Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reflections on Customer Service...

I'm not sure when it happened, and I may have discussed this here before, but I wonder when superior customer service became something to be surprised about, rather than expected.  Maybe it's just me, but I find myself almost shocked to the point of real emotion when I am provided with service that (in the words of report cards) not only meets expectations but exceeds them

Case in point:  Signature Needles.

I am lucky enough to have a few precious sets of these gorgeous tools of our trade, and I find that they add exponentially to my pleasure of knitting.  My double points were a gift from my mother, and I subsequently treated myself to a couple of circular needles.  They are divine.  It's like the golfer who says that better clubs make for a better game - these needles really do elevate my hand knitting experience.

Some of you astute folks (yes, Anne, I'm looking at you) may recall that a year or so ago I started an Elizabeth Zimmermann Aran sweater from The Knitter's Almanac (and no, I didn't make everything in the book - that could be another post, though), using the wonderfully sheepy Bartlettyarns Fisherman's Wool, and my Signature circulars.  Perfect combination of needle and yarn, just perfect.  I took my time with this project, largely because it was such a pleasurable experience and I wanted to prolong it.

As I neared the end of my sweater, I noticed that the yarn would snag on one of the joins between cable and needle, but I couldn't see anything so I kept on.

Then I found this:
I felt just sick when I saw it - no idea what I did to actually tear the join - I'm not a tight knitter, I wasn't gnawing on it in frustration, it just didn't make sense.   And I hadn't budgeted for another one.

So, I contacted the folks at Signature Needles, who asked for a picture of the damage.  I sent them what you see here.  Within 10 days, this came in the mail:

Shiny, pretty, new circular needles, for which I paid not a cent in postage or anything.

I thanked my contact at Signature Needles, but I wanted to gush and go on and on.  Why?  Because I'm no longer used to this level of service.

Before anyone says so, I realize I sound like an old fart, and that's fine.  There's a strong possibility I may be on my way to that.  But really, how does excellent customer service affect you?  Is it just another day, or does it make your day?

It sure made mine...

As an aside, I am off tomorrow for my annual Thanksgiving yarn/latte trek through the Twin Cities and beyond with Kelly, who doesn't have a blog but absolutely should.  I will be trying to blog with my iPad, and should even be able to post pictures...

see you state-side!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My name is Maggie

and I am a carboholic...

I know I look innocent, but behind this facade of cute warm and fuzziness lies a dark, sneaky side.

You will note that, despite my darker nature, I know which end of the bag I'm supposed to hold.

The thing is, these people keep leaving stuff out for me.  Or they forget to put me in my room when they go out, and the stuff is right there.  It's not like I can help myself - I'm an ADDICT, people, I have no control.

I know I'm going to get into trouble, and Lord knows, it's not helping my middle-aged spread.

But I can't help it, truly.  If I could figure out what to do with the carnage, I'd be set.
Notice that the healthiest option, the brown rice cakes, are unscathed.

I do pride myself on being methodical and relatively neat.  And I'm not sure why they get mad at me when it happens, because, really, whose fault is it??

So, please, help me.  Understand my problem.  Love me in spite of it.  You know you want to.

This message brought to you by Carboholics Anonymous - eating our way through life one loaf at a time...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is it just me...

or is the reason for her fabulous 12 week transformation not fairly obvious??

Not sure if it should be an ad for a personal trainer (which it is), or an OB-GYN...

(and yes, that's two today, to make up for the less-than-one of yesterday)

The age-old question...

does this make me look fat?

And do NOT tell me "It's fine" or I'll smack you.

Back story:  I made this sweater, Hathersage, last February.  Loved the yarn, loved the look of the pattern but hated the finished product on me.  I felt like a cozy, wool-wrapped blimp, and so never wore it.  Oh, I tried it on periodically, hopefully,  but never felt the love.  So, I had plans to frog it and use the yarn for  the Campus Jacket.

