My Almost Last Minute Outdoor Inspired Gift Idea Guide!

So I posted my kid oriented gift idea post the other day, and here is my outdoor inspired one for adults! These are all things I would buy my husband, have bought my husband, and/or want a version of for myself. I love everything on this list! Again, check shipping this close to Christmas before ordering.

Under $25

Field Notes National Parks Journals: So I am in love with blank books. And the National Parks. In fact you will see a lot of National Park stuff on this list, so I apologize in advance. Lol. These are so cool and you get a set of three of $12.95! (and the paper is from Michigan, my home state so bonus!)

National Park Beanie: Buying this hat helps support the National Parks, plus it looks super warm and utilitarian, something my husband loves in a hat.

Opinel Knife: Great little knife to have, according to my husband. I got him one last Christmas and he loves it. Good to work with, and feels good in your hand, according to him.

Duke Cannon Bourbon Beard Balm: My husband is a big fan of all things Duke Cannon – he has the soap, shampoo bar, and is probably getting this for Christmas….

Retro Classic Flashlight: Let me preface this by saying all the men in my family are fascinated by flashlights – my dad, my husband, my son. Not sure what that is about but whatever floats your boat! I love this one and it is a great price for a great looking flashlight.

Pendleton National Park Socks: I have been in love with this company forever and will one day own a blanket. But for now, socks for my husband work! (and for me, I am not opposed to stealing them and wearing them. Or buying some for me too)

Under $50

Printworks Night Puzzle: A puzzle worthy of your time – doesn’t this look challenging? I love it. Perfect for long dark winter nights and tea! (or something stronger)

Yeti Tumbler: This is such a great gift, and great for our environment too! We use ours everyday!

Smokey the Bear shirt: I love Smokey the Bear everything – so does my husband. A throwback to my youth, with such a great message. And, some of the proceeds from this shirt do go towards wildfire prevention education.

Zero Waste Shave Kit: So I posted beard balm above – this one is for our clean faced crew. We are trying to go as plastic free and zero waste as we can, slowly bit by bit, and I am loving this item for men who are sans the beard.

Glacier National Park Beanie: Ok, so I know I am repeating myself – two hats, two different journal sets. But I love them and they are different so…. here they are. These beanies are National Park themed by park, and there are 10 different choices, including a Smokey the Bear version!

Wilco Field Notes – A set of 6 instead of 3, and totally different in theme. I couldn’t decide which I liked better so I am listing them both!

Under $100

Oil Cloth Backpack: I like things that are going to last and take a beating – and this backpack looks like it can withstand whatever is thrown at it, including a spill from your morning coffee. Duluth also has a lifetime guarantee on all of their products as well, which is awesome!

Lagavulin Scotch: My husband’s favorite. And I don’t mind this one either! Our friend introduced us to scotch over a really good vanilla ice cream with some ground pepper on top as a dessert – and it may sound weird but it is delicious! You can get this bottle engraved too.

Pima Cotton Crew Sweater: Another Pendleton item! On sale right now but it is only for a short time! Still under $100 even when not on sale which seems like a deal!

National Park Foundation Travel Telescope: I am a stargazer. My husband is as well. And we are already teaching Wyatt about the night sky. I think this is a great idea for families to learn and explore our world more together!

Big Time Splurge:

Shinola Watch Runwell 47mm: I love that these are made in Detroit! I toured the factory and was so impressed with all of it. These are beautiful timepieces. Not super outdoorsy but beautiful.

So I realize that these items will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I wanted to throw some of our loves and ideas out there, even to just get the ball rolling if anyone was looking for ideas! Even if these are not the item you are looking for, you may find the perfect thing on one of these websites!

Happy Shopping!!

My Almost Last Minute Kid’s Gift Idea Guide!

I’m not really a shopper- unless of course I am in a book store. And sometimes a really great eclectic gift shop like my favorite store in my town that has so many crazy things to look at. But for the most part, I am not a shopper. So, when Christmas rolls around, I start making my lists and ordering online. This year we tried to put an emphasis on things that encouraged nature or creativity, as most of the kids I know are really into those types of things. And I fully support all of those! I thought I would share some of my favorite purchases and ideas from around the internet in case anyone out there still needs a few ideas. Just make sure to check shipping dates!

For the littler kiddos:

Blackbird Call || So, this might seem like a strange choice! But there is a story behind this one for us. We took a trip in the spring to a pretty touristy area of Michigan, and of course, did some touristy shopping. Wyatt found a wooden duck call in one of the shops and decided he had to have that. The store even burned his name into it, which was cool. But from there, a new collection was born. He loves playing with wooden whistles and flutes and instruments and bird calls. We got him the blackbird call, but Imagine Childhood also has an owl, cuckoo, robin, and mallard duck available, as well as just a wooden bird whistle.

Fat Brain Build It Blueprint Puzzles: Come in a few different designs! I thought these were so cool! I like the cabin or birdhouse for Wyatt but also available as a barn or dog house.

Lincoln Logs: A classic! And it is the 50th Anniversary too! Perfect for little fingers and builders.

A kite: I am posting the one I am buying for Wyatt, but there are so many out there to choose from. Our family goes to a kite festival every summer and it is so cool to see them up in the sky, hundreds of them sometimes. We plan to get in on the action this year. Check your area – there might be a kite festival near you!

Dress Up Wings and Cloaks: Magic Cabin has the coolest selection of dress up wings and cloaks. It’s hard to decide which one to get!

Instruments: Available for all ages, from maracas and castanets for smaller kids to big bongo drums for the older ones! We took Wyatt to this class in the summer and we had a blast. He loved playing with everything, and we have slowly been increasing his collection. He has flutes and whistles and is getting a drum and pan flute for Christmas!

Binoculars: I bought these for a few of the kiddos on my list. I think they are great fun, especially on hikes, and are the perfect size for little hands.

Unicorn Sidewalk Chalk: Because it is seriously cute!

I also got Wyatt a play tent! I am so excited to give it to him, as I think he will love it. His teacher told me that he loves the one in the classroom and will go in there and look at books. There are so many out there too, from just plain type canvas to fancy ones that look like mushroom houses or whatever.

For Older Kiddos:

Fox Needlepoint Kit: My cousin’s daughter has been showing an interest in so many crafty type things lately, from drawing to painting to needle pointing and crocheting. She is the inspiration behind this one! Imagine Childhood (a favorite online store of mine as you can tell!) also has an owl and a turtle.

Pirate Map Kit: What kid doesn’t enjoy the thrill of a pirate treasure map? Now they can hide their own treasures and make a map to it!

Bow and Arrows Set: Obviously this is with discretion. But really neat.

African Safari Sun Paper Art Kit: Science and art and learning oh my!

Door Pong: I love this! I am totally getting this for my nephew.

Fold – An Origami brainteaser: Every kid I have ever met has been fascinated by origami. And most adults too.

Trekking: The National Parks Board Game: I want this game for me! I think board games are so fun and a great way for families to interact with each other.

Snow Shoes: Do you live somewhere with snow? Snow shoes are such fun! Billy and I used to laugh so hard when we would go snow shoeing together. REI has toddler versions – I can’t wait until the day I can buy a pair of snow shoes for Wyatt!

Gifts of Experiences:

Don’t forget about memberships to places like zoos, science museums, kids museums, or even a National Parks Pass! These gifts are so fun and can last all year. Usually these places have events that run all year round, and sometimes members have early access or different perks. I also highly recommend the Kid’s Moon Club – we had such a good time with it this year as a whole family, although this is probably better if the child already has an interest in this sort of thing.

These are just a few of the things that I have bought or had on my lists as ideas this year. Of course you know your family best but if you needed an idea, I hope I planted a few helpful ones!

Texas Mini-Retreat

I’m back! I recently went on a mini-retreat weekend to Denton, TX as part of a CHASA moms retreat. CHASA stands for Childhood Hemiplagia and Stroke Association, and Wyatt is a right side hemi with CP – meaning he has cerebral palsy and his right side is affected. Our whole retreat was for moms with children just like Wyatt, to get away for some rest and to make connections and share stories with women who are in our situation. Who truly get our children, because they have children of their own whose challenges are the same challenges. All of our kids are different of course, different symptoms and severity and stories, but essentially, we can all speak the lingo and talk the talk and laugh and share the tears. Which we did.

This was my first weekend away from Wyatt since he has been born, and it took so much for me to get on that plane. It helped that my stepsister was going as well – she is also mother to boy with CP hemi. My guys left me at the airport and Wyatt was sobbing. It was heartwrenching but I did it. I want to raise Wyatt that despite being nervous and afraid, we do the things. And that starts with me. So I boarded the plane and headed off to Dallas!

Our hotel, The Embassy Suites in Denton, was insanely awesome. It was huge (Katherine and I kept telling each other that everything is bigger in Texas!), with beautiful pools, a green lawn, a giant wall of plants – it was also practically brand new. They also practice green housekeeping and are very environmentally friendly – paper straws! (I was also happy to read that Delta offset our carbon footprint by donating to the nature conservancy for our flight!)

My pasty white self was a little intimidated by that Texas is hot sticker! Lol. I survived though. Our room was super cute and perfect for the two of us. Katherine is a night owl and I am an early bird, so it gave us somewhere to hang while the other was sleeping if we didn’t want to be out of the room.

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Plus, there was a complimentary happy hour from 5:30-7:30 every night…

We got there on Thursday and had a meet and greet with the other moms late that afternoon, followed by dinner wherever we wanted. They had sign up sheets for different restaurants and we opted to stay in and eat at the hotel restaurant with a group of women that night. It was a nice way to start the trip and relax after a big day of travelling.

Friday morning we had a workshop on cultivating creativity, pleasure and play delivered by the wonderful Keri Riggs. I greatly enjoyed her talk about self-care and the importance of it, and learned a great deal. I brought home a lot of self-awareness about what I need, how to get it, and also how to help Billy take care of himself too. Can’t forget my guy needs it too! Plus, I got a new journal (love!) Our workshop was followed by a luncheon where we chatted with the ladies at our table. It was a nice morning.

The rest of the day was ours to play with. Keri had told us to really think about how we recharge – and as an introvert I recharge by lots of alone time. Katherine is an introvert as well, and we split up for the afternoon. She basked in the sun by the pool while I read and wrote in the room. It was lovely. Later we met back up for happy hour at the hotel bar, went to dinner, and on a ghost tour of Denton! I love a ghost tour. I’ve been on them in Gettysburg, New Orleans, Savannah,  and Key West, and Katherine was awesome enough to join me on one in Texas. It was the perfect night! Texas was having a “cold front” while we were there and I was very grateful. There was a breeze stirring about Denton Square, it was a cooler evening, live music was playing, the trees all had little lights, and all over people were enjoying the night, sprawled across the courthouse lawn enjoying the weather and community.  Shelley Tucker did a great job on her ghost tour- I learned so much Denton history – and to be wary of ghosts around the town!

We went home and crashed out! Well, I did at least. Lol. The next morning I got up early and had breakfast at the enormous breakfast buffet, which was delicious, and then Katherine and I met back up to go shopping!  We headed back to Denton Square, where it was much hotter than the night before! We sat in the shade of the courthouse, listening to a little folk band play, just talking and sharing, before hitting the shops! I picked up souvenirs for the guys, and I had promised my mom and dad both that I would buy something for myself…so I did. And I absolutely love it! It is the perfect memento for my trip, and for my office.

I love it love it love it! I can’t wait to hang it up!

We did a little more shopping, had lunch at this great place called the Lion and Crown, and ended our morning with Katherine getting her own perfect memento, a tattoo to represent where she is in her life.

We didn’t leave the square though until we went to the place I had been wanting to go for months – Gnome Cone! There are two locations in Texas, and one had just opened in Denton! I was so excited!! Lol. I opted for the Troll’s Blood flavor – it must be a little known fact that it tastes like pina colada…

We went back to the hotel after, and met up with the group for happy hour and dinner at an amazing Italian restaurant, Luigis. It was a very special night out, with lots of sharing and laughing. I made some new friends, new connections, and learned a lot on my trip, and even got some rest and relaxation in there! The bonus was getting to know my stepsister a whole lot better – I really loved that.

And of course, gnome cone.

My Grandma’s Coconut Tarts

Note: This is a repost from two years ago – it was originally published on my old blog, Quixotic Magpie. But as I recently made Empire Biscuits with my mom and sister-in-law, I thought I would give these tarts some love.

My family is divided into two camps: The Coconut Tart people, and the Empire Biscuit people. Don’t get me wrong, we will gladly eat either/or, but..we have a preference for one or the other. I love a good Empire Biscuit, but Coconut Tarts are my weakness. My grandma made them every Christmas and it was the dessert I looked forward to the most.

My grandmother is gone now, but my Uncle Art has taken up the mantle, and baked the tarts for the holidays. Yesterday I spent some much needed time in the kitchen, learning how to bake these tarts. I have decided to share my love for these with all of you! Just note – I am not a baker, nor am I a food blogger. Lol. My tarts look a little more rustic than professional – I have not managed pretty food yet, just yummy tasting! Because these turned out awesome in flavor, if I do say so myself.

Surprisingly, these are not a health food! 🙂 They are fattening and delicious!

Ingredients for the gooey coconut filling:

3/4 cup sugar
1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 lb. butter melted
1 egg
3/4 cup coconut, firmly packed

For the pastry :
2 c. flour
2/3 c. butter flavored Crisco + 4 additional TB (my mom uses cold butter but I don’t know how much)
a pinch of salt
2/3 c. water

Preheat the oven to 425.

We made the filling first, but I don’t think it matters which you start with. It was easy! Basically, just combine all the above ingredients in a bowl, and whisk until everything is mixed really well. You want to make sure you really incorporate the sugar, it has a tendency to want to sit on the bottom.

Next we made the pastry- this was a little bit more complex but not too terribly difficult. I just really hate getting my hands dirty. Bleh. You start by adding all the ingredients together in a medium to large size bowl- we used a vintage Pyrex one which I am sure was not bought vintage like mine were. Then I cut it in the Crisco using a pastry cutter. Once this was all cut in well, my uncle showed me the next technique, of making the dough all crumbly. I am not sure of the technical terms, but we called it making it crumbly.

This technique involved running it between his hands, using the friction to combine it and make it all crumbled into little balls. Once the mixture was all crumbly, we could easily roll it all together into a ball.

Ta-da!

Once we had this nice round ball of dough, we split it into two balls. Next, we placed one of the halves onto a floured piece of wax paper to roll out. We also put another piece of wax paper over the top of the dough, so it was sandwiched between two floured sheets of wax paper. Then I commenced rolling. You want it nice and thin, but not too thin. Maybe 1/4 inch thick. 

 We had some little helping hands too. My cousin’s three year old daughter assisted me.
Once it is rolled out, you can cut circles to place into the muffin tray. I would say the one my uncle used was about 4″ across. He said this was not perfect but it worked for him. So maybe the size of a wide mouth water glass. 

Once you roll out all the dough and have cut the circles, you can start slowly placing them into the muffin tin. This part is the slowest, most laborious part in my opinion. 

Mine were a bit messy but looked like this when I was done. A bit of a trick – instead of using your fingers to press the dough down into the tins and onto the sides, once you have it set in loosely, you can use a small lump of dough as a little press instead of your fingers. 
Once you have everything ready to go, you are ready to fill! Give that filling a good whisking again to stir up any sugar that may have settled while you did all this stuff with the dough. When finished, add about 2 TB filling to each tart. This is entirely up to you, how much is added. I just wouldn’t suggest all the way to the top, because then they will overflow during cooking. Pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes (12-17, but we did 15) until the dough is a nice golden brown, and the filling has a nice golden color as well. My uncle then covers his with a dish towel for a few minutes to trap the heat a little longer without baking. 

Once they cool, enjoy! Perfect with a milky, sugary cup of tea. Yum!

And that is all there is to it! I hope I did an ok job explaining this – I didn’t realize how difficult it was to write down a recipe that is mostly conveyed by look and feel in our family. If you try to make them, let me know how it goes!

Our Must Watch Holiday Favorites

I think most of us will admit that watching a good holiday movie is one of the little indulgences in a season that can be chaotic as well, with all the running and shopping and wrapping and all the bits and bobs that we do in December. But curling up with a favorite feel-good movie with loved ones is an easy way to just let it all go for a while, and get sucked into some magical world where all ends well and brings a smile to your face. 

When we kick back with our hot chocolate or wine, depending on the day and mood, these are some of the movies we must watch every December. Some are traditions that began when we were just little, some have been added in over the years. Maybe some of them are on your list too!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Our whole family can pretty much recite this movie word for word. It’s a comedic look at the holiday but also has its poignant moments too. I remember watching this with my dad one year when I was in high school, and he was laughing so hard at the “Squirrel!” scene he was silent laughing with tears rolling down his face, rolling on the floor. Like really ROFL! 

Love Actually: Ok, this is not just my favorite Christmas movie, it is my all time favorite movie. I can watch it anytime. It never fails to make me shed some tears, and I just really, actually, love it. (Quick – whose story is your favorite? It’s such a tough call, but personally, I love Hugh Grant’s)

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Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas: I adore this movie. We just watched it with Wyatt the other night for the first time, and he did too. I was so happy that he liked it! 

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Another family favorite. I am a huge Muppet fan, have been since I was a little girl, and I love this version of a Christmas Carol. And Michael Caine is as always amazing. I am looking forward to watching this one with Wyatt too this year.

White Christmas: Oh, how I love this movie. I used to watch it every year with my mom and brother, and now Billy and I and Wyatt watch it. Wyatt actually loves musicals, he is a musical kid. And Bing’s voice – Christmas isn’t Christmas until you hear a carol crooned by him. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas: An oldie but goodie. 

A Claymation Christmas and A Garfield Christmas: I’m putting these on here together because we watch them together on the same night, back to back. Much to my husband’s chagrin, Wyatt also likes these movies. Lol. Billy is not a fan, especially of Claymation Christmas. It’s just such a part of my youth, watching these while drinking wassail with my brother and stepsisters, that I keep the tradition alive. And now Wyatt enjoys them, so a whole new tradition has begun!

So, there you have it! Our must watch Christmas movies. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch other ones – I watched Chrismas Prince on Netflix last year at least every other day for a while. And now, I am gearing up to watch the Wedding! (The Royal Wedding! Lol) I randomly watched The Christmas Bunny last year and loved it, although my heart broke a little bit a few times. And Carol Brady is in it! Well, not as Carol Brady, but as a curmudgeonly rabbit rescuer! I loved it and of course wanted a rabbit after watching. We didn’t get one, but I still wanted one. And one year I watched a movie called The March Sisters and loved that one too – and I have been looking for it to watch it again ever since. 

What about you? Any movies you must watch? 

Wolfenoote!

Happy Howly Wolfenoote!

