Last Minute Camping Trips in the Rain are Rad

by Leila on January 24, 2012

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Sometimes I just get the feeling that I need to go.

That desire to disconnect and find an adventure…

I’ve come to realize this isn’t typical and something most people think I’m crazy for.

Actually there are many other reasons people think I’m nuts.

Before I had kids I thought I was going to be a flight attendant and only own two bags of stuff so I could just take off whenever I felt that my roots were digging too deep.

Life with kids change a lot of things but it doesn’t change my desire for adventure. Now I am able to experience the adventures with them. Peter Pan was my favorite story, musical and Disney movie (aside from Pete’s Dragon) because I truly never wanted to grow up. Being a Mom hasn’t made me lose my sense of adventure… it’s just changed it.

Doesn't he Look Like Peter Pan?

I’m thankful that my kids have my sense of adventure! They take on these crazy trips with even more gusto than I. They are dreamers who aren’t afraid to do something new. They have just as much, if not more, fun as I do.

My Son the Dreamer


On a whim before our three day weekend I texted my friend Anna to see if she had to work on Martin Luther King Day. She was free… we found a spot at the San Mateo campgrounds which is inland by San Onofre… invited some other friends and suddenly I was unpacking my camping gear! I had two days to prep for a two night stay… and of course it could possibly rain that Sunday night but who was really thinking about that?

I admit that deciding to camp last minute with an already very busy end of week led to a crapton of stress. It made me realize that I need to reorganize my camping gear so I can just take off with minimal supplies if needed. I also realized sometimes I need to chill the crapsticks out and not overstress what I may forget.

Besides, all I really needed to remember were the medical kits, stuff to keep the kids warm, food, water and booze for me. Priorities!

Despite the stress of packing up and leaving on a whim and feeling unprepared I knew it would be a rad weekend.That is my process: I take something on. Overstress every possible thing that could go wrong and freak out. Tackle it all with a positive frame of mind and make the most of it. Sometimes I get bitchy along the way especially if there is a lack of coffee and/or alcohol.

There was no shortage of either.

Bottle Cap Stump: Offerings to the Hangover Fairies

We had so much fun with so many important people in our lives. The trip created many awesome feelings that were there and now amplified or new ones:

  • Knowing that we need to do that more often.
  • Life is about the memories we create.
  • Camping in the rain is a lot of fun but would be better with lots more tarps.
  • Pitbulls make the greatest campground fairies.
  • Sometimes you gotta just hope your 4 year old son isn’t going to eat shit when riding his brand new two wheeled bike on uneven dirt.
  • Making coffee the night before and storing it in a thermos is the GREATEST CAMPING TIP OF ALL!
  • Wood that got soaked in the rain will still burn if you create a giant inferno of doom.
  • Forts no matter where you are will always be great times for all.
  • My kids are helpful and awesome.
  • Camping with dogs is rad… and made me want one even more.
  • I’m a very lucky woman with a full life with amazing people in it.
  • Layers is the key to staying warm when it’s nipply cold out… and so is booze.

Despite the stress it may cause… take the adventures you can. Make the most of it. Prepare as much as possible and most importantly… just enjoy it! And if you can’t enjoy it at least let your kids enjoy it 😉



The time between me writing about how sick I got on the drive northbound on the 1 to Pfeiffer Big Sur and this blog post is about how long that car ride felt! It took me a long time to put this together because every time I sat down to finish it up I had to fight a huge urge to pack up and head back. Silly, I know.

Now I am looking at making a weekend getaway with the kids during the fall. The fall colors in Big Sur are beautiful and I want to see them first hand!

When I was a kid I loved imaginary play and anything involving the woods, fairies, unicorns and all things mythical. Entering Big Sur was like stepping back into my childhood where I would pretend the trees in my front yard were big, beautiful storybook trees… except the trees were real and no imagination required.

Big Sur is breathtaking with the amazing coastlines, massive trees, freezing cold clear water and something right out of a story. It is clean everywhere you go and beauty in every step. I just felt peaceful there. It made me wonder why I have ever lived anywhere else other than there? Why I would want to look at any other scenery? I’m not this damn sentimental and weird but this place was just that damn amazing. Can you tell I really liked it!?

