Sunday, August 30, 2009

A boat and some water

While Weird Haired Mom was at the hospital helping out a friend in labor, we got to watch the grandkids for the afternoon on Saturday. It was a very hot day, so what could be better than a boat and some water?

Riley thought this was a great idea. Darci, however, was horrified. She could not believe that I was so clueless about how a boat is supposed to work. Riley was funny while filling it - he kept asking "It full now?"

"No Riley, not yet."

"It full now?"

"No, not quite yet."

"It full now?"

And so on. And on. And on.

Finally, it was full (enough), and Riley quickly changed into his swim trunks, grabbed his bath toys, and jumped in. Darci was a bit reluctant for some reason, but eventually she got in too.

Isn't it funny how little brothers have a knack for annoying big sisters?

Darci inexplicably decided she was a ballerina and proceeded to walk around the edge of the boat. She is very proud of her balancing ability.

Darci wanted the boat to be in the sun. She tried pulling it but failed. She then asked Riley to help. So he went to the other end of the boat and pulled.

After a bit they worked out that they both needed to be at the same end of the boat.

The boat refused to budge, and mean old grampa wouldn't help since the last thing he wanted was for the boat to be in the sun. (It was in the 90s in the shade!)

After all that effort, they settled for a hot dog lunch with Mrs Notthat.

In the end, the boat successfully acted like a very rugged and interesting wading pool. Unless you were Idiot Dog Teddy, where the pool seemed more like a very large water dish.

That's it - move along...

PS: Many thanks to Nwad (not her real name) for sitting with the kids so we could head off to our Beatles concert and WHM could stay for the birth.

The snake stretches out

The Boy has had Weird Haired Mom's pet 20 foot boa (at least that's how she looks to me) staying in his room this summer. The idea is to find out whether he really wants one of his own and whether I would go insane having it in the house. Not only did I not go insane, The Boy and I spent a fun week or so building the snake Sisi (not it's real name, but for the life of me I can't figure why I care, other than out of habit) a new enclosure.

We started out with an innocent 4 x 8 sheet of birch plywood. Why birch? It was the cheapest 1/2 inch reasonably nice looking plywood they had. As you can see, many power tools were used for this.

The base and two sides are up. We used, of all things, a redwood garden stake for the edge mounting. The idea was to have no screw heads visible from the outside. Much glue was also used.

We used 1/2 inch quarter round to hide the plywood edges. The Boy gets to experience the wonder that is a compound miter saw for making 45 degree angle cuts. I think we ended up with only one wrong-angled cut, and that was at my direction. The Boy seemed to be able to work out the angles fairly well on his own.

At this point all the wood bits are in place. The trim is all just glued in place, so we used a combination of ropes, clamps, and gravity (with an assist by a cinder block) to hold it all together while the glue dried. Completely shocking, the bits all glued nicely and the box remained relatively square!

After a bit of sanding, The Boy did the staining. Golden oak.

Here it is with the top installed, side vents added, stained and sealed and now needing to air out for a week or so.

This shows the inside with the background pieces and the heating system installed. There was some spirited discussion about which way the background pieces should go - this way won since it worked best with the black triangular bit in the corner. A piece of 3/16 inch plastic was used for the front window.

And here it is all done, with the snake busily exploring his new home (look towards the lower-left back edge of the enclosure). The old enclosure is on the floor at The Boy's feet - you can see how much this new one expands her living space.

This was a great project that turned out pretty well. We were able to work around the variety of things that didn't quite work out as planned (or, more likely, not planned) and had fun doing it. It was challenging though, and reminded me why I should never be allowed to do finish carpentry work.

The best news though, is that the snake has not managed to escape yet.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recycling garage doors

Our house has an old, one-piece garage door. I've disliked it for a long time - it swings out wide when you open it plus it limits how you stack your boxes of important stuff (such as boxes containing other boxes) on the inside of the garage. (We live in California where you are required to put just about anything in your garage, as long as it is not a car.)

