Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Own “Where’s Waldo”







Tat Barf

Bringing the tatted cross bookmark to Michigan turned out to be a huge mistake. Every time I took it out of its travel pouch it looked like this:



(would you believe this is a 2/3rds done bookmark???)

Then I spent the next 5 minutes de-tangling it.

Then I tatted maybe two or three rings.

Then it was time to move to the next point and back it went inside the travel pouch.

Rinse, repeat.

I realized mid-way through the trip that I was spending a huge percentage of the work time cursing the work because it tangled into a ball and all the picots would grab at each other and the shuttle and ball thread. And I don’t think cursing is the appropriate energy to feed into this bookmark. POSITIVE energy, yes, but CURSING no. So the tatted bookmark stayed at home.

Here we are, at the airport ONCE AGAIN, waiting to catch a flight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Brief Intermission

We were in the lobby of the hotel checked out at 5:30 a.m. and ready to head to the Detroit Airport. Traffic was surprisingly heavy, and the security line inside was miles long, but we made it. YEAH!!!!

I’m looking at the clock and I see that this time tomorrow I will be back at the airport in Kansas City waiting to catch my flight to Oklahoma City. Now is an excellent time to discuss one of the hazards of group travel: people.

People are a interesting. You’ve got fun people. You’ve got quiet people. You’ve got people that are simply excited to be there doing their job. You’ve got people that find fault with everything. Then there is Ms. X.

Ms. X is a Canadian. I say this only because it will become important to the story in a bit. I had never met her before Michigan, but I gather she has traveled with my hosts on many occasions in the past. She is a spry old lady - 70s? 80s? - but hearty and hale. She had a peculiar way of grinning gape-mouthed at people and clapping her palms together like a kid at Christmas. It was so totally non-age appropriate, that I began to wonder if she a) was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s and was regressing to an early age, or b) if it was an act and her true self was a bit on the nasty side.

The first day I spent one-on-one with her, she and the staff member were in the lobby at 8 a.m. and she ripped into me because “we were late” and “everybody else had left”. My itinerary said we were to leave at 8, and I was there at 8. Squeeze me. She spent the rest of the day disagreeing with me about everything. If I had said the sky was blue I swear she would have said it was clearly green. She griped about not having had breakfast (but with that childlike grin) which Mike and I ignored because we had seen on the itinerary that breakfast wasn’t offered so we had fended for ourselves before leaving the hotel. She was incapable of getting the van door open (because she was weak from hunger she said) so I had to open and close the door at every stop. The next day I breathed a sigh of relief because she was supposed to be doing other things, but she ended up begging to be switched to the activity track I was on. The final straw was when she intentionally cut in front of me in line at the bathroom and when I called her on it she shot me that 6-year-old grin and slammed the stall door. I sighed and said to the people that were witness that it was going to be a looooong day.

Thankfully she steered clear of me the rest of the day, and the staff made sure she stayed in another van.

On our final night I overhead her telling a story to another writer, and her tone of voice was completely different. She wasn’t a 6-year-old. She was a bloodthirsty newspaper woman who didn’t care who she hurt. If she believed she were right, then she was right. She even complained to the hotel staff about housekeeping because they had left her lights on all day - well if she were so concerned about that shouldn’t she have turned off her own damn lights before she left for the day?? (BTW, the hotel had been 100% booked the night before, so housekeeping was a bit overworked.)

Of course it turned out that she was booked on the same flight out of Detroit. At the airport, Mike and I went one direction and she went another, but I noticed her toddling around, sitting in one seat for 10 minutes before toddling around some more, and finally making her way over to sit near us. The 6-year-old act was over, and she was just an odd, angry old woman. But she was clearly desperately lonely to choose to sit next to someone she despised.

And the Canadian connection: at lunch one day she told a joke. I suppose she thought it complimented Canadians and their prowess with the canoe, but I happen to see it differently: Only Canadians can have sex in a canoe without tipping it over. My take? It said less about their prowess with the canoe than their supposed lack of passion in the sack. But I decided to keep my mouth shut. (And remember, the canoe story belonged to a Canadian - not me.)

Tomorrow we fly out again. I feel a cold coming on (mental note: buy cold medicine), and Miss Cranky Pants wants to come out to play, but I am looking forward to the trip. Jules, I emailed you my contact info. If you can meet on Saturday evening that’s great. But I so won’t blame you if you can’t. I may be downright scary by then.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Like a Kid in a Candy Shop

My last day in Michigan, and we hit the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Henry Ford Museum. DIA has been closed since May as they were in the final phase of a multi-year renovation and expansion. We got to see it with the art half-hung, display cabinets hanging open, tape on the floor... you get the idea. We got enough of a taste that I can say with certainty that it is going to be a fantastic experience across the generations and no matter the level of art knowledge. They have added some interactive media (including pda tours), and have modified their signage to fill in the history and symbolism gaps that most of us have.

We lunched at the Eagle Tavern at Henry Ford (excellent food, btw) and I had arranged my own time at one of the exhibits at the museum that has a definite Kansas connection. There are a couple of stories I’m chasing with that exhibit, and with only a handful of outlets that might be interested in them I tried my best to avoid the crowd of other writers so they would not horn in. We did a great job, and no one except the PR people were any the wiser. The exhibit (which I will not name) exceeded my expectations, and I had a huge grin on my face the entire time we were there.

An early early a.m. flight home tomorrow.
Miss Cranky Pants Comes Out to Play, and Yarn Acquisition

Saturday was all about the shopping, baby! Had a great day with the exception of a few things that I won’t get into except to say that at one point I was forgotten about standing in the rain, and at two other points I nearly had toooooo much attention thrown on me which would have made doing my job impossible.

But look what I found at Busy Hands:




Not sure what I’ll do with it. I bought all the yarn they had in that colorway - which works out to three - though the owner has more ordered and will call me when she gets more in. The yarn is starting to whisper that it wants to be a loose vest. Of course it is whispering that it wants to be something that doesn’t have a commercially-available pattern. No matter. There are still weeks before I can begin to think seriously about starting this.

Had B-Bim-Bop for breakfast at the Kerrytown Markets,





Where I also played the carillon.



One more day and then home.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Screamin’ Down the Track

Speed was the theme of yesterday morning. We checked out of our Kalamazoo hotel before 7 and headed west to the Michigan International Speedway. We were shown the track and taken for rides in the pace car at 140 mph. Cool!



Note where Kurt Busch tore up the track doing wheelies after he won the 2007 Cup race:



Lunch ended with this lava cake concoction:



And had some history stuff in the afternoon. Rain began to fall by late afternoon when we drove on to Ann Arbor, and it looks like rain is in the forecast for Saturday as well.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Travel Hazards and Craft-y Goodness

Travel means constantly being introduced to new sights, sounds, and knowledge, and that’s a good thing. But sometimes the “new” prevents one from being able to take a shower without a “how do I” call to the front desk.

Here are my shower controls:



Can you see how one switches the water flow from the tub faucet to the shower head?



It’s not on the water temperature control, and it’s not that mechanism below the faucet (that’s a tub stopper).



It’s the little brass ring on the mouth of the tub faucet. Sigh...



Yesterday was all about shopping. We went to some of the antique malls in the boondocks of southern Michigan. That’s where I scored three vintage pattern books:



I was very curious about the 2 needle sock book. How would one knit a pair of socks with just two needles in an era where circs were unheard of??

Trouble is, the book doesn’t explain this. I assume I knit the socks flat and then seam them, but I really don’t know.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Few Crafty Sightings

Yesterday was all about museums, and it was *way* too windy to safely tat outdoors while I waited for the group to catch up. (The wind would flip the thread, unflipping the stitch I was trying to intentionally flip.) But here are a few crafty sightings.

A bicentennial quilt at the Underground Railway House in Schoolcraft.


A quilt purportedly made my Mrs. Thomas, the wife of the physician who helped slaves escape into Canada.


Crocheted lacy bits.


And at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, a string quilt.


We ended the day at the “Air Zoo” in Kalamazoo, so no craft sightings there, but it was an excellent interactive family-friendly museum, and certainly one I recommend visiting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Michigan’s a Fruit

Yesterday was all about Michigan’s fruit heritage. Unfortunately it is the end of the season, so the Benton Harbor Fruit Market was empty, Tree-mendous Fruit Farm was closed, and Wick’s Apple House was only a few days away from closing for the season.

Still, we spotted a few apples on the ground and borrowed a few off the trees.



And ended the day with a stop at Warren Dunes State Park. From the top of the dunes you can see several of Chicago’s tallest buildings across the lake.



Monday, October 22, 2007

Michigan Day 1

As I write this I know that I will not be able to keep up with daily blog posts, but here is at least a start.

When we woke in Kansas (around 1 a.m.) it was raining. One of those steady rains that make you want to curl up in bed for hours and listen. Except we couldn’t because we had to get to the airport. Getting up that early allowed us to squeeze in an episode of “America’s Most Smartest Model,” though that wasn’t so much a plan as a happy bonus. We left at 3, and it ended up being plenty of time, but we drove in a steady downpour the entire 1 1/2 hours. I was glad to know that we weren’t rushed.

The Chicago layover was almost 3 hours which allowed us to play a people watching game. There are no rules, and no points are awarded, but it is a process of taking older people and imagining them as 10-50 years younger, and taking young people and imagining them 10-50 years older. There was one guy with curly black hair and thin mutton-chop sideburns who I could clearly see sitting in a chair at the old-folk’s home poking people with the tip of his cane.

We landed in Kalamazoo a little after noon. It was sunny and warm, and I quickly shed the extra layers I had piled on before I left the house that morning. But by the time we reached South Haven it was overcast and quite, quite cold. The first stop was the Maritime Museum, and we spent several hours learning about the facility and pantomiming hoisting the sails of their sloop that had already been de-rigged for the season. For dinner we were supposed to have a bonfire and cookout on the beach, but the cold wind and impending rain changed plans slightly. We still had our dinner at the Michi-Mona-Mac Lakeshore Cottages—just off the beach rather than on.



Here is my tatted bookmark in progress. I started it on the plane. That’s also my beer. It’s a local one I hope to learn more about in the next several days.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Two Hidden Pockets



I did at least get those done in the mad rush to leave town. Still have a bit of work-y stuff to do, and throw the last bits in the suitcase, but I’m just about ready to pile in the car at 3 a.m. tomorrow for the drive to the airport. No matter how much care I have taken, I’ll probably discover I’ve left something critical at home.

I am not sure I’ve done the pockets correctly. I’ve never knit a garment with this type of construction, and this is a vintage pattern. In other words, the pattern writer assumed the knitter already had loads of experience making such things and going into details was unnecessary. Unseemly, even.

Here are the instructions:
Pocket Linings - with size 5 needle, cast on 34 sts.
K 1 row, p 1 row for 5 ins.
end with p row. Break off. Make 2.

“Break off”. No “bind-off”? No “put on stitch holder”?

I decided to err on the side of caution and put the live stitches on a holder for the time being. Reading ahead only confused matters, trust me!

I’m now ready to begin casting on for the first front panel on the smaller size 4s to make the hem, but my size 4 is busy making the hem for the bi-color cables. Now that I’m done with the 5 I can transfer my stitches to the larger long needle and that will free up the 4. I do have another size 5 for the cardigan front panel above the hem. It’s shorter than the needle I’d used to make the back, but I’m hoping that since the front panel is roughly half the width of the back, that the shorter 5 will suffice. Otherwise I’m going to either have to buy another long size 5 ($$) or put off finishing the cardigan until the bi-color cable is complete. No matter. It will be waiting for me when I return.

How did I end up with all my projects using the same size needle???

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finished Objects

It’s been a very productive day!









That completes the tatted Christmas ornaments. YEAH!!!! Woo-HOOOOO!!!

I hate doing assembly-line crafting. The first object is loads of fun, but the fun goes away once I start the second of the same design. But they are done and I don’t have any other assembly-line projects in the queue.

But that’s not all! I’ve been sucking down ibuprofen, staying away from chewy foods, and this morning took a nap with an ice pack on my jaw. That meant I was as ready as I could be for my final dental appointment at 1 p.m. Would it be enough? You bet your bippy!

The permanent crown is in, so now I just need to make sure the bite is good over the next 36 hours. If it isn’t, I have a 2-hour window to get it finessed on Saturday morning.
A Sighting that Made me Go “Huh...”

Yesterday we stopped at the post office so I could mail yet-another “get your act together” letter to one of the three credit reporting agencies, (my favorite line: if you are unable to fulfill your obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act I will be happy to ask my attorney to help guide you through the process.”) and I found myself in line behind a woman carrying a life-size plastic human head. This individual was wearing an apron, and the hair on the plastic female head was half-pinned up in a sort of French braid. Can we say “cosmetology student”? The woman was filled with nervous energy. Despite the heavy rain, she was carrying her head sans-bag. She approached the window, plopped her head on the counter, made a joke (that I could not hear), and asked to have her mail delivery changed from general delivery to an actual physical address. She may be making an effort to get her life together, but based on the careless way she was handling her head, I give her two more months before she drops out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pre-travel Planning

I am in that awkward period leading up to a trip: Do I begin new tasks, finish the old, or abandon them all until I return? There never is an easy answer, and often I find that my original plans don’t work out.

Take the dental work, for example. I was supposed to have my permanent crown set tomorrow afternoon. The Dr. X’s receptionist called yesterday to confirm and I said that I was really looking forward to it because I think the endodontist put my temporary back on wrong and it’s been extremely painful to eat. Uh-oh... She rushed me in so Dr. X could get a look. My jaw has been clamping down on my to the point I can barely open it. On Sunday morning I tried to eat a donut and I could only take these stabbing bites off the rim. If I can’t open my jaw, then I can’t have the permanent crown placed. CRAP, CRAP, CRAP!!!! It seems that my jaw muscles are worn out, and this can be caused by a bad bite. Dr. X shaved the temporary down quite a bit and sent me on my way with instructions to rest. If my jaw isn’t improved today than I will have to cancel my appointment and re-schedule it for after Oklahoma.

It is slightly improved, but I’m not sure that it will be ready for tomorrow. Sigh...

At least I could eat dinner last night without getting nauseous. That was a definite plus!

Tatting
I have exactly three more bell ornaments to tat before I am done, and I’d love to be done, done, done before heading to Michigan. Even though they don’t take long to do, I find my body won’t let me do more than one every 2 days.

V-neck Cardigan
Clearly “done” is only a relative term here. I finished the back, and cast on for the first of two pockets. With everything else going on it is doubtful I’ll be finished with the pockets before Michigan.

Ragna
That is in temporary hibernation as is the Chilean Dreams scarf set.

Bread
Herbie is still too little to bake with - that is if I want anything left of Herbie for later. Yesterday I did manage to find a suitable (but $$) lidded pan that can withstand temps up to 500º. Today is a stormy day with periods of heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Perfect bread baking day!! But as I said, Herbie is still a little guy, and frankly I think chewy bread would put an end to my dreams of completing the dental work pre-Michigan.



Old Chicago
…is starting their Halloween Mini-Tour today. Only six beers, so with two beers a visit, and two visits before Michigan, plus a third in the 24 hours between Michigan and Oklahoma... I think we can do it! Certainly worth a shot, don’t you think?

Cleaning
Ah, housework. While I don’t like leaving the housecleaning to the last minute, I also don’t like spending lots of time getting the house ready only to need to spruce it up again on the last day. Except for maybe cleaning the stove top, microwave and refrigerator, I think I’ll postpone this until Friday at least. I’m either efficient or lazy; take your pick.



Yard Work
Yes, I have some raking and general blowing-trash pick-up to do, but it’s raining like cats and dogs today, so that’s out. DARN!

Packing
This will take some pondering. We have to pack light for these trips and plan to wear jeans, etc. several days. But this is an extremely awkward season. It’s too warm for heavy sweaters, but too cold for summer wear. It’s definitely layering weather, but layers mean lugging and less room to pack press materials etc. for the return trip home. At this point it looks like the highs will be in the low 60s. We’ll be in and out of a van from dawn till late, and likely staying in a different hotel every night. I have to be prepared to wear whatever I put on in the morning all day.

And of course this doesn’t include my travel work or our continued fight to get the three credit reporting agencies to report information that is accurate, or our fight to with the credit card company that fraudulently issued a credit card to an unknown third party using my husband’s social security number...

Only four full days remain until our flights.

My activity list arrived for the Oklahoma leg. It looks like I will be ending my trip in Tulsa... and might be able to swing some time off from the group on the evening of November 3... Which is a Saturday, by the way... Before flying home on the 4th.

Just sayin’.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finished Object, and more on Bread

Ta-Da!!!!



Kind of makes you want to throw up, doesn’t it? Note that most of the plaid panels are set at an angle. The reason for this is that I bought the cheapest flannel I could get, and the pattern of really cheap flannel does not correspond to the grain of the fabric. I mostly tried to keep to the grain, but if the plaid was too far off I at least split the difference. If I were to make flannel funk again, I would probably use fewer varieties of plaid, but the purpose of this is to be warm (yes, it will be warm) and durable, and not something I would cry over if the cats (because they will) barf on it.

Hand tacking the binding only took about 4 hours today, and I only sewed the quilt to my jeans once. I’m so proud!

As I’ve mentioned before, my machine quilting was horrible. If I had made this in junior high home ec and the teacher were in a generous mood, she would have given me a D+. But it’s a learning quilt, and one learns a lot more from failure than success.

Gaia,

I am no expert, but if I understood my bread instructor correctly, the Amish starter is fed sugars so it is very active and has to be fed and divided often. Herbie is only fed flour and water, so he’s on a less demanding 7-10 day cycle. The recipes she gave us (one that uses the starter and one that uses a rapid rise yeast) require no kneading and very little handling. Supposedly I should be able to make a loaf of artisan bread even on a day when I work a full 8 hours away from home. We’ll see. Since I leave on basically a two-week business trip in only a week and a few hours from now, there will be no bread baking until mid-November. And besides, I have to buy a new pan. Using either recipe and both the cold-start and hot-start baking methods, I need to purchase a pan with lid that will withstand oven temps of 450º. That’s one freaking hot oven! But I can assure you the results are quite worth it and I’m really looking forward to giving Herbie a test run in my kitchen!

Herbie isn’t restricted to artisan breads. I should be able to use him on American-style breads, cinnamon rolls, etc. But since all wild yeast (and that’s what Herbie is) has its own qualities that it brings to final product, it may turn out that I prefer using a different starter for making other breads.

As an aside, my husband mentioned that his mother used to have a starter named Herman, and that Herman was so active that he had to be shared with anyone and everyone, and that it was sort of a curse if one’s Herman finally died but a new Herman showed back up in the form of a friendly gift from a friend of neighbor.

What’s up with naming one’s starter???
My New Pet Herbie

Yesterday was artisan bread class day at the Cooks Nook in McPherson, Kansas. I know that reasonable people do not drive 2 1/2 hours to take a class in bread baking, but I have been struggling with uncooperative bread for the last few years. Taking one day to improve my cooking skills hardly seems like too much to ask.



A storm system rumbled across eastern Kansas overnight. By the time we headed west at around 8 a.m., most of it had passed to our east, but we still ran into a blinding downpour just before the clouds broke up. By the time we pulled up to the front doors, the sky was blue, temps in the low 70s, and a warm fall sun shone down on us.

The store is pretty amazing. It carries unusual and hard-to-find cooking equipment and breathtaking table settings. The selection is much better than its equivalent in Topeka (the state capital) and McPherson only has a population of under 14,000.

Their classroom is small, but it has a full kitchen, tilted mirror hanging from the ceiling over the work space, and seating for around 30 people or so. Again, the store in Topeka have a classroom, and by the sounds of it there isn’t one in Wichita, either.

The class (taught by Joyce Esfeld) was organized and informative, and her samples were delicious. The only downside was that the timing sucked. Not her timing - mine. Artisan breads have that wonderful chewy crust, and what did I have this week? Extensive dental work. The endodontist had warned me not to chew on that side of my mouth. I did my very best to let the (yummy) bread soften in my mouth before chewing on the left, but by the last pieces my jaw was getting tired from the effort and I would occasionally bite wrong, giving myself a nasty zing in the process. Chewing the last piece I took, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to throw up, or curl up in a dark corner and weep silently to myself. I put up a brave face and waved off the last sample. The assistant smiled and asked if I didn’t want to at least try a sample of that chewy crust. I smiled and said “no thank you.”

The class was over by 2. Esfeld gave us all portions of Herbie, her traditional San Francisco sour dough starter along with strict instructions for his care and feeding. Mike picked me up and we headed back east to do on-site research for an upcoming article on the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway for an AAA mag.

One of our stops was a park in Strong City, and that is where I decided to take a photo of my new pet along with the button-down cardigan in process. I went to the trunk to retrieve Herbie, and discovered that half of him had escaped from his container and leaked into the Cooks Nook shopping bag, coating my new kitchen tools and classroom handouts with yeasty slime. We don’t know if he was trying to commit suicide, or as Mike postulated, he got car sick. I removed my purchases one by one and squeezed as much as the slime as possible back into its container.



He rode the rest of the way home sitting by himself on the floor of the trunk. I just hoped that it didn’t get so warm that he would blow the top off his container.

He seems to have survived just fine. As soon as we got home (around 7) I fed and watered him, and by 9 when I put him in the refrigerator, bubbles had formed in the goo.

As for the cardigan, I got so much accomplished in the car and in class yesterday, that I was able to bind off for the shoulders this morning and the back of the cardigan is officially complete.

BTW, this class will be offered again in January ’08. Perhaps Esfeld will share one of her other starters like Elvis or Fluffy...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Blast from the Past

Yesterday I stopped at my mother’s house and she had a little surprise for me. She’d been cleaning and ran across a McCall’s Needlework and Crafts issue from 1969-70. It is full of hilarious-looking clothes and home accessories. The ads are a hoot, too!



I’m not much of a shopper (it’s been months since I stepped foot in the mall) but I understand from reading Crazy Aunt Purl’s blog that fair isle is making a comeback at Old Navy this year. Can this be far behind?



Lerv the coordinating knee-high socks (Cybill Shepherd?!?) is wearing under her knickers! I’d like to point out that this would have been taken just a few years before her first starring role in The Last Picture Show.

Wait a minute. If this is a knitting section, then wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the knickers to be knit??



That’s much better! Now I wish I had a home as cool as my clothes!



And with the holidays coming up, it would be nice to make something crafty to sell at a charity bazaar.



Almost there. I could really use a cheery vest to add to my wardrobe, but I’ve run out of time, and crochet is so darn hard!



Whew! This is made with a Crazy Daisy Winder so I can probably make the vest in an afternoon! Oh, but now I’ve finished all my projects and my savings account is empty. Is there any way I can turn my hobby into a profitable venture?



That’s perfect! Ladies have always needed hats to when they go shopping or have a romantic evening out. That will never change!

I first learned to knit about two years after this magazine was published. At the time I recall liking knitting but not liking any of the patterns in my mother’s women’s magazines. Looking at the evidence, stuff like this is definitely what put me off knitting!

I had my root canal this morning. My BIL called as I was leaving for the appointment. He’s a huge chicken when it comes to dentistry, and put off his root canal until the tooth had died. But he swore up and down that it was easy and that he’d “take a root canal over a filling any day.”

The endodontist spent a great deal of time with me. He muttered several times (starting early in the procedure) that my gums were really torn up and that I would “probably be pretty sore for days.” He was trying to keep the pre-crown tooth in the shape it arrived in, but was having a tough time. He asked if Dr. X (my regular dentist) had already ordered the permanent crown. I said yes. He pushed on. In the end he told his assistant that I still had three good margins (whatever that is) and that he thought that was Dr. X’s current standard so he was satisfied. He also told me that when I saw Dr. X that I should thank him for sending over such a good patient for remaining still for so long. I’m pretty sure that’s code for “stop sending me the hard ones.” I wandered out to the lobby where Mike was waiting and I slobbered through the gauze wadding, “your brother is a f*@%ing liar.” I had been in the chair with my mouth open wide for about 1 1/2 hours.

My refrigerator is now stocked to overflowing with pudding cups, applesauce, pot pies... frankly anything and everything that seems soft. For an entire week I am banned from eating on that side of my mouth.

But I finished my third bell ornament at the dentist’s office, and the length of my cardigan is finally back to increasing in length with every row instead of that inexplicable decreasing every row.

Small blessings!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another Reason to Love Pushing Daisies:

Supporting character Emerson likes to knit when he gets stressed. In the second episode he knit a sweater and two gun cozies.

Today was definitely one of mixed success.

Good: I finished my latest project and emailed it to the publisher.

Bad: I have been expecting a call from my favorite editor about a project she had hinted about months ago. Emailing her was on my task list for today, but before I sent it off I received an email from her. She was laid off last month. Guess there’s no reason to keep an opening in my schedule for her job after all.

Good: I managed to finish quilting the flannel funk and can turn my attention to the binding.

Bad: I swear that every row I knit on the cardigan it decreases in length by 1/4".

Good: Super secret project revealed!!! The November issue of Islands magazine is on store shelves now. Check out pages 113 - 116, the Top 10 Gardens in the World, written by MOI! I bought the grocery store out of all two of its copies. Tomorrow I hope to hit B&N.

Good and Bad: I got a call from the endodontists’ office. They had a last minute cancellation and wondered if I would like tomorrow morning’s appointment. Why yes, I would, thank you, ma’am! Tomorrow I plan to spend the day completely drugged up and worthless, broken only by short stints sewing quilt binding and the occasional nap. I’m not crazy about this guy (the endodontist). I think he’s a cranky old man who either needs to retire or grow his business. Few things would please me more than getting this appointment behind me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ode to #31

I had my appointment with the endodontist this morning. The good news is that it took him so long to finish an earlier root canal appointment that I finished one tatted ornament and began another. The bad news is that I, too, need a root canal. The nerve in #31 is dying. A moment of silence please.

In more bad news, I cannot get my permanent crown installed until this is done, and the endodontist is overbooked and understaffed. They found a miracle opening in their schedule for next Tuesday afternoon, but I’ve also asked to be placed on the short list in case they get an earlier cancellation. At this point I may be going to Michigan with my temporary crown.

I guess I have two more bits of good news. The first is that I realized that something serious was wrong before the permanent went in. The second is that I came away from the endodontist with two more prescriptions - one for an antibiotic, and the second a different type of pain reliever that should take away the pain better than the codeine stuff that let me sleep like a baby last night.

Lately I have found myself questioning how “expert” the “experts” are. (I’ve moved on from the topic of dentistry, by the way.) During my research on the commercial building, I have been working with a woman who is an assistant in the photography section of a major research library. Nice woman, and very helpful…but… she seems completely unable to interpret a two-dimensional image as a representation of a three-dimensional world. Looking at an aerial, I had to show her about five times which block I was interested in seeing. When I got the scan and we popped the disk in my machine she was so pleased that my building was there. I was less pleased because they had scanned a part of the photograph two blocks south of the the block I needed. At another time we were looking at two different photographs taken of the same basic area but from very different vantage points. I found myself pointing to one building’s roof line (showing her they were the same building) and saying over and over “and there’s the hip roof. Do you see it? The hip roof. Right there!” All the while I was using the cursor on the screen to outline the roof in question for her. She never saw it.

Last year I was listening to a podcast by one of the more established knitting podcasters, and she was going on and on about wanting to receive a set of those fancy wooden straight knitting needles for Christmas. She couldn’t justify the cost of buying it herself, but if someone GAVE it to her, well then, they would be great for swatching. At the time I still considered myself a relatively novice knitter, but my gut said that was a baaaaad idea. Swatch with the needles you plan to use for making the garment, not “show” needles. (Since then I have confirmed in my own needle collection just how different the same size needles can be.) In this most recent episode of that podcast she was talking about the troubles and travails of a sweater that she had swatched with said “pretty” needles (given to her by a listener) and to her horror she discovered that they gave her completely different gauge than the Addi turbos of supposedly the same size. Uh… DUH!

I mentioned this to Michael this morning on the way to work. I had barely gotten into the story when he responded, “you can’t swatch with different needles than you knit with!” Ladies and gentlemen, you should know that this man has never knit a stitch in his life but he knows this to be true. At times it is good to be married to someone who listens.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Care for a Little Cheese with your Whine?

Since last Friday night I have been woken with tooth pain. This was a few days after my first crown appointment, and after the discomfort had diminished to the point I wasn’t gulping Advil every 4 hours. So the backslide was surprising and more than a bit disappointing. I continued to have a variety of symptoms through the weekend, so this morning I called the dentist’s office to let them know. They pulled me in immediately, took an X-ray, and the dentist squinted over it for less than a minute before he showed me something on the film he didn’t like, and told his assistant to get me an appointment ASAP with a specialist. What kind of specialist, you ask? I don’t recall the proper title, but it’s the kind of dentist who handles ROOT CANALS. So now I have a 9 a.m. appointment tomorrow with him. Not sure what he’ll say, but it could mean that I won’t get my permanent crown seated on Wednesday afternoon like we’d planned.

I brought my tatting to work on while I waited for the dentist. His assistant spied it and asked if I was making a scarf. I’m pretty sure I laughed. The idea of making a tatted scarf seems both painstaking and not-at-all cozy.

I have reduced my goals for the week to just one: finishing the article that is due Friday. Beyond that I am throwing myself on the mercy of the dental gods. I did at least finish the 88-page building history, printed it out two-sided, and had it coil bound at FedEx Kinkos. It looks kick-ass!

I hauled two of my batch in for a vet appointment this morning. Nacho has been squinchy-eyed, but we think he’s got allergies. Collins is old. I’m still waiting on her blood test, but the X-rays this time around looked better than 5 months ago, and the vet thinks Nacho isn’t used to cleaning supplies and things that are part of normal household living. I joked that “cleaning supplies” aren’t an issue at my house. She rolled her eyes. She said she doesn’t believe it, because there are people that come into the office who have a lot of cats and she practically can’t stand being in the same room because they smell like cats. So I asked, “You’re saying I don’t smell like cats?” and she said yes, that I don’t smell like cats and that I never even have cat hair on my clothes.

Huh! Guess I learned something positive about myself today: I don’t smell like cats.

And in temporarily comforting news, I asked the dentist to write a prescription for something a little fancier and long-lasting than Advil. At least tonight I should get a solid night’s rest, perhaps dreaming of pink fuzzy elephants and rainbow-colored Czech beers.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Life at 90 mph

Immediately upon returning from my business trip I threw myself into compiling my building history. I had envisioned a couple pages of summary, plus a time line of the major events in the building’s history, followed by copies of all the titles, and any pertinent biographies written about the building occupants or its owners. Why oh why it has taken me weeks of solid work I do not know. That is, until I paginated my layout.

Guess how many pages? Go ahead, guess!

88!!!!!!!

I’m at the tweaking stage, and hope to have the whole document printed (double-sized pages, mind you) in the next few days. Of course my travel assignment is due Friday, then Saturday I’m driving to central Kansas to take a bread baking class and research another travel assignment along the way. All this means I have gotten zero quilting accomplished, and quite frankly I’m not sure when I’ll have time to even re-thread the machine.

In better news, I had no need to be concerned about Nacho and my pet sitter. When I had told her about Nacho over the phone, I led with “the staff at my vet’s office is afraid of him,” and then from there explained that he was 13 pounds, and despite the way he behaves sometimes, he loves being petted and was really a lap cat. (I’m sure she loves coming to my home.)

The report when I returned home was that he was a little wary of her on her first visit, but on the second visit he was following her around while she was doing her chores. He allowed her to pet him, and she even got his elevator to work! (Some cats raise their hind end above the shoulders when they are scratched on the lower spine, and that’s what Nacho does.)

We continue to make great strides in socialization, and he comes looking for me several times a day for some quality lap time. He’s even doing better ignoring the other feline members of the household. Chasing after and screaming has nearly come to a full stop. I am so glad we were able to endure the weeks of howling and less-than-idea behavior because this cat clearly should have been a house cat all its life. It makes me sick to even consider nudging him out the back door with a “good luck” wave.

I have made only a little progress on my cardigan and Ragna, but some progress is better than none, I guess.

And as crazy as all this is, I find myself wondering what I should take to work on during my upcoming business trips. Ragna and the cardi are out because they are too big and heavy. I hope to be done with the tatted ornaments by then. So now I’m considering working on a tatted bookmark to include in my sister’s Christmas basket, or starting a pair of socks...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I’ve Got my Mojo Back, Baby!

A few days ago I had zero enthusiasm for writing/researching an 11th hour assignment that had come across the transom. ZERO. Even this morning, rising at 2 a.m. to make one last desperate effort to get the house to minimal pet sitting standards, I did not want to go. Somehow, though, as we pulled into the parking lot of Location X and I hefted my gear over my shoulder, a light was switched on. I was 100% smiles and interest, asking all the cogent questions, making jokes, and really listening. It wasn’t that I had had a short nap on the drive (as a passenger, of course.). I believe what I am experiencing is what actors experience when somehow they manage to put on a top notch stage performance despite suffering from the flu. This is what is means to be a professional. And you know what? By putting on the “uniform” and playing the part, I came away with some really great stories for my article.

There is a lot of dust in the air, in part from blowing dirt, but also from nearby field corn harvests. We pulled into our Hampton around 8:30 and immediately ran for a nearby Carlos O’Kelly’s for some good beer. Dinner, of course, but really the beer. And they did not disappoint. We gorged on enchiladas, and chips and queso. We washed it all down with a 23 oz Boulevard Lunar. Ah...

I haven’t heard yet how my pet sitter’s first meeting with Nacho went. I assume I would have heard something if it had gone horribly wrong.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fall Makes an Appearance

A front moved through this morning bringing with it overcast skies and periods of heavy rain. Wind was whipping through the branches, already dressed in dabs of gold. If there is such a thing as a good day to visit the dentist for a somewhat-major procedure, this is it.

I don’t mind dental appointments. They aren’t fun by any means, but I know what to expect, I know how long I can expect discomfort, and I know that my dentist will do everything in his power to make sure I feel no pain during the procedure. As long as I don’t obsess about the macabre way the masked dentist leans into me as he maneuvers the metal-trimmed Novocaine needle deep into my mouth, then I’m fine. Really. I even brought along my button-up cardigan to knit on while I waited for the meds to kick in and my bottom lip to get fat (that’s how they describe it).

When I got home I found a message from the sewing machine repair shop. I thought the absolute worst, of course, because if it had simply been a matter of letting me know the machine was done and ready to be picked up, then the message would have said so, right? As it turns out, this person didn’t want to work on my machine at all. He really felt I should take it to the dealer to be repaired. I told him I refuse to work with that dealer. His response: “I understand that completely.” (I’ve blogged in the past about my feelings about that guy, and apparently I am far from alone.) I told this shop that I had heard that there is a good shop in Lawrence, but that I will not be able to get back to Lawrence until mid-November, so I just want to get the machine oiled and cleaned so I can finish my current quilt. The needle down button had stopped working, alerting me to the oiling problem, but this guy insisted that that probably was an electronic problem he could not fix. I didn’t think so because it always stops working when it needs to be oiled and always resumes working once it is. At any rate, having the needle down button work wasn’t a requirement to finish the quilt. It could wait. I just wanted to buy some time. He was still reluctant to oil it, but I told him they’d done it once before. He couldn’t have been more shocked if I’d told him his dog had just had a litter of kittens.

Now for pics. This is my first fully-dressed bell-type Christmas bauble:



Did you notice anything in the background?



Ahhhhh. I can finish work on the quilt. And you know what? The needle down button works again! Tol’ Ya!

Now if I could just get the smell of pulverized tooth out of my nostrils I would be one happy camper!

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Rarest of Currencies

Events of late have got me pondering a sad fact: “Thank you’s” are a rare commodity. It’s not that I’m just discovering this fact in the Midway of my life, but sometimes it still comes as a shock. Case in point: a professor I studied under almost ten years ago sent me an email last week. He said that he was teaching the class I had taken with him so many years ago, and that one of his current students was studying the same person I had, and would I please send her an email with any advice I had regarding research direction.

Not much of substance is written about this person from early Kansas history. Oh, there were newspaper stories, and a court case, but most of what is out there is legend. And there is a lot of speculation about what happened to her and her family after they fled for their lives from the home where they had brutally murdered a slew of travelers.

Now this was a lot of years ago, so I have forgotten the details of the sources I used. I do know that I used all the resources at Library X, which I suggested be her first stop, and that I had interviewed a man who had owned a rare book store in the state, and that the original court records had been stolen decades ago. I also suggested that she read some recent academic works about Spiritualism which this person from history practiced. I did not dig out the box of reference materials I so diligently tracked down and photocopied, but I don’t think I should essentially do the research for her.

I dashed off an email with the above information to the student... and heard nothing.

After I few days I copied the info and sent it to my professor stating that I had sent this off to her but hadn’t heard back so I wasn’t sure she had received it... I heard nothing.

And then, for my building research project, I’ve been sorting through period photographs from a collection at Library X, and have managed to narrow the dates of all these images from a span of 20 or more years as they were originally labeled, to five years or even down to one. I did this by reviewing building permits and city directories, and comparing those sources to landmarks and signage. Not easy. Not easy at all. I asked the person in charge of these photos of she would like me to send her these dates and she said yes. So I did... and heard nothing.

It is my opinion, unfortunately, that “thank you’s” come much more liberally when the recipient is paying for the service than when the service is given voluntarily. There are wonderful exceptions, of course, but generally I find this is true.

In tatting news, I just completed the first of my bell patterns. The glue is still trying so I don’t have the ends trimmed yet, and don’t have it hot glued onto the bauble yet, but it’s enough to know it works like a dream.



In fact, I like this pattern better than the ones I was using for the spherical ornaments.

(And, I know that I originally had planned to carefully sew the loose ends in rather than glue, but then it dawned on me that it was all going to be hot glued onto the bauble, so taking the time and attention to sew in the ends seemed like folly.)