The Possibility of a Blank Canvas (October Challenge Day 2)

October 2nd, 2011

Sunday is supposed to be the day of rest. But somehow, it’s one of our busiest days of the week. It’s always full of grocery shopping, farmers markets, laundry and cooking for the week. Inevitably, we think we’ll still manage to squeeze in something social or shopping or whatever. Today was no different, and here we are at the end of the day with time waning and a busy work week looming before us. Of course, my to-do list still has items on it, and I have no idea when they’ll happen – next Sunday, I guess? So, rather than dwelling on all the mundane things I did today, and the rest that I didn’t, I thought I’d share a bit about a fun and more creative project we took on last weekend.

Recently , Ryan has taken an interest in colors and coloring. So, we painted two 2′ by 4′ plywood boards with chalkboard paint. Tough, eh? Probably the easiest kid-oriented home improvement project ever undertaken.

They might not look like much. But really, these are canvases for HOURS of entertainment to come. $20 INCREDIBLY well spent.


Artists at work.

Early typographic training is underway!

Erase and repeat.

The artist in her element.

Plywood, a can of spray paint and some chalk. BRILLIANT.

And so, as we start our week and get caught up in the day-to-day melodrama of life and work, here’s to keeping our perspective fresh, creative and new – with eyes open to the possibility of blank canvases…


Lambtown 2011 (aka October Challenge: Day 1)

October 1st, 2011

Confession: I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon lately. I’ve been taking photos and thinking of interesting post topics, but haven’t managed to actually compose anything at all. I’d like to blame technology and the fact that my computer was so freaking old that posting to THL seemed to take AGES and I spent hours uploading and posting photos. I’d also like to blame life for being far too hectic and my kid who never sits still long enough for me to take her photo these days.

However – all excuses aside – I mostly just need a kick in the pants to get the ball rolling again. So here goes… [commence self-kicking]

Tonight I am pleased to announce the This Hartmann Life OCTOBER CHALLENGE: I hereby challenge myself to post to the blog every day this month. (Dan may have to be badgered encouraged  to post too, although he is thoroughly ambivalent about this endeavor). The goal is to give myself the kick I need to get the blog rolling again and my blogging mojo flowing. Here goes!

Day 1: Lambtown 2011

Some of our more devoted readers may recall that this time last year we discovered Northern California’s best kept agricultural fair secret: Lambtown USA. It’s the California sheep and wool festival and also includes the state alpaca judging contests. It’s an hour’s drive from Oakland and a million miles away in attitude. It’s got a small town Americana vibe and lots of friendly people and animals. There’s also a fiber festival with spinners, knitters, dyers and weavers demonstrating their crafts and selling fabulous wares.

This year, our good friends Liz and Judith came along and brought a couple of teenagers with them. I wasn’t sure that the teenagers would be as enthralled with the fiber fair vibe as I am, but they seemed to enjoy themselves well enough. Neither had ever been to an event like this before, so at least it will go down in the books as a first! Not so sure they’ll be itching to go again next year… we’ll see.

We checked out the barns, watched some sheep judging and learned about alpacas from a friendly rancher and his kids who were showing their alpacas as part of a 4-H project. Pretty cool, and interesting to boot!


What do you think? Best in Show?

Last year Ryan was enthralled with the animals. This year she thought they were cool, but really just wanted to push the stroller around the barns… I guess after all those visits to the zoo, this city girl is a seasoned veteran at 21 months!

Hello Gorgeous! Seriously, is this not the cutest livestock you've ever seen??? I wonder if Oakland has any anti-alpaca codes. Think how cute he'd be in the backyard!

There was an incredibly well-stocked baby animal petting area – probably the best ever. And this caught all of our attention for a while before lunch. How can you not be drawn to a miss-mash of piglets, chickens, geese, baby ducks, a baby cow, baby goats, bunnies, baby alpacas, AND a baby donkey? All in one enclosure. It was crazy. But fun. Very high cute quotient.

Enjoying the baby animal farm menagerie. Some serious observation underway. Even Bunny got in on the action!

And so, a great day was had by all. I even managed to squeeze in some fiber shopping (11 oz. Cormo roving! Hello winter woolies…) and ran into some folks from AVFKW’s Commuknitty nights. Fun all around.

And so the CHALLENGE is off to a good start. We’ve got quite a month ahead of us here at THL… stay tuned!



September 5th, 2011

Techincally, Labor Day signals the end of summer. But in our neck of the woods, it’s just the beginning! Indian summer is when the really warm and sunny weather kicks in. So, to mark the beginning/ending aspect of the day, we thought we’d head out to Emerald Glen Park in Dublin to hang out with our friends Megan and Andrew – and their son Matthew – to enjoy some summertime fun. Matthew and Ryan are about a week apart in age, so it was a afternoon full of toddler antics and adventures.

Here’s a recap of the afternoon’s highlights. Narration by Ryan:

This is Matthew. He’s my buddy. Handsome devil, eh?


Water squirted up really high! It was awesome.


I found this cool shovel, and tried to hit the water while it was in the air.


Sometimes we had to share the water spouts. We did pretty well until the Water Bullies came and splashed us. Mommy and Daddy told them off, and then we got to go back to having a blast.


This big rainbow sprayed water down! At first it scared me, but then I started running through it and it became my favorite water feature of the day.




Sopping wet, but loving it!


After we dried off, we played on the playground.


We pretended we were pirates crossing the bridge. Aye Matie!


After all that excitement, Mommy and Daddy took me out to dinner. I wore my bib like a bandit.

We had a great afternoon and are looking forward to more summer fun, now that fall is here! But, it reminds me that there are a few summertime exploits that still need to be blogged… coming soon!


Encountering a Legend

August 18th, 2011

Dan has often spoken fondly of his cousin, Eric, who lives in Seattle:

“Eric lives in Seattle.”

“Eric is a veterinarian.”

“Eric is an acupuncturist for animals and humans.”

“Eric has a hairless cat named Lizard Boy.”**

These are the stories I’ve heard about a bazillion times over the last decade since Dan and I got together. But, I had never met The Man himself. That is, until he and Jeremy swung through town a few weeks ago whilst on vacation here in California. We had a far-too-brief evening of stories and conversation and wine. A good time was had by all!

There you have it. Photographic proof of his visit and existence! (Sasquatch has nothin’ on this guy…)

Hopefully, it won’t be a bazillion more years until we see them again!


**I had to ask. And  yes, cuddling with a hairless cat is like snuggling up with a suede hot water bottle. True Story.

Time flying by…

August 16th, 2011

The summer has flown by here at THL! It’s been quite a whirlwind around these parts, and not because we’ve gone on any fabulous holidays or traveled to distant shores. Nope, we’ve spent most of our time nesting here at Chez Hartmann and getting ourselves used to my new professional gig.  I finally sat down tonight to post a 20th-month update and realized that I had completely ignored the 19th! Geez, what kind of blog parent am I?

So, without wanting to rewind back too far, here are a few pics showing what our girl’s been up to lately.

Lots of thinking and processing new concepts, particularly words. She’s pretty chatty – can’t imagine where she got that trait!

Taking care of Baby! And Bunny and Mousey and Moo and all the other fuzzy friends who hang around the house.

Obsessing about footwear. Seriously, this girl loves her shoes! (And mine, and Dan's...)

Practicing her mad rodeo skills. Uncle Adam gave her this gigantic stuffed dog last year. Yee-haw!

Giggling. Lots and lots of giggling. Giggles galore.

Reading books and identifying the pictures. One of her faves is "The Smartest Giant in Town" sent by Nicole from the UK. She also loves "Little Blue Truck" and pretty much anything involving Elmo.

So, as you can see, we’ve been pretty busy lately! We’ll get back to the blog now that summer’s coming to a close. Promise. I’ve already got the next few queued up! Stay tuned…


A 4th of Firsts

July 5th, 2011

Happy (belated) July 4th, everyone! It’s been quiet here at THL, but we’ve been keeping VERY busy. New job for me. Dan’s got lots of client work. And Ryan definitely keeps us on our toes. At 18 months, she’s a girl on the go. In fact, I dug around in the archives and reread last year’s Independence Day post. To quote that old billboard campaign – We’ve come a long way, Baby.

This July 4th, it was all about spending family time together and enjoying a few milestones. We thought we’d let Ryan share her latest adventures for herself!

My first balloon! I needed a bit of help from Daddy to get the hang of it.

But once I did, it was pretty much the most fun ever!

First haircut! Check out my new bangs!

My first corn on the cob! I love it. It's crazy fun.

My first 4th of July feast! Barbequed chicken, fruit salad, corn on the cob and salad with fresh cherry tomatoes. How's that for summer eating?

My first spray bottle! (I've been carrying it around for days. It's the coolest. High technology is totally overrated.)

So far, I only know how to spray myself...

My first patriotic inspiration...

... to save the world from alien attack!

We hope you all had fantastic July 4th holidays full of fun, sun and good times! (And we promise to start posting more regularly now that life seems to be settling down a bit.)


Happy Summer!

May 30th, 2011

It’s been quiet here at This Hartmann Life lately. Not because there hasn’t been anything going on, but because we’ve been so busy that blogging has taken a back seat to actually getting things done! We’ve overhauled the backyard (details forthcoming), and were able to enjoy some of the warmth and sunshine of the holiday weekend. We bought a brand-spanking-new kiddie pool and set up for an afternoon of fun. Here are a few snapshots of a lovely afternoon full of family and fun with the kiddo…


Testing the waters.

Splish splash!

Ryan ultimately decided that it was too cold to stay in the pool, so much of the afternoon was spent running around, exploring, splashing and throwing things into the water. It was windy out – hey, she’s no dummy!

Watching Daddy blow bubbles in the wind.

Ready to put out some fires!

Exploring the flowers in the garden. (Verbena bonariensis for those who are curious.)

Future Gatorade model, perhaps?

Who am I? I'm Ry-Ry!

We hope you had a fantastic weekend and managed to have some fun in the sun!


Easter Treasures and Family Fun!

April 24th, 2011

Our Easter morning started out rainy and gray, but at least we all slept in until 9:30 am! (A family record. Excellent holiday tradition, I think.) Needless to say, we didn’t make it to church for the Easter Egg hunt or the service. But we made do at home and had a fun time. Easter really is a great holiday for the kiddos…

We started with an egg hunt in the living room while still in our pajamas. It was loads of fun – definitely an activity with the toddler in mind.

Treasures everywhere!

Then we had breakfast, prepared food for the day’s feast (roasted potatoes, fruit salad and homemade strawberry ice cream. Yum.) Then we all got dressed an headed off to Aunt Pamela’s house for an Easter feast.

Adding dandelions to the basket.

Checking out the collection.

Loving Aunt Pamela’s decor – Ryan found a pint-sized friend (sort of).

Just having fun.

Enjoying the sun and the flowers.

Daddy and Ryan reading at the end of a long and fun day.

Reading the zoo magazine and planning our next adventure.

A great day was had by all, and we are looking forward to next year’s festivities. I think they’ll just keep getting better and better! If I can get the garden back in order, then I think a spring garden party will be just the thing… anyone want to help weed or mend the fence???

Spring is definitely here!


16 Months! (well, almost)

April 3rd, 2011

Ryan here! It’s been a while since I checked in, so I thought I’d share some of the cool stuff I’ve been up to lately. Can you believe I’m 16 months old already?! Man, before you know it, I’ll be asking to borrow the car keys… I’ve just mastered the word “car”, so I’m well on my way.

Actually, there are a bunch of words I’ve started using lately. It’s making my parents’ lives much easier. I do what I can. So far, I’m pretty good with:

  • All done!
  • No
  • Car
  • Daddy/Dada
  • Mommy/Mama
  • Emily (more like, Eh-eee, but I’m consistent)
  • Duck
  • Hi
  • Bye

There are more, but that gives you a good sense of where I am language-wise. I must say, I am particularly pleased with my animal sounds. We go to the zoo all the time and it’s pretty much my favorite place to go (blogged here and here, with video!). I’m adding to my animal repertoire all the time, but the current list stands at the following: Baaa (sheeps, goats too), Woof (dogs), Quack (ducks, also geese), Cluck (chickens), and Ooo-Ooo (chimpanzees, monkeys in general). I also really like turtles and giraffes, but they don’t really make noises that I can imitate. Oh and bunnies, too!

So, anyway. Here are some fun cool photos of some of my latest adventures.

Spring flowers are crazy cool! And since Mommy and Daddy haven't mowed in about a zillion years everything is tall and jungle-like. Fun!


I love sitting on Mommy's lap when we play and read books.


I like crayons a lot. Mostly I just eat them, but sometimes I make some pretty pictures too!


I love to play with my baby doll. We call her "Baby" and I like to cover her with a blanket and feed her with a bottle.


Ikea is totally fun. I hope Mommy and Daddy buy some crazy plastic furniture for my room someday!


Sometimes I play so hard that I get totally worn out - and then, what else is there to do, but nap? Sometimes Daddy joins me on weekend afternoons.


This is my buddy Marco. We like to go out for pizza.


I can be pretty silly. My teachers at daycare say that I'm kind of a goofball and like to have fun playing.


I really like to eat, and look forward to my meals. I'll pretty much eat everything, but I like to keep my parents guessing. Sometimes I'll eat the green stuff. Other times, it's chicken or blueberries and string cheese only. I like to keep them on their toes.


I love to watch the big kids, especially the older girls. This is Abby, she's the daughter of Mommy's college roommate, Beckah. She had the coolest sparkles on her shirt and played with me at the zoo. She's totally cool.

Oh, and do you like my hair? I like to change it up, but I usually request “ponies” in the mornings these days. A girl can’t leave the house without hair accessories!

See you soon!



Ode to Wild Spring – Bunnies, Monkeys and Vultures! (Oh my.)

March 29th, 2011

As described previously, the weather around here has been lousy for the last few weeks. But it looks like spring is finally coming our way. Even the animals at the zoo were excited. (Yes, we could tell.) In honor of SPRING FEVER we bring you installment number two of our Ode to Wild Spring… enjoy!

After visiting the goats, we headed out to see a bunch of our other favorite animals. It seems that everyone was happy for the rain to have stopped. It certainly made Ryan happy. Our first stop was the Bunnies. You see, bunnies are a big deal in our household. Ryan sleeps with a stuffed bunny (named “Bunny” – we’re original like that) every night and uses sign language to ask for it. If Bunny has gone missing, then we stop everything and hunt for Bunny. We just cross our fingers that nothing dire ever happens to Bunny…

Usually the bunnies at the zoo are rather sedentary, or they are cowering from the crowds. But on Sunday, they were out in force. Hopping, sniffing, and generally looking rather cute. Ryan certainly thought so.

From there, we walked up the hill a bit to see the Squirrel Monkeys. These cuties are Dan’s favorites and we spent a good long while watching them play and swing through the trees. Ryan loves them. Her newest animal sound is the monkey sound.

We were having a great time, just chilling with the monkeys and such, when we were reminded just how wild those crazy zoo creatures are. I think being cooped up inside for weeks on end got on everyone’s nerves. Right next to the cutie-pie monkeys we heard the most alarming noises coming from the chimpanzees’ area. It seems that Chimp A (we’ll call him Jim) stole the warm blanket from Chimp B (we’ll call him Harvey) and Chimp C (we’ll call her Bernadette) had to add her two cents’ worth to the argument. Here’s what it all looked like.

Needless to say, Ryan was a bit disturbed by this. We promptly left and headed down to check out the tortoises. It’s much calmer in the tortoise zone. But more on that in the next post… Stay tuned!



While the squirrel monkeys played, the bunnies hopped and the chimps stole blankets… the vultures kept busy…

(Romance and whispering sweet nothings are clearly not high priorities for these guys.)