Month: January 2016
For us east-coasters, this was obviously a big weather week. New England was more or less spared from the worst of this winter storm but our neighbors to the south are still digging out. North of Boston, we only received about five inches of snow this time around, which if you ask me is just about perfect. It’s enough to look pretty, it’s enough for sledding, and it’s enough to easily shovel and pile out of the way (for now). We are feeling lucky and looking starry-eyed down the tunnel towards the last month of snow before the thaw begins.
Well, not so fast. I hate to be a debbie-downer, but I did just look through the dates on my camera roll to confirm that last year’s first truly substantial snowfall for us didn’t come until January 27. That’s this week. And after that, it was 8 feet of snow in a month. It felt almost suffocating. And it’s still feasible that we could have a repeat this year. But I will also point out that last year’s snow deluge followed an exceptionally cold fall. Last winter, our first thin coating of snow fell on November 2nd and temperatures seemed to hover below freezing from then until the procession of blizzards began. This year, we had barefoot beach days well into November and temperatures nearing 70 at Christmas. This year, the cold still seems new and novel so we aren’t complaining. The addition of snow, so far, just means more possibilities. Snow is always exciting at the beginning.
And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to refer back to this post in a month when I’ve had it with the fluffy white stuff.
For now, here’s what our week held.
Monday: The holiday meant that we had a chance to sled with friends in a fresh couple inches of powder. We were excited to check out a new sledding hill but the kids were pooped after just half an hour. Luckily we had planned ahead and took a cozy hot chocolate break right on the hill. Afterwards the kids were refreshed and ready to go again. I ended up having to bribe them to leave! Lesson of the day: By taking it slow outside, everyone is able to build stamina without reaching their limit before the fun is done.
Tuesday: A day for strategy with a high temperature of 10 degrees with windchill. We checked the forecast, knew the wind direction, and chose a local spot that we knew would be sheltered for a picnic lunch. Find a couple local spots and learn which work best in each wind direction. Next time the wind kicks up, put your local knowledge to use and choose someplace that will work to your advantage.
Wednesday: We had a forest meltdown. At the end of Little Bear’s nature class, he wanted to turn right and keep walking when the rest of the class was turning left to go inside and make a bird feeder. He wouldn’t budge and soon there was a full blown tantrum happening in the snow.
The rest of the class moved on and Little Bear finally calmed down when we focused on looking for deer (we saw almost a dozen!) and feeling the sun on our cheeks. Eventually we rejoined class to finish our bird feeder.
The whole episode reminded me of a Japanese tradition that several friends have mentioned in the past. Shinrinyoku, or forest bathing, is the concept of stress reduction and immune boosting through immersion in nature. Proponents suggest that you absorb your surroundings with all five senses (and believe me, there was some snow ingestion happening so we did) and experience an almost meditative calming effect.
Little Bear was definitely tired and probably cold, but taking an extra couple minutes outside allowed him to calm down and finish his class happily.
For more information about forest bathing, see here.
Thursday: I woke and rushed the boys out of the house to spend the day with their Omi. (I love Thursdays!) As I drank my morning coffee, I read a friend’s Facebook post about enjoying her coffee outside and enjoying the quiet. I love little tidbits of inspiration like that, so I took my own coffee outside too, with a cozy blanket and a deck chair.
Later, I took a quiet wander through the woods without the kids. It was still bitterly cold and the wind was still howling, but in this tiny sheltered clearing the sun felt so warm on my face. Another little reminder to soak it up.
Friday: In preparation for the weekend’s winter storm, I shared one of our favorite cold weather crafts – frozen sun catchers. You could even make this in the freezer if you live someplace warm. Check out full directions here.
Saturday: January’s full moon, the Wolf Moon, thusly named because during Native American and early Colonial times its appearance was often accompanied by the howling of hungry wolves who gathered around the villages.
With the Christmas full moon, we started a family tradition of full moon walks. Saturday was cloudy and by nightfall the snow was falling steadily and the wind was picking up again. After dinner and building a roaring fire in our wood stove, the last thing I felt like doing was putting on snow gear and heading out into the storm. Lucky for me, Little Bear would not be dissuaded so out we went.
