25 December 2012

"Christmas Eve"

First off, a confession: we celebrated Christmas Eve this year on December 25th.

We spent this holiday at home with minimal visitors. Both Corinne and I had late-breaking sinus infections, and Anders wasn't paying close attention to his Christmas chain. We had just started our antibiotic prescriptions a couple days earlier so we decided to celebrate Christmas one day later in the hopes that we would be further on our way to recovery. (I suspect this will be the last year that we will be able to pull that one off undetected.)

Our Christmas tree had been up and lit for about a month, but it was otherwise only lightly decorated. So one of the "Christmas Eve" tasks was to finish putting ornaments on the tree. Anders was an active participant in the decorating but often had to be reminded that ornaments could also be put in DIFFERENT places. Case in point: his placement of the candy canes on the tree.

These are all of the canes that went on the tree

I guess he will know where to go if he wants one

While decorating the tree, Anders would tell us where various animals lived in the tree. According to Anders, the tree was divided into quadrants; Bunny, Owl, Bobcat and Anders - who is actually a Bear named "Crunch" - had their houses in each section respectively, and crow's house was on the very top. As he put ornaments on the tree, he would tell us whose house he was decorating.

Anders also suggested that we should hang some of his matchbox cars on the tree as ornaments. Why not? We loved that he was thinking creatively and making suggestions.

A little string and a hook, and voila!

Perhaps one of the most remarkable events of the day was the puzzle. Anders has always been a big fan of puzzles, and he has done all kinds from the 12-piece wooden Melissa and Doug puzzles, to the old-time Playskool wooden frame, and as big as a 50-piece floor puzzle. But on this day he decided that he was going to do a "real" puzzle, of the 1,000 piece non-kid variety. Grandma Donna stayed with us for the duration of the holidays and is a puzzler herself, so she and Anders sat down at the table with the "real" puzzle.

Anders worked on this puzzle uninterrupted for over an hour. For real.

Overall it was a low key day, which suited us just fine. In the evening we made candy cane cookies and left a note for Santa under the tree. The note included the first mention of a number of new LEGO construction toys. I hope Santa can handle last minute requests!

We also left the obligatory carrots for the reindeer on the stoop outside the front door. Anders counted the total number of reindeer - nine - to ensure that we put out enough carrot pieces for each of them to have their own.

Anders was excited for Christmas, but he still had his full negotiating powers on display. At bedtime, Anders announced that Santa was getting ready to get in his sleigh, so he should go right to bed without brushing or flossing his teeth. Somehow reading stories at bedtime was still okay, though. He eventually relented when Corinne told him that "Santa only puts candy in the stockings of kids with sparkly teeth." Even after all that, he still had no problem getting in bed and falling asleep. He must have inherited Corinne's good sleeping genes.

Sometime later that night, Santa did arrive. Since we were celebrating a day later than just about everyone else, he probably didn't have much else to do that night.

Merry Christmas (Eve)!

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

01 October 2012

Smoked Out

We've had gorgeous summer weather all September which has unfortunately been counter-acted by smoke.

On September 5, a wildfire started in White Salmon. Just three days later while the crews were getting the White Salmon fire under control, lightning sparked a fire on Mt. Adams (and 200+ other places in Washington). Dubbed the Cascade Creek fire, it has grown to 16,000 acres and is still burning.

The day before the Cascade Creek fire started, we spent a lovely Saturday at Takhlakh Lake on the northwest side of Mt Adams. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we watched the culprit lightning storm move across Adams that evening. Corinne decided to see if she could catch a photo of some of the lightning.

So beautiful and yet so destructive

The first few days of the Mt Adams fire was pretty interesting to us. We can see the columns of smoke from our house and yet were still far enough away - ~10 miles or so - to not be terribly concerned about the fire reaching us. Corinne was able to play with her new intervalometer to construct a time lapse from photos taken at two minute intervals. The night sky gets brighter at one point when we changed the exposure.

When the fires are active, the glow is pretty easy to see at night. You can also see a shooting star in the upper right, and two satellites on the left-hand side. (The line of light on the very bottom is a car headlight.)

The smoke has been settling in the valley almost EVERY morning. The incident response crew that is coordinating the fire has installed a smoke sensor in Trout Lake, with the data published online. According to the fire officials, a concentration reading above 300 (ug/m3) is considered very unhealthy. For short periods on most mornings, the levels in Trout Lake spike to near 800.

Ordinarily, we would have our windows open and spend all of our spare time outdoors this time of year. But this fire has us cooped up avoiding the smoke. One day last weekend the air was relatively clear, so we took a chance that night and left the window above our bed open. Bad idea. We spent the following day with irritated eyes and sinuses.

And then last week, another fire started near Hood River. Fortunately, that one didn't last long.

We've never been so ready for rain.

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

Quotes From Anders

Everyone knows that kids say the darndest things. (There have been several television shows to prove it.) Thankfully, Anders is no different. Here are a few gems from this fall.

While playing with his toy horses:

Like helicopters, horses can be tricky.

Well, I can't argue with that.

While riding on the see-saw at Guler Park in Trout Lake:
I want to shoot a watermelon off of this see-saw.

Oh yeah, now we're talking.

While in the kitchen eating a bowl of blueberries:
Woah - look at this huge blueberry.
[Eats it]
It was 70 degrees big.

Units make all the difference, don't they?

Conversation with a friend:
Ashland: What are hot dogs made of anyway?
Anders: Lots of long cylinders.

Keep 'em coming, Anders. This will make great material for your wedding someday.

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

15 July 2012

Mechanic In Training

Anders surprises us pretty frequently with what he constructs. As an example, Anders built these two tools with no help from us and proudly showed them off by name:

These are not exactly your everyday tools. But I recently had to buy an oil filter wrench, so that is where he got the inspiration for that one. As for the impact wrench... he apparently learned about that one from one of the "shows" that he occasionally gets to watch. They almost always involve some sort of heavy machinery.

Over the next several days, Anders used the impact wrench to "fix" the tires on our cars. He even did a pretty good impression of the sound an impact wrench actually makes.

Anders already has more mechanical repair knowledge than I do, and he's not even four. Looks like somebody is going to be getting a small engine repair book for his birthday this year...

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

14 July 2012

Camping Dry Run

This summer, for the first time in a LONG time, we pulled out our camping gear. My brother and his family were coming to visit us in August, and our plan for their time here included several nights of camping in Oregon. Since Anders has never been camping, we thought that it might be a good idea to do a "dry run" at home before we ended up in a strange campsite far from home.

Thankfully, Anders was pretty excited to sleep in the tent. We weren't sure if he would be happy in the tent all night; he sleeps through the night maybe 75% of the time, but this would be something entirely different. That's why we're trying this at home first, right?

We set up our 2-person tent in the yard, laid out our sleeping bags and blankets, and Anders and I climbed in for the night.

Not a bad place to camp, huh?

Just big enough for two sleeping bags (barely).

Anders had a great time. He slept through the night with no problem, and he actually fell asleep fairly quickly. (He appears to have inherited Corinne's sleeping genes in that respect.)

I learned a few things on this trial run as well. I woke up with a few kinks in my back, so we will definitely be buying some sleeping pads before our next camping outing. For some odd reason, we actually have three different tents, with this one the smallest. To camp with the whole family, we will need to use one of the larger ones.

I think this is a rite of passage for any parent and child. And I can say that it was unequivocally a success.

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

17 June 2012

Summer Reading

On hot summer days, we all like to sit in the shade with a beverage and read. No matter how hot it is in the sun, the shade is always quite pleasant. (Try that on the East Coast!)

Anders chose his own reading material

On this particular day, Anders chose for his reading material the Audubon Society's Field Guide to Birds. A few weeks earlier, Anders threw their Field Guide to Insects and Spiders into a stack of kids books for Granddad to read him.

Interestingly, we learned about cormorants and then that night discovered that cormorants are mentioned in one of our children's books. A guess we had always glossed over that in the past but that night we had new understanding.

