Sunday, September 30, 2007

Countdown to Departure

At this point, one overnight driving trip should not be more than a blip on my radar screen. But this is the first trip we’ll have taken since Nacho came on board, and let’s face it, he and the rest of the crew are still resolving some of their differences. And my pet sitter has never met him. I trust they’ll get along famously, but I’m acutely aware that he terrifies most of the staff of my vet’s office.

So here I sit, trapped in the conservatory with him and our calico Eclair while the two learn to “just get along.” She, too, is utterly terrified of him, and interprets any movement on his part as an act of aggression. He wouldn’t care either way, but seems to find great joy in chasing after her once she begins growling and screaming…which of course causes her to become even more terrified of him which gives him even more opportunities to chase after her… you get the idea.

While I sit here watching them watch each other, I am trying to work up enthusiasm for the upcoming assignment that interests me nearly-not-at-all.

This boredom almost makes yesterday’s yard work seem enticing. My focus had been on the north yard, which is a narrow strip of land too small for a mower. I tackle this section about four times a year. Thankfully no grass grows there because the ivy and May bells have crowded it out, but volunteer trees grow insanely fast and tall. (I’m pretty sure radioactive materials have been dumped on our lawn based on the freakishly fast way that plants grow.) I hacked my way through the brush to a stone step in the middle section of the strip, and positioned at the narrowest point. Here there is only room to stand on the step, so that is where I stood, continuing to hack brush on the far side, then hauling branches back to the waiting trash bag. I had noticed I was stepping on something dry and crunchy, but I assumed it was an old weed stalk from a previous clearing effort, or maybe a large dried leaf. It took me a surprisingly long time to look down to actually inspect what I was tramping over. When I did I discovered it was the dried husk of a dead squirrel—whole from its jaws to the bit of tail still clinging to a tuft of fur. Between that, the mosquito bites, and the live spider I found crawling on me, it was just as delightful a time as I’d anticipated.

I have completed the second repeat of the three called for by my new tatting pattern. Unlike the pattern I was using for the spherical balls, this one calls for both ring and chain. The other pattern had called for a metallic carry-along thread, but I think it would be too big a mess to use a carry-along when doing chains, so I opted to try it without. I have to remember that the original patterns called for to make the ornament didn’t have any that would work for the bell-shaped plastic ornaments I had also purchased, so this pattern came from a different source. I doubt I’ll get it done today, but perhaps tomorrow, and then I’ll know if the tatting will even fit on the bell shape.

As for tonight, we are going out to dinner with the in-laws and should complete the Octoberfest mini-tour at Old Chicago. For this, we will have earned a shirt and the pride of our accomplishment.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Back on Track

Life has pretty much returned to its even keel. Engineers at Amazon finally fixed the computer glitch that prevented me from being able to fulfill my Stargate order, and no police officers were standing outside the Post Office preventing entry. I popped my packages on the counter and B. said, “you didn’t try to ship these yesterday, did you?” Uh, yeah! Turns out no one told the postal workers what was going on. They noticed no more customers were coming in, and finally found out why. But did they close? No. They still had to stand at the windows waiting for customers who could not come.

I even started on the first tatted ornament in the new pattern. I’m doing my usual sucky job, but it’s progress none-the-less.

It’s going to be a crazy weekend. I need to make major progress on my building history, and tear into the yard until I’m either done or have filled 2 more lawn and leaf bags (my weekly trash service limit is 3). If I don’t get the volunteer trees and bushes clipped back before the leaves fall, instantly adding a four-month back log of lawn waste to my driveway, I’m SOL.

Oh, and I got a call late this afternoon from one of my publishers. They need me to write a story about a town five hours away - Due OCTOBER 12! Let’s see. That’s the Friday after next, so there is only this weekend and the next before it is due. And I don’t have everything I need to do it this weekend, so I really only have 1 weekend to get it done. And since it’s five hours away, that means at least one overnight. Oh, and to complicate matters they need Mike to shoot it, so we have to factor weather into our scheduling.

No worries, because it’s a bunch better than being trapped behind the wheel of a wrecked car for eight days waiting for someone to find me. And five hours each way is a LOT of knitting time!

Just sayin’.

Jules, good luck on finding the yarn. I had the same situation with some Cherry Tree Hill sachet, but it was sufficiently recently discontinued that the manufacturer still had the colorway dye and blank ribbons to make me up a couple extra. It’s out there!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Balance of Life

On the whole, Thursday had been a really good day.

I had gotten an email from Amazon the evening before letting me know that one of my used Stargate box sets had sold so I knew that I needed to ship it out today or tomorrow at the latest. Putting aside the fact that Amazon was experiencing a system-wide programming problem that didn’t allow me or anyone else to actually see the order to know where to send it, I was thrilled to be having the set go out the door.

I dated the last of my historic photos of my client’s building (by checking store signs and comparing them to city directories) so I knew where to drop them in my timeline document that I want to have completed by the time my client’s return from a trip abroad.

And I received a check for my Super-Secret project that, with it and another project’s money I had set aside, enabled me to finish paying off the car note in one fell swoop. I called the finance company to get the payoff amount, and leaned back to polish off some celebratory Sun Chips. My internal monologue went something like this: “Oooo, this has been a good day. The engineers at Amazon will get their problem solved and I'll get that box set out, I’ll overnight the last car payment which will pay off the car almost a year early, and boy these Sun Chips are gooooooood.” This was quickly followed by “Oooops! Did I just…? Yep!” I had just broken a molar.

