Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hiking in a Winter Wonderland

By Rachael

There was no snow on the ground, but the temperature hovered around the freezing mark when our family ventured outdoors recently. Hiking is traditionally an activity reserved for the milder seasons of the year, but a winter hike is a worthwhile experience.

We bundled ourselves in layers: long underwear, sweaters, coats, scarves, hats, and gloves, and my husband packed our two walking sticks and a pair of binoculars. Our destination was Confluence State Park just north of St. Louis, where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi River. The trail is short – just a quarter of a mile to the confluence point and a quarter of a mile back to the trail head and parking lot – which was perfect for our young daughters. It was our first winter hike, and we were enchanted from the moment we started down the trail and found ourselves walking alongside the icy Missouri River. 

A winter hike showcases a landscape that is very different from what we see during the summer, and it’s also a less crowded time in state parks and on trails. If there’s snow on the ground, it transforms the view. The leaves are off the trees, providing views of natural features or landmarks that might otherwise be obscured by foliage. Look hard and you may find animal tracks in the snow or antlers shed by a deer. You can make winter hikes fun for kids by making snowmen or snow angels along the way, packing hot chocolate in thermoses, pulling the kids in a sled, and seeking out trails that include water features like frozen ponds, lakes, rivers, or waterfalls.

During our hike, the woods were quiet and peaceful, without the usual chatter of summer birds. The river flowed quickly, full of ice, and we heard water trickling and the sound of ice pieces bumping and grating against each other. When we reached the confluence point, the Mississippi River was mostly clear of floating ice to the north, while the Missouri steadily emptied its ice into the larger southward-bound body of water. 

We posed for photos, picked our way across the sandy ground to the edge of the Mississippi, and watched the girls throw rocks in the river and chip at bits of ice along the shore. We passed the binoculars around and hoped we might see a few eagles or hawks, but there were only gulls. On our way out, we saw groups of migrating trumpeter swans flying overhead. We were satisfied with our morning adventure. It felt good to breathe the fresh, cold air. We got some exercise, and we soaked up the bit of sunshine that made its way through the clouds.

When we began to feel cold, we headed home to a brunch of biscuits and gravy, eggs, and hot tea. Back at home, we began planning where we want to hike next. With some preparation and proper attire, hiking really is an all-seasons activity. Our first winter hike will not be our last. 

Rachael is associate editor for Mumbling Mommy. She is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University and a former newspaper editor. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing

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Friday, January 23, 2015

5 Romantic Valentine's Gifts You Can Buy on a Budget

A guest post by Liam Edwards of --
As we approach Valentine's Day, we start seeking those special gifts to buy for our loved ones. The problem is that there is no gift that money can buy that can show exactly how much we love someone, and it’s even worse when we’re on a budget.

So what do you buy them?

The good thing is that sentimental value is worth a lot more than money, so there is help at hand. Here are my top five romantic Valentine's gifts you can buy, which show your love, without breaking the bank.

Seek the Talents Within.

What are you good at doing? Do you knit, paint, write music? Why not use your specific talents to give him a gift that he’ll never forget? Paint a picture for him, even cook a really special meal or make delicious banana and chocolate chip muffins, and he will appreciate your creativity and individuality. It may be low cost, but it will be super special.

Image sourced from:

Plan a Low-cost Day Out.

They say that the best thing you can give someone is your time. In a busy world, sometimes there is no better "I love you" than to turn your electronic devices off and give your undivided attention for the day. This doesn't have to come at a financial burden; you can go to the park or the beach (depending on where you live). Treat him to an ice cream or fish and chips. You could choose a free art gallery or museum if you’re after a bit of culture, or go out for a romantic picnic.

Showcase Your Romantic Photos.

Showcasing the memories that are important to you can be one of the best gestures of love. You can choose all the important photos of both of you and put them into a book for him. Go through your photo archives and print the best shots – maybe telling a story along the way.
Scrapbooking can be a cost-effective way to do this and there are several styles and ideas to work with. If you don’t have a good printer, you can get them printed in a print shop or creating a photo book online isn’t too expensive. This gives you a great opportunity to use your creativity and show him how much you love him.

Make a Canvas.

Does your man have a particular design or photo that he really loves? You can get a personalized design printed onto canvas to stylishly hang on his wall. You might want to choose a photo of the two of you, the family, or even him with his favourite football player.
There are a number of companies both online and offline that can do this inexpensively.

Create a CD.

Think about all of the songs and music you have enjoyed listening to together. Some hold a special place in both of your hearts – something from your first date, what was playing during your first kiss, or something you both listened to in your youth. Almost anyone with a computer can buy a blank CD and make a special compilation CD. Print a photo or craft your own design for the cover and write a romantic message inside.

Buying a Valentines gift doesn’t have to break the budget. The most important thing is to show that you’ve put thought into what you are giving, to make it really special and unique.

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