Friday, May 9, 2008

War Games

Where am I this weekend? I am in an undisclosed location reviewing the battle plans for the world's ultimate assassin game, Sock Wars. I've brought along my war cabinet (the dogs), my weapons (dpn's and a ball of Tofutsies), a stack of DVD's and a hopefully endless supply of Carr's Ginger Lemon Creme cookies. And tea. My war cabinet and I enjoy herbal tea.

Okay, I am not in an "undisclosed location". I am sitting in my living room. But, still! I will not emerge until victory is mine! Mwah! Mwah!

ETA: My Carr's Ginger Lemon Creme cookies are gone. So much for rationing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour in St. Petersburg

I decided to join in the Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour scavenger hunt even though I'm far from Toronto. Thankfully the Yarn Harlot opened the Freestyle section to anyone who cares to participate (I do loves me a scavenger hunt). I added these photos to the Flickr group.

Here is my Pomatomus in progress at the World's Largest Shuffleboard Club. "In progress" is a generous term - the sock has looked exactly like this for 6 months. I love the yarn (Fleece Artist Sea Wool). I love the way the pattern looks. But knitting the pattern, em... not so much.

Friday, March 28, 2008

New Orleans - Part Three (final!)

Only I could take a month to blog about a 6 day trip. If it was just a vacation I wouldn't have bothered, but I really want to show you everything. This is the last post - I'm anxious to resume my knitting posts because I'm knitting mitered squares in the round and I'm feeling like a genius. Let me show you where we stayed and worked and then I'll be done. So, without further ado, welcome to Camp Hope!

This is where we stayed. It is currently the largest volunteer camp in the US. The week we were there it housed 500 people. They were expecting almost 1000 the week after as college kids come to volunteer over spring break. It is in a school in St. Bernard Parish; the population of St. Bernard isn't back up to pre-storm levels so there aren't enough kids to warrant re-opening the school yet. In the meantime, it is Habitat for Humanity's camp.

It's not the Ritz but it is well run and safe. They have strict rules of conduct there (no drinking, boys sleep in one hall, girls in another) If I had college-age kids I wouldn't hesitate to let them stay there. It even has several TV rooms and a large computer room. It is staffed by AmeriCorp volunteers who work really hard. I don't think my time in NOLA would be quite complete if I hadn't experienced Camp Hope.

My bed: (Here is the required knitting content - you can see the Friday Night Knitting Club poking out from under my Stitches & Scones bag.)

There are 30 beds to a room. Our room only had 6 people in it, but most of the rooms were full.

There are two shower choices: freezing cold inside the school or warm in an outdoor mobile shower unit. After taking the coldest showers ever the first night, my group happily waited in line each day to take warm showers here:

The surprise of the trip was that the food was pretty darn good. During the week the AmeriCorp volunteers cook breakfast and dinner for between 300-1000 people a day (you make yourself a sandwich for your sack lunch). Over the weekend volunteers from St. Bernard help make the meals, and they're usually local recipes. The night I got there I had really good red beans and rice.

Our group of six worked at the same house for the entire week. Here's where my photos get a little less dramatic. If anyone was hoping that I spent the week in a hard hat with a sledgehammer knocking things down, you will be sadly disappointed. Historic preservation enthusiasts generally pooh-pooh knocking stuff down with sledgehammers. This double shotgun house is a couple neighborhoods away from the French Quarter. The homeowner would have qualified for a Rebuilding Together rehab before Katrina. After the storm the home improvement needs became even greater. His roof was damaged and leaked water into parts of the house. His house also had 2 feet of water during the flooding. By the time we got there, the walls had been repaired and the new kitchen cabinets were in place. We were there to paint the interior, put up crown molding and install carpet. Unfortunately we didn't get to the carpet due to some issues with the floor.

There are no before and after photos of the painting because we painted white over white. Except the window sills. It would have been nice if I had taken after photos of those.

My "crowning" achievement of the week (hee hee!): I learned how to cut and install crown molding. See that crown molding next to the ceiling. I cut that!

Before the house is officially finished, Rebuilding Together will re-glaze the windows.

On our last day we started fixing the holes in the floor. There were three major holes in the floor. For those of you with basements and concrete slabs under your houses (most of you probably), don't freak out that you can see the dirt ground through the holes. My home is built the same way (fortunately no holes). This is typical of older homes in the south. It's fun in the winter when you feel a cold breeze coming up through your hardwood floors.

Grady, our house captain, cutting out around the hole. I learned how to secure the joists and patch up the hole. I also spent a good portion of the last day pulling nails out of the floor.

The house was close to the Rebuilding Together warehouse. I don't think all the RT volunteers get to visit the warehouse if they don't work near it. We had a great opportunity to see how the entire organization was run and to meet the other house captains. It was also nice to be close to a working bathroom and the staff break room.

Eating lunch on the RT balcony:

Rebuilding Together has a new salvage store at the warehouse. A few month ago they finally convinced FEMA that donating important architectural elements to RT would be much better than adding them to the landfills. These are all from FEMA-funded demolitions. The salvage store is doing a brisk business with lots of people needing to replace these items on their homes.

One more photo. This is from a very badly damaged home in the Lower Ninth. It nicely sums up my trip. The National Trust has an article about it in their newsletter which describes what it was like better than I can. When I start writing about it, it sounds cliche and mushy. I'll just say that if you have ever considered doing a trip like this, do it! There is plenty of work for unskilled volunteers like myself. You may be surprised to learn what you're capable of doing (like being in charge of the chop saw!!). I really do feel like our group helped with the rebuilding effort. When I got home I spent a few days counting my many blessings and hugging my dogs. I am definitely going back.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Orleans - Part Two

Each day after work we drove back to Camp Hope a different way, so we could be sure to see as much of the neighborhoods as possible. Some buildings have been restored perfectly, some haven't been touched since Katrina. I hesitated at first to put photos of people's homes up here. But the lack of national news coverage (with the exception of NPR) could lead people to think that the rebuilding is done. A lot has been done since 2005, but I think people need to be reminded about how much work is left to do.

Turns out I really didn't have a good understanding of how widespread the flooding was after Katrina. I was picturing a flooded neighborhood here, then dry land, then flooding. Of course I knew it was bad, I just wasn't picturing it correctly. I understand what happened a whole lot better now. As an example, Camp Hope is in the eastern part of St. Bernard Parish, about 20 miles east of the house we worked on (which is about 15 blocks east of the French Quarter). Almost every single building from Camp Hope to the house still has the Katrina graffiti (from when the various organizations searched the buildings after the flooding). Some of the buildings are in use, some not.

This is a house in the Lakeview, a rather upscale neighborhood north of Mid-City. The brown line is the water mark.

This school in the St. Roch neighborhood hasn't reopened yet. The registration dates are from 2005.

This is the part of the Lower Ninth Ward that is right next to the levee. I'm not sure how many of these homes were pushed away by the flood and how many were cleared by FEMA later.

Front porches:

There are a lot of gutted houses with no windows and doors just waiting to be restored. The graffiti here means that on Sept 12th (2005), someone from Texas Fish and Wildlife inspected the house and found no people and no bodies. "NE" means they weren't able to get into the house (No Entry).

You can see the hole where someone axed their way through the roof, I assume to escape the flood.

So many people are still living in trailers next to their homes.

Many people are just now starting to rebuild. There are a lot of debris piles as people clean out their homes. N.O. is back up to 300,000 people (out of 450,000 before the storm).

A sign from the city that this house will be cleared. The sign is from 6 months ago. We saw a couple homes where people have spraypainted "Do not bulldoze I will rebuild". Hope it works.

The house nearby has been restored to perfection.

There are some other bright spots. Literally. This is the Musician's Village. The colors are so bright and the houses are so cheerful that you can see the "glow" a couple blocks away. I love it.

The Preservation Resource Center is the organization that Rebuilding Together New Orleans is part of. Both PRC and RT have separate restoration projects. PRC seems to be purely preservation oriented. Rebuilding Together specializes in doing home improvements for low-income elderly and disabled homeowners. PRC has restored many houses in the Holy Cross neighborhood and have more projects on the way.

Soon to be restored:

Next door, a great restoration job by the PRC:

Also in Holy Cross are the two famous Steamboat houses. They are in great shape. I assume there were repairs done after the storm because they sit next to the levee.

Brad Pitt's Green Project house in Holy Cross. No, Brad Pitt was not there when we stopped by. :-)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New Orleans - Part One

I've been trying to figure out the best way to show you my New Orleans photos. It'll take two or three posts. Reading this post, you'll probably be thinking... umm... did you do any work at all while you were in New Orleans?! Yes! Five out of six of the days were work days. I'll show those in the next post. I'm waiting for someone to send photos of me using power tools. Turns out I'm rather awesome at cutting stuff up with a chop saw.

I got a lot of fun stuff in on the one free day I had, plus the two nights we went out.

I got to New Orleans a day before I had to be at Camp Hope (more on Camp Hope later). I wasn't sure what free time I would have during the week so I gave myself a day to explore. Good thinking: by the time we ended our work days I was too tired to do much else. Unfortunately I didn't have time to explore anywhere else but the Quarter. Oh well - next time!

The French Quarter is still kickin' it:

Early morning ritual: hosing down Bourbon St. I usually avoid Bourbon St. because, well, I'm not a big drinker. I'm no longer in college nor do I wish I was young again. I'm also not prone to shouting "woo hoo! party!" at random strangers for no apparent reason. (No worries if you're one of those who like to shout at random strangers. I respect that - I'm just not that animated.) On this trip however I was comforted by the smell of old beer emanating from the street. I took it as a sign that things are going to be okay in New Orleans.

Andrew Jackson is still watching over Jackson Square:

Within a block from each other on Chartes St.:


The Quarter Stitch is a very friendly yarn store. It might be small in size but the yarn selection is choice. They have a wall of Koigu. I may have bought some as a souvenir. While I was there there was a young guy shopping for his girlfriend. He was partying in NO with his buddies but still managed to bring home yarn for her. Halfway through his shopping one of his friends waiting outside quietly passed him a to-go cup full of beer.

Every time I've returned from a trip to New Orleans, I am always asked the same question: where'd you eat? Even though five of the seven days I ate at Camp Hope I managed to get my fill of the required New Orleans food:

  • Coffee and chickory cafe au lait and beignets from Cafe du Monde? Heck, yeah.

  • Gumbo: I had the best chicken and anduille gumbo I've ever had from The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter. If you want to make some good chicken and andouille gumbo, check out this recipe. All his recipes look amazing.

  • Crawfish: on our last day the staff from the National Trust New Orleans office gave us a tour of the city. Before we started the tour they surprised us with boiled crawfish. They weren't going to let us leave NO without teaching us the proper way to eat them. I loved the tails but must admit I'm squeamish about the heads. Hopefully no one noticed what a wuss I am about shellfish.

  • Po-boy: After filling us with crawfish and touring the city, they took us to Parkway Bakery and Tavern. I had my first ever oyster po-boy. My god. The ingredients are so simple; fried oysters, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mayo and french bread. I never ordered one before because I always thought, what's the big deal they got all that where I live, too. But something about that soft crust french bread makes the grease and oyster juice mix with the mayo and tomatoes and creates a soupy mess of the most amazing sandwich. Hold on... just thinking about that po-boy has got me daydreaming again... I need a moment.

Margaret was one of the people in my group. Here she is making friends with a crawfish:

More later!

Friday, March 7, 2008

I'm back (and have been put On Notice)

I got back from New Orleans this week, but have been too busy catching up with work to sort out my photos. I'll do that this weekend. Warning: I took tons of photos!

My friend Chris informed me today that until I share my New Orleans photos I am officially "On Notice". You know it's serious when you're listed above Grizzly Bears.

Guess I better organize my photos.

( for funzies)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thank You

Unbelievable. After only three days there is not much left in my destash pile. Thank you to everyone who bought something. I know some of you even broke your yarn diet to do it. I've raised most of what I needed to just by selling a small portion of my stash.

If you are interested in knitterly ways to help New Orleans, in particular the Lower Ninth Ward, check out what Christy (Confessions of a Misplaced Southern Belle) is doing. She has created The House that Yarn Built. Her goal is for people to donate to Make It Right in the name of The House that Yarn Built. Make It Right is Brad Pitt's foundation; the goal is to build 150 homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. These homes will be raised to withstand flooding and will be environmentally friendly. If 7800 knitters donated $20 (the cost of a skein of sock yarn) it would build one house. Check out the details (and great prizes!) The House that Yarn Built.

I had a big rant here about righting the wrongs done to New Orleans. But we all know what happened. And we all know it'll take years to make things right again. And we all know that even if the media has moved on to the next big story, New Orleans is still rebuilding (and restoring *says I, the preservation nerd*). So I deleted my rant :-)

Thank you again to everyone who bought yarn.

Next week: I have rediscovered my love of knitting and will have some FO's to show you!