The Last Six Months

I’ve been away for six months. Over six months, actually. As usual, it wasn’t an intentional absence. I barely thought about it one way or the other, I just sort of stopped blogging out of the blue. I tend to sort of stop whatever is going on in mid to late Feb as FIRST wraps up for the year and winter drags on. I become one with the couch, watching TV while wrapped up in a blanket. Eventually the weather warms and my drive to do something other than the daily tedium of life is renewed. And then I, eventually, come back here and let people know what’s been going on in my little world while I was away. Except that last part is usually in April, not September.

The last six months. Wow, a lot has happened. I guess any given six month period is like that; it is half of a year, after all. Let’s start at the beginning. This post is a doozy, so I’d recommend you get yourself a large beverage and some snacks before reading.


feb mosaic

No photos of this but I did another of my single days of skiing, this time on Gore Mountain near Albany (still with Alex and Shelly, per tradition). We stayed in a great bed and breakfast that had a five course breakfast. Yes, that is possible. I did quite well in my lesson, only falling a few times – the most notable being the first time Matt went with me up the bunny hill and I decided to try and sit fully down on the disc that pulled you up to the top. I tried to ski the next day but that was a disaster – my ankles were killing me too badly. I spent the third day reading and knitting at the same time – a first for me!

The Raven also won the Super Bowl which was pretty awesome. We had just landed and gotten back to the car when the power outage happened – we got to the house just as they resumed play.

I did keep up with my One Little Word project but failed to take any photos of my completed pages prior to tossing them all during one of my must-clean-up-office-now binges. I only regret this a little bit, if I’m honest.

I spent a day hanging out with Melissa, as she stuffed envelopes and double-checked addresses on her wedding invitations. I spent the time rambling and making a bunch of the little cards for future months of OLW.

FIRST ended in the middle of the month. The robot, well, it didn’t work when we had to put it away in its giant plastic bag. The frisbee shooter was downright terrifying the rare times it worked and the climber…well..I don’t think it worked yet, either. At least we all made it home by 9 pm.


I decided to go a bit nuts at Ulta and picked myself up a Bare Minerals kit. I wore it daily for a few weeks which became weekly. About now, it’s only when we’re going out to dinner or I have time to get myself ready before going somewhere with friends. Probably just as much to do with it being summer than anything else.

We also had our second of two snow events for the entire winter. I stayed home from work this time, thinking the reports of 10″ of snow would come true. Not so much. Maybe 1/2 an inch that I could have totally driven into and home from work in. But I am glad I didn’t risk it and just took the mental health day. I probably made monkey bread, as I often do when I’m home from work for a day due to weather.


april mosaic

The month started out like any other April (that sound ominous!). It was still pretty chilly – actually stayed that way until almost the end of May!

Because of the cold, all of the predictions for the cherry blossoms were way off. We picked a random Friday afternoon and drove to the tidal basin to take photos of the few that had showed up at that point. It was rather chilly and windy so only a few pictures turned out, sadly. The next week, they were gorgeous but we didn’t feel like dealing with all of the crowds.

The second full week of the month, I didn’t feel great. No sick per say but “off.” And I did some math and figured out I should probably take a pregnancy test. I waited three minutes, saw a negative, tossed the test, and moved on. The next day, felt even more off and decided to retake the test. Saw that it’s a 5 minute test and took another after work. I had told Matt about the first test but not this one – I figured it would probably be another negative and I wasn’t in the mood for one of his “I told you so” looks.

(Dramatic pause.)

Five minutes later…two pink lines.

I went through what I would tell him as I walked downstairs to his office. All that corny crap you see online went through my head but, come on, that’s not me.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m pregnant.”

I was shaking when I told him. His response “I had a feeling.”

Redid the test a whole hour later – positive again. So either our water is laced with something or I was actually pregnant.

Two days later, I happened to be taking the day off work to get some lights installed in our living room and called to make my first prenatal appointment. Of course, they make you wait until at least 8 weeks to come in so I had thee whole weeks to wait (and freak out, because, well, it’s me).

The month ticked by very very slowly. I kept trying to resist googling whatever random symptom I thought I had. I don’t think I’ve paid more attention to my bodily functions and random pains and what not so closely as I did those three weeks.

There was the robotics regional in Baltimore that very weekend. Yeah, five weeks pregnant, complete with the famed first trimester super sense of smell and I had to spend two days with sweaty teenage dorks. It was still a great time. Baltimore is a great place for a regional – not too much traffic, lots of cheap places to eat nearby, and just a better competition. The team did very well – we were selected to participate in the elimination rounds and BARELY didn’t make it past the first round. Everyone is very excited about what this means for next year.

Later in the month was Ben and Melissa’s gorgeous wedding on Embassy Row. First trimester exhaustion had kicked in so I wanted to be in bed by 9, whereas Matt was having a blast and was still going strong at Midnight. Then I pulled rank and we went home.



My first appointment confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant and that I was 7 weeks along, not 8. They talked about changing my due date to respond to this fact but haven’t to this day. Baby Leese is expected December 11. I calmed down quite a bit after that but I don’t think I took a single truly deep breath until I made it to the end of the first trimester, the next month. Twelve week appointment was perfect fine, though still measuring a week behind. We chose to do the first trimester screening which showed only a 1/10,000 chance of any of the defects they test at that point.

We went to Shenandoah for Mother’s Day weekend, where we told Matt parents. I was utterly exhausted all the time at that point. I barely made it through the Dark Hollow Falls hike, it that means anything. And I kept getting dizzy/sick on the twisty roads – especially when morning sickness decided to appear at the same time. But we relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. I took a good amount of rather mediocre photos.

Over Memorial Day, we went to Deleware as Matt’s cousins were getting together in honor of Maeg and Jeremy (and the girls) visited from Colorado. This meant we told them and some other cousins we’re closer to. It felt like we were doing something really wrong, telling people before the end of the first trimester. Anyway..we did the typical Deleware BBQ chicken thing and just hung out. Thankfully, it was a beautiful weekend and we didn’t even hit all that much traffic on our drive back.


spain mosaic

Most of June was spent in Spain. I’m sure things in our life happened before and after but I have no idea what. Other than me finally calming down about whether I was actually pregnant or not. I still hadn’t fully accepted the idea, but at least I stopped freaking out at every twinge. I had about three weeks of what I guess you would call morning sickness, period. Basically, I was queasy if I didn’t eat often enough and I didn’t really feel much like eating until halfway through the Spain trip. At least I had almost all of my energy back before we left.

We’d planned the big Spain trip for years. See, my mom did study abroad there back in the late 70’s. Yes, this means it was either still under Franco or just haven’t gotten out from under him when she was there – little bit of a different country now. I am so, so happy we went, even if I was easily tired out, especially in the heat. We also – finally! – got to tell my parents I’m pregnant. Right at sunset. On a rooftop balcony near the Sol plaza. I wish I could remember what they said. Mostly that they were happy/excited…then my dad called my mom “Granny Hall.”

I could talk forever about the trip. Mostly nice weather but a handful of 95+ degree days. Amazing food. Very friendly people who didn’t automatically switch to English when we faced language difficulties. All you can eat paella on the beach on the Costa del Sol. More than enough Renaissance artwork to keep Matt happy for year; enough Morrish artwork / architecture for me for ten. Six hours spent wandering slowly through the Alhambra (on, thankfully, “only” a 90 degree day). One 300 Euro bill for damaging a panel on the rental car – we were caught on a wall in Arcos de la Frontera. Lots of laughing at one another. A near-perfect last big trip before the baby arrives.


The first weekend of July was the annual Bontrager reunion. Many adorable children running about. Even more food. A bit of debate. Much more subdued this year, for some reason, though most of the usual crew was there. It wasn’t too hot but we had to cling to the shade offered by the trees. To my surprise, we actually had to tell most of the family our news; the one time the Bontrager rumor mill has been known to fail.

I don’t actually remember what else happened during July. Hot summer days, sure. Lots of research into baby and pregnancy-related stuff on my part. I think we picked a daycare.

Oh! We found our we’re having a girl late in the month. That was pretty big news. The 20 week ultrasound also showed everything is great with her, though she’s still measuring small. And I’m still listed as being due 11 December.


August was spent with Matt wrapping up a big work project and me working to train the person who will be taking over for me when I’m on maternity leave. I also did lots of research into baby products, in prep for setting up our registries. We went to Florida for a weekend to see my parents and ate the requisite amount of seafood, tried a new brewery, and went to the beach for only a few hours as it rained most of the time we were there.

I can’t remember what else we did – mostly work and relax when not at work. So, here’s what I looked like apprximately at the end of the month. Fully in the “looking pregnant” phase now though everyone enjoys commenting on how small I took – the fact I’ve maybe gained 8 pounds sincd before I was pregnancy probably helps. Heh.

25 weeks


Ok, not much has happened so far this month. We set up our registries and the shower is planned for mid-October (my mom is even coming up for it!). I just splurged on scrapbooking supplies and a pair of comfortable yet sort of ugly shoes to wear to work. The last few days I’ve been feeling more sore and my rings are starting to get tight. Hopefully third trimester will be as easy as the last two have been, though I know I’m nuts for thinking that.

That’s it for now…what’s new with you all?

Giving up 2012 / Remembering worth 2013

2012 was the year of giving up…and not in a I-will-no-longer-eat-fast-food sort of way. In a I-can’t-commit-to-anything sort of way. I was restless and unfocused and, overall, uninspired. At some point in the year I started then later gave up on scrapbooking, wearing makeup, photography, writing a memoir, cross stitch, knitting, crochet, blogging, sewing, running, watching the X-Files, embroidery. Only thing I really stuck to was reading (three cheers for the Kindle) and dying my hair (though partly because of the appointments made in advance).

I felt not good enough. My photos weren’t as great as those of others on Flickr or Instagram, especially because I wasn’t willing to dress up in a funny costume and never figured out how to clone myself with software. My current life had no excitement to blog about and my past was too boring to write about even within the confines of the notebooks that no one ever sees. My cross stitch was mundane; my attempts at a TARDIS embroidery untidy. My knitting (except socks, everyone always love their handknit socks) was unwanted. My attempts at cooking, bland. My attempts to mentor the students at FIRST, ineffective. My job search did go well at first because my suit didn’t fit properly (not because a great job was waiting for my within my own company – where I wore jeans to my interview). The only thing I could do correctly was eat, it seemed. Oh, and fall asleep reading. Totally mastered that this year.

So..what will be different in 2013? I’ll learn not to care. Okay, still care about important things like doing my absolute best at work and not dressing like a slob and making sure the bathrooms are clean when guests come over. But, not to care about things which are creative.

My friend Heather once told me that you can’t possibly fail at creativity. And, you know what, she’s right. No one dies if your embroidery is crooked or your photos is a bit blurry (call it “artsy”) or your mac-n-cheese is a bit runny.

Because, for the 100th time, all of my creative (and running, ’cause, you know, there’s that, too) efforts are worth it. Because, greater than that, I’m worth it. My time, my energy, my effort, my stash of craft supplies – all worth it.

Boyfriend – Quick FO Post

The FO itself wasn’t particularly quick, taking me a month and a half to complete. I haven’t even blocked it yet, hence the slightly too tight, slight too short nature of it as is. It’s supposed to be an easy going sweater, like you’d borrow from your boyfriend (hence the name).

The details:

Pattern: boyfriend by  Lori Versaci

Yarn: Berroco Vintage DK in Pumpkin, purchased last Black Friday at fibre space’s annual sale

Yardage: Not quite sure, I’d guess 4.5 skeins so just under 1300 yards

Mods: Made it slightly shorter both in overall length and the length of the arms due to my, well, short nature

Comments on pattern: I liked this pattern but must admit that the twin rib drove me nuts. It’s one of the designer’s signature fabrics but I don’t think I’d sign up to lots more of it again. I liked that this was seamed – allowed me to practice my seaming and didn’t require me to fiddle with working on the round.

(Thanks to Matt for taking a quick iPhone photo. I sort of ambushed him in his office and made him take it. Try to ignore the green bag by my foot, wrinkled pants, and flipped up shirt hem.)

It’s November

…and we all know what that means: another year I attempt to blog daily and fail somewhere between the 13th and 18th. Don’t I just look sooo enthused?


I know, it doesn’t look good when my very first day of posting daily doesn’t happen until just before I crawl into bed. And it’s a pithy entry, too. We’ll just pretend that I wanted to spare you a long first post to wade through before I get to the point.

So we’re not without visual cues that don’t concern my I’m-ready-for-bed face: two shots of my desk, a reflection of how busy either my life or my mind is. About now, both are sort of scattered, but I’m trying to embrace the mess.

desk left

desk right

Tomorrow, there will be more words, most likely. And maybe even photos not taken when it’s pitch black outside.

Mix Tape, er, CD

One of the Flickr groups I participate in is doing a mix CD swap and I had to participate. Not because I’m any sort of musical genius who can expertly put a CD together or anything but, in my opinion, I’ve got interesting taste. Note that I didn’t say good, but interesting.

I blame my parents.

No, really, I do. See, my dad is a classically trained percussionist and my mom, sheesh, never play against her in musical trivia. My dad loves to sing and my mom jokes that she plays a mean CD player. I grew up listening to Afro-Cuban jazz and Celine Dion and Phil Collins and Carol King and who knows what else. In high school, I got into techno and acid jazz. Now, I listen to lots of pop and country with some classical and jazz thrown in, depending on my mood. I own over 200 CDs, though less than a dozen are from the last decade.

So, I put together quite the list. Here’s the tracks and why I picked them.

(1) Two Night Stand – Agent 99

No, you’ve never heard of them. My friend, Erin, knew the band because, well, they rehearsed in her garage for a few years. I’m pretty sure they’re not together anymore. This was the title song from their first CD (and maybe only CD) and it’s still a favorite of mine 8 years later.

(2) Besame Mama – Arturo Sandoval / Chico Corea, et al (Special “Jam Miami” concert recording)

Excellent, excellent CD. Some of the greats of Cuban jazz got together for a concern one night in Miami and produced this CD afterward. I was tempted to pick a song like Oye Como Va that everyone who has ever heard of Cuban music or Tito Puente but that would be too easy. 

(3) Godspeed (Hybrid Mix ) – BT

BT was one of the techno/trance groups I came to love in high school. And I still remember every moment of this song.

(4) Bernstein Portrait – Canadian Brass

Sorry, Dad. I stole this CD from you years ago. The Canadian Brass are a quartet of, well, brass-playing Canadians. This song has bits and pieces of several different Leonard Bernstein classics, from West Sing Story to Candide.

(5) No Tell Lover – Chicago

Chicago is one of my all-time favorite bands. It’s something about the brass, I think. The guys (well, some of them) have been together for over 40 years and it’s obvious that they love playing together. 

(6) Go Outside – Cults

This was a free iTunes song of the day awhile ago but I truly enjoyed the track. It just reminds me of cabin fever in winter, where all you want to do is go outside and frolic in the sun.

(7) So Right – Dave Matthews Band

My brother and I discovered Dave Matthews when I was in ninth grade. OK, he had hits before that but we got really into him them. The driving horns behind his vocals make this a favorite.

(8) Maybe I – Five for Fighting

Randomly selected track from a mostly overlooked CD (most people bought it to hear “100 Years”)

(9) That’s Life – Frank Sinatra

Does anyone not love Frank Sinatra? This is the song I listen to after a hard day.

(10) Congo – Genesis

My dad had this one CD he played on repeat called Rhythm of the Saints from when Phil Collins traveled to Africa to learn traditional percussion. This song is a sampling of what that CD was like though far more, well, Westernized (I, quite sadly, do not own a copy – yet).

(11) Up Up Up – Givers

Don’t even know where I got this song from. But you can’t help but have a smile on your face when you hear it.

(12) Are We the Waiting – Green Day

Green Day was just this band that was OK and popular with middle through college kids until the American Idiot CD came out. This song shows their maturity and depth.

(13) Hear Me in the Harmony – Harry Connick, Jr

In the ilk of Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr could sing me the phone book and I’d love every minute of it. 

(14) One Fine Day – Hiroshima

Another band that’s probably new to everyone but not to those who love acid jazz. Combine American jazz with Japanese instruments and melodies and here’s what you get.

(15) Summer Song – Joe Satriani

It’s summer and Joe Sat is an amazing guitar player – do I need another excuse?

(16) Do You Hear the People Sing? – Les Miserables Original Broadway Cast

I’ve always been a fan of Les Mis since it was our marching band theme my Freshman year of HS. I chose the most rousing number, a call to start a revolution (the French one, specifically).

(17) Gershwin: Sleepless Night – LA Philharmonic

Having been a clarinet player in a former life (ok, 6th to 11th grade), I’ve always enjoyed Gershwin. Here’s a non-Rhapsody in Blue or Porgy and Bess piece. Good tune for walking through a city you don’t know at night.

(18) You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – Neil Niamond

Another song which makes me feel like I’m really a 60 year-old woman, disguised as a 27 year-old. Here he is with Nancy Sinatra (I think).

(19) I Have Confidence – Julie Andrews (from the Sound of Music)

Any musical buff like me knows the Sound of Music by heart, but how many know this track? It’s in the movie but often forgotten about, played as Maria heads off to the von Trapp house.

(20) Caribbean Breeze – The Rippingtons

Just what the title says – a little piece of the Caribbean from a well-known smooth jazz group.

(21) Trust – The Generationals

From a compilation from the South by South West (SXSW, for short) music festival last summer, a rock-y trio sings about, well, Trust.

(22) The House That Built Me – Miranda Lambert

This was a big country hit last summer. I cry every time I hear it, without fail.

(23) The Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga

A track to lift all of our spirits and make us wish to be and do more than we imagined

(24) Don’t Panic – Coldplay

From another oft-played CD, this song represents my two years spent at the University of Florida, though more in a looking-back-on-it-now way than a “this is where I was then” way

(25) Saturday in the Park – Chicago

Fave song, ever. Truly. 

Toffee Cookies and Backyard Progress

The two big accomplishments of the week are, as you could have guessed, toffee cookies and fixing up the backyard.

I had a pretty crazy day at work on Wednesday and decided to remedy this by making toffee cookies after work. I tried to find a recipe elsewhere but eventually went with the recipe on the back of the back of Heath bar chips (or bit o’brickle or whatever their actual stupid-sounding name is). I won’t bother with a recipe as it’s right on the bag but note: if you use unsalted butter, you’ll need to add more salt than it calls for. Mine wound up very sweet. And, yes, they really do make about six dozen cookies.

Here they are, all ready to go, in their not-quite-the-same-size goodness.

Toffee Cookies - Ready to be baked

And just out of the oven. Even though Matt and I love cookies, we had more than enough to share. I handed them out to work to everyone except my boss who is allergic to nuts and a whole handful of folks who gave up sweets or cookies for Lent.

Toffee Cookies - Just out of the oven

On the backyard front, Matt finished up getting things cleaned up and today we bought grass seed and straw (along with the grass seed dispenser thing – thankful we sprung for the model you push vs the manual version).

I don’t have any photos of what it looked like before we started on the backyard a few weeks ago but here’s what it looked like after a dusting of snow in January. You can sort of tell how many leaves there were – about 3″ worth – plus there were tons of sticks and acorns.

Through our Picture Window

Here’s what it looked like earlier this week, with most of the cleanup done (and a new birdfeeder – that one got all gunky and I couldn’t clean it out).


Finally, here’s what it looks like today which, I admit, looks almost just as bad although it is progress.

I think it’s been a pretty good week. For now, I’ll ignore the fact it’s Sunday and have to go back to work tomorrow.

What I’ve Been Up To

I’m still here, just busy with work and life. This’ll be a photo-less post, partly because I’m too lazy to dig through Flickr to find relevant photos, partly because I really don’t have that many. Maybe next week I’ll get back into the swing of things with posts with actual photos in them. Who am I kidding, it’ll probably be another month or two before I write another blog post with something that’s not just like “here’s my latest scrapbooking pages.”

So, what have I been doing? Well, working, knitting, scrapping, improving the house, enjoying the weather, planning vacation, and reading. Mostly working and reading (ok, and sleeping and eating but no one wants to hear about that).


Don’t worry, no boring details. Just know that work is busy and while it’s sometimes overwhelming, I’m enjoying my current project.


Ok, so I haven’t knit a single stitch in about three weeks but before that, I knit a shawl/scarf and about 2″ on a colorwork hat.

The shawl/scarf was Different Lines using bright blue and bright orange Neighborhood Fibre Co Studio Sock that I originally purchased to make the Steven West mystery shawl. It turned out HUGE and rather scarf-like due to how I blocked it. Of course, I forgot to really take photos of it once I gave it to the recipient (Anne, my Phi Rho big sister).

The colorwork hat actually isn’t one of the patterns I was trying to choose between a few months ago. It’s called Latvian Hat and I’m using Neighborhood Fibre Co in a white colorway that’s named, appropriately, after what Matt tells me is a very, er, racially non-diverse part of Baltimore and Miss Babs in Lilacs. Even though the pattern starts at the crown and gets larger, it’s still very slow to work a single round and the pattern requires rather a lot of conentration. It’s also at an awkward stage where it’s a bit too small to work on two needles comfortable but too large for only one. I put it aside once work got busy enough that I was only making myself more frustrated trying to work on it in the evening hours.


Despite not taking a whole bunch of photos lately, I have been keeping up with making at least one scrapbooking page a week. Some weeks, they’re rather unimpressive but it’s about recording what’s gone on, not always having a gorgeous page. I am going to try and pick up my picture-taking so it’s not quite so sad when I open up the week’s folder of photos and see only two in there. I’ll post pages from weeks 5 to I think we’re on 11 later this week. I also still need to finish the last few pages from our last Europe trip. I think maybe two need words then they’ll be done. Oh, and finally print some of these off, likely starting with Europe pages.

Improving the House

Nothing involving power tools or anything but quite an impressive list of small projects:

  • Hanging photos everywhere (my friend Lead provided opinions on good locales)
  • Installing a door sweep and fixing the screen on the porch door (Matt did most of this)
  • Picking out and trying a paint color for our bedroom (liked the color, will paint the whole thing starting this week)
  • Buying a new hanging birdfeeder – the old one had old feed permanantly stuck in it
  • Cleaning up the leaves / sticks / acorns / randomly strewn bricks in the backyard (Matt did most of the work here but I helped with some pickup and  moving of stuff to be picked up to the curb)

Enjoying the weather

Despite being mid-March, it’s been in the high 70s almost every day the last week or so, with mostly clear skies on top of it. We’ve already grilled out twice (burgers then chicken) and enjoyed several evenings of reading on the porch after work. I keep waiting for the weather report to talk about a return to colder temperatures but it’s supposed to remain warm at least for a few more days. Anyone know if this may mean I can get my hands on some good and not very expensive steamed crabs earlier this year than normal? The wait until Memorial Day may be the end of me. Ok, not really. I’m just impatient.

Planning vacation

Matt and I started a few weeks ago thinking about taking a summer vacation and where we wanted to go and all that. After lots of thinking and looking around, we decided we’re going to head to Ireland for 10 days in May.


Ever since Matt got me a Kindle about a month ago, I have been reading like a crazy person. I think the first book I read on it was an Agatha Christie book, quickly followed by memoirs, dystopian novellas, more Agatha Christie, two books about WWII with a time travel theme, and, most recently, a thriller. I won’t go into all of the details but you can check out what I’ve read on Good Reads.

So…what’s up with you all?

Two more days..

This whole blogging daily thing became a drag about a week ago but, alas, I want to actually finish this year out with having blogged every day. At first, I was so good about blogging first thing or about having posts mostly written in advance. But now. Well. I’ve not got much to show. Just a picture of some of Matt’s Christmas gifts (still in their packaging, of course).