Posts Tagged With: family health

Look What I Keep In My Mama-Car-Pack! …What’s in Yours?


From safety kit & spare toothbrush to change o’ clothes & coloring book, it may look like a heap, but it fits neatly into a little bag!

It was a vomit explosion! Yes, we were bumping down the road and, with no warning, my little girl went “braaahhhh” all over herself, the seat, the floor… well, you get the idea. Poor thing. She was okay, be we still had about 40 minutes of driving left and a big mess to clean up. I was never so grateful for my mom’s car-pack than at that moment. I was able to give her a piece of ginger gum, wipe her down and get her into clean clothes. I also had a towel and the wipes came in handy as well. All the messy stuff went into the plastic bag, she had some water and we were on our way.

I want to share what I keep in my personal “Mom-Car-Pack”. It has changed over the years, as she has grown, and this is what we feel we need to get down the road with a 5 year old. Any parents out there who care to share what they find useful for their pack, please write in here as we would love to hear new ideas!

Here are our essentials, which pack nicely into one of those thin “book bags” that we often get at events, but don’t really have a use for!

1. Safety kit including: Scooby Doo bandaids, neosporin, thermometer, Arnica cream, sunscreen stick, nail clippers, tweezers, Hyland’s bumps ‘n bruises ointment, ginger gum (for upset tummies), spare toothbrush & travel toothpaste.

2. Change of clothes, including undies, socks, pants, t-shirt & sweater.

3. Towel, rolled up tightly and secured with 2 rubber bands (never know when you’ll need a rubber band!).

4. Sani-wipes.

5. Activities (In case of car trouble, or other delay): Brand new coloring book, 2 packs of stickers, small packs of crayons & markers.

6. 4 travel tissue packs.

7. A small bowl with lid, spork & knife and a couple of “emergency” snacks like little cracker packets & raisins

8. FLASHLIGHT with hand-crank and/or spare batteries

9. Swiss army knife (can’t leave home without that!)

10. Couple of plastic bags


I drive a Volvo so my little bag fits right in behind the seat. I should note that if you live in a hot climate (like California!) you should be careful about storing food, creams and other heat-sensitive items. I never keep water in plastic bottles in the car because of heat and just bring it fresh when I head out the door.

So what do you keep in your car when you’re on the go? C’mon, you want to tell us!! ūüôā

Happy travels, Karen

Categories: Mom's Junk Trunk | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cool Field Trips Ideas For Kids!


It never hurts to Ask!” ¬†I have found that educating my child at home, and in the world, requires a lot of new experiences, ideas, and other people to share their gifts, talents, and knowledge with us.¬†We¬†are always learning, individually, and together, and I wanted to share some of the ideas we have come across, quite successfully, because we simply made a phone call or email, or simply asked. ¬†

Anyone who homeschools with their kids knows that a big part of the experience is to seek out and discover new ways to excite imagination and learning. ¬†This is true of kids who attend brick-and-mortar schools as well. ¬†Kids who do go to a seat-based school usually have opportunities to go on field trips to museums, community services, and other fun things. Homeschooling kids need these opportunities too, and it is our job as educators to provide new experiences to learn and just have a great time with other kids and parents. Here are some field trips that Captain and I have arranged, and enjoyed, and they didn’t cost a thing (except for some stickers and badges that we got for the kids). We recommend trying these out…


#1. Visit Your Local Fire Department!: ¬†We did this 2 ways. ¬†In California, I arranged a tour with the local fire house for a large group of moms and kids from The Mommy Network. ¬†I simply looked up the local fire department online and sent an email to their public relations department explaining that I had a group that would love to tour. ¬†The captain called me back immediately and we set up a date. ¬†It was awesome! ¬†This was an extensive tour of the facility’s barracks, kitchen, garden (with chickens!) and then on to the firetrucks themselves. ¬†The kids learned about fire safety and even got to try on the gear and climb all over everything, with lots of cool firefighters on hand to help. ¬†The guys were great and even had a tug-of-war and other fun stuff to do on the lawn. ¬†At the end, the firefighters gave each of the kids a goody bag with fun stuff AND their very own plastic fire hats. What a great tour! ¬†At another time, on a visit to Troy, Ny, we were simply walking by and poked our heads in to the firehouse and the wonderful Captain on duty let our little Captain climb around inside the truck and was there to answer any questions we had. Both ways are fun, but I highly recommend arranging an actual tour with the fire department as if it very informative and fun. For a firehouse tour, you will generally need to gather a group of at least 8 people, but you can arrange this when you call or email.


#2. Visit your local Police Department!: For this tour you will need to do the same thing as above and contact your local police department’s tours/relations department. ¬†We did this in Paso Robles, CA and they had regulations on the size of the group (6-10) which wasn’t a problem. When we arrived, we had a tour of the building and jail cells. ¬†The tour leader talked about safety and showed us how people are fingerprinted, searched, and processed through the jail. ¬†Captain and I handed out stickers and each kid got a small, metal police badge that I found very cheaply online through a wholesale sticker outlet. ¬†It was fun and informative, and once again, I was surprised at how easy it was to arrange.


#3. Visit a Veterinary Hospital! : This is as simple as emailing your local animal clinic or hospital with your request to tour the facility and learn about what veterinarians do and how animals are cared for there. Include a time frame of possible dates and the number of people who will attend. We toured Paso Petcare in Paso Robles, CA, and they are awesome!  We ended up taking our new puppy there, actually, after we had visited and saw how clean and nice their clinic is, and how they care for the animals.  They were wonderful and welcomed us all. Dr. Lucy gave us the tour, and we all learned about the rooms, the surgeries and care that the animals need. There were things to touch and animals to see and we got to meet the resident one-eared cat that had been rescued by the staff. Lots of questions were answered and the kids loved the animals.  Getting to see how they are cared for was a wonderful experience!


#4. Arrange a tour with your local Ambulance company!

Yet again, it never hurts to ask!  I called a local ambulance company in Atascadero, CA and made arrangements for a group of moms and kids to learn about ambulances, and what paramedics do to help people.  Mostly the kids enjoyed climbing all over inside the ambulance and getting strapped into the gurney.  When I called to make arrangements, I was told that the ambulance could come to a school, or other facility, and since I had a good-sized group, they were willing to meet us at a local park. They let me know right away that they would call me in on the morning of the tour to confirm, and also that if an emergency came up that required our ambulance, that we would need to wait, or postpone.  It actually did happen that an emergency occured and our ambulance was needed somewhere, but I got a call on my cell that they would be an hour late.  No problem!  The location being a park was ideal and all of the kids played and ate lunch until the ambulance arrived.  It was great!  They pulled right up and the paramedics came out and introduced themselves and talked a little about what they do and answered questions.  Then, they opened up the back and told the kids to jump right in.  It was really fun for everyone!



Learning about what people do in the world is awesome, and I would like to thank all of the people who took the time to share with us their experiences in helping people and animals in the world.  If you have arranged any cool tours for kids and parents, we would love to hear about them.  I look forward to all of the adventures in learning to come.  Thanks for reading!

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

From Tree To Table: How Maple Syrup Is Made!


Scrumptious gift from the beautiful maple tree:  home-canned maple syrup!

I would like to share with you the wonderful information we just learned, as a family, about how maple syrup is made at home.  Kids love to learn new things about trees, and as is the case of my kiddo, food too!  If you live in the northeastern part of the US, or in the Canadian regions where maple trees flow with wonderful sap, you are very lucky to have this gift so close to home.  We are fortunate to be visiting upstate New york and just saw friends who shared with us the process of tapping trees and cooking down the sap into syrup. After the how-to portion of this post, I will share some terrific news on the health benefits of real maple syrup, a maple syrup & walnut popcorn recipe, and a link to free, fun printables about maple syrup for kids.

