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Adorable Animal-Inspired Clothing for Kids

Brown Bear DressBrown Bear Girls Dress by Wild Things Dresses

I have seen some of the cutest little animal-inspired outfits and accessories lately. My kids would love them, I have no doubt. What kid wouldn’t? They are the perfect blend of daily-wear/play clothes and dress-up costume, all in one.

Here are a few of my favorites, including a neat DIY tutorial at the end for kitten flats that would be awesome for any age!

Fox Knit Scarf by Tre Melarance
Kids Fox Knit Scarf
Kids Fox Coat by Little Goodall
Kids Fox Coat Jacket
Girls Baby Mouse Dress by Wild Things Dresses
Gray Girls Mouse Dress Kids
DIY Cat Toe Shoes by Kate at Scathingly Brilliant
DIY Cat Kitten Painted Shoes

 


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Live Butterfly Garden

My go-to gift for kids this summer has been Insect Lore’s Live Butterfly Garden. After about the third gift, and hearing rave reviews, I finally ordered one for myself Chloe. Basically, the kit comes with a mesh “habitat” container in which to place the caterpillars once they become chrysalides. Before that happens, you have to order the caterpillars online or by mail using the code from the kit. Ours came in about a week. It included 5 tiny caterpillars in a clear plastic cup, complete with food. We’ve been watching them grow daily, and now they are huge! Just this morning we found the first one attached to the roof, within its chrysalis. How exciting!

When I looked at them again around lunch time, I noticed the chrysalide was shaking like a leaf. I took a video of it below. According to the pamplet the shaking was “a natural instinct to ward of predators.” Huh. The other caterpillar attached to the roof looks like it’s praying, utterly still with its head reverently bent. If I become fanciful, I can imagine it in a medatative state, gathering its focus and praying for strength for the miraculous metamorphosis to come.

5 Crazy Painted Lady Butterfly Facts:

  • She tastes with her feet.
  • She has 10,000 eyes.
  • She breathes through her abdomen.
  • She can lay up to 500 eggs.
  • She may travel 1,000 miles in her lifetime.

Anyway, it has been interesting, and I really hope to see them transform. When I was in grade school we did a similar project, except almost all of the class insects failed. Majorly disappointing. It is nice to have this opportunity again, and to share it as a family. Hopefully this time it will be a success and we’ll have beautiful butterflies to release in a couple weeks!

Update: See photos of our emerged butterflies here!


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Little Garden Visitors

Chloe and I play out in the back yard almost everyday. This year, early in the season, we bought several flats of fund-raiser plants from a neighbor. The growing color back there is wonderful! I’m also happy to report several mini-green tomatoes, zucchini, grapes and green beans peeking out from under their abundant foliage.

Yesterday, we saw an unusual amount of butterflies visiting our yard. Their drunken fluttering makes Chloe nervous, so she likes to have me close by. Unfortunately they were practically impossible to photograph. So we turned our attention to these little garden visitors instead…

Honey bee, back legs laden with pollen
Male “12-Spotted Skimmer” dragonfly, back view
Mason bee (I think)
Male “12-Spotted Skimmer” dragonfly, front view


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Little Chicks and Weird Weather

Has it really been a week since I posted last? Sorry about that. One good reason was because I lost my camera. I tend to be such a visual person myself, that I guess I feel that my words are just not enough. I could not find that camera anywhere. David and I looked and looked. A little over a week ago, I finally got fed up with my messy desk and dumped everything into bags (to be sorted later), so I thought for sure that’s where I’d find it. But no. We looked in my purse, in the car, in the office, under the sofa cushions, in all my bags, everywhere we could think of. See what great shots I’d be missing?


Downy and adorable, huddling for warmth

Caught in the act of eating

Nap time for this little chick

Luckily, we still have our old digital camera. I’m so used to my newer camera that I found it harder to use, heavy and bulky. But I was able to get these adorable pics of Marcy and Alex’s new flock of chicks. Aren’t they so sweet? I think they said there were two Americanas, two Rhode Island Reds and two Australorps. We’d have chickens in a heart beat if it weren’t for our home owner’s association. I was entranced just watching them eat, then sleep, then eat again. There little chirp! chirp! sounds were especially innocent and endearing. They’ll be producing almost an egg a day in about 5 months.

