Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring Oregon Zoo Outing and Spring Trillium

One of our families favorite activities has always been to visit our local zoo. The Oregon Zoo is a really great place to visit year round, when the kids were little I would visit the zoo a couple of times per week, since it was a nice safe place to stroll around with little ones, and get great exercise. As a teenager I spent my summers volunteering at the zoo which was a great learning opportunity. Earlier this spring we took a family outing to the zoo and as usual had a wonderful time seeing all of the animals, as well as seeing the new construction going on for the elephant's new area.

The Black Bears at the beginning of the Great Northwest area are so fun to watch. Every time we've been they are all playing with each other. The upper part of their enclosure really allows for a good up close view. They remind us of our dogs, I often refer to my old shepherd lab as my old bear, the bears, of course, are quite a bit bigger, but just as playful. I thought it was funny too that this crow felt right at home walking around the bears!

Throughout the Great Northwest exhibit there is a beautiful nature trail with lots of native plants like this Oregon Grape plant below with its bright yellow blossoms, I really need to plant one in my garden! The Eagle Canyon Exhibit is also amazing, you can see the bald eagles so close up!

I love this trail etiquette sign, it reminded me of the things we used to learn at outdoor school camp, definitely great tips for exploring nature!

One of the happiest surprises I had walking through the Great Northwest trail was spotting all of the blooming trillium! I love these little white flowers, back when I was a grade school student, at camp, we were taught never to pick these special flowers. Every time I spot one it brings me right back to all the time I spent exploring forest trails.

After we were finished with the Great Northwest section of the zoo, we decided to head on over to the train and take a loop around the zoo. The train ride is much shorter than it used to be because of zoo construction going on, but even a short zoo train ride is fun. :)

The train went right by the new elephant lands being built. I am so excited to see this part of the zoo completed at the end of the year. The zoo actually has plans to really update and expand many of the older parts of the zoo, which I am excited to see. The elephant area will be a huge space for the elephants, and I think that is a wonderful improvement.

I was excited to stop by the lions and check out the new lion cubs. The cubs were so cute, and the lion and lionesses so majestic, it was really fun seeing them all out at once.

The tiger was pretty amazing as well, as a youth I had the opportunity to do a behind the scenes tour of the tiger and saw him pretty close up, I remember being struck by how massive his head was, much different than seeing him from his regular exhibit. All of the different spots and stripes on the animals are so interesting!

I always have to stop by the bats, this time when we stopped by they had just been fed, so there was fruit and veggies hanging throughout their branches. It is interesting to watch them walking along upside down. I actually think they are pretty fascinating animals.

I was also very excited to finally get to see the flamingos, which are a fairly new arrival to our zoo. This was the first time I had seen a flamingo in person. Of course I loved their pretty pink color, their eyes were a piercing reddish looking color which was a little intimidating looking. I also didn't realize some of their feathers were black. That is why I love seeing these animals in person, it is just a much richer experience than seeing pictures of them.

Overall it was a wonderful day at the zoo, the weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold. We finished up our visit with a stop at the elephant ear cart. We all love elephant ears, in all of their fried cinnamony goodness, definitely a fun treat for the end of our zoo day. :)

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dry River Bed Project and Earth Day in the Garden

Happy Earth Day! Every year on Earth Day, I love spending time in my garden. I try to make some environmentally friendly improvement to my yard and improve my backyard wildlife habitat. This year with all the sunshine we've been having the garden is already looking very pretty, you can see below that my lavender is in full swing and the bees are definitely enjoying it. Part of keeping my yard friendly and safe for all the different wildlife is planting lots of flowers that bees and butterflies enjoy, and the bees definitely love our lavender!

This year I was very excited to complete the project I had been planning. For years I have had a pile of landscaping stones that we had been given for free, I had ideas of how I wanted to use them, but a lot of the projects I originally wanted to do were either too expensive or would take a little more time to complete than we could do. I am really interested in having landscape that doesn't require too much water, so when I saw some ideas online for dry river beds, I knew that it would be the perfect project for my garden.

We already have a lot of rock and stone in our backyard, when we moved in to our house originally we opted for no lawn in the backyard. Eliminating lawn in the backyard means that we only have to maintain a teeny tiny patch of lawn out in our front yard, which we use an electric mower to mow, and we don't use chemicals on our lawn at all. Of course it also means that my yard doesn't require as much watering to maintain. The dry river bed would be another landscaped area that doesn't require a lot of water.

We started by laying out the landscaping rocks in the area we wanted them, then left spaces between for plants. I picked up river pebbles in two different sizes at the hardware store for only $3.00 a bag. Then my hubby and son got to work digging, sadly I am on super light duty around here, so I was only able to direct from the sidelines, but the men made quick work of my project, which I am very grateful for, thanks guys!! :)

Here are some closer layout shots, and also the large pot that we planted with a Cypress tree, we wanted the larger trees but we found two smaller ones for a significantly lower price, we planted one in a pot and one in the ground as sort of an experiment. We want some taller trees in the garden but our yard is incredibly sunny, so most don't make it through the summer, we'll see how these trees do. The birds were very interested in our project and were perched around the garden checking out what was going on. We had a crested sparrow stop by the yard as well, he was very pretty and a little different from our resident house sparrows.

Here are some of the plants we chose for the dry river bed. We chose lots of succulents, some of which I replanted from other areas of our garden. All of the succulents do really well in our yard and have spread nicely throughout the garden. We put in some hens and chicks, some thrift, and some different grasses. I will have to see what does the best in the area, I tried to pick plants that would be okay in full sun, and could stand up to my Labrador who loves running around exploring the back yard.

Here's how it turned out. I had trouble getting pictures that do it justice, the dry river bed turned out really pretty, and it is just what this un-landscaped area of the garden needed.

The dry river bed and the new tree really add a nice new element to the garden, and I look forward to seeing how the plants we planted along the edge mature.

A few years back I wrote a post about how our yard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation, you can read my Backyard Habitat Post to learn more about the things we do to make our garden more wildlife friendly. One thing we do is put out a variety of different foods for our backyard birds, we like to have a no waste seed mix for the sparrows and finches, as well as nyger thistle seeds for the goldfinch that come every spring and summer. We also have a couple of suet holders out as well, the red wing blackbirds, and starlings really love it. I also recently picked up a bag of Mealworms, they are dried, and pretty gross looking, but I am hoping that some of the insect eating birds enjoy them, and I am interested to see if the mealworms bring new varieties of birds to the garden.

I planted one more tree today as well, a beautiful maple with a little maidenhair fern below it. I have one tiny corner of the side garden that gets hopefully just enough shade for this maple to grow well in. This planted maple tree is part of my next garden project, I am hoping to fix up the area as a quiet prayer and mediation corner of the garden.

It was so nice spending time today out in the garden, gardening is such a fun and relaxing thing to do, I am really looking forward to this upcoming gardening season. Hope you all had a happy Earth day!

Linking to:
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Our Visit to The Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

This past Friday I was scheduled for an ultrasound to check out what might be causing the stomach and back pain I was having last week. Luckily the hospital I was scheduled at is in one of my favorite small towns out this way, Silverton, Oregon. I love driving through Silverton, the drive is beautiful countryside the whole way, then the town itself is full of very pretty houses from the early 1900's, as well as very interesting shops.

The rule in our house is, that any time you have to go to the hospital or doctor for something, you get to go somewhere fun afterward, that way there is something to look forward to. Originally I was planning on stopping in at some of Silverton's antique shops, but the weather was so nice we decided to drive over to Woodburn for the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, and boy am I glad we went!

We arrived at the tulip farm bright and early, just as they were opening, which was nice, because it wasn't too hot, and there were hardly any other people out in the fields. I was immediately awestruck by the gorgeous fields of tulips in every color.

The tulip fields are surrounded by our beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery, lots of fir trees, and a beautiful countryside setting. I loved these yellow tulips in front of the fir trees.

The peach and pink tulips were so pretty. Tulips happen to be the flower I most often choose for my vases at home, I love their vibrant colors, so seeing this many of them was something else!

In addition to individual sections of all one color there was also a field planted with a variety of colors, one section was even a You-Pick area, and as more people arrived some were out in the fields picking a bunch.

