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Adventures/Travel, camping, Gifts, Homelife

Essential Outdoor Adventure Gifts for Kids

A few years ago, our children received Outdoor Adventure themed Christmas and birthday gifts to equip them for family outdoor adventures for years to come. They received many of the essential items required for our family outdoor adventures.

Since then we have traveled the US from coast to coast and I am grateful that we always have the basics for hiking, camping, exploring, and more.

A list of Essential Outdoor Adventure Gifts for Kids

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Adventures/Travel, Blogging, camping, Homelife, Literature, Things I Love

Things I am Loving Right Now

In case you are wondering, here are five things I am loving right now.

{This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support of NotBefore7.}

1.  A mobile macro lens for my iPhone. Amazing. Entertaining. Somewhat magical.  And all of that for $10.  This little lens wraps around your phone with a rubber band and instantly equips your camera phone with a handy macro lens. 


If you are a family that has adopted nature study as one of your family or educational goals, then this is a must have. If you are a parent who just needs some entertainment for the kids when camping or in the backyard, then this little lens will fit the bill!

PicMonkey Collage

Heck, my kids were entertained in our car ride. Give them each a set time with the lens and let them loose!

2.  The Magical Clariol Root cover up Kit. I used this kit for the first time on Monday night after it was recommended by a lady in the Walgreens.

Her hair is professionally dyed at the salon, but she swore that this kit was a sure fire way to prolong the time in between visits.

Now, I dye my own hair, but it is getting to the point where I HAVE to do it every 4-5 weeks or a stripe of salt and pepper hair appears. It was pretty obvious in my mother’s day photos, so I decided to give the kit a try because dying my hair is a royal pain. Here is the evidence of the before shot:


Oh my goodness. SO easy to use. Very little mess. It was so much easier then dying my full head of hair. And the results were great.


Now I can wait a few more weeks before I have to break out the big guns and dye the whole thing again.

3.  Srsly Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Courtney Carbone. Oh my word. This book is hysterical, enjoyable, and witty.

My daughters and I have read this Hamlet book cover to cover and they are begging for more.  These titles are both part of the OMG Shakespeare series of books.  

IMG_5521I have my eye on the MacBeth and the Midsummer’s Nights Dream.  Oh let’s be real.  I want them all.  In fact, during our recent trip to the History Museum in downtown Raleigh I bought YoLo Juliet.  I had  three kids staring at me (ages 13, 11 and 9) who were BEGGING me to get another one of these books for our collection!

Who am I to refuse them some Shakespeare fun?

So I took a few moments to preview the “wedding night” in YOLO Juliet.  It was mearly a “check in” by Romeo and a mention of  “tonight was great but it’s morning…” so I let them get it.

BUT, that being said, let me give you a heads up that PARENTAL DISCRETION is advised.  These are not books for little kids.  I have only read the Hamlet book and perused the YOLO Juliet title.  While reading Srsly Hamlet, both of my girls seemed to gloss over the word “horny”, either understanding it without my knowledge (quite possible) or assuming it was a Shakepeare term that they didn’t know.  The abbreviation WTF is used in YOLO Juliet as well as the poop emoticon in a way that clearly means sh*t.

So while I am comfortable discussing this things with my kids and letting them read these books.  PLEASE use your own discretion.  You may want to hold off a bit if your kids are young.

IMG_55244.  Kids Travel Journals from Hearth Song.  We are about to travel from Raleigh to AZ and UT for some fun adventures.  Because she is excited for us and is and amazing Aunt…my sister ordered these journals for my kids and they are fantastic.  Best of all, for our situation, they are set up for a big one trip experience.

The beginning pages give you space for recording where you are going and who is coming.  Then there are pages to list your daily intinerary,
IMG_5526providing up to 14 days for you to fill in.  Our trip is exactly 15 days, so we’ll skip one of the boring travel days in our itenerary!

There are fun games to play while you travel, daily pages for recording experiences, and fun prompts to fill in throughout. We will be filling them in on Monday to get ready with our itinerary, which should help the kids get prepared and geared up for our adventure out west!

5.  Frixion erasable colored pens.  I love love love these pens.  They have been a fun edition to end our school year with something new.

I plan to start off next school year with a few fresh colors for the table.  They make erasable markers too.  It’s like magic.

WARNING:  The writing from these pens will disappear in the heat.  DO NOT use them for precious memories like travel journals.  We use them for school work.  I was tempted to use them for our journals until a follower on periscope warned me!  I pass that warning on to you.

What are you loving right now?

(NotBefore7 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Asheville, NC Adventures: Sliding Rock

IMG_7701It was going to be a perfect day.  My plans were perfect.  But the weather was not.

The rain had fallen in fits and starts for 24 hours.  It was just enough to soak everything while leaving no window of opportunity for the sun to do its job.  Articles of clothing and towels hung on the clothesline, only to be soak by the next downpour.

And now I found myself a half mile from the van caught in another downpour.  Huddled under the trees with my boys, we watched the girls jump into the frigid water of the swimming hole.  Laughter and giggles could be heard over the pounding of the rain on the rocks.  They were oblivious to our discomfort.

IMG_5674We shifted closer to the tree trunk.  Nothing helped.  My patience was drenched and ready to return to the car.  Of course, the impending hike through mud, tree roots, and puddles was not going to be a walk in the park but it was the only way to reach the shelter of the van.

A forced smile plastered on my face, I signaled my husband and then told my two sons that we could start the walk back.  Off we trampled and splashed through the muddy path on our way to the van.  We chattered about the rain and our horrible luck while I tried to tell myself that our situation would be funny one day.  I mean, this is the stuff memories are made of, right?

By the time we reached the van, the rain had stopped and the sun was making a very strong appearance.  Of course.  It’s the kind of timing we had grown used to this, our very first family camping trip.

After a group discussion, we all decided that rain or shine, we were definitely going to make it to Sliding Rock, one of the top activities on the list for this camping trip.  But first, we’d headed into the local town to dry our towels at the laundromat.  Dry towels would be key when sliding down a 60 foot flat rock into a pool of freezing (50-60 degrees) cold spring water.

IMG_7715Once the towels were spinning in the heat, I drove my four kiddos to Sonic while my husband waited patiently for the dryer to do its job.  Five milkshakes were delivered to the table and we laughed about the horrible irony of sitting in the sun with our treats while being drenched in the rain on our hike.

Dry towels acquired.  Bathing suits back on.  It was time to head to Sliding Rock.

Upon arrival, we saw the rangers closing up for the day.  Not a good sign.  It was definitely due to the darkening sky which was threatening another downpour.

Thankfully, while the bathrooms and ranger stations having closing times, the rock itself doesn’t.  So we parked and decided to take our chances with the weather as well as the lack of lifeguards on duty.

It paid off for about 5 minutes.  The sun.  The slide.  The slippery rock. A few of us made it down…


…before the sky opened up and rain drenched our freshly dried towels.  I rushed to protect the iPad as well as the disheartened 6 year old, cold from his slide and now clinging to a wet towel.

What to do? What to do? I decided to do the only thing left to do…



I mean, we were already wet, so why not slide in?   We became a few of the brave souls who remained at the rock, determined to enjoy this moment.

And enjoy it we did!





My littlest guy, Daniel, and I escaped to the lifeguard shelter area to hide from the rain.  He was much happier and the towels at the bottom of our pile were able to stay slightly more dry.  We enthusiastically cheered on the sliders from our perch.

One major advantage of our rainy, cold sliding experience was not having any lines or any lifeguards.  Our kids were able to slide together, in groups, and in trains because no one was there to enforce the rules.  In addition, my most anxious slider was able to duck under the bar and slide mid-way before attempting it from the top.



When she finally did make it to the top, the remaining folks had witnessed her anxious persistence and cheered for her as she slid.  My heart swelled with joy and excitement for her as she made it down the first time!

Mission complete.

After an hour or so of sliding, we made our way back to the van and “home” to our campsite.  Our hearts were full.  We spent the evening re-living the tales of rain, laundromats, milkshakes, and more rain.

In the end, it wasn’t how I planned it, but it was a perfect day.

Adventures/Travel, camping

5 Reasons We Love Camping

Eric and I camped a few times before having children.

Of course, we were certain that one day, in the not so distant future, we would take children camping with us; and since we planned to have a few, we invested in a 6 person tent even before they came along.

Don’t laugh.  I am a planner.  I can’t help it.

Of course, we had no idea that it would take over a decade before we actually packed up that tent and used it with children. And now we are hooked.

And while I could list a bunch of things about camping that are difficult like cooking and cleaning or annoying like bugs or frustrating like weather that doesn’t cooperate, I am going to focus on the top five reasons that I am now in love with camping.

Reasons we love camping.

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Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Linville, NC: Hawksbill Mountain Hike

The final full day of our camping adventure left us with a decision.  We knew the kids would have the energy for one more hike, but we had two great choices.

Table Rock Mountain, the originally planned hike, was a 2.2 mile roundtrip hike with difficult sections.  It was also 5 miles farther along the unpaved, winding, dirt mountain road.

I was having my doubts about this one.  We were all tired.

A bit closer on the same road was Hawksbill Mountain, a 1.5 mile roundtrip hike with a huge climb in elevation (700 ft).

After some debate, we went with Hawksbill Mountain, which was one of the mountain tops we sighted from Wiseman’s View the day before.

Once again, our little troopers hung in there for a very strenuous climb.  It didn’t start out too bad…

IMG_5965  IMG_5968

But we were basically rock climbing up the hill by the end.


We took more than one break along the way.



In the end, it was well worth the climb.




We could see the mountain we did not climb, Table Rock Mountain, in the distance.


After having a picnic lunch at our incredible viewpoint, we realized that we had not made it to the top quite yet.  We still had a little path to walk to get to the exact spot Tricia had asked to sit by the day before.  Of course, we didn’t let her go sit on the edge, but she just about made it.



It was a perfect day.  I am so glad we decided to go for the steep climb.  Afterwards, we spent the evening at our campground again.  We just enjoyed playing, whittling, sitting by the fire, and laughing.

Now…I did a quick periscope from the top of Hawksbill Mountain, NC.  It was from the site where we had lunch, not the final destination.  It remains on my Katch site, so here you go:

Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Linville, NC: Wiseman’s View

After our hike at Linville Gorge, we hopped back in the van and headed toward Wiseman’s View.  Our directions stated that Wiseman’s View was about 4 miles down an unpaved, dirt mountain road.  It was the longest 4 miles I have driven, but we did eventually find our parking lot.

This hike was completely paved and short.  It promised a beautiful view and we were eager.

Of course, signs like this one always give me pause…


But off we trotted, with my constant warnings of staying back, staying close, and holding tight to my hand if needed.

Wow.  Just wow.


The view was breath-taking, unable to be captured on camera, but attempted.




IMG_5926 IMG_5931

We had a great view of Table Rock Mountain, which we thought would be our hike the following day.


We also had a perfect view of Hawksbill Mountain.  Tricia declared, “I want to sit on the edge of that rock at the top.”  No.  I don’t think so girl.  At least not while your still living and hiking with your Momma.

After taking in the view for quite some time, we meandered back to our car.  The rest of the day was spent playing at our campsite and the surrounding campground area.

But our hikes were not over.  We had one more to attempt the following day.  Stay Tuned.

Adventures/Travel, camping, North Carolina Adventures

Linville, NC: Hiking Linville Gorge

Our cold nights while camping didn’t prevent our daytime fun! In fact, the chilly temperatures were perfect for comfortable hiking.

Our first goal was a hike at the Linville Gorge, the main reason I had selected this area for camping.  It was less than 10 minutes along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  October is a beautiful month along the Parkway and we enjoyed our short, scenic drive.

The Linville Falls Waterfall is possibly the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina according to the Romantic Asheville Website.

We were excited to see it.  Our hike was the one along Erwin’s View Trail, which provided 4 overlooks over a 1.6 mile roundtrip hike.

The trail begins over a wooden bridge at the Visitor’s Center.  We spent some extra time on this bridge while Daddy ran back to get tennis shoes for one child who showed up in flip flops.  It was a beautiful setting to spend some time waiting.


Once we were all in proper footwear, we headed toward our destination.


It was like a storybook setting as we hiked.


I spotted a fall leaf rainbow, starting at the top with red.  Then the other colors softly followed…orange, yellow, green.


We enjoyed the strange tree growing along the trail.


Our views of the various falls were beautiful.  There were four overlooks along this roundtrip hike, each offering something spectacular to see.





We did stop for a lunch break and I will mention that I discovered these “Picnic to Go” boxes at Target one day.  Unlike Lunchables, they don’t have to be refrigerated, which makes them ideal for camping and hiking.  While they aren’t the epitome of healthy eating, they aren’t too bad and I particularly enjoyed this one with its asiago cheese spread on olive oil and sea salt crackers.


Our adventure ended at the same bridge where we began.  Of course, we played a romping game of Pooh Sticks, cause who doesn’t love Pooh Sticks?


While our adventure at Linville Gorge was over, we still had another adventure on our day’s agenda.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post and our trip to Wiseman’s View.