Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Everyday Adventures!

Every day, something new comes up around here. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Like The Bug That Must Not Be Named that freaked me out after midnight last night. I got up to read in the living room and I noticed Geronimo behaving strangely. He was staring at something in the corner, and I thought, "Oh please no." And there it was, freakishly long antennae waving, stupid long legs looking yucky, shudder, shudder, shudder. Ew. I actually said, "Come on, Geronimo, you're a big guy. You can take it." He looked up at me dubiously, as if to say, "I know it moves, but I can't tell if it's prey or not. And it doesn't look tasty. And how do you kill it, anyway?" and continued to watch it in a vaguely perplexed manner. So I did what any modern woman would do. I went and woke up my husband. I know, feminists everywhere are cringing, but I just can't stand the things. I get the heebie-jeebies just typing the name. (Like the arachnophobic Joey said on Friends, regarding a caged tarantula, "Is it on me? I feel like it's on me.") I trap and release spiders with no problem at all, but these things. Ugh. Welcome to the South. We've already had to deal with fire ant eradication in our yard, mosquitoes in our neighborhood carry West Nile, and now this! Excuse me while I go call the exterminator, or possibly a contractor to construct a protective bubble around the house.

On a happier note, here are the guys, enjoying the stairs. Geronimo is laying on a large catnip-stuffed rat.

Lilah loves the stairs, too. There's nothing funnier than being at one end of the stairs with someone else at the other!

The home decorating continues. We hated our first living room window attempt, then we got a new valance, new rod, and Matt came up with the idea of gathering the curtain in the middle instead of pulling it back on the sides. Isn't it neat?

Knitting: Still working on the shrug. I can't resist showing my first attempt at a Russian Join. I think it worked well. It's on the edge, in any case, and not that visible, I don't think. I found a lovely tutorial right here that helped me out (this is the technique blog attached to The Boy Who Knits).

It's kind of blurry. My camera did not want to do this close-up at all. I'm darn close to halfway done with the shrug! Woo!

Reading: I'm nearly done with The Science of Harry Potter. It's a lot of fun. If you're not interested in science, though, it's probably too dry for you. It's more a survey of natural and social sciences in the context of Harry Potter than an explanation of magic.

I thought I'd mention some of our favorite books for Lilah, since I mostly talk about *my* reading. Unless otherwise noted, they're all board books. Obviously, we're big book people, as the list below just addresses some of her (and our) favorites. I've recently been doing what Matt calls "a dramatic reading" of Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury that, despite the story's length, keeps Lilah riveted. It takes a lot of energy, though.

Charles Fuge - Sometimes I Like To Curl Up In A Ball introduces Little Wombat and his animal friends. Charming rhymes, gorgeous pictures of animals. Unfortunately, the follow-up Little Wombat books just aren't as good. The illustrations are still wonderful, but the stories are less compelling. I Know A Rhino is absolutely darling. It's imaginative, beautifully drawn, and nicely rhymed. It's about a little girl who makes up stories about her stuffed animals. My Dad is a rarity--a book about a dad instead of a mom. I got this for Matt for his first Father's Day. It's fairly simple, a story about a bear bragging about his dad, but it's sweet and his drawings can't be beat.

Annie Kubler - Her illustrated versions of songs are just adorable, and some of Lilah's favorites are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which uses animals and people from all the continents and can prompt fun discussions about cultures and where different animals live with older toddlers), The Wheels on the Bus (the bus takes children, a magician, a clown, and others to a birthday party in the illustrations for an extra dimension), and Row, Row, Row Your Boat (which adds a couple of really cute verses to round out the short song and features babies in the illustrations, which Lilah loves).

Eric Hill - Lilah loves the lift-the-flap spot books, Spot Goes To The Farm, Where's Spot?, Spot Bakes a Cake. These are classics for a reason.

Barney Saltzberg - Peekaboo Kisses and Noisy Kisses are lots of fun for Lilah. She loves lift-the-flaps and feeling the different textures.

Karen Katz - Peek-a-Baby, Where Is Baby's Belly Button?, What Does Baby Say - more lift-the-flaps. Lilah likes the baby faces and she loves peek-a-boo.

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague - How Do Dinosaurs...? books. We discovered these through Kohl's Cares for Kids, the charitable organization of the department store. They periodically offer very inexpensive hardback books with accompanying stuffed animals, with proceeds going to health and education programs for kids. My mom (an elementary school principal) knew about these and ordered them for us. There are several board books available, too. Dinosaurs are much more pleasant and well-mannered than you probably thought! Cute rhymes, amazing dinosaur drawings that include the names of each type of dinosaur, and positive messages make these really fun. We have the three hardbacks, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon, and How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? We also have two of the board books, How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors and How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends? We like them all, and plan to get the others.

