Raising crane
Thursday November 14th 2013, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Non-Knitting

I saw Joe walking past the door and I apologized to my parents on the phone, who said no, no, go talk to Joe, and as I hung up I opened it.

Joe. You saved our lives. And I told him about my headaches and their rarity (and Richard had them too), about the spike in the red blood cells that had made no sense to the doctor till I told her, how she’d confirmed that absolutely, yes, we had carbon monoxide poisoning.

I said, You came right away to give us that quote and you wanted to start right the next day. Even if I couldn’t afford to pay you all of it that soon. You insisted we needed to get right to it, and you did. You saved our lives.

He looked like he might suddenly burst into tears and turned with a quiet, Let me go check on that unit.

And he checked on that unit. He opened it up and got a really good look all throughout it. Burn burn burn in there, there, and there. Rust rust rust. Metal parts that should be solid moving easily (he took a video). Now we knew what the black stuff appearing out of the vent in the living room too high for me to reach was: the thing was burning mad and it blew a gasket. Totally gone. He showed how the carbon monoxide had come to be specifically directed towards and pushed down the vents instead of dissipating outside.

There’s no way to make that thing safe, is there, I asked. But it was not a question. Those pictures were the mechanical equivalent of my colonoscopy five years ago.

He thought out loud things he could maybe do, not wanting to pile on our costs, knowing how tight things were…

But your conscience wouldn’t let you do that.

It was not a question: it was me verbalizing his face.

No. No, he nodded, agreeing fully. It just… It isn’t…

We were both thinking out loud, word by slow word.

Then, let me talk to Richard to confirm, but I know what he’ll say (and he did). We replace it. It’s the right thing to do. We knew we would probably have to. Don’t worry, it’s okay, Joe, and thank you for worrying about us. But we need to do it, so, we need to do it. We’ll make it work somehow on the money end. (I wrote a chapter in a manuscript as the footsteps tromped around above my head earlier. It’s something, at least.)

So since we can’t take down three trees and part of the fence before Monday to make way for Joe’s lift, and given the tilt of the driveway, there will soon be a crane in front of our house. Parker would be in absolute heaven if only he could watch it in person. We’ll have to take a video.

I stood there stunned
Wednesday November 13th 2013, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Non-Knitting

So this was nothing like that.

Except in the ways that it was.

After two winters of paying obscene heating bills, knowing that to replace the damaged ductwork on the roof would cost us a minimum of $6k (hah! I wish!), as I was paying a utility bill I told Richard what the next one would be. And the next.

The next day, he bought the first of our two space heaters after resisting them for so long for fear of fire hazard. We set it up near the thermostat to blow across our bedroom at night and turned the furnace, which had been set to 66, to where it simply wouldn’t come on at all with that thing near it. But we didn’t quite turn it off.

And the headaches I’d been waking up with every single morning went pretty much away. I’m not someone who gets headaches but very rarely. It was such a strange thing. I’ve had no energy, but I ascribed that to having recently had the flu.

Joe and his crew came today. Eight thousand dollars (so far) and there will be no new flooring before the grandchildren come, I’m afraid, but two space heaters alone does not cut it with a toddler and a by-then crawling baby around; when it came down to it, we had to have honestly working central heat again. Ours seemed to just blow cool air, never warm–better than what was outside, but.

They had about half the ductwork ripped off the roof when the city’s recycling truck came by–hey, that works! Metal is metal, you guys want this? And so they loaded it on, there you go, everybody wins.

The first contractor had left nice shiny metal ductwork up there, years ago, and the birds (we heard the woodpeckers going at it) saw either a mate or a competitor, don’t know which, but they left many many holes in it. We hired someone to fix that; he wrapped it up, ignoring the holes, oblivious to the fact that it was full of rainwater inside and that the HVAC unit now had to heat that water to get anything to us. Thus the thousand-dollar heating bills that were just killing us.

But when the crew got all that stuff down from there, Joe inspected the now-disconnected furnace.

He came down from the roof, sobered, and knocked on the door. He showed me the pictures on his phone. This is what’s there. This is the rust. This is what it means.

I stared at him, speechless; it took me a moment to explain to him, in a voice that surprised me at how small it sounded, why that hit so close to home.

It had been blowing carbon monoxide through our vents.

My doctor said this evening that yes this explained the abnormally high red blood count two weeks ago, absolutely. Richard’s still not sure; after all, the alarm in the kitchen was still plugged in. But we don’t know how much was venting or where.

