1000 Hours Outside Challenge

We love to be outdoors – we always did, but since we had Wyatt, we have increased the amount of time that we are outside. We learned that it is so good for your brain and vision and just your whole health and body and healing to be in nature, and we were determined to take every available route to aid him in his journey. Sometime last year I learned about the 1000 hours outside challenge, but it was too late for us to attempt to make the 1000 hours. So, this year we are trying. I don’t think we will get there – we have our own challenges that we have workarounds for. But, I am curious as to how much time we WILL spend outdoors. I think just by trying we will achieve more outdoor time than if we hadn’t attempted this challenge.

The 1000 Hours Outside Challenge was the brainchild of a couple, Josh and Ginny, from the state of Michigan, actually even my own part of the state. We love the outdoors here in Michigan! They had read that the average child spends 1200 hours a year on a screen, which is crazy when you think about it. They hope to balance some of that screen time with time outside, and aim for about twenty hours a week. Right now, we are nowhere near that, but we hope to increase our time as the weather improves.

So this January, we were off and running, and have done three different hikes, and a small little walk in the snow. Our time spent isn’t much added all up, but the time spent meant more than just the minutes themselves – we had all that time together, soaking up the fresh air, the snow, the birds and trees, and all the goodness that lives outside. And all that family time!

We hiked through a lonely, cold marsh, where we were the only humans. When we stood silently, we could hear the wind rattling the bones of these marsh grasses and trees, and the din of the waterbirds, which lined the rails of the decking and dotted the gray waters. We were surprised to see no real ice, it was all open water pretty much still – it’s been such a mild winter!

We took a quick snowy walk around our neighborhood, and then another short jaunt through another marshy area. The pond here was just starting to gain a skim of ice, but it was utterly silent there, except for the lapping of the water onto the shoreline. This is where I found my turtle shell!

Then this past weekend we visited yet another more marshy type spot, which was weirdly snowy, icy, and muddy. We tried to be more observant of the small things we could spot here, and I found some air-breathing freshwater snails, while Billy spotted some bits of green and icy swirls. There is something to be said for being the only people in a cold woods – everything feels different, the quiet is just so big!

So, while we have not racked up lots of actual time on the clock, we have had many family adventures already. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us! And, it looks like my son is ready for whatever it brings!

A Great Holiday and a Return to Routine

I had a wonderful time with my family the last few days! From the Saturday Solstice to Sunday at my dad’s for our holiday celebration, to Christmas Eve with my husband’s parents, to Christmas Day with my family, we had busy days packed with loved ones.

On Saturday we celebrated the return of the sun, and our love of nature by going on a nature hike at our favorite metropark. We have been having some unseasonably warm days these past few days, so the weather was actually beautiful. As we walked through the woods, looking for signs of winter, a flock of geese flew directly overhead, honking their hellos. Later we made sure we fed the birds and other wild things in our neighborhood a little feast, filling up our feeders to the brim and giving them some special treats as well. We finished up our evening with a beef stew over polenta and Nantucket cranberry pie, read a few picture books, and looked back on our year of hikes, some of the highlights, some of the things that we saw along the way. We also talked about our journey with the Kids Moon Club that we took last year, where we all learned a lot! We signed up as Lifetime Members and are looking forward to this new year.

Our three Christmas’ were fun as well! Wyatt had a blast with his grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and was a lucky little guy who received some thoughtful and fun gifts as well! Lots of dinosaurs and musical instruments and books and baking toys, and some exploration gifts from us too – including a bird call that I am currently listening to. Billy and I never exchange much with each other, we do “small” Christmas for each other and feel so happy to have received this beautiful bracelet and another John Lewis-Stempel book, about owls no less! He also bought me a warm wool hat, gloves, socks and a set of blank books. We had a wonderful few days, the best of all being all the family time.

Today we start to get back to our normal non-holiday life. Wyatt is getting all the time he wants to play and explore his new things, to just play and relax and have fun. We will have music on, a full coffee pot for me, and I will attempt to make some dent in putting our house to rights. But on some level, I enjoy doing this after a holiday, saying goodbye to some things, rearranging, making way for new. We will leave the tree up a while longer, but I really need to dig out our bedrooms which have taken a huge hit. They became a bit of a dumping ground in between holiday events!

I hope that you all are enjoying your holiday season!

