Friday, March 27, 2009

Signs of Spring & Weekend Happiness

Spring is slowly winding up and getting ready to pop.  The temperatures are reaching for the 60 degree mark.  The first sights, sounds and smells of spring have arrived in our corner of the world: daffodils & day lilies peeking up through the dark soil (a welcome sight), fertilizer trucks rumbling past our house (and dripping their load - unwelcome smells) and the most fun one is the sign that Frog Pond opens on April 3rd.   

Frog Pond is our local produce market/nursery that is loved by folks for miles around for their inexpensive produce and plants.  I cringe in the winter at the grocery store when I have to buy produce - since it's all shipped to our area, it's expensive.  Frog Pond gets some sort of deal because they usually undercut the grocery stores by at least 25%.  They also have plants started for the garden.  My tomato, broccoli, cauliflower and pepper plants for the garden are all 25 cents each.  When Gwendolyn gets a little bigger, our visits to Frog Pond will also include visiting the barn and pens where they have chicks, ducklings, rabbits, goats and pigs.  It's great little treasure in our corner of the world.    

Today I'm also excited that my folks are on the way her for Birthday Weekend 4.0 - Granny Nanny & Granddad to the rescue :).  For me this weekend is going to include a haircut that just hasn't fit on the schedule and making homemade ravioli.  I'm weird, I relax to a good cooking project and now that life is more full and relaxation comes in the form of the extra 3 minutes in the shower, I haven't had much play-time in the kitchen.  I've been wanting to play with the pasta-rollers and ravioli molds for quite a while and that kind of mess is much more enjoyable with extra hands around to help amuse the baby.

Springs springing and the grandparents are on the way - it's going to be a good weekend...

Meeting Uncle Chris

We had a surprise visit this week from Uncle Chris to meet Gwendolyn.  They had a great time hanging out:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Marching On...

This month is almost over already - what happened!  Gwendolyn celebrated her first St. Patty's day and is growing by leaps and bounds.  She had her 2 month check-up today: a week early - she's not really 2 months old yet!  She's grown to 11 pounds 1 oz and 23 1/4 inches long.  As most parents know, the 2 month check-up also involves the first round of immunizations.  She gave her lungs a good exercise with each of the needle pricks but settled down fairly quickly afterwards.  Now we're home snuggling - mostly because mom feels worse about the whole thing at this point than Gwen does.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Things I Can Do with One Hand

I can now:
make coffee;
feed and water the dog;
wrap and toss a dirty diaper;
pee (don't make me describe it);
brush my teeth (including putting the paste on the brush);
turn the pages on hard-cover and paperback books;
prepare a baby bottle from refrigerated milk; and
make cream of wheat on the stove.

Gwendolyn's only six weeks old. I'm sure I'm going to learn more.


Upside-Down Tomatoes, Take Two

Our upside-down tomato project last year had some great success. Nine months later, our freezer still supplies us with marinara and diced tomatoes from the garden. However, in light of the failure of a few elements of the hanging structures, I've decided to make some modifications.

With the help of Sara (and Gwendolyn in the mai-tai) and an afternoon of 54-degree sun-lovin', I began construction of a tomato trough, which will replace two of the tomato trees from last year.

Here's one of the posts, bereft of its tomato-growing branches, but enjoying the addition of its delta-trough supports (patent may be pending, depending on whether I will need to defray increased insurance premiums):

The posts are about 11 feet apart. I am still benefitting from the generosity of friends who unloaded some 14-foot 2x8s (which are really only 1 1/2 x 7s, curse the nominal system). So the trough will over-hang the posts by a couple feet:

After all four boards that form the sides of the trough are up, here's what the cross-section looks like:

I need to cap the ends, make a bottom for it (with holes for tomato plants), and line it with something to help the wood from rotting too quickly. Then we wait for May, when tomato-planting season begins! Stay tuned for what are sure to be more adventures and mis-adventures in the great upside-down tomato saga.


Friday, March 13, 2009

See Gwen Grow

This post is for all of you who tune in looking for new pictures. Say hi below with a "comment" and let us know who you are!
Emrys has been sick but thanks to some antibiotics that could keep a horse healthy, he's doing better.  Thankfully, Gwen & I have stayed well.  Life was almost normal before he got sick and now all is turned on end again.  I'm hoping somday Gwendolyn will find her routine, we're not quite there yet.  But, here's the photo proof of what she's been up to: 

Gwen's been eating...

and sleeping...

and growing. February 13: 
March 13th: 

And like all of us, she has her moments!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Family Historians

I inherited the historian gene.

It ran pretty strong in my dad's parents; with above-average strength in my dad; and seems to have quite a hold on my heart. (My mom's side of the family, at least in the thread that comes to me, doesn't seem to have had nearly the attraction for family history.) My uncle Jim, my father's brother and perhaps the most adept family historian, has even been a professional archivist for many years of his life. Is there a gene that jumps from uncle to nephew?

If there is, I got it. When my dad's estate was being doled out, I got all the memorabilia from my dad's house. And boy howdy was there a lot of it! In fact, since Sara and I were on the cusp of world travelling at that point, most of the notes, letters, and photographs that I inherited got boxed up and stored in Arizona. Now they're boxed up and stored in our loft in Harpursville.

