Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why We Need Chickens

The whole family was sitting in our family room reading, playing games and working on the computer. Benton left the room and sounds could be heard from the kitchen. I kept a keen ear to the sounds. I heard a pot and the refrigerator.

H: "Benton, what are you doing?"
B: " Just getting food."

Fair enough. He knows how to get himself a snack. He knows not to use the stove. I continued to listen.

H: "B, what are you getting to eat?"
B: "I'm making hard boiled eggs!"

Uh oh! I quickly moved from the couch into the kitchen while asking a few key questions.

H: "Did you crack the eggs?"
B: "Uh, huh! All by myself. I am making eggs!"

Benton was so pleased with himself. He had cracked four eggs, three made it into a pot and one had landed on the floor.

B: "See, Mama, I cracked the eggs ALL by myself. I am making hard-boiled eggs."

I quickly wiped up the errant egg, picked a few eggshells out of the mix and helped our little chef make himself scrambled eggs. We talked a bit about how hard boiled eggs need to stay in their shell. He made the eggs all by himself (with a little help from mama). This was such a big deal for the smallest member of our family. Of course, once we were done, he didn't want to eat any eggs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Still Sick

I am still sick with some sort of cold bug. It is not any fun when the mama is sick. Hopefully we will back in action soon. Until then, there has been a lot of PBS watching, game playing, drawing, experimenting (involving a lot of baking soda), reading and general relaxing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Loving Legos

Our trip to Legoland was a blast. It fit well with our family and each kiddo's love of building. The park is very active. There are lots of opportunities to build, climb, play with water and explore. We rode the rides including the roller coasters. We marveled at all the creative sculptures and representations. Although it is centered around a consumer products (LEGOS), it seemed less glitzy and consumer focused than other amusement parks we have been.

Fish and Fowl

We spent a bit of time with Grandpa at the Long Beach Aquarium. It was our second visit with him. Dave and I were surprised the kids did not remember the last visit until we realized that the first time was several years ago.

Grandpa bought some food to feed the lorikeets which dazzled the small people. Mama was not so impressed when a snuggling pair pooped all over her. The birds were fairly active, so we got to see them moving around the inclosure, resting on overhead perches and moving near nesting boxes.
The stingrays and sharks were a little slower. Everyone leaned over the pools to touch the animals. A quick trip around the pools to the large tank rewarded us with close-up views of the large sharks feeding.

Before heading inside to view all the aquariums, Eamon and Aine stopped to view and touch the shark jaws. They were impressed with their size.
The interior of the aquarium was quite busy, but we were able to see quite a bit. Aine was captivated by several divers in a tank explaining the inhabitants. We also liked viewing the baby tiger sharks in their eggs.

We were all glad to spend the day with Grandpa and return tot he aquarium.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Best Gift

Every year when prompted for gift ideas, we ask for memberships for local museums for our family. I love these gifts. One of my favorites is our membership to the Arizona Science Center. This little membership card gives us access to many museums nationwide. We used our membership last year during our trip to the midwest and coastal plains visiting a children's museum, natural history museums and another science museum. This year we used it during our recent trip to California.

The first use was at the La Habra Children's Museum. This fun little hands-on museum is located in an old train depot. There are many rooms filled with items to explore. The path to the entrance was lined with dinosaur prints on the ground as well as a few to climb.
 Benton was pleased to find a carousel inside and rode it for as long as he could. Nearby his brother and sister played in an bus mock-up. Eamon pretended to be a crazy driver, while we pretended to fly off our seats or jump onto the swiftly moving vehicle.

An art room was next. Aine spent quite a bit of time in this room studying the works of art and creating her own. While she created, Eamon was drawn to the train display. He has consistently expressed an interest in locomotives. It was a test, but he waited patiently for the 10 minute train cool-down between one minute runs.
 The animal room proved to be exciting for all three kiddos. The coolest past was that you were able to touch the taxidermy. This was so exciting for Benton who showed a bit of trepidation when he touched the ferocious, bounding lion. Eamon thought the antlers were cool experimenting with them as his own headgear.
A room with a stage and a plethora of dress-up garb was next. I think this was Aine's favorite room. She performed several song and dance numbers. Her costume changes were fantastic, and she know wants her own pair of high heels. Eamon worked the sound booth and then joined her acting out a play. It was truly hysterical.

