Earth Hour

Earth Hour


Do you and your family do anything special for Earth Hour?

I know it’s not a holiday, and it’s only for an hour, so time is limited, but I just wondered if anyone else out there has any traditions for this day.

Our family does.

We began this little tradition when Earth Hour began in 2007, and the kids still enjoy it to this day:

We shut off as much as possible. Electronics, computers, lights, we go dark. We light a whole lot of candles, use flashlights if necessary, and we even have a wind-up radio (a bit of a pain if you ask me but whatever!).

Then we pull out a board game or two and set it up in our candle-lit kitchen and we play together, as a family.

Often, we go over the hour because we are having so much fun, and it’s almost a shame to turn the lights back on again, but we thoroughly enjoy the time together.

As kids get older, though, it’s tougher and tougher for them to put the electronics down on the best of days, much less on the day of Earth Hour, but they do know there is a greater purpose, so we usually don’t have too many problems with getting them to give it up for one tiny little hour.

What I do NOT recommend is playing a game like Monopoly (that game is NEVER a short one) or PayDay (which is a game we love but have given up for the reason I’m about to explain)…

Board games that deal with handling play money, or writing anything down, or hundreds of tiny game pieces, none of that works very well in dimly lit situations… make a Family Game Night and play those more in-depth games then.

Aim for simplicity in your game choice. For example, for us tonight, it will be Uno or Sorry…

Another plus for your Earth Hour evening: SNACKS! Everything is better with snacks!

Little kids will LOVE this, because it’s almost like a party, and kids LOVE parties! Make it as festive and exciting as possible, and if you DO have small children, skip the real candles and go for flameless candles. Keep those little fingers and faces safe! Have some flashlights and fresh batteries ready!

Lastly, make sure to mark it on your calendar, and remind that kids that Earth Hour is coming up. It builds the excitement if they’ve experienced a fun Earth Hour evening in the past.

I’d love to hear YOUR ideas for making Earth Hour a special occasion!

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Everything You Need to Know About Geocaching

geocaching


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In my last post, I started talking about one of my favourite family pasttimes: geocaching.

I mentioned that to get started, you should sign up for a free account at www.geocaching.com, and install the app on your smartphone. You can buy handheld GPS units for geocaching, and although we haven’t gotten that far yet, we’re definitely interested!

Once you have your free account and the free app, you’re all set to look for geocaches. I suggest opening the webpage at home first, to see what’s around you. The webpage does this by tracking your location, and will show you as a blue, radiating dot on the page. The geocaches around you will be green markers on the map (I believe the orange markers are geocache events, something we have not participated in).

geocaching

Zoom in, and get a closer look at a geocache in your area by clicking on it. Each geocache has a name and a GC code, with latitude and longitude coordinates. Clicking on the geocache of your choice will open up further information about the geocache, such as, what size it is, what kind of container it might be in, hints on finding it, and whether you need to bring a pen or a pencil. It will also give you information on when it was hidden (how old the geocache is) and when it was last found.

We're getting closer!

We’re getting closer!

We like to check out the geocaches ahead of time online, and send the information to our phones, so that when we’re “out and about”, we can save time and battery power by already having the info with us. When you’re outside and looking for these treasures with your smartphone, it is an awesome feeling! And it’s such an accomplishment when you find one, you feel pretty darn good about yourself 🙂

The great thing about using your smartphone is that it has a compass feature that you can follow, and it’s accurate within 5 meters.

Closing in...

Closing in…

Almost there!

Almost there!

Last weekend, we headed to a family function, and enjoyed the nice drive and fall colours on the way to and from… and we found a geocache along the way!

geocache

Success!

What's inside?

What’s inside?


Our last name is Riches, so we leave play money for the next person to find!

Our last name is Riches, so we leave play money for the next person to find!

Once you find the geocache, you will want to log that you’ve found it, because this information tells future geocachers when it was last found. You can do this step immediately, or wait until a little later, but I wouldn’t wait too long! It’s good to keep the information as current as possible.

Found the geocache log!

Found the geocache log!

My husband signing the log sheet.

My husband signing the log sheet.

I can’t say enough good things about geocaching, as huge a fan as I am of the great outdoors. It’s an addicting activity, and so worthwhile 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed the information I’ve shared. If you’ve been geocaching, what would you add?

Tyler's idea of a fun family photo!

Tyler’s idea of a fun family photo!

Why Geocaching Will Make You Question Everything

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You can mention “geocaching” to just about anyone, and some people will have heard of it (some will even have done it). A lot haven’t heard of it, but are intrigued when you explain what it is.

I first heard about geocaching roughly a year ago, from a coworker who had just done it for the first time with her then-boyfriend. That almost sounds dirty, right? It can be! Let me explain:

The possibility of geocaching was born on May 2nd, 2000, when satellites were given new instructions, improving their GPS capabilities. The next day, a guy named Dave Ulmer, wanting to test the accuracy of the new capabilities but hiding a trackable item item in the woods, taking note of the GPS coodinates. The idea was to “take something, and leave something”. He posted the first “geocache” on Usenet, only then, it was called “the great stash game”. Within three days, two other people found the item and shared the experience. Within a month, people were buzzing about this activity and, in a nutshell, it caught on. (This is the extremely abbreviated version!)

It became geocaching because “geo” means Earth and “caching” means hidden temporarily (in general).

LOTS of geocaches are hidden in wooded areas, which is where getting dirty comes into play 😉

However, some geocaches are hidden in some not-so-private areas too, which brings me to my next point: you need to practice stealth. If the wrong people find the geocache, there is a good possibility it will end up being destroyed.

geocache

Out in the field, hunting geocaches!

geocaching

Tyler & Caleb, searching high, low and inside caves to find the treasure.

My husband and I, with our boys, have found about 30 geocaches at this point, which isn’t great, but it’s not too bad either. Plus, we’ve found them in all kinds of environments. We’ve found one in a grocery store parking lot. We’ve found two separate ones near coffee drive-thrus, and we’ve also found several along the Niagara escarpment (which is close to where we live). We also had one day, where all four of us climbed the side of the escarpment and came out looking like The Walking Dead. Dirt EVERYWHERE, twigs stuck in my hair, war wounds on just about all of us, and what an appetite we worked up…

geocaching

Found it!

Yup… but so rewarding when you FIND it. It’s like a grown-up version of a treasure hunt, and there’s no telling what you will find… some people leave money, trinkets, collectibles, even gift cards. You don’t have to take or leave something, but you should definitely sign the log sheet with your name and the date.

geocaching

Opening up the container to see what’s inside, and to sign the log sheet.

But, to start up with this amazing hobby, your first step really is to go to www.geocaching.com, and create a free account. You need this in order to look for geocaches, because the website tracks every one of them. And to make it extra convenient, you can get the app for your phone, so when you’re on the go, maybe between errands, you can log into your account on your smartphone, and see what’s around you 🙂

I’ll delve a little more deeply into this topic in my next post… I love this hobby, and I think if you enjoy the outdoors, you will too. What I love the most about it, though, is the fact that it’s like a huge, global secret. Some people know about it, and many more don’t. So if a geocache near your workplace or near your home is in view, you can enjoy knowing that it’s right under their noses and they have no idea!