Category Archives: Family

Labor Day Weekend Camp Out

Labor Day Weekend

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day (or Labour Day for my Canadian friends and family) weekend. We actually extended the long weekend back out a week and took a trip up to Canada to see my family. It was the first time that I had been back in over a year. I’ll post more about that trip later in the week, but we actually spent the first part of the weekend driving from northwest Ontario back to Indiana. On Friday we drove about 12 hours to Madison, Wisconsin and spent the night there. Dave happens to have a friend that lives right by the hotel where we were staying that night, and she happened to be having people over to watch the Wisconsin-LSU game on the night we were in town, so we headed over and managed to catch the last half of the game. Well, we chatted through most of the third quarter and then saw Wisconsin lose their lead in the fourth quarter. We took off from Madison on Saturday morning and headed for Dave’s parents’ land near Remington, Indiana (aka “The Pond”). We only made one quick stop at a Costco in Illinois to pick up some alcohol for the camp out before crossing back into Indiana where all alcohol sales are illegal on Sundays. 

Because of the traffic in Chicago we didn’t arrive at The Pond until 4pm, but everyone else got there around 3pm. After saying “hi” to everyone and relaxing for a bit we decided to set up our new tent. As I mentioned last week, we bought a new tent for this camp out because our friend had borrowed our tent and we were already considering upgrading to something a little larger than our old tent. I was really happy with our decision to buy the Coleman Montana 8. It did take us a little longer than our old smaller tent, but I think part of that was just because we were trying to figure out how everything went together for the very first time. I was really happy about the size of the tent, especially that we can stand up inside and that it is has much better ventilation. The “door” feature (versus a flap) is also a really nice touch. 

Coleman Montana 8 Tent Continue reading Labor Day Weekend Camp Out

End of Summer Plans

We’re not big campers. We’ll pitch a tent once or twice a summer and that’s about it. One of the times we usually camp is the weekend before Labor Day weekend. We join a group of Dave’s friends and head to Cedar Point in Ohio, stay in a hotel there overnight, ride all the roller coasters, then stop for groceries before boarding a ferry to Kelly Island where we camp for the next two nights. I first joined in the fun with Dave was three years ago. For multiple reasons we decided just to take in the Cedar Point roller coaster day before heading back home. Two years ago I had to miss out because I was in Kansas. Last year we joined in for the entire weekend of festivities, and it was spectacularly fun. I was really excited to do it again this year…but in the end we decided not to go. It was a tough decision, because it is such a fun time and we really enjoy hanging out with this group of friends. As far as trips go, it isn’t too expensive…gas, one night in the hotel (which includes tickets to Cedar Point the next day), groceries, the ferry ride, and the fee for the camping sites (which is split between multiple people). But when all is said and done we end up dropping a few hundred dollars, and recently we’ve really been trying to save up money. Once we get into the house we’re going to have a lot of expenses, including trying to buy a lot of new furniture. In the end we decided against the trip, and eventually we made other plans for the weekend (but more on that later)….

Another almost-annual tradition for Dave’s family is to camp out on his family land (also known as “The Pond”) over Labor Day weekend. If we had gone to Cedar Point & Kelly Island this year, that would mean we would have camped last weekend and next weekend…which is a lot of camping for a family of not-so-avid campers. I say that it’s an almost-annual tradition because it really hasn’t been an annual event. We were there three years ago, and I’m almost positive that they didn’t do it two years ago because I actually traveled back to Indiana from Kansas over Labor Day weekend and we didn’t do any camping. I’m pretty sure we didn’t do it last year either, because we were right in the middle of wedding planning. So I guess it’s really more of an “every few years” event. Whatever you want to call it, we’re doing it again this year! We get together with Dave’s mom’s side of the family (the same side of the family that we celebrated with for Christmas, Easter, and 4th of July this past year). Dave’s mom has 2 sisters, which have a total of 5 kids (aka “the cousins”). Last I heard we will be joined by one of Dave’s aunts (and uncle), and at least three of the other cousins (plus significant others…I think). The older generation heads back to town (which is only about 5 minutes away) to sleep at home for the night while the cousins pitch tents and sleep at The Pond. It’s what I like to call “camping lite.”

Labor Day 2011
Labor Day 2011

When I was a kid in Canada my parents sent me off to a summer camp for two weeks. I did this for three years when I was a pre-teen. Each year the camp sent us off on a canoe trip for two or three nights. Before the camping trip we learned all sorts of survival skills….how to tie all different kinds of knots, how to waterproof all of our gear, how to build a fire. We had canoe lessons, and we sat down with our cabin-mates and planned out the trip route and our food with our camp counselors. We had two or three counselors on the trip with us, but we were responsible for pitching our own tents, cooking our meals, and packing everything up the next morning. We slept in these ancient canvas tents that I swear had probably been left over from the military during WWII. I’m only kind of kidding. 

After my childhood camping experiences, when Dave asked me if I wanted to go camping my answer was “HECK NO!” Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, the postcard, and all that jazz. What neither of us realized was that we had two very different definitions of camping. I can barely call Dave’s version “camping” because it doesn’t even come close to resembling my camping experiences as a kid. There are some pretty big differences between “camping” and “camping lite.” For example, when you’re camping, you sleep right on the ground. That means you have two things between all the rocks and twigs: the bottom of the tent, and your sleeping bag. Camping lite involves the use of an air mattress! This was a completely novel concept to me. I thought air mattresses were for your parents when they came to visit your one bedroom apartment and didn’t want to sleep on the floor…not for camping! Camping lite also involves the use of blankets and pillows plus a sleeping bag…so in the end you’re essentially sleeping in a bed inside the tent. I have to say, it’s much more comfortable way of camping. My big question then was….how do you blow up the air mattress? That requires a pump! Pumps are heavy and not waterproof and certainly never would have made the cut when packing for a canoe trip. But when you’re camping with your car only a few feet away…pumps are completely acceptable accessories. Oh, and if your pump needs an electrical outlet, that’s okay too, because electrical outlets are readily available if you’re “camping lite.” When you’re really camping on a desolate island in the middle of a remote lake, asking for an electrical outlet is about as realistic as asking for an elephant. Not gonna happen. Overall “camping lite” really isn’t that bad of an experience! 

Anyway, one of our friends asked to borrow our tent for the Cedar Point / Kelly Island trip, which was fine with us because we weren’t going to be using it. Unfortunately we changed our plans at the last minute, which meant that we wouldn’t be able to get the tent back in time for when we needed it over Labor Day weekend. Since last year’s camping trip I had been bugging Dave (half jokingly half in earnest) to get a new tent. Technically his tent is functional, and it’s certainly a big upgrade from those army surplus tents I used as a kid. But…some of the rods broke at some point in time and are now held together with duct tape, and it’s a little on the small side for two people, a dog (sometimes), an air mattress, and a bag or two of personal items. Not having our tent available to us for Labor Day weekend gave us the perfect excuse to make an upgrade.

My eyes just about popped out of my head when I first took a look at tent prices. A $500+ price tag seemed insane for something that we only use once or twice a year. We really didn’t want to spend more than about $150. That slimmed down our list of potential options pretty fast! The decision came down to the Coleman Red Canyon versus the Coleman Montana 8. 

Coleman Montana 8 versus Red Canyon

In the end we decided to go with the Montana 8. I know it seems ridiculous for two people (and a dog) to use an 8 person tent, but as anyone who has used a tent will tell you, realistically you can probably fit in 1 less person than advertised if people sleep like sardines. If you want to account for “camping lite” (sleeping with air mattresses) and some luggage / personal items, it’s best to cut the recommended capacity in half. This 8 person tent could probably accommodate 4 adults fairly comfortably. Having a slightly larger tent isn’t going to be a horrible thing, given that our family will eventually grow (in people and / or dogs) having a bit of extra space isn’t the worst thing in the world. I really liked the hinged door, because I hate tripping over myself to get into a tent, then getting the zipper stuck when trying to get the door closed up. Of course you always have the most problems with the tent door in the evening when there are a million mosquitoes attracted to the flashlight you’re holding, and they’re all zooming right toward the light in the wide open tent because that stupid zipper gets stuck. 

We’re looking forward to our little “end of summer” plans, but let’s face it…Indiana stays HOT for several weeks after Labor Day (aka the unofficial end of summer)! Stay tuned for lots of pictures. If it’s anything like the last Labor Day camp-out I’m sure that I’ll have a few fun stories to share!

Until later, Ashlen

My Other Half

My other half (and the better half) is Dave. My readers hear a lot about Dave, and there’s a little blurb about him in my About page, but until now his voice has never been heard on A Diamond with Sapphires. I’ve decided to do a little interview with him so that you can get to know him a little better!

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Engagement RingA: Let’s talk about the blog’s name: “A Diamond with Sapphires.” You were the one who designed the ring that the inspired that name. Can you tell us about the ring and that design process?
D: I knew I wanted to have diamonds on the band of the engagement ring. When I showed you some rings you really liked one with sapphires on the band. I was mainly looking at Tiffany’s to start with, but Tiffany’s doesn’t usually custom-make rings so you’re stuck with their supply. For their sapphire ring, there were only 3 or 4 nationwide, and the diamonds on those rings were either way too small or way too big in comparison to what I was looking for. There weren’t enough options. I had them bring in one of the sapphire rings and one with just diamonds on the band (no sapphires), but I wasn’t thrilled with the customer service. I felt that for the amount I was spending, I wanted better service. So before I decided to buy from Tiffany’s I wanted to check out some custom options. I had heard great things about Distinctive Diamonds, and I had a much better customer experience from the second I walked in the door. Their rings aren’t pre-assembled, so you can pick out exactly what you want. I told them that I wanted something similar to the sapphire ring at Tiffany’s, but I ended up tweaking the design. I added two extra sapphires to the band. I told them my desired size of diamond and my price range, and they gave me 5 different options to inspect. They explained each diamond’s rating to me. I ended up picking a diamond with high quality color and that was the size that I wanted, and I was able to keep it within my budget. Then I got to pick out the sapphires. Apparently there are three grades of sapphires, and I picked out the higher quality ones because they’re a deeper blue color. I got to see each individual gem that would be part of the ring. After that they made a cast, and once I approved the design they went ahead and put it all together. When I picked up the ring they also gave me a complementary bottle of wine for us to share. 

I also purchased the necklace that you wore on the wedding day at Distinctive Diamonds, and we picked out my wedding band there as well.  Continue reading My Other Half