home on the Beach

Home on the Beach

Other Families Realities of Home

Follow these links below to read of some out of the ordinary places called home. These families are in transit, their homes are scattered across the globe, and can change like the wind. But they are together, and that is what matters.

Bohemian Travelers…Home is Every Where http://www.bohemiantravelers.com/2012/12/home-is-every-where.html

Living Outside of the Box – Where Is Home?

http://livingoutsideofthebox.com/2012/12/20/where-is-home-on-the-road/

Life Changing Year – I Never Thought We’d Be Home For Christmas! http://lifechangingyear.com/i-never-thought-wed-be-home-for-christmas/

A Minor Diversion – A Minor Diversion Comes Home http://www.minordiversion.com/2012/12/a-minor-diversion-comes-home/ ‎

Witness Humanity…. Things I will miss about New York (or a Guide to the Awesomeness that is NYC)

http://www.witnesshumanity.com/things-i-will-miss-about-home-or-a-guide-to-the-awesomeness-that-is-nyc

Simon Says: Where are you from? – http://simonsays2010.blogspot.com/2012/12/where-you-from.html

Gypseekers-Are We Home Yet?: Re-entering Society After a Round the World Adventure

http://gypseekers.com/are-we-home-yet/

Flashpacker Family – My Heart Doesn’t Lie at Home http://flashpackerfamily.com/my-heart-doesnt-lie-at-home/

The Expat Experiment…Traveling Home – http://expatexperiment.com/traveling-home/

Barefoot Nomad… Where’s Home for a Barefoot Nomad? http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-philosophy/where-is-home-for-barefoot-nomad

The Nomadic Family….I Hate Home, and That One, and That One http://thenomadicfamily.com/2012/12/i-hate-this-home-and-that-one-and-this-one-coco-bungalows/

Discover Share Inspire… How to Always Be Home For the Holidays… No Matter Where in the World You Are

http://www.discovershareinspire.com/2012/12/how-to-always-be-home-for-the-holidays-no-matter-where-in-the-world-you-are

Home.. Where Ever We Are, There We Are

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Don’t Shoot! I am a Hiker…and “Tom Cruise Slept Here! “

An Excursion to Lexington, Virginia, USA

Don’t Shoot! I Am a Hiker

Just got back from a 2 day getaway to Lexington, Virginia, USA. We were given a gift certificate for a Bed and Breakfast a few years ago from my parents and we finally got the chance to use it this week. It was a well needed time alone together, albeit quick. For Thanksgiving we hosted 17 refugees from Bhutan via Nepal, one ESL guest from Brazil along with family and friends. Great feast and much fun, but it was time for us to use that gift card.

I got online and searched all the listings with Bed and Breakfast.com and found one that fit all of the criteria my husband really wanted. Quiet, mountains, wilderness, fireplace and hiking. Since we only had a one night stay over, we could not drive too far. We found just the right place in Lexington, Virginia called House Mountain Inn. House Mountain Inn | Welcome to Destination Relaxation.

Front of House Mountain Inn

Hike, Eat, Read, Sleep, and  Be Allowed to Do Nothing!

These were our goals for the 2 days. From our home it took us about 2 1/2 hours driving. Once we pulled up the steep and windy mountain road ( well paved and with guard rails) and saw the lodge, we knew it was what we were hoping for. We met the owner, Mr. Irvine, who was working on the grounds  and he talked to us a bit and walked us in. He introduced us to Tim Grue, his son in law. The resort is a family owned business and was started in 2003. Check in is at 3 pm , but he let us check in earlier. As we  walked in through the large double wooden doors, it felt as if we entered into a resort in Montana or Colorado.

House Mountain Inn is located west of Lexington, Virginia, and is better than your average uncomfortable and overstuffed Victorian B+B. The 15,000 sq. ft. timber logs lodge is nestled into the slope of Big House Mountain in the Allegheny Mountains and set on a 1000 acre preserve.  The great room is beautiful and spacious with a large stone fireplace with comfy couches and chairs in front of it. There are numerous wild animals of the region mounted on the walls and displayed throughout the lobby, such as fox, wild turkey, deer and bobcat.  A very large moose head is mounted above the fireplace mantle. All of this adds to the mountain lodge style. The inviting dining area blends into the great room and includes pine cabinetry with granite counter tops. Here you can help yourself to coffee, tea, snacks and includes an small fridge, and microwave to use when you’d like.
Wild!

Wild!

Tim spent a lot of time with us while showing us our room, the lodge and all of the details of the place and what we could do. Come to find out, we were the only guests of the entire resort, being that it was a weekday right after Thanksgiving. So technically, our gift certificate afforded us a practical castle to ourselves! Tim told us we could look around the resort at all of the 9 guest suites and large dining and restaurant area. each nights stay includes a hearty gourmet served breakfast ( from your choice of delicious options from a menu). We also could have had a dinner included in the stay with local ingredients as part of the meal. And from 4-5 pm they offer wine, cheese and crackers by the fireplace, complimentary with your stay.
View from the Front Porch

View from the Front Porch

We opted to head out right away and hike up the mountain. At the entryway we saw a sign on the door stating that we needed to wear orange vests before entering the woods. It was hunting season. Conveniently on a coat rack by the door were vests for us to borrow ( and a animal fur stole, just in case you needed a scarf ). In a wood barrel you had your choice of walking sticks ( that we forgot to grab). I had on regular comfortable sneakers..not exactly hiking boots. The only item I had that was practical for our climb, was a water bottle. We love hiking, but have much to learn in being better prepared. We brought along some apples and cheese. I really needed a proper back pack and real shoes that work for climbing up and down a mountain.
Important Advice During Hunting Season

Important Advice During Hunting Season

We hiked up about 2 miles up to get to the observation tower. It was a steady incline for the most part and I found my heart racing and I got out of breath frequently. The trail was clear and wide. So it’s manageable if you are in good shape ( I was not conditioned very well for the climb, but did fine on the way down). Once we got to the tower ( a small portion is a side trail to get to the observation deck..a VERY steep portion ), we took a break to marvel at the gorgeous view. There is a picnic table and a couple rocking chairs to rest on after the rigorous climb. The day was sunny and clear, so it was ideal for us to take in the scenic vista. After having and apple and drinking lots of water, we worked our way down back to the lodge. Being careful and putting on our feet brakes so we did not topple down the mountain!

