February 26, 2009

Have a heart

Here, have mine...

Yep, more knitted internal organs made cute by our model, Evie. (She could cute-up a slice of olive loaf... but I don't want to try.)

This hand knit, anatomical heart was my Valentine's gift to Matty. I actually got it done and gifted on Vday, but am just now getting around to taking pix and posting.

The pattern is another from Knitty, and was knit using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in 'Flame' and Knit Picks Palette 'Red'.

This was fairly easy knitting and very cleverly deigned. The valve bits are awesome, and the tip on using red roving where the valves are left open - brilliant!

So if you're in the market to knit a loved one something peculiar and bodily, you can't go wrong with this heart. It reminds me of the clay heart ashtray that Rachel made for Matt. Ah, sisterly love.

Posted by Nanc at 04:49 PM | Comments (5)

February 20, 2009

Nursery - first pix!

Here are some pictures and video of Evie's nursery. Nanc and I have been working on it for a while, and finally have something to show off!

Before you ask, yes it's another plog. What of it?

Here's a timelapse video that I made during the painting. This was fun to do, and I'm hoping to write a little more on time lapse photography at a later date.

Long before Evie was born, Nanc and I had discussed painting a mural in the nursery. We're just built crafty like that. We decided on a rainforest theme, and after that, Nanc sort of let me loose, while she concerned herself with being pregnant.

I'm artsy, but I'm definitely not an artist. This is the first painting that I've done since high school. So, I promptly went out and bought a book on painting murals from Amazon. I looked through the book, but I didn't actually take that much advice from the book. I decided to make my own way through the wilderness.

Prepping the room

The room (previously known as the PEZ room or the Crazy room) was something to behold. I really wish that I had a picture of it before I stripped out all of the decorations. We had weird stuff on every wall, including a Brannock device, a large Elvis clock, and tin signs.

Once I got everything taken down, and got to work, I realized that the room was just a mess. There were many, many holes in the walls that needed patching. There were also some big holes from a botched cable install before we got the house, and some other unique dents and divots to spackle and patch.

So, before I could even think about the mural, there was a coat of Killz, two coats of paint on the wall, and all of the trim to paint. I finished the basecoat and trim just as Evie was coming home from the hospital last month.


Next came the design. I knew that I wanted something bright, with simple shapes. I also wanted something that I would appreciate, otherwise I would be really sick of it before I finished.

I also wanted it to be somewhat accurate, so I tried to incorporate flora and fauna that would actually populate a rainforest. For instance, a giraffe, though cute, would probably not be found in the rainforest. Sometimes, OCD can be a great burden, non?

Stylewise, I tried for a cross between Shag and Hanna-Barbera. The design is all solid colors and shapes, with little to no blending. Once I set this scope, I started to feel like I could probably pull this off.

I started collecting design inspiration from anywhere I could. I had all sorts of images and photos from the internet, and a few books that I drew from.

I did a lot of sketching on paper, then moved to the computer, mainly because I feel more comfortable working in illustration programs than on paper. You gotta work with your strengths. I created the design in Adobe Illustrator over the course of a week or two. I chose to use Illustrator, since creating a vector-based design worked well for my idea of a colorful and simple world. It also scaled up to size cleanly.

I tried to contain the color palette, but I ended up with around 20 colors, including fours shades of green and four shades of brown.

Once I thought that I was done with the design, I took a break for a few days, then did some reality checks against the room. I made some tweaks and changes, and ended up with the final version.

Transferring design

The next obstacle was how to get the design off of the computer and onto the wall. The typical way to do this is to put a grid on the wall, and then redraw the design in full scale based on the grid intersections.

That didn't sound like any fun, at all. In addition, it sounded like a lot of work. Bluck!

Instead, I cruised Craigslist, looking for a classroom overhead projector. I knew that I could print on transparency plastic, project it on the wall, and trace it. Before I purchased it, I heard that Target was clearing out some kiddie video projectors for cheap! So, I hustled down, and picked up a Torpedo projector for $50. In retrospect, I wish that I had gone with the overhead projector. The kiddie video projector is truly an abysmal product, possibly worth less than the money I spent. Oh well, maybe next time...

I also had to buy a $20 adapter so that my laptop could connect to the projector's RCA jacks.

The projector didn't put off a bright picture, so I had to do all of my work in the dead of night. The resolution was very poor, so I could only work with small chunks of about three feet square at one time. In order to avoid massive issues with keystoning and weird angles across the design, I secured the projector to a rolling stand, and rolled it across the room , and put the projector on different shelves when I needed to change the height.