I finally brought it downstairs to rip out yesterday, but on a whim threw it on and went grocery shopping, giving it one last chance to impress me, a last-minute stay of execution.  I still felt fat, and the boys thought it looked too boxy, but it was suggested that if I moved the buttons again (they're not even sewn on, they're attached with safety pins because I just couldn't get it right) it might actually be okay.
I am still giving serious thought to the Campus Jacket as I love it but will certainly NOT be buying yarn for it, but I guess needed to bounce this out there, give myself a visual to think about and maybe seek opinions.  I am on a big sweater-ripping binge right now, currently frogging my February Lady sweater - it's like free yarn! - so I have no qualms about that.


off topic, but still about the photo - look to the right mid-frame... that back room... a fluffy lump.  Can't see it?
How about now?

That's Maggie, on "her" couch - she adopted it when she was a puppy, and now, 10 years later, it's the saddest piece of furniture I've ever seen.  And yet, she loves it as it is - I've tried blankets and slipcovers just so I can stand it, but they are promptly ripped off and have even been shredded on occasion... the boys and I have agreed that we have to keep it for as long as she's here.   Lucky dog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's only Tuesday...

And I'm having a glass of wine...

Somehow I feel a little guilty about it, but I think that just adds depth to the taste...

I can rationalize anything

Monday, November 14, 2011

End of an Era...

No exaggeration... today construction, or rather, demolition, starts in the rec room at my parents' home.  Panelling will be ripped out, carpet torn up, old bathrooms dismantled, and this piece of family history will exist only in pictures and minds:
The bar.

Built by my uncle Fergus in 1967, it has been a real cornerstone in our family, and, like the rec room itself, is something I identify completely with Dad.

He was always either sitting in front of the bar in 'his' corner chair, or standing behind it (I can't find any photos right now but I know there are tons).  Family events always had Dad holding court there, often surrounded by grandchildren and doing goofy things.  The happy face mugs?  Classic... been there the whole time.  Countless hors d'oeuvres, drinks and cakes were served from there, and when kids got a little too rowdy, it was a safe haven for some of us to observe from.

Selecting (and emptying) the bottles is something I have some memory of my parents enjoying, and I think the selection accurately reflects their taste back then - Mateus, Casal Mendes, sweet, hurts-your-teeth-to-think-of-it stuff - and the bottles... oh, the bottles...

We all had our favourites, these are mine
 In all honesty, I'm sure some of the paint worn off the monkey was from me patting it over the years.

Harder to see it go than I would have thought.

The fireplace opposite the bar, also built by my uncle, is staying but will be painted
Again, no pictures handy, but this, with the packed bookshelves that used to be over it, was the backdrop for countless configurations of family portraits.

Yesterday Mom and I finished dismantling one other key piece of our family's history, the blue faux leather couch (seen in pic of Dad making a face at the camera).  It's been the site of so many things - TV dinners, I recovered from wisdom teeth surgery there, my brother Mike used to get up at noon as a teenager so he could lie on the couch, swathed in blankets, and spend his afternoons watching Scooby-Doo.  And in more recent years it was the go-to site for the traditional Christmas Eve pictures of grandchildren.

My mom had bought it as a used couch and recovered it herself, and being very thorough, used maybe a vigintillion nails, as confirmed by the vigintillion holes in my hands today.  The frame was gorgeous, solid hardwood of some sort - you'd never find that in furniture today - which was good because it held up through the decades of use we threw at it.

Mom seems excited about the prosper of changing it all, but she has always, to my mind, been happiest with a home decoration or renovation project on the go, and this is a big one.

So, truly, a huge part of our family's past - changing, modernizing, and hopefully getting ready for some new history to be made.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


And sore, borderline migrainy - I'll be back tomorrow with a proper post, including such fascinating topics as cold prevention, and the end of an era...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Funny Business

So... Tanner is in grade 12 this year, which means either "victory lap" or continuing his education next fall. He has always had a strong flair for the dramatic, dressing up and making up 'plays'  for he and his cousins to perform at family get-togethers.  It's not surprising that he has found himself in the 'Specialist High Skills Major' (SHSM) program for Drama at Central High.  He performs in musicals and plays, won an award for Excellence in Acting in a provincial competition last year and this year is considering writing and possibly directing his own play for the school's Spring Arts Festival.

