Becoming an OutdoorsWoman

Georgia Women Learn Outdoor Skills ...

I spent this past weekend with a group of about 40 women at Georgia's annual "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" workshop. The workshop is three days of outd...

Embracing My Holiday Blues

Bah Humbug! Embracing My Holiday Bl...

Admittedly, I do not like holidays or weekends. I am the quintessential grouchy grinch. Everything about the winter holidays annoys me. Walking throug...

Georgia BOW, image courtesy of Georgia DNR

Becoming an Outdoors Woman thanks t...

I'm excited (and a bit nervous) for next weekend. I'll be away from home for a three-day workshop organized by Georgia DNR. "Becoming an Outdoors Woma...

The Camp Caddy

WISH LIST – Camp Caddy Portab...

I often refer to our camp as Camp Cook. By all means that does not refer to my skills as an outdoor chef. Despite my misleading surname, I'm a horribl...

Travel & Adventure

Becoming an OutdoorsWoman

Georgia Women Learn Outdoor Skills at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

I spent this past weekend with a group of about 40 women at Georgia's annual "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" workshop. The workshop is three days of outdoor recreation education. BOW is an experience like no other. It's a sort of camp for adu...

Waking up in Shenandoah National Park

Camp Cook Chronicles: Make it and Break it, Road Trip Reality

I'm not technically at camp, right now. We're staying with another homeschooling family in Rhode Island, 1250 miles from our Georgia home. My plan, to break the trip into three overnight camps, technically worked beautifully. However, menta...

14 Christmas Decorations Made From Recycled Garbage

Most of the Christmas decorations I see in stores already look like high-priced garbage and that is what led me to this idea of making decorations out of trash. Why pay for it when you already have plenty of it?

Here are some of the more interesting recycled Christmas projects I found.

MADE FROM LIDS

Recycled Xmas | Lid Ornaments

Jar Lid Ornaments

Recycled Xmas | Punched Tin Ornament

Punched Tin Christmas Ornament from can lids: click here.

MADE FROM OLD MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS

Recycled Xmas | Newspaper Tree

Newspaper Christmas Tree, click here.

 

Recycled Xmas | Magazine Christmas Present Bows

Bows made from magazine pages, click here.

MADE FROM JUGS

Recycled Xmas | Milk Jug Snowman

Milk Jug Snowman, click here.

 

Recycled Xmas | Creamer Snowmen

Snowmen made from Coffee Creamer Container, Click here.

MADE FROM TOILET PAPER or PAPER TOWEL ROLLS

Recycled Xmas | Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar

Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar, click here

Recycled Xmas | Toilet Paper Reindeer Ornaments

Toilet Paper Reindeer Ornaments, click here

Recycled Xmas | Toilet Paper Roll Ornaments

Toilet Paper Roll Ornaments, click here

MADE FROM PLASTIC CONTAINERS

Recycled Xmas | K-Cup Snowmen Ornaments

K-Cup Snowmen Christmas Ornaments

Recycled Xmas | Plastic Bottle Icicle Ornaments

Plastic Bottle Christmas Icicle Ornaments, click here

Recycled Xmas | Plastic Bottle Snowflake Ornaments

Plastic Bottle Snowflake Ornaments

MADE FROM CANS

Recycled Xmas | Wreath made of cans

Wreath made of cans, click here

Recycled Xmas | Tin Can Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree made from Tin Cans

 

 

Georgia Women Learn Outdoor Skills at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

Becoming an OutdoorsWomanI spent this past weekend with a group of about 40 women at Georgia’s annual “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” workshop. The workshop is three days of outdoor recreation education. BOW is an experience like no other. It’s a sort of camp for adult women to learn and gain confidence with outdoors skills from expert instructors and experienced volunteers. The unplugged, natural environment of Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center lends itself to fantastic learning opportunities for the participants.

 

Lodging at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

Lodging at Charlie Elliott Wildlife CenterThe conference center at Charlie Elliott is a beautiful campus set among the trees. The dining hall is where we met morning, noon and night for our meals and socializing. A large room, with floor-to-ceiling picture windows, it brings the beauty of the outdoors into the meeting.

