Links We Love

Fall in Brookline NH Our Streamlined Life

Another day, another housesit … this one just around the corner from my parents’ house. The leaves are slowly changing to red, gold, and orange, and it’s finally getting cooler. Best of all … we’re doing some serious travel planning around here — stay tuned!

Our favorite finds from around the web:

Currently (re-)reading: Simple Green Smoothies by Jen Hansard & Jadah Sellner

Favorite Instagram (throwback!):

Ryan’s birthday was this week, so we were remembering how much fun we had on his birthday last year, rock climbing in Chattanooga! Definitely a fun highlight of our trip through Appalachia last fall. (Follow us on Instagram @ourstreamlinedlife!)

On the blog:

  • This week: September reading roundup (including a few stand-out recommendations!)
  • One year ago: Interior tour of our home on wheels 🙂 I still love looking back at these pictures!
  • Two years ago: Our day in Seattle … just before our road trip turned south to chase warmer weather in California.

Reading Roundup: September 2017

September was a pretty good month of reading for me — including making my way through several books that have been on my reading list for a long time. This summer was so full, I didn’t get a lot of reading done — and now that fall is here, and it’s getting cold and dark earlier, I’m ready to attack my stack of books!

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

I read The Confusion of Languages after finding it on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide (category: Intense Novels). I absolutely loved it! I love page-turning, twisty, suspenseful novels — but these days, a lot of the books I read are starting to feel pretty cookie cutter. (I’ve resolved never to read another book labeled “the next Gone Girl!”) This was suspenseful, but the setting — the U.S. expat community in Jordan during the rise of the Arab Spring — was completely unique. And Fallon — who moved to Jordan in 2011, and currently lives in Abu Dhabi — sets a knowledgeable, sucks-you-right-in scene. The book moves back and forth between the days leading up to and following the disappearance of an embassy wife after what should have been a harmless fender bender. Highly recommended!

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

As a gluten-free vegetarian, I have a constant fear that my future children will be as food-challenged as I am. I picked this up to give me some insight into raising non-picky eaters, and this didn’t disappoint! I found the insight into French food culture fascinating (it reminded me of a French Women Don’t Get Fat for kids). And it wasn’t all theoretical; the book was full of practical insights and simple-to-implement tips for teaching kids how to eat well and develop a healthy attitude toward food.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

I’ve read In a Dark, Dark Wood (liked it) and The Woman in Cabin 10 (loved it), so I was really looking forward to this one. Sadly, it didn’t really suck me in. While The Woman in Cabin 10 was dark and pleasantly Christie-esqe, this one fell flat. The characters were irritating and self-absorbed and I found myself both unsurprised and uncaring by the time the plot found its resolution. Any of you read it and feel differently?

This Is Where You Belong Finding Home Wherever You Are by Melody Warnick

This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are by Melody Warnick

I’ve had this book on my list for quite some time, and it didn’t disappoint. As frequent travelers (and frequent movers) Ryan and I spend a lot of time thinking about home, place, and belonging. And I’ve certainly been guilty of not settling into a place because I felt like it wasn’t forever. Warnick’s take on “finding home wherever you are” is thoughtful and inspiring … whether you’ve lived the same place your whole life, frequently move from rental home to rental home, or even live in a camper! Highly recommended whether you’re looking for your forever home, have already found it, or are somewhere in between.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Yes, that’s right. This is my first time reading Harry Potter. Somehow, I’ve seen all the movies, but never quite made it to the books. After Ryan plowed his way through them all this spring, I determined to do the same. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to read more. (I’m thinking about getting the next one on Audible to “read” while running.)

 

Links We Love

The end of summer means long shadows and deserted beaches at Pawtuckaway State Park.

Our favorite finds from around the web:

Currently reading: Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Favorite Instagram (throwback!):

Next week we’ll be sharing this year’s trip to Big Bend National Park … and another giveaway with these guys! Stay tuned — and follow us on Instagram @ourstreamlinedlife!

On the blog:

  • This week: Beach camping in Texas ⭐ … the good, the bad, and the ugly!
  • One year ago: Interior tour of our home on wheels 🙂 I still love looking back at these pictures!
  • Two years ago: Exploring Yellowstone!

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

We’re going back in time to share our 2017 car camping adventure through the Southwest! While our trip ended up being shorter than planned, we had some amazing adventures, including several new national parks and getting to be on one of our favorite TV shows! Thanks for reading along!

The Plan had been to leave the Texas coast and head straight for our next stop: Big Bend National Park (cue heart eyes). But you guys should know by now that we rarely stick to the plan — and this time, it was for an unexpected and welcome detour.

At the time my brother, who lives in San Antonio with his wife, was working as a contractor in Iraq. When we were beaching camping, we learned that he was unexpectedly traveling home, and we’d be able to see him after all! His wife very graciously okayed our visit (even though we’d be passing through just a couple of days after my brother got back into the country) so we planned to spend a quick weekend seeing them and catching up.

Last time we visited our family in San Antonio we had a great time exploring the famous Riverwalk, the Alamo, and the Japanese Tea Gardens. This time, I was determined to get that San Antonio Missions National Historical Park stamp in my passport.

San Antonio Missions NHP 1 Our Streamlined Life

Our sister-in-law is photography student who has visited the missions several times to take pictures. I could see why once we arrived — the missions are beautiful!

San Antonio Missions NHP 3 Our Streamlined Life

There’s also a fantastic trail between the five missions comprising the park — and if you’re really up for some miles, you can take it all the way to the Riverwalk! We didn’t have time to walk the whole thing, prefer to linger over a few of them, but it would definitely be fun to come back and walk or bike the whole thing at another time.

 

San Antonio Missions NHP 9 Our Streamlined Life

Mission Concepción may have been my favorite — we had the whole place to ourselves, and it was very quiet and eerie.

San Antonio Missions NHP 5 Our Streamlined Life

We spent the most time at Mission San José, “Queen of the Missions.”

San Antonio Missions NHP 10 Our Streamlined Life

The park’s visitor center is located outside Mission San José, and we had a great time wandering the grounds and snapping pictures.

San Antonio Missions NHP 7 Our Streamlined Life

The day was moody and overcast, which added an eerie charm to the mission grounds.

San Antonio Missions NHP 6 Our Streamlined Life

We thoroughly enjoyed wandering the missions and learning a little more about the role they played in the early history of Texas!

San Antonio Missions NHP 4 Our Streamlined Life

We had a great time spending a few days in San Antonio, and left ready and refreshed for our next camping adventure in Big Bend National Park!

Beach Camping in Texas ⭐

We’re going back in time to share our 2017 car camping adventure through the Southwest! While our trip ended up being shorter than planned, we had some amazing adventures, including several new national parks and getting to be on one of our favorite TV shows! Thanks for reading along!

A much-awaited highlight of this trip was beach camping on the Texas coast — although our travels ended up not quite going as planned! Our trip from Louisiana took us through Houston in a crazy rainstorm …

Houston | Our Streamlined Life

… but as we turned south, the weather slowly turned to reveal some gorgeous clouds and Texas skyline that stretched on forever.

Texas Sky | Our Streamlined Life

The weather had us undecided on where to stop, and we waffled between powering through to our destination (S. Padre Island) and stopping at one of the many Texas state parks along the way. Eventually, after a long day of driving, we arrived outside Corpus Christi at Mustang Island State Park.

We’d planned to do some primitive beach camping, but as we arrived after dark we were a little hesitant about getting set up on the beach. We couldn’t quite tell where we were allowed to be and how soft the sand was. Finally, we just pulled into the parking lot off the beach and set up there.

Stealth Camping | Our Streamlined Life

We woke up the next morning to find the clouds had cleared and it was a beautiful sunny morning. (We weren’t the only ones camping the parking lot, either!)

Mustang Island Beach Breakfast | Our Streamlined Life

We drove out onto the beach, opened up the hitchenette, and made a delicious breakfast complete with beach views. It sure felt good to be camping again!

Feeling invigorated, we hit the road, once more headed south. We actually debated just staying at Mustang Island for a few more days, but I was determined to get in a little more primitive beach camping experience.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be — and I ended up making a rookie planning error that doomed our beach camping experience to ignominy …

… because, it would seem, Padre Island and South Padre Island are two very, very different places … and it’s a five hour drive to get from one to the other.

I won’t get into the details of the map-reading errors that landed us in this pickle. I’ll just say that when we arrived at S. Padre Island expecting a primitive national park landscape, and saw instead a crowded spring break destination, neither of us were thrilled. It was also hot as heck — the air conditioning in Franklin is out of commission — and we were informed at the county park campground I scrambled to find that car camping was not allowed under any circumstances. Ugh.

After much back-and-forth, and a medium-sized tantrum on my part, we ended up booking a hotel room, taking long showers, and grabbing dinner at the local brewery.

The next morning, we got up and tried again. I was determined to make beach camping happen, and we ended up scoring a spot at Isla Blanca County Park on the tip of the island.

Isla Blanca County Park Beach Camping | Our Streamlined Life

We set up shop and watched a glorious sunset over the bay.

Beach Sunset | Our Streamlined Life

It looked like we weren’t going to be able to check Padre Island National Seashore off our national parks list. But since we were definitely not going to be returning to South Padre Island anytime soon (okay, ever), I was determined to stamp my passport at nearby Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park.

Palo Alto Battlefield | Our Streamlined Life

We visited the visitor center, learned a little about the first battle in a two-year long war between the United States and Mexico that changed the map of North America, and walked the battlefield trail.

Less than impressed with South Padre Island, we opted to head north again … back to Mustang Island State Park, where we probably should have just stayed in the first place. Live and learn.

Mustang Island SP | Our Streamlined Life

Back on the beach, we decided we liked this part of Texas much better than the southern tip. The beach was prettier, it was much less crowded, and it was less hot and humid, too.

Mustang Island Jetty | Our Streamlined Life

It’s so sad to think that this area of Texas (outside Corpus Christi) suffered significant damage during Hurricane Harvey. But we can heartily recommend Mustang Island State Park as a lovely beachfront state park with nice facilities. (And in town, Coffee Waves Coffee Shop is a wonderful place get some caffeine … or gelato! … and do some work.)

While our beach camping experience was definitely not everything I’d hoped for, I’m glad we gave it a try. Next time I’d stay further north — Mustang Island is a good spot, as is Galveston Island State Park where we camped the previous year. I would still love to primitive beach camp on Padre Island National Seashore, although the warnings about the cost to rescue vehicles that get stuck in the sand are a little alarming.

Tell us in the comments: What are your recommendations for beach camping (in Texas and elsewhere)? How do you deal with humidity, bugs, and sand while camping? What are your favorite spots, and how do you find them?

Campground: Mustang Island State Park

  • Address: 17047 TX-361, Port Aransas, TX 78373
  • Our site: Primitive (Drive-up) Campsite
  • Available sites: Campsites with Water and Electric
  • Cost: $10 (plus $5/person entrance fee)
  • Pros: Beach camping, decent hot shower & restroom facilities. Conveniently located outside Corpus Christi.
  • Cons: Texas state parks, man. The facilities are just never nice enough to justify the relatively heavy price tag. That addition of the entrance fee gets us every time.

Campground: Isla Blanca Park

  • Address: 33174 State Park Rd 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597
  • Our site: Tent Site
  • Available sites: A range up to full hookups with cable
  • Cost: $15
  • Pros: Convenient location to S. Padre Island. Lots of amenities, and prime beach-front location.
  • Cons: Possibly the most crowded campground we’ve ever stayed in. Tent sites near the water were buggy and humid. The bathrooms were old and astonishingly dirty.