Friday
Aug292014

wild horse geranium

There are few people I enjoy sewing more for than the people in my family, especially the kids.  And although there are more and more patterns being published with boys in mind, the most lovely patterns are the ones for girls.   So I am always inspired when my niece's birthday rolls around in August to sew up something for her.   She is spirited and imaginative, but not traditionally girly.  She lives on a farm and loves horses and other animals.   For her ninth birthday I wanted to make her something fun and feminine, since she still loves wearing dresses.  But I also wanted it to be the type of dress that would look good over a pair of jeans with her cowboy boots.  

When I was browsing the new line of fabric from Cotton + Steel, I saw the Mustang print and knew it would make a great dress for her.  I went with the aqua horses instead of pink -- giving the dress a bit of a tomboy look.

 The dress is the Geranium Dress from Made By Rae, which comes with several variations and is partially lined.  I've made the dress twice before for smaller babies, and was glad to see that it comes out just as nicely for older girls.   For the lining I picked a coordinating Cotton + Steel print.  

My niece loved the dress, especially the flutter sleeve sewn with a raw edge -- another detail that makes the dress cute yet slightly rugged.  It is one of my favorite completed projects and I hope she will be able to wear it for her return to school next month and throughout the year.  

Monday
Aug182014

glory

 

We are having a lovely summer, in every way.  Hot sunny days with afternoons spent in wading pools.  Long hikes with snowballs and streams.  Backyard barbeques and homemade ice cream.  As many berries as one can possibly eat.  So when the clouds roll in and stay for good, I can think back to these long bright days and remember how we savored summer this year.  

What I hope to forget is the constant noise and dust from the major construction project going on behind our house.  The city is re-designing a stream confluence and the crash of rocks dumped from large trucks starts almost every morning at 7 am.  Sharp.  Soon, even our own yard will be involved in the remodel and our shed will be re-located.  Currently, the shed lies mostly on city property and must be moved to accomodate the new property-line fence being installed. The shed is not in a convenient location for us to access anyway, so we decided to embrace the change and get going on plans to expand our garden area in the upper yard.  By next summer we hope to have a whole new look, more edibles and a lot more quietude. 

Our garden this year was plentiful and gave us several pounds of snap peas, green beans, and shelling beans.   We also had a good crop of radishes, lovely oak leaf lettuce that has yet to bolt and a few small carrots for nibbling (my favorite seed source for PNW people).  Two potatoes from our weekly produce delivery had sprouted over the winter, so we cut them up and planted them as well.  From those two we harvested about 5 pounds of new potatoes including this guy, who we named potato bear.  Grrrr!

I've also been devoting some time to making levain bread at home, following the method from Tartine bakery.  My friend Deb gave me their bread book shortly before Jonas was born and it took me about 3 years to actually try making the bread.  The loaves are made from 100% natural yeast starter  and I have had some issues trying to culture my own bread starters in the past.  This time around, things went better and I patiently waited for a nice mature starter to form.  The first loaf I baked was a dud, but I read up on the method and subsequently had some tasty success.  The book itself is lovely and has a few variations on the classic loaf, plus a brioche recipe and other savory and sweet dishes that can be made from leftover bread.  Here is a loaf (50% whole wheat) that I baked last week. 

It smelled amazing too.  

 

Tuesday
Jul222014

multisport

Back in 2011, I decided that I should start doing triathlons.  Nevermind that I had just had a baby in February and was slowly adjusting to that new reality.  I had to add in even more challenge and signed up for my first sprint distance event for that July.  I chose the SeaFair triathlon since a co-worker at the time said it was a good course and pretty friendly atmosphere.  The sprint course is a half mile swim, 12 mile bike and 5K (3.1 mile) run.  I worked in some training in the evenings (timing my workouts in between nursing sessions) and my main goal was to simply finish the event.  It felt good to have a goal and to get some time back to myself back in the days when my baby had constant needs.  I still remember the first time I went swimming while Nick carried Jonas around the neighborhood in a carrier -- I would look up after every lap just to make sure that Nick hadn't brought a screaming baby back to me.  

The SeaFair Triathlon was indeed a great event (mostly flat with a few killer hills for good measure, an opportunity to bike across the I-90 bridge in the express lanes, mostly friendly group of people getting up very early to push their bodies a little) and this year was my fourth year participating.  Except this year I decided to step it up a little and do the Olympic Challenge course, which is almost double the Sprint course (1 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 10K run). 

For some people, I'm sure the idea of swimming then biking then running sounds like too much to tackle at once, but here is why I really like doing multisport events. 

  • Just as you're getting bored/fatigued/tired of drinking lake water, you find yourself finishing one sport and on the next.
  • People of all shapes/ages/abilities do triathlons.  I fancy myself pretty fit until I get out there and get smoked by a muscular 65 year-old lady.  It makes me strive to be stronger and work harder. 
  • It gets me out of the winter doldrums and into training mode around March and motivates me to exercise as much as I can fit in to my day.
  • I like that Jonas gets to see me work hard for something and challenge myself physically. 

Now for a little recap of the past 4 years:

2011 -- Sprint

Six month old baby, not yet sleeping through the night and nursing almost exclusively -- what was I thinking? Excited to survive my first event and not have my boobs explode from being engorged. 

Finished in 1 hour 55 minutes. 541 overall place. 

2012 -- Sprint

No longer nursing and closer to my pre-partum self.  Jonas is wondering why mommy has a strange cap on her head.

Finished in 1 hour 44 minues.  526 overall place.

2013 - Sprint

Lighter, stronger, more rested. Jonas gets a kick out of my wetsuit. 

Finished in 1 hour 41 minutes -- 487 overall. 

2014 - Olympic

Not quite sure if I was in over my head or not.  Jonas didn't make it out to the course this year and I missed seeing him and having him cheer me on.  But I was happy to have him away for the rest of the day so I could rest and recuperate. 

Finished in 3 hours 20 minutes -- 346 of 401 finishers. 

This year the swim felt the hardest for me as I struggled to get into a good rhythm.  I trained the most on the running, since 6 miles is a long distance for me.  Overall I felt pretty well prepared (although the morning of, I'm sure everyone feels like they could have trained more) for the day. 

I would encourage anyone I know to try out a triathlon at least once in their life.  My goal for next year is to do the Olympic in under 3 hours.  I own a wetsuit now, so I'm into this triathlon thing for the next five years, at least.

 

Monday
Jun302014

a little green: my favorite quilt

I made this quilt in the months before I gave birth to my son, Jonas in 2011.  It is a variation of the (Sort of) Crazy Quilt from Joelle Hoverson's book Last Minute Patchwork Gifts.   Although I love the glow of the pink and yellow of the original quilt, I wanted to create something cool and relaxing instead -- a veritable ocean to calm and soothe a child.  As I took my leave from work a week before his due date, I sat and hand-quilted the top of the quilt until my fingers could no longer stand it.  He was born in winter and every day I spent a little time under the warmth of the quilt, slowing quilting all of the squares and thinking about giving birth and what having a child would be like.  Lucky for me, he was nearly 2 weeks past his due date, so I was actually able to finish most of the stitching before he arrived. My quilt is not nearly as stunning as the original, but my Jonas and I love to lie in his room and gaze up at it, letting our eye wander through the colors and shapes.  Certainly not your traditional baby quilt, it was a labor of love not unlike the daily labor in raising a child. 

The quilt was made mostly with Kona cotton solids and a few scraps from other projects.  If I were to make a similar quilt, I would take more care with the stitching and try to achieve a tighter look in the squares.  I definitely became more skilled as a quilter while finishing this quilt, although I think I will stick to machine quilting for now, as life is too busy to afford the luxury of hand quilting these days. 

The name of the quilt, A Little Green, refers to one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs and for me speaks to the joyous heartache of parenthood. 

Sunday
May182014

big island: hilo

I expected Hilo to be wetter than Kona, but was not quite prepared for the monsoon of rain that greeted us the evening we arrived.  We wove our way up-country to the little hideaway we were renting -- another find from VRBO.  It was tucked away in some farmlands and had its own menagerie as well.  The property was very quiet and cozy with a full kitchen and a lanai with several affectionate cats.  I say it was quiet, that was until the coqui frogs start up in the night and roosters in the early, early morning. There were also some mosquitoes to contend with, but nothing too unbearable.  Jonas loved all petting all the animals and even got to feed the pregnant goat, Heidi. It is a great rental for familes and the owner Nora was very friendly and welcoming. 

My dad and his wife joined us on this leg of the trip (clearly we have come to realize that inviting grandparents on a trip = a more relaxing vacation for parents).  They were looking for our rental in the same torrential downpour and arrived looking pretty soggy.  I think we were all cheered to see the clouds had lifted by morning and the day looked bright and inviting.  Our first day we wanted to get up to visit Kilauea and do some volcano exploring. 

Kilauea is active right now and you can't really get anywhere near the crater.  The best view of lava (or lava-glow) is from the Jagger Museum in the park.   We spent the early part of the day exploring the crater of Kilauea Iki. Luckily the winds were in our favor and we weren't subjected to any sulfuric gasses during our hike.  The hike meanders along the rim of the crater through some rainforest growth and the descends down into the crater proper where you can find steam vents, crackled crust and interesting plants. 

Kilauea Iki erupted in the 1950's and it was interesting to see the varied landscape left after an eruption cools.  Jonas loved piling up rocks to add on the many cairns that marked the trail through the crater.

After the hike we drove the Chain of Craters road all the way down to the ocean to check out the cliffs and some old lava flows.  There are also some great petroglyphs down a small trail.  When we finished exploring it was nearing dusk, so we headed back up to watch the crater take on its evening glow.  It was cold and windy at the museum, but we managed to stay long enough to get a few nice views of the caldara.

The next few days we spent our time looking for good snorkeling spots, relaxing and making some really good guacamole with local avocados. We found the pools at Kapoho to be an excellent area for snorkeling and found some pretty amazing reef without having to go out too far from the shore.   Nick made a valiant attempt to walk up Mauna Loa (which doesn't look like much, but is pretty HUGE), but turned around on the trail to make it home before dark.  On one of our days together, we set out to take in some waterfalls one morning and despite the occasional burst of rain, had great weather. 

 The waterfall pictured above is Akaka Falls and lies north of the Hilo area.  After we visited the falls we drove Old Onomea Road to get a great smoothie at What's Shakin'? (my dad had visited before and implored that it was worth a side trip to get one).  We also stopped at a roadside stand that made fresh Taro chips and that was run by a Laotian woman who could wield a machete like a pro.  While on the Onomea road we decided to stop at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.  It was also well worth the visit and has miles of paths through some amazing plant life.  The Botanical Garden was the pet project of a couple who turned an overgrown ravine into a lush area for teaching and exploring.  We saw orchids, monkeypod trees with huge canopies, plants with leaves bigger than Jonas and met a macaw who could say "Aloha." 

The garden extends all the way down to the ocean and has a fun blowhole at the end.  Jonas did a ton of walking in the garden, helped along by his newly purchased surfboard car.   We learned how helpful a new toy could be when traveling with a toddler who really misses playing with all of his trains and cars.   This orange car gave us hours of entertainment. 

Since our time with grandparents was drawing near, Nick and I decided to take advantage and head out for a long day of hiking in the Wai'pio Valley.  This valley is very close to the Pololu we hiked before, but the valleys are not easy to get through on foot, so you have to drive around the whole island to get to Wai'pio.  The entrance is near the town of Honokaa, where a college friend grew up, and it was fun to get out to that part of the island. 

We set out to do a pretty adventurous day hike to Waimanu and back, and it turned in to quite the adventure indeed.  I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here, but it was a very memorable experience and we got to see what Wai'pio looks like in the morning mist. The black sand of Wai'pio beach is amazingly soft and light and the area is worth visiting the the steep hike down. 

Although Hilo isn't as glossy as Kona, I really enjoyed exploring the town and areas just as much.  Hilo is defintiely more of an aging beach town, but the feels more authentic than the giant resorts of Kona.  But I don't think anyone can argue about the beauty of the Kona beaches, especially in contrast with the black volcanic flows.  I would say we enjoyed every part of the island and could have stayed to explore longer.  But in some ways, it's good to leave some things to see the next time.