Sunday, June 7, 2020

Taxes are done and on the knitting front...

Our French tax declaration is due on June 11. It's all done on line, with most of the lines, for most people pre-filled. All you have to do is check they are correct and modify if they are not. We have non-pension, non-salary income that we have to enter manually. The instructions are pretty clear and almost everything get automatically updated in the main form. Except, not everything. And that's where I had a problem, which I think I managed to correct. There's a zone at the end of the procedure to write a note and or questions, so I wanted to detail what I did, what information I couldn't get on to the form, and the fact that I am an Americans and the treaty allows.....
The directions on the text zone specify that one should not copy/paste. You have to type out everything and I had a lot to type. It wouldn't accept it. The message said no special characters and no tabs, so I got rid of the tabs and the € sign and typed in EUR. No go. I took out the =, the ( and ), and even the -. Still no go. I kept making the whole thing less and less legible in French. Still no go.
In the end I deleted my text and wrote that I was sending an email with the details. Even that got rejected until I switched all accented letters for unaccented ones and removed the apostrophe in "J'ai".
I can't imagine how the French administration created a site that refuses to accept standard French punctuation.
At the end of procedure, once the declaration is submitted, there's a prompt to do a survey and make a remark. I did. Then, I sent the email with all the details I couldn't put into the online form. But it's done.
And my US tax declaration went off last month. I have to have all the French info, which is sent to us or put on line in May, in order to prepare the US taxes.
Taxes are done!
I have made my first yoke sweater on the knitting machine. Usually a yoke is made on circular needles in one piece. On a knitting machine, it's in two pieces. Fortunately, the pattern I was using (by Irene Woods, in the Facebook group Machine Knitting Round Yokes) is calculated so that the seam joins are not noticeable. 
I used left over self-striping sock yarn for the fair-isle pattern, making sure that I started each piece at the same point of the pattern repeat. I really like the effect. 
I love this blue merino yarn from Yeoman's. It's for next winter for S. I hope it's not too big, then. I'm sure it's too big now. It'll look great with his eyes!
In May, I made a sweater for C, 15. (There are too many names in the family that begin with C and Ch!) It's a lovely cotton/acrylic blend in a nice shade of green. It did require hand manipulation on the front and sleeves for the lace and lines of purl stitches. I sent it off to her along with all the things we had in stock to take to the UK on our cancelled March trip.
The work on the bathroom is almost finished -- yes it has taken 3 weeks, so far! There's still some finishing touches -- like sealing the bathtub, hooking up the sink and sealing. And the toilet we ordered is now delayed until mid-August!
France started de-confinement on May 11. The second phase started on June 2. We are no longer restricted to a 100 km radius from home. Restaurants in the green zones (everything except the Paris area for mainland France) could reopen and so on. Restaurants in Paris could serve outside. There are strict distance rules, but whereas some countries recommend being 2 meters (6 ft) apart, in France, it's 1 meter. I've had my hair cut and I've been to some delayed medical appointments in the neighborhood. Other than that, though, I still haven't gone out much. Tomorrow, though, I have an appointment in Paris. Of course, I'll be masked up. In the neighborhood, though, there's no point in putting on a mask until I get to the boulevard. People are just not out.
I would have gone to Paris, yesterday, for the sit-in that was planned near/in front of the US embassy, but the organizers did not get the permit. I imagine there are plenty of reasons for that, but the one mentioned in the news report I read, was that outdoor crowds of more than 5000 were currently not allowed because of Covid-19. I'm pretty sure that the location was also a factor. I don't know if it went ahead, anyway. There was an unauthorized demonstration earlier in the week about a French case of police brutality and racism. It's not an exclusively American problem. I am wary of unauthorized manifs (demonstrations) because there's more risk of them being infiltrated by troublemakers. Look what happened to the Gilets Jaune demonstrations last year.
We've gone ahead and made our reservation for the hotel in Najac for mid-July with the grandchildren.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Bathroom renovation underway

