Halloween 2018

We survived Halloween 2018, with all the costume changes, sugar highs, and candy hangovers.

The girls dressed up for the Harvest Carnival at Mimi’s school. They had a lot of fun, but oh my was it crowded, noisy, and overstimulating. This introvert hermit mom needed a big time out afterwards. Mimi was a mime and Daphne was a blue bunny. (Not a shill for big corporate ice cream, just a combo of her favorite color and favorite animal.)

Daphne came to “trick or treat” in my office after her school’s Halloween parade. Also, how depressing is the carpet and color scheme in my shoffice? Talk about scary…

For the actual holiday, Daphne went to school dressed as Elsa and Mimi was a mime for her school party. But then Mimi had a sudden change of plans about five minutes before we went trick or treating and wanted to be a ghost, so I made a five-minute ghost costume. Let’s just say I Pinterested the shit out of Halloween this year. I’m waiting for my Crafty Mom award to show up in the mail… I think the award may be that we get to buy store-bought costumes next year.

The girls LOVED trick or treating around our neighborhood loop with their friends, they ran around like crazy and got quite a stash of candy. I loved seeing how excited they were and how much fun they had, and that’s what it’s all about. But, boy am I glad this only happens once a year.

Be a unicorn every chance you get.

Great Wolf Lodge

We finally took the kids to Great Wolf Lodge and lived to tell the tale, so here’s my recap! Mimi had a Friday off school, I’m off on Fridays, and I found a good deal with a discount code from my work.

We left mid-morning on Friday morning  because traffic on I-5 south is a special level of hell and also because you can use the waterpark starting at 1pm on the day of your check-in. I checked in online the day before our arrival hoping it would save time. We still had to wait in the check-in line to get our room keys (wristbands), but our room was ready early at 1pm so maybe that helped. We dropped our stuff in the room and headed straight to the waterpark. Which was CRAZY. But since I completely expected it to be a noisy, busy, crowded, sensory overloading experience, I was okay with it. The kids were in pool heaven and that’s the whole reason we were there.

We had a “Wolf Den” room and the girls loved the bunk beds. Mum and Dad did not love the full-sized bed but that’s just  a first-world problem when you are spoiled by a king sized bed at home. For dinner we picked up a pizza from Figaro’s, a local place a few minutes away. I ordered online which is my favorite thing ever, and they also deliver. There are a couple of restaurants at the hotel, but based on friends’ recommendations, Figaro’s is a tastier and cheaper option, and they were right! After dinner we went on a trick-or-treating trail then even had an evening swim.

More swimming again on Saturday right after breakfast. We took our time since we paid a bit extra for a late checkout. The pools were even busier in the morning, the wave pool was like kid soup. We found the hot tubs, which of course were the biggest hit with the girls.

Overall, it was a really fun trip for the girls. Matt and I had fun watching the girls have so much fun. I was happy to have all that water to play in without the annoyance of sand or sunscreen! GWL really goes all out with the holiday themes and kids’ activities, so I can see the allure of coming back especially as the kids get older to do more of the things.

Weekly review 10/07/2018

We’re now a month into our public school journey, and settling into the routine. I’m delighted with the return of frosty mornings, boots and cardigans, and entire days that pass without need for sunglasses. Mimi jumped into kindergarten with both feet, relishing her new independence and school day routines. She searches her backpack for any “homework” (optional) sent home and can’t get enough practice writing letters and numbers. Daphne had a rough transition to going to preschool without her big sister, and I think we were so focused and making sure Mimi’s transition went smoothly that poor Daphne didn’t get the focus that she needed.

I started a my masters program in August, so in an effort to simplify my weekly chores of meal planning and grocery shopping, tried out Acme Farms and Kitchens meal kits. I’ve long been skeptical of these services, since I do enjoy planning my own meals and try to buy as local and fresh as possible. But turns out, AF & K does that for me! Their locavore and chef-prepped meal boxes are locally sourced and minimally packaged. We were huge fans of last week’s portobello cheesesteak and this week’s steak banh mi. I love that all the ingredients I need just show up on my doorstep on Tuesday without a trip to the store.

Last weekend we had a fun (and free!) time at the Evergreen RV Show. I’ve become enamored with camping trailers and glamping ever since our campervan trip to Vancouver Island and I knew the girls would love exploring them. It was cool seeing the very biggest and most expensive and the tiniest little trailers too.

Daphne practiced giving Elsa a flu shot.

This weekend was very productive, albeit not as exciting. This girls and Matt got their flu shots (I got mine at work a few weeks ago), we renewed Mimi’s passport, and took a trip to the dump. The girls were troopers with all the driving and waiting and earned a trip to the toy store afterwards. The dump turned out to be a highlight of the weekend! The newly updated North Transfer Center in Fremont had a fun observation room, and what’s better than watching bulldozers and rubbish? Did I mention it was free?!

Daphne said, “Bye cribby! Thanks for taking my cribby away, dump.” Among other things, we got rid of our well-loved crib and crib mattress at the dump. The girls’ are loving their new bunkbeds!

How to put chickens to bed

I’m hardly an expert on this subject, as some nights I can’t put my two small humans to bed without multiple breakdowns and tears (often mine). However, after one tricky night, the chickens are much easier to put to bed than the small humans.

I read that chickens go to sleep shortly after dusk, and instinctively find the highest, safest location they can. So, naturally, their elevated and enclosed coop should be their preferred bed for the night. The first day we put them into their new coop and run, I put them in the coop area then they quickly hopped out the door and into the run. I figured they’d just hop right back up there at bedtime and tuck themselves in, then didn’t give it a second thought. Until it started to get dark out. I hadn’t seen the girls go back into the coop at all during the day, and started to worry that they couldn’t hop all the way back up onto the roost. So Matt hurriedly built a little ramp and screwed it into place. By this point, it was nearly dark and the girls were settled into a cozy little pile in the corner of the run, falling asleep. I was able to catch one and put her in the coop, but I couldn’t reach any further into the run to grab the others. I was worried about them, but couldn’t think of anything else to try so resignedly decided to leave them for the night.

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Matt the chicken-whisperer saved the night. Eventually, the chickens all got onto the roost but still wouldn’t go into the coop. Matt faced them and gently blew on them, and verrrrry slowly they inched away from him and towards the coop door. Finally, all but one made it into the coop. I reached in through the egg door and grabbed Jingle and placed her into the coop with the others, and we manually closed the interior door. Matt had disabled the automatic door earlier when it became clear they weren’t going inside on their own.

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I had read that you should keep the chickens shut in their coop for a few days when introducing them into their new coop and run so they can get adjusted and learn where their sleeping area is. They seemed to love being outside in the run, playing in the sun and the dirt so much, that I didn’t want to close them up for a longer time. But, chickens be chickens. So I put their food and a waterer into the coop and kept them there for the next day and night, then let them back out. That third night, they easily  found their way into the coop just after dusk, snuggled into the nest box together, and the automatic door closed behind them. Smooth sailing since then. Maybe they can teach my kids something.

Chicken Coop Tour

The chicken coop is finally done and the chicks (now pullets) have moved outdoors into their new home! I’m going to give you a little tour of our little coop. I love it and I’m so proud of it, though the only credit I can claim is that I researched what type of coop would be best for us and I chose the plans. After that, it was all Matt’s hard work. He did such an awesome job that chicken coop contractor might be his next calling. Don’t tell the B.

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We used the plans from The Garden Coop site, for the smaller coop, The Garden Ark. Our backyard is dinky so we had a very small area to build it. This coop fit the size requirements perfectly. The Garden Coop is based in Portland, so I felt confident that the coops are designed with our PNW weather in mind (wet, wet, and also wet). There were tons of examples of other customer’s coops and really positive reviews. Matt said the plans were meticulous and included many details he wouldn’t have thought of himself, he was really impressed. From start to finish, it took him about two months to build. I suppose if you don’t have a full-time job, two young kids, or a needy wife, you could maybe do it in less time.

img_4982 Matt’s top priority was to ensure the coop would be predator-proof, especially against rats (his personal nemeses). First he built a frame to set the coop on, lined with hardware cloth so nothing can dig underneath. This wasn’t part of the Garden Ark plans but we found some other similar examples online.

 

img_6411The front door from the coop to the run is an automatic door, triggered by a light sensor. It opens when the sun comes up and closes shortly after dusk. It wasn’t cheep (see what I did there?) but we’re already really glad we installed. I know in the winter months, when it’s already dark by the time we get home from work, we’ll be even more relieved to have it. The door fit perfectly on coop, we didn’t have to make any modifications to it. You can get a solar-powered version, though we opted for the trickle charger. It’s from Chickendoors.com. Matt attached a weather-proof electrical box to the back of the coop for the cords.

We used PVC pipe and nipple waterers for the watering system. The water bucket hangs from the roof joists then connects to the pipe in the run (under the coop) with a hose. It’s really easy to fill the bucket with the nearby hose without having to get into the coop, and the nipple watering system prevents the chickens from making a big muddy mess or pooping in their water.

The feeders are pipes that we can easily cap. The mouth of the pipes are big enough for the chickens to stick their heads in but they can’t scratch the feed out and make a big mess. We can cap the feeders on both ends at night if we get concerned that rats are tempted by them. I’m using one feeder for the feed and the other for the grit, and I’ll have to find a little bowl or something for their oyster shell supplement in a few months.

We painted the interior of the coop white to help reduce pests and make it easier to clean. The floor of the coop is covered in vinyl flooring, again for easy clean-up.

img_6509The ladder from the run up to the coop was a very last-minute addition, we realized the first night that maybe they couldn’t get back up to the coop on their own. Once they’re bigger they’ll be able to hop onto the roost.

Another change we made was to add a pop door on the side under the egg door, as we plan to attach an additional run.

img_6442So far the chickens seem to be loving their new home! They treat themselves to dust baths in the run, peck around for bugs and treats, and canoodle on the roost.

I scream, you scream…

We all scream! For ice cream, apparently. I’ve decided to keep this blog focused on the Atomic Homestead and all that entails and move my ice cream review posts to their own little spot on the interwebz, The Seattle Freeze.

Stay tuned here for all news and updates on chickens, gardens, cooking, traveling, and of course those two wild and crazy little girls.

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Barn chores

Okay, so we don’t have barn, we have a garage. But we live in the middle of a city and this is my little homestead so just humor me. Today I needed to clean out the chick brooder and to be honest,  I was kind of freaked out because those itty bitty flufferballs are now gigantic tiny dinosaurs, and a few days ago Jingle flew right out of the brooder while I had the top off! Thankfully, she was a bit stunned by what she had just done and all the new sights, so I caught her easily. But the next time I took the top off, she was poised on top of the heater, ready for flight, and I literally had to tap her back inside.

The first thing I did when I took off the top was to take out the heater and their perch, to eliminate any flight height assistance! I managed to catch each one and put them into the dog carrier with a little bowl of food.

Cleaning the brooder reminded me of cleaning horse stalls (on a very tiny scale, obvs), a chore I never actually minded and there is nothing so satisfying as the scent of fresh white pine shavings. The chicks acted quite affronted by their new, clean environment, I can definitely see how chickens’ belief that the sky is falling is a well-earned stereotype. But they quickly settled under their heater for a little nap.

 

The girls love helping with the chicks, and while their “help” takes twice a long, I love how much they want to be involved. They beg to go into the garage constantly just to watch the chicks, and swell with pride when I let them fill the feeder or spread the shavings around. I will have little farmers on my hands yet 😉

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Ballard Ice Cream Tour review: Frankie and Jo’s

Today we visited the second stop on our tour of Ballard Ice Cream joints: Frankie and Jo’s. It’s the newest addition to hot spots in Ballard, located in the trendy Dump Town* area of Ballard. I know it’s trendy because this three-block “neighborhood” is characterized  long lines and impossible parking on this street, which is universal hipster signal for “high quality and important.” Frankie and Jo’s other claim to fame is that it’s entirely vegan. Today I chose it simply because it was on the way from the playground to the toy store. Again, I have arcane criteria.

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Points for permanent signage not requiring chalk.

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Three out four millennials declare: Wallpaper on trend!

Finally it was our turn to order, turns out the line wasn’t too long but the presence of a couple of Toyotas (they may have just been strollers, hard to tell sometimes) in line made it appear longer. After the server inquired as to our allergy status, we ordered mint chocolate brownie for Miriam and vanilla for Daphne. This time I didn’t even ask if they had anything blue. And it took some convincing that I really did order mint chocolate brownie: “No, it’s not green, but it really is mint. I’m sure. Really. I can’t explain it. I know mint leaves are green. I know this ice cream is white. JUST TRY IT.” I even got a little bowl of chocolate date somethingorother (can it really be called ice cream if there’s literally no cream or sugar?) and it was pretty good. Admittedly, once we were served our ice creams, I was suddenly no longer cranky. The girls really liked it and didn’t have any idea that it was vegan. Not that they know what vegan is, even I have my parenting limits of what I’ll shield my kids from. So, we give the ice cream five stars and the service three stars. Our server was really friendly and sweet, but I later discovered I’d been overcharged for an extra cone. And thumbs down for no blue.

