Sunday, September 04, 2005

Totally inspired

This is get it together weekend. My husband and I have a LONG list of Honey-do projects and this was the weekend to do them. So what did I accomplish yesterday? I got the curtains down in the living room and moved to the laundry room. I washed the porch windows (the ones I can reach without a ladder or screw driver) and ... uh... ...uh... the husband got 1 shelf put up in the quest for a useable craft room.

I woke up this morning and carried the couch slipcovers downstairs. I made coffee and realized that that's about all I felt like doing today. While drinking the coffee, I figured I'd check in on the The Yarn Harlot. (If you haven't discovered Stephanie Pearl-McPhee yet, you're so lucky to have that experience ahead of you!) 4 hours later I'm tired from laughing, have discovered 2 new blogger "must reads" and am totally inspired to sit and knit the rest of the day.

Errr... it wasn't the plan, but what would it hurt? I have all these projects going... mittens for Patrick, a much-hated cotton swearter for Patrick, a sweater for Maggie (because her birthday sweater fit her little sister but was kinda tight on her... when I started it she was a size 2, imagine that she grew in the 2 years it took me to finish it!), and a sweater that has taken me 2 years to get 1/3 done for my husband.

This last project is what prompted me to put the craft room near the top of the honey-do list. It's a dk weight sweater called "Cables after Whiskey". It's really large. As my husband doesn't wear sweaters very often, I figured he could wear this over something... or I could... so it's got a 52 inch chest. REALLY LARGE. The pattern has 7 rows of stocking knitting and one row of random cables. The designer includes pages and pages of random numbers so you can make your own random sweater, as well as the exact "pattern" she used to generate the shown sweater.

I've made some changes to the pattern because... well... I really really really hate to sew up. Really. Really. So I'm not good at it. And I'll finish everything and the sweater will sit in my basket for years waiting to be sewn. Years! All that work, and I never finish it because I really really really really really hate to sew up.

So I make adjustments. I'm knitting this huge sweater in the round. Some knitters knit in the round because they hate to purl. Not me. I purl so automatically that I don't notice I'm purling. I've had to stop reading or whatever I'm doing while knitting and look because it will occur to my conscious brain that I'm supposed to be purling, and look at the knitting only to find that I WAS purling.

In any case... the craft room moved to the top of the project list because I have this huge sweater and ... uh... I ... I hate to confess this... I can't find the rest of the yarn. It's in a bin... in the closet in the craft room... and ... all the bins look the same and I can't find the right one. So the idea was to get the yarn out of the closet, and put LABELS on the bins! How helpful would THAT be?

But that requires my husband putting up shelves. He did get one up yesterday. But he can't find his bolt cutters to do the rest. HA! I'm feeling bad because he's been promised this lovely sweater for 2 years and I can't work on it because I can't find yarn and now I can blame HIM! I can't find the yarn because HE can't find the bolt cutters! How lovely is that!

Except I really want my craft room done... so I guess I'll have to go find him some bolt cutters so he can cut the nice wire shelving to the right size to get me my shelves in the craft room so I can find the right bin with the rest of the sweater yarn so I can sit and knit all day... tomorrow (until I have to go to work and help reboot servers).

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Stupid dog. Stupid husband. Bad! No Cookie!

We moved from the big city to a small town nearly a year ago, now. How it has not happened until now I don't know. Our very large, big city mutt has finally gotten himself sprayed by a skunk.

He never has liked other animals (other than cats) in his yard. He's been known to kill fuzzy little bunnies, raccoons and even bats in his quest to maintain his territory. Tonight he found a skunk. Not a big city skunk, which just ignore chained dogs, but a do-as-you-please small town skunk. The skunk that knows he rules the world because there's nothing in a small town which hasn't either been sprayed or is about to be sprayed.

We've had some trouble with "something" getting into the garbage, but the dog usually comes in before that happens. It's a nice night out, and my husband was busy with something, and the dog got left outside later than usual... and we're expecting company, of course.

Now my husband isn't a city boy. He's lived in the country most of his life. He KNOWS that dogs get sprayed. Apparently this is the first time he's ever had to deal with it without having a barn to shut the dog into.

There are a lot of doors in our house, but not a lot of places to lock the dog up. We don't have a door going to the basement (note: we NEED a basement door). The garage isn't very secure, the door outside doesn't close tight (thus the garbage problem). The upstairs is carpeted. The front porch is no place to enclose a skunked dog. Basically the downstairs bathroom and the "back of the house" which includes my craft room and the computer room and the kids TV room are the only places that make sense to shut a skunked dog up from a "permenant smell risk" standpoint.

