Monday, January 29, 2007

More Finished Objects

I bound off another hat on Sunday night. I don’t plan to use this yarn for future projects (Paton’s Ci Ci, I think) because the slubs make it incredibly difficult to make the knit tight and even, but it made a bright sunny hat just the same.

The centennial furniture re-upholstery project is also complete, except for a bit of trim on the back of the chair. We had bought all that Hancock’s had on hand over New Years weekend, but ended up about 2 yards short. Drove back to Lawrence Saturday afternoon, and they were still OUT. But more is on the way so should have it in hand by the weekend. In the meantime, we just keep the chair against the wall. A professional re-upholsterer could have done a better job, sure, but the furniture is comfy now, and not stained, and I cannot say the same for the furniture prior.

Friday, January 26, 2007

“What was your Expectation, ma’am?” and the Blessed Butterfly Net

On the advice of my vet, I called the customer service department of PREMIUM cat food manufacturer and reiterated my complaint from late December. I told her that this recent event absolutely confirmed that this bag of food made my cat sick, and although I have been a loyal customer for many years, I would no longer be a customer of their company. She kept asking me “What was your expectation ma’am?”

Um... that your food wouldn’t make my cat sick???

I told her that without knowing what it was exactly that caused this, whether it was a problem in distribution, or manufacture, or supplies, each and every bag I buy from them is a game of Russian Roulette. Turns out that the first lady I spoke with (who admitted it was probably the food that had made her sick) should have asked me to send them a sample to test. Now the evidence is gone.

They are SUPPOSED to call me today to let me know what Quality Control found in their lot samples. Sure, it would be nice to be compensated for the multi-hundred dollar vet bills, but truth be told, that wouldn’t be enough for me to buy their brand of food again, so I didn’t make that suggestion.

On a different feline front, we started watching a taped episode of Armed & Famous Wednesday night when I heard a noise in the next room. The two cats watching TV with us went on full alert and shot out of the room. I sort of expected to hear a cat fight, but it was absolutely silent, so I crept to the door in time to glimpse something flying past.


Okay. So I didn’t scream. I have never screamed when there has been a bat in the house. Not even when I was on the toilet and it flew over my head. I mean, if I’m not going to scream then, I’m not a screamer, period. My reaction was more “Crap! This is going to be one long night.” I went straight for my weapon: the Blessed Butterfly Net.

Since we have lived in this house (20 years) we have had about a half dozen bats, but three of those six were just last year. The process is tedious, scary, and exhausting. Opening doors and windows does not ensure the bat will fly away. They tend to light somewhere until we encourage them off, then they fly in circles and swoop. We are squatting on the floor with brooms in hand, trying in vain to get the little bugger out the door. The process can go on for HOURS. So the last time this happened, we bought a butterfly net. We leave it propped in the corner of our TV room, always on hand...just in case. Eight months later, we had our chance to use it.

The bat disappeared into a dormer. With no lights on that end of the room, we lost complete track of it, but Caper, the mighty hunter, was on the job. Mike thought it was in the curtain. I said, “Look at Caper. Caper has it.”

A cushioned window seat spans the wall under the window. Caper was at one end, standing on a stack of pillows, sniffing mightily. We had to physically pull him away, and could see the bat had wedged itself between the wall and cushion. Mike used the net to block an escape route back into the room, and I ran for my mouse expulsion coffee can. I gently placed it over the bat, and pushed a rod into the crevice, slowly working my way toward the bat. It did exactly what we hoped and popped up into the can. We easily slid it onto a piece of cardboard as it chattered away inside the can, and we carried it outside. It took about a minute for it realize it was free, and then it was gone.

Caper was very proud of himself, and we are proud of him. So, thank you, Caper, and thank you butterfly net, and thank you bat for being sooooo cooperative. We were even able to finish Armed & Famous in time to watch Top Chef without interruption.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Another Finished Object, and a Paranormal Experience

I finished my third hat for the Boston’s Children’s Hospital. This is made from two skeins of clearance yarn from JoAnn’s. They were so clearance, in fact, that they had makeshift paper labels attached rather than their manufacturers’ bands, so I cannot tell you what they are. I’m hoping that if I take the bands back to JoAnn’s they can look it up by stock number. I tried to search their web site, but they don’t seem to include that information there.

Also, my first interview for Strange But True Radio was posted yesterday. It’s a ghost story from a hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. If you like a good ghost story, and aren’t staying in a hotel room alone for the foreseeable future, be sure to pop over. It’s the January 23, 2007 episode.

