Maryland Girl’s Tips for Road Tripping During COVID-19

Summer time without question means traveling.  It’s the time of year that you take a break from your normal routine and hit adventure parks, Caribbean islands and local beaches.  And this year, after months of quarantining, it felt like a summer trip was so needed and so well-deserved. But is it ok?  Is it appropriate?  Is it safe? 

It’s hard to know the right answer.  It’s hard to know what to do.  For the sake of sanity, you have to get away from your day to day and have mental space, but with the laws, policies, and personal beliefs surrounding COVID-19, it’s hard to know exactly  how to get that summer break that our bodies and our lives are so accustomed to.

I honestly cannot tell anyone whether they should or shouldn’t attempt travelling.  It’s really dependent on a ton of factors, and a lot of individual considerations.  But I can tell you the approach I took and let you know what worked and what didn’t work for me.

Before COVID-19 was so much as a flicker of a nightmare in our wildest dreams, I planned a getaway for June of this year.  Around January, I saw a deal for Outer Banks, NC and it’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while, so I took advantage of the deal and booked a trip.  Of course, COVID hit around March and strict quarantine measures were put in place across the country.  As the virus was researched more and experiences were brought to light, we learned more and more about its transmission, symptoms and prevention.  I assumed my trip was off, but I decided to wait until the date got closer to figure out what to do.  

As June arrived, quarantines were being lifted around the country.  The hotel where I booked my stay was opened for business and it was up to me to decide what to do.  This is when independent research and personal preference kicked in.  

In addition to COVID-19, the nation was dealing with another virus, which was the aftermath of the George Floyd murder.  My mind was all over the place.  A pandemic and racism…I just didn’t know what to do or what was appropriate.  My emotions and fears were heightened for so many different reasons, and I teetered back and forth more than a kid on a see-saw.  Go.  Don’t go.  Go.  Don’t go.  UGH!

Ultimately, after prayer, research, and feedback from family and friends, I chose to go.  But I gave a lot of thought about how I felt the trip could be taken while being safe.  After returning from the trip, of course, I quarantined for 14 days, and I guess I can count my efforts as a success.  (Note:  I have since taken another road trip and used my same policies mentioned in this post with that trip as well.)  Here is what I did for my COVID-19 road trip.

ACCEPTANCE: I had to accept right at the onset that this trip was not going to be a normal trip.  I had to realize that this trip may literally just amount to a time to be away from the home I’ve been quarantined in for the last several months.  An opportunity to get some sunshine, be in a different environment, and dip my toe in the ocean.  Those were my only objectives for my trip, and everything else that I would have normally done on any other vacation likely had to be scrapped.  Before I even left, I had to have that thought ingrained in my mind, because otherwise I would have felt disappointed for what wasn’t, instead of appreciating the trip for what it was.  Bars, clubs, restaurants, live music, local attractions, shopping, etc….not happening, and just accept it.

DESTINATION: A vacation during COVID-19 is by nature just going to be different.  While you may normally plan international trips, or cool road trips to amazing destinations, that may not be an option this year.  For me, I decided to pick something that was far enough to be away, but close enough to not require multiple pit stops and multiple searches for open places to eat.  Nowdays, more places are open, but at the time of the trip, there were still many places still closed and figuring out their COVID-19 policies.  The further you get away from your home base, the harder it may be to navigate food stops and bathroom breaks while maintaining control of potential exposure.  Outer Banks was about a four-hour road trip from me, and I felt like that was just enough to limit how many times I may need to stop for food, gas, and restrooms.  Ultimately, I only needed a change of scenery, and there are a lot of options close to Maryland that don’t require a lengthy travel time.  For me, four hours is right at the max for a road trip during COVID-19.  

CLEAN & SANITIZE: I’m pretty rigid at home about wiping up my surfaces, sanitizing myself and items I bring into my home, and washing my hands constantly.  So that was no different when I traveled.  I carried my disinfecting wipes, lysol sanitizing spray, and counter sprays with me.  When I arrived at my room, I wiped down the tables, counters, tub, toilet, light switches, door knobs, remote, etc.  I sprayed disinfecting spray on the bed and the carpet.  And I deemed my room off limits at that point from any person outside of my travel party.  I asked the hotel not to provide room service during my stay.  And any time we left the room, we had to wash hands and sanitize clothing when we returned.  The room was considered our home base and our safe space, so we made it priority #1 to keep it sanitized and clean for the duration of our stay.

PACK MEALS & SNACKS: One of the biggest and most important items on my vacation list was where would we eat.  I knew sitting down in a restaurant was out of the question.  At the time of the trip, most places were still only doing curbside pick-ups if they were opened at all.  Now, more jurisdictions have entered into phases of reopening that permit some sort of inside and/or outside dining.  At the time, that wasn’t an option, so we had to think about food.  We decided to pack sandwiches, snacks, wine, alcohol, and water.  For the times we actually went to a restaurant, we called ahead and picked up our order.  We ate at the table in our room, on our patio, or on the beach.  Dining is typically such a big part of vacation, but we knew this time it would not be the case, and we prepared our minds ahead of time.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

  • Call ahead. If there is an amenity that makes or breaks your trip, call ahead, even prior to reserving your stay, to confirm that that amenity is still open/usable.  Websites may not be updated appropriately, or there may be some caviat that may be a deal-breaker for you.  For example, on my recent trip, all I wanted to do was find a place where I could sit by the pool all day.  A lot of hotel websites claimed that their pool was open, but when I called, I found out it actually wasn’t open.  Or the website didn’t mention that time slots had to be reserved, that they fill up quickly, and that they are only for an hour per day.  Those were deal breakers for me, and none of this was mentioned on the websites for hotels that I considered.  And out of the five hotels I called, four had additional limitations that were not mentioned on their website that ruled them out as an option for me.
  • Reviews matter.  Other people have traveled and their review of a location may give additional insight into racial climate, mask protocols, adherence in general to COVID-19 policies, and food availability.  All of those things mattered for me and I took other people’s experiences very seriously.
  • Avoid weekends.  I hate crowds, so this is something I try to do whenever I travel anyways.  But to the extent possible, right now is the time to avoid massive groups of people.  Try to find a time to travel that includes some or all week days.
  • Opt for less populated areas.  This is not the time to go to the hottest beach spot during its most popular week.  Save that for once we have all of this pandemic mess sorted out.  Try to find that town place off the beaten path, or the hotel with few rooms.  The name of the game is limiting potential exposure.  Less people means less chances to expose yourself to the virus.

I hope these tips help.  I do realize these are just my personal standards and preferences.  Yours may be different, and that’s ok.  I just encourage you to give some forethought to safety before you travel, and remember that while this may not be your most ideal trip, you can still have a great time.

Be safe and be kind.  And enjoy!  

Have you traveled during COVID-19?  How has your experience been?  I’d love to hear about it!

DIY BUDGET SUNBURST MIRRORS

I am in love with the boho basket wall and sunburst mirror trend. It’s such a soothing and simple aesthetic, and even better, it’s quite budget friendly to create!

You can easily find cute baskets in your local thrift store. You can incorporate some fun touches like paint or tassels and effortlessly design a personal piece that suits your specific space.

Due to COVID-19, shopping and browsing and thrifting has been off the table for me for the most part. I have allowed myself an occasional dash through the dollar store. And I have definitely placed SEVERAL curbside or delivery orders from Michael’s, Target, and Walmart over the past few months.

So I decided to try my hand at creating sunburst mirrors to go with the existing rattan mirrors I had on my living room wall, and I love the way they turned out!

With a few clicks of the mouse, I had all of my materials acquired. And with a few squirts of the glue gun, my mirrors were all assembled. Here’s what I did!

I gathered my materials.

For the small sunburst, I used two packs of wooden dowels from dollar tree and a 5″ mirror from Michael’s.

For the large sunburst, I used 1.25 packs of bamboo skewers from Walmart and a 10″ mirror from Michael’s.

Using my glue gun, I glued the sticks around the back of the mirrors. Space the sticks however you’d like. There’s really no wrong or right…it will all look cute! Notice that the glue job is not super perfect. Trust me, that’s ok. The impefections kinda just add to the boho aesthetic.

Then I cut a circle out of cardboard. I just used the box from some of the packages I’ve had delivered…use whatever you have lying around, and if you don’t have cardboard, improvise. I’m sure there are many things laying around the house that would work just as well.

So…I adhered the cardboard to the back of the mirror with my glue gun. I layered additional smaller pieces of cardboard on top of each other to create a reinforced area to insert the hook that I’m going to use for hanging. Because these mirrors are so lightweight, even with the sticks, the backing doesn’t have to be super heavy duty.

Once the backing was glued on, I twisted my hook into the cardboard. No tools were required …I just twisted it by hand. Super simple!

And then my mirrors were all ready to hang! Joila!

Is this something you would try? Have you created any home decor pieces lately? I’d love to hear about them!

Social Distance Winery Visit

Wine tasting is looking a little different these days. I have been pretty strict about quarantining, so I wasn’t quite sure whether venturing out to a winery was a good idea. I’ve seen a few places post things on social media about their protocols for social distancing. And given that wineries typically have lots of grass, I figured if push came to shove, I could set up my own chair in the grass, maintain my six feet of distance, and chat with my girls while drinking a bottle of wine that I purchased from the winery.

So with mask, snacks and chair in tow, I headed out to Janemark Winery in Brandywine, Maryland for a day at the winery with the girls. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an occasion to visit Southern Maryland, but we are lucky to be the home of some nice little wine trails. I love being able to jump up and visit a nice winery whenever the mood strikes me.

The winery was absolutely beautiful on this particular day. The sky was amazing and the greenery looked so plush and healthy. It was a smidge hot on this particular day, but…what are you gonna do…

As far as COVID precautions, the winery did require masks, however we did not have to wear them at our table among our own party.

So, with regards to the tasting, here’s where things were a little different. Typically with wine tasting, you’d go inside, grab a spot at the bar, and then you get schooled on all types of things about the vineyard and the process of turning grapes into wine. But things are a little different with COVID. The inside was closed. So it was outside seating only.

Because we couldn’t go inside, we also didn’t have an individual server pouring for us and giving us tidbits of information throughout the tasting. Instead we selected what we wanted from the menu, choosing from a glass, bottle, or flight of wine, and then schooling ourselves about the aromas, notes, tannins, and grapes from the handouts provided to us by the waitstaff. Of course that was all fine and well, it was just a different vibe from the usual.

My wine flight–7 wines for $10

Unlike previous winery visits, my tasting wasn’t swished around in a wine glass, but rather served in sealed plastic sample cups. I truly appreciate the steps that the winery took to ensure safety for the tasting and to limit contact and exposure of the wine servings. I didn’t expect them to go to these lengths, but this definitely makes more sense given the current state of the coronavirus.

So, the sample cups were labeled. I read through my handout, and gave each sample a good swish, swirl, and taste. I did wind up with a couple faves, but quite honestly, the best part of the whole day was being able to sit and chat with my girls in person. Life moves along even in quarantine, and we had quite a bit to catch up on. And there was no better way to do it than over drinks at the local winery.

I can definitely see us doing this again. This seems to be an activity that can done while practicing social distancing. I’m not an advocate of going back to life as if COVID doesn’t exist, but I am trying to figure out how to merge a few normal activities with being safe and cautious. And visiting wineries seems to be something that can be done if you take the right precautions.

I hope you are faring well with your quartining and social distancing. What activities are you safely adding back into your life? What’s off the table until further notice? I’d love to hear from you.

Wine Down Wednesday: how to host a virtual wine-tasting

So….who misses wine festivals???

THIS GIRL!!!

For me, in addition to the normal activities, summers are made for discovering new wines, visiting local wineries, and going to wine festivals. I love visiting wineries and attending wine festivals. With the exception of beaches, cookouts, and vacations, it’s what I live for during the summer.

When it comes to wine festivals, I usually start working on plans during the winter. I brainstorm with my usual festival crew, find ticket deals and figure out lodging options if necessary. Then once summer kicks off, we are all set for wine festival season.

As far as visiting wineries, any day or weekend throughout the summer could lead me to a local winery. I’m lucky that I live in Maryland, which has an awesome plethora of wineries and trails. And I live close to Virginia, which has wonderful wine trails as well. So no matter what my mood or what direction I want to travel in, there’s a good chance I can pass several really good winery options. It’s so easy to build a weekend, a staycation, or a hookie day around visiting a winery nearby, no matter the season. But summers really are made for winery visits.

Covid has wrecked all plans for wine-related activities this year with the exception of purchasing a bottle and drinking it in the house. And that makes me oh, so sad. Like…really really sad.

Times are different now. And unfortunately Covid is our current reality. For me, I am still primarily still sticking to quarantine procedures. I stay in my home or I go out in open spaces, like parks. When I visit family members, we always remain outside and we stay six feet apart. And no hugging…which really really sucks.

I am not visiting restaurants except for curbside pick-up. I do quick grocery store runs. And when it comes to Target, it’s a quick twirl through the store to gather items, or I put in pick-up orders through the app. Everything else for me is off the table. And unfortunately, for now, that includes visiting wineries and attending festivals.

So since I miss girl time with my friends, and I miss wineries, my besties and I decided to try out doing a virtual wine tasting. Sooooo not the same, but satisfied our interest in finding new yummy wines, as well as our craving for social activities with each other.

So here’s what we did.

1) Select wines:
We didn’t have strict requirements for this because, without ample planning and a cushion time for delivery, we are kinda limited to the wines in our local liquor store. or wines that we already have on-hand.

2) Research facts:
When you go wine tasting, typically the host or hostess will tell you some fun facts about the vineyard or its owners, and then add some facts about the wine itself. What notes to expect, what smells and tastes will be experienced, what grapes it was made with, and how best to serve and enjoy the wine. So we looked up tidbits of information about the wines we chose.

3) Set up the Zoom/Hangouts call:
Everyone is all about zoom these days! Where has this app been all our lives?? Unless someone has an unlimited account, the max time for the free account is 40 minutes. So…plan accordingly! Luckily, bestie had an unlimited account and we were able to do our tastings, and chat while drinking more wine…without worrying about time restrictions. Find your meeting app, and set up your time.

4) Sample your wine:
We made sure we did our sampling during the video, so that we could observe initial reactions and subsequent flavor processing. I guess that helped us feel like the tasting was similar to the experience we’d have if we were together at a winery, sampling the wine for the first time. Wines change as they aerate, and sometimes that changed our perceptions of the wines during the tasting.

5) Have a rating system:
We went with the typical scale of 1 to 10 for the first meeting. Maybe we will get creative for the next round and use wine bottles or grape vines or something fancy. But 1-10 got the job done this time. Included in our rating system was our initial thoughts, whether things changes after first, second and third sips, whether we’d purchase the wine again, and why or why not.

Here are the wines we sampled for our first Wine Down Wednesday:

Liebe Winemaker’s Collection Riesling – Wegman’s $7.99

Menage Trois Luscious Pinot Noir – Local wine shop $15.99


Aged in French and American oak, containing notes of black cherry, raspberry, dark chocolate, vanilla and mocha. Pairs well with fish, seafood, and barbecue.

Von Hovel Riesling – Local wine shop $25

Notes include fruit flavors, such as peach, pear, and glazed apricot. Slightly fizzy. A sweeter riesling that is described as being a dessert wine.

It was completely by accident that we wound up sampling various price points but it was definitely great to have that as a factor of consideration, along with where the bottle was purchased. Ie., “if you’re in Wegman’s and want to grab an inexpensive bottle of wine to go with dinner, try the Liebe Riesling!”

The funnest part of the whole evening may have been drinking and chatting afterwards. We truly miss the in-person shenannigans that we’re accustomed to, so this was really a fun way to connect, learn about new wines, and catch up.

How have you been keeping up with your friends and loved ones? Socializing is so different these days. In addition to various zoom gatherings, I do find myself picking up the phone more often to ask questions and do check-ins. What have you been doing?

$40 Nightstand Makeover in Four Steps

I recently moved a have been looking for just the right nightstands to go in my bedroom. I’ve seen a few that I liked, and I hemmed and hawed way too long, and now that we are in the middle of the COVID pandemic, store closures have brought my search to a semi-halt.

Of course I can still look around online, and I could do a delivery, but I like having options before making a furniture purchase. And quite honestly, I wasn’t in he mood to spend a lot of money. And I also like going into stores and getting good visuals of the things I’m interested in.

So when I stumbled across two nightstands for $30 on Facebook marketplace, I decided to go with an all-together less expensive, more creative option.

These tables weren’t exactly what I was looking for, but for the price, I could see the potential to turn my weekend quarantine hours into a project that would keep me busy while creating some furniture pieces that would suit my needs.

If my bedroom furniture was a different style, I would have used these well-kept pieces as-is. But I have more rustic contemporary feel going on in my bedroom and figure that these traditional furnishings may work better if they were repainted. I’ve seen a lot of furniture makeovers using matted blue, grey and black and thought that painting in one of those hues was more in my wheel house.

I perused around online and saw that I could do a pick-up order of some matte blue spraypaint from my local Walmart, so I went with that. All of the other materials that I used were things I had around my house leftover from various other projects, so the cost of this project wound up being $30 for the tables and about $7 for three cans of spray paint. Not bad!

Here are the materials I used:

  • Sanding block (I don’t know what the coarseness is because it was leftover from other projects)
  • Rust-Oleum Ultra Matte spraypaint in True Navy (3 cans)
  • Design Master 14 kt gold spraypaint (1 can leftover from other projects)
  • All purpose interior/exterior primer (leftover from other projects)
  • Paintbrush
  • Rags
  • Tarps

So here’s what I did:

1. Sanded the tables. After removing the hardware and the drawers, I used a sanding block and sanded the tables and drawer fronts. The tables had a glossy finish, and I knew I was going to need some texture for the paint to grab on to, so the sanding seemed like a good idea. After I sanded, I wiped them off with a wet rag to remove the dust, and let dry for a few minutes.

2. Primed the tables. I had some primer on hand from another project, and spread a layer on the tables. I didn’t use very much, so if you have some, use what you have. If not, maybe buy a small can or a bottle of spray primer. It may not even be needed if you are working with an unfinished, non-coated wood.

3. Sprayed the tables. I sprayed a thin coat of the navy spraypaint, let it dry about 20 minutes, then sprayed another coat. Once I sprayed the second coat, it needed 24-48 hours to fully fully completely dry.

4. Sprayed the hardware. These tables came with bronze hardware that was pretty well tarnished. If I didn’t have gold spraypaint on hand, I would have left them as is until I found replacement hardware. But…because I love having craft items laying around, I happened to have a can of gold spraypaint. So I gave these knobs a couple of quick coats and they came out perfectly.

I poked holes in the cardboard backing of an ink pen package (lol use what you have, right??) and I set the knobs in there for painting.

 

Once everything dried, I put the knobs into the drawers and that was that! I love how the project came out! And I love even more than I did it for under $40!

Have you done any cute makeovers that you want to share? Drop me a comment!

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