Unanticipated

Last night, Kevin looked out the window around midnight and realized that it was snowing. Not only coming down steadily, but actually accruing. We’ve had some real snow this winter, but the pattern has held with three days of rumour and anxiety first, THEN snow. The sort of snow that starts gently falling in the middle of the night without fuss caught me off guard. This morning, we had a few inches. The roads were pretty much clear (though that didn’t keep the garbage from not getting picked up, half of my team from not making it in to work, and the buses from chaining their tires. Nothing like driving to work behind a sparking bus.).

I grabbed the camera before leaving the house, because all of the crocus spikes in our yard were so visible against the white. (I’m guessing that their days are numbered, and whatever nibbled them to the ground last year will do it again, but for the moment they’ve been giving me happiness every time I walk by.)

I should have kept the camera with me for the drive to work – the trees were all lacy and magical, especially as the sun started to come out through the clouds. By the end of the day, the snow was pretty much gone, which suited me. If it was going to be unexpected, then fleeting seemed like the right thing.

A new villain

So the squirrels won the Great Birdfeeder War of 2008. We’d had it in the tree by our patio, and the squirrels would just climb up, hang upside down, and eat all of the birdseed. They were impervious to thrown rocks and pinecones, not to mention all of the horse radish, hot sauce, etc we slathered on the tree and the feeder.

So we gave up and took down the feeder for a few months. In December, we rehung our two feeders from two corners of the house on hooks that were already there. Our birds are back, fun views from the house, no squirrels in sight, and it’s been continuing to seem like a great plan. However, last weekend we woke up to find the feeder lying chipped on the patio, seed spilled everywhere. We had our suspicions, which were confirmed when Kevin caught this guy on film:

On the ground, picking through the seed debris? Slightly suspicious, but totally acceptable. However, climbing the gutters? Less so.

Not a bird:

Kevin still really likes the BB gun option, though I’ve maintained my veto. Our Plan B is to rig some sort of funnel-shaped attachment for the gutter so that the squirrels can’t climb up. I figure our long-term odds of success are quite low, but it’s worth a shot.

Tulips

Down to five but still pretty.

We had great sun for most of the weekend, and the temperature actually made it into the fifties! Kevin took advantage of the weather and blew off the roof (third time since the summer, and once again the roof color is barely recognizable without the carpet of pine needles) and pulled/dug the rest of the ivy from the side bed.

Magic

We’ve been doing lots of evening walks in the dark after work recently. Work has been especially interesting and hectic recently, and it’s nice to have time to rehash. We’ve been picking a different route through the neighbourhoods each time, which works well because it’s easy to add loops or cut back. We’re getting better at ending up where we expect to instead of facing dead ends and cul de sacs.

Last Sunday, we went for a walk in the daylight, with the express purpose of taking photos of some of the places we’ve found on earlier loops.

There’s a huge park down the street, and while it was already great and constantly in use before, the town has been doing a series of improvement projects for the last year or so. They started by resurfacing some of the playing fields and fixing the utility buildings, then they overhauled one playground and built a second from scratch, and now they’re redoing more playing fields and fixing drainage on the walking trails where it used to get swampy. This photo of the redone playground was taken late afternoon after it started to drizzle, but there were still lots of families out. (Sorry for the tree-filled photo – it’s hard to get far enough away to see the size of it without having trees in the way of the view.)

They have bunch of towers, slides, bridges, climbing nets, and balance beams. I don’t know who designed it, but they seem wonderfully free of the “playgrounds are dangerous” mentality – there are lots of moving parts, things to hang from, and high heights. It swarms with kids. There’s a separate area with a little structure for toddlers (a basic structure with a slide), a set of big swings, and a set of baby swings. The new playground is on the other side of the playing fields, and has tire swings, more climbing webs, a merry go round (one of the ones where kids run to make it spin and then jump on), a water park, and some huge (10’ tall) climbing boulders, plus new basketball courts. I love that the park is used by all ages – young families are well represented, but you also see a LOT of teenagers, adults of all ages, dogs, etc.

If you cut through the park on a diagonal, there’s a new street (used to be one house and lots of empty forest, now it’s been chunked into teeny lots with packed-in houses that list at $800K). The construction is relatively pretty, and the location is great, but it all just seems so new, fake, and somewhat pretentious. Pretty much as sanitized and unmagical as things get. At the end of the street, there’s a cul de sac next to some fenced off “wilderness”. And if you look over the fence, this is what you see:

Pure magic. Pictures aren’t going to do this justice. Someone build a three story tree house (and raised it up a good 12 feet off the ground) out of scrap wood and metal . They surrounded it with a moat, built a tire swing, and built windows and skylights. It looks like something out of a fairy tale (the non-Disney version, where the evil magic is probably more powerful than the good), or out of an imagination-tinged dream/memory from your childhood, and we keep going back to check on it and make sure it’s still there. There’s a gorgeous, huge house tucked behind it, and a guest house with amazing wood and stone detailing. I would love to know what sort of eccentric, wonderful people built it.

If you take the trail back through the woods and cut the fourth corner of the park, you come out in another neighbourhood, right across from this treasure (pun intended).

I can’t imagine what possessed them, but it looks like they were aiming for the look of a tourist trap seafood place. They were VERY thorough: white sandy beaches (plural) in the yard, fishing netting and thick ropes draped artistically over the fake piers, plastic parrots, a marooned rowboat, a stuffed guy snoozing off his daiquiris in the hammock by the front door, fake flamingos strutting under fake palm trees, and tiki fringe everywhere.

Can you even imagine what the neighbours think?

Big news

I’m starting to feel like if I don’t speak up soon on the blog, the plethora of baby knitting projects will soon give it away: I’m pregnant. :-) I’m just shy of four months, and due mid-August. January was a long month (while Kevin was busy renovating rooms and keeping the fish going, I ate cheerios and snoozed on the couch, waking up just long enough to take a photo of whatever he was up to), but I seem to be improving on the energy front and the knitting has commenced in earnest. :-) We won’t know gender for another month or so, but I have several patterns that would work quite well either way, so those are at the top of the list in the meantime.

I finished the kimono baby sweater last week, but I haven’t blocked it yet. I thought to test the yarn for color-fastness only after I’d made quite a bit of progress, so of course the darker one bleeds. Oops. Not ideal for a striped sweater. I’ve been soaking it in cold water and vinegar baths which seems to be helping. I’m going to try it in hot water tomorrow, so fingers crossed. I’ll get photos as soon as it’s blocked.

In the meantime, I’ve started knitting Kate Gilberts’ Pea Pod sweater, shown here with the tulips in the morning sunshine:

I love the yarn (Provence – a really nice DK cotton). The body is knit in one piece, starting with a leaf rib, and then it switches to mostly stockinette with a lace panel. It feels like I keep only making it through a row or two at a time, but the progress is starting to feel noticeable. Here’s a closeup of about 6″ of the leaf ribbing.

Curtains!

Kevin got all motivated after work and got the curtains back up! We were both very impressed that we’d managed to keep track of all of the hardware over the course of that many months!

There were a few difficult moments. Since two of the old windows were just surrounded by that faux-paneling and didn’t have trim, the windows are now narrower. One of the curtains still fit, but the metal bars at the top and bottom of the other were about ¼” too big. Hmm. Kevin did something to them with power tools in the garage (I was very happy not to have to spend time stressing over the problem/solution), and now they still look lovely and actually fit in the window. Yay!

At some point, I need to go around and fix the lengths on all of the cords, but they look so much better than they did on the dining room floor – a great milestone. Now all that’s left is figuring out a way to recover the blue butterfly chairs and the room can be declared completely done!

Busy Saturday

Kevin went skiing at Crystal yesterday, and I decided to take the day for fun errands. There are two thrift stores in Redmond that I keep meaning to peek into, so that started the day (I was more interested in getting the lay of the land than actually buying anything). Then I headed up to Woodinville to visit Molbaks. I’ve been meaning to go since we moved here four and a half years ago, and this was my first trip. I get the local paper’s weekly gardening email, and they’d mentioned that vegetable seeds were in, so a trip seemed in order. The store itself is amazing (read: enormous, comprehensive, and fairly overwhelming). There were aisles of seed packets, which I spent a good 45 minutes browsing through. I ended up with these guys:

The veggies from Territorial Seed Co were the main reason I went. I just didn’t get in gear last year on the vegetable gardening (two late tomato plants notwithstanding), and I’m all excited about the beans and peas this year, not to mention heirloom tomatoes. The leeks are an experiment, but I’m optimistic. I’m not sure where I’m going to plant the veggies yet. The over-the-top plan would be to build a raised bed or two on the side of our house by the bedroom window. We have all sorts of space and sun there now that the trees are down. And with an actual bed, we’d be able to grow lots of peas and beans, instead of just a token plant or two. Downsides include all of the effort of building the raised bed and figuring out drip systems and other irrigation (there isn’t a good source of water on that side of the house, so rather than a million trips with a watering can, I think I’d have to figure out some sort of system with a rain barrel that I fill every week or two. The cop-out alternative would be buying more containers and just gardening on the patio again, but then we’re basically limited to one container/plant of each kind. I have a few months to decide. Opinions?

The rest of the seeds are more straightforward. :-) The dahlias and zinnias are for the beds around the house (front and back) and for the rockwork. I had a few of each that I bought piecemeal and planted mid-July last year, and this will hopefully be a *much* cheaper expansion of that – they thrived and the color was spectacular. The Black-eyed Susans and lavender are for the now-empty space outside our bedroom window. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, but both of those are such great summer flowers. We’re both all excited about the Foxglove – we loved seeing these on our Oregon road trip last summer, and they’re supposed to prefer shade (which we have plenty of!). They don’t flower until the second year, I’ll just get them established this year.

After Molbaks, I drove around the top of the lake to Seattle – interesting driving. Quick clothes shopping at University Place, delicious lunch and a croissant at the bakery/sandwich place, and then I went to Acorn Street Shop to use a gift certificate from my brother and sister that I’ve been hoarding. :-) I had two small projects in mind, and found perfect yarn for each of them (a pretty green shade of Provence cotton, and some gorgeous blue variegated cotton that’s wonderfully soft and lovely colors.

On the way home, I knocked some less-interesting things off the list: cashed checks, bought a power strip at the hardware store, and stopped for groceries. That last errand was a treat, because the tulips are finally back! Bunches were 2/$7, so I picked out a medium and dark pink in honour of Valentine’s Day. I am so glad that we’re back to tulip season – it makes February and March so much more enjoyable out here.