time for a redo!

by dichroic in daily updates

Here we go! We have a general contractor (GC) lined up to do the Big Scary Remodel we’ve been discussing for years. This is a two story house addition for the lake house, of the garage and the kitchen above it. The hardest parts of this have been lining up the GC — they’ve all been crazy busy the last few years — and just making the decision to spend this much money. Assuming we stick to budget (ha!) it will cost just under what we paid for the entire townhouse we live in, and more than either of the other two houses we’ve owned (both bought before housing prices skyrocketed in the 2000s, though).

We are expanding the garage (it’s a tandem one and we’re lengthening it) because we have a bunch of boats in it (kayaks and rowing shells) and would like to get a car in too. Also Ted does his woodworking in there and has been getting space limited. Above it we are likewise expanding the kitchen, because the one we have now is nice to look at and nice to cook in, but has no place to store food. Also, though we have a great deck, there’s nowhere to sit inside and enjoy the lake view when the weather is too crappy to sit outside, so the expanded kitchen will include a breakfast area by the big windows. I think we’ll mostly end up heating here, rather than in the dining room. Ted (and his parents, when they or we are visiting) tend to linger over meals until I get tired of sitting at a table, so my goal here will be to find the most comfortable chairs I can. I like hanging out and talking, just not sitting upright at a table. Once everything is back in place after the remodel, assuming we aren’t impoverished, I may also get club chairs and a lower table to put in the great room area, which currently holds only a library table, plus two low bookshelves flanking a china cabinet. That area may be more comfortable for me to sit and read and knit on rainy or cold afternoons … and maybe I can lure people from the table to there after dinner.

It has been difficult, deciding to do this. There were cheaper alternatives to reach some of our goals: we could turn the great room into a seating area by just buying furniture (which I will probably do anyway, as mentioned above), and turning a niche in the dining room into a small pantry. But this is the house we plan to move into as soon as we retire and live there until we can’t anymore, in addition to spending weekends there in the nearer term. I think we will get a lot of pleasure out of these additions. I’ll get a second oven for holiday meal cooking and a better stove. The current kitchen only allows either a cabinet-depth or a quite small fridge, so this will let us have a normal one. We’ll replace the formica counters with something prettier.

I am liking working with this contractor too; we wanted a carriage door into the garage, because an overhead door cuts into the boat storage space, but those are very expensive so we’d settled on a roll-up door. He’s found us a wood roll-up door, which should look a lot better than a metal one while still not taking up too much overhead space. He’s also found that it’s possible to match the beautiful wood flooring we currently have in the kitchen and great room – we hadn’t thought that was doable, so we were going to go with tile. I think the wood will feel better underfoot, be softer for when we drop things, and give a warmer look to the space, which is important on gray Oregon days.

I will try to get some good as-is photos when we’re there this weekend, so I can document the whole process. Now, off to draft the most tactful email I can to the contractor we didn’t pick.

in praise of Rick Riordan: increasing diversity

by dichroic in books

I originally wrote the following as a comment on Tor.com, but realized they might not appreciate a paean to a Disney/Hyperion author!

One thing I have really enjoyed in Rick Riordan’s books is watching how each new series takes a step forward in diversity. (I think his various demigod training camps fit the boarding school trope fairly well.) The first Percy Jackson book focused on a cis/het white guy, and though there were characters of color, their skintones didn’t really seem to influence their experiences. But then the Kane Chronicles split the POV between a biracial sister and brother pair; the Heroes of Olympus series included a canonically gay major character and the POV is split between *six* characters, male and female, whose various ethnicities have shaped their characters; the Magnus Chase books have a homeless kid and a literally genderfluid character, and the Trials of Apollo has a bisexual MC (who implies that all gods are bisexual because eternity is too long to limit yourself!).

All of this in MG books, without any romance progressing further than a kiss. (Well, maybe some of Apollo’s, but those are only mentioned in passing and occur deep in his past, not in present events.)

Further, he’s now using his celebrity to publish books in other mythologies, by authors who are part of those cultures. I have great respect for Riordan, for his openness to learning and growing and for his willingness to use his privilege to smooth the way for others. (I do wish he’d write and publish more, but given that I’ve just listed five series of 3-5 books all written in about 15 years, I suspect he’s just tired!)

ice and sparks

by dichroic in daily updates

This morning I was woken at about 530 by a series of very bright flashes outside my bedroom window. Not sure what blew, but after that, every time a MAX train went by, sparks were flying from the overhead wires, so I called the electric company and reported it. This morning when I was heading out to work, there’s a PGE truck outside my house – and when I went looking for the driver to give him more detail, I went skidding down – there’s black ice out there and I’m wearing cowboy boots with no tread. Banged my elbow, ouch. I showed the driver where the sparks were, and he told me the roads are really bad and there’s a pile-up nearby. I can see cars going very slowly on the nearby main road. So I worked from home this morning, at least until the sun comes up and the ice melts. I’m just glad I can work from home, and that the power didn’t go out.

