Friday, March 31, 2006

Tunk Tunk Tunk

I was walking home from the bus this afternoon when I heard a, "tunk tunk tunk", coming from somewhere nearby. I looked over at the house I was passing, but no one seemed to be home. I heard the "tunk tunk tunk" again and it sounded vaguely like someone with a mallet thumping a wet log. I realized the "tunk"-ing was coming from overhead and looked up. Way up at the top of the telephone pole I was passing, I caught a darting movement. I looked closer and realized that it was a woodpecker!

I have seen pileated woodpeckers while hiking locally, but they were much bigger than the one I was looking at. I got my camera out and took some pictures. I was certainly glad to have the 16x (digital) zoom on my Canon because there wasn't any way that I was going to get any closer to the bird to properly identify it.

When I got home, I compared my photo with some online resources and figured out that I was most likely looking at a Northern Flicker, and likely a male of the red shafted sub-species.

Anyhow, I'm not a bird-watcher (serious or even occasional), but it was definitely fun trying to figure out what it was that I was looking at and discovering that there is a wealth of information on-line if you want to read through it all. When the kids are older, maybe we'll get into bird-watching.

Spring Forward

Just a friendly PSA - this weekend is when we all "Spring Forward" into Daylight Savings Time.

Whether you agree with the practice of DST or not, it's one more indicator that spring is well and truly here. Where we live, it's a redundant sign, given that we live in what would be considered in other parts of Canada as an "Eternal Spring".

In a way, I miss the coming and going of the seasons. In another, it's nice to not have to do hardly any shovelling.

I also needed an excuse to post a picture of the hanging basket that Cheryl bought last Sunday. Nice, eh?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

IQ Test

Your IQ Is 135

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average

Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius

Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional

Your General Knowledge is Genius

What Disney Princess are you?

You Are Pocahantas!
Image hosted by

Free-spirited and wise. You have a strong passionate spirit that touches and changes all who know you. The wisdom and common sense that you have is really what guides you through life. Even so, you also have a very playful side that loves adventure and excitement.

Which Disney Princess Are You?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Curb Appeal

Cheryl declared yesterday to be Spring Cleaning day for our front garden. She took Melissa and Madeleine to vacuum out the van and then stopped by Home Depot for some new plants to spruce things up with.

Before she got back with the girls, I grabbed the hoe and got most of the ground in both beds broken up and the weeds sorted out. The basil, oregano, parsley, and chives we planted last year survived the short snow and frosts we had over the winter, so I didn't have much work to do there. We even have some volunteer tulips poking up from the bulbs left behind by the previous occupant of our unit. Unfortunately it looks like the three rododendron bushes that Cheryl got at the end of last summer didn't make it.

Along with the green goodies that Cheryl brought home were a pair of stepping stones to go into the front bed. This is to save both our shoes and the plants in the bed.

She also brought a small heather, some "baby's breath" (not Gyp), some geraniums, some daffodils, and a hanging basket for the eaves near our front door.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


The M's are growing up fast. I wish I had consciously planned out this weekend to shoot some candid portraits of all the kids. We've had cameras around them from the time they were bitty-babbies, so they're certainly not camera shy. I hope they remain that way. As it is, I noticed today that I had grabbed interesting one-on-one's of the older 3 M's.

Michael How to Hold Your Camera
Photog-in-training Mr. Photographer

Michael is a boy through and through. He's loud, enthusiastic, boisterous, eager to please, full of very interesting ideas, and not shy about sharing them. Michael is also a snappy dresser. He likes wearing a tie.

Madeleine Silly Roo

Madeleine the Clown

Madeleine is a sweet-heart. She wears a smile on her face almost all day long. And if you catch her without a smile, a new one is not very far away.

Melissa. Can you believe she's only six? I'd like to say that I have no idea what we are going to do when she hits puberty, but Cheryl has already informed me of some of the world of fun that is life with teen girls. I fear our house will be overrun with Melissa's friends.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I Think I May be Hooked on Professionial Hair Cuts & Coloring

New Hair cut and foil highlights
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

I decided to go to a pro to have my hair fixed. She suggested going shorter but not super-short and doing foils rather than bleaching and redying my entire head. It turned out really nicely. The streaks hide the darker color differences and what shows looks intentional because more foils were done at the top.
The side view

Allan was a saint and took drove the kids around (and through several drive-throughs) for 2 HOURS while I had my hair done. He also was a saint about the cost which he said was not as much as he was afraid it was going to be. No - I'm not saying how much it cost. But I am a lot happier with my hair.

