Thursday, February 25, 2010

Swallowtail in Flight

I finished my Swallowtail shawl, and it's gorgeous! I left in that
one little mistake that I'd made in the beginning, figuring that it wouldn't be very visible because it's so high up, and since then, I made tons upon tons of mistakes, but tinked/ripped and fixed them all, especially since they were the type of mistake that would just throw off everything that came after.

Now you shall wait no longer for pictures! Here's the finished shawl, pre-blocking:


Post-blocking, with the dress that I'll be wearing when we go to Ren faire:

With my winter coat:


I love it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yarn- not just for breakfast anymore!

I finished a hat for my friend Kristan's birthday- she had requested it, but didn't know that she was going to get it for her birthday, so she was suitably surprised. It's not just any old hat though, it's a Futurama-inspired Brain Slug Hat!

I'm still working on my Swallowtail, which has become more and more enjoyable to work on as I understand the lace pattern better. I finally finished the required 14 repeats of the Budding Lace patten, and then got worried that the shawl might be too small, so after seeing in the pattern comments that other people had added an extra five repeats of Budding Lace, I did the same, and am happier with how the size is looking.

I've also started (and am almost halfway through with) the Lily of the Valley Border, which contains nupps (basically, to make a nupp, in one row, you increase one stitch by, in this case, five stitches, and in the next row, you purl them all back together). I had been very hesitant to attempt a pattern with nupps, but they're turning out to be not so bad, if a little fiddly.

I actually have a lot of knitting projects going right now, including a blanket for Elijah to keep in his car, and I'm supposed to alter the sleeves of my mom's Strands of Pearls sweater, because they came out too short when she tried the sweater on (even though they're exactly as long as the measurements that I took, I guess when she wore the sweater, more material was taken up in width while stretching than I thought it would). And then Elijah got jealous of my nice warm slippers, and asked me to make him a pair, which I haven't started yet. They'll be interesting, as for the outer layer, he chose a yarn that's a wool-llama mix. I believe that llama felts fine, but we'll see how it works.

I'm also making a fuzzy cat mat:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Harness Training

When we got the boys, I had the idea to train them to walk on harness and leash, so that I could take them places like PetSmart and the vet without them freaking out, and also so that it would be easier when it came time to move, since they would already be used to taking trips. Well, the boys, being who they are, freak out no matter what (they hate even having the harness on them, and Luke got afraid because he thought that the leash was chasing him), so I haven't pushed the issue much, because I want them to become less fearful before I start bringing them on outings. Every so often, I put their harnesses on and let them run around the house, just to get them used to the feeling of having a harness on, and sometimes I put them in their carrier and take them for a ride, usually just when I'm picking up Elijah from work or class, so they get used to the idea that just because they're in the carrier doesn't mean that I'm taking them to the vet.

Leia, on the other hand, outgoing girl that she is, is showing real promise with the harness. The first time I put it on her, she was confused for a minute, because there was something on her, but other than that, she was fine, and basically ignored it altogether. I put the leash on, and other than wanting to chew on it when it got into her line of sight, she was fine with it, and didn't mind when she reached the resistance when she got to the end of its reach. I walked with her on leash around the house a bit, letting her lead the way, and she was perfectly comfortable. I've done that a few times, so she gets even more comfortable wearing the harness.

Today, I took Leia out for a trip to PetSmart. She's not crazy about riding in the car- when she's in the carrier, she gets upset and escapes (didn't take her long to figure out where the velcro closure was- the top has zippers along the sides and a velcro closure on the end, and she fought her way out through the velcro, something that the boys have never even thought of trying to do. In order to avoid that, Elijah and I have been teaching her to stay calm, sitting on a lap while she's in the car. So while I drove Elijah in today, she stayed on his lap. Mostly she was fine with it, but she did want to explore a little. He restrained her when necessary. After I dropped him off, it was a little tougher to keep her on my lap, but having the leash on helped- when she wanted to explore, she could only go as far as the leash, which didn't let her off my lap. She learns quickly.

I took her into PetSmart, and we went to look at the birds first, before getting to the cat section. She loved watching the little finches flit around. When we got to the cat section, I put her down, and she was a little scared at first, wanting to hide under the fixtures, but I wouldn't let her, and gently pulled her out with the leash. She was pretty content to explore, but also let me guide her, coming towards me when I called her name and put a little pressure on the leash. We got the things that I needed to get, and then she helped pick out a toy. She got a little scared when a woman came by with a squeaky cart, and she tried to run away, but I picked her up and held her, and we went to meet the lady, since she seemed interested in Leia. Then a couple came by with their dog, which scared Leia again, so I just held her tightly in my arms, and then we went to check out. I put her on the floor so that I could pay, and she wanted to explore/hide in the area where the cashier was standing. I paid, picked her up, and we went to the car, where she was pretty good about staying on my lap the whole time.

Here she is with her new toys:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Picture Post

The cats have been getting along amazingly well, and it's wonderful to see the boys watch their sister and realize that it's possible not to be afraid of everyone all the time. They're starting to realize the possibilities that life holds for them, and they're liking what they see.

Then we got them this monster, because Leia is quite the climber:

We just love her, she's such a sweetie!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Han, Luke... and Leia!

We went to Second Chance again today, and the little girl tabby still had the note on her cage not to take her out. So I pet her through the bars for a little while, then we went into the kitten room, where there were about ten new kittens, including several tabbies, mostly girls. There were two little kittens that were adorable, but obviously best friends, and while we wouldn't think of separating them, we don't want four kittens all at once. One little girl was particularly sweet and affectionate, loving pets, climbing up into laps and cuddling, and if it weren't for the other kitten I already really liked, I might have chosen her.

We then went to see the dogs, who were outside in their play groups, in big fenced areas. Elijah pet them through the chain link, and was quite taken with a black lab puppy. He was going to ask to play with that puppy, but didn't get a chance, as all the staff were busy getting two other dogs ready to go home with their new family.

I went back to see the tabby girl, who was very glad to see me again, purring and enjoying pets. When I left, she gave me those "Why are you leaving? Where are you going?" eyes.

We went back to the kitten room (yay being swarmed by kittens!) and were petting out top choice of those kittens, when a staff member walked in and asked if we had any questions. We mentioned the other cat that we liked but couldn't take out of her cage, and she said "Says who?" I explained the sign, but she said that it was okay as long as a staff member was in the room with me. So she got someone to go in with me, and I got to hold the tabby girl, who purred like a machine, cuddled, and played with a toy I offered her. I handed her over to Elijah, and she snuggled with him as well, purring and happy. When I saw that sweet face, I couldn't help but fall in love with her completely, so I said that we would take her.

Her name, of course, is now Leia (it was Teacup). We stopped at PetSmart on the way home to get her a collar, litterbox, and bed, and I brought her in, in my arms. The woman at Second Chance had offered us a cardboard box to bring her home in, but she seemed good enough in my arms, and though she wanted to explore the car, she was content to stay in my lap.

Leia is now in the bathroom, with her own food, water, and litterbox, and the boys' things are elsewhere in the house. She is such a friendly cat, she doesn't like to be alone and wants to explore everywhere and meet everyone. She hissed a little at the boys when I brought her out to meet them, so I'm just going to make sure that things don't move too fast. (I only brought her out cause she wanted to meet them, and they showed interest in meeting her. She and Han sniffed noses, and Luke was a little more cautious and didn't like that there was something new in his house.) Once they all get used to each other, I think that they'll be really good playmates and friends.

Monday, February 8, 2010


We've gotten a bit more snow- maybe 8 inches to a foot. Melting off the roofs, it's created some cray icicles! Here's one that got twisted as it was forming (that's Elijah holding it):

And we like to call this one the Epicsicle! It's actually forming a stalagmite below it:

To combat the cold, I made my first sourdough loaf in the breadmaker. It looks like what would have happened if my first loaf had stayed as high as it had ever risen, rather than falling again.

My Swallowtail shawl is coming along nicely, I've done 11 of 14 repeats of this part of the pattern, and then I get to move onto the border. I'm actually really enjoying it now that I've gotten the hang of the pattern.

Luke and Han are napping on my lap (piled on top of each other, as they do), and it's nice to have a lapful of warm, loving kittens. I continue to tell them that they will be getting a new baby brother or sister, as the search for the baby tabby boy/girl (I'm becoming a lot more open to the idea of getting a girlcat) goes on. I'm waiting for a call from Second Chance about the baby tabby girl they have, so that I can properly meet her. Otherwise, there is the Phoenix trip on Saturday. My friend (whose birthday it will be) is excited about helping me find a kitten, as she has cats of her own. I'm excited about getting a third kitten!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cat Woes

I've been considering getting another kitten. I posted that on Facebook, and it sparked a flurry of replies. Well, there are a lot of reasons why I want another kitten, and I shall present them here in list form, with pictures!

  • I grew up with a cat named Stripey, and he was a wonderful cat, a friendly, sweet boy.

Here he is, in his handsome little bow tie tag:

For obvious reasons, I am partial to tabby cats.

  • When I was looking for kittens back in the fall, I did want a tabby. But when we saw these two cute little kittens, I just had to get them. I wanted boys (I just seem to get along better with boy cats), and I wanted two littermates, and these two seemed to fit the bill: We saw them at PetSmart, where we were able to hold them, but not really interact with them, so we were unable to put them down and see if they would come to us, or run and hide. I now know that they would have immediately run and hid.
  • Han and Luke turned out to have personalities that don't quite mesh with ours. They're still wonderful, sweet kittens, but from whatever experiences they had when they were babies, they're fearful. When we first got them, they spent a lot of time hiding from us.
  • It's been five months since we brought them home, and they still run away if I walk over and try to pick them up, and while Luke has warmed a bit to Elijah, Han still struggles and tries to run away if I try to hand him over to Elijah. Maybe they still need more time, but it's frustrating to have them still be afraid of us, even me, the one who takes care of them.
  • They do have a lot of wonderful qualities, which is why I'm not thinking of replacing them, just getting another cat in addition to them. They're adorable:

  • They love to nap on my lap:

  • They're playful:

  • They cuddle me at night.

(Yes, that is Han under the blankets- he keeps my feet warm.)

Elijah and I often wish that we had been able to get Luke and Han when they were younger, but their personalities would still have been shaped by whatever it was that they experienced before they were rescued. I want a cat that has a naturally friendly personality, so that he can show Han and Luke by example what we've been trying to show them and tell them since we brought them home. I also want the new kitten to be at least as young as they were when we got them (four months). At this point, I'm decided- I do want another kitten.

Elijah and I took a trip to Second Chance yesterday, to look at the cats (and dogs). They had a few kittens, but no baby tabby boys. They had a baby tabby girl, but I really wanted a boy. I pet her a little through the bars of the cage, but couldn't take her out, since she has a little upper respiratory infection. We left, since for this cat, I'm willing to wait to find one that's just right. We went back today with a friend, since she had to pick up her cat from being spayed, and looked at the kittens again. The tabby girl was still there, but I didn't get to take her out, since she's still sick. She seemed a little better than yesterday, as her right eye had cleared up, and she was a little perkier, letting me pet her head, and she even gave a little purr. I have to admit, she's growing on me. I left my number, asking them to call me when she's well enough to come out of her cage, so I can really interact with her.

We went over to the kitten room, where three kittens were out and about. There was a black kitten (but I really don't want another black kitten!), and two tiny babies that were new since yesterday, two black-and-white baby girls. Elijah was more attracted to the one with more white, but I preferred the tuxedo, mostly black one, with a cute face, long whiskers, and white paws (like my Stripey!). Still, the tabby girl held my attention.

I've been looking on PetFinder for baby kittens, but all the ones that are young enough seem to be in Phoenix (big surprise there, everything's in Phoenix). Saturday is my friend's birthday, and we were planning a trip to Phoenix anyway, so we might just add on some shelter stops to our itinerary, so that I can look for my tabby boy, unless, of course, I get to meet the tabby girl at Second Chance before that and fall in love with her. We'll see how it goes, but at the end of everything, I will have a tabby cat.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Poll Results

The poll I put up asking people's opinion on whether or not I should rip back and fix that row that got messed up in my Swallowtail shawl is now closed. The results weren't that clear- 10 votes total, 6 for ignore, 4 for fix. I've decided to leave it as it is, though, since the pattern has straightened out since then (although it does explain why I was having so much trouble back then!). I've decided to go with the majority (and my own feelings) and leave in the mistake, so I can just keep going with it.

Elijah's parents came over for dinner tonight, for the first time since we moved in here back in September. I'd been meaning to have them over for ages, but it somehow never happened. They live just around the corner, maybe a two-minute walk, so although we see them often enough, and they've had us over for dinner several times, this was the first time they'd joined us for dinner. I made beef stew, a variation of my mom's recipe, and everyone loved it. I also made cornbread, which was a boxed mix, an impulse buy in the store (honey cornbread mix, and it was on sale), and for dessert, a peach pie that I bought frozen and just baked. We pulled out our kitchen table into the center of the kitchen so that all four of us could fit around it (it's a small kitchen, so normally, the table sits pushed up against one wall, and we usually eat at our computers anyway, it's just easier at this point), and had a lovely time chatting. Elijah's parents' house is small, as is ours, and they chose to have a computer desk and birdcages (they have five birds) instead of a dining table, and there's no room for a kitchen table, so they always eat on the couch, watching TV. It was nice to just chat without a TV on, since we always spend half the TV-watching time chatting anyway. In short, a good time was had by all.

I gave the cats some catnip before Elijah's parents came over, hoping to get them into a playful mood, but like always, they hid. I did get each of them out of their cube-cave (which was a big struggle with Han he didn't bite or use claws, but definitely threw his weight around to try to get me to leave him alone) and had them sit on my lap for a little bit, and Mom got to pet them. Han finally calmed down (he had been struggling to get down), so once he was calm for a little while, I let him jump off my lap. The boys are nine months old now, and Han is definitely the bigger one. I weighed them last week- Luke weighs 7 lb, 10 oz, and Han weighs 9 lb, 10 oz, so he is a full two pounds heavier than his brother. He also has the unfortunate habit of showing that he wants to get down from my arms by pushing off my chest with all four legs. I trim their claws, because they haven't learned to control them very well. They don't intend to cause harm, they just don't realize that they're going to hurt us. Han will struggle to get down, so we've been restraining him until he calms down, and once he's relaxed, then he is allowed to get down.

Toilet-training has been progressing slowly. Both boys are to the point where they will put both front paws up on their own, and allow me to put their back paws up (I say "paws up!" to try to get them to associate the words with the action, so that I can transition to just saying it and having them do it on their own, and eventually just do it without prompting, but they've been slow learners about that), but won't do it themselves. Luke will hold one back paw kind of halfway when he's pooping, and allows me to nudge it up to the seat, but won't give me any help with the last foot; I have to lift it up. I've been decreasing their litter bit by bit, so that they're now down to just a very light covering of litter on the bottom of the bowl, but if I don't put in enough litter, they complain and won't use the toilet until I put more litter in. They also both climb completely into the bowl before putting paws up, although I've tried to teach them to get into the squat position right after they jump up onto the seat. That tendency, combined with the small amount of litter, means that they're getting urine on their paws when they pee (I clean it after every use, and if I don't, Han complains until I do clean it. I put extra litter in at night so that they'll tolerate it). I had hoped that the lack of litter would make them uncomfortable enough that they would be encouraged to lift their paws on their own, but that's not proving to be the case. Training has been going on for three months now, but I feel like we've been at a standstill for a long time, they're just not learning what I want them to do, or being stubborn about doing it.

And just so that this isn't a completely pictureless post, here's one of Han!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Spread your wings

A bread update- I've continued using my bread maker several times a week, and I've been tweaking the recipe. I've been adding rosemary, yum! I reduced the yeast a little more, and here's my last loaf:

I also made a sourdough starter today; that'll take a few more days before it can be used. I'm not a huge sourdough fan, but the rosemary bread that I've bought at the store is made from a sourdough base, so I figure that I'll give it a try. I love rosemary bread! I used to hate rosemary, but I've discovered that it was the texture of the whole leaves that I don't like, so I buy crushed rosemary and it's delicious.

As promised, here are some pictures of the flying elephants:

I started a new knitting project, a lace shawl. I've attempted lace before, but it proved to be too difficult and I ended up putting it aside. This is a different pattern, the Swallowtail Shawl (Rav link), and so far I'm enjoying it for the most part. The part I don't really like is having to re-knit parts of most of the rows because I screw them up one- or two- or three- or four times. It's a six-row repeat, with only the odd rows being part of the lace pattern, and I've done six out of fourteen repeats. Here it is:

Of course, since it's lace, it looks pretty crumpled right now. That's normal for lace, and it'll straighten out when I finish it and block it. I held it up to admire how much I'd done, and noticed this:

See it there, about midway up on the left side? No? Take a closer look:

That's half a row that I messed up, see how the pattern is shifted? (It's also a little messed up on the right side, but less noticeably.) But it's also three repeats back, which is a lot of rows, and since it's lace, I can't just drop stitches and fix it that way. Now I have to decide if it's a small enough error that I can ignore it and just keep going, or if I want to rip out the last three repeats and fix that row. For perspective, the shawl is something for me, and the part that that row is in is by the middle of the back neck, so not terribly noticeable; as I usually wear my hair down, it would be covered. Still, I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I'm still debating what I want to do.

Please vote in my poll at the top of the page!