Monday, December 29

A Good Yarn

In case you were wondering, yes I did finish the raspberry colored shrug from an earlier post. And made a few raspberry colored noises. I didn't like it. I tried to figure out how it could be fixed, but I think the problem was in the yarn. When I sewed up the seams and tried it on there was too much bulk under my arms, very uncomfortable. So I've stashed that away to possibly frog some day (to frog in yarn circles means to pull out or unravel a project). I wasn't that crazy about the yarn so I'm not in much of a hurry to get that done. Some day I may try that pattern again in a lighter weight yarn and see if it makes a difference.

In the meantime, I started and am nearly finished working on a wrap-type thing with pockets. I like the idea of the pockets. I'm working with a very yummy yarn by Rowan called Cashsoft DK that is 57% extra fine merino, 33% acrylic microfibre and 10% cashmere. Very soft and cozy which makes it perfect for a wrap. DK is short for double knit ... I know, you just had a flash back to those ugly polyester pants your Aunt Edna used to wear, didn't you? Take heart. In this instance double knit describes the thickness of the yarn and has nothing to do with the fiber content. DK is somewhere between worsted (think afghan yarn) and sport or baby weight (think, uh, baby sweaters). The Cashsoft has a nice hand, very smooth as it spools through my fingers and very little splitting. Also, no nasty kinks from over-twisting of the yarn, which plagued me while I was working on the above mentioned shrug. Yeah, I should have taken that as a sign.

The merino should keep it from stretching out of shape and cashmere is just always nice to have next to your skin. The microfiber content isn't even noticeable but ought to provide duribility. The yarn is a deep blue gray that the Rown people call Kingfisher, if that gives you any idea, and not the pictured lime green. Really, who looks good in lime green? Nobody. It's supposed to be 62" long. I'm trying to decide if that is too long. Sure, it looks good on the model, but how tall is she? I mean, if it hangs down below the hips when worn, then wouldn't the pockets be a little inconvenient? I'm at roughly 54" now so I need to drap this on someone taller than me and see what they think about the length.

My next project after this one will be this long sweater thing (well, what would you call it?). The pattern is called Haru (I have no idea what that means) by Doris Chan who does a lot of crochet designs. This one is from her book Everyday Crochet. Even better, I didn't have to buy this book. Please don't tell Doris. Our county has a terrific interlibrary loan system, and in some cases I can even get books on loan from other counties in the state, which is how I got my hands on this pattern.

I have a very nice yarn I want to try out for this. Not the stuff pictured, but some lovely fingering weight yarn (slightly finer than the DK) by Simply Shetland called Silk & Lambswool. It's 41% Shetland lambswool and 59% silk. It feels lovely in the skein. And it's actually spun in the actual Scotland so I can have fantasies about Men In Kilts while I work with it! That's my plan, anyway. What did I say that wrap was now, 54 inches? That's long enough don't you think? Heh.

Sunday, December 28

Harriet Homeowner Rides Again

Guess what I did today? I replaced a flush valve! Yeah, I'm pretty psyched, too.

You're making fun of me, aren't you? Yes you are; I can hear you laughing from way over here on the other side of the Internet. Fine. But don't come crying to me when your toilet won't stop running and you need a new flush valve assembly.

We have a finished basement which is quite nice when it's not cluttered up with all the stuff we dump there in order to have the rest of the house looking nice, you know, the parts that company actually sees. I did do some cleaning up last week and it's not looking too bad now if I do say so myself. Still some stuff to dump and I've got bags and bags of books that need to go to either the library or a used book store. In the meantime, however, we haven't been able to use the downstairs toilet for months. Mind you, we don't need to all that often. The problem was that it wouldn't stop running so water was being serously wasted. It wasn't a leaky flapper; I checked that first and there was no leak there. Now, you might think of toilets as being complicated affairs, but they really aren't. It's basically just the flush apparatus and the flapper, that's it. And - I found this interesting, maybe you will as well - the basic modern flush toilet mechanism has not changed much since the first patent was issued to Alexander Cummings in 1775. Ha. You thought it was Thomas Crapper, didn't you?

No, I am not a plumber, nor do I play one on tv. But I learned a lot from my dad about how to fix stuff around the house. It's amazing how much the average person can do for themselves, and cheaply! Seriously, I paid about $10 for the assembly and it didn't even require special tools to install. Ten bucks! You couldn't even get a plumber to drive past your house for that! And all the instructions where right there inside the box, easy peasy. I admit I was nervous about doing it and had put it a ways down on my to do list. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet and a couple of different DIY websites, I became more confident about my ability to handle it. And it really was pretty easy. Didn't even need a wrench. In fact, the instructions clearly state NOT to use a wrench but to do any tightening required by hand.

Now it's done and I'm feeling pretty darned proud of myself.

Friday, December 12

It's Beginning To Look ...

