Monday, March 26, 2012

Marking My Territory

Let me state categorically right at the outset of this post that I’m not really a gardener. It’s not that I don’t like or enjoy being out in the yard but I’m certainly not passionate about it.

For the last number of years (since John and I have been together), we’ve been apartment dwellers. The last two summers, we’ve had opportunity to do some gardening and, yes, I’ve enjoyed it, but it was always someone else’s garden.

This year, I’ve decided it’s time to put my own, personal stamp on this property. I’ve claimed the front garden.

I’m turning it into a butterfly and hummingbird friendly space. I’ve researched online. I’ve pictured it. And it’s all coming together in my mind.

I’ve even started.

butterfly_friendly garden

To the right is a stand of lavender. To the right of that, outside the picture, is a stand of Echinacea (coneflower). The darker green clump to the top right is a poppy that’s been transplanted from the back of the house. The stands of bulbs are lovely purple irises. Also out of the picture, to the bottom left is a lovely clump of daisies. There are also grape hyacinths (which John would like to get rid of), a stand of ornamental grass (which is coming out and being moved elsewhere), a clump of hens and chicks (which I’ll be moving and transplanting into “interesting” containers), a small rose bush and our blueberry bush. There’s also a day lily somewhere in there, as well as a new planting of tulips, which may do nothing this year; they were given to me by S, the new tenant upstairs. She’d received them as a housewarming gift, already blooming. The blooms are spent and I’ve cut them down to plant them. I rather doubt they’ll do anything this year, but that’s ok.

In the house, I have started some butterfly weed that I’ll be planting in and around whatever’s already out there. We also have a lot of marigold seeds that will be strewn about. I have every intention of making this a bright, colourful, fun little garden, a true bright spot in this yard.

From what I’ve read, there are three things needed to attract butterflies. Flowers are obvious. Secondly, they like a place to land and sun themselves. Hence the rocks. Thirdly, they like to have a water source nearby. Again, hence the rocks. The larger of the rocks, the one with the dark spot (which is water), has a dip, almost the right size and shape to make a fairly comfortable seat. It holds about a cup of water. During the hot summer days, I’ll have to keep filling it but I think it will work quite nicely. If not, that same dip will hold a shallow bowl. It would be nice to have a birdbath out there, but right now I don’t have one. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for ideas.

What do you think? Does it need anything else? I should add that I will be picking up some bedding plants as well (I’ve been researching zone 5 plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds). As I said, I want this to be full and colourful.

I’m looking forward to summer!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ten Little Stitches and How They Grew

Today is a gorgeous, sunny day and both of us have spent an hour or more just sitting outside in the sunshine, John reading and me knitting. It’s glorious!! This is the first day this year that I’ve wanted to spend any kind of time outside. The projected high is 10ºC (50ºF) and sunny. Love it!

As I said, I was doing some knitting out in the sunshine this morning, working on a fun little (or maybe not so little) diversion. It’s the Ten Stitch Blanket by Frankie Brown. At no time are there any more than ten stitches on your needles and it’s growing quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

The yarn is a remnant of some Marks & Katten Fame Trend sock yarn and I’m using 3.0 mm needles. The first turn section was a little confusing but now it’s almost mindless knitting until you get to the corners. I love how it looks and I’ve picked up another ball of the Fame Trend, in a slightly different colourway. There was no more of this colourway in the store unfortunately; the new ball has more green in it, as well as brown and grey. Hopefully, it will look alright. I’m coming up to some green in the small ball and I’m hoping that one of the shades of green in the new ball will match that green. If I can’t get close, I’ll start where the green and grey meet.

In other knitting, I’ve also been working on the monster pants, albeit not as much as my daughter would like, I’m sure.

I have four of the seven decreases completed; once those are done, it’s straight down, changing the yarn every 10 rows.

And then there’s gardening. Our “nursery” is coming alive. Most of the tomatoes are up, as are quite a few of the Walla Walla onions. The basil is poking up out of the ground as well.

