Saturday, June 5, 2010

Van Engelen Inc. - Because You Can Buy 1000 at a Time

Have I mentioned our family motto? I probably should, as it will give you insight into what goes on around here. Our motto is: Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Thus, I must confess that in addition to the Dutch Gardens flower bulb catalog, which I have already described, I also receive a Wholesale Price List from Van Engelen, Inc. Why do I love them? The quality of the bulbs, of course, and the fact that you can buy 1000 at a time. I'd like to think that the folks at Van Engelen are sitting over there in Holland, just waiting for me to place an order. "Will she? She must! We cannot go on if she doesn't buy 1000 bulbs."

Sometimes I wonder about the people who bought our last house. Are they now overrun with tthe thousands of bulbs that I planted?

Please, don't tell either my husband or brother, but lately I've been thinking that it might be interesting to try overtaking the front hill (it is a bodacious hill) with Asiatic Naturalizing Lilies. My theory is that over time it could eliminate the need for my brother to mow the hill, which is rather steep. Really, I'm just thinking of him. 1000 Asiatic Naturalizing Lilies, for a mere $300. Hmmm....

Friday, June 4, 2010

Oh Glory Be, Now I Have TWO Hamilton Beach Roaster Ovens!

This certainly should come under the category of things that my husband, mother, and brother do not need to know about. But today I found another Hamilton Beach Roaster Oven. At a garage sale. So I bought it. Now, it's my personal opinion that every man at some point in his life buys his spouse, mother, sister or very good friend a Hamilton Beach Roaster Oven, thinking that it must surely be the most useful appliance any woman could have. The problem is that it is so huge that you can cook a turkey in it. And how many times per year, ladies, do we feel the urge to cook a turkey in our great big heavy roaster oven? For myself, I can honestly say that a turkey will never be cooked by me in my lifetime, so a Hamilton Beach Roaster Oven would normally be a great waste of money. But now that I've figured out that I can dye fiber in it, well, the Hamilton Beach Roaster Oven is currently the sexiest appliance I have seen come my way in a long time. And now I have two.

You might wonder just how many Hamilton Beach Roaster Ovens I think I should or could own. I put some careful thought into that as I came home from a garage sale with this gem hogging up the back seat of my van. I think three. Or maybe four, but only if I could find a way to hide them from my family. I am not sure I want them to know about my Hamilton Beach Roaster Oven fetish. Also, I am not sure how one goes about keeping the pan inside from rusting.

You might also wonder what my daydreams are like when I ponder my Hamilton Beach Roaster Ovens, and so I must tell you that I picture myself lolling outside in the driveway, perhaps leaning back comfortably on my chaise lounge, as my fiber bubbles away in half hour increments. Occasionally I will leap up and migrate fiber to my collander (which I confess I have not yet found at a garage sale, but it certainly can't be too far into the future before I do), and then I will pick a new color out and start a new round of dying.

In the meantime, I think I must tell you about the most useless appliance that we ever bought my mother when we were children. And it was (drumroll please): the Presto hotdog cooker. Did you own one of these? It was this electric device, and I think you sort of scewered the hotdogs on it, and they cooked by the wonders of electricity. My sainted mother does not like new appliances, but she did her best to demonstrate her love for us by cooking hotdogs on this thing. As I recall, electrically cooked hotdogs did not taste good, but that didn't stop us from trying.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Checking Out the New Baby

Today I stuffed the family into the van and drove to my friend Kristi's alpaca ranch to see her new baby. "ooooooh." Really, crias are just so darned cute. This cria, who hasn't been named yet, is the baby of a rather old Momma alpaca, and Momma is not producing milk. So Kristi is the surrogate Mom, bottle feedng Junior every two hours. I offered to babysit, but Kristi says that since Junior isn't getting his nutrients from his Mom, he isn't building up his immunity, so she has to be really careful about letting Junior hang out with his admirers.

They Say Confession is Good for the Soul...

All right, I've been holding onto a sin of omission. Perhaps you can help me out before I have to give up and confess everything to my husband. You see, a few weeks ago, I decided to clean up a whole boatload of alpaca fiber. So I filled the washing machine with hot water, added some soap, stuffed the fiber in, let it soak, and then spun it out on the gentlest setting the washer could do. The result was half a washing machine of clean fiber, the other half a big lump of felt. Sigh. And, well, after that, the washing machine refused ever again to spin.

Now, if you ask me, a washing machine ought to be able to handle a little abuse. But then, I've said the same thing about my dishwasher (I thought I'd clean out my flower pots by putting them in... apparently there is such a thing as "too much dirt"), assorted blenders (I have one on my countertop that smokes when you try to use it, and another one that seems capable of mushing up ice cream, maybe, but definitely not ice cubes), and vacuum cleaners (I suspect I'm on the Abusive Vacuum Cleaner Owner hotlist. Why shouldn't a vacuum cleaner be able to suck up drywall compound or large quantities of baking soda?). I come by my appliance-abusive nature naturally - one of our first purchases for our house was a new microwave oven, purchased after my Dad tried to use the microwave as a timer, without putting anything into it to cook.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure my husband loves me beyond all idea, but for some reason, I just don't want to tell him about the washer. So for the last few weeks, every time something needs to be washed, BAM!, I'm on it. I put stuff in, it shakes things around for a while, and then lets the water out. And then I run it again, figuring that's the equivalent to having a rinse cycle. So far, nobody's complaining, so I figure I've got everyone fooled.

This ought to work for a while, at least until the day when my husband beats me to the washer. And I wonder, sometimes, if he's noticed how enthusiastic I am about washing just now. My big plan is to wait another month or so and then, one day, leave the laundry to build up until he can't live without something. Then he'll do the wash, notice that the washer doesn't spin, and conclude that HE broke it.

Sounds like a plan, don't you think? But he's going to a wedding this weekend, and I'm staying behind, so I thought maybe, just maybe, I could find someone who can tell me how to oh-so-gently take apart a washing machine. It's just that middle thing - the tower - I theorize, that needs to come out. I mean really, how complicated can a washing machine be? So if anyone knows how to pull the tower out so I can look underneath to see if there's a big blob of alpaca fiber sticking to its innerds, please drop me a line.

Now, of course, you have to wonder what I'm going to do with that big felted mess. I have to admit, this too has happened before. I read up on the internet that you could wash your fiber in the washing machine, and so far, I've become quite the felter. The first time I did this (oh yes, I'm one of those sad people who actually believes that if you do something enough times, sooner or later it will work the way it says it should on the internet), I ended up with a big blob of white alpaca. It sat in my family room for a month while I contemplated it. I couldn't waste it by throwing it away. Surely there had to be a solution?

So then I got to thinking, "I do have my trusty picker, maybe that could unfelt it." So I pulled apart the fiber as best I could and put it through the picker. Now, you've figured out by now that I have an abusive streak when it comes to appliances, so you might have some doubts as to just what state the picker might be in after I finished with it. The good news is, a picker is a pretty simple device. You can clog it up, but you only do that once before you realize that there are better ways to go through life than having to battle with a picker.

Here's a couple of pictures of my picker. You can see, it's a medieval torture device with tons of big long nails on it. You toss the offending fiber in, and it pulls it apart. So I was able to resuscitate my first batch of felted alpaca. The result isn't as wonderfully soft as alpaca usually is, but it was usable, so I put it through my electric drum carder, and ended up with reasonable batts of fiber. I'll do the same with my washing machine-eaten felt from last month.

Now, with all that said, I finally drew the line on losing so much fiber to felting. So I pondered it for a while and then decided to try an idea that my friend Val suggested. See what you think: First, I fill up the washing machine with hot water and some synthropol ("Oh NO!", the washer screams, "Please don't do this to me again!") Then I stuff my fiber in and let it set for a while. And then I get out my trusty $3 Walmart salad spinner and a bucket. I fill the bucket with hot water, put on my rubber gloves, and pull fiber out of the washing machine and rinse it out in the bucket of hot water, and then put it in the salad spinner and spin it out, and then set it out to dry. And lo, finally, I have clean fiber that hasn't felted. Once the fiber is all pulled out of the washing machine, I finish the cycle (well, it swishes around for a while and then lets out the water... I'm still waiting for you to tell me how to fix my washing machine so it will spin again), and then I put the fiber on drying racks in the garage. Perfect.