Refresh Your Life

Month: December 2015

3 Things You Should Know About the Warm Weather in the Northeast

November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014

November 3, 2015

November 3, 2015









We live in southern New England and though white Christmases are a rare treat, even rarer is what we had this year. After the boys were done ripping open their gifts and the adults were done sipping coffee and mimosas, we headed outside. But we went out without the usual rigamarole of wrestling mittens, hats, and boots on. This year it was 68 degrees out.

55 degrees for our full moon walk on Christmas!

55 degrees for our full moon walk on Christmas!

This fall (and now winter) has been unbelievable. Back in October I kept telling myself, this must be the last beach day. I would pause on the wooden boardwalk as I headed back to the parking lot, taking a deep breath to savor the last sips of summer. I’d think to myself, soak it up, the last warm day to run around at the beach with the sand in our toes. The last breeze that doesn’t chill our spines and force us further into our jackets and scarves. In November, on a random 70-degree day, we met friends at the beach for lunch and lay on the sand, remarking how this was most definitely the last blast. “I don’t think we’ll even see 60 degrees again until April,” I sighed.

But here we are. We’ve had two days in a row of near-70 degree weather. It is so amazing, yet also somewhat disconcerting. What is going on? Is it global warming? Should we be feeling guilty about enjoying this strange pattern?

Here’s what you should know:

  1. El Niño years generally mean less snow and warmer temperatures in the northeast and this is being called a “Super” El Niño. El Niño occurs when temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean are higher than normal. This happens with variable frequency but usually once every 3-5 years. It lasts 9-12 months and peaks in January or February. This year’s El Niño is the strongest on record so it stands to reason that a great deal of this unseasonable warmth can be attributed to it.
  2. The strong arctic oscillation is trapping cold air to the north. When the cold stream of winds that run above Alaska and Canada are in a strong rotation, they remain stuck in the arctic region. Remember all the fuss last winter about that mysterious polar vortex blanketing New England? That’s what happens when the arctic oscillation is weak, allowing the cold winds to move further south. A strong oscillation means warm air for us here in New England.
  3. The role of climate change in this specific weather pattern is uncertain. Climate change is definitely happening and globally, average temperatures are predicted to climb 20 times faster over the next century than they ever have before. But climate change on its own cannot explain average December temperatures in New York City that are 14 degrees higher than normal. Instead, scientists are considering the greater role climate change may play in its effects on En Niño and the arctic oscillation, which are the primary players in this bizarre pattern.

Last winter, we were hit with the opposite of extreme weather and were blanketed with over 8 feet of snow in just one month. Already we are seeing snow in the extended forecast so, enjoy this relatively mild weather while you can. Although the winter is predicted to be a mild one overall, this particular warmth is a rare treat that won’t last long. Savor this.

December 3, 2015 - Beach day in our pajamas.

December 3, 2015 – Beach day in our pajamas.

From Ours to Yours


Whatever you celebrate and wherever you are, we hope you are able to enjoy a beautiful day with your family today. We will be venturing out for a night walk by moonlight to enjoy the full moon. Will you join us in celebrating the wonder the nature?

Eco-Friendly Gift Guide


The 365Outside Eco-Friendly Gift Guide is live over at Outdoor Families Magazine!

My favorite is #3 and I know someone who is going to be happy to find one under our tree this year.

Click here to have a look!

And don’t forget to join the 365Outside Challenge: 2016 by pledging your days outside and committing to a happier, healthier you in the new year!

Are You Ready For the 365Outside Challenge: 2016?

2016 challengeWe are in the final stretch of our 365Outside Challenge. We have played outside for 352 consecutive days and counting. But it doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. It’s just our life now; it’s what we do.

One of the most important parts of this challenge for us has been the way that it’s rooted us as a family. It provides a sense of self. We are a family who appreciates nature and loves to be outside. We are a family who plays outside every day regardless of the weather. It’s easy to get lost in vague blanket statements when trying to define what makes a family unique. But this is a very concrete way that we’ve come together around a cause that’s important to us all, both physically and mentally.

The boys giving me a lesson in risk management!

The boys giving me a lesson in risk management!

It’s hard to say how much of who my kids are has been born from this project and how much would have developed regardless. The age old nature vs nurture debate. Kids grow quickly, and mine are at an age where they seem to develop by leaps and bounds every day. Regardless of why, I can say confidently that over the past year I have watched both my boys turn into complete little rippers. They tear around on balance bikes, barrel through the woods on foot, scale anything in their way and have an absolute blast doing it. They paddle around on surfboards, jump into water over their heads and beg to go faster as we head out on our boat. They swim, ski, sled and ride. They barrel out our door in sunshine, rain, sleet, snow, wind and even complete darkness. I am so proud of them. I am so impressed by them. And I am sure that as they get older, I will so have my hands full with them.

A quiet moment listening for coyotes.

A quiet moment listening for coyotes.

But despite their no-fear, high-speed approach, there are moments of quiet too. They continue to be deeply interested by habitats so we are constantly pausing to look at bird nests, beehives and tide pools, nooks in a tree that could possibly provide a spot for a mouse to nest or deep crevices into the rocks that may be big enough for a bear’s cave or a wolf’s den. The boys watch the sky for clouds. They make acute observations about animal tracks and weather patterns. They admonish me a sharp “Shhhh Mama!! I’m listening for birds!” as we make our way through the forest. For every moment of wildness there has been a moment of peace. Sometimes they are even one and the same.


We’re ready to take on 2016. Are you?

As we bid farewell to 2015, we look ahead to the new year. There is a lot in store for 2016, and I can’t wait to share it all. We already have three camping trips booked and there’s a much grander adventure that we’re looking forward to working on in 2016. But we’ll save that story for another time. There is so much ahead.

For right now, I am excited to announce that the 365Outside Challenge: 2016 will be open for pledges starting today and lasting through the end of January. Of course, there are actually 366 days in 2016, so you have a great chance to be a complete overachiever and hold the record for  the next 7 years to come.

Not sure you can hack a whole year outside? Check out some of my tips for making it out the door here. Or, simply pledge a number of days that makes more sense for you.

To read more, or to pledge some time outside in the new year, check out the 365Outside Challenge: 2016.

Why I Fenced the Kids In

The beauty of the backyard fence

The beauty of the backyard fence!

Our yard backs up to some overgrown woods that fade into a very muddy brackish creek tucked in behind the salt marsh. It’s neither particularly beautiful nor particularly ugly, but rather just a normal little patch of trees and undergrowth. Before kids, we blazed a trail through it complete with a fallen tree bridge over the creek. The path came out on the street behind ours which leads to the marina and a few open hay fields great for dog walks. But, the path was never maintained enough to juggle a baby while dancing through it, so eventually the low growing thorns prevailed. All that’s left of it now is a rotting log bobbing in the dirty water.

Junior frequently does a little "babysitting" in the backyard while Mama makes dinner.

Junior frequently does a little “babysitting” in the backyard while Mama makes dinner.

Last year we finally fenced the backyard in. It feels wrong to me. I want my kids to explore and adventure and feel unrestricted in the great outdoors. So I’m sure there will come a time when I don’t want the tall stockade fence that runs the perimeter of our small backyard. But that time isn’t now.

Before the fence, I dreamed that someday my kids would be the ones blazing trails through the woods, resurrecting the remains of the old treehouse perched behind the neighbor’s house and living out their fantasy world in shadowy hollows and hideaways. Once my oldest was on the move though, all I wanted was a fence to stop him. I know how hypocritical it sounds, when I really do want to raise my kids to be free range explorers. And I do realize how lucky we are to have this funny triangle of overgrown woods nestled between the back of our home and those of our neighbors’. Someday my kids will be the princes of this tiny kingdom, but not yet.


The fence also gives us a little privacy for summertime sprinkler play.

Right now, I need the security of knowing that I can turn my back to them for just two minutes while I drain the pasta into the sink. I need to know that one is not chasing the other further and further into the mud before someone loses a boot and then lands with a splat, covered in thick sludge ten minutes before we need to leave for school. I need the firmness of physical boundaries that can’t be broken as easily as the verbal ones I set with with a sharp, “Not past that tree! Stop right there!” I want them to explore and play outside of my watchful gaze, but I can’t yet trust them to stay close on their own.

Holiday party mayhem after dark!

Holiday party mayhem after dark!

Last weekend Santa arrived to town by clam boat at the boat ramp down our street. There were carolers and little train rides and lots of sugar and hot drinks to go around. We invited some friends to mosey two minutes up the road to our house before and after they greeted the big man. With lights strung around the back fence, and a crowd of parents to patrol the gates, the kids were let loose to run rampant in the relative security of the backyard. It was well after dark and though lit, the yard seemed vast and dark and the kids went bonkers.  They rode bikes on the grass, hid in the playhouse, pushed each other around on the tractors, weaved their way in and out of the lilac bushes, and played some kind of catch-dodgeball hybrid, all while the parents chatted around the fire pit in the driveway. The backyard fence meant our two year old could run loose with the big kids. It meant the adults did not have to take shifts combing the woods for runaways. It meant that we could let the kids be kids without the overbearing gaze of parents. This is the time for a backyard fence.

There will come a day sometime soon when I won’t want the fence. There will be a day when the boys are ready to stake their flag in the wooded empire, claiming their kingdom. There will be plenty of days for tree climbing and stick swords and rope swings hung haphazardly over thin green branches. But today, I’ll drink my coffee in peace knowing that they can’t escape quite yet.  Today, they still live in my kingdom.


How To Make a Great New Year’s Resolution That You Can Actually Keep


The Ghosts of New Years Past

I do not have a deep history of keeping New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever kept a single one. I’m more of an instant gratification kind of gal, so year-long goal-setting isn’t really my thing.

Spend less time on my phone. Lose the baby weight. Exercise more. Complain less. Be kinder.

Imagine the non-cynical, physically fit person I’d be if I’d kept all these! Such lofty ambitions. Such high hopes. Such a long way to fall.

To me, the worst part about New Year’s resolutions is the nagging sense of ineptitude that follows you around all year after it’s become clear that this won’t be the year you become a new, skinnier, more mindful you. It’s a cycle of failure and it happened to me every year.

Changing the Pattern

But this year, I resolved to spend more time outside. In fact, I resolved to spend time outside every day of the year. On January 1, 2015 365Outside was born and when I made that resolution, I never could have dreamed what it would mean for our family. Not only are we healthier and happier (both well documented benefits of spending time in nature), but also we are more rooted than ever before. Why? Because we chose a resolution that builds on our family’s identity. We chose a resolution that creates a mutual, achievable goal.

Of course I’d like for you all to spend time outside every day in 2016, but that may not be your ideal New Year’s resolution and it doesn’t have to be. The ideal New Year’s resolution is one that sets a concrete, achievable goal with purpose.

Here’s how you can do it.

  1. Choose a value that is central to your identity, particularly one that may have slipped over the past year. We chose adventure and appreciation for nature. Of course there’s also love, kindness, respect, service, etc. but for our purposes, I decided that at this time in our lives, we were most in need of adventure and nature. (To find out why I felt that way, you can read more here.) Use that value to create one sentence about your or your family’s identity. Our example:  We are a family that loves adventure and appreciates nature. Pretty simple, right?
  2. Next, choose something that is actionable and supports the value you’ve chosen. It is one thing to be a family who loves others, but if you don’t do things to regularly reinforce it, you are no different from anyone else who says they love others. Think of something you can do on a regular basis to reinforce that you love others. Because we wanted to focus on adventure and nature, we chose getting outside as our action. More specifically, we chose getting outside every day. Add your action to your sentence about your or your family’s identity. Our example:  We are a family that loves adventure and appreciates nature, so we play outside every day regardless of the weather.  

Voila! You have just created a meaningful, achievable New Year’s resolution. Now, share it with others so that they can help to hold you accountable, or create your own hashtag and post it on social media with frequent updates.


Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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