Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Creative Ideas for that Leftover Halloween Candy Stash…

Buzz Lightyear and Jimi Hendrix analyzing their spoils.

Buzz Lightyear and Jimi Hendrix analyzing their candy spoils.

Raise your hand if your house still has Halloween candy left.  Don’t lie about it, we can’t be the only ones.  And yes, that secret stash in the top of your pantry that your kids don’t know about DOES count.  If you’re like our family, your kids probably got way too much candy and you’re not quite sure how to, ahem, dispose of it in a manner that is satisfactory to everyone in the household.  I mean, you could always just throw it away I guess, but I don’t like that idea because it goes against everything we’ve taught our son about not being wasteful.  But having a bunch of candy lingering around in the house also goes against everything we’ve taught our son about making healthy lifestyle choices!

It took some brainstorming (and pinterest-ing, because not all of these ideas are mine, most notably the recipes!), but here are some ways our family is handling our leftover candy stash this year…

DONATE – The fastest way to make that candy disappear, and a much better option than throwing it away!  Most dentist offices will take Halloween candy (and in turn send it somewhere else, such as to soldiers overseas).  Some will even pay you by the pound, which could turn your candy into an economics lesson for your older kiddos!

ADVENTURES ONLY – If you can’t splurge while you’re climbing/hiking/skiing etc, then when can you?  If you’ve got the willpower, reserve some of your treats for special adventures.  Many times a little bit of sugary motivation can go a long way for keeping those little legs moving (see this post on Hiking Bears for more about this idea!)

A quick sugar-shot on the trail!

A quick sugar-shot on the trail!

FRO YO TOPPINGS – Next time your family heads to one of those frozen yogurt bars where you add toppings yourself and pay by the ounce, think ahead and bring your own toppings out of your candy stash!  You can emphasize how much money you are saving (although you may have to eat outside/in the car, since the store manager may not appreciate your re-purposing brilliance as much as your family does!)  Better yet, create your own fro yo bar at home as part of a special family night!

GINGERBREAD DECOR – If making gingerbread houses/people is one of the holiday traditions your family enjoys, then save the “prettiest” candy to use for decorations!

BAKING – When I started looking up recipes that use chocolate candy as key ingredients, I was SHOCKED at how many options there were.  All of them looked so yummy, it was a no brainer to save our chocolate candy for baking projects!  So far we’ve made an outrageously amazing Butterfinger Pie for our small group at church, as well as some candy-laden cookies for Big C’s Thanksgiving feast at school (ok, ok, and we made extra to take to the crag last weekend…) For Thanksgiving, we’re making Snickers Blondies and Milky Way Fudge , and I have a whole list of ideas for Christmas goodies to give away to teachers, neighbors, friends, etc.  (Check out my Pinterest board for the recipes!)  None of the recipes are “good for you,” but if you share with others you get to enjoy a little in moderation while spreading some cheer to those around you!

IMG_8151 IMG_8481

Since we all know that our kids pick up on everything we do (whether we want them to or not!), I think how we handle seemingly simple things like leftover candy is a great chance to find some teachable moments with our kiddos.  My hope is that these ideas will show my son how our family views health, balance, money, and good stewardship, and allow him to be an active participant!

What does your family do with your leftover candy stash…I know you’ve got one…;)



2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Kids

Looking for some ideas for your favorite adventurous kiddo this holiday season?  Here’s a list of some gift ideas based on our experiences adventuring as a family of four this past year.  I’ve listed a general gift, why it  makes a great gift, as well as  specific brand recommendations that have worked for us (and of course, where to find them!)  Depending on how much of a gear junkie your child is (it’s hereditary in our family) these items may or may not be found in a letter to Santa (in fact, some of these items are more of a gift to help mom and dad out than the child…)  However they are practical items that will allow your favorite kids to adventure longer, farther, deeper, and ultimately, better, over the next year – and THAT is gift worth giving!


Why - A high quality bag will ensure that your child stays warm and cozy all night long on family camping trips.  A “good” bag is going to be much more expensive than a cheap-o brand, but in the long run is a much better investment.  The “cheap-o’s” are only good for sleepovers and warm weather camping…plus they take up a TON of room compared to their more durable counterparts.

In Our Experience:  Big C finally grew out of his down suit and upgraded to a “big boy” sleeping bag last Christmas.  (He was 3 and 1/2 then.)  We went with the Deuter Starlight, and it still looks almost brand new, despite logging a ton of mileage this past spring, summer, and fall.  He’s stayed warm and cozy in nighttime temps in the low 30’s with howling winds, but was still comfortable on sticky, humid summer nights (though obviously with far less clothes.)  It even has an extendable zipper for “growing room.”  Get it here.




Why - Being from the south, we generally don’t see a lot of snow (although last year we sure did!)  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get cold, and it certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t get wet.  Having appropriate clothing options for winter weather (whether that be snow, ice, rain, or just plain cold!) is a must for keeping your kiddo happy on cold weather outings.

In Our Experience: Barnone, Ducksday gear is the way to go.  (Reviewed here, here, and here…can you tell we like this brand?!?) Their fleece/rain suit combo takes care of an afternoon of sledding as well as a muddy morning puddle jump.  The sizes are roomy without being bulky, allowing your child to get the maximum amount of wear in.  Oh, and the best part about Ducksday is that the suits seem to be indestructable – DEFINITELY hand-me-down worthy!  Get it here.



Why: Because babywearing is so hot right now!  Just kidding, although it does seem like everyone is doing it these days – and for good reason!  There is NO better way to introduce baby to the rhythms of your life than by wearing him/her – and that is especially true when it comes to outdoor adventures!  If you’ve got an expectant mom on your list, you should definitely make sure she’s got a good carrier (at least one!)

In Our Experience:  You can never have too much babywearing paraphernalia.  There are so many different options when it comes to styles of carriers, and each has it’s own pros and cons.  Our favorites for outdoor adventures on land are the Bitybean (reviewed here ) and Boba (reviewed here and here.)  For a comparison review of ALL of our favorites, see here.  Get Bitybean here.  Get Boba here.



Why: Because packing healthy food to fuel adventures can be tricky.  Individually packaged food is expensive, creates excess trash, and often loaded with preservatives.  Plastic tupperware containers eliminates the waste problem and allows for clean, healthy eating on the trail…but all that plastic can be bulky and difficult to fit in a pack.  Zip-loc bags pack better…but the price can add up…AND you have the extra trash factor!  Did you know that one reusable bag can keep as many as 1000 bags out of the waste stream?!?

In Our Experience:  We’ve tried a few store-bought brands fo bags (SnackTAXI is a great one!).  But if you know how to use a sewing machine and have any crafty bone somewhere in your body, it’s VERY easy to make your own.  Plus then you get to customize the fabric and size of the bag’s to your little adventurer’s needs!   (If you are interested in making your own, check out this tutorial I wrote a while back.)  We also like reusable squeeze pouches for things that would ordinarily require spoons. For Baby Z I fill them with some sort of homemade applesauce mixture – her favorite so far is pumpkin-pear.  Big C often likes to have greek yogurt in his – which is the ONLY way to do yogurt on a road trip!  Our family’s favorite brand is Squooshi, reviewed here.

Aura by MPOWERD small_0


Why: Because lights make the dark fun. Fun to use and practical to have around camp, you can’t go wrong with light-up accessories as a gift.  Whether it’s a flashlight, headlamp, or an LED slap bracelet, there are lights to fit all budgets.

In Our Experience:  In our family you can NEVER have too many light-up accessories when you are camping!  From the time we start to pitch our tent, my little man has at least 2 lights with him at all times.  And he sleeps with a flashlight in his sleeping bag…just in case (in case of WHAT, I don’t know, but it’s a reasonable concession to make!)  Now that we’ve got a baby in the tent again (who goes to bed before we do and needs Mommy in the middle of the night), we are heavily reliant on our solar-powered Luci Light (reviewed here) as a nightlight.

For more gift ideas, check out these fellow outdoor family bloggers…

Go Adventure Mom – Holiday Gift Guide
Rain or Shine Mamma - 25 Great Holiday Gift Ideas for Outdoor Kids (and Giveaway!)
Mommy Loves Trees – Gift Guide for Outdoor-Loving Moms: Under $50 + a Giveaway
Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies – Top Ten Christmas Gifts for Snowy Winter Fun (with Giveaways!)
Adventurous Parents: 7 (More) Gift Ideas for Outdoorsy and Adventurous Parents
Brave Ski Mom: Holiday Gift Guide for Ski Moms and Their Skiing Families
Skedaddle: 10 Easy Gifts for Outdoor Adventurers
Adventurous Moms: 10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Adventurous Kids
Garage Grown Gear: 15 Outdoor Gifts You Didn’t Know Existed
Tales of a Mountain Mama: Outdoor Family Holiday Gift Guide 2014
Rockies Girl: Gift Ideas for Outdoor Women, Mamas, and Babies
Bring the Kids: Experiences vs Things: The Secret to Holiday Gifts That Can Actually Buy Happiness
 AK on the Go: Give the Gift of Stewardship this Christmas
Mountain Mom and Tots: Great Giftable Gear from 2014
Adventure Tykes: Holiday Gift Guide


Backyard Workout Challenge

Recently I found myself stuck in a rut when it came to my mid-week cardio routine. (On the weekends, hubby and I can tag team with kid-duty, but during the week I’m usually left to my own devices.)  My available exercise window during the week is pretty darn small.  The most efficient way to squeeze in some exercise is to hop on the elliptical…but that gets pretty old.  So lately I’ve been putting myself through my own cross-training “boot camp” type workout in the backyard.  It’s a lot more fun than being cooped up inside, and it’s a great way to toss in some lower body exercises – something I don’t work very much in the climbing gym!

