Camping with Kiddos!

file4131336478643.jpg

As we prep for our annual family camping trip, I thought I’d share some of the fun things we do with the kids when we camp.

In addition to all of the usual camping stuff: Tent, blankets, pillows, air mattress, clothes, toiletries, Sunscreen, food, camp kitchen stuff…. You need stuff to do!

A friend and I made a huge batch of play dough last week, and we’re taking half of the batch, along with some cookie cutters, small rolling pins and other fun play dough stuff I got on my local Buy Nothing Group.

Games: High Ho Cherry-O, card games (like Uno, and a few regular decks of cards), lawn bowling.

We also have a craft box. It’s a large tote, like this one. I’ve filled it with all sorts of craft odds and ends. Mostly stuff leftover from other projects, as well as stuff I’ve gotten from Craigslist Curb alerts, and my local Buy Nothing group.  There is paper, scissors, glue, beads, pipe cleaners, paint, and so much more! The kids rifle through it and come up with some of the most interesting projects. I really believe that kids need to have free reign over creative play, so as long as I am there to make sure they are safe, they are free to create and play how they wish.

Bubbles. I make about a gallon of bubble solution, and we have all kinds of wands and stuff (Dollar tree and Target’s Dollar spot are great places to find bubble toys). We also make some out of pipe cleaners.

We also cook a lot when we are camping. We use dutch ovens to make all kinds of baked goods, including our favorite: Beer Bread. My dad has a cool clay Pizza oven (it’s this one), and we make pizzas in the late afternoons to snack on. Our favorite pizza recipe is here.

Here are a few pictures of our adventure last year:

We also of course, play at the campground play ground, go on nature hikes (and do some fun nature scavenger hunts- check out Pinterest for a bunch). We spend time with family and friends, and of course, check out all of the events and fun at the big camping event in which we are participating.

Camping is a great family activity, and here in San Diego there are so many places to camp! From the beach, to the mountains, to the desert, there are campgrounds, both private and public for low prices!

If you are a camper, where is your favorite place to camp?

Looking for Frugal Fun for Christmas? Check out Neighborhood Light Displays

One of the family traditions I want to carry over from when I was little is driving around to look at Holiday light displays. And for those of us in San Diego, we’re in luck!

IMG_0895.jpg
Bitty Bird, Excited to see the Sesame Street decorated house at Starlight Circle!

Here are our favorites, addresses and info courtesy of San Diego Family Magazine.

Here is a link to the original PDF so you can print it off and take it with you!  It’s got addresses and more info.

We’ve already visited most of these east county locations:

EL CAJON, 92021

  • Jingle Bell Hill (also known as Pepper Dr. Lights). Solomon Ave./Pegeen Pl. and surrounding area. Off 67 & Bradley. Dec. 8-26, Mon-Th 6-9 pm, Fri-Sun 6-10 pm. Our favorite is the Nightmare Before Christmas House!

LAKESIDE, 92040

  • 10248 Paseo Palmas Dr. Nicknamed “Tinsel Town”. Dec. 1-25, 5:30-9 pm. Most of the houses on this street are very well decorated with lights and moving displays!

SANTEE, 92071

  •  Starlight Circle, East and West Glendon Circles. Dec. 17-26, 7-10 pm. This is extremely popular! You can park and walk through. There are neighbors selling cocoa, coffee, popcorn, and cotton candy. If you walk, take money with you! Starlight Circle even has a facebook page!
  • 9773 Roe Dr. 27,000 Christmas lights dance to 10 songs over 128 computer channels. Food Bank and St. Jude donations accepted. Dec. 3-Jan. 2. Sun-Th, 6-10 pm and Fri & Sat, 6-11 pm.www.DBChristmas.com It is very impressive!
  • IMG_0879.jpgIf you love South Park, after you stop by Roe, cruise down Lake Canyon Drive (in the 9400 block, East of Carlton Hills Blvd) and check out the Woodland Critter Christmas Display.

 

We pack the kids into the car after dark with snacks and head out for a drive. It’s a fun way to spend time together, and it’s pretty frugal!

What holiday traditions do you want to share with your kids?

Cutting the Cord: Going without Cable

file1201268366483

Disclaimer: This money saving strategy isn’t for everyone- I’ll admit it. If you HAVE to watch “your shows” or sports games and they aren’t available to stream on the TV channel’s website (FOX, CBS, NBC, and AMC have tons of their shows streaming on their site), this won’t work for you.

We don’t have cable.  Never have. Mr. C watches sports over Antenna TV or he’ll go to the gym and spend time on the treadmill or StairMaster while he watches football!

In my area, cable tv (with Cox Cable) is $61.99/mo for the cheap-o plan.  It’s usually on special for less, or you may get a discount if you bundle it with your home phone (we don’t have one!), but after any introductory rates have expired, the monthly price is $61.99/mo at a minimum.

So, in the 10 years we’ve lived together, we’ve saved roughly $7500 by not having cable. That’s A LOT of money.

There are a few things to consider:

If you want to cut the cord, before you call your cable company and tell them to shove it consider this. How old is your TV?  If it’s older than 3 or 4 years old, you’ll need a digital convertor box.

Why?  In 2009, the FCC made the switch from analog (over the air) TV to digital TV to free up analog airwaves for emergencies.

So if you have an old tv, plug it in and flip the channels, you’ll get static because your TV can’t access the digital airwaves without a convertor box. Convertor boxes run between $40-$60 and can be purchased anywhere that sells electronics. You need one convertor box PER television in your house that is over 3-4 years old.  If you are unsure if your TV has the convertor internally, check online or call the company that manufactured your TV.

Pick up a convertor box.  But you’ll still need one more thing.

An Antenna.  Not a pair of rabbit ears.  Newer antennas plug into your television, and the wall (yup they have an amplified signal, so you’ll get more channels!), and they hang on the wall. You’ll need one for each TV in the house.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 8.53.21 PM

This is what ours look like, it’s a slim, shiny back box that hangs on the wall. They run anywhere from $45-$90 (depending on what type you get)

OK, so Convertor box (if needed)-Check!

Antenna– Check!

Now your are all set.

The directions that come with the antenna will tell you how to set it all up and find your local channels.

Now, you can call the cable company! Remember to return the cable boxes and remotes so you aren’t charged any extra.

Now the next question I get is: How many channels will  I get?

Depending on how strong the signals in your area are, you should be able to receive:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • NBC
  • CW
  • Fox
  • PBS
  • V-me (Spanish PBS)

There are additional networks that are available in various areas of the county.  Here in So Cal, we also get:

Plus we get a few more spanish language channels.

So- the take away is this: depending on how many TV’s you have in your house, and their age, you may spend a few hundred dollars up front to get all set up, but you may be paying a few hundred dollars a month on cable or the dish.  It will pay for itself in just a few months.

You won’t get ESPN or MTV or any of the other eight million other channels. But, you’ll get more quality time as a family.

We’ve never had cable. We’ve lived together for 10 years, and we’ve lived with broadcast TV (over the air with an antenna and converter box), Netflix- Streaming only (a gift from hubby’s parents!), and we have a HuluPlus subscription (at a whopping $7.99/month).

We’re not addicted to TV.  We watch Netflix or a show or two on Hulu at night, and Little Man and I watch PBS in the morning for Sesame Street and many other educational cartoons. We read, talk, or play games while most people are glued to the tube each night for 4-5 hours. We go for to the gym, or for a walk as a family.

 What would you do with an extra $700+ per year? What would you do with the extra time you could have not being glued to the TV each night?

 

 

Enjoy The Great Outdoors at Mission Trails Regional Park!

IMG_2837
Exploring the Dam is one of our favorite activities!

IMG_2796When I was a kid, my dad took my brother and I hiking a lot. We had all kinds of fun adventures, but I always loved Mission Trails Regional Park, specifically Old Mission Dam.

As Lil’ Man gets bigger, we are looking for more fun outdoor adventures. This last rain storm would be the catalyst for two days of big outdoor fun.

Friday, we loaded up and headed over to to dam. The past week of rain has really changed our usual path, so we got to explore some areas we’d never seen together.

IMG_2833It was a great chance for him to check out new trails, see erosion in action, splash in the cold stream water (there were a couple times we had to jump over streams to continue on, and well, we didn’t quite make it!), and see shells. There are a lot of little fresh water clams that make the river their home, as a result, we saw lots of shells!

We climbed, discovered, and navigated our way through the park for about 2 hours. IMG_2817By far the most exciting thing we found was an old, rusted car that had been shot at many, many times in the past. When you area four year old boy, nothing is more exciting than a rusty old car.

After stopping for snacks and water, we continued on to explore nature and hopefully find some cool rocks (another favorite pastime).IMG_2818

On Saturday, we headed over after lunch to the Visitor & Interpretive Center. It was closed, but we checked out the nature flora and the amphitheater. Then we did the loop around the center. It was a fun, easy walk (no pictures, we were too busy exploring).

It’s a quick 1 mile loop with a couple foot bridges and it overlooks the river, which is “raging” (as much as it can here) right now.

If you are in the San Diego area and haven’t been to Mission Trails Regional Park, you are missing out. There is tons of fun to be had and nature to explore. There are paths and trails for every skill level, and there is even a paved path along Father Junipero Serra Trail if you aren’t feeling adventurous, but still want to get outside. Parking is free, admission to the park and Visitor & Interpretive Center is free (but they do accept donations!). Most paths, except the paved road are not stroller friendly. Most paths are bike and/or Equine friendly, and leashed dogs are welcome.

And of course what better IMG_2835way to end a fun day of hiking, than with a little park yoga: