More company!

December 30, 2007

Kevin’s family left, and then our good friends (who are moving to CA and needed a place to stay for a few days) came the next morning. Their baby and “our” puppy required 2-adult supervision. Neither was innocent: William kept knocking her over and getting way too excited, and just when we were about to side with the baby, she’d throw tupperware or toys at his head. I think they both genuinely liked each other, they just couldn’t figure out how to interact. Easiest when separated but still able to see each other!

William left today, which makes everything much, much easier.

Now we’re down to one cute little creature underfoot. Luckily, she’s mostly kept her distance from the fishtank and the tree, and is good about listening when it comes to staying out of cupboards full of glass jars or cleaning supplies. The pasta, can, and tupperware cabinets were deemed good play areas, though, and she’s been quite methodical about emptying them and handing off the contents to whoever else is nearby. Lots of “can you bring the bulger to Kevin?” or “ooh, a bag clip!”

Very cute and so fun to have them here.

Our puppy for a week

December 27, 2007

Our friends Shawn and Sanna (the ones who helped us move all of our furniture) were headed back to the east coast for Christmas, and so we got to puppy-sit their six month old cockapoo, William Wallace. He was surprisingly little work (especially while Kevin’s parents and sister were here to play with him, bring him outside, wipe off his feet, give him treats, etc...!), and though we had to remove the tinsel from the bottom branches of the tree, and listen to him cry when we wouldn’t let him help with the tree work, he’s been a great visitor.

He’s been very vigilant about chasing the wildlife outside. We have lots of flocks of tiny little birds (chickadees? Sparrows? I just got a bird book, so hopefully I’ll have a better report soon.), plus some enormous, fat squirrels. He didn’t bark, but you’d see him pointing at the door when he wanted to go out and run. Usually, whatever it was would scatter, and then he’d be stuck milling about, waiting for the next interesting creature.

He was all thwarted by the squirrels and their fence- and tree-climbing.

I don’t know which breed this comes from, but he’s an amazing jumper and pouncer. Any time we threw a toy for him, he’d conclude his run with an adorable, funny pounce. And we kept looking out into the back yard to see him running crazy puppy circles in which he’d clear the japanese maple (about a yard high and a yard and a half wide), or launch himself off of the top of the rockwork. Funny little dog!

(And since everyone has asked, we’re not getting a dog. We’re both dog people, but even when we were on vacation he was a bit much for the two of us. Adorable and wonderful to have sleeping on our feet, but early-rising, mud-footed, and frquently eating inappropriate things. I can’t imagine adding our work schedules to that as well... Better for a different stage of life than the current one.)

A white Christmas

December 25, 2007

Against all odds, it snowed on Christmas Day!! I couldn’t believe it when the rain kept getting more full-bodied and white. Such a pretty, cozy, unexpected treat. I didn’t manage to take any photos during the daylight, but here’s the snow lit by the tree in our backyard that Kristina decorated. We may have to leave these lights up year-round. :-)

(Though we won't keep that enormous pile of brush.)

The advent wreath on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Finally in the spirit

December 22, 2007

Despite our intentions of having a tree set up and ready to decorate when Kevin’s family arrived, we spent those last few days madly drywalling, and then the last 24 hours madly cleaning up a month’s worth of construction tools, dust and debris. In the end, it wasn’t until they arrived that we piled in the car to go find one. It turned out to be a great group activity. We headed over to our old neighbourhood, and though the lot that I bought from last year had already been taken down, we spotted another tree lot behind one of the drive-up espresso huts. We all seemed to love the same tree, but the price was atrocious, and so reluctantly we left. The lot guy followed us back to the car and offered a $20 discount, which made it merely expensive, and so we took it.

It’s definitely the prettiest of the Boston and Seattle trees I’ve had over the last five years. Lots of strong branches, and it’s full while still having plenty of holes for ornaments to hang in. The needles have a pretty blue tint to them. And it smells wonderful.

After bringing it home and chopping off the base, Kevin and his dad got it in the stand:


We listened to the Josh Groban Christmas cd that Kevin’s mom gifted us with, I put up the lights, we all did ornaments, and then Kevin and Kristina finished up the tinsel. So pretty.

We also did several spots with spare pine branches, pine cones and candles. On the family room windows:


(and a dramatic zoom-in)

… the living room,

… and the kitchen.

The fish room fireplace got a wreath. (We’ve actually had it since the beginning of December, during one of the Home Depot runs. It’s a little squashy by this point, since it keeps launching itself off of the wall and onto the floor.)

To get in the spirit, we had strawberry-basil martinis – more of a summer-by-the-grill drink, but the colors are seasonally appropriate at least, and it’s been the house drink of 2007 so we felt obligated to serve it to our company. :-)

As everyone finished up the tree, I finally wove my advent wreath. (Here, concentrating and intent.)

Instead of four weeks of advent, it only got four days. But it was bright and new (instead of dry and crispy) for the visit, and it meant that we could actually leave the candles burning for all of dinner each night, which was pretty.

Two and a half years later

December 21, 2007

The quilt is finally sewed onto its backing, and I’ve sewed my sheets together to make the comforter cover! Here it is, finished and on the bed!

Once all of the piecing was finished, I added a border, and then sewed that onto a dark blue queen size sheet. Then, I cut and pressed more of the border fabric to make an edging for the sheet, and cut a second sheet for the back to make overlapping pocket to slide the comforter into. Kevin’s family arrived when I was halfway through sewing the front and back sheets and the border strip together. I finally finished the next morning while everyone was showering.

Here’s the view from the door. Like our new bed? A wedding present from Kevin’s parents – so pretty. And the side tables are such a step up from our old $15 dorm room Target cube "furniture". :-) Yay!

I also love the back, since I’m pleased with the overlapping slip that I made for inserting the comforter into my cover.

In my opinion, a pretty use of existing sheet seams. :-)

Several people have pointed out that this isn’t really a quilt, since quilting is actually the process of sewing a front face to a back face, through batting. Technically, what I’ve done is only piecing, even if it was complex. That’s true, but it’s close enough for me that I’ll continue to think of it as my first quilt.

For the full blog history, check out the early quilt and quilt categories of posts. It’s fun to see how well it all came together.

Now I’m having a bit of project letdown – after all, this has been two and a half years in the making and I’m finding that I miss having it as an option to work on. Luckily, there’s a very easy solution. I think that the daybed in my room needs something to cover it. :-)

I’m thinking of browns and pinks, to make the contrast between the bed frame and the rest of the room a little bit less severe. No landscapes this time – just straight squares of some sort. The easy default is another log cabin (though I think I’d use wider strips for this one), but I’m browsing around on the web and completely open to suggestions. Any ideas?


An hour before everyone arrives for the holidays

December 20, 2007

Our couches are here!!

Before (note that the drywall is finally gone! Yay!)

And after:

And loaded up with XBox players. :-)

Now we just need to figure out how to place them so that you can see both the TV and fireplace…?



December 19, 2007

Tonight was the most complicated portion of the sewing: binding the mountains to the sky with a differentiator strip of blue between.

The mountains and the sky are 45 degrees off of each others’ axis, so it took a little bit of effort to make everything look the way it seemed that it should. I pinned the sky on top of the mountains, and then sewed left to right, adding the blue strips along the way. This picture should give you a good sense of the scale of the project (look at the needle).

Once that was done, I sewed the hills (and attached lakes and trees) on over the mountain base.


Meanwhile, Kevin’s been drywalling like a madman, and has made it through the third coat of joint compound. It looks amazing.

It’s been becoming increasingly clear that we won’t make it through priming, let along painting, before his family arrives tomorrow but the room is at least cleared out of all construction scraps and relatively clean. (Some awesome guy saw our Craigslist ad and bought (aka carted away) the leftover pieces and paid us $25. We were pretty psyched. And, all of the tools in the foreground have been moved to shelves in the garage – a pretty major improvement.)

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Too close for comfort

December 16, 2007

I am so, so close on the quilt, but this last part looks to be the most difficult. The white snow caps of the mountains don’t contrast well against the yellow horizon of the sky, so I’m inserting a small dark blue band between them. I’ve taken a bunch of inch wide strips and ironed a seam into them so that the new strips can just appear between the white and yellow. I pinned them together (and repinned, and repinned – it’s hard to get the 45 degrees off grids to match up correctly). Here’s the preliminary view.

Next, I have to insert these ½ inch wide little stubs for contrast, while sewing the two big parts together. Very fidgety, and not a little intimidating.


Peer Pressure

December 15, 2007

I’ve been really impressed with our neighbours so far. They seem to religiously clean the storm drains, brought some really cute kids around trick-or-treating, and are pretty industrious with the yardwork on the weekends. We came home a few days ago to a package on the front porch – someone started a holiday gift-giving chain letter. You discover a package of candy on your doorstep, with a sign that says “Ho Ho” and instructions to make two new signs, bake or amass treats, and put them on the doorstep of someone else on the block in the interest of “cheer and goodwill”. Once you’ve participated, you put the HoHo sign on your door so that people don’t regift you. Well, one day became two and Kevin and I became more and more stressed. (Usually, the words “chain letter” have no power over me. Apparently this whole “neighbourhood” concept is a brand new beast.) Our package had a slew of chocolates meant to be melted in coffee, plus a mini-stash of Halloween candy (a foil-covered chocolate eyeball, a butterfinger, some smarties…). Our kind of people, but still.

So, Kevin went to the drugstore to buy chocolate in pretty boxes, and I hauled the old calendars out of their niche in the closet, and made these.

Chainletters or whatever, I think they’re all sorts of pretty. The calendar was a collection of paintings by Alfredo Arreguin. The pictures I chopped for the yellow page were a jungle scene, so there are plenty of monkeys, toucans, and leopards. The violet page has salmon leaping through lots of spray.

And, I finished the squares! Here’s a way-too-blue photo of the new triangles after I cut them.

I decided that I needed one more purple square, plus more yellow (luckily I have the old yellow castaways) before I’m done with what I need for the sky-mountain join.

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December 14, 2007

Kevin’s family is coming to see us for Christmas (I’m sure this isn’t the first time that I’ve mentioned this) and we are busy bees trying to get things polished for their arrival. It’s such a gift – not only do we not have to be the ones to fly and endure the jetlag (I’m not an early riser in the best of circumstances, and that west-to-east transition is always even harder when 10:00 EST on a weekend is considered “sleeping in”), but we get to show off the new house, wedding gifts, and projects. And, best of all, we actually get to host a holiday. I’m delighted. Each year out here, we’ve gotten a tree and then made the call whether it would burn the place down during our week out east. This year, it’s the real deal. So exciting.

That said, we have a project or two left to finish before they arrive. No surprise. Procrastinator heaven.

So, Kevin’s been drywalling like a champ. Here he is midway through the first round of joint compound.

Two rounds to go and then we can start priming.

And I’ve been trying to get reengaged with my quilt. I was making great, rapid progress and then we put in the offer on our house and everything ground to a halt about a week before we closed. Now that Kevin’s family is coming, the finished quilt is actually quite important. We have three twin-sized warm covers (a comforter and two quilts), which will work well for me and Kevin (on the daybed and trundle in my office), and his sister on either the blowup mattress, one of the couches, or the futon. But if we take those covers, there’s no warm cover for our queen bed unless I finish up.

No pressure.

You may remember that I’d sewn the mountain squares into diagonal strips, charted out the three final multicolor squares, and bought new fabric for the mountain base. It took a long time to reconstruct the progress two months later.

Once I was ready to sew again, I made it partway through the last three solid squares. (I’ll cut them in half and use the triangles to form a straight bottom edge.)

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December catch-up

December 12, 2007

Oops, didn’t mean to vanish. It’s been just busy here and Kevin seems to take his camera to work on the days I’m determined to post, and so I fell off the blogging wagon.

A summary of the last week and a half:

  • Everyone in hats: it’s so warm when the furnace blows, but so bitter cold 5 minutes later. I can’t bear to turn it up (all of that money just goes straight into the SKY), and so we’ve been sporting layers and stylish hoods for the last month or so. I call the insulation people a few times a week, but apparently everyone in the Seattle area is as cold as we are and it’s the “busy season”, so we’re just breaking out the lap blankets and being patient.
  • It REALLY snowed!

    We spent all Saturday watching it flurry and then it started snowing in earnest. A gorgeous twilight, though still not that bright snow blue that you see in New England. I read Robert Frost and played with mortgage calculators all night – a wonderful evening.

    Some pictures: a lacy tree in the front yard (don’t the pine trees just LOOM?)

    You could see the snow-laden branches over the driveway from my desk until the light became too dim:

    It was so fun to sit there and watch it accumulate while listening to all of the snow falling off the pines onto the roof.

    And an early shot of the backyard (ferns look so odd in the snow):

  • Water heater drama: we’re stuck in the sixth circle of customer support hell. It’s a LONG story, but at this point I’m tempted to cancel the whole thing and start from scratch.
  • Family room progress: the carpet is ordered, the couches get here next Wednesday, and the drywall is ALL UP. Hurrah! Now to tape, spackle with joint compound three times, prime, and paint before Kevin’s family arrives in 8 days… Perhaps this is why two scheduling-optimistic people shouldn’t manage the same project?
    We’re also looking at paint. (I have to wonder who’s job it is to name these colors? “Eiffel Tower”, “Stormy Weather”, “Tattered Sail”? Hmm...?)

    The (green) couch fabric sample looks different in almost every light, and we won’t have a carpet sample until next week. Very hard to choose!
  • Kevin’s room progress: it’s (mostly) clean and put-away, and the new desk is all set up! AND, Kevin spent time in the crawl space, so the room is now also all CAT5e-wired for internet (with 4 connections for the room). Kevin’s thinking about paint and a little area rug for the floor, but those can wait until after the holidays. Pictures to follow. :-)
  • Flat Stanley: my cousin sent me a “Flat Stanley” cutout – they’re reading the book in school and he chose me to escort the paper doll around for a few days and send back a letter about what we saw. It’s been so fun to think of things in the area that are worth showing, though the request for photos of Flat Stanley is hard – I haven’t printed paper copies of digital photos since 2000. ???
  • Back yard progress. The whole time I was raking, I had “ but a crop is a crop / and who’s to say /where the harvest will stop?” stuck in my head. Thank you Mr. Walker, and thank you Robert Frost. Search for “Gathering Leaves”, for those who still have leaves in their yard or gutters… Those lines have always worked for me for snow, too, though perhaps the first ten lines of “Our Singing Strength” are better?

Tomorrow: hopefully a real post with more recent pictures?

Week Fourteen

December 11, 2007

Wow! Rock on! A 79-74 win! So now I get to play Court – he’s my ex-boss, and we have a storied fantasy football past. It should be a good game and tensions are already high.

This was such a hot and cold week. I appreciate LT’s contribution, and Marion Barber is clearly a man who understands the meaning of “fantasy football championships”. Stallworth and Smith (and for that matter, my beloved kicker, Stover): not as much.

I ended up benching Brees, since we were up by 5 and I’m still bitter about his last Monday night football performance (-2, causing a loss to the aforementioned Court). He played for 26 points – I’m hoping he still has some momentum for next week.

-- 0
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, SD 29
RB Marion Barber, Dal 28
WR Deion Branch, Sea 11
WR Donte' Stallworth, NE 0
TE L.J. Smith, Phi 0
D/ST Patriots 8
K Matt Stover, Bal 2
QB Drew Brees, NO 26
QB Jason Campbell, Was 4
RB Ron Dayne, Hou 2
WR Reggie Brown, Phi 7
WR Muhsin Muhammad, Chi 2
WR Nate Burleson, Sea 11
WR Drew Bennett, StL 0
TE Alex Smith, TB 3
K Stephen Gostkowski, NE 11


Week Thirteen

December 04, 2007

This was supposed to be the week that I lost, and then didn’t go to the playoffs because I was in a three-way face off. But, then ALL of us lost (my game was 75-101 against #1 in the league), and so the deciding factor defaulted to total season points where I turned out to be quite a bit ahead. Nice! So championships it is!

But still, great job to LT, and ouch to everyone else. Hopefully this counts as a fantasy bye week across the board?

QB Drew Brees, NO 14
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, SD 32
RB Marion Barber, Dal 8
WR Deion Branch, Sea 4
WR Donte' Stallworth, NE 6
TE L.J. Smith, Phi 2
D/ST Patriots 3
K Matt Stover, Bal 6
QB Jason Campbell, Was 1
RB Ron Dayne, Hou 16
WR Reggie Brown, Phi 2
WR Muhsin Muhammad, Chi 5
WR Nate Burleson, Sea 15
WR Drew Bennett, StL 3
TE Alex Smith, TB 1
K Stephen Gostkowski, NE 9

And here’s a photo of Kevin, in his hat, concentrating on making patch cables for the cable box.