While we were on the east coast, our front yard started blooming in earnest. The rhododendron is pale pink, we have three lovely dark pink azaleas next to the walkway, five medium pink azaleas by the driveway (and one discordant purple one by my window that I’m trying to ignore), and many buds on one of the bushes next to the driveway. Also, the two hydrangeas are leafy and madly growing, despite the December massacre. It’s incredibly satisfying. We’ll see if they bud this year?

From the middle of the front yard:

Kevin caught a bee on the rhododendron with his macro lens:

And from the street:

You can see that the view and yard quite shaded due to the neighbors’ Japanese maple. (I’m actually standing next to branches that drape down to only two feet off the ground). Which brings up an etiquette question for all of you. You are allowed in Redmond to cut tree limbs and shrubbery that hang over your property, even if the trunk of the plant doesn’t belong to you. The trunk in question actually belongs to a rental house with four guys in it, and we’ve never met the owner. Do we just cut away the two offending branches, confident in our new tree pruning skills and equipment? Do we try to get the guys to give us the name of their landlord and ask permission? Any opinions?

Back to Brown

This weekend was my fifth college reunion, so we red-eyed back to Providence for three days.

When you come back for reunion you get an empty room with bare furniture, sheets, a pillow, two towels, two bars of little soap, and a nice welcome packet. It’s so spartan – rather symbolic of arriving on campus without all of the trappings (friends, meal plan, computers, furniture, wall decor, music, endless work and commitments) that made college hum. And yet. Within minutes I ran into people I knew (and many people Kevin knew), and for most hours of the weekend we had more activities than minutes to devote to them. Even the trip back up to Logan had three options – leave early with my parents, stay an extra hour and take the train, or accept a last minute invitation to ride up to Boston with a fellow Brown dinner friend from Seattle (an ’07 grad). (We took the train – nostalgic for me and great conversation fodder for the two of us in our constant east coast/west coast struggle. And then we met up with the Seattle friend at the airport for a beer and the Red Sox game – a very college compromise.)

In shuffled order, some thoughts about the weekend:
– I miss the people I knew there. The BAM is helpful and recently facebook has been such a boon, but it was such a treat to see people in person again. And it was so fun to see how people have grown, and how they’ve remained constant. Marriages, kids, career paths (my favourite of the weekend was a classmate and former co-TA CS major who is now designing wooden puzzles and toys). I’d forgotten over time how varied and exceptional my classmates were. It was eye-opening to see them again and see all of the different routes that you can pursue with a liberal arts degree and five years. πŸ™‚ Go, Brown.

(Wayland and Phi Psi friends out for byob sushi on Wickenden – 14 people in a small room with a mirror means a terrible photo, but the dinner was great fun.)

– Every time I go back, it feels like home. You can’t believe how hard it was not to steer into Sears 311, my dorm room of two years, every time we passed. I look for faces on campus that are no longer there. Force of habit is so strong.

– I came home footsore. Remember how busy and unsettling the prefrosh week was? 3 days of reunion is the same thing, but unexpected. As an 18 year old, you want and expect your foundations to be rocked. At 26, you’re complacent and prepared, but the experience of being back with your class in a place that feels like home shakes things up.

– My parents and both of my siblings graduated from the same school that I did. I can’t tell you how proud I am of that. It’s an additional, deep bond. I’m also so glad that Kevin and I met before senior year of college and that he spent enough time on campus to have a credible sense of the university. Dad and I share a reunion year, and so here we all are on Saturday evening:

– I was actually expecting way more people to be married. From what I can tell, it’s practically only the girls in my freshman unit? Something in the water?

Wonder where we’ll all be in life at our tenth?

First summer weekend

Here’s what this weekend looked like:

A book, an icy drink, and a duo of chairs carted around to a sunny or shady spot. On Saturday it got up to the mid eighties, and today was about six degrees cooler. There was sun screen, bare feet, and yard work. I cleared the side garden of weeds (you can see the nice clear patch above Kevin’s head), to prep for herbs, beans, tomatoes and zucchini. The lilacs (we have two in the back, and one in the front!) have bloomed. The flowers haven’t quite opened up enough to be able to smell them, but every now and then a breeze would carry the beginnings of lilac scent. It’s going to be wonderful in a week or so. (That smell will forever remind me of doing calculus homework – graph paper out with the windows open on a spring night. Funny how memory works).

Our rhododendron just started blooming. Here it is glowing in the afternoon sun:

I love the blue flowers in the foreground – they’re so vibrant and lovely. To the right you can see the Japanese Maple (top) and a fern (bottom), clearly not fazed by the recent pruning efforts.

We’re totally inundated with small (ΒΌ”) blue flowers. I don’t know what they’re called. They look like this:

(shot by Kevin with his macro lens), on a nine inch stem. The first few looked a little bit weedy, but lovely, and since then, they’ve taken over the entire rock wall. We decided that they could have the two ends, but couldn’t be in the middle. This photo is called “one minute before I ripped out the ever-present blue wildflowers”.

Much better:

πŸ™‚ You can see the irises starting to really shoot up in the back!! Half of them are transplants from last year, and half were here already. I can’t wait to see what we have! Also, the mini azalea has started to bloom – I love the pink. And our red primrose (bottom-left) is still going strong.

Mystery creature

What is this?

Every time I pull up a weed, I seem to find one of these guys underneath. They’re a bit over an inch long, and have a hard red shell. I suspect it’s some sort of grub or larvae, but I’m curious how worried I should be, since our soil seems to have reached saturation levels on these dudes. Any ideas?


I’ve been meaning to figure out curtains for my office. My desk is set up right in front of the window, which is generally lovely, but on dark days and at twilight it seems to lack privacy. I had a bunch of white cotton and lace curtains that I bought at my church’s annual rummage sale for my Boston apartment. I just went on a massively nostalgic photo tour to find shots of those curtains in action, and here they were in my Boston Bedroom, circa June ’04.

(All I can think of is the T, the Red Sox on TV and the game day crowds, Kevin’s thesis, tulips bought on the way home, carrying groceries up three flights, and the way that the air smelled after dinner while everything cooled off.)

For Boston, I’d sewn sets of curtains together so that they would be longer. For this house, I pulled out those seams and sewed a channel for the curtain rod at about 2/3 the height. I found a spring-loaded curtain rod at Ace Hardware for about $4. Now, I can sit behind them and see the trees and sky, but anyone in the road or the neighbours can only see the top of my head. Perfect.

Or, during the day, I can slide them open and watch all the goings-on in the front yard.

I’m all pleased. πŸ™‚

A hat for the beach

I decided the day before the camping trip that I needed a new hat. I knit one for myself in Boston, but it’s not machine washable, and it seemed like I’d appreciate that feature after all of the campfire smoke. So, I grabbed some Encore from the leftovers of Kevin’s hat, and started at about 9 pm. To no one’s surprise, I didn’t finish by bedtime.

Here’s me all bundled up against the dusk with the work in progress against the sunset on Saturday.

Since we missed our ferry, I had fewer hours of daylight knitting than expected on Friday, and despite a valiant effort in the car after sunset, and on the beach in front of the campfire, I didn’t end up finishing until we got back. Those last few campfire-smoke rows were deadly. Note to self: if you’re planning to knit in the dark on a beach, don’t use a lace pattern!

The end result is pretty and I’m happy with it.

I used a tubular castoff, for the first time — quite satisfying though you can definitely see the ridge where the stitches divided. I wonder if this version would be better? It is stretchy though, and I’ll have to keep this technique in mind for sweater necks.

And if I knit this again, I should stop half a leaf earlier – it was perfect before blocking but now it’s a smidge too long.

So the specs:
Pattern: Foliage, from knitty.
Yarn: Plymouth Encore Worsted, about half a skein.
Color? A pretty mottled green but the ball band is long gone.
Needles: 7 for the foliage, 6 for the ribbing.

Fishtank photo session a bust

I haven’t posted about the tank in ages. In January, Kevin upped the Kalkwasser (a calcium hydroxide slurry) dosing to daily from a few times a week/when he thought of it, and now the tank (fish, corals and rocks) really looks amazing. We were so happy when Sanna noticed without prompting at Easter how “clean” the tank looked. She last saw it when it was still a bit turbulent from the move, so there was bound to be some improvement regardless, but we were all sorts of gratified.

Anyway, I went to take pictures, and first I had the wrong setting on the camera (Kevin had been out in the yard taking photos of the plants with his macro lens) and by the time I figured that out, the tang was so agitated that the clowns were riled up and half of the corals were retreating. Bummer. So here he is, fully flared, eyeing the camera through the clowns’ rock.

Tangs are extremely expressive fish. They have a top and bottom fin which they use for speed and steering. When they are wary or alarmed, you see them zoom from hiding spot to hiding spot, and stop (very suddenly) with the two fins totally extended to examine the threat. It changes the shape of the fish from essentially a triangle to a vertical oval, and is very distinctive. Here’s a good look of that pause, which lasts all of a second before he dispatches for safer ground.

And here in front of the rocks:

I really wish he didn’t find us so alarming. And it’s not just photos — feeding, cleaning, water changes: all cause for panic. I wish I could explain that they’re in his best interest. Fish-brained tang.

Awesome or Hideous?

Last spring, I bought two skeins of South West Trading Company’s Phoenix, colorway Parrot. I’d been admiring it for a year, and I found it 50% off and just couldn’t resist. It was one of those purchases where you argue desperately with yourself. One side of me thought that the yarn felt amazing (soft and sproingy – it’s “100% soysilk”, whatever that means), it was 50% off, and the colors are buoyant and cheerful. The grinch side of me didn’t have a pattern, doesn’t like variegated yard, and suspected the colors were in poor taste.

So I let it sit in my stash for a year and was rendered utterly cheerful every time I saw it, let alone touched it. πŸ™‚

After a bit of pondering, I decided to try it with the multidirectional scarf. I’ve tried this pattern a few times with generally disappointing results, but it turns out this yarn is PERFECT for it. The stockinette highlights the colors nicely and feels wonderful. I started with #8 needles, per the ball band, but ended up ripping back and switching to #10s, which really is so much better. It’s my first time knitting with ribbon yarn, and I love it. I knit until the diagonal had 46 stitches, so the base is 7″ across, relaxed. Perfect.

The only issue is that I still suspect the colors are in poor taste.

They’re just so bright! Kevin loves them, Amanda (who visited from CA on Tuesday!) understood my hesitation… the jury is still out. But in the meantime, I’m knitting away and enjoying/ignoring the brightness.

Procrastinator’s handbook: How to plant Daffodils*

1. Buy a house in October.
2. Buy a bag of daffodil bulbs from home depot. Place in the new, spacious garage on a nice shelf.
3. Let sit Β½ year. Until the flowers bloom through the mesh bag in the dark and cold out of desperation.

4. Guilt.
5. Plant in real soil under actual sunshine. Water.
6. Wait and see…

* also works for tulips.