Blog-o! Notes from

Wed, 30 May 2007
Delphine Talk

Delphine says "Do you remember when I was three (free) but not even three and a half and we lived in the old house..." Or, while we were in the middle of the reno, "...and we were not renovating" Ah, the good old days when we were not renovating.

We finally managed to drag the electric piano upstairs and the girls love it; Cordelia just bashes away but Delphine would really like to play properly. I am going to see if there are decent piano lessons available for four-year-olds. In the meantime, though, she calls the high notes "light" and the low notes "dark"; synaesthesia or just good sense?

Delphine Watches TV

Sometime in the last six months, Delphine has gone from a little kid who almost never watches TV to a little kid who habitually watches one or two shows every day. It started after we moved, when the house was littered with choking hazards, falling hazards, breaking hazards and general getting in the way hazards and the TV was a handy way of keeping Delphine happy in one place. Since then we just haven't seemed to phase it out, and now I let her watch a couple of shows when Cordelia is napping.

Delphine doesn't like anything with any kind of, how to put this... conflict. She is still very easily scared so we stick with shows where the conflict is mainly inter-personal or internal -- Max can't find his monster mask; Franklin needs help tying knots. Even still, she hides her head in the couch for the scary bits of Franklin and the Thunderstorm.

So we watch Franklin (love that theme music!), Max and Ruby (but it's just not the same now that Samantha Morton isn't voicing Ruby), Timothy Goes To School, and of course Charlie and Lola, which I love because it's so very very English and I'm a big ol' Anglophile. If you can be a -phile of what you are, anyway.

[Posted at 22:16 by Amy Brown] link
We have growth!

I was out inspecting my garden this afternoon and I found that two of my zucchini mounds are growing little seedlings! I realize growing zucchini is not normally considered an accomplishment, but it's the first of the things I have put into this garden that has actually grown, so I am fairly pleased with myself. Especially considering I caught a squirrel on one of the mounds munching on a snack of zucchini seeds a couple of days after I planted them.

There's also a couple of things coming up where I planted the sunflower seeds. I'm not sure if they're sunflowers, but they were cute and hearty so I left them.

In other news, the latest thing the maple tree is flinging at us is little green caterpillars. Oh, and we have golden dung flies, which are really pretty cool as bugs go, apart from the obvious dung implication. Stupid neighbour's dogs.

[Posted at 17:50 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 29 May 2007
Well, That Was Unexpected.

Since it was such a nice day today, I rode home a little slower than I otherwise would, and it was really nice. I talked to a woman biking along holding on to another bicycle beside her (apparently it's not as hard as it looks), and a man who took a shorter route to Summerhill and MacLennen than I do. People seem really nice to each other when they're on bicycles...

While I was cycling east along Gerrard, I noticed several police motorcycles blocking the bike lane. The cops were more than happy to wave me through, but does anyone know why there were there?

And finally, the interesting thing. On Merton, I was biking fairly closely behind a car (but slowly, because there are a lot of speed bumps), when they hit the brakes and turned right into a parking spot. I grabbed my front brake hard to slow down, and it went *ping* and offered no resistance. So I hit my back brake, and slowed right down, but apparently when I grabbed my front brake I snapped the cable! First time I've ever done that, and it was kind of exciting in a "I don't really want to do that again" kind of way. I got to the local bike shop (Sport Swap, now just south of Bayview and Davisville! Sadly the new location didn't make it into the 2007 Bike Map, which lists the old location (now a Trek Store), so I figured I'ld throw the info here, since they've been really nice to me.) Uh, anyways, where was I? Oh, yeah, I got to the local bike shop just after they closed, so I couldn't get it fixed tonight, but fortunately, there's a breakfast at The Bike Joint (290A Harbord St.) tomorrow, which I think I can make it to using only my rear brake, and I'm sure they'll be able to get me rolling again.

[Posted at 22:05 by Blake Winton] link
Retreat to the Great Indoors

I was in the garden this morning hanging out some washing. It's a nice sunny day and the kids were enjoying themselves in the garden, so I decided I would water the plants (as per J'Anne's advice, and the strawberry was looking a little limp). I know midday is not the ideal time to water plants, but when you have little kids you go to war with the schedule you have, not the schedule you want.

First, though, I cleaned up a dog poo in my garlic patch. (Must see about getting fences on the back and front.) After I watered, I was pulling up weeds around the garlic and cherry tomatoes when I saw two more dog poops, and then immediately was stung by a huge stinging nettle plant growing merrily by the maple tree.

So I gave up, rounded up the children and we're going to stay in the safe, cool, low-UV poop-free (mainly) indoors for the rest of the day. And I will figure out how to tackle the nettles. Unless we go to Starbucks.

