Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Short Slide into Christmas Home Plate

Sunday morning was devoted to sorting and setting up our Christmas tree. The poor thing has been packed away for a few years now, so it was good to air it out. As of now, it’s only 50% there because I need to retrieve a few essential pieces from my parents’ attic that will complete my tableau. More on that later. We did have a new addition to the tree situation, and that’s a light sensing timer. The tree is in a semi-exterior space (solarium), so I would have had to enter the ice box to plug and unplug the lights. The timer automatically turns the lights on at dusk, and I’ve adjusted the duration to turn off about four hours later. I have endless love for self-maintaining anything.

There are no shortcuts to be had on super-secret, but I estimate that after one week of knitting, I’m about 15% done. That’s a far cry from completion. I’m definitely looking at the end of December at the earliest. Fortunately “E” was not at knit group yesterday, so I was able to show it off, and knit on it for half a pattern repeat.

I picked up the last of the project’s required notions at Hancock’s yesterday, along with more thread for my new winter quilt, and a McCall’s pattern for a caftan.

Don’t worry. I have no plans to begin wearing caftans or mu mus. During the grocery store tour, my uncle and I popped into my favorite LFS, where he bought a sufficient amount of silk print for his wife to make into a caftan (the store wasn’t on my tour, but the fabric in the window drew him in like a moth to a flame). The wife used to be a good seamstress. Her mother was skilled enough to be a tailor. But the wife hasn’t sewn in many years, and is extremely leery about cutting such expensive and beautiful fabric without a pattern. I totally get this. Unfortunately, she’s become so physically enfeebled over the last decade or so, that she can’t drive, and has trouble walking twenty feet. So even if my uncle had driven her to a fabric store, the wife would have trouble negotiating the store.

Enter the holiday sale at Hancock’s when McCalls patterns are 99¢ (normally $15), and I conveniently had a coupon for an extra 10% off. In other words, for 89¢ plus tax, I earned major brownie points in the family. Priceless!

It’s important to bear in mind that the wife is Tutti’s sister, and has had her own troubles for more years than I’ve been alive. She seems to focus her passive aggressive tendencies on me, and always has, so I have kept my distance from her all of my adult life. Wouldn’t you, if you flew several states away sans parents for a week-long visit to uncle at age 12, during which she smeared wolf feces on your pillow? Really. The pattern is more for my uncle than for the wife.

My time on the floor gives me tons of time to contemplate all the unfinished and hibernating projects both in my personal and professional life. And there are a lot! It’s hardly satisfying to pick up Radha when I realize those rows I have time to knit are just a drop in the bucket. And Can-can is at a point that needs to be tinked. Tinked because it’s lace, and if I don’t tink I’m left to frog the entire sleeve that I’ve already frogged at least once. And it’s a matter of tinking over a dozen rows. I need to devote most of my knitting time and attention to the knitting deadline project (super-secret) but I also could use a bit of relief from the miles of stockinette on 2s interspersed with two magical and fiddly rows.

Thus I pulled out BSJ #2 and finished it. Buttons are on, neck edge crocheted, ends sewn in. Done, done, done!

And I finished the drawstring bag for my niece’s Christmas present. Just as I was preparing to sew on the bottom, I spotted the small snip that “K” made in the bolt just before she realized it needed to be further out. Ooops. To fix the problem, I had to cut off about 3" of bag length, but it’s hardly noticeable. A bit of wrapping, and Christmas is done.

Oh, except I promised my uncle I’d make him a photography book for Christmas. That was before the Caper situation came up, so progress on it is 0%. Note to self: Get on it!

And while we’re on the topic of project completion stats, Caper is now 25% of the way through his rehab period. If all goes as planned, I can free myself of floor living in a little under a month. How exciting!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Goodness

Yesterday was the day we needed. It was stress-free (bought a wonderful gourmet quality Thanksgiving dinner at the Merc), quiet, and full of movies. Yes, we rented a butt-load of movies. Six to be exact.

This probably seems like an extreme amount, but we hadn’t rented a movie or gone to the theater since Legend was released on DVD in March, 2008. High time to end the dry spell, I say.

The mix was eclectic, and the order was left to the gods. I simply grabbed whichever one was next in the stack.

Beginning Wednesday evening we watched:
Special, Whatever Works, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Land of the Lost, Up, and Star Trek.

They were all wonderful for very different reasons, but the last three were my fav’s. I am of a generation that watched Land of the Lost on Saturday mornings, so this hit a lot of notes with me. The movie version is definitely not Saturday morning humor, so definitely skip this one with anyone under the age of 16 and possibly 18 or even 21 if you come from a strict household.

We laughed hysterically during Up, and mainly at the scenes that reminded us of our current household. Like when Kevin the bird hurt his leg. That was sooo Caper. So was the Cone of Shame.

Lastly, Star Trek was handled extraordinarily well. It was reminiscent of the original plot line and character development, but without the actors being one-dimensional (as they were in the original series). I hope that the studio is planning more movies that will fall between this prequel and the original series. And since they have altered time, they have a lot of leeway in terms of character and action.

Caper continues to heal. We’ve managed to get his crate furnished in such a way that he is quite peaceful through the night. No more sleeping on the floor for me. He loves the crate so much that at times he will actually return to the crate on his own to sleep (at which point we close the crate door, turn on the classical music station, turn off the lights, and head elsewhere in the house to get some actual work done) and at other times he refuses to come out of the crate (at which point we close the crate door, turn on the classical music station, turn off the lights, and head elsewhere in the house to get some actual work done). It’s all good.

This morning I tested the Black Friday waters by heading to Kohl’s at 4 a.m. (I’m up anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal or anything.) I needed some new jeans, turtlenecks, and slippers. Santa-hatted employees of Crown automotive pulled up in their minivan before the doors were unlocked and doled out hot coffee. I headed first to jeans, where I was once again disappointed. Their early bird jeans were all stretch (I hate stretch. They have the usable life of a gnat and are therefore a waste of money.) despite what the ad had said. And their other jeans were either stretch or were of a “can my butt look any bigger” design, so I passed on those as well as the turtlenecks, and in the end came out with only two pairs of slippers. One is for now. The other are to store until summerish when my first pair give out. That’s it.

