Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Nator's Gone

Missing. Vanished without a trace. On a late June morning, The Nator wasn't at the front door when I woke up. An APB was put out, neighbours were called, sheds and barns were searched, but within 2 days, I realized he wasn't coming back. Nator never strayed far, and had never gone AWOL before.

Nator came to us 3 years ago. During an early summer drive, we happened upon a young orange cat, soaking wet, obviously abandoned in the middle of nowhere, and when we rolled down the car window to check the little guy out, did we ever get an earful! That's how little Howard, who later became the Howarnator for his Terminator-like tendencies, made his introduction.

We brought Howard the Howarnator home, and he made his presence quickly felt. Unlike BobCat, who cheated on us with various neighbours, Nator never roamed.

He never liked other cats. He tolerated our females, Schatzie and Popina, but tormented poor BobCat, who neurotically licked himself half-bald because of Nator's merciless attention. He shadowed poor BobCat, and try as we might, we couldn't find a home where the Nator could live as a single cat. One of our friends tried to adopt him, but within a day at his new house, the Nator stopped eating and became lethargic and lifeless. It was pretty obvious Nator wanted to be our cat. We brought him home the next day.

You could count on Howard to provide comic relief:

I am here to tell you, this guy was a ham. With pets, you sometimes get the feeling they understand and relate to you on a different level. Well, Howarnator was that kind of cat. A recycled soul in a furry body.

No one liked suitcases more than Howard:

No one liked boxes more than Howard:

And no one liked day-dreaming about the bird or mouse that got away more than Howard:

Like Cooper, Howard was a foreman in his own right. He watched, inspected, and distracted:

One day, Howard came home with what the vet best described as heavy-metal disease:

His ears were bloody, one eye was swollen shut, a patch of fur the size of a dime was missing on his forehead, and one of his front teeth was knocked out. In all likelihood, he'd had a run-in with a car or tractor, because he'd wake with a start when he heard cars zooming by, or heavy equipment driving past. I hoped this run-in meant he had earned extra street-smarts, and if the road wouldn't get him, he'd live a good long life.

Nator just wanted to be near us. Here he's helping with the upstairs renovations by finding a good resting spot on the drop-cloths. He'd make himself at home, and despite the noise and dust, he would fall asleep anywhere.

Nator could do a smashing Zombie impression. I don't know why he'd sleep like this, but he did it quite a few times. I think he was channeling a past incarnation.

Howard has joined the ranks of cats who find their way to our door and into our hearts. Cats we take in without question, have vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and who we love and cherish. Some, like our 25 year-old Schatzie, chug along, and others, like Howard, spend far too little time with us.

Godspeed, little Nator. I hope our paths cross again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Lopi Success - The Love Affair Continues

The 4 skeins of Létt-Lopi I had ordered were to make myself a pair of felted flower-power slippers. While making the kid's version, I entertained thoughts of making myself a black pair with gray, black and silver flowers. I wasn't quite sure how to go about making them, so I scaled up the kid's sizes using a linear calculation. (I should also add I only ended up using 2 skeins, having about 2 or 3 metres of wool left from each skein. That means I get to make another pair!)

I reasoned (hoped!) that the shrinkage would be proportional. It was. I used a provisional crocheted cast-on, casting on 46 sts on 4.5 mm needles. I increased 2 x 2 stitches in the middle of my first and third knit rows, for a total of 50 stitches. I wanted to create a rounded heel, and was successful using this increasing technique. Observe:

After 50 rows of knitting back and forth, I now started to knit in the round. To do this, I cast on 6 stitches that would form the bridge on the top of my foot, for a total of 56 stitches (14 on each needle). I then knit in the round until I had completed 36 rounds. I decreased the toes like I do for normal socks, using K2tog and SSK's until I had 4 sts left on each needle.

