Thursday, November 15, 2012

Say anything

The Oatmeal posted a wonderful comic yesterday about making things for the web. Within his rather lengthy tome, he included a passage about making things for the internet that really struck a chord with me.
I'm a firm believer that if you don't have anything to say, you shouldn't be talking. And if you don't have anything to write about, don't write.
Which is why sometimes I only update my website once or twice a month.
This production schedule, however, riddles me with the guilt that I am never updating frequently enough.
When I DO update, however, the internet is a fantastic medium for my type of work.
My intention was to post something at least once a week here, but considering that two months have passed, I realize now that I just had nothing to say, not even meaningless filler.
Well, fear not, gentle readers (the two of you who are left), because I've been busy, and I have things to say again.

Monday, September 17, 2012


If I had my choice, my insomnia would coincide with my baby's restless nights. Alas, that's not to be. Instead, I get to try to function on an average of four hours of sleep a night since Miss Never Sleeps is not only wakeful during the first part of the night, but she also has decided in the last couple weeks that 4:30am is Wake Up Time. You know what I say to that? Nuh uh.

I am not a happy camper at Way Too Early O'Clock.
The trouble with getting so little sleep is that I must suffer the unfortunate side effect of lumbering around like the walking dead. My days are spent just going through the motions, not appreciating any substance. My eyes are glazed over, my posture is slumped, my jaw is slack. I think I even drool a bit.

Unexpectedly, I had a strange burst of energy today. I was productive. I ran half jogged/half walked almost two miles this morning, thus beginning the Couch to 5K program. I took the baby to the grocery store (where she was awesome, by the way). I baked a loaf of bread and a batch of muffins. I even got a chance to shower. And everyone is alive at bedtime, so I'd say it was a fairly successful day.

Perhaps if the Sandman decides to bless us all with a good night's sleep tonight, I might actually be able to muster the brain power to finally write some of the posts that have been swirling about in my head. Perhaps not. That's the thing about not getting a decent night's sleep in over six months: you automatically assume that you're going to have to function on the bare minimum, so when you do actually get some rest, it's the best day ever.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Apple season!

The orchard near our house opened up their trees for picking this past weekend, and we found ourselves coming home with over six pounds of Galas and Honeycrisps. I do love this time of the year. Apple season means that summer is dying a slow death, and we'll soon be graced with colorful leaves and crisp, cool air. Have I mentioned that I don't like summer?

This was actually a light trip for us; I have kind of a nasty habit of picking way more than I can use before they go bad. The way we figure, the orchard is just ten minutes down the road, so when we run out, we can just go pick some more. We'll definitely need to, and soon, because I already have plans for these beauties.

When I'm rich and famous, I'll replace my kitchen countertop with something that isn't hideous laminate.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Six months!

Um, why did no one tell me that time has sped up exponentially? There is no way that six months could have just passed; I could swear that it was just last week that I posted about my five month-old big girl.

It's amazing how much she's changed over the past six months. Looking back over all the photos we've taken, it's hard to believe that I'm looking at the same baby. In six short months she's gone from a cute little lump who did nothing but scream to a big girl who is now sitting up on her own.

I'm stunned at how quickly she's developing. Every day she seems to find a new sound to make (although, "mama" is decidedly not one of them). In the past couple weeks alone she's begun reaching out for things, banging toys together, passing things from one hand to the other, and sticking out her tongue. A lot. If it wasn't so cute, it might be rude. She's also become increasingly aware of the cats, who crack her up with their very presence. It excites me to no end to see how patient they are with her when she reaches out to clumsily grab at their fur. To be honest, I think they like the attention.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vanilla Soaker

I'm always so torn about knitting things for the baby. At the rate she's growing, she'll be able to share my clothes in about 6 months. So, if I knit something for her that fits her right now, she'll probably only be able to wear it for a few weeks. The smart thing to do would be to knit things that are big on her so that she has room to grow. Of course, I'm too impatient and want to see what she looks like in them now.

I suppose this is the conundrum I'll have to face for the next 18 years or so: trying to plan in advance how big she will be during a certain season so that I can dress her appropriately. I can't even dress myself appropriately for the changing seasons, so I don't know why in the world I ever thought I could dress a rapidly growing child, too. Le sigh.

Before she was born, I knitted a chic little hat and some adorable pants (which she has since grown out of, but I am so in love with the pattern that I will be knitting a larger size for her soon). Those I was able to knit up quickly, but that's because I didn't actually have the baby yet. Now that she's here, my only opportunity to knit is after bedtime. It's a sad truth, gentle readers: babies make for slow knitting.

Since I'm not prepared to spend an inordinate time knitting a fancy sweater or dress that she will grow out of before I'm even finished it, I decided to start small. In this case, small doesn't mean socks. It's still too warm for socks. No, small means soakers.

A soaker is, simply, a diaper cover. The name is kind of misleading; just seeing the word "soaker" makes me picture having to wring out a piece of fabric that has been completely saturated in urine. Ew. The great thing about wool is that it is very absorbent, and provides excellent protection against moisture on a babe's little legs (and anyone who might happen to be holding her). I imagine that they are certainly much more comfortable than the once-popular rubber and plastic pants.

I found a simple, yet shapely, pattern for soakers on Ravelry. These are excellent as a beginner project, as they are fairly simple in construction, but have just enough detail to give the impression that the knitter knows much more than she actually does.

Pattern: Vanilla Soakers
Needles: US 4 (3.5mm) & US 6 (4.0mm)
Yarn: Rowan Pure Wool DK (purple & yellow)
Size: Medium
Began: July 5, 2012
Completed: July 29, 2012

These soakers actually were a cinch to make; just stockinette and rib stitches. The only reason they took me as long as they did is the aforementioned baby who demands my attention most of the day. The toughest part was probably the provisional cast-on, which I've only done a couple times before, so I haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to add a drawstring around the waist. There are directions for that in the pattern, but I'm not always the best at following directions. I chose to knit the medium size, since my baby girl is bigger than most her age. Turns out that this was an excellent pattern, since the medium came out much larger than I expected.

As you can see, they're pretty big. I suppose that's better than too small. She doesn't seem to mind, though.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pesto Chicken Tortellini

With an almost-six month-old in my arms nearly every minute of the day, it's next to impossible to take the time I used to when dinnertime rolls around. So, I depend on meals that can be made quickly if I want to eat at a reasonable hour.

This dish is amazingly simple, and super tasty. With just five ingredients, it can be made in about 20 minutes (assuming the previously mentioned six month-old doesn't have a major diaper incident that requires immediate attention while you're cooking).

You will need: 1 bag frozen cheese tortellini, olive oil, 1 lb. chicken breasts, 1 container pesto, and parmesan cheese.

While a big pot of water comes to a boil, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the tortellini. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil and saut矇 the chicken until golden brown and cooked through. When the tortellini is cooked, drain the pasta and return to the pot, along with the cooked chicken. Add as much pesto as you like, and toss it all together. Top with some grated parmesan cheese, and you're in business!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How to take a 6 month-old to the zoo

Photo by Paul.
If you had told me three months ago that this summer I would be taking my daughter to the zoo - a public place for several hours - I would have laughed in your face and called you a dirty stinking liar. For the first three months of her life, my baby screamed. I don't just mean when she was hungry or needed a new diaper. If she was awake, she was screaming. It wasn't fun for anyone. Thus, going out of the house was a treacherous endeavor, even if it was just for a few minutes.
Fortunately, some kind of switch flipped in her little noggin, and she's no longer the miserable, inconsolable little freakazoid she once was. In fact, I find myself admitting that she's now a rather happy baby. This means we can now take her places for more than five minutes at a time. Places like the zoo.
For those of you out there with 6 month-olds who want to replicate our recent amazingly successful day at the zoo, here's how we did it.

Leave early.
This is important for several reasons. As it gets later in the day, the weather gets hotter. Also, the animals always seem to be more active in the mornings. And if your baby is anything like mine, she's much happier in the earlier part of the day.
Having trouble inspiring your husband to wake up early and get his behindular area in gear? Remind him that big cats are just like house cats. Lions, tigers, and leopards are playful nutcases in the mornings, but they tend to transform to a liquid state in the afternoon sun. That'll get him moving.

Stay hydrated.
Here's my one little unsolicited plug for the day. In preparation for our trip, we found what may have been the most useful item possible: a Brita® bottle, which has its own teeny tiny little filter in the lid. It was a bit of a splurge, at about $10 each (including tax), and definitely an impulse purchase, but holy moly, was it ever worth it! Here's why:
Hot summer day + much walking = thirsty family. Each adult needs their own water bottle. Buying them at the zoo at $3 each gets expensive fast, and waiting in line to do so takes precious time away from giraffe stalking. Buying them for cheap at the grocery store means overpacking out of fear of running out, thus taking up precious bag space and causing achy backs before even leaving the parking lot.
The zoo we visited had 8 concession stands at which to buy bottled water. Seems like plenty, doesn't it? Well, there were also 11 water fountains and 9 restrooms with sinks. That's more than double the number of opportunities to get water, and since everyone is buying bottled water these days, the lines at the water fountains are virtually nonexistent.
Also, having readily available filtered water made baby bottle preparation infinitely easier. Rather than just packing a bunch of premade bottles that took up room and might have gone bad before we were ready to use them, we just popped the entire container of dried formula into the backpack, doling it out as needed.
To sum up, by our second refill, these puppies had already paid for themselves. My only regret is that I didn't get some kind of carabiner to clip the water bottle onto either the backpack or the baby carrier.

Protect yourself from the sun.
Being the whitest white girl in the history of white girls, I tend to get sunburned when I simply think about being in the sun. If sunscreen companies would make a sunscreen with SPF 1000, I'd be free and clear to frolic in the summer sun all day long. Unfortunately, they don't, so I had to settle for SPF 50.
Did you know that they make spray-on sunscreen now? How freaking cool is that? I used to hate when my mom made me hold still so that she could slather on a thick layer of smelly, itchy goo, then force me to wait five minutes before I could finally get in the water. For a child, that was torture. My kid is going to be so lucky.
Since sunscreen is off limits for the young'uns, the best protection from the angry sun is a big honkin' hat. Ours is purple. Also, find shady spots. Fortunately, those were plentiful in this zoo.

Bring your own food.
Zoo food is expensive food, and you have to wait in a line to get it. It makes life much easier to just pack some snacks to bring with you to munch as you're staring down a hyena. Fill a plastic baggie with nuts, grab a few granola bars, pack an apple or two. Doing this will give you some layer of protection against the constant barrage of snack vendors.
That said, on this particular trip we did cave and buy a couple cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and frozen lemonades. What can I say, the heavenly aroma of the grill wafted to our nostrils like a lethal siren song. Incidentally, all-beef kosher hot dogs are way tastier than the other, "regular" hot dogs.

Pack light.
Easier said than done, I know. But we managed to stuff almost everything we needed (mostly diapers, etc.) into a single backpack. Knowing that you have to carry something all day really makes you think good and hard about whether or not you really need it. There was the extra bag for the camera lenses, but all things considered, I think we did pretty well.

Wear your baby.
I'm a big fan of babywearing. While I have been known to schlep the little miss around in a stroller on occasion, the majority of the time I will wear her in a mei tai. I can move around more quickly and with much more ease than I would if I had a stroller. At the zoo, we saw maybe three other babywearers. The rest of the place was filled with strollers. And they took up so much room, especially in the concession lines. What is it about strollers that make parents walk so darn slowly?
It's true that wearing a baby makes it difficult to carry much else, like a diaper bag, but that's what husbands are for.
As a side note, I'm not knocking anyone who prefers a stroller to a carrier. I'm just saying this is what I prefer, and it works for our family.

Take frequent breaks.
Walking through a zoo is hard work, and it's easy to get tired and cranky. It's important to stop often and take a breather. Find a shady spot on a patch of grass. If you're a grown-up, have a bite to eat. If you're a baby, have a bottle. Sprawl out on the grass and relax for a few moments of alone time; being close to Mommy is awesome, but everyone needs a break once in a while.
Be sure to enjoy some Daddy time, too, because Daddy time is the best time.