Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why I Will Surely Beat My MIL Senseless, and No One Will Blame Me

I know everyone is busy. I know pretty much everyone has to prioritize their days. But our last few months? CRAZY! Our prioritization is the temporal equivalent of Westar Energy “trimming” a few trees. We’re talking a major butcher job.

On October 3 my in-laws stopped by the old house to check on our progress. On that particular day there was about two week’s worth of work for two full time people left to go. Two days later we left for Colorado/New Mexico. We returned to Kansas late on the afternoon of the 14th after two full days of driving in heavy rain. On the 15th we both worked at our new house, catching up on office stuff and unpacking. The next morning Michael received an IM from his mother, asking if we’d gotten our old house on the market yet. Uh... no. That afternoon I raced back to the old house to work for at least a few afternoon hours while Michael caught up on more office work. As I drove through the KTAG gate, I called my MIL.

“Could you do me a really big favor?”

“Sure.”

“Could you not ask us about the progress on our old house?”

I went on to explain that our nerves were raw, that we were doing everything we could to make this happen, but that there were only limited hours in the day and that we’ve been gone for over a week. That we’d had to put work on our new house on old to be able to concentrate on the old house. That it can be easy to lose track of time to someone who hasn’t been involved in the day-to-day work.

I didn’t explain this to her, but at this stage of our downward psychological health spiral, the mere question on the status of our market listing sounded like an accusation. Like, “It’s been MONTHS! I’ve taken many mid-day naps and a lifetime of crossword puzzles. Surely you’ve finally finished that one little task, right?”

I’m not sure she really understood, but at least she stopped asking.

Flash forward a few weeks. We have been working our veritable asses off on the old property. Advil, alcohol and frozen pizzas are our friends. Last night we met with the agent of record and gave him a thorough tour of the house. This morning we did the same with our listing agent. Well, I think technically she’s listing it, but he’s the listing agent. Anyway, back to the story. So things were going well, and the house was almost totally and completely done being painted. I called my mother to let her know. She stopped by to take a brief and final tour, then I loaded her car with paint to haul to hazardous waste this weekend, and we said goodbye. Half an hour later my in-laws stopped by. I followed them around a bit reminding then constantly “wet paint, wet paint”, and my MIL, wanting desperately to see my old writing office, actually crawled up the flight of stairs on her hands and knees. I thanked them for honoring our wishes about not asking about the progress on the old house.

My MIL asked, “So is your new house done?”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

$2.05

Unbelievably, this is the price per gallon that I paid for gas last night. After a summer of driving more miles than usual because of the home buy/remodeling/and move, and all when prices were climbing into the stratosphere, this price per gallon makes me almost giddy.

This is not a price I found in my new town, but in my old, which generally boasts prices $.20/gallon less. Still, most stations around town are in the $2.23 range.

The station closest to my old home has developed a reputation for having some of the cheapest gas around, and in turn they have long lines that stretch out to the street every hour of the day. But I didn’t buy here. I bought at a secret place.

Secret, because it’s in one of the scariest parts of town. Many of the city’s crimes happen here. And in the last fifteen years it has experienced a noticeable shift in demographics. Instead of a butcher shop, it has a carnicero.

But I found this shop because my driving habits have changed significantly, and what was now nowhere near where I needed to be, is now situated near a critical business, and not far from one of the most convenient highway access points to get me to and from old home and new.

Having found this secret station with great gas prices and no lines, I immediately called my mother. This is a woman who used to drive sixty miles round trip to save a few pennies per gallon at the Indian Reservation, so you would think she would be excited about this, right? And on her fixed income she’d hop in her gas guzzlers and head right over, right?

No. Once I described exactly where it was, her response was “gas prices on this side of the town are down to $2.23, so they are really dropping!”

So I called my MIL. Her response? “We either use my Dillon’s card, or go to that station by your old house.”

Sigh...

I guess I’ll celebrate cheap gas alone.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Aw C’Mon! I’m Not That Weird, Am I?

I fully admit sometimes having new fangled ideas when it comes to crafty projects. I was first alerted to the possibility that this was abnormal by a college dorm roommate who thought it was the oddest thing in the world when I decorated my corner of the room with 8' tall dried weed stalks that I had found growing along the railroad tracks, and set them in cement block “planters.” But considering that she decorated her corner of the room in Marcel Marceau posters, and she and her boyfriend used to read Lord of the Rings to each other by candlelight, I took little stock in her assertion that I was weird. (She and her boyfriend also played trumpet in the marching band. Draw your own conclusions.)

Flash forward to today, where I need to create some sort of curtain treatment for the windows surrounding my front door. These are narrow panes of glass that are essentially part of the door frame. As of now, at night or in the early morning when I am padding around the house in my robe and slippers, I am in full view of anyone who might pass by the curb. This will not do.

When I create, I tend to break out the problem into its parts, and come up with possible solutions for each. With this, I want something that will:
Shield the interior of my home from the casual outside observer,
Continue to let some light into the entry hall,
Allow me a view of the front porch without opening the door.

My first inspiration for this curtain treatment came while walking through a Michael’s store. I spotted a rack of pressed leaves of different colors with only the veins remaining. Instantly I flashed on making a “quilt” of sorts using cheesecloth pressed over these leaves to create an interesting effect, as well as address all the issues.

A few weeks later, I decided to knit curtains for the window over the kitchen sink out of kitchen cotton.

That’s when I made the leap to knit the inner core of my front door curtains, and sandwich it inside a tube of sheer fabric. In homage to Kenley of Project Runway and her adoration of toule (pronounced twal), I decided to call it “Knit Meat in a Toule Sandwich.”

That left just two questions: What is the knit meat, and what kind of toule?

Today I’m sort of taking the day off. In other words, I’m not working at the old house. So I ran past Hancock to look at their sheer options. They do indeed have several types of toule, but none truly appealed to me. They seemed too manufactured and glitzy for my taste. Then I happened across a display of Halloween fabrics, and found “mummy cloth” on sale for half price. Mummy cloth is essentially cheese cloth. Not enough to use for my curtains, but having cheese cloth by the bolt was promising. I inquired about availability, and it turns out they do have cheese cloth elsewhere in the store, so I only need to come up with my yardage requirements.

Yesterday I stopped at Dick’s sporting goods to investigate their fishing line selection. They have several types of monofilament, but they are all basically transparent. No weighted fly fishing line to be had. Transparent line would do little to nothing to create a screen, so I dismissed those handily. But then I found a few lines out of braided wire. They come in a forest green or deep red, and are pliable enough to knit with easily. In fact, it kinda reminds me of stainless steel line that is all the rage on the high end of the knitting cost scale. At least as far as I can tell at this point. And may I say, the male employee in that section of the store who had only minutes before been showing a shot gun to another customer, was interested in my non-traditional questions about his fishing equipment. He had no idea that you could knit with almost anything and he humored me by saying that knowledge may very well come in handy some day.”

So I have decided on the cheesecloth, and I think I’ve decided on using that braided fishing line, but it still is awfully thin, and won’t alone do much to screen. Even if I stranded it with the clear flourescent blue monofilament, it wouldn’t screen much. On to my LYS.

My LYS has a huge selection of just about everything, but no stainless steel. Still, I was curious if anyone there had worked with it, and did they think that the braided fishing line would give a similar effect.

Bear in mind that I live in a university town. This place is full of “artistic types” who are all about “out of the box” thinking. And I knew my question to the LYS was a bit “out of the box.”

Me: “I am making a curtain that I’ve decided to call ‘knit meat in a toule sandwich’.”

Her: (blink, blink)

Me: “I’ve decided to knit it out of braided fishing line, which I think will behave like stainless steel, but I want it to have some more thickness to it, so I’m considering stranding it with your unbleached linen. Do you have any opinions about how that might work?”

Her: (blink, blink) “Well, I’ve never knit with fishing line, so I have no idea. But I would be concerned about how the tension would work between the linen and the line.”

You see, she’s more of a traditionalist, so she would just knit it out of something traditional. I don’t roll that way.

You can imagine the look on her face, then, when I pointed to the cone of mop head cotton and inquired how that is generally used because I was thinking about knitting large panels on broomstick needles to make curtains for my sliders.

Her: (blink, blink) “You know we only sell that by the cone, right?”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Midas Hate Groweth/ and Once Again I Discover I’m Hot to Twenty-something Men

A few weeks ago I complained (something I apparently am particularly practiced at) about my recent visit to Midas in a Denver suburb. The reason for my visit, as you may recall, is that we were on the road to the Rockies when we realized that our unusual driving habits over the summer had put has past due mileage-wise for our oil change. Considering that we once ruined an engine because we drove it over three sets of mountains when we were accidentally past due on oil, getting an oil change ASAP was a priority. So we opted for a Midas that was located between the police station where he had met our detective for breakfast, and a restaurant where Michael was supposed to photograph their architectural glass. (It’s a weird life, but it’s ours.) Instead of just charging us for the oil change, they also informed us that our battery needed to be replaced, as well as a serpentine belt. We declined both of these things because I don’t trust these quick lube places and the car had been in the dealership only three months earlier and none of these things were mentioned — even if it is a Midas which isn’t technically a quick lube place, and even though my father’s cousin owns or recently owned the Midas shops in my home town. We declined both of these immediately, but they still made us wait to check out until they had looked up the parts numbers, prices, and made me sign two documents saying we declined these service suggestions.

Fast forward to today. Even though mileage-wise we weren’t yet due for our next oil change, we were 1,500 miles over our 75,000 mile service appointment, so I dropped the car off at the dealership. Of course I mentioned what Midas had “found.” Honda checked our battery. It was fine. Honda looked at our belt. It was FINE!!! In other words, if we had followed Midas’ advice, we would have spent over $200 on unnecessary repairs. In addition, according to the Midas receipt, they had put the wrong weight of oil in the car even though the correct weight is clearly imprinted on the oil cap.

My Midas hate groweth.

I spent most of the day, trapped by rain and lack of car, working on the inside of the old house. We are still painting. I am still cleaning. I am still packing stuff. Every time I think I’ve finished packing a room, I open a drawer that I swore I’d already emptied only to discover more stuff. Today it was the vanity in the upstairs bathroom. I have clearly reached the breaking point. The proof? The sight of a bag of sponges and body powder made me cry out, “Son of a BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP!!!” Except there were other words in place of “bleep.”

With the car back under my control, I drove out to Home Depot to buy a quart of touch up paint that will enable us to shave an entire day off our time line. I had bundled up that morning because it was cold and rainy - rain gear, and my warmest sweatshirt. I got the clerk started, went to check out the fireplace tool selection, and returned to wait out the shaker cycle. I had stuck my hands in my jean pockets, which happened to reveal the stitched logo on the sweatshirt. By this time there were two young men standing around the paint department shooting the breeze. The one who had mixed my paint looked at me wide-eyed and said, “You’ve completed the World Beer Tour???”

“Um, yes,” I said. “Some time ago.”

Apparently this sends me into the stratosphere of cool as far as young beer-loving men are concerned. Then I told them a little about my other beer-related project that I have not shared with you. They were duly impressed. That’s all I’ll say about that.

For now.

The second-to-the-last tidbit I’ll share with you is that we voted yesterday. Yep. Voted. We had to vote early because we’ll be in Arkansas on the main election day, but no matter when you do it - early or on time - please, please, please, make your opinions count by voting in this election. Our nation needs you.

And the last is a personal message for “A”. We met with “L” this evening. Thank you very much for the suggestion! She was great, and I have lots of faith that things will work out better with this pet sitter than the last. Eclair had to go to the vet on Monday, so I took that opportunity to mention how little time our last sitter (the employee - not the owner) had been at the house during each visit as proved by our alarm system. The vet was actually upset, as was “L”. All signs point to success!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dye Lots, Cypress Mulch, and My Argument with a Clerk at Westlake Hardware

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog have a certain understanding that I don’t like to be fed a line. And boy, howdee, was a fed a line today.

Let me first set the stage:
We are in the home stretch on working on the old house. It has been well-proven that my painting abilities fall somewhere between a kindergartner and a first grader, so my concentration has been placed on cleaning out the basement, and getting the yard cleaned up. I’m happy to do so (I sneak in painting where I can despite the drips down the wall) even though I’m treated to all the color of the neighborhood as I work. Today that would include being given the googly eye by a burned-out Vietnam vet cradling a bottle of hard liquor in a plain brown sack, seeing animal control take a family dog as their little girl called goodbye to her friend (not knowing that she’ll probably never see her again...) and witnessing a drug transaction. You read right.

Yesterday I decided I was close enough on the lawn prep and house prep that we should start re-mulching the planting beds. Curb appeal and all that. So we stopped at Home Depot and bought six bags of cypress mulch. I’ll need lots more than six, but six is a manageable number for one person (me) to lay down an hour a day, and fits nicely in the trunk of the car. Today I was ready for my next six, but I had found a coupon in the mail from Westlake Ace Hardware. This coupon was an introductory offer from their chain of stores thanking me for signing up for their rewards program. Five bucks off a purchase of $15 or more. I’m there, thank you very much. So instead of going to Home Depot, I decided to stock up on more mulch at the Westlake Hardware store in North Topeka which was also on the way to Dillons where I a) needed to stock up on essentials, and b) also had a $6 off coupon for any single transaction totaling $30 or more. I was sooo into coupons today.

I parked at the hardware store and cruised the pallets of mulch on foot, scouting out their cypress mulch to ensure that their mulch would have the same appearance and quality as the six bags I had already put down.

They had so many to choose among:
Red cedar bark
Black cedar bark
Coca mulch
etc.

But they only had four bags of cypress mulch, and two of them were torn open. I spied more unbroken pallets of various lawn goods in a side lot, so I went inside and told the clerk they were out in front, but did they happen to have more on a pallet elsewhere? She pointed to a shrink wrapped pallet next to the cypress mulch, and said there was more there.

“Okayyyy,” I said. “I’ve been out there already and looked at all the bags and there wasn’t anymore cypress mulch.”

“No, that’s it.”

I went back out to humor her, and eyed the pallet suspiciously. Yes, it was technically cypress mulch, but it was a cypress mulch blend. Blends are comprised of cypress mulch as well as naturally harvested hardwoods. I’m not saying one is better than the other, only that I had already locked myself into cypress mulch, so I didn’t want to switch to another kind that would inevitably have a different appearance. I returned to the store and told her it was something different.

“No, she said. I called my manager and he said that’s cypress mulch. It’s made by the same company. It’s in a slightly different package, but it’s the same thing.”

“Okayyyy. Then I’ll purchase other things.”

“Good,” she chirped. “When you get to the register just tell them you want cypress mulch and they’ll meet you out at the lot to help you load it in your car.”

“No,” I said. “You mistanderstand. I’ll buy other things here. I’m going to go to Home Depot because they have cypress mulch which you don’t have.”

“Ma’am, it’s the same thing. That’s cypress mulch.”

I smiled at her. “I believe you,” I said, “but I’ll go to Home Depot.”

“But it’s the same thing.”

“I believe you,” I offered with a smile, “but I’ll buy my cypress mulch at Home Depot.”

“Ma’am, it’s the same thing!”

“I’m sure it is,” I smiled. “And you can tell the next customer that who isn’t as big a pain in the patootie as I am.” Yes, I used the word patootie.

She rolled her eyes in frustration and left, probably to cool off.

In knitterly terms (because this is, in theory, a knitting blog) buying the blend when I’ve already started with the pure stuff would be like purchasing yarn in two different dye lots. It’s just not done, people! And because that (lying sack of horse shit) clerk fed me a line in an attempt to get me to purchase the wrong product, I will probably never return to that chain of stores for landscape supplies.

On to actual knitting news. This morning I bound off sleeve #1 of bi-color cables. Yay me! And I’m designing a curtain that makes a knit panel the meat in a toule sandwich. I have just two questions: what fiber or filament to use for the knit bits, and (more importantly) when exactly am I going to find the time to make this????

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kansas (According to Canadians and Californians)

There are 82,282 square miles in our state. Every day of every year, a series of tornadoes bear down upon our state, forming at the Oklahoma border, then blowing apart at when they reach Nebraska. Tornadoes are not found in any other state in the Union.

These tornadoes constantly tear across our plains, leaving no mile untouched on any day. Cows are constantly airborne. Every morning, workers at our feedlots have to round up the cattle that were blown outside the pens the previous night. This task takes up most of the day.

Most of our buildings are less than a year old, as the others were destroyed by numerous tornadoes. Those that appear older are either nostalgic re-builds, or the tornado miraculously picked it up and set it down softly in another location, so that they merely needed to be loaded on a trailer and brought back to the original foundation.

Residents do die every year in tornadoes, but the government has managed to reduce these numbers dramatically by requiring all fourth-grade children to take two weeks of tornado flying lessons, in much the same way as water-focused states reduce their death rate through swimming lessons. Children are winched up in safety harnesses inside a wind tunnel, learning to move with the wind and land safely at the earliest opportunity. Children have always found these lessons to be great fun, but now often come dressed in black robes a la Harry Potter.

All the above is true in the same way that there is a constant blizzard north of our U.S. border, and the only people who live in California are surfers who will be able to ride a wave to safety when “The Big One” comes and the entire state drops into the Pacific Ocean. In other words, grab a clue, people! Ignorance is never sophisticated and rarely funny. Many times it’s just sad.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Moment of Truth

I’m a giving person, let’s face it. And as a giving person I will share a piece of advice I needed 24 hours ago. If you are in Albuquerque and are tempted to eat at Landry’s Seafood House - specifically the one across the street from the Holiday Inn on Jefferson - do not, do not do it.

Sure, we’d eaten at a Landry’s about ten years ago and had good memories of it. Sure, this Landry’s was entirely walkable from the hotel and therefore convenient. But the reality is that Landry’s - at least that particular Landry’s - is way overpriced. And worse than that, the food was highly forgettable.

I had a seafood fettuccine. Should have been a fairly easy preparation. It was so bland as to be tasteless, and it arrived cold. That pleasure cost me just under $18.

Michael had a stuffed flounder or something similar. His was entirely forgettable as well, and what’s worse is that they charged him almost $2 for substituting a plain baked potato for the asparagus - a fact the server failed to mention when we ordered. A server who disparaged our home state when he found out where we lived. (Dude, you live in New Mexico. I’ve never seen uglier than some stretches of this state. Pot/Kettle. Enough said.)

This was made worse by the fact that the desk clerk at the Holiday Inn had given us a coupon for Landry’s. Since she wrote her name on the coupon as the referee, it’s a fair bet that she gets some sort of kick back from the restaurant for sending poor unsuspecting guests in to their doors.

Holiday Inn executives? Are you listening? By letting your employees encourage your guests (and priority club members at that) to patronize bad restaurants, it reflects badly on you as well.

I would expect a better meal at Olive Garden, and that’s not because Olive Garden is fantastic.

I had a meal 20x better at that cafe outside Santa Fe where I inadvertently made the owner cry because I asked if they happened to have wi-fi. (There’s a story there. Perhaps I’ll share it with you another time. But honest to God all I did was ask if they happened to have wi-fi. She later came over to my table to apologize, then got some fresh air.)

The on-the-go meal at Taco Bell that we are eating in a motel in Oklahoma as we watch The Office and sample Steamworks Mai Bock out of Super 8 foam cups is 10x better than what we had a Landry’s. At it cost over 10x less.

I’m a travel writer. Warning you of potential peril is part of my job.

You’re welcome.

Tomorrow home, but we’ll be driving through the rain the entire day. Within the next day or two I’ll share my newest fiber purchase. The velcro patch on the outside of Michael’s camera bag nearly made the owner of that yarn shop cry. Perhaps I’ll share that story with you as well. But another day.
Home Stretch

We have only one more business stop to make, then it’s off for home for a few weeks. It’s been a crazy busy week, and not all of it pleasant, but it was certainly memorable. The same storm system that cancelled the last two days of ascension events at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta also blew through NW New Mexico with a vengeance. That was the day we were visiting several trading posts on the Navajo Reservation, and had a picnic lunch at Shiprock. The wind was blowing sand so hard that that ancient volcanic core actually disappeared from time to time. We gladly picniced in the vans.

Had two unfortunate encounters with fellow journalists. And I say “unfortunate” only that I was made aware - once again - how ignorant people can be which is appalling when they are over 50, and almost criminal when their job is to digest information and share it with the traveling public.

Crime number 1 - as we were driving across the flat desert, a New York woman who appears to be over 50, noticed sporadic dark patches on the ground and wondered aloud about them. Another journalist told her they were cloud shadows. Ms. New York didn’t believe that could be true, so instead chose to believe that darker things were planted there.

Crime number 2 (and this is mostly a crime against fiber tools) - a woman in her upper 60s or over walked into a trading post and saw a rack on the counter filled with dowels fitted with a wooden disk near one end. Some of the objects contained bits of spun wool, and the walls and counters around it were filled to overflowing with more wool. She immediately grabbed an object, set the tip on the ground, spun it, and let go. It fell over. I said to her, “do you know what that is?” and she replied, “I think it’s a top.” I informed her that it was a drop spindle. It is used to make yarn. What I wanted to do was wrestle the drop spindle away from her and slap cuffs on her wrists. We had already been told in very graphic ways how the Navajo people treat their weaving supplies and equipment with religious reverence. What she did was completely thoughtless.

Okay, I realize that seems extreme, but I had already experienced several dumb questions from her so my patience was quite thin. She would ask more questions of the guides at every stop than anyone else, and took copious notes. And if you didn’t know better her questions had a semblance of intelligance about them. But... An example: we were visiting the ruins of a people who fled or died out long before the Europeans set foot on this continent. But she actually asked the guide after listening to him lecture for an hour if this was a horse culture. Horse culture! Um, Dude. The horses native to the Americas died out during the Ice Age and were never domesticated. Horses weren’t reintroduced to this continent until the Spanish came. Horse culture? I don’t think so. But I’m sure you’re churning out a very intelligent piece of journalism.

Yesterday morning I had to wait behind another couple to turn my keys in and check out of the hotel. They needed extra help. They were an older couple that had been traveling for three weeks. Next stop for them was Santa Fe, and they wanted help finding a room. But apparently they were gunshy because they had already been stuck at a bunch of bad hotels so they didn’t want to reserve a room at the next hotel for more than one night in case it was a dud as well. “And the food has been terrible,” the wife confided in me. I thought back to the food we’ve had at every stop in this part of New Mexico. Not one bad one.

I wanted to tell them it was time for them to go home. That once a person gets to that point in irritation, there is no cure except for your own bed. I know. Trust me.

We’ll be stopping briefly in Santa Fe this morning. After I get my work done but before we hit the highway I hope to stop in a yarn shop to pick up some wool to make a baby surprise jacket. One of my favorite state PR folks is pregnant and due around Thanksgiving. It will be a boy, and likely a large boy. When she delivered her girl a few years ago, the doctor announced she’d just given birth to a kindergartner. I’ll buy enough wool for a one-year-old.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sleeve #1 of Bi-Color Cables at Pueblo Alto in Chaco Canyon with a view of New Alto



Upper 70s and sunny, with a spectacular blue cloudless sky. Were it not for the nail biting ascent up the cliff wall to get to this spot, it would have been a perfectly relaxing way to spend the day.

Today was much better, though. Learned to fly fish on the San Juan at the knee of Malcolm Alexander. If you follow that link you will see he is a renowned sculptor. He also is an expert fly fisherman with 60 years experience and the patience of Job. Malcolm, if you google yourself and find this, yep, I’m the “beer lady.” Thank you again ever so much!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Journey Continues Sans Photos

We have left the beautiful San Juan Mountains that surround Durango, and dipped south into New Mexico where we will spend the next handful of days. The region is much flatter, scrubbier, and desert-like, but full of history. I look forward to hiking in the Chaco Canyon, and learning to fly fish, among other activities.

We got into town with some extra time so I was able to do some quilt store shopping. Came away with some pretty wild fabric for the kitchen window (this would be the small window over the sink where “White Morris” (a cat the looks nearly identical to “Morris” in build and coat type except the coloring is white with orange spots) sits on the retaining wall to the sunken garden and stares down into the kitchen. When I caught him doing this a week or so ago, I could actually sense he was judging me for the state my kitchen was in. We also got fabric for Michael’s office. Boy do I have my sewing work cut out for me this winter!

A few updates on recent rants:
I doubt it was me. It was probably thousands of other people who were getting spam emails from the Rachael Ray show. But they finally, finally put an unsubscribe method on their emails that actually worked. For the first time in months a Saturday went by without receiving an email from them. So thank you, whoever you are, for finally pulling your head out of your butt.

Oh... did I say that?

I’ve been receiving regular reports from my pet sitter. You will recall that this sitter rarely does the work herself, but usually has an employee take care of home visits. And you may recall that I had to report to the pet sitter that that employee (her star employee at that) was only spending 4-5 minutes at my home on most days, and only rarely was there more than ten. And she was supposed to be there 20 every single visit.

Well, this sitter *has* been making a point of being at the house for at least twenty minutes every visit. She’s been grooming the cat that the employee was afraid of. She’s been playing feather wand with any others that are interested. And today she changed the pans and put the trash to the curb. I like and trust her. But since this person admits that she doesn’t have the time to do personal visits herself on a regular basis, I will interview and try out a new service for our last trip of 2008. I hate that this hasn’t worked, but when I adopted/rescued my cats I made a pledge to them that I would do everything I could to ensure they would be safe and happy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Brief Update

We had breakfast this morning with the police detective who investigated my husband’s identity theft case. It was a great breakfast, and time flew like no one’s business. I had hoped (but didn’t ask specifically for this until we got to the restaurant) to see “Dude’s” mug shot. The detective hadn’t brought our case file with him, so no luck there. But we got some inside scoop on the investigation, and the night before we drove past “Dude’s” house. Took photos even. Which I won’t share because I don’t want to risk identifying him to others. But trust me, it isn’t the house you would expect an identity thief to live in. It cost him more than the house we just purchased. Not that he can afford it. Did a search on him just before we arrived. His homeowner’s association has put a lien on his home.

Before we left town we stopped at Midas to get an oil change. Now mind you, I just needed an oil change. But they felt compelled to inform me before we checked out that we also needed a new battery and new serpentine belt. $21 bill? Make that over $200. Even though I declined, the clerk still made us wait until he looked up the parts and prices so he could write it on his invoice next to the word “declined” and then made me sign not one but two copies of this receipt - one for their office, and one for their corporate office. I know what they are doing. Selling the oil change is a loss leader and they are trying to up-sell me to more expensive service through the use of fear.

Problem is, not three months ago I had the actual dealership do a full work-up on the car, and not once did they mention diminished battery capacity or wear on a belt.

A woman at a former knit group I attended (not in my current town, thank you very much) actually got angry with me because I continued to take my car to the dealership after it was out of warranty.

Well, I do this for two reasons:
1) I don’t treat my car like a disposable object. I want it to last for as long as possible.
and
2) They have never once tried to up-sell me on service I didn’t need.

Midas, as well as all the quick lube places I’ve been forced to visit when we travel, seems to thrive on sleazy business practices. One (not a Midas) actually tried to convince me that changing the air filter would increase the car’s resale value.

NOT!

Oh, and I don’t attend that knit group anymore because I determined that a significant percentage of the members were crazy, and not in a quaint, colorful way.

The aspens are at peak color. In fact, they are the same bright yellow as my VW Route 66 knitting bag that my new knit group loves so much. ;-)
Whoops, I did it again!

Once again, I packed my trusty point and shoot into my suitcase. Once again, I left the battery charger at home.

Which I discovered as we approached Denver yesterday afternoon, and there was a beautiful storm system that deserved a pic. Except that my point and shoot didn’t have enough juice for even one photo.

Sigh...

Today we are heading to Durango, but before we do, we have some activities planned that I like to call “Walking in the footsteps of a convicted identity thief”. More details on that later. And we get to spend some time at a quick lube place because our driving habits this summer have been out of the norm, and we discovered with shock yesterday that we’re about 4,000 miles beyond where we should have had our oil changed last. This must be rectified before we strain the engine climbing mountain passes.

If we have time, there will be a quilt shop leg stretcher in our day as well.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pet Sitting Follow-up

Thank you “A” for the pet sitting alternative. I won’t publish your post (because it contains personal info) but I am definitely going to keep that on file!

I love options! Especially good ones!!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Road Knitting

Is it ridiculous of me to be excited about a driving trip? Well, ridiculous or no, I AM! Why? Because I can knit on the road. No worries about getting my needles through TSA screening. No worries that my wool will put me in an overweight category.

And we’re talking hours and hours of little else to do but nap and knit. Oh, and work, sure.

What shall I bring (rubbing my hands greedily)???

A never before cast on project? Perhaps my travel lace tunic that I purchased in Little Rock this spring?

Or something that’s been languishing on the needles???

And the winner is... (drum roll please) Bi-Color Cables!!!

Turns out that I have already finished the difficult bits. The back is knit. The side panels are done. What I’m left with at this point are the sleeves, collar, and buttons. Then that baby is ready to seam.

It’s not surprising to me that it was this close. This project uses the exact needles that the V-neck cardi used, and I was carrying out this baton race between the two trying desperately to not purchase a second set of needles of which I owned perfectly wonderful sets of already.

I cast on for the first sleeve last night during Pushing Daisies.

It’s a wonderful feeling being excited about the knitting again. And the return of (in my opinion) quality television.

We leave in a handful more days. In the meantime we are taking advantage of temps in the lower 70s to finish painting the outside of our old house.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ode to “S”

I miss you, “S”. You were the first professional pet sitter we had ever hired. You replaced my mother when I realized that she was completely unable to tell a dying cat from a sleepy cat. You came in, totally unafraid of the feral cat situation in my home, or the fact that we were leaving town for three weeks after just having (finally) diagnosed one of the ferals with a life-threatening medical condition that we could not seek surgical treatment for until we returned.

I’ll stop here a moment to explain that we had been taking the cat to the vet at least once a week and often two for the previous two months, so it wasn’t like we weren’t treating her. She’d had the condition for a bit. It just took that long to finally receive the correct diagnoses. And being that she was feral, we had valid reasons for not hoisting her off to the major surgical unit to return then to an empty home or a home of complete and total strangers until we returned home. Stress kills, too.

Okay. So even knowing that, she came in and sat on the floor and talked to the cat quietly. And by day two or three she had the cat in her arms and purring and loving on her. She managed to medicate multiple of my cats, and even throw hissing Eclair into a carrier for an emergency vet appointment.

But “S” is in the old town. We looked long and wide for a sitter in the new town, and were told by several that “X” would be the best. Unlike “S,” “X” usually doesn’t make the visits herself, but hires a crew of employees who make the visits for her. We were assigned a young girl who we were assured was a cat person through and through. The young girl, who I will call “Mary,” came over and met everyone. The meeting seemed to go well. Then we left town.

Our new alarm system comes with an unusual-to-us feature: it emails us each and every time there is an alarm event such as arming and disarming the system. It’s not one we sought, but being that we travel, it’s certainly one that appealed to us. That way we would know with certainty that the cats had a visitor every day. And that the house hadn’t burned down while we were fly fishing or making lanterns in a Buddhist temple.

So it came to my surprise to see day after day that someone was coming, but was usually there less than ten minutes, often only five, and quite a few days as little as four. Four minutes. That’s really just time to scoop pans and put down food and water.

I wasn’t sure how to broach this with “X,” but finally found an open window when I was making my new appointment for October. “X” assured me that “Mary” would take care of us again, and I said that was fine, but that I was surprised that “Mary” could do anything more than scoop pans and feed the cats in the five minutes she was typically at the house.

Five minutes? She’s there for twenty. Why do you think she’s only there for five?

So I told her. And I showed her the emails and even took screen shots of the activity log on the security company’s web site.

And “Mary” insists that she was there longer.

But I know she wasn’t.

And “Mary” complained that the cats were distant. Of course they were. She was running in and out the door. There is no reward for them.

“Mary” won’t be visiting our house anymore. For October, “X” will take care of us. After that, she’ll need to assign someone else. The only problem is, “Mary” is the best. So if that’s the best, second best scares the hell out of me.