Vacation Like a Rich Person

If you want to escape it all for the weekend, to commune with nature in the wildest parts of America, I highly recommend anywhere besides the Poconos, which might have been nature at one point but is now just a lot of rich people pretending.

Still fun, though.

On the weekend my board gaming friends booked a “cabin” in the “woods,” although in this case “cabin” means “fancy wood-paneled home with Jacuzzi”, and “woods” means “some trees in a gated community surrounding a ski hill.” I had figured going into it that we were in danger of being hunted down by serial killers as we lay defenseless in our ramshackle cabin, but there was a security system and you couldn’t get through the gate if you looked like a murderer.

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It’s a cabin because it’s brown.

While there were technically woods surrounding us, all the houses were very closely packed in, lining the twisting roads like an otherworldly suburb. It was quite nice, actually- they had clearly put in an effort to preserve the trees when they built, and regular suburbs could benefit from the increased amounts of nature.

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All the other “cabins” were at least partially hidden by the trees, allowing you to pretend you weren’t within 200 yards of another vacationing family.

It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and we had hundreds of board games to get through. It was heaven.

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I came very prepared for St. Patrick’s Day.

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The hot tub was built into the enclosed porch, which was excellent because it allowed us to get very hot, step outside, roll around in the snow, and submerge ourselves again while icy.

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I may have taken a creepy picture of two of my friends talking in the early morning, but they were very cute, and I have no shame.

We spent most of our time in intense relaxation, being as we are all introverts who need a little space throughout the day. We would converge in the kitchen for meals, feast merrily for an hour, and then retreat to quiet corners and watch Planet Earth for a time before board games commenced again. It was lovely.

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And then, when it got too stuffy indoors, a group of us adults would swarm the nearby sledding hill and show the local kids just how slowly you could slide down a hill on a sled that was the 1971 Chevy C10 of racecars.

We returned to our normal lives reluctantly, but satisfied in the knowledge that we had made a lot of exceptionally lazy memories. We also learned that there’s no limit to how sick you can get in a minivan with six other people on a winding hilly road in the Poconos.

Fairy Houses

I have an app on my phone called “Home.” Home is a bit like micro-transactions in an online game, only for real life. You spend a few dollars on a cute pillow, a few dollars on a neat bracelet, and soon you’ve spent $450 and you’re still not winning.

And the other day, Home, because it knows me better than I feel comfortable with, suggested a miniature tea set.

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This is the face hand of impulse buying.

I’m easily enraptured by pretty girly things. Taking care of three to six boys will do that to you. But this set, especially, reminded me of the miniature tea sets my sister and I used to have when we were little. It also reminded me, in a round about way, of the “fairy houses” we used to make out in the woods.

Fairy houses are easy to make. First, you look around for building materials in nature. Then, you spend an hour carefully setting everything into place. Finally, you step back and cry a little because your creation looks like a dumpster compared to what people on Pinterest put together effortlessly. It’s very rewarding.

So as I looked at this little tea set, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be fun to take these out and build a fairy house in the park somewhere for someone to discover?”

I went to the park today.

I hadn’t made fairy houses in years, but I remembered vaguely that purely working with sticks is the devil and that finding some rocks would help weigh everything down. As it turns out, the east coast has no rocks this time of year.

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Seriously, there could be diamonds under that foliage and I’d be none the wiser.

So I begrudgingly started with sticks instead. Not only sticks, mind you. There were, fortunately, quite a few pinecones around as well, and they made lovely insulation.

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Pay attention, Pinterest.

I forced a few sticks into the ground, dropped some pinecones on top of each other, and did the same thing to the other side. I laid longer sticks across the roof, covered the whole thing with pine needle tufts (only the ones that were already dying, don’t look at me like that), and put in a few additional sticks for support.

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And here we the trailer park home of the Welfare Fairy.

It was decidedly underwhelming, but I was running low on childlike wonder and people on the paths were starting to stare at the grown woman squatting under the tree with a bunch of pinecones in her hands.

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It was something. It would be something better with miniature teacups.

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The table and tablecloth came next, and I only severely injured myself on the bark once. And then…

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All right, now that’s adorable.

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I needed to improve my fairy house skills, but a spider moved in while I was working on it so a) it couldn’t have been that bad, and b) I wasn’t going anywhere near it again. It actually did look a little less like a heap of randomly placed sticks in real life, fortunately.

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It wasn’t completely easy to spot from the path, but there’s enough foot traffic in a day that I think it won’t take somebody long to find it. Hopefully a little girl gets the tiny china.

I still have some china left over, so I’ll try again another day and maybe my building skills will improve.

Naturally soon all the building materials will be covered in leaves covered in snow, so this might be more of a spring activity.

A Spot of Wild

I was restless this morning. The children have only half days all week in order to make room for parent-teacher conferences, and I had a few short hours before all three to six boys would come rampaging through the house again. I cleaned my room, tried a new orange spice herbal tea that tasted like a fall candle steeped in water, and sat on my bed listening to Mrs. Parent and the maid converse in the kitchen on the other side of the wall.

And then, before I went utterly mad, I grabbed my hiking shoes and my car keys and drove five minutes to the nearest miniature wilderness.

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Which was currently being terrorized by the Rolling Rock Bandit.

I miss the country, you see. I miss being able to walk in a straight line and not getting hit by a car or running into a building. My sort of country is the one where your nearest neighbor could be demented murderous scarecrow-demon, but neither of you like company so you avoid each other and it’s not a big deal.

And I miss the silence. Even in this park, which was good-sized, I could still hear the traffic all around and if I walked more than two miles in a straight line I would be in someone’s back yard.

Nevertheless, it was beautiful.

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Either the rain had driven everyone else out of the park or we were all silently circling it about half a mile from each other.

One of the biggest adjustments of moving to the east coast was how very green it was. In Idaho you had one month of the year in which things were green- May- and then things turned brown and stayed brown until May came around again. Sure, the trees were technically “evergreen,” but they are the unfriendly sort of green because Idaho really doesn’t like having people in it.

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Here, things stay green all summer. And then they turn golden! How cool is that?! It’s like nature here likes you!

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There’s a trade-off, of course. There are ticks here that like to kill you very gradually. There’s venomous snakes. There’s poison ivy. All the dangerous things here are stealthy, unlike Idaho, which has the decency to maul you quickly via large predator.

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“Leaf of three, let it be,” they say, as if every single plant in this forest weren’t three-leafed.

Though I’ve been here only once or twice, my very favorite part of this park is after you follow one of the trails for a mile or so. You spot a little wooden railing in the middle of nowhere…

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…and there in the middle is a single, solitary gravestone. There’s no houses nearby, nor any sort of marker or monument. Nearby are some other stones that may once have been something else, but now are just stones. This place has clearly been maintained, but no attention is drawn to it.

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Gertrude Provost / Wife of Jonathan Provost / Born Jan. 10, 1809 / Died Feb 22, 1839

So here is the memory of Gertrude, who died when she was barely 30. I did some complicated research involving the Google search engine and came up with absolutely nothing in the first three minutes, so I gave up. Perhaps someone else knows something about the pair of them.

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And then you walk some thirty feet, step out of the treeline, and the trail goes full circle. If nothing else, it greatly helps a nanny preparing for the second bout of Thursday to relax a little.

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Though I’m afraid to say that the Rolling Rock Bandit’s sidekick, Dog Poop Person, is on the rise.