Grizzlys, Griswolds, and Growlers: Summer Vacation 2013 — Buy Nothing New for a Year!

UPDATE! For those still keeping score at home, we’re now safely past the ¾ mark, with 9 months down and less than 3 remaining in our New Year’s 2013 Resolution. However, these next few months include: our eldest boy’s 8-year-old birthday party, a best friends wedding, our 10th wedding anniversary, and this little family tradition we like to call Christmas. So…it should prove to make for a few more interesting posts before this year of buying nothing new ends!

DISCLAIMER: While we managed to get past our 2-week road trip without buying anything new, there were 3 incidents including new purchases by other people for us/our family.

First: we blew a very important fuse on our car while traversing the East Coast, and out of the 4 fuse panels, this one was the only one located under a specialized screw, of which said screwdriver was safely tucked on the wall of my garage…in Chicago. So, my buddy Pettee threw down $4 and bought me an emergency screwdriver to keep in the glove compartment. Looking back, I guess that purchase would have been exempt under the “Auto Repair” category…but life is so much more interesting without exemptions.

Second: our (same) friends bought our oldest boy a Hermit Crab, named “serfer” (sic). This has since turned out to be IMAG0581a very incredible investment…Liam is mesmerized with his new pet, and has really shown some amazing discipline around caring for him. Her? It?

And, finally: what trip would be complete without a grandparent spoiling the kids with a “supermarket sweep” style free-for-all in a toy store? Not one in my family, evidently. You would think these kids hadn’t seen a new toy in their entire lives…where in actuality it was only 8 months (which in terms of a 3 and 7 year old, is their entire life…)

Looking back at our previous family summers, I think we managed to make more out of the time we spent together this year than ever before. For starters, this was a shorter summer than most, mainly due to the Chicago Teachers Union strike lengthening the school year, but as well, it took quite awhile for the weather to finally heat up and really feel like summer. Notwithstanding these setbacks, we did the best we could in terms of taking advantage of every weekend, starting with a camping trip the weekend school ended, followed by our “Garden Party” the following weekend, the 2nd Anniversary of Thrift & Thrive, Pitchfork Music Festival, an East Coast road trip of epic proportions that closed July and opened August, our little Evan’s 3rd birthday, and finally, we book-ended our summer with another family camping trip over Labor Day weekend. I’m getting tired just writing about it!

IMAG0467The nice thing about camping is that we love to do it, it’s cheap, and we already own all of the gear. Sure, we’re tempted to buy newer, shinier gear, but we just don’t need it.  Being in the Chicago area, we’re smack dab in the middle of tons of great campgrounds, all of which offer prairie vistas, water activities (great lakes or otherwise) and nice nature/wooded trails. Our boys love the “wild”, and we really do try our best to give them the wildest experiences we can, while still sticking safely to the security blanket of car camping. One day we will venture out and do some serious remote camping, but for now, our 3 year old can be dangerous, so we like to be close to emergency facilities whenever possible, you know, just in case. Our first trip with friends brought us to an oddly named campground in Wisconsin, and the second, over labor day weekend, to our favorite standby campground just about an hour north of the city. Outside of food and beverages, nothing new was purchased before or during these two getaways!

IMG_0770Every summer also finds us in our favorite destination, namely anywhere with a beach. For the past several IMAG2842years, we have called a little cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan home, but this year we decided to shake things up a bit. When offered the opportunity to visit some old friends at their beach house in New Jersey, we immediately decided that we just had to do it.

IMAG2835For one reason, it was the 20th anniversary of the first summer that my friends and I began hanging out in the little town of Shipbottom, NJ as youngsters. Now, all grown (and with youngsters of our own) it seemed high time we got this reunion together! All I can say is, we’re so glad we did. It’s memories like this that last a lifetime, and nothing replaces time spent with the people you love.

The second reason was simple: though we couldn’t really figure out if renting a beach cottage was “buying something new,” we were presented with an opportunity to save that expense and put it towards gas and food, which we were planning on consuming anyway.

The family, with Lady Liberty in the hazy background.

The family, with Lady Liberty in the hazy background.

Our names, forever carved into the booths of John's Pizza in the Village.

Our names, forever carved into the booths of John’s Pizza in the Village.

The final verdict: a two week vacation (vs. our typical one week) that cost in total for gasoline and food purchases exactly what the one week cottage rental would have set us back alone…NOT BAD! Not to mention, this vacation found us jet setting around the Jersey Shore (no, not THAT Jersey Shore), Crabland, USA, aka PA/DE/MD border, and the greater New York metro area.

Some of you may be wondering where our blog has been all summer? I recently read somewhere that most blogs take a publishing dive after about 6 months, and clearly ours did not escape this sad, sad statistic. I hope to make up the gap with several absence-inspired posts over the next week or two that should have happened anywhere between 1-3 months ago! After that, we will be back on a more regular basis. Over the next couple of blogs, I’ll be sharing some pictures and details of our back yard renovation (phase 1), which was one of the few reasons why our blogging was so non-existent this summer!  Couple that with the adventures above AND being locked out of our own website due to a coding error (true story…we’re amateurs) and it’s hopefully easy to see why we fell out of the saddle. Stay tuned for more great stuff coming soon!




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