Category Archives: Summer Fun

10 Unforgettable Fly Fishing Locations in the U.S.

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Lists aren’t easy. We know because it was hard setting a limit when we reviewed five of Alaska’s foremost rivers. It’s probably impossible to narrow down the country’s best fly fishing to just 10 locations, but we’re giving it our best shot.

1. Manistee River, Michigan

Its 200-mile run through the northern regions of the state’s lower peninsula ends at Lake Michigan. The river produces great salmon, trout and steelhead action especially downstream from Tippy Dam. We really enjoy the year-round crystal clear water.

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2. Penobscot River, Maine

Let’s swing east to the west branch of this river known for its world-class salmon fly fishing. The 11-mile stretch between Ripogenus Dam and the Abol Bridge presents some of the wildest angling available. We strongly suggest this one for fishing, not relaxing.

3. Connecticut River, New Hampshire

New England’s longest river offers more than 400 miles of fly fishing adventures. Whether you drift or wade, cast your luck, and sharpen your skill chasing trout, salmon and sturgeon. The Connecticut always looks its best when it’s wearing fall colors.

4. The Florida Keys

Obviously, this one isn’t a river, but we really recommend the action off Key Largo. Bogie and Bacall would definitely approve and join us for some of the finest saltwater fly fishing in the Western Hemisphere. We sound prejudice because we are.

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5. Little Red River, Arkansas

As we head back up and across the country, we have to stop in north central Arkansas. Since their introduction in the mid-1960s, ‘bows and brownies have earned their reputation as the state’s favorite sporting fish. Be sure to try the river’s stretch between Greers Ferry Dam and Pangburn.

6. San Juan River, New Mexico

We love the high country and endless plateaus in northwestern New Mexico. We go crazy for huge river trout below Navajo Dam. The San Juan River makes it on our list because it consistently produces fish in one of the American West’s most beautiful settings.

7. Glenwood Spring, Colorado

We’re including one more non-river location. This is the Rocky Mountain State’s center for amazing fly fishing action. The Colorado and Fork rivers roar through town, the area enjoys 300 days of sunshine every year, and even winter fishing is fun in Glenwood Spring.

8. Yellowstone River, Montana

You know it’s the longest undammed river in the country. You know the headwaters are filled with cutthroats. You know downstream teems with huge populations of big ‘bows and brownies. We know we’d hear from you if we didn’t include this one.

9. Snake River, Idaho

Head for the Snake’s south fork, and enjoy year-round fly fishing just 45 minutes from Jackson Hole. We favor the canyon run through Magic Valley for cutthroat, brownies and rainbows. The scenery is breathtaking wherever you fish on this legendary river.

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10. Kvichak River, Alaska

From Lake Iliamna down to Bristol Bay the Kvichak River is spotted with some of the best fly fishing lodges in the world. The river flows wild and wide and did we mention that the world’s largest red salmon run happens right here every year? Enough said.

You might not agree with all our choices, but you have to admit it’s a pretty good list. It’s certainly reason enough to keep expanding your angling horizons and checking locations off your fly-fishing adventures list.

Tips on Creating Inspirational Spaces for Kids

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It always seems that a good part of every weekend is spent working on some home improvement project. Either we’re replacing the leaky kitchen sink, fixing the upstairs toilet that keeps running, or the usual sort of stuff like cleaning the gutters and raking the yard. Sometimes we guys get lucky and can work on something we actually want to work on, like a mancave or setting up a home office the exact way we want. Another project that is worth the time and effort, that is also fun, is making something for the kids.

1. The Tween Cave

As much as we try and deny it, our kids are growing up. The happy little twerp that was glued to your leg is now a moody teen who wants to be left alone in his room. Why not make him a dream room he will love? Ideally, the best place is a basement or an attic. It gives the budding adult a greater sense of privacy, while allowing you to still keep an eye on him.

The key here is to let them have a major say in how the room looks. If they want everything painted black and dark purple, like their favorite band (or whatever sort of music they like) then let them paint the room that color. It will show them that you value their thoughts and ideas. Did I mention that they also have to help? Working on their own room like that will give them a greater appreciation for what they built.

