Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I felt the earth move under my feet

This afternoon, after getting home from a lovely visit with my former colleagues (baby D in tow, of course), I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and baby D was napping in her swing. I heard a loud rumbling and the house started shaking, so naturally I assumed one of my neighbours was using power tools. Imagine my surprise when I ran to the back window and saw that there were no power tools in sight! I didn't want to think that it might be an earthquake, but I picked up baby D from her swing and headed outside anyway to see what the neighbours thought. Honestly, while it was going on (which was well under a minute but felt much longer), it was a little scary; I had no control over my house and all I wanted to do was protect my daughter. Nevertheless, we both were pretty calm (although D was none too impressed to be awoken from her slumber).

Across the street, our neighbours' 5-year-old wanted to talk about nothing but the earthquake (or "the earth on the ground was shaking" as she hypothesized before the term earthquake was even bandied about); her parents wanted to talk about anything but the quake, so as to avoid freaking out their 2-year-old, who was mostly unaware that anything of significance had happened and was vaguely pleased to see D.

In the ensuing hour or so, I got in touch with Hubby and both my sisters to let them know we were okay (one of whom was in a local mall at the time, and the other of whom was getting ready for work in New Zealand). I also thoroughly enjoyed watching the rapid-fire status updates on Facebook, letting me know that the quake reached Southern Ontario and beyond.

Anyway, apparently it was a 5.0 magnitude earthquake with the epicentre near Buckingham, Quebec. After checking the house (or at least the upstairs) for any damage, I am pleased to report that we only had a toppled picture frame in the guest room.
This is not from today, but I thought it was cute. D is wearing ear protection because Hubby was using a nail gun of sorts to affix the railing posts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bergère de France pull sans manches

Baby D is sleeping after a couple of hours out on the town, my lunch is almost ready, and it's the perfect time to record my latest knitting project for posterity. The story of how this tank top came to be is pretty neat. In the summer of 2008, my parents, sisters and I were driving to PEI for a cousin's wedding. Along the way, we stopped by Quebec City to camp and see the sights. We happened upon a garage sale, and this guy was selling a bag full of this beautiful orange cotton yarn (ten balls in total); it had clearly once belonged to his mom or sister or someone, because he was asking 10$ for it. I suspected that it was worth a fair bit more, but I haggled just for kicks, and got him down to 7 or 8$. Less than a dollar per ball is a great price for any yarn. Besides, my mom was so taken with the colour that she offered to buy it for me if I'd make her something with it.

When I got home, I looked up the name on the yarn label and discovered it was from France and normally costs around 3€ a ball, which works out to 3.75$. Furthermore, they had all their patterns available for free on their website! I looked up a few patterns made from the yarn I had, ran them by my mom, and downloaded the one she chose (with the enchanting name of "Pull sans manches"- sleeveless pullover). The pattern is in French, which isn't a huge deal except for the fact that it's not only the language that's different, it's also the way they explain things. I started out by translating the first section of the pattern, and promptly got stuck.

That is, until 2010, the year of no yarn purchases, rolled around. This year, I decided not to buy any new yarn and to knit entirely from what I already have, which is substantial. I made a list, and there are about 30 things I could make, each taking upwards of a month. So, I've been working through that list and item 5 is this tank top!

I cast on as we were driving to NY to pick up my in-laws on April 16th. The back was a long, dull exercise in perseverance. The front has been considerably more interesting, owing to the interest of the lace panel. Also, because it's for my mom, who is almost as tall as me, I added some length to it, after noting that several of the people on Ravelry (Facebook for knitters) who had made it found it was too short. The pattern calls for a total length of 55 cm from top to bottom, and mine is 61. I also made the ribbing longer, because I thought it looked a bit silly with only 3 cm of ribbing.
Although it looks like I'm reasonably close to being done, even when I finish knitting the two pieces, I have to soak them (I bring them everywhere with me, so they get a bit grubby by the end), pin them out to the correct measurements (which will also punch up the look of the lace on the front), sew them up, and knit edgings on the collar and arms. Plus sew in a label.

The yarn is quite fine, so it takes ages to knit up. Luckily, I haven't fallen into the black hole of knitting: this is when you knit and knit and knit some more, and find out you've only added half a centimeter. Still, it will all be worth it when it's done and my mom can look beautiful in it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wedding wear challenge, take 1

Here's how round one of the wedding wear challenge went:
-LBD from Jacob, circa high school
-vest from H&M, circa 2008
-pearl earrings & necklace from Diva, circa 2007

Accompanying me in the photo are my fashionista friend J and, of course, my dear hubby, whose matching vest (from Value Village, no less!) was no accident. We don't often dress alike, so it's a special day indeed when he agrees to it.

Congratulations to our newly married friends, whose day was beautiful, unique and lots of fun! And my parents deserve a huge shout-out for babysitting baby D for something like ten hours.

