Out of my league

Many people have told me that this is a particularly sunny, dry winter for seattle. I know that’s supposed to seem like a good thing, but I’m finding that I really miss the seasons. In the last week, I’ve started to see these everywhere:

I don’t know what they’re called, but they grow in my backyard in Weston, and I used to pick them and put them in a little basket for my mom for Mother’s Day. To have these May flowers blooming in February, in a year with no snow, seems very odd to me. I saw the first crocuses three weeks ago. And these flowering trees at work kind of annoy me:

I’m not trying to be curmudgeonly about the weather (and really, who has the right to complain about 60s and sunny?), but it’s almost as if I still have the weather calendar from second grade stuck in my head, where March is windy (illustrated by a cloud blowing), April showers bring May flowers, etc. and the winters are icy and snowy. It’s nice to have it be so beautiful, but it feels like we didn’t do any work to get here… I kind of prefer New England where you’d still have two months of potential snow and a full month of thaw, but by the time it gets there it’s exciting to see the nice weather. The most I’ve had to do is scrape the iced-over dew off my car in the morning… it isn’t really the same.

I spy…

This is my new standard pose, in front of the mirror, staring at my eye:

After about a year of needing glasses whenever I wanted to see anything on the street, the tv, and increasingly other people’s faces, I finally made the switch to contacts yesterday. The right eye, while still not a breeze, is at least manageable. The left, however, takes a solid forty minutes to get in. This picture is my right eye — I spared you the view of my cranky, red left… Here’s hoping for major gains in dexterity and blink control in the next week!! (kevin’s family is coming next saturday and we’re going up to Whistler to ski — I’m hoping that my eyes will be ok enough with the contacts by then for them not to be a distraction.)

A lot of house for $1.85

Perhaps inspired by my parents’ impending relocation into a grander space, Kevin took mercy on the hermit crabs yesterday and went to the fish store to buy new shells for them to move into. There’s been a high level of fighting over the last week, which tends to be the sign that they’re in need of more housing options. He bought 34 shells (we have about 15 crabs, give or take. Lest the number of shells sounds exorbitant, they will need a series of new homes, so it’s not too bad. Also, as he correctly pointed out, our nearly two hours of fun watching them with the new shells completely justified the $1.85 that they cost). Here are a few of them all laid out:

Pink circle: The biggest of the new shells is over an inch wide. I’m guessing that no one will pick this up for a while, if ever, but it’s a neat shell.
Yellow circle: our biggest guy (in the purple shell to the right) looks at a new white home.
Orange circles: some of our snails, cleaning the rocks.
Purple circles: 2 of the recently-abandoned shells.

By the time we headed for bed, there were 4 crabs in spanking new shells. Meanwhile, here’s the best shot of the gramma that we have to date.

I used to feed the fish around noon and again a bit past nine. Obviously, with my work schedule that isn’t feasible anymore. Instead, we’ve switched to before and after work. Unfortunately, the fish haven’t really been on board with this plan. The clowns seem to feel the same way about eating early as I do, and the gramma generally doesn’t leave his rock cave until the blue lights come on, regardless of feeding. (We have a set of blue lights and a set of white lights. The blue lights come on around 10:20 a.m., the white come on close to 11. In theory, this is supposed to create a sunrise effect for our guys in the tank.) The clowns stopped eating altogether for a few days, then were so hungry that they’d wrestle with each other at night rather than eating the more-than-enough food. It was like they were more concerned with making sure that the other guy didn’t get more food than they did than they were with actually eating.

In the last two days, the gramma has started coming out around nine-thirty a.m. (it’s been sunny, so that might help), and the clowns have been eating in the morning, though only a bit. They still dive at the food, but they spit most of it out immediately. I’ve switched the night routine to giving them a little bit when I first walk in the door and they’re too hungry to take much, and then doing a real meal an hour or two later.

The most interesting behavioral consequence of this is that the gramma is finally leaving his cave and taking over the tank. I don’t know it the new feeding schedule is to blame/thank, or if he’s just finally used to the clowns, but he’s been zipping everywhere. It’s fun to watch, even though the clowns give him more space than I think he needs. The photo above is on one of his missions about the tank. You can see the v-line heading back from his eye — this showed up about two months ago and really concerned me — I was afraid it was a skin disease. It turns out that it’s a sign of maturity, so our gramma is an adult. Cheers to him acting like it.

Loooong absence

And, I’m back. It’s been one of those weeks+ where nothing seems bloggable. It isn’t that nothing’s happening, it just isn’t bitesize and captured on film. My dad got a new job (yay, Dad!), and so my parents will be leaving Weston, MA for Florida. It’s not like I’ve lived my entire life in that house and I’m devastated, but at the same time, it’s been my home since sixth grade and it’s sad to lose a home base. Knowing that they were still in Weston to visit made the move to Washington last summer a lot easier. It’s odd to all of a sudden have to miss the things (my church, certain roads, my high school swim team and coaches, etc, etc.) that I’ve been taking for granted would be there with a visit.

I started my job, and I like it. I still don’t feel settled and there’s a ton to learn, but it’s interesting, I love the Microsoft work environment, and I forgot how good it feels to be genuinely busy. I don’t see myself joining the blogging-at-work camp (nor do I think that people who care about knitting and fish want to hear overly much about testing and programming) so it doesn’t make for much news, but it’s definitely filling a hole and I’m enjoying myself. (Though, I do have to say that I am wiped when I get home. Sitting in front of my computer at home vs. sitting in front of my computer at work… you wouldn’t think there’d be much of a difference, but it makes me exhausted and starving. Funny how the body & brain work.)

I was going to catch up on fish tank stuff and knitting to give you some pictures (unlike some people I’m not witty or clever enough to support a text-only blog), but I think that will have to be another tale for another day…

New Project!

For Christmas, Kevin’s gift to me was a day in Seattle: brunch, yarn stores(!), reading at the library, dinner, dessert & drinks. We went in last Saturday for the first half of the day (we’re saving the rest for another weekend — perhaps also do the aquarium before dinner?), which was wonderful. After intense deliberation all week, I ended up picking Bomber (wish it had a different name!) from Rowan’s Denim People. The project in my mind’s eye was initially supposed to have more cables, but I couldn’t find quite the right pattern. I’m waiting on Mariah until I can see a finished one in person, Georgie (to be knit sans-weird-neck-tie) is knit on #2 and #3s — daunting, I like this Debbie Bliss number but there’s no way I’d pay $16 for it, etc… So, Bomber wasn’t quite what I was envisioning, but it’s utterly grown on me.

Instead of making it in Rowan Denim (which I’ve heard mixed reviews of), I’m using Cascade Sierra (color #03) which is every bit as lovely as I’ve heard it would be. I forgot to ask about winding the balls in the store, so here are the hand-wound skeins…

So pretty!

The ribbing isn’t wearing on me yet, though I’m sure it will start to eventually. For the first time ever, I’ve been having a lot of trouble keeping my stitches even across the row. It’s a k3 p2 repeat and the last knit stitch of each rib is invariably huge. I’ve been trying to pull that and the first purl stitch tight, but it’s still a bit uneven. Any tips?

I finally broke down and bought a row counter and I love it. The pattern has increases every twenty rows, and for the first time ever I’m not constantly counting from the start to remember where I am. Yay for labor-saving devices… Here’s the first 53 rows of the back:

Still no Tang…

Low-key day today. Kevin looked like this within about 8 minutes of getting home from work yesterday — long week. (The pillow was my addition, before that he was face-down on the carpet.)

The only plan for the day was to head to the fish store for another shot at the yellow tang, but we called ahead and they didn’t get any in this week. So, with no new guy, here’s an update on the Xenia.

I’d been having a hard time switching my brain’s classification of corals from “plant” to “animal.” Over the course of this week, though, our Xenia went on the move, climbing up its rock to get closer to the light. There’s a rubberband on the rock which was hidden by the base of the trunk of the Xenia (check out the second and third pictures here). Now it’s completely visible underneath as the Xenia climbed upwards. Somehow this pick-up-and-go attitude makes it easier for me to think “animal.” (My mom said that it reminded her of the ents in the Lord of the Rings. 🙂 Our Xenia doesn’t quite have the height for it — yet. It’s grown about an inch! — but very fitting comparison nonetheless.)

The clowns came over to the glass to see what was going on when I got the camera out and ended up blocking the first shot:

You can also see the gramma’s reflection in the background on the lower left. The second shot is better, though the Xenia’s hands are a bit blurry due to the pulsing. 🙂

New project for the fix-along!

