Monday, June 23, 2014

Kitchen plans...

I am off blogs. And to some extent podcasts. It's not a preference. It's not a choice. It just is. Apparently when you commit to renovating your kitchen, all life comes to a grinding halt. You lie awake at night and worry about where the kettle will go. You rearrange budgets again and again, trying to work out a way that 50% of the cost of the renovation can go on a stove. The microwave causes you agonies of indecision and resentment towards an appliance that you feel you shouldn't need, but are sure you will find yourself missing if you just skip it. You systematically work your way through the contents of the freezer only to discover that even frozen, a shelf life is finite.
Oh, and in the midst of all of this it appears that your dog develops some sort of food allergy and for a week you are cleaning up dog poo and vomit on a daily basis. You switch him to rice, pumpkin and poached chicken and that works great, but then you appear to be making risotto for the dogs breakfast every bleeding day.
It's been fun.
I worried initially about the fact that I was too tired, too wrung out  and just too preoccupied to witter away on this here site, but after a while I came to terms with the fact that this kitchen thing and all the other 'things' that life will hurl at me, is going to take all the focus that is left after the job, the family and  self care has had its share.
I continue to knit and spin (a little) and oddly enough the deep concern  with what is about to happen to my home has left me with a need to do extra housework. There are still dust/dog bunnies but the bed is made frequently and there is much filing and sorting. And I realize that I have been talking about sorting things out for months and months now, but hey, that's my process.
Did I mention that I have had 3 pieces of tech fried in this house? My very expensive router and storage device from Apple and my iMac and my Roku. On the plus side my warranty held true and the router and iMAc are being fixed gratis. Sort of. The warranty was not free. The Roku is dead. RIP little buddy.
On the plus side I discovered that my laptop, as old as it is, has bluetooth compatibility so I can use my proper keyboard with it, and that's a pleasure. Typing is much easier with a little extra girth.

And that's what's been keeping me busy.

Oh, and the study is almost done. I have a working and highly functional desk surface now with filing space that is convenient and to hand. There is a comfy chair with a view of my tree tops and I have storage for yarn and books and leftover skeins. All in all, much better than before. And thank goodness for that because apparently one needs to be organized when renovating a kitchen. Receipts and all that…

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Flood.

Well, just as things were getting back to normal, Sunday before last happened. I woke up feeling dreadful. I had a bad stomach bug with a fever and 2 hours after that my house flooded.
A blocked sewage pipe (no, it wasn't me!) caused sewage to back up into my house. There was panic and chaos when I couldn't figure out how to stop the water (in-between vomiting) and finally the plumbers arrived. Six hours later they left only to return again 2 days later for another 6 hours. I spent most of that time huddled under a blanket, shivering and running to and from the bathroom. My sister and a good friend delivered Gatorade and ginger ale and clean towels to my front door.
Those 48 hours were not improved by the dishwasher being blocked by a faulty garbage disposal installation and subsequent mould infestation in the dishwasher.
Almost a week later my downstairs bathroom is gutted, my hardwood floors are removed and there are 3 enormous fans in my house that will be here for the next few days and are very noisy.
It's been a crazy week.

I feel better but not back to normal.

My house feels battle scarred and damaged.

It's the 'first world problem' scenario. I have a home and food and employment. There is no need to complain. But the noise and mess and potential cost do niggle at my anxiety prone self.
But I am confident that all will will be fine.  Eventually.
The noise from the fans and the big green machines is challenging. It makes me want to hide in the bedroom with the door closed. A bit like what the cats do when the vacuum cleaner is switched on. Luckily they don't endure that pain all that often…

I'm also trying to clean out the study and get things organized. Since the double vacation earlier in the year as well as the hardwood floor refinishing upstairs, everything has been chaos in that room. My financial documents and receipts and all things important are stuffed into a suitcase, medical journals are piling up in the bathroom and I have work that I want to start on, but because the study has been a giant mess, I've avoided it and I see myself with deadlines looming and still nothing started. It's time to face the mess and get going on putting things back together. There's nothing I can do about the downstairs disaster, but I have control of the upstairs and I've been channeling my energy into that.

