Monthly Archives: May 2013

Dakota: Two Months Old

I managed to keep up with my master plan and stage Dakota’s monthly photo shoot on schedule, despite several minor photography-related crises. First, one of the light bulbs on my lighting tripod do-hickeys died. Or possibly there’s a loose connection in the base, but regardless, I was down to just one tripod. The ambient light coming through the windows was pretty good though, so I used the remaining tripod mostly to try to minimize the shadows cast by the windows.

Then, the battery died on the DSLR after about 4 pictures! Sigh. And of course we don’t have a backup battery. Dakota was in a good mood though, so I snapped approximately a gazillion shots with my iPhone. She kept kicking her legs which led to lots of blurry pics, and when she scrunched her legs up the iPhone had some trouble focusing on the right spot, but I went with the “quantity over quality” philosophy and ended up with a few decent pictures. Here’s the final official one:

two months

And to refresh your memory, here’s last month:

one month

That’s the same onesie, by the way. I think we’ll be moving to a bigger one next month. I suppose if I want to eventually make a photo book or something I’ll have to figure out how to get these to be the same color… temperature? (Hope that’s the right word… I really need to read a book or take a class on this or something) I tried just the simple “white balance” function in my photo editing software, but that clearly didn’t cut it. But I have the originals and there’s no rush right now anyway. Ah the power of post-processing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Dakota kept finding the belly sticker and pulling at it with her hands, so next month may be an adventure in keeping her from destroying the sticker. I always have the backup plan of photoshopping a sticker onto her belly, but that just means even more work. Still, this continues to be fun, so I’ll try to keep it going!

Oh yeah, and Dakota is doing great and is an awesome two month old. I still feel like a clueless new mom, but Dakota doesn’t seem to mind my confused fumbling around too much, so we’re doing just fine.


The Garage Gym

The Xmas before last, my “present” for Dave and myself was a garage gym. I scoured the Internet and scored big on Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, picking up a lifting cage, a serviceable Olympic bar, and a set of composite rubber plates. (The biggest savings were in the free shipping deals… 320 lbs worth of weights can mean a pretty hefty freight shipping cost.) We already had a set of gymnastic rings and a roman bench to round things out. It took us a few months, but we eventually set up part of the garage to serve as the gym space, but at multiple points during the past year we’ve had to stuff random other things in the way to make room for the various projects we always seem to have going. And then I was pregnant… not the best time to get serious with a workout program. But now that I’m feeling fully functional again I’m determined to get serious about my fitness.

So over the course of about a week’s worth of Dakota naps I’ve managed to organize a bit and carve out a decent workout space in the garage, hopefully permanently. Here’s how it stands now:

Lifting cage

Part of why I chose that particular lifting cage (and why I picked it rather than a simpler squat rack) is because it has a pull-up bar at the top. Since both Dave and I like to do kipping pull-ups on occasion it would probably make sense for us to bolt the cage to the floor… But I don’t think we’re quite organized enough for something that permanent for now. Besides, it’ll probably be a while before I’m able to do kipping again pull-ups anyway.

We want to eventually hang the rings from the ceiling, and possibly add a climbing rope at some point. It would be nice to get some more mats on the floor (horse stall mats ideally), build a few plyo boxes, and maybe even buy a kettlebell or two. Probably the highest priority though is some 45 lb iron plates since Dave’s max deadlift is bigger than our current supply of plates. Once I get sufficiently motivated I’m sure I can score some iron plates for cheap off of Craigslist. But I certainly don’t need any additional weights for myself, so my motivation isn’t all that high for now. ๐Ÿ™‚ The other thing that’s missing is a bench for bench pressing. I could probably get one used off of Craigslist as well, but I’m kinda leaning towards buying one new because I don’t want to think about who else has been sweating on it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oh yeah, here’s the roman bench (which we use for back extensions) and the mess that is the rest of the garage:

Roman bench

Sigh. We’re working on it. Here’s the view back towards the door… Hopefully we can get the ladder (and the bike!) rigged up so it’s not quite so in the way of everything:

Garage gym

In terms of actual fitness goals, I would like to get back to where I can do some strict plank push-ups and hopefully a pull-up or two. I think that weightlifting is an important component to long term physical fitness, and since we have this nice garage gym I’m in a good place to be able to realistically keep up with a consistent lifting program. I’ve always sucked at running but I also want to get my endurance up to at least a solid base level (you know, under a 10 minute mile at least :P) and I would like to be able to play ultimate frisbee again some day without completely embarrassing myself. On the flip side, I’m fortunate that both my abs and my pelvic floor seem to be recovering well from the whole giving birth thing, but I need to be careful not to overdo any new fitness regimen and mess up my recovery in that area.

So possibly people might think I’m crazy that I’ve decided to follow the Crossfit Football programming to get back into shape, since I’m not exactly an aspiring football player. But I’m pretty familiar with that style of programming, and I feel pretty confident that I’m checking my ego at the door and scaling things like crazy so that I’m getting the right amount of challenge without straining anything. I love their focus on strength and power, and the programming is the right blend to keep me motivated.

The biggest challenge for me is finding time to fit in both the strength workout and the conditioning workout, since there’s one of each of those 4 days per week. Hopefully as Dakota gets more predictable with her naps I’ll be able to fit things in as she sleeps. Right now I rely on Julie as backup to keep Dakota entertained in case she’s not napping well in the mornings. If the workouts that day are fairly short I can knock out both in one session. For the longer ones I’ve been trying to finish the strength portion in the morning while Julie is around, then get through the conditioning once Dave gets home.

We’ll see how it goes!

State of the House, State of the Blog

I want to blog more consistently, because I was really enjoying it when I was trying to stick to a schedule and come up with stuff to write about. But it can be tough… even ignoring the occasional self-conscious feeling of sharing random stuff about my life with the internet, I like having picture-heavy posts, and the house has been a constant mess that I didn’t feel was really picture-worthy. So in the interest of starting to blog more again, I’ve decided to embrace the mess and not worry so much about having each shot be “camera ready”. I’m also going to try talking a bit more about random happenings in my life. For a while this blog was mostly about our (generally amusing) attempts at figuring out this whole home ownership thing, and I’m never sure how much other stuff about my life I’m comfortable publishing on the internet… So I will be trying stuff out to see what works for me. Hopefully no one reading this will be permanently scarred.

So with that in mind, here’s a quick tour of the living room as it generally looks these days. Here’s the couch:

Messy couch

The fitness ball was super useful in the first few weeks after Dakota was born. One of us would sit on it and bounce with Dakota and it would get her to stop crying and go to sleep fairly consistently. It’s a bit hard on the back muscles, but we could watch TV or even read stuff on our iPhones, which made it vastly preferable to pacing in circles to try and settle her. Now that she’s a bit older it doesn’t always work, and we’re discovering different ways to settle her, so the ball may not be dominating the middle of the room for much longer.

The storage ottoman is a new addition; I haven’t even decided what we’ll be storing in it yet. The lap tray (sitting on the couch in the picture) works pretty well as a temporaryย  tabletop for the ottoman. The dog toys on the floor are the ones that Loki keeps pulling out to try and entice us to play with him more often. Poor dog. The laundry basket is pretty much a cliche for new parents… clean laundry waiting to be folded… someday… And it’s hard to see, but there are a bunch of reusable grocery bags hanging on the front door knob. And even when I put them there I STILL forget to take them half the time when I go shopping. Sigh.

Here’s the other side of the room:

Messy living room

The recliner is the main nursing station. It’s kind of out in the middle of everything, but too bad, it’s a small house. That recliner is just amazing… I got in in high school, and it traveled to college with me and then across the country when I moved to California. It’s the comfiest thing ever and still looks great. Thanks mom. ๐Ÿ™‚ The media center under the TV is a mess and I’m slowly brainstorming how the heck to baby-proof that thing. Ikea sells little cabinet doors that fit in the openings of this unit, so that may be the best option…

The brightly-colored play mat on the floor is on loan from a neighbor. I have to say, every time I see one of these things I think that they’re hideously ugly and way too busy/overstimulating… but darned if Dakota doesn’t love this guy, even without knowing how to reach and grab at things yet. Evidence:

Play mat fun

The thing she’s staring at on the top has a cartoon zebra and two lights that slowly blink red and yellow. She stares at it and grins like a maniac. Dave thinks this sort of setup is just early training for having kids stare at the TV all day, and it does feel a little like she’s staring at a TV screen… Sigh. And she’s just barely starting to bat at the dangling toys with her arms… mostly by accident I think. But really she’s probably just a week or two away from being able to deliberately bat at things. and I’m sure grabbing will soon follow. gulp.

