Who is out at the zoo on a freezing cold rainy weekday in Kansas City? Basically just us and a polar bear!
We parked our car in a nearly empty lot and headed inside. (Both parking and admission for children under 2 are free, so we spent less than $10 on our fun excursion.) First stop, we saw the polar bear passage. Earlier this month Nikita, our male polar bear, relocated to a zoo in North Carolina but you can still see Berlin, who is an older female bear. (local news story)
Next we went to Helzburg Penguin Plaza which is mostly indoors. My one-year-old, Cecilia loved watching the penguins swim and waddle around. I think they liked her too!
We headed to the Tropics which was nice and warm. Then we stopped by the Sea Lions to watch them practice their tricks. Finally we headed to the Discovery Barn for more indoor fun.
How has more than a week gone by in January and I’m still struggling to come up with a fun list of things to do this month? Possibly because I find the month of January to be a less than inspiring this year. For some reason I’m not into dieting, organizing or any other traditional New Year’s resolution that I typically tell myself I need to make.
Before I start sounding really negative, I want to share my favorite December moments and how I checked off my festive to-do list last month:
Baking holiday cookies! We headed over to my parents house and we all made cookies. I made fun, tasty gingerbread cabins which I wrote about here.
Christmas lights. My favorite were the ones we saw on evening walks around our neighborhood. The lights made the walks we take Duncan (our crazy 2 year old golden retriever) on feel like an enjoyable and festive family event instead of a chore.
Snuggling by the fireplace. We have a Cape Cod style home that doesn’t have the ‘open floor plan’ basically every couple on HGTV is looking for. We fell in love with the cozy (yes, wood paneled) living room with a traditional brick fireplace and I love (repeat love) sitting by the fire. I nearly sit inside it to get warm in the winter. Thank you to my husband for building me several fires last month.
On New Year’s Day, my husband and I decided to try something new and rented snowshoes from the Warming House in Estes Park, CO. The rental included personal instructions on how to properly put them on and trekking poles.
We started out at the Bierstadt Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park and climbed uphill 1.3 miles to the frozen lake and back down. The views were gorgeous the whole way!
The snow was pretty packed in, so I don’t know if snowshoes were 100% necessary. We saw several people in them and several people with micro-spikes like these.
winter hiking gear
I’m a total novice and thought I would be very cold because the temperature was only 22 degrees. I started with long sleeve Under Armour shirt (similar), a long sleeve t-shirt, a Northface fleece jacket, a waterproof winter jacket, Under Armour cold weather leggings, athletic pants, two pairs of wool socks, a hat, gloves and waterproof hiking boots.. Once we got moving, I took off several layers.
Speaking of heating up – sunglasses are essential because the snow makes the sun even brighter and for me it’s easy to forget drinking water when it’s cold, so I had to remind myself to drink up. We didn’t bring sunscreen, but I think it would be a good idea next time along with chapstick.
This past summer, we went to the same beautiful lake via Bear Lake trailhead with our daughter Cecilia. Since this was our first time snowshoeing, we decided to be extra cautious and get a babysitter (my amazing sister). We saw a couple on the trail with a baby, and learned snowshoeing isn’t much different than walking, so I would definitely consider taking her on future snowshoe adventures.
Making Christmas cookies is a family tradition, but this was my first year attempting gingerbread and I think our little gingerbread cabins turned out great! Okay my cookie decorating skills can use some honing, but the cookies were soft, yummy and fun to make.
I bought a gingerbread house cookie cutter at Target, I also found this similar one on Amazon. We used a decorating set similar to this one.
Gingerbread Recipe Ingredients:
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
You will also need icing (either homemade or store purchased) as well as edible decorative items like candy gumdrops.
How to Make Gingerbread Cookies:
Preheat oven to 375
Cream shortening and sugar. Beat one egg and molasses an add to mixture. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Roll out dough (not too thin) with rolling pin on flat surface sprinkled with flour. Use cookie cutter to create dough shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Let cool. Decorate!