Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Baby Surprise Jacket, I Only Made it Angry, and Should I be Offended?

The baby surprise jacket is coming along quite quickly. Already I’m nearing the 50% mark by row count. The main instructions are from EZ’s Knitting Workshop, but I’m supplementing this with the Row Keeper worksheet by Dawn Adcock, available through Ravelry.

As knits go, the most complicated thing about this is keeping track of which row I’m on (thus the use of the Row Keeper worksheet) because the directions are very specific about increases here and decreases there, but it is all done by row - not inch. And because, during its construction, it bears no resemblance to a piece of clothing, there is no way to know at a glance where I am or what I should be doing. But I’m enjoying the subtle color play, and the Louet Gems fiber is a dream to handle. There’s lots of other demands on my time right now, but I hope to have this finished and in the mail by the end of the second full week in January.

Spent a bit of time in my garage workshop yesterday, using the Dremel to buff off some surface rust that had formed on my feral welded piece whilst it was in a semi-outdoor location awaiting hanging. While there, I heard what sounded like a mouse in the outer garage wall. Except it was really loud, so it must have been a really big mouse, or even perhaps a squirrel. Later in the afternoon I noticed a bit of sheetrock tape that covered a corner joint had a new and large hole chewed out of it. Bought some glue traps at the store, and set one squarely in front of the hole before calling it a night.

Glue traps, in case you have never used one, are extremely strong. It is a struggle for a human, once something foreign has become lodged in the glue, to un-adhese it.

This morning I checked the traps.

The one I had placed beneath the hole was gone.

It was about two feet away and upside down.

And empty...

Called the contracter who did my sewer inspection on the new house last summer. At that time we had talked about installing an outside clean-out because the length of the drain from the inside clean out to the street was too long for him to actually reach the street, and we have neighbor trees with roots that have penetrated the drain in that last bit. He could not remember visiting our house. The address didn’t jog his memory. My name didn’t do it. Neither did the name of our realtor.

“Well,” I said, “it’s a s***hole of a house in [name of neighborhood].”

“Oh, I remember now,” he said. And he continued to describe it in great detail.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Expenditure Today = Time Suck Tomorrow

Raised by Wolves

It is with deep regret and personal shame that I inform you that my great nieces were raised by wolves. I can think of no other explanation after what I witnessed on Christmas Day. The 5 pounds of sauerbraten I have lovely tended for the last week was simmering in an over-sized electric skillet, while the gingersnap gravy bubbled on the stove. The kids (ten and under) were darting past on their way to destroy the children’s play room, but came skidding to a stop just past the stove. The oldest one clasped her hand over her mouth and nose, and screamed to their great grandmother that they smelled throw-up, and it was really gross.

...um...That wasn’t throw-up; that was my dinner.

Nephew #2 informed me that he had to look up sauerbraten on the internet to learn what it was... I’ll forgive him for that. He at least expressed curiosity, tried the finished product, and polished his plate.

The cheesecake failed to set in the limited fridge time I had, so the middle was a tad runny.

This may have been the least enjoyable Christmas Day I have ever had. Particularly after Nephew #1 pitched a whiny trip that was more befitting of a four-year-old overdue for a nap than a thirty-something father of two. And then there was a moment of extreme awkwardness with Sister #2 that I and others in my family had expected/dreaded, but I stood up to it with all the necessary strength and courage of conviction.

On the plus side, niece #3 got a real kick out of her flip flop socks, and my mother oohed and ahh’d over the bow clutch.

At least it’s over, and I managed to make my regrets to my mother as we left, so I am not, I repeat not, expected at the lady’s tea party that she has cooked up for all her female descendants over lunch next Monday. The reason for this event? Her great grandchildren have never seen a saucer, as in a cup and saucer.

Like I said: They were raised by wolves.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Cooking Storm, Part II

I had hoped to get the major cooking/baking out of the way yesterday before heading to the IL’s Christmas, but that, of course, didn’t work out. So I was up at 4 a.m. this morning prepping the sauerbraten, and mixing and baking the cheesecake. Never having made cheesecake in my life, the length of prep time on that puppy totally eluded me. Baking took an hour and forty-five minutes alone, not to mention the cool down and then six hours of fridge time. Do I have six hours of fridge time available to me today? Not at all. But it’s baked and cooled and now enjoying what little fridge time I have before we need to leave for Christmas at my folk’s house.

