Archive for August, 2010

Outdoor Time: Events and Venues Edition (SW PDX)

While the backyard is a perfectly legitimate place to go for outdoor time, sometimes, no matter how fun your backyard is, you just have to get out of your house! For this reason, here is my list of our favorite places, events, and things to do outside in and around SW Portland.  Enjoy exploring them on your own!

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Playgrounds

  • Gabriel Park Playground:  Baby swings, tire swing, two slides, and a bridge.  Great picnic space nearby and a huge park overall with a great small forested area to hike through if you fancy that.
  • Holly Farm Park:  New baby swing, great grassy area to run, an awesome climbing tree, and a wonderful play structure… Also, right next door to the Capital Hill Library with incredible storytimes hosted by Miss Tasha, librarian extraordinare.
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  • Multnomah Arts Center Playground:  Right in the middle of Multnomah Village, so its close to home… so close that the stroller is practically unneccessary unless somebody gets a boo boo. Across the street from a Starbucks is sometimes a bonus, too.  Baby swings, one slide, tunnel, covered basketball courts perfect for tricycling in the rain or drawing with chalk, but beware the kitty littered sandbox.
  • Washington Park Playground: This is the sandbox that you should use!  Incredible playground for all ages and sizes.  Great swings, tons of slides (at least four), huge play structure, train to the zoo stop and rose garden nearby!
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  • Pendleton Park:  Some old school toys like teeter-totters (or seesaws?), a merry-go-round, plus great swings and slides, a huge field and BATHROOMS close by are a huge plus.
  • Custer Park: Parking can be challenging here, but this a good old school playground.  Also has nearby bathrooms and if you are there in the spring when the cherry trees are blossoming, it is a sight to behold (look on the other side of the baseball diamond).

Hiking (for the very small)

  • Gabriel Park:  See above.  Great small forested area for little ones to run through, and by no means a huge commitment of time or energy.
  • Elk Rock Garden at Bishop’s Close: Beautiful manicured gardens, open grassy spaces, views of the river, and a toddler size maze!  Spend an incredible morning here, but know that there are no restrooms and officially, no picnics.
  • Tryon Creek State Park:  For some reason, Adam dislikes this park, but I love it.  Streams, forest, wide, mostly easy-ish trails.  Close to home. You can go for as long or short a hike as you want and easily make it back to the car.
  • Waterfront Park:  Not so much a hike, but a great walk with a stroller.  Good people watching (ALWAYS!) and the river.  We took my nephew and brothers-in-law here are they commented that it was like, “Being in a Richard Scarry book,” because of all of the trains, busses, boats, ships, bikes, Max trains, etc. Plus, there are new fountains in the new Saturday Market area that are really cool!

Not to miss events

  • Multnomah Days Parade:  Our favorite little parade, ever!  Small, hometown feel that keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Tons of candy and fun.  We like to sit on the bridge about two blocks from our house.  Wouldn’t miss it for the world! One Saturday in August, every year.
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  • Portland Rose Festival:  Okay, so we may have missed almost all the events this year due to leaving town at the wrong time, but we did make it down to the waterfront during fleet week.  The big ships are awesome!  Also, we love the Grand Floral Parade and as soon as our kids can stay up past 7:30 pm, we will be all about the opening fireworks.  Not to mention that both of our girls will be queens of Rosaria!  First two weeks of June!
  • Hillsdale Farmer’s Market: Great market, just the right size with many great produce venders and great food for eating lunch.  Sundays, weekly in spring and summer and twice a month fall and winter.

Other Must Do Things

  • Jamison Fountain:  Like a beach in the city.  Always a great time in this zero depth fountain that all can enjoy.  Bring a picnic or enjoy the cafes and ice cream shops all around.  There is no bathroom, however…
  • Wilson High School Pool:  Awesome outdoor pool, only open during summer break, but so great.  Big kid slide, little kid slide, lazy river, fountains, and zero depth area.  Something for all swimming abilities!

I know that there are other things that should be on this list that I am not thinking of right now, so I will update this as I can.  Also, if there is a place that you love, add a comment and a link!  I would love to have this as a great resource!

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Gardening Update

Sorry for the lack of gardening blogs this summer.  I have not been inspired as this has been a rather… ahem… crappy gardening year.  As of right now, the only things that are doing well in my garden are the carrots.  Better them than nothing, though.  Oh, and the blueberries.  They have been bonkers.  Not sure if that’s because we finally learned how to prune them correctly or because of the cold, wet spring, but we have a bumper crop.  Clara and Daddy go out every evening and collect some to share and we have three gallon bags full in the freezer.
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My lettuce was doing well, but then I left for a week and the sprinkler got shut off, so it all bolted. I’m going to pull it all out this weekend as well as my aphid covered broccoli which got no where and start all of my fall crops (new lettuce, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and maybe red onions). Garlic will go in later. I’m still hopeful about my winter squash and tomatoes, but I don’t think my fifteen tomato plants are going to produce enough for even one batch of sauce. That being said, I’m going to the farmer’s market soon for tomatoes to possibly make this beautiful golden tomato sauce.

My soybeans are finally blooming, so we’ll see what happens there. I do have crazy nasturtiums and poppies if anyone wants seeds from those, they are aplenty! Our irises also came and we planted them all over the yard. I can’t wait to see all of their many-colored splendor in the spring!

Also on the plus side, I’m still getting eggs (although the heat zapped those up last week for a bit) and Clara has learned how to pick up the chickens and carry them around. They are not fond of it, but are not pecking at her and allow it. Clara rules the roost– in many ways, come to think of it!
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That is all. If I get much of a harvest, I’ll take pictures and post them. Hopefully all my work was not completely in vain!

Outdoor time: Collecting!

Hey!  Look to the right side of your screen right now!  Yes, that’s right!  I finally figured out how to put a subscribe button on my blog, so now you can get an email update when I write a new blog!  Sign up right now!  Woo hoo!

One of the things that I would love to see Clara do more of is just exploring on her own outdoors.  She always wants my help and comments about everything she sees.  I know that some of that is just age related, but I also feel like she is a little less aware of what’s around her than some other preschoolers.  She just doesn’t notice the little things around her very much.  To try to help, I invented a “collecting” game like Don in Dinosaur Train likes (“La, la, loooo!”).  Anyway, it involves an egg carton and our backyard.  The game?  Collect items to place in the carton.  That’s it.  Away she went.
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Meanwhile, little sister sat in the Bumbo very suspicious of the whole activity (and drooling):
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Then decided to get in on the game and collect some grass of her own:
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Here’s what the big girl collected in our time outside: sticks, pinecones (Douglas Fir, as we learned playing scavenger hunt), chicken feathers, leaves, and (I just learned the name for these) Maple keys.  I have plans for later for the sticks and Maple keys.  Stay tuned!  Also, I think we may have to start a separate egg carton for all the rocks that Clara brings home in her pockets!
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Outdoor time: Patio Painting!

Today during outdoor time, we were exploring a friend’s yard, pulling up rocks to look for bugs (we found a ton of beetles), and we found a newt!  It was a really calm newt and let the girls hold it and walked up their arms for about half an hour before we decided that he would not be much longer for this world if we didn’t put him back.  It was a really amazing experience to have had.  Only spending time outdoors will give you that!  That’s one unstructured outdoor time story.  Its really just as important as the structured stuff that I show here.

But, this post is actually about painting our patio with my nephew, the girls’ cousin, Drew.  This was a really fun activity and would have been an even bigger hit if it hadn’t been 95 degrees out and all the places for painting in the sun.  We may have to do it again soon.  I got this idea from Pink and Green Mama (love that blog!) and we had a blast with it.

First we made two paint palettes in cupcake tins with food coloring (two or three drops in each), a heaping spoon full of corn starch, and enough water to make a slightly runny paint.
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Then I set the kiddos loose with brushes, their own palettes (because sharing is just sometimes too hard!), and a bucket of water to rinse in. They painted the bricks on the patio, then started to experiment with mixing colors, and then painting with their hands (yes, even Drew who hates to get his hands dirty). I think that we’ll try this again soon, but maybe in the driveway in the morning when there’s shade and on the blacktop where the paint might show up even better. I didn’t really get any pictures of the finished product, but it ends up in really nice bright pastel colors when it is dry.
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Outdoor time: Pet Rocks!

Here’s our third outdoor activity post for the month of August, which will be all outdoor time activities!  I’ve been having a ton of fun with this, and despite it being unseasonably cold this week (especially today… dude, all I want is for my clothes on the line to actually dry!), we have in fact spent at least an hour (usually a lot more) outside each day.  If I can keep this up through the fall, I may have to credit it as a miracle.  Of course, if I build a habit, it won’t be quite as hard, right? I would like to note that while I am posting primarily parent led activities, our daily outside time mostly consists of free time in the backyard or playground, or an exploring walk around the park, or something else more or less unstructured.

One of the activities that we did outside at camp was painting pet rocks.  It was a great time, but the best part was gathering the rocks from the creek.  And throwing rocks in the creek, of course.
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Once we had about ten rocks, we found a picnic table and got out our paints, brushes, glue, and googly eyes. Because all painted rocks need googly eyes, right?
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We did this while all of the campers were off on their overnight, so Clara was not terribly distracted and actually sat at the picnic table painting for over an hour. It was a brilliant time. Nancy took a nap in my arms. She also thought it was a brilliant time.
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Outdoor time: Scavenger Hunt!

I always wanted to do a full blown, drive around town in your car with all your best buddies and find a huge list of fun stuff, trying to beat another team to the finish line scavenger hunt as a kid.  I never got to.  Maybe I’ll have to organizeone some day.  But I did organize an easy version for little kids that will get them outside and learning about some to flora in an area as well as landmarks that you can choose. I did this scavenger hunt for camp when we took a couple of Clara’s friends (and their parents) up to camp for a night and had a blast. Besides boating and playing in the ball box and running around and having a campfire, this preschooler sized photo scavenger hunt was a hit. You could easily do it for your backyard or neighborhood!
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Scavenger hunt card (right to left, top to bottom): Hemlock cone, salmonberry, foxglove, Douglas Fir cone, the Huckleberry bush, the bell, sword fern, creek rocks

I made one scavenger hunt card for each kid and put them on cardstock and covered them with contact paper in the hopes that we could use them every year at camp for at least a few years.  Then we set out to find all of the objects on the card.  And they did it!  We had to help a little bit by getting them in the right area and then asking them if they saw anything that looked like something on their list, but overall they did great.  They also ate a ton of salmonberries and huckleberries.  We ended finding the rocks by the creek and spending some time throwing them in the creek, but had to stop after some head-rock collison near misses.  But, this was a totally easy and fun time.  I didn’t get any pictures from the actual scavenger hunt, but here’s a cute one of all three kids in a hammock in the forest.  Fun times!
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Outdoor time: fishing!

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I have always loved summer the best. Winter I am happiest when just sitting next to a wood stove reading. Fall just stinks because of all the leaves to rake, though I do love pumpkin. Spring is just a crazy monstrosity of indecisiveness makes me feel out of sorts. But summer. Ahhh, summer. I love it. Especially August. And not just because I’m an August baby, but because I truly love the weather, the freedom, and time outside everyday.

I was reading a couple of weeks ago about all of the wonderful benefits that simply playing outdoors can have for kids. Kids today get an average of four to seven minutes of unstructured outdoor play a day. That’s minutes, mind you. There are no video games eating up my kids’ time, but we do watch about an hour of TV a day, and I am loath to play outside in the rain and cold. I have made it my mission this month however, to start a series of outdoor play blogs. It is my hope that I can incorporate at least an hour of outdoor play time into my day for the kids EVERY day. Rain or shine. Year round. Not only do I think that this will be good for my kids, but it will also be good for me. I’ll get more exercise, feel less seasonally affected, and hopefully be a more rounded, albeit muddy, momma. So, this month our blogs will feature exclusively outdoor activities. First up, fishing!

Did you know that in Oregon, kids under 12 fish free? Its true! And you can help your kids fish as long as you are not fishing yourself! I always loved fishing when I was a kid. My dad remembers it as time spent untangling lines, but I clearly remember fishing off our boat and scooping a struggling, wet, slimy trout out of the water in a green net. I also remember that I never had a problem putting a worm on my hook, but my little sister always had daddy do it for her. But I digress. I bought Clara a kiddie, princess fishing pole for $10 at Fred Meyer and we finally had an opportunity to use it this past week at Lake Billy Chinook on vacation. We fished off the beach using extra hot dogs cut into little bits.

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This was a good lesson in patience, although momma is such a good fisher-person that within thirty minutes we had caught and released three small-mouth bass. The last one unfortunately swallowed the hook and I had to cut the line. After that Clara got bored with fixing it with a new hook and ran off to swim, also a great outdoor activity. We will definitely be fishing again soon!