Working it out

One parenting principle that we try to follow – and frequently fail at – is to allow children to work out their own problems and not interfere, since 95% of fighting is really to get parents’ attention.

But sometimes it’s hard to not step in.


More family life comics

I’ve tweeted these comics before, but I hadn’t taken the time to scan them and put them up here, so here they are. Click to view a larger version.

Matthew used to sleep with a special little pillow. He HAD to have it every night… along with a small blanket that he called his “banket raggy” or his “raggy.”


Matthew doesn’t know how to walk quietly.

We’ve been homeschooling the boys. We aren’t really sure how much Matthew comprehends, but he surprised us by drawing an A with chalk on the ground all by himself!

Using the SharePoint image description field in the CQWP

The problem

I have a list with an Image column. When adding items to the list, you get the ability to type a description for the image. Seems like this would be used as “alt” descriptive text, right?

Image information in list

Well, let’s pull this field into a Content Query Web Part. I’ll use the default of “image on left” just to see what happens. In the Fields to display section, I put in my “Image” column name, as shown below. I’m hoping that the image will be displayed on the page, and that my image description will show up as “alt” or “title” attributes.

CQWP settings

But nothing shows up! When I view the HTML, there is no “alt” attribute, and the “title” attribute is blank.

No title

Let’s check out the XSL to see what’s going on. Opening SharePoint Designer, go to Style Library > XSL Style Sheets > ItemStyle.xsl. Look for

<xsl:template name="Default" ...>

(which should be near the top) to find the default style. Going down further in the code, you should then be able to locate the <img> tag, which looks like this:

<img src="{$SafeImageUrl}" title="{@ImageUrlAltText}">

For some reason, the @ImageUrlAltText just isn’t showing up. Rather than fight with SharePoint to figure out why, let’s create our own custom Item Style.

The Solution

The first step is to make a new item style. You may find it easiest to find the chunk of code that correlates with an existing item style that is close to what you already want to use. For example – if “Image on left” suits your purposes, copy the “Default” chunk of code (it’s around 65 lines), which begins and ends with:

<xsl:template name="Default" ...>

Or, if you want to use the “Clickable Image” style, then look for this:

<xsl:template name="ClickableImage" ...>

Copy that code and paste it to create a new section. Edit the opening xsl:template tag attributes to look like this:

<xsl:template name="YourCustomName" match="Row[@Style='YourCustomName']" mode="itemstyle">

There are probably some xsl:variable elements immediately underneath the xsl:template tag. Let’s make a new variable to hold our image descriptive text. Add this code:

<xsl:variable name="ImageAltText">
<xsl:value-of select="substring-after(@ImageUrlAltText, ', ')" />

(Brief explanation: After some testing, I noticed that SharePoint holds the image URL and alt text in the same field, which looks something like this if you pull it out: “imageurl, This is the descriptive text here.” So I just select the substring after the comma to grab the alt text, and pull that into my new custom variable, “ImageAltText.”)

Now, look for that <img> tag, and change the code to look like this — basically, change the “@” symbol into the “$.”

<img src="{$SafeImageUrl}" title="{$ImageAltText}">

You can keep this as the “title” attribute, or change it to “alt,” depending on what you want.

<img src="{$SafeImageUrl}" alt="{$ImageAltText}">

Save ItemStyle.xsl and check it in. (You have check in ItemStyle.xsl or else the changes won’t show up.) In your CQWP, change the item style dropdown to your new custom style. If all has gone well, you should see your image pulled in with the proper image description as your title (or alt) text!

Homemade fruit rollups


I tried making homemade fruit rollups with part of our first peach harvest!

There are several recipes out there, but I went with a simple no-fuss approach:

  1. Started with lots of peaches (maybe a dozen small ones, with the bad parts cut out), peel still on, cut into chunks, cooked until soft
  2. Squeezed juice from one orange into pan, mixed
  3. Pureed everything in the food processor
  4. Spread on parchment paper, stuck in oven overnight, set on lowest possible temperature.


I ended up leaving the pan in there for half of the next day, too, because some parts were really thick and didn’t seem very dried out. Then I peeled it off.


Some parts stuck to the parchment.


I got a clean piece of parchment paper to roll up the fruit leather.


Then, I got a roll of scotch tape and stickers. I put the sticker UNDER the end of the tape.


Pulling out enough tape to wrap around the cylinder-of-fruit-leather, I stuck the other end of the tape to the parchment paper to go in the same direction as the “roll.” This way, when the sticker gets peeled off, the fruit rollup can unroll naturally. See picture below:


The tape has to be long enough to stick to itself, otherwise it will just fall off the parchment paper.


Then, using a pair of sturdy kitchen shears and brute force, I cut off the end to form a fruit-rollup-sized piece, while holding on tightly to the rest of the cylinder so that it didn’t unroll.


Ta-da! Store in an airtight container, although they won’t last that long. The kids love them; I personally would try extra-hard to spread everything evenly next time (the edges were more crispy than leathery) and perhaps add some honey to make it a little sweeter.

Top 10 family-friendly things to do in Davis

I was exploring ways to draw maps in Illustrator and ended up making a map of Davis and the top ten things our family likes to do together.

