Monthly Archives: January 2014

Dakota: Ten Months Old

Even though Dakota is technically a 49ers fan, she gets to wear the colors for Dave’s favorite team (Denver Broncos) in honor of them making it to the Super Bowl.
10 months
Dakota was feeling extra energetic today, so getting a good picture was a bit of a challenge. I’ve included some outtakes at the bottom, but first here are the past even-numbered months:
eight months
six months
four months
two months
Dakota was fascinated with the tummy sticker this month, and no amount of distraction or redirection would deter her. Really I know I’ve been lucky to have made it this long with her being so cooperative. I’m just glad that the next two month’s photos will fall on Saturdays so I will have help.
sticker crumple
I almost just used one of these as the “official” monthly photo. So cute:
sticker play
But then we came to the part where she tore the sticker in half and started to eat it:
sticker eat
And so the photo shoot ended. 🙂


Goodbye, Mulberry

That’s right, we finally pulled the trigger on getting rid of the mulberry. We even spent the extra moola to get the stump ground down. As I’ve lamented many times here, the thing grows like a weed, attacks the roof, and shades the solar panels. We would basically have to get it pollarded once a year to keep it in check. Here is how it looked a few days ago from the back patio:

Mullberry from the patio

And here was the view from the far corner of our yard:

Mulberry in the yard

The tree cutter guys didn’t show up until the afternoon so they only managed to get the mulberry down to the stump by the end of the first day. Dakota thought the chainsaws were awesome:

Dakota watching the tree cutters

And here is where we were at the end of day one:

Mulberry removal progress

The overgrown privet on the right against the fence was also slated for removal, as was the small dead tree against the fence just to the right of the stump in the picture above. The big tree to the far left is the elderberry, and it got a stay of execution… for now.

Here’s the new view from the back corner of the yard The elderberry is more obvious of course, but there’s just sooo much more space!

Yard without mulberry

And here’s the view from the patio:

Patio view after

No more little dead tree, no more privet and NO MORE MULBERRY! I’m a little sad though… The thing was big enough to support a tire swing or something similar, and the shade it cast on the yard in the summer was quite nice. Now we’re debating putting in a more reasonable tree, something that can give some shade (and maybe a little privacy from our back fence neighbor) without growing super fast.

As a bonus, they also removed the stump from the yucca in the front yard. (Yucca’s are much more sponge-like so it hardly took any time at all to grind up.) Here’s how it looked after Dave took a chainsaw to it last week:

Yucca-Free PatioAnd here we are now:

No more yucca stump

Unfortunately yuccas (and mulberries and privets, for that matter) can all grow back from just the roots. The pros did a pretty good job of pulling up roots and grinding everything down, but we may very well be battling the reemergence of these plants from now on. Ah well, at least now we stand a chance of winning!

Outdoor Chore Catchup

The weather has been just gorgeous for the past few weeks! Sorry everyone in the rest of the US. If it makes you feel better, sales tax here is 9%… Anyway, We’ve been spending as much time as we can outside, and as a result I’m soooo close to being caught back up on chores that got shoved aside when Dakota was born. For instance, the side yard (where the garden box and apple tree reside):

Side yard weeds

This was back at the end of November, when the apple tree (back left of the picture) had leaves and a few fruit left. Three apples that I managed to salvage, in fact. Well a few times a week I’ve managed to plunk Dakota down in the back yard like so:

Baby outdoors

And get a little weeding/mulching/pruning done. I finally got it down to this:

Weeded side yard

It’s much easier to see the garden box and the apple tree, right? That hulking mass of green in the back is one of several privet invasions. This one was still small enough for us to handle ourselves, so Dave got to break out his cute new chainsaw:

Attacking the privet

And it’s way better now, though there’s still a bit of overgrown  greenery back there. It’s technically on our neighbor’s yard, but the fence there is pretty much toast so we need to discuss things with him about that whole area anyway.

Unfortunately I still have this part of the side yard to tackle:

Side yard mess

This is off to the right of the newly weeded and mulched area. Plant-wise, we have from left to right: Prickly yellow rose, overgrown jasmine, diseased red rose, more overgrown jasmine, behemoth white rose. I’d already pruned the white rose half-way back when I snapped this pic… it’s still 8 feet tall, but at least now it’s not 10 feet wide. And note the lovely sheet of plywood covering the hole in the fence that Loki was using to visit the neighbor and the rest of the block.

Back to Dave though, since he was on a roll with the chainsaw, he decided to finally take care of this yucca growing in the front yard:

Pokey Yucca

This thing was stabbing me with its fronds ever time I went into the garage. Ugh. Anyway, I didn’t even have a chance to get a front view picture because it came down so fast, So here’s a photo from the middle of last year:


here’s the post-demolition side view:

Yucca Gone

And here’s our new front view:

Yucca-Free Patio

The window to the front bedroom is now a little short on privacy, I’m on the lookout for a big hanging plant to place over the railing to help with that.

Now I have many much more fun outdoor projects I can get rolling on, like restarting/expanding the vegetable garden boxes, starting a compost pile, fixing up the swing set, getting the mulberry tree cut down, setting up a storage shed, and CHICKENS! Chickens are finally happening. Oh yes.