This week, I also planted some Butterfly Weed, lovage (John accidentally killed the one plant we had in the front garden), mini tomatoes and started my sweet peas. I’m hoping I’ll have more than just one sweet pea come up this year; last year’s sweet pea fail was disappointing.

I have one last thing to show you, something I’m really happy about. Last year, I bought a bay laurel, hoping for my own bay leaves. It did well outside and we brought it in for the winter. Once it came inside, I pinched the top leaves off, in the hopes it would fill out a bit. Was I successful? You tell me…

Ok, I have to get back outside. It’s just too nice a day to waste by sitting indoors.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Repair by Committee

This week has been, shall we say, an “interesting” week. On Tuesday, the hot water tank blew up. Thankfully, John was home when it went and was able to turn off the water before any damage was sustained. BUT… we had no hot water until Friday. It’s a good thing I’d had a nice, long soak in the tub before the tank decided to give up.

The landlord decided, rightfully so, to replace both hot water tanks, ours and the tank for the upstairs suite rather than wait for the second tank to give up the ghost, too. Wise move. We only had the inconvenience once rather than having to go through it all again. I must admit, it’s lovely having plenty of hot water to get into!

In knitting, progress is being made on the monster pants. As of yesterday, one leg is complete and the second leg is on the needles.

They will be kind of cute when they’re done, don’t you think? The knitting, at this point, is fairly mindless. I just have to remember the decreases every 6th row and I have to remember to switch colours every 10 rounds. Other than that, it’s simple and straightforward.

Yesterday was Sit & Stitch and afterwards, I wandered through our downtown area. I did have a goal in mind; I needed to pick up some postcards (more on that in a bit) and I didn’t want to take the car from a free spot and have to pay somewhere else, so I walked to the postal outlet. On the way, I passed a home decor shop and did a bit of a double take. Were those cones of yarn I saw in the window???

Well, they were and they weren’t.

It looks like yarn, but it isn’t yarn. These are ceramic! As a knitter, how cool would it be to have these sitting on a shelf? I love it!!

Now… the postcards. Yesterday, I joined something called Postcrossing. Very simply, it’s a worldwide postcard exchange. You sign up and you can register to get up to five names of people from anywhere in the world. You’re also given a code to put on each card. When the recipient receives their card, they input the code on the website and you are then put on the list to receive a card. Once a card is registered, you can request another name. My first five names are from the Netherlands, Finland, Russia, Malaysia and the US.

It just sounded like so much fun! I can hardly wait to see where my first postcard will be coming from. To help me track my adventures in “postcarding”, I’ve set up a blog, It Only Takes a Stamp, especially for Postcrossing. I’ve added it to my sidebar (there’s also a link to the Postcrossing page, near the bottom of the sidebar). Check out the blog, but also check out Postcrossing. It’s free to join and it encourages worldwide friendliness. And that is a good thing!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stuff and Such

Well, much writing has already been accomplished this morning. Not all of it is visible to you, you readers of this blog, but the majority of it is.

I started my garden journal this morning (using this great little program, “Efficient Diary Pro”), for the simple reason that we started our gardening adventures for the year this morning. Earlier this week, one of my co-workers and I walked over to Art Knapp’s (a block from where we work) and picked up some seeds. As of this morning, I’ve planted Walla Walla onions (54 mini planters), jalapeno and sweet peppers (6 of each), two kinds of tomatoes (Brandywine and Marglobe… 18 of each), basil, and Italian parsley (6 of each). I’ve also started a small herb planter that has chives, basil, Italian parsley and a jalapeno pepper; there’s a special purpose for that planter, to be divulged later.

Outside, spring is definitely springing around here. The first of the crocuses has been blooming for the past week, bringing with it a beautiful little splash of colour in an otherwise dreary garden.

And… oh, I love it!! This makes me so happy…

Garlic!! Last autumn, I took one head of garlic and planted all the cloves in the hope that they would actually come up. They did! I’m looking forward to our first harvest of our very own garlic. Amazing what I find exciting, isn’t it?

A few posts back, Sharon in Surrey wanted to know more about my adventures in artisan bread. Well, I’ve posted a nice long post about the bread over on my cooking blog. Be warned, it’s a photo-heavy post, showing the process from start to finish. You can find it here, Sharon (and anyone else interested).

As far as knitting this past week, well… it’s been almost non-existent. I did finish one wrist warmer for myself and a second is half finished, but other than that, no progress has been made on the Monster pants. Hopefully, I’ll feel motivated later today or tomorrow to continue working on the pants. They’re going quickly; really, it’s an almost mindless knit. I just need to sit down and work on them.

Today, though, I’ll be doing some tidying around here, washing the dishes, and going out for my first walk of the season. Spring is finally here… I hope.

Edited to add: Just a quick note to let you know that there's a new blog that I'm contributing to. If you're interested at all (and I won't be hurt if you're not), you can find our work blog over at the Rapid Printing website. It is, of course, completely related to the print industry with the hope of (perhaps) simplifying some of the confusing things for our customers. If you check it out, let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Monster Ate My Time

With the fiasco that was yesterday (the closet has been repaired and the clothes have all been put away), all my plans for the weekend went out the window. I even forgot about Saturday Chatters (a Ravelry group based on a web chat I was involved with a few years ago… if you’re on Ravelry, feel free to check it out; just search for the group “Saturday Chatters”).

I had intended to bake some more of the 5 minute Artisan bread with the intention of blogging about it, but got caught up with knitting instead. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter saw a pair of knitted monster pants on Pinterest  (you can see them on this board) and asked me if I could knit a pair for Ethan, her 3-year old son. I’m sure you’ve seen them; they’re knitted pants (kind of like sweatpants) with a monster face on the bum.

Really?? Seriously?? She insisted he would LOVE them!

The more I thought about it, though, the more fun they seemed. I finally gave in and ordered the yarn (the yarn shop didn’t have the colours I wanted); it came this past week. I cast on almost as soon as I got home.

This was yesterday. I was almost finished with the crotch shaping at this point. The knitting went really fast! It’s mostly mindless stocking stitch worked in the round so it’s no surprise that it went so quickly. The mouth is made up of short rows, which also gives the bum shaping.

As of last night, I’ve separated for the legs and have started working down the first leg. What I really like about this pattern is that it’s top down and seamless.

The legs will be worked in stripes of the main green and a darker green. Once the pants are finished, I’ll be using duplicate stitch for the eyes and teeth of the monster.

All in all, it’s a pretty good pattern but there are a couple of problems. At either end of the mouth, there is a hole because there are two rows of red worked across the back without joining to the green (does that make sense??). A little suture will fix it but I found that a bit odd.

Also, the numbers in the pattern do not add up. When you cast on 160 stitches and work 4 increases per row for the crotch shaping (one stitch on either side of the center two stitches front and back) 9 times, you add 36 stitches to your total, making it 196; the pattern says there should be a total of 184 stitches. Then, for the legs, because that total stitch count is wrong, the leg stitch count is wrong. The pattern says 92 stitches per leg; there are actually 98. I’m going to continue the shaping as per the pattern but will be ignoring the stitch count.

It surprises me that no one who’s knitted these (as per the Ravelry project page) has mentioned this. I’ve gone over the pattern numerous times and I’m pretty sure I’m not reading it wrong. Oh well, they’ll still work out just fine, I’m sure.

Back to the monster pants… I really want to see how they turn out!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Ever Have One of Those Days?

It’s only just past 7 a.m. and today already has the makings of “one of those days”.

At about 5:00 this morning, we heard a rather loud crashing-ish sound… in our bedroom. Needless to say, it woke us both up. I knew immediately what had happened.


Yup, the entire shelf and rod came right out of the wall. Evidently, the landlord hadn’t installed it properly.

We did have plans for today. Now, our day will have to include repairing the shelf and re-hanging all those clothes. Not quite what we wanted to be doing today.

Edited to add: In case you aren't aware of it, I also have a cooking blog, In Ev's Kitchen. I've just posted there with a recipe for Crepes with Ham, Gruyere and Chard. Why not check it out?