Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Muir Woods

On Monday morning we all headed up to Muir Woods to see the Redwoods.

It was our first time driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, and so foggy, it was hard to see the bridge clearly, even when we were on it

The drive up to Muir Woods was beautiful, here are some pictures from the Pacific Highway

At Muir Woods

The redwoods were really amazing, they were the top of our 'must see' list for our trip, and I was not disappointed. The trees were beautiful, the setting so peaceful and enjoyable, and lots of neat things to see as we walked the trail. It rained off and on so it almost felt like we were in a rain forest at some points.

Ella and Cammi in a giant tree trunk that had been burned out by lightning

It was a bit sunnier on our drive home so we stopped to take some more pictures, these were from the Panoramic Highway in Mill Valley.


We arrived in San Francisco the afternoon before Easter, so by the time we got settled in, it was pretty late on Saturday, but Jackie had brought egg dyeing supplies so we were able to squeeze in an egg dyeing attempt (although almost all of the eggs ended up pink!)

I didn't know if Ella would be thinking too much about the potential of the Easter Bunny coming but first thing Sunday morning she was up and eager to see if he had left any eggs outside (he had not because we didn't really have an 'outside' - but fortunately he had left some in the apartment, along with an improvised Easter basket in the kitchen...not the same as being home but it all worked out!)

All dressed and ready to go to church

Snuggling on the couch with Cammi

We walked to Golden Gate Park to check out the park and do an Easter Egg Hunt. The park was beautiful and there was so much to see there. 

Easter egg hunt 

Max missed the egg hunt :)

Beautiful cherry blossoms

On the way to dinner

Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco

Walking through Chinatown after dinner 

San Francisco Vacation

We went on vacation to San Francisco with Steve's brother's family for a week, during their spring break at the beginning of April. Steve's brother Craig was presenting at a conference for work so we decided to make a vacation out of it and meet there. It was our first time visiting San Francisco and it was an absolutely fantastic week!

I sat by the window on the flight there and we had some amazing views, I took some neat pictures from the plane. I had never seen farmland like this, I wish I knew which route our plane had taken because I am still so curious about where we were.

We flew over the Rockies, this is the only snow we got to see this year, Ella was very excited to see it!

At the airport in San Francisco, so excited to have arrived!

We all stayed together in a great apartment near Golden Gate Park

Ella loved, loved, loved spending the time with her cousins, it was non-stop fun for the whole week. I have many, many pics to follow from the week, but here a few cute pics from the apartment

Lots of fun with Cammi and Max

Thrilled to be holding Max

Monday, April 29, 2013

Little dog whisperer

A cute video of Ella doing some dog training tonight.

She is just so precious!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Monarch Butterflies

When we moved into our house last fall, the previous owners left us a really great note with all kinds of details about the house that we wouldn't have known otherwise. We have a sprinkler system to water the lawn and the note said something along the lines of "the sprinkler system can also can be used to distribute pesticide for insect control but we never used that because we like all the butterflies in the garden." Bugs are really one of the worst things about this area, so when I read that part I said to Steve, "well I like butterflies as much as the next person, but we're putting bug spray in that sprinkler!"

Fast forward six months and I have changed my opinion. 

In early March we started noticing caterpillars on our milkweed, and Ella and I were both really interested in them and would go out a few times a day to check on them and see what they were up to. 

I started researching monarch life cycles and how to raise butterflies and learned that it was really pretty easy, and that they actually have a better chance of survival if you raise them versus leaving it up to nature (only a very small percentage in the wild make it from egg to butterfly because so many predators eat them). Ella has been asking for another pet, so this seemed like a perfect little project for us. 

We collected 4 caterpillars from our milkweed plants - 1 was about 2" long and plump, so I knew he'd be ready to make his chrysalis pretty quickly, and the other 3 were less than an inch long and still thin. 

The big guy, who Ella named Buddy, climbed away from the leaves and up to the top of the container that first night, so we separated him from the others. Once a caterpillar makes its chrysalis you don't want to disturb it, but the little guys need lots of care with changing their leaves and cleaning out their container a few times a day, so it's best to separate them by their size and growth stage. 

Once we moved him into his new jar, he went right to the top  

 Cleaning out their containers and giving them fresh leaves 

After a few days, the big guy hung in a J shape from the top of the container, which is the first step in making the chrysalis.  

I kept checking on him to see what it would look like when he made the chrysalis but I missed it -- Sometime between going upstairs after dinner and bath time and Ella's bedtime, here is what he created!

I called Ella down from bed to check it out, all three of us were so excited. I could barely believe that it was that quick and where did all that bright green come from? It's really amazing. Then, the waiting began for that one, and we knew he'd stay in there for 10-14 days, with very little action in the meantime. 

The little guys, which Ella named Noah, New, and Whisker, started growing quickly and ate a LOT (just like the book!). 


We left for NC and gave Steve all the instructions for our little friends while we were gone. We came home to 2 new chrysalises (the third one had escaped). 

The weekend we got home, Buddy emerged. I was very glad we were back in time! He came out over night and this is what we saw when we came down in the morning, you can see his wings still stuck together. 

He hung like that for a few hours and then started to flap and extend his wings a little bit.  


You are supposed to release them once they are fully mobile and it's over 70 degrees out, so we brought him outside that afternoon. 

 Funny enough, once "Buddy" turned into a butterfly, Ella renamed him "Princess." 

There she goes! 

And this amazed me as well, this is what was left behind of the chrysalis once she emerged.  

A few days later, one of our little guys had emerged, and had already spread his wings, so I released him early that morning because it was warm and he was eager to get going.  

When I opened his container to let him out, I noticed how far along the other chrysalis was, and couldn't believe what it now looked like -- the color had changed completely and I could clearly see the wings folded in there.  

I brought him into my office and put him on my desk, with the thought that there was no way I'd miss him emerging, and I was excited to watch. As timing would have it, I had two long calls in a row and was on the phone and too busy to pay attention to him for about 2 hours. When I finally got off, here is what I saw!

It was really an incredible process to observe and even after watching it up close for several weeks, I am still fascinated by it. We didn't take in any new caterpillars after that first group because we were getting ready to leave for vacation for a week. 

Unfortunately, our milkweed could not keep up with the demand of all these very hungry caterpillars. When we got back from our trip, the leaves were almost all gone and the plants were covered in caterpillars. If you look closely in this picture, you can see how many there are - I count at least 8, there could be more. 

We have found a few more chrysalises in some funny places around the yard -- 

Attached to Ella's swing set 

On the pool wall 

This past weekend the last of the leaves from the milkweed had been eaten, so I cut the whole thing back. I am hopeful that it will grow back and we'll get some more caterpillars and butterflies this season!