Thursday, February 28, 2008

Baby games

This morning, as we do every morning, we spent the hour immediately post-breakfast with Sofie playing in her room while I sat there in her rocker slowly nursing a cup of coffee and trying to wake up. I like the first hour of the day -- it's quiet. She wakes up, we go upstairs to read a handful of books ("Book! Book! Book!" is her greeting for me each morning), and then I cook us some breakfast. Then we sit and play (her) and ingest caffeine (me) until we have the strength to really begin the day's adventures.

Except that today, she toddled off into the living room for a moment and I waited, just to see if she was really out there to stay or if she was coming back. And then suddenly, the pink, plastic head of her baby doll was thrust out around the corner to peek at me. Alone. And then pulled back. And then thrust out. And then pulled back.

"Where's baby? Where's baby?" I called loudly, catching on to the game.

Boom! Here's baby, peeking around the corner at me. Much toddler chortlling from just out of my line of sight. Someone is amused by her own machinations. I'm pretty amused too.

So funny to watch her think of these kind of games. She's becoming so imaginative. We're so lucky to have such a sweet, sunny girl in our lives. She rewards us liberally all day long with these huge, delighted grins whenever we get something right -- when we respond to her requests with the RIGHT cup, the RIGHT toy, when we retrieve the committee member who has rolled under the hutch, when we do something she thinks is funny. Sure there are the inevitable toddler storms, but in between the weather is so consistently sunny and gorgeous in Sofie-land that I can hardly believe our luck.

Even when I'm tired -- when a day starts too early and ends too late and all I can think before Brett gets home is how much I need a little break from small people and their needs -- even then, she spends twenty minutes in the other room with her dad and suddenly I'm in there again, pulled in by her bright eyes and her sweet little face and her chubby little belly. I just have to touch her, give her a hug, make her laugh. It's like a drug.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trying out paper piecing

foxglove1, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

This isn't much to look at yet, because it's just a random set of blocks that aren't joined together yet, with all their rough edges and angles not yet covered and matched -- but this is my first experiment with paper piecing, a quilting concept I've always avoided like the plague. Sounded too complicated, all that tracing and cutting and flipping and folding and whatnot. So I'm surprised to find that I really like it! It's fun, like putting a puzzle together, and everything comes out so exactly perfect with so little effort.

For those of you wondering what I'm talking about, paper piecing is a form of quilting in which you have a paper template of each block that acts as a foundation. You lay pieces of fabric against it and sew through the paper side, following lines printed on the paper for where each piece should line up with the next piece. There's a really good tutorial from Christine Thresh here. I'm learning it from a library book.

The results are incredibly precise! I'd say it's foolproof, except that I managed to have to get a piece or two backwards in the process. But after a couple rip-outs-and-start-overs, I caught on pretty quick and am very happy with how it's coming out!

This pattern is from Paper Piecing Picnic, from Quilters Newsletter Magazine.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy little house UPDATED

Update: I checked the pattern again and realized I forgot to diagonal set it, so here it is in its red wrapper:

And here's a second one I made that I like even better -- I think I'll keep the original and send this one off:


Today's fun, creative job was to make a little house block for Quiltville's housewarming. Quiltville is one of my favorite blogs and such a source of great information -- when I saw the post on another blog about this project to help celebrate her move, I just had to take part.

Here's my house, made using Quiltville's own Scrappy Happy House pattern:

The housewarming invite requested a red sky or background, which is why I used that color scheme.

This was quick and easy -- fifteen minutes probably end-to-end, since I already had a ton of 2" strips cut out from my scrap bins -- and will go off in the mail soon.

Fun! And I've never made a house pattern before. Next I'm going to try a log cabin square, another quite basic quilting thing I haven't ever tried.

The joys of playing outside

Now that the rains have let up and the sun has come out, Sofie has discovered the all-encompassing joy of playing out on the sidewalk with her little pushcar. She can wheel herself up and down the block, her chubby little legs pushing and pushing and pushing, sometimes working up a pretty good speed. It's SO much fun that it's pretty much the only thing she wants to do, 90% of the time, weather or time of day be darned.

The other day, a few minutes before naptime, she was playing on the living room floor when all of a sudden she stood up, got her shoes, coat, and hat, and stood by the front door looking hopeful.

Never mind that she had no pants on.

Phoenix comes out and hangs with us -- nervously pacing up and down the block as we toodle along. He doesn't really like to go that far -- his territory is pretty small, near as I can figure extending only into the neighbor's backyard and across the street to Mom and Dad's. But he likes to keep an eye on the baby, and manfully creeps along from yard to yard with us, coming out onto the sidewalk when he's sure it's safe.

Sofie also loves to stop and play with the big stone lion that's a few houses down. Lately, she scoops up big handfuls of leaves and "feeds" these to him.

Luckily, we know the folks whose house this is pretty well, so I don't feel too bad about the fact that I spend half the afternoon sitting on their front steps while my daughter smears composting maple leaves onto their decorative lion. In a few years she'll join the other kids in the neighborhood in coloring it in with chalk on a regular basis, I hope. The lion = great fun for everyone.

Every once in a while, she'll suddenly rush the camera person, hoping to feed me some leaves. Um, no thanks.

And then we're off again. Catch me if you can, Mom.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pinwheel brights quilt top

Finished this small quilt top today -- pinwheels using up some small pieces of bright fabrics I've been using bits and pieces of for a year or so now.

Pinwheel blocks set together like this make for some bulky corners! I bet people who are better at this know how to avoid that without hand piecing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

If you don't stop rubbing spaghetti sauce in your hair... can just eat in a hat.


Bedtime, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

Doing the bedtime routine with Daddy and Gloworm...

How did this happen?

Sofie is sitting at my feet capably building a huge tower out of her new Duplo blocks, and I just can't believe that my little tiny baby who couldn't even crawl this time last year is now old enough to play with legos. Play with them correctly, even.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Fun with babies -- dog groups on Flickr

Among the many things I didn't anticipate about having a kid is how much she would like Flickr. Specifically, looking at dog pictures on it. Nearly every day we spend a few minutes pulling up dog after dog from a group like Dogs! Dogs! Dogs! and laughing at their silly expressions. I can never quite predict which pictures are going to tickle her the most. Today, she thought this one was a riot -- must be the way perspective makes his nose look sooooo big.

Seattle is having it's customary February warm snap right now, with beautiful sunny days and temperatures in the 50s. Sofie and I went out this morning with her little plastic car and careened up and down the sidewalk for a while. She had a fantastic time, pushing herself along Flintstone-style with her little feet, stopping to feed handfuls of dirt and leaves to the concrete lion in front of one of our neighbors house, then hopping back on her teeny car to zoom a little further down the road. Phoenix accompanied us for the whole adventure, keeping an eye on us from various front yards. He likes to know what the kid is doing.

After she went to bed for her nap I got outside to do some much needed yard cleanup. Somehow I never really get around to that in the fall. I was surprised to find how workable the dirt is already, not all hard and wintry like I expected. Crocuses are almost up, daffodils are budding, primroses are blooming here and there, and I was excited to find about a thousand foxgloves that are on their second year cycle (meaning they'll be blooming this spring!) in the rose bed.

It's almost gardening season! The pot that had my peas in it last year has four or five little pea plants coming up, reseeded from last year's crop I guess. Later today we're going to Swansons to get some more pea seeds, the big vining kind this time rather than the small grow-them-in-a-pot ones. It's time to plant them, believe it or not, and to set up your teepee in anticipation of their little tendrils.

Sofie's loving digging in the dirt, and I have to admit I ran out on a whim the other day and got her this little set of kids' gardening tools so she can join me outside in the spring. I can just see us out there digging holes together. Or rather, me planting things and her digging them up. Whatever. As long as she learns to love the process.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Owl coasters

Owl coasters, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

These are some great little coasters I just made out of Amy Schimler's On a Whim owl fabric and a nice wide ribbon. So easy to make and so cute! I've made two sets of these now and am probably going to make more. Which means I'm going to have to start giving them away because, well, who needs this many coasters??

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day!

We had a nice and very low-key Valentine's Day today. Sofie was delighted with her card from Daddy this morning (and with Mommy's too, which she promptly swiped because it had a cat on it), and then spent part of her morning coloring on a construction paper heart that we printed the word "Daddy" on.

"My first kid art!" Brett said when we hand-delivered this to him at his office later in the day. It's now hanging on his cubicle wall for all to see.

We took a little tour of his office, meeting Buster the dog (the owner's Vizla) and bouncing around on someone's big exercise ball for a while before heading off to the I-District to have lunch. Lunch out can be a tricky proposition with a toddler, but Sofie was on her absolute best behavior, seeming to regard this as a special event. It's not every day you get to see Daddy in the middle of the day and go to a good Chinese restaurant. She was a little angel, and Brett and I had a nice little mid-day date. It wasn't much but it felt like a celebration, and was just perfect. No gifts, no fuss, just a nice family moment.

When we got home she refused to nap for the second day in a row and stayed up until almost 3:45 before she finally crashed, with me on the bed, for a 90 minute snooze. There are worse ways to spend Valentines Day than snuggled up fast asleep with your little girl.

Hope you all had a good day!

Monday, February 11, 2008

More felt clips

moreclips, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

Several more felt hairclips I've made over the last week or so. These are so fun and easy to make, and look so great on! I'm getting addicted to this process. I made several of the hearts one at the top and gave them to Sofie's girl posse for Valentines Day. I'm also liking the daisies (third down) and intending to try that one again with the hopes of it coming out a little less wonky - so hard to freehand cut all these little pieces in a way that comes out symmetrical. And the felt is so thick that with pieces this small I can't really fold it over and cut it out evenly... Hrm. More to learn. In the meantime, Sofie's awash in fanciness :)

Quilt swap quilt received!

quiltswap, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

I was delighted this weekend to find a package from Cascade Lily in Australia at my front door, with this beautiful little number in it -- a modern take on traditional Hawaiian quilting, using a snowflake pattern. Isn't it great?

The back of it is a mirror image -- blue snowflake, white background -- that's super creative. I was so excited to get it hanging up that I forgot to photograph the back first. No fear, though, because Cascade Lily's got a great post on the making of it here with lots of pictures:

I'm officially hooked on the quilt swap idea and signing back up for spring. :) So much fun to get a quilt in the mail that you didn't make!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Three thoughts on sleep

I love how she goes to bed at night with such seriousness and determination. She makes sure she has all her necessary items -- gloworm? cup? dinosaur? -- and then slumps over and can't be roused again. If we come back into them room even just a few minutes later, she might still be awake but she wants nothing to do with us. Lay a hand on her back and she'll shrug you off, sometimes even bat your hand away. Leave me alone, lady, I'm going to sleep.

I love how I can sneak back in an hour later and stand next to the crib while my eyes adjust to the dark until I can see her, splayed out in her crib with her gloworm in one hand and her cup clutched to her chest with the other. Because a girl might get thirsty in the night. I swear, she views cups the way Dirk Adams viewed towels. Always, always, ALWAYS have one with you.

I love the times when she wakes up crying and needs one of us, and I go in to pick her up out of the crib and she huddles into me like a tiny baby again, all snug and curled into my chest. She's almost immediately back to sleep, often before we even get to the rocking chair. I snuggle her for a few minutes, and then a few minutes more, mostly because I just can't stand to put her down yet. She smells so good. Kisses on the forehead never disturb her or wake her back up, so I indulge in those for a little while and then reluctantly put her back into her crib.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Random bits

Let's see - what's new:

  • The Patriots lost the Superbowl, and within an hour of turning off the television Brett was prostrate with grief, followed by vomiting, followed by not getting up from a horizontal position for almost 36 hours. When Sofie came down with it too I had to concede that it was the stomach flu and not grief, but for a while there I wasn't sure. Both are fully recovered now. I seem to have gotten a free pass from this bout, thankyoukeepingmyfingerscrossed.

  • Yesterday in the grocery store, I stopped for a second to the side of the big huge doorway to fasten Sofie's hood more securely before we went out into the freezing cold, torrential rain only to have this old, white-haired gentleman stand there impatiently waiting for me to move. I was completely tucked over to the side of the very wide aisle and in no way blocking the door, and when I looked up and indicated that my hands were full of toddler and could he please walk around my cart, he called me the C-word. I was so shocked I almost dropped Sofie.

    Really, was this necessary? I wasn't doing anything, and I was really polite to him. And just hearing something that foul coming out of this nice-looking white-haired gentleman's mouth was a real stunner.

    I gotta admit, I didn't just quietly let it pass. "Wow, that was really rude!" I said as he huffed around me and out into the parking lot. Then as we got to our car with him just a few feet in front of us, I called out sweetly, "Have a nice day, sir!" (And, I have to admit, added, "And thanks for cursing me out in front of my toddler!") Because really, if you're going to do something like that, there should be embarrassing consequences, no? Someone should definitely follow you around for, oh, the next 24 hours pointing out to all and sundry that you're an unhappy, angry bastard who yells obscenities at people who are minding their own business. In hearing range of their children. Jerk.

  • Sofie's getting two MORE teeth (bringing her to sixteen, I think), which is making her miserable and wreaking havoc on sleep schedules. Yesterday she took two and a half hours to fall asleep for her nap and then only slept 30 minutes. Today she went down almost two hours earlier than normal and was asleep in about 30 seconds. I wouldn't normally put her down that early, but she was yawning so hard she almost fell over. So that'll mean an early wake up and a long afternoon today, but the kid really needed her sleep.

  • In other cuteness, Sofie has been carrying around the Northwest Life section of today's Seattle Times because there's a great big picture of a Woodinville dog who's going to Westminster on it. "Pup! Pup! Pup!" she keeps muttering, while clutching it fervently to her chest. She's particularly interested in dogs right now because our friends Ann and Jim brought their 100 pound labradoodle over on Saturday night to visit. Even standing up, Sofie barely came to that dog's shoulder. She did, however, like him enough to hug his butt several times.

  • I was all set to do a whole bunch of sewing today during today's nap and had just started when my machine locked up in a way I'm not confident enough to fix. So out to the car I hauled it, so that when Sofie wakes up we can motor over to the place where we got it, where the helpful salesladies will often just fix it right there on the spot for you without even sending it in. Which is what I'm hoping will happen today since I'm really on a tear and don't want to not be able to sew for a week. The repair place, incidentally? In the same parking lot of the complex where the nasty old guy yelled at us yesterday. Yay. Maybe we'll meet again.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Gnome quilt

Just got the borders on this and had to show it... The picture is a little wavy because it's hanging on the wall, and the bottom corner is cut off by a table too heavy to move -- I just don't have a big empty wall where I can photograph quilts!

Anyways, this is made from the gnome fabric I got in Hawaii, which it turns out is called Garden Party, by Northcott Fabrics. It's currently an archive fabric for them and very hard to find for sale anywhere, but I managed to pick up the great border fabric online a couple weeks ago.

The design is mine -- just a snowball and a nine patch but I drew out the color and block arrangement.

This is supposed to be a gift but I just don't know if I can part with it. I do, though, have a lot of border fabric left, including a big strip with larger graphics that I didn't even use, so I think I've got enough to do something else with it. So maybe I will tear myself away from this one and make a slightly different one for Sofie. Or maybe not.

Here's a closeup of the border fabric -- so cute!

And a closeup of one of the snowball blocks:


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