View from the Tower

View from the Tower

Observation Tower of House Mountain Inn

Observation Tower of House Mountain Inn

Tom Cruise Slept Here

When War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg was being filmed in 2004, Tom Cruise and his crew booked the entire House Mountain Inn for a whole week. Tim showed us the suite that he stayed in. Never thought that a place we picked out from a list of so many B+B’s would have been chosen as the place to stay in Lexington for Tome cruise. We are so used to visiting places that claim” George Washington slept here”, so I thought it amusing and we took pictures of the room he stayed in. After our hike, our dinner ( that we picked up at Macado’s because we wanted just a sandwich and soup after all that fresh mountain air) and some touring of  the historic part of Lexington, Virginia , Tim told us he was locking up the Inn and that Breakfast would be ready at 9 a.m. Coffee, tea water , muffins and fruit would be out for us earlier. So we settle in by our gas fireplace for the evening ( white cotton and terry cloth robes hanging in our closet if we so desired) and complete peace and silence. The television in the suite offers DIRECTV and as we scrolled through to see if there was anything worth watching ( we don’t have any cable channels at home), what do we find?  Four of Tom Cruise’s movies to choose from.

Tom Cruise Slept Here

Tom Cruise Slept Here

Wine and Cheese by the Fire

Wine and Cheese by the Fire

The Kids Would Love This Place

This typically happens where ever we go. On the rare chance that we have some time alone together ( we have 7 kids, remember), the whole time we are away, we comment on how much the kids would enjoy the destination also and that we want to go back and bring them next time. The area had lots of outdoorsy activities, historical interest sights and hands on educational opportunities. Sam Houston ( Remember the Alamo) Sam Houston Birthplace. grew up nearby, the Virginia Military Institute. and an old mill house museum of  Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the mechanical farm reaper. Also, while driving on the way to the Inn, we saw a large flock of sheep ( and we stopped by the farm to meet the owner ), alpaca , horses ( Virginia Horse Center Foundation ). and cattle farms. So we hope to go back and bring the kids. They would enjoy it all and we now can recommend this area and the Inn to other families.

Big House Mountain

Big House Mountain

Sam Houston Slept Here Too

Sam Houston Slept Here Too

McCormick Mill

McCormick Mill

Historic Lexington

Historic Lexington

Don’t Shoot! I am a Hiker

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By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey

Some wisdom I have learned on the road of life

One of my Grandma’s was a world traveler. One never even had a drivers license. One always on the move, one always home. Both were amazing women that I loved. I am a bit of each of them.

The call of the world and the comforts of home. They compete with each other in my heart. I yearn for both. My life thus far has been one of travel and of many home bases.  Don’t want to be double minded, yet want to incorporate both. And I want to show my children what’s out there.

There are a few things I have learned so far in this journey of life in which I would love to share.

Traveling the road with friends, foreigners and family

Plan, but don’t totally expect “the plan”.

Try as we may, things don’t necessarily go according to your ways. ” My way or the Highway”  thinking really sets you up for failure. We had our wedding all planned out. Beautiful historic Country Club on the beach overlooking the  Long Island Sound with all of the amenities coming to us for our special day. A few months before, it burnt to the ground in an accident. Our well laid plans went “up in smoke”. So we grieved the occurrence and forged on. Rearranged the location, made due and had a memorable nuptial celebration with family in a not so picture perfect new location. We got married, hubby and I, and proceeded to have 7 kids in 11 years after only 3 years of marriage. It’s been quite the adventure ever since.

We plan.. to be wise and to be prepared. What ever happens next is not always in our control. There are many factors at hand. We never truly know our last moment on this earth and we can not see into tomorrow. Go through the motions to set your path and let things fall how they may. Be open to the unexpected and prepare yourself on how you will respond. Then you won’t be dismayed. Plan A, B and C and be ready for the possible plan Z.

An old Dr. friend of ours had an expensive trip to Morocco all laid out. Once he and his group finished up a delicious feast of chicken and the delights of Marrakesh, they suddenly all fell ill and could not continue on with their tour. They stayed in their hotel rooms suffering for 3 days and got in one more day of sightseeing. Only if you know where your meal came from and how it was prepared ( and if your system is immune to exotic diseases and funky bacteria), will you be guaranteed a healthy result.  One recent trip we took with the family, I had an allergic reaction to some food and got so sick it was pathetic. The night we had to drive back home, I was on a one way track between the restroom and the mattress. No going back for me that night. And the whole family had to stand by until I recovered. Be ready for a change of plans so you can deal with any outcome. Go with the flow of things, realize “it is what it is” and take it from there. Looking back you will see how it all panned out to make it one more notch in your adventure belt.

Food Sourcing

Don’t be a Brat

It’s not all about me. I’ve had many travels planned out to the dime and to the hour. When it comes to your well deserved vacation and you have scrimped and saved to make it happen, it does not mean you will get things your way. Maybe you can design it that way when you are all alone and on your own, but not when it comes to a group of humans that you are journeying with.  Be aware of the needs and temperaments of all in your family. Freaking out and stomping your feet because your trip did not meet your expectations will only make things worse. Go with the rhythms of the encounters and let things play out as they will. About 12 years ago when we took 6 of our kids, my parents, great uncle and cousin to “the American Dream of Disney World”, I started to hyperventilate when my Mom , after one of the rides in the Magic Kingdom, stopped to try on some hats in a gift shop. My ingrained New York City mentality kicked in and I urged her to forget about hats and lets keep up the pace. I had to get in the most I could for my kids in that one day at Disney! My Mom knew the secret though better than I did. She enjoyed herself and her Grand-kids while I felt anxiety about making the most of our time there. She stepped slowly while I ran through the park like I was zooming through Manhattan during rush hour. My kids were so happy and excited about all they saw and did. I learned that day to let it go and let things progress as they should. Getting myself out of the way to make way for others to be in the moment and full of the joy of the experience. Not my preconceived expectations of how things should evolve. Now I just follow my family and let them take the lead in our travels. We do need to work together as a team and we still guide and protect them, but I stay in the perimeters and take picture now.

Friends , family and foreigners trying on hats in Colonial Williamsburg

Let the Road Take You Where it Will

I have been traveling since a small child and have gotten bit by the disease..the disease of wanderlust. Flying in airplanes since infancy and living abroad, driving through parts of the continent and seeing a world beyond the typical realm of ole town America. Due to my parents choices, I was blessed to have lived in another country and got a taste of other nations. In my young adulthood, I was able to tour the country and beyond and enjoy all that travel brings to life. My husband and I have been able to take our kids to many destinations, by air and by land. We now live in the woods.. a cozy home and land to grow food, a place of awesome nature and of peace and solitude. And I am truly grateful for these things. But yet, like my Grandma who traveled through the world and showed me through the slide shows upon our suburban walls at home in 1960’s USA, the places that were out there beyond my imagination called to me to seek out the same things she saw. And then again, my sweet caretaker Grandma who took care of her husband and children and filled her home with tasteful and beautiful things to ensure a safe abode , also, she draws me in to her ways of nurturer and keeper of the home. So I move on and dream of both worlds for my family. A home to feel safe and to be surrounded by comfort, and a life of chances to go into the world and let the road take us where it will. Mainly, our faith in a God who orchestrates all things, is what guides us now. I feel freedom in taking the road that comes before us. Being open to chance encounters and getting excited by what is being put before us, as things are meant to be.

The World in Their Hands

By Any Road..

Be ready to accept things as they come at you. Plan your path, dream your dreams, try to be ” free to be”. Let go of preconceived fears and expectations. Who is really in control anyhow? We don’t know our last day on this earth. Be thankful and appreciative of all things. Each day that I wake up and know that I am alive, have a safe home, food to feed my children, hot running water to bathe, clean cold water to drink and a healthy family. I am truly grateful. I have a hard working husband who provides all of this for us. I have a family that I love, and in return, I am loved by them. And  for this I am also grateful. This Thanksgiving in America, I am thankful for my freedom. I hope and pray it stays this way. But if it does not, I want to be able to able to be strong and keep faith and be able to withstand what ever comes our way. We will forge forth and work to improve our lot and hope for grander things. And if there are times where we are in the doldrums of  life, so be it. They are there for our molding and to build character. Be ready for the path set before us and be excited about how we may grow because of this road of life.

Here are a few families that will share with you there lessons learned form the road. Please click on their links to read what they have to share!

BohemianTravelers.com: Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown http://www.bohemiantravelers.com/2012/11/travel-lessons-can-you-embrace-unknown.html

The nomadic family: I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me) http://thenomadicfamily.com/2012/11/i-know-nothing-and-99-other-things-the-road-has-taught-me/

PearceOnEarth.com: 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

http://pearceonearth.com/5-life-lessons-learned-from-traveling

TravelwithBender: So it’s been 6 Months – You won’t believe what we have learnt!

http://travelwithbender.com/travel-blog/travel-thoughts/6-months-have-we-learnt-anything

Life Changing Year: Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!

http://lifechangingyear.com/life-lessons-from-the-road-a-little-bit-of-planning-goes-a-loooong-way/

LivingOutsideoftheBox.com – 6 Life Lessons From the Road

(why 6? I have no idea!)

http://livingoutsideofthebox.com/2012/11/20/6-life-lessons-from-the-road/

A King’s Life:  Two things I know for sure. http://www.akingslife.com/2012/11/two-things-i-know-for-sure/

Flashpacker Family – http://flashpackerfamily.com/lessons-from-the-road-of-life/

Family on Bikes: Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2012/11/complaining-wont-change-a-gosh-darn-thing

Family Travel Bucket List: 3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside of the USA

http://familytravelbucketlist.com/3-things-weve-learned-while-living-outside-the-usa

RambleCrunch: 15 lessons I’ve learned traveling the world http://ramblecrunch.com/2012/11/15-lessons-travel-has-taught-me/

Our Travel Lifestyle – Travel: Teaching us about ourselves

http://www.ourtravellifestyle.com/tips-and-planning/travel-tips/travel-teaching-us-about-ourselves

By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey

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Arlington Cemetery

This Memorial Day lets not forget..

the ones who gave their lives for this beautiful country’s freedoms. The United States of America was founded by those who knew the Holy Scriptures that were given to us by God. Living under the tyranny of man and of other kingdoms is not true freedom. Our founding fathers of this nation helped to form a country based on the truths that they all knew could be fulfilled if they stayed convicted and strong.

Arlington Cemetery

Bill of Rights Institute: Constitution.

Read and Remember…

Our Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. These founding documents must be respected and honored. Certain truths are timeless. Be convicted to stand by them. Please vote for those who will keep our Constitution intact as it was intended.

US Military March at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Bill of Rights Institute: Declaration of Independence.

Be grateful and thankful..

For all who have fought for our country and have died in battle. This Memorial Day, let’s appreciate the rights we now have because of the many who have served and who still are serving to protect us. May God still continue to bless America!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Grave Site of President John F KennedyMilitary at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Arlington Cemetery

Remembering Those who Fought for America

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Goats Milk Cheese with Fresh Picked Herbs

Goats Milk Cheese with Fresh Picked Herbs

Keeping It Real With Food and Farming

Our Organic Tomato’s

EAT REAL !!!!! EAT LOCAL!!!

Don’t we hear this a lot lately?  I don’t intend to be the Food Police, but it is such a good idea for our general well being and for the local economy.

For the past 9 years we have been striving to grow our own food and source out the rest from the local natural farmers. Living in the country and being 1/2 hour away from the nearest healthy grocery store, it is almost a  given that we need to do it ourselves as much as possible. Utilizing No-Till farming on our 12 acre land , we have been doing it all by hand ( partially due to lack of equipment). Wheel barrows, shovels and many hands ( 9 in our family ) make up our farming methods. Instead of joining a gym, we head out to our local recycle center armed with pitchforks and buckets to load up on all the free mulch we can manage. From there we pile up all this good organic matter onto recycled cardboard to cover up the existing ground we intend to plant in. This mulch breaks down slowly into good soil, blocks out the weeds and keeps the moisture in the ground. From there, after a season of  sitting, we break into the mulch to plant the seeds or starter plants. This No Till method is elaborated in the film  Welcome to Back to Eden Film   and in a film called  The One-Straw Revolution. And then there is the organic gardening guru’s Rodale that can show the way:  garden mulch | How—and Why—to Mulch the Heck out of Your Vegetable Garden | Rodale News. Farming in this way is practically free and so beneficial to the soil. The top soil is not intended to be exposed, turned over or tilled. The amazing micro organisms are there to supply the vast nutrients to the plants. The more we dig into and mess with the dirt, the poorer the soil becomes. Look at how nature behaves with out human intervention. The forests and grasses all drop back their dead leaves to be composted in place to become healthy soil. Only in natural circumstances ( mud slides, floods, tornado’s ) would that land be disturbed. All of creation grows just fine with out our intervention. Learning to work with nature instead of against it is the key. You can see more about our small farm on our in-the-works web site  Grow In Grace Farm. and on facebook as  Grow in Grace Farm

Who Needs to Join a Gym?

Who Needs to Join a Gym?

Organic Oregano in Mulch

 Make it Your Self !

In our home, if we need an ingredient, we enjoy trying to make it from scratch. Mustard, mayo, cheese,  kombucha., kale chips, crackers, salsa and yogurt. Besides making home cooked meals as healthy as we can ( and by using all that we grow ) , for the items we don’t have ( livestock, milk, eggs, deer meat) we head to the neighbors farms and local farmers markets. Bread is hand made here by our 18 year old with freshly ground ( and local ) wheat. The corn meal is fresh ground and we can even roll oats to make fresh oatmeal! We are omnivores and enjoy eating a variety of foods as long as they are natural. For the past 6 years we have been eating Kosher , so that rules out all things piggy and bottom feeders ( not that we think that we will be struck by lightening if we eat bacon or shrimp : )  A nearby Jersey Cow is our milk source ( and for yogurt, cheese and butter ). We own a cow share of this content bovine..and I like to say the part we own is her cute face . Local pasture raised chickens supply our eggs and even our beef is from a Black Angus that we knew by a first name basis. We can get our honey nearby ( and the bee pollen that I eat a spoonful of each day to prevent allergies) and wild deer meat is given to us by the community hunters. This winter we got the opportunity to slaughter our own chickens for meat..out in the natural elements on a farm. Talk about fresh!  There are many who can not and do not want to grow there own ( or even cook ) This is where the innovative and hard working local producers can help. One awesome business in our region brings the farm to you! Farm to Family  The Farm Bus from Farm 2 Family. The husband and wife owners of this mobile farm stand support all the local natural farmers by purchasing from us and stocking the goods on their buses and driving it in to cities and heavily populated ares that don’t have much access to fresh local foods . All people should have access to healthy foods and be helped out by teaching them to cut back on the junk foods and replace it with substantial nutrient dense foods.

Milking Time

Our Sweet Milk Source

Chickens Make Nice Pets

Farming , Fresh Air and Food Freedom

For many years now we have been advocates for freedom in farming and local food sourcing. Before moving to the Virginia Countryside 9 years ago, we lived in New York.  For 10 years I pounded the pavement of Manhattan for my career in Fashion before we had our 7 kids. My husband was a manager in one of the New York City Burroughs. Many miles and years later, we are now partially living off the land. The satisfaction of having our own home grown food right off of our own land is truly rewarding. Throughout the years we have had many trials and made mistakes. These experiences only helped us to learn more for the next season.  A failed attempt at owning a Country Store taught us how some of the public ate. Beer, BBQ, Bologna, Pork Rinds and Pepsi were our biggest sellers!  Some customers I believed only ate beer and Tylenol!  Not intending to ever tell anyone how and what to eat, my heart just went out to those who came into the store with so many diseases and illnesses. Folks on dialysis, dependent on a barrage of meds, suffering from diabetes, obesity, emphysema and gout and many on thyroid medicine for the rest of their lives. Yet they only bought sticky sweet donuts, Mountain Dew, hydrogenated fat laden snacks and candy bars to go with their potted meat. We had two rows of healthy foods that most customers ignored. But we did see many new faces who appreciated the organic and natural food choices. And I really loved sharing what we knew to help others ( and we learned so much from all of the old time farmers ). This is a work in progress and we get excited about what we discover and encounter along this journey into healthy eating and living. 

Our Herbal Garden..Use What You Plant!

 

Kids Connect With Nature

Farm Time with Joel Salatin

Taking a Stand for Our Food Freedoms

VICFA ( Virginia Independent Consumer and Farmer Association). This group stands strong in leading the fight to protect our food and farming freedom rights. They have tirelessly lobbied at our Nations Capitol to ensure our rights as producers and consumers. Because of the members in this group ( that was co-founded by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms Polyface, Inc.. ) so much of what you and  I are able to enjoy today comes in part due to them. One of their objectives is to enable the ordinary person to bake granola, make fresh jam from their kitchens and gardens and to be able to sell directly to the customer ( friend, neighbor, farmers market patrons). For many years this has been illegal. But because of VICFA  ,VICFA – Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association. we now have this ability. This is how things have always been done in American history. Picture this: A young mother grows a 1/2 an acre of cucumbers with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, harvests them with her children’s help, cleans them, dices them and makes hundreds of mason jars of raw and delicious sweet and sour pickles. Along with her family she can make some money by selling the pickles to her friends and neighbors to help support her family. It empowers her and her family and benefits the grateful friends and neighbors who may not have time to do all the work to enjoy fresh canned pickles. Well no longer..it is illegal to do this now. What has happened throughout all these years that we now depend on foods in colorful cardboard or plastic boxes that contain processed foods from 1000’s of miles away? Filled with unidentifiable ingredients and taking away from a good local economy! How can we get that all back? Human beings thrive on fresh healthy REAL food! All of this fake food is making us ill and distancing us from where food really comes from. If we are all eating this unnatural stuff, what is going to eventually happen to our bodies, minds and spirits?

Here is an article that I wrote in a VICFA newsletter on the conditions of livestock and the impact it has on the animals and on the people

2011-AprilVICFAVoice.pdf (application/pdf Object).  

Kombucha and Kale Chips

Kombucha Brew

Raw Kale Chips with Fresh Herbs

 Eating Whats Around You

Growing your own food is so rewarding. Not only is the hard work involved good healthy exercise, it is so important to us for our children to know where food comes from and how they can be a full part of the production of it, from seed to stomach! It helps that most of us like to cook and bake. Most all of our recipes include something from our garden. The difference in taste can not be beat when it comes to fresh picked organic. Right now our strawberries are just about ready and the blueberries are not far behind. The arbor my husband built has grapes on one side and hops vines on the other ( beer and wine garden ; ) Having certain crops and herbs ready at different times helps us become creative cooks. If it is ready to be harvested now, you should eat it now! I really believe in indigenous eating..not that it is really practical, but doesn’t it make sense? Where ever we live on this planet should have all the foods we need to supply our nutrients ( can’ quite get the Arctic parts of the globe though..no thanks, I love to be barefoot all year long). Just because we can buy a banana in the winter in New England, does that mean we really need it? God has actually supplied us with all we need in the various regions of this earth. Mankind though, has made a mess of many things. So we do depend on stores to get most of our food. But if you have some land or some space for a small garden, try and grow some basic vegetables and herbs to enjoy. Living in a skyscraper would be a challenge, but in most cities there are incredible farmers markets and natural grocers that carry local food goods.


