Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Urban Carnivores - What's In Your 'Hood?

The other day Chris and I were doing yard work and looked up to see a coyote trotting down the middle of the street. This was at 11am and in broad daylight.

It disappeared into my neighbor's massively overgrown lot after giving us the stare down.

But our coyote sighting pales in comparison to what showed up in my parent's neighbor's yard this morning:

RIVER OTTERS!! Four, including two babies!  [Can you feel my excitement?!.]

Growing up I had a whole school of fancy koi (fish) that lived in our pond. Some of them were 15+ years old, had names, and I trained them to come up to the surface by ringing a little bell. (I was a bored teenager, clearly). One day, all my prized fish were gone, with only a few fish heads laying scattered on the rocks. Piscinicide!

My mom maintained for years that it could only have been the work of a river otter - dad and I laughed her out of the room every. single. time.

Sorry, Mom, we should have believed you.

Note: to get to Steve's yard, this family of otters had to haul themselves out of Lake Washington, find their way past the solid block of lake-front homes, cross a street, climb a hill, cross the Burke Gilman Bike Trail, zip under a fence, cross a lawn, and then dive into the pond. Don't think that these guys are exclusively water critters - they can hustle across land at a fast gallop.

Our local zoo is currently doing a research project on urban carnivores and they're asking Washington residents to record their sightings of the meat-eating animals that live in our neighborhoods.

Want to see what is in your 'hood? Check out the map.

According to user-submitted data, we had a bobcat on the field where Ben plays baseball, a red fox in Wedgwood, an opossum in Maple Leaf, and coyotes/raccoons....everywhere. The video footage of the bobcat is pretty cool - I think the red fox sighting is slightly suspect. No bears yet within city limits. I'm wondering if the bobcat population has benefited from the explosion of rabbits that our city has experienced this year - we've got bunnies coming out of our ears.

Got anything to add to the map?


Photos. T. Dorrance. Thanks WS, for the push to get blogging again!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Projects: Lego Table and Auction Basket

Here's a recent project. Ben's school had an auction last month and our class decided to put together a Lego Gift Basket - classroom parents  generously donated building sets. I was in charge of making the seat/pouf and Lego table. 

I picked up the table at our local thrift store for $5. It was looking forlorn and in desperate need of some TLC. 

I sanded it down, gave it a nice paint job, and then glued down these Lego baseplates in the form of an island surrounded by water. 

 Ready for pirate play! Or a beach vacation! Or a shipwreck! So many imaginative possibilities.

The pouf took a bit more time. The pattern I used is roughly based on this one, with small modifications to the height to make sure that little knees could properly fit under the table.

Basically, sew a cylinder, do some math (pi!) to make a circle that will fit the top, sew that on, stuff it, and then put a sturdy base on the bottom. This last step is optional; most poufs have fabric tops and bottoms, but I needed mine to function as a sturdy chair so a floppy pouf was undesirable.

I used 1/4" plywood for the bottom disc.

A quick note about gear: recently I've really enjoyed using a very light pair of rubber gardening gloves when doing any project that requires tool use or wood handling. They certainly won't protect from saw cuts but I find that I've cut down on my splinter count and general wear and tear on my palms.  

Once the pouf is sewn and the base cut, the next step is to stuff it. Most folks use beanbag pellets or cotton batting but I found that something with less give was necessary to provide a firmer seating experience. I used an old (clean!) duvet covered by an outer layer of cotton. 

Foam around the outside of the wood provided additional cushion. 

Afterwards I simply hammered the fabric to the wood using upholstery nails and added furniture feet. Project completed. 

Ben made me swear that I'd win our own basket at the auction but I was promptly outbid by a parent that clearly loves their child far more than I. :) Sorry kid. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Parties! Plus, my new no-meat obsession.

Our little Emma turned 5 a while back and requested an unicorn birthday party. Yesss! I love planning parties that are heavy on the whimsy and bright colors.  Her adorable (and very pink!) customizable party invite can be found here

Emma begged for a treasure hunt. I'm of two minds about the treasure hunts, mostly because they take so much time to create. The kids, however, adore them and they are always a huge hit at parties.

I pulled some of the clues from the internet but most of these are my own creation, made with significant help of an online rhyming app.

Here is a pdf of the clues. 

Each year I am determined to make a fancy lunch and somehow we always end up with our usual (and unimaginative) fruit/cheese/veg spread.  Everyone is guaranteed to find something palatable though so no complaints. 

 Pink cake! I am now an expert at ombre desserts. :)

Cake was followed by Pin the Horn on the Unicorn. 

And another with a similar theme: Unicorn Horn Ring Toss. 

 And that, my dears, was a wrap on the unicorn birthday party.

Ben's party this year was a slightly more low-key event. He picked out a few buddies and we headed over to Red Robin for lunch followed by the Lego Movie 2 at the theater. It was lovely, actually; his friends were very sweet and I think everyone had a good time, birthday boy especially. 

I used this free printable. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Speaking of printables, my sister-in-law had her bachelorette party a few months ago up here in Seattle and I threw together a few cards to go with the gift baskets. I copied the invitation from one online and I can't find it (feeling hugely guilty on that score). The party was a blast; my favorite bit was the electric boat rental we did on Lake Union; highly recommended! We brought along heavy appetizers plus a few bottles of bubbly. The boat is fully enclosed and comes with blankets and a heater. Bonus points for those that can pick out the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat!

Chris and I are still on our no-meat-but-lots-of-seafood meal plan and it's going well, although I occasionally cheat at restaurants. Let's just say that Chris has better self restraint that I.

