gifts for outdoors

Spring fever is creeping in over here. We are all peeking out the window at the rain (today is our Mario party, looks like it may have to happen indoors) and waiting until we can burst outside and ride bikes and hike and picnic and play. I want to lounge in my hammock, bask in the sunshine, and read The Secret Garden. Doesn’t that sound nice?

On the topic of outdoor play, I have a something to share with you, and someone to introduce you to. Mark and Heather are a very impressive couple. Heather is a quilter and turns out beautiful quilts like nobody’s business. While browsing through quilt after quilt of hers, and having one of those moments when I ask “how does she get it all done?” I came across some handy work by her husband. How fun is this?

This is the actual skate ramp Mark built in their backyard. You are looking at some lucky kids in this picture.

Incase you’d like to transform your yard into a skater’s paradise, I found a couple places with great plans:
DIY Skate: How to Make Ramps, Ledges, and More
Free Halfpipe Plans

If you know a man who gives good gifts and think it might work for this feature, I want to know. Share the story with me so we can congratulate him formerly and officially. (Maybe I should mail out certificates, wouldn’t that be official?)


I know this has been blogged a time or two already, but I find it so romantic I have to add it here. Average Jane Crafter’s husband made her a telescope of her very own. Yes, that’s right, he made it. Isn’t it beautiful? And what could be more romantic than an evening of stargazing? (Through something you made!!!)

Don’t forget to go here and enter my $100 Bed & Breakfast giveaway.
Just stop by this post and
1. Mention an inn you like, or
2. Mention a favorite item from my gift or wrapping guides, or
3. Twitter about it, or
4. Post about it on your blog along with a favorite local shop or restaurant of yours.
Winner chosen tomorrow.

Mel thought the Taughannock Farms Inn looked dreamy.


My friends. I thought I’d better bring this idea to your attention. I know you really wouldn’t want to miss this, am I right? Last week Courtney stopped by and told me she had mailed a frisbee. That’s right, a bare frisbee and a label (Courtney, you are brilliant.) Naturally I couldn’t wait to try it myself. I have mine all ready and am headed to the post office this morning.

here it is with the mail, all set to go

(UPDATE: Mailed this off for $1.73. Not bad. More about this in Friday’s post.)

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or see it all right here):

A Great Big Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details



I picked up some new winter picnic gear. Yes, this metal coil can plug into your car and heat up a mug of something yummy (!!) I get easily bored with the same old meals around the table and often like to pack everyone up for a day of adventure and picnics in the car. These chocolate mugs I picked up for my honey at Crate & Barrel. Perfect sized for a really rich cup of hot chocolate on a stick (my latest favorite is making the recipe with dark and white chocolate, and adding cinnamon and cayenne).

And you know, the more I think of it the more I’m dreaming of the perfect winter picnic.

I’d start somewhere isolated but not too isolated. With a chill in the air but still enough winter sunshine to warm my hair and shoulders and back. I’d start with this menu. (Love the part where she says “The girls and I picked the nettles for the soup on the heath.”)

Of course everything would have to be toted on a sledge (who loves sweet paul? i do, i do!)

I’d bring along a cozy blanket.

And a mini hottie.

I’d use this crazy cool kettle. It boils “1.5 litres of water in three minutes using only a handful of twigs, or a dried cow-pat, newspaper, an old bird’s nest.”

And windproof matches to get that cow-pat fire going.
I’d go for this hot cocoa (which I’m dying to try) recommended by this talented woman who I promise you would know a good hot chocolate when she met one.

I might even get fancy and buy a little of this yummy, melty stuff

and broil it on one of these. A pocket raclette grill. I need to tell you about our once-a-week family raclette night. Remind me to some time. It’s been pretty great.

I have one more surprise I’m working out for you, and if it goes as planned, I’m just sure it will become a winter picnic essential. But it may be a week or two. Plus I’m thinking this little gadget will coordinate nicely with a guest post I’ll be doing elsewhere in a few weeks. In the meantime, happy winter.


A few more snow favorites while I’m still in this stage of being happy it’s winter here.
These beauties are by Mountain Boy, an eco-friendly Colorado sledmaker. Love their “boggans.” And everything else they do. Visit their site, you’ll be glad you did.

So many fun options from Pelican. Get the snow scooter here and the covered baby sled here too.

Or DIY a sled. Get inspiration for a cardboard model here, or get several free patterns for the authentic wood version here.

Finally, a couple favorite snow toys. Scrap the sled all together and just get pull-over snow shorts, or raise an igloo with this igloo maker, get the snowball blaster and get serious about that snowball fight.

And now I’m off to have some bruleed oatmeal. Happy winter.


Gloco Sleds


Q: Where do you go when you need a crazy-beautiful heirloom sled that handles the snow like nobody’s business? A: To the Germans of course, you go to the Germans.

