February 29, 2016 by admin
No need to sit inside all year. There’s always a way to get outside and explore.
We are blessed to have a good county park system in our area. This makes it so much easier to get out and explore all year around.
Our latest adventure took us to Indian Lake County Park, about a twenty minute drive from our house.
A walk through the winter woods is a great adventure. Making sure we wore proper clothes, we were comfortable during our long walk. We were able to explore to our hearts content before turning back and heading for the car.
Along the way we found animal tracks, a warming cabin which inspired a long talk about planning a camping trip, cool leaves that had melted into the ice, and this funky fungus! Much better than staying inside.
We used the “I’ll follow you.” method of exploring the park to give Bluey the maximum amount of control over exploring this park. He chose the paths, he made changes in our explore- he was in charge. And when he was ready to back, we returned to the car.
With no pre-selected path, we explored the many cross-country skiing paths, and meandered through the woods. It was a great morning of exploring, creating another great memory, and another place where Bluey says: “Let’s go back there soon.”
Category Get Outside! | Tags: kids,Nature,Outdoors,Winter,Wisconsin | No Comments
January 26, 2016 by admin
One reason to love homeschooling is we get to have a whole new definition of ‘snowday’ ‘holliday’ and ‘vacation.’ Our recent snow means P.E. happens on the hill! We guarantee that our Bluey gets more moving around time in his day than his public schooled peers.
Category Get Outside! | Tags: homeschool,kids,Learning,Outdoors,unplugged,Winter,Wisconsin | No Comments
September 7, 2015 by admin
Horicon National Wildlife Refuge is a place of wonder. Located just about 1 hour from Madison, it is a super easy day trip for a hike or a bike ride upon your arrival.
We had decided to bike and made our first vehicle stop at the Federal Visitor Center on Headquarters Road for some suggestions on the best path for our family. We were pleased to discover a nice nature display, an observation deck, a small gift shop, and clean bathrooms within the Center.
The Center’s guide suggested that we try a bike path that runs along side an auto tour road. This path included access to a network of floating pathways which led out into the wetlands and a central observation spot. We have the most luck on our hikes and biking when our travels include water, so we knew this was probably a great trail to explore.
Tip1: Be careful to examine your maps closely. In our haste to begin, we ended up on a path that shared the way with vehicles. The majority of drivers were using extreme caution, but a few zipped down the path with seemingly no care about the blind corners, hikers, and bicyclists.
We were happy that the bike trail had only a few rises that Bluey easily managed. We had to leave our bikes to explore the floating pathways.
Tip2: There are no bike racks at the head of walking-only pathways. Be prepared to take valuables with you and to leave your bike propped off the main road.
The surroundings were breathtaking. We’ve done a lot of biking and hiking in the areas in and around Madison. But we were impressed with the beauty of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. And we had more wildlife encounters than we’ve ever experienced in our prior outings. If you aren’t familiar with many species of water birds, you may want to tuck a pocket guide in your gear. You will have a chance to see many rare birds in a wildlife setting such as this.
Tip3: It appears that dogs are allowed on many trails but we’d suggest you leave them at home if you are interested in experiencing wildlife.
Even though we spotted a school bus, vehicles, and others out and about on the trails- we managed to enjoy the majority of the area we chose on our own, without fighting crowds. Parking wasn’t an issue and access is free.
We can’t wait to go back in the Fall and perhaps witness some migratory bird viewing!
Category Jaunts | Tags: Animals,Birds,kids,Nature,Outdoors,Science,Traveling with kids,Wildlife,Wisconsin | No Comments
August 2, 2015 by admin
This TRFamily loves a cozy fire crackling in a fireplace on just about any evening of the year.
It has been too long since we’ve had a house with a fireplace or property well suited for a fire-pit. But the wait has finally ended!
After some quick research on reviews and a few days of best-price hunting, we picked up a very affordable fire-pit from our local chain, Farm&Fleet.
It required some simple assembly that took about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.
Tip1: Be careful of the size of the bowl you are considering when researching what might work best for you. Your bargain find may have a very small burning surface which doesn’t work out well. We went with a 30 inch fire bowl and couldn’t be happier!
We are fortunate to have a cement slab “deck” area in our backyard that is perfect for safely positioning a fire-pit. Make sure you consider the placement of your pit carefully and have access to the usual fire safety tools.
TRDad spent a good amount of time discussing proper fire building with our young Bluey. TRDad also made sure that Bluey understood that you must respect your fire and use great caution while stoking or minding it. They gathered up kindling and before long, our first fire was burning bright.
Tip2: Keep the makings for S’mores tucked away in your pantry. The ingredients are super cheap and the enjoyment is guaranteed. You can even find vegetarian marshmallows at most specialty stores and coops.
A fire-pit is a great addition to a backyard. But it does require a full commitment to safety. Your home, neighbors, pets, and children are very susceptible to injury from an unattended fire. But with the properattention and tools, you’ll enjoy it for years to come!!
Category Get Outside! | Tags: Home Life,Outdoors,simple solutions,togetherness,unplugged | No Comments
July 21, 2015 by admin
Our new, sun-filled yard has allowed us to rediscover the joys of sun tea- and pass this pleasure on to our kiddos.
Spending most of the day flooded in sunshine, our backyard is the perfect place for making sun tea! You can make sun tea in any large glass jar- a throughly washed pickle or olive jar can work quite well. But we picked up a sun tea jar at our favorite grocery for a few bucks – and it includes a dispenser tap at the bottom. This way even our youngest can pour himself a glass of tea without difficulty.
The recipe is simple: fill you jar with cold water and add a few bags of tea. We use five with our approximately half-gallon jar. Use more if you like a stronger tea. You may find different tea flavors require different strengths to turn out the way you like. Let the tea sit in a bright part of your yard for most of the day- the longer it sits there the stronger it gets.
Tip: If it gets too strong, you can water it down with water or ice cubes when you drink it.
We keep our tea in the fridge and it cools down quickly to just the right temperature. Add ice as desired.
Our youngest loves watching the tea darken during the day, and particularly enjoys sampling the fruit flavored teas. Try it out and find your favorite flavor!
Category Recipes | Tags: good eats,Home Life,homemade,Outdoors,simple solutions | No Comments
June 28, 2015 by admin
We had been discussing the purchase of a grill now that we had our own property and yard. And with careful planning, we had some money stashed away for these types of bonus purchases.
Our STOK drumgrill is a welcome addition to our new home!
We stumbled upon this orange beauty on a recent trip to our favorite box store. A quick google search proved their price (with 5% off and Redcard member discount) was not to be beat. We eagerly purchased it.
We so infrequently grilled out in the past, that we were a little apprehensive about the functionality of the STOK and the ease of preparing our meals. But our new grill outperformed all our worries.
Assembly – under ½ hour with the need for a screwdriver.
Initial heating – discovered that we needed a few applications of lighter fluid to really bring our grill up to temp rather than simply lighting paper as the instructions recommended.
Performance – We had a nice distribution heat on the main surface with no hot spots. But we highly recommend the purchase of a heat glove to handle the various accessories and lid.
Clean up – It was a breeze. The entire grill was cooled down in less than 3 hours.
Tip: Briquettes are a fire hazard. Be sure to properly handle their final disposal.
We enjoyed our STOK grill meal so much that we are already planning future meals and an entire season of enjoyment.
We did establish safety rules for our kids. Our grill is set up on a small concrete patio and our TRFamily rule is that when we are grilling, you are NOT allowed on the entire concrete area without asking permission of an adult first. Be sure to discuss safety and grilling with your family, too.
Enjoy the summer!
Category Advice & Reviews | Tags: good eats,House Rules,Outdoors,simple solutions,togetherness | No Comments
March 11, 2015 by admin
As Spring teases about its imminent arrival, we are reminded of some of our favorite “get ready!” posts and some “welcoming this new season” tips:
- Spring cleaning! The want to open all the windows and clean everything strikes quickly. Don’t forget about that often neglected washing machine.
- Tune up your bicycles. A season tucked away in your garage or chained up outside always leaves a bike needing some tlc. Check the tires and chains. Adjust the seat and handlebars for your growing kiddos. Make sure those helmets still fit properly!
- Mud. It’s everywhere. Embrace it and allow those kiddos to get messy.
- Speaking of mud – your dog will get dirty.
- There is so much joy in just being outside. Follow the hyperlink for some of our favorite springtime activities.
- Unplug. Take the time to embrace the changing of the seasons. Turn off those phones and disconnect from technology for a bit. Breath.
This is such a tremendous time of year and we hope you fully enjoy the arrival of warmer weather!
Category Rambler Ramblings | Tags: Biking,family,Outdoors,simple solutions,unplugged | No Comments
February 1, 2015 by admin
We wanted an adventure on a recent weekend that was somewhere new and something unique. It took a bit of research as we’ve already been to a ton of places within a two hour radius of our home. But perseverance uncovered what we hoped would become a very interesting day trip.
Just outside of Sparta is the FAST Corporation. The company makes fiberglass statues and when they are done with a mold, they store it on their surrounding property with the hope to reuse it at some point.
Tip1: A sign at the entrance cautions that molds are favorite nesting spots for wasps in the spring. Since we visited in the dead of winter, this was not an issue.
When you first pull into the free parking area, your eyes are drawn to the welcome sign and a small grass yard with some abandoned statues. We had a moment of worry that this was all the corporation had to offer. And then we did a 180 and realized that we were surrounded by molds of all sorts and sizes. Let the adventure begin!
Tip2: There are no public restrooms on the property during the weekend. You might be able to use the FAST restroom during business hours.
Our family spent a transfixed hour romping among the molds. We saw everything from dogs to dinosaurs to indians to ET, the extra terrestrial. It was oddly peaceful and a lot of fun to try and guess why someone would order something like a gigantic devil’s head.
Even though we were dressed properly for a winter outdoor explore, the weather certainly influenced the amount of time we spent here. We imagine you could easily take two hours to walk around this property in the warmer months. This TR family is eager to return and discover molds we may have missed on our first visit to FAST!
Category Jaunts | Tags: Animals,Art,backroads,freebies,Outdoors,Traveling with kids,Wisconsin | No Comments
January 7, 2015 by admin
In a recent search for a new place to explore, we found ourselves at the Halfway Prairie near Mazomanie, Wisconsin. We had originally been aiming for Indian Lake Park. But driving up the street to our original destination, we saw the impressive ruins at Halfway Prairie and decided that we had to go there first.
Visible from the road is a large, crumbling building, and a smaller building next to it. This drew us in and we parked our car to explore.
The larger building is mostly a ruin- the windows, roof and wooden parts have long ago rotted away, leaving tall stone walls behind. Our best guess is that it was a former school, or maybe a church? We’re not sure. But it was very cool to explore the outside. (The building is fenced off for safety purposes.)
Tip 1: Hunting is permitted in this wildlife area, so exercise caution if you explore during hunting season!
The smaller building is locked and boarded up. It is much smaller and less ornate looking than the other structure, and in better condition. Perhaps it was a maintenance shed, or a caretaker’s home?
Several paths flow off from the buildings, heading deep into the prairie beyond. We enjoyed walking the paths and following some of the remaining fence lines. At one point, we startled some sleeping deer who took off across the fields towards the wooden area further back.
Tip 2: Indian Lake Park contains parts of the Ice Age Trail. Perhaps one day the trail will cut through this wildlife area.
We were quite taken by the quiet serenity of Halfway Prairie. We’re sure to be back, and we recommend this out-of-the-way park for a day of explore.
Category Get Outside! | Tags: Animals,Nature,Outdoors,Parks,unplugged,Wisconsin | 3 Comments
November 16, 2014 by admin
Even though the official start of winter is about five weeks out, there is no escaping the joy of the quickly approaching holiday season.
What makes this time of year even better? Snow, of course!
We are always surprised by the amount of people that seem to hate snow. They’ll bundle up and have a fabulous time outside while tailgating and watching a football game. But the mere mention of enjoying the snow brings out their bah-humbug.
Perhaps these TR family’s favorite snowy activities will change your mind:
1. An early morning walk in the snow around your neighborhood. Listen to the birds. See the soft grey fade into a pure blue. Know that later in the day, people will think about your foot tracks.
2. Check out the footprints you find. Who do they belong to? Where do they lead?
3. Exhale and wonder at the beauty of seeing your breath.
4. Make a snow angel. Seriously. They’re just as awesome now as they were then.
5. Grab a handful of snow and throw it up all around you.
6. Have a snowball fight.
7. Build a snowman.
8. Go on a mid afternoon hike and try to identify animal tracks in the snow.
9. Get chilly and then come inside for hot cocoa and try popping your own popcorn on the stovetop.
The snow and cold doesn’t have to be something aggravating that you suffer through all season. Embrace it and explore!
Category Get Outside! | Tags: Animals,Neighborhoods,Outdoors,Winter | No Comments