Casting off, casting on.

I was going to write about this on Monday, but today is suddenly the right day. As most of you know, I choose a fine Canadian sock yarn to see the world with each book. (The first time it was Koigu, the second time it was Fleece Artist.) That yarn becomes the travelling sock, the sock that meets knitters, soaks up their knitting mojo, cheers on other socks and poses with everything local and interesting for the duration of a whole book tour, which in my universe, usually spans until the next book comes out. I knit a round or two on the socks every time I do something interesting or go somewhere neat and I stretch out the pair. I’ve been thinking for the last little while about what yarn I would choose…it needed to be Canadian and it needed to be very beautiful, since both you (if you’re planning on still reading the blog) and I are going to be seeing a lot of it over then next while. I rooted through the stash, I pondered the possibilities…and then it came to me. I have two skeins of Painted Yarns merino two ply that are unbearably beautiful, and they have been weighing on me heavily, since I knew the dye-mistress, Virginia van Santen was not at all well…and not dyeing anymore.

As a matter of fact, I knew that Virginia was terminally ill with cancer. I loved this yarn, but I didn’t know how to use it. How do you use yarn that was handpainted by a woman who won’t ever make more? What do you have to knit out of it to honour that sort of legacy? My angst was compounded by knowing she was one of us. I didn’t know Virginia, other than virtually, but she was a blogger, a commenter, a knitter and a member of our community. What can you knit to do that justice?

A pair of travelling socks. That’s what. I wrote away to make sure that Virginia would like that…that she would think it was charming rather than dorky, that she would be pleased, rather than freaked out by the nomination. I got the go from a friend in touch with Virginia and I put my two skeins out on the counter to choose. There was Spring Greens and June Gardens.


I was torn. Both are beautiful. I pondered and pondered, planning on making a decision Monday morning when I posted about deciding to use the yarn, making a big plan to take the yarn places that Virginia couldn’t go. Taking the yarn to knitters she couldn’t have time to meet…to adventures every yarn should have. Tough call. I wanted it to be a lot of fun for Virginia to watch the yarn travel around, slowly becoming socks.


Sadly, I opened my mail this morning to learn that Virginia had passed away today, gently, with love and before I could take any of her yarn anywhere.


Somehow, it doesn’t feel too late. I picked the spring greens, for spring is rebirth, fresh starts and something new from the cold of a long winter…


… and I cast on.


I hope the legacy Virginia left, her words on her blog, every beautiful thing she made with her two hands, and all of us knitters slipping her beautiful yarns between the fingers of our hands does something to comfort those who will miss her most.

Safe Journey Virginia. Thanks for the yarn.

Rapid Fire

1. The Bohus is finished, except for sewing up the hem, which I will get done today. My love for it is as yet undimmed, and even having to sew up a hem enchants me.

2. I didn’t finish it because Joe surprised me by taking me here last night (out to dinner too. I think that the bedroom gratefulness train is going to keep on rolling for a while.) If you are in Toronto and you have nowhere to go tonight? You should totally go. Totally.

A traditional trio (piano, violin, cello) plays the Shubert, then several pop musicians riff off of it. Brilliant.

3. My brother Ian went winter camping in Killarny Provincial Park this last week (I know. Just that idea is crazy talk) and sent me this picture this morning of his sock.


I think I may have completely converted my family so that they provide me with sock photos as blog fodder without even thinking about it. Ian said the socks kept his feet very warm, but would like to share the tip that snowshoeing with a marathon runner is an exceptionally stupid thing to do unless you are also a marathoner. Good tip.

4. I put the plan for the NYC launch on its own page so it’s easier for me to update and you to find.

Go here for the plan.

5. I started the STR sock club sock. It looks great on…


but off?


It’s not just me…right?

Channelling Wayne and Garth

A writers life does not pass in calendar months or years… instead, one marks ones place by where you are in a project. Beginning a book, near deadline, submitted, on tour…These are phases, and they matter more than something as trivial as the actual date. (Further to this, the actual date in publishing is seldom relevant. Things happen later and earlier than the dates all the time. The dates mean nothing. Let go of the dates.) There are three times in a publishing cycle when a writers life is particularly difficult. (At least for me. There may be writers out there with higher self esteem who don’t suffer as much.)

1. The last weeks “on deadline”. This is a bad time for obvious reasons. You are overworked, delirious, sleep-deprived and weird. Worse than that, you do not deserve the sympathy of others because it is nobody’s fault but your own that you procrastinated and are suffering.

2. The week in between handing in a manuscript and waiting to hear from your editor. I personally think that there should be a law that they have to read it as soon as they get it and then phone you right away, even if it’s the middle of the night. (You’ll be awake anyway.) Hanging around the house waiting to find out if your book sucks (which you secretly believe anyway) is a terrible time and really tarnishes the shine on the “manuscript submitted” glow, and, in this writers opinion, is inhumane. I’m thinking about dropping the next manuscript off personally so I can stand over the editors desk and say “No, you’ll read it now. I’ll wait.”

3. The week(s) in between when you get your finished copy of the book, but it hasn’t arrived in stores yet. There is no feeling like this one. On the one hand, dudes…it’s a book! There is no feeling like holding a book you wrote. None. It still leaves me breathless and unbelieving, sort of like blocking lace.


On the other hand…you have a week alone with it to consider its flaws. You read it over and over…was that funny? Am I right about that? Was I too hard on swatches? (I’m pretty sure that you can’t be too hard on swatches. They are filthy little liars.)


You admire how absolutely fantastic the illustrations are. You wonder if your words can possibly live up to how beautiful the book is. You reel with astonishment that combining the elements of yarn, chocolate, coffee and tears could turn out anything like this…


And you wait. You wait for other people to see it. People who aren’t your mother or your husband and won’t lie to you. You wait to find out that Amazon shipped, or you wait for your launch, when a whole bunch of people will see it for the first time right in front of you. You wait to find out if it’s ok, or if this is the book that means that you have to leave town and change your name to Magna O’Toole… living in Fiji and never knitting again so you don’t blow your cover.

It’s a rough, insecure week to live, especially if you have a vivid imagination.


You feel lucky and hopeful and really, really proud and scared and worried and blessed and ….well. You wonder what sort of an idiot writes a travel guide to the land of knitting. You wonder if this is the one that gets you mocked publicly. That muggles just thought the knitting thing was “cute” until now…but now they are going to think it’s stupid. Totally stupid. This is the one that’s really going to sound lame at parties. Then you recover a little bit and think, screw this. I’ll throw my own parties. Yeah. That’s it, my own damn parties and there will be nothing but knitters and we’ll show the muggles that this isn’t stupid (or at least if it is stupid it doesn’t matter because there are so damn many of us that they had better play nice, buddy…. and get us some chairs and don’t talk to me like I’m cute.) Knitting is a perfectly valid topic and pretty interesting so get out of my damn way because the knitters are having some big parties. Then you cheer up a big and that cramped up feeling goes away because Dudes! You have a party to plan and it’s totally distracting.


The party:

March 22nd – NYC – Represent at The Fashion Institute of Technology in the Haft Auditorium, which is in the C building on 27th street just off of 7th avenue. 6:00pm

The sock picture:

Bring your travelling sock (every sock is a travelling sock this day) to Central Park, Strawberry Fields (Where the “Imagine” mosaic is) at 12 noon on the 22nd. I thought about doing it at “Sheep Meadow” but it’s not open yet. I think Strawberry Fields is our best bet. We shall be very quiet and well behaved, since it is a “quiet zone”. If there are too many of us to be reasonably quiet (or if we have trouble being well behaved), then we’ll shuffle off nearby, maybe the fountain at Cherry Hill?

Yarn Crawls:

Amber is a goddess, and has put together an awesome map of NYC yarn shops HERE. On her website she is pulling together suggested routes for those who would like to fly solo, these include:


The ladies who lunch route

For: Ladies and Gentlemen who need cashmere. Ladies and Gentlemen who will enjoy the thrill of strolling by the windows of high fashion at skyscraper prices on the Upper East Side. Ladies and Gentlemen who want to end up at the Metropolitan Museum. Ladies Who Lunch.

The Driving Tour, aka The-Manhattanites-Have-No-Idea-What-They’re-Missing

For: Those who are in Queens or Long Island, looking for the slow road into town. Alternatively, someone with a yarn-loving, car-driving friend in town and you want to hit the places with the Mega-Inventory. In New York, the further you are from Times Square/Wall Street, the cheaper the real estate, the bigger the yarn stores. And the bigger stores can afford to carry more yarn and less-expensive yarn.

The Intrepid Brooklynite Tour

For: Those of us who know our way around a bus. And everybody else who’s been curious about what’s so cool about Brooklyn. Seriously, I can’t believe you don’t know yet.

Should you wish to join up with a yarny tour guide, the volunteers are getting back to me about where and when to meet them. Watch this space.

I’ll list them here:

and you can contact them. If you would like to be a tour guide, send me an email or a comment.


The hats are a way of turning our numbers into something awesomely helpful. If you are coming to an event (I updated the tour page, Cleveland, Lexington and Northampton have been added, and Jayme-the-wonder-publicist gave me some details about times and places and that sort of thing.) you can bring the hat, or mail it to an event closer to you. If you are not going to have an event closer to you then you can mail the hat to be your little do-gooding representative in NYC.

Two places to mail it (Many fine and wonderful people volunteered for this. I love them, but am only listing these few because they were willing to publish their addresses, which, frankly is way, way easier for me. My apologies, and know that I love you.)

Mail your hats to:

K Gormley

10th Floor

826 Broadway

New York, New York


(She says not to forget the “10th floor”)

or you can mail or drop off the hats at Knitty City

208 W. 79th St.

New York, NY


I’ll likely need a volunteer to help K and Pearl move the hats from those locations to the event at FIT, and then to give them to NY Cares the next day. Anyone?

Afterparties (Or before parties, or next day parties, or….)

I’m going to leave these casual. If you are having a get together at a restaurant or bar afterwards (This especially freaks the muggles. Knitters gathering in large public groups with alcohol? Very upsetting.) and you want to hang out with other knitters, send me an email or comment with the details and I’ll post it here. Then the knitters can contact you and you can warn the bar/restaurant appropriately. ( I wouldn’t tell them knittters were coming. I would just make reservations for a “group”. Let the element of surprise work for you.)

Other ways to fill NYC up with knitters and freak the muggles out?

If you have an idea or an event, let me know and I’ll list it here. (Assuming it isn’t morally or socially reprehensible, like “smoke crack nude and knit in public” or something like that. )

1. It’s a purl man has a plan.

Good enough? Anybody got anything else? Did you remember to pre-board by emailing Jayme if you’re coming a long way or can’t wait in line? (email to : publicityATstoreyDOTcom replacing the AT with @ and the DOT with a “.”)

Now, I await your directions, enthusiasm and proposed adventures. I’ve got some very exciting knitting to do. See this?


It’s a purl ridge on the Bohus, a turning ridge. That means that now I’m knitting the hem. (I’m substituting that for ribbing.) That’s the last thing I do before there’s a sweater. I can’t believe I’ve almost finished. What a pleasure it’s been. I’m thrilled that it’s almost finished and disappointed to see it coming to an end. Sort of like the book. Party on dudes.


Done…and for the record? You people are an impatient bunch. (As Colleen pointed out in the comments, I do need to live a life to have one to write about.) Get a hold of yourselves.

I spent all day yesterday taking care of details and cleaning up. I rather thought that the surprise for Joe would be totally blown if he walked up to the house and saw a burned bag of sawdust on the front garden, a ladder inside the front door, painting stuff piled in the kitchen and a fine layer of pine floor dust over every surface in the house. He had said that he would be home around dinnertime, which in our home is round about seven. I struggled with the cleaning and laundry all day…trying to make the whole house welcoming and not smelling like charred sawdust and melted garbage bag. (You would be surprised how much that smell lingers.) As I worked I wondered how to spring it on him.

A. Drag him upstairs as soon as he arrived and make him admire the whole thing. (Not bad, but smacks of impatience, reduces the element of surprise and does pressure the man a little more than necessary.)

B. Install myself in the bedroom (in the bed) to round out the perfection of the room. (This was rejected because once I thought about it, I realized that this was going to be too distracting for Joe. Very little chance that he would notice and praise the new outlets if I didn’t have my clothes on, and besides, I didn’t want to wrinkle the new duvet cover.)

C. Go into the kitchen and make dinner, allowing him to wander freely through the house and discover the renovation for himself.

I decided that was perfect and I cleaned and fussed and smoothed sheets and watched the clock all day. You wanna see the room while we wait?


See that big blank spot over the bed? Joe and I are going to go together to the AGO gift shop and buy a wonderful poster for there. I thought that Joe might like a little input in the room. Notice also, if you please, the “decorator pillows” on the bed. After careful consultation with decorating magazines, books and websites, as well as observing the rooms of others, I have come to realize that it is the presence of extra pillows on the bed that really makes a room. Extraneous throw pillows are the definitive divider between a decorated room and a regular room. (This fits right in with my idea that the difference between “getting dressed” in the morning and putting on an “ensemble” is accessories. Take a look at the next room or woman that you see and think are really put together. Accessories. The room will have pillows, the woman – a belt. )


A new bookcase replaces the big white thing (repurposed for yarn storage in the tiny room next door to the bedroom) curtains cover the closet opening, the now white door has hooks for our robes and towels hung on it…and though you can’t see it I stripped the metal latchbox for the door of its 100 years of paint and made it pretty again. (I also hung that funky light from ikea. My auntie Yvonne gave it to me for Christmas and I derive an unreasonable amount of pleasure from it. I can’t explain why.)


Even the cheap tv and old dresser look great if you whack a new shelf above it and put your crap in an oval faux leather box.

(I learn so much watching an obsessive amount of HGTV.)

When I was done, I tested the bed and waited for Joe.


(I got back up…see point B above about the futility of a woman on a bed being able to point out any details to her husband.)

Joe came in a little early and I was practically shaking with nervous excitement. Would he notice the floor?



Would he notice anything at all? I mean, I was sure he would notice, but would he gush? Would he be impressed? What would he think? He came in and dumped his luggage, then went into the kitchen. We talked for a minute and I resisted the urge to say “Don’t you think you want to go to the bedroom?” (Partly because I didn’t want to blow the surprise and partly because I didn’t want to lead him on.) Then he went to the computer and sat down. Then he checked email. Then I thought about hitting him with my roasting pan. GO UPSTAIRS DUDE. I stood in the kitchen sending psychic waves. GoUpstairsGoUpstairsGoUpstairs. Nothing. I asked him if he had to go to the bathroom, since you can spot the bedroom from the bathroom. He didn’t. I asked him if he wanted to put his suitcase away. He didn’t. I asked him if he would get me something from upstairs….He said he would in a while. I almost screamed. GOUPSTAIRSNOWFORTHELOVEOFWOOLICANTSTANDITANOTHERSECOND


He didn’t go.

I finally snapped. I asked him to go upstairs. I told him to take the suitcase up. I said please. I said to go to the bedroom. He looked at me funny, realization dawning slowly over his face. Joe gave me one of those looks that says “I don’t know what’s so important to you about the upstairs but I can see that the very survival of our marriage hinges on me taking the suitcase to the bedroom so I’ll go.”, and he went. He stopped to admire the fact that I had hung a picture in the hall (What the hell. I had the drill out.) and I thought that bode extremely well for the renovation. He walked down the hall, paused for a second when he saw that the light coming from our bedroom was a different colour, then walked all the way in. He stopped. Looked around. He opened and closed his mouth once…then looked at me and said (and this is a direct quote for which I cannot be held accountable)

“Holy Shit Steph.”

Then he looked at everything. The outlets, the floor, the trim, the curtains the frames, the everything. He admired the bamboo in the square vase. He noticed that we laid 1/4 round and acknowledged that must have been very difficult. He loved the bookcase. He was impressed that I played with electricity and noticed that the ceiling was much better. He loved it. He gently mocked the decorator pillows (which I totally deserve…) then he read all of the blog entries about what I had been up to, sympathized about the sawdust fire and said it was the perfect white and what the hell is decorator white anyway, and then…at the risk of being indelicate, for while I am willing to share most everything with you my gentle readers, and I think that the business of happy adults is nothing to be ashamed of, I still believe that there are those things which are best imagined and implied…I can tell you that he closed the door (noticing that I had refurbished the metal latchbox and knob) and enthusiastically thanked me in a manner becoming my effort and station. I accepted the accolades. I asked him later, when Ken was here and we were making dinner and talking about the renovation, what his favourite thing was. (Ken, Captain-freakin-smartass asked if it was “answering a thousand questions about what his favourite thing was?” I ignored him beautifully.)

Joe replied that his favourite thing was that he had a beautiful new bedroom, a stunning floor and a restful and tranquil room to retire to when the rigours of the day and parenting teens got to be too much, and that he had gotten it all without picking up a drill, vacuuming anything or discussing which shade of paint to get until he hated the whole thing.

I think he loves it.

Tomorrow, the Representing Plan. We’re going to get this bad boy rolling, just so long as I don’t have to sand anything.


(PS. I have to tell you that after this whole glorious triumph, the universe sought a little balance, as it always does. Last night I tossed my crowning glory, the decorator pillows, from the bed onto the floor. This morning, Millie-bad cat had expressed her opinion of them….on them. Duly noted, cats hate change. Gotcha.)

Random Details

1. I went to Ikea with Joe’s mum (who is totally in on the whole deception. Everyone is. Joe’s going to flip out tomorrow when he gets home.)


We got a new bookcase, new pillows, curtains and a white cabinet door that was $5 from the scratch and dent section. Then we put it all in her tiny little car somehow and drove it home.

2. Ken and Rachel helped me turn the cabinet door into something useful.


We mounted 2X4’s on the wall and attached 1/2 of a flush mounting bracket to it. (I had no idea that there was such a thing until Rachel and I scoured a hardware store looking for “some kind of bracket that would mount flush to the wall. Hey….look! A flush mounting bracket.!” It’s a wonder we weren’t beaten with our own lumber.)

Big props to Ken here, he stopped Rachel and I from trying to pound those plastic plug things into wood. (The learning curve is a little steep sometimes.)


3. We drilled holes in the back of the door.


4. We mounted the thing on the wall.


See that ? It’s almost a headboard. (It’s also the definitive proof you’ve all been waiting for that I should have my access to all of Debbie Travis‘ shows banned, but you’ve probably been suspecting that all week. ) It’s level and sturdy and everything.

5. I sewed the hems of the Bohus sleeves…now both finished, since I’ve been knitting in the evening after the painting and stuff is all done.


I was thinking that this was the perfect point in the sweater to have something else to blog about, since without sawdust fires, paint colours and drills, all I would have is another picture of another days worth of more grey stockinette. (Timing is everything.)

6. I assembled some foam, padding and fabric..


and I stapled it to the door.


Now it’s a headboard I think, and not just a whack kitchen cupboard crudely nailed to a wall.

7. I hemmed some curtains.


A thousand million thanks to Patience who gave me this Stitch Witchery stuff a while ago when I complained that I always have to hem my pants….It saved me dragging the sewing machine up.

8. My new sock club stuff came.


9. I painted frames to match the trim.


(They used to be purple.)

10. Tonight is the last night I sleep on the chesterfield. Even just knowing this should make me less random tomorrow. Almost finished!

Power off

Rachel H. and I have installed new outlets in the walls, since the old ones were gross. Neither of us have done it before, so before we turn the power back on and electrocute ourselves or burn the house down…Could some electricity savvy knitter tell me if we have it right? (I have an idea that electricity is not like knitting and there is no room for “close enough”)

This is the right side. I attached two black wires to two gold screws.


This is the left side. I attached two white wires to two silver screws, and attached a bare copper wire (that I am pretty sure is the ground) to a green screw at the bottom.


Everything is nice and tight. There was one outlet where there were only three wires…but I just attached them like the others, only…you know. Less.

So? What say you? Power back on? Change some wires? Get Rachel to stand behind me with a wooden broom handle?

Ps. How do you get the whole thing back in the box? Do you have to be careful about what touches what?


So I slog myself over to the paint store (and slog really is the right word) conveniently located just a block from my house and I stagger up to the counter, broken and beaten by the fresh hell that is home renovation and I say to the chipper and fresh faced young man behind the desk:

“I would like some trim paint please.”

The dude regards me with a keen and excited eye. Helping people get paint is obviously very important to him. Having trim paint has become pretty important to me, so we’re simpatico.

“A litre or a bucket?”


“Latex or oil?”


“Semi-gloss or gloss?”



” White please.”

While we had been ticking along at a good clip, the paint guy and I, this is a stopper. He stares at me for a second, like he can hardly believe my choice, and then he says “Which white?”

“White” I say firmly. “Just ordinary white.” I try to make my face an expression that represents the possibility that this will be fast and easy.

