Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Appliance Dead Pool (or The Great Appliance Conspiracy of 2006)

Some well known facts about your household appliances:
  1. Household appliances speak to each other in a buzzy, mechanical language that has yet to be translated by humans.
  2. Through this method of communication they coordinate their own deaths.
  3. When one appliance dies, two more are sure to follow.
  4. They know when you have a little extra cash on hand that you'd like to spend on something fun like a vacation or some cashmere. (This is why we all have a yarn stash)
  5. Your furnace will only die on an extremely cold day.
  6. Refridgerators only die when they are full, never when they contain only condiments, two beers, and a fuzzy square of cheese.
  7. Your car is in on the whole conspiracy too.

Our last home was more than 50 years old. In the 10 years we lived there we replaced the stove, refridgerator, built-in microwave, washer, water heater, water softner, and furnace. We always had an appliance dead pool going, betting on which appliances were going to die next.

Our current home is only 7 years old. We replaced the stove and dishwasher just because we wanted to. Buying appliances because you want to, not because you have to, is a beautiful thing. We figured our days of the appliance dead pool were over. We have a practically new house! What could go wrong?! Our general appliance complacency has come back to bite us in the behind this last couple of weeks.

Three weeks ago the friendly folks at Sears called to say that our dishwasher warranty was due to expire, would we like to renew for three years at the low, low price of $149? My husband, who hates service plans and extended warranties, said no. He thinks these plans are "selling to people's fear of bad things happening to them." As I've spent my entire adult life in the insurance business, I'm not sure how I feel about his philosophy, but marriage is all about compromise, right?

Anyway, last week the dishwasher (triggered by my husband's refusal) died. Three years old. Stainless steel inside and out. Wonderfully quiet. Dead. Of course in dying it leaked water between our laminate wood floor and the crap ass vinyl floor underneath the laminate. Now we have to hire a floor guy to come out and replace the warped boards. Our friendly Sears repairman (now billing full price) arrived and diagnosed the problem, a blown motor. He replaced the motor and $350 later, we have a working dishwasher.

This morning my husband got out of the shower and declared we were once again living under an appliance curse. The hot water heater was on the fritz. His blue lips should have been proof enough, but I had to run downstairs to see for myself. Praying that there was no leak as we have the same laminate hardwood all over the basement, I checked it out. No leak but no pilot light either. I had a huge meeting today with a company I'm trying to sell our consulting services to. Of course. I ended up throwing on sweats, putting my toiletries in my backpack, grabbing my suit and going to the office to shower.

Luckily our water heater is on our utility company service plan that we pay for every month. The water heater was not a total loss and a couple of parts later (and no bill thankfully) we are back to indoor plumbing.

Please see #3 above. We are living on borrowed time. The temperature has dropped 30 degrees in the last twenty-four hours. Smart money in the dead pool has the furnace.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"My First Sweater"

3 or 4 years ago, when I first started knitting, I took a class at Amazing Threads called My First Sweater. It was a drop shoulder, stockinette stitch sweater with a very simple garter stitch neck. As is my usual M.O. I knitted like a fiend on it, outpaced the rest of the class and stopped going to class before the end. I missed the important final class on how to sew the damn thing together. It has sat in my stash, in pieces, ever since. I think it's Cascade 220. It's a beautiful chocolate brown (I would never recommend doing your first sweater in anything this dark, it's too hard to read your stitches).

I've made many sweaters since then, but without fail I've used a three-needle bind off to finish the shoulders. I've sewn the shoulders of My First Sweater three times and each time has looked worse than the last. Finally this weekend in a burst of "I'm gonna put that damn sweater together once and for all!" I did what would have been unthinkable at one time. I undid the bound off shoulders and did a three-needle bind off. The mere thought of such an action would have put me into a cold sweat two years ago. I'm not saying it was without trepidation, but I'm feelin' pretty knitterly right about now my friends.

After being rolled into a ball, in a drawer for three years or more, I have to re-block the whole thing before I sew the sleeves and seam it, but I think My First Sweater will actually be worn soon.

In other news, remember back to August when I started fair isle hats for the nieces and nephews? Well I ran out of steam on those, only the boys are getting fair isle hats, the girls are getting felted ballerina slippers. They will probably like them better anyway. On Thanksgiving night, my five year old godson nephew Ben asked me to follow him to his room. He has perhaps the biggest eyes of any child ever and I have no defenses against them. He has also lost all four front teeth, two on the bottom, two on the top, resulting in a very endearing lisp. He looks at me with his big eyes and lisps, "Auntie Kate what I really, really want for Christmas is something (imagine this pronounced thomthing and he's lookin' at me with the eyes) you knit for me. Thomthing warm for winter like a hat or mittens. That's what I really, really want."

I ask you, does this kid have my number or what?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day. I love Thanksgiving. We always have a big family dinner with sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and outlaws. My sister and cousin take turns hosting. I've been out of the rotation for years because my house was too small to have 25 or 30 people for dinner. When we moved, I laid low but eventually my sister and cousin looked around my house and said, "why aren't you taking a turn?" So at some point I was put on the rotation.

I'm very thankful today that I don't have to cook. My sister and her husband, both wonderful cooks, are hosting dinner. Last year my sister decided that she wanted to spend the day with her in-laws as it wasn't fair to her husband that they always spend the holiday with her family. My cousin hosted an "orphans" Thanksgiving with friends, and my brother had to work. So I hosted my parents and in-laws here. Much like my approach to socks (I don't knit socks), I just don't cook. It's not that I can't cook, I just don't. So last year was my second attempt at turkey.

My first attempt was two years ago and a royal pain when my sister and my cousin's husband arrived and decided "She's doing it all wrong". They took over the kitchen and in between criticizing my appliances (brand new and stainless! what's not to like?) my cookware, and my skills, managed to save the family from my incompetence. I was driven to a corner clutching a bottle of wine and muttering curse words under my breath. Happy Holidays!

First let me say as a germ-a-phobe and semi-food-phobe, turkey scares the crap out of me. Every year at this time the morning news shows and food t.v. talk about how dangerous undercooked turkey can be. And the stuffing!! Forget about actually stuffing the stuffing in the bird, it should be cooked in a clean room offsite, as far away from the salmonella-carrying turkey as humanly possible. This slows my turkey cooking down considerably as, armed with Clorox clean-ups, I follow myself around disinfecting as I go. My bird might end up dry, but no one is getting food poisoning on my watch! Up to my elbows in a sink full of cool water, I wrestled a not totally thawed turkey into submission. Nearly in tears as I tried to remove the handy packet of organs and neck from the wrong side of the turkey. Yes, indeed I was trying to pull them out the little turkey ass.

In the end last year, my complete lack of knowledge regarding turkey anatomy aside, the dinner was a success. It was only a half hour off schedule. I only had to make aproximately three thousand calls to MFF (acting as my personal turkey hotline) and only drank three glasses of wine while cooking. Everyone had a swell time and no one was stricken with food borne illness.

Did I mention that this year one of the many things I'm thankful for is that I'm not cooking dinner?

P.S. a family gathering like this, involving wine, can only result in some great Roger Clinton stories and pictures for the blog next week!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Today's Home Ec

No knitting progress to report because I am crocheting. Yep, I promised my son, the blanket hoarder, a chocolate brown afghan for his room. So I'm crocheting a quickie. It's done with three strands of Jiffy held together. I know it's acrylic that you can buy at a craft store, but for afghans washable is best.

Afghans need to be there when you are sick. They need to be dragged up and down the stairs by kids. Dogs and cats lay on afghans. They need to be washable. Really washable. And you need to throw them in the dryer too.

I actually like Jiffy. I like the mohairy look of it and the soft feel. I hate that the skeins are wound by evil trolls who knot up the middle of each skein. I've spent as much time untangling yarn as I have crocheting the damn blanket. If you use Jiffy for anything I recommend doing so with an ample supply of wine and chocolate.

