We went to the beach.

At sunset.

It was wonderful.

Exploring the beach at sunset.

Brave.

A little less brave.

Not liking the cold water.

Too scary.

Walking with mama.

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Feed me, Seymour.

I can practically hear them whispering to me every time I walk into the kitchen.

The beginnings of my new garden.

Meet my new and extremely active container garden.

Beans.

I have never tried to grow my own plants, although I very fondly remember my mother’s annual gardening efforts when we were young (I’m sure I have a much better attitude about them now than I did at the time).

Basil and tomatoes.

I’ve been putting it off for a few years because we either had a new baby or were planning to travel for a few weeks during the summer. But this year there’s no planned travel and I’m hoping to be sane/responsible enough to keep watering the garden after the baby is born.

It was a spur of the moment decision, really. I woke up one morning last week and thought, I should really plant a garden this year. And then the next day I went out and bought seeds and those little peat pellet thingies and planted them that night. I guess my plans are more successful sometimes when I don’t put a whole lot of forethought into them.

Anyhow, I’m starting off slowly with only six varieties: Sweet basil (6 pots), Sweetie cherry tomatoes (6 pots), Detroit Dark Red beets (4 pots), Goliath peas (3 pots), Contender bush beans (3-6 pots), and Black Beauty zucchini (3 pots). I chose them because they are either expensive at the store (beets, cherry tomatoes, basil) or hopefully so prolific that we’ll get a lot of produce (beans, peas, zucchini, and maybe the tomatoes). According to the packets, I don’t think that the tomatoes, beets, or peas will survive the heat of summer. But that’s okay — I’ve started them early enough that I’ll hopefully get a crop in very early summer and then let them die back and plant something else in the fall. I’d really like to grow lettuce and spinach as well, but I’m already past the number of pots that I’d been expecting. Plus, I have no idea what grows well here in the south or on our back porch, so I’m considering round one to be pretty experimental.

Later in the afternoon.

According to all of the seed packets and to the peat pellet package, germination usually takes 7-10 days. Um, I don’t think so. The first four photos were taken in the morning on the sixth day, and the photo above was taken in the afternoon.

This is today, the eighth day. Yikes. These are the beans — which, I should admit, I soaked overnight before planting — and I could practically watch them grow. I think the tallest is about 13 inches now. Their rate of growth is actually starting to alarm me a little since the stems are kind of spindly looking. Based on the packets’ predictions I didn’t think I’d need pots for another few weeks, but I am getting some today since I think these guys need to go outside now. (Speaking of pots and potting soil, they are obviously the most expensive part of this gardening experiment. But I was told by someone at a local nursery that they sell used black pots at their other location so I’m going to price them out this afternoon. Just thought I’d pass that tip along.)

Two days later.

I’m hoping to keep the smaller plants indoors for a few more weeks both to spread out the cost and because I’m pretty sure we’ll get at least one more cold snap before spring officially kicks off and I don’t want to haul a bunch of plants in overnight. Oh wait, that’s where helpful husband comes in. But it would still be a real pain.

Most of the packets say that the plants like full sun, but there’s no place on our front or back porch areas that gets that because of the roof overhang. The back porch gets good afternoon light, though, and is usually roasting by 4 pm, so I’m going to put them as close to the edge as possible and hope for the rest. I’ll post more photos as the summer goes on, partly as a record to myself so I can do things a little better next year. It’s probably due to pregnancy hormones, but I feel very maternal toward my little plants and if this works out, I can already tell that I’m going to want a container garden every single summer we live here.

Have a good weekend!

A hat for Coen.

I finished this little number while we were driving up and down the beach on our glorious Monday holiday. It is really really nice here in northern Florida, people. Like, 75+ degrees nice. Open the windows, go outside whenever you can, soak up the sunshine nice. The only problems with this kind of weather are (a) my feet have started to swell a little and (b) it’s impossible to stop a little part of your brain from constantly calculating: if it’s this warm in February, how hot will it be in June?

But back to the hat. I used the Pixie Hat Debaser pattern on Ravelry. Since I’m knitting quite a few baby hats at the moment, I thought I’d work my way through a couple of simple patterns for variety’s sake.

Coen's pixie hat (modeled by Ezekiel).

I think this one is pretty darn cute, although only marginally big enough — Ezekiel, my kind and sleeping model, is about seven weeks older than Coen. Which is why I’m going to send it, like, tomorrow.

Aww. I’m feeling that baby envy again, which is another reason why it’s good that I’m pregnant.

The reason I wanted to try it on a real live baby is that, when I finished the hat, it didn’t automatically look that cute. See? I also wasn’t confident at all about the size. I started casting off where you see that faint line near the back and then decided it looked too short. Turned out to be a good decision, as it’s only marginally deep enough as-is.

Some other project notes: I cast on 84 stitches of Rowan 4 Ply Soft, which felt lovely on the skein and got great reviews on Ravelry but about which I wasn’t that crazy. For some reason, I found it really easy to both drop stitches and to pick up a stitch by accident because of the ply. I used size 2 bamboo dpns, but when I use the yarn again I will switch to size 3s in metal. I love bamboo needles, but I think they encourage me to knit very tightly. The yarn looks lovely in the end, though. Great stitch definition and a bit of sheen. Which is a good thing, because it was on sale and I still have 1.5 skeins to do something with…

A portrait of Juniper.

Every once in a while I get asked to do a pet portrait. I always feel like it’s a win-win situation: I get to do a painting (and get paid), and someone else gets a memorial to their beloved pet.

Juniper.

This is Juniper. He passed away recently, and a kind friend of the family commissioned this piece.

As a life-long pet lover and former dog owner, I have to say that this seemed like a really lovely gesture to me.

Farewell, Juniper.

A sweater for Baby.

I worked very hard to finish this last weekend, but then (of course) didn’t get the chance to blog about it until today. Here it is: my first sweater!

Baby's new sweater.

You have no idea what this has done for my knitting confidence. Up till now, I’ve mostly knitted in straight lines and almost never from patterns. You can do a lot of hats and scarves that way, but I wanted a real garment.

I used the Green Zebra Baby Sweater pattern which I found on ravelry. I was just looking for a basic, slightly girly sweater so I let the yarn do the striping all by itself. The stripes on the original are adorable, but I’m thinking about making this again in plain white or cream for the new baby since I like the way it fits.

I made one buttonhole somewhere but since the yarn was so fine it was too small for a decent button and I decided to skip the rest. I might add a loop and a big button at the top to cover the extra seed stitch row I added by mistake. Oops.

It’s pretty obvious when I look at it that this is a first-try sweater. I’ve been toying with knitting as a hobby that, unlike many others, can be carried out here and there and not just crammed into naps or nights. Half a row here, two rows there…something where you don’t have to set aside everything else in your life until you finish. (Sewing and art projects tend to, ah, take over.) The only catch is that it means that I have to pick a pretty easy pattern without a lot of counting. I made a few goofs on this sweater because I was trying to multi-task, so in the future I know to save the top for a time when Camilla is sleeping. (Oh, I also learned that I need to confine my kitchener’s stitch to underarms only, because nobody needs to see how messy it is.)

I had already knit Baby’s hat (and of course you remember the dress), but it bothered me to no end that it was too short. Plus, it kept popping off and I spent a lot of time answering the request to “hep! hep!” put the hat back on. So, I picked up some stitches and added the earflaps.

Baby's improved hat.

Hah hah, Baby — who’s taking your hat off now?

If I was really going to be thorough, I suppose I ought to knit her some little booties as well. But you know what? Baby is only a doll, and her feet don’t really get cold. So I’m going to call it quits with the doll projects for now and finish the baby hat I have on the needles. At last count, I back-owe gifts to at least three babies (I’m thinking hats) plus a hospital hat for my own Junebaby and some sweaters. That ought to keep me busy for a while.

Camilla’s valentines.

This was supposed to go up yesterday, mostly as a thank-you to the kind grandmas who contributed heart bracelets, stickers, ice cream gift certificates, and various other ingredients necessary for a very special and happy Valentine’s Day. But so much fun meant that Camilla didn’t nap much, so I just didn’t manage.

Working on her valentines.

I realized recently that there’s no reason why Camilla can’t start “making” things to give away. So we pulled out the markers (very messy, not shown) and decorated some paper.

And then mama cut it out and assembled some valentines, and she got to put stickers on top.

More stickers, please!

Stickers are all kinds of fun (she is asking for “moah! moah!”).

New bracelets.

So, incidentally, are heart-shaped bracelets, now known as “brace-ees.”

v

Taking them off and putting them on has provided a lot of good entertainment.

But back to the valentines. For some reason, the washable markers don’t come in the best colors and daddy’s valentine ended up looking a little, um, violent.

But a great deal of puppy stickers helped to soften the effect.

We made one more for a friend that got Snoopies.

She was quite please with the final results, and so was I.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy belated Valentine’s Day!

(For fun, compare this post to the one from a year ago. Eeee, how my child has grown.)

How to make a slide out of a box.

By Camilla Calliope Eva-Marie Frances Jerusalem Jubilee Gibbs

(with no help from mama)

….

Step 1: Squish one side of a large box, such as a diaper box.

How to make a box into a slide.

Step 2: Climb as high as you can.

Step 3: Turn around and (optional) try to remember to pick your feet up, while shouting “Wheeeee!”

Step 4: Revel in your success.

Step 5 (not shown): Repeat as necessary.

Step 6: Repeat with other objects.

Step 7: Do not be discouraged if you do not succeed.

Have a lovely weekend, and thanks for stopping by.

Pretty practical.

I find it almost impossible not to accumulate a stash of pretty fabric. Every once in a while I go through and purge the vintage fabrics of uncertain fiber content, the one-off pieces found on sale. But I usually have a very full shelf in my hall closet that includes everything from wool to muslin to quilting fabric. And there it sits, looking at me plaintively whenever I open the door.