Remember, it’s during these years that a teen will be tempted to do things like drinking or drugs. If they have a cool place where they feel in control, that along with your guidance, make all the difference in what choices they make.

2. A Tree House or Fort

The treehouse has been a staple for boys and girls of all ages for a long time. This is one of those things that has gotten better over the years, because there are more options than ever. If a yard doesn’t have big enough trees to build a treehouse, you can build a fort. Pirate ships and rockets are also an option.

There are tons of YouTube videos that can give dads a step by step guide to build whatever they want. If you aren’t gifted in the carpentry arts, there are kits you can buy. These are relatively easy to assemble, but still give the dad an excuse to bust out the tools and let the kids watch while he builds something. Failing that, there are even professional treehouse and fort builders who will do all the work, but where’s the fun in that?

3. The Classic Playroom

The best thing about a regular playroom is that it can be used all year long, regardless of the weather. There is also a lot of flexibility in what can be done. No matter what the kids are into, building the perfect playroom is a cinch. It can be a rough and tumble superhero lair, or the ballroom in a castle.

Decorating the playroom is easier than most people expect. The main thing is to keep it fun and fitting with the chosen theme. Having custom chairs with the most creative upholstery fabric is a great way to bring a playroom together, and spark a child’s imagination. To them, you aren’t building a playroom. You’re building them a magical place all their own.

Conclusion
The list of things a dad can do is nearly endless. The project can be indoor or outdoor, and depending on the age of your kids, the scope and tone can go from princess in pink to rock stars in black leather. If there is enough of an age difference, you might have to do more than one project. Like that’s a bad thing. Use these few ideas to get you started. Take them, run with them, and make them your own.

Growing things together with your kids outdoors

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If you’re anything like me, I’m on some level always feeling that I’m not spending quality time with my kids like I want to. But at the same time, I’m also somewhat incapacitated. Between work, the stuff on the calendar, and meeting the kids’ basic needs, I often collapse at the end of the day in one exhausted heap.

One thing we’ve started doing as a family is working outdoors together. From planting a garden to landscaping to planting new trees on our property, I’ve found it rewarding.

The nature of gardening and landscaping is that it is an ongoing process, not a one-time thing. You’re planting new life. It needs water, sunlight, and care. So at the outset, you’re committed. You’re going to get out there with the kids on a regular basis.

If you’re like me and can only handle so much (or not any) playing dollhouse or Star Wars light-saber fights or painful “Fine” responses as you try to engage your teen, this is a game-changer. I’m going to lay out 3 important lessons that getting outside as a family instills in your kids.

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Unless you were born with a green thumb, working with plants is going to take patience. You’ll need to learn how to plant and care for plant life.

Getting a garden started takes persistence and patience. It’s not done in an hour. You have to prepare the soil, plant the produce and herbs you are going to grow, and prune and water what you’ve planted.

It can be tedious at times. In a world in which research papers are as easy as a google search and in which 200+ tv shows and movies are at my kids’ fingertips on Netflix at any given moment, working outdoors is a valuable character-builder.

Not everything worth having, can be acquired quickly. Often those things of greatest value take time and patience. It’s not always as easy as Tweeting an acquaintance for a job recommendation. Sometimes it is, but I want my children to be prepared for the times when it’s not. For those times when waiting is required in order to see results.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY

Your children know what is most important to you, by how you spend your time. Spending quality time with them will show them that they are important to you.

Working together with your spouse and kids will deepen the bond you all have. It will draw you closer. And this close bond will create trust.

When my girls are in the face of intense peer pressure, this foundation of trust will assure them I will always be there for them. That no matter what, I have been there and will be there for them.

Having a supportive and dependable family structure is vital for kids. These traits are indicators for success down the road. This falls on your shoulders.

HARD WORK

My kids are skilled at finding the path of least resistance. Left to themselves, they would play video games all day, never bathe or change their clothes, and never clean up after themselves. An onlooker may wonder if the chores we subject our kids to our actually physically painful to them, judging from the sighs and grunts that leave their mouths.

