DIY Winter Gear

I live in the great state of Oklahoma. We get a lot of wind and cold temperatures but not much snow. We generally get a few inches a year that sticks for a day or two but no more. As a result I am hesitant to spend money on expensive winter gear we don't really need or use. I still take my kids outdoors to play during those few times it does snow but I have had to get a little creative with our outdoor gear.

I started experimenting last year and wasn't happy with all of the results so I am improving some of the ideas this year and adding a few hacks I found online. All of these ideas are very simple, most of the items used are very versatile (they can be used in multiple seasons), inexpensive and will allow you to continue your outdoor adventures this winter.

Rain boots + Styrofoam + Tall Warm Socks = SNOW BOOTS

A Gift Guide for the OutdoorsMom!

I have to admit, I felt guilty writing this post. I am a mom and sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling like everything I do SHOULD revolve around my kids. This is Christmas after all and kids are usually the main focus (as they should be). But we, as moms, SHOULD take care of ourselves as well. So whether you are an avid adventurer, an occasional camper or if you are just visiting the park with your kids, here are a few items that will make the outdoors for fun for YOU.
My favorite camping trip of the year: Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

For Going Out: 

I tried to pick one but I have two items that I absolutely loved this past year. Both are a little on the pricey side but there are ways to find the items for a decent price. Sierra Trading Post regularly offers coupons on their Facebook page and just has good prices in general. My local outfitter has awesome end-of-season clearance sales. Generally 40-60% off some amazing apparel. You may be able to find similar deals near you. You don't have to pay full price if can be patient. Maybe ask for the money for Christmas and buy them when you can find the right price.
Wore my two favorite items on our most recent camping trip.
  • KEENs (aff. link) - This year, after seven and a half, I retired my Newport H2s and bought the Rose sandals. I loved my old KEENs. They protected my toes, kept my feet relatively warm and cleaned up well. The Rose sandal does everything the H2s did but the material is lighter and the sandal is less bulky making them much more fun and comfortable to wear. I have only had them for five months so I don't know if they will last as long as the H2s. 
  • Escape Pant (aff. link) from Stonewear Designs - My favorite feature of these pants are the draw strings that allow me to convert them into capris; essentially making them a four season pant. During the winter I add my Terramar base layer. Of course I don't live in an area with tons of snow. The fit on these pants is flattering. The material is quick drying and very durable. I have a pair of capris from another outdoor brand and every time I sit on a log the material wants to snag. I have never had this happen with my Escape Pants. 

For Staying In: Called Again

Jennifer Pharr Davis became the world record holder by hiking the Appalacian Trail in 46 days. Amazing to say the least! Jennifer is a talented and hard working women who had to overcome countless unforeseen obstacles to reach her goal. Her story helped me feel not-so-alone in my struggles and work to reach my own goals. So curl up with your favorite hot drink and enjoy.
These are so fun and you can even choose what type of shirt you want the logo on. They even have a baby onesie.

For Action: Lifestraw Steel

This is a brand new product that improved something I didn't think need to be improved. I was lucky enough to be chosen as a beta tester and I have been waiting to tell the world about this product for a couple months. The biggest improvement for me was the addition of a carbon filter which improved the taste of the water. The original Lifestraw gives you clean water but if it comes out of a stagnate lake, the water tastes stagnate. The new Steel removes any funny or undesirable taste and gives you a much more refreshing experience. I also have the GoFilter Bottle (aff. link) and I love the peace of mind being able to transport even a small amount of water brings.

DIY: Hammock Chair 

This is perfect for home or camping and it relatively simply to make. You can even get creative with the paint and really fit her personality. The creator originally made this for kids so I would make the back higher just to make it more comfortable.

For Free: "Coupon" For a Solo Hike

I couldn't think of anything I would rather have for Christmas. I actually told my husband this year to not buy me anything but to spend the money on an adventure! Enjoying the outdoors solo is such a treat. I love my family but most of my time is spent taking care of them, especially when we are outdoors. It is so refreshing to explore on my own.
One of my solo hikes a couple years ago.

Hope you all have a fun Christmas season!!

Please check out these gift guides by my fellow outdoor family bloggers. There are a ton of awesome giveaways going on this year. 


Tips & Simple Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter!

Getting kids outdoors in the winter always seems more complicated than in the summer. You need equipment for most winter outdoors activities and definitely more clothing to keep kids safe and warm. But kids need just as much time outdoors in the winter as in the summer and with a little planning it can be easy. Here are some simple tips and outdoors activities that help my family get outdoors in the winter.
Tips & Simple Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter!


  • Check out these basic safety reminders I put together last year about getting kids outdoors in the winter.
  • Happy Trails Wild Tails put together a wonderful collection of ideas for keeping kids warm in the winter. A great opportunity to learn from other peoples’ experience. 
  • If you are looking to save money on winter clothing, try buying clothes used or on end-of-season clearance the year before. The tricky part about buying cloths at end-of-season clearance is guessing what size your kids will be the next season. We generally ere on the side of caution and buy two sizes larger than what they are currently wearing. I would rather have clothing too big, than too small. We have had good luck with both of these options.
  • Keep winter gear organized! This can be especially difficult because there are so many pieces. I keep all our gear (gloves, hat, scarfs, snow pants, etc.) in a bag by the front door. Every time we come inside I do a quick inventory to make sure we have everything and put it back in the bag or hang them up to dry with the bag close by. That way I don’t have to hunt for a stray glove every time we want to go outside. Makes getting out the door MUCH less stressful.
  • If you don’t have great winter clothing, keep outdoor activities shorter but go out more than once a day if you can. We don’t get a lot of snow where I live and if it snows it might be on the ground for a couple days. As a result it isn’t worth investing in a ton of winter gear. So we just keep our outdoor time to about 30 minutes then go back inside and warm up with hot chocolate then head back out again. Could do the same thing in your car.

Here are some of my favorite simple outdoor activities for kids in the winter; snow is optional:
  • Bird Feeders – I made stick and pipe cleaner bird feeders last fall. I love them because the kids can get creative and make whatever shapes they want out of the pipe cleaners and it is an activity in-and-of-itself to refill them. This year I made these bird feeders out of a plastic soda bottles (pictured below). Lots of options out there. 
    Tips & Simple Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter!
  • Ice Ornaments – Freeze water with a few drops of food coloring in paper or plastic bowls. Before the water freezes place a piece of sting into the water to use to hang the ornaments. These are pretty even if Christmas is past.
    Tips & Simple Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter!
  • Make Ice Blocks – I dropped a bit of food coloring into an ice cube tray filled with water before freezing. The kids had a lot of fun playing with these outside. I just had to keep an eye on how wet their hands were getting to make sure they didn’t get too cold.
    Tips & Simple Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter!
  • Create Nature Art – Gather whatever natural materials you can find and let your kids create art. The possibilities are endless. Here are what my kids did this past March. 
    Tips & Simple Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter!
  • If you don’t have snow but are in the mood for sledding, try ice blocking. Buy a LARGE block of ice, take it to the top of a hill, sit on it and slide down. I would recommend this for older kids and be ready for some bumps and bruises along with the fun. Placing a towel over the ice block helps.
  • Scavenger Hunts – Winter is a great time to look for bird’s nest, left over pine cones and berries, and animal tracks. Get outdoors and see what unique things you can find.
  • Snow Maze - Make tracks in the snow and try to follow them back the way you came. 
    Tips & Simple Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors in the Winter!

If you are interested in getting into the more traditional winter sports, check out these articles.

How do you all get outdoors and enjoy the crisp winter weather?  

6 Ways To Bring Nature Indoors This Winter!

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with winter. On the one hand I love the way freshly fallen snow looks. I love being able to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate anytime I want without having to turn down the air conditioner o. I also just enjoy change. It is fun having a different set of activities to do and experience. On the other hand I HATE driving in the snow. I don't like any winter sports and I live in Oklahoma. We only get snow few times a year at best and the rest of the time it is brown, cold and a little dreary. By the end of February I am over winter. 
I am tired of dressing warm to play outdoors. I am tired of being one of the only ones who wants to go outdoors. And I miss the green of spring and summer. So this year I have decided to try an experiment; I am going to find ways to bring nature indoors.


Hiking With Kids: The Essentials

I have been hiking with my kids for about 6 years and it is still one of my favorite activities to do as a family. If you need a few reasons to take your kids hiking, check out my post 7 Reasons To Take Your Kids Hiking. It hasn't been all sunshine and roses but I wouldn't have missed the views. One of my most memorable hikes was with my year old son.

On this particular hike, in true new-mom fashion, I forgot an extra diaper and of course my son messed the one he had on. The only solution I could come up with was to use my sports bra as a diaper and to get home asap. Lesson learned, planning is essential when hiking with kids.
Hiking With Kids: The Essentials

Unfortunately, I still forget things and the needs and preferences of my kids are always changing. As a result, my trips continue to change and each age seems to bring different joys and challenges (all are fun in their own way). But as I have been hiking with my kids over the years I have started to notice some common behaviors during certain ages. My kids personalities are very different but there have still been some commonalities. Here is what I have observed.

Tails from the Trail: Chickasaw National Recreation Area

When I think back to some of my favorite camping trips places like Mammoth Lakes, CA, Zions National Park and backpacking in the Uinta Mountains come to mind. I never thought I would say that one of my favorite campgrounds is in Oklahoma; but I am saying it. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area is diverse, beautiful, historically significant and a perfect location for family outdoor adventures.

This National Recreation Area is ideally situated at the edge of the Arbuckle Mountains, the oldest mountains the the US, and along the Lake of the Arbuckles. There are plenty of family-friendly activities that are perfect for beginners or less-outdoorsy folks and camping is the only one that costs. So if you are traveling through Southern Oklahoma, plan to stop at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Little Niagara



There are numerous hiking trails but the most memorable for us was the Antelope and Buffalo Springs trail. It was very easy, my three year old hiked the entire distance, and the springs were beautiful. Buffalo Springs was capped by the Civilian Conservation Core in 1930's. The water was cold and clear, so unique for Oklahoma. The trails were somewhat busy but the views were worth it for me. If you want to beat the crowds, show up early.
Buffalo springs was capped by the CCC in the 1930's.
We also loved the Bison Pasture trail. This one has a few hills but was a lot less busy than the spring trails. Don't miss the Bromide Hill Overlook. It adds .4 miles rounds trip and the hike is more strenuous than the Bison Pasture trail but is well worth the work.
Bromide Hill overlook view. 

Travertine Nature Center

The building itself is unique as it straddles Travertine Creek. The back wall of the center is glass, affording a beautiful view of the forest and crystal clear creek below. The center is somewhat small but does offer a look at Oklahoma's ecosystems and live specimens of wildlife. You can also find a schedule of events or park rangers' activities here.


We have camped in The Point campground multiple times, which is located along the Lake of the Arbuckles. There is a mixture of tent and RV sites and all the facilities and sites have been recently renovated. There are two other campgrounds along the lakes and three along Travertine Creek. Keep in mind that Travertine Creek is very popular for swimming and is extremely crowed during the summer months and the campgrounds close in the fall. Personally, the crowds and noise would bother me. The Point, Buckthorn and Rock Creek campgrounds are open year round.
Arbuckle Lake at sunset. 


Swimming is allowed in Travertine Creek, Rock Creek, Lake of the Arbuckles and Veterans Lake. Little Niagara is just below the Travertine Nature Center along Travertine Creek and it one of the most beautiful areas in the Chickasaw NRA. Just be aware that during the summer the the swimming areas are extremely crowded. Basically from Little Niagara down, the creek is packed with swimmers. When we visited we waded right next to the Nature Center and it was tolerable. Swimming is not allowed above the Nature Center as they are reclaiming the area. Water level varies greatly. If you want to ensure there are decent levels, call the Natural Center before your visit.

The Bison Pasture

These iconic creatures are the largest terrestrial animals in North America. Although they once roamed from modern-day Northern Mexico to Alaska, they are now found on only a handful of federally protected lands. So don't miss the opportunity to see these unique animals in their native habitat. If you are going to be in the area for a few days stop here first and if you don't see them the first time you can always check back. The rangers suggest visiting the overlook on Highway 177 in the afternoon for the best chance of seeing them. The pasture is enclosed so safety isn't a concern.
The kids were very excited to see bison for the first time. 

Other Activities 

It wouldn't be Oklahoma if there wasn't boating, hunting and fishing. The Rock Creek Multi-use trail allows horseback riding and biking. As I am not a hunter, boater, biker, fisherman or horseman, I cannot comment on their quality.

Other Attractions:

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is a must see. They have a large living history village that you can visit free of charge. There is a charge for the exhibits and movie. We visited during the fall festival and had a wonderful experience. The festival was free and there were a ton of free activities for the kids. It is a great way to see the center if you don't want to pay. They have multiple festivals throughout the year.
Overlook view of the Traditional Village. 
Turner Falls are the largest falls in Oklahoma and are a short 15 minute drive from the Chickasaw NRA. The Falls are owned and operated by the city of Davis. There is an admission fee but the park has a lot of offer in addition to the falls. Once again, this place is packed during the hot summer and fall months. I would recommend visiting during the off season if you like solitude.


Decorating Pumpkins Using Natural Materials

One thing my kids do almost every time we are outdoors is collect rocks, sticks, leaves, etc. As a result, we have a lot of “natural material” that builds up around our home and outside our front door. I am always looking for ways to use them in crafts and activities. This month I thought it would be fun to use them in decorating pumpkins. 

Step 1: Just get outdoors, explore and let your kids collect what they want, the more unique the better. 

Step 2: Design. Once you have the materials collected, the sky is the limit as far as what you can do.  With our collection my kids made monsters and I made Halloween creatures (see above).
When decorating I didn’t limit us to natural materials. I let my kids paint their pumpkins first, I used a little paint and a permanent marker for the eyes and hot glue.

Here are a few tips about working with natural materials.
  • Press or preserve the leaves. Pressing leaves is as simple as placing them in between the pages of a magazine, stacking heavy books on top and leaving them for 2-3 days. You can also preserve them by paining Mod Podge all over the leaves and letting them dry.
  •  Make “eyes” by drawing black circles onto rocks using a permanent markers for the pupils.
  •  Don’t accept the natural shape of the leaves. After pressing mine I trimmed them a little to make them look more like bat wings.
  • I used curved or jointed sticks for the spider’s legs.
  • The funkier the better. We found the spiny seed pods at the park and made them the “hair” on my daughter’s pumpkin.
  •  We used hot glue to attach the natural materials to the pumpkins. It holds then in place but doesn’t last if the kids want to play with the pumpkins. We just use ours for display.
  • Don’t forget to check the natural objects and materials for bugs and dirt before bringing them in the house. I haven’t have a problem with bugs but it is good to check none the less.

This was an activity we all enjoyed. I prefer decorating pumpkins because my kids are so young and they can be more involved than with carving. Note – I did not let my kids handle the hot glue. They just told me where to put the items. 
Silly faces to match their silly pumpkins. 


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