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Our visit to the American Girl Place NYC

Kimberly No Comments

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How much would you pay for a hair do, an ear piercing and a special lunch with your special girl… now what if that special someone was an American Girl Doll? Wanna know how much we spent?

Well, the answer’s coming soon, but first a little back story.

I hate American Girl Dolls. I hate what they stand for, I hate how they indoctrinate little girls into a materialistic branded way of life, veiled by fake historic characters and I especially hate how much they cost. I don’t honestly believe there’s a place for one of them in our anti-consumer, rv lifestyle, where we treasure experiences over stuff.

So why do we have one? Because I am a complete hypocrite! Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Last week, Tonia and I boarded a plane bound for New York to attend the wedding of my oldest friend.

A familiar skyline

A familiar skyline

This trip also provided the opportunity to satisfy my mother’s desire to take her one and only granddaughter to lunch at the American Girl Place in NYC. Knowing of our impending jaunt to this fantasyland of molded plastic, I made a reservation for lunch weeks in advance. It’s not uncommon for this event to be sold out, so if this is something you are interested in, I strongly advise reservations, lest you find yourself with a starving doll and a disappointed little girl.

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American Girl Place NYC

Thursday morning we headed to 5th and 49th street to the mecca of all things AG with Kanani, the 2011 Girl of the Year doll my mother had purchased and stashed away 2 years ago.
My mother had decided that Kanani need not be a full time rver and told Tonia the doll would stay at her house. To assuage the upset, I had agreed to get Tonia an Our Generation doll at Target. With an $18 price tag this is a much more palatable option for me and would resolve Tonia’s issue regarding taking a doll home with her.

However, as we stood in the midst of everything American Girl, the ‘big red bag obsession’ took firm hold in Tonia’s heart and she confided in me she no longer wanted an Our Generation doll, she wanted a “real doll”.

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Meet Saige – the newest full time rving American Girl!

 

Yikes! It was happening right before my eyes! The idea that one 18 inch plastic doll could be more real than another was just the insidious attitude I try valiantly to guard against… or at least I thought I had…

But then I caught my reflection in the mirror and knew the awful truth. There I was in my Miss Me jeans, with my Coach purse and designer cowboy boots. I was really nothing more than an overgrown version of these 6 yr olds running around pleading for overpriced dolls, accessories and furnishings.

In a last ditch effort to impress upon Tonia the implications of owning a $110 doll, I told her that this purchase would necessitate the complete suspension of her allowance for one whole year, while she currently had enough money saved for the Our Generation doll and could continue to accrue her weekly allowance without interruption if she chose to go that path. But it was too late. I had opened the door to Pandora’s Doll House and there was no going back.

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Thank Goodness these dolls don’t eat, lunch was expensive enough!

After we purchased Saige we headed to the third floor to check in for our lunch reservations. Lunch started with some sweet treats as fresh hot cinnamon rolls were delivered to the table, followed shortly by a veggie and cheese platter.

The menu had a savory assortment of salads, entrees and even some adult beverages.

Not to be left out, the dolls have plates and cups set in front of them, so you can share some of your lunch with them. I think these dolls are all calorie conscious ’cause I didn’t see a single one eating!

After lunch, the cakes (which I must say looked absolutely scrumptious) started rolling in, candles being blown out left and right to that ol’ familiar tune.

Since we were not celebrating a special occasion (unless you consider losing your mind and spending enormous amounts of money a cause for celebration), we were served iced heart cakes, a stick of fruit, and a cup of dirt 😉

These dolls are all starving!

These dolls are all starving!

As the meal wound down, I noticed a large collection of wall flowers. They have a huge assortment of ‘loaner dolls’ on hand, although I could not think of a single instance in which one would utilize this option.. except maybe if you dropped your doll in the sewer on the way to lunch?!?

Next up, the lovely ladies at the hair salon were anxiously awaiting Kanani for a hair appointment and ear piercing.. Yes, you read that right – the doll was getting her ears pierced, or more accurately holes drilled into her head.

