Speedy little knit

April 30, 2009

After those last long rows of the Sunrise Circle Jacket, I needed something quick and gratifying to knit. One of the things in my Ravelry queue was a 3-6 mos Debbie Bliss baby sweater in worsted weight yarn, and I’d picked up yarn for it just recently. Perfect. I’d been expecting fast, but it really just flew. Here’s one evening’s worth of leisurely knitting (a little over halfway done):

I love those tulips, by the way. Generally, I’m much more of a vibrant tulip person, but the subtle pink and white is lovely, and I love the two layers of petals. Rather blowsy and completely the right mood for the week.

I meant to post this and then finish knitting the body, but it was too quick, and so here’s the body blocking:

Tonight, I have a bunch of seaming to do – buttons for the Baby Surprise Jacket, all of the seams and buttons for the Sunrise Circle Jacket, and then the hems , sleeves and sides of this little jacket. Then I can pick up stitches along the edges of the front and sides and knit the ribbed collar. We’ll see if I manage to get it all done?


Green and Growing

April 29, 2009

We had unusual weather on Sunday – dark clouds to the east and west, and steady sunshine overhead. Kevin took advantage of the light to take some photos.

Our pink tree is still blooming, even though more leaves grow in by the day. I love the angle of this photo, since the yard looks so green (you can’t see the spots where the buttercups and moss are dying, which I need to reseed) and you somehow can’t see the thick layer of pollen coating the table. To the right, just above the rock line, you can see all of my irises. They look so much happier this year – I’m hoping this means they might bloom. One of my coworkers said that they’re petulant flowers, and usually sulk for a good year after being transplanted. I only got one lone flower from about 15 plants last year, so fingers crossed that they’ve worked whatever pique out of their systems and will be extravagant once again this summer.

In the side yard, outside our kitchen window, the azalea’s buds are getting fuller by the day.


The next project

April 27, 2009

One of the things that I particularly appreciate about my job is having the flexibility to work at home. This afternoon was unusually pleasant, what with tulips, bright sunshine, and warm enough weather to have the windows open!

Now that we’re getting back to the warm season, I’ve recommenced mulling what to do with that big kitchen window. As you can see, it gets great afternoon sun but the downside is that the room heats up substantially, which is unfortunate because that makes it tricky to control the fishtank temperature. Last summer we spent a lot of energy doing extra water changes, making huge ice cubes, and running fans to promote evaporation (all of which cool the water). But I’m thinking that lined (and possibly insulated) curtains would probably do the trick for all but the few hottest summer days.

We spent a little while looking at fabrics last Fall, but the ones we liked on their own merits all looked pretty iffy with the kitchen counters (a pretty blue-grey corian) and backsplash tile (two very similar shades of translucent aqua) once we brought them home. Not expecting to have much luck, I did a quick pass through Joann’s yesterday and found a new fabric that I think is very pretty. It’s grey-green, has a nice sheen to it without being too loud, and has thin vertical lines of neutral speckles. I picked up two 1½”x3” samples to bring home, and while it’s certainly not a match for the kitchen, it also doesn’t clash.

We may have our curtain fabric?

Next up will be settling on a style and deciding if I can wing it or if I’ll need a pattern. I’m thinking a Roman shade will work well, but I’m also trying to figure out if there’s some clever way of pulling up the corners on the two lower edges so that if we leave the side windows open we can get a breeze. I can think of all sorts of button, loop, and drawstring methods for engineering that, but so far none of them look very attractive in my mind’s eye. I’m also trying to decide whether some sort of cornice at the top would be a good addition or not worth the extra work/fabric...

Blank slate

April 26, 2009

My knitting friend Diana is due in October, and she decided to have a sewing get-together on Sunday to make maternity pants. I’m actually in good shape for pants, but it wasn’t hard to come up with a list of other baby-related sewing projects. I ended up bringing over this fun:

A few years ago, I bought onesies to use as a size-gauge when I was knitting baby sweaters as gifts. The packs of 4 plain white onesies were cheaper than the singles, decorated ones, so now I have a small stockpile of baby clothes that could use a bit of color. I figured I’d try an appliqué-meets-embroidery mix. I don’t have any after photos yet, since the hand-sewing wasn’t terribly speedy, but it was a fun afternoon and the colors made me happy.


Slow, slow progress

April 24, 2009

The Sunrise Circle Jacket is coming together ever so slowly. I blocked the back and the left sleeve and front as a sanity check to make sure they'll fit together when it comes time to seam. I'll have to do a good job lining things up ahead of time, but it looks like it should work out nicely.

(The photo makes the yarn look black. It's really purple. No idea what setting the camera was on to produce that effect, but I was running to work and didn't have time to troubleshoot. At least you can see that lovely silhouette!)

On the way home yesterday, I found buttons that I'm really pleased with. So now, the greatest obstacle is finishing the right front. I'm on Row 53 of 104, and increasing 1 to 4 stitches every other row so it's a bit of an uphill climb. Luckily, the Red Sox play the Yankees three times this weekend, so I'll have good knitting time. We'll see if it's enough to finish off the front and switch over to seaming?


Baby updates

April 21, 2009

We had a great treat this weekend – a package arrived from California with a hand knit baby sweater from my friend Amanda! It’s so well done, and I love the offset cable and the seed stitch detailing at the edges.

As much as I love the color and pattern, my favourite part is the way it feels. I wish that you could blog texture – the yarn is a gorgeous merino/microfiber/cashmere blend and it is so wonderfully soft. It’s such a treat to have a hand knit that I didn’t make myself, and such a beautiful one at that!

All seems to be going well with the baby. He’s been kicking away with increasing intensity. Kevin felt him kick for the first time almost two weeks ago (so exciting!!), and when he was describing it to a friend later he mentioned that he could see the kick as well. I thought he was exaggerating but he turned out to be sincere – it hadn’t occurred to me to try to watch. When the baby really gets going, as he seems to in the evenings, it’s kind of like watching a lightning storm pass overhead – you’re not entirely sure where to watch for the next one, and never sure whether the previous kick was the final one of the series. Most of them you just see out of the corner of your vision, but every now and then there’s a kick that’s so obvious and exactly where your gaze fell. It’s a bizarre sight, but captivating.

For the last week or two, we’ve been sorting our way through all of the tons of baby gear out there to figure out what we think we’ll need. We’ve arrived at decisions for many of the big things (a crib, cloth diapers, breastfeeding details for when I go back to work, daycare, assorted must-haves), and are making good progress on others (a pediatrician, car seats, sorting out the zillion options available for pack n plays…). We certainly are not wanting for options. We still probably won’t start buying things in earnest for a few months, but it’s nice to have brands and rough price points figured out, and an increasingly complete list. (We both seem to be magnets for advice right now, and I’m appreciating a larger context to fit all of it into, instead of trying to keep track of all of the individual comments and data points as they’re given.)

Flowers for the counter

April 20, 2009

Sorry for the string of plant posts (usually I try to spice things up a bit more) but the plants keep being interesting whereas the sweater I’m knitting is just endless. Each row is at about 170 stitches right now, which takes me a good fraction of an hour. I have five rows left, finally, and then I can bind off, block it, and get a picture. (And then, of course, repeat the process for the second front.) Until then, though, the parade of plants continues. I cut a few sprigs from the flowering fruit tree by the back patio, and though I don’t think they’ll last for many days, the blooms are amazing in the sunlight.

Kevin was playing with his macro lens and I think the resulting photos are beautiful.

Fleeting but lovely.

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Kitchen Garden

April 18, 2009

We have a deep counter in our kitchen under a large garden window, and it’s a perfect place for growing seedlings. I have one tray of edibles (strawberries, tomatoes, peas, beans, leeks, and stretching the definition a tad, lavender) and one of flowers (dahlias, zinnias, black-eyed susans, foxglove, columbine, and delphinium). I set up a lamp on a timer (with a compact fluorescent bulb) to help supplement the natural light, since that spot doesn’t get constant light and our days are still more cloudy than not. It seems to be doing the trick, as the trays are full of seedlings growing away.

The winners by far are the beans and peas, which are growing exuberantly. Each day they seem to add another half inch or large set of leaves.

We’re still debating where they will get planted – I’m torn between two competing spots for a raised garden (not sure which will get the most sun), and still haven’t entirely ruled out just setting them up in containers again.


More flowers

April 17, 2009

Our tree by the patio in the backyard is amazing this year.

Last year, we’d pruned it back hard (with Kevin’s parents’ help) in December. I’d been feeling guilty all winter this year for not getting out and re-pruning, but my guilt disappeared completely after the flowers started to appear. My new plan is to prune after it flowers, and then let it spend all year working toward the next crop of blooms – Spring is definitely its magnificent season.

For the last few weekends, I’ve been making a habit of going around the yard and poaching a few blooms from whatever’s going strong this week. This week, there were two more daffodils (perfect for the tall vase from our wedding day, placed by the sink). Also, the first of the camellias appeared! But they were on the lowest branches and the weight of the blooms bent the flowers face down into the lawn, so I decided we’d enjoy them more on our dining room table.



April 14, 2009

When we ordered a new light for the bathroom, we also found sconces to replace the ones in our living room. The old ones were small and yellow. I disliked the color of the glass shades during the day…

But they were worse when we turned them on at night, since the shades were opaque enough to block most of the light, and what got through was a dark yellow-orange that made skin look ghoulish and most colors look garish.

Lamps are such a matter of personal taste, but we found white art glass sconces that we both liked a lot. They’re bigger, so I think they look more proportionate on the wall, and the light is a much more natural color. We’ve had them up for almost two weeks, so you’d think that I’d be getting accustomed to them, but I’m still so happy every time I turn them on or walk by.

It’s hard to take a closeup of a lamp when it’s on, but I wanted to try to get some of the pattern of the glass. It’s a mixture of more and less opaque chunks, and I think it’s quite lovely, both on and off.

Yay for lighting improvements!


Getting smarter

April 13, 2009

I’m having fun working the first front of the Sunrise Circle Jacket. You knit the sleeve up from the wrist, and then in addition to decreasing as usual for the shoulder, you start increasing to form a steadily growing semi-circle for the front.

It’s an interesting design, but it takes a fair amount of attention to knit. The designer made the increases appear at random (a very pretty effect, so you don’t see spokes radiating out across the chest), which means that the increases are in a different spot on each row of the chart. I’d been counting as I went, but that was going poorly since I tend to knit while reading and I kept flying past the increases. Finally, I got smart at row 47 and started marking the increases with white stitch markers in advance before I knit the row. Now it’s going much faster, since I only have to stop and count once at the beginning, instead of several iterations of counting and ripping back. Here’s a closeup of the semi-circle forming, with randomly-spaced increases, and my white stitch markers waiting for the next row.

I’d love if I could ever finish the sweater this week. I’m in great shape on maternity clothes except for long-sleeved shirts. All of the maternity sites I know only seem to sell short sleeves and ¾ sleeves, made of surprisingly thin fabric. Since it’s still in the forties most days, that just isn’t sufficient. I’ve been just wearing a few loose pre-maternity sweaters, but all but two are suddenly too short and I’m in dire need of new options.

Bonus Yarn

April 11, 2009

I bought three skeins each for the Peapod set and the Baby Surprise Jacket (which I’ll get completed photos of as soon as I find buttons), and then only ended up using one and a half skeins for each project. The Acorn Street Shop, where I bought the yarn initially, has a sixty day return policy, and I realized on Wednesday that I still had four days to trade in the yarn for a new projects’ worth. I headed over Friday after work, and was quite pleased to be able to buy yarn for not one but two projects with the store credit:

That’s Stork in yellow and light blue, for a newborn sweater and hat (a going home outfit?), and two skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash in light blue for the Debbie Bliss ribbed baby jacket in the 3-6 month size. I’m trying to finish my Sunrise Circle Jacket before I go cast on, since I’m having a hard time finding long-sleeved maternity shirts and I’m down to two sweaters that fit for work. But it’s a tempting little bag of fun projects.


The Name Game

April 08, 2009

By far the leading question so far about the pregnancy, even beating out gender, is about what our leading contenders are for names. It's a hard question to answer, especially since everyone has strong opinions. Quite the loaded topic! This week at the Brown dinner, our friend Stacy showed us the best baby name website.

It has the cleverest way of graphing name popularity over time. You can search for specific names, and it updates the page as you type (for the screenshot above, I’d typed an S so that we could see that nice peak in Susans in the 1950s, but as you keep going it shows all names and variants that made the top 1000 since the late 1800s). You can narrow down to boy or girl names, and if you mouse over the graph it shows you the name’s rank by decade. You can click on names for more information. It’s an incredibly fun thing to play with.

For a flat list of popular names, the best (no-nonsense, ad-free) option is the SSA site. This one lists popular names and the various spellings (though I can't decide if that's helpful or annoying).

And, no, we don't have a name yet, or even a list of favourites. We gave ourselves a reprieve on even considering names until we had the 20 week ultrasound. Now that we know it's a boy, we don’t have any strong opinions yet but it’s definitely a topic of conversation. :-)


April 06, 2009

We woke up a bit after eight today to the third morning in a row of sunlight streaming into our bedroom. This is such a novel, wonderful experience. Since moving into the house, we’ve had only a handful of days that any direct sunlight made it into the room, but between taking the trees down, the clouds disappearing for a few days, and the angle of the sun at this time of year, the light is amazing and lasts for about two hours. What a great way to wake up! (So much better than this!)

This photo was taken from our closet, partly to show the sunlight, and partly to show our “new” mirror:

The wall of our closet has been so empty since we moved the shoe closet over a year ago. The craigslist cabinet helped, but when we deconstructed the old bathroom, I kept the mirror and painted the frame black. I was afraid that glossy black would be too much of a contrast with all of the pale, blond shelving, so I found paint that matched the wood and used the mouths of old jars to stamp circles. I’m very pleased with how in came out. Here was the mirror in its prior incarnation:

I love its new look and spot!


Exciting Fish News

April 05, 2009

We had a huge tank event tonight! The clownfish spawned!! Kevin was starting a water change and saw the eggs!!

We’ve had the clowns for more than four years, and kept hoping they’d mate. Clownfish are hermaphrodites: they start out male, pair off, and then one fish becomes dominant, quite a bit larger, and female. Clack has been the bigger fish for years, and they’ve displayed lots of the typical clownfish pairing behaviour, but no spawning until now!

I need to read up on more about exactly what happens (since clownfish are one of the most successfully captive-bred fish, there’s a lot of information out there), but Click (male) and Clack (female) did alternating passes of circling around the eggs. They bind them to the rock (I think that’s Click’s job?), lay eggs (Clack) and fertilize them (Click). They chose a spot right behind the leather, which makes sense as usually Clowns lay eggs on rock near the base of their anemone.

There are many steps, special food, and extra tanks involved in raising fish fry into baby clowns, so we’ll probably let things take their course (ie, either the eggs or fry will be eaten by other creatures in the tank), but Kevin was having fun brainstorming baby clownfish names: Clickety, Clackety, Yakkity, and Yak were leading contenders. :-)

I got a few videos of them as they spawned. We were so captivated and delighted. The first has reflections from the kitchen light (oops! sorry!) but you can see well how first one circles, then the other. They repeated this for ages (We watched for well over a half hour, and only saw a portion.)

At first I was disappointed by the second video because Click stopped mid-circle and seemed to lunge at Clack. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the other creatures in the tank though, since the shrimp had decided to come check things out. I might not have noticed him, but the Clowns definitely did and they chased him off.


Suburban wildlife

April 04, 2009

This morning was wonderful. The light woke me up early (not something I usually can say!), and I had breakfast and noodled around on the internet before heading to prenatal yoga for the first time. The class was great, especially after a somewhat uncomfortable week, and I stopped at the bread store and the library on the way home. The afternoon was sunny and low key until Kevin called me into the kitchen around five because he’d spotted this enormous guy in our neighbour’s backyard.

Cleaning himself like a cat, and quite the grooming and scratching session, but he was enormous. Despite the tail, I was still somewhat disbelieving that such a big creature could be a raccoon until he left his spot in the sun for a stroll across the yard.

Definitely a raccoon. :-/ He wasn’t acting disoriented or odd, but I really didn’t think that they were sunshine sort of creatures? Maybe the Seattle variety gets confused when the days start really lengthening? Or he was as delighted to see the sun as the rest of us? In any case, I was decidedly less than pleased when he hopped over our fence (only five feet, no big deal) and started hunting in our rock wall. I don’t know quite what he was eating (those beetle larvae? Worms?), but his technique was very efficient: dig away, and then wipe the creatures off on the lawn before consuming.

I was mostly just fascinated as he dug up whatever they were in front of the wall, since we try to keep that area weed/plant-free. When he started moving around in the beds, though, we decided that was plenty of a good thing and when to go throw things at him. He was very skittish, and scared easily, but unfortunately chose to scale one of our pine trees instead of just hopping the fence. The sound of his claws on the bark was the creepiest thing. You can see him way, way up (there’s an orange arrow, and you can see his tail hanging down off of the branch).

He finally came down and then Kevin succeeded in frightening him over the fence. I’m hoping his usual haunts are many miles away and he was in an exploring (but not settling) kind of mood.

Ready for the weekend

April 03, 2009

Counteracting Friday with some sunny pictures of tulips:

And a bright close-up:

It's been one of those antsy weeks where home is so much more interesting than work, and it's all that I can do to stay at my desk instead of running home and starting the next project.

The first baby purchase!

April 02, 2009

Two weekends ago, we stopped by a baby store on a whim in between other errands. It was surprisingly fun, and since then we've both been steadily reading about cribs and other baby things. A few days later, our ultrasound revealed that we're having a boy, and the game of envisioning the baby's room stepped up a notch. At the crib store, we'd tried out several rockers and gliders and thought they were quite lovely but exceedingly unrealistic (the price tags of the "cheap" options were over $800 – right). In any case, I started stalking craigslist for the brand of rocker, and after dismissing many posts (ugly wood color, ugly chair model, very ugly fabric, etc), I found one on Sunday that looked just about perfect. We drove to one of those gorgeous Wallingford craftsman houses and brought home an allegedly eight year old chair that's in perfect condition.

It's incredibly comfortable. It will live in the family room for the time being, in the sunny corner by the windows. I keep smiling to see it there.

Singing the praises of the sewing machine

April 01, 2009

Probably the most persistent pregnancy symptom that I've noticed is near-constant hip and lower back soreness. I've been stiffer than normal for months now, and sitting in most chairs is difficult after about fifteen minutes. On the whole I've adjusted, but after the afternoon of gardening on Sunday I was too sore to find a good spot.

I thought of the microwavable heating pads I've seen online. This turned out to be one of the highest payoff craft projects ever. The entire thing took seven minutes to make, and that included scrounging in the kitchen for a good filler (we didn't have enough lentils, so I used white rice), choosing pretty fabric and thread, and both ironing and pinning the fabric before sewing. I used a fat quarter (folded in half, it wraps around the base of my back perfectly) about a pound of white rice, and a lavender sachet (I bought mosaic mirrors from Etsy as a bridesmaid gift, and the woman who made them included a few sachets of the lavender she grows. I love Etsy.) I double-rolled the edges before seaming to make them sturdier. It gets nice and warm after about 3 minutes in our ancient microwave, and the heat lasts for a good half hour. Blissful. :-)