And last time this happened my CO count was way higher than his. It just was. I always assumed because of the pregnancy, though I wonder now. (I have been grateful all her life for Michelle’s good health…) But then, come to think of it, at least re this time, I’m in the house all day and he’s not.

My head is directly below one of the registers as we sleep. We had only had the furnace on at night. For Richard, a headache is an ordinary thing but for me, not at all. We did have a CO alarm at the far end of the bedroom–and I went and checked it after Joe left: it had been knocked ajar from the outlet it was plugged into, no way to know when. We’d had no idea.

My sweet husband two weeks ago went from no, I’m never getting a space heater, to, sure, dear, it still worries me but I’ll get you one. And a few days later, the second for the other end of the house.

It is November, we’ve had night temps in the low 40’s and even below, and not once have we turned the furnace on all the way to see if it could actually make the house feel warm. We’d talked about it, how it might be a good way to test to see if this was when we really did finally have to call Joe, but somehow it just felt like…don’t…don’t even want it on…

Lo these many years ago we were all hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning from a coal-burning stove in New Hampshire, and these headaches had reminded me of that only not nearly so bad–but to the point that I had said something out loud to Richard about it reminding me of back then, and of asking a firefighter friend at Kathryn’s party Saturday about some of the calls he’d been on. It seemed pure hyperbole to my own ears to even make the connection; after all, that time I had fainted not from lack of oxygen (as far as I knew at the time) but simply from pain beyond what my body was willing to stay conscious through. I woke up when I hit the floor but couldn’t really get off it.

This one was just a nasty headache. It made it hard to sleep, too. (Just like… Oh wait…)

Suddenly the pain of paying for Joe’s work doesn’t seem so much of one.

Get an alarm if you don’t have one. Check it. Be safe.

(Edited to add, the doctor says it should take about three weeks to work its way out of our systems.)

Tuesday November 12th 2013, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Twenty-five years ago, my sister had her fourth son, and maybe he would have been the youngest. But Nicholas did not live through his first day.

Garrett, her oldest, (he would have been I think seven?) remembered that they had always had a birthday cake to celebrate and welcome the new baby home into the family when his little brothers had come along, and asked if they could have one to celebrate Nicholas, too.

It was only right.  And so they did.

Anne had another baby boy after that, and then, still not quite done hoping for a girl, the surprise of twins: identical, you got it, boys.  “Well I know how to raise boys,” she told me happily–and she adored my girls as if they were her own, to my and their great gratitude. Every child needs a non-parent adult who thinks they’re just the best.

And I thought the world of her boys: they had great parents. They’re great kids.

It is 11/12/13 and so it will always be easy to remember and figure out how old they are: Garrett and his wife’s twins arrived today, Anne’s first grandchildren, early but apparently healthy. Layla Jaymes, 4 lbs 4 oz,  and her brother Nolan Nicholas, 3 lbs 5, absolutely beautiful, both of them. The boy seemed to be waving the paparazzi away, as one friend commented on a Facebook photo, and I thought, Anne finally gets her girl!

Nolan. Nicholas.

It was only right. And so they did.

The twinkle in his eye
Monday November 11th 2013, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

You’re knitting sparkles? That just seems so, so. He searched for the right word.

Are you worried about the visual intensity of the sparkles? I asked him. (Thinking of this from the car accident in ’00 that the neurologist said severed the connections between the visual and balance centers of the brain, causing brainwave spiking.)

No, he offered, it’s…not you. I mean, it’s like–acrylic!

I laughed. No, it’s cashmere, it feels like cashmere, (my 76T is 80%) although the strand is thin enough that I’m pairing it with other things, playing with color matchups. I figure the first project cost me about $2 worth of yardage (link goes to the mill ends of their mill ends) to add it in.

I’d wondered how I would like working with this stuff–it’s not shy, that’s for sure–and I put off trying it out for a long time; he’s right, it’s not my usual. But, but, I’m really liking it, actually. It surprised me too.

With a cherry cake slice on top
Monday November 11th 2013, 12:08 am
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

Trying to type with an icepack on one arm, shortly to be switched off to the other. Icing just as a precautionary measure at the first sign of complaining, it’s not bad and I want it to stay that way.

But there’s nothing quite like that little satisfying snap sound at the end of a project. (And being able to hear it!) Especially when with 960 stitches per pattern repeat, there was just just just enough supersoft Malabrigo Finito left that I got to break the yarn at the end.