The final spot was full of a tree house, trucks, puppets and building materials. Eamon built a large house and then took turns with Benton building boxes in which to hide. Eamon performed a puppet show, and Aine read a few books in the lofty tree house.

We left only when they announced closing time. The kids had so much fun; they wanted to return the next day.

The second time we used our membership's reciprocity feature was during our visit to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. The trip to the museum was a bit arduous as we had to deal with LA traffic. The first portion of the exploration was a bit tough due to hungry bellies and too much time in the car. We stopped and ate our lunch in the open gallery area, and were recharged.

We were fortunate to view the new Dino Hall exhibit. It was chock fun of dinosaur bones and information. The coolest was a set of three T Rex skeletons. The kiddos were quite impressed, but the part that really amazed them was on the top floor.
 On the upper floor is a room with true paleontologists working. We watched two working on various dinosaur fossils. It was very interesting to see the tools in action. The kiddos wondered about the masks they wore and the loud machinery.
The upper floor also had a hands on children's area. Aine spent quite a bit of time assembling a dinosaur skeleton. Benton used the telescope to find birds and squirrels on the museum complex lawn. (yes, I did tell him to turn it around for better viewing).

This was another great trip due to our museum membership. The kiddos preferred the first museum. I think the combination of a long drive and hungry bellies overshadowed the dinosaurs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On a Mission

While in California, we visited my brother and his family. The kiddos enjoyed playing with their young cousin, Beckett, and visiting with their aunt and uncle. They enjoyed running in the yard, picking fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden and teaching Beckett all kinds of new tricks. My brother prepared a delicious spread, and we talked for quite awhile. Of course, I forgot the camera, but hopefully my wonderful sister in law will share some with us.

While visiting, my brother shared with us his interest in the San Juan Capistrano Mission. He encouraged us to visit the mission and even gave us guest passes. A few days later, we set out to find the mission and explore the grounds.

As part of our admission, we received audio guides. After paying for an additional child's guide, we began to look around the old mission. Dave was fascinated by a tree near the entrance. He called the kids over to take a look. The tree had huge spines coming out of the bark. We agreed that it was quite a tree and definitely not ideal for climbing. 
 The grounds of the mission are beautiful. The lush landscaping was blooming. We spent quite a bit of time marveling at all the color and smelling blossoms. A lot of the blooms lacked a pleasant scent, so we hypothesized that they attracted pollinators with color.
 The history of the mission was explained on the audio devices. Eamon and Aine eagerly listened to the recordings and tried to find each of the spots listed. The visit led to much exploration of religion, early settlers, exploration and architecture. In all, it was an interesting visit. We want to thank Uncle Petey for the recommendation and guest passes.

Next Steps

A few weeks ago, someone asked how I blocked my Multnomah shawl. I thought I would share how I block my newly knitted items today as part of Ginny's Yarn Along in case someone else was wondering.

First I give the item a good soak with a bit of woolwash. For these two items, I used Soak Wash. Usually I soak the item in its own bath, but I wanted to do both the Shalom Cardigan and the Lavalette shawl. The shawl did bleed a bit, but it didn't affect the dark sweater. To stop any of your yarn from bleeding, you can add a bit of vinegar to the water.
After 20-30 minutes soaking(or however long it takes before I return to the task), I remove the item. I gently squeeze it to remove the bulk of the water. I then lay it on a towel which I then roll up like a burrito. I step on the rolled towel to get any remaining water out of it. I did take a photo of this exciting move, but I am too vain to show my chipped, blue painted toenails.
After a good stomping in the towel, I take the item and pin it out on one of our beds. I pin it directly into the mattress. I am sure some would shudder at this, but I don't have a blocking board, and this works. I consult the pattern schematics for finished dimensions and pin to that. The shawl according to the pattern is 64" long and 28" deep at the point. I start with the points and gradually fill in the borders of the item. I use regular sewing pins, although blocking pins can be found online or at your local yarn store.
Lavaletter Shawl (color is truest in blocking photos)

Sweaters are blocked a bit differently as I consult my dimensions over the pattern. I blocked the cardigan with my sleeve measurement and torso length.

I haven't always blocked my finished items, but I now find it really helps the item. The yarn relaxes and acquires more depth and flow. The stitch definition is also better. So there you have some blocking information for your next project. Now on to my knitting...

