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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Canoe camping with kids

I've been sharing highlights from our recent trip to the BWCA on Instagram. The spot we go is perfect for families with young kids because we car camp and do day trips up river a couple of portages.  

We've taken this exact canoe/camping trip three times now. (Elsa was 3 the first time!) This year was our first with 2 canoes and the first time Grandpa joined us since the boys only trips from when Sam started going to the BWCA when he was seven. It was starting to get pretty crowded with FIVE of us in one canoe! 

Speaking of canoes....here is our 'new' one - she is older than I am, but nothing beats a Grumman! Wait...I take that back - everything beats an aluminum canoe in the weight department.

Enter the Spring Creek Manufacturing portage yoke. Brian portaged 8 times one day and was still smiling thanks to the great portage yoke that doubles as a middle canoe seat. 

They are a Minnesota company too which is pretty sweet for us!

Along with the highlights from day 3 I thought I'd share some of the uncommon things we pack to keep the non fishermen content for hours on/next to the river....

Hiking sticks for Elsa made a HUGE difference in her confidence playing on the rocks and individual bags of Gorp meant they could eat as much as they wanted without cutting into anyone else's portion.

I always bring a book from our Little Free Library along and Julia brings her koi pond fish net with for catching crayfish, minnow, or frogs.


A small bucket provides a home for the creatures she catches.

We all wear Keens or Merrell water shoes to make traversing wet rocks and climbing in and out of the boats in unpredictable river bottoms as easy as possible.

Here is Elsa in action with her hiking poles.....

Sam caught most of our lunch with one of Julia's crayfish as bait.

Then Daddy fried it up using the shore lunch kit I pack in our dry bag. (Bottle of oil, ziplock baggies, plastic KoolAid container filled with flour, salt and pepper shaker, a fork, and a lighter). It is totally worth hauling the campstove and cast iron pan when we take that first bite of fresh fried Northern! 


In case you were wondering what we do if we DON'T catch enough fish to feed 6 people we bring either tortillas and peanut butter and squeeze jelly or summer sausage/cheese/crackers.

After lunch the boys waded upstream to do some more fishing and I was on standby for snapping pictures of what they caught.

 Thank goodness for good water shoes because the river was full of big boulders and the water got thigh high. We always wear zip off pants so we are prepared for any situation. They aren't the cheapest pants out there, but I always watch for them at Goodwill and have been saving them for the kids to grow into each year.

My scramble up river was worth it to capture Brian with his biggest bass of the trip.

After 3 hours of fishing and playing below the second rapids we packed up and headed back to our campsite. As you can see Elsa is loving her status as a non-paddler.

EditNot having to portage all our gear means we can eat pretty well on our trip. We can pack meat and veggies for meatball subs or in the case of the kids- marshmallow subs (with pb&j). 

This Light My Fire grilling pod works great and packs up so small since you use any stick you find in the woods.

And we always end the meal with a fudge stripe s'more of course!

The sun sets early in September so the boys head out for evening fishing and the girls get to enjoy the hammocks or in my case, my trusty Crazy Creek Chair I've had since I graduated from high school.

I love quality gear that lasts and lasts and makes roughing it a little less rough. We may be camping, but we still prefer to be comfortable while we are enjoying our time outside.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to get out there any enjoy the wilderness more - especially when your kids are young!

What are some of your favorite camping essentials that make canoeing or camping (with or without kids) easier?


This is just one of the many memories we get to make by taking our kids on a little less conventional camping trips.....father and son paddling back to shore at sunset

It doesn't get much sweeter than that!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Have a good morning!


It's back to school season and whether your kids start before or after Labor Day new routines are on every mom's mind these days. Today I'm sharing my routine for staying on track with our busy schedule and how I start my morning off in a way that motivates me to get things done. 

I have this cute sign in my design shop that says, 

COME HERE YOU BIG BEAUTIFUL CUP OF COFFEE AND LIE TO ME ABOUT HOW MUCH WE ARE GOING TO GET DONE TODAY.

If only that weren't so close to the truth!  Some days that IS how life works in our house, but it does make for a very prickly MamaBear by the end of the day if I don't have anything to show for my day! 

I work from home and am solely responsible for my time. That gives me great freedom, but also great responsibility. If Mama don't do it, it doesn't get done! 

Enter my morning routine....

If I don't exercise first thing in the morning it just isn't going to get done, so at 6am I pop in a DVD and fumble my way through the 25 minutes of interval training Jillian Michaels puts me through. 

A quick shower followed by a huge glass of water and by 7am I've conquered the two tasks I really don't enjoy, but feel so much better after.

Then it's time to heat up the coffee... (I'm the only coffee drinker in the house so I keep the leftovers in the fridge and reheat on days I don't need to brew a pot.) 

I turn on a Pandora station - my favorite morning station is Hymns 4 Worship -

Curl up with the pup and read a chapter in a parenting book. My latest is - Grace Based Parenting -

This book has been wonderfully encouraging as I start that stage of parenting a teen. He won't be living here forever and this book teaches parents how to raise our kids the best way I've ever read in a parenting book. I highly recommend it! It isn't just for older kids either - I just felt like it gave me hope for setting all three kids up with a solid foundation. Author Dr. Tim Kimmel teaches us how to give our kids a secure love, a strong hope, and a significant purpose. Isn't that what it boils down to for kids of all ages? 

I love the quiet of my mornings before the kids get up for my prayer time and reading because it sets me up with a whole lot more grace for when the kids start bickering with each other over the last waffle. 

I have started adding appointments to my Google calendar, but I still need paper copies around for referencing while I'm on the phone or for my husband who doesn't use a smart phone. I keep a wall calendar in the kitchen, a 2 yr planner in my purse for when I attend meetings, and a blank planner on my kitchen counter that is the key to having a good morning.

I find that it is really helpful to assign my to-do list to specific days.  I can do a brain dump with all the things I need to accomplish for the week and not have those tasks clutter up my calendar.


This planner was under $4 at Walmart and because it doesn't have dates I can use very single 2 page spread as an organized to-do list. No more random notes on the fridge or clutter bouncing around in my head if things I need to remember to do. Just writing it down frees me up to get it done and most of all give my kids the attention they deserve when they are home before and after school.

So that's it! A simple yet effective routine that gets me going in the morning so that when I walk in the door after school drop off I can clearly see what needs to get done today. Having tomorrow's list right there is a huge motivator to not let anything spill over into what is already shaping up to be a busy day!


What motivates you in the morning and keeps you on task? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! This is what works for me, but we all operate differently and I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers! Sharing my story is never intended to be a 'my way or the highway' sort of deal. We all can learn from each other at some point in our lives and that is the best part of blogging....sharing what we learn so others could see a different perspective. Maybe we are alike and maybe we aren't! And that my friends is what makes the world such a beautiful and interesting place!

Friday, August 18, 2017

My favorite campstove

Car campers and backpackers typically have a completely different set of camping gear, but when you travel with three kids, a husband, a dog, and a canoe then packing light like backpackers do applies to car camping as well. 

Eighteen years ago I bought a Coleman duel fuel stove and had to replace it this summer before our trip out west. We searched REI, Amazon, Gander Mountain, Fleet Farm....and read review after review. 

We had a pretty specific set of requirements and I'm happy to say we found a stove that met them in every way.

WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR:

  • Under $75
  • Didn't require expensive fuel
  • Refillable fuel tank
  • Compact
  • Long lasting
  • Sturdy

I found this Coleman duel fuel 533 campstove on Amazon for $65. There are a LOT of stoves to chose from but we knew we didn't want to have to buy fuel canisters 'just in case' (That kinda defeats the purpose of compact if you are bringing fuel canisters that are as big as the stove!). We have a special fuel bottle that holds 17 ounces of extra fuel and is smaller than a pop bottle. I took the kids camping last week for three nights with only half a tank of fuel and never ran out after eight uses of about 8-10 minutes each.

