Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

July 4, 2016

#awalkintheparkmke – Brown Deer Park

I strapped Finn into her bike seat and visited Brown Deer Park almost two weeks ago. I meant to post sooner, but my phone was running out of storage and I inadvertently downloaded the photos off it before putting them on Instagram and bla bla, excuses, excuses. Moving along, here is one of our favorite local parks! We visited often, even before Finn came along, and now that she’s old enough to enjoy playgrounds Brown Deer has a pretty swell one to take her to.

Playground Equipment: 3.5

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Overall, nothing is sketchy or dangerous, and the playground actually has some very interesting and unique features. However, some of the smaller pieces are missing in a few places (the rocket ship on the mural, for example), which is why I docked them half a point from Snail Crossing.

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Aesthetics and Landscaping: 3

Brown Deer doesn’t have fantastic landscaping in general. I saw several diseased trees surrounding the playground (including another sickly, chlorotic red oak), and large rings of dead grass around the base of the trees where herbicide had been applied at too high a rate. This is a shame, because some of the older trees in the park that have likely been there since before it was a “cultivated” space are gorgeous, including lots of red oak and sugar maples.

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Community Use: 4

Finn and I happened to be there during the afternoon on a weekday, so it was pretty quiet, with only 2-3 other families present. However, I’ve been there in the evening and on weekends, and I know for a fact the park is well-utilized.

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Age Group: 3 – 12 years

Finn is just a little too small for most of the equipment. She can navigate the slides with help, and there are several toddler swings, but otherwise, she needs constant supervision/boosts up and down the equipment. However, I still think it’s a fantastic playground, with so many interesting activities. My favorite part is the giant rope gym. It’s entirely possible that I may have climbed to the top myself and left my pint-sized daughter to stare longingly up at me, wishing for the day her legs are long enough to do the same. I’m sure this is a playground we’ll be frequently in the years to come, especially once she grows into it a little more.

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June 24, 2016

#awalkintheparkmke – Snail Crossing Park, Riverwest

Salutations. As I mentioned in my last post, Finn and I are embarking on a project this summer to visit and document at least 2 Milwaukee County parks per week, focusing specifically on playgrounds or areas where children would play. I’ve titled this project (quite lamely) A Walk in the Park. And I have a hashtag. Aren’t hashtags nice? Anyone can have a hashtag, and its free.

I’ve created a rating system of 1-5, five being highest, one being lowest, in the following categories: Safety/overall maintenance of equipment, aesthetics/landscaping of park, and how utilized the park is (i.e. how many people are playing there at time of use). I’m also going to note the age group the playground is targeted at, because I’ve noticed that more affluent parks tend to have separate play equipment for toddlers and younger children.

Our first park of the summer was Snail Crossing Park in Riverwest. When Mr. S and I lived in this neighborhood, we didn’t have children of our own. However, we have visited the park in the past when babysitting friend’s children. This was my first time visiting with my own child.

Playground Equipment: 4

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All the equipment was up to date, safe, and maintained. It showed some general signs of wear (sneaker marks, etc), but that’s a good thing, in my opinion.

Aesthetics and Landscaping:2.5

I’m sorry, I have to rate this stuff. I’m a horticulture student, and poor landscaping detracts from my ability to enjoy a park. Snail Crossing looked as though, when it was first built, it was attractive in terms of landscaping. However, it hasn’t been well-maintained over the years, and there’s a good deal of weeds choking out the perennial plantings. I also noticed that some of the tree were ill-suited to their location, such as the pin oak and river birch, which don’t do well in our alkaline soils without lots of maintenance/amendments.

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However, Snail Crossing does have a redeeming quality. The sidewalks are paved with beautiful mosaics from the community, as well as some interesting sculptures.

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Community Use: 4

There were four-five groups of children playing there at any given point, in addition to Finn and myself. For a small corner park off a side street, it seems to be a popular place!

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Age Group: 4-12 years

Most of the equipment was geared toward older children. There were a few toddler swings, and Finn was certainly able to navigate the slide with help. However, she was too short for many of the other activities. Given that she’s not even 2, this is sort of a normal occurence for us. It’s a good thing she knows how to have fun regardless.

 

June 20, 2016

Good intentions. Also, a new project

Well, once again, summer has arrived in all the sticky, bug-bitten, green glory its renowned for. I was driving back from a visit to my parent’s house in the Fond du lac area the other night, passing wheat fields just about to turn yellow, and the moon was full, the sky was hazy and lavender-colored, and I felt that deep settling in my chest, the one that confirms I probably never want to live anywhere but here. Midwest is best.

I had the best intentions to blog more over winter break. I also had intentions to find a part-time horticulture job this summer. I did neither. Winter break was simply laziness, and also I spent a lot of time shooting rubber bands out the bathroom window at the squirrels ravaging the bird feeder. Remaining exclusively mom-employed this summer was a bit more complex. My main motivation for working at all was to gain experience, so that when I actually do return to work full-time after graduation, I would have something substantial on my resume. But if I’m working, and Jason’s working, then that means someone else is working to take care of Finn, and that costs money. So, I really wanted my part-time-summer-job-for-the-sake-of-experience to count. I applied for a few through the county, a couple of internships, and promptly failed to follow up with the employers as I so kindly mentioned I would in my cover letter. That was part of the problem. The other part was my difference in attitude this summer versus last. Being home full-time with Finn was difficult last year. We were just starting to figure out sleep routines, regular meals, crawling, communication, etc, etc, and also, I wasn’t sleeping well, and also she needed to be carried/held/touched constantly, and as an overtired introvert, I struggled.

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Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my child unfathomably, but I was never a woman who had aspirations to be a stay-at-home mom. A very good balance for us has been being home together part-time. I found myself looking forward to the fifteen or so hours a week she would be in daycare when classes started up again in the fall. And when those hours came, they were nice. Spring semester was also nice. And while I recognize working part-time over the summer in a career I know I enjoy would have also been nice…I’m handling the excess time with her in a much healthier way this year. She’s mobile and communicative. She takes regular naps, she sleeps through almost every night, and she eats three meals a day that don’t come by way of my boobs. In short, we’re both able to have more space, yet still enjoy each other’s company. She’s growing up, and I’m growing older and more accepting of some of the challenges that lumber alongside being a mother.

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So, no job. I don’t know yet what’s going to happen after graduation next summer, and I’m really just trying to focus on enjoying this year with her, knowing we might not have as much time together in years to come.

To keep some sense of outside activities in both our lives, we’re embarking on a project that I’ve had rattling about in my head for some time. Now that Finn is old enough to enjoy playgrounds, I thought it would be interesting to explore and document various parks and play areas throughout the city, focusing on highlighting some of the differences (if they exist) between playgrounds in more affluent areas and playgrounds in areas where poverty is more of a reality. This will get us out and interacting with other people, it will challenge me to introduce my child to different demographics and neighborhoods, and it will give me and excuse (read: obligation) to blog regularly. We already started this past weekend, and I’ll have the post up sometime this week.

Also, I’m taking two summer courses. Also, I’m still editing that novel (FINAL FINAL EDIT I SWEAR! LIKE PASTING INTO THE PUBLISHING FORMAT FINAL!). Also, I’m still going to blog about gardening and horticulture-nerd-plant-soil-chemistry-stuff because my quarter-aged mind is simply brimming with all I’ve learned this past spring semester and I know you all want to hear about the pH of rainwater and the symbiotic relationships between mycorrhizae and plant roots, and how it can affect phosphorus uptake. In other words, I will do my best to blog regularly, but I should also do my best to be realistic.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of a cute thing I made. It’s a kid:

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January 5, 2016

Updates – House Edition

Projects have been happening inside the house as well as outside, especially since cold weather set in. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a semi-stay-at-home mom now, and over the summer I was taking all online courses, which meant I had quite a bit of flexibility during the day to putter around. I didn’t do anything major, just a few little things here and there, like framing some of our photos and hanging them, shuffling furniture around, putting up a shelf…you know, typical housewife stuff, ha.

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I even finished slipcovering the large couch. Finally! Slipcovers are essential when you have pets. And babies. Actually, they’re essential when humans are inhabiting your house in general.

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Although I feel I have less large blocks of free time now, I do have more little bursts of it, and I’m actually in the house more often to tackle small projects. For example, I turned the entryway of our kitchen into a disco club:

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See, there’s no overhead light in the entry, and the lighting in the kitchen itself is garish. I finally decided I’d had enough oppression, so I fixed it. I quite like the result. Mr. Smith found it entertaining.

Speaking of the kitchen, our small dining table got a bum leg back in June, so we swapped it out with a folding table we’ve been using for hangouts in the backyard. The idea was that Jason would fix the little table, but we all decided we liked the big white table so much that I gave it a fresh coat of paint and called it even.

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I was hesitant to leave it at first; we don’t have a large kitchen, and I didn’t like the idea of taking up more floor space than necessary. However, six months later, I don’t regret making the swap in the least. It’s another surface to use when cooking, it looks awesome, and we can easily accommodate friends at a meal. The only downside of having a white table is that it begins to look “distressed” pretty quickly. Kid life, you know?

We’ve also been playing move the baby’s room for a few months. Finn started out sleeping in our bedroom. When she was about seven months old, we moved her into the nursery. It wasn’t a fun decision, but she was keeping us awake, and we were keeping her awake, and moving her into her own room actually helped everyone sleep better. Her nursery is the room that we were using as a sort of dining room/laundry room/game room/room to put random crap in. I never really liked it until it became hers. We got her a rug, and it was an incredibly cozy, fun space.

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And then we moved her out of it.

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Mr. Smith has been wanting to knock out the wall between the living room and her room for some time, and replace it with a two-sided bookcase. The rooms will still be separate, but the wall will become a built in. He started the whole process in December, beginning with moving Finn out while construction is underway. We did some shuffling with the office/art room, so now she’s tucked away under the eaves upstairs. My sewing supplies are still residing up there, as well as the guest bed (which comes in handy when your baby won’t go back to sleep at four in the morning and you just need to lie down). Mr.’s desk and all office-related furnishings are hanging out in the corner of what was her room downstairs, because the desk doesn’t need naps, and therefore isn’t affected by the wall being knocked out.

While I prefer her being downstairs, her little nook upstairs isn’t bad at all. It’s a pain trudging up and down the steps with a heavy baby, but she seems to enjoy where she’s at.

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Also, we’re getting a bookcase! Do you know that we have about twenty boxes of books in storage? He’s building it out of maple, and designing it from scratch without a pre-printed plan. And no, Mr. Smith is not a professional woodworker. He’s learning as he goes along. He’s probably the only person I know who possesses just the right balance of meticulousness and raw bravery to accomplish such a feat, ha. I’m excited. I know he’ll do well, and I really can’t wait to unpack our books at last! To me, that will be the final stage of moving in.

June 26, 2015

Dairy is back on the menu

We took a little trip up to Door County earlier this month. It would be a crying shame to visit Fish Creek and NOT have some ice cream, right? Right. So, I took a chance and indulged in my first taste of (cow milk) ice cream in three months.

So, I did it. I may regret it once the dairy hits Finn's system, but oh my. It was so good. Also, my nails matched my ice cream. #bluemoon #firsticecreamin3months

Yeah, I order the little kid flavors. I’m over it.

The good news is that Finn seemed to do just fine. I had a few other tastes of dairy throughout the trip – some cheese, butter in various pastries, etc. A week later and I think we’re officially in the clear. I’m still planning on using almond/coconut milk for most of my baking/breakfast needs because I’ve come to prefer the taste and texture, but I can’t lie, I’m really looking forward to having ice cream and cheese in my life again, and to not worrying about menu ingredients when we go out to eat. Hurray Little Finn! Way to mature into your Wisconsin-ness.

June 17, 2015

Cheese, Please

Up until about a month ago, Finn was exclusively breastfed. We started letting her try some simple fruits and veggies recently in addition to nursing. Somewhere around her 3-month mark, we realized that any time I had dairy, she had quite a bit of difficulty digesting what came through my milk for days afterward. Lots of throwing up, runny diapers, and general crankiness. So, I did something that’s been really, really difficult for a born-and-bred Wisconsin native to do: I gave up dairy.