I have recently begun to take my dad's photo albums (when I say "recently," I mean it's taken me four months to get to the middle of the second one) and scan them into digital images. Then I can play with them, send them out to interested parties, and perhaps record my own memories connected with them.

All right, it's mostly for the first and third reasons. No family members have yet come banging on my door asking, "What did you find in your dad's stuff?" It is the plight of historians to be ever interested in what bores the rest of the world to tears.

In spite of the slow speed with which I have begun my task of recording, however, the firehose continues to spew. My Uncle Jim came by with a shoebox full of old books and letters from the Tyler side of the family. Would I be interested?

That's the problem. 19th century ink spilled in a Tyler hand on crumbling books is like a drug to someone with my gene. Of course I'm interested. I'll just put them . . . up in the loft.

Well, these I did taste before I packed them away. Here's a snapshot of a couple of the book plates:
These are Church of England prayer and service books from the 1800s. The top book's inscription reads, "George Tyler, Bridgend [Wales], 1865." The lower book reads, "Geo. Tyler, July 17, 1841, Swansea [Wales]." 

One of the book plates actually has a street address that Google Maps can pinpoint. Ah, if only I had that free ticket to Wales . . . .

The picture below is what my Uncle Jim considers a family jewel:

"Geo & Jane Tyler 1818." These may have been my great-great-great-grandparents. I'm not sure yet. But as a Tyler family historian, I've got an adventure ahead to find out the details.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Toilet Sprayers

When you're using cloth diapers (as we are), you save a couple of thousand dollars over the early life span of your child. You also spend a bit more time tending to the diapers. You can't just seal 'em up and throw 'em away. You have to soak them, wash them, and dry them.

Oh, and first you have to remove residual nasties from the inside surface.

Most people get the poop off by dunking the diaper in the toilet and, if necessary, scraping it off. However, this can be a particularly nasty job, and any way to reduce its nastiness is welcome in our house. With the help of the internet and the wisdom of those parents who have gone through this before us, we found a way to reduce the yuck factor in using cloth diapers.

Here's our toilet:

Note the sexy glass block wall that almost hides the shining white of the full moon when one rests in the room. Note also the cute blue toilet brush on the left (I picked that out). Note most well the water supply, complete with shut-off valve, emerging from the wall to the tank.

With just four pieces of hardware acquired at our local home improvement store (after much frustration in trying to find the pieces which fit each other):

I was able to assemble a toilet sprayer, an ideal tool for removing unsightlies from the inside of cloth diapers before they get soaked and washed. Here's my lovely assistant demonstrating its use:

And here's the user's view. Note how long the tube is. In this bathroom, one could actually use the toilet sprayer in the shower, on the other side of the room.

It's also more than long enough to use as an impromptu bidet, though it would be a little chilly. To my knowledge no one has been that impromptu in our house yet.

In spite of how convenient, easy, and radically helpful this new device is, it has one potential drawback. There is no way to turn off the water supply to the sprayer without depriving the toilet as well. So the sprayers are on all the time; all you have to do is squeeze the handle. That's all right for adults . . . but what will happen when Gwendolyn is a curious toddler?


A Project Long Finished

We may have told you that our house was built by someone who does not build houses for a living. He was (and perhaps still is, I don't know) a hobby-house builder. The fact that he built this home just for the fun of it means two things for us. First, there are cool unique touches, like the fact that all the wood in the house was harvested from pine growing across the road--it's all local lumber, including the trim. Second, there are not-so-cool unique touches, like closets that are too small.

Most houses have an electrical service panel, a.k.a. the breaker box. Most homebuilders place this panel in a location that is easily accessible, in case of emergency or need for repair. Not in our house. Not only was the breaker box tucked into a corner, our weekend-warrior homebuilder had built a closet around it. Either he mismeasured or he dispensed with the tape measure entirely, because the finished project was a closet in which you could open the door to the panel, but not take the panel cover off.

I'm pretty sure that's against code.

I'm not as sure that code enforcement got a look at this house before it was finished.

I didn't take a "before" picture, but here's what the corner of the room looked like after I had removed the closet door and facing drywall. Note the panel cover that I've slid down to the floor, because I can't get it out of the closet yet:

(Note also the steel frame studs. When he ran out of local lumber, our intrepid builder scavenged some metal studs to finish things off. Our walls are a mosaic of cinderblock, rough-cut studs, and steel. You never know what's going to happen when you try to hang a picture.)

Once I had the panel opening free and clear, I could insulate around the box (which has a direct hole to the outside, of course) and piece some drywall around it, using scraps from a past project.

(By the way, be careful when putting insulation in around a live, open breaker box. Especially when you're standing on a metal ladder. 220 current ain't something you want to tangle with. I won't tell you how I know. I don't want my insurance to be able to access that information.)

A little joint compound--all right, it was a lot, because I was doing a hack job with scraps. I even used recycled paper from the bin instead of the rolled-up strip you're supposed to use:

Scavenge some wood from past demolitions for the trim, slap some white paint on that puppy (left over from the nursery project) . . .

Et voila! 
You can't tell it wasn't built this way, unless you approach within five feet. But who checks out people's breaker boxes, anyway? And once we pile a ton of junk in front of it, no one will be able to go near it, even if they wanted to. When it comes time to refinish this room as the dining room, then I'll worry about how good it looks to the inspecting eye.

Right now, all I have to be able to do is reach the breakers in an emergency. Everything else is icing on the cake.

~ emrys