New yarn and fun buttons

July 31, 2007

I needed cute, fun, wash & dryable white flower buttons for my mystery knitting project, and so I made a point while we were in Boston of taking a trip to Windsor Button. It's between my old office and the Park Street T station - and so a fun and nostalgic place to visit. I haven't been there in three years, and it's gentrified quite a bit. Much more yarn -- I had fun browsing. And all the buttons you could wish for, except they're all behind a counter, which makes color matching hard. That serendipity of an unexpected match can't happen because you're squinting from two yards away. Kind of a pity.

In any case, I found my flower buttons.

And, I found good gender-neutral Cotton Fleece for a friend's fall baby, and adorable elephant buttons.

The buttons don't quite match, but it's a near enough miss that I'll probably use them anyway. :-)


Back to Boston

July 30, 2007

We went to Boston for the weekend (we're such jetsetters. :-P). One of Kevin's favourite fraternity brothers was getting married to his college girlfriend. Such a fun reason to go back. We redeyed in Friday morning, (miraculously) were able to check into the hotel eight hours early, napped for a while, and then hit the town.

We were staying right by the Common, so we headed over to walk along Newbury. I found a clutch for the wedding, and we met up at Trinity Booksellers (where my Boston knitting group used to meet). I drank tea and read the Globe while Kevin looked for a book, and then we headed to Croma for specialty pizzas and cocktail hour.

I put down the knitting for this picture. Kevin loves it -- apparently I have a happy smile when I'm back in Boston.

And then a round of drinks later, here's Kevin and Newbury street.

The weather was gorgeous, and the people watching was great. And later that night, after a nap, we met up with slews of Kevin's college friends. Such fun. Especially where I barely got to talk to any of them at our wedding, I loved having the chance to catch up so soon after.

On Saturday, we split up to do our own things. I had errands (centered around the yarn store!), and Kevin wanted to play with his new camera lens. We'd barely left the hotel, though, when the sky just opened, and unleashed one of the longest and most dramatic thunderstorms I've ever seen. It went right over Downtown Crossing, and the rivers of water running down the brick streets, with pelting rain splashing everywhere, and simultaneous thunder and lightning, were truly spectacular.

We both flew back to the hotel to change, and then walked the two blocks (the rain let up just before, thankfully) to the Four Seasons for the wedding. It was gorgeous (my pictures are here -- sorry that they're so dark). It was so meaningful and interesting to attend another wedding barely two months after our own, and so fun to see Jim and Jess together.

I only have one picture of the two of us. I think Kevin should come up with more reasons to wear a tux. :-)

And here are the bride and groom dancing together. :-)


A garden post, now that it's stopped raining

July 25, 2007

I wish that I had more quilt squares to show you, but that has very temporarily been placed on the back burner. We're heading to Boston this weekend for a wedding (I didn't have a dress), and I just found out that I need to have gifts all knitted for a shower by the end of July (I hadn't started), so I've been being responsible and not working on the quilt, even though I wanted to.

Instead, here are garden pictures! I think the beans are just about done. I had another nice big handful last night, but I don't see any more flowers or teeny ones. I think they couldn't cope with the week of rain and clouds -- whatever momentum they had seems to have died. A great experiment though, and one I certainly intend to repeat! The new excitement is the tomatoes, which are coming on strong. There are LOTS of them, and they're getting quite big. Still green, but I'm so pleased with them. The basil is also getting huge -- time for more strawberry-basil martinis?

And because I thought it was cool, here's a ladybug in the mint!

There's a ladybug-ish thing on the next stalk. I have no idea what it is. If I had to come up with a theory, I would say that it looked like the ladybug took a page from our shrimp's book and molted, but I didn't think beetles did that. Huh?


And there's the lake

July 22, 2007

My nice healthy state of denial about losing the house is occasionally chipping, and there's no Harry Potter to distract me like yesterday, and so it's been an out of sorts kind of day.

A major bright side is that I finally went through and tallied all of the quilt squares I need to make larger, and the damage isn't as bad as I thought. I've already fixed the 7 green squares. On Friday, I cut the strips for the fifteen lake squares, and today I finished sewing them. I have four more mixed green/blue squares, and then the bottom portion of the quilt will be ready to sew together!

So next up on the fixing bandwagon are the pale blue and yellow sky squares. These will be a project, since they're already all seamed together. There are 28 squares -- five short of what' I've completed so far. Those 28 squares need to be seam-ripped apart, I need to cut 4 new strips for each, and then sew the strips on and re-seam. I keep going back and forth on how daunting I find that work. It's probably about 5 nights worth?

The good news is that the mountains are already big! Those are the ones I was dreading, since I was already running out of two of the purples, and there's no way I could have finished if I also had to make existing squares larger. I remember vague angst about needing to rethink some part of the design as the reason I'd stopped sewing last summer, but I'd blocked out exactly what had happened to make me feel like this project was hopeless. I'm guessing that the size of the already-completed squares took the prize.

I've updated the sidebar to show the resizing status. (The dark blue and green squares are already counted as finished, given this weekend's work.) Jobs like this are easier when you can appreciate your progress.


Not a spoiler

July 21, 2007

It came!

The UPS guy knocked on the door around 10:30 with the Harry Potter book from Amazon. I love the packaging.

I know it's a huge money maker for Amazon, and obviously they'd go out of their way, but the Saturday morning delivery was a brilliant idea.

The book itself was interesting. I really don't think it's a kids book. And I can see why Rowling thought it was the book to write, but I wish she'd chosen a different path. I can't wait until everyone's done reading and the conversation starts -- there's certainly enough to talk about.


July 20, 2007

This week has been so exciting because we put in an offer on a house we loved, and have been counter-offering for the last few days like mad. And then, this afternoon, someone put in a full-price offer and we lost it. :-( Madly disappointing. :-( We're sad.

To balance out the second guessing, here are more quilt squares:

I've "biggened up" 7 more squares, bringing the full sized tally to 13, and the still-little tally to 48. I'm excited because I haven't been clear that the "landscape" quilt design would work, but seeing the squares so far convinces me. How cool. I guess an upside of losing the house is that it's more incentive to work on the quilt?? Seems like a stretch. We wanted the house.
:-/ Eee. I'll be more positive tomorrow.

Labels: ,

A muddle of Thursday things

July 19, 2007

We (and the Brown dinner crowd) just got back from the Harry Potter movie. The IMAX at the pacific science center hosted a "wells and spells" viewing -- a ticket got you into the science museum and movie, plus a(n adult) drink, they had snacks, and lots of attention to theme. I was very impressed at how many people showed up in hogwarts attire, including an extremely convincing snape. It made me wish I had a Weasley sweater, or at least a house scarf, at the ready. :-) And I call myself a knitter...

The movie itself annoyed me, but then again I never like movies based on books. Since I'd just reread 5 last weekend, I was particularly galled. That said, Luna was great, and the I'm fascinated (in a sort of horrified way due to Umbridge's outfits) how long it takes until the knit patterns based on the movie start appearing. I feel like they were catering to the knitters, in a way -- so many different sweaters, scarves, vests, dresses, and ponchos. It was also fun to get to wear the 3D glasses for a portion -- I think it added a lot.

And then we got home, and I was confronted, again, with a major disappointment of today:

Apparently Kevin's fancy camera was on some secret setting that makes everything glow in space -- the room was pretty dim, and I don't know why it didn't turn out. So, do you see the problem?

Here, try again with a (this time very dark and deep) picture taken by my camera:

The six new squares are bigger than the others. These are the first squares I've done in color pattern for the quilt (except for the purple/mountains, and I stopped a year ago on those because something had gone all wrong and I blocked out exactly what). I was trying to follow my pattern last night, and the things were way too big -- I was already up to the 5" strip, which is the largest, on the 16th block of the square, but each square should have 21 blocks. So I held the squares up to the ones I've already done, and they were exactly the same size, but missing five pieces. It took me ages, I kept recounting and remeasuring, but eventually I realized that all 55 squares I've done so far (including the 32 that I've already sewed together into a large block of sky) are all too small by four blocks (an inch of height and width). I've been ending up with 5x5 inch blocks, and I needed 6x6 blocks.

Once I made the first few, I just kept following the pattern.

This is demoralizing. I've been really excited by my piecing progress recently, and now I have tons more fabric to cut, strips to sew, blocks to iron, and before I can do most of it, I have to remove many, many yards of teensy machine-sewed seems. A major bummer. We're thinking of moving (a house?), and I need to have this done before we leave because it's a representation of where we live now (and the first place we've lived together). It's so important to me to "seal" its importance by seeing it here before we go. I'm already regrouping, but when I first realized the mistake, it was a blow.

On a much brighter and happier note, here are the flowers that Kevin brought home for my birthday!

I had a long and self-pitying post about how much I liked being 25 and why I wasn't ready to move on, but I scrapped it in favour of pretty closeup flower shots. :-) Here's the red:

Labels: , ,


July 15, 2007

Kevin and I cleaned all afternoon (the tub! the fishtank! the cabinet under the sink, even.) and then ordered pizza and retreated to our relative computers. He was deleting unloved music when I last checked in, and I finally caught up on the last few days of npr, and worked on the green squares for the quilt.

My computer desk is tucked into a little nook, facing a matching bookshelf that stores all of my craft things (thank you, Target), and because of the flat panel monitor (thanks yet again, Mom and Dad!), it's easy to put the sewing machine (also Mom and Dad) on the desk without displacing any computer parts. I have a file cabinet a few feet away, with an iron pad on top, on which I iron the pieces as I work.

With my new system of cutting all of the strips ahead of time, things are moving much more quickly. Opening the seams and ironing is the slowest and most annoying part (especially since the steam compounds the summer heat...), but I always enjoy setting back down with my newer, bigger squares, and running the next round of strip selection. It's not a scientific process -- I try to place a medium tone strip against a light or dark, and a light or dark against a medium, and whenever possible, I try not to repeat strips within a square. Usually, when I finish and take a photo, I see two identical strips in the same round somewhere in the batch, but I'm relying strongly on serendipity, and unless my seams are too crooked (I seem to have a lot of trouble with the smallest strips going off kilter under the presser foot), I don't rip strips out.

Sorry for the flash, and the ghastly color on the far left (in person, it's a mottled lime green backing with ivory leaves. This picture looks like the skin of the mermaids in Harry Potter.), but here's the fabric lineup waiting to be applied to the newly-ironed squares.

Each square takes 17 strips and (hopefully) ends up 5"X5". These green squares are for the extreme foreground of the quilt and are meant to be a hodgepodge -- they represent the landscaping, trees, bit of road, etc, that make up the area in front of the lake.

I can't wait till I'm done and can see if the effect works and show you exactly what I mean. I was so happy to find fabric patterns that were more or less green, but also included red (for all of the shrubs that are red for 3/4s of the year), and yellow and blue (for the construction and streets). We live in a relatively urban environment. I want this quilt to represent the view of the Olympic Mountains and Lake Washington from our street. And while I block out most of the foreground in appreciating those, I want the serenity of the lake and mountains to clash a bit with the jangled suburbs in the foreground. Again, I can't wait to see if it works.


Capping off a weird week for weather

July 14, 2007

Friday morning, just as I was getting ready to leave for work, I heard what sounded suspiciously like thunder. Sure enough, the sky was charcoal, and the thunder just got louder, as the rain started pouring down. Seattle, despite its rainy reputation, gets almost no thunder, and on the rare occasions that I've heard it, it's generally a solitary crack, and then nothing for another six months.

Friday morning, just as I was getting ready to leave for work, I heard what sounded suspiciously like thunder. Sure enough, the sky was charcoal, and the thunder just got louder, as the rain started pouring down. Seattle, despite its rainy reputation, get almost no thunder, and on the rare occasions that I've heard it, it's generally a solitary crack, and then nothing for another six months.

This was a real storm, though, and lasted almost twenty minutes. I had to try to get a picture of the rain bouncing off the street.

Not exactly the typical view from the front porch!!

The weather seemed to spend itself, and the afternoon looked clear and sunny, from the glimpses I stole out of the neighbour-across-the-hall's office window.

We've had a week of particularly amazing sunsets. Here was last night's at 9:02 (the days are still long!):

There were at least two dozen sailboats in view out on the water, which made the evening particularly pretty.

Labels: , ,

Things that are green

July 12, 2007

1. New strips for the bushes and trees in the quilt!

I was cutting at the kitchen table -- one of the coolest spots in the house, since it's on the first floor, all the blinds were closed, and I got the few fragments of breeze from the fan that made it past the fishtank. (We really should buy another fan at some point.) After sunset, I had to give in and turn on a light to read the markings on the ruler, but in all it wasn't a bad way to take my mind off the heat. (Good thing the fabric wasn't red or orange!)

2. The second batch of beans!

I really need to stake the plant, since it's gotten very floppy and top-heavy as it's grown, but in the meantime it seems to keep spitting out plants unperturbed.

P.S. The fish made it through the heat wave without issue. The tank got up to 83.4 degrees or so, but Kevin's ice cubes and ministrations throughout the day seem to have done the trick, and when I approached the tank to take a picture, all of the dudes, including the shrimp, came clamoring over to the glass to be fed. A very good sign.

Sorry for the florescent, flash-marred picture. It's really hard to take good pictures when the white tank lights are off. First thing in the morning, we turned off all of the refugium lights and the white lights on the main tank, leaving only the blue main tank lights for the day. It was an attempt to avoid as much heat as possible without stressing out the fish and corals too much. As a result, everything glows (think bright colors under a black light). Pretty in person, but tricky for photos!

The original forecasts for today were for a second day in the upper nineties, but luckily, cold wind blew through overnight and the morning was quite cloudy, so we were given a reprieve. :-)

Labels: , ,

A scorcher

July 11, 2007

My mom runs Vista on her laptop, and has it set up so that she can see the weather for Seattle, New York and DC (where me and my siblings live) in the sidebar on the desktop. According to her, I've been winning for the last week or so. Sunny and low 80s easily beats humid and upper 90s. Yesterday, though, started to get really hot (89 on my car thermometer at one point!), and today, we're supposed to hit 98. Anything over 85 is severely alarming to the general Seattle population -- we aren't equipped for hot weather.

Kevin and I would merrily go to our air conditioned offices and then complain heartily when we finally got home to a baking apartment, and leave it at that, but the fish (as usual) complicate things. We generally have a few days a summer where we worry about the tank getting too hot. It's stressful for the fish, and there's real concern that our corals could bleach. You can buy a chiller to keep the water cool, but they're expensive, and not really worth it for our climate. Usually we keep the tank reasonable cool (under 81 degrees) by closing the blinds in the apartment. If it looks like it will break into the mid eighties, we turn a fan on the lights, to chase away their hot air, and to promote evaporation, which cools the water.

Today, the tank was already over 82 at 8:00 am. Eek.

(And look at that salt creep!! When it's hot, we have to wipe down the salt every few days instead of every few weeks.)
So, fan, upstairs windows open, shades drawn, and Kevin's braving the heat to work at home so that he can do water changes with cool water every hour or so. We're cooling the next bucket with a ziplock of regular ice (since it has chlorine in it, we can't put the ice in the water directly).

Then, in a flash of inspiration, I remembered that I still had my ice cube trays from Boston (pre-ice maker). We poured some of our fresh top-off water into those, and those ones will be able to go directly into the refugium. Nice.

Keep cool, little fish!

Labels: ,

Another batch

July 10, 2007

Last night, I finished nine more squares! This wraps up the solid water squares -- very exciting!!

I just love all of the blues together.

And, I'm finally more than halfway done! An exciting milestone, if one that's taken two years to reach. :-)


Domesticated kayaks

July 09, 2007

The kayaks have, to my chagrin, become total indoor pets. They hang in their slings, they hold wedding veils and snuggle up to the hoarded packing supplies from registry gifts. It was time for them to go out and rediscover their niche: water, wildlife, and adventure! :-)

We headed out on the afternoon of the fourth -- rather a lot of adventure!! Between a slight breeze and plenty of boat traffic, the waves were *huge*. We paddled gingerly to the next beach, and then literally surfed back. Lots of fun, if short.

I got to try out my boat cart for the first time. It is MUCH lighter and easier to handle than tromping the whole boat down the hill. That part is a relief. I'm going to have to learn to get used to other bits... It is quite tricky to load the kayak onto the cart (there's no kickstand, so the wheels roll wherever they please), and I had to stop to retighten the strap, but we realized midway down the hill that I had used the kayak leashes (made of thin elastic cord) to anchor the boat to the cart, so it might be a lot easier when I buy a real tie. :-)

Our conclusion after lugging the things up and down the hill was that the "in & out of the apartment" is still the most difficult and stressful part by far. They have to come off the rack, around the fishtank, through the front door, and down from the 3' high deck with a railing. It's a lot of 90 degree angles and fear of property damage. Once again, I wish dearly that we had a garage.

Kevin was holding off on buying a cart, but it's about a third of a mile down to the beach, and his boat is heavier than mine, so he (thankfully) succumbed to massive peer pressure and bought a cart, too. His cart rests under the cockpit of his boat, instead of under the stern, which may make it truly light to heft. It's supposed to get here on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to weekends, and entertaining hazy dreams of kayaking before work when the lake is flat... maybe? Neither of us are expected until 10, and it gets light at 4:45, so it's certainly a possiblity.

Deck gardening starts to look like a success!

July 06, 2007

The beans and tomato plant, despite the measly afternoon-only sun, are getting bigger by the day.

And look! A baby tomato!!

Once I saw the first one, I kept looking, and found several small grape-sized individuals, and then a whole cluster!

The beans are even more exciting. The little inch-long slivers have suddenly transformed into real vegetables!

I won't show you every single bean on this plant, but it's amazing to me how many there are. Looks like we have a plan for tonight: grill salmon, harvest beans to go with! Here's one more photo -- I think this is so, so exciting, that my little experimental plant is so huge and useful now. Here, another pair of beans, ready to eat!

Both plants still have lots of flowers, so I'm hoping that we get several more weeks of beans and then the tomatoes should be ripe.

How cool.


Restarting old projects

July 05, 2007

Notice anything?

Namely, that it's been a solid year, and the fabric scraps and comforter still look like this:

instead of being a nice, pretty quilt on the bed. Luckily, no one who's seen me work on projects expected faster progress, but I've been gearing up to get going again.

On Tuesday, I pieced together my plans, straightened out the strips, and finally started sewing again. Yesterday afternoon, I finished these!

Progress at last! Each of the squares is 5"x5", and each strip is half an inch wide after seaming.

Before, I had been cutting each round of strips as I went. So I'd cut, sew, iron, repeat. This time, I cut all of the strips for my six squares ahead of time, and then pulled from the existing piles to do the sew/iron repeats. It feels a bit faster (though I do wish the ironing was speedier -- that's where all the time goes). Here are the 3.5", 4", 4.5" and 5" strips.

And one last parting shot of all the pretty blues next to my desk! Love that fabric!