Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dear Ruby: Volume Three

Dear Ruby,

This is the third time I've written to you on the eve of your birthday -- by the time the sun comes up tomorrow morning, you'll be three years old. I can't believe it; I say this every year, but it feels like you were just a baby, though I can't ever remember life without you.

In the last year you've grown from a fun and curious toddler into a beautiful and clever young lady. While you often try my patience (usually unintentionally -- you're actually an amazingly well-behaved girl), you're delightful and charming and I feel honoured to get to spend my days with you (if you're reading this as a teenager, please don't let that last statement go to your head).

Here are some of the special things that make me think of you:

* You love music. One of your favourite games is pretending that you're Tina Turner or Marc Bolan from T-Rex (yes, we're warping your sense of musical currency) and singing while Daddy plays the guitar.

* You love swimming. Daddy takes you to lessons and you always impress the teacher.

* You love to talk. You talk more than anyone in our house (which is saying a lot, because as your Dad will tell you, I have been known to be pretty verbal myself).

* You're very sensitive. If another kid is crying, you get incredibly concerned.

* You're going to be an amazing sister. Your brother (who you call Frank) is due in a month and you hug and kiss him every day.

* Every day you tell me "Mama, I love you all the way to the moon. And back." I can't type any more about that without starting to cry.

Obviously, there are so many things that make you you, but that's just a taste. For now, happy birthday, my baby. I'm looking forward to many many more to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SPC: Celebration Week #4

So, I was going to photoshop Michael Cera into this shot in case the reference was lost, but I think my striped shirt does the trick. Now, I've already mentioned that I didn't LOVE Juno with a capital L-O-V-E but, I'm feeling celebratory about my Canadian brothers and sisters who heard their names in last week's Oscar noms. Now, it kind of drives me crazy when the Canadian media get too frothed at the mouth about any Canadian connection in a hit American movie, but you gotta be proud of little Ellen Page and Michael Cera. Overrated? Perhaps. But still pretty darn good.

I love celebrating the Oscars, and I'm taking my chance now, since the show may or may not actually happen this year. Last year I won my Oscar party pool plus my annual bet with my dad -- what will I do without that thrill this year? Well, I guess it's really about the movies, not the awards, so I'm going to do my best to see No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood before Frank is born. To celebrate the cinema.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ruby Red

I finished my final handmade gift for Ruby's birthday. I didn't make her anything for Christmas, so I figured I'd make up for all those made in China toys with plenty of handmade goods. After the two aprons I figured she needed an actual toy. I've been meaning to make the Ruby Doll over at One Red Robin for ages (for obvious reasons) so I finally got down to it.

This gal is easy, easy, easy to do, even for novice sewers like myself (though I did give her a very rustic look, not entirely intentional). She's pretty 2-D (i.e., no bottom), so there's no round pieces or gussets to worry about. I used a bunch of fabric scraps left over from last year's Wee Wonderful-mania and I really like the folksy look of this doll. Plus she took about two hours to make from start to finish, which is a big bonus. There's also room for tons of variation: check out the other Rubies over at the Ruby Doll Flickr Group.

Speaking of bright red, I made some delicious beet soup the other day, courtesy of Martha Stewart/Everyday Food's vegetable puree soup recipe. I don't have time to look up the link, but you basically just saute an onion in olive oil, add a couple of pounds of beets (or whatever else you fancy), a cup and a half of chicken stock and enough water to cover the beets. Simmer for 20 minutes or so, puree, and to make it really good, add a few tablespoons of lemon juice. If you want, do like I did and pour portions into ziplocks and freeze. Yum! Though, be careful if you're using a hand blender -- I'm still cleaning up beet juice.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Family Photo Friday: Archie and Ed

I've long wanted to participate in Andrea's Photo Booth Friday, but I just don't have enough photo booth photos to sustain it and really, it's so much cooler if you're using old photos rather than only ever brand new ones. I recently dug up a bunch of my grandma's old pictures and I'm scanning them into Flickr. Since my crafting is going to grind to a halt before long and I want to keep the blog rolling, I thought it might be fun to post some of them here and share the stories.

The above is a picture (I think) of my Grandfather, Ed. The caption on the back reads "Archie White and I gassing mites at Munson Annex. 1941". He would have been in his early 20s, and I guess this would have been shortly before he was shipped off to war. Munson is a rural prairie town when I think he worked as a grain elevator man. I don't have them, but there are bunches of photos of him in the early 40s (before he married my grandma) squiring around young ladies -- I think he was a rather popular figure. You can't tell with the gas mask, but he was a pretty handsome guy and seems to be having a lot of fun in a lot of these early pictures.

Grandpa passed away about 10 years ago, so I can't ask him any more about this day, but I think it makes for a pretty cool picture. And I have absolutely no idea who Archie White is. But he apparently did not like mites.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Petit Apron #2

Here it is, the skirt-style apron to compliment Ruby's smock. I like the smock a lot, but Roo is a very particular little lady and I know that she'll want a skirt like mine. I used Amy Karol's Vintage Apron pattern from Bend-The-Rules Sewing, and it really was easy as pie. I reduced the dimensions to 65 per cent (except for the width of the waistband and ties, which I kept the same) and added the bias tape pockets, also from the book. The whole thing took a couple of hours and was really easy.

It's not a perfect work by any means -- I'm still learning and my finishing skills are kind of crap (Tim Gunn would gravely furrow his brow if he looked at the back side and the stitching). The gathering is a little lopsided too, but I'm thinking that Ruby won't really care. The material is from a local fabric store that was having a going out of business sale, so I picked up some of this daisy fabric. It's weird how the difference between an awesome design and a so-so design is such a fine line -- it the daisies were just a slightly different shape and the yellow was a slightly different shade, this would sell on SuperBuzzy at 12 bucks a yard. But it's just a wee bit off, so it was three bucks a yard. I still like the way it looks, but it doesn't have the pizazz that the smock does.

I still have one more little project to do before Ruby's birthday. Here's hoping everything gets done on time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SPC: Celebration Week #3

I have a sneaking suspicion that I've run this photo before as a Self Portrait Challenge -- apologies for the cop-out. But, since we have a major celebration coming up at the end of this month, it seemed apt to run this one. It's still a little over a week away, but we'll be celebrating our little gal's third birthday. I'll go into more detail on the actual day, but with all the talk of Frank's arrival and the celebration surrounding that, it's important for our family to stop and pay tribute to our special girl, who may not be getting as much attention as she's used to in six to eight weeks' time. So, here's to Ruby. She's a good one.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Super Surprise

And the machine doesn't stop. Seriously, I'm feeling an internal drive to finish as much as humanly possible in the next month or so, with ideas constantly popping up into my mind. Prepare for it to stop at any time, but for now I'm having fun.

I completed the knitting for my Baby Surprise Jacket a few weeks ago (I think) and I finally took the time to carefully seam the shoulders, weave in the edges and sew on the buttons. So, here are the official specs:

Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman (I ordered the pamphlet from School House Press
Yarn: Colinette Cadenza in Slate and Rowan Tapestry (for the button band)
Needle: US #6
Mods: I made the button band and bottom edge about three or four rows shorter than the pattern called for and also only put in three buttons.

I love how this turned out. It was exciting to knit and the surprise construction was really worth my obsessive knitting (I finished it in less than a week of evening knitting). The yarn is really spongey and soft -- and superwash! I did run out of yarn at the button band, so I switched to a colourway of Rowan Tapestry that had a similar gauge and colour, rather than going for a contrast. I think it still looks pretty good, even though you can tell that it's a different yarn.

I stupidly did my gauge switch in stockinette without realizing the pattern is entirely in garter stitch, so it's a little bigger than I would have liked, but since Frank seems also be a little bigger than expected, it may be for the best. This sweater is really fun and I know with the big wide arms, we'll actually get some wear out of it. Hooray!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Calorimetry Part Two

I must be going through some weird nesting thing, because the making is in full force around these parts. Even if I feel the need to rest, I find that I get twitchy if my hands are idle. The other day I showed my mom my finished Calorimetry and she mentioned how much she could use one, since she also doesn't really like wearing a winter hat. Now, my mom doesn't often ask me to make her stuff and I don't often do handmade gifts for her because our taste tends to differ. So, I couldn't say no.

My mom isn't a particularly fancy lady and she said she wasn't fussy about yarn or colour as long as it was warm, so I dug out some Brown Sheep Naturespun from my stash and went for it. Since I was using a not-quite-worsted and the gals on Ravelry have all said that the recommended 120 stitches was way too much, I cast on 110, which was 20 less than my previous DK version and also used a U.S. 7 needle rather than a #8. I also made it four rows shorter than the pattern called for, and I'm telling you, this sucker is still really big. The length is just right, but when I tried it on (I'll spare you another picture of my face in model-look mode) it went from my hairline right to the back of my head. It fits my mom a little bit better, but I'd really urge anyone who knits this (and I know there are about a million of you out there who are still planning to try this one) to really use your judgement when sizing it.

On another note, I saw my doctor today and he told me that Frank is in the 90th percentile size-wise, which means that if he goes all the way to 40 weeks, it's very likely that I'll have a 10 pound baby. A gigantic super-active boy to match my tiny demure little girl. They say that siblings can be so different and it looks like I'm in for a crazy new experience. Yikes!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Petit Apron #1

Although I've been yearning to knit, there are a few sewing projects that I've promised myself I'd take care of before it's, you know, too late. I've wanted to make Ruby her own apron for a while now and ages ago, I bought the Simplicity 4286 pattern with the notion of making the smock style. So, I did it. Here it is. Upon inspection, there are a few little details that need finishing, but this is pretty much it.

I can't quite remember where the fabric came from, but I'm pretty sure it's Reprodepot. In retrospect, I think it would have been easier to have just used the Swing Smock pattern from Bend-The-Rules Sewing, but the end result is pretty close to being the same. This one was super easy, but I did find the amount of bias tape really annoying. Still, it's super cute, so totally worth it.

With all that said, after prodding Ruby a bit, it's clear that she wants an apron more like Mommy's, so I'm going to whip her up a wee skirt apron. I still have another couple weeks until her birthday, so as long as I don't go too heavy on the bias tape, I should be fine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

SPC: Celebration Week #2

I'm beginning to realize that our trip to Hawaii was by far our biggest December celebration this year. As much as I love Christmas, it was far too busy and stressful this year, what with my pregnancy, coming back from our trip and scrambling to see visiting friends. Too much. We all ended up getting sick, which made it even worse. But Hawaii, that was a celebration.

For some reason, that place does something magical to us, and it was really important for us to go there as a family of three, without any other friends or family along for the ride (in the past we've always gone with my parents and my brothers, which is awesome too, but in a different way). It was a celebration of us: where we are now and where we're going in a mere eight weeks.

p.s. check out how long Ruby's toes are! She gets it from her dad.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Warm Ears, Happy Hair

Even though I have tons of sewing projects that I actually need to get done in the next little while, I've been craving the feel of good old knitting lately. I pulled out a ball of Rowan Tapestry that I got from a secret pal exchange last year to finish the button band on my Baby Surprise Jacket (more on that once I finish the finishing on that thing) and after some poking around on Ravelry, I realized that the rest of the yarn would make a great Calorimetry. I've been meaning to make this little scarf for about a year now and I'm really happy I did.

Isn't it cute? It would be more practical if I still had long hair in an up-do, but as someone who can only wear toques for a limited amount of time due to hot head, I think this will make for a good winter alternative. Not that I need it just yet -- I know many of you across North America have suffered some pretty terrible weather this winter, but it's actually been pretty nice around here since late November (um, knock on wood). Anyway, this is a pretty straight-up Calorimetry, only I cast on 10 extra stitches, since I was using a DK yarn and size 6 needles rather than a worsted and size 8s. I didn't add any extra rows because I didn't want it to be too wide.

In other news, I've followed Andrea over to this site, since I have so much time that I'm trying to waste these days. Oh, Internet, you're trying to kill me.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Baker's Secret

Ruby has developed a huge enthusiasm for baking. It's so great -- it's something I need to start doing more of anyway (so she can bring homemade snacks to preschool instead of the shamefully convenient pack of goldfish) and it's a good way to keep her busy in the afternoon so that she doesn't fall into her default activity of pestering me to turn on the TV. I'm even making her her own apron for her birthday, though it's smock-style and I think she may demand a skirt apron like mine. Maybe I'm making her two aprons for her birthday, we'll see.

Yesterday we made a batch of Martha Stewart's Oatmeal Raisin Squares, though we used craisins instead of raisins. I also used a combo of butter and applesauce since the recipe calls for a whopping three sticks of butter. That's crazy -- if I'm making anything with three sticks of butter it better be a chocolately dessert or shortbread, not a hippie mom oatmeal snack. I think I should probably have put in even more applesauce, because the oatmeal part was a little dry and floury. Next time. But they're still delicious -- I've eaten a ton of them myself, since my pregnancy appetite is finally kicking in. I took a picture, which is entirely unappetizing, but take my word for it: delicious. Next time I might branch out and try dried apricots or something crazy. Anything for my little chef.

p.s. It just occurred to me that this is hardly the sublime blog picture that you see on some of the other blogs out there, mainly because Aaron has decided to claim a corner of my baking space as his liquor cabinet. Ruby and I don't drink scotch and gin when we bake -- obviously, she and I don't drink hard liquor at all. This is what's keeping me from reaching the upper echelons of bloggers -- my inability to catch these things before I take or post the pictures. Sigh.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And... Ta-Dah!

I think the phrase is "obligatory BSJ shot." So, here it goes.


And After:

Even though there's only two seams and I only made holes for three buttons, I can't guess as to when I'll actually get around to finishing this, so for now you have the "what is that mess?" and "omigod, it's a baby jacket!" shots. I found this knit so addictive because I couldn't wait to see how it turned out. Now that I have a jacket and (hopefully) no baby for another two months, I'm in no hurry to get out the old tapestry needle. Mind you, I just found a sweater that I knit out of sock yarn (!) for Ruby before she was born that never got buttons or ends woven in. Jeepers.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

SPC: Celebrate Good Times, C'mon

Okay, so I've been a bit of a complainer for the past couple posts. Yes, I've been sick. But in the grand scheme of things, a cold isn't that bad -- on the whole I'm pretty damn healthy. And yes, I'm tired. But it's because I've been chasing around an increasingly charming and beautiful three-year old (how is it that they get more amazing all the time?) and I've got a very healthy baby boy kicking up a storm in my tummy. And yes, I'm busy. But it's because I've got lots of interesting things to do and lots of interesting and lovely friends to see. Is that any reason to complain? No sir.

So, here's another belly shot (c'mon, it's been months since the last one!) to celebrate the good times. C'mon!

Friday, January 04, 2008

W.I.P. Friday

I'm still here. I'm still sick (coughing a lot while 7 mos. pregnant is not a fun thing) and I've been kept really really busy with a new development in my career, but I've actually been doing some crafty stuff too. The work stuff that I'm working on hasn't come at a particularly convenient time for my crafting, what with Ruby's birthday and Frank on the way, but I'm determined to get a couple things done.

What you see above is my first Frank project. In case you can't tell what this big blob is, I'll drop three words: Baby Surprise Jacket. I've always wanted to try the way of the Zimmerman, but have always been too chicken/confused. I thought that the perfect project to start with is the much discussed BSJ. So far so good -- I know others have found the "pattern" (okay, two paragraphs of instructions) confusing, but I think I'm getting it. The problem is, of course, that with this one you gotta have faith, and it's driving me nuts not knowing the pattern well enough to tweak things like length as I go. I'm also a little worried about my yarn supply -- but my fingers are crossed.

I also went to good old Michael's and picked up some Cotton Ease for the Hoodie Baby Blanket from the November Magknits. I'm feeling like with this second kid I definitely have more realistic ideas of what to knit for the babe. Don't expect to see any cute but ridiculous baby booties in these parts any time soon.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year, Old Projects

Not much to post about today -- everyone in these parts is sick, sick, sick (except Ruby -- big knock on wood). The house party we were planning to go to last night was canceled at the last minute due to illness on the part of the hosts, which left Aaron and I kind of relieved (not that our friends were sick, but you know). So, we still let Ruby sleep over at my folks' house and we went out for a Moroccan dinner and a movie (Juno, which is funny and cute but waaaaay over-rated by my fellow critics. The dialogue is far to stifled and clever for it to be movie of the year). We were in bed by 11:30. Now Aaron is groaning on the couch over some kind of tummy bug and my throat is rapidly closing up. Great. But it's off to work for both of us tomorrow (I'm taking a writing contract to busy me pre-baby), so we better heal fast.

Like many of you bloggers, I've put together a little Flickr mosaic, rather than boring you with the details of my crafty year that was. I'm shocked by how many projects I actually finished, considering how pregnant I was for half of the year. Sadly, I'm not expecting as grand a grid next year, unless I decide to fill it with baby pictures.