Earlier this year, I planted a vegetable garden to harvest this summer!
This is not my first attempt at a vegetable garden. Last year, my husband and I filled the long garden box in our backyard with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt and topsoil to make a healthy habitat for homegrown produce. I had been inspired by a podcast called “Homemaker Chic” where the art of homesteading is somewhat glorified. We live smack-dab in the suburbs and have zero interest in homestead life, but I still find the podcast about their daily life charming and found inspiration to at least cultivate some of our fruits and veggies in our backyard. But after a spring and summer spent watering and watching my garden grow in 2021, I ended up with more “lessons learned” than edible goods. Lessons that I took into this year’s gardening attempt.
Lesson #1 from last year: I prefer root veggies.
In late April this year, Baby Brynnley snoozed in her stroller while we browsed the seed selection at Zamzow’s – Idaho’s favorite lawn and garden store.
I picked beets, rainbow carrots, onions, bell peppers, and a flower called Delphiniums. My seed selection differed from last years lettuce and squash varieties because I learned that I’m more likely to actually eat the food I produced if it was a root rather than a leafy green. My garden last year was a little burned from the sun plus covered in spider webs. The brown spots on the lettuce leaves and the webs across the garden box were so unappetizing. I threw nearly all of my lettuce and squash away.
Lesson #2 from last year: follow the seed packet instructions/growing guidelines.
This one probably seems like a “duh.” Last year, I just emptied all the seeds from the packets into dirt rows. I didn’t want to throw away or waste any seeds I bought, even though the space I had for them was much too small to accommodate the entire packet. I felt like “the more, the merrier!” Unfortunately in gardening, more is not merrier when you plant 200 carrot seeds within 2 square feet of each other. They stunted their growth because they were so entangled underground.
This year, I topped off my garden box with new organic Miracle Gro soil and raked it over to combine the new with the old. I made sure my drip sprinklers were still working, then I divided the long box into five sections for each type of crop. I carved out two or three rows in each section. Finally getting to plant the seeds is the fun part! The beet seeds were so big and scraggly, they reminded me of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal pieces. Next to the beets are the Delphinium flowers which will grow to 4-5 feet tall in shades of blues and purples. I couldn’t wait to see them! The rest of the garden box is filled with rainbow carrots, onions and bell peppers.
Lesson #3: use some sort of produce-safe insecticide if you don’t want spider webs all over your vegetables.
Like I said, that was the most unappetizing part of growing lettuce; the thin cobwebs turned me off completely from even trying what I grew. So this year I used an organic spray to deter insects from taking over the garden box.
When I worked on my garden in late May & early June, Zeb was gone on a trip and I wanted to let Brynnley join me outside without worrying about her getting too much direct sun or any bugs on her skin. So I took to Amazon and found the cutest little mini tent for her to stay shaded and enclosed in while getting to enjoy the backyard with me.
The seedlings turned into green baby sprouts in a surprisingly short amount of time. I think it was about 5-8 days from planting that I already saw the tip of a green stem shooting up from most of the vegetables, which was so much faster than I expected. They continued to grow as I watered them over the next several weeks, despite having a long heat wave with high 100+ temperatures.
Unfortunately, my garden had a big bare bald spot where I planted the delphinium flowers. The seed packet said they took 21 days to germinate so I held out hope that I just got a slow batch, but 3 months later and the gaping patch of dirt amid the beets and carrots is pretty clear that my flowers gave zero effort in growing this season. I was very bummed because I was so excited about the tall beautiful pop of color I would have had in my garden bed!
By late July, my beets and carrots were hearty enough to harvest! I plucked a few to throw on a sheet pan of roasted veggies. I enjoyed my bright beets and rainbow carrots with some added zucchini from my parents’ garden plus some storebought sweet potato. Drizzled in olive oil, tossed with Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute blend then roasted at 425 for about 45 minutes. I also added some chicken sausage, and enjoyed it all together in a bowl.
My onions are still growing, and the bell peppers are great hearty stalks but they haven’t actually produced any peppers yet. I had read that growing bell peppers from seeds was a very time-consuming crop and so we will have to wait and see if they yield anything before fall or if next time they will need to be started from an existing plant.
