Monthly Archives: August 2007

Human Fun Day

After a week full of family fun you might think we’d like a quiet weekend to ourselves… No Way, No How! Auntie Kirsten and Uncle Mark flew in from Ohio on Friday evening and thus began a weekend full of family.

Peter and I recently took Catherine to Brooksby Farm in Peabody. While we visited the animals and bought some corn we noticed that they were planning a Peach Festival for Saturday. We thought it would be a perfect pre-party activity.

We visited the animals again, had some grilled peaches and squash, did a little shopping, and took a hay ride! We didn’t take them up on the offer to ‘pick your own’ peaches. On the hayride we saw a sign near the peach orchard that made me glad we didn’t pick- it said “caution, beware of the poison ivy”. I like peaches, and picking them, but not that much!

After lunch we made final preparations at our house for a long overdue Wood/Ethier/Carter family reunion…er…Human Fun Day. With family in from Ohio, and the rest living here in MA (save a couple) we thought it would be the perfect time to get together.

We all had a wonderful afternoon and evening visiting, playing bocce, eating, roasting marshmallows and getting to know each other better. Some of the clan hadn’t seen each other in eleven years and a couple had never even met! Peter set up his tripod and got a ton of great family photos including this one:

Hopefully it won’t be as long before we all get together again!

Island Hopping

We were excited to show Peter’s parents a good time on Martha’s Vineyard during the Grand Illumination.

After we got a good night’s sleep and had wound down from the night’s excitement we made plans to visit Mytoi Garden on Chappaquiddick Island.

Despite all the time I’ve spent on MV I had never been to Mytoi before. The gardens were lovely and it was a very peaceful place to stroll around in. We even saw a few turtle, goldfish and bullfrogs.

While we were on Chappy (currently an honest to goodness island) we headed over to Dike’s bridge to look around and then back to the On Time Ferry for the three minute ride back to MV.

All told, we spent just under 48 hours on the Island with Catherine’s four Grandparents. It was a great little escape and a fun time. You can see all the pictures in our MV Album.

Portsmouth Children’s Museum

We have had a very (very!) busy week.

On Monday Catherine and I made a second trip to the Portsmouth Children’s Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We decided it would be more fun if we took Dad along this time! The three of us had lots of fun exploring the museum. Especially exciting was the Music Matrix. I’m not sure who had more fun with it- Catherine or her parents!

The museum is still a bit above Catherine- which is great because we still have many trips ahead of us before she outgrows it. Even so, there is tons of stuff for her to do. She played around with the exhibits meant for older kids and had a great time watching everyone else. The museum even has a special room on the top floor specially designed for the under 4 crowd. It has a train table, playstands, puppets, books and a great collections of random ‘things’ for the little ones to touch, turn, toss, and explore.

After a good time at the museum we headed into town for some lunch. Our destination was an old haunt of mine during my Strawbery Banke days; Dos Amigos Burritos. Yum, yum. Peter and I both had (and loved!) the sweet potato burrito while Catherine devoured her own kid sized order of rice and beans.

All the pictures from the day are here. Stay tuned for more news from the week!

A New Window Cornice

Our living room has a nice big picture window. Having moved from a basement level apartment I enjoy all the sunlight that streams in every day. I’m not so keen on people looking in.

When we moved in we hung some roman shades that we found at Ikea. They are light, so they only block the view from outside, not all of the light. I like that. But the windows still looked unfinished. I didn’t want to hang heavy drapes or curtains; the room is small enough without drapery making it feel even smaller. The window is so wide that I would need to buy special rods to hang even a valance.

Before:

The solution was to build a cornice. It took some wood, ‘L’ brackets, screws, fabric and batting and some good old elbow grease to get the job done. The cornice is upholstered with a dark blue fabric that has flowers and vines embroidered on it in a similar blue. The effect is a nice linear window treatment with a little more design to it if you look closely. I like it.

After:

Cloth

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned diapers on this blog…and probably won’t be the last! I’ve said before that I wanted to use cloth diapers when Catherine was born. What I didn’t want was schlepping all the dirty ones over to the laundromat and pay to wash them! So for a year we used disposables. Sometimes we used gDiapers.

Now that we have our own laundry facilities, and we are working so hard to be green, we are making the switch to cloth diapers. The benefits are pretty obvious- they are less expensive in the long run, softer, make less waste, and are pretty cute! Cloth diapers have come a long way since my Mom diapered me! You won’t find a single diaper pin or pair of vinyl pants at our house! For some good information about today’s cloth diapers see here and then surf around and look at all the cute diapers for sale!

Making the switch is not cheap in the short run, however. A good set of cute diapers can run a person $80-$100! Never mind any accessories that go with it! We decided to ease ourselves into it. We already owned two ‘little gs’ that we have been using the flushable diapers in. I found them on craigslist- a starter pack (2 pants and 10 diapers)- for $10 [normally $25]. I went to Wal*Mart and got a dozen prefold diapers to get us started. I just fold the diapers and stuff them in the covers. The covers get velcroed on around her waist. Easy as pie!