Normally we bring the whole family on our outings, but this time it was just Gary and I, so it turned into a nice date day for us, I definitely want to bring the kids next time, but it was nice to have some time to hang out with my hubby! :) 

Here is a picture of Gary sitting in front of my favorite tulip of the day, it was a vibrant coral red color, and I may have to order some of the bulbs if they still have any left.

People are welcome to bring their dogs, so there were plenty of well behaved and very cute dogs exploring with their owners. This little Dalmatian looked so cute in front of the pink tulips. I love dogs, they were all so cute, and really seemed to be enjoying the visit just as much as their people. The festival has a drinking station set up for dogs and everything.

There are other things growing around the farm as well, this field of red clover was particularly pretty, I hadn't seen this variety of clover before, I loved the bright red flowers!

There are a lot of fun things for kids to do at the festival as well, like a whole area with playground equipment, and inflatable rides. They also have a bumpy cow train ride, similar to the type you might find at a pumpkin patch. I really liked all the giant wooden shoes. :)

When lunch time rolled around we knew just what we were going to have, the Mt. Angel Sausage Co. had a stand there, and we love their Bratwurst! We have their sausages every year at Oktoberfest in the neighboring town of Mt. Angel (you can read about our Oktoberfest adventures here and here). The sausages are delicious, topped with sauerkraut and grilled onions!

The weather had started to warm up by lunch time as well and we definitely needed some water, I thought it was really neat to see that the water was natural Oregon rain water harvested on a rain farm in Willamette Valley, it was a nice water.

After lunch we explored some of the old tractors on display, they were pretty cool, Gary really enjoyed checking out the mechanics of these old tractors!

The views of the mountains were beautiful, the sky was a little hazy, but you could still spot a nice view of Mt. St. Helens with its flat top. I will always remember Mt. St. Helens erupting when I was a young child in grade school, we had to wear dust masks to school, which all of us kids did not at all enjoy. Ash fall was interesting, and I remember playing in piles of ash that had collected on the ground, probably not the best thing to do, but definitely something I will always remember. :)

Then of course there were tremendous views of Mt. Hood, with the tulips in front, it was a stunning view of the mountain! I really enjoyed getting photos of this mountain view, Mt Hood is always very pretty to me, but it was really gorgeous with the tulips in view!

We had a wonderful outing, definitely a fun spring outing that I hope to do again! On our way home the sky cleared up and we had beautiful views of Mt. Hood the whole way home, and spotted signs of beautiful spring blossoms, like this field of azaleas, all around. 

As far as the trip to for the ultrasound, it turns out my back and stomach pain was not just my back acting up, it turns out I have gallbladder issues! I will have to have surgery to remove my gallbladder sometime soon, so I am busy getting all of my garden plans ready to go, and all of my supplies ready so my family can help get my spring garden in if I am still laid up in recovery. I do not like staying down with all this beautiful weather, so I hope my surgery goes well and I heal up fast! I am excited for Earth Day this week, and have an exciting garden project to share about later this week.

You can read more about The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival at their website.

Thanks for stopping by!

Linking to:
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Easter and Spring Projects

It has been quite some time since I have posted! I got very busy with my Easter preparations, as well as finishing up my 40 bags in 40 days decluttering goal. My back had been troubling me off and on during my decluttering, then after Easter I came down with quite a bug, between that and my back I was in bed for nearly a week! Thankfully I am feeling much better today, and have finally felt up to blogging. Luckily I felt wonderful for Easter weekend, and was able to teach my Sunday school class and host my family Easter egg hunt and dinner.

