Needles and a Pen » Knitting, Sewing, and Nursing School

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  • Welcome to my blog!

    Hi! I'm Traci. I'm a nursing student and CNA who loves quilting, knitting, cross stitch, Project Life scrapbooking, and the great outdoors. In my pre-scrubs life, I owned Real Photography, and you can still see my old wedding and portrait photography site here .

    I great big puffy heart *love* comments, so please let me know you visited! I try to always reply!

My Camping Tips

tips and recipes for family camping with kids

We took our first camping trip in years last weekend.  Nic and I both grew up camping, although admittedly at different levels of intensity.  What I call “camping” Nic calls “car camping” in a way that suggests that I’ve never been camping so much as I’ve just been staying at four star hotels.  I will likely also feel this way once we start backpacking when the kids are older, but for now let’s just agree to call it camping.  Because if you wake up to pee in the middle of the night and there’s the possibility that there is a bear or snake or angry chipmunk between you and where you will be peeing, I call that camping.

In spite of our mutual appreciation for the great outdoors, our camping excursions post-marriage have been limited first by our wedding schedule and then by the fact that once we had two children, we just didn’t have any room in either vehicle to allow for a camping trip (if I’d known the vehicle I bought my senior year of college would limit my family size and vacation options I would have bought a Suburban).  This fall we got a pod for Nic’s car and we are finally back in the business of camping!  I did a whole lot of internet research (thank you pinterest) before we left to make sure our first trip as a family of four was a major success.  I thought I’d share a roundup of my favorite tips, recipes, and gear suggestions for anyone else planning on tucking little ones into sleeping bags this summer and looking for ideas!  Today is all about camping tips–up next week will be recipes.

  • Make dedicated camping tubs.  One of the best tips I read came from this post on making camping easier.  She keeps two camping tubs perpetually ready so that when it’s time to go, you just toss them in the car with clothes and food instead of spending your time tracking down can openers and paper towels and camp chairs and sleeping mats and the like.  For our small car camping, we’ve had to modify this a bit–having just one camping tub that goes from basement to car and another that needs to be unpacked directly into the car (and then goes immediately back into the tub on our return).  She emphasizes preparing when you get home from your camp trip for the next trip, and I agree with this right down to clothing.  I did our camping laundry immediately when we got home to prevent the hiking socks and pants from being at the bottom of the kids’ hampers the next time we were ready to go out and put it all in the kids’ bottom drawers, ready for our next adventure.  *Amy shared a great tip in the comments that for their camping box they use a large tool box which has the benefit of lots of organization built in.
  • Make a master excel camping spreadsheet.  This tip comes from my master packer brother-in-law Erik (whose spreadsheets are infinitely cooler because they include the item’s weight).  Instead of scribbling on a scratch piece of paper the things I didn’t want to forget (my usual method) I made a spreadsheet of everything we wanted to pack.  I brought it along on the trip so we could adjust it as we thought of new things we’d want for next time.  When we got home I immediately made the adjustments to our spreadsheet and highlighted anything we needed to purchase and any of the items we’d used up that needed to be replenished (like wet wipes).  I organized the spreadsheet by container (large camping tub, loose large items, Ellie’s tote, etc) for convenience.
  • Pack dirt toys.  Ellie has never let a lack of toys stop her from play (she turned the 6 tent stakes into 6 Disney princesses while we took down our campsite Tuesday) but she got a lot of use out of the shovel and pail we’d brought along for the sand dunes just in the dirt of the campsite.
  • When your husband says you don’t need as many towels as you’re planning on packing, flip him the bird and pack them anyway.  Nic said that 2 towels and a roll of paper towels were enough.  I listened to him and then cried giant inside tears when we misplaced the first towel within hours of arriving and Ellie wiped her exceptionally runny nose on the other.
  • Pack a small box for car activities.  My kids are set in the car for the first hour.  After that they either fall asleep or get squirrely.  I packed a shoebox sized rubbermaid with raisins, coloring books and crayons, and this knot activity set for Will.
  • Pack everyday medications (in a logical spot).  Aside from your first aid kit, don’t forget children’s tylenol because you never know when a little one will spike a fever.   Or when you won’t be able to find the Aleve and have such a whopping headache you can’t even think about digging through everything so you take the teen doze of children’s tylenol and call it good.