I just came across this company and had to share with you. Gloco (available here in the U.S.) makes the most beautiful sleds and carts. It was founded in 1919 in Bavaria, where I imagine people take sledding seriously, and it was founded by an ex-Mercedes-Benz woodworker. Mildly impressed? Just wait. Nevermind, I can’t wait. Just take a look at these Gloco sleds.
seen here
seen here

More sledding favorites tomorrow. Stick around.


We women love a man who can DIY.

O! to be a kid with this secret get away, found via here.


Incredible, right? I’m pretty sure organizational gifts are a sure way to please any woman. This work of organizational genius created by Something’s Hiding in Here.

handmade christmas gift ideas to build

the trebuchet
the lemonade stand
the go kart
these flutes
the rocking horse
the pinball machine




Just a few nice things for your feet.

foot massage gift

Don’t you love this little ball? We sent one to my BIL as a congrats gift after he won a race (he’s a very speedy guy). Now I want one for myself. So I can tote it around in my purse and whip out any time I need a quick foot rub. Is that gross?

And here are a few more.
the best slippers as gifts1
3 (i’m in love with these)
4 (they’re called base camp flip flops and they massage your feet after a tough hike. brilliant)
5 (it’s made from leftover flip flop material, how fun is that?)
7 (i want a pair of cozy mules)
9 (this is one serious foot warmer)

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Design*Sponge recently featured a sneak peek of the home of Jeff Bellantoni and Kim Westad. These rocking lawn chairs (…no, litterally, they rock) caught my eye. This set was an heirloom from grandma, but I found a few versions available in other places.  They’re so fun, I thought I’d let you in on it.
rocking folding lawn chairs retirement gift

  1. If you want to go vintage like Jeff and Kim, you can try your hand at winning this set on ebay.
  2. I love the stripey version from here.
  3. This outdoorsy version seems like it would be perfect on a fishing trip.
  4. Or get this more affordable version on Amazon.

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O! How I wish the idle days of summer would last forever. School starts here while it’s still blazing hot outside, and it just seems wrong to send my daughter off to school with her pigtails and new backpack in the sweltering August heat instead of the crisp September air. But Target and Walmart are having their back-to-school sales, and since we have a baby coming the same time that school starts (ahh! so much to do!), I thought it wiser to get prepared instead of staying in my ignorant summer bliss. I began my back-to-school prep slowly this weekend by browsing drinking bottles.
Sigg personalized photo water bottle

Have you seen the new SIGG skins? You can order a stick-on, peel-off skin for your Sigg water bottle with your favorite pic (first seen here).

cute kids water bottles1: Stainless steel 10 oz. drinking bottles from Land of Nod (only $9.95!)
2: Personalized 20 oz. aluminum water bottles from here
3: The 12 oz. version of the klean canteen
4: Foogo 12 oz Straw Bottles
5: Tyrrell Katz drinking bottles available here or here
6: Pumpkin Petunia’s new personalized bottles
Jo-Ann of Pumpkin Pentunia has generously offered 10% off your entire purchase.  Just enter code “giverslog” to receive the discount. Thanks, Jo-Ann!
7: Shinzi Katoh drinking bottles available here or here
one more UPDATE: Just saw these over at Cookie and had to throw them in the mix.
cute water bottles


I mentioned earlier that our latest family ambition is Geocaching. It’s turned out to be a great fun. We’ve fit in short hikes on weeknights and longer hikes on weekends, and we’ve found it to be the perfect outing for inviting friends along. The kids love knowing there is a treasure at the end of their hike, but the best part for me is discovering great little nooks and new parts of town wherever we go. It’s kind of like being shown around by a local, almost as good anyway. If you’re interested in trying it out and happen to have an iPhone, you can try starting with the Geocache app. But incase an iPhone isn’t in your short-term plans, or incase you want better accuracy and the made-for GPS maps, I’ve convinced my handsome husband to write a guest post about choosing the right GPS unit. Thanks, Brent.
guide to hand-held GPS units for geocaching

I admit I’m an amateur when it comes to GPS units, but I did work at Circuit City (may they rest in peace) to put myself through college. So I know a thing or two about researching consumer electronics. Before buying our family’s hand-held GPS, I scoured forums and reviews by users to find a unit that was best for us. If you are shopping around for a GPS unit, here are a few things that were important to me.

  • Antenna strength. If you can’t get the signal it isn’t much good. If you are in a car on major roadways this may not be a problem, but if you are hiking in the backwoods you need something that can get a good signal. We are all about hiking in the backwoods, so I had to find a unit that is WAAS enabled. WAAS is a system that uses ground-based stations and a lot of cool math to make the signal up to 5 times stronger than the normal GPS signal.
  • Paperless Geocaching. This is a feature that I really wanted since Geocaching was a big reason I wanted a GPS unit in the first place. This allows you to download coordinates, descriptions, and comments from to take with you wherever you go. When you’re planning a trip, it is great to be able to download clues to a handful of chaches and then hit these at your leisure while you are in the area, if you have any downtime. You will be surprised, even astounded, at how many caches are hidden within the area that you are staying.
  • Maps, maps, maps. This is where they get you. A good hiking GPS unit is not cheap, and it does not come with maps (and if it does the map isn’t necessarily the one you want). You buy maps separately, and you have a choice of (a) road maps or (b) a few types of TOPO maps. Or one of each. And if you buy a TOPO map and want to use it in your kyak, you’ll need to buy a seperate nautical map. The more I look at it the more I think you should pay for a good road map on your GPS, even if you bought the unit mainly for hiking. With the road maps installed, your GPS unit will become quite the handy helper to get you to the trail-head, get you to a restaurant close by, or find a hospital to take care of the snake bite. As for TOPO maps, unless you get one with good detail, it isn’t going to help you much in your grand backwoods adventures. Garmin sells a 24k map of California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington which seems to be a good buy. But be ready to pay around $100 for a package of maps. You’ll want to be sure it’s the latest version. I’ve been told that the Garmin 100k map isn’t worthwhile (it comes preloaded on some units, like the Garmin Oregon 400), unless you also buy the National Geographic maps to go with it.
  • Easy Interface. Unlike some (ahem, my wife), I like to read the manual with any gadget I purchase. Nonetheless, I wanted a GPS unit my wife could use as well as the kids. I think we did well. Our 6-year-old has a good grasp on running the unit already, and one day I believe my wife will also.

So then, taking all this into account, here’s what we purchased: Garmin Oregon 300.
It has everything I need once I buy a few maps. I like the size, I like that it runs on 2 AA batteries (on a long hike it wouldn’t be fun to have to run back and charge your batteries), and I like the display. So far it’s been a handy unit, and we’re looking forward to toting it along on many adventures to come.

Roam+Shoot Blog headerAnd we have one more announcement to make. We’ve started working on a geocaching documentary. A very small, homegrown geocaching documentary by our little family. You can follow its progress here. We’ve planted a few bugs in geocaches here in northern California. They have these TV charms attached. (We made them, do you like?) We’re hopoing to collect videos from willing geocachers who come across them. Wish us luck.
geocache image

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tandem hammockHow can you talk about summer reading without talking about hammocks? There are few places I can actually unwind, and laying in a hammock under a cloud scattered sky is probably my favorite of those. Above is a pic of me with the kids in a gift from my parents: a hammock matromonial from Venezuela (hammock for the married couple, which is a tandem hammock, just with a better name). I was in heaven. I’ve found something very fun and similar from Byer of Maine: the hammock Gigante, big enough for the whole family. Byer of Maine also sells other beautiful Brazilian-style hammocks.

A few other fun hammock vendors I’ve run across are Grand Trunk and Hammock Bliss. Below a few of their hammockstop to bottom:

the Grand Trunk travel single
the Hammock bliss double
(see also their triple)
the Hammock Bliss mosquito free


glow sticks summer camp kids giftOkay, do these goodies make you wish you were the one going to summer camp or what? Does anyone have any good ideas to send as camp snacks? So far all I have is the astronaut ice cream. (Fun, but probably lacking in nutrients.)

summer camp kids birthday giftsrow 1:
instant harmonica book
for accompanying fireside sing alongs
knot tying game to challenge all the boy scouts (or grown-up former scouts)

row 2:
hairdo book
for hours of braiding and hairstyle fun
heart shades

for looking fab at camp
Cat’s Cradle Kit(Did anyone else love this growing up?)

row 3:
underwater camera

Tricky Pix photography book
for inspiration
glow-in-the-dark playing cards (how cool is that?)

row 4:
The Scary Story Readerby American Storytelling
for checking what is in the bushes
LED night ball

and from the very tip top: glow sticks, in bulk of course so there’s enough to share.


Here are a few favorite ideas kids can make for dads on their special day.

fathers-day-gifts-kids-make-kite2Homemade kites. Remember that scene at the end of Marry Poppins? Ya, that’s what I’m imagining here. Get the supplies ready as a kit or make the kite in advance. Here are a few favorite DIY kite tutorials:
DIY Japanese Rokkaku Kite
DIY Sled Kite with downloable template
DIY Flapping Crow Kite (pictured)

fathers-day-gifts-kids-can-makerow 1: decoupage clipboard frame,
father’s day notepad via alphamom,
travel ‘go’ set,
row 2: reusable snack bags (be sure to include loving notes from the kids and—of course—snacks),
gadget case from a tie via One Pretty Thing,
row 3: personalized Rubik’s cube via One Pretty Thing,
indoor disc golf,
PVC marshmallow shooter, oh yea,
backyard crazy croquet course
row 4: manly catchall via One Pretty Thing,
homespun checkers via One Pretty Thing

And here’s a little something you can be getting ready for next father’s day, the Mario quilt.