December 29, 2010

Back in the saddle?

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:36 pm by Lauren

I never know what to say after long absences from the blog. For that matter, Chez Schmanz was all but forgotten in 2010! And that’s probably okay, because nobody really wants to hear the minutae of my pregnancy – but you get to opt in to the minutae of life with a baby. Maybe.

Colin is 7 and a half weeks old, and I may just be able to steal time to post updates on my blog and save for myself some of the experiences of his early days. Goodness knows I am not actually moving any of this to long-term memory, with how tired I am. It will all be soon forgotten, and he’ll standing in the kitchen, towering over me, heading off to college or something.

He has just started “talking” more, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Two nights ago, I was in the bathroom and heard the baby crying. I came out to the bedroom to find him in bed with Allen, calm, and chatting up a storm. Allen was smiling at him, as if he hadn’t just been rudely awoken. Colin was laughing and cooing and making all kinds of noise. Now I can tell the pediatrician at his two month visit that yes, he laughs. At the one month appointment, I said I didn’t really know, but I guess he does make happy noises. At that point, it all sounded like crying or neutral to me. But now that boy is smiling and cooing. My favorite sound is still that relieved half-cry he lets out when we pick him up, and he decides that everything is going to be alright. But it’s still a little sad. So, “Lehhhhhh.”


June 21, 2010

What happens in 5 months…

Posted in cats, Daily life, family, running, Travel at 10:48 pm by Lauren

The snowiest winter on record (including 10 days off from work):

A new addition to the family, The Beast:

Another new addition to the family (due November 3):

A week in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia:

A first half marathon for Allen (and Brandi, Steven, Melissa, and Naqi) in Oklahoma City:

Our niece Caroline turned one:

Twenty weeks of pregnancy reveals that we’re having a little boy!

And at the end of this week, the end of the school year!

February 12, 2010

Chapter 3: Johnny the Beast

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:31 am by Lauren

To find a new friend for Trouble, we went back to Homeward Trails. We rescued Pax and Trouble from Homeward Trails in August 2008, and they have been nothing short of amazing in their compassion and helpfulness since we let them know that we lost Pax. We suggested some cats that we thought would make a good companion for Trouble (we looked for cats who adapted well to other cats in their foster homes) and would be super affectionate with humans. (Let’s be honest – we like to pick up, pet, and generally harrass our cats with attention, and a cat who didn’t want to be petted or picked up or bothered at all by humans would not be a good match for us nor us for him.) Homeward Trails staff suggested other cats that they thought might fit our criteria, and we began the search.

During the first weekend of February, we met six cats! They all seemed like they would be great with other cats. They all seemed affectionate too – but not exactly in the way we were thinking. Several of them needed to warm up first, which is fine, but we want to be met at the door. Some of them were affectionate but too playful for us (and for Trouble, we thought). We met some truly lovely cats, including Lucy, Chip, Ivy, Emma, Jacob, and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes. I could say lots and lots of complimentary things about all of them.

Tonight, we also saw Tuxie Boy and Max, who made me wish we could take two (even though they are not bonded and can be adopted separately too). We were having so much fun watching Tuxie play that at first we didn’t notice Max cuddling sweetly in his foster’s arms, and then we thought we might be looking at the wrong kitten!

With each cat, we talked about the pros and cons, but we didn’t have that moment of certainty about bringing one of them home until we met Johnny tonight. We only had 10-15 minutes with Johnny, but we thought we’d at least know if we wanted to see more of him. He met us at the door and was immediately affectionate. A few times he started to wander back into the room, but he ran right back over when we called him back. Within moments, he was flopped down onto the floor, showing his belly for petting. Allen picked him up, and Johnny stayed happily on his lap. That is definitely our kind of affectionate cat! We were also happy to hear that he was an easy-going cat who didn’t mind that the foster’s cat took some time to get used to him.

We’ll be bringing Johnny home tomorrow (Friday) or Saturday. Next order of business: a new name. Since he looks so big in his picture (not so much in real life), we’ve been jokingly calling him Johnny the Beast. But he might actually be a Chuck Norris, or The Law. Bruiser, Crusher, Bulldozer, Muzzle? We’re getting a good laugh out of naming this mini-puma. But we won’t dare laugh in front of THE LAW!

Chapter 2: Trouble, Alone

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:46 am by Lauren

Since we lost Pax, Trouble has not been entirely himself. Fortunately for us, most of his behaviors have been positive. He has been a lot more vocal, and he never leaves our side. For a while, we really had to remind ourselves to spend some time in the kitchen so that he would eat. As I write this, he is curled up on the couch cushion behind me, with his little face close enough to mine that his whiskers and ear keep brushing my cheek.

