Monday, April 25, 2016

What a Weekend!

Hi all!

I'm going to be doing a three-in-one post today about everything that happened Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

That's right, Friday was Earth Day.
I celebrated in two ways:
1) zippo car driving; only walking and biking.
2) energy efficient home tour!

I'll talk about the car-free aspect of the day first :)
After biking Ella to school, I came back home and made it a Mama-and-William morning.
We strolled on down to the bagel shop in town and then to the library to pick up books about bees.
The sun was shining and I really wanted an excuse to go visit a friend of mine that works at the bagel joint. ;) William did an excellent job walking on his own two feet (for once!) so that was good.

Then, in the afternoon, after getting Ella home and braving a sudden intense hail storm (that's spring for you!) I got to go on the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition's 9th Annual Earth Day Tour Event! This year's theme was "energy efficient homes" so we got to tour three homes of people who had upgraded their houses to be as energy efficient as possible.

Here are some shots from the tour:

Look at all those bicyclists! And solar panels! :D

The tour was made up of about 50 people, most of which were bicyclists while the rest carpooled their way between the three locations.
The first home boasted of its insulated floors, solar panels, and something I hadn't seen in a long time: ductless heat pump!

Forgot to take a photo of it, so here's one off the internet

These are super common in Japan and Europe and so insanely energy efficient. The next best thing is a "natural gas high efficiency furnace" -- which just so happens to be what our home is equipped with!
Got to say, I really appreciate how the owners before us made a ton of fantastic upgrades to our home so that we don't have to worry about high heating bills or having to replace anything in a good number of years. Hurray!

I'm enamored by the idea of having solar panels, but our tree-heavy property makes it not as high on our priorities list as, say, basic insulation. I was glad to get some references to local contractors who can do that too!

Moving on, the second home was owned by the woman who had spoken after me at the Town Hall Even back in 2015.

Again, all the bicyclists outside her house :)

She founded and runs the Seeds for the Sol program that aims to make solar available to everybody. If anything, maybe I could get them to come and assess our property to see about some creative solutions to making solar panels work for us despite the plum tree in front and tall douglas fir in the back.

In her home, she had the energy-saving installation of new windows (that actually open -- a problem we are looking to remedy in our own home too!) and a heat pump water heater.

Super energy efficient~!

Alas, this style of water heater requires a good 30'x30' space (like a garage/attic/basement) to run best which I cannot imagine happening in our home. So I just checked, and we have a Rheem Fury Water Heater which is not the beeeeest per say, but still too new to be replacing it, me thinks.

She also made a point of how they plug in most, if not all, of their appliances into power strips to turn on and off for maximum energy-saving. I used to be so good about that, but have fallen off the bandwagon, so seeing that inspired me to be more diligent in that realm.

The third and last house was owned this by this cool couple:

Loved that cat on the shoulder~

They lived in a tiny 625-ish sq. foot home really near our neighborhood and pointed out that their most energy-saving decision was in the purchase of their home: that it be small and in a location that didn't require them to drive hardly ever. That's a lot like us! Only our home is 1250 sq. feet...and I thought that was small! @_@

They have a similar issue with trees on their property and so came up with this clever solution to make solar possible for them:

Not the best shot, but that's a greenhouse!

They had always wanted a greenhouse, so they had one built in their backyard and topped its roof with 8 solar panels. And being the high school teacher that she is, the owner was very diligent about charting their energy output-vs-input since the installation of said panels back in September. It was cool to see the graph line moving up up up as the winter months recede and summer approaches :) Must feel nice, as the owner of solar panels, to see them starting to cover all your house's needs.

This is what the rest of their backyard looked like:

Raised beds galore!

Talk about self-sufficient! They had chickens, rabbits, fruits trees, and a plethora of vegetables growing. Quite an operation.

Another thing they did that really resonated with me, was that they don't even own a dryer and manage to line-dry their clothes all year 'round. I'm only diligent about it in sunny weather, but it got me thinking that I should come up with some creative indoor solutions so that I can dry our clothes without need for the machine even in the dead of winter. Dryers eat your clothes (that's what all that lint in the lint trap is, folks!) so it's not only better for our energy bill but for our clothes' lifespans too.

All in all, it was a lovely tour that left me feeling inspired and empowered to make some changes to our own home/lifestyles that are gentler on the environment and our wallets.

My hit-list looks something like this now:

1) insulate attic, walls, and crawlspace/floors
2) plug in multiple appliances into power strips for easy on/off maintenance
3) line-dry clothes indoor

Thank you to the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and Mary's Peak Group of the Sierra's Club for organizing this wonderful event! :)

Okay, now for Saturday.
Ever since last week's Farmers Market, Ella and I had vowed to sell some artwork at this week's Farmers Market. And that's just what we did.

Our sad little set-up

The weather was a lot cooler, cloudier, and windy so it was not the most comfortable time to be at the Market.
We also learned some lessons to improve for next time. Mainly in terms of location; bringing dragon tears to hold down the corners of the artwork so that they wouldn't blow away; making a bigger/better sign; and selling little colored pencils along with the art to emphasize the "coloring pages" angle of her pieces. Ella's more of a linework kinda artist at this point, and doesn't color in her pictures, so we figured we could invite the customers to color them in themselves!
At least we had one customer: Beatrix! :D Nothing like friends to give you a hand, eh?
I'll let you know how it goes next weekend when we try again with a new strategy ;)

The rest of Saturday involved me curling up in bed on the phone with Kathy to discuss the story we're writing: massaging certain passages, nailing down character development, etc etc.

By the end of the day, I felt so lazy and comfy I didn't even want to think about making dinner, so Dash kindly invited me and the family out for an early birthday celebration at El Sol De Mexico :D

And William drew me a little picture too:

It's Rick Sanchez of Dimension C-137! ♡

Yay! I love my family and El Sol de Mexico. Best way to end Saturday by far.

And now for Sunday.
After teaching Sunday School, we were joined by the lovely Beatrix to go roller skating at Skate World in Springfield!
Long time no skate, amiright?

In fact, I think the last time we went, William was just starting to walk and I got ahead of myself thinking he could thus stay upright on roller skates no problem.
It was very upsetting for his little baby self, plus it was just me managing the two kids. So that was a little overwhelming~

But now that Ella and William are older, and Ella had a little friend to keep her company, it was a grand time had by all!

They pretty much took care of themselves the whole time.

Sure, William fell down his fair share, but he was a good sport about it, and by the end of our two hours there, he was really showing signs of having an innate sense of balance I never saw before.

So that was pretty much how my whole time was spent. Nah, I kid -- Dash would step in to let me have a few rounds around the rink child-free. Man, did my palms get sweaty having to grip his chunky little hand to keep him upright. Ha!

When we got home after dropping B. off we enjoyed some TRB leftovers and then finished off the rest of Season 6 of the GBBO. Tears flowed, let me tell you~

And one last shot that Dash took of me because he thought my hair looked cool the other day:


A'ight! that's all for now, folks.
I'll update you later as to how my birthday went~ ;)
Until then, take care and Happy What a Weekend!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Grandparents & Special Friends Day

Howdy howdy!

Sorry for not posting yesterday.
All I'd have really wanted to say was: Happy 4/20!
The day was mainly spent volunteering at CWS (for today's event) while Dash manned the grill at Beaver Bowls -- a local dispensary that he does all the design work for :)
We love the family that runs it, so it was partly a socializing occasion and partly charitable too since a number of homeless folks came by for the free eats. Good for them!

One of the visitors Dash had :D

Today was the Corvallis Waldorf School's "Grandparents & Special Friends Day" which is a day for beloved friends and family to sit in and observe the classes, get treated to a delicious meal, and hear from teachers and admin about the mission of the school and how they can help to support it.

I got to do a little bit of chalk work on the boards to greet the guests~!

I was one of the volunteers who helped with coordinating with teachers to collect samples of the students' works, and then help set up and do kitchen prep the day prior.

