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Archive for Outdoor Living
June 20th, 2013
Two of my three boys left for sleepaway camp this week. It was challenging on many levels for all of us. This is the third summer for my oldest and he was excited to go. Not so for the middle guy. He was anxious and unsure. He’s heard us talking about summer camp for years and it was finally his turn. But not knowing what to expect is scary, especially when you’re 11. His brother and 5 cousins joined him on his journey, which provided some comfort, but there was still ambivalence. Not to mention I was a mess, but tried desperately not to let them know.
Both boys put their best foot forward and traveled by car, plane and bus to camp. Now in the arms of the camp, the same camp I trusted as a camper and staff member, they’re off to create their own adventures and memories. I finally have a smile on my face knowing that they’re safe and hopefully having as much fun at sleepaway camp as I did.
In hindsight there are a few things which were helpful in our sleepaway camp preparations.
Whether your child is headed away for the first time or is a veteran hopefully these tips will help them prepare for their own sleepaway camp experience.
Have a sleepover or two. Nothing like a practice run before sending your children off for a few weeks away from home. A sleepover is a simple way to get them used to being away from home overnight.
Before camp starts get in touch with other campers. This was incredibly helpful. We participated in a conference call that the camp organized with campers from all over the country. The campers had an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered immediately. Just by seeing the faces of other first-time campers my son realized that he wasn’t the only one.
Involve your child in the packing. Packing for camp is a big job and at times it would probably be easier to do it all on your own without child involvement. Having your child participate in the packing is crucial. They begin to come to terms with going to camp. It becomes real. They also need to know what they’re bringing with them. My sons were very excited while we were packing together once they saw all of the ‘fun’ equipment being packed into the bag. We packed a fancy flashlight, a fan with a water mister, an organizer to hang on the bunk and other camp necessities.
Get ready to be unplugged. Many camps have ‘no technology’ policy in place. Our camp just implemented a “Interactive Screen-Free” policy this year. That means no screen time while at camp. Personally I love this. My kids don’t get a lot of screen time at home, but it’s nice to think that they’re going to a place where everyone will be in the same boat and they actually have to talk to each other! Imagine that. Make sure your child is aware of this policy.
Talk about feelings. About a month before camp we started checking in with the kids about how they were feeling. Our goal was to open a door for an opportunity to share their feelings about being away from home. There were times when the discussions didn’t lead anywhere and other times when the floodgates opened.
What advice would you give to someone headed to sleepaway camp for the first time?
photo credit: jeffreylcohen via photopin cc
March 20th, 2012
This past Sunday was a gorgeous day in Boston. People were venturing out of their homes to spend the day outside. Bikes were out, skateboards were everywhere and our dog was basking in the warm sunshine.
We were all hanging out outside until around 6 pm; then it got ugly. The mosquitoes swarmed-and I mean swarmed. When we all couldn’t bare it any longer we went inside to deal with the massive amounts of red bumps that were covering our bodies. Mosquito bites.
Why mosquitoes bite
Did you know only female mosquitoes bite? Proteins in human blood are necessary for the female mosquito to produce fertile eggs. Their male counterparts don’t lay eggs so there’s no need to bite.
Back to the red welts…….
I happen to be one of those people that mosquitoes can’t live without. I’m usually bitten several times in or around the same spot. The bites turn into big, red welts that are incredibly itchy. I then force my children to use their nails to place a big X over the bites-remember that trick? It works, but unfortunately the bites start to itch again after a few seconds.
Solutions for a bug bite itch
There are quite a few non-toxic remedies for an itchy bug bite.
- Make a paste of baking soda and water and put a little dab on the bug bite.
- Apply a cold compress-either an ice pack or a washcloth doused in cold water.
- Put a little toothpaste on your bug bite.
- Rub a piece of sliced onion on the bite. You might need to shower after this remedy!
- Apply apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball to the bite.
- Rub a bar of wet or dry soap over the bite.
- Place cool mud on the affected spot or spots.
If the bite gets infected be sure to contact your physician.
If you’re going to use bug repellant when you venture outside this spring and summer, make sure it’s DEET free.
What tips do you have for itchy bug bites?
© Sergey YAkovlev – Fotolia.com
This week I’ve linked up with The Green Backs Gal and I Thought I Knew Mama
March 8th, 2012
I was recently contacted by The Boston Tree Party and asked to help spread the word about their organization. How could I refuse? They are right here in my back yard in Boston and they’re working to promote urban agriculture, bringing together diverse communities and universal access to healthy food. They are helping to make Boston very green. Right up my alley!
What is The Boston Tree Party?
The Boston Tree Party is a collaborative campaign to plant pairs of heirloom apple trees in publicly used spaces across Greater Boston. They partner with elementary schools, universities, hospitals, assisted living centers, faith-based communities, libraries and more. The group of people who are behind this innovative concept are pretty darn impressive.
Together, these trees form a city-wide public urban orchard that crosses social, political, economic and geographic boundaries. These trees act as a catalyst to bring together diverse communities. The planting of these trees symbolizes a commitment to the environmental and community health of the city of Boston for all generations. By planting these trees they are taking a stand in support of universal access to fresh healthy food, for greening cities, and protecting biodiversity.
Why do they plant heirloom apple trees in pairs?
Apples are known to be a symbol of health and well-being. Apples are also connected to the history of Boston: The first apple orchard in the United States was planted on Beacon Hill, Boston by the first European settler, William Blackstone. They are making Boston a city of apples once again, but with new meaning.
Apples need to be planted in heterogeneous pairs to cross-pollinate and bear fruit. You can’t just plant one apple tree and you can’t plant two of the same variety. This biological fact has become the central metaphor of the project: We too can’t produce fruit alone, or with others just like ourselves. We too must cross-pollinate to come up with new ideas and to make our world better.
What has The Boston Tree Party done so far?
- In 2011 they planted 70 heirloom apple trees (35 pairs) with over 50 different communities in the Boston area.
- In about four years, these 70 trees will collectively start to produce between 10,000-15,000 free apples every year (hopefully organic)!
- These trees can live anywhere from 50-100 years, so that’s a lot of free apples!
What’s on tap for 2012?
Registration is currently open for communities to sign-up and plant apple trees with The Boston Tree Party this spring. Deadline to sign-up: April 15, 2012
- Delegations can include schools, churches, businesses, libraries, health centers, clubs & civic organizations, neighborhood/homeowner associations, etc. – very inclusive!
- Delegations can be a partnership/combination of different organizations
- i.e. If a Girl Scout troop wants to participate but doesn’t have access to land, they can partner with a school (who gains permission to plant fruit trees on their campus).
- Requirements to join:
- Access to two pieces of land that are each 15’ in diameter (they don’t have to be connected, but they do need to be within ¼ mile)
- $325 to pay for trees, supplies, and support (financial assistance is available)
- Willingness & commitment to care for these trees long-term
Have questions or want to join The Boston Tree Party?
Do you have anything like this in your city or town?
Photos courtesy of The Boston Tree Party
November 14th, 2011
This post is sponsored by Social Moms and Seventh Generation.
Have you ever noticed that certain scents from nature bring back childhood memories? Most memories of specific scents come from the first time we smell something, which is usually when we were children. I can think of quite a few scents that trigger incredible childhood memories, however nothing transports me back to my childhood like the smell of the ocean.
The Smell of the Ocean
I spent the majority of my childhood in the lovely city of Madison, Wisconsin. If you take a look at a map you will quickly notice that Wisconsin isn’t anywhere near an ocean. There are many beautiful lakes and other bodies of water in and around Madison, but getting to an ocean is a long trek.
The ocean was still a big part of my childhood. To this day the smell of the salt water and ocean air takes me to a very special place where I spent almost every vacation as a child.
Here are a few clues to help you guess where I was vacationing all those years:
- It was H-O-T and humid, making my hair do all sorts of funny things the minute I stepped off the plane.
- Restaurants opened for dinner at 4:30 and the lines started forming around 3:30 (and we were usually in them).
