Monday, October 31, 2011

Water Woes

So after an entire afternoon spent replacing faucets and scraping out old caulk and spreading new caulk and hunting down every possible leak, as soon as Younger Son turned on the water in the kids' shower, the ceiling began to rain again. I know this, because I was standing directly under that part of the ceiling with a towel, and when it began to drip, I jumped up on a conveniently-placed chair and put my finger over the drip. Actually, I put my finger right into the drip, since my finger did not stop when it reached the ceiling, but instead kept right on going and poked straight through the plaster. Sigh. At least I had moved the now-restored table out from under the leaky spot prior to allowing Younger Son to test the shower. Score one for me; evidently, I can be taught.

So it's official. The leak is not Something We Can Handle Ourselves. It is, in fact, Something We Need to Call Our Homeowners' Insurance About. And that makes me really, really twitchy. When it comes to home repair, there's not much we can't handle ourselves. On the rare occasion that we need to call in a professional, it has never yet required a call to homeowners' insurance. But the plumber, who came today, used words like "wall buckling" and "restoration expert" and "demolition" and "insurance claim" and "deductible" and all that has me just a little freaked out. I'm pretty attached to my house, and the knowledge that someone is going to be cutting holes in walls and messing with pipes is not making me happy. On the other hand, the fact that the plumber immediately mentioned "homeowners' insurance" makes me happy that we do have such insurance, even though I don't know how much the deductible is, because it sounds like whatever it is, the cost of the repairs is going to be more.

Of course, the fact that my house is going to get cut up, and likely stay that way for several weeks, and it's undoubtedly going to cost a lot of money, and be messy and inconvenient, is not the worst part. No, the worst part is that, until that shower is fixed, I will be sharing my shower with two adolescent males. Bleah.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I decided my life needed a reset. I think I've been mostly successful. I got the water on before the kids got home from school. The stop payment order beat the check to the bank, so I didn't get double charged for the water bill. The KH's trial is over. We replaced the faucets in the kids' shower, caulked every possible crevice, and threatened the kids with death if they splash water on the floor again. (Has anyone read the Yarn Harlot's new book? I almost choked to death laughing about the water balloon fight. Sounds like something that would happen at my house.)

The wedding book survived the flood mostly unscathed--just a little water damage to the cover and the edges of a few pages, which my husband assures me "adds character." The ceiling, walls, trim, and carpet have dried out, and the damage it mostly not noticeable.

As for the antique table, it was trashed. Really, truly trashed. The KH wanted to just throw it out. He's never been a fan of the table. It's incredibly heavy and has sharp metal caps on the feet that always seem to land on his toes when we're moving it. It has also long had a really ugly finish. To be fair, I don't think it was always that ugly, but it was finished with a high gloss varnish that yellowed over the decades, turning it a sort of shiny yellow-green-brown. To make matters worse, the legs started pulling away from the base many years ago and have defied all efforts to repair them, making it lopsided enough that putting a glass of red wine on it is an adventure.

Despite all this, I didn't want to toss it. Aside from the sentimental value--it was my mother's formal table when I was growing up, and before that, it belonged to an old lady who had inherited it from a relative and had it for decades herself, so it's really old, and I have a weakness for old things--when the leaves are removed and the ends are dropped down, it's the perfect size and shape for under the living room window. In that spot, it's also only a few feet from the end of our regular dining table, which is extremely useful when we have to seat more than eight for dinner. The old table is exactly the same height and width as our regular table, so we just pull it out and set it up end to end with our dining table to make one really long table and toss a tablecloth over the whole thing. With all the leaves in and the tables combined, we can seat 18 people for Thanksgiving, all at the same table.

Also, I love a good project, and I hate throwing out anything that might still be useful. So for the past three days, I've been crawling around on the floor of the garage, revamping the old table. I pulled the legs apart, shaved down the swollen wood pegs, poured in about a quart of glue, and pounded the legs back together with a rubber mallet and clamped it all in place. After it dried, the legs seemed to be totally solid.

Then I stripped the whole thing--not my favorite activity--with chemical stripper and large quantities of steel wool and mineral spirits. I was shocked to discover that the wood under that scary finish is a beautiful red mahogany. I sanded down the water damaged sections as best I could and stained the whole thing with oil based stain. I haven't used oil based stain in many years, because it's a pain, and I wouldn't have used it this time, except that I accidentally grabbed the wrong can off the shelf at Home Depot and didn't realize it until I opened the can. But I'll tell you what: it makes for a gorgeous result. I topped it with a couple coats of oil based polyurethane, and...Wow. The thing is beautiful.

Seeing how pretty is was after its little refurb sparked my curiosity about its origins. A little internet research revealed that it's a Duncan Phyfe style table. Duncan Phyfe was a furniture maker who worked in New York in the late 18th to mid 19th centuries. There are tons and tons of Duncan Phyfe reproductions, but not many confirmed originals from his workshop, since he rarely signed his work.

It is very difficult to tell whether a piece is an original. Some of the indicators are a very old finish (like this, on one of the leaves I haven't refinished):

Beautiful mahogany wood:

Reeded legs with brass claw or paw feet:

Urn shaped pedestals:

And very old, heavy, brass hardware:

Original Duncan Phyfe tables with the original finish fetch upwards of $30,000.

Now, I'm sure this isn't an original and it doesn't matter at all that I let it get water damaged and then refinished it. But dudes, if I'm wrong...I don't want to know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Irony. I Love It.

I posted on Rav yesterday about my bad day. That satisfied my need to whine, so I really wasn't going to bring it up here. New developments have forced my hand, though, and I do love a good bit of irony, so here goes:

Yesterday sucked. My kids woke up really cranky and pissed and moaned all the way out the door. The KH is in the middle of a complex trial and is a crazy person, so he can be excused for yelling at the kids while they were whining at me, but it didn't make for a pleasant morning. I finally got them all where they needed to be and started cleaning the house…and I got a call from Younger Son, from the nurse’s office, “I have a stomach ache, can you pick me up?” Meaning, of course, “I don’t want to be here today, can you pick me up?”

After stalling him for half an hour, I finally went and got him (I think my chances for winning the Mother of the Year award went out the window when I announced to the school secretary: "My kid claims he's sick. I'm here to pick him up"), brought him home, and fed him. Discovered Koz had peed on the side of the sofa (he has a marking issue--we’re dealing with it). Threw the sofa slipcover in the wash. Younger Son’s stomach ache magically went away, so (to his dismay) I took him back to school. Ran out of gas on the way. Managed to roll to the gas station and fill up. $65 later, got home and found the washing machine was done, but the slipcover still looked dirty. Turned on the water to wash my hands…nothing.

Called the water department to report a pressure issue. “It's not a pressure issue. We haven’t received your payment, so your water has been disconnected.” WTF?! I mailed the check! “We don’t have it in the system. You have to pay at the payment agency.” Where is that? "There isn’t one near you. You’ll have to drive downtown (45 minutes away) and pay in person." Discovered the water department recently went online. Spent 45 minutes trying to get signed up. Developed a severe case of Tourette's. Finally managed to pay online, called them back with a confirmation number: “Thank you very much; your water will be back on within 24 hours.” 24 HOURS?! Excuse me, but I have kids coming home in FOUR hours! Kids who are going to want dinner, and working toilets!

Called the bank to stop payment on the missing check. That will be $27. In addition to the late fee, the disconnect fee, and the reconnect fee from the water department. Oh, yeah. And the water bill payment. And I still don’t have water. Or clean laundry. And how much do you want to bet the check makes it into the water department's system and gets paid during the 24 hour period before the stop check request goes through? (Hint: there is not enough money in the account to cover both the online payment and the check. It was a really big water bill.)

Got a call from the pharmacy. My doctor only authorized 30 days of my prescription, instead of the 90 I usually get. They have tried to contact her twice, but she won’t respond. Do I still want the prescription? How much is it? Twice as much as the 90 day prescription. Aaargh!

So today, I was looking forward to a better day. You know, one without a meteorite hitting the house. Instead, I got water raining down from the living room ceiling. The boys' bathroom is directly above the living room. Directly above the antique dining room table my mother gave me. The table upon which is displayed the hand-made, leather-bound book my husband wrote and gave to me as a wedding present 15 years ago. The ceiling, walls, trim, carpet, table, and book are all severely water damaged.

Drought to flood. Do you think the KG has a brother? The Water God? Because clearly I pissed somebody off.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spinning Molly

If you've been around this blog for a while, you may remember Molly. For the past few years, I've had a bag of her brushed undercoat hanging in a pillowcase in my knitting room closet. Over the weekend, I decided it had been in the closet long enough and began blending it with some combed merino to spin.

I originally intended to use my new blending hackle, but after a morning of utter frustration, I discovered what more experienced fiber artists already know: a hackle is intended to comb out the shorter fibers (here, the dog hair), leaving only the longer fibers behind to become roving. So a hackle is not the right tool if you want to blend shorter and longer fibers. Duh.

Eventually I switched to my hand cards, and things progressed rapidly from that point.

These are my poufy little rolags of fiber, all ready to be spun.

They look and feel like little golden clouds.

And they spin up pretty easily. I am trying to spin fairly thick singles so I end up with a bulky two-ply to use for a sofa blanket. Evidently, I suck at spinning thicker singles. I haven't seen such lumpy, bumpy yarn since my first attempts at spinning.

I'm not sweating it, though. It's going to be an afghan, so however the yarn turns out, it will work. I'll just let the end result dictate the pattern I choose.

And here is the first skein, all washed and pretty. As you can see, it's a fuzzy, thick and thin yarn. What you can't see is that it is incredibly soft. It feels like angora, only denser. Dog hair is supposed to be about eight times warmer than wool, so I imagine it will make for a very warm blanket!

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's a Dog's Life

I guess Koz likes his new home.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

And Again

While surfing through my Rav queue yesterday, I came upon this--Tinder, by Jared Flood. I immediately had to have yarn this exact color for this project. I had this in the stash:

It is Bartlettyarns fisherman 2-ply in a color that was supposed to be "Rust" but is really salmon pink. Not a bad color, but not the greatest color in the world for me. I decided I could overdye this with orange and brown and get something close to the color I wanted.

I recently bought some dye in "Burnt Orange." It turns out, however, that when I pulled the container off the shelf, I did not read the label. The container was incorrectly shelved, so I had actually bought..."Salmon." Overdyeing salmon with salmon didn't seem all that productive to me.

Not to be deterred, I decided I could come up with my own burnt orange based on the dyes I already had. Not a bad idea, really, since I have red, yellow, and brown. So don't ask me why I decided that red and brown together would turn salmon pink yarn into orange yarn. I have no idea. In my defense, it was late in the day and I was distracted. But rest assured, red and brown do not make orange, no matter how much one may want them to.

Instead, they make this:

It is a truly beautiful deep cranberry--which is, as usual, not what I was trying to achieve, but still lovely, and it will be excellent for Tinder, if that's what I decide to use it for. I had seven skeins of yarn, which is way more than I need, so I left one the original color, with the vague idea that it would make pretty trim for the cranberry.

Maybe facing for the collar? Edging for the cuffs and bottom? Not sure, but I like the colors together, so perhaps I'll work something out.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just What I Needed

I finished Ariann Again a while ago. I have rarely knitted a project that failed to please me as much as that one. And there was nothing really wrong with it. I didn't like the yarn, it's true, but it knitted up nicely, and the end result is attractive and fits. It's a measure of my displeasure with the thing that I still haven't bothered to sew on the four buttons that are sitting next to it in my knitting room. By the home stretch, I was so heartily sick of knitting it that I marathoned through just to get it done so I could cast on something in a nice, woolly yarn.

This. This is Snowbird, worked in Marr Haven sport weight in light grey (more of a heathered beige). As I mentioned before, it's not really a sport weight yarn. I'm getting a perfect worsted weight gauge with it. It's very lanolin-y and smells like clean sheep. There is virtually no vegetable matter in this yarn. It does not feel soft while knitting (probably because there is a fair amount of spinning oil in the coned yarn), but it becomes wonderfully soft and squishy after washing. This yarn is the perfect antidote to the commercial acrylic blend I used for Ariann Again, and I think I am slowly recovering.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another Birthday Present

Now, before you all get all upset about my husband giving me a kitchen appliance for my birthday, he didn't. He actually gave me a gorgeous pair of Frye boots I had been drooling over for some time, but didn't buy because they were stupid-crazy expensive. As it turned out, once they arrived and I tried them on, I didn't like them nearly as much, so I sent them back and ordered this instead, with his blessing. (Yes, it's bright red. Is there a theme here?)

I've always wanted a KitchenAid stand mixer. My mom had one while I was growing up (still in use, and it's 35 years old), and I used it for all sorts of things. But I have a very small kitchen and everything in it has to pull its weight and then some. This mixer has to stay on the counter--it weighs a ton and won't fit in a cabinet. So for many years I've made do with a series of cheap hand mixers.

For the most part, it's been okay. But I like to bake sourdough, and the endless kneading is sort of getting to me. So I've been thinking about a stand mixer for a while. The real tipping point, though, is Younger Son and his love of baking. He's always loved to cook and bake. Even as a preschooler, he would always beg to help in the kitchen. I would sit him on the counter and let him pour in ingredients, or put him on a counter stool and let him make eggs or stir soup.

He's 11 now, and quite competent in the kitchen. He has been our grill master for the past few years, and our cookie maker for a while now. Lately, he has been expanding his repertoire dramatically, which is great. Except that he's not really big enough yet to handle some of the heavy duty mixing on his own, and a hand mixer doesn't work for cookie batter or bread dough. Which means, of course, that I hear, "Mom! Can you give me a hand, here?" a lot more often than I really want to. I figured we'd both really appreciate a heavy duty mixer, for many reasons.

I ordered it from Amazon for an excellent price and it arrived Tuesday evening. Younger Son was thrilled. He immediately called dibs and baked banana bread (a little brown--totally my fault; I sent him to shower and failed to pay attention to the oven):

Then he gave me orders to buy ingredients for a pumpkin cake while he was at school the next day. He's been asking for a bundt pan for some time (how many 11-year-old boys know what a bundt pan is?!), so I got him one as a surprise.

He baked this after school:

Pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. Delicious!

Have I mentioned I'm on Atkins? Low carb? No flour or sugar? Yeah. This is torture.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Different Sort of Dye Job

This is my spinning wheel.

It came unfinished. When I bought it four years ago, I spent a long time standing in front of the wood stain display, debating between China Red and Antique Maple. I love red. Really love it. But I wimped out and went with the more traditional maple.

I've regretted it ever since. Unfortunately, I used paste wax over the stain, so I didn't know how I could ever refinish it.

On Saturday, I went to a local fiber festival and hung out with my wheel in the spinners' circle. There were lots of different wheels, and they were all lovely. But my little Ashford Traveler just looked a little...drab. I thought again how much I wished I had stained it red when I had the chance.

Since Seashells was also there spinning, and since I know she is a woodworker, I asked her if she knew a way to remove paste wax for refinishing. She suggested denatured alcohol or mineral spirits, which is just what I needed to know.

The alcohol didn't work very well, but the mineral spirits was just the ticket--took the wax right off. So I got out the red stain and got to work.

