Monday Six & Stuff

14 03 2011

I meant to post my Sunday Six yesterday, but alas… I’ve been dabbling in other things this week. I actually have pictures, too.

(Click for larger view!)

These ugly things are called pallets. You can find them at any lumber yard or home improvement store. Our local surplus store has an abundance of pallets from their many, many neat things like hardwood flooring. They pile the pallets up beside the dumpster with a sign that says “free pallets.” Unfortunately, their sign usually vanishes before the pallets do.

So what good are these pallets? Until a couple of weeks ago, I would have said “not much.” I have a few around for my goats to climb on, but that’s as far as my knowledge goes with pallets. My husband, however, is a very handy fellow. He found out that you can actually build things with pallets.

 

Did you know you can take pallets apart? I sure didn’t. Well, to be honest, I had never really given it much thought before. It takes a hammer, a circular saw, and sometimes a pry bar to break the pallets down into smaller boards. It’s rough lumber, so some leather gloves come in handy, too.

Once you break down the pallets, you can make all kinds of things from them. We’ve seen plans for chicken coops, lawn furniture, dog houses, you name it! Right now, we lack the chickens for a coop, have a healthy disdain for direct sunlight, and our dog stays inside. So what are we building?

 

Can you tell what it is? Probably not, because at the moment, it’s only half-finished. We’re building a house for my pygmy buck, Frank, who has destroyed nearly every manner of housing we’ve supplied for him in the last almost-three-years we’ve had him. He’s destroyed two dog houses and a “goat lean to.”  He’s a very destructive goat, so we’re hoping that by building him a little house, he will finally have a place to sleep that won’t be destroyed in a few months.

 

The only problem now (besides doing the math to figure out the pitch of the roof) is that I have concluded this house is much too nice for Frank. I think it would make an excellent little club house, especially if it had a window and some paint. I can sit inside it quite comfortably, and it feels quite cozy inside it, thank you very much. However, the rough lumber makes it quite uncomfortable for lounging, so just this once, Frank may have his own little club house. I’ve already christened it “The He-Buck Doe-Haters Club.” I plan on making it a sign that says as much.

 

And now, for my meager Sunday Six attempt:

 

Deidra  rolled her eyes as she turned her back to him. “Then what, Jimmy? Let’s say we do win this war and bring them down. What am I supposed to do then? My son is dead, my husband betrayed me, and there’s no one else who cares whether or not I live or die.”

“You could always come with me.”

 

Until next time, folks.





Sunday Six

6 03 2011

This winter has been exceptionally harsh. I haven’t felt like updating over here in a long time, though my sporadic hobbies continue. Over the last few weeks, I was trying to rip apart a sweater, but that isn’t going so well. Instead, I’m refocusing on my writing. A few nights ago, I actually *gasp* WROTE STUFF DOWN!!! I’m as shocked as you are, believe me. I wrote 480 words, which is 480 more words than I’ve written in the last *mumble* years combined as far as non-school related writing goes.

Now I’m feeling a bit more confident in my writing. Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t share those 480 words with anyone right now. I started writing at one in the morning while fighting sleep. I haven’t even opened the document since I saved it because I don’t want to know just how rough my rough draft really is.

In hopes of building real writing confidence, I’ve decided to bite into the “Six Sentence Sunday” thing. A friend of mine has been doing this for the last few weeks over on her writing blog, and it’s really helped her out, especially when trying to write her troublesome ending. I figure if it worked for her, maybe it will help me out. If nothing else, it might motivate me to at least write something once a week.

So without further ado, I bring you an oldie-but-revised-y… An except from a prologue to one of my “Jade” stories:

 

The grieving mother stopped her prayers. Had she been answered so soon? Without the strength to lift her head any longer, Jade was forced to shift only her eyes in the direction of the shack’s only exit. Through her tears, she could see a tall figure in a long black coat. A sandy ponytail rested at the nape of his neck as his bizarre golden eyes darted about suspiciously.

Jade could hardly breathe a sigh of relief as she whispered, “Donavan… of all the angels, Lor has sent you.”

 

My poor prologue… it’s undergone years of revision, but I’m very proud of how it’s turned out. Sadly, I don’t know if I can still use it. Right now, I’ve abandoned my original trilogy brainchild for a “prequel,” which may or may not ever make it beyond my close circle of friends. I don’t mind, though. My mind needs to be refocused, to think these things through so my original idea will benefit from it. Once I know the origins, hopefully the rest will fall into place.





Everything Has a Beginning

8 11 2010

Sometimes I wonder whether I’m a terrible writer, or maybe just a slow-thinking genius.

