Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting the Most Out of Your Library

Libraries are one of the greatest inventions ever.  I love libraries.  As a frequent user I thought I'd share some tips.  I'm in Western Washington and visit the Sno-Isle, King County and Pierce County library systems.

Reciprocal Borrowing Agreements
Many libraries in the area have reciprocal borrowing agreements meaning that if you have a card through one library system then you can also get a card in another.  If you live on the border of two library systems then you have access to a larger selection of books, but even if you don't live near another system getting another card will give you access to a wider selection of online resources.

Online Resources
There are a lot of resources that are available from your library that you can access from your home which include:

  • Downloadable ebooks.  I have a Nook Color and can download ebooks from the library to my Nook.  I'm pretty sure that iPhone, iPad, and Android devices also have this capability.  If you have multiple library cards, then you have access to an even greater selection of online books.
  • Downloadable audio books.  I have found that the selection of audio books is a lot better than ebooks.  This is probably due to accessibility laws.  But if you do a lot of driving, audio books can be really great.
  • Music.  There are some CD's that are available for download.
  • Kids online books.  Many libraries have downloadable computer books in there catalog, as well as access to websites that contain online books (for instance Tumblebooks).  I also found about 30 audio book mp3s of popular children's books.  I was able to download them and burn them to a CD and listen to them in the car on long car rides.
  • Journal Articles.  Just as when you were in college and had access to various journal databases, many public libraries have access to these as well.  There is usually a database page on a library's home page that will lead you hear.  
  • Consumer Reports.  There is no need to buy a subscription to consumer reports (though they frequently email me) you may be able to access the site through your library.
  • Technical books.  King County library system has a huge database that allows you online access to tons of technical books.  This is great because these types of books are expensive and get out-of-date very quickly.  The books include lots of programming books as well as digital photography.
  • Databases.  In addition to the above mentioned databases there are genealogy, newspaper, car repair, job training and other interesting databases.
The library carries most popular DVD's including TV show season's on DVD.  While there is usually a long wait for the newer stuff the library is a free alternative to Netflix.

Interlibrary Loan

If your library doesn't have a book that you want you can request them to borrow it from another library.  This may take a few months, but if you aren't in a hurry it can be a good resource.


While most people know they can place holds on books from home.  I frequently do not make it to the library before my hold expires and am always bummed.  Depending on your library system holds may just be put back on the shelf at the library you were to pick them up at.  I think Pierce and King county send the item back to it's "home" library, but Sno-Isle has a revolving selection and if the item does not have another hold on it they just place it on the shelf at the library you sent it to so you might be able to go in and still get your item.

Reading History

Sno-Isle and Pierce county systems have an option that you have to enable that will keep track of all the books you have checked out.  This is a nice feature to help you keep track of all the books you have read.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

I actually grew stuff!  It is amazing.  I've never been able to grow anything.  I always kill plants.  But I think it has more had to do with motivation rather than anything else.  I've been reading about vegetable gardening for almost 3 years, but hadn't been able to actually have more than a couple pots of lettuce due to being pregnant or moving.
This spring I actually got to try it.  Selena and I built six garden beds from fence planks and put them in our front yard, as we do not get much sun in our backyard.  I bought expensive vegetable garden dirt recommended by Seattle Tilth.  I bought seeds from Territorial Seed Company per the recommendation of Steve Solomon because the test grounds are in the same climate as mine.  I stuck the seeds in the ground and low and behold I got a ton of food growing.

We've had a really cold spring and summer.  We are still waiting for a heat wave to hit the Seattle area.  Luckily I chose mostly crops that do well in cold and rainy weather.

The things that worked great for me were:
- Oregon and Cascade Snap peas
- Cilantro aka Coriander.  I can grow this stuff anywhere and plant it at almost any time.
- Miner's Lettuce
- Spinach
- Carrots
- Kale
- Edible Chrysanthemum
- Rutabaga
Things that were okay or I have yet to find out
- Green onions.  I got about a quarter to half of the seeds I planted to grow.
- Gold summer squash aka yellow zucchini.  I've got 5 teeny zucchini's growing so I think this one will be good.
- Leeks.  Almost all the leeks sprouted, but they take a long time to mature so we'll see how they end up
- Strawberries.  Most of the plants I bought were just roots and weren't expected to produce any or many berries this year.  I did buy two mature plants, but even those have only produced a few.  Next year we'll see if we can get a decent crop.

Things that didn't work
- Garlic chives.  I got a couple to sprout, but then they shriveled and died.
- Dill.  I've had luck with this in pots in the past, but this year I haven't got anything to even sprout.
- Cantaloupe.  I know this one was a gamble, but I decided to give it a go.  After a pathetic start the plant is starting to look a bit healthier.  But compared to the zucchini that I planted at the same time it is pretty pitiful.
- Mini Peppers.  This one too was a gamble, but I was hoping that the fact that they were mini might help them out.  I got a few seeds to sprout inside and got two plants to get a few inches high.  I transplanted them to a self-watering container outside.  One is getting taller but has yellow leaves and no buds.  The other one actually had a little pepper growing despite only being 6 inches tall, but then Allie ripped it to shreds. :(
- Cherry Tomatoes.  I tried to get these to grow from seed and I could only get a couple to sprout and then they died when just a couple inches tall.  I still may try to buy a mature plant and see what happens.
Overall I've been really happy.  I've got a jungle of food.  It has also been great to see how much the girls enjoy it as well.  They love the snap peas and eat them all day long.  They also pretend to be dinosaurs and eat the leaves of the snap peas and spinach.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vacation in Wallace, Idaho

While Floyd was in Vegas I drove across the state to Wallace, Idaho for a vacation with my family.  While the drive was not much fun the trip was.

