Biscuits and Jam Blog about life in Portland, cooking, craftiness, etc. en-us Biscuits and Jam 90 26 <![CDATA[Catching Up, Nov. 2018-Dec. 2020]]> Wed, 30 Dec 2020 01:39:42 PSTHello! I'm still here! It has been over two years since my last post. As you may have surmised, I've lost interest in regularly writing here. Blogging just doesn't feel like an outlet that I need anymore. However, I had a few days off work and thought I'd pop in to post a life update for anybody who's still around.

Late 2018

After a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Lorraine's house, we did our normal advent calendar activities leading up to Christmas. I like this cream cheese frosting for the gingerbread cookies. I took both boys to the mall individually to buy presents for each other, and we saw The Grinch in the theater.

We took a train ride down to California and spent Christmas with family. The mountains were nice and snowy on our return trip.

Christmas train ride 2018

Winter/Spring 2019

The main reason that I stopped posting here is that I got a full-time job in January 2019 (yay!). It's at a company located in downtown Portland (though we're all remote at the moment), and I get to do a combination of Project Management and Quality Assurance work. I think it's a great fit for me, and I'm really happy I got back out there, even though it means less time with the kids.

Since I wanted to make sure I still got one-on-one time with each of the kids, I planned monthly activities with each of them in 2019. Arlo and I got season tickets to Broadway shows, and I took Felix out for dinner once a month to different seafood restaurants. It was a great way to make memories, and I'm hoping to do it again once the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Arlo's favorite show was Come From Away (especially wonderful in person!), and I loved Wicked as well.

Felix tries octopus sushi
Mothers Day 2019

For Easter dinner, we had a crepe buffet with banana-nutella, strawberry-cream, and ham-gruyere options.

Summer 2019

In May, Patrick's little sister Meg got married, yay! It was a beautiful day, and it was great seeing family. Plus the boys got dressed up in their cute suits again!

Me and Felix
Me and Arlo

In June, we headed down to San Francisco and saw Hamilton! Very cool.

Hamilton in SF

In July, we sold our house of 11 years and moved into a duplex in the same neighborhood. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the house that we'd brought our babies home to, but it wasn't the right fit for our family anymore. Patrick and I separated in January 2019, and we decided to continue living under the same roof, to give the boys family continuity and to give each other co-parenting support. We decided that moving to a duplex would allow the boys to continue seeing both of us every day, while giving us grown-ups our own space in the evenings. So far I am really happy with our living arrangement, and I feel so lucky that we were able to find a duplex that met our needs without having to change schools.

Duplex before exterior work

The transition between houses was eased with lots of Minecraft.

Almost empty
Minecraft Bros

Fall/Winter 2019

For Halloween, I dressed up as Velma from Scooby Doo, and the boys were a zombie and a security guard.

Halloween 2019
Halloween 2019

We had our favorite contractor put a door in between the two sides of the duplex, so the boys could go back and forth between my space and Patrick's without having to go outside.

Duplex wall before
Duplex wall during
Christmas mantel and completed door

We had our first Thanksgiving at the duplex. We split the cooking work between our two kitchens, which made it no harder than preparing a normal dinner. Well, okay, pies are a little more work, but totally worth it so we can celebrate Pie for Breakfast Day!

Thanksgiving pies

We stayed in Portland for Christmas and were able to celebrate with my sister and Patrick's family. We split both holiday decorations and meals between the two sides of the duplex, and it worked out really nicely.

Christmas 2019 - Sisters

Winter/Spring 2020

The big event (before COVID hit) was that my kitchen was remodeled (we merged the dining room and kitchen and squeezed in a half bath on one end). Luckily, the kitchen was mostly done before the pandemic lockdown went into place, and my contractor was able to coordinate the remaining work so that there were only one or two people in the space at any given time. Maybe at some point I'll write a more detailed kitchen tour post, but here's a peek for now. Yes, I borrowed a lot of ideas from the last kitchen remodel.

Kitchen remodel in progress
Kitchen drywalled
Kitchen progress - cabinets
Max in the kitchen

Sad news: Right after the lockdown started and we were all working/schooling remotely, Fluffy was hit by a car and died. I realize this is small compared to what has been happening in the world, but it was sad and unexpected, and it took me longer than expected to grieve him. Even more frustrating is that only a few weeks prior, he'd had a sore tooth pulled, and since then he had become much friendlier and started sitting on my lap. I wish I could've gotten more quality Fluffy time before he left us. But lesson learned--no more indoor-outdoor cats.

Fluffy aka ConeRunner

Happily, we still have Max, and he is still the sweetest buddy.

Felix distance learning (2nd grade)

Splitting into two households meant buying some new furniture, and fate brought me this beautiful sapphire velvet couch. I had ordered a sensible gray wool couch, but Anthropologie accidentally delivered this beauty to me instead. When I checked with them, they said the person who originally ordered it had already received a replacement, so I could keep this couch if I wanted. I kept it, because clearly the furniture gods wanted my living room to be more fabulous.

New comic book day
Current living room configuration

The rest of 2020

Since the pandemic started, we have spent almost all of our time at home, all together. It has been trying at times (remote school is not ideal), but we've stayed healthy, and we're all getting along pretty well, so I'd call it a win.

Like everybody else, I did a bunch of sourdough baking at the outset (Little Spoon Farm is a great resource), sewed some masks, and then we just kind of settled into our hermit lifestyle. I miss going out in the world! What a year this has been. I feel very fortunate and grateful that we haven't had to endure much personal upheaval or loss.

Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Sourdough boule and muffins
Sourdough chocolate scones
Going on a walk

In May, I turned 40! I love it (apart from the pandemic). Arlo made me birthday brownies (what a guy!), and I'm feeling good. I feel free to be myself, and it's awesome!

Turning 40!
Me and the boys

Felix turned 8 and Arlo turned 10, and they're such big kids all of a sudden! I'm so glad that they (mostly) get along. They will spend hours talking about their imaginary games (mostly based on Dungeons and Dragons or their latest Nintendo Switch game).

Chocolate coconut bundt cake
Felix turns 8
Arlo turns 10

This summer, after the kitchen remodel, the house was resided, seismically retrofitted, and repainted. It's good to have that work done, and I'm glad we're able to have a quiet winter without any loud banging. Yes, I chose a chartreuse front door again, at least for now.

Duplex, siding/stucco removed
Duplex with new siding
Duplex with fresh paint job!
Duplex with fresh paint job!

We just wrapped up Thanksgiving and Christmas, both celebrated at home with just the four of us. Thank goodness for Skype calls! I made this chocolate satin pie for Christmas Eve dessert this year, and it was really good. Definitely worth revisiting at future holiday meals!

Thanksgiving pie anticipation
Making sugar cookies
Chocolate Satin Pie
Chocolate Satin Pie
Christmas Skype

I hope you stay safe and healthy. Maybe I'll see you back here in a few years...

<![CDATA[Catching Up, Nov. 2017-Oct. 2018]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 12:42:10 PSTOkay, a quick catch-up on the past year, for posterity:


We had a small Thanksgiving at home with Patrick's sister, Kate. The menu, since I like to look back at these in the future: Roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes with chives, storebought gravy, kale salad, Little T soft rolls, cranberry sauce, black olives, Damn Fine apple pie (from In the Sweet Kitchen), Libby's pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and sparkling cider. I made the stuffing in two batches in the Instant Pot in our cheesecake pan, then baked it at 425F for 15 minutes in a 9x13 pan. Turns out a half batch would have been sufficient for our group of 4-5 people. It was okay, but I probably wouldn't make this recipe again. The Libby's pumpkin pie recipe is so much easier than the Cook's Illustrated recipe that I'd used for the past few years!

Thanksgiving 2017 Pies

Christmas and New Years

We did the advent calendar again this year, much the same as years past. Here's the list:

  1. Marimbas and tree in Pioneer Square, hot cocoa from Moonstruck
    Yellow raincoat club

  2. Kids bake cookies: Felix - He chose honey balls, a new recipe from our Christmas cookie cookbook, which did not turn out very well
  3. Put up Christmas lights and hang stockings
  4. Drink hot cocoa with candy canes
  5. Read a holiday book
  6. Donate toys at fire station
  7. Zoo Lights - Patrick took the boys this year, since I just wasn't feeling up to the cold weather
  8. Read a holiday book
  9. Get holiday ice cream at Salt and Straw
  10. Watch a holiday movie - I can't remember which movies we actually ended up watching this time, but my list of possible candidates was Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph, Muppets' Christmas Carol, and White Christmas. We definitely watched Elf, because it's my favorite
  11. Make treats for birds/teachers - see my 2015 post linked above for details
  12. Kids bake cookies: Arlo - He chose easy Christmas wreaths, which were a mix of rice krispies, melted white chocolate, and green food coloring. Not the pinnacle of cookie-dom, but at least they were easy!
  13. Play a new game (Qwirkle)
  14. Donate books to school library (we bought them from Books with Pictures, our friend's awesome comic book shop)
  15. Drink hot cider, eat Danish butter cookies, decorate Christmas tree
    Decorating the Tree
    Decorating the Tree

  16. Buy gingerbread house decorating supplies (candy) at Rocket Fizz
  17. Give money to charity - We've been doing allowance divided in thirds (save/donate/spend), so the boys got to decide what to do with their donate money
  18. Make gingerbread house - We used a Trader Joe's kit this year. Much easier than trying to build houses with graham crackers, but Arlo says he preferred the taste of the graham cracker houses
  19. Make and send Christmas cards with photos
  20. Make family ornaments - I think we made Shrinky Dink ornaments this year? I totally can't remember, and I have no photo evidence. I'll have to wait and see what's new in our ornament box when we decorate the tree this year! I wasn't feeling motivated to make involved crafty ornaments, because I was in the middle of all of the class auction projects I wrote about in my last post
  21. Watch a holiday movie
  22. Paint our toenails fun colors
  23. Make paper snowflakes
  24. Make sugar cookies
    Christmas 2017 Sugar Cookies

This was a very snowy Christmas; so much so that Patrick's family members, who were staying on the west side of the river, couldn't make it over to our house on Christmas Day (they were able to make it over a few days later, so we still got to celebrate with them). We ended up having Christmas Eve dinner with just the four of us, so there were lots of leftovers. Patrick made the dinner this year. We had: honey-glazed ham in the Instant Pot, scalloped potatoes, green beans amandine, cranberry sauce, storebought Hawaiian rolls, black olives, sparkling cider, and Oreo cheesecake (!) - The ham turned out great in the instant pot and was very easy to make and went well with the cranberry sauce and Hawaiian rolls. I'd repeat this part of the dinner again. The potatoes were good. The green beans were unexciting, possibly because we used frozen instead of fresh beans.

Christmas 2017 Oreo Cheesecake

For Christmas Day brunch, we had our standard coffee cake, eggs, bacon, and grapefruit. Yum!

Christmas 2017 Coffee Cake

This year, we gave the boys the illustrated version of the first Harry Potter book. Arlo (age 8), who hates peril in books, did not listen to much of it, but Felix (age 6) was really into it. Not all of the Harry Potter books have illustrated versions yet, but I figure if we buy one per year, it'll work out.

Fluffy disappeared a few days after Christmas, and I figured a neighborhood coyote had probably gotten him (he started out indoor-only, but through sheer force of cat will, he has made himself indoor/outdoor during the day, and he likes to go out when Patrick leaves for the gym early in the morning. He's too much of a lump to hunt anything, so the birds are safe). But then he showed up at our kitchen door two days later, so maybe he was just trapped in a garage for a few days. I was glad to have him back, and he seemed very happy to see us.

Kitty snuggles

We stayed in for New Year's Eve and had a snacky dinner: BBQ chicken wings in the Instant Pot; bagel chips with smoked salmon and cream cheese; bread and honey butter; salami; olives; stuffed mushrooms; carrots and celery with ranch dressing; Shirley Temples; and truffles. It was fine. The mushrooms were too juicy (I'm still looking for a really good stuffed mushroom recipe), and the wings were just okay. The boys tried to stay up until midnight, but they didn't quite make it this year.

New Years Eve Dinner 2017

On New Year's Day, we had our traditional Dutch baby breakfast, and a dinner of Instant pot black-eyed peas with ham, roasted cabbage, and cornbread. The black-eyed peas were easy to make and tastier than most recipes I've tried. I'd make them again.

In early January, Felix got ear tubes put in. We had been considering this for a few years, because he tended to get really congested during every cold and had trouble hearing. It was a little stressful for us grown-ups (it's a minor surgery, and he had to go to the hospital to get it done), but Felix declared it his best day ever because he got a popsicle AND Jello! What a sweet boy :)

Ear tube day

Self esteem improvement efforts

This year I have been working on my self esteem and taking better care of myself (instead of always putting myself last--a common mom problem, I think). I went to a salon and got pink hair in February (it was cute while it lasted, but it washed out pretty quickly). I've been experimenting with makeup a few days a week and putting more thought into what I wear.

Pink Hair

And I've started seeing a therapist, which has been great for me! At her encouragement, I've started going on self-dates once a week, where Patrick feeds the boys dinner and puts them to bed, and I go out and do whatever I want (so far it's mostly going out for dinner with a book to read; a few times going to see movies). It has been really nice. I especially liked my outing to Palomar, a new restaurant in our neighborhood. Fun drinks (that's a virgin strawberry daiquiri) and beautiful decor.

Self date at Palomar, Portland

Self date at Palomar, Portland

Patrick and I have also started up bimonthly date nights after a long stretch without a babysitter. Back in March, we went on a kid-free vacation up to Vashon Island. It was a car-free trip (train to Seattle, ferry to Vashon, bus to the little downtown area), and we stayed at the Lodges on Vashon, which were beautifully appointed and conveniently located for walking everywhere.

On a ferry, no kids

One of the Lodges on Vashon. Very pretty and well located.


For Spring Break, the boys and I took the train up to the Tacoma car museum (for the third year in a row) and then to Seattle. We stayed in Belltown, ate at Ivar's (where I cruelly denied Felix the acre of clams entree--maybe I'll say yes next year), visited the aquarium, ate sushi and saw people dressed as anime characters going to Sakura-Con, took the monorail to the Pacific Science Center (super cool, and free admission with our OMSI membership), went to the Museum of Flight with my sister, and then headed back to Portland on the Bolt bus. (That was over the course of three days; not all in one day--that would be exhausting!) I'm glad that the boys are getting old enough to be fun and self-sufficient travel companions, though there were still some tough moments. It gets better each year though.

Tacoma car museum


Flipping switches in Seattle

In April/May, I came down with a cold/cough that turned into pneumonia. I never had a fever; I just had a cough that got progressively worse. I had a chest x-ray that confirmed that it was pneumonia, and then I took two different kinds of antibiotics, and it finally (slowly) got better. Since then, I've had a lingering cough following colds two more times, so that's a bummer. The boys have been sick with coughs too, so I don't think it's something wrong with my lungs in particular, but it has been frustrating to be not-quite-healthy for a significant portion of this spring/summer. Luckily, it hasn't stopped me from riding my bike, except at the peak of the pneumonia.

Mothers Day


This summer, I again made an activity calendar for me and the boys so we wouldn't stay at home and snipe at each other all the time. I also signed them up for a good number of summer camps, but I realized after the fact that I should have signed them up for the *same* camps each week. Instead, there was a lot of coordination with Patrick to get different kids dropped off/picked up at different places each week. Maybe next summer I'll have it all figured out...

Some summer highlights:

A day at the mall (I know it doesn't sound like much, but quarter rides and Cinnabon are pretty exciting for kids who hardly ever see the mall).

Fun at the mall

A long weekend in Southern Oregon. Patrick planned this trip. The boys loved the river.

Southern Oregon river trip

Southern Oregon river trip

Arlo got to be a stagehand at a summer theater camp run by his music teacher (you can see him peeking between the curtains on the left). He dressed all in black and was very stealthy.

Arlo, peeking

A zoo visit with Aunt Kate.

Riding the zoo train (picture by Aunt Kate)

Getting filthy at ninja camp.

Filthy child after Trackers camp

A day at Oaks Park.

Oaks Park

Seeing the Decemberists in Bend (ten years after Patrick and I saw them in Bend and decided to move to Portland), with a quick visit to Timberline Lodge on the drive home. Felix and Arlo really enjoyed this concert, so hopefully we'll be able to catch the Decemberists in concert again next summer!

Decemberists concert in Bend

Timberline Lodge

We had our big California train trip at the end of the summer, returning home the day before school started. The boys and I took the train south from Portland all the way to Legoland. We broke up the trip into segments: First, we spent a day in Oakland, with a ferry trip to San Francisco, where we visited the Exploratorium. Next, we visited my mom and Alan in central California for a few days--the boys got to feed the chickens, visit step-cousins, and see a classic car show. Then we had an overnight in Carpinteria, which turned out to be a surprise hit (much better than our stop in Ventura the previous summer). We spent a warm afternoon at Carpinteria Beach with our feet in the ocean and the waves chasing us, and both boys loved it. They want to learn how to boogie board now, but I think I'd need Patrick there to feel comfortable with that, since I'm not much of a swimmer.

Lounging with Papa Baer


Then we took the train down the Los Angeles, where we spent the night in a sketchy hotel near Olvera Street (we liked Olvera Street, just not the surrounding neighborhood, but it was very convenient to the train station). Patrick flew down and met us there, and the next day we continued on to Oceanside, where we took a bus + Lyft to Legoland (still hoping that someday there will be an easy way to take public transit all the way to Legoland!). We stayed at the Legoland Hotel one night, then at West Inn and Suites the following night, as we've done in the past. It was fun, but I think some of the shine has worn off for the boys after visiting for three years in a row. They enjoyed the rides for a few hours, but then they just wanted to go buy Legos at the Big Store, which we can just as easily do at home. So this may be the last year for Legoland. Arlo has expressed interest in Disneyland for next summer. We'll see...that feels like it requires more mental preparation than Legoland, but it could be fun.


Next, we flew north to the Bay Area, where we met up with Patrick's family in Point Reyes to celebrate his dad's 70th birthday (thanks to Meg for organizing!). I got to sit on a couch at the Airbnb and read a book for almost an entire day with only taxidermy to keep me company (everybody else was at the beach), and it was a nice break after a tiring (but enjoyable) week of travel.

Airbnb taxidermy, Pt. Reyes

We went out for a celebratory birthday dinner (with lots of sea creatures on the menu, to Felix's delight). It was nice to have everybody together. (This isn't the official group photo with everybody in it, but I like it because Felix is hugging me)

Getting Read for a Group Photo

Then we flew back to Portland and it was time for school to begin!


The boys are in first and third grade this year. Felix has Arlo's wonderful teacher from kindergarten and first grade, much to everyone's delight. She's the best! And Arlo has the third grade teacher he'd been hoping for. She has two class rats, Mars and Jupiter. They're very cute, but it seems like they're not the kind of class pets that come home for the weekend (probably for the best, since our cats would be too interested in them).

First Day of School 2018

I'd say Arlo's description of himself below is very accurate. He is most definitely a helpful kid, and he has a fun sense of humor. Still mainly interested in vehicles, though he also likes reading about service dogs and other helpful animals. He and Felix have plans to live together when they're grown up and adopt lots of dogs (I think two per brother?). Sounds nice!

Arlo at 8

Shopping list surprise


Felix continues to be sweet and loving most of the time, with occasional outbursts of little brother peskiness (Arlo could tell you all about that). He likes ninjas and Legos, and he no longer likes vehicles. Instead, he's very interested in animals, especially sea creatures (eating them AND learning about them). He says he wants to study ocean creatures when he grows up. Cool!

Felix the Snow Ninja

Caitlin and Felix

Arlo and Felix grudgingly agreed to dress up for Patrick's cousin Max's wedding in North Carolina a few weeks ago. I won't say anything further, as I am not supposed to make a big deal over the cuteness of my children when they're dressed up. Neither child wants any attention paid to him based on his appearance, and these outfits were a compromise intended to minimize fawning by adults--not too fancy, not too sloppy.

Dressed up for Cousin Max’s wedding (pictures by Patrick)

I missed the wedding, because I had an all-day Project Management class in Portland that weekend. I've recently decided to try to find a local job in Portland. I love my consulting work (and hope to continue it), but it feels like it's time to get a job where I leave the house and interact with other grown-ups on a regular basis. There aren't a lot of pharmaceutical/medical device companies close-in in Portland, so I'm looking at project management jobs instead. To that end, I'm taking a series of classes at PSU this winter and spring to get a Project Management certificate. So far, so good.

And finally, some favorite recipes from the past little while:

  • Sushi: I made (1) canned crab mixed with mayo, avocado, and cuke and (2) sweet potato with scallion - I made the rice in the Instant Pot using sushi rice with standard white rice proportions and the Rice button, then mixed in the sugar, etc. Two cups of dry sushi rice was enough for 5 sheets of nori, which fed our family of four. Pretty easy to make, we all liked it. The boys have been asking me to make it again
  • Scalloped potatoes in the Instant Pot served with baked beans and steamed green beans - Tasty and quick!
  • Easy baked tofu served with roasted vegetables and sweet potato biscuits (all baked at the same temperature) - Not spectacular, but perfectly nice and definitely easy
  • Maple lemon tofu, white rice, roasted cabbage with bacon (halved the amount of bacon) - Yummy
  • Zuppa Toscana knockoff in the Instant Pot, easy breadsticks - I'm still looking for the perfect Zuppa Toscana recipe, but the breadsticks were fast to make and tasty
  • Brown sugar seared salmon (from the Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook), baked sweet potatoes with sour cream and brown sugar, kale in the Instant Pot with lemon
  • Tofu and mushroom stir fry over ramen noodles - Easy and tasty!
  • This rice pilaf recipe is very nice
  • Salt and pepper roasted chicken (from Melissa Clark's Dinner cookbook), gravy (based on this recipe), mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies (carrots, fennel, and mushrooms) - This required work over a long period of time, but it wasn't that hard, and the chicken turned out well. Plus it's pretty special for us to have gravy with our mashed potatoes
  • Instant Pot creamy lemon chicken breasts - We don't eat a lot of chicken breasts, but these were easy and good. Served with roasted potatoes and asparagus, but there was a lot of sauce, so next time I'd serve over rice or egg noodles
  • Baked tofu with coconut kale sheet pan dinner with coconut rice - Easy and good (though I'd stick with normal rice next time; the coconut rice was too rich for me)
  • Tacos made with Instant pot taco meat - Turned out well with ground turkey. Maybe next time try half soy curls/half meat?
  • Tapioca pudding in the Instant Pot, round 2: Cut the sugar by half, used a drop of lemon oil instead of zest, and cooked on high for 12 min (using Bob's small pearl tapioca) - Nice; set up firmly after chilling

Well, based on my recent posting frequency, I'll be back to post again in about a year ;)

<![CDATA[School Auction Projects 2017-2018]]> Tue, 09 Oct 2018 18:13:19 PSTHi! Yikes--it has been almost a year since my last post. Blogging has taken a backseat to a lot of other stuff that is going on in my life this year, and I'm not sure if I'll ever come back to it in earnest. But there are some things I'd like to post about from the past year before I forget about them.

Let's start with the school auction projects that I worked on from September 2017 through February 2018. Last school year, I volunteered to be the class art project coordinator for our school auction. I had originally intended to only do a project for Felix's kindergarten class, but then five other classes didn't have any parent volunteers, so (inspired by all of my newfound free time now that Felix was in kindergarten full time) I made the possibly ill-advised decision to help with all of their projects too! I'm definitely not going to do that again this year, but it was nice to be involved with so many different classes.

Here are the projects, in order of least to most money raised at auction:

Fifth grade reusable shopping bags

Auction Project: Kid Art Grocery Bags

Inspired by Nina Chakrabarti's contour drawings, I brought in interesting-looking food/kitchen items and had the kids draw 3-5 items with thin Sharpie on white paper. I then scanned the drawings and selected the best 1-2 drawings per kid and turned them into fabric on Spoonflower, with the kids' signatures along the edges of the fabric. I ordered one yard of Kona cotton with this print and used it to make two Bijou Lovely market totes (I was able to use 1/2 yard of the fabric for each tote by using my base fabric for the handles too). I used a canvas-weight cotton-linen blend for the lining, base, and handles.

When the bags were done, I asked the class parents to donate their favorite non-perishable grocery items to put in the bags to make them a little more appealing at auction.

If I did this project again, I would have the kids make their drawings larger to ensure the resolution was sufficient for printing. But I probably wouldn't do this one again, given the amount of effort it took versus how much money it raised. It just wasn't a very exciting end product.

Cost of supplies: $50. Sold for $100.

First grade paper butterfly wall art

Auction Project: First Grade Paper Butterflies

Inspired by lots of Pinterest searching. I had the kids do scrape painting on smallish pieces of lightweight cardstock with acrylic paint and screenprinting paint (I used 98lb cardstock, each sheet cut into six pieces). When the paint was dry, I used a butterfly art punch to cut out one butterfly shape per student (with a few extras added in that I had painted), then I glued the middle of each butterfly onto my backing paper (heavy watercolor paper) using Elmer's extra-strong white glue. I gently folded the wings up and put the art in a 9x9-inch IKEA Ribba shadowbox frame with the mat removed. I had each student sign their name, and I scanned those to make a little chart showing which kid made which butterfly. I glued this onto the back of the frame.

I had enough leftover painted paper to make a similar piece of art for the teacher too.

I liked this project--it was pretty easy to put together. And now that I have the butterfly punch and paints, it wouldn't cost much to do it again.

Cost of supplies: $50. Sold for $115.

Fifth grade hexagon wall art

Auction Project: Watercolor Hexagons

I had a few parent helpers for this one. We had the kids draw designs with thin Sharpie on small (2.75-inch square) pieces of 90lb watercolor paper, which they then painted with watercolors. Then I used a 1.5-inch hexagon paper punch to cut out my favorite part of each piece of art. I glued the hexagons onto a piece of 13x17-inch watercolor paper using Mod Podge (Elmer's extra-strong white glue would also work) and weighed it down while it was drying to make sure it stayed flat. I framed it in a 12x16" IKEA frame. I scanned the kids' signatures and used them to make a little key showing which kid made which hexagon; I glued this onto the back of the frame.

I had enough leftover art to make a second piece for the teacher.

This one was pretty easy, but I think it would be better for younger kids next time (like third graders). I feel like the fifth graders had enough artistic skill that they could have made something more impressive given the opportunity.

Cost of supplies: $50. Sold for $130.

Third grade polygonal Mt. Hood wall art

Auction Project: Watercolor Mt. Hood

Inspired by this Mt. Hood art. This project required more prep work than most of the other ones. I started with an 18x7-inch piece of heavy (140lb) watercolor paper. I transferred an outline of Mt. Hood onto the paper, divided into enough shapes so that each student would have two shapes to fill in. I used watercolor masking fluid to outline each shape.

I had each student choose two of the shapes, draw a design in each shape with thin Sharpie, then color with watercolor. They also initialed their chosen shapes on a smaller version of the design, which I glued to the back of the frame when it was all done. There were some splatters and drips around the art, so I cut it out and glued it onto another piece of watercolor paper with Mod Podge (weighed down with books while drying). For framing, I initially tried to cut down the three-opening IKEA mat that came with my 20x9-inch frame, but it looked bad, so I ended up getting a custom mat made.

Cost of supplies: $50. Sold for $165.

Third grade collage/papercut bridge wall art

Auction Project: Tilikum Bridge Collage/Papercut

This Tilikum Bridge art was inspired by Mayuko Fujino's papercut and magazine collage art. I started by tracing the bridge outline onto a piece of printer paper, using this Tilikum bridge quilt as a template, and adding waves and clouds for more interest. Then I divided the picture into 22 distinct numbered areas--one per student. Next, I enlarged that picture 135% (still using printer-weight paper), wrote the area type (water, sky, clouds, bridge) on the front and the area number on the back, and cut out each area (that way kids could collage as much as they wanted without infringing on their neighboring areas).

Before I went to class, I cut interesting images out of magazines (Scrap in Portland was a good source for collage supplies) and sorted them into four groups (sky = yellow/orange, bridge = white/gray, river = blue, cloud = white/cream). In many cases, the kids turned the magazine cutouts over and used a different image than I'd intended, which made it more colorful than planned, but I like it (donut clouds!).

Auction Project: Tilikum Bridge Collage/Papercut

Working with three kids at a time in class, I had them choose a numbered area and collage magazine pieces onto it with Mod Podge until all of the printer paper was covered. I had a few kids collage the wrong side of their piece, so if I did this again, I would try to make it clearer which side of the paper was the front.

When all of the collaged pieces were dry, I trimmed their edges and glued them to the background (a piece of heavy watercolor paper) with more Mod Podge. I weighed it all down with books while it was drying, and it came out flat enough.

Auction Project: Tilikum Bridge Collage/Papercut

Next, I made a papercut overlay, using heavy-ish white paper (12x16-inch, maybe 78lb?). I already had the paper cutting supplies from the class I took with Nikki McClure when I was pregnant with Felix.

Auction Project: Tilikum Bridge Collage/Papercut

I attached the papercut to the collage background by gluing just around the edges of the paper. Then I framed it in a 16x20-inch IKEA frame and glued a little signature key to the back like I did with the other wall art projects.

Auction Project: Tilikum Bridge Collage/Papercut

If I did this again, I'd leave the bridge parts solid white (or nearly) to give the eye someplace to rest. Also I'd make the art slightly smaller and wider to leave space for a name/date at the bottom instead of having to write those on the mat.

I also took photos of this art and used it to print some greeting cards--one set to give to the teacher, and two to sell at the auction (on the advice of more experienced PTA parents).

I really like how this turned out, and it wins the prize for lowest supply cost AND highest selling price (tied with the kindergarten quilt below, which took a LOT more time and money to make). It took more in-class time than the other projects, but the kids seemed to enjoy themselves.

Cost of supplies: $30. Sold for $650.

Kindergarten house quilt

Auction Project: Kindergarten House Quilt

Wow, this quilt was a labor of love. It took so much time to make, and I love how it turned out, but I don't think I'll ever make another one of these (maybe some mini house quilts though, like to hang on a wall--I wonder how those would do in an auction).

This quilt was inspired by this house quilt. I started in September by having each kid draw a house on one piece of printer paper and a tree on another piece. I then combined these drawings and turned them into a paper piecing pattern by scanning them, enlarging to fit an approximately 9x12-inch block (this was the size of the tracing paper that I had), and turning each kid-drawn line into a straight line (I followed this tutorial for general paper piecing knowledge).

Kindergarten House Quilt Drawings

Then I took the block patterns back to school along with a box of my favorite stash fabric and some new additions (narrowed down to five color groups so the quilt would look more coherent) and asked each kid to choose fabric to "color" each part of their block. I also had them choose a piece of trim (ric-rac or mini pom-poms) to put somewhere on the block.

I also scanned the kids' names, decided where in the block they would fit, drew designs around them, and had them printed on fabric by Spoonflower (a fat quarter gave me four repeats of each name; I used the extras on the back of the quilt). I used Kona Ivory for the sky in all of the blocks.

2017 Kindergarten Quilt Block: Virgil

Using the paper piecing patterns and kid-chosen fabrics, I sewed 22 12-inch-tall house blocks of varying width, framed in coordinating fabrics (1/2-inch inner frame, 1-inch outer frame, not including seam allowance). Some of the smaller details were appliqued on. I also made improv-pieced backing blocks, grouped by color (one color per quilt row). If I'd used solid pieces of fabric for the backing, it would have saved me a good amount of time (but I love how it turned out!).

Then I quilted each framed block/batting/backing sandwich individually. Here are a few of the blocks next to the original drawings. I love all of these; click through the Flickr for lots more.

Auction Project: Kindergarten House Quilt

Auction Project: Kindergarten House Quilt

Auction Project: Kindergarten House Quilt

Then I assembled the quilt in five rows using this quilt-as-you-go method. Each row was 17 inches high, alternating 4-5-4-5-4 houses per row and varying the sashing width to make everything fit.

Finally, I bound the quilt. The finished quilt was 64x84 inches--good for a twin, full, or queen (barely) bed. I finished it in late January, a few weeks before the auction.

Auction Project: Kindergarten House Quilt - Front

Kindergarten House Quilt - Back

Kindergarten House Quilt - Folded

I also made a few sets of greeting cards to sell at auction/give to Felix's teacher.

Auction Project: Kindergarten House Quilt

Next time (ha!), I would let the kids choose different fabrics for the sky (from a limited palette) for more interest. I would also make sure the non-sky fabrics didn't have white backgrounds or large pictures. For the trim, I would use only ric-rac, because the pompoms melted under the iron and were hard to secure at the ends.

Pros: I used up lots of my stash fabric (but also gained some new fabric), raised lots of money for the school, and made something beautiful.

Cons: So much work!

Cost of supplies: $250 (ouch! And that doesn't even include all of the stash fabric I used). Sold for $650.

And for those who found this page while searching for school auction project ideas, here are some other projects from classes I wasn't involved with that did well at the auction: large acrylic paint pour wall art (kindergarten project); a custom-painted little free library, installation included (3rd grade); custom painted corn hole boards (2nd grade); indigo shibori quilt and throw pillows (4th grade).

<![CDATA[Start of School - Kindergarten and Second Grade]]> Fri, 17 Nov 2017 02:39:13 PSTSo, that brings us to the beginning of the school year! Arlo started second grade a few days before the kindergarteners started, so Felix and I went out for brunch. And then both of our kids were in elementary school--wow!

Felix at Brunch
First Day of 2nd Grade and Kindergarten

We went out for a celebratory lunch date at Broder--because we could!

Kid-Free Lunch Date at Broder

The end of summer and first few weeks of school were smoky because of the fire in the Gorge, but luckily that's behind us now.

Rainbow Ninjas

Arlo's class helper, Megan, shared this stealth photo of Felix and Arlo together at recess. They only have a few minutes of overlap outside, but apparently they always seek each other out and hang out together. They fight pretty frequently at home, so seeing this sweet moment at school was wonderful.

Boys at School
Arlos Looking Forward to...

Once again this year, I was in charge of the bike corral at our school's first fundraiser, the Tour de Ladd. It was a beautiful day, and even though I was on my own with the boys (Patrick was traveling for work) and our very early morning started with a flat tire on my cargo bike, we rallied, and things went smoothly.

Arlo at Tour de Ladd
Felix at Tour de Ladd

Both boys visited pumpkin patches on school field trips, so our only fall family activity requiring a car this year was going to Kiyokawa Orchards (that was plenty--it's a long drive).

Kiyokawa Orchard Wagon Fun
Kiyokawa Orchard Wagon Fun
Felix Chomps an Apple

For Halloween this year, Felix was a firefighter (easiest costume ever since we already had the jacket; thank you, Felix!) and Arlo was an airport worker (reflective vest is from IKEA's bike section, lighted flashlight sticks were cobbled together by Patrick). It didn't rain on Halloween, for once!

Halloween 2017

The first and second graders at school had their musical performance last week, and Arlo performed his lines up at the microphone very well. But the best part was that he got to do a little stagehand work (he has wanted to be a stagehand for at least a year, since we started listening to Hamilton). His music teacher let him turn the house lights off and then on for a glowstick number. He was very professional about the whole thing--I was very proud. Teachers are so great!

Arlo on Stage

School in general has been going well. I have been volunteering in Felix's classroom once a week, reading with kids, and I'm also helping with six class auction projects (the freedom of having both kids in school went to my head!). I'll write more about those once they're finished.

I want to spend more time in Arlo's classroom. I was there for the class Halloween party, and I've joined him for lunch a few times, but I'd like to be more involved. Arlo likes his second grade teacher, but he stops by his kinder/first grade teacher's classroom every day after school to chat and give her a hug. She's a good egg. Hopefully she'll be Felix's teacher next year too.

Felix had a rough drop-off at kindergarten on the first morning, crying and clinging to me. I burst into tears too after I got out of his classroom. I had expected it to be an easy drop-off, since he was used to the school, but I guess having a new teacher and classmates he didn't know was pretty hard for him. Luckily, he adjusted quickly, and subsequent drop-offs have been fine.

He was having problems keeping his hands to himself for a while. It seemed like when he was frustrated with one of his classmates, instead of telling them so, he would shake them or scratch them or something equally unacceptable. He didn't have problems with this in preschool, so I'm not sure what's going on. For a few weeks there, I kind of dreaded picking him up from school, because I knew I'd hear some new report about his bad behavior that day. Luckily, he has been treating his classmates nicely for the past few weeks, so maybe he's growing out of whatever phase that was. I sure hope so!

Felix loves sitting in front of the stereo and listening to Hamilton, but not the whole thing--just the same 15 seconds of "Guns and Ships" about Lafayette ("America's favorite fighting Frenchman!"). I recently bought him a set of headphones so the rest of us don't have to hear it on repeat.

Listening to Hamilton

He has recently gotten into the Magic Treehouse books, and we spent a recent day off from school learning a lot about Balto the sled dog and the serum run of 1925 (subsequently, we watched the 1995 movie Balto, which was not historically accurate, thank you very much!). Thanks to Wikipedia, Felix is now of the opinion that Togo and Leonhard Seppala were robbed, and Togo should have gotten the statue in Central Park, not Balto. We also looked at some cool pictures of hero animal taxidermy (combining Arlo's love of hero animals and Felix's interest in dead animals). At first I wasn't very excited about the Magic Treehouse series because of the writing in the first book, but we learned a lot with this one, and I'm excited to read more of them with the kids.

I can't believe Thanksgiving is coming up next week! It'll be time to get out the advent calendar again before we know it...

<![CDATA[End-of-Summer California Train Trip]]> Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:12:40 PSTOur end-of-summer California train trip was similar to our trip last year. We took the train down to San Diego, stopping at Legoland and a few other places, and then we flew home.

Day 1 (Sunday 8/20)

I had hoped to catch the eclipse in Portland, since we were near totality here, but no sleeper car rooms were available heading south from Portland on the day after the eclipse, so we ended up leaving Portland on the Coast Starlight the day before the eclipse and catching the eclipse right when we got off the train in San Jose. We had a few pairs of eclipse glasses with us, and even though it wasn't a total eclipse, it was still pretty cool! Maybe in 2024 we can plan farther ahead and experience totality. It sounds pretty amazing!

Days 2 and 3 (Monday 8/21 and Tuesday 8/22)

We spent two days in the Bay Area visiting Grandpa Rick (Patrick's dad) and Sunie. We brought floaties with us this time, so the boys actually got to swim in the pool at Rick's place, instead of just clinging to the edge of the pool for hours. We were able to meet up with my friend (and coworker) Sherri at her house, and I got to see her boys, who were younger than Arlo and Felix when I first met them, and now they're teenagers!

Day 4 (Wednesday 8/23)

We took the Coast Starlight south from San Jose to San Luis Obispo, then we took the hotel shuttle to the Madonna Inn. We were in the Old Mill room again this year. The water wheel still runs, but it splashed a lot of water on the carpet when we turned it on, so it was a brief entertainment. The pool was a big hit again, and I had brought a swimsuit this year, so I was able to enjoy it too. Again, the floaties let the boys roam the hotel pool freely, and they were sad that we only had an hour or so before we had to get out for dinner. Next year, we might add a second day at the Madonna Inn to really take advantage of the pool.

Kids at Madonna Inn, 2016 and 2017

(The top picture is from last year; the bottom picture is from this year)

Like last year, my mom met us at the Madonna Inn and had a picnic dinner with the boys in our hotel room while Patrick and I went out to the very pink Gold Rush Steak House. Once again, the food was unremarkable, but I do enjoy the ambiance!

Day 5 (Thursday 8/24)

This was our longest travel day. In the morning, we took the shuttle back to the Amtrak station and picked up good sandwiches at Gus's Grocery. First, we took an Amtrak bus from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara. Next, we took the Surfliner train from Santa Barbara to Oceanside, which was a five hour ride. The boys stared at screens the whole time (I guess there was a dinner break in there somewhere), and it went well. Finally, we took a Breeze bus from Oceanside to Carlsbad, where we spent the night at West Inn and Suites (they provide a free shuttle to Legoland, and we arrived in time for milk and cookie hour!). Despite the long travel day and late hour, Felix was still chattering away as we approached Carlsbad. These guys were troopers!

Amtrak Bus to Santa Barbara
Boys on Train to San Diego
Oceanside Bus


Day 6 (Friday 8/25)

Legoland! We took the hotel shuttle to Legoland right when it opened, spent the day at the park, and then stayed at the Legoland Hotel that night. Last year, the boys spent most of their time in Fun Town, but this year they branched out and tried more rides.

Patrick and Arlo on Legoland Skipper School Boat
Felix Got the Cheetah Jeep!

They also spent a lot of time in Miniland, especially Felix. He spent hours staring at the little Lego vehicles driving their loops around the different cities.

Felix Entraced by Miniland Vehicles
Brothers at Miniland


We got room service for dinner, which worked out better than trying to take two tired kids to the hotel restaurant like we did last year. After dinner, Felix was messing with the TV in the kids' area of the room, and he turned on the climactic scene in the last Harry Potter movie and was terrified by Voldemort (and rightly so!). Hopefully that doesn't put them off of Harry Potter. I have been trying to convince them to listen to the first Harry Potter book, but Arlo is staunchly opposed to peril in books or movies. Felix might be into it though.

Days 7 and 8 (Saturday 8/26 and Sunday 8/27)

After a few more hours at Legoland on Saturday morning, we took a Lyft from the Legoland Hotel to Carlsbad Blvd. (a two mile drive), and then we caught the Breeze bus down to Jay and Heather's neighborhood in San Diego. (I wish that there were better transit options connecting Legoland to the Carlsbad bus/train system!).

We had lunch at Poseidon Restaurant near the beach, and then we got a ride from Patrick's brother Jay to the house. (I looked at cargo bike rentals for this leg of the trip, since taking the bus there wasn't an option, but the roads didn't look very bike friendly). Meg and Dan (and Simba the dog!) came down from LA too, and we had a nice time hanging out. The boys got to play video games on a TV for the first time, and they were very much into it.

Legos with Aunts
Video Games with Uncle Jay
Walking with Aunt Meg

Day 9 (Monday 8/28)

In the morning, we got a ride from Jay to Solana Beach, where we took the Surfliner train into San Diego. We were able to leave our bags at the station, then we caught the ferry to Coronado Island, where we hung out on the beach and had a good lunch near the water at Peohe's. I thought it was a lovely place to spend a few hours, but the boys got bored quickly and spent much of the time grumping about lunch and wanting to play video games. Children!

Coronado Island Ferry Landing

After lunch, we took the ferry back, got our bags from the train station, and took a bus to the airport. Our flight home went well. Like last summer, the MAX was having some issues when we got into Portland, so we had to switch trains a few times, but we got home eventually.

It was a good trip! I'm glad we can go so many places without needing a car.

<![CDATA[Mid-Summer: Corvallis, Seattle, and Manzanita]]> Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:51:55 PSTHello! Arlo has been hounding me to write about the rest of our summer (he's still an avid blog reader--Hi, Arlo!), and I finally have a little time to do it.

I last wrote in mid-July, soon after we'd gotten back from our first California visit of the summer. A few days later, my sister (who lives in Seattle) and I headed down on the Amtrak bus to my Auntie Nance's house in Corvallis for a quick overnight visit with my mom and aunts. The Three Older Girls, as they like to be called, get together once a year or so, and it was a great honor for those of us in the next generation to be invited to join for part of it. Auntie Nance fed us well, and we got to walk around a beautiful nursery and see her latest quilts and catch up with each other.


The next day, my mom and I took the bus back up to Portland, and then she stayed with the boys for a few days while Patrick and I took the train up to Seattle for a mini-getaway. We rode the ferry to Bainbridge Island (this was a very multimodal couple of days, though no bikes were involved, sadly) and spent a few hours wandering around and eating good things. This was my first time there; Patrick and the boys had been there before on bike camping trips with Seattle friends. We took the ferry back to Seattle that afternoon and stayed in Belltown overnight. We saw Spiderman: Homecoming and ate dinner at Tavolata for the third time (I think). Maybe on our next Seattle trip we'll eat somewhere new.

