Catching up

I’ve been knitting, though I know it hasn’t been making it to the blog recently. I have a few gift sweaters for friends’ babies in different stages of completion. This is the one I’ve been working on the most, and my project during passenger time on the road trip:

I’d knit the body, put it on holders, and then started working on the arms individually. Then, around the time we hit Crater Lake, I started putting the arms and body together. I made it about 7 rows after the join and was feeling very discouraged – the sleeves were about 3″ too skinny, and the whole thing just didn’t look as cute as I remembered from the photo. Plus, the chest from the join up was starting to look oddly tight… It wasn’t until I saw the back side of the sweater that I realized what had happened:

See how the ribs have neat lines of knit stitches between them at the top and a jumbled mix lower down?? The pattern calls for a broken rib, where you alternate knit and purl stitches row-by-row between the ribs. The pattern also calls for the sleeves to be knit flat. I tucked away the body in a ziplock once I’d put it on holders, and somehow I seemed to have reverted to plain k2, p1 rib without the body for reference – not nearly as cute. So disappointing to realize the mistake. I ripped right away (everything was wrong, including the proportions), but only back to the join, and then I decided to just go back with a crochet hook and correct the sleeves’ all-purl columns to the nice p/k alternating pattern. It was a somewhat sensible idea, but it would have been faster to rip the sleeves entirely and reknit – lesson learned. Here’s the halfway fix — you can really see that the fixed sleeve’s width is more what you would expect, compared to the ugly, skinny original (not to mention, such a prettier pattern!):

I finally finished the last three columns tonight (hurray! only three weeks later, to the day.) and can finally rejoin the pieces and continue with my life. πŸ™‚

I’d been thinking I’d never knit this pattern again (so slow, not coming together well), but now I’m realizing that it was just user error. Ooops. Hopefully the rest will fly right by

Lawn care update

I mentioned back in the winter that we’d decided to buy a reel mower (considerations: no gas, very little noise, cheap, and we found a pretty model on sale for $99!). It’s one of my favourite house purchases — up there with the washer & dryer and the new windows, but a small fraction of the price. Pretty, so effective, not intimidating – just useful and easy.

Sadly, in June, the back right wheel started falling off. It didn’t really affect the effectiveness of the mower, but we kept trying to screw it back in because the poor thing looked so lopsided. We both thought some ungracious things about sale prices and attendant bother, nothing being as easy as it seemed, etc, and then sort of just kept ignoring it. Kevin tried to find hardware to hold it in place, to no avail, and I finally dug up the warranty and managed to find time to call during the short window (midwest time) that the service dept was open. The lady was extremely helpful – apprently they’d been using the wrong drill bit for a while and so one of the holes was too big. Oops. She mailed out the replacement part right away (shown here with a night view of the kitchen herbs, happy in their window – look how big they’re getting!!):

So, knock on wood, we should soon be back to our balanced, efficient lawn-tending experience and I can go back to wholeheartedly recommending it to anyone in the market for a mower!!

P.S. Kevin just satisfied his urge for engine-powered lawncare by buying a weed-whacker (Sears was having a sale — $40!). It’s electric (a plus), corded instead of recharging (major plus, from a power perspective), noisy (a minus, but I think it makes him happy?), and all of our borders are now *perfect*. Beats hours of pulling up crabgrass. πŸ™‚

PPS. We’re considering replanting the top shelf of our yard with Woolly Thyme. (Currently, that part of our yard alternates between deep moss in winter and 2′ tall grass in summer — I’ve been weeding constantly with minimal effect. The Woolly Thyme is treadable, low-growing, fragrant, and in theory can help keep weeds at bay. Anyone have any cautions for the pacific northwest? I haven’t been able to find any online, but just checking. Also, any ideas how best to seed it? I’m thinking of growing trays of seedlings and then transplanting them since it’s such a large area, but I’m open to other suggestions.

Quilt happy

When I sat down on Saturday afternoon to work on the daybed quilt basting, I ended up taking out about half of the pins. I’d pinned three lines along one long edge, and then worked in horizontal strips from the top, and when you held up the quilt that section had a marked sag, and pull on the fabric all the way along the pins. (You can see how crumpled and biased the fill was, too, in the previous photo.)

Once I’d removed about sixty pins, I smoothed the backing, smoothed the fill on top of it, pulled down the quilt top, and then set again to the task of pinning. This time, I was really pleased with how flat the fabric/fill/fabric sandwich was, and I was feeling proud when I finished. But again, held it up and there was a saggy 9″ wide horizontal band in the backing, where I’d folded the quilt to fit it into the available carpet space in my room. Oops.

So then I finally ditched the plan of listening to NPR as I worked (computer streaming), moved to the family room’s lush, huge carpet, took out about a hundred pins, resmoothed, repinned, and ended up with this:

It’s gorgeous. The redos were annoying but completely worth it (I didn’t really hesitate – better to pull out pins than rip out stitches, or even worse, to hate the finished quilt). The new quilt sandwich is *flat* (aka, hopefully it won’t pucker when I start sewing). The backing is going to be a little bit crooked, but (a) it’s the back, and (b) I’m completely willing to chalk it up as a sign of quilt character. No complaints.

I cleared off our table to start quilting.

I’m working on my sewing machine, which is going to be interesting. (Machine quilting is easier on a quilting machine, which has a much longer arm so that the fabric doesn’t have to get all bunched when you swing it to the right side of the needle. ) I’d read advice on one of my blogs to make use of backstitching instead of turning the whole quilt. It works pretty well, but I find steering the quilt with only my left hand (while my right holds down the backstitch button) very challenging. Some of those backstitched seems are NOT straight!!

My first round of quilting will be to “stitch in the ditch” around the pink squares. I sewed 4 squares yesterday; my photo of the front didn’t come out, but you can see one of them well on the back:

After that, I want to do the same around the brown squares(brown thread for the face, the same pink for the back, I think). I’m still debating what to do in the middle – I don’t want to highlight the non-symmetric nature of the down areas. Maybe a double diamond in the middle of the light pink x’s? I’d like to do some sort of ivy pattern down the legs of the x’s, but it seems like a disastrous plan given the sewing machine…? I might feel more confident later, we’ll see. For the trim, I found a stencil with a repeating flower pattern that I like a lot, so I plan to do a double band of that in each of the light pink strips.

Sunset at Larry’s

Larry seemed to feel that his wine collection was taking over and it was time for a group dinner, so he invited us over for baked ziti, fondue, and a sunset. Shawn, Sanna and William came too. The view (Olympic mountains, seen over Lake Washington and Seattle) was great. Hazy around 8 pm, then misty with great mountain differentiation –- usually the Olympics look like a solid block, but every now and then you can see which mountains are close and which are more distant.

The clouds made for a great orange sunset – peaceful and spectacular.

Kevin and I have made a pledge to intrude on Larry more often. I miss seeing the Olympics and the lake (one of very few downsides of our current house).

ps. We spent a while driving through our old neighbourhood. Building has not slowed down a bit. There’s a new three story condo development on our old block, two entirely new monster houses in place of the old 800-sq-ft postwar variety, and five or so finished (and sold, moved in) houses where there were construction sites back in November. Crazy.

A Friday post

First of all, happy 27th birthday to me! πŸ™‚

This is sort of an odd milestone, after two years of big ones. Turning twenty-five, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house…! Now it just feels like the goals are to build on and improve existing milestones (marriage, job, house). I can live with that happily, it’s just a very different tenor than past birthdays. (To borrow a page from my technical writer self: “For more information about adulthood, see this Water Heater Post.” πŸ˜› )

Lightening the mood a bit, we have our first tomato!! Green and tiny, but it’s there! (dead center of the photo!)

