a zero waste practice vacation.

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At the end of February, we attempted to have a little 4 day getaway to Southern Utah, before Jonathan’s busy work season kicked in. Alas, we made it a whole 24 hours before making the 5.5 hour drive home, due to a toddler who simply WAS NOT HAVING the hotel stay (one night was enough for us, and our poor neighbors).

I was excited about the trip not only because I was looking forward to the uninterrupted family time, but also because I was really excited to implement all my new zero waste planning and knowledge into the trip. While I’m minimizing our waste really drastically in the home, being out and about is where I still struggle. So I had done a LOT of planning ahead to get ready for this trip. Leaving the house for any length of time with a toddler takes preparation, so a 12 hour round-trip drive, plus four nights in a hotel can require some effort. And you guys, I was prepared. I packed a zero waste kit for the trip that included reusable everything: containers, bamboo utensils wrapped in cloth napkins, coffee mug and water bottles, a paring knife and cutting board for fruit and a tiny bottle of Castile soap to wash things between uses, plus a few dish towels.

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Our plan was to eliminate going out to eat the majority of the time, by packing our own, and hitting the local grocery store for provisions for the remainder of the trip. I brought a cooler down and we packed plenty of bulk-bin-purchased snacks and our lunch for the drive. We stopped at a cute little park to eat and let Hannah run off some pent up energy before resuming the journey. I prepacked bagel sandwiches and fruit and we ate and played.

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I even brought a reusable grocery bag to haul home anything recyclable and a coffee can for anything we could compost! For the drive, I borrowed plenty of books from the library for Hannah to browse (she LOVES books) and brought the iPad for Curious George fixes. I borrowed a few audio books from the library for J and I to listen to, and I crocheted.

St. George is beautiful and a bit warmer than home, so the trip plans were to scope out parks, Zion National Park, go swimming, and just enjoy the sun. After a horrible night with a sad little munchkin, we decided to spend the second day at Zion National Park, driving around and hiking an easy trail, then head for home. 😦 It was a bummer, but I was glad to see a part of my state I’d not seen before, and I learned a few things for our next adventure – like that camping is really our best option for now. 😉

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play kitchen revamp

This project post is long overdue, but I didn’t want to scrap it because it is kind of close to my heart. Over the summer (see, overdue!!) I revamped the old play kitchen I had when I was a kid, for Hannah. I LOVED it before, and I love it even more, now.

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My parents bought this unfinished, and painted/stenciled it with big ol’ strawberries. Its pretty darn cute. I loved this thing as a kid and I’m so happy they saved it. It was moved around a lot and pretty dirty/banged up (oh only close to 30 years later) so it needed a little bit of love.

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I used up some leftover paint to update it (including spray-painting the knobs and faucet silver).

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Fun, right? I even painted the back. The cute red appliances and dishes were Hannah’s birthday gift from my friend. I love them!

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On the side, I stuck some Command hooks I had, to hang some utensils. Unfortunately, Hannah thought it was more fun to rip the hooks off so perhaps I will put them back on when she’s older.

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This is one of Hannah’s favorite things, for filling up cups of water to bring to me and her dad, and for squirreling away all the random items she pilfers from around the house (she’s a little magpie that way!). It was a ton of fun to update it, and I have plans to do a few more things to go with it when we have a playroom in the basement.

late summer garden

IMG_0969I don’t think I’ve done any garden posts since the spring planning post, but I know I’ll regret it if I don’t do at least one (for my own purposes later!) so here it finally is.

This is our first year the grapevine has produced grapes! They are delicious (and tiny), and tart. I need to figure out a way to use them up before the birds get to them all. Hannah loves them and will eat them (halved) pretty much as long as I’ll let her. They are taking over the arbor I put them on and finally beginning to stretch and wind along the garden fence. I think they make the garden look so beautiful!

Hannah is such a helper in the garden. She’s “helping” me pick kale here. 🙂 The kale is out of control. I’ve made a few batches of kale chips in the dehydrator and snuck a bit into sauces here and there, but haven’t used it like I should. It is prolific and I think it came back from last year (I can’t be sure). In the same bed beyond the kale are a couple beets – I harvested the majority and canned pickled beets. My fave! I can’t wait to dig in this winter. I left a few for juicing the rest of the summer. Mmmm. The small bed behind Hannah is the grape, and some carrots. The one in front of that is ginormous and completely wasted cauliflower I need to dig up. It just got too hot. 😦 I’d never attempted cauliflower before and grabbed the plants on clearance close to the end of planting season just to try it out. Better luck next time.

IMG_0967What you can’t see is my mint, rosemary, oregano, eggplant, comfrey, and onions. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s all there.

I have a second garden space in the RV pad, and I planted all the sprawling plants like zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers, and tomatoes, rhubarb, plus a few pepper plants. The pumpkins are super cute. I’m getting lots of zucchini and cucumbers (I’ve canned pickled versions of both). The peppers have done only ok, and the tomatoes are getting a late start, but there are plenty of green ones out there. I need to prune them all back so badly. I should have done so before taking pictures but if I waited for garden perfection I’d never get to post!

IMG_0975More of the RV pad garden. This is all obscured from view by our camping trailer (unless we take it somewhere of course). You can see the drip system in this photo. It’s not fancy but it does the job without having to hand water or use more water than needed. Mulching the entire bed with grass clippings helps keep the water use down and weeds down. These killer tomato plants were sent to me as babies from Seed Savers Exchange. I had really high hopes for a big harvest, but it’s been a weird year for Northern Utah gardens. Warm/dry winter, rainy summer. It’s kind of perfect for my own personal comfort, but apparently it’s not great for growing. Bummer! Still time for a bumper crop I suppose.

IMG_0974This is the back of the house garden – and all of this was just planted in the Spring! It’s filling in so well. I have hostas, coral bells, ferns, violas, thyme, columbine, and coleus (the coleus is the only one that won’t come back next year). All are shade loving and drought resistant. The blue pot is now empty but not long ago was home to a beautiful blue hydrangea. I’m a hydrangea-killer! 😦 The geranium in the black pot isn’t doing so well, either. Perhaps it needs more sun. In a year or two, this space will be crazy-pretty. I love gardens along a patio.

IMG_0972Here’s a view of our huge expanse of lawn from the vegetable garden. My brother-in-law’s family brought in the giant swing-set. Mowing around it is the bane of my existence, but I like the idea of taking up some lawn so if/when we get one, I’ll absolutely be putting a large rectangle of bark around it. The plants under the deck are filling in the space nicely, too. The shady areas were the hardest for me to plan initially, but they’ve become the prettiest and lowest maintenance areas of the yard! Around the Aspen trees is my herb garden.

IMG_0971We planted four trees this Spring – two apple trees and two flowering pears. The pears for (eventual) privacy along the back fence, and the apple trees in the side yard near the swing-set. You can see one of the pears in this picture. They are still tiny, but in a few years it will really help obscure some view from the back neighbors (gotta love the ‘burbs).

It’s been a great August, with few days in the triple digits. I love spending time with my girl and my plants. The front yard needs a lot of work this fall – mostly it’s an overgrowth/neglect problem. I’ll give it some proper attention in the coming weeks and try to post on it. A before and after would probably be in order.

Hope you enjoyed my little garden tour!

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updating our spaces (planning post #2)

I mentioned we are finishing our basement (it’s really close; I need to get some things cleaned up and take photos!). The space will actually be a temporary home to my brother-in-law and his family of 5. They are in the process of selling their home and will be building a new one (so fun/stressful!); while they are building, they will be staying with us. It will be chaotic to be sure, but I love them and I know we are going to have a blast and just enjoy being one big ol’ family for a while.

Jonathan did ALL the work himself which saved a bundle, and we definitely are going with budget-friendly options, but it still added up. It’s actually kind of perfect to have a span of time that we can’t do anything with our basement so we can recoup some money from the finishing expense. It also gives me a lot of time to plan.

I’ve been so excited to plan out the little play area we are going to incorporate into the family room. I love designing kid spaces, it turns out! Or at least I love the idea of designing them. So much less anxiety. Kid spaces can be so bright, and you don’t have to worry about perfection. Just practicality and fun. I actually feel like this is a lesson to just go with my gut on the whole house (it can all be fun).

Here’s what I’m eventually envisioning for the play area:

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  • It WILL have a black and white (indoor/outdoor) rug. It just will.
  • I have a play kitchen my dad built me when I was a toddler (ahhhhhhh!). It’s really adorable, but needs modernized. I will figure out a way to incorporate it. I love the colors of the one above (just a cheapie from Amazon, but good paint inspiration).
  • Chalkboard. Either painted directly on the wall or a big framed-in version mounted to the wall.
  • Cute storage. I’ll probably just spray paint some big baskets or paint a cheap crate or two. I like the mustard yellow.
  • Bright bunting or something else I can DIY to liven up the corner.
  • Not pictured, but I want a cute little reading chair as well (or maybe just a pile of bright floor cushions). There will already be a large bookcase in this corner, the bottom two shelves or so will be dedicated to kid toy bins and books.
  • The play area will be right outside what will be the office/craft room. Hannah will get a little art desk area in there as well (where I can supervise the messes).

Hope to post an actual basement progress post soon!