Mixed Media Necklace + Holiday Decor

necklaceI have been organizing my art room and basement craft stash this winter, in an effort to purge what I don’t need, use what I have, and make room for cold day play with my kids.  I discovered some fun unfinished projects in this process.

necklace.1My mom gave me a couple bags of Hand-felted Wool Felt Balls  a couple years back and I had made a few things with them, but they had mostly been pilfered by one of our cats as extremely entertaining toys.  I also came across my recycled paper beads I had made during a paper making lesson I taught my middle school students back in North Carolina.

The beads are simply paper pulp squished into bead shapes, which then dry, and are coated in Mod Podge, Gloss Finish. I used a small drill bit and drilled holes in each paper bead, alternating them with the felted balls.  The felted wool balls are easy to string as beads, just use a sharp needle.  I also added a couple pieces of coral with holes in it, found on a trip to Key West.  Now I just have to keep this necklace out of the reach of our cat – he has already nabbed it and dragged it down to the basement once.  I am not sure what the allure of these felted wool balls are to him, but he cannot resist them!

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Other things that have been keeping me busy – Christmas decor!  I used some more of the felted wool balls to create a simple garland for the chandelier.

garlandOne of these days I am going to do something about that chandelier – I am still not a fan of it.

mantelThe mantle is decorated with my odds and ends.

We started a new holiday family tradition – picking up our tree via cargo bike!  It was a chilly but perfect day, we biked to a tree lot just off one of the bike trails in town.  Eric let me ride it back – it was a little squirrely to ride, but much easier than I thought it would be.  Now our tree is up and decorated, though a little top-heavy – our youngest is still in the destructive phase.

My current favorite holiday decor – I finally got my deer skull hung up and decorated with a set of battery-powered lights.

What’s your favorite holiday decor or tradition?

High Trestle Trail Ride

 Last Sunday we finally made our way to the High Trestle Trail in Iowa.  We started in Woodward, Iowa, which is about a 30 minute drive from Des Moines.  We drove up after breakfast, fully loaded with snacks, water bottles, and the orange bike sticking out on either side of our car rack like an large orange dragon.  We parked in the High Trestle Trail parking lot and promptly realized we left the entire diaper bag at home.  So, off we road to a local gas station that was teeming with coffee sipping cyclists.  It’s amazing to see what a bike trail can do for small communities.  The best part – we were banking on lighter crowds due to the start of RAGBRAI.
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It is an easy 3 mile ride from Woodward to “The Bridge,” as it is dubbed.  The High Trestle Trail Bridge is a 13-story, 1/2 mile long bridge that was formerly a railroad bridge.  There are outlooks along the bridge that spans the Des Moines River, with informative signs detailing items such as river wildlife and cultural features.  There are 41 steel frames over the bridge which are meant to represent the frames used in historic coal mines.  The pillars at either end of the bridge have ceramic tiles created to look like coal veins.

We stopped the orange dragon at the first major scenic overlook, where we had nice views of the entire span of the bridge.  The kids were in great spirits and just wanted to be on the bridge.

I love taking this bike out – everywhere we go we get compliment and questions.  I think most people just assume that a bike trailer is the only way to ride with kids.  We used a bike trailer at first, but once we found out #2 was on the way, we started to explore other options.  We have discovered that a cargo bike is more enjoyable for adults and kids alike for a few reasons: A. it is lighter and easier to turn on a fully loaded cargo bike than you’d think. B. The cargo bikes can be configured in a variety of ways to suit your family. C. Kid passengers are not enclosed in a hot trailer, stuck in a reclining position, but are able to sit up and interact just as the adult cyclists are able to.

We bought our cargo bike from REI, but check around your area for dealers.  Even if you are not in the market for a cargo bike, I highly recommend the Yepp Bicycle Seat as an alternative to a trailer.  They can be used on regular bikes as well.
We stopped at an overlook for a selfie.  Yay for not being on RAGBRAI this year, and enjoying this inaugural ride with fantastic Iowa countryside views.  As you can see, the bridge is deserted!  It was not this empty on our return ride after noon, though.

 The verdant valley with the Des Moines River.  Lots of rain = a very green Iowa this year!
The pillars at the far end of the bridge.  We are heading on toward Madrid, Iowa (not pronounced like Madrid, Spain).

We found a great lunch spot in Madrid.  The kids split grilled cheese, fruit, and mac and cheese.  As my daughter said, “It is so good, it tastes like candy.”  There you have it, a strong endorsement from a 4-year old.
Saddles BBQ Bistro was the perfect mid-ride stop.  The kids were happy with their meal and Eric and I enjoyed our wrap and tacos immensely.  Madrid was a little deserted on this Sunday at lunch time, so we opted to eat our lunch outside.

 However, the inside of the restaurant was tastefully outfitted in cycling and Western riding decor.
We chose to dine al fresco in a small picnic area directly across the street from Saddles.  This way, the kids could stand and dance while eating.  They both get antsy after sitting on the bike for a while.

The weekday specials were prominently displayed in the front window.  After finishing our meals, we packed up and headed back toward Woodward.  It is only 6 miles between the two towns, so all in all, we ended up doing an easy 12 miles.
 My favorite shot from the day – selfie in motion.  Next time, we will ride more of the trail and hit up some of the infamous watering holes along the route. Cheers!

What’s your favorite bike route?

Virginia Creeper Trail

Labor Day Weekend – the best last minute road trip,
the best time for that last minute hurrah before summer is officially over, 
and the best last minute enjoy the great outdoors.  
We headed to Damascus, Virginia for a ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail.  This beautiful trail is 34.3 miles long, starts in Abingdon, Va, goes through Damascus, and ends at Whitetop station at the border of Virginia and North Carolina.  The trail is what is known as a rail-to-recreation trail, which means it was once a functioning line for the railroad, but the tracks were replaced with a gravel trail in 1984.
After we loaded up with gear and snacks, we waited out a brief rain storm, and then we were off.  

The first couple of bridges we crossed were beautiful – I knew we were in for a ride full of spectacular sights. 
The first section of trail was mostly in the town of Damascus.  You couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a bike rental shop.  
The Appalachian Trail links through Damascus as well.  Suddenly the hiker inns, laundromats, and hiker-friendly shops made sense.  

The steps to the Appalachian Trail. 
Most of the trail was wooded and fairly typical of the lush North Carolina forests.  
We rode through a section of cleared out meadow.  The trail is bordered by private property and you can even find ice cream stands literally on the side of the trail.  
After an hour and a half of riding Greta needed a snack.  We stopped near a nice bridge to feed her.  

We found this stone marker and a rake.  

Even Greta got muddy in her trailer.  

The river was full of good-sized trout that were easily seen from the bank. We saw quite a few people biking with their fishing poles.  

Greta tried to stay entertained with her plastic Easter eggs.  In and out of the side pockets.  Repeat. 

Poor girl was getting tired of being her trailer, so we decided to head back.  It was a short ride, but worth it.  While we did not make it to the highest point of Whitetop Station, we have something to look forward to on the next trip.  

Trestle bridge. 
Somehow I did not get as muddy as Eric did.  His tires are knobbier.

Naughty Eric taking photos while riding! 
Overall it was a beautiful ride.  If you ride from Damascus toward Whitetop Station as we did, be prepared for constant pedaling due to the slight incline.  Also note that most of the people who ride this trail take a shuttle to the top and ride down.  Think lowest common denominator of riding.  Granted this was a busy weekend, more so than normal, but I was nervous about the crowds and groups barreling downhill 2 and 3 abreast.  At one point I actually feared for my life as a teenage boy almost ran me off the trail because he failed to move to the right or slow down.  For bike snobs, think Disneyland on bikes.  Next time, I resolve to stay overnight and leave early, before the shuttles head out.