Wednesday, May 28, 2008

in which I telecommute for the first time

I got permission to work at home today because I had to had to be here for the plumber. (It was a corroded pipe, but it was an easy plumbing fix. Two feet (60cm) of pipe replaced and a new spigot. I don't know how much damage was done to the foundation or the siding because I can't get under the house to check. The crawl space opening is far too small for me, so Oscar has to do it. It's almost too small for him. It was also much cheaper than I had expected.)

I thought I'd enjoy telecommuting but I really didn't. I wasn't any more productive here than at work because I still have distractions. They are different distractions, but fending off the affections of four separate animals (yes, even Maggie wanted some attention) during the day wasn't all that much different than dealing with colleagues who wander over to chat. (Although my colleagues have never walked over and slammed my keyboard tray back under the desk, which is what Seamus does with his nose. He also decided to start howling when I was on the phone with a colleague.)

In fact, there was a distinct disadvantage to working at home today--no coffee. I don't have any at home because I only drink it in the mornings and on weekends, we usually go someplace. Around 12:30, desperate for a coffee fix, I walked over to the local Safeway with its Starbucks bar for a jolt of java. I had been up since 7am, and the back door had been open the entire time so that the dogs could go in and out as they please. But during the 20 minutes I wasn't home and the only 20 minutes of the day the back door had been closed, Kate had an explosive accident on the carpet. (She got into the cat food last night and I think it was too rich for her.)

So while I like being home, I don't like actually working from home because I feel like I should be doing stuff around the house (like washing dishes or pulling weeds) and am tempted to do stuff that I know I shouldn't do (like take a nap or knit). I resisted all the temptations but still feel like I've kind of wasted my day. Not anymore productive at work, not productive at house stuff, and no leisure activities...the only positive was not having to spend 2+ hours commuting to and from the office.

In a complete change of topic, here are some more pictures:

Maggie, continuing her habit of sleeping in seemingly uncomfortable spaces.

An iris blooming in the back yard.

My latest sock, finished last night and blocking nicely. Unfortunately, you can't see the cuff detail, which is a lace pattern that reminds me of the capital of a Corinthian column. I can hardly wait to finish the second sock.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Homeowner Haiku

Broken water pipe
Floods my garden; incentive
rebate arrives soon

Monday, May 26, 2008

in which Oscar discovers the secret to my decluttering strategy

Him: "Why did you put all my stuff into the garage?"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lazy Sunday

While I spent most of the day working on getting the office straightened up (along with what seems like tons of other tasks) , and Oscar spent the day scrubbing the kitchen and constructing a water barrel, Seamus and Kate soak up the sun:

Man, if these guys had opposable thumbs, you can bet I'd put them to work.

Will you believe me if I tell you that this is an improvement?

Really, I spent several hours working tidying! Obviously, still more work to be done.

in which I wonder just how long it will be before gardening will get me in shape

Yesterday, I spent another two hours dealing with the lawn. (Yes, more audio lectures to accurately track time). Now, the only reason I can even stomach the thought of doing all this work is that I actually want the workout. Remember, in Weight Watchers world, it's not back-breaking's accumulating activity points! It turns out to be a zero sum game because after all that labor, all I want to do is consume a large quantity of scotch to offset the muscle pain that will inevitably develop.

Actually, there are a few reasons why I insist on using old-skool style tools. One, I'm rather cheap. A push mower doesn't cost anything to use it, and it requires less maintenance than a power mower. Ditto with the weed whacker. Although Oscar found the weed whacker at a thrift store, he still has to buy the cutting thread. Each of the spools costs 10 dollars. I bought some sheep shearer clippers at the hardware store yesterday, and they are just great for edging the lawn. I have more control than with the weed whacker (there are some things that I don't want to get whacked) and they are very comfortable to use (can be used with either hand); and in all honesty, doesn't take that much longer than using the weed whacker. And I won't accidentally cut any of the plants that I've planted near the fence (although I did nearly snip my headphone cord neatly in two while I was leaning over. I tucked it into my shirt after that.)

Another reason, and this is becoming more and more important to me as the weather warms up...old skool tools don't make any fracking noise. All weekend, at all hours of daylight, the neighborhood is filled with the sounds of godd*mn power gardening tools. Power mowers, lawn edgers, leaf blowers, air compressors, power washers. Dear god, it's enough to drive someone insane. The height of insanity was the sight of watching one of the local residents try to mow a 100 sq foot (10 sq meter) patch of lawn using a riding mower. I'm not against riding mowers, per se, and there are definitely some lawns in the area where this would be a useful tool, but on that tiny lawn? She could barely maneuver the thing. And diesel is almost $5 a gallon right now!

(Last week, one of my neighbors saw me mowing my front yard with the push mower, and asked me in a really concerned voice if I wanted to borrow his "real lawn mower". I thanked him and said no and that I wanted the work out. [The lawn wasn't very tall, so it wasn't much work.] He said that it still seemed like a lot of work, and then I said that I didn't need any gas. "Ah yes," he said, and the look on his face made it obvious that I really wasn't a weirdo, but that the current price of gasoline made a push mower not such a bad idea. One tiny victory for me!)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

in which I discover it's payday and help the local economy

We Washington state employees get paid twice a month--on the 10th and the 25th. If either of these dates falls on a Saturday, we get paid on Friday; if on a Sunday, payday is Monday. This month, the 25th falls on a Sunday, but Monday is a holiday so I assumed that payday would be Tuesday. Nope, it was Friday, May 23rd. Perhaps the Office of Financial Services felt that waiting one extra day would cause hardship on employees, or perhaps they just thought it would be nice for the employees to be flush on a 3-day holiday weekend--the first big holiday of the summer. I don't know.

And it does feel like summer today, too. Although the forecast predicted rain, it has been a warm, cloudless day and really pleasant. The temperature is a lovely and moderate mid-70s F (low 20s C) and just a wonderful day to go for a stroll to downtown and hang out.

Oscar and I went for a decadent breakfast at Hello-Cupcake. (You think a cupcake for breakfast is weird? Any weirder than a muffin?) We each at one cupcake and got another for later. Properly cupcaked, we walked over to BKB & company to check out the Art-O-Mat, which is an old-fashioned cigarette dispenser remade into an Art dispenser.

BKB had lots of neat stuff. A lot of local artists were represented as well national and international ones. There was jewelry, glass art, fine fabric wear, funky metal sculptures, big felted toys, handmade soaps, ceramics, candles, and greeting cards. I really loved the funky metal garden art. No pictures on the site, but imagine a group of mutant insects with gaping jaws and big teeth carrying off a plastic garden gnome. There was another one of a group of these mutants decapitating a plastic lawn flamingo.

And I found a wallet. I have been wallet-less lately because I am incredibly picky about my wallet (really, who isn't) and I can almost never find one that fits my needs. I'm one of those weirdo women who actually doesn't carry a purse around (never mind that I always have my backpack with me) and I always want my essential stuff in my pocket. Money, bus pass, bank cards--all in my pocket. Traditional women's wallets are all too large. Rather, they are all too bulky. Even a lot of men's wallets are too bulky because I carry stuff in my front pocket rather in the rear pocket. (Part of the problem is that pockets in most women's trousers/jeans are barely functional...but that's a rant for a totally different post.) When I find a wallet that actually serves my purposes, I will use it until it literally falls apart.

But I found one, and I am very happy. And apparently very lucky. I checked the company's website for a photo to share with y'all, and the model I have has apparently been discontinued.
But mine look a lot like this (photo from the website), except it doesn't have a snap (a good thing, IMHO) and it's brown with an orange interior instead of having an orange exterior (which I would have liked). But seriously, if the only color available would have been hot pink, I would have bought it. Function over form, in my book.

My bus pass fits in the outside pocket, and there's enough room to carry around the stuff that I may need (like bank card, driver's license, etc) but not so large that I can stuff it full of crap.
The company is MyWalit and they offer loads of neat stuff. BKB carries a lot of their line, in case you find something that catches your fancy.

I also bought a few greeting cards that had been printed on letter press. They were very beautiful. I also found a great mug. I have the perfect (for me) coffee mug. Everything about it's form and function is wonderful (the design is ugly but I don't care). I found it while helping my brother and sister in law clean out her mother's house after she had died. Amongst the 50+ sets of salt and pepper shakers was the world's perfect for me mug and my SIL let me have it. I live in perpetual fear that it will break someday and I will be left with a poor substitute. I have found mugs that come close but nothing quite as good. Oscar did manage to find a nearly perfect mug when he visited El Salvador with his mom. In fact, it was so perfect that I was sure that his mom found it (because she has this incredible sense of knowing exactly what I will love), but no, bless his heart, Oscar "picked it out all by (my)self". (And he was rather annoyed that I assumed his mom found it.) Sadly, the only thing that wasn't perfect about that mug was that the ceramic was rather thin, and it developed a crack from rim to bottom soon after I got it. I still have it though. I use it to hold my lunch utensils at work.

Anyway, the mug I bought today doesn't actually have a handle. Instead, the artist created a fold in the clay so that you insert your fingers in an opening, kind of like a mitt. There were left-handed and right-handed versions as well. It's not quite perfect, but it's close. It's comfortable to hold in the hands and that's really important to me.

So after buying artsy stuff, Oscar and I headed down to McLendon's Hardware store. I love McLendon's (as much as one can love a hardware store) because they have great customer service (they hire a lot of retired contractors so the gray-haired guys in the plumbing department are very likely Master Plumbers) but the closest one is 12 miles away. A friend had given me a gift card for the shop last Christmas, so it was time to use it. The gift card paid for the Japanese maple, which I will plant in the parking strip as soon as the sun goes down.

And in case you are curious, I haven't yet started organizing the office. I've got two more days...

Friday, May 23, 2008

in which I reveal my grand ambition

My plan for this weekend is to actually turn the spare room into functional space. I have put this off for a long time (basically since we moved into the house 18 months ago) and I'm tired of it. The key to a pleasant life in a small house is organization. Both Oscar and I suffer from clutteritis, and both of us have made halfhearted attempts at some sort of organization, usually when an area gets too out of control even for us. Unfortunately, at that point, any change is a vast improvement so nothing ever gets to a really good state.

Here's what it looks like now:

I've got a good start because the shelves have been put up. (Thank you Oscar!) And really all that needs to be done is some organization. There are two large boxes of Important Papers that need to be filed (yes, there is a two drawer filing cabinet tucked in the back). Getting that done will clear up a lot of stuff off my desk (the table to the left).

On the left is a freezer taking up the entire closet (not large to begin with). Yes, there is a freezer in the closet. It came with the house and we need to get rid of it. I was using it as yarn storage (go ahead and laugh if you want, but it was perfectly fine storage space since the thing isn't even plugged in) but now I just want it gone because I want the closet to be used for real storage--like the tools that are right now just kind of laying on the floor.

Wish me luck.

in which a picture says a thousand words

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

nice surprise

How well my friend Mr B knows me.

He saw a whisk shaped like a squid and bought it for me because he thought I would like it.

He was wrong.

I love it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

cute dog picture Sunday

Kate with her "I'm about to lick your nose" look.

I know there are a lot of people who don't think that pit bulls can be cute, but I'm pretty fond of mine. (I too was quite wary of this breed until we found Kate on moving day and found out that her sweetness and adorableness are actually quite characteristic of the breed.)

excuse me, but you are making me uncomfortable

Site Meter is an interesting thing. It gives me a chance to see who is visiting this blog, since I otherwise wouldn't know unless y'all leave a comment each and every time you visit.

A good majority of visits are the result of search engine results and most of those are "mistake" hits, because the time spent at this here internet address is less than one second. (Apparently, lots of people from the UK and France end up at my blog, but I'm assuming they are looking for information on the town in France, not the life musings of a 30-something denizen of Washington state.)

But a few people have come here and browsed. I can tell this by the time spent on the site and the number of page views. That's pretty neat. Total strangers think my writing is interesting enough to keep reading. 'tis very gratifying. Some of 'em come back regularly. 'tis even more gratifying.

But the dude in New Jersey who came to this site from a Google search for "pictures sweaters low-cut"? The only good thing about this is that this site didn't provide what he was looking for (based on the visit length of two seconds), which is quite the relief. Move along, move along.

(There's no need for readers to be concerned about privacy issues. I don't know the identity of anyone who visits. If someone types in this blog address directly or has it as a favorite link, then all I see is internet provider information; e.g. comcast or click-network.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

coffee, tea, or? well, just tea.

In honor of today's record breaking heat (it's currently 92 degrees F in the City of Destiny)*, I offer my method of making delicious iced tea. The best thing is that you can use a really low grade tea and still get good results.

This makes double strength tea, but it tastes just fine if you serve it over ice since the cubes will dilute the tea as they melt. If you don't have ice, add cold water in 1:1 proportion.

1. Fill pitcher with lukewarm water--not hot, and not cold.
2. Add teabags. Use 10 bags per quart/liter of water. Don't mash them down or stir.
3. Let sit for 45 minutes.
4. remove tea bags with slotted spoon. DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BAGS. Let them drain naturally if you wish (you don't have to) but for the love of whatever deity you pray too, DON'T SQUEEZE THE TEABAGS!
5. After removing the teabags, give the brewed tea a quick stir. It's ready to serve! Store unused concentrate in the fridge.

*I think that's 35 degrees C. It's hot. One month ago, it was snowing. And, yes, "City of Destiny" is Tacoma's nickname, even though I have to be careful not to write "city of density".

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Warning--fat lady models low-cut handknit sweater!

Another all nighter (damn insomnia), but I finished everything by about 4am. I resisted putting it on just in case All Was Not Right. No need to wake Oscar up with near hysterical knitter behavior in the middle of the night. He already puts up with a house full of yarn. No need for me to push it.

(EDIT--photo deleted because some jerk copied it to a fetish site without asking my permission)

So, the pluses...the seams look all right, even if they wouldn't pass a close examination. the buttons do look all right. The sweater length is good and Yes, the neckline is supposed to be that low. (One positive for buxom ladies like me.) The stitch pattern yielded a very stretchy fabric and the sweater is very comfortable even though it's snug.

the minuses: what you don't see are the sleeves. While each sleeve does match each other in length, neither of them actually matches my arms. The sleeves end at my knuckles making this a hybrid sweater-handwarmer. That's really the only minus.

So, it's not perfect but it's not a disaster. If I made this again, I would make some modifications (like shortening the sleeves and raising the neckline) but overall I don't think it's that bad.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

so freaking close

I am so annoyed. More than annoyed. Pissed off.

Y'all know that I love to knit. Knitting involves other things besides actually "knitting"; that is, the actual wrapping of yarn around a needle to produce a fabric. "Knitting" has an evil twin that is called "finishing" (also called "making up") which is all the tedious crap. Sewing seams, weaving loose ends of yarn, sewing on buttons, etc. That stuff.

Seams are my nemesis.

I was up all night last night finishing the baby sweater I'm making for a colleague. I'd finished all the knitting, and I planned to sew the seams of the sleeves and sides before going to bed. It's a baby sweater sized for a newborn. Neonatal infants aren't very big (although I can imagine all of my friends who are mothers thinking "not as small as you think"), and I didn't think that the seams would take very long.

