Knits, with Buttons!

2016-05-03knits

I realized I never shared the little vest I knitted for Baby Sister — and I even sewed the buttons on it (and M’s chicken sweater)! I get so lazy when it comes to buttons, for some reason. M still loves her chicken sweater, and I was glad to use up most of a little collection of DK odds and ends on the vest. We’ll have to wait and see if it actually fits Baby Sister; my knitting was a bit smaller than the gauge, for some reason, but I don’t think I’d have had enough yarn if I corrected it. So it’ll either be a very-newborn vest or, possibly, just a doll’s vest. I used this pattern and added the colorwork myself.

Growing Up

20160502-140845.jpg

I recently saw somebody on-line ask about the difference between a “young two” (ie, a kid who’s just turned two years old) and an “old two” (one who’s nearing three years old) — and, of course, it’s huge. I mean, M is right in the middle, but it’s incredible how much she’s changed over the last six months. She took so long to start talking; I didn’t write down a list of her vocabulary when she turned two, but when she was 21mos, the only words she said spontaneously were “yeah”, “socks”, and a version of “no”. THAT sure has changed! (Parents of late talkers take heart!)

She’s discovering the magic of letters and words right now — I was surprised to find out a couple of months ago that she knew how to spell her name. (We hadn’t worked on it, but I guess she’d heard me spell it out loud enough times that it’d stuck.) She’s added a couple of words to her spelling repertoire (“Mommy” and “baby”) and is working on the pet names. It’s mostly an exercise in memorization at this point, but as you can see, she knows that the letters have shapes as well as names. I scrambled up the letters of her name this morning, and she quickly put them in the correct order. (Top to bottom, because that’s “like Chicka Boom Boom tree”.)

When I was scooping the cats’ litter boxes last night, M came out to get me and said she was playing “at the doctor” and asked me to play too. She has a Playmobil hospital set that doesn’t get a LOT of use, but every now and then she really enjoys it. I didn’t realize until we’d been playing for a while that she was using the play as a way to work through her recent medical procedure (nothing too dramatic, thankfully). I was the doctor and the nurse, and each of her Paw Patrol pups had to have a check up. It was really interesting to see how focused she was as I did each “check up”, waiting to hear whether each pup was healthy (they all were). I’d read about the importance of role-play games like that in helping kids process events/emotions, but I was surprised that M initiated it. She’s growing up so fast!

Broody

20160430-083940.jpg

There may or may not be new chicks in another two-ish weeks! I’m letting broody Rita sit on some eggs she’s claimed — we’ll see what happens!

Beany Cat

20160421-064421.jpg

Beany has been going outside a lot lately. Our cats are indoor cats, but a while back I was threatening to make them all live outside (they were peeing on the carpet — I’ve managed to stop that, though!). I speculated that, after a week of being on their own outside, Bear would have wandered off and found a new family to live with; Birdy would have withered away out of confusion; and we’d have to go looking for Beany — eventually we’d come across her in her new den in the woods, and she’d have a nice fire going to keep her warm. I don’t worry about Beany being outside. She comes back to the door when she’s ready to come in, and she’d never wander so far as to get anywhere near the road. She’s still an indoor cat 95% of the time, but she looks quite natural in the out-of-doors.

Marmalade Cake

20160407-200256.jpg

Make this cake! I mean, if you have a jar of marmalade going spare. There’s always one in the Fortnum’s hamper that Rob gets, but while I like marmalade, I don’t love it enough to get through a jar in the four weeks recommended on the label. So I went searching for a cake recipe to use it in. This one wound up being just right. I liked that it used a substantial amount of marmalade, instead of just a few tablespoons. And I just happen to have a 6″ wide, 3″ tall cake pan — convenient!

I was worried that the cake was going to be really overdone and dry around the edges, since it takes so long to bake through in the middle, but — at least today, when it was super fresh — it wasn’t at all. I covered the top with foil after 45min, and I turned the oven down to 325˚F for the last 10min (I was getting nervous!), but I did keep it in there for exactly the recommended 75min. The edges turned fairly dark and are crunchy (in a good way), but the interior stayed light and tender.

I don’t use self-rising flour, so I used cake flour (to keep it a bit lighter) and three-and-a-bit teaspoons of baking powder, plus a teaspoon of salt. That seemed like a ton of baking powder, but it was actually less than the recommended substitute for self-rising flour — at any rate, the cake rose nicely and doesn’t taste bitter! It’s basically a pound cake (lots of butter), but I thought the method was interesting: you cut the butter into the flour (I used a food processor), add the sugar, then add the wet ingredients.

I could see a sprinkle of powdered sugar being a nice touch, but I don’t think the cake really needs anything extra. There’s a lot of flavor from the butter and the marmalade, and it’s sweet-but-not-too-sweet. A perfect cake for eating with tea (or for breakfast, ’cause that’s definitely going to happen!).

Chicken Sweater

20160404-195351.jpg

20160404-195404.jpg

Sometime last year, I started making this sweater for M. I’d had the skeins of dark blue yarn (Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino) since my London days, and the lighter color (same brand/kind) came from my friend Em and was left over from a sweater I made M when she was ~6mos. I found this vintage pattern and thought it would be a good use for all that wool. And while the elephants on the original cardigan are cute, well, they’re not chickens, are they? I hunted down some appropriately-size charts for a hen and chicks and used those instead.

My only real change to the pattern was to make the collar and bottom band seed stitch instead of ribbing. (The button band on the original was already seed stitch.) I knit the back and right side and then did about a third of the left side whenever it was that I started this sweater, and then I didn’t pick it up again until last week. Even though it’s a “size 3”, whatever that means when it comes to vintage patterns, I was worried that it wouldn’t fit M if I didn’t finish it NOW. I was down to my last skein and a bit when I got to the sleeves, and the first one used over half of what I had remaining! I made the other sleeve two stitches narrower, and I don’t know if that actually made a huge difference (you can’t tell it’s narrower now that it’s finished), but when I cobbled together all the scraps and everything, I had enough for both sleeves, the collar, and the seaming. Whew!

I still haven’t sewn on any buttons, but at least the cardigan fits M! She was really excited to wear her “chicken sweater” today. We love our chickens!

Junior Noodler

20160403-172226.jpg

20160403-172238.jpg

20160403-172249.jpg

20160403-172304.jpg

20160403-172316.jpg

I’m pretty sure there’s a box of spaghetti in the pantry that’s been there for a year or two. Same goes for whatever other dried pasta is in there. I almost never cook it. Yet, since I started making fresh pasta, we’ve gone through THAT at an astonishing pace. It’s not even the same kind of food, somehow. (“Somehow” probably = eggs.) I’ll make a batch or two of noodles, freeze them, and then they’re gone before I know it.

I let M help make spaghetti today. I’ve always made pasta while she’s distracted by something else — when I make macaroni noodles, for example, it always feels just a little stressful, making sure to cut them at the right point and then trying to stop them all sticking together. And forget about letting a child near a motorized pasta ROLLER. It makes me a little light-headed just to think of tiny fingers near that thing. But the extruder is safe enough, with adult supervision, and the spaghetti always comes out perfectly.

M was so excited to help! She had some real flair when it came to pitching the dough balls into the hopper — for some reason, I’d just been dropping them in, like a boring person. And watching the noodles come out is good entertainment if you’re two and a half. (Or, let’s be honest, if you’re a grown adult.) We wound up with plenty of spaghetti for the freezer, and I cooked some up — with pesto and broccoli — for our dinner. She loves those noodles!

Blocks

20160401-202632.jpg

We found these blocks at the thrift store today. They’ve been well loved by somebody already, but that doesn’t stop M from loving them, too! We did quite a lot of building when we got back.

Railroad Museum

20160322-132824.jpg

20160322-132839.jpg

I took M to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum yesterday. I almost didn’t, because, blah, we spend enough time in the car. But then I slept until 6:45am (the first time I could say that since M was born — we changed our clocks but otherwise didn’t adjust anything for DST) and felt like, hey, why not! And we had a lovely day!

M said she wanted to see trains, but I wasn’t sure what she’d actually think when we saw REAL trains up close. But she didn’t seem fazed by how big they were, and she was totally into climbing up the steps to look in each train. I had to ‘Mommy carry you’ down every time because we WERE quite high up, and she’d get nervous, but then she’d look for the next one with steps to climb up. I was proud of her! We found an area with toy train tables, and I thought we’d get sidelined there for a long time, but the call of REAL trains lured her away. It’s so fun that she can be actively interested in our outings now instead of just being passively along for the ride.

We had lunch at Pizza Lucé (it was a favorite of mine when I lived in Minneapolis — I’m glad I remembered there’s a Duluth location, too!) and then went to the co-op to stock up on tasty groceries. By the time we got in the car to head home, M was so tired that she fell asleep before we made it to the freeway! She woke up when we got home and said, ‘Had fun looking at trains!’ — success!

Baby Sister’s Room

2016-03-17babyroom1

2016-03-17babyroom2

2016-03-17babyroom3

Baby Sister’s room is… more or less done! There are a few things left to do, like putting up a black-out shade and making/finding better tie-backs for the curtain on the covered window (ideally — we’ll see if that happens). The crib will go into my bedroom before the baby is born, which is why it’s still in M’s sofa mode.

I think the theme of this room, if it had one, would be TOO MANY TOYS. Because, seriously. Why are there so many toys? One bonus to Baby Sister growing up will be being able to get rid of toys as she outgrows them. If anybody buys Baby Sister more toys, [insert threat here]. Pretty much all the furniture was in M’s room when she was younger, before she moved into her full-size bed and got the antique dresser, etc.

I was less concerned with getting everything ‘just right’, the way I did with M’s room before she was born, since now I realize how small a role the baby’s room plays for the first few months. But I did try to get everything sealed up, to keep both drafts and ladybugs (grr, arg.) out. So I think it’s ready-ish to go. Just ten more weeks (give or take) until Baby Sister can check it out herself!