Last but not least, over next to the arm chair is the “baby command center”:

Pack and Play

This particular playard has a bassinet attachment that can be flipped one-handed to switch to a changing pad. So in the middle of the picture we have adorable sleeping baby in the bassinet. To the left in the raised bed of the playard there are all of her “new school” cloth diapers… pockets, “all-in-ones”, and a few fitteds and covers. There are also a bunch of random toys that she’s still not quite ready for. To the right in the bin with the green dragon there are the prefold diapers, which we mostly use as changing pads at this point. That bin also has a bunch of cloth wipes, which get used in conjunction with the blue spray bottle full of water. There’s also a small supply of disposable diapers, which we’re currently putting on her at night time.

I’ve already changed this configuration several times now, and it’ll probably have to change again pretty soon. I’m not sure how much longer she’ll fit in the bassinet/changing table because she’s so very long for her age. We’re still debating what to use as a changing station once this no longer works, so, you know, stay tuned for updates or something… ๐Ÿ™‚

Yellow and Grey

Julie has been living with us for almost a year now, but I never got around to talking about her oh-so-stylish room makeover, mainly because it’s in that perpetual “not quite done” state. But it’s pretty darn close to done now, so I figured I should talk about what we did before I forget all of the details completely.

Our second and third bedrooms are both pretty small, and the one we stuffed Julie into is almost exactly 10 feet by 10 feet square with a built in closet cabinet thing. Until she moved in it served as our dumping ground for random household items and off-season clothing. I couldn’t find a picture, but hopefully you can imagine a room full of random junk. I did however find a picture of the ceiling on my phone, which is nice because pretty much the first design decision Julie made was to put yellow stripes on the ceiling, with grey walls. This ended up being a great compromise because while Julie loves bright wall color, the rest of the walls in the house are pretty muted. But a lot of people don’t even notice the ceiling right away, so it’s a nice surprise when you do finally look up at it. Here’s the blah beige before:

ceiling before

And here’s the finished look:

ceiling after

Julie actually picked out the curtain fabric first, (it’s a citrus-y lemon and orange pattern) and then we compared paint samples to the fabric until she found the right color yellow paint. Once we had the yellow, Julie decided she wanted light grey on three walls and dark grey on the final wall. Works for me…

When we pulled down the flourescent tube light we discovered that whoever had installed it hadn’t bothered to put in an electrical box. Tsk tsk. So as usual, the simple “replace the light” step became slightly more complicated. Ah the joys of home ownership. ๐Ÿ™‚ The new light is one of those inexpensive paper things from Ikea, and it works great.

Onward! Here’s a shot of the room as seen from the doorway:

Julie's Room

The bed frame is a simple DIY made pretty much entirely out of 2×4’s. The legs are painted black and we have plans to upholster the horizontal boards with yellow fabric. Thus the weird half-finished white batting and bare wood styling that is currently happening. ๐Ÿ™‚ There isn’t really room in here for a dresser, so Julie got a bunch of fabric bins that fit nicely under the bed. I’m too lazy to spend much time tidying rooms up for pictures, so sorry Julie, some of your clothing is showing. ๐Ÿ™‚ In fact all I did before whipping out the camera was open the curtains, crazy woman actually makes her bed. Weird.

The black and white prints on the walls were something I suggested that Julie try after reading about using engineering prints for big, inexpensive artwork. You can read through for details in that link, but basically it worked great for Julie. She ended up buying a 1″ thick white foam board from the hardware store and using red duct tape as the edging, since this stuff didn’t cut as cleanly as the pink insulation board that was used in the link. I like that she has something big and bold hanging over her bed, and I like even more that it’s made out of foam and super lightweight. When you live in earthquake country you have to take these sorts of things into consideration.