Hah. It took me two.and.a.half.hours to sew those damn seams together. And I know how long it took because I was listening to audio lectures, and I went through two discs worth (70 minutes per disc). Approximately 140 minutes for a total 24 inches (60cm) of seam. By the time I'd finished, it was about 3:30 a.m. and I was so pissed off that I couldn't sleep so I stayed up to finished the bottom edge and buttonband which had to be done after the seams were sewn. The good thing is that the sweater is pretty much completed; the bad thing is that it was almost 6am by the time I crawled into bed this morning. But I've washed the sweater and blocked it and it's drying right now. All that's left is weaving in ends and attaching the button.

I've been making this sweater for myself and it's taken awhile. I started in January and it's lain in the knitting basket for awhile because I hadn't steeled myself for the dreaded finishing. I figured it was time to sew those damn seams.

The logical part of my brain knows that the reason that I hate seaming is that I'm not very skilled at it. Most of the objects I've made don't require seams of any sort. I've only made a few sweaters and only one had seams. There are different kinds of seaming techniques depending on what kind of stitch is present in the fabric, what kind of seam it is (e.g. shoulder or side seam along the body), which direction the stitch is oriented (i.e. if the seams were a row of toy soldiers, are they being lined up shoulder to shoulder or head to foot?) And I suck at just about each and every one of those techniques.

But I figured that after last night's warm up on the baby sweater (in which I experimented with about five different techniques to produce a seam that didn't suck), I figured I could complete my sweater. All I had to do was sew in the sleeves and that requires the backstitch technique, which is actually pretty easy.

Of course, when sewing together pieces in which the fabric looks exactly the same on both sides, extra care must be taken at the start to ensure that one is actually not sewing the sleeve inside out. While the fabric may look the same, the item itself has a definite shape, and it's frustrating; nay, curse-inducing, to sew in half the sleeve and realize that one has sewn the top of the sleeve to armpit.

Two hours later (more lectures to help measure time), and I've finished sewing all the seams and all that is left is to sew on the two buttons. Kat and I went up to Seattle a few weeks ago and I bought lots of cool buttons for this sweater as well as future projects.

And I can't find them. Any of them. $75 worth of buttons en casa incognita.

Now excuse me while I leave this blog and go sulk in a corner.

EDIT: found them. They were right were I thought I'd stored them, but I just didn't see them the first 18 times I looked.

sheep sculptures made from old phones

Welcome all! 

I'm not sure how this little blog became the top Google search for this image, especially for all you folks from Australia and New Zealand, but you are all most welcome here.

Who knew phone sheep would be so interesting to so many people?  

This is a sculpture by Jean Luc Cornec and is at the Frankfurt Museum of Communications. 
More pictures at bookofjoe  and at this flickr page.

Friday, May 09, 2008

more animal photos

Sasha giving himself a bath.

Notice sunshine and lawn chair? I've determined that it's spring, even if the temperature is still rather chilly.

Kate snuggling with Oscar and Seamus looking rather goofy. I think he was about to yawn.

Maggie showing off her homeless cat background by demonstrating that it is entirely possible to be super comfortable and cozy sleeping on a bag of Styrofoam peanuts.

This blog will return to it's usual blend of snark and insight as soon as I think of something to write about.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

obligatory cat pictures

There is an unwritten law of Blogdom that says "if you can't think of anything to write, post pictures of your cat."

And Sasha has made it known to me that he has felt a bit neglected here in cyberspace. I try to explain to him that it's because he's very challenging to photograph; his yellow eyes always look freaky in photos (flash or not) and I really want to world to see him as the handsome beast he really is.

He is not convinced, so I am forced to present the world with Freaky-eyed cat:

Not to be outdone, Maggie wants some face time, too. (You just can't give any special treatment to just one of these guys. It's a constant game of oneupmanship.)

That's Maggie chillin' atop the warm dryer. Her own personal bun-warmer.