I make coffee ahead of time and store it in the cooler in a 1/2 gallon glass jar. In the mornings I can heat it up in a few minutes after I've heated a pot of water for the hot chocolate drinkers in the family. (GSI makes the BEST coffee pot shown above that we heat water in) For some reason my family doesn't like their hot chocolate to taste like coffee.  

We cut the box of matches up and store matches in a peanut butter jar just like my parents did when they took me camping as a kid. 

We pack light, but we also like to be comfortable when we are camping so I started packing this compact folding table so I can keep food out of reach of the dog and cook wherever it is most convenient. This is a new camping hack for me, but what a game changer! No more hauling all our stuff to wherever the heavy picnic table is placed in a site and taking up all the surface space! Definitely worth the small space it takes up behind the front seats in our minivan!

Speaking of taking up space.....this windblock by Highrock is a life saver when there is a breeze at our campsite. It ensures the flame doesn't go out on the stove and folds up so compact it barely takes up any space in our camp kitchen.

With the proper gear we spend less than 10 minutes making any of our hot meals which means we can get back to those mountains behind PapaBear!

Do you have a favorite piece of camping gear that makes life easier when you are roughing it? Do share! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How to organize Nerf guns

If you are the mom of boys you know that they will inevitably turn something into a gun. I was dead set against toy guns in our home until I learned that tidbit about having a son. Enter the Nerf gun. Now that Sam is almost 13 he has amassed a small arsenal of weapons and I was at my wits end trying to keep them assessable yet out of the way. 

That is until a relative posted a picture of the Nerf Gun Wall she made for her boys.

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No more guns in the floor? No more searching for bullets when friends come over to play? Sign me up!

This is a very easy DIY project that is very affordable! I picked up a variety of pegboard hardware at Home Depot and played around with what hooks worked best for each gun. You'd be surprised how a couple little hooks can hold a big gun! In fact, the biggest gun is hung with only one small piece!

Be sure to find the studs when hanging the heavy tag board. (I bought two pieces for $7 each at Home Depot.) Studs are 16 inches apart so once I found one (by tapping the wall until a tap sounded different than the rest) it was easy to put the rest of the screws in. REMEMBER TO LEAVE SPACE BEHIND THE BOARD FOR THE HARDWARE TO ANCOR. I bought a variety pack of hardware and it came with spacers to keep the board away from the wall 1/2 inch, but if you use long enough screws you can easily unscrew them a little to make a space.


Sam's room is a mishmash of sports and outdoors themes, but I like to call it an ADVENTURE THEMED bedroom instead. He is an active kid - hiking, camping, canoeing, a three sport athlete....all this is tied together with his functional gallery wall. 


Do you have a toy storage solution that worked well for your family? Be sure to share it in the comments! I have another pegboard storage solution post coming up....stay tuned....

Monday, April 3, 2017

A CLEANING SCHEDULE FOR BUSY MOMS

It's the first Monday in April and I couldn't think of a better time to get back on track with my cleaning schedule after a dreary couple of Minnesota months. I don't know about you but after Christmas it is easy for me to fall into survival mode. I do the bare minimum in housework and ignore the dust in favor of another Netflix show and a new crochet project. It leads to a downward spiral of feeling yucky about how my house looks and going through the motions is not how I want to live!

Last week the kids and I took made a 1,000 mile journey to a number of MN State Parks we hadn't hiked at yet. It was great to get some fresh air after a long winter and spend quality time together.

We hiked almost 9 miles - including over the headwaters of the Mississippi!


We returned from that trip with fresh eyes and fresh resolve to get our home back into shape so when the weather gets nice we can dash out the door to ride bikes, take the pup for a walk, or get dirty in the garden without feeling like we are escaping the mess, but released from it!

