Studio711.com – Ben Martens

Day Trip to Kingston

One of our go-to family adventures is taking the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, having lunch, and then coming back. We can easily walk onto the ferry so there’s no need to plan ahead or worry about the lines. I’ve shared this with quite a few people individually and realized that I should just have it on my website so I don’t have to hunt for the info every time. So if you’re looking for you own fun lunch, here’s what we’ve learned.

  • You can park close to the Edmonds terminal, but you have to pay ~$15. If you look at a map, find 6th street. If you park east of 6th street, there is no fee and no time limit. West of that you are limited to 3 hours. You MIGHT make it back in three hours but I don’t like to have that hanging over my head. We’re rule followers so we just park east of 6th and make the ~5-10 minute walk to the ferry.
  • Walking on the ferry is $8 for adults and $4 for kids. You can buy the tickets right in the terminal but to buy the kids tickets you have to go to the actual ticket booth and not the automated kiosks.
  • The ferry ride is 30 minutes.
  • When you get off the ferry, start walking straight up the hill. There are a number of good places to stop:
    • The Kingston Ale House – This is a table-service restaurant with lots of craft beer on tap.
    • J’aime  les Crepes – You could probably eat a full lunch here but we’ve only gotten crepes and ice cream to go. There’s no real indoor seating.
    • Mora Iced Creamery – Delicious hipster ice cream.
    • The Grub Hut – This is a bit farther up the hill but we really liked it! You order at the counter and then go sit down. They had a lot of options on the menu.
    • There are a lot of other places within walking distance and that strip of restaurants does change. Yelp is your friend.
  • There’s no ticket booth on the way back. You travel east for free.
  • If you end up with a bit of a wait for the next ferry back to Edmonds, there is a big grassy park right by the terminal and sometimes they have a little farmers market/craft fair. There’s often a farmers market on the Edmonds side too.
  • The whole trip usually takes us 4-5 hours including the drive to/from Edmonds.

Ipsut Falls Bike Hike

We get a couple local newspapers and every once in a while I flip through them. A recent article called “Where’s Sara? Bike & Hike Carbon River Road” in Northshore News caught me eye. You can read the article for the full description but basically there’s a road into Mt. Rainier National Park on the northwest side that was washed out in 2006. There was a campground at the end of the road so it’s still popular with bikers and hikers.

There are a lot of things to explore off of the road, but I thought that just making it to the end and back (12 miles roundtrip) would be a big challenge for Elijah. So a couple weekends ago, all three of us set off on the adventure to give it a shot!

The road gets progressively less road-like over the length and there are a few spots where the river has totally washed the road away but it’s never difficult to see where the trail picks up on the other side. The ride out to the campground ended up being pretty tough but we all made it. We locked our bikes up and took a short hike to Ipsut Falls. It was a gorgeous place for lunch and we had the whole place to ourselves aside from about 5 minutes of overlap with another family.

The ride back was significantly easier! Since we were following the river downstream, the road had a slight downward slope that let us coast a large portion of the way.

I was really proud of Tyla and Elijah for powering through and getting all the way to the payoff at the end! Hopefully we can go back some day and explore some more of the sights off of the road.

God is Here

Rewind to March 2020. We had just entered lockdown. As a church leader, I was scrambling to figure out how to do services online. We didn’t know what was happening (like we have any idea now!) I remember sitting down as a family and watching a video from Time of Grace called “God’s Got This!”

During that, Pastor Mike talked about reminding ourselves that God is here. He’s right here with us guiding us and protecting us, whether there’s a pandemic or not. After that video, we sat down as a family and made “God is here” signs. We taped those signs to the wall in our kitchen and they stayed up until very recently.

As we took those signs down, I decided to make a more permanent version. I used the cedar circle leftover from the fire pit project. I drew some words, cut them out of 1/4 MDF on my CNC, painted them, and glued them on.

Fire Pit

I’ve been bad about completing projects, posting them to Instagram (@martenswoodshop) and then never posting most info here. So this project was completed back in May, but I thought it deserved a post.

We have always talked about whether we want to get a fire pit for the back yard, and when I was offered a nice Firegear burner, I decided to go for it. I built the simplest stand for it that I could imagine. I used tongue and groove cedar boards because that’s what was available and I glued them on to 1/4″ plywood. I cut the center hole out on the CNC partly for practice and partly because I thought I might use the wood for something else later.

The main trick was finding room for all the hoses underneath and mounting the key/valve piece. I put threaded feet into the bottom of each leg so that the wood wouldn’t directly contact the ground and so that I could make quick adjustments if it was wobbly. The final step was finishing it and I used fence stain in my spray gun for more practice with that sprayer.

Building a fire pit out of wood is probably not the smartest idea, but I’ve checked the wood temperature after running it for 15-20 minutes and it’s only around 140 degrees. Do I recommend it? Nope. But it will probably work for us.

We’ve only used it a couple times. Tyla and Elijah have attempted to roast marshmallows with some success. Hopefully we’ll get a little more use out of it when the weather cools off, but even if we don’t, I made it to fit under the bench in the back yard so it’s out of the way.