The cheesemaking yesterday went well. I made mozzarella, which came out …. pretty much like mozzarella. I intend to use this for a caprese salad, and it came out a little firmer than I’d like for that – not quite as firm as string cheese, but not as soft as bufala mozzarella. The instructions that came with the cheesemaking kit I was given for Christmas tell you a lot about what actions make the cheese firmer, so I should be able to do better next time. Also I forgot to add salt at the proper time and when I did add it, it didn’t mix in thoroughly, so some bits are salty and some not, but otherwise it seems pretty good.

Field trip

by dichroic in daily updates, shopping

Just about every time I go someplace on public transit, I see big groups of teenagers: girls, boys, mixed groups. Sometimes I also see them walking around the city. Today I went on a “field trip“ with a bunch of other knitting friends to visit a couple of fabric stores, have lunch, and just generally walk around a cool part of town, 7 of us in total. I’d describe us as more or less middle-aged (I’m the youngest, only one other is still working, with the rest being young retirees plus one visiting MIL who must be in her mid-to-late 70s – who was one of the faster walkers in the group). Everywhere we went, on buses and in stores people reacting to us as though they just weren’t used to seeing large groups of adult women. The bus driver laughed, people in stores said “wow, where do you come from? as if we were led by a tour guide with a sign. Do grown-ass women just not generally move in packs?

It was a lot of fun. Nobody bought fabric except some ribbon, but one shop had amazing Liberty of London prints – last time I saw that many I was actually in the Liberty store in London. We ended up having lunch at a Thai place that’s one of the most popular in Portland (Pokpok) with legendary long lines – but was empty at lunchtime. And we visited Citizen Ruth, where I debated between buying RBG earrings (but didn’t, because I have long hair and I don’t think the tiny images of her face would be visible), bracelets with sayings like Feminist as Fuck, and so on. (I did buy a couple items that will probably become gifts.)

On the way home I stopped and bought milk that is pasteurized but not ultrapasteurized for tomorrow’s adventure, making mozzarella with the cheese-making kit I got for Christmas. I started a batch of sourdough artisan bread dough yesterday, so I can have some of it with a loaf of that – or be nice and save it for when Ted comes back from the business trip he’s on.

2018 Knitting

by dichroic in daily updates, knitting, photos

I thought it might be nice to post photos of my 2018 knitting, so here goes …. ummm, right after I figure out how to add images in this newest version of WordPress.

(The fix I found was to add the Classic Editor plugin. Now I can add images and other media the same way I always did – but I don’t seem to have a way to use the Gutenberg editor now.Since that one wasn’t letting me add images (other than by typing in the HTML directly, I guess) oh, well.)

Winter Lake Twilight Socks: I started these socks while we were still at the lake house for 2017’s holidays – and noticed my yarn was exactly the color of the lake out the window, soon after the sun set.

This reversible hat was for a swap; it was for someone working as an EMT so I thought a high-viz hat might be useful – then off duty she can wear the more sub-fusc dark green side out.

A cat toy, with a wine cork inside – I made a few of these.

I’m wearing this sweater today! Very pleased with the fit – though I wish I’d made the pockets bigger.

This is the Carbeth cropped sweater, a very quick knit in bulky yarn. I decided to join the Mason-Dixon Knitters’ “Bang out a sweater” knitalong, and this one took only 15 days. I’m keeping it at the lake house as a pullover for when it’s cool; unfortunately the yarn is a bit scratchy so I may not wear it as much as I’d hoped (also, I think a thicker yarn that knit up more densely at this gauge would have looked and felt better.)

A plain sock pattern with a cool heel. This colorway is called “Progesterone – I think when I bought it the indie dyer was sending a percentage of profits for this color to a reproductive-rights charity.

Knitted for a new baby in the extended family, who lives in Hawaii and doesn’t need warm blankets, socks or sweaters.

I don’t seem to have a photo of this as a finished project, but I promise I did finish it. It’s from Jimmy Bean’s 2017 Craftvent kit, which provided clues andf yarn / notions for each day of Advent. I had other projects going on at that time so I did this in my birthday month instead.

I did this linen shawl on our French Polynesia cruise – but had to end it early partway through the lace edge when I ran out of yarn.

These two yarns were from my stash – once I realized how closely they matched I was tempted to put them together into this very bright summer sweater.

This was for another swap – unfortunately I don’t have a good photo of it after blocking (though I do have a not-so-good photo).

Ted gave me a kit (pattern and yarn) for this sweater at Christmas and I finally completed it in October. As described here, the steeking was fairly painful.

The pattern is Gleði – I fell in love with this pattern and knit it entirely our of yarn scraps left over from other projects. Ted rarely wears hats, I didn’t need one, and I don’t think any others in my family would have worn it, so I sent it to my friend Rebecca who appreciates handknits and moved to a very cold climate this year.

A “team sweater”, knit in the colors we chose for our Rowell house rowing gear. I hated the yarn (Cascade 220 fingering) but liked the pattern a lot and wouldn’t mind doing another one in other colors. (Though I may end up doing it in the Cascade again, since I foolishly bought the yarn before finding out if I liked it.)

I bought this yarn when we were at Cannon Beach – the colorway is exclusive to the yarn store there, inspired by the tufted puffins nesting on Haystack Rock.

Projects still in work:

Now the year is over, I need to finish the cowl on the left – it has a few round of yarn from each project I completed in 2018 (it’s done up through about the Gleði hat.) I probably won’t do this again – apparently the yarns I use in a year don’t go together well!
Swirl Sampler is a cool sock pattern but I’m finding it annoying to know and it is lagging accordingly – four separate charts swirl around the leg of the sock and though they’re all fairly simple stitch patterns, I make enough errors that I do have to keep checking the charts. The sweater is entirely made of leftovers from other projects that went together beautifully; it’s going quickly (I started it on Dec 23 and I am well past the point shown in the photo, several inches into the gold yarn) and I hope to finish it by the end of January, so I can wear it before the weather gets too warm.

2018: the year in numbers

by dichroic in daily updates, knitting, rowing

Books read: lots – I’ve never had much desire to keep track, though I’m occasionally curious to know how many I’ve read in a year. I’d guess somewhere between 100-250, but can’t say more exactly.

Knitting projects: 15 completed – 5(!) sweaters, two shawls, two hats (both gifts), 3 pair socks, a few other things. One sweater and one pair of socks in work, plus a cowl with a few rows in the yarn of each project.

Rowing: 1,328,398 meters for the year. (Not bad.) Of those, only 87,518 meters were on actual water (Not good.) and the rest on the rowing machine. 231586m were during the Holiday Challenge.

Add in work, the French Polynesia trip for our 25th anniversary, work, the trip for my GFIL’s 100th birthday, work, and a fair bit of cooking, plus a few other weekend trips (Yakima for my birthday, the knitting retreat at our lake house, Cannon Beach in September), a work trip to AZ where I got to meet up with old friends, another to TX to speak at a conference, and more work, and you pretty much have my year there.

pre-emptive nostalgia

by dichroic in daily updates

There are few things sillier than pre-emptive nostalgia. I’m a bit sad that my holiday season is almost over, and my actual holiday hasn’t even started yet.

Maybe it’s because “holidays” are a long and complicated season for me; this year included a Diwali event where my choir sang the Star Spangled Banner, gift buying, my mom and brother’s birthdays, Chanukah candle lighting, exchanging a couple presents with Ted (my family tends to run late) and still to come, buying and decorating a Christmas tree, time at the lake house, a visit from my in-laws, Christmas dinner and presents and biggest deal of all, time off from work! So by that rationale it is half over, even though the biggest parts are yet to come.

Or maybe saudade or hiraeth are better words for what I’m feeling, in which case it all makes more sense – that beautiful strain of sadness that adds piquancy to times of the greatest happiness, like the tradition of smashing a glass at a wedding.

the other Chanukah poem

by dichroic in poetry

This is more what I wanted to say this year, though I’m not sure it’s as good a poem. I may still tinker with it.

Some darkness is only the absence of light
Sacred, cyclical
Clean and empty
Time to rest and gather in before regrowth.

A candleflame honors it –
Contrast, counterpoint
Dimming and flaring
Centring and setting off its velvet black.

Other darkness surges and seeks to overtake
Encroaching, enveloping
Resentment and envy
Quenching light and life in rot and death

A candle resists it –
Holding off, diminishing
Dancing, yet steadfast
Where it stands, the dark does not prevail.

In any kind of darkness, light a candle.

This is 2018, which means I’ve been writing Chanukah light-in-darkness poems for ten years now. (Possibly longer; I need to check my old Moveable Type blog that preceded the WordPress one.) Trolling the archives of this blog, I’ve found 18 Chanukah poems – I didn’t write any in 2011, but wrote 2 or 3 many years. Is that enough for a chapbook?

this year’s Chanukah poem

by dichroic in poetry

I may add another poem, if I can write one – I still want to say something less about Chanukah in specific and more about kindling light in darkness in a more general way.

I light this candle as I choose –
to hold the darkness back, this night.
And we have gained too much to lose.
I light this candle as I choose
to honor heritage. We Jews
remember what it means to fight.
I light this candle as I choose,
to hold the darkness back, these nights.


by dichroic in daily updates

If I ever go back to regular blogging again (which I really ought to do, because I miss having a record of my daily life) I ought to log my Homemade number each day. Today my number is 2; I made the necklace and the socks I am wearing (two socks count as one item, I think).

Speaking of logging, despite still having an occasional cough from the cold that hit me before Thanksgiving, I am 138,404 meters done with the Concept 2 Holiday Challenge – more than 2/3 done. Assuming I complete the 12km planned for tonight, I will be 3/4 of the way through. (Erging is extremely good for your ability to do fractions, due to a combination of not much else to think about while you’re doing it and the desperate need to know how much you’ve done and how much you have left to go.)

While I’m setting numeric goals, I should probably set one for this weekend, to fill out and stamp some number of holiday cards, since we finally got ours yesterday!