After such a productive stretch of knitting, I am hitting a lull. I decided that I really need to work on my stashed yarn. Two of the three sweaters I knit recently came from my stash, so I am definitely making progress. So, I dug through the closet.

Several years ago (August 2008 to be exact), I started a February Lady Sweater. I remember making a few mistakes at the time and getting frustrated. My practical knitting skill was good, but my knowledge was a bit too new. The sweater has been languishing in the closet. In an attempt to continue working on the stash, I pulled it out. I ripped out the yoke, which I had completed, and set to work. I decided the yarn color was not impressing me, so I stopped and reevaluated the situation. The yarn I had used was Dream in Color Classy in the Chinatown Apple colorway. I set it aside and grabbed a similar amount of DIC in the Happy Forest colorway. I am much happier with this sweater combination. I have finished the new yoke and am adding a bit of length before starting the lacework. It is going much better this time.
February LAdy Sweater for Ginny's Yarn Along
When not knitting, I have been reading a bit of Ella Enchanted aloud to the kiddos. Eamon chose it  as his free book from Borders summer reading program. They are acting out the main issue facing the protagonist in their own lives, playing games where they must "obey" whatever command they are given. It is quite entertaining. On a side note, I want to mention that while traveling, our family enjoyed the Gone Away Lake Series by Elizabeth Enright. The whole family liked both books. I know it can be challenging to find fun books for children. We recommend her work completely.

For myself, I started The Birth House which was recommended by Sarah over at Clover Lane. So far it is an enjoyable thoughful read. Of course, I like books about birth and strong women. Hopefully next week, I have a bit more accomplished on my sweater.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A 44 Degree Swing

We spent a few days at the end of our trip in the beautiful Sequoia National Park. We camped near a creek in the Mineral Springs campground. It was fantastic. The constant drone of the rushing waters was a pleasant backdrop to our fun.

The kids redirected the water after watching some older teens in an adjacent campsite. We spoke with them about what they were doing. The teens told the kiddos that they were trying to erase mosquito habitats. Eamon and Aine set to work helping them. Rocks and limbs were moved and damns broken.
The creek also provided many excellent skipping stones. Dave showed off his technique and helped Eamon, Aine and Benton choose stones. Aine was able to garner a few skips from her stones. Benton just liked making big splashes with his selections.
A few larger boulders and fallen trees provided plenty of climbing and balancing opportunities. Benton was quite displeased that he was a just a bit too small to leap over the water and land on the bigger rocks. The current made this mama just a bit more cautious, so she kept him close. He was fine once he realized that there were plenty of other climbing and rock throwing spots.

The water was very cold for this group of desert dwellers. We dipped our toes into the cool water. After jumping around and slipping on rocks, we were quite wet. The creek even provided a spot to wash dirty feet at night before we went to bed. Just a little rub of our hands and little feet were clean again - cold, but clean.
 It was an interesting trip in terms of rules for the camp. On our last trip in Arizona, we were not permitted to have any type of campfire. Large signs warned of fire danger. This was definitely not the case in California. Our tent neighbors were kind enough to share some wood, so we were able to roast marshmallows for dinner and again for breakfast.

 Another difference was the wildlife. Bears are a big concern for this area of California. We had to lock our food up at all times. The campsite provided large "bear" lockers for this purpose. All of the car seats also had to be removed and stored in a bear-proof shed. I think Dave was a bit concerned as he asked our fellow campers about it. They assured us that they had been camping at this site for years without incident. Fortunately this held true for our trip. We did, however, see several deer. One even came to have a bit of dinner beside our campsite. Each of the kids stood enthralled watching it eat. They also were thrilled to see it poop while eating. This brought choruses of laughter.
 The area around the campsite was beautiful. We spent one afternoon hiking near a meadow. We climbed the trail up the mountain and saw beautiful views. Each of us found walking sticks to use while hiking. We saw a family of deer, a snake and a bit of scat. It was a great adventure, although there was a bit of complaining about the hike length.

We left the campground with the temperature around 55 degrees. After an hour and a half, we finished the winding 23 mile trek down the mountain to find the temperature quite a bit higher. Once we returned home that evening, the temperature was 99 degrees (at 10pm!!). It was a nice break from our heat. Such a treasure to find the spot we did and spend the days together.