Solar Eclipse August 8th, 2017

So how many of you were able to view any part of the eclipse a few days ago? I learned about it a few weeks ago, and decided this was something I wanted the kids to experience. Luckily, totality was visible a few short hours from where my parents live in North Carolina. It was a little funny because my kids started school on Wednesday, went Thursday, then I pulled them out Friday through Tuesday for this trip. Their teachers were all for it, it is kind of like a science field trip after all! 

This was the best picture I was able to get with my phone

It’s been 26 years since I was able to experience an eclipse, and it has been weird for me this time around listening to everyone freaking out. Schools in our area of Ohio were basically having a lock down, keeping all the kids inside during the entire event. When I was in school, we made eclipse viewers to watch the event with. Glasses were readily available, but people were against using them for fear of eye damage, a valid argument, yes, but a little research could’ve allowed anyone to watch this event.

We watched the eclipse from Lee State Park near Bishopville, SC. The rangers there had information about the eclipse available, crafts to entertain kids leading up to totality, and it was at a park, so it was a nice place to relax and enjoy during the event.

Allowing you to see the progress without staring at the sun

My kids especially enjoyed this eclipse viewer the rangers had, as it made seeing the progress very easy. No constant on and off with your glasses.

Almost at totality

Given our location, we had a short window of the sun being completely dark, and the experience was amazing. Night bugs started calling, nature seemed to hold it’s breath in confusion for a few moments, then the sun came back out and normality resumed.

Everything went dark

Arthur was amazed! Chiara was less than thrilled, but enjoyed being outside for the whole time, and the crafts. 

I know we’re all looking forward to the next one in seven years. Luckily no travel will be involved as we already live in the path of totality!

Ridiculously simple, but my favorite craft, made with chalk

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Fire Kit

Ah, the tiny, yet versatile Altoids tin. I love all the stuff you can do with these. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while. Especially since I made my fire starters!

As usual, you start with an empty Altoids tin. Then gather together your items.

In my fire kit I have:

•a flint and steel, found in the camping section at Walmart

•a standard Bic lighter, found anywhere

•lint, found in the lint trap of your dryer

•waterproof fire starter, directions on making and using found here

I wrapped the fire starter in aluminum foil to stop it from spreading it’s stickiness.

Then I put a rubber band around the whole kit to help hold it closed. This kit can help when camping, or, as mine will, it’s going to eventually be in my 72-hour bag.

Let me know how yours turns out!

Fire Starters

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Fire!!
I married a former volunteer fireman, so I have a healthy respect for fire and it’s safety requirements. That being said, there is something so fun about watching a cotton ball burn!
I am slowly falling into the world of prepping. I know that word has many different meanings to people. It could be the “lunatic” survivalist living off the grid in the Rockies or it could be the lady down the street who has a month’s worth of food stored in the basement. I think I’ll wind up somewhere in between when all is said and done.
I’ve been piecing together 72 hour bags (I will blog about them when they’re done), and Tony and I’s bags will include fire starter kits (Again, more to come on that).
While looking into the fire kits, I found this very detailed website with instructions on how to make a very practical fire starter. The original blogger made 600 of them, I started smaller as I’m seeing how it all works.
To start, you need:
•ziploc baggie
•cotton balls
•Vaseline  (I did use the Walmart brand because the main active ingredient was the same and it’s much cheaper)

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Put a handful of cotton balls in the bag, add enough Vaseline to coat the cotton balls, then just start mushing it all up.
This was a strangely gratifying process because it feels really weird in the bag and you don’t get all slimy.

After letting them set for a few hours, until Tony got home, we of course had to try them out.

All you have to do is take the cotton ball and tear it open, yes it will be slimy, but in a survival scenario, you’re just trying to stay warm.

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This little experiment also gave us the benefit or trying out my firestarter that I bought in the camping section of Walmart. A match or lighter will work as well.

Now part of you may be wondering why you don’t just use your match or lighter to light your kindling, and I have the answer. After watching this cotton ball burn for over 3 minutes, I realized how easy it would be to lay kindling over it until it lit. A match will not stay lit in strong winds and you don’t want to use all of your lighter fluid trying to start a fire.

These cotton balls, in a protective coat of the Vaseline, will continue burning in high winds. The original blogger also said that they will be waterproof once the Vaseline has set.

All in all, this is a fun little prepping, or even just a camping, supply to have in your arsenal.

Happy pyro playing!

