Wednesday, June 01, 2016

News and Reviews

Occasionally we go into the University of Washington to participate in studies on language and development. They do a good job of playing it up and making the kids feel special and helpful (today YOU are contributing to SCIENCE!!). 

Ben was so excited to be a scientist  that he arrived in my bedroom at 7:01 am, fully dressed, including his coat.  

(It also helps that they paid him $30 . He'd spent hours perusing the internet for the perfect LEGO machine long before the money actually made it into his sweaty little fist.)

I am ready for the science! 

Here he is in action. 

Next week he gets to go in and be connected to the 'big magical brain machine'. They do a little test run beforehand:

 This study is an extension of one that was started back when Ben was just a wee bambino. We used to joke in our house that I was always my mom's first subject, as she, too, is a researcher at the University. We've come full circle.

Here are a few links from around the web:

The World's Greatest Birdwatcher (of course he's from Oregon. Birdies, unite!). Yesterday Emma and I discovered an abandoned bushtit nest laying in the road. They are remarkable for their feats of engineering. Today we dissected the nest to discover lots of extra feathers and a few unhatched eggs. The scientists are in da house!

An ad for a menstruation product is too lewd for the subway. 

How first generation faculty can help first generation students succeed 

Becoming a foster parent was a dream I never knew I had

Events that happen in Alaska

Breast cancer ad uses man boobs to check for lumps

Gender bias in Academe

Cat tracking

Did you read Frog and Toad when you were little? A story of friendship and beyond. 

How I deal with the unbearable hypocrisy of being an environmentalist  (Thanks, R)

Hope you're having a great week.



Monday, May 16, 2016

Trips: Camping on Vancouver Island


It's been a while.

I go through phases with the blog....sometimes I'm johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to posting, other times it's like I've fallen off the face of the earth.

In other words, it's been a bit of a blogging dry spell.

We've been outside taking advantage of this beautiful Spring weather and trying to keep our lives only moderately crazy.

We went camping up in Tofino, British Columbia this weekend. Tofino is located about halfway up Vancouver Island on the western (Pacific) coast. We drove up to Canada and then hopped aboard a ferry over to the island. Upon landing in Nanaimo, it was a three hour drive across the island to the small towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. Vancouver Island is huge; it's the largest island in the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand.

We stayed at the Green Point Campground at the Pacific Rim National Park and it quickly became one of my favorite campgrounds due to the secluded spots and proximity to both hiking trails and beaches. Also, Canadians seem to be a bit more respectful of personal space and noise. There wasn't a single night in which fellow campers were playing their music too loudly or causing disturbances.

 Chris and I are still figuring out our perfect camping situation. We'd love to have a location where the kids can run absolutely wild. Ben and Emma, at 5 and 2, are loud rambunctious kids and there are very few places that they are allowed to be completely free. Even at the campground we are constantly setting rules in regards to noise, destruction of vegetation, and Ben's yearning to visit all the other campsites and have a fireside chat with the occupants.

That said, we're still deciding if we're entirely comfortable striking off into the wilderness by ourselves and wild camping. It seems lovely....but also a bit risky, considering that we have two very young children. Perhaps Chris and I have seen too many horror movies about crazies lurking in the woods. You know, ax murders and shady folk intent on defending their illicit pot grow operations. 

What do you think? Would you go camping off the grid with your little ones? Would you do it if you had friends (ie additional adults) with you? If so, any recommendations for spots in Washington State? I'm of two minds on this one. 

Ben is avidly interested in wildlife and we need to start keeping notes so he can record all his critters. He's careful to list the lowly slug right next to the bears and whales. That's my boy. 

The highlight of the weekend for me was the whale watching trip that we took amongst the islands. It ended up just being the captain, our family, and another family that had two boys, ages 4 and 6. All three boys had an absolute hoot running around the boat, nagging the pilot, and playing wildly. I still can't believe that nobody went overboard.

In total, we were lucky to see 4 humpbacks feeding in a shallow cove. Ben was enthralled.

Ack. Sorry for the blurry pictures. Still haven't pulled the trigger on a new camera and my old lens is suffering.

Here was a larger crustacean, father out in the bay.

Bottoms up!

Emma did her best to hang with the big kids but she was having a rough day, as her nap schedule was thrown into disarray. We definitely struggled this trip to get a good routine set up for Emma. A month ago we took a similar camping trip down to Central Oregon and she seemed to do just fine. But she hasn't been napping well in the car during the long hours on the road and that, combined with the late nights around the campfire, were hard for our littlest babe. So we'll have to work on that for future trips.

After the whales it was time for a visit to the local Stellar sea lion colony.

Playing? Fighting? Who knows.

If you're planning a visit, we especially enjoyed the inland Rainforest Trail and the Lighthouse Loop near Ucluelet. Long Beach (as accessed via Green Point Campground) also had nice tide pools where we spotted fish, anemones, and jellyfish. 

We went to Chesterman Beach to watch the surfers, but decided that a game of soccer was more entertaining (and warmer). Those surfers were hard core; I was freezing just watching them paddling about in the frigid waters.

The tide pools at Long Beach. I nearly dipped my phone in the water trying to get this picture. 

Ben and his dead sea lion. "Whoa Mama, check out all the flies!!!"

And to top it all off, we ran into this guy. Love them bears. 

And that, my dears, was our trip to Tofino. Definitely worth a visit.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

News and Reviews

We've had crazy hot weather here in Seattle this last week. The kids have been swimming in Lake Washington twice, which is an activity that we typically only do in the hot summer months. 

