Sunday, January 31, 2010


Yeah, these just speak for themselves...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hodge podge post

So, here's a bunch of random pictures and stories that for whatever reason, haven't yet made it to the blog...

For those of you who haven't been to Hungary, all of the cities there set up these really neat Christmas markets in the town square (and all over the place in the capitol). I got to see several of them because I moved into a new area during the season and I visited a third to exchange companions for a day. Well, here in Chicago they have this every year, which is very much the same. So one evening I brought Kendra into the city and we walked to it with Grant after he was done with work.

It was small, but cute. My only disappointment was that not a single merchant there was from Hungary. I didn't have my hopes up too high since it's a "German" market, but still. It seemed like there were people there from every other country in Eastern Europe.

I've mentioned to several people how excited I am about a new discovery in my neck of the woods. I found a shopping center right off the highway (which I live right off of, too) with a Wal-mart (that is currently being remodeled into a Super Center!), Sam's Club with a gas station, Target, Kohl's and PetCo all in the same parking lot! That's like every single store I go to! And there are several other useful stops just down the road from it, it's awesome because not only is it a great concentration of shopping, since it's off the highway I can get to it in 15 minutes! AND since it's out of the city limits, sales taxes are significantly lower, so it's cheaper too! AND I'm even using less gas to get there because it's virtually all highway miles instead of all stop-and-go! It's win, win, win!

Well, the first time I ran into PetCo, I took my time to give my baby some free entertainment.

She seemed equally interested in the birds and the fish...actually, going to the pet store for amusement was a trick I picked up from my employer when I was a nanny. I took the youngest there many, many times. I wish I could take her to Pet World in my hometown...they have so much cool stuff in there! It's literally like a free zoo.

Moving along, though...Grant borrowed a 2nd flash from a coworker and took a few shots and here are a couple we never posted...

I love when we digitally capture something we see all the time, like that face right there. So cute!

Speaking of stuff we see all the time...she's pretty funny when she wakes up from a nap. That is, if she's noisy when she wakes up and we go and get her (I'm convinced that she often doesn't start crying until she's already been up for a very long time).

Check out that little lock of hair in the back sticking straight up!

We happened to have a busted phone laying around...they make great chew toys.

She carried it around in her mouth that whole evening for some reason. Funny girl.

And finally, have I mentioned lately how much my husband cracks me up? I walked into the kitchen one evening earlier this week to find this:

Apparently, there really is always room for Jell-O...

So much fun happening in our family!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family Photos

Our only request from Grant's mother for Christmas was a family photo. Well, after our attempts to do it at home turned into one big, fat (albeit really funny) FAIL, I convinced the Farns to boldly go where we haven't gone before: a portrait studio.

I was a little discouraged at first because we got a lot of shots like this:

But the photographer knew what she was doing, even with a squirming 10-month-old at the end of napless day (that's right, our session was at 4pm and she refused to go down for a nap beforehand, awesome). We didn't waste our time...

Now, I went in merely hoping I could convince Grant to get one family portrait and maybe two or three of Kendra...however I was the one who had to reign him in. "Yes, of course they're great shots...but how many of these do you actually want to bring home." The answer? In correct Farns terminology: "Approximately one point five buttloads." We came home with TONS of pictures! So far the only pictures we've had in our place was this Greg Olson print of Christ someone gave me when I was baptized and the awesome photo mosaic Grant made of a shot from our wedding that we had printed up on a poster. It feels all grown-up and stuff to actually have pictures up on the walls... Here's what we did in the living room:

And here's our hallway:

It's pretty cute, the door to Kendra's room is immediately opposite that family shot, so we walk by these photos many times a day getting her up from sleep, putting her down for sleep and changing her diaper. She totally lights up and gets excited every time she sees them. Maybe one of these days, I'll remember when Grant's home so that we can capture it on video...

And we have so many prints that not only do we have to stagger them around the house, we also will have to cycle them out to make sure they all get displayed!

And that's just the 10x13 ones we bought--if you have any interest in owning a shot of our family or Kendra, we can totally hook you UP!

Friday, January 22, 2010


One night a while back, I was having a bad night. A really bad night. So bad that I woke Grant up in the middle of it an announced in a very aggressive manner, "WE NEED A NEW BED!" Our full-sized Ikea hand-me-down just wasn't cutting it anymore.

I admitted afterward that our need wasn't as dire as I made it seem when I initially brought up the subject, but the Farns loves his little Ashoflower, so did what the Farns does best: he went to work researching! After a trip to the mattress store and MUCH deliberation, we made our choice and had it shipped to us. The box though large made it a little difficult to believe there was a dang queen-sized mattress in there...

We were all ready for it and had it set up very quickly once Grant got home. Here's our new bedroom!

It's 12" memory foam mattress, and it's pretty darn cozy. We are very satisfied customers! It came just in time because this week, I've been feeling so tired, that Grant came home to find us snuggled up in bed last night.

He took the opportunity to use his two favorite girls as subjects for some crafty camera work. I think the shots turned out really well, even if I do say so myself...
Yep, she's my buddy.
And the lamb is her buddy.

But, I always save my favorite for last...
I've said it before and I'll say it again, this Mommy gig totally rocks!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Catching up

Why does it feel like I absolutely never blog anymore?

Lately, Kendra has gained more confidence in her various forms of mobility. We have a small table by our desk here where we set our printer, and we've been rather surprised to find her under it several times.

The first time she started crying and we couldn't figure out where she was for a few moments, but then she figured out how to free herself and it's lost it's mystique, apparently.

I can't remember whether or not we reported on the blog that she cut her first top tooth about a month ago--we've been trying to get a picture of it, but so far the best we can get is this.

Yeah, she's hanging upside down, I didn't forget to edit the picture.

Also, someone might have had a birthday! We had a lot of fun celebrating Daddy's big 3-0, but since we had just spent a week getting generous portions of Christmas candy, we stuck his candles in some yummy sherbet instead of cake after dinner.

Happy Birthday!

It's no secret that Grant and I love a good homemade dance party. We're so stoked that the apple doesn't fall far from the trees...


It's always a big pile of fun here with the Farnsworths!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Instilling a love for books...

...though not necessarily reading them.

We've mentioned before on here that we've been making certain acquisitions for our children's library (Santa even helped us round out our smattering of Dr. Suess tales). I read to her pretty often, but we're just getting to the point that she'll actually sit in my lap and let me read her a story--as long as I only read the board books that are only one short sentence per page. Anything other than that, and I can read aloud in the same room as her while she crawls around, but don't expect her to be interested. Someday, right?

One recent quiet evening I realized it was a little too quiet (I can't believe how fast the age of quiet being a sign of trouble came!) and after a little investigation I found this:

That's right, she cleared out the entire shelf.

And gave each book an individual examination.

And then sat down in the pile of her library to reexamine a few of them...

It's a vast spread.

Just as I'm about to groan, she goes and gives me a face like this:

So I can't be that annoyed. For long.

I was worried that like with the one shelf of DVDs that she clears out as many times a day as I'm willing to put them back for her, that she'd be emptying this shelf all the time. I totally lucked out though, because it's been over 10 days now and this was the only time she's done it. So far.

Though I do look forward to the time I can start reading these to someone besides myself and they're something besides a fun toy to pull off the shelf...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I feel like I've been kind of a slacker lately with the blog. Although we've had quite a bit going on that's totally blog-worthy, things have been pretty bustling around here for so long that now that I've finally been able to cool things down a bit and have some more time, I've needed some of it for just plain old chillaxin.

But, I started thinking about how blog-lazy I've been so I pulled out the video camera to see what Kendra would do for us.

She did not disappoint.

Did you see that?!?

She's taken ONE step several times now, but this is the furthest she's gone ever. She'll be running circles around me before I know it!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Just because the Ashoflower loves the Farns...

With my spare minutes here and there over the past few weeks, I've been taking the time to get to know our video editing software a little better. I came up with this.

He has no idea I've been up to this.

Though he just had a birthday (to be recorded later here), I didn't know how long it would take me to make this and since I've been so busy it's been taken me several weeks to get a feel for what the program can do and what I can do with it. So this isn't any sort of belated Christmas or birthday present, it's for no reason at all. Just because.

And by the way, Farns. Thank you ever so much for loving me. You'll never know what it means to me.


Friday, January 1, 2010

A Perfect Present for the Farns

Kendra gave me an awesome present this year for Christmas.

That's right, A Kill-A-Watt. It's an electricity usage monitor. You plug it in and then plug something into it and it tells you how many watts are being munched. And you can attach it for hours or days to find out how many kilowatt hours something uses over a period of time.

I think it's the greatest thing. You know why (or at least one reason)? Our electricity bill doubled when we moved into this apartment. We didn't change anything about our habits. The heating and cooking are natural gas in both apartments. So what the heck is the deal? At least when the dude who broke into our car and stole our GPS did it, we understood why and how. This electricity thief is so much more subtle.

So I did an electricity audit of the house. I calculate that the marginal cost of electricity according to our bill is just over 11 cents per kilowatt hour (not including the $10 fixed fee). This will tell me the influence of various household items on our electric bill.

I learned a lot. And now you are going to.

Ashley's computer (just the box, not the monitor), when idle, consumes 52 watts. My computer, on the other hand...89 watts. The two computers are nearly identical. Really there are only two differences: mine has a new power supply that I installed after burning the other one up (oops), and mine has a graphics card while hers uses onboard graphics. Quite a big difference. Actually both of these numbers look pretty good compared with the 110 watts my old computer consumes when on. Of course these are all idle numbers. I started encoding mp3's, and watched the wattage shoot up by about 40 watts. I bet when it's really working it goes up much beyond that. We looked into our operating system settings and realized you can set it so your computer will go into hibernate when you press the power button. It takes just a second and makes the electricity usage go down to almost nothing. Then when you press it again the computer is back in like 2 seconds. Since we often walk away from our computers for hours at a time and leave them on, we can save a lot of power by doing this habitually. And now we do. We used to try and actually turn them off when we did this, but it takes so dang long to reboot (especially with her computers...stupid windows). Now we just sleep them, and everyone's happy.

My study of these monitors is even more informative. My 22-inch LCD monitor consumes 20 watts of power. Clearly those monitor manufacturers have really worked on power consumption and the LED lighting really works. Think about it, an incandescent light bulb eats like 60-75 watts, right? Then I checked Ashley's monitor, which is nearly identical to mine. 38 watts. That's almost twice what mine consumed. I looked into the settings and realized I had my brightness turned somewhat down while hers was at 100 percent. You can't really tell by looking that my settings are different. We turned hers down and I literally watched the wattage go down from 38 watts to 17. If you want to save power on your monitor, turn down the brightness. On these monitors it doesn't make much difference in the user experience but it makes a big difference in power consumption. The other settings, like contrast, don't make any difference. Also interesting was that if we turned on my screen saver, which just turns the monitor black, the power usage goes up by 3 watts. I think maybe "blank screen" turns up the LED backlight or something. Anyway monitors don't really get burn in and it consumes power, so don't use a screen saver. One more thing of note: neither Ashley's monitor nor mine consumes any detectable power at all when off. And when you turn the computer off so the monitor goes into sleep mode it also uses an undetectable amount of power--nothing is gained by actually pressing the off switch. These monitors are very efficient. By the way I checked my old LCD monitor too. It's 25 inches and uses a halogen backlight instead of LED. That sucker pulls 98 watts when idle. Even when it's completely turned off it eats up 8 watts, which is about as much as my bedside lamp. There's a real difference between the old and new technology (though they are both LCD...who knows how much the old CRT monitors used).

It has been estimated that 11% of a household's electricity consumption goes to idle electronics. Almost all electronics consume power even when they are completely turned off. And there's a lot of variety in how much they consume. I haven't actually measured all my devices yet, but I will. Because they only consume a couple of watts or so when off they aren't as easily measured using the kill-a-watt. The best way to do it is to leave them plugged in for a long time and measure the watt-hours used. That takes time. I did find a couple of interesting ones, though. For example, my desktop speakers munch 10 watts when playing music, 9 watts when on but idle, and 5 when completely turned off. That's one thing I kind of wish I could unplug. For reference, 5 watts is also the amount my computer consumes when turned off...and that has to do a few random things like keep my ethernet card on so I can turn the computer on remotely. The stereo in my daughter's room eats just as much, when off. There are lots of such devices around the house. Every outlet is laden with these little guys, each eating 2 to 5 watts each all day every day. Better to unplug them when you can. Now I kind of want one of these babies

It's a smart power strip. It completely turns off power to peripherals when they are turned off. I'm not sure how well it works (how does it know whether 7 watts is a device that is on or off?), but I think it's a great idea. Of course, it would take a long time for the electricity savings to pay for the $30 the thing costs. But that doesn't make it any less of a great idea.

A few other interesting items: the compact fluorescent bulb lamp that lights our living room: 12 watts when on. Pretty efficient. Compare that to the 400 watts or so our hall lights use (no I couldn't measure, that's just adding up their wattages...they are the kind that dim).

The other thing I wondered about was our deep freeze. I have been toting that around for a while and I always wondered what the costs were in electricity. I tested it for hours and found an average usage of less than 30 watts. That comes to about 2 dollars a month in electric costs. I say it's worth it.

But I bet you are wondering what the answer to my big question was. Why did our electric bill go up so much? I tested our refrigerator (which came with the apartment). The average wattage was over 150. That's like 1300 kilowatt-hours a year, almost three times what a modern refrigerator consumes. On a monthly basis, that comes to about $12 dollars. Ok that doesn't completely resolve the question of electricity costs, though it contributes significantly to it. The freezer part of our refrigerator is always frigid even though we have it turned all the way to warm. And the refrigerator part is always quite warm, even though we have it turned all the way to cold. Probably a bad thermostat or something. Also we moved the grate and looked at our cooling coils and they were completely covered in a carpet of thick lint--a nice insulating blanked preventing the coils from doing their job. We probably can't get our landlord to get us a more modern fridge, but at least we can clean off the coils.

Looking at the difference in electricity usage between our two food cooling devices was quite shocking. I mean the deep freeze holds a lot more food and keeps it colder. From what I understand, deep freezes are more efficiently insulated and of course the cold doesn't always fall our when you open the lid. Also they aren't always trying to prevent frost formation. Some smart soul out there hooked a thermometer to a power switch and converted their deep freeze to an ultra efficient refrigerator (it turns of power to the freezer when the temperature gets down as low as desired). Apparently the thing consumes only like 37 kilowatt-hours per year! Given the low cost of deep freezes (mine only cost about $150) and the simplicity of the conversion, I got really excited about the prospect of making my own deep freeze refrigerator and just putting the one that came with this apartment outside or something. Alas, it turns out in marriage you only get to have things your way when you are the only one affected. Some day when we have a basement, I'll make a deep freeze refrigerator for it, and it won't make a noticeable difference on our power bill at all. My dream refrigerator:

In mean mean time, I wish I could figure out a way to pipe freezing air from outside into our freezer. It's like 10 degrees outside...why does my refrigerator work hard all day long? It's also just crazy that our fridge sits right next to the furnace. One tries to heat the air around it while the other tries to use that same air to cool itself.

Anyway, our inefficient refrigerator is a major portion of the variable part of our electric bill. The fixed costs here in Chicago are probably higher than up in Evanston and so are the taxes. That is probably the rest of the difference. But that fixed part is out of my control and therefore so much less fun than planning the ultimate do-it-yourself food cooling system. I think we can all agree on that.