Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Well, well, well...

It all started last night when Kevin was in the shower. He had just gotten home from a long striper fishing trip in the Bay and was in need of a good scrubbing. He came downstairs much too soon, head full of shampoo and stomped straight to the utility room to check the pressure tank (I'll explain that later).

Kev: "You have any problems with water while I was gone?"

me: "Nope. What's wrong?"

Kev: "There's no water. All of a sudden it's a damn trickle and shuts off."

me: silence

Kev: messing with switches, "There. Think I got it."

He goes back up to finish showering, only to return to the pressure tank afterward for some more fiddling. He announces the dreadful news, that our well pump is out.

Kev: "Well I'm not sure, I have to go check some connections, see if there's power out there to the pump and power in here to the switch, but yeah, I think our pump's dead."

me: "That sucks. How much are they and can you fix it?"

We had just spent thousands of dollars this past fall to have an entirely new septic tank and field installed, one that was up to the task of dealing with as much water a family of 5 goes through in a day, so I was not too eager to fork out another grand or two to fix the problem.

Morning came, the connections were all fine and the last piece of the puzzle was the pump and there were concrete signs that it was barely gettin' it. One trip to Lowe's and the production began. I'll start from the beginning.

This is a well.

Not much to look at, but no doubt about it, the source of ease and convenience for today's household. Here's the basic rundown as I learned it today. There is a really deep hole in the ground. Inside there is a loooooong flexible pipe, in this case close to 200 feet. At the end of the pipe a well pump is attached, along with wiring that turns it on and off as needed. The water is pumped up out of the ground and through the pipe that connects from the well to the house. Then it goes into a pressure tank so there's enough water pressure for showers, etc. but no where near the same amount you city dwellers have.

There's also a clorinator in the system so the iron in the water separates from the H2O molecules and can be filtered out by the monster tanks that also sit in my closet of a utility room. And there you have it. How we get water in the country.






To change the pump a pipe is attached to a fitting in the well and it is slowly pulled up out of the ground and changed if all goes well. Unfortunately ours was so corroded from hard water and chlorine tablets that what was supposed to just "slip right out" did not.
The kids came to help. The girls had their purses....thank goodness.






We ended up attaching a chain to the pipe and the blade on the back of the tractor. The hydralic tractor blade could not budge the thing, front wheels off the ground and all.

me: "Shouldn't we call someone?"

Kev: "I've seen this done a hundred times, I know this is how you do it"

me: "Yeah, but just for some confirmation that we're doing it right"

Kev: silence.

Half an hour later, he is on the phone with a friend. Sure enough, we're doing it right. I had a sneaky suspicion we were going to have a visitor, knowing who he called. My intuition proved strong and as I was atop the front end of the tractor bouncing up and down trying to bust the fitting loose up drove our angel in overalls.

Now don't get me wrong. Kevin has the tools, the knowledge and the wherewithall to successfully complete the job. But there are some people in this world who are so good and decent that they know a project such as this is much easier with two. And, he came with one more trick up his sleeve. Coca-cola. Well, in this case all we had was Pepsi. Come to find out cola products are quite volitile and can aid in the removal of corrosion.

So we dumped Pepsi on it.




The rest of the story includes the tractor pulling up on the pipe and a long steel prybar. Another half an hour or so of this and POP! out it came.

Then I got to drive the tractor.



We attached a rope and a strap to the pipe so we could pull all 200 feet out of the ground. Google says it can weigh 300 lbs. full of water.

My view from the driver's seat. That would be the "angel" there in the distance.


And the offending corroded piece with some curious feet.


We now have water. I got to hand wash dishes and run the dishwasher. Kids are clean and piles of laundry await me in the morning.
What did you do today?










Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fiddling a bit and ending denial

So I've been fiddling with my new yarn today. These little goodies have been swimming around in my brain for quite some time. Generally my knitting (or crocheting in this case) begins with visualization of a shape. I see a shape or think of one and then start putting yarn where I see the figure. Booties--how hard can they be? I thought. Famous last words. No, these weren't a long struggle, but usually those words get me in trouble. Instead I experienced sweet victory.





You just gotta love Rowan handknit dk cotton. I'm working on a hat to match.


On another note, I finally broke down today and accepted powerlessness over my body. I debated over whether or not to ever mention any of this, but I decided honesty is best and if this blog is at all about me, then there are some secrets I can't keep. When ankle #2 started acting up along with the thumbs, hip, back elbows and wrists I finally conceeded that I might be experiencing a little flare up. Kevin says it's just the winter aches and he has them too (so much empathy I can't stand it). I won't ramble on, but if you know anyone with rubberbands for limbs and who can do crazy party tricks with their bodies (like some of the videos I see on tv via youtube) then you may want to investigate--it could be something more.


I took my MIL's advice and bought some over the counter ankle supports and have had them on all day. They help. Give that lady a PT degree.


As always, when I need a quick picker upper I head on over to the yarn harlot. She is a riot. Even for the non-knitters out there. Today's post is about publishing her (5) books. I think she's becoming my hero.











Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ahhhhh.....

A brand new bag of yarn is such a beautiful thing to a knitter. The really good stuff is exciting to behold and the little yellow stickers (meaning-- sale) are just icing on the cake. I don't go on big yarn binges or have some enormous stash, so when I buy this much yarn at one time the novelty of it all makes me a little giddy. The yarn on top is going to be another sundance sweater for yours truly. The first one is highly wearable and functional, but I wanted one a little nicer to wear to shows as an example of my work. Another self-knitting project--what is going on?! But I feel like it's the simplest of business investments and a smart one as well.





Here's almost the full kitty, including some fabric scraps for appliques. I mostly repurpose old shirts and dresses, but sometimes just have to go for the storebought stuff. I've been looking for a really nice boy green. The pink stuff on the far right is a new find, 100% polyester fleece yarn. Go figure! It'd been even better if it was recycled. I'm thinking of some type of stroller blanket or little lovey. All I know is it is some of the softest, yummiest baby yarn ever and is even machine washable. A must for a blanket in my opinion.





The other reason for my sigh is the wonderful break in the weather. I love it when the kids come in from school, drop their backpacks and fly right back out the door and up a tree. My littlest was out there too, cooking (what else) with leaves, dirt, sand, you name it. Now she's sitting in front of me with a million questions about pictures of the inside of the human body she found. She's also giving me a tutorial on proper dental hygiene (we just went to the dentist Monday). You just never know--all in a days work as mommy. Guess I'd better go!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Moving on

It's one of the coldest days of the winter, and my kids are all in their swimsuits. Somewhere out in the hallway there is a pool and diving board. I'm continuting to finish some projects. The first was the lining for my knitting bag. It's the perfect size to carry around almost any project I have in the works. And to think, this is the same yarn that started the whole chicken sweater thing.






Next, I worked on a short-sleeved sundance sweater for Allie. It is a fitted fit, so I'll probably make another with more ease in the body and a little more length. As the resident actress of the house (and bossy to boot) she had a ball with the photo shoot. She started off pointing at me and telling me what to do and then morphed into all sorts of different poses and I only had to stand and shoot. I did manage to get a rather normal pose. I wish I could share the whole photo stream--she's a nut!






Then I finally followed through on some new ideas for the shop and will be loading them soon. Here's one for the princess:






And the farmer:




John has already put in his request for this one. Can't believe I didn't think of it sooner.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Loose ends

It was a slow-starting Saturday morning for the family, all of us except Kevin who was out of the house early working OUTSIDE on a charity project with church. It was probably in the 20s when he left. I don't know how he does it, but he wasn't alone. I thought about them all morning as I guiltily sat by the roaring fire and caught up on some projects I'd been holding on to for too long.

The first of which was this pendant for my friend Karen. It is crocheted (yes, I said it) with wire and little natural stone beads. Karen is a fantastic funky jewelry maker with heaps talent and energy, so I'm honored to have her wear some of my pieces. She has so many silver chains of her own that she just wanted the pendant to hang from one of them. Here it is:





I plan on adding more of them again to my etsy shop in the next few months. Then I moved on to the once hairy felted bag. Here it is newly shaven:




I'm now working on the lining. Handsewing it all the way. This is not the project to start practicing with the sewing machine Anne Margaret so generously let me borrow. But it is the perfect afternoon to get it out and start making simple seams. I'm sure there will be nothing simple about it. I'll let you know how it goes!


I also took the girls measurements and have a sundance sweater planned for each of them, only short sleeved with a single button closure in the front. I've started on Allie's and need to buy the yarn for Lauren.


What were the kids doing you ask? Learning how to make potholders with fabric loops. They loved it. There was also ALOT of foam cutting, lego-ing, "cooking" and pretending to be babies, big brothers, daddies, mommies, etc. Cartoons are not really a staple here but they sure would be alot less messy!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Writing on the run or, the other side of pretty

I'm such a creature of habit it's embarassing. I follow the same little .6 mile loop over and over around the house every time I run, and never change my direction. It works, I like my loop and I don't have to think to run, I just point myself in the right direction and my feet do the rest. But when I was trying to figure out the cause of my achy ankle I realized I made a whole lot of right hand turns putting strain on one side. So yesterday I decided to reverse my direction. Simple it would seem, but not necessarily for a girl so deeply entrenched in a routine and a little obsessive to boot.




I gave myself a pep talk and started making mental notes, that I would have to pay attention this time so as to not get off track. I picked a song (I always play a song in my head on continuous repeat), this time it was "Mothers of the Disappeared" by U2, we had just watched "Rattle and Hum" the night before. I love U2. In the other available space in my brain I have a conversation going with myself. The words often end up being something I would write if I had a pen in my hand, but instead I just play them over and over, refining and editing as I go. I like how God planned it, that music is a separate part of the brain so I can entertain myself and have a mental conversation simultaneously. By now you're thinking I'm crazy, but to that I just say I'm exercising both sides of my brain, preventing dementia thank you very much.





I was running along thinking about the metaphor in looking at the same path from a completely opposite view. Simple, trite even, but worth pondering nonetheless. What happens when we go against the routine and look at things from a different direction, a new perspective? A novelty for the obsessive-compulsive folks in the room and even a little scary. The section of run on the gravel drive to the road and the barn wasn't much different. But for the route through the field and the woods behind the house it was another story. This is my favorite section of run anyway, the trees are beautiful even bare as they are right now and the way the sun hits the tops of the branches takes my breath away.






I felt like I was on a completely different piece of property and even tried to make a few wrong turns at first. I was congratulating myself on being able to break routine. Look how much healthier I am! I thought. It's the same reaction I have when I look around at my messy house. I'm able to tolerate chaos without thinking I have to control it all. But a little sadness creeps in, I know I have so far to go. And although I don't think this new route ended up being any better for my ankle, it sure was worth it if only so I could let go of a little more, and see the other side of pretty.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yippee!

Yesterday's run confirmed it...what I thought was the beginning of a yucky ankle problem is NOT! I went 4 miles before I really started to feel the twinge and so I stopped. I can't quite believe I had that much restraint, but I'm trying not to screw things up. I did my usual ice afterward and later last night which really helps. Now mind you it was a cautious sort of trot but I'm thrilled not to be sidelined. My brain needs the extra oxygen running affords, without it (like today) my thoughts seem to puddle and I wander around wondering what to do next.

I did get the sideways look from my father-in-law and the comment "you sure have been running a long time" to which I responded "I feel GREAT!" and gave my best two-fisted "Rocky-esque" punch into the air. I guess he knew about my bum leg--gotta be careful what I write! Unfortunately for him I later went into a 10-minute long PT spiel about the numerous and far reaching effects of exercise. I was getting too preachy for my liking (or maybe the car ride ended) but I don't think he bought my argument, at least not for himself!

I had to give Sundance a break today. After finishing the sleeves I noticed a few problems:

1. despite all balls being the same dye lot, one of the sleeves is discolored. white! what was I thinking?

2. somehow the same number of decreases on the sleeves and the back have turned out to be different lengths. Kevin said, "they look like they're different angles". yes, honey they sure do!

3. and now I want to start another one in a different color (I'm even looking online for more yarn) before I finish the first one.


Don't worry! (as if you would) I will do a little dismantling, add some more decreases and lenth to the sleeves and be on my merry way. The knitting brain just needed a good de-fogging, which I'm not so sure it got, but will be back in action tomorrow. The best excuse not to knit also came--the Feb. issue of Country Living Magazine!

By the way, has anyone noticed how screwy the spacing gets on my posts that have pictures? I've tried to fix it numerous times and it seems to just have a mind of its own. If anyone has the solution, pass it my way!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Doors

I love the interior doors of our house. They are the old 5-panel variety with nicks, gouges, nail holes and evidence of where the old doorknobs used to be. Most are primed only but there are a few I haven't gotten to yet. When people ask if we've finished our house (it's only been 9 years, you think it'd be done) I sigh and say, "no, I have so much painting inside to do, and planting and a new roof, and, and, and". But if the truth be told, it's these unfinished, sanded down, old bits of paint on them, crazy-beautiful wood-grain doors that I love the most. I doubt if I ever paint them and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them come with us when we move or when "they" decide to tear down this house to build a parking lot or some other abomination.



Doors were on my mind yesterday. I've kept the door to me so tightly closed for so long, I've been in protection mode, feeling very vulnerable. I wonder why people can't come in, and I know it's because I won't let them. It's been quite a journey and a long process, but I feel this door opening. I see it as a direct result from some painful decisions I've made and am so thankful for the guidance to make them. Yesterday I had an opportunity to give freely, abundantly and without expectation of repayment. It felt so good that I'm still up from the experience and it finally occurred to me, the door where love comes in is the same one it exits through.


If that wasn't enough, this morning's devotion was fitting. It's worth a look: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.



Switch gears now with me if you will. I've got to display Sundance. The back and fronts are done and I'm starting on the first sleeve. Kevin helped me hold it "on" last night and I think it's going to fit! It's unblocked and will look better when finished but here goes:













see, just a little bit of shaping, but it will be a fitted sweater nonetheless. Think I can finish the sleeves today if I stop typing and start knitting. I'm still pondering a simple closure--maybe a one button and loop type thing. Please feel free to give input and help me decide!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

From the mouths of babes...

This will be the first of hopefully many naturally occurring installments of the wonderful thoughts that float through my children and end up either spoken or on paper. Naturally occurring, you know like carbon or oxygen. Nothing forced here.

It is with her permission that I publish the following journal pages. Author: Lauren. Age: 5 1/2. Grade: Kindergarten.


I like BolloN'S
I Am CrASi About BolloN'S
Thay R Fun To Play WiThe
I like them So moht (much) That I Skrem

(note: picture the N's backward if you will)

And...

I love MoM & DaD & John & Allie & my SelF Why Do We have A GoD MoM


go ahead and ponder that for a while.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sundance sweater: the debut

I'm sitting here on the bed with leg on ice. The little ankle problem I mentioned is not going away. I babied it for a 3 mile run on Sunday and one today but the feeling is eerily similar to stress fractures I've had in the past. Luckily it's on the small bone in my lower leg and doesn't seem as bad as the others I've had. If I push it (which I'm on my way to doing) it will end up that way so I need to back off.


I feel like I'm in a battle with health. I like to think my body is on my team but sometimes I think we're against each other. I've worked so hard to exercise as I'm convinced it is the antidote for staying out of the doctor's office for other health problems. I haven't been in one since summer and plan to keep it that way. I just pushed it too fast though, and increased my running frequency, distance and even speed. A certain recipe for stress fracture. Looks like I need to get the bike out.



I'm through my first ball of yarn on the Sundance sweater and it's going well (I hope). I'm not doing as much shaping at the sides as I originally intended but think it will be nice anyway. I'm getting a beachy feel from it already, which may be why I've been researching a family beach vacation this summer. See what you think:





Just realized a diamond is missing out of my wedding ring--off to search!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Country Life

Recipe for fun in the country:



1. make large pile of dirt

2. sprinkle with children

3. mix thoroughly with imagination



and you get this:













However, the resident chef in the family, we're calling her lil' Paula now, didn't wish to be photographed. Instead, she was content to play cooking show in the field of alfalfa with the large bag of cooking paraphenalia she'd toted out earlier. A popular ingredient as of late is the chicken stock which she adds to most anything. She's 4. She wants to have her own cooking show. I must have eaten 30 "meals" today. She'd watch the Food Network all day if I'd let her.




I have been knitting. Just in time for the 70 degree weather I made these:










I had one leftover ball of Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino and deliberated for quite a while as to what to do with it. These started out as gloves, but then I realized the pattern would be too big for me and it only came in one size. Hate that. Ripped it out. So I adapted the DK weight yarn to the pattern in "Last Minute Knitted Gifts", or is it "One Skein" or something else. I can't remember where this 2 by 2 staggered rib fingerless glove pattern comes from. All I know is that it has just the right amount of snuggness (I'm sure that's not a word) because of the pattern and they feel heavenly. The yarn is merino, cashmere and a synthetic that feels so soft it doesn't seem possible.




The Sundance sweater is also in progress. No picture yet, but there will be soon. I hope my calculations are right and it's going to fit how I want it to. But I'm not afraid of starting over so there's always that possibility.




And as for me, well my mood has flip flopped all over today. I started out with "this is going to be a great week" and wound up with "I work so hard and everyone finds a way to complain about it". So I'm off to give myself an overhaul. Anytime I want to pick other people apart, it's usually me that needs the picking apart. Sounds like a good time for knitting, a good TV show and a little alone time. Everybody's asleep right now anyway.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The chicken sweater: revisited, renamed

Some days I surprise myself and today was one of those. I hereby must rename the chicken sweater as it no longer resembles its former self. I prefer to call it the sundance (catalog) sweater from which the original inspiration came. I debated calling it Pat's sweater, but figured this might embarass her! So sundance it is, and it's even similar in color. Wish I knew how to include the picture from the catalog here but as you can see from yesterday's post, that much finagling on the computer might just throw me. But take my word for it, the basic qualities of the sweater are there.



It may be hard to tell in the picture, but this is a newborn size sweater. Yes, Anne Margaret the arm holes (not the raglan seams) are a bit snug but seeing as how this is a prototype I'm not too concerned. Here it is before sleeves:








And after:






And the rear view:










This was so much easier than I imagined once I did it on a small scale. The shear amount of time it takes to construct an adult size sweater is daunting enough and then throw in an unfamiliar technique and it seems like too much.





The next step is to make one for myself. I'll tweak a few things. First, it will be either long-sleeved or 3/4 sleeves, haven't decided. Also, I think I want white. I don't have a white sweater and have really been wanting one. It's going to be a cotton blend. I like the way it feels and drapes. I may include some kind of a single closure in the front with a really cool button and loop configuration, but that will come at the end. I'm going to do some subtle shaping at the sides to make it a more hourglass shape rather than the boxy, baby look. Also, I did the increases at the sides with a M1 increase which leaves a very small hole. It's a cute detail, but I think I'll do kfb increases instead and get rid of the hole.




So, Pam our Drops sweater knit along challenge is going to have to wait maybe a week so I can finish what I've started. And Pat, your sweater will be next! It will be worth the wait. I guarantee the more I make something the better it gets, so yours will hopefully be perfect!




One more picture (can you tell I'm at the library? this many pictures would have taken all day to load at home!). This is the unshaven felted bag I made:










The kids think it looks like an animal. It's going to be the perfect knitting bag once I shave and line it. Pam, this might be the perfect opportunity for a sewing tutorial from your mom!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Don't hate me because I crochet

It started out to be a great day. Everyone was on time, eager for school to start again and excited for the new year. I was really ready! Today I would travel with the new laptop, relax at the bookstore and lavish in the world of high-speed connectedness. I'd made a test run to the local library to make sure I knew what I was doing and it was a smashing success. I had no reservations.


I suppose I should back up a bit. I know laptops and high speed are old hat for so many of you and you must laugh at my naivete, but it's all brand spankin' new to me so just let me be excited about it for a minute.


On with the story. I put two happy kids on the bus and drove the other to preschool. I got to the bookstore, sank down in the biggest chair I could find and proceeded to connect. Wrong! I had to download something huge--this alone scares me, especially with all the warnings--ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DOWNLOAD THIS? IT COULD SCREW UP YOUR COMPUTER AND RUIN YOUR LIFE FOREVER! I clicked 'yes' and proceeded with caution and an elevated heart rate. After multiple attempts and getting stuck in a loop for a while, I got to step 4 of the 6 step process and could go no further.


In all I struggled with it for about an hour and finally gave up. Why does it have to be so hard? Why can't it be like the library? Why do they say free and easy when it's not for some of us? And do you think I'd stop someone and ask for help? No way! Too stubborn, too tired of messing with high tech and in serious need of some knitting, something tangible, something I could produce and see results.


In the time it took me to fail at wifi access I made this:




Not the chair just the crocheted pad on it. Don't know if I'll keep it or if I'll make 3 others to match but I'd been wanting to try it for a while. Still need to attach it with some fabric or ribbon or maybe the cotton I made it with. I know what you're thinking--why white? Nothing in my house is white for obvious reasons, 3 kids, dirt, husband, dirt, pets, dirt and my ever growing distaste for cleaning. But these are simple cotton, inexpensive, throw in the wash over and over and just pitch when they lose their lustre. Mission accomplished, something to show for my time, unlike the aforementioned wasted hour at the bookstore that I'd like to forget.

Since my last post I also made simple washcloths for the family. Hot pink for the girls and blue and green for the boys:




I also finished the felted bag I was making. It's drying by the woodstove in a wooly, unshaven state. I'm always nervous before I throw wool in a hot, agitating washing machine, but this time was a success. I'll be sure to include pictures.

Along with the usual post-Christmas clean and purge (the girls' room was a true and utter disaster area) that's about it. Now I'm off to erase the stupid AT&T wifi access icon from my desktop. It's mocking me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Change

The chicken sweater has flown the coop! I know it only had a brief and partial debut here online, but it had been in my head and the planning stages for quite some time. I never had a great feeling about it. Project and yarn not suited to one another. My real motivation for knitting the pattern was to learn a certain technique so I perhaps can design a sweater requested by Aunt Pat. The sides and back are knitted in one piece up to the armholes, but the knit stitches on the sides angle off at 45 degrees. So in my mind the mission was accomplished. I learned how to do it, now whether or not I can design one with completely different yarn and a different stitch pattern and a much more fitted sillhouette is another story. I'll letcha know if I can do it, Pat!

One the bright side, the fantastic Lamb's Pride yarn I was using has dissolved into several projects. The first of which is mittens:


My own little creation. They turned out exactly how I want them. The best thing is how warm and cozy they are. We were outside last night on New Years' Eve and my hands never knew it. These seem impervious to cold and wind. And like all things made with good wool they breathe so my hands didn't sweat either.

The rest of the yarn is currently in use for a felted bag and felted slippers. Rarely do I feel like felting, so when the urge hits I run with it. This is also my favorite yarn to felt with which helps. The 15% mohair just gives it such a great look.

I debated whether to talk about change on New Years Day, it seems so cliche and predicatable, but it's really what I've been thinking about lately. I remember sitting at the computer most of the day this time last year. It was then I started a Pay Pal account and my Etsy shop. At the time I knew how to email and do a Google search. That was about it. Kevin set everything up for me and laboriously taught me how to get the digital photos from the camera onto the computer and then uploaded in my shop.

With that knowledge I've figured out much more, including setting up this blog by myself. With all that has taken place during the last year I can't really imagine what this year will bring except change itself.

I have many goals and dreams for the new year. Alot I want to do with the business and alot I want to see happen personally. But I know not to be so set in my ways that I miss an opportunity when it presents itself. The results of which are usually much better than I could have imagined or planned on my own. An ever present reminder that there are forces greater than myself at work, leading me in the right direction if I just let go and let them.