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Everyday Outside Wins Down East Magazine’s “Best of Maine Readers’ Choice Award”

It is with great pride that I share with you that in the July issue of Down East Magazine, Everyday Outside was announced the winner of the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Blog. Readers of Down East (and maybe just a few of my friends ;-) ) voted for me and we won!  This is the fifth year that Down East has been giving these awards but this was the  first year that they threw a party for the award winners. And boy do they know how to throw a party! We celebrated at the Portland Club downtown on June 27 with food and beverages served by Black Tie Company. The food and service were exemplary. I wondered if the mini lobster roll that I was served was made by the winners of “The Best Maine Lobster Roll” because it was so good, but I was told that the event caterers made them.  Maybe next year Black Tie Company will win the best roll–it’s that good! The food was simply amazing and everything that you could possibly want when celebrating in our great state. A raw bar with unlimited oysters, lobster rolls, fried crab rolls, and a dessert table that included miniature whoopie pies that were dipped in chocolate. They were really quite tiny, as far as whoopie pies go, and my goodness were they yummy. I may never eat another chocolate dipped whoopie… so I ate another and another and another.

Upon arrival we were given a name tag, our award, and a goody bag. I posed for a photo with Paul Doiron, the editor-in-cheif of the magazine and I kind of missed my opportunity to talk about my blog.  If I hadn’t been so nervous I would have said, “We should talk. Coffee?”  Even now I don’t really  know what I should have said… How about, “Let’s work together to get more people outside on a more regular basis!” It was kind of cool to have a professional photo taken with the fancy backdrop like those seen at awards shows.  I felt like this was just one of the many details that demonstrate how the event planners thought of everything.  DE_BESTofMAINE-209

The awardees in the room were as diverse as our great state.  The Readers’ Choice for best boat builder was The Hinckley Company; for best print columnist the great Bill Nemitz, who writes for the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram; and best bargain store was Renys–an institution almost as popular as L.L. Bean, the winner of best outdoor store and sporting goods store.  We all mingled about not really knowing who else was in the room.  I found out after the event that Liz Pride, the author of Your LL Bean Boyfriend was an awardee. The editor of Down East whispered to her that he was wearing an L.L. Bean suit…   You can read her account of the evening here.

As a parent and a hard-working momma, I rarely get to indulge in such a special evening with such great food and unlimited drinks.  Thanks Down East for this memorable evening and the recognition. I will certainly hang my award with great pride in my office.

If you were one of the readers who voted for me, I thank you.  I hope I can continue to entertain you with my narratives of simple outings and musings about the benefits of getting outside on a regular basis for years to come. My ultimate goal is to highlight that just stepping out the back door helps fuel a nature connection that can completely transform one’s outlook on life. Happy summer and many wonderful outings to all of you.

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Is 30 Minutes Enough?

I have been thinking about a simple question for awhile now. In fact, as I successfully completed my 2012 challenge to get outside for at least thirty minutes every day, I wondered if thirty minutes of outdoor time was enough.  The question came with me on my walks and lingered well after I returned home.

I contemplated upping the challenge to go out for at least 60 minutes a day during 2013. Was 30 minutes of my day a tough enough challenge? Would I have more to write about and would it be more interesting to my readers if I went out longer? Is 1/48th of a day a sufficient amount of outdoor time? Most days 30 minutes is pretty easy to accomplish—what would 60 minutes feel like when the wind chill is well below zero or when I had a fever of 102?  Would 1/24 of a day be twice as good? Does the ratio of outdoor time to indoor time even matter? And what does it mean to be enough? What is the core goal here?

The concept reentered my thinking in February after I presented at the Portland Trails 2013 Annual Meeting. I presented what I’m doing here in this Everyday Outside blog and what the 365 Everyday Outside Challenge is. The format only allowed me to share the essence of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

(You can watch the video here.  My introduction starts at 43:22 and my presentation starts with a little nervous laughter at 44:46.)

After the presentation my mother-in-law said, “It seems like such a simple thing to do… I must already go outside for at least 30 minutes. I walk to and from the car a lot.”  Then I could see her remember that the only thing I don’t count towards my outdoor time is walking to and from the car. Before I started the challenge, I too would have thought that I was outside for at least 30 minutes most days, but as I began to keep track of my minutes, I was shocked at how much more I was going outdoors than I had in the past. The goal of not missing more than one day a month pushed me to make a conscious effort, and that made all the difference.

There were many days when I would not have gone for a walk if it wasn’t for the challenge, nights when I was about to crawl into bed after 10:00, having just slipped on my cozy fleece pajamas only to remember that that I hadn’t gone outside. Without the challenge, I wouldn’t have bothered, but with it, I had just enough of a push to get me out of bed and out the back door with my pajamas on. In 2012 I went out that back door in the wee hours like that more times than I could count because I was counting.

After the presentation, my husband thought that my talk made the challenge sound easy, and he knows otherwise. In 2012, when I started this journey to get outside every day, I would absolutely agree, that it isn’t easy. But it is much easier now than it was for the first year. People say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I gave myself a whole year, and it is now certainly a habit that will last a lifetime. So far in 2013 I’ve missed only one day.

This habit has made me noticeably happier. I’m pretty sure my happiness is directly proportional to how much outdoor time I get. Maybe it is in part because my indoor time is connected to work, responsibilities, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and stuff that I have to do and which I rarely feel on top of. Outdoor time almost always involves stuff I really want to do. Maybe I am happier because I am getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D or more exercise or fresh air. Or is it possible that my increased happiness level is a result of a deep, sustained, everyday connection with the natural world? I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what is responsible for making me feel happier but I know that my outdoor time has contributed significantly. I also know that the key is at least 30 minutes.  Anything less than 30 minutes would not be enough because most days 30 minutes isn’t sufficient for my nature connection.

In part I’m keeping my challenge to 30 minutes because I really want others to join me, and for the challenge to be an attainable goal that others want to achieve. My dog walking family and friends go outside every day and between 20-40 people have said they’re taking the outdoor challenge this year. So lots of people are getting outside regularly, but I know that most aren’t. Most days I get outside for more than a half-hour, but there are days when it is all I can do to make those thirty precious minutes happen, and those are the days when I need that time the most.  On those days 30 minutes is enough.

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What do you think?  Is thirty minutes of daily outdoor time enough for you?