Thursday, July 28, 2011

Next steps in crochet

A couple more hours, another stitch learned. (It seems like unbelievably slow progress considering I have needlecraft experience.) Here's what I can do now:
-slip stitch
-double crochet
-half double crochet

Now here's the progress:

And finally, here's how awesome the colours look against D's snowsuit for this year:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The beginnings of crochet

D is very interested in monkeys at the moment, and I am very interested in getting her annual birthday gift of a hat out of the way. Last year it was a knitted pink and taupe chicken hat with white buttons for eyes. This year, it will be a crocheted sock monkey hat which we picked out "together" (she looked at the pictures and I chose the cutest pattern that was free). I much prefer the look of crocheted monkeys to knitted monkeys, as I'm sure anyone with sense would (just kidding). This, of course, means I need to learn how to crochet. Here's what has resulted from about an hour's worth of checking out how-to photo galleries and video tutorials:

I'm so glad I stumbled onto a Youtube series on how to crochet a hat; there are little things you can't find out about a craft simply from a photo or an isolated video on technique. It's starting to make sense. I do find some of the various stitch names irritating: half double crochet? Triple treble crochet? Really? However, I don't gather that's something I can change.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One awesome weekend

This past weekend was the first time in D's life that all three of us went our separate ways: Hubby was playing worship on Sunday and had some course work to do, so he stayed home; I had my annual cottage weekend with my ladies from university residence, and D went to my grandma's cottage with my parents. Oh, and there was a super-date and a yarn sale in there, too.

First, the super-date: Hubby took me to Baton Rouge to start out. We figured arriving at 6 would get us out in time for our mystery activity in time. Also, what restaurant in the world allows reservations on a Friday? Apparently the Red Stick does, and because we didn't call ahead, it was almost an hour's wait. Hubby was getting antsy, but had his heart set on steak and fries. We got our table on the patio at 7, and as soon as we were seated, he pulled out a pair of tickets to our mystery activity: the Josh Groban concert at Scotia Bank Place! I, of course, started crying. He planned this back in February (Hubby, not JG), first getting the tickets, and then arranging babysitting with my parents. And he never let it slip! Amazing. Our waiter came to the table after that and, when we asked if we could order right away, said "Sure thing- are you going to the concert?" Yes, yes we were!

I knew from reading in the local paper that there was an opening act (crazy jazz pianist Elew), so we had a good amount of time to eat, drive over, park, and find our seats. We were in the 100-level, and I think it's the closest I've ever been in an arena show! Hubby and I had seen JG once before, in London on my 21st birthday, and while it was a great show (and his last before going home for Christmas, so he was super excited), this one was leaps and bounds ahead! Here are some of the reasons why:
-He had a 13-piece mini-orchestra with him, including 2 incredible percussionists. There was a three-person drum-off at one point between the two percussionists and JG himself, who was really good!
-There was a feature where people could text in questions for him to answer during the show, and one girl asked if he would ever have someone from the audience come up and sing with him, and he actually let her! AND she was great!
-He invited a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary up on stage, along with a 9-year-old fan named Emma, and a 20-year-old single girl, brought out inflatable couches from backstage, poured them all drinks, and announced he was going to sing them a beautiful song about cheating. I thought he was joking, but he actually sang Broken Vow! (He followed it up with Per Te, a love song.)
-He sang my favourite song from his new album, Bells of New York City, which I did not expect at all, given the Christmassy feel of the ballad.

All in all, it was probably the very best date that Hubby and I have been on! We got home just before midnight, so I didn't wake up especially early the next morning to get ready and drive to the cottage. I stopped by Tim Horton's on the way out, and dropped off some library books that were due back that day. I also had made plans to go to a big yarn sale in Perth, and it was amazing. I bought purposefully: maroon and gold for a sweater for Cashew, and heathered turquoise for a friend's upcoming baby. I took a wrong turn coming out of Perth, though, which delayed my arrival at the cottage until lunchtime.

I was so happy to finally get there! This is the fourth year we've had the cottage weekend, and we always have a good time, regardless of the weather. It happened to be very hot, and this year the cottage got a dock, so we spent a lot of time there. As usual, we also ventured into town for ice cream, talked and laughed well into the night, created memories, took pictures (including the now-traditional porch steps shot), and ate a lot of really good food. I think my favourite thing is at dinner on Saturday night, we go around the table and talk about the best thing that happened to us that week and that year, respectively. We used to do that at dinner when we lived in rez together, not all the time, but now and then. (And it would be the best thing about our day.) It's a variation on the classic what-I'm-thankful-for, which incidentally we also do when we celebrate American Thanksgiving together. I love these girls and am so glad to still be in contact with them!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Staying inside

With temperatures forecasted in the 40s, two toddlers in the house, and an increasingly large belly, I thought it best to stay indoors today. I only stepped out to hang the laundry (and, a mere three hours later, to take it down) and get the flyers from the mailbox. And you know what? It's amazing what you can get done when kids play happily in the living room. Instead of a to-do list, here's my it's-done list:
-baked and iced a carrot cake (first thing in the morning, before it got too hot)
-unloaded the dishwasher
-folded and put away laundry
-knit a bit on my dad's sweater
-tidied the living room (the girls helped quite a bit, actually)
-packed for Daph's and my respective cottage weekends (only about half done)

This is definitely not a typical day. We haven't spent a whole day inside since the early spring, I think, aside from rainy days. I thought for sure I'd have to put on a movie for the girls, but they were great. The only downside has been that D didn't get to sleep until around 3:20, not having been properly tuckered out from running around in the park.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our Saturday: Farmer's market, new dress and dinner with friends

We finally got our act together and made it to the farmer's market this weekend! (This meant no checking out garage sales, though, as Hubby was out of town, and D's patience in the car was limited.) I didn't bring much cash, only about 10$, and I didn't want to spend it all in one place. A friend had told me that there's a great bakery stand, and we actually ran into her and her two daughters in line there when we arrived! The market opens at 8, and we got there just before 9. The line-up for the bakery wasn't too bad, and after checking out the other stalls, there was enough of a lull that we jumped in. As we drew closer, I recognized the name (Art-is-in) as a supplier for a local caterer I worked at a few summers ago. I also remembered how good their breads were. We decided on a reasonably-priced baguette (3$), and also bought some fresh apricots (3$) from another vendor. Regarding the latter, I learned that the smaller, redder ones tend to be sweeter, and that it's best to keep them in the fridge. Along with jam and Nutella, it made for a lovely late breakfast on the porch. D wasn't too sure about the apricots at first, but she warmed to them today.

A couple of evenings and one morning of sewing yielded a new pillowcase dress for D, which is unfortunately a bit big (I took it in a little today, just in time for church), but adorable all the same. She happened to have her toenails painted a lovely aquamarine- a reward for being a good girl at our midwife appointment on Wednesday- and was wearing pink sandals that matched the ribbon beautifully! She got a little frustrated in the car on the way home and started unravelling the ribbon, though, so I had to trim it as best I could. I'll need to get some clear nail polish on it before the next wash or wear. I love the fabric; we bought it in Australia over Christmas, and there was actually enough for two dresses, the second of which is in the works.

Finally, D got to meet a lovely dog named Abby that our friends Mark and Val rescued. She reminds me of my family's first dog, Lucy, who was really good around little kids, and didn't bark or lick or jump up on them. D was thoroughly enchanted, and affected a high voice when speaking to the dog. We had a delicious all-BBQ meal (chicken, asparagus, peppers, sweet potato) and these amazing chocolate-cream cheese cupcakes for dessert. Hubby arrived in time for those.

Today was a relaxing day, for the most part. It was too hot to take D outdoors (41 with the humidex), and she was pretty tired anyway, so she and Hubby watched Cars and napped on the couch. For my part, I got some knitting and cleaning done, and thanks to a prudent heads-up from Hubby, got the laundry down from the line just before the crazy rain started. It was so windy that all kinds of tree and leaf bits got blown into the basket. Apparently one of the stages at Bluesfest collapsed, too! I was glad to get inside, I must say. At least it kept the mosquitoes away from me!

Coming up this week: an attempt at getting through some paperwork, hopefully more sewing, definitely some knitting (I'm almost done a friend's baby blanket, and I've picked up my dad's Aran sweater again), and many a splash pad visit to combat the heat. There are four days where the forecast is in the 30s. And to end the week, a special secret date that Hubby's been planning for months now, even arranging babysitting! I can't wait to find out where we're going.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fun summer activities list

Since the weekend, we've crossed three items off the summer list: triathlons, the water park, and now Andrew Haydon Park. Here's what it looks like now:

1. Finger painting outside

2. Sidewalk chalk drawing on the driveway

3. Berry picking

4. Going to a splash pad

5. Visiting a farmer’s market

6. Cheering on Hannah at her triathlons (Britannia, Carleton)

7. Day trip to Constance Bay

8. Picnic at Andrew Haydon park

9. Camp in the backyard

10. Watch a movie outdoors

11. Mont Cascades water park

Today we went for a picnic at Andrew Haydon park with my mom; my young charge E is on vacation with her parents, so we're having a staycation where we do special things each day. (Yesterday, for instance, it was rainy, so we went to the Museum of Civilization; D loved how hands-on the children's exhibits were, even though she was too young to understand much of what was there.) Anyway, it was hot and muggy today, but by virtue of its proximity to the water, the park was lovely and cool. Mom stayed for lunch, but had to leave to run errands. D and I went to the closest playground in the park, which has three boat-like play structures for kids of various ages. D happily pottered around until we had been there for two hours, and it looked enough like rain to head home.

One of the reasons I'm keen to get through this list early on is that if a particular activity, especially a free one, is a big hit, I want to be able to do it often. The splash pad has certainly turned out that way (and there's one within walking distance, I found out!), and Andrew Haydon park is looking to be the same! We didn't even begin to explore everything there is: a water playground, ponds, walking paths, and lots of ducks and geese (admittedly more popular with D than me). Next time, I might bring snacks rather than a full picnic lunch, or maybe we'll go with Hubby for dinner one evening. The best part about going there mid-week is that it isn't nearly as crowded as on the weekends, so parking is easy, too. You should see it on a Sunday around dinner time- packed with families!
Another fun, free, but unexpected activity? Picking raspberries at the side of our house. Our next-door neighbours planted raspberry bushes along the side of their house, and the bushes kindly migrated the few feet to our side. They didn't yield a crop last year, but they're making up for it this summer! Apparently they alternate years like this for everyone, not just us. Whenever we pull into the driveway, D remembers the berries and asks "pick raspberries?" We've been finding whole handfuls of ripe ones on a daily basis since the weekend, and D gobbles them up like candy. Like the rhubarb, this is my kind of plant!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Garage sale treasures and water park fun!

After an overly late night (I blame Inception; my brain took a few hours to wind down), I woke up early to return our movie rental and check out some garage sales. First, I wrote down my mental list of what I was after. Then, I checked on Used Ottawa and Kijiji to get an idea of where a few sales were happening, and mapped out a route. The sales I had looked up ahead of time didn't turn out to be very good, but they were really just the starting point. I stopped at a bunch of others that I saw, and here's what I got:

-a box of canning stuff for 5$ (I mostly wanted the Mason jars to store sugars and flours- we're trying out spelt and barley from Bulk Barn- but who knows, I may get ambitious)
-4 DVDs (Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Emperor's New Groove, and Atlantis) and a French farm book for 1$
-a Melissa & Doug wooden farm-themed puzzle for 2$
-Elmo slippers for 1$
-a bag of baby-proofing cupboard locks (the kind we need for the kitchen) for 1$
-an iron for 3$ (ours is ruined because I didn't use distilled water in it)
-a toy grocery cart for 50 cents
-a Cinderella camp chair, including carrying bag, for 3$

A total of 16.50$ for some awesome stuff, and all the stuff for D except the DVDs and camp chair will be birthday and Christmas gifts!

After hitting the sales, Hubby, D and I got ready to go to Mont Cascades water park with our friends the Macs. We were meeting them at 10 to convoy together. It took over an hour to drive there, but admission was very reasonable (12.99$ apiece for me and Hubby, free for D) and we brought all our own food and drinks. We stayed for almost 5 hours, and had a wonderful time! There was one scary moment when D went in too deep in the wading pool and fell over just out of my arms' reach, but a nice gentleman picked her up before she dunked, and passed her to me. The park was so kid-friendly; I think there were only a couple of rides D couldn't go on, and the lines for those ones were pretty long anyway. The price was right, too. There's another water park on the Quebec side called Calypso, and they charge 33.63$ for the day!

A brief potty-training update: since getting up from her very late afternoon nap (4-6ish), D's been on and off the potty a few times, and I put her in cotton underwear so that she could pull them down by herself, as needed. It's 8:30 now, and she had one accident on the carpet, then one successful pee (she was sitting in her high chair when she announced she had to pee, so Hubby took her to the bathroom; she sang herself a song, and did her business) and an accident and a near-miss in the bath (Hubby got her onto the toilet in time for one, and then she surprised him with another one), so she got two treats! She loves getting the treats, and we haven't made a big deal about the accidents.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Early adventures in potty training

We weren't planning on even introducing D to a potty until after Cashew arrives. But on Tuesday night during her bath, she was tooting up a storm in the bath, so Hubby popped her on the toilet to avoid a big clean-up. We praised her, and I was so thrilled that I went down and got the potty we had waiting in the basement. I put it in her bathroom and forgot all about it until the next morning when I was changing her before breakfast. She noticed it and said "pee on potty?" (She knew what it was because she had seen a friend using one last week.) So I took her diaper off, and she sat on the potty, stood up, sat down, and after about the third try, she actually peed! I celebrated again by having her tell Daddy on the phone what she had done. Later on, we went to Winners and she picked out her own underwear, even choosing the generic patterned ones (5/5.99$) over the Tinkerbell ones (3/5.99$).

More or less whenever she's asked to sit on the potty in the past couple of days, I've let her. It's also been warm enough outside for her to play without a diaper on, which she did for awhile yesterday, although she peed on her slide instead of the potty. We're just trying to take it easy, make the potty available to her as often as she likes, and not get fussed about the inevitable accidents. We did buy her some little treats from Bulk Barn, and told her that she can have one if she pees or poops on the potty. Tonight, after her bath, she was hanging out sans diaper, and told me she had to go, so we made our way to the bathroom, and she sat right down. She had a toy with her, and asked me to sing her a song (maybe to help her concentrate?), and almost right away, she pooped! We celebrated again and gave her a treat.

It's only the beginning, I know it's going to be a challenge, and I'm already seeing how much patience I'll need with her. I'm glad that she's so keen to sit on the potty, but she'll sit down and get up ten times in a row. I don't want to get frustrated with her, or stop taking her to the potty when she asks. Still, it's SO cool that she's interested in the process and taking initiative!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Splash pad success

On my list of fun summer activities to try this summer was at least one visit to a nearby splash pad. I didn't even know these things existed until last year, when I drove by one near a friend's house. They're increasingly popular, particularly in newer communities, presumably because they don't require lifeguards and because they use timers for the water, so it uses less than filling and emptying a pool (and requires no chlorine or other chemicals). The forecast was in the high 20s-low 30s for Monday, Tuesday and today, so the time was right to see if D would enjoy herself!

When we went on Monday, it was just the two of us. The splash pad is about a ten-minute drive from our house, and it was mostly empty when we arrived. I wasn't too sure how D would like it, seeing as she doesn't enjoy being sprayed by the garden hose when she washes the cars with Daddy. As it turns out, if she has a modicum of control over the splashing, she's fine with it. Because there were a few kids around, I got to see how long the water cycle stays on, and how to turn it back on when it stops. I didn't bring any water/sand toys, unfortunately, but I accompanied her through the various fountains so that she wouldn't be scared, and after that, she was great on her own. She just flitted from one fountain to the next, happy as anything! With her kiddy pool at home, she can play contentedly for all of 10-15 minutes; we stayed at the splash pad for over an hour.

On Tuesday, I went with both D and my young charge E, who had also visited a splash pad for the first time recently. It took us over an hour to get ready- sunscreen, hats, bathing suits, shoes, water bottles for everyone. I actually remembered sunscreen, snacks, a camp chair, toys, and tissues (the girls both had runny noses). The only thing I hadn't remembered was to ask Hubby to switch over the spare car seat to my car that morning. My wonderful mom saved the day by bringing her extra one, and we made it to the splash pad in time to meet my friend Sarah and her 3 kids. It was so good to have another mom to sit and chat with while our kids played.

We went again today, and remarkably, even though the weather was cooler (21 degrees or so), the splash pad and accompanying playground were more packed than on the previous days put together! The City was running a craft activity, so that may have accounted for the higher numbers. I was a little nervous of many of the older kids, who don't tend to notice toddlers. One bigger girl in particular vexed me by shooting water at a bunch of little kids when all the big kids had run away; she lost interest fairly quickly, though. There was also a little boy who had a habit of grabbing toys out of other children's hands (including D's, the moment she walked onto the splash pad), and tried to steal some of our snack. I gently chastised him for the latter, as I happened to be the one holding the snack. We suffered the sad loss of one of our beach toys, a red train; most people are fairly relaxed about sharing toys at the park, but it's too easy to lose things when there's a bigger space with more kids running around, so I didn't let the girls play with other kids' toys. All in all, I much preferred the less busy days, but it's still a fun way to spend the morning. And it doesn't hurt that naptimes go better after copious outdoor play!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"So how many things have you knit for D?"

Someone asked me that the other day (for the life of me, I can't remember who), and I couldn't answer right away. I thought it was maybe a few sweaters, a hat and a blanket. I had to dig through a couple of her bins of outgrown clothing (not a good idea when one is pregnant and prone to weepiness) and dress-up things. Here's what it actually amounts to:

I deliberately made a few of the items in unisex colours and designs (garter stitch, stripes, cables), but you can see a definite trend towards girliness in the later ones (pink, purple, flowers, lace). Here's the run-down, in chronological order:

1. Daphne's Baby Cape (purple): made in summer 2007, cast on during my youngest sister's high school graduation, finished before I started my teaching career that September. I had intended it as a gift, but it took so long that I decided to keep it. D is almost big enough to wear it now. And yes, that's where her name comes from.

2. Denim Blanket (yellow): made in summer 2009, just before I had D. We often tucked it around her on walks or in her car seat that fall and winter.

3. Duffle Coat (green): made in fall 2009, still doesn't quite fit. Maybe this year!

4. Classic Cardigan (blue, white and yellow): also made in fall 2009, and was worn only a couple of times before D outgrew it. Definitely suitable for Cashew.

5. February Baby Sweater (lavender): made in winter 2010. D was able to wear it from about 6 months to just over a year.

6. Chicken Hat (pink): made in fall 2010, adorned D's head all winter long. Sadly, she's outgrown it and will require a new hat for the 2011-2012 winter season.

7. Whirligig Shrug (gray): made in fall 2010, D only wore it a couple of times. It's still in her drawer awaiting cooler weather, and will probably still fit her this fall.

8. Anouk Pinafore (yellow, green, purple and red): made in winter 2011, so far only worn twice. It's a generous size and will fit for quite a while, maybe the next two years. We'll need to find her some purple stretch pants and a red or white t-shirt to wear under it.

9. Bolero (white): made in spring 2011, just in time for Easter. She's worn it a few times already, and it's still pretty big on her.

10. Pull sans manches (orange): made summer 2011, matches the one I made for my mom last summer. I had enough of the yarn left over to make something for D, so I sized down the pattern for her. There's still more, so I might make something for Cashew, a little cabled sweater or something. It's a nice light cotton that looks great at a fine gauge, and D can wear it as a sweater vest when fall arrives.

I'm not going to try and knit the same number of things for each child I have; for one thing, my free time will be significantly limited compared to what I had with D, and for another, that's what hand-me-downs are for! That being said, there are only two sweaters that I can really pass on to Cashew, and I'm a big believer in babies getting their own knitted blankets from Mom. I'm thinking red this time, in the same pattern.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Free or cheap summer activities: a 100th post with almost 100 pictures

We've been having such a lovely summer so far, and here are some of the fun things we've done so far. Appropriately to the purposes of this blog, they are all free or inexpensive.

1. Seeing a real prince and princess (or duke and duchess, as they are officially known). My mom, D and I went to Rideau Hall (parking for free at the Aviation Museum and availing ourselves of the complimentary shuttle) to see Will and Kate on Thursday afternoon. It was a beautiful day, and D wore the pillowcase dress I made her last summer, with the shrug I made her this past Easter. D's favourite parts of the day were running around the grounds with Grandma and riding a bus for the first time, respectively. I suppose it wasn't free to drive there, factoring in gas and wear & tear on the car, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

2. Berry picking. We went to a farm down the road from us (Dekok's), on a random Wednesday early in the strawberry season, about an hour before closing time. It had been raining, but that just made the berries seem nice and clean. I think it was about 10$ for a huge basketful, which we ate in short order.

3. Outdoor art. So far, we've drawn on the driveway with sidewalk chalk (1.50$ for 12 pieces at Dollarama), and finger-painted.

4. BBQs with friends and creative baking solutions. We had a bunch of awesome people over for a Canada Day BYO-meat potluck, and it was so much fun! A few people brought side dishes and desserts, and we made one of each. Oven fries were our easy, although time-consuming, side dish, and for dessert I made cupcakes (with all-purpose and spelt flours). Unfortunately, I had no icing sugar and all the stores were closed, so I made seven-minute frosting instead, using white sugar, cream of tartar, egg whites, and vanilla (although maple extract would have been more festive). It worked out great, and I threw a dash of red sprinkles on for colour.

5. Cheering on my sister at her third-ever triathlon, where she placed first! It was her boyfriend's birthday, and he was racing, too; his family came to town to surprise him, with one of his sisters actually entering the race. All three of them placed in the top three for their age categories.

6. Meeting a brand-new baby. My friend Sarah just had her second daughter, and we got to meet the little cutie last week. I held her for as long as was reasonable, and D and baby's big sister were kind enough to mostly ignore her. (This is a blessing as it did not involve eye-poking or suffocating hugs.) Here's what I just finished knitting for tiny baby A today:

7. Watching an auto-cross event in the Palladium parking lot. Hubby, D and I were out running errands today, and happened to be driving by when we noticed a bunch of cars racing around parking lot 9 of Scotiabank Place. We stopped to have a look, and ended up staying to watch for quite a while. D was enthralled, and kept saying "fast car!" It was not unlike her favourite movie Cars, during which she likes to point out all the titular vehicles. Apparently they have auto-cross almost every weekend during the summer, so we may go back again.
D was excited to ride in Grampa's Mustang (on loan for the weekend) with the top down. Joe Cool even kept her hat and glasses on for most of the drive.

All these activities are in addition to the more everyday ones, like going to the library for new books every few weeks (Curious George is a particular favourite at the moment), splashing in the kiddie pool, going to parks, grocery shopping, and housework. We strive for a balance of fun and productive activities, with mixed results sometimes, but we always enjoy spending time together as a family.