Indiana 2021

We’re back from our first trip since COVID hit! We flew out to Indiana for a week in the sun at Dad and Mom’s house. It was a little weird being in the middle of so many people in the airport but I’m glad we went when we did. I think we have a long way to go before we’re really “post pandemic”.

On our first day, we drove up to the Grand Rapids, MI area to see Luke, Rachel, and David’s new home. After that we spent most of our days swimming in the pool or in the yard playing croquet. The temps were in the mid to upper 80s with plenty of humidity (the dew point was 74 one day!) so the water felt great!

I took my drone along on the trip and had fun exploring the area around the house. It was neat to grow up thinking about what it would be like to fly around our house and then actual get to do it.

As always, a big thanks goes to Dad and Mom for hosting us all. It’s a lot of work having that many people in your house!

I hadn’t planned to make a video, but then I thought about how much we enjoy looking back at the older ones so I collected everyone’s footage and put something quick together. It’s not anything super special right now, but I’m sure I’ll be glad I did it down the road.

Record-Breaking Heat

By this point you’ve seen all the stories about the Pacific Northwest heat wave that is finishing up, but I wanted to record some of it here for the future.

It ramped up on Friday and hammered us Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Cliff Mass had lots of great blog posts, but I’ll copy a bit from his June 25 post to explain what led to our heat wave:

Ingredient One: An unusually strong area of high pressure aloft over our region (known as an upper-level ridge), associated with sinking air and unusually warm temperatures.  

At the surface, this feature is associated with high pressure to the east of the Cascade crest, which tends to produce weak offshore (easterly) flow.  Such easterly flow keeps the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean away…

Ingredient Two: An Approaching Trough of Low Pressure That Creates Strong Easterly/Downslope Flow over the Western Slopes of the Cascades

The air will start off warm, with origins from the desert southwest, but will warm further as it descends the Cascades into western Washington. Why warm more? Because the air will be compressed as it descends into western Washington.

https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2021/06/the-reason-for-extreme-warmth-on-monday.html

To put this in context, Seattle has only had three days over 100 degrees in the past 100 years. Most of the daily records for this time of year are around 90. Any day over 80 gets people talking about how hot it is and only 44% of people have air conditioning.

  • The old all-time record for heat in Seattle was 103. Seattle broke it’s record on Sunday and then immediately broke it again on Monday, finally topping out at 108!
  • That high of 108 in Seattle means that Seattle has now been hotter than cities like Miami, Atlanta, Washington DC, Indianapolis, Orlando, or Chicago!
  • Portland hit 116 and in terms of the ~50 biggest cities in the country, that is third on the list behind only Phoenix (126) and Las Vegas (117).
  • The previous maximum low temperature was in the low 70s, but Seattle never got below 80 on Saturday night and spent every minute of Monday at 80 degrees or above!
  • The eastern side of the state had two places hit 118, tying the record.
  • Forks hit 110 which is 45 degrees over their normal temperature for this time of year!
  • The cool down on Monday evening was incredible as well. It went from ~110 to under 70 in less than 12 hours. Forks recorded a 28 degree drop in one hour!
https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2021/06/even-more-extreme-extraordinary-record.html

Here in Woodinville, it’s hard to get an exact, calibrated measurement but based on the official sensors closest to us, I’m confident that we hit at least 108 or 109. The city about 2 miles to the west (Bothell) of us recorded 110 and the city about 6 miles west of us (Lake Forest Park) hit 111. We were very thankful for our air conditioning and it did a good job keeping up, topping out at 80 degrees on Monday before pulling it back down to 76 where we have it set.

Every few hours over the weekend, I went out to read the kWh usage off my electric meter. My Thermostat (Ecobee) records the usage per second and I store all that info in a database. So I was able to combine all that info together and build up a little model to estimate how much it costs when my air conditioner is running. It comes out to around $0.30/hour. (It’s about $0.08/hour with no air conditioner.) When the temp is in the mid 80s, the AC will kick on around noon or 1 and run until 10 or 11 at night. On a day like that we’d spend around $3 to have the AC on. I don’t think that’s going to change anything about how I use it, but it’s something I’ve always wondered about!

Tuesday was “only” around 90 and the rest of the week will be in the low 80s. That’s still above normal but I don’t think there will be a lot of complaints.

Air Quality

A few years ago, I wrote a quick website that shows the air quality around the northern end of Lake Washington here in the Seattle area. There’s not a lot to it, but it’s a very quick way to check the air quality and get some quick links to more info.

That site died when I had to move my hosting, but I’ve brought it back to life at https://studio711.com/air. If you were using the old site, please update your bookmarks.

Hopefully the wildfires this year won’t be as we’ve had in the past!

Flume Smart Home Water Monitor Review

A few weeks ago, I watched an Ask This Old House video about laundry room leaks. A few days later, a coworker had to rush home because one of his washer water supply hoses had sprung a leak. This is something I already think about from time to time and I was finally prompted to take action.

The first step was replacing my rubber hoses with some nice braided hoses. I made sure to get specific high efficiency hoses that could supply water quickly enough to our washer. Our existing hoses were ~10 years old so it felt good to replace them.

But that only helped the washer. What about the ice maker supply line? Or the various toilets? I thought about getting a bunch of water sensors and having them around the house, but Tim mentioned the smart meter from Flume Water. After a little research, I was hooked and thanks to the magic of Amazon Prime, it was on my doorstep when I woke up the next morning.

The box strapped on to my meter. It just sits next to the meter. No plumbing is required. Most meters work with a magnet that spins as the water flows so this device can read that magnetic field and understand how much water is flowing through. That connects to a WiFi bridge in the house and from there the data gets sent to Flume where it feeds the app on my phone. I can now get minute by minute water usage reports and I can set up rules for alerting me to water leaks. For example, any water that runs for more than 2 hours will send me an alert, or if I have water flowing at more than 6 gallons per minute for 15 minutes, I’ll get an alert. It’s not as nice as the systems that will automatically shut off the water, but it’s considerably cheaper and I have enough neighbors that I could call to have them shut off my water if I wasn’t home.

Most people would stop there, but Tim also mentioned that some irrigation systems will integrate with Flume to detect abnormal usage. I realized I could set that up myself because I’m already pull data from my OpenSprinkler irrigation controller and the Flume device has an API as well. Before too long, I had a program written that would know what zones were watered at each period of the night, look at the total amount of water they consumed, and alert me if there are any oddities. Last year I had a broken irrigation head right near the drain in the curb so I didn’t notice the water dumping down the drain until I got a higher than normal bill. With this setup, I would have known the first morning after that happened.

Even without the geeky add-on, it’s still a pretty neat device. It’s one of those things that probably isn’t worth it if you never have a leak, but if you do, it will pay for itself a thousand times over and the peace of mind is worth something too. Also, I now know that it costs about 2.5 cents to flush a toilet.

Xfinity Mobile One Month Review

It’s been just over one month since we switched from Verizon to Xfinity Mobile. We have two phone lines and I started us with just 1GB of shared data between us. We were used to sharing 2GB before, but during the pandemic, I’ve been working from home and we were only averaging around 0.9GB/month. I really wanted to see if the bill would actually be under $20 so I left my data off all month.

The month is up and *drumroll* here’s the bill…

It actually worked! This feels so much better than the $80/month we were paying for almost exactly the same thing before. (It literally is the same cell network behind the scenes.) At some point in the next couple months, we’ll be in a situation where I think I’ll switch us to unlimited data for a bit but it’s very nice to be able to adjust up and down just by clicking a button in the app on my phone. Our choices right now (before taxes) are:

  • 1GB $15
  • 3GB $30
  • 10GB $60
  • Unlimited $80. Technically we could switch one phone line to unlimited for $45 and leave the other one one the shared 1GB plan but we’ll generally want to switch both phones to unlimited.

Anything that bills us monthly gets extra attention from me so I’m very happy to have this bill be more reasonable and under our control. I do have to say that it annoys me that I didn’t do this last fall when we got our new phones and this carrier switch possibility opened up to us. We easily wasted $300+ by not doing this sooner. Better late than never though!

Bay View State Park Camping

As Tyla and I struggled with what to get Elijah for his birthday, he was regularly asking us if we could go camping. We have a couple trips planned this summer, but then we had the idea to go camping for his birthday. Mid-June can be cold and wet but then we hit on the idea of renting a cabin at a state park. There are quite a few options but we ended up at Bay View State Park. You can check my Instagram account for more photos, but I wanted to share a little more about the trip here.

When we pulled into the park, I said, “UH OH! Elijah! I didn’t pack the tent!” Then we turned the corner and saw the cabins. He got a kick out of that, and the cabin was fantastic! It’s about a 12×12 room plus a covered front porch with a swing. It rained a lot for the first evening, night and and most of the next day. We were very thankful for the dry area! It was just the right size for the three of us (one more kid would have been fine too.) The cabin had power, lights, and a heater. We didn’t see it listed before went, but it also had a fridge/freezer and microwave. We didn’t make use of those since we hadn’t planned to have them available. We ate our meals on the front porch when it was rainy and we were able to play some card games there too.

The park itself isn’t huge but it wasn’t very full and we generally had the shore area to ourselves. We spent a lot of time throwing rocks into the water and exploring at low tide.

We drove a mile or two down the road to Padilla Bay Shoreline Trail. As I parked at the south end of the trail, I noticed fresh glass by our spot… and the spot where the next car would be, and the spot after that… and all ~5 spots in the parking area. We got back in the truck and parked on the north end of the trail which was in a more populated area. Elijah was able to ride his bike and we walked the ~2 miles down to the barn along the trail. If you’ve been in our house, you may remember the barn photo that’s above the half-wall in our living room. I took that photo about 8.5 years ago when Tyla and I visited her family who was camping at the park. Tyla was pregnant at the time so it was fun to go back with Elijah and take a family picture in front of it.

I kept thinking about how perfect the cabin rental was this weekend. We might have canceled the trip due to weather if we had planned to use a tent. It didn’t take us long to start searching to see what other parks have cabins and yurts available for rental. I think this might be something we explore more in the future.