All that to say, diligence and hard work do not come naturally. In part, it is up to us as parents to help foster these quality traits in them. They may hate us for it at the time, but in the long-run, they will thank us.

The most effective way to teach your kids to have a good work ethic, is not just to force them to work hard, but to get in there and work with them. Set an example. Get your hands dirty. Show them how it’s done.

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CONCLUSION

Whether you are planting a garden in the spring or taking a Saturday morning to plant a tree to shade your front porch, these are projects that will guarantee family time and teaching opportunities in days to come.

Make the most of your time. Take advantage of those opportunities. You will blink, and these years will be passed. Slow down and determine what you want to instill in your kids now.

How about you? What benefits have you found from working outdoors with your family?

Five Reasons To Plant a Fruit Tree With Your Family

There are probably a hundred or more good reasons to plant a fruit tree with your family, here are five.  Familial aspects aside, all of this falls into a greater green world order and general coming-of-age by an environmentally apologetic humanity.  The greenest people of earth are the children; they’re part of a hyper carbon conscious future that embraces Garden City Transformations.  Kids know that fruit trees are one of six Elements Needed to Make a Garden City in Toronto and elsewhere, in every metropolitan center, in every country, in every continent all over the world.

kid_fruit_tree1Planting fruit trees in a big city is sometimes restricted by municipal bylaws. The city doesn’t plant apples, pears or cherries by choice, and property developers are restricted from planting them by city ordinances for a whole lot of reasons; maintenance and liability are the predominant arguments against city planners planting fruit bearing species along streets and sidewalks.  Homeowners can plant anything they want in their backyards however, and can obtain fruit trees in nurseries here in Canada, and in Ontario and those include Henry Fields Nurseries and Sheridan Nurseries, neither of which specialize in any particular fruit tree varietals (like most nurseries in Europe do) nor will they deliver to your residential property.

One of the secrets of planting trees in the city is to also buy a big bag of soil and make a burm around the seedling. This helps the small tree survive the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Professional tree planters dig a deep hole and then fill it with black garden earth from vegetable composting programs and then put the original soil back on top. In Toronto you can buy a big bag of soil from Weedaway for about $120, and have it delivered right to your home.

Five Reasons to Plant a Fruit Tree with a Young Family

1.  The fruit tree will grow as your family grows and the memory of planting the tree becomes a powerful growth myth that will be part of each child’s psyche – the memory of planting the tree becomes synonymous with making an investment and nurturing growth and performing small physical improvements over time. The tree can be sourced locally or bought from an online vendor that will deliver in Europe and the USA, but no such businesses exist in Canada.

2. The fruit tree is handy biological reference to study and explain, and it can take on the characteristics of a pet with almost no maintenance or additional expense of keeping an animal – so its the perfect family member.  The tree’s first blossoms make it easier to talk about nature’s many and various reproductive systems. Registering the tree, means the kids can volunteer later on at charities that visit private homes and tour city parks picking fruit for charity driven gourmet baking initiatives and wildscaping programs. Los Angeles has a fruit picking outreach program for kids called Fallen Fruit, and Portland Oregon has an apple tree harvesting program for their inner city youth that is famous because it at has been featured in motion pictures.

apple press is fun exercise for kids3. The fruit tree is part of the fabric of nature and has lovely blossoms in the spring that attract buzzing pollinators and floral photographers. A fruit tree  in the springtime is a lovely photo backdrop and the fertility metaphor is a subtle and strong reminder of the promise of prosperity.

4. A  fruit tree attracts cool wildlife and colourful birds. A robust apple tree will bring deer out of the woods, and cherry trees attract squirrels and other storyfull rouges. This is good for kids as animals sell adventure- good for adults as sophisticated songbirds serenade our souls.

