Posts tagged ‘DIY’

Knitting Season Begins

I can finally get back to blogging about my craft projects!  I don’t want to go anywhere near knitting during the summer, but almost overnight we went from 80 degrees to 40 degrees around here, so suddenly knitting seems like a good idea again.

I have a lot of knitting projects lined up — mostly Christmas decorations and presents — but I had a few projects that I needed to get out to people quickly.  A good friend from high school (K) has a 3-year-old daughter, E, who has been having a rough time recently.  I decided that I needed to knit her a hat and a toy to go with it.  Another friend’s mom is going through chemo, and she put out a request for hats, so that seemed like another good project to work on quickly.

I had seen a yarn store not too far from my house a few months back, but I hadn’t been in yet.  I decided to go check it out, both to get yarn for the toddler hat, and to scope out whether or not there was a knitting group nearby.  I have definitely missed having a group to knit with, and I figured it wuld be a good way to try and make some local, IRL friends.  It turned out there is a knitting group that meets at the shop on Thursdays, so I got to kill two birds with one stone — make new friends, and knit E’s hat!

I wanted something very soft and fuzzy for E’s hat, and I found an unusual yarn.  I discovered later that it is designed to knit up like terrycloth, but this is what it looks like:

fuzzy yarn

I haven’t worked with a lot of fuzzy yarns before, but I knew that it would be a little challenging.  The fuzziness makes the individual stitches impossible to see.  It also could be less yarn than it looks like, so I asked the shop owner whether I could get a toddler hat out of a single skein.  She said to buy a second skein to be safe, so I did.
I got to the knitting group late, and missing most of my materials.  I had all my needles, but forgot the rest of my toolkit, and the pattern book I typically use as a guide for hat measurements.  But I have knit so many hats in the past, I figured it would be no big deal to do this one off the cuff.  I did have to ask the store owner for the appropriate circumference of a toddler hat so I could get started, but that was no big deal.
The first problem I ran across was figuring out my gauge.  I started to knit a swatch, but I couldn’t see the individual stitches to tell how many I had per inch.  I tried to guess, and was waaaay wrong the first time — when I saw the knitting start to curl up on my round needles, I knew it was much too big.  When I took it off the needles, it was at least 40″ in circumference!  So I eyeballed it, and the second time I got roughly the right size.
Then, as I started knitting, I realized that I was going to have a hard time ribbing the edge of the hat, since I couldn’t tell my stitches apart.  I typically use ribbing or seed stitch on the edge of hats to keep the rim from rolling up.  But I had a hunch that this yarn might not roll.  More consultation with the store owner and looking up some patterns using that yarn confirmed that it shouldn’t roll, so I could do stockinette stitch for the whole hat.  And the best part of the yarn was, even though I was halfway through my first row, no one would ever know that I was switching from ribbing to stockinette!
The last problem I ran into was the decreases.  I first learned to make hats by doing regular decreases up to the crown, making a smooth, beanie-style top, rather than the gathered top that is created by doing a rapid decrease at the end.  I never use stitch markers for this, and don’t even own any, because I am used to being able to see where my decreases are.  But that was impossible with this yarn.  So I needed stitch markers to keep tabs on where my decreases would go.  And the great thing about knitting in a yarn store — I was able to buy stitch markers on the spot!
Despite having to start twice, I had most of the hat done by the time I left the sit and stitch.  I just needed to switch to double-pointed needles for the final decreases.
On Saturday, I sat down and decided to finish E’s hat.  It took less than half an hour.  I realized once it was done that I hadn’t upped the number of decreases quite enough at the end, which had resulted in a pointed top, but it looks adorable, so I decided to keep it.  The best part is, it looks good whether you roll the bottom or keep it straight.

straight brim

rolled brim

In the process of gathering up my knitting materials for the sit and stitch, I had discovered an unfinished hat I was knitting for T last spring.  So I picked it up and started working on it again.  Apparently, I had run out of the black yarn I started with, and continued with a different black yarn.  It resulted in a black striped look that I really like.  Something awfully strange had gone on with the knitting a row or two below where I picked the project up again — it looks like I pulled out sone stitches and picked them back up twisted — but it took a while for me to notice it, so I didn’t go back and fix it.  It took an hour or so to finish this project, and when it was done, it looked like this:

black striped hat

Finally, I decided to work on the hat for my friend’s mom.  I hadn’t used the whole first skein for E’s hat, so I decided to use the second skein for this.  I know that it will look goofy instead of elegant, but I thought the yarn would feel really nice against her head.  But I was afraid that there wouldn’t be *quite* enough yarn for an adult-sized hat.  So I looked through my stash, and found some super-silky fuzzy yarn that I picked up during a stash swap.  The green would go well with the baby blue yarn, and I thought a stripe would help the hat look a little bit more grown-up, while also helping stretch the terrycloth yarn.  This time, to get my gauge (since I never really figured it out last time around), I knit a swatch of 10 stitches.  Ten stitches was a little less than 4 inches wide, so to make a 21-inch circumference hat I cast on 56 stitches.  The silky green stuff was SO silky it was difficult to knit with — I was glad that I only had a few rows worth of it.  But I think the finished hat will be really nice and cozy!  I tried not to make it too long, so she wouldn’t have to roll up the brim.  I also went with the quick decrease, so there’s a little bit of gather at the top.  Even after making a full-sized hat, I still have some yarn left over.  I hope it fits and she likes it!

chemo cap

The next thing I need to make is a stuffed toy to go with E’s hat — I have a pattern for a cute little frog that I think will be perfect.  And my plan is, with the little bit of fuzzy yarn I have leftover, I will make him a hat that looks just like hers.  I don’t have enough green yarn to do him all in the same yarn, so I decided to wait until next Thursday and buy a new skein at the next sit and stitch.  I can hardly wait!


DIY Pet Waste Composter

backyard pet waste composter

Last spring I was watching an eco-friendly home improvement show and saw a family install a dog poop composter in the back corner of their yard.  It looked like a quick an easy project, so I did a little research, and found several places where you can get instructions for making one, including a really detailed paper put out by the USDA for Alaskan dog owners.  While maintaining above-ground composting bins with a variety of composting materials seemed extremely complicated, the simpler and more popular versions were below-ground, and essentially created a mini septic tank in your yard.  This is the style I went with.

You might be wondering why anyone would bother making a dog poop composter.  There are a number of ecological reasons to do so: it keeps dog waste out of landfills, allows it to degrade naturally, prevents it from being washed into storm drains to contaminate rivers and lakes, and prevents us from taking a naturally biodegradeable product and wrapping it in plastic so it can never degrade.  Some cities (Seattle for one) don’t allow pet waste in municipal garbage, and there’s too much grit to flush it down the toilet with our waste, so this is a great solution to the problem.  In my case, the fact that I don’t have to carry it from the back yard through my house to the trash can is a plus.  If you just want the waste to have someplace to break down naturally, one poster commented that he had been using the same bin for 10 years and had never needed to empty it.  But it is called a composter, and in my case I would like to be able to use the resulting product to amend our soil, which is clayey silt and not very good for planting.  Every site I went on said to NEVER USE COMPOSTED PET WASTE ON EDIBLE PLANTS.  The microbes in the poop will not be killed, and you don’t want to risk them getting onto any vegetables you will harvest and eat.  However, several of the sites said it is okay to use in flower beds, which is my plan.


plastic garbage can with lid (Most of the directions I saw said to use an old trash can, but I didn’t have any old ones lying around, so I had to go out and buy a new one.  If you can find one that a friend, family member or neighbor doesn’t need anymore, that would be an even more eco-friendly way of doing this.  And I assume you could use a metal can as well as a plastic one, although I would be concerned about the metal rusting away eventually.)

rocks (I used a bag of landscaping river rock)

Rid-X septic tank treatment

Start by digging a hole that will allow your garbage can to sit flush with or just above ground level.  Use your trash can lid to mark the size of the hole to start.  Ideally, you will need a round-nosed shovel to do the digging, but I did not have an ideal situation.  As someone who has dug holes for a living, you would think that I would have all the necessary tools on hand, but T has started driving my car to work due to high fuel prices, and my dig kit was in the trunk, so I had to be creative.  (I’m going to describe my digging process for the sake of my fellow archaeologists who might be amused, but the rest of you can feel free to skip over the next paragraph.)

my tools

First off,  I found a short-handled, flat-nosed spade, which T apparently usually keeps in his truck bed as an emergency snow shovel.  Luckily my pick was in the garage as well, since I was putting the composter in the back portion of the yard, which is intended for RV parking and has a layer of partially-compacted gravel on it.  The flat-nosed shovel would be fairly useless against that.  So I used the pick to get started, and began digging myself a hexagonal hole.  Things went pretty well for the first few feet — I was afraid I would hit pure clay, but our soil is actually fairly silty, with zero gravel in it, and still moist so it cut like butter.  However, at a certain point the handle of my spade was simply too short to comfortably reach the bottom — not to mention the handle kept hitting the sides as I tried to scoop out the soil, a problem that anyone who’s ever dug a 50 x 50 STP is familiar with.  I looked in the garage again and discovered a very narrow, curved shovel the likes of which I’d never seen before.  T said it’s a trench digger, and it was brilliant for cutting the sides of my hole and ensuring I wasn’t angling in, although it automatically bathtubbed the bottom.  The longer handle really helped with leverage, too.  Unfortunately, the narrow blade made trying to bring soil up with it almost impossible — I felt like I was digging with a teaspoon.  I still needed something to bring up loose soil.  I don’t have a sturdy metal dustpan, but as I was headed into the house again I saw something that would do just as well — a sturdy dog bowl.  Using the archaeologist’s time-honored head-in-the-hole dirt-bailing technique, the bowl made pretty quick work of the loose soil in the bottom of my hole.  I had my trash can with me to test the depth of the hole as I worked, and when I got close to deep enough, I used a few hand tools to make sure I had square corners and a nice, even bottom.  My favorite hand digging tool, my rock hammer, was in my car, but I figured the claws on a regular hammer would work.  They did an okay job, along with some scraping from a little three-pronged hand fork I had laying around.  I’m sure I could have had uneven sides and an irregular bottom, but you know, old habits die hard.

Once I had an appropriately-sized hole, I needed to make some modifications to my trash can.  In order to allow for drainage into the surrounding subsoil, I needed to cut out the bottom of my can, and make several holes in the sides.  I actually cut out the bottom first, but I would recommend putting the holes in the sides first, since the rigidity of the can is compromised once the bottom is out.  But this is what I did.

I discovered just as I was about to start this portion of the project that T’s drill was missing.  Turns out, he loaned it to a friend.  In my case, I used an awl to make a hole for the keyhole saw to start, but a drill would be quicker and easier.  With the can upside-down, I had to stand on the rim to keep it from moving while I cut, which was a two-handed process for me.  Having someone else around to hold onto the can might have been easier, too.  Getting around the two insets was probably the most difficult part, but the whole process took less than 5 minutes.

bottom off!

The next step was to put holes in the sides, which could be done quickly and easily with a drill, especially if the base is still intact to keep the sides rigid.  Most of the directions I saw said to put in about a dozen holes, and weren’t more specific than that.  I’m sure you could put in a lot more holes of you wanted, it would only increase drainage, which can’t be a bad thing.  I decided to keep my holes near the bottom, in the belief that any liquefied poo would tend to flow downwards, and having holes up high probably wouldn’t do much good.  I could have just waited until T had his drill back, but I was being stubborn, and since I had triumphed over a lack of proper digging tools through creative problem solving, I felt like I needed to keep going here.  So I replaced a drill with these:

drill replacements

I used the awl to make starting holes at the corners of small triangles, use the keyhole saw again to cut two of the sides, and then (because it was easier than finishing the third side with the saw) used a pair of pruning shears to clip the third side of the triangle.  I had to stick my knee into the can to brace it, and be very careful not to saw into my own leg.  Really kids, take my advice, make sure you have a drill on hand and put the holes in before you cut out the base.  This was an unnecessary pain in the butt.

my ragged triangular drainage holes

 The next step was to get the can outside and into the hole I’d dug.  In order to help with drainage, most directions say to put rock/s in the bottom.  I assume that any kind of gravel, baserock, river rock, or even some larger stones you have hanging around would work, but again, I had to go buy rock to fill the bottom of my composter.  One small bag was just enough to come to the bottom row of holes.

interior of composter

There was a gap between the sides of the trash can and the sides of my hole, so I poured some of the backdirt in to fill the space a little bit.  Now all that my composter needed was, well, something to compost.  So I cleaned up the yard and threw everything in.  I know you don’t need a picture of that, so instead, here is a picture of the source instead.

the dogs “helped” from afar

Once the poop was in the composter, there were two more ingredients necessary to get my mini septic tank working: water, and septic enzymes.  I sprinkled the Rid-X over the top, just enough to coat everything in a thin layer, and then poured in a few gallons of water.  I figured, if the directions said to use half a box for a true septic tank, I could use a lot less for a system as small as this one.  And then the can lid went on.

