Find a New Hike for a New Age

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Now that we’re sufficiently back into the swing of things after our extended stay in the states, we’re planning some weekend hikes.  We’ve hiked with Mason several times between six and 12 months, but now we’re hitting a tricky stage.  He’s walking well, but the combination of his “headstrength” and general disregard of danger worry me on the trail. He’s also getting pretty hefty, so carrying him in the hiking backpack 99% of the time is not an option.

We typically prefer hiking in the national forest among the dense green scenery, mountain lakes and cool weather.  Unfortunately, though the trails are well traced, they are by no means flat or unobstructed.  The large tree roots and occasional mud pockets or river crossings aren’t a problem for adults to avoid.  Mason, however, would be exhausted after 500 feet and likely bust his lip in the muddy process.

As I set off to find some new places to explore, I looked online for tips that could help me decide where to focus next.  Honestly, most of the information found didn’t apply to us since there are no summits in our future.  What I did learn is that we’ve crossed a hiking threshold.  Mason is no longer just along for the ride, we’re now taking him to explore nature on his level.   For me, this translates to three things: flat(ish) trails, no steep drops and estimated hiking times of one hour or less.

These criterion will likely lead me away from the tropical scenery to the more arid northern region of the island.  There are some beach trails that could work, I’ll let you know as soon as we get one under our belt.  Then I’m sure I’ll have some tips to add on hiking with a toddler.

Happy Toussaint to All!

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I love Halloween, so, I’ve been a little sad about being away from the US with the baby.  At least the Catholic holiday that populates this part of the calendar is a national holiday that calls for two weeks of school vacation!

Falling on November 1st, “Toussaint”  (All Saint’s Day), is a Catholic Holiday recognizing all saints and martyrs.   It is immediately followed by All Soul’s Day, the day of honoring the dead (Think “Dia de Los Muertos”).   The French take this time to spruce up family grave sites, laying candles and chrysanthemums in honor of departed loved ones.  On Guadeloupe, the two-day celebration spurs big family dinners as well as group trips to local cemeteries. This tradition isn’t sad or morbid.  Actually, the sheer number of people, the joyous camaraderie and numerous vendors make for a low-key party in and around the cemetery.

The festivities in Morne a L’eau are some of the most famous on the island due to the town’s unique and expansive, black and white cemetery.  It’s a must-see if you’re in the region at this time.   As you walk through the narrow walkways and stairways that pass between the tombs the scene is beautiful.  A swath of carefully placed candles bathe the cemetery in a reddish glow and illuminates the hundreds of people that sit, walk and visit with each other amongst the graves late into the evening.



Creole Court-Bouillon over Steamed Plantains

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I’ve noticed as Mason moves toward chunkier meals that he’s responding really well to food with pronounced taste.  I tried cooking him West Indian dishes tweaked for a toddler and I’ve been really pleased with his reaction.  So, I decided to share some of his favorite meals.

This creole court-bouillon only takes about 30 minutes of cook time, though there is a bit of prep.  The plantains can be steamed at the same time.  Don’t think, why would I do all of this for a toddler??  This a meal for the whole family.  After I’ve served the little one, I add 1-2 tablespoons of ginger, garlic and hot pepper mash and simmer a few minutes more.

Creole Court-Bouillon

1 kg white fish (e.g. red snapper; cut whole fish into halves or thirds depending on size; marinade fish in oil, lime juice, garlic and onion before hand if possible)

3 cloves garlic (or to taste)

Fresh thyme and parsley (to taste)

1 large white onion

3 medium tomatoes

Put two tablespoons of sunflower oil in a pot and add the chopped fresh herbs, garlic, and white onion.  Let render until the onions are translucent, then add tomatoes.  Add a bit of water and let simmer until the tomatoes break down.   Add enough water to cover the fish and let simmer another 10-15 minutes before adding the fish.  Simmer fish in the broth another 10 minutes and let stand for 5 minutes before serving broth and fish over steamed plantains.


Steamed Plantains

2-3 plantains per person (1/2-1 for toddler)

1 tablespoon salt

garlic powder (optional)

Cover bottom of a bot with 2 inches of water and salt and garlic powder and set to boil.  Cut off end of each plantain and cut a slit length-wise.  Stack plantains in pot and cover.  Let water boil for 12-15 minutes or until plantains are the desired softness.


When feeding this meal to toddlers, be sure to check the fish that you are including for bones.  I mashed the food a bit further than what’s pictured and made sure to break up that big piece of onion.  Everyone else can just dig in.

Report back on your child’s response if you try it!

Ant Theater!

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A few days ago I was sitting on my patio taking baby spinach leaves of their stalks and watching Mason toddle around.  As my pile of stalks and stray leaves mounted, I noticed the leafcutter ants were quickly getting hip to the spinach situation.  I’ve been really into finding toddler learning activities recently, visiting a lot of home school blogs – Tot School and the like.  One thing I learned is that almost anything can be a teaching tool – even a discarded spinach stalk.

When it was time for Mason’s afternoon snack, I set him up on a mat on the veranda. I set some harvested spinach stalks in front of him.  Within minutes it was a full-fledged ant theater.  The ants were cutting left-over leaves, making lines and marching back and forth.  Mason was an attentive patron.  He watched for a good 10 minutes before he spent 5 minutes making swipes at the ants and taking their leaves.  I wrapped it up at this point, as I needed to cook said spinach and thought better of leaving him next to now-ornery ants.  In the end we were both happy with our little activity.  For Mason, fifteen minutes engaged in the same (stationary) activity is kind of a big deal.

What impromptu toddler activities have worked out for you?



Brave the Overnight Flight

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I recently completed my latest international voyage with a toddler.  Luckily, it was largely uneventful, so no new tips.  However, I’m now a proponent of two things: toddler leashes and the overnight flight.

My son has a good track record on planes.  Though a bit antsy if awake, he doesn’t usually have trouble sleeping – especially if being held.  This is the only reason I attempted the Saturday night red-eye from San Francisco to Miami. Our flight was scheduled for 9:00 pm.  So at 8:00 pm, while watching my 15-month-old toddle furiously around the terminal, I started to get nervous.  I think some of other passengers did as well.

In the end the worry was unwarranted.  Despite recent airline attacks on family boarding, we were able to get on the plane early and get started on a bottle. The plane was less crowded than normal, so we ended up having a row to ourselves. The aircraft was dark, the atmosphere calm and there was generally less movement to remind my son he wasn’t free to roam.  Mason was eventually able to lay across the seats and slept the entire way to Miami.  The only crying we encountered was after we landed.  He was upset because he wasn’t done sleeping.

Though I feel I am taking a big risk, I think I will schedule the red-eye more often.  At least until I have a horribly traumatic experience.

What highlights or low-lights have you encountered?