We camped in Pfeiffer Big Sur for six days and it was not long enough. Our trip was interesting because we arrived with friends who were there for half of the trip and had other friends staying at the second half and then some family staying in the middle. It was really cool though because (bluntly) after awhile you can get really sick of people you are camping with if you stay too long and the kids can start turning on each other. Unless you happen to know some people you just mesh that well with.

The campground hosts were extremely friendly, the camp store staff were informative and the lodge employees were like old friends always happy to see you. Basically, no one pissed me off! That is unheard of!!!

Except bluejays. They can all piss off.

The bluejays are extremely aggressive and will hunt your food down when you aren’t looking. Some were so bold they flew into the back of my truck when I left the cab and shell doors open. This made me think horrible things about nature. I no longer like bluejays and would have cooked one up had they been meatier. I learned to tolerate these damn birds.

My favorite part of the trip was when my friend Annie got chased down by a Wild Turkey. Seriously. It chased her, she screamed her head off while running and I was bummed I didn’t record the whole damn thing! I love Annie and our rad friendship… and I love even more that we have this collection of amazing memories of ridiculous things happening to her that I mock her endlessly for them and her husband joins in on the fun.

And she is still my friend despite this. One day I am going to write about the coffee bean incident or when Annie almost blew her eyebrows off and herself up over mushroom burgers.

So yeah, avoid this turkey if you have a camera in your hand, are blonde and goddessy and are named Annie:

Wild Turkey - Annie Are You Okay?

We visited Pfeiffer State Beach and it was beautiful. It reminded me of the beach out of Goonies “Heeey, yoooou guuuuys!” but I was way off. My son, of course, found the most phallic thing on the beach and dragged it around the whole time. This is very typical of him.

Taaa Daaaa BEACH!

We loved everything about this camping trip! The walks around the campground, hiking to Pfeiffer Falls where the Redwoods made my thighs look fat, Vlogging about Carmageddon, enjoying the scenery, avoiding poison oak, running from skunks (Annie decided to run from one and then chase it up a hill), swimming in freezing cold water, having lunch on a rock cliff watching for otters, drinking… a lot… and creating lifelong memories. There is so much to do in Big Sur that we didn’t even scratch the surface!

Hiking with his baby Joshua

Coastline in Big Sur

Diving for Dumpster Pastries!? Well, there is a story here for another time

Do you see the otter? Well, me either!

My friend Charla and her family joined us on this trip. She is an amazing photographer and has a blog full of photo eyecandy. Here are a couple shots she took and blogged about. You should hop on over to the Charla Blue Blog and see the rest of her pictures from our trip!

I'm a big kid... taken by Charla Blue

My Son is Hilarious... my mouth is huge... taken by Charla Blue


I uploaded more pictures on Flickr.

I’m genuinely considering moving up the coast to that area. I love Southern California but there is something about the Big Sur and Monterey area that makes me feel like I should be there. Next year I plan on staying up there a lot and exploring… I’ve even looked into being a camp host over the summer! I sound kind of crazy so I should probably stop writing and obsess over planning my next adventure up there.


Everyone has that special place for the beloved stuffed animal, toy, blankie or car from their childhood. While most kids tend to hold on to that irreplaceable teddy bear or dollie I had a somewhat hard to find obsession called Sylvanian Families.

Say whaaat are those?!

Yeah, they weren’t like My Little Ponies or Cabbage Patch dolls… they were these adorable fuzzy animals I collected in Japan when I visited family over the summer. I never saw them in the states and no one I knew had them. I was always told they were sold in Japan, the UK and Australia… that made me feel really freaking cool.

Most kids went to Summer camp but I spent most of my childhood summers in Tokyo. I was apparently a clueless kid because when I had to go to Japan I was angry I couldn’t hang with my friends. I felt like a weirdo for never stepping foot in a Summer Camp and booooring who wants to go to Japan right? Right. I still had the best times of my life when I got there and I loved going to Tokyo however, I do remember pouting and being a total brat about it. That makes the me now want to ninja slap the me then and tell my Dad sorry for having to deal with such an opinionated kid! Ha!

