The Wild Hunt

A week ago I had an idea that very quickly snowballed and took shape – a Wild Hunt. I wanted something similar to geocaching, but for my fellow outdoor loving, hiking friends and family. When I mentioned it to Billy, we just started coming up with ideas left and right and started working on it immediately.

We quickly printed out this invite for the two family teams we were inviting, respectively named Team Veggiesaurus Rex and Team Unicorn Sparkles. We were Team Corvid, because Wyatt really enjoyed our ravens unit the other day and even picked a raven/crow costume for Halloween. We distributed them on a Wednesday, and gave them the basics: On the following Saturday we would text them a set of coordinates at noon, and the race would be on. There were three locations, and teams needed to put the clues back in place after finding them so that the other team could continue to play.

We really leaned into our team name too – Billy carved out a rough feather from a chunk of wood to use as a stamp for our clues, and it turned out really cool.

Early Saturday morning Wyatt, Billy, and I headed out to hide the clues. We had to start in reverse order in order to get the coordinates to put on each note, so we started with the spot we were going to hide the treasure. It was a very cold morning, especially near the water where we ended up. It wasn’t our first choice of a spot either actually – we got to the area where we planned to hide it and saw that one of the participating family’s car was there too – meaning they were somewhere in the woods! We had to change it up at the last minute and try to do it fast so that they didn’t see us; it added an extra sense of adventure and urgency!

It’s hiding spot was the stump – it turned out better than our original plan. After hiding it well, we scurried back to the car and headed to location #2! Wyatt was feeling a little tired and we were running short on time so Billy ran it out to the spot on the trail while Wyatt and I waited in the car.

Then it was on to spot one, the starting point, and this time all three of us trekked out to the spot together.

Then all we had to do was send out the group text with the reminder to leave the clues and to text me only when they found them. And they were off! They both found the first clue, no problems. But the second clue gave them a bit of a challenge – and they ended up looking for it together before Billy needed to call with a hint..

From there the teams headed off to the final spot, and the treasure! I love that they actually found it at the same time. I had a surprise for the kids – two treasures, one for each team, as I did not want any disappointed little treasure hunters!

The treasure itself was pretty simple but enough for little girls – some tiny little animals, and an assortment of polished crystals and such, like jade and moonstone. The teams decided who was going to do the next round, and we are all looking forward to it! We had a blast setting it up, and our friends had a great time doing it. Apparently the kids were so excited, which made me so happy as that was my goal all along.

And onward to the next Wild Hunt!

Weekend Vibes..

We had a fantastic long weekend together – it was a nice combo of lazy and active. Lots of reading, sitting around, playing games, but also exploring – and even some socially distanced social time!

On Saturday a few friends and I got together for some 6-8 feet away drinks and conversation. I put on a dress, my new necklace, slipped on sandals and off I went. We even all brought our own beverages and glasses so that we didn’t touch things others had touched – and so Kelly didn’t have to wash a glass. It was so nice to just see their faces – and I was so relaxed, watching the birds. And this was the very first time I had been away from Wyatt since March 12. I probably could have curled up on the outdoor couch and taken a nap, I became so comfy. I have taken to naming my friend’s homes lately (I blame all that British tv), and I have decided Kelly’s house should be called Refuge.

Then Sunday and Monday we spent pond dipping, as part of our homeschooling for the week! This week is all about ponds and frogs so we were hoping to catch some minibeasts in our catch and release beach aquarium. We only managed to find an aquatic snail in the water, but we did spot a Northern Water Snake, two turtles, a Great Blue Heron, a ton of Red-Winged Blackbirds, heard a bullfrog, and a little American toad! We brought the toad home as our guest for a few weeks, then we will let her go. Wyatt has named her Uh-Oh. the funny part is my brother found a toad yesterday and brought it in as a pet for my niece (who named hers Cupcake). But it all started with Kelly who found one last week and brought it in to avoid the cold snap. Her toad is a beast! They named her Theodora.

Later Monday evening my brother invited us, my mom, and my sister-in-law’s mother over for a socially distanced bonfire. It was so very nice to be near my family again, even though I itched to hug them all! Again, we all brought our own drinks and cups. What a strange new world we live in. Regardless, it was so fantastic to see their faces and talk to them, and not through a screen! Wyatt was so happy too, and just kept pointing to everyone and saying “Wow”. It was his first time seeing his family in months, and even though we were apart, it was wonderful to be sitting and talking together.

It was nice to be back exploring and seeing people again, no matter how we had to do it.

A Day of New Life!

Yesterday was a big day around here! We had 6 of our 9 butterflies emerge from their chrysalis – and they couldn’t have had better timing.

It is butterfly week here this week, and Wyatt and I had just settled in to do some work after reading the book Butterfly Birthday. Butterfly Birthday celebrates the beginning of spring and also the birthday of all the butterflies that eclose in the book during the party. So, we read our book, got situated on Wyatt’s lesson, and I glanced down to see a butterfly! Our first butterfly made its appearance minutes after reading our book. Lol. We had to take a break to celebrate – with cake!

We just happened to have some left from Mother’s Day – strawberry with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Yum!

It’s so cool to us that you can see them as fully formed butterflies within the chrysalis before they emerge. Nature is so amazing! This was the first one born – the one in the chrysalis was the third.

It was a day for new life all around – my seeds are starting to sprout, also something to be excited about! I am most excited about my pumpkins today – I have always wanted to grow our own mini-pumpkin patch. I hope they make it!

My little sprouts! Pumpkins, watermelon, squash, lettuce, and basil all have made their appearances. Outside, the radishes are doing well! We are still waiting on some but this is a great start!

Spring was certainly making itself felt around here yesterday, and with it, a happy hopeful feeling as well.

Little Wanderings

It’s been some time since our family wandered around outside. We have been taking neighborhood walks but we haven’t been out in the world in two months. Our favorite places are sort of crowded these days with everyone else attempting to get out of the house too, so we have been avoiding our usual stomping grounds. Then this weekend, we remembered a few places that we thought might be less busy – and our hunches paid off!

So Sunday after a bellyful of chocolate chip pancakes and a virtual chat over tea with my mom, we pulled on our boots and headed out in search of whatever adventures we could find. Our first stop was a centennial farm and nursery. It was too cold for them to have many flowers out so we made plans to go back in warmer weather (hopefully this upcoming weekend!) and wandered about their beautiful grounds. We spotted fiddlehead ferns, a favorite of mine, so many birds including a cardinal that followed us around, and beautiful trees and plants. It was a brisk morning, cool and overcast and it even rained on us a few times, but that was ok. We don’t mind a little rain.

We also used the opportunity to practice mask wearing with Wyatt. We figured it was good to practice somewhere it wasn’t crowded or imperative to wear one for safety reasons – and where better but in the outdoors. We did encounter employees and the people that lived there, but we maintained social distancing and had masks on, so it was sort of a dress rehearsal for the weeks ahead. Wyatt did ok…. his face is so small though that it easily slips down off of his nose, so we need a plan for that. He likes to fiddle with it too, pulling it down – or up too high! He will get the hang of of it.

The grounds were beautiful but not big enough to satisfy our urge to be outside – so we decided to try a place nearby that we got to sometimes. We spent the short drive there crossing our fingers that it was not overcrowded and we were in luck! We had the place almost to ourselves, and there was more than enough trail for everyone.

It was so wonderful, and it was so good for me, for all of us, to be back outside again, and in nature. It is such a part of our family that we were really missing it. We headed home feeling refreshed, like someone had opened the windows to our souls and aired them out. Now that we know we can do this, we will be venturing out again, hopefully soon!

Some of my favorite vacations..National Parks Week

I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite trips since we have been in lockdown, and so many of them have been our trips to National Parks. We have not yet had the opportunity to take Wyatt, but I am hoping that maybe next year we will be able to start visiting with him, although I am not sure which to start at. An old favorite? One that is new to both Billy and I? We will see!

For now, I can look back with smiles on the memories I have made visiting the parks before he was with us and it was just Billy and I off adventuring, many times with my brother Devin and his wife Chrissy, before my niece was born as well.

I think my favorite of all that I have been to (which is not very many sadly!) is Shenandoah. To me there is just something so beautiful about the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Shenandoah in particular was so peaceful and lovely. We have stayed there more than once, and we always stayed in Big Meadows Lodge. Big Meadows Lodge was built by the CCC and is rustic and sturdy, with its stone and log walls. We stayed in a room that did not have television or phones, and I loved the quiet of it. The deer are so plentiful and numerous there that they are as common as the squirrels here, just frittering about in front of your room or on the trails. And so are other animals, including bears! We never saw one on the trail, but I am sure they knew we were there… we did see a mom and her cubs from our room though, all the way across a field. I was a bit nervous being from an area that does not have bears! But the best part was the horse back riding on the trail – I have always loved horses and never had the opportunity to ride them until Shenandoah and it was such a great experience. One of my favorite lifetime memories was here at this National Park too – and my brother told me the other day it was one of his as well. There is a little pub bar in the lodge where you can go and get drinks and snacks, and at night they have a sing-a-long. We all sat there drinking our wine and beer, singing along to songs like Country Roads by John Denver and then when we headed back to the room we stepped outside and saw the bright stars just blanketing the dark skies overhead, the mountains stretched out in front of us, the cool air and felt so alive and happy and in the moment. Just perfection, one of those moments you never forget.

Our trip to Sequoia was equally memorable – it was my first (and only so far) time in California and wow, so beautiful!! We stayed on Coronado Island to start, at the Hotel Del Coronado then ventured north to Sequoia, which was like something out of a movie set. If I ever move to California, that is where I want to go. I am a forests and lakes and mountains kinda girl, and I am not one for beaches, although they have their own beauty and charm. It is impossible to walk in the shade of the giant Sequoias and not feel in awe of nature’s wonder. We stayed in the lodge here too, because I am not a tent camper. I like bathrooms that are in my room and a bed and walls. Especially in bear country! Plus there is something to be said for hiking all day then going back to your room at night, at least in my opinion. The best of both worlds!

Unfortunately, my photos from our other trips have been lost when my old computer died. Our trips to Gettysburg (a place I have visited at least five times!), and to Mammoth Cave National Park, so different but both so amazing to visit. Then there is our trips to Chincoteague National Seashore when I was a kid, one of my favorite places ever and is on the top of my list to take Wyatt when we can travel safely again, and of course Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore! I do have photos from that trip though! And of course, I saw that pancakes picture and had to include it since I have a pancake problem… lol.

I have some parks that are on top of my list to visit one day! Acadia is definitely one, and of course the big ones like Yellowstone and Yosemite. Smoky Mountain too, because I can’t believe I have never been there, with my love of the mountains. Billy can’t wait to head west, although I’m not sure how I will feel about the desert but Carlsbad Caverns looks pretty cool. And of course we both want to go to Isle Royale in our own home state!

Have you been? What is your favorite?

National Parks Week!

Our family loves to hike and be outside, and before we had Wyatt, Billy and I had made plans to visit as many National Parks as we could. Notice the key word there, plans. We have visited a couple so far, but we were waiting until well, this year, to start visiting again, a plan that might be on hold for a little bit.

While we can’t visit this year, there are ways we can “visit” virtually if you need an escape for a bit. I love Instagram and always find different events and information through following different accounts, which is how I found out that Yosemite was hosting a virtual campfire program Saturday night. We set up Wyatt’s tent in the living room, lit a virtual fire on my laptop, gathered blankets and pillows and snacks, and tuned in. My brother and his family did the same, and we video chatted each other before the event. It was the closest we could get to hanging out right now, but it was nice to see my little niece having such a fun time doing the same thing we were.

It’s not the same as visiting in person, but there are ways to visit virtually! I am adding some here, and I might add to this list as the week goes along, so keep checking back!

The complete list of National Park Week events from the NPS. If you scroll down there is a list of all these different parks and if you click on a park listed, it takes you to their pages of events! So many to choose from and look through! https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/national-park-week.htm#CP_JUMP_6139956

Take a virtual visit to a park! https://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/take-virtual-visit-national-park

The NPS has a checklist of a great ways to celebrate the National Parks virutally https://www.nps.gov/articles/national-park-week-inspired-20-virtual-ideas.htm

Or if you have kids, here is a complete list of how to earn Junior Ranger Badges at home from the blog Craft Knife http://craftknife.blogspot.com/2018/06/heres-every-national-park-junior-ranger.html

A few free coloring sheets from The Landmark Project.. https://thelandmarkproject.com/blogs/news/nps-coloring-pages

Billy and I spent some time coloring on Saturday…

Follow Parks Project on Instagram for a different challenge everyday, like trivia, playlists, and challenges!

And of course, there are always books! We may not be able to go to the library in person, but these books are available digitally or if not, for purchase. These are a few that I have read, but there are obviously tons out there – I even picked up a few more to read while grabbing these cover images! This list is a mixed bag of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books but I have enjoyed them all!

Later this week I will be sharing some of our previous adventures at National Parks. What is your favorite park?

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!