And it was magical. Full moon walks will definitely be a longtime tradition around here. Even though we couldn’t see the moon, it was fun to be out after dark and the fresh snow made it seem extra special. Little Bear couldn’t remember ever being out in such heavy snow, and he kept joyfully looking up into the sky and pointing, “Look at that storm, Mama!”
Looking forward to the week to come, we are down to our last week for sign ups for the 365Outside Challenge: 2016. If you haven’t signed up yet, don’t be shy! You don’t have to commit to a full 365 (or 366) days; there are options for every comfort level.
This week will also see our family heading out for our first weekend of winter cabin camping. We have never done this before and I’m beyond excited. I can’t wait to share the adventure with you, so stay tuned.
January is more than halfway over, which is significant for 365Outsiders because if you live someplace seasonal in the northern hemisphere, it’s likely that January and February will be the hardest months of your challenge. And one of them is already halfway over. See how quickly this has happened?
In just a few short weeks we’ll be staring down February, the last of the hard work. Come March, we’ll see the ground thawing and the occasional return of balmy days when our gloves and hats are left behind again. By April there will likely be a few barefoot beach days and then perhaps a last blast of frost before the cold clears for spring and boxes of winter gear are taped up and shoved into the attic. The flowers will begin to push aside mounds of muddy soil as they sprout. The air will smell earthy and moist. The ground will once again bubble and give beneath our feet. It really will not be long. The hard work is here now, but not for long.
If you have not been following along on Facebook, here is what you missed this week:
Monday: Junior insisted that we go to the playground and I relented, only to pry two crying, tired children away from it when it was time to go home. This is pretty much how we always leave the playground and is one of several reasons why we do not often go there. I will write more about playgrounds another time. Suffice it to say, they are not my favorite. Also on Monday, I shared a photo from the Let’s Go Outside Revolution that summarized the scarcity of children playing outdoors by comparing them to an endangered species. Scary thought.
Tuesday: I shared tips for layering up and dressing appropriately for the cold weather.
Wednesday: We had a picnic! Since starting our first 365Outside Challenge in 2015, I’ve found my thinking around seasonal activities has dramatically shifted. Picnics used to be a fair weather activity for mild spring or summer days. More recently though, we’ve had them year round. We even sometimes have rainy day picnics in the backyard playhouse and eat to the sound of the rain drumming on our roof.
Thursday: I shared an important reminder that many campsites book up for the summer starting now. If you are interested in a summer camping trip (and you should be!) check Reserve America to find campsites near you. Some even offer sparse accommodations to choose from such as cabins and yurts.
Friday: We went for a nature walk. These also fall under the category of previously seasonal but now year round activity in our family. Though it’s certainly easier to find traces of wildlife in the warmer months, there is still plenty to see if you slow down and carefully observe. We look for prints in the snow, discarded shells or seeds from animals eating, and even holes in the ground in which critters might be sleeping. We recently learned that you can tell when a groundhog is hibernating in its hole by the frost around the opening, which forms when the rodent’s breath condenses.
Saturday: It finally snowed here, a tiny bit. Junior got to try out the Strider Snow Ski attachments for his balance bike (verdict: two thumbs up) and I began to research cross country skiing adventures.
Sunday: For the second week in a row we were lucky enough to be joined by good friends for a hike. Junior did the whole two-mile circuit on his own, and Little Bear lasted most of the way before going in the carrier for a snuggle. This week we walked at the Coolidge Reservation, which is a great hike for little legs since it traverses a broad variety of terrain including a short bridge over a stream, and comes out on a beautiful rolling field down to the ocean, all in the span of a mile. After a scenic snack, it’s mostly downhill on the way back to the parking lot.
Now we look forward to a new week with snow in the forecast. Don’t hate me too much when I say I welcome it. Remember, adventure is all a frame of mind.
The 365Outside Challenge: 2016 will be open for new registrants through the end of the month. Many thanks to our friends over at Merrohawke Nature School who shared the challenge in their newsletter this month.
Keep spreading the word, friends!
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
Now that it’s finally winter around here (68 degrees on Christmas definitely didn’t count) I’ve started receiving some questions about how we dress on the coldest days. Today, for example, was -2F when we woke up and, though we waited until later in the morning for it to warm up, it still only reached a balmy windchill of 5 degrees.