- Corinne, Mike and Anders

03 June 2012

Anders, The Photographer

Earlier this year, Aunt Goie gave Anders his very own kid-friendly (aka drop friendly) digital camera. It took him a while to warm up to it, but now sometimes when I'm taking photos he'll grab his camera and join in.

On this particular day, we took pictures of each other taking photos.

The view from Anders's lens.

The view from Corinne's lens.

And then we swapped cameras. Yes, you read that right: we handed a DSLR to a 3 year old.

The view from Anders's fancy lens.

The view from Corinne's lens.

Most of the time Anders's photos look something like this:

"Still life in thumb, foot, and floor"

But every once in a while he'll capture a few winners.

Look out, Annie Leibovitz!

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders

28 May 2012


Today we discovered that Mike is that master bubble blower. Capturing the bubbles on film provides one the opportunity to admire the reflections in the bubbles and their disintegration.

It was Anders's idea to bring out the bubbles. "When the bubbles are in the air, it looks like I'm swimming."

- Corinne, Mike and Anders

15 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

This year we had the pleasure of celebrating Mother's Day with three of our mothers at the same time: Grandma Lee, Grandma Donna, and 'Mom' (aka Corinne). An early arrival of summer weather made for a nice day of sitting in the sun and BBQ-ing. We decided to add a representative of Mother Nature to our celebration and took a brief excursion to The Big Tree on Mt. Adams, the largest known Ponderosa Pine.

84 inches as of when?

While Corinne set up her 10mm wide-angle lens, Anders led a parade around the tree.

Here we are at the same tree back in July 2006. Can you tell if it looks any bigger? (We didn't bring our tape measure.)

Happy Mother's Day!

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders

19 March 2012

The Big Four Oh

Mike celebrated a "big" birthday this year: 4-0. Our spring had been incredibly busy with early mornings, late nights, and some travel, so the birthday boy decided he just wanted a low key weekend at home. As a special treat, he asked for a new (to us) lemon dessert. Anders and I delivered with a lemon custard pie.

In honor of the landmark birthday, Aunt Anita and Uncle Lewie sent a stack of Washington State lottery tickets - quite a feat considering that they live in New Jersey. Anders joined in on the scratch action.

Unfortunately, the tickets only yielded a $5 payout. We were hoping for more of a return from those tickets, which we could then put toward the big birthday gift: a new TV and home theater receiver. We hadn't yet upgraded to the flat panel scene, and the receiver was Mike's original that he bought in 1995(?) at the MIT Coop Bookstore. Are we really that old? Well, according to this birthday, we are.

Happy Birthday, Mike!

- Corinne and Anders

17 March 2012

Jumping in Mud Puddles

Today was a beautiful day, and seemed even more so because it came right after several weeks of nonstop rain and snow. In the late afternoon, we decided to take a walk to enjoy the last bit of the day's sunshine.

Sometimes on these walks, Anders will walk between us and hold our hands. He then wants us to "jump" him, which is basically lifting him into the air by his hands as he jumps. We did this several times on this walk. But as we were "jumping" him over a big mud puddle, his right mitten - through which I was holding on to his right hand - slipped off. So instead of jumping over the puddle, he landed right in the middle.

Since he was already dirty at that point, he had fun jumping, running, and walking through the puddles for the next 15 minutes.

Thank goodness for bright lighting that enabled high enough shutter speeds to freeze the action! These remind me a bit of Doc Edgerton's famous stop motion photography. Of course, he was doing it 60 years ago and a lot more scientifically than we did.

At the end of it all, Anders just stopped and said simply: "Now we need to get me some dry pants." Indeed.

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

05 February 2012

Max's 2011 Critter Count

With each new year comes a report of Max's "critter count." He's had some impressive numbers in the past, with 2009 as his peak year. But alas, it would appear that his best hunting days are firmly behind him.

Max's total critter count for 2011 was 2 gophers. Just 2 gophers. That's it.

