Sunday, June 23, 2013

Solistice Storm

We got a one-two punch storm in Minneapolis Friday. Early morning storms only brought us rain, but a couple miles east near my work I saw trees down. Around 8pm we took shelter in the basement as more rain and winds passed over. Our immediate neighborhood was affected this time around.

Giant elm three doors down blocked the street. We inspected with the other curious neighbors just after the storm. Harriet was excited to be up past bedtime. 

I was not excited to see the mulberry from the neighbor's yard had snapped and was lying on our back roof. We lost power and had candles to light so we had little time to inspect further. 

The next morning I realized things could be far worse had we not paid to have the tree cabled a couple years back as the cabling (top left) is all that kept the tree from hitting the house with it's full force. I trimmed it back a bit. We decided to go get breakfast out to charge phones and avoid opening the fridge/freezer with the power still out. 500,000 metro homes lost power in total. 

Some neighborhood sights from the bike ride Harriet and I took Saturday morning after the power returned. 

Bryant Park

Harriet loved the different "smash cars" and kept asking to see the white Honda around the corner from us (first photo at the beginning from just after the storm Friday).

Lots of the trees were on the boulevards. 

Largest of four trees in Painter Park. So sad to see these hundred year old trees removed. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

New book, new reversibles

The author of Itty Bitty Toys has come out for a new book called Topsy Turvy Inside-out Knit Toys and I ran out and got it the moment it was released. I have finally started working on some of the projects. I love this little rabbit with the carrot that turns into a lamb.

 The inside, a little smiley lamb.

My favorite feature of this toy is the haunches. A nice touch.

Another project from the book is these weird things she calls Happy Mouse/Sad Mouse. They were quick to make and you just flip them from front to back for the different expressions. It would be fun to make these in all different colors with a little leftover yarn from project since they don't require much.

 I ran out of room for the mouth on the red guy, but he still looks sad.

Also I made this teeny tiny piggie for baby Mae and plan on making her a few more for her collection. These are supposed to be sewn onto a reversible blanket (pigs in a blanket), but that just seemed silly and they are more fun on their own. I love the wee ears and tail.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New raised garden beds

Four years ago, I built the original raised bed in our backyard and was unsure how much we'd use it and how well it might perform. For those reasons, and cost, we built it out of pressure-treated landscaping timbers. It was one giant 18' x 5' bed. We realized quickly we had to step into it to plant, weed, garden and harvest our plants. We also got mushrooms in between the timbers at some point that returned every season after some rain.

So we decided to change things. We picked chilton limestone and wanted two beds with access from at least three sides. We wanted to increase the height to deter bunnies (previously unfazed by the foot high wood bed) and also provide extra seating when we had a lot of company over.

At $360/ton the stone was going to be an investment, but it is stone afterall and will last. So I started the plans and every so often checked craigslist for stone. Bingo bango! I found a landscaping business removing a local city's natural stone retaining walls in order to rebuild with man-made blocks. Their loss, my gain at $100/ton. The catch was that I had to order a dumptruck. I didn't need 15 tons of stone. I only needed around 4 tons. So I negotiated to pay $250 for delivery, rather than $150, for half a dump truck load. They agreed.

The chilton arrived on May 3. The driver dropped 8 tons on the plywood I put down to avoid breaking my concrete driveway. He could just fit the extended load in the city alley confines and narrowly missed the power lines overhead.

I then had to move the whole pile, while sorting out different size rocks, sticks, and mud. A few stones I couldn't move without pushing side over side, using a dollie or help from a friend (thanks Sean and Ian!).

First a before photo:

The old garden was removed one side at a time. First I moved the dirt on the right to the left, started building the right garden bed, then put dirt into new bed as it took shape.
I tried to use the largest stones for the base. As I worked my way up I offset the stones about a 1/4" back. There is hardscaping fabric on the bottom, and lighter landscape fabric that lines the inside of each wall. This will keep the tree roots out of the bed, and plants in the bed from sending roots through the cracks, as I dry laid everything (no mortar), although we used masonry caulk for the capstones.

When I was ready to start the second bed on the left, I moved all the remaining dirt onto the patio.

The stone was all random sizes. I would usually place the stone with the largest flat side facing out. It doesn't matter what the stone looks like on the inside since the dirt is against it. Christina helped me measure on some of the days (and nights), but I mostly worked by trial and error to find stones that would fit, while attempting to keep everything level. When I got to the last row I realized that, although I had a couple tons left still, I didn't have enough square pieces. Square pieces were needed now because we'd see the top next to the dirt in the gardens. I had saved so much with the craigslist stone that I decided to get the top level of Chilton stone at Patiotown at 25 cents/pound. As an example, minus the delivery fee, I paid roughly 5 cents per pound on the craigslist stone.

Finished product freshly planted! Christina and I each "own" one of the beds. Her's is on the left with basil and mostly herbs and mine on the right with peppers and borage.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jenny Lind Bed Makeover

We had been looking for a while for a Jenny Lind bed for Harriet. Steve finally found two of them on craigslist for $25 each and both had side rails so we snapped them up right away. What a steal! I have seen this one at Land of Nod for $550.

One bed frame is in fine shape (intended for the new baby in, say, three years) and can be left as is with its dark wood, but this one here, not so much. The stain was very worn and, in general, it was in rough shape, yet structurally very sturdy. 

The name of the bed comes from Jenny Lind who was a Swedish opera singer who was nicknamed the Swedish Nightingale. She extremely popular in the 19th century and while on a tour in America, legend has it, that she slept in a bed with this turned-wood style.
A before of it all put together in the driveway.

A close up of the rough shape this was in.

I used a liquid sander and then primed it with spray primer. It seemed too labor intensive to paint it by hand with all the crevasses. I had to do many coats to cover over the dark wood and then it only accentuated all the flaws like the seams (above). So then I meticulously filled in all the seams with white wood fill. You can't really even see them now. After that I spray painted the frame with white satin spray paint. I did maybe 4 coats of that to make sure I covered everything.

I'm happy with the final results! The frame has come a long way. We got bed support slats and a mattress at Ikea and the bed was finished. Harriet picked out her polka dot bed sheets and seems thrilled with the whole thing. Transition into the new bed has been a tad difficult, but it's only been a week.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Our epic walk

We took the train back from Connecticut since all six of us couldn't fit in the car and we found the train trip to be quite enjoyable. We ended up back at Central Station. About 1 block away from the station Harriet fell asleep in the stroller so we decided to just walk as long as she was sleeping and see a few things. We had no idea how long of a walk it would actually turn out to be!

 Walked past the public library.

 Up to Times Square.

 And then all the way down to Battery Park. All told it was about 10 miles of walking and she slept for most of it, which was fine with us.

Ships in the harbor with a glimpse of Lady Liberty.

Sunset looking over at New Jersey while we walked on a beautiful newish walkway along the water headed down to Battery Park (some might call it an Esplanade?). 

 Statue of Liberty in the distance.

Then finally back to Adam and Ari's for one last night. Harriet was happy to see two of her favorite people again and they put her to bed while Steve and I enjoyed dinner alone at hipsterific Pies 'n' Thighs in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. All and all an awesome trip, we enjoyed seeing everyone and loved seeing all the sights.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Connecticut Country weekend

We spend the second half of our week vacation in Connecticut with our friends Louise, John and their almost one-year old daughter Mae. Steve and I have been dying to see their country home after hearing about all the renovations they have been making and reading about it on their blog. The home (circa the late 1700s) was in disrepair when they purchased it 3 years ago. They have been renovating it room by room and still have a bit left to finish – it is a lot to tackle. They have done a wonderful job of making it a home for a modern family, but also keeping all the charm of an old house. They live in Brooklyn during the week and then spend as many weekends during the year here as they can. It was about a two-hour drive from their apartment.  

The weather was not so cooperative the first two days we were there and it raining heavily, but we had no complaints since we spent the days playing with the kids, reading, chatting, baking, preparing meals together (something none of us have time to do when we all work full time) and resting up. Mae and Harriet played well today although Mae seemed much more interested in her older friend than Harriet was in her younger one. Not a surprise there.

John, Louise and Mae. Louise is in the beginning stages of planting a meadow in the front yard. It will look beautiful as all the other grounds when it is done, I'm sure.

 Harriet watching the ipad in the study while keeping the beaver company. They had a pesky family of beavers in their pond when they first moved in. They had this one stuffed and it is a hilarious and fitting addition to the room.

Taking a walk over to the pond (the beaver's former home), you can see the house in the background. This picture is perhaps a glimmer into the future for us. Two kids in tow.

 All around the property there are these wading stone walls with stones artfully placed.

A shot of the back of the house with a view of the raised bed garden and a beautiful blue sky. Quite picturesque. Too bad every day of the weekend didn't look like this. We headed back to Brooklyn on Monday, the nicest weather day of the weekend

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Manhattan sightseeing 

Days 2 and 3 were spent going around New York. I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Grand central station. 

 30 Rock

Central Park.

 Brooklyn Bridge stroll back home.

 I love NY with gang signs.

Our High Line family picture on our 5th anniversary. Harriet = passed out.