Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Street art of Arizona

One of the days while Eloise was napping Harriet and I went into downtown Phoenix to a kind of food truck lunch thing a park. We happened upon a bunch of cool art.

A cool, albeit weird, sculpture in downtown.

This was by the ASU campus.

Outside at the contemporary art museum.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sunny getaway

Last month we took a break from the cold and went to visit our friends Matt and Amber in Arizona like we did last year. Our daycare provider was taking a vacation so we decided to take one too and it just so happened to be during one of the coldest weeks in February. This year was easier in some ways and harder in others with two kids. Eloise wasn't the best on the plane, but was generally easier to travel with now that she isn't a baby. Harriet was a pretty good traveler.

The first full day we went to visit my mom's friend Linda again and swam in her pool. A lot of fun!

Linda and Eloise snuggling.

The next day we went to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. This part of the museum was very cool. The girls enjoyed running around in it. It reminded me of a very modern Pantheon with the circular opening. 

Steve had done a bit of research and saw that there was a Peach Blossom Celebration outside of Phoenix at a place called the Schnepf family farm. We went on a hayride given by the owner of the farm and it was very informative.
Peach blossoms! They grow a lot of other things besides peaches though -- all kinds of fruits and veggies.

Harriet's favorite part of the day was the short train ride we went on together around the farm. She wasn't too into the petting zoo, but loved the many playgrounds.

After the farm, Amber and I hustled over to Taliesin West for a tour and made it with only one minute to spare. Taliesin West is still a school with about 21 or so students who are working around as you are touring. The spend half the time here and the other half in Wisconsin. This place on the outside isn't aesthetically super pleasing. Kind of just a bunch of found rocks crudely cemented together everywhere. It was still a very interesting tour though and the tour guide was great.

Geometric concrete beams in the movie viewing room.

That little square is the the logo for the place now. Something interesting that we learned is that about 80 of all the Frank Lloyd Wright houses are run by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which is for profit. 

Back at home at Matt and Ambers's house, Eloise was fascinated with the dog door.

Our last day Steve, Amber, Harriet and I went to the Phoenix Botanical Gardens while Eloise napped at home and Matt stayed back to take care of her. The botanical gardens were great --- a LOT of cactus!

The place had a lot of artful shade structures.

Living sun dial!

Twig house!
Chihuly sculptures.
Pretending to be cactus.

So in conclusion we had a wonderful trip and probably could not have packed more in. We loved all the time we were able to spend with Matt and Amber. Not sure if we will be back next year since Harriet will be in school so we were glad we were able to go now.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chloe of Spud and Chloe on the Farm

I made this little Chloe for the girls from this book Spud and Chloe on the farm. I changed the hair color to match their hair though. Not too hard to make, but I had a bit of trouble with the hair and put way too much on there and so she is a bit top heavy!
 Luscious locks!
Happy girl with her new doll.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Holiday card behind the scenes

The concept for this year's card wasn't hard to come up with, but it required a bit more planning ahead than usual. Typically we figure out the idea at the last possible minute and then execute it on, say, Dec. 20. We work best under pressure. This year the bee theme made sense and we knew we would have to think ahead and shoot it when the weather was still nice so we did it on a nice day at the end of September. 

We borrowed the supplies from our beekeeper since shooting this on the roof was not a viable option for many reasons. She lent us the empty hive boxes and the tools so we could just do it in the yard. I contemplated going to the U of M and doing it in front of their hives, but this ended up being way easier logistically and looked just fine. 
It was not without trouble though. It is much harder to get both girls to smile and look at me when I put them in ridiculous and uncomfortable costumes. Eloise was generally uncooperative and basically didn't smile in one picture, thus she is the sacrifice this year.

At one point we thought it was a smart idea to light the smoker..... ummm terrible idea. The pictures all looked foggy awful.
So in the end this was our shot and then I darkened and blurred the background in photoshop and then added in the vector art bees with the text. I liked out it turned out!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A neighborly wedding

Weekend before last we attended the wedding of our neighbor friends, Megan and Tyler, at Aria downtown. We had a great time and knew some other neighbors, but also talked to a lot of new people who were interesting and from far-flung places. Megan and Tyler moved into the neighborhood about a year ago and, despite our 10+ year age difference, we have a lot in common with them, namely – gardening, urban farming, craft beer drinking, the list goes on. They were the ones that we gave our hops to back in the fall and also make their own wine. We have really enjoyed getting to know them, plus it is easy to hang out since they live so close and they can come over to our house since we are stuck at home most nights.

We had never been to Aria since it changed over from the now defunct Jeune Lune Theatre and it was a beautiful location for a wedding, very rustic, but also modern.  In conclusion, a fun night had by all and we felt honored to be invited.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What I've been doing for three months since we discovered we had critters in the house

This post is a long time coming. I'll try to keep this as concise as possible. Back at the end of October, just before Halloween, we noticed mice had made their way into the basement. Specifically they had found their way into bags of chips and cereal we had on shelving in the laundry room. I set some traps just as I had in the past when we saw any signs of critters. I've grown used to mice getting in our house that was built in 1900. Add the fact our winters are cold, we have chicken, bees, fountains, and a large garden and I've actually come to expect it.

These are mouse tracks in and out of our house near the back deck. The snow helped us locate an entry point. The snap traps left outside caught a pair in a week or so, but we still heard noises and something nibbled a hole in a hose in the washing machine (soaking the laundry room floor).

Then I found some holes in the walls behind the shelving where we had stored some food (in the little nook to the left of these stairs). So I started ripping apart the plaster and lathe walls.

Once through, I found an 'L' shaped crawl space. It's void under the landing and stairways in the basement. It was a dirt floor strewn with rocks, chips, frosted mini-wheats, and random debris including several Hamm's bottles and cans.

Under the landing, the 115 year old wood showed signs of rot, water damage, insect damage.

Here is a photo to give you a better idea of where the crawl space is. It's below the landing (that is also the entrance to the basement slide) and stairway that leads to the laundry room (to the left) and basement. It is under the slide where we had a futon piled high with stuffed animals.

The day I took this photo I happened to go get Eloise one of those stuffed animals and happened upon a crime scene of sorts. I could tell a critter was sleeping under the stuffed animals. It had left droppings and decapitated a few smaller stuffed animals and pulled out their stuffing. The size of the droppings were a bit alarming to say the least.

Meanwhile, Christina and I were moonlighting as appliance repair specialists

Despite already fixing the washing machine prior, we had more flooding and hose chewing.

I spent an evening at an Uptown laundromat watching the Latin Grammy awards and I finally relented my stance and gave into Christina's pleas to hire a professional pest control service. In the meantime though, Christina's dad kindly did our laundry for close to a month.

Prior to their arrival (as they were booked out several weeks) I cleaned out the crawl space and dug out about 4" of rock and dirt. Above you can see one of several holes I found leading under the basement concrete slab.
So I did some research and purchased 1,000 pounds of quikrete.

...and I spent an entire day mixing, then pouring a new floor .

SM ♥ CM 2014

With the floor done, I began reframing the crawlspace with new pressure treated lumber.

Eloise and Harriet seemed to enjoy the increased visits to Home Depot and Menards. Around this time, I decided I could either A) leave the crawl space empty and rebuild the walls, B) leave it open and use it for storage (albeit awkward to access), or C) rebuild the walls and close it off from the laundry room, but cut an access point from the other side, under the slide.

I decided on C and begin work on what has become known as the kids' hideout. I started out by grinding off any exposed nails and cutting off wood that served no purpose and anything that might be dangerous.
Then I sanded down the entire inside. On the foundation wall (opposite this photo) I installed rigid foam insulation between the framing and by request of Harriet devised a plan to install a rainbow wall.

Spray painting was a bit problematic in the zero degree weather at the end of 2014. So I prepped a little painting area on the porch.

Then I moved the pine planking indoors to dry just before the paint had a chance to freeze.

Here is the wall after installation of the electric (outlet, switch and two light fixtures) and planking.

I added shelving before closing it off from the laundry room.

I got a 1/2" carpet pad and used remnants from the existing basement carpet to cover the concrete. Then I added molding and trim around the entry, parts of the flooring and walls. Turned out pretty great!

For Hannukah we got Harriet a set of glow-in-the-dark stars. She was an enthusiastic helper when it came time to put them on the ceiling. We've also added clips so she can hang her artwork.

It's difficult to get a good sense of the room in one photo. It fits our family and could probably accommodate 5 small kids.


Oh, but we're not done. A couple weeks before the completion of the hideout, and just after scheduling the pest control appointment, I decided that we needed access to the crawl spaces under the first floor bathroom and back entry area to ensure that this company actually took care of the issue. They told me when I called to schedule that they couldn't guarantee their work if there were places they couldn't inspect.
The piping on the top left goes from the laundry room via a crawl space to the bathroom upstairs. I put down some tarps and protected what I could and started to chisel away the foundation. I wasn't getting very far.
So I hired a guy to jackhammer through the 20" foundation. A few hours of work left a larger hole and a half ton of concrete on my floor.

The crawl space. So exciting, isn't it!? To the right was another foundation.

So of course a second access point had to be made. When the pest control folks finally arrived, they were complimentary of the measures I had taken. After inspecting the foundation from the outside, they confirmed we had several spots mice and rat(s) [YES! they confirmed we had at least one rat sleeping on our basement futon and gnawing through our washing machine] could have gained access. They filled all those spots with what appeared to be a giant roll of steel wool. They also set traps and bait stations outside and inside the crawl spaces.

A couple weeks later I hired the same insulation company that insulated the crawl space under the family room to come install closed cell spray foam in both of the crawl spaces. They again could not reach the entire crawl space due to the plumbing under the bathroom. Above is post-spray foam in the larger crawl space.
Nevertheless, the smaller of the two crawl spaces (above) was super cold prior to the insulation and this should help keep things warmer in the basement and kitchen area.

Now to cover the holes in the laundry room wall.  I added framing and placed rigid foam to further insulate.
Then I put more pine planking in. We're still deciding if we'll paint it all white, but at least we no longer have to look at the giant holes.

Writing all this has reminded me just how exhausting this has all been. On the bright side, we haven't had any evidence of any critters in a month and the girls have a sweet new hideout.