Oh and by the way? That excellent blueberry cake recipe?  We found out tonight that it’s good with sour cherries, too.

Saturday November 09th 2013, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

The annual stroking of the ego. I confess it freely.

The Scouts were having a spaghetti dinner tonight with a dessert auction fundraiser. I made two chocolate tortes for it. Bergenfield cocoa, bourbon vanilla, manufacturing cream–only the best.

And people were just waiting for the moment (while bidding on other things and Dave ratatatating off encouragement and numbers. DOIHEAR30? 35! SOLD, for 35!

There were lots of desserts, lots of laughing, gradually a slowing down and more chatting but then suddenly attention and a whole lot of hands shooting up as he started off on the first torte. He told everybody, “Now, there are two,” but still–the first went for $62. $52 for the second.

And as I watched the winners across the room cut them up on the spot and gleefully hand pieces around their tables and to anyone who allowed themselves to look interested, it felt pretty darn good.

Overseeing the work
Saturday November 09th 2013, 12:17 am
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

I looked out the window this morning and to my delight, that gap in the fence was still open after all. They must have been reinforcing some other part.

So I went out this evening to check on the potted cherry tree and the blueberries that did not need watering, in case they, y’know, needed watering.

The fence was now closed.

But they work on it when the sun is low, and so I heard the neighbors on the other side and our ladder was right next to there and I walked over to it and asked, “Knock knock?”

They laughed and welcomed me on up to look down at them, and I whipped out my phone and showed them today’s hawk photo taken through the double-paned glass. Fuzzy, but it was what I had.

And then the wife was the one who said Y’know, we really ought to have that gate, shouldn’t we?

Meantime, I finished the qiviut project and went on to the next with December coming at us at the speed of hawks’ wings.

Good fence gaps make good neighbors
Friday November 08th 2013, 12:12 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

Thank you everybody for the input on the cowls. Good ideas, all.

The neighbors have been doing some repair work on a fence, which means there’s been about a six foot opening between us the last week or more. They’ve been doing a much more thorough job than the professionals we hired for the other side of the yard did ten years ago–this one’s built to last.

I didn’t go out there the last three evenings, so I was surprised when I went to go water things to find that the gap was nearly gone. They’d been working hard. And they’ve got a good 15 years on us at least. I am in awe.

The wife heard or saw me going by and popped her head through; I was delighted, and we chatted awhile. Then her husband waved through the opening and we all took turns dancing sideways through the small gap, me the most easily, with some teasing going on.

We considered the thing.

“Maybe we should put a gate here to finish it off,” she said, not wanting our impromptu through-the-fence meetings to come to an end. So we wouldn’t have to go so far around the streets to greet each other. The song “Taking the long way home” started playing in my head.

“My grandsons would get through to pick your tomatoes.”

She laughed.  And then we got talking about homegrown tomatoes, looking at their still-green-but-no-red plants.

It was time for me to go pick Richard up and I had to let them go at last. In the time I was home again before I went off to Purlescence for knit night, I heard…a hammer….

And was grateful there’s still one last section they want to replace later. First we have to take out the weed tree growing through it. All in good time.

I’m actually quite wishing for that gate.

Thursday November 07th 2013, 12:00 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit

Small world moment of the day: when we moved here, the neighbors’ kids were all in college or their 20’s and we were the young family starting the neighborhood over.  And so it is that we knew the parents of a woman who grew up in the house two doors down who is now one of Sam’s co-workers in Alaska.

Sam and all our kids used to play with their cat. We brushed his fur once and I spun about an 18″ length out of it, plied it with silk, and knitted a 1×2″ rectangle hanging from round toothpicks with pearl beads glued to the ends to look as if it were still being knitted (it was bound off and the end glued into a little ball). I put a pin backing on it. The neighbor loved it and kept it on her fridge as a memento after that beloved orange Persian passed on.

Yeah. That neighbor.

Meantime, I was invited to something a year ago in December that I thought was going to be indoors and it was not, and I learned just how much warmth the generous cowl on my wooly sweater added when I needed it (said the woman who left her jacket home by mistake.) I’ve had a soft spot for a good cowl ever since.

I think I’ll leave the current project at one loop because it seems enough as it is. I think.  (I mean, qiviut.) But I’m curious: how do you like your cowls? One loop or two? Twisted or not? How long?