So what’s the deal? Are we battling frostbite over here? We’re not, though sometimes it may sound that way when you overhear me wrestling my two-year-old into a snowsuit. In fact, if it were up to him it seems he may prefer the frostbite to the snowsuit but I digress. . . .
In actuality, we’re quite warm. And when we’re not warm and comfortable outside, we go in. There’s no reason to push anyone beyond the point of comfort. It will only backfire into a child who refuses to go out at all the next time it gets cold.
Here’s my magic formula:
A good-quality base layer. The layer closest to the skin should be snug-fitting and soft, but don’t be tempted to make those cotton pajamas pull double-duty.. Cotton holds moisture so it will actually make you feel COLDER once you start sweating. Instead, look for something synthetic or wool, which will wick the moisture away from your skin and keep you feeling snug and cozy.
- A fleece or soft wool second layer. On top of the base layer, we pile on the fleece. Like wool, it is moisture-wicking but holds heat. On a cold day, we put fleece sweatpants and a fleece sweatshirt over the base layer. On a frigid day, we double up with both a fleece turtle neck and a fleece zip-up jacket on top.
- Insulating and wind-proof outerwear. If it’s snowing or wet, you will obviously need something that also repels water. We use snow pants on most days, but if the chances of getting wet are particularly high (like when we went tide pooling this week), I will use rubber rain pants instead. Keep in mind that they are not breathable, though, so they aren’t great for longer outings. On top I favor down jackets and on wet days I will layer a lightweight rain shell over them, but on the most frigid days it’s generally too cold for anything to be very wet since it’s all frozen.
- For hands, we use waterproof ski mittens for the coldest days, or fleece-lined wool mittens for everyday use. The wool ones are easier to get on and off and provide a little more dexterity. They don’t protect against the wind though, so they aren’t very suitable for skiing or sledding.
On feet we usually do wool or synthetic socks (again, cotton is a no-no) under snow boots. I like snow boots with removable wool liners, especially our LLBean ones that come with an extra set of liners. Look for boots with a full rubber foot so that you know they won’t get wet if they happen to land in a puddle of slush.
- On heads of course we use warm fleece or wool hats on most days as well. A snug-fitting wool hat can be extra cozy when topped off with a looser-fitting fleece hat too. If we are skiing or sledding, we use ski helmets, and on the coldest days or just on days when we’ll be out for extended periods in the snow, we wear goggles or sometimes sunglasses if suitable. The sun reflecting off the snow is surprisingly bright and can hurt your eyes quickly if they aren’t protected. Finally, we layer on a neck gator or use a balaclava underneath if it’s very cold out too.
- BACK-UP GEAR. Since we are outside often, we need back ups of everything in case something gets wet. I try to make our back-up gear suitable to replace what it needs to replace, but also to fill niche-type voids that are used less frequently. For example, both boys have down jackets as their primary winter coat because I believe they are the warmest and most cozy. For back-up coats though, they have traditional ski jackets because I think they still do a decent job of keeping warm on a cold day, and do a better job in very wet weather, like when there is a slushy snow or cold rain falling. For boots, we have LLBean snow boots, but use Bogs or Muckboots as backups. Again, they still do a good job of keeping little feet warm, and they do an even better job of keeping little feet dry so they can also double as rain boots or tide pooling gear.
If you’re reviewing your winter wardrobe and want a list you can tick off, here’s ours to get you started:
Synthetic or wool long underwear x 2 (more is preferable)
Fleece or wool tops to layer x 2 (we go for one turtleneck and one zip front so we can combine as needed)
Fleece or wool bottoms to layer x 2
Back-up snow pants
Wool or synthetic ski socks x 3
Warm winter boots
Bogs or Muckboots
Back up rain boots
Hats and Mittens:
Waterproof ski/snow mittens x 2
Lighter-weight fleece or wool mittens x 2 (more is preferable)
Warm winter hats x 2
Ski helmet (if you plan on skiing or hardcore sledding)
Goggles or sunglasses
Neck gator or balaclava
Some weeks always seem longer than others and for me, the week back to reality after the holidays is always a long week. I can’t believe that it was just a week ago that we were celebrating the New Year, sending wish lanterns into the sky with good friends and waving goodbye to 2015 as their light faded smaller and smaller into the night.
There’s also something daunting about starting a new challenge that makes the first week seem even harder. I didn’t expect it to feel quite as big the second time around. By now, our daily adventures outside have become habit. We already have one challenge under our belts. But somehow it felt so much easier when I was thinking to myself, 335 days down, 30 to go. Today’s 10 days down, 356 to go sounds a lot harder! Especially on a day like today where the wind is howling and the rain is pounding down.
On days like today I am reminded how lucky we are to have wonderful, like-minded friends in our lives. Friends who don’t even blink when we invite them on a hike in weather that drives most people to the mall or the movies.
And so it was that we found ourselves stomping through the soggy woods all morning with a crew of muddy children, who relished the opportunity to run off some energy and search for signs of bears (which we don’t have around here, but a kid can dream, right?) It was a good reminder for me after a long week that it’s not so hard. We are surrounded by beautiful people and beautiful places. The hardest part is motivating to get out the door, and so we just take it one day at a time. It felt so, so good to come back to the warm house, hang our sopping gear by the woodstove, and heat up some hearty bean soup for lunch. And now, as I type this, I’m drinking my raspberry tea and listening to the steady downpour on our skylight while both boys nap upstairs. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon, after the perfect Sunday morning.
In case you weren’t able to follow our last week on Facebook (you don’t need an account just to read the page) here’s a summary:
Monday meant work, school and all the other commitments of our busy lives were back in full force. Getting outside when you’re busy can seem hard and intimidating until it becomes an everyday habit.
Our favorite trick for getting outside on busy days is to get it done as early as possible, or wait for after dark and make a special night of it. If you weren’t able to get out this morning, try taking fifteen minutes tonight after the sun goes down.
When we aren’t in the mood for a walk or the kids are already in pajamas, we make hot drinks and set up some chairs on our back deck with plenty of warm blankets. We snuggle under the blankets and star gaze while enjoying some warm tea or hot chocolate. Sometimes we use our headlamps and read a favorite story outside. The kids love this routine because it feels special and exciting. We love the burst of fresh air to end our day on a positive note.
Tuesday brought a windchill of-2 degrees here. Brrrrrrr! Is that “too cold” to take my kids outside? I’m sure lots would say yes but Tuesday’s tip: LOW EXPECTATIONS.
While we aim to stay outside for at least 20 minutes every day, there is no rule about how long we should stay out. The only “rule” so to speak is that we get outside simply for the sake of getting outside. We’re not pursuing outdoor play at the expense of frostbite over here.
Tuesday we went through the hassle of putting on all that winter gear with very low expectations. We may only last five minutes and that’s ok. I’d rather spend only a sliver of time outside and have my kids ready and excited to go out again tomorrow than force them to stay outside longer than they’re comfortable and pay the price on another chilly day when they remember their discomfort and refuse to go out at all. In fact, Junior begged to go out again after dark on Tuesday!
If something is holding you back, go out with the knowledge that it’s totally ok to head right back inside once you’ve given it a solid try. And don’t forget to dress appropriately (more about that on the blog coming soon.) Good luck and stay warm!
Wednesday we fed the birds. Even if you don’t live someplace snowy and frozen, they’re sure to appreciate it. No birdseed in the house? No problem. The humane society recommends using raw nuts and seeds, or egg shells which provide healthy calcium for backyard birds.
Little Bear and I took our first class together on Wednesday at the Ipswich River Wildlife Mass Audubon where we learned that local chickadees there are so acclimated to budding ornithologists that they will land on your hand to feed. Little Bear was so proud of himself.
Even if a bird doesn’t land on your hand, it’s still fun to watch them. Get out a bird book or download an app like Sibley or Audubon to help with identifying your new feathered friends.
Thursday we were looking for an easy way to make it through the last of our busy days this week. We find it’s easiest to make time for outside play when you’re already coming or going. When I pick my oldest up from school, he’s already wearing most of his outdoor gear. I just slip his snow pants on (if needed) and give him some free time to run wild. We both need it after a long day. Other times the kids are so spent that they just want to lie down and cloud-gaze, and that’s fine too.
If you’re on a busy, time-pressed schedule by the time you are heading home, take a deep breath and ask yourself if it will really matter if dinner and bedtime are ten minutes later. Sometimes I get so caught up in our “schedule” that I lose sight of the bigger picture. Try going for a walk around the block before you even get in the car. Or park a block away and try not to rush your little one as you stroll back. Think of it as your moment of peace in an otherwise hectic week.
Friday we celebrated the end of the school week in a fun way with the little people in our life. Stop off at the store on the way to or from work today and pick up a pack of glow sticks. I found packs of 15 glow bracelets for a dollar at Target! Hide them around the yard after it gets dark and set the kids loose on a glow stick hunt. Just because the sun has set, it doesn’t mean your chance to play outside has been missed. Your kids will thank you.
Saturday’s tip was to visit your favorite summer spot in the depths of winter. Try it! We are lucky to live near the coast so we visit the beach year round. It’s a different experience in every season but the kids love it regardless of the temperature.
This week also saw our news story (which originally ran in the Gloucester Daily Times) republished in the Newburyport News. Yay for spreading the word! We’ve now had almost 90,000 days of outdoor time pledged for 2016 and the challenge will be open for new registrants until the end of the month. Do you know someone who might be interested? Send them over to sign up before it’s too late.
365Outside has received over 60,000 days of outdoor play pledged for the year 2016 and we will continue to accept new pledges through the end of January. We are also featured in our local newspaper today! Have you joined us to lead a happier, healthier lifestyle in 2016?
If you haven’t already taken the pledge (it’s free!) head on over to the 365Outside Challenge: 2016 to get started. While you’re at it, tell a friend or two and spread the word.
If you are looking for some new ideas for outdoor activities to get you started, please sign up to follow our blog by entering your email in our subscription link located in the righthand sidebar. We promise not to send you any spam and you are free to unsubscribe at any time.
We will also be posting daily inspiration on our public Facebook page and compiling it weekly onto the blog from here on out. You can keep up with our daily activities too, by checking us out on Instagram.
If you’re on Facebook or Instagram please tag us @365Outside or document your own journey with #365outside. We love finding inspiration through our friends!
We wish you all a 2016 filled with sunshine, rain and snow, and the mindset to smile through it all. Happy New Year and welcome aboard!
~365Outside | Refresh Your Life~
PS – We promise not to clog your inbox with loads of junk because we hope you’re way too busy playing outside to read any of it. If you’d like to follow along, make sure to sign up for further information and inspiration by following our blog, Facebook, or Instagram accounts. Otherwise, you’re on your own from here and we wish you all our best.
We have snow on the ground here, but the streets are mostly cleared and the boys are begging to get out on their bikes so we’re seizing the opportunity while we can.
Looking for some ideas to get outside today? Our favorite and most common outdoor activity is going for a family walk. Where’s your favorite place to walk? The Captain likes woodsy trails, the boys like the beach and I like open views such as the hayfields overlooking our local marsh.
We spend a lot of time outside around our neighborhood, but I find that my kids are at their best when we get away from all their toys and they are surrounded by nature. Do you have a favorite local spot to enjoy nature? Take a walk today and hashtag us with #365outside so we can follow along.
We are stoked that you have pledged to go out and play in 2016. On January 1, 2015 we took the same pledge and transformed our lives. We became happier and healthier through doing something that we enjoyed doing anyway. But the hardest part was getting started. If you are looking for advice to convince your kids and/or significant others to play along, check out our top tips for getting out the door (aka bribes and more bribes) or if you have more of a logical thinker on your hands, check out the documented health benefits of getting outside more.
If you’re just here for some inspiration, read on.
For the month of January, we will be highlighting one outdoor activity per day to fuel your fire as you commit to the outdoor lifestyle in 2016.
New Year’s Day is a day to ease into your new beginning. Many of us were up late. Many of us have overindulged for the holidays. Many of us are starting new things this week – be it exercise routines, diets, unplugging, or (ahem) getting outside more.
Today, ease into 2016 the way you ease into a piping warm hot spring. Start with just your toes. Get used to it a little. Slowly lower the rest of yourself in and then just lean back and soak it up. Take a deep breath. Relax, you’re here now. Sometimes the most important thing is just being here.
Getting outside can be just as simple. The most common question I get is, what should I do out there? And for today, my answer is absolutely nothing. Just soak it up. Just be there.
Today, ease into 2016 by savoring a quiet moment outside.
It could be in a lawn chair in your backyard. It could be perched on a perfectly flat rock at the top of your favorite hike. It could be huddled at a snow-covered picnic table somewhere you’ve never been before. Wherever you find yourself today, ease into it. Sit down outside and look around you. Take the moment to listen. Think about everything the new year symbolizes. Hear the wind, or the birds, or the water or the faraway voices. Take that deep breath. Soak it up.
Relax, you’re here now.
2016 is the start of something great. Welcome to a happier, healthier you. Welcome to 365Outside. Refresh your life.
The end of the year is here. It’s time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve struggled with, and where we are headed in 2016. It’s a time to both remember and anticipate, to revel and regret, to quietly ponder and boisterously celebrate.
For parents, and maybe just adults in general, the passage of time is bittersweet. As a child, I remember always looking forward to what was ahead. I remember wishing myself older and bigger and faster. But as an adult, especially as an adult with young children, this time of year is the time I wish it would all slow down. Looking back on pictures from 2015, I see the boys as toddlers in last winter’s snow. I see them on unsteady feet, in snowbanks much taller than them, tiny boots and mittens, little cheeks lost in the folds of their oversized hats and coats. And then today, in our first snowfall of the new winter, I see Junior in clothes suddenly too small. He’s grown two sizes since the last time he stomped in a slushy puddle. His clothes from last winter now belong to Little Bear.
My reflections of course, aren’t just on physical growth. We’ve also accomplished so much this year. The boys have become caring brothers and friends, they have mastered new physical skills, they have learned to be naturalists, conservationists and advocates. And it’s not just them. It feels wrong to say about myself, particularly as a female in a society that teaches us to be always humble, but I have accomplished so much too. I am proud of us; I am proud of myself. We are moving towards where we want to be. We are taking real steps towards concrete goals. We are happier and healthier than we were at this time last year. We are looking forward to so much. We have direction. We have inspiration. It’s not every year that I can say that.
So, about those accomplishments, regrets and thoughts for 2016.
Let’s get started.
January 1, 2015: 365Outside was born. We took our first winter hike as a family to celebrate the start of something great.
February 2015: We conquered the “worst winter in history” to make it our best winter ever. Our region received a record-breaking series of blizzards. In one month, 8 feet of snow fell, but we continued to get outside each day to enjoy it.
July 6, 2015: Junior officially learned to swim.
August 23, 2015: Mama launched the 365Outside website.
September 4, 2015: Junior rode a two-wheeler (no training wheels!) for the first time.
September 18-20, 2015: We spent 48 hours straight outside, without electricity or plumbing, camping on an island off Cape Cod. We vowed to do more camping in 2016.
October 7, 2015: Little Bear mastered gliding down our hill on his balance bike.
December 31, 2015: We finished a full year of outdoor play!
February 17, 2015: We met a roadblock. After spending 5 hours waiting for a delayed flight out of Boston, we were stuck at JFK airport for 10 hours trying to fly standby. We were inside airports and planes from 5AM to 8PM. We still didn’t make it to Florida, and the only outside time we had was a 10-minute wait for the hotel shuttle. The boys made the most of it, jumping off the planters and generally gleefully inhaling fresh air at last, but we still felt defeated.
September 16, 2015: Our most epic meltdown of the whole year ended with me carrying Junior out of the YMCA met by sympathetic, sorry smiles from the other moms. We drove straight to our favorite walking spot to catch our breath.
November-December 2015: The Captain’s tugboat was hard at work, with him spending about 3 weeks away each month. We missed him but kept him updated on our adventures by phone and Facetime.
Where We Are Headed in 2016:
We have pledged to spend all 366 days outside in 2016.
We are actively boat-shopping so that we can someday reacquaint ourselves and introduce our boys to life afloat.
We are committed to camping more, hiking more, and adventuring more in 2016.
We will continue to grow and nurture the 365Outside Challenge, hoping to reach and engage more people to live healthier and happier lives through outdoor play 365 days a year.
Where are you headed in 2016? Wherever it is and whoever you’re with, we hope you’re met with the mindset to enjoy the sunshine, rain and snow that 2016 has in store for you.
Don’t forget, there is still time to sign up for the 365Outside Challenge: 2016. Sign ups are live through January 31, 2016. Join us in our journey towards a happier, healthier you.