The paint guy gives me a look that says he clearly thinks I have no idea about the importance of the decision I am about to make, and asserts loudly “There is no ordinary white. You can’t just have white. You have to choose your white. The whites are all different.”

He begins then, to pull quarts of white paint off of the shelf and line them up in front of me. Presumably they are all different. As he pulls them and puts them down… he names them:

Angel White…

Berkshire White…

Snow White…

Antique White…

The vague headache I have had all day begins to pound. I rub my head and try some yoga breathing. “Dude….I just want white.”

He ignores me and three more cans hit the table.

Decorator White…


Vanilla White…

I want to scream. Plain white! Why are none of these named Plain White? What has happened to the world when a woman can’t just say she wants a freakin’ can of white paint! I take a deep breath and say “Look. I just want white. Simple, straightforward white. White with nothing going on. White with no name. Just white dude. Just put a can of white paint in the bag and ring it up. I’m a woman on the edge. White paint. In the bag. Please. You pick.”

He looks at me like I am refusing to make a life and death decision about a truckload of babies and kittens. He looks at me like I don’t understand anything at all. He looks at me like I don’t get paint and its influence on our happiness as humans. Then he takes a deep breath and says “I can’t pick. How could I pick your white? I mean, I don’t even know your main colour? Is it cool? Warm? Do you have a lot of trim, a little? What’s your colour theme in the house? Which white is your other trim? I can’t possibly just randomly pick a white!”

He resists the urge to tack on what he really wants to say, which is clearly something about how I shouldn’t even be allowed in a paint store because I do not respect paint the way that I should. When he is done, his face is a little red and he looks slightly breathless.

A second sales clerk stands behind him, ready to put down anything that looks like it might come to fisticuffs.

I breath. I think about the last few days. My head throbs. My shoulders ache. The twitch over my eye goes off again. I inhale pink…exhale blue and say:

“Dude. Please put a can of plain, ordinary, no-frills, non-decorator, not antique white paint in the bag and ring it up. Please.”

The guys face gets even redder. He opens his mouth and then closes it again. He inhales. He surveys the spread of Angel White, Berkshire White, Snow White, Antique White, Decorator White, Ultra-White and Vanilla White spread out before him, and there is a terrible pause…a pause where I realize that he can’t do it. These whites matter too much to him. In that same moment he looks at me and he realizes that I’ve got that “I’m so crazy from renovating that I can’t possibly give a flying crap about the whites and if you make me pick I will cry in your store” face on…and it hits us both that we are hopelessly, completely deadlocked….And that’s when it happens.

The clerk standing behind him reaches over, elbows Captain paint shade out of the way, picks up a can of white paint, puts it in the bag, steps bravely forward to stand in front of me, shoulders back, exuding confidence, smiles a disarming smile and says

“That will be $17. 85 please.”

My relief was complete. I took it home, I put it on the trim and I have no idea at all what white it is.


I swear it just looks white to me.


I am flagging. The enthusiasm with which I approached the renovation of the bedroom has been knocked off of me by the reality of my situation and I have a new life goal. I would like to earn enough money in my life that I never, ever have to paint another ceiling. Ever. It was suggested to me last night that buying less yarn in my life would make this possible sooner, and so horrific was the painting of the ceiling that I am considering it as an option, which says a lot about the despair it caused me.


We have high ceilings, and in the bedroom a previous owner of the house chose to whack acoustic tile up there to cover damaged plaster. (I briefly toyed with the idea of taking it off and slapping 1/4 ” drywall up, which is really the right thing to do there, but came fortunately to my senses before I found myself seriously in the weeds, standing in an even more trashed bedroom with a spackle knife, 4 sheets of drywall and a drill, trying to put the shards of my broken life back together. Narrow miss.) I wasn’t even sure that the bedroom ceiling technically needed painting, but my friend Linda pointed out that it’s probably the one ceiling you actually look at, and my brother Ian asked how I would feel if I finished this whole room and lay in bed staring up at it thinking “Damn. I can’t believe I wimped out on the ceiling.” Dude brought me over his big tub of paint, I carefully covered the new floor (one coat of polyurathane on it) and just did the thing. No half measures…right?

As soon as I hoisted the roller over my head I regretted it. I’m only 5 foot tall, and I am not tremendously strong. My shoulders immediately lodged a complaint. My biceps (such as they are) began to burn. My neck ached from looking up…paint fell in my hair. I would have stopped, I really would, but it turns out that the ceiling really needed painting.


Do you see that? I swear to you, up until the moment that roller touched the surface I would have sworn on a stack of whatever you hold holy that that ceiling was white. Totally. As grossed out as I am that my once white ceiling had, at some point in the last 20 years become “taupe” I was at least relieved that I was killing myself to make a real difference. (I would have stopped if it wouldn’t have been so obvious. ) I did two coats, and I may have shed a few desperate tears through the last one.

Ceiling done (praise wool and never again) I cleaned up the dropcloths and the paint and the roller and the brush and the pan, (is is just me or is the *&^%ing cleanup on these things that’s the real pig? I could stand the work, but scrubbing this crap over and over is soul-sucking) and got on the floor to sand the first coat of polyurathane. (To answer a question from yesterday, it’s the water based one and dries in 3 hours. Much less toxic and smelly than it’s old fashioned relative.)

The first coat apparently raises the grain (which is some sort of woodworking term for “this is going to be awful”) and you have to sand it back smooth again before you put on the other coats.


Again, this process was something that sucked so hard that I would have been furious if it hadn’t turned out to make such a big and noble difference. Ian convinced me to do it properly, down on my hands and knees so that I could sand with one hand and use the other hand to feel the floor for any spot that was still rough. (That McPhee tendency toward perfectionism through back breaking manual labour is a little apparent here.) Finished, I vacuumed the room (again) and applied the second coat of polyurathane. (I may have cried a few brave tears here too.) When I was done, I staggered downstairs, ate the dinner the girls had made and then lay on the chesterfield, practically blind with exhaustion. If I could figure a way out of this at this point, I would totally take it. I was so tired that all I managed was a few centimetres of the Bohus before I fell asleep sitting up with my needles still in my hands.


This morning my arms are still burned out and my back has pain in places where I didn’t even know I had places. I’m so wiped I can’t even tell if I’m hungry or not, and I’m starting to wonder if this was really such a good idea. Lucky for me, yesterday should have been the worst of it, and today my goal is to prime all the trim (there is a rather Victorian amount) and get the last coats of urathane on the floor. I am certain that being done with this floor will restore much of the joy to my life. It does look awesome.

The last job for today?


Pick a colour.


First of all. HOLY *&^%$#@!!!!

The noise! The mess! The dust! The smell!

The guys showed up two and a half hours late and I was already beside myself. This reno is on a short leash, organizationally speaking, and there is no room for people to mess with my plan. These guys show up and they drag in all of this absolutely huge noisy equipment and start hunting around for somewhere to plug it in.

“Hey lady? Where’s your stove?” Stove? Turns out that the huge noisy machine needs a special kind of plug. I’ve got a gas stove, so no luck there. Next try?

“Hey lady? Where’s your dryer?” Oh dear. I have a gas dryer. Next try? They lop the plug off the sander and hook this brobdingnagian beast of a thing directly (as in with bare wires) into the electric box in the basement, WITHOUT SHUTTING THE POWER OFF. Now, I am married to a man who talks blithely about how many volts he can take, but Joe would never, ever, ever put a screwdriver into the Main Electric Box without shutting off the power. Ever. I was agog, and completely beside myself. I stood near to the guy (wooden broom in my hand so that I could knock his seizing body from the box when the ten million volts of pure power coursed through him) and tried vainly to dissuade him from this action.

“Dude, isn’t that a little bit dangerous? Sticking that there screwdriver into the electric box without shutting it off? Isn’t that the main power? Isn’t that a lot of volts? I can turn it off. Why don’t I do that. I’ll get a flashlight for you and we’ll shut it off before you stick any more screwdrivers into it and then I won’t have to call 911 when you totally electrocute yourself right here where it’s going to be trouble to get your carcass up the stairs. Yes. Hold one. I’ll just get that flashlight. Oh my. Was that sparks? Just give me a minute. Look! Here’s my flashlight. Why don’t you take that screwdriver out… ”

I just kept babbling and he kept wiring and the thing was hooked up. I immediately turned my attention toward being concerned about the disconnection process, but was distracted by the noise. I was unprepared for the noise. The noise was like a bee the size of an elephant was in therapy for anger management in my bedroom. Periodically, the machine shuddering the whole house would shut off and random cursing would drift down along with clouds and clouds of dust. The dust… I cannot even speak of the dust.


Just when I had adjusted to the dust and the noise and the swearing, one of the three guys went sprinting down my stairs and out the front door with what seemed to be something on fire. When I responded (quickly and with a great deal of anxiety, to the smoke pouring through the dust) and enquired about the possibility of a fire, I was told not to worry, since the fire was “Just a small size one and only for a little while.” The three guys regarded me with an eye that indicated that they felt that I worry (about things like fires and electrocution) way, way too much. I would have had a lie down at that point, except of course, I have no bed.


At this point, this blog entry should have ended with little more than this. It should be that all I can say now is that they packed up and left me with what was left of my nerves, which they did…right after depositing two big garbage bags of sawdust squarely on the front garden.

I regarded those two bags with some sadness, since it’s a week until garbage day and those bags will sit there being an eyesore until then, but unbeknownst to me, the bags had more drama than that. Inside one of those bags was a small fire, left over from when the sander bag had been on fire earlier in the day.

I realized that the bag was full of smouldering sawdust when I came back from buying urathane and noticed that the smell of burning sawdust was stronger outside the front door than inside it. (That was saying something, since the smell in the house is a powerful thing.) I lifted the bag and the bottom fell out, and there was a heap of smoking, reeking sawdust. I poured some water on it and went inside, disaster averted. About an hour later, a neighbour knocked on the door to ask me if I meant to be burning a garbage bag full of sawdust in my garden? I doused it again. Considerably more pissed off this time, and (as you can well imagine) I had a great deal of trouble finding my mental happy place.

An hour later, Joe’s sister Kelly came by, coming into the house, discussing urathane for a while, helping me with a thing or two, then casually asking (I must have looked a little edgy) if I was aware that the bags on the garden were on fire? I went back out, and sure enough, there it was. Burning away…smoke issuing into the stupid cold night air. This time I was determined, as well as using language unbecoming a knitter. I broke open the bag, poured water on it, and then Rachel (who had turned up to bring me beer, she’s a woman who knows what you really need at the end of a long day of floor trauma) helped me shovel it from one bag to the other, looking for any bit that was on fire and pouring water on the lot of it. We stood out there, freezing and stomping and pouring (and noticing that once it’s 40 below even cold water from the tap steams outside) and I was not amused. I was furious…I was ranting inside my head (and perhaps a little outside my head) about incompetence and fires and houses that have newspaper stuffed in the walls and how that was a huge risk and how I Was. Not. Pleased and how this was a very difficult day and how there was nothing, not even the beer that could fix my attitude at this point ….when suddenly it hit me. I practically skipped into the house leaving Rachel standing in the cold, bewildered…


I grabbed my camera and ran back out beaming from ear to ear to grab this snap of Rachel H. She was freezing and really not at all amused (I am certain that in this picture she cannot feel her hands) that I was lengthening the time we would be in the elements, but I was completely gleeful. Didn’t she get it?


You can’t make that up. It’s a blog gimmee….it’s freaking perfect. Who has a sawdust lawn fire? Seriously – how could you not blog it? It’s an entry all by itself. Man. Couldn’t be better. Practically writes itself. My joy is restored.


All said, the floor is much, much more beautiful than I thought it would be (totally worth the fire) and once it’s got 4 (FOUR) layers of urathane on it it should only be more so…but dudes. The house is trashed. There is dust in the bathroom. Dust in the living room. Dust on the dishes in the cupboards in the kitchen. Dust, dust…dust. You will be relieved to know that there is not dust on the Bohus, since I was possessed of a swift intelligence when I saw the first of the dust coming and sealed it in a protective Ziplock. It may be the only non-dusty thing in the house.

Considering my track record on dusting…this much dust is an unfortunate (and likely permanent) turn of events.

Today: Get ceiling paint. Paint the ceiling. Sand the first coat of urathane on the floor. Put a second coat on. Buy more beer.

May the force be with me, and if you’re walking by my house today, do me a favour and toss a shovel full of snow on those bags, will ya? You can’t be too careful. Sawdust is apparently very hard to put out.