Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fleece pants

This winter has been oh-so-cold, and my jersey-loving girls aren't as cozy as they could be.  I doubt they'll trade in their beloved leggings for fleece loungers, but I wanted them to have the choice, especially coming in from snow play or even a trip to the pool at the Y.  They chose the prints themselves from the massive fleece selection at Joann's.  The pattern is pattern O from Happy Homemade Vol 2, a Japanese sewing book I really enjoy (now available in English, though I find the illustrations in the Japanese version easier to use).  My big girl's pants are the largest size and fit like a glove.  A growth spurt has put my little one between sizes, so I used the next size up.  Given the fabric, I think a size down would have worked better as these fit like fleece balloons.  She doesn't mind a bit.

Kids' Clothes Week has begun.  Although I missed day one (ah, Mondays!), I finally finished up these fleece pants today.  I cut them and sewed the first seams oh, two weeks ago (!), so we'll just say that counts for yesterday and today's hour.  It's all good, no?


Sheila has frostbite in her comb.  Those wise in the ways of backyard chickens claim Vaseline or bag balm on the comb should prevent this and/or keep it from getting worse, so I'm going that route.  I feel so sorry for her, and I'm worried it will only get worse as this weather persists.  Sheila, however, doesn't appear to care.  The weather service tells me that the current temperature is -8°F, feels like -18°F, and those chickens came running out of the coop into the run as usual at sun-up this morning. Nutters.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Welcome to Canada

Friends, friends, friends.  It's cold.  Really, really cold.  And it's just set to get worse.  Again.
That polar vortex that kept me up worrying about my chickens last week?  Apparently, that was just the starting edge of this winter storm that keeps our temperatures in the low teens (or less), and that's before the wind chill is considered.  The forecast claims that the low next Monday and Tuesday will be -11F (again, before wind-chill), and I completely object.  I looked up a list of legal objections on Wikipedia, and I believe I can legally object on the grounds of "Assumes facts not in evidence"--as in, "we do not live in Canada."

And I'm preemptively worried about my chooks again.  Poor girls.
What a year to become a chicken keeper

Passive-aggressive ticket to the Happy Train

Oh, those passive-aggressive comments.  Do they niggle you too?  I was on the receiving end of one today, and I felt myself shrivel from the me who was having a great, productive morning to someone really grumpy and defensive.  That's no way to be, but… But.  I defended myself.  I tried to smooth it over, help the person see how it wasn't quite that way…to no avail.  She kept her line as I kept mine, and my frustration grew.  It wasn't a pleasant spiral.  I wanted out of that feeling, but I couldn't quite get there.

Later, I ran into a friend who is a reliable optimist, so I asked how she responds to the passive-aggressive comment.  She admitted that they really get under her skin too…if she doesn't work fast to stop them.  If she can gather the presence of mind, she will remind herself that (truthfully) she is a happy person, her family life and fortunately even her work life is right where feels good, everyone is healthy and things are great...but this must not be true for the other person, at least not in that moment.  If she acts fast to remind herself of this core truth, passive-aggressive comments almost make her feel sorry for the person who said them.  Then she laughed and admitted that feeling pity for that person might be passive-aggressive in its own way, but she can live with that.  She just rides that passive-aggressive ticket to the Happy Train.

I love wise friends.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coming back

I just completed an actual, productive, decent-sounding piano lesson, at the end of which my instructor stood up and said, "Yes!  We are back on track!  It took from the middle of December until now, but we are back on track."

So very true.

While I am no Grinch who dislikes the holidays, the fact is the mania and the pressure of it all, especially in the States, really weighs/wears me down.  Now, I feel myself waking up to this year's possibilities.

I'm knitting again.  Last Friday, I finally completed a (small) project I started with the best of intentions for a special birthday (missed that deadline, sadly, but it will still fit when received).  This morning's two-hour delayed start for school due to polar temperatures (again!) found me starting on the second sleeve of a cardigan I began knitting two years ago, motivated and excited to work despite the fact that I was up all night with an unwell child.

The frigid temperatures keeping us indoors make me look at our space with more discerning eyes, trying to maximise cheer and utility.  The playroom is overdue for a major overhaul.  My sewing space is a disaster of epic proportions as I used it all holiday season to dump packages and packaging, some of which still needs to be mailed (Cass, if you are reading this, I have not forgotten you! Nor you, Meg, Rosemarie, Katrina and Gayle).

I'm finding and seeking inspiration in so many sources lately, so much so that I feel a separate inspiration journal of sorts is in order.  I used to use Pinterest for that, but I want a hard copy.  Do you ever feel like too much is in the ether?  Once I begin that journal, I'll share a few pages here.

What about you?  Do you feel a shift happening as this new year gets going?  Are you starting or resuming any tasks or dreams that have been long-neglected?  What fun is on your horizon?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Swinging along

Hi friends!  What have you been up to lately?

We're trying to get back into the swing of things.  The polar vortex really mucked our back-to-school mentality last week.  School on Monday, no school on Tuesday, delayed start on Wednesday…  By the weekend, we were all a bit exhausted and confused…but happy!  Hubby and I went out to the movies on Friday night like a real couple on a date.  It was pretty exciting!  The movie (Catching Fire*) was pretty good too!  

On Sunday, we drove into Pittsburgh to treat ourselves to lunch at Il Pizzaiolo (delicious!) and then went to Schenley Park to do some geocaching.  Oh, the wind was cold!  The first geocache we sought took some doing to find (fun!) in the mud (yuck!…but fun!), so we were all a bit chilly by the time we had bagged it.  

We tried a second one, but we're pretty sure it has been removed (the space was fairly public).  Afterwards, we wandered over to Phipps to thaw out and to visit their awesome new miniature train set-up.  I only had my phone camera, which doesn't at all do it justice.  I'll have to go back with the SLR so I can show you how great it is.  The design is incredible, full of bonsai trees and everything perfect to scale…plus the added fun of dinosaurs run wild throughout.

Just to mix things up, we experienced a major blast of drama (outside our family unit but still very intense) that seems to have subsided in the past few hours.  Settling down again.  So, how are you?  What are you up to?  Doing, reading, seeing anything fabulous these days?

*If you haven't read The Hunger Games, I recommend you do so before watching the movies.  We watched the first one on Netflix without having read the book.  Although we thought it was interesting, we really didn't get what was happening for quite a while.  We found the second movie even more engaging and intense than the first one, perhaps partly because there were a lot more adults in it so it felt a bit less teenager-targeted.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chooks and the polar vortex

Have you heard about the cold gripping most of North America?  School was preemptively cancelled for today with a delayed start tomorrow to keep kids out of the dangerous wind chill of -25°F.  Apparently, too many liberals talked about life being better in Canada, and the weather moved on down for us to try.  Yikes.  I am fortunate to have a roof over my head and a snug wood stove to boot, but I admit as a first-year chicken keeper, I have been worried about my chooks.   My chickens are in a beautifully made but unheated coop and a fairly open run.  They have happily been outside in 20s and 30s, but -5°F (before windchill) was giving me pause.

I read a lot of online chicken forums.  Keepers from Alaska, Minnesota, the Dakotas and New England tried to assure the rest of us that the chickens would be fine if they have acclimated already.  I believed them, until I observed ice on the inside of my bedroom windows.  At 11pm, I snuck out of the house to bring them hot water bottles wrapped in tea towels and excess wood shavings for more bedding.  Oh, I worried about my chickie girls.

This morning, the thermometer read -9°F and the metal trim on our sliding glass door was coated in ice.  Was I a fool for not heating the coop?  How had they fared?  I wanted to check but was afraid of what I'd find.  I decided to wait for the sunrise and see.

The answer?  They seem totally fine.  At sun-up, one of my girls was peeking out of her little coop window, wondering just what was taking so long for us to open the door.  I made them a warm oatmeal and peanut butter breakfast, refilled the hot water bottles and went to check on them.  All three came rocketing out of the coop as soon as the door opened, just as they always do.  They happily puttered around the coop, fully ignoring my oatmeal offering, and then settled down on a pile of wood shavings I put out there to protect their feet a bit.  -9° and they are outside by choice.  They are fine.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Snow play

The winter storm moved through leaving us with 4-5 inches of perfect powder.  The air temperature yesterday hovered around 15°F, but you know what they say in Scandinavia: "There is no bad weather, just bad clothing."  It was time to play!

Yes, our sledding hill is part of the playground.  The playground itself was untouched.  No one had thought to play on it, and the pristine snow was too much to resist!

Today, we have another gorgeously sunny day, but the temperature somehow feels colder.  Perhaps there is more moisture in the air?  Whatever it is, it is nothing compared to what is predicted for Monday night and Tuesday: sub-zero and single digit temperatures.  Yikes.  Thank goodness for the wood stove.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Inch by inch

All day long, the tiniest snowflakes you ever saw floated down from the sky.  Tiny individual flakes slowly add up, inch by inch, into a wintry wonderland of perfect powder.  The sun set an hour ago but my girls are still out building a fort and will do until their bellies tell them to come in for soup and their fingers seek warmth.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Welcoming a new year on our house means Neujahrsbrezel (New Year's pretzel) for breakfast, a rather delicious tradition.  Hubby's uncle is a traditional German baker, freshly retired this year (yay, Walter!).  Four years ago, I insisted on his recipe for neujahrsbrezel and I was thrilled when he and his son shared it with us!  Hubby had talked about it reverently for years, and I wanted to give it a go.  I had to slightly modify it for ingredients and proportions for a family, rather than professional, kitchen, and I've been baking it for New Year's Day and sometimes on family birthdays ever since.

Later today, we're going to go through this questionnaire as a family.  We have used it for the past 3 years, and it is a fun way to approach a new year together.

Do you have any New Year's traditions?
What are you looking forward to in 2014?