Okay, let’s be honest… I’m not a genius. I’m far from it. It just takes me a really, really, REALLY long time to come up with a good idea. Sometimes it takes me twice as long to figure out how to solve a problem with my story that had a solution so simple, I’m embarrassed to admit it was even a problem to begin with.

Recently, I’ve had to sit down and figure out why my story was so terrible. Okay, that’s not exactly true. It’s not terrible, but it had a terrible beginning. Things were jumbled up and made absolutely no sense. The biggest question of all couldn’t be answered: Why? Why was this character here? Why is s/he this way? Why did they cross paths? Why did they continue on from here rather than going their separate ways?

I couldn’t answer these questions, so I couldn’t continue. If the story makes no sense, then you don’t have a story. You just have a bunch of words on paper (or in my case, on a screen) with interesting characters, a semi-interesting environment, but no direction. Who wants to read a story without direction? I sure don’t.

Because of these problems, I had to make some changes. Some are still rough around the edges, of course. When you’ve had an idea in your head for 6+ years or so, it’s hard to change it overnight. I’ve changed living arrangements, backgrounds, present lives… I’ve even totally changed how the characters meet one another. I think changing how they meet has really helped a lot of things. Before, it made no sense as to why two characters would leave everything they know, everything that’s safe and familiar, just to help some girl they just met.

Now, I’ve brought her to them. I’ve moved an entire race of people, an entire culture, to another continent altogether. Everything is starting to fall into place and make sense now. I feel as though I actually have a beginning I can work with, something I can actually begin writing without embarrassing myself. I think this will finally work.

Next comes the hard part: Actually sitting down and writing.

So, does figuring this stuff out before I actually write it make me brilliant? Or does it make me a slow thinker who could have had this story finished 10 years ago? I don’t know. I don’t really want to know, to be honest. Someday, I will finish this story, and I can finally be proud of my life’s work. This story has been my life for so long, I can’t imagine giving it any less than my absolute best, no matter how long that takes.





Finding Yarn

13 10 2010

I love recycling sweaters for yarn. It makes me ten different kinds of happy.

First, I get to hunt through all the local (and not-so-local) thrift stores in search of pretty potential yarn. I love hunting for bargains. Hunting for potential yarn is a bigger challenge. I favor natural fibers over acrylics, and animal fibers over plant fibers. I can buy acrylic at Wal-Mart. Natural fibers like cashmere and lambs wool are more elusive where I live, as I have yet to find a yarn store closer than an hour away.

Secondly, you can’t just recycle any old sweater you find. It’s hard for me to explain what to look for, so allow me to link you to a tutorial I’ve found helpful. So you see, hunting for the just-right seam can be tricky, especially on darker colored sweaters. Another problem is coming across sweaters with button holes or zippers. I’m told these kinds are far more trouble than their worth, so I’ve had to pass up some beautiful potential yarn because of this. This adds to the challenge and thrill of the hunt, and therefore tickles me to no end when my recreational hunt can be extended.

And  finally, my favorite reason for recycling yarn is the price. I’ve gotten over a thousand of yards of yarn for a mere $2.50, sometimes even less than that. I’m a very thrifty person (read: cheapskate) and could never justify buying hundreds of dollars in yarn. I spent nearly $40 on a project once and nearly died handing over the money for the yarn. A project I never finished, mind you. By recycling yarn, I’m spending less money on beautiful yarn, plus it’s not a big deal if my $3 yarn project sits in a box for another six months.

I’ve only recycled one sweater completely. I’ve recycled half of a humongous afghan and half of another sweater that was too complex for me at the time. However, a couple of weekends ago, I tackled my second sweater and first turtleneck sweater.

(clicky!)

This sweater is 40% merino wool, 30% viscose, 20% angora rabbit, and 10% cashmere. As  you can imagine, it’s as soft as silk. It also unraveled very easily with minimal difficulties, despite the intimidating cables and turtleneck. After two days, I ended with six cakes worth of yarn.

 

Now, as for how many yards this adds up to… your guess is as good as mine. In previous yarn recycling experiences, I measured before I balled the yarn, a decision I regretted over and over again due to the tangles. This time, I balled the yarn as I recycled it to prevent the yarn from tangling. Eventually, I’ll get around to measuring it, but my estimation is around 700 yards, give or take. I could be very wrong, however.

My next recycling project popped up quite unexpectedly a week or so ago. Despite my yarn diet, I had to buy this sweater the moment I laid eyes on it. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful color I have ever seen. Photos do not do it justice.

