Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Elphie's Gift

This post is two weeks old, mostly because Stitches managed to take over the better part of two weeks. 

Two weeks ago, I sat down at my computer with my cup of coffee, and proceeded to start my day the way everyone should. I drink my cup of coffee, download podcasts, check Ravelry, and then go get dressed and start my day. It's a very civilized way to begin your day, and I highly recommend it. That goes doubly for knitters.

It's not uncommon for the dogs to come and go through the dog door as they please; that's why we installed it. It's also not unusual for them to take a toy (or five) out to the patio to play on a nice day. That's just how our house works- and they also usually bring their toys in and put them away. (They put them under the table instead of the shelf, but I'm not about to complain.)

We have one TERRIBLE dog toy, which I'm 99% sure Andrew picked out. It's an elephant, and it's supposed to sound like an elephant trumpeting, but it really sounds like someone screaming like they're being put through a wood chipper, feet first. It's loud, startling, and naturally, the dogs love it. (I'm not saying that the dogs deserve to be limited to squeaky toys, but I'm also not keen on jumping out of my skin for their entertainment. Selfish, I know.) The elephant is small and grey, and is an important part of this story.

As I was enjoying my Civilized Morning Routine, Elphie went out the dog door with the elephant toy, and shortly after, came back in with something in her mouth. At first glance, it looked like the elephant toy. Then she turned towards me, and there was an eight inch tail.

Tail? My brain processed slowly. She proudly dropped it next to me. In my kitchen, at my feet.


I screamed. I don't think I've ever screamed like this in my whole life, mostly because I've never been so startled.

I didn't stop screaming. I pointed at the dog gate (which they got behind) and continued to shriek at a pitch and volume that threatened to shatter every window in the neighborhood.

I took a deep breath, stopped screaming, and thought about packing up the dogs and going elsewhere with them until Andrew became available for body disposal. This was a BIG rat.

It might still be alive, said a voice in my head. You need to get it out. Now. Before it wakes up.

The thought of an R.O.U.S. loose in my home was enough to help me screw up the courage to put on my grown-up pants and do it myself, right away. I refused to spend one extra second with this thing, so I ran through the kitchen and garage, opening every door (and the lid to the trash can) in order to create a speed course (which is the opposite of an obstacle course, and I might have invented it).

I grabbed my biggest dustpan and it's accompanying broom, and I was ready. I took a deep breath, ran around my table to get to my maximum speed, swooped down to grab the (stiff) body, then proceeded to scream as I ran through the last leg of the kitchen, the garage, the side yard, dumped the body in the trash can, and slammed two doors behind me.

I'll admit that this wasn't my proudest moment as an adult. I felt stupid for being so grossed out, and more stupid for the uncontrollable shrieking. I let the dogs out from behind the gate, and as I did, I realized that my feeling stupid wasn't the worst thing.

Elphie went and laid in her dog bed, ears down, tail down, shame in her eyes, and laid down with her back to the room. She put herself in time out. Niki just did his thing, completely unmoved by the events that had just transpired before his doggie eyes.

Cat owners will tell you that you should never behave like I did when your cat brings you a trophy. You are supposed to say "Thank you", praise the cat for their supreme hunting prowess, then deal with the body calmly. You do *not* shriek like a harpy, set up a speed course, and unceremoniously dispose of the dead body extremely thoughtful gift. This lapse in etiquette may have caused Emily Post to turn in her grave.

I had to act quickly. I called Andrew up to appraise him of the situation, and told him what an EXCELLENT hunter our Elphie is, in the most cheerful and proud voice. I also told him how THOUGHTFUL it was of her to bring me such a WONDERFUL trophy, and how *I* behaved abominably.

As I told Andrew the story, he laughed himself silly. Elphie was listening, too, and both ears and the tail came up, and eventually I got a smile out of my girl. (There's an idiom I learned as a teenager for this; it's talking to the doorframe so that the door will hear you.)

