Wednesday, July 26, 2006

trial by fire

Not long after I acquired the chair from the trash, I was shopping in a thrift store with my mom during my visit to Michigan. Truth be told, I was actually driving on the same road where a yarn store is located in order to find out where the store was so I could visit it the next day when it was open - and then Mom said we should stop at this thrift store she frequents.

I have never had any luck finding yarn in thrift stores. If I do, it's usually "just" acrylic, and I am finding myself to be more and more of a yarn snob who only wants to knit with natural fibers. After all, it is honestly a much wiser plan to just purchase a sweater than it is to knit it (cheaper, takes less time, etc.), and thus anything I knit I want to be good quality and last forever...and be "authentic." To me, that means lots of wool, alpaca, and cotton.

Despite my bad luck with thrift stores, I stumbled upon not one, not two, but three loads of yarn at this store. By "loads" I mean sufficient quantities of the same yarn type to make a sweater. Yarn for three sweaters - for less than $25!! And two of the loads were labeled with their original wrappers are 100% pure wool. I was delighted. A nice tweed...some bright solids...and these two huge cones of something that did not identify its fiber content but was the perfect yarn for...the chair! I decided that even if the chair yarn wasn't wool, I'd use it. It was certainly much cheaper than any other yarn I had planned to buy for it!

And so began the Search for what was in my yarn. I first hit up Google. The cones had some numbers and words imprinted, so I stuck those in. I did find some information, that the yarn was made by a place called "Mary Lue's." But for some reason I couldn't find this exact type of yarn.

That could only mean one thing: a Burn Test.

A burn test consists of burning samples of the yarn in question and observing how it burns. Does it melt? Then it's acrylic. Does it smell awful? Then it's some sort of natural hair-type fiber, just like your own hair would smell if you stuck it in fire. Mom and Dad joined me in my test in our Outdoor Laboratory (aka the back porch).Like any good scientist, I needed controls. Fortunately, I had several different projects along with me, and I had some scraps of various other yarns in the particular knitting bag I had brought to Michigan. So I selected a white wool/acrylic blend (synthetic), pink wool/mohair (all natural wool), a blue cotton (at least I was pretty sure it was all was from an old, old project), and used them to compare with my yellow Mystery Yarn.

Armed with a flame source (no bunsen burner here...we had a candle) and forceps (er...tweezers swiped from Mom's manicure kit), we entered the Outdoor Laboratory and began the test...The results:
  • Synthetic: melted, smelled pretty bad, smoked a lot
  • Natural wool: burned up, smelled awful - smelled like Mom's hair, which she offered as an additional burn sample!
  • Cotton: burned a little slower than the natural
  • Mystery Yarn: seemed to melt like the synthetic, but also smelled bad like the wool
Conclusion: I had a wool/acrylic blend. Not exactly what I wanted (I was really hoping for all wool), but who can argue for less than $10?

But then, as often happens in science, someone else made a different discovery that refuted my conclusion. Mom put in some of the same information from the imprint on the cones and found an exact description of my yarn! Hey! How did she do that? I don't know, but I do know that I have 2850 yards of 100% wool Schuss Plus yarn from Mary Lue's. It's actually made for machine knitting, but it will work just fine for me and my hands. I might not have quite enough to make the entire chair cover, but I have some ideas on what to do to remedy that (that Aran sweater I'm making is of some very nice-matching Fisherman's Wool that I should have extra of).

It was an exciting experience and now I have more motivation to work on that Aran so I can see how much extra I have. ...Which would be good, because I started the sweater over a year ago?!?!

And my yarn stash is even more happy now, too.

Monday, July 24, 2006

lonesome in blog land

It's strange but true: the authors of nearly every blog I read on a regular basis are on vacation at the same time! Okay, so it's only three people, but still. Normally, every day I pop on by at Alison's blue blog, Ruth's Woolyheaded blog, and my brother's blog. And for the past week, they've all been away from their normal internet connections as they travel far and wide throughout the world. It's so weird...! However shall I survive?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

want vs. need

Someone I know, who is not a native English speaker, has caused me to note the very distinct difference between "want" and "need" and the fact that they are so often confused. This particular person, let's call it "he", has never used the word "want" in any conversation that I can recall. Instead, every place where I think he would say "want," he says "need."

I have an extra candy bar - do you need it? Those two need to get married. Do you need to tour Europe? Do you need to go to the concert?

It's amazing how this simple misuse of the word has caused me much confusion. How, for example, shoud you respond if someone asks you if you need to go have ice cream? I can think of very few, if any, situations in which ice cream would ever be a necessity...there are, however, many times that I would say I NEED ice cream. But the reality of the situation is, it's not required for my survival (by any stretch of the imagination).

The use of "need" instead of "want" is rather amusing, but it causes me to pause and consider how much I think I need and how much I actually just want.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

stress relief

After a wonderful week of relaxing and knitting during my visit to my parents', I have managed to not knit a bit since Thursday! What with the moving and the bird and attempting to unpack, I haven't found the time. All that changed yesterday, though...

When I finally got back from work at 7:30p.m., I had a Situation to deal with, and it ended up with me yelling at someone. I don't normally find myself yelling; I was very upset. Without going into detail, the person I was yelling at is extremely good at using manipulative speaking to try to make the listener feel guilty about whatever the Situation is - and manipulation is one of my Very Strong Pet Peeves. Reflecting on the conversation now, I can take away this life lesson: when you repeatedly are told you are doing the opposite of help when you think you're helping, the problem isn't all the people you've been trying to help -- it's you.

After the yelling conversation and some salad greens and a bite of banana for supper, I had to go continue dealing with the Situation at another location. I did not complete my dealing until 11:00p.m. This was well past my bedtime, and I was exhausted and hot and dirty (the Situation involved some trash). And so I took a shower (my shower had not been working very well at all, but yesterday it got fixed. It was LOVELY!!!) and put on pajamas...and dug out the Nadia yarn and a half-eaten box of Whoppers.

Oh...Nadia yarn. You are so soft and cuddly and full of long, beautiful fibers. You will make a sumptuous and warm hat that will be a joy to wear on a cold, cold day! I don't like most textured yarns, but you are simply pleasurable with your thin and thick spin. I could knit with you for a long, long time. You make me feel much better, even when I know I'll be tired in the morning after staying up late with you.

(I was intending to post an entirely different knitting-related item here today, but since the battery recharger I need to properly power my camera is still packed and I haven't had time to turn on my laptop to transfer some other image files...this will have to do. Plus...this is more timely! The regularly-scheduled post will appear next Tuesday, I trust.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

a bird, sunburn, and lost-and-found

Just when I thought I was back to "normal"... I suppose life is rarely normal, thus I obviously was mistaken when I thought I was returning to some semblance of normalcy when I got back to Pittsburgh. Not more than a few hours after my return, I got a call from Michelle that a bird was inside our house (not my apartment - the house). I hadn't planned on visiting there until Saturday, but I thought I'd better go rescue her and the cats, who were simultaneously drooling and puking from the excitement of a tasty treat fluttering about the dining room.

It was a juvenile starling or something that looked like it that was sitting on the chandelier when I arrived. Mom's nature-minded tips encouraged us to turn off the dining room lights and turn on the outside lights, open a door, and try to encourage the bird to go to where it was light. It took a few tries, and I was quite sure I might have better luck just catching the bird in a bag, but eventually it found its way out the door. Yay. Just a helpful hint: if you ever want to chase after a bird in your house and don't feel like finding big gloves to protect your hands...try using either a pair of socks or oven mitts. Worked just fine for Michelle and me!

After than amusement I moved a few more of my things out and over the apartment. I had intended to bring my hibiscus plant to the apartment, but when I looked in the backyard, I couldn't find it. Very odd. I figured maybe it was just so dark so I couldn't see it. Maybe I had put it in some strange spot before I left, although I was quite confident I had not.

The next day when I returned in the light the plant was still nowhere in sight. Had someone taken it??? If so, who -- and why? Undaunted, I moved more and more stuff into my car and took it to the apartment. It wasn't until later that evening that I realized I had broken my charm of staying sunburnless due to a careless mistake. One shouldn't get sunburned by walking to and from the car, right? Wrong. In retrospect I should have realized that being outside for any length of time between 10a.m. and 3p.m. is a recipe for disaster with my skin. Most of my face, legs, and arms were unscathed, but my upper arms, which hadn't had the pleasure of getting bits of sun during vacation unlike the rest of my exposed parts, did get a little rosy. Unfortunate.

I returned to the house again at night to do some weed wacking. It's a strange evening activity, but it's been so incredibly hot!! I was literally dripping sweat during the moving, and all I was doing was walking back and forth from the car to the house! (Sometimes I was just standing in the house, which I am fairly certain was actually warmer than outside.) So weed wacking, per our landlord's request, seemed best to do once the sun had gone down. I had already moved the weed wacker to the apartment, so I packed it back up, along with the extension cords needed to power it around the perimeter of the lawn, and returned to the birdless house. Amusingly, when I got there, I discovered that there was no string in the weed wacker. I have no idea where that went to, since I've only used the thing maybe twice... More things missing... I'm also missing 9 of the 12 forks I had brought to the house three years ago...

Sunday after church I went to Lowe's in my skirt and bought the appropriate weed wacker string. Then I changed out of my skirt and wacked the yard, which wasn't so awful, even though it was the middle of the day (and believe me, I DEFINITELY had on sunscreen this time), because there really isn't all that much yard to wack. In the process of all this, I miraculously found my hibiscus! It was SITTING IN MY NEIGHBOR'S YARD!!!!!!!!! I was so mad. I took it and put it in my car and brought it to the apartment. WHY would anyone think it proper to walk into someone else's yard and take their plant?! Wow. The nerve of some people! I left the weed wacker for our other neighbors to have (the apartment doesn't have a yard for me to wack, anyhow) and left nothing for those plant-stealing neighbors.

Michelle, Lori, and I discussed the many issues we'd had over the weekend and concluded that all evidence pointed to the neighbors sneaking a bird into the house to fly forks to them and then serve as a distraction while they tip-toed into the yard and took the hibiscus.

Friday, July 14, 2006

alone and lonely

Lonely: It's a mood I get in whenever I finish visiting my family. Generally I get back to Pittsburgh, hide in my bedroom, and try to pull myself together, then maybe pop down to the living room to watch a movie with the roommates or go visit with the cats who don't care if I can't exactly explain my there are tears in my eyes. It takes a couple days to get back to normal, which is why I've finally realized that I shouldn't plan on returning to work the day after a Hometown visit - I'm there physically, but I'm 400 miles away mentally. I don't know if it's precisely lonliness, it's just...missing my family and the familiarity and the security and the love.

Combine that now with my new apartment. I was so excited to be getting a place of my own, so happy to be returning to my new place with its furniture and lots of great books to be put away... And I walk in it and put away a few things...and all I can think is, "I wish someone else was here." It hit me that Mom, who had shared the first several nights of my occupancy at the apartment, would not be coming to spend the night. It's just me...and Sheamus, and a lot of help he is - all he ever wants to do is eat (although, I must admit that when I walked in the door today he did not immediately do the "I'm starving!" dance he normally does when I come home from work -- he kind of acted like he missed me). There was also a catch-22 reaction when I listened to the new Harry and the Potters CD, after having very speedily read book 6 between Monday and Wednesday, and I started crying over the last two tracks.

I've quite forgotten what it's like to live alone. There are a lot of good things - nobody is complaining that there are things laying all over the place or making fun of me because I have so many bags and so much yarn that I am completely at a loss for where I am going to put them all. But there are lots of not very fun things, too, like not having someone there to talk to...and being kind of afraid that someone will break in...and hoping to not lose my keys because nobody else can let me in if I can't find them...feeling alone...

It's just a mood. I know that, and it will pass.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

the chair

In the course of moving, I acquired another "new" piece of furniture beyond my couch and footstool. While driving to the house to load up the car, we happened upon a street festooned with the day's trash at the curb to be picked up by the waste management folks. I must admit, I've not been shy about grabbing things from the trash - and it has resulted in me now owning a great microwave, a fairly decent iron, and a cute ironing board among other miscellaneous furnishings all for free. On this particular drive past the trash, I uttered to Mom, who was driving the car, "I think I want that chair." A moment later, I stated emphatically, "I really want that chair. Stop!" She stopped, I jumped out and hauled the chair into the car, and we proceeded with our regularly scheduled moving.

