Hiking with Kids – The Fenland Trail

fenland trail

My son’s first hiking experience was the Fenland Trail in Banff at the age of 2. I had decided that I wanted to get Matthew out there, knowing that starting early with kids was the key to getting them to know and enjoy things. When introduced at a young age, it becomes natural and what they know.

fenland trailThere is also value in getting kids outdoors and nurturing their innate curiosity about nature and their connection with the environment. The Fenland Trail, which is just on the outskirts of the Banff town site, was the perfect introduction to hiking as it is a short 2 km self interpretive loop trail, that is mostly flat. There is a self guided pamphlet available at the trailhead that highlights 8 markers along the loop that teach you about the lifecycle of the montane forest. Not only does this help keep kids engaged as they are often looking ahead for the next post, but it teaches them about nature and about the environment of the trail that they are on.

fenland trailPlus the trail itself is beautiful. It winds through a white spruce forest along the eastern edge of the Vermillion Lakes marshland; and part of the trail also runs along the Echo & Forty Mile Creek. And I don’t know about you but I always love a trail that has some kind of water along the hike. It just adds something to it listening to the trickling water as you’re hiking along.

There is also the opportunity to view wildlife on this trail, as you may catch a glimpse of a muskrat or busy beaver in the creek. Elk and deer in the open fields and a plethora of songbirds chirping in the background, such as the black capped chickadee and gray jay.

fenland trailI love this trail for young kids and toddlers because even though it is about a 30- 40 minute hike, you can go at a nice leisurely pace, allowing the kids to stop and pause along the way, exploring and checking things out. Playing by the creek or sitting at one of the benches along the trail for a break or a snack. You don’t have to rush, you can take an hour or more if you want. I think the first time we went it took us 2 hours! but that was fine, Matthew finished the hike having enjoyed it and feeling successful (and yes he still had energy to burn).

fenland trailOne thing that you do need to keep in mind is because it is close to both the creek and the marshlands the mosquitoes can be abundant. So make sure you take your bug spray or natural bug repellent, so you can enjoy the trail without swatting at the bugs! (If you do get bitten you can use Lavender and Peppermint essential oils on the bites to reduce the inflammation and itchiness).

There are many benefits of taking your kids out hiking and the Fenland Trail is an excellent place to start! Once you have captured their desire to hike more and nurtured their curiosity, it will be easy to move on to longer hikes with maybe even a little bit of elevation gain.

As you do progress the kids on their hikes, remember to keep these tips in mind when hiking with kids and most of all have a good time!

fenland trail

Cool fact: Fenland refers to a wetland that is nourished by nutrient-wet groundwater

Check out other great Alberta hiking trails for kids, like the Alder Trail near Bragg Creek.

Delicious Blueberry Pie – Sugar Free & Naturally Sweetened

sugar free blueberry pie

Fresh blueberries are a popular summer treat. Those succulent little juicy berries are delicious and nutritious with many health benefits. Blueberries are one of the richest food source of Anthocyanins, a plant compound which gives it it’s blue color and it’s many health benefits. They have been shown to benefit heart health, bone strength, mental health, cancer, healthy blood pressure and are extremely high in antioxidants. Who knew these little blue berries could pack such a punch?

I often buy copious amounts of blueberries in the summer and do all kinds of things with them. From simply eating them straight to freezing them for later, to muffins and smoothie combinations. One of the things that I hadn’t done for a while though was to make a blueberry pie. I have no idea why, as I make all other kinds of pies in the summer like cherry and peach. I guess I somehow had it in my head that I should freeze them all and that they were too small to make a pie out of. (This could relate to the many summers my sisters and I would go up to the blueberry patch on the barrens to pick blueberries – with intentions of picking enough to make a pie. It took us hours to get the amount we needed and sometimes we were not able to get enough).

But this year, when I did my regular purchase of fresh Okanagan fruit I decided that I needed blueberries as well and was definitely going to make a sugar free blueberry pie! (In fact, I even went back to the fruit stand before we left Oliver to get the blueberries as I had not purchased them the day before when I got the peaches and cherries).

sugar free blueberry pieOf course, I had to create a recipe that was sugar free, which by now has become fairly easy to do after many years of being sugar free and using natural sweeteners. Honey is my favorite sweetener due to its many health benefits and being one of the more natural sweeteners (things like stevia and agave nectar are still processed and under controversy as to whether or not they are any better than using refined sugar).

I played a little bit, taking a bit of this and that from a few recipes and then combining and modifying ingredients to make my own. I even got a little fancy with the crust by creating a full top and then adding small shaped hearts on top (believe me I do not always have the time or the desire to do this).

The kids of course waited in anticipation as the pie baked. Turning on the light in the oven to check on it and see if it was ready. Chloe even remarked on the little hearts and thought that was a good idea (she likes to create other shapes and treats with the leftover pastry – you know the pieces that are left over but are too small to really do much with, but you hate to throw out?)

Once the pie was ready and we let it cool – well enough to cut anyway – we dove in! I had forgotten how much I enjoyed blueberry pie and also how much easier it is to make than other pies like cherry and peach where you have to chop and pit the fruit first. Blueberries you just wash and pour them in.

Unfortunately we didn’t have any ice cream on hand (but decided not to wait to get that organized) and fully enjoyed it anyways! In fact, the kids asked hopefully if they could have a piece for breakfast. I said I’d think about it…

Sugar Free Blueberry Pie

2 – 9 inch pie crusts

sugar free blueberry pie5 c. fresh blueberries

3 tbsp arrowroot powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp cinnamon (or 1 drop cinnamon bark essential oil)

1/4 – 1/3 c. liquid honey

Prepare pie crust – whether you are making your own or have purchased pre made. If you have made your own roll out crust and fit to bottom of pie plate. Crust should cover the bottom and up the sides and over the edges slightly.

Place fresh blueberries in bottom pie crust. Mix together cinnamon, salt and arrowroot powder together and sprinkle over blueberries (if you are using cinnamon bark essential oil in place of ground cinnamon omit here and add essential oil to honey before drizzling over blueberries). Measure honey (1/4 -1/3 cup depending on desired level of sweetness) and drizzle evenly over the blueberries.

Roll out second pie crust to cover the blueberries and to the edges of the crust. Leave enough so that you can press the crusts together and crimp the edges. If using pre made crust, place and fit crust over fruit similarly.

With a knife make small slits in top of crust – this is to allow for air and for juices to bubble. Place in a pre heated 425 F oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes reduce heat to 375 F and bake for another 40 – 45 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool. *Note you can cut pie while still warm but it will not have set and will likely have juices running out. Let cool completely if you’d like it set and to avoid this.

Yum! Enjoy 🙂sugar free blueberry pie

 

Tips for Hiking with Kids

hiking with kids

Hiking is one of my favorite past times, especially in the summer. It takes you to areas in nature that you would not be able to explore otherwise.

This is one of the many reasons I love sharing this experience with my children, as not only is it important to expose children to these kinds of experiences at a young age, it is another way to nurture their natural curiousity and love of the outdoors.

Hiking with children can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience, if you plan your hike well and ensure you have what is needed than your experience will be successful overall, and the kids will want to go again (Now this does not totally prevent melt downs or life mishaps but it greatly reduces them).

Tips for Hiking with Kids

Getting Started

When taking kids on a hike there are a few things to consider:

hiking with kidsPick a hike that is suitable for the child and their hiking level – so if this is their first hike ever you do not want to take them on a 10 km hike regardless of their age. You also need to consider their age. Children who are young, like 2 or 3 could probably manage a short hike of a kilometer or two with breaks and things to look at along the way. While a child who is 8 might be able to do 5 km. You also want to consider the child, how active they are and how much walking they do in a regular day.

Pick a hike that they can finish successfully. Which means they can get to the end without feeling tired or grumpy, with some energy left over, and they would like to go further. This will also help eliminate breakdowns, you having to drag them to the end or a refusal to go on another hike. For example, if you think they can do 5 km, start with 3km so that they feel successful when they are done and work up to 5 km for the next hike.

What to Bring:

Water – make sure you bring at least a full water bottle per person, more if it’s a hot day. Hydration is key to keeping energy up and fatigue down. It also helps moderate mood.

Food – bring kid friendly high energy snacks and lunch (depending on the length of your hike). When children are fed and feeling full they are happy. This also keeps their energy up.

Clothing – even if it is a hot sunny day always pack rain coat and rain pants, an extra sweater, long pants and a few extra layers. The weather can change quickly, especially if you are hiking in the mountains, and when kids are cold and wet they are not happy, and neither are you!

hiking with kidsProper footwear – now you don’t have to run out and buy the kids fancy hiking boots, especially when you are just starting out, but ensure that the kids have good sturdy footwear – so sneakers, not sandals, and socks in their runners (this helps wick away moisture and prevent blisters). You want something with a good tread and closed toes. As you go hiking more often and start doing more challenging or longer trails, then would be a good time to look at a hiking shoe that is more sturdy and supports and protects the ankle.

Backpack – it is very important that each child have their own backpack and carry their own stuff. Depending on their age this could be as simple as a backpack and their light jacket inside or their lunch (and you carry the rest). If you start teaching them from the beginning that when you hike you all have your own backpack and carry your own gear, they will just accept that that’s how it works. Then as they grow, they can start carrying more in their packs, until they are carrying all their gear. It is also important that the backpack fits them properly, so snug and close to the back, not the straps hanging loose and the pack dragging at their bum. If their pack is not comfortable that is not going to make for a happy experience.

Sunscreen – another element in protecting the skin and avoiding heat exhaustion is using sunscreen. Burning the skin can dehydrate you faster and zap your energy. It is also very uncomfortable and can make anyone grumpy. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 60 for children. You can also use an after sun spray or natural cooling mist to help keep the skin cool.

Bug Spray – protect the skin from mosquitoes and more with an effective bug repellent. No one enjoys being eaten alive or feeling red and itchy after bugs! And children seem to be especially yummy for some reason. Spray all uncovered areas prior to going on your hike and reapply as needed. If you’d prefer a natural repellent instead of those chemical mixes try out this DIY recipe using essential oils.

First Aid Kit – be prepared for bumps and bruises, small cuts and scrapes by carrying a first aid kit. Include things like bands aids, tea tree essential oil (for cleansing), lavender for soothing, mole skin for preventing blisters, correct x for bumps and bruises, tweezers, safety pins, etc.

On the Hike:

essential oils for hikersSet realistic expectations – like mentioned above pick a hike that the kids can complete successfully and enjoy. Don’t push for that big long hike, uphill the first time out.

Start early – kids are freshest in the morning (as are you) so take advantage of that and hit the trail early in the day as opposed to the afternoon, even if it is a short hike that you’ll be done by noon.

Take regular breaks – even though you may be able to go for longer periods, allow breaks for the kids. Encourage them to take a sip of water on the breaks, and at some, not all, maybe a snack. Now don’t dilly dally and stop every 5 minutes or you’ll never get to the end, but allow them time to stop a moment and let their body rest periodically. Remember they are getting used to it!

Allow time to explore – Kids naturally love to explore so allow some time for that on your hike. This could be in the form of an activity you do with them or simply stopping and looking around an area for a few minutes. It is important to be mindful though about staying on the trail as well as staying safe. Teaching them good trail etiquette is part of the experience so set boundaries and guidelines for their exploration.

hiking with kidsTeach them about plants and flowers – there is a lot along the hiking trail that kids wouldn’t normally see in the city. Learn about a few plants and flowers and show them those along the way. Take a guide book as well for both yourself and the kids to look at if they wish. Tell them what they are by the proper name, encourage them not to pick them (and share with them why – that if you pick them in some instances it kills the plant altogether, and no one else can enjoy them). Only point out 2 or 3 on a hike (unless they ask about a specific one), that way it’s unique and fun for them, plus they may be more apt to remember what you told them. It’s ok if they don’t remember the name when you ask them later, they may the next time.

Benefits of Hiking with Kids

Hiking with kids provides many benefits not only for them but for yourself as well. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy some time technology free and to bond with your child. You’ll connect with them in a way that you can’t at home cause there are too many distractions. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with my kids while hiking that I would not have at home.

It gets them out in nature. The benefits of being out in nature for children (and adults too) are numerous; such as boosts your energy and immune system, elevates mood, reduces stress and improves physical health. It is also important for us as human beings to simply connect with nature.

It nurtures their natural curiosity. Children are born with a natural curiosity to figure out how the world works. Nurturing their curiosity, fosters their desire to learn and helps them to become life long learners.

It creates positive memories. I was pleasantly surprised when recently my oldest son rhymed off all the hikes we’ve been on and what the highlights were of each (he’s now 14). He even remembered some things that I had not. We have great pictures, great stories and lots of smiles. And he’ll still go hiking with me, which at almost 15 and finding it challenging to find things to do together, I totally love and appreciate.

Keeping these tips in mind and some pre-planning will help create a very positive hiking experience for kids, as well as for you! It will create wonderful memories and an activity that you can continue to do together as they get older.

hiking with kids

Stay tuned for some of our favorite hikes for kids in Alberta that will be featured over the next few weeks…

Fun in the Sun – Natural Solutions for Summer Fun

natural solutions for summer

I love Summer! Those lazy days with no schedule and nowhere you have to be at any particular time. I love the sunshine and the extended time outdoors. What I don’t love is all those chemicals that we put on our skin to protect ourselves and our family from the sun and bugs. Have you ever wondered if there was a better solution?

Anything that we put on our skin gets absorbed into our bloodstream, which in turn enters our entire body. This is through a process called Dermal Absorption which is the transport of a substance (via diffusion) from the outer surface of the skin both into the skin and into the body. So no matter what we apply to our skin, whether they are chemicals or other will become absorbed into and affect our bodies. And think about it, our skin is the largest organ in our body, so when we’re lathering up with that sunscreen or bug repellent we are exposing ourselves to a lot of chemicals we may not want.

Essential oils, combined with other natural ingredients, can provide us with the protection we need without being concerned about what chemicals we are absorbing into our bodies (because they’re aren’t any). When you use all natural ingredients like essential oils, you can support your body in ways that you need and in ways that benefit and may improve your overall health and well being. Not only can essential oils and other natural ingredients protect your skin in the way you desire (your immediate need like sun protection), but you can also benefit from the other properties of the oil you are using as well, like nourishing the skin or soothing and calming benefits.

Natural Solutions for Summer

There are various combinations and recipes out there to create natural products that will protect you in the summer, but all have a basic formula of at least one essential oil combined with one or more other natural ingredients to work together for optimal protection.

You’ll notice that many of the recipes include lavender and peppermint essential oils, which are must have’s for summer time. Both oils have analgesic (may reduce pain), cooling and soothing properties which are very much needed in summer.

