Monday, June 19, 2017

On the Wild Side

Sometimes I wonder why we bother going to the zoo, since life with three Littles is often wild enough! But I am trying to squeeze in a few more outings before the baby comes -- and it doesn't hurt to use that zoo pass as much as possible this year... 

I was pleased to see this fine fellow sporting his grandest plumage: 




There's nothing "personal" about hygiene in the primate world, is there? 




Some of the sweetest zoo inhabitants were not exactly exotic -- or even part of the exhibits! 




This pair is usually rather lethargic when we visit, so it was delightful to see them out and about. Look at those shoulders!




We're getting a bit more out of our zoo visits these days -- this past trip, the older two took turns consulting the "diet" section of the exhibit signs to determine whether the inhabitants were herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores. Sometimes the best classrooms have no roofs!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Harvest

Apart from a few snow peas and beans, and a tiny carrot plucked prematurely by an over-zealous Laddie, cucumbers have been our first real "harvest" -- grown from seed, no less (a monumental accomplishment for these novice gardeners)! I'm amazed how quickly these shot up. They have completely overtaken our make-shift trellis, and we've already collected two 10-inch cukes. There's another that will be ready shortly, and an abundance of babies that are just starting to mature. I never realized how spiky cucumbers and their vines are, and didn't know that the cucumbers forms behind the flower instead of "inside," like tomatoes and peppers.




We are learning so much from our garden this year -- for instance, the dogwoods that were leafless when we planned our garden are now providing too much shade for some parts of the garden. Also, I'd have planted the snow peas earlier, since they seem to already be suffering from the heat (we'll plant some more in the fall, though!). I like to be successful -- who doesn't?! -- so a few "failures" are disappointing. But I'm reminding myself that one does not become an expert gardener in one season, and next year we'll have so much more experience. And we'll be planting more! So, so much more. In the meantime, it's delightful to enjoy some of the fruits of our labors -- one of our tomatoes is finally ripening, and I can hardly wait to try it.




The Littles and I will be studying botany for the next school year, and I'm excited to channel their enthusiasm for our little garden plot into learning more of the details of God's magnificent designs. They eagerly watch the progress of our plants, and love to sample the herbs (Little Man offered me an "herb taco" today, consisting of rosemary rolled up in a mint leaf. Much as I love those herbs individually, I declined that particular combination... *wink*). 

I marvel at how the little cucumber seeds we planted have not only turned into flourishing vines, but are producing multiple cucumbers of their own, each loaded with its own seeds that could be harvested and planted to produce more cucumbers (which would have more seeds, which could be harvested...). The way in which God has designed these plants, to provide food and also the means of growing more food, fills my heart with wonder and gratitude. He truly is Jehovah Jireh, the Provider (Gen. 22:14)


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Ready and Waiting

Ever since knitting has taken its place in my repertoire of craftiness, I've enjoyed the opportunity to make little bitty things for my little bitty people. For both Laddie and this baby, that has meant a blanket -- the quintessential baby project, no?





This time I opted for the Blue Blanket pattern by LondonLeo -- not only is it free, but it's also such a classic, understated design with its seed stitch border, garter rib, and hint of cabling. The pattern is so easy to memorize, and it was lovely to have a "mindless" project after finishing a far more complicated pattern! Perfect for homeschool sessions, movies, and just about any time my hands weren't occupied with something else. I knitted it up in Knit Picks Galileo yarn in the colorway "Luster," which I nabbed during a sale a few months ago. Galileo is a luxurious blend of Merino and bamboo that slides through your fingers like silk. I'm just a little bit in love with it. 





I did alter the pattern, in a very simple manner -- I cast on 181 stitches, and used 917 yards of yarn (instead of the recommended 133 stitches and 750ish yards the pattern calls for), because I wanted the blanket to be bigger. All this meant was that I had 8 extra repeats of the garter rib, and that it took a little longer to knit! Oh, and I used a slightly larger needle because I didn't have a long circular needle in the recommended size. After blocking my blanket was 34" by 36", which is just about the size I was hoping for. Of course, I discovered that I actually had an extra skein of Galileo after I had bound off and blocked the blanket... So now I get to figure out to do with 131 yards of extra yarn! Oops...







I calculated how many stitches I put into this blanket -- 45,612 (to be precise). Based on how long it took me to finish this project (about a month and a half), that equates to an average of just over 900 stitches per day. Does that mean I'm not a *real* knitter, though? I mean, do bona fide knitters count how many stitches are in a project, or is there some sort of noble ignorance of how much effort went into each knitted masterpiece? Hmm.




At any rate, I can't wait to wrap up our new arrival in his very own blanket -- once he decides to arrive, that is. It's hard to believe that he might be joining us in just a few weeks. We're ready and waiting, little fellow!


So much garter rib!

Raveled here.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Best of the Year

If I had to pick a favorite month in Virginia, it would have to be May. Each month has its own pleasures and beauties -- the snows of January and February, the first daffodils of March and April, the changing colors as the year draws to a close -- but for me, May is best of the year. All the promises of early spring are fulfilled, as buds are coaxed open by the rain and sun. Birds trill from every tree, while the woodpecker in our maple tree pecks a rat-a-tat.

And, after all, it is the month for foxgloves, with their speckles peeking timidly out from their demure hoods:





And the lupine, too:





And sweet Nigella, though I prefer its common name of "love-in-a-mist ."





Our local gardens are bursting with life and verdure: 

















Now to wait another year to enjoy the best yet again! In the meantime, I think I'll go crank the air conditioner down a degree...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Pause


As my belly grows and our little fellow's gymnastics become more pronounced, it can be difficult not to get caught up in the seemingly-endless list of "Things Not Yet Done." Oh, how I want everything squared away and just-so, right now! I've never been good at waiting, though you'd think four babies would have honed my skills a bit.

So I am trying to take a pause -- there are projects I can tackle, but I don't need to worry myself about the ones I can't. It helps to walk into my living room and see this:




That's my childhood Beatrix Potter treasury, being read and loved by my daughter -- to know that she loves reading, and reading the same stories I loved at her age, is such a joy!

And a stroll through our garden (two rows of straw bales) helps when it's tempting to feel overwhelmed. There's always something new to notice there, something growing and changing. I can't wait to pull out the carrots that these fluffy tops belong to!




And there are so many clusters on our tomato plants! I love to peek under the leaves and check their progress, partly so I can enjoy the pungent smell of tomato plant on my fingertips. We had to stake them recently, because they were so large and heavily laden that they were sagging precariously. My container tomato plant last year produced two tiny Roma tomatoes (and that was a comparative success to most of my plant-growing endeavors!), so this unexpected abundance is quite heartening -- perhaps I've inherited my father and grandmother's green thumbs, after all? I suppose I should let the season play out before I become too confident!




The Littles somehow got into their heads that we needed to make strawberry jam, so we took advantage of a sale at the grocery store. You know you're a bit too thrifty when your children ask wistfully if such-and-such a fruit or veggie is on sale! We put a pound of strawberries in the food processor with a tablespoon of chia seeds, and blended them until the mixture was as smooth as it would get. Then into the fridge overnight, resulting in a delicious and fresh "spread" (it's not as thick as a jam). It's already been earmarked for our Sunday tea tomorrow afternoon, which means we'll be putting scones on the menu, as well!




And so, I pause. Before I go find something else to organize, paint, or purge...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

All the Better to Chew On

I've been quite taken with the adorable silicone teether/pacifier leashes I've seen lately, and decided to try one of my own! Granted, it would have been cheaper to just purchase a single teether clip (they're about $10-$15 on Etsy), but how could I possibly find one with exactly the right combination of beads, rings, textures, and colors? I opted instead to purchase the materials and make one myself -- it's more fun that way, anyway!

I spent far, far too long browsing Etsy for just the right shop. I had no idea there were so many silicone bead options! I was determined to get a wooden hedgehog teether, and I finally found a shop that offered them along with the other kinds of beads I was interested in. When my Etsy cart came to a ridiculous total, I pared down my choices and ordered. I purchased my wood beads and rings from Amazon, because I found that to be cheaper (though now I have an abundance of wood rings and beads left over...).  I stuck to a relatively neutral spectrum of grey, black, and mint green, mixed with natural wood.





I used a tutorial from Chomp Chew Bead Design. I'm not exactly sure how I'd planned to assemble the teether, but I'm so glad I thought to search for a tutorial! Safety was definitely a concern for me with such small beads, but their method seems quite secure (and of course, adult supervision is the best preventative measure!). I was surprised how strong the satin cord is, and didn't realize that it would fit doubled through the beads.





Figuring out a pattern with the beads I'd assembled was the next challenge -- but a most enjoyable one! I adjusted a bit part way through, and am so happy with the final design. I was trying not to make the teether too crazy, but I think there's enough variety of color/shape/size/texture without going overboard (even as I write this, I'm laughing at myself a little because who cares that much about a baby's teether leash?! *wink*). I really wanted a few "loose" rings as an extra teething/entertainment help, so I added those to the center -- they're far too small to fit over the grey crochet beads, so they won't present a choking hazard.

All that was left was the hedgehog teether at the end (which can be replaced with a pacifier if needed). I have plenty of beads left over, so I can make more as gifts, or perhaps make a dedicated stroller toy (you attach clips to both ends, so it can clip across a stroller. So clever!).





Hopefully our little guy will like his teether as much as I do! Not that I imagine we'll appreciate it in quite the same way...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Something for the Little Guy

The very day I took my White Pine Cardigan off my knitting needles, I cast on a Blue Blanket for our July(ish) arrival! Let's just say my eagerness to start and determination to finish that cardigan first helped push me along through the last few White Pine rows. 


The hedgehog swaddle is one of my little baby splurges -- I love the cotton muslin
blanket I got for Laddie, so when an Amazon warehouse deal popped up on this one,
I couldn't resist! Though how many blankets does a summer baby really need? *wink*

I've actually gone quite a bit past this now, since (for once) I'm knitting faster than I'm photographing and posting about it. I cast on 181 stitches instead of the called-for 133, because what's up with a 22 x 29" baby blanket? So glad I checked the dimensions before I made it! I'm using seven skeins of Knit Picks Galileo in Luster, which was on sale around St. Patrick's day (green!). Though really, the blanket reads more grey than green. The merino/bamboo blend is absolutely lovely, though a bit slippery to work with.

This blanket is such an easy project, though time consuming! At about half-way through, I'd estimate I've put in about 23,000 stitches. Just another 23,000 to go...


Monday, May 08, 2017

Third Time's a Charm





It seems we'll be having a third go at raising a boy!  We are over-the-moon excited (as are the littles, who give him lots of kisses) -- and now that we've actually settled on a name, the "real" stress is over. Forget birth and the ensuing 18 years of parenting, we're just relieved to have come up with a name! Seriously, how is it that my husband and I can come up with a list of girls' names as long as my arm, but when it comes to boys' names we are stumped? At any rate, I'm quite happy with what we've chosen -- hopefully our little guy will agree, once he's old enough to form an opinion on the matter.

With just about two months left in this pregnancy, I am nesting like crazy. I'm trying to work some of it off at the sewing machine (though so far, not many projects for the little guy -- I'm knitting a blanket, so I suppose I'm just using different needles?). Some salvaged leather and a felted wool sweater provided the materials for some little shoes, using this pattern. I have my doubts about how well they'll work and I'm almost positive they won't fit him this winter, but they sure are cute.




There's just something about leather and wool that I love! I have it in mind to make a pair of leather Toms (like these) for itty-bitty feet.




For the most part, though, I've been trying to tackle the little projects that have been building up -- lots of mending for the Littles, new charcoal and black maxi skirts for me (I'd worn out their predecessors!), some alterations to tops and scarves that were not being worn for easily-changed reasons, a nursing friendly knit dress, and a robe to wear at the hospital (and at home!) once our little guy makes his appearance. Did I mention that we're renovating our family room, including plastering the ceiling and filling in the grooves in the painted paneling? Once that's done we'll be painting virtually every surface in the room, including the fireplace but not including the floor... at least not intentionally. *wink* I seem fond of tackling large house projects with a large belly, considering that we laid several hundred square feet of tile at our last house when I was six months pregnant with Rosa! But I'm looking forward to some fresh new surroundings, and with a triple bunk underway in the boys' room (and a bed for Rosa to follow), there will be quite a bit in the way of new surroundings. 

With so much on the to-do list, the time is flying by! And as the little fellow in my belly keeps reminding me with his hilarious antics (and frequent bouts of hiccups), Lord willing, the best is yet to come.