It wasn’t hard in everyday life. Neither Boo nor I have regularly used cow milk for anything. He likes soy, I like coconut. And almost all of our recipes could stand some easy substitutions: coconut oil for butter, applesauce for yogurt, and so on. But where it got to be maddening was when it came to “treat” foods – eating out, eating over at friend’s houses, deserts, snacks…I hated being “that person” at get-togethers or restaurants. What’s more, it’s a little convoluted to explain. People ask, “Oh, so you’re allergic to dairy?” and I have to clarify that, no, I’m not, but I’m breastfeeding and we think our baby is at least lactose intolerant and we really don’t want inconsolable bouts of crying/throwing up, so please, allow me to pass on the butter.

Trying out some avocado!

But, I mean, just look at those rolls.

Anyway, I’m optimistic that dairy might not bother her as much anymore. For one thing, she’s spending quite a bit more time sitting up or on her belly, which makes digestion easier overall. Also, she’s had a good variety of fruits and vegetables, and hasn’t reacted negatively to any of them. I’m going to tentatively try re-introducing dairy into my diet again. And, honestly, I’m probably going to start with ice cream.

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And then cheese. A dry, aged cheddar cheese. Heck, right now I’d settle for the $2.50 block of pepperjack.

Oh well, soon enough. I’ll probably look back on this time and wonder why it ever seemed like a big deal…right?

June 13, 2015

Backyard Camping

We have some camping plans for the summer, but weren’t quite sure how that was going to work out with a baby. So, to test the waters, we set up our tent in the backyard and slept outside last weekend. I’ll confess that we cheated a little bit; I put Finn to bed in her crib inside at the normal time, and brought the baby monitor outside while Jason and I had a bonfire and grilled out. When we got ready to go to bed, I brought her into the tent and tucked her in with me. I was sort of worried about where exactly she would sleep, but it turned out to be easy enough to share my sleeping bag. She occasionally ends up in our bed if she’s having a rough night, so I’m already comfortable co-sleeping. Plus, it solved the problem of how to keep her warm, as it got down almost in the 40’s that night.

Tent mornings. Finn slept like a champ. #campingwithbabies #babesinthewoods #backyardcamping

Another from this morning.

She slept great, which, obviously, means that we both slept pretty good, too. Turns out that she seemed to really enjoy being in the tent. She kept looking around with wide eyes when we first brought her in, and we ended up playing in there for most of the next day.

Now, let’s hope that the real thing goes just as smoothly!

September 7, 2013

You say tomato

Aside from a few sweet handfuls of cherry and grape tomatoes, most of August went by without me taking my first bite from a homegrown, full-size tomato. However, somewhere around the third week of August I noticed the green tomatoes were taking on a pink “blush” and I knew it wouldn’t be long.

Sure enough, on August 22nd, I picked the first ripe “Siberia”:

And it’s heart-shaped. Ain’t that cute?

The next day, I had another ripe one. Both got eaten over the weekend by us – sliced up and drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil.

Since then, we’ve been getting one or two per day. Unfortunately, I don’t think I planted as many plants as I needed to in order for us to have enough fruit all at once for salsa or tomato sauce. It’s a good thing my dad plants hundreds of tomatoes every year!

We have been enjoying them quite a bit, even in small quantities. I eat them fresh at work using the preparation method I mentioned above. We made an amazing small batch of fresh salsa with avocado chunks. This past week, I made pasta and topped it off with homemade tomato sauce. And fresh tomatoes are always good with basil in an omelet.

This year, I grew three varieties of full-size tomatoes: Siberia, Prudens Purple, and German Strawberry. All were heirloom varieties, all were started by me under my grow lights. “Siberia” produced the earliest tomatoes, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the taste. Typically, I’ve found that you sacrifice some taste for early production, but I don’t think that’s true with this variety. I’ll for sure keep it in my rotation. “Prudens Purple” was supposed to be similar to a Brandywine (my favorite heirloom variety) but with smaller fruit and earlier production. It totally lives up to it’s description, and therefore will be another regular in my garden.

The only variety I wasn’t wild about were the “German Strawberry” tomatoes. To me, they were somewhat bland and they seemed really susceptible to blossom end rot. The ones that I got off the plant were only slightly larger than a cherry tomato but without the sweetness. It was more of a “red” tomato versus the other two varieties that were more on the “pink” side, and I think that maybe has a lot to do with the flavors that I like. Maybe next year I’ll try doing all pink varieties to see if I get any bland ones.