Gettin' her hair did!

Gettin’ her hair did!

When we came upon the Doll Hair Salon earlier that morning my initial reaction was “what a clever way to make even more money”, but after seeing the transformations from ‘well-loved’ gnarly-haired dolls to prim and proper well groomed toys, I have to admit I was impressed.

I have spent many an hour on the floor of my camper trying valiantly to unknot the unknottable when Tonia went through her “I LOVE RAPUNZEL” phase and the quality and resilience of these American Girls wigs should be given due credit.

The ear piercing was done behind closed doors, so no one could hear the doll screaming. She emerged with sparkly star earrings and a triple set of mix and match options to take home.

Next stop, traipsing through endless galleries of doll clothing and accessories. With weddings on her mind, Tonia picked a Flower Girl ensemble that ironically cost more than Tonia’s own real life Flower Girl ensemble.

This could double as a 'toad'

This could double as a ‘toad’

Again, I must give credit where its due and although I can not justify the crazy price tags, I can say the clothing is very well made, exceptionally detailed and durable.

The furnishings are completely over the top! I have no idea what kind of square footage the target market girls have, but a 6 foot hot air ballon is never going to fit in my RV!

All told, our time we spent at the American Girl Place in New York City was definitely an experience.

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This bag is almost bigger than Tonia’s “room”

Our grand total was:

Lunch for 3 $125
Saige $110
Hair Style and Ear Piercing $35
Flower Girl Outfit $32
Not including transportation expenses: $302.00

Holy Cow! That’s more than my Coach purse, Miss Me jeans and designer cowboy boots combined!!!

Exploring Tinkertown Museum in Sandia Park, NM with Video

Kimberly No Comments

When you travel full time, you can’t see everything. This is one of the ironies of full time rving.

Don’t they all look thrilled!

Whether its due to finances, weather, crowds, time or just plain overlooking, families need to realize that some things will need to be left for the next trip around.

Count me as one of those friends

 

This was actually a hard lesson for me (the family itinerary maker) to learn.

The excitement is growing

 

When I sat in my house, making list upon list of all the places we’d visit, I thought I’d be disappointed if we had to forego some excursions. And truth be told, I was. In those early months, I was known to pout and carry on when we couldn’t do this, or wouldn’t be able to eat that, etc

Buttons along the front animate the scenes

But somewhere in the midst of year two, I matured (thankfully and possibly somewhat questionably) and realized we don’t have to take every opportunity set before us and chances are we will be here again, some time in the future, and won’t it be nice to have something to look forward to then. Ahhhhhhh!

So what does this all have to do with Tinkertown Museum?

Well, this is one of those places we missed due to overlooking and possibly your family would have no trouble overlooking such a place, but you might regret it!

This scene blew me away

It seems I have a certain gene that loves colorful collections of, what might be called by the untrained eye, JUNK.

Never a truer word!

My husband, bless his heart, lacks the gene and runs around with not one, but two, untrained eyes.

A one man band in a box!

But he’s always very accommodating so when I exclaimed one evening in Texas, “oh no! We’ve been to Albuquerque twice and we completely missed Tinkertown, we need to go back!”. He said, “ok”.

Kids have their own guest book

So back we went, to a city neither one of us are particularly fond of, to see the Tinkertown Museum.

Leave a message in a bottle

It took Ross Ward over 40 years to carve, collect, and lovingly construct the collection on display. His miniature wood-carved figures were first part of a traveling exhibit, driven to county fairs and carnivals in the 1960s and ’70s. Today over 50,000 glass bottles form rambling walls that surround a 22-room museum. Wagon wheels, old fashioned store fronts, and wacky western memorabilia make Tinkertown’s exterior as much as a museum as the wonders within.

Outside you’ll find a unique collection of items Ross and his wife have collected from ghost towns.

When you go to Tinkertown make sure you bring quarters and ask for a scavenger hunt handout, or download and print it from their website.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our time at Tinkertown and we know you will too!

For more of the sights and sounds of Tinkertown, check out our episode of One Epic Adventure.

