Yarn Along: All the Blankets We Cannot See

Just a quick post after a long break to mark the finish of the first baby blanket of the summer, made for the first nephew/niece of the summer.  The tradition of making a blanket for each new baby in the family was a much better idea before we had three babies due within a month of each other, but I’m actually making surprisingly good progress (despite or because of the fact that the last baby is mine, which is causing a lot of couch time lately).

I’m excited to finally share pictures of one secret project; the pattern and yarn were both really nice to work with, and it was a fun project.  I took a break for about 15 minutes, and then cast on the next project, a blanket for Baby 2.

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Modeled by Maddy, who was very much in love with the finished product but happy to mail it off with a kiss.

 

 

I’ve also been reading a lot, thanks to four library requests that all came in at once.  I prioritized them according to the length of the wait list, and managed to finish All the Light We Cannot See on time.  Given how popular it is, I feel like an outlier saying that I wasn’t that crazy about it.  The story was compelling enough, but it’s certainly not going to stick with me long after I finished it.  I’ve moved on to Brooklyn, since I enjoyed the movie so much.  The novel is enjoyable too, but so close to the plot of the movie that I’m getting a little bored, knowing exactly what scene is coming next.

 

Ravelry Notes

Book notes

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7 Quick Takes: Linkin’ Around

Linking up with Kelly et al. to share a few things that are catching my attention or coming to mind (aka, clearing out the tabs I’ve got open on my browser).

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This new photo (and video) of the moon passing over the earth is incredible. I love seeing their scale and movement.

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Apparently it’s World Breastfeeding Week, and that’s great, but how about no one goes crazy? Here’s my photo contribution to the week, but no worries, skittish ones – we’re all covered up.

 

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I’m rereading some Harry Potter lately, and every time I come back to it, I’m surprised at just how much I enjoy it (even book #5, which is by far my least favorite). With that in mind, I’ve been pondering Why Your Kids Need to Read Harry Potter, and on a lighter note, 8 Reasons Molly Weasley Is a Great Literary Mama (both via Carrots for Michaelmas)

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I know this is an advertising campaign, but darnit, handwriting is awesome (science agrees). Unsurprisingly, back to school ads are making me nostalgic for the days when I had an excuse to buy new pens and paper every semester.

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In what is possibly the most spot-on targeted advertising I’ve ever seen, Facebook “suggested” the following ad for me:

I’m not endorsing this company, because this was the first I’d ever heard of them. $8 is just a leetle steep for a onesie, but I am partial to the idea of baby clothes without logos or phrases. Maybe when Miss Maddy slows down her growing a little bit, I’ll give them a try. If I do, you’ll be the first to know.

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Rosie linked to this article about buying maternity clothes, and it had me in stitches. I’d call it a must-read for anyone who’s experienced the indignity of maternity shopping. When I went to buy jeans while pregnant, the tag helpfully advised me to “Buy the same size you would normally choose (XS, S, M, L, XL).” Ah yes, because my normal jeans come in lettered sizes. Never again, Motherhood!

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I’ve got a few sewing patterns on my wishful list right now, including the Geranium dress for Maddy. It looks simple and versatile enough that I could sew it over and over again. For myself, I think this sundress pattern – in the right fabric – could be made nursing-friendly. I’m doubtful that I’ll get one made up while it’s still sundress weather, but hope springs eternal (as does, well, spring).


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7 Quick Takes: GIF Recipes, Fat Babies, and Organizing

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum with a post that I actually finished before Friday. There's a first time for everything!

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All of our local farmers markets are “conveniently” held on weekday afternoons, which has been a tough adjustment from living in a place with just one large central market on Saturdays. They were all pretty much out of reach for someone with a day job, but this week, Maddy and I finally made it to one. We were hoping to find sour cherries, and we came away full-handed. Also with fresh doughnuts in hand.

These cherries are destined to become preserves, because we're running dangerously low on our beloved Michigan Cherry spread (Found at Costco. If you ever see it, buy it and I will happily reimburse you.).

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A gif! Because I wanted to see if I could. It turns out I can, just not very well without putting a little effort into it. In any case, melt together 1 part coconut oil and 2 parts chocolate, and prepare to delight and amaze your friends.