I called the dentist’s office and they slid me in that afternoon. I was thrilled and surprised, because I had told them it wasn’t painful and wasn’t snagging on my cheek or tongue, but the dentist wanted to see me and see me right away. The receptionist said he (the dentist) likes me. I said I must not be showing him my true side because I’m a sassy person. She laughed and said he must like sassy.

I held onto the fact that it was a pretty darn good day, and was in the chair with my mouth open wide about two hours later. He said he could see the problem very clearly, and could see another part of that tooth about to break off. Then he hit the down button on the chair and said we’d need to set up an appointment right away to fix it. Fix it? Another appointment? Isn’t that why I’m here? But I closed my mouth and followed his assistant to the front desk to have the dentist’s wife set up an appointment…for a CROWN. Oh, right. Somehow they are going to squeeze in both crown appointments before I leave for my back-to-back trips at the end of October. We got the first appointment set and then I helped his wife download the pdf document that will allow her and her husband to request their free credit reports. Okay, I had freaked her out a little bit with the whole identity theft thing before seeing the dentist.

Still holding onto the fact that it was a pretty good day, I returned to the office to put together my final car payment and slip it into a Priority Air envelope. I just needed to leave work a little early to stop at the post office to fill out the certified return receipt slips and pop it in the mail box. No worries. Then I put in a few hours of timeline work before heading four blocks north to the Post Office.

Except that I never made it. A block before the Post Office the police had set up a road block and sidewalk block. We circled around the long way (because of all the one-way streets) and found that the next block was also cordoned off. We slipped into a parking lot and I grabbed the car payment envelope and headed for the nearest police officer to ask if I could get to the Post Office. I mean, I assumed the cordon was for the bank in the previous block. It wasn’t. It was for the Post Office. CRAP! By now it was too late to drive to another station before they all closed at 5. Turns out someone had gotten off a city bus in front of the post office and abandoned their large suitcase at the curb. The suitcase was leaking some kind of liquid. The police were called and the bomb squad used their robot to open up the suitcase. A freaking storebought drink! That’s the mysterious liquid that prevented me from mailing off my last car payment.

And Amazon is still screwed up.

I’m glad I don’t have very many of those “really good days.” I’m not strong enough.

In television news, I was pleasantly surprised to find several new shows that looked interesting. So far I have seen Reaper and Chuck (both good but they are similar enough that I’m confused about which one I’m watching), Journeyman (also good so far), Kitchen Nightmares (very similar to the British version of this show but with extra budget for Ramsey to invest major bucks in restaurant makeovers), and Bionic Woman (also good so far). I’m also hooked on two different seasons of Dr. Who (Sci-fi Channel and BBC America), and the concluding episodes of Top Chef. Next week we’ll give Pushing Daisies a try.

We are Currently Experiencing Technical Difficulties. We will Return to our Regularly-Scheduled Quilting Program Shortly…

I had about ten more lines of quilting stitches to go. TEN. Ten more lines, plus trimming and binding, and the Flannel Funk Quilt would have been done. I didn’t expect to have the whole thing finished by October 1, but I at least planned to have the quilting finished.

Then yesterday I was changing my bobbin and hit the needle down button. Nothing. This always happens when the machine needs to be oiled. I got out my oil and tried to squirt it in the right places, but to no avail. Then I wondered if I could finish the quilt without the needle down button and send it in to be serviced at a more convenient time. Nope. I noticed the machine slowing, slowing, slowing. I adjusted the pedal speed to a higher level, and it slowed and slowed and slowed. That’s when I gave up and took it in to be serviced.

Two weeks. That’s the estimated time before I get the call to pick it up. Let’s do the math a moment, shall we?

A week from this coming Saturday I will be gone the entire day to attend a bread baking class in central Kansas. And two weeks from that date I will be leaving on two back-to-back trips that will last a total of 2 weeks with a less-than 24-hour layover in between to do laundry and pay bills, etc. before catching my flight to Oklahoma.

October 1 is clearly out the window. At this point the likelihood is November 1 will be as well. …Guess I’ll have something to keep my busy when I get back…

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Musings on the Latest Headlines

A story in yesterday’s paper caught my eye. Police had conducted a reverse prostitution sting, netting one woman and several men, including a city worker on the job. This city employee reportedly solicited the undercover police officer while en route between two job sites. This alone might not be unusual, except that he works for the water department as a backhoe operator repairing water main breaks. Picture this, if you will: A person in a clearly-marked city truck towing a backhoe decides he needs a special kind of break and pulls to the side of the road to solicit a prostitute to perform a sex act. Smooooooth.

In other news, I had always been under the hope/assumption that mature adults do not gossip. At least not in the vile way that teenagers and immature twenty-somethings do. Then I read this. Imagine that: gossip so bad that they have roped off the community room and filed a complaint with Housing and Urban Development! I guess children are children no matter what their age.

Now for a few pics. First, the Mother of all Dumpsters I mentioned in the last post:

And the cardigan is making slow but steady progress:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Losing a Long-time Neighbor One Dumpster Load at a Time

The first neighbor we met when we moved into our home 21 years ago was an elderly woman who lived across the street. She saw us exposing the brick sidewalk that had long been concealed by a thick layer of grass and dirt, and beelined over to tell us that “she was the one who found the body in [our] house.” The body she referred to was the longtime owner of our home who simply had died of old age. This had been about ten years before, but she spoke of it like it had been yesterday. This story isn’t about the woman “found the body” woman, but about Gracia, her longtime next-door neighbor who she described as “a mean lady.”

I knew very little about “the mean lady”: she used to have a beauty parlor (the equipment was still stored on her front porch); she lived a frugal life; she continued to work at a beauty parlor long past normal retirement; she disliked her adult children; she was written up by the health department for storing limbs on an old dog house in her backyard; she inexplicably stored gallon jugs of water in her yard; she fed the neighborhood feral cats but did not do anything to stem their reproduction; she refused to let me replace the broken pane in her storm door even though I offered to do it for free; and I had to ask the city to not trim our pecan tree up because the low limbs provided a sort of privacy screen for me when Gracia sat on her porch staring over at me.

In the end, I don’t know if she was mean. I do know that I had to stop speaking with her because I discovered she’d been telling other neighbors about what I do for a living (in other words, I owned valuable electronic equipment and tended to be away from home a lot.) and that in the last few years of her life one of her adult children moved in with her. Last winter an ambulance was called to her home, and Gracia never returned.

Her daughter continued to live in her home until about a month ago. I saw her load a few things into the back of a pick up truck and wave goodbye to her next door neighbor. Two weeks ago a dumpster appeared in the driveway. This wasn’t the type of dumpster that sits behind apartment buildings. This was a big mother of a dumpster. Strangers stopped by and began filling the dumpster with items from the household. The dumpster filled, was carted out, and an empty one dropped in its place. Dumping continued. I’ve lost count, now, but I think we’re up to five dumpsters as of this afternoon. What was it like to live in that home? And how disgusting must everything have been to not even bother with a yard sale?

And how sad that after living a long life and raising two children, that the remnants of her life are landfill fodder?

Oh, and that first neighbor who introduced herself? Over the next few years she became increasingly paranoid and showed signs of Alzheimer’s. She was finally moved to a nursing home.

She used to call me. One time she called to tell me the neighbor boy had kicked his ball into our yard and he had entered our fence, picked up his ball, and peeked into our windows. I was home at the time of this incident so I know that he had entered our yard to get his ball, he picked it up, and left immediately. One time she called to tell me she had seen a dog hit by a car and that it had been howling terribly so she went into her room and covered her ears and eyes, and… and then she told me exactly where the dying dog had moved and how it had behaved even though she couldn’t have known any of this because she was supposedly in her room covering her ears and eyes. One time she called to tell me that my own cat had been hit by a car. Wouldn’t you know he’d chosen that time to go for a trek through the neighborhood and wouldn’t return for hours. He was fine, by the way.

After that I switched to an unlisted phone number.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Curious Questions

Last week I stopped by a client’s office to drop off some papers. One of the employees lit up when she saw me, and pulled me aside. She had questions, and she knew I would be able to provide expert answers. What earth shattering issue was on her mind? Cats.

A neighbor cat had taken a liking to her, and she didn’t know how to interpret its behavior. You see, it had never given her the time of day, but recently it had started coming over to her, talking, and rubbing against her legs.

I explained that the cat like her and was marking her with its scent.

Like spraying? Is that safe?

In cases like this it is essential for one to have a firm reign on eye rolls, sighs, and any other indicators of amusement or exasperation. It is a good client, after all, and I much prefer interested naivety over blissful ignorance. We went on to cover diseases, fleas, and bonding that can occur between animals. A three-minute drop-off turned into 45 minutes.

Knitting is coming along slowly. I finished another skein in Ragna, and am just about to finish my first skein of wool in my button-down cardigan. I’d love to start - - really start - - the bi-color cables, but I realized that the needle it called for will cause my stitches to fall off either end. It uses the same US 5 as the cardigan, so once I switch to the front panels I’ll trade off needles. But in the meantime I stare at the coil of hem stitches that will progress no further for the foreseeable future. Because stockinette is boring, and it feels like I’m moving backward, not forward.

I was reviewing some of my favorite blogs recently, and ran across a photo of a woman modeling her full-length knit coat that she had made during the knitting Olympics. The gauge is almost identical to my cardi, and she knit huge panels of that in only two weeks!!! I’ve never met her, but I’m pretty sure I hate her.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Day at the Ranch

My niece was celebrating her 20th birthday, and asked that instead of a birthday party, that she go fishing with her grandpa. [the collective ahhhhh goes here] So that is what we did. My folks arranged to spend the afternoon at my aunt’s ranch, fishing at her pond, and cooking lunch over an open fire.

I don’t normally attend the family birthday parties because, if I did, I would be at someone’s birthday party every weekend. Big family. But this one seemed more important. My father is getting up there in years, and his trips to the doctor are becoming more frequent. And I hadn’t been to his sister’s house since I was a teenager.

The day was sunny and warm, but not too hot. We walked most of the way back to the pond because the road is rough and crosses a creek bed, but the walk was lovely nonetheless: a shady forest of Osage Orange trees…turkey feathers along the path…then it opens onto a sunny pasture where wildflowers are blooming, insects are singing in the grass, and the air carries the earthy fragrance of fresh cow pies warming in the noontime sun. The fish were biting, and a good time was had by all.

I brought my finished collection of spherical tatted Christmas ornaments so you could see them in a slightly different setting:

We could not stay long. We had been working all morning at the office, and driven straight from there to the ranch, following as best we could my father’s directions which included zero street names, but landmarks such as “the stand pipe.” We had no idea what a “stand pipe” was, but we followed the instructions faithfully. When I saw this I suddenly knew what a “stand pipe” was and that we were on the right road:

(This is a type of water tower, by the way.)

From there we went to Lawrence for my knit group meeting. This was going to be the last one I’d be able to attend until November, so I wanted to be certain not to miss it. And I’m glad I didn’t. The group was exceptionally small. I was ten minutes late, but the third to arrive. A fourth arrived shortly after me. Sometimes small groups are great because the conversation flows and everyone is included. This was certainly true today. We all had such a great time that we lost track of time completely.

Now for a cute cat photo:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ID Theft Wednesday, or the Day of Zero Fun

Today was a total loss with almost no work accomplished and no substantive crafting. Why? Because our free annual credit report contains a significant error. Like... an unknown credit card issued from an unknown bank that had gone into default with a credit balance of over $22,000. Yes, that’s the correct number of digits left of the decimal point.

Step 1 in this process involves going online to the three credit reporting agencies and disputing this account. This can take up to 30 days, but we decided not to wait that long because an employee at one of the three agencies told us that the applicant was using our name and social security number, but an address in a different state where we have never lived.

Knowing that today (whatever day we decided today would be) would be a complete loss, we waited about a week before continuing our steps until we both had an opening in our work schedules.

Step 2: put a fraud alert on the account. - At that time the credit reporting agency gave me the contact information for the unknown bank.

Step 3: call the unknown bank and ask for a copy of the application that fraudulently opened this account. - The rep was very nice and could see very clearly that the wrong SSN had been put on this account. It is unknown whether the credit applicant had filled that part out, or if an employee at the bank had filled it in and used the wrong SSN. She gave me a Case ID for the internal investigation she opened.

Step 4: fill out and submit an ID Theft Report on the FTC web site.

Step 5: take the above ID Theft Report along with all supporting documents like proof of residency to the local law enforcement agency and fill out a police report.

Step 6: with the police report in hand, and confirmation from the bank that our SSN was used to open the account, call one of the three credit reporting agencies and request a block on that account.

Step 7: mail copies of the ID Theft Report, police report, and a lovely cover letter with pertinent sections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act attached, to the unknown bank that issued the card, and cc’d to the credit reporting agency. Mail all of these certified return receipt.

Step 8: Keep all receipts, copies of written correspondence, and logs of phone calls.

Step 9: Love the expandable file folder where all the above is kept because it will be your life for at least the rest of the calendar year.

I have already given you the Free Credit Report PSA, and this is why. I have told this story to several people - people I generally believe are smart, able adults. Only one in ten people (in my informal survey) actually order their credit report on regular basis. Most excuses are along the lines of: well I just rented an apartment and they didn’t say anything, I just applied for a second mortgage and they didn’t say anything, or more frequently: I don’t plan on taking out a loan for anything. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. Given that, the odds are good that everyone will have their identity stolen at least once in their lifetime. And lest you think that this theft was borne out of carelessness, let me assure you we are extremely careful. We are extremely careful and it happened anyway.

Tomorrow I have high hopes that my routine will normalize. I might even be able to start tatting for the new bell-shaped Christmas ornaments.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cool Compliments

Saturday morning I awoke to rain and outside temps a chilly 47ยบ F. It was DE-LIGHT-FUL. I put Sydney in the car, the cheese and crackers I was leaving for the doll club’s lunch, found my calculations from last spring for total backing fabric yardage requirements for my summer herringbone quilt, and headed out.

It was a miserable drive. Overbrook is about 45 minutes away, and it’s quite a ways off the beaten track. To make matters worse, Wester Energy was moving a ginormous piece of equipment (I think it was Wester - several vehicles in the caravan bore Westar logos) that effectively blocked both southbound lanes of traffic. Traffic on I-75 had come to a complete standstill. This may not seem out of the ordinary in areas of heavy population or traffic, but this is not either one. I didn’t know it was possible to have bumper-to-bumper traffic on this highway. The caravan of law enforcement vehicles, crane-like implement, and associated support trucks finally pulled to one side of the road and stopped to let the now-miles-long traffic back-up pass, and between the rain, the large camper in front of me, and the mist it was kicking up from its tires, I managed to miss my turn-off.

When I finally arrived at the quilt store, I was sure I would be the last to arrive. But in fact I was the second. Everyone was running late, and it turned out that attendance was light anyway. While we waited, I speed-shopped for new all-cotton backing fabric, and was awarded for my struggle to get there by a 20% off fabric sale. According to my notes, I needed 13 1/8 yards of fabric. This turned out to be very problematic, because they only get 15 yard bolts in the store, and as soon as it comes in they cut 2 yards off. The owner whipped out her calculator and decided I only needed about 9 yards total if I had 2 seams on the back and not just the 1. So I crossed my fingers, put my quilt in her expert hands, and (wisely, I think) asked her to pre-cut the fabric for me in thirds. That way I can just sew, and not risk mistakes in remeasuring. I also picked up two spools of quilting thread - a beige for the bobbin thread, and a blue/green variegated thread for the topper.

Back to the doll club meeting with my booty, I set Sydney up on his unsteady feet and we started the rounds oo-ing and ah-ing over everyone’s completed projects. I’ve got to say, I do admire the work that I have seen. The craftsmanship is amazing, and each of the dolls is detailed, and expressive. But I saw dust-catchers. And worse, I saw dust-catchers that would stare at me from their shelves reminding me that they are getting dusty. We got to mine. I got compliments. I was told that “you will be amazed how great his face looks when you apply chalk” and had to tell them that Sidney was done because it is for Mike and Mike doesn’t want me to do his face. He likes it this way. “Oh, but that’s because he hasn’t seen in done.” Actually, he has because he has seen the photo that comes with the pattern. And people agreed with how hard this designer’s patterns are. And they agreed that my BIL might not deserve a Sidney of his own. And I told them I don’t see myself become a doll maker.

And then came the realization: that this was the first doll I had ever made in my life. Then the chorus of: “Oh, then you really need to keep making them. This is wonderful!!”