Bainbridge Island Cookies
Kid-Free Weekend

A week later, we were off again on a short family trip to the Oregon coast (trying to fill our summer time with activities to avoid bored kids squabbling at home!). This was a lot like the car-free trip we took last year, but we skipped the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the overnight in Tillamook and went straight to Manzanita after a brief layover in Tillamook. The Wave bus worked out very well again for getting us from Portland to Manzanita.

We hung out at our rental house, watched the Food Network (Arlo's favorite vacation activity), ate pizza, and walked on the beach. Arlo had fun taking pictures with my phone, and Felix got super sandy rolling down sand dunes (cringe--messy kids are not my strong point). Luckily, Patrick was cool with bathing sandy kids multiple times per day, so everybody was happy.

Manzanita Beach
Sandy Felix, Cringing Mama
Shoes, by Arlo

On the way home from Manzanita, we had a couple-hour layover in Tillamook again, and we did the same things we did last year: lunch at the Dutch Mill and then taxidermy fun at the Pioneer Museum (Felix is still very interested in dead animals and skeletons).


Back in Portland, we had a few weeks of summer activities (including building a giant fort/space station out of the cardboard boxes we'd been saving in the basement). Felix finished preschool (though he'll probably return this summer like Arlo has done for the past few years).

Spaaace Caaaat
Last Day of Preschool for Felix

And then it was time for our big end-of-summer California train trip!

(To be continued...)

<![CDATA[Dye-Na-Flow Experiments]]> Fri, 22 Sep 2017 00:06:06 PSTI still need to tell you about the rest of our summer, but I wanted to put up this quick post about some experiments I did recently with Dye-Na-Flow, in case this information is helpful to somebody else out there on the Internet.

I'm planning on making another quilt for the school auction this year, and I was thinking about different ways that kids could make art with fabric or on fabric. During my Pinterest trawling, I came across some Dye-Na-Flow projects (including the pretty auction quilt that Susan made with her daughter's class a few years ago). I was curious about whether I could combine Dye-Na-Flow with freezer paper stenciling, so I did a few tests.

(Top photo is the samples before washing, bottom photo is after washing and drying)

Dye-Na-Flow Experiments, Before Washing
Dye-Na-Flow Experiments, After Washing

First, I made three samples using Dye-Na-Flow straight out of the jar (top row, l-r): (1) freezer paper shapes ironed on, (2) Dye-Na-Flow painted on fabric marked with Sharpie (to see how much it would bleed), and (3) blue Elmer's washable gel glue used as dye resist*. Then, in the bottom row, I tried the same techniques, but with Dye-Na-Flow mixed with aloe vera gel in a ~1:6 ratio, to thicken it and prevent the dye from flowing (inspired by this article). All samples are on white quilting cotton, and I heat set the dye after the fabric had dried, as directed on the Dye-Na-Flow label.

*For the glue resist, I let the glue dry overnight on the fabric, then I ironed it for about a minute to heat set the glue. I applied the dye, let the fabric dry, heat set the dye with the iron for about a minute, and then soaked the fabric in water for a few minutes before scrubbing the glue off.

Straight Dye-Na-Flow worked well with the glue resist, but it bled under the freezer paper and across Sharpie lines. The Dye-Na-Flow mixed with the aloe vera gel worked much better with the freezer paper and stayed within the lines (the red bits inside the lines in the photos above are because I was using a too-big paintbrush and couldn't control where the dye went). The color was a little lighter when the dye was mixed with aloe vera gel. The Dye-Na-Flow left the fabric much softer and more flexible than screenprinting ink, which is good for quilts.

Hope this is helpful to somebody out there!

P.S. In Portland, you can buy Dye-Na-Flow at Collage and Artist and Craftsman's Supply (and probably a bunch of other places).

<![CDATA[Mid-Summer Update]]> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 01:45:22 PSTHappy Summer! I made a summer calendar again this year, with planned outings/activities on most days. I know it sounds like overkill, but it helps motivate me to get out and do stuff while the weather is nice. I'm not very good at being spontaneous--I need a plan. We've skipped a few planned outings (sorry, berry picking, maybe next summer), but things have been going pretty well. We've gone on a few picnics, and we went to the Belmont fire museum recently.

Two new-to-us destinations that the boys have enjoyed are Wunderland Arcade (we went to the location in Milwaukie so we could ride the MAX there) and Oaks Park (two-for-one ride bracelets on Tuesdays!). I wasn't sure if the boys would be old enough to enjoy most of the rides at Oaks Park, but they were tall enough for most of them, and they found a couple that they loved and went on over and over again (the boats were the big favorite this year). Felix agreed to ride the small roller coaster with me, and now we know that he, like Arlo, doesn't like roller coasters. I'm lukewarm about them, so it's no big loss. The boys were well behaved and didn't fight with each other at all for the whole five hours that we were there, which has to be a record for them. Thanks for the afternoon of sibling harmony, Oaks Park!

First Visit to Oaks Park

First Visit to Oaks Park

First Visit to Oaks Park

At the end of June, Felix had a two-week break from preschool, so I took the boys to California on the train to visit two sets of grandparents. Because we only had one adult and two kids, I was stuck with the family bedroom on the way there (I was hoping to squeeze us all into a roomette, but the Amtrak customer service agent wasn't having it). I was able to get a slightly cheaper (though still awfully expensive) upstairs bedroom for the way back--Felix and I shared the bottom bunk in that one. It's too bad that it costs more to take the train (with sleeper car) than to fly, but it's a fun adventure, and it's better for the Earth, so I splurged. Maybe in a few years we'll try an overnight trip in coach (I think Arlo could handle it now, but Felix needs to be a little older).

Sleeping on the Train

The last time I took them on a train to California on my own was when they were 1 and 3 years old, and Arlo ate a whole pat of butter in the dining car while I was distracted with baby Felix. This time was considerably easier, and the only butter consumed was on bread, as it should be. Felix had a little dining car meltdown during our last meal on the way back to Portland, but otherwise the trip went pretty well. They spent most of the ride staring at screens (the free Lego MyCity2 app was a big hit) and eating candy (Note to self: Next time, don't let the five-year-old eat taffy on the train--so sticky!).

We visited Nana and Papa Baer first. The boys got to visit Papa Baer's chickens, and we walked to their library (and spotted a mom hauling two kids to story time on a bike--how exciting that Atascadero has family biking too!). We bought a variety pack of little Kellogg's sweet cereals for a special Nana's house breakfast treat, but it didn't include two of each cereal, so there was the inevitable argument over who got the Froot Loops and who got the Corn Pops.

Felix loved his sleeping nest at Nana's house, which was a folded up picnic blanket (I think) from my childhood. Arlo's nest was the same one that I used when I visited my grandma at his age--a soft blue blanket on one side and a blue floral sheet on the other. I love that the next generation can use it now.

Felixs Nest at Nana's House

I brought our mifold booster seats (nice and small for traveling), so we were able drive out to Morro Bay and visit their natural history museum and the beach--both fun. The next day, we visited the Paso Robles Children's Museum, which was a big hit.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay with Nana

Next up was a visit to Grandpa Rick and Sunnie's house in the Bay Area. The community that Rick lives in has a shared swimming pool, which was a big hit with the boys. Neither boy can swim, so they both held onto the concrete edge the whole time they were in the pool, and they had gnarly scrapes on their palms at the end of the day :( They loved it anyway. Next time, I'll bring water wings so they can venture away from the edge.

At the Pool with Grandpa Rick

On one of the days, Arlo went to the Exploratorium with Rick and Sunnie, while Felix and I stayed home and hung out on the couch and walked to California Avenue for sushi (I was sad to hear that Akasaka, our favorite sushi restaurant when we lived in Menlo Park, just closed. Noooo!). Our train back to Portland was a few hours late, so we had a late bedtime, but luckily the boys are able to sleep just fine on the train.

Waiting for the Train

Train Ride Home

Going back to May, here's this year's Mother's Day photo (postponed a few weeks until the peonies were in bloom). Felix wasn't smiling, exactly, but at least this year nobody was deliberately making a weird face or hiding or anything.

Me and the Boys

May was also a big birthday month. We've got five- and seven-year-olds now! Felix got a sweet birthday crown from his preschool teacher--sad that this is the last year for birthday crowns unless I learn how to make them myself. These days, Felix is still sweet and goofy, but also increasingly interested in violence and catastrophic events. He recently learned about Pompeii, and he talks a lot about what he'd do if a volcano erupted here (shoot it with fifty bullets?). He likes pretending to be a super villain, running around and pretending to attack us (and sometimes actually punching me while pretending, which I'm hoping will stop soon). Last week when I picked him up from preschool, he told me that he was an evil robot astronaut with googolplex chainsaws. Yikes!

Felix in Birthday Crown

Five Years Old

He's getting good at writing (thanks to preschool). I like this recent piece about how excited he is to be visiting Nana and Papa Baer:

Felix Made a Sign

Arlo likes to read my blog (hi, Arlo!)--some nights after Felix goes to bed, he'll sit in the orange chair and read his favorite passages out loud to me, giggling. He especially likes the stories about himself and Felix when they were younger.

Happy Birthday

Seven Years Old

He and Felix are still really into Hamilton and Legos, and of course vehicles! We are lucky to have a neighbor who works for Daimler. He took Arlo to an open house at Daimler a few years ago, and when he brought home a rainbow truck for the Pride parade this year, he let Arlo and Felix check it out. Awesome!

Pride Truck!

Arlo still very much prefers realistic, non-fiction entertainment; nothing too scary. He and Patrick have been watching This Old House online lately. He likes to read dessert cookbooks, and he and Felix can spend hours looking at the Lego catalog and talking about what they're going to buy next, and who gets which minifigs and vehicles.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but Arlo had the same teacher for kindergarten and first grade, and he loves her. When school ended in June, he was sad because it meant he wouldn't get to see Mrs. Siri every day. Luckily, we'll still get to visit her next year, and Felix may even have her as his teacher when he's in first grade (fingers crossed).

Arlos Card for Mrs. Siri

I've been riding my cargo bike a lot lately. I love it! When school was in session, I was riding it every weekday for school pickup. I'm still getting out three days a week (at least) for my volunteer work with Urban Gleaners. I started picking up donated soup and pastries for them back in November. During the summer, the boys and I have also been picking up leftover lunches for Urban Gleaners from the Portland Parks Free for All program. I love being able to reduce waste, help feed kids in need, AND ride my bike. Awesome!

Volunteering by Bike

Hauling Lunches for Urban Gleaners

(Sometimes Arlo and Felix aren't as enthusiastic about performing philanthropic acts and would rather stay home in their jammies and play Legos. It helps that the lunch pickup is at a park)

I've also been carrying plants and cats (the cats didn't seem to mind the bike ride, but they definitely didn't like the vet!).

Garden Bike

Cats on a Bike

Plants by Bike

Although most Portland drivers are careful and courteous (especially when my kids are on the bike), there have been a few scary moments. I thought this fictional cyclist obituary was interesting. Every so often when I'm on my bike, I think I should write a post like that. If I die on my bike, I want to make sure people know that I don't regret choosing to get around by bike instead of by car. It has enriched my life so much. (But also, I hope my time on the bike is uneventful and that I get to live a nice long life and die quietly in my sleep when I'm an old lady)

In garden news, we hosted mason bees this spring. The boys enjoyed taking care of them (making sure spiders didn't get them, filling up a little water dish, and digging a mud hole for them), and we ended up with a great pie cherry crop this year, which I give the mason bees credit for. I think we'll invite them back next spring!

Spring Guests

Also, here are some gratuitous peony photos from a few months ago. This is peony "Athena," an early bloomer. So pretty!



We harvested about a pound of currants this year, for the first time (normally we just eat them straight off the bush, but there are always lots left over), and I tried to make red currant jelly per this recipe (I was happy to learn that you don't have to remove the currants from the stems before cooking them if you're going to strain them later). I didn't boil it long enough, so it didn't firm up. Instead, I added water and ice cubes to the syrup to make currant-ade. It's not amazing, but it was a fun experiment. I think it could also be good over pancakes.

Picking Currants

Red Currant-ade

After our long winter, I was eager to add some more life to our house, so I bought lots of houseplants and distributed them around the house. And then a few weeks later (almost exactly three years after Patches disappeared), we adopted our two kitties, and Max made himself sick on spider plants the first night he was with us, so I had to move most of the plants up on top of the kitchen cabinets. Oh well, they look good up there too (I'll try to remember to take a picture). They make the kitchen feel like a jungle!

Houseplant Haul

The cats have settled in well. We adopted them from a woman who had recently moved in with her fiance and his dogs, and the cats weren't adjusting well. There have been times that I've regretted adopting them, but they can be pretty adorable too. They are more work than Patches was, and they're not lap cats, which is too bad (maybe when it gets colder, they'll change their minds). When Felix is feeling naughty, he picks on the cats, especially sweet little Max, which is so frustrating. I guess it makes sense that since he's finally not the smallest creature in the house, it feels good to him to have some power over the cats. The cats are not afraid to defend themselves by biting and scratching him, so hopefully he'll learn to show them more respect soon. (It's not all bad--there are also times when he's super sweet with them and tells them that they're cutie-pies and pets them so gently)

Snuggle Cats

I haven't been knitting or sewing lately (when the weather's nice, the garden takes priority), but when it was still rainy, I made bike saddle rain covers for me and the boys. I used laminated cotton and followed these directions, more or less.

Bike Saddle Rain Cover

Let's close this out with some recipes that have worked for me recently:

  • T-bone steaks, potato salad, and buttery steamed green beans - This was the last of our 1/8 of a cow from Kookoolan Farms. I'm doing my best to reduce the amount of meat we eat and avoid beef and pork when cooking at home, for climate change reasons. However, both kids liked the steak, and it can be hard to find protein that Arlo will eat, so we may revisit this recipe occasionally.
  • Sardine cakes, served with roasted sweet potato and broccoli - The sardine cakes are sustainable, healthy, and relatively tasty (not as good as crab cakes though). Next time, I'd add 1 tsp salt to the cake mixture (I used 1/3 tsp the first time, and it was undersalted). I didn't have an egg, and these still held together pretty well.
  • Quinoa, kale, and chickpea salad (used dried apricots instead of raisins) - Good! Served with cornmeal waffles.
  • Smoky tempeh, mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus - To improve its texture, I first steamed the whole slab of tempeh in the Instant Pot for zero minutes (really!), then quick released the pressure, then went on to marinating and pan frying - Kids didn't like it, but I did!
  • Big crumb rhubarb coffee cake - Made this for Easter brunch using rhubarb from our garden - I was meh on the rhubarb part (a little too moist), but the crumbles on top were yummy.

<![CDATA[Kitties!]]> Tue, 13 Jun 2017 00:00:19 PSTArlo, an avid reader of my blog, has noted that I haven't updated lately. He asked if he could write a blog post about our new cats. Here it is! I promise at some point I'll write another post too, though I'm enjoying having a 7-year-old collaborator.

We just got cats hmm, maybe last month? Anyway, our cats are named Max and Fluffy, and I l-o-v-e them (yeah, why would I not love them, because that would be bad).

Snuggle Cats

Fluffy is sort of aggressive (especially when we have the carriers out). Otherwise, he is a pretty good cat. Max is a very good cat (but he has been known to get a little aggressive recently). Fluffy cuddles with me in bed sometimes and sometimes they fight and sometimes they are nice to each other. I'm happy we have cats.

Fluffy in the Backyard Jungle
Max with Legos

<![CDATA[Spring Break, by Arlo]]> Sun, 02 Apr 2017 23:45:22 PSTA guest post from Arlo:

On spring break we went to tacoma, washington and we also went bike camping at L. L. ''stub'' stewart in Oregon. When we went to tacoma, we went to the car museum, I really liked all the cars, my favorite was the funny car. At the hotel I got to watch Insane pools off the deep end.

Funny Car: Arlos Favorite

Now to the camping part, when we where going to the camp site Kelly got a flat tire. when she changed her tire she put the same tube as she took off back on and thought that it was the new tube. 1/8 of a mile later she had to change her tire again because then she found out that she put the wrong tube on like I already told you. A few miles later we got off our bikes at the trestle and I went 1/2 a mile down to take pictures and on the way back up I took a picture of some horse poop. The End

[Ed.: Sorry, I refuse to post a picture of poop on my blog. You'll have to use your imagination.]

<![CDATA[Yard Sign #2, Xmas 2016, Recipe Roundup]]> Sun, 26 Feb 2017 02:07:19 PSTI made a second yard sign with the scraps from the auction quilt, with an excellent Maya Angelou quote: "In diversity, there is beauty and there is strength."

Diversity Yard Sign in Situ

And on the other side: YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS. (It helps me to be reminded of this fact every so often, and I figured it might encourage passersby too)

Yard sign #2

Yay, freezer paper stenciling! And yay, special little craft scissors that my Auntie Nance gave me years ago.

Yard sign in progress

My first fabric yard sign, from November, is holding up well. I washed it a few weeks ago, as it had gotten dirty from being splashed with rain and mud all winter. The hem had frayed, so I re-sewed it. The color has faded a little, but it's still doing its job.

Two months belated, but here's a little bit about Christmas, since I always find this kind of thing useful in subsequent years:

We did the advent calendar activities again this year. Here's the 2016 activity list:

  1. Drink hot cocoa w/ candy canes
  2. Donate knit hats at grocery store
  3. Umbrella parade and tree lighting in Milwaukie - This was a new one, and it was fun. Low-key, and we were able to take the MAX there
  4. Put up Xmas lights and hang stockings
  5. Donate toys at fire station
  6. Read a holiday book (Silver Packages - first time reading it, made me cry)
  7. Get holiday ice cream at Salt and Straw
  8. Go to Arlo's school holiday show
  9. Read a holiday book (An Orange for Frankie - also made me cry)
  10. See kids' choir performance at Central Library/Xmas tree in Pioneer Square
  11. Make treats for birds/teachers
  12. Bake and eat panettone
  13. Make cinnamon-applesauce ornaments
  14. Zoo Lights - This was our first year visiting Zoo Lights, and it was so cold but beautiful. We rode the MAX and got a good discount on our tickets. I'd go again next year, but hopefully on a warmer night
  15. Give money to charity
  16. Drink hot cider / Decorate Xmas tree
  17. Caroling with Felix's preschool - He opted not to go, which was fine, since we've done this for the past three years, and the boys have refused to sing along with their classmates every time (except maybe to Rudolph that first year). We've established that 3/4 of our family does not enjoy singing in public (I am the remaining 1/4)
  18. Make graham cracker gingerbread houses - Another new activity this year. I bought a bunch of candy at IKEA (of all places). I made royal icing with meringue powder and had a hell of a time getting the graham cracker houses to stay together (I don't have much patience for that kind of thing), but the boys still enjoyed decorating their ramshackle graham cracker lean-tos and eating the candy. Next year, I might buy a gingerbread house kit from IKEA too.
    Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses
    Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses
  19. Make and send Christmas cards - Thanks to an early suggestion from my sister, I had some photos printed, and the boys made cards to send/give to family members. I loved their envelope decorations!
    Arlo-Illustrated Envelopes
  20. Make paper snowflakes
  21. Watch a holiday movie (Elf, and we also watched The Grinch somewhere in there)
  22. Red and green pedicure
  23. Make gifts for family - This year we made chocolate-coated truffles. We made a ganache filling (half of this recipe) using flavored chocolate bars, then poured it into a 24-piece silicone candy mold I bought years ago. Once they'd set, we dipped them in chocolate (a 4oz coating recipe gave just enough chocolate to coat the 24 truffles by rolling them in my hands, not dipping), let them dry, and put them in little hand-folded paper boxes. It sounds like more work than it was.
    Family Christmas Present: Truffles
  24. Make sugar cookies (accompanied by Auntie Li and Aunt Kate this year)

Our 2016 family ornaments were knit doughnuts with embroidery floss sprinkles. Pretty cool pattern!

Family Ornament 2016: Doughnut
Family Ornament 2016: Doughnut

A long-overdue recipe roundup (I'm still loving our Instant Pot!):

And finally: Spring is coming! It has been a cold, rainy winter, and the daffodils are a few weeks later than usual, but the crocuses are doing their best to bloom anytime the sun peeks out.

Spring Crocuses!
Happy Goldilocks Crocuses

<![CDATA[First Grade Auction Quilt]]> Sun, 26 Feb 2017 00:11:06 PSTEvery year, Arlo's school has an auction, where each class works on a project to sell to raise funds for the school. I volunteered to help with his class project this year along with another classmate's mom, and we agreed that our project should be a quilt. I'd never made a bed-sized quilt before, but I was excited to work on it. I think it turned out well!

First Grade Auction Quilt
First Grade Auction Quilt
First Grade Auction Quilt

We started in December, brainstorming how the kids could be involved in making the quilt. At my co-planner Beth's suggestion (inspired by this quilt), we had the kids draw self-portraits with marker on paper, then Beth scanned them, arranged them into a repeating fabric design, and had two yards printed on Spoonflower. This worked well, though we had to wait a while to receive the fabric (the default shipping method is slow when shipping to the West coast).

First Grade Auction Quilt

The colorful half-square triangles on the quilt front were inspired by this quilt. The final block size for the front was 5.5", arranged in a 12x16-block grid. For the front, I used 1/2yd each of the portrait fabric and 13 colors of Kona cotton (shown below, plus a medium gray I had in my stash) and 1yd of white Kona cotton. I used the Magic 8 method to make the blocks for the front of the quilt. The back is also made of half-square triangle blocks (11" square) with fabric from our stashes, along with a 22" square of the portrait fabric bordered by eight HST blocks containing the portrait fabric, to make it look like a diamond.

Auction Quilt Fabric Stack

After I'd made the HST blocks, we had the kids pair up, and they each received 16 blocks to arrange in a 4x4 grid. Some of them were excited and spent a long time getting things perfect, and some laid the blocks out in the order they received them and called it good. I rearranged a few to better distribute the colors.

Auction Quilt Blocks

A couple parents helped sew together the blocks for the front of the quilt, I sewed the back, and it was time to quilt it. We had originally planned on having the quilt professionally quilted, but it turned out this would cost $150-$200, which was too expensive for a quilt meant to raise money for the school. So instead I used this as an excuse to buy a computerized sewing machine with a walking foot. I'd been thinking about buying a new sewing machine, and I had some Amazon credit saved up, so I went for it, and I'm really happy with the machine so far!

The diamond quilting pattern was based on this quilt, and I used my bone folder to mark creases for my quilting lines, much like a hera marker is used (yay for multi-purpose book-making equipment!).

First Grade Auction Quilt
First Grade Auction Quilt

We ended up making the quilt 64"x84", which would fit a twin bed with 15" overhang, a full bed, or a queen bed with no overhang (the bed in the pictures is a queen). After trying out a couple different quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) approaches (see below for more info), I decided to use this approach, which gradually builds the quilt from the left to the right and has nice smooth seams without any sashing required. I did my quilting in four sections (each 4 blocks by 12 blocks), and I didn't have to wrestle too much to get the quilt through the machine. I would use this QAYG approach again when making a bed-sized quilt on my home machine.

Auction Quilt - First Section Quilted

I went against my own best judgement by making the back of the quilt pieced too. It looks cool, but it was harder making everything line up when I was doing the quilting, and if you look closely, some of the triangle points were cut off when I was joining my QAYG sections, since my backing pieces ended up a little smaller than the front pieces after the quilting was done.

When I'd finished quilting, I made the binding and a label. After some Internet research, I decided to use the Pentel Gel Roller for Fabric pen, which I found at my local craft store, Collage. In order to make the letters nicely centered, I first used Powerpoint to lay out the text in a triangle shape and mirror the letters. Then I traced the words onto the matte side of a piece of freezer paper, ironed it to my fabric, held it up to a window, and traced the letters onto the fabric with my pen. I then ironed the reverse side of the fabric for a minute or so (to set the ink, though I'm not sure if this is necessary), attached some binding to the long edge, and sewed the label onto the corner of the quilt as I attached the binding.

First Grade Auction Quilt
First Grade Auction Quilt
First Grade Auction Quilt

And then I got to do my favorite part of making a quilt: hand-sewing the binding (I use this method). I love sitting on the couch, covered in a cozy quilt, finishing a project slowly and methodically.

Binding the Auction Quilt

I finished the quilt with just enough time to wash and dry it (the label held up well), take photos of it, and bring it by the classroom so the kids could see the finished product and find themselves on the self-portrait fabric. Then I dropped it off with the auction coordinator and heaved a sigh of relief!

First Grade Auction Quilt
First Grade Auction Quilt

While I was working on the quilt, I was thinking that this was a once-a-year kind of project, but now that it's done, I don't know if I'll wait a full year before making another quilt. Maybe a baby quilt next time though!

Here's a little more on the quilt-as-you-go experiment I did before starting the big quilt: Using stash fabric, I made a 24x36" quilt with six sections, each connected with a different QAYG method. I also used this as an opportunity to try different quilting patterns and some beginner-level free-motion quilting.

QAYG Test Quilt
QAYG Test Quilt
QAYG Test Quilt
QAYG Test Quilt

Here are the methods I tried:

  1. Quilt front/batting/back together and leave 1" free around edge. Sew fronts of your two sections right sides together, butt batting together without securing (cut off any overlap). Fold over and hand-sew backing down - This wasn't super easy, as getting the two batting pieces to lie flat against each other took some fiddly trimming. I machine sewed the back instead of hand sewing, so it didn't look great, but I think it would look nice with hand sewing. The seam felt nice, not bulky.
  2. Quilt front/batting/back together all the way to edges, trim edge straight. Sew second front and back to quilted section, right sides together (front-to-front and back-to-back). Butt in batting for second section and zigzag to batting from first section. Fold front and back for second section over the batting, and quilt this second section - This is the approach I ended up using for the big quilt, and it's described more clearly here. This was relatively easy, looked good, and the seam felt normal, not bulky.
  3. Quilt front on batting (no back) to edges for two sections. Sew these sections together, right sides together with a 1/2" seam allowance, and clip ends. After sewing all front/batting sections together, lay the backing on and stitch in the ditch to secure - This was easy and looked okay (the quilting on the back is just basic squares), but the seam felt bulky because of the double layer of batting.
  4. Quilt front/batting/back leaving 1" free at edges. Trim front/batting for two sections and trim back of one section. Sew fronts/battings together, holding the non-trimmed back piece out of the way, then fold the longer back over and handsew over trimmed back piece - This was relatively easy and would have looked fine if I'd taken the time to handsew, but the seam felt bulky.
  5. Quilt front/batting/back to edge and square up sections. Use thin sashing strips on the front and back to attach the sections - This is the method I came across most often when I was reading about QAYG. I didn't find it very easy, and the seam felt a little weak where the sashing was (I think this could be addressed by including a skinny strip of batting). Also, I didn't want strips of fabric separating the sections in our quilt, so I ruled this one out pretty quickly.

<![CDATA[Protest]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:32:47 PSTI've been to two protests since I last wrote. A few days before December 19, I made a last-minute decision to take Felix to Salem to attend Oregon's Electoral College rally. Since Oregon went to Clinton, I just wanted to be there to show solidarity with the rallies happening in other states.

Dec. 19 Electoral College Protest in Oregon

Felix and I took the train down the night before and took a snowy hike from the Salem train station to our hotel. It was dark and cold and slippery, but he did great getting there. The next morning, we took the bus downtown and walked to the capitol building, where there were around a hundred people gathered. Felix had fun playing in the lingering snow piles, and we were able to duck inside to warm up and use the bathroom. There was a cool model train set up under the Christmas tree in the atrium, but sadly it was out of order. Felix really wanted to see it go.

Dec. 19 Electoral College Protest in Oregon

Felix helped make his sign, and he joined in a few chants of his own volition. After the rally, we had a good lunch at the Sassy Onion, and then we walked to the train station, where Felix used my spare quarters to buy Mike and Ikes from a candy machine in front of the Greyhound ticket window. It doesn't sound like a very fun trip for a four-year-old, but he loved it, and he keeps asking me to take him back to Salem.

My second protest was this weekend, at the Womens' March in Portland. I wasn't sure if I'd go, worrying about violence and thinking that plenty of other people were going, so I didn't need to. But then on the morning of the march, I saw all of the inspiring pictures from the marches on the East Coast and around the world, and I wanted to be a part of it.

I rode my bike to the Hawthorne Bridge and then parked it and walked across. I was amazed by how many other people were there (approx. 100,000, it turns out!). The sidewalks on the Hawthorne Bridge were packed full of people, and a steady stream of people continued for the next hour while we waited in Waterfront Park. The Morrison and Burnside Bridges also had a steady flow of pedestrians, though not as packed as the Hawthorne. I tried to capture it in my picture below, but it's hard to see.

Portland Womens March
Portland Womens March

It was cold and rainy, but everybody that I encountered was in good spirits. It turned out to be a peaceful march, and no arrests were made (phew!). I didn't get any good pictures, but there are plenty out there (this one is my favorite--so many colorful umbrellas!).

People started chants occasionally, but we mostly walked quietly. In terms of emotional impact, the Not Up for Grabs march that I participated in right after the election had a greater impact on me, but the sheer size of the Women's March was amazing, and I was glad to be a part of it.

I'm loving all of the pictures from the marches that happened around the world. It makes me feel less alone and afraid. We can make a difference!

<![CDATA[The World Turned Upside Down]]> Fri, 16 Dec 2016 01:30:54 PSTIt has been over a month since the election, and I haven't felt inspired to post here. I still don't, particularly, but it seems worthwhile to capture my present feelings. As you may have guessed, based on the fact that I live in Portland (and don't own a car and majored in chemistry, and the list goes on), I voted for Hillary Clinton, and I was shocked and dismayed when Trump won. (I still can't quite believe it) I wasn't super invested in Hillary, but I thought she'd do a fine job, and I was excited to have our first female president.

Election day was sunny and beautiful, and I took the boys out for ice cream, and the world was full of promise (this poem captures it well). And then the next morning, we had to break the news to them, and Arlo burst into tears (we hadn't been talking to them much about the election beforehand, but he'd picked up enough from conversations with his classmates to know that Trump being president was not a good thing).

In those first few days after the election, I started following a lot of new people on Twitter, which made me feel both informed and terrified. (I'm still not sure if my increased time spent on Twitter is a good choice, in terms of my mental well being) I found this blog post comforting, especially since it listed concrete things I could do to make things better.

We set up reoccurring donations to a handful of organizations that seemed particularly important (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, Southern Poverty Law Center). I signed petitions, sent postcards, subscribed to the New York Times, and called our (excellent) representatives (yay, Oregon!). The boys and I wrote thank-you cards to Hillary and the Obamas (please don't go!).

Thank You Cards
Thank You Cards

I started volunteering with Urban Gleaners, a local nonprofit that takes surplus food from restaurants and stores that would otherwise be thrown away and distributes it to schoolkids in need. I was lucky to find two available pickup routes that were in my neighborhood and involved a volume of food that would fit on my cargo bike. So now, every week, I pedal day-old pastries from a local coffee shop and frozen quarts of soup from our favorite bike-based soup company to the Urban Gleaners warehouse, and kids get fed. Yay, volunteering! Patrick and the boys have been involved with Friends of Trees for many years now, and it feels good to do my part to improve our community too.

I went to a (peaceful!) women's protest in downtown Portland. It was my first time marching, and it was a powerful emotional experience, more than I'd expected. I broke down crying a few times at the feeling of strength and support from those around me. I'm glad I went. (The first photo below is by Kathryn Kendall, used with permission)

Portland Not Up For Grabs Protest Nov. 19
Protest Signs
Protest Signs

Felix was inspired by my sign-making, and made one of his own, with occasional spelling help from me: "DT is a bad guy! Arrest him immediately" (in his 4-year-old view of the world, all bad guys go to jail). He has just learned how to read and write in the past few months, and he was excited to put his new skills to good use!

Protest Signs

And then, because I like making signs, I repurposed our James Ofsink yard sign to add a little inspiration and kindness to our parking strip, and then I made a mini version of the sign for my bike (I figure this is a noncontroversial enough sign that it won't inspire road rage in any Trump supporters I cross paths with on the road. I hope?). The yard signs are fabric paint on quilting cotton (hopefully they'll stand up to our winter rains), and the bike sign is paint on paper, laminated.

Yard Signs
Yard Signs
A Sign for the Bike

Patrick and I made cookies for a bake sale to raise funds for the ACLU. We got passports for our kids. I knit two pairs of warm mittens for homeless and low-income kids in Portland, and I knit a bright pink hat for a marcher to wear on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.

Handspun Mittens
Heart Hat

So that's where I'm at, trying to make a difference, feeling afraid of what comes next. This quote from Sarah Kendzior's latest article sums up my feelings well:

"It feels less like the aftermath of an election than a fundamental shift in our reality – a feeling like the ground is breaking beneath our feet and swallowing us up. It feels like Americans live permanently on the precipice – perhaps of foreign war, or of civil war, or of the loss of our sovereignty. That we do not know just what we live on the precipice of is the most unnerving thing of all. Every day feels like a countdown to the end to a way of life we may be leaving behind, the giving way of our dead dreams to an unprecedented nightmare."

P.S. Here are some other things that happened before the world turned upside down (listening to Hamilton a lot these days):

I knit new hats (with pompoms, of course) for me and Felix.

Safety Hat!
Safety Hat!
Fluo Bray Cap

Arlo lost his first tooth and hosted his first sleepover (the boys' behavior was not great during the sleepover, but at least we had cinnamon rolls for breakfast!).

Arlo Lost His First Tooth!
Sleepover Cinnamon Rolls

We all wore yellow for Halloween (I was a bee, Felix was a lion, and Arlo was Pickles the Fire Cat).

Early Halloween Costume
Hap-Bee Halloween!
Early Halloween Costume

P.P.S. You can make a difference too! Spread kindness, donate to a good cause, volunteer your time--whatever works for you.

Bubble Machine!

<![CDATA[Felix, Age 4]]> Thu, 06 Oct 2016 17:18:20 PST

True love, Felix style: "Mama, when we die, I want to be cremated in the same oven as you."

<![CDATA[10-Day (Almost) Car-Free California Trip]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 03:16:17 PSTSchool is back in session, and I'd say our summer went well. As I mentioned back in June, at the beginning of the summer, I planned out what we would do each day. It helped me get us out of the house every day, and it distracted the boys so they wouldn't get bored and fight with each other. There was no preschool for the last two weeks of summer, so I planned a 10-day family trip to California.

My hope was that our vacation wouldn't involve any cars, and it ended up being about 95% car-free (getting to Legoland without a car is tough!). Not bad! There were some miserable parts where the boys were tired of waiting for the train or waiting at restaurants or bored with being in a hotel room (the perils of vacationing with four- and six-year-olds), and there were times when I regretted going on the trip. But we also had fun. After we got home, the boys kept talking about how much fun they had, and how they want to go on another California trip, so I guess the moments of family strife didn't bother them. And looking at all of these nice pictures, the bad parts are fading from my memory too. So maybe we'll do it again next year (or, as Patrick and I agreed soon after the trip, maybe it would be best to do one-kid/one-parent trips for the next few years--they seem to behave better when they're separated).

Day 1:

On the first day, we caught the Amtrak Coast Starlight train in Portland. As with previous trips, we splurged and got rooms in the sleeper car, because otherwise it would have been a rough 21 hours. I bought Arlo a new car magazine for the occasion.

On the Train
On the Train

Day 2: Monterey

We arrived in Salinas around lunchtime, caught the Amtrak bus to Monterey, and had a late lunch at the Wild Plum Cafe. Everybody was hungry and irritable, and the food took a long time to come out, but at least it was tasty. It was my mistake for planning on going there at prime brunch time on a Sunday--the nearby Chipotle would have probably been a better bet with two hungry kids.

We stayed at the Monterey Hotel, which was walkable from the Amtrak bus stop and was on a trolley line that would take us (for free!) to the aquarium the next day. We had to wait for about an hour for our room to be ready, but Plumes Coffee and Tea next door had pearl milk tea, comfy couches, and the Olympics on TV, so it was okay (our trip was well-timed; we were able to watch the Olympics every night in our various hotel rooms, much to Arlo's chagrin. He would have preferred the Food Network). We also walked over to Dennis the Menace park, which was super cool, but the boys weren't very interested in playing there--I guess they were tired from the train ride.

We were in Monterey a few days before the big annual car show/auction, and we got to see a bunch of sweet cars being unloaded around downtown Monterey. It was great (and unintentional) timing.

Cool Cars in Monterey
Cool Cars in Monterey

We took the boys out for dinner at Full Moon--their first time at a Chinese restaurant. A few weeks prior, Arlo had asked me what a fortune cookie was, and Portland doesn't have many great Chinese restaurant options near our house, so this seemed like a good opportunity. As expected, the boys weren't very excited about the main courses, but they liked the little tea cups and the fortune cookies (so do I!).

Day 3: Monterey

We spent most of the day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with Grandpa Rick and Sunie. Patrick and I really enjoyed going to the aquarium when we lived in the Bay Area, pre-children, and I was looking forward to sharing it with the boys. Unfortunately, since it didn't involve vehicles, they got bored with it, which was frustrating. They did enjoy the touch pools and the interactive exhibits that involved levers and buttons (and the gift shop, of course), but Felix had no interest in just standing there and admiring all the creatures in the kelp forest or the outer bay exhibit, which is what I would have liked to do. Four-year-olds, man.

Touching Hermit Crabs
Monterey Bay Aquarium

After finishing with the aquarium we stopped at a candy store across the street (jelly beans by the pound--a big hit!), and then we caught the trolley back to the hotel. For dinner, we headed to Fisherman's Wharf, and ate at Crabby Jim's (a touristy choice, but it seemed like a relatively kid-friendly option in the neighborhood). The view was nice; the food was okay. We found a store window full of toy cars on the walk back to the hotel, and amazingly nobody had a breakdown when we left without buying anything. Huh!

Toy Cars, Fishermans Wharf, Monterey

Day 4: San Luis Obispo

Waiting for the Bus to Salinas

The next morning, it was back on the bus to Salinas, then a train (the Coast Starlight again, this time in coach) to San Luis Obispo, and then the free hotel shuttle to the Madonna Inn. Arlo was speculating about what kind of shuttle the hotel would have, and it turned out to be an unremarkable maroon minivan, but he seemed satisfied with it. I guess a minivan is pretty exotic to him. The train had a delay coming into SLO, as a train bridge up ahead had been damaged by a too-tall truck passing underneath, but luckily we only had to wait for a half hour, and the bridge was still passable. This was the only major train issue we encountered on our trip, which was pretty good!

Contemplating the Water Wheel
Grandparents and Dutch Mill
Sleepy Boy with Sparkles

This was our first time at the Madonna Inn, and it was great. We were in the Dutch Mill room, with sparkly wallpaper, elaborate mural, and a working water wheel in the middle of the room. Our favorite part was the hotel pool, which wasn't even on my radar when I was planning the trip. It was warm and had a nice shallow part where the boys could walk around, and it wasn't too crowded. I'd definitely like to go there again the next time we're in the neighborhood (and next time I'll bring my swimsuit so I can go in past my knees!).

Madonna Inn Pool
Wishing I Brought a Swimsuit

My mom and Alan met us there (I was happy with how many family visits we were able to fit in over the course of the trip!), and they fed the boys dinner while Patrick and I went out to dinner at the hotel's Gold Rush Steak House. It was so pink; I had trouble capturing the awesomeness of it all. I had a Shirley Temple, and they gave me three maraschino cherries--the mark of a quality establishment! In keeping with the pink theme, I had the pink shrimp Dolce Vita, and we shared the pink champagne cake for dessert. The food wasn't amazing, but I enjoyed the ambiance, and I'd go there again.

Pink Shirt, Pink Lightpost
Lots of Pink

Day 5: SLO/Ventura

This marked the halfway point of our trip, so while Patrick and the boys returned to the hotel pool, I jammed all of our dirty clothes into a backpack and took a very nice walk up the Madonna Inn bike path to a laundromat (Parker Street Coin Laundry), where I sat quietly and didn't have to take care of anyone but myself for an hour and a half. Lovely!

SLO Laundromat

Around lunchtime, we took the hotel shuttle back to the Amtrak station, Patrick picked up some excellent (and large) sandwiches at Gus's Grocery (one block from the station--they have Dutch crunch bread), and the children waited impatiently for the train to Ventura to come (we were on the Surfliner for the remainder of the trip).

I had planned the overnight stop in Ventura to break up our travel and avoid antsy kids on the train, but I'm not sure if that was a good call. We got in around dinnertime, after the fish taco place I wanted to visit had closed, so Patrick went out and got Mexican food and brought it back to the hotel, and Felix had a meltdown about not getting juice (I think? It's hard to keep track--he was kind of fragile for most of the trip, since he skipped his nap for 10 days straight, and we were in a new place nearly every day). I had hoped to visit the beach, but we didn't have the energy and it was getting dark, so we just sat grumpily in our kind of subpar hotel room (we stayed at the Clocktower Inn near the station. It was okay and affordable, but not as nice as the other places we stayed). This was the low point of the trip, but luckily things looked up the next day because we went to...Legoland! (Imagine Felix flailing his arms excitedly like Kermit and exclaiming, "Yay! Legoland!").

Day 6: Yay! Legoland!

We left Ventura on the 7:30am Surfliner and debarked in Oceanside around lunchtime. We had a great lunch at Petite Madeline a few blocks from the Oceanside Transit Center (crepes/sandwiches and an excellent dessert case). I had an elaborate plan to get us to Legoland without a car--it involved taking Breeze bus 101 to the Carlsbad Poinsettia Station and then taking Flex bus 373 (reserved in advance) to Legoland. Unfortunately, I didn't look at the bus 101 route map closely enough, and it turned out that it didn't actually drop off at the Poinsettia Station. So we frantically walked 3/4 mile from the bus stop to the Poinsettia Station (in the heat, with short-legged children), but the Flex bus had already left because we didn't show up on time. Sigh.

If we do this again, I'll have the Flex bus pick us up at an actually stop on the bus 101 route, and we should be golden. Instead, Patrick called us a taxi van. The driver made a fuss about the boys not having booster seats (understandably), but he ended up giving us a ride anyway, and we got to our destination safely (phew!). It was stressful for me, but the boys were excited to ride in a taxi, so that's something.

And even more exciting than a taxi? The Legoland Hotel! I debated whether it was worth paying extra to stay there instead of in a normal hotel a few miles away, but it was totally worth it. We only stayed there for one night, which was sufficient. There was a lot to see/hear/do, and the boys kind of lost their minds, but since the hotel was full of equally loud and excited kids, it was not a problem.

Family at Legoland Hotel
In the Lego Pit at Legoland Hotel

We stayed in one of the pirate rooms, which had a bunk bed, free minifigs, Lego cartoons on TV all the time, and complimentary hot cocoa and juice. Also, Legoland was right out the back door, which meant that we were able to spend a few hours there before dinner (we ate at the Skyline Cafe in the hotel; it was fine), go back after dinner, and then return (early) the next morning.

We spent most of the first afternoon in Fun Town, as it had the most vehicle-themed rides. The fire/police truck ride, helicopters, and safari Jeep ride were a big hit with Felix, and Arlo liked driving school. The lines weren't too long (it was a Thursday afternoon), which was nice. The park had plenty to do, but it was a reasonable scale for young kids--not too overwhelming. The weather was perfect; we ate popsicles. Two thumbs up for Legoland! I'd say it was the highlight of the trip for the boys, and us grown-ups had fun too. Patrick was hesitant to go when I was planning the trip, but I'm very glad he was there, as most of the rides required a parent to accompany children under 48", and getting both boys on the rides with only one parent would have been tough.

Felix at the Wheel, Legoland
Legoland is Fun
Driving School, Legoland

Day 7: More Legoland!

Our stay at the Legoland Hotel included a free (and pretty extensive) breakfast buffet at Bricks, and we got to enter the park an hour early (though only some of the rides were available before the general opening time). I convinced Arlo to ride the Coastersaurus with me. It seemed like a pretty tame roller coaster, so I figured it would be okay, but he did not like it, poor guy. I probably should have just gone on it by myself. Sorry, Arlo!