He is now officially an old cat. He spends the vast majority of his day sleeping. He still jumps up onto windowsills and counters, but it is no longer a graceful act. And he even developed a fur mat just above his tail where he has difficulty reaching.

But whatever Max has lost in hunting prowess, he has gained in tolerance and companionship for Anders.

Anders loves Max, and Max will pretty much let him do anything to him: hugs, pets the wrong way, you name it. For a cat who at one time used to hide from just about everybody, this is pretty unexpected. After Anders was born, Max started to get more social with everyone; I think he realized that he now had some stiff competition for attention. But in reality, I think that it's a "win win".

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders

26 January 2012

Silver Thaw of 2012

The snow took a while to arrive this winter, but January tried to make up for lost time. While the overall accumulation of snow was not particularly noteworthy for this area, several characteristics combined to produce a storm event that will be remembered for years to come.

It started on Sunday, January 15. The snow came down pretty heavy at times and continued to fall over the next several days. By Thursday, we had around 27" of compacted snow on the ground.

Snow accumulation by Thursday

Wednesday gave us our first taste of what this storm truly had in store for us. We experienced our first power outage, lasting approximately 4 hours. The next day brought a second one, this time only half as long. After the power came back that second time, Corinne scrambled to do laundry and run the dishwasher, just in case. That readiness paid off. Later that same evening, the power went out again. And this time, it would be out for over 5 days.

Going without power for a day or two is a fun adventure. We cooked on the wood stove. Anders played by headlamp. We sang songs around the piano. We enjoyed the romance of the candles.

Speaking of candles, we never really appreciated why there are so many different types. Votives can create a nice atmosphere, but tapers produce MUCH more useful light. Because tapers light from above, they do a better job of lighting a work space or dinner table. I'm sure this was obvious to everyone in the 17th century.

Mike's headlamp (high) and Anders' headlamp (low) zipping around in the darkness.

On Friday, freezing rain added about 1/2 inch of ice to everything. Conditions became so bad that Insitu even closed its facilities, which is a first in the 7.5 years that we've been here! The ice sure was beautiful.

Saturday morning, we were hopeful that power would be restored, but then we started to hear the noises coming from outside. With the power out and no one on the roads, we had the perfect conditions for listening to mother nature. The temperature warmed and the wind picked up, sending ice, snow and snapped branches crashing to the ground. The noise was so loud that we thought the trees themselves were falling. After listening to that commotion, our hopes for the return of power disappeared.

On the plus side, all of that time at home with no power to distract gave us ample opportunity to play outside in the snow.

By Saturday night we had started to tire of oatmeal for breakfast (on the wood stove) and grilled cheese and soup (on the wood stove.) So Mike went all out and we had ground beef tacos (on the wood stove). The beef didn't brown terribly well, but it was a nice change of pace.

Sunday morning we were finally ready to give in. Power had been restored to White Salmon on the previous day, and the hot water and electric stove at Donna's house were calling to us. On our way out we passed a series of utility trucks working right down the street from us, so we briefly flirted with the idea that we would be getting power back that day. But a quick chat with the flagger dispensed with that idea, and we continued on to White Salmon.

It would be several more days before our power returned. During that time, the snow continued to fall. Every other day during that time we would return to Trout Lake early in the morning to clear whatever snow had accumulated and light a fire in the woodstove. We lost track of the total accumulation.

This storm was even given an official name, the Silver Thaw of 2012. The aftermath of the Silver Thaw will take quite a while to clean-up, with downed trees and branches lining the roadsides. The consensus among many of the long-time Trout Lake residents is that there hasn't been a storm with this impact since the late 60's.

All in all, we didn't have things too bad. We had friends who were without power for 7 and 8 days! There were also many without water and heat. Our domestic water is gravity fed Trout Lake town water, so we don't rely on an electric well pump for water. We have a wood stove that can provide heat. And we borrowed a small generator for a day so that we could keep our upright freezer sufficiently cold.

If we were afraid of a little snow and ice, we wouldn't have moved here in the first place!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders