Monday, September 26, 2011

A Whole New Outlook

We had a little excitement here last week.  Sometime in the middle of the summer we were seized by the notion that we absolutely had to install a bay window in our family room.  We knew that terrible things would happen if we did not, so we contacted the appropriate authorities, offered up a pile of cash, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  The lead time on this project was about two months,  and by the time the Great Day of Installation rolled around, I was pretty sure everyone else in the house had lost track of the exact installation date and that I would be able to surprise them all. For days I giggled to myself at the thought of snapping pictures of the expressions on their faces when they got home from school/work and found the  new window in the family room.   I managed to keep my mouth shut about the installation date even when I was burning to talk about it, just so I could enjoy the surprise.

That didn't work out.  They had all forgotten, but one of our friends had remembered and she called and left a phone message and spilled the beans by asking if Thursday was the day.  If you've ever left me a message, you may have guessed by now that I don't get messages.  It's not that there is any thing wrong with our voice mail system, it's just that I can't possibly be bothered to check for messages, so they all just sit there waiting for someone to show a little initiative. El Husbando is the responsible party who usually retrieves the messages and, not surprisingly, he got this one too.  He then shouted around the house asking me if Thursday was the day, this kids overheard, and the gig was up.

Failed surprises notwithstanding, the installers showed up Thursday morning to install a window.   We started with this:

Normally we keep some furniture in there, but I moved it to avoid the construction dust.  The installers had thought about dust on my furniture too, and they came prepared with a nifty plastic zip wall, which is why the next pictures look like they were taken through a piece of Saran Wrap.

They slapped down a bunch of drop cloths and started making dust.  The first part was pretty quick.  The missing drywall shows where the new window will go.

Then they took out the window and started sawing in earnest.  They sawed and sawed and sawed and the entire house vibrated and rumbled until I thought my head might explode.  I began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of letting these cranks put holes in my walls, which I consider to be an important part of the house, particularly when it is pouring rain outside as it was for a great deal of the sawing.  I decided that it might be best to chase these hooligans away, but when I went out to see what they were up to, it looked like this:

That is to say, exactly the same.  Nothing had changed.  I was terribly confused, but unwilling to reveal the depths of my ignorance, so I went away and endured more sawing and, as a therapeutic measure, began to issue anguished tweets about trying to work while people were busy taking my house apart.  When I went out to check again, it still looked the same.  Eventually it occurred to me that they were very carefully (and very loudly) sawing through each 2x6, top and bottom, so that they could very neatly cut the bit of the wall out.  So the sound that was driving me crazy was, in fact, the noise of people doing their job with intelligence, forethought and care.  It really freaked me out.

Not too long after these revelations struck me, the wall looked like this:

And then like this:

I really began having second thoughts here (which I guess were third and fourth thoughts by now) because I hated the way the window looked without any detailing and I was afraid that I had made a dreadful decorating mistake and that it would look this way forever.

I was wrong.  They just hadn't put the side windows in yet.  And now we have this, which I love.

It's got a nice, deep window seat.  Perfect for this:

And this:

We even have a reading chair, which is mine.  ALL MINE.

Mine.  Don't even think of sitting here.
That's all I have to say about that. 

The garden has been less of a failure than in years past.  Sort of.  I did keep it weeded, and the asparagus patch we planted in the spring looks very green and vital.  My cukes, however, were an abysmal failure, as were my squashes.  Cabbages, which are there only to provide volleyballs to entertain the chickens in the winter (no lie-- we hang them in the middle of the run and they peck them; keeps them busy for hours), still look distinctly un-cabbagelike.  More a collection of leaves than a head of cabbage.  Peppers are coming in with a vengeance, but the raw ones make me barfy so I roasted the first batch and we'll see how things go from there.  We got some gourds and it looks like my eggplant plant (that feels like a stutter, doesn't it?) is hosting a revival; now I just have to figure out what to do with some late season white eggplants. Tomatoes are taking over, which always bothers me because I feel obligated to cook them, but I never get around to it and I just end up weighed down by the additional guilt.

Here's a big success, though.  In addition to my regular bed of smaller sunflowers, which spent the summer beautifying my garden and are now serving as a bird buffet, we had two rogue sunflowers.  This one was the biggest and it clearly earned the name 'mammoth.'  That's my shoe--not Matty's-- sitting next to it. About half the seeds were already gone by the time I cut the head off the plant, but there should still be plenty of seeds.  Probably I'll keep them around for a while and then put the head out for the chickens.  Or maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that I actually save them for us to eat.  You never know.  Well, really I do know that I won't do any such thing, but I like to pretend that anything is possible.

The knitting mania of the last post has faded.  I've decided to ignore everything except the Swallowtail shawl and I stayed up late Saturday night finishing up the budding lace section (while re-watching most of the newer Star Trek movie on my iPad; I might still have a thing for Karl Urban) and starting the edging.  I have been stymied by the unexpected failure of one of my nupps, which has now been compounded by an amateur repair job.  I'll know after another row or two whether I can tolerate it as is or whether I'll have to retreat to the last life line and start the edging over.  I'm hoping to finish this next week. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

And last, so that no one should claim that I'm neglecting my other craft-stuff, here is a picture of a visitor that I had while I was spinning the other day.  I'm not sure whether I should consider her a good luck charm or a quality control agent, but there she was, one of the founding members of the spinners' guild, come to see how I was getting along.

She's moved on now, after hanging out for an hour or so on my wheel, but I would like to let the powers that be know that I like her company much, much better than that of the snake we found slithering around the garage today.  Just so you know.

Off now to make dinner.  They really do demand feeding with astonishing regularity.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In which I Lose My Mind and Start a Ridiculous Number of Projects

I'm having one of those months when everything seems like a good idea to me.

Mostly the problem has involved excess knitting, which would explain why my project list is overrun with things like this

Swallowtail shawl in the making.
Some other people started knitting this, so I did too.
They are all done now.  Me, not so much.

and this
Some sort of Estonian Shawl thingy. The entire shawl
will look like this, which is why some of the more v
aried projects have bumped it out of its place in my must-knit list.

and this:

Bridgewater.  Starts with a very large garter stitch square, worked from
point to point.  When you finish that, you still have to
add the edging, which is also pretty large.

That would, if you are inclined to count, be three shawls.  That might seem like a lot for a person who wears no shawls.  But they seemed kind of cool, so I thought I would make them. Or at least start them, because I don't seem to get too far before something else seems like an even better idea.

Like this sweater. Or hem, really, because I haven't gotten beyond the bottom edge, even if it is my  newest love.

Sullivan, designed by a woman in my knitting guild.  How cool is that?

It's miles ahead of this, which is the very, very beginning of a sleeve for a sweater that I couldn't wait to start in the spring.

Serape Jacket.  By the third color change, with all of its
attendant dangling ends, I realized I was doomed.  

And here is another hem, or a lace edging, really.  This bit of cottony fun was almost pitched overboard after the 50th time that I goofed it up, but in the end I was able to complete the edging.  The rest of the sweater will have to wait.

A sweater?  Oh, please!  I'm just a tank top.
Could somebody please finish me already?
Since three shawls and three sweaters cannot possibly be enough to keep a knitter going, I also have some socks in the works.  The first are knit in a yarn called Night Fury.  I love the grey-black color and its little green stripes so much, I thought it would be a good idea to buy  a second skein to use for something totally different.  You know, in case I ever run out of knitting.
Wanida socks in Night Fury colorway
This little sock cuff is so abandoned that I think it's time to repurpose the yarn.  The idea was to alternate two skeins of yarn with long color repeats and see how they interacted.  The little I can see of it has been pretty cool, but I don't seem to be getting very far.

This mini-scarf exists just because it seemed like a bad idea to toss out some reasonably salvageable yarn that got cut off of my loom after the bajillionth time that it broke.  Impressive progress, no?

I'm not even going to talk about this yarn, which was intended for a shawl.

The picture doesn't do it the proper injustice.  The darker browns and reds are ok, but the bulk of the skein is made up of a thoroughly objectionable puce-y-tan color.  I can't possibly wear it and if I gave the finished shawl to someone else, they might take it personally.  Someone has cleverly suggested that the colors might be best used in a home decorating capacity, and I think this is a good idea.  They suggested pillows, which did not appeal to me, so I'm thinking an afghan might do the trick.   I would only need about 7 more skeins, and what could be better than 10 skeins of barf colored yarn?

I'll tell you what would be better:  7 skeins of hard-to-knit cotton chenille in an eye-burning shade of royal blue.  I got this at the knitting guild's yarn auction last spring, because I have made two little washcloths from this kind of yarn (though not, heaven help me, from this particular color) and apparently, in all the excitement of the auction, I thought it would be a great idea to knit about 20 more.

Lest you find me exceedingly dull, I want to assure you that my good ideas are not limited to knitting.  Sometimes I have cleaning ideas too. Here we see a locking cabinet that contains a bunch of china stuff that I never use.

The reason that I never use it is that it is extremely dusty.  And the reason that it is extremely dusty is that all of the china is securely locked behind these marvelously porous and ugly metal grilles and I can't find the key.

Eventually, they became so dusty that I thought it would be a good idea to find a way to clean them, and so I tried to pick the lock.  That turned out to be a useless idea, as did the idea of bending the grilles so as to pull them out of the doors.  Not that I tried very hard, since I had my doubts about the wisdom of that idea in the first place.  You will be relieved, I am sure, to learn that I found the key, or at least a key that fit the lock exactly.  The problem, it turned out, is that I was looking near the cabinet for a small black key, whereas the key that opened the door was a larger silver key, which was inexplicably located in an entirely different section of the house.  I still suspect it is an imposter.

And last, in a fit of culinary inspiration brought on by the impossible number of pastries we ate on vacation, I bought a donut pan.  I thought this was a really great idea, although the donuts have yet to become a staple of our diet.  They taste great, but they are a little  . . . nontraditional looking, let'say.

Aesthetically challenged donuts.

My novice frosting skills might not be helping much.

They have really great personalities, I promise.

I guess I can see why I like to focus on the knitting.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The small wonder started kindergarten this week.  Here he is on the first day, with his giant backpack on.

Here is the side view, so you can see how monstrously out of proportion it is, compared to his tiny little body.

You might ask how it could possibly be necessary to burden such a small child with a bag that could easily hold him and a few of his friends.  Go ahead.  El Husbando already asked and he wasn't nearly as polite about it as you probably would be.  The answer is, of course, winter.  He doesn't need this much room now (although it was handy for sending in the towel, tissues, and baggies that he had to bring on Tuesday).  But when the snow flies and he has to go school with his big old coat and his big old boots and a change of shoes and his lunch and (here's the clincher) his snow pants, then he'll need the big old bag too.  Since my kids take snow pants to school pretty much from December straight through March, the mega-bag seems like a pretty good idea to me.  Plus, these bags last forever, and I'm pretty sure he'll grow into it.

Here is Nathan doing his big brother thing.

This is the same child who has, on occasion, voluntarily (I kid you not:  he actually noticed that these things needed doing and then did them)  changed dirty diapers and taken care of the dog's morning walk so we could sleep in.  So it should not have surprised me that he spent the first few school days finding Matty a seat on the bus and that he wrote himself a note (aptly entitled "Note to self") reminding himself to remind Matty of the signal the teacher gives when it's time for the kindergarteners to move to the transfer bus.  On the back of the note was this, which was meant for Matty:

It just makes my heart go all gooey.  Lest anyone panic that we've developed some sort of freak super-child, I would like to reassure everyone that Nate ate too much for snack, left the uneaten snack food  all over the table, and spent the rest of the afternoon fighting with Matty over the Monopoly rules.  And he leaves his dirty clothes on the floor and he might not brush his teeth quite as often as he claims to.

After all the to-do with sending the last child off to school, the natural question seems to be "what's it like?"  To which I can only reply that it is Quiet.  After 13 years of small children spending their days with me, this is an entirely foreign state of affairs.   I think I like it.  A lot.  Right now it seems peaceful rather than lonely, and the witching hour at the end the day is easier to handle now that it doesn't follow hard on the heels of an entire day of dealing with little gremlins.  Plus, I feel more like cooking dinner than I used to, although I'm sure that will wear off soon enough.

The biggest anticipated downside so far is this:

We came back from vacation to find it parked at the proposed site of our soon-to-be-built-if-we-can-get-over-the-zoning-issues barn.  Right now it is doing a whole lot of nothing.  But, should construction ever start, it and a few of its friends will be very busy doing all sorts of weird stuff.  And that's when I'm going to miss my sidekick.  One of my favorite things about little kids is how they think new stuff is so cool.  For a very long time now, I've been saying "Hey [Emma/Isa/Nate/Matty], look at that!"  Predictably, the child in question answers "cool!"  Now something pretty cool is going to happen here, and all of my little external validators will be off at school and it makes me sad that I won't have someone to share the coolness with right then and there.   The dog, being naturally inclined to people-pleasing, will try his best, but his reaction will probably take the form of loud and enthusiastic barking, which just isn't the same.  The cats, who are already as cool as an animal can be, really couldn't care less.

In the knitting world, I joined a knit-along at the beginning of August.   Below is the final product.  As with my Undulating Scarf, it was great to work with my handspun, although I am undecided on the merits of the finished shawl.  I like the border best, and I guess using my precious yarn on a scarf that isn't really my taste is still better than letting it languish in a drawer.  Plus, I can now more easily justify buying more of the fiber when I go to Rhinebeck this year.

That's all, folks.  I'm off to make good use of my new-found interest in home-cooked meals.