Everyday Living

Signs of Spring

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Here we are in late March, and many of us are just now starting to see signs of spring.  As recently as a week ago we had delays in shipments due to massive snowfall in areas of the country - in March!!  While we have not had the joys (or not) of snow in the Seattle area recently, we're enjoying the usual rainfall that is standard for our springs here - which I never mind, because with it comes the flowers!

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A few weeks ago my 9 year old and I set out to obtain photographic evidence that spring had arrived, as it usually had by then. I was surprised to see that it really hadn't!  Normally by then we'd have lots of happy little greens poking through the earth, but we had to walk for about a mile and a half in our neighborhood to come home with photos of just three places showing any green shoots.

So, we didn't really find what we were looking for, but it was a pleasant walk none-the-less, and we knew spring was coming, even if we couldn't quite see it yet.  We played at the park, said hi to the ducks, and examined the buds on all the various bushes and trees in our area.

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I grew up in a part forest, part wetland, part prairie area that was less than a mile away from Puget Sound, so we had a little of everything.  When I was a child, very February/March without fail I would explore all over our property looking for signs of spring showing - I'd run to all the usual places where the flowers appeared.

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In order, this is how they would arrive - always first were the snowdrops, then the English bluebells came next, as well as tiny purplish pink bleeding hearts (all wild flowers).  The first of the planted flowers were hundreds of daffodils (one of the very few things the deer didn't eat), and yellow primroses passed down from my grandmother that are older than I am (my mom still has them - she moved them with her, twice!).

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We had a few tulips that braved the bunnies and deer, and they came next - and later a couple of peonies.  But for the most part, the glory of spring was the purples, pinks, and yellows of daffodils, bluebells, plus cherry and apple blossoms.

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What does spring look like where you live?


A Whale of a Tale

Whale Watching - Humpback Breach at The Weed Patch

Back in late September we were gifted a whale watching trip as an anniversary gift from my parents. The day turned out to be an absolutely beautiful, sunny, and fun day - literally filled with whales!

We left Anacortes midday, and proceeded on a roughly 45 minute boat ride north to look for a pod of Orcas that had been seen earlier in the day. We ended up within site of Victoria, BC (hey, we honeymooned there!) and we found the pod. It was amazing to see these beaufitul creatures in the wild... One of our favorite things to do in the evenings is to put on a Blue Planet, Animal Planet, or some other form of educational tv.Ben's favorite to watch has to do with sharks, but we've seen plenty of whales, and while our views from the boat certainly didn't get as dramatic as the footage captured for the documentaries - seeing them live was simply wonderful.

Whale Watching at The Weed Patch

As we pulled up, there was a young one that was playing and jumping all over the place - unfortunately, he (she?) tired out before we were close enough to really appreciate it. But we did spend well over an hour watching them just going about their lives.

Whale Watching at The Weed Patch

Whale Watching at The Weed Patch

Whale Watching at The Weed Patch

On the way back to port we made a large loop, and saw some harbor porpoises, as well as many animals on the islands.

Shortly before we reached port, we decided to drift a bit in an area where a humpback whale had been reported earlier in the day. We drifted for about 10 minutes waiting for to see the humpback, and our captain spotted him a ways away. We followed and watch (and, of course, took photos). We watched what was to be our last view of the whale (we had to get back to port) and watch it dive. Everybody turned away except one woman, who suddently shrieked - I literally spun around while holding the shutter on the camera, and managed to capture a full breach (where the whale completely leaves the water)!

Whale Watching - Humpback Breach at The Weed Patch

Whale Watching - Humpback Breach at The Weed Patch

Whale Watching - Humpback Breach at The Weed Patch

Whale Watching - Humpback Breach at The Weed Patch

It was absolutely spectacular, and definitely the highlight of our day on the water. Our tour was with Outer Islands Excursions (http://outerislandx.com/), and we would highly recommend them. We sat up top with the captain the entire trip, and learned so much about the whales, as well as the history of the area. What a great gift. Thanks mom and dad!

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Hunter Farms Adventures!

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Over the Mother's Day weekend we went down to Janene's mom's place along Hood Canal, in Washington. One of the favorite things to do there is to visit the local "farm stand and nursery" - it's great for everything from fresh produce to local ice cream to plants and flowers... to all the animals they have for people to visit. During the harvest season they have the requisite corn maze, pumpkin patch, hayrides, and harvest fun. It's part of a working farm, so they have animals that transition in and out, too. Check out their website and Facebook

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Ben, in particular, is such an incredible homebody. He just loves being at home, being peaceful and calm, and doing things as a family. He LOVES the farm, and farm animals, and talks about when we live on a farm (which is great, as it's one of our goals, and - in particular - Chris' passions).

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

So, naturally, when we go to Hunter Farms, we always go visit the animals. This season we managed to catch some newly born babies, which Ben (who is addicted to all things "cute") truly adores.

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

And, of course, we always have to get an ice cream cone...from Olympic Mountain Ice Cream

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Hunter Farm Adventures at The Weed Patch

Are you a country soul or a city soul?

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Around These Parts

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Is Sprummer a word?  Or Summing?  You know, that time where it's not quite spring anymore, but not exactly summer yet.  If you live in Western Washington, that sort of describes the springs we've been having for the last couple of years.  A master gardener friend of ours says that we're running about 2 months ahead of schedule this year.  Hopefully that means lots of produce, sooner rather than later!

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For a while there, I was holding my breath a bit, afraid that a frost would come and kill all these early blossoms, like the strawberries.  You never know what's going to happen around here in the spring.  We won't have a single snowflake all winter, then have our version of a snow storm in March after the apple trees have decided to blossom (that was a sad year for apples).  So far this year, things have been warm, mild, and wonderful.  Around these parts, we've been enjoying a mixture of spring and summer activities.

Doing some art outside, painting signs....

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Taking lots of walks, and finding sweet discoveries like this....

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...and this...

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...and this!  This is a duck egg.  Did you know duck eggs came in Robin's Egg Blue?  I didn't.  (A friend pointed out that maybe robin's eggs come in Duck's Egg Blue.  That blew my mind.)

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Flea Markets have begun!

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Ice cream!  It's not too early for ice cream. (I think it is always a good time for ice cream).

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Warm sunny weather is great for staining!  Staining some new signs....

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How are you enjoying your Sprummer/Summing??


Painting Al Fresco

Well, "al fresco" means eating outdoors, not painting outdoors, but This Girl's artistic process always involves the passion of a good feast, so I guess it works anyway.

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Apparently, here in Washingon State, it is almost summer.  Sort of.  I recall last year that we never really had a spring, it just went from winter right into summer.  Last Saturday, the kids bought lemonade from a children's lemonade stand down the street, and had Popsicles in the afternoon.  In March!

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I had forgotten how wonderful a babysitter a warm sunny day can be.  Being work at home parents, it is always a challenge to balance our workload while caring for our 3-year-old - to work and also give her attention.  Happily, this weather has tipped the balance a bit!

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This girl is a PAINTER.  Throw her in some grub clothes and set her outside, and she'll happily go to town for hours.  While she does have a set of washable watercolors, she typically prefers craft acrylics.  I bring her over to my drawer of paints, and she selects her own colors - 10 of them, one for each cup in her plastic palette.

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When The Boy was young, I bought a set of tempura paints, but neither of us were all that happy with them.  They definitely have their purpose, and I do still have them on hand.  But so many wonderful paints are made these days - they are inexpensive, easy to clean up (while still wet), readily available in an enormous variety of color options, and these days they'll stick to almost anything - paper, wood, cardboard, metal, rocks, flower pots, glass, and more.

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She only started painting about two months ago, and I had no idea she'd take to it so quickly.  I have a lot of projects in mind, which I'll be sharing here over the coming weeks as we complete them.  I encourage you to try them yourself, in collaboration with your children!  Kids are like creativity steroids - they bring out the artist in you that you never even knew was there!

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(These cards were painted by The Girl, and will be part of a future collaborative project...)


Exploring We Will Go

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(On to our next adventsure - today's walk!  Wearing our brothers' old pants, backwards, and a pink fuzzy hat.  What else would we wear?!)

I think the adventures of our own neighborhood often go under-appreciated. How often have we heard things like the people who live in Seattle never go to the Space Needle, or folks that live in Anaheim rarely go to Disneyland?  I think we think that explorations involve going away somewhere, which of course is true.  But there is plenty of discover to be had near our own homes, if we just look for it.

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(So many trees....we love trees....)

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(Moss is so very very pretty)

Today's walk took us to a nature trail within walking distance of our home.  Chris made the comment that he'd lived here his whole life and had never known this was there (we live 5 minutes from where he grew up).

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(What kind of critters can we find under these rocks??)

Fishladder

(What's a fish ladder?  This is a fish ladder!)

I personally was extremely happy to find such a place so near our home in the suburbs.  This is the kind of place I grew up.  My sisters and I spent just about every sunny day (and many rainy ones too) outside with our feet in the creek, or lost in the forest.

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(The road less traveled....and yes, we took it!)

So finding a place so close to home that is so like home to me was a delight.  It will be wonderful to visit again and again throughout the year to see how foliage changes and what new kinds of critters we find.  This was The Girl's first creek, and after that she wants to stop by every water we passed.  "Can we touch the water, mama?  Can we touch it??"

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(My kind of graffiti!)

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(Walks are awesome!)


Pumpkin Painting 2014

Pumpkin Painting at The Weed Patch

Earlier this Fall we were able to have an epic day. It started with a trip to Craven Farms down in Snohomish. Then we made the trek up to The Plant Farm, a local nursery that we've loved that is closing its doors (*sad*). When we got home, Ben was crazy excited to get started painting his pumpkins.

Pumpkin Painting at The Weed Patch

Pumpkin Painting at The Weed Patch

Before we got to Craven, we explained that we were not going to be purchasing every single pumpkin that we found. Ben insisted that he NEEDED to paint one of every Angry Bird. So we settled on a compromise - he could get the mini pumpkins, and he could get 10 of them. He and Janene dug through the entire field of mini pumpkins and found the perfect ones.

Pumpkin Painting at The Weed Patch

Pumpkin Painting at The Weed Patch

As soon as we got home, Ben vanished to put on some painting clothes, and he set himself up at Janene's art desk. This year was a great learning experience for him, as we covered some technique that gave him better results - he's learning to be patient and to do the job right, instead of rushing through to have a finished "product" that isn't up to par.... *grin*

Pumpkin Painting at The Weed Patch

Pumpkin Painting at The Weed Patch

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Craven Farms Annual Day at the Pumpkin Patch 2014

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

One of the big reasons we made the decision to close our physical storefront and make the move to become an online exclusive retailer is the kids. During the busy season it is always an impossible struggle to simply be there for them - it was not uncommon for us to put in 90-110 hrs / week at the shop, from September through January.

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Despite that, each year we've managed to establish a couple of traditions that we hold very near and dear to our hearts. In the Fall, we go to Craven Farms, not far from us in Snohomish, Washington. We all bundle up and head down to trek through the fields, pose for pictures, check out the animals, and generally make some memories.

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

This year, we actually managed to make it down early (but yes, the blog is pretty late in coming...). It was a spectacularly beautiful day, the kids were super excited and happy, and the memories were stellar. If you saw our "homemade pizza post" - that was how we ended the day that day. Tomorrow's post will show you Ben painting his pumpkins... all the same day. It was a good, good day - and it reaffirmed our reasons for the decisions we've made.

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

Craven Farm Adventures 2014!

We hope you have some traditions of your own, and that this upcoming Christmas season can be a time for making some great memories.

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So, we got this playground...

When we moved last year, one of the blessings of our new home was a fenced in back yard. Our previous home was fantastic (I still miss my 600sq ft of veggie garden, and the start of the orchard we had planted...), but the yard was a bit of a nightmare - it wasn't fenced in, and it was a corner lot - which meant that on two sides it was epically dangerous for the kids. So, when we moved, and realized "we can just let the kids play out back all day long!", we (meaning Chris, primarily) got a bug in our bonnet to get the kids a playset. Of course, not just ANY playset - Chris figured we could build an awesome playset for a fraction of the cost of purchasing one. We even managed to get two slides and four playground grade swings for free from a garage sale! Come spring, Chris caught the bug again (probably being cooped up inside with two energetic kids helped push that along), and started scouring the local craigsist for options.

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

Lo and Behold, we managed to find a HUGE playset that a local church with a daycare was selling, as they were upgrading. The set was massive - three 12 foot tall towers, two slides, a crawl tube, a bridge, and a picnic table. The price the daycare was asking was spectacular, and so we all piled into the car and drove the hour to check it out - and Ben fell in love. Which pretty much made it a done deal.

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

SO, Chris called up some friends, rented a 24' foot truck (we were optimistically hoping we could pull the thing apart in sections and keep it mostly together; SO could have happened, if everybody involved was either The Hulk or on the Olympic Weight Lifting Team - and we had more of us), and headed down on what turned out to be a rainy Saturday. Several hours later, and soaking wet, we piled back in to bring it back up to the house.

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

Long story short - with much back breaking labor, the help of Janene and our amazing cousin (Andrew Rash, we're talking about you, dude), Chris managed to get this thing up and put together. Ben was GIDDY, which made the sore muscles worth it (mostly).

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

So far, we've had one birthday party here and on it. Other than that, it has "simply" been used for hundreds of hours of fun - wild and crazy, and quiet too! We put the kiddie pool at the bottom of the big slide while it was hot - which WE thought would be awesome. We're not actually sure the kids ever went down the slide into it, but they sure had fun putting other things down the slide and into it...

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

Awesome Playset and Summer Fun, from The Weed Patch family

All in all, very much a worthwhile investment, and Chris is already thinking of new things to add to the thing as time goes on...