 

The sweater is a beautiful midnight blue with hints of pale blue in it. It’s 50/50 acrylic and mohair, and while I do tend to avoid buying acrylic sweaters, I had to make an exception for this one. It’s very, very warm and very soft. I haven’t decided yet if I want to recycle it or wear it. 😉

But yes, that is my hobby as of late.





Jell-O Yarn, Take Two!

28 09 2010

This weekend, I was a yarn harlot. There was rarely a moment when yarn was not in my hands. I knitted, I dyed yarn, and even found time to recycle a sweater. I was very, very productive.

The highlight of my weekend was dyeing yarn with Jell-O. I love dyeing yarn, and this time it was a Mega Challenge. I was dyeing 465 yards of yarn with the intention of making it the palest of greens. Having worked with pale colors only once before, I was very nervous that my yarn would come out either booger green or Swamp Thing green. I’m not sure that there is really much of a difference, but in my panicked mind, any shade other than my desired pale green would be a catastrophe.

(Click for larger images!)

First, I started off with a large skein of Lion Brand’s Fisherman’s wool I bought back in January (!!!) while on a shopping trip with a friend. Since a skein of yarn can’t be dyed in its store-bought form, I spent at least an hour winding the yarn onto my “yarn stick,” which I use to measure yarn I recycle from sweaters. It measures the yarn into three foot loops. This would work out well for dyeing, so I tied the yarn ever-so-loosely in several places to keep the loop shape.

It wasn’t until much later in the dyeing process that I realized the smart thing to do would have been to divide the yarn into two different dye projects of 230-odd yard loops rather than one large loop. Oh well…

Ta-da! It’s a big old hank of yarn! Unfortunately, it would be a while before I could actually dye the yarn (of all the times to be out of vinegar).

So I put the yarn in the only safe place in the house… the pantry! It’s the one place where I know neither feline nor canine can possibly reach my precious yarn! Although now that I mention it, my dog is a border collie. I’m sure if he ever figures out that his Milkbones are kept in the pantry, he will figure out how to get into it.

Unlike last time, I was using three times as much yarn as my recipe called for. Sadly, I only had two boxes of Jell-O. I figured that in the worst case scenario, I would have to go out and buy another box of Jell-O. My risk for getting the color too dark was very slim at this point. I relaxed just a little.

Well, I relaxed until I mixed all my ingredients into the pot. Yikes… Witch’s Brew, anyone? I tried not to think about just how dark that concoction appeared.

One of my hooligan cats came to assist me in the dyeing process. This is Karl, and he didn’t really want to help me. He just wanted his belly rubbed… and maybe a bite of whatever I was obviously cooking.

Unlike last time, I now have a thermometer to monitor the heat of my dye! Yay! TracyGP had made a comment that my dye needed to be about 180 degrees F rather than boiling. Okay, I can do that…

See? Easy as pie. Now I wait… which isn’t so easy…

About 175 degrees later, this is what my Witch’s Brew looks like. Still not very hopeful.

Okay, time to put the yarn into the dye! Yes, that is my arm there. Yes, this is about the time I probably should have reconsidered my plan of putting ALL the yarn into the dye. No one said I was very bright, though.

This is about the time when it hit me that dyeing 450+ yards of yarn at one time probably wasn’t a good idea. Oh well, too late to turn back now…

Yarn does not like going into the dye willingly. There was a mighty battle to be had. My spatula and I emerged victorious!

Now to wait… which was very hard. I knitted a while. I watched some television. I even played around a little on Facebook. Finally, fifteen grueling minutes had passed and I returned to check on my yarn. It still wasn’t done (of course), so I waited the additional 10 minutes it required before returning for another look.

In retrospect, I probably should have given it more time to soak up the dye, considering the quantity of the yarn being dyed. However, I was pretty happy with the color, so I went ahead and removed it from the heat.

This is the yarn after the water/dye was drained off of it. I have to admit, I was feeling a bit nervous here. I was worried the color wouldn’t hold and it was really just kind of a stained greenish-white.

Dawn bath sequence initiated… Time to wait for 30 minutes. Patience is not something I have a lot of, so I played around on Twitter for a while before checking back on my yarn.

It looks… like yarn. I was very happy that the color held like I’d hoped, but I still had a bad feeling about this yarn. I wasn’t sure what or why until I drained the bath and began the rinse process.

Dark green streaks… I should have known. I hadn’t stirred the yarn enough in the pot, so parts of it became darker than I wanted it to be. Panic and doubt rampaged my mind until a good friend of mine suggested that perhaps the darker splotches wouldn’t be as noticeable when it was wound up into a proper yarn cake. It was a theory worth testing.

I took the yarn outside to hang it on my porch to dry. It was my hope that once it dried, the real colors would show and perhaps some of the darker spots would go away.

Here’s the yarn, still damp as it hung out to dry in the sun. It took more than 24 hours for it to dry naturally in the sun.

Being the wishful (and irrational when panicked) thinker that I am, I hung the yarn up with the darker side on top. My theory was that as it dried, the darker parts would “run” into the paler spots. The darker spots would lighten and the lighter spots would darken. It made sense… right???

Whether or not this worked remains unknown. Perhaps just drying the yarn helped show its true colors. Regardless, here is the newly dried yarn:

See??? It DID darken up! Okay, it’s very slight and only I would have noticed it… Either way, it was time to bring my yarn inside and ball it up.

I’m still pretty clumsy with my yarn swift, and this yarn was far too important to risk tangling, being eaten by a dog, or stolen by my small pride of cats. So I cleared off my desk, draped half the yarn around a large bottle of baby lotion, the other half around my knee, and began winding it ever-so-slowly with my ball winder. It took a couple of hours with this method (and constant animal interruption), but at last, I put all 465 yards of yarn into one cake!

Of course, it wasn’t until I was about 300 yards in that I realized once again that perhaps making smaller cakes would have been a better way to go about things. As before, it was too late to go back, so I kept on trucking. Behold my Super Sized Yarn Cake!

Yes, that is a regular sized Pepsi can. And yes, I was playing Sims 2 while I wound my yarn, lol.

Godzilla Yarn (lol I think I just named it) beside an average sized cake of yarn (about 200 yards).

As you can see, the darker stripes aren’t nearly as noticeable now. In fact, they kind of give Godzilla Yarn a bit of character. I kind of like it, to be perfectly honest.

Well, once again, I have managed to stumble my way through another project without causing any lasting harm to myself, others, or even my yarn. I consider that an accomplishment. Add the fact that I got the exact color I was hoping for despite my many mistakes and you have one happy hobbyist.

Tune in next time for the brief tale of the turtleneck recycling adventure!





Christmas Is Coming!!!

15 09 2010

It dawned on me yesterday in my state of absolute First Test Panic that not only is the semester already 25% over, it is also a mere 100 days until Christmas. As you can imagine, this added to my hysterics as I seriously debated between studying for my Anatomy & Physiology test or knitting a gift for a friend. Finally, I decided the test had to come first, as its deadline was much sooner than Christmas.

This Christmas, I have big plans. Okay, it’s more like one big plan, but it’s a super special project that I want to actually finish on time and have it mailed well before Christmas. Not after Christmas. Not after New Years. Not around Valentine’s Day. It will be mailed out by the first week of December or I will drive it to my friend myself on Christmas Day if I have to. By golly.

My intentions are good, but those who know me know that I am scatter-brained. I mean well, I really do, but I mean to do a lot of nice things and get distracted by other nice things I want to do. In the end, I get little accomplished. This year, I have resolved to only take on one Christmas project. If I finish it before November, then I will consider a second project. Otherwise, nothing will get done.

This weekend, I will begin my project by dyeing some yarn with Jell-O. I haven’t dyed with green Jell-O before, so I’m rather nervous. I’m wanting it to come out as a pale, pretty spring-like green. I would really prefer it if it didn’t come out booger green or swamp green. That just wouldn’t do at all.

I am also considering beginning another yarn recycling project. I haven’t quite decided on that one yet. I have so many sweaters to recycle that I’ve stopped myself from buying anymore. Some of them have been in bags in my closet for nearly a year now. It’s time to recycle what I have before raiding Goodwill again. (Exceptions will be made for any white sweaters in 100% animal fibers.)

Big plans, little time. Wish me luck!





Change of Views

25 08 2010

I’m currently reading Messenger by Lois Lowry. For those who don’t know, it’s a sort-of sequel to The Giver, which was one of my favorite books in middle school. I always hated that there was no real ending to Jonas’s story. Messenger at least gives the reader an idea of what became of him and Gabe.

Though I’m not done yet, I have to say that Messenger has already had a profound impact on my thoughts on illegal immigrants. I’m sure that was partially the intent of this book. I’m still not happy with the fact illegal immigrants are here illegally, but my heart has definitely softened. But what other choice to some of them have?

It will be a topic for another day, perhaps.

I’m still unsure as to whether Messenger will be as big of a favorite as The Giver, but I am enjoying it. I’m looking forward to reading Gathering Blue, which was technically supposed to be read before Messenger, but I cheated. I wanted to know what happened to Jonas and Gabe more than I cared about reading in order.

Next time, I will have a better review of Messenger. Until then, dear readers.