Just a small example of the baked goods brought in!

The lady in charge, Miss S. Kavur, pulled off this amazing event almost entirely single-handedly and she did a remarkable job!! She decided on the food being all home-cooked, not catered, and the main dish was an incredibly delicious potato tart. With homemade pie crusts and everything!

I really must get the recipe from her. It was so good!! She also made a giant spinach salad and berry salad using almost all local ingredients. Talk about awesome treatment for our beloved grandparents and special friends, yeah? ;)

I really wish I could've done more, because it was so fun to be a part of such a big event that really helps our school and makes it shine brightest for visitors from near and far :) I will definitely let the folks in charge know that I'd like to be even more involved for next year.
Here are some things we had featured:

A table and wall of art from all the grades.
And this is even before the Handworks teacher added the more 3D examples of the kids' work
Isn't that a lovely table spread?

And every place had its own little square of bees wax for the attendees to knead and work with while they enjoyed the Grades' performances and the speakers. What a great way for them to experience first-hand what the kids at Waldorf do too! :)

And then there were the gorgeous centerpieces.

Done pretty much all by Ashley R. as far as I know. Good job, Ashley!!
The woodland/rustic tone is so fitting to CWS, and these will also double as the centerpieces for next month's "Spring Fling" which is an evening for CWS parents to enjoy each other's company with food and dancing and music. Very cool!!

I'll be helping out with that too, and my goal is to make a bunch of origami stars to work into this woodland theme~ I'll be using that giant 30-lb ream of paper, so no expense on my part!
More updates on that later I guess.

Granted, they'll all be white ;)

So there you have it. How we spent 4/20 and 4/21.
Hope you've been having a great couple of days too.
Until next time, take care and Happy Grandparents & Special Friends Day!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Waldorf in the Spring

Hey again~!

So yesterday and today it feels like I was at the kids' school quite a bit.

Yesterday it was for William's in-class celebration of his birthday. Hurray!!
Dash, Ella, and I were all invited to partake in the celebrating which consisted of telling stories about William's babyhood and adventures he's been on in his life. We brought grapes and apples to compliment the pumpkin(?) muffins provided by the class. Miss Wendy did a little puppet show for him, and gifted him a beautiful silk cape as well! It was very lovely and I was so proud of how William was observant and paid attention, rather than partaking in the ruckus that other little boys were all about. I get it, that's how little boys roll, but I also know how frustrating it can be try to run a class with kiddos like that, so I was glad that William was not making it harder for Miss Wendy than it already was. Phew!

After school, we then attended a Parent Meeting for Ella's 1st Grade Class.
It was very positive, with Miss Bedirian emphasizing what good work the kids are doing building a fort outside and preparing for their playing coming up in May. We also got to create a wet-on-wet watercolor work which was very enjoyable, and bask in the richness that is potluck dinner! Everyone brought something delish, and our contribution was garlic bread and brie. Mm-MM!

As for today, the weather was super lovely so after my usual morning routine of holing myself up at McD's to get some work done, I spent from 12:30 to 2:30 enjoying the school's grounds with William as the temperature climbed up to 80+!

I took the opportunity to also take a ton of snapshots of the outside area where the kids play because the sun was shining, the flowers are blooming, and it was just so beautiful out there.
So without further ado, the grand tour!

Outside shot of the 1st Grade Fort with a child crawling in for scale
Apparently the kids have been doing it with zero adult help and constructing it to make sure it's sturdy enough to hold weight on top and keep out rain from inside, etc etc. Such busy little beavers!

Another angle of the entrance
I should mention that all this material came from stuff lying around on the grounds. That is, the giant logs are from some trees that had to be taken down over the summer and had been left out for the kids to play on. The dry grass was gathered little by little over time from the huge field that had been mowed, and they used the very thick clay-like soil to stick it all together.

William crawling out of the 1st Grade Fort
You can really keep cool in there...if you're under 4' tall~!
Some older grade is also making a fort of sorts. I don't know which grade, but either way, it's pretty snazzy!
Another outside area the kids love
Ella's told me about this "mud pit" (in the rainy season) under a big pine further back from their fort. The clay-soil is perfect for sculpting things and you can see they've been digging into the earth to get the even better clay. Ha!