We are still working out the kinks in our system. We’ve figured out washing and drying- we dry on a rack outside…the sun bleaches out the stains! It is a little more work than disposables, but worth it. There are a few things I’d like to add to the mix. I would love to get a couple more gDiaper covers and another dozen diapers. That would set us up with a healthy stash. We need some sort of ‘wet bag’ for the dirty diapers when we’re on the go.

We still use disposables here and there for some occasions, but I think as we grow more and more comfortable with the routine of cloth diapering there will be less and less need for them.

In other cloth news, we have abandoned paper napkins for cloth. We have a few napkins that came with a wedding present (the khaki ones) but I wanted more. I dug through my fabric bin and found some lavender linen fabric from an abandoned project. I whipped them up into little napkins with my trusty Singer and immediately pressed them into service.

These two changes require me to spend a little more time dealing with laundry-type chores, but I feel good knowing that I am reducing both the amount of material things I need to buy and the amount of trash I’m sending to the landfill.

She’s 14 Months

My daughter, Catherine, turned 14 months old on July 26. Here’s a fairly recent photo:

By all accounts, she’s quite a handful. She’s walking like a champ, can climb onto just about everything, and joy of all joys, she’s able to reach the knobs for our gas stove and turn them on or off at will. Which means that we have removed the knobs, and hidden them in a high cupboard, only taking them down and attaching them as needed to turn things on or off. She can also reach the button that stops the microwave and opens the door, so we have to keep an eye on that if we’re trying to heat something up.

She eats pretty much everything we put in front of her. She’s never eaten baby food, and she didn’t even like when we tried to puree solid food. So we just started giving her bits and pieces of whatever we eat. It works out great! At home or at restaurants, we just share our food with her. The only thing we’re holding off on is nuts – the doctor advised to wait until two years to feed her any nuts, because studies have shown that early exposure can lead to the development of allergies. Other than that, the sky’s the limit! She loves meat of just about any kind, beans and veggies, and has a special fondness for bread. We’ve even given her spicy and sour food on occasion, and usually after the initial reaction she enjoys it. Heck, she’s even taken to eating lemons! Her first reaction to lemons might have been like the babies in this video, but now she loves them!

She’s developed an incredibly cute reflex, which I take to be indicative of the cell phone age: whenever she hears some kind of electronic beep, anything that sounds remotely like a phone ringing, she puts a hand up to her ear, cocks her head to the side, and says “ewwo??”

Catherine has also learned to give kisses and even to blow kisses from across the room. She’ll do it with one or both hands covering her mouth, and then, “mwwwwah!”. She has played at giving her teddy bear water from a sippy cup, and just last night I saw her “burping” her teddy bear.

Rebecca has a daily routine to water our garden with a plastic watering can. After the can is empty, Catherine will pick it up and walk back over to the garden and “water” it herself! She even holds the handle in the right spot and points the spout in the right direction!

Other than “ewwo”, her words are still fairly limited. She’s got “mama” and “dada”, and she can say “teddy” when she sees her teddy bear. She’ll occasionally say “kitty” if she sees an animal she thinks is a kitty. She’s making a lot of sounds that sound like words, as though she’s slowly building up a repertoire of consonants and vowels, and will soon be putting them together in the right combinations. For now, though, her speech is still a mystery. Despite that, she makes herself pretty well understood. We can tell when she’s sleepy, hungry, or just wants attention.

Clearly, Catherine learns from quickly from our examples, so even at this young age it’s important for us to set good examples in everything we do.

Catherine is full of energy. We were reading “What To Expect: The First Year,” and there was a passage talking about getting your baby to sleep. It said something to the effect of “when your baby is in a calm state, but not yet asleep…” Huh? Catherine is either awake, happy, and busily running around, sleepy, cranky, and running around, content and nursing or eating, or (eventually) content and asleep. Unless she’s really sick and lethargic, there is never an occasion where she just sits or lies in a calm and awake state. I know that there are those babies who have their cuddly, docile moments, but Catherine is not one of them. If you’ve ever been around her, you’ll know what I mean!

As for fatherly revelations, the biggest thing for me is that it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Since I’m at work for eight hours a day, I don’t have as much time to spend around Catherine as Rebecca does. I don’t have the same opportunities to observe her habits, likes and dislikes, and routines. So when I get home from work, I have to spend as much time with her as I can so that I can learn who she is, and develop my relationship with her. Of course, I have other responsibilities when I’m at home, so I can’t exactly sit and play with her all evening. So I’ve got to try and balance that out with doing chores around the house, taking care of the bills and other clerical matters, and taking some time for my own interests.

I’ve been a dad for just a little over a year, and it has been wonderful and challenging at the same time. I’m looking forward to many more years of fatherhood to come, and I my hope is that I can grow to be a better dad every day.

Happenings and News

This week I was back to work, after last week’s work-related trip to Portland, Oregon. I attended the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, where I took some classes and attended some sessions to try and gain some useful new information for my work in web development at CBD.

You can see some more pics from the conference and Portland here.