I grafted the toe stitches together, and removed my crocheted chain (tip: use slippery yarn!) so I could also graft the heel stitches together. I didn't want an uncomfortable sewn seam at the back of each slipper, and this was the only way I could think to do this. This extra effort made for a completely seamless slipper. (Before felting, always make sure your ends are well sewn-in and trimmed.)

Here's the before: (Appreciate the rounded heel, please!)

And here's the after, pre-trimming:

Before trimming, the are mega-fuzzy. Observe:

Has a nice Yeti look to it, doesn't it? They're almost terrifying! For what it's worth, I wear North American size 8.5/9 or Euro 39 shoes.

I trimmed the fuzz using my trusty Olfa scissors. (Seriously, if ever you see these scissors at the store, ignore the hefty price tag and buy a pair. You won't be disappointed, I promise).

Here's the end result:

I am really pleased with them! They are as pretty as I had imagined, and I had fun combining lots of odds and ends to crochet the little flowers. I used pearls and silver beads to decorate each crocheted flower.

Check out this little detail I found at the bead store:

The little silver hands say HAND MADE. I LOVE IT!

I still have to treat the soles with the Super-Grip spray, but there's always later for that. This is the pair of slippers I plan to take along to friends' houses when visiting. My "home" slippers (clogs actually) have had it; I am embarrassed to wear them in the house, let alone take them places!

This way I can step out in style!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Green Mountain State

We took a little day trip down to Vermont via New York state last week. I'll save you the sordid details of our comic interlude as we crossed the border, courtesy of Mr. Rayban and Mr. Buzzcut, and I'll save you the non-details of our entry back into Canada, where we obviously had woken up the border guard and weren't even asked for proof of ID.

The day started off overcast and humid, we'd had a lot of rain the day before, but once the skies cleared, we were in for a treat.

Route 108 winds its way down Vermont through Mount Mansfield State Forest, truly one of the nicest roads I have been on. Pardon the dash in the photos, I was just dumb-founded by the scenery and wanted to take it all in, all at once!

The road sign below says ROAD NARROWS:

They aren't kidding. The ROAD NARROWS:

That's a Smart Car above, so you can have an idea about the scale.  Cars literally have to wait for the all-clear before heading around the next blind curve. The scenery was so breath-taking it's hard to describe without sounding melodramatic.

Vermont is green and undulating. The people are friendly, the landscape is gorgeous, and the architecture is beautiful. I can't get enough of Vermont.

I love pastoral scenery, John Deere tractors, and old barns with stone foundations. I'm batting three for three above.

This photo was taken from the bridge with the car in motion, hence the terrible quality, but clearly shows Fort Montgomery in Rouses Point, NY. The story behind it is interesting, so have a look at the link.

We love Vermont and can't wait to go back. We love the smooth roads (and the wi-fi hot spots!), and the breath-taking scenery. At risk of gushing, Vermont just shines.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 4, 2010 Sunset

I forgot to post this earlier, but feel it's worthy of sharing, even after the fact.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Of Mice and...Frogs

Every summer I plant some herbs in garden planters to keep near the kitchen. Yesterday evening, as the day's temperature dropped, I thought it would be a fine time to transplant my herbs. Today after work, I dutifully watered the plants, and found this little frog nestled in between the thyme and dill!

I don't have the heart to move him, so I guess he's here to stay.

We have had an incredibly dry spring, the water level is very low and our rivers which are normally high at this time of year sport levels that we don't even see in the middle of summer. Suddenly, there are beaches where there used to be water. Our frog pond is dry, observe:

Maybe that's why Mr. Toady McToaderson is in my herb planters?

The weather has been beautiful - but dare I even say it? - it's almost too hot outside! We reached a scorching 31 C today with no end in sight for the week. It's hard to believe we had snow just a month ago. I always say it's all or nothing here - our climate can go from -30 to +30 in no time at all. In 2007, the last time we had wheat planted, it went into the ground at the end of May. This year it was planted on Easter weekend, nearly 7 weeks earlier.

Today I found my seed packets I kept inadvertently hidden (that's a nice way of saying I put them somewhere for safe keeping and forgot the location). I have some ornamental grasses and small sunflower seeds that I keep meaning to plant, but keep forgetting about. This is the year! I went to check out the potting shed where I put my potting soil from last year.

Behold my contraption:

A 20-litre pail with a lid, and an overturned terracotta pot for good measure.

I lifted off the pot:

And underneath the lid, I found this mouse nest:

Finding something like this always makes me laugh. I can picture the little mice family, crawling through the hole in the pot, and then into the hole into the lid, and furnishing their little mouse den with bits and pieces of fibre glass insulation and grasses. They are so smart!

We had mice at work this spring, and after much deliberation, someone brought in a Hava-heart trap. We managed to capture 7 mice, and convinced our equally animal-loving boss that he needed to relocate them a minimum of 2 miles away so they wouldn't return.

He obliged.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lopi Problem, what Lopi Problem?

I like Lopi. After I started the Flower Power series of slippers, my like has been transformed into lust bordering on obsession.

As the Lopi is washed and felts, it is transformed into a miracle fabric, so incredibly touchable, yet infinitely durable. It sounds cliché, but I think I am in love.

When Ram Wools had their anniversary sale, Lopi at 25% off seemed too good to pass up.

Observe the damage:

That's 20 skeins of Lopi, dear friends. Waiting to be transformed into more little slippers. That means 480 little !@#$ing flowers to crochet, but who's counting? I'm in love, remember?

These 4 skeins of black Lopi are going to be transformed into a surprise:

I've got high hopes for this Lopi - The Selfish Knitter strikes again - it's all about ME ME ME! I just need to do a bit of math, and we're off to the races...I CAN'T WAIT!!!

And speaking of selfish knitter, observe yet more damage:

20 skeins of Acorn Létt Lopi. I am trying to redeem myself for The Wrapigan Disaster, a story I will share at a future date, to make this:

I love this wool! Wholly and unconditionally! Little bits of vegetable matter that get stuck into your skin as you knit I can overlook, it's good, all good...I can't get enough of it!

Probably by the time I am done with the slippers and the above cardigan, I'll have to enter Lopi Rehab.

Hi. My name is Ann and I am a Lopiholic.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Leaning Tower of Malabrigo

Malabrigo, at the best of times, is luscious and knitting it is like putting a hot knife through butter.

At the worst of times, it turns into the Leaning Tower of Malabrigo:

I have been flogging this dead horse for far too long now. It was time to put it out of its misery:

The colour, Pearl, was so varied that I ended up with 2 different coloured fronts on my cardigan. Don't ask me why I kept plodding along - my optimism that maybe the knitting fairies were coming to fix this baby while I slept wore off a long time ago - so it was time to admit my shortcomings and revitalize this project once and for all.

I frogged the entire sweater, and wound it on my yarn swift. I was going to soak the hanks in some Eucalan, and then dry them with weights on, but in the end I wound them into balls on my trusty ball winder, and my hopes are that by the time I am ready to use this wool again, it will have magically transformed itself into straight yarn. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it (more knitting optimism)!

Not quite sure what this wool will become, I can guarantee you it won't involve getting gauge. It's been manipulated, knitted, frogged, wound, and one can only hope its next and final incarnation will be more fulfilling. I keep trolling Ravelry for a pattern and no doubts something will come up, for now I am pleased I have one less UFO to deal with...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Turkey Vultures and Other News

I've had my eyes on the sky for the past 2 weeks, looking out for my barn swallows, and was already getting worried by their late arrival given that we have had a very mild spring thus far.

On Friday, I noticed 5 large birds circling the field as I walked the dog, and figured they were probably turkey vultures riding the thermals. They aren't common-place here, but not rare sights either. They are known to nest on Mount Rigaud, QC, about 25 kilometers away.

As I looked out of the kitchen window on May 1st, not only did I see my swallows swooping into the small barn beside the house, but I watched as a turkey vulture landed on the roof of our large barn:

Not exactly the prettiest of birds, but graceful and elegant in flight.

Here's a Starling in comparison, to give you an idea of the proportion of these vultures - they are really big!

...and finally, joined by its mate, here are both birds:

I was glad to see these birds up close, they are impressive, mainly because of their size, but something tells me our little swallows will provide us with more antics this summer.

On the farming front, our field is planted with wheat this year - my favorite crop. Soy is boring, corn is claustrophobic, but wheat can't be beat. By my records, the wheat was planted a month early, and the field is already green and getting greener by the day. The snow a few days ago did no harm (the same can't be said about corn), and I hope the weather will be conducive to a good crop this year.

We had a high of 26 degrees C on Sunday, May 2. Not only was it warm, it was very humid - the Humidex came in at 30 degrees C. The sweat was just beading on Eric as he hauled the Gyproc upstairs to complete the guest room. Here we were, one of the first HOT days of the season, and we were cursing this infernal climate already. Every year it's the same thing - moderation is not our forte. It's either prohibitively cold and we complain, or it feels like the Bayou and we complain

At least our house is comfortable.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring Flower Power Slippers

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, so when a non-knitting friend asked me if I’d knit some slippers for her kids’ clothing store in Germany, the answer was a resounding YES heard half way ‘round the globe. Vacation has a way of playing with your head, and this was no exception.

Getting paid to knit – it was like a dream come true! How could I say no?

It all started innocently enough. We were browsing in a wool store, and my friend picked up a book on felted slippers and showed me a little flower-speckled pair, and asked if I would make some to sell in her store. Sure, I chimed in, having given the matter a requisite nano-seconds’ worth of thought. Busy with my own yarn shopping agenda, I didn’t blink when she proceeded to buy the pattern and wool for three pairs. She had help from a salesperson so I stayed out of their transaction, concentrating on my own selfish woolly stash-augmenting plans.

Mistake number one, but who’s counting?

The salesperson had substituted the incorrect yarn. We were in Germany, and being unfamiliar with this private label, who was I to say? A bit like Lopi and it’s thinner cousin, Lett Lopi, the recommended yarn also had a thinner cousin. My friend, being the non-knitterly type, assumed all was well as we strode out of the store.

I started to knit up a swatch and my doubts started to grow along with it. I was sure I had the wrong yarn, but without access to the internet, I was at a loss. It would have to wait until I got home.

Sure enough, my Google-fu concluded I had the wrong yarn. 50g=50m, when what I needed was half as thick, namely 50g=100m. The only reasonable alternative was Lett Lopi, which I mail-ordered from Ram Wools in Winnipeg. Being practical and unable to step down from a challenge, I went ahead and ordered wool for 11 pairs of slippers. This, as you should well know, is referred to as “justifying the mail order charge”. Basically, I just clicked “add to basket” on each bright colour I saw.

I mean, just how hard could this all be?

I started in on my first pair. I didn’t like the way the pattern had a seam up the back of each pair, which, when felted, would contribute to a large ridge at the heel of the slipper. Of course, this brilliant thought occurred to me as I was halfway through the first slipper, so I frogged, and went one better using a provisional cast-on using a crocheted chain. This would permit me to kitchener (yes, it is a verb!) the live stitches when all was done, making for a seamless construction. I knat happily away, until I came to the sordid realization that I didn’t have enough wool to make one pair out of each ball. I weighed the wool, and I came in at 45 grams instead of the 50g “under ideal conditions” as the label states. I wonder what exactly constitutes “ideal conditions”? Perhaps the Icelandic economy is so bad that it has even affected the wool producers? This austerity measure theoretically meant I was missing 10m of wool from each ball or a 10% loss! So I frogged once again, and reworked the pattern. I cast on 2 stitches less than called for (almost imperceptible), and slipped my selvage stitches, by knitting the first stitch through the back of the loop, and slipping the last stitch with the yarn in front. I can’t tell you how much yarn this saved, and, when felted, made for a much nicer edge than a regular knitted edge. Proud of myself, I managed to make one complete pair out of a 45 g ball, and still have a few metres left to spare. I also kitchenered the last 8 stitches at the toe together, rather than pull them together like the pattern suggested. Everyone knows a hole before felting turns into a crater after felting. This extra finishing added a lot of time to the completion of each pair, but the best was yet to come. I managed to bang away a pair a day, knitting so furiously I wore a Lopi induced channel into my forefinger.

Felting time was upon us, and with much delight and glee, I proceeded to felt the first pair. My first victim was a moss green pair. I was a bit disappointed by the colour, so it went in first. Three hours later, I had success.

Obviously, I was going to have to find a way to streamline this process a bit, or the Maytag man might just be wearing a path down to our house. Something tells me Eric might not appreciate my crafting endeavors resulting in home repair bills. When things break in our house, we invariably roll up our sleeves and fix them ourselves. This resulted in a four-hour repair job in which I single-handedly took apart our Thermador stove vent and replaced a broken relay switch, and another in which a fridge-parts salesman told me, “Lady, just get yer husband to call me, eh?”, something that resonated with me like a 4.4 on the Richter scale would. Home Appliance Repair is a challenge we rise to, dammit.

But I am digressing once again, so back to the slippers at hand!

I was afraid to felt different colours together, but at some desperate point, I threw two similar colours in together, and although bits of the wool transferred over, no damage was done. The Lett Lopi felts super-fuzzy anyhow, and needed substantial trimming before I applied the finishing flowers, so the transference of colour was not an issue. I forged ahead.

This lead me to my next mistake. My inability to count and calculate. Each slipper was trimmed with 12 flowers. That’s 24 per pair, making for (drum roll, please!) 264 tiny flowers that needed to be crocheted. My mother, being the crafty crafter she is, hauled out her cache of embroidery floss and we set to work. At first glance, it all seemed so over-whelming, so we simply set out and crocheted flowers haphazardly, until I decided we needed to plan this thing a bit better. For each pair of slippers, we needed a pair of flowers. No sense in crocheting one flower if it didn’t have a partner. I also tried to be frugal, and use the colours we already had, but when I broke down and went to Walmart to buy industrial quantities of embroidery floss, things went much smoother. If you could understand my aversion towards Walmart, you’d understand this was a last-resort coping tactic of epic proportions. I started to match each slipper with 12 colours of floss, and worked from there. It is amazing just how manageable this made things. I’d sit down with the intention of making 4 or 6 little flowers, and in the end, they were flying off my fingers like I’d been making them my entire life.

I finished each crocheted flower by weaving the end in with a needle, and by threading on a bead. If I was lucky, the bead fit over the needle. If I was unlucky, I had to thread it on by hand, re-thread the needle, and tie both ends in the back of the flower with a double knot. I dabbed a drop of Krazy glue on the knot, and trimmed both ends. I did this to each and every flower. 264 crazy times.

The next big hurdle was sewing each little flower on, obviously ensuring the other slipper was a mirror image. Easier said than done, so I first arranged a pleasing colour scheme on a flat surface, and then pinned each flower in place. I basted each flower, before finally sewing them on permanently, going through the bead about 4 times each. The felted fabric was thick enough that I was able to hide my thread from flower to flower in the thickness of the knitting. From the inside, the stitches are almost imperceptible.

I’d hoped to get them all out in the mail to my friend in Germany by Easter, but that day came and went.

I still had one hurdle to overcome: the slippers needed to be slip-proof. I managed to find one bottle of Regia ABS Latex at my local yarn store. The Regia ABS is made for this specific purpose, but once I got it home, I became a bit wary of it. It was blue, and therefore would clash with some of the colours. It also seemed labour intensive, since I had to build up layers for an optimal non-skid surface. Cost was an issue too, this tiny bottle cost me $14, and by my best guesstimate, I figured I’d only get 5 pair out of each bottle if I was lucky.

I stumbled upon a company called Plasti-Dip, and as luck would have it, they have a clear spray-on product called Super Grip developed especially for fabric. The only problem was finding this product in Canada. I was informed by their US distributor it wasn’t available in Canada, but what do they know? I did a bit more research and found a local company who distributes it, and when I explained my predicament to their regional sales manager, he special-ordered me a bottle from their Toronto office – free of charge. Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you was all I could muster. I must have sounded like a crazy, desperate craftsperson, why else would he have given me a bottle for free?

This product doesn’t just work, it works like a charm! If you are a crafter who makes felted slippers, or hooks rugs, then this product is made for you! I tried it out on a missing-mate sock, and am really pleased with the results. It doesn’t pick up dog and cat hair, truly is non-sticky while remaining grippy (that’s my technical term, and I’m sticking to it, pun wholly intended!), and passed the washing machine experiment with flying colours. If there ever was a product to endorse, it is this.

Onward I forge, hoping to get these babies done and in the mail by the end of the week. Really.

This entire project was so fulfilling, that when I found about Ram Wool’s anniversary sale, I jumped on the Lopi bandwagon and ordered 20 more skeins.

Call me what you want, but don’t call me a quitter!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Plywood Preamp, coming right up!

I have already mentioned Eric's foray into the crazy world of DIY audio. Well, the Frankenproject of all Frankenprojects was pseudo-completed last Friday when Eric found out he'd be able to attend the DIY Audio Day in Montreal the following day. He pulled up his socks, put down his drill, picked up his soldering iron, and completed the plywood wonder:

Obviously, this looks more like a science project gone wrong than a preamp gone right, and the aesthetics are only a temporary measure, because once this baby is put into a proper case, it'll rock your world, figuratively and literally.

Seriously people, I am not one to get excited about audio sounds, but this preamp sounds like a ton of bricks, and floored the cognoscenti at the DIY show. The buzz was about this plywood project, proving once again that a book shouldn't be judged by its cover, nor should a preamp be judged by its plywood.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April Snow brings May's Glow

We had about 10 cm of snow fall on April 27th.

Just enough to screw up traffic, cause power outages and cause my daffodils to hang their heads:

Everything looked so pretty, but it was a bit disconcerting to see so much green on the landscape at the same time:

It's a rare sight to see blooms on the trees and snow on the ground. By the end of today, almost all the snow was melted, and by the end of the week, we'll be back to T-shirt weather.

Just the way we like it!

Align Left

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

White Knuckle(head) Knitting

It's not like I don't have enough WIPs and UFOs in my life. Currently, I am working on a grey mohair sweater that needs only the back, cast on in a fit of fury, a blue cable turtleneck for Eric I had intended to finish for Christmas 2009 that needs only the front, neglected because we went on vacation and I needed something more portable to work on (proudly adding said "filler"project is completed), and a single twisted cable glove missing two fingers and its mate, something I have intended to rectify for over a year now. On second thought, lets put that glove and its unfinished mate in the UFO category...

Also on my conscience is a recently frogged Malabrigo Merino worsted cardigan that simply wasn't ''doing it" for me anymore, dissected in the hopes its reincarnation would be more inspiring. When all else fails, there's always hope! That, my friends, is the beauty of knitting.

Add to that the 11 pair of girl's slippers I really need to get into the mail, but that's a saga all on its own.

No, that's clearly not enough knitting on my mind. Spurred on by the US/CAD$ being at par (which can induce many a sane person to attempt foolish cross-border purchases), I took the plunge and joined The Knitting Guild Association in the hopes of completing their Masters Program in Knitting. Three levels, each one harder than the next - how hard could it be?

Well, there's a story in there, somewhere.

I've been knitting for a long time. My parents are both manual, so I grew up baking and cooking, sanding and varnishing, sometimes it seems there's not a craft or fad our family didn't try. My father sewed jointed teddies for many years having learned the craft from the noted teacher, Helen Henderson, on top of many talents; my mother did pottery, quilting, counted cross stitch, and sewed our clothes, (I was the only kid with an emerald green melton wool rabbit-fur trimmed coat), as well as knit and crochet. I come by my procrastination honestly: I clearly remember my mother sewing away furiously on a green velvet dress the day of my Christmas pageant - I must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade at the time. I still remember sitting opposite her in the dining room, the light on her Singer sewing machine casting shadows down the length of the table. I can see her now, and hear her admonitions. "Never put the foot down unless the needle is in the fabric" was one of her favorite lines. She even sewed my Brownie uniform - no buying for this family if we can make it ourselves! In doing a quick inventory over the years, it seems there are few crafts we didn't attempt. We made candles and wax ornaments from the beeswax from my father's beekeeping exploits, we made soap and creams, did macramé, made paper, dried and pressed flowers, and experimented with natural dyes, as well as tie-dye t-shirts. We made paper arts: cards, scherenschnitte, and quilling. I had a little loom to make place mats on, we hooked rugs, did needlepoint (my brother too!), and I learned to crochet, knit, sew, embroider and generally concoct anything worth concocting! As far as I can remember, our family has always been making things.

Some habits die hard, I guess. Life is the biggest WIP, so you might as well broaden your horizons, non? 'Tis better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all. You can tell that person was a crafts-person.

But I do digress! It all seemed so easy. I already have an arsenal of knitting reference books, and the basics have been under my belt for many a year. But suddenly, I find myself second guessing everything from my cast-on edge, to my tension, to each actual stitch, right up to the final bound-off edge. White knuckle knitting indeed! Slowly, I am progressing through each swatch, painstakingly and laboriously. It's not so much the actual knitting that takes time, it's the dissection of my work that consumes me the most. I can bang off one of these swatches in an hour or so, but really, that's not the point, is it now? Sometimes I think I should throw caution to the wind and just steam through them all, send the whole shebang in to the reviewer, and get back to my regularly scheduled life and not look back.

But I can't do it. It's not in me.

Perhaps I am a bit too detail-oriented, too reflective, too judgmental of my own work and too insecure in my knowledge, but I suppose that's who I am. I am hoping that this Level 1 experience (or should I say experiment) will help me grow into a better knitter. I still have a few weeks to go before even hoping to have all samples knitted and the requested reports done, and something tells me I'll have learned a lot by the end of the process.

At least I tried, and that says something right there.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Sunsets

We have had a mild spring so far. Save for flurries forecast tonight, I don't think we saw a flake of snow in April, but I might be eating my words when I open the blinds tomorrow morning. I know there is a reason the winter tires are still on my car. The fact the swallows aren't back yet might be a sign that winter isn't officially over.

The wind is howling outside right now, so maybe the forecast is correct. The peonies and hostas have poked their heads through in the past few days, and the daffodils and tulips are already in bloom. The ornamental cherry bush is nearly finished blooming, and the apple, pear and crab-apple blossoms seem ready to burst. I even picked a few stalks of asparagus yesterday, which puts us about 3 weeks ahead of schedule judging by the past few years.

This morning, I saw the first shimmer of the wheat that was planted in our fields 2 weeks ago.

Spring is around the corner!

The forests around our house are mainly mixed forest, where huge, gnarled conifers clash with the red blooms of the maples, which in turn clash with the tender lime green of the birch and aspen. Finding beauty and harmony in nature isn't hard - you don't have to look very far to see the harbingers of spring and the bounty of the landscape.

On that note, I leave you with yesterday's sunset. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Poppet Power

Poppy, aka Popina, aka the Poppet with the Moppet is the kitten we kept from Plumette's litter. Plumie found a home in the throes of cat-luxury with an old family friend. She is happy and healthy, and doesn't have to worry about having repeated litters of kittens and spending her nights out in the cold. She's a happy indoor cat now, fawned over by an elderly lady who thinks the world of her.

Popina, the little power-house of kitten cuteness, has a drive like no other:

Gaining access to the great out-of-doors is her prime objective in life. She's only 8 months old and is still too young for unsupervised visits outside, but given the opportunity, she bolts out of the house, her little paws barely touching the ground as she flies out the front door. We race out in hot pursuit, trying to corral her back into the house again. The little bugger is fast, and knows she can take shelter if she runs under one of our cars in the driveway, looking at us with beady eyes and a knowing glance as we flail our outstretched arms in the hopes of grabbing her. Obviously, these moments happen when we're already running late and have time-sensitive obligations to attend to.

Right now, she's preoccupied by the pair of grackles building their nest in the gutter over the kitchen window. She sits in the window frame, making furtive little sounds as the grackles bring their sticks and grasses to line their nest.

Just wait until the swallows come back...I think she'll really enjoy watching them as they swoop by the kitchen window.


I think the most exciting phase, besides perhaps painting (which of course would signal the end of the renovations) is happening right now: Gyproc! Finally, we can both see the end in sight. It's been a long haul, and this latest step is perhaps the most instantly gratifying. One sheet of Gyproc covers 32 square feet! That's 32 square feet of CLEAN to this girl. YEEHAW!

For the detail-oriented among you, we're using 5/8" Firecode Gyproc.

After some reflection and thought, Eric decided it would be prudent to shim the ceiling in the guest room level:

It took quite a while to level out the ceiling, and personally, I thought it would be a waste of time, since not one corner of our house seems to be at a 90 degree angle anyhow, but once the first sheet of Gyproc was up, the extra effort was worth it:

Straight as an arrow, baby! So Eric is busy with this latest step, keeping fingers crossed the room will be ready for May 15th when his parents arrive for a visit. (There's nothing like a tight deadline to light the proverbial fire under your ass).

We were at the hardware store yesterday (something that has become a daily occurrence), and I threw a few paint samples in my bag on the way out for good measure. My imagination is on overdrive. I have also been fondling bed throws and pillows with a renewed vigour during my outings to home decor stores, because keeping one's eyes on the prize is what it's all about for me. My creative visualization (read: day-dreaming!) has kept me alive these past few months, considering the mess upstairs. If a couple of paint chips and fabric samples keep me sane, so be it, no harm done.

Probably the hardest thing about the renovations over the past year (besides the dust) has been the lack of closet space. Let's face facts: Half of our house went missing when we started the Knotty Pine Purge, and along with it, we lost 3 closets during the gutting of the upstairs. That's three closets of stuff that needed to be purged, given away, done without, and pared down and stored while we work and live around the mess. Renovations of this magnitude are really not for the faint of heart. Believe me when I say that I mull over the purchase of pretty much every single item twice before making a decision. Do I really need this, or do I want it? Where will I put it? Nature abhors a vacuum and empty closet space...

We already have the furniture that will go in the guest room, save for the IKEA Pax closets that will line one wall for desperately-needed storage space. The bedroom furniture came from IKEA years ago and is still going strong. Its classic design and neutral colour will last a very long time, and I have yet to tire from it. It also comes from an era where IKEA made high-quality furniture in eastern Europe, with a focus on combining quality at a moderate cost, rather than bottom-line cost-savings-made-in-China-basic-minimum $%^& that fills the marketplace today. IKEA remains one of my favorite stores, and I could probably live happily in one of them, but the decline in the quality of their goods has disappointed me in the past few years.

We're at the point where, at the end of the day, we're hunkered down beside the wood stove, Eric reading and me knitting, and one of us says, "hey, let's go check out the GYPROC!", causing us to race each other up the stairs two at a time, and wedge our way into the guest room, ooh-ing and ahh-ing as we admire the clean, straight surface.

The figurative end is near!
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