Archives

Play Outside: Take a Family Hike

November 2, 2015

Besides “Drink more water” the phrase my kids hear most often is “Go outside. Now.”

For me, everything improves when it’s outside. And fresh air is the single most effective head-clearing, attitude-shifting tool I have in my arsenal, so I tend to get evangelical about it with my own offspring.

The problem is, kids are not always immediately receptive to their parents’ brand of gospel, so over the years I’ve had to learn a few extra tricks to make outdoor outings fun for everyone. Spoiler alert: it’s not complicated. Just aim for simple and light-hearted and the fun will follow.

Today let’s talk hiking. Remember hiking? It’s like walking but with all your senses in overdrive. It’s like exercise dipped in make-believe.

So how do you make hiking fun for your whole family? Besides the commonsense guidelines of “Know your route; stay together; wear sunscreen; carry water” here are a few of my favorite tips.

2

How To Make Hiking Fun for Your Whole Family
  1. Don’t call it hiking. Call it adventuring! Hiking means trudging along one foot in front of the other. Adventuring means exploring new lands and bringing home treasures. It’s all in the pitch, y’all.
  1. Keep your expectations realistic. Before you start, establish a general timeframe with a beginning, middle and end. “We’ll explore for a while, stop for a swim, then go get tacos at the end.”

4

  1. Bring a snack no matter the distance. A granola bar goes a long way if anyone gets grumpy. There’s also no shame in amping up the treats. On longer hikes I never leave home without a candy stash. This is especially effective if you limit candy during their everyday lives. I grew up associating peppermint lifesavers with extended church services. Family hikes are now our form of worship, and my kids get through the long ones with the help of Saint Jolly Rancher. 
  1. Travel light, but smart. I’m a big fan of making kids carry their own water because they have easy access to it, they feel independent, and of course because I’m not schlepping it for them. Camelbaks or similar water packs come in all different sizes, and your kids can also use them during bike rides, sports practices or field trips.   
  1. Make a game of treasure hunting. Find the perfect hiking stick or a small rock or leaf to bring home. Our family is always on the lookout for heart-shaped rocks, but we typically bring home only photos of them.

3

  1. Look for local birds, animal tracks or even better…scat. Show me a kid who doesn’t like to talk about poop! And really, if you’re out in the nature it seems more than appropriate.
  1. Entertain each other on the trail. Sometimes we make up stupid songs or wild stories. More often we play Categories (where you take turns naming fruits or Harry Potter characters from A to Z.) When questions come up like, “What kind of tree is that and why does its bark look that way?” we try to answer without our friend Google…which usually means, “I have no idea. Let’s brainstorm the reasons.” Remember the fun of not knowing the answer to something? Old school!
  1. Talk to each other, or not. With older kids, hiking is a great time to simply be in the same place with them, even if you aren’t talking. On the trail, I never have to push the conversation with my tween or teen–it usually happens at their own speed and on their own terms. They love this.

5

  1. Stop periodically. Climb a tree, build a fort from branches, skip some rocks, or take a dip in a creek.
  1. Quit while you’re ahead. When in doubt, finish early so you end on a high note. Next time you can push it further. For now, go get those tacos and plan your next adventure.

 

Great places near Austin for hiking/adventuring:

6

 

Elizabeth McGuire is a writer, photographer and mother of three from Austin. Her words and images have appeared in print, online and on stage. She is a 5th-generation Texan who loves boots but somehow doesn’t eat barbecue. (www.ewmcguire.com)

Fanstastic Fall Accessory

September 22, 2015

Congratulations! You survived a sweltering summer in Austin! Now it’s time to enjoy a season filled with football games, concerts, and art festivals in the cool, crisp autumn air. Oh wait. Scratch that.

Though high temperatures are not behind us, at least we have a local company helping us beat the heat in style.

Fine & Folded, created by Austinites Suzanne McGinnis and Carmen Sutherland, makes beautiful, practical hand fans. The carefully designed fans are constructed of sleek bamboo and high-quality, double-sided paper. The six different styles combine a classic pattern with a touch of whimsy, such as “Gingham & Grackle” or “Dogtooth & Dragonfly.” They are incredibly fun to use and, best of all, they cool you down.

unnamed-1

McGinnis said the goal was to create something simple and delightful that actually works. “It’s not another techy gadget you have to plug in,” she said. “It’s the exact opposite. And there’s something about a fan…everyone who holds it can’t help but smile.”

The pair of friends started their business after Sutherland took a (very hot) trip to Japan and was inspired by the abundant and lovely fans found there. McGinnis and Sutherland had spent several years working together as marketing professionals who built other people’s brands. When their business came to a crossroads, they decided to create something of their very own. Fine & Folded was born.

unnamed-2

After two years of research and product development, the company launched in the spring of 2015 and spent the summer promoting their business and getting their fans in the hands of overheated locals. For their 100 Days of Hotness campaign they surprised Austinites (dubbed “Hotties”) on the street and rewarded them with cool fans.

The products can currently be customized with small charms (letters including the Greek alphabet) or with personalized wrappers (great for weddings and special events). More designs are in the works, including a “Lace & Longhorn” fan that will please the burnt-orange crowd.

unnamed-4

The fans are currently found in 8 states and 15 Austin retailers, including Tarrytown Pharmacy, Aloe Skin + Body, The Herb Bar and Zilker Garden Gift Shop. They are also available online 24/7. Locals can waive the shipping fee and pick up at the fan headquarters in west Austin by using the code ATXPICKUP. And if you are heading out to the ACL Festival, look for their pop-up tent near Juiceland on Lake Austin Blvd.

If all goes as planned for the Fine & Folded duo, locals will embrace the fans and make them a critical part of their survival kit. “I don’t leave home without one,” said Sutherland. “I grab keys, sunglasses, phone and fan…all the essentials.”

It’s as much about surviving as it is enjoying Austin, despite its 9 months of heat. “We’re super active people, as are most of our friends,” said McGinnis. “You don’t want a little thing like heat to stop you from being outside in this great city.”

unnamed-5

Elizabeth McGuire is a writer, photographer and mother of three from Austin. Her words and images have appeared in print, online and on stage. She is a 5th-generation Texan who doesn’t eat barbecue. (www.ewmcguire.com)