I'd like to say it went off without a hitch. I don't know if any of you remember the paint incident from when I was painting the ceiling of my knitting room, but suffice it to say, we had a repeat, only this time with a full can of red wood stain on the green wool rug in my knitting room. Yes, I was refinishing the wheel in my knitting room. All I can say is, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I blame the Knitting Goddess. I was trying to stain the bottom of the wheel, it tipped over on the worktable onto a rag soaked in mineral spirits, and I exclaimed, "Well, that's the worst thing that could have happened!" as I grabbed for the wheel. Then my elbow hit the stain can, knocking it onto the carpet, and I heard the Knitting Goddess giggle, "Uh-uh! This is the worst thing that could happen!" And she was right. Three gallons of water and two hours with a carpet shampooer later, it didn't seem like such a good idea, there is still a pink splotch on the green rug, and my back may never recover.

But look!

A beautiful, glossy red.

Just what I wanted, and no one could ever call it drab! I never named my spinning wheel, but now I'm afraid I have no choice. It's just so obvious. Can't you guess?

Rosebud, of course!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yarn Play, Part 4

Are you getting tired of this yet?

I'm not. In fact, I'm having a great time pulling yarns from the "sell" pile and dyeing them to get new yarn for my stash!

This is the latest candidate:

What, you think that's kind of pretty? So did I, which is why I bought it. Then I knitted a swatch:

It almost makes my eyes bleed. It's not even clown barf. It's what clown barf would look like the morning after an all-night bender. I'm pretty good at coming up with good uses for questionable colorways, but this one? Yuck.

The yarn, however, is merino bulky from, which is, I believe, the same as Malabrigo Merino Bulky. Well worth saving, in other words.

I didn't think there was any color that would cover this virulent combination, so I went with good old dark brown. I was hoping it would just cover everything. It didn't. I even added more dye to the dye bath as it was dyeing. Twice. In fact, I ended up using the entire jar of brown dye. No dice. There really is no color that will cover this. (Anyone else remember the country song "John Deere Green"? That's what I hear in my head when I look at this yarn.) Here is what I got:

It's not bad, but definitely not what I was going for--it's kind of a toned-down version of the original. I may try to overdye it again with more brown, once my new order arrives. My husband likes it the way it is, though. Maybe it will become something for him.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

Friday was my birthday, and it was lovely. I turned 32 again. (I have to choose my age carefully, since I don't want my kids to outgrow me.) My family and some friends came for dinner, which the KH cooked. It was delicious! Filet mignon roast, yum. And Younger Son, who is eleven and a big fan of baking, made me my favorite carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, which was outstanding. As usual, my overly-generous hubby gifted me with some lovely things. My favorite was something I've wanted for a long time. He's tried twice to make me one, but without the proper tools, it just wasn't happening. I am now the proud--and excited!--owner of this:

It's a blending hackle! I have some...okay, a lot...yeah, yeah, TONS...of undyed fibers in my knitting room, including merino, pygora, alpaca, angora, silk, tencel, and, of course three different breeds of dog hair, which I acquired in the hopes of coming up with some beautiful, unique fiber blends to spin and knit. First on my list, for years now, has been the bag of super-soft Molly fur in my knitting closet. Miss Molly crossed over the Rainbow Bridge almost three and a half years ago. I tried a few years back to spin her fur by itself, but it wouldn't hold together. I have long wanted to blend her lovely golden fur with some soft white merino to make yarn for an heirloom sofa throw for the family to enjoy. Now that I have my very own hackle, I'm ready to give it a try.

My dear brother-in-law consulted the KH for a gift idea and gave me a gift certificate to Knit Picks, which I think is going to be used for a tensioned lazy kate for plying. I have an Ashford Traveler, which has a built-in lazy kate. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well with my Woolie Winder bobbins, which have gears the Ashford bobbins don't have. I've thought about getting a tensioned lazy kate for a while to simplify plying, and with a gift certificate and a big spinning project in mind, now might just be the time. Anyone have experience using Woolie Winder bobbins on a lazy kate?