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Monday, December 31, 2012

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeaks came to visit on New Year's Eve day

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fingerless Mitts

Fingerless Mitts

Fingerless mitts.  What is their purpose?  If the office is too cold, they’ll help warm your hands and leave fingers free for the keyboard or paperwork.  If the bedroom is chilly, they’ll warm your palms and wrists while you read in bed.  Perhaps, they’re just for comfort or just for fun.

Whatever their purpose, I’m knitting fingerless mitts.  As with all my knitting projects, I follow a simple pattern and fingerless mitts are relatively easy.  I knit for pleasure not for production of works of art.  Plus I am unable to focus on challenging patterns without becoming enmeshed in mistakes, unravelling yarn and trying again, only to throw the over-knitted yarn away in the end.  Simple is better for me.  Then the knitting feels happy and comforting.

I bought some interesting yarn called “Twelve” because it combines twelve different kinds of yarn into each ball.  When knit, the variations create intriguing patterns in an otherwise plain mitt. The picture on the free pattern made the finished products look like fun.  And indeed the first pair of mitts was fun to knit.  They’re not supposed to be the exact copies of each other; I liked that.

The second pair was less fun because the balls of yarn were not consistently made.  The spots where the twelve different kinds of yarn joined each other were thin, too thin and broke easily, which created lots of cutting and repair work on the yarn.  Even worse, when one mitt was completed, close inspection showed that the knitted yarn had given way in some spots and was unravelling creating holes and gaps.

I wondered if I would have enough yarn left to complete the second pair.  I unravelled the holey mitt and saved what I could of the yarn; the yarn that was sturdy enough to hold together.  After a bit of swearing and re-knitting and pulling on the yarn to ensure it would hold, I managed to get two pairs of fingerless mitts made from the balls of yarn.

I should have shopped at my regular yarn shop which always stands behind the products it sells.  I should have made a larger fuss about returning the faulty yarn to the other yarn store where I purchased it.  I should have warned people about the pitfalls of buying yarn from a chain store just because it’s cheaper…oh wait, I am doing that.

What about the mitts?  I like the pattern.  I like knitting.  I’ll get better yarn from my favourite wool shop and make more.  I’m sure that the mitts I’ve knit will hold together.  Well, I’m quite sure. Kind of sure…

OK, if you receive mitts from me for Christmas, give them a good going over and return them to me if they are coming to pieces. Unlike the chain store, I’ll stand behind my work, allow you to return the faulty gift and I’ll knit you another sturdier pair of fingerless mitts.

Merry mitts to you!

Photo and words are copyright Carol Steel.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Washer Died


The Washer Died

The washer died.  On Saturday, of course.  Just as we were about to begin a week’s worth of washing.

Why?  Appliances die on weekends when repair calls would be more costly.  How do they know?

We waited until Monday to call for help.  The repair person came, took a look and within five minutes was tsk-tsk-tsking.  The washer was ill, expensively ill.

We bought it 8 years ago, the newest front load, high efficiency type we could afford.  It has worked well, (fairly well) until now.


Though it is supposed to save energy by spinning the clothes into a dryer state before finishing the wash cycle, it takes much longer to wash the clothes.   The front load washer requires special laundry detergent; “He” = high efficiency but this doesn’t cost any less than regular detergent.  It is difficult to add clothes to the washer once it is going without getting my feet wet; front opening remember.  Yes, I am supposed to be able to set the controls to allow this but the washer doesn’t always co-operate.  The controls are computerized and somewhat finicky, you see.  And the repairs to this wonder of a washer are expensive, prohibitive, and ridiculous.

To repair our washer would take a four hundred dollar replacement part, and three and a half hours of labour, bringing the bill to over eight hundred dollars.  Is the easy solution to buy another washer?  Yes and no. 

Just before Christmas is not the best time to purchase a new appliance.  Dissatisfied with the front load options, we wonder what else is out there; less complicated and yet would wash the clothes.  But wait, I’m not ready for a ringer washer or a washboard; I want the luxury of throwing the clothes into something that will do the work for me.  Also, there is the issue of appliance re-cycling and adding to the waste at the landfill.

I asked the repair expert what he would buy, if he needed a washer.  Usually a good question, yes?  No.  He said he didn’t know.   He reiterated that front load washers were expensive to repair and didn’t seem to last as well as simpler models. 

Well, where could we buy a simpler model?  Again, he didn’t know.  The one he would recommend hadn’t been manufactured for over 6 months and he didn’t know of any place where we could find any.  I felt my stomach knot as visions of unwashed laundry piled up in my head.

He suggested we try to find a re-furbished top load washer with direct drive and named a couple of brands he’d rarely ever had to repair.  Hmmm.  Where would we go to find such a thing? 

After he left, we sat down with the phone and the yellow pages and started calling appliance repair locations and appliance stores.  Gary likes to do plenty of research before he purchases anything, particularly anything costly.  Armed with a list of possibilities, he left in the car, set off on the adventure of tracking down a re-cycled washer.  Within three hours, he’d located one, called me for a quick consult and purchased it. 

These folks will take our ailing washer and refurbish it so that it can be re-sold and will not end up in landfill, a bonus for us.  They’ll deliver the new-to-us washer this morning; all for less than the price of the replacement part on the old washer…something of a miracle?  Yes, indeed.

The washer died.  We’ve discovering that sometimes the old stand-by is better than the latest must-have new thing.  I don’t like having to buy a replacement appliance because the one I have is too costly to repair.  This isn’t good for our finances or good for the environment.  The experience has been a reminder to be cautious about the enticing hype and the temptation to buy the newest version of any item.  It's a timely reminder especially at this season of the year.

And, I’m looking forward to being able to wash clothes again.

Words are copyright ©Carol Steel.

The image is 1902-04, a young woman washing clothes in a wooden basin on a washstand with a washboard and a wringer, from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  The image is now in the public domain because its copyright has expired according to the Australian Copyright Council (ACC).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Waking Early

Waking Early

It’s dark.  It’s always dark when I wake in the mornings.  I am a light sleeper, waking easily to the chirp of a cat walking by and saying hello in the night, hearing the clink of the mailbox as the paper is delivered, listening to the back-up beepers on the garbage truck, noticing the ruckus in the sounds of my bed mate snoring. 

Even when there aren’t sounds to wake me, I wake up at all hours.  The cat snuggles too close to my head for comfort.  I need to visit the bathroom.  My thinking is traveling too quickly to allow sleep.  I wake up easily.

I like the darkness.  I like the softness of being unable to see beyond my window panes, the feeling of being surrounded by woolly night, cradled in the arms of unseen possibilities.  There is a sense of the unknown and of being in a cocoon of darkness, of excited wonder at what the new day will bring, uncover, tear open and reveal.

Even if it is too early and still dark, I’ve learned to get up and begin the day rather than to stay in bed and fret about not sleeping.  And there are advantages to being awake before anyone else.  The house feels peaceful, softly lit with every creature asleep except for me. 

If I step outside, I appreciate the night and the darkness.  The stars shine brightly.  I can see them better without the light pollution of cars going by.  The moon is lovely, ethereal and round, misty and comforting of late.

The early morning allows space for my own quiet self to begin the day slowly, with silent meditation and fragrant coffee, with focused attention to every detail…the lights of the city sparkling through the darkness, the neighbours’ homes all asleep except one, the welcome cosiness of that one neighbour’s lit windows, the changing sky as sunrise tips the edge of night from black to indigo, then blushes into dawn.

It’s dark.  It’s early.  It’s peaceful…a good start to my day.

The words are copyright ©Carol Steel.  The photo is used with permission from Wikipedia commons images.