[Posted at 12:22 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 28 May 2007
Spring in the New Garden

When we bought this little house it came with a garden. A big garden. A big, intimidating garden which used to be really well-tended and loved. I, on the other hand, have never gardened before and have no idea what I'm doing. This poor garden doesn't know what hit it.

So far I have spent a lot of time cleaning up; we have a maple tree in the backyard (oh, and another one in the front yard) and apparently the primary occupation of maple trees is to drop crap on you all year 'round: blossoms, maple keys, leaves. I can only assume that the maple syrup is by way of apology.

Blake's aunt J'Anne, the family gardener, was up a couple of weeks ago and we did a lot of work moving plants from the backyard to the front -- there are lots of plants near the back door where the deck will eventually be, and we are going to try and rescue as many of them as we can. We also weeded the front border, especially under the hedge. The hedge is doomed; I am going to get rid of it sometime in the next couple of years and plant something pretty in its place. But in the meantime it harbours a lot of crappy little weeds, and maple saplings. Stupid maple trees.

Since J'Anne was here I also added a bunch of hot pink impatiens to the front, mainly because Baba told me to. I think they will look nice once they fill out. They're cute now, but small.

In the back yard, I haven't done much; I am paralysed by the sheer size. I did plant a bunch of vegetables: zucchini, corn, sunflowers, and lettuce seeds, and squash, tomato, strawberry, basil, sage, lavender and mint plants. There are already what I thought were onions but I now suspect are garlic, as well as a huge patch of raspberries. So far I don't think anything that I have planted has, oh, say, grown at all, but Manuel's stuff (the previous owner) is doing fantastically. The previous owners had some serious green thumbs, considering that most of the garden gets at best partial sun. But then they were retired and by all accounts spent all their time gardening.

Other stuff that is growing from last year includes a glorious patch of ostrich ferns, some cosmos, violets, daylilies, a rose, bleeding heart, more ostrich ferns, sedum, daffodils, and some stuff which might be weeds. And lots of stuff which definitely is weeds; I have been preparing the ground on an as-needed basis, which means there are still lots of messy scrubby patches.

I am overwhelmed by the learning curve ahead of me; there seems to be so much you need to know to be a successful gardener. The nice thing, though, is that it's almost consequence-free. The worst that can happen is that I could buy a plant or some seeds and have them fail. No-one will be disappointed, no-one will get hurt, and I'll get to spend some time outside getting dirty.

[Posted at 22:05 by Amy Brown] link
Cordelia says...

Cordelia says "free four!" when there is something to be counted. "Free four babies!" "Free four cows!" She also knows six and eight. "Free four six eight!" That's when there are really a lot of whatever it is.

Cordelia says "Feen" for Delphine, and "Heeya" for Zaida, and "Dooya" for Cordelia.

Cordelia says "haavee" when something is hard, and "ow" when something hurts. If I am hurt she says "owwee Mommy" and then gives me a hug; she's very compassionate for a little person. She also likes to hug Delphine when she's sad, especially after they have had a fight.

[Posted at 21:11 by Amy Brown] link
Bike Week 2007.

Well, Bike Week 2007 has kicked off, and contrary to the first two years I took part, this year I actually got a pancake! Woo! My secret was sleeping in, so that I couldn't make it up to Yonge and Lawrence by 7:30, and instead heading straight to Yonge and Bloor for 8:00. On the downside, they didn't have any t-shirts larger than a medium, so I guess I'll need to lose a little weight before wearing the one I got. On the upside, I was totally at the front of the pack, and had a perfect view of Mayor Miller catching his front tire in something and going head-first over his handlebars! Very exciting, and he seemed to be fine, although he did have to trade his fancy new road bike in for an older mountain bike to complete the ride.

What else... It was a nice ride in, the pancakes and croissant were pretty much as I expected them to be. The coffee was pretty sweet, though. I also picked up an apple and a bottle of water, but I haven't had them yet, so I don't know how they are. (The apple is a really nice dark shade of red, though, so I'm looking forward to it.) This year's t-shirt is much prettier than the previous two years, I feel. I got a couple of extra bike maps, and have distributed them among the people in my office who cycle. Uh, I guess that's about it.

Oh, and I need to get the new Bike Week logo in svg somehow... I would use the other bike logo I've got, but it's used in the post right below this one, and that seems kind of repetitive.