Natural Sunscreen

Fact: Out of 2000 sunscreens reviewed, more than 75% were found to contain toxic chemicals.

Some things to consider when creating your own sunscreen are things like SPF and waterproof ability. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor scale and is measured by a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB rays from damaging the skin. For example, if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, then using a SPF sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – so about 5 hours. Also the SPF number represents the percentage of protection that particular product provides. For instance, something with an SPF of 4-5 offers 75% protection.

There are a number of natural oils that naturally have an SPF factor rating. Coconut oil for instance has a rating of 4-5 SPF and contains antioxidants that help protect the skin from harmful radiation. Shea butter has an SPF of 5-6, Avocado oil SPF of 4-8 and Myrrh essential oil an SPF of 15 – plus ultra healing properties to help take care of your skin. Now using one of these by itself is not enough to provide the sun protection you need but used in combination can create a higher SPF and protection for your skin.

This Natural Sunscreen recipe uses a combination of these natural oils as well as beeswax which gives it waterproof ability.

Natural Sun Screen

1/2 c. oilve oilnatural solutions for summer fun

1/4 c. fractionated coconut oil

1/4 c. beeswax

2 tbsp. Shea butter

1 tsp. Vitamin E oil

2 tbsp. zinc oxide

12 drops Helichrysum essential oil

Place all ingredients except zinc oxide and helichrysum essential oil into a glass mixing bowl. Fill saucepan with 2 to 3 inches of water and turn on medium heat. Place glass bowl in saucepan and stir as ingredients melt. Remove from heat and ad the helichrysum essential oil and zinc oxide. Pour into a glass jar and store in a cool place. Apply lotion to skin before sun exposure. Reapply as needed.

 

 

Bug Bite Relief

Fact: Many topical medicated creams for insect bite itching and irritation have side effects causing redness, irritation and swelling.after bite

Ingredients

2 tsp. Fractionated Coconut Oil

10 drops Lavender essential oil

10 drops Peppermint essential oil

OR

15-20 drops doTERRA Purify essential oil blend

Add lavender and peppermint or purify essential oil to 10 ml rollerbottle. Add fractionated coconut oil to top. Secure the lid to your roller bottle and shake until ingredients combine. Apply as needed.

 

Heat Protectant Spray (for hair)

Shield your strands with a heat protectant spray made with Clary Sage and Geranium essential oils. Easy to make, this DIY spray will have your hair feeling full and healthy.

1 tsp. Fractionated Coconut Oilnatural solutions for summer fun

1 tsp. Sweet almond oil

2 tsp. doTERRA Salon Essential Smoothing Conditioner

1 c. water

5 drops Clary Sage

5 drops Geranium

Small spray bottle

Pour half of water into spray bottle. Add fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, conditioner and essential oils into bottle. Add remaining water and shake well.

To use, apply one spritz to hair and work it through until hair is lightly coated. Style as normal.

 

Natural Allergy Relief

1 drop Peppermintnatural solutions for summer fun

1 drop Lavender

1 drop Lemon

Put into glass of water and drink. May need to increase to 2 drops each depending on person. *Note: not all brands of essential oils are safe to ingest. Research the brand you are using before ingesting.

Or create an allergy relief rollerbottle. Increase the amount of drops to 4 drops each and top with fractionated coconut oil. Shake and roll on as needed across chest and back of neck.

Check out more natural DIY recipes for summer, such as after sun and bug repellent, in part 2 of our Natural Solutions for Summer Fun.

 

Dairy Free Delicious Homemade Cinnamon Buns

dairy free sugar free cinnamon buns

Sometimes it’s just a make cinnamon buns, coffee and movies kind of weekend.

I have been craving cinnamon buns for weeks. I have no idea why. I just wanted a big sticky gooey, yummy, sweet cinnamon bun. But I also wanted to respect my needs (and not feel awful after) so I wanted it dairy free and naturally sweetened. So I couldn’t just run out to the store and get one – I decided I was going to make some sugar free dairy free cinnamon buns.

Of course my biggest issue was time. When I am baking and/ or creating in the kitchen I like to have the time to do it. I don’t like to feel rushed or hurried, or that I have to get to the next thing. I just want to move from one step to the next at whatever pace I choose. Often enjoying a favorite movie in the background as I work.  I like to take my time, enjoy the experience and give myself space to do it. I also need to feel motivated or ‘in the mood’ as they say. I find if I don’t want to then I won’t enjoy doing it either and it certainly won’t turn out.

dairy free sugar free cinnamon bunsThis weekend the stars aligned and I had all these things in place, time, desire, all the ingredients (as sometimes that is a big barrier to lol). It was the kind of weekend that was just for me, doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. A soulful weekend I like to call it. A time where I can do things that I love and fill up my soul. Sure I had work to do, and other tasks that certainly could have used my attention, but sometimes we really need to take a break, get away from work and I needed this more. I needed to rejuvenate and reconnect with myself and well baking and creating in the kitchen is one way that I like to do it.

Now you have to understand what kind of undertaking making cinnamon buns from scratch was for me. Growing up I had tried a number of different bread type recipes and could never get them to rise successfully. No matter what I tried or how I did it, I just had no success. You know when they say you should let it rise til it doubled in size? I was lucky if it rose even a little, if at all, and that was after hours of waiting. Failed after failed attempt, I watched others do it successfully, my aunt did it with ease, I think even my sister managed it once, but for me it just wasn’t happening. So to even attempt a cinnamon bun recipe where rising was involved was a big thing – I had absolutely no idea if they were even going to turn out as the light and fluffy cinnamon buns I desired, or if I would end up with rocks in the garbage once again.

I was also playing with ingredients – creating a recipe that was naturally sweetened and dairy free, I put some things in and took some out. I laughed as I was telling my girlfriend about it when I went to yoga, leaving the buns behind hoping they would rise and double in size by the time I got back. Because of all the tweeks I had made I really thought it would be a miracle if they worked.

To my delight, when I returned home from a lovely yoga and essential oils class, the cinnamon buns had in fact risen and doubled in size! I was so excited I took a picture and sent it to my girlfriend right away! (I have no idea if she was as excited as me to see this but I sent it anyways).

I giddily turned on and preheated the oven, preparing them to bake. I couldn’t wait to pull them out of the oven and taste them! hoping that my cinnamon buns had not only risen but that they tasted good too.

The good news is, they did. In fact, I have had a hard time not eating them all and am grudgingly sharing them with the kids. The beauty of it is the recipe is so easy the kids could make them themselves with a little supervision. And since they devoured theirs today afterschool they announced that they are very willing to do so!

Sugar Free Dairy Free Cinnamon Buns

Dough:

dairy free sugar free cinnamon buns2 1/2 – 3 c. flour

3 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. salt

2 1/4 tsp. quick rise yeast

1/2 c. water

1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk or choice of unsweetened non-dairy milk

3 tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Spread

1 egg

Filling:


3 tbsp. softened Earth Balance Vegan Spread (this softens quite quickly so don’t leave it out too long as it will actually melt)

3-4 tbsp. cinnamon

1/4 – 1/2 c. coconut sugar

1/2 c. raisins (can add more if you really like raisins)

Mix 2 1/2 c. of flour, salt and yeast together. Create a hole in the middle of the dry mixture and add the honey to the hole, but do not mix. Set aside.

dairy free sugar free cinnamon bunsHeat the water, non-dairy milk, and Earth Balance on low heat on the stove. DO NOT bring the mixture to a boil, make sure everything has melted, mixed together and is hot but not boiling. If it boils the temperature of your mixture is too high and may not turn out. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients by pouring liquid in the middle over the honey – this is so the honey will melt and dissolve into before mixing. Ensure that the honey has completely dissolved before beginning to mix.

Using a dough hook on the stand mixer, mix together on a low setting. If all the dry ingredients are not mixing as well you may stop the mixer and mix in the rest by hand, then put it back under the mixture to complete. If needed, add the rest of the flour a tablespoon at a time to form a smooth dough (I found that I did not need the extra flour but you may depending on where you live). Continue to mix for 5 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 3-5 minutes.

After you have allowed the dough to rest, use a rolling pin and roll out the dough into a rectangle shape about 1/8 inch thick. Spread the softened Earth Balance over the dough. Then sprinkle evenly with desired amount of cinnamon and coconut sugar. Sprinkle with raisins.

Beginning with the long end of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough so that you’re filing is on the inside. Cut the rolled dough into 10-12 even pieces. Place the pieces in a well greased 9×13 inch pan.

Place the rolls in a warm draft free place and cover lightly with a clean t-towel. Let rise til they are double in size.

Preheat oven to 350 F and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

Now we found these sweet enough and enjoyed them without icing and honestly they really don’t need it. But if you would like to ice your cinnamon buns you can certainly do so. I have this yummy dairy free sugar free cream cheese icing that is to die for! So I am definitely going to try that on these cinnamon buns the next time we make them. If I can find it that is… I can’t remember where I put it… I’m sure it’s in that ‘safe’ place. (Once I do find it I will share it with you here).

These cinnamon buns certainly did not disappoint, in fact I may have just enjoyed one slathered with Earth Balance on it once the kids were in bed… we must try out all options of course! I will definitely be making them again. Though I would like to try a gluten free version and see how that one will turn out…maybe I shouldn’t push it…


Goji berries

Top 8 Essential Oils for Hiking

essential oils for hiking

Hiking is one of those summer activities that I really love. It’s one of those go anywhere activities that is always an adventure, an exploration of the natural space around you and different every time. It’s inexpensive and is available to everyone of all ages and all levels. All you really need is a good pair of hiking boots. (Ok I know to hike safely there’s a few more things you should bring – backpack, first aid kit, water, etc. – but in essence your equipment is minimal and it can be an inexpensive but very enjoyable activity).