Part of the problem is that many of the pieces were purchased for projects that never came to pass. Oh, but that’s for Camilla’s Thanksgiving dress! I’ll think, despite repeated evidence that Thanksgiving never seems to be a very good time for sewing dresses. It’s taken me a while to learn that (a) I shouldn’t buy fabric unless it’s for a project that’s going to happen right away and (b) when I do feel the urge to sew, I should shop my closet first. Often, it’s a pleasant surprise.

On Sunday night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I ran through my litany of future knitting projects and thought, You know, you should whip yourself up a cute little holder for your loose knitting needles. And since that thought didn’t put me to sleep, I ran through the logistics and got a pretty fair idea of what I wanted plus some rules: I must be able to finish it in one day (so I don’t get too behind on the actual knitting!) and I must use fabric from my stash. Yesterday involved 1.5 reasonable naps, so this is what I came up with.

My new knitting needle holder.

It looks a little lumpier than it was in my Sunday-night imagination, but it does the job.

I’ve got a slot for sizes 1 through 10.5 and crochet hooks on the end. Eventually I might get motivated to embroider the size numbers, but probably not. My knitting needle stash isn’t that big yet, but I know it’s going to get bigger and how’s this for some motivation to buy more needles?

The pattern is modeled on a bamboo brush holder of which I am very fond, but with the added feature of a top flap that you can velcro closed to keep everything from falling out.

I always wished that the brush-holder people had thought of that.

Oops...goofed on the top flap.

Now, I did goof on the top flap: the polka dots are supposed to show on the outside, not the muslin. But since I didn’t discover this until I had I had turned the whole thing right-side out and it was 9:00 pm and I was keeping the rules in mind, I just left it.

Given that I got this project to an acceptable state of completion, fixed Baby’s dress, and half-sewed two diaper holders, I felt like I could call it a day.

Next up — new adventures in knitting (or: why I love books on tape)

A dress for Baby.

I should clarify here at the beginning that Baby is Camilla’s doll, not her little sister. Almost anything that has vaguely human features and is between the ages of unborn and 30 is currently referred to as “baby,” even though she can also say “boy” and “girl.”

Baby is a plastic Fisher-Price doll that was graciously given to us by Camilla’s grandparents for her first birthday. She has been the object of much interest lately and gets a ride around the house several times a day in the miniature stroller I found at the Goodwill (possibly the best use of $3 I have ever made).

Now, the only problem with Baby is that she came scantily clad since she was specifically intended to be for bath time. I’m sure that this, like so many other parenting scruples, will eventually fall by the wayside, but I just don’t like naked dolls. And since Baby came with only booties, a towel, and a diaper, that’s how she inevitably ended up.

I temporarily solved the problem with an oversized pink clownsuit that I picked up for 25 cents at a yard sale, but since Baby has become popular to the point where we now take her out in public I decided that she had earned a classier set of clothing.

Baby's new dress.

So I made her this reversible dress and diaper set.

Baby's new diaper.

I ran up against a few problems along the way. First and foremost was the lack of pattern, which meant that I spent an hour tracing shapes on paper, cutting them out, holding them up to her, muttering, and tracing some more. Then, once I had finally made myself a nice pattern for a close-fitting dress, cut the fabric, and started sewing, I realized that I had overlooked two major problems: Baby has an absolutely enormous head, and her arms aren’t flexible. Gahh. No matter how I tried, that cute little bodice just wouldn’t go on. So I extended the slit at the back to the point where I can just squeak it on, and now it looks like this. :(

I intend to fix the problem by adding another velcro tab when I pull out the sewing machine next, but so far Camilla hasn’t complained. (It’s hard to tell, but I also had a problem with the flowered fabric being much thinner and stretchier than the polka dot quilting fabric on the other side. Mysteriously, the flowered side now has a bit of ruching around the waist. Oops.)

Because it’s really too chilly for a sleeveless dress right now, even in Florida, I also had pity on Baby and knit her a hat.

Baby's new hat.

I have a mini sweater half-finished on my needles, and I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the week. It’s my first sweater and will hopefully be a big confidence-booster since I’ve never done something so complicated from a pattern. But now that I’m starting to knit sweaters, I am terribly excited about the possibilities for non-plastic Babies #1 and #2, who obviously need their mother to knit them something even more than this Baby does. But I thought I’d practice on her first.

Annie-love.

I got to hold two babies at once last weekend.

The fresh baby on the right is my new niece Annie. The one on the left is my own little gremlin.

My brother Tim kindly took the photos, and it appears that something was a little off with the white balance. Oops. But nothing can hide that kind of cuteness.

Holding Camilla and my new niece Annie.

I love being an auntie.

I also love the fact that our baby will not be born for five more months. I have lots of new respect for women who have babies 18 months apart (or less). I am tired and a tad grouchy because Camilla has suddenly stopped sleeping through the night and taking a second nap, but that’s nothing compared to the kind of sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn.

I should also mention that Camilla loves to say “Tim,” “Hilly,” and “Ah-nnie.” Sorry Marian, Jacob, and Ransom…your names are just too hard.