About a year ago, maybe two, Mrs Notthat found a bit more modern used garage door on, which has been lying in pieces alongside our house since then. Since I took this week off to work on projects around the house, it was hard for me get out of actually going through with installing this thing, so I tackled it today.

Here is the current garage door.

Here is the new door, laid out in sections with one of the panels installed as a test. Note the old garage door alongside the house - we are not exactly sure what is happening with it yet. I doubt that Freecycle will help with it though.

The only real injury of the day.

The new door installed. Sort of.

Note that the top panel does not quite close right. The problem is that the garage has too low of a ceiling for this door. This was an unanticipated issue, but I have some thoughts about how to work around this. Also, the door currently takes at least two strong people to open. There is a spring assist thing that still needs to be installed, but before that can happen, we need to be able to open the door all the way.

And this gas line is keeping that from happening. I'll get a professional to handle moving it out of the way, and then finish the installation.

Or more likely, to run into the next blocking issue.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More cousin Jay with trees and beaches

Cousin Jay had to go to work up in Richmond on Monday, but it was a short day and by 1:30 he was done and ready to play. So Mrs Notthat and I, the grandkids, and Weird Haired Mom drove up to meet him in Corte Madera. From there we headed to redwood tree-infested Muir Woods, which even at 4 PM on a Monday had full parking lots.

Here Mrs Notthat explains how to be a bird. (Note the shorts and her blue shirt. She ends up not wearing either a bit later.)

Muir Woods is filled with awesome trees and scattered wildlife, like the deer we watched calmly chewing on something about ten feet from the path, but for some reason Riley got it in his head to find a fish. There are several bridges across a small creek that goes through the park, and we stopped at all of them to try to see a fish (which we eventually did see - several really small ones).

As we were leaving we noticed a large group of men wearing white with bells strapped to their legs - a group called the Morris Dancers had somehow chosen that time and place to perform a number of traditional English folk dances. This one involved smacking sticks together. Others involved waving hankies at each other.

The dancing was interesting for a bit, but to keep people from wandering away, the leader of the group did a number of odd antics involving chasing kids with his broom, swapping hats with a ranger, and dressing as a woman and putting blush on random bystanders.

We managed to sneak away after four dance routines and head off to Stinson Beach. Cousin Jay is from Missouri (motto: "Tidal Wave Free Since 1973") and was anxious to dip his toes in the warm Pacific Ocean. We drove through a lot of fog and marine layer to get to the beach, but were rewarded with sunshine once we got there. (This is not to be confused with it being warm however; there was a cold breeze and, as all you veteran Northern California coast visitors know, the Pacifica Ocean up here is never even vaguely warm.)

Darci had loudly and often professed how it would not be too cold to go into the water at the beach, but when her bluff was called, this was as close as she would get. This showed a level of maturity that we were surprised to see.

Unfortunately, Cousin Jay left his maturity in Missouri, and between him and some other kids that showed up, Darci managed to get very wet. She swore it wasn't cold (between shivers and alarmingly blue lips). Alert viewers will note several people off to the left out in deeper water. Extremely alert viewers will note that the two guys are wearing wet suits while the woman is wearing a bikini. You can guess which was the more insane.

Riley was content to play in the sand. He is not allowed to throw sand in the sand box at home since we anally want to keep the sand in the sand box, but on the beach it is almost impossible to throw the sand out of the sand box. (He found out later though that it is not wise to throw sand into the wind.)

Here Mrs Notthat is up out of the wind trying to get Darci's clothes to dry a bit. This failed though, and Darci ended up wearing Mrs blue shirt. Also, by this time Mrs shorts had been replaced by much more sensible long pants. She is a veteran of Northern California beaches. WHM is too, but assumed that Darci would somehow keep her clothes dry while prancing in the waves.

Here we all are at the Beach Shack Bar and Grill in Stinson Beach. The food was great (I had fish tacos that weirdly came with french fries - not that I'm complaining) and even better, it was warm.

And that was about it. We said our goodbyes to Cousin Jay since we most likely won't see him again on this trip, and headed home - tired, a bit sandy, but full and warm.