This hole goes particularly deep~!
A crooked shot of the back of the school from where we were with the 1st Grade Fort

The kindergarten playground is just beyond this fence, as we made our way back toward the school

Awesome little playhouse
I love this playhouse, and William and I spent a lot of time in here today imagining it was our own Tiny House: What would we need and how would we arrange it? Could William in fact just sleep in a hammock strewn across the length of it? Where would we stash our books? Do we really need a "living room"?

Trying to instruct William to take the shot while holding the pose = difficult!
I had to try my moves on the main playground gym's bars.
I can hold it for all of *gasp!* five seconds~! ;D

Our last stop outside: the preschool playground!
This is where William's class and the young kids play.
It has the perfect balance of sunlight, and shade, play structures and open space, and even a little garden there in the back!
Can you say sweeeeeeet?

Moving back inside, I wanted to show what the kids' classrooms look like:

The Golden Roses (PreK) classroom
Window side

The "house" corner
Definitely sweet and wholesome.
And Ella's classroom is so heartwarming too!

Beautiful blackboards
If memory serves me right, it was a parent at the school who handcrafted the blackboards.
And the content on them is beautiful too!
What a pretty way to learn math, right? Lots of colors, and pictures of nature along the edges. Mm-MM!

Just another example of a beautiful drawing accompanying a short 'n' sweet poem
Man, Ella's so lucky to be surrounded by so much beauty on a regular basis. And with the appreciation of nature being an integrated part of the whole curriculum. Gooooo, Waldorf! :D

Obligatory nature table in the corner. I'm pretty sure every classroom has some iteration of this~

I think that's just about everything from Waldorf that I wanted to share with ya'll today.
Oh! One last shot: of the volunteer board and random art board in the hallway!

Staples in the hallway

If even the volunteer board is this lovely, then you know this school loves art. ;)
And I love how the chalkboard to the left is always evolving over the course of the year: showing an apple tree shedding its leaves in the fall; a snowy landscape in the winter, and now a blossoming tree in the spring.

Tomorrow we'll be having the Early Childhood classes' Parent Meeting, so I'll let you know how that goes~!

Until then, I hope you take a moment to visit a Waldorf school some time. It's like stepping back in time and the amount that everybody cares, from the admin to the teachers to the parents to the kids, is breathtaking to say the least. :)

Well, in the meanwhile, take care and Happy Waldorf in the Spring!!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Enchanted Forest

'Allo 'allo!

So we are back from our birthday trip to Oregon's very own Enchanted Forest amusement park.

I'd been here once before, when Kathy visited some time last year (or the year prior?) but it was Dash's first time and felt like William's first too since he has pretty much no recollection of that prior trip :D

I was really insistent that we get there as early as possible (after church) so when we ended up leaving closer to 2pm than 11:30am I was pretty livid~! But I think I need to work on updating my idea of what an "outing" with the kids should be. From what I remember of my childhood, an outing to a place like an amusement park was an all-day affair where you milked every last bit of the place from dawn until dusk. But I suppose I should cut us some slack since the kids are still so little, so that even a couple of hours can be enough time for them to enjoy themselves at any given event. Granted, when I'm in charge of myself, I definitely opt for the "first to arrive, last to leave" model ;)

Anyway, yesterday the weather was perfect, especially in as a lovely environment as you'll find at Enchanted Forest.
No matter how "hot" it may have gotten, the abundance of rich foliage and trees constantly protected us from the sun's rays, and its location on a hill of sorts added a gentle breeze. I really can't imagine a more beautiful day to have gone :)

The first part of the park is themed with children's classic nursery rhymes and fairy tales, with animatronic figures in their little plaster houses and such. I'm going to be honest: it's a little disturbing. Just because it really doesn't feel like they've updated this part of the part since it originally opened and the audio's really decrepit and the figurines a little dead in the eyes @_@

Ella was unfazed but William felt the spookiness with me and refused to go in most of those first attractions. I didn't take any photos at this point. Sorry!

Moving on, the park enters a Wild West theme which had a shooting gallery, and a slide William went down at least a dozen times. It then morphs into a Medieval Village theme, where William and I went on the "Challenge of Mondor" ride. It involved shooting at spooky animatronic creatures in a deep dark tunnel as we rode in a little boat of sorts. William was definitely on edge but nothing terrible. No photos there because of the sheer darkness of the ride.
There was also "Pinnochio's Playhouse" where the kids experienced their first wacky mirror, so that was interesting:

Love me a good wacky mirror!

I'd say that the kids' favorite area was the Kiddy Rides area which had things like bumper cars and a child-sized ferris wheel like you'd find at most any carnival.

William likes to feel like he's in control so these Bumper Boats were right up his alley
They loved this slow-moving train~

So yeah, no exciting roller coasters or log rides, but I guess that's still okay for a 7- and 4-year-old.
Oh! It was super neato that we ran into a fellow family from Waldorf whose son is in Ella's class!! :)
He has a few inches on Ella which made a world of difference in terms of which rides he could go on, and it reminded me that it won't be long before our kids, too, can pretty much go on any ride at a park...some day!

For all my earlier insistence of getting there early, we actually ended up leaving before the park closed anyway, had TRB at home and an episode of GBBO, and called it a day. :)

Topped it off with a classic amusement park novelty lollipop!

I would highly recommend this park to folks with kids of any age, because there's something for everyone~! The fairy tale area (despite what I said about the animatronics) is sweet in its own outdated way, and I like how the park has retained a lot of its old-school charm rather than updating every little thing like other parks might.

Anyway, if you are looking for something to do with your family some weekend, consider Enchanted Forest! And tell me what you thought! :D

Well, until next time~!
Take care and Happy Enchanted Forest!!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Past Two Weeks

Howdy hoooo~!

Hey, everyone.
Sorry for the long absence there.
My mind has a funny way of doing the exact opposite of what I resolve to do sometimes.
For example, I noticed that I have progressively posted less and less entries since January, when I first took up blogging again. This prompted me to promise to myself that I'd turn that all around in April...only to fail miserably~!

But I must also say that the past two weeks haven't felt like there was THAT much to report.
Mainly because of a slew of crappy weather days, and William being sick for pretty much a whole week straight.

But looking back through my calendar and my cell phone's photo folder, I realized there is actually a bit that I would like to record here for posterity ;)

So without further ado, here are some posts I could've/should've done these past couple weeks:

1) Taxes!!
We actually got them done early this year (the day after my last post) and as always it put me in a foul mood since I hate to think that my taxes are paying for military efforts I don't support, and because we are self-employed and never have taxes withheld and so always have to pay out a bunch of money. I have never received a "refund" during tax season so I think it's a particularly more negative experience for me than for most folks

2) Wacky Weather!!
After a great big week of grand weather, we then had a week of colder, rainier weather which also put a damper on my mood. Spring can really tug at my heart strings, getting my hopes up that hat-n-mitten weather is officially over, only to pull the rug out from under my feet.
Here is what some instances of nice weather looked like:

William practicing how to write his name once more~!

And then foul weather that kept us indoors...but which did lead to some nice creative time with the kids:

Look at that tower!

There was even a super windy-rainy day one Tuesday that resulted in a blackout that lasted at least 5 hours, from 5:30pm to around 10:30pm! That is very unusual occurrence for us in-town folks, and it found us eating cold leftovers out of the fridge for dinner and reading by candlelight! I loved it. I felt very much like we were Ma & Pa Ingalls, since I couldn't surf the web and put the kids down at 6:30pm out of the sheer lack of anything else to do.
It's funny because I always want to be prepared for a disaster...but here we were with just a few hours without electricity and I felt pretty paralyzed. Oh, well! It was a cozy evening for sure.

Snug in bed, reading my fantasy novel by candlelight. And a candle resting on our sconce in the background~!

3) Social Fun!!
We also had the lovely サンソム家族 over on one of the Sundays which was the first instance of entertainment we'd done in what felt like months. It was such a lovely time, Dash and I vowed that we really must do that more often. It forces us to really tidy up the home (always good!) and generally isn't as much work as we tend to assume it will be. Just good fun all around.
We just made it a big "burrito bar" style dinner with ground pork, homemade guacamole + tortillas, and all manner of toppings. :) The kids had a blast since the weather was still nice so they were outside a lot too.

It's a bit of a tradition that the kids put on a fashion show when our two families get together :D

Mei and William curled up on the sofa to read LoZ manga! William is quite smitten with Mei ;)

4) So Much Baking!!
I must say, now that we have this motor for our grinder, Dash has been baking more regularly than ever, and we also have a supply of freshly ground flour in the house!
I also took advantage of all our flour by baking some crackers with William for our neighbors:

Love using our star-shaped cookie cutters to make the crackers extra special

As I'd mentioned, he got a head cold all week so he didn't go to school at all last week. That resulted in my morning school commute routine being a lot faster (not so much dead weight to pull!) and really taking advantage of McD's as my work space with its free wi-fi and distraction-free setting :D
I got a ton of work done, both paid and otherwise, and am feeling very much on top of things.
Thankfully, William is well now so his in-class celebration will be Monday. So sweet!

5) William Turns Four!!
Speaking of William, he had his birthday just yesterday! The big ol' four years old :)
Crazy to think that Ella turned four once. I'd been so committed to making things for her birthday and holding a really big shindig for it. But perhaps it's my age, because now I feel like a small, sweet celebration is better. Less stress/effort, that's for sure. ;)
So for William, we stuck to our li'l family tradition and went to El Sol De Mexico Friday evening.

William fell asleep right in the middle of his meal! Ha!

On Saturday (the day of!) William got to open his presents. One of which is a nifty flashlight-light saber. Our family just adores flashlights, so yay!

Thanks, Nana!!

The weather finally turned a corner from the cooler stretch we'd had so we took a stroll down to the riverfront to enjoy the first day of the Farmer's Market:

The kids surprised me by insisting that they carry their notepads and pens to sketch nature on the way~

Tree climbing with a goofy face

Ella has become a master at finding four leaf clovers! Did you know, as a child I thought four leaf clovers were a myth @_@

Back at home, we enjoyed baking William's cake and making mini quiche for a potluck-in-the-park celebration our dear friends the Stalters put on for us.
It was such a good time!!!!!
I swear, potlucks are the way to go since the hosts don't have to be responsible for feeding 3x as many folks as usual which can be hard on the wallet and also take a bunch of time. Instead, the theme was "French finger foods" so that clean-up was minimal and the spread was delicious.

There was sourdough bread with balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and mozzarella, veggie burgers in pitas, and more! :D
Here's a shot of Ella since William and his friend Lucas were rarely at the picnic blanket with us, rather opting to make mud pies instead :D

It was held at Arnold Park, which has recently had an upgrade so that it's got awesome massive climbing structures, and the kids had a great time while we adults also got to connect and enjoy fun conversation. It was the Stalters, the Petts, the Collins and a friend of the Stalters whose names escape me now but were also delightful. ;) We were celebrating not only William's birthday, but also the good news that the Petts will be staying in town rather than having to move away, the Stalters are about to close on their first home, and also a little precursor celebration for my own birthday that is coming up~! So many good things to celebrate!!!!

Whelp, that's about all that is worth sharing from these past two weeks.
I really hope to do better about posting regularly because it feels nice to record these days, to some day look back on.
So far April has been grand, and I look forward to the coming warmer weather and that springtime feeling~
Today we'll be hitting up Enchanted Forest amusement park which is my non-material experiential gift to William. Dash will actually be joining us since he got all his usual Sunday deadlines done ahead of time. Hurray!!! :)

I'll be sure to report back in as to how it went.
So until then, take care and Happy The Past Two Weeks!!