It really is my own doing that I've got this mess to clean up in the first place because I know what I have to do to stay on top of everything. Back when we moved into this house in 2014 I developed a cleaning schedule that met all the criteria I was looking for.

If the following applies to you as well then you've come to the right place:

  • Doesn't take more than 10-20 minutes per day
  • Eliminates 'spring cleaning' type chores because they are built into the schedule
  • Keeps clutter at bay - even your kids rooms get a deep clean once a month!
  • House is cleaned top to bottom every month - no grime build up on appliances or baseboards
  • Includes storage spaces like the garage and basement
  • House is company ready by the weekend 
That last one is one of the reasons I made my own schedule and didn't pick one of the many others on Pinterest. I tried and tried to make others work, but I felt like when we got to the weekend when we usually have company I would have to vacuum and clean the bathrooms again. Of course there is always daily tidying and wiping down of surfaces involved in any home people actually LIVE in, but I'm talking about the more involved cleaning tasks - I didn't like having to repeat them on Saturday morning so we could welcome company into a clean home.

One thing you'll notice is that I don't list laundry more than once a week. How is that possible in a house with five people? It is because we have an awesome washing machine (LG without an agitator) and it is located right by the bathroom with the shower in it. Our new washer holds three times what our old one did so I only wash 1-2 loads of clothes per week and only when it gets full. I incorporate towels and bedding in an every other week cycle as you'll see in the headings for each week. I also have a 12 and a 10 year old that put their own clean clothes away which helps a lot! The 5 year old can do everything but reach the hangers so she's responsible for the items that go in her dresser.





Below is what works for our household*.

* We have 900 square feet of living space upstairs and about 300 square feet in our basement.




Four bedrooms and 2 bathrooms (one with a toilet and tub and one with a toilet and shower)




We have an attached two car garage, a unheated portion of the basement, a very narrow laundry room that also has our furnace and water heater in it. The laundry room leads to the summer kitchen for storing all the things we preserve from our garden. It has a refrigerator and a stove in there as well.









TOWEL WEEK




 Monday 




 o GARAGE




o ORGANIZE ONE DRAWER




o LINEN CLOSET




o APPLIANCES (wipe oven)




o PAPERWORK




 Tuesday: 




 o LAUNDRY ROOM




o SWEEP




o MOP




 Wednesday




 o BATHROOMS




o PUT OUT TRASH




 Thursday 




o TRASH DAY




o _______ ROOM




o HANDLES




o LIGHT SWITCHES




 Friday




 o DUST




o VACUUM




Saturday




 o LAUNDRY

 BEDDING WEEK

Monday

o FRIDGE/FREEZER





o ORGANIZE PROJECT





o LIGHT FIXTURES





o PAPERWORK


Tuesday

o SUMMER KITCHEN





o SWEEP





o MOP


Wednesday

o BATHROOMS





o PUT OUT TRASH

Thursday

o TRASH DAY





o ________'s BEDROOM





o HANDLES





o LIGHT SWITCHES


Friday

o DUST





o VACUUM (COUCHES)


Saturday


o LAUNDRY





oTOWEL WEEK


Monday

o PANTRY





o ORGANIZE





o WINDOWS





o PAPERWORK

Tuesday


o LAUNDRY ROOM





o SWEEP





o MOP


Wednesday

o BATHROOMS





o PUT OUT TRASH


Thursday


o TRASH DAY





o _________'s BEDROOM





o HANDLES





o LIGHT SWITCHES


Friday

o DUST (BASEBOARDS)