 

 

I Left my floor in San Francisco

Kimberly 1 Comments

Mark Twain is falsely credited with the witticism, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”  Well, if he didn’t say it, he should have!

We visited the famed ‘City by the Bay’ in the middle of September, while it’s California sister cities were experiencing a brutal Indian Summer, San Fran was locked in a dense foggy 60 degrees.

The irony of this was the fact that our RV parked on a crumbling ledge (really, there were signs and caution tape and missing chunks of asphalt) overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Overlooking is quite an exaggeration as we never actually got to see the Pacific from our risky perch, but we did get to hear the crashing waves that threatened to deliver our wheeled home to Davy Jones himself when our parking spot gave way.

A brief moment of clarity

A brief moment of clarity

The first attraction we visited in Frisco was The Exploratorium, which still today, holds a special place in our hearts among Science Museums.  The Exploratorium is hands down THE BEST museum of its kind we have visited in all our travels.

In the 7+ hours we spent their, every single one of our senses were tantalized and challenged.  The kids took part in a Cow’s Eyeball Dissection, Chris was ensconced in a great ball of energy and color, baby DJ explored his magnetic personality and Dominick drank out of a toilet.

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On Day 2, we walked the length of the Golden Gate bridge and then toured Chinatown.

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From a quick FourSquare search we were able to find a Chinese Fortune Factory.  Having been on my fair share of factory tours, I expected more than the hallway that serves as the main production floor, but that’s really all there was.  A hallway, a couple of Chinese people, some lazy susans and a thousands of round flexible discs being turned into the fortune telling wonders we all know and love.

fortunecookieOn the 3rd day, we all went  to prison.  Of course, I’m talking about Alcatraz which was an awesome tour!  If you’re considering it, I strongly urge you to reserve your Alcatraz ferry tickets in advance.  As a National Park, Alcatraz is free, but there’s only one way to get there, and the ferry is known to sell out on a daily basis.

alcatraz

We loved our time in San Fransisco, but as the title of this post implies, our trip there did cost us our floor.  Several months prior, we had installed a wood floor  (click the link to see the video of that installation), but the humidity of San Fran, wrecked havoc with it and when we pulled out of Pacifica 6 days later, it had buckled and swelled in several places.   Months later, we ripped it out and used it as firewood.

I should also tell you, one of the most awesome places we have found in this country, we found while parked in Pacifica.  Across the other bridge, in Berkley is Adventure Playground.  That place was so awesome it deserves its very own blog post!  So click here to learn why no matter what age your kids are, you should NOT MISS Adventure Playground!

 

8 Great Destinations to Watch 4th of July Fireworks – Guest Post by The Road Trip Teacher

Kimberly 1 Comments
Want to watch 4th of July Fireworks with your Fulltime Families Friends?  Save your spot for our upcoming Hang Out!
This month’s guest post from the Road Trip Teacher blog reveals some of the best places to watch fireworks in the country.  Head on over to her site to get a free copy of her newest Fourth of July Curriculum!
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The first Independence Day fireworks celebration reportedly took place in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1777, on the first anniversary of America’s birthday. Although this pyrotechnic pastime has became common for many other holidays and special events, there’s still something extra-special about July 4th fireworks. The Road Trip Teacher crew has these 8 great destinations on their leap list for places to celebrate the country’s independence.

 

Fulltime Families Family Friendly Campground Directory Boasts over 340 Campgrounds

Kimberly No Comments

The FtF Family Friendly Campground Directory now contains over 340 campgrounds who will waive the “kid tax” (additional person fee) for Fulltime Families Members, nationwide.

Look for this plaque at Family Friendly Campgrounds across the country

The Family Friendly initiative was started two years ago, in an effort to keep camping affordable for families.  Many times a nightly rate can soar to an additional 25% – 50% when campgrounds charge separately for over two occupants.  The FtF Family Friendly Campground Directory seeks to connect families to the independent campgrounds across the country who value their business and are willing to waive any additional fees.