Our Farm Table at the State Fair

Helping Process Chickens for Dinner

 Food For Thought

If you are interested and want to try and implement some of these ideas into your lifestyle, please comment below. We believe in keeping it real. Eating things that make sense..close as possible to the original source. God designed our bodies to function on the real foods that He gave us. The Industrial Revolution changed much of what was originally intended for our optimum health. We are grateful in this country to have access to clean food and water and I am not complaining. We just need to know that we can make choices that can make a difference. Skip the high fructose corn syrup soda and have a glass of  Kombucha or water with lemon, bite into a fresh picked watermelon ( with seeds) instead of a glazed donut , savor a  juicy pasture raised beef burger instead of a fast food fake burger and smother real fresh butter on your ground wheat biscuit instead of putting margarine ( plastic) on your glue like, zero nutrition, slice of  white bread!  Some great books I  can recommend are The Makers Diet by Jordan Rubin of Garden of Life.   What the Bible Says about Healthy Living Cookbook   by Hope Egan and  Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig – Weston A Price Foundation. This  foundation based on historical human diets , stresses the need for all of our ancient heritage diets to be restored. Lets all think about what exactly it is we are gobbling up and what it may mean for us in the future. For more info on what we are doing on our small farm please visit our new ( in the works) blog/website Grow In Grace Farm

Peace in the Pasture



Keeping It Real with Food and Farming

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Persian Pomegranate Chicken and other Fantastic Foods of Iran

Salaam ! I hope you are hungry and open to some new ideas in the world of  International Eating . I will share with you some recipes , photos and food adventure stories from Iran. Included at the end of this article you can click on other fantastic food blogs from around the globe.

Chelo Kebab Kubideh

This posting is the first of a series of blogs about foods of other nations. There is so much to be learned from other cultures especially when it comes to their indigenous diets. Why not take a culinary journey into other nations and give your taste buds something new to experience ? Every place on the planet has it’s own take on how to prepare food . The unique use and blending of ingredients that each region of the world creates, makes it so distinct from others. If you have the opportunity, I would encourage you to take your self and family to all the different International restaurants in your community. And  I don’t mean Taco Bell or Papa Johns ! Explore your nearest city to seek out the most authentic establishments from many different ethnic choices. When we are out in town and meet people from other nations, I will ask them where their favorite place to eat is and take their advice. Another good idea is to attend all of the food festivals that most cities offer. It’s usually the best of those nations foods because it’s coming from their own original and traditional recipes. We have taken our kids to the festivals of  Greece, Lebanon, Italy, Iran, Israel, France, Poland, Hungary and Mexico. And of course, most of the United States has it’s own distinctly different taste and take on typical American foods.

Nothing can be more authentic though than actually being in each country to sample their foods !

 

I have chosen to start the food blog series with Iran.

 Being that I had lived in Iran for 3 years and loved the foods there, I will share some recipes that I have experienced and totally enjoyed. If you would like to see interesting  foods and recipes from other nations, please read the blogs at the end of this post .

Fresh ingredients and savory exotic spices are the staples of Iranian cuisine.

Persians ( the original name for Iranians) are known for their hospitality and love of carefully preparing foods. Most all of the ingredients they use must be fresh. The ancient Bazaar sells most of what they need within the labyrinth of it’s mysterious corridors. Barrels of fresh spices including sumac and saffron, lamb and chicken hanging from hooks, burlap bags of rice from Northern Iran, wonderfully cheap pistachio and cashew nuts , soured yogurt drinks to soothe digestion and thirst,stacks of pomegranates and spreads of  dates, figs, oranges, lemons and persimmons. Amongst the sounds of  clanking of silver and bronze plates being crafted by artisans and the enticing aroma of grilled lamb kebabs, the shopper will find all they need for an authentic Middle Eastern feast. As an American teenager living in Iran in the mid 1970’s, this was a place of foreign strangeness and awe . The foods that we learned about and came to love and the experiences we had in Iran have made an impact on my  life ever since.
Isfahan, Iran Mosque across the square from the Bazaar

Rice ( Chelo) is the foundation 

This is not the sticky type .. fluffy, nutty and  comforting is the way of rice in Persian cuisine. Out of a cookbook from 1970’s Iran ( the American Woman’s Club), the recipe for rice is stated: “If  you have any aspirations at all about cooking in the Persian manner, the very first thing you must do is learn to prepare a good pot of rice. This is the backbone of the Persian diet and quite a tricky job for the novice cook”  The Iranians are connoisseurs of the art of rice preparation. One of the most popular methods of cooking the rice is by browning the bottom of it in butter so that it comes out crispy. This delicious crunchy bottom is a delicacy to all Iranians.
Chelo Kebab Kubideh and Ashe ( soup)
For Kubudeh, ground lamb mixed with crushed onion and a multiple of spices gets formed around a flat skewer to be roasted. So tender and delicious ! One of my favorites. This is the grilled meat you will see and smell on the streets and in the bazaar. Usually it is served with saffron rice and roasted tomato’s and onions. On the side is the delicious khoreshe (sauce ) made with yogurt ( mast) cucumbers and dill. Ashe ( soup ) comes in many creative ways and its’ like no other you have tasted ! Persian cuisine is really quite healthy. No fast foods or preservatives are in the traditional diet.
Pomegranates and Pistachios
Fruits and nuts are incorporated in to much of the meals in the Persian diet. Such an interesting flavor this gives to meats , sauces and rice. One of my favorites is Chicken Fessenjan, a unique blend of chicken stock, pomegranate syrup and crushed walnuts makes up the sauce that is poured over chicken and rice. There is even an amazing soup ( ashe) made with pomegranates. Pistachio nuts are mixed into desserts and savory dishes alike. Here is a great website for authentic Persian recipes : My Persian Kitchen — Discover, Learn, & Cook Persian Cuisine.Kookoo Sabzi and Barbari Bread

A fire in a pit in the ground,  flat unleavened bread hanging on hooks waiting to be smothered in butter. This is such delicious bread and is served with most Iranian meals. A few times we have encountered bits of pebbles as we enjoyed this bread that is called “Noon” in Farsi. The combination of fresh greens baked with eggs like an omelet is called Kukuye Sabzi. It’s a favorite of all Persians. During Now Ruz ( the ancient Persian new Year that occurs in the beginning of spring), sabzi is always served. The Iranians celebrate by going out on a picnic and bringing along a tray of newly grown grass greens to be released into a river.