We revisited our favorite rides from the previous day, ate apple fries, walked around Miniland, and then spent a good amount of time at the attached water park. We stayed there until around 5pm, which felt a few hours too long for Felix (he and I spent the last half hour lying on a grassy hill). A day and a half seemed like the right amount of time to do everything we wanted at Legoland.

We ended the day with a visit to the big Lego store at the park entrance, and Arlo had a meltdown when we didn't buy any Lego sets (there were new Lego sets waiting for them at our next stop on the trip, but that wasn't a convincing argument when they were faced with ALL OF THE LEGOS). Oh well, I'm sure he's not the first child to have a tantrum at the Lego store.

We were staying at West Inn and Suites that night--strategically chosen because they offer a free shuttle to and from Legoland (with booster seats and car seats available in the van!), and they have free cookies. Also, the hotel is only a few blocks from the bus 101 route, so we didn't have to do any complicated transit stuff the following day. I was really happy with the combination of one day at the Legoland Hotel and the second day at West Inn and Suites.

Since we were on vacation (and were tired of plying our children with video games to get them to behave at restaurants), we ordered room service and ate dinner while watching TV. Exciting!

Day 8: Los Angeles

The next morning, we took the Breeze 101 back to the Oceanside Transit Center and caught the Surfliner north to Los Angeles, to visit Aunt Meg (and Simba the dog and Dan the man, with a bonus visit with Aunt Heather and Uncle Jay). I was a little nervous about navigating the LA transit system with two kids, but it turned out fine (though it certainly made me appreciate Portland's 2-hour free transfers and free rides for kids under 7--thanks, TriMet!).

Arlo with LA Metro Map

We took a quick ride on the Metro to Grand Park, where we grabbed sandwiches from the Starbucks in the park and had a picnic. Then it was back on the Metro--first the red line, and then the Expo line to Meg's apartment. I had hoped to stop in the middle to visit the Natural History Museum and Science Center, but they didn't have any place to store our bags, so it wouldn't have worked.

We spent the afternoon relaxing at Meg and Dan's place with Simba and the gang--a nice change of pace. We took Simba to the park and then had yummy burgers at Plan Check. The boys got along well with Simba on this visit--Felix declared his love for Simba repeatedly.

Day 9: Los Angeles

First Time on an Articulated Bus

This was our museum day. We took an articulated Metro bus (a first for all of us--Arlo was very excited!) to LACMA, where we met up with Meg and checked out Metropolis (an exhibit full of Matchbox cars and other toy vehicles racing around a track), and then we spent a few hours at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It would have been nice to spend more time at LACMA, but as we were reminded at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, if it doesn't have wheels, buttons, or levers, the kids aren't interested. Oh, but we did ride the room-sized elevator next to Metropolis--that was pretty cool!

Checking Out Metropolis at LACMA

The car museum had some nice exhibits, and they had a special hands-on room for kids, but overall I didn't like it as much as the Tacoma car museum (but maybe that's just because we had both kids on this trip, and in Tacoma it was just me and Arlo). As you might have guessed, the highlight for the boys was the amazing gift shop, and many tears were shed when we left without buying anything (in retrospect, maybe I should have caved and allowed a toy car purchase, but we already have so many at home!).

Toy Car Heaven

Both boys fell asleep on the bus on the way back to Meg's place, which was sweet. That night, Meg and Dan took care of the boys while Patrick and I walked to Tsujita for ramen (tasty!). For dessert, we got a snow cream at Blockheads, but we didn't see the appeal. Maybe I just chose the wrong flavor.

Day 10: Santa Monica

On our final day in L.A., we took the Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica and spent the morning at the beach (we had surprisingly few beach visits on this trip, but this was a good one). We had lunch a few blocks from the beach at M Street Kitchen, which Meg recommended and I really liked. They were very accommodating, and the food was good.

Santa Monica Beach
Good Lunch at M Street Kitchen

Then we took the bus back to Meg's, where we packed up and started our airport odyssey. We took Big Blue Bus 1 to the Culver City 6R bus to the airport terminal shuttle. Our flight home was uneventful. This was Felix's first flight since he was a little guy, and he thought it was cool, except he was worried that the plane was making too much pollution and was making the Earth too hot (I'm still figuring out the right balance in teaching our kids about climate change without freaking them out).

And then, once we got home to Portland, we found out that the MAX tracks were under construction, so we had to take two MAX trains and two buses to get home. A big travel day: seven buses, two light rail trains, and one airplane! We all slept well that night.

<![CDATA[Bike Camping and Blueberry Picking]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 01:58:43 PST
Family Bike Camping at Dodge Park

We went on two family biking adventures in July. The first was an overnight bike camping trip to Dodge Park with Kidical Mass PDX. I skipped last year's trip to Dodge Park because I still had bad memories of biking on Orient Drive (and getting yelled at by a dude in a sports car) from three years before, but we took a new route this year, which avoided Orient Drive, and I liked it much better (for interested people in the Portland area: take the Springwater Trail to 267th, turn right on Stone Rd, left on Short, right on Dodge Park Blvd., right on Lusted Rd). The only bad part was crossing Highway 26, which had very fast traffic and big trucks, but we just waited for a break in the traffic and crossed in small groups. It was a little scary, but it was over quickly and not as bad as biking uphill on Orient Drive, in my opinion. (While we waited for a break in traffic, I was thinking that if somebody in our group did get hurt or killed making that crossing, the comment section on Oregonlive would have been filled with people asking why we had our kids anywhere near Highway 26. It was definitely not a bike- or pedestrian-friendly crossing, but it seemed like the best choice)

(Note to self: Here's another route to Dodge Park that is supposed to be kid-safe. Maybe next year?)

I think this picture represents family bike camping well: a cargo bike with a potty ring at the helm. (Incidentally, we are finally done with potty training--after 14 months--and Felix is down to just Pull-ups at night, which is great! A very welcome milestone.)

The Good Ship Potty Ring

I was undecided about coming along on the trip until the night before, but I'm glad I did. Patrick planned and packed everything, made all of our meals, and carried both boys on his bike. What a guy! After we arrived and ate dinner, we went down to the river (the river on the north side of the park by the playground was our favorite) and caught tadpoles and built little river houses for them. It was nice.

I hadn't been doing much bike riding to prepare for our camping trip, but it wasn't as hard as I remembered. I guess all of those two-kid kindergarten pickups this past year made a difference! Here we are taking a water and snack break on the way home.

Orange Helmet Crew

We stopped at Weece's Market in both directions for cold drinks. This was my first time going inside, and I was impressed at the size of the store interior and the extent of the drink selection. But if you're making this trip, don't expect them to let you use the bathroom. They even turned away two adorable little girls in our group who needed to go.

Cold Drink Stop

Orange Soda Break

Bikes and Blueberries

The following weekend, our family again rode on the Springwater, this time to go blueberry picking. Based on a recommendation from some friends, we went to Powder Blueberry Farm in Gresham. The ride was relatively short and 95% pleasant, and the farm itself was great, but the last mile from the Springwater to the farm was not good. On the way there, we took Foster (exited the Springwater at 158th, then left on Foster, left on Jenne, and right on McKinley). Riding on Foster was not fun, but there was a shoulder, so at least we had a little distance from the cars. The last bit up McKinley was very steep, but the road itself was quiet, so it was just a matter of pushing my bike up the hill.

Picking Blueberries

On the way back, we tried taking Jenne Rd. back to the Springwater, since it was downhill and the speed limit was 5mph lower than on Foster. I should have known better, since another member of the PDX Cargo Bike Gang Facebook group warned against it. It turned out that Jenne was even worse than Foster, because it had no shoulder and no passing lane. We stayed as far to the right as we could, but it was bad. We got buzzed by a couple of cars, and one driver honked at us (and then sped past way too closely). It was pretty terrifying. I wish I could have communicated to those drivers that I knew I'd made a bad choice taking that road, and they didn't need to make it worse by making us fear for our lives.

In Portland proper, drivers are usually pretty good around bikes (especially bikes with small children on the back), but I've had bad experiences with drivers in Gresham. So we definitely won't be taking Jenne again. I liked the blueberry farm a lot, but the lack of nearby bike infrastructure makes me hesitant to return. I don't know if there are any better close-in options accessible by bike though; biking to Sauvie Island to pick berries looks scary too. I know, I know--we could just use a ZipCar to go berry picking, but where's the fun in that?

I made a blueberry buckle with some of our berries. It used a full quart of blueberries, and it was tasty! Best on the first and second days though; after that the streusel got a little soggy.

Blueberry Buckle

<![CDATA[Car-Free Vacation from Portland to Manzanita]]> Wed, 22 Jun 2016 01:53:11 PSTHello again! We're just back from a car-free family trip from Portland to the Oregon coast (Manzanita, by way of Tillamook). I planned this vacation at the last minute, as a way to get the boys out of the house in the two-week gap between school ending and summer camp beginning (also because Felix has been asking to visit the beach, and we didn't go at all last summer).

Since we sold our car last summer, our choices were to either rent a car or take public transportation to the coast. I decided to try taking the Tillamook Wave bus for this trip, to see if it would work for us. It worked out pretty well, and it was about half the price of renting a car (approx. $60 for our family of four, round trip).

We left Portland on Saturday morning, catching the Tillamook Route 5 bus from Union Station. You buy your ticket as you board the bus, and I was worried there wouldn't be enough room for everybody, but it turned out to be only half full. The only downside of this leg of the trip was that we were sitting right behind a woman who reeked of cigarette smoke for the full two hours, and that, in combination with my propensity for motion sickness, left me feeling a little queasy by the time we got to Tillamook. On the bright side, both boys remained happily occupied by video games (Felix was very into Toca Nature this weekend) for the entire trip, and since we weren't driving, it was easy for us to jump in if they needed help or wanted to show us something.

Tillamook Bus

After arriving at the Tillamook Transit Center, we had a late lunch at the Pelican Pub and then hustled back to the Transit Center to catch the Town Loop (Route 1) bus, which only runs once an hour (so the stakes to catch the bus are a little higher than in Portland, where buses run every 15 minutes). If we'd had more time, I would have loved to walk around the Saturday farmers' market, which was set up in the Transit Center parking lot.

Our destination was the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which is pretty close to the Transit Center. I thought about walking there, but (1) Felix gets complainy if he has to walk more than a few blocks and (2) we would have had to walk on the shoulder of a 45mph highway at the end of the route. Because of that, I opted to take the bus instead. It was a roundabout 20-minute ride, but we got to see some cows out the window, and it was fun seeing different parts of town.

The main part of the factory wasn't operating when we visited, which was a bummer, but we still got to see a person shrink-wrapping big blocks of cheese, and we ate ice cream and sampled cheese cubes. Oh, and the boys drove the pretend VW bus in the lobby. Next time we should visit on a weekday so we can see the factory in its full glory, like we did two years ago. Two years between cheese factory visits seems like the right amount of time. It's a fun place to visit, but there's not a lot to do there.

Driving at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

Because the bus to Manzanita doesn't run very frequently from Tillamook, and because I didn't want to overload the boys on bus trips in one day, we ended up spending the night in Tillamook, at the Shilo Inn near the cheese factory. Because of that stretch of road where there are no sidewalks, we took the Route 1 bus less than a mile to get to the hotel, which felt silly, but at least we didn't have to wait long for the bus, and it didn't cost us extra money, since the fare for the town loop bus is good all day long.

The big selling point of the Shilo Inn was that it had a swimming pool, and the boys were pretty excited about that (and even more excited about the adjoining hot tub!). However, being cooped up in the room before and after swimming wasn't great. I had hoped the novelty of watching TV would be enough to keep them happy (we don't have a TV at home; just Netflix), but the channel selection was limited, and most of the options weren't kid-appropriate (best bets: Golden Girls and an infomercial for a dance-based weight-loss program). If they'd had the Food Network, things probably would have been okay, but instead, the boys lost interest and fought, and it was like being back at home, except that we couldn't send them to different rooms. Ack! If we do this again, I would skip the Tillamook side excursion and head straight to Manzanita.

The next morning, we walked across the street to Fred Meyer and caught the Route 3 bus to Manzanita--a 50-minute ride for $3 per adult, with some nice views of the bay and ocean. Thumbs up!

Tillamook Wave Bus to Manzanita

We arrived in Manzanita around 11:30, picked up sandwiches at Bread and Ocean, had a windy beach picnic (sandy sandwiches!), and then hung out at the beach and explored downtown until it was time to check into our rental house. I chose this house because of its proximity to the beach, bunk beds, beach toy stash, and because it was only two blocks outside the tsunami safe zone (those earthquake preparedness articles I read last year really made an impression!). An additional bonus: the TV had tons of channels, and Arlo (and I) remained happily occupied watching hours of Kids Baking Championship when he wasn't at the beach.

Watching TV at Our Manzanita Vacation Rental

We stayed in Manzanita for two nights, had some good beach visits, and made good use of the big downstairs bathtub in the house for cleaning off sandy kids. I was especially glad that Patrick was willing to take the boys to the beach and clean them off repeatedly, since I was more interested in spending a few hours outside and then relaxing at the rental house. Felix, especially, seemed to enjoy himself a lot. He and Arlo found a little creek on the beach and spent hours digging muck out of it. My favorite part was that on Monday morning, I got to lie on a beach towel and read a book in the sun while the boys entertained themselves. Living the dream!

Fathers Day in Manzanita
King of the Mountain
Playing on the Beach

It was a good beach vacation. The boys still had their moments of strife, but it was a nice break from our normal routine.

This morning, we caught the Route 3 bus back to Tillamook. We had two hours between arriving in Tillamook and catching the bus back to Portland. I was worried we'd have nothing to do, but things actually worked out really well--we had lunch at the Dutch Mill (a car-themed burger restaurant--Arlo was psyched!), and then we explored the Pioneer Museum, which was across the street from the bus station. I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be pretty cool, especially the upstairs room full of taxidermied animals, big and small. Definitely worth the $4 admission fee (for adults; kids are free).

Pioneer Museum, Tillamook

The bus ride back to Portland took longer than expected due to some traffic outside of Portland, but it wasn't a big deal for us, since we had nowhere to be. And the driver was very nice, which I always appreciate.

I think next time, we might choose to rent a car, so that our travel days aren't so long and so we can make our own schedule (and not have to spend the night in Tillamook just to visit the cheese factory). However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this trip worked out. The buses were all on time, and they were never too crowded. The bus was affordable, and we were able to give the boys more attention during the ride, avoiding the unpleasant sibling fights that would probably erupt in the back seat of a car (based on previous road trips when the boys were younger).

P.S. To answer a few questions that I had while planning the trip: (1) There's no bathroom on the Wave bus from Portland to Tillamook, but it seems like it's common practice for passengers to take a quick bathroom break in Banks. If you ask the driver, he'll drop you off across the street from Sunset Park, and you can run and use the park restroom while the driver goes to the Banks stop. Then he'll pick you up on his way back out of town. (2) The bus can carry two bikes on the front rack, and we also saw a passenger take his bike inside the bus and store it in the (unoccupied) handicapped seating area when the bus was pretty empty. I don't think you could take cargo bikes on the bus though, which is too bad, since it drops off very near the Banks-Vernonia trailhead, which would be perfect for a bike camping trip to Stub Stewart. This seems like a great option for people camping with normal bikes.