Top 10 family-friendly things to do in Davis


  1. Impossible Acres
    You can pick berries and fruit in the spring and summer, but our favorite thing to do is to get a season pass in the fall and go several days in October to pet brand-new baby farm animals! The baby goats are our favorite!
  2. Slide Hill Park / Manor Pool
    Bring flattened cardboard and slide down the concrete slide! In the summer, go swimming at Manor Pool, which has a pool perfect for babies and toddlers and diving boards and a waterslide for older children (and adults!)
    1525 Tulip Lane
  3. Farmer’s Market / Yolo Berry
    Get fresh, local produce and delicious food (Fat Face Sandwiches on Saturday mornings are awesome!). Wednesday nights, listen to local bands and pay $1 for bounce houses or to ride the bike-pedaled carousel. If you didn’t already get dessert, cross the street to get froyo at Yolo Berry, a local favorite!
    4th Street / 316 C St
  4. Village Bakery / Train Station
    Get a delicious slice of pizza from Village Bakery to go (and maybe a pastry), then cross the street to hang out at the train station and watch the trains come and go.
    814 2nd St
  5. Davis Co-op
    Pay $30/yr to be a member of this local food co-op. Kids get their own small carts and you get access to organic and local foods. There are also great cooking classes for all ages
    620G St
  6. Library / Rainbow City
    The library has free infant/toddler programs and of course, lots of free books. Across Community Park, visit Rainbow City, a large wooden park structure.
    315 E 14th St
  7. Davis Commons / Arboretum
    Grab lunch at Whole Foods or one of the many eateries, then cross the parking lot to walk the 3-mile loop of the UCD Arboretum. Most plants are labeled and sometimes you’ll see a peacock. Just don’t feed the ducks!
    500 1st St
  8. UC Davis Memorial Union
    Besides the annual Whole Earth Festival (Mother’s Day weekend) and Picnic Day celebration (mid-April), you can visit the UCD MU basement for cheap bowling, billiards, and arcades. Why go to London when you can ride a double-decker bus for $1 (under 5 are free)?!
    814 2nd St
  9. Covell Marketplace
    Dos Coyotes is a classic Davis spot, but several other eateries are at the Marketplace – as is a fun fountain perfect for dipping your feet.
    1411 Covell Blvd
  10. California Raptor Center
    A small collection of raptors can be viewed for free. View beautiful birds up close!

Photo credits:
Great Horned Owl – Drew Avery, flickr.comDavis Amtrak station – @Tehhen,
All other photos and content, Corrie Haffly

Western theme VBC

This year, our church used the “SonWest Roundup” VBC curriculum from GospelLight. The guy who usually paints the VBC backdrops had sprained his wrist, so I got asked to do it. I came up with some ideas early on, but then procrastinated until just a couple weeks before to actually take the time to go and paint.

The illustration style I was going for came from the town graphics in the curriculum, but I wanted to make them less pastel and more earthy, but still fun and quirky. In the weeks leading up, I kept visiting Ace Hardware’s “oops” paint area, but they just had really odd colors. The day before I had planned to go paint, I found awesome shades of light blue, a warm yellow, dark brown, and beige — exactly the shades I was thinking of using!

I started with the sky:


Then, I used painters’ tape to make straight edges for some of the buildings (I freehanded the curves).


Steve brought the boys over to have lunch with me. They brought their painting pajamas to “help” me paint, which meant my productivity went down 90%.


After they left, I was able to get more of the details done:


The next day, I finished up the details. I was really happy with the shadows on the Theater.


The yellow panels that the boys had helped me paint got put up on the side of the stage:


And I painted them more to turn it into a life-size sheriff’s office, complete with foam-board sign up top and foam-board swinging doors.


My initial duct tape and hinges job only lasted one night before falling off, so they had to get screwed on.


Finally, I hit up a thrift store and found smaller-sized baskets, mini crates, and even a mini wine barrel half to put outside the trading post.


One challenge I ran into was that I started running out of painter’s tape, which I was using to help mask the windows — the shapes, “panes,” and trim. I ended up reusing tape over and over again. The original paint was green, and you can see how many layers of paint I have below!


The rest of the team came in and did their magic. Other volunteers created the stagecoach image; signs were hung out; fences and hay bales added; and lots of butcher-paper silhouettes were taped to the walls. Here’s what the final room looked like:


The entryway had a life-sized wine barrel and our chicken-wire mannequin in a rocking chair. (The mannequin shows up in the decorations somewhere every year, and never fails to creep us out when we’re working on decor in the late night.)


The week of VBC was a blast for all the volunteers and kids. The volunteers all dressed up with the western theme – good thing cowboy boots are “in” right now!



The cooking team made fun snacks every day. The first day, they made bagel “wagon wheels.”


A few other places on the campus were decorated, too — specifically, the “bible barn.” I loved that they had succulents and plants brought in for the outside!


The inside had hay bales for seating (I cringed when I looked at the floor and thought about clean-up), play horses corralled in a corner, and a wooden fence as a backdrop.


A good time was had by all!