I dutifully measured the study dimensions and took note of what furniture needed to go, what needed to stay. I went to IKEA and chose a simple work surface, and 3 storage units. Lugging some of those flat packed items up the stairs took simply ages. Two of the units I had to open in the kitchen and carry piece by piece up the stairs. I'm still pretty wiped out after that GI bug and hoisting heavy items onto my back and doing cardio is beyond me.
There is more storage needed but I want to  first get a feel for how I use these initial items before I invest more time and money.  I have also worked hard at sorting through and moving out old magazines and throwing away things like plastic bags and other 'useful' items that I have yet to find useful. My hoardery self is proud.

The picture above is after I had already sorted through piles of books and magazines.  I'm hoping that as it comes together, I can show you an 'after' picture. Something I can be proud of. Somewhere I can work!

Crafting? I have some simple projects on the go. My brain cannot deal with complexity right now.
Have I shared my Lintilla? It's a design by Martina Behm  and I am knitting it in Wollmeise, the Pure base in colourway Saami. It's delightfully soothing.
There is also a baby sweater, a sweater for me and a babillion plans.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I broke my rules...

I have finished a pair of socks. There is nothing earth shattering about this news but it has been ages since I have finished a pair of socks. (August 2013 if you must know.)
There always seems to be a sock project lying around and they never get worked on frequently enough so they languish.

And this is the most unexciting of sock projects. They were knit in Zwerger Garn Opal Maskenball, on a size 1(2.25mm) and they are plain old top down, slip stitch heel and my new favorite skinny toe. Basically, I reduce the toes to a mere 16 stitches. That allows extra space for my oddly shaped toes. I like it a lot.
And now I want to knit more socks.
But I am prohibiting myself from casting on another pair of socks as I have ordered 2 sets of yarn. One Shetland, one Lopi.
Yes, I broke my rules about new projects and new yarn and so in order to right my knitting karma I am knitting up an already wound skein of handspun that has been cast on multiple times for projects that didn't seem to work and was rapidly becoming known as the skein of fail. 

Knitting karma insisted that I had to get something unfinished completed before I ventured into new territory.
 I didn't forget how many times I had tried and failed with this particular skein of handspun BFL and so I changed my approach. I'm keeping it simple.

It's coming along...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cleaning and carding.

So in my head, I have been blogging regularly. So much so that I was shocked to discover only one post since I've been back. We really need to get that mind to hard drive wireless sync situation sorted out. You'd think Apple would be all over that.

I have been keeping busy. There is work. And my eternal gratitude for employment and a paycheck. And there is crafty goodness.
I have been plugging away at washing my corriedale fleece from last year's SAFF festival. It's gloriously soft and has several colours so I have many projects planned for it. I went though the fleece in more detail a few weeks ago and removed the shortest greyest bits, for a smaller project. (These are not second cuts as they are only shorn on one end, but they definitely are not the length of the rest of the fleece.) And I also separated out the blackest brown bits.
The very short bits were destined for me to wash and then play with on my supported spindle and the blacker bits were going to be washed en masse in a big pot on the stove. I didn't need any fancy washing here as they are all going to be carded on the drum carder.

Over the last few years I have now washed fleece in several different ways.

1. Put everything in lingerie bags, toss them in a bathtub filled with hot water and Dawn and repeat until clean. Window screens make useful drying racks as they fit neatly over the bathtub.
2. Fermented suint method - use lingerie bags or don't and toss into outdoor plastic tubs filled with cold water. Leave them for several days (oh, who am I kidding it was 2 weeks before I got round to it) and then toss in bathtub for final rinse.
3. Neatly arrange locks side by side in pillowcases or lingerie bags and place in roasting tin. Carefully fill with hot water and Dawn and either simmer in the oven or on the stove top. Rinse and repeat several times until done.
4. Toss fleece in large stock pot with Dawn and hot water and simmer for about an hour and then rinse and repeat.
5. Individual locks with tons of soap washed directly under the hot and cold running water. America - this is when your penchant for having your hot water and cold water mixed before coming out of the faucet really lets me down. Having separate hot and cold faucets/taps would be so convenient here.

All of those are a result of reading and talking about this topic and much thanks to Margaret Stowe's DVD's, Judith Mackenzie's instruction and random Ravelry chatter.
They all work. I've never felted anything. (Although, hey I bet that's in the cards soon.)
I will add though that my favorite is simmering things neatly in my roasting pan on the stove. But dumping a ton of fleece into the ex stockpot is definitely the fastest and even though everything comes out higgledy piggledy, it's going to be just fine for carding. Which by definition is a higgledy piggledy fiber prep.

There it is. Cleaned and dumped on the kitchen table to dry.
Waiting for some sorting and drum carding.

The short bits travelled a different route.

I grabbed the above shown tools. Hand carders on the left (I use Schacht's cotton carders) and my Neal Brand supported spindle. It's a lovely thing. I used a little bit of random clean fleece for my initial attempt as the short stuff was still drying while I thought this through.

I spindled some and made a 3 ply yarn by rolling it on my leg. It was poorly executed and reinforced my need to work on my support spindling. And apparently my thigh spinning could use some work too…

So I got to work. I carded some rolags and once they were off the carders, attenuated them into long strips of roving. I do not like spinning off rolags and it seemed unnecessary to leave them in that shape.

It's about 44 grams of delicious squish and that's not a lot but it will keep me busy working on my supported spindling skills.   I'd forgotten how much I liked supported spindling and it's so good for practicing my long draw.
I'm really thrilled with the whole process. It's a funny thing about processing fleece. In the beginning it seems so fraught with peril and if you make the wrong decision the world will end. However, after some time and several mistakes you start to realize that a fleece is huge and grabbing a small bit and trying out a washing technique is perfectly harmless. And that although different fiber preps do benefit from different washing techniques, if you commit to a sample, you will not regret any mistakes and you'll get the satisfaction of seeing your sample sooner rather than later.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sweater and floors and cats, oh my!

So not too long after my last post, I repacked my suitcases and headed for another vacation but this time in Charleston, SC. A dear friend flew in from South Africa and we headed for the coast and the charm of the South. It was wonderful. Warm with sea breezes, sunny days and good company. I was so sad when she left.
This has been a year for friends and adventures and I count myself as lucky.
The weather hereabouts has been varied, to say the least. A wonderful balmy week followed by grey skies and rain. I enjoy both and as I am 100% certain that we are not heading back into Winter, I am enjoying the lazy days.
Meanwhile I used the opportunity of being out of the house to get the hardwood floors upstairs refinished. I came back to the awful smell of oil finished floors and years and years of accumulated stuff everywhere.

Still, the floors look great. I am a little in love with my house.

Meanwhile I am using this chaos to carefully go through everything and clear it all out. It's going to take forever. A normal and healthy person would just go through everything tossing out what was not needed and moving forward. I have a true horror of wasting everything so a lot of time is spent trying to figure out how to recycle things and make sure nothing is trashed unnecessarily, and my other major hindrance is my extreme sentimentality. I have realized that I can only do this process successfully by doing it in small amounts. When I go downstairs I try to take something out the house, and when I walk into one of the 2 crazy rooms (2 are livable, 2 are chaos) I try to address one small and confined area. It's working for me but it would definitely drive a lot of people crazy.

One of the big jobs that I finished this week was taking a paper bag full of CD's that had jpeg files from 2003 loaded onto them, and getting then uploaded onto my hard drive and onto the cloud. I can now discard the CD's, the CD covers and the paper bag it was in. Such a trivial thing but I've been meaning to do it for years and I love that it no longer occupies space in my home and in my mind.

As far as les tricot goes, I have finished some things and started some more. I have only purchased yarn and fiber twice so far this year. The Hill Country Spinner's Retreat (oh boy, did I blow the budget) and then I bought some of Malcom Fielding's corriedale top as it's heavenly stuff and I wanted some. The Knitmore Girls are having a Spin-A-Long, Knit-A-Long soon and this might be what I choose to spin. If it arrives in time.
I am halfway through the Mondo Cable Pulli. Here is the swatch.

Thrilling stuff, right? I understand that it's just a cream colored swatch, with little of interest. But the yarn is from Brooks farm, Rialta, and is discontinued. I bought it from SAFF last year and I have 4 skeins of the wool, mohair and silk  blend. It's a worsted weight and I'm knitting it with size 6 needles and I think I'm vaguely at gauge. It's meant to be a warm, loose sweater that can be worn with jeans. I've planned on making it since the first evening of SAFF, and it's rather a pleasant feeling that it's being done.
I am also working on a handspun cardigan with size 15 needles! I have never knit with anything that large and I only have a set as they were on sale a few years ago and I got a really good deal. This sweater is either going to be adorable or will need to be frogged immediately. As it has taken me 2 evenings to get halfway through this cardigan, the time invested is minimal and I could deal with a leap in the frog pond. If necessary. Who knows? Maybe I will love it. So far it's incredibly soft.

And of course there is more. But I have errands to run and cucumbers and mint to buy, so that will need to be for another day. Are y'all ok? I have been a poor friend and I'm sorry for it. To make it up to you I leave you with a picture of my irritating cat, Frankie, likes to sleep in beds like people. He's ridiculous.

I did not put him there. That is how I found him. He looked at me and then closed his eyes and went back to sleep. I am of no consequence.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Um. Hello?

True confession. I am only writing this because there are two large Eastern European men in my spare bedroom ripping out the disgusting carpet in there. I feel I should be available but don't want to be seen doing nothing while they work. So here, I am.
I have been planning to get the hardwood floors refinished in the upstairs for oh, about as long as I've lived here and they are tackling what I consider a hell of a job with nonchalance and casual ease that is making me rethink my entire approach to life. What it must be to be strong and experienced and not require small breaks every 30 minutes when attempting to do anything home improvement related. They are also getting paid a lot more to do the hardwoods than I would be.

Right now there is a lot of hammering. And they had to move so much junk out of the spare room (I work part time as a hoarder) that I found several items to give away as penance. I even threw out a broken ceramic jelly mould that I can't think for the life of me why I never tossed out.
But the ways of the part time hoarder are mysterious and clouded by Freudian psychology, even to those of us who practise it.

So here I sit. Huddled in the study and typing away to look busy and productive so that my hardwood floor people don't judge me. I'm choosing to ignore how horribly influenced I am by complete strangers' opinions of me and see this as an opportunity to reconcile myself with the long suffering blog.

As far as craft updates go, I am recently back from Texas. The wonderful Hill Country that has now become an enormously important part of my year. I saw my wonderful friends, took daily naps and spent a lot of time reflecting on how much I have learned over the last 4 years of attending this retreat and spending time with these people and Judith Mackenzie. This year the theme was plying and for me personally the parts I learnt the most from were the multi-plies and the woolen spinning. I am slowly coming to terms with long draw and battled through camel cloud, camel top, camel and silk top, and polwarth. Interestingly the easiest for me was the camel cloud. I messed the polwarth up dreadfully on the first go round and then nailed it on the second. The camel top was iffy but I have the feeling that if I tried it again, I would be golden!

So progress. Progress without pictures. I surrendered myself to enjoying this weekend and not feeling the urge to capture it in a photo so that I can keep it forever. Turning 40 has apparently allowed me to let go of things more easily. Either that or I was tired and just didn't care.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Looking for rainbows.

There's been a lot of this.

And this.

And a lot of muddy paws resulting from this.

There's also been a lot of baking, tv watching and general lazing around and taking it easy during our precious snow days, but the snow has now officially left us and instead we were treated to an incredibly loud thunderstorm at 3am this morning.
 As a die hard romantic/escapist/fantasist type, I love a thunderstorm. But as an almost 40 year old with poor sleep habits and a penchant for reading past midnight, I resent being woken up at 3am. And when I say loud, I mean house vibrating loud. The lightning was impressive too and after worrying a little about my tv I ended up bumbling my way downstairs in the dark to go and yank the plug so that my electronics didn't get fried. And then back upstairs to lie in the bed and resent not sleeping. I would have practiced my tossing and turning except that all 3 animals were nervous and were sleeping as close as they could get to me. I was trapped in fur and sheets and could do nothing but count the seconds between lightning and thunder. It wasn't as interesting as I'm making it sound.

As an antidote to all the white and now the grey, I started spinning some colour.
It's a BMFA club fibre and the colourway name is Prism, base is Polwarth.

I'm making the most of every moment of crafting as we are short handed at work and I am working extra. Again.
I like helping out when I can, I really do, but I'm tired and grumpy and feeling out of sorts. Every day has to start with me trying to talk myself into getting out of bed and not spending the day dreading the next one.
That's a lousy way to live.
I really need to disengage for a little bit but there's no hope of that right now. I was so grateful for those snow days as it made me stop and take a break, but the truth is that until there's a little more steadiness in my work schedule, I'm going to find the day to day stuff hard. Oh, well. Plenty of people have it so much worse than me that I'm ashamed of complaining. I am a firm believer that you can teach an old dog new tricks so I'm just going to keep trying to focus on each moment and not dread tomorrow so much. Tomorrow will be dealt with later.