The trees! Due to their sugar content, the following trees are most commonly tapped for sap collection:  Sugar Maple, Black Maple, Red Maple, and Silver Maple.  Sugar Maples have the highest sugar content and therefore are ideal for tapping.

Basically, a hole is drilled in the tree and a tap or spout, called a spile, is used to transfer the sap from the tree into a bucket. ¬†A bucket, or plastic jug, is hung from the tree to collect the sap. ¬†The sap runs out clear, like water, and is collected and cooked down outside for hours to get the water out and thicken and darken it. ¬†The sap is then taken indoors to finish up and is then canned in a hot water bath into sterile jars. ¬†That’s it!

Maple sap generally begins to flow between mid-February and mid-March.  Sap flows when the daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing.  Generally the sap flows for 4-6 weeks, with the best sap coming early in the season.

Trees must be at least 12 inches in diameter, and larger trees can have up to 3 taps per tree. ¬†The height of the tap hole doesn’t matter, it is a matter of convenience. ¬†A hole is drilled about 2 inches deep, at a slight upward angle. ¬†The spile is inserted and tapped into the tree with a hammer. ¬†The bucket, or jug, is hung by hook or spile. The tree is tapped!

Depending on the season, you can expect 5-15 gallons of sap per tap. The sap can be stored for up to a week or so before cooking, so syrup doesn’t have to be processed daily. ¬†The collected sap is strained to remove debris and is ready for cooking.

10 gallons of sap can be boiled into 1 quart of syrup (ratio of 40:1).  The sap is boiled outdoors because it produces too much steam to do inside. In small batches, the sap boils until it takes on a golden color, and then is transferred to a smaller pot and taken indoors to finish.  Continue to boil the sap until it takes on a consistency of syrup and then a candy thermometer is used to bring it to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water.

The syrup is then filtered and canned in a boiling water bath for storage, or placed in the refrigerator to be used within 3 months.

I just can’t get enough of this! ¬†I love maple trees, the sap and the syrup! ¬†I am ever hopeful to return next winter and help tap and cook maple syrup. It is truly good family fun, and a delightful addition to the pantry.

Maple syrup, the healthy sweetener:

Maple syrup contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help with inflammation, according to research from The University of Rhode Island. ¬†During the study, one polyphenol, quebecol (named for Quebec, one of the top syrup-making regions) was discovered, and it is unique to maple syrup. University of Rhode Island researcher, Navindra Seeram, discovered¬†54 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup (2011), and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered in preliminary research play a key role in human health. ¬†Several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.¬†¬†The darker grades of maple syrup have the highest level of antioxidants. Maple syrup is sugar, and therefore shouldn’t be consumed in huge amounts to try to get the antioxidant benefits! It is simply a much healthier choice for sweetening foods instead of other sugars or anything with corn syrup. ¬†I am happy to say that Captain loves real maple syrup! ¬†We put it on her porridge, pancakes and yogurt, and cook and bake with it as well.


This is Stan, who resides in Columbia County in New York.  He graciously took us on a tour of his land and shared his knowledge of maple sap-to-syrup.  Afterward, he and his lovely wife, Linda, served us sweet little old-fashioned dishes of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with their very own maple syrup.  It was scrumptious, and honestly, the best maple syrup I have ever tasted!  Thanks for reading.  Cheers to Stan and Linda, and maple syrup dreams to all!


Recipe ~Maple Syrup & Walnut Popcorn:  Oil a large bowl and a wooden spoon.  Pop 8 cups, or so, of popcorn.  Heat 1 cup maple syrup to 236 degrees, using a candy thermometer.  Stir together popcorn, 3/4 cup walnut pieces, and syrup.  Break into pieces when cool.  Enjoy!

Click here for a link to fun, free maple syrup coloring pages for kids

Click here for the link¬†to read more about The University of Rhode Island’s study of maple syrup.

You can find the comprehensive booklet Tap My Trees  Maple Sugaring at Home by Joe McHale on Amazon by clicking here.

Categories: Foodarella, Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

For Balance, Tricks and FUN: Slacklining Rocks!