While the image was projected onto the wall, I used a hard pencil to lightly trace the design onto the wall. I had a headlamp that I would occasionally turn on to check my work, since I couldn't really see the pencil marks in the dark.

But the upside is now I have a little video projector to play with. It will end up in some project, I'm sure.


I was on a budget, and couldn't afford to buy 20 quarts of premixed paint, so I knew early on that I would be mixing my own paint. I dreaded mixing the paint colors. I have horrible memories of color wheels, and making large vats of purply-brown, when trying to make green.

Then, I had a thought. I made the design using CMYK color in Illustrator. If you're not familiar, CMYK is a color process often used in professional printing, where all of the colors can be made using a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and BlacK. For each color in Illustrator, I had the CMYK value description for the color. For instance, a Lavender color would be made of C=75% M=75% Y=0 K=0. So, if I used CMYK paints instead of the typical RYB to mix, I would have a pretty precise description for each color.

So, that's pretty much what we did and it worked. I did buy a couple of extra colors too, just to make life a little easier. I bought a dark brown, and a vivid green, white, as well as a red.

I tried to buy most of my paint at a paint store that rhymes with Werwin Shwilliams, but there were a couple of colors that I just couldn't get (like magenta and cyan). An artsy friend from work (hi Cathie) suggested that I pick up some tubes of acrylic paint from the art store. Since acrylic and latex paints are water-based, they played very well together.

I asked Nanc to mix up the paint colors, since she has a much keener eye for it than I. So, over the course of one Friday night, she mixed up all of the paint colors, and put them in their own individual Tupperware-esque containers. She also added a little Floetrol to each, which thinned the paint a little, so that brush marks wouldn't be so obvious.

Painting it

Painting took a while. I painted the mural over the course of one week. Based on the timelapse photo timestamps, I figure that we spent about 32 hours painting. Nanc pitched in when she could, but mostly she was hanging out with Evie, so that I could work on the painting.

Since I had traced the design onto the wall, at this point, it was like painting a giant paint-by-numbers. I bought a package full of brushes from Michaels for the walls, but most of the brushes were not fit for this task. I painted large swaths with a sponge brush, since I wanted blocks of solid color on the wall. For large parts, I used my trusty 2 " cut-in brush. For small bits, I used a couple of thin detailing brushes. But the package of brushes from Michaels did end up being useful. I used all of those brushes as paint stirrers.

Pretty much everything took two coats. I liked the effect of one coat of paint on some of the trees, but everything else was two coats, to get a nice, even color.

We still have one or two small details to finish, and then I'm planning to seal the paint with a water-based poly. Then I start on the second one...

Posted by Matty at 01:31 PM | Comments (7)

February 19, 2009

Kevin would be happy

The cookie jar has been restocked... with homemade Snickerdoodle cookies.

Posted by Nanc at 11:26 PM | Comments (3)

February 17, 2009

Tit for [uterine] tat

Catchy title, eh?

In trade for our healthy baby, my OB received a knitted uterus. Fair trade, right?

Okay, so we didn't barter for the bebeh, or even her quality. And I promise you, our doctor was well compensated for the prenatal care I received. But as a thank you for his care and concern, I did knit him a uterus. (Despite the fact that he did not deliver Evelyn, and was at the time on a cruise in the Caribbean.)

At first, I was thinking along the lines of a nice scarf or a coffee cup cozy to show my gratitude, but the more I met with my doctor and the more he laughed at my jokes (which really is cause for compensation on it's own), I came to believe that he would be tickled with a novelty uterus. And what better recipient than an OB to appreciate it.

The pattern is Womb from Knitty. I used Cascade 220 held double. The color is bubblegum pink; not exactly a realistic color, but if you could make your uterus any color...

and yeah, I'm ending the post on that thought

Posted by Nanc at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)

February 14, 2009

Be Mine

Happy Valentine's Day!


This picture was taken nearly a month ago. Evie doesn't even fit into that shirt anymore. These other pictures were taken a couple weeks ago with the day's dying light.

Posted by Nanc at 06:58 PM | Comments (7)

February 11, 2009

The Best Part of My Workday...

Is the video chat with Evie at lunchtime. We truly live in the future. That is all.


I know we haven't posted lately, but everything is going well. Evie is happy and healthy. Updates are on the way, I promise. Stay tuned.

Posted by Matty at 04:58 PM | Comments (2)

February 04, 2009

Bert the Farting Hippo

This title probably requires some explanation. Chances are, you stopped by the website to see baby pictures, or maybe something that Nanc knitted.

You will be disappointed by this post. Sorry. But now, curiosity should be gripping you. You need to know. Even though you think that fart humor is base and juvenile, you are drawn to click the 'read more' link below. It's not about farting anymore.

Making Laughter and Good Spirits

Let's go back just a little bit. Nanc's Dad wasn't feeling so well, and was in the hospital for surgery just after Evie was born. He's on the mend and is feeling much better now (thanks for askin').

Nanc was pretty concerned, and so we decided to send him a get-well gift. Sure, we could have sent a flower bouquet or a fruit basket, but that didn't seem quite right.

Then we came up with a great idea. While we were visiting her folks in November, they got us hooked on watching NCIS. It's probably like CSI, and all those other shows, but we enjoyed it. And so did they. It's on in syndication, and they watched several episodes while we were there.

I sense that you're getting impatient. "Where is the flatulence," you find yourself shouting at the computer. Hold on. I'm getting there. Patience is a virtue, you know.

So anyway, one of the characters on NCIS is Abby, the wacky, goth forensic scientist. And Abby has a stuffed hippo named Bert that -you guessed it- farts when you squeeze him. Bert is a minor supporting character, and has shown up in around a dozen episodes.

So, yes. I was going to make a farting stuffed animal for my FIL. I searched a bit on the internet, and found out that the real Bert didn't actually fart. They just added the raspberry noises in during editing. [sigh] This was going to be harder than I thought.

From here on down, is a project log of the build. Would it be weird to call it a plog? If you're not interested too much in the how, you can skip the rest of this and jump to the videos and pictures.

The Farting Hippo Plog

See? Now it's official. I dare you not use plog as an efficient replacement for "project log." I bet you'll start using it all the time in your own life when... referring to... your ...own ...project log. Well, damn. I guess you probably won't use it all that much. It's still a good word, in it's own right.

Ve Haf Vays of Making You Vart

I figured there were two ways to make a stuffed animal fart; electronic and practical. I could put a little box with sensors, and a prerecorded fart noise. Typically, my gadgety-ness gets the better of me, but not this time. I wanted something practical that wouldn't need batteries.

That's when I came across the idea of using a self-inflating whoopee cushion. In case you're a little behind the times in whoopee cushion technological advances, a self-inflating whoopee cushion (hereafter referred to as SIWC), is similar to it's flat cousin, except that it has a spongy foam inside, and a small hole in the center to allow air to refill the cushion once it has been -how you say - deployed.

Gatherin' Parts

Evie had just been born, and I knew that I couldn't do this alone. Neither of us wanted to leave the house, due to a raging case of baby fever. Luckily, we got a little bit of help from our friends.

The last time Nanc and I were at IKEA, we played with some giant stuffed hippos, and thought about getting one for the soon-to-be-arriving baby. But we didn't. So, we asked Angi to stop by and pick up a stuffed hippo. "No, wait," I said, "buy three!" Why three? I have no earthly idea. Angi was super-nice and picked up three hippos and dropped them off at our house the next day.

This left the SIWC (You forgot already? It's an acronym for self-inflating whoopee cushion). The only place I could think of that would have a SIWC in stock was Froggie's. I've written about Froggie's before. It's a magical store down on Knox-Henderson, where I often purchase PEZ. Anyhow, I called, and they (of course) had SIWCs. So, we asked Aubyn, who lives near Froggies, if she would stop buy and pick up the SIWCs for us. (We didn't use the acronym though, since I just invented it). She graciously said that she would go to Froggie's on this mission of mercy. Lo and behold, a few days later, I was holding a bag containing 3 SIWCs.

At this point, I figured it would be a quick and painless operation to open the hippo, drop in the cushion, and sew it up. I was wrong. If I hugged the hippo, I could squeeze the air out of the cushion, but there were no farty noises. Just a whoosh. I thought about it. the way that a SIWC works in it's intended purpose is that you put it on someone's chair, and they sit on it. The SIWC works best when it is compressed between a slab of chair, and a slab of butt.

Enter the Fart Box

In my head, I pictured a cross between a SIWC and fireplace bellows. We started calling this the fart box. I quickly built several prototypes, most of which didn't work. After a while, I got something that worked, and slowly refined it. (By slowly I mean slowly over the course of an hour or two. We did still have a newborn at home. I don't want you to think that I slaved over this for weeks. I had bigger fish to fry.)

I ended up making the fart box out of cardboard. I briefly considered wood, but decided that would be asking for trouble to put wood inside of a stuffed animal. Cardboard was a plentiful ingredient in our house, and should be more forgiving if you hit it the wrong way.

I was happy when I got the fart box to squawk out faux gas 75% of the time. Just like in life, sometimes the farts are silent. Depending on how you squeezed the fart box, sometimes it just wouldn't go.

The other problem that I had to overcome was re inflation. As I mentioned earlier, there was a small hole in the center of the SIWC, which was how the cushion re inflated. Because my fart box covered up this hole, the cushion couldn't inflate. I tried putting holes in the fart box directly over the hole in the cushion, but this reduced me to around a 50% fart success rate, because some times you would squeeze the fart box, and all of the air would just push out of the re inflation hole, making the unsatisfactory swishing noise.

I resolved this by making a few holes in the fart box, slightly off-center from the re inflation hole in the SIWC. This way, the re inflation hole was covered when pressure was applied, but air was still allowed back in when pressure was released.

Final Fartistry

Once the fart box was finished, I prepared the hippo for surgery by carefully ripping out a seam on the underside. I inserted the box into the hippo and seamed Bert back up with a slip stitch. He looked as good as new. I originally wanted to anchor the fart box to a specific location in Bert's gut, but Nanc looked at me like I was crazy and told me I was overthinking it. She was probably right. The box moves around a little bit, but not too much.

I'm not completely happy with the fart box. Since it's sort of like a bellows, it only works on the flat sides. In a perfect world, I would build my own SIWC that is shaped more like a 2-liter bottle, and then it could be squeezed (squozen?) from almost any direction. I digress.

I finished Bert off with a leather-studded collar from a local costume shop, and packed him into a box with a get-well card and some NCIS photos that I found online.

A Warm Reception

Nancy's Dad received Bert when he came home from the hospital. By all accounts, he was pretty tickled to receive the gift. He called Nanc and when she answered, he blew a big, wet raspberry. He even sent me a thank-you email, (and I don't think he writes too many emails).

Um. So that's the writeup. A few weeks late, but it's finally written up before I forgot all of the salient details. Evie will love her Bert 2, and I'm not certain what I'm going to do with Bert 3. Overall, it was a lot of fun, and a shockingly fast build.

Posted by Matty at 07:49 AM | Comments (5)

February 02, 2009

Who's next?

My brother Kevin was here for a quick but welcomed visit last week. We all had a great time, but I think Evie was instantly smitten with her uncle (and vice versa).

Kevin flew in on Monday and was out by Thursday, but it was enough time to spoil us all; Evie with the holding and cuddling, me with the breaks and diaper changes, and Matt with meatloaf.

Kevin makes an excellent "wife." I don't say this to demean or emasculate him. It was really great having him here for those days. Kevin prepared meals that he enjoys and that are healthy, plus he did the dishes!

The one time he was bored and not holding Evie, he made chocolate chip cookies... from scratch. Wow. *

More than just spoiling her with love and tenderness, Kevin's family sent a gift for Evie: a Cleveland Brown's #73 Thomas jersey! It's still a little too big and she missed wearing it this past season, but I think we'll squeeze her into it next fall to support her cousin. (For those I haven't bragged to about this, my cousin Joe Thomas plays for the Browns. Read more here.)

So enjoy the pix, and know that we miss 'Uncle Kevin' already and are wondering what family is coming to visit next. (Whoever it is, get your recipe cards in order because you have a big pair of oven mitts to fill.)

* A side note about the cookies: Kevin noticed that I have ownership of the cookie jar that we grew up with: a pink circus elephant. More precisely, a pink circus elephant that is either drunk or dead, as indicated by the X's for eyes. (Curious, no?) I obtained this icon of our childhood by providing our mother with a cookie jar that matches her current dishes.

Anyhoo, Kevin had such fond memories of this cookie jar being filled with either homemade cookies or cookies bought at Findlay Market, both a treat, that he was distraught to see it lay barren. I'm sad to say, but it is empty again ('cause 'dem cookies were so good).

Posted by Nanc at 08:14 PM | Comments (4)