Thursday, March 26, 2009

Update on the birds

It was looking promising for the Bluebirds. I even got a picture of the male, sitting on top of the house Saturday morning.
Saturday afternoon, the Bluebirds and a pair of House Sparrows were squabbling over the house and by Sunday, it appeared that the House Sparrows had won. There was no sign of the Bluebirds all day and the House Sparrows were very busily filling the house with grass. The male also spent a lot of time "dancing" around on the roof.

According to various birding sites, I have two choices:
1. Keep pulling the House Sparrow nests out until they give up and move on, giving the Bluebirds a chance to move back in.
2. Put up a second house within 5 feet for the Bluebirds.

Here's what I'm thinking:
1. I feel really bad destroying all that hard work, it just seems mean. I know that House Sparrows are an invasive species, i.e., non-native, but that still does not make it feel right.
2. In theory, this may work, because House Sparrows are so aggressive and territorial, they won't allow another House Sparrow to nest so closely but will tolerate a more passive bird, like a Bluebird, in their territory. But, this is also the more expensive option since it means buying a new house and new pole. And, does not guarantee that Bluebirds will move in rather than some other species.

I think I'm going to go by my local bird store this weekend and talk to them.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sneak peak - wip

The past two Tuesdays, I have taken a quilting class at my local quilt shop. Both days, class was from 10:30-12:30 and I got to work around 1:30, taking a half-day of vacation.

I had a blast and can not wait to take another class.

In the first session, we discussed our color choices, in terms of what types of themes and combinations tend to work with the pattern being used for the class. I had already picked my theme and fabrics ahead of time, based on the instructor's recommendations on the class reminder so I was glad we didn't spend too much time on the topic.

Next we moved on to the cutting. This quilt is easy in that you start off cutting all the same size strips, in pairs. Then you cut some of the strip pairs into smaller pieces and sew some of the others together, then cut. I sewed almost half of my strip sets together and had already created one block when I realized my needle position was off and my seams were 3/8", not 1/4". That may not seem like much, but when you have multiple seems, it adds up quickly.

After moving my needle, and double-checking the seam width BEFORE sewing anymore, I completed sewing my strip sets and it was time to leave. The instructor mentioned that we were not expected to finish all of our blocks prior to the second class but the more that was done, the more time we could spend on the quilt layouts, which for this quilt pattern are numerous.

I spent that evening ripping out all of my wrong seams while watching TV.

Seems odd to say this, but I felt so energized all day by the creativity (I think because it occurred in the morning, not at the end of the day when I'm already tired), that I was really hyper (and productive) all day at work and even had a hard time sleeping that night.

I spent the next couple of days resewing the corrected strip sets and the messed up block, creating blocks from the strip sets, and cutting additional strips sets. By the time the next class rolled around, all 64 of my blocks were done! In less than a week! I can't even believe it myself, the blocks go together so quickly with this pattern and the results are so beautiful, I can't wait to do another quilt in this pattern but using different fabrics.

I picked this quilting class and the fabrics with a particular person and gift already in mind and since the intended recipient may be the only person who actually reads my blog and the quilt is supposed to be a surprise, I'm not going to show much.

Some of the fabrics, in stacks, before class
As I started working on the blocks, I added some fabrics and removed others.

Sneak peak of blocks

I spent the ENTIRE second class, yes, 2 hours worth, working on the layout of my quilt. At first, I thought I would follow a very uniformed pattern but was surprised when it felt dull and too ... well ... blockey, which is funny to say since its a quilt, made of blocks put together to form bigger blocks.

After trying a couple of other semi-patterned, semi-random layouts, I was feeling overwhelmed and a little lost. But, that's the nice thing about a class - you can ask the instructor and your classmates what they think and maybe, if you are lucky, the ladies working in your shop are nice enough to offer their opinions as well and help you rearrange your blocks. In the end, I decided on a completely random pattern, but getting it completely random, making sure that colors and combinations are spread evenly throughout, was hard.

I carefully stacked my blocks and pinned and labeled rows so I'll be able to duplicate the layout at home before I start sewing the blocks together. Luckily, one of the ladies in the class finished her layout a few minutes before class ended so the instructor had her sew one block of four blocks together so she could show us a few tricks to handle the seams - which will make a very big difference, especially when I start quilting. With her method, I won't have to deal with a terrible amount of bulk, right in the middle of each block.

After its been delivered, I'll post more about the completed project.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New neighbors

This past weekend, I put up the bluebird house I got for Christmas. I knew it needed to get up soon since the bluebirds start nesting mid-March in our area.

I had a pole mounted feeder in the back garden and when the hubby bought the house, he had a bracket added to the bottom so it could replace the feeder on the pole. That works out great since it is a 6' pole and the hole for a bluebird house should be 6-8' above the ground. I just wasn't sure about the current location. After a little internet research, I decided it would be perfect - open to a field (our little backyard) and 4-5' from a place for the fledglings to roost (our dogwood tree and fence).

So, Saturday morning, while dad was in class, the kids and I headed outside to put up the house, install a new shepard's pole feeder system, and hang our new suet feeder. It was overcast and chilly so little hugs didn't last long. Switching out the house for the feeder was quick and installing the new pole wasn't too bad, although, my shoulder has been bothering me so screwing it into the ground wasn't the easiest thing to do. I put the pole in the garden under the family room window with the hope that we could sit on the sofa and watch the birds out the window.

After some snacks indoors, we headed to the home improvement store to pick up another feeder to hang, a rake, garden gloves for mom and the kiddos, and a mole sonic spike to chase away the voles (not moles) which are destroying the grass along our sidewalk.

When we got home, we hung up the new feeder and sat down for lunch, then dad arrived. He and our neighbor had rented a thatcher and aerator to do the lawns, which was the reason we needed the rake.

While he and the kids finished lunch, I got started on the thatching. The machine wasn't too hard to use and really pulled up a lot of dead grass. I only did the main part of the front yard, which is small, and then headed inside to relieve dad and put the kids down for naps. Dad headed outside to continue the thatching and I joined him to rake. When he finished the thatching, he starting aerating, raked areas first. When the lawn work was done, we did some pruning and finished spring cleaning the front gardens. It had been raining for a while at this point and it was chilly, but it was nice to get so much work done on the yard. We filled 4 lawn bags with dead grass and and clippings. Our yard is now ready for the spring!

All day Saturday, I checked on the feeders and never saw a single guest. But, with as much noise and activity going on, that was probably to be expected.

That night, we headed to the in-law's house for a St. Patrick's day party. My brother-in-law and one of his friends brew their own beer every year for this event - black duck (our last name translated from gaelic) stout. As usual, a lot of friends, family, and neighbors joined the celebration and the food was great. We left late, sometime after 10, and the kids feel asleep almost instantly so our 45 min drive home was quiet.

Imagine my surprise when we woke on Sunday to not only find the feeders covered in birds, but a pair of bluebirds checking out the house. They seem to have decided to keep it - we watched them chase other birds off the roof and when a small chickadee took a peak inside, they were right there to scare him away. They went in and out all day but I saw no signs of nesting materials - I'm guessing that's because its raining and they don't want wet grass to rot in their house. We spent most of the day watching the "birdy-birds", as little hugs and shmoo put it, and looking them up in the bird book.

I'll try to get some pictures of our feathered neighbors this weekend and post them soon.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow day

We got a little snow - about 5-6".

Dad had been watching the weather starting Saturday. We wanted to go to Tyson's Corner on Sunday, to watch and participate in the Master Lego building event to create an 8 foot tall Lego Yoda.

The projected accumulation for our area continued to grow but as the forecast moved the storm to later and later Sunday afternoon, then evening, we decided to venture out.

The kids love going to Tyson's, aka The Big Mall or Daddy's Mall (because its across from dad's office), and they both thought the Yoda (still under construction) was cool. The event had a variety of tables - one where you could build lego people, a duplo (bigger blocks) lego table, another table with assembled lego food (which was glued together) and a photo album, and several different "brick" building stations. A "brick" is a lot of regular lego pieces put together to create one large brick which is then used on the model. Each brick building station had an instruction sheet with the specifications.

Shmoo instantly started building his first brick while little hugs had fun putting together lego people, checking out the lego food models, and looking at some of the pictures. She used to call them "lee-gos" which was super cute but now, its plain old legos. After watching his first brick be added to the model, the shmoo was so excited, he had to create 4 more bricks.

Then, we headed off to pick up the participation certificate at the Lego store, take care of a little shopping, and eat. After dinner, and dessert at Coldstone, little hugs and I went to the bead store while dad and shmoo headed off to see the Yoda be completed. Luckily, they got there just in time and, from above, were able to watch the last couple of bricks be added and see streamers shot off. Extremely exciting stuff.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera. Dad used his cell phone but without a flash, the picture is useless.

Edited to add: Dad found this link. The guy on right with the red shirt is dad, the kid in front of him, leaning against the rail in the grey striped shirt is the shmoo.

The snow had started by the time we left but it wasn't bad yet. Over night, we got about 3". Daycare and work were open but, our streets didn't get plowed until the afternoon so we all stayed home.

Here are a few shots of the snow from this morning:
And a few of the shmoo playing this afternoon:
Little hugs would barely step off the sidewalk and then didn't do anything except stand in the snow:
Darby LOVES snow. The breeder we got her from in NC was worried about her being a short-haired dog and living in a climate that usually gets some snow every year. Nothing to worry about, that dog would stay out in the snow longer and more often, if we'd only let her.
Most of those tracks are her's - from running around like a crazy nut!

Its supposed to stay below freezing for the next day or two so this snow will probably hang around until Thursday or Friday.

Stay warm!

They came from South Carolina . . .

. . . for a weekend visit (2 weekends ago). The grandparents - Babci and Grampy - that is, not some aliens.

We had a very nice weekend.

Saturday, was a quiet day. Uncle Sean came up and joined us. Then, the girls (and Sean) went to the bead shop while the boys ran some errands. Having Uncle Sean to entertain little hugs in the store was great - Babci and mom looked at beads (and bought) for over an hour! He kept her busy the whole time, first having her clean up the beads that had been dropped on the floor and handing them to the shop staff. Then, he answered her questions - "what is this?", "its a bead", "oh, a bead, what's this?", "this is also a bead", "oh, and what's this?", "a bead" (surprise!).

That evening, we went to Macaroni Grill for dinner. Luckily for the grandparents, who had been freezing since arriving in the great north (Maryland), we were seated next to the fireplace. Dinner was nice, but there was a problem with the order and poor Uncle Sean had to wait a while for his meal. Service was a little slow, probably more so for the grandparents, which is surprising since people in the south are supposed to enjoy a slower pace of life.☺ The kids had fun drawing all over the tablecloth and stayed entertained for the duration of the meal.

After kid bedtime, dad and Grampy watched an HBO movie, "Taking Chance", while the ladies worked on the crossword and sudoku. The movie is a true story about the trip a Marine escort takes to return the body of a young Marine to his family. For the full synopsis, go here. I think the guys enjoyed the movie and I, while trying not to watch a sad story, had a hard time not getting sucked in to parts of it.

Sunday, after mass, we headed to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. The kids had never been and its been years since either of us have been there - college for me, probably high school for the hubby. Uncle Sean meet us there and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The shmoo was fascinated by the various planes and rocket ships and couldn't resist running from display to display. Little hugs seemed less interested but still had fun. She's been talking about the "airplane and rocket museum" ever since and can't wait to go back.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

Pile on the bed (air mattress in the living room):
Not to leave out the Darby dog:
Some shots from the museum:

Serious man-to-man discussion about rockets:
The trip home on the Metro:
A little coloring with Babci Monday morning:
Everyone was sad to see the grandparents go on Monday although, I think the kids were much more affected - both had a terrible day at daycare. Little hugs received her first incident report (ever!) for kicking a friend. Definitely worse day ever. The shmoo had some trouble controlling his anger (short fuse, followed by yelling and stomping) and managed to get into a lot of mischief with his main partner-in-crime. Not sure it was the worst day ever but it made the top 5 list.

We're already looking forward to another visit. Hopefully next time will be a beach somewhere or in South Carolina with a ride on grampy's boat - this is something both kids are looking forward to.