That's it - move along...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cousin Jay visits, so fire up the grill!

Cousin Jay from Missouri is here in the Bay Area on business. He spent yesterday visiting with us, so we had the grandkids and their parents over for an intensive, meat-heavy BBQ.

Here he is watching a spirited game of Toss the Unicorn (which weirdly has wings, and a name too long and confusing to type in here) between Darci and the Weird Haired Mom. Riley is in the background playing with the pool table. The weather was great - just warm enough to be comfortable (unless you are Mrs Notthat) but not too warm.

Riley is amazing. He saw the pan of water left over from where I soaked the corn before putting them on the grill (thanks dad for the tip to leave the silks on the corn - this makes it easy and tastes fantastic!), and said he would be right back with an alligator, a boat, a fish, and a duck. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he dashed into the house and came back a few minutes later with an alligator, a boat, a fish, and a duck - all from the grandkid's bucket of bath toys. The thing is, he has probably used these only a half dozen times, and not for well over a month, but he instantly remembered that he had these and which were his favorites.

As I mentioned, this was a meat-intensive BBQ with chicken, pork, and steak. There was also the previously mentioned corn. We will have some great leftovers this week.

Before we ate, that stupid snake that is staying in The Boy's room this summer made an appearance. Not shown in the picture is me standing by the grill with a shovel, ready to defend the meat if necessary.

We started eating at the picnic table on the lawn, but then were invaded by a couple of yellow jackets and ended up bolting for the great indoors. The yellow jackets begged to be let in, but Idiot Dog Teddy guarded the door.

Mrs Notthat made a potato salad and an apple salad to go along with the meat and corn. Later all of this was followed up with zucchini brownies and ice cream. Nobody was left hungry or non-hyper.

Riley put on my sandals, which seem to be a bit big for him, and managed to walk around reasonably well in them. He is holding his turtle Bounce, who has his shell off so he can bounce higher. I blame this on Barney.

The Boy got down with the Tinker Toys and built this replica (loosely speaking) of the kneeling burning woman from the Fire Arts Festival.

Here Riley plays with the burning woman for a bit just before it inexplicably self-destructed. Note the PJs - it was time to wrap things up and for the kids (and me) to go to bed. It was a full day, capping a full weekend, leading to what promises to be a full week (I'm taking it off to work on things around the house during this break in WHM's school schedule).

Cousin Jay heads off to work today but we should be seeing him tonight again, probably up in SF somewhere.

That's it - move along...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Camping, music, and general goofiness

Thursday night, with a bit of trepidation, we headed down to Henry Cowell State Park to camp for two nights. Hank's park is a bit outside of Santa Cruz, in the direction of the large wildfire that started Wednesday evening and was quickly growing. Mrs Notthat called ahead and found that the park was still open and not threatened in any way, and surprisingly, was still allowing campfires.

So we packed up and headed down.

Two other families met us down at the park, but since we were the first to arrive, we set up camp and went for a short hike to an observation deck where we had this view of the smoke from the fire. While the smoke was very visible, the winds kept it from the campground.

Us on the observation deck, with Monterey Bay in the background (for those of you with REALLY good eyesight). I love my Wallace and Gromit t-shirt, and it's fun when some kid recognizes them.

The second family to arrive included Ylime (not her real name), here showing her skills at defining hair fashion, her mother Nwad, to the left, trying to explain that this is normal behavior for a teenage girl, and Ylime's sister Ainos, who you can see part of on the extreme left.

Finally the third family, Nod and Htiaf (I know, this "not their real name thing" is getting old - but it entertains me). Note how many people it took to set up Nod's tent. I'm pretty sure it would have gotten up much faster without so much "help," but it was more fun to watch it go up this way.

Here is a very good example of the "help" Nod was getting from Mrs Notthat. It's hard to see in this picture, but she is using two of the tent poles as alien antennas on her head.

After dark, Ainos got me to take this picture. She loves to try out long exposure things with the camera. This was a 10 second exposure with her jumping from one position to the next while Nod flashed her with his high-intensity flashlight.

The next day we headed to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The primary purpose of the trip was to see the free Papa Doo Run Run concert on Friday night. This picture shows the line of chairs at 10:30 AM. At 4 PM they allow those in line to storm the prime seating areas and stake out their claim. At this point, we were at the end of this line, but by 4 the line was three times this long. And the beach was 100 times as crowded.

To kill a bit of time before the rides started running, we played a round of miniature golf. Since I was the only one that faithfully watches golf on TV, I was the obvious winner. This is an indoor course that is actually a lot of fun - it includes many standard mini golf treasures plus a darkened black light stretch of holes.

I do not ride the rides, so I got to take pictures and hold purses and other treasures while the brave ones risked their lunch. This is a bizarre ride called the Double Shot which does its level best to make your lunch turn up missing. This picture is just as it is starting to shoot up several hundred feet in the air. Pure insanity.

In addition to the many rides designed to maim and torture otherwise intelligent people, there were many arcade games. In this one, you rolled a ball into holes to advance your horse to the finish line. Ainos (in pink) won both games. It turns out she had an advantage with her small hands and could reach in and grab the ball quicker than the others.

It was getting pretty warm by this time, so the log ride looked like a good idea to Nod and Ainos. The ride cruises along nice and peacefully only to end with a death plunge, which they are just starting on in this picture.

There are also bumper cars (inexplicably called the Space Race). Here Ylime and Mrs Notthat do their best to put each other in the emergency room.

Ainos really wanted to get in the water, so Htiaf took her out to ride some waves. There were a lot of people (and seaweed) on the beach by this time.

Just before the concert, we engaged in the ritual signing of the beach balls. Mrs had picked up a couple of cheap beach balls and we had the girls write obnoxious things on them.

I cannot explain some of the things that were written on the balls, and that is part of the charm. Many times you would see someone grab one of the balls and spend a few minutes trying to work out what it said, before giving up and sending it on its way. There were about ten balls going during the concert, and unlike the beach balls that infest a Dodgers game, these seem totally appropriate and fun.

You can see one of the balls in the air during the concert. By the way, Papa Doo Run Run is an extraordinary band. They specialize in Beach Boy, Jan and Dean, and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons-type music. Most of the members in the band have actually played in one or more of these bands at one time or another. They are a huge blast and perfectly fit this venue.

(One of the odder things they did was play a country song and a song from The Who - at the same time. Imagine Folsom Prison Blues with the words from Pinball Wizard - it was a bit creepy how well this perfectly worked.)

This picture shows two things. First, you can see Moe. We have been seeing him for years at the various boardwalk concerts - he uses sign language to "sing" the music to the special section set aside for the hard of hearing. He can be very entertaining to watch. He did something this concert though that we had never seen before - he talked. It was kind of like when Marcel Marceau spoke during Mel Brooks' Silent Movie - something that you just assumed could not happen.

The second thing you see in this picture is a grim reminder of the fire that was still going on. If you look hard to the right you can see one of the water drop helicopters heading back to the fire after refueling. The wind had changed by this time and it was not hard to smell the smoke.

Carrousels are boring, right? Theirs is a little different though. That wooden beam coming in from the right distributes little steel rings. As you ride past you try to snag one and then fling it at that clown face's mouth - make it into the mouth and bells and whistles go off and all the riders start cheering. That's how you make a boring old carrousel fun.

So what does a guy do on the boardwalk if he does not want to ride the rides? You eat deep fried Twinkies. Mrs Notthat had a buy one get one free coupon. Between the six of them, I would have thought they could eat one of them and I would eat the other. Only two of them were bold enough to even try a bite - I ended up eating about two-thirds of the second one. Not that I was complaining (at least, seriously).

This is a picture of the whole group of us, once the tents had been taken down and everything loaded in the cars.

The final picture shows what happened when I was dared to actually hug a tree. I have no idea how many bugs and other things managed to infest me during this stunt. But since it was just moments before we pulled out and headed for home, it was worth the discomfort.

That's it - move along...