My son is addicted to blankets and afghans. He has a pile of them. He uses them nearly every day. He has one that I crocheted for him 7 or 8 years ago that is an absolute mess but he refuses to give it up. I have fixed it countless times. Now that he is in the eighth grade and has taken the mandatory Family and Consumer Sciences (yes, this is the new politically correct, gender neutral name for good ol' Home Ec) he has taken to re-sewing the afghan himself. He was really going for a spot on the Honor Roll this quarter and at mid-quarter, FCS was standing in his way. So he started working on extra credit projects. He made himself a pair of fleece sleep pants and a plastic canvas thing that resulted in an A+ in the dreaded FCS. You cannot imagine my relief that helping him in FCS has been teaching him how to use a sewing machine as opposed to cooking. Last year FCS was cooking. He brought home muffins that weighed about 4 pounds each and could break a tooth. I am no help in cooking as I don't cook, but ask me to fire up the sewing machine and I'm there baby!

Armed with his A+, there is no way that I am going to be able to convince him that learning to crochet and finishing this afghan would be infinitely more personally satisfying. So I'm stuck untangling Jiffy. Pass the wine.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Thank you for all your kind comments, it makes me feel much better about my blog. No new knitting news, nothing earth shattering going on around here, but maybe I can catch up on things in general.

I've been on the road a bit lately. Flying is a whole new experience now what with exploding hair gel. Ever since 9/11 there has been a lot of yelling at airports. Not screaming matches ala Diannah Ross, but general instructions being yelled. I wonder if the reservation agents and TSA people realized all the yelling they'd be doing when they accepted their positions. So in case you haven't flown lately and are getting ready to fly somewhere for the holidays, here is a rundown on the state of the airports. At least as I have found them.

I always fly on an e-ticket and I love being able to check in online. Now that my toiletries are considered a danger, I'm checking my bags. Me and everyone else. The electronic kiosks at Mpls/St. Paul airport have been turned into manned electronic kiosks with check in areas for baggage. When I reached the kiosk area I was greeted by a friendly, yelling Northwest Airlines reservation agent yelling instructions about where to go if you are checking bags versus where to go if you are not. I invaribly end up in line behind two senior citizens flying off to see the grandkids. They can't manage the touchscreen check in and take four times longer than anyone else to complete the transaction.

Bags checked, I stand near the doors and assess the security line situation. Unlike most airports, MSP has 5 or 6 different security lines. So I have to determine which one seems to be moving the fastest. Back in the days that I was flying all the time I had "elite" status with NW resulting in automatic upgrades, so I could get into the first class only security line which usually saved time. There were fewer people in the first class line, plus they were people who traveled often and knew the drill so there was a lot less yelling.

I picked a line and began to run the TSA security gauntlet. The first station is the people who never yell. Mainly because they don't speak any English. They check your boarding pass against your drivers license, look at you and squint, then make an illegible mark on your boarding pass. They will grunt at you to indicate you've passed this first all important security check.

The TSA security gauntlet has a whole new station of zip lock bag ladies. Begin the yelling. Waving zip locks over their heads they shout the instructions that will protect us all from potentially life threatening exploding toiletries and beverages. No more than 3 ounces per jar/tube, all must be contained in zip lock bags (imagine zip lock bags can protect us from exploding toothpaste!) No water, no coffee. If you didn't prepack with zip locks they will provide them to you. Anything over 3 ounces must be disposed of. Of course I am behind a woman wearing aprox $50,000 worth of heavy gold jewelry, dressed in a brightly colored velour track suit and ostrich cowboy boots. She is very unhappy that she will have to throw away Lancome face cream that retails for over $100 a jar. Now she'll look wrinkly as well as dressed badly.

Next comes the actual security line with the TSA agents whose job it is to yell about laptops. The champion laptop yellers are at Chicago's Midway airport. These women can yell long and loud. Laptops must come out of your bag and be placed in a separate bin. Throw your cell phone, sunglasses, book, bag, coat and shoes in another bin. Jewelry can generally go through the machine on your person unless you are wearing aproximately $50,000 worth or are wearing a huge belt buckle bearing the Smith and Wesson logo. If you are wearing both, please just turn around and go home to get therapy before you fly. If you choose to ignore this warning, please God don't be in the seat next to me. While you cannot bring an un-zip locked tube of tooth paste through to the plane, feel free to bring your knitting. Addi turbos are a-okay. They will come in handy if you end up next to the ostrich boot woman (did I mention she bathed in Calvin Klein's Obsession?) on the plane and have the urge to hang yourself from the overhead bins.

Once through the metal detector you can have a choice of being wanded or you may have your bags swabbed for gunpowder residue! Being swabbed is preferrable to being wanded. At least you know where your bag is. If you are a woman, being wanded involves waiting for the next available TSA wand woman (so you don't feel harrassed while being wanded by a man. I have felt harrassed since the cabbie dropped me off at the airport) while watching the conveyor frantically to make sure your bag doesn't get stolen.

Now you are free to board your plane. Or sit on the dirty carpet at the gate (there are 250 people on your flight and 80 chairs at the gate) waiting to board. When they call first class everyone will lurch to the gate hauling their zip locks. There are 16 seats in first class and 75 people lined up when they call boarding for first class. Figure that.

Gone are the days of sitting in first class sharing a bag of candy orange slices with the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves (he is pretty cute and single btw), I'm now in the middle seat in coach stuck between guy who has asked for a seatbelt extension and close-talker-guy who has decided to take off his shoes. Behind me are seniors who talk very loudly. Perhaps they have been rendered deaf by being yelled at so many times before boarding. Now the flight attendants can tell everyone to put their seats up and turn off their blackberries and cell phones. We are off! There are no peanuts, pretzels, magazines or horrible food to distribute anymore so the flight attendants can now gather to complain about the airline, the passengers, the gate agents, and how much their feet hurt.

When the plane lands and they tell you that you can fire up your cell phones, please participate in the "I'm so important that the Stock Exchange has probably crashed while I was out of touch for one hour" ritual of firing up your cell phone. If it doesn't start immediately buzzing with messages, frantically dial someone to tell them you have landed. It could be your mother on the other end of the phone, but make it look like you are speaking to the chairman of a Fortune 100 company.

I travel for business so my journey ends at the cab stand. If you are traveling for pleasure (can travel be a pleasure these days?) you must go to the airport holding pen to try to find your loved ones. The holding pens vary from airport to airport, but are designed to keep dangerous non-flyers from infiltrating the system. Personally I think the most dangerous person in the airport is whomever just sat next to the ostrich boot woman, who has spent the entire flight whining about her lost Lancome. I hope your loved ones have their cell phones with them because calling them and trying to explain your general location is the only way they will find you.

Fun huh? Glamorous! It's a party in the sky! Don't you wish you traveled for business? Maybe next time I'll tell you about how much I love staying in hotels! Bring your Clorox cleanup wipes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

In The Words of Pink

I'm not dead. I just seem to have lost my zest for blogging lately. What with work keeping me busy and stressed out, stuff to do with the family and around the house, I just haven't had it in me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the big controversy about aggregators using content and putting ads on it. When I discovered that my blog was not even captured by any aggregators, I started to realize that only a few people read this thing anyway and I felt a bit defeated. I know that is a little like chasing a robber down the street because he broke into the house next door while shouting "hey, what's the matter, isn't my house good enough to rob?!" but I'm weird that way.

So, I'm back. I don't know if I'm back daily but I think I can manage three times a week. I have been knitting. I finished this:

It's for my friend's baby. Born in September, family schedules haven't allowed us to get together yet, but I'm hoping soon. First of course, I'll have to get rid of the three freaking cold sores on my mouth, but soon. The pattern was free on Jimmy Beans. It is made with two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherds Worsted. I added the little flower on the hat to make it more girly.

I've also been working on this, also in Lornas Laces. Which, if I haven't mentioned it before, I love. It's the softest washable wool I've ever used and it really is washable.
This particular color is Mother Lode. I found it on sale, sale, sale at Little Knits. I don't know if I would have picked the color if not for the sale, but as it turns out I love it. The pattern is one of Wendy's (Knit and Tonic Wendy) that I bought at the Garter Belt. Her patterns are terrific. Wearable, mostly top down, and easy. Not mind-numbingly, death march knitting easy, but just easy enough to make yourself a cute little cardigan and watch "Dancing with the Stars".

So there you go, I'm alive and knitting. I'll be back. Soon.