Thursday, December 31, 2009

Physical Therapy for Cats

No need for Wii Fit when you have a cat that requires physical therapy to help heal a leg break!

Three times a day Caper and I exercise for brief but intensive periods. Running laps is our usual “thang.” Back and forth across my former craft room we go, with him happily strolling or sometimes even trotting alongside. 90% of the energy expended is by me, being overly enthusiastic to encourage him to keep up. He’s rewarded with pettin’s at the end of each leg. Pun intended.

To mix things up, he’s allowed conjugal visits with his bond pair at least once every other day. His bond pair is so addicted to feather wand that her enthusiasm is enough to rouse him out of his flannel bed to join in. Unlike his girlfriend, I keep the feathers low to the ground when I throw the feathers to him. No leaping allowed yet.

How long do we work out? Hmmmm... Okay. I know how this is might sound, but we work until his gait changes slightly and he begins to limp. Not limp much, but limp a little. Because he needs to push himself slightly in order to heal. And we know he’s accomplished that when the limp appears.

Two more weeks of this, then escorted walks through the house for two more weeks until his next X-ray. Getting him to walk in the house won’t be difficult. Getting him to walk without his harness and lead will be. Getting him to walk and not jump when not on his harness and lead will be nigh impossible. Trust me. These are the good times.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Finished Object: The Perfect Knitter’s Coat

Have I shared the details of this coat with you already? I know I’ve been meaning to, but in the melee of the past two months, this one may have been left untold, or only half-told. I apologize if this is a repeat.

Way back when we were first married, and before I owned a sewing machine, I found Vogue 1476.

I instantly fell in love with the coat, designed by Issey Miyake. It’s a wool coat that drapes and hugs almost like a blanket. But with style, of course. It was a challenging sewing project (aren’t all Vogues?) and lacking a machine myself, it made sense to turn to my mother who’d been sewing for many more years than I’d been alive.

About this time, my in-laws took us to the Amana Colonies for a short vacation. It turned out to be a miserable trip, and I quickly learned that I was ill-equipped to be locked in a car with my in-laws as drivers for more than say... 30 minutes at a time.

Michael and I rode in the back seat of their Chevy Citation. The back seat of this model is extremely uncomfortable given the lack of suitable shock absorbers, and the angle and placement of the seat back. Every time that car it a bump, it felt like my spine was being pounded into the floorboards with a pile driver. It was the end of a long day of sightseeing, and they asked where I would like to eat. Keep in mind, this is rural Iowa, so dining options are extremely limited. I made the mistake of saying, “someplace with soft rolls.” And we were off.

We drove slowly through town 1. We saw a small fast food restaurant, and a gas station. “Let’s see what’s in the next town,” they said. Thirty minutes later we pulled in to town 2 to find pretty much the same thing. By the third town (now an hour later) I had moved past hungry and straight into shakes. Yet the car kept moving to the next town. Bam bam bam went my spine. I begged. I pleaded. “Here’s fine. Anywhere’s fine.” I finally got them to stop at a pharmacy where I bought about $20 worth of candy. Which I promptly gorged.

The next Christmas I received from them a small zippered pouch containing M&M’s. Apparently they thought the whole thing was HIGH-larious!

Back to the coat.

It was on that trip that we stopped at a woolen mill that had a small selection of fabric. That’s where I bought the precious fabric for Coat #1 that I could ill afford, and promptly turned over to my mother along with the pattern.

She worked on it. She complained about it (my mother hates sewing on the bias). But she eventually completed it. And when she turned it over to me she said, “it was too long so I took some length off the bottom.”

She made this modification without checking with me. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted it shortened. And the way the coat is constructed, it made the front go past my knees, and the back hem hover just below my ass.

I thanked her for it (What else could I do? Yelling wouldn’t have fixed the coat.), and as soon as we could afford it, I bought a sewing machine.

And I never asked her to sew anything for me ever again.

Then last fall I found myself flipping through the pattern books at Hancock’s during a pattern sale, and nearly fell off my chair when I found they are still selling the Issey Miyake coat pattern. It was an oddly emotional moment. How often are we given the opportunity for a do-over of an emotional scarring event perpetuated by a parental unit?

What makes this the perfect knitter’s coat? Because the fullness and lack of fitting allows me to wear it over the heavy sweaters that I like to wear indoors when the temps are below freezing.

Kathy at my LFS helped me pick out suitable wool for the project. This is a heavy, heavy wool. The pattern doesn’t call for buttons, zippers, or fusible anything. So in that respect it is quite easy. But there is one seam where the sleeves attach to the main coat panel that is a particular booger. There is a butt-load of sewing (I went through three spools of thread), and I broke three upholstery needles trying to sew through some of the seams.

I found myself doing a significant amount of basting and making tailor’s marks with needle and contrasting thread by hand. And some hems needed to be re-done.

But I won in the end. It’s a beautiful, warm and highly functional coat. I wore it to shop downtown over the weekend when winds were blustery and temps hovered in the 20s. Yet I remained toasty warm.

I bought a few things at my LYS during their pre-inventory sale, then sauntered over to the LFS to show it off to Sarah and Kathy, who both had helped me, and laughed with me over the coat saga. It showed off like a thoroughbred in the winner’s circle.

Sarah suggested making it again in something thinner with more drape.

Another day. Another day.

Monday, December 28, 2009


In this year of craziness (mentally-disturbed neighbor, feline leg break, leaking toilets, leaking water heaters... need I go on?) there have also been many blessings. Among them, in no particular order:

No longer owning a house with sidewalks that must be shoveled during the worst snow storm in a decade. (Our last house was on a corner, so I had to shovel both the length of width of the property, plus drive.)

Having a garage, so the ice scraper hasn’t been put to use yet this year.

Having generous neighbors who invite us into their hearts and homes.

Belonging to a wonderful knit group with members who have a diverse set of interests and a sense of humor that fringes on scandalous.

Living in peace, as in a neighborhood without loud car stereos, neighbors blasting either mariachi music or karaoke or both. Where the most annoying sound is the sound of lawn crews maintaining properties up and down the street.

Birds, and lots of them, along with three bird feeders, five volumes of bird identification books, and a set of binoculars.

Having an interest and passion to learn, try new things, and not be afraid to fail.

Having a sense of humor when things do fail.

Access to excellent veterinary care, including two surgeons and two bone plates.

A patient cat who (ultimately) understood that he needed to be under our control and care, and gratefully accepted it.

And having that break happen during our quiet non-travel season when it was actually possible to oversee his recovery over weeks.

There’s more, but that’s a good start.

Caper saw his surgeon yesterday. He still has some healing to do, but he needs to use his leg more for those bones to know they need to heal. So the surgeon has okay-ed toys for two weeks, and for two weeks after that he can walk around the house with an escort. The fibula is healing nicely. It’s the tibia, or large bone, that still has work to do.

Because of Caper, the surgical center now stocks an intermediate size of bone plate. Since he had bent the smaller plate, we needed to go for something stronger. But the next size up was very large, and it’s doing all the support work for his leg right now. An intermediate size might have allowed more bone healing than we’ve seen. The intermediate size was one they’d been debating over cost vs need for quite awhile. Caper was the decider.

I think they should call that intermediate size “the Caper,” don’t you?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Super-Secret Revealed: E’s Baby Badazzled Bunting

I cast on November 22. I cast off December 25. I guess that makes this project both something to be thankful for, as well as a gift, doesn’t it?

This is the Knitted Quilt Stitch Bunting from Better Homes and Gardens Knitting & Crocheting ©1986. The book was a thrift store find, and given that many of the patterns are dated, (Shoulder pads much?) this is the first of its projects I’ve made. The bunting features a quilted stitch pattern, mittens, hood, raglan sleeves, expanded bottom and a zipper closure. The fabric is mainly stockinette, and the quilting technique is created by unraveling down 4 rows of every third stitch on the 6th and 12th rows, then knitting under.

Of course a pattern book this old probably calls for discontinued yarn, and this was no different. It originally called for Unger Roly Sport, and it only specifies the size of ball in ounces, and the number of balls. Yardage? Ha!

I did a google search, and found an ebay listing for a few vintage balls. Based on that the specs included it that listing, I determined that the Unger is an acrylic yarn, knits 6" to an inch, and has about 190 yards/skein. Armed with that information, and advice from MM at my LYS, I decided on Lanaloft Sports Weight in the Coastal Mist colorway. It knit to gauge on size 2s.

Directions for both newborn and 6 months are given. I knit the newborn size. For the most part I was amazed at how accurate and elegant the pattern was. On a twelve row repeat pattern, it’s astonishing that I hit the mark in terms of both pattern row and inches each and every time. And it utilized bind-offs to create tailoring landmarks for seaming.

The one mistake I found was in the set-up for the neck ribbing, which didn’t account for six live stitches. Once I determined the exact location of the mistake (my knitting vs their instruction - it turned out to be the instructions), I simply modified their increase/decrease instructions.

The sleeves on the bunting end in mittens that may be closed, or opened so that baby’s hands are exposed. The hood originally called for a drawstring closure, but I revised the pattern slightly to accommodate a piece of cinched elastic, thereby eliminating a potential strangulation hazard. Here’s how I did this:

The original pattern specified that I was to bind off 5 stitches at the beginning of two rows, then cast on 10 stitches at the end of the following rows. This would have created a cantilevered set of stitches out of which the drawstring could hang free. But if I were to do that with the elastic, it would have pulled the stitches upward as much as it would have pulled the top of the hood downward. The structural integrity of the piece would have been compromised.

Instead, I ignored the bind-off instructions, and only cast on 5 stitches. Those extra stitches are folded under and sewn to create a channel. Before I seamed that shut, I imprisoned the elastic in a stitch cage by sewing zig-zag across the width of the elastic with matching yarn, catching a knit stitch on one side, then crossing and picking up a knit stitch on the other. The ends of the elastic were secured with matching sewing thread.

Another smaller modification I made was substituting the ssk decrease whenever the pattern specified sl k psso.

This pattern is amazing, and the finished project is beautiful and highly functional. What it is not, is a quick knit. Nor is it a beginner project. Perhaps advanced intermediate, but it’s probably more accurate to say it’s advanced. It requires a significant quantity of shaping, sewing in a zipper, picking up stitches, and grafting.

It also requires a recipient who has the knowledge (and taste) to appreciate the end product.

For the record, I don’t recommend starting it two weeks before the baby’s due date. ’Cause it ain’t happenin’, folks! Even with my life-living-on-the-floor that Caper’s broken leg gave me, it has taken weeks and weeks and weeks of solid knitting.

Friday, December 25, 2009

48 Hours in Photos: Christmas Cancelled

Our crazy streak is continuing. You know, the crazy streak where we have thrown in the towel on plans? Here’s some snapshots taken in the last 48 hours.

Wednesday early afternoon, sitting in my car in the dentist’s parking lot debating whether to wait it out or make a dash for the entrance. After checking radar and seeing that several red cells are training, I opted for the dash.

Thursday late afternoon, my Christmas camels looking worried. That’s rain that froze to the glass. It’s been raining for hours, and the temps are below freezing. We opted to skip pizza in the country at the in-laws Christmas Eve.

Friday morning, a view of the sunken garden. Department of Transportation snow plows are getting stuck in the metro area. Thirty servings of roast are in the slow cooker, and a double batch of homemade cranberry relish is in the fridge. We opted to skip Christmas at my parents.

Snow is letting up, but the winds are vicious. I’ve got a drift outside the solarium that’s around 3 1/2' now, and growing about 4" an hour.

We’re as prepared as we can be. We did our Merry Christmas’ via phone, we’ve got plenty of food, a stack of rented movies, firewood, knitting galore (Super-secret came off the needles this morning) and a new bottle of Bailey’s.

Wishing all of you a wonderful, warm and safe holiday!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blog Weirdness

To all visitors have connected to my blog from the comment on Yarn Harlot’s post, that commenter was not me. Not that the commenter said anything unpleasant or racy. She just seems to have entered the wrong http address for her blog. That’s all. Sue is someone else entirely.

But thanks for stopping by, all the same.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Simply Good Food

I’ve been on a roll, of sorts. And it’s been delicious!

Trying to cook new food and new recipes is always a risk. But risk also comes with its reward. Here are a few recent rewards (sadly lacking suitable photos because it’s winter and the lighting in my kitchen is crap. Someday...):

Souvlaki is a Greek dish, and is essentially a marinated meat that is cooked on kebabs. I ran across a pre-packed souvlaki spice blend a few years ago while traveling for work, and pretty much forgot about it until I reorganized the cupboards a few months ago. I’m not sure how authentic the spice blend was (and the instructions were cryptic and incomplete), but the results were delicious nonetheless.

Instead of lamb, I used boneless pork loin cut into 1" cubes (chicken would have been a good substitute, too). The butchers at MFGS, or My Favorite Grocery Store, suggested that I go for the whole boneless pork loin instead of the loin in smaller packs. The bulk loin was on sale that week. Plus they informed me that it was these packages that they used to make the smaller packs. And once they went into the small packs the price went up $1/pound*. So I went for the bulk pack, and bought a butcher knife at Bed Bath & Beyond on the way home, because my old knife (part of a wood block set that was a wedding gift) is only good for stabbing now, and not cutting.

Not that I have any stabbing experience.

The bulk loin butchered up beautifully, and I ended up with 4 pounds of marinated souvlaki meat, 4 1" thick pork loin chops, and 2 pork loin roasts.

I skewered the souvlaki and green peppers up on bamboo, and cooked them in the oven on low broil for about half an hour. Grilling would have been my preference, but I have no grill. So oven it is. I wasn’t really watching the time, so my time estimate may be off. I knew it was done when the green peppers looked slightly singed.

Kebabs ready to go into the oven

These kebabs were served with a dollop of tzatziki dip. DEE-licious!

My most recent cookbook purchase is Gourmet. So far I’m thrilled with the purchase. I decided to try one recipe a week for a few months, starting with recipes at the front, and working my way back. The first one to catch my eye was White Bean and Tuscan Kale Soup with Chestnuts. Since we have a source of fresh chestnuts this time of year, I roasted fresh ones instead of using canned.

As with most soups I love, this one is easy to prepare, yet has flavor profiles that are exceedingly complex. The use of the hard rind of a wedge of parmigiano-reggiano cheese to supplement the stock was inspired, and it’s a trick I will remember for a long time. The rind is removed from the stock before serving.

I also substituted red kale for Tuscan, as Tuscan is unavailable locally, but the red and regular were.

I garnished the soup with chopped chestnuts and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and served it with a thick slice of artisan bread.

Gourmet rocks!

Now that we are thickly in the holidays, and refrigerator/freezer space is at a premium—as is my time—I’ll be taking a break from cooking new foods for a few days. But I can’t wait to scour my cookbooks in search of new adventures for the new year!

*I had noticed another shopper nearby as the butchers and I spoke. She trotted alongside us down to the bulk display, and started poking at the packages of meat. When the butchers left she said to me, “this is what I was looking for, too. My family loves it. They’ll eat it all up in no time! What are you making?”

I hesitated a moment. Do I say it? Do I make something up? Or do I skirt the answer? Oh, what the hell. “Souvlaki.”

She stared at me for several seconds. “Oh, I’m just making roast...”

I’m sure that was good, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blink, Blink; or the continuing saga of my mother and Meyer lemons

She called a few days ago to let me know she’d spotted Meyer lemons at her local store. Remembering our conversation, she bought a bag at $3.50/pound (significantly more than I paid at my favorite grocery) and took it home.

She could not recall what I said Meyers were a cross of, but she remembered it had been something really good. She couldn’t wait any longer. She sliced off a chunk and took a bite.

Her, retelling me later: Eeewwwww! (making puckery sounds) It’s a lemon!

Me: Yes, it’s a lemon. But it’s not as acidic as a regular lemon.

Her: Oh, no. It’s acidic! It’s a lemon!

Me: Well, do you want a recipe that will highlight the Meyer? Maybe Meyer lemon and chicken?

Her: No. I’ll just use it for my tea.

Two thoughts. “What a waste,” and “I’m not surprised in the least.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So Close, Yet so Far

After much glowing about the wondrous perfection of the Super-secret pattern, I ran head-first into a brick wall of undocumented errata. With everything else going on in my life, that obstacle cost me a delay of over 24 hours knitting time.

The carpet installers are coming tomorrow morning to re-stretch the carpet in my craft room after the water heater failed and soaked the carpet and pad. And it occurred to me that since all the furniture had to be moved out of that room to allow them to do their job, that we might as well leave it empty for the remainder of Caper’s recuperation time. This will allow him to roam the room freely, without worry of him jumping on something and re-injuring his leg. It is just another week, after all. Assuming that he cleared by his surgeon, that is.

This means that the slasher room will be a dedicated recovery room. That also means my dining room will become a dining room “slash” craft room. Except there is no “slash” because it’s so packed with shelves, loom, sewing machine, etc. that it is usable for neither dining nor storage.

Prior to this big furniture move, I have been working my butt off on the knitter’s coat. There have been a few slow-downs, like when my assistant (pictured below) because less of an aid and more of an obstruction.

I spent most of Saturday sewing, but still had a long way to go when I stopped for the night. So I got up at 2:30 a.m. to figure out how and why the knitting pattern was wrong, and then launched right into sewing.

By 2 p.m. Sunday most of the coat was done, with the exception of sleeve facing, and fixing a few bad seams. The fabric is so thick, that I don’t easily recognize that the presser foot isn’t down. And when the presser foot isn’t down, then the machine forms large loopy stitches on the underside. I don’t know why, but it does. All these will have to wait. The time for sewing machine work is over, and it’s full speed ahead on the homestretch of Super-secret.

Right after I finishing moving.

And have a beer.

And a nap.

Not necessarily in that order.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Meyer Lemon Success Story

As last reported, after discovering Meyer lemons at the local grocer, I started hunting for a recipe that would make the most of its unique characteristics. I decided on a Meyer lemon and clementine margarita, since both these ingredients can only be found at this time of year.

Of course, nothing is ever easy or straightforward in this household, and choosing that recipe turned out to be the easy bit. There was shopping to do.

  • Meyer lemons
  • Clementines
  • Triple sec
  • Agave nectar
  • Reamer or juicer
  • Cocktail shaker, and
  • Suitable glasses

In other words, pretty much everything. Turns out the only parts of this that I had on hand were the tequila, kosher salt and a jigger.

The result was both refreshing, and extremely potent. One glass will do ya’, and no driving afterward.

Later that evening I tried out another new-to-me recipe for roast smashed potatoes that I’d been dreaming about for months. At the same time that these went into the oven, I put in a roasting pan of frozen salmon filets drizzled with lemon juice. They came out of the oven at the same time. I served the salmon with dab of tzatziki, which is a Greek cucumber yogurt normally served on gyros. DEE-licious! A delightfully different meal, yet incredibly simple in its ingredients and preparation.

For any of my local peeps wishing to try their hand at any of these, the tzatziki came from the local specialty grocer where you would expect to find Greek foods. The agave nectar is where we have our knit group. I got the kickin’ cocktail shaker and glasses at World Market. The glasses were even on sale.

Later, I called my mother to let her know I’d found the Meyer lemons. You’ll recall I had a hilarious and disturbing conversation with her about “Meyers” a few days ago.

Her: Are you going to make pie?

Me: [...] No, key lime pie uses key limes...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Food Research

I’ve recently stumbled across multiple references to “Meyer” lemons, most recently in this recipe for lemon and cranberry scones, and on the final challenge of Top Chef when they opened their mystery ingredient box and one of the chef’s proclaimed “Meyer lemons!” Huh?

This has got me pondering lemons. I mean, I have never in my entire time on this earth seen a produce display of lemons that specified its specific variety. Oranges? Sure. Apples? OMG, yes! Lemons? Never.

Since these recipes specified Meyers, I guessed that the Meyer’s have different flavor characteristics than the usual kind. From what I glimpsed in the chef’s box, they looked basically like a regular lemon. Yet there must be something striking about their appearance for a chef to instantly recognize it.

I finally remembered to look them up at a time when it was actually convenient (this usually never happens) and found this wonderful description.

The fact that it doesn’t ship well, and I don’t live anywhere near a citrus growing region, explains why I’ve never seen one. And now that I understand how it compares to regular lemons, I’ll have a better idea how to adjust a recipe, or simply abandon it.

Feeling victorious in my new-found knowledge (I’d been pondering Meyers for about four months—no kidding) I called my non-internet-savvy mother to tell her about Meyers.

Me: Have you heard of Meyer lemons?

Her: Oh yes. They’re really small and green, and really expensive. It takes a lot of them to get a cup of juice.

Me: [...] no. I don’t think they’re green. Maybe the ones that aren’t ripe. And they aren’t small. They’re big and yellow, pretty much like a regular lemon. I’m pretty sure.

Her: Bill took us to a Bed & Breakfast where they served a key lime pie made with Meyer lemons.

Me: [...]

Her: Oh. Maybe those were key limes.

Maybe they were.

Then this morning...

I was doing my usual shopping at my favorite grocery store (my local peeps will know which one, especially when I remind them that shopping is a bit of a game for me), and was setting up one of my award-winning grab shots of lemons for the blog, when I spotted this:

Yep, those are Meyer lemons in fancy mesh bag. From what I gather, they don’t stock them very often. They try them out occasionally when people ask for them, but the local market hasn’t boarded the Meyer lemon train yet. Probably because we didn’t know that train existed.

I’ve already made the scone recipe (link above), and have more in the freezer. But now that I have access to them, I definitely see an afternoon of Meyer lemon recipe research ahead today!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh for a Crafting Laxative

Boy do I feel constipated. Crafting-wise, that is.

First there was the dual cat incident which necessitated 8 weeks of intensive recovery oversight. That pretty much threw everything out the window work-wise except for limited crafting things. Easier to do those because his recovery room was also the crafting room.

Then the water heater failed, soaking the craft room carpet. Emptying the bookcase, moving furniture, and rolling back the carpet to dry it and the pad pretty successfully trashed what had remained of my craft room and my crafting ability.

Now that the carpet and pad have been dried, I am semi-patiently awaiting a carpet installation crew to re-stretch the carpet in that room. (And while they’re at it, I’ll have them expose the heating duct in our office wing that the previous owner’s dumb-ass installation crew carpeted over.) So not only can I not yet put my craft room back together, but I also have to completely empty the room of all furnishings for them to be able to stretch and tack the carpet down again. That appointment is Monday morning. A looong way off in terms of loss of crafting hours.

Ever in the pursuit of making lemonades out of lemons, I have temporarily moved my sewing center to the dining room. This is actually excellent. First, the winter light in that room is fantastic. Second, the dining table is wider than my hollow core door/sewing table, which is perfect for handling the ginormously large fabric that is becoming the perfect knitter’s coat.

And Caper actually asks... nay... demands... to be left alone in his crate to sleep for long stretches. Apparently bones healing take a lot out of a guy.

Before the water heater broke, I had been within 48 hours of warping my loom. This is something that I have been thinking about and attempting unsuccessfully off and on for the past 15 years. The water heater and the subsequent disaster that became my craft room dashed those dreams. But this is actually a good thing. Because had I warped the loom before the water heater had broken, I would have had to cut the warp out in order to move it out of the craft room so the carpet could be re-installed. Not having to cut the warp is a good thing.

Work has finally started to progress on the Super-surprise. For some reason, sleeve #1 was a chore. I kept screwing up and having to frog back. Or I was moving ahead successfully, but at a molasses-in-January pace. Now that I’m on sleeve #2, I’m moving ahead at a more reasonable rate. In fact, there’s an outside chance that I’ll get to the underarm bit by the end of the day today, leaving raglan decreases for Thursday/Friday. Assuming I finish Friday, then Saturday will be seaming day (lots of that to do), and Sunday I can pick up the neck stitches and make the hood. Adding in blocking time... Christmas Eve, perhaps?

That week I'll:

  • Get my craft room/recovery room back,
  • Get my permanent crown,
  • and the following Monday Caper gets what we hope will be the films of his broken leg proving that he is fully and successfully healed, and can be released to run freely in the house with the rest of my crew. And I’ll get a 100% dedicated craft room again.

Joy to the World!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In the News

File this one under “O.M.G.”!

I adore BBC. They provide a lively mix of solid and light news. The perfect 5 minute break from crafting, which in this case is cutting out thick wool fabric for the perfect knitter’s coat. More on that later.

(I say that a lot, don’t I?)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Beginning of a Trend?

I’ve heard of this happening to other knitters, but I gotta say this is a first for me. Actually, a first and a second in the span of a single month. Two separate people have inquired about me knitting/crocheting something for hire.

We all know this is simply not going to happen. I do not have the time to finish my own knit-stuff, so I’m certainly not going to drain that time well even further to craft for strangers. Plus my time is worth a lot more than can be recouped with a knitting paycheck.

News of the first request came via my eldest sister via a phone call, during which she was laughing so hard I had a difficult time understanding her. You recall I knit her the mis-matched socks for her birthday at her request?

Seems she’s been showing them off around the university where she works. Perhaps she’s been selling my mad knit skills a bit too much, because a co-worker approached her asking how much I would charge to crochet a lady bug blanket for a 14-year-old girl.

I know what you’re thinking. I knit. I don’t crochet. Yet.

My sister turned her down for me, and tried to suggest that she make the lady bug out of thermal fleece that the woman herself would be able to sew. That suggestion was rejected soundly because she had it in her head that it needed to be crocheted. My sister raised an excellent point: that a 14-year-old girl would likely lose interest in a lady-bug anything in about a year anyway.

Too bad, so sad. Onward.

The second incident came yesterday while I was checking out at the grocery store. The temps were in the single digits, so I was wearing my Viking sweater.

The cashier couldn’t seem to take her eyes off my sweater. She complimented me multiple times, and when she found out that I had made it, she asked how much I sell them* for.

(*I particularly love her use of the plural, as though I crank these out all the time.)

Um... let’s see. The wool alone probably cost me $60. And according to my Ravelry project page, it took me 5 months to complete from start to finish. How much do I sell them for?

I took a deep breath, smiled broadly, and replied, “it’s priceless.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sears and their “Ideal” Customer

I was hanging out in the merchandise pick-up area of my local Sears, waiting for the staff to first locate my repaired mower, and then the paperwork for said mower. Neither was easy, it seems. So I had time to study two identical over-sized posters hanging on the wall.