I considered my reply. Dolls are creepy... they are worthless dust-catchers... why would I make something that I don’t want in my house…“I have a lot of other passions in my life. Perhaps in a few years, but not now.”

And I bundled up Sidney and my quilt parts, dodged road apples in the parking lot from horses gathering for a parade in town, and drove home.

Friday, September 14, 2007

When I’m the Punchline

A man is being examined by a doctor. “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” he said, flexing his elbow.
The doctor puzzled over this for a moment, and then said, “stop doing that.”

About a year ago my uncle gave me his mp3 CD of “Midnight” by Dean R. Koontz. He had bought it not realizing that it was in a format that he couldn’t play, but I was able to import it into my computer. So I did, then sold the disk. In the meantime this novel has been stored on my hard drive taking up valuable space. About three weeks ago I decided if I was ever going to listen to it it needed to be now, so every morning I have listened to a chapter or two... or three for really short ones. I have done this even though by the end of chapter 1 I knew I cannot stand reading Dean R. Koontz.

Oh, I know he is extremely popular. I know his novels sell well. I also know that I would rather poke my eyeball repeatedly with the corner of a Hallmark greeting card than read one of his books.

So did I stop? Surely I stopped, right? Nope.

What’s odd about this is if I had been reading the actual book, I would have immediately dropped it in the library book sale bin without giving it a second thought. Somehow the fact that this was in electronic form—and a form I no longer had—made this seem wrong. So I listened, cringed at the prose, rolled my eyes at the reader, and looked forward to the day I would be done.

Thankfully that day has come! And not only that, but I’ve met several major milestones on my building research. Still have a lot of work to do, including about a week left at the Register of Deed’s office, but I’m well on my way.

Hints of fall are in the air. Today’s high was 70, and I had to scrounge for something with long sleeves. I can’t recall the last time that didn’t sound disgusting.

I also finished the next-to-the-last tatted ornament of that first design. Perhaps I’ll get the final one done by Tuesday and can go onto something slightly different.

Nacho went to the vet today for post-op blood work. We needed to make sure that the anesthesia hadn’t further damaged his kidneys, but they seem to be fine. One set of numbers is up slightly, but it is so close the vet doesn’t even want to consider it elevated. And he’s gained over a pound again! The tough guy is up to 12.81 pounds!!! We’ve got more surgery slated for next Wednesday. I need to make sure that he isn’t going to kill (and I mean this literally) one of our other cats while we are in Michigan next month, so we’re going to level the playing field a bit. The vet was ooing and awing over how great he looks. Meanwhile he was all over us wanting to be petted and get his butt scratched. Feral.

And tomorrow? The doll club is meeting in Overbrook at the quilt store again. I’m going to show off Sydney, buy different backing fabric for the herringbone quilt (Sarah’s wisely mentioned when I asked about appropriate batting for summer that as long as the topper and bottom were of cotton that it would be cool. I recall that the only print I had liked at Hancock’s last year was a synthetic. Backing fabric: Take 2), then I’ll leave the club with some cheese and crackers to have for their lunch, and race back to the office. I don’t see myself ever being a doll maker, and I’ve got too much to do this weekend to spend an entire day making paper dolls (the scheduled project for this meeting).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lessons Learned Quilting

1. Don’t wait to pin up the quilt sandwich until 20 minutes prior to the season finale of The Closer unless poor results is the goal.

2. Someone who has trouble sewing a straight line should use bobbin thread that matches—not contrasts with—the backing fabric.

3. “Straight” on Flannel Funk has a different definition on every square.

4. For any hope of having a straight line to sew, use fabric with good grain and pattern printing, and cut and piece carefully.

5. Despite all the above, the cats have claimed Flannel Funk as their own.

And since I made Funk as both a learning quilt and ultimately a cat-barfable quilt, then it’s off-the-charts perfect!

Much sewing remains.

Today was one of those days where I seemed to have split space and time, and met myself coming and going. This phenomenon makes the day go by simultaneously fast and exhaustingly slow. At least the Register’s Office visit went better than expected, though I did get in a small argument with Ms Popcorn about her placement of the break table that blocked my access to the pre-1900 Deed books. Better yet, I’ve now done with all three addresses from 1909 to 1860, so tomorrow I can begin checking the grantor index forward to the 1980s when records were put on computer. Tomorrow I will also continue reviewing maps at library #2 where today I was reprimanded several times for “using” my cell phone - as in I had it to my ear to listen to a message. I’m sorry... but the purpose of no cell phone rules in libraries is so you don’t disturb the work of other patrons and staff. And telling me to take it outside in a normal speaking voice is infinitely louder than my utter and total silence. But that’s just me. I hope to get my work at library #2 finished as quickly as possible and will ignore the hints to serve on committees or donate a copy of my research back to the library now that they realize the depth and breadth of my work.

A surprisingly large number of people have visited this site recently searching for kumihimo information. Trust me, real kumihimo work is slated for the not-so-distant future. But not at least until mid-November when I might have a break in my work and travel.

I need a nap.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

“That Nice Lady”

I’ve heard that phrase several times at Library #1 when they refer to me. “That Nice Lady”? I’m not opposed to that term, but it hardly seems accurate. Oh, sure, I have my moments…but for my behavior to be so consistently sweet at this institute seems highly improbable. That’s not how I roll. Take the Register of Deeds office, for example.

