I’ve mentioned a couple times that I’m considering a camera upgrade but have been having trouble deciding whether to simply get a new Canon dSLR body to replace my well-worn 20D or whether to go for something different. I love the idea of the mirrorless cameras — higher image quality than a standard point-and-shoot but smaller, lighter and generally easier to carry around than an SLR — but they are not cheap. I could replace my old 20D body for the same, or sometimes LESS, than I would spend on a mirrorless model.
I was paralyzed by indecision, and a little scared to take the plunge without really knowing what the mirrorless cameras could do. So I rented one! Last Friday, a Sony NEX-6 with 18-55 lens showed up at my door and I carried it around all weekend taking random (ok, mostly of Emma) photos. I didn’t try to control anything about the setting — just snapping photos wherever we happened to be, with whatever light happened to be available. Here are 15 of my favorites:
I had a lot of fun trying the NEX-6 out…but unfortunately I still can’t decide what I want to buy! The NEX-6 is definitely what I’m looking for in terms of size and shape. And it does take a pretty decent photo. However, in looking through the 100+ photos I took there did seem to be a higher-than-I’d-like number where the focus was off. It’s possible that this could be related to the fact that it was my first time using the camera, and I didn’t fully understand all the bells and whistles. Or it could be because the focusing isn’t great.
The only thing that still makes me squeamish is the price. If this were a $300 or even $500 camera, I’d have bought one already. But the NEX-6 with kit lens is $900, and somehow that triggers the “excessive” classification in my brain. Maybe it’s because I already have several very nice dSLR lenses that I feel like I should use instead of spending $900 on another camera?? I’ve considered selling some of dSLR gear to pay for the NEX, but I’m not ready to get rid of expensive lenses quite yet. The NEX-5 is also an option since it compares pretty well with the NEX-6 but is “only” $600.
At the end of the day though, perhaps the only thing that really matters is that intermittent focus issues or not, the mirrorless cameras are exactly what I’m looking for. The image quality is significantly better than my iPhone and point-and-shoot — in a much, much more portable package.
Edited to add: I ordered a NEX-5 about 8 hours after I wrote this. Seems like the best compromise between price and still getting a camera I know I will use more often than my SLR. Can’t wait till it arrives next week!
My friends Katie and Andrew welcomed a baby boy a few weeks ago, and I wanted to make him a little something to celebrate his arrival. Katie is a language arts teacher and LOVES the Harry Potter books, so my original idea was to find some Harry Potter-themed fabric and make a baby blanket. However, apparently Harry Potter fabric was only produced for a short time and more than a decade ago. (This was pretty surprising to me, but I guess Rowling is fairly protective of the brand!) While there are still some pieces from 2001-2002 available on Etsy and eBay, the average price is around $100/yard. Not exactly what I was hoping to find!
So I took a different approach and started searching for Harry Potter-themed quilts. This led me to a WHOLE WEBSITE dedicated to quilt patterns for fans of various things — Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, etc. It kinda blew my mind and made me fall in love with the internet all over again. It also had exactly the right thing for me with a huge selection of Potter-themed paper-pieced quilt blocks. I’d been wanting to learn how to paper piece already, since it lets you make some very intricate and impressive blocks. This seemed like the perfect excuse.
I chose the Gryffindor crest — a very cool lion — and decided to turn it into a taggie toy/sensory blanket backed with soft red minky and bordered with some pieces of ribbon for Baby Boy to grab. I had to enlarge the pattern slightly to make it what I wanted, but that was easily done on the computer. In retrospect, I certainly could have picked an easier block for my first attempt at paper-piecing! But I took it slow, triple-checked everything before sewing, and got the hang of it as I went. (This paper-piecing tutorial from Fresh Lemons was also quite helpful.)
The lion was made up of 6 smaller sections that were then sewn together into the final block. (The picture above shows the 6 sections.) I thought it would take a lot longer than it actually did. After the first few pieces, I started to get the sequence down and the repetitive nature lent itself well to just plugging along — sew one piece, press the seam, cut a piece of fabric for the next piece, line it up, and repeat.
I did make a couple mistakes and you can see the biggest one in the upper left corner. That piece was the first of the six that I did, and I didn’t fully understand yet how important it was to cover every single bit of the seam allowance. I didn’t realize how critical this was until I had sewn the whole block together. Fortunately I was able to fix it by changing the shape of my crest — if you look at the first photo showing my completed blanket, you’ll see how I made the top corners of the crest curve inward. Doing that eliminated my error. Whew!
Once the quilt block was done, the rest of the project was super simple — just a normal blanket with the pieces of ribbon thrown in for fun. (Be careful if you’re using the photo above as a reference for actually making something of your own. That was just me figuring out where to place the ribbons, but it’s NOT how you should line them up for the final sewing! Before you sew, they need to be tucked in between the layers of fabric pointing towards the center, so that they stick outside when the blanket is turned right-side-out for finishing.)
The lion himself is made from several different fat quarters in a variety of yellow patterns, and the crest is a single mottled maroon print. The background is a cool navy fabric with tiny gold polka dots. I chose three different kinds of ribbon to coordinate, and used some nice bright red minky for the back. I think I’ve used minky in at least half of the baby items I’ve made. It’s just so soft! I love it.
I packed this up in an envelope and mailed it off to Ohio only a day or two before the baby arrived — I think this was probably waiting in their mailbox when they got home from the hospital! I was SO happy with how this turned out. I think it looks amazing and can’t wait to take on another paper-pieced project in the future.
And I think Robert likes it too!
Last night, Soyuz TMA-07M aka 33S safely returned to Earth with its crew of 3 astronauts. One of them was Chris Hadfield, a Canadian who served as ISS Commander for the last few months and has been living onboard since December. For the last 6 months, he’s been burning up the internet with cool things to watch and see and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that he has single-handedly brought NASA and the ISS to the attention of millions.
He took incredible photos. He’s on Facebook. And Twitter. And Tumblr, Google+ and Pinterest. He did a Reddit AMA. He recorded what things sounds like on the ISS. Zen Pencils turned one of his inspiring quotes into a sweet cartoon. Gizmodo said he “made us care about astronauts again.”
He played with Barenaked Ladies — FROM SPACE:
He taught us how to make a sandwich in space…
…and also the all-important skill of how to barf in space.
And as a finale before returning home, he did a revised version of Bowie’s Space Oddity…IN SPACE. And it’s GOOD. Which is all kinds of nerdy and all kinds of awesome.
I’m happy he’s back on the planet safe and sound, but I’m also kinda sad we can’t have him on ISS forever! Either way, I think it’s official:
BEST. ISS. ASTRONAUT. EVER.
Yesterday I went up to Lake Houston with Erin and Lisa for the TriGirl Super Sprint! It was my first tri post-baby — and really my first since June 2011, since I missed the entire 2012 season being pregnant. I’ve done TriGirl’s August race but never this one, which is a short 200 yard swim, 8 mile bike and 2 mile run. The short distances were perfect given my complete lack of training.
200 yd swim – 5:12
T1 – 1:48
8 mile bike – 25:43
T2 – 0:57
2 mi run – 23:50
TOTAL – 57:31
I can’t remember the last time I went swimming for workout or race-related purposes. It was probably the swim portion of that June 2011 tri. This was a really short swim that I expected to finish in around 5 minutes, and sure enough, I did exactly that. There was a breeze up by the lake so we had to deal with some minor swells and choppiness. I made the mistake of starting toward the back of the pack, forgetting that my swim times over short distances are always consistent no matter how long it’s been since my last time in the water. I had to make my way through a lot of thrashing arms and legs in the first 50 yards, but by the time I reached the first turn buoy, I had broken free of the main pack. At that point, the swells became a bit more troublesome so I switched to breaststroke for the rest of the swim.
So let’s recap: I started at the back of the pack, and did breaststroke instead of freestyle for 2/3 of the distance. Despite this, my 5:12 swim time was still good enough for 6th out of 59 people in my age group (and thus my swim wave). And this is why it makes little sense for me to spend time training for the swim in a sprint distance tri.
T1 was pretty standard. I had a bit of ground to cover since we had to run from the swim exit all the way down to the other end of transition. I took a little more time than usual to make sure everything was in order — my brain was kinda foggy on the whole transition sequence! I also had to dry my feet enough to be able to pull on socks. But soon enough I was on my way. (And despite me really taking my time, I still was 12/59 in my age group for T1.)
The bike felt GREAT. I love the course, which is nice and shady with lots of pretty trees and a few nice downhills but only one climb of any significance. I passed a lot of people too, which also gave me a boost. (The duathlon had started at the same time as my swim wave and the first run was only a 1/2 mile, so there were a lot of duathlon people already out on the bike course since the run only took most of them 3-5 minutes and a run-bike transition is usually quicker than swim-bike.) It felt good to be flying along the course even though I knew it would probably trash my legs for the run. The bike was advertised as 8 miles but was really ~7.5, so I averaged ~17.5 mph. I had been on my bike exactly ONCE post-baby prior to yesterday, so I am TOTALLY happy with a 17.5 mph average. In fact, that’s about 2.5 mph better than I thought I would do!
T2 was pretty unremarkable and I was on to the run.
For the first mile, my legs were basically numb. It’s been so long since I did the bike-run transition that I think my body had completely forgotten what it was like! I felt like I was barely sustaining a shuffle, but with a few short walk breaks thrown in, I managed to reach the turnaround right at 12:00. On the way back to the finish, the numbness in my legs finally went away but it was replaced with burning in both calves. Fun! Somehow I continued my shuffle, and finished right under 12:00 pace — although I had to keep walking for a few minutes after crossing the line until the burning went away. I was worried both calf muscles were about to cramp up, but fortunately the feeling subsided.
Lisa passed somewhere around the 1.25-mile mark on the run, so she beat me by a couple minutes. Erin finished a couple minutes behind me, but her swim wave started 4 minutes after mine, so her total time was actually a minute faster than mine.
When I was telling Jose my estimates of how I’d do (and he was telling me to not push myself too hard!), I said something along the lines of: “Well in the past, I would expect to finish this race well under an hour, given the distances. That’s probably a long shot for me right now, but hopefully I’ll only be a minute or two over an hour.” Needless to say, I was pretty pumped to see 57:31 as my final time. My run was spot on what I’d planned, but the swim and bike both went better than expected.
It felt really good to be back out there, and I’m already looking forward to my next race, which will probably be the Y Freedom Tri in Pearland on June 30. Erin and Lisa are both signed up for the Galveston 5150 at the end of September but I’m not quite ready to commit to an olympic distance yet. We’ll see…
First I ran or walked a mile each day for 5 weeks. Now the goal is to do that or something comparable each day through Mother’s Day. (But I’m still calling it mile-a-day.) Here’s how I’m doing:
May 6 – 1 mile treadmill walk
May 7– 1.5 mile walk outside with Jose and Emma
May 8 – 2.2 mile walk outside with Jose and Emma
May 9 – 2.2 mile walk outside with Jose and Emma
May 10 – 3 mile run outside with Emma
May 11 – 1 mile treadmill walk
May 12 – TriGirl Super Sprint Triathlon!
This week was marked by two distinct things. First, Emma had to stay home from daycare all week because of her various and sundry infections, which meant she went on plenty of walks and runs. And second, this morning I did my first post-baby triathlon! It went really well and I had a great time. I’ll post a full recap tomorrow.
A few weeks ago I went to a baby shower for my friend Cindy, who had a baby boy a few days ago! Even though she works for one of NASA’s contractors here in Houston, I first met her through Twitter a few years ago. Now we’re real-life friends as well and I can’t wait to meet her little boy!
I decided Cindy could use a few of the awesome swaddle blankets that we liked so much with Emma, but I also wanted to add something handmade. I originally had visions of another quilt or baby blanket but…I ran out of time, as per usual. (My friends who had babies after I learned how to sew but before I had Emma definitely hit the sweet spot in the gift department!)
So I decided to make a plush toy rocket! This was a fairly easy project, partly because I already had all the materials I needed! I used a tutorial from The Long Thread that I had pinned a while ago, but simplified it by skipping the “astronaut” since I didn’t have the materials for that. I used some very stiff heavy duty interfacing that I already had in the rocket fins instead of cardboard, and that worked just fine. You may recognize several of the fabrics as well — I used scraps leftover from last year’s zig zag star quilt, plus some starry yellow flannel I had leftover from making burp cloths.
The only thing I would change if I made this again would be to put the fins a little higher up on the rocket — so that the bottom of the fins are almost flush with the bottom of the rocket itself. The interfacing in the fins is stiff, but not stiff enough to hold the rocket upright so it would probably be better if it could sit on its bottom.
Ta da! Rocket! To the mooooon!
Emma officially has:
- Two ear infections
- Hand, foot and mouth disease
- A secondary infection, either staph or strep, of a nasty rash on her knees and bottom
The good news is that after an absolutely miserable day yesterday, she seems in much better spirits today. She’s even showing off her new skills. Two weeks ago when we visited my parents, she was just barely transitioning from army crawling to actual crawling. And suddenly she’s pulling up on everything.
Time to clear off the second shelf of the bookshelf too. And bolt it to the wall.
Tomorrow she’ll be going off to college.
But in the meantime, I just really, really wish she could get healthy soon.
Emma is sick. The sickest she’s been in her little life so far. She’s feverish and rashy and generally miserable, and I’m barely holding it together since nothing I do seems to make her feel any better.
But on Saturday she was cute and happy and we had an awesome day as a family, so I’m going to focus on that for a moment. We had tentatively planned to go car camping with Jen and Gavin and their kids on Saturday night, but last week got crazy and Jose and I just didn’t get things together in time to make it happen. But since we didn’t join them, I was determined to do something else as a substitute. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so we decided to head to Armand Bayou Nature Park.
It’s right here in the Clear Lake Area but I had never been. That’s right — I’ve lived in this area for 16 years including my time in college as a coop, but I had NEVER been to Armand Bayou. I’ve ridden my bike past the gate on countless training rides, and I’ve run past it several times doing the 10-Miler. But I had never actually been inside.
What a mistake! And what a nice little park! We decided to walk one of the three trails. It was 1.5 miles and took us through the woods, to the shore of the bayou, and then along a big stretch of prairie. The trail was crushed gravel so it was a little bumpy for Emma, but our “all-terrain” stroller handled it well. We all had a great time and I took a ton of photos.
Hooray for a fun family outing! We’ll definitely be back.
Good news! You get to spend your 9-month birthday at home with me! The bad news? It’s because you threw up at daycare this morning AND suddenly developed a fever, so I had to pick you up only 30 minutes after dropping you off. At least you were happy for your monthly photo this morning…although in retrospect, your squirminess and refusal to sit straight up may have been a sign.
You’re napping at the moment after a dose of baby ibuprofen and we’ll be picking up some antibiotics at the pharmacy later this afternoon. Or more accurately — different antibiotics, because you’ve already been getting antibiotic drops in your ears since Friday, when we took you for your 9-month checkup and discovered that the ear infection diagnosed two weeks ago was still hanging around. SIGH. I can’t even express how frustrating it is to see you constantly under the weather in some way, shape, or form. Even when you seem otherwise fine, your runny nose and cough never seem to fully go away. I know this is to be expected from a baby in daycare, and I know that your immune system is improving every day. But sometimes it seems like you are doomed to be sick forever. Today I ended up in tears right along with you, because I couldn’t make you feel better.
But on to better things! In the last month, your abilities have, as per usual, exploded. You started saying “mama” and “dada” on a regular basis and even though you probably don’t really mean it yet, it’s definitely music to my ears to hear the word. (Even when you’re screaming, like you did one night in Charlotte. “Waaaaaaaaaah…dadadada….”) You squeal and grunt when you want something or are pleased with something you did. And your laugh has evolved into different flavors. You still giggle when something really makes you laugh, but now you also do what I can only describe as a chuckle — a quick “heh heh” that never fails to make me smile.
You are also starting to take slightly longer naps, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but let me tell you: when you’ve been a serial 45-minute napper for months, an hour and a half feels like a long time! Last weekend your morning nap was two hours and 15 minutes and I started to wonder if someone had swapped my baby out for a different one. (And yes, I kept checking the monitor to make sure you were breathing. It seems this is something all moms do.) The downside of this is that I think you’re also starting to transition from 3 naps per day to only 2…but if those two are longer, I think it’s a fair trade.
But by far your biggest accomplishment has been learning to pull yourself all the way up to standing. Two weeks ago you couldn’t do it, and now it feels like you’ve always been able to. You pull up on everything — your crib, your bookcase, the coffee table, your car seat. Yesterday you even pushed yourself up on a giant package of toilet paper while we were unpacking groceries. Whatever you can find is perfectly acceptable. You’re an equal opportunity pull-upper.
Every day you become more observant, more aware of the world around you, and more adventurous. You bonked your head pretty good after a fall at daycare one day, and if you didn’t have Dad or me shadowing nearly every move, you would have taken several head-first swan dives off the couch by now. It seems your desire to explore is running ahead of the development of any sort of self-preservation instinct!
By far our biggest adventure this month was going to Charlotte for a week to see my half of your family. Everyone was there — Gima and Grandfather, Uncle David, Uncle Brian and Aunt Cindy, and your two cousins Daniel and Lucas. And Aunt Katie and Uncle Joel even flew in from Seattle so that our visits could overlap! We gathered on the front porch for a family photo that we’ll all enjoy for years to come. Although this photo will probably seem funny to you someday because it doesn’t include any of your future siblings and/or cousins, it seems funny to me because my family is so much bigger now! What was a family of six for so many years has now doubled in size. Amazing!
We also drove up to Durham one day so you could meet your Great-Grandmother and I’m so, so glad we did. She is 98 years old and you are the first great-grandchild she has been able to meet. I haven’t seen her as excited about anything in a very long time as she was about seeing you. It made all of us — Great-Grandmother, Gima, and me — very, very happy.
During the first quarter of my freshman year at college, my family came to Atlanta for the weekend to visit. I was so homesick and spent so much time crying that your Grandfather came back the very next weekend to take me home to Charlotte for a few days. That was 1996, and I guess since then I had forgotten what it felt like to miss your family that much. But now I remember. Our whole week in Charlotte was fantastic and went by far too fast. For the first time in 17 years, I actually cried when it was time to leave North Carolina.
Emma, having you has made me realize just how important family really is. You’re here, and you’re the most important part of it. You and Dad. Going back to Charlotte with a child of my own made me think about a lot of things, and who knows where that might lead. But wherever we go, you guys will always be my home.
First I ran or walked a mile each day for 5 weeks. Now the goal is to do that or something comparable each day through Mother’s Day. (But I’m still calling it mile-a-day.) Here’s how I’m doing:
Apr 29 – 1.2 mile treadmill walk
Apr 30 – 1 mile treadmill walk
May 1 – 1.2 mile treadmill walk
May 2 – 1.2 mile treadmill walk
May 3 – 1.5 mile treadmill walk
May 4 – 1.5+ mile walk on the trails at Armand Bayou
May 5 – 3.1 mile run outside
I’m happy to have gotten back on track this week with doing something every day! I gotta admit, I almost missed 3 days this week — after the previous three weeks, it’s a little TOO easy to convince myself that no one — including myself — really cares whether I’m successful or not. But I DO care, and I also know that’s how good habits get thrown by the wayside. So on basically every weeknight, I forced myself onto the treadmill; on most of those, it was 11:00 pm by the time I walked my mile. Yes, that goes against my goal of getting to bed earlier!
But this weekend was solid. Yesterday we had some family fun time over at the Armand Bayou Nature Center. We walked one of the trails which is advertised as 1.5 miles, and covered more ground to and from the trailhead. I didn’t take my Garmin or think to map it on my phone, so who knows, but we definitely covered a (leisurely) mile.
Today I ran outside in the spectacular — and completely unexpected for the first weekend of May — weather and had a great time. And my run last Sunday, despite being my first run in a few weeks, felt pretty good despite the humidity and the burden of the stroller. Is it possible that this mile-a-day thing might actually be maintaining some low level of fitness? I didn’t think a mile a day was enough to do that since it’s so little, but perhaps it truly is better than zero.