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Who crochets when it’s 100 degrees?

Call me crazy, but I started a major crochet project in the middle of a heatwave.

Yes, I still have the pool table pocket nets to work on, but they’re wool. Wool is hot to work with, so the pocket nets are reserved for slightly cooler days. When the mercury soars into the triple digits I want to work with cooler things like cotton or bamboo yarns.

In the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to make a cotton bedspread. I knew I didn’t want a traditional “granny square” motif, so I dug through an old stitchery book and found a versatile hexagonal motif that had a bit of motion to it – it was labeled “Paddle Wheel” but I call it a Spinning Hex, since it sort of looks like it’s turning.

Aside from using cotton, another cool thing (pun intended) about crocheted motifs is that you can usually make them as large or small as you like. Mine are small but not tiny at 5″ from point to point or 4.25″ from edge to edge. That means no bulky fabric piling up on your lap while you work.

Right now this project is all about using up scrap yarn. I haven’t figured out how many individual blocks I’ll need for the bedspread yet, but I’ll probably need to throw in some additional colors before I’m ready to start piecing things together.

To give you an idea of how the hexagons will fit together, I set some out:

That’s okay, but I want a lighter, airier look for summer, so the plan is to alternate the random colored blocks with white blocks. I don’t have any white blocks made yet, and am still toying with different arrangements. Ideally, I’d like a little more white space between the colors, but this might help show the feel I’m going for:

Now it’s getting hard to look at the hexagon tiles on the bathroom floor without mentally plotting out where I want the colors to go.

Perhaps the best thing about this bedspread is that cotton yarn is cheap. You can usually find in on sale for $1.25 or less per 120-yard skein, and each skein probably makes 5-10 blocks. (I haven’t yet used a full skein of any one color, so that’s a guess.)

What are some of your favorite ways to turn leftover materials into something new?

Unwelcome distractions

Yep. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted anything. It’s not that I’ve been super busy or anything – I’ve just been overwhelmed with a bunch of unexpected distractions.

Way back on Easter my gas oven started acting glitchy. Sometimes it ignites, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works perfectly, and sometimes it starts fine but doesn’t maintain the proper temperature. Not a big deal since I don’t bake much in warm weather. Little did I know that was merely a precursor of what was yet to come.

Last month my lone window air conditioner broke. Because the house has unconventional windows that won’t accommodate window units like traditional double hung windows do, the AC was permanently built into an opening where a canopy window used to be. (That’s in the addition, so bungalow purists can rest assured that no original windows were sacrificed for the sake of my comfort.) As if the idea of replacing it wasn’t ordeal enough, it broke just as my property taxes and second-quarter income taxes were coming due (on the same day, no less – the joys of self-employment), which meant replacing the AC had to wait, despite a couple of nasty heatwaves.

About ten days ago – as soon as I started seriously shopping around for a new air conditioner – my 2-year old refrigerator decided to break. That’s one repair that couldn’t be put off.

The first thing the refrigerator repairman said was, “Oh, this is one of those Whirlpool Maytags.” My response: “That’s explains it! First the Whirlpool range, then the Whirlpool AC, now you tell me my Maytag is a Whirlpool too? I should have known!”

According to the repairman the freezer hadn’t been defrosting. At all. When he removed the back panel inside the freezer there was a thick sheet of ice encasing the all of the working parts. It took him over 45 minutes and a heat gun just to melt enough ice away so he could assess the problem. He said it was a faulty thermostat – apparently thermostats aren’t supposed to rattle.

The upside of the service call was the repairman diagnosed the problem with the oven just from my description of its (literally) off-and-on problem. He’d already been there two full hours, and an extra hour of labor plus the new part would have almost doubled the price of the already longer-than-expected service call so I didn’t have him fix it while he was here. With a heatwave and a broken AC it’s not as if I were planning on baking anytime soon.

The saga doesn’t end there. A box fan I’d set near some windows to bring “cool” air into the house in the early mornings and late evenings died. I can’t say that was entirely unexpected, since the fan originally belonged to my Grandma who passed away in 1991.

As soon as the refrigerator was fixed my TV started acting up, too – about 80% of the time there’s sort of a vertical kink in the picture, and it no longer wants to shut off properly. I almost wish the same were true of my DVD player – a few days after the TV began refusing to turn off the DVD player actually shut itself off while I was using it.

Want more? The very day I realized the refrigerator wasn’t cooling properly, I was outside watering my plants and the metal watering can fell apart while I was using it. When the spout fell off it nearly killed my cucumber plant.

Disclaimer: this photo was staged after the fact.

Wait. There’s more. The other day I noticed a petunia in one of my window boxes was missing. Squirrels and cats sometimes get into the window boxes and make a mess digging and throwing dirt around, but if they dig up a plant they typically leave it. This time there was no mess and no sign of the petunia. I looked under the hostas and around the corner of the house. It was gone.

As annoying and frustrating as this string of incidents has been, I’m thankful than only things have broken. Sure, the refrigerator needed immediate attention, but it’s possible to live without an oven and AC for a while. If the TV dies, I have a little 13″ TV I can hook up to the cable in a pinch. Old milk jugs and juice pitchers work well enough for watering plants. The petunia was practically free, anyway, given the bargain I got on my flowers this year.

Even so, having so many things go wrong at the same time is a bit overwhelming. The little things just added insult to injury.

The good news is the refrigerator seems to be working well again, and I had a new AC installed a few days ago. The old one was in so well it took the handyman longer to remove it than he thought the entire job would take. It’s in just in time for the 100-degree temperatures local forecasters are predicting for later this week (I really hope they’re wrong).

It might not be the prettiest thing in the world, but I love my new air conditioner. Doggie Lily – who’s a very furry Husky, Collie, Keeshond blend – likes it even more than I do.

Lily chillin’ in her favorite spot: under my desk

The handyman came back a day after installing the AC to insulate and weatherproof it from the outside.  When a neighbor familiar with my recent run of luck saw his van here again she called and said, “Well, what’s broken now?”

Luckily nothing else. So far.

Grandma was cool

Grandma never had any type of air conditioning until she sold her home and moved into a seniors’ high rise when she was about 90. Even then the temperature had to be higher than her age before she’d turn the air conditioner on.

Growing up, we never had air conditioning either, so thankfully Grandma taught us a lot of tricks for  keeping the house cool. With a record breaking 98-degrees recorded by 2:00 this afternoon and a broken air conditioner, I’m putting all of Grandma’s common sense cooling tricks to good use this weekend.

In no specific order:

  • Only open windows if the outside temperature is close to or lower than it is inside the house.
  • Only open windows at night and early morning and use fans to pump in the cooler air.
  • Close the curtains and drapes during the day to keep the sun out.
  • Position fans to keep the air moving through the house.
  • Drink plenty of cool water (she never used ice, but I do).
  • Don’t use the stove, oven or anything that generates heat.
  • Avoid heavy meals.
  • Slow down.
  • If it starts feeling hot in the house, step outside in the real heat for a moment and the house will feel much cooler when you go back inside.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.
  • And Grandma’s favorite: Always have ice cream in the freezer.

My own tip? On a really hot day, there’s not much more refreshing than some watermelon slush. It’s delicious and healthy, too!

What are some of your best tips for beating the heat?

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