Monday, August 21, 2017

Weekend Update

Allie is still here - we have a little more shopping to do today and then will hopefully get to see some of the eclipse before she leaves.  Our area is in the 68th percentile of coverage for the eclipse, but cloud cover might impact the visibility.  Ah well, there will be another one in seven years, and we'll be much closer to totality then.

In the meantime, here's a few pictures from our weekend:
Birthday meal #1:  Texas Roadhouse.  Yummy as always!

She opened presents and I tried to get a picture of her wearing a new pair of peridot birthstone earrings:
One shot - earrings in view!
Then Paco decided to jump up and get in the picture.  Never change, Paco - never change.

I still can't resist giving my kadults a Lego set for their birthdays:
We built a Lego birthday cake!

Allie's best friend Kevin came over for dinner yesterday; full disclosure, he cooked dinner for us - but then, he always mans the grill when he comes over.  Hey, I made the pasta salad at least:
Grilled sausages, pasta salad with veggies.
 
Allie and Kevin - friends for over half their lives!

We also made our version of a sheetcake for her birthday cake - if you haven't watched Tina Fey talking about current events and how she is dealing with them, you should (here's the link).

Our sheetcake:
With the ever-present Paco.

Sheetcaking in action:
 
 
 Even on a slower news day, there was still a lot to sheetcake about.

We had a great time and I'm glad we got to celebrate her birthday in person - that doesn't always happen now that she's a working adult, living several hours away from us.
Our 28-year-old daughter!

Friday, August 18, 2017

FMM - Shock at the Mailbox

We've been living in this house for 17 years now, and I pretty much know what my utility bill will be each month, based on how hot it is.  The bill includes water, sewer, sanitation, and electricity, but the bulk of the cost is from electricity.  In the spring I get to enjoy paying around $130, while over the summer it climbs to a high of around $350 for one month before dropping back down.  So last Friday when I went to the mailbox and opened my utility bill, I actually gasped at the amount due:  $476!  What the what?!?  The lowest setting for our A/C is 73 degrees, and Jeff was gone a good part of the month for work, which meant we weren't even running two computers.

Paying $350 hurts, but $476?  That was really going to impact the month.  After looking at the bill, I saw that it showed my electric usage had doubled from the last reading, which didn't seem right.  I called the city and requested to have my meter reread; they did that on Monday, and when they called on Tuesday to tell me that the meter had indeed been misread the first time, I was so relieved!  The adjusted bill total?  $353.  See?  I knew what it should have been!  I'm glad I called, and I'm also so glad I don't have auto pay for this bill - it might have slipped through the cracks until it was too late to have the meter reread.

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I mentioned that I went to Ikea last Saturday, but I didn't buy anything very exciting - a couple of new pillows for our bed, a 4-pack of dishtowels for a whopping $3.99, and two small trash cans which are pretty cute - here's a picture:
Well, here's part of them anyway, thanks to Paco skidding in...wat doing heer mom?  Squirrel outside??  
I bought them to hold the potting soil and perlite for my succulents - originally I was thinking I'd dump the contents of the bags into the cans, but they were so clean that I couldn't bring myself to do that just yet.  

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I've been making good progress with my shawlette - it still looks like a hot mess, and it will until I finish it and block it to open up the lace panels, but here's a picture anyway:
I get confused often enough that I needed to label in no uncertain terms the front of the piece - I had the little clips on as designation for the front, but that didn't stop me from knitting it wrong, doh!  The bigger label is doing the trick.

I have some sock yarn all wound up and ready to cast on, but so far I haven't wanted to stop knitting on the shawlette, which is unusual for me - normally I have several projects going at the same time.  This is the sock yarn:
The lavender will be for the toes and heels - this yarn is so festive that I can't wait to see what it looks like all knitted up!

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Allie will be home for the weekend to celebrate her birthday a few days early; there will be plenty of shenanigans and lazing around, I'm sure.  Of course we'll start off the weekend with a short run - this heat is making it hard to run many miles, but whatever we do will be fun.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

WWU - News Alert: It's Still Hot

While the Renegade Run Club is a closed group, we do allow for friendly visitors to run/walk with us, which is how Diane and I ended up doing our run with Brian's dad following behind on Saturday.  We ran intervals, he walked, and he was just far enough behind that every time we made a turn, we made sure he saw us because it was dark and the neighborhood where we run is easy to get turned around in if you're not familiar with it.  To be honest, I've gotten turned around there more than once; runner's brain is real, haha.

It was so stinkin' hot - 80 degrees but with super high humidity so the "feels like" temp was close to 90 degrees; all we wanted to do was get through 3 miles without croaking.  I think setting the bar so low was a good thing, because despite the oppressive weather, we both had a pretty decent run, which is saying a lot at this point.

We cooled down on the driveway for a bit and I couldn't resist taking a picture of Andi with her sweet new shoes:
 I'm super jealous of her lime green soles! 

After the run we did our usual Blue Baker breakfast, but instead of lazing around the rest of the day, we had a mini Renegade trip to Austin - Andi, Diane, and I accompanied Cary to her hair appointment and then we went to Ikea.  Well, between that we stopped for Mexican food, but Ikea was the big event.  And even though I felt carsick on the way there, it was still a great day.  I love that while we started out as running friends, we've become regular friends along the way.

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Yesterday, Diane and I managed to knock out an entire 2.25 miles before calling it; this crushing humidity and high dew point, plus the high temps, makes for running to be extra hard, and we weren't feeling it.  I look forward to the day when we are back to sweating because we're pushing ourselves with a run instead of sweating because we dared to step outside.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Baby Knits Show and Tell!

I had so much fun knitting everything for Cary's baby - knitting for a baby is special in itself, but knitting for a knitter is even better, as they know all that goes into the finished product.  Even though I've been knitting for five years now, and I'm fairly confident on certain techniques, I still had my moments with some items, but I learned a lot - and also realized that I really could use a class on refining parts of my knitting.

My biggest issues came with sizing - not having a baby in person to judge the size of what I was knitting was challenging!  I second-guessed my sizing a lot, and I will admit to holding baby Mason one morning at breakfast and "measuring" across his back with my hand to compare it to what I was knitting - ha!  Desperate times, desperate measures.  For Baby Pumpkin Muffin, my plans were to knit something in a newborn size, something in a 6 months size so he could wear it this winter, and something in an 18 month size, for next winter.  Plus a hat or two.

Because Cary's baby will be born while we're still living in the burning fires of hell, aka Texas summer, making him something that he could wear now was is a challenge - when it comes to knitwear most of it is warm and cozy, but that won't be necessary for a while with our hot temperatures.  So I decided to knit him a tiny baby kimono-type sweater, using a very popular pattern.  I chose fingering-weight yarn, which is also used for socks; it's very fine and lightweight, and I thought it would work nicely for this time of year.  I knitted the entire sweater, blocked it, and then needed to seam up the sides.  This is what it looked like while blocking:
Pattern is One-Piece Baby Kimono.  Back is at the top, sleeves are to the sides, and overlapping front pieces are toward the bottom of the picture.

I had my reservations, but after blocking (this was necessary to smooth out the stitches so I could see the edges better), I went ahead and started sewing up the sides using the mattress stitch, which is pretty magical - it brought the sides together in a seamless look.  But then I got to the sleeves, and you can see by the picture, they are jagged in a stair-step manner - this was how you tapered them, kimono-style.  As I sewed them together, I didn't like how it looked.  I tried several ways, and then examined other finished kimono projects on Ravelry, and saw that the sleeves all pretty much looked janky.  So I set this aside for a while and started on my next project, all the while ruminating on what to do about the kimono.

My next project was a crew-neck sweater, in a 6 months size.  I knitted it in fingering weight yarn because I figured the baby will still be so little that he'll be held and bundled up most of the time, so I didn't want to overheat the little guy with a thick sweater.  Here's the finished product:

 Pattern is Flax Light, yarn is Madelinetosh Sock, colorway is Methanol Blue (stripes are same yarn, but colorway is Stormborn).  I named this sweater Triple Stripe Flax Light.

This project trucked along fairly well for me; the pattern is a freebie from Tin Can Knits in their learn-to-knit series.  I had a little trouble in the beginning with the yoke and garter stitching on the shoulders:
Close up of my challenge area.

This was so tiny and it was hard for me to picture what I was doing; I was following the extremely detailed pattern, putting in stitch markers everywhere, but in the beginning, just after the neckline was finished, there were so many stitch markers placed to differentiate the pattern on the shoulder/sleeve versus the raglan increases (the diagonal lines in the picture above) that I would get off and knit when I should have purled so I had to rip back several times on this section until I got it right.  Once I finally got more of the shoulder and body area done and could see what I was doing, I stopped having that trouble.

I liked the yarn color but decided that the sweater needed a little extra pizzazz, so I threw in a few contrasting stripes using the yarn from the as-yet unfinished baby kimono.  I loved how this sweater turned out, especially the garter stitching going down the sleeve - it's just a simple sweater, but it's so cute.

Still not ready to tackle the kimono just yet, I decided to knit the bigger sweater.  I'd bought this yarn several years ago at the yarn shop in Navasota - I had no project in mind when I bought it, but I fell in love with the color so it had to come home with me.  When I looked through my yarn stash while deciding what to knit for Cary's baby, I saw the yarn and that was it.  I also had some adorable handmade buttons that went perfectly with the yarn, so I looked for a sweater pattern that incorporated a few buttons.  I set about knitting, and this is when I should have listened to my gut - the sweater was coming along nicely, but I kept thinking that it felt big.  Yes, I was knitting what was supposed to be a 1 - 2 year size, but it seemed really wide.  Still, I kept going, and finished the body:
Pattern is A Simple Baby Pullover - I do not recommend it based on the sizing.

Even though my gauge (amount of stitches per inch) was correct according to the pattern, this just wasn't working for me - it looked wide and short.  Luckily, because it was a heavier yarn, I'd only spent a few days knitting it, which made my decision to find a different pattern and start over pretty easy.  Also, this is why I knit with yarn that I love, because the entire process is a pleasure to me - from choosing the yarn to seeing how it knits up, to knitting itself - I wouldn't do this if I didn't like it.

Instead of pulling the sweater apart, rewinding the yarn, and starting over, I simply started the new sweater by pulling the yarn off of the bottom of the first one - I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of doing this, but I was pretty pleased with my idea.  You can see the difference in sizing here:
Both of these are supposed to be the same size, according to their patterns.

Anyway, I knit the new sweater and got to do the nifty technique for the button placket again - you go from knitting it flat to knitting it in the round once you've put in as many buttonholes as you want, which was fascinating to do!  Here's the finished sweater:
 
Pattern is Thom With a TH, yarn is WC Mercantile Kona 840 Superwash, colorway is Freshly Mowed Grass.  This yarn is hand dyed and I loved seeing the color shift as I knit with it.

Check out the buttons:
Handmade Fimo clay buttons!  I named this sweater Turtles in the Grass, for pretty obvious reasons.

After I finished this sweater, I was ready to tackle the baby kimono again.  I found a different pattern - a short-sleeved little kimono-type sweater, and what sold me on it was the adorable i-cord edging.  As with the green sweaters, I knit this one right from the original kimono.  I'm so glad I switched patterns, even though I'd basically already finished the kimono - I love how the new one came out about a million times more:
Pattern is Hello Kimono, yarn is Madelinetosh Sock, colorway is Stormborn, accent colorway is Methanol Blue.
This is a newborn size and it's so tiny!  I named this sweater Hello Baby Pumpkin Muffin.

I also had to knit a couple of hats, just because babies look so darn cute in hats.  I made one using my favorite pattern:
Pattern is Cable Baby, yarn is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, colorway is Speedwell.  Every baby needs a bit of cashmere in their life...

I also knitted a hat using a new-to-me technique - colorwork via stranding!  I was pleased with how it turned out:
Pattern is Golden Pear, yarn is Madelinetosh DK, colorways are Arctic (blue), Tern (gray), and Tart (red).  I knew Brian would like this hat (and when he saw it at the baby shower, sure enough, he did) so I named it Yacht Club Pear, in honor of our ongoing joke about fancy sailing clubs.

Here's everything all together:
Sweet knitwear for a sweet baby boy!

I really enjoyed knitting everything; it was so fun, baby things are just adorable, and I didn't get frustrated, even when things seemed off.  The hardest part was not being able to ask my knitting guru Cary a question when I ran into a challenge...and not showing her pictures of what I was knitting, because I usually do!  Luckily I had both Diane and Debby to show pictures along the way - this stuff was just too cute to keep to myself!

Friday, August 11, 2017

FMM - Tea Winners and More!

First things first - the Teasia Tea winners are:

Formosa variety pack:  Helen
Floral variety pack:  Elizabeth in WV
Chameleon tumbler & variety pack:  Diane

YAY!  Thanks for participating - please email me (40somethingsjourney@gmail.com) with your mailing address so that I may pass your info on to my contact at Teasia.  If I don't hear from you by Monday, I'll have to draw another winner.

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As of a few days ago, I officially stopped grumbling at my bougainvillea because it finally started blooming again!  Sheesh!  I moved it several times to sunny spots, fertilized it twice, and kept it watered.  I was expecting pretty pink blooms all summer, but at this point I'll take what I can get:
Hello my pretty!
Tried to get a picture of the blooms with Paco in the background, but Paco overruled that shot - HE'S the focus of the picture, forever and always.  I should know better by now.

While the bougainvillea took its sweet time in blooming, my lantana is looking just gorgeous:
This is my kind of plant - all I do is water it, and it grows and blooms like crazy!

One more plant to brag on:
This is $3 worth of Blue Daze that is blooming and spreading out nicely - another favorite!

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Now that I'm finished with my baby knits, I picked up some projects that I'd stopped midway through.  Here's a pair of socks, all finished and ready for cooler weather:
Yarn is from In the Deep Hue Sea, colorway is When Worlds Collide.  Toe yarn is from another skein, Play at Life Fiber Arts Maki.  

This yarn was so interesting to knit - I didn't know what to expect, as this was what it looked like before I wound it to knit:
Turns out, the black was hard to knit, but it really made the rest of the colors pop, so it was worth the effort.
A lovely toe...
And a beautiful Fish Lips Kiss heel, if I do say so myself!

I've started knitting a shawlette with some cool yarn that I bought years ago; right now it looks like a hot mess as there are some simple lace panels inset that don't look good until you finish and block the item, but it's keeping me interested.  I'm working on a full knitting report for the baby items I knitted for Cary's baby so that should be up next week.

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For tomorrow we have a little running, a little breakfasting, and a little shopping on the agenda...all while trying not to bake in this heat.  Is it winter yet?  Hah!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

WWU - Only in Texas...

Diane and I are getting back into our groove of running - with the hot hot weather, it's been extra challenging, but we're getting out there and doing it, so I am awarding us a gold star.  Of course, we can't go long without having an adventure, and our run on Sunday was one to remember.

We were trucking along, just the two of us, when right around the 2.5 mile mark, Diane grabbed my arm and said WHAT IS THAT??  I was still running when I looked ahead to see an armadillo crossing our path - and yes, I screamed!  It startled me!  Plus I had that forward momentum thing going, and had Diane not noticed it, we surely would have run into it, eek!  Diane ended up yelling at it to go away, and it did, back into the field from where it must live.  I, in the meantime, tried to recover from my extra bout of cardio brought on by being startled plus screaming about it - sheesh!  I do not need that much excitement in my life.

Afterward, we went to Blue Baker, where our baker asked us why we weren't there on Saturday - he'd left a loaf of ciabatta bread for us!  He understood when we told him about the baby shower, but we were all sad to have missed out on the ciabatta.  I mean sure, we could have bought a loaf of day-old ciabatta, but our baker gives us one fresh from the oven and you can't beat that!

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For the record, this is just gross to run in.

Yesterday Diane, Jeff, and I ran - it was still sprinkling from the heavy rainstorms we'd had the day before.  Humidity and dew point were at miserable levels; we managed to run 2.5 miles but it wasn't pretty.  There is nothing happening but gutting it out when conditions are like this - our only hope is that we are somehow going to get rewarded with the BEST RUN EVER when we get our first cool front a few months from now.

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Cary and I worked on the running schedule for our group last week; we're trying something a little different this go-round, which is to do a 16-week training for the Houston half marathon.  We reasoned that since we're all still running, we should be able to handle starting off with 5 miles and increasing from there.  Well, Cary might have more of a challenge considering she'll be giving birth and recovering from that, but she feels pretty good about getting back out there.  The really nice thing about a shorter training schedule is that we won't officially start until the end of September, and while it will still be hot, we won't have been running longer distances already for 8 weeks before that time.  I think we end up just being worn down from running so much in the heat that it makes training for Houston feel harder than it has to be.

I'm excited to still be in the off-season for a while still - we can run but not overdo it in the heat, plus I'm looking forward to powering through that shorter schedule once we begin training.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cary's Baby Shower!

It's baby time again for the Renegades - Cary and Brian are expecting their first baby soon, so naturally we threw them a shower.  It was mostly for Cary, but since Brian had never been to a baby shower, we figured he should start with one for his own baby, so he enthusiastically came along.

The theme for the baby's nursery is Adventure Awaits, so we went with that for the shower decorations.  Side note:  the nursery is freaking adorable and deserves a blog post on how it all came together - if we can get pictures soon, that may just happen!  But onto the shower - Karen came up with some adorable ideas to go with the theme and even got Jimmymeow involved in making some of the wooden items.  Here's the decorations:
Jimmymeow made the mountains in the middle of the mantle, and I'm not lying when I say that we all want him to make us some!  He also cut out the wood triangles, which Karen then painted and created this cute little hanger; the romper in the middle was Jimmy's from when he was a little guy, and the socks came from me - their colors just happened to go perfectly with the romper!  There are also mason jar "lanterns" on top of the mantle that Karen made - everything was so cute and will look great in the nursery!
A tiny vintage suitcase holding a B, decoupaged with a map of New Mexico, along with a cute adventure print that I didn't get a clear picture of, darn it, and another lantern.  When the baby is born and we learn his first name, Karen is planning on making another initial to go with the B, only she'll use a Texas map, honoring both parents.  She's so clever!
 
Hot air balloon with bunting made from the New Mexico map; succulents are along for the ride.
This was the corsage that Beth ordered, made from a pair of tiny baby socks, with the perfect charms to go with the theme.  Andi's dress provided the black backdrop for the picture.
I'm sorry that Cary's face is hidden in this shot, but it was too sweet not to include - I wasn't kidding when I said that Brian enthusiastically looked at and commented on everything!
The soon-to-be parents!
The spread...
S'mores-inspired treats on a beautiful Bois d'arc (also known as Osage Orange) log, cut from a tree on Jimmy and Karen's property - the inside of the wood is yellow!  You can see a bit of it on the edges, but when we flipped the logs over, the color was really intense.
Diane is our fruit goddess and these fruit kabobs were so beautiful!
Andi made this cheese hedgehog, which was delicious as well as being super cute!
Andi also made these birch log-inspired treats - just adorable!
I ordered bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes and they were yummy!  I also made the toppers, with the special "baby pumpkin muffin" trio - until we find out his real name, that's what we've been calling him. 
The hostesses - me, Diane, Beth, Karen, Mama Cary, Andi, Julia, and CC.  Not pictured is Loretta, who was dropping Mason off at the babysitter (we did get a picture with her later, but it ended up being a little out-of-focus, unfortunately).
Drink table - iced tea, lemon water, San Pellegrino sodas.  Plus birch tree paper straws for extra fun.
Julia came up with some fun games - you'd think I'd be getting better at these, but nope.  Still do not have my baby trivia down.
Gift opening - several renegades either gave gifts from their pets to baby pumpkin muffin, or in Julia's case, her kitties gave Cary and Brian's dogs gifts - new food bowls with their big brother/big sister status, plus some toys so they won't steal the baby's toys.  Good luck with that...
Karen made s'mores trail mix for goodie bags for the guests - yummy!

We had so much fun planning this shower and seeing it all come together in such a beautiful way was awesome - everyone did their part with bringing and/or making what we needed; the Renegades (plus Beth!) make a great team.  And now, we wait a few more weeks for baby pumpkin muffin to be born!