The cages are an awesome addition to the party. The plants look so much healthier than last year (when I tied them to our deck railing with varying lengths of unwanted yarn), and it’s easier to note their growth against the cages. It was cold into late June, so this just wasn’t the ideal year for tomatoes, but these plants are looking surprisingly healthy at this point. We’ll see?

Also, I have a few plants for the (literally) kitchen garden!!

Left to right, that’s thyme, oregano, chives and basil (I’ve found that basil won’t tolerate having its roots constricted, so it gets a big pot). I’m still on the lookout for cilantro (Kevin loves it) and dill (my favourite), but this is a good start in the right direction. They won’t survive the winter, but I’m hoping that we’ll get a few months of fresh herbs. They smell amazing.

Neglected projects

I haven’t forgotten about the Hidden Wells quilt for the daybed; I was just gathering steam (for several months) to work on basting it. The back, fill, and pieced top all need to be held together so that I can quilt them.

Last night finally seemed like the time, so I started. I only got about half way, though, before running out of safety pins.

Frustrating! (Though the work I did was sufficient to create a semipermanent safety pin-shaped groove in the tip of my index finger from all the closing.)

The pins are slightly unusual and bent at a 30Β° angle so that they hold the layers without stretching them. Here’s a closeup of them in place:

I’ll have to go buy another set or two so I can finish up.

Week Five CSA Haul

So far the CSA has been a resounding success. Here are the contents of this week’s bag:

Clockwise from the lower left:
β€’ Four kinds of heirloom cucumbers
β€’ Lupin Cherries
β€’ Mystery greens
β€’ Two kinds of zucchini, summer squash
β€’ 3 heirloom nectarines
β€’ 4 sugartime peaches
β€’ A dozen pluots
β€’ Arugula (yay!)

Total Adulthood

Want to see something exceptionally exciting?!

Why, yes, it *IS* a new energy efficient water heater!! With earthquake straps and an expansion tank, and pressure/temperature valves in all the right places!!! We’re completely delighted. The Town of Redmond came to inspect it on Friday, there were a few corrections that the water heater company made on Saturday – but now we’re (probably) just one follow-up away from being up-to-code and good to go!

For those of you who haven’t been following the saga, the water heater that came with the house turned 14 in May, according the paperwork duct-taped to the side in a plastic baggie. Our furnace (November ’93, according to its pedigree paperwork) shares ductwork, which needed to be brought up to code. The gas lines were out of date, and we had insufficient seismic support. Replacing the water heater was our first priority when we moved into the house. We wanted something energy efficient and with a long warranty. We started with Sears, bought a water heater, but they source out the installation to a local company that wanted to charge us $2000 to bring everything up to code. I spent two months trying to get our money back before I finally succeeded (moral of the story: avoid Sears, avoid Fast Water Heater Company). Kevin took mercy on me and took over, and we went through the guy who told us we were up to date and not to bother with a permit from the town (riiiight), and the company who special–ordered a water heater for us and then tried to install a different one and wouldn’t refund the money for the heater or the installation after the installer left with water heater in tow. We spent a few evenings roundly abusing the entire industry, threatened lawyers and small claims court (we got our money back), and leapt back into the struggle.

Fourth try was apparently the charm, though, since Brennan gave us the lowest quote by many hundred dollars, gave us a heater with a 10 year warranty and good efficiency scores, and did a great job installing it. Our permit inspector likes them a lot as a company and said we got a great price. All’s well that ends! πŸ™‚

But that’s not all! While I was at home on Friday, we also had insulation installed!! Hurray! Our house (built in 1975) still had the original insulation (some sort of sawdust mix in the attic, the insulation equivalent of cardboard). There was also an addition (the family room that we’ve been working on for windows, trim and carpet…) built at some point in the 80s, but the geniuses who installed insulation in the crawlspace installed it upside down. So, we had people remove the reverse-insulation, install R-19 insulation (fiberglass batts) under the entire house, and blow in R-30 insulation (fiberglass blow-in, looks like cotton) into the attic above the fishroom and bedrooms. Yay!! We are now at the max R factor recommended for our area!! Last year, I cringed when the furnace went on. I could just picture walking outside with infrared goggles and watching all of that nice hot air funnel out of the roof in an orderly column into the sky. Now, no hats indoors next winter? πŸ™‚

I would have taken pictures of our pretty new insulation, but I’m not so much of a crawl space or attic person… instead, “oooh”, the water heater expansion tank:

So, THE most exciting things this week are insulation and water heaters? All sorts of things we’ve done have seemed like things that adults do (get jobs, pay bills, get married, buy a house). But to define happiness for the week (more like the month!!) as a new water heater and good insulation? Incurable adulthood. We are now old. πŸ™‚ Rock on.


My cousin Andy and his fiancΓ© Mark flew into Seattle from Montreal to visit. πŸ™‚ Happy us.

They spent the early part of the day in Woodinville tasting wine, and then came over midafternoon. Such a treat. They were the first family on my side after my parents to see our new house. We worked our way through several cheeses before a yummy dinner out on the patio of salmon and CSA squash on the grill, with a strawberry salad.

Nine hours, and no pauses in the conversation. πŸ™‚ This is the second photo I took – the first came out terribly because everyone was mid-sentence.

Major merriment. (Andy’s even blurry, he’s laughing so hard.)

Any other family considering a trip to Seattle? πŸ™‚

A Successful Carful of Chores

I had a whole slew of chores to do, and managed to burn though all of them:
β€’ Buy additional wood for trim for the windows I forgot to include in the previous tally
β€’ Take said wood to the millwork place to get it stripped to width (they didn’t charge me! Yay!)
β€’ Buy herbs for a kitchen garden (actually indoors! Squirrel proof!)
β€’ Buy flowers for the rock wall in the backyard and for planters.
β€’ Buy a strawberry pot and pea gravel.

Here’s the evidence (and I still love that every seat in the Matrix folds flat – I can’t count the number of times that feature has been useful):

I was psyched to come across a fundraising carwash at the end of the errands! It was a high school aged cheer group and their dads, and they did an amazing job scrubbing off the last of the road trip bugs. πŸ™‚ (I would have done it myself, but our entire areas has edicts against soap in the storm drains because of the salmon. You can use plain water in your driveway, but can’t add anything to it. 2000 miles of bugs requires soap.)

Here are the plants on the patio, awaiting planting. Pretty.

I decided on three groupings on the rock wall. To the far left, I ripped out a ton of fennel and mint, and made a place for an English Lavender and two “Shock wave pink vein” petunias. They’re really more of a light purple, and I’m hoping they spread.

The photos from here on in are all dark, since I didn’t take them until 8:40 – sorry! But knowing me, this will be a photo topic in the weeks to come, and you’ll get to see the light and bright versions soon.

In the middle of the wall, to the left of the path, I cleared out a pretty large space. In back are the tall “Lady in Red” Salvia. We’ve already seen a hummingbird checking them out! In front of those, I planted three zinnias (two “Magellan Salmon” and one “Magellan Coral”) and then four marigolds (a mix of “Zenith Orange” and the dwarf “Durango Orange”). The brilliant red one in the foreground is a “Lanai Cherry Red” Verbena – it is sensationally bright and I love it.

On the far right of the rock wall, Kevin dug out two shrubby pine things, and I pulled plenty of mint and forget-me-nots to make space for more marigolds, zinnias, and verbena.

The plant you see in the foreground between the two rocks is a honey melon sage. This is the third one I’ve bought in Seattle, and the smell is truly splendid, plus it’s starting to bloom delicate trumpet flowers. I was happy to find one at the nursery – it’s a great plant.

This guy is the ultimate in wishful thinking on my part, but we’ll see:

A sunflower. It’s already tracking the sun, even though the flower is still a ways away. I’m completely enamoured with it.