Friday, March 26, 2010

Small Miracles - a Finished Object(let) Take 2

This has been a winter of frustrations on all fronts. Not to beat a dead horse, but there was the cat situation (ka-ching/major inconvenience) and the plumbing situations (ka-ching/major inconvenience) and the Radha thing. Radha being the shrug I am making out of mostly 2x2 ribbing. Miles of it. In yarn of a completely different gauge than the pattern called for (but not a problem because I simply did the math over), and out of three separate purchases of this yarn that I am unable to source locally - and out of completely different dye lots. That’s where the true problem lay, because one skein in particular stood out from the pack as being different.

To the point that I tried cutting out the offending segment, and re-knitting it with a blend of two skeins. But you know what? grafting 2x2 ribbing is like impossible, so I frogged the whole thing back to that point (which was near the beginning) and began knitting the whole thing again.

A few days ago I admitted to a friend that I was sick, absolutely sick of this project. I had two entire repeats to do, and on days when I’m concentrating on knitting this project I can get 1/4 repeat done in a day. Frankly the thought of knitting on this for eight more days kinda made me me want to barf.

All this going on while I was suffering from a major computer breakdown that portended the loss of an entire year’s worth of work.

Apparently I had no idea just how powerful a work weapon being truly sick of something is. Because while I waited for a shipment from tech support, I rented three movies and began a marathon of Big Love Season 1.

Two freaking days later, I’m back to the point I was when I frogged the thing. This means that work from this point forward is new work. And that is exciting as hell!

Here’s the before:

And the after:

Not perfect, but certainly more evenly blended.

It’s bound off, so now I just need to seam the ends together to form a cone. Then I get to start on sleeves!! Yay me!

Oh, and the computer thing? The part arrived, it was the correct part (finally), and it fixed the problem. Double and triple yays!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Me Week: The Final Laps

When the history of this great Me Week is written, large tracts will be devoted to computer woes. As in I may very well have lost an entire year’s worth of work due to a dying external hard drive - woes. I am working with tech support, and they are sending me a part that may solve my issue. But this is the second such part that they’ve sent (the first had the wrong pin configuration for the power supply cord), and it took five business days for that wrong part to arrive. The new part should be shipped today, which means I potentially won’t know until Friday at the earliest whether I’m totally screwed or simply was forced to take a vacation from the work that I was already behind on before the forced vacation.

Even though I’m doing everything I possibly can as fast as I can, there have still been entire days when my head, ear and neck muscles have clamped down tighter than the seal on vacuum-packed pickles.

Caper is sympathetic.

So I’ve turned my attention to other things. Don’t bother trying to make sense of this picture. The whys and what-fors will have to wait until it’s an F.O.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring? What Spring?!

Isn’t what usually the picture that comes to mind for the first day of spring, is it?

And on a completely different topic, I’ve been getting the most hilarious spam comments. One of the most recent ones was commenting on this post about the woes of contracting food poisoning while traveling. That is to say, that I don’t recommend that experience at all. Some idiot spammer tried to sneak through a comment stating that he apologized, but that in his opinion I'm not right, and that he can defend his position. Then requested that I PM him so that we could talk.

Yeah, right. In your dreams, buddy!

Don’t bother tracking down the comment. I have so rejected it, along with the links to test blogs and Viagra sales information.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yet Another Reason to be Excited about the Upcoming Opening of the Farmer’s Market:

An all vegie orchestra!!

Love them all, but the yellow pepper horn is my favorite.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Fling

Thoroughly in the midst of the multi-family garage sale. Exhausted, but there’s just one more day, so I’m in the homestretch.

The sale was moved up 24 hours due to a forecasted return of winter. But that’s about 36 more hours off. Today we saw sun, which worked beautifully to show off all the razz and ma-tazz of dress-up play by the generation two down.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Finished Objects

If there is a theme to this particular Me Week, I supposed it would be “unsticking” things. So many of my projects are “stuck” at painfully difficult points, or points that require more thinking and attention than I usually have. It would be a joy to have one or more of these projects push past those points back to the fun zone. Not necessarily finish projects. Just navigate them through the orange barrel zone.

Which is why I found myself enrolling at the 11th hour in a beginning weaving class at Yarn Barn in Lawrence. I learned so much, and the owner (the beautiful and gracious Susan Bateman) talked me through my loom at home. You know, the loom I’ve been trying off and on to set up for about 15 years? Yeah. Tall order indeed.

At any rate, I worked hard and learned a ton over the weekend, then nipped in this morning to finish up:

This sampler represents three distinct weaving patterns. The left third and right third sections are threaded through the heddles in a twill pattern. The middle is rosepath. When I treadled, the first section is on twill, then rosepath, then tabby, then honeysuckle, and concludes in twill. I used three colors of cotton for the warp, but used only a single color (toast) for the weft.

A few months ago I realized that I was very close to being finished with the second of my window pane pillows. As soon as I could gain access to my spinning wheel (remember the November-February craft room disaster a lá Caper’s broken leg and the leaking water heater) I finished spinning the singles for that project, plied them, and set the twist. Of course that stage concluded at about the point I was knee-deep in the new winter quilt piecing. Once the quilt got to a pausing point, I rethreaded the sewing machine and went at it. I started cutting out the fabric on Friday afternoon, and continued to work on it in little bites over the weekend before class. By Monday afternoon it was stuffed and sewn closed:

If only everything was as easy!

Now for two moments of spring...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Taste

This is a glimpse of what I was doing all day today:

And just heard a report from the maternal front on how well the soup (what I call my soup—though it isn’t really. Not my recipe. Not my cooking. At least not today’s version.) fared.

Very very well indeed!

From various accounts, plates and platters—and even saucepans—were licked clean. The professional caterer at the event has demanded a copy of the recipe, a duplicate of which has already been made and will be given at church tomorrow.

I would call that a success. Worth the effort of me sourcing the individual habañeros for her at a real grocery store (BTW, she confessed that she went to the Kroger chain store a few days later and found they were selling singles also. HyVee schmyvee!) It was also worth me putting the final step of adding whipping cream in all caps so she wouldn’t forget - again.

Don’t forget to change your clocks tonight!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Casting On for Me Week(s)

And so it begins...

Me Week is a magical place where all things are possible. Like my search this afternoon for this modest item:

led to enrollment in a weekend-long weaving class.

This was a detour from my original plans, which involved me using that ancient Kerr book you see pictured above.

By the looks of things, it’s going to be a wild ride!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Actual Blooms

Anticipated, but shocking just the same.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Finished Object, Only 16 Years Start to Finish

At this point, I don’t know whether I should be embarrassed or proud. Embarrassed that I was about an hour away from finishing a new vest sixteen years ago when “life got in the way” and I put the nearly-finished-vest away. Or proud that I managed to keep all the parts and pieces together.

While packing for the move in 2008, I ran across this in the deepest, darkest part of my closet:

See that Ziplock bag safety-pinned to the hanger? Inside I found this:

Yep. The directions, buttons... even the thread. This was the only step left:

Sewing two buttonholes and attaching two buttons (one with a back button for extra strength). That’s it.

I was planning to finish this project as well as several other simple-yet-lingering projects during Me Week(s), but an event came up at the last minute, and I wanted to wear something that didn’t look like a Kohl’s special.

Admittedly the fit isn’t the same as it would have been sixteen years ago, but we don’t live in the same world we lived in 16 years ago, either.
I Know a Line When I Hear One

You see these?

Those are two habañero peppers. Nothing extraordinary, right? These two babies are destined to be added to a double batch of my all-time favorite soup recipe that my mother is making for an upcoming church function.

The question you might well ask yourself is why do I have the peppers? That’s a very good question. I have the peppers because I had to buy them for her. Seems she doesn’t live in a town with a real grocery store. She lives in a town with Hy-Vees, and Kroger chains. Where she lives, these “grocery” stores only sell habañero peppers in bulk packages. Why on earth do produce departments sell habañero peppers in bulk? Every recipe I know of only requires one, or maybe two, of these hot gems. So buying a bulk package is a waste of both money and food.

According to my mother, the Hy-Vee* in her town used to sell habañeros in singles, but the last time she was there shopping for her soup, she saw that they had switched to bulk packages. And when she asked a clerk about it, he told her it was because there’s a habañero shortage. That is a line of BS if I ever heard one. I mean, if there were an actual shortage, it would make zero sense to force people to buy ten times the amount they needed. Rationing perhaps, but certainly not a switch to bulk buying.

No. This smacks of a purely profit-based decision by some yahoo at Hy-Vee corporate central. The profit margin on an individually-sold habañero would be nominal, plus selling them singly means increased handling. So (I’m interpolating heavily) to improve the profit margin, Hy-Vee is selling them in large lots that have a much larger profit margin and less handling.

I’m not even going to delve into the fact that the employees of Hy-vee are essentially lying to their customers.

When my mother told me her woes, I delivered my knee-jerk eye roll, and assured her that I could get single habañeros at my real grocery store with no problem. (Photographic proof of my success above.)

My disappointment with Hy-Vee isn’t new. It’s merely a continuation of the chain of proof that they are really a fast-food-restaurant in the making. So it doesn’t offend me. I’m way past that.

What does offend me is that—in reaction to her pepper expense/fixed income woes—my mother very nearly attempted that recipe with a jalapeno pepper instead, which would have totally ruined it. And it’s the recipe** she got from me because I have raved about it so much. Now that I find truly offensive.

*The Kroger chain also only sells them that way, as did a third store.

**Bogota Four Potato Chowder with Chicken from The Daily Soup Cookbook.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Last of the Lost

I find the act of moving from one house to another to be exciting, but also unsettling. No doubt that the very act of packing, hauling, and unpacking is sweaty, pizza-and-beer-inhaling hard work. But for me, it’s the “where is...” that has followed all of our moves, that bothers me the most.

When we moved from our apartment to our old home 20+ years ago, the legs of our drafting table never surfaced. I suspect that in the 11th hour, panicked move with loads of helpers who were, well, not very helpful, had a lot to do with that. (We were buying our first home, and closing was delayed until the last day of our apartment lease.)

Yes, this time around we had a lot more time to make this move happen, but we also had a thousand times more stuff. Plus, we were moving out of two locations and into a third. The fact that we were renovating, moving, traveling, and simultaneously working on several major client projects, complicated our move even more.

But this weekend, I think I finally hit that point where I feel settled. Still a lot to be done, sure. But I have finally found the last of the missing items. These are:

The mortar and pestle. It’s one I scammed off my mother because a) as an adult I actually use it for grinding spices in my cooking, and b) I have many fond memories as a child using it to grind up M&M’s.

The juicer. This would have made life so much easier when making our clementine margaritas a few months ago. Certainly wouldn’t have scarred the palm of my hand with an out-of-control reamer. This will come in extra handy when we make Michael’s batch of blood orange Hefeweizen upon his return to the United States.

The canning funnel. I haven’t had a chance to can in a few years, but this spring I hope to marmalade will be the first of an entire season’s worth of canned seasonal food. (The funnel allows me to fill the sterilized canning jars without getting food on the rim, which would ruin the seal.) These don’t cost much and are fairly easy to source, but I like the beaten look of this one that I bought at a flea market.

The wing nut to my grandmother’s hand-crank meat grinder. I thought for sure this was lost forever due to its size and the ease with which it could have ended up in the trash. Not an off-the-shelf item, and without, the grinder is pretty much useless.

The juicer, and mortar and pestle finally surfaced during our post-bookcase/pre-garage sale purge and unpack. They were in generically-labeled boxes such as “Kitchen-Fragile”. I blame this on moving from a home with loads of pantry/cabinet space, to one with minimal cabinets. Many similarly labeled boxes remain in the basement, but at least I’ve opened each and every one.

As for the wing nut and funnel, I accidentally found them thanks to tonight’s dinner. You see, in the first wave of unpacking, I had put some of my canning supplies on shelves in the garage. Among these is my chinois and pestle, which I need to make tonight’s dinner: potato, leek & rocket soup. (It’s a British book. Rocket is arugula on this side of the pond.) According to the book, I should not use a food processor or blender to pulverize the potato because it will make it gluey. Hmmm. Good thing to remember for in the future... But it occurred to me that the chinois might do a very nice job. When I pulled it down to give it a good wash, I found the funnel and wing nut nestled inside. The funnel sort of makes sense because it’s also a canning item. As for the wing nut, I must have decided that was the safest place for it to be during the move.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Signs of Spring

Snow melt, chevrons of geese flying north,

and blossoms. In this case, the blossoms are of Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane', a cultivar of Witch Hazel. The bees (!) were ecstatic to find them.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Re-Invention of Me Week

I have always looked forward to Me Week with the same enthusiasm as others might look forward to a week lounging on a Caribbean beach. And the Week is always preceded by copious amounts of planning and list making. But when making the airport run at the conclusion of Me Week, I invariably muse about the lost time and lost lounging opportunities. Me Week is abruptly over and I’ve only made small dents in a thing or two (almost always house or work-related) with minimal nods to the “Me” part of Me Week. Me Weeks in the past have been spent, for example, painting a fence (and calling authorities after witnessing a neighbor’s home being burglarized), scraping popcorn off nearly every ceiling in our new home (do not regret, because it was the only thing that made it possible to move and get our old house on the market and sold by the end of 2008), finishing production on a season’s worth of vidcasts (do not regret, because Caper’s leg put me behind, but I still had vidcast episodes in the can that I could upload during my brief excursions into the greater world), and making new windows for our solarium (which I also don’t regret because if those new windows hadn’t been in place before winter set in, we’d have had actual snow drifts in our solarium from the multiple blizzards of Winter ’09-’10). In every case, I’m glad that I got the work done. (Even if the neighbors didn’t bother to thank me after police found their television a few alley’s away. But not a surprise really, since the next door neighbor didn’t thank me for noticing her home was on fire before it became a structural issue or killed her pets. Not that I’m bitter or anything.)

But still, I pant through the week obsessing over my lists, instead of soaking up the Me Week moments.

This time will be different.

I hope.

First, I have printed out a calendar of Me Week, and have carefully blocked out the days that will be lost to the garage sale and airport runs. That only leaves thirteen days. Not a lot, really.

Next, I am attempting to swamp my outlook from “by the end of Me Week I want to have accomplished,” to “this is how I would like to spend my time.” A small difference in wording, but a seismic shift in attitude. I’m still making lists, but whether or not I actually finish any of the things on my list doesn’t matter, so it will be much easier to justify reading and lounging time.

One example of something I’d like to spend more time “doing” during Me Week.

Ironically, this article about list-making popped up on BBC. I think Bluemner’s lists of lists is absolutely genius, and an inspiration for my own list-making obsession.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Even More Better

I love it when we can convert large useless items into needed objects—especially when it is cheap and quick. Double love!!

The problem child was this 10 gallon stoneware crown crock that would have originally been used to make sauerkraut. But we have no burning sauerkraut need—especially not 10 gallons of sauerkraut—and the crock is both massively large and massively heavy. Perhaps a pot for plants? No drainage hole, so not so much.

The mystery about what to do with the pot was answered when I realized we could convert into a side table for our solarium. Sourcing the top was easy. Lowe’s carries edge glued round panels in a range of diameters. We chose a 24" round, which ran about $16 or so.

The most difficult step was finding the center point. I tried a few methodologies (in other words, trial and error) before my prehistoric drafting skills finally kicked in. Use a compass, setting the point along the edge of the circle on one side, and extending the other point about 3/4 of the way across, draw an arc. Do the same from the opposite edge. Then take a straight edge and draw a line through the two points where the arcs intersect. That line travels through the center of the circle. Then it’s easy enough to find the middle of that line, and Bob’s your uncle, you’ve found the center point to the circle.

With the center point located, I marked a 6 1/2" radius (the inside dimension of the pot is 13"), then took some scrap lumber (bookcases, anyone?) and attached them to the underside of the tabletop using 1 1/4" screws.

It fit. And more importantly, my gazebo looks kick-ass on it. Here’s a better look:

This was one of my grandmother’s prized possessions, and recently came to me during a pre-will-drafting bequest-request-fest at my mother’s house, who it had already passed down to after my Grandmother died. Seems my mother was tired of dusting it (not that she did that often or ever), so she gave it to me early. Metal artist Ron Hagerty had welded it for my grandmother as a commissioned piece, patterned after a gazebo she fell in love with at Cave Creek. Not certain where Cave Creek is, but there you go. This happens to be the second piece of Ron’s work I own.

The first was a piece he gave me one summer during a visit to my uncle’s house when I was about eight. It’s an old foot pedal to a tractor, with a with a whole welded family lining its base. Ron apparently thought it was hilarious that I had a boyfriend at eight. Whatever. It was Ron I channeled when I made this at Hands On Art Studio in Door County, Wisconsin a few years ago:

We’ll put a finish on the topper before we call it truly done. In fact, the table turned out so nicely, that Michael wants to stain and finish it before he embarks on his epic transcontinental journey.
More Better—Making Way for Spring

Often the first step in forward progress is destruction, so we have begun the 2010 planting season by hiring a professional tree-trimmer.

He, his assistant, and his mighty stump grinder spent a morning trimming, pruning, and destroying. (I love the orange safety chaps, don’t you?) Here they are taking out the stump of a volunteer mulberry tree that grew out of control while the house was vacant and on the market. The trunk of that sucker—and its cousin growing at the top of the wall—had reached a whopping 6-8" in diameter. Mulberry’s grow fast and furious, and always in the least desirable locations.

This is the stump of the dogwood right after we cut it down last year.

This is what it looks like today.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

More Tid Bits

Today a service rep came to my home. The first words to come out of his mouth were: “The third time I got struck by lightning...” which led into a convoluted unsolicited explanation as to why he is now a chain smoker. What does one do with that?

More on the TV front: One of my new favorite shows is the BBC half-hour comedy The Inbetweeners. I learn a lot watching that show, such as “fit” means “hot” (she’s really fit); “revisit my dinner” means vomit; public schools in Great Britain apparently issue vouchers that allow high schoolers to enjoy a few pints of beer at school dances (oh if that had been true here); and I am utterly grateful that I am not—nor will I ever be—an adolescent boy in Great Britain.

Undercover Boss (CBS) held so much promise, but in the end it’s only a cross between Touched by an Angel, and an hour-long corporate image ad. I mean, where’s the humiliation? Where’s the drama?

We have decided to call Caper’s formerly broken leg as “Zoe” as a nod to the first cylon on SYFY’s Caprica. Used in a sentence, you might say “looks like Zoe is a little stiff tonight,” when Caper favors that leg slightly on a rainy day. Not only is it flying the geek flag at full mast, but it takes the sting out of the cost of the surgery. Zoe is the reason, after all, that we have to postpone the much-needed computer upgrade another six months.

A lull in new television has intersected with a spike in new DVD releases, which led to three movie rentals today, to be watched over the coming week: 2012, The Informant, and Surrogates. Can’t wait. Fortunately I have lots of good television knitting at my disposal.

Me Week(s) are less than two weeks away. Preparations are in full swing. The worst of Me Week(s) is that the multi-family garage sale falls right in the middle. That means I have 2 1/2 days of pre-dawn to after-dark work with a bunch of people that can push my buttons like no one else can: family. The good news is that we have finished our sorting and pricing on this end, and the dining room is now stacked to the rafters with boxes to be taken to my mother’s house. The cash will be lovely. The newly-acquired space at our home will be delightful. And a couple of cold beers at the end of each day will be pure unadulterated heaven.!