Home. :-)

December 31, 2005

It's so nice to be back home. The trip was so fun, and it's wonderful to see people, but there's something about coming back that's just happy. The fish (and pumps!) survived, the mantles didn't burn down (we didn't have a tree to worry about), and the plants grew like woah:

Remember the garlic? We're thinking we need a plant stand, since now it's over a foot tall and we can't close the blinds anymore.

And, a happy surprise:

The two green arrows are pointing to green buds in the strawberry plant! Neat! It's still alive! I don't know how much it can grow or thrive without any leaves to make energy, but I'm so encouraged to see that it's still sending out buds. Does anyone have suggestions (fertilizer? etc?) to keep it alive and happy while it's regrowing?

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2005

Since this is alledgedly at least in part a knitting blog, and since this was one of the best moments of Christmas and knitting-related to boot, I ought to show a present:

Kevin's mom has a stocking that her aunt knit for her when she was very little. It's utterly lovely, with her name, the year she was born, and a Christmas tree decorated with sequins. :-)

Then, when she was married, a dear friend of her family's knit Kevin's dad a stocking with a portrait of him on it (note handlebar mustache!):

She also knit Kevin and his sister Kristina a stocking each when they were born.

When Kevin's mom found out we were both coming for Christmas there, she asked the family friend to knit one more for me. Clearly, the woman is a very generous soul and a speedy knitter because when we came down the stairs on Christmas morning, there was a stocking for me. :-) Wow.

I was so floored. This was my first Christmas not at home with my family, and it was such a wonderful gift. Added to the fact that The Polar Express (which my aunt gave to my sister when we were little -- a staunch favourite) was one of the packages underneath the tree, the magic of Christmas is still there. :-)

Car knitting

December 24, 2005

(posted, as are the next few, on Dec 31...)

Continuing the trading of holidays, I flew back to the east coast with Kevin to visit his family for Christmas. :-) When we booked for Thanksgiving in early November, we'd been hoping that the prices for flights had been raised artificially -- that the airlines would figure that people would panic and snatch up their $700 tickets for December. So, we gambled and waited a few weeks for them to go down. I still think it was a good idea, but prices, if anything, went up. We ended up flying United (squishy, but non-stop and way cheaper than most) to DC, then renting a car and driving up to PA. This ended up working out so that we could see my sister, who graduated in June and has a job and awesome first apartment right in the city. After a wonderful nap, look through photo albums, and brunch out at the crepe place in her neighbourhood, Kevin and I started on the road. I started a new Hayden:

For those who may make the drive, never take New York Ave to Rte 50. We sat in traffic for ages. Eventually we got off and wended our way over to 95, which was semi smooth sailing to Baltimore, when we started seeing signs like this:

By the end of the drive, the hat looked like this:

Progress! At the expense of travel time, but nonetheless progress. The first time I knit this hat, I ran into endless problems adjusting it for a larger male head. There's something about hats that my brain just doesn't get. This time, I had all of my notes from the time before, and yet still managed to out-think myself. After knitting on the drive, I measured and "realized" that the seven and a quarter inches of decreases couldn't possibly work with the size of kevin's head, so I ripped out all but an inch. Apparently I neglected to reread this post before reknitting the whole hat, because I made the exact same mistake of ripping then reknitting three inches less as a year ago. Once I realized what an idiot I was, I decided to just keep going and finish the decreases, so now I have a baby-sized sunbonnet-ish hat. After restarting, I'm this far:

(Kevin's family is convinced I'm math-disabled... at this point I'm in no position to have proved them wrong, frequent measuring not-withstanding. I tell you, doing a gauge-swatch is no insurance against stupidity.)

Blocked, Zippered and Ready to go

December 23, 2005

A mere ten months later, I have finally finished the white sweater!
Pattern: Bomber Jacket from Rowan's Denim People
Yarn: I substituted Cascade Sierra in off white (#03) for the Rowan Denim

After knitting this, I don't think I'd knit another Kim Hargreaves pattern -- the text and finishing instructions left a lot to be desired, it wasn't very carefully constructed (details like keeping a knit rib on the sides to facilitate sewing up, specifying where increases should go, etc.) and things like the shoulder decreases and sleeve cap were wildly off.

That said, I'm proud of it. I spent a lot of time working with the yarn substitution and pattern gaps to come out with something I really liked. I'm impressed at how well the various changes worked. The greatest triumph was my first machine-sewed zipper:

Apparently everyone was right and the trick really is just to baste it down firmly before you start. I think it's the height of cool. I also love the collar.

Once the body was blocked, the sleeves stayed a bit big (which I can live with) and the ribbed pieces went from teeny to quite big. Does anyone have any experience blocking ribbing? Can you get it the ridges to lie closer together if you re-dunk it? This sweater is quite boxy -- I wouldn't mind if it was a bit more form fitting.

I finished it a week and a half ago and keep forgetting to take a daylight photo of it on. So here's a front and back in the mirror before work:

Solstice plus one!

December 22, 2005

For the first time in half a year, there will be more daylight minutes today than yesterday! We're on the upswing!

In the meantime, I'm keeping those candles lit...

Garlic, part 2

December 21, 2005

So I took all of your excellent advice and planted the garlic. Wow.

It does grow, doesn't it?! In a week and two days, the three bulbs, only two of which had small shoots before being planted, have produced three many-inch shoots, plus a few rogue ones off to the side. I'm not used to plants in my care exhibiting this sort of enthusiam for life!

They're sharing a pot with the unfortunate strawberry plant -- after its awesome berry episode, it managed to get covered with teeny web-spinning bugs. I put it outside and the frost killed the bugs (score!) but also the leaves (oops.). The root structure is still deep and strong and the stalks are bendy and green, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it be inspired by the cohabiting garlic and will grow back.

Lights for the tank

December 20, 2005

It's been a year since we put our lights on the tank and so is time, to our wallets' chagrin, to put in new bulbs. Our hood is a JBJ Formosa DX, which is 4x65W, and we started with 2 bulbs of 7100K (the blue lights) and 2 10000K bulbs (the white). We'd bought this with the recommendation of switching in true actinics for the 7100K after a year, but when we got home with the actinics, the light was no longer blue but purple. All of the corals, especially the green and yellow, were completely washed out. So, we went back to the fish store and traded them in for a pair of SunPaq bulbs that are half actinic and half 7100K. The blue light is back! You can tell, though, that the daylight bulbs have lost most of their power because the blue light overwhelms the white. We'll wait a week or two so as not to shock all the tank inhabitants, then swap out those bulbs for new.

While we were playing with the bulbs, I also moved our green zoo frag rock over to encourage it to spread onto one of our main rocks. I'd encouraged a few zoos off of the original colony onto this one about two months ago, then cut it loose and in the last few weeks they've nearly doubled in size and number.

I want them to spread onto our big rock (aka the gramma's rock, since he sleeps in a cave inside it). It's more or less 15" long, 10" deep, and 14" tall, and already has our original zoo colony on the upper left face and some transplanted orange zoos on the back.

I'm hoping that our gorgeous green zoos can be persuaded to cover the lower left edge.

About time

December 19, 2005

Our green mushroom has finally budded a new baby green mushroom! We're delighted. The proud (?) parent is all folded up below its new offspring here:

(Thank you, tulip mode... still loving that. :-))


December 16, 2005

I've been feeling very loved this week.

First presents arrived from my parents on Tuesday (thus dashing all previously-held thoughts than my procrastinating tendencies may come from them...). Such pretty sparkly paper! I was particularily flattered by the green tree paper. My mother, like her mother before her, is a great re-user of pretty paper. I recognize this one from a while back, so I'm flattered that we seemed like the right people to send it to next. It looks so pretty on the table (Since there's no tree to put presents under, I've been putting them by the Christmas wreath, where they look quite festive).

Then, we got a present from Japan! Kevin's friend Jim got transfered to Tokyo about a year ago, and he and his girlfriend Jess sent us what we quickly concluded was a beautiful sake set, along with a bottle to break it in with. There was also a lovely card of little santa-like elves under a bridge and cherry trees -- they reminded me of the elves in Babar.

The label didn't have a character that we recognized other than the 60% which we both thought was neat:

I'm amazed, as always, by their ability to cast themselves into a completely foreign culture. Merry Christmas, Jim and Jess!

Then, in a return to culture that we're more familiar with, my grandparents sent us a beautiful handpainted ornament of Fenway. I'm not such a "sports on the tree" person, but this is just so pretty, and such a fun reminder of home, that it is a category unto itself. I love it. It, and the adorable puppy on the note that came with it, are sitting next to the advent wreath now as well.

It's so fun to have all these reminders of people that we love at hand. :-)

"Rainy and Foggy"

December 15, 2005

I just thought I'd post a picture of the sky, for interest's sake. Last year was dark and cloudy all through November, but when we hit December 1st, the sun came out and stayed through mid-April. I was thinking it was just an odd year, but the first two weeks of December have done it again:

It's been quite cold (I have to scrape thick frost off the car in the morning, except when Kevin's sweet and does it for me), and the days are very short, but I love having the sun and the mountains back. Seeing the crystal clear Olympics and Cascades on the way to work is such a lift. :-) The mountains have so much more texture when they're snow-covered. I would have taken a photo, but snapping while driving seems a recipe for disaster, no?

More Dudes

December 14, 2005

Over the course of the year, our substrate snail population had become a bit depleted. I think we lost a bunch of them when we removed 2/3 of the gravel in June, but in any case, with our pretty sand bed, it was time to head to the store and pick up a new crew.

I forgot how much of a kick I get out of them. I'm not sure if they're nocturnal or just very sleepy, but for most of the day they bury themselves under the sand. They have an amazing sense of smell, and when it's time for the fish to eat, they pop out of the sand with very little warning and, trunks forward, cruise over to the source of the food.

Frequently, they also engage in the folly of glass-climbing. They really aren't cut out for it, so you see them go up, up, then their speed starts to fade, their snorkle starts to waver, and they go careening down the glass again. You can practically hear them shrieking mayday.

I don't know why they're so fun to watch since the behaviour is always the same, but seriously: endless amusement. It's great to have them back.

Just in case there was some free time

December 12, 2005

Somehow I've managed to find another project for myself.

We've been in our apartment for nearly a year and half. The layout is a kitchen, living room, spare bedroom and spare bath downstairs, and our bed and bath plus a large "bonus room" upstairs. When we were looking (we flew out for a whirlwind weekend to find an apartment a month before we drove out to Seattle for good), we wanted a two bedroom apartment, on the theory that our computers needed their own room, and that we might want more space from each other than a 1 bdrm would provide. This was our favourite apartment by far, and it came with the bonus room (This seems to be a Seattle thing -- I've never seen them before. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it's an open room that doesn't have a door of its own, usually open to the stairwell and on the second floor.) So we ended up with more space than we needed. And no real furniture to fill it, but we used the downstairs bedrooms as a sort of project-and-fishtank-extras holder and had both of our desks upstairs. A few weeks ago, Kevin cleverly figured out that the bedroom downstairs has a door and so would be a great place to move his xbox and music so that we could both listen to our own things, so we moved his desk and zillions of computer parts downstairs, and moved the futon upstairs, so that now the bonus room just has my computer and bookshelves and a nice big reading area. Win-win. :-) In this spirit of beautification, I started looking for footstools to go with our butterfly chairs (also in the bonus room). We have one Ikea chair with a footstool that I bought off one of his friends after college, and since we moved we've been carrying that footrest up and down stairs depending where we want to sit that day. It's not heavy, but it is cumbersome and it seemed a bit dumb. However, after looking online for an afternoon, I remembered why we didn't have a pair of footstools for the butterfly chairs already -- they're wildly expensive. Cheap looking ones start at $50 each and they go straight up from there.

Luckily, I am not afraid of a project (or unluckily, depending on how much you enjoy uncluttered carpet), and so I found two old barstools in the classifieds for $15 to convert into footrests. The guy was very conscientious about making sure that we realized that they were a bit rough-looking. I in turn didn't tell him that I intended to saw them apart.

The saw has been getting a lot of use recently. I finished this up on Sunday night before Grey's Anatomy...

... and then added a coat of paint:

The color didn't come out at all -- the picture looks sky blue, but really it's periwinkle to match a throw that I bought a few months ago for the futon. I tried taking more shots at different times of day but didn't have better luck.

Now, the final step is to make a round cushion for the top of each, and matching square pillows for the futon to tie all of the parts together. I have the fabric cut and ironed, and am waiting for a bit of sewing inspiration to strike. :-)

Finally in the spirit

December 11, 2005

We're going to visit Kevin's family in Pennsylvania for Christmas this year, so in spite of my regret every time I see beautiful trees like this, we aren't going to put one up this year. :-( It didn't make sense to have one up only to take it down two weeks later, or to leave it up unwatered while we were gone. Instead, we decided to get a pretty wreath of some sort. I found a lovely (and cheap!) one with all different kinds of evergreen at Lowe's, and brought it home for our wall:

Then, while I was there, I asked for the sawed-off bottom of someone's tree, which they gave me for free! After some heavy sawing on the front porch (though nothing like last year's tree destruction), I went from this:

to this:

and this:

over the mantle and halfway up the stairs. And with enough left over for an advent wreath. :-) It was great to get to go through all of the ornaments to find the few I wanted to take out, and so now even if we don't have a tree I feel very in the spirit.


December 08, 2005

So much for being done by Thanksgiving. :-P

I've been steadily knitting over the last two weeks and am about a third of the way through the second half of the front. I stopped the first front about 5/6 of the way through when the ball ended (just after the photo below was taken). The knitting is relatively exciting, given the amount of yarn that I have left, all of which is in the picture below. Ack!

Now that the ball has run out for the first front, and I can guess how much I'll need for the second front, it's seeming really unlikely that the scraps will be sufficient to finish... There's still a shot that I could make it with an inch or two to spare, but in the meantime it's definitely suspenseful.

I've called around to try to get the same die lot (#084), but no luck. I'm hoping that with the cables, any color difference won't be too noticeable. Fingers crossed.

Even better than chipping with a butter knife...

December 02, 2005

We're definitely in candle season. Something about such short days and the cold, and I'm finally lighting candles again at night. Given that, I was particularly delighted when Carol (the aunt of the earrings) taught me a trick for getting all of the leftover wax out of the bottom of the candle holder: put them in the freezer. Come back in an hour or two and they pop out perfectly. How cool!

Evidence that it works: a before and after with my candle holders from the ski trip with Kevin's family at Mont Tremblant:

Here's to shiny-new candleholders and the little things in life. :-)

Life is Full of Mysteries

December 01, 2005

Yesterday, I saw three things that I've never seen before. Huh. :-) In chronological order:

1. My job is to run daily tests (called BVTs) on software that people can use to make user interfaces (UIs): all of the windows, buttons, menus, graphics, media, text, etc. One of the things that we have to test is that all of the layout and items still work correctly in different languages and computer cultures. Windows comes in different versions for different languages, and so I regularly test on Turkish, Japanese, Arabic and Hebrew to verify the different alphabets and orientations work. Running the tests themselves isn't super-difficult due to the tools we use, but working on a computer where nothing (the start menu, file names, dialog boxes, the "OK" button, the "send" button in email, etc) is in English is a challenge. It's kind of like playing memory where you were a kid. You have to remember based on position and order (and sometimes icon) which buttons and links are which. It's surprising how doable that part is. The problem, as people who have travelled internationally can attest, is that the KEYBOARD in other places is layed out differently and these international OSs expect that. All of the brackets, slashes and symbols are always different, and a lot of the letters aren't in the correct place either. So you'll be typing along on your English keyboard, and the most wonderful nonsense will be appearing on the screen.
Yesterday, for the first time ever, I worked on a Czech build. And thus the mystery: Where is the backslash??? I need to type "\" about a zillion times to run my tests, and it just wasn't to be found. Luckily, google saved the day on this one, and I was able to use this.

2. A bunch of my brown friends have been getting together weekly to make dinner. The week it was at our house, Jon Warman brought some garlic. (A bulb? It has three cloves left and is half gone. What do you call the thing?) I always just buy garlic pre-chopped in little jars, but he left it with my onions in the bowl on the counter. Imagine, then, my surprise when I looked in today and saw this:

Woah! Does this mean I can plant it? Will it flower? Does anyone know anything about garlic sprouting?

3. We have a new mystery item in our fishtank. I saw it peeking up through the sand, looking sort of flowerish, around the side of a rock. I tried to move the rock in front of it so that I could see it better, and it disappeared, so I started clearing the sand and it kept retreating. By the time I got to the base, it was clear that it could stretch a few inches, or else must be mobile. Here's a picture of it in full retreat, taken from under the tank (the bottom is glass):

For scale, that's about 3/8" in diameter. A few hours later, once I'd stopped pestering it, it started to come out. (The glossy bubbles next to it are air bubbles from when I was using a turkey baster to clear the sand away.)

What in the world can this be? It doesn't really look like Aiptasia. Some sort of nuisance anenome? Definitely a cnidarian, but what kind?

And in the meantime, it's snowing on the Eastside. Huge beautiful flakes. It's only mid-thirties, so they're melting when they touch down, but it's so peaceful looking nonetheless. Yay, snow.