The voting
Tuesday November 05th 2013, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Politics

The grocery clerk noted my I Voted sticker and proudly pointed out his own.

Eighteen out of 32 precincts reporting, Measure D is going steadily down, now at 56-44% despite opponents having been outspent 10-1. I should hold off on the victory party for the moment, but I like those early results. Maybe the developers won’t get to rewrite all of the zoning ordinances in town after all.

And in Texas, re the new voter ID law that was pushed hard by the tea-party state attorney general: it is deliciously ironic that Greg Abbott on the voting rolls found himself face-to-face with the reality of Gregory Wayne Abbott on his driver’s license. Not a match. Bounce. He had to sign an affidavit saying he really was him and then jump through all the hoops he’d helped put in other rightful voters’ way.  Karma, up close and personal.

Update: all precincts in, 43.89% vs 56.11%. WE WON!!! Time to break out the chocolate and dance!

Hope all your election results are a fine, fine thing in the morning.

I lycra bit of silk
Monday November 04th 2013, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Politics

I’m knitting it in a straight line rather than a circle so as to be flexible re the length.

I am a firm believer in not running out of yarn. Part of my childhood included watching my mother spending months knitting my dad an elaborate Aran and coming up short right at the end. She had no idea then how many times she would be saving me in the future from the same fate.

Which is why I have nearly a thousand yards of that qiviut-merino blend in a muted raspberry; the price definitely helped, too. The brown of the musk ox dominates far more than their photos or mine show.

It had not occurred to me till I read the comments on yesterday’s post that I had another cone of that cherry silk/lycra that I’d made that shawl out of  that would match that qiviut well, too. I just had never thought of them together, even after pairing it with the unlikely baby alpaca and having it come out so pretty. OH! Of course! I exclaimed quite out loud. Anne had nailed it!

Thank you everybody for your input, it really helped.

So I did not rip out what I started yesterday, as many of you were hoping I wouldn’t and because I didn’t want to either, and that chorus of no, please don’ts persuaded me on what I already knew; I simply started over on other needles. I would have enough for two. Cowls, at least, the classic qiviut project anyway.

The 5% lycra grabs the other fibers and keeps the silk from slithering out while the silk justifies diluting that qiviut as much as anything ever could.

I will do the airy one later in its own time when my hands are up to it, and now I have one I know will get done in time. It’s on a comfortable pair of rosewood size 7s, coming along nicely.

A lined matching hat would be great for Alaska, too, but we’ll see how far I get.


Edited to add: please vote Tuesday. In our town, a developer wants a mega project justified by affordable senior housing off to the side (and right on the designated bike route for four schools clustered there). But it comes with a parking space for every other apartment. As if seniors never drive. Never volunteer. As if nobody ever visits them. As if it made any sense.

And a 90-year-old’s birth certificate (it has to be certified, which you have to pay for, and how is that not a poll tax), his ID as a professor, and his expired (because, hey, he’s 90 and is being responsible like that) driver’s license are not enough: he was denied a voter ID card by the great state of Texas.  Lives in Ted Cruz’s town. His attendant drove him to go check it out and sure enough, they turned him down, no, you can’t vote with those.

The fact that he used to be the Speaker of the US House himself did Jim Wright no good. What about all the people with less name recognition or nobody to drive them?

Vote.  Did you know that our bitterly bickering House actually quietly passed a bill to kill the desperately-needed derivatives reform of Wall Street that Dodd-Frank had enacted? Our democracy depends on you and me making our voices heard, in every election, on every issue. Please don’t miss it.

Sunday November 03rd 2013, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I knew I should have bought the 3-ply. But I didn’t, I have the thinner 2-ply.

So here’s the thing. I have this daughter who just moved to Alaska. I have some well-hoarded 50/50 qiviut/merino laceweight, and if ever someone had top claim on having that super-warm undercoat of the Alaskan musk ox knitted up for them, she’s it. I’ve started knitting it on 3.5 mm needles, US 4s, as big as you really want to go with this stuff.

My hands are not happy. Even though the yarn keeps a good grip on the needles. They’re still grousing about last Tuesday, when I didn’t have access to my ice packs at the endless city council meeting.

I could knit this doubled. That would limit the length of what I’m making because there’s only so much of the yarn, but, I could do that, and if I’m going to do that instead of this I’d better decide fast because musk ox attaches to itself like a herd firmly shoulder to shoulder facing outward at the wolf; ripping it out is nigh-on impossible. I’m five rows into 143 stitches.

Doubled is warmer. And she’s definitely going to need warmer.

Doubled misses a whole lot of the point of the ethereal lightness of qiviut.

Doubled means that I’ll still be able to knit other Decembery things coming up in my queue.

I’m still resisting. Open to suggestions. What do you think?

Saturday November 02nd 2013, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

We have good friends who are about to move–a half hour north, not Far Far Away, but where we would no longer see them at church every week. It was their 25th anniversary.

And so today there was a grand bash: a renewal of their vows in the building they’d gotten married in, music, and  speeches by their kids including her older two the dad had taken in as his own.

The college-age-and-above children showed a video of their oldest sister as a young kid reenacting her mommy’s then-recent wedding, complete with the dress and veil that their mother was again wearing today. Here Comes The Bride played. I don’t know who the little boy she’d roped into joining her was, but in the footage they stood before the child playing officiator and then the taller bride grabbed the littler groom and swept him off his feet, their backs now to the camera as she play-reenacted, as best as one could tell from that angle, The Kiss photograph where the kissee is swept nearly horizontal mid-air by the sailor celebrating the War being over.

Then she pretended to belt him forward across the room like Popeye on a good dose of spinach, the both of them wildly hamming it up, and dusted off her hands in triumph. The audience was laughing to tears across the chapel.

We all adjourned from there to their soon-to-be-sold house. A chocolate torte may have been among the desserts. (Adding the link to make it easier for some people who were there to find the recipe.) My daughter’s surgeon from high school, who turned out to be their neighbor, made a point of finding me and telling me how good it was.

But the best part by far, of course, was the joy of the bride and groom and their family.

Good times.

And, on a totally side note, as we were out the door to go, the mail had just come and there was my much-anticipated package. I was dying to know what would be inside.

Here’s what The Buffalo Wool Company‘s email ad said on October 30:

“Seeing as you are a BWC VIP, you are getting a heads up and a early peek at what has been our most unusual promotion of the year.    I don’t know if you should be grateful or annoyed 🙂  You might be better off spending your hard earned $$ on candy and tequila.

Yes this is our annual Trick or Treat offering, and once more, I highly recommend you skip this and go find some good skein of sheep stuff, or goat hair. There is a slim chance you will actually get anything useful here, most likely you will get a tangled mess that someone found under the packing table.

You might get a skein or two of Heaven, Sexy, or even Strange Twist, but most likely you will get a random odd lot, bad dye job, or knotted slub of mess.   All year long we toss anything we don’t feel right selling for top dollar into a bucket, and around now we pull out those buckets, toss a few skeins of top quality yarn in to appease our consciences, and offer a shred of hope.

This is how we clean out the office and pay for the company Christmas party.  🙂

There are 400 skeins of Buffalo Wool Co. yarn, 260 of which are truly our seconds and mistakes, we have added a bunch of “Half-Tracks”, “Tracks”, “Sexy”, “Heaven”, “Strange Twist”, and two Skeins of “Buffalo Gold”  So, you have almost 60/40 odds of getting crap.

This is the one thing every year that our “satisfaction guarantee” doesn’t apply too, you get what you get, we have warned you.  There are no returns, and we pretty much guarantee you won’t like what you get.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


Ron Miskin
The Buffalo Wool Co.”

I guffawed reading that and then had to explain to Richard what was so funny. He, quizzical: “You’re going to DO that?” Heck yeah!

I got a color I would never have ordered but that I’m very glad to have on hand to knit for someone else or maybe even me. Some little kid–or maybe it was a who let the cat in, but they’d clearly played with the winder because the yarn meandered this way and back thataway in little helter-skelter of apparently criss-crossed loops at the top of the hank at random. It took me awhile to untangle it into a nice tidy ball.

But for ten bucks? For buffalo yarn? For this nice stuff? Hey.

Shame that invitation said No Gifts. But then, my knitting beat them to it by a few years.

Friday November 01st 2013, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Knit

I had 150 inches of the Malabrigo laceweight left when I finished casting off. It was enough. The City Council cowl, it is done.

In real life, the Whale’s Road Malabrigo on top is a bit grayer and the cobweb cashmere is that bright if not more so. I swatched them together a few days ago, thinking at first, nahhh, but as they came together it was clear the combination improved the both of them. Warm and so soft; I’m quite pleased.

On a cold day it will be the blue brrrr’d of happiness for someone.