Ends and Starts

One of my favorite summer moments.

I’ll miss you Summer.


Well, summer is coming to an end for me, short but sweet. I head into a new job tomorrow satisfied with all I’ve squeezed out of the last few months and a little nervous for new beginnings.

During my time off it was my goal to:
1) Dust off my creative side since my last job overpowered it into hiatus.
2) Spend more time with my kids, preferably adventuring.
3) Set up new habits to keep goals 1 & 2 continuing while employed.

I kicked off numbers one and two bootcamp style with my Make Stuff Up Challenge as well as getting this blog off the ground. Sure, there are some projects yet to complete (ahem, basement) and some I never started, and the “daily” was actually every few days, but I crown it a successful jumping off point to keep rolling forward with.

The trick now is goal number three, keeping the creative habit rolling while working. While I am officially laying to rest the daily challenge, I will continue to post on Fumbleweeds once or twice a week with various creative projects, challenge updates (the restaurant challenge continues!), and adventuring reports.

So what’s the new gig? I will be working on Product Management for a small start up making Karaoke apps. A new jumping off point of sorts since I will be challenged to throw my inhibitions to the wind and sing. In broad daylight. At work. Huh, did I think this one through?

fumble and roll.

Summer Sun

Summer Sun

“This is my Pajamas”: Customize Your iPhone Ringtones

My daughter, out of the blue, started to occasionally speak with an accent that sounds somewhere between a southern drawl and a cartoon character. Around the same time, she also started doing this random thing where, while getting ready for bed, she would stand there naked and dramatically point to herself and say “This is my pajamas” in her newly affected accent.

These two things combined always make us bust up in laughter. Surely there must be some way to immortalize this memory. So I recorded her saying it one night with the Voice Memo utility on my iPhone. Then it dawned on me, it must be pretty easy to turn this little tidbit into a ringtone or alert. Why wouldn’t the rest of the world want to hear this soundbite every time I get a text? Totally entertaining, not at all annoying.

Elise’s iPhone Alert

Like back when phones started getting more sophisticated (what, 5 years ago?) and as a joke I changed my ringer to play Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean. Seriously, nothing turns a dead silent workspace or BART car into a chuckle-fest like getting a phone call with that as your ringtone.

Billy Ocean – Carribean Queen. You’d laugh, right?

Back to today, it turns out it’s pretty easy to make your own tones for the iPhone 5. I can’t speak to other phone makes and models but with a little googling, I am sure you could make magic happen on your device.

MAKE CUSTOM RINGTONES & ALERT TONES – w/ Voice Memo on iPHONE 5
Step 1: Open the Voice Memo recorder in your phone’s utility folder.

Step 2: Record what you want to use as a tone. I found that 1-2 seconds was plenty for an alert. 5-10 seconds seems good for a ringtone.

Step 3: When you’re done recording tap the “list” button to listen to your sound. If your sound needs to be trimmed, tap into the sounds info and then select “Trim Memo” and a yellow slide bar will appear. tap/hold/slide in the left and/or right side to trim off what you need. When you’re satisfied with it, tap “Trim Voice Memo”

Step 4: On the sound memo’s Info page tap “Share” and email yourself the sound file.

Step 5: Go to your computer and download the sound memo file from your email to your desktop and rename it to something you’ll remember when it appears in your phone’s tone list. When you’re renaming, also change the name of the file extension from .m4a to .m4r. You’ll get an alert saying “Are you sure you want to change the extension from .m4a to .m4r?” go ahead and click “Use .m4r.”

Step 6: Connect your phone to your computer. These are iPhone to MacBook instructions but I assume PC or Mac, as long as you have iTunes the following is universal. Double click the .m4r file to open it in iTunes. This will add it to your iTunes library under Tones.

Step 7: In iTunes, go to View -> Show Sidebar. Then in the left sidebar, open the “tones” folder in your library. You should see your new sound tone listed. Drag and drop this tone down to your phone. This adds it to your phone automatically under ringtones (because of the .m4r extension).

Step 8: On your phone, go to Settings->Sounds and then Ringtone (and/or individual alerts). You should see your new sound listed at the top of the “Ringtones” list. Select it and voila! Then call/text/email yourself to hear your new tone.

It sounds like more steps than it is. Once you have it down it’s quick. Experiment and personalize your phone with your kid’s laugh, your cat’s hiss, or your first ukelele chords strung together… whatever, play around and let me know what you come up with

Adventuring: The (New) Exploratorium

Color Shadows

Color Shadows: Exploratorium


Today I picked back up the world’s slowest basement remodel by putting another coat of primer on the walls. This “make” is just too boring to put words to. Instead I am digging out an Exploratorium adventure from a couple of weeks ago that I never got around to writing about.

Well, ok. (deep breath) That’s not entirely true. I started to write about it that very night but was clearly not fully recovered enough to string coherent words together. The Exploratorium itself was awesome, and I will get to that more in a second, but the behavior by my four year old daughter (yes the cute one sipping tea and stuffing bears)… not so awesome. It was a fit of epic proportion that caused the two of us to sit outside the museum for AN HOUR in a standoff while Jack went in with his friends and their families. The type of fit that tests every ounce of one’s parental mettle. The fun part? We had ferried over so there was no way out. I’ll spare you the detail, but I will say at one point my daughter called me a “beast” which, in hindsight, is a kinda funny thing for a four year old to say.

Eventually we worked through the ordeal, though I would not say with any grace or parental prowess. Maybe something in our post-storm talk did settle in because she hasn’t done this since and has even stopped herself from going there a few times.

Ok then, with that behind us, we did make it into the Exploratorium an hour before it closed…

The Exploratorium
Sometimes change is scary. You really love something as it is, grew up with it as it is, can’t really imagine it another way. This is what made me nervously anticipate the complete overhaul of the Exploratorium. Would the new location be too new, too sleek? Would there remain a gritty curiosity to the place? Was I over thinking it all? (clearly)

No camera filter used here: the monochromatic room.

No camera filter used here: the monochromatic room.


But really, they did a phenomenal job rebuilding this place. It did feel new and modern but without losing it’s edge. The new location is so much easier to get to by BART or ferry (ahem… BART if you might need a quick getaway). There are way more exhibits, much more to see. It feels more spacious whereas the old one often got cramped. The only downside was that Jack loved running around the Palace of Fine Arts next to the old location. I think he envisioned it as his own Star Wars battle arena so he misses it. Also, the price has gone up (to be expected) making it now a pricey adventure for a family of four. We’ll get a family membership since it’s definitely a place to keep returning to.

The other thing that remains true in the new version is that it’s full of hands-on science that is equally enjoyed by kids and adults. This is an every age museum. You see tons of adults enjoying it without kids in tow. Like Herbie, the overall and page boy wearing pied piper of the Exploratorium who had tricks up his sleeve to get the most out of each exhibit. We kept running into him and he kept being super gracious and sharing his exploration with the kids… bubble wands for the colored shadow wall, multicolored jelly beans for the monochromatic room, flashlights to write with in the Shadow Box room. The kids loved running into him. Who was this mysterious hipster? Did he work there??

In Summary: If you live in the area, go here. If you visit San Francisco, go here. Even if you don’t have kids, go here. There still is no place quite like the Exploratorium.

Plankton Map

Plankton Map


glub, glub

glub, glub


Leave it to Jack to find the "game"

Leave it to Jack to find the “game”


Color Shadows

Color Shadows


Wall sized bubble wand.

Wall sized bubble wand.

Herbie, the Pied Piper of the Exploratorium

Herbie, the Pied Piper of the Exploratorium

Exploratorium
Pier 15, San Francisco
http://www.exploratorium.edu/

Adventuring: Girls Day Out

Mama - Ellie Day!

Mama – Ellie Day!


My girl and I decided we were long overdue for a Mama/Ellie day. Just the two of us, adventuring in the far-off, exotic lands of Pleasanton where we hit up a tea house and the Build-A-Bear Workshop.

It was a very fluffy-pink-sparkly-floral kinda day, the type of day that doesn’t often happen in our typical adventuring. Truth be told, I know Elise longs for more of these types of days. She’s a girly girl through and through who doesn’t mind scurrying over rocks but would prefer to be doing it in a pink dress and glittery sandals. So we traded in our bathings suits and hiking clothes for skirts and dress shoes and headed East.

Don't mind if I do!

Don’t mind if I do!


The English Rose Tea Room
http://www.theenglishrose-pleasanton.com
This place is the definition of frilly, not an inch left undone. Elise loved it. We settled into our embroidered settee and ordered. The Princess Penelope tea with Chamomile for the lady, the Duchess Anne’s Delightful Tea with whatever black tea has the most caffeine for me.

The highlight of Elise’s food was the marshmallow and jam sandwich(!) and scone with lemon curd. She also asked if she could eat some sugar cubes. Yes, tempting sitting there in that bowl but no, no you can’t. I think you’re good with that marshmallow sandwich.

mmm, cookies.

mmm, cookies.


