Archive for the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Category

Our holiday adventures included picking oranges and tangerines in my sister’s neighborhood. A year ago, she noticed the citrus going to waste in her southern California town and thought about her social work clients who need food.

To help connect the going-to-waste fruit to those who would welcome eating it, she created a little project she calls Backyard Bounty. She coordinates groups of friends, or her daughter’s Daisy troop, to pick the trees of people she has approached about getting their excess produce to those in need. So on Christmas Day, 10 of us picked three heavily laden trees. My kids and their cousin reached what they could and then climbed into the trees, handing fruit down to their grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

It was a different type of family adventure for us, but sold me on doing charitable work as a family. We helped contribute 8 bins and two 5-gallon buckets of fresh produce to the local food bank. Good work, and good work together.

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P8290688Late summer and autumn hiking? It’s blueberry heaven out there. We picked cupfuls to have in pancakes or on cereal for breakfast, and everyone participated.

We had blue fingers from picking, and blue tongues from eating, and a certain girl in our party had blue lips from constant blueberry consumption. We wondered how bears eat blackberries. Do they aim for the berries but end up eating a mouthful of leaves most of the time? Do they somehow run their teeth across the plant stem, loosening the berries but not the leaves? Do their mouths turn blue too?


We didn’t see any bears, but we did see some very blueberry-influenced bear scat. There was an abundance of blueberry plants, so maybe the bears were working some other area. Like in the old children’s book Blueberries for Sal. I certainly thought of “kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk” from that book (the sound the berries made dropped into Sal’s pail), even though that wasn’t really the sound of blueberries dropped into my plastic cup.

Mostly we picked while wandering near camp, but of course on the way out people stopped even with their loaded packs on. No one even tipped over. Just touched up the blue on their mouths and fingers.

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backtoschoolckAs a writer mama, I have learned from and been supported by Christina Katz’ Writers on the Rise, then Writer Mama, and most recently Get Known Before the Book Deal books and websites.

This month, for the third year in a row, The Writer Mama, Christina Katz, is giving away thirty books in thirty days. All you have to do to enter is answer Christina’s question of the day. At the end of each day, a winner will be randomly chosen from those who posted responses -and there is no limit to how many days you can enter. You don’t have to be a mom, of course, though the event is created with moms in mind. Stop by, be inspired, and maybe even win a book!

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P8030564The new bicycle configuration, with Noah on his own bike, means that he’s quick on the uphills but the loaded bikes get far ahead of him – or need to brake a lot – on the downhills. This makes for interesting riding if it is very hilly, as it is hard to keep the group together.

We rode about 120 miles in the first 3 days. And then Noah was really tired. Even with Dana occasionally trading places with him, that was too much too fast.

So we’re feeding him much more (above he even has a lollipop in his mouth), scaling back the mileage, and planning some rest days.P8020553 There have also been a few unplanned rest stops. We’ve had a flat tire every day, with two for me in one hour, until we figured out I actually needed a new tire. The tube was bulging out through a thin spot in the tire sidewall, and when I applied my brakes it was just enough additional pressure. Next came the unpleasant pop that signals another flat.

Tom patched the tire with the largest patch we had, even left the backing on for more strength, and we bought a new tire at a nice shop in Sequim, Washington. We’re now hoping for more planned, rather than unplanned stops, although the one in the photo was a good spot – even had a little bench to sit on.

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P6290337Tom’s 2436-mile ride from Washington to Ann Arbor, Michigan concluded in his parents’ driveway with a crepe paper finish line. The kids and I had rigged the line between two trees, but gusty winds knocked it down before the big arrival, so we tried several other configurations and multiple crepe paper lines to get the concept to work.

The kids and cousin Ty also made signs out of Grandma’s new oven’s boxes. There was “Congratulations!” “MI to WA!” and Dana’s P6290338“Good Job!” depicting a rocket bike with a special place to store candy. I also liked her use of found materials. When I smashed a bug on my sign, she circled it and wrote “Hope you don’t have too many of these on your face.”

We entertained the neighborhood with our set-up, cheered when Tom and his brother Ben arrived (Ben biked two days with Tom), and marked Tom’s accomplishment.