- Shuffleboard was our afternoon activity. Relatives were hopeful I’d meet that special someone on the shuffleboard court or laying by the pool (didn’t happen).
- When the vacation ended I was very tan (there was a lot of baby oil and very little sunscreen being applied).
If you guessed FLORIDA you were right on. I was very fortunate to spend almost every vacation with my grandparents on the east coast of Florida. The smell of that salty, thick air brings back incredible memories of the time we spent together. It was a happy time-a time when my grandparents could spoil me rotten and share stories about coming to America.
The smell of the ocean makes me feel safe and relaxed and reminds me of the many years I spent with my grandparents. I live closer to the ocean now and each trip to the beach is a trip down memory lane. As the smell of the air hits I am reminded of the fabulous times I shared with all four of my grandparents.
Seventh Generation knows that scents are powerful. That’s why Seventh Generation has created a line of dish liquids featuring natural scents from real lemons, clementines and lavender. To celebrate their new line of dish liquids Seventh Generation is offering a giveaway: you can enter to win a trip for two to one of the regions where lemons, clementines and lavender grow, including France, Italy and Vermont!
What are some scents from nature you love, and where do those scents take you?
Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Seventh Generation blogging program and I was compensated for this post. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
[Photo used under Creative Commons from epSos.de/Flickr]
June 30th, 2011
Mosquito Factoid: Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? They need our human blood in order to lay their eggs.
Female mosquitoes happen to love my family. Wherever we are they find us, especially our legs and ankles. Since we love spending time outdoors, I have been on mission to find a bug repellent that’s safe and actually keeps the bugs away. It’s been no easy task.
Avoid conventional bug repellents that contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, diethyltoluamide)
DEET is the most widely used insect repellent in the US and is the leading ingredient in most conventional bug repellants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that as long as consumers follow label directions, insect repellents containing DEET aren’t dangerous. The tricky part is following the directions-most of us don’t and we end up applying too much bug repellent and leave it on our skin for far too long. DEET then becomes highly toxic.
Expert’s report that up to 56% of DEET applied to the skin penetrates the skin and about 17% is absorbed into the blood stream. DEET has been known to act as a skin irritant. Long-term exposure to DEET has been linked dangerous health effects even at low doses. There is also evidence that DEET functions in the same way as deadly nerve gases and dangerous pesticides, by attacking the nervous systems of both insects and mammals. Previous studies have shown DEET can cause seizures in children.
4 DEET-free bug repellents
There are many natural alternatives to bug repellents containing DEET -most are a combination of several essential oils that are known to deter bugs.
- EcoSMART We have been using EcoSmart for a few weeks and it seems to be working well. The main ingredients are wintergreen oil, rosemary oil and geraniol. My kids don’t mind the light scent and the bugs don’t like it at all.
BITE METER: Few to no bites. Reapplication needed on a regular basis.
- Purple Prairie The makers of fabulous Purple Prairie SunStuff have created a bug repellent that comes in a spray or a lotion. They both are made from a blend of essential oils and plant extracts. The spray is made from a non oily witch hazel and water base. Purple Prairie claims that both work to sooth bites too!
BITE METER: Jury is out –I haven’t tried this one yet. I will update once this product arrives.
- All Terrain Herbal Armor Made from citronella, soybean, peppermint oil, cedar, lemongrass and geranium oil. Rave reviews all around on this one. NOTE: This repellent sprays on as a lotion and then is rubbed into the skin.
BITE METER: Not many bites at all. If you don’t mind rubbing on the lotion it works well.
- Buzzaway Extreme Contains a blend of wintergreen, citronella, cedarwood, peppermint and lemongrass oils. Has a strong scent, but not as strong as a bug repellent with DEET.
BITE METER: Few to no bites. Reapply often and it works well.
How do you keep the bugs away?
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Disclosure: There are a few Amazon Affiliate links in this post. If you happen to order bug repellent through those links it will put a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!
[Top photo used under Creative Commons from Andrew Magill/Flickr]
[Mosquito photo used under Creative Commons from Leszek Leszczynski/Flickr]