The other day we sampled the Beyond Meat burger available at Whole Foods and Kroger. Friends, I AM A CONVERT.  We have subsequently learned that everyone has an opinion when it comes to fake meat but I will be a repeat customer. Have you tried it? What do you think?

Speaking of vegetarian staples, this slow roasted tomato and caramelized onion soup is absolutely heavenly and quickly became my go-to lunch this winter. You could easily make it vegan but I usually drape the top of mine with a slice of toasted french bread and gobs of melted cheese.  Adapted from the Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook by Audrey Alsterburg & Wanda Urbanowicz. Trust me, this soup is worth the prep time.

I have a few house projects that I've been working on recently so I'll throw those up presently. It's been a slow return to the world of blogging but I'll do my best to post a bit more frequently.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

What's On Loan From The Library

I've had a few interesting reads lately although they're quite the hodgepodge of recommendations.

Let's dive in.

Bad Blood
by John Carreyrou
Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup The Story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. I CANNOT believe this was real life it was so crazy. Definitely recommended.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Series)
by Deanna Raybourn
A lepidopterist living in 19th century England that solves murders? Yes, please. I tore through this series, but then again I'm partial to (odd-ball) strong women protagonists with scientific obsessions.

The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy)
by Sherry Thomas
This is a hard book to quantify: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance but not the gloopy sort of romance that leaves you wishing for a heroine with a stiffer spine, stronger self esteem, and better critical thinking abilities. The girl is powerful and the supporting characters are excellent.

Additionally, I also enjoying the author's take on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, also devoted to strong, smart, odd women. :)

I'm still trying to make my way through Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Good god it's taking forever. Its 832 pages but it's a hell of a slog. I'll get there. Eventually.

Come As You Are
By Emily Nagoski
An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science
This book came hugely recommended by the readers of  the (wonderful) Cup of Jo blog; it's a great read for women (and men that love women). Given the dismal state of proper sex education in our country, Emma and Ben will both be getting a copy when they reach an appropriate age.

Next on my list: Educated by Tara Westover

"Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home."

Anything you've read lately that's good?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Built-in Trundle Bed

Hello! We got back two months ago from our big trip (details of which can be found here) and I promptly set about deconstructing the bunk beds in Emma's room. 

Let me be clear about one thing: I love bunk beds; they are great in small spaces or for fitting multiple people in a room. They make a ton of sense for almost everyone out there. 

But not for me. I had come to loathe these beds. There are two reasons for my extreme disdain:

1. We purchased them under duress on a tight timeline before our trip and I always felt they were too dark and hulking for the room, plus they fit poorly in the weirdly-shaped alcove. 

2. I run an Airbnb and I nearly broke my neck every three days climbing up on that bunk to change the sheets. 

So project Numbero Uno upon returning was to post these babies to Facebook Marketplace, stat. 

Here's a good view of the alcove without the beds. Take special note of that heat register; it would cause me a lot of grief down the road. 

My first task was to paint the room. Over time I've come to regret painting each room a different color; now they're all getting the same basic grey, although we still have a few rooms that haven't quite been brought into the color fold. I am also no longer willing to mess around with painting my ceilings a different color than the walls. Grey from top to bottom. 

Chris painted these walls back in 2010, a few weeks before the arrival of our first child, and three weeks after breaking his hand in Mexico. It was a rough month. 

Post painting, I covered the floor in plastic sheeting and began building. Because we still occasionally post our house on Airbnb, I needed to get the same number of beds in this room: two twins. The plan was to do a regular bed for Emma with a trundle stashed away that could be pulled out for occasional use. 

I began by first building the trundle. 

It's hard to tell in the photos, but that heat register is an inch wider at the bottom than at the top, meaning that the trundle stuck out perilously close to the edge of the alcove. Things were getting tight. I had a scant 1/2" for the trundle faceboard. 

Next up was the main bed frame. I attached the frame directly to the wall studs; this thing is solid as a rock. I also learned that trying to drill through carpet will cause said carpet to unravel 12" across the floor but that's a story for another time. 

Frame plus trundle. Slowly coming together. I used 2x4s for the main frame and 1/2" particle board for the mattress foundations. The outer frame and table top got fancy 1/2" plywood instead of the particle board.  

The trundle is complete. Working on the table top and closet door.

The headboard and footboard got the cottage look: horizontal 1x4s nailed to the frame. 

For the record, I really hate the sanding process. So. much. dust. 

Ben gives it a test run. 

Paint: same grey as the rest of place (Subtle Touch by Behr, which, if you want my honest opinion, has a touch too much purple but it's the color we chose for the upstairs hallway and everything is now following suit. I'm too cheap/lazy to repaint the entire place.). 

The trundle face and closet door get some fancy trim. 

More sanding before the final coat. 

DONE. Hardware and lighting have been added. Closet door has been hung. 

These aren't great photos (dark Seattle Fall days don't help the ambient light situation) but we're scheduled to have updated Airbnb photos done in the next few weeks so hopefully we'll have some pretty pictures to show on the website soon enough. 

In the meantime, our little girl is loving her new big and plotting all the sleepovers she's going to have (haha, sorry kid, not until you're like 14...)

The rest of the room is a little bland, which is partly by design. Airbnb guests don't want a bunch of personalized clutter in their rooms. Fortunately Emma can messify a room in about 3 seconds flat; she is currently asleep with a pile of books, dolls, and legos vying for space in her new bed.