Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Garden Disaster

I guess this is our punishment for 80 degree weather in March. Something ate all of our cucumber leaves!!

This makes us all sad (J was on the verge of tears upon discovering this scene today). We'll wait a few days and see what the plants will do. I'm thinking we'd have to invest in new cucumber plants (it is early in the season)...or maybe steer clear of cucumbers this year. It was a hot item for creek rodents last year (I never saw what was eating our plants, but I have seen raccoon and squirrels in the neighborhood). We didn't need to net the plants this early before. The problem with netting/covers is that it doesn't allow for J to freely pick his produce. The netting was more annoying than anything else. The rodents chewed through it, and the cucumber plants grew through it.

I just bought a decoy owl and some Deer Off spray that should arrive by Thursday. We might have to still devise some sort of cage/cover. Sigh.

Any tips for garden disaster recovery?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gardening 2014

After a month of much needed rain (and we still need more to not see sky-high produce costs this summer), we've been blessed with sunshine and weather in the 70s - perfect gardening weather. Being almost 9 months pregnant, I debated planting a garden this year. It's hard to get up and down from the hard ground at this point and keeping another living thing alive during the summer might be overwhelming with a newborn. However, the motivating factors won: fresh homegrown produce that tastes better than what you can buy from the store and J's excitement for eating said produce. Plus, it wasn't going to be as big of an investment this year since we had made big planter purchases over the last two years.

Tackling concern #1, getting the garden started at almost 9 mo pregnant:

J is almost 5. He's become quite the helper and was super eager to help us with all steps off setting up the garden. This was probably our most successful garden shopping experience yet with him. He wanted to buy almost every sprout at the gardening store (because of our limited window space, we start most of our garden with store bought sprouts). We settled on lemon cucumbers, regular cucumbers, and cherry tomato plants, and we are germinating bell peppers and green beans. 

Here's J helping us plant the tomato plant:

He then staked the tomato plant since tomato plants like to have support to aid their growth.

Then he helped water all of the plants.

Our strawberries survived another winter and already have buds! This surprised us because we're in the middle of the worst drought in CA record keeping (and we basically ignored them all winter). This is 3 years in a row for our strawberry plants - definitely a great investment for us. I still love our strawberry planter (affiliate link).

We're trying cucumbers again this year. They were really successful last year, maybe even too successful because we saw how many cucumbers were growing, but they would disappear before we'd get to pick them (it was a hot summer last year and they are mainly water - the neighborhood critters got to them before we could). Going into gardening cucumbers last year, we didn't know/realize that they were a climbing plant, so this year, we spread them out a little more and gave them a cage to grow on. I hope keeping them off the ground will keep some of the critters away. We'll probably end up netting them again.

We just planted the green beans and bell pepper seeds. They are currently in terra cotta pots in our window sill. I'm hoping they'll sprout in time to get them in planters before the baby comes. If not, it'll be shortly thereafter.

As for concern #2, keeping other living things alive:

I think I can manage a garden, especially since I'm on maternity leave for a few months. The garden is right outside our apartment. If we had invested in a community garden plot, motivation to get out and about would be harder to find.

We're focusing on planting things that can be harvested all summer long. I love seeing J pull off green beans and strawberries, wash them with the garden hose, and pop them in his mouth. We haven't had good luck with our larger tomato plants, but we've done alright with cherry tomatoes in the ground in the past. I'm hoping we can do alright with this year's cherry tomatoes in a pot to give J the satisfaction of eating them all summer long.

If you have any tips to get the most from our plants, I'd love to hear them. How do you deal with critters? Ours are mammalian (raccoon and squirrels). How often do you replenish your soil? Do you use any plant food? Do your kids eat more veggies when they help in the growing process?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day 2014 - Family Pic and Pi Treat

I hope you had a fun Pi Day 2014!

We celebrated with Pi Cake! One of the great things about being a nerd is people give you nerdy things for occasions like these. Last Pi Day, we received a pi cake pan from one of my good friends. We made decorating it a family affair:


J writing on the fondant

The finished Pi Day Cake 2014!

To continue with tradition, we took our annual Pi Day Family photo:

Related Posts:

Investigating Pi for Preschoolers

Happy Pi Day to you!! Today, I'm participating in my first ever Blog Hop. Some math loving mommy bloggers and I have all written posts about Pi and/or Pi Day! Please, check the links at the bottom of the post for more fun things to do on Pi Day. Thanks for stopping by Nerdy Science's feature, Investigating Pi for Preschoolers:

While making our Pi Day Posters, we decided it would be a good time to investigate Pi: the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.

We traced a circular bowl on the paper:

Then we measured the diameter of the circle, three different times, using yarn. What is the diameter of a circle? It's a line that cuts the circle in half, which you can do many (well, infinite) ways. We chose to be satisfied with measuring the diameter three ways. We cut the length of the diameter out of string/yarn:

We compared the length of the strings to see if the diameters were the same:

The diameters are about the same length (we live in an imperfect world and yarn is stretchy and was probably cut at different tensions - and the circle was traced by a four year old).

We then thought it would be easiest to tape the yarn to the outside of the bowl that was traced, along its circumference. We asked J if one piece of yarn, that we had cut to the length of the diameter, would fit all the way around the bowl. His hypothesis: "No!"

He was correct (the string is hard to see in the picture, so we marked the beginning and end with markers, the string is going from purple to red):

Then we asked about 2 pieces of yarn we had cut to the length of the diameter. He wasn't as certain, but he answered "No," again. He was correct, again (the string is going from red to purple, sorry for the inconsistency):

It took all three strings to make it around the bowl (the yarn we used was pretty stretchy and the actual circumference of the bowl was a tad bit smaller than what we had traced).

So how many strings, measured to the length of the circle's diameter, did it take to go around the bowl? About 3! This is approximating Pi! The actual ratio of circumference to diameter length is an irrational number that goes on forever and ever. It starts out 3.14159 and keeps going. For our 4 year old, seeing that Pi is about 3 made this activity a success!

This ratio, Pi, is used to calculate many things like angles and circular motion, but it takes a lot of math to get into that fun stuff. The most common uses of Pi are found in geometry, like finding the: circumference of a circle = Pi*diameter; area of a circle = Pi*(diameter/2)^2, and the volume of a sphere = 4/3*Pi*(diameter/2)^3.

As for our Pi treat and holiday photo, tune in tomorrow to see our creation and annual family Pi Day Photo.

Blog Hop Time! Check out what these fantastic educators are doing about Pi and Pi Day!

We Love Math blog hop is hosted by 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pi Day Posters

Let me tell you how excited I am about March 2014. Basically, it's Pi MONTH! 3.14, get it? Why wait till March 14 (also 3.14, in the US, at least) to celebrate? I decided we should get into the nerdy spirit a little early and start decorating.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter. I thought we can have art with circles and numbers to hang above our couch for Pi Day.

Here's what we did:

I convinced J to help me lay out some circular items we had around the house (it helps that I have a lid collection for unknown special occasions). We used bowls, lids, bottle caps, and a tape roll and arranged them on some craft paper. Then we traced each circular item. J was really excited to trace the double circles of the tape.

J is almost 5. He's getting really good at writing his letters and numbers, so I let him write Happy Pi Day and as many numbers of Pi that he had the patience to write. He added a heart (though it looks like a pie with a slice taken out) and "I Love You Pi."

Friday is the official annual Pi Day (March 14 or 3.14...). I will be participating in my first Blog Hop, where a group of bloggers write their own posts about a particular topics and link to other blogs writing about the same topic. Friday's topic: Pi Day!! Make sure to come back for a geometry lesson on circles!

Happy Pi Month to you!

Related Post:

Sunday, March 2, 2014


We've had a rough week. Last Thursday, J decided to grab the inside of a restroom door as it was being shut, breaking the tip of his finger and turning his finger nail completely black almost immediately. The doctors say it should be back to normal in the next four weeks. Though it's sad to see my child in pain, this incidence got me thinking about how much I love learning about the body and how it continues to motivate me in my current research.

The human body amazes me! And, guess what? We're still learning about us! Research is awesome.

Do you know how many bones are in our body? 206, at least for adults. Babies are born with more, but they end up getting fused/grow together as they age. One of the reasons babies have more bones is to make them more squishable to help with the birthing process.

Did you know that astronauts lose bone when they are in space? The same goes for people who are bed-ridden for lengthy amounts of time. Bone is this amazing material that responds to load/weight/forces that you apply to it. If you don't use it, you lose it! Fun studies have shown that the opposite is also true. Tennis players tend to have thicker forearm bones in their dominant arm when compared to the other arm.

More research: One of my favorite grad school classes, Orthopaedic Bioengineering, was taught by Dr. Dennis Carter. He co-authored Skeletal Function and Form: Mechanobiology of Skeletal Development, Aging, and Regeneration (affiliate link) with Dr. Gary Beaupre. Both gentlemen have spent their research careers studying the formation and redevelopment of bones and other structural materials in our bodies and have shared the information they've learned with us through this book.

Since we've been preoccupied with J's finger and getting ready for Baby Sister (who will be here in six short weeks), I thought it would be a good time to do the Magic School Bus kit on the Body and Bones, but we've already done the age appropriate experiments in some form or another. Here's a flashback to some of the fun with the human body we've had: