Posts filed under ‘Sagan’

Sagan and the Garden Toys (A Facebook/Instagram Repost)

I let Sagan strike his toy garden tools against the garage floor. As he was playing I encouraged him.

“You are good at smacking that hoe!”

Then I realized how awful that sounded. ūüôā

I let Sagan strike his toy garden tools against the garage floor.  As he was playing I encouraged him.  "You are good at smacking that hoe!"  Then I realized how awful that sounded.  :)
Sagan Smacks The Hoe

August 26, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Sagan Compare: Falls Ridge Nature Preserve

When Sagan was 14 weeks old, Ryan and I took him to the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. Last week, I was able to take him, now 22-months old, on a return trip. That empowered me to snag a quick “Sagan Compare”. Enjoy!

Falls Ridge - Sagan Compare - 3 Months, 22 Months
Left – October 17, 2011 – Sagan is 3 months old, Mommy is 3 months post-partum (Photo by Ryan Somma)
Right – May 5, 2013 – Sagan is almost 22 months old, Mommy is 30 weeks pregnant (Photo by Merry Leigh)

May 17, 2013 at 1:00 am 2 comments

[A Working Mom’s Half-Ass] Homemade Cadbury Cr√®me Eggs

Two years in a row, my sister has sent me a link to an Instructables article on how to make homemade Cadbury Cream Eggs.

Instructables - Homemade Cadbury Creme Eggs
Instructables: Homemade Cadbury Crème Eggs

It’s interesting what a difference a year makes. Last year with an eight month old, I took one look at the images of the egg-shaped chocolate molds and thought, “No way.”

This year, maybe it’s because I’m getting more sleep now… or maybe I have finally learned the necessity of keeping extracurricular endeavors like this simple. Either way, I looked over that article and I thought, “Hey, I can half-ass this! I’ll just dip the eggs in chocolate like we do Oreos or truffles.” (which the Instructables article actually covers on Step 5 – Alternative Method)

So this morning before work, Sagan supervised and did an extensive inspection of the food coloring while I mixed up the filling. We had to improvise some of the ingredients. The biggest thing was we ran out of confectioner’s sugar, so we substituted the last cup of sugar with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (which considering how sweet our filling turned out to be, I don’t think it really needed that extra cup sugar after all). Also I always double vanilla. I like vanilla. : )

Original Recipe Vicky/Sagan Version
1/2 cup light corn syrup 1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, room temperature 1/4 cup butter, softened in microwave
3 cups confectioner’s powdered sugar (icing sugar) 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt Whoops forgot this part
yellow food coloring We used neon green and purple food coloring. : )
1 (12 ounce) bag milk chocolate chips Whatever scraps of melting chocolate and chocolate chips my Mom and I were able to scrounge out of the pantry. : )

The filling got a nice long session with the refrigerator during our work day. After work, as dinner cooked, rolled up our filling into the requisite little balls which got to go back into the fridge while we ate.

Then after supper, we took a bowl, melted up some dipping chocolate and chocolate chips in the microwave, dipped those suckers in, plopped them on wax paper, and threw them back into the fridge.

Roughly ten minutes later, we were enjoying our homemade Cadbury Cr√®me Eggs. Really all and all, it was little effort and the pay off was delicious. My husband used the word “magic” and joked that he expected “Cadbury to bust down the door and arrest us for patent infringement”.

And no one seemed to mind that they weren’t perfectly shaped eggs from chocolate molds… particularly not Sagan. : )

March 22nd - Sagan Eats Homemade Cadbury Cream Egg
Sagan Savors His “Egg”

March 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm 2 comments

Family Hike: Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank

Today was a lovely spring day and with more winter-like temperatures in the forecast for Monday, I decided to take my 20-month old son out for a quick hike this afternoon. I aimed to take him to Leesylvania State Park, but while we were on Neabsco Road, I spied a tell-tale trailhead sign, so I turned around to investigate. It looked like a humble little park, the Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank, but boy, it was just a wonderful hidden gem.

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Smiling Sagan with Water
Sagan Enjoys View at Julie J Metz Wetlands Bank

Trail Overview
This trail system was absolutely perfect for a toddler! The trails were flat and at the same time, they had numerous bridges and wooden walkways to intrigue your child (and keep you elevated out of the wetlands). We had some rain earlier in the day, so we had a bonus perk– muddy puddles! My son loved splashing in them, stomping in them, and then he leaned down and put his hands in. At that point, he didn’t love muddle puddles so much (he despises dirty hands).

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Sagan Crosses Another Bridge
Sagan Crosses One of Many Bridges/Wooden Walkways

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Yeah! Mud!
YEAH! Mud is AWESOME!

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Two Legged Tree and Wetlands
Misc View of Wetlands

Flora
Honestly, I wasn’t paying that much attention to the trees. I did spy some flowering catkins and the tiniest of baby leaves making their first spring appearance. There was plenty of evidence of Sweet Gum, from the ample collection of spikey balls on the ground to the distinctive “alligator-wood” of the branches. I also noted American Sycamore. I don’t recall seeing any Red Maples.

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Yellow Flowers
Yellow Catkins Flowering

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Sagan Evaluates First Leaves
Sagan Examines One of Spring’s First Leaves

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Gumballs Before and After
Souvenirs of Sweet Gum

Pawpaw Alert! I did see a sign that indicated there are pawpaws in the park. Translation: This might be a good park to visit in September. : )

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Pawpaw Alert
This Sign Wouldn’t Tell You to Identify Pawpaw, If There Were No Pawpaws

Fauna
Like Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax, Virginia this little park gives you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to wildlife. So many birds were singing and so loudly that it almost seemed as if we had a radio on. As you can expect, waterfowl were plentiful. As dusk neared, we had a wonderful serenade of spring peepers. It was reminiscent of the Spring Peeper Serenade from my 35th Birthday, though not quite as loud. During our hike we also saw lots of souvenirs left behind by beavers (in the form of gnawed tree stumps) and deer (in the form of many, many, many footprints in the mud).

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Geese
Geese

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Signs Of Beavers
Just One of Numerous Tree Stumps Left Behind By Beavers

Julie J Metz Wetlands Hike - Deer Tracks
Deer Track in Mud

Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank was an accidental find, but I highly recommend it, particular to families with small children. I don’t think we could have had a more enjoyable afternoon.

Julie J. Metz Wetland Bank

Neabsco Road
Woodbridge, Virginia

Length: Varies

Elevation Gain: FLAT!

Directions from Occoquan, Virginia

Take Route 1 South

Turn left on Neabsco Road

Trailhead will be on your left in a couple of miles

March 16, 2013 at 9:28 pm 3 comments

A First Birthday and a Last Birthday

My son is currently nearing 18 months, so this is a bit of a “flashback post”.

I wanted to talk about Sagan’s 1st Birthday Party. We had a small family dinner at Occoquan’s Bistro L’Hermitage. In my family we call it “The Fancy French Restaurant”. I’m certain there are other families who refer to the restaurant in the exact same manner. It *IS* a fancy French restaurant with expensive d√©cor¬†and exotic, well-cooked entrees. The menu sports appetizers such as “Seared Duck Foie¬†Gras”, “Fricass√©e¬†d’Escargots”, and “Friture¬†D’Hu√ģtres”. I believe in order that’s duck livers, snails and oysters.

This place just screams 1 Year Old, right?

Well a little bit of a back story. My father and Sagan share a birthday and “The Fancy French Restaurant” was my father’s favorite restaurant for special events. I decided on the actual birthday, we would go take Dad out to a special dinner. We could hike with Sagan the following Saturday.

There are a lot of things I know now, but didn’t know at the time. The first is this– I had no idea that my Dad only have 15 more days with us. No idea. There were many times in the previous months where I thought, “This is it. My Dad is dying.” But not then. Everything seemed stabilized, everything seemed to be looking up.

What I did know was my Dad had an extremely rough year– full of pain and nausea and more pain. I knew my father deserved a great night.

The evening was shaky from the get-go. My father had dialysis that morning, so I knew he was feeling fatigued. But I didn’t know the extent of the pain he was in that day. He had lost a substantial amount of weight in the previous months, so to add to the pain, he found the air conditioning uncomfortably cold as well.

My brother was 20 minutes late. So we all waited, admiring the fresh white linens and the candlelight. This meant we had this poor man — tired, cold, and in pain — waiting.

Then my 1 year old son gagged on a piece of hard crust and vomited…inside “The Fancy French Restaurant”.

And shortly afterwards my father, remember in great pain, started snapping at people in his typical loud voice that tends to carry and echo in small restaurants with decorative stone walls. He was even short with people he normally would not have been– like the innocent wait staff.

I was mortified. I texted my tardy brother. “Get here now. This is a DISASTER!”

My brother showed up, we ate. Although my father did get to devour the duck liver he had been coveting, as soon as he was done he retreated to the car to sleep and get warm. The restaurant brought out two free desserts for the two birthday boys. Only by that time, my poor Dad was long gone. Where my father was concerned, the evening was far from the home run I was hoping for.

And then there was Sagan. This supper that wasn’t intended for him turned out to be a blast for the little guy (besides the whole gagging on bread thing)! He adventurously¬†enjoyed sampling all the various entrees¬†which were mostly seafood. He had a fabulous time giggling at the funny chef statue outside. And then he got not one but two free birthday desserts¬†to sample. He loved, loved, loved both the free cr√®me brulee¬†and the free chocolate mousse. Oh, did I mention he loved the chocolate mousse?

Sagan's First Birthday - Eating Supper with Grandma
Sagan Tastes Grandma’s Fish

Sagan's First Birthday - Laughing at Funny Statue
Sagan Laughs at the Funny Chef Statue

Sagan's First Birthday - Eating Chocolate Mousse
Sagan Devours More Chocolate Mousse

So on the Sagan-side of the things, the evening was a resounding success!

Still, after my little birthday boy fell asleep, I was sad about the older one. I went outside on the balcony, breathed in the summer night air, and failed miserably to purge that huge lump I had in my throat. I was so disappointed. I had so very much wanted to give my father a special evening.

There is one final thing I didn’t know about that night.

As I stood on the balcony, one floor below my father was speaking to his favorite brother on the phone. This brother was my father’s best friend and most trusted confidant. He knew everything and anything about my Dad– including embarrassing anecdotes about his children’s teenage years!!! (as was aptly demonstrated during the eulogy)

That night, my father didn’t tell my uncle about the pain or discomfort. It wasn’t notable. Instead, he talked about his happiness and his gratitude. How he got to be with his wife and all three of his children and how he was able to share in his grandson’s very first birthday.

As I fought off tears upstairs on the balcony, I was oblivious.

My father, surrounded by family, had a most special evening after all.

Sagan's First Birthday - Grandma with Two Birthday Boys
Grandma and the Two Birthday Boys!

January 8, 2013 at 11:57 am 3 comments

Negative Correlation of the Effort Expended During Meal Preparation and the Percentage of Meal Ingested By Toddler

Last week, as Ryan and I were feeding 14-month old Sagan breakfast, I noted an inverse relationship between our effort and how much of the resulting handiwork was actually ingested. I thought it warranted a graph. Enjoy!

For a Blog Post : Feeding an 14 Month Old Breakfast
Effort and % Ingested When Feeding a 14-Month Old Breakfast

September 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm 1 comment

Nature’s Changing Table

There is no Koala Kare on mountains. At least, the mountains worth hiking. : ) So last weekend when Sagan needed some “diapie attention” on Bull Run Mountain, it was a pleasant surprise to spy a very conveniently shaped boulder right in our vicinity. It was even convex to deter rolling. : )

Bull Run Mountain - Nature's Changing Table
Nature’s Changing Table

Thanks for the help, Nature!

September 11, 2012 at 11:28 am 2 comments

Baby Meets CamelBak, Baby Falls in Love

This past weekend, our little family went out to Broad Run, Virginia for a day of hiking at Bull Run Mountain.¬† This wasn’t 13-month-old Sagan’s first hike.¬† It also wasn’t his longest hike.¬† But it will go down as the hike where he fell in love with the CamelBak.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Learns the Camelbak (Close)
Sagan Loves the CamelBak

It started on the Quarry Trail. I stopped my husband, Ryan, for some water. Once I finished up, Ryan decided to give little Sagan a try.

Bull Run Mountain - Ryan Introduces Sagan to the Camelbak
Ryan Introduces Sagan to CamelBak

Sagan was smitten almost instantly, though admittedly he needed help getting water out. As we climbed up the hill on Ridge Loop Trail, Sagan took another sip.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Takes Another Sip From Camelbak
Another Sip

He also learned to share with his Daddy.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Gives Daddy Camelbak
Sagan Gives CamelBak to Daddy

By the time we reached the views at the top of the mountain, Sagan could manage the CamelBak tubing on his own.

Bull Run Mountain - Sagan Sips Camelbak
Sagan Sips CamelBak at the Top

The CamelBak’s¬†appeal probably stems from its similarity¬†in texture with the pacifier or bottle. But let’s suspend disbelief momentarily. Let’s just pretend that Sagan was destined to love CamelBak from the very day he was born… when his Mommy sipped from a CamelBak¬†Nalgene bottle during labor. : )

September 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

A Visit to the Google Manhattan Offices

One of my best friends from high school, Brian, lives and works in Manhattan. He invited us to come by and tour where he works. It’s just a little company by the name of “Google”. So on our second full day in New York City, we found ourselves immersed in a most impressive work environment.

Size
I had somewhat expected to get off the subway and see this giant towering skyscraper with the familiar Google logo on top. The building itself was surprisingly short, but it takes up a whole city block! It has the second largest footprint in New York City and takes nine minutes to walk around the perimeter. Inside a series of maps helps employees and guests navigate the vast offices and a number of scooters (and scooter parking areas) are scattered throughout to assist with transit. There are also a couple of ladders to give employees a more direct route between floors.

New York - Google - Scooter Parking
Scooter Parking

New York - Google - Ladder to Cafe
A Ladder to a Cafe

Art and Decor
A lot of thought went into the art and decor of the offices. Each floor, each conference room and each “mini” kitchen had a theme– they had a Pac Man mini kitchen, a conference room with bathroom-themed furniture, a jungle room. A lot of artwork was particularly appealing to geek culture– portraits of Star Wars characters and even an xkcd mural in the stairwell.

New York - Google - R2D2 and C3PO in Library
Portraits of R2D2 and C3PO in the Library

New York - Google - xkcd in Stairwell
xkcd Mural in Stairwell

New York - Google - Pac Man Hall
Hallway to the “Pac Man Mini Kitchen”

New York - Google - Ryan and Sagan in Jungle Kitchen
Ryan and Sagan in the “Jungle Mini Kitchen”

New York - Google - Bathroom Themed Conference Room
A Bathroom Themed Conference Room

Food
Google feeds their employees well. In additional to ample “mini” kitchens, there were a couple of cafes¬†where the employees and their guests can partake in free meals. It’s good food too! Our visit was timed so that Brian was able to take us to the “small” cafe to eat. Sagan got to try quinoa for the first time along with the more familiar cantaloupe, strawberries, chicken, swiss chard, mozzarella and bread.

The cafe we were at had a Manhattan Cityscape painted on the walls and an actual water tower that was relocated and rebuilt inside the cafe. We’re told if you stand in the right spot, the painted buildings line up with the actual buildings outside. Sagan very much enjoyed taking in the view and banging on the window.

New York - Google - Sagan and Vicky Take in View From Cafe (Photo by Brian N)
Sagan Takes in View from Cafe

The Library
The library was quite impressive. One wall was covered in touch screens where you could browse through bookshelves and open up and preview books.

New York - Google - Brian at Virtual Library
Brian Demonstrates Virtual Library

The opposite wall of the library was lined with more traditional bookshelves and books, but even that had a twist. One of the bookshelves was actually a door to a hidden work room with a nice, inviting lounge chair.

Geeky Stuff
Google was a great place for “an unabashed nerd” like Ryan to visit. They had a display of old computers and video game consoles which appealed to Ryan’s habit of cataloguing museums with Creative Commons photos on Flickr. There was a community chess game going on and we met an employee who had organized a Human Turing machine (which was reminiscent of the Human Bubble Sort¬†Ryan organized with the Neighborhood Kids). One wall sported a safe. Supposedly throughout the building there are clues to opening that safe! Perhaps we saw one of those clues– QR Codes in the tiling of one of the “mini” kitchens. A lot of walls doubled as white boards and housed formulas, notes, pseudo code or simply links to someone’s YouTube page.


Video of Human Turing Machine

New York - Google - Safe
Supposedly There Are Clues to Open This Safe

New York - Google - Sagan and Ryan with QR Code Flooring
QR Code Tiles – Possible Clue?

Nature
Google was a great place for someone nature-oriented like me to visit as well. In addition to everything mentioned so far, the offices had outdoor terraces…growing edible plants!

New York - Google - View From Terrace 2
Edible Garden on the Terrace

Google is Great for Babies!!!
Now, perhaps it is obvious that Ryan and I would enjoy a visit to Google. Get this– Google was also a great place for a baby!!! Not only were there a lot of finger foods to try, there were lots of stimulating art and colors for Sagan to look at. There were super friendly employees to smile at and large areas great for walking practice. At one point, Brian was showing us an “Explore Your World” center powered by Google Earth and a semi-circle of flat screens. While Brian was exploring his world, Sagan was exploring his, inch worming across the carpet, taking in the patterns. Finally– there was a ball pit and stuffed animals. Initially Sagan was scared of the ball pit, but he warmed up to and had an absolute blast!

New York - Google - Sagan Exploring
Brian Explores Via Google Earth, Sagan Explores Via Crawling

New York - Google - Penguin, Vicky, Sagan in Ballpit 2 (By Ryan Somma)
Playing in Ball Pit at Google

There were some more subtle perks as well that come along with working for a large company like Google. While we talked, Brian revealed that he does not have to work 80 hour weeks as rumor would lead you to believe. Furthermore, he isn’t on call 24 hours a day like Ryan and I are. And unbelievably, Brian can actually leave his laptop (and work) behind at the office– a luxury that is hard for me to fathom!

Although there was so much one can covet in that work environment, Ryan commented on the way back home, “It’s impossible to be jealous of Brian. Everything he has, he deserves.”

Ryan is right. My friend Brian is amazingly smart, extremely hardworking and then at the same time, so very generous and kind. Google not only has great taste when it comes to work environments, they apparently have impeccable taste in people as well. : )

New York - Google - Brian, Vicky, Sagan Look at Each Other (By Ryan Somma)
Thanks Brian For a Great Day!

More pictures of the Google Manhattan Campus are on my Flickr site.

July 25, 2012 at 9:25 am 1 comment

Sagan at the American Musuem of Natural History

Greetings from New York City. Ryan, Sagan and I came up for a few days to visit some family and friends! Yesterday was Sagan’s first full day in New York City. It went like this:

WTF Coffee Lab
We woke up and played at Aunt Rachelle and Uncle Thad’s apartment. In mid-morning, we all walked down to WTF Coffee Lab. Sagan partook in a Blueberry, Strawberry, Raspberry Smoothie. He also ate selected pieces of an oatmeal raisin scone. Meanwhile Mommy and Daddy tried out “Cold Brew” coffee– which was both delicious and delightfully nerdy (The mechanisms at WTF Coffee Lab made it reminiscent of a science lab.)

Subway to Museum
Back at Rachelle and Thad’s Sagan took a nap. When he woke up, the adults fueled up on some peanut butter toast and then headed out for adventure. On the subway, I made the realization that I had forgotten to pack diapies…. and Sagan was sort of due for a “BM”. So when we arrived at Central Park, we first did a quick lap of the area to procure some diapies and wipes. It turned out they weren’t necessary, but this was definitely a “Better Safe Than Sorry” moment.

American Museum of Natural History – Big Bang
At the museum, we first went to go see the Big Bang movie. We were surprised to hear Liam Nesson’s voice instead of Maya Angelou. The movie had been redone. Sagan did watch the happenings on the floor, but also found the time and inclination to kick the railing and to shove his hand into Aunt Rachelle’s mouth.

American Museum of Natural History – Creates of Light
After that, we went to the Creatures of Light Nature’s Bioluminescence special exhibit. This was well geared for Sagan as there were a lot of blinking lights. He particularly like pressing the green button to communicate with female fireflies and he loved walking in the pretend water (lights projected on the floor) of the Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques Island section. He did have “fussypants” moments- when I wouldn’t let him pull down a display, when I didn’t let him put a pacifier he purposefully threw on the ground back in his mouth and when we had to put things back on the shelf at the gift shop. But overall, I would say his demeanor was happy and enthralled.

American Museum of Natural History – Dinosaurs
After Bioluminescence, we had to hit up some dinosaurs. Sagan actually was wearing a little Stegosaurus on his outfit, though you can’t see it due to the ever-awesome and handy Moby Wrap.

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Ryan and Sagan with Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs!

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Vicky (Kissing), Sagan and Ryan with Stegosaurus (By Thad Wong)
Us in Front of the Stegosaurus (Photo by Thad)

American Museum of Natural History – Hall of Human Origins
We also stopped by the Hall of Human Origins where Sagan shook hands with some of his ancient ancestors. I was also surprised how small Australopithecus was. They were almost Sagan sized!

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Sagan Touchs Ancestor Skeleton (Landscape)
Well Hello! Glad to Meet You!

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Australopithecus, Ryan and Sagan (Blurry)
It’s Blurry, but Look How Small Australopithecus Is!

American Museum of Natural History – New Skills
The American Museum of Natural History is always educational, so it isn’t surprising Sagan learned some new skills. Early on, Sagan discovered his echo in the museum hallways. From that point on, whenever we were navigating between exhibits, Sagan marvelled in shouting and hearing himself reply.

Aunt Rachelle, however, taught him a more valuable life skill.

New York - American Museum of Natural History - Rachelle Teaches Sagan to Stick Out His Tongue (After)
Sagan Learns to Stick Out His Tongue

Subway Ride Back
By the time we left the museum, we had one tired baby. But we were graciously spared a spectacle on the subway. A number of strangers smiled and made faces with Sagan which kept him happy and entertained until he finally fell asleep.

American Museum of Natural History - Sagan and Daddy Rest on Subway (By Rachelle Somma)
Sagan and Daddy Rest on the Subway

Ethiopian Food
Sagan actually napped until his usual bedtime. Despite the hour, he seemed happy and awake, so we thought, “Oh okay, we can go out to dinner.” Luckily the universe was looking after us novice parents. The restaurant we chose was pretty busy, so we opted to get our order to go instead. As we waited for our food, it became clear that Sagan was ready to go back to bed. So it was very good we didn’t try to eat a meal there. Sagan did stay up long enough to try injera (He loved it!) and eat some lentils, carrots, cabbage, etc. We held off on introducing him to berbere though. : )

After his first Ethiopian food, young Sagan fell right asleep.

It was a wonderful, albeit busy day. More pictures of our visit to New York City are on my Flickr site.

July 23, 2012 at 1:00 am 4 comments

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