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IMG_5751.jpgThe face of a skeptical mint connoisseur.

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Daphne really did like it! No idea why the tiny snark-face here. (Apples, trees, yeah I get it).

Overall, it was really good, and they had some interesting flavors I’d go back to try again. I’m avoiding sugar for a month so I was impressed I could find something sweetened only by maple syrup and dates. But unfortunately, as my biggest motivator in life is convenience, the fairly inconvenient location and possibility of lines would likely stop me.

*Matt corrected me that Dump Town is not the actual name of this neighborhood. Sometimes we make up names for these random little micro neighborhoods because it’s easier than saying, “You know, that corner of two blocks on 70th sort of between 11th and 14th where we tried to go for pizza that one time but the wait was too long next to that place that advertised Chinese cupping and skin shredding.”

Ballard Ice Cream Tour review: Parfait

This is the first installment in my new series, Cranky Mom’s Review of the Ice Cream Joints of Ballard. This idea came about when I decided to take the girls for ice cream on a Friday afternoon, the first sunny afternoon we had this spring. I realized there were no less than a dozen ice cream places in our neighborhood of Ballard alone, how could we ever decide? So naturally, we must try them all. I often enjoy mocking the people lining up down the block in cold, rainy weather for the latest hipster artisanal locally-sourced small batch non-GMO ice cream shoppe because you could save time and money by stopping by the freezer aisle of QFC for essentially the same thing. Perhaps my ice cream samplings will open my eyes to this trend and by the end of the summer you’ll find me waiting in those long lines with the Patagonia-clad man-buns of Ballard, anxious to try the new balsamic beet sesame ice cream flavor. Or maybe the girls and I will just have a lot of sticky fun on this tour.

We have pretty loose criteria for the ice cream places: Miriam requests mint chocolate chip, Daphne requests Blue. Both girls want cones with an optional bowl for when it gets melty. My arcane criteria are perhaps only explained by the fact that I’m an old cranky, reluctant Ballardite who eschews all things hipster and trendy. I grew up in the Midwest, where you chose your flavor by color by looking through the scratched, finger-print smeared plexiglass. If you were fancy maybe you went to Ben and Jerry’s sometimes because there were chunks of things in the ice cream. Based on that, you may guess that I was disappointed the second we stepped into our first stop on the Ballard Ice Cream Tour: Parfait.

The day’s flavors were written on chalkboard signs behind the counter, and all the tubs were hidden under metal doors beneath the counter. I didn’t even bother reading off the flavors to the girls because a) I didn’t have two hours to explain what black sesame vinaigrette meant and b) I wouldn’t have been able to read the descriptions without a sneer. Also, I could have just waited until the next hipster came in, gazed at the menu, and gasped with appropriate incredulity, “Black sesame seed? Am I reading that right? I’ll have that!”

“Do you have mint chocolate chip?” I asked.

“Sorry, our mint from the garden isn’t ready yet.” Sigh.

“Do you have anything blue?” Blank stare. She offered matcha flavor, being green, but I declined. At least they had chocolate and vanilla, so the girls were somewhat placated by that. I think we give it five out of five stars for flavor. It’s not a very discerning scale, but basically if the girls consume most of something I call it a win. I give the service 3 out of 5 stars, because while they gave us samples, we then had to wait until the server thoroughly discussed the merits of the locally sourced artisanal rosemary and then waited while the customer savored his sample with appropriate ecstatic mumblings before she would turn to us to give us the extra bowls I requested before we left.

Do chickens have nipples?

Of course they do! For drinking from. My chick brooder started out with the standard water dish, but the girls made a complete mess of it. By the afternoon, it was full of shaving and poop and a big annoyance to clean and change so frequently. So I hung up this handy little waterer, called a chicken nipple waterer. Kind of a similar idea to those water bottles hamsters drink from. I showed it to each of the chicks by holding them near it and dripping a little water on the tips of their beaks. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to figure it out and we’d have a bunch of dehydrated little peepers by the morning, but they all figured it out with a few minutes! I’m such a proud chick mama.

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