Thursday, May 31, 2007
Quiet moment in the stroller
From that point on, things went more smoothly. Sofie took a two hour nap when we first boarded, played for the next 2.5 hours with just a little bit of fussiness, and then napped for the last 45 minutes. There was a great moment in the middle there where she was happily ensconsed in turning the pages of her doggie book and all three of us were quietly "reading" -- I wish I'd had a picture of that but the camera was out of reach overhead.
Here she is in the Boston airport, waiting for our hotel shuttle:
End of a long day
She then proceeded to go directly to bed at almost her normal time, despite a three hour time change, and then sleep for nearly twelve hours with only one wakeup -- what a trooper! She seems to love hotels, as you can see from her delight below. We like them too - they're fairly easy to childproof, and much less cluttered than home, so it's easier to let her play on the floor. No vases to knock over, no cat detritus to keep her away from, etc.
I love hotels!
We got up this morning, had breakfast with some friends of Brett's in Brookline, Massachussetts (they live exactly one block behind where John F. Kennedy was born), and then drove up to Brunswick, Maine, where we'll be for the next few days, for Brett's Bowdoin reunion.
We were given a minivan by the folks at Avis, so we're feeling very much like suburban parents now, schlepping our kid around in our gigantic vehicle. Plenty of room for a carseat, though:
Anyways, she's traveling like a trooper and we're delighted as always with this wonderful little kid.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Saturday we had a barbecue here for several friends -- we ended up putting out a spread for nine, which is not bad with a baby in the house. Sofie made it fairly easy, though, by taking an almost three hour afternoon nap, leaving me lots of time to make all the side dishes, and Brett turned out an incredible leg of lamb on the grill.
Sunday? Our friends Kate and Steve babysat for Sofie while Brett and I went to see a movie. There wasn't anything we were dying to see, but still -- a movie! Alone! In public! So we picked one, called Fracture, starring Anthony Hopkins. Supposed to be suspenseful but I figured out the entire solution to the movie literally about eight minutes into it and then was kicking myself for the rest of the two hours because a suspense movie you've already figured out? Boring. As it turns out, I was right about all of it. I think I've been reading too many mysteries.
Monday was pack-for-the-trip day, and change-the-infant-carseat-to-the-big-girl-carseat day, and then re-install-the-carseat-because-we-put-it-in-backwards day, and then run-a-lot-of-errands day.
Anyways, it's been busy. Today's Tuesday, and we leave town tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn for Sofie's first plane ride, and we're mostly packed and ready and just have to take care of some odds and ends today. We weren't originally going to take the computer but I think we are, now, since I anticipate a lot of time alone in a hotel with sleeping Sofie while Brett parties with his fraternity buddies -- so I'll post a few pictures as I get them!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
We all applauded, but she looked at us like she didn't see what the big deal was.
This kid, she is pretty amazing.
Today's going much better, due in part to a full night's sleep and also to the fact that we met Kate and Molly this morning for breakfast and drank absurd amounts of coffee to help get the day started. This seemed like the logical solution to Molly's no-napping and Sofie's recent no-sleeping policy, and I believe it's worked, at least for me. I feel much more human.
And we've got a lot of fun things to look forward to in the next few days -- lunch with daddy downtown tomorrow, a little barbecue with friends on Saturday, a potential date night and babysitter on Sunday, a day off for Brett on Monday, and Wednesday we all fly to Maine for Brett's college reunion! I'm pretty excited about that - it's my first trip to Maine and Sofie's first plane trip anywhere.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
That last one was today. Through a process of elimination, I'm guessing this is a growth spurt.
The real problem with early wake-ups is that it makes the days seem ve-e-e-e-e-e-ery long. On a normal day, the morning nap occurs somewhere between nine and eleven and rather nicely breaks up the twelve or so hours I'm alone with her into manageable segments. On days like today, though, where the morning nap is over by eight a.m., there's a whole lot of daytime stretching ahead of your tired self to fill up. What're you going to do?
Today we lolled around playing for a long time, and then at the last minute decided to race over to Gymboree for their 11:15 level two class, just for that "break up the day" effect. And luckily, my friend Kate (Molly's mom) was there too, making up for a day they missed earlier in the week. We commiserated for a while about just how unusually hard the last week has seemed -- Molly's not napping, Sofie's not sleeping, both of us are tired and feeling a bit stretched thin. Various things have gone awry; nothing serious, just annoyances. Neither of us was feeling very good at this.
And just the process of growsing with someone else helped more than a little. It's nice to have mommy friends who will be honest with you about the parts that suck instead of just talking about how great and perfect everything is all the time. The whole class, all ten or so assorted mothers and fathers and nannies, seemed oddly lackluster today, droning along to the songs and halfheartedly waving the parachute around, as if everyone had been sapped of their energy by a week of bad sleep and raging headaches. Perhaps it isn't just me.
During the activity time when we're supposed to move around the room playing on various pieces of equipment, Kate and I ended up crashing on the back wall on a big foam mat, leaning back against the wall in exhaustion while the babies played with some wiffle balls. Nursery-rhyme-theme play be damned. I felt like a high school girl skipping gym class to go smoke behind the school, kind of cool and rebellious.
Almost made me forget how disheveled I was and how my clothes were most definitely not clean and how my daughter, while dressed nicely, looked like I hadn't brushed her hair in weeks (I did! I swear!) and how I used up her emergency backup outfit from the diaper bag yesterday and forgot to replace it, thereby almost ensuring that she'd have a diaper blowout at gymboree today with nothing to change into.
She didn't, fortunately. And I breathed a big sigh of relief. And so we headed home for (hopefully) a nap and lunch and more play. Maybe we'll take a walk. Maybe we'll brew some double strength coffee. Maybe I'll go to bed at eight p.m. Anything's possible.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Well this morning when I went to change Sofie's overnight diaper, what did I find? Not only the usual motherlode of poop, but yes -- a live spider crawling around in there.
Oh. My. God.
I have something of a spider phobia to begin with, which lingers despite my attempts to overcome it and is exacerbated by coming across one unexpectedly. And you better believe me, the inside of my daughter's diaper falls squarely in the "unexpected" territory.
This particular spider was nothing big or poisonous or dangerous, just the standard smallish house spider we see all the time around here and have taken to calling Sheila. If you can't beat 'em, might as well name 'em. There's a Sheila in the kitchen, I'll say when I come to bed. Hi Sheila, we'll say when we see one on the ceiling far out of reach. It helps a little.
But again -- HELLO. In the fricking diaper? How did it get in there? She was in footed sleepers, and I know it wasn't there when she went to bed because the very last thing I did before she drifted off to sleep was put diaper creme all over her because of a rash. Did it somehow crawl in between her buttons and find its way down there in the middle of the night? And ... well, WHY? Was it just looking for a warm, moist place?
And of course, my immediate reaction was to shriek. Which probably is not such a reassuring thing to have happen when you're a baby and your mom is changing your diaper. So despite my urge to hop around the room having a meltdown, I had to quickly stifle the ick reaction, squish the damn thing with a wet wipe, and get on with business.
But I'll admit, I was a bit jumpy about changing her diapers the rest of the day. Who knows what I might find in there tomorrow?
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I'm certain it's not raining as much this year as in years past. I have some proof of this as I keep a gardening notebook every year where I note when things first bloom, what the weather was like at the start of the season, what I planted and what of those things worked out well, etc. Mays past were filled with comments about rain and how the roses were molding and turning spotty from it.
All the little girls at Sofie's play class today were wearing cute little sundresses and big floppy hats, with their legs bare. I've seen lots of ice cream cones being consumed. When I drove home, various kids from my block were riding down a small slide into a plastic wading pool. Summer's here.
Will we like living in tropical Seattle, a decade hence? I hope so.
Brett got me an antique vase from the 1930s, which he's promised to fill with flowers every Mother's Day. What a sweet thought. Here's a picture:
Aside from that it was a mellow day. Brett did take her out for a long walk that afternoon so that I could take a much-needed Mother's Day nap. He reported that the playground where they went was filled with fathers and their kids, sans mommies, with most of the men glancing at their watches and seeming like they had no idea what to do for the next several hours.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
I like how the dark green inner border came out; kind of balances out the overall pastels in a way that makes it less cloying. Now that I see it, though, I wish four of the five darks weren't all in a diagonal row like that. I reserved a row by accident when I was joining rows, which is what made it come out in that (unplanned) way. Oh well.
I made this primarily for practice; I've only been machine piecing for a little while, and with each project I'm getting better at matching up corners and keeping my seams straight where the pieces collide. I'm also going to machine quilt it myself, again for practice, in a diamond grid with something interesting in the border.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
- Last night, at eight p.m., I had a desperate craving for ice cream. Brett wasn't in the mood to go out and I had about fifteen minutes before Sofie was going to need to be in bed, so I dashed out with Sofie in her carrier to make a quick run to the store. When I returned home, I looked in the mirror to discover that a) my black shirt was caked in several places with Sofie's sweet potato dinner, including some decorative effects right on the nippular area, and b) my hair, which at one point had been in a semi-neat ponytail, now looked like it had been dressed by a mental patient, with random bits sticking out from our afternoon roll-around-on-the-bed-laughing playtime and various pieces of fuzz and other detritus attached. It did not occur to me to look in the mirror before I left.
- Today, I did not realize I had my tee shirt on inside out until halfway through the afternoon, when I went to meet my friend Jacki for a walk. And even then, I just didn't care enough to switch it. I forgot again until nearly dinnertime.
Is there a stage later where you can get yourself out the door looking semi-human again?
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
First, what's this determinate vs. indeterminate stuff? Does it matter?
Yes it does. You need to know what kind you have before you plant.
- Determinate tomatoes are smaller plants, bear fruit for a shorter time, and sometimes don't need staking to hold them up. (The no-staking part isn't always true, depending on how prolific they are and how big their fruit is.) You can plant these in slightly smaller pots and not suffer too badly for it, but you do still need to give them space.
- Indeterminate tomatoes tend to be much larger - they grow bigger and bloom for a longer season than their determinate cousins. They definitely need staking, and they can only be grown in really large pots. Most of the great varieties seem to be indeterminates.
What do the numbers mean?
When someone describes a variety as "indeterminate, 75 days", that means that it will bear ripened fruit about 75 days after transplant. So even if it's been in your dining room window sill for a month, the clock doesn't start ticking until you've got it in its pot.
It's good to get a mix of early season and late season tomatoes. Early season tomatoes will have numbers ranging from 55 - 70. Late season tomatoes will be more towards 85 or 90 days from planting. Middle is, um, in the middle. Get a good combination and you'll have something ripening from July through the end of October.
Is there any advantage to getting them in the ground earlier rather than later?
Doesn't seem to be, at least in Seattle. (I suspect this is different elsewhere in the country.) They'll survive being planted a little early, as long as there's no frost, but in my experience it seems like they just go dormant until about the second week of May anyways and don't grow, bear, or ripen any sooner than tomatoes planted mid-May. I plant mine about the first week of May - right now.
How do you plant a tomato in a pot?
1. Get a big pot, at least fifteen gallons. If your varieties are determinate, you might be able to go a little smaller, but for big, sprawling indeterminates, you need large pots. I use medium-sized half-barrels for most of mine, and a few specialty pots from Gardeners' Supply.
2. Get a good soil mix - nothing fancy, just half compost, half potting soil, one handful of a good tomato fertilizer. I use this one.
3. Carefully strip the branches off the lower half of your tomato start so that you have a long, skinny stem.
4. Add the plant, burying it up to its little neck:
- If your pot is deep rather than shallow and wide, dig a deep hole and insert your tomato plant so that only its top few inches are above ground. All of the stem that's below ground will sprout roots, giving you a great root system, and the above ground stalk will shot back up in no time.
- If your pot is shallow and wide, it's a little trickier. Dig your hole to the bottom and then sideways, and set your plant in almost on its side and off center, gently angling it so that the stalk emerges from the soil at about the center of the pot. Be careful or you'll end up snapping it in half! Place the plant in at an angle and then brush dirt up against it to help return it to an upright position rather than actually trying to bend the stalk.
At first it will look like it's growing crooked, but it will straighten up in a few days as it finds the sun, and again you'll get a great root system.
- Water deeply.
Any other tips for success?
- Pull off suckers religiously for potted plants. For one, this keeps your plants to a more manageable size, and for another, you want your plants to focus on growing fruit, not growing many, many leaves. Here's a great guide to pruning to help.
- Don't fertilize too much -- fertilize when you plant, and maybe a light topdressing once more when they start to set fruit. If you add much more, your tomato plant will grow huge, beautiful, dense foliage that will be the envy of all your neighbors... but much less fruit. We don't care about the leaves. We want tomatoes. Right?
- Water twice a day when it's hot - August and September for sure. Tomatoes in pots need more watering than tomatoes in the ground. I soak each pot twice in a single watering. More than that and they tend to crack.
- Don't water too too much in late spring and early summer, especially here in Seattle where it rains on and off through June. Let them dry out just a little between waterings, then water again.
- Don't wait too long to put your stakes or cages in. Last year I put it off for much too long and couldn't get all of them properly caged. This year I put them in the day I planted, even though the tiny little plants won't need them for some time. Better safe than sorry.
- If you're using red plastic mulch (which I like), don't put it in until mid-June. Here in Seattle, it rains so much prior to that that I've had pots grow fuzzy white mold underneath the plastic if its set out prior to that. I don't know if it hurts them or not, but that year wasn't my best season ever so I think it had an effect.
I'll add to this list as I think of more.
Tonight we should probably have made our first deposit.
Our daughter celebrated her eight month birthday by excitedly watching her second favorite cat -- Cassie, the fifteen year old whack job who has utterly lost her mind as well as most of her bowel control -- eat a cute little bird on the dining room floor.
Cassie has never caught a bird before. She lived indoors for the first twelve years of her life and has certainly never really hunted. We had no idea she actually could catch a bird or would know what to do with one if she did.
But catch one she did. We suspect Max, her more normal and much younger brother brought it into the house; all we know is that during dinner it was fluttering around in my office and then nutjob Cassie proudly dragged it into the living room and started eating it on the dining room floor while we looked on in shock.
Or while Brett and I looked on in shock, that is.
Sofie dove right into the experience, bouncing up and down in her seat and shouting "Kiddy! Kiddy!" with great enthusiasm. It's like she was an ancient Roman cheering the gladiators on to their kill. A little bloodthirsty, this one.
We shook off the surprise after a minute or two and got the bird away from the cat -- no point in encouraging her to upchuck dead bird all over the house later -- but even with this relatively quick action, Sofie still got an eyeful.
Luckily, she doesn't yet love (or know the word for) birdies.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Yes, I am that person.
Several people, including my friend Kate, have been asking me what tomatoes are good to grow in Seattle. Here's what's on the plate for this season at Zalkan's Haven for Wayward Tomatoes -- and yes, there are fourteen varieties on this list.
I did, in fact, swear last year after reaching an all time high of eleven tomato plants that enough was enough and there was no way I was buying that many again. And then this year happened, and they were just so beautiful, and they smell so good (nothing smells as good as tomato leaves), and they all sounded so tasty and wonderful that I just couldn't help myself.
My justification? Having ripped an eight foot around New Zealand Flax out of my front planting bed, along with a half dead boxwood border, I now have room to put some of these in the ground, so I don't actually need fourteen pots on my front walk. I need eleven pots. Same as last year. So there.
Ok - this year's varieties, with notes:
- Sungold, two plants - a repeat guest from seasons past. These are my absolute favorite cherries, and I've finally done good on my vow to buy multiple plants. Maybe this year some of them will actually make it all the way to the kitchen instead of just getting eaten right off the plant like candy. Small orange cherry tomatoes that taste like sugar, huge sprawling plants that produce like crazy - can't go wrong. Indeterminate, huge and must be staked well, 57 days. (Early! Yay! And they fruit right up until the end of the season too.)
- Isis Candy - a newcomer. Indeterminate, 67 days. You can see a picture here. I probably bought them because of the word candy in the title.
- Principe Borghese - a newcomer. One of the classic plum-shaped, sauce-makin' tomatoes. Determinate, 75 days. I have high hopes for this one - it's been on the "wanted but couldn't find" list in years past.
- Silvery Fir - a repeat for several years now. I bought two but broke one in the planting process, so I'm down to one. I love these because they can be grown in a very small pot - the plant only gets about a foot high but they grow huge, baseball-sized red tomatoes that taste great. I'll probably replace the broken one in a few days and get back up to two. Determinate, 52 days.
- Dona - a repeat from two years back, but one that I've never grown out in the front yard where it's sunniest. It did ok in 2005 but I'm hoping it does lots better this year with southern exposure. Indeterminate, 75 days.
- Taxi - this is a new one for me; bright yellow baseball-sized fruit. Determinate, 65 days.
- Brandywine - I grew this in 2004 but overwatered it and had a lot of cracking. The few fruits I got, though, were wonderful and I've always wanted to try it again. It seems to show up on everyone's list of favorite tomatoes every year. This year it's one of the brave few going in the ground. I hope the slugs don't eat it. Indeterminate, 90 days.
- Jaune Flammee - newcomer. Orange. Indeterminate, 75 days.
- Green Zebra - repeat from last year, one of our favorites. These are sooooo beautiful - see last year's photo of these in my garden. Last year its pot was too small but it still produced gainfully. This year, it gets a barrel all to itself. Go, Zebra, go. Indeterminate, 75 days.
- Black Prince - I've grown this before but I'm not sure which season. I always put in one of the dark, chocolate-y looking varieties. Indeterminate, 75 days.
Anyone still reading? If you're not a tomato nut like me I realize this is probably not so interesting.
- Grushovka - another new one for me. Just sounded cool - pink, egg-shaped fruit. Smallish plant, supposedly. Indeterminate, 75 days.
- Mr. Stripey - yay! I've been trying to get this, aka Tigerella, for years but it's always long gone before I get there. Oh man, I hope this plant does well. So pretty, so tasty. Mmmmmm. Indeterminate, 80 days.
What I didn't get was the Great White, last year's favorite and the most prolific producer of sauce-worthy tomatoes I've ever seen. Swanson's wasn't carrying it this year. But Seattle Tilth is, and their sale is this weekend. Can I attend another tomato sale and come home with only this one? I'm almost afraid to go.
And one final word of caution - only a few of these are repeats for me so I can't guarantee great performance in Seattle's weather. What I do know is that every year, I get somewhere around a dozen tomato plants, and five or six of them do fantastic. Those become repeats. This is my fifth tomato season, so I'm continuing the trial and error approach and discovering new varieties I can do well.
I will, of course, continue to report on how that's going. Meanwhile, my neighbors think I'm crazy as all the cages and pots go up in front of the house.
But it's worth it. Nothing like a good, home-grown tomato.