And while we’re on the topic of gardens, what a perfect opportunity to show off my adorable girl in her little gardening outfit :)
Future little gardening girl ☺️
Last night, Zeb & I crossed off another bucket list item that I’ll make a post about shortly. And I have 2 more scheduled for the rest of this month! I’m starting to feel the pressure to get to the “weather sensitive” bucket list items because my days of opportunity before the Big Day in February are slowly dwindling and I won’t be hiking or paddle boarding in Idaho once October hits! So the next two months are about to be jam-packed, get ready! 😁
We live in such a naturally diverse and beautiful part of the country, I am a little embarrassed that this is only my third time camping since living in Idaho for the past 6 years. Idaho has so much beautiful mountain land, we could easily find new camping spots here for the rest of our lives, depending on how adventurous we are! For this trip, we chose a camping site that was a little less remote because we would be tenting it with a four-month old baby and I still appreciate the modern convenience of an actual toilet 😁
Two weeks before Father’s Day, we confirmed with my parents that we would do a tent camping trip to celebrate Father’s Day weekend. It would be my husband’s first Father’s Day since becoming a dad, and he and my dad both enjoy fishing and the mountains. My mom and I wanted to reserve an actual campsite, as opposed to driving through the Idaho wilderness looking for a remote spot to call home. Idaho is getting so crowded with new residents since the pandemic started, so hidden gems aren’t so hidden anymore and it seems like a competition to snag a great camping spot without a reservation.
I scored the last remaining camp site along Lake Cascade, a fifteen mile-long lake two hours north of Boise. We assumed since it was the single remaining spot, it must be the least desirable….right next to a dumpster or something. But we were determined to make the most of our three day/two night excursion no matter what! You can imagine how pleasantly surprised we were when we pulled up to the waterfront corner lot gorgeous space with plenty of room for Zeb to dock his fishing boat on. We learned that our fellow campers reserved their sites 9 months in advanced because that’s how fast this campsite books up. It turned out that I had make the luckiest timing, booking someone else’s last minute cancellation of this prized spot!
I reviewed my camping packing list the entire week before we left. You would be surprised how much gear you need to pack along to care for an infant in the outdoors! We woke up at 7am on Friday morning and spent all of Brynnley’s nap time packing the truck. While I packed the last minute perishables into the cooler, Zeb made one last run for ice, firewood, and sandwiches for us for the road. His truck was packed to the brim with all of our supplies, so as soon as Brynnley was fed and changed around 11am we hit the road. We stopped for gas for the truck and boat – $120 gone in 5 minutes!
Brynnley slept the majority of the 2 hour drive; we had to stop about 15 miles from camp so that I could feed and change her in the truck. When we arrived at our campsite, it was a little tricky to juggle occupying a four month old baby while trying to help Zeb set up the tarp, tent, shade cover, and cooking station. Brynnley needs lots of attention, feeding, and help getting to sleep which took up most of my afternoon while Zeb put his boat in the water and started fishing.
For dinner the first night, we kept it easy with campfire hot dogs, cherries and storebought potato salad. We also used the Dutch oven to cook popcorn kernels over the fire pit, and it actually worked! The sun doesn’t set here until about 10pm this time of year, so I let Brynnley stay up past her actual bedtime to enjoy some camping cuddles next to the fire while I read a little bit of my book and enjoyed a couple of White Claws. I primarily breastfeed her, but I brought my battery-powered breast pump to supply her some extra bottles while we enjoyed a few evening beverages :)
Our tent is super spacious, roomie enough for 6 people. There was plenty of space inside for our full air mattress, plus the pack n’ play and all of our bags. I bought a blackout cover for the pack n’ play since I knew Brynnley would have a hard time sleeping in the full sunlight. It was fantastic! She slept even better than she does at home. I laid her down when we went to bed around 10pm, and she slept straight through to 7am. I woke up many times throughout the night to check on her and make sure she was warm enough, but she was just fine. My mom had also bought us some baby-friendly mosquito repellent stickers that we used to combat any potential bug bites and they seemed to work great.
We woke up around 7am Saturday morning FREEZING because we didn’t have a sleeping bag, just a couple of blankets on our air mattress. I immediately texted my parents who were getting ready to head up and meet us from Boise, and asked them to bring us a couple more blankets for the next night. Thankfully with her fleece jammies and sleep sack, Brynnley was plenty snug and warm. I fed her in our tent while Zeb made us a morning fire and brewed coffee in the percolator. DELICIOUS! Coffee tastes better out of a cute tin mug in the mountains next to lake water at sunrise :)
We also experimented with another Dutch oven concoction that will now become a STAPLE in our camp cooking repertoire. Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake! The texture was unbelievably perfect for whipping up without a kitchen and cooking over a fire. My parents had gotten my husband Zeb a campfire Dutch oven and corresponding cookbook for Christmas a couple of years ago, so the recipe came from that cookbook. I put together the dry base at home before we left our house – some flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and dried milk powder. Once we got to the campground, we diced a green apple and butter, which was mixed with brown sugar and some of the flour mixture for a crumb topping.
As the coffee cake sat on our morning campfire, my parents arrived! They set up their tent and air mattress for their FIRST camping trip in Idaho since moving here six years ago. My mom was pleasantly surprised by not only our great campsite but also the proximity to actual restrooms. We aren’t pee-in-the-bushes type of people ;)
After we all enjoyed our breakfast cake and coffee, Zeb took my dad out onto Lake Cascade for some fishing. My mom hung at camp with Brynnley and I. We put her in her stroller and walked the campground with only one minor hiccup when we got her stroller tire stuck in a cattle guard, prompting a concerned passerby to hop out of his truck to offer help lifting her out of the grate :D
The boys returned sans fish, but ready for lunches. My mom had premade us all meat and cheese sandwiches which we ate with some fruit and sun chips. Right next to our campground is a beautiful ski resort called Tamarack Resort that has been under construction since we moved here. We decided to pop over to explore the new grounds and grab a drink. It’s a popular spot for mountain bikers this time of year!
When we returned to camp, Brynnley hung out with my mom and dad while Zeb took me out on the boat. We both fished the entire time but also came up empty handed. There were hardly any other boaters on the water though, and with the 360 degree view of pine tree forest and water, it was a gorgeous and relaxing ride.
Our family campfire dinner was “hobo packs” – foil packs with delicious potatoes, yams, bell peppers, zucchini, onions and mushrooms with chicken sausages and delicious seasoning. We set them on hot coals and it smelled HEAVENLY. We played a game of Uno on the picnic table while munching on some pretzels and sipping white claws.
Zeb wanted to impress my parents with his popcorn popping skills, but that didn’t stop us from also indulging in smores. You can’t NOT make smores when we go on our very first family camping trip!
Brynnley fell asleep in my arms at the campfire, so we kept her up with us until about 10pm when we all headed to bed. The second night in our tent was considerably warmer than the first, and we all slept straight through to 7am – baby included. We nursed in our tent again while Zeb started the morning fire and brewed coffee. I think this morning time with coffee and morning sunlight is my favorite part of camping. I really enjoy that taste of coffee in a fun camping mug right next to the lake water while everyone is still in their comfy clothes, baby is still in her fleece jammies, and the whole campgroung is quiet with that hint of bacon in the air. :)
This Sunday morning was also Father’s Day! So while we all needed to tear down our tents and pack back up – it seemed like we JUST got here! – we also got to celebrate my dad and Zeb with a brunch and some gifts and cards.
Overall, tent camping at Lake Cascade was such a great experience and confidence-builder for more future camping trips with our baby! All of the things I was so worried about, like her getting a mosquito bite, being too cold, crying at night and waking up fellow campers……none of them came true! I am looking forward to more family camping trips in the future, though I don’t know we’ll get quite so lucky with the perfect camping site on such last minute notice again. :)
Today is my 1st wedding anniversary! (Edit: I started writing this post on June 5th, but life with a baby means I’m not actually posting it until one week later 😁)
Considering I was only married 365 days ago, it shouldn’t be too remarkable for me to fit into my wedding dress again today. However in those 365 days I grew human being, gained 34 pounds, and gave birth! During my pregnancy, it was challenging to see my body changing so quickly and not recognize my new shape.
I have run long distance since I was 14 years old and I’ve always had a more slender or athletic body type which I hoped I could return to after having my baby. Brynnley would be three months old on our wedding anniversary June 5th, so I made it my goal to try to fit into my wedding dress around that date. The skirt of my dress is big and layered, so my hips and legs were guaranteed to fit. The waist and bust were altered to fit snuggly.
I woke up on Saturday morning and went for a short run around the neighborhood. Then I showered and fed Brynnley and decided to try on the dress before I had anymore food, coffee or water in me to give me the best shot 😆 I called Zeb in to help zip and clasp the back……holding my breath (literally).
It zipped to the top and reached the clasps together! No easy feat for this breastfeeding bust, ha!
Aside from that, there’s not much else of a “story” to this particular bucket list item, so I’ll take advantage of this opportunity to instead share some of the dress shopping and wedding details from 2021 since I wasn’t blogging at that point in time. :)
Wedding dress shopping was one of the highlights of the whole planning process. I’ve ALWAYS loved dressing up, and fully embraced the opportunity to dawn as many $2,000 dresses as I wanted in cute little boutiques with bubbly and my best friends.
I knew I wanted a big ballgown skirt. I didn’t want anything super slim fitting all the way down because I wanted to eat, drink and dance the night away at my wedding without thinking about “sucking it in” haha!
I tried them all – long sleeve, no sleeves, sleek satin, pure sequin…..and ultimately it was a strapless ballgown with intricate beading and horsehair hem with lots of layers and tulle that was “the one.” Making decisions can be a little overwhelming for me, so we took a week to think about it and I returned to the boutique with just my mom to make our ultimate decision. She and I both shed some happy tears when I stepped up to the wall of mirrors and envisioned my wedding day. Decision made! I jokingly told Zeb that I had found the perfect yellow crocheted turtleneck dress to keep him wondering until the big day. ;)
I really enjoyed the whole wedding planning process! Picking out each detail like the songs, signature cocktails, favors, decor, bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts, signage, and timeline were all things I found FUN leading up to the big day. I watched tons of YouTube videos on tips and tricks for pulling off a perfect wedding without a wedding planner, and I have to say it really paid off. We had, what I would consider, truly a “perfect” wedding day. The uncontrollable factor in an outdoor reception – weather – did throw us a curveball with some wind, which meant that some of my tabletop decor needed to be modified and it knocked over a vase of flowers on our guest book table, but all things considered I would say we were completely blessed with a snafu-free day that I am still riding on cloud 9 from a year later :)
I knew early on that I did not want to do the first-look with my groom, Zeb. I wanted to build anticipation for the first moment we saw each other on our wedding day to be at opposite ends of the aisle, with our family and friends between us while the wedding music played and my dad escorted me to the white alter that Zeb built with the floral arrangements I put together with my mom and friend Hayley. I like the traditions of weddings, like spending the night before apart. I slept at my parents house the night before our wedding, though I don’t think there was much “sleep” that night with all of the excitement and anticipation and nerves.
My mom, dad and bridesmaids, plus my mom’s best friend/my suto-aunt all met at the venue at 10am to start setting up the ceremony and reception spaces and adding our decor. I was impressed that we covered all of the set-up by noon, plenty of time to transition into getting myself ready with my bridesmaids in our gorgeous bridal suite!
The photographer and videographer showed up around this time, so we popped some bubbly before the hair and makeup team arrived to work their magic. Zeb and his groomsmen had a much more relaxed timeline leading up to the ceremony, so Zeb went fishing in the morning and arrived at the venue several hours after we did.
Leading up to the ceremony, I got lots of special moments with my mom, my dad, and my best friends. I was SO NERVOUS about the wedding ceremony and reading my vows in front of our guests. Looking back, I think that it was one of the best decisions to skip the first look and write personal vows that we shared with each other for the first time at the alter; it made the wedding ceremony so emotional and personal, and I loved our vows to each other. Once we were pronounced husband and wife, we sent the guests to cocktail hour in the beautiful outdoor rustic venue while we took our photographs and finally joined them for some drinks before the dinner and toasts began.
We did the traditional bouquet toss and cake cutting, spending the rest of the night dancing away to some country, some 80s classics and some pop which resulted in the epic candid shots. Candids really are the best!
Our full wedding highlight video is on YouTube here: Zeb & Kenzie’s Wedding Highlights.
Zeb and I rewatched the highlight video, the ceremony and the toasts videos on our first anniversary after we arrived home from dinner and it will continue to be an anniversary tradition for us because I love reliving this day over and over!
As I’m writing this, I have also already crossed off Bucket List Item #6 so I will be working on that post over the next few days…..as my infant allows. :)