I had fun setting out some simple Easter decorations, some of my favorite little figures, our old Playmobil Easter set, and a fun new Yankee candle in Peeps scent with a very pretty pastel chevron pattern glass shade. I decluttered quite of bit of my outdated decor, and was happy with the ones I kept. :)

I still made baskets for my kids even though they are older now, they had fun getting a few goodies and I had fun making the baskets. I don't think anyone is too old for a fun basket of Easter goodies, and I can imagine myself making baskets for my children and future grandchildren for many years. Of course I also make a basket for my two dogs, in the picture below you can see my very old and very sweet shepherd/lab sniffing out the dogs basket. She definitely knows the drill, for both her Easter basket and Christmas stocking, she waits patiently for the kids to be done with theirs, and then she knows it is her turn. Shepherds are such smart dogs, I just love her to pieces! She is teaching my younger dog, a very sweet and rambunctious lab, just what to do. Each dog got a dinosaur chew toy, a busy bone, and a few jelly beans which my oldest dog loves. :)

The morning of Easter we had beautiful weather, we went to church, the service was very nice, I really enjoyed the praise music, we sang a bunch of my favorite hymns. After service, the kids had an Easter egg hunt, it is always fun to watch the little ones all dressed up and so excited about Easter. After the egg hunt I taught my Sunday school class. My niece and nephew have started attending our church, and they are in my class, which I think is so wonderful, I love getting to teach them. :)

After church we headed home for our family Easter gathering. I had to work quickly to get all the food out before everyone arrived, the first thing I set out was a cheese and salami and cracker platter, with grapes. The salami was good, it was a hand crafted, all natural variety, in a few flavors, I will definitely be picking up some more for spring and summer picnics! I was too busy to snap many pictures of the food, I kept it pretty simple with my broccoli bacon salad, lime ambrosia, and ham, my mother in law brought her potato salad, and we had Hawaiian Rolls, along with lemon bars and carrot cake cupcakes for dessert.

All the candy dishes were full of pretty foil wrapped Easter candy. I am not huge on chocolate eggs, but I love how they look, the foil is so pretty! I also bought everyone a chocolate bunny to take home, I had a huge basket full of them, it was a fun party favor, the adults enjoyed it just as much as the kids!

After our Easter meal, the lights flickered a couple of times, and I realized our sunny weather was not going to last much longer, so we got right outside and hid the eggs for our Easter egg hunt. I fill them with chocolate and coins. When the kids were younger I would also hide foreign coins and pretty rocks and trinkets, but this year I kept it simpler. My sister is currently hosting an exchange student from Japan, she had never done and Easter egg hunt and was so excited to take part, it was really fun to watch everyone hunting eggs, the men hid them and they did a good job finding clever spots for the eggs. We finished just in time, it started to rain right after the hunt. I grew up doing Easter egg hunts at my grandma's every year so it always brings back fond memories. I think the Easter eggs look so pretty out in the garden!

Overall it was a wonderful Easter day. After Easter, one of the kids pointed out to me that one of my Easter tulips was a twin! I don't think I have ever seen a twin tulip before, so I had to take pictures. I am surprised I didn't notice when I first put them out! The two stems are entirely attached until just before it branches out into each flower. Tulips are my favorite flower this time of year, I like to have a fresh bunch out all though the spring!

The Saturday before Easter we got up very very early to watch the third of the lunar eclipse tetrad. It was special in that it is the shortest eclipse totality in almost five centuries. You can read about it here. Being that it was so short, we were able to watch it eclipse and then get turn back, which usually we don't see. The last one we saw was this past fall , and I hope to see the last of the four eclipses in the tetrad this coming fall. I have been very interested in astronomy since high school, and love viewing the night sky!

Lastly, we finished all 40 of the bags I wanted to declutter just in time for Easter. The last five were particularly difficult as I was unable to lift a thing due to my annoying back, so my dear hubby and kids, knowing how important the goal was to me, helped me sort through totes until I made my goal. I still plan to continue to declutter, I really love the freed up space, and know I have more spaces to organize.

We also put the finishing touches on our office space, the kids each have a desk in our office now, along with Gary and mine. I found this absolutely wonderful little turquoise cabinet to hold my favorite homemaking and art books. I was worried at first about moving my books all out of the office, since they often inspire me in my various creative pursuits, but this little cupboard holds them even better than before, so I am very pleased. The kids are both very happy with their new space as well!

Now that Easter is over I am very eager to get out to my garden. I am supposed to be taking it easy for a bit longer so my back doesn't act up again, doctor's orders, and that will be quite hard because I have so many ideas for my spring garden! I'll be patient though, and spend the time planning in my notebook. :)

How was your Easter?

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