The lodge rooms are much like staying in a hotel. For Georgia BOW, we were three strangers sharing a room with a full bed and twin bunks. I had the pleasure of being on top bunk, which was surprisingly comfortable. There’s a full bath and a heating/air conditioning system. Some things you won’t find are televisions or internet connections. It’s definitely an unplugged environment to get away from it all. We had a busy schedule that kept us outdoors most of the day. But, it was sure nice to go back to a warm bed at night. Although, I wouldn’t have been unhappy waking up in a tent near the lake.

The Food

Let me tell you that the staff really outdid themselves. All our meals were included in our costs and it’s a good thing. There’s quite a drive before you’ll find any fast food around Charlie Elliott. As it was, we were provided breakfasts, lunches and supper. For each meal, we served ourselves at a buffet filled with salad fixings and different entree options that cater to any type of diet. They even included dessert. Excellent food for busy days outside.

Reading Wildlife Signs at BOWThe Women

As an introvert and a sort of self-described, “loner,” I don’t think I’ve ever felt as comfortable among a group of women in my life. They were all very open and caring, receptive to learning and excited to be a part of this experience. Going into this, one of my biggest concerns was sharing a room with two of them. But, I had nothing to worry about. We got along famously. No one is making any attempts to one-up another and all are very supportive and helpful. Everyone seemed very natural and relaxed.. not much putting on airs or makeup.

Georgia’s BOW – Becoming an Outdoors Woman Programming

Fishing at BOWLet me be the first to say that the brochure is overwhelming. There are so many interesting sessions, led by experts and volunteers, that it is difficult to choose between them. Hindsight is 20/20 and I realize that all the sessions are totally worth the time, which makes the decision even more difficult for next year. I narrowed my sessions down to Fishing 101, Fly Fishing, Wilderness Survival and Reading Wildlife Signs. I also attended some sessions available to all like Firearm Safety and Georgia Wildlife. I was not disappointed.

All the sessions are led by knowledgeable instructors, kept to a small group of students and had enough volunteers for one-on-one support.  Each of the instructors took the time to get to know the students in class and why they wanted to learn these particular skills. It’s a very personal connection and I really appreciate all the thought and careful planWilderness Survival at BOWning that goes into each presentation. The hands-on learning environment gave me the opportunity to learn and practice with the instructors for hours. I left each one with enough confidence to go out and be successful trying these things on my own. Some of the other opportunities that I did not have the pleasure of attending were shooting, archery, tree identification, backpacking, scuba diving, and lots more. It’s truly a life changing experience that I believe every woman should attend at least once in their life.

I have nothing but awesome things to say about this phenomenal program. The collective opinion, among women who’ve been to other regional workshops, seems to be that Georgia BOW is the best! As a Georgia gal, this doesn’t surprise me! Go Georgia! For more information about the annual Georgia BOW, click here.

Many thanks to Jody Rice, Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, and Georgia BOW Volunteers for all their hard work in organizing the event and approving my scholarship to attend. I will definitely be back and I hope to bring some fresh faces with me.

 

Bah Humbug! Embracing My Holiday Blues

Embracing My Holiday BluesAdmittedly, I do not like holidays or weekends. I am the quintessential grouchy grinch. Everything about the winter holidays annoys me. Walking through a store becomes a dreadful chore that leaves me feeling alienated from humanity. I am frequently responding to holiday greetings with, “Bah Humbug,” before scooting away from cheery consumers like the crotchety old Scrooge.

Halloween was once the exception to my holiday shunning. But, even that is slipping away. This year, I didn’t even realize Halloween was sneaking up on me until three days before the big night. My Halloween spirit was only saved by the last-minute decision that I would trick-or-treat houses – breaking the rule that, “I’m too old to do that,” for the first time in 20 years.

Chattahoochee in WinterSure, we started out like the majority of people - conjuring up a huge celebration out of the hustle and bustle that lasts from Halloween until Christmas. But, something shifted in the 12 years since my son’s birth, and I’ve been able to whittle away at these winter holidays until only the bare minimum is left.

Thanksgiving is usually contributing a dish to grandma’s massive feast. Christmas is mostly gathering at the homes of other people who bothered to deck the halls. We’ve had years when we didn’t even put up a Christmas tree, relied solely upon grandparents for gifts and never listened to a single holiday song. The only shred of consistent christmas spirit in me is choosing one major (usually handmade) gift project for some special individual.

The holiday season really leaves me stressed and feeling pressed for time. It’s exhausting as I’m bombarded with constant reminders to be happy and festive and love people and buy stuff and turn on the lights to ward away the darkness. The very same consoling darkness that I want to curl into and befriend.

My sons make it really easy for me to say, “I just don’t care about holidays, anymore.” While they both enjoy holidays, for their own personal reasons, they don’t make them a big deal. I really think it would take a couple years for them to notice if holidays just completely disappeared. People often ask me what to get them for Christmas and I don’t have an answer because most of the time, they don’t ask for much. My youngest son’s most common answers to that question are, “Whatever they want to get…” or “A surprise.”

How did this happen? I was a kid once. I enjoyed holidays well into my twenties. Holiday necessity and spirit are just things that have deteriorated over the years as I’ve gained more comfort in my lifestyle of doing whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it. I don’t need a special day to be thankful or give gifts to my sons. I don’t need a special time of year to eat turkey or listen to a christmas carol or stash a bag of candy in the drawer next to my bed. I just do these things whenever I want. I don’t have anywhere special to go, for the holidays, that I can’t go whenever I feel like it. I’m not relieved from some duty, like work or school, because of a holiday break. I avoid crowds like the plague – So, all the festive special events are a daunting task that I try to dodge.

Don’t get me wrong. I like to visit my family and let everyone have their own holiday wonderland filled with their loved ones, seasonal foods, and special decorations. Very few people are aware of the intensity of my aversion to holidays because I make every attempt to attend and enjoy myself at family functions – although, at times, I’m sure I’m more of a grouch than usual. And, perhaps there is where I find my problem with holiday spirit. Could it be that my own personal holiday wonderland is so contrasting with tradition that even I have dismissed it and given up? What if I indulge my own vision of these winter holidays and respect my personal holiday wonderland? If I do more of what I really want to do during this time – would it make it easier for me to be cheery and help others celebrate their way?

Gloomy Smoky Mtn Forest

My personal winter holiday wonderland vision would have me wandering lonely and depressed on walks into the cold,  dreary winter season. Abandoning the festive lights and sounds, I find camaraderie among the dormant silence of tree skeletons that line the path. Cold, wet, quiet, dark, gloomy and bleak. These are the things I want to celebrate in the winter. I want to feel them and be part of them at a time when it seems traditional celebrations are trying to push them as far away as possible.

Can I regain some of my spirit for the more festive side of winter by allowing myself more time to be with the cold harsh reality of it?

I’m going to make an attempt at being “in the spirit,” of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years by allowing myself to commune with the cold, dark reality of winter.

 

Becoming an Outdoors Woman thanks to Georgia DNR.

Georgia BOW, image courtesy of Georgia DNR I’m excited (and a bit nervous) for next weekend. I’ll be away from home for a three-day workshop organized by Georgia DNR. “Becoming an Outdoors Woman,” is an annual program that invites women to Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center where they learn about outdoor recreation opportunities available in Georgia. The list of educational opportunities include fishing, nature photography, archery, backpacking, shooting, signs of wildlife, scuba diving, and more.

The opportunity instantly caught my attention and I quickly submitted a scholarship application to help cover the cost of my lodging and meals. Honestly, I just didn’t want to camp again so soon after our car-camping road trip from Georgia to Rhode Island and back. Fortunately, I have been outspoken in my dedication to encourage women and families to take to the outdoors and they granted my scholarship that covers half of the costs. It pays to share your experiences and encourage others to get out there and live it up!

I chose from a variety of learning opportunities, the courses that were important to me. I based my selections on my own personal enjoyment of the outdoors, preparedness to build my confidence in the outdoors, and keeping my husband’s spirit alive for my sons. The courses I’m taking are Signs of Wildlife, Wilderness Survival, Fishing 101 and Fly Fishing.

Signs of Wildlife, I chose for myself. I am already aware of many wildlife signs – However, I’d like to improve my knowledge and learn to better recognize the presence of animals. I believe this ability will enhance my time spent in the outdoors and aid me in pointing out interesting things to others on our hikes.

Wilderness Survival is something to help me feel more confident and prepared on longer backcountry hikes and camps. I also thought that my sons would get a kick out of whatever knowledge I could bring back to them. They really love this kind of thing.

Finally, Fishing 101 and Fly Fishing. I really, really hate fishing – although, fish is my favorite food. I have been fishing very few times and my opinion of fishing as being severely boring is based completely upon the fact that I had absolutely no knowledge about fishing whatsoever. But, my late husband absolutely loved fishing and fly fishing was a bucket list item he was never able to experience. I’m crossing it off for him and bringing it back to his sons to keep his spirit alive and fishing with them.

As excited as I am, This three-day workshop will be the longest period of time I have spent away from my sons in the history of our life together – that’s 12.5 yrs for those of you just tuning in.. I know they will be fine and I will be fine. But, I have separation anxiety. Fortunately, I know that a mother carries her children’s perfect DNA with her for the rest of her life. So, no matter where this new phase of individual expeditions may take us – I literally have them along with me however far apart we are.

WISH LIST – Camp Caddy Portable Kitchen Carrier

Camp Cook KitchenI often refer to our camp as Camp Cook. By all means that does not refer to my skills as an outdoor chef. Despite my misleading surname, I’m a horrible camp cook and even worse camp kitchen keeper.

The camp kitchen. It’s an essential part of any camping setup. But, if you’re like me, it can quickly become the messiest, disorganized part of camp. Never before did I recognize the need for a more organized camp kitchen than on my most recent trip – a 3000 mile road trip with two boys and four different camp locations. In preparation for our trip, I made every attempt to pack strategically. But, even my best efforts proved to be in vain.

Some of my biggest mistakes in packing (and repacking) the camp kitchen:

  • Tossing essential kitchen tools, such as the can opener, in the box with our food. It seemed like an OK idea to store the can opener with the cans. But, it shifted and fell to the bottom of the box. Searching for the can opener took twice as long as actually cooking my critically important quick meal.
  • I packed all the pots, pans, tableware and silverware in the large box I use for general camp stuffs. This prevents quick and easy retrieval of camp kitchen items at rest stops along the way.
  • I failed to bring a table to cover my butt in the very real chance that one of our sites didn’t provide a table. We’ve had to setup stoves on tree stumps, rocks and other unstable surfaces in the past.
  • I packed the condiments in with the other food and when it came time to make an easy lunch, like sandwiches, I had to dig through the box of food in order to hunt down the mustard.
  • All this digging around for frequently used items, among the shifting items in my food box, wasted valuable time and left me with a frustratingly disorganized system.
  • Have you ever tried to keep a loaf of bread from being crushed when the back of your car is packed as full as possible??

I chalked up these technical difficulties as just part of the car camping and road tripping life – until I saw the Camp Caddy and realized that it could magically make all these problems disappear!

The Camp Caddy

The Camp Caddy is a simple, yet amazing portable kitchen carrier complete with extendable legs and fold-out surfaces to increase your counter space. The storage area is large enough to hold a two burner camp stove, plus utensils and tableware; including door shelves to hold other items such as condiments or cooking spray. The whole thing conveniently folds up into an easy-tote box that you can carry or wheel around. It seems the Camp Caddy folks have thought of everything we need as car campers, tailgaters, and picnickers: just in time for Christmas.

Camp Caddy is a Kickstarter campaign that needs your vote in order to move forward with production. Act fast and Get a Camp Caddy for yourself or the campers on your Christmas list, before this innovative design is lost!