<![CDATA[End of Spring, Summer Plans]]> Fri, 17 Jun 2016 02:20:15 PSTIt feels strange writing a post about what I've been up to when the news this week has been so sad. I haven't known what to say. I saw this on Twitter (from @spiritandhaven, modified slightly), and it feels appropriate: "LGBT+ friends: you have my heart, my support, my affirmation, my vote, my voice, my empathy, my love. I am by your side." Sending love out into the world...

Back in April, I took my first solo vacation since Arlo was born, to visit my dad and his ladyfriend, Hope, in Boulder. The original impetus was to see Devotchka's production of Sweeney Todd in Denver (which turned out to be excellent), but I also got to spend some quality time with my dad and Hope and eat good food in Boulder (brunch at Tangerine--thumbs up!). I'm very glad I was able to make the trip.

When I came back from my trip, this sign was on the door to the boys' room ("To mama only: Do not enter. This is a me and Felix area"). When I asked why I couldn't come in their room, Arlo said he was planning on putting up some "inappropriate signs" and wouldn't elaborate further. Subsequently, Felix showed me the signs that Arlo made: ten post-it notes reading "horse butt" in rainbow colors. Horse butt!

Horse Butt

In early May, Felix turned four and had his first birthday party with friends invited (he didn't really have friends in previous years, since he hadn't started preschool yet). His aversion to cream cheese remains for the moment, so he requested yellow cake with chocolate frosting for his birthday. He's still working on producing enough air to blow out candles, so I ended up helping him out.

Fourth Birthday Cake
Four Years Old

I can see the light at the end of the potty training tunnel with Felix (knock on wood). He's almost there, and he's very proud of the progress that he's made (I am too!).

It's still very hard to get either child to sit nicely for a picture, especially when they're together. Here's the best Mother's Day picture we could get this year. My mom and Alan were visiting that weekend, so we were able to get all four of us in the picture.

Family Portrait

In mid-May, Arlo finished Little League, which was a relief, since he didn't seem to be enjoying it. Once he was at the game, it was fine; he just hated having to stop what he was doing at home to go play baseball (same deal with going to school, actually). I'm glad Arlo was willing to try something new (and I'm also glad that his baseball-loving Grandpa Rick was able to come visit and watch Arlo play).

Little League

At the end of May, Arlo turned six (!), and he invited six friends over for his birthday party. I was feeling a little under the weather at the time, so he had birthday donuts, with our traditional banana cake with cream cheese frosting (this time in pink) coming a few days later.

Sixth Birthday Doughnut
Six Years Old
Banana Cake

We've been trying to get Arlo to stop sucking his thumb for a while now. During school drop-off, Patrick learned that when one of Arlo's classmates turned six, he turned in his blankie in exchange for a $35 shopping spree at the toy store. When we mentioned this to Arlo, he seemed game, so we put good old Squirrel Blankie away, and Arlo got to take a big shopping trip to Finnegan's. He came home with four toy vehicles, of course. It seems like he has stopped sucking his thumb now that Blankie is out of the picture, which is great (he was only doing it in bed at this point).

The boys got some cool Lego sets for their birthdays. The most complex was the Lego Ghostbuster car, which Arlo built in one day with only a little help from grown-ups. He was very proud of his work--so proud that he wrote about it in his kindergarten assignment the next day ("I can build a 521-piece Lego kit all in one day!"--though he would want me to tell you that it's actually 508 pieces; he remembered the number incorrectly at school).

Kindergarten Project

A few weeks ago, Patrick took both boys bike camping (separately). He took Arlo to Stargazer Farm (near Dodge Park) over Memorial Day weekend as part of the Swift Bike Camp. The following weekend, he took Felix up to Seattle (via Bolt Bus) for a family bike camping event with our friend Jon (more here, from the ever impressive Madi of Family Ride). Here's a picture of Arlo smiling a genuine smile--quite a rare thing at the moment (I mean, he smiles real smiles; he just doesn't usually do it when somebody's taking a picture of him).

Arlo Bike Camping

Following a spring cold, Felix had been having trouble hearing us for over a month (though it's sometimes hard to tell if he really didn't hear us or is just messing with us). Arlo has the same issue after getting a cold, but it usually clears up a little faster. Patrick took Felix to the pediatrician earlier this week, and it looks like there's fluid in his ears, so he wasn't just pretending to be hard of hearing. The doctor told us to give him Flonase for the next month, to see if that helps, and if not, he may need ear tubes. I made the mistake of searching online for more information, which made me a little nervous, but I talked with the mother of one of Arlo's classmates, and she said it was no big deal when her son had ear tubes.

The school year ended for both boys a week ago, and the first few days with both of them home were pretty bad. Lots of squabbling and whining "I'm bored!" This prompted me to make a summer calendar detailing exactly what we're going to do each day. I've found that getting them out of the house makes the day easier (keeping them apart from each other is even better, but that's not an option during the week).

Week 1 of my summer plan included Arlo cooking brunch (with assistance), a trip to the grocery store to buy junk cereal (a new end-of-school tradition, borrowed from Twitter), a library visit, a trip to the Belmont fire museum, a picnic, and a playdate with a kindergarten friend. Tomorrow: bowling and ice cream! I'm glad they'll be starting summer "camp" (modified Montessori lessons at Felix's preschool) three mornings a week in July, because I don't think I could keep up this pace all summer.

In other news, nearly 20 years after the fact, I have finally gotten around to reading Harry Potter. I was a little too old to be interested in the series when it first came out, but I was curious about whether Arlo was ready for it (Answer: No, he's not. The first page of the first book was too spooky for him, and he refused to listen to any more). Arlo wasn't interested, but us grown-ups decided to give it a try. We just finished all of the books, and we're nearly done with the movies. I'm kind of glad that I waited until the series was finished so I didn't have to wait a year between books. And now I'm ready to appreciate all of the Harry Potter references that I come across in my day-to-day activities!

I haven't posted about my knitting recently, in part because I haven't been knitting much with the warmer weather. So far this year, I've knit a couple hats (you can see them all on Ravelry, if you're interested). I joined my friend Lee's leethal VIP club, and I had fun knitting the first two hats: Provocateur and Omnia. The third hat for this year was just released, and I'm hoping to start it this weekend. Lee comes up with such creative designs!

Provocateur Hat
Omnia Hat
Omnia Hat

And a couple new recipes I've enjoyed recently:

  • Mini potato skins (omitted bacon) served with lil' smokies in BBQ sauce, and sauteed kale - I made this because Patrick was having a potato skin craving, and it was good!
  • Beef and barley soup with mushrooms - Followed the soup portion of the recipe, using 6c beef broth (which I had previously made in the Instant Pot with beef soup bones) and 1.25lb stew beef; cooked on Stew setting in the IP for 30 minutes. Even better the next day.

<![CDATA[Springtime Update + Car-Free Trip to Tacoma]]> Sun, 10 Apr 2016 02:24:44 PSTSpringtime! The sun has been out, the weather has been warm, and I've been spending lots of time in the garden. We got a yard of mulch delivered a week ago, and the boys had an excellent time transporting it (very slowly) in their dump trucks. And now the yard looks so nice and fresh.

Mulch Pile Fun
Garden, April 2016
Garden, April 2016
Garden, April 2016

Here are some favorites from my walk around the garden this afternoon.

Peony Athena
Seathrift, Dianthus, Phlox
Lilac in a Heath Bud Vase

(Lilac season!)

I recently finished buying some new clothes for spring and summer, following my approach from last fall. You can see a sampling of what I bought below. I tried to stick with the colors in the poppy print by Kelli Murray - coral, persimmon, ochre, and blue-gray, plus stripes. Almost everything is from J. Crew (regular site and Factory), Madewell, and LOFT. Given all the time in the world, I'd rather shop locally, but my kid-free time is pretty scarce, and taking a three-year-old clothing shopping would be hellish (the kid can't even handle waiting in line for an ice cream cone!). Hopefully in a few years I can do a better job of supporting our local economy.

Spring 2016 Wardrobe Sampler

I started the MuTu program back in January, hoping to close my diastasis recti and get my midsection looking like it did pre-babies (I never got back to the Tupler technique/Tummy Team program after having Felix. The splint-wearing just put me off too much). I'm 11 weeks into the 12-week program, and my core is feeling stronger, my leg and arm muscles are more defined, and I think I've lost weight (I'm waiting to weigh myself until I reach the 12-week mark). However, my tummy doesn't look much different than it did when I started. I'm guessing it's because of my lousy alignment when I'm not doing my exercises. Slouching on the couch for hours at a time can't be good, but there's only so much I'm willing to change my lifestyle to make my tummy (which nobody except my family will see anyway) look nicer. Despite the lack of progress in the tummy region, I'm planning on continuing to follow the program after the 12-week end point, since I'm feeling strong and healthy. Maybe in a year I'll have "after" pictures that look different enough from the "before" pictures that I'll share them here.

The main diet change I've made in association with MuTu is drinking green smoothies for breakfast every morning. I like them, and sometimes Felix will even drink a smoothie sample (Arlo won't touch the stuff though--pshaw, five year olds). I haven't noticed the burst of energy and glowing skin that green smoothie bloggers promise, but I feel good knowing that I'm fitting more fruits and vegetables into my diet.

Arlo started Little League a few weeks ago--his first organized sport. Patrick's side of the family is big into sports, but the boys haven't been too interested in sports so far. When Arlo was first signed up for baseball, he kept referring to it as soccer and basketball. Now that he's started playing, I think he understands which sport it is. Patrick is one of the assistant coaches on the team. They look cute in their matching hats.

Same Hat!

Here are the boys "pretending to be college students" in their baseball hats (Arlo has strong ideas about what college students do. He thinks they all skateboard and say "dude" too).

Brothers in Baseball Hats

I feel like Arlo has become less complainy and more even keeled in the past few months, but Felix has taken over Arlo's negative language habits, unfortunately. There's lots of whining and screaming in our house these days (mostly from Felix). It's hard to stay calm and patient, but luckily Felix is super cute when he's not being irrational and shouty and threatening to kill us (sigh). Also, he still takes an afternoon nap, thank goodness.

Felix Colors Intently
Kid Pile

Spring Break was a few weeks ago, and I took Arlo on a train trip to Tacoma. Not a common Spring Break destination, but it was a great place to take a vehicle-loving kid, as they have an awesome car museum. We stayed at a hotel (the Best Western) near the train station, and the walk to the hotel was kind of dicey (not a pedestrian-friendly area; lots of big semi-trucks rumbling by), but the rest of the trip was good. Tacoma has a free light rail that took us everywhere we wanted to go. The car museum was the highlight of the trip, especially the muscle car exhibit. We spent a lot of time in the gift shop and then ate lunch at the cafe overlooking the cars. Arlo gave it two thumbs up!

Two DeLoreans--Whatever
Happy Boy

We spent two nights in Tacoma, and luckily Arlo was happy sitting in the hotel watching the Food Network (he's a Guy Fieri fan now), because I ran out of kid-friendly things to do after the first day. After a morning at the car museum, we went to Learning Sprout Toys, the Children's Museum, Tinkertopia, the Lego studio at Freighthouse Square, and Tacoma Book Center. I couldn't convince Arlo to check out the Glass Museum. The toy store and car museum were the biggest hits; the others were a fine way to spend a little time, but they didn't hold his attention for very long. He also liked getting a cupcake at Hello, Cupcake, and we enjoyed breakfast at the Renaissance Cafe (he really wanted to get breakfast at our hotel two mornings in a row because they had make-your-own waffles, but I managed to convince him that breakfast at a real restaurant would be way better).

Hello, Cupcake in Tacoma

I was happy to find a kid-friendly trip that we could take near Portland without having to rent a car--everything was accessible via train and public transit. I'm glad I didn't try to bring my bike--Tacoma was hilly!

Take Me to the River

Because of the lovely weather this week, Patrick took Arlo on an overnight bike camping trip to Oxbow Park a few days ago. Poor Felix hasn't gone camping in a while because he's only halfway done with potty training, and we're trying to use camping as an incentive to get him to poop in the potty. Us grown-ups are really ready to be done with potty training (we've been at it for over a year, and Felix is almost four years old), but Felix--not so much. I guess having a slow potty trainer the second time around is karmic retribution for having a first child who was regularly pooping in the potty by nine months old.

Hmm, there's no graceful way to transition from potty talk to food, but here you go--some favorite recipes from the past few months:

  • Lentil-orzo soup with cheddar and scallion drop biscuits - Added 8oz frozen chopped ham to the soup before pressure cooking. I liked the texture that the orzo added. The soup didn't freeze well.
  • Mac and cheese bites, collard greens, and Instant Pot applesauce - A very nice dinner. I was worried that the mac and cheese sauce was too soupy before baking, but it firmed up in the oven. It made 15 normal-sized muffins, crispy on the edges, just how I like them.
  • Cabbage with kielbasa - I replaced the bacon with a quarter of a kielbasa sausage, cut the butter by half, and added a diced carrot and scallion. Nice side dish.
  • Oven-roasted okra (I omitted the cumin and chili powder) - An easy and tasty side dish. Served with red beans and rice.
  • Pressure cooker kale with garlic and lemon - Another easy, healthy side.
  • All-purpose cornbread - Moist and a little sweet, thanks to blending in (frozen) corn kernels.
  • For square root day (4/4/16), I managed to plan ahead, and we had a very square and rooty meal: Pancetta asparagus hash topped with fried eggs, sourdough toast squares, and carrot cake squares (baked in 8x8 pan for about 45 minutes, frosted) for dessert. I chose that particular carrot cake recipe because it seemed a little healthier than most (it was originally for a snack loaf). Us grown-ups enjoyed it, but even with the frosting, the boys declined leftover cake the following day. I guess they prefer cake that doesn't contain root vegetables.

Square Root Day Dinner

  • Bran muffins with raisins and dates - Made these smaller than specified (yielded 24 muffins instead of 20), baked 17 minutes. Yummy!
  • Triple-coconut macaroons - Good way to use up egg whites (though it may leave you with leftover cream of coconut instead--I used the extra to make virgin piña coladas). Good, but not as good as my Auntie Nance's macaroons.
  • Custard experiment in the Instant Pot: Whisked together 3c 1% milk, 3 eggs, 1/2c maple syrup, 1/2t vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Distributed between 9 ramekins (I think they're 6oz capacity), covered with foil, cooked in two batches in the Instant Pot on a rack over 1c water. First batch was 6 ramekins (stacked with a rack between) 2 min on high then natural release. Second batch was 3 ramekins, 3 min on high and natural release. The texture was better for the second batch, though to avoid skin on top, next time I would blend better or strain before cooking.