Stay tuned for round two, coming up in early July...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wedding wear challenge

I have the distinct pleasure of attending four weddings this summer, and I'm looking forward to each one (shout-out to the lovely couples: Mike & Dana, Mark & Val, Chris & Liz, and Kyra & Matt). It has frequently been the case in the past that I buy a new dress for a summer wedding, but it seems silly to get anything new when I have about twenty dresses at the ready, as well as a number of skirts and tops. So, my challenge will be to remix existing wardrobe pieces to create original outfits. The first outfit is set for Mike & Dana's wedding tomorrow! I think I tried on about ten different combinations, including accessories, before I finally decided. Hubby's input was definitely valued (it helped that he wanted a distraction from his studies). The main thing I wanted to incorporate was a clutch I found at an estate sale today for 1$. (An aside: do estate sales typically involve spreading one's belongings out over the lawn? This one seemed a bit on the shanty side.) Pics to follow later... maybe even one of all my dresses if I'm feeling brave.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A few errands

My lovely and wonderful sister offered to look after baby D this afternoon so I could run some errands without her, and I had to take her up on it! I'm glad that D still fits into her portable carseat, but I had a bit of heavy lifting to do anyway. Literally about two years ago, my dad and I were cleaning out my grandparents' storage locker (at their request- we weren't thieving), and came across an old sewing machine in a carrying case. My dad said I could keep it, and it's moved houses with us, remaining unopened until this week. I've been noticing a lot of easy-looking sewing projects on various blogs, and while I prefer to hand-sew, I'd like to re-learn how to machine sew since it looks more polished. So today I took the thing to a sewing machine hospital (no joke) to find out what it needs and how much that would cost.

The guy helping me was not particularly kind or welcoming; he opened up the case, fiddled around a bit with the machine, and told me it just needed a tune-up and some oil. Which would run me about 99.99$. I thanked him for his time and left promptly. I'll have a look around to see if I can find cheaper service elsewhere. I wouldn't have minded giving him the business had he been more courteous or even vaguely interested.

I also stopped by Value Village, where they've reorganized the layout again, but this time it looks much more put-together. In the housewares section (which I used to avoid, but now make of point of visiting first), I found a couple of little ice cube trays with lids which will be perfect for freezing baby D's food! I didn't really want to repurpose our sole ice cube tray for her biz, so I was delighted to pay only 1.99$ apiece.

After my errands, I picked up D and headed home, arriving just minutes before Hubby did. We had a lovely (albeit brief) evening cooking dinner together before heading out to our evening events: Bible study with the guys for him, and watching my best friend's soccer game for me and D. Tomorrow night will be a family night, because we've been missing each other far too often this week.
Tonight's baby pic is brought to you by the number 8, which is the number of months baby D is now! And her favourite activity of all is getting up to various shenanigans by crawling.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roast vegetable and bean stew

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a bunch of vegetarian dinner recipes and I've been trying them out this week. We had Tomato Clafoutis on Sunday, Cheesy Linguine Stuffed Peppers yesterday, and then tonight we had the best one so far: Roast Vegetable and Bean Stew. It's so good that I can't keep it from you. Healthy, hearty, savoury, frugal, and surprisingly quick to make for a stew- everything I look for in a dinner recipe. We hadn't even finished eating when Hubby gave me a high five and approved the new addition to our menu rotation. (Did I mention he's a highly selective eater?)

Original source: Best Health magazine (shout-out to Alicia!)

I adapted it a little so that I didn't have to buy anything out of the ordinary, and I'd encourage you to do the same. Also, I had a terrible time finding vegetable stock! Food Basics did me wrong. It wasn't with the regular bouillons but rather in the international foods aisle.

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
2 Tbsp vegetable oil [my dietitian sister would tell you olive oil isn't heat stable and shouldn't be used for cooking]
2 cups vegetable broth
1 19oz can of beans (pinto, navy, garbanzo, whatever you've got), rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss vegetables with oil. Spread out on a 9x13 baking dish or roasting pan and sprinkle with herbs and garlic.
Bake for 20 minutes, then broil on low for 10 minutes. (This is instead of baking for 30 minutes and flipping them halfway through. I don't like flipping.)
Add beans to baking dish and pour vegetable broth over top. Bake for another 30 minutes or so. (Alternatively, turn the heat down to 350, take a nap, and have dinner ready when you wake up.)
Serve with whole wheat toast and cheddar cheese planks to make it a complete meal!

Seriously good. It would probably adapt nicely to whatever vegetables are in season where you live. Do yourself a favour and make this next time it's cold and dreary. And maybe listen to Glee's version of Hello while you're at it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sweet swimsuits

Most of what I buy for baby D comes from consignment stores, and that's when I buy her anything at all. We've been extremely blessed to have generous family and friends who love to buy her clothes, and we have neighbours across the street whose daughters are just a bit older than D, so she gets their hand-me-downs, continuing a tradition that we had in my family. I always loved getting castoffs from cousins and family friends; it was like a store coming to your house, and everything was free. And usually in good condition, too.

I was debating what kind of swimwear to get for baby D, as the spring has been hot this year, and this is before summer even officially starts! I'm hoping to make good use of friends' pools and community splash pads. My first thought was that a two-piece would be nice, because that would make a swim diaper easy to change. After pricing out swimsuits at Walmart (9$ and up, almost entirely with licensed characters such as Disney Princesses and Dora) and Joe Fresh (8$ and up, mostly solid colours or patterns), I chose a 12-18 months' size sweet pink tankini for 14$.

I had also checked out my favourite local kids' consignment shop as well as a big consignment sale held at my old school a few months back, but the swimsuits were either neon or looked worse for wear. However, I did find a cloth swim diaper on clearance for 5.99$ (reg. price 19.00), and it was almost exactly what I wanted for her! I hadn't seen any in a plain solid pink, they always seemed to have some loud print and I thought that would show through her suit. Either way, I didn't want to buy expensive disposable swimming diapers, because even those won't keep them from peeing in a pool. And if it's only going to keep poop in, I'd just as soon go with a reusable one that I can wash with her other diapers.

Well, clearly I should have waited, because the next time I went to a different consignment store, there were swimsuits aplenty, and cute ones, too! My mom bought a little strawberry one (size 18-24 months) for baby D as a gift for 2.99$, and it was from- you guessed it- Joe Fresh.

Next came the hand-me-downs: a friend from church had one (size 6-12 months) from just last summer that no longer fit her little girl, so she gave it to me. Also Joe Fresh, also adorable.

And finally one more came from our neighbours: a pretty blue number, this time from Zellers, but size 18 months and in great shape!

We had our first pool party today, and baby D wore her strawberry suit with the swim diaper. The diaper fits perfectly, but the suit is still a bit big. In all fairness, she's only 8 months old as of yesterday, so that's not too bad. D loves the water, and she had a great time splashing around with three other babies and their moms. I'm looking forward to more fun days like this! Bring on summer.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cooking for a baby

Baby D has been on solids for a solid two months now, and I can hardly believe the progress she's made. Her first meal was boring rice cereal, and very messy at that. I thought about making my own, but Registered Dietitian sister advised me that it's wise to stick to commercial cereals for their added nutrients, notably iron. The women in our family have anemic tendencies, anyway. We also made use of a few jars of store-bought baby food, which D just loved! She had squash, carrots, peas and sweet potato from jars.

Then I decided it was time to try making my own food for her. My first attempt involved steamed sweet potato (did you know it takes a really long time to steam sweet potato?) and about ten tiny Tupperware containers, two of which are still in the freezer. She hated it at first, because it was too watery and even though I pureed it as much as I could in the food processor, it was no match for Gerber. Every few days, I'll microwave it, dump it through a fine mesh strainer and see if she's up for it, and lately she's been fine. Next time, when I tackle carrots, I'll boil them and puree them without draining the water first. I was thinking that steaming would keep in more nutrients somehow.

D loves fruit almost as much as life itself! She's had mashed bananas and avocados (both of which are great nutritionally but stain like you wouldn't believe), and saucy apples and pears (which I peeled, chopped, boiled and pureed). She makes the cutest bird-mouth face when she wants more of any given thing! Applesauce and pear sauce are among the first foods she's eaten cold, and she gets a bit confused initially, then remembers how delicious they are. She's also had plain yogurt (cold), and without fail, she makes terrible faces between bites, temporarily forgetting that she likes what she's eating.

The costs of having a baby on solids haven't been too bad yet. A box of cereal lasts for three to four weeks, depending on how often she eats it, and they're only 3.50$-3.99$. I've also bought rice rusks for her, which are 2.99$ for a box of 24 (and she'll have one or two a day at most). It definitely helps that the produce I cook for her is what we would buy anyway, with a few exceptions. Believe it or not, I had never made anything with avocado before, so when I bought a bag of them, I decided to make guacamole from my trusty Clueless cookbook. It was unbelievably good, and I had it three days in a row! Did everyone else know that guacamole is just a bunch of scrumptious vegetables chopped up and thrown together?

Baby D still nurses a fair bit (including right now, which makes typing a bit awkward, as she is partially sprawled over my laptop), and that's fine by me. If it works out, I'd like to continue until she's around a year. There are all kinds of benefits for the immune system and such, plus it's pretty convenient and makes for some nice bonding time. Even if we're out, I pretty much always have a nursing cover with me, so there are no scandals.

Overall, I'm enjoying this feeding stage more now than I was at the start of it. Initially, it seemed like such a hassle to get her buckled into her seat, find a bib, prepare her food, make sure it was cool, and then proceed to let her smear it all over her face and clothes. She still makes a mess, but she's much more skilled at eating and, coincidentally, I'm more skilled at feeding her.

And now, a gratuitous shot of Baby D enjoying some juice at the cottage with Grampa. (Note to any parents: apparently you're not supposed to give babies citrus fruits or juices on account of their acidity. We were late getting the memo.)