My format is pretty simple – I choose 15 exercises and do each one for 1 minute.  Then I repeat that circuit 2 additional times, giving me a total of 45 minutes workout time.  Obviously you could choose more or less exercises, and repeat your circuit more or less times.

Here’s a list of the exercises in my “arsenal.”  Some of them are staples that I always do, and others are ones that I rotate through.  I try to change it up a little bit every time so that I’m not always doing the same moves in the same order, but the gist is always the same.


HIGH KNEES (jog, get knees high as you can)
KICK BUTTS (jog, bring heels to bum)
SKIP (explode, w/ big, swinging arms…Big C really likes this one)
DANCE (another Big C fave….)
SIDESTEP (get low,  basketball drill style…alternate directions)
SQUATS (I like to do them with a ball)
TOE TOUCHES (for ankle/knee stability – balance one leg and bend down w/straight back to touch toes)
HAMSTRING BRIDGES (on an exercise ball) 
STEP UPS (on a stair, chair, or bench)
CRAB WALK, BEAR WALK, and any other silly things my 4 year old can come up with that gets the heart rate up.  

My favorite part about this concept is how family-friendly this workout is.  I generally do it while Baby Z is sleeping, although I have done short (10-15 minute) circuits with her playing on the floor/ground near me.  If she needs me I’m right there and it’s easy to just stop my watch timer and spend time with her for a few minutes before resuming.  If Big C is around (ie, not at preschool), then I usually do it when he’s entertaining himself in the backyard.  The cool part is that once he sees what I’m doing, he often joins me for a couple of minutes here and there (he is especially fond of skipping and jumping intervals!)  I like that I’m able to not only model a healthy lifestyle for him, but also get him involved as well!







Two Random Climbing Adventures


This past week our family did two things that we rarely get to do, which made for some really fun (albeit random!) climbing adventures.

Mommy/Daughter Day
On Saturday my boys had an all-day father/son event at a local air show, leaving me and Baby Z at loose ends.  My original plan was to just have a boring relaxing day getting stuff done around the house. But the weather was far too tempting to stay indoors, and after a few last minute plans (as in, 6:30 am the day of), Baby Z and I were off on our first ever Mommy/Daughter climbing adventure!

Climbing has always been a family sport for us, and I have spent very few craggin’ days as a single mom (ie, brought a crag-kiddo but no crag-daddy.)  Offhand I can only think of 3 times I’ve done it with C, and he was definitely way older than 8 months, so I was a little apprehensive about how the day would go.  To be honest, between having to handle feedings, naps, and diaper changes all by myself, I was a little skeptical about how much actual climbing time I’d get in, however I was psyched to spend a beautiful fall day outside with friends.

Blessed to spend the day with this girl!

Blessed to spend the day with this girl!

But although parts of the day were a little chaotic, I managed to get in three climbs – Electra 5.10c, Energy Czar 5.10d, and Butcher of Baghdad 5.11d (the latter of which was a new redpoint!)  And despite a little bit of pre-naptime crankies, Baby Z had a great time.  She got to meet some new people, try out her new fleece suit from Ducksday, and ALMOST eat a rock when Mommy turned her head.  (Big round of applause to John Lee, Hannah Newton, and Pita the Chihuahua for putting up with the craziness!)  We all hiked out with smiles on our faces…except for Baby Z who konked out on the hike out and remained down for the count until we had to wake her up when we got home!

Playing Hooky…
Of course the Crag-Daddy wasn’t about to be left out of the sending fun, and since he had a vacation day to burn, we were actually able to take advantage of the beautiful weather that we always seem to have midweek before a weekend cold snap!  So on Tuesday we grabbed our favorite highschool-er (since local schools were out for Veterans Day) and headed up to the High Country for what turned out to be a profitable day for all parties involved!

After our favorite warm-up at The Dump, Voodoo Child (5.11a), we got down to business on our agendas for the day – Adam had his sights set on Fry Cleaned (5.11d), the Crag-Daddy had some unfinished business with Last Glitch Effort (5.12a), and I turned my attention to Steady Eddie aka Treadin’ Water (5.12a) for me.


Compared to the rest of the wall, Steady Eddie rarely sees any action, not because the route is bad, but because it is almost always wet at the crux, due to drainage up top.  But on this fine fall day, everything was bone dry, so I decided to give it a go.  Confession: My first go did involve a stick clip at the crux.  The holds were SOOOO silty and dirty (from runoff) and it was impossibly hard to see the sequence…so I did what any sport weinie would do and called for the stick clip.  After a good brushing I could start to visualize the moves, and was able to make my way to the top.