So, might I present the chair (the silver one - I already owned the blue papasan):Now, you may be asking, "So what?" After all, Tuesday is the day I blog about knitting, not ramble on about free stuff. Well, believe it or not, the chair was ONLY ever desired for knitting. It is the base for a knitted cover designed by Veronik Avery and published in Interweave Knits' Fall 2004 edition. The "Sweet and Lowdown Chair" pattern is full of lovely Aran designs, and just looking at the picture in the copy of the magazine that I recently picked up for some large percent off at the Pittsburgh Knit & Bead going out of business sale made me want to make it so I could sit in it and knit happily. Imgaine that - knitting while SITTING on knitting... Aaah.

The trouble is, the chair isn't produced anymore by IKEA. I stored the idea in some long-term memory file in my brain and decided not to pursue it unless I happened upon a cheap chair somewhere. Basically, I abandoned the idea.

But then...there was the exact chair, sitting abandoned in the trash that misty morning!! What is really ridiculous is that I could recognize it in the trash heap... I guess I must have stared at the magazine image a bit longer than I thought I had, emblazoning it in my mind.

And, as it turns out, the chair isn't really trash worthy. It looked like the people were moving out of their house, and I know full well that sometimes it's easier just to throw out the stuff rather than move it or even bring it away to a thrift store. In all, the chair is fully functional (and clean - so if you come to my apartment, don't worry that you're sitting on a nasty trash-chair!) and ready to be the recipient of a fresh cover!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

where i've been -- part iii

Following our departure from Pittsburgh on Friday, Mom and I drove through Ohio to a little town called Davisburg* between Detroit and Flint in Michigan. The 4-H fairgrounds here were host to the 2006 Midwestern Geobash. And we were there.

Geobashing is what geocachers do when they're not geocaching, I suppose. And what is geocaching? It's one form of a "treasure hunt" in which a person employs a global positioning system (GPS - yeah, like the kind in luxury cars these days, although you can take this version out of your car into the woods) to go to latitude-longitude coordinates posted on the geocaching website by another person who has hidden a "cache" at that location. find it, write that you were there, maybe exchange some little prizes (playing cards...marbles...stickers...etc.), and "log" your visit on the geocaching website when you return home. It's pretty fun. I've always enjoyed a good hunt, and it's a good way to get out into nature, as many are located in natural areas - although some are in parking lots and the like, also. My mom is an avid geocacher, and so she and I went to the Geobash to camp and socialize with other cachers and search for a couple caches hidden around the fairgrounds. There were also various important-to-geocachers-items to trade, lectures about geocaching topics, and at least two super-secret traveling caches that people would find and then hide again somewhere else.

As it turned out, I spent a good portion of the event watching a horse show that was also occurring on the fairgrounds. ...I'm obviously not so gung-ho on the whole geocaching thing. I got a lot of knitting done, though! And I also did go with Mom hunting for two caches on Saturday and spent a long time Friday night with her doing a very involved night cache (I LOVE these - searching for stuff in the dark is way cooler than searching for it in the light. And also way harder. And kind of scary.). In addition, I got to meet some of the other geocachers Mom has gotten to know over the past couple years.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon we pulled up the stakes of the tent, packed up the Accord one more time, and continued on to...Kentwood!!! I'm spending the rest of the week in my hometown, relaxing (meaning knitting and reading) and visiting favorite places - and being far, far away from the lab!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Just a random trivia thing here - PittsburgH is one of very few places in the U.S. that is a Burg with an H. I heard it was the only one in Pennsylvania, although I don't know enough cities to confirm that. Obviously, Davisburg is one of those non-H places.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

where i've been -- part ii

After returning from my family camping trip, it was time to move the furniture into my new apartment. The apartment has one bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a large room that is the living room and dining area. And lots of closets.

Since rain was in the forecast for the next three days, Mom and I decided to get started with the moving nearly as soon as we dragged all the wet stuff into the apartment. Within 24 hours we had moved almost all of my furniture using the roof rack on Mom's Honda Accord (and the back seat and trunk) - and we even managed to miss out on all of the rain showers, though just barely for some of them!

The camping stuff dried out fairly quickly in the apartment after I turned on the air conditioning (I have A/C!!! YAY!!), and by Thursday we had transformed the apartment from a campsite-gone-wrong to a possibly habitable abode.
mom in the kitchen
Perhaps my favorite part of the experience was going to IKEA to get the couch I've been saving for. I had envisioned us putting the pieces of the sofa in Mom's car, since many IKEA things are flat-packed in boxes. But it didn't occur to me that sofas are not extremely flat-packable. So I was a bit discouraged when we also discovered that the sofa couldn't even be put on Mom's roof rack because it weighed more than the rack and roof were rated to hold. I was just about ready to fork out the extra charge for delivery when I wandered into the clearance place and sofa. It was "damaged and dirty" (very mildly) and wasn't nearly as heavy as whatever they deliver was quoted to be...and it was over $100 cheaper than the full-price version. I took it (as well as the matching footstool). Mom and I put it on the roof and drove quite precariously back to my apartment. A few slipcovers later...
Real, live living room furniture in my own place. Woah. Nice. I feel like a real person!

And just think about all that money I saved that I can now use to buy yarn. Hee hee.

Since we had moved so quickly, there was extra time, so Mom and I went kayaking on three rivers. We went down the Monongahela, passed through the Ohio, and did a little paddling on the Allegheny. It was a long way, which we realized when we had to go back up the Mon - it took forever, and I'm not all that good at kayaking for endurance. Mom is way better because she kayaks all the time. She had to tug-boat me a little bit, but it was still fun.
you may laugh, but i didn't get sunburned!
We both slept very well that night...after we went to the Harry and the Potters concert at the library! I picked up their latest album and decided I have to read book 6 before I listen to it because I gather there's a lot of stuff from that book in the songs. I said it before, but I'll say it again: these guys are super entertaining; go see them if you can! Often it's even free.

On Friday Mom went with me to my lab meeting, and then off we went to our next adventure...!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

where i've been -- part i

After a flurry of activity in the lab (meaning...a week of 12+ hour days), I hightailed it west to Raccoon Creek State Park for a Fourth of July weekend of camping with my 80% family (that is...Mom, Dad and brother. Sister is too far, being a West-coaster/Alaskan now - boo hoo.)Actually, I went back to the lab on Sunday evening and Monday morning because sadly science experiments don't have pause buttons and often take five consecutive days to complete and must be started on a certain day. Maybe that's just a workaholic excuse. Not sure.Regardless, it worked out because Jon (brother) arrived on Sunday afternoon and then slept in the tent I'd stayed in the night before...and then he left on Monday evening and I slept in that tent again, and we didn't need to have a third tent up (although Jon had already set up his third tent before he made the decision to leave on Monday...but that's just details.) Long story short, Jon made perhaps the wisest decision of the entire trip by leaving on Monday instead of staying around for Tuesday morning to head back home. On Monday night it started raining. This was sometime around 1:30a.m., which was also the time I woke up I assume in response to the loud music our camping neighbors were playing. I thought the rain would shut their music and them up, but it wasn't terribly effective. I managed to get to sleep for another few hours. At 4:30a.m. I awoke again, and it was still pouring rain -- and the neighbors were STILL AWAKE and talking in loud voices and playing music. I was treated to their discovery that raccoons were eating the hotdogs they had left on the picnic table. Their response was to yell swear words at the raccoons and eventually run outside screaming and calling them cuss names while chasing the stubborn creatures away.

Obviously I did not have a great night's sleep, and when I finally woke up for real in the morning it was STILL raining, and that meant we had to pack up the campsite all wet. Never fun. But rather funny - because then Mom, Dad, and I had to find somewhere semi-dry to sort out the items because Dad was returning home to Michigan but Mom and I were heading back to Pittsburgh and yet needed to take some camping supplies with us. Once it was all said and done, the two cars were properly packed, everyone drove home in the rain (except it wasn't raining in hasn't rained there in forever), and then Mom and I set up the wet tent in the dining room of my new apartment so it could dry out and not get all moldy just sitting in the car.

It was very nice to be back somewhere dry...and quiet...

The trip was by no means awful, though. In addition to kayaking, swimming, and visiting around the campfire, we went for a hike to the lovely mineral springs.
there's mom - what a big cave!!
Crisp, cool waterand a beautiful walk.

Friday, July 07, 2006

i'm on vaca

In case you're wondering...I'm more or less "on vacation." More later. Currently I'm geobashing with my mom.