I had some free time after the convention had ended, so I took what I’m sure must have been the world’s shortest trip to Seattle, Washington. Having never been there, I figured I would rent a car and drive up for a quick visit, but what should have been just a three hour drive ended up being a bit over five hours due to a diesel spill that blocked all four lanes of I-5 North. So I ended up arriving around 6 p.m. and leaving just after 9 p.m. to head back to Portland. I got to see the Space Needle, ride the Seattle Center Monorail, visit the Science Fiction Museum / Experience Music Project, and that’s about it! I’ll just consider it a fact-finding mission for when our family has the opportunity to take a real trip to Seattle. It definitely appeared to be worth at least one nice long visit.

You can see some more pics from Seattle here.

In present news, we continue to work on the greenifying of our lifestyles, as Rebecca has written. We’re also continuing the work on renovating our condo; while both of us were away, we had a contractor come and renovate our deck. We now have a nice, safe, sturdy new deck, which should add to the value of our home and provide extensive enjoyment for our family. I’ll get some photos of it up once we have cleared away some of the supplies from various projects we’re working on. The next big things will be to turn our basement into usable living space, and to put in an inside staircase from the first floor to the basement.

My parents and sister and brother-in-law are going to be coming out to visit soon, and before we know it, August will be over and we’ll be moving on to the busy wedding season of September!

As for Catherine updates, I think I’m going to post some of those over on my sadly-neglected daddy blog, so stay tuned there for more details!

A Green Yard

And it’s not just the color of the grass!

One of the things I was most looking forward to when we moved here was having a back yard. Apartment living had turned a normally outdoorsy gal into much more of a homebody and I was excited to have space to live in-outdoors.

Over the past few months I’ve been adding different things to the back yard that are helping us enjoy the space we have while minimizing the impact we have on the planet. Let me take you on a short tour of the yard:

Rain Barrel

We purchased this little beauty from the New England Rain Barrel Company. It only has one job, but boy does it do it well. Water runs off the roof, through the gutters, down the spout right into the barrel. There are two nozzles. The one at the top allows water to run out when the barrel gets full. The second is at the bottom and has a short hose attached. We use the second nozzle to fill the watering can for watering the gardens.

The benefits are numerous: by collecting water we keep it from running off and eroding the area under our deck, it also prevents water from pooling or seeping into the basement, we’re saving money (and water) by not using town water to water plants and by using a recycled barrel we’re cutting down on the waste byproducts of manufacturing. The company had a partnership with the town of Danvers so we were able to get our barrel at a discount, even!

Vegetable Garden

Just because we have a yard doesn’t mean that we have all the tools necessary to maintain a yard or a garden. I had originally wanted to put in a medium to large size veggie garden. Then I realized that I didn’t have any way to till the ground…I didn’t even own a hoe! Through the mamas (and dads) at Motheringdotcommune I was introduced to Square Foot Gardening.

The basic idea behind the method is that in each1’x1′ section of a raised bed garden you plant one crop. Because of the size of the garden (only 4’x4′) you can reach each section easily for weeding and harvesting. The footprint is small, and no tilling is necessary.

I built my own bed with lumber from Home Depot and some nails we already had. Add in some soil and seeds and the cost is still minimal. I put in beans, peas, carrots, peppers, squash, spinach and pumpkins. The plants are growing up nicely and I’m happy to say that there are very few weeds! The squash and beans have a few blossoms and I’m hoping for a nice harvest come the end of summer. We’ll probably have enough for some meals or snacks but not enough to freeze or can for the winter. I figure this year is my test run and if the garden does well I can expand it next year.

Compost

Worst come to worst I was planning on having a compost heap out back. Really just a place to toss yard clippings and kitchen scraps where they could decompose in peace. As luck would have it, though, I found a stack composter on Freecycle (like this one). It sits just beyond the edge of the yard and I take our food scraps out there every couple of days. The stack hasn’t decomposed into usable mulch yet, but it is definitely working. I think that I’ll have some nutrient rich mulch to mix in with the veggie garden’s soil when I prep the bed for winter. Then by spring there should be plenty to kick start the beds for the growing season.

As a bonus the composter helps keep our trash output lower and by not using the garbage disposal we are conserving more water and reducing the energy needed to treat the gray water. And it gives me a great place to toss the occasional worm I find crawling around!

Clothesline

I love that crisp, crunchy feeling of clothes dried on a line. I love seeing beach towels and bathing suits hung side by side. I love knowing that every time I hang out instead of machine dry the pennies are adding up in my bank account. Plus, this time of year who wants the dryer heating up the inside of the house? Not me! (though, I’m a bit to bashful to hang my underwear out to dry…)

This clothesline cost us one dollar. The rope I found amongst our things (who knows when [or if] it was purchased) and the fence and the tree were preexisting. I just had to buy pins. I found a package at the dollar store. They’re pretty low quality, but I’m willing to put up with that for now. As long as my laundry doesn’t end up on the ground.

Overall, it is a pretty good setup for us who don’t want to spend tons of money working on the lawn. I’d like to get some flowers in for next spring but I wouldn’t change much else!