Does my husband choose the room with the cat litter box and nothing else? No. He feels sorry for the dog, and doesn't want him having to sleep on the cold floor (even though it's warm outside and in) so he puts him in the craft/computer/tv room. The craft room with thousands of dollars worth of fiber. The carpeted computer room. And the TV room with the queen-sized beanbag chair.

Fortunately I woke up when he came to bed and he told me this. I'm now airing out the back room with fans and the dog is locked into the bathroom with an old rug.
Stupid dog.

You know that vacation I needed?


We’re doing the Lake Superior Circle Tour. We did this 10 years ago, for our honeymoon and decided it would be fun to do it again. We bought a little popup camper, sleeps 6, picked up 2 additional kids (our friend’s daughters from Chicago, ages 7 and nearly 5 and off we went.

Day 1:

Got the camper loaded, got the car loaded, got the kids in the car, went to start the car and … the battery is dead. Great. Called around, and finally my brother-in-law George came and gave us a jump. We figured it was because the doors had been open for hours loading.

We ran around and got the license plate, gave my daughter money, etc, and set out on our great adventure at 2:00 in the afternoon.

We have a book, Off the Beaten Path in MI. There was a blurb about Canyon Falls in Baraga county, not that far from us. So we figured we’d hike back into the falls to get the kids settled down. It was beautiful, and a lot of fun. We spent 2 hours there. By 5:00 we were 45 minutes from home on the path of our great adventure.

We’re not on a schedule, although we have to be home in 10 days. We have time built into the schedule we can lose… We drove to Au Train, when the children were threatening to resort to cannibalism if we didn’t stop, and made salami sandwiches for dinner because we can’t figure out how the stove works.

I’ve discovered that I’ve lost all instinct for backing up a camper. It’s bad. I can’t even get it to go straight.

Day 2:

We’re in a rustic site, so no showers, no bathrooms, no electricity. NO COFFEE. ARGH. LET’S GET OUT OF HERE. We get the kids up, feed them muffins and pack up and find… a flat tire, a low tire and a dead battery. Great. Change the flat tire, get a jump from the nice man and drive into Munising. The nice man seems to have led us astray when it comes to “People in Munising who won’t cheat you.” And we drive back and forth for a couple of times looking for a particular auto shop. Never mind, the nice man at the Chamber of Commerce directed us to Nelson’s Shell on the main street. “45 minutes before we can look at it” the man there tells me. So we walked down the street to the Navigator for lunch.

45 minutes later we go back to Nelsons. Not only did we have a hole in the front tire, but there is a screw in the back tire. They assure me that the battery problem seems to be dirty terminals, however. $23 dollars later and we’re off.

We drove to Tequamenon State Park Falls Camp ground and it was full… oh well, there are more. Onward to White Fish Point and the Shipwreck museum there. The kids get to swim for a couple hours, and pick up rocks. Mom gets to take pictures of beautiful scenery, dad gets to cool off in the lake. A nice afternoon all around.

We figured we’d have to do salami sandwiches again, as we were probably going to have to drive into the Soo to find a campground. Instead we got the VERY LAST SPOT at the River Mouth State Park. Beautiful site, electricity, showers, flush toilets, maybe we could just stay here for the next few days. There were a group of reenactors here, it took us all night to figure out they were Voyageurs, reenacting the French Fur traders… no women, no children… must be.

Day 3:

The car starts…. The tires are all up, and the electricity works so I can make coffee! Life is good. We spent the morning putzing around, still no gas to the stove, but Andy cooks in the cast iron on the woodfire, and it’s still good… even the burnt bacon tastes good. We pack up and we’re off for the Soo.

We drove along “Scenic Lake Shore Drive” from Paradise to Brimley. There’s a fishery down that way and we talked about the baby fishies to the kids for an hour… We pulled in, and made a circle in the parking lot so I don’t have to back up, and … everything is closed… it’s Sunday. Darn. Hey! Wait! There’s someone! But he’s just finishing up, so we don’t get to see the baby fishies… everyone in the car!

As we pulled out, a guard rail I failed to see found the passengerside back door… much swearing later and my husband, trying to be helpful says “Shall I drive?” No. If you wreck the car I’ll be really mad at you. Thus far I’m only really mad at me.

We got in about 2 and stopped at one of my two favorite spots to eat in the Soo. West Pier Drive In. The best subs in the world, by far. We ate and watched a freighter move thru, then went to the camp ground.

We found a spot at the Soo Locks Campground. Freighters pass right in front of us bound downriver. It’s a nice camp ground with power, showers and a Laundry! Cool!
There’s even a swing set.

Andy and the kids set up and I ran down and got tickets for the Soo Locks Boat tour and ice.

The tour was nice, we’ve been on it a couple of times, but the kids hadn’t. We came back and had pork steak and noodles for dinner, the kids played on the swing set and Andy and I read until dark. There is a fountain down in the Locks Park that used to do a light show to music after dark.

9/11 has stopped access to the Park after 8, however. So we took the kids for ice cream instead.

We ran up to Walmart to replenish our diminished supplies (Juice boxes, water, fruit snacks) and I grabbed a propane stove and converter so we can cook. We were all in bed by 11 and sound asleep.

Day 4:

Up at 8 and got a shower. There is no outside 110 power available at this campground, so Andy plugs the coffee pot into the spot the fridge plugs into… no power… I pull the cord inside and plug in there… no power… hum… got out the laptop and plugged the converter into the extension cord… no power… into the plug… there’s power… the extension cord is bad, get out another.. nope… finally we find a plug, extension cord combo which works and we have coffee… only to be told by the neighbor “Oh, there’s coffee in the office, just take your cup and walk up.”

We’re planning on doing the Soo Train Tour and eating at my other favorite place, Clydes Drive In today. The laptop is charging, the camper is cleaned, so we’re off.

No car wrecks today, which is something. We did the tourist rendition of the Soo. We went on the Tour Train, which seriously needs some adjusting. Their schpele isn’t very good and the roads are horrible so everything is bumpy. It would be a good thing if all the tourist attractions in the Soo got together and did a bracelete or something so it didn’t cost $30 to $50 for each thing. We’ve ridden the Locks Boats, which was cool, but over $50 for the 4 kids and us, then the train, $30. Then the Valley Camp Museum tour, another $30. Yish! I’ve been $30 to death.

Oh yes, lunch at Clydes $27. I’m afraid to count my money. But… the kids had a good time. It’s really warm today.

Tomorrow we head into Canada. Yippee. I swear, with the coffee and power fiasco this morning, Andy was ready to go home. If we have ANY trouble getting into Canada, we’re turning around and heading home to spend the rest of my vacation at McLains. There’ll be swimming, hiking, and no more $80 days.

Day Whatever, I think Tuesday.

We made 50 miles into Canada before stopping at Pancake River park. Nice park, pretty. Too close to the highway. We managed to make camp before the rain hit. We taught the bigger kids to play Cribbage and played 2 games. I won one, Nicki won the other. The sun was coming out by the time we packed up, but the camper was wet. I had to buy a battery before we left the Soo. We’re being very careful to start the car before loading or cleaning. I have no idea. Gas in Canada is about the same or a little less… of course it also seems to be watered, as the Check Engine Light came on until we filled up again.

The most notable thing about crossing the border was no trouble at all. We handed the nice kid all the birth certificates, the state ID’s, Andy’s passport, my drivers license, and the permission from Kris and Michelle to take the girls across the border and… no problems at all.


We packed up a very wet camper, and away we went. We lost Lake Superior for a long time today, and … Althought Andy and the car both claim a Kilometer is shorter than a mile, there were a LOT of them today… all up and down… beautiful, but a LOT of hills. I’ve discovered that my cruise control kicks off if you hit 15 miles below its setting going up hill. We had dinner late at a lovely little place in Wawa called the Viking. VERY SLOW service and very high prices… otoh, the waitress was personable. SLOW but personable.

We made Rainbow Falls Provincial Park tonight. And I figured we’d do a bon fire. Except the only level place in the site we could reach the plug was right over the fire pit. Dammit.

Note: We need a propane lantern, we need a tarp, we need tiedowns, we need a colindar, and a coffee pot not dependant on electricity.

Stopped at an Amethyst mine outside Thunder Bay... we got about 10 lbs between us. I kept telling the kids they could have a "handfull". The bigger kids figured out that that meant one or two bigger chunks and a whole bunch of litte ones. The little kids weren't that subtle. Got into MN today and camped in Grand Marais. Nice municipal camp ground, met some nice ppl from Grand Rapids MI who have two kids who graduated from the Chem Eng department at MTU. They also had a beautiful Siamese Cat, which is what broke the ice.
Had a serious Mandy tantrum. She peed in her pants in the playground and WOULD NOT share the swing. She finally got forceably put into her pajamas, and put to bed. Oy. Boys are easier. I've finally decided.

Got to Duluth today, after spending a good chunk of the day climbing around Gooseberry Falls. I fell again. That meant the kids could get soaked, of course. We're staying in a campground outside Superior. There is a swimming pool, so the kids are happy.

I lost a day somewhere. I have no idea where. It's Saturday, and we're in Duluth. I'm too tired to figure out where the missing day went. We went to the childrens museum today, which is also a part of the railroad museum. Thomas The Tank Engine (who is a Really Useful Engine) was there. The kids had a blast, even though tickets to ride Thomas have been sold out for a month. Patrick was amazed that the band which was playing knew "our song". That is, I've been working on the Rail Road. I think he thinks I make up all this stuff I sing.

Had a little Nicki snit tonight. She was annoyed when I told her that Kate did it better and that I didn't believe her acting abilities. She does need work. Sobbing, she told me, "I'm trying not to cry but I really miss my mom." Which had nothing whatsoever to do with eating one whole green bean. Kate used to try to get out of something by saying "I miss my grandma!" I felt guilty the first time. It gets old after a while. And it doesn't work the second child around. She did eat the green bean without "throwing up". Mandy was happy to not be the one in trouble. She kept telling me "I like them"!

Long trip today, probably the longest driving day we've done, but we're home. 1469.9 miles, 5 Mandy Tantrums, 2 Nicki Tantrums, a Zillion snits between Mike and Pat, 3 dead batteries, 2 flat tires, miles and miles of amazing scenery, 850 pictures which we might have sorted out by Christmas. I will be so happy to go back to work on Tuesday and deal with grown up snits again.

The good thing we did was have the girls with us. The car riding was amazingly easy with Nicki and Mike entertaining each other (15 for TWO!) and Pat and Mandy entertaining each other (basically trading Leapsters).

Next year we're planning on doing Lake Huron. I'm thinking, though, that it'll be a trip down thru Canada, with a week stay in Stratford and the Shakespearian Festival, then back up thru MI. Not 10 days of straight travelling. We need more than a couple of days in the same place. And Shakespeare should make both the grownups happy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I need a vacation.

I'm having a crabby day. Actually a couple of crabby days, I guess. Or maybe I'm depressed, and covering it as crabby. It started yesterday afternoon when I refereed a discussion between two of the people who work for me.

There are deep divisions in my department. I thought I'd done some good stuff to close them, but found out yesterday that all the work I've done for the last 9 months is just frosting on the otherwise badly deformed cake... and very thin frosting at that.

My department used to be two departments. It's been one for a couple of years now, but there is still very much an "us vs. them" mentality. It pops up in the oddest ways. One person will say "Well, I would have done thus and so, if only THEY had told me." They being the guy who used to work for the other department. I explain AGAIN that THEY aren't responsible for this... that YOU are now responsible for this, and I expect YOU to do YOUR job. Then THEY say "Well, THAT PERSON did this without asking me." And I explain that THAT is THEIR JOB.

I dunno... maybe it *is* depression. Maybe I'm a much better technical person than I am a manager. It frustrates the hell out of me ... and makes me angry... that people can't see... or I'm not communicating... the "vision" of what this department should be... telepathy would be handy.

10 months and I'm tired and frustrated.

I had a philosophical discussion last night... short and intense. What is fate cruel? Fate is cruel because you aren't paying attention to gentler hints. hummmm

Thursday, July 07, 2005

This is *no* way to run a railroad.

I spent the morning trying to find someone in the building who know what a "Receptacle Charge Port" is, and where it would be located. I can tell you that 8 out of 9 Mechanical Engineering Professors do not know what it is. The Mechanical Engineering Chair does not know what it it. 6 IT professionals do not know what it is. A finance person, Department Co-ordinator and 3 Secretaries do not know what it is.

The 9th ME Professor knew what it is. He spent 15 minutes explaining to me what it is. I still do not know what it is, however, I now know WHERE it is, and that was the important part.

I received a list of Capital Equipment which is charged to one of the departments my group supports that is "missing" (including the above mentioned Receptacle Charge Ports). The major issue is that laptops aren't in the room where they are supposed to be!

My GOD! Imagine! PORTABLE COMPUTERS! COMPUTERS THAT TRAVEL with people! Oh, the humanity!

This is one of many issues that have sideswiped me since moving from the corporate world to academia. For some reason, Property Management at a corporation does not feel that computers must remain in the same room forever. It's patently obvious to Property management in academia. It's a *computer* it *must* be there. I don't know when the last time she looked under her desk , but I have news... computers are exceptionally mobile now. They don't need to stay in the same room forever.

Another issue which has flummozed me is the fact that there is no central license negotiation on this campus. Leads me to paraphrase an old jingle:

I've a MS Agreement,
You've an MS Agreement
He's an MS Agreement,
Wouldn't you like to have an MS Agreement (that's costing us the earth because they're all treated as individual agreements) too!

And individual departments are cooperating to get major license agreements in place... but if I am negotiating something, and "I don't like you, I won't tell you nor let you in on my agreement and I don't care if it wastes money, so there!"

Oy... and the PTB wonder about how to cut IT costs... they tried laying everyone off, but all that has done is provide crappy service and generate complaints. No-one has looked at issues like Site Licenses and Large Group Discounts as a way to save money... why, they might actually have to hire someone to coordinate it!

Time to go to the beach...

Thursday, June 30, 2005


We bought this BIG OLD house when we moved to the Upper Peninsula last year.


Really Big.

About 3400 sq feet, including the walk up attic. And we got it cheap (compared to Chicago prices). Because it didn't have a kitchen.

At All.

The previous owners had tore out the kitchen and started the remodel by putting up drywall, and then had stopped. There were no cabinets, counters, appliances. There were 6 doors in it, and two badly placed windows. There was a room which might have once been a bathroom or laundry room, we're not sure. When we bought the house, there was a pile of junk including a brand new toilet (not connected to anything) sitting in it.

As my husband and I had been fighting over kitchens for years and years, we decided it was the perfect house for us. We planned on hiring a kitchen designer and then we could fight with them.

We did have a couple of areas of agreement. We both like natural wood cabinets (not painted, not weird colored). We both wanted a cooktop and two ovens. and we like the lazy susan corner cabinets.

That was it. We got a dozen recommendations (or anti-recommendations) for a contractor and settled on Middleton Construction in Lake Linden. (1)

Not much to start a remodel job on, but the kitchen designer from 41 Lumber came in and measured the space, listened to us, and... out of our vague hand waving and enthusiastic ranting (we want to make it bigger, we can take out that wall and that door and that door and that window) she came back with 3 plans.

We looked at them and both picked *that* one. Wow. 10 years of fighting and we agree on a room layout?

We went out to pick out cabinets and she laid out the samples and we went *that one*. By the time we got to the countertop and knobs we were scareing each other. We NEVER agree on anything like that... unless it involves something with the kids (or the dog).

So Shane and crew came in and started the remodel. That's when we found out we had 2 foot more of ceiling above the current ceiling (which was a home made drop ceiling that was a bit scarey). and that the soffit contained... ta da... another soffit... which contained... another soffit! My husband calls them The Amazing Onion Soffit!

It's been 3 months since we started the remodel. The cabinets and all the appliances are in ... and they look AMAZING. We're going to do the floor ourselves later in July, and put tile down in the greenhouse window (and buy stools for the peninsula). There are a few more things Middleton has to do (a plug wired to switch, when we need one side not switched. The refrigerator water isn't hooked up yet, and a piece of trim is missing).

12 years of discussion and debate and fights and we'll finally have a kitchen we both love.

My husband likes it so much, he's made bread nearly every day since the ovens went in.

See pictures of old and new at:
  • Rehab
  • Wednesday, June 29, 2005

    Stash Reduction

    For someone who never got out of her pajamas Sunday, I got a LOT done.

    Both boys are very low on shorts. I'm disinclined to, as the oldest one suggested, "just cut off some" perfectly good "jeans" so I went searching thru the fabric stash. What do I find, but some nice polished cotton that I bought to make pillows with... back when the couchs were new and the pillows were clean... WTH, it'll work...
    So I created a pattern, and sewed up a 9 pair of elastic waist shorts... and now I have two little boys who coordinate with my living room very nicely! :)