Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Which I Am Deceived

We are now more than a full week into the new school year and we have missed the morning bus not once, but twice.  In a row.

The letter sent by the transportation department said--in writing--bold writing, no less---- that  our bus time was 7:56. We groaned at the prospect of getting ourselves out of the house 10 minutes earlier than last year, but with a few adjustments to our morning routine, we had ourselves out the door at 7:48 the first morning  and by the time we were at the end of the driveway (it's a third of a mile away), we could see the bus coming.

No biggie, we said.  The bus must just be a little early to allow extra time to help the kindergarteners polish their new bus riding skills

On the second day, we left at the same time, the bus arrived promptly at 7:56, and we congratulated ourselves on beginning the school year with such early morning punctuality.

Imagine our surprise, then, when the bus was waiting for us at 7:51 on the third day.

Hah, we thought.  Mr. Bus Driver was early, so he was willing to park at our driveway to put the bus back on schedule, which he has done in the past, so there is nothing unusual here.

And sure enough, on Friday we were at the bus stop before the bus was, though it was a bit of a squeaker.

Then came Monday.  We left at 7:48 and were at the bus stop at 7:51, a full five minutes early for the bus.  But there was no bus.  So I drove the boys to school.

Tuesday, we left a few minutes earlier and still missed the bus. Not by a few seconds either.  By the time we reached the bus stop, there was no sign of the bus and no sign of the neighbors--they get on right before we do and I have never been so late that I didn't see the dust of their car as they zoomed back up their driveway.

So I called the Bus People.  They were not sympathetic.  The Bus Person was not so bold as to say it out loud, but I could hear the thought crackling around in her little head:  we do ask all students to arrive at the bus stop ten minutes prior to the appointed time, just like it says in the Bus Letter.

She was kind enough, however, to radio Mr. Bus Driver and find out what time he was at my house.

Around 7:50, he claimed.

A lie, if I ever heard one.  I was on the driveway at 7:50 and had a view of the road.  No bus, no dusty neighbors.  They were both long gone by then.

The grim truth struck me:  7:56 was no more than a decoy time, and I had been fooled by it.  The true-but-secret bus time, was --according to the Bus Person--7:50.

More lies!  Wednesday I made the boys put their shoes on at 7:35 and we got in the car at 7:40.  The bus showed up at 7:49! And Thursday?  The sinister fiend of a bus driver was there at 7:48.  Are there no limits to how early we must get on the bus?

Clearly this is a test of my parenting skills as they pertain to Acceptable School Morning Procedures.  We are prepared now and will not be tricked again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Here are my newest needles.  


You've seen them already; they're the same needles that led me to declare that I would buy no further needles in my quest to find joy while working on Sigridur.  And there will, indeed, be no further need.  

I LIKE them! They have a dry-ish finish to them, unlike my Harmonys' grippy plastic laminate finish, so they don't impede the stitches.  The whole square needle thing turns out to be pretty comfortable, and the tips are adequately angled for the job, but not so sharp and pointy (I'm looking at you, here, Harmony needle tips) that they (a) split your stitches or (b) poke holes in your index finger as you remove your stitches from the left hand needle (don't bother telling me that there is a better way to move stitches;  I already know, but I'm still a needle pusher when the yarn isn't all that elastic, so shush). I was so happy with them that I added two inches to the body of the sweater yesterday without even breaking a sweat.

So that's good, right?

Not so fast, you say.  What about this whole Bad thing you mentioned in the title??

Well, here it is.  Nate likes to ride his bike to the end of the driveway to meet the  bus in the morning.  He leaves the bike there, and when he gets off the afternoon bus, he can hop on his bike and ride up to the house instead of spending the next 20 minutes stuck in car with me waiting for Matthew's bus to arrive.  It's a good plan: fresh air, exercise, initiative--the whole package. 

A few weeks ago, he complained that his bike wasn't working right, and when I lifted up the handlebars to check it out, the front tire fell off, so I had to agree with him.  It turned out that quick release pin had vanished.  I still can't figure this out.  It's not like the pin is a loose part just waiting to fall off if you aren't careful enough.  If it's on, it's on securely, and if it's not on, you can't ride at all because your tire won't stay on.  The notion that there might be a middle option where the pin is unscrewed but your tire hasn't come off yet still boggles me.

And yet, the pin was undeniable lost.  We didn't find it in the garage, and I didn't find it on the driveway where I thought it most likely had fallen off.  I gave it up as one of life's mysteries and put "new QR pin" on my Everlasting To Do List.

Today, I found the pin.  Actually, I can't take that much credit.  It was the van that found the pin, and if you want to be really specific, it was the rear passenger tire that found the pin.

I didn't realize right away that the Mystery of The Vanishing Pin had been solved.  At first, I thought from the sudden knocking at the back of the car that I had been Twilight Zoned into one of those urban myths where some guy with a hook-instead-of-a-hand  has attached himself to the car and is banging on it to get you to stop driving so he can make your worst nightmares come true.  So I kept driving because in those stories, it's only the people who stop that have bad things happen to them. The one's who keep driving long enough only have to deal with the hook stuck in the car.  

Then I decided that there probably wasn't a madman attached to my car, but a seat belt hanging out of the door with it's buckle flapping against the side of the van.  It's perfectly safe to stop and fix that, so I did and that's when I found the missing quick release pin embedded--pointy end first and big noisy lever end sticking out, naturally--in my tire.  Of course. 

The quick release "pin" is actually a fairly sizeable bit of metal, which meant that as soon as I pulled it out, it was going to quick release all the air in my tire.  What to do?

Leave it in and keep driving, right? No one is going to fix the stupid tire in my driveway, but there was at least a reasonable chance of getting to the service station two miles away.  

HAHAHAHAHAHA.  I'm funny!!  About a quarter of a mile down the road, the hideous thumping and bumping stopped and I can only hope that the lady who was walking her dog wasn't hit by the QR pin as it flew out of my tire.  

So now what?  Keep driving, only faster now because the air is escaping. The air in the tire lasted for the rest of the first mile, but by the time I reached the main road --after having to wait for an unreasonable amount of traffic to pass at the stop sign-- the tire was completely flat.

Kind of like this:


The guys at the repair station, who have fixed an impossible number of flat tires for me lately, were both duly impressed at the size of the puncture and flat out (hahaha--I'm still really funny!) relieved that it wasn't the front tire --the one that went flat twice in the same day last spring-- that was the problem. It turns out that the rear tires were pretty close to the end of their life span anyway, so now I have two spiffy new tires.  Again.

And can you believe that wasn't even the ugly part of my day?

Here's the ugly part:

Actually, that's not ugly, just plain.  I bought this wool as a fleece, washed it, carded it, and spent July spinning it into five springy skeins of worsted weight yarn.  I thought I might leave it undyed, but when I had finished spinning it, I noticed that some of the yarn had a yellowish tint to it that I did not like.  

So I decided to be daring!  I bought some "Herb Green" dye at a festival, and a cheap pot at the store and decided to throw caution to the wind.  I would dye my yarn!  The time was right, the instructions were simple, and I was poised to take the world of indie dyers by storm. Yay Me!!!

I should have known when I brought the pot home that the project was doomed.  The one thing the instructions were explicit about was using a pot that was either stainless steel or unchipped enamel.  I made sure to buy an unchipped enamel pot at the store, but when my kids opened the back of the van to take in the groceries, the new pot fell out and became a badly chipped and dented enamel pot. 

Not one to be thwarted by trifles, I decided to carry on.  Yay Me!!!!

Here is the picture of the yarn in the dye bath.


Notice anything funky??  Like the suspiciously uneven color of the wool??

For whatever reason, the first part of the yarn that I put in the pot (fortunately I lowered the ends of all five skeins at once) zapped the dark blue/green color right out of the water, leaving behind a dismal old-celery color.  I tried to add some more of the regular green, but adding dye after the yarn is in the pot is no way to achieve uniformity of color, so that's why there are some spots that are the right shade mixed in with my celery/ gray-green yarn.

Here it is from a different angle, just in case you weren't convinced of my color analysis.

I'm not quite ready to give up on the yarn, though.  I have decided to pretend that this is intentionally and creatively variegated yarn in shades so fashion-forward that no one has dared use them yet.  I plan to wind the yarn and knit some of it up to see how it looks in an actual project, probably a simple seamless sweater.  If it still looks like puke, then I will admit that I may need a little more practice before the knitting world is ready to accept me as the next hot indie dyer.  I will re-skein the yarn and re-dye it in a shade of blue that is dark enough to conceal the worst of the color variation and pleasant enough that I don't have to convince people that it's avant garde.  

I even have the second jar of dye in the house.  It's stored inside the newly re-enameled dye pot, which is dangerously close to some pure white fiber that is looking a little plain to me.  Together, they are hatching a plan to take the knitting world by storm.  Yay Me!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

This One's for You, Vivianne!

Whoops.  I mentioned sweet pea guacamole in yesterday's post without thinking that--except in cases of repeat visits-- I have never taken this stuff  anywhere without being asked for the recipe.  

This comes from Great Food Without Fuss, which I received by accident from a cookbook club. It also has a recipe in it for Wondrous Carrots (they're not kidding) and Peas and Cucumber in Dill, where they cook the cukes and it is actually really good.  In fact, now that I look back at the book, I think I had better investigate it further. 

But here is the recipe for my standby, which has the great virtue of keeping its bright, perky green color, unlike it's avocado-based relative.


Sweet Pea Guacamole

2 Tbs virgin olive oil
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/4 bunch of cilantro, trimmed of long stems
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, or 2 serranos, seeded
1 pound of frozen peas, thawed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 medium red onion, finely diced

Combine oil, lime juice, cilantro, and jalapeno in a blender or food processor and blend until cilantro and hot pepper are roughly pureed.  Add peas, cumin, and salt and blend until smooth. There will still be some lumps, but this adds to the textural interest of the guacamole (*that's directly from the cookbook; I don't really talk about textural interest*).  Scrape into a mixing bowl and add the diced red onion. 

*I use the bottled lime juice instead of fresh; this dip goes great with corn chips, but I like it so much that I'll eat pretty much anything with it.  Also, you can increase the cilantro and hot peppers if you want more zing.*

In Which Nature Gets Weird On Us

Check this out:

El Husbando found it in the bushes bordering the yard.

It it not, as he first thought, an errant volleyball.  Nor is it, as I first thought, a bleached out pool toy.  Or a bit of the moon.

It is a mushroom.

A huge, pock-marked mushroom the size of a real life volleyball.

And it has friends:

They're everywhere.

p.s. The chickens say hi.

They've been eating the cherry tomatoes, which is a good thing because we have a few too  many.  They seem to like the ones that have split open and attracted bugs, which is also a good thing because we don't.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Great Many Fiber-y Pursuits

Well.  Would you look at that:

It's my clown sweater, all finished and posing for a picture.  You will have to trust me when I say that the real sweater--especially the colors-- looks much better than this picture; it's just not a terribly photogenic garment.  I think I need to try again with a hanger or a human model and some more camera-friendly light, but not today.

I didn't finish the sweater before the Lopi arrived, but I didn't have to wait long to cast on.  I forgot that it would take a few days for the sweater parts to finish blocking/drying, and while they were being poked with pins and flattened by damp towels,  I cast on for the first sleeve of Sigridur.  It took a whopping two days to knit, that being the great joy of bulky yarn worked in the smallest size of the pattern.  Not a very meaningful boast for a pattern that starts at 42", but I'll take what I can get.

The second sleeve followed the assembly of the clown sweater (which had finished drying and was ready making up) in short order and then I lost no time casting on for the body, with visions of the next two sweaters already dancing in my head.


That, of course, is the sound of my knitting mojo coming to a halt.  The body should be flying along, just like the sleeves.  The sleeves were knit at lightning speed with my beloved Brittany DPNs, which are, of course, the perfect match for Lopi.

 Combine the rustic woolliness of the yarn and the untainted woodiness of the needles and you achieve knitting Nirvana:  the wool slides over the needles with minimal friction, but never threatens to slide off.  Together they even make a whispery sound, reminiscent of leaves rustling in a Spring breeze.  Bliss.

Alas for me, Brittany does not make circular needles and I have been unable to find anything even tolerable for working the body.  

I started with these:


They are stainless steel with a spiffy red cable and the company that makes these also makes my current favorite sock needles.

They stunk.  They might as well have been coated in glue for all the effort it took to move the stitches along, and I ended up with hand cramps too from battling the yarn.

So I substituted my trusty Knit Picks Harmony wood needle tips.

Same problem, to a lesser degree.  Still no knitting Nirvana.

Today, in a last desperate bid for needles that will allow me to knit the remainder of this sweater without crying, I nipped out my emergency back-up yarn shop and, after thorough scientific testing which involved rubbing lots of needles on lots of skeins of yarn, bought--get this--square needles.


Wild, right?  Supposedly, they are loved deeply by all who try them, so I'm going to test them out tomorrow. Even if they are dreadful, I'm declaring an end to my needle quest.  Between these and those stainless steel jobbers I bought last weekend specially for this sweater, I've sunk about $20 just into needles.  If you count the fancy-pants laminate needle tips too (and you probably should, since this is the only project I've ever used them for even if I didn't buy them with this sweater in mind), then we're pushing $30 and that's just absurd.  I'll have to start knitting all of my projects on size 9 needles just to get my money's worth out of this new collection. BAH!

Life has not only been about knitting around here, though.  Yesterday, in a sudden fit of industry, I finished winding the warp for some towels I've been meaning to make since last winter.  I threaded the loom yesterday and finished tying everything on today, and now all I need is a bobbin of pumpkin colored cotton to get going on my first towel.  I think I have finally overcome the weaving despair brought on by the Placemats of Bitter Disappointment and I'm ready to try again.  More pics after I get these buggers started, which won't be until I finish spinning my current bobbin of purple wool and free up the spinning wheel for the winding of weaving bobbins.  Soon.  Very soon.


The fun doesn't even stop with the loom.  After a morning spent grocery shopping and an afternoon spent alternately ferrying people to and fro and securing string to the loom, I not only made a decent dinner for my family, but also conjured up a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread and a bowl of sweet pea guacamole dip (don't panic: they're not meant to be eaten together, okay?).  And I washed the dishes, swept my messy house, and plowed through four loads of laundry. This is more activity than I have undertaken in the last four weekends together and I'm sure I will (very conveniently) end up paying the price tomorrow when I am totally unable to get my work done due to exhaustion.  I guess I'll just have to fortify myself with banana bread and engage in some restful weaving.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Three Signs That There Might Be Mice In The Grill

1. Someone has shredded the tag from your LP tank and left it on the patio with bits of straw.

2. Someone has been having a go at the grill wipes, plasticky package and all.

3.  When you open the grill cabinet, you find a nest . . .

and several mice pretending they can't see you.

I will admit that I was tempted to leave this little problem to El Husbando, who is our resident wildlife enthusiast and the designated first responder when the critters come-a-calling.  But EH was miles away supervising Isabel at a batting lesson. Waiting for him to come home and evict the mice would mean abandoning a dinner --grilled chicken and corn-- that was not only easy, but all ready to go. It would actually have been more work to come up with a new meal than to take care of the mice and proceed with the chicken.  Plus, I'm not all that good with last minute meal changes.  I get tied to the existing plan and resist all attempts, reasonable (i.e., we're out of tuna and noodles, so maybe we should consider making something other than tuna noodle casserole, or --just as a random example--we have mice in the grill so maybe we should try using the oven today) or otherwise (pleasepleaseplease  can't we have pizza again tonight), to alter the menu.

The cat was all for roasting the mice right along with the rest of dinner, but she also eats flies, so I don't consider her a reliable culinary advisor.  Instead, I tried to scare them out by banging the lid and slamming the cabinet doors.

No luck.

Next, I put on some old shoes (I was barefoot, because I can do that at my own house, but I would have screamed like a little girl if they had scampered across my feet on their way out of the grill) and a lone winter glove that was lying around and removed the drip pan, which is where they had built their nest.

No mice.

I even dumped the nest out onto the ground, but there was no sign of the furry buggers. I looked back inside the cabinet, and there they were, all three of them sitting on the drip tray supports and looking at me like I was the unreasonable one.

It turns out that you cannot dislodge mice by pushing the drip tray in and then taking it out and putting it in and taking it out again, no matter how many times you do this.  One of them got annoyed and left out the back of the grill, but the others just hopped on and off the tray while I got madder and madder. In a last desperate effort to clear out the grill, I decided to stick my gloved hand in and (ew!) grab them.  The mice thought this was a terrible idea.  The bigger one fled out the side of the grill as soon as I got near him, but this little baby

slipped down to the bottom of the cabinet and then tried--rather pathetically--to scoot back up the  walls to where the nest used to be.  Poor thing.  The grill cabinet is smooth metal and he was having no luck at all.  When I reached for him, he ran to the other side, hid behind the propane tank where I couldn't see him, and stayed there while I fired up grill.

 The grill is mouse free this morning, so I can only assume he made it out safely. I'm sure he and his family will soon be moving back into the garage, where they like to eat the grass seed and shred the tissues in my car, or into the barn, where they recently caused $400 worth of damage to the new mower.  I think it might be time for some barn cats.

p.s. The chicken was very good, and not furry at all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

On a Rainy Saturday

The weather here is appalling.  It started last night when the varsity football game--for which my son's youth football team was to provide the halftime entertainment-- was put in time out immediately after the kick-off.  Somewhere among the rainy skies, an alert safety monitor had spotted lightning and we were required to stop the game and abandon the metal bleachers (I was all in favor of that plan, frankly) until the skies had been lightning-free for 20 minutes.  Or 30.  I had a hard time understanding the announcements and it didn't matter anyway.  We went home to eat dinner and be dry.

The rain quit long enough this morning for us to take the dog out and deal with the chickens, but as soon as young Mr. Football and Ms. Softball headed out the their respective practices and tryouts, it picked right back up again.  Football practice proceeded in the rain because men are like that and there's no reasoning with them when it comes to football. Softball tryouts, on the other hand, were postponed due to weather.  This makes no sense to me.  The team spent the first three tournament weekends playing  in monsoon-style rain coupled with temperatures low enough to keep me from knitting. I don't know how they expect to sort out which girls and parents are dim enough to sit out in the rain all day  bold enough to play through extreme meteorological adversity if they're going to call off tryouts for a little drizzle.  Which is probably why no one asks my opinion.

The rain has continued, on an off, since this morning and it is now clear to me that the only possible remedy is coffee and knitting.  I'm ready for both.

Below you see my brand new coffee mug. 

I'm madly in love with it.  It is short, so it fits in my Keurig.  It is also roomy, so I can brew two cups of coffee into it.  It is glazed in one of my favorite shades of blue-grey.  And it had just the right amount of pot-belly-ness to fit perfectly into the curve of my hand.  It was made by the  same potter who made the yarn bowl that I bought at Rhinebeck last year and--try not to swoon--I bought it from the yarn shop. It just screams "comfort" at me, in a comfortable non-threatening way. I feel about mugs the way that I feel about sweaters and wool socks: there is no such thing as too many.  The only thing that has kept me from buying all the mugs that I have loved is that I can't fit them in my kitchen, but, thanks to some accidental culling by my kids, there was an opening on one of my shelves.  Problem solved.

Unfortunately, when I made the coffee I felt morally obligated not to waste the ground beans that had been sitting around since early August, so the coffee was putrid.  Also, I learned today that if you swirl putrid coffee around in a mug that is short and fat, it is easy to spill coffee into your lap. Plus, it takes more than two tries to fine tune your swirling to the shape of the new mug, so you can reasonably expect to swirl putrid coffee onto both of your legs.  And possibly onto your keyboard.

As for knitting, I started a heap of shiny new projects while trying to avoid working on my neglected WIPs.  Then, when the kids went back to school last week while I was still on vacation, I was seized by an uncontrollable urge to make progress on something other than the mess in my house and I dragged this project out of a knitting basket that had been hiding in the back of my closet.

Serape jacket, knit here in a bazillion shades of lite lopi
 that fail to conform to the  designer's vision

As of Tuesday, I was up to the second row of the lower big blue stripe.  Since then, I have plowed through everything up to the arm divide and finished both fronts.  Today's plan is to finish the back and maybe get this booger blocked so that it is ready for assembly and a button band.  The sleeves, thank goodness, are already done.

The sweater, you may have noticed, is unusually colorful;  much more colorful, in fact, than anything I own.  The little trouble-making voice in the back of my head has suggested --more than once-- that I will look like a clown in it, but I've decided to ignore the voices and hope for the best. If all else fails, I'm sure it will make a spectacular felted bag.

This is hardly enough knitting to overcome a rainy Saturday, and you will be relieved to find that it is not the only progress I have made.  The first week of the Olympics--and hence the first week of the organized knit-a-palooza that I wish for the sake of simplicity was still called the Ravelympics but which has, for trademark reasons, been renamed the Ravellenic Games--coincided with our vacation to South Carolina.  Along with  the additional knitting time that a vacation usually brings, this vacation involved 30 hours of driving for my husband and a corresponding amount of bonus knitting time for me, so I decided I should knit three things (for reference, I knit one tee the last time I played this).  I loaded up my luggage with a bunch of yarns that I probably didn't need to buy last spring and plowed through:

1. The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief . . .

with "Rootbeer" colored beads

2. The Sweet Caroline Shawl

3. Rondeur, a knitted tee, since the one other knitted tee I have gets more than its share of use in the winter, so I thought it could use some assistance.

The amazing thing about the projects is that I not only finished them in just over two weeks (although the kerchief was not finished until 2 hours past the official end -time of the games), but they were almost entirely trouble free.  I am now waiting for any one (or more) of my current projects to explode in my face.  This much good fortune must surely come with a price tag.

And with that cheery prediction, my coffee stained pants and I are off to work on a clown sweater.