Tea and Baklava

All hospitable Iranians, from the poorest villages to the intricate mosaic tiled palaces will not be with out the sharing of tea. This aromatic tea from the northern mountainous regions of Iran is usually served from a Samovar ( large ornate tea decanter). It is poured into small clear glasses and taken with sugar cubes held between the front teeth. Baklava and Gaz ( nougat candy made with rose water and pistachios) are favorite dessert treats to have with tea. Commonly you will be seated on a hand woven Persian carpet with a hand stamped decorative tablecloth to enjoy your meal and tea. While visiting a remote village south of Isfahan, we sat on pillows and were served a goats head filled with yogurt and greens!! For more on our Iranian adventure, read  my recent blog “I Ran from Iran “.  I Ran From Iran I have great memories of Iran and so appreciate the opportunity of living there.

Please consider trying these foods of the world!

If any Iranians read this post, please feel free to correct me. I am sharing from my experiences in Iran, but any one can comment and contribute to this post.


Nooshe Jaan , Bon Apetite, Enjoy Your Meal !

These are a few families who can share their first hand encounters of culinary feasts from around the globe.

Finding My Way to Fabulous (and Freaky) Food by Keryn at Walkingon Travels (twitter @walkingontravel)

http://walkingontravels.com/2012/04/25/finding-my-way-to-fabulous-and-freaky-food/

Food from Guatemala – Marina K. Villatoro

http://travelexperta.com/2012/01/typical-guatemalan-food-photo-essay.html

Magical Easy-To-Make Israeli Madbukah

http://thenomadicfamily.com/2012/04/food-from-my-roots-5-magical-israeli-recipes

Traditional Dishes of Peru – Lainie Liberti of Raising Miro – http://www.raisingmiro.com/2012/04/25/8-traditional-dishes-of-peru/

Alloco (from West Africa) – Lauren Fisher http://www.sparklingadventures.com/index.php?id=1549

My crêpes recipe (from France) – Tiphanya – http://avenue-reine-mathilde.over-blog.com/article-my-crepes-recipe-or-my-special-thanks-when-i-travel-102910041.html

Starting our Days with Turkish Breakfast – http://www.minordiversion.com/2012/04/starting-our-days-with-turkish-breakfast

Gallo Pinto, Costa Rica’s signature dish – by Susan of Family Travel Bucket List

http://familytravelbucketlist.com/gallo-pinto-recipe

Taking the Kids to Yakitori Alley in Tokyo Japan-by Kristy Harris of Vagabond Kids

http://vagabondkids.com/2012/04/yakitori-alley-taking-the-kids/

Persian Pomegranate Chicken and other Fantastic Foods of Iran

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How we traveled from the East coast to the West coast for $27.20. 6 full days in Southern California. You can make it happen too (with a little help from your friends). Mother and daughter trip from the east coast to the west coast..6 days,$27.20. How passionate desire to travel can be achieved when you don’t have all the money in the world. My 18 year old daughter and I just returned from an adventure in sunny Southern California. We have been trying to take this trip for 5 years , but it never came together until now. Only at the very last moment did we realize we would be able to finally go. That’s how some things go around here, not knowing for sure what we are doing each day. Now the way we did this, not everyone can do. But by the blessings of many friends and relatives, we were able to make it happen. We do our best to live within our means and part of that means using no credit cards. It is truly challenging especially in our American society. Debt is not a good thing and we have gotten ourselves into trouble in the past. Something we are working our way out of ( another story later about that mess we got ourselves into ).

The main thing I am trying to emphasize here is that the famous saying “where there is a will, there is a way” is a true statementWe want to let everyone know that is not totally impossible to take your family to far away places. It does not have to cost lots of money and break the bank. You just need to be very creative and resourceful and it helps to know lots of generous and hospitable people in your life. Not to be confused with free loading ( as I was teasingly accused of doing), it’s actually reciprocal blessings ! We take in friends, relatives, even strangers all the time, offer free room and board and take them to all the local sights. We have done this for as far back as I can remember and we continue to open our doors to others. It may not be the same people who treat us in return, that it not the point. It’s knowing that we are giving a gift of hospitality and welcoming  others with no expectations in return.  And when the time comes and is desired, others share with us freely and graciously. We have some fellow friends out in the world who can share their experiences on making the way to travel as a  family. At the end of this post you can find links to numerous family travel blogs and websites on how these adventurous families achieve their travel dreams. Walking on Sunshine at the Long Beach harbor and marinaHope and Pray.   First step for us of trying to travel on a budget is to allow things to unfold as they are meant to be. We ask God first through prayer about what needs to happen in our lives . All things happen for a purpose and we need to have a good and gracious attitude about how things work out . We have the desire in our hearts to see the world as a family and our main goal is teach our children to be compassionate and kind to others . Our hope is to be able to serve others and be of some benefit . So we are working on equipping ourselves to see the world and really make a difference. Currently a few of us are getting certification and experience in teaching English.  The desire is certainly there. These things will come to pass as long as God wills it for our lives.