Chris Savory – FtF Lifetime Member with family of 7
I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first about the FtF campground directory. Not that it wasn’t a good idea, but that we wouldn’t use very much since we usually stay at a lot of Thousand Trails.

However this month we are in a state that has no TT and I was having trouble finding anything under 700 for a month. Finally I was about to give up and then I checked the FtF campground directory. Found one that was about 10 miles farther out from where I was looking so no big deal there. I called and the guy told me it was 450 + 70 flat for electricity. That’s not terribly bad for us.

Then I asked him about any extra costs and he asked how many people we had. I told him 7 and he said one moment let me calculate your extra costs (the charged for anything over 4 people). I told him that I was a FtF member and he quickly said there was no extra charges for us.

So now that I just saved $150 at this campground I’m a believer in the FtF campground directory!!

Thanks Fulltime Families!!

 

A Local’s Guide to the Best of Tucson with Kids

Kimberly 2 comments

Thank you to Tucson (former) local, Jennifer Miles who compiled this list for the World’s Best Roadschool Convention Attendees.

Here’s her suggestions for the best of Tucson with Kids!

Jennifer starred her family’s  favorites. but the others are still “on to the top of the list” for people who enjoy that type of activity.   The ones that say RESERVE YOUR TICKETS EARLY are truly plan ahead and schedule. They sell out early and have limited availability.

In Town
Outdoor/Nature

*Flandrau Planetariumhttp://flandrau.org/ $7 adults, $5 4-15  This one is on the campus of the U of A.  Ranked one of the top 10 planetariums in the US. Have great kids activities.
*Botanical Gardenshttp://www.tucsonbotanical.org/  $13 for adults, $12 student, $7.50 4-12     Some great events like Alien Invasion of the Plant Kind and Butterfly Magic during the week of Convention
Desert Wildlife Museumhttps://www.desertmuseum.org/ $19.50 for adults, $15.50 13-17, $6 4-12
Old Tucsonhttp://oldtucson.com/ $16.95 12 and over, $10.95 4 – 11 Come experience what life was really like in the Old West.
Pima Air & Space Museumhttp://www.pimaair.org/  $15.50 for adults, $9 kids over 6 For those in to planes.  This place is huge.  (Also called the boneyard)
Spring Training – Sadly, there are no games for spring training this year at the Diamondback Stadium but this is one of the highlights every spring in town if you ever come back.  Just for that reason, it’s worth mentioning it.

Outdoor Retail Activities

*4th Ave Street Fair – http://www.fourthavenue.org/fairs/general-information/ Dates are Mar 21-23 this year for those who arrive early. This is a blast and has all sorts of street vendors. It’s the “Big event of the year” in Tucson.
There are always things going on – http://www.visittucson.org/events/calendar/

Indoor Entertainment/Restaurants

*Downtown Children’s Museumhttp://www.childrensmuseumtucson.org/ $8 for over 12 months (second Saturday of the month is $2)  This is a fun one. It’s not huge but they change out the exhibits and my kids will spend hours there.
*Gaslight Theatrehttp://thegaslighttheatre.com/ $18.50 for adults, $16.50 students, $8.50 12 and under RESERVE YOUR TICKETS EARLY  This is a super fun dinner and a show in a “old style theater” Beach Blanket Bee Bop runs Apr – June  Dinner is an extra cost and their Pizza is a favorite.
*Chaco’s Caféhttps://www.facebook.com/ChacosCafe  This is my favorite mom & pop mexican place in the country! Seriously, get the carne asada and the salsa bar! You would never find it if you didn’t know about it.  A little hole in the wall but AMAZING! This and El Charro are downtown near the Children’s Museum so would be a good “museum and meal” day.
*Eegee’shttp://www.eegees.com/ Frozen ices and subs. (Kind of like Subway but the frozen ices are the real reason we go) My kids beg to go here every time we are in town for the frozen ices.  There are multiple locations in town.  And, yes, the ices are such a family pleasure, I actually ranked a Subway-type place, as a must go to.. Crazy!

Trail Dust Town & Pinnacle Peak’shttp://www.traildusttown.com/ city block made to look like a historic town. Free to walk around.  Recommend eating at Pinnacle Peak’s steak house and having someone in the group wear a tie you are okay with losing. Can see dinner prices on the website.  This is a typical steak house with the added entertainment of a “no ties allowed” event if you wear one.  This is one that is always recommended as a Tucson original.  As an added bonus, the steaks are pretty good.
La Parrilla Suizahttp://laparrillasuiza.com/about.html  One of the best Mexican restaurant’s in town. They are a chain but their food is “mom and pop” quality.
El Charrohttp://www.elcharrocafe.com/ downtown if you are at the Children’s Museum
El Paradorhttp://www.elparadortucson.com/  Another “Can’t miss” mexican restaurant in town

In town but a little farther away

Colossal Caveshttp://www.colossalcave.com/welcome.html $13 for adults, $6.50 for 5-12  This one is on the outskirts of town and is a great local cave option.  If you can carve out the time, I’d recommend Kartchner Caverns over this one.
*Seven Falls –  http://arizona.sierraclub.org/trail_guide/hike8.htm  Part of the Sabino Canyon trail system but this is one everyone should see once. Longer hike. It’s almost 8 miles round trip but has pools at the halfway point to cool off and relax.
Sabino Canyonhttp://www.sabinocanyon.com/  Ranges from free to fee Has both narrated tram tours and non-narrated walking trails.  Seven Falls is one of the trailheads in Sabino Canyon, but it’s such a great one I listed it separately.

Out of Town but worth the drive if you are passionate about the type of activity

Mt. Lemmonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Lemmon, http://www.skithelemmon.com/page2.html  About an hour up the mountain, some interesting things to see and do.  Amazing fudge store at top! (Because chocolate is how we judge everything)
*BioSpherehttp://b2science.org/   $20 for adults, $13 for students 6 – 12 Self contained environment originally used as a lab for sustaining life on another planet.
Tombstonehttp://www.cityoftombstone.com/ A little bit farther away but for history buffs this is a fun experience.
*Kartchner Cavernshttp://azstateparks.com/parks/kaca/ $23 14+, $13 7-13  RESERVE YOUR TICKETS EARLY This cave sells out on a regular basis.  This cave was preserved using the latest tech at the time and is amazing.  We’ve toured a lot of caves and this is still one of our favorites.
Kitt Peak Observatoryhttp://www.pimaair.org/ $15.50 adults, $9 kids If you are up for the drive, their night time tour is the one to go to and is amazing. I’d recommend for older kids really into astrology because of the distance and the late night needed.  RESERVE YOUR TICKETS EARLY

 

Prices subject to change, Please check local venues for current prices and times.

A Tree For Your RV!

Kimberly 1 Comments

Tis’ the season and living in an RV is no excuse for not decorating.

While it’s easy to string lights on the awning and hang stockings from the slide, finding room for a Christmas Tree can be a bit tricky.

Last year I had a 10in pink prelit tree that I loved looking at.  But it took up valuable real estate on my very limited table and was eventually stuck in a corner.

This year I searched for the perfect RV Tree option and found a few.

My ideal tree would fold completely flat!  Sure enough- they make one!

 

but then I saw this one:

 

A tree that only takes up wall space?  I have plenty some wall space to spare.  This could be the one.

A few more clicks, and I finally found the perfect tree for our RV.

Not as big as the first one, but still a good size and I really liked the colors!

So here you have it – the tree in our RV.

How do you decorate from Christmas? Do you have a tree? Does it fold flat?

Give Your Family the Gift of the Miracle of Christmas

Kimberly No Comments

Each Christmas season, we look for opportunities provide our children with gifts of experience, rather than gifts that will take up space in our RV.   To help encourage others to do the same, we publish an annual list of the Top 25 Gifts for the Full-Time Traveling Family.