The saddest thing to watch is the way Trouble acts when we need to leave. He notices me putting on my shoes (I do not exaggerate!) and runs to the door. He stands on his back legs with his front paws on the door and meows. When we open the door, he tries to squirm out the door with us. It’s not new that he’s trying to get outside, but his efforts have become much more frantic since Pax has been gone. We move him to the couch gently – we used to throw him out of the way, but that resulted in biting, which we accurately diagnosed as a reaction to our brusque behavior – and he runs as fast as he can back to the door.

Trouble now lets us pick him up and hold him. Before, he would wiggle loose shortly after being picked up, and he would only allow himself to be held with his front paws on your arm. Now, he climbs up towards your chest, with his paws on your shoulder, and he rubs his face against yours. At night, he’s sleeping up near our faces like he used to do when he first came to live with us.

We’ve also noticed that he’s a lot less active, probably since he has nobody to run around with. (Probably since he’s sitting around when we lumps are sitting around.) Occasionally, he will take on a burst of kitten-like energy, pouncing on a mouse or a ribbon, but it lasts for just a minute or two before he curls back up. He’s also showing boredom in other ways – he recently taught himself to open the drawers of my nightstand.

All this is to say: Trouble needs a friend.

Chapter 1: Goodbye to Pax

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:26 am by Lauren

We mentioned that Pax had been sick and he got better quickly, but he kept having problems with his bladder. He first started having symptoms – inability to pee that resolved itself within about 8 hours, as well as spraying and peeing everywhere – at Thanksgiving, with another bout of sickness at Christmas. He got sick again in mid-January, and at first we didn’t realize that it was worse than previous times. He took to the basement and didn’t want to come out, but he was on pain medication because he had been yowling all day the previous Saturday, so we took his sedate behavior to be a side effect of that. Twenty-four hours later, he was still in the basement, and we realized that it wasn’t just the pain medication. We took him to the vet, who said his bladder was completely obstructed. By the time we drove him to the veterinary hospital (though we went immediately), his kidneys were starting to fail and his heart rate was half what it should have been. We made the very difficult decision to euthanize him.

Here’s our Pax, one last time:

December 25, 2009

Caroline’s Christmas stocking

Posted in Cross Stitching tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:59 pm by Lauren

My niece Katie was born in October, so there was no way she was getting her Christmas stocking for her first Christmas. But get it she did, and for whatever reason, I stitched 2007 into it – to show my tardiness for posterity and confuse people about her birth year, I suppose. I stitched Elizabeth’s Stocking from Shepherd’s Bush for Katie, with some tweaks in charm placement and the addition of a personal message in very light yellow.

Caroline had the good sense to be born in June, meaning she’d get her Christmas stocking (Shepherd’s Bush again, of course!) for her first Christmas – if just barely. For Caroline, Stephanie (her mom) and I chose Sophie’s Stocking by Shepherd’s Bush. Coincidentally, Sophie was one of the names on the short list for little Caroline.

For Caroline’s Christmas stocking, I changed just about every color from the original charted color. I thought the green of the angel’s dress was too muted, so I picked a darker green and started tweaking the other colors from there. I had perle cotton laid out all over the floor of the cross stitch shop, and the ladies there were hesitantly offering help, which I waved away. (I don’t always agree with Shepherd’s Bush color choices – they’re beautiful coordinated actually, but I think the designers at Shepherd’s Bush prefer colors a bit too muted for my taste.) I chose the hair color based on the color Caroline’s hair was when she was born – wouldn’t you know, it’s now a soft red like her Tonton Allen’s hair.

(For those of you stitchers who care and want to use any of these colors, feel free to leave a comment with a way to contact you, and I’ll send you the list of the substitutions I made. I don’t feel comfortable posting the “instead of ___” bits on here, as it pertains to Shepherd’s Bush’s copyrights.)

Once satisfied with my color choices, I took liberties with the combinations within the stocking pattern too. I laid out all the color skeins for the hearts, then moved them around and switched others in to find my favorite combination. I played with the stars and the row on the bottom of the stocking similarly. With the stars, I actually stitched them all and was disappointed with the second star from the right, so I pulled and replaced all of the light pink stitching with darker pink/light purple. I figured I was going to have to look at it for a very long time!

The angel’s hair is made of many, many French knots, which was a real pain in the tucchus. Some were a bit unruly when I finished, which I fixed by sewing them down with the clear nylon I used for her halo. I used the same nylon for the charms, of which there were fewer, so they were easier to place than on Katherine’s Christmas stocking. I used it again for the ribbon, which I attached during the finishing steps, by twisting the ribbon and then tacking it to the stocking with the nylon.