Wolfenoote is a holiday that was imagined by a little boy across the world from me. A holiday he created to honor wolves and also people kind to dogs. It is a simple holiday really – eat roast meat, enjoy a cake made to look like a moon, and if you are a dog lover or kind to dogs, you can hide gifts in your house for loved ones to find. Our family thought this was a fabulous way to spend the day after Thanksgiving, and had a great time making this new holiday a new family tradition! 

We began our celebrations at the Detroit Zoo, where we went to visit the two wolves that live there, Wazi and Kaska. We took our time warming up in the log cabin that houses a photograph gallery that is meant to dispel myths of the danger of wolves and to educate people about this beautiful animal. We usually breeze through, but today really took our time looking around at the exhibit, as well as at Wazi and Kaska. They are both stunning, but Wazi is gorgeous with her white coat. The top photo I took of her in the summer, today they were both taking a nap near the front of the acreage, as the zoo has dedicated two acres to their habitat. 

Afterwards, my husband ate “roast meat” (an Arby’s roast beef sandwich lol) alone, as I am a vegetarian and Wyatt doesn’t like it, but the spirit was there for all of us. And later we opted to decorate sugar cookies with white frosting to make our moons, as cake was just a little too much today after the eating excesses of yesterday.

We also decided in lieu of gifts for ourselves, that we would “adopt” a wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. They dedicate themselves to educating people about wolves, “their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting their future.” They are home to three packs of wolves – their Ambassador wolves, Mexican Gray Wolves, and Red Wolves. There are only 114 Mexican Gray wolves left in the wild, and zero Red Wolves. Yep, zero. They were declared extinct in the wild in 1980, and efforts have been made to get these wolves onto a road of recovery. 20 wolves reside at the Conservation Center. The story is a sad but interesting one, if you want to read about it on their site. 

My son is currently choosing between “adopting” Zephyr or Trumpet – although all are adorable and equally deserving. Once the decision has been made, I will have to update! Here they are if you want to read about them. **Update- Wyatt chose Zephyr, and gave his photo a kiss even. Lol.

Zephyr
I think this guy is a handsome one!

We had a great time with this holiday, and it was kind of fun to do something so different. And I really loved that this came from the mind of a 7 year old boy. 

Happy Wolfenoote! 

Easy-Peasy DIY Valentines Day Banner

February in Michigan can be tough. Gray, sunless, gray, cold. Did I mention gray? Michigan only had two days of sunshine in the past thirty days. So this year, I decided I was going to try to embrace February to make it a cheerier month in our household. I usually don’t decorate for Valentines Day – typically I am not organized enough, and it has come and gone before I can do so! But this year, with the help of my amazing husband, we have managed to decorate in a very bijou and petite way. And that is a good start, I think! 
I have tons of ideas, I am always thinking of different projects. Unfortunately, my creative flow kind of ends there. I am all thumbs when it comes to crafting, I can’t draw, etc. Luckily, Billy can make anything. Today, he lent a hand in making a sweet little Valentines Day banner for our dining room. And I love it! 
The materials were simple, and cheap. A romance novel we rescued from the recycle bin at the library, that was already falling apart, and which my husband meticulously removed the pages from, sticker paper, twine, and a printer. Ordinarily I would not support this destruction of reading material, but honestly, this book was already falling apart. Billy then cut the pages into the little banner shapes, and folded over a teeny bit of the top of the page, so that he could run a line of twine through it to hang them. He just used some tape afterward to hold it all down.  He had also printed out stickers spelling out Hugs and Kisses, using a free font that he found online, which he then just stuck onto the pages. I would link to the website of the font if he could remember where he got it from! As soon as I find out, I will add a link. 
Once this part was all put together, he strung them and hung it. 
Voila!
I think it turned out pretty cute!

Due to the absence of light in our state, it was really hard to take a photo! Sorry for the poor photo quality there. 
I have a few more Valentines Day surprises in the works, and I am excited to keep working on them!
How are you celebrating this month? Anything planned?