Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hawk in Flight

The kids and I went to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to catch the Pavilion of Wings butterfly exhibit before it closes for the season this weekend.

As we picnicked on the lawn, a huge hawk, possibly a juvenile red-tail hawk, swooped low to the ground and landed on the handrail of the walkway to the museum. We got about ten feet from this magnificent creature. Only after it flew away did I remember I had my camera with me. My apologies for the blurry shots and filthy lens. The event is still worth sharing. We watched the giant bird fly east towards the rose garden.

The kids followed suit and took flight.

A few more posts about the NHM:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Baby Lizard Catch

Our grounds are alive with little lizards. This specimen is larger than the standard little 'un scurrying about. Captured and held by all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Walk Around the Compound

Homage to Gorillaz Superfast Jellyfish currently in heavy rotation.

Detail older kid art.

Dog, crow & lizard skin below.

Bath toys with a beaded yellow lizard interloper.

Cupcakes & kombucha.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Black Widow and Egg Sack

It seems we go through seasons when black widows are more prolific. I found this one well established under a bucket. I removed the spider (although gorgeous) and her egg sack.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beach Chair Given New Lease on Life

When Eric and I first started seeing each other over a decade ago, a typical summer Saturday or Sunday we'd be at the beach. We'd head out early morning, set up camp and spend the rest of the long day in the water or resting on the warm sand. This beach chair acquired at a yard sale a long long time ago frequently made the journey with us.

Until one day, Eric adjusted the armrest. The wooden arm grew jagged fangs and bit back leaving a long and thick splinter in his hand. I still remember the shock on his face and slowly raising his left hand to reveal an almost two inch long 1/4 inch wide protrusion. The offending chair was put to pasture and our beach days evolved to include one and then two kids.

In light of commemorating our years together, I pulled out this beach chair and set to fixing it. I sanded the left armrest to remove the biting teeth.

I made beeswax furniture polish specifically for this project, conquering my phobia of doing so.

I cleaned up the chair and polished the arms.

As I work at the speed of parenting, I worked on this project for about two weeks. The project wasn't so difficult, but there was table tennis to be played, books to be read, scooter rides and sculptures to witness. In spite of living with this chair restoration for a fortnight, the boys kept it under wraps. And I was able to surprise Eric with a restored relic of our early life together.

I'm envisioning a time when our beach days will evolve again...when we get to swim with our boys in the ocean...when they move on to chase lions and Eric and I return to long days together at the beach much richer for the journey together.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Redwood Hot Tub/Planter...or What Were We Thinking?

I typically use Freecycle to get rid of items that are no longer of use around our home. Rarely do I answer an offer for an item, unless it is for picking figs.

But every last vestige of reason left me when I saw an offer for an old redwood hot tub. The gentleman who posted it was clear that the tub was no longer fit to be a hot tub, but it might make for a good rain barrel or pond. He said it was still holding water.

I clung to that fact that it still held water. I was hoping with every aching muscle in my body that the tub might be able to be restored to its former glory.

And I held to that hope even as we cut down the tub to remove the dry-rotted wood at the top.

Eric and crew trundled it up into his truck, the tub (and my restoration aspirations) crumbling a bit with each turn. We made the sixteen mile drive home.

As we unloaded it from the truck, a stave completely crumbled into dust dashing all hopes of the tub ever holding water again. We moved to one of our contingency plans and rolled it to the lower yard where it now is a decaying planter bed.

We replaced the broken stave with some of the scraps that were cut off earlier. Eric and I think it has about a two year life as a planter bed...then back to dust. The entire drill now has me obsessed with creating a soaker tub at Camp Ramshackle. Although the red cedar tubs are beautiful, I think the stock tank is more within our price range.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Annals of Home Improvement: Under Bed Storage

I am a curbside scrounger. In Los Angeles, with such a transient population, lots of people coming in and many leaving to return from whence they came or on to another adventure, invariably, the detritus of things acquired but no longer needed for the journey forward find their way to the curb. I keep a watchful eye for items that might be put to use around Camp Ramshackle.

I have long wanted to improve the storage of our linens under our bed. I've been using a zip up bag acquired along the way, but I don't like it. I looked in shops for new options, but found nothing I liked. So I kept my eye to the curb, looking for that dresser missing drawers or drawers missing dressers. I wanted a solid sturdy wood. After months and months of searching, I still hadn't found it. When I saw these drawers, I realized they weren't ideal, but they would do.

