Friday, May 17, 2019


Today is Mae's third birthday, and I thought she might actually explode from the anticipation this week! Yesterday, on the way to day care, she told Dan, "I go to baby school, and then I come home, and we eat dinner, and then I get a treat, and then we watch 'Octonauts, and then I go to bed, and then I wake up and IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!" This kid was counting the minutes 'til she turned 3!

Mae woke up extra early today (too excited for her birthday), so we had a very full day! First, we baked cupcakes. Mae helped me measure ingredients and put all the cupcake liners into the tin. After breakfast, we got dressed and went to the zoo. When Grandma visited a couple weeks ago, we went to the zoo's bird show, and Mae was losing her mind over all the bird tricks (and slapstick comedy). We tried to go on Mother's Day, but it was rained out. Mae was devastated, so I promised we would go this week. She's been talking about the bird trainer Bob and the birds Coco and BG all week. I'm so glad the weather was nice enough today for a birthday bird show! After the show, Mae even got to meet Bob who gave her a feather from Coco as a birthday present (Mae told him that was her favorite bird).

I also took Mae to the cheetah show, which she loved! Needless to say, she had LOTS to tell Daddy when he got home from work today! (This photo is from our rainy Mother's Day zoo visit.)

We opened presents as soon as Dan got home from work.

Of course, we had to open and play with each gift as it was opened. First we fed the Hungry Hungry Hippos about 15 times. Mae got a huge kick out of this game. I have a feeling there are a lot of hippo feedings in our future.

Next we tried out some batting practice on the new t-ball set. We had to work on Mae's form a bit, since she was inclined to use the bat like a pool cue. She got the hang of it after a few rounds!

This evening, Lisa hosted a little pizza party for some of our friends. Since Anna and Isaac were there, we brought cupcakes so Mae could celebrate her birthday with friends! They had a great time playing on the swing set.

Happy birthday, Mae! I hope your birthday lived up to all your expectations... I sure had a fun day! (If it didn't, don't worry. We get a re-do next weekend for your belated birthday party.) We can't wait to see what three brings for you, sweet girl!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

all birds go to heaven

It is with much sadness that I share the news that my beloved parakeet Charlie passed away a few weeks ago. He had been showing signs of illness for a few days, so I took him to the local exotic animal hospital where they kept him warm, hydrated, and fed until he died. While I'm very sad to lose my little feathery friend, it wasn't completely unexpected based on his age (almost 10) and some physical signs he had been showing for the last year or so. I am glad he didn't suffer long, and that he passed away in warmth and comfort.

I bought Charlie from a local bird shop/breeder in the summer of 2009. I was living in a new city, recovering from a breakup, and mourning the loss of my goldfish Ichy (a faithful companion for 6 years). On my first visit to the bird nursery, I watched the group of newly hatched parakeets and tried to pick the most active and social of the bunch. I certainly couldn't choose based on looks... they had barely any feathers! Charlie came over to investigate me and peck at my fingers, and I knew he was the one. The shop owner put a dab of red marker on his forehead to mark him as "claimed," and I returned home to await the day he'd be ready to come live with me. A few weeks later, I collected him from the store in a little cardboard box and drove him home to my first apartment. In my first photos of him settled into his new digs, you can still see the remnants of the red marker on his head!

Over the next few months, I spent time training him to step onto my hand and to sit on my shoulder. I left the radio quietly playing for him when I went to work, so he wouldn't have to sit in silence. Though I could never understand any of his phrases, he did mimic human speech sounds, and I wonder if he was picking up things from the radio. Mostly he just sounded like R2D2.

Charlie always greeted me with a chirp or a little "weet?" sound. He had a distinct whistle for different people, often repeating my lower-toned wolf whistle back to me and using my mom's higher-toned whistle to greet her.

His favorite things were: taking showers in the kitchen sink, my watch, toes (both his and mine), and salty snacks. He wasn't alway the smartest bird, and spent his whole life trying to figure out how to open the door to the cage (something my first parakeet figured out very quickly). He also spent a lot of time hanging on the side of the cage, picking his toes off the wires one at a time, until he went crashing to the bottom of the cage. Not the sharpest crayon in the box.

Charlie even had his 15 minutes of fame when Dan was on Jeopardy! During the contestant interviews, Alex Trebek asked Dan about the pet parakeet, and Dan told him about Charlie's R2D2 sounds. Famous!

I miss you lots, sweet bird. I miss seeing you run to the side of the cage to greet me when I uncover you in the morning. I miss your constant whistling and chatter; the house is quieter without you... and not in a good way. Please don't read into it too much that Mae wants to immediately replace you with a new bird. ("No? Okay, how 'bout a doggy? No? Okay, we'll get a kitty.") I hope you are enjoying everything that birdy heaven has to offer. You deserve it.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

cherry blossoms

Mae has been a little resistant to having her photos taken recently. She's a total ham for my phone camera, but she pouts as soon as I pull out the DSLR. I think she senses my anxiety when I'm trying to get a "special occasion" photo.

When the cherry blossoms bloomed a few weeks ago, I took Mae to the park with the big camera. I led her underneath a beautiful cherry tree with flowers cascading to the ground all around us and took off my lens cap. Activate toddler defenses! She used every trick in the book: pouting, jelly legs, and running away while giggling (so cute, so frustrating.) I dug deep into my arsenal of bribes. (I'll give you a treat when we get home! We can go to the swings after we take photos!) But she didn't want pleading, stressed mom. She wanted silly, playtime mom.

We moved to another spot and talked about the flowers and the bees for a bit. Then we played one of her current favorite games, sure to induce a giggle fit.

Mae: Mom, sing a song.
Me (in a quiet, lullabye voice): Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you greet me. Small and white ...
Mae: Sing it loud!!!
*cue giggles*

Mae also struck up a conversation with a couple who was out for a walk. She told them that daddy was at home because he has an ouchy head. They told her that daddy was probably suffering from allergies. I told them that a more likely culprit was the wedding we attended the previous night.

We finished our park visit with a ride on the swings. Plus, I gave Mae a pink frosted fortune cookie I'd snagged from the wedding reception. I think she earned both for this photo shoot.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

butterflies with granE

I have LOTS of blog catching up to do.

Last month, GranE came for a long weekend "maecation." We had a fun visit... hitting up the usual spots (coffee shop) and a new one (butterfly exhibit). Here's my interview with Mae about the highlights of the weekend.

Caitlin: I'm gonna show you some pictures from GranE's visit. Do you want to help tell me about them?
Mae: Yeah.
C: What are we* doing here?
M: Eating some jellaayy beans. (This kid has Easter on the brain.)
C: Jelly beans? That's not jelly beans. What is that?
M: Jelly cookie.
C: Jelly cookie. Where are you?
M: We're at the coffee store. Wif GranEEEEE.

*I finally got to tag along on the Mae/GranE morning coffee visit, and it was everything I'd hoped for!

Mae stayed home with GranE on Thursday while I went to work, so we got lots of fun photos throughout the day.

Caitlin: What were you doing in this picture?
Mae: Making some baby's food. Then it dropped on the floor and said "OH NO!!"
C: Ha. We took a good video of that didn't we.
M: GranEEE.
C: What did you make for baby for breakfast?
M: Salad and carrots.
C: And what's in the cup?
M: Coffee.
C: For baby??
M: Yeah.
C: That's silly.

*Interview pauses while we go outside to watch a group of runners pass*

Caitlin: What are you doing here?
Mae: Riding my bike by myself.
C: (Trying to prompt her about the cute new outfits that GranE brought...) What about your clothes. Tell me about your pants that you're wearing.
M: Hedgehog pants.
(Which doesn't make sense until you see her shirt in the following picture.)

On Saturday morning, we went to the butterfly exhibit at the conservatory. There were butterflies everywhere!

Caitlin: Can you tell me what we were doing in this picture?
Mae: Going to see the butterflies. GranE and Daddy and Mae and Mommy.

Caitlin: What did you like about the butterflies?
Mae: Papers.
C: What did you do with the papers?
M: Try to hold it up, but that butterfly, that one butterfly, doesn't come on the paper! ... I tooted.
C: You did.

Mae: (Eating a Kit Kat.) This is crunchy.
Caitlin: It is crunchy. What are you doing in this picture?
Mae: Hugging GranE!

Lastly, Here's some drawing Mae prepared for GranE's visit. This is Daddy, Mae, and GranE (from left to right). She has entered the "tadpole" drawing phase, where people are just large heads with stick limbs. I particularly love the large, staring eyes and blankly dissatisfied expressions. Each week the drawings evolve to have new details like eyebrows or toes. (So many toes...)

And here are my other favorite drawings from the week. Can you tell what they are?

I think the crab on the left is pretty obvious, but the guys on the right are neither caterpillars nor anthropomorphic spines. You have to use your imagination to picture snowmen with that many body segments!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

warp speed

I've been working my way through my crafty Christmas gifts!

First up, a Kobuk hat knit in Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted Tweed (thank you, Eileen and Dad!) in the colorway Smoke. I've been dying for an excuse to buy one of these super soft pom-poms, so I snagged one at my local yarn store during a recent shopping trip with Kathy. As is tradition, I had to re-knit this hat multiple times to get the sizing right. Good thing hats are so quick!

Next up, a pair of Fiesta Mittens! These were knit with the very colorful Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino and black Berroco Ultra Wool Fine. There's a different stitch pattern on the front and back of the mitten, which really shows off the Koigu yarn!

Since I was feeling a bit guilty about my selfish knitting, I decided to make a few things for Mae. First, a kid-sized pair of Fiesta Mittens. I simplified the thumb a bit, so I was able to finish these up in just a couple days. She loves them!

Finally, a totally new-to-me craft: weaving! Dan bought me a 15" rigid heddle loom (Schacht Cricket) for Christmas, and I've been itching to try it out. The loom came with 2 balls of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted, so I warped with the purple color (Boysenberry) and wove with the blue (Fanciful Blue). It took me a few inches to get the edges looking okay, but it was so fun (and quick!) once I got the hang of it. Expect to see more weaving projects (and therefore more blog titles with weaving-related puns)!

Details on my Ravelry page for the Kobuk hat, Fiesta Mittens, kid-sized Fiesta Mittens, and the woven scarf.

Monday, March 4, 2019

wains world

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the new wainscoting in our dining room. Considering how much time and planning went into this trim work, I think it deserves a little more attention that just a sentence or two! We opted for picture frame moulding, attaching rectangles made of thin wooden trim (like picture frames) directly to the plaster or drywall. Picture frame moulding is the easier and more cost-effective cousin of the more traditional recessed panel wainscoting.

Our dining room already had a chair rail installed, so we worked around that existing feature. I love the look of white paneling below the chair rail and a deeper color above, though some people opt for the darker (and visually heavier) color below the rail instead.

There seem to be two approaches to installing the picture frame moulding. One camp prefers to pre-assemble the squares using precise measurements and a jig to get perfect 90 degree corners. When the boxes are made, they attach them to the wall. The second camp measures and attaches each piece as they go, building the square directly on the wall. We weighed (and argued about) the two options extensively, but ultimately decided that the second method would work better for several reasons. Our walls are not square, level, or flat. We were worried that a perfectly square box wouldn't line up with both the chair rail and the baseboard. We were also worried that it would be hard to attach the pre-assembled box in parts of the room where the wall bows outwards slightly. Attaching the pieces one-by-one to these bulged wall sections allowed for a bit more flexibility.

To start the process, I used a section of 2x4 as a guide to mark the outline of the boxes on the walls. A 2x4 is actually about 3.5" wide, which was approximately the spacing I wanted from the chair rail and baseboards. This ensured that the tops and bottoms of the boxes would run parallel to the rail, and it seemed more important visually to be parallel than perfectly level. Next I precisely measured each side of each box. No box was a perfect rectangle with all sides being slightly different lengths, which reinforced our choice of method 2 (building boxes on the walls instead of pre-assembling). We added up all the measurements, added 10% for scrap/mistakes, and spent an hour selecting the straightest trim pieces at the hardware store.

At this point, I wanted nothing more to do with this project. Over it. I just wanted it done. I was stressed about finishing the project and worried that it wouldn't turn out with how much time/thought I'd already put into it. Plus, power tools make me a little skittish. So, I called in the reinforcements. Dad came to visit for the weekend, and brought along two critical tools: a power miter saw and a nail gun with air compressor. While we COULD have accomplished this project with a miter box and a regular hammer with a nail punch, Dan and Dad were able to finish cutting and installing all the trim in one Saturday (while Mom and I entertained Mae).

Over the course of the next week, I primed (to cover my pencil marks), filled, spackled, caulked, and painted the trim and walls. The caulk helped to hide all the (very minor) sins of my trim installers like nail gouges and slight imperfections at the corners. I chose the color that most closely matched the existing chair rail and window trim so I wouldn't have to repaint those also (untinted Sherwin Williams semi-gloss superpaint... very glamorous).

I'm so pleased with how the trim turned out. It's added a lot of drama to a previously drab room. While it wasn't a difficult or expensive project, it did take a lot of planning and effort. Well worth it, in my opinion!

Saturday, February 23, 2019


Today is the one year anniversary of moving into our house! I spend so much time dwelling on my to-do list, that I thought it would be fun to look back on my did-it list. So here's a look at everything that's changed since we moved in!

While it was nice to start with a "blank slate," the cream-colored walls (and ceilings) quickly started to wear on me. We bought this house for so many practical reasons (location, price, space, layout), but I have struggled to build an emotional connection to it. Each time I finish painting a room, the house feels a little more like home.

First up, our entryway. We changed out the light fixture (does a bare light bulb qualify as a "light fixture?") for a lantern-style pendant. I painted the door in SW Dignity Blue. And I spent an embarrassing amount of money, effort, and time replacing the corroded brass door handle and trim set. (Worth it.) New shutters and landscaping are still in the future.

Next, one of the most impactful painting projects I've done: the built-in bookshelves in our living room. They just needed a little love when we moved in. We replaced a section of shelving, and I painted the back SW Web Gray. I love the dark backing, which really helps to show off all our pretty books and knick-knacks. We've been seriously hurting for bookshelf space since we "hacked" the IKEA shelves in our old house, and these give us plenty of room to grow our library. Plus, I get to display my vintage puzzles and my charm box.

The rest of the living room is painted SW Liveable Green with patterned curtains from IKEA. The room could use some decor (lamps, console table), but I'm very proud of my thrifty fern pictures. I downloaded the pictures for free, printed them at Staples, and put them in cheap frames from Michael's.

The dining room is probably our crowning achievement to date. We replaced the light fixture with this fantastic one from West Elm and added a ceiling medallion. I painted the ceiling a crisp white. Over the course of a weekend, Dan and Dad installed the wainscoting/moulding below the existing chair rail. I caulked and painted the bottom white and the top SW Green Bay. The color took me a while to choose, but I love how it works with the curtains (IKEA again).

I'm currently searching for the perfect wall decorations. I have one item that's made the cut, Dan's watercolor print of Cafe 210 West from Penn State. The original frame, a dark wood, blended into the walls too much so I refinished it using Rub 'n Buff (ridiculous name, excellent product). I blended gold and silver to make this champagne silver color. I also replaced the gray matte with a white one.

I decorated Mae's playroom shortly after we moved in. This room is an addition off our kitchen and has been great for keeping the toys contained and not exploding all over our living space. I bought the flower painting from Target and the colorful rug online (Wayfair, they had just what I need). I made the Valentine's garland from felt hearts and baker's twine. It looks so cute in here, I might just leave it up year-round!

I'm also growing a mini-jungle in the bay window. This room gets so much light! Plus, it's the perfect spot for my Flying Pig poster.

Next up, our bedroom. I used the same color card as our old bedroom (SW Dovetail), but several shades lighter (SW Repose Gray). The rug is from HomeGoods, and I finally bought new bedding from Macy's after pining for this comforter set for a few months. My favorite thing in the room (besides our wedding pictures of course) is the gold wire-framed mirror from Pier 1 that hangs over our dresser.

Are you wondering what happened to Mae's art gallery that used to adorn the wall over my desk? Don't worry, it has found a new home leading up the stairs! I need to swap out some of these pictures soon, but I just love her tiny handprint art!

Okay, I'm bending the rules a little here... I actually finished Mae's room before we moved in. I kept everything the same as her old nursery, to ease the transition to our new house. (Actually, it was because I just wasn't ready to give up her confetti curtains after working so hard on them.) A new blackout roll shade keeps the room dark for nap time. I installed trim pieces to separate the walls from the dormer ceilings, so I could paint the ceilings white and the walls Sherwin Williams Rainwashed. We had a custom-sized piece of carpet bound by a local flooring store, which is an affordable way to get a large, decent-quality area rug. (Yep, Mae's still in a crib. She hasn't realized that she could easily climb out. I'm hoping we don't have to give up her cage... erh, crib... any time soon. Giant Knit Bunny agrees with me.)

I haven't yet done anything with our office, kitchen, guest bedroom, or upstairs bath, so you'll have to wait on photos of those rooms. However, there is one last space that deserves a mention: this pink paradise.

Sure, it looks good here, but our main floor guest + master bathroom is in need of some serious love. It has cracked tiles, dated (not original) fixtures, and a general air of... sadness. Fingers crossed, we will have a contractor gutting this beauty in about a month. I can't wait!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

camas blouse

Another sewing project... This is the Camas Blouse pattern by Thread Theory Designs made with a solid-color Laguna knit by Robert Kaufman and an Art Gallery Fabrics knit print called "Bougainvillea." I was pleasantly surprised to see how well these fabrics pair together; it's really hard to order coordinating colors with online color swatches! Both fabrics are from Hawthorne Threads.

I made a size 8, with only a small modification to make the neckline a bit higher in the front. It's still not quite high enough to skip wearing a cami underneath, so I might bring it up a little more if I make this pattern again. The shirt is very wide/boxy, so it would probably look better in a fabric with more drape. Alternatively, I could bring the sides in a bit at the waist.

I interfaced the outer placket only, using Pellon EK130 knit interfacing. I'm not sure if this helped or hindered the already tricky placket assembly. My anxiety level rose quickly while attaching the stretchy, non-interfaced shirt body to the much more stabilized outer placket. (Dan wisely slunk out of the room when he noticed an increase in my grumbly mumbling.) Next time I might forego the interfacing. I didn’t make buttonholes and instead stitched the buttons through both layers to hold the front shut. The shirt works just fine as a pullover.

I finished this shirt in the fall, but hadn't worn it until our trip to Las Vegas. With it's low neckline and 3/4 sleeves, it's a better top for transitional weather than chilly winter days.