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?


I had planned to do my usual one-post-per-location showing off photos from our recent Ireland trip but decided, eh, why bother? If I take the time to do all that, with as crazy as everything is right now, I’ll never finish or never get back to blogging about other things going on in my life. All of the photos are here and here on my Flickr and, below, is the scrapbook pages I made for each portion of the trip.










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?

Year in Review (2011 Edition)

I was going to make this a post about how I did or didn’t meet my goals for last year then realized I never made any. Sure, I wanted to graduate but, really, was that ever in doubt? (Oh, I hope not.) So, again this year, a year in review.

January: Attempted, yet again, to blog daily which became weekly which became only when I felt guilty that I hadn’t blogged in awhile. Visited the National Building Museum. Started working with the TJ FIRST team. Mostly focused on coding my senior design project. Started a new job.

February: FIRST season concluded and senior design continued. Tried skiing for the first time.

March: Attended the St. Patrick’s parade in Old Town. DC FIRST regional held. Midterms and a big senior design deadline consumed my life. Spring break was spent working and doing school work. Attended Steph’s baby shower.

April: Life consumed by school projects, tests. etc. Traveled to West Point to attend a design competition (and really wished they didn’t have a rule about no AC before 1 may).

May: Wrapped up my last undergraduate semester. Graduated Suma Cum Laude. Celebrated Matt’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. Went to a color theory workshop with Ms Babs.

June: Started first full-time job (and it’s not so fun commute). Started looking at houses. Got back into sewing by making a few handbags (and failed at making myself a skirt).

July: Brutally hot month. Went to more open houses and house tours. Attended the first annual Bontrager cousins reunion in DE. Started digital scrapbooking five years of marriage.

August: Put a bid on a house, counterbid accepted, home inspection, mortgage application, and everything else invovled with buying a house. Felt not nearly as poor as expected at the end of the process. Really started my new job (assignment received). Started a quilt for the first time in four years.

September: Moved into the new house. Held a housewarming party with friends, family, and neighbhors.

October: Spent two and a half week exploring Spain, France, and Italy. Spent the rest of the month starting a new project at work and recovering from being away for so long.

November: Had Thanksgiving at our place, this time with Matt’s parents, Jesse’s family, Alison, and Lucy. Attended the DE reception for Caleb and Karen. Finished making a sweater for myself that actually fit.

December: Enjoyed a realitively warm December. Parents and brother visit for Christmas. Had first year of decorating our own house for Christmas (but settled for just a tree and some lights on a front window).

Florence and Milan

After Venice, we traveled to Florence and Milan where I took exactly 3 photos. Three photos of the artists painting in the courtyard behind the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. And two are blurry beyond recognition. Here it is: my photo evidence of this part of the trip. You’ll be stuck with just my rambling to fill in the rest.


See, we’d been to Florence before. Last time, I wanted to move there – now downgraded to spending our next Italian trip with Florence as our homebase. I’d already seen the Duomo and other churches, toured the Uffizi and Academia, and spent hours on the banks of the Arno, trying to get that perfect. This time: eh. I just wanted to go shopping and relax (and Matt wanted only to eat well and revisit the Uffizi for the third time).

We did, indeed, shop and eat well. We returned to Mario’s for excellent steak (a whole kilo of it, split between us – and this was after a first course of veggie soup and shrimp pasta). We split 3 sandwiches from the excellent sandwich shop. We picked up a hand-painted ceremic bowl from the same shop we got the coordinating plate last time. I hemed and hawed over buying a leather bag and decided, instead, that I’d probably never use it, anyway.

We also just did a whole lot of sitting and relaxing, rather tired of being tourists.

In Milan, we visited the overpriced but beautiful shopping mall and the cathedral, saw the Last Supper (much bigger than you’d think – it takes up a whole wall), and did more I’m-burned-out-from-traveling sitting and relaxing, this time mostly at our hotel. I didn’t even consider taking photos there, I was so tired of being on the go (and, well, there wasn’t a ton which I wish I’d catpured).

So, yeah, that’s the last part of our visit to Europe. I’m glad to be back home, to my own life though I look forward to our next European trip – a week in Spain with my parents during their Spring Break in 2013.


Despite the fact we were only there for thee nights, I took more photos in Venice than anywhere else besdies the Sagara Familia in Barcelona which was, by far, my favorite place we visited.

Before I looked through my photos, I had the following opinion of Venice: little bit cool with the canals and boats-for-everything-including-garbage-and-UPS and excellent seafood but, eh, too touristy for me. I have no reason to ever go back; it’s expensive, crowded, and seems too much like a run-down Disney World.

After my photos: Oooh! It was so calm and peaceful and beautiful in its own way. Sure, the tourists were annoying but they were easy to get away from. When can we go back?

I think you’ll see why.

St. Mark's Cathedral

St. Mark's

Under the bridge

Canal View

One of Many

Expensive Villas


A Quiet Moment


In the Doge's Palace

Pigeon Feeding..or Trying to eat Lunch?

Doge's Palace, Morning

Avignon (Including a Transit Adventure)

Our first full day in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we decided to take a train to Niemmes. We looked up train schedules and made our way to the train station around 8 am. The SNRF woman took awhile looking at piles of paper and consulting computer screens and finally explained to us that there were no trains to Niemmes but a bus from Avignon.

We should have realized something was up. See, Niemmes is a rather large town. There are typically 10 trains a day running from L’Isle there. But, on this random weekday, there were none.

But, we were adapatable. We would go to Avignon, instead. Famous bridge, Palace of the Popes, more than enough to keep us busy for a day.

While witing the 20 minutes for our train, we saw that the earlier train to Avignon (and another in the opposite direction) never arrived. No problem, we thought, some sort of an accident causing a delay.

Again, we should have realized something was up.

But, we made it to Avignon on a train full of high school students and enjoyed a rather lovely day there.

The famous Avignon Bridge

We saw the famous bridge, no longer connected to the other bank due to a large flood hundreds of years ago (though we were far too cheap to pay to walk along it).

A longer bridge view, from the garden

We went and saw the Palace of the Popes. Longest. Audioguide. EVER. But, still, it’s worth a visit if you can get there on a less tour group-overun day than we did. Again, no photos allowed so, instead, here’s a photo of Mary atop the cathedral next door.

Mary Atop the Cathedral

And a bonus cathedral photo.

Another View of Mary

Again, rather lovely day for a visit. Winds were very strong but we’d worn long-sleeve shirts and Matt hadn’t worn his contacts (wind tends to blow sand into them which is rather painful). We even had a very lovely three course lunch.

Then, the trouble came. We were trying to make the 13:57 train and got in line to buy tickets (silly machines not accepting actual cash) about 25 minutes beforehand. Eventually, Matt and I separated – he went to find out about buses and I waited in line for an English-speaking SNCF employee. Come to find out that, oh, they had no trains running and didn’t anticipate having any at all until at least 10 pm.

Quick text message to Matt to tell him this – and that we should head over to the bus station under the Ibis Hotel. We met up halfway there then ran together to try to catch a random bus he’d seen that displayed L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue as its final destination. We thought we’d missed it but I saw the sign out of the corner of my eye and we managed to be the last two people on board before it left. Despite my panic, we made it back to L’Isle 30 minutes later.

Right after we got back, we picked up the car and drove to St Remi and wandered around its very Provencal streets (this is where we got the fresh pasta). Our day probably would have been ruined had we not had that visit. It let us calm down the insanity of almost geting stuck in Avignon*.

We eventually found out why all of the issues with the trains: ticket takers were on strike following the stabbing of a ticket taker on an overnight train.

* Okay, we didn’t almsot get stuck. I just paniced. No trains. No way to really find out the bus schedule – there didn’t seem to be any sort of information kiosk. But, really, we could have always paid for a taxi ride back. It would have been expensive, but we were not really stranded, just delayed. The bus actually cost us five Euros less than the return train trip and only took a few minutes longer.


We spent five days in Provence, renting an apartment just oustide L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a medium-sized village. The apartment was well-appointed with a kitchen (important to Matt) and high speed Internet (important to me). The kitchen gave us the ability to cook dinners from ingredients purchased as the large Intermarche grocery store, farmer’s market, or local shops. We ate very well – favorite meal of mine was on our anniversary: fresh ravioli with ham and cheese from the butcher shop of all places in a simple butter sauce. We drank the wines we’d picked up wine tasting one day and enjoyed getting to splurge at lunchtime due to our much cheaper dinners.

It’s important to note that the temperature was in the upper 60s and we had clear, bright blue skies though there was one weather downside: the mistral. It’s a wind that whips to the Northwest and is strong enough at times to make you feel like you’re goint to get knocked over. Thankfully, we both had wind-resistant jackets but, man, without it – it was freezing! I loved Provence but was more than a little happy to leave the mistral behind when we left.


I feel horrible lumping all of our five day visit to Provence into a single post but, well, I’ve got a problem. I made notes on which towns we visited each day, sure, but which photos go with which town, umm, well, not so much. So, I’ll simply tell you that the photos below come from one of the towns in Provence, the Luberon, or Cote de Rhone. Helpful, huh? You’ll have to come visit, yourself, to do real town identification.

Note: Avignon will get its own post because I know, for sure, which photos were taken there.

(Also, I have a feeling I have a different memory card with more photos on it – that or I was so distracted by the beauty of this region to take any more photos than this. Thse are just the highlights but, still, I must have taken more than 10 photos a day.)

Vines and Olives

Weapons of war


Crestet, Perhaps

Beautiful sight

Sites Around

Even More Scenery


Very Provence

Vines and Olives, Again

Pont du Gard

On the way from Carcasonne to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we stopped at the Pont du Gard, the largest remaining section of a Roman acqueduct. You pay 15 Euros to park your car, but that not only gives you access to the aquaduct but a very lovely museum, nice picnic areas – which must be a zoo in the summer, and several short walking trails. A bit pricey for us but perfect for a family with little kids interested in Roman history.

Ponte du Gard 001

We walked up one of the trails to where you are high enough up that yuo’re aligned with the top of the structure, although you’re no longer allowed to walk where the water once ran. Also visited the museum which, for a museum all about the importance of water in ancient Rome, was quite interesting and very well done in terms of the incoporation of photos and sound.

Pont du Gard 002

It was a really fun little side trip – I liked the pretty views and the ability to walk around and it gave Matt both a driving break and a chance to learn some more Roman history.