After maturing them outside in the elements, I finally put the task on the top of my list. I added casters to the bottom. I draped a piece of canvas over the top to size the cover.

I typically am a very neat sewer, loving french seams and double hems. Not so with this project. After looking at this drawer draped with canvas for a week, I realized I didn't really care about neatness. It was going to be shoved under bed after all. I wanted it to look decent, but french seams be damned. I was going to knock this one out dirtily. I finished it last night and am pleased with the result.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

NASA Athlete in the Arroyo

In the spring, I was fortunate to accompany my oldest son for a field trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Although JPL offers yearly open houses, that trip was the first time I set foot on the campus. To get a behind the scenes tour with my son and his class was a real treat. A Mars Rover prototype was brought out for the kids. They were enlisted to act like rocks as the small vehicle rode over their supine bodies. They were able to peer down into master control while engineers worked on active space missions.

But nothing awakened their awe like ATHLETE, the All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer. At JPL, we visited the hanger where engineers were constructing a half-scale prototype of the future moon rover. The kids were invited to walk underneath it.

Photo by my oldest son.

When a friend told us that JPL was testing ATHLETE in the Arroyo Seco, the boys and I made a point to be there. Seeing the giant robot slowly rolling through the Arroyo definitely made an impression on my almost-three-year-old who now opens most conversations with friends and strangers alike by sharing his eyewitness account of ATHLETE in action.

JPL continues to test ATHLETE in the upper Arroyo near Hahamongna Watershed Park. Remaining test days are: 8/12, 8/16, 8/17, 8/19 with morning shifts (8AM-12:30PM) and afternoon shifts (12:30-5PM).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Neighborhood Adventure in Pursuit of Figs

Over the weekend, I saw a post on our local freecycle offering pick-your-own figs. I think this is the best offer I've ever seen on freecylce. The owner of the tree, a few miles from our house, said we could come over on Monday.

Baskets in hand, the boys and I marched to our car only to remember the car seats were in Eric's car. We modified our plans and took the Dash bus. The Dash small bus local transit system is the jewel in the crown of Los Angeles' public transportation program. They run every twenty minutes. We're lucky to live a few blocks away from a stop. And the figs growing on our new found freecycle friend's tree were within easy walking distance from a stop.

The boys loved riding without being strapped into a car seat. Our small adventure seemed quite grand to them. We acquired some delicious figs from a small tree.

And made a pit stop at Café de Leche for drinks and cookies.

Then we headed homeward.

At home, I cleaned the figs and embarked on my maiden solo jam making experience (without grandma or my sister). I loosely followed the recipe from www.pickyourown.org. Seven cups of sugar seemed excessive, especially for the very sweet fig, so I only added four cups and about a 1/4 cup of inadvertently added apple juice (I thought I was adding the fresh squeezed lemon juice rather than my youngest son's beverage.) The results are unbelievably delicious. Fig jam is where it's at.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Homemade Sling Shot

The young gentleman on the right of this photo has been making sling shots out of found branches and rubber bands. Eric suggested we ask Mister Jalopy for some used bike inner tubes to craft an industrial strength sling shot. Inner tubes were graciously donated. Sturdy branches were acquired. The pull was cut.

The branch and pull were threaded together.

And the product was tested.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Homemade Beeswax Furniture Polish

Making beeswax furniture polish has been on my list of aspirations for a long time. The idea intimidated me, so I circled it for a year or so. Some methods recommend grating the beeswax, then pouring turpentine over the shavings and placing the mixture in a capped glass container in the sunlight for a few days until the wax softens. Perhaps it was the threat of grated bloody knuckles clutching a very hard puck of beeswax or the wait, but this method did not appeal to me.

I found a more promising method at UK's Honeyshop. The recipe began with a disclaimer accepting "no responsibility for any damage to property or person in any form whatsoever and you follow this recipe entirely at your own risk". Somehow it allayed my fears. Into the gates of hell, rode I.

I melted a puck of our beeswax, removed the double boiler from the stove, then added the turpentine (just a little more than equal the amount of beeswax). I poured the polish into two stainless steel containers. Let it harden & put a lid on it. Easy. No damage to person or property. Beeswax polish aspirations attained.

I've been happily waxing some very dry furniture.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Orchid Care

These poor orchids sit on a shelf in my kitchen bent over and crowded in their pots with an Eeyore glumness. We just finished reading A. A. Milne's The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh (a favorite baby shower gift from six years ago). I think my empathy for Eeyore and his sullen skulk fueled the transplant of these plants.

I dare say they look much happier.