All posts by DanM

Ruby developer, entrepreneur, hobbyist

Science Saturday: Mushroom Kits

I like to do various semi-education activities with my kids, most often on Saturdays. We call these Science Saturdays activities. I am going to post about some of the successful activities and the less-than-great semi-educational activities.

Mini Mushroom Grow Kit

Mushroom growing kit
Mushroom growing kit

Growing Mushrooms clearly takes a bit more than a single Saturday, but it is a great science activity with the kiddos. We grew a back to the roots Mushroom mini grow kit. That can be started in just a few minutes. The initial setup involves opening the box, cutting the bag, and soaking it in water. All the while discussing mushrooms, it was super easy to start.

mushrooms growing
mushrooms growing

Then it is fun to watch as it grows from tiny baby mushrooms to something we can eat in just 2 weeks. We grow tons of stuff with the kids, with a summer outdoor garden and our basement hydroponic garden (which I will cover in a future post).

kiddos growing and eating mushrooms
kiddos growing and eating mushrooms

If you have any questions about it, this is a pretty good youtube video that includes setup and a timelapse of the mushrooms growing.

Our kids love eating and cooking mushrooms, so it seemed like it would be fun to grow some so they could see the process and eat their bounty.

The mushrooms start coming up fast, and I think Theo pulled his first one off the box and popped it in his mount by day 6 after starting the kit.

preparing the mushrooms
preparing the mushrooms

From reading a bit about these kits, we should be able to grow two or three crops of mushrooms. We just started the second batch yesterday.

Our kids enjoyed sauteing them in butter, the first batch we harvested a bit too late, and they were a bit dry and cooked up chewy. We will see how we do with the next batch.

Full Mushroom Kit photo gallery

Family Climbing Time

We have been into climbing as a nice form of exercise. Theo has been climbing since he was a baby. He first visited this climbing gym at age 3. Now that Sasha is 3, we needed to get her to her first gym as well. It was fun to go as a family, and they have daycare available making it possible to climb with the kids for a while, then have them play with other kids while you get in a few climbs without distractions.

Theo Climbing a Boulder
Theo Climbing a Boulder (click for higher quality video)

It was good to get them more experience at the climbing gym, as Theo could start youth group climbing classes in just a few months when he turns 6.

Theo climbing a few routes
Theo climbing a few routes

Sasha, had fun at the gym, but quickly wanted to go to the daycare so she could play with the toys and other kids… She was happy and we were able to focus on ab it more climbing with Theo.

Sasha trying some routes
Sasha trying some routes

A great way to spend some time with the family and to get some exercise during the cold and snowy winter months in CO.

At the top
At the top

Happy Holidays and Happy New year!

See more pictures from our 2022 adventures.

2022 started in quarantines and ended in continuous adventures – culminating with a 10-year anniversary couples trip to Puerto Vallarta and a 9-person family trip to Disney World.

Four days of child care between quarantines in January was enough for the whole family to get Omicron. Our post-quarantine 90-day pass allowed us to take the kids to the Children’s Museum and dine inside the first restaurant of Sasha’s memory. With eventual vaccine access for the littles, the adventures continued through the fall with two trips to Oklahoma City, and family trips to Billings, MT, Colorado Springs, Crestone, and Grand Junction. The kids are becoming swimmers and gymnasts. This year, we learned that they love raw oysters — they’ll each eat two dozen in a sitting — vacations, and amusement park rides – especially roller coasters.

Click through to see our full gallery

First Family Ski Trip

We finally got our little family out skiing. We tried two years ago for our first ski trip, and our car broke down on the way to the mountains… After that disaster, we finally built up the courage to try again.

our kid's first time on skis
Our kid’s first time on skis.

We go on Christmas eve day to Loveland, a family tradition before kids. We had to bring two duffle bags of gear to have all that was needed, along with backups for any issues that might come up. For a family of 4 renting everything and getting two passes along with a small shared lunch, it costs about $300 for a single day… Which is pretty expensive but much less than the bigger resorts.

kids getting lift tickets and ski rentals
The kids going through the lift line and getting sized for rentals

Getting the kids through the lift pass (free for kids 5 and under) line and fitted for rentals was a breeze. Loveland is really well set up for beginner kids, with folks helping size boots, helmets, and goggles, sweetly telling our kids how great they are doing.