UPDATE: I realized that people are still viewing this post on a regular basis, and I would like to provide my long-term results with this project. We live in an area with clay soils. Therefore, I could never get this septic system to work quite correctly. I don’t think I had anywhere near enough holes in the plastic sides of the trash can, and I probably should have made sure there was a thick layer of gravel below the barrel to help with drainage. In the summer, it also gets very hot here and this was out in full sun, so keeping the system wet may also have been an issue. For about I year I would do my weekly yard cleanup, dump it in, add a few buckets of water (usually enough to just cover the…deposits), and a sprinkle of Rid-X. By the end of the year, the bucket was almost full. I let it sit over the winter (without keeping up on water/Rid-X since it was below freezing) to see if it would decompose a bit more, but there wasn’t much more room come spring. I tried again during the first few months of the second year, and pretty quickly got to the top of the can. Since then, I have just let it sit, covered, in the back corner of the yard. I am pretty sure that black widows have moved in under the domed lid, and the weeds back there are quite lush. It isn’t safe to use composted dog waste on food, and with a young daughter I haven’t felt safe using it in my flower beds either. So while I was excited about this going in, and it was a very convenient disposal site during the first year, I never got it to work as a self-sustaining system.

Adjustable Baby Hat, Take 2

So, I have beem MIA for a little while.  Work has been crazy with a bunch of winter fieldwork, then I started a scuba certification class, then I got sick.  I took a full weekend to lay on the couch and recover; now, after half a week back in the office, I finally have something to blog about.  That people might care about reading, at least.  *smile*

I have another work baby shower coming up in a week or so, but T’s receptionist decided to have her baby girl last weekend.  He asked if it would be a good idea for us to send her a card, and it suddenly occurred to me that a knitted baby gift would be a good idea!  Fortunately, her new daughter M was only about 5 lbs at birth (neither mom or dad are big people) so I could knit an adorable hat especially quickly.

M’s mom is a girly girl, so I knew a green-and-orange baby hat for her new daughter wouldn’t be her thing.  I did find some nice blue-and-purple variegated yarn in my stash, and a little bit of extra purple trim it pushed it over the edge from baby-boy to girly purple.  I decided to take another stab at the newborn adjustable hat that I had problems with a few months ago.  Last time, I used the 15″ diameter suggested for an infant hat in one of my knitting books, instead of the 11″ diameter in the pattern.  But I forgot to lengthen the hat to match the diameter, so it ended up very wide and shallow, even on the last set of eyelets.

This time, I went with a 13″ diameter, knowing that M is still very little.  I took the dimensions for the pattern (11″ D and 3.5″ L to the first set of eyelets) and figured out that the diameter-to-length ratio was about 3.15.  With a 13″ diameter, a 4″ long first eyelet round would be about a 3.2 ratio, which I figured was close enough.  I knew I didn’t have quite enough yarn, so I only managed 2 rounds of eyelets, with the planned purple trim.  I also decided that, due to the scale of the hat and the chunkiness of the purple yarn, I would just braid the cord instead of knitting an I-cord.

The finished hat is small, and very cute.  I think it should fit, but unfortunately not for long.  The first set of eyelets is still too short, and therefore the hat isn’t actually going to be adjustable at all, which is too bad.  I’m sure she’ll grow just as quickly as most babies do, and I wish I could knit a hat that would last longer than most.  I’m going to have to keep working on this pattern until I manage to perfect it!

I have a different hat planned for the shower that’s coming up, so I won’t be able to try again right away.  But that means another knitted baby gift post coming soon!

Christmas Crafts, Part II

I started making presents for my family as a kid.  My mom wanted my sister and I to give back to all of our cousins, aunts, and grandparents, so she started the tradition.  Once I got to college, I kept making presents for everyone, basically because I was poor.  At this point, it has become a tradition and a challenge for me to make something different every year.

I try to make something that is either functional or consumable.  This year, I came up with a great craft idea: making magnets using those glass pebbles they put in vases to hold flower arrangements.  I had seen homemade ones with family photos in them in a cubicle at the county planning office in Ogden.  The glass magnifies the photo glued to the backside, and it seemed like a simple and useful gift.

I have a variety of magazines, including several old National Geographics, that I thought I would use for the pictures.  I also saved my AAA magazines and any catalog that came into the house in December, just in case (which turned out to be a good thing).  The biggest problem I had was finding clear glass pebbles, and I thought that was going to be the easy part.  I could only find them in the small size, and even then, when I went to work with them, I discovered that most of them had iridescent paint on the backs, that got in the way of viewing the picture.   I decided on a set of 5 magnets for each person, and needed a total of 11 sets. I sorted through the pebbes I had bought and managed to find just enough that were either clear or had very little paint.

So I had tiny glass pebbles, about the size of my thumbnail, and now I needed tiny pictures.  The National Geographics weren’t of much use, but there were enough small images in the catalogs and the AAA magazines that I managed to find enough pictures that fit. I used a single pebble as a template, to see if the image was likely to fit, and then snipped out small squares from the catalogues to give me some wiggle-room.  I wanted to make each set themed, and had a few themes in mind, so as I went I looked for some kinds of images in particular.  I also realized that simple patterns made nice images too, and collected several of them.  Once I had a wide selection of squares snipped, I went through them all and chose the individual sets that I wanted.  I decided on additional themes at this point, and in some cases I had to go back through the magazines to try and find enough images or patterns of that type to complete the set.

some of the sets

Because there was variation in the exact size and shape of the pebbles, once I had my sets of images chosen, I would grab a pebble, trace the outline onto the paper, and then cut each one out individually.  That also helped me frame the image as well as possible, since several of the pebbles were more oval-shaped and some images fit better either vertically or horizontally.  Once each piece was cut from the paper, I used a little paintbrush to spread Modge Podge on the flat back of the pebble.  I pressed the paper to the Modge Podge, with the image I wanted visible facing down, then immediately brushed a second layer of glue onto the back on the paper.  This helped seal the paper from both sides, and also saturated the paper, keeping it from curling back from the pebble.  Once the glue was on, I would press the paper onto the pebble, making sure all of the edges were smoothed down.  It meant that my fingers got sticky and messy from the glue, but did a good job of getting the paper flat.  I just had to be sure to put on enough glue to begin with, and to work quickly, otherwise the glue would get tacky and start to pull the back of the paper off and onto my hands.

I let all of the pebbles dry thoroughly, paper-side up.  Then I took small round magnets and attached them to the backs of the pebbles, on top of the paper, with glue dots.  It turned out the dots were exactly the same size as the magnets, and I hoped they would be strong enough to hold the pebbles on securely.  When I was done, it was easy to scrape any dried glue off the front of the glass pebbles with a fingernail.  Then I wrapped each set in tissue paper and tied it with some raffia.

I didn’t get pictures of every set, but here are a few examples.


I popped most of the wrapped packages into a box with the rest of my presents going to RI.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to put much packing material in the box.  As it turned out, during shipping the magnets all tore out of their tissue paper wrappings and stuck to one another, and some of the magnets did come loose from their pebbles.  My mom had to re-group and re-wrap all of the magnets.  I described the sets for her in an email, so I hope that people were actually given the sets I had designed, but if a few magnets were off, it’s not that big of a deal.  From what I heard, everyone enjoyed figuring out what was on their set and showing their magnets to each other, so the gifts were a success!

I wanted to make some for myself, but as I said, there weren’t enough clear pebbles to have any left over.  So I guess I’ll just have to do this another time if I want a set of my own!

Decorating the New House

I promised pictures of the house once I got it into order, and since I scrambled to get some decorating done before my family came, I should post some pictures of it now.  Some rooms are still unfinished, but this is what I was able to get done so far.

I started by going a little nuts with textiles and hanging pretty much every piece of my fairly extensive collection.  Most of my textiles are from Kyrgyzstan, but I have pieces from Peru, Panama, and Cameroon too.

Kyrgyz shyrdak upstairs

Kyrgyz souzani in the stairwell, Kyrgyz and Panamanian squares above

Kyrgyz shyrdak, knotted carpet and embroidery near front door

Cameroonian batik and elephant paintings in dining area

The first room we got set up was our bedroom, which is all in chocolate tones.  The walls are a kind of nasty, mustardy brown, but we needed to live in here, so we haven’t repainted it yet.  Note the curtain on the right hand side of the frame, which acts as a door to the master bath.  It’s actually a dark purple, but it blends pretty well with the browns in the room.  You can see I haven’t put anything on the walls or the shelves in there yet.

our bedroom

Then of course there is the guest room, that I repainted for my folks’ visit.  I’ve always wanted to do a room inspired by the colors of the winter sky, snow, and dry oak leaves, and I think I got something close, even though the blue walls are a lot more saturated than a winter sky.  I had some nice carved woodblock panels that I think go really well in this room.  I also had a couple of short shelving units that I think worked really well as bookshelves/bedside tables.

guest room

 We also set up the upstairs den as a kind of media center, since the projector, screen, and DVD player that came with the house are up there.  I moved in shelves of books, DVDs, and CDs to enjoy, with a few more tapestries and a painting I have.

media room

The futon usually goes in this room, and we have a recliner that we want to put up here too, so that folks have somewhere to sit if they want to watch a movie, or just read.  But my sister J needed someplace to sleep while she was visiting, so we moved the futon into the jungle room for her.  It’s a fairly small room, and the full-sized futon pretty much took up the whole space.  I wanted to get more up on the walls, but I don’t think J really minded. 

jungle room with futon

We want to keep the tree, even though it takes up a lot of space, because we plan on using this as a baby room in the future (knock on wood, tu-tu-tu).  But it will be our office/craft room in the meantime.  Once the futon gets moved back to the media room, I am planning on moving the card table and folding chair we bought for extra Thanksgiving seating up there to use.  It should help me get through all of the Christmas presents I need to make this year!

And speaking of Christmas presents, this weekend I was a knitting maniac.  Of the three knitted presents I am making, I finished one, got 90% of the way through a second, and halfway through a third.  But I have 10 more non-knitted presents to finish, and only about 15 crafting days before Christmas — yikes!

Able Woman, Part 2

So I drive into work this morning and park in my usual spot.  I go through the set of motions that have become so automatic I don’t even think about them anymore: hold clutch in, shift into neutral, pull up on the parking brake, turn the key and pull it from the ignition.  And then I realized something was very strange.

The key was in my hand, and my car was still idling.

I tried turning the key back on, and got that awful gear grind from starting an already running car.  I turned it back off, and the car kept idling.

I called my husband.

T: “That ignition switch is bad again.”  We just replaced it about 2 years ago, after the switch my car was made with in 1993 finally went out.

T: “Try fiddling with the key and see if you can get it to turn off.”  Nope.

Me: “I can stall it out.”

T: “Yeah, but the dash lights will stay on, and that will drain your battery by the end of the day.”

Me: “Well, I could just get someone to give me a jump at the end of the day.  I have cables.” And I know how to use them, I think.

T: “Yeah, but that’s awful hard on your battery.  You could go out at lunch and recharge your battery.”  Eating a cup of ramen noodles in the cold at lunchtime?  Not my idea of fun.

Me: “Couldn’t I just pull the fuse?  Would that stop the battery from draining?”

T: “Yeah, that should work.  Make sure to pull the one that says ignition.”

not for a vintage Escort, but you get the idea

Proud to have come up with a solution, and of the fact that I know where both 1) my fuse box, and 2) my owner’s manual are, I look up the ignition fuse, check my fuse chart, and then try to open the cap on the fuse box.

No go.

Very few people are at work already, and B, the guy who knows everything about cars, isn’t here yet.  But J is here, and he owns a Jeep, so he must know something about cars, right?  I mean, Jeeps break down all the time, don’t they?

I go and get J.  He tells me he really doesn’t know much, but he’s willing to at least come down to the parking lot and try.

Well, with J as my talisman, one more try on my part gets the fuse box lid off.  But now I’m not sure how to pull out the fuses, which are flush with the box.  J can’t figure it out either, and his fingers are bigger than mine, and without nails for gripping.  There is one fuse sticking out from the others, that we could try and pull to get it out of the way.

J: “I don’t know.  I’d hate to just start ripping fuses out of your car.” I know perfectly well that pulling out fuses when the car is off won’t hurt anything. So I take over at this point.

After a bit more fiddling, I finally take a look at the fuse box lid, and discover a handy little pair of fuse tweezers in there.  Once more, I found the answer, not the guy.  Proof that car knowledge isn’t coded on the Y chromosome.

I pull the ignition fuse and get ready to head inside, but as I stand up, I realize that the dash lights are still on.  I decide I must need to pull the dashboard fuse, which was my first instinct.  Only, of all the options in the owner’s manual, none of them say “dashboard lights.”

Meanwhile, poor J is just standing in the drizzly cold next to me. So I thank him for his moral support, and send him back inside.  He’s a little reluctant, presumably since he’s supposed to be the responsible man, but he eventually heads back inside.

I start trying a few fuses whose descriptions sould like they might have to do with the dashboard.  None of them are working.  And that teeny set of fuse tweezers is killing my fingers.  And those fuses do not like to budge.  Finally, I get to the point where I simply can’t pull another one out, the tweezers keep slipping off.

B still isn’t here.  Back into the office to ask J about tools.

Here he is finally very helpful, since he has a tool kit in his car.  He’s not sure where it is, but we find it.  Then he’s not sure if there are needlenose pliers in it, since he’s never used it.  But he figures out how to get the plastic case open, and the pliers are, indeed, there.  He keeps an eye on the dash lights while I start pulling each of the fuses in sequence.  Finally we land on the right one.

And the door alarm starts beeping for the first time, because the keys are still in the ignition with the door open.  I take that as a good sign that things are somewhat back to normal.  J goes inside, I get things put away, and head up the stairs to my office too.

Then B finally pulls into the parking lot.

Since he is the car god of the office, I check in with him.  He thinks the fuse I pulled should have done the trick, but also suggests pulling the ignition switch again to make sure it isn’t draining power to my starter all day.  (He would have solved the battery drain problem by either running the car at lunchtime, or disconnecting the battery.  He seems mildly impressed with the innovative fuse option.) So I go back out and manage to pull the ignition fuse with the fuse tweezers.

And I now know one more thing about cars than I did this morning.  *smile*

Paper Snowflakes for Grownups

As soon as Halloween was over and the first white flake was floating in the air, my coworker C was making paper snowflakes.  She has a passion for them, and makes dozens every year.  Soon, not only did the windows of her office start to fill up, but snowflakes started appearing in other people’s offices too, all snipped by C.

flakes indoors and out

I’m pretty good with paper and a pair of scissors, and I always loved making snowflakes, even into my teens, but it had been a long time since I’d made one.  Then a lovely, delicate snowflake appeared on my office window:

C's flake

The gauntlet had been thrown.  I had to make a flake.

Because some of the curlicues in C’s flakes reminded me of the designs the Kyrgyz people use in their felt carpets, called shyrdaks, I decided to make a shyrdak-inspired snowflake.  My their nature, these designs are bi-laterally symmetrical, so I knew they would work well in this medium.  I also had practice drawing these designs, since I wrote my thesis on them, and often sketched a design in my field notes.  I folded my sheet of copier paper into eighths, took a long while to draw a complete design out, and then started snipping away.

Kyrgyz-inspired flake

the inspiration

(I was really quite proud of how this came out, and am trying to figure out how I can preserve it once the holidays are over.  But that’s another post.)

Meanwhile, C was still snipping away.  Turns out, she does all of her flakes freehand.  Since I used to make snowflakes that way, I decided to try one.  It came out looking like the Girl Scout symbol in tiger print.  I hated it, but C pretended that she liked it, so it went in with the growing collection on her office door.

find my flake?

 It was back to the drawing board, literally.  Once I realized that symmetry was the key, I started thinking about other possible themed designs.  Since I’m an archaeologist, I figured I needed to make one of these:

projectile point flake

And then for the historical archaeologists in the office, I of course had to make this one:

bottle flake

 I started looking up actual photographs of snowflakes for inspiration, and realized that ice crystals for in a six-spoke pattern, not an eight-spoke one.  So I folded a sheet of copier paper in half, then accordioned it into just three folds, and lined up the edges as best I could before creasing.  (I shared this technique with C, as you can tell from a few of the flakes on her office door.)  Looking at real snowflake outlines for inspiration, I drew and cut this flake:

ice flake

When I tried another one, attempting to somehow integrate all the great patterns created by ice crystals in the center of real flakes, I ended up with something that looked like Eastern European folk art, or a wood block print:

Polish flake

Meanwhile, I had mentioned colored snowflakes to C, who was having a great time experimenting with them in her office:

bright flakes

spiders, crabs, or frogs?

Finally, she gave me another inspiration for a snowflake design, something she does all the time freehand, but that I had to draw out before I could pull it off.  Can you figure out the basis for this design?

mystery design

In a year when budgets are tight, why not try making snowflakes for your office, home, or tree decorations?  You don’t need to be a little kid to like them!