These were really high quality toys that never ended up in the donation bin or the trash… they were too awesome to throw away. I had these guys out into my teen years until I decided to finally pack them away and I would maybe one day have kids who could enjoy them.

Fast forward to Mommyhood of a very creative little girl who loves animals and any imagination related play. I dug out a box of my old toys from my Dad’s garage and there inside a box, that was in a bag and inside another box were my Sylvanian Familes now known in the USA as Calico Critters. My then 3 year old daughter’s face lit up and I got to relive my childhood memories with her. These quickly became her favorites and still at nine year old she plays with these daily with her four year old brother. Every birthday and holiday Calico Critters are at the top of their lists.

My childhood rabbits and bears are now part of the large collection that we now have. I honestly cannot tell which animals are the new ones or the old ones. These are high quality and lasting toys. The only damages they have are from our old dog who chewed on one and from my son chewing on another when he was a toddler. Other than that they have maintained and they look amazing. These have had almost daily play for years and some for two generations now! That is really impressive and has made me evaluate quality of toys vs cheap stuff that will be tossed out next month.

I am pretty much insane when it comes to taking care of these guys. I don’t obsessively clean them or keep them displayed in a glass case with alarms and barbed wire. I want the kids to play with their toys but they have to be put away and not abused! They are inside toys and must be handled with care or Mommy loses it. I’m really big on distinguishing if some toys are outside or inside only. No exceptions… or so I thought…

Until one day I was Tweeting with @ImagineToys and I discovered this Calico Critter Caravan Family Camper. I was instantly in love with this! I was so excited!

I mean, for my kids of course…

We go camping a lot and the kids and I have talked about eventually getting a camper for us. This Caravan Family Camper was just like the ones we have looked at! I had this idea that taking this Calico Critter Caravan Family Camper with us while Camping (btw… I cannot say that five times fast!) would be the best toy ever… and I was right!

The first thing my kids said when I surprised them was, “You are going to let us use that… as an.. OUTSIDE TOY?!”

Yes, I am. Just don’t lose the spoons!!!

Yes the small accessories can be a vacuums tasty treat however you just don’t want to lose these guys because they are super cute. They are tiny and I can’t find them when I am not wearing my glasses (that doesn’t say much because I can’t find anything without my glasses… especially my glasses) but they are worth the extra care to hold on to them. I had a tupperware container with plastic baggies that kept the Calico Critters and the Caravan Camper accessories all organized. The Camper also has really cool storage space!

When we were off to Bishop on a camping and fishing trip I looked forward to really playing with this! Um, again… for the kids. I set up a blanket in our campsite where the kids played with it and it came with us to the lake. They took great care of it and had so much fun with it. It has a bathroom and a drop down toilet which of course made everyone laugh. I can’t even tell you how many times a grownup set up a bunny or a bear on the toilet.

We are all obviously very mature.

None of the guys on this fishing trip would let me take a picture of them setting it up but that made me laugh. Comments were made that I was having more fun with the Camper than the kids. But, everyone kept saying how cool it was.

It is now part of our family traditions to take our Calico Critter Caravan Family Camper with us while camping (I also tried to make the kids say that five times fast and they giggled… and said it better than I did!) and we are already building memories with it.

And one day I may see my grandkids playing with these amazing toys that have been a big part of two generations so far… because these toys are timeless and will last. Which makes me wonder why we would want anything other than fantastic toys like these for our kids… and ourselves.

Disclosure: Imagine Toys gifted the Caravan Family Camper for the kids and I to review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my own. Imagine Toys happens to be my new favorite toy shop since they have all of the high quality creative and educational toys that I love to give my children so I was more than happy to write a review for them when I had this idea of taking the Camper on our Camping trips! Thank you Imagine Toys!






Are twitter contests worth it and all the hype? Well, I wondered that when I entered to win a Kelty Tent! I’m really unlucky… or at least I am led to believe based on the years of constantly losing any game of chance! I always try to enter contests online and have yet to win anything… until I got the exact prize my kids and I really needed before we kick off our camping summer: A Kelty 4 Dome 3-Season Tent!! Winner winner chicken dinner!

