Wednesday 29 June 2011

WIP Wednesday 47: Hot in the City

So we eventually got the promised thunderstorm ... not on Sunday night as forecast, but yesterday. Everything is cooler, brighter and fresher because of it; fortunately we had got home from school before the heavens opened, so we could fully enjoy it from the inside.

Outside, the big jasmine is in flower, and at times the scent is overpowering; amazing that such a small flower has such a disproportionately intense fragrance:

Yes, it was me actually took this arty-looking pic

The same applies to untrimmed privet, although that doesn't have the same cachet at all.

I only have one current WIP, using a yarn I bought especially from Laura over at Abstract Cat;
not the first - or the last - time I have shopped with her because of her fabulous colors and great customer service. It is 400m of British Blue-faced Leicester sockyarn (4ply) in the colorway 'Sunday':

This is being turned into a birthday scarf for Uber-Cool Brother; he's the kind of person who buys organic from farmer's markets, doesn't mow so as to maintain an insect-friendly environment, and cares whether his prosciutto has actually come from Italy, so it seems logical that he would appreciate hand-made.

So far, it looks like this:

It's the Flame Chevron stitch pattern, which will be revealed to perfection when this is blocked - hopefully in time for FO Friday ...

As usual, many beautiful things to ooh and aah over at Tami's Amis ...

Monday 27 June 2011

Can't Trust That Day

It's hot, hot, hot .... and I'm loving it. Kind folks call me a lizard, unkind folks call me a reptile.

Today I did 5 loads of washing, and a bit of knitting, as I was enjoying basking. Basking and housework are not natural mates, so I had to choose which to prioritize ... easy, especially since this was a large part of my view:

After I'd collected the kids from school, they put their swimsuits on and played on the patio with the hose. They had two instructions only:

1) water the tubs, pots and troughs

2) do not wet the almost-dry washing

Apparently, they couldn't manage either of these simple tasks. Having been sent to his room, Destructo Boy appeared at Mini Diva's window. Actual conversation:

Me: Let's practice some thinking, shall we ? Tell me the two good reasons why you must not get on the radiator and lean out of Mini Diva's window.

Destructo Boy: Because I knocked over all the pots of plants ?

Me: OK. There's three reasons then, give me the other two .....

Minus: Destructo Boy forgot his hat and his lunchbox at school.

Minus: Mini Diva forgot her lunchbox at school.

Minus: Mini Diva has a verruca.

Minus: Mini Diva has lost her bike lock.

Minus: Jewel the cat was sick - again; a rescue cat, too often she hoovers down her food without chewing, resulting in it coming right back up again 5 minutes later.

Plus: the dog ate the cat sick, so I had nothing to wipe up.

Friday 24 June 2011

Danger, Will Robinson !

Well, do you know, this morning I expected to be posting my usual FO Friday, with a couple of pics of the projects I've completed this week, and to be nattering on in that kind of vein.

But even after the events of the last few days, I had to think long and hard about whether I wanted to drag out that battered old soap-box: did I want to - yet again - invest my time and energy into the malicious black hole that is Marcus Katz ?

I found that his behavior offends me so much that I still cannot sit idle and quiet and watch it all happen without comment. It appears from the post on the WE Tarot blog that Katz is still practicing his inconsistent and unexplained membership policy, vetting applicants on who-knows-what kind of criteria; no-one knows because he does not condescend to inform them.

Far more importantly, and much more sadly, it is a real shame - and almost unbelieveable - to see one of the tarot world's leaders, being unable to apply any critical thinking, or even basic questioning, to this matter. Mary Greer's comments on the WE Tarot blog claim she is neutral and uninvolved as regards Tarot Professionals and their aggressive actions and behavior.

Yet, not only is she some kind of board member of theirs, she posts an 'interview' with Katz on her blog today that asks no questions - of any kind - but simply gives him further opportunities to promote his various money-making enterprises. She is either incredibly naive, or a liar: how can she be neutral or disinterested, with these ties ? She certainly lacks an ability to step back and examine whether the criticisms made of Katz hold any water, and therefore also presumably is unable to see how her own behavior is very detrimental to her reputation.

