Thursday, March 28, 2019

Tiny Teardrop Owner Profile: Jennifer Tipping and Scott Jevons

Canmore, AB, Canada

It's all relative. Tiny trailer camper Jennifer Tipping recently mentioned on Facebook that her significant other, Scott Jevons, was taking a day off to snowshoe before the cold snap hit. "When the thermometer reads -10 but -37 is only 48 hours away . . . you head off to Lake Louise in Banff National Park AB, for a snowshoe!!! Beautiful campground . . . I love the non-serviced section--no hydro, yet the entire area is protected by an electric fence! (Such a high grizzly bear habitat and corridor.)"

Jasper National Park, AB; Icefields Parkway, AB; Zion National Park, Utah 

Jennifer and Scott live in Alberta, Canada, near Banff National Park, and their backyard is an incredible landscape of camping and trekking opportunity. Lucky folks, although a some campers may wonder about the low temperatures . . . Their tiny trailer of choice is the Little Guy 5 Wide, a 2016 model purchased in 2017 in pristine condition. Their tow vehicle is a 2017 Kia Soul, 2.0L, which they say "tows our 900-pound teardrop beautifully."

"We camp very simply. We have purchased a great storage unit for our galley area from Ikea and for me - that was a game changer. Everything is contained and organized. It's all kept clean, tidy and travels beautifully yet still leaves me ample prep space. We do have the 5x7 PahaQue side tent for those drizzly days, buggy nights and of course a comfortable change room that also offers porta-potty space for those midnight runs."

Their quest for the perfect rig was really a coming-together of two different camping styles, one minimal and the other closer to glamping. They found a tiny trailer the perfect sweet spot between large and small, the backpack and the RV.
"Between the two of us, we've done it all. Both growing up camping with the very traditional 6-foot box Starcraft tent trailer - ice box - heavy sleeping bags with cold metal zippers and a Coleman lantern. (Insert your best cat with a fur ball sound to mimic that old familiar lantern.) Scott grew up to crave back country camping adventures here in the Rockies. Meaning, if it didn't fit in his pack it didn't go along!  Me - I loved my 23' travel trailer. Meaning, if it didn't fit in the travel trailer, I found room for it in the truck! When our lives merged, our first summer together was spent tent camping in some very beautiful (but popular) campgrounds. For us, this was a compromise. I found true enjoyment and peace back out in nature . . . a very different nature compared to what my Ontario landscape had offered me. I was in awe - yet recognized my need to once again be up off the ground and have a proper bed (recognizing that I may need to redefine 'proper bed'). Living in bear country, the idea of walls also offered me comfort.  A teardrop seemed like the best compromise and the quest began . . ."
Wedge Pond, Kananaskis Country, AB 

"Living near Banff National Park allows us to escape often - very often. (So often in fact that I really couldn't count.)  We are so blessed to have a multitude of camping options and the flexibility to jump at someone else's cancelation mid week. We do tend to stick to campgrounds and take advantage of both serviced sites in the spring and fall and unserviced sites in peak season."

Johnston Canyon campground, Banff National Park, AB

"The mountains are always in 'site' and (without sounding too greedy) if we can camp near any type of water that would be ideal! It's a go to for me . . . Favourite time of year to camp? Any time I'm hitching up the teardrop to the Kia is my favourite time of year to camp!"

Westwind Pass, Kananaskis Country, AB 

Waterfowl Lakes, Banff National Park, AB

Canmore, AB

Camping is fun; otherwise, why do it? Jennifer has a fun story about one time she and Scott went camping. It kind of reminds me of the time the chipmunk stole the cookie . . . 
"I'm giggling as I reflect . . . We were camping up the Icefields Parkway heading towards Jasper. We were keen to arrive early to get a site along the river (this is a non-reservable campground) - get set up - fix Scott a lunch as he was heading off for a 30km hike up one of his favourite mountains. I was staying back, nesting and enjoying a fire and my book. We were unable to get a riverfront site but found a beautiful one to get set up and allow Scott to get on his way. 
"As always . . . moments after he drove away, a couple stopped by to say hello and see the teardrop. I was happy to offer a show'n tell and get to know this lovely Idaho couple (who were camping in a riverfront site). They shared their love of Canada and their sadness that their vacation had come to a close and that they were heading home within the hour. We chatted some more until the light went off - hmmmm - they have a site I'd love and they're leaving! I expressed my disappointment that my hitch had just pulled away and I would have loved to park my teardrop where their tent was! 
"They immediately suggested I pack up my site and move over to theirs - and they would help me.  I joked and said, "We could easily push it!" I'm watching his truck back up, and as I hitched my beloved trailer up to someone else's truck, I must admit - thoughts of 'this is crazy' came to mind. (I could be left here without a trailer - Scott had the car and I'd be standing alone in bear country - oh, what could go wrong?!?!) 
"I think his wife could see my swirling thoughts, and she offered reassurance. Her husband was a pastor, and they had a hitch for their boat. As quickly as my thoughts came - they left. His wife carried our chairs, our camp stove and an arm full of 'this'n that's' and within minutes I was in my glory - I was river side. I had wished I had an extra bottle of wine to offer them for their kindness, but instead I offered some beautiful 'must see' stops along their way. 
"I enjoyed my day immensely and couldn't wait to watch Scott arrive back to our site. One that I was no longer occupying - yet someone else was. He would have had to drive past our new site first, so I had made sure I angled my chair just perfectly. A roaring fire and a glass of wine awaited him. As he drove up he recalls saying to himself, "Oh, there's a teardrop just like ours . . . I bet Jennifer's already met them.' Then he saw me . . . did a double take, and burst out laughing. As I shared my story with him, he said, "Only you Jennifer - only you," laughing his famous phrase."
Bow Lake, Banff National Park, AB

Jennifer and Scott are the first international tiny trailer owners to be profiled at Green Goddess Glamping. Even though they are next door neighbors, their experiences and the vistas before them every day add a wonderful richness to this blog. This profile seemed to almost write itself, Jennifer's description were so lively! Their future plans are as follows: "We have a trip planned back to Ontario this spring, and I'm not sure when but Alaska is calling . . . stay tuned!"

All photos by Jennifer Tipping

Yes, our Canadian friends Jennifer and Scott will travel one day to the exotic lands of the U.S. of A. And we from the Lower 48? We'll be sure to stay tuned and to enjoy the photos posted online. Concerned about camping in the North? Easy-peasy--just remember one thing: don't worry about the alligators, but watch out for the grizzlies!

(To read all the Green Goddess Glamping owner profiles, check out the Owner Profiles page. Click the link or the Owner Profiles button beneath the header photo.)

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Friday, March 22, 2019

6 Ways of Using the iPhone When Camping

An iPhone in one small package can replace a pile of electronic equipment, thus saving space.

For many of us, owning a tiny trailer or a teardrop is an exercise in downsizing--if not downsizing from a larger RV, then downsizing from your home to the trailer. The process of downsizing means living with less stuff, living with smaller stuff, and/or living with stuff that can be used in diverse ways.

I cut my downsizing "traveling teeth" in the very demanding school of bicycle camping, strapping around 30-60 pounds of gear on my bicycle and taking off. It's amazing how quickly the pounds can add up when packing, and it's amazing how whatever weight is packed seems to be more at the end of the day or when we're eighty percent of the way up a mountain. There's no greater incentive for packing efficiently than self-imposed fatigue.

One of my early epiphanies when bicycle camping was the utility of a smartphone--in my case, an iPhone. I was bicycle camping and traveling with my bike and gear on Amtrak with a small computer, a by-the-hour flip phone for emergencies, a GPS navigator, kindle e-reader, camera, and a wireless WiFi connector. I was carry too many devices and cords, so I bought an iPhone and reduced a stack of electronics to one device. I wrote about my switch to an iPhone on my bicycling blog in the article "One Apple 6+ Smartphone Equals 6 Electronic Devices." Yes, I've found my iPhone to be a really useful device, as I'm sure other phone brands are.

Here are common ways I use the iPhone when traveling either by bicycle or with car and tiny trailer:
  1. Phone (As one would imagine!) 
  2. GPS I use Google Maps quite a lot when bicycle traveling, and for the most part the app functions well. It has led me astray several times, but I've always found my way there and back. It's always best to download an off-line map of the area you're traveling in just in case you lose receptivity (pretty common when camping). I also have a GPS auto system that came with my Nissan Pathfinder.
  3. Computer Surfing the net is pretty easy on a phone, and I even sometimes write with the phone using Google Docs, although the hunt-and-peck process is pretty slow. I can also watch movies and listen to music. For movies, I have learned how to convert my DVDs to mp4 movies and load them onto my device as home movies.
  4. E-reader I can read ebooks on the Kindle app or the iBook app. Both work well, and the 6+ screen is a comfortable size for reading. Free ebooks from the Gutenberg Project (classics in public domain) are a great resource.
  5. WiFi Hotspot The Hotspot capability on my iPhone works well, I've found--as well as or better than the Verizon MiFi that I had earlier. (I usually take a small chromebook computer with me, especially when tiny trailer camping. Often by bicycle, I go lean and "rough it" electronically with just the phone.)
  6. Camera The iPhone digital camera/video had even more pixels than my Canon camera I owned but which broke and I did not replace. I would like to buy a better camera some time in the future, but right now my attention is on writing, so I'm staying with my phone. 
An iPhone has the capacity to save space in your tiny trailer yet still to take quality photographs.
Indian Lake, Farmington, IA, later fall

Having shown from my bicycle camping how space and weight can be saved by using a camera phone for multiple uses, I'm now going to focus on the camera/video component of my iPhone. I enjoy taking photos with my iPhone. It's easy to do, but learning more about the capabilities of the camera, my photos have improved. I'm looking forward to using some of the finer techniques and camera capabilities that I've discovered while researching this article. My article "Tiny Trailer Camping Photos (Without the Camper!" provides a few samples of some camping nature photos that I enjoyed taking, and that conjure up some of the best moments I had last camping season.

First, even though the camera is pretty much point-and-shoot technology, there are many ways to improve camera performance--besides the most element point of all (which is not about the camera)--composition. Regarding the camera, if you search online for iPhone or smartphone photography, there are many articles about how to improve a phone's photographic abilities. Three common topics are depth of field, exposure, and focus. There are also tutorials about how to edit.

One useful but not too technical article I found online was "Ten Tips for Taking Great iPhone Photos." The article provides concise and straightforward instructions on how to improve shots on an iPhone. These tips are probably compatible in concept if not specifics with other brand phones. I'm briefly listing the tips and have supplied the link with the article's title for those who want to inquire further. Some of these I didn't know, and those that needed some phone adjustment were not difficult. To their list on ten, I would add to experiment with a tripod, especially for video.
  1. Use iPhone camera shortcut (speeds up access to camera, especially if phone is locked).
  2. Experiment with third-party apps (article provides link).
  3. Target your shooting mode around your end result (such as square pic for instagram).
  4. Follow the rule of thirds (activate the screen grid for photos).
  5. Turn off your flash (try natural lighting and exposure slider adjustment).
  6. Use Burst mode for action shots (for both moving subjects or moving camera).
  7. Turn on HDR Auto (camera snaps several shots and merges to one).
  8. Lock focus on one spot (yellow box/lock alert).
  9. Slide the exposure meter to lighten or darken images (yellow box).
  10. Snap photos using the volume side button (rather than top, round digital button). 
Another article that provides general guidelines on using the iPhone as your main camping camera is by Becky Schade (one of the GGG's owner profiles), who at her website Interstellar Orchard, has the article "A Brief Introduction to Travel Photography." The article covers three aspects of photography with an iPhone: picture taking, RV photography, and photo editing. What distinguishes this article is its section on RV photography, tips Becky provides for making outside and inside RV photographs have more zip.

The video capability of the iPhone is good, and I have found the iMovie app to be a strong platform for editing. All the movies I have made for this blog, including a movie of Indian Lake and a trailer of Honey Creek Campground, were made using the iMovie app on the phone. Sound is something I would like to work with more but haven't really pursued.

I have included below a video by a RV couple from the site We're the Russos. They explain how they make their videos. It's a pretty comprehensive video that discusses tripod, sound, process, and editing. They use a video editor on their computer, but for my needs I've found the iMovie editor adequate, as I've said earlier.

