Sunday, November 30, 2014

Twaddle and Bleat

This horse is so dead and beaten it's like...actually, no, that's a freaky metaphor.  Let's just skip it.

So as you've heard by now, Sam and I opened an Etsy shop called Twaddle and Bleat that sells natural baby toys that we have made by hand, yes, ourselves.

The idea actually came about when Rosalind was a couple of months old.  If you know me, you know I perceive babies as incomprehensible aliens, and it didn't truly occur to me while I was pregnant (well, until I was about 8 or 9 months along, anyway) that an infant needed anything other than a way to eat, sleep, and poop in safety.  And actually, that's true, up until they get to be a couple months old, at which point, they need extra stimulation.  Enter books and toys and the like.

I knew in advance that I wasn't a fan of flashy, noisy, single-purpose stuff.  This usually means the alternative is toys made from natural materials, and something simple enough that it can be used for a long time without getting hackneyed.  So I started reading about Montessori, Waldorf, etc etc, and found lots of interesting stuff (and a lot of stuff that made me roll my eyes, for the record).  But the thing I liked the most was the approach to play, even from Day One As Parent.  I looked into some Montessori-style baby toys and LE GASP they will cost you an arm and a leg.  So I decided to make my own.

The first thing we made was a bell rattle.  Ours was a little more ghetto than you might find being sold elsewhere, but it was easy, and it cost probably $1 in materials (and a little more for time).  Rosalind loved it, and I loved it too, until she started shoving the bells in her mouth at every opportunity and it started to tarnish.

Whoa!  She looks so young
By this point, I had made a couple of other things for her, like a bead jar, and learned by observing her play with her own stuff and stuff at Grandma Wasden's what kind of things she was interested in.  There were these plastic slat things on an old Sesame Street toy that she really seemed intrigued by, so I set out to make some out of wood.  Thus was born The Clapper!  I like these especially because so far as I've been able to find, I might be the first person to think of the idea.  I won't be offended if I find out I'm not, I just thought I was pretty clever.

The clappers were OLD NEWS by the time I did these photos, so she all but refused to pick them up for the picture

Anyway, after I'd made a handful of Rosalind's toys and she really seemed to like them a lot, the idea that I might make more to sell (which my mom had been drilling into me over and over from the second I made the bell rattle) started to seem a little more possible.  I'd done tons of research on natural approaches to play, on materials, on pricing, on government restrictions and regulations in children's toys, etc.  So I made it happen.

It took me like 4 hours to get this logo and it's still not how I want it.  Paint is cool and all, but really, pixels?  >:(

Rosalind loved this photo shoot.  I mean, toys!

Sam was a huge support through all of this, by which I mean he handled the saws, drills, and did all the fancy knot tying (because he is a pro at knots, and I can use tools but I'm a bit wobbly, being a runt, so it looks much nicer if he does it).  You've seen that rattle, right?  Very cool, and all his idea (once we were looking for a design without exposed metal).

Piles of bead rings

The drill press was a life saver for the 40 clappers we made

We spent hours sanding together and going over designs and construction, not to mention rubbing ev-uh-ree-theeng with beeswax (baby safe!) once we decided it would be better to condition the wood.  Good times.  I wish I had taken more pictures of the in-progress stuff, but oh well.  Just know it was fun (but taxing) and we did it all for YOU!

Anyway, this weekend was the Christmas Gift and Craft Fair in Spanish Fork.  It was fun to share a booth with my mom (she was there selling books and invited me along) for the two-day event, and she actually did pretty well, but alas, we sold 5 toys the entire weekend.  But considering most people there were the sort who were very interested in the booth next to us selling 3-Wolf-Moon-type shirts and BB guns, I don't think it was the right target audience, so to speak.  These people couldn't even pronounce "Twaddle."
The setup on Day 1 of the fair (kept getting messed up and the table was in the wrong place for being welcoming)

The setup on Day 2 of the fair, plus a sign my mom made to draw people in

A better view of the Day 2 setup.  Notice the addition of more information and pictures...still didn't help sales!

I did learn a lot though, and we only need to sell a certain number of items more in order to comp for materials and such, so I'm happy if we just trickle-sell on Etsy from now on.

Oh, and I'm hoping to continue to make more stuff for Ros as she gets older, so hopefully in the future I will have items available for toddlers yaaaaay!

If you want to see more cute pictures of a baby playing with toys, I put some up on my photo blog, which you can find here.

Also, a bunch of people have been confused by the name of the company.  They are both phrases from Sherlock Holmes.  HAST THOU NOT READ THY SCRIPTURE?  Ok, just me then...
Ineffable Twaddle = "A Study in Scarlet"
Unmitigated Bleat = "The Adventure of the Red Circle"

Thursday, November 13, 2014


I can't believe how fast this year is going by! It's halfway through November already. Crazy stuff.

So. On November first we got all fancied up and had a nice date.

I did not take any pictures because, like, "living in the moment" and junk.
But we had dinner at Firehouse Subs, which was actually way tastier than I expected. And I had never even heard of it before! Have you had it before? If not, go.

Afterward, we drove around and looked for apartments for rent in neighborhoods we like in Orem. We found a couple, but they all fill up too quickly :(

Next we drive down to BYU to the HFAC to see the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. It was quite the amazing experience, really. It felt good to experience another culture again. I miss anthropology sometimes. Le sigh. We even had an introduction to the evening by the Royal Prince of Cambodia himself!

There were two dances, then a musical interlude with three songs, then two more dances. I was seriously impressed with the amount of balance and control it took to perform these dances (which were choreographed by the Royal Princess herself oh la!)

My favorite dance was one called "The Dance of Moni Mekhala" (among other names), which told the story of the water goddess, who had a magic shiny orb. She danced around and showed off her orb, which made a demon giant really jealous, so the rest of the dance was them dance-fighting, and it was really cool. 

Ok sorry, sacreligious interlude over :D

At one point the demon threw his silver axe at the water goddess and it made me jump.

Other ones they did that I liked were the first dance, which was a portrayal of the four cardinal directions and Brahma, and the famous dance they've done at Angkor Wat since the 10th century.

It was a neat experience, and while I was worried the audience would be disrespectful, they were actually very polite and I hope Utah made a good impression on Cambodia's finest.

Anyway, I think we definitely need to get out more. Oh boy.

In the wings I have a rather exciting project we've been working on that I will hopefully be able to unveil next week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Know Thyself

Before I start, watch this TED Talk. It's enjoyable and is basically what I want to talk about:

Have you ever tried this? I do it all the time.

I have spent a little over half my life being sick. Downer, yeah. When I was 11 or 12, I started having problems with my heart and with my stomach. Through both issues, I kept journals of how I felt day-to-day, symptoms, episodes, etc (Not much fun for little Harpo). When I outgrew my heart condition at age 20, I could tell when things were changing because I had been keeping track of my body. And, at age 23, when I wound up in the ER with acute pancreatitis, I didn't realize that this "data" (because it wasn't really numbers) would end up being incredibly helpful. 

After my initial hospitalization, when I told them the problem was recurring, doctors would test my blood levels and find nothing. They did scans and scopes and tests and found nothing. They did not believe me that my problem was a recurring one, even though I had been keeping track of my symptoms and episodes since I was in my teens. Eventually I found a doctor who was willing to believe me, and together we found evidence (numbers, pancreatic enzyme levels) that proved that I had been keeping track accurately all along, and we were able to fix the problem.

Since then, I have been a personal advocate for keeping track of your body. When Sam and I started trying for a baby, I forgot about this, and we tried unsuccessfully for a while. But then I found out about Kindara, a cycle-tracking app. 

I find Kindara incredibly interesting. I tracked temperature and the other stuff for a couple of cycles, and I learned enough about my body to be able to optimize my chances of getting pregnant, and it eventually worked.

Even after all the baby business, I have used Kindara to track my body. I have several months' worth of new data that has been incredibly useful for various purposes. I know when something isn't right because I know what's normal. And I know when something *is* normal.

I highly encourage all of you, male or female, to pay attention to your body, and track things that matter, especially in conjunction with any health goals you might have. What better reason do you need than to be the expert on your body?

I also feel the need to briefly advocate for rounded education on specific health topics relevant to you. Be wise about your body. Study nutrition, fertility, pregnancy (if relevant), blood type, metabolism, etc, anything pertinent to you. Don't let your doctors tell you what's good for you if you feel they might not have the whole story.

The best health tips:



And goodnight.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

All I Can Say Is That My Life Is Pretty Plain

I lied earlier.  I mean, yeah, my life is really boring and such.  But we have actually done a couple of "interesting" things lately.

I realized I never reported on the AFSP Walk last month.

We had a pretty fun time.  We walked the loop in Sugarhouse Park a few times.  It seemed a little bit unorganized, like the start wasn't really announced, nor the number of times you were supposed to walk the loop, but there was a huge turnout, and it was good exercise.  I also had the chance to have a nice long chat with Adrien, who lives far away now and works a lot, so I don't see her much.  Sam's mom and my parents also came, and I think they had a good time too.  I worry that my efforts didn't really make a difference, but I feel in some small way they did.  So that is good.

We also did a few hikes lately, trying to get out and enjoy the mountain air before it gets too cold and the inversion makes it impossible to breathe.

Sam and I hiked to a glacial outwash in Wasatch State Park, which is down the street from his parents' house.  It was a longer hike than we anticipated, and hot because there wasn't much tree cover until the end, but it was quiet and very pretty, and the huge pile of boulders was really fun to explore.

We also did a hike on conference weekend to Lake Solitude in (you guessed it) Solitude ski area.  That was a beautiful hike, and pretty easy.  I think when I'm in better shape, I want to go further and summit the mountain behind the lake.  There wasn't a path that I could see, but I saw people hiking around way up in there, and it looks like a lot of fun.

This past weekend I also had the opportunity for an impromptu hike of Stewart Falls just past Sundance.  My mom and Adrien and Eric went too, along with about 5,000 BYU students.  It actually got really annoying, but the aspens were in full Fall splendor, so it was very pretty.  After the sun went down behind the mountain, it got pretty cold, and I felt bad, because it had been hot earlier, so the baby was just in a shirt, socks, and her diaper.  She doesn't have teeth, but they were chattering.  But she got all toastied up once we got into the car to head up to Midway.

I also try to go on lots of walks.  It's easier when we're up in Midway, because there's more walking areas and more to see.  In Springville we sort of just have the one paved walkway that winds through the neighborhood, which isn't bad, but it does get a little old, and it's lousy with little kids on bikes that have no respect for pedestrians.  Harumph.

Other than that, life is basically just work and taking care of the baby.  Sam is gone a lot working in Midway, but I try to get up there as often as I can (which is usually a day or two, since the baby doesn't sleep as well if she's switching beds every three nights).  This week in particular has been harder since we're taking care of Sanjay while Sam's parents are out of town, and I have work and appointments, so Sam will have been away for over a week by the time this is over.  Ah well!  I'm grateful for opportunities to grow and get stronger.  But I do long for the day when we don't have to be apart half the week, every week.  And I'm grateful it isn't worse.

Side note: I miss archaeology.  And travelling.

Tra la la.  I promise to update if anything interesting ever does happen!

I've Got My Head, I've Lost My Leopard

It feels like the same old story, but things around here aren't that interesting.  It's kind of just life on repeat, know what I mean?

Since today is the glorious day of Rosalind's 9-month-mark, here's a little update on her.  She's the only thing that changes around here, anyway.

Today we went to the doctor and got her exact measurements, which I've been curious about for a while now, because this lady is a beast.  Anyway, it turns out she's just under 22 pounds and is almost 29 inches tall.  So there you go.  She still only has two teeth.  She still has rolls to end all rolls.  Actually that's a lie, I've seen way fatter babies.  But she doesn't smoke cigarettes, so at least there's that.  Does anybody know what I'm talking about?

Oh and her hair is getting thicker and longer.  She also has a couple of curls coming in behind each ear and it is the cutest. You can sort of see it in this picture except that it's blurry.

I promise it's curly.  I think this might be the only trait Sam contributed.

I also am trying new things with her diapers. I'm sure I am the only one that this interests. But we've decided to explore the world of prefolds and wool-- and in the meantime have found an absolutely fool-proof and leak-free solution for nighttime! Woohoo!

Prefolds are actually super easy to put on.  And way easier to get clean.  And are way cheaper. FYI.

Wool: the secret to no more nighttime diaper changes!

She can't crawl.  She can't army crawl.  She can't even really scoot-- just an inch or two.  She's certainly mobile though.  She rolls everywhere and gets into trouble discovering things, like cords and plugs and that the mirror will fall on your head and the distance to the floor via the edge of the couch (that was a scary episode for both of us).  In fact, Rosalind hasn't really changed much in the last 5 months or so, but she seems to be making up for it all in the past few days.  Story time!

This morning during breakfast of eggs and banana, I saw out of the corner of my eye that she was doing something with her hands, and lo and behold she was signing "more"!  That caught me off guard.  She did it one other time during the meal.  And she did actually mean "more" by it, I'm pretty sure, because she isn't very good at that sort of thing by accident. Even though she'll probably never do it again.

My little Jezebel.

A couple of days ago, she was standing up leaning against a little side table with a book in one hand.  She looked at the book, looked at her other hand, then pushed off the table and stood ALL BY HERSELF for a second while she transferred the book to the other hand!  Then I did a cartwheel (not).

Stand and deliver

She also apparently learned to clap as part of "Patty Cake" while I was at work yesterday, but we haven't been able to get her to replicate it.  And she also waves "hi" and "bye" (more often "bye") most of the time.  It usually takes coaxing, but she's done it completely on her own too. Here she is waving "hi" to Sam in a picture I sent him (he is away a lot).

All I said was "Say Hi to Dad" and she started me.

Other things of note to the nit-picky are that she thinks blowing your nose is hilarious, she still loves animals and most soft things, and tags (who doesn't), and going outside-- that's almost a guarantee to calm her down if she's ever upset.  She also picks at her teeth, which is actually really, really irritating.  She still doesn't like sleeping, but she's getting a little better at it.  She also loves food and eats everything we give her, even moderately spicy stuff.  Except raspberries.  Those are apparently too much for her.

Early mornings when Sam is gone, she comes to bed with me.

And now you know everything interesting in my life. Yay!

E'erbody's hands go up...and they stay there.

...And here she is squinting when I was waiving a flower in her face:

The end.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wait, Wait 'til the Moon is Full

So...Sam finally, finally got a second job!  He's working three days a week at the Homestead Activity Center in Midway.  This has its a free "refresher" SCUBA dive last week, which was a lot of fun, and felt great to be back in the water again.

I put this on IG already, but I didn't take a lot of pictures because I didn't want to act like a noob...

I also started a part-time job!  I'm working as an assistant to a residential mortgage slash financial marketing guy.  It's been nice to flex my brains in a way I'm used to again (as opposed to, say, trying to problem-solve a fussy baby), and this job is a pay raise from my last job.  So far, it's been a little hard to be away from Rosalind all the time (well, three days a week), but I'm still her mother, and it's nice to get out and feel useful.  There are some aspects of the job that are a little challenging (but I love a challenge!), and since I'm new, I'm always worried I'm going to overstep somewhere, but today my boss told me "You're doing a great job, you know.  I'm glad I hired you."  Which made me feel awesome.

She is cute.  I like her.

Anyway, because Sam works a few consecutive days up in Midway, we've been spending a lot more time up there.  The past couple of weeks has been Monday through Thursday in Utah Valley, then packing up everything but the kitchen sink (or so it feels) and heading up to Midway for Thursday evening through usually Monday, depending.

Selfie from our hike to the glacial thing last week in Midway

I feel very lucky that we have parents who are willing (and even offered, on both counts) to put us up, but man am I beginning to feel stretched.  I am reeeeeeeally ready to live in our own place again (especially since we have more to go on now than just one part-time job), to have stability, and to actually feel like I have some kind of constancy.  I'm sure you know what I mean.  But we must have PATIENCE!

Sigh.  Story of my life.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Out of the Darkness

I've been thinking a lot about all this ice bucket hullabaloo and trying to decide how I feel about it. And I think one of the problems I'm having is that I feel like if you're going to donate to a cause, it should be one you feel strongly about. I have nothing against ALS research, and I know the disease is horrible, and it would be wonderful to find a cure. But I've decided that if I were to donate some of my limited funds, it would be to something I personally and truly want to raise awareness and funds for.

On top of all of this, I've been struggling with some thoughts about the questions raised with Robin Williams' suicide. The most important of which, I think, is trying to open a discussion on mental health.

Mental disorders are greatly stigmatized and misunderstood, that much is obvious. Nearly everyone knows someone who does or has suffered with depression. So the cause I would like to support is this:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention holds an annual fundraising event that, to me, looks awesome. It's an overnight walk called "Out of the Darkness", which is intended to bring survivors of suicide or loss together, to let them know they are not alone, to raise awareness for mental health issues, and to raise money for prevention, education, and research.

I wish I could participate in one of these walks. Unfortunately, only two cities host them, and the donations are more than I can handle. But luckily for me (and you!), there are local Community Out of the Darkness walks that are much easier to participate in. There is no required donation or registration fee, and instead of 16-18 miles, you only walk 3-5. And it's during the day.

The one being held in Salt Lake City is being held on Saturday, September 13th at 10:45am.  That's two weeks from this weekend.

I have started a team for this walk, because this is very important and personal to me. If you could, I would love to have you and your family and friends participate in some fashion.  Our team's fundraising website can be found here.  The registration homepage (complete with event details) can be found here.

If you would like to join our team, when you register, simply select the team "C Lights" from the drop-down (the reason for picking that name I may save for another time). You can choose to just walk with us, donate, or both. Or, you can walk by yourself or create your own team.

I am very excited about this. I hope one day we can live in a world where suicide isn't stigmatized or romanticized; where people can feel safe in asking for help, where people can know that they are not alone in dealing with loss, or dealing with chronic mental illness.

There are lots of noble causes. But hopefully through this kind of awareness, no one will have to suffer silently from this anymore.

Hope to see you in Sugarhouse in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Antelope Island, or, "No, No! Too Many Flies!"

I recently made for myself what I'm calling my "Utah Bucket List". This isn't because I'm planning on dying in Utah; on the contrary, it's a list of stuff I want to do before I kick Utah's bucket. Or something. Basically I'm not living here forever, but there's some stuff I need to do before I go.

One of those things is to go to Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake (ps why do I have to call it "great"?). So yesterday, we asked my mom to watch Ros for the day, headed up to Adrien and Eric's house in Sandy, and carpooled with them up to the island!

That morning was the tail end of an arctic thunderstorm, so it was pretty cold (even snow in the mountains) and stormy. Pretty much by the time we got there though, things had cleared up, and by lunchtime it was almost hot, so that was lucky (although Sam and I dressed in layers so we could've survived an arctic storm, I say).

Anyway, after driving in on the causeway, we went to the Visitor's Center to get oriented. We talked to a friendly volunteer who told us even the shortest hike was very steep and required "technical skill," and told us a little about the bison on the island. We then looked at some of the Fremont artifacts they'd found on the island, and talked about how bizarre they were. We had questions (archaeology for the win), but there was nobody knowledgeable to ask. Oh well!

After that, we drove out to Buffalo Point on the northwest part of the island and looked out over the shore and some scattered "bachelor" bison.

We then started our first hike, a half-mile (one way) hike up to the top of the point. This is the one the lady said was treacherous and required technical skill, but it was actually super easy if you have good shoes and know how to walk. We spent some time sitting on a boulder at the top and looking out over the lake, which was an amazing view.

After that hike, we ate our picnic lunch and talked about what we wanted to do next. We decided to drive down to the historic Fielding Garr Ranch on the southeast part of the island and check that out, plus look for the actual herd of bison, which were supposedly hanging out down there.

We got down to the ranch (no bison herd, boo) and looked around. It was a "please touch everything as much as you want" kind of place, so we tried hitting hammers on anvils, using historic drill presses, lassoing fake cows, etc. The Fielding Garr ranch house is the oldest continually-occupied Anglo-built building on its original foundation in Utah, so that was pretty neat.

The rest of the time at the ranch we spent in the spring-fed forested area with our eyes to the treetops, looking for porcupines (sadly, none to be found). We did see some muscly guys with huge telephoto lenses on their cameras, and when I asked what they were looking for, they said, "a warbler." They were pretty funny.

After the ranch, we drove back up toward the north part of the island again, and this time we ran RIGHT into the bison herd! There were hundreds of them crossing the road, and whenever it cleared and we tried to pull forward, a couple more would freak out and run across to join their fellows. It was preeetty cool.

When the bison were done crossing, we drove up to Bridger Bay and decided to walk down to the shore. It turned out to be a pretty far walk, and almost like a hike because a lot of it was trudging through sand. I think we probably walked about 1/2 or 3/4 mile down to the shore.

Walking down there was sort of a bizarre experience, or as Adrien kept saying, "It feels like we're on another planet!" It really was kind of eerie.

First of all, there was this huge brown thing we could see on the sand even from a few miles away, something we though was too big to be a bison, but it turned out to be a giant metal buoy ball thing that was probably a fourth the size it looked from far away. So I guess all that space plays with perspective.

Then, suddenly, on our walk out, we started noticing there were dead birds in the sand/shale. Like, hundreds of them. It was incredibly creepy, and we have no idea how they got there. So of course I had to take pictures.

Right before we reached the water, we noticed that the ground was rippling the closer we got to the water. Eventually, we realized the ground was covered in FLIES! Zillions of them! And they would billow and ripple away from you as you walked through. It was seriously disgusting and creepy and bizarre. Sam and Eric has a good time walking through the flies and taking videos of them rippling away.

(Blogger won't let me post a video. Dumb. Maybe I'll put it on Instagram?)

We took some pictures down at the shore, and Adrien felt the need to taste the water (yes, after all those flies and dead birds), and determined that the Great Salt Lake is, indeed, salty.

After that we hiked back to the car and drove home. It was a pretty fun day of exploration, and I definitely want to go back to do the Frary Peak hike, which takes you up the mountain to where the bighorn sheep live. Who wants to go?

Also I just really like this picture. Sam was leading me through the flies to take the above posed picture: