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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Geocaching For the Whole Family - guest blogger

For some time I have wanted to post about how much fun it is to geocache with children. We have found them in many states from Hawaii to Florida to Ne wYork City and in between and even in Ireland. Countless times geocaching has led us to lovely hidden natural places we now treasure and often when we are in small and large cities geocaching has taken us to places only the locals know. For our children, and honestly ourselves as well, geocaching encourages our sense of adventure while fine tuning our observation skills.

Want to learn about geocaching? Visit the geocaching website, and read on.

To tell us more about geocaching, I have my first guest blogger, and my brother who introduced us to geocaching, Paul Tannahill.


When a father or mother of young children first starts geocaching, one of the first thoughts they often have involves how much fun their kids will have finding hidden treasure. When you consider the number of hours most kids play video games and watch TV, it is definitely cool to see youngsters enthusiastic about outdoor exploration and adventure.

Like any other new outdoor activity, a certain amount of physical and mental preparedness is required. Adding kids into the mix increases the importance of that preparedness exponentially.

One of my favorite aspects of geocaching is that it is what I call a “lifestyle activity.” The only equipment you need is a modern GPS receiver or a smartphone with a geocaching app. Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake. I like to compare it to golf: no need to spend hundreds of dollars on clubs, greens fees, etc., and you can play this game any time, anywhere. That type of capability allows for incidental opportunities to find a geocache. Have a half-hour to kill before the movie starts? There’s probably a geocache within easy walking distance. Most kids love that kind of spontaneity! Along with that spontaneity, though, comes the responsibility to make sure the kid(s) you are responsible for are safe every step of the way.

A large number of geocaches contain “swag” (Stuff We All Get), usually cheap McDonald’s toys, etc., and kids really love to hunt for those types of caches. In their eagerness to discover the cool treasure inside, they will often find a cache before you will. The general understanding is: if you take something from a geocache, leave something of equal or greater value. Of course, that eagerness can have a downside, and it’s up to you to be extra observant against tripping hazards, as well as watching where the youngsters stick their hands, faces, etc.

As fun as incidental geocaching is, a lot of us enjoy geocache-centric day trips. There probably a number of geocaches in your region that would make for a time of exploration and sight-seeing. I have devoted and entire day to find just one geocache on a remote mountain top . Long road trips (like one my family and I took from Oregon to Oklahoma) offers an opportunity to find caches in places you will probably never again visit now we’re talking high adventure!

When you plan and prepare to take kids on a geocaching trip, you’ve got to go beyond the basics of food and water, sunscreen and insect repellant. Is the terrain potentially uneven? Nothing beats a pair of hiking boots to make sure everyone’s feet are ready for anything. Could the weather change on you? Dress in layers. Don’t know how to use your GPS beyond finding an occasional geocache? Learn the features that could save your life and theirs: marking a waypoint for your car, using topo maps, knowing the value of a track log, among many others. Learn and practice using your GPS in the comfort of your own stomping grounds before needing that knowledge in unfamiliar territory.Is there any potential for dangerous animals (or people) to be concerned about? When you are focused on keeping one eye on your kids and one eye on your GPS, it’s easy to become less aware of your non-immediate surroundings than you would otherwise be.

Geocaching has taken me to some of the most interesting places of my life, and sharing those places with my family is something I very much enjoy doing. As the saying goes in geocaching: “Stay safe, and keep on cachin’!”

--Paul Tannahill, known as “Pablo Mac” in the geocaching community has been geocaching for a little over 7 years, having found over 2300 geocaches during that time. Some of his family & friends have accused him of being addicted to the sport/hobby/obsession. To that, Pablo Mac calmly replies: “I can quit any time I want… “See Pablo Mac’s Geocaching videos here: http://tinyurl.com/yebucth

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A World Within a World - A Fairy Garden

During our frequent walks this summer, the boys gathered enough sticks, stones, feathers, leaves, and acorns to fill many nature tables. By August we needed a new venue for our found treasures and one of my favorite blogs, The Magic Onions, provided just the inspiration we needed: A Fairy Garden.

Truth be told, I have always been fascinated with fairies. Growing up learning fairy tales then discovering the flower fairies by Cecily Mary Barker encouraged my fancy for them, so making a special place for the fairies sounded fun to me. And I had just the place for it...

Our front flower garden...

Look close and you will find a world within a world! Complete with a colorful pebble path and a tiny spinning wheel.

Nestled among the flowering White Phlox and Irish Moss is a shelter made from the bark of a London Plane Tree. A tiny lantern hangs at the entrance and a flickering light deep within beckons fairy friends.

Here the fairies build pebble monuments and leave flowers and special stones as tokens of affection.

A few steps away, near the lavender bush, they had a dance under a shimmering crystal.

An abandon nest makes a comfy bed.

Under the hastas they keep their walnut shell boats safe...

waiting for nightfall and fun in a nearby waterfall.

Tokens of esteem and affection abound for those who will look closely.

At dusk, lights welcome a host of fairies,

and two little boys who wonder...

"Are fairies real?"

My response is always the same...

"What do you think?"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sail Away, Forever and a Day... a boy and walnut shell boats

Have you ever watched your child marvel at a simple toy and turn that play time into a learning experience? I enjoyed one of those moments a few days ago after we made little walnut shell boats.

The two-year old was excited about making boats from the shells and involved in each step. (Dripping the wax, painting the sails, and pushing in the toothpick.)

Then came time to set sail, and oh his imagination took him to far away sea battles between miniature pirate ships. There were many "Arrrr. Your ship's goin' down, matey!" and sinister laughs in those few minutes.

Then he learned that if he blew on them, the ships moved - just like real sail ships! After a few accidental gails of blowing wind and sinking ships, he figured out how to blow ever-so-softly to make the ships move without sinking them. He was, and still is, delighted at his newly found skill and has returned to his walnut shell boats many times.

(As I write, it is raining. Perhaps tomorrow, we will take the ships outside and set sail in our back yard puddles... I mean, around the world.)

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