I like the foils

My last 2 haircuts I have done myself at home with my Cut-co kitchen shears. The back was done completely by touch. This is a million times better than that. It's low maintenance as well!

The back view

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blogspot and Wordpress

I've been aware of Wordpress for a while now, even before my sister migrated her blog to it. But it wasn't until the recent aggravation with Blogspot that I got up the gumption to try it out.

So, for our faithful readers who follow the adventures of the Five Ms, I have set up a new blog site on Wordpress' free blog service. They have 'paid for' service, like Blogpsot / Blogger, but I am currently only going to compare the 'free services'.

I used Wordpress' import tool to migrate our posts here onto Wordpress. I have code-named the site Magrathea for now, so you all can test it out and see if it's worth making the switch. If my test-marketing comes back positive, I'll rename it.

There are some very nice things about Wordpress for readers, authors, and administration:

Categories - As an author you can create your own categories and 'file' your posts into them. This makes it easier for you to review your commentary on long-running themes on your blog. It also makes it easier for new readers to get the 'backstory' on recent posts. For blog administration, it is a valuable index for tracking down specific posts.

Private Posts - Wordpress also allows you to password protect specific posts. This is very useful if you have sensitive information to share with specific readers - like family or friends.

(Practically) Instantaneous Template Updates - Wordpress uses an embedded database to store the text in your posts, so if you decide to change your blog template, the change in formatting is pretty much instantaneous. Blogspot uses a different method in that all your psots are stored as individual HTML pages. If you change your template, you are forced to re-generate every page on your site to see the changes. Given the recent hardware problems here, that can be a very 'iffy' proposition.

Template Options - Wordpress makes customizing the presentation of your site very easy. No HTML or CSS knowledge needed.

Posting Interface - Just like in Blogspot, you can use a plain-text interface or a HTML interface for writing your posts. That said, Wordpress' interface is more slick and word-processor like. I think it also generates better HTML.

Import Function - I mentioned this already, but this made things very easy. The only frustrating thing about it was that Blogger couldn't keep up with the import process and timed-out repeatedly, forcing Wordpress to start over several times. (This worries me as I don't know of any way to ever archive our Blogspot site if Blogger really does roll over and die.)

It should go without saying that Blogger does not have a similar function to let you migrate to Blogspot from another blog host like Wordpress, MoveableType,or LiveJournal.

I do have some nitpicks, however.

Categories - If you create categories on the free Wordpress service, you pretty much have to make your category tags public. That is, everyone on Wordpress can see them and use them too. I'll explain why: when you click on the category links at the bottom of posts in Wordpress, you will go to a page that lists all posts on Wordpress which use that category. If you haven't made your category tags public, you won't see your posts. If you do make your categories public and they're not unique, when you click on the links, you will see your posts, but they'll be mixed up with everyone else's too. And there's currently a limit of 20 posts returned in the results.

Template Configuration Options - The philosophy behind Wordpress is to make as much of the configuring of formatting as painless as possible using Wordpress. This is very good, but after being here on Blogspot, where you have a lot of latitude to monkey with your CSS template, it's somewhat stifling. I'd like to change colours, font faces, and font sizes, but there's only limited facility for that in the free Wordpress service. This is an issue for me primarily because the default font types and sizes in the sample templates tend to be somewhat small and hard to read for some of our readers.

User Accounts - Blogspot has nailed this issue in that they allow you to create a Blogspot / Blogger account independently of having a blog. You can opt to start a blog, join a blog, or do neither and just have an account to use for posting comments. Not so with Wordpress. In order to set up Cheryl and myself on the new site, I had to create separate Wordpress accounts, each with their own blog, for each of us, then attached Cheryl to the first blog as a author. Cheryl's blog won't be used and it seems like kind of a waste for it to be there. Even more annoying, Cheryl can't use her own log-in to access the first blog. She has to use mine and then set herself as the post author.

As a side note, I have friend who has implemented the Wordpress software (which is free) on his own host, and all of the problems I've already described go away when you do this. Your categories are your own, you can tweak your CSS template all you like, and account control is all your own because the implementation is on your own MySQL database.

Summary - I'd have to say at this point that I am very much leaning towards Wordpress as our new blog software and host. Having our posts stored in a database is to me much more secure and stable than as straight HTML files that are scattered across who knows how many servers. (Speaking of which, I'm going to have to come up with a way of periodically downloading our blog pages for archiving. I don't trust Blogspot much at this point.) My hope is that some of the issues I've raised here will be addressed as the free service is broadened and improved. But even if they aren't addressed, there is always the option of moving to our own host and/or domain.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hair dye - what not to do

Hair dye - what not to do
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

I have fallen victim to a dye disaster! It's my own fault. I should know better. It all comes of buying hair dye from the clearance rack rather than sticking with one color.

First I went almost black a few months ago bought on clearance. Allan hated it. So this time I picked up a medium golden brown. This is the result.

Should I cut it?

It's hysterical! I have reverse roots! I guess they are roots, but it's the opposite of the usual "bad roots" problem of light with dark roots!

Look at my two-tone hair!

I actually said to Allan, "I'm going to have to do something. I can't just go around like this. Can you take pictures because I want to post online about it." Right.

So my options seem to be:

A. Stripping the color of all of it and re-dying. This would probably completely fry my hair. I have fine, thin hair that falls out easily.

B. Getting another dark color and dyeing over it. Would fry hair some but not as badly. Downside - Allan REALLY didn't like me with dark hair.

C. Leave it. It's just hair. Maybe decide to develop a sudden interest in hats.

D. Cut it in a super short cut.

So what should I do??

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Waffles That Work

Cheryl convinced me this last week to give the waffle iron another try. After a couple of near duds, I finally figured out how to get them to come out nice and golden brown.

Here are some of the things I've noticed are key (for me anyhow) to getting waffles from scratch that work:

(1) Waffle Batter -- Take it from me, who did this for a looong time, don't ever confuse waffle batter and pancake batter. They're composed of pretty much the same ingredients, but the applications are totally different.

Waffle batter has more egg in it to hold the waffle together. If you skimp on the egg, the waffle won't stick together or come out of the iron in one piece.

Waffle batter is thicker and not as runny as pancake batter. If you put in too much milk, the waffle's innards won't cook correctly and the outside won't get nice and crisp.

(2) The Waffle Iron -- A helpful friend pointed this out from my description of past waffle debacles, the iron needs to be seasoned, or at least well oiled.

If you've had a few disastrous episodes like me, some remediation of your irons is in order. I scrubbed our irons clean and made sure there wasn't any spots of burnt batter left. I greased the iron's surfaces by soaking a paper towel with corn oil and then working it into all the seams with a BBQ skewer. I put the irons into a 250F oven for an hour or so, pulled them out, and let them cool.

The other thing I did was not fiddle with the heat setting on the iron. I put it to medium-dark, left it there, and waited about 10 minutes for the iron to properly warm up.

(3) Making Waffles -- If you've done the batter right, it should be about the consistency of thick gravy. I know some people who like their gravy quite watery, but that's what pancake batter should be like.

I have a ladle with a bowl that is around a cup worth. Ladle up some batter, open up the hotted up iron, plop the batter dead center. The batter should radiate out from the center about 1/2 way to the edge. Drop the top 1/2 of the iron and leave it alone.

At first nothing will happen, but this is the iron heating up the batter. The top half of the iron will probably start to rise and steam will come rolling out from all sides. Resist the temptation to lift the lid and leave the iron alone.

Presently the steam will stop and the lid may drop a bit. Give it a minute, the waffle is crisping up at this point, and you should be able to prise up the top half a bit without pulling the waffle apart. The waffle should look golden, just starting to darken a bit. You can then leave the waffle for another minute or two longer if you like your waffles more brown.

This isn't a totally fool-proof method, but it should work pretty consistently if your batter is set up right. I felt pretty confident this morning and even made up a double batch. Our crew only managed to eat about 1/3 of the total output, but I kept going anyway and baggied the rest for the freezer.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Arrgh! Where's my blog! - Part 2

Okay .. it looks like we're back, but things are still a little shaky it seems over at Blogger. Will publish this post to see if publishing engine is back up to speed.

Arrgh! Where's my blog!

Been getting '403' errors whenever I check our blog since last night. I've republished the entire blog and still not getting anywhere. This is my last gambit and then I'm going to think about moving to some other blogging host.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Yes - I took 5 kids to the Aquarium by myself!

Yes - I took 5 kids to the Aquarium by myself!
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

.. and I'm still alive to tell about it. It actually wasn't all that bad. Maribeth will hold hands and we put Megan on the toddler leash right after this photo.

Michael got a huge kick out of holding the other end of it and Megan put up with it for a good LONG time rather than stay in the stroller or hold hands.

We did the Amazon exibit, the Pacific Northwest exhibit, the shark tank, the show with the scuba diver, the beluga whale show and 2 dolphin shows.

We had our lunch and then walked around part of the seawall and even managed to stop and get fresh produce on the way home!


Megan's talking is so CUTE! I'm blown away by how well she talks and the stuff she says.

Today I called Melissa, and Megan came running in first.

"He--wree! I Mewwwissa - I hewwrreee!"

Then when Melissa got there she said, "No *I* 'lissa" and then laughed hysterically.

Megan has pretended to be Maribeth before ("I MARBEF") and Maribeth has climbed into Megan's bed before when they are told to get into bed, but this is the first that I've seen one of the twins pretend to be one of the older kids!

Then I found Megan in Michael's laundry basket with her pillow and blanket. I said, "Come on Megan."

She said, "No - I sleeeping!"

I said, "Everyone else is downstairs."

She said, "No - I sleeping here ALL NIGHT."

Then there is poor Maddy. Melissa and Michael have blamed Maddy for everything for ages, and now Megan and Maribeth have joined in.

Me: "Who DID this??"

Megan: "Manaline did it!"

Maribeth: "Yeah."

When she and Maribeth were caught playing in the toilet last week and got yelled at, Megan looked remorseful and said, "I had a baaaaddd idea."

We went to the farm/petting zoo on Sabbath afternoon. Megan remembered it today and told Grandmommy on the phone, "Meggy feeded bunny WABBITS .. da wabbits CAWWOTS!"

Today I asked them rhetorically, "What do you want to wear today Megan?"

She ASNWERED, "pwetty dwess".

I got a dress, only it wasn't the right one.

She said, "NOT dat one. PINK ONE.", and pointed towards the pink dress hanging in the closet. Then she wanted BOOTS and NOT the Robeez boots but," 'tomping boots!"

Maribeth wanted the same outfit, so I had two toddlers today wearing pink summer dresses stopping around the house in rain boots!

You can tell they have a big brother because when asked, "what are you doing?", Megan said "we 'TOMPING de ANTS!".

We were reading "Brown bear, brown bear what do you see" and when it said "I see a goldfish", Megan said, "'dat NOT - dat is Owange"!

Oh and Megan can count to 14 and she's teaching Maribeth! I overheard them yesterday, Megan counting ONE and Maribeth echoing one...all the way up until "telve, dirteen, fourteen!!!!!"

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Spit and Shine

Blackie Spit that is. The sea breezes were a bit chilly, but the sun more than made up for that. It was so clear you could see all the way to the mountain ranges that rise up abruptly from the vallehy floor north of the mighty Fraser.

The kids all took off ahead of Maribeth and myself. So I let her explore a bit on her own. This is both good and bad. Good in that she is self-confident and definitely stronger than she looks. If you don't know, be warned that Maribeth is one wiry kid. She regularly chins herself on our windowsills and counters so she can peek up and over. Bad in that she can get herself into places you'd never expect a two year-old to be in. Like up on the kitchen counters where there are sometimes hot things.

We caught up with Michael, who was doing some exploring of his own.

And then we caught up with everyone near the head of the spit. There were some kayakers out in the afternoon sunshine. I didn't envy them the wind in their teeth as they came out of the lee of the spit and onto the windward side of it. The kids weren't all that interested in the kayaks. They were poking around the drifted logs looking for neat stuff.