I put up my Christmas lights the other weekend. Just lights on the shrubs and an animated snowman figure but that took me long enough. Had a heck of a time figuring out the power cords, getting the right tab a into the proper slot b, so to speak. At one point the snowman was animating away, but not lighting up. You would think the animation would have been the hard part, but no.

In case you've never done this before, let me explain how it works. A string of lights comes with a female end and a male end. They do, well, what you'd expect. Except not with each other. It's not a moral issue, dear reader. The male does the manly job of connecting to the household current, while the female end has the all important maternal job of keeping the current running for the rest of the family and giving all the baby cords something to feel connected with.

The trick is to make sure you have all the strings running in the right directions or you end up with boys next to boys and girls next to girls. Electrical cords work much the way biology does: you need one of each in order to make a ba - uh, in order to make a complete circuit. So I had the string of lights plugged into the extension cord and the extension cord running into the outlet, with the intention of hooking the business end of the snowman (it's a snowman people, get your minds out of the gutter) up to the lights. There's a whole 'nother set of lights on shrubs to the right side of the door, but that part was fairly simple.

My problem was, there are 3 variations the average householder will encounter in North America:

1. Two prongs

(a) Both prongs of equal size,
(b) One prong wider than the other; and

2. Three prongs.*

And wouldn't you just know it, Frosty had a 1(b) connector while the lights had a 1(a) receptacle and they don't fit together, no way, no how. You can't even cheat on that one if you wanted to. To make matters more complicated, I discovered that Frosty came with a plethora (okay, 3) of plugs/receptacles and the instructions were, um, vague. *sigh*

One of the new found connectors did fit into the light string and I was quite excited for a whole 10 seconds when Frosty started tipping his hat at me. Then I realized that while he had range and motion, he wasn't exactly glowing. Finally got it all squared away and the figure anchored down which I must have done a pretty fair job of because we had some big winds the next day and it held just fine. What do you think?

In other years there have been those pretty icicle lights hanging from the gutters, but that involves much time on a ladder and even then, for me, it's a reach. And you know, the snowman took long enough.

*If you find yourself with a 3 prong connector but only a 2 prong receptacle on an extension cord, you might be tempted to cheat and jam it in there anyway. DON'T. Just don't. I won't bore you with the technical reasons for the variations, but I will say that they are practical and even safety related. Do it right.

Monday, December 1

It's a Classic

As a rule I go quite a long time between movies simply because I'd rather be reading. I honestly don't think most movies are worth giving up my free time for. I'm not anti-cinema, it's just that today's movies tend too much towards gratuitious everything - profanity, nudity, gore - and rely on a sort of potty humor popular among adolescent males. Since I'm neither a male nor an adeolescent, I just find it dumb. There are a handful of exceptions, but I generally prefer old movies. What with less sophisticated special effects and more stringent censorship (no, I'm not advocating censorship), film makers from by-gone times relied a lot more on imagination - theirs and ours, both - and in my opinion that's why so many of the oldies are still goodies. Of course, "old" is relative. I like Bogey and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracey. But I also enjoy Redford and Redgrave. In the last few weeks I've watched The Sting, The Untouchables, The Great Escape, and The Stand. I've watched them all before, but that doesn't matter.

  • The Sting is wonderful because (a) it's got Robert Redford and Paul Newman, and (b) it's got some great twists in the plot that delight me everytime I watch it. Everything about it says "let's have fun" right from the start.
  • The Untouchables is a great cops and robbers flick. It has Costner before he let fame go to his head, and Sean Connery's in fine form as an old-timer beat cop. Also, notably, a very young Andy Garcia and everyone's favorite bad guy, Robert de Niro. I've heard this one mistakenly described as a "gang" movie. pffbbbt. Fugetaboutit. This is not about some turf-happy punks trying to be tough. It was da mob, people.
  • The Great Escape. Not a lot of people know that this movie was based on a true story. Not a happy ending, so you don't watch this one if you want happily ever after. Still, it's got that triumph-of-the-human-spirit thing going for it. And what a cast. Steve McQueen, James Garner, and James Coburn just to name a few.
  • And The Stand, based on the Stephen King novel. King also wrote the teleplay, which is probably why it was so well done. Don't wait for a network re-airing, though; too much is cut out to make room for commercials and it loses something in the continuity. The original broadcast of the mini series, though, is about as true to the book as any movie could be, and the book is among my all time favorites. Talk about classic good v. evil. And Gary Sinise, too. I think what made this book so perfect, and what held true in the movie version, is that nothing was wasted. Every character, every plot turn, has a purpose. And the big showdown is about as perfect a climactic ending as you could ever ask for.
In retrospect, it's pretty clear that I was in the mood for some good guys v. bad guys stories. And even if these movies don't all come with happy endings, they do have some good guys kicking ass. Sometimes you need that.