Later that morning I went to Hancocks to buy a tassel for the custom-made key to the refurbished gentleman’s press. I wasn’t sure what color would look best against the wood grain of the press, so I bought three. I’ll return the other two in morning, which means on Black Friday sales I spent less than $25. I did spend more than that (mortgage, lumber for the stairway fix to help prevent a future bone-breaking cat fall) but if we’re talking strictly Black Friday shopping, $25 is it.

I had to laugh at the people who were in line with me at Kohl’s. It isn’t about buying things people need. It’s really more of a sporting event and group bonding experience. Walkie-talkies were everywhere. And yes, there were some deals on crock pots, etc. but why get one if you don’t need it? Not buying saves a ton more money than buying at any sale price. I apparently don’t have the genetics to participate in Black Friday shopping.

Tomorrow I will take advantage of the Saturday coupon at Hancocks to get a few small items including the drawstring I need to finish my last Christmas present. Another $1 and an hour of sewing machine and wrapping time, and I’ll be done with Christmas shopping. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Time Served

My time livin’ on the floor has gifted me with the completion of another audio book: Mario Puzo’s Omerta. It’s a delightful romp through the world of the Mafioso, and I recommend it highly to anyone else who is trapped on the floor in a single room while overseeing the recovery of a cat with a broken leg. I recommend it to people in normal living circumstances as well.

Next I think I’ll cue up Last of the Mountains. It was this audio book that I got stuck on for several raking seasons. I never got past tape 2. Since my memory is confined to only a few vague facts about the storyline (a retired heart surgeon with colon cancer who decides to off himself during a hunting trip) I’ll probably start over.

On the way to Kansas City, I pondered out loud why it is that I never made any progress on that book. In previous raking seasons I had finished one long or several short audio books in those few weeks of afternoon work. But by the time I had started Last of the Mountains, no progress. Then the obvious occurred to me. By that point in my life at the old house, I had become concerned for my own safety. There had been increased signs of gang activity. Young men would walk their pit bulls up and down our street. We’d find stolen purses, baggies of cocaine, and even pornography DVDs tossed into our yard. There were street fights, and the sounds of gunfire. I needed to have all my senses working for me while I raked the yard. Hearing was especially critical. Cutting myself off by listening to a novel on a Walkman was a dumb ass move.

In better news, Caper’s sutures were removed this morning. This momentous occasion means that he no longer has to wear a cone, because we don’t need to worry about him picking his stitches out. The good doctor did that for him. Surgeon #1 visited with us today, and recounted a discussion with Surgeon #2 in which #2 said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a cat bend a bone plate before.” Clearly Surgeon #2 has never had a Caper cat as a patient. I’m fairly certain that Surgeon #1 hasn’t either. This modification to Caper’s situation means that we no longer have to take turns sleeping on the floor next to Caper’s crate, keeping our ears perked for the sound of Caper moving his soft cone out of the way to get to his stitches. He’ll still be crated at night and any time that he isn’t supervised. But he can be crated alone.

And that is a lot to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Roll my Eyes

As a business owner, I am constantly amazed by the small and large decisions of companies. I interpret these decisions through several lenses, realizing that several factors are at play. Ignorance can definitely be one of these factors.

I went to a local UPS Store recently to make a photocopy of some documents that had to be mailed. There are several locations in town, owned by two different people. I usually go to the one closest to my office, but a week ago I had a huge time constraint that forced me to go to one under different ownership but across the street from a post office. Each location handles their copy machines differently, so I asked how theirs operated, explaining that I don’t normally frequent this location. The clerk—who looked to be a college student—said, “Oh them? We hate them. They are owned by someone else.”

Was she trying to be funny? Doubtful. Was she trying to discourage me from going to the other store? Perhaps, but if that was her goal, it backfired on her. I’ll never step foot in her store again.

I have a sense that “hating” the other store is an activity that all the employees participate in. It not only reflects badly in their small local chain, but UPS as a whole. As far as I’m concerned, UPS ought to step in to correct this situation.

Last week I spent an afternoon pouring over the sales inserts from the newspaper, and ran across something odd in the CVS ad. You know how many grocery stores, and recently even Target, have started giving discounts to customers who bring in a recyclable bag? CVS is doing something similar, yet stupid. You have to buy a special green tag for your recyclable bag. Then you get a discount on every 4th visit. We usually think of “green” as being eco-friendly. CVS seems to think it refers to the money they’ll make on all the suckers... er... I mean customers... who buy their tags.

As someone who cooks, I’ve taken a great deal of interest in HyVee’s marketing decisions of late. I’ve noticed two items that are like canaries in a coal mine. One, the only Land O’ Lakes butter they sell are pounds sold in half sticks. Half sticks. Like it’s waaaayyyy to difficult and scary to cut a whole stick of butter in half. And Lipton family-size tea bags. They may not be called that anymore, but these are the tea bags that are larger than usual, used when making a pitcher of iced tea rather than a single cup of hot tea. HyVee no longer sells this kind of tea bag. What they sell is a special iced tea tea bag that doesn’t require boiling water. Because apparently boiling water is too taxing for HyVee’s customer base? Good God, people! It’s boiling water! Because I’m a apparently a cooking snob, I’ll leave HyVee to mid-dinner emergencies and loss-leaders.

One last thought. I fully realize that my recent irritation with the pest control guy was largely due to being overly tired and stressed from the Caper situation and sleeping or sitting on the floor next to him for 20 out of 24 hours of every day since he came home. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was an ass.

And here’s an extreme cat parenting update. Today I allowed Caper to roam around the room a bit while I sewed on the quilt, and the little twerp jumped on the chair behind me, even though there shouldn’t have been room for him to do so. Jumping is the topmost no-no for his broken leg. And so I am back to sitting on the floor. Someday I hope to be able to sit in a big person’s chair again.
The Magic of Rows 6 and 12

I’ve done it. I’ve cast on for the super-secret baby project. Details and photos will have to wait until after the project has been completed and gifted. But there are a few things I can share.

Two things forced me to look at Michael’s for project yarn. First, my recent budget-busting expenses. That being both surgeries for Caper’s leg, followed by news from my dentist that I need a crown kinda urgently. The second was a 15% off coupon. I didn’t have high hopes, but I needed to at least entertain the idea. On the way out, Michael (my husband, not the store) asked me if I’d found anything. I replied, “I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit.” He wasn’t surprised.

On we went to the LYS where I threw myself upon the mercies of the staff. I explained that the gift was for a knitter, so I didn’t have any concerns about fabric care. Then I went out on a limb. I asked “Do you know ‘E’?” To which she replied “Yes! I love ‘E’!” At which point she escorted me to several displays containing yarn she knew that ‘E’ would appreciate, and that would work for my target gauge.

Now I’m knitting about a bazillion miles of stockinette on size 2s. If you’re thinking that stockinette isn’t an unusual stitch, you’re absolutely correct. But it’s the magical and scary things on rows 6 and 12 of the pattern repeat that make all the difference. As my mother-in-law would say in this situation, “you’ve got to pay attention.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Binding Off—a Nearly Finished Object

Wow! That has got to be some kind of record! On Wednesday I cast on for BSJ #2 Bébé Français, and Sunday morning I was binding off. I’ll leave the finishing details (buttons, etc.) for knit group on Saturday. The speed at which I completed the BSJ pleases me immensely, because I am anxious to cast on for the Super Secret Baby Project. (And yes, my right wrist and hand feel warm and a bit swollen after the knitting marathon. Yet I push on.)

This BSJ is nearly identical to the one I completed in January, with the exception of one very important thing. When I did the earlier BSJ, I found a row keeper online that helped me interpret Zimmerman’s original instructions as written in the Workbook. Since then I’ve listened to an interview with Meg Swanson on Sticks & Strings, wherein she expressed amazement and disbelief that such things were necessary, that she could never make heads nor tails of row by row instructions, and that your knitting will tell you exactly where you are. Essentially Meg Swanson shamed me into casting on for the 2nd BSJ without the safety net of my row keeper.

I found this approach to be only partially successful. At one point I had a question, and I tried to find the row keeper online. Turns out that it is no longer online because Schoolhouse Press has started selling modern instructions for the BSJ. Well, I had bought the Workbook for the sole purpose of owning the BSJ instructions, so I was damned well not going to purchase them again. I made an executive decision about my work, then kept going. It wasn’t until the last paragraph that I really ran into a vague areas. At this point I went to my laptop (I’d already searched for the row keeper on my desktop without success) and found the row keeper document in my downloads folder. Turns out I was going to interpret those last steps incorrectly. A copy of the row keeper is now folded inside the Workbook to have in the future.

Back to super-secret.

I checked Ravelry, and no one has added the super-secret project to their profile. I assumed as much, because it’s an older book, and a very unusual (by today’s standards) knit pattern.

As I’ve said, the BSJ #2 isn’t for my very pregnant knit-bud, because that mother doesn’t care for the BSJ. I’m not promising that she will like the project I’m planning, but at the very least she won’t know she doesn’t like it until she sees my version.

We’ve had appointments all week, and Friday was no different. A few weeks ago I went into the attic (the only under-utilized storage location in the house) and moved one of only three boxes that we’d stored up there to the side to make room for some empty planters. When I did so, two silverfish skittered across the box. Silverfish are the worst! They eat paper and cloth, and are extremely difficult to kill. I made an appointment with a national pest control company, and the exterminator came out Friday morning.

The man was nice, and yet annoyed me on so many fronts that if I need further pest treatments in later years, I will not call upon them. First, he was loud and heavy-footed, so I had to caution him multiple times before we entered the hospital room, that he was to be quiet and not move fast, and if the cat showed any signs of panicking, he was to leave the room immediately. We explained about his broken leg, of course. The dude had the nerve to state “the cat looks fine to me,” several times. Not that the cat wasn’t panicking, but that the cat wasn’t ill. This he followed up with “of course I’m not a vet.” My inner voice was yelling, “Darn right you’re not a vet you A-hole!”

I realize that there was actually no thinking involved, but I still have to ask myself what he was thinking when he made those comments. Was he trying to suggest that we were being overly protective? I have no doubt that there are a ton of strangers/normal people with normal cats who assess the situation thusly. But my vets are in total agreement with the necessity of our extreme cat parenting. In fact, several of the things we have done, they suggested independently due to the required second surgery, as well as his advanced Houdini capabilities for extracting himself from bindings, pads, and splints, etc. proved that Caper is not a normal cat.

FYI, had he said, “wow, for a cat that broke his leg that severely, he looks really great!” I would be more understanding. But that’s not what he said, nor do I believe it’s what he meant.

Then pest control dude started asking about our homebrew kit, and he started comparing the beers we were making to national brands. “So, it’s like a Killian’s Red?” or “You’re making the King of Beers?” At that point I realized he was a heathen that probably downed a 24-pack of Bud in a weekend. If you’re counting, that’s two offenses. And really, it’s the homebrew comment that bothered me more than the cat comment.

Plus he wasn’t listening. We asked him several times not to spray the closets, which are full of electronic gear. And yet if Michael hadn’t been standing there watching him, that’s exactly what would have happened. And he didn’t tell us he was going to lay down glue traps. When Eclair was a kitten, she got trapped on a glue trap behind the refrigerator. All four of her legs were stuck on the glue board, complicated by the fact that she was glued and also stradling the copper feed line for the ice maker. So I’m kinda sensitve about the glue trap issue. But I’ll give him credit for the fact that he didn’t put down traps in any area where the cats are allowed.

Lastly, he didn’t wear a respirator when he dusted the attic with silverfish life-ending chemicals. No surprise that dude coughed his way out of the house. This final example illustrates his general lack of common sense.

I asked him if he lived in my town. Turns out that he doesn’t. He lives in my old town. That explained a lot!

Pardon me. I have to make a stop at the LYS.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Audio Lemonade

We begin Day 6 of Caper Watch 2009. It reminds me of something friend “E” said recently when recalling the first months of her daughter’s life. “I’ve never been so busy being bored in my life.” That’s not an exact quote, but you get the gist. As I interpreted is, she was ever-vigilant caring for that little life, and that while that vigilance consumed her days and nights, it was the opposite of stimulating. That’s what I heard, anyway.

These are my days, after Caper’s bad fall last week.

Because the majority of my day is spent working with words, I have gotten behind on my podcast listening. That is, I am unable to listen to people talking, and write at the same time. Vidcast work is out as well.

I’ve subscribed to Sticks & Strings since David Reidy began it several years ago, and I love his podcast. He’s calm—which is the opposite of me—has a lovely Aussie accent, and embraces the craft of knitting whole heartedly. I started on the backlog of podcasts (almost two years’ worth) while cutting out fabric strips for my winter quilt, then continued through garment sewing, and am now listening to his most recent episode. The last half dozen episodes were sponsored by, so David has been recommending a lot of books from their audio book library. It reminded me that I have had a bag of audio books in a plastic grocery sack in the basement. Some of these are books I’ve already listened to, but others were passed to me by my uncle.

If I haven’t had time to keep up on my podcasts, then I really haven’t had time to listen to audio books. It’s probably been four years since I listened to one beginning to end. And there were two or three falls that I attempted to listen to one particular book, and never got past Side A of Tape 1. But with the Caper situation, I realized that I can “read” and still knit (deadline knitting) and still keep my attention on the little guy. Who twice in the last five minutes I had to stop from pulling out his sutures. And yes, he is wearing a cone, but he laughs at the cone. Ha, ha, ha!

First up is Remains of the Day read by Michael York, who I first associate with Logan’s Run. There are two cassettes, and I’ve already listened to one side of a tape. That’s a record!

I finished Reidy’s most recent episode. Unfortunately he’s ill, and may be out of commission for a few months. If you read this David, please know that a lot of people are wishing you good health, and hope to hear that you are on the mend very soon.

As for Caper, both he and T-Bone were due in November to have vaccinations. But with Caper’s leg being so fragile, I’ve decided to be a good pet parent by being a bad pet parent, and postponing his shots until after his leg has fully healed. This afternoon I took T-Bone to get her shot, which gave me a chance to chat with my regular vet about the boy. Knowing him the way she does, having struggled to give him vaccinations (it often ends up in his ass), she is not at all surprised by the goings on. Moreover, she thinks our “extreme” measures are exactly what it will take to get his leg mended. You may think we’re weird for doing this. And I’m not saying we’re not weird. But it’s not because of the pet thing. With Caper as our patient, extreme measures are a necessary.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Casting On

Let’s face it. I’m not short on projects. I’ve got quite a few (let’s not tally them up, k?) that are in various stages from “supplies purchased but not started,” to “on the needles.” And yet, I find myself casting on for not one but two new projects.

To be precise, I’ve only cast on for one, but the second is planned and will begin around Thanksgiving.

Why begin a whole new project? Because people around me are preparing to squirt out babies like a Play-Doh Fun Factory.

I know. They didn’t check with me first.

First up is my second Baby Surprise Jacket, which will be an exact copy of the one I did last year, down to the adorable duck buttons. This one is named BSJ #2 Bébé Français. In other words (if you are a member of my knit group), it’s for someone other than a knit buddy. I’m not sure of her due date, but I know it’s in the next month or two, because her pregnancy is preventing her from traveling home for the Christmas holidays.

The cast-on-to-be will not be a Baby Surprise Jacket, because the recipient (or rather the recipient’s mother) doesn’t care for the look of that pattern. The good news is that the mother is a knitter, so there are no worries about textile care. The bad news is the mother is a very talented and prolific knitter, so what on earth can I make that isn’t something she would have made herself and much better?

During my morning lock-in with Caper*, I had time to scan the bookcase of textile books in my craft room. I was looking for a book or magazine that I was confident she didn’t own, and wasn’t available in the local library. I’ve got a number of those. My back issues of Anna, for example. Or perhaps a pamphlet from the 1940s to 1960s? Success! The winning article wasn’t in either of the above, but an older-but-not-really-old knit & crochet book. The object is one that is useful, but not one I’ve seen in modern books. And the knit pattern is very that period appropriate, and also not one I’ve seen in modern books.

Given that the recipient knows about and possibly reads this blog, my description will end there. My biggest question is what type of yarn to use, given that the original pattern calls for Unger Roly Sport Yarn, which is both 100% acrylic, and discontinued. I sense a trip to the LYS in the near future.

* Caper is still doing well. He is closely monitored, and thankfully sleeping a lot due in large part to his pain medication. There’s a question of poo, as in “has he had a bowel movement yet?” to which my answer was “I don’t know.” Digging through used cat litter is on my task list for the afternoon, I guess. But we have boldly made the appointment to have his sutures removed next week, the day before Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It’s Sleeting Outside, But What Do We Care?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Laying in Supplies for the Long Winter Ahead

We have set a new record. The little guy has been home a whopping eighteen hours. Considering that the previous return home lasted only forty-five minutes, I call this a success.

Caring for him takes a different mindset. As you know, we’ve learned that leaving Caper unchaperoned even briefly while he’s out of his crate can spell disaster. And even though the surgeons haven’t used these words, I fully realize that another set-back in his recovery will probably mean amputation.

It’s not that I’m anti-amputation. Cats can do very well on three legs, and I have no personal issues with having a three-legged cat. (I’ve met people that do. I know of one woman who, when she found out I was involved in cat rescue, happily shared that she had had a cat, but it’s leg needed to be amputated and she couldn’t stand seeing her cat with only three legs, so she put it down. I bit my tongue.) But I realize that Caper would be happier having all his legs. Three legs or dead, no issue. Three legs. But if we can simply push through this recovery period, then I think the outcome will be much better. It’s just (as though that makes it simple) a matter of finding a way to help him through this period, while still allowing me to be productive.

