Thursday, 29 October 2015


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2015

Jimmy: running around to stay warm...

I have no words for this photo, only that it was cold and we were outside and having fun. And his face... oh man... he's growing up so fast! Remember this? That blue beanie still fits too...

Friday, 23 October 2015

On the needles: a beanie...

Way back before Jimmy was even born, back when he was inside my belly, and my belly was huge, Michael and I went to the 2013 Peace Festival and I bought this beautiful skein of alpaca from a local spinner. My plan was to make something for our baby with it, only I was going to wait until the baby was born before I did anything - the soft, soft yarn required something special, something that would suit our baby.

It was still untouched back in April, 2014, so it should come as no surprise that the wool made its way across the Pacific Ocean with us (did I mention that I brought wool over here, so that I could work my way through it and be less tempted to buy (even more) wool?).

After lots of umming and ahing, and realising that I hadn't started on any knitted project for Jimmy's 2nd birthday, I wound the skein into a ball and turned the very, very soft alpaca into a beanie.

I may have made the pattern up as I went along...

I did start with a measurement of Jimmy's head, and I did work out how many stitches of 3x3 rib went into 10 cm (or was it an inch or 5? Meh...), so I wasn't flying completely by the seat of my pants... And I kept notes, so that if I ever want to make another one, I have something to work from.

The process was fun and the project small enough to work on in the heat of July and August (I'm a slow knitter, so what). And every time I picked up my needles to work on the beanie I thought of Jimmy, and how the beanie would keep his head warm when his other beanies were not quite big enough or too cozy. I also thought of an old friend and school teacher and I remembered our brief conversation that day at the Peace Festival, and how he was ill and I was reluctant to get too close but still had trouble hearing the few words he said because his throat was so sore due to a recent bout of laryngitis - he would have appreciated the problem solving involved in the making of this beanie...

And now the beanie is finished, and after a very brief evening when the beanie was needed, Jimmy refuses to wear it. I think the fluffy alpaca is a little too warm for the mild autumn fall we're having in Kansas. Ah well! It fits, it stretches, and I know there isn't a photo of it, but the beanie comes to a point and is tied in a knot, because I wasn't wasting any yarn, so it's something of a gumnut beanie. Too bad the reference is lost on Jimmy. Perhaps we should tell him it's an acorn, then he might wear it.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

One for the Scrabble board: biweekly...

From the Free Dictionary:
bi·week·ly (bī-wēk′lē) 
1. Happening every two weeks.
2. Happening twice a week; semiweekly. 
n. pl. bi·week·lies
1. A publication issued every two weeks.
1. Every
 two weeks.

2. Twice a week; semiweekly. See Usage Note.

Yes. It is a word. Perhaps only used in the USA, but it is a word nonetheless.

Biweekly = fortnightly.

Done. Easy. Every two weeks. Biweekly. I may have referred to the word previously, but as I am now being paid biweekly, I thought it was time to formally include it.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Over the weekend we...

Engaged in local autumn fall activities, starting with a pumpkin patch! And not just any pumpkin patch but a pumpkin patch palooza thanks to K-State peoples, Britts Farm, and our lovely friends and neighbours who drove us there and back again (and shared in the fun and excitement of it all).

Because this was intended for college/university students etc, the start was 7 pm. And yes, we managed to get on that haybale ride.

We did need to sign in and get wristbands. Jimmy included. He wasn't sure about the wristband thing to start with, but soon it was forgotten until we returned home.

It was pretty exciting (and a little bit on the cold side) and it was even more exciting when we noticed one of Jimmy's friends, N, and his family, were on the same haybale ride. (Also, because it was cold, N was wearing a coat, a very nice warm coat.)

The ride took us around the edge of the farm, past different crops, and ended by a cornfield and a cornfield maze (!!). When we started we could still see without torches, but we needed them by the end. We definitely needed torches before we finished and to help select a pumpkin. And by torches I mean torch apps on phones - who carries an actual torch when they're not camping?

Once we had our pumpkin we made our way to the bonfire, found N and his family (they snuck off to the easier maze, once we had relocated the entrance to the hard maze), made and ate our very first s'mores.

Yes folks, we made it through the last 18 months without a single one (we did have plenty of toasted marshmallows while on our road trip). The bonfire was the wrong type of fire for s'mores but they were pretty good - the cracker is not sweet, so the whole thing is (fairly) balanced, for a sweet...

We were given our marching orders by Jimmy, and we couldn't complain - the night was turning cold and we were all out of marshmallows. We may have stopped by the farm shop and looked at the available produce and decorative gourds. They were pretty cute, and these ones, as held by Michael, were small and curiously shaped. If we had the money to spend on pretty or curious things that can't be eaten or worn, we might have spent the $10 required to take a few home. It's ok, we already had a pumpkin to take home.

A sweet, round pumpkin no less. Jimmy was fairly protective of it but was also very keen to help Daddy carve it, but he was also keen to keep putting the stem back on...

Jimmy also helped with the first draft of the face, but Daddy stepped in and made something a little more carvable...

Our little Jack-o-Lantern takes pride of place on the table and Jimmy would like it to be illuminated for every meal, but we're sticking to evenings only, even though the mornings are getting darker and we are almost at the stage when we need a light on to eat breakfast... Winter is coming.

Monday, 19 October 2015


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2015

Jimmy: Hugging the pumpkin before the carving began...

We may have gone to a pumpkin patch on Friday. It may have been Friday night. We did come home with this cute pumpkin and Michael did take this photo. There is a blogpost to come but this photo is pretty sweet - Jimmy enjoyed himself but we were all fairly tired on Saturday. It was well worth it.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Colour of Magic

We have some time right now to watch a movie. So we're watching Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic,a personal favourite of mine (hence the possibility of naming a turtle A'Tuin). It's one of the rare Pratchett-to-video translations that I think actually improves upon the book(s). 

So much of what makes Pratchett's work so powerful is how cleverly he weaves analogies with the real world so seamlessly throughout his universe. The Unseen University is one example which really resonates in how powerful peoples ambition can be, though for narrative imperative I think the hostility seen in wizards like Trymon is played up more than real-life academics. 

I'm sure it's no mistake that Rincewind is a terribly sympathetic character, but I can't help but feel entirely in sync with him in most of the Rincewind stories. I'm not sure what it is. Rincewind is a resounding failure as a wizard (after 40 years he hasn't passed the first level) and really not the adventurous type, but nevertheless has an unfortunate knack for being thrust uncomfortably into various adventures (he is described as usually seen running away from one thing or another). 

Lady Luck features in the books, not so much in the movie, but it's implied She favours Rincewind for some reason - the logic to support this is that he always narrowly escapes from each adventure, though I can't help but feel there's a deliberate omission of logic in this kind of thinking. 

I'm reminded of a video of a Saudi man being almost bifurcated by a pane of glass a few weeks back, but there are numerous examples from everyday experience that most people can draw upon, like "lucky" escapes from car accidents etc. I always consider that it would be luckier to never have been in the position to be almost killed in the first place. 

Anyway, Rincewind is a kind of failure, but survives. I think that's why I like him, sympathise with him. While his companion Twoflower sees everything through a kind of rose-coloured lens, Rincewind sees reality for all its gritty meanness and rust. David Jason, who plays Rincewind, does a fantastic job portraying the desperate, strung-out anxiety of a struggling wizard whose fate has pushed him along paths he never chose, and who most of the time doubts any of it means anything of any good. 

Despite Rincewind's flailing, panicked approach to life, he always maintains a dignified kind of awareness of his surroundings, and of the workings of the world. People like Twoflower appreciate him for this, as his knowledge is a useful thing to have around. 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Riley County Fair 2015...

Given how much I was looking forward to taking Jimmy to the County Fair, you'd think I would have had the photos up the very next day...

Clearly not. Let's blame the heat, shall we?

It is nearly 3 months since the Country Fair and here they are, with a few words sprinkled in between. I find it strange to look at them now, Jimmy's hair damp with sweat because it was after 7 pm and still well over 35 C - although it's still not cold here yet, it is hard to remember how hot it was in July. Anyway... Photos!

Dinner... Our neighbours, the ones who took us to Wamego and who we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with, were heading to the Fair in the evening, aiming to meet up with some other friends, catch the barbeque dinner, and take in the Rodeo. We went along but were not committed to going to the Rodeo - we have a restless two year old...

After dinner (thanks to local pork producers) we found refuge from the heat (and it was hot...) in the air conditioning of Pottorf Hall, where we admired the displays, enjoyed feeling normal, and I struggled to get my camera settings right... Arg...

Oh, just, you know, the biggest kohl rabi ever! Well, at the 2015 Riley County Fair...

Jimmy perked up and found some energy... It was hot outside, even after 7 pm, even after 8 pm...

This cardigan and yarn caught my eye, but no one would need either of them for a few months.

Insect collections... I'm going to have to start one - if 4H members can do it, then so can I.

After looking at all the displays, and realising that we had to get Jimmy away from the cakes that he wasn't allowed to eat (they were entered into the cake decoration category and they were very good), we extracted ourselves from the aircon and made for the animals... It was worth it.

And then my camera battery died. I had thought it would happen, but hadn't acted on the thought to charge the battery, because it seems to last forever, until I'm somewhere were I really, really, want to take photos... Ah well...

So, with no camera, Michael was on camera duty, so this one (above) and the last one (below) were taken by him. The light was fading, the sun setting and we didn't go to the rodeo. We checked out the rides, but didn't go on any of them.

It was still hot.

Jimmy was ok, tired but ok. We thought about walking home because Jimmy was asking to go to home, but it was too hot... so we waited for our friends and neighbours to return from the Rodeo.

As the night wore on, Jimmy forgot his fatigue and decided that he'd investigate the 4H dance: he wandered away from where we were sitting and didn't look back until he was halfway between (and we played a cruel trick, and were hiding behind some trees, clearly watching him). We caught up with him before he reached the entrance and we returned to our little spot and watched the fireflies, while keeping hydrated. It was still hot.

Here are last year's photos.

And if you don't believe me when I say it was hot go here and skip to July 24, 2015: 39 C... hot.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Michael's first: And the Turtle.

Greetings bird lovers, 

Michael here. To make that first point clear I'll use a different font - something you'll never catch Kamala using... Courier should do nicely.

A little while ago Kamala started working, and with the added pressure on her time I (being the loyal and supportive husband type) promised to go post-for-post to shoulder the burden of keeping y'all updated. Well, so far I've failed to keep up (oops)- mostly because (and for those who know me right now this'll come as no surprise) there's not a lot of good stuff for me to say that K'la hasn't done already. 

One thing she hasn't elaborated on, but has mentioned is THIS GUY:

This is the newest member of our little family. It's a baby turtle. More specifically, an alligator snapping turtle, best known for the adults, which can grow to the weight of a human adult (but usually don't), and tend to vex fishermen by stealing their catch as well as breaking their lines. There are plenty around here. We've seen an adult once, crossing the road near the stadium; and our neighbours say they've had adult nearby our apartments that attacked their broom-handle.

I first saw the
tiny Chelonian Testudine while we were on our way to catch a bus downtown to buy some bike tyres for K'la's wheels. At first I thought it was a desiccated mouse carcass - and what an interesting place for a mouse to choose to carcassify itself, right in the middle of the footpath sidewalk, out in the open. I was perplexed. So I looked closer. And saw it was a turtle. 

Being the unsqueamish and unrelentingly curious type I took it for the novelty - planning to look at it and dispose of it before the stink set in. For at least 10 more minutes the tricksy reptile remained pseudomortisly still, and tightly tucked under its shell - with just that long, tapered tail sticking straight out. 

By the time it woke up we were already on the bus, the carapacious critter was running all over my arm and Jimmy was intrigued but cautious. The bus driver was vaguely amused.   

We determined to keep the miniature Macrochelys for the weekend, and see if we couldn't get it to eat something. A quick internet search turned up a few people who keep them as pets, but they're generally not good for children as the adults bite (hence the name). In the end it snapped up some earthworms and ignored the bits of smelt. A good sign.

Since then, we've not yet had the heart to let him go. Even Jimmy has gone from cautiously curious to interactively interested playing with the turtle and in water changes, and the aquatic alligatesque seems to be enjoying our company. I've even taking it on adventures, like our picnic with friends for the blood harvest moon, and also this virtual safari.    

The one problem is, we've not been able to get a name to stick. 

For a while it was called "DiCaprio" after Leonardo, the Ninja Turtle. But that seems a little too meta, and perhaps too gendered as well (since these guys don't get their sex sorted 'til they're like, twelve). So I thought "A'Tuin" would do, after the discworld, which we all love to read about and also has a similar mystery regarding the sex. Jimmy just calls it "Tuttle", which is nice, because Tuttle creek goes through our town. 

What do you think? Suggest some names for the turtle in the comments below.  


Monday, 12 October 2015


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2015

Jimmy: Collecting earthworms with Daddy.

Why? Well... we found a turtle a few weekends ago, two now, and not just any turtle but an alligator snapping turtle. They are not endangered, but they are not to be taken lightly. Also they end up being huge, so, no we will not be keeping the turtle nor will we be passing it on to anyone other than the zoo, if they'll have it. Anyway... we found the turtle, newly hatched, and we decided that if it ate what we gave it, we would look after it until, well, we're not sure, perhaps over the winter, perhaps only another week. Perhaps we'll only keep it until Daddy and Jimmy can no longer find any worms outside our place.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Cheap thrills: extending my wardrobe...

Dressing for work as research assistant is a little different to pulling on clothes to wear to the playground. And my (unplanned) weight loss has brought about its own set of issues, namely most of my clothes are too big.

There are worse problems to have, but this one needed a creative (and super cheap) solution: little alterations.

As a new breastfeeding mother I bought a few tops from here, and they were great: they fitted when most of my old tops didn't, they provided easy access for breastfeeding, and they made me feel a little like the "old" me. I have worn them so often they were worth the expense, but now? Well, the under shirts had become little long, and I was sick of wearing so much fabric, and with Jimmy breastfeeding less and less there was no need for the modesty layers. So, I removed them.

I have kept the modesty layers from the two tops I altered, just in case and so that I can sew them back in place if I ever give them away. The tops do sit differently, and have a different look, and that's ok. My "new" tops are great, loose and airy but still structured enough for work.

Finding pants that don't cost much has been a bigger issue than making small adjustments to tops. There was a part of me that was enjoying being a little bigger and that was the part of me that had to deal with pants that don't quite fit. Again, there are worse and bigger problems to have, so I try not to give it too much thought, which can be tricky when I have to adjust my pants roughly 538,882 times a day.

In a bid to deal with my shortage of pants that fit or don't have rips in them (which describes all 3 pairs of jeans I have been wearing for the best part of a year), I ended up buying some slacks and a pair of jeans so that I might look a little less like a student while working at the university. The slacks fit fine, a little loose, but ok. The jeans? Heavily discounted and a size (or two) too big, I still bought them... I may have been a little traumatised by the opshop not being open... And just recently I found the energy to bring them in at the waist. This bring-pants/jeans-in-at-the-waist is something I may have to do a little more often, because I am happy with the result, but...

It would be nice to be able to buy pants that fit, straight off the rack, no alterations or belts required. Being able to buy new tops would be nice too, but that's not where we're at - our finances are still very tight, even with me working - so we make do, and try to enjoy what creativity there is in the process.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Luna eclipse and blood moon...

As I may have mentioned last week, we were invited to celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with some friends out at Frank Anneberg Park. It was extra special because there was to be a Luna eclipse and a blood moon!

Jimmy had fun running around, kicking a ball around, being chased by me or Daddy.

Sometimes it is very hard to take a photo of Jimmy - he moves so fast! 

We all played our parts helping to set up the lanterns that are crucial to celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival - they were sent to our friend M by her uncle all the way from Hong Kong.

My part was entertaining Jimmy. Jimmy's part was that of "the toddler" running around, making the most of being outside. We also all did a good job of eating the food everyone brought to share. Jimmy wasn't keen on our contribution, but he ate more than his/our (!) fair share of the noodles.

One the sun had set and the moon was lighting the sky and everyone had had their fill of dinner, M brought out two mooncakes (which she bought in New York City). Small but rich and perfect for sharing.

For anyone who hasn't had mooncake before, they are sweet but not Australian/USA style sweet, they are rich and yet they have an egg baked in the middle. Jimmy likes mooncake (Jimmy likes cake).

Yes, we used actual candles. Little ones, about the same size as candles that go on birthday cakes. We went through two per lantern. The lanterns were very pretty, were all safely out of Jimmy's reach, and once we were done at the park the lanterns were all packed up again.

Yes, Jimmy will do well in Hong Kong and China, probably Taiwan too, with his preference for noodles and mooncake. (Oh but he was a grub!)

It seemed like we had just finished eating when the main event started: the eclipse! As soon as we noticed the shadow starting to cover the moon, we quickly packed up and headed for Kansas State University where the Physics Department had telescopes set up to view the event.

I have never, never seen so many people on campus on a Sunday. Never. Lots of people were there, on the quad, sitting around and chatting, lining up on the new pedestrian mall to catch a glimpse through one of three telescopes! We lined up for the one with the shortest queue, although we did spend some time sitting on a grassy knoll watching the eclipse and the ensuing blood moon. It was pretty cool.

The novelty of the occasion was not lost on Jimmy, even though it was well past his bedtime. He had a great time looking at the moon, running around, walking down the mall, taking in the atmosphere. Jimmy is a little obsessed with the moon and I hope he remembers this eclipse.

When we went home, some time after 10 pm, the moon was still a dark red, and the campus was still buzzing. I think we were still buzzing too, because we didn't find our way to bed until nearly (or after 11 pm). All three of us (and probably half the population of Manhattan) were very tired on Monday, but it was soooo worth it. When it comes to celestial events, it usually is.