February 26, 2009

Last night, Kevin looked out the window around midnight and realized that it was snowing. Not only coming down steadily, but actually accruing. We’ve had some real snow this winter, but the pattern has held with three days of rumour and anxiety first, THEN snow. The sort of snow that starts gently falling in the middle of the night without fuss caught me off guard. This morning, we had a few inches. The roads were pretty much clear (though that didn’t keep the garbage from not getting picked up, half of my team from not making it in to work, and the buses from chaining their tires. Nothing like driving to work behind a sparking bus.).

I grabbed the camera before leaving the house, because all of the crocus spikes in our yard were so visible against the white. (I’m guessing that their days are numbered, and whatever nibbled them to the ground last year will do it again, but for the moment they’ve been giving me happiness every time I walk by.)

I should have kept the camera with me for the drive to work – the trees were all lacy and magical, especially as the sun started to come out through the clouds. By the end of the day, the snow was pretty much gone, which suited me. If it was going to be unexpected, then fleeting seemed like the right thing.

A new villain

So the squirrels won the Great Birdfeeder War of 2008. We’d had it in the tree by our patio, and the squirrels would just climb up, hang upside down, and eat all of the birdseed. They were impervious to thrown rocks and pinecones, not to mention all of the horse radish, hot sauce, etc we slathered on the tree and the feeder.

So we gave up and took down the feeder for a few months. In December, we rehung our two feeders from two corners of the house on hooks that were already there. Our birds are back, fun views from the house, no squirrels in sight, and it’s been continuing to seem like a great plan. However, last weekend we woke up to find the feeder lying chipped on the patio, seed spilled everywhere. We had our suspicions, which were confirmed when Kevin caught this guy on film:

On the ground, picking through the seed debris? Slightly suspicious, but totally acceptable. However, climbing the gutters? Less so.

Not a bird:

Kevin still really likes the BB gun option, though I’ve maintained my veto. Our Plan B is to rig some sort of funnel-shaped attachment for the gutter so that the squirrels can’t climb up. I figure our long-term odds of success are quite low, but it’s worth a shot.


February 22, 2009

Down to five but still pretty.

We had great sun for most of the weekend, and the temperature actually made it into the fifties! Kevin took advantage of the weather and blew off the roof (third time since the summer, and once again the roof color is barely recognizable without the carpet of pine needles) and pulled/dug the rest of the ivy from the side bed.


February 21, 2009

We’ve been doing lots of evening walks in the dark after work recently. Work has been especially interesting and hectic recently, and it’s nice to have time to rehash. We’ve been picking a different route through the neighbourhoods each time, which works well because it’s easy to add loops or cut back. We’re getting better at ending up where we expect to instead of facing dead ends and cul de sacs.

Last Sunday, we went for a walk in the daylight, with the express purpose of taking photos of some of the places we’ve found on earlier loops.

There’s a huge park down the street, and while it was already great and constantly in use before, the town has been doing a series of improvement projects for the last year or so. They started by resurfacing some of the playing fields and fixing the utility buildings, then they overhauled one playground and built a second from scratch, and now they’re redoing more playing fields and fixing drainage on the walking trails where it used to get swampy. This photo of the redone playground was taken late afternoon after it started to drizzle, but there were still lots of families out. (Sorry for the tree-filled photo – it’s hard to get far enough away to see the size of it without having trees in the way of the view.)

They have bunch of towers, slides, bridges, climbing nets, and balance beams. I don’t know who designed it, but they seem wonderfully free of the "playgrounds are dangerous" mentality – there are lots of moving parts, things to hang from, and high heights. It swarms with kids. There’s a separate area with a little structure for toddlers (a basic structure with a slide), a set of big swings, and a set of baby swings. The new playground is on the other side of the playing fields, and has tire swings, more climbing webs, a merry go round (one of the ones where kids run to make it spin and then jump on), a water park, and some huge (10’ tall) climbing boulders, plus new basketball courts. I love that the park is used by all ages – young families are well represented, but you also see a LOT of teenagers, adults of all ages, dogs, etc.

If you cut through the park on a diagonal, there’s a new street (used to be one house and lots of empty forest, now it’s been chunked into teeny lots with packed-in houses that list at $800K). The construction is relatively pretty, and the location is great, but it all just seems so new, fake, and somewhat pretentious. Pretty much as sanitized and unmagical as things get. At the end of the street, there’s a cul de sac next to some fenced off “wilderness”. And if you look over the fence, this is what you see:

Pure magic. Pictures aren’t going to do this justice. Someone build a three story tree house (and raised it up a good 12 feet off the ground) out of scrap wood and metal . They surrounded it with a moat, built a tire swing, and built windows and skylights. It looks like something out of a fairy tale (the non-Disney version, where the evil magic is probably more powerful than the good), or out of an imagination-tinged dream/memory from your childhood, and we keep going back to check on it and make sure it’s still there. There’s a gorgeous, huge house tucked behind it, and a guest house with amazing wood and stone detailing. I would love to know what sort of eccentric, wonderful people built it.

If you take the trail back through the woods and cut the fourth corner of the park, you come out in another neighbourhood, right across from this treasure (pun intended).

I can’t imagine what possessed them, but it looks like they were aiming for the look of a tourist trap seafood place. They were VERY thorough: white sandy beaches (plural) in the yard, fishing netting and thick ropes draped artistically over the fake piers, plastic parrots, a marooned rowboat, a stuffed guy snoozing off his daiquiris in the hammock by the front door, fake flamingos strutting under fake palm trees, and tiki fringe everywhere.

Can you even imagine what the neighbours think?

Big news

February 20, 2009

I’m starting to feel like if I don’t speak up soon on the blog, the plethora of baby knitting projects will soon give it away: I’m pregnant. :-) I’m just shy of four months, and due mid-August. January was a long month (while Kevin was busy renovating rooms and keeping the fish going, I ate cheerios and snoozed on the couch, waking up just long enough to take a photo of whatever he was up to), but I seem to be improving on the energy front and the knitting has commenced in earnest. :-) We won’t know gender for another month or so, but I have several patterns that would work quite well either way, so those are at the top of the list in the meantime.

I finished the kimono baby sweater last week, but I haven’t blocked it yet. I thought to test the yarn for color-fastness only after I’d made quite a bit of progress, so of course the darker one bleeds. Oops. Not ideal for a striped sweater. I’ve been soaking it in cold water and vinegar baths which seems to be helping. I’m going to try it in hot water tomorrow, so fingers crossed. I’ll get photos as soon as it’s blocked.

In the meantime, I’ve started knitting Kate Gilberts’ Pea Pod sweater, shown here with the tulips in the morning sunshine:

I love the yarn (Provence – a really nice DK cotton). The body is knit in one piece, starting with a leaf rib, and then it switches to mostly stockinette with a lace panel. It feels like I keep only making it through a row or two at a time, but the progress is starting to feel noticeable. Here’s a closeup of about 6" of the leaf ribbing.



February 17, 2009

Kevin got all motivated after work and got the curtains back up! We were both very impressed that we’d managed to keep track of all of the hardware over the course of that many months!

There were a few difficult moments. Since two of the old windows were just surrounded by that faux-paneling and didn’t have trim, the windows are now narrower. One of the curtains still fit, but the metal bars at the top and bottom of the other were about ¼" too big. Hmm. Kevin did something to them with power tools in the garage (I was very happy not to have to spend time stressing over the problem/solution), and now they still look lovely and actually fit in the window. Yay!

At some point, I need to go around and fix the lengths on all of the cords, but they look so much better than they did on the dining room floor – a great milestone. Now all that’s left is figuring out a way to recover the blue butterfly chairs and the room can be declared completely done!


Busy Saturday

February 15, 2009

Kevin went skiing at Crystal yesterday, and I decided to take the day for fun errands. There are two thrift stores in Redmond that I keep meaning to peek into, so that started the day (I was more interested in getting the lay of the land than actually buying anything). Then I headed up to Woodinville to visit Molbaks. I’ve been meaning to go since we moved here four and a half years ago, and this was my first trip. I get the local paper’s weekly gardening email, and they’d mentioned that vegetable seeds were in, so a trip seemed in order. The store itself is amazing (read: enormous, comprehensive, and fairly overwhelming). There were aisles of seed packets, which I spent a good 45 minutes browsing through. I ended up with these guys:

The veggies from Territorial Seed Co were the main reason I went. I just didn’t get in gear last year on the vegetable gardening (two late tomato plants notwithstanding), and I’m all excited about the beans and peas this year, not to mention heirloom tomatoes. The leeks are an experiment, but I’m optimistic. I'm not sure where I'm going to plant the veggies yet. The over-the-top plan would be to build a raised bed or two on the side of our house by the bedroom window. We have all sorts of space and sun there now that the trees are down. And with an actual bed, we’d be able to grow lots of peas and beans, instead of just a token plant or two. Downsides include all of the effort of building the raised bed and figuring out drip systems and other irrigation (there isn’t a good source of water on that side of the house, so rather than a million trips with a watering can, I think I’d have to figure out some sort of system with a rain barrel that I fill every week or two. The cop-out alternative would be buying more containers and just gardening on the patio again, but then we’re basically limited to one container/plant of each kind. I have a few months to decide. Opinions?

The rest of the seeds are more straightforward. :-) The dahlias and zinnias are for the beds around the house (front and back) and for the rockwork. I had a few of each that I bought piecemeal and planted mid-July last year, and this will hopefully be a *much* cheaper expansion of that – they thrived and the color was spectacular. The Black-eyed Susans and lavender are for the now-empty space outside our bedroom window. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, but both of those are such great summer flowers. We’re both all excited about the Foxglove – we loved seeing these on our Oregon road trip last summer, and they’re supposed to prefer shade (which we have plenty of!). They don’t flower until the second year, I’ll just get them established this year.

After Molbaks, I drove around the top of the lake to Seattle – interesting driving. Quick clothes shopping at University Place, delicious lunch and a croissant at the bakery/sandwich place, and then I went to Acorn Street Shop to use a gift certificate from my brother and sister that I’ve been hoarding. :-) I had two small projects in mind, and found perfect yarn for each of them (a pretty green shade of Provence cotton, and some gorgeous blue variegated cotton that’s wonderfully soft and lovely colors.

On the way home, I knocked some less-interesting things off the list: cashed checks, bought a power strip at the hardware store, and stopped for groceries. That last errand was a treat, because the tulips are finally back! Bunches were 2/$7, so I picked out a medium and dark pink in honour of Valentine’s Day. I am so glad that we’re back to tulip season – it makes February and March so much more enjoyable out here.

Real Progress

February 11, 2009

We are so very close to being done with the family room! I'd spent several weekends in the fall caulking, recaulking, and repainting trim. We had a few touchups left by the end of November, and so I finally went around and put all of the faceplates back on the outlets, only to find that the holes for two of the outlets were too big by about an inch in each dimension. It meant a tricky patch job, then re-priming, texturing, and painting, and we just couldn't face it. We decided to invite friends over for the Superbowl, though, and that was just enough incentive for Kevin to remotivate on the horrid outlets. So while he was working late and redoing the bathroom, he was also repairing those two tiny, wretched bits of wall. The end result (completed shortly before everyone arrived for the game) was perfectly done:

So now, for the first time since October 2007, we have neither the 10' stepladder nor painting tarps in the family room – it looks so classy without them! (Also the photo above is a great one for seeing the wall vs. trim vs. carpet color combination – I still keep admiring how nice they look together.)

There are two remaining steps. The first is to relocate all of the hardware so that we can rehang the blinds, which have been hanging out in front of the windows in our dining room for the better part of the last 15 months.

Again, it will look so empty and neat without them on the floor. The second goal was to head back down into the crawl space and rewire the TV cabling and internet for the XBox under the floor and up through the wall. Our interim solution has had the coax cable running across the room one direction (from our hall closet) and the ethernet cable cutting a diagonal from the opposite corner.

This Sunday before the Brown dinner, Kevin got all suited up and headed down into the crawl space, and I fed him cables down through the wall (I'm always so thankful that I get to be the above-ground person), and we ended up with this:

A combined outlet with speaker wiring on the bottom, a CAT-5 ethernet jack and a coax connection. Yay! The cables run directly to the hall closet and hook into all of Kevin's other networking there.

So now it's just the curtains. :-)


Cute knitting

February 10, 2009

I finished the back and one front of the kimono-style baby sweater I've been working on. The yarn continues to be impossible to photograph – this color is closer, but a bit too yellow. Unblocked, it's curling madly (to be expected, but it's making it look even smaller than it is. I'm always surprised how tiny 6-month clothes are. Here's the back:

And the front:

The diagonal edging was a bit of a headache, since it isn't particularly stretchy. Combine that with cotton yarn (ie. no elasticity) and the typical colorwork tension issues, and I had to rip back several times. The second front is going much faster, though. I did a preliminary block and the pucker you can see in this photo disappeared. Yay!



February 09, 2009

Kevin's war against the moss progressed a step this weekend – he spent quite a while with a wire brush scrubbing away at the patio, and areas that he cleaned are now spotless.

Unfortunately, the wire brush disintegrated as he worked, and was forced to quit after only a portion of the patio because the brush had been worn down to stubs. Hmm.

While I was out photographing the progress, a delightful sight caught my eyes!

Mini daffodils bulbs coming up in one of my planters!! Once I saw that, I had to go see what else was sprouting, and was completely amazed to find these:

Remember my poor daffodils that actually bloomed through the mesh bag last year? Well, I went and planted them and the tulips in May, but then the stupid squirrels dug all of them up. And then we had a huge tree removed and the stump I'd planted them around was ground up. Yet somehow, it looks like at least twenty made it and are sprouting through the woodchips. I'm so enamoured with their verve for life, especially in the face of such trying circumstances.

Of course, it's not really Spring quite yet (just to prove it, it snowed again last night).

But what plucky little flowers. :-)



February 08, 2009

We were both a little bit stir crazy and bored last night, but still too drained from our weeks to do anything big. So after dinner, we headed over to Ballard for cupcakes and espresso.

Yum. Perfect.

A bit behind the ball

February 07, 2009

It's nearly Valentine's day, and we still have our Christmas wreath up.

It's proven impossible to take down as it still has all of its needles and somehow it still smells like evergreen when we walk by. (It's such a great smell.)

It's also been a really good reminder that we need something on that wall, preferably exactly that size and shape – the wreath just suits the spot.

Happy Tank

February 06, 2009

We keep watching in amazement as the leather just keeps growing. Really the only change has been the clownfish's behaviour, so it's quite incredible to watch it continue to expand.

Meanwhile, the yellow montipora has also recently taken off, and is really starting to grow in the classic shape.

You can compare the leather and the monti (just a tiny corner is visible) in this photo from Oct 26th:

The difference is rather shocking.


5:13 PM

February 05, 2009

There were neat clouds outside Kevin's office window just before sunset yesterday, so he sent me a picture.

It was fun to see it pop up in email, but way more exciting that the photo was taken at quarter past five -- we'll be driving home in the light before we know it!

Closing an ugly chapter

February 02, 2009

I still pay all of my bills via mail, which seems to strike friends and coworkers as quaint. I like sitting down to write checks and making sure that all of the accounts are balanced. Every few months, I find an error in the billing and call to resolve it. And then when I'm done, there's a neat stack of stamped envelopes waiting to go out – it's a nice mark of keeping things in order. It's such a little thing but it makes me feel successful.

Well over a year ago, Kevin went to the post office, I asked him for stamps, and due to a miscommunication on my part he came home with books of dreadful "celebrate" stamps. I tried to bring them back and trade them for something prettier, but it wasn't allowed. So I've been slowly working through them for the last 14 months. The postage rate went up, so I could at least use the pretty Tiffany 1¢ stamps, too, but I'm so happy that I only have two left.

I bought two books of pretty new stamps (hearts and sunflowers) last week – they will bring such happiness to my bill-paying.

Saturday Bathroom Progress

February 01, 2009

Kevin finished painting the bathroom last week, and I'd been mentally debating the color. It looked so much darker and just *yellower* than I'd been envisioning.

Above the tub (which we'll be having refinished – white instead of that flat blue):

We took down the towel bars and face plates:

See? Isn't that yellow? Qualms aside, since it didn't seem worth repainting in a paler shade, I pulled down the blue tape, moved our heavy duty floor lights, and was amazed at the difference. We have our lovely yellow back. The blue tape must have just struck some sort of chord that made the yellow look supersaturated. I was also really pleased to see that the yellow coexists with our existing vinyl flooring without making it look dingy. Replacing the vinyl (and therefore moving the toilet) wasn't ever on the docket, but I was concerned about that color combo.

We mounted the medicine cabinet – so pretty, and such a challenge as its interior is the exact width of the drill.

We had one of the best craigslist experiences ever. The old vanity had been sitting in our hallway for many weeks, so I decided to list it, the matching wall cabinet, and the matching medicine cabinet in the Craigslist free section. Within an hour I'd gotten an email from people hoping to take it away that night, and two hours later, it was gone. We were giddy when they drove away. The couple was cute – they're getting married this spring and hoping to sell both of their 1BD places to move somewhere bigger. Since the market's soft, they're doing as many DIY cosmetic improvements as possible and they were delighted with the new bathroom set. I'm glad it's going to such a good cause – I hope they find buyers.

Once the old vanity was gone, Kevin did a ton of work with the sawzall to cut holes in the back of the new vanity cabinet and cut a piece of plywood for the counter to rest on. He glued it all together, we got the vanity in position and screwed into the wall, and he started working on the plumbing and the backsplash as the clock ticked past midnight. Here was the progress right before I headed for bed:

We still need a light fixture, but otherwise we are so close to being done. :-) And after many months of having a vanity in the middle of the fishroom, we can't believe how spacious that room seems without it. The walk from the bedroom to the kitchen used to require dodging two vanities, and now the path is so clean and empty. :-)