The same day we got to see their new chicks, the weather went a little crazy. First it was sunny, then it would snow, then it would be sunny again and then it hailed! Big, gravel-sized balls of hail pounding everywhere and accumulating rapidly. Here are a couple pictures of that.


A shot with David’s shoes, for perspective

With a fresh-picked camellia blossom from M & A’s tree.

Lastly, I thought I should mention that David was the hero who finally found my camera. And guess where it was? In my purse. Where we BOTH had already looked, and which I carry around almost everywhere. Turns out it fell into the small zipper compartment that I hardly use. And David was all Are you sure it’s not in your purse? So he looked again and there it was. Safe and sound, right beneath my very nose the entire time.


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Crazy Robin Update

So if you happened to read the previous post, I thought I’d mention that yesterday the Robin decided to transfer it’s affection to our neighbor’s car. But not for long. Yesterday evening it found it’s way back to our vehicle…again. This morning we’re watching it flutter on the car across the street. I’m telling you, this bird just won’t quit.


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Winter's Farmers Market


Naturally occuring white, brown and pale green farm-fresh eggs

Alex, Marcy, David and I went to check out the Hillsdale Farmers Market yesterday, only 20 minutes away. It runs all year, and twice a month in winter. Despite the weather, there was a good selection of in-season produce and other local goods. We picked up a colorful assortment of organic free-range eggs, leeks, rainbow chard, pear cider, and a bag of nettles. Yep, stinging nettles, with their nasty little thorns. We’ve never tried them, but apparently they are super nutritious. The stinging property goes away with boiling (so I’m told). There is great little video on how to harvest them properly, and I think I’ll try this recipe for nettle pesto.

In other weirdness, David pointed out a robin sitting on the side-view mirror of the car yesterday. She would hop down onto the driver’s side window sill and flap her wings, as if trying to get at something inside. David went out to investigate, and found nothing in the car (we rarely use it so it’s pretty clean). He also taped an X over the spot, hoping to distort the reflection, if that what was making her crazy.


The crazy robin, and the taped X to distort the reflection

Poop trails: Driver’s side door

Poop trails: Passenger’s side door

This morning, we found out the bird was still there. Hopping around, and leaving the biggest poop trails on BOTH of the front doors. So weird! So we went out and moved both the cars into the driveway. Which did the trick, and the Robin is gone. But the question remains, what in the heck was she trying to accomplish?


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Butterfly Pavilion, Westminster, Colorado

A few days before we left Colorado, Aundrea and Andrew suggested that we all stop into the Butterfly Pavilion. It’s a neat place, great for kids, where you can see all kinds of insects up close, hold a tarantula in your very own hands, gently pet a few objects of sea life like starfish and horseshoe crabs and see all kinds of butterflies. We were lucky to be on time to watch one of the two daily butterfly releases. A speaker comes out with a small cage of butterflies, picks them out individually (by their wings, which surprised me because I thought you were never to touch a butterfly’s wings), gives a short educational lecture and releases them to fly away freely in the tropical conservatory, which is like a plant-filled rainforest-like room.

It was neat to walk around slowly looking for butterflies hidden amid the foliage, or see them flutter by high above. Sadly, I saw several butterflies with torn wings, due careless children, despite the warnings of the speaker. David’s dad mentioned that the place was showing its age, which is true, but I still found it to be a worthwhile and unique experience.


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Arrival in Colorado

Deer in the snow

David and I arrived in Colorado a couple days ago, right during a snowstorm. Instead of the normal 1-hour drive from Denver, it took almost three hours to get to David’s parents house up in the mountains – partially due to traffic and icy conditions and partially because we got stuck on a hill near their house and had to backtrack another way to avoid all the stuck cars. It was quite a little adventure. But in the end we made it safely.

It has been ages since I’ve enjoyed a “white” Christmas. Besides the snow already on the ground, it’s supposed to snow on Christmas day. Finally an opportunity to post true winter pictures. Yesterday I was especially lucky to take the above shot of a buck walking right across the lawn! Isn’t he beautiful?

snow bench

Snowglobes on the mantel


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Neighborhood Coyotes

barkley on hike

Barkley on a hike at Stub Stewart State Park

As I sit down to work at my computer, I hear a fire truck siren going off in the distance, followed by a clear, harmonious howl. David and I turn to each other and smile because we know the howl is coming from Barkley, who is outside at the moment. I’ve only seen him do this a handful of times, but it is simply adorable to watch and it doesn’t last long. I barely get a glimpse of him through the window (never long enough for me to get my camera, argh!). It’s heartening to see a shelter dog who used to be so shy and quiet, feel free to express himself like that.

This reminds me of that coyote I saw on my street last week. A pretty strange occurrence since I don’t live all that far from the city. And no, I wasn’t just seeing things, and no, it wasn’t just a dog on the loose. I know it was a coyote. I’ve seen the signs by our neighborhood lake, and I’ve heard about them from a neighbor, but I never in a million years expected to see one myself. I was just driving home one evening and turned onto our block to find it right in the street. It took one quick look at the car and then trotted away, out of sight. Wow! It was really cool.

Here are some interesting articles from the Audubon Society of Portland on Living with Urban Coyotes and a story from a neighboring community website.


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Surfing & Tide pools

David and I went surfing on Sunday. It started out a little grey, but gradually the clouds began to part and the sun to shine. Before surfing we usually take a look at Oregon Surf Check, wavewatch.com and these live surf cams of the Oregon Coast. Turns out it wasn’t a good wave day, but we didn’t really care. I think we just wanted to get out of the house and take advantage of the few beautiful days left of summer. We didn’t even bother trying to get past the break and instead just rode whitewater. I wish I could have taken out my camera and snapped a few shots from the ocean.

After surfing I spent a little time inspecting the tide pools. I don’t know why I don’t do this every time we go. There always seems to be something new to see. Here are a few pictures of my finds, with some names that David helped me look up in our handy National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest.

The North edge of the tide pools, with a sea stack in the background

Not sure what this was, but it looked cool

A Black Turban Snail

An Ochre Sea Star, about 8″

Possibly a Purple Shore Crab, about 1.5″

The amazing texture on the side of a tide pool rock


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Favorite Stuffed Toys

I may be in my early thirties, but the occasional unique, alternative, and stuffed variety of toy can still make me smile.

Rosa Pomar Doll

Handmade one-of-a-kind dolls by Rosa Pomar

I remember when ugly dolls first came out. I thought they were way cool, and my husband bought me the character Jeero, which I still have. Then for a while I was really into the handmade dolls from Portuguese artist Rosa Pomar, which I haven’t yet bought, but consider every once in a while. There is something about their vibrant patterns, colors and texture that really appeals to me.

ugly dolls

Ugly dolls (Jeero is at the top center)

This month, Dwell magazine introduced to me to another darling set of handmade toys. These are by La Maison de Lola, and are a collection of soft “creatures” by a young Portuguese couple that are hand-sewn from wool fabric and felt and stuffed with duck feathers. My favorite is Mr. Grizzly, followed closely by Mr. Bunny and Mr. Ape. They are just so adorable!

Mr Grizzly La Maison de Lola

Mr Bunny La Maison de Lola

Mr Ape La Maison de Lola

Three “creatures” from the La Maison de Lola collection


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Natural Recycled Wood Bird Houses

wood bird house

Back in May, I wrote a post called A Sign From Heaven where I was trying to decide what David and I could make and sell on Etsy. We eventually decided to start making recycled wood bird houses, especially after a bird’s nest literally fell from the sky that weekend. I realize I never wrote a post on them, so here are links to the flower, the little bird, and the unadorned bird house.

Unfortunately, it looks like no one is interested in them because they haven’t sold. Of course, it’s risky to trust a seller with no feedback, much like on ebay, even though they’re only $12. What I need to do is make a couple purchases (now that my favorites list is 3 pages long!) and get a positive reputation started. I guess I’ve been waiting for some special occasion, a friend’s birthday perhaps, to give me an excuse, especially now that I’m trying to be money conservative.

Here’s the description for the house with the little bird painted on it (kind of long, I realize now).

Wrens, chickadees, bluebirds, titmice, downy woodpeckers and other small birds in your yard are just waiting for you to hang this shed roof bird house.

Modern, sturdy, and functional – this handmade wooden house is designed specifically for the outdoor bird population, not just for decoration. It incorporates important bird-friendly characteristics including openings for air circulation, a perchless entry with overhang (for drainage protection and to discourage unwanted visitors) and interior access for easy cleaning.

We’ve used recycled, untreated cedar, salvaged from a local Portland contractor. Cedar is naturally beautiful, insulating and insect and rot resistant. We also use outdoor quality fastenings and screws, instead of nails, for increased durability. Eventually, the surface will age to a silvery grey and blend in even better to its outdoor surroundings.

The bird house shown above has been left mostly unpainted, except for the dark brown design hand-painted on the front panel. The last picture shows the opening available for cleaning. Most birds prefer untreated wood because it allows their claws to grip the naturally rough walls more easily. Box measures approx. 11.5″ tall x 5″ wide x 4.5″ deep with a 1 1/4″ entry hole.

Each bird house will arrive with a placement guide, mounting instructions and tips for the best birding success.

We pledge to do our part by donating a portion of each sale to the Nature Conservancy or to the Portland Audubon Society, to support environmental protection and conservation.

That last part I had really high hopes for. Alas, maybe I was thinking too big, too quickly. Well, the good news is we’re prepared with holiday gifts six months early. I guess everyone knows what they’re getting now!


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Eastern Oregon Day 4 & 5: John Day Fossil Beds, Painted Hills and Smith Rock

I didn’t post about these two days, probably because we were either having too good of a time or simply exhausted from driving or the excellent hiking. These two days we drove from Baker City to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument – first to Sheep Rock and then to the Painted Hills. We’re definitely going to come back another day to see the Clarno site, which was farther north than we were able to make on this trip. From the Painted Hills we headed to Smith Rock, where we camped in the bivouac area. God that place is just amazingly gorgeous. Makes me wish I was still a rock climber. The next day we hiked around the whole park and by evening we were home. Here are some pictures from these days:

john day fossil bed area

Painted Hills

Smith Rock

Smith Rock Sunlight

Deer at Smith Rock

Smith Rock White Flowers


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Found: One Little Crow

Crow

This afternoon we were alerted by an extraordinarily loud racket of CAAW! CAAW! CAAW! When I opened the front door to see what all the commotion was about I was amazed to find the largest population of crows I have ever seen. Something big was going down in the top of the large pine across the street. Mostly, there were birds sitting and flapping around up there, but some were circling directly over head while others dive bombed at something else in that same tree. After a while we started to hear a frightened and desperate PEEP! It was so high up that it was hard to see exactly what was going on. David thought he could see a hawk up in there, that likely got on the bad side of the neighborhood crows and so they called to all their buddies in the neighboring “hoods” to come and teach that hawk a lesson. It was a remarkable sight, and did I mention that how incredibly loud it all was? People were stepping out from all over to see just what the hell was going on.

crows circling

Eventually the crows must have completed their task because their numbers started petering out. Neighbors started returning to their respective houses after commenting on what a wild show it had been. And so we thought, well, that was that.

But not so fast. About an hour later, while we were outside enjoying the nice weather, David found a surprise hiding between the house and the bench on the deck. Turns out it was a young crow, sitting very still and obviously very scared. I know the scared part for a fact because when David approached it to get a better look, he literally scared the shit right out of it. This was made even more obvious because David had just re-stained the deck this week. Poor little bird. Sometimes I wonder if our property might be sitting on some sort of alternate plane, because this same thing happened last year. Not the diving/circling crow fest but finding a baby crow. I’m sad to say that last year’s crow didn’t last very long, and it was obviously very sick. I guess its just natural selection taking its course. But we’ve also found a huge dead crow in the past, along with dead squirrels two different times (although, I have a feeling those were Barkley incidents). We’ve only lived in this house 3 years.

hiding crow

walking crow

close crow

This time, we didn’t touch the crow. We just left it be, even though this neighborhood is overrun with cats. Crows are very smart, and this one was no exception. We figured we’d again just let nature take its course. For a while we kept Barkley inside, just in case, but then I let him out with me. He proceeded to completely ignore it. He has never been interested in birds, but I wanted to be sure. At least he would keep the cats out.

Eventually, the bird made its way to the front yard and we heard cawing from other crows trying to find it. I think they must have, because there was no trace of it later on. If I’ve learned anything, its that crows can pretty much take care of themselves, and each other, even if they have to call on their neighborhood posse to do it.


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Day Trippin' – Hood River, Maryhill and Stonehenge

Today we decided to go to Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, Washington, about 1 1/2hrs from Portland. The drive took us through the magnificent Columbia River Gorge, past incredible waterfalls (like the famous Multnomah, the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States), two huge dams (the Bonneville and the Dalles, where Google’s new 30 acre campus is located), and mountainous rock walls and sparkling river views.

Columbia River Gorge Farm Breakfast

We’ve explored the Gorge on many previous trips, so today we drove straight through, except for one important detour to the Historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, located in Hood River. I had heard about their “World Famous Farm Breakfast” and thought it would be a perfect way to start the morning, especially since we would have already been on the road for about an hour.

The 5-course breakfast is a fun treat for $30/person. Seating is in a “morning room” to the left of the main dining area with beautiful views of the river and the hotel’s well-maintainged landscape. When you arrive the table is preset with a pedestal fruit tray, then comes a whole baked apple and delicious crispy apple fritter, oatmeal with brown sugar, a choice of entree – I chose the rainbow trout with 3 farm eggs and hashbrowns and David chose the croissant with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and to finish a country biscuit with butter and local wildflower honey. A lot of food, but all so scrumptous! Afterwards, we spent a little time exploring the gardens and grounds, including the view of the 207-ft Wah-Gwin-Gwin Falls. I can see why this hotel is so popular for weddings and other special occasions.

Maryhill Museum of Art was maybe another half hour east of Hood River. The museum collection was nice, but not one I would likely visit again, although they did have a nice collection of Faberge, Rodin sculptures, and memorable international chess sets among the other fine art. I preferred the view and the outdoors, especially the current Outdoor Sculpture Invitational. And curiously, there were quite a few wild peacocks randomly roaming around. Their call is something awful and I was startled more than once by an eruption of loud barking screams. They seem to wander freely and we were able to get surprisingly close.

Maryhill, Peacock, Scenic View

Another unique part of Maryhill is its full-scale replica of England’s Stonehenge. Apparently Sam Hill, the wealthy entrepreneur who bought the 6,000 acres of land overlooking the Columbia River, erected the structure as a world war 1 memorial as a reminder that ‘humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war.” I wonder how he’d feel knowing that almost 100 years later, that remains to be true.

Maryhill, Stonehenge, Scenic View

The winds at Stonehenge were so fierce while we were there that we stayed only long enough to snap a few photos and take in the blustery view. We could barely stand in one place, so we decided to head back to Hood River for dinner and a little shopping in their charming historic district. Being Sunday, many shops were closed by the time we arrived, so I definitely plan to come back and look around more another time. David chose the Full Sail Brewery for dinner and were we lucked out with the best two person table in the house – right next to the large back windows with a perfect view of windsurfers and kite boarders in the distance. We even talked about looking into a lesson one day soon.

Columbia River Gorge Scenic Views

After living here for 7 years it is hard to believe there are so many trips like this still out there waiting for us, a mere couple hours away. And the variety of it all, beaches, mountains, canyons, waterfalls, forests, rivers, lakes… there is just so much to see and and experience. Its too easy to think ‘someday I’ll do that…’ instead of making time to do it. So right now I’m really proud of us, and satisfied that our day was so well spent and rewarded.

 All these photos and more can be seen here through my flickr account.


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This Dog Has Changed My Life

Barkley

Today marks Barkley’s second anniversary with us. He is now about 3 and a half years old. Two years ago we walked into the Bonnie Hayes Small Animal Shelter in Hillsboro to look at the possibility of getting a cat, but fate obviously had other plans in store for us.

Today Barkley is pretty much an ideal pet. He’s mild mannered, attentive, trained and just plain fun. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs in the past, particularly right after we brought him home. He was shy and nervous, unsure of his place and how long we would be there to love him since obviously his previous owner did such a horrible job.

Yes, those were the days when we’d come home to find he’d ripped up the floor of his kennel, or tore holes in the sofa cushions. When he’d dig out my freshly planted garden, or catch squirrels, or bark unstoppably while left on the beach when we went out surfing.

Thankfully, he has out-grown those tendencies. His destructive behavior only ever surfaced when he was completely alone and his separation anxiety over-rode his natural, happy-go-lucky self. With the help of days and weeks of repetition where we always returned home to him, 3 sets of obedience classes at PetSmart, a wonderful tool called the KongTime, and a decent backyard for him to explore and protect, Barkley has finally found peace.

Now our days are filled with walks, bike rides, playing fetch, and a small fortune in vacuum bags filled with dog hair. But I can honestly say it is all worth it. Even my husband, who was against getting a dog in the first place, has fallen for Barkley’s big brown eyes and wagging tail (although he’s still unlikely to admit it).

Barkley has found a permanent place in our family, but I count myself as the lucky one.

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