Thursday, 31 July 2014

On the needles: Striped Boatneck Sweater

I managed to finish this jumper for Jimmy, in time for his birthday!! It was fresh off the knitting needles 1 week before the big day, giving me a week to sew all the seams. Sewing seams is really satisfying. All it needs is to be blocked lightly and then we just have to wait until the seasons change, so that it's actually cool enough for Jimmy to wear it.

I'm really proud of how it's come out. The pattern is from a lovely book titled What To Knit When You're Expecting. I bought it in my 3rd trimester, which was a slight oversight on my part. Ah well... I cast-on the sleeping bag while in hospital but Jimmy grew very quickly, quicker than I could knit, so it's still unfinished...

Because of this, I was really worried that if I followed the pattern for the Striped Boatneck Sweater, it would be too small for Jimmy when it was needed, so I added a 2 stitches to every piece that was knitted. I had bought the yarn used in the book, it's lovely and light but it should be lovely and warm too, but I knit tightly so I had to check my gauge to see if I needed to go up 1 or 2 needle size. After checking my gauge, I went up 1 needle size, because the knitted swatch was too open, and then used instructions for the largest size. I figured that by going up 1 needle size and adding the extra stitches the sweater would be a little too large for a mid year winter but about the right size by New Years.

We were starting to pack up when I started the body of the sweater, and I finished the second body piece before leaving Australia. Once we were moved into our apartment I started on the sleeves and decided to knit both at the same time... It was slow going and some nights I didn't have the headspace for 4 balls of wool but it was worth it.

When it came to attaching the sleeves I couldn't use the measurements from the pattern, so I gently stretched out the sewn sleeves, measured the large opening, and pinned and sewed the side seams. Then I attached the sleeves. This seems to have worked and the sleeves sit well in the body.

While we're yet to see the sweater on Jimmy, it is nice and long, and roomy too. He's going to look so dapper!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A glimpse of the Riley County Fair!

At playgroup on Friday, I was talking to another mum and she mentioned taking her children over to the County Fair in the morning to see the animals, and I thought it'd be fun to head over there too. Michael agreed. We headed out on Saturday morning, early enough to head to uni first and then go to the Fair and be home before the day reached its predicted high and before the predicted storm.

Sunday, 27 July 2014


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2014"

Jimmy: Pooped. Asleep on the bus home from the Riley County Fair.

He stayed awake for all the horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, produce and craft displays, and lunch. And then we went home because it was going to be hot. Photo taken by Michael.

Pride before a fall...

We had Jimmy's 12 month checkup and vaccinations last week. I have to admit I was a little sad that we weren't seeing our GP in Brisbane. Ah well, the doctor we saw was friendly and we had a good chat. Of course Jimmy was weighed and measured by a nurse before we actually saw the doctor and another nurse administered the jabs, but at least the room we were in had windows and we didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes between seeing each of them, unlike our experience when I had mastitis.

Jimmy was really good while the nurse weighed and measured him - no squirming or fussing (win #1) - and

Thursday, 24 July 2014


As a means to deal with the differences between Brisbane and Manhattan, KS, once a week I'm going to make a note of one thing that we're missing, i.e. our little herb garden, and counter that with one thing that we're enjoying, i.e. squirrels! and how we can just enjoy them and not have to think about having to protect a small garden from squirrels, rabbits, or raccoons (if that even is an issue...).

Now, I'm not really missing the garden at our old place in Brisbane because I could never spend much time out there because of the midgies, they would also go for Jimmy in about 10 mins, so that spoilt the garden. Michael is missing it more than I am because he enjoyed working in it, after being in the office or lab all day, but we are both missing that place and our old neighbours, especially E and B.

So, we're missing our old lifestyle, our friends and family. It's been particularly difficult these past few weeks as we're missing my/our mothers group and all the first birthday celebrations. While we have managed to celebrate, and celebrate in good form, it's been bittersweet. It's been tough. Thank goodness for fast internet and things like Skype! They might not be as good as real hugs and real people, but it's better than nothing.

What are we enjoying?


Yes, we are enjoying the different types of birds too, so we're enjoying the different wildlife that resides in Manhattan, KS. Squirrels, rabbits, red cardinals, doves, blue jays, and hopefully we'll see an alive raccoon one day...

Blue Jay at Cico Park, photo taken by Michael
But this week, I'm really enjoying that the Riley County Playgroup is back on! We've been two days in a row, and we would have made it today but Jimmy decided to passout at 9:20 am. Oh well, we'll probably end up going tomorrow. Jimmy loves it, and we've made a few friends there which is really great because it fills the social gap - mumma's need socialising too.

Just having the biggest nap. Ever.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Another open letter to Summer...

Dear Summer,

You appear to have not received my original letter, or if you have, you were just toying with me last week and that was cruel joke.

Last week was lovely! It was a taste of Autumn... oh it was excellent! Although, Jimmy was pretty put out by the effect it had on the pool.

This week? This heat is too much. Too much. Please stop it. Please keep daily maximums below 32 degrees C. This 38 degree C, or higher, business has to stop, even though I'm pretty sure you're just getting started. Lower nighttime temperatures would be great too, I mean, does it really have to be 31 degrees C at 10:40 pm?

Please, Summer, stop it. Please, hurry up and go away.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

We went back...

Back to the Creamery! We all walked to uni on Saturday, so that Michael could do 10 minutes of sciencing, and then we walked to the extra 5-10 minutes to get to the Creamery. We tried different ice creams, and shared some cherry yoghurt and caramel jell-o pudding ice cream. Yummy... And then we stared at some chocolates in the display before walking home.

On our way through K-State, before having our ice cream, Michael spotted this cheeky squirrel, and it reminded me of possums around UQ. Photo credits go to Michael.

Monday, 21 July 2014


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2014"

Jimmy: driving around the living room, collecting toys and a balloon, in his new car.

We're constantly singing The Wiggles' "Toot, toot, chugga, chugga, big red car!", playing with Jimmy's new red car, or driving him around in his big brown car, making car noises, picking up friends for a ride, visiting the "library" to return and borrow books, and just generally doing car-y things. And all thanks to a few select presents, especially the presents that came in the box because it's the best box for being a car. Vroom!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

And now for something completely different...

We were having lunch at uni with Michael, as we do, sitting outside, under some lovely big trees, watching squirrels and birds, while Jimmy mashed his cold pizza into our clothes, when I noticed that the leaves we were sitting amongst looked, well, odd and not like the round leaves on the trees above us. 

The leaves had a stem at their base and a stem that poked out, about halfway along the leaf. And then I looked closer and discovered that the second stem was actually connected to berries, and in some cases dried flowers, which meant that the leaves were not simply leaves at all! 

They protect the developing flowers in their sepals! I'll admit that I was, ok, I am still rather excited, but it's all a little confusing because Michael and I can't work out what to call these leaves... Are they sepals? Well, they house multiple flowers with their own sepals, so no. Are they leaves? Petioles? 

Oh it doesn't matter really, but the biologist in me is still interested in working it out. We'd never seen anything like it and were, still are, a little taken by it. 

The tree in question is an American Basswood (Tilia americana L.)  it's native to Kansas, and many other parts of the USA to the north, south, and east of us. 

Thanks go to a pizza smeared Michael for the lovely photos and for finding the links.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cheap thrills: Oti (or making the place smell like Christmas)

Once I started to get excited about celebrating Jimmy's birthday, I wanted to do it properly. And part of doing it properly is having oti, an Indian ginger and chilli drink that my Dad makes for Christmas and other family celebrations. Oti is served cold but it packs a punch, but what really makes it special is what it does to my parents house on the evening it is brewed...

Ginger, cinnamon, lemon, cloves, and caramel notes fill the house, which already smells wonderfully of fresh pine and baking gingerbread... This is what Christmas smells like.

I think it was the warm night and fireflies that we saw on the 4th of July that made me think of oti.

My family's recipe comes from a cookbook* that was written in the 60s or 70s, by a group of women associated with the Vellore Christian Medical College**, Tamil Nadu, India. Some of the recipes are Anglicized, while others are more traditional, and with a few (basic) Indian spices, most of them can be prepared in any kitchen, anywhere in the world. And as the College had staff (and family) from places as far flung as the UK and Australia, I thought*** the intention of the authors of the book was just that - it would allow people to recreate the tastes of Vellore (and South India) in their kitchens.

My parents came into possession of a copy of this book because my Grandad taught at the Medical College as a professor of medicine from the mid 1950s to sometime in the 1970s, and he and my Granny brought up their 4 children, including my Mum, in Vellore. The children were sent to boarding school in Melbourne, Australia, once they were close to starting high school, but they came away from Vellore with a fondness for the people, the culture, and the food, and they have passed this deep appreciation onto their spouses and children.

I suspect that the book and subsequent editions are no longer in print, and if they are, you'd have to be at the College to know where to go to buy a copy. I also suspect that most families in India have their own recipes for oti. The following is my family's variation on the one that was published all those years ago in Vellore, although I think my Dad adds 4 cardamom pods to the dry frying pan. Play around with the amounts of chilli, ginger, and caramelisation of the sugar, until you get something that suits your tastes.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 cloves
  • 2.5 full length cinnamon sticks
  • 3-6 red chillies, dry or fresh
  • 2.5 litres water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 9 cm fresh ginger, sliced or grated
  • 1 lemon, finely sliced

Dry fry the cloves, cinnamon sticks, and chillies (I used 3 fresh chillies, which provided a nice level of heat while still being enjoyable), until their scent fills the kitchen. 

In a large pot**** caramelise the 1/2 cup of sugar with a few drops of water. The depth of colour here will determine how dark the oti is, but be careful not to go too dark because the last thing you want is to burn the sugar. Even slightly burnt sugar will affect the final taste of the oti. 

Once the sugar is caramelised and close to the colour you want it, carefully add the water, followed by the rest of the sugar, ginger, and dry fried ingredients. Boil the mix, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the sliced lemon. Leave overnight to cool, covered. Strain, bottle, refrigerate, and enjoy in small glasses! 

This recipe makes about 2 litres of oti, which should last about 2 weeks in the fridge. Unless you drink it all in the first week... just like we did. Before I managed to take a photo of the finished drink. Looks like I'll just have to make some more...

My Dad's oti, in progress, Dec 2012

*The book in the photo is a copy of the original because my parents copy was falling to pieces and we, the children, were moving out of home and needed our own copies.
**Mum, don't go to the website, it'll make you homesick for Vellore (I recognise some of the buildings from photos you've shown me, and that old video of Grandad).
***My Dad has informed me, see the comments, that the book came from a dinner in Melbourne, hosted by the Friends of Vellore Association, for former members of staff at the Medical College, but see the comments for more details.
****If your pot is dark, like mine, do this step in something that allows you to see the colour of the sugar as it caramelises, and then carefully but quickly add it to the 2.5 litres of water before it goes beyond the colour you want.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Swimmy Jimmy First Birthday Pool Party!

Well, it was organised and grandparents told to call in for the cake. Friends of ours would actually be there - this wasn't just going to be a virtual party where Michael, Jimmy, and I would eat all the cake

And we all had such a good time that no one thought to take a single photo. We were far too busy enjoying the pool, managing not to get sunburnt, Skyping and FaceTiming grandparents, and eating cake. That's right, one of the most photographed babies around was not photographed blowing out his first birthday candle. Crazy, right.
The cake: homemade sponge with cream, blueberries, and raspberries.

Did I mention we had lots of fun? And that we enjoyed sharing our Jimmy-bubba's first birthday with other first time parents and Jimmy's grandparents? Do I need to tell you that the pool was the perfect temperature and that the weather was perfect for a pool party? How about the fact that Jimmy seemed to have a really good time and really likes the presents he was given? But no photos of the actual event?

Ah well... Michael and I feel a little bit guilty about not taking a single photo for this momentous occasion, we do. Only time will tell if Jimmy forgives us for being more focused on his enjoyment, and the involvement of his grandparents, in the occasion. In the meantime, he's enjoying the wonders of a helium balloon and his very first (big red) car. 

All photos taken by Michael.

Monday, 14 July 2014


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2014"

Jimmy: Mucking about with Dadee's hat, wearing his new top from Grandma, during our birthday picnic lunch with Dadee at K-State. 

Jimmy's belly is full of blueberries that he helped himself to, from the open container, because he could. He is full of confidence, this boy is, and calm too. And even if he gets unsettled around new people or in new places, he usually only requires a cuddle (and perhaps a little nursing), and then he's good to keep going. 

He's also hilarious. 

And he's one. He's a one year old. Oh gosh. Oh wow.

Photo credit: Michael

Sunday, 13 July 2014


Opening Birthday presents from Grandma
Well, yes, that year went fast. I mean, wow.

And yet, as Michael puts it, it's been such a natural transition from being a couple to being parents. We actually hardly remember what we did before we had Jimmy. He fills our days with such light, laughter, and joy. Babies are amazing. Our Jimmy-bubba is amazing.

And he's one. And I can't quite believe that we've had him for a whole year. So, we celebrated Jimmy, our Winter baby, we celebrated him as best we could in the US Summer.

We started with presents from Grandma, Granny & Pop, and Auntie K. An excellent selection of clothes and bath toys, books and Wiggles CD's, and some very Finnish books, respectively. Plus a newly finished jumper and a yellow ball from Mumma and Dadee.

And then breakfast! My parents started a nice birthday tradition of letting the birthday child choose what they wanted for breakfast on their birthday, although I'm pretty sure pancakes were off the menu on school days... Now, Jimmy is a little too young to express what he wants to eat, unless it's right in front and he doesn't want it, so we did a little guess work and went with fruit:

Yummy summer fruit, because we could. And Jimmy ate everything except a few blackberries. We were all full once we'd finished our plates. At one point, the conversation took a serious turn...

Hmmmm... it's ok, because someone told a joke, and it was apparently a good one :)

There is a tinge of sadness in all the excitement, because Jimmy is growing up so fast and those top teeth are the end of a truly gummy smile, but they open up a whole new world of food for our bubba. I'm going to have to stop calling him bubba soon... ok, maybe by his second birthday...

Naps and lunch with Dada followed breakfast. Yay - lunch with Dadee! It might be a regular activity, but lunch with Dada this week involved oti (a ginger drink, more soon), half a punnet of blueberries, and a 'big' yellow ball. Not to mention a new giraffe top from Grandma (it's this week's photo for the 52 Project).

Jimmy and I had the afternoon to ourselves, listening to the Wiggles and eating (and throwing) bananas. Jimmy really likes bananas, because he says "ah nana" and we give him a quarter of a banana, skin and all (he likes biting the skin... it's a little odd, but he has worked out how to peel the skin, he only does it when he wants to).

Once Dadee returned from work, we went to the pool. Have I mentioned that Jimmy loves swimming? The water is usually the perfect temperature for how hot it this week has been, and that day was no exception. The yellow ball and a rubber frog joined us, but it was all about the diving and splashing and kicking.

Oh my Swimmy Jimmy!

Then we had dinner and "cake". But with a bubba who wasn't going to sleep after sleeping on the walk home from lunch with Dadee, things had to be simple, so (frozen) pizza and ginger bread dinosaurs it was! 


I had thought to make banana bread and then put a dinosaur on top, plus a candle, but we had no means of lighting the candle, so we just went with fruit and dinosaurs.

Spending time with Jimmy in the evening, instead of the constant stream of "out of the kitchen", "no, you can't be in here, it's not safe for bubba's", etc, was the main reason for keeping the evening simple. Jimmy is highly unlikely to remember particulars about this day, or the pool party we're having on the weekend, but hopefully he will always remember that his birthday is a special day, because Mumma and Dadee spent time with him on his birthday. And at this age, time is more valuable than nice cake or potato masala (what I had originally planned for dinner).

Friday, 11 July 2014


Jimmy turned 1 this week. Yes. That's right. One year old. This photo was taken not long after Jimmy was born, just over a year ago.

Jimmy has been around the Sun one whole rotation since he was pulled from my belly, kicking and screaming (no, really, he screamed at the indignity of being so cold and exposed after the warmth of my uterus). He still kicks and screams, mostly when we wont let him do something, i.e. brush his teeth when he's only just cleaned them. Yep, that's my boy.

And that's just it: he's so much more boy now than baby. Oh don't get me wrong, he still likes being nursed to sleep, he's still in nappies, and he still can't walk. All of that will change in the next year. And then he'll be even further from the squishy, vernix covered, pink thing that he was when the doctors held him up for me to see, placenta still attached, telling the World that he had arrived (read: screaming newborn).

Words have been flowing in my head all week, describing how it all feels, what it's been like, what this little person means to Michael and me. Words flowing like a river, freely and fast, but my hands just haven't been able to catch them and transfer them to text. Like water, the words slip through my fingers before I get anywhere near a computer or paper and pen, and then they are gone and I'm left with the sensation but none of the substance. And then I look at Jimmy.

I look at Jimmy and my heart swells, it spills over with love and joy.

And then, on his birthday, as I was nursing him to sleep for his morning nap, and one word stuck. One simple, little word that always holds so much in its three letters, but it's not my word, and I didn't hear it in my voice.

It's a word my Auntie K uses when she's impressed with something, be it food, artwork, knitting or anything handmade, and she said it while sitting across from Jimmy and me, while we were all in Warwick for my Mum's birthday. In that one word she captured all the emotion of motherhood, all the joy and pride of a grandmother, all the realisations daughters have when they are become mothers and look at their parents in a new light, plus the added delight at watching Jimmy. And that word?


Happy Birthday little man! (More birthday related posts to come.)

Top photo taken by a theater nurse at the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital, using Michael's camera. All the others were taken by Michael.

Monday, 7 July 2014


"a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2014"

Jimmy: playing with Dada in the one cupboard in the kitchen that is safe for him (no glass, no plastic bags, no net bags of onions (onion skin is just plain annoying to clean up), just tins, a few really big plastic bottles of water, the tray for his highchair and Dada). And he's wearing shoes just for fun.

Michael's mum (Jimmy's Grandma) has a photo of Michael in a cupboard, when he was a bit older than Jimmy is now. We'll share it one day, if she sends us a copy. Jimmy and Michael were having so much fun, it was just adorable. At one point they were both in the cupboard and played "where's Jimmy?" with me (Jimmy specific peek-a-boo).

And the shoes? Well, Jimmy's been fascinated with our shoes for a while and as he's standing more and more, I thought it was about time to bring out the shoes some friends gave us, as the shoes no long fit their son. It's been a week or so now, since the shoes came out, and Jimmy seems to enjoy wearing them. I have to admit that it's a little strange to see him in socks and shoes, shirt and shorts. He looks so grown up.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Fireflies, rabbits, fireworks, and babies...

Yesterday was the 4th of July and there were lots of fireworks here in Manhattan, KS, even though there was no parade and official fireworks show, like the one in Wamego. Manhattan residence have been allowed to use fireworks since July 1 to July 4, from 8 am to 12 am (midnight), and people have been, but it's been kinda annoying to have a few fireworks go off here, and then a few more over there, then another one or two 10 minutes later... Jimmy kept waking, so I was getting annoyed.

But last night... Last night!

We were waiting to see if we'd be able to Skype some friends back in Australia because they were having a birthday celebration in a park for their little boy (he's 4 days older than Jimmy) and Jimmy was grumpy because it was late (after 9 pm). In an effort to distract him, I went to our bedroom with him and we sat looking out the window. I think Jimmy saw the rabbit before I did - it was happily eating the grass, in what is sorta kinda our backyard... And then... then!

First one and then another... and another... and another!


I called Michael in and we sat looking at the pretty little fireflies, the rabbit, and the occasional flare from fireworks, but the sun was still setting, so we couldn't really see them, but we could hear the bang each time the fireworks went off.

It was lovely watching the fireflies. I haven't seen any in years, not since I was in primary school (I think...) and we went to a small area beneath some mountains. I remember it being warm in town and cool in the mountains, and it was just on sunset too. Magic. Pure magic.

And we were able to see them again, on the other side of the world. Jimmy seemed to enjoy it all, but I'm not sure what he made of the fireflies.

We had our Skype call and saw the birthday cake (it was a train!). It was kinda weird seeing the park, because we know it well and it was broad daylight in Australia... Anyway, Jimmy was a little unsettled and annoyed (because we hadn't let him hold my phone), so we called Granny and Pop and had a quick chat to Granny (Jimmy hugged the phone at one point, as though he were hugging his Granny - he gives lovely hugs).

After all that excitement Jimmy was ready for bed, so I sat with him, nursing him in my lap, watching the fireworks and the odd firefly, until Jimmy decided that he need to be lie down and go to sleep...

The fireworks were still loud, and still went on until after midnight, but they were near constant, so they were much less disruptive for Jimmy, and it was amazing how many we could see. But the fireflies were the best. We'll be looking for more in the coming nights... Shiny...

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Jimmy's turning one...

And I'm starting to get excited!

I was trying to play it cool, because, well, you know, it's not like he's going to remember it... We just need a cake and photos of Jimmy with said cake, a book or small toy as a gift to mark the occasion, something to take back to Australia, a few Skype dates with family and friends, and just generally make it a nice day, and later, once Jimmy is in bed, Michael and I can get all nostalgic about the little man's birth and those hazy, but intense, newborn days.

But then a package arrived from Jimmy's Grandma...

And then another, from a close friend, who we call Auntie K...

And then the jumper I've been working on started to look like I might finish it in time (not that it's cold enough, but you know)...

And this is after buying things to make a carry-on-friendly growth chart...

I've even done a trial run on the birthday cake, because our oven and the recipe needed testing...

Granny and Pop are sending something too...

And now there is a pool party organised for our Swimmy Jimmy - oh I hope the weather is nice next Saturday!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A weighty matter...

Samoa 2008: holding Princess while Radar watches (the dogs belonged to our landlords).
A funny thing has been happening to me lately, something I'm not used to, and something that I'm not entirely sure how to respond to:

People are commenting on how much weight I've lost since they last saw me... they're saying I look skinny...