Much to the dismay of Michael, I hauled the largest jar of cookies to the IL’s house last night. These are, without a doubt, the best and most impressive cookies that have ever come out of my kitchen, or the kitchen of any one I know, for that matter. After dinner (the IL’s have simplified their Christmas dinner to three kinds of pizza and a sheet of brownies) I opened the jar and brought it around to everyone’s place setting. With the exception of one nephew (who has a medical condition that limits his food intake to three or four things), everyone loved the cookies. I missed the expression on my eldest nephew’s face when he put it in his mouth, but according to Michael it was priceless. The proof of the adoration was found in my FIL’s repeated trips back to the kitchen during present opening time to get “one more.” This jar had been full at the beginning of the evening.

Again to protest, I am taking what’s left of this jar to my folk’s house today. My response is, “are you really sure you want to have eaten that whole jar of cookies?” which I point out is a very different question than, “are you sure you want to eat that whole jar of cookies?” But lest your sympathies are now leaning toward Michael, I should point out that we still have our own slightly smaller of the same cookies that are for us alone.

I have been fortunate enough to be gifted with a bit of cash this year, and I have a major plan for said cash. MAJOR. The what’s and why’s will have to wait until tomorrow because there are components of this plan that are completely out of my control.

...time to think about carving the sauerbraten and whipping up a batch of gingersnap gravy.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my fibery friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Finished Object, and Cooking Up a Storm

I finally finished my niece’s flip flop socks. Once they are wrapped, that officially concludes the gift-preparation portion of the week. Yay!

This pattern is Flippant by Sivia Harding. I will refrain from showing them completed and on my feet because I do not take the time to do pedicures and such, and no one wants to look at a close-up image of those monsters. Trust me. I’ve been staring at a pattern for an open-toed sock pattern for weeks, and the pattern photo is modeled on similarly naked feet. I really really want to take a pair of nail clippers to that photo. I won’t put you through the same.

As for why I made this for my niece, as a product of my stash it falls well within the $5 family-imposed limit. And the girl lives in flip-flop 365 days a year.

****we interrupt this blog post for a piece of late-breaking news*** to anyone and everyone that I told about a certain furniture store going out of business, the owner has changed his mind (“again” was how his employee phrased it) and as of yesterday is not, I repeat not, shutting down his store.

***back to our regular blog post***

I began the morning baking the best darn bran muffins I have ever eaten in my life. E-V-ER. This is yet another recipe out of my all-time favorite cookbook, “Worthington Regional Hospital Employee Cook Book.” This particular recipe was furnished by Carol Drietz who works/worked in the records department of said hospital. For the record: YUM-MEE! When I bought the bran flakes prior to our move, I had intended to make her co-workers recipe on the next page, but happened to spot Carol’s when I was flipping through the book. Carol’s version uses both bran flakes and All Bran, as well as a quart of buttermilk. Plus other things, of course. The resulting muffin is mildly sweet, soft on the inside, but with a crispy outer shell. If I weren’t concerned about consequences down the road (this may be a very moving experience, indeed) I would gorge myself on all 54 baked muffins. Carol Drietz, who ever and where ever you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

From there I advanced to the Triple Chocolate Cherry Drop Cookies recently taken off the AP wire by the local paper. That was quite a few more steps, and I had to make a last minute grocery store run to purchase parchment paper. I’m sure I had/have parchment paper, but it isn’t in my kitchen area, so it may have blended with my tools or craft things during the move. Haven’t tested them yet, as the white chocolate is setting on the trunk of my car in the garage. No way I have room to squeeze those trays into my fridge as the recipe recommends. And with the sun out in full force, the normally chilly solarium is Yucatan hot at the mo’. No chocolate is going to set in that room until after dark. And by then, I’ll be well on my way to the IL’s house.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Short Merry F-ing Fuse

Ah, the holidays. Chestnuts, carols, and wishes for a white Christmas always brings out the best in us, doesn’t it? Uh...no!

I went to the grocery store a few days ago, and was dismayed to discover that the non-traditional shoppers were already out in hordes. These are folks who don’t seem to set foot in a grocery store the rest of the year. Like the elderly man I encountered at Dillon’s a few years ago, clutching a short shopping list his wife had supplied. I found him gazing in bewilderment at the cream cheese display which contains whipped tubs and regular tubs and flavored tubs and light tubs. Did his list specify? No. But I was pretty darn sure his wife was imagining the 8 oz rectangular package that is often used for cheesecakes and other desserts, so I kindly steered him that direction. He protested, clearly believing that I was going to send him home with the wrong item. But I knew better. The baking aisle is always a bottleneck, as even veteran shoppers look for things they only need once a year max.

Tomorrow I have a long list of food shopping to accomplish. Ingredients for my pumpkin cheesecake, for example. But today I had a lengthy non-food list to work through. Four hours and several frayed nerves later, I am finally home.

Michael’s was among my list of stops. I had a coupon for 50% off one item, so I intended to use it on an embellishment cabinet that normally runs around $79. I don’t have to have that cabinet for my craft room, but it would probably come in handy. The coupon was the tipping point for my decision to purchase it. Thing is, it turns out the cabinet was already on sale for 40% off, and because it was on sale for 40% off, they would not accept my coupon, even when I requested that they apply the coupon to the non-sale price. The clerks refused to do it. The cashier kept scanning the barcode and telling me that it was on sale for $47. As though I would buy it for $47 when I had a coupon that should have been another $7 bucks less than that. After going around and around with them, I told them to give my coupon back, and they could put the cabinet back on the shelf. Then I stormed out. Yes, I stormed.

Good job with that customer service, guys! Way to go! That’s exactly how you want your customers to leave when they entered with a plan and money in hand. Money still in hand and hating their store to the highest heavens.

Merry Christmas, every one!

WalMart was crazy. Could hardly find a place to park. All I needed was a cake carrier to safely cart my soon-to-be-made pumpkin cheesecake to Christmas dinner, which I found within moments of entering the store. But the checkouts were like ten people deep, and no one in line ahead of me had apparently ever encountered that newfangled card swiping machine. When it was finally my turn, the clerk scanned my carrier and gave me the total. But the 100-year-old woman (okay, I might be exagerating slightly) ahead of me in line seemed to be permanantly camped in front of the swiper with her cart, and I actually had to tell her to move out of the way.

Ate at a newish deli, where I instantly fell in deep adoration for one of the employees because she begged me to let her top off my sweet tea so that the “douchebag manager” who was working that day wouldn’t get on them for not doing their job.

Then on to Hancock’s where I scared most of the staff* because they insisted on knowing what I was making that required 10 yards of cheesecloth. So I told them.

Four hours later, and a trunk full of lumber, blank DVDs, fabric, clothes and serving containers, I have finally arrived home. Oddly, all I can focus on is the realization that I meant to swing by the liquor store, too.

*Not the manager. She kept her composure the entire time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Finished Object

I present to you the Bow Clutch from the Holiday 2008 issue of Vogue Knitting magazine:

There are several problems with this pattern, which admittedly might stem from my choice of fiber rather than the pattern itself. The biggest issue is that the circumference of the purse, and therefore its capacity, is ultimately determined by both the finished bound-off gathered edge of the two sides, and by the center stockinette stitch band. I knit both sides as I understood the pattern instructions, then knit the center band. As I approached the directed length of 12 1/2", I realized that it needed to be the same length as the bound off sides. Problem is, the bound off sides were much tighter than that, and I hadn’t left much tail to re-do that edge. That means that the height of my finished purse is much less than the one depicted in the magazine. If I were to do this over again in the same fiber, I would try a k2tog bind off, rather than k3tog.

The lining is remnant upholstery fabric from when we recovered our Empire love seat and chair a few years ago. The pin is a simple $5 brooch from WalMart.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yet Another Finished Object

The third and final set of Roman shades is now hung. Yay!

The fabric is Loft 1800 by Erin Michael for Moda Fabrics. Pattern is the same as the previous sets.

That leaves the kitchen one, but as I mentioned in the previous post, this will go on the back burner until after Christmas.

Here’s another artsy shot taken with my new Toy Camera application on the iPhone:

An ice storm cometh, so the kitchen has gone into full cold weather survival mode. That means dried beans are soaking on the counter in preparation for steaming bowls of chili, and sour dough starter is coming to room temperature for a large batch of cinnamon rolls.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finished Objects

The curtains have been on the front burner for some time. So I am grateful and pleased to announced the second set is sewn, tied, and hung. Yay!

I bought this fabric at the Bernina Store in Farmington, NM this October. It’s a batik in deep browns and purples airbrushed over foliage set against a taupe background.

The third set is also sewn and tied, but awaiting hanging, so I won’t celebrate quite yet. Haven’t test fit them, and all kinds of sins may expose themselves that will require ripping and re-sewing. I won’t dwell.

The sewing work has had unexpected consequences. Certainly, I knew that putting them at the focal point of my mornings, days and nights meant that lots of other work would remain undone. But the curtains weren’t going to get made by themselves, now were they? What I had not foreseen, or remembered, is that this high volume of hand sewing creates a callous on my index finger, that in turn snags my knitting fiber as I work on other projects. This has been particularly true of the Patton’s fiber I am using for the bow clutch. I simply run my right hand across the knitted surface, and individual strands of fiber pull away from the main strand, creating a noticeable and pronounced snag.

And it’s not that I’m not using a thimble. In fact, I am using a thimble. But the thimble is on my middle finger pushing the needle through the fabric layers, while my thumb, together with my index finger, pulls the needle the rest of the way. All that pulling on a tiny rod of metal has taken its toll.

I have fabric for one more Roman shade set aside. This is a single panel meant for the kitchen window. But I think it’s time to take a break and get some other work done. Work work, as well as Christmas projects.

About four inches of snow dumped on our neighborhood yesterday, slickening our road which begins an ascent up a hill in front of our property. So it is no surprise that we awoke yesterday to discover our mailbox had been taken out. No one stopped of course.

Took that photo using the new iPhone and the Old Camera application available on iTunes. It sort of classies up the scene of white trash devastation, doesn’t it?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mystery Photo

When I was in grade school, I subscribed to a magazine (the name of which I don’t recall - Discovery maybe maybe maybe??) that I dearly loved. Can’t even recall the general subject, though I suppose it was science, but I recall one thing vividly: the inside back cover always contained a mystery photo. It was a close-up image of something we generally never see that close. Like a macro image of a butterfly’s wings. I remember being really bad at figuring it out.

Here’s one for you. Can you guess what it is?

These are the severely pot-bound roots of one of my favorite houseplants. I’ve been trying to repot them for several months, but they have stubbornly refused to leave their pot. We even did a tug of war one day - me on the plant end, Michael on the pot end - but it refused to budge even a smidge. We loved the pots, so we endeavored to find a way to salvage both plants and pots. Our last best effort involved withholding water for weeks to allow the soil to dry and shrink. Still, not a smidge.

This morning I took a butcher knife to the soil, scoring the soil surface into pie wedges in order to pry them out. When I realized I was a great risk for injuring myself, I put the knife down and got out the hammer. The pot had to go.

One blow to the side cracked it open easily, like an overweight woman wearing a girdle three sizes too small. And it revealed a truth. I never, never, never, would have been able to save those pots. Even if I had sacrificed the plants in order to do so. You see, there was no soil to shrink.

A cold front moved through town today.

It was 54º at 8 a.m., 34º at 10:30 a.m., and 20º by 3:30 p.m.

I have found the best way to survive this is to savor an Irish coffee in front of a fire.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Finished Objects

Two, to be exact:

Granted, I won’t win any seamstress awards for my work. Several things went terribly awry, including a peculiar inability on my part to cut the fabric perpendicular to the grain. I’m wondering if perhaps it twisted when I washed it... But it gets the job done, and by “job” I mean my new-found ability to work in my office in my robe during pre-dawn and post-sunset hours with all the room lights on without scaring or permanantly scarring the small neighbor children who live in direct sight line to my office.

