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Monthly Archives: April 2011

I Love Dirt!

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I Love Dirt! by Jennifer Ward, is described as “52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature”.

Does it live up to this claim? Yes. Although I’m not sure I would call them all ‘activities,’ maybe something more along the lines of ‘conversation starters,’ ‘exploration ideas,’ ‘questions’?

What I liked about this book:

  • Even if you know nothing about nature, you’ll still feel confident using these activities.
  • It doesn’t matter where you live – urban or rural, east coast or west coast, near a little patch of green in the city or on 5 acres in the woods – the activities are meant to promote exploration wherever you are.
  • The kid-friendly explanations that accompany each activity are awesome!
  • Each activity has a Q&A box. The first time I read this book I just went through and read all the Q&A’s– they’re mostly just kid friendly factoids, but obviously parents love them too…
  • The activities are open-ended, therefore very little structure. As a result I must warn you that your child will likely have far more questions than you can answer. It’s great!
  • The size of the book and the durability of the thick paperback cover make it a perfect candidate for your backpack.

This book may not be for you if: (more…)

My 3 Favorite Camping Dinners

After the post on assembling a mobile kitchen I had several questions regarding what to cook. (PS I appreciate questions so thanks!)

You’ll notice these are all things you could/would cook at home. I do this for the sake of ease, if you know HOW to cook the meal, and you know your kids will eat it, it’s much less stress. Think easy. A jar of pasta sauce, some noodles and sautéed zucchini. Burritos. Homemade soup (made ahead of time). Or the ever popular hot dogs and hamburgers.

If you have something you love to cook when your camping please leave a comment. I would love to hear your ideas. In the meantime here’s three of our most frequently cooked camping dinners: (more…)

Earth Day 2011. What to do…

Today is Earth Day. How am I celebrating? A pre-school Easter party, a paddle down the Truckee River and a nice short shower.

Haven’t thought about how you’d like to celebrate? It looks like there are festivities going on all weekend in most places; do a google search and see what’s happening in  your town. Festival, river clean-up, pic-nic, bike ride, garden, kite flying…? If you need ideas check out this post from Debi at Go Explore Nature.

All I know is that you have to do something! There’s not many ‘holidays’ with a good excuse to get outside attached to them. Gotta support that!

I also have to admit, on thing I love about Earth Day is the posters. This years favorite: Earth Day Jacksonville!
Whatever you decide to do this weekend, make sure it’s outside!

You’re Kicking Me Out of the House?

I was crabby yesterday. It’s already been a loooooong week. It was obvious I needed a break (which for me entails doing something physically exhausting). I always feel guilty taking ‘time off,’  so when Joe suggested I take a ride I gave him a laundry list of things I had to do.  Joe saw through the excuses; he did what he had to do. He loaded my bike into the van and kicked me out of the house.

I felt better the instant I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a bike, a dog and 2 (almost) empty car seats. I biked until the sun went down. Came back sweaty and tired, with scraped legs and a sunnier disposition. It reminded me that I need outdoor play time too.

I’m curious. If you were kicked out of your house for an hour or two, what would you do?

P.S. Grocery shopping doesn’t count.

Ladybugs: College Kid V.S. A 4-Year-Old

A few months ago Ari and I attended a pre-school program at an education facility here in Reno. The program (taught by a college kid) was about ladybugs. In the course of this lesson we learned that “ladybugs grow a new spot for every year they are alive, so if you look at a ladybug and count its spots you can tell how old it is…”

“Really? That just didn’t sound right to me.” I kept my mouth shut and made a mental note to bring this up with Ari somewhere down the road.

Last week opportunity knocked in the form of some ladybug pupae attached to our sidewalk. I knew this was the moment I’d been looking for; time a little critical thinking 101. We took the chubby little pupae home and put them in a jar where we could check them daily. It took a few days, but finally we noticed something starting to break out of one of the pupae. It was a ladybug! We watched the process for quite sometime, and when the little critter was finally free, Ari and I had the following conversation: (more…)

My Favorite Lantern – The Apollo

I just ordered another Apollo Lantern from Black Diamond. I’ll soon be the proud owner of 2 of these. Here’s what I love about this thing:

  • We’ve had our first one for 2-3 years, it’s still working as good at the day we bought it, and we’ve put it through a lot.
  • It’s small, but get’s pretty bright. We stopped packing our coleman lantern the day we bought the Apollo. It’s so much easier to pack, use and maintain.
  • It’s versatile. Hang it in the tent /van as a nightlight (dim setting), clean up dinner by the light of the lantern, read, use it as a spaceship (Ari’s favorite), or if your Joe, use it to attract the nocturnal insects your studying. This is why we need more than one.
  • The battery life is amazing.
  • It’s also small and light weight enough for backpacking.

I don’t know… just thought I’d throw this out there incase you needed a little help spending your REI dividend or have a little extra tax return laying around…

A good ‘technical’ description and a few more reviews can be found here.

Jill: Raising Outdoor Kids in Egypt

When I first started dreaming up this blog I knew I wanted to interview other Outside Moms; moms who had in one way or another inspired me, moms who I knew had the potential to inspire others. Moms like Jill.

Jill lives in downtown Cairo; she’s the wife of a US Diplomat, mother of three, an adventurer, an amazing artist and yes, an Outside Mom. I’ve been so impressed over the years at how she and her husband manage to fit in adventure after adventure. I mean really, who in their right mind moves to Egypt and immediately locates the closest and best camping spots? Not many. Thanks for doing the interview Jill. You amaze me. Thanks also go to Josh (her husband) for taking so many awesome photos.

There’s a growing movement here in the US to get kids outside more. Do you know of any such movement in Egypt?

I would say no.  I think that there is not really a need for it in Egypt. Kids aren’t couped up indoors like in the US. With all the open air markets, cafes, restaurants, and the amount of walking Egyptian life requires, “outside time” and “exercise time” are kind of foreign idea to most. Kids are already outside working for income, tagging along with their parents or just roaming the streets. Egyptians stay out late too. Its not uncommon to see a whole family with young children out at 1 or 2am out and about at a restaurant or shopping. An interesting side note is that it is somewhat culturally unacceptable to take babies outside, so they often set them on their balconies so they can get some sunshine.

Living in Cairo are you able to work some outdoor time into your typical daily/weekly schedule? What would a typical outdoor outing be like?

We live in an apartment with tiny balconies that get filthy with Cairo’s everyday dust and grime. Al-Azhar Park is a beautiful green area in the middle of Cairo that has playgrounds and grassy hills. Its quite stark in contrast to the rest of the city, but you have to pay a few dollars to get in, and it is about a 15 -45 minute drive from our house, depending on traffic, so we usually only go there on weekends. We do belong to an American club house and also have access to my son’s school grounds.  So our day to day options for getting outside are: swimming at the clubhouse, playing on the playground after school hours, playing on our roof top and walking in the open air markets.  On the weekends we usually go to our son’s soccer/t-ball games, go explore or go camping at wadi degla nature preserve (it’s a dry wash that is near by), explore a new neighborhood or tourist sight, go to Al-Azhar park. A felucca ride on the Nile is one of our favorite ways to get outside. In Utah we used to get friends together and go up the canyon to have a campfire. In Egypt, you go out on the Nile with a big group and eat a picnic on the boat. Its surprising calm and cool on the water and you usually go out around dusk.  You can also reach the Red Sea in about 1 1/2 hrs. which is a great day trip to the beach.

What are the major obstacles to getting your kids out?

There are loads of obstacles in Cairo for getting outside.  The pollution is beyond any “red light recess” day in the states.  Sometimes the air is so thick you can’t see the building across the street. Somedays your eyes burn. (more…)

Pack Full of Dinosaurs Bones

There’s a natural area near our house known to the layperson as Hidden Valley, we call it Bone Canyon. Each time we visit Bone Canyon (which was 3 times this past week) Ari collects ‘dinosaurs bones’ out of the wash; I secure them in his pack and we take them home for ‘identification.’ We passed a fellow hiker on the trail yesterday and the man said “What are you going to do with all those sticks?” Ari just stared at him with this half puzzled half disgusted look on his face. I came to his rescue, “Those are actually dinosaur bones,” I corrected him…

Make Camping Less Stress: Build a Mobile Kitchen

There are two things that usually deter women from being enthused about camping. Food Prep and Hygiene. As women it seems like we’re born with this innate need to have a well stocked kitchen, to make sure everyone is well fed…and to go to bed clean. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I’m not a fan of packing up the kitchen every time we embark on a camping trip. I’m also not a fan of getting out in the middle of nowhere without something like, utensils (trust me, this has happened, it’s hard to eat spaghetti with a pocket knife).

To remedy this I’ve assembled a ‘kitchen box’. Everything in this box STAYS IN THE BOX. Always! Having a mobile kitchen makes the packing process seems much less daunting knowing you don’t have to pack up your kitchen.

Most of the stuff in our box (list below) came from thrift stores, surplus wedding gifts, Ross, things my Mom was throwing out when she upgraded her cooking ware, etc. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Once you have assembled your wares, buy a plastic tote from the local whatever mart, throw everything (I mean neatly stack) in there, and whala! Your mobile kitchen. I know it looks like a lot, but trust me, it fits snugly in a 66 quart tote.

Here’s what’s in my kitchen box: (more…)

The Backyard Birthday Calendar

Every morning Ari has started going outside, climbing up the step ladder, and checking the progress of the budding trees and shrubbery. An aspiring Botanist perhaps? Not exactly. He’s actually been checking the trees to see if it’s his birthday yet.

Since Ari can’t really comprehend how long a year is we typically speak to him in terms of seasons. Thus Ari’s mental birthday calendar looks something like this: (more…)

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