Less fun, I accidently poisoned my cat. Weeeellllll, not POISONED, per se, but certainly the result is the same. Remember that funky bag of cat food? I had saved about a cup for evidence, just in case. Found it when I was cleaning a few days ago, and thought it was left over food from a travelling or pet sitting or something. Anyway, I dumped it in the food bowl. Not 12 hours later, poor Eclair started retching again. Can’t get it under control, so it’s off to the vet tomorrow to get injections. Grrrrr. I’m a horrible cat mommy. At least I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was the food that made her sick before.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Finished Objects, 1001 Packages of Sash Cord, and Snow (Finally!)

Last week I signed up for Mini’s Fun Fur Hat Drive for cancer patients at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, and by Sunday morning had a whopping two hats off my needles and yarn woven in. Like some others, I generally choose not to participate in charity knitting. It is great if you have the time and the inclination to do so, but I knit for so many others as it is, that what time is left I want for me, me, me.

I’m not sure why this was different. Maybe because in the fall of ’05 my sister was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy, maybe because the deadline is so tight (she has to have them IN HAND by February 28), or maybe because I needed a break from the earth tones and texture of my current wool projects. Whatever, I raced out to JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby and took full advantage of their current sales.

The chair and couch reupholstery project is coming along well. All the springs had to be re-tied, and we ended up using five packages of sash cord in the process. The cashier at Roach Hardware knows me and my sash cord very well. As of yesterday, we completed the spring repairs, attached webbing, the burlap sheets, added foam, and batting, and are currently tacking down the fabric on the couch. Doubt we’ll get much more accomplished on this project until next weekend. Because, Sunday or not, we have to go to the office to work most of the day.

And yesterday we finally got SNOW!!! It didn’t miss us by 30 miles. It didn’t come down in the form of sleet. It is honest-to-goodness snow, and about 3" of it. I barely finished getting the ice chipped off the walks from the last storm before it came down. The weather conditions are delightful. It is 31°, and there is no wind at all. If there is a good time to shovel, this is it. There is hardly any traffic, and it is soooo quiet, except for the occasional crow calling overhead.

The cats are thrilled by the current conditions. None are outside cats, of course, but they feel the shift in atmospherics even more than we do. Aspera in particular has been galloping around the house like a little pony.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Watching the Snow Fall should not be an Auditory Experience

And yet, in Kansas, it is. I am on the edge of the front, so I don’t have it nearly as bad as the folks in St. Louis or Oklahoma, but ice is ice and sleet is sleet. It’s noisy. It’s dangerous. And, perhaps worst of all, it cannot be transformed into a snowman.

Today was reupolstering day. We have a loveseat and chair, made by Chicago’s Karpen company, that was badly in need of refurbishing. We bought it at an antique mall about 10-15 years ago, and I estimate its manufacture as dating to the 1890s. The person or antique dealer that had it before us put a new fabric on the back and seat, but it is a thin fabric, certainly not for chairs, and we guessed that they didn’t bother to retie the springs. As my mother said, “My butt can feel every spring.” New Year’s weekend we went shopping at several fabric stores in Topeka, Lawrence, and finally found a suitable fabric at Hancock’s in Kansas City. We did not, however, purchase other supplies because we wanted to tear into it first. That may have been an mistake. Yes, we need to new twine or rope to tie the springs. Yes, we need new burlap strapping. Yes, we need new sheets of burlap. Yes, we need foam. (Notice I didn’t say “new foam.” The original used horse mane and/or hog hair.) So, after ripping dusty, musty, influenza-soaked old upholstery off, we braved the roads in search of some simple supplies. Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays, of course. Michael’s doesn’t carry fabric. That left JoAnn’s as our only local resource. They - do - not - carry - burlap - strapping. What kind of piece-o-keerap fabric store doesn’t carry burlap strapping? Oh, they had burlap sheets, sure, but I know we can get that in Lawrence, we can’t use it until we get the strapping, so why bother? (In case you are wondering, we both searched the store thoroughly, AND asked a clerk.) Roach Hardware had sash rope. Of course, we underestimated the amount we would need, so that’ll be a stop tomorrow.

The intention was to fix them up to sell at the spring garage sale, but if they come out nice enough, and comfortable enough, we’ll hold onto them until we move.

Here is a photo of the original fabric hidden under two other layers:

Finished Object announcement... drum roll please... I finished piecing the king-sized flannel quilt.

Okay. I do not expect applause on this one. It’s an ugly quilt. I bought the cheapest fabric I could find (on sale for 99¢ a yard). Shockingly, one of the plaids was so poorly aligned with the grain that it made cutting it straight with the design impossible. And the pattern is so noisy it almost strobes. Even given all of that, I am very pleased with it. I made it so it could be a barfed on, bitten into, warm blanket for next winter. It had a test run on the bed while we were pinning the border, and Eclair immediately christened it with several serious bites that included neck-breaking throttles (To clarify, it is a movement designed to break the neck of their prey, not their own necks. The fact that it could never work on flannel did not dissuade said kitty from attempting that manuever.) I plan to purchase the rest of the supplies this winter, but will probably wait to quilt it up until next fall. The barf christening will have to wait until then.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Joint Christmas Present

Last winter, my mother went all moonie for a cabled shrug I knitted. The thing was a bear, and, in my opinion, not the luxurious piece of knitwear that she made it out to be. Great for a cold night, sure, but not to wear outside the home. But I can take a hint. So I hunted around for a shrug pattern that would be suitable, and I found it in a shrug on the Berocco web site. The shrug is lovely, but the edges are trimmed with crochet, and I do not crochet. I remembered my sister did, so I mailed her the pattern along with the proposal that we give this to our mother for Christmas. I would buy the yarn and knit, and she would add the crochet. I gave her the completed piece on late May. The summer went by. Then the fall. Then winter began and Christmas approached.

Now, I must stress here that my sister is a lovely person, and she has had to endure more heartache and frustration in the past year, in particular, to last a lifetime. She is also a lapsed crocheter. And, AND, she is a visual learner. She has not been able to figure out the instructions, and says she just needs someone to show her how to do it. That should be easy, right? Except that one thing or another has prevented this from happening. Today, for example, the library held a rare Stitch and Bitch. But did she go? No, because we’re in the middle of an ice storm. So I have given her two options. 1) I learn how to crochet and teach her so she can crochet this shrug, or 2) I learn crochet and she can give the shrug back to me to complete. She chose option #1. At any rate, I will be adding “Learn crochet” to my task list for the coming week.

Tomorrow I will post a Finished Object.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It’s Done! Woo-Hoo!

The Gansey? Heck no. I’m on repeat #9 of the sleeve(s) with a gazillion more to go. The Man’s Turtleneck? Nuh-uh. The Addi Turbo I plan to exchange for the piece-o-krap needle I did buy is still not in, and likely will not arrive until well into the winter storm due in the next 24-48 hours. The Madder Sock? Uh... No excuse on that one. Just haven’t been working on it so I could spend more time making warm sweaters that will be needed in a few days but still not completed.

No. I mean my cozy. The cozy I’ve been writing on and off for the past few years. The cozy that has piqued the interest of a literary agent. It’s big stuff, Man. In all the rounds of writing, revision, revision, proofing, revision, polishing, etc., at 5:03 a.m. this morning I finally named the latest version of my book “FINAL”.

Why has it taken so much time?

Well, the story (cozy) is complex and requires long periods of concentration to pull it together in a cohesive way. Since I started it, I became involved in charity work that absorbed so much of my time I might as well have taken a second job. We have traveled extensively, and it simply does not work to write this in bits and bites because “the story is complex and requires long periods of concentration to pull it together in a cohesive way.” My travel writing has interfered because I find it difficult to mentally juggle my cast of thousands in the cozy with the people and places I write about. And last year, my family had a series of crises and I was “the last woman standing,” so it fell to me to help in time consuming and substantial ways.

How did I finally complete it?

I dumped the charity. That sounds horrid, doesn’t it? It is a good charity, in theory, but I discovered that the board of directors favored convenience over ethics (and they may have been a little nuts, too), and my time and money are too valuable to throw it away. During travel season, I worked my buns off on travel work. As soon as a break opened in my other work, I pushed everything else to the side writing-wise, and worked only on the cozy. As for family, they are stable for the time-being. That will change, I have not doubt, but for now I can work on the book. There will always be small issues, but it is only the big things that I will let involve me.

What’s next?

For this cozy, I am working on the synopsis and agent letter, and hope to get it sent by the end of next week.

Then there is the next cozy. I have a basic plot and set of characters. Now comes the hard part. I will try, try, try, to get this mapped out in a concrete way before travel season begins again. And if an editor wants to call me about another assignment (as one did this morning) I’ll say “sure” because the cozy is DONE!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Self-Imposed Hiatus from Travel is Soon Over

My cozy is nearly complete. I’m just in the final proofreading stage (notice I didn’t say polishing?) and then it is time to write the dreaded cover letter and synopsis. Fortunately I have expert help lined up for those tasks. In the meantime, I have FIL and MIL reading the manuscript. It has been two days, and it sounds like they are about half-way through. MIL was concerned when she learned there would be snakes later in the book. Not to worry, dear. No one was hurt in the writing of this book. At least, not by a snake.

With that finally complete, it is time to turn my attention to the myriad of travel topics at hand; sorting papers, notes, and interview tapes; and crafting query letters that are sure to garner an assignment or two. And that’s just for the trips I’ve already attended. In April I have a multi-week trip to Virginia lined up, and need to do advance work to make that trip as successful and productive as possible.

My contributor copies of the AAA Midwest Traveler magazine arrived. Any AAA member living in the AAA Missouri region (NE Kansas, Missouri, southern IL, southern IN) can find my chocolate article in the latest issue. Yummy!

On the knitting front, I have completed four repeats of the simultaneous sleeves for the River Forest Gansey (good for me) a few more rows on the Madder Socks, and about 1/4th of the back of the Man’s Turtleneck. When I cast on for the Turtleneck, I realized that the double strand of Lamb’s Pride Worsted was dragging on the needles, and I wished that I had Addi Turbos. Addi Turbo...Addi Turbo... Addi Turbo... The name haunted me day and night. Since I had to go to Yarn Barn for Gansey help anyway, I decided to spring for a new needle. Their wall of needles was fully stocked save for the Addi in the size and length I needed. Dang it! The ever-so-helpful sales clerk steered me toward the Inox needles because “they are coated with Teflon.” I have some Inox in small needle sizes, and they are fairly slick, but it turns out the US 11 is made of plastic and drags worse than the bamboo. Guess I’ll be heading back to Lawrence in the next few days.

I have also been working on the new flannel quilt. There is a LOT of sewing to be done, but I’ve made a good start. Caper, as it turns out, has discovered the other quilt in the quilting frame makes a WONDERFUL bed.

I don’t expect to get much accomplished work wise tomorrow. The office is only a block from the capital, and many of the surrounding streets will be closed for the governor’s inauguration. Mental note: there will be cannon fire between 11 and 12. Do not freak out. It is supposed to be a good thing.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Fearless Frogger—the Third Time is the Charm?

A few days ago I finished the first sleeve of the River Forest Gansey and I threw it on the Mister along with the front and back that I had already seamed at the shouders. As I feared, the sleeve is a good 2" too short. Unsure how to fix this (Could I frog back to the bind off at the arm and knit in pattern for the necessary added length? Please, please please?) we hopped back in the car this morning and ’piked it to Yarn Barn for a consultation. I told the first lovely lady I encountered about my problem. Her response, “I’ll have to get someone else to help you. I’ve never made anything that fit.” Ummmm. Fortunately, lovely lady #2 was more expert on garment construction and told me exactly what I need to do to fix it. Frog. Frog back to the garter stitch cuff. Frog the whole darn thing. When I begin knitting again, I’ll need to knit several repeats without increases (that’ll be where I gain my extra length) and then return to the written instructions. Oh. And she strongly advised me to knit both sleeves simultaneously on one circular needle to ensure they come out to the same length.

The revised plan, after I discovered it is 3" too short, or five pattern repeats, is to start the increases at the original position, but spread them out over the length of the sleeve. We’ll see. FYI, Excel is great for working out knitting problems.

Tonight, Mr. Long Arms will help me wind the ball as I frog. It’ll be a good thing to do while we watch Beauty and the Geek, don’tcha think?

And yes, if you are counting, this will be the second time I frogged the sleeve.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Lured to the Dark Side by Cider Donuts

The plan, if that is what you can call it, was to complete the first sleeve of the River Forest Gansey by the end of long weekend. That plan was going fairly well, but Sunday was gray with plunging temps punctuated by snow flurries. And I had a secret desire to perfect a cider donut recipe. What better day?

My first attempt was December 23. As I flipped through the Fannie Farmer cookbook looking for a basic recipe to adapt, I imagined dropping off a dozen or so at my parents’ house and being hailed as the hero that saved last minute Christmas preparations. Not wanting to buy a gallon of vegetable oil, I opted for a baked donut recipe. BIG mistake. I produced a nutmeg-y bagel that was not fit for man nor beast.

I googled for some other options, and I was pleased to discover a promising recipe. On Sunday I had to run an errand to the hospital where most of the family was camped out for an ill nephew and I mentioned that I would be attempting to make cider donuts later that day. The word “cider” barely passed my lips when I received anonymous grunts of approval.

This attempt went much better (and yes, I had purchased the dredded gallon of oil) and close enough to my target that I can reach it easily with one or two small adjustments. I returned to the hospital with steaming donuts. Ahhhh. But needless to say, I did not get much knitting done.

Monday I had to run back to Lawrence to purchase some more flannel because my rough estimate was short by a few yards (at what point did “notions” exclude buttons and thread??), and then took down the Christmas tree. Again, not much knitting accomplished. But once back in town I applied butt to chair, then bound off Monday night while I waited with the crew while said nephew was in surgery. VICTORY!

It may be short-lived. Tomorrow when Mike tries it on, I expect I’ll be frogging back about 8 rows. Still, I lived up to my end of the bargain.