Theo made amazing progress on his first day
Theo made amazing progress on his first day

It was amazing to see how Theo took to it, with no complaints and learning so quickly. He sometimes carried his skis up the bunny slope so I could carry Sasha. He went from his first time standing in the skis to being able to do “pizza pie” stops, riding the “Magic Carpet” lift, and even finishing off the day with two real lift rides.

Sasha also had fun and was excited to join the adventure
Sasha also had fun and was excited to join the adventure

Sasha also did amazingly well for a 3-year-old. She did three bunny slope runs before wanting a warmup and snack break. She got comfortable with all the gear and asked to go “again and again.” She got pretty good at skiing down but couldn’t yet master the “pizza pie” stop.

Theo keeps going and going
Theo keeps going and going

Theo kept going, and I was looking for a break to get some water while he still wanted to ski more. He finally admitted he might need a break as he was “running low on air.”

After all four of us had a break (in shifts so we could sneak in a few bigger runs), we got everyone out for round two, and Sasha did three more runs, including going up the “Magic Carpet” lift once… They did pretty great for a cold day, with snow and a first time on skis.

Sasha skiing to Erin
Sasha skiing to Erin

I also need to mention the help of having grandpa who would watch kiddos when they needed a break for a bit in the lodge. Erin and I both managed to sneak in a few non-bunny slopes runs. I am not sure we could have pulled that off without another adult. 

Overall it was a super exhausting day, and carrying both kids and gear up a hill while on skis is far more exhausting than just going skiing oneself. Still, it seemed like a success and went well enough we will probably rent a cabin for a long weekend sometime.  Feel free to check out the full ski gallery if you like.

Family Ski Day
Family Ski Day

Loving the Basement Swings

Sasha loves her swings…

Sasha jumping onto the rope swing.
Sasha jumping onto the rope swing.

As we had kids, I set up mounts in the ceiling to attach a variety of swings… Over the years, they have served us very well. Both our 3-year-old and 5-year-old still enjoy a variety of attachments. We even have hanging chairs for adults when we end up playing games or watching movies in the basement.

Indoor Ceiling Swing Hangers Unlock Many Options

The most popular attachments change over the years, with the original baby swing and traditional swing long original favorites… These days the rope swing and trying to jump from and land on various targets seems most popular. It is the most popular obstacle in games of “the floor is lava.”

a collection of pictures of our kids on swings
our kids have enjoyed a variety of swing attachments.

For more, see our entire gallery of swing photos.

How and What

If you have a suitable playroom for something like this… You need a few things to make this work. I am not giving detailed instructions as I am not a contractor, etc… You can find great youtube videos and instructions to ensure you have the mounts in studs in the ceiling. All of my mounts I test with around 150 lbs ensuring when a swing is attached to two mounts, it should be able to handle crazy kids or most adults.

  1. Stud finder, drill, and suitable studs that can take the load.
  2. Heavy-Duty Swing Hangers Sets (I have 3 sets, so 6 ceiling anchors)
  3. Pick a few attachments.
  4. Buy carabiners. I recommend having enough for all the attachments you get, so it is fast and easy to swap them out.

Which attachments?

Sasha Approved

While Theo might spend a little more climbing on the wall these days, Sasha probably still spends more time on the swings.

Slow motion Sasha jump

The swings are a great compliment to our climbing wall and ninja line that also mounts in the basement.

Breakfast Time

Our kids have been getting good at waking up, making breakfast, and entertaining themselves while we get up and get ready to take them to school… As they learn to make breakfast, they are also “exploring” other things in the kitchen…

Today after dropping them off at daycare/school… I found they hadn’t used their little milk as intended for cereal. Instead, they used it to mix with food coloring to drink purple milk for breakfast… Amazingly didn’t make a mess. After school, I told them I was impressed that they remembered where to get the food coloring and were careful not to make a mess. Hilariously, they admitted they had made a mess and worked together to clean it all up before we came downstairs.

I am counting that as a win.

Our kids with her thumb up eating mushrooms she helped cook.

Why Do We Have 6 Strollers?

Honestly, I don’t really know, all I know is I would have done it differently if I knew what I know now. This has been somewhat of a constant battle and silly learning in our family… I often reference it as poor planning and wastefulness, while my wife probably has a fond place in her heart for most of the strollers. I believe you can get by with one or two strollers, and perhaps my descriptions of all our strollers will help someone out there decide on the right set of strollers for their family.


If you are having one kid, get the City Mini GT. If you are having two, probably get that first single stroller, then upgrade to a Baby Jogger City Select Double Stroller when the second kid arrives.

Meet The Strollers

Below I will share some details about what and why we have each of the strollers we have.

The Perfect Single Child City Stroller

Actual Name: The City Mini GT
AKA: The Only One You Need
If you only plan to have one kid or you’re determined to get a second stroller when you have a second kid this is the absolute best single stroller for a single child. It travels great it fits through the metal detectors it doesn’t require you to buy a second travel stroller (see more about that later )it’s a highly efficient and easy to move around the stroller with lots of space, adapters, and features. It’s great on all sorts of terrain from bad sidewalks to lighter hiking trails. We have been able to effectively use it as an “offroad” stroller, which is something our travel stroller could never do. If you are headed towards two kids, read on for the best double stroller.

The Best Double Stroller

AKA: If you know you are having two kids, just buy this one


If you’re only going to have two kids, you can perhaps just get away with this as a single stroller! This stroller is a great option because before the second kid arrives at has all sorts of attachments to use the extra space like a shopping cart attachment or other things helpful when rolling around a city. The city double isn’t quite as easy to maneuver as the regular city mini, but it’s still quite great — it’s wheels work really well even on bumpy and off-road conditions like going on trails. We have yet to travel with a stroller yet, I don’t believe it will fit through the standard security scanner. Which will require extra time for the stroller to go through the metal detector and inspection, so that’s a negative against it. That is the primary reason to get more than one stroller, having something smaller that can get through security. If you really want to limit yourself to a single stroller and you’re planning on two kids this is a great option.

The Jogger Stroller

AKA: The Aspirational Stroller
Did you jog a lot before you had a kid? No… Now that you have a kid you’re going to find all that extra time for extra workouts… Really No, it isn’t likely to happen. We’ve used the stroller maybe 10 times in the multiple years we’ve had it. If you are already a serious exercise addict maybe but don’t believe having a kid will help you get in shape.

The Travel Stroller

Actual Name: ?
AKA: we should have just brought the city mini GT

The idea that you will want a smaller stroller while traveling is cute. Although most of the time you will just want your trusty primary stroller. If you’re going to Europe and running around all tiny alleys and public transportation it sort of makes sense, but the wheels on the travel stroller across bumpy cobblestone roads and areas without sidewalks really make you regret the decision to have a less than good stroller with you. You generally just want your primary stroller with you, one that can travel well enough and fold up well enough. A travel stroller has limited storage capacity starts to fall apart quickly, after taking a beating while traveling, and really isn’t that much easier to move through an airport than anything else.

Just a quick note from Erin here — I took Theo around Europe a lot and definitely think we needed the travel stroller. This one is a good mix for price, weight and utility. You want your primary stroller to have more of the features described above, but if you are traveling outside the US with a kid too big for a carrier, you’ll want something like this too. If your kid still fits in the carrier, use that. If not, you want a stroller that is light, easy to fold, and can be carried over your shoulder one handed while your kid is in the other arm — both to walk up to your 5th floor walk up and to maneuver the many stairs in their metro systems.

The Cheapo Double Stroller

AKA: We should have just bought the city mini double stroller
This stroller’s fine but it’s only just that, fine. It’s wheels aren’t great on bumpy sidewalks, it’ll get stuck on small bumps, and you’ll have to push and pull to get it going again. It kind of starts to fall apart quickly, the bottom already his required home repairs to keep the basket from tearing apart as it drags on the road when loaded. It’s okay it was just me I’d probably keep it, and avoid spending more money. Why did we get another double stroller, the 10% of the time I’m not pushing a stroller and my wife or a grandparent is using this stroller all you will hear is complaints about how hard it is to push and how it doesn’t maneuver well and how y’all really should have just paid for a better stroller.

The Grandparents Stroller (not sure)

Actual Name: Baby Trend Expedition Jogger (same as our jogging stroller)
AKA: Another Stroller, just for visits, sure why not…

The one on the left, another jogger kept at grandparent’s house

If you don’t want to always lug a stroller around, you can keep a stroller with your grandparents. I still think this is a bit silly, but we have used it more than the “aspirational” jogging stroller, so perhaps it makes more sense than I think. If your grandparent’s help with the kiddo’s a lot and want to keep a stroller at their place, go for it. Overall it is a nice stroller as well and has great handling. You can see it was in action alongside our City Mini GT on a pebble hiking trail.

Sasha Anne Mayer

Erin and I are so happy to announce that Sasha Anne Mayer made a slightly early arrival earth-side. She was plucked a bit early due to mom’s gestational hypertension (and an attempt to avoid a repeat of the severe preeclampsia from last time). She was born at a bit over 38 weeks and weighed 5lbs, 6oz and measured 18 inches.

So far the experience has gone much more smoothly than the last time. Everyone is doing well happy and healthy.

We are currently working on the name for Sasha’s chicken-shaped nursing pillow, Theo’s eventually was called “buck buck”. And yes, we had to get a second $50 nursing pillow because as soon as his mom suggested that his new sister would need his, Theo started sleeping with his pillow every night… Names currently in the running:


  • Cuckoo
  • ChaChaCha
  • Clucky
  • Kikiriki (The Spanish word for a chickens sound)
  • Spark Plug


Amsterdam Recommendations

I have a couple times been asked by folks for various recommendations around Amsterdam. I visited a number of times as my previous job moved their HQ to downtown Amsterdam right on the canals. It was a lovely city to visit and is a great connection point for all over Europe. Erin joined me a number of times along with Theo and we always had a good time. Theo particularly enjoyed boat trips on the canal (including when he knocked my glasses off my head and into the water). Since the office was in the canals I generally stayed very close to the waterways as well, an easy walk to most of the popular attractions. Which means the majority of things I recommend are in that general area.



  • If you do a boat tour I highly recommend “Those damn boat guys” We have done that twice with Theo (who is now 2)
    • I have also done a number of larger tours with work, which was also fun
    • They are smaller boats/groups, and less stodgy very funny and factual kind of stand-up comedy history
    • Theo loved it both times, as have some friends and their kids
    • I have recommended it to others who went with them and enjoyed it
    • The pick up / drop off is across the canal from the Anne Frank house an easy to find the location
    • Watch all their videos/homework


  • I haven’t been yet but Erin and Theo have and everyone has rave reviews about the Nemo Science Museum
  • Anne Frank house, obviously a popular stop.
  • Go through museum row (Museumplein), my favorite is the small Banksy museum there… Rijksmuseum, etc… all the others are great and as one would expect.
  • Vondelpark, frequently has music and other events going on just see what is happen while you are there
    • Rent bikes and cruise through Vondelpark, regardless of biking or walking Vondelpark is awesome on a sunny day
  • The splash parks everywhere are great, Theo basically travels the world to compare the splash parks, swings, and slides. If you travel to Amsterdam in summer there will be splash parks everywhere — the parks, the museums (including the Science Museum) and by restaurants. So, if your kiddo is young, make sure you are always prepared for him to get wet — have a towel, change of clothes and splash diaper if needed with you at all times, or you will just have either an angry or a wet kid.
  • Amsterdam is a great city for strollers — the bike infrastructure makes it very easy to navigate with a stroller and you will rarely be required to fold it up and lug it around (unlike most of Europe where a baby carrier is really the way to go).
  • Erin also recommends Red Light Secrets as a museum in the red light district to help you learn more about that part of Amsterdam’s culture and economy. Probably best for grown-ups. You actually get to go inside one of the brothels.
  • I would recommend going during summer weather, but it is beautiful and fun to walk through the snow-covered streets as well. If you do go during the summer and with your kiddos, beware the jetlag. Having the sun up until nearly 11PM can be tough on bedtime routines, but also quite fun if you are willing to go with the flow.

Food & Drinks

  • The Pantry: A slightly touristy but fun restaurant to try a bunch of traditional Dutch food
    • probably worth getting reservations as it can fill up (small not too many tables)
    • one of you should order the ham shank it is so good I get it once every visit to AMS (photo below)
    • The Pantry is also a Theo favorites


  • In general if you like Asian food many of the Malaysian and Vietnamese places are great
  • Brewery: Might not work with kids your age but a really cool brewery in an old windmill, Brouwerij ‘t IJ
  • If traveling with young kiddos get them babychinos at the cafes (just frothed milk). Theo loved them.

  • Other restaurants: Piqniq, Winkel, Foodhallen, De Silveren Spiegel


Honestly, my favorite part of the city is just walking around the canals, randomly stopping for snacks (chocolate covered waffles). I could easily waste hours away just walking around through the odd paths, walkways, alleys, and bridges that sprawl through the city. On work trips, I would listen to an audiobook while strolling through the streets in the evenings, which was always a pleasant way to spend an evening.