Monday, August 29, 2011

Schedule Up

Treks through the end of October, have been scheduled and are now up on the Anchorage Outdoor Network site. This is where you can RSVP to all the Taiga Trekker hikes and find out about other great outdoor happenings.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blueberry Buddies & Lessons from the Land

Lia (from Skedaddle) and I packed up our boys this morning and made a trip to a favorite top secret blueberry location. Like hunting grounds, fishing holes and gold claims, favorite berry crops are kept between close friends in Alaska. The boys did all the hiking on their own. After the adventure, in both houses, pie became the fate of the wild grown alpine fruit. Out of ALL the blueberry recipes in my cookbook, The Joy of Blueberries: Natures Little Blue Powerhouse, pie always seems to win... well it ties with the blueberry coffee cake.

Some concepts that can be taught through berry picking and the requisite baking after:
  • Estimating - estimate how many berrys are in your container then count them.
  • Volume - pour berries from a smaller container into a larger one
  • Ecology - food chain, paying attention to where the berries are found on the mountain side - are they near streams? high in the rocky areas? low in the boggy areas? Is this habitat to other creatures?
  • Topography & Geography  - bring a compass or a gps device to record your coordinates, pay attention to the terrain and elevation gain as you hike.
  • Measurement & Fractions- baking
  • Democracy - let the students or members of your family vote on the fate of the berries... pies, smoothies, muffins etc...
  • History - in my family's case blueberries are an important part of our history, my great-grandmother owned a blueberry farm in New Hampshire, as did many other 1st generation Finnish Americans. Berry's are also a part of the subsistence culture of Alaska from it's Native peoples to the gold miners fighting off scurvy in the long winter months.
  • Literary connections - as I mention in an earlier post Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey is a favorite in our house. Blueberry Shoe, by Ann Dixon, a local author is another.
  • Nutrition - There are many benefits to eating berries - antioxidants and fiber are just the beginning.


Blueberry MouseThe Joy of Blueberries CookbookBlueberry Shoe

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nature Walks and Journaling

While I am a strong believer of free play, both my son and I are needing some structured activities during the day. I have this fabulous book I just found in all my teaching materials collecting dust in the garage: 365 Days of Creative Play: for children 2 yrs. and up. It is full of simple things to do each day. Most are pretty straight forward and some are easily modified for your own family's needs or the materials you happen to have on hand. 


While I've always planned on creating a nature journal with my little guy it was the extra boost I needed to get going. The prompt was simple - collect things outside and glue them to a piece of cardboard. The teacher in me took it a little further. Journaling and scientific observation require a few mandatory steps:
  1. Date, time, location
  2. Drawings, glued in specimens, photos or written observations
  3. Labels
We collected our specimens on our 10 am amble down the Chester Creek Trail near our home. I initiated collecting the first few items and modeled putting them in our collection container (aka bucket). Soon the bucket was full. We stopped to watch a Stellar Blue Jay swoop through the under brush of the forest. A squirrel chattering high in a tree had us scanning the canopy until we spotted it. Many stops along the creek were made, but no fish were spotted. Some trees were rushing ahead of the rest to change color.

When arriving back home we took a break for a well earned snack and then went to work making our first entry into our ecology journal. We looked at the calendar to find the date and the clock for the time. I wrote that in. The little bear glued in his specimens and we labeled them. I wrote down a bunch of labels and he got the hang of it and started scribbling his labels next to his specimens. While labeling things we took a closer look at many of the leaves, the patterns of the veins and the holes where some sort of creature must have had a good lunch. We hypothesized about what type of animal might make such wholes and concluded it must have been a caterpillar like in Eric Carl's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I think we may begin trying to collect a few specimens from each Taiga Trek. It would be interesting to see the variety that comes from different locations and various seasons.

  1. We used thick pieces of water color paper. Card stock would work also. I chose a more rigid paper so it doesn't bend and bow when holding it up under the weight of the specimens.
  2. Elmer's Glue
  3. Nature specimens collected from our walk
  4. Pencil to label the specimens and record other pertinent info.
  5. Since each page is rather bulky with many 3-d objects glued to them we are using a box or an old rubbermaid tote to chronologically organize our individual entries. This way we aren't squishing everything every time the book is closed.
Very Hungry Caterpillar365 Days of Creative Play, 4E

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Powerline Pass Trail to the German Bridge

Sara & Joey on the German Bridge

The Trail
Powerline Pass trail from the Glen Alps parking lot heading West to the German Bridge is a wide flat trail. There's a mild rolling incline. It is perfect for jogging strollers. It parallels its namesake the powerline. It is a perfect trail for toddlers to trek on their own two feet. We were out for about 2 hours and it is definitely starting to feel like fall. I was bundled in a couple of layers with mittens and shed them as we began to move.

Beyond the Trail
Yeah it's about our kids getting outside. It's about modeling a healthy lifestyle and getting some exercise, but one of the most important benefits of this group is the parent conversation. Those "YES, I know exactly what you mean!" moments, when another parent relates a similar experience you've had and the relief that comes with feeling you aren't alone.

Alaska can be an isolating place with all its extremes. Many of us have our family or support systems thousands of miles away. Your friends are your family here. Some of the most amazing connections I've had with other people have been since I've become a parent. There's a wall that was torn down and I'm able to allow myself to be more vulnerable and open with others. I'm more willing to talk to the stranger next to me in the grocery line instead of just looking at my feet. Part of that is because having my child with me takes the focus, or perception off me.

My little bear allowed me a special treat today, that I haven't experienced in a while. He actually stayed in the stroller. He ate two bananas and two granola bars and then slept the rest of the way. I was actually able to hold a real complete conversation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sherpani Wahoo Fusion Child Carrier

Sherpani Wahoo Fusion Child Carrier 

Thanks to Lia from Skedaddle for doing this review!

(Ergo on first with little guy and then Sherpani on back with big brother)

Here are the specs from the REI site
  • Fully padded bucket seat and sides; seat is fully adjustable to raise or lower child for your comfort and to give them views
  • 5-point chest plate is a soft foam harness that supports child securely with 5 fasteners, 3 that unbuckle for loading/unloading
  • Foot stirrups let child balance himself in the pack or right himself if slouched over to one side; foot stirrups are removable
  • Attached bag on front features a large main compartment and a mesh pocket on the front
  • Fixed back length accommodates parents with a torso range between 17 - 20 in.
  • Manufacturer recommends child weight should not exceed 50 lbs., with total load (child + gear) not to exceed 55 lbs.
  • Sherpani Topper sun shade is removable; attaches and adjusts easily with nylon webbing and buckles
  • Sun shade keeps your little one from getting too much sun or splashed by sprinkles
My two cents!

In the years B.C. (before child), I didn't think I would have to change my lifestyle when I had kids.  I somehow thought I could just zip out the door at a moments notice for a cross country ski or hike.  It just isn't possible to be out the door within ten minutes (or an hour sometimes), but this pack can cut your prep-time and let you continue your wild and adventurous lifestyle (with style!). 

I keep this pack ready and fully stocked.  I have my hiking kit (diapers, wipers and the like), first aid kit, safety supplies (garbage sacks and hand warmers) and snack packs in the lower compartment.  I then can use the little backpack for whatever the day might need.  I have crammed this sucker full of food, hats, a shovel and camera.  I can slip a camel back into the mesh pocket between this little pack and the child's seat.

The kids are comfortable (and often fall asleep) while hiking on steep terrain, walking on paths and even while fishing.  It is light and cool on my back.  I can adjust the straps with the load (two year old or one year old) and adjust the seat height for the kids quite easily.

There are places to clip other gear (such as a mirror to check on the passenger) or bear spray.  I also use a lanyard to clip a snack cup so they can't toss it overboard during our journey.

The provided rain hood / sun shade is fantastic to keep the little one a bit more dry and comfortable.  It also acts as a wind shield when the weather is unruly.  Additionally, it can keep sticks and branches away from their faces.

Negatives.  I wish the rain hood could be stored easily in the pack so I don't have to remember to stick it in the car.  I do wish it could squish down a bit more, but the construction that lets you stand it up on the ground would be compromised (and is so nice!).  I would also like some sort of shield that could cover the passenger totally - it would go over their legs as well.  None of these would dissuade me from  purchasing this again. 

All in all, I love this thing.  I can continue getting outdoors comfortably and stylishly (I love the color).

Ergo, Ten Toes Click, Nana's Jet Pack, Moby, Scootababy & Baby Hawk Baby Carrier Reviews

Ergo, Ten Toes Click, Nana's Jet Pack, Moby, Scootababy & Baby Hawk Baby Carrier Reviews
Thanks to Diana from Raising them Green for all of these wonderful reviews!

Since I have tried several carriers through the years with my kids and have sewed my own I thought I would do reviews. I don't have the best pictures of the carriers since I am usually behind the camera. Doing these reviews makes me realize I should of taken better pictures of them. I usually like to stick to one of something and not buy more then I need. I am not a big shopper and try to buy used whenever possible. I barely ever buy things for myself. I embarrassingly have tried many carriers in my almost 5 years of parenting for someone who thinks through purchases and always thinks about the impact and if I can find it used or go without. Most of these carriers were actually used carriers. I have been through a lot but they all been put to good use or have gone on to new homes. I had to go through several carrier to finally determine that I liked the mei tais I made the best. I also use different carriers for different purposes and different ages.


The ergo is a soft structured carrier. A soft structured carrier is an asian style carrier that has buckles for the waste and shoulders and has a structure. The ergo can be used as a front carrier, a back carrier or a hip carrier. The ergo is made of heavy duty canvas and is heavily padded through the shoulders and the hips. It has a chest clip and a hood for sleeping babies. It has a darted seat that helps position the baby and helps with weight distribution. The good things about the ergo are that it is made of really good materials and has adequate padding for weight distribution. The padding in the shoulders is a little stiff compared to other brands. It is good to have padding but I feel there are other options for that area that can hold the weight without the stiffness. The ergo makes a really good back carrier but I don't particularly care for it as a front carrier since the shoulders don't cross for a front carry. It also can be used as a hip carrier but it does a poor job as a hip carrier. You can buy infant padding for tiny babies that don't fit in the leg holes but I think there are much more comfortable carrier options out there for newborns. I think the ergo is a great workhorse carrier made of good materials that will work for many people but it did not work for me. Even with the chest clip I felt as if the carrier would slip of my narrow shoulders and I did not like the fit on me.

Ten Toes Click

Pouch for newborns

The ten toes click is a buckle tie. A buckle tie is a mei tai that has buckles instead of ties. It is like a soft structured carrier but doesn't have the structure. This carrier is made of twill and does not have padding. I got the ten toes click since I heard it was a good carrier for petite women. I did really like the fit of this carrier for a variety of shapes and sizes. I also liked it for a front carrier since you can unsnap the shoulder clips and criss cross them for the front. It is the only soft structured carrier I like for newborns since it has a sewn in pouch that you can put a newborn in before you put the carrier on. The pouch only works for small babies that wouldn't otherwise fit without special padding to make it work.  I liked all the options for strap colors and design and how the carrier looks. I really like this carrier for smaller babies that don't weigh a lot but since it is made of twill and lacks adequate padding I don't think it makes a good carrier for bigger babies and toddlers for weight distribution. I really feel it when I am carrying a bigger baby in this carrier after not much time. It does not come with a sleeping hood.

Nana's Jet Pack

Jetpack on the back 1 day post postpartum

I got the Jetpack because I heard it fit petite women good in the shoulder area and I found a good deal on a used one. I wanted a soft structured carrier I could use for my toddler once my second child was born. Nana's Jet Pack is a soft structured carrier made of twill that is lightly padded. I did really love how this carrier fit me and loved the shape and fit of it. I thought the carrier was a perfect size for my toddler. What I didn't like about the carrier was the light padding and twill fell short for weight distribution for toddlers. I would love a carrier like this made with more padding and made of heavy canvas. This also did not come with a sleeping hood.


The moby wrap is a stretchy wrap made of cotton jersey. Stretchy wraps are a great way to learn how to use wraps and are they are very comfy and soft for small babies. The moby is my favorite carrier for a newborn. They say that the moby is good for up to 30 pounds and it shows a back carry in the booklet. I don't think the  moby is good for much past 12-15 pounds or that they are good for back carries because of the stretchiness of the fabric.

The moby has a bit of a learning curve for tying it. It really intimidated me with my first so that I didn't use it much with her and by the time I did learn it it had outlived its usefulness. I recommend watching youtube videos on how to tie it. You can also ask a friend to help you or look up if your area has a baby wearing group if you are having trouble with it. I am glad I kept the moby because it became my favorite carrier when my second and third were newborns. Once you learn how to tie it becomes second nature. You can pre tie the moby if you are going in the car so you don't have to tie it outside if the weather is bad. A lot of people do not tie the moby tight enough. You have to tie it tighter than you think and really get the shoulder sections really tight. I love the closeness and comfiness of a wrap and I like the softness of a stretchy wrap for a newborn. I found that once my babies got somewhere between 12-15 pounds that it became a little too stretchy and it would sag a little even when I made sure to tie it nice and tight.


The scootababy is a structured hip carrier. The scootababy is a carrier I have been borrowing from a friend. The scootababy is made of heavy duty canvas, has a gathered fleece shoulder and a padded buckle for the hip. It has seat darts to help with weight distribution and for positioning the baby. I have tried other hip or side carriers but I always feel it on the shoulder that is holding the weight after not much time. I can wear the scootababy for a long time without feeling the weight.

 I first tried the scootababy because when my son was a baby he only liked back carries when I was moving which was good for hikes and walks but not for errands where I wasn't moving as much. He liked to be held and was pretty fussy at times so the scootababy was great for certain occasions. I really found this to be the perfect hip carrier for me. I found it very comfortable and well made with good materials. My babies like it because they are up front by me and can see really well out of a hip carrier. A hip carry puts them in a better position than a front carry facing out but it keeps a baby happy if they want to see better. I also used this for my youngest who had torticollis a neck condition where her muscles were stronger on one side and it kept her head pulled to the right and she favored looking left. Her head preference was so strong that in other carriers her head would always end up towards her favored side even if I tried to position her otherwise. The scootababy helped keep her head facing the other direction while her torticollis was at its worse.


The tettitet is a mei tai an asian style carrier that you tie around the waist and shoulders. Tying it allows you to get a custom fit but takes a little practice to learn for back carries. It allows you to tie it a few different ways and can cross to make front carries more comfortable. I mostly use mei tais now so I find them easy to use now. There was a time where I wasn't comfortable tying back carries by myself. I recommend watching youtube videos and looking online if you are having trouble figuring out a back carry with a mei tai. The tettitet is a scandanavian mei tai. I heard they got really good reviews so I decided to try one. I was very impressed with it. It is made of heavy canvas and is lightly padded. This is the only carrier that is lightly padded and doesn't have padding in the waist that I actually like for weight distribution. It is sewn very good and is made with good materials that work for transferring the weight. This carrier inspired me to try making my own with a friend who was crazy enough to try it for our first sewing project. I thought about selling it since I now have mei tais that I made that I love but I still have this carrier and do like using it. It is my husband's favorite carrier right now since his custom Ramones soft sturctured carriere I made him is in need of repair.

Baby Hawk

The baby hawk is a mei tai made of twill with light padding. This was the first baby carrier I owned and I liked it at the time. I had a hard time doing back carries and switched to a soft structured carrier when I wanted a back carrier for hikes. I now have no problem using mei tais for back carries but I sold the baby hawk a while ago. It was a decent carrier and has lots of colors and designs to choose from but I found the light padding and twill was better for smaller babies. I felt the weight when carrying bigger babies. 

I don't own one but my favorite soft structure carrier is a kinderpack. I have tried on a friend's and it is really well made with good materials and great sewing. The waist is well made and the hood can button into the carrier. There are a lot of brands out there and some good carriers and some not so good ones. I think it is important if you are getting a mei tai or a soft structured carrier to get a brand that has a good reputation and good reviews but also to pay attention to materials. Get a carrier with adequate padding that is made of heavy canvas rather than twill. 

Another type of carrier I like are woven wraps but I never really learned how to tie a back carry right. I also like mei tais and soft structured carriers. I use mei tais since I know they will fit me. I use them for  both long and short hikes and for errands. I like them better then frame packs and find them more comfortable for me and more practical for around the house. 

Baby Carriers - The Ins and Outs

Like choosing a stroller, finding the right baby carrier for your family can be a daunting task. I know many families, including my own that have gone through a couple of different ones before settling on two that we use frequently and have been life savers on many an occasion.

ERGO Baby Carrier -
 Organic River Rock GreenSherpani Rumba Superlight Baby Carrier - Sunfire RedKelty FC 3.0 
Child Carrier, Blue

We've bought slings, one fitted for me, one for my husband. I used the sling quite often, especially for quick errand. My husband never used his, well maybe once. We had a Baby Bjorn, which my Little Bear quickly out grew. We went through 3 Ergos. The first one I bought used off ebay, the older sport eddition with the sleep hood connectors that had lost their elasticity and way too stretched out to do their job. The second Ergo, an organic cotton one that we love. We also have the performance one that Ergo gave to Taiga Trekkers. We love this one equally as well for different reasons. We've been through two frame packs. We loved the first made by REI, but didn't buy all the accessories for it before they stopped making them and really needed a rain cover for backpacking. REI graciously exchanged it for us with the Sherpani Rumba Superlight. We love this one.

 Padded Baby Ring Sling Carrier (MEDIUM - BRIGHT 
STRIPE)Moby Wrap 100% Cotton UV Protection Baby Carrier, Almond 
BlossomBabybjorn Baby Carrier Original - Black, Classic

This story has been told far too often by parents I know who love being outside with their family and find baby wearing an important part of raising their children. Sometimes, as in my family's case we've made great use out of three of them, but didn't need to go through 8 to figure it out.

If you have a carrier we haven't mention please feel free to email your review along with a picture of it in action. We would love to have a comprehensive listing. Negative reviews are almost more important then positive ones. Save someone the heartache of going down the wrong path.

All reviews, as they are available, can be found under the Baby Carrier Reviews and Gear topics on the left.

Here's a list of considerations for choosing the right carrier for your family:
  • Price is always an important factor. I've also always looked at resale value too when considering a purchase. For example Ergo's tend to hold their value when sold used.
  • Can you find one used?
  • Can you easily adjust the carrier to fit both parents proportions? Some carriers offer extension belts and some frame packs have a ladder system in the back to extend the height for taller parents.
  • Where is your child's supporting their own weight when in the pack? For example Baby Bjorns put the weight on a child's crotch while Ergos, Mai Tais and Moby Wraps distribute the weight on the child's bottom and legs.
  • How is you child's weight distributed on your body?
  • How many ways can you wear your child? Front only? Front, back & hip? Back only? Front & back?
  • How well is your child's head supported when they fall asleep?
  • How much storage do you have? Can you carry a snack, a camera, water, extra clothes?
  • Do you plan of backpacking and overnight hiking trips?
  • Does it come with a mirror so you can see what your child is doing when being worn on the back. (You can buy them separately if it doesn't or just carry a make up compact with you).
  • Does it come with or can you purchase a sun shade or rainshield for it?
  • Does it have stirrups for the your child's feet to be placed in?
  • An especially important consideration in Alaska is how do I keep my child warm in the carrier during the winter. Some companies make jackets and vests specifically tailored to wear over carriers. You can also modify an old fleece to do the same thing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coastal Trail from Kincaid Park

Holding hands was a theme today among some of our little ones. Preschool choices vs. unschooling vs. homeschooling was the topic among parents. We all concurred that no matter your choice it is a healthy thing to have some "me" time.

The Coastal Trail from Kincaid Park starts behind the Chalet. Like the rest of the Coastal Trail it is paved, making it a fantastic thoroughfare for strollers. The big hill at the beginning takes you down through lush vegetation and out of the wind. Raspberries were abundant on the trailside. From there the path parallels the coastline. There are a few off shoots to go down to the beach and others that lead to benches set in front of world class views of the inlet.

Along the trail the group broke up into their usual subgroups loosely based on age. The toddlers anxious to do their own hiking served as the caboose of our train. On the way back the hill was a butt-buster. Everyone was rewarded at the end with time at the playground. We picnicked and played.