After the success of the blue-sweater alteration, I’m taking it up a level. I have another wonderful store-bought turtleneck whose neck has been grating on my nerves. I love the color of this sweater, but the neck scratches and there’s a lot of it. So, the plan is to rip back about 2/3 of the neck and bind off, then steek, sew in a zipper, and make it a cardigan/jacket.

Some of the considerations leading to this project:

  • I love the color of this sweater, and the yarn is so warm. I’d like to want to wear it — this is a sweater that I reach for a lot, but generally change out of as soon as it’s on — itchy neck, too boxy to be flattering.

  • The shorter neck should cut back on most of the itch-issues. It also seemed like this neck went out of style really quickly — the update is more style-neutral. The biggest consideration on reshaping the neck is its width — just cutting it shorter would make it look stretched out. I think the zipper and more open-necked jacket style will work better than leaving it as a mock turtleneck.

  • The overall shape of this sweater is a bit of a challenge. I think that turtlenecks look better fitted, and this just isn’t. I’ll have to use about an inch of material down the front for steeking and attaching the zipper. Less material and the new style ought to help if not completely fix the problem.

  • The weather here has been solidly in the 50’s — too cold for just a fleece vest and too warm for my winter coat. This could be a great middle option, since it’s 100% wool and quite warm.

  • I love zip sweaters. This will get worn.

    Here’s the view before I started:

    … and post neck-surgery:

    Steeking is up next — wish me luck!

  • Great news!

    Guess what? Yesterday I got a job! To celebrate, Kevin and I went to the fish store. 🙂 We’re in the market for a yellow tang, but as the fish come in on Fridays and are largely gone by the end of the weekend, there weren’t any there to bring home.

    Instead, we are now the proud owners of a silver tipped Xenia. It’s a tree shaped soft coral, and each of the branches look like eight-fingered hands. (Picture an ancient tree with a huge trunk and branches that start quite low to the ground.) The major characteristic is that it pulses, so each of the hands endlessly opens and closes, combing the water for particles. Watching it pulse is the visual equivalent of listening to siren songs — it’s nearly impossible to tear away. Utterly mesmerizing. When we first put it in the tank, all of the hands bunched up tight, though they kept moving the individual fingers slightly. Every now and then a hand would stick a finger out and then whip it back in. It looked like a cross between a sleepy kid rubbing its eyes and someone not wanting to get out of bed. Eventually it opened up and started pulsing — so wonderful to watch.

    Given that freeze frame photos won’t capture the coolness at all, I’m including these with the caveat that I understand if your reaction is “huh.” The cool part is the motion, these are really merely proof that the Xenia’s in the tank.

    The clowns checking out our new pulsing xenia and hermit crabs while they temperature-acclimate in their fish store bags.

    Xenia from the front, in the tank. You can see the pearl-colored trunk in between some of the hands. Also, the pink oval below and the white triangle to the far right are two of our 10 new snails.

    Xenia from the side. We lodged the rock fragment that it came attached to into a hole in our live rock as close to the lights as possible. There’s a rubberband on the fragment, but I don’t want to remove it for fear of injuring the coral.

    Ours was captive bred, which makes me happy. I realize that most of the content of marine aquariums comes from reefs, but whenever it’s possible to have more self-sustaining, never wild, less traumatized species, that seems ideal (our clowns were also captive bred, our gramma and live rocks were not. I have to wonder how much the Gramma’s personality problems are innate and how much they’re a result of trauma from capture and transport.). I don’t know if that view is a result of too much “Finding Nemo,” but I’d still rather go for tank bred. I also hope that our aquarium will be able to support it. Xenia are supposed to be quite light-needy (we’re barely inside the bottom bracket of their tolerance) and rather current-adverse. If they’re happy, though, some hands will fall off, blow around the tank, and start a new xenia where they land. Some online sources have called them weeds. (Must be weeds in the same sense as the little sunflowers on the sides of the highway from Kansas to Idaho — too cool to count.)

    Now that we have a coral, we officially have a reef tank! 🙂 Not as spectacular as, say, this, but we’ll build up eventually (though I can’t imagine the work to get the basement set up like he did, be sure to scroll down through the photos! and, note, the picture of the purple feather-like corals in the “Feeding” section shows a dense patch of xenia!)