o VACUUM


Saturday


o LAUNDRY





o DEEP CLEAN VAN


BEDDING WEEK


Monday

o CLOSETS





o CABINETS





o CLEAN BLINDS





o PAPERWORK





Tuesday

o BASEMENT





o SWEEP





o MOP


Wednesday

o BATHROOMS





o PUT OUT TRASH


Thursday

o TRASH DAY





o HANDLES





o ORGANIZE PROJECT





o LIGHT SWITCHES


Friday

o DUST





o VACUUM/VACUUM FILTER


Saturday

o LAUNDRY


Sunday

o PUT OVEN CLEANER IN OVEN

After I dropped the kids off at school I didn't allow myself to get distracted with anything else but went right to the Clorox wipe container so I could get our appliances sparkling clean. From there I spent a couple minutes tidying up the garage (Full disclosure: It's 40 and raining outside which means our garage is FREEZING so you wouldn't know I did a single thing in the garage if you stopped by today BUT I know I did something. The shoes are back on the shelf, garbage is picked up, and some winter boots have been tossed out of the way of foot traffic.) That's the thing folks....every little bit helps and it makes the tasks shorter and shorter each time.

Case in point: Paperwork. It's a Monday task and every time I put it off the pile on my desk gets bigger and bigger, but when I am diligent about going through the big white envelope where I tuck everything that arrives during the week it only takes a few minutes to file things away, write out a check or two, and add a few events to my calendar. A few minutes a week is WAY less of a hassle than the hour it will take me to find the surface of my grandpa's big 'ol desk! As a bonus when that desk is clear nobody else is tempted to drop their stuff on it either. Everyone wins!  Speaking of which...if you struggle with constantly picking up after your kids and wondering if they will EVER learn to pick up after themselves check out this post on how I eliminated the nagging and hassle of an organized chore chart system.

I would be happy to email you a copy of the cleaning schedule if you don't want to copy and paste the list from this post. Just send me a message at campgroundcubs@gmail.com with 'cleaning schedule' in the heading!

Happy cleaning!!!






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Friday, August 19, 2016

January 25th Snow


A much needed blanket of fresh snow is falling outside as I sit curled up in the chair with our 5 month old puppy. I consider it my birthday gift. I'm turning over a new snowflake so to speak - entering a new decade. Forty. It reminds me of when I first starting blogging ten years ago on the eve of my 30th birthday. I was content. I wasn't upset about getting older. I had two beautiful children, a loving husband, and the love of friends and family near and far. Like then, today feels like a milestone - something to celebrate and not dread. Today I have THREE beautiful children, a husband who loves me, and the love of more friends and family near and far. I also have more wrinkles, more free time, more hobbies, and more life experience.

The Bible verse I've claimed for this year is "Let all that you do be done in love." (1 Corinthians 16:14) and if I've learned anything in my 40 years I hope that it's that - love is all you need. The love of my Savior and my family.  I can find the good in any situation if I have that. So today while I savor a quiet day snug as a bug in my cozy little home I will drink my tea, snuggle with the puppy, crochet, read a book, and eat wild rice soup. I might even get to watch some birds visit our feeder.

The kids will come home this afternoon on their best behavior and we'll go sledding, drink hot chocolate, and play the balloon volleyball game in the living room. I'll make my favorite enchiladas for dinner and the kids will go to Awana.

 Simple joys with the loves of my life.

What a perfect way to turn 40.
 
 

Tips for Travel Photo Books


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In honor of World Photo Day  I'm sharing some photos from the pages of our Pacific Northwest photo book I made after our road trip down the Oregon Coast. You can view the entire project by clicking here.  

I designed the book using Blurb's free bookmaking software called Booksmart. It took me two days to reduce the 4,000 photos I took on our trip down to 708.  It is so important to make photobooks within the first two week of returning from a trip. (Did you catch that? Dirty laundry can wait - photo book takes priority!) I've followed this mantra ever since I returned from studying abroad in college. Back then I had to print out photos and buy albums/pages. It was SO expensive! I paid $500 for two albums from a three month trip to South America in 1997.

Fast forward almost 20 years and I now design photo books for a living. I have always used Blurb.com for their quality printing, affordability, and flexible page layouts.  Full disclosure: I am not being paid to say nice things about Blurb, but I do use affiliate links in my posts about them. I think 100 books using the same publisher speaks for itself, don't you?

My Pacific Coast book was less than $100 and has just over 700 photos in it. It is our favorite souvenir. PapaBear looks through it almost weekly and the kids love to show it to people who ask about our trip.

I love knowing that our adventures will remain fresh in our minds because I was able to turn around a photobook so quickly and easily with Blurb.

If you have a trip coming up or aren't sure what to do with all the photos from a recent trip read on for some easy ways to let the photographs tell the story. I've interspersed some photos of our book as inspiration. Blurb allows you to add/delete text boxes and images boxes so you can completely customize your layouts to fit your needs. It makes the design process much less stressful! 

1. Keep text simple and use an easy to read font. Save the script fonts for the front and back cover.


2. If you have more than one kid be sure to get a few pictures of them individually.

 
3. Take panoramic photos of locations when you first arrive to help you orientate yourself with the setting when you get  home. Even if you never add the photo to your book it will help you remember what's what. This is especially helpful for road trips and beach trips.


 

4. Just because I like to minimize the text in a book doesn't mean I don't like to tell the story. I prefer to do both at the same time.





I love common threads throughout books. Like the 'Day #' series and the detail shots of each motel room number. (We stayed in nine different motels so it would have been very easy to let them all run together in our minds.)


5. Speaking of motels...If you are fast enough you can snap a few photos of the room before the littles spread stuff from one end to the other and help bring back the memories of that particular stop. I lived the chaos of traveling with three kids for 10 days down the Oregon Coast  and into California. I don't need any reminders of that part, but the comfy couch we sat on and watched the tide come in from, or the panoramic views in one of the motels will help set the scene....if you are fast enough to beat everyone into the room that is.

 
6. I've mentioned this before when I wrote about vacation/travel books, but I thought this was a good example of a detail shot. When I see those black rocks I can hear the sound they made when the waves rushed over them.

Despite the sheer size of the Redwoods we still took notice of the little things along the way. The contrast between the giants and the forest floor connects you to the photograph and draws you into the scene. That folks is what you want - to be drawn in, transported back to the moment. That is the stuff good travel books are made of.


7. Hand the camera to one of your kids so you can have a picture of mom and dad. People usually include the whole family if possible or one parent takes a photo of all the kids with the other parent. Mix it up! Take a photo with one child and one parent. You won't regret it!

8. Let your kids use your camera for some shots from their perspective.  My 11 year old took the foggy photograph below and it is one of my favorite from our whole trip.



9. Take photos of signs - even if they never make it into your book it will help you identify where you were and how far you hiked when you are designing the book.




Sometimes the signs are so different from what you see at home that you want to include them! I can almost feel the moisture from the hike we took in the scene below. There is probably still mud in the tread of the shoes we wore that day!


More signs...


10. If you traveled to more than one location create a collage for the cover instead of limiting yourself to one photograph.


So there you have it! Ten tips for making your next travel photo book the best it can be! I hope to share some more about the specific places we went on our trip with some travel tips in upcoming posts. We researched for a long time before taking this trip, but it was incredible and totally worth it!

Now it's your turn...what is your best photo book tip? Travel or otherwise....





P.S. We are starting to build our own little travel library! After six years of being tied to the park this is a huge deal for us. If you want to travel to two of our favorite places with us check out Up North and Up River in my Blurb Bookstore for a book preview. 

If you have a trip you want me to get into a book for you don't hesitate to contact me! I teach classes on how to get caught up on your memory keeping or I can do the whole project for you. Thanks to technology I have been privileged to work with people in foreign countries and from coast to coast right from the comfort of my sleepy mid-western town.

Canoe camping with kids

I've been sharing highlights from our recent trip to the BWCA on Instagram . The spot we go is perfect for families with young kids beca...