Sandra Boynton - We have pretty much all the Boynton books. They are fantastic. Cute rhymes, wonderful animal drawings, plus many with accompanying songs. A cost-effective way to get several is with two Boyton's Greatest Hits boxed sets through amazon (new for $15 for 4 books, and another (Big Box of Boynton) with 3 books for $13. Lilah loves music, so these are a big hit. Boynton has three musicals with books, and a fourth musical, Blue Moo, coming out this fall. We got them from my mom through Kohl's Cares for Kids. Rhinoceros Tap is the first. The songs with board books available are Horns To Toes and Barnyard Dance. We have lots of giggly fun with Tickle Time. All the songs are performed by the very talented Adam Bryant, so this one lacks the "Wow, that's Meryl Streep!" sort of fun on the later, star-studded musicals, but the songs are all enjoyable, and it doesn't really matter. Then comes Philadelphia Chickens. Songs with available board books are Snuggle Puppy, Pajama Time, and Belly Button (Round). Other highlights are Scott Bakula singing Pig Island and Laura Linney's very funny Please Can I Keep It?, but the whole CD is fun. The most recent is Dog Train. Our favorite songs on this one are the Kate Winslet-Weird Al Yankovic duet I Need A Nap, Penguin Lament sung by Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik (even my cool, 23-year-old brother brother loved these two), and Billy J. Kramer's three-episode Cow Planet saga, but again, we like the whole CD. Very non-annoying kids music. We put these on when Lilah's fussy and dance with her, or sing along with her board books. She loves music (as soon as we start playing music, she starts bopping in time with the beat, very cute), so it usually stops her fussing and often puts her to sleep if she's tired. Lilah's favorite Boynton board books are Your Personal Penguin (with a free download of the song performed by Davy Jones of the Monkees), Belly Button Book (a sister song is on Philadelphia Chickens), Pajama Time (song on Philadelphia Chickens), The Going To Bed Book, and Snuggle Puppy (song on Philadelphia Chickens). We were excited to see that Boynton has a bath book coming out soon.

Wow, that's a long list. I hope someone finds it interesting!

Writing - I've at least been jotting down ideas. I've hated my beginning for a while, and I may have figured out how to do it in a less lame way. The problem is finding time for a rewrite, which may be solved since we're visiting my parents for a week and a half, which means I have a lot more personal time.

Cooking - Nothing that exciting. Matt commutes almost an hour (sometimes more), so by the time he gets home from work, we throw something together or go out. I've been cooking like a madwoman on the weekends to create leftovers to eat during the week, and that's helping. We've moved our going-out-for-dinner from weekends to weekdays when we have less time for cooking.

Happy Anniversary to you, too, Yarnthrower!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Since I have no knitting progress photos to post, and I don't think I've posted pictures of our house, I thought I'd do that today. We're mostly unpacked, and slowly furnishing and decorating. It seems to take a really long time, maybe because of having a baby, maybe because we are not very good at making decisions.

The cats love our stairs:

Behind Geronimo, you can see the main color of our house paint. This is not a color we would have chosen. I'm not sure how well it shows up, but it's sort of a pale lemon-lime. Like a margarita, but not as fluorescent and a little more yellow. It's not hideous, but if it weren't for the two-story foyer (really just a yard by a yard spot between the front door and the stairs), we would have painted already. That's what happens when you buy a pre-owned home :) And it could be A LOT worse. This is just "not our color" instead of "so hideous we can't live with it." There are other weird things, too, like the IKEA lighting fixtures, which just aren't our style, but we've (and by "we", I mean "my dad when he visited") replaced three of these with ceiling fans, because there was only one ceiling fan in the house when we moved in, and this is Atlanta! It's hot! I have no idea how they lived without them, but it's much better now.

The guest bedroom and Lilah's room have long dormers, about 10 feet, which is like a hallway to the window. They really don't have a function, but I love them. My writing desk will go in the dormer in the guest room, and in Lilah's, we're going to get a toy chest and cushion for a window seat. Lilah's walls were already a nice butter yellow, go perfectly with the Pooh accessories we picked out, and don't need to be painted:

We're pretty darn happy with our bedroom. We got a bedroom set (our first real grown-up room furnishing), picked out curtains, and found linens. We love it. The wall color isn't really what we would have picked, but I think we've made it work well. Here's a corner that doesn't show the boxes that still need to be unpacked into drawers:

I have three boxes labeled Winter Clothes. Hahaha! Probably, I can just leave them in boxes in storage. They were necessary in Wisconsin, but not so much here.

ETA: (Boy, I had to edit a lot this time. I couldn't seem to remember everything I meant to post.) Happy anniversary to us. Matt and I celebrated 5 years of marriage on the 10th.

Knitting: The shrug is going really well! I love the Pakucho Organic Cotton and I have about 5 inches done (out of 19), so I have real progress. I am about to the point where I have to decide how to join the yarn. I was thinking the Russian Join might be too bulky in worsted weight in a lace pattern. I might have to actually swatch a couple of joins to see what's less obtrusive. Funny story: I had to relearn the long-tail cast-on for this project. I learned it once when I first started knitting, then I learned the cable cast-on and never did it again. You should have seen me. First, I ran out of yarn 2/3 of the way through, then I wound up with two feet of tail.

Reading: I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and now it's Matt's turn. I'm reading The Science of Harry Potter (good eye, Rachel!). It's really interesting so far. I've read about different ways we might be able to make a broomstick fly, and I'm looking forward to the chapter on invisibility cloaks. It's written by a scientist who asked other scientists to sum up scientific principles on the theory that "magic" is just really, really advanced technology. Like how gravity used to be considered magic. It's very tongue-in-cheek, but does a great job of explaining things like the physics of flight and wormholes. So far, he hasn't come to the conclusion that we're capable of reproducing the magic of Harry's world, but he touches on the principles that might allow us to someday.

ETA: I finished Putting on the Dog by Cynthia Baxter. It really wasn't that good, and I don't feel I'm overly picky when it comes to cozy mysteries. The sleuth was nosy and wishy-washy. Her annoying boyfriend whined through the whole book. Jessica kept saying how great he was, but I never saw it. Although, she was really no prize either, insisting that she wanted to make it work with the boyfriend in one paragraph, and getting drunk and slow-dancing with a movie star alone in his mansion in the next. Then she'd get mad that the boyfriend was jealous. The solution was really telegraphed quite a bit, too, and I didn't care that much by the end. If I weren't so compulsive, I would have stopped halfway through.

I also read Halfway to Half Way by Suzann Ledbetter. The first in this series (mystery/romance) is South of Sanity, and these are cute. Hannah works at a retirement community that serves as home to some elderly busybodies who love to solve crimes. She's kind of their den mother. They're good-natured, funny, light reading, and I enjoyed this newest installment.

Writing: Not a thing.

Cooking: I made hummus, yum! And I've stir-fried and made pasta, but nothing too exciting.

StringBean, once I got the hat on Lilah, I started trying to turn it around, but she was having none of it! So there it is, backwards. And heh heh to "the thing that happened" etc. ETA: a non-backwards hat pic:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Fun for the whole family

Lilah and I finished grocery shopping and hit the post office on our way home, where we had a package! (Okay, that's atrocious grammar. You can't even tell whether the package was at home or at the post office. It was the latter.) It was from the lovely, wonderful String Bean and contained these goodies:

A hat and kitty doll for Lilah, toys for the guys, an awesome-sounding Harry Potter related book for me, and (not pictured, as they're cooling in the fridge) chocolate chip cookies and fudge. Wow! Thank you, String Bean. You made our day. I was too excited and didn't take pictures before unwrapping, which is a shame, because she did the cutest wrapping job. I tried to get a picture of Lilah wearing the hat. She was a moving target and not very cooperative, so I couldn't get it on right. This is actually the best one, if you can believe it, and it does not do justice to the cute hat.

Is Lilah thinking:
a) Hey, crazy lady, it's 96 degrees outside!
b) I'm in my high chair, now give me lunch.
c) Could you have put me in an outfit that goes LESS well with the hat?
I think all three, but it's hard to tell.

Knitting: I'm working on a shrug in Pakucho Organic Cotton. It's actually for String Bean, and I already told her that much because, well, I stink at keeping secrets. The worsted cotton is just the thing. I am making visible progress, it feels great, and I love the pattern so far. It's a perfect break from Irish Diamond. Just so I don't completely spoil any vestiges of surprise left, I'll wait to post progress shots until I've actually sent it.

Reading: I re-read Harry Potter and still loved it. Sure, there were things that bugged me, but overall, I was happy. Even better, Matt has decided to read it, so I won't have to ask him every day, "Are you REALLY not going to read it?" and lament that I can't say anything about the book (see above re: poor secret-keeping skills). He had said after finishing 6 that he was so mad about something that happened in the book (if you've read it, you know what it was) that he wouldn't read 7. He decided to reconsider, and I'm waiting for him to finish so I can talk about it. Incidentally, Rachel of Lickety Knit posted a link to her husband's blog. They did chapter-by-chapter commenting that was awesome. Plus, she has the US and UK versions of the books, so I'm not the only total dork who does (apologies, Rachel--you are clearly not a dork!). I am now reading a fluffy murder mystery to recover from all the Harry Potter. It's Putting on the Dog by I don't have the book with me so I've forgotten the author's name. It's not bad so far. The sleuth is a vet, and my main nitpick, besides that her boyfriend's a big whiner, is that she keeps leaving her dogs in her van and it's summer. And she always mentions that she's cracking the windows and leaving water, and she doesn't seem to be gone that long, but it still bugs me. DON'T LEAVE PETS OR CHILDREN IN THE CAR ON A HOT DAY, PEOPLE! Ahem.

Writing: Ha. I wish.

Cooking: Not at all, really. Too hot!

ETA: Lilah started stirring, so I hit publish quickly, and forgot a few things:

Stefaneener, I think the cooking spray method would be great for spanokopita. Yum, spanokopita. Do you have a good recipe for it?

Oh, and you guys all crack me up. Seriously.