  • To keep little ones warm after dark, use a snowsuit.  Our fall camping trip to Yellowstone when Will was 19 months old was a cold one.  His snowsuit was the perfect way to keep him warm (and had the added bonus of acting like a dirt/grime shield as he played around the campsite)!
  • Get creative with your existing possessions.  There’s so much gear involved in camping that by the time you buy it all you could have gone to a really nice hotel instead.  We knew this was going to be our kick-off camping year, so we were able to space out a lot of the purchases (buying the kids’ sleeping bags last fall on sale, for example).  For other things you can get creative.  To avoid needing two sleeping mats for the kids (sleeping pads are not just a comfort object, but an insulating factor) I was able to use my yoga mat as one of the pads.
  • Dryer lint fire starters.  I read this tip in so many places that I decided it had to be a good one.  (And it was.)  Collect empty toilet paper rolls (or paper towel rolls) and stuff your dryer lint into them.  Once at your campsite, build your wood up around one of your toilet paper roll/dryer lint masterpieces and then light the dryer lint.  Super easy to use and you get to feel like such a great recycler, too!
  • Remember what time your kids go to bed.  I had read some great tips about putting glow stick necklaces/bracelets on kids at night which seemed like a clever (and fun for them) way to keep track of them and so I dutifully bought a handful.  Thinking of my own camping experiences, I also got headlamps for them both.  But our kids go to bed at 7:30 and the sun sets at 8:30 this time of year.  Both nights of our trip the kids were in their sleeping bags well before dark.
  • Make friends with dry shampoo. I would be embarrassed to write about this on the internets, but since Kate Middleton only washes her hair every three days, I’m going to share the life changing experience I had last month called discovering Faux Dry.  I’ve been washing my hair every day like a chump for the last 17 years, so most of the time camping involves me feeling like a greasy gross mess after day one.  Enter dry shampoo and that problem of camping is solved!  I’ve tried a couple and this is definitely my favorite (the ingredient lists of the spray versions freak me out).  I like to put it on at night so that you don’t wake up with oily hair–you just go to bed and wake up with great hair.
  • LED lights for the tent are a fun splurge and make a night-light for little ones.  I hung these lights inside our tent as a fun surprise for the kids but they ended up being an incredibly practical night-light for Ellie (who always sleeps with an actual lamp on in her room).  The slow color-changing bulbs also served to calm and distract her as she went to sleep in the new environment.   We left them on all night both nights.  Halfway through the second night (after about 15 hours total run-time) they did switch to all red instead of color changing (as noted in some of the product reviews) but when we got home and changed the batteries they went back to changing colors.   
  • The potette potty seat goes everywhere with us.  I got this for Ellie as a travel potty seat for when we were running errands or at people’s houses, because at 18 months old and potty trained, she was too tiny for a regular toilet seat.  I also immediately realized that it was going to be amazing for hiking (and therefore, by extension, camping).  It has little bags that you use with it (you could use just an old plastic shopping bag, but these have little absorbent pads to collect the urine) that you just tie up and toss when you’re done.  (Or carry around with you if you’re on a hike.  Sometimes it’s a tough job to be the one carrying the pack.)  Since I still haven’t mastered the girls-pee-in-the-woods maneuver, this has been my friend in a pinch, too.)
  • Another potty option for the women…I have long been jealous of men over their ability to (a) consume ridiculous amounts of calories without any sort of recompense and (b) pee standing up.  On a hike?  At a park with nasty portapotties?  Not a problem.  They stand, they pee, they walk away.  When I saw this I was disgusted, amused…and sure that it was the answer to all of my problems in life.

  • Be realistic about how much your family actually eats.  With a growing boy and husband with a hollow leg, I usually err on the side of over-production with cooking and food prep.  At home leftovers can be kept for the next day, and anything you’re not going to keep is easily tossed.  While camping, though, extra food usually can’t be kept and getting rid of it generates garbage which generates work.
  • Chill your cooler before packing it.  I was fairly nervous about the perishables situation.  We were gone for two nights, with the days being very warm (particularly in the bear locker where the cooler was) but everything stayed safely cold.  We used this cooler from REI because it is easier to store long term than a hard sided cooler.  I read a tip to put the whole cooler in the freezer before the trip, but I don’t have the room in my freezer (having super important things like popsicle and ice cream makers in there instead).  However I was able to fit the whole thing into our fridge the day before we left (with the lids open) to prevent the cold items from having to cool down the inside of the cooler.  The morning we left I just had to toss the frozen items into the cooler and we were ready to go.
  • Freeze whatever food you can.  This way your food acts as additional ice packs (gently thawing while staying at a safe temperature.)
  • Fire wood is crazy expensive – don’t plan on using fires too heavily for meals.  I was shocked to discover that firewood bundles at the park were $7 (and they forbid you from bringing in firewood from outside areas).  The bundles were very dry and so while it made starting fires a piece of cake, it meant that one $7 bundle was only going to get us through one evening.  I’d planned on using the fire for cooking at every meal, so I had to use our stove more than I’d expected, and I was so grateful that I’d decided to get one at the last minute.  I’d originally thought it was something we could do without, but at $7 a fire, that $50 stove will pay for itself very quickly!
  • The marshmallow ‘stackers’ are the messiest things you’ll ever experience in this life.  They’re big, they’re rectangular, and they’re super fun….but the mess is out of control.  Stick to the standard marshmallows.
  • Tiny airline sized bottles of flavored vodka make drinking hot chocolate next to a campfire even better.  Just sayin’.


  • Remember what time your kids wake up.  Even if you can sleep in a brightly lit tent with birds chirping and other campers rising, odds are your kids can’t.  I made a point of getting to bed much earlier than normal (which also seemed to compensate well for the 18 times I got up during the night to obsessively check to make sure the kids were still warm and properly tucked into their bags).
  • Read up on the educational side of your destination ahead of time.  Being able to answer questions like “how did those rocks get there” or “how high is the tallest sand dune” on your trip to your campsite will make the car ride easier!
  • Discuss your family’s rules of camping as early as possible.  While it seems obvious to you that of course your child shouldn’t get into the tent and then take off their filled-to-the-brim-with-sand shoes or play tag right around the raging campfire or shout “MOMMY!” to you every five seconds at 6am or wave a flaming marshmallow around in a panic, it’s probably not going to seem obvious to your offspring.  Thinking about the basic rules of your campsite and explaining them ahead of time will prevent you from losing your mind over things that, to be fair, your kids didn’t even know were verboten.
  • If they need it at home, they’ll need it in the tent.  My kids have always been pretty low maintenance as far as comfort objects go, but Ellie expects a cup of water in her bed with her at night.  She had the same demands in her sleeping bag.  Don’t forget the little things that make your world tick!

If you have any great tips that I’ve missed, please leave them in the comments below!

(Digital elements in this post are from Paislee Press.)

A.J. Dub (Amy) - All great tips! Our camping bin is actually a long narrow tool box with layered trays that come out. Our roasting sticks fit in the top tray along with matches, mini bug spray, hand sanitizer, tablecloth clips etc. Next layer is extra batteries, extra tent pegs, hammer, dutch oven tool, knives and other sharp objects you don’t want to be “digging” for. Then in the bottom is the “big/bulky” stuff, TP, can opener, S&P, dish scrubber and soap, tablecloth, towels, flashlights, garbage bags, wipes and all that jazz. If you get the blue paper towels you find in the car repair aisle, they are sturdier and last longer than regular paper towels so you can use them for washing and drying dishes.

Also, we used to take an ice cream bucket with a lid for the kid who refused to go to the campsite restroom after dark. :) Now we have a special camping bottle.

Thanks for the great tips, especially the hair stuff!

Traci - Oooh that tool box sounds awesome and you reminded me that I forgot about my favorite potty tips–I will update the list with both–thanks!

Kate - Great list, Traci! I’ve got a few things to pick up before our trip this summer. Have to ask…did you try that little thing that lets you pee standing up? Is it possible that it works? I hate the idea of squatting in the woods in the middle of the night. I’m always so sure that a snake is going to jump up and get me in the rear. 😉

Kristy Woods - Thank u so much for the helpful tips. I am a mom of a 2 yr old and am 43 myself. Doing the mom thing all over again. With my 22 and 20 yr old I never took them “camping” as it sounded like more work for mom than it was worth but new marriage and new baby is making me see we may have missed out on a lot of fun. Hotels and cabins are fun too but I am going to step out of my comfort zone now. :)

Speattle - How is the camping trip going? Are you guys back yet?

April Whitmire - Love your ideas! I am preparing on taking my four grand children camping for four days at the lake and this was very helpful! I ordered the female urination thing and I am sure it will help in all kinds of occasions! I also loved your sense of humor! Great list! thank you!

Chicopee Scrappy Trip

I kept the purple.  It actually was a good moment for me because I realized it really gets to the heart of my issues with the MQG right now (ridiculous judging forms from Quiltcon, the new limited definition of what constitutes Modern Quilting, among other issues).  As Kelly so perfectly put it–I can learn to love the binding.  The 6 hours I’d lose in ripping it out, making new binding, and sewing the new binding on could be used to make something else entirely!  This is a hobby for me.  It’s about making stuff–not perfection or making something to an external standard (or even an internal one).  There are many opportunities for choice along the way with quilting and I sometimes find myself almost crippled by the need to make the BEST choice.  Picking the BEST pattern for that fabric line, the best layout of blocks, the best backing, binding, etc.  Sometimes we just need to make a choice and go with it.  I still think that a very dark navy would have been the better choice, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be okay with the purple. :)

Since my quilt holder is not-so-enthusiastic about that job I opted to shoot this one on our bed.  It shrunk a lot in the wash–I love the crumple, but was disappointed because when it was first done it looked great on a queen sized bed–now it’s a little too narrow to drape well.  It’s been done for a couple of weeks and has already seen a lot of use at photoshoots!

For the back I used a Kona midnight with a panel made from the leftovers generated during the scrappy trip block process.

Jane S. - Beeeyoutiful! Keeping the purple was a good decision. :)

Laurie - This quilt is gorgeous. I love it!

I could be wrong but did the MQG actually expand their definition of modern quilting recently? I thought it was a move timed for their announcement to start charging MQG chapters for their “services.” (not thrilled with them either here!)

kelly - Traci! It is BEAUTIFUL! :)
So proud that you decided to stick with your original binding. Can’t wait to see what you’ll sew up with that 6 hours you saved!

Melissa - I do love that quilt! It is just so colorful. I’m not surprised it’s seen some photoshoot time. :)

Laurie is right…they actually HAVE expanded the definition. Which seems like it happened after I asked them why they had written a more limited definition…hmmm…very strange coincidence, perhaps?? :)

But I really think your perspective on making a decision and going with it is one that needs to be shouted from the rooftops! Too many people are making their quilts to meet someone else’s expectations, to garner praise and validation from someone “famous”. That’s not why we got into this! Thanks for the reminder. :)

barb - BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!

Sew Create It - Jane - Congratulations on a wonderful finish!!!

Heather - You have to admit, even if you have doubts about the purple binding on the front, it’s FANTASTIC as a binding on the back! LOVE IT!!

Sherry - I agree with Heather. I loved the front when you first posted it (still do) BUT that back is just gorgeous!

Batty van Os - I’m so glad Erik did NOT win!
Did you use far quarters or a (or more?)jelly roll?

save me from myself

I have officially joined the ranks of the crazy people.  I am actually giving serious thought to ripping off a quilt’s binding, making new continuous bias binding, and sewing it on again.  I think this might be unnecessary.  Help me decide.

Here’s the deal–with this quilt I thought the purple binding was a no-brainer.  I like contrasting fun bright binding to frame a quilt.  I love it.  I thought the purple was the winner–I didn’t even audition in.  I made the binding, sewed it on…and started to have doubts.  It was blending, not popping.  Pulling out the body of the quilt when what should be the highlight–the crosses that give structure to it.   I started the hand stitching last night with doubts growing.  When I went to bed last night I was kicking myself for not using a navy binding.  This morning I woke up resolute to rip it all out and start again.

But when I got out my camera to show this purple fail I was able to see that maybe its tiny 1/4″ around the edge really doesn’t matter that much?   Thoughts.

kelly - I like it. (and I’m not a fan of purple at all!)
But if it’s going to cause you to not like this quilt every time you see it, I’d redo it. I’m pretty sure I could talk myself into liking it though. Rebinding is a LOT of work! :) IT’S BEAUTIFUL!

Danielle - I agree with Kelly –
I know I am my own worst critic and redo things that no one else would ever notice …
I say choose to love the purple.

Erik - Terrible quilt. Send it to me in Seattle immediately, I will take care of it.

dispack - I love it, please don’t change it, the purple is great, seriously! You’ve done a good job on the whole quilt.

Sew Create It - Jane - It’s a brilliant looking quilt and I’m sure in the grand scheme of things purple or navy won’t make a shred of difference, UNLESS of course every time you look at it it is screaming I SHOULD BE NAVY :o) Navy would frame it nicely.

Jane S. - I love it — I mean come on, it’s PURPLE!!!

Seriously though, if it is going to be the only thing you see when you look at that quilt, then do change it. Otherwise it will always feel like a regret, and nobody needs that, now do we? :)

Kate - I really like the purple…it’s quite whimsical and a little unexpected, which I think is nice. :)

Speattle - If it really bugs you then you could maybe just do a navy binding OVER the purple? That way you would not have to rip it off.