We're lucky. We live in a house and it's big enough so that the work crew of two can be upstairs and away from us, making a lot of noise as they dismantle the old. In fact, I think I'll go for a walk.
France relaxed its confinement rules starting on Monday. I don't need a permission slip with the reason for my being away from home any more. I can go into the Bois de Vincennes or to the center of Nogent if I want. Until the noise got really bad after lunch, I didn't feel the need to get out of the house.
That's not quite true. I took the car this morning and went all the way to Costco. My 40+ year-old sewing machine needs repair and the minimum for just a "revision" is €90. I gave in and got a new, less elaborate machine. I don't need an elaborate machine. I just want to finish off the masks, for the time being.
The drive was good for the car. The battery had drained during these months of non-use. Paul had hooked up the charger and charged it, but there's nothing like taking a car on the road to get the battery up to where it belongs. That, it did. The drive was unlike any other -- hardly any traffic. It only took half an hour to get there and the same to get back. It usually takes us about an hour each way, which is why we don't go frequently.
Everyone at Costco was well disciplined. We all had our masks on and a line formed outside the store with everyone well spaced apart. I had my gel and disinfected the cart handle when I took the cart, but upon entering, an employee had a disinfectent wipe and wiped the handle -- just in case. The store was not crowded. I got what I needed -- the sewing machine and the rest of the list I had.
I had everything packed away before lunch! Now. I'm going out in the sun. I'll unpack the machine when these workers leave.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Found Flour

All around the world, we are almost all in some kind of confinement or other. And there has been a run on certain products. It started with a run on toilet paper. Then, pasta and some other dry goods. In France, at least in Nogent, it has settled on flour, for the moment. Yesterday, Bio C'est Bon, a French "organic" grocery chain, published an ad on Facebook, I think it was. I clicked and learned that they have a "click and collect" service and it is available at our local store that just opened a couple of months ago. I created my account and clicked away for a few items, including some flour, T65, which they had! I had to wait an hour until it was time to leave to collect my bag.
I walked to the store -- nice to get out for a 'long" walk of 10 minutes to and another 10 minutes back. My bag did not have flour. The manager showed me his copy of my order on which the flour had a red X, showing it was not available. My email confirmation of the order and bill showed that it was. Well, he didn't have it, so there was no point in arguing. I have to wait to see if I was charged for it, or not. He said he had some T150 flour, and was surprised that I bought it. On the way back home, I stopped at our corner Franprix and stuck my head inside to ask if they had flour -- and they did! Okay, it still was not the T65 that I wanted; it's T80. I bought it. This is a time for experimentation, right?
This brings up the discussion of the different qualities of flour in France.
Type 45 : White flour for pastry, the finest quality.
Type 55 : Ordinary white flour for pie crusts, white bread, pizza.Type 65 : Specialty white flour, good for pizzas.Type 80 : Part white, part whole wheat.Type 110 : Whole wheat.Type 150 : Whole wheat with chaff.
Usually in the "organic" category, they start at T65. The higher the number, the coarser the flour, basically.
I think the most common type is 45. I didn't realize it until I started looking at the labels. Since I mostly made cake, that's what I found and it was good. One day, I saw a less expensive flour and looked at the label. It was T55. It's perfectly fine for cakes as well as pie crusts. Then, I wanted organic flour ("bio" in French) and discovered it was T65. Guess what? It's fine for cake, and anything else I want to do. 
And here I was with T150. I made some bread. It's a bit denser than I expected, but it tastes good.
Update: I relied on Glen's instructions in https://youtu.be/4gmCrbBGQy0https://youtu.be/4gmCrbBGQy0
And I have my nut-sized nugget, fed and watered, in the fridge waiting for one of his follow-up recipes in a few days.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Le cardigan -- fin, the end

English version below the photos
Le fameux cardigan est fini, enfin presque. J'ai trouvé une fermeture éclair dans ma boîte à couture qui est la bonne longueur, mais beige,  un peu terne. Je ne sais pas si je vais l'utiliser ou essayer de commander une autre. Mais le tricot est terminé.
Le modèle : c'est basé sur un cardigan bien aimé qui a 15 ans et qui est usé. Celui que je viens de faire est plus longue. J'ai développé le patron au fur et à mesure.
Le fil : Cotton Kings, Cone 500, de chez Hobbii. Il m'a fallu un deuxième cône pour finir la deuxième manche et le col.
La machine : Brother 950. N°7 sur le chariot et au milieu  sur le mât.
L'échantillon, après lavage en machine à 40°C et séchage en machine : 32.5x48/10cm2
Les côtes 2/2 du bas, chariots sur 4. C'était peut être trop serré pour ce fil. Malgré les poids, il y avait des mailles qui sautaient. Ce n'était pas un problème d'aiguille car ce n'était jamais les mêmes. La solution était de mettre toutes les aiguilles en position E (attente) à chaque rang.
Le corps est un mélange de jersey et de côtes 2/2. Le chariot principale sur 7 et le chariot de la fonture à côtes  sur 4. Il fallait continuer à  mettre les aiguilles en position E à chaque rang.
Le col, montage fermé selon la méthode de Jonathan Crafts: https://youtu.be/-kJ1QO_zSRs
Il m'a fallu plusieurs démarrages avant de trouver qu'il fallait vraiment mettre les position E à  chaque rang. C'était frustrant et fatigant.
Et puis ayant fini qu'un devant, mon épaule s'est figée. Ce n'est pas la faute du tricot. C'est l'arthrose qui a fini de s'imposer après plus de six ans de travail d'usure. J'ai eu un remplacement inversé de l'épaule à la fin de septembre. En moins d'une semaine après cette intervention, j'ai repris le tricot à la main. A la fin d'octobre, j'ai repris le tricot à la machine, mais des courtes allers-retours pour faire des tubes de chaussettes auxquelles je rajoutais les orteils et talons à la main. En Novembre, j'avais suffisamment de dextérité pour faire les chaussette entièrement à la machine. Une fois les 12 paires de chaussettes de Noël finies, j'ai fait une pause, ne reprenant le cardigan qu'en janvier.
La reprise fut plus difficile que les chaussettes. Ce fil de coton passe plus difficilement, le chariot devait couvrir une plus longue distance, et il fallait vraiment remettre les aiguilles en position E. Tout faire avec la main gauche aurait été lent et contre-productif car manier le chariot avec la main droite faisait parti de la rééducation du bras. Mais pas trop longtemps.
En février, j'ai commencé le dos et je l'ai fini -- une première fois. Mais je suis trompé dans la longueur. J'ai fait les manches. J'ai fait le dos une deuxième fois et le col et j'ai tout monté en pensant que j'allais pouvoir réparé les quelques points ramassés que je trouvais. J'ai tout esquinté. J'ai détricoté le premier dos et j'ai fait encore un dos -- le troisième. Ensuite, il fallait démonter toutes les coutures et détricoter le col. Remonter, refaire le col. Ca y est, la partie tricot est terminé!
front
back
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The cardigan is done -- well almost! I found a zipper the right length in my sewing box but it's beige,  a little dull. I don't know if I'll use it or try to order another one. That said, the knitting is done.
The pattern: It's based on a 15-year-old worn out sweater that I love. This one is a bit longer and I made the pattern up as I went.
The yarn: Cotton Kings, Cone 500, from Hobbii. I needed a second cone to finish the second sleeve and the collar.
The machin : Brother 950. Stitch dial 7 on the carriage and middle tension on the mast.
The gauge, after machine wash 40°C (104°F) and machine dry: 32.5x48/10cm2
For the ribbing 2/2 at the bottom, both carriages set at 4. This was, perhaps, too tight for this yarn. In spite of the weights, there were some stitches that tucked. It wasn't the fault of the needles because it didn't always happen at the