December 3, 2016

Bathroom Renovation 2016

We started this DIY renovation in APRIL and here it is, the beginning of DECEMBER and we are just now finishing it up. Renovations are tough to begin with, but add in a baby/toddler and it becomes a physical and psychological torture labyrinth that will seemingly never end (maybe that's a little extreme).

Here is what the bathroom looked like when we moved in with the TAN walls and the brown, super gross grout...



And here is what it looked like after we made some cosmetic changes, like painting the grout and painting the walls... It was a significant improvement, but we really wanted more storage and we did not like the periwinkle tile at all.

  

   



New tile, vanity, toilet, light fixture, towel bar (by me) and mirror frame (made by my dad). We kept the same wall color which saved a little bit of work. Here is the NOW!!!




{  Adding some simple holiday cheer - literally printed this from Word this morning, Ha!  }







WALLS = Daltile white subway tiles and Behr Irish Mist paint

FLOOR = MARAZZI - Montagna Smoky Black 6 in. x 24 in. Glazed Porcelain Floor Tiles   


ALL GROUT = Fusion Pro # 19 Pewter



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Voraciously listening

Sooooo... It's been a while. If you follow my blog, I'm sure you noticed the lack of Hazel posts these past few months. I'm reevaluating what I want to share on my blog and may get into those details later, but for now I want to talk about my love of PODCASTS...

I started listening to them (outside the ones that are also on NPR) when I was on maternity leave. Being home alone with a baby can be lonely and busy and sometimes a little boring. I found that listening to podcasts was a great way to pass the time as I stared, nursed, changed, and played with my baby.

I wish I knew a word that meant voracious listening (like gobbling-up is to eating)... because that is what I've been doing to podcasts ever since. When I'm home alone, doing chores, working on the bathroom reno, going to sleep...

Below I am sharing some of my favorites (links in the titles). I like to laugh and I like to learn, so many podcasts are focused on those two things, but there are quite a few that leave me in tears because they are so touching.

If you listen to any of these, let me know what you think! Frequently, after listening to episodes I want to DISCUSS them with people, some of the topics are just SO GOOD. So I am always open for that. :)  I'm also open to recommendations, so hit me with your favorites!


The Longest Shortest Time
The parenting podcast for everyone. This is the podcast that really got me listening to podcasts that weren’t already radio segments.  It’s a parenting podcast, but they’re human stories that can be enjoyed by anyone. You DO NOT have to be a parent to be touched by The Accidental Gay Parents (multiple episodes are dedicated to this story. LISTEN TO IT!).

More Perfect
This is a new spin-off of RadioLab (see below) devoted to discussing topics related to the Supreme Court. I’ve had an interest in law ever since my CSU HR law professor lectured about important cases and made dry jokes about Justice Scalia beating up swing vote Kennedy in the bathroom, so this is up my alley. So far it’s a mixture of looking at specific cases and going into some history.

Serial
I think most people who like podcasts have listened to this one or at least heard of it, as it’s one of the most high-profile podcasts around. Tyler and I downloaded these episodes and listened to them on our road trip back from Colorado this summer.  It was the perfect podcast for a roadtrip because it is one that has plenty of cliff hangers that make you want to binge the whole thing and it was approximately the right length. We ended up sitting in OUR DRIVEWAY IN THE CAR for an EXTRA 10 minutes after an approximately 14 hour drive in order to hear the end!  Season 1 was great, but season 2 was much harder to get into for me, so I haven’t finished it.

The Mortified Podcast
People reading excerpts from their tweenage diaries. It’s good for an awkward laugh. Enough Said.

The Gilmore Guys
I hate that I love this one. The two male hosts (one who watched GG when it aired and one watching for the first time) do a podcast for each episode of Gilmore Girls + additional episodes talking to the cast and crew. Frequently they talk for double the length (or more) of the GG episode itself.  It’s definitely a guilty pleasure and sometimes it gets pretty bad (maybe it's bad most of the time, I can’t tell anymore), but I’ve listened to all of it and they have a few more podcasts to make of it to finish off the reboot that came out in November.  I guess if you’ve watched GG as many times as I have, it’s kinda nice to visit Stars Hollow in a new, goofy way.

If Gilmore Girls isn't your favorite show, podcasts like this are around for other shows too, so do a little searching. Which leads me to...

The West Wing Weekly
Tyler and I have started watching The West Wing for the first time. It's been fun for me to listen to this podcast as we go. I don't listen on a 1 to 1 ratio as we watch, but the episodes are still fresh enough to remember. This podcast is less goofy, and they bring on really interesting guests including people who were in or worked on the show as well as real Washington D.C. folks who held some of the same positions who are able to point out accuracies and inaccuracies.

How to Be a Girl
The podcast of a mother trying to navigate the world of parenting her transgender kid. And not really knowing WTF she’s doing, but trying to do what is best for her kid (as we all do). I can't even put in to words what it's like to hear this sweet kid describe for herself what it's like to be transgender... you just have to listen. The episodes tend to be short.  It’s poignant and heartbreaking and empowering, and I wish all the best for this family.


And then there's the NPR Suite + Trivia Shows:

RadioLab
They make even mundane topics really interesting.

This American Life

The MOTH Radio Hour

TED Radio Hour

Ask Me Another

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

^^^All worthy listens!

June 30, 2016

Blinking Butts

Growing up in the Midwest brings many specific experiences along with it, but one of the best is summer twilight lightning bug displays.  I've always loved watching them and catching them.

I've gone to a bioluminescent exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum and even after learning about them scientifically, I'm still convinced their butts are magical.

I used to catch them and put them in a jar or bug catcher, and I loved releasing them back into the air. I always hoped they would all light up at the same time as they came out of the jar so it'd be like a firework show. But that never happened. 

I also remember my cousin, Sarah, and I used to catch them and pull down a branch from a tree in my grandma and grandpa's front yard, load the little lightning bug onto a leaf, and let go... "launching it into space!" -- I'm sure this did not hurt them as i'm pretty sure they probably didn't even stay on the branch for the ride...

I was NOT one of those monsters who ripped off their butts to draw on the ground or make glowing rings around their fingers... If you're one of those people, I might harbor some animosity toward you. And if I were a sociologist I would love to do a study on the difference in the adult lives/personalities of children who did and did not kill the bug to take the glow for their own enjoyment. (Hi friends, I'm sure some of you fall into this category...)

In junior high school, I remember looking up lightning bug pictures on the internet. Maybe I used Google, but because of the time-frame it may have been Hotbot or AskJeeves... I dont' remember for sure, but I do know that I found none. Pictures of the bugs themselves? Sure. But pictures of their bright lights? None. I couldn't find any. (This is my best "I remember when..." story about the internet. Because I'm sure there were plenty pictures out there that photographers had taken, they just hadn't found a home on the internet yet.)

I wanted desperately to be able to capture a little bit of that magic on film, but my rudimentary knowledge of cameras and shutterspeeds did not provide me with the necessary skills to do it. It became a goal. One day I'd be able to freeze those blinks. Until then I'd keep on enjoying the live show.

This April we were out at my parent's house for a party and while heading out for a bonfire, I noticed little dots on the side of a hill glowing... They were pre-lightning bugs in their glowing groundling stage.

I knew they glowed on the ground thanks to the Field Museum exhibit, but  I've never seen them before they were flying. They are a little creepy looking in that stage if you shine a light on them, but they're very sweet just glowing on the side of a hill. It took a few more weeks before we really started seeing them flying around the yard.

A few weeks ago we had a ton in our back yard. More than I ever remember seeing the the past years we've lived here. I think this is in part due to the fact that we stopped mowing our backyard and the long, prairie-like grass is the perfect place for them to chill during the day. 

We have the perfect view from our bed through our giant window into our yard. We just laid there watching as they had a firefly festival about our woods. They danced as they displayed their different rhythms. Some wear long lights, and other blink in staccato. Sometimes there'd be an electric green amidst the warm yellows. We get excited when we see two flying at each other or doing a dance on the window pane, always hoping they find true love. Watching them swoop and swoon in the dark is one of the best ways to drift off to sleep.

My dad said that their yard was full of them too. We were heading up for the weekend so I decided to give the lightning bug photography another try. Last year we made a valiant attempt but didn't come away with much. 

This time I decided to pick a spot and use a tripod and take a LOT of pictures. I chose early twilight as they were first coming out for their nightly frolic, because I've noticed as they first come up from the grass they stay low and concentrated for a while before really taking flight into the night air. Picture after picture after picture. Capturing one to a few at a time. Sometimes none. 

I later put them over top of each other in post-production to get the shots you see below. It HAS occurred to me more than once that I could get the same basic picture by pulling out the yellow brush in Paint and making some dabs on the picture (because really that's what this looks like), but I did not stoop to that level. This is the real deal. 

These are not perfect images, and I think next time I will make sure to get at least one image that has the landscape more focused to be my base image, but the young me who couldn't find any pictures AT ALL is still proud to have captured something like this. 



{  The big red streak is NOT a lightning bug or a UFO, just Tyler flying his drone.  }
Hazel is still too young to really be taken in by the dance of the blinking butts. She doesn't seem to notice them (and we are also usually trying to get her to sleep during prime time).  I am already imagining a time when she is older, being able to spend evenings catching them with her. Perhaps the Hazelnaut will launch them into space as well, or ponder whether they are really fairies joyously covering the world in the cloak of night. 

These little creatures are some of the neatest on earth. In these days leading up to the 4th of July, I am looking forward to a good firework display, but while while I'm waiting I am appreciating the light spectacle that goes on every night all around me. 

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