My sister still wins for best finish line, when she had music, signs, cold watermelon, and pretend Olympic medals handed out ceremoniously by my niece as we arrived in San Diego. She set the standard inspirationally high, but in a good way.

Here’s to lots more finish line shenanigans.

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P6270326Our bicycle adventures have had the benefit of using the train to support the trip plan. Last summer, we got on our bikes at our house and rolled to our train station, then hopped on and rode to Eugene, Oregon, where we then started our 1500-mile west coast trip to San Diego.

This summer, with Tom cycling 2500-miles to Michigan, the rest of the family used Amtrak as the support vehicle. We followed his route along Highway 2 across Montana and North Dakota, and got to see places he had called us from just a couple weeks before. The train was a fun mix of people and places, very economical, and we even managed to sleep in our coach seats.

I was worried about feeling trapped and sedentary, but we got out when we could (like in Minot, North Dakota above), each read a couple books, and followed our progress on the train schedule. Amtraking was rather fun, and a great way to support the bicycling.  So if you want to do a one-way trip, consider adding a train section to loop yourself back home. Or use the train to get to your destination and ride home. The possibilities…

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100_2315_1 With both parents educators, you would think we would have a wide expanse of  summer in which to plan backpacking, bicycling and kayaking trips. And while we do, already it feels like not enough as I draw lines through sections of the calendar for events and trips.

There’s two weeks penciled out for a bicycle trip with our Canadian tandem pals, a five-day stretch for my gals’ backpacking trip, Tom’s Dadventure, and two 3-4 day trips we plan to do with folks new to family adventuring. They’ve never done a bike or backpacking trip before. We get to introduce them to it, which will be double the fun.

And we haven’t even planned anything involving our kayak yet.

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Family adventuring is more fun when the parents take a lesson from their kids and play a little.p1010493 One way we do that is by taking goofy photos. A pose might be inspired by the landscape or architecture – have you seen those folks who pretend they are holding up the leaning tower of Pisa? Or we might add drama to a scene by pretending to be falling into a crack in the earth, chased by monsters, or exhibiting oh-my-gosh there-is-something-behind-you faces.

We have a whole series of imitation photos as well. Noah pretending to strut like a turkey next to a turkey crossing sign, for example.

The poses, pretending and imitation are fun in the moment, and sometimes the digital copy of that time is pretty humorous to behold when we’re back home remembering the trip as well.

The kids wouldn’t want to keep adventuring with us if the adventures weren’t fun. Crazy photos are one way to make anywhere fun, help us notice the details of a place, and get us using our imaginations and creativity. Together.

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The national economic situation is scary. I know people who have lost their jobs, and others who are worried. I understand cutting back on vacation travel and focusing those funds on necessities, but I think getting outside is still essential. Families need positive time together, fitness, connections to nature, and the personal qualities family adventuring helps grow, like creativity, ingenuity, and self-reliance. So make it doable financially by going do-it-yourself.

We bicycle tour inexpensively by tent camping and making cookstove meals. We backpack and kayak close to home, and rather than buy expensive freeze dried food, we pack our own, with Simple Foods for the Pack and Lip Smackin’ Backpackin’: Lightweight Trail Tested Recipes for Backcountry Trips as useful guides. We also borrow and share gear. Last summer our kayak took another family on a five-day trip, and this fall other friends tried out our tandem bicycles. Plus the tandems and the kayak were originally bought used.

Let’s help each other and keep families connected to outdoor adventure. How will you still get outside together? And what gear can you borrow or lend?

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My old Kelty backpack has been carried many miles and is showing a little age. When I pulled out my old friend this time, along with the familiar marmot-gnawed waist belt, I found one shoulder strap separating from the pack. Oh yeah. I remember noticing that on a North Cascades trip last summer, but of course when I got home I just emptied the pack and put it back on the gear shelf.

Now the backpack needs a fix, and that will require a little ingenuity, as my industrial needle and extra strong braided thread are at home and we’re far from there. While I believe duct tape takes care of almost anything, this calls for sewing. So I borrow a needle from my daughter’s felt crafting, nylon thread from a friend, and use a rock to help push the needle through the tough fabric. Score another point for do-it-yourself solutions.

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