Chamomile tea with sugar and milk.

Chamomile tea with sugar and milk.

Build-A-Bear Workshop
After tea we headed to the Stoneridge Mall to hit up Build-A-Bear. While I grew up in suburbia and spent countless hours of my youth hanging at the mall, I realize it’s a pretty foreign concept to my kids. We don’t really have one near us so it really was a somewhat exotic location. At one point Elise said “I don’t ever want to leave this place” in a voice like travelers say when on a beach in Thailand for the first time.

We found the bear workshop and were ushered through the building of a bear by some very friendly staff. Elise knew exactly what she wanted from the selection of the bear itself, through to the wardrobe styling. Obviously a bathing suit and flip flops, it is summer afterall.

Stuffing the bear.

Stuffing the bear.

A Girl and Her Bear.

A Girl and Her Bear.

                                                 
She also chose the characteristics her bear would have in it’s little red satin heart that they literally stuff inside the bear before sewing the bear up. These were: Sparkly, Nice, Happy, Honest.

Once the bear was stuffed, she gave the bear a “bath” in the touchscreen interactive tub. Clearly her favorite feature at the workshop, she gave her bear about seven baths total before I could get her out of there.

Our 5th trip to the tub.

Our 5th trip to the tub.

She named this clean, bathing beauty “Fluffy” and declared she would go nowhere without her new bear.

We headed home, Elise falling asleep hugging Fluffy. I realized I also like a little girly girl time, especially when it’s watching my best girl have a day I could tell she deeply enjoyed. In her words “I didn’t just like today, I looooovvvved today.”

Passed out from cuteness overload.

Passed out from cuteness overload.

Bunk Bed Forts!

Bunk Forts!

Bunk Forts!


After all of this adventuring lately, I was itching to do something hands-on creative today so I dug out a project that’s been sitting in the back of my head for awhile. Ever since getting the kids a bunk bed I’ve wanted to make it into a bed-fort and today I finally pulled it off.

My kids share a room and at the rate we’re going with house hunting they will continue to do so until they graduate high school. Lucky for me, at 6 & 4, they don’t mind sharing and actually I don’t think they would have it any other way. But when four people live in 1000 sq ft, it never hurts to find creative ways to carve out a little more personal space and privacy. Plus the fact that bunk bed forts are obviously awesome.

I headed to Ikea to pull together the few items I would need to perma-fort the bunk bed…

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

A Few Simple Things

A Few Simple Things

                                                    
MATERIALS
– 2 curtain wire packs
– screws
– wire cutters
– Phillips screwdriver
Curtains
Kura bed tent for top bunk

TOP BUNK
This should have been the no-brainer in the project. Go to Ikea, get the tent thingy that goes on an Ikea bunk bed, put it on the bunk bed. DONE! Nope. Oh Ikea, why do you almost make it easy but then make that last 5% such a pain in the butt? Of course this tent thing doesn’t fit ALL Ikea wooden bunk beds, just the one we don’t have. So it’s up there for now, but the hooks don’t fit so it keeps getting knocked off. I need to rig it to be more sturdy maybe get some velcro strips and wrap then around the tent poles and then around the bed.

Wire curtain hangers in progress.

Wire curtain hangers.


BOTTOM BUNK
For this I got two of the curtain wire packs from Ikea. Dang it Ikea, really? Everything BUT the screws included? Ok, so I fumbled around the tool area in the basement and dug up a couple but I don’t think they were long enough to really anchor in the wood. I went ahead with them and screwed one set in along the inside ledge of the bunk bed along the length, then one along the width (see pic). While the curtain wire did hang, it doesn’t seem sturdy enough and I had one already pull out of the wood. The screws I had were not right. I’ll probably change them out with a screw or bolt long enough to go entirely through the wood and then fasten a nut on the other side. Or maybe just a longer screw and a little wood glue. I am going to research but for now, it’s in place and looks good.

For the fabric, I found these owl curtains in the kids section of Ikea. They were way too long so I cut them to the size I needed and (GASP!) fake sewed them with the iron no-sew adhesive stuff. Let’s see if it holds up. I made the third curtain with the leftovers from the original panels and might make some pillow cases with the remaining scrap.

So there are some things I need to work on to make this concept more solid so that 2 hyper kids can’t take it all down in an instant, but those adjustments should be simple. The entire project, including Ikea-time, took only a couple of hours. The kids seem to love their new forts and, coincidentally, have their first sleep over friends here enjoying them too.

