Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Hallowe'en!

From a darling dragonfly...

...and a perfect pumpkin!

Mommy is celebrating with a pumpkin spice muffin and a cup of tea. Tomorrow, we buy next year's costumes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The first days

There's so much that I had forgotten about newborns! Cord care, diaper changes, burping, hats and scratch mittens... and that's entirely besides post-natal care for me, which we need not get into. I'm really enjoying this time of resting when we can and letting other people do the housework and such. Hubby's been amazing; I hadn't changed a diaper on either of my girls since Tuesday (to be fair, M didn't need changing until Thursday, and D was at her grandparents')! He's also been great at going out and getting me whatever I need or want (ibuprofen, pumpkin spice muffin, etc), even maneuvering a grocery store visit with both his daughters in tow. I don't think I'm that brave yet. Still, I'm so happy to have him at home, and I love that we are now a family of four.

Getting used to a newborn, even in these early days, feels much more manageable the second time around. I remember a lot of exhaustion and lack of routine last time, but with D in a routine, it's easier for us to stick to one. A two-year-old is more work in some ways, but then she can eat, nap, and play by herself. It's really neat to see Big Sis and Little Sis interacting. D has been giving the baby lots of kisses and never fails to point out that M has an ear, or fingers, or a little nose.

Now that baby's here, the next big family event will be the wedding! I ordered some Spanx online today, and with the help of a promotional code and a pre-Christmas shipping discount, I paid far less than I expected. It's due to arrive sometime in the next week or so, just in time for me to get my bridesmaid's dress altered.

And what will M be wearing to the wedding? Well, the bride herself was at Joe Fresh and found this:

Too cute! It's very much like the pink ones they had last year, with the satin top, sash, and tulle skirt. This is more of a champagne shade, although the flash makes it look white.

And finally, the new babe, because let's be honest, she's the star of this blog at the moment:

Are these really the feet of a ten-pounder? You bet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Welcome, Cashew!

I did have a bit of a rough day of Monday, hence the frustrated last post. However, all that has turned around and I am delighted to announce the safe arrival of our beautiful baby girl, Maeve Catherine! She was born at 12:05pm today after a much shorter labour and delivery than her big sister (active labour began last evening, the midwives arrived just after 7 am, and five hours later, she was born; D was 36 hrs early labour and 16hrs active labour). She weighs ten pounds even, and was "caught" at home by her daddy, who is absolutely overjoyed to have another precious daughter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to speak with a pregnant woman

A brief disclaimer: Pregnant women know that they are extremely blessed to be able to carry a child. But they are also riddled with hormones, and prone to be quite sensitive about their condition, especially if they have gone over their due date. Do not assume you can say just anything to these ladies; even if they are good-natured about it, you may be saying something very hurtful without realizing it.

Things not to say:
1. Are you still here?
This is the one that stops me going to church in the weeks before the baby arrives. I know that people mean well, but it drives me crazy. Should I not be out in public? Is it okay that I carry my babies longer than other women do?

2. Have you had that baby yet?
Actually, this is worse to say to a woman who has already had the baby, but it's still very irritating to a pregnant lady. Take a quick scan of the room, see if she or a family member is holding a tiny newborn, and then choose something else to say.

3. You are gigantic!
Pregnant women are still women, and I don't know of any woman who enjoys being told she is large.

4. Are you sure they didn't miss a twin?
I've been guilty of this one (sorry, Sarah), but in my defense, it was before I knew what it was like to be pregnant and overdue. It's another way of saying a woman is huge. See #3.

5. Let me tell you about my own horrific birth experience.
I know most women (and some men) process events by talking about them, but maybe try to save this one for after the baby's born. Why would you want to scare a mom-to-be, especially one expecting her firstborn? If she asks you for details of your experience, that's different. Even then, try to be kind. She'll know what it's like soon enough.

Basically, that's it. Odds are, you've probably said one of these five things to a pregnant woman. I know I have. Don't be sorry, be better.

What to say instead:
1. You look great!
Everyone loves being told this, and even more so if you can be specific. Pregnant ladies often have glossy hair, shiny nails, gorgeous skin and/or a healthy glow about them. Pick one of those to compliment them on.

Piles of new things

On Saturday, I had a lovely time at the bazaar, even though I was only there half an hour. My mom, my sister and I lined up early and were among the first through the doors. I found several things I was looking for, and a few I wasn't. Such as:
-a frying pan, 4$
-a sifter, 1$ (which I forgot at my parents' house, having borrowed theirs and not returned it yet; we'll make the exchange later)
-a yoga mat, block, strap and DVD, 5$ (I would have happily paid that just for the block)
-a bag of knitting notions, including several stitch holders, a row counter, tapestry needles, a circular needle, and a set of double-pointed needles. I asked how much it would be just for the DPNs, and was told I could have everything in the bag for 25 cents. Sold.
-a beautiful flower vase, 2$

My mom and I also perused the VHS collection, and since my parents still have their VCR hooked up (how else would D watch old Disney videos?), we acquired a few titles; among them, early Shirley Temple shorts, Mary Poppins, a puppet version of Curious George from 1982, Three Men and a Baby, and Charlotte's Web (the old one). 3$ all up.

As I was thinking of taking pictures of everything in a pile, it occurred to me that another pile has been steadily growing: that of handmade things for Cashew (who, as you may have concluded, is far too comfortable to be bothered with such tedious matters as birth). My friend Jasmine, despite having a newborn on her hands, just finished a lovely sweater for Cashew, which joined another sweater, a bib, a quilt, a pumpkin hat, a cabled hat, and a blanket. The colours are all accidentally autumnal, and I think everything looks beautiful.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A pumpkin and a flower (girl)

I thought the pumpkin hat warranted its own picture.

And the flower girl sweater is all done! I may have cast on a little bluebell hat to match...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gloss over

So I've had this Clinique lip gloss for ages, at least since the last time they had their bonus gift promotion; I've used one of their moisturizers for years, and I wait to buy it until they have a giveaway. I thoroughly enjoy the toiletry bags they include, and there's always mascara, hand cream and lip gloss involved, all of which I use. Anyway, my lip gloss is almost gone, and just for kicks, I looked it up online to see how much it would cost. You'll never guess (unless you work for Clinique): it was 22.50$!!! Granted, that's for a full size, and I just have the sample size, but it still seems ridiculous. Even if I bought it next time there's a giveaway, I'd have to purchase something else as well to hit the minimum before-tax total of 26.50$.

I had been intending to find a suitable drugstore replacement for awhile, and yesterday I finally got around to it. D and I went for a nice long walk, and I actually remembered to get all three things on my mental list, and nothing else! (The other two items were nail polish remover, and hair elastics, both of which I'll need before Cashew gets here; I need to give myself a pedicure, and the skinny elastics I bought last time aren't working for my hair.) I wanted to get a gloss that was a good price, the same colour, and a bit shimmery. The good news is that I found it, and it was on sale! The bad news, if it can be called that, is that the name is gross. Whereas the Clinique shade had the charming moniker of Sugar Plump, my new gloss (Rimmel Vinyl Gloss, 4.99$) is unappealingly called Snog. But hey, if it saves me 17.50$, I'm happy!

In other news, it wouldn't be the worst thing if I didn't go into labour this week, as my favourite fall bazaar is happening on Saturday! Woodroffe United Church, 9 am. I'll be there with a baby, whether it's in or out. Now to finish that flower girl sweater.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Countdown to Cashew

So much for nesting energy today! It's been a bit of a lazy one; we had one errand to run (picking up a ball of yarn to finish the flower girl sweater), which was done by mid-morning, and then I tried my hand at making granola bars. They are quite delish, actually. Here is what they are made of.

Then this afternoon, D only napped for an hour (we won't discuss what her disposition has been like since she woke up), which luckily was just long enough for me to finish the sleeves on her sweater and get them blocking. I can't wait for everything to dry so I can sew it up and knit the border! In the meantime, I have two other knits to keep me company. One is the wedding blanket for my sister and her husband-to-be, and the other is a sock-monkey-coloured Fair Isle sweater for my awesome friend Morgan! I'm casting it on today because I can. And also because she mailed us some adorable birthday gifts for that two-year-old monkey of mine, which we just received today! Did I mention that D's favourite pastime is opening presents? That and playing with water in the kitchen.

Oh, Cashew? Your big sister is eager to make your acquaintance. Show yourself soon, please!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On nesting

As I near the home stretch of this pregnancy, I am amazed, as I was last time, by the energy afforded by nesting. I can be exhausted by early afternoon, but once the evening rolls around, look out. Sometimes it's even a full-day thing, as was the case today. Here's a bit of what I've done so far (and it's only 8pm):
-made baking powder biscuits
-baked a double batch of glazed mint brownies for my sister's shower tomorrow
-tidied our bedroom
-cleaned two full bathrooms, including the floors
-worked on D's flower girl sweater (knitting both sleeves at the same time)

And I have plans to wash and hang up two loads of laundry, and clean up the kitchen.

One housekeeping goal I have is to get the house to a level of clean that I can maintain until labour starts. It's meant a lot of de-cluttering and deep cleaning thus far, but it'll be worth it when we have midwives and visitors traipsing in and out. The nursery is all set, which was a feat in itself considering all the stuff we had piled in there due to our ongoing basement renovations (bins of clothes, boxes of diapers and wipes, various large baby toys). Our room is particularly challenging, since it's at the very bottom of my priority list. It's mainly a matter of keeping laundry off the floor, but an awful lot of random items find their way to our bedside tables or other surfaces. At least we have a bed frame now, so we can always "file" things under there to be sorted later.

Now Cashew, don't think that we wouldn't welcome your arrival any time now! I don't mind exchanging nesting energy for postpartum exhaustion, as it will mean we get to meet you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Finished knits and banana muffins

It's been a very pleasing week for knitting; two nights ago, I finished Cashew's blanket. I've knit six of these in the past three years, four in this year alone. Previously, my average time to complete was about three weeks, or two if I neglected the housework and knitted like a fiend. This time, it took me 11 days, and I don't think I neglected anyone or anything... much. We did throw a birthday party and a bachelor party at our house in that same time span, and cleaned up following both events. Mostly, I just took advantage of any spare time I had, whether in the car, at the park, in church before the service, etc.

Cashew also now has two hats, one of which I had made for a dear friend's little boy (born in April), but I forgot to give it to him, and now it wouldn't fit. So Cashew gets it. It's a simple little cabled hat to match the blanket. The other hat is SO sweet, a little pumpkin complete with stem. Perfect for an October baby. D has requested one for herself and one for "tiny baby Adelaide", another dear friend's child. I have instead cast on D's flower girl bolero to match the bridesmaids' dresses.
(Because I can sometimes get excited about very mundane things, I'll explain why I'm posting a picture of the very beginning of her sweater: see the bag that the pattern, needles and yarn all fit into? That's the bag that Hubby's recently purchased undershirts came in, and it is the perfect size!)

Now that the rain (which, incidentally, they've been forecasting all week but just started today) is here, I think it's a good time to do some baking. I've long been searching for a great banana muffin recipe, and I'm beginning to suspect that my inability to find one is inextricably linked to my inability to follow a recipe. Observe:

The recipe calls for white flour, white sugar, and butter. I use half white, half whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and sunflower oil. I also add a fourth banana, some chocolate chips and a handful of walnuts. I must subconsciously think that ingredients matter less than the mixing and baking process, because I did pay attention to the directions to sift the dry ingredients, and fold them into the wet. The muffins have just come out of the oven, and I have high hopes that they'll be lovely and light. Even if they aren't, they'll be better than anything I could waste money buying.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Happy birthday to D

Birth day, 2009
Birthday #1, 2010

Birthday #2, 2011

My sweet not-so-baby girl turned 2 yesterday, and we had a sort of low-key celebration with family. All my siblings were there, along with my parents, and my two grandmas, and then Hubby's parents Skyped in. The theme, as you will see from these pictures, was monkeys. She woke up in some cute monkey pyjamas, and I made her a birthday banner... well as the monkey hat...
...and a monkey cake: banana, with chocolate icing! (I stopped just short of making monkey bread, so as to keep my sanity intact.)

Our dinner didn't follow the same theme; we had a meal that lent itself well to a big family meal, and happened to include many of D's favourites. BBQ pork tenderloin, roast potatoes, and corn, with buns and Greek salad for those of us with larger tummies. There was plenty to eat, and we still have some nice leftovers for today's lunch.

The birthday girl was very pleased with the proceedings, even though her repeated request "shall we watch a movie" was declined. She was genuinely delighted with her guests and the gifts they brought her, and was much tidier with her cake than last year, not that it matters. She also managed to blow out both her candles!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When making lasagna is a good idea

Ordinarily, I don't find making lasagna from scratch to be very effective in terms of cost or time; it's certainly more delicious and probably healthier, but when you can buy one for around 6.99$, it's not really cheaper. At least not for me. Although I do usually have some of the basics like ground beef, crushed tomatoes, and the required seasonings, I don't tend to keep things like cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and lasagna noodles around. Buying those three things alone will generally run you over 7$.

But this time around, I actually had mozzarella from last time cheese went on sale, and I had lasagna noodles in the cupboard (they were the kind you have to boil, which is why they had been there so long; on the plus side, they were whole wheat), and cottage cheese was on sale last grocery shop. We had ample ground beef in the freezer, and everything else as well, including parsley to sprinkle on top! In typical nesting fashion, I made two lasagne: one for dinner tonight (of which we only finished half), and one for the freezer. I'm going to say that my pre-Cashew cooking is done now. Baking is an entirely different story.

Here's the final tally:
-roasted butternut squash soup
-turkey leek barley soup
-2 turkey pot pies

Monday, October 3, 2011

Serendipitous soup

If it's a cold, wet day in autumn, then I must be making soup! Today's offering is a lovely roast tomato soup, the recipe for which comes from an Australian cookbook I got for Christmas from my awesome in-laws. (Another favourite recipe from there: passionfruit shortbread. And yes, it's even better than it sounds.) It calls for a lot of tomatoes, which I don't usually buy en masse unless I'm planning to make this soup. However, yesterday my parents found themselves with an abundance of tomatoes, and they passed most of them along to me. They also had bought a roast chicken on Saturday, and I'm using the bones to make stock, along with water from vegetables I cooked for dinner last night. So there was the other main ingredient. The tomatoes have been drizzled with oil, salt and pepper, and they are presently cooling as the stock keeps boiling away in the crock pot. This should be a very delicious dinner indeed. I just need a protein side... devilled eggs, anyone?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An aran story

I kept detailed notes on Ravelry (aka Facebook for knitters) of the sweater's progress over the past year, and now I will share them here.

October 20th: This is another case of yarn being bought in 2008 and not getting used until now! I had cast on a couple of months after the purchase, but the sweater I had in mind wasn’t working out, and I didn’t want to have to make it up myself. Eventually the perfect pattern came around. My dad has purchased a few pure wool sweaters from the Maritimes (most recently Newfoundland), but I feel that when you have a knitter for a daughter, she should make you at least one. We picked out the yarn on a visit to PEI in 08, and I’m finally starting, the day before my dad’s birthday!

October 22nd: Finished both saddle shoulders and started the back, with a lot of stitch markers in use. I’m so grateful to the other knitters on Ravelry who have made this; the construction is confusing to me, never having knit a top-down saddle shoulder Aran before. I don’t think I’ll even try to predict when this will get finished.

October 24th: I am such a product knitter! My gauge is about 7 rows per inch, and the back is measured from the centre of the saddle, so I’ve got just over 2 inches done for the back now, out of 9 inches. I love seeing the pattern develop, the designer is a genius! Hopefully I’ll be able to keep all the charts straight. At least they’re all in multiples of 2: 2 rows for chart A, 24 rows for chart B, 4 rows for chart C, 8 rows for chart D.

November 14th: The various cables are not actually too hard to memorize. I only really need to look at the chart for B, and I’ve memorized the others, more or less. I thought that chart D would be the toughest, but it develops quite logically and predictably. There hasn’t been much progress lately; there was a missing cable needle incident, then a Christmas prezzie to cast one. Getting back on track now. It won’t be done anytime soon, though.

December 12th: Oddly enough, even though I’m on an overseas holiday at the moment, I’ve made a ton of progress in a very short time! I had put it aside while working on a tree skirt for my mom, and just picked it up again in the past few days. I finished the back to the point where the stitches are on a holder, and knitted the left and right fronts up until they join, plus about an inch past that. I did change needle sizes when I started the fronts (up to a 4.5 mm) because the back felt a bit tight. It’s loosened up nicely now, and I don’t think the gauge is terribly different. The only problem in the foreseeable future would be that I only brought two balls of yarn with me, so once I burn through those, I’ll have to let it sit again. Oh well!

Feb 15th: I’m on the first of the two sleeves, and aside from the “seam” slowly migrating to the left when I decrease every 4th round, things are going alright, albeit at a snail’s pace. I’m trying to knit 7 rounds a day, since that’s my row gauge per inch. I had my dad measure his arm length from the shoulder to cuff (with arm bent), and it’s 27 inches. My goodness. To think that once this sleeve is done, I have another to do just like it. But then it’ll just be the body left.

April 26th: I finished the first sleeve yesterday and am a couple of inches in on the second one. Luckily I checked the sleeve against my dad’s arm, otherwise I would have knitted too much and then had to rip back. How demoralizing that would have been!
I still have three full skeins of the yarn left, so I wonder if I’ll have to order any more at all. Maybe one or two, depending on how the body goes. It IS 286 sts around…

May 17th: My self-imposed goal for this month is to finish the second sleeve. Thanks to a wedding on Saturday (and a long break between the ceremony and reception) I’m almost done the decreases, and I only have about 3 repeats of chart B left. Also, I found an extra skein of the yarn in my stash, hurray!

May 27th: I finished the second sleeve, and I’m ripping back the cuff on the first sleeve to re-knit it with 4 mm needles, since it looks way better. I’ll do the collar next (maybe I’ll finish that by the end of May?) and then… on to the body.

June 1st: I bound off the collar today, and worked 2 rounds of the body. It’s not as bad so far as I had thought; sure, the rounds are long, but it’s not as hard to keep track of what you’re doing, compared with shorter rounds. By my estimate, the body will need about 120 rounds before the ribbing. If I can do only 2 rounds a day, I’ll be done in two months. That sounds terribly slow, but I’d be happy to finish this sweater in less than a year! I’ve been at it on and off for seven and a half months now.

July 19th: Still plugging away at the body; I’ve got just under 12 inches to go before I decrease and work 3 inches of ribbing. I’m also down to my last ball of yarn, and I’ll probably need to order one or two more, but I want to see how far this ball gets me first. When I started the body, I was working with a half-finished ball, and I want to get a better estimate of how much I’ll need. For my own reference, I’m joining in the new ball in the first half of round 3.

July 27th: Ordered 3 additional skeins of 3-ply medium yarn from MacAuslands today, as I’m almost finished the last ball!

August 3rd: Yarn arrived today! Thank goodness. I was getting ansty to finish.

August 5th: Last night, I finished off the baby blanket I had been working on the interim, so I’m back to knitting this sweater. In the 30 degree heat. 9 inches to go before the ribbing. Let’s see how long I can go before casting on something new.

August 9th: As it turns out, I lasted until yesterday without casting on something new; my circular needle broke, and I don’t have another one in that size. I started a baby sweater.

September 29th: I cast off the body today! My dad tried it on and, as we had suspected, the sleeves were too long, so I’m going to rip them back by about three inches. I find them unnecessarily voluminous at the top, but there’s no way I’m ripping back that far. This thing needs to be off the needles.

September 30th: And done. Blocking and washing to follow, but that’s nothing. And about three or four ends to sew in.

October 2nd: The sweater was washed and blocked last night, and is taking its sweet time to dry on my living room table. My dad is so excited to wear it!