Storage Bench (For the Foot of the Bed)

We left the foot of the bed frame open so we could store rarely-needed stuff (like newborn supplies and maternity clothes) underneath. But for a while we had an old ottoman stuffed in the opening to give Loki a step so he could get up onto the actual bed. Here was the odd-but-functional setup:

foot of the bed

I’ve had vague plans to make a storage bench to match the bed frame, and I was finally able to work on it, in fits and starts. I designed it to be not quite as wide as the actual bed, but at standard chair/bench height. By making the top in two pieces, I was able to cut everything out of a single sheet of 1/2″ plywood. Here are the pieces after painting:

plywood painting

And here they are assembled, minus the top since that gets attached with hinges at the end:

bench plywood assembled

Pretty boring, so I trimmed it out with the same stuff I used on the bed frame: 1×2 and 1×3 pre-primed MDF:

Bench trim

Then there was some puttying, caulking, and painting to make it all look seamless. And then there was this:


The simplest upholstering job in the world, though I still managed to mess it up a lot. Anyway, I didn’t take any pictures, but after a whole lot of bent staples and some cursing, I managed to get the batting and fabric attached.

I found some awesome hinges that were small enough, with short enough screws, to work with 1/2″ plywood. Dave caught a picture of me screwing them into place:

Attaching the hinges

Although he had a lot of “help” that he had to work around. 😉

Baby observingAnyway, this was actually a fairly quick project in terms of actual work hours, it just took a long time working around baby and life and such. Here’s the finished bench in place!

Finished bench

I feel like it looks a little odd being slightly taller than the actual bed frame, but I guess it helps keep the mattress tucked in, and it’s perfect sitting height. Here’s another view:

Finished bench

I mentioned that the top is split in two so I could fit it all on one 4×8 sheet, but I actually really like having two smaller pieces to lift, it works great. Here’s all the stuff I’ve already filled it with:

storage bench in action

And here’s Dakota checking things out while Loki tries to snooze:

Dakota and Loki with the bench

Our bedroom is pretty small, but this bench is narrow enough that we can still move around just fine. It’s such a relief to have even this much more storage space to work with. Now I’m debating making another almost identical bench for the living room under the big window. Hmmm.

Small Improvements

Ah January. A good time to fix some small things that have been annoying me. Behold, the door to the coat closet now has some lovely hooks to hang keys and dog leashes, and some small shelves for things like sunglasses and doggy cleanup bags. This thing actually claimed to be a spice rack when I bought it, but whatever:

Coat closet hooks

Next up, we inherited some nasty drip pans with our stove:

Stove before

And it took me almost three years of useless soaking and scrubbing to realize that I could buy new ones for pretty cheap:

Stove after

It’s hard to see the improvement in the picture since the actual heating elements aren’t super nice either, but trust me. Here are the drip pans that I gleefully threw in the trash:

Gross drip pans

Moving on, I think I saw this idea on Pinterest for organizing the measuring cups and spoons. We aren’t 100% certain that we’ll stick with this setup, but it’s a fun change to try out:

Measuring cups and spoons

And I’m quite pleased that we now have a home for all our cling wrap, aluminum foil, freezer bags and such. They now live on the inside of the pantry door, super easy and accessible:

Pantry door

Here’s our chief QA engineer making sure everything is to spec:

Dakota testing

We keep this door closed since it’s where we stash the recycling, but it’s good to know the screws hold up at least a little.

That’s all for now. Bring on 2014!

House Plants, First Attempt

I only have one official resolution for 2014 (eat more salads), but I do have various other goals that have been percolating for a while and that I feel motivated to work on since it’s the new year and all. One of those goals was to acquire some air purifying house plants and actually attempt to keep them alive. I think I first saw a list of good plants for indoor air quality on Pinterest, but you can just search “nasa house plants” (apparently NASA did a study) for pages upon pages of pretty much the exact same info. Here‘s Wikipedia’s contribution.

To kick things off, Dave picked up a spider plant for me a few months ago when he was at the hardware store. It sat on the dining room table for a few days since I couldn’t figure out where to hang it, but then Pollux (our cat who likes to attempt to eat plastic, among other strange things) kept nibbling at it. Spider plants aren’t toxic, but a little googling turned up some reputable sources saying that spider plants can have a similar effect to catnip on cats. Since my goal is to improve our indoor air quality and not have hallucinating cats, we hung the thing off the end of our pot rack, since we still didn’t have a permanent location picked out.

There it stayed, and I attempted to water it, but it just kept getting more and more bedraggled, until finally it ended up looking like this:

  Sad spider plant

Sigh. Anyway, we decided to take a do-over, so over the weekend we picked up two new plants. Another spider plant:

New spider plant

And a devil’s ivy/golden pothos:

Devil's Ivy

This one is toxic if eaten, so I’m going to keep a close eye on it and if it starts dropping leaves it’ll be kicked to the curb right away.

We’re sticking to hanging plants at the moment, and you can see in the pictures that we did manage to settle on some permanent locations where they can hang. I hope to expand to some floor plants eventually, but for now pots full of dirt would just be instant baby-magnets. I think I could maybe make room for a palm in the cat room though, since Dakota doesn’t get to go in there anyway. Peace lilies are supposed to be good in bathrooms and gerbera daisies are supposed to be good for bedrooms, so maybe I could mount some sort of small shelves in those spaces to get them off the ground and out of the reach of small children?

I’m not good at keeping plants alive, (I even managed to kill an aloe plant!) but these smaller ones at least aren’t too expensive, so it’s not the end of the world if I have to occasionally replace them.

Oh, and since my dad will complain if I don’t include a picture of Dakota, here you go, with the house plant tie-in, even:

Dakota drumming