Archive for December, 2015

December 31, 2015

A New Me in the New Year

I’ve not been happy with my weight in a long time. I was at my peek about four or five years ago before we started our family. Surprisingly, pregnancy has been good to my figure. It’s the side benefit to pregnancy migraines which leave you too nauseous to eat, I guess. In the in between times my weight has started to creep back up again. Christmas Eve I got on the scale again and was so sad at how quickly it was coming back.

So I’m making a change.

I decided to start watching what I eat. I downloaded the LoseIt app for my phone. On Christmas Eve. The day after making cinnamon rolls for the first time in five years, and the evening after baking cookies with Nicole. It was nearly impossible to stick to my calorie cap on Christmas. I felt impossibly hungry and cranky all day, and still ended up over by about 500 calories! Since then I’ve been better able to stick close to my calorie cap, and even been able to eat a few Cinnamon rolls.

The biggest discovery I’ve found with a calorie counter is that I’m incredibly bad at guessing which foods are “good”. Often the snack I’d reach for when trying to be good was worse than the sweet treat I actually wanted! A serving of pretzels can be over a 100 calories, whereas a candy cane is just 50. I was shocked I could still have my candies (or a cinnamon roll or even two on occasion!)

I also really like the gamification aspect the usage of a mobile app brings. I have a ton of fun adding and subtracting foods to my daily log, planning out my day and making sure I have enough wiggle room to satisfy my sweet tooth. It also gives me that little motivational push I need to hold off when hunger pangs strike an hour or so before meal time.

The last time I (intentionally) lost a bit of weight it was through exercise, not diet. I’ve never been one for the stationary bike or tread mill, but I can (or at least could) do an hour on the elliptical easy. Domingo and I had been considering purchasing an elliptical for the home for a while. My unhappiness in my weight was the final motivational push we needed. I found a basic one on Amazon and made the purchase. It’s out of stock now, but will hopefully arrive soon.

I’m six days in on this journey to a new me. Accounting for normal weight fluctuations, it appears that I may have already loss a lb and a half. LoseIt predicts I’ll reach my goal by summer. Here’s hoping!


I am so grateful I decided to attack that Christmas to-do list early. I kept up the momentum from Monday, and completed the Cinnamon rolls, and that hand print craft project before the girls had off from School, which meant I could go to bed early and get plenty of rest. Or at least that was the theory. You know what they say about the difference between theory and practice: in theory there is no difference, in practice there always is. As long as the kids are small, getting as much done early as possible will be a necessity.

But what we’re lacking in sleep, we’re making up for in good memories.

We did a Mommy, Daughter bake-a-thon! Nicole has been taking a cooking class at school, and was eager to help me with both the cinnamon rolls and the cookies. She brushed the melted butter on the rolls, sprinkled on the cinnamon sugar mixture, and cracked the eggs. She was my very eager little sous chef.

We visited Santa! The last two years Nicole has been a bit wary of the bearded guy in the red suit. She was excited to meet the big guy last year, up until the moment came to sit on his lap. Nicole was a mix of nervous and excited again this year, but this time it was the excitement that won out. She asked Santa for a “purple present” and a “blue present”. We never did get a smile out of Alexis, but she didn’t cry either. I think having Nicole near by was the only thing that kept the tears at bay.

We did Photos! Well, we tried at least, and we have funny out takes. Maybe taking our family photo after Christmas like last year will become our tradition.

Hope you all have a wonderful Holiday & Happy New Year!

I was rather impatient all day yesterday. I had been tracking my 3D printed ornament in the mail and was anxiously awaiting it’s arrival. When eight o’clock rolled around with still no mail I was climbing the walls. Stupid (much needed here in drought stricken California) rain storm delaying the mailman. The ornament arrived shortly after Nicole’s bed time. Who knew the United States Post Office worked so late?

printed ornament

Overall I am pleased with how it turned out. The sandstone gives it a nice frosted appearance. But there are a couple of issues I was hoping to fix for next year.

One of my issues with it is the color. The sandstone prints fairly light. Overall the ornament looks a bit monochromatic, what with the off-white house with snow covered roof on a light silver key. The brown door really stands out much more than I intended. I thought that might be the case and was already planning to scrap the snow on top and do a brown/slate colored roof to help even out the color differences. That’s an easy fix.

3d printed ornament close-up

The next issue is the date. The date didn’t appear engraved like it was supposed to, and half the five is missing! I believe this issue has to do with the way SketchUp handles 3D text. Even though the text was given a negative “extruded” height, the text component was still shown on the same surface as the key. “Exploding” the text separated each of the letter surfaces from the key surface and I was able to adjust the height accordingly. ShapeWay’s preview screen gives me hope that the new version will print correctly.

The last issue is the only issue I’m not sure how to address. The wreath is filled in. I’m totally dumbfounded as to why. The interior diameter is 2mm, which should be well within ShapeWays capabilities. ShapeWays was able to print even smaller crevasses, like the region above the center window pane. This one is going to take some investigating, and possibly expert help.

Edited to add: Problem solved, thanks to the helpful community at ShapeWays!

December 20, 2015

Ready for Saint Nick

Playing with angles

After finishing the Christmas cards just last Wednesday, I decided to power through the rest of my to-do list. I stayed up late finishing the rest of our (online) shopping, and have been carving out little blocks of time to wrap presents. For the first time in a long time I am actually d.o.n.e with our Christmas preparations well in advance of the actual day. Getting things done actually helped with my feeling of being burned out, which is a bit ironic given that when I’m feeling burnt out I don’t really want to do anything. I’m evening having fun picking up my camera again.

There’s still a few photos I want to take. I know, I know, I am hopeless. The highest priority photo for me is a family photo by the tree. Last year it was taken a few days after Christmas, and we can certainty do that again, but it’d be nice to have the presents in the background. I also want to do another round of Cookies by the tree. We did some by the white light tree this morning, but my camera settings weren’t quite right. Something tells me I’ll have two willing participants to retake those any time I choose. *grin*

I decided to push back the non-Christmas crafts & photos until the new year. After all, The girls footprints will likely be the same size in January as they are now. I say likely because a little miss is now in size 3 shoes.

Now I can sit back and relax in the evenings (or, more realistically, work on my start-up) and go to bed at a reasonable hour so I can actually enjoy the big day with my family. I may even have enough time bake a batch of Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls. I haven’t made them in years.

December 16, 2015

The Problem With Perfection

I am a recovering perfectionist. Scratch that, I am a perfectionist. I wish I was in recovery. On good days, my perfectionist tendencies manifest themselves in a hyper focused attention to detail. On bad days, it can be a debilitating impediment keeping me from getting anything done.

Christmas Decorations finally up as of two days ago. No lights this year, as I’m apparently too short even on a six foot later. We went shopping for one of those handy polls to help string lights, but all the local stores are sold out. Next year.

My previous holiday photo idea was a bit of a flop, requiring more equipment than I had, and more patience than can be expected of a toddler and baby. So this morning, rather than go with the perfectly good photo from Alexis’ birthday party, I had one last go at taking a Holiday photo. On December 16th. Two days after the end of Hanukkah, and 9 days before Christmas. It’s a good thing we print our Holiday cards at home, otherwise they’d be Martin Luther King Day cards.

I always over pack the holidays. I can’t help it, I love this time of year. Add a little miss’ birthday, and it’s been a bit overwhelming.

I wanted to do a cake smash, finish Alexis’ baby book with the *perfect* final 12 month photo, then there’s the teddy bear shot I wanted for the teddy bear shelf. All by the first week of December. Oh, and I spent some time on pinterest the other day and now I’m longing for a 3d foot print and hand print for the girls, which reminds me of the handprint craft project I wanted to complete by the 24th. Christmas shopping, Christmas wrapping, Christmas decorating.

I’m exhausted. And I’m burned out. It’s hard to enjoy the holidays when feeling this way.

I’m doing my best to accept things as they come. I don’t love the final baby book photo, but it’s good enough. Mostly. It’s the best I’m going to get. She’s out grown the onesie I was using, so I don’t have much of a chance to redo it. The cake smash was also a bit of a dud. Alexis isn’t really into cakes, and doesn’t like the feel of the frosting. She licked her fingers a couple of times and was then happy to move on to her toys. I wasn’t about to make her eat a cake she didn’t want for the sake of a photo, but I was a little bummed at how they turned out.

I wish I could say that I’m ok with just declaring things done. I am annoyed I couldn’t do a better job with my photography. I told Domingo that I was going to try and take another family Holiday photo as we were printing out our cards. He looked at me a bit bewildered and asked why. Just to have it, of course.

I really should have made a blog tag for “Sarah’s Neuroses.”

December 11, 2015

3D Ornament Design Complete

I was going to give up on my 3D printed ornament idea. I told myself the technology just wasn’t where I needed it to be, and I just didn’t have enough practice designing 3D Ornaments. The big problem, however, was that I just wasn’t loving my design. Then I found my second wind.

I couldn’t sleep Monday night. I kept picturing the ornament in my mind’s eye. On Tuesday I started over almost from scratch. On Wednesday, when almost finished, I noticed I had some sort of invisible mistake. The design looked fine to me in SketchUp, but when I exported the design so it could be printed wreath on the door was distorted and half missing. I started over for the second time. This week I was spending every spare moment with the 3D designing software. Today, at 12:22 am I submitted my design to Shapeways and ordered a print. Estimated arrival: December 22nd-24th. I got it in by the skin of my teeth.

My Design

Each redesign was faster than the previous iterations. I have a pretty good handle on rounded edges now, whereas they left me pretty dumbfounded initially. I also like this design much more than my first pass.

The ornament measures 3″ x 1.3″. The teeth of the key are 2.5mm thick, whereas the bow is about 5.5mm thick at it’s thickest point. For a 3D ornament it’s not very 3D, but I like it. Truth be told I wish I could print the teeth a little thinner. For colored sandstone, the minimum with for an unsupported wall is 3mm and a supported wall is 2mm. Technically the teeth count as a supported wall since they’re connected to both the shaft and the shoulder. The shoulder, however, is very short in caparison to the shaft. It may well be a supported wall, but it doesn’t have much support, so I decided to split the difference.

If the 3D print holds up, I’ll design a key ornament for our old townhome as well. If not, well, it only cost me $12.34 to try. Maybe the technology will let me print a thinner unsupported wall next year.

December 8, 2015

An Even Smarter Home

When we moved into our home, Domingo and I had only loose plans to paint and re-carpet. We didn’t plan on having any work done to the house. We weren’t even planning on purchasing any appliances. That is, not until the day of our final walk through, two days before closing, when it became apparent that the previous owner had decided to keep the refrigerator after all. (It was never specified in the contract, we had only a gentlemen’s agreement that it would stay.) It was our dumb luck that the washer and drier died a month later. Then the HVAC system. Then the garage door opener.

In the past 6 months we’ve spent more than 10 times in home home repairs than in all five years we owned the town home, and we opted to forgo painting and carpeting for now. Home ownership can be expensive. At least we’re running out of the things to fail!

One of the issues we’ve been dealing with recently is the irrigation system. It’s not working anywhere near where it should be.

The biggest, but sadly not the only, issue with the irrigation system is the controller box. The old controller box was an analog system and such a jumble of lose wires that the box door could not be closed. Worse, touching the door would cause the controller would change modes. All the way open, the controller box showed no zones were running. Close it a little and the controller box showed zone 4 was running. A little more, and zone 6 appeared to be running but zone 4 was off. The zone wires were even crossed. The sprinklers in the right side of the front lawn would sometimes turn on when zones 2, 4 and 6 were activated. Sometimes, not all the time. We still weren’t sure which zone those sprinklers were supposed to be in.

Our irrigation system was simultaneously unreliable and wasting a tone of water. Given the state of California’s drought that’s a very bad thing.

Last Thursday we upgraded to a smart irrigation controller. The new controller is digital and connects to the internet. We program in how much water each zone needs when it’s hot and dry. The controller gets the weather report and adjusts accordingly. By my estimates it will have paid for itself in a year. Two, tops. Assuming no more pipes break. Have I mentioned home ownership is expensive?

December 5, 2015

Her Tree

The first two of our Christmas trees went up Thanksgiving night. With my parents staying in the playroom, we thought it best to wait for this weekend before putting the kid’s tree up.

So proud of tree

I’m so glad we decided to go the three tree route. Daycare’s been strongly encouraging independence lately, and she was so excited to get to decorate her tree all by herself. She picked the placement of all the ornaments herself, and put all but one on the tree herself. Cookie Monster ended up being a little heavier than the rest and with a shorter string, so she supervised Mommy’s placement of him.


She had 12 ornaments, which ended up being a fine amount. She could have kept going, but wasn’t upset that there were no more ornaments to put up.

As for the tree itself, well, we ended up purchasing it at half price and I can’t say it was worth much more than that. The construction of the tree is fine, it was the perfect height, but the light placement is very odd. It’s a pre-lit tree. Usually with pre-lit trees the light strand runs along each branch, and goes between branches near the “trunk” so the cord isn’t visible. For whatever reason the lights on this tree goes between branches towards at the tip of some of the branches. Not only is the cord visible, but it makes fluffing out the tree impossible because the tips of neighboring branches are practically tied together. It’s not a big deal. I was able to remove the cord from the branches and re-string it, but I really shouldn’t have to.


I’ve already promised to take her to the craft store tomorrow so we can make some ornaments for her tree. I definitely have a little mini me on my hands!

Alexis may be a bit young to help decorate the trees, but she sure does seem to enjoy them too!