So the focus and direction are there... the question is, where to take it from here?

This afternoon we went to Humber College in Toronto, so Tanner could learn more about something that has him genuinely excited - their Comedy Writing and Performance program.  It's a two year diploma program with close ties to Yuk Yuk's comedy club, with guest lecturers like Colin Mochrie (whom I adore), Eugene Levy, and Billy Crystal, just to name a few.

The course names alone made me laugh, which I guess is good for a comedy program.  Things like Stand-up Comedy, Improv, History of Comedy, Comedy Scriptwriting and Physical Comedy - nothing even remotely like the typical academic roster I'd guess most of us were confronted with at the college or university level.

He's a little excited.  A LITTLE?  Hell, I'm excited!!

I'm excited that he has such a specific interest, and that it can be met somewhere close to home.  I'm excited that the program director seems very accommodating and reassuring, telling Tanner that, although an audition using a 2-minute self-written piece is required, most applicants aren't too good, and it's more fun than anything else.  I'm most excited that he's so excited.

And yet... there's that part of me that was hoping he'd go for the extra semester at high school.  Take a little extra time, improve some grades, hang out.  Maybe stay young, need his mother, all that.  It's quite something to be confronted with a college-aged kid who is so pumped about moving on.  I feel like the work of raising him has been successful so far, as what we're ultimately trying to do is get them ready to go out into the world and find something that makes them happy.  And we may well be on the way to that.  And I am truly, genuinely glad for that.

And yet...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

No rest for the wicked...

or is it the weary?  I've never been sure, but I am definitely in the latter category these days.  Time change, of course, for which I am blaming Maggie's recent need to roust me every morning at 4:30AM for no apparent reason.

And we are busy, busy, busy.  The boys, that is - I simply exist to do their bidding.

Both boys are involved in the school musical, to be performed WHILE I AM AWAY - my one trip a year without them and that's when it is.  But there are rehearsals - daily rehearsals - going sometimes till 8 at night.  There are guitar lessons and hockey games, and Tanner's newest stint, volunteering at our local TV station (his name was in the credits last week for the show he was working on, which was kinda cool).

And there are days, like today, when everything converges and our plans rely on a precisely timed flow of events, where just one thing being out of whack will spell certain disaster (read: tardiness) for the rest of the evening.

I don't do tardy well.

So, it's now 12 hours since I got up and I am making lasagna which has to be ready at precisely 5, which is the time the boys should be walking through the door.

And then everything else should be tickety-boo.  Fingers crossed.

I will ignore the light that came up on my dashboard earlier this afternoon and assume it's a system glitch. I will simply focus on getting everyone where they need to be when they need to be there.  I will make the ultimate sacrifice and forego my flannels until I have brought Tanner home, just after 9pm.

And I may bring some of this (The Plucky Knitter MCN Worsted, Plucky Classics collection) with me, because it makes me happy, soothes my tired old nerves, and feels soooooo good it might make me feel slightly less weary.  Or wicked.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ten on Tuesday...

The topic this week is 10 things you do to care for yourself when you have cold.

I consider myself something of an authority on colds, as I would estimate I've spent between 1/3 to 1/2 of my life either suffering or recuperating from a cold.  And I'm not talking a dainty, sniffling into a lace hankie kind of a cold.  No, when I get a cold it's a major life-altering event... well, at least for the 5 - 7 days it's with me.

My face changes, my voice changes, I walk like Quasimodo and tend to communicate in low, guttural sounds.

So what do I do to take care of myself?

1. Medicate, medicate, MEDICATE.  I abhor Neo Citran, but it is one of the few things that guarantees me at least a few hours of sleep.

2.  Soup.  Chicken, noodles or rice, vegetables or not - can't eat enough soup.  I love homemade soup, but if I haven't had the foresight to freeze some then I'll take anything.

3.  Rest.  Usually easier said than done, but I try really hard to carve out some quiet, sitting still time.  I have a hard time napping during the day, but I think that just sitting is an acceptable substitute.  When I feel really crappy I don't even knit (shocked gasps!!), I just sit.

4.  Kleenex.  LOTS of it, at several key spots throughout the house.  

5.  Garbage bags accompanying said Kleenex boxes.  I still remember my brother, who gets colds like I do, leaving piles of used Kleenex beside his chair or couch - drove my sister-in-law nuts, which I totally get. I am grossed out just typing it.

6.  Flannel pyjamas.  One of my favourite things for whatever ails me, fresh-from-the-dryer flannels never fail to make me feel a little better.

7.  Email my mother and inform her of my condition.  Sure, it's sucky and whiny, but she always feels sorry for me and that makes me feel better.  Because even though I'm 50 on the outside, when I have a cold I'm 8 on the inside.

8.  Drink tea.  I am not a big tea drinker, although I am working hard to acquire a taste for matcha.  Coffee is one of my elixirs of life (red wine being the other, naturally).  However,  I know when I'm sick because I can't stand coffee, and just want to be continuously sipping tea, preferably with honey.

9.  Vicks vaporub.  How old-fashioned can you get, right?  But this is still the single best remedy for sinus clearing that I know.  And it really does help with aches and pains, PLUS if you rub it on the soles of your feet it actually does stop coughing.  No idea how that works, but I don't question it - I just know it does.

10.  Sleep.  Not always easy, but I usually go to bed ridiculously early, after a hot bath with eucalyptus-scented epsom salts, and try to sleep as much as possible.

In the last year or so, I have learned a few things to do to prevent colds, and I have to say that things have improved exponentially as a result, for me and for the boys.  I'l talk about that tomorrow...

What else makes me feel better when I'm sick with a cold?
Oh, come on, I had to put in a picture of something...  and they are exceptionally cuddly when any of us is sick...

Monday, November 07, 2011

So much material...

So little time - seriously, it's after 8pm and pitch black outside, and although I spent the better part of my day on the computer, I don't have a real blog post prepared.

My computer work included installing Windows 7 on my Mac, then attempting to download AutoCAD 2011 to the Windows partition. I was stuck in an endless loop of "Please enter your email to activate your account" and, upon entering my email, being told that "this email is already active, please proceed", which returned me to the "activate your account" page again.

Hours, people, HOURS of looping, trying different things and always ending up in the same Catch-22 nightmare, until finally, I shut it down in a fit of pique. It was either that or smash my face into the screen.

Guess what?

Pique works.

Shut it down, turned it back on and damn if it didn't just load right up, all nice and proper-like.

So that was my Monday, with the addition of a 4:30am wake-up call (thank you Maggie) and a 6pm intensely sweaty cardio class... How was yours?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Dumb, dumb, dumb

raked leaves... arms numb.... can't.... type

must.... warn...... others

and just so it's not a total bust:
Even intense squirrel watching looks better with Hipstamatic...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I yam what I yam...

and sore is what I yam...

I've been exercising pretty regularly for a couple of years now, things like weights, yoga, pilates, walking - you know, all that stuff you're supposed to try to do and which I am finally enjoying, thanks to Sue and Lisa at Tread Powerfully.

Last Wednesday, I did a bootcamp/circuit kind of class, which included things like tossing medicine balls, countless pushups, jumping jacks, and chin-ups. I did well this week, better than ever, in fact.  Unfortunately, I think I've blown out my forearms.

Not sure if it's even possible, but since Wednesday night my arms have gone from dead weight to intensely painful and crampy.  No amount of stretching or massaging or soaking seems to help, and it's cutting into the rest of my life - hard to knit, hard to write, hard to walk the dogs, hard just to hold a hair dryer.

They look normal enough, my arms, which surprises me, because they feel like

So what's the moral of the story?  Don't work your hardest in case you hurt yourself?  Don't exercise beyond your comfort zone?

No, ultimately I think it's try your best, but keep lots of Advil - and wine - around for later.  Not at the same time, of course...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Fun? Wow!

I know, right?  Who are you, and what have you done with Deirdre?

But, I figure this won't be too much of a stretch, as I'm always knitting anyways.  This is just putting a deadline to it, which is fine.  What might make it seem nuttier is that I'm going to try to make 2 sweaters this month.  There we go... now we've moved to WTF?

Tanner has asked me to make him a sweater.  He has very specific ideas of what he wants, and I think he just realized that by having me make it, he can pretty much design it as he wants to.  It only took 17 years, but really, I'm not complaining (I complained vociferously yesterday, so I consider my complaint quota met... for a while).

We're going to use this:
Knit Picks City Tweed, which is a DK weight, so it's not bulky.  I'm going to use the pouch from the Wonderful Wallaby pattern, then finish with a zip-up henley kind of neck and a collar.  Oh, and the cuffs have to be TIGHT.  And long.

See?  Very specific ideas.

And since I'll be making something for Tanner, well, why not make something new for me?  Ben hasn't asked for anything, and I don't have any major Christmas knitting planned, so why not?

Why not use this:
which I bought at Rena's Yarn in Dundas (no longer there) probably 16 years ago (Tanner was in a backpack carrier as I recall), to make this:
Unbelievably, it's the yarn called for in the pattern ('Killybegs' by Carol Feller), and I have enough of it, so it's all rather serendipitous, quite 'meant to be'.

Of course, I'm hoping that it's meant to be this month, and am planning  to cast on both sweaters this weekend, while finishing up a couple of other projects that I'll talk about, maybe tomorrow.

Uh huh, that's right... fun?  Wow!!


Just want to see if I can post from my iPad, so I can keep this up while I'm in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. Better post in the works, coming up later this afternoon...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Look, I'm doing it!!

Sure it's only two days in a row, but with the interest of Sandra and SuzannaBanana, I'll keep at it, I'm sure - thank you guys!

So, what's new around these parts?  One of the biggest things (literally) has been the almost year-long, still ongoing, renovation next door.  Immediately next door.  I have learned lots of valuable lessons during the course of the year, for example, construction workers seem to feel themselves to be above the bylaws that govern the rest of us (not starting work before 7am, not parking illegally, not blocking driveways for extended periods of time), and they don't take kindly to having those bylaws enforced (ask me how I know).

I've learned that there is no point in dusting with a project this size going on next door, as the dust makes it's way through closed windows and doors and is everywhere, all the time.  The noise is perpetual, whether from power tools, noisy trucks, or the workers themselves yelling at each other, often as early as 6:30am, and none of it ever achieves the status of 'background noise'.

I think ultimately I've learned that current and longstanding residents, in our case some as long as 40 years, have very few rights when confronted with a project like this, and that in the end, the rights belong to those self-entitled few who hold the purse strings.  Or their fathers, who really hold the purse strings.

Bitter?  Me?  Nah... I've just been living through this:
becoming this:
You can see the remnants of the original house, with at least double the width, and more than double the depth.

I know that, from my perspective, a word from the new buyers prior to starting construction would have gone a long, LONG way towards establishing a greater level of tolerance.  As it stands now, a few of us in our little cul de sac are now in a position of open warfare - well, okay, maybe mostly me - but it is ON. I gladly summon our useless city representatives - or less frequently, the police - to help maintain some semblance of order on the street, and have become virtually fearless when dealing with the workers themselves.

So, that's a little of what's new in these parts - there's been lots of much more positive stuff, too, but I was having words with one of the aforementioned workers this morning at 5:45am, and I needed to vent.

Tomorrow, we get positive!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Since I can't grow a moustache...

I'm going to try NaBloPoMo instead - I've signed up, I've committed to posting once a day through the month of November, so we'll see what happens.

It's a weird thing, me and blogging - I love to write - I have a certificate in writing, for Pete's sake - and am perpetually writing blog posts in my head.  Somewhere between my head and my keyboard, though, the spark dies.  Not sure why, but maybe this will help me get over it...

so here we go...