Cate helped me with the finishing for the stocking again, and thank goodness for her! Having actually seen the steps, I think I’d be comfortable doing the next one, but I was too nervous to do much of the sewing at all on this one! Cate deserves a medal for her patience with me! You’ll remember (or read in my other post) that Cate made the pattern for the other stocking because Shepherd’s Bush doesn’t put out a detailed pattern for their Christmas stockings, but we both misplaced our copies of it. We started from scratch on the stocking finishing pattern, which has inspired us to set aside some time in the coming month to put all of the steps into a short manual for finishing these stockings.

I stitched the last few stitches to close the toe of the stocking during our Christmas Eve dinner. Phew! And after all that description – and months of work! – here is Caroline’s stocking:

I was also able to get a couple of good pictures with both stockings on the mantle before sending them back home with their pint-sized owners.

Alright, who’s next?

November 28, 2009

Our kitty is sick! (But he’s getting better…)

Posted in cats tagged , , , , at 11:09 pm by Lauren

Pax waited until we woke up on Thanksgiving morning to start demonstrating symptoms. We got up late – just 15 minutes before we’d intended to leave for the Turkey Trot 5K – and as we prepared to leave, Pax sprayed the wall in our bedroom.

“Stop, stop!” I yelled and waved my hands wildly, to absolutely no effect.

When Pax did stop, he sat himself down a few feet from us to watch the cleaning efforts. As Allen finished cleaning, Pax peed on our bedroom floor.

What were we going to do? We went to the 5K. We came back to find that Pax had peed on the kitchen floor while we were gone.

He seemed fine after that, but our friend suggested that he once had a cat who did that when he had a urinary tract infection. The wise and all-knowing internet let us know that frequent licking of <ahem> was another symptom.

But he looked okay. We waffled about calling the vet on Friday, but decided for it in the end, and got a 5 pm appointment that day. The vet took a urine sample (with a needle!), and found that there was blood and bacteria in his urine. (Ew, ew, ew.) She prescribed an antibiotic, thinking that it was an infection, and is doing a culture on the bacteria just because it costs more (or to confirm infection, I guess). Pax’ ph levels were also lower or higher than she wanted (whatever), and she suggested we switch him to Prescription Diet food. The price is similar to the good food we’ve been feeding them, but it’s disappointing to see that we’re back to something with corn meal and gluten in the first four ingredients (where the other cat food had none of either of those at all, but had organic chicken as the first ingredient!).

Pax took his first antibiotic pill with a little bit of wet food (but we’ve had to force feed him the next three). Around 6:30 pm though, he began to crouch and try to pee on the floor, resting up to 5 minutes in one spot before moving to the next, leaving no pee behind. He looked bloated, and he became lethargic and irritable. He yowled mournfully when we picked him up or moved him. When we went to bed, he was laying unnaturally on his side. It was hard to reconcile the thoughts that he was now visibly in pain and that we had to wait for the medicine to have a chance to work. It was clear he was completely unable to pee at this point. (This was, despite all the TMI, very sad to watch.) I was feeling very concerned, but I was also incredibly glad that we’d trusted our instincts about his behavior and brought him to the vet.

When we woke up in the morning, Pax was not on our bed like he usually is. In fact, he wasn’t in our bedroom at all. Allen and I breathed a sigh of relief when we found himself in the hallway licking himself (yes, there, again). Then Allen noticed a small wet spot on the carpet. I honestly never thought I’d be happy to see my cat pee on the carpet. The medicine was working!

We spent the next half hour following Pax around as he peed on one surface and another in small amounts. We cleaned, and he peed, and we cleaned behind him, in a strange and gross cycle. At one point he started to pee on the arm of the chair, and I pulled him off, getting pee all over myself too. Maybe we could just stick to peeing on the linoleum?

We were a little concerned that he wouldn’t want to go back to the litter box (inability to pee = pain gets associated with the litter box), but we took one upstairs so that we could leave the cats in the sun room while we were out. We moved all the furniture out of the sun room so there was nothing but tile (and the litter box) to soil.

When we got back home a few hours later, Pax seemed like a new cat. The antibiotics had obviously helped ease most of the pain, and he was interested in his surroundings again, peeing in the litter box, and purring when we pet him. Now we just need to finish the round of antibiotics, and we’ll get to keep this healthy kitty around for a while longer.

November 25, 2009

I love Etsy!

Posted in Daily life tagged , , , , , at 1:17 am by Lauren

Etsy has been my infatuation for over a year now. It’s only the best place to buy handmade directly from the handmaker!

I can’t believe how inexpensive and pretty these board book pendants are from

And props to Pretty Theory for a memorable name, so that when a Lush employee complimented me on the bird pendant, I was able to recall the shop name and write it down for her.

Speaking of Etsy shops with GREAT BRANDING, I’m very impressed with Bananasaurus Rex at I purchased a lavender and flax seed filled pillow from Bananasaurus Rex, and I was tickled that it was mailed in a Trader Joe’s bag. Great packaging and branding makes me think great shop because it looks so professional (and delightful) when it arrives.

And of course the pillow smells divine! Allen laughs at me when I put it over my eyes.

Oh dear, though…looking back at the site makes me want things!

Now, my absolute favorite Etsy site is I purchased a custom “diaper bag” from Retrofied last winter, and I followed up this spring with a hobo bag in Joel Dewberry’s Deer Valley fabric:

Click here to see the fabric inside the bag! I think the worksmanship is great, and I love the color combinations. Shortly after I bought it, she posted her Raspberry Wasp bag, which I lust after, but how many bags do I need?

I’ve found plenty of jewelry on Etsy too, and I love that I can find so many different styles of jewelry in “one shop.” For example, I love this branch necklace I bought from

That picture comes from her listing here. And again, I’m finding other things in her shop that I love and want as I look back! But then I can find something completely different too, like the book board pendants from Pretty Theory!

My next Etsy post? Custom finds on Etsy! Or should it be gifts I’ve found for people? Or bookplates (because I could fill a full post on that!)?

November 24, 2009

Adam’s asparagus

Posted in family tagged , at 11:36 pm by Lauren

Katie has a small obsession with Allen’s Adam’s apple. At first, she couldn’t remember what it was called, and we’d play endless games of renaming it: Adam’s apple, Adam’s pineapple, Adam’s grilled cheese sandwich.

She still likes to ask what it is, but we know she knows the answer now: Adam’s clementine, Adam’s banana, Adam’s lychee, Adam’s chocolate chip cookie! We love to hear Katie laugh hysterically (when don’t we?). Adam’s apple, Allen’s uncle…

And Katie does love her Tonton Allen and his Adam’s aardvark.

November 14, 2009

UFOs: Unfinished Objects

Posted in Cross Stitching tagged , , , at 3:26 pm by Lauren

I went through my entire cross stitching stash and took pictures of all of the unfinished pieces. I’ve got enough projects to keep me busy for the rest of my life!

CIMG1087 - Copy

I started and set aside this project in April 2009. It’s called Toile Rooster, and it calls for a variegated dark brown/black for the rooster and the alphabet that surrounds it. I set this one aside because I picked up a new project that I just had to start right away: Pains of Love by Moira Blackburn.

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Pains of Love is a pattern I’d never have purchased from just looking at the chart, but when I saw the colors in a stitched model, I was hooked. When I set this one aside, it was for Caroline’s stocking and to finish the piece that I entered in the Arlington Country Fair.

CIMG1090 - Copy

I started Bent Creek’s Teacher Row when I started teaching, in September 2005. I think what derailed this one at the time was starting teaching.

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This is a Prairie Schooler design of an Amish village in the fall. The rectangle at the bottom will be a quilt hanging on a line. Allen wants me to finish this one soon, as he prefers more pictures and fewer words on the cross stitch pieces.

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I love these little designs by JBW Designs. This one will be a Christmas tree made of the words “a very merry Christmas.” I started this in December 2007.

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I started this piece almost five years ago. The silk birds are incredibly delicate (and a little bit blinding to stitch). I spent a lot of time adapting the pattern (particularly the text lower down on the piece), and I got hung up in trying to design a row of roots (which would make sense with the full text).

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The Irish Blessing will eventually read, “May the sun shine warm upon your face, May the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May ____ hold you in the ________.” Ha – I’m too lazy to go get the piece and see what it actually says in the end.

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This is a simple piece from Prairie Schooler’s Santa Rides pattern. I have always enjoyed hot air balloons, and I like the dark brown as the main color. Eventually it will also include a Santa and a few embellishments in a light yellow.

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This is Marriage of the Minds by The Drawn Thread. I bought it around the time that Allen and I got married, and I don’t expect it to be done in time for our five-year anniversary this May, but one day… The Shakespeare quote on this piece was also one of the readings at our wedding. The blue and white clouds took me a while to do, and when I was finished, I realized that I was supposed to do it with two threads instead of one. The thought of pulling that all out was too much right then, so I put it aside. I’ll get back to it.

CIMG1100 - Copy

This is my project as big as a couch. Yes, it will be huge. I am thinking of finishing it with a quilt “frame” and backing, rather than a rigid frame that would be more difficult to move and protect. Our plan is to hang it over the mantle in the living room, but I think it would also be nicely sized for the upstairs hallway.

CIMG1101 - Copy

My most recent unfinished object is on its way to be done very quickly – maybe today! This is the 7th “day of Christmas” from Prairie Schooler’s Santa’s 12 Days of Christmas.

Alright – off the blog and on to stitching!

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