Geocaching: Souvenirs

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This is another pointless, and yet freakishly satisfying, part of Geocaching. As I said before, there are a lot of types of caches, in a lot of different places. On your main profile page on geocaching.com there is a link to your “Souvenirs”. That is where you will find all of your badges.

These souvenirs, or badges, are earned for several different things. First, and easiest I think, is to get state souvenirs. All you have to do is get a cache in a state and you get that souvenir. So far I’ve grabbed OH, NJ, SC, IN AND WV. Tony and I are trying to grab at least one cache in each state we pass through.

There is an International Geocaching Day badge above. Also an easy souvenir to get, but only available once a year! August 15th is International Geocaching Day and the only requirement to this souvenir is that you find and log any type of cache on August 15th. Easy peasy!

The rest of my souvenirs were from the “Road Trip 2015”. This was a list of badges that they made available, during specific dates. For instance, they wanted you to get an Earth Cache, you needed to get a D5 or T5, hardest to find and/or get to, attend a geo-event, find a cache with ten or more favorite points and find a mystery/puzzle cache. There was a very reasonable amount of time to find these caches, so don’t think you would need a week to get it all done at once.

The added bonus to doing the “Road Trip” is that once you complete the caches they required, you get the Road Trip souvenir. I was a little over excited about getting this souvenir!

Yes, they are just little digital stickers on your page. If you feel like spending the money, you can purchase the actual pins from the geocaching store, but it is strangely satisfying seeing the souvenirs that you’ve gotten. Try it and see!

Happy caching!

Geocaching: Types of Caches

Another fun thing about geocaching is the variety of caches available to you. There are many types that I have no experience with, so obviously I’ll only be writing about the ones that I am familiar with. For a full list, be sure to check out the full cache type list at the official geocaching site.

The first, and most common type of cache is the traditional cache. This is also most basic and simple one. You select the cache on your app, it gives you the coordinates, you go where it tells you and you find the cache, sign the log and move on. Quick and easy smiley! There are different levels of difficulty and different terrain types within this category, but there is no figuring anything out with these, just point and go.

The next type of cache that I’ve completed is the mystery, or puzzle, cache. These are a little more complicated, or a lot, depending on the difficulty level, They do list a set of coordinates, but these are not correct. Usually, COs (Cache Owners) with a sense of humor will even put that in the description that the coordinates will put you in the middle of a lake or a highway. With caches like these, there is a clue or puzzle to solve to find the real coordinates. Once you have solved the puzzle or clue, you will go to those coordinates, find the cache and sign the log. My caching buddy loves these types of caches. He likes nothing better than sitting down and solving a lot of puzzles at once. Then he’ll call and we’ll go on a caching run to get them all!

My kids and I looking for an earth cache

Another type of cache I have found is an earth cache. These are different from the normal types of caches, in that there are no physical logs to sign. The earth cache that I found involved going to the set of coordinates listed, then answering the questions listed there. Then you can log the find. It is important to remember that you have to send a message to the CO with the answers. If the CO does not receive the answers within a reasonable amount of time, they can and will delete the log, making it disappear from your finds. These usually involve something interesting in nature, like a specific rock formation or historic site that the CO feels is worth seeing. This isn’t the best picture, but this was the one we sent to the CO, not a requirement, but appreciated, along with our answers.

Multi-caches

Multi-caches require you to go to at least two locations. The locations are close to each other, so don’t worry too much about travel time. The multi-caches I’ve done were actually walking distance between locations. These types of caches involve going to the first location and finding a clue. This particular cache’s clue was this awesome wind-chime, hanging in a graveyard. Yes, caches can be in graveyards. Don’t worry though, they are usually located on the outskirts or in the trees or shrubbery. This particular clue was a number that we had to add to the original coordinates. This led us to the actual cache, we signed the log and moved on to the next.

Event caches are another very unique type of cache. They are not a hidden cache at all. This is a geocacher event, this does include a log, but they tell you specifically where to go and at what time. The family and I had the opportunity to attend one of these earlier this month, and it was a lot of fun. These are hosted by a particular cacher, the log has to be signed while you are there, then you can log the “find”. It’s another smiley for your counts, but more importantly it’s a fun time to meet other cachers. You can discuss particular local hides, maybe talking to the people who placed them, or discuss the difficulties you have with certain caches. They also sometimes have different trackables for you to take and hide later on. I will talk about trackables later on, I promise.

Happy caching!

Geocaching: The Lingo

I need to start this post by saying that this is an incomplete list. There are many different sites available that have glossaries of geo-slang, but as for myself, I felt the need to keep reading these ridiculous words and abbreviations, that made no sense, until I found out what they meant.

The first one that started driving me crazy was found while browsing through digital logs: TFTC. It was showing up multiple times, in multiple cache logs. This is a short way to log a find, and it stands for “thanks for the cache”, a close companion to this is TFTH, meaning “thanks for the hide”.

Second weird thing I found in logs was “out collecting smileys”. What the heck could that mean?! I was thinking maybe little smiley face erasers? Nope! I should have figured this one out much sooner, but I was a little slow on this.

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When looking at the “live map”, an option on your apps main screen, the caches you have already found show up as smiley faces. It’s cute and quirky, but now you know!

SWAG is a common term in today’s culture. Some of the cache descriptions would have a line, such as “loaded with SWAG”. I figured out pretty quickly that SWAG meant that there were little trade items in the cache, my kids call it treasure. I was browsing through a geocaching website recently and discovered it stands for “Stuff We All Get”.

The most recent term to throw me came from a fellow geocacher. CO. Now, to me, an Army brat, that means Commanding Officer. Luckily, he was right there to ask, so this one was answered quickly. CO stands for Cache Owner. This is the person who placed the cache and is responsible for its upkeep.

This is in no way a comprehensive list of terms, only the ones that made me bonkers or struck me as weird. For the best list of these geo-words, be sure to check out the geocaching glossary. It will fill you in on all the important and not-so-important ones.

Happy caching!

Geocaching

Basic Find

Geocaching is something that is becoming a little more mainstream. More people are discovering this worldwide treasure hunt, and I have to say that it is a blast! For those who don’t know what it is, I encourage you to check out geocaching.com. This can be as expensive or inexpensive hobby as you choose it to be, which in a society where money doesn’t go as far, can be a very good thing. My original interest in this came from a pin. I pinned it about two years ago and put it out of my mind until last summer. My parents had the kids for almost two weeks, so Tony and I had some time, and I suggested we try this thing called geocaching.

It starts with downloading the c:geo app, available through any appstore for free. Again, this can be a very cheap and fun hobby! You will need to create an account, choosing a geo-name. On the main screen of your app, one of the options is “NEARBY”, which will show you the closest caches to your location. By clicking on a particular cache, it will give you the details, such as location and stats. The stats include a basic description, such as why the person placed that cache, possibly a hint, the difficulty rating, which is how complicated it will be to find, and the terrain rating, which will give you a hint on how physically demanding it will be to access the cache and the size of the cache.

Once you get close to the cache, there is also a compass feature that will direct you closer to your cache. Then you need to rely on yourself to find it. Once you find the cache, hopefully, you just need a pen to sign the physical log and to log the find electronically on your app. This allows you to keep track of all of your finds. It also gives you a “smiley” on your geo-map.

The most common urban find, in my opinion anyway, is the lightpole. This was actually my first find, at the end of my street. They are usually a pill bottle, tucked under the skirt of a lightpost. Inside the cache, in this case, the pill bottle, you will find a log, which you sign and (usually) date, and sometimes small tradable items. Tradable items are usually simple things like character erasers or shells, inexpensive items.

Hidden Tupperware

Another nice thing about this hobby, is that it gets you outside. Yes, we live in a technological age, our phones are our lifeline, but it is still good to go outside, breathe fresh air! There are many caches that are placed in parks, or forested areas. These can be, but are not always, larger caches, with bigger tradables. My kids love these kind of caches. Yes, the toys are cheap and break, but to them, this is an actual treasure hunt! Caches can be resting against the base of a tree or tucked into a stump, so observation skills are a necessity for this activity.

Stinky Find

Some of the COs, cache owners, get a little creative with the hides. These are always good for a laugh. They may have fake snakes guarding the hide, or in this case, fake poo!

Tricky Hide

Not all park hides are big. Some COs like to make things difficult by hiding micro or nano sized caches in the woods. This particular one is a perfect example of the necessity of observation skills. This is a bison tube tucked into a hollowed out tree branch. You have to start being aware of nature in a whole new way if you become a cacher!

Hiding in a Drain

Not all urban hides are lightpoles, some get a little tricky. Tony was particularly proud of this find, our first of this type. It was a small tube, suspended by fishing wire to a parking lot drain.

I have a lot more on this subject, so it will be broken down a little more over several more blogs. I hope I gave you some good starter information. I hope you’re looking forward to more! If you have any specific questions, send me a message and I will try to cover that in my next post.