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This year, one of our most highly anticipated gifts was a visit to the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA to watch The Miracle of Christmas Production.  After attending a performance of Johah during the Not Back to School Roadschool Rally this fall, we all had great expectations and again Sight and Sound did not disappoint.

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The stage is quite large and performances immerse the audience in the experience with a full 180 degrees of wonder and delight. This multi-dimensional  show uses many layers of set design to transport the audience to the hills of Nazareth and the bustling chaos of Bethlehem.  The effect is stunning making each and every audience member feel a part of the story.  The angels fly onto the set from above the audience and live animals walk down the aisles of the orchestra seating area to join the actors onstage.

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The Miracle of Christmas is based on the gospel rendition of the birth of Christ with some  minor artistic license for created characters to help bring the story to life.
The story traverses many human emotions; despair, longing, bewilderment, awe, wonder, and joy with tenderness and a dash of comedy bringing a greater level of understanding of all the issues surrounding this miraculous event.   Our family of  6 (including 4 kids ages 5, 8, 11, 12) were completely mesmerized by the sets,  action, characters and story.

This production is wonderful and provides an opportunity for the family to spend an evening together in joyful anticipation of Christmas. For our family on the road, The Miracle of Christmas was the ultimate Christmas gift that required neither wrapping  nor room in our RV. It has also inspired roadschool lessons on this crucial time in history with the overwhelming number of well-known bible figures.

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Homeschoolers Get Behind the Scenes Access

It should be noted that the Sight and Sound Theater to be exceptionally supportive of homeschoolers and roadschoolers, providing generous savings and starting in April the theather offers a special Behind the Scenes Tour where homeschoolers meet with the actors, go on stage, and tour the dressing rooms/set shop, and animal areas.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of their performances, either in their Lancaster, PA location or the Branson, MO theater, you will not be disappointed.

24 Advent Ideas you can do in your RV

Kimberly No Comments

We know you’ve got issues…

Issues on where to put the tree, where to stash the presents and only so much amperage for all those lights.

That’s why we like to make it easy for you!

We’ve compiled a list of 24 Easy /Affordable Advent Activities.  These activities can be accomplished with things you already have in your home on wheels!

Not on wheels yet?  Don’t worry this countdown to Christmas will work for everyone!

Simply fill out this form and we’ll send you the items.

Then, the sky’s the limit…

Keep it simple and use the list as is…

or

Cut the list up and put them items in your favorite advent holder.

or

Go crazy and make this awesome tape tree on one of your walls!

The options are endless, but just like Santa’s Workshop… it starts with the LIST!

2 Ways to Save on Internet with New Fulltime Families Wifi Partners

Kimberly No Comments

ftf-badge-partnerInternet access is a critical component for many full-time rving families.  From online curricula, to your location independent income source, and beyond to connecting with your mobile community, reliable, high speed, internet access is a cornerstone to long term, slow travel on your own terms.

Fulltime Families has two internet provider partners:

 

Introducing our newest Fulltime Families Partner: Mobile Internet Satellite.com

The only mobile Internet connection that can always (baring extreme weather) be available is satellite. This rather “amazing” option will provide Internet access virtually anywhere in the lower 48 states of the United States.

Who Can Benefit from Mobile Satellite Internet?

If your cellular connection keeps “dropping” you or the connection is unbearably slow or non-existent … if the closest Hot Spot is an hour’s drive away … if you cannot afford to be without Internet access for a day or longer occasionally …

… then you can most likely benefit from mobile satellite Internet!

There is a lot to understand, when it comes to mobile satellite Internet which is why Fulltime Families is thrilled to have a dedicated resource who can answer all your questions and determine if Mobile Satellite Internet is the right fit for your family.

Mobile Internet Satellite can provide “The Always Online Solution” with an easy to set up tripod-based Satellite Internet system. The folks at MIS bring over 13 years of experience and carry a complete line of mobility accessories.

And they are offering Fulltime Families Members an exclusive $100 Rebate off setup!

Reach out to them today at http://www.mobileinternetsatellite.com/contact-us.php and explore the connectivity of Mobile Satellite Internet.

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