Gotta have lanterns inside, especially happy ones.

Gotta have lanterns inside, especially happy ones.

Elise's new bottom bunk fort.

Elise’s new bottom bunk fort.

Sleep Over!

Sleep Over!

Bunk Bed Forts!

Bunk Bed Forts!

Adventuring: Lawrence Hall of Science

Not much making has been going on in this house over the last week. With school out, two more weeks work-free for me, and camps yet to start, we’ve been in full-blown adventure mode. Over the last week we’ve been to The Exploratorium, Lawrence Hall of Science, Coyote Point & CuriOdyssey, Japantown SF, The Bone Room and countless trips to the local pool.

Lawrence Hall of Science
Jack and I snuck up to the Lawrence Hall of Science in the Berkeley hills for what was planned to be a quick visit. Some friends had added us on to their membership so we thought we’d cram in a quick session and check it out. I guess I had always assumed it was for older kids though I am not sure why. Many people have told me it’s awesome. People with kids the same age as mine. Yet it somehow didn’t sink in until we were actually there enjoying the exhibits, unable to peel ourselves away. And, when we finally did peel away, it was only because we knew we’d be back with the rest of the family in tow. After all, we had only scratched the surface. There were still lego stop-animation movies to make, animals to hold, Planetarium shows to attend, things to build. Thumbs up for this place, we’ll be hanging out here often.

Oh, and since it’s affiliated with UC Berkeley there are tons of eager Engineering students around to help the kids. Another tip: The cafeteria has $5 kids meals and amazing views of SF and Oakland.

Helix Climb

Helix Climb

We spent lots of time building, testing, rebuilding our ball runs. I want this in my house!

We spent lots of time building, testing, rebuilding our ball runs. I want this in my house!

Balls + Ramps = Fun

Balls + Ramps = Fun

Views of SF, Oakland, and  basically the entire Bay.

Views of SF, Oakland, and basically the entire Bay.

Lawrence Hall of Science: http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org

Restaurant Challenge: 1400 Bar & Grill

The Restaurant Challenge continues, our latest pick: 1400 Bar & Grill.

Typically we pick from the slips of paper in the pot but tonight Jack preempted this with his own suggestion. See, recently 1400 got a stamp of approval in Jack’s mind because he ran into a friend who had just finished dinner there. His friend was still standing and looked relatively happy so I guess this was enough for Jack. Never mind that his friend didn’t utter one word about the experience directly. Attendance was all it took.

Works for me so we headed for a family dinner there Sunday night.

Ready, set, eat.

Ready, set, eat.


1400 Bar & Grill
Walking in here it looks much like a pub which is a nice change from the very kid-friendly places we typically frequent. But don’t be fooled by the long wooden bar and large number of beer taps, this really is a family friendly place. The minute we sat down we were greeted with a smile, some crayons, and some kids coloring menus. Off to a good start.

Then I saw the large Pink Floyd poster front and center amongst a group of other vintage concert posters. One of my favorite bands of all time. I continued to scan the room and see hand written specials boards, old baseball gloves as decor, a beautiful stained glass ceiling, and lots of other details that made the place lovable, not the least being the neighborhood friendliness.

As usual, we ordered a ton of food…

Kids Burger & Fries

Kids Burger & Fries

Ellie rubbing her belly in approval of the kids mac n cheese.

Belly-rubbin’ good kids mac n cheese.

Fish Tacos with yummy fried jalapenos.

Fish Tacos with yummy fried jalapenos.

Fish, Chips, & Beer.

Fish, Chips, & Beer.


As if this wasn’t enough food, we ordered TWO desserts, a banana split and a slice of carrot cake. A man I assumed to be the owner came over to say hello and fill us in on the carrot cake’s old-school Alameda roots. The cake was almost more spice cake than carrot and not too sweet. It was really delicious.

Really though, it almost didn’t matter how good the food was because the overall neighborhood vibe and friendliness of the waitstaff and owner were enough to bring us back.

After dinner we rolled ourselves over to Crab Cove to walk off some of our gluttony along the shoreline…

beach

1400 Bar & Grill
http://1400barandgrill.com/
1400 Webster St. Alameda

Jack’s Review: Thumbs Up for hamburger, fries, atmosphere.
Elise’s Review: Thumbs Up for the banana split and coloring sheet.
Kristin’s Review: Thumbs Up for the friendly neighborhood pub vibe and the carrot. cake
Mike’s Review: Thumbs Up for the vibe & Jack’s leftover hamburger.