Hiking also provides us with many health benefits from strengthening your core, lowering blood pressure and improving your balance. Not to mention the benefits of simply being out in nature (like leaving that technology behind!) I always feel fantastic after a day of hiking, whether it’s been a 3 km loop on a flat trail or a good hike up the side of a mountain. I always feel more alive and invigorated than when I left.

What does not always feel so great though are some of the after effects of hiking. From sore achy muscles (especially if this is my first hike of the season), to possibly a few scrapes and bruises or some insect bites. Even though sometimes that nice all over achy feeling can be a good feeling, I like to avoid the “Oh my God now it hurts to move” the next day.

Last summer, quite by accident, I discovered a combination to help reduce these aches and pains and a few other hiking ‘side effects’ while using my essential oils. I had been an avid user of essential oils for the past year and was discovering more and more about their benefits and uses. I just naturally started to bring them along on trips as I usually needed an oil for something. What I hadn’t though about yet was how I could use them specifically for hiking.

essential oils for hikers

I had just done a hike with the kids around Moraine Lake, which is near Lake Louise. It was only a short hike that day, but we had done a bit of climbing and I was already starting to feel achy. Taking what I knew, I quickly decided to take a drop of Frankincense internally* and apply some Deep Blue to my muscles. (I love Deep Blue, I think it is one of the most amazing blends for aches and pains. I love how it penetrates and gives you that nice cooling feeling). Then I carried on with the evening making supper and sitting around the fire. The next day when I woke up I fully expected to be at least a little bit achy. But to my surprise I wasn’t at all! I was thrilled! and happily put my boots on again for another hike with the kids, this time a 12 km adventure.

Top 8 Essential Oils for Hiking

This also made me think about what other essential oils would be beneficial for hiking and enjoying the outdoors. So I explored more and as a result give you the Top 8 Essential Oils for Hiking (really must have’s don’t leave home without them list).

  1. essential oils for hikersFrankincense – supports cellular health and cellular restructure and rebuilding. Perfect for supporting healing those muscles after a hike or any workout.
  2. Deep Blue – formulated to soothe and cool, this wonderful blend does just that. It reminds me of my Grandpa’s old formula of A5-35, but nicer smelling and all natural! Apply topically where needed.
  3. Peppermint – this one does a lot for hikers. It supports opening up your airways, can soothe aches and pains as well as cools and refreshes (place a drop on the back of the neck) when your feeling hot. It is also a wonderful oil for giving you an energy boost – you know if you need it to get up that last little bit to the top.
  4. Eucalyptus – is the oil of wellness, so great all around for hiking to feel well – will also open up your airways. Apply 1-2 drops topically across the chest.
  5. essential oils for hikersWild Orange – is an uplifting and energizing oil. You probably already feel great cause your outside enjoying the outdoors, but that extra little lift wouldn’t hurt, nor that boost of energy to get to the top! Drop 1-2 drops into your hands, rub them together, cup gently over the nose and mouth and inhale deeply for 30-60 seconds.
  6. Cypress – this one is excellent when hiking at higher elevations as it provides circulatory support. Use 1 drop topically across the chest.
  7. Lavender – eases sore achy muscles, supports anti inflammatory and is great for reducing itchiness from bug bites! Apply topically where needed.
  8. Myrrh – has powerful cleansing properties and when combined with lavender (which is also anti fungal and anti bacterial) in a spray bottle makes an excellent foot spray to use in your hiking boots to prevent foot fungus.

**Essential oils can be used 3 ways, aromatically, topically and internally. Depending on the intended outcome (and kind of oil) will depend on how best to use it.

I use these in a combination of ways from preventative to after care. I usually do my frank and deep blue combination after the hike, but often use my peppermint topically across the chest before heading out and I always take a drop of Wild Orange in my hands rub them together and breathe deeply before I start any day.

Depending on what kind of hike I am doing I’ll use the cypress topically for the higher elevation hikes and I always spray my boots with the lavender myrrh combination before heading out.

Of course I bring a little ‘mini’ first aid kit of these oils (and a few others) so I have them on hand should the need arise – like Lavender for bug bites and Terra Shield for bug repellent. I pack them in small dram bottles which does not take up much room in my pack and I have been very glad to have them on many occasion.

essential oils for hiking

Essential oils are such wonderful things! and can do so many things for us in supporting our health and wellness, both on a physical and emotional level. If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils or would like to give some of these a try on your next hike, contact me and I’d love to help you out.

*Note: not all essential oils are safe to ingest. Depending on what oil it is and what brand (as not all essential oils are created equally due to growing practices, extraction of the oil, etc. There are also currently no regulations or guidelines on producing essential oils in Canada) Ensure you research the brand of essential oil you are using to be sure.

The Perfumes of Nature – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

essential oils for hikers

One of the many things I love about the outdoors is all the wonderful smells! The smell of a spring rain, wet leaves, the cherry blossoms, the scent of pinecones, even dirt. And I love when the kids come in and they have what I call that ‘outside smell’, where they just smell of sun, fresh air and the outdoors.

Kids also love to smell stuff! In fact, it is one of the many wonderful things about children how they always have their noses in something, they’re willingness to explore and how they naturally just use all their senses when they are learning.

In learning about nature especially, we engage all 5 senses and smell is no exception! In fact, we get the most out of our learning experience outdoors when we are engaging all of our senses. It becomes just that much more of a cool experience. Smell is a unique one as we often take for granted the smells that we experience when we’re outside, and may not consciously notice them unless they are quite strong or overpowering, and though we appreciate all the wonderful smells outdoors,  we don’t always single them out (except maybe when you’re near a cow paddie!).

Taking the time to do an activity with kids that singles out the different smells in nature can be quite a fascinating experience. Having them learn and identify the smells individually helps them to heighten their outdoor experience and learn to appreciate another aspect of our beautiful natural world.

Identifying the Smells of Nature

In this simple activity we are going to help children identify different smells in nature and learn where they would find them.

You will need:

  • 10 small mason jars or other small containersniffing jars
  • blindfolds
  • dirt
  • dandelions
  • rocks
  • bark
  • pinecone
  • grass
  • bird feather
  • pine needles
  • small stick
  • poplar fluff
  • dry leaves
  • any other nature items you’d like to add

*Note: when gathering your nature items only pick items up off the ground, breaking branches or picking leaves off trees is not encouraged and could actually damage or kill whatever you’re taking it from.

Part 1:

Place one item in each of the containers. Have children sit in a circle with their eyes closed smells in nature(depending on the age of the children it may be easier and better to use blindfolds so there is no peeking!). With the children remaining in a circle pick one item to start with. Take the item to the first child and hold it gently below their nose and ask them to sniff. Ask the child to guess what it is but keep it to themselves so the other children can have a chance to guess. They will have a chance to guess after each child has sniffed the item.

Once everyone has had a chance to smell the item, then you can go around the circle and ask each child to share their guess. Once everyone has guessed then you can reveal to them what it was by name only (unless you are choosing not to do part 2).

Repeat this with the next item until you have done them all. Depending on the age and attention span of the children you may want to use less items, say only 5 instead of 10, as this may be too long and too many for younger children.

Part 2:

Once you have gone through all the items take the children on a nature walk and encourage them to smell different items along the way. Ask them to find the items that they just smelled in the containers live in nature, determining if it is the right thing by only using their sense of smell. Depending on the area you’re in you might be able to find all of them or only a few. That is ok, they are exploring and learning through their sense of smell and that is the whole point of the activity!

smells in natureAfter your Nature Walk come back to your circle and ask the children a few questions to help them solidify what they have just experienced.

  • What smells did they find?
  • Did they match the ones in the containers they smelled?
  • Where did they find them?
  • What was their favorite smell?
  • Was there a smell they disliked?
  • Can they think of other smells in nature that they did not smell today?

Doing this simple activity helps children to identify and appreciate the different smells in nature, as well as associating with where they can be found. Doing this activity will not only enhance their ability to identify different smells in nature but will add to the overall outdoor experience.

Discover more outdoor activities for kids – try a sound hunt, flower printing, or playing in the mud!

St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Smoothie

shamrock smoothie

I remember growing up waiting for those delicious shamrock shakes that you could get at McDonald’s only around St. Patrick’s Day. I loved those things! They were so yummy! Smooth and creamy. And I also love just about anything mint so they were a hands down winner for me.

What I didn’t know then (and honestly as a kid probably did not really care) was how bad these things were for you. Full of sugar and all kinds of additives I don’t really want in my body, health wise they were not the best choice. But I never forgot them, and I still got excited every year when they announced that the Shamrock Shake was now available at McDonald’s for a limited time – though I did not go to get one.

Little did I know that there was actually a healthy alternative I could not only enjoy without guilt but that I could easily make at home! Full of healthy fats and delicious greens this healthy version of a shamrock shake was just as creamy and delicious, if not better.

shamrock smoothieI made this discovery quite by accident a couple of years ago when I was looking for something else on the internet; and I came across the concept of a Shamrock Smoothie. When they boasted that they tasted just like the shakes that you got at McDonald’s they had my attention. So I took a peek, and I experimented a little, tweeking the recipe to suit my needs and tastes. Adding in a little of this and taking out a little of that and then voila! I had created my own version of the perfect Shamrock Smoothie, which was now good for me and I enjoy every St. Patrick’s Day (and even share some with the kids (grudgingly).

I love that this recipe combines avocado which not only makes it rich and creamy but provides healthy fats with coconut milk and mint, two more of my favorite flavors. This thing is so thick and delicious it is the perfect healthy snack that doesn’t taste so healthy for St. Paddy’s Day 🙂

I also love the addition of peppermint essential oil in this recipe as I am now reaping all the benefits of peppermint essential oil in my already yummy healthy drink. I have to say to that the dollop of coconut cream on top, though optional, really is a must to make this smoothie just a little bit fancier without much effort. Oh and don’t forget the sprig of mint either!

So give this recipe a try this St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy your own Shamrock Shake guilt free. And if you share it with the kids, it’s a great way to sneak in some avocados and greens in a way that they’ll gobble it up and ask for more!

St. Paddy’s Day Shamrock Smoothie

1 banana

shamrock smoothie1/4 of an avocado

1/2 c. full fat coconut milk

1-2 drops peppermint essential oil

1/4tsp. vanilla

1 handful of spinach

dollop of coconut cream – optional

Put all ingredients except coconut cream in the blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into glass and top with dollop of coconut cream. Add a spring of mint if desired and enjoy!

Serves 1

New Year’s Appetizers

new year's appetizers

Appetizers are a fun and unique way to get creative and try new foods. So many wonderful shapes and combinations that you can experiment and play with. You can have a little bit of everything without overindulging or eating too much!

They are a wonderful way to provide snacks for your New Year’s (or other holiday) celebrations, without a lot of work. Here are some quick and easy appetizers recipes (dairy and sugar free) to try that are delicious and satisfying without the worry of not being healthy or having that heaviness in your stomach after.

New Year’s Appetizers

Mushroom Turnovers

mushroom turnoversMy absolute favorite appetizer these savory pastry type appetizers are rich and delicious! I love the sour cream (dairy free) in the dough. Just gives it that little extra richness.

Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Love the ease of these little guys, just a little bit of chopping and you can have them ready to serve in 10 minutes!

Macaroni Bites

Perfect for the macaroni lover these creamy little bites are easy and delicious. Plus they are super cute.

Pizza Bites

quinoa pizza bitesI have to admit the first time I made these I thought they would be a bust – quinoa in a pizza recipe? They turned out fabulous! And I love that you can vary the combinations of what you put it in. Gluten free, and great for kids as well.

Kale and Artichoke Dip

What party is complete without a yummy dip! This warm, cheesy and delectable dip is dairy free and perfect for that cracker or tortilla chip. Plus with kale being a superfood, this makes it even better.


Top 10 Uses and Benefits of Lemon Essential Oil

lemon essential oil

As I was busy cleaning this morning with my Lemon essential oil, I got to thinking just how many things I use this oil for on a daily basis. Yes daily! Lemon essential oil is one of the most versatile oils as it can be used for so many different things!

And it is not very expensive either. For about $13 I can buy a 100% certified pure 15ml bottle which gives me about 250 drops, which I think is quite reasonable considering all the wonderful things it can do. Then I thought I really need to share this with others as maybe they are not aware of all the great things it can do and how economical it is.

I love that it is a natural product that I can use daily to support me and my family’s health as well as making my home smell fresh and clean.

Top 10 Ways to use Lemon Essential Oil

  1. Cleansing and Detoxifying – every morning I use 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil in my water. Adding it to your water first thing, helps to flush the digestive system and rehydrate the body. *The benefit of using the essential oil over fresh lemon is the internal fruit of the fresh lemon can weaken the enamel on your teeth and damage the gums. Because the essential oil is extracted from the rind you still get the benefits of the lemon without causing damage.
  2. Supports healthy digestion – packed with Vitamin C the acids in lemon encourage the body to process the good stuff in your foods more slowly.
  3. lemon essential oilAlleviates allergies – when combined with lavender and peppermint, lemon supports alleviating seasonal allergies.
  4. Boosts immunity – lemon has antifungal, anti-infection properties and has a high vitamin content, therefore is fantastic for boosting the immune system.
  5. Uplifting and energizing – citrus oils in general are naturally uplifting and energizing. Diffusing lemon will uplift the spirit and energize the body.
  6. Clears confusion and helps bring order to a number of tasks – add a few drops to your diffuser to help you prioritize and get things done.
  7. Supports healthy respiratory function
  8. Cleanses and purifies the air – add a few drops of lemon to a glass spray bottle and spray on counters and other surfaces to clean. Add to a diffuser to cleanse and purify the air.
  9. Cleans off sticky residue – you know when you have that sticky residue left over from tape or a sticker that can be challenging to get off? Using a drop of lemon essential oil works wonders and takes it right off! I used to use Goo-Gone but am very happy to now have a non chemical solution.
  10. Freshens your laundry – Add a drop or two to the soap dispenser in your laundry to prevent or get rid of that musty smell when you leave your laundry sitting too long. Alternatively, you can also add a few drops to your dryer ball when you pop the clothes in the dryer.

I just love the scent of lemon in general and often find myself just giving the bottle a sniff. It’s such a lovely sweet and refreshing smell.

Lemon is also great in many diffuser blends adding in that freshness and all the other benefits of lemon! Enjoy this Holiday diffuser blend with a little bit of lemon and a few other scents for the holidays.

lemon essential oil

What are your favorite ways to use Lemon Essential Oil?

Interested in learning more about essential oils and how they can support you and your family’s health and wellness? Contact me for your free wellness consult.