A Slow and Cozy Fall Day

Saturday we hit the city; Sunday, we were back tromping in the woods. It was the most perfect fall day. Not too cold, not too warm. The leaves were a blanket over the ground, crunching under our feet, paving a yellow golden road for us. We didn’t hear many birds, just some geese flying overhead occasionally, and sometimes catching a glimpse of a woodpecker or two, with their distinctive red heads. Mostly we walked and talked and listened to the woods, keeping our eyes open for an owl tree, where an owl may by roosting. A few signs would be a tree that has been “whitewashed” and owl pellets at the base. Despite our best efforts though, we didn’t spot one. Billy and I are going on an owl prowl in a few weeks though, so hopefully we spot an owl that night!

I found the teeniest little baby acorn!! We may not have spotted any owl trees but we did spot lots of mushrooms, and stopped to make some nature art near the trail out of acorns and oak leaves. Billy also made a “clock” to signify the time we took to hike together that morning near the trail as well.

When we got home, we dug in and kept cozy, listening to music, having impromptu dance parties, and baking. Well, Billy and I at least. I made an apple pie while Billy tried his hand at a hand raised hot crust pork pie, inspired by the Great British Bake Off. We have a pie project for this month, and this was our first attempt. I have never made a completely from scratch pie, nor has he, and we didn’t do too bad for the first round. My dough was a little tough, which I guess can be too much water or over handling. Billy needed a little more flavor in his filling and he had made his crust a little too thick. So, we will see how we do next time! My recipe came from the Art of Pie, and the filling was delicious! I ended up using Granny Smith and Gala apples and it was very tasty together. And I apologize, I am the worst at food photography!! I thought Billy’s little dough piggy looked cute though.

I am so glad that we had such a fabulous fall day together, because the next morning we woke up to a whole new landscape…

We got 6.5 inches of snow!! Our little gnomes in our gnome garden are totally snowed in! And it is still here, sticking around.

But hey at least we had pie!

A Sunday of Foraging and Gathering

After a week of not feeling well, by the time Sunday rolled around I was feeling well enough to get out. And I wanted to. Needed to really. Cooped up for so long at home we all needed to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh clean air. Greenfield Village is closing for the season in two weeks, and we wanted to get a last trip in before they close. We have had so many fun day trips there this year that we wanted to take a last walk around. And I knew it was decorated for their Halloween event so it was bound to look pretty cool too!

The air was brisk and cool, the day was a bit overcast, but it all added to the moodiness of the moment, with the jack o’lanterns lining the streets as far the eye could see, the hay bales, the spooky scarecrows – we felt like we had entered some sort of creepy children of the corn type town this trip.

We meandered our way over to the gardens, which in the summer time is bursting with blooms and busy bees, little birds darting here and there, and elegant butterflies floating from flower to flower. A garden in fall can be just as beautiful, but I think they are in spite of the lack of life. The beauty is a stark one, a lone candle in the window, if you will. The colors shine so much brighter, mimicking the colors on the trees around. There is glory in the brightness of fall, the last flare before winter.

Billy is naturally an outgoing person, and he and Wyatt strolled around that red house while I poked about in the garden. He ran into a friendly gardener who gave him two seed heads, from a sedum and a blackberry iris. She told him that if saw anything in the garden that we liked that was either off the plant and on the ground, or had gone to seed, we could gather and save for our garden next year! I usually have my seed envelopes with me because I am a nerd so we spent some happy time gathering seeds from flowers that we will plant in the spring. Wyatt enjoyed playing among the rows like a little bunny, some of the flowers taller than him. He is such a sweet kid, smelling the flowers and enjoying time in a garden.

Needless to say we found some things. We harvested seed pods and black walnuts, just a few and left the rest for the squirrels, and nicked a few blooms that had been already been bent practically off by overzealous wildlife, or perhaps other people, or their purses and bags or strollers. We felt so lucky leaving with our bounty!

It was nearing lunchtime so we picked one last spot in the village to visit before heading home – Daggett Farmhouse, my favorite. It makes me think of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and it was so perfect to visit so close to Halloween.

If I could move into the village, this is the house I would pick. I love it so much. The colors, the simplicity, the squareness, the big garden, and the windmill next door. Lol. So very New England. It was built before America was America, this house, can you believe it? We poked around outside and headed inside where the reenactors were sitting down to a lunch of pies and cabbage. It looked delicious honestly. Wyatt really enjoyed the mention of pie – I am pretty sure he is going to dig our month or so of pie making. Or at least the eating of them.

We headed home to our lunch soon after, bowls of warm chicken lemon rice soup, which I think did much magic for our colds. It was a good day!

Harvest Full Moon

Tonight is the full harvest moon – and coincidentally, Friday the 13th!! OOoooooOOO…

The Harvest Moon is the moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox which is coming up on the 23rd. This time, the moon is also a micromoon, meaning it will appear smaller in the sky, the opposite of a supermoon. So much happening in our skies right now! We are spending this harvest moon with my brother and his family, having a fire in the yard and eating cheesy corn chowder and apple bread made from the apples growing on our tree. The moon won’t rise in our area until after midnight, so it probably won’t be Friday the 13th anymore technically, and I kind of am ok with that.

I have been reading Harvest Moon books to Wyatt this week, in preparation for this moon that signifies harvest season and family. And because I am always curious and forever reading more on things, I also looked up books on superstitions for my own reading. Mine haven’t come in at the library yet, so I won’t get to read them until maybe next week, but I am looking forward to flipping through them.

These were all great reads, but our favorite is Possum’s Harvest Moon. This little possum just wants his friends to get together and celebrate before winter arrives, and meets with a little resistance at first! Eventually, all the friends have a great time together, hanging out at the Harvest Moon. Kind of like we are going to do with my brother and his family – although we will see him after winter arrives too. I am guessing though, historically, that for people in the “old days”, that once the snow fell you might not see your neighbors until spring, so maybe people back then had celebrations of their own, before snows kept them isolated.

I have to admit, the superstition of Friday the 13th does get to me… my family is very superstitious, I blame our Irish and Scottish ancestry! As I mentioned above, I went digging for some books on superstitions, as my curiosity usually does lead me to do. These were the few I found that looked really interesting!

We actually had the Encyclopedia of Superstitions in the library I used to work at, and the kids checked it out like crazy. I had to order a new one for the library eventually, it became so worn out. So, I figured that had to go on my list! I am sure I won’t read these cover to cover, all of them, but you never know I guess! What the Moon Said is a kids chapter book that drew my interest as well, it looks really interesting. They had me at Little House though…

How about you guys? Any plans for tonight? Any suggestions for a harvest moon play list?

Saying goodbye to Summertime Snippets…

As summer is ending and falling into fall, school is back in session, and the easy breezy summer days are no more for this year. And that is ok, there is a season for everything. I can see the change of seasons in my photos, as summer images give way to autumn.

Late summer meant trips to the aquarium, summer music class, visits to Greenfield Village with grandparents. ..

Family nature hikes, surrounded by a canopy of green, the last of the water lilies dotting the water (they were gone the very next week!), Sandhill Cranes before they leave for warmer climates..even a woolly bear caterpillar spotted on a little leaf. Don’t worry though if you are not a fan of snow, this woolly bear says we are in for a mild winter!

Playing in the dirt everyday all day, ice cream on the lawn, ground cherries that we found growing in our back garden, and spontaneous hugs from my kiddo.. (those aren’t seasonal though!)

This week we are getting ready for the harvest moon! I feel we have officially reached fall!

A Wee Road Trip

On a whim, spur of the moment, fly by the seat of our pants type situation our family took a trip to the western side of Michigan over Mother’s Day weekend. My husband very nonchalantly said to me one day that he would like to see the tulips in Holland, MI , and I was like, well let’s go! We had originally planned to go to Mackinaw for that weekend, so he already had the time off – we just switched our destination at the last minute. And I was really glad that we did! I love northern Michigan but that weekend would have been absolutely freezing – we were cold in Sauguatuck and Holland, but nothing like it would have been in Mackinac.

It was not easy finding reservations at the last minute, especially ones that were not $400 a night. We ended up staying outside of Holland, for which I was grateful, as it was nice to visit the tulip festival and have a place to retreat that was less crazy, especially with our four year old in tow. The hotel we stayed at was one of a few that are out that way that I have always wanted to stay at – the Saugatuck Retro Resort, which is a restored and renovated motor lodge from 1966. The decor is mid-century modern, which I love, and it was super clean. I am one of those weirdos about rooms and cleanliness and this place passed my inspection. I have a love apparently lately for vintage style travel and the Saugatuck Retro Resort did not disappoint. I only wish we could have been there later in the season as the motel offered a communal fire pit and a great looking pool, as well as grills for guest use. Definitely a place to remember for the future.

We left early, stopping only for road provisions at Avalon Bakery in Detroit for croissants and cookies and headed out west, destination Windmill Island in Holland. I was there once as a very little girl but I didn’t remember it. It was insanely beautiful that day, with a super blue sky and a riot of tulips everywhere. I didn’t expect all the people there who came strictly to take photos in the tulip gardens, decked out in particular outfits to strike a pose, although I could see why they would! Some people were very respectful of the flowers, while others tromped all over them trying to get the perfect picture, which was sad. One woman was screeching at her kids and changing her lenses repeatedly trying to get her shot, all while squashing tulips beneath her Hunters -it was pretty sad. For the most part though, people were there to enjoy the scenery and take in the tulips. We walked around, visited the windmill, and poked around the tiny Dutch village replica, where I bought Wyatt a teeny pair of wooden clogs and a wooden duck call. (he loves ducks..)

The Visitors Center told me that there were 4 million tulips planted around the city, which was mind-blowing! That is a ton of tulips. But the results were majestic. They lined every street along the curb, and great fields were planted in open spaces. It was certainly a visual treat. Our motelier told us that it is the biggest tourist event in Michigan, which I was not aware of. I haven’t checked this fact, but I could believe it by the sheer number of people who were there. It is just a small time frame in the spring, during the peak of tulip season, but they definitely make the most of it. We took in the sights and then left the city for a little family time away from the biggest crowds.

We wound up in Saugatuck, which is where we were staying anyway. In search of coffee, we bumbled into a newish looking brewery that was a hop, skip, and jump from our motel, thanks to Google literally giving us the closest place that coffee could be found. The Guardian Brewery was new and bright and clean, and the coffee was delicious, probably because they use it to make a coffee porter. And of course, while we were there, we sampled their menu, both food and beer! I had the asparagus and wild rice salad, which was so good, Billy had a grilled ham and cheese, and since they did not have chicken tenders for my picky eater, he had chips and guacamole, that we of course helped him eat. Everything was absolutely delicious. It was a bit of an early bird dinner/late lunch, which put us at a weird schedule, so we went back to our room and let Wyatt decompress and be a kid for a bit, before hopping back in the car and tooling around town, looking about. We had a lovely evening, sitting outside the motel later, in the gloaming, as my dad would say. The motel was empty at the point except for us, so we had the place to ourselves, so we let Wyatt use his duck call. It was just nice to sit out there with our tea and each other’s company.

The next morning we stayed off the beaten path, and had breakfast at a local diner called Vicki’s, where Wyatt proceeded to eat two orders of bacon and a little bit of pancakes. After filling up on toast and scrambled eggs and bacon, we went to the DeGraaf Nature Center and spent a good few hours there, watching birds and hiking around. We are big nature center people, and they had a wonderful one. Wyatt enjoyed all the animals that lived there, especially the two screech owls who talked to us. He wasn’t so sure about the giant rabbit though lol. He is such a bird kid already! He can imitate bird calls almost perfectly, it kind of amazes me honestly. We saw 6 new birds to check off our list, and the pretty white trilliums that bloom in the woods in the spring. We also spotted fiddlehead ferns near a small stream as well! I love their spiral shape as they grow. They also had a small trail of rocks, as I called it, and I was tickled to see that there was a stone called a puddingstone! I am not sure why, but I really liked its name. It just made me smile.

Wyatt was so ready to go back to the room for a bit and get his wiggles out and watch some well-deserved Daniel Tiger, so we went back there for a bit. We spent the rest of the night shopping our way through Saugatuck’s downtown, where I could have probably bought a billion things, but I ended up buying only a book of poems written by a local poet and writer. For dinner we went to The Butler, a tradition for us. It is situated right on the water, and this time, it had special meaning for me. My aunt, who passed away in February, loved this restaurant and would drive all the way across the state to eat there, and then come home after. I think it was more for the experience of it, to just take a road trip, eat, and come home, but it was something she did. It was a moody evening, raining but very peaceful, and we raised a glass to her memory.

The next morning was mother’s day morning, and when we drove into town for breakfast we saw all the ladies dressed up, surrounded by their families, going to their breakfasts. We didn’t have reservations anywhere of course, so we found an awesome little bakery by the water where we literally got the best cup of coffee we had all weekend, and bagels. We had a water view and the place to ourselves and I couldn’t have asked for anything more but that perfect moment with my two guys.