Beautiful Palms of Southern Los Angeles

OK, Preaching Aside,Contact all of the Friends and Relatives. Here is what I did  to make this trip happen for my daughter and I ; A few months in advance I registered us for the free Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California. We have been in the health food and natural products industry for 6 years now and attend these Expos for market research. So far we have only been able to take advantage of these conventions here on the East coast. The California convention has been a dream goal. It is 3 x bigger than the one near us in Baltimore, Maryland and we have been attempting to take this trip for many years. So not only would attending this phenomenal event help us in our education..it’s the main source of our sustenance..eating lots of healthy and delicious foods for free as we visit ! We were 2 of 60,000 people in the natural foods industry to attend this incredible Expo ! Folks from around the globe attended. Many countries were represented amongst all the mega players in the organics world and many new start up businesses. So here is where most all of our meals came from on our trip. One exciting highlight was meeting Dr. Andrew Weil.  The first 100 people of the day got to meet him, get a signed copy of his new book ” Spontaneous Happiness” and have our photo taken with him. That night we attended a Ziggy Marley concert ( also free ) Dean Potter was at one of the company booths to help promote omega 3 oils. Dean is the world champion free high wire walker, free flyer ( donning a wing suit and diving off of the Eiger Mountain in Switzerland) and free climbing El Capitan, Yosemite. All of this with no ropes or safety gear! The cutest sight for me was when we walked into an industry dinner party celebrating 100 years of Braggs Natural Products. Patricia Bragg stands only 4 feet tall (so it appeared) and she was wearing her ubiquitous flowery straw hat and a Hawaiian print moomoo with flip flops. The Ventura Jazz Orchestra played beautiful swing and big band style music while Patricia Bragg popped out from under a table during a happy 100 year birthday song. There were 1000’s of cupcakes on these tables to share in the celebrations. After the song Patricia hands me a cupcake. It was a surreal and humorous moment.Seek out a friend or relative who works for an airline I know not everyone can do this, but it is an incredible perk..the  ever coveted  “Buddy Pass“. I  have a relative who gives us about 4 passes a year so we can take some free flights. This was one of the main expenses, and the fact that we had these tickets in hand, made the rest of the planning a reality. Flexibility is key though, we have to fly stand by and space available. At any moment we can be booted off the airplane in between stops. That flight out to Santa Anna airport had us in 5 states in that one day. So we plan on not actual getting on the flights we hope for. It goes with the territory. But it was free so we don’t complain at all. It’s all part of the adventure. Our carry on bags are equipped with food from home , an extra change of clothes and some reading material for the potential long hours at the airports. When we arrived finally that evening, we got picked up by a relative who took us to our temporary home for the next 6 days.

Call all the friends and relatives in your destination to see if they can accommodate you. This too saved us so much money. What a treat we had staying with a friend of my husbands cousin. She had an ocean front condo and was so gracious to allow us to stay the whole time..sight unseen..we had never met her!  Needless to say we became fast friends and made sure that we helped out and supplied her with lots of goodies from the health food show. They also drove us to and from the convention and around the region. In the time that we were there, these generous ladies took us to lunch, dinner, a popular surfers beach and to see more local sights. And on the last day to the airport. So because of them, all our housing and transportation was taken care of. Thank you ladies! Another way we saved was by walking most of the time. During that week we must have walked 8 miles a day. There was so many things to do and see in the Long Beach area and it was all in walking distance for us. In the Long Beach Harbor we saw The Queen Mary Cruise Liner , quaint shops and cafes, boats, the Long beach light house, and all the while listening to beachy style music that was playing out to us along our stroll. My daughter said that everything was so beautiful and perfect in California. Well is seemed to be so until we headed to a different part of town to take the public bus one day to the Convention. That 2 hour journey took us through some run down areas and behind the scenes of the facade of Tinsel Town. That is of course the reality too, and I am glad we got to sit on that bus and see the regular people that were not movie stars and millionaires. The day before we did get to see a few celebrities and get in on a set for a scene from NCIS.  The days we attended the convention, we took walks for a much needed break from the overwhelming crowds and stimulation of the immense EXPO. We hiked over to the beautiful Crystal Cathedral and got to go inside. That was a hope of mine to be able to see this unique building. Many years ago I met the architect and designer of the church, Phillip Johnson,  who said this cathedral was his crowning glory. Another day we took our outdoor break and headed over to Downtown Disney Village just to soak in some of that famous atmosphere (with out the huge price tag of actually entering the theme park). In the above link “Southern California” you can see more photos of who and what we saw.

Making a trip happen also involves help from the home front. For this wonderful vacation that my daughter and I got to take, I needed much help from the rest of my family and the generosity of friends. My 2 oldest boys took us to and from the airport, a wonderful friend took care of  my other 2 girls, and my husband and oldest son took over with my other 2 younger boys and ran the household. My husband, kids , friends and relatives , were so wonderful to make it possible for my 18 year old and I to have this incredible time together. I am so blessed to have all these people in my life.

With creative planning, you too can make some of your travel dreams come true. Don’t let fear of not having enough money stop you from seeing some of the world.  We try our best to have amazing experiences in life rather than materials things. Most all of the things we own are hand me down, found, bartered or purchased at yard sales and thrift shops. Instead of buying a new furniture set or a diamond ring, save up for that road trip to the Grand Canyon. Why not forfeit all the dinners out , cable TV and expensive clothing shopping at the mall and take that trip to France! Don’t be jealous of us being able to travel, be happy for us and know that we give up many other things and joyfully figure out ways to go into the world. Be resourceful, do your research and home work and plan ahead for ways to make it happen for you. Here are some more travel tips written by families around the world. They can teach you how they make this life possible. http://www.bohemiantravelers.com/2012/03/anyone-can-travel.html http://thenomadicfamily.com/?p=178 http://www.livinontheroad.com.au/2012/coeliac-travel http://walkingontravels.com/2012/03/28/if-anyone-can-travel-why-dont-you/ http://livingoutsideofthebox.com/2012/03/28/not-everyone-can-travel/ http://breakoutofbushwick.org/?p=842 http://experientialfamily.com/anyone-can-travel/ http://www.familytrek.org/anyone-can-travel/ http://www.wandering-photographer.com/2012/travel-possible http://solomamatravels.com/2012/03/28/even-solo-mamas-on-government-handouts-can-travel http://www.littleaussietravellers.com.au/2012/a-family-travel-lifestyle-is-more-than-just-luck.html http://www.minordiversion.com/2012/03/anyone-can-travel-just-let-go/ http://www.newlifeontheroad.com/anyone-can-travel-cant-they/ www.discovershareinspire.com/2012/03/you-have-to-be-special-like-us-if-you-want-an-awesome-life/ http://www.akingslife.com/?p=3030

Southern California For Under $30

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Some people think that the adventure and fun of travel is over once you have a family. Well we want to let you know that the fun has just begun. Don’t think that as a family your adventure days are over. To us, it’s much more wonderful to share your travels with your children. And in our case, that means 7 kids along for the ride.

Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Taking a stroll amongst the wild alligators while 6 months pregnant

Happy and Free on the Pacific Coast

A recent article written by a CNN reporter called ” 5 Rules of Traveling with Kids” made a few claims that we feel are not the truth. This is the article in question (http://www.cnngo.com/singapore/life/tell-me-about-it/elaine-ee-hard-truth-about-traveling-kids-its-hell-704511). She listed her rules as: #1 The Younger the Child, the Bigger the Suitcase… Our experience proves the opposite. We all pack the minimum amount possible.  A few outfits per family member that are comfortable and worry free ( no dry cleaning or ironing needs) will suffice. Pack 5 changes of clothes if you must and clean them at the end of the wearing time. Some times, because there are nine of us traveling together, we end up shipping our clothes via Fedex.  That way we can each just bring a carry on and not worry about luggage claim. Kids really don’t require that much stuff. Keep it simple and enjoy your travels with out so much baggage!

Yes, we did Disney

Sleepy Kid

#2 The Younger the Child, the Harder it is to Get Over Jet Lag How to cope with that one?  We try and listen to our bodies. The crazy time change could really mess up a vacation from the beginning. Once arriving, we get settled into our hotel / cabin /friends or relatives home /tent, and regroup. Get the kids some basic needs ( healthy foods, water, family time to talk and explain your next activity, etc. ) Then we usually try and get some fresh air after all the time cramped on the airplane or in the vehicle. Run, stretch, play, take a walk, swim! That is a big help when it comes to trying to adjust to  a time change. If applicable, we head to the nearest beach for some sun, surf and sand to restore our spirits. 

Grab that Vitamin D and Iodine. Sun and Salt Surf

Sand+ Sun+ Surf = Happy Kids

#3 Travel to a Destination that Serves French Fries No Way! When you are in a new local, you should eat indigenously. And that includes your kids. Besides the fact that all that junk food ( especially if those French Fries are from a fast food joint ) is so bad for them , they won’t learn how to eat like a local. We really believe in feeding our kids authentic and real food.  You know, when in Rome.. On a trip to Cajun Country, Louisiana we ate fresh crawfish out of the bayou , frogs legs, gumbo, cafe au lait and beniets. At a TexMex restaurant in San Antonio, we all had fresh made burritos, yellow rice, beans and  salsas in some ladies dining room. In San Fran, we ate Italian , Chinese, sour dough bread and Ghirardelli chocolate . No chicken tenders, french fries, fake grilled cheese or hot-dogs. And we never make up a cutesy sounding name for foods they don’t recognize or have never tried. Call it what it is and they will learn. If I serve them kombucha, braised Brussel sprouts, lamb kabobs and Kimchi, I tell them exactly what they are eating. Why sugar coat a food ( figuratively or literally)? Let them know what wonderful arrays of foods this world has to offer. We love to eat all the specialties of a region, listen mostly to their music and get the full experience through all the senses. It will be beneficial to them in the future for their health and for their broader understanding.

When in Rome, Eat as a Roman

Curry in a Hurry

#4  You Can’t Have too Much in Flight Entertainment for Young Children. Actually, you really don’t need to bring much. Our kids will take one backpack each and fill it with the bare necessities. Depending on the age ; a Bible and a favorite book , a sketch pad, drawing pens and pencils, a camera, ipod and earphones, a favorite toy and some snacks. Just what fits in their own sack. Plus they should save room for any items they may like to pick up on your travels to bring back. Mom and Dad can carry the diaper bag and please..breast milk is free! Natures perfect food for babies. Other forms of inflight entertainment? Look out the window, go and talk to the pilot before and after the flight ( we used to be able to watch them fly the plane while up at 20,000 feet, but no more these days), read the ubiquitous maps inside the airlines magazine that show all the flight routes ( where I dream about our next destination ), see a film, take a nap or talk to the person next to you ( if they don’t mind ).Before you know it, your plane has landed. Please always thank the pilot and crew. We teach our kids to be thankful for them getting us safely to and from our vacations.

Kids Play While Waiting for a Flight

Perfect Spot for a Baby

Flying Lessons

#5  Strollers, bane or boon? It’s really no big deal. Get a good one that is easy to open and close at a moments notice. The airlines are pretty good about having it ready for you when you need it. If not, carry the kids for a while.                                                                             

That Trusty Double Stroller

We have been flying and traveling with the kids since our oldest ( now 21 ) was a newborn. We had 7 kids in 11 years and have always managed to travel with them. If we can do it, so can you. Yes, it is possible! It takes some planning ahead of course, but serendipity is always welcome. Some times when our kids ask where we are going , I say  “where ever the road or sky take us ” And above all, be flexible and gracious in your travels.

Always Be Flexible

For more great travel tips and a debunking on that CNN Go article, read on with these family travel writers! http://www.akingslife.com/2012/02/the-surprisingly-easy-truth-of-traveling-with-kids http://familytravelbucketlist.com/the-secret-to-traveling-with-children http://www.bohemiantravelers.com/2012/02/debunking-cnns-rules-for-traveling-with.html http://livingoutsideofthebox.com/2012/02/15/how-do-you-travel-with-children/ http://edventureproject.com/5-rules-of-traveling-with-kids-a-traveling-child-responds/ http://havebabywilltravel.com/2012/02/06/cnns-ridiculous-rules-about-travel-with-kids/ http://travelwritingpro.com/shocking-tips-traveling-kids-unnoticedit-time-demystify-rules-traveling-kids/ http://travelexperta.com/2012/02/5-reasons-family-travel-is-a-must.html http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2012/02/the-worlds-worst-family-travel-advice http://aroundtheworldineasyways.com/2012/02/more-than-french-fries/ http://www.suitcasesandsippycups.com/2012/02/rules http://familyrambling.com/family-travel-tips-5-rules/travel-resources/ http://www.newlifeontheroad.com/-five-rules-of-travelling-with-kids/ http://experientialfamily.com/myths-not-rules-of-traveling-with-kids/ http://walkingontravels.com/2012/02/15/my-reality-not-rules-when-traveling-with-kids/ http://albanykid.com/2012/02/15/yellowstone-national-park-backpacking-with-kids

http://www.thenomadicfamily.com/2012/02/worse-family-travel-advice-ive-ever.html#more

Yes, You Can! It is Possible to Travel With Kids of All Ages