Could you really deny a smile like this?
I really do believe that having dogs in my life has made me a better person, mostly because they've taught me about love. Love is, apparently (for those of you playing the home game), apologizing even when you're *not* wrong and graciously accepting a gift that has been given with love.

Even if it *is* a dead rat.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sympathy for the chicken

I'd like to start his post by saying that I don't like chickens. I don't like that they peck or flap, and to be completely honest, I don't even really care for the flavor or texture of their meat. I may also suffer from a bit of alektorophobia. I am, however, a huge fan of chicken stock/broth and eggs. (Not together.)

I would also like to make it clear, that this is NOT a political statement; it is just a personal epiphany that I'm sharing. 

While at knitting on Saturday, somehow the subject of chickens, eggs, and the treatment of animals in industrialized food came up. (We have a very deep and knowledgeable knitting group.) I think that the subject came up because of an episode of Bones, where there was a murder connected to a cage-free chicken facility.

Andrew and I had watched the episode together ("The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken") not long after we had an argument a civilized discussion about why we were paying twice as much for free-range eggs as we were for cage-free eggs. And for that matter, why we were paying twice as much for cage-free eggs as we were for regular eggs.

Free range eggs cost 5 times as much as regular eggs, for those of you who are comparison shoppers. I do not share the Cordelia Chase philosophy of "I don't want it because it's more expensive, I want it because it costs more." There needs to be a good reason to pay more.

I couldn't tell any difference in the flavor or quality of the eggs, and I felt like it was a waste of money. (After all, I eat a lot of eggs.) Andrew, who was in charge of egg-collecting for his mother's hen house lo those many years ago, felt differently. For the record, Andrew has no love of chickens, either.

Andrew argued asserted that it is wrong to keep chickens in cages, and I have come to agree. Unlike with dogs and crates, where a crate isn't considered to fit unless the dog can easily turn around in in and lay down comfortably, there is no such standard for chickens.

While I don't care for chickens, I do love dogs, and the idea of stuffing an animal in a crate to live out it's life until slaughter is abominable. Especially a crate that is too small.

A chicken, free-ranging around the Retzlaff Winery. It's probably a wino, but I would be, too, if I lived there.

Back to Bones. They showed cage-free chickens, and it was chickens moseying around (as best as a chicken can mosey when kept wall-to-wall). I pointed out that while this wasn't ideal, it also wasn't terrible. (It's a gross episode, and in a Fast Food Nation kind of way.) That's when Andrew pointed out the difference between cage-free and free-range.

To be honest, I didn't really think about it after that. When we were talking about industrialized chickens, Laura'nge talked in depth about the conditions. It made me ill.

Usually, I just move on and think about other things, but the conversation stuck with me. I thought about it all night, and into Sunday.

So, here is my (albeit predictable) decision: we will be buying free-range eggs. Not because they taste better, not because they're more economical, but because it's the right thing to do.

...And I don't want to keep chickens. Just like how I have agreed to not bring home dirty fleeces, Andrew has declared that we will never keep chickens. It may have been in our vows.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Give novelty a whirl

Spinning novelty yarns is challenging.

I know that when people start spinning, it's really common for someone to say, "Wow! Your first time and you're spinning novelty yarn already!"

All right, I'm cool with the encouragement side of it; in fact, that's a much better approach than ripping someone's first spinning off the wheel and deeming it sub-standard. (Though, it would make a really funny SNL sketch. Niche, but still funny.)

I picked up the Sit and Spin DVD last year, and co-erced a friend (and the podcast intern) into giving novelty yarns a spin. The intern (K, the Wünderteen) was stellar at it. British Mary and I were... not so much.

Mary had the Bulky Plyer Flyer, and decided that she hated spinning novelty yarn. I decided that it must have been an equipment issue, because all I knew is that I MUST HAVE COILS. (In fact, if the DVD had nothing *but* coils on it, I would still have thought it was a good deal. They are SO FREAKING COOL!)

So, when Kevin over at HansenCrafts sent me a MiniSpinner to review, I spun sock yarn on it. I spun woolen fluffy yarn on it.

