30 October 2013

Knit City!

So, I'm a dork who forgot her camera, so I don't have any actual pictures from Knit City, Vancouver's fiber festival (now in its second year, and even more awesome this time around). It was lovely, though we didn't stay too long, because Munchkin was sleeping peacefully and we wanted to make it home before she woke up and got grouchy. I did a wander-through, hung out at the guild booth, talked myself out of saying hi to the Yarn Harlot (I have met her, but only briefly at a book signing last year), and found something cool, which I do have a picture of.

Qiviut. Real qiviut.
I have this policy with spinning fibers right now. If I haven't worked with it before, then I can consider buying it. Ancient Arts Fiber Crafts was doing 30% off their exotic fibers. This included 25 gram bags of raw qiviut, originally at a dollar per gram. That's right. I have qiviut.

Qiviut, from the Artic musk ox, is one of those horrendously expensive fibers. It is soft, fluffy, the animals shed it in small amounts, and there are relatively few Artic musk oxen running around. This contributes to qiviut yarn frequently costing $60-$100 a ball. The stores in the area that carry it keep the stuff locked up in glass cases by the cash register.

My qiviut is a brown-grey, and is liberally sprinkled with black guard hairs. It's raw fiber, not processed, which is partly why I could justify buying it.

This will be less than 25 grams once I finish winnowing out the guard hairs. I plan to spin it as fine as I can manage, since this is best as a lace-weight yarn (it goes farther that way). Once I know what my yardage is, I'll make a decision on what it will be. In the meantime, I will bask in the glory of having qiviut, and curse those pecky guard hairs.

21 October 2013


I'm still amazed that someone who weighs less than eight pounds takes up so much time. I've been working on a sweater but I'm barely finished with the first sleeve (starting with the sleeve to avoid the sweater getting stuck in sleeve purgatory). It's easier to knit small, simple things right now. I managed to knit E. yet another hat this last week.

E. at 2 months in another new hat.
The pattern is Be Loving by Melissa Simpson. This is the newborn size, but she has a small head and I knit it with handspun that was probably more of an aran weight than a worsted. She'll grow into it. I'm on a hat kick, I think. I have this urge to knit all the baby hats in my Ravelry library. E. doesn't need 30 hats, but there are a few babies of friends on their way, so they may be getting hats.

Baby hats. Hats are easy.

17 October 2013

sleep with a side of Thanksgiving

I keep trying to start posts and then something (usually E.) highjacks them. Since we got the munchkin actually gaining weight, we've had Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is awesome because we get eggnog in the grocery store earlier than the Americans do), gone to the Cranberry Festival, and successfully navigated the passport office.

Thanksgiving: My in-laws came down (they live up north, so it's down-ish to get here), and took E. for a couple hours Saturday morning so J. and I could go to the Cranberry Festival without her. It was lovely to have a date and some time for just the two of us, but it did feel a bit like we'd forgotten something. We had Thanksgiving dinner in the evening. J. and I got an organic turkey and brined it, and my brother-in-law made some of his fabulous side dishes--sprouts with bacon and bleu cheese, something with sweet potatoes that was amazing, and cranberry chutney. E. was pretty happy over the weekend, despite all the craziness, and even slept for 5-6 hours several days in a row. Then, of course, she changed her mind and I didn't get much sleep Tuesday night.

But last night...ah, last night was amazing. She fell asleep around 9:30 in the evening, and woke up at 5:30 in the morning. We also went to bed at 9:30, since she was asleep, so I think I got about 7 hours last night. I still woke up a few times at night to make sure she was still breathing, and I don't really expect her to repeat the feat tonight, but it was pretty incredible. I think we're in the middle of a growth spurt--she ate extra yesterday and then slept most of the day today when she wasn't eating.

Her deciding that sleep was a great idea came at the perfect time, since we were headed into the passport office this morning. She slept on the bus on the way there, she slept in the passport office and completely ignored the enormity of me applying for her to get her very own passport (so we can take her to the States for Christmas to visit my family). Then she slept through the visit to TNT to get pork buns, woke up long enough to eat, then dozed off again during lunch and on the bus ride home. It was lovely being the mum with the sleeping baby in a stroller, rather than the screaming baby.

Now she seems to be dozing off on me, so I'm going to hand her off to J. to see if he can convince her to stay asleep for a bit since it's night now.

07 October 2013

Milk: The Saga Continues

The trying-to-feed-my-child saga has come to another turn. Last Monday, my doctor gave me a prescription for Domperidone, to help boost my milk supply, but told me that I might need to supplement. J. and I decided we'd give it a few days to see if the medication would make a difference, and then if it didn't, we would start supplementing. I'd weighed E. on Monday, so I went back to the public health unit on Friday to weigh her again. She was pretty furious about the whole scale thing as usual, and when the numbers settled, I knew what we'd be doing that evening. Over five days, she had gained one ounce.

That is not normal weight gain for a baby at all. The most she's gained in a week so far has been three ounces, and that's with spending most of the day attached to my chest. No wonder she's been so fussy. This week, she decided that me setting her down constituted horrible torture that required much screaming. I couldn't even get a glass of water without her screaming at me.

Fortunately, we had bottles on hand (since I'd had ambitions of expressing enough milk for a whole bottle), and we have half a dozen cans of formula that our doctor offered me (I think he was tired of them cluttering up his counter and he doesn't have a lot of really young patients in his practice right now), so I didn't have to go to the store and stare helplessly at all the choices. When J. got home from work, we mixed up a bottle and he gave it to her. She was pretty happy about it. She was also pretty happy about breastfeeding again at her next feed, and has remained happy about either option (unless she's grumpy, in which case, breastfeeding makes her happier. Actually, she's just happier in general. She's not always too excited about diaper changes, or about the part of baths where we wash her hair, but she's not screaming about being hungry anymore, and she's sleeping more because she doesn't have to eat quite as constantly.

I'm still breastfeeding her as much as I can, but there are times when she's getting next to nothing out of there, is really hungry, and starts getting extremely upset. Those are the times when she's been breastfeeding for something like an hour, and then downs 4 ounces of formula in less than ten minutes when we offer her a bottle, and drops off to the sleep.

And the difference, other than her moods and her sleep schedule?

I weighed her this afternoon. She'd gained about seven ounces since the last time I'd weighed her. She's finally over the six pound mark. Finally.

02 October 2013

beet sandwiches

One of the disadvantages of having a newborn who wants to eat constantly is that I don't really get to cook much. I'm limited to what I can make in a short time, and this is at the beginning of autumn, when the weather cools down and I suddenly get the urge to start baking bread and making soup to counteract the chill. Today, my time in the kitchen was spent making tea and sandwiches. It's good tea, and they were good sandwiches, but I find myself perusing the "food" tab on Pinterest rather avidly and wishing E. would let me set her down long enough during the day to mix up some pizza dough.

I did make reasonably interesting sandwiches, at least. We have beets that I picked up at the farmer's market last week, and a ham that we bought on the weekend so we'd have something to make sandwiches out of all week. Ham and beet sandwiches it was.

These aren't our beets, but taking pictures of produce when your child is demanding more food seems semi-irresponsible and it just stresses me out when she's upset and I'm far too sleep-deprived to want to add to my stress levels.
Using beets, or beetroot, on sandwiches is a relatively new concept for me. I ran across the idea at a bistro in downtown Vancouver over near the yarn shop Gina Brown's a couple years ago. I was part of the team organizing Yarn Harvest, our local yearly yarn crawl, and we were meeting with store owners to go over what was happening that year. We spent a lot of time driving around town, and stopped to get lunch at a small restaurant. I decided to fling caution to the wind and order the vegetarian sandwich (usually I don't go with the vegetarian sandwich options, because they often lack imagination. Who really wants only lettuce and cheese for lunch?). The sandwich came with grated beets. And it was good. I bought beets the next time I went grocery shopping and tried my own version.

That wasn't the first time I'd learned that the red vegetables I'd shunned as a child were actually quite tasty. The year before, on a class field trip to the UBC library (we linguists know how to have a good time), I'd discovered that beets are also good on pizza. A couple years before that, my roommate and I made borscht because we were curious. Both of these experiences were much tastier than my first encounter with beets, which was as pickled beets on my grandparents' Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables. Beets have an interesting flavour to start, and adding the tartness of pickling just made them less appealing to a kid who was not exactly picky, but who had yet to become an adventurous eater.

I still don't like pickled beets, but I'm not that excited about most pickled foods (home-made pickled daikon is an exception--it's fantastic toasted on baguette with melted cheese on top, though this is not what it was originally intended for). Fresh beets, or beets in soup, on the other hand, are much more interesting to me. Eaten raw, the root is crunchy but not difficult to chew, and has a dark, earthy taste with hints of sweetness. Cooked, it doesn't soften easily, so unlike potatoes or carrots, it retains some of that crunch. It may turn everything pink, but that's part of the fun. Unless you're wearing a white top while chopping it, of course.

Today's sandwiches were ham with slices of beet and sliced mushrooms. The bread was a little pink, and my fingertips are still slightly pink, but beets and ham go well together. Thesaltiness of the ham complements the sweetness of the beets, and the texture added to the sandwich with the beets is very pleasant. It might have been a little better with mustard, but we're out, so I used horseradish instead. I'm contemplating making mustard at some point this fall, once E. lets me set her down for more than five minutes before deciding to wake up. In the meantime, we've added it to the grocery list, so we'll try ham and beets with mustard tomorrow. Is it a lack of imagination on my part that I'm willing to eat the same thing several days in a row because I can make it in-between feedings?

01 October 2013

the complexities of milk

This breast-feeding thing has gotten more complicated in the last few weeks. I have to admit that I'm getting tired of my relationship with my daughter centering around food. Admittedly, her needs right now involve being fed, changed, and kept warm, so that's inescapable to a certain extent, but this is getting frustrating.

It started with my milk taking a little longer to come in than normal, or at least, coming in but there not being that much of it at first. Then my supply went up a bit, then went down, and we got to experience a screaming child who was being fed every two hours at a minimum but was still hungry and was gaining weight at a rate of at least 2 ounces less per week than the low range of normal. Then I got thrush, which is now improving, but the visit to the doctor to find out what I needed to do for the thrush resulted in him saying that I might have a low milk supply.

Off we went to the public health unit to weigh her before and after a feed and to talk with one of the nurses. Naturally, we hit the fussy point of the afternoon, so the visit consisted of the nurse and me trying to calm E. down enough to eat so we could see how much she got in. After she ingested a staggering 5 grams of milk, she calmed down and fell asleep. The nurse and I talked through what we could do to up my milk supply. I'd already started downing more water, and now I'm doing breast compressions while feeding and trying to make the time to do some hand-expressing in-between feedings. The look on her face when we started syringe-feeding her some expressed milk was priceless. Milk had never come out of a finger before and we definitely messed with her paradigm for how the world works. Cup feeding elicited similar expressions.

This got us to the point where E. is sleeping better, screaming less, and seems much happier when she's awake, but not to the point where she's gaining weight faster. My tiny child and I went back to the doctor yesterday and I'm now on medication to help boost my milk supply, and we've got a couple tins of formula in reserve in case that isn't enough.

Every medical professional I've talked with so far has been very encouraging and fairly helpful (the doctor from our practice that I spoke to yesterday was more in favour of supplementing than the one I spoke with last week, but they all still want me to keep breastfeeding as much as possible and want to make that happen). It's frustrating that everything else is fine with her except for her weight gain. She's growing bigger, she's alert, she's wetting the requisite number of diapers, she's getting better at holding her head up, and she can even roll over sometimes and she's not quite six weeks old. If the medication and possible supplementing don't do the trick within the next month, we get to visit a paediatrician to see if there's something else going on that's affecting her weight gain.

I'm not as stressed about all of this as I would expect to be, but I think I'm too tired to worry much. Whatever happens, we'll do what we need to in order to get her fed. I'm giving the medication a week or so after it kicks in to see if it's making a difference with her weight gain, and if not, then we'll add in a bottle or two of formula per day to round things out. I really wanted to get to the six months of exclusive breast-feeding, but making sure my child is getting enough food is more important. Now if you'll excuse me, she's dozed off so it's time to try expressing some extra milk. Sigh.