I believe it is more than time that this whole sorry mess was aired and discussed, that people stood up for themselves and refuse to be intimidated any longer by the secret personal phone calls and threats .

And those who are regarded as leaders in the tarot community owe it to that community to shed some light into these dark corners; it is simply not good enough to try to excuse yourselves by claiming you don't want to get involved in the 'politics' of it all. You have a responsibility to those who look to you for an example, by virtue of your positions as arbiters and experts. After all, if you continue to stick your head in the sand, don't be surprised when your undefended butt gets kicked.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

WIP Wednesday 46: Ack ! Oh Noes !

So one of DH's BIL's has a birthday this week. I remember in time to knit a rather lovely scarf over a mere 3 days, using RYC Classic Silk Wool DK in the 'Brownstone' colorway; I even find what I think is a really nice stitch pa
ttern - a Lacy ZigZag. I cast off, and the next morning I wash and block it.

I am pleased. It is a
nice yarn - smooth, soft, and easy to knit with. The pattern is masculine. The color will suit him (DH chose it). I am in time to get it blocked, wrapped and posted before the weekend.

Go me, sez I. Let's take a photo for Wednesday - it counts as a WIP because I'm in the blocking stage, so it isn't technically completed yet.

Here's the photo:

Do you see what I see ?

No ?

Let me zoom in for you:

And just to reinforce that, zoom again:

Somehow, a stitch has broken. I shall fix it when the scarf is dry. Wednesdays are full of woe ...

But the lovely people over at Tami's Amis will have better news for you ....

Monday 20 June 2011

Misery, Thy Name is Sebastian

So DH kindly went and picked up the rest of the stuff I needed for the dog from the vet - including the medicated shampoo for the yeast skin infection. That's where his helpfulness ended, however, as he said he didn't want to get wet.

From our one previous experience of bathing the dog, it needed DH, me and three children to hold and wash him on the patio, with everyone getting soaked through in the process. With just me and two kids, there was no way we would be able to hold Sebastian in one place.

DH objected to me putting Sebastian in the bathtub, as he might scratch it. So Mini Diva and I used a mix of coercion, and bribery with his favorite treats, to allow me to manhandle the poor animal into the shower. Once in, he was relatively easy to keep there as it's a corner shower with one door, and the only way out was past me. Plenty of warm water and bubbles later, he was clean and smelling faintly clinical, rather than the overwhelmingly 'doggy' smell that is apparently a typical symptom of a yeasty skin infection. His coat also feels much nicer to the touch, not greasy and sticky.

The dog got washed, and the only other person who got soaked was me. Another plus is that we have extended our knowledge of Sebastian's temperament: if he was going to bite when stressed, this would have been one of those occasions.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

WIP Wednesday 45: Mangy Cur

So Monday ambushed me this morning: the dog wet his bed, Jewel the cat was sick, and Destructo Boy spilled his juice over the floor. As if this wasn't enough, my MIL came for a visit, walked through the door, took one look at the dog and said ''Oh, look- fox-mange''.

I Googled it and discovered that fox-mange is sarcoptic mange. Sarcoptic mange is scabies. I freaked when I read that bit, because scabies is also a human affliction - I know because I had it as a young child, picked up from school. As a result, to this day I have an OCD fetish about not ever. ever. ever sharing towels.

Giving up my idea that he had a food allergy (he's been on a gluten-free diet for 3 weeks now) I called the vet for an appointment tootsweet. £180 ($295USD) later, blood has been taken for tests, steroid tablets prescribed for the itching, a drug called Stronghold on the offchance that it's mange, antibiotics for any secondary bacterial infection of the skin, and a medicated shampoo for the yeast skin infection on his skin ... shampoo for the 36kg/80lb. dog who is afraid of water.

The vet didn't do a skin scrape for mange because he thinks it's an environmental allergy; perhaps the blood test will tell us exactly what to, but he thinks it's more likely it will come back as a generic allergy, for which Sebastian will need a £500/$820USD course of initial treatment which is not a cure, but will control the symptoms; then he will have to take this drug for the rest of his life. He is insured, but even so .... I kind of wish it had been mange: at least you know what you're dealing with, and it's straightforward to treat.