[Posted at 11:52 by Blake Winton] link
Wed, 16 May 2007

After a certain point, you don't really get any wetter.
Even though it's really cold, and I'm totally soaking, it's not a bad ride.
Wow, it takes a long time to stop. (I already knew this, and I'm going way slower than I normally would, but that doesn't make it any less true.)
I could probably do with a new pair of biking gloves.
The headband I stole from Amy is working wonderfully, though.
I hereby transfer all the karma I got from giving my tires to Bike Pirates to the nice person in the car (a Beemer, even!) who let me turn left into the cemetary front of them.
Although, thinking about it, I might not have that much karma left, since I'm biking on the sidewalk. (Up Mount Pleasant beside the Cemetary. In this weather, there's no way I would feel safe on the road, and there aren't any cross roads or pedestrians, so I'm probably way safer than I would normally be on the sidewalk.) Mr. Walker, a bike lane down Mount Pleasant would be most appreciated.

[Posted at 20:53 by Blake Winton] link
Mon, 14 May 2007

Delphine just had her fourth birthday! To celebrate, Blake took the day off work and we had a nice quiet day together. We all went to the bike shop and Delphine got herself a new green bicycle! It's very pretty and she rides with verve and confidence, mainly because they have numerous pedalled vehicles at daycare. She also got a Playmobil house, which seemed exorbitant but I hope it will amuse her and Cordelia for years to come. Playmobil stuff is so cool.

Those were the main presents; in addition to that bounty she got a puzzle, a Little Red Riding Hood Cape, a bunch of books, some markers and paints... all kinds of things. I almost never buy her any toys apart from at Christmas and birthdays, so she gets buried under an avalanche of stuff twice a year.

Later on Delphine's big day, Ursa and her mom and new baby brother came over, along with Baba and Zaida and Morgan and Erik. We all had pizza and cake (yellow cake with pink lemonade icing) and everyone seemed to have a nice time. I was torn between having a big party, which I really didn't want to do, and just having a family dinner which seemed too small and quiet. I think the extended family plus Ursa gathering that eventually happened (after a whole day of planning) was perfect.

We have taken Delphine out of daycare. It was a decision after its time, since daycare was just a big indulgence what with me not working and all. I am a little scared of the prospect of life without "days off"; I got a lot of mileage out of the just-Cordelia days, running errands and doing housework. But plenty of people somehow manage to run their households while raising all their children, so I am sure I will manage it too. Delphine will quite enjoy it, I think; for the last few weeks she has been saying she doesn't want to go to daycare, she just wants to stay home with me. Be careful what you wish for, child. I suspect she will be quite happy to go to Kindergarten in the fall.

Delphine and I are reading Ramona the Pest, an actual novel-type book with chapters and really very few pictures! It was recommended in a "Read to your Kids" book I just read, and I thought I would give it a whirl. I suspected Delphine would get sick of it after a page of two without pictures, but she sits patiently and listens, and wants to carry on to the next chapter ever night. I am very excited to read her a book I remember enjoying myself, a real proper book!

[Posted at 16:11 by Amy Brown] link

So. My back is screwed up, again, probably because I haven't been doing the stretches and things I am supposed to do, and generally haven't been doing any exercise at all, apart from the usual lugging of kids and light housekeeping and gardening. Apparently that isn't going to do the trick, though, so I am looking into starting Pilates with Morgan as soon as my back clears up.

For today, though, I am useless. Delphine has literally been watching TV all day. It's a bit of an experiment; will she ever get sick of watching TV? So far, no. Cordelia has been amusing herself in that babyish way just wandering around exploring toys and things. Babies are so easy.

I've been icing my back (mmm, icing) and taking ibuprofen all day, and it feels a bit better. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be fine, because tomorrow morning Delphine has her four-year-old annual checkup and I don't fancy limping down there with her and Cordelia in tow. Still and all, I'll manage one way or another. And now Miss Cordelia is awake, so I have to go retrieve her.

[Posted at 15:44 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 09 May 2007

So, in an attempt to fix Katherine's bug, I've managed to move all the entries to a couple of days ago. I moved back the ones that were in my Bloglines cache, but I don't have the correct dates for prior ones, so I'm kind of hosed until I look in my backups. Unless any of you happen to have them in your caches, of course...

Also, yargh.

[Posted at 17:55 by Blake Winton] link
Almost Done! Really!

I have so much to blog about and not coincidentally no time to blog, but I am going to try and squeeze in a couple of things before Cordelia wakes up and we have to go pick up Delphine and take her to her hair appointment. Which really should be happening RIGHT NOW.

Anyway, the reno is done and yes I will post pictures. Well, almost done; we are missing a light fixture — we are reusing an original fixture and it is at the shop being refitted with modern, I don't know, bits and pieces — and we need faceplates on the outlets in the kitchen now that the tile is done. And a deck, we need a deck, although we might not be able to afford one. Otherwise it's done, though!

I'm really happy with how the kitchen looks; I think we really captured the feel of the fifties while still having a nice modern kitchen. I am especially pleased with how content the sink looks nestled on the retro Formica countertop.