If you have two suitable trees, springtime is awesome for setting up a slackline for the kids (and big people too!) ¬†It is simple to do, and we couldn’t believe the difference in muscle tone our kiddo had after about a week of playing on this one. ¬†Balance, coordination, and self-esteem are all stimulated in a beautiful way with a slackline. ¬†We had a roll of sturdy, nylon rope that we had gotten at a discount tool place (Harbor Freight Tools in CA) for about 8 bucks. ¬†We strung one line between 2 trees (it is recommended that they be at least 8″ in diameter) and held Captain’s hand as she would wobble across. ¬†It dawned on us that she needed a second line up above her, to hang onto so she could play independently, and voila!, she was ripping across it, bouncing and jumping all by herself. The first few nights after playing on it with the 2nd line she did complain that her sides and legs were hurting, and we realized it was because she was using so many muscles in her legs and torso, neck, arms, well everything. ¬†It is truly great exercise and fun, fun fun!

I recommend reading this bit from Wikipedia, if you don’t have another source to look at. ¬†They share a lot of of info and ideas and also recommend using a wider strap instead of the rope, as it is easier to walk on and you can build up to doing more tricks etc. ¬†For now, we had the rope on hand and are going to stick with it, but we will probably graduate up to a strap when she is ready to play around without holding the upper rope. ¬†This is great for body and soul!!

Slacklining¬†is a practice in¬†balance¬†that typically uses¬†nylon¬†or¬†polyester¬†webbing¬†tensioned between two¬†anchor¬†points. Many people suggest slacklining is distinct from¬†tightrope walking¬†in that the line is not held rigidly taut (although it is still under some tension); it is instead dynamic, stretching and bouncing like a long and narrow¬†trampoline. The line’s tension can be adjusted to suit the user and different types of webbing can be used to achieve a variety of feats. The line itself is usually flat, due to the nature of webbing, thus keeping the slacker’s footing from rolling as would be the case with an ordinary rope. The dynamic nature of the line allows for tricks and stunts.”

Without a lot of research, it looks like slackline kits start at about 45 bucks. Like I said, we may go for the better strap at some point, but for now, it’s a DIY-with-what’s-around thing, and it is working great! ¬†If you don’t have the trees available, it would be worth finding a friend or neighbor who does. ¬†It is fantastic!

Spring is in the air and getting outside is what it’s all about!

Cheers!  Karen


Categories: Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Body Earthing Rocks! Science proves it and we at The Cabin can back it up


Need to feel good in body and spirit? ¬†Go outside and LAY DOWN ON THE EARTH! ¬†Here’s Captain, Grandpa & Mom just laying around outside as a family

This sounds so simple. ¬†Just go outside and lay down on the ground, ‘eh? Yep. ¬†That’s all there is to it, but the effects are astounding. ¬†We live in a forest where it is quite inviting to lay down on the soft grasses and pine needles and stare up into the sky while resting, but even if I lived in a city, I would find a place to do this and my kid most certainly would be right behind me. ¬†KIDS NEED TO BE CONNECTED TO THE EARTH! ¬†We all do.

There are scientific reasons why laying down on the ground, or running around outside without shoes, makes us feel better. ¬†K and I always used to say that we liked it because it seemed to “absorb negative energy” from our bodies. ¬†It’s true and here are the facts:

Body earthing implies grounding- ¬†giving a human body electrical connection to the earth. ¬†It is known that the earth maintains a negative electrical potential on it’s surface. ¬†When you are in direct contact with the ground (walking, sitting, or laying down on the earth’s surface) the earth’s electrons are conducted to your body, bringing it to the same electrical potential as the earth. ¬†Living in direct contact with the earth grounds your body! ¬†This is a good thing! The earth provides electrons that the body needs and also stabilizes the electrical potential of the body. ¬†A grounded body is far less influenced by ¬†disruptive environmental electric fields (called “electromagnetic pollution” or “dirty electricity”… lets go ask the birds and other animals, I think they could tell us a bit about this problem!). ¬†The body earthing benefits include:

Reductions in overall stress levels and tension and a shift in nervous system balance, reductions in immune cell and pain responses, delayed-onset muscle soreness, reduces viscosity of the blood, reduction of indicators of osteoporosis, improvement of glucose regulation and immune response, inflammation, sleep, balance, and, again, reduction of stress.

Ancient civilizations recognized the power of the Earth and heavens. Monks would meditate seated on the ground to achieve high spiritual states. The Chinese referred to this universal energy as Qi (Chi). Earth Qi enters the body at an accupoint located on the ball of the foot known as ‚ÄúBubbling Spring‚ÄĚ where it ascends through the water channel throughout the body. Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercises designed to balance and heal the body/mind are often practiced outdoors without footwear to facilitate this process. But, as I have learned (and you can ask parents everywhere!), the simple fact is that kids, and people in general, just feel¬†better when they have been outside with their shoes off…

A bit about the history of the term “body earthing”:

Research at the Max Planck institute in the 60’s and 70’s showed that it was important for human performance and health to receive electrical signals from the earth. ¬†The modern practice of earthing began in the late 1900’s when Clinton Ober, a retired cable TV executive, started thinking that it was notable that humans in the last century had been using synthetic shoe soles which isolate the body electrically from the earth, and he knew that ungrounded electronic instruments perform badly. ¬†When he approached scientists and physicians with his thoughts, they generally refused to have anything to do with this, so he had to do the experimental testing on himself. ¬†Dr. Maurice Chaly, a retired anesthesiologist, did a pilot study involving measuring the cortisol levels (a stress indicator) in his subjects and found that grounding normalized the levels. ¬†Others continued to test with the same results.

The use of isolating shoe soles (rubber and plastic) started around the middle of the 20th century. ¬†Leather soles, used for 1000’s of years, give partial earthing when moistened by sweat. ¬†Could shoes be a part of the dramatic rise in chronic inflammation and so many other physical problems of modern life? ¬†Modern activities like swimming and walking barefoot through the grass will give thorough earthing and make us feel good. ¬†Some people, especially who don’t have access to convenient, well, earth, use such conducting and grounding products as: ¬†cotton earthing sheets that connect to an outlet, or pads that are made of cotton with conductive silver fibers that are placed at the foot of the bed. ¬†These products can be found on or you can google “earthing products”. ¬†Personally, I wouldn’t buy something that provides what walking and laying on the ground can do, but whatever path we each choose is our own.

A personal note on the sky… ¬†The other cool thing that happens from laying on the earth outside is simply looking up at the sky. ¬†Birds, the wind in the trees, clouds that look like dragons, perhaps a even an airplane going by are all wonderful things to just watch. Imaginations are sparked by life. ¬†When our family “earths” together, we find that interesting conversations usually arise, intermixed with long periods of silence. ¬†For my 5 year old Captain, she seems to want to paint or draw outside a lot of times after we have been laying down under the sky. ¬†I see how calm and happy she becomes. ¬†Her artwork just flows right out…

If I had to pick one thing that I think is vital to kid’s (and big people’s too) health and happiness, it would be keeping in contact with the earth. ¬†It’s something almost anyone can do, it’s free, it’s fun and the results make life better. ¬†It really is as easy as that!!

I invite you to share your earthing experience here. ¬†If you live in a big city and have a spot to lay down outside, would you PLEASE send me a picture? ¬†For some reason I like to think of someone laying in the grass in a place like Central Park in NYC….

Info and more to be found at wikipedia, Earthing:  The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?  by Clinton Ober, Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. and Martin Zucker

Happy earthing and good thoughts!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Mom's Junk Trunk, Relationships, Science Rocks For Kids!, Sequoia National Forest & Park, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Siljans Rye: Healthy, Tasty, And It Just Plain ROCKS!


Siljans Rye is a healthy alternative to breads, only has 3 ingredients and 50 calories for a big hunk, and has fantastic cracker-texture and mild rye flavor. ¬†They are fat free, sugar free and cholesterol free as well. ¬†You must¬†try them!!! ¬†Captain is 5 years old and loves them…¬†

Thanks to Aunt Cate for turning our family on to what has become a necessary staple of our diets. ¬†You won’t come to the cabin and not see a package of Siljans resting on top of the old fashioned Sweetheart stove, ready for munchin’. ¬†These delightful cracker rounds are made of whole grain rye flour, yeast, water and salt and are healthy, delicious and very versatile. ¬†Captain eats them daily and likes them plain, or with a variety of toppings, and we rarely leave the house without having some stashed in the car for hunger-emergencies.

When one thinks of knackebrod, rye or hardtack, it kind of rings a bell of being a “poor man’s food”, or we could remember tales of civil war soldiers who subsisted on such simple foods during hard times. ¬†However, these tasty cracker rounds have a lot of good benefits for people today, especially those who like to see only a few ingredients listed on their labels, and also like things to be affordable and tasty¬†as well.

We are lucky that a little supermarket in the town we shop in here in California sells Siljans, our favorite brand of these kind of good eats, and so we are able to purchase them for around $5 per 14 oz package. Amazon is a good source for those that want them regularly at about the same price. You can even get a subscription to have them delivered regularly if you can’t find them in your local area… wow! ¬†Siljans do not go stale¬†unless you leave them around for a really looooong time, or in a damp place. ¬†We tested this by tasting some that we had forgotten about on top of the fridge and, after about 6 months, they were still just great.

Before I list some of our favorite ways of enjoying Siljans rye, I want to add an important note to people with dogs,¬†*we give chunks of these simple crackers to both our young and elderly dogs in place of other unhealthy doggie biscuits and treats. ¬†They love them and I believe they are good for them as well. ¬†If you price out a lot of the dog treats on the market today (especially ones that aren’t loaded with horrible stuff!) you will find that they are a great deal for our canine friends too! ¬†So you see, when I say that the entire family gets to enjoy them, I mean our pets as well ūüôā

Here are a few of our favorite ways to eat Siljans:

With cheddar cheese, apples, peanut butter & honey (like a sandwich), feta cheese and olives, hummus, pesto and tomatoes, gouda, cream cheese, pickles….. ¬†there are so many ways!!

Cracker Facts! ¬†Back in the day, Knackebrod was popular in armies and schools because of its light weight and simple, transport-friendly shape. Crisp bread has been baked in central Sweden since 500 AD and it was made as round wafers with a hole in the middle so the bread could be stored on sticks under the roof. ¬†Traditional crisp bread was invented about 500 years ago. ¬†Finland and Sweden have long traditions in crisp bread consumption and Sweden’s first industrial crisp bread bakery, AU Bergmans enka, began production in Stockholm in 1850.

Today, bubbles are introduced into many doughs mechanically, although traditionally, this was done by mixing snow or powdered ice into the dough, which then evaporated during baking.  How cool is that??? Another method is to knead the dough under pressure in an extruder. The sudden drop in pressure then causes water to evaporate, creating bubbles in the dough.


The packaging can’t help but be adorable. ¬†I feel kind of cute myself when I have this in my shopping cart.


Check out the ingredients list… ¬†do I need to say more?

Captain and I attempted to make our own rye crisps and had a lot of fun trying. ¬†The crisps didn’t turn out as great as the Siljans, but they were still good and the dogs LOVED them as treats. ¬†We even put a broomstick between two chairs and hung them to dry out a bit after baking.


We hope to try again as even our version was yummy and healthy, but we are so addicted to the texture of Siljans that we may spend the time and work on something different when we bake crackers again.

I really think these are terrific for kids, adults (and dogs too!) and highly recommend you try them if you don’t already enjoy them. ¬†Please do let me know any ideas for accompaniments with these rye treats if you care to share, and thanks to Wikipedia for the facts about crisp breads!

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Foodarella | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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