So rather than throw the dog's mangy carcass off the nearest bridge with my gin-sodden one, let's distract ourselves with a little more baby knitting - the last item for my neighbor's Bump. It will be a cabled sweater ...

I'm sure the good people over at Tami's Amis will be far more cheerful than me today ....

Monday 13 June 2011

Monday Moan: Customer Service

Things come in threes, is the saying. And in my experience, it's true.I've had three instances of varying levels of bad customer service within the last few days. Firstly, I had a response to the email I sent after our visit to Easton Farm Park. It only took almost 2 weeks. Here is my email:

''Having visited Easton Farm Park on Saturday 28th May, 2011, I want to query your use of an electric fence with the Suffolk Punch horses: please could you

explain what the need for this is ?

In addition, all the Suffolk Punch horses I saw looked as if they needed professional attention to their badly split and chipped hooves. I saw no shelter, water or food in the field that they were in..The warty growths on the inside of their front knees also looked as if they needed professional attention.

I also wish to comment that in the catering barn, apart from the overcharging - £3.00 for tea and toast - there were two unsupervised teenagers serving the food and drink: the young lady, in particular, had loose hair that wasn't tied back or covered, she had chipped nail varnish on badly-bitten nails, and kept fiddling with her hair and face. Unsurprisingly, I chose not to buy food served in such an unhygienic manner, and breaking Food Hygiene Regulations.

The lack of adult presence/supervision around the Farm in general was quite a concern to me.

I look forward to your response.''

And the response that took 12 days to arrive in my inbox:

Thank you for your e-mail.

We were disappointed to read that your visit to our farm failed to meet your expectations.

Thank you for your concerns regarding our Suffolk Punch horses, but I can assure you that all of our horses receive the best attention from all concerned, including regular veterinary inspections, and all their needs are fully met. The electric fences are a necessary safeguard both for the horses and to our farm visitors.

Your comments regarding our café have been noted and relevant action will be taken. We can only improve what we do by receiving such feedback and we thank you for taking the time to bring these

matters to our attention.

Yours sincerely,''

This is a well-written, professional email that doesn't actually say much at all: absolutely brilliant. I applaud and appreciate it, with a big grin of camaraderie. I've written plenty like this myself - when you think the customer is wrong, and most likely off their meds and out on day-release from an asylum, but you still have to respond to them because it's company policy.You'll notice how some of my questions weren't actually answered: still no reason given for the electric fence; personally I don't think my 5 year old is safer with an electric fence that is attached and partially hidden by a wooden fence. Of course, he shouldn't be wandering around unsupervised, but that's the point of Risk Assessments .... in this case, a child being zapped is something that could easily happen. My main issue with the response is the length of time it took. Perhaps we will go back next time and see if anything has changed.

My second CS grouch is about beads. I ordered some beads online at Charisma Beads (no link, she doesn't deserve it) on Thursday night; on Friday morning I received an email saying they wouldn't be posted out to me until 30th June. That's 20 whole days, people. I politely suggested that a notice of such on the website home page would be appropriate. The email back said she was entitled to a holiday, it WAS on the website, and regular customers had had notice via the newsletter; and would I like to shop elsewhere ?

I responded that, having run a business for over 20 years, I understood the need for a holiday - and also for holiday cover for that business. I still couldn't find the holiday notice. I politely asked for a refund; which was given by return of email with a curt ''Done'' on it. Friends of mine eventually found the holiday notice buried about 2 or 3 clicks in. Interestingly enough, it also said that orders received by noon on the 14th June would be posted out before she left on holiday. I remind you that I ordered on the 10th June. I - of course - received no reply to my email where I pointed that out.

The 3rd - and most heinous - CS issue was yesterday: DH pushed the boat out and took me for coffee and cake after we'd bought raw dead things for the dog's dinners. I had a cherry cheesecake (one of my 5-a-day). It arrived drenched in cream. What kind of inconceivable gaffe is that ?? Firstly, I hate cream on anything except strawberries. Secondly, you NEVER put something like that on someone's food without asking first. Thirdly, if you are going to contaminate their food in such a way, at least make it whipped cream so that it can be scraped off and left to the side.

It was only out of consideration to DH that I didn't do anything; when it arrived, I did say, ''I don't like or eat cream''; the waitress asked ''Is it alright ?'' I wanted to say no, I didn't ask for that, please bring me one without cream, but DH was already saying ''yes, that's fine''. So I had two mouthfuls - the only bits without cream-poisoning - and he ate the rest. I am reminded of the anniversary meal he took me for a few years ago where I threw an absolute fit over the quality of the food ....I do try to

avoid that, most times.

So these are three examples of poor customer service. The second one proves every single customer service seminar I've ever been to (plenty, in over 20 years of a customer-facing business): I could have been turned into a happy and maybe even a regular customer if my complaint had been dealt with in a professional manner. For example, keeping to her delivery terms as stated; offering me a discount as a gesture of good will - even better, make it a discount voucher against a future purchase: this is a win/win for her, since if I come back and spend it, she has me as a repeat customer; if I'm so annoyed I'd rather swallow broken glass than shop with her again, she doesn't have to give away anything because I won't use the discount. Instead, I have Tweeted, posted on Ravelry and now blogged, sharing the poor experience I have had. Which may affect other people buying with her or not.

Friday 10 June 2011

FO Friday 38: Proof of Whuppin'

So this week I have two, yes, an amazing two whole Finished Objects to share with you. 'Course, they are small, which helps in terms of speed, and the closest that I think knitting gets to instant gratification.

Firstly, my go-to baby pattern, but this time with a hood. It reminds me of Kenny in South Park. I must impress upon you that I do not watch South Park, but everybody knows the main characters, I guess. The yarn was James C.Brett's Baby Rainbow DK; I didn't like the feel of it at all while I was knitting with it, but it feels a lot better after a wash and some fabric conditioner:

And I have also completed the butt-whuppin' vintage baby cardigan, sewing the buttons on this morning; the yarn is James C.Brett's Baby Bliss DK, which comes in several interesting colorways and is far nicer to work with; a little on the thin side, I'd say, an American sport-weight between 4ply and DK.

So for the weekend I shall be leafing through my patterns, favorites and Ravelry queue for my nextest project ....but I feel there's family birthdates that I must check too ....

Over at Tami's there are lots of other people exulting in their success ...

Wednesday 8 June 2011

WIP Wednesday 44: Butt-whuppin'

It looked so beguiling yet innocent, so straightforward, simple and elegant -an almost-vintage raglan-sleeved baby cardigan with a little lacy insert, designed for 4 ply or QuickKnit. Having just Googled 'QuickKnit', it tells me it is somewhere between 4ply and DK, what the Americans call 'sport' weight. Probably I ought to have done that before starting the pattern. This pattern has been whuppin' my butt big-style.

Actually, gauge (14 st to 2 ins on 3.25mm needles) doesn't appear to be an issue; even if it was, it wouldn't bother me: it's a baby cardi, it will fit some baby at some point.

I cast on on Sunday, and had knitted all the way to the neck before thinking that it looked kinda ... small. Kinda .... miniature. So I ripped it back to the beginning, and paid attention to what I was doing for a little while. This pattern is written in such a way that it leaves some stuff up to you - nothing really potentially complicated like 'repeat but reverse shapings' but numbers stuff, like counting from 1 to 10.

Like, rows 1 & 2 form ribbing; repeat 12 times. I somehow made that 6 rows, when it should have been 12, plus the 2 original rows. Equals 14 rows in all. Realize when I have reached the neck of the back. Rip it back. Right to the beginning and cast on again.

Like, rows 1 - 6 form pattern; repeat 3 times. I managed to make that 3 pattern repeats in all instead of the 4 it needed to be. Realize when I have done the armhole shaping and am about to start the neck shaping. Rip it back.

It tells me to make the buttonholes in the integral border (yaaay! great design! I hate button bands) every 12 rows. Plus the armhole shaping. And then, plus the neck shaping. Having already ripped back the back and front left, I admit to myself that my brain can no longer cope with tracking these three vital sections of information all at the same time - and I write it all down.

With this simple solution, now I am whuppin' this pattern's butt.

Hop over to Tami's place to see other, numerate, people not making a hash of their patterns.

Monday 6 June 2011

Late to the Party: the ABCs of Me

So I saw this over at Sara's blog, then at Yarnpiggy's and Wool Durham too: never one to be left out, there's nothing better for me to blog about on this rainy grey Monday morning ...

A. Age: shady side of 40
B. Bed size: double,
with king size duvet; DH moans about it all the time because it's mine, and his feet hang over the end

C. Chore that you hate: vacuuming; I'd rather clean the toilet than vacuum
D. Dogs: one, handsome but stupid

E. Essential start to your day: used to be, cup of tea and a cigarette; now, just a cup of tea
F. Favorite color: peach/apricot/russet
G. Gold or Silver: Gold
H. Height: 5'3''
I. Instruments you play: used to play oboe, then saxophone, then
clarinet; I have 2 self-taught party pieces for the piano
J. Job title: tarot reader; until 3 years ago I was a licensed house manager
K. Kids: two, Mini Diva and Destructo Boy
L. Live: long and prosper

M. Mother’s name: Hilary
N. Nicknames: sometimes DH calls me 'Biscuits'; I'm too scared to ask why. Only 4 people call me 'Vivi', and one of those is dead.
O. Overnight hospital stays: 3 - one for each of the kids, and one for the kidney infection I had 3 days before Destructo Boy was born
P. Pet peeve: people not doing what they say they will
Q. Quote from a movie: ''Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.''

R. Right or left handed: Right mainly, but can use my left quite well
S. Siblings: Two, both younger: Über-Cool Brother and Auntie Fashion
T. Time you wake up: 5:30-ish. Yes, that's in the morning,
U. Underwear: I like it to match when possible; no Big Pants - I'm married, not dead
V. Vegetable you hate: ummmm.... none, really. I prefer salads though.
W. What makes you run late: getting sucked into something on the interwebz
X. X-Rays you’ve had: teeth and hip
Y. Yummy food that you make: I refuse to admit to yummy food, or else they might make me cook more often
Z. Zoo animal: wild animal ? tiger.

Many apologies for the mixed fonts's obviously a Blogger thing ....

Friday 3 June 2011

FO Friday 37: The Death Of King Kong

An odd post title, I agree; but today we say farewell to King Kong, aka The Beast:

This might look like and anachronistic behemoth on the outside - but on the inside ? A heart of efficiently quick functioning gold. Until recently, when he started to moan, whirr and groan at me when he was switched on in the morning, and spring cryptic messages at me on the welcoming screen. Then his arthritic old innards just slowed everything down to a crawl; and as I am a relic of the 80s, having to wait for something is just not a concept that I can grasp.

So I coaxed my über-cool brother into poking around his lair for another Beast, but this time
more of a Godzilla ....

Godzilla and I are still in our honeymoon period, although that won't last too much longer because of his insistence that he has no sound devices: I know my brother used him purely for sound production and mixing work. I think he is enjoying his flying on the interwebz far too much to return to such mundane uses as producing sounds .... but I will brook no disobedience - the Beast will be tamed.

I shall ask DH to dispose of King Kong's body; I am sure that Destructo Boy's peculiar skills will come in handy as regards the old hard drive ...

Wednesday 1 June 2011

WIP Wednesday 43: June is Bustin' Out All Over

Even though we are in the driest part of Britain, according to the weather people, in April we had only 10% of the rain we usually have here, and now the word 'drought' is being bandied about - especially by the farmers who are preemptively seizing on the arid conditions as an excuse for higher prices.

So I was very glad to welcome a day and a half of much-needed intermittent heavy showers, not only to succour the farmers and the parks, but to somewhat dampen my rather clay-ey soil. it meant that today I could plant out a couple of bits and bobs I'd picked up over the last month or so.

I am trying my luck again with a Papillon lavender, having lost mine over the winter; a pretty little scabious, a purple-leaved spiderwort (tradescantia) and a beautiful golden one:

I am experimenting with with Hebe 'Heartbreaker' because of the flushed new tips:

Just about ready for early harvesting are Mini Diva's strawberries:

And just going over are my patio rose 'Sweet Magic' together with the chives ...

But there are other roses on the verge of busting out like the post title (super-kudos if you can name without Googling, where it was taken from):

Don't forget the hostess with the mostest WIPs ....Tami over at Tami's Amis.