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It has been a good week to be Madeleine. On Monday, she got a package from one of her aunts, who sent a book from Comic-Con. It's a very sturdy board book with cutouts on each page, making it easy for her to manipulate and explore, even with her undeveloped motor skills and a tiny attention span.

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Then yesterday, when I was feeling slightly bad about doing nothing to celebrate her name day, she got a totally unexpected box of gifts from a family friend. Here she is, relaxing in her track suit while listening to Rossini and playing with Sophie Jr. This is basically leisure incarnate.

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One of the perks of renting: this is the front of our house, and I had absolutely nothing to do with the planting or care of these flowers. I took this picture two days ago, and those morning glories are already up to the second floor windows.

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books

Ever since I snapped out of my undergraduate reading slump, I find that I tend to read three or four books on the same topic before moving on to the next one. I guess I'm unconsciously researching and jumping down a rabbit hole until I'm satisfied. The “Mount Everest Disasters” month was a good time, as was “Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy” week.

Currently, I'm reading about home organization with a trio of books that I highly recommend. Our belongings are a mashup of dorm hold-overs, wedding gifts, and the things we each acquired after college, and it's kind of a stressful jumble. After waiting on the library's list for months and months, I finally got a digital copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I'm still reading it, but I'm already dreaming of a house with relaxed socks and much less stuff. The intense purging session will be a bit of a hurdle, though.

I actually started my “research” with Minimize the Mess, which will be the book I come back to time and time again for practical advice on the day-to-day business of keeping my stuff in check. It's written specifically for people who clean with little people underfoot.

To get my fix of decorating and beauty, I'm absolutely loving The Nesting Place. I had never read The Nester blog before picking up the book, so the style and decorating philosophy is all new to me. I can't wait to tidy up so that I can really focus on making our house a more visually appealing place to be.

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If you should ever find yourself in the inconceivable position of having brown sugar but no white, and needing dessert, give these cookie bars a try. I did, and I am, and they're pretty fantastic. There will be a next time, and it will involve pecans.

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This week's MaddyCam features her inaugural game of peekaboo, played this evening. She was veeeery tired, so everything was hilarious.

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Halfway There?

Here we are, at (a little past) the halfway point of this year!  Today I’m going back over my New Years Resolutions to see where things stand six months (and one baby) later.  Since I conveniently made seven resolutions, I’m linking up with 7 Quick Takes as well.

1 – Have a baby

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As predicted, this one happened.  It wasn’t even so bad!

2 – Establish a good housekeeping routine

As it turns out, I was right to have very low standards for this one.  I’m just starting to get back into a post-baby routine, and it’s true that getting one room tidied, plus making dinner, is about enough for one day.

3 – Read at least 15 books

I have a whopping 13 books on my 2015 Goodreads shelf, but some of them were started long ago, and others have been abandoned permanently.  Of those 13, I’m counting 9, plus 2 that are still in progress.  I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting to 15.

4 – Go to Confession at least once a month

I think I’m on track with this one, but I have to admit that I don’t remember much of March and only a little more of April, so I may have missed.  Of course, if I don’t remember what happened, am I really culpable for anything that happened?  (I kid, I kid)

5 – Improve my food photography skills

This one took an unexpected hit, because I didn’t consider the fact that to have food photography, one must first make food.  Maddy has thrown a bit of a wrench into my ability to plan, make, serve, and eat dinner without someone crying (sometimes, it’s even her!).  We’re also stuck in a bit of a rut, and while there’s dinner on the table every night, it’s the same rotation of five meals (and one of those five may rhyme with Schmostco Schmizza).

In any case, when I do take photos, I’m being a little more deliberate with the setup, and pretty pleased with the results.  I’m hoping to step up my game in the second half of the year.

Look forward to more wins like this rice.

Look forward to more wins like this rice.

6 – Run a 5K

Being too cold is no longer a concern.

Being too cold is no longer a concern.

Well…we’re still running, Maddy and me.  I don’t know that we’re making swift progress, but there’s a long time between now and Turkey Trots.  We’ve been getting out 2 or 3 times a week to run, but it’s harder to find a good time as it gets hotter.  I’ve been saving my podcasts for run-time listening.  Thanks for keeping me company Fountains of Carrots and This American Life (and the last couple weeks, Little House Mothering)!  It’s like running with smart, interesting friends who don’t expect me to answer when I’m out of breath.

7 – Write at least 50 blog posts

If I’m counting correctly, this post makes #28, so gosh, I’m right on schedule!  A baby really does make the best content fodder.

Visit Kelly for more Quick Takes – her summer bucket list is positively ambitious compared to mine!

7 Quick Takes: Summer Travel, Gardening, and Reading

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Well, I’m back home after a last-minute roadtrip/vacation to Minnesota and parts beyond. Two flights to Minnesota, a roadtrip to Kentucky and back, and then a week in MN was precisely what the doctor ordered (not literally) for Maddy and me. She was a real champ on the planes, we got to go to the ordination and first Mass of a good friend, and then we spent lots of time with family.
Thanks to another family that preferred to cram into one row together, Maddy and I ended up with three seats to ourselves.  Super Tripper slept for all but ten minutes of our return flights, which meant that I got to watch most of the Captain America sequel.  US Air, you may not provide snacks, but a choice of free movies is good consolation.

Also, TSA Precheck? A godsend for parents travelling solo. I didn’t have to take my shoes or belt off, my liquids got to stay stowed, and we were able to skip past an insane holiday weekend line at the airport.

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I thought it would be a lot longer before my large “Too Small for Madeleine” box filled up with clothes. At this rate, she’s going to get a storage unit for her first birthday.

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This year’s attempt at a garden is making good progress. I decided to drastically lower my expectations from where they were last year, and only planted herbs and flowers, no vegetables. I didn’t get around to doing anything with it until after Mother’s Day, when I went to Home Depot, picked up some promising seeds, and planted them somewhat randomly. It’s possible that the “drought-loving” California Poppies shouldn’t have gone in with the basil. We’ll see how that ends up. The planter that looks thought-out and well cared for was a birthday present from my sister, who took the time to make sure everything was alive and thriving before she gave it to me. The red geraniums were a Mother’s Day gift from Maddy, and I love them. (No kidding, though – bright red is an impossible color to photograph well. Leave those scarlet dresses on the rack at David’s, bridesmaids.)

My gardening buddy is certainly enjoying her time outside, too.

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Anyone who’s seen me in the last few weeks has had the privilege of hearing me rave about our new diaper covers, but in case you missed out, here it is:

Our size one Thirsties covers were too small, so I ordered new covers from Assunta Store. They only come in one size (with extra snaps to make them really adjustable), they cost half of what we had been paying, and they’re extremely well constructed and durable. Already, they’ve contained several hazardous waste situations. The best part of all is that they’re made in China…by Little Flower Projects, a group that provides care to medically challenging orphans. It’s an organization that we’ve supported for the last couple years, and I’m thrilled to be able to support them in this way as well. Cloth diaper users, this is the best there is.

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I finished a book! Deadlines + library due dates have not worked in my favor lately, but I was bound and determined to finish this one. I’ve been a lifelong fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and have read the Little House series more times than I can count. I currently have three full sets of the books at home. I’ve been to nearly all of the historical sites associated with the series (Lake Pepin, Walnut Grove, De Smet, Mansfield…what am I missing?). To say that the books played a part in my childhood would be an understatement.

When I first heard about the publication of Pioneer Girl, Laura’s briefer and more accurate memoir, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. Sure, I knew that she had omitted some things from the Little House books, but I didn’t know if I wanted my Little bubble burst. I had lots of time to think about it, anyway, because when I requested the book from the library in November, I was 113th on the wait list. It showed up a few weeks ago, and I jumped in.

In the end, I do highly recommend it. There are lots of interesting stories that didn’t make it into the series (usually for obvious reasons: violent drinkers, serial killers, and some stories with questionable morals would’ve been out of place). The character development and backstory about the publication were fascinating as well. Now that I’ve finished the true version, I’m putting the whole series on my list for a reread.

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Enough said.

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Here’s the Weekly Maddy. She really wants to be crawling, but given her total inability to lift her gut off the ground, I’m guessing we’ve got quite a while. She does pivot pretty effectively, anyway. In the meantime, I don’t mind looking at the dimple of concentration.

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Weekend in Review: 1/17-18

This weekend was…long-awaited.  I had a crazy work week (seriously – I’ll be telling stories about it over drinks for years, and mine will always beat yours).  So, I needed a little more decompression time than usual and didn’t get as much done as I would have liked.  Still, it was not entirely unproductive.

1 – I finished my freezer clean-out and inventory.  I was actually very pleased that I didn’t find anything ancient and/or unlabeled.  I went so far as to actually wash out the inside of the freezer (not as bad as you may think; an advantage of having a small one).  I have a friend who keeps a current freezer inventory on the outside door, and it always struck me as a good idea, so we’re going to give it a try.

The inventory included 5 pounds of freshly-chopped onions, which is part of my meal-prep plan.  As you can see, we don’t have a ton of space for complete freezer meals, so instead, I’m trying to stock up on individual ingredients that will save us time and effort.  So far, I’ve got onions and chicken stock.  That should get us halfway through a lot of recipes, right?

2 – Well, unless I’m not seeing it up there, I skipped #2 in my photos.  Freebie!

3 – Also on the freezer inventory was 7 dozen peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  I made a double batch of the Joy of Cooking recipe (which I had never actually used before).  The pattern on the top is courtesy of the plunger from my food processor – much easier than forks!  The “samples” we baked up were fantastic, so this will be our new go-to recipe.

The rest of them are now in a big bag, waiting to be baked fresh whenever we feel the need for a lazy dessert.  Johnny’s a great cook, so I know we’ll never starve, but dessert is my domain and I’d hate to deprive him indefinitely.

4 – I love having a reliable go-to recipe for things I make on a semi-regular basis, rather than searching my cookbooks and internet history trying to find one that looks familiar.  The cookie recipe I mentioned about will go in that file, as will the French toast recipe I finally found and loved on Saturday morning (I have to admit that I did alter it a bit by using half-and-half rather than cream).  It had the perfect amount of sweetness and was perfect with our day-old Costco baguettes.

5 – Saturday was just a little warmer than the few days, so I was able to make progress on an ongoing craft project.  It’s a (now-belated) birthday gift, so I’m not going to share any pictures yet except to point out that I’m dealing with something apparently explosive at this point.

6 – It was warmer, and then yesterday dawned with a nice little episode of freezing rain.  I’m grateful for my Costco-sized ice scraper, and someone else to do the work.

7 – Aaaand, I had to share this because while it may look like any old phone call, this is one of two grown men who went from talking about football championships to hashing out Downton Abbey plots.  I believe they Lady Edith was the topic when I took this photo.  Love you, dear!

8 – Thanks to an awesome giveaway by Caitlyn, I am now the proud owner of a few bars of handmade soap from Durham Soap Shoppe.  I only just got it in the mail, and put it out last night, but I’m already pretty sure it’s going to be part of the solution to my chronically dry hands (thanks a lot, housecleaning + winter + pregnancy).  The one pictured is Eucalyptus-Lemon, which smells completely heavenly.

Normally, I might have saved them for a “special occasion” that never actually arrived, but I had just read a post called “Burn the Candles” (via Art of Simple), and well, I think I’ve got some nice gifts to start using up.

9 – My getting-stuff-done companion this weekend was the audiobook of Pontoon by Garrison Keillor.  I was trying to describe it to Johnny, and got as far as, “Well, I’m 8 chapters in, and we’ve progressed about…5 minutes, plot-wise.”  Basically, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Garrison Keillor, and you’ll either love it or hate it.  I think it’s perfect to have on while working, but fair warning: if you fall asleep while listening, you will never find your way back to where you left off.  You would just get lost in sentences that last 7 minutes, and tangents about the time Evelyn drove to Minneapolis.

As you can see from the Goodreads widget on the sidebar, I’m juggling a lot of books right now.  With some of them, I’m up against library deadlines, and there are others I’d like to finish before the baby comes.  My goal is to make time to read everyday without feeling guilty for not doing other things.  I’ve been fairly successful at doing it at lunchtime, or right before bed.

I’ll leave you with a photo I call View Through the Windshield on a January Morning.

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7 Quick Takes: Goals for the New Year

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for my (semi-regular) Quick Takes.  This week, we’ve got a theme, courtesy of the fact that I happen to have seven New Years Resolutions.

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1 – Have a baby

Starting off with ambition here, listing the one thing that is certain to happen.  It’s also the first thing that’ll get crossed off this list, and everything else kinda depends on its aftermath, so I feel okay giving it top billing.  We went to our first childbirth class yesterday, and thanks to a scale diagram in the workbook, January 8, 2015 will go down in history as the day Johnny discovered how big 10 cm actually is.  It was at that point that he looked at me and whispered, I’m really sorry.”

This is not the same diagram, just the first thing that came up on Google Images. I’m never eating another bagel.

2 – Establish a good housekeeping routine

Will this be the year I finally stop auto-deleting my daily FlyLady emails?  Just maybe.

It was really nice to spend my Christmas break getting things done and feeling a little more on top of the housekeeping.  I was less stressed about things, and I know Johnny appreciated coming home to a house where dinner was usually ready and *something* had been accomplished.  It felt like a much more complete fulfillment of a vocation when I was putting forth a little effort to make a home rather than dealing with piles of chores only when they got too tall and fell over (figuratively and literally).

This goal is going to take a while with a new baby, and I’m okay with that.  Once I’m home from work all the time, though, I’d like to start with at least a one-item checklist of chores each day.  For my own sanity, I need to get in the habit of doing all the dishes before bed, and its high time someone started making the bed regularly.

3 – Read at least 15 books

2015/01/img_0448.jpg15 is a low estimate for me, given that the last four years have seen totals of 23, 26, 25, and 22, respectively.  I’m building in some room for a tired brain, though.  So far, I’m off to a good start, with an emerging theme of Memoirs/Biographies.  It wasn’t a conscious choice, but I’m enjoying them all.

4 – Go to Confession at least once a month

This has been my resolution for several years, and it’s a good one.  Somehow, it still hasn’t become a habit, but I usually make at least 10 out of 12 times.  I don’t get any more specific about what time of the month or anything, so all I have to remember is, “Did I go to Confession yet this month?”  It’s also handy to know I’m correct just saying, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned; it’s been about a month since my last Confession.”

5 – Improve my food photography skills

This one should be fun.  I like to think I’m a pretty decent cook, and a good photographer, but I have never been able to get those two skills to work in harmony.  I know that part of the problem is our yellow dishes, which are cheerful and lovely but don’t compliment too many foods.  One of my first steps will be to purchase just one set of neutral dishes for photography.

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I’ve also got a couple of food photography books on my to-read list (this one and that one, specifically).  I’m really looking forward to devoting some time and effort to this project – I can’t wait to look back at the end of the year and cringe over my old photos!

6 – Run a 5K

Well, I ran one last year, so I know it’s theoretically possible. I have this vague idea that my desire to start being more active will coincide with warmer weather, and I’ll bust out the Couch to 5K plan again (possibly starting at whatever comes before “Couch”).  Bonus points for doing it with a stroller.

Getting Mom a Fitbit for Christmas may have been a genius terrible idea, because I’m just competitive enough to feel the need to make a respectable showing.  The weather has made it tough to get any outdoor exercise, so I’ve been getting creative.  One night this week, I tried snaking through every aisle of our local library, but the aisles are so short that I just got dizzy.  Now, I’ve devoted myself to finding the longest, most inefficient route through my building at work, and then going to the gym after work and walking for 45 minutes or so.  It’s pretty much like this:

7 – Write at least 50 blog posts

Hopefully all of these resolutions will give me plenty of writing material, because I’m also hoping to write at least 50 blog posts this year.  Posting less than once a week doesn’t seem like much, but 2014 saw a paltry 24 posts (due in part to the Lost Summer of Sickness, but still).  Hopefully I won’t resort to wordless baby photo dumps (or wordless photos of baby dumps, for that matter), but I make no promises.

Here’s to a year filled with food, baby, reading, and blogging!

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