Daddy/daughter time at The Dump

Daddy/daughter time at The Dump

There were no surprises, as the beta for the hard moves followed a recurring theme similar to most of the climbing at The Dump – whine a little bit about how the holds are facing the wrong way, then get your feet up to your face and undercling with all your might!  Steady Eddie featured a hard move down low, then pretty easy climbing up blocky flakes until you hit the business, when all of a sudden the holds sort of disappear. A super high foot and a few powerful undercling moves one right after the other makes up the crux.  My second…and third…attempts were actually thwarted not by the crux, but by a long move off of a sloper to the finishing jugs.  I just couldn’t seem to get my feet set up right, though each time I refined my beta a LITTLE better and was a LITTLE bit closer to making the move.

I was pretty frustrated when it didn’t go down on the third go.  Adam and Steve had both sent, and no one likes to be the only non-sender in the car on the drive home.  But much props to the Crag-Daddy for convincing me to give it one more go, despite the fading light.  I waited around for about 20 minutes, then executed every inch of beta exactly how I wanted to.  My feet touched the ground JUST as the sun dipped below the trees.  Yes! First new 5.12 redpoint postpartum!  And for the first time in a long time, our car drove home with not one, not two, but THREE sends to celebrate!

Contemplating the business on Steady Eddie (5.12a)

Contemplating the business on Steady Eddie (5.12a)

Cairn-building 101...

The lighting was weird, but Big C was VERY proud of the cairns he built!

Our original intent was to head to the New again for one final time this weekend, but the weather is looking pretty winter-y.  We may have to leave our projects from a couple of weeks ago on hold for a few months as we shift from roped season to bouldering season.  But if the past few days end up being our last roped trips of the year, they sure were a great way to go out!


The New Tenaya Tarifa is Here!


I’ve found a new favorite shoe.  It’s called the Tenaya Tarifa.  It. Is. Awesome.  This shoe takes the term “versatility” to a whole new level.  It really can do it ALL…and comfortably!

Let me back up a bit.  I first got a crack at these shoes a little over a month ago.  Although the addition of a 4th family member caused me to take a step back from working events and demos for the time being, the folks at Trango/Tenaya thankfully still love me enough to send me a care package of their newest products for fall – most notably, the Trango Crag Pack and the Tenaya Tarifa.  (And may I say, the crag pack is fantastic – a very well-thought-out design that is obviously based on how climbers actually use their packs.)  But this post is about shoes, not packs!

Smearing on the thinny-thin out at Hawksbill Mountain

Smearing on the thinny-thin out at Hawksbill Mountain

What Tenaya says: “The Tarifa is a powerhouse of performance thanks to the new RB Range X technology (Maximum Range of Response and Balance). The RB Range X system creates a dynamic response and provides unparalleled balance in the shoe, making climbing feel both easier and more intuitive. Its narrow last and mid-stiff midsole are sensitive enough for steep terrain, but hold up to the demands of vertical edging on tiny holds.  The speed-lace system offers quick entry with the precision fit of a lace-up, and the 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip rubber provides unmatched friction and durability.”

What Cragmama says:  I got these shoes the day before heading to Boone for the Hound Ears Bouldering competition.  I was psyched to try them, but brought other shoes as backup, as I wasn’t sure my feet could take climbing all day in a brand new pair of shoes… but the extra pair never made it out of my pack!  I’ve since worn these shoes on friction slab, steep, overhanging terrain, and dime-edge, vertical faces.  And these shoes performed well every single time.  The speed laces combine the best of both worlds – on and off like a velcro, but the exact fit that a lace-up provides.  The only negative thing I have to say about these shoes is that the shoe laces are SUPER long…but that’s nothing a knife and a lighter to burn the ends can’t remedy.

Tackling the overhangs of Psychowrangler 5.12a

Tackling the overhangs of Psychowrangler 5.12a

Bottom Line: If you can only afford to buy ONE shoe, the Tenaya Tarifa should be that shoe.

The folks at Trango never cease to amaze me with their new innovative products.  It’s clear that they listen to how their climbers are using gear, and design products to improve that experience.  Even though I’m somewhat on hiatus now, I’m still so proud to be working with this company, and wholeheartedly stand behind their products.  If you are interested in the Tarifa or any of their new offerings for fall, you can order them directly from the Trango website here.  (And if you’re interested in reviews of the rest of the Tenaya line-up, click here and here.)

I’d love to hear from everyone else – what’s YOUR most versatile shoe?  If you only had space in your pack for one shoe, which shoe would you take?