at the pumpkin patch :: year 2

one of the things i've been looking forward to this fall is our annual trip (this is our 2nd year, but i'm thinking we need to make this an annual tradition) to the pumpkin patch. my sisters and i set a date at least a few weeks in advance, meet up, and make a day of it.

last year, we checked out a pick-your-own pumpkin location at trinity tree farm in issaquah. the place was easy to get to, and we had a great time picking out our pumpkins, sipping cider, and launching pumpkins in the pumpkin slingshot.  this year, we decided to try the pumpkin patch at oxbow farm, where we have our CSA. side note: it's pretty amazing to me that in 45 minutes, you can be out in the country, given that seattle is such a large, metropolitan area.

since the pumpkin patch at oxbow is at a working farm, the experience was a bit different in some respects, but equally fun, like last year's.  our kids were looking forward to going back and playing in the "living playground."  the gourd tunnel was a hit, again, and they had fun being able to roam and explore all the parts of the kids' farm.

added bonus (as part of their oxtober u-pick pumpkin patch season): hayrides around the farm and the house o' hay for the kids (and some adults, who shall remain nameless for their privacy and safety).  the hayride was a fun treat for the kids, and a great opportunity to take a look at the actual farm.  it was so cool to see the rows of collards and chard that we just got in our box the day before...literally farm-to-table, right?

i think the kids were amazed by the house o' hay.  they loved climbing on, jumping off, and climbing through the stacked bales of hay.  i love the simplicity behind the hay castle, and how it offers the kids opportunities for creative play and free exploration.  it was super cool, and it was hard to pry them away when it was time to pick our pumpkins.

unlike the u-pick pumpkin "patch" at trinity tree farm, the pumpkin patch at oxbow was an actual pumpkin patch.  the pumpkins were already detached, but we did have to wade through rows of pumpkin vines.  and the nice drizzle of rain, made for some muddy pumpkins, and muddy hands. this was legit pumpkin picking. ha!

and what better way to end the farm day with some wet, slippery and muddy pumpkin slinging with the pumpkin sling shot.

what a day well spent.  i loved watching all the kids play together (in the mud, even!).  i loved being able to experience simple, outdoor pleasures with the people i love.  and i loved being able to meet some of the people who have spent so much time and effort growing and tending to the food that nourishes my family.  we even got to meet the gal who packs our box every week!

the muddy boots, filthy clothes, and dirt-covered hands were so worth the sweet memories made that day at the pumpkin patch.


our portland adventure

in august we took our first family vacation in 4-5 years.  not that we didn't have any vacations since then, but we had lots, and lots of staycations.

this portland trip was particularly exciting, because the whole trip was fully funded and paid in cash.  no credit cards (just the debit card variety). it's a huge milestone for us as a family.  i wrote very briefly about our journey to becoming debt-free a long while back.  we are following dave ramsey's seven baby steps (you can go here and read an excellent break down of the steps from the lady who inspired me to live simply and start the path to financial freedom), and frankly the reason i haven't made any updates on our progress since then is because we're still on baby step 2.  ha!  it's been slow going, with a few hiccups along the way, but we've been building that debt snowball. we're at a point now where we can almost taste that freedom. almost.

our portland visit was more like a mini-vacation (only 3 nights), but a vacation nonetheless.  it was a nice, little "reward" for the last 4 chipping-away-at-our-debt years.  we set a budget for $1,000, and we only went over by $20!  traveling on a tight budget can still be fun and definitely do-able.  it does take some extra planning and a little more creativity at times, though.  and you have to be flexible, especially when traveling with younger children.  but the memories made and the experiences had are totally worth it!


day 1

the drive to portland from south seattle was an easy-breezy 3.5 hours, with a pit-stop in olympia for lunch.  the kids did amazing, and since we left on a sunday, we didn't have to deal with any rush hour traffic. ever wondered what traveling with 5 kids looks like?  well...here you go.

we rolled in a little bit earlier than lunch time, so we decided to do an impromptu visit to the capitol.  it would be a great opportunity for the kids to burn a little energy and stretch out their legs. i didn't think the legislative building would be open on a weekend, but i guess i was wrong.  they're open 7 days a week, but obviously, no one actually works on the weekends, except those who are manning the tours and the visitors center.  granted you can't see the senate in action or anything like that, but it probably was best for our family that we went when no one was working.

the grounds were beautiful, and was not busy at all.  we parked (for free) quite close to the capitol building, and there was also plenty of green space for the kids to run around and explore.  if you're looking for a quick weekend, educational day trip from seattle, look no further than olympia and the state capitol.

we did a self- guided tour through the legislative building, complete with some fun family photos next to george washington (i'm oddly close to his nose...). it was so quiet in there, but i'm pretty sure there would've been a lot of hustle and bustle during the work week.  like i said, it worked out way better for us to visit here on a weekend.

after exploring the capitol, we stopped for a quick lunch, and then we were back on the road.

our next stop before portland was the city of vancouver, wa, which is literally across the river from portland.  we have some dear friends (and old neighbors) from cleveland that just moved to vancouver, so what better way to welcome them to the best coast than a visit from us?

even though we've been away from cleveland for over a year, i still miss it.  the aching isn't as bad now, but i do still have some days where i get a little sad...it's hard to leave people you love.  anyway, the reunion was sweet.  the kids acted as if no time had passed, and it felt as if we were back on mars avenue.

we made it to the hotel right before the kids' bedtime (perfect timing).  we found a pretty affordable place not too far from downtown portland, on hayden island, that comfortably accommodated a family of 7, with a little pool, and free buffet breakfast every day.  yes, friends, no cooking or cleaning for 3 days in a row, plus swimming in a pool?  sounds like a real vacation to me!

day 2

since we only had 2 full days in portland, we had to prioritize which places we wanted to check out.  one place on our must see list is powell's books.  if you haven't ever heard of powell's books, it's a bibliophile's heaven on earth.  the flagship store is a whole city block, and it's full of books.  SO many books.  SO amazing.  the kids were allowed to pick one book as a souvenir, which was totally awesome, i think.  i scored a few classics for our school, and would have loved to buy more if we didn't have to stick to a budget.

the second must-see place on our list was voodoo doughnut.  unfortunately, we didn't end up going in, because there was a very long line.  they must be good doughnuts.  voodoo doughnut does have a second location in portland, which is not as busy, but it would've meant loading everybody back up in the car and driving there.  since we only had a few days, we decided to try voodoo doughnut the next time we were in portland.

so onwards we went.  i didn't really have much of a plan in place after voodoo doughnut, so we kind of walked around a bit.  we stopped by stumptown coffee to give the kids' legs a rest, and enjoy a little pick-me-up.

we ended up in pioneer courthouse square, where they just happened to have a farmer's market going that day.  we stopped at a stand to buy blueberries, then another stand to buy sandwiches, and found a spot to sit and enjoy some lunch.  sadly, lani had a serious meltdown at this moment, as evidenced by the only photo i took during our glorious lunch hour.

i guess baby was ready for a nap!  as aaron took lani back to the car, we finished up our lunch and prepared to make our way back.  while the walk to the car was only about a mile from us, i could tell little legs were getting tired.  fortunately, the day we went downtown also happened to be the day the max was offering free rides.  even though it would be a very short ride to our car, we decided to hop on.  it was a great decision!

after naps (for the littles) and swimming, we decided to check out hubworks urban brewery for our dinner.  you wouldn't think that a brewery would be a family-friendly dinner destination, but this place will surprise you.  it's a great spot for a large group gathering...or a large family, like ours, and the food and the beers are quite tasty.  the restaurant kids' play area where kids were free to draw on the chalkboard wall, read books, or play with toys, while the adults could sit at the table and enjoy one of their tasty beers (or try the beer sample option and taste a variety of brews).

day 3

another must-see place on our list for this trip was multnomah falls.  here's a funny thing about this place, for quite a while i thought i had never been there.  i was even telling people that i had never been there before.  but when i saw a picture of the falls (you know, with that trademark people bridge), i had a weird feeling i had been there before.  after inquiring with my mom, it was confirmed that i had, in fact, been there before. ha!

we were joined by our friends from vancouver, and took a short hike around the falls.  the waterfall was an amazing sight, and it was neat to be able to take my kids to a place that i went to as a kid.

we planned a picnic lunch after checking out the falls, which not only helped keep us on budget but allowed us more time to hang out with our friends. our bellies and our hearts were full by the time we were ready to head back to the hotel.

the rest of the afternoon was spent pretty much like the afternoon of day 2: naps for the little ones and swimming for the older kids.  we had three spots we wanted to hit up after the nappers woke up, so once they did, we loaded up and headed out.

we try to minimize loading in/out of the car as much as possible, especially when we're out and out and about, because it can be a pain.  the kids don't care for it much, and neither do we, so when we do make a stop we try to stay for a while before loading everyone back in the car. the three spots we wanted to check out for the rest of the afternoon and evening were revival drum shop, pok pok and salt and straw.  revival drum shop was aaron's request, and the establishment sells vintage and custom drums.  pok pok came highly recommended by some friends of ours, and they are very well known for some tasty thai street food.  salt and straw also came highly recommended by a few people, and they are an ice cream shop offering locally made ice cream with some very unique flavors.

after a quick map and google research, we realized we could do all three within close proximity of each other.  the drum shop and pok pok were pretty much next to each other, and salt and straw was half a mile north.  perfect!  our plan was to hit up the drum shop first, and then have an early dinner before heading over for ice cream.

unfortunately, when we got to the drum shop, there was a sad sign on the door telling us that they had moved locations.  the website still had the old address when we checked, so it must have just happened recently.  poor aaron.  and then we had another small hiccup in our plans: pok pok noi did not open for dinner for another hour. gah!  so we decided to pack everyone up and just head over to salt and straw and see what kind of dinner food we can find before we did dessert.

salt and straw is located in the alberta arts district neighborhood, on a street full of diverse, fun and eclectic shops.  after finding parking close to the ice cream shop, we strolled around, half looking for a good place to eat and half window shopping at some of the shops.  it's hard to look for something else to eat when you had your heart set on thai food, so we ended up settling on a thai restaurant a short distance from salt and straw.

we were the only ones in the restaurant, so i was a little nervous about how good the food would be.  but i had nothing to worry about.  the food was delicious, and hit the spot.  but we were careful not to fill up too much so that we had room for ice cream!

salt and straw had quite a bit more people there. everyone got their own scoop of ice cream, even little lani (i'm pretty sure she would have had a fit if she had to share). they had quite a variety of flavors to choose from, and it wasn't easy to make a decision.  the kids tried the cinnamon snickerdoodle.  ty had a milkshake, but i can't for the life of me remember which flavor it was.  aaron went with stumptown coffee and burnside bourbon, and i decided to go with honey lavender (i love lavender).

oh man, was it gooood ice cream.  in fact, it was mitchell's good. if you're wondering about mitchell's, it's a local cleveland ice cream shop that also uses local dairy
and offers some unique flavors much like salt and straw. if you are ever in cleveland, mitchell's is a place you really should check out.  since moving back to seattle, we haven't been able to find ice cream comparable to mitchell's...at least portland is a 3.5 hour drive away instead of a 3 days drive.

day 4

it was so hard to pack up and prepare for our drive back home.  we had so much fun, and our little getaway was a much needed time for our family to be together.  granted, we make time to explore our own home city as a family, but there is something to be said about really getting away, even for a short time.  it's refreshing, rejuvenating, and relaxing.  even with 5 kids, it really was relaxing. our kids enjoy traveling (so do their parents), and exploring a new place together allows us to draw closer as a family.

if you're planning a trip to portland for the first time (like us), a great site to help you plan your trip is travel portland.  it's a great resource for all things portland, and it was my main go-to site as i was planning and budgeting for our trip.

thinking about our experience in portland, gets me excited about planning for our next getaway vacation.  maybe we'll go the opposite direction and head north to canada.  hmmm...i guess we'll need to start saving up soon!

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