We stopped in Vantage, WA on our way there for a while and looked at the stuff in the petrified forest museum.  They had some fossils of a saber-tooth tiger, and a tusk from a mastodon among other things and that was really neat.  Selena had kept asking me what fossils looked like and then I was able to show her.

My aunt had found a house to rent and we stayed there.  My other aunt and uncle came with there two girls and Selena and Allie loved playing with them and think they are the coolest ever.  I really appreciated the attention my cousins gave my girls.  My mom has broken her leg so she was unable to play with the girls, but they enjoyed playing "broken leg" and zooming around on her scooter and trying to use her crutches.  

The town is nestled in some foothill/mountains and has the Coeur d'Alene bike trail and a river running through town.  The town is only about a half mile wide and easily walkable.  There was a little store that had a lot of stuffed animals, as in animals that had been killed and stuffed.  So that was kind of interesting.  There was also a mercantile that had a replica of the T-Rex skull "Sue".  Selena and Allie really liked visiting the sharp tooth.  There was also an outdoor heated pool.  We went swimming once, the only bummer with that was they didn't allow flotation devices, so Selena couldn't swim with her noodle.

The main adventure for the trip was biking the Hiawatha Trail.  I assumed I wouldn't be going, but then realized I could rent a bike and a trailer.  The trail is an old railway line that has been converted to a trail.  The start of the trip involves riding in a 2 mile train tunnel.  It is pitch black and all you have is a small light on your bike.  The terrain isn't smooth and there are leaks in the tunnel where water from a river pours on you.  It is also extremely cold.  I haven't biked with a trailer before and for my first experience to be in the pitch black was pretty exciting.  When we got out of the trail Allie was yelling, "Most fun ever!"  and Selena was saying it was a lot of fun as well.  The rest of the ride is down a gravel road, over some trestles, and through a few more tunnels.  Overall the ride is 13 miles long and is a slight downhill grade, but due to the bumpiness of the road and the loose terrain it takes quite a while.  Half-way through Allie was done.  It was her naptime, but she couldn't sleep because she couldn't get comfortable because her helmet was in the way.  So unfortunately I was pedaling as fast as I could and was unable to enjoy the vistas as much as I wanted to.  When we finally got to the bottom and she could get out she was happier.

I also got to do a lot of running, which was fabulous.  It smelled so clean and fresh.  There was a 2 mile hiking trail 1.5 miles out of town called Pulaski Trail.  I did a couple runs on it and it was very nice.  It followed along an offshoot of the river.  I also took the girls up there one day, but Selena got distracted at the trail head and just wanted to climb the rocks there. I also ran and biked a bit on the Coeur d'Alene trail.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I miss my puppy

Allie is embracing her role as a two year old.  While she has always been an independent sole, she is going through a streak of being even more so, which unfortunately means that she is starting to run away.  I swear it is the most stressful thing in the world trying to walk through a parking lot with two children, one or both of which may decide they do not want to do what you want them to. 

She enjoys playing the big bad bear and superheroes.  The big bad bear throws someone in the dungeon and the other ones have to be superheroes and rescue the captured one by providing a stick for them to grab onto as the superhero pulls them out.  She likes to include a sharp-tooth or Swiper as an enemy in the script as well. 

She also likes to play with her baby doll.  She takes out blankets and lays them out over and over for her baby.  Or she'll snuggle them up with Dyna and all three of them will snuggle.

She really loves Dyna, or as she calls her, her puppy, her Dynamite, or her doggymite.  When we went on vacation she told me that she really missed her puppy and she wanted to go home to see her. She is pretty good about checking Dyna's food and feeding her, though sometimes she gets distracted and starts putting all of Dyna's food in the water dish and in general making a big mess.

At night she is so sweet and as I am cuddling her she says, "You are the best mama I've ever seen."  And she's the best two year old. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

If there is a rock, and there is no sign, I need to climb it.

"If there is a rock, and there is no sign, I need to climb it," was Selena's quote the other day.  Rocks, trees, and everything else are fair game.  She is definitely getting in touch with her inner primate.  She is also doing great at the monkey bars.  Last summer she was really close and could do them alone sometimes, but now she can do them pretty consistently.  The other day she had impressed a group of pre-teens and they were cheering her on.

Preschool has ended and it has been wonderful.  She has been sleeping in till 9-10am and she is a lot nicer person.  There are far fewer outbursts of name-calling and mean behavior.  Now we just need to break Allie of the habits Selena taught her.  Her preschool teacher also called and said another little girl signed up for afternoon preschool next year, so we're planning on the afternoon again! :)  At the graduation ceremony she said she wanted to be a builder when she grows up. 

The ballet session ended and she has decided that she wants to sign up for soccer now but I think we are putting Papa in charge of that.
She's into dinosaurs right now and has watched many of the Land Before Time videos.  The problem is those movies are scary and sometimes sad.  At one point we were discussing what happened to the dinosaurs and I was explaining that many scientists think a meteor killed all the dinosaurs, but she got a bit confused and a couple days later she said, "I think a meat eater (meteor) like T-Rex ate all the dinosaurs and then he died and so they were all gone."  

We've been meeting more of the neighborhood kids and I enjoy it so much when they are all running around the cul-de-sac playing with the older kids accommodating the younger ones.  I just hope we get more opportunities as the summer goes on.

She's already starting to feel bad about her height.  The other day she sadly says to me, "I'm the smallest four year old I know."  I told her that she probably would always be the smallest of her age and that both her dad and I were always the smallest, but that sometimes being smaller is better because you are faster and can climb trees better.  She's also deduced from her dinosaur movies that if you are smaller you have to be smarter. I feel for her.  I spent most of my life wishing I was taller.