Now all we need to do is unpack the kitchen! In order to make Delphine's birthday cake today I had to buy baking powder, flour, food colouring, sprinkles, and cake pans! All because I haven't managed to unpack anything yet.

[Posted at 17:53 by Amy Brown] link

I mentioned in the previous entry that I was missing Python's List Comprehensions. Well, I've gotten a little closer to having them. For some reason, LispMe doesn't come with a zip method, and you can only get map by importing a "Standard Library" memo. So, I had to write my own version of zip, and here it is, for anyone else who might find it useful.

(define (zip s1 s2)
  (if (or (null? s1) (null? s2)) '()
    (cons (list (car s1) (car s2))
      (z (cdr s1) (cdr s2)))))

Along with my halfway function, redefined to be (define (halfway x) (/ (+ (car x) (cadr x)) 2)), I can now write (map halfway (zip current-point next-point)) to get the point halfway between where I am, and where I am going to.

I also came to another realization. I was planning on defining a current-point, and using set! to update it to the new halfway point, but when I think about it, I don't really care what the current point is at any time other than processing, so there's no particular need to set it, and instead I should just pass it around as a parameter, making my iter function (and I just made up the name "iter function", based on the <a href= ""

sqrt-iter function in "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs") look something like this:

(define (triangle-iter start num-iters)
  (if (positive? num-iters)
    (begin (draw-point start)
      (map halfway (zip current-point next-point))
      (- num-iters 1)))))

Does that look appropriately Scheme-ish, do you think?

[Posted at 17:29 by Blake Winton] link
Starting Scheme.

(Posted to the list) Hello.

Let me start with a brief introduction. My name is Blake Winton, and I’ve owned a PalmPilot since back when they were called PalmPilots and made by USRobotics. I’ve been programming for them for years, mostly in C and C++, with brief excursions into Lua, Python, and Forth. My day job consists mainly of Java (J2EE), with some Python when I get the chance, and some JavaScript when I shouldn’t be using Python. On my off hours, I read a lot about other languages (recently Objective C, OCaml, and Ruby). Now I want to learn Scheme, and thought that LispMe would be a good way to do it. I’m finding some things are tripping me up, mainly due to my attempts to transfer my knowledge from other areas into LispMe. (One piece I miss in particular are something like Python’s List Comprehensions, which I believe they sole from Haskell.)

So, I’m going through SICP, but while I’m doing that, I thought I would try to do a "Real World" (tm) task, and write a program that drew the Serpinsky Triangle, using an iterative, random, approach, (Details available upon request,) and I’ve run into some small questions about best practices, or basically how to do some simple things. In return for this help, I’ll create a sort of Tutorial document for LispMe that will be able to help other people get up to speed. (If such a document already exists, please, someone, point me to it!)

So, here’s what I’ve got so far. It doesn’t work at all, but it’s starting to take shape.

; Triangle
(define points
  #((80,10) (10,150) (150,150)))

(define (next-point p) (
  (vector-ref points
    (random (vector-length points)))

(define current-point '(80 80) )
(define (halfway a b) (/ (+ a b) 2))

And we’re done. Any comments on it, from spacing to indentation to whether I should use a vector or a list for the points themselves, would be greatly appreciated. If it matters, I plan on extending the point to include red, green, and blue data as well, possibly with accessors, looking something like this:

(define current-point '(80 80 255 0 0))
(define (x pt) (car pt))
(define (y pt) (cadr pt))
(define (r pt) (caddr pt))
(define (g pt) (cadddr pt))
(define (b pt) (caddddr pt))

Oh, and I suspect I’ll be blogging my progress at (Nothing exists there at the moment, though. Give it time.)


[Posted at 17:28 by Blake Winton] link
Installing DrProject.

Just because that would be too easy by itself, I'm going to follow the instructions for Cygwin, and we'll see what happens.

Okay, it's going fairly well so far...
And then I get to step 3:

Download, compile, and install sqlite from sources. Use version 3.3.5.
To compile it, I use "./configure", "make", "make install", but that gives me the following error:
$ make install
tclsh ./tclinstaller.tcl 3.3
can't read "env(DESTDIR)": no such variable
    while executing
"set LIBDIR $env(DESTDIR)[lindex $auto_path 0]"
    (file "./tclinstaller.tcl" line 10)
make: *** [tcl_install] Error 1

This page tells me to remove each occurance of "$(DESTDIR)" from Makefile, so I did, and it still didn't work, so I tried commenting out "HAVE_TCL = 1" and then it all seemed to work just fine.

Until I got to the line:

chmod +x /lib/python2.4/site-packages/pysqlite-2.2.2-py2.4-cygwin-1.5.19-i686.egg/pysqlite2/_pysqlite.dll
which failed, but it was easy enough to change it to:
chmod +x /lib/python2.4/site-packages/pysqlite-2.2.2-py2.4-cygwin-1.5.19-i686.egg/pysqlite2/_sqlite.dll
which worked.


drproject-server --debug --port 8080 --auto-reload --create=/tmp/drproject
gave me the error:
drproject-server: error: --create option does not take a value
So I tried
drproject-server --debug --port 8080 --auto-reload --create
which said:
drproject-server: error: incorrect number of arguments
So I finally tried
drproject-server --debug --port 8080 --auto-reload --create /tmp/drproject
and it seemed good.

Finally, I ran

drproject-server --debug --port 8080 --auto-reload /tmp/drproject
And it was good...

So I created a script called "drproject-server-profile", to profile it, containing the following lines

# EASY-INSTALL-ENTRY-SCRIPT: 'DrProject==1.0dev-r2084','console_scripts','drproject-server'
__requires__ = 'DrProject==1.0dev-r2084'
import sys
from pkg_resources import load_entry_point

import profile"sys.exit(load_entry_point('DrProject==1.0dev-r2084', 'console_scripts', 'drproject-server')())", 'profile.tmp')
and here is the data!

[Posted at 17:28 by Blake Winton] link
DemoCamp 5!

I took a few notes at DemoCamp 5 last night, and thought I'ld throw them up on the web, in case anyone found them useful.

First, some notes on giving a good demo.
In no particular order:

  • Set your screensaver's timeout to something long, so that you aren't continually hitting the spacebar/moving the mouse.
  • Repeat the questions, so that people in the back can hear what was being asked.
  • Log on before connecting the video. I forget why, other than it looked a little more professional, perhaps. Maybe someone forgot their password, or mistyped their username.
  • Have someone type for you, so that you can concentrate on what you're saying, instead of trying to come up with fake data.
  • When the demo's run out of time, don't try to fit in just one more thing... Unless you have someone who can continue typing while you're answering questions. ;)

The next thing that struck me as sort of odd was that all the presentations were web-based. Isn't anyone working on a regular desktop program anymore?

Finally, I also had some specific comments for BlogMatrix, which I posted as a comment on David Janes' blog. (I've chatted with David over email a while ago, so I was paying particular attention to his demo.)

In other DemoCamp news, I got a shout-out from Greg Wilson, which was very gratifying, but I'm afraid I might have given him slightly the wrong impression. I suppose I do think that educators have a responsiblity to prepare students for the real world, but I don't think that it's the University-level educators who have that responsibility. I think that programming (by which I really mean logical thinking, but programming is one of the best ways I know of to teach it, since the results are very clearly right or wrong) should be one of the mandatory courses in high school. By the time you get to University, you should be learning stuff like Lisp/Scheme, or ML, or concurrency, or finite state machines. Stuff that won't help you get a job, but will hopefully help you do your job better, if only by expanding your mind, and giving you new approaches to solving problems, or new insights into what might be causing the problems in the first place. I think that Institutions of Higher Learning should be about Higher Learning, and leave the more vocational stuff to vocational schools. This is somewhat ironic, since I went to Waterloo for the co-op experience, one of the most vocational schools and programs out there.

It could be that I'm looking at this all wrong, and that universities are there to prepare you for a job, and then, once you're out in the Real World, you go to places like PyGTA, or DemoCamp, or even just watch some videos and join a mailing list about Scheme to do your real learning. Or maybe I just didn't follow the academic path far enough. When I left, I was really glad to get the hell out of there, but now that I've been in the workforce for a few years... Wait, 7 years? How did that happen? Anyways, now that I've been in the workforce, I'm thinking that I would like to go back and try to get my Masters, or even my PhD in Computer Science. At U of T, this time, since I far prefer living in Toronto to living in Waterloo.

[Posted at 17:28 by Blake Winton] link

It's 06/06/06, so I felt that I should really post something, but I don't have much to say, and I'm going to MEC for a Lunch-And-Learn, so this is going to be a really short entry.

[Posted at 17:28 by Blake Winton] link
Well, that took a while.

As I mentioned previously, I'm going to head up to Balm Beach sometime in late July. This sort of worried me, since up until now, all my biking was commuting (8 km one way, 12 km the other), or going on slightly longer group rides (21 km, but only 13.6 km/h). None of these tiny rides would prepare me for a 135 km trek up to Balm Beach.

So I decided to go on one of the PWA Bike Rally training rides. Specifically, the one this morning, heading up to Musselman Lake. It ended up being almost 94 km for me, instead of the 87 km they claim it will be, but I figure most of that is my walking my bike onto and off of the TTC. Even counting those slow kilometers, though, I still managed to average 23.2 km/h, which is really quite respectible, I feel, for my first time out. And yeah, it totally wasn't a problem. I mean, I'm quite tired now, but I'm still up and walking around, and I think I could even have biked home, if I had to. Much easier to pay my $2.10 to the TTC, and let them carry me, though.

What else... I met a bunch of really friendly people, and rode in a group of two or three most of the way there and most of the way back. I've heard that it's quite different to ride alone, and I expect I'll get the chance to find out (unless someone wants to ride up north with me... ;) Oh, yeah, and it took me five hours of wall time to ride the 94 km, but only 4 hours of riding time. I wonder why the huge difference, since I didn't stop for an hour at the midpoint. Ah well, one of cyclings unexplained mysteries, I presume.

[Posted at 17:28 by Blake Winton] link
The Bike Week Group Commute

Well, that was kind of fun, but the TTC strike, instead of being the huge boon that I had hoped it would be, turned out to result in millions of cars backing their way up Yonge Street, almost all the way to Lawrence. Since we were all in a group, we couldn't (or didn't want to) filter past them on the right, so instead of half an hour, it ended up taking us 45 minutes to get from Lawrence to Bloor, by which point all the other commuters had left. By the time we got to the pancake breakfast, the line was far too long for me, and so I just went straight to work. (I should probably mention that this happened to me last time, and so I had already packed a container of Cheerios and powdered milk which I ate when I got to the office.)

An idea for next time might be to head down one of the side streets, maybe even one with a bike lane? That way it would both be a faster ride, and would show people how they might get down to work on their bikes when they didn't have police blocking traffic for them. (I wouldn't commute down Yonge street every day, so it's not really a great introduction to bike commuting in the city.)

Apart from those minor problems, it was good to meet Darren, who had twice as many people show up for his unofficial commute as I did, (two, counting himself, as opposed to one, counting myself, ;) and I got interviewed for a video of some sort. I'm afraid I didn't come off that well. I seemed to be repeating myself, and stammering a lot, but I hope whomever it was got some useful footage out of me.

In other news, ouch!

[Posted at 17:28 by Blake Winton] link

Darren has a spectacular idea for people who don't work downtown, but still want to be part of the Bike Week Group Commute. So in a similar vein, I'ld love to be part of a Pre-Group Commute from Yonge and Davisville up to Yonge and Lawrence. I plan on leaving at about 7:00 to make it an easy ride to Yonge and Lawrence by 7:30. The route will be over to Duplex, and then up to Roehampton (just North of Eglinton), and then up Yonge to Lawrence.

I'll be wearing an orange jacket and a golden helmet, and the back of my bike will have a black pannier. Hope to see you there!

Update: If this weather holds up, I'll skip the orange jacket and just go with a black "" t-shirt instead.

[Posted at 17:28 by Blake Winton] link
Toys for Babies

There will come a day, probably when your baby is around five or six months, that she will no longer be amused by brightly coloured or pastel coloured, hard or squishy baby toys. No matter how novel they are, your baby will somehow be able to detect that they are intended for her, and as such she will turn her little baby nose up at them, especially when you particularly want her to be quietly absorbed in something, like when you're at a restaurant or on a plane.

It is at those times that you will have to resort to baby toys that aren't. Fortunately there are plenty of them, and anyone who has had a baby for a while has a few tricks up their sleeve.

In Your Bag

Keys, of course, are classic. They jingle, there are lots of different and interesting textures, they are cold and hard on itchy teething gums, and it doesn't matter if you slobber all over them. Provided you clean them off before you give them to the baby.

Credit cards (or perhaps more sensibly, loyalty cards or something else you can easily replace) are nice too. They're a good size and weight to hold on to, and they have those interesting embossed letters on them.

Water bottles -- for some reason babies love water bottles. Both Cordelia and Delphine played with them for hours! Well, minutes, which are like hours in baby years.

In Your Kitchen

The kitchen is packed with interesting things to chew on. Wooden spoons are great -- you hardly ever see baby toys made of wood, so it's probably a new and exciting texture for your baby. Teaspoons are nice, too -- smooth and hard and shiny. Delphine really liked a silicone spatula, and Cordelia amused herself for half-an-hour the other day with a bright red silicone basting brush. It must have felt so interesting in her mouth, all those little soft silicone bristles.

Measuring cups and small bowls are fun too, especially when you drop them on the floor and they make a spectacular rang-tang-tanging noise. (Unless you have a baby who startles easily, in which case she will probably scare herself and cry and cry.)

I had a surprise hit the other day with one of those mesh bags you wash your bras in -- Cordelia sucked it, she chewed it, she stuffed it in her mouth and pulled it out again (it was like a magic trick), she found the label and chewed on that. No end of amusement!

In Your Living Room

Okay, there's not much in here -- you don't want your kid playing with your CDs or chewing your books. But there is one thing that every baby covets: the remote control. And don't try and buy one of those brightly coloured fake-o toy remotes, either, your kid is too smart for that. She wants the real thing! The only hope is to find an old remote that doesn't work any more, take out the batteries and make sure none of the bits are going to come off, and let her have it.

In Your Bedroom

Hairbrushes and combs keep Cordelia amused while I change her diaper, and sometimes when I'm desperate I give her a lotion bottle for a few moments (after checking that the lid is secure.)

Fabric is fun for babies; I have had success with a lovely pair of brightly printed silk boxer shorts (sorry Blake). Silk is especially good for a baby who is just beginning to grip, because it is incredibly light and easy to get a grip on. Cordelia seems to enjoy the texture of a wet or dry facecloth.

The bottom line is, don't feel that you have to limit your baby to baby toys. You can give her any old thing provided it's reasonably clean, and that it's not going to break up into chokeable or sharp pieces. Use your common sense, and you and your baby will be quietly amused for, well, minutes.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link

Put some frozen blueberries in a bowl. (I like Europe's Best if you can get them.) Pour in just enough whipping cream to almost cover the berries. Wait a few seconds and the berries will freeze the cream -- voila, quick frosty goodness that's almost good for you!

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link

This is the world's best chocolate cake recipe -- it's really easy, it always comes out moist and rich and delicious, and best of all it calls for cocoa powder, which I always have in the house, not unsweetened chocolate, which I never have. Use the leftover buttermilk to make pancakes.

Cocoa Fudge Cake
from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1969 Edition

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups buttermilk
½ cup shortening
2 eggs (1/3 to ½ cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13x9x2 inches, or 2 round layer pans, 8 or 9x1½ inches.

Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Blend ½ minute on low speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).

Bake oblong 35 to 40 minutes, layers 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool.

If desired (!), frost cake.

Cocoa Butter Frosting
from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1969 Edition

Here's a frosting recipe I've used, with similarly excellent results.

1/3 cup soft butter
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
About 2 tablespoons milk

Mix thoroughly butter and cocoa. Blend in sugar. Stir in vanilla and milk; beat until frosting is smooth and of spreading consistency.

Fills and frosts two 8- or 9-inch layers or frosts a 13x9 inch cake.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link

Why is it that we have three thousand different pens and pencils of varying styles and manufacturers in this house, but only two good ones? One of which is at all times attached to last week's cryptic crossword?

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
Urbane and Mellow

One of the things -- one of the many things -- I love about this condo is that it's right on a major street, so when I open the windows the sounds of the city come into my living room. Traffic, sirens, the "beep, beep, beep" of a truck backing up, people shouting to their friends... crazy people yelling, the odd car crash. To most people, I guess, this doesn't sound so hot, but I like the feeling of being in the middle of something without having to actually leave the house.

Today a lone saxophonist plays on the corner outside Starbucks, adding an urbane, mellow touch to the sunny afternoon soundscape.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link

It's not all puppies and roses with Delphine. She's testing us all the time lately, on matters both trivial and not. This morning we wanted her to be quiet so she wouldn't wake up Cordelia, and instead she screamed "I don't want to be quiet!" Cordelia woke up, I got really mad at Delphine. So I pinched her.

I don't want to admit that, because some people think I'm such a great mother, but I have to be honest. There are people who read this blog who have crazy kids (like mine), who have trouble handling their anger, who have made parenting mistakes, and to sit here and act like Delphine is always good and I am always cool and perfect would be a disservice to them and to the whole concept of talking about parenting.

I wasn't cool — I was really really angry because it was 5:30 in the morning and I wanted Cordelia to stay asleep and Delphine picked that stupid time to see if we were serious about the "be quiet" thing.

I didn't pinch her all that hard, but I wanted to. This isn't the first time I have wanted to hurt her because I was angry, but it's the first time I ever did it. I hope it's the last. I have a horrible temper and Delphine is trying it more and more lately. Hopefully this testing phase will pass quickly, but of course there will be other irritating phases in the future. As is always the case on all those parenting shows, the problem that needs to be fixed is me.

Anyway, now Delphine is happily reading books to her Daddy, none the worse for her experience. I just hope I can keep the ratio of good parenting to appalling mistakes high enough that she is always resilient enough to bounce back so easily from my bad behaviour.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
Blake said I should post something to the weblog, so I direct your attention to this Government of Canada site about car seats, specifically the answer to question number nine, "Are there other concerns in the use of a infant car seat outside a vehicle?"
Two incidents have been reported where infants in infant car seats were left unattended on hot stoves, resulting in one death and one infant suffering serious burns.
[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link

One the way home from daycare I stopped off at the LCBO to buy beer because it was just that hot.

"Erik likes this," said Delphine as we walked through the store. "Erik likes these", she said, as we walked into the beer section.

"Mummy likes these too, and Auntie Morgan," I said.

"No! Just Erik. What is this called?"

"It's called beer."

"Oh. I don't drink beer. I'm too little."

"That's right."

"When I am older I will drink beer. But not now. I am still young."

It's good to have something to look forward to.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
Conversations with Delphine, Part 6

She doesn't say such curious things any more, because her language skills are better, but she's still pretty amusing.

Today I went to pick her up from daycare, and asked if she wanted to wear her sweater home. She said "I would rather not wear my sweater." We don't talk down to her or modulate our vocabulary or grammar, so she comes out with these very grown-up-sounding words and constructs. Maybe they're only funny if you can hear them coming out of a three-year-old.

On the way home we walked past another mother with a baby, and Delphine said, loudly and in a scandalized tone, "The baby has no shoes on!" Fortunately the other mother just laughed.

After supper Blake arrived home, having biked. It's warm today so he was pretty sweaty. Delphine said "You're wet like water, Daddy! We could swim in you!"

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
Birth Story

The birth story of Rosalind Yates Reed is great. It was a natural birth, and for a while there it sounds like it was a real pain in the ass, dragging on and on. But the point is that they got through it by trying a whole lot of different things, and they didn't go for any of the standard hospital interventions.

I'm having trouble expressing why this story made such an impression on me. I guess it's because the labour was long and hard, but they stuck to their principles and kept trying lots of different things to move the labour along. So often I get the message that you can only have a natural birth if your labour is easy and progresses well.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
More Sleeping

You may be wondering how Cordelia's sleeping situation is working out. Probably not, but I want to write this down because it's one of those things that parents forget, like the pain of labour.

If you recall, last I posted Cordelia's crib was in our bedroom, and she wasn't sleeping very well at night. We had it like that for a while because we were going to go on vacation and didn't see the point in trying to fix anything until we got back.

When we were on vacation, Cordelia slept in another room and Delphine slept in our room. Cordelia took good naps, two a day, and slept in her own bed from around six in the evening until three in the morning. When she woke up at three, I brought her into our bed because I didn't want her crying to bother my parents. Needless to say we weren't well-rested on our holiday.

When we got back, we recreated the situation with Delphine in our room and Cordelia in another room -- Delphine's room, actually -- because that worked very well. Delphine sleeps like a log so we don't wake her up when we come to bed, whereas Cordelia is a delicate flower when it comes to sleep.

So far that has been working perfectly. I put Cordelia down at around 5:45 -- the routine is diaper, pyjamas, brush teeth, nurse (usually to sleep but sometimes she doesn't fall asleep), soother, bed -- I close the door and either she sleeps or she cries and then sleeps. She doesn't usually cry for more than five minutes, but you can tell we're second-time parents because we don't even time it any more.

She doesn't seem to wake up overnight, or if she does it's for one or two cries, then back to sleep again. She wakes up at around 5:45 or 6:00 in the morning.

She has two naps, at around 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. The routine for them is diaper, nurse, soother, bed, and again sometimes I put her down still awake. Sometimes she cries, sometimes she doesn't, and she usually sleeps for between forty-five minutes (bad) and two hours (good).

So chalk up another victory for Weissbluth. The only remaining challenge is figuring out how to get both girls sleeping in the same room, so we can have our bedroom back.

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link

Cordelia is seven and a half months, and she is...

  • Sleeping in her own bed all night.
  • Eating vegetables, fruit, cereals, milk products, and some meat.
  • Chewing! So I can give her little pieces of toast and stuff and she doesn't gag. Hooray! Table food!
  • Pulling herself up to standing (and then falling over)...
  • ...but not crawling properly.
  • Although she does get around pretty well doing the worm.
  • Still really charming and smiley, but...
  • ...showing some separation anxiety. Whenever a stranger stops to talk to her she gets this slightly worried (but friendly) expression and looks at me to make sure everything is okay.
  • 19 pounds -- still large for her age, but well-proportioned.
  • Muscular and strong.
[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
People Food

Since I started Cordelia on "solid" food at six months, (instead of four as I did with Delphine) it seems like she's graduated from starter mush to real, chewable food really quickly.

Some time in the last couple of weeks she has learned to chew, and today for supper she had pasta, peas and canned salmon -- the same thing Delphine and I had for lunch yesterday. People food - cool!

[Posted at 17:28 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 03 May 2007

Please leave a comment to let me know if you see an image on the right there:


[Posted at 11:46 by Blake Winton] link