5. You can make fruit juice with family members many years later, maybe your grandchildren.    Juicing is great way to get vitamin C into a child’s body, and most kids LOVE IT.  Fresh juice is amazingly more healthy than canned juice and way more fun- it can be frozen into ice cubes and kept as treats for rainy days and they won’t even know it’s good for them. But more importantly its the activity as a unique and productive exercise that they remember all their lives.

Picking the fruit and making juice completes the investment metaphor. Kids doing work under the tree completes the life metaphor. Watching kids work with specialized equipment is a concept for a new TV series.  Kids making fresh juice in the backyard is pure fun and drinking that juice is one of life’s greatest rewards.

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Hot Fun in the Summertime – New Photo Contests on Lenzr.com!

Lenzr.com is Canada’s only serial photo contest website, offering up new photography challenges for budding photographers every month and rewarding the best photos with real prizes. Lenzr photo contests are something you can share with your children, encouraging creativity in them and bonding over camera and photo editing technology–it is the digital age, after all!

Lenzr has just introduced four new contests in the July-August session, and, of course, four great prizes are on the line. Kids have to be at least 13 years of age to enter the contests on their own, but that shouldn’t stop you if you have younger children–just work on the photography together and enter the contest under your own account!

Fireplaces and Furnaces Photo Contest on Lenzr.comLenzr’s Fireplaces and Furnaces photo contest is a bit weird in the middle of summer, we know, but professional photographers and filmmakers do this all the time–you didn’t really think that they wait for rain to fall, did you? Suspend our disbelief! Show our judges your coziest shots of comforting winter scenes–perhaps the kids warming their hands at the fireplace or the dog curled up on the hearth. Teaching your children that what they see in photographs (particularly in mainstream media) is not necessarily a representation of the truth is a good lesson. For example, most of the delicious food photography we salivate over feature motor oil as syrup, hairspray to moisten up a drying piece of cake and white glue instead of milk in cereal ads, etc. Kids should learn early on that photographs can play tricks on our perception, and the best way to learn is to do!Sony Laptop

The prize in this competition is  a Sony laptop, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a furnace installer located in Ontario. Summer is, financially speaking, the best time to think about installing a new high-efficiency furnace, which will save more money in the long run.

Toronto Tourist Attractions Photo Contest on Lenzr.com

 

Lenzr’s Toronto Tourist Attractions is, unlike its predecessor, a perfect summertime challenge. Canada’s largest city has a lot to offer tourists of all types–international visitors will enjoy The ROM and The Hockey Hall of Fame, nature lovers will be pleasantly shocked by the beauty of the Toronto Islands and High Park, music lovers may enjoy a different festival nearly every weekend, architecture buffs will love the designs of the newly restored Art Gallery of Ontario and the colorful activity of the CN Tower, and Toronto’s many and diverse cultural festivals such as Caribana attract millions of visitors every summer.

Head into Toronto with your camera and show us the unique things you discover! The prizeSeaEagle Sport Kayak for this contest is an inflatable sport kayak, courtesy of this contest’s sponsor, a Toronto bed and breakfast that’s literally as downtown as you can get, for it’s a ‘Boatel’ moored at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre!

Haircuts and Hairstyles Photo Contest on Lenzr.com

 

Lenzr.com’s Haircuts and Hairstyles photo contest wants to see photographic submissions with a hairstyle (or someone having their hair cut) as the focal point of the photograph. Hair is one of the first things we humans notice about one another, and kids have a lot of fun experimenting with hairstyles on their own. Where you don’t want to give your kids total creative freedom is with a pair of shears, for obvious reasons.

Show us funny, unique or beautiful hairstyles. You can definitely get the kids involved, even by allowing them to style your hair and then concluding with a fashion shoot–that photo will probably be filed under the ‘funny’ hairstyles, no?

The prize for this contest is a high-end blow dryer + flat iron, perfect for a gift for mom or an older sister or relative! The contest was generously sponsored by a Yorkville salon in downtown Toronto.

Objects in Motion Photo Contest on Lenzr.comLenzr.com’s Objects in Motion photo contest wants to see the trajectory route of an object, person, animal or force of nature. Yes, the photo may contain a motion blur, but our judges only want to see the object, person, animal or force of nature in motion blur, not the rest of the photograph. Show us planes, trains or automobiles, high jumpers, long jumpers, kids on trampolines, squirrels jumping across telephone wires, dogs chasing them, yanking their leash away from their owner’s firm grip. Last summer Canada’s East Coast got hit with some nasty hurricanes; Canadians of intrepid heart may wish to chase a storm in motion, if they dare.Sony Laptop

The prize for this contest is a Sony Laptop, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, an air freight service that’s constantly keeping objects in motion over land, sea and sky.

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How to: Urban Back Yard Farming for Rookies…

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Sprouting an organic garden is fun and easy

What’s this world coming to?

I have been thinking for the past few years that the amount of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals in food is getting out of control. Genetically modified foods, mass enterprise farming and the demise of the small family farm all over the world makes me sad. I read an article last year that mentioned how vegetables grown in 2010 had half the nutrients that they did 50 or 100 years ago.

No one seems to have time for dinner at home anymore and increasing numbers of families worldwide are eating in fast food restaurants. Obesity is on the rise, cancer is on the rise, mental illness and hormonal imbalances are screwing up families all over the world. What is going on? Have we lost touch with what is important in the pursuit of progress, bigger TV’s and fatter wallets?

Eating healthy and wholesome food that is nutritious and tastes great is important to me. As a parent of three very young kids, it is extremely important that I give my kids the types of fuel their brains and little bodies need to keep them healthy and give them the best shot for success in life.

So, with the options in grocery stores getting more and more toxic, generic in flavour and lower and lower in nutritional value, it seems obvious to me that something had to change. I have always been curious about organic food. More and more over time I started to do some research on this and felt it pretty important to adopt more of this into our family lifestyle.

Going Organic

Going organic is more of a lifestyle change than just a decision we make. Buying everything organic sounds great in principle, but once you get over the sticker shock, you realize that it is kind of impractical given the fact that not everything is available as Organic, and the corresponding enormous jump in your grocery bill when you factor in all the elements in your shopping cart. So, then it makes sense to balance out with some good choices to get what you need while minimizing your exposure to toxic intake.

  1. Buy organic the ten top things that are most obvious to avoid otherwise—the stuff that has the most toxic footprint (there is a top ten list or two out there) on the human body.
  2. Buy from local farmers (that do not put nasty chemicals and fertizers in their soil) where possible. Go to your local farmer’s market or take a drive in the country if that is easy for you.
  3. Grow some of your own vegetables (for those of us with a back yard or a sun drenched balcony). It s not that hard, and you would be amazed what you can learn in a pinch.

Urban Organic Farming

So it was that this year I decided to take the plunge into Urban Farming and attempt to grow some of my own organic vegetables in my back yard. It has been about two months since I started, and I put in a lot of hours into research, spent many a back breaking hour converting some of my yard into a vegetable patch, and have learned a lot.

Success is still a ways away, some time towards the end of summer when I can really begin to harvest many of the crops that I have planted, but there have been some small wins and a few setbacks. All in all, I have been having a great time with it, but the story is just beginning to unfold. I will my Urban Farming experience with you here, beginning today.

Growing your own vegetables is great

I took this challenge on this year, with no expctations other than I was going to give Organic Farming a try and see what happens. I have never been a green thumb. If anything, I was more of a plant killer than a grower. I have never intentionally killed a live plant, but most plants entrusted in my care do not seem to survive the long haul. This, I hope to change.

Start with Organic Seeds

I started with one of those seeding kits you get from the garden centre (plastic tray and a bunch of expanding growers medium (Peat Pucks)) and a bunch of Organic seeds that I purchased online from the Salt Spring Seed Company on Vancouver Island. I had a lot of questions and Dan Jason was really very helpful and super nice to do business with. I felt like my rookie season was in good hands and there was nothing he could not help me with.

Start with good quality organic seeds and a cheap and cheerful seed starting kit

I wanted this to be an experience I shared with my kids—a great way to teach them about where food comes from (other than the grocery store). From seed, to the garden, to their plate is a much healthier and more sustainable path than the one we normally take. It is easy for them to dis Daddy’s dinner when they have no idea where it comes from.

Starting out is not that complicated or difficult, just takes a good variety of seeds, some potting soil or cheap and cheerful a seed starter kit and some pots. You’ll need some time on your hands for a little bit (or a lot) of online research if you are like me and have never grown anything intentionally before. The rest is up to mother nature and it really is a miracle.

Plant seed, water and wait…

So one day in late April, one by one, each of my kids and I spent an evening planting 1, 2 or 3 seeds into each of the little pucks in a little plastic greenhouse tray that held 72 in all, watering them, covering them and stuffing them under the bed. Each had their own technique, and I tried not to get too worked up when they spilled seeds all over the floor or planted them too deep. All in all, the seeding was pretty painless. We planted Spinach, Kale, Arugula, Cucumber, Squash, Broccoli, Summer Peas, beans, two kinds of heirloom cherry tomatoes, Sweet Yellow Peppers, Carrots, Basil, Summer Savoury, Cilantro and a bunch of fancy lettuces. We watered, we covered and we waited.

Every morning we would get down on our knees, slide out the tray and see if anything had happened the night before. It took a few days, and a lot of anxious anticipation, but on the fourth day, surprise! Out poked a few little sprouts. Life!! We had given birth to a bunch of beautiful little seedlings. It was so exciting that we could not contain ourselves.

Sprouts everywhere!

By the end of the second week, we were very pleased to be staring down every day at about 100 little sprouts working their way up through the soil. We carefully set them out in the light, not far from the window, watered them every day or two, and constantly checked in on their progress. As the spring was moving along, we were anxious to get going on the planting part. There was no rush though, every day it was raining buckets outside and there was no break in sight.

We learned the hard way not to rush things. Earlier, we planted three kinds of potatoes right into the yard that all failed miserably. I was so sad about this, because all of the research I did said that Organic potatoes were so incredibly delicious and super easy to grow. Promptly after I planted four or five rows of these fantastic heirloom seed potatoes, it rained cats and dogs for days and days. By time the sun came out, and the soil had a chance to dry, the potato seedlings had rotted right in the ground. I guess maybe it just was not meant to be this year. I will definitely try again next year.

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Once the sprouts became more like plants, I transplanted them to 4" pots and put them out on the roof to get some sun and harden them off (acclimatize) and get ready for transplanting into the ground ...

Phase two: Transplanting to pots…

Once the sprouts start to grow with their first set of real leaves, it is time to weed out the strong from the weak, separate the men from the boys so to speak, and plant the strongest plants into pots of their own, into organic potting soil. This is where you see the fruits of your labour begin to take shape. While not every seed turned into a plant, and some of the plants were kind of lame relative to some of the others, on the upside, I ended up watching about 100 seeds transform into well over 6o beautiful potted plants which I am proud to say, have all been planted in the ground by now and are doing just great. I have had a few setbacks, but all in all, things are growing just fine. I will talk more about the successes and failures in successive posts throughout the summer.

Phase three: Getting your beds ready
In my next post, I want to go over getting your planting beds ready. If you are like me, your back yard was not ready to just plant vegetables into. There is a lot of research to do and a lot of preparation to get everything ready if you want to do it right. It is a lot of work, but in the long run, success will be a lot sweeter at harvest time. What you do this year, will continue to give back year after year if you decide to carry on with your Urban Organic Farm. I am definitely looking forward to reaping the harvest.

Thinking about giving organic gardening a try?

It is not too late to get started. If this sounds like something you would like to give a go, then order some seeds today—you could be growing a green thumb by next week.

If you have started your own back yard Organic Garden, and have some success stories and or disastrous tales of failure to share, please post them here. We all can learn from what you have learned and then it will not have been for naught. For better or for worse, we are definitely looking forward to hearing from you.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to post them here as a comment or @HeadsUp_Dad on Twitter.

Until next time, be well!