Notice anything odd about her? Look at it again. I’ll give you a hint: breathing’s got to be a chore!

Yep! That’s right! The ginger-haired girl has no nostrils. Apparently someone at corporate thought her nostrils were offensive. I mean, I assume that in real life she’s got nostrils, right? A few minutes of work in Photoshop and zip bam boo — no whiff of those nasty nostrils left.

I’ve heard of this with dog food companies. They love to airbrush out the boy bits. But nostrils? Isn’t that going a bit too far? What’s next? Ear canals?

If only the Visitors on “V” were also nostril-less. It would make “picking them” out in a crowd infinitely easier.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Plan Z, or Adding Another “Slash” to my Life

We seem to be living a long stretch of curve balls. At 6 a.m. Wednesday the day was forecasted pretty much as every Day-Living-on-the-Floor is (knitting, pondering the broken loom, knitting, Judge Judy) with the exception of a planned lunch outing with the very pregnant French woman for chit-chat and the offering of BSJ #2. At 6:30 a.m., I started to walk out of the craft room on my bare feet to retrieve some loom parts I’d buffed corrosion off of the day before, when my bare toes hit cold water.

The wall-to-wall carpet was in fact soaked.

The Michael’s assistance, and me holding Caper’s lead so he didn’t wander, we were able to identify the source of the leak as the water heater in an adjacent room. Crap! According to the date on the old appliance, it was installed in February, 2001. Almost nine years? That’s all? And of course it failed when the outside temps had plummeted to the teens, with wind chills in the negative territory. Which meant that plumbers were quite busy without my mess fixing frozen pipes.

I had cast on for the first Super-secret sleeve, but very little was accomplished other than that. I had held in my mind that maybe, maybe I could get both sleeves finished on Wednesday, and that maybe, maybe I could complete the finishing and soak it to be ready at a gift-giving moment’s notice by Saturday. “Had” was the operative word, that is. All that went straight out the window.

One of the items I had intended to work on during my-life-living-on-the-floor was to organize the books in my bookcase thematically, so that my crochet books would all be in one section, knitting in another, etc. When I unpacked after the move, I pretty much threw everything up willy-nilly. The good news is that I had not done this yet. And I say “good,” because that bookcase was standing on the now-soaked carpet. Everything had to come off, and the bookcase disassembled and moved outside the room.

Poor Caper. He’s about to disappear amongst all my crap. So much for a cat-proof room.

Poor me. No sewing or anything else craft is possible within this room now until the carpet and pad are dried and re-stretched.

We went to a flooring dealer this morning to get advice for pulling the affected corner of carpet up. (If we didn’t, the pad would likely mold.) At the same time we arranged a time when they could come to re-stretch the carpet. Just as Wednesday was a really bad day to need a plumber, the weeks preceding Christmas are a really bad time to need a carpet installer. It seems that the winter holidays are a time when many people launch their new floors. Today is Thursday. An estimator will come out Monday to measure and set up an appointment with an installer. That will be a week from today at the earliest.

Until then, my craft room is a craft room “slash” cat rehab room “slash” jumbled house disaster remodel mess.

Dear Santa:

For Christmas this year, I would love to have a few less slashes in my life. In exchange, I would be happy to knit you a Nordic sweater in your favorite colors (red and white, right?), and some matching sweaters for your two lead reindeer to help combat the bitter temperatures at altitude that have worsened due to the effects of global warming. I’m of two minds whether I should knit them out of woolen yarns for their warmth, or worsted for their durability (or is it the other way around??), so please let me know your preference.

Thank you!

Your friend,

-Sally, the Fearless Travel Writing Knitter

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pre-Storm Pet Care

We’re braced for 6-9" of snow. I plan to spend significant parts of the day parked in front of the picture window watching cars slide out of control on our steep hill. Knitting will be in my hands, of course!

We had some miscellaneous vet stuff to take care of, and fortunately I’d scheduled the bulk of it the day before the weather hit. It meant two trips to our old town in a single day, but T-Bone is now boasting clean teeth. One less than she had in her mouth before the appointment, but that’s why we made the appointment, right? The order to yank came after the vet reported she that one of the gums had receded to the point that she could stick a probe beneath one molar, and it went all the way to the other side. Yes, a round of antibiotics might have helped, but she’s just come off two rounds. Another round would likely do nothing. And she was out and on the table. Yang away! Caper finally got his vaccinations caught up. They had been due in November when all hell broke loose. He behaved quite remarkably during the shots. Normally he kicks like a rabbit requiring the vet to deliver the shot in his ass. He seems to finally understand that he is injured, so she was able to deliver the shot between the shoulder blades like a normal cat.

T-Bone had a rough time waking up from the anesthesia, so we housed her in the craft room along with Caper, though she was able to wander at will, while he was crated. The poor thing started to wander around, then would stumble and fall over. Allowing her the freedom of the whole house to attempt to jump on top of her condo, or God forbid the wet bar, was totally out of the question.

I’d pretty much written off the day ahead of time, but I was glad to get the back of Super-secret completed, and get a start on the left front. The raglan decreases made it go a lot faster than it would have otherwise.

Tuesday’s afternoon sleet was worrying to Caper, but together, and while watching the new Harry Potter, we managed to complete the both the left and right fronts of Super-secret. Now to cast on for sleeves.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Weekend of all Weekends

Given my last couple of weeks, this was a long time a comin’. We spent an hour or so watching a 100% horse-powered Christmas parade. Then spent several hours afterward at our best neighbor’s house hanging out with their family and friends. These are people we love, and it was hard to leave and hard for them to let us leave, even though we were the last ones out the door.

We got to meet one of our other neighbors. When he realized which house was ours, he said that every time he drives past, he means to bring us flowers. Such was the appalling condition of our house for so many years prior to our purchase, and the obvious positive nature of our ownership. I can use all the neighbor love I can get. I told him the next time I need a boost of energy, I’ll knock on his door so he can tell us how great the house looks again.

During a brief break from the parade goings-on, I popped into my LYS to show “MM” how the super-secret project was knitting up (she’s the one who helped me with my yarn purchase), and also show her how to make the stitch. I was within a stone’s throw, or maybe two repeats, of being to the armhole. Things will have the appearance of moving faster once I reach that point, although appearances can be deceiving.

By late Sunday afternoon I reached that pivot point. The fronts are now on holders. Can I get the back finished Monday? Highly unlikely, given that a significant amount of Monday will be taken up by veterinary visits. Yes, that’s plural. T-Bone’s check-up last month indicated that she needs her teeth cleaned. She gets dropped off in the early morning, and won’t be ready to pick up until mid-afternoon. When we pick her up, we’ll also bring along Mr. BonePlate aka Caper so he can get his annual vaccinations. Those were also due last month, but everything went wonky with him in November, so we’re running a bit late with him. I’m hoping that come January we’ll be done with dentist and doctor visits, and things can return to a sort of normalcy around here.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Craptastic Morning Ending in a Tableau

Three hours of my morning were spent in the dental chair. Not fun! But there were two highlights.

First, I brought along the finished BSJ #2. I’d had about ten rows done on it during my first visit a few weeks ago, so they were anxious to see the result. It showed off well.

Second, I had a tremendous amount of knitting time on super-secret whilst I waited for the Novocaine to kick in. It took so long, in fact, that they canceled the appointment after mine.

My first stop in town was my parent’s house where I arrived sufficiently early to extract the final items needed to complete my Christmas tree set-up.

These are paper mache figures of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Santa is currently warming his buns in front of a glitter-white paper mache wood stove.

I know! A combination of tacky and super-cool! That’s so me!

These figures were originally store window displays for Stanley’s, a florist shop in my former town. My mother estimated they are from the ’50s, but I think they look more like Depression-era characters. My uncle sourced them and gave them to her around 1960. They are my strongest Christmas memory from childhood save the one where my mother made me climb under the tree to unplug the lights (as she always did) and a branch whipped backward scratching my cornea, spurring a night in the ER and threats of having to wear an eye patch to grade school for the rest of the holiday season.

Time and attic storage has not been terribly kind to Santa and the Mrs. He has a broken arm. Their hair needs a touch-up. Their clothing is stained. Oh goody! I needed a new project!

Caper and I are branching out. This afternoon we spent an hour soaking up the sun in the solarium. That cat was in heaven, and I was grateful for the opportunity to sit in a non-dental chair and ponder non-dental thoughts.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Hint in a Patch of Sunlight

See that object just to the left edge of the image? Yep. Super-secret.

I had a major breakthrough on that project this morning that actually knocked two weeks off my projected completion schedule. How you ask? I read the instructions. From that I realized that I have been knitting both the front and the back of the piece. In other words, the two weeks that are required to complete what I thought was the back, and then another two on the front, are only two, period.

Then I’ll need another two-three weeks to do sleeves and such.

But still, a major victory for the team-living-on-the-floor, if you ask me.