First up is furnishing the room with all those minor-but-critical items that will cut down on the number of trips I need to make: Kleenex and Advil, for example.

Since I’m housing him in my craft room, it makes sense to use this time to catch up on some craft projects. But even with me in the room, he’s already threatened to break the cardinal rule of recovery: no jumping! I was assembling and pinning strips for my winter quilt, when he limped over to the sewing machine to see me. Sure enough, he started measuring the chair to jump onto the seat next to me.

Thus I learned that I can sew, but only when he is sleeping. What can I do when he’s awake?

For those periods I need to find something I can do from a sitting position on the floor. Because he is such an affectionate cat, snuggling next to us is his favorite thing in the world. If he’s snuggled, he’s not getting into trouble. Knitting fits the bill quite nicely.

And so does working on the laptop. Which brings me to work. I can’t use the laptop for what consumes most of my work time. For that I need a desktop. But perhaps, just perhaps, I can find some smaller tasks that I haven’t been able to successfully accomplish given the time the desktop work takes.

But those are relatively unimportant goals. Getting Caper to eat and drink tops my list. He’s done neither since his surgery on Friday. He has used the litter pan twice, in case you were curious.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Caper’s Home, Take 2

And fingers crossed, he will stay home. The little guy is totally exhausted, as he should be. Except for a few hours on Thursday and again on Friday when we was knocked out for surgery, he’s been awake non-stop since Wednesday morning. That can’t be good and it can’t be easy.

He was the model patient for his caregivers at the surgical center. Not as in he behaved in a way that facilitated healing. On that front he failed miserably. But he was an attention-seeking affectionate patient. It sounds as though the vet techs had their hands in his cage for half the night, simply giving him lovin’. He needed that, too.

Our post-hospitalization instructions included information on bandage care. The second surgeon had applied a surgical bandage on the inside of his thigh that was to stay for a week. Then we were to bring him in to have the bandage checked and changed. Except by early morning he had knocked it loose. Since during his tenure as a severe bone break patient he has squirmed out of his splint within an hour of it being put on, and the heavy pre-op binding that had been applied “securely” on Wednesday afternoon was off by Thursday morning, and somehow he’d circumvented the soft Elizabethan collar so he could overlick the area on his front leg where the catheter had been inserted... Because of all that and more, the 1st surgeon (who was on call today) wisely said they should leave it off. They did send us home with a hard plastic E-collar, though.

This will likely be how our next three weeks will be spent. The following three will be similar, but less focused.

Here’s the promised pic of the new pajamas. The pattern is Simplicity Easy-to-Sew #3571. The fabric is Mutt by Michael Miller Fabrics. With all the fit mods I did both before cutting and after, the pajamas fit like a dream. I take issue with this being an Easy-to-Sew pattern, though. I think there’s a lot of details that made construction more difficult than it needed to be. Like the piping, for example. And the cuffs, both on the sleeves, and the top of the pocket. You’ll recall that the pattern originally called for cargo-like pants pockets set on the outside of the knees. I chose to ignore that directive, and I’m glad I did.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Slasher Room

Have you heard that term? Recently I’ve heard “slasher” used when referring to someone who does several jobs. As in, I’m an actor slash waiter. With Caper coming home today, and strict instruction that he limit his activity (no stairs!), my craft room is now becoming a craft room slash recovery ward.

It’s the best room in the house for this, really. We’d considered the bedroom, but there’s that darn bed. And if he’s not supposed to do stairs, then having a cozy bed tempting him to jump is completely out of the question.

To make this possible, I had to spend Thursday ramping up my finishing schedule on my new night apparel. At least getting it far enough along that I no longer need the hollow core door set on saw horses that become my work surface for large sewing projects.

This was going fairly well yesterday, except we had a load of small errands that really ate into my time. At a certain point I only needed to hem the top, hand-sew the collar facing to the collar, sew the button holes, and make an important fit adjustment on the underarms. That’s the point that I ran out of thread.

That’s okay. I decided to stop by the LFS this morning on my way to Kansas City to pick up the little guy. The delay also gave me time to hunt down the instructions for my button hole foot, because I have zero memory on how I’ve done this in the past, and trial and error wasn’t cutting it. The internet was no help, either.

It turns out I had enough remnants of the fabric to make the draw string bag pattern that is also included in the instructions. Not that I need another bag in my life. (Kinda bagged out, really.) But I have one or two nieces in my family who would love a small bag made out of this fabric. In fact, I drew one of their names for Christmas this year. We’re supposed to keep the cost below $5. Since the fabric is remnant, all I need to buy is the draw string. That should be well under the monetary threshold. She probably wouldn’t appreciate having a bag made out of her aunty’s pajama fabric, so I’ll omit that detail from any discussions.

Sewing the bag will have to wait for another day. But I’ve at least got all the bits cut out and ready when a better day rolls around.

That’s where the positive news of the day ends, and we segue into weird frustration with an extra topping of angst.

My LFS wasn’t open when they were supposed to be. I actually showed up a half hour early because I thought they opened a half hour early. When I realized my mistake, we decided to hang around my LYS for that half hour, then sauntered across the street a few minutes after the LFS’s real opening time. Except it was locked and dark. I knocked on the door, but no one appeared to be inside. Just to be safe I called from my cell phone. It rang and rang and rang.

We had one last stop in town before picking the boy up from the surgical center, so we did that. Then I called the LFS again from the parking lot. They were open. Just late. We went back so I could buy that single spool of thread. (This is where a superstitious person might chalk this up to being Friday the 13th.) They were fully stocked, except for one color which they were totally out of. It was my color. Fortunately, they had one that was extremely close, so I purchased it and ran to the car. Off to KC to pick up the boy.

By the time we had him in the car, it was around 11:45 a.m. Here’s his post-op X-ray:

We allowed him to roam around the room for a bit. He was excited, and wanted to investigate everything. This is one of the few images I took of him that weren’t blurry. I intentionally blurred his a-hole to respect both his privacy and your good taste:

He put his weight on the broken leg like nothing had ever happened. I had hoped that he would settle in, so we left for about half an hour to have lunch.

Nacho was especially interested in the return of the alpha male:

Then we returned to the recovery ward to get a better look at his sutures (we needed a baseline so if his incision area got worse, we would know it). He was on his back attempting to groom his belly. When he stood up and began to walk, he had a noticeable limp—and this is where it gets gross—his leg had a bend in it that wasn’t there half an hour before.

He had not jumped on anything. We’d fairly successfully cat-proofed the room, and the objects that were still in there showed no signs of being disturbed. Moreover, he was in ear-shot, yet we’d heard no exclamation of pain. I have no idea how he did it.

We called the hospital immediately, and stuffed him back in the carrier for a trip to the hospital and an exam by a veterinarian. They took a new X-ray, and it turns out he bent the bone plate, as seen in the new X-ray:

Allow me to repeat. Within forty-five minutes of his feet hitting our carpet, Caper bent his bone plate. I’m pretty sure he had no chance of making the full 6-week recovery period without an incident.

In better news, as soon as we returned home, I went to work on the new pajamas. And two hours later the last seam was sewn, and the last button attached. I’ll try to take a photo of it when the sun is out, and I’m not driving to or from one of our many vet offices.

The surgeon just called. He’s out of his second surgery in two days, and he now has a much larger thicker bone plate on his leg. It wasn’t as elegant a fix as the first was, but we clearly need to wrap the boy in bubble wrap or something for the next 12 weeks. (Note how his recover time keeps extending? Now he’s missing bone, so we need to give him time to completely re-grow bone, not just knit bone.

We have a revised plan for Caper’s recovery. He will now be confined to a dog crate for the duration.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


It was bound to happen. If anything, I’m surprised it’s taken this long, actually. But one year and three months after we moved in—and at least the third time he’s failed at a hair-raising leap across one story of empty air—Caper broke a leg.

The leap is one he loves. He jumps on the second story interior railing, then across to the roof of our living room wet bar. From there, he can see all our comings and goings, both on the second level and the living room. It’s a short jump, really. It’s only 1-3 feet, depending on where he is on the railing when he begins. But when he misses, the fall is an entire story and a bit more down to the foot of the stairs leading to the kitchen.

There was absolutely no doubt this time he’d injured himself. When I found him, he was holding his rear right leg up, and when I put him on a table to give it a closer look, his lower leg was floppy.

No further examination was necessary. He was tossed in a carrier, I called the vet to warn them we were coming, and off we went.

Of course, nothing is quite a simple as it seems. Yes it was a broken bone. But the fracture was a nasty spiral kind, with a few loose bits broken off the main bits. It was a surgery that my vet recommended be attended to by a specialist.

So my day went kinda like this:

Beginning of day errands went extremely fast. It included buying buttons during the Veteran’s Day sale during their 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. extra-special specials. Then recycling cardboard boxes. Then a stop to pick up sandwich bread.

9:15 We’re done with errands for the day and walked in the door with a host of projects on both our plates that actually had a chance of getting accomplished given the early hour that we could start them.

9:20 I headed upstairs with a fresh cup of coffee, planning to settle in on my vidcast work, then have lunch, and rake leaves for three hours in the afternoon.

9:21 Caper took a header. I spent the next five minutes trying to keep Nacho from killing Caper (he gets this way after Caper falls from the sky) and trying to capture Caper who I could clearly see was injured but am not sure to what extent—and doing all of this at the same time attempting to communicate to Michael that Caper was badly injured and that I need his help and that he needed to help me remove Nacho from the room. Apparently I was speaking like the parents on a Peanuts animated special (according to Michael), so it was taking a lot of effort on both our parts for him to understand the gravity of the situation.

At 9:30 we were in the car heading west to my old town where my vet is located. At 10:30 she took a cursory glance, said she needs to take films, and would call me as soon as she knows something.

Noon. I’d managed to do exactly one thing for the vidcast. We broke for lunch, during which the vet called to give us the 411 on his break, and that she recommended we see a specialist (She would have called earlier, but it took along time for the sedatives to take effect so he could be examined properly).

12:30 Back in the car heading west again.

1:15 The boy had been splinted for transport. We pick up the boy along with his films and drive east.

2:35 We arrived at the specialist’s office and begin filling out paperwork. I noticed that Caper had removed his splint.

3:00 We were shown to an examination room and gave the tech as much information about his medical and psychological well-being as possible (he’s a chewer, and Elizabethan collars send him into a panic) before they whisked him into the back.

3:30 The surgeon came to speak to us. It was definitely a spiral fracture, and he needs a bone plate. He’ll be kept overnight, then will be one of the first surgery patients tomorrow morning. He should be ready to come home on Friday for a six week limited activity rest period.

After the surgeon we spoke to billing. Then we forked over a $1,600 down payment.

By 4:30 we were heading home. Right after we stopped at the liquor store, that is.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Scaredy Pants—a Finished Object(let)

The pajama bottoms are done! Woo-hoo!

I modified them only slightly by adding fullness in my fuller areas. I also chose not to add the pockets that were called for on the legs. These were mainly for decoration, placed on the outside of the legs near the knee. Personally I think pockets on nightwear are silly. Pockets on robes, essential. For facial tissue during allergy or cold and flu season, if for no other reason. But I am never going to go to bed with used Kleenex stuffed in the lower leg pocket of my pajamas. Talk about uncomfortable!

I slipped them on yesterday to do the final fit adjustment on the waistband and hemline. Eclair was sitting outside the bathroom as I exited. As soon as she saw me—and more specifically the pants—her eyes widened, and she backed away. Every step I took toward her, she took two steps back. I’m not sure if it was the dog print itself, or the red background, or that I was wearing red in pants. And red pants are not done! Definitely further experimentation is in order. Eclair has rules for living, and doesn’t deal well with change or disturbances to her reality. This could be fun!

I’ve started on the top, but I need to buy piping and fusible interfacing before I can go further.

I’m hoping that I’ll have both done to bring to knit group on Saturday. “C” requested it specifically. Don’t worry. I think it would be weird and a little wrong to bring used pajamas to knit group—even ones that are washed. So I won’t be using them until after I show them off.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Are You Wishing You Hadn’t?

I dedicated Saturday morning to analyzing my pajama pattern, and increasing the sizes (marking new cut lines) in the way I thought would give me the best fit. Then I set about laying it out. I was bound and determined that I was going to have all the pieces cut before the morning was over.

Even though last week I tried tried tried to ensure that I bought a sufficient amount of fabric, it turns out I was about 1/4 yard short. There was no way in hell that I was going to be able to cut out all the pieces—especially not all the really critical pieces—out of the yardage I had on hand.

But I recalled that there was a wee bit of my print left on the bolt after we purchased the previous week. I arrived at the store within minutes after they opened, praying that no one had bought the remainders.

I let “K” know that I needed to see her. Then I waited around about 15 minutes while she swept up glass from her rear entrance which had been smashed during an overnight break-in. The cat is fine, btw. I checked.

When she finished that, she turned her attention fully on me. Frankly I don’t know how she did it given the circumstances of her day, but I appreciate it. She remembered my angst from the previous week, and we looked over the yardage, pattern, and my temporary pins. (I had loaded EVERYTHING up in a bag to take to the store.)

Yep, I was absolutely right. I was short. Even if I took some length off the pants, which I could have done, I would not have had enough fabric. Mostly because the pattern makers have the sleeve as part of the top body, which greatly limits the amount of fiddling that can be done.

“C” from knit group arrived while we were in the midst of it all, buying more fabric for a lovely quilt that she’s started. Together we all re-measured me, and considered the pieces and fabric. “K” approved of my alternations.

That’s actually the word she used. “Approved.” I take that as a blessing.

We thought that maybe all I needed to buy of the remnant was the length of one top side. But as soon as she snipped it, “K” got this stricken look. “I just cut this.”

“Are you wishing you hadn’t?”

“Yes,” she said.

Turns out that I still would have been a bit short, but we finagled for another fifteen minutes or so, swapping pattern pieces around and re-considering the whole proposition. She ultimately cut a bit further down on the fabric, leaving a small snip in the middle of the piece I purchased. But the pattern piece that will go there will be placed far away from the snip, and therefore a non-issue.

Then we rolled everything up, I paid for my additional yard, she chastised/helpfully reminded me that grain line is parallel to the selvage and that I should under no circumstances use the doggies as a guide.

Tomorrow morning seems like an excellent day for cutting fabric, doesn’t it?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Report from the Front Lines of Sewing

Speaking plainly and simply, I have not attempted to sew a garment for fifteen to twenty years. During my stint as a pseudo seamstress, I made a number of items of my own design, with the aid of software, of course. And I took sewing classes under Linda Lee at her now-defunct Threadwear store. Under her tutelage—and Dort’s—I made some items that were so bias-heavy and high-fashion, that it would have made my much more experienced mother’s head spin.

These classes were neither easy, nor enjoyable, because I was reaching well beyond my skill levels. And most instructors can only take so much, unless they work at a South Korean driving agency, of course.

About that time I started working from home, and it became both less convenient, and less desirable, to make fashion-y clothing.

Fast forward fifteen years, and I’m rendered temporarily insane at a Columbus Day sale at Hancocks, where I decide to purchase several patterns for night and day wear. Ee-gads! What was I thinking?

With Christmas money in hand, I headed to the really great fabric store, heretofore referred to as LFS, and bought some funky fabric for new winter sleepwear. I had the wisdom to ask to speak to someone experienced in sewing clothing (as opposed to quilting which is also a strength of the store) to ensure that my choice of fabric would work for my desired application. “K” helped me. She agreed that the fabric would work, then she helped ensure that I purchased the correct amount of yardage.

Then she said something that rocked my world: Sizes on sewing patterns bear no resemblance to ready-to-wear sizes. And to prove it, she whipped out her tape measure, showing me on the chart just how far off I was in estimation. Dang it! And to make it doubly frustrating, she demonstrated that I’m one size at my shoulders, and a different size... well... everywhere else. Now I’m faced with a fit issue, and I have little to no inherent skills to solve it.

I’m hoping that the solution lies somewhere within this stack of library books.

In other news, I was forced to frog my first Can Can sleeve a few days ago. Do you recall the mistake that I made in the lace pattern that I decided wasn’t going to be noticeable and therefore wasn’t a big deal so I forged ahead anyway? And do you recall that within a row or two of that my needle broke (around the end of Repeat 1), leaving stitches hanging out in space? I did my best to capture the suckers, but I lost my double yarn overs. And something didn’t look quite right when I tried to rebuild them.

But still, I decided it wouldn’t be noticeable, and therefore wasn’t important, so I forged ahead.

A week later, I finished Repeat 2, and stood back to admire the lace. Lace which had at least two known errors in it, but no matter.

Then I saw it. Back at the needle break row, at the point where I’d attempted to rebuild my yarn overs, I had dropped a stitch. There it was, hanging out in space, clear back at row 24. Sure, I had been aware during the rebuild that I was short a stitch, but I assumed it was part of my yarn over fiasco. I simply increased by one in an inconspicuous spot, and soldiered on.

With no way to repair the lace, I actually witnessed myself tying a length of my fiber through the dropped stitch, attaching it to its neighbor. Because it wouldn’t be noticeable, right? Then I went to bed.

What came next was a scene from a movie. I spent the night tossing and turning, mulling over the issue in my head. I knew what I needed to do, but I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t dammit!

The moment before the frog.

When I got up at three, I started a pot of coffee, picked up the sleeve, and ripped before I’d had my first cup. Some things are best done when not quite awake.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Too Cool for School

I call this the ultimate travel tool by NEC: glasses that provide translations to live speech. A small projector is fitted into the glasses frame, and beams the text translation onto the retina.

It’d be like living in a foreign film with the subtitles turned on.

How cool is THAT?!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Once Again, I Scratch my Head

I stumbled across this story recently on the BBC web site. Given that it involves the conviction of 23 CIA agents, and the “extraordinary rendition” program of the post 9/11 Bush era, shouldn’t I have read about it on the CNN site first?

Except it’s not there. Not there at all. At least it wasn’t there as of 11 a.m. today.

ETA: Finally the story has appeared on CNN. Of course it was a whopping 45 minutes after I was looking for it.

It’s one of the few disappointments I have with American society that we or the media or both behave and think as though reality stops outside our borders. As though what other countries think about us and our behavior bears has little to do with who we are as a people.

And BTW, weather systems do extend north beyond our border with Canada, despite what we see on American TV.

That’s it for the soapbox. Back to work for me.
Piece on Earth

It took me about half a dozen hours spread over a few days, but I’ve finally managed to cut the last strip of fabric for the main body of my Quilting on Rails, or winter quilt, project. These seven strips will assemble in a specific sequence to create two distinct quilt blocks, set at 90° to each other.

I have fears and concerns about this project. I always do. “Did I buy sufficient fabric?” is top of the list. Remember, the original pattern is for a much smaller quilt. Yes, I’m fairly confident (but not completely confident) that I applied the correct proportion calculations to scale up the original fabric specs to my new size. But then I run into moments like this:

where the fabric is cut far from straight, and I wonder how critical this loss of fabric might be.

And no, I didn’t buy this fabric at the really great fabric store. I bought it at better-but-not-great stores. If I had bought it from the really great fabric store, the clerk would have pulled a weft thread and used the gap as a cutting line.

Given all the above, there is every possibility that I might run short on a color or two, which is part of the reason I purchased two patterns for each fabric placement. That will allow me to add an additional fabric to the mix without it being obvious.

A few days ago I completed my planogram for the topper:

According to it, I need 143 total of block A, and 119 total of block B, in order to make the quilt the correct size. The disparity in block numbers can be accounted for in the final layout. To reach my desired dimensions, it turned out that block A both began and ended the rows, and began and ended the columns.

Next step was to inventory my strips.

Block A

Fabric 1 Midnight: 76 (this fabric is also used to make Block B)

Fabric 2 Moonlight on Snow: 43

Fabric 3 Crocuses: 39

Fabric 4 Ice Storm: 43

Block B

Fabric 1 Midnight: see above

Fabric 5 Pine Needles: 42

Fabric 6 Wool Blanket: 49

Fabric 7 Crackling Fire: 50

(In case you need the stats to build your fantasy quilter team, that means I cut 342 strips of fabric from 1 1/2" wide to 2 1/4" widths, in approximately three days.) Because I need more of Block A than B, that’s a weak point. Especially with the Crocuses concept fabric.

I have one additional unknown, and that’s how many blocks I can create out of the strips once they are assembled. I could do a rough calculation based on the standard width of fabric, but I have some fabrics that are narrow than others. It’s best to hold off and exercise some patience at this point.

But strip sewing will have to wait. Once I start, it’ll be miles and miles of using one color of thread and one kind of presser foot. And I have another sewing project, using very different thread and a very different presser foot, that is destined to slip in the queue while there’s still a chance.

Here’s a hint:

More on that later.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Normally I shy away from sci-fi attempts on broadcast television because networks are notoriously fickle, and shows rarely last long enough to be satisfying. (Defying Gravity, anyone?) But I’ll stick my toe in the water for V. I absolutely adore Morena Baccarin, and have since I discovered her on Firefly. (A stellar series, and yet another that was felled by the network axe. BTW, anyone else catch the Halloween episode of Castle? Loved Nathan Fillion’s space cowboy costume, which was a wink and a nod to Mal, his character on Firefly.)

I only have a vague recollection of the original V when it came on in the mid-80s, so it was an eye-opening experience to catch an original episode during a V marathon on the Syfy channel yesterday.

The hair! The fashion! I can assume that the starlets were cautioned to stay away from open flames while in costume.

No question that you’ll find me in front of the television at 7 CST tonight. The only question is: is it a Can-Can series, or a Radha series?

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 02, 2009


A office relic of another era, used to sort papers prior to filing. Fifty cents OBO.

With the last piece of furniture in place, I assessed the house. Rooms, for the most part, are in darn good shape. There are a few notable exceptions (garage, conference room/place where everything office-essential is stashed, etc.), but basically things are exactly as they are and exactly as they will be.

Which leads me to a critical problem. The basement is so full of stuff that it is nearly impossible to walk. There’s not even room for more shelving. And shelving is critical.

I know that the basement situation is going to become even more dire in the twenty+ years we intend to live here. To make matters more complicated, both sets of parents are currently downsizing. Stuff has already come to us. More stuff is headed this way. A few items can go into the attic, but precious few things are safe to keep there.

Given that, I realized that I need to do a more thorough sorting and purging job than I was able to accomplish leading up to our spring garage sale. While I had promised myself that I wouldn’t have another sale, I can’t get around the fact that that is exactly what I need to do. Well, maybe I won’t have another sale, but I’m certainly going to send stuff to my folks’ for their multi-family extravaganza, held annually in March. Does that seem like a long ways off? It’s not. March is just a stone’s throw away, given the busy holiday season ahead.

This is serious, folks. If I haven’t used an item in ten years, then do I really want to hold onto it for another twenty? Probably not. Still, I have an uncanny way of getting rid of something exactly a month before I need it. It’s that kind of thinking that can get a gal into trouble.

There are a thousand things I’d rather be doing right now, with a nap top of the list. But all I have to do is remind myself that it would be nice to have a gathering of friends for a Sunday afternoon in December.

And so I soldier on.