Wisdom gained from our camping trip

We  generally like fresh air, sunshine, love outdoors, park and nature. So it is natural that we should try out camping We have done camping occasionally, but not enough to be called expert by any means. R and P love outdoors and nature like most kids and we thought we should be brave enough to try camping with 2 kids, now that P is over 1 year! Here is our wisdom and lessons learned from our recent camping trip in early August.

After having kids, we thought to try out camping about an hour drive from where we live, close enough to drive back home just in case of kids emergency. We thought one night was good enough to start with with 2 little ones. It was long overhaul for just one day and we learned a few things or two that we had not thought of. I thought of sharing our humorous experience and lesson here; If you are novice like me, you will learn and if you are expert campers, you already know this and give me lot of tips to make our national lampoon’s type camping to better one. Either case, this will provide you with some entertainment and laugh.

You can not be minimalist camper with family.

You will have to carry everything you need with you including kitchen sink plus more. I am sure some single guy will prove me wrong here, by saying they can camp with just one backpack. I will tell them to wait until they are married with kids and then tell me how much stuff those little ones seem to be need.

As a family with 2 kids, we need so many things, yes I said NEED these stuff. Those of you with kids will know, we parents will do anything, even give kid a candy if that mean having 10 minutes to drink tea in peace.

Here are some of the break down of typical stuff a family with kids need/want to take;

  1. Tent large enough to fit family plus all crap that we bring
  2. Bedding, pillows, blankets, jackets
  3. Tarps for undercover, door mat to keep dirt away from tent (even though it will not work)
  4. Clean and fresh water for cooking, drinking (Take more then you think you need)
  5. Milk/soy milk, Tea/coffee/sugar, salt, spices, fruits, vegetables, knife, cutting board,
  6. Can opener, Serving and Stirring Utensils, plates, cups, spoons, fork etc, Pots, Pans
  7. Cleaning liquid soap, washing soap, shampoo, towels, clothes, extra towels, swim suit
  8. Extra clothes, hiking shoes, regular slipper, torch, lantern, extra batteries
  9. Snacks, ice, other cooking supply, cooler1 and cooler 2
  10. Insect and mosquito cream, camera, video, extra batteries, radio,CD  player
  11. books, fire logs, fire starter, camping folding chair, folding table,
  12. extra table to keep huge food supply you brought with you for 10 people, even though you are only 4 people.
  13. Extra papers, drawing supply to draw wild life which you will not get a chance to touch because your 1 year old is running around keeping you too busy to even eat.
  14. Bring cell phone, laptop just in case you want to check on your blog comment, which no one cares to read during weekend anyways.
  15. Toys, stuffed bears and loveys for kids as they will not sleep without it.
  16. Kids diapers, back up stuff for kids plan A through back up stuff to plan F.
  17. You need a huge extra caravan to fit it all.
  18. You need a day to pack it all and one day to unpack it all.
  19. Extra cash, just in case you forgot to pack something important
  20. ATM card just in case you forgot to pack enough cash
  21. Little bit sanity (which you find only after coming home for 4 days)

After you come back from your camping your own house/apartment will look luxury hotel.

  1. After using those coin shower that gives you 2 minutes of extra hot water for 25 cents, you will know luxury when you use your own hot water in your bathroom and do not have to worry about time running out.
  2. You bathroom is not wet all over and you can change your and your kids clothes without getting them wet.
  3. You will feel your bathroom is 5 star hotel after using camping toilets
  4. You do not need to wait in line at morning rush, you can be king or queen
  5. You do not need to worry about insect biting you inside your home
  6. You actually have a plenty supply of water whenever you need, not worrying about water or ice running out
  7. You do not need to worry about batteries running out and actually enjoy listening to music without time limit
  8. You are not living off suitcases/bags to find stuff
  9. You do not need to clean and put away things right away, you can let dishes sit in sink for hour or two.
  10. you will not to dress up on layers clothes as temperature changes outside.

Surprising things that I would have never guessed before camping;

  1. You will need a jackets and fire to warm you at night, in middle of hot summer.
  2. We do not know how to protect and survive if bear is outside the tent, no bear are not cute as teddy bears always.
  3. You will need more water and ice supply than you can imagine
  4. Without city lights, and night light, how dark it could be at night, pitch black.
  5. Your tent walls are not thick enough, so you will get to hear all sounds, such as cricket, animals (if any), someone walking by (night restroom use) or next tent snoring, your own kids crying and waking others in near by area, it is all fun and embarrassing sort of way.

Final summary:

When you come back and takes you whole day to unpack and 2 days more to recharge, you will swear you will never go camping again. Then you see all these wonderful pictures and friends call you and you think why not? It was not so bad. We can improve and have fun. So the vicious circle of camping adventure starts again.

Lesson here is that do not worry about learning any wisdom from here, just go out and have fun, camping, cabin, hotels, motels, vacations or staycations. Summer is meant to be enjoyed, so we are going to go again. Only this time we are prepared to know that no one should sleep close to our tent, until little P learns to sleep through the night or we have a silencer on our tent.

Did you enjoy this story? This is real account of our recent camping and we have gained no wisdom what so ever. We are planning to do it again!

Your Turn: How is your camping experience?

Image Source: Johnson outdoors

No Spend Month Challenge: Update and Take away from the experiment

Now that August is here, here is a recap of our No Spend Month Challenge with its final update and lessons and take away from this No Spend experiment:

This July we did No Spend Month experiment to see if our family of four, living in Northern California can survive with only $300: For groceries, eating out, cleaning, gardening supply, entertainment (books, movies, etc), Gas for cars, Any repairs, clothing and accessories and other items.

31 days

4 people


To see recap on what is No Spend month and with Monday’s weekly updates on how we did, check out the posts below for more details.

No Spend Moth Challenge: Introduction $0
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 1 Money Spent 1st week: $104.73
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 2 Money Spent 2nd week: $33.72
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 3 Money spent 3rd week: $97.15
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 4 Money spent4th week: $18.50

Last week spending update:

Gas and Groceries only.
Total for last 5 days: $45.56

Here is total breakdown for the whole month to compare where did the money go?

Our Total expenses for the No Spend month Details:

Gas for both cars: $158.79
Groceries: $82.70
Misc: Rest of the budget
Total for the month: $299.66

As you can see, we barely made with 44 cents left over from our $300. Phew!!
Edited to add: We did not pre-stock gas for the cars or groceries prior the the no spend month experiment. Also all expense from cash and little on credit card are included here (even though CC bill be due next month).

Highlights and Analysis of this month:

  1. Gas prices are highest in the nation in Northern California, cheapest unleaded gas price is around $3.20 per gallon here. Except for our long Yosemite drive, we did not drive much and walked. Gas we had to fill in every other week, our normal gas expenses are much higher. This was consciously done.
  2. We had once had guests over for dinner and once we had to bring a potluck meal for 40 people. Our groceries expense is under $100, because we mostly used up our pantry, frozen and canned food supply this month. We still have a few cans and little frozen food left but most of food supply is used up. We were also were able to donate some goods that otherwise would have expired before being used.
  3. We did not eat out except for coffee and snacks once.
  4. We did not spend any money on repairs, clothes, cleaning supply or diaper this month as we used vinegar and cleaning supply from home for it. Zenguy repaired one chair by himself. And we used gift card (from last Xmas) to buy some diapers and we supplemented with cloth diapers for little P.
  5. I did little splurging like buying used books ($1.50) or used high chair ($10, actually needed) as Little P was growing out of his bouncer which we used as a feeding chair till now. Although we did not spend much money this month, we still were able to manage life and have fun.
  6. Both kids have no idea that we were in no spend month last month or had any budget issues. They were happy as usual. Our life style is mostly simplified anyways.
  7. Knowing we did not have money to spend, we stayed out of malls, bookstores, clothing stores and un-necessary grocery trips. We visited library more often and read books and movies from our own collection.
  8. We cleaned up our yard, organized our Gazebo, took out weeds and planted some more plants and flowers in our yard. We went for walking to near by parks, caught up with neighbors, watched movies from our small collection for entertainment.
  9. My breakdown point came around day 25th of this No Spend Month. I was feeling down, blue and bit childish as I wanted freedom to spend and not count everything before we buy stuff. It is like food fasting, which is good for day or few days but if you keep doing it always, it is not good for your health. Money fasting is similar in a way, too long of it might would have created deprivation.
  10. I learned a lot about myself and my family and our strengths and weaknesses. My family always supported me, even though this was my decision, Zenguy also curbed his spending and motivated me when I was bit down last 5 days. I also kept busy with my guest posts and commenting there to keep my mind off from my budget and it worked well.
  11. I also re-learned that we do not need money to be happy, we had a lot of good times during this month as a family. I got to see my creative side to make new meals from left over food. I was able to complete the No Spend Month challenge despite giving up hope during last week.
  12. There are many people who made this happen for me. I could not have done this challenge without support of Zenguy and my kids. I learned this concept of No Spend month, from Rachel of small notebook and I was honored to be mentioned in her post about this challenge  along with others What to eat on beans and rice budget, besides beans and rice . Also I got to know other ladies who were also in same journey and Sharon mentioned my update on her post Diary of No spend Month: day 19 too. Thanks Rachel and Sharon for the shout outs and support.
  13. I am thankful to Betsy Bargain , Vaishali and Ali sharing their money savings tips during this month. And to all my readers despite coming from various background supporting my challenge and commenting on update posts, kept me going.
  14. This challenge was not about winning or losing, this challenge for me was to make a conscious spending decision. I always thought of my self very frugal but this month made me realize I have quite a way to go and things to learn. I am more appreciative of people who live on very little every month, not because of any challenge, but because they have to.
  15. I learned that simplifying life and spending less has enabled me to stay home with both the kids and survive even with zero salary as Zenguy is between projects right now. Money may give us illusion of (temporary) happiness but happiness comes always from within.

These are my take away, analysis and lessons learned for the whole No Spend month Challenge. I am glad I did this challenge openly despite being scared of failing in front of others.

Your turn: What did you think of this challenge? Do you spend money consciously, regardless of how much money you have?

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

101 changes: Change 5 – Smile when you wake up

I am writing a series of 101 small changes that we can make to our life quality better and build and lead more happier life that is in attune with our heart and mind. If you have not read previous posts, check it out my previous post101 changes: Change 4- Plant something and other 101 changes articles so far.


A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.  ~Phyllis Diller

The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.  ~Author Unknown

When was the last time you smiled as you were waking up in the morning? I am sure if there any, there a far and few in between them.At least it was like that for me not too long ago, I woke up grouchy with weight of world on my shoulder every day.

I know this very well, even now as when I wake up, I am still sleepy and woken by either my 1 year old or preschooler, smile is last thing on my mind. Many times, I want to sleep still 10 more minutes or remember how much work I have to do today and other never ending to-do list of things to do today.

Continue reading →

Celebrating Meaningful Birthdays

I am into simple and minimalist living, but it sure is a bit more complicated when you have small kids and are surrounded by many consumerist minded family and friends.  Zenguy and I have stopped making a big deal out of our birthdays since kids came along, we still celebrate our birthdays, doing things that each of us really want that, we can not simply go and buy.  For example, I like some alone time, meaning I should be able to take shower without kids knocking on door, writing, reading a book, blog or magazine while sipping hot tea, things that matter most to me. For Zenguy, his passion is nature, music and food. On his special days, either, I cook his favorite food, or sometimes we go out to eat his favorite restaurant and go to easy outdoor hiking or listen to classical music at home.

Continue reading →

Kids talk: series

This is a part of series on cutest things kids say and I want to share a few here on Heart and Mind for you all to enjoy. Sometimes my R, my 4 years old says things that makes me chuckle or sometimes makes me laugh out loud.

Even if you have kid or not, kid talks can be amusing, inspirational and may make us smile and make us feel good. I am sure, you will find it fun, even if you are not a parent, or parent many smart little ones.

To see previous post click here .

We shop at Trader Joes near our house for many of our house groceries need. Trader joes at the check out, often have stickers for young kids.

When R was about 3ish, he wanted more stickers, so he asked “I want more.”. The check out lady, told him; “You will get more stickers, if you tell me the magic word.” (Obviously, she meant word “please”.) But R told her within seconds; “Abra ka Dabra!!!.”

People around us all giggle, some laughed out loud, including check out lady. She said; “I will take that answer”, and she gave R lot of stickers. 🙂 He did say another magic word finally: “Thank you”.

For more on kids talk series, please check out Kids funny talk :1 and Kids funny talk: 3 .

Did you like the story? Do you have any kid story to share?

Kids talking: Series

I am starting a series on cutest things kids say. Sometimes my R, my 4 years old says things that makes me chuckle or sometimes makes me laugh out loud.

Even if you have kid or not, kid talks can be amusing, inspirational and may make us smile and make us feel good. I am sure, you will find it fun, even if you are not a parent, or parent many smart little ones.


I was talking about music to R and we talked about Beethoven and his music, his life etc. R got so impressed by Beethoven and classical music, he asked many questions and when he told me he will be as good or even better musician, I was smiling as he wants to be best Fireman, Policeman, Robot, and million other professional jobs he is fascinated by.

Until I heard him tell Zenguy that, he will be better because he will be Beetho-two or even Beetho-three!!! (sure beats Beetho-one)!!!!!

For more on kids funny talk series: check out Kids say funny thing -2 and Kids say funniest thing: 3 .

Hope you enjoyed it.


Laidback Mornings: Without An Alarm

A few years ago, before we had kids, Zenguy and I both used to work in a corporate world. Our weekdays mornings were hectic and much hurried to say the least. Waking up to several alarm beeps (we needed it, as we kept hitting “snooze” button and going back to sleep) quick shower, toast/breakfast bars on the go, tea on go, while we listened to TV or radio traffic news and sitting on traffic jam till we reached office, finally breathing before getting to routine of day to day work issues.

Now, that I am at home, life is lot less hectic for all of us. We have not woken up to sound of alarm in years. We now wake up to sound of our children R (4.5 years) and P (8 months) in the mornings. It takes us a few minutes to be fully awake and than play with kids on bed for 10-15 minutes before getting up with them. Sometimes we wake up to sound of birds, that is also very soothing.

There is no radio or TV news sound in morning for us, we still eat toast or quick breakfast choices sometimes, but leisurely. Now, I am not saying, our every morning is perfect, some days kids are sick or cranky and some days we are so sleep deprived from previous night wakings that we become cranky 🙂 but despite all of these issues, mornings are much less hurried compared to when we both worked. When we have to go to preschool or work, Zenguy and I work as a team to get kids ready and fed. Zenguy is very sweet, some days he lets me catch some sleep in morning while watching both kids.

Our mornings are not sexy but they are lot satisfying and less hurried now. Best thing about it is, waking up to kids cooing (or crying) is lot better than alarm beep’s harsh noise.

How is your morning routine? What works for you? I understand our situation is different, as I am staying home with kids and Zenguy has somewhat flexible work hours. I understand this routine may not work for everyone, but even if you are working, with no kids, you can try waking without an alarm or other harsh noises. For starter, try waking up one of the weekend day without alarm; just night before you lay your head on a pillow, wish or say time you would like to wake up next day and imagine yourself doing it. It has worked for me 98% time, without alarm, that is not bad, right?

When you wake up naturally, morning and day tend to go much smoother in my opinion. Try it, let me know how it worked for you. With laid back morning, try to smile as you are waking up, it will make you day go even better.