Specs: Surf & Sand by Michele D’Amore for Marcus Fabrics
Roman shade instructions from Fabric Magic by Melanie Paine, ©1987. You can buy a new version from Amazon here.

Here is the before picture:

Better, huh?

Note the one sheet of curled paper? That’s the avenue the cats take to peer into the garden from my desk.

The finished curtain images were taken with my new iPhone - a purchase we’ve needed and been postponing for years. Ironically, and with excellent timing, I accidentally put my old phone through the wash yesterday morning. Seems that I kinda forgot they were in my pants pocket when I returned from Teapouro Thursday night. Ooops. Oh, well. I’ll try my best not to do the same with this phone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finished Object(let) and a Big Thank You to Alison Lewis

Considering how little time I’ve been able to devote to my knit projects, as I have been living and breathing Roman shades for the past week, the Bow Clutch for my mother’s birthday is coming along very quickly. I am pleased. Especially since it has a deadline that is now only days away.

Here is side 1. I’m currently knitting its twin.

And thanks bunches to Alison Lewis, author of Switch Craft for taking the time to comment on my recent post about her inspiring book, and give a few suggestions on alternate materials. The more time I have to reflect on my decision to postpone that project, the more I realize it’s the right decision. And not because the projects are too difficult, or the equipment to source, but because I want to have the time to enjoy the process. Not only are their only a few handfuls of days left between now and Christmas, but I still have not organized my tool bench or corralled all my tools into one central area since the move. Three-quarters of my workbench is blocked by several feet deep of boxes, bicycles and other crap. I only yesterday managed to open up a path to 1/4 of it so that I could use my miter saw to cut the 1 x 2s necessary for the curtain project that now consumes my life. In fact, in the process of creating that opening I’m pretty darn sure that I’ve successfully barricaded my tool chest with the staple gun that I will need again in a few minutes for the very same project.

No, I think this would be an EXcellent project for “Me Week 2009”, slated for late January-early February. I always try to plan new and fun challenges during these periods, and Switch Craft definitely fills the bill.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Slow Death of a Slow Cooker

Last winter (I believe it was last winter... where has the time gone?) I bought my very first slow cooker. Surprisingly, I was not gifted a slow cooker when we were married. Three fondue pots, yes. Slow cooker, no. I have managed to live several adult decades without this electronic devise, but as my life because more hectic, the beauty of coming home to a pot of stick-to-the-ribs warming goodness became more and more appealing.

But would I really like it once I had it? With limited counter space, and limited expendable funds, this purchase took a lot of thought. I mean, I had survived many years without one, so clearly it wasn’t an essential item.

I scanned the options at WalMart, and finally opted for a Rival Crock Pot. It wasn’t the most expensive model. Neither was it the cheapest. And Rival is a good brand, right?

Within two uses the plastic handle on the lid began to disintegrate. Literally, huge chunks began to break off. I wasn’t putting it in the dishwasher. I wasn’t abusing it. I didn’t drop it on the floor, or pound on it with a hammer. It simply fell apart.

I nursed it along for a while, then took it to the family garage sale where I filled it with my famous chili. That’s when my sisters and mother took notice. My mother told me that sister #2 had bought a bad slow cooker (Hamilton Beach, I believe) but that sister #1 had a great one, so she suggested a buy a Rival.

Um... it is a Rival.

Oh! (followed by silence)

Sister #2 had become enamored of late with Gorilla glue, and she swore up and down that it contained miraculous properties. I allowed her to attempt to reglue what was left of the handle.

By then it was late March, then travel season began, and we moved... so I hadn’t bothered to use the Crock Pot again until last week when I made the batch of sauerbraten. As I lifted the lid to dish it up, the handle came apart completely and utterly. I ended up having to pry the lid off the pot with the tines of a fork. After dinner I didn’t bother to wash the pot. I simply tossed it in the trash in disgust.

With snow on its way and a fridge full of slow cooker-ready ingredients, we decided it was time to take the slow cooker plunge.

Did we get a Rival? No. While I assume that that cooker handle was made with a rare but particularly bad batch of plastic (perhaps it was short on melamine due to the diversion of melamine supply chain for use as food contaminants), or perhaps the WalMart edition of that Crock Pot was made with lesser quality materials in order to meet WalMart’s strict price points. But I was burned and burned bad. (Not by the cooker but by the purchase of said cooker.)

No, we splurged and went for a Kitchen Aid 7 qt. at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Now I gotta run. I have 7 qts of steaming sausage and kraut ready to serve up. Yum!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Casting On

It is true that I have more than enough projects on the needles to last me the rest of 2008 and perhaps through the conclusion of 2009. But that never stops this gal from casting on a-new - particularly when there is a real and definite need and deadline.

Project One: Bow Clutch from the Holiday 2008 issue of Vogue Knitting.
This was originally intended to be the Christmas present for my third niece, and I even polled the ladies shopping at Michael’s for their advice as to which shade of metallic fiber a young twenty-something woman would like. (They agreed with me that Patons Brilliant Crystal Cream was the winner by a long stretch.)

Then I began to have second thoughts. Starting last year we have turned to a name drawing system in my large, large family. And not just name drawing, but all presents had to be kept to $5 or less. Handmade was preferable.

My yarn purchased was four times greater than the limit. In addition, I wasn’t sure that niece #3 had occasions when she would want to carry a clutch. Particularly not a clutch hand knit by her aunt. (Have I mentioned recently that the last item I hand knit her mother horrified her to the extent that she has never remembered me at gift giving occasions since? Not even a card on my birthday?)

So instead, I opted to transfer this gift to my mother, whose birthday lies on the heels of Christmas, who likes and appreciates the things I make for her, and has a gift giving occasion that is not subject to the dollar limit rules of Christmas.

Project Two: Gift for Niece #3
This has taken a lot of twists and turns. I picked up a copy of Switch Craft on a recent book store run. This is full of really cool stuff, and I envisioned myself into being propelled into super-cool-aunthood with the creation of just the LED-accented accessory. The Firefly Bracelet was the clear winner. Small, and funky, many of the decorative beads for the bracelet could be found in my stash. And better yet, it requires unusual electronic items, and skills in soldering.

Problem #1 with this project is that the electronic bits are so out-of-the ordinary, that they cannot be sourced locally. Like conductive thread, for example. Even in this town that prides itself on its embrace of all things funky and arty.

Problem #2 is that I have very few days to create this item, and having never used or attempted to assemble these items before, I needed as many days as possible to do the inevitable troubleshooting.

Problem #3 - the electronic supplies to be purchased far surpass the $5 limit. The cone of conductive thread alone costs $20. I’d probably spend upwards of $75 in supplies, though I could justify the expense in that I only might use a few dollars worth of those supplies to make the bracelet.

Problem #4, as I discovered this morning is that at this moment in space and time I am completely devoid of electronic smarts to the point that I could not figure out why my new doorbell wasn’t working (the battery I installed was upside down), or, once Michael gently pointed that out and I attached the button to the exterior wall and it stopped working again, it was pointed out to me (mockingly this time) that somehow somewhere between points A and B the battery had fallen out of the button and it simply wasn’t going to work without the battery no matter how many times I pushed it or where in the house I located the receiver. No, assembling an SMD LED and reed switch successfully before Christmas is totally out of the question. Those of you who are regular readers of my blog will recognize that this impairment is a new and hopefully temporary condition.

Problem #5, keep in mind Problems 1-5 of this project while re-reading the thought process behind not giving the clutch to my niece as I had originally planned. I know I can make something really cool, but perhaps I should reserve this really cool thing for me because I know I’ll like it.

So instead I have decided to make Flippant by Sivia Harding. Niece #3 lives in flip-flops (aka thongs), so it makes sense to make little socks that can warm her feet a little when the snow flies. I can also produce these using left-over fiber from my very first sock project: Gems Pearl in Navy.

In other words, free.