Every Friday The House Boardshop does a Freebie Friday giveaway on Twitter. I found this contest because it was retweeted on my twitter feed and in another window I happened to be looking up Kelty tents. I thought why the hell not right? The contest involved tweeting them what my favorite memorial Day or camping memory was. I linked up my Karate Kid and Family Bonding camping post from last month. I then crossed my fingers, toes, legs and eyes and hoped that I would be picked.

I was on the phone with my friend Becky when I got the message that I was the winner. I screamed in her ear. I don’t think she appreciated that! I seriously could not believe it. Perfect timing too since we are going camping this month!

When it arrived we could not wait to try it out. It seriously took me less than 10 minutes to set up and the simple pole design made it easy which is very important when camping as a single Mom. The first thing I noticed was the quality of the materials and the poles are aluminum and very sturdy.

I love the mesh roof so we can watch the stars (and bugs) on beautiful nights. My daughter is excited to fall asleep staring at the stars. I’m just hoping we don’t see Mothra!

The rainfly comes with factory taped seams and has mostly full coverage. It is a three season tent and I can already tell that it will hold up well to the rain we get in Southern California and the ventilation is great to reduce condensation. The size is exactly as they state, 4 person, and it is the right size for my two kids and I. We don’t need a ton of tent space and there is plenty of room for our duffle bags and plenty of gear lofts.

I’m looking forward to giving this tent a good go on our three night camping trip this month. Thanks again House Board Shop for the rad giveaways and sweet gear like this! You made this family of three very happy!


Of Course I Can Go Camping as a Single Mom!

by Leila on January 26, 2011

What?! Of course I can go camping as a single Mom! When someone tells me that I can’t do something it lights a giant fire up my butt to prove them wrong. It is kind of ridiculous. Sometimes it causes me to do silly things like hurt myself by doing headstands in my living room and other times it creates a new tradition for our family of three: Camping.

I had a conversation with my relatives about camping and their immediate reaction was, “You don’t go alone right!?” Well, I hadn’t at that point but I wanted to. Then I was met with all this negativity from them about how I wouldn’t be able to do it, it’s too much work and I need a man there. Should I not do it? Am I crazy for this!? Camping as a single Mom is bad?! Why can’t I?!

Less than a week later I was searching online at Reserve America and I happened to be on at the right time when someone cancelled their spots at Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu. I made my lists, double checked all of our supplies and made a food menu for our first camping trip with just the three of us. Sure, we were going just for a one night but I was going to do it! We were camping, just the three of us, a week after I had that conversation and I probably would have procrastinated or invited friends had I not had that conversation. Yeah, I know… it is ridiculous.

Leo Carrillo has it all! We are fortunate to live in Southern California to enjoy places like this. It has tide pools, a beautiful beach, huge campground that is perfect for riding bikes and scooters, hiking trails and its bathroom facilities are great. At the time it was not site specific so we didn’t know what our campground would look like. This was the only part of the trip that made me nervous! We scored a beautiful secluded site, near the bathrooms and it had so many trees that the kids spend a ton of time exploring.  The Grunion were running when we were there so we enjoyed that as well!

Things I learned for our first trip:

  • Pack lighter!!!!
  • Pitching a Tent is really funny when you have a 3 year old who decided at that moment that the game “Smack Mommy’s Booty” was the best idea ever
  • There is such a thing as too much food and this is something I will never actually listen to because I am known for always having too much! But, in the event of some punk ass squirrels who roll up on you to take your bread its good to know that you brought an extra loaf
  • Things will not always go the way you want when camping and that is ok. Laugh at it. Stuff breaks. You forget things. Your kids may freak out in the middle of the night and want to sleep in the back shell of the truck! So that means you end up holding two kids, sleeping bags, flashlights and pillows when its pitch black. Laugh. A. Lot.
  • Layers are really good!
  • Oh and carry pepper spray and know how to use it. Safety first.

So yes, it can be done! We have a yearly fun budget that we use for trips and passes but my kids have decided they want to use the majority of that money for camping! I’m very excited about this.

Check back here soon if you want to learn more details about camping with kids! I will be adding lots of information on what to pack, how to stay safe and why we all should disconnect and rough it every once and awhile!