Yesterday after lunch I stopped at the Register of Deeds office to get a couple of hours in and found one of the employees still finishing lunch in the “break room” and watching a soap opera on a b/w set. The break room is actually a couple of wheeled chairs, one small round cafeteria table, the tv, and a microwave—all wedged between the stacks of the deed records. With the soap at full volume I didn’t even attempt to listen to podcasts on my iPod because I knew I would hear the soap better than my podcasts. I got temporarily excited when I saw her leave, but then she returned, munching on a huge bowl of popcorn. And she was joined quickly by one of the male employees. A long yet-inane conversation about Mr. Clean Erasers followed.

Today I cleared the security checkpoint by 8:30 and dove into the stacks right away, looking for two properties in the grantor/grantee indexes from 1909 when they signed a party wall agreement, then worked my way backward. Ms Popcorn was working in the stacks, too.

Have you ever met a “performer”? Performers intentionally speak in a louder-than-necessary volume to encourage eavesdropping by others and, I suppose, to encourage interaction. And when otherwise alone, they speak to themselves as if to encourage participation by others. Ms Popcorn was a performer. She complained about how hard her job was and whined about how difficult it was to unsnap the binding of her record book. I continued to scan for names, finished my book, and returned it to the shelf where I retrieved another. She was still fuming audibly over her book when I returned.

This continued for TWO HOURS. I tried putting on my headphones to set up a sort of privacy screen, but then she started talking directly to me. And THEN she began making calls on her cell phone in a loud volume and only two feet away from me. “Hi, Mom. How are you doing? Ohhhhhh, I have a headache. I’ve had a headache for a few days...” By then my parking meter had run out so I left.

No, I certainly wasn’t feeling like “That Nice Lady” at the Register of Deeds office.

On the upside, I finished one step in my research project, and the Old Chicago Oktoberfest mini-tour began today.
A Public Service Announcement from your Fearless Travel Knitter

Run, don’t walk, to get your free annual credit report. It doesn’t matter how carefully you pay your bills, the report from any and all of the three credit reporting agencies may contain errors, and these errors can not only hurt your chances of securing a loan, but also cause you to pay higher insurance premiums. In the U.S. we have the right to receive a free credit report once a year. You can order them online, or you can fill out a form and mail it to a central processing center.

Thank you.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quilt Wrestling: the New Olympic Sport; and Terror at 6 a.m.

Our motion detector doorbell rang at 6 a.m. - So this phrase “motion detector doorbell” doesn’t prevent you from the following story, this is a supplement to our traditional doorbell that we often can’t hear depending on where we are in the house, and if the washing machine is running. Back to the story - Mike and I looked at each other. No one should be at our door at that time of the morning unless there had been a traffic accident, and we hadn’t heard heavy braking, a horn, or the crunch of metal, so we ruled that out and hot-footed it downstairs.

I glanced at the door to the conservatory as I rounded the corner and saw that the curtain privacy screen was on the floor in a big heap. On the porch we saw a Siamese cat glowering at us through the glass. The look it gave was enough to make a lesser man pee. I pounded the door with my fist, causing the cat to scurry away, and began looking for our cats. Everyone was fine, but Nacho, who we found in a room on the opposite side of the house, looked a little wired. Using my CSI skills, I pieced this story together:

Nacho had been in the conservatory keeping tabs on his former kingdom when he caught sight of his former adversary. Let’s call him “General”. At the same time, General spotted Nacho through the window. He crept up on the porch, seeing his chance to take Nacho down, and leaped against the glass, triggering the motion detector and causing Nacho to flee in terror, taking out the privacy curtain, rod, and hanging hardware on the way.

I can’t do anything to keep General out of the yard, but we have pinned up the privacy curtain so perhaps the curtain will stay put until we’re ready to take it down.

Last night I deep-cleaned the dining room so I could lay out the flannel flunk quilt and pin the three layers together, and this morning began wrestling the quilt through the machine. Only after I had sewn two seams did I notice that the tension was off.

Aaaack! I forgot to test the tension on the three quilt layers before I started sewing the main quilt. Dropping the tension down from 3 to 1 seemed to fix the problem. I continued to push the quilt through the machine, then stopped to head to the office. On the drive I recalled another problem. Can you see it in the photo?

No, I’m not referring to how butt-ugly the quilt is. (I don’t call it Flannel Funk for nothin’) Look at the presser foot. Notice what it is? Or rather, what it is not? The WALKING FOOT I purchased specifically to machine quilt.

And thus begins the day.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Attempted Tripping by Guilt

We knew going into Sunday that it was going to be a hectic day—house and yard work we’ve been postponing and couldn’t postpone any longer, catching up on work, and not enough hours in the day. So we certainly didn’t need this on top of everything else.

The phone rang while I was in the shower and Mike was in our 100-year-old limestone basement swatting away a spider that was big enough to be called a pet, and hauling our folding ladder up the narrow basement steps. The answering machine got the call; it was from one of the Sisters across the street. They had a cat, and asked if I knew what they should do. I took a deep breath and phone back. The following is a rough transcript of that conversation. The part in brackets indicates the unvoiced part of the conversation. Obviously when Sister is speaking, this is only supposition on my part.

ME: Good morning, Sister. This is Sally from across the street.

SISTER: Oh, hi. Thank you for calling back. We’ve got a kitten over here. It’s the sweetest tamest little thing with a tail like a peacock, but really hungry, [so we are hoping and praying that you’ll take it off our hands] and we didn’t know what to do.

ME: [Of course you know what to do. You a home of bright educators who have lived in this town for at least three decades.] Well I can’t help you. (as if on cue, Nacho is a few feet away beginning Eclair’s lesson in manners, and she emits a scream suitable for a slasher flick.) As you can hear, I’ve got my own situation over here.

SISTER: It’s the tamest little thing, and I’m afraid for it with all these ferals around [that we pray every night won’t have more kittens but so far those prayers aren’t being answered] but we certainly can’t take it in.

ME: [you mean the feral cats that you’ve been feeding for years, encouraging them to congregate but providing no other care like vaccinations or sterilization?] It sounds like it belongs to someone. Your new neighbors have cats. Maybe it belongs to them.

SISTER: [maybe I should have that I had a dream about you helping us last night] No. Her cats are Sugarbottom and Loverbuns. No, this cat doesn’t belong to them.

ME: Well it sounds like it’s an owned cat. If you can’t find someone else to take it you should bring it to the humane shelter. They’ll put an ad in the paper so the kitten’s owners will be able to claim it, and if no owner comes forward the kitten has a good chance of being adopted.

SISTER: What about that other shelter. [Why isn’t this working? You took a pregnant cat off our hands once and that was a lot more work than one cute kitten!] Are you still involved with them?

ME: [I thought you said you didn’t know what to do?] I’m not, and besides they don’t move their animals very quickly so they always have a waiting list. You can put the kitten on the list, but by the time a space opens up the cat won’t be a kitten any more.

SISTER: Oh, well thanks. We didn’t know what to do [that would allow us to feel like we made a positive difference without actually taking responsibility]

ME: [Eclair’s mother... her kittens... Feral Cats 1-5... all these are the products of your misguided notions of cat caring that I have rescued, and Nacho will be the last.] Well that’s my suggestion, but I can’t help.

As I hang up I wonder why she thought the kitten having “a tail like a peacock” would sell the story.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Sigh of Relief

This afternoon I screwed up the courage to check yardage requirements for the larger size bicolor cables sweater. I have enough. Since I can’t get row gauge but I can get stitch gauge in this yarn (Rowan Wool Cotton) I’ll plan on using the needle that will give me stitch gauge, and know that I’ll have a longer sweater than the pattern intended. That’s okay. I’d rather have that than be tugging at the hem.

The past few weeks (after Super-Secret was done) I have been spending every available hour at one of several research libraries around town, researching the history of a commercial building for a client. I still have a lot of work to do, but this is what I’ve accomplished thus far:

One of the clerks at the Register of Deeds office got all defensive and gave me the “I’ve worked here for 32 years and that’s never been true” speech when I told her that there was a time that lot numbers were the same as addresses. Actually, this *is* true, and I have City Directories and Fire Maps to prove it. The town didn’t switch to the Philadelphia system until the mid-1880s.

I have discovered that the volunteers at one library know tons more than the paid staff, and the paid staff knows it. That’s why when I ask a question the response is “I don’t know. So and so would know—she’s one of our volunteers—but she’s not here today.”

I am now on a first name basis with the staff at another library.

And I made one of the town historians swear and ask me to not ask him any more hard questions because he doesn’t have the answer. Easy questions only, please. If the question were easy, I’d have come up with the answer myself...

Overall it’s been a very productive week!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Can a Visit to the Dentist’s Office be so Sweet it Can Send the Patient into Diabetic Shock?

Apparently, yes it can.

I had my annual check up was this morning. I love my dentist (gentle). I love my hygienist (gentle, gentle). And I love the office staff. And apparently the love goes both ways. When the hygienist scheduled my appointment for next year, she made a point to set my appointment on a Thursday when the dentist’s semi-retired wife works “because she always loves to visit with you.”


I hauled one of my tatted ornaments along to work on in the waiting room. The hygienist caught a glimpse of it as I put it away, and she asked “are you flossing in the waiting room?” I assured her I was *not* flossing in the waiting room. “Oh, I was so impressed I was going to give you a special star or something.”

Before I left for my appointment I knit a few more rows on Ragna then stopped to admire my work. Four rows back I have a cable crossing the wrong direction. Aaaargh! Me thinks I will fix it by laddering down, rather than frogging back.

I’ve encountered a potentially fatal problem with the bi-color cables project. Not only can I not get gauge (stitch gauge yes, row gauge no) with that yarn, but I checked the size of the project and it appears that I thought I was one size smaller than I am. And since this project is a button-down sweater, I will be bursting out of the buttons on the smaller size. Before I go any further, I need to count skeins and yardage. Maybe I actually have enough. But if I don’t...

And on the quilt front, I stopped at the local quilt store a few days ago to buy batting for the flannel funk quilt. She assured me that the single thickness cotton batting would be very warm, but now I’m wondering: if the single thickness cotton batting makes a really warm winter blanket, then what would I use for my summer herringbone quilt?

I see stops at Sarah’s Fabrics and The Yarn Barn in store for Saturday’s Lawrence visit.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


My out-of-state uncle visits every Labor Day weekend. These visits always mean family gatherings, trip to shop at favorite stores in the Kansas City area, and stops to see this-relative’s-new-house, or that-relative’s new office. After approximately 40 years of Labor Day visits, my mother is hard-pressed to come up with new and exciting things to show him, so this year she took him to some of the old haunts around town, like the school named for a great-aunt, new buildings at the university he attended, and a new housing/commercial development adjacent to that university. He loved the school, was impressed by the new building at the university, and was horrified by the new development. I was not surprised. You see, my uncle is stuck in time.

Forty years ago when he owned a home not far from there, that was a bustling, vibrant area of commerce. Since then it has been in steady decline, and for the last twenty years or so the only commerce of any note were a handful of bars too seedy to be called “colorful.” And the surrounding neighborhood? Centennial homes with rotted porches barely strong enough to support the couches and washing machines on them; cars on jacks surrounded by overgrown weeds; and siding that hadn’t seen the working end of a paintbrush since the Smothers Brothers was on T.V. I’m not saying that the project is perfect, but they have clearly invested a lot of money in planning and construction, and already the half-finished apartments are filling up with university students.

As it turns out, my misty-eyed eulogy to the squirrels of the neighborhood was premature. We noticed a few squirrels in the easement as we pulled into the drive after the Labor Day bash, so we stopped to count. One, two, oh, there’s two more over there. Four squirrels. Oh wait. Did you see that one? And… Seven squirrels were busy working the ground beneath the two pin oak trees in the easement the runs from our corner to the alley. Seven squirrels. And those were just the ones on the ground. If there were more in the trees, well, who knows how many squirrels had descended on our property. No, there will be no pecan pie this fall, either. Which brings me to a realization: This will probably be the last fall I will be raking the lawn at this house. Woo-Hoo!

Monday afternoon I watched a bit of Judge Judy, and saw an old episode that pitted neighbor against neighbor. The plaintiff and defendants had had a long battle over petty issues until one day the defendant had convinced a visiting friend that the plaintiff was a pedophile so he beat the holy sh*t out of the plaintiff. (The pedophile claim was a work of fiction, btw.) Michael remarked that he was glad we didn’t have neighbors like that, and I replied that we have had neighbors like that in the past.

About 15+ years ago we were going to the trouble of removing all the paint from the north side of the house with a heat gun before applying fresh. Since this home is 100 years old, there is no doubt that most of the layers of paint were full of lead. The renters next door had small children, about ten and under. These kids thought it was great fun to run under our ladders to try to catch the curls of hot lead-based paint before they hit the ground. Clearly there were a few safety issues we had to consider, like the safety of children being under the ladder, the safety of children catching hot paint in their bare hands, and the long-term safety of children handling lead paint. So we told the kids that they needed to stay away. We weren’t yelling, except in the amount of voice it was necessary to get their attention on the ground while we were high up on ladders. What do you suppose the parents’ position was? We were bad, bad, people, and the father called us all kinds of nasty names to his children. His children were perfect and were only amusing themselves in an innocent way, after all. Fortunately they moved out about two months later without giving notice to the landlord.

About that same time period, the couple that was living in that same house got in a terrible fight. He set fire to her car that was parked in the alley, then went back into the home and began tossing her belongings into the backyard all the while screaming “F&CK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON, B*TCH!!” Needless to day, I already had the number for the police on speed dial. They moved out that month without giving notice to the landlord, either.

We haven’t had similar problems since those days. I’m not saying our neighbors are perfect by any means, but we have learned to stop interacting with them. We have learned not to share details of our personal lives like what we do to make a living, or to invite them into our homes. Since we installed central air conditioning about ten years ago, my awareness of the comings and goings of the neighborhood has dropped significantly. Maybe angry boyfriends are lighting their girlfriends’ cars on fire every night, but if so, then I remain blissfully unaware.

Did I mention we’re moving next year?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Crafty Labor (Day)

I have been playing catch-up this weekend on all things crafty - catch up from the weeks of Super-Secret research and writing, and catch up with the projects I had set to the side while I made Sydney.

I finished another cable chart repeat.

6-Button Cardigan:
Cast on and the began the hem.

Tatted Ornaments:
Began 10th of 24 ornaments.

We continue to integrate Nacho into the household. It is not an easy process. Nacho is less restless than when he first arrived and has become accustomed to most normal activities. That’s good, because those first few days he would run in terror whenever I turned on the kitchen faucet to refill his water bowl. But about 9 at night he begins wandering the house muttering to himself, and this distress has a ripple effect among the other cats who, then, are quick to lash out at Nacho as he paces past, which further causes Nacho to mutter and pace. We have about a dozen flare-ups a day, but Mike and I are backing off now and letting the crew work it out amongst themselves. Once 11:30 a.m. rolls around Nacho has put himself to bed, the others go to bed, and the house is peaceful until nightfall. Despite the flair-ups, we do see progress. And most importantly, Nacho has become lovingly attentive to his human hosts, and gained over a pound in the week and a half between his neutering and having his sutures removed.

The local squirrel population has plunged unexpectedly over the past week. Squirrels have always been a problem as long as we’ve lived here (I’m talking decades) to the point that I had to stop using those digital answering machines a long time ago because they need to be reset in person after a power failure, and the squirrels cause an inordinate amount of power failures. That would simply be annoying if we didn’t travel so much, but what are we supposed to do if we are in California for 2 weeks and a squirrel zaps the power while we are away?

Monday I heard the tell-tale sizzle of the incandescent bulb over my office desk, then I heard the printer, modem, etc. all shut down and the house went dark. Two seconds later I heard a “BOOM” coming from a transformer about a block away, then everything electronic returned to life.

Tuesday I came home and spotted a squirrel “napping” in the street, and noticed that only one of the two daily squirrels that attack my bird feeder had returned.

Today? Another squirrel, another street nap.

Could this mean fewer holes dug in my yard this fall from squirrels stashing the acorns from my pin oak? Could this mean I might actually get to harvest a few pecans from my tree for the first time ever? Could this mean I can set my clocks and they’ll stay set until we have to turn out clocks back for Daylight Savings Time? I know, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
One Generation’s Anthem is Another Generation’s…well…

I almost spit out my coffee this morning when I realized the new commercial jingle for Luvs disposable diapers is that favorite Beatles’ anthem: “All You Need is Love,” with the lyrics changed slightly to “All you need is Luvs.”

I suppose that means that the generation buying diapers today have zero personal memory of the Beatles and now their music is just the stuff of elevators and Greatest Hits compilations.