Winter Adventure: Packing List

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While on winter break, we’re headed North to catch some extra snowflakes. I know that many of my readers are native to four-season climates, but it’s always helpful to have a go-to packing list for winter weather and winter adventures regardless of whether you’re out in the cold on the regular or a sun-baby leaving the palm trees for the slopes!

One thing that I’ve learned over my many cold-weather packing experiences is that it can sometimes be hard to pare down your choices when it comes to frozen conditions and that the frigid elements make what you put in your bag even more important.

My short list is– two to three sweaters, two flannel shirts, two pair of jeans, two base layers, one pair of snow pants, two pair of boots, two coats, one pair of gloves, one winter hat, one buff (or neck gaiter), five to seven pairs of socks, and one pair of pajamas.

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Sweaters x 3

First up, my very favorite piece of clothing—The Sweater. Sweaters really are a necessary part of packing for winter travel and adventure. My all-time favorite travel sweater is this gray merino sweater from Patagonia. It’s a men’s sweater from a few years ago, and I have gotten more wear out of it than any other sweater I own. If you know me, that is saying a lot because I am a sweater horse and have a collection that is well-loved and well-worn.

The key to a good sweater for adventure is to invest in some real wool. I could sing the praises of wool all. day. long. The important thing about wool is that it traps and keeps water and wetness away from your skins, dries quickly, and maintains warmth, so while you may be wet and even sweaty you’re much more likely to stay warm and toasty in wool. Cotton is the opposite, it keeps water next to your skin, is very heavy when wet, and takes a very long time to dry. The best option for snow shoeing, skiing, and snow biking is wool, hands down.

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Flannel x 2

Though flannel is often made from cotton, I have one thick Woolrich button-up that’s also made from wool and I bring this on every winter excursion. I will also break my no cotton rule for flannel as they are comfy extras and can easily be layered under a sweater, coat or other heartier piece of outerwear. I have several favorites from Madewell including this option.

Jeans x 2 + Snow Pants

I bring jeans for days or times that I don’t plan on being active like a nice dinner out after a day of skiing, or our plans to ring in the New Year with friends in Sun Valley. Jeans are great for long travel days in a plane or a car so I always pack a couple pair. My current faves are a high-rise pair from Madewell with a button fly.

I also love this ponte pair from James Jeans. Because these are old and sold out I’ve scoped out two other pairs you might want to look at, HERE, HERE, and HERE. They are the perfect blend of refined because they have back pockets like jeans, but they are made of poly so they feel and wear more like a legging.

Base Layers x 2

Crucial to all winter travel, especially if you are mixing in outdoor adventures are base layers. I also recommend wool base layers and it’s good to do your homework in this area because there are so many different variety of wool under-layers. For temperate climates I love this light weight Smartwool underlayer. But for a thicker, substantive pair you might want to try the new Patagonia capeline air base layer. They’re made from a merino-poly blend and the reviews are tops!

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Gloves x Hat x Buff

Also very necessary to keeping warm and wonderful is protecting all of your extremities. I have been wearing a pair of Gordini gloves for several years now. Partially this is because I don’t downhill ski and partially it’s because I haven’t needed anything warmer. This year my sweet hubby bought me a sweet pair of Hestra gloves and my life has forever changed. Gone are the days of frozen flanges. I couldn’t be more stoked.

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The hat I’ll bring is this fun red beanie. Pick something warm and why not go for a puff-ball on top if you’re feeling winter-festive? And let’s not forget that neck. I wear a neck gaiter nearly every time I head out into the frost. They are a must have if the wind picks up, and it is always nice to warm up your lips on long slogs.

Socks x 5

You can never have too many pairs of socks. Well… I guess if your sock stash caused you to have to bring another carry-on you may have over-done-it! I like to bring five to seven pair of socks. Here’s the thing, if your feet are cold add a pair of socks. Doubling up on socks has saved me on more snow shoeing expeditions than I can count.

Our favorite sock fetish right now is definitely Stance. However most of the ones I’ll bring are actually these wool cycling socks that I like to steal from my hubby. They are plush! Your feet will be nice and roasted when you’re finished.

Boots x 2

I’ll bring three pair of boots with me on this little adventure– my Sorel Joan of Arctics, my Asolo hiking boots, and a pair of more fashionable booties, THESE if you are interested. If we weren’t traveling by car, I would need to rethink my shoe choices and stick to two pair of boots. I am also toying with throwing in my favorite winter slippers by Haflinger. These babies keep out the cold on any frozen floor.

Coats x 3

For a trip that consists of space saving measures I would bring a packable down coat, and my wool winter coat. Because we are in our own rig I’m bringing my Gortex shell as well. I just updated to the Patagonia Powder Bowl jacket, but I had my last Gortex shell for almost fifteen years. The fact of the matter is if you buy quality your cost per wear often plummets.

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7 Ideas to Update Your Family Smartphone Habits

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Christmas is upon us! As we skate through the holiday season I wanted to share some of the ways that I have found to both evaluate and update smart phone usage in your home. After all, the Holidays are a time to connect with our families, enjoy time spent with friends, and remember with gratitude the blessings of the past year.

In the age of digital-everything, I’ve found that while I might have a desire to be on my phone scrolling and rolling my way across the internet, my propensity to pick up my phone doesn’t always bring me what I’m looking for– JOY! In fact, the more I spend precious weekend minutes (and hours) on my phone the more bothered, bugged, and dissatisfied I become.

Engaging in an era of constant technological reinvention can feel exhausting. However, as we realize that smartphones are tools– tools that have a very functional, serviceable purpose, yes– the better we will be able to stave off the smartphone toll– disconnection, dissatisfaction, and disappointment.

My phone can call up my latest dinner recipe, play my favorite song-set, cue my most recent to-do list, and give me access to my current yoga routine. To me, these are all winning ways to use my phone. I can also admit that I’ve used my phone as a babysitter (hello most recent trip to the salon), and I’ve used it as a kid-entertainer (hello date night for mom and dad). We call this the “cell phone trick”, but as parents we always need to check ourselves in terms of how much screen-time we’re allowing. Kids can’t and shouldn’t be responsible to either enable or limit their own media consumption. That job still rests on the shoulders of thoughtful parents.

Getting your Instagram fix is fine, but if you find yourself scrolling mindlessly through your feed over and over you might want to choose a few other activities that keep your attention and bring human interaction.

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Add an app to track your usage

One of the best ways to find out how much you really use your phone is with an app to track your usage. With a recent iOS update, my phone began giving me a weekly “Screen Time” report. Now whether this was always available on my phone and I didn’t use it, or whether this is a recent Apple installment, this weekly Screen Time report is a great way to get a picture of your phone use!

I’ve really liked knowing how much time I’m spending on my screen, and it enables me to see how much time is spent on the individual sites on the internet as well as on apps that my kids use like Minecraft. For example, last week I spent a total of 20 hours on my phone. To me that sounded like A LOT. But when I saw how much I spent on my meal planning website, the clock that I use as a timer in my class each day, and the time that my kids played on various apps (about 5 hours total). I felt as though I was a more aware user. For me this awareness brings the opportunity to evaluate, re-set if necessary, and scaffold my phone use for the next week!

Put your phone away at dinner. Period.

This hard and fast rule has really changed the atmosphere in our home. I’ll give my husband and I a pat on the back for continuing to honor family dinner, and I’ve written about the power and importance of this daily ritual here on Refined + Rugged. But making sure that family dinner doesn’t devolve into a family internet surf has really helped to make the precious moments of the day we get to spend together even more meaningful.

A lot of families have cell phone use rules, and I hope that yours is one of them. My philosophy is that having rules and usage guidelines that apply to EVERYONE in a family helps to communicate to ourselves and to our kids that the human is in charge of the phone not vice versa.

As we have set specific times that phones are not allowed or not present, I have watched the way that our interactions with one another grow in meaningful ways. We spend more time outside, we spend more time talking and laughing together, we spend more time reading, playing instruments, getting in a workout, doing homework, participating in activities in our community. As our cell phone usage goes down, our engagement with one another invariable increases, and our happiness quotient generally rises. Win!

Create Times when Phones are Acceptable

Along with being sure that you have hard and fast rules for putting away your phone, it is also wise to make sure that you have times when phones are appropriate. For example, we really do take dates in our small town and leave our boys at home to play games on the phone, watch TV, or generally have screen-time. Because we are only a few blocks away, it feels like getting more bang for our buck to have the smartphone act as our babysitter.

We also have a weekly Minecraft club at our library. I was originally reticent to sign the boys up for an hour of game time each week. However, instead of causing MORE screen-time later in the week, it has allowed us the freedom to play and game and the freedom to say, “No, you had your screen-time on Wednesday.”

Saturday morning is another time we allow our kids time on the smartphone or smart-device. Hard working parents need breaks, but I have found that it is best to have these as scheduled times. If my people know that Saturday morning is one time they will be able to watch television, play Minecraft, and use apps like “The Elements”, we all have this screen-time to look forward to rather than allowing it to rule every minute of our lives or make a fight when one isn’t needed.

Remember that Small People are Watching

The more our world engages in the digital universe the more we may find ourself interfacing with technology. Remember that individuals, partners, families really can make a difference in digital citizenship by evaluating and then limiting smartphone and smart-device usage.

As I look at the way I use my smartphone, I have been reminded that in most cases when I am on my phone some small set of eyes is watching. Try this for an afternoon or a day. Turn off your phone. Put it in a drawer or in a desk and then go out with the purpose of observing the way that other people use their phones.

Think about the fact that for most children the ideas, images, examples, and trend-setters for smartphone use are the adults in their life. For the most part they walk about without phones watching the way the the world around them chooses to interact with technology. What would the smartphone world look like to you if you were a child?

For example, we have strongly encouraged reading in our household. A few nights ago my boys were soaking in the warmth of their good reads in front of a glowing fire. I have been guilty, in these moments of silence when my children are engaged, to take the time to peruse my phone. In other words, my children are engaged in the real world, they are learning, reading, growing and expanding their sweet minds, and I am taking my “phone time”.

How does this look to them? Because as much as I may pretend to limit my smartphone usage, there are certainly times when I should make the executive decision to TURN IT OFF. I made the choice then and there to grab a book, highly recommended to me by our school librarian, and read.

Make a list of all of the activities you like to do without your smartphone

Maybe you’re not an avid reader so picking up a book isn’t appealing to you. Instead of a book, what you should look for is an enterprise that excites you that is not linked to your phone! While writing this post, I was encouraged to make a list of all of the activities, projects, and endeavors I can opt into before I pick up my phone.

While your list may look different from mine, the idea is the same– make the time and take the opportunity to do things that don’t involve digital isolation. Even when you are commenting a friend’s Facebook post or latest Instagram update you do so in a vacuum in that very moment. You are all alone. What are other things you can do to keep your spirits high and your outlook positive in the coming year?

When you’re stuck scrolling, just turn it off!

In the end, if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your phone on a Friday evening– STOP! One of the most powerful realizations about your phone is that you are in charge. So if you do end up in the internet’s web far out into the galaxy of google searches, it might be best for all to simply put the phone down and walk away.

Take Stock of your Situation

Just as you might look at the Screen Time stats on your phone, take the time to evaluate your phone usage over time. Sometimes we take a couple steps forward and then a couple of steps back. I am advocating a constant analysis of the ways which smartphones can be corralled, limited, and controlled as a mode of human convenience rather than a time-sucking monster.

My ultimate concern is that we model for our little humans the kind of digital citizens we hope that they will be one day, and that we leave the rising generation with the skills to realize that they are the masters of the digital world, not vice versa.

I hope your Holiday really is merry and bright. I hope that the love and connection you create transcends technology. I hope that reigning in your phone will put you back in the driver’s seat of your sleigh. Sending you love and well wishes from an average human fighting the good fight to unplug, unwind, and fully enjoy this special time of year. Happy Friday, friends.

XX, Megan

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Oregon: Road Trip Part II

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To the Coast

Portland to Crater Lake, Crater Lake to Bend the beginning of our road trip is posted in Oregon Road Trip: Part I (here). After a few days in Bend it was time to move on in our journey. We packed up the van and headed to the coast where we planned to spend the rest of our trip.

The Oregon coast is one of the most breathtaking places to visit. Rocky and craggy, moody and weather beaten, the weather can be warm (rarely), but it is almost always characterized by hoary morning hazes and sometimes torrents of rain even in the summer months. Our first stop was Wax Myrtle State Park (pictured above and below).

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Oregon: Road Trip Part I

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Embracing Van Life

This summer we headed out on an epic Oregon road trip in Olive, our 1985 Volkswagen Westfalia Weekender. Over the life of Refined + Rugged I’ve shared some of our other camping, hiking, biking adventures, and road trips,  and I wanted to add this trip to the list of fabulous vacations that practically anyone could re-create. This entire trip could also be scheduled for fall through this gorgeous state. Hint, hint, get behind the wheel and live!

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New Balance: Five Things I’m Doing To Renew Daily Equilibrium

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With the beginning of my second year of teaching I’ve encountered the reoccurring matter of balance. We have on-boarded a lot of activities and obligations to our family life. In addition to working full-time I will also be taking college courses as part of professional development for my teaching licensure over the next two years.

Here are five things I’m doing to renew balance in the eternal quest for equilibrium.

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