Moving along, here is a shot of the side table by the window:

Side table

We found the table and the lamp at the thrift store. The ittiest bittiest of side tables was a must for this room. ๐Ÿ™‚ And you can see the citrus pattern on the curtains pretty well. Don’t ask me, Julie picked it out.

Here’s the other side of the room, on the wall with the doorway:

Julie Desk

The desk is juuust deep enough to hold a laptop, built out of plywood and 1×3’s, and painted with the same stuff we used on the ceiling. Here’s how it’s supported:

under the desk

Just some brackets against the wall and two desk legs that we bought at Ikea. The chair was a thrift store find. It looks pretty nice in the pictures but it’s actually badly in need of refinishing. Someday… maybe…

The little black bookshelf (as well as lots of random odds and ends on the desk and shelves) was something we had owned for awhile and were getting ready to donate, so Julie was able to grab it for free.

And here’s the final wall:

Julie closet

We keep going back and forth on the closet. The stain may very well be original to the house and is actually in fairly good condition. I’m not particularly fond of stained wood though, and it doesn’t make much sense to me considering how modern the rest of the room looks. We’ll probably leave it alone because we’re lazy and we have plenty of other things we’d like to get done.

The mirror is just something Julie grabbed (yet again) from Ikea. We could probably DIY some sort of snazzy modern-looking frame for it, but I actually like the simplicity of it, especially considering all of the stuff that’s going on everywhere else in the room.

That’s everything! So maybe some day I can do a post on upholstering the bed frame, but maybe we’ll just never get to it.

Not-so-fun plumbing

I figure we had more than enough plumbing excitement when we had our house re-piped, but I guess our house wasn’t through with us because we’ve had two completely unrelated plumbing issues just a month later.

First, our kitchen sink clogged up. Dave made a few attempts to clear it, including replacing the P-trap, (which was looking gross, but apparently not the issue) but he finally admitted defeat and called a plumber. The guy showed up with a nice big electric-powered pipe snake and went to town. He showed us that we actually had a very convenient clean-out for the kitchen drain on the outside of our house:


It’s that black (ABS) thing in the middle of the picture. Actually it was originally galvanized steel painted to match the rest of the house, but the guy had to use a HUGE pipe wrench to get it off, so he was nice and replaced it with an extra ABS cap he had in his truck. So we can hopefully get it off using a normal wrench if we ever need to.

Anyway he pulled out a massive amount of gunk and made a huge mess on the patio. Luckily it hosed down pretty easily. (You can just barely see a bit of discoloration in the picture above.) We chatted while he worked, and I guess as houses like ours settle over time, the angle of the drain pipe running under the house tends to flatten out, making it much more likely that gunk will just sit and build up there. If that’s the underlying issue, we could always get the pipe replaced, or we could just get it cleaned out every few years. It’s also possibly that the previous owners just liked pouring grease down the drain, in which case this will hopefully be a one-time deal since we try to be pretty good about keeping grease out of there.

Moving on, here’s our other, ongoing, plumbing issue:

Front lawn

That patch of extra-healthy looking grass means there’s a leak somewhere under our front lawn. We were hoping it was the irrigation system, but when we turned off the main valve for the irrigation and checked a few days later, that patch of grass was still wet and swampy looking. And if you draw a straight line from the water meter by the street to our main inlet valve on the side of the house, you run right through that patch of grass. We tried turning off our main water valve for a few hours and then checking the water meter to see if it moved. I’m pretty sure it moved a bit, though it’s hard to tell.

Anyway, the fix for this involves turning off the water at the street and digging a big hole. We have no idea how deep we’ll have to dig, but hopefully not too far considering the ground doesn’t really freeze here…

Ahhhh the joys of home ownership. But taking pictures of random house stuff isn’t nearly as fun as taking pictures of babies. So here’s a bonus baby picture to make this post more interesting: