Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I have grown to love Halloween. Not because I like the candy (although I do like candy), and not because I love witches and ghouls and cobwebs and black lights, either. I have grown to love dressing my kids up for Halloween. Nige is still a little young to get creative, and he always wants to be a super hero (Spider Man this year). But Nora, she has really gotten into the fun of thinking up something and making it happen. Last year she was Rapunzel, and kids still love to use the long blond wig when they play dress up.

This year, she originally wanted to be a frog. Her teacher loves frogs, so it seemed logical to her. But then we went to a friend's birthday party, and all the kids got plastic animal noses. Nora got an elephant's trunk, and right then the final costume decision was made. First off, I bought gray sweatpants and a sweatshirt and a skein of gray yarn. I went back to the old standby, the single crochet beanie. It is typically fairly cold on Halloween night here, so I like this stocking-cap-as-pattern thing. I used craft felt to make the ears (cut 4 elephant ear-shaped pieces, the sewed two layers together, and flipped inside out). I just whip-stitched the ears to the hat.

The feet proved to be more of a challenge. Originally I was going to use a round cardboard oatmeal container cut on half to make the hands, but the other felt I had was really dark gray, and we couldn't find a good way to attach to her hands and still allow her to do school things and hold the trick-or-treat bag at night. So back to the drawing board. At 6:30 last night I decided to knit them. (I'm a horrible procrastinator, but I do work well under pressure)

I started out by casting on 28 stitches and knit 12 rows of 2x2 ribbing on US5 needles. (I have a tendency to knit ribbing very loosely, so I go small on the needles)
Row 13: (kfb, k3) to end [35 stitches]
Row 14: knit across
Row 15: (k4, kfb) to end [42 stitches]
Row 16: knit across
Row 17: (kfb, k5) to end [49 stitches]
Row 18: bind off loosely, leaving last loop on needle
Grab a 5.5mm crochet hook and transfer the last loop to the hook, ch3, turn
double crochet into each of the bound-off stitches, ch3, turn
dc 4 more rows.
weave in ends.

If I were to do this again, I might skip the last inc row and stick with 42 stitches, as they are a little unwieldy, then do a few more rows of double crochet. And I think I'd switch to single crochet after the ribbing instead of the garter stitch, because it's so much faster. I finished these about 20 minutes before Nora had to head off to school this morning, I'll probably chain stitch some pink toenails onto them before T-0-Ting tonight.

If anyone wants to visit them on Ravelry, here are the links to the hat and to the feet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The bread that ate Pittsburgh

I decided to try out a new whole wheat bread recipe today. But after I started adding flour, I realized that I was going to run out of whole wheat, so I had to substitute a couple of cups of white flour in at the end. Of course I had already added enough vital wheat gluten, yeast and dry milk to raise 100% whole wheat dough into fluffy bread. So I wasn't surprised when it rose very quickly and well. But I was not prepared for it to rise another inch-plus in the oven. sheesh! Can you imagine eating a sandwich from this loaf? I hope Mr Deplume and our daughter can find the strength to lug their lunches with them tomorrow to work and school.

I hope it tastes as good as it smells. Although the smell of the bread is somewhat overpowered by the apples and sugar and cinnamon in the crock pot, destined to become apple butter. Yeah, my house smells good. Doesn't look so pretty though. Painting and cooking are productive in their own right, but they don't facilitate picked-up toys or put-away laundry.

Oh well. Such is my life.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Last night I went to bed, knowing that we were in the midst of a wind storm, and that the first bone fide frost was on its way. I awoke a couple of times in the night thinking, "it sure is cold in here." I woke up this morning, went to the thermostat, and it's 55 degrees in here (for you metric people, that's 12!).

I am now swilling hot coffee, and awaiting the moment when I can call the furnace magicians to come and wave their magic wand over it, and restore my castle to its regular level of toastiness. I'm a tad worried about my luck though, because when the air conditioner failed this summer, it only 11 wire connectors and a service call to fix it. A few years ago when I awoke to this sort of temp, if was the fault of a toddler in charge of setting the thermostat (that fix was free, of course). Surely I cannot keep up this charmed HVAC life I've been living.

Must now stop typing, as my fingers are stiffening up from the cold, so I'm off to hug my coffee and retreat under a blanket. I'll end up a frosty Normcicle if the heater won't cooperate soon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ceiling Cat Hates Me

The ceiling in the front room has turned into quite an affair, which is odd, as I really thought that it would be the easiest thing in the whole project. There was a large discolored spot in the center of the room, presumably from old water damage. I figured it wasn't too bad, so I skipped the primer step. That was mistake number one. So then I started a second coat (mistake number 2), and it was obvious that I was going to have to go back and prime the center of the room.

By this time, I was low on paint-- it's a 300 sqft. room, and the ceiling has that sand texture on it, so a gallon is just barely enough for one coat. I went to a basement and pulled out another can of ceiling paint. Same brand of paint, and this was supposedly "bright white" and the other "brilliant white", so I figured that if mixed them together, we'd have enough paint for the third pass at the center part of the ceiling (to cover the primer) and I could put this to bed.

Here's where mistake number four comes in: the basement paint had apparently been tinted off white. I don't know why it wasn't labeled. So now I have 3/4 of a ceiling that is off white, and a few patches of brillirant white around the edges.

I have now whined enough that Mr. Deplume will paint the ceiling with the brand new gallon of "casual white" paint that I bought at Ace today, while I continue cleaning and priming trim. I swear I'll get this done by Thanksgiving when a zillion people will be coming over for turkey and pie. If you are a religious sort, and have a spot on your prayin' schedule, would you mind throwing my front room on there for me?

Here are pictures of what I've managed so far (click on the picture to see the whole album):
front room

Monday, October 20, 2008

Note to self:

Dear Norm,

You have small, uncooperative veins. When you mention to the phlebotomist at the church's blood drive that you are difficult to stick, and she looks at you with a little bit of fear in her eyes and says, "we'll be fine", stop. Do not pass go. Do not say to yourself, "I'm sure the reason that she has her name written on a piece of tape stuck to her lab coat is due to forgetfulness, and not at all a sign of someone in her first week on the job."

No, what you shall do in the future is this:
1. politely stand next to the chair.
2. ask for the expert in the room, preferably someone who has taught phlebotomy to others in the past (that's a pretty good sign, in my experience)
3. refuse to let them tell you that it will probably be okay.

Trust me, it's not worth it to get stuck in two arms by two people to try to get one pint of blood, because you don't want to hurt the newbie's feelings. Better to just have someone do it right the first time.


P.S. Today's Red Cross hero was named Steve Stick. Remember that name-- and ask for him if he's there next time.

Note to others who might be reading this note to myself:
I take much pride in the fact that my Grandma Bug was apparently often "the expert" in her years working for the Red Cross, with the blood mobile. I bet she would have gotten my my petite veins to cooperate on the first try. She had beautiful hands.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How cool is this?

I never would have thought of making a bird house out of an old porch light. I don't think I have a right to be surprised, though, since this spring a small family of birds nested in ours. Funny how sometimes the brain just refuses to take those tiny steps. But now that I know, I'll be trolling the thrift store for old sconces to make little birdies' homes.

I hope that there will be real, photographable progress on the living room this week. I plan on painting the walls today, leaving "only" the trim and floor to do. I decided the other day that home remodeling is rather like liver: it seems like a good idea, and the grilled onions smell so good, but you take that first little bite, and it starts growing in your mouth. You keep chewing and chewing, yet it never seems to be time to swallow. Unfortunately, I can't spit the living room out in my napkin and skip straight to dessert.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Uh Oh. Too much knitting.

Yesterday, I posted about my renewed fervor in finishing a project so that I can dig into that alpaca yarn that is chanting my name. I went to my Wednesday morning knitting group, and knit on the shawl. I knit a little when I got home, too.

Last night, my wrist was a little sore. I figured that I had lugged the boy around too much (he's four and still loves to be carried) and it was a little irritated. I went to bed. At 3 o'clock, I awoke to a throbbing wrist. I managed to prop it up and get back to sleep, only to squish it again a little while later. Ouch.

This morning I hunted down my old wrist brace, totally forgetting that it's for my right wrist I got it from the Occupational Safety department when I worked in an office). I think I need to go to the drug store and buy a new dealie for my poor pained appendage.

And no knitting for me today. I guess I'll have to clean the house instead. *sobs*

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Just keep knitting

I bought some lovely alpaca at a local farm the other day. I want to find and start a project with it RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, I have a lot of other projects on teh needles right now. I mean like ten. That's too many. So I have declared that I cannot start anything new until I finish up some things. I need to frog and re-start the ski winter mask for my little super hero son, easy-yet-neverending shawl for myself, and the socks for the little lady for Christmas are all on the front burners now.

I worked on the shawl for about 45 minutes last night, got 3/4 of an inch done. Being a triangle shawl, each row is longer than its predecessor. Yuck. And the balls of yarn (I'm knitting double-stranded) just refuse to get smaller. It may never be finished, at this rate. I think after this I'm going to stick with rectangles. At least it's easy, and I can almost knit without looking. But all that purling and purling and purling. I prefer the look of stockinette lace (although this isn't really a lace piece), but I'm beginning to see the allure of garter-stitch-based lace. Less purling would be much easier on my hands.

As for the ski mask, can anyone point me to a good pattern sized for kids? I was trying to just adjust an adult pattern down, but I'm finding it rather difficult to do that much math on an odd-shaped object like a ski mask.