I spun coils on it.

coils 2
I didn't say that they were *good* coils.
I'll be the first to admit, they're not amazing. Or created evenly. But I did it.

It was challenging to do. Based on the numbness in my lip afterward, I had my "concentrating" face on the whole time. You know what coils are? Fun.

How could you look at this and NOT want to [at least] try it?

Shame on you for not labeling your stuff, Mystery Etsy dyer! NO SOUP FOR YOU!

In any case, while my next coils might be less epic, I will love them just the same. I'll just have to wait until I get a MiniSpinner of My Very Own, since the review one is going back to Kevin this week.

Also, for those of you in the Blizzard-y states? I hope the groundhog declares Winter over. I also hope he's wearing day-glo, otherwise you might miss him.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dr. Jasmin is In

We all have Days. (You know, the kind Mama told you there'd be?) It's not fun or interesting to talk about those, so let's talk about something that never ceases to make me feel better.


Do I have your attention?

Working with cashmere has scientifically been proven to lower your blood pressure. Even sitting in traffic, simply stroking a ball of cashmere is enough to soothe the ragiest of road ragers, and can get you out of a moving violation. ("I'm sorry officer, before you write that ticket, you should pet my ball of cashmere.")**

As we all know, stress is a killer. It's responsible for sleepless nights, weight gain, bad skin, and poor decision-making. (When was the last time you made a really *great* decision, stressed out of your skull? Think about it.) Also? I've never heard anyone say, "I really am regretting this cashmere _____."

Why? Because cashmere is never a regrettable purchase. I've never seen someone do the walk of shame back to the store after buying a cashmere garment. You know why? Because it never happens, unless it's to exchange it for the right size. Which is totally different.

I have some cashmere in my stash (all of which I've bought on sale) and I've knit a little bit of it here and there. During the Social Pressure Experiment, Chloe talked me into some hot pink cashmere (which wasn't hard to do at 50% off), and I have been waiting and waiting to cast it on.

After a day full of exciting, enriching, and character building challenges, I dove headfirst into my stash and cast on my Mariah. And then I knit a whole bunch, while reading my buddy Elizabeth "The Blizzard" Zimmermann, and then re-reading How to Knit a Love Song. (You should read it, especially if you're a fan of romance novels.)

Mariah- body
Looks good, right?

I knit the body in about five seconds. (Up to the armholes anyway.) Time twists, bends, and loses it's meaning when you're working with cashmere. You don't need a sonic screwdriver, or a Doctor. Just some cashmere.

When I got to the armholes, I discovered something delightful. This is a yoke sweater! Before fall of 2009, I had never knit a yoke sweater before, and it turns out? I LOVE THEM. I love that you knit like 2/3s of each of the wretched sleeves, you join them to the body, et voilá!

The sweater you're knitting? Looks like a sweater is flowing off of your needles. It bears repeating, especially given how much of a thrill it gives me.

Speaking of wretched sleeves, Mariah's sleeves are still utterly charming. Clearly, either she is good at what she does, or we're still in the honeymoon phase because I simply can not get enough of these cables:

mariah sleeve
Yes, the color is accurate. Retina-searing pink!

They are truly potato chip knitting, in the purest sense. (When I was 16 years old, my mother first used the term "potato chip knitting" to describe turning cables.) I must be running a fever, because I am looking *forward* to the second sleeve. (These sleeves really have too much going on for me to knit them simultaneously. Also, I'm watching TV while I do it.)

The really amazing thing is that I have two sweaters worth of beautiful, luscious, soft handspun wool that are ready to cast on, and I can't be bothered to put down the cashmere and cast those on. I can hear you weeping for my predicament.

Please, don't weep for me. Just think, the next time you have the chance to buy cashmere on sale, "I'm prolonging my life."

** This is not true at all. It's science that I just made up. Feel free to post it to Wikipedia and cite me as your source. None of it is true, and you should never do anything you read about on the internet, especially my blog.