But I happen to think it is a lovely quilt just as it is.

Speattle - And don’t forget: Dawgs love PURPLE!

Fuffi - I think Eric wins.

Sherry - I like the purple as well. Maybe live with it a little bit before pulling it all out. If navy if in your heart you should or you might not love the beautiful quilt as you should. I do think a navy would blend even more, so I would stick with the purple, if it were me. Beautiful quilt either way!

My children at play quilt is done!

I am able to check off my first of my 2013 goals–my boy Children at Play quilt (and my second finished quilt of 2013) is done!  It began as a handful of meant-to-be-log-cabin blocks and grew to this improved monstrosity.  It would have been finished earlier, but finding binding fabric ended up being quite the quest.  I wanted to use the orange polka dot fabric.  I tracked it down on Etsy, hit ‘buy’…and several days later I had an apologetic email from the seller that she was actually out of the fabric, but she had the flannel version.  No dice.  Back to the drawing board.  t was very hard to find, but eventually I tracked it down again, ordered it, and then waited a ridiculously long time for the package.  It arrived, I ripped it open…and it was flannel.  ARGH.  Back to the drawing board.  (And by drawing board I’m pretty sure we all know I mean ‘google.’)  I looked and looked and looked, but it was nowhere.  I decided that okay, the orange with the white flowers would be a good substitute.  It arrived after another unusually long wait.  I ripped open the package, ran to get the quilt, and then went “WHAT WAS I THINKING?!  FLOWERS?!  REALLY?!”  At this point I made a very big sigh and looked at my on hand options, as I’d now spent way too much time and money on the binding to use anything other than what I had in front of me.  I could hobble together my few scraps and do a scrappy binding or I could go with this yellow that had made the occasional appearance in the patchwork.  Though it wasn’t the orange my heart desired, I sucked it up.  I saved the hand sewing for ‘date night Tuesdays’–an idea Nic instituted a couple of weeks ago (our weekly night to sit together on the sofa watching television–right now we’re watching House of Cards which we quickly discovered was an incredibly weird date night choice, but we were too hooked to change to something else).  I even put a label on it (which I have promised myself I will be better about)!

(This is a BIG quilt–my six foot tall husband is holding it as high as he could to keep it out of the snow in these shots!)

Sherry - Beautiful job! That is one of my favorite lines for a while now.

Sew Create It - Jane - It’s gorgeous…and the binding works! You sure had to wait to get this beauty finished.

We’ve been watching House of Cards too…it’s strangly compelling even though I’m not quite sure what is actually going on half the time :o)

Jenny - I love it! I also ordered some CAP and it showed up flannel, argh. I think the yellow binding looks lovely. I don’t think you absolutely *couldn’t* use the flowers, but if you didn’t want to, it’s good you thought of it before you did it. I did a CAP quilt and realized something stupid AFTER I’d finished the whole thing and really couldn’t fix it. :(

Jenny - Sorry that comment is such a mess. It really is incomprehensible.

urban hoodie pattern tester

I was able to be a pattern tester for the new version of Heidi and Finn’s Urban Hoodie pattern!

It is a great easy pattern–something you could finish in an evening (particularly if you cut the pattern ahead of time).  I’d recommend it for beginners with knits (of which I am)–I lined it with a quilting weight cotton instead of another knit and I think that helped me since it stabilized the knit.  I didn’t have any trouble at all and am so excited to have made a garment for Will that he can wear for something other than bed–I’d given up on the idea of making him clothes since it’s so hard to find great patterns for big boys!  Do check the sizing measurements before cutting–this 8 won’t last on Will long in the sleeve length and torso, so if you have a boy on the biggish side, you’ll likely need to go up at least a size on this unisex pattern.

Fran Cooper - This is great! And that model is incredibly handsome!

because I never could resist a bandwagon…

That’s right!  The weekender is on my to do list!  So far I’m only on the quilt-as-you-go panels and so it’s been a jolly stroll in the park.  I know there’s danger ahead though!

There’s been a lot of this this week:

So I’ve had more time for this:

And before I forget, here are the cutey Valentines we sent off to family last week:

(Photoshop friendly templates purchased from etsy.)

Sherry - I love the fabrics in your Weekender. I really want to make one, but it is the dangers ahead part that scares me. Can not wait to see it all done!

Norine - Ha! I just bought the Weekender pattern this week! I’ve yet to start though; I need to do a supply inventory first.