We've also had a chance to get our walking legs under us again. Unless you're Emma. She dawdled for about 100 feet and then decided she'd much rather ride. You've got those long legs, girlie, use 'em!

The group admires a slug. It was a minor miracle that this thing escaped alive. I can see two sets of shoes that were itching to stomp. 

Here are a few links (new and old) that caught my fancy:

Midwife rides inflatable swan through floodwaters to deliver baby

Feminist Cupcake Sale

How to go on a group vacation

Airbnb is changing the way tourists travel to Africa

Sexual hostility in America's National Parks

Killing to conserve: is it ethical to kill ones species to protect another?

Family technology rules: what kids expect of parents

Whole fat vs. non-fat milk

Emma=Easy Baby. Ben? Not so much. Some babies are just easier than others. 

31 things to do after you have a baby that no one will tell you

Vaccine aversion has fueled outbreaks [no big surprise here]

Too much, too young. Should schooling start at age 7?

The hell after ISIS


Tuesday, April 05, 2016

More Fireplace Work

So, it's time we gave our fireplace tile a bit of a facelift. It's looking a bit chipped and grubby. And, I'll be honest, I don't love the mottled brown.

Before we talk facelift specifics, however, you should have a good idea of the house floor plan as the living room is intricately tied to our dining room (and, by extension, our kitchen).

In case the words of the plot plan are too tiny, here is a visual representation:

The walls of the living room (and fireplace) are currently painted a very light lavender. It's almost white, but not quite.

Eventually, they'll be painted the same color as the kitchen and dining room, which is Light Pewter by Benjamin Moore. It's a very light grey with a hint of beige.

It can be seen here:

And here:

Our kitchen cabinets are an unfortunately-named "Greige" color, and we have a white trim (Behr's Polar Bear).

Which leads us back to the fireplace. I don't have it in me to removed the tiles completely as they're solidly cemented to both the wall and floor. I like the design but not the color, which makes me think that I should just paint the whole thing.

I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the different colors on my monitor since the Light Pewter looks much greyer in person, but here it is in our mockup.

Option #1
Walls: Light Pewter
Tile: Greige

Option #2
Walls: Light Pewter
Tile: Polar Bear White

I like Option #2 much better, but frankly I'm still torn. I'm hesitant to paint the tiles white, especially since many of them are floor tiles, meaning that every piece of dog hair and dirt is going to make a beeline for them. 

I might paint a few pieces of paper and hang them on the fireplace to see how the colors do in our light conditions. 

We'll keep you posted. 


Saturday, April 02, 2016

Fireplace Refresh (aka Faux Fireplace Wood Pile)

Last year we had to cut down a beloved crab apple tree in our yard. We salvaged a few of the bigger stumps for side tables and then filled our fireplace with smaller cut branches. You can see a picture of it here at the end of this post.  We don't use our fireplace and it was a nice way to keep the toddler from investigating all the sooty nooks and crannies. 

But there were a few disadvantages:
1) there were so many piled logs that it was a tremendous weight on our sagging cross beams
2) the logs were piled, not attached, and Emma was fond of pulling them out
3) as they dried, the entire display shrunk significantly, leaving a 6" gap at the top. 

What they looked like after six months of drying (and tinkering by Emma):

We decided to remove the pieces, cut them down, and attach them for permanent display. 

Project: Faux Fireplace Wood Pile

Take a large piece of tracing paper (or several small ones taped together) and trace the fireplace opening. 

At this point I also removed the logs from the fireplace. Spider heaven in there.

After we cut out our paper template, I transferred it to a piece of 1/2" plywood and then cut it out with a jigsaw. 

At this point it was important to make sure it fit in the fireplace. Mine was slightly smaller so it could be shoved 4" back into the space. This was tricky as our opening was tapered inward. 

Then I painted the plywood facing using black exterior paint. I think anything would work as this is an indoor application that won't really be visible. 

At this point I took several pieces and cut them to varying lengths, ranging in height from 2" to 6". In the end, I decided that 4" pieces were ideal for my project. You could still see the black board between rounds if you looked really closely but any longer would have added considerable weight to the finished product. 

I used a chop saw to cut all the rounds and then blasted a few of them with a belt sander to smooth out some of the rough edges. 

Next I began laying out the rounds, starting at the bottom edge. 

Once complete, I lifted up each piece and added a glob of wood glue to the bottom. 

The next morning I came back and shot a few nails (from the backside) into each piece so they were securely attached to the backer board. If you didn't have a nail gun, you could do this with screws or a hammer. But it would be a very, very long painful process. I'd do your best to beg or borrow a nailer from a local tool share co-op or rent one from a hardware store. It would make this step only take an hour, instead of 4 or 5. 

I miss judged a few and spent way too long trying to get them back out. It was a pain. 

The finished product, once tilted up, rests securely on the ground. Just make sure that your bottom wood pieces will lay on the ground to provide additional structural support. 

I also added a clear coat of varnish to keep the ends from browning over time. We hauled it upstairs and slid it into the opening. 

All done. Nice and tidy. And protected from prying toddlers. 

-Plywood backer board: 1/2" (Big enough to fill your fireplace opening)
-Tracing paper
-Wood tree rounds: 4"
-Wood glue
-Clear matte varnish
-Black paint

-Chop saw
-Belt sander/sand paper/rasp
-Optional (but very handy): Nail gun