The main thing is to play with the video capability of your phone . . . and then play around with video editing, using the iMovie app. Taking photographs and making movies with a phone can be an artistic pursuit connected to camping that takes up very little space. So--silence on the set . . . and action!

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Cozy Latex Mattress and Handmade Wool Topper for a Tiny Trailer

Air conditioner? Space heater? Screens to keep the bugs out? Check, check, check! But why did my wife and I really buy a tiny camper? I think the middle-of-the-night answer was to have a comfortable, secure place to sleep. We wanted to turn off the nightlight, fluff the pillow, snuggle deep into the covers and let out that long, comfortable sigh that summons the Sandman. Yes, the bottom line is the bed, and, in fact, many teardrop owners refer to their tiny trailer as a "traveling bedroom."

When my wife and I brought our barely used RTTC Polar Bear home, we felt the mattress just wasn't quite what we wanted. It was a mattress sewn into a single piece of upholstery with sectioned pieces that could be folded up to make a sort-of sofa--an awkward arrangement, we thought. My wife needs the trailer to also be a mobile office, so the large-size folding and unfolding of the mattress/sofa would occur twice a day. We got rid of the mattress and incorporated a retro, vintage style set-up of several pads that serve the dual role of seats and mattress. The twice-daily ritual of converting the sleeping area to a table area and back became much more simple and efficient.

The basic mattress for our bed, one large latex pad and three small cushions,
much like the set-up in my parents' trailer many years ago.

The mattress now provided a surface that was easily convertible. Slipping the middle cushion to the rear of the trailer, the table was easily set up. My wife had her office space, and if the weather demanded it, we had a table for meals that were out of the wind or rain. Converting back to a bed does not require moving an entire one-piece mattress system, which has all the pillows and such sitting on top of it. All we have to do is drop the table, set the middle pillow, and then unfold the bedding. To keep the seat cushions from slipping around, we bought at Walmart the plastic mesh used to place beneath throw rugs to stop slippage, cut the mesh to fit the Formica tops of the storage bin benches, and ended that loosey-goosey slipping of the cushions on the slick seat tops.

The large mattress area allows us to fold back bedding, freeing the small cushion area
for table and seating, sleeping pillows and sleeping bags to the back.

The mattress and seat cushions are from five-inch latex mattress foam, which we ordered through a local handmade furniture store, but there are many options for ordering online, including organic latex. (I searched using the phrase "latex foam for mattress.") My wife and I measured the size mattress we would need and supplied the size of the main mattress piece and the cushions sizes to our local contact. When we picked up our mattress, the cushions were cut for us. I'm not sure if our local contact was able to order the cushion sizes cut or if he cut them himself from the mattress we had ordered. He had made some comment earlier about using an electric bread knife if necessary. My wife ordered the cushion fabric with the campers online, along with some cotton canvas for the main mattress. Then she sewed the covers. The green cloth see above as a trim edge is a fleece sleeping bag liner that we've unzipped and use for a bottom protective sheet.

The mattress deployed for sleeping, with a wool topper folded back.

After trying out the sleeping arrangement for one camping trip, we decided adding another layer of softness and insulation would add to our comfort. My wife Sandy researched online and discovered on Etsy a business that hand made wool toppers (and other sleeping items), RiverHouseArtHouse, based in Amery, Wisconsin. After providing the custom measurements to owner Marla Berding-Pulkrabek, she hand made us a wool mattress topper that added that extra plush of softness and warmth to our sleep experience. In the photograph above, the topper is the natural color cloth of the folded back bedding. When the topper is pulled down flat, there are elastic bands on the corners that slip around the latex mattress corners (including the corner pillows) that secure the four corners of the topper. The topper cover also has a zipper so it can be removed and washed. Part of the joy of our purchase was being able to buy a product that exactly fit our specifications in terms of size, materials, and construction--created with individual attention and pride.

The topper laid out. Note the elastic securing band on the right.

My wife and I liked the idea of supporting a small art shop with our purchase of a handmade wool mattress topper. Sandy and shop owner Marla Berding-Pulkrabek exchanged several emails before both felt that they were clear about the exact product desired and its custom dimensions. Marla also manufactures standard-sized toppers at double, twin, and cot sizes.

Standard cot-sized topper (RiverHouse photo)
Marla is not new to the game of providing quality natural products. She describes on her Etsy website her journey to independent, handmade-products businesswoman as a process of increasing experience and skill.
"I began making natural fiber bedding products in the 90's. I managed one of the first Natural Home Furnishings shops that hand made everything from futons to toppers, wool-filled neck rolls to zabutons. And anything custom you could think of! I learned from the best, most true and humble pioneers of Natural Fiber Bedding and they believed strongly in what we were doing! I have worked with excellent conscientious wool mills who work with excellent, hard working, conscientious farmers over the years. Wool is the Golden Fleece!!!
"In 2015 I decided to again create a Natural Fiber line to my existing custom sewing shop. I so love making these items and working with wool and cotton. It just feels right! :-) And I love knowing that we at RiverHouse ArtHouse can provide a superior quality hand made product to customers to assist in reducing chemicals in our sleep, bedrooms, homes. I know it is helping many who have allergy issues, as well as providing a luxurious layer of comfort for sleep."

When possible, it's completely worth it to buy a product that is handmade with TLC by someone who is not just a cog in an assembly line production. Individual artisans can ensure that every bit of material and every step of construction meet personal and professional standards of pride and expertise. Owning our topper provides that extra feeling of home and safe haven that we so much appreciate about our tiny camping trailer. There is a certain sense of appropriateness that our little trailer, a product of a family business in North Carolina, is equipped with a natural fiber, pure wool topper for our mattress, the topper also being an American product, made by hand in the state of Wisconsin. There's something almost "rustic" about it that fits right in with our camping dreams.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

A Second Season of Tiny Trailer Camping

Sunlight and campfire, dawn rippling the waters of the lake. Summer sun and the silent blue sky. Gray sky and river slicing through the red and umber of autumn maple leaves. Green Goddess greeting the glory of the world.

My wife and I have such rich memories of our first year of tiny trailer camping to carry with us into the second season. No longer am I worried if I'll be able to tow and park the trailer. Each will be accomplished in its turn . . . eventually, more or less. We have defined a handful of workable routines that make setting up and breaking down camp straightforward and efficient.

Now that my intuition tells me that spring weather is just around the corner (although what I'm seeing out the window is still ice with a forecast of snow), probably our first trips out will be to our familiar local campgrounds so that we can experience again their charms and pleasures.

I've begun some packing of teas in anticipation of sipping a cuppa while sitting by a morning fire. A short list of a few things to buy is being compiled, including an electric air pump that plugs into the car system and a grease gun for the trailer's axle bearings. I want to remove the trailer hitch assembly and paint out some rust, buy some lube for the ball. These are small items that will take place as soon as the temperatures rise above freezing on a regular basis and ice, snow, and rain give a break.

Our sophomore year of camping is a realization of how much we learned that first season. This year should be much more rewarding--if that's possible.

Many people camp in tents and trailers and RVs of all sizes. My rig is a tall "standy" teardrop, easy to tow and set up, relatively low in price considering the market, and as comfortable as I imagined as a child a squirrel's nest in a hollow tree to be. The Green Goddess is my home on wheels--or if you wish to quibble, maybe my bedroom on wheels, where I open the door and am outdoors.

I want to get away, but not to escape. Rather, I want to get away as Ralph Waldo Emerson thought it--moving into nature in order to live a larger life, to be surrounded by the organizing intelligence of the world as it actively composes the primeval symphony of life. I want to get away from petty concerns and soak in the silence that underlies every sound, that silence from which sound arises, where doing is just the active phase of being. 

I am patiently awaiting our second season of tiny trailer camping. Wake up, crickets, and hail the coming of spring!

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Art of Teardrop Trailers: Betsy Downs

Bison, beagles, and teardrop at dusk, Betsy Downs

"At dusk,  a herd of bison came into the campground,  grazing."

Thus teardrop trailer owner and artist Betsy Downs begins her description of an experience which initiated her watercolor painting.
"The bison painting is from Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park, in South Dakota. Sage Creek is a very primitive campground in the western grasslands of the national park. At dusk, a herd of bison came into the campground, grazing. They pretty much ignored the campers, but we could not ignore them. They were huge!  
"We were sitting behind our Camp-Inn teardrop, enjoying a glass of wine after dinner. The beagles were in their crate, also relaxing after dinner. When the bison wandered by, really close to us, our little beagle girl decided they didn't belong in our campsite and tried to chase them away with her loud barks and baying aroooo's. We couldn't get her to quiet down. The nearest bison looked right at her and pawed the ground. We were afraid he would charge us. Can you imagine the damage a two thousand pound bison could do to a teardrop?  
"But he didn't charge. He snorted a few times,  then trotted through our campsite within feet of us, and kept his distance as he resumed grazing aways off. And that's how a twenty pound beagle with a big voice chased away a 2000 pound bison and saved our camper. 
"We brought out grandson back to the same campsite two years later, and the bison again came into the camp area to graze. This time, no encounter with our beagle, though!"
Betsy and her husband, Roger Menning, own a Camp-Inn 560 Raindrop, a 10-foot long teardrop model. The story of how they got it is beautiful, although poignant.
Official Fifinella logo
"My mother died eight years ago and left me some money. I wanted to do something special with it, in memory of her, but didn't know what. On a very cold late-fall tent camping trip at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan, it came to me. We should get a small camper with my inheritance. We researched campers and selected the Camp-Inn 560 Ultra teardrop. I thought the traditional shape was much cuter, but since my husband is over six feet tall, we decided on the Raindrop for the extra two feet in length. We've been very happy with it.
"We named our camper Dorothy, after my mother. She had been a free spirit and a trailblazing soul. In WWII, she was a WASP; that's a Women's Air Force Service pilot. Walt Disney designed a logo for the WASP, based on Fifinella, a gremlin. I had a decal made for our teardrop with the name Dorothy, and the Fifinella gremlin."

In the Black Hills, with the Fifinella design.

Camp-Inn 560 Raindrop

Betsy Downs is a retired architect from the Chicago area. After she retired, she began watercolor painting, taking classes with Ed Hinkley at his studio in Chicago. She paints for her enjoyment, the teardrop watercolors some of her first. "I have taken my paints on camping trips,  but there never seems time for painting when camping with a family. So I do my painting in our house."

The Downs-Mennings board their dogs now when they go camping because of the dogs' age, and now have the opportunity to take their grandson camping with them. They usually try to get in two or three one-week camping trips a year, "plus several long weekends. We've taken the teardrop west to Colorado, east to Vermont, north to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and south to southern Indiana. Whenever possible, we stay in national parks."

On the shore of Lake Superior, Betsy Downs

This watercolor is of the Betsy and Roger's camping in Ottawa National Forest, on the shore of Lake Superior in October. Betsy described her experience: "It was crisp during the day, but cold and windy at night. During the day, we took several long hikes with the beagles, exploring many waterfalls and discovering an abandoned ski flying structure that was actually taller than the Olympic ski jump. Our three beagles kept us warm when we slept in the camper. We put the sides on our canopy and huddled inside with coals from the grill and the beagles. I think it got down below 30. Mainly, it was a relaxing trip. No dramatic adventures. And yes, the colors were amazing!" 

Camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Artistic rendition of an image of a road in northern Michigan, Betsy Downs

Camping--and I think this is especially true if one camps a lot--goes beyond the basics of camp set-up, cooking, and resting. Sooner or later, we incorporate our most cherished activities and interests by bringing our "home" interests to the camp or by developing new interests to engage in while camping. For instance, I write and read at home, and when camping I bring along materials so that I can engage in those pursuits while out and about. In Betsy's family, it is her husband Roger who incorporates his passions into his camping life. As Betsy describes the situation, "He is a jazz musician, and he brings his trombone sometimes on camping trips."

Betsy has tried painting while camping, but she's found it difficult to find the time--especially when her grandson is with them. Too much adventure awaits! She has found a way to bring her camping experiences home with her by taking photographs and scenes of nature and creating original art from them, watercolors that tickle the memory and imagination. And I bet that someday she will have the time and opportunity to paint en plein air, painting outdoors, beyond the studio--just the artist's eye, the brush, and the incredible palette of the colors of nature! Who knows what beauty Betsy will perceive and create in the next year? Can't wait to find out!

(To read all the Green Goddess Glamping art and craft articles, check out the Art and Craft Activities label URL, which aggregates all similar posts.)

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