Project #3: Baby Surprise Jacket
This is for one of my favorite PR folks who had a baby a few weeks ago. I purchased the fiber at Needle’s Eye in Santa Fe back in October. The book I found at my LYS. The plan is to use Louet Gems Sport Weight in Robin, and Tofutsies 802 Tickle Toes as a carry-along. I was flying blind when I bought the fiber, though, so I may be completely off-base in gauge using this method.

My husband nearly made the sweet owner of Needle’s Eye projectile vomit during our visit. Why? He was wandering along, poking through the fiber along with me. But he was hauling his camera bag which has Velcro tab closures. And when he brushed up against the rack of ribbon yarn? It latched on and followed him through the store.

Now excuse me while I cast on for my gauge swatches.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Actual Knitting Content

First, let me say I whole heartedly stand behind Gramma Phyllis’ impulse to make sauerbratin for the holidays. It’s a hearty meal, and its preparation allows for the cook to spend loads of time in the living room with the family, and not tethered to the stove.

On to the knitting.

I’ve made incredible progress on the Knit Meat in a Cheesecloth Sandwich curtains. The first knit meat is complete, so I’ve bound off and bought another cone of 8/2 linen for the 2nd of three panels.

I finally seamed the shoulders on the bi-color cables project. I’m pleased to say I finally tested the sleeves to ensure they are the same length, and they are. Now I need to pick up roughly a bazillion stitches around the neck for the collar. I hate picking up stitches with the same passion that some people hate seaming. Won’t be tonight.

And a few weeks ago while in Santa Fe I purchased some fiber

to make the Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman.

The jacket is for a baby that has now been born over Thanksgiving. I really ought to get on this, but not tonight.

I’ve also started cutting the fabric for my office curtains. That set of windows is identical in measurement and chosen curtain style to the conference room and Michael’s office. I’m contemplating doing this in an assembly-line fashion. If I work on these a little every day, I might have most of them done by next weekend. Hung even, perhaps.

Today I flexed my new city resident muscles. I attended Traci’s Open House, then went to the library to apply for a library card. On the way home I got caught in game day traffic. I feel at home.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Biggest Deadline Ever

Today was closing day. I spent the morning examining financials so that, assuming closing happened without a hitch, we would have a game plan. At noon we received the call. The check was ready.

We raced back to the old town to pick it up, then quickly deposited it.

No more raking 80+ bags of leaves.

No more replacing pickets every few months.

No more seeing that look of elitist snobbery flash across people’s faces when they find out where I live.

And the thing is, that as happy as I am to be down to one property and not juggling two, I know that there is a young couple out there who is thrilled to have the keys to their first home.

I gotta say, though, that it’s weird that I no longer have a legal right to step foot in a home that up to this morning I owned and lived in for 22 years.

Now I can look forward to Christmas. Yes, I have Christmas knitting that I haven’t even begun, but now that the old house is sold I theoretically have plenty of free time to accomplish this, right? Well, maybe not. But I’ll probably get further along than I would have suffering from that annoying pre-closing eye twitch.

The sauerbratin experiment was a huge success, so I have made the offer to make another batch with gingersnap gravy for Christmas, along with a pumpkin cheesecake. Both were gladly accepted. In fact, when I made the offer to my mother, she immediately raised this offer with potato pancakes and applesauce. She passed this information along to my eldest sister. Her response was, “Oooo. I haven’t made [sauerbratin] since I lived at home.” She’s a grandmother. Need I spell out how many years this has been? A lot. I’m certain the nieces and nephews are going to look upon it like it was beamed down from the moon.

I expect that few readers of this blog have ever had sauerbratin, and even fewer made it. But it is surprisingly easy. The hardest part of the process is planning ahead. Essentially the beef rests in a spiced vinegar mixture for five days. Then it is cooked for several hours at a low temperature along with onion and carrots. And when it’s ready, a late addition of sugar and crumbled gingersnap cookies thickens up the stock. I rested mine in the refrigerator, then finished it in a crock pot. It was so tender, the meat fell apart with the touch of a fork.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Dam is About to Break

At the request of the buyer, and with my blessing, closing has been moved up ten days to December 5, around 10 a.m.. That means that sometime late in the day I will be handed a tidy sum that I will a) take a photo of, and b) immediately deposit.

The relief is immense. No more double utility payments. No more running back to the old town to rake, or check on the house. No more worrying that someone will do something very very bad that will involve insurance claims, contractors, and generally making me miserable for months on a house that I once loved but am distancing myself from as we have prepared to sell.

So this is a good thing, right? Well, sure. Theoretically. But here’s the thing. We have been postponing a lot of purchases until after the house sold. Like our old flip phones, for example, that are possibly ten years old, don’t handle a charge well, don’t have texting features that are nearly as essential as a pen in our business, and are on a service that has such poor coverage that even in our new home it often tells me that there will be a roaming charge to answer the call. Earlier this year the car recharger broke and a tiny but essential part came loose. We’ve continued to use it, up until this last trip when I was nursing the charge along on my phone in Eureka Springs and the part fell off and down a crack in the center console, never to be seen again. The fix for this is to either a) attempt to suck it up in my vacuum using the crevice attachment covered in pantyhose, b) buy a new one for our old phones, which would certainly be easiest and most dependable in its working but silly to do if we only need it for a few more months, or c) leave it and buy a new cord when and only when we get our new phones. And as for the expense, it isn’t so much the cost for the phones, but the cost for the service which up to this point with our old phones has been less than $50 a month for both phones combined. After? A bit more.

And we need a coffee table. We’ve never had a coffee table because we’ve never had room for one. But now we do and we need one. And we spotted the perfect one at a downtown furniture store earlier this year. Based on the price tag, we postponed that purchase as well.

As we have the ceiling light in our bedroom.

And what about our business equipment... or a few new turtleneck shirts since mine are multiple years old and showing wear around the cuffs.

But come Friday...

Oh, this could be bad. Really really bad.

Over the weekend we received the written whole house inspection report. It was pretty darn minor, but there were a handful of things we really felt needed to be attended to by us and not hand the equivalent cash over to the buyer for them to deal with. Like a previously undiscovered gas leak in our basement. Our agent suggested an HVAC and licensed electrician she uses, so we gave him a call. By 9:30 a.m. Monday he and we were at the house starting on the list, while the termite inspector peaked into the crawlspace. Termite inspection passed with flying colors. Another person stopped by. This time it was the buyer’s insurance agent taking property photos for their policy. We finished our tasks and left to run a few errands while the electrician did his “thang”. Bought quite a few Christmas presents for the in-laws, (check, check, check) and a few interesting books for me. By 2:30 the work was done, and we felt really good about the condition of things. We locked up and went home where I crafted an email to our agent, letting her know what we’d taken care of and what we left for the buyers. I also let her know that the buyer’s insurance agent had been at the property so I assumed they were moving ahead (we hadn’t heard yet if they had doubts after reading any of the reports) and that we had pretty much finished up on the property so if they wanted to close earlier they certainly could. Just give me a few days notice to turn in the key, contact a few utilities, etc.

Later that night we received a flurry of emails both from our agent, and also from the buyer’s agent that were forwarded to us. Seems that after the buyers read the termite inspection report, they wanted to “expedite” closing and were willing to take care of the items in the whole house inspection report if we paid for the home owner’s warranty. Uh... no. Everything was already fixed down to their contractually-agreed upon tolerance. I mean, if they wanted to negotiate that they should have approached us over the weekend. Done, done, stick a fork in it it’s done. As for expediting, you bet that would be okay.

I had a strong sense of ownership all through the 22 years we were there. I had a strong sense of ownership after we had moved, as we prepared it to sell, and as the house was on the market. But this contract state is a weird bit of limbo where the house is technically ours but technically not. Anything I do to “improve” the property is not only wasted, but possibly would void the contract for sale.

No, I’m all for expediting.

As for the very valid risk of a spending spree next week? I’ll need to make a few decisions about priorities, take care of a few essentials, add a couple splurgy things for the joy of it, and set the rest aside. Just not sure how much “rest” the “rest” will be.