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Holiday Recap

The fall is always the busiest time of year for me so it makes it hard to post much about it while it is happening.  So today I thought I’d share a few photos of some of what we did during October to December.  Sorry it is all pictures of the kids, I am usually taking the photos and am bad about getting myself in them.  The kids are cuter any way.

Halloween Costumes

My plan was to get all three kids standing by their pumpkins in their costumes.   I can’t wait for the day when are all old enough to just smile and take a picture without drama.  Audrey’s costume was partially handmade.  Josiah’s was found on sale at Pottery Barn for $15.  I had planned on making one but after the cost of materials and then the added time of making it, it was a lot easier to just buy it.  Plus it glowed in the dark.  It was bit long so I shortened the legs (took off the bones first and then reapplied them…which ended up being way harder than I anticipated.)  William’s skunk costume was first worn by his brother when he was the same age (found it for a steal on ebay) so it was fun to see another one in it.  I love that little costume.  I’ll try to find a picture of big brother in it.

Group halloween costumes

Here was another attempt at a group shot.

little skunk costume

Family garden

We’ve talked about making a garden for years but because of time/budget/and a constant drought we have put it off.  My son is required to do a big project of his choosing  for school that can be about most anything so we decided to finally try our hand at a garden.  It has taken way longer than I’d hoped with us finally planting some seeds this last week…let’s see if anything can germinate in our now cold weather.  I will be doing a whole post on all we’ve done but just wanted to show a glimpse for now.

Christmas card photo

Here’s the photo we got for our Christmas card this year.  I thought it was going to turn out like the halloween photos because William hates being told he has to stand next to his siblings for a picture.  I have some pretty fun out takes.  It was all looking dark until I told them to grab some leaves and on the count of 3 throw them in the air.  The anticipation of it and now being a game made them all genuinely smile (when Josiah tries to smile for a picture he does like Chandler on Friends and his face looks crazy) and look at us while I was counting.  It was a Christmas miracle that we got a good shot within a few minutes of trying since it was cold and we usually end up having to try 2 separate times.  One day the whole family will all be able to get in a photo and still look at the camera, can’t wait!

The Nutcracker at the Austin Ballet

Oh look, here’s a picture with us adults in it too!  The kids asked about seeing The Nutcracker last year but by the time I looked into tickets all the affordable ones were gone.  So this year as soon as Fall came I grabbed some of the $15 tickets they had in the nosebleed section for the Austin Ballet.  Of course the way the theater is built there aren’t any bad seats.  We could see just fine.  The only real issue was literally all the people around us were really late and the theater becomes completely black once it starts so they were having a terrible time finding seats, walking back and forth tripping on people,  standing in front of us trying to look at their seats and tickets with other people’s phones, and even arguing with us that we were in the wrong seats (they were in the wrong row).  It looked like something out of a sitcom.  But once all those things got fixed we enjoyed the ballet.  The dancers did an amazing job and I’m happy any time we can introduce some culture into our children.

Seeing the Nutracker

This was before it started and we were trying to get them to smile.  They were not in the mood to be photographed so the first 10 shots are of grumpy faces. I don’t remember what we said to convince them to act like they were having fun.  I think part of why they weren’t as excited as I expected them to be was I later learned they thought it was just going to be a movie and didn’t understand they’d be seeing it live.

Santa gifts

The kids showing off some of their loot from Santa.  Audrey wanted a 3 wheel scooter and Josiah wanted it all (a house, phone, diamonds, 4 large lego sets) but was happy with the castle he got.

A ukulele from Santa

Once when Ken pulled out his guitar William went crazy for it so I knew he’d love having his own little version.  He calls his little ukelele “blue song”.  He LOVES all things music and sings, dances, beat boxes, drums, etc all day so it has been fun for him to have this to use as he sings and dances.

Christmas morning

There were lots of other things that happened that aren’t pictured.  We had lots of family come and stay with us in September, October, and November but we aren’t good at taking pictures while hanging out with people and some of the ones we emailed from family are too small to post on here.  We really enjoyed that time but it also allowed us to appreciate the mellow Christmas and New Years we had with just us since we were really tired by the time December came along.  For the first time maybe ever we were able to just stay home and enjoy rest and each other while Ken had off work for a week.  It also allowed us to slow down and reflect more on the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

Looking at all the out takes of the Christmas card photos made me laugh so I’m gonna show a few of those in another post.  It’s a shame to never show any of the other ones that don’t get chosen.  They’re the ones with the most personality.

I’ll also be sharing more about our garden as well in the future.

How about you?  Are you able to get all your kids to look at the camera and make a natural smile?  Are you good at taking pictures of yourself with the kids?  


Wicking Garden Beds: Another Great Way to Grow Food in the Heat

I was driving down the road yesterday on my way to the park since the weather has been so wonderful lately and I heard a really great story on NPR about wicking garden beds.  I can’t believe I have learned about two great gardening options this year for our Texas heat that I had never heard of before.  You can read about keyhole gardening here.

I was really intrigued by the wicking garden so I looked up the site online.  It is called Food is Free  and is a project that is happening right in Austin.  The group is trying to help people to grow their own food in their front yards to help feed the neighborhood for very little money.  It is great for bring the community together and also getting people to eat better.  The materials they use are all either free or cheap and seem very simple to put together.

Their site also has other good resources for growing.

Basically, the garden works by making a water tight container (they use pallets and plastic liner).  You fill the bottom with recycled tumbled glass (which is free from the Austin landfill…I need to check ours to see if they do that) or pea gravel.  You put a piece of cloth like burlap, an old t-shirt, etc on top to keep the dirt off of the rocks and then cover with dirt.  There is also a tube (like bamboo or pvc pipe) that goes from the top down into the gravel so that you can water directly into the reservoir.  You fill up the container up to the top of the rock line using the tube which becomes like an aquafer.  There are also a few holes you drill into the side where the top of the rocks are so extra water from rain will drain out and not drown the plants.   You never have to water from above the traditional way which is less efficient because of evaporation.  The guys doing it said that you can go 2-4 weeks without watering even in conditions like last years heat/drought! Amazing!  I’m so intrigued!  They said that plants prefer to get their water from below and will wick up the water like a candle wicks wax.  It makes sense.

Here is a video where they show how to build one in a plastic tub.  It definitely looks easy!

Here are two more places to go to see how to build your own.  Go here and here.

Here are the reason Food Is Free gives for making one for yourself.

Why a Wicking Garden Bed?

  • Saves more than 50% of water compared to a conventional garden bed
  • It stays clear of weeds, root systems, invasive neighbors
  • The wicking effect causes continual automatic watering
  • Suitable for small patio space for those who live in apartment or townhome
  • Only water once every 2 weeks or less
  • Can be maintained by a low pressure water system, grey water drainage

So, what’s stopping you?  I think it is so great to use this for community gardens.  I would love to share our food with friends and neighbors but I wouldn’t put it in our front yard.  What are your thoughts on this gardening idea?

Keyhole Garden: Is it the key to farming in a drought?

I was reading an article last night called “Keyhole Gardening, Unlocking the Secrets of Drought-Hardy Gardens” in my Texas Co-Op Power Magazine.  It is a “free” magazine we get monthly from our electric company.  The article talks about a different kind of raised bed that works well for our terribly drought ridden area.  It was first developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa.  Deb Tolman, who is the focus of the article, lives in Texas and teaches others how to make and use these gardens.  She lives off of hers throughout the year.

Image Source

I am really intrigued by the design.  It is the first time in a couple years that I have even considered doing a vegetable garden.  We have an empty spot in our yard just waiting for one but with a third of the year being literally over 100 degrees and little to no rain it has been unfathomable…until now.  I would love to have fresh produce and the experience of growing it with my kids.

For those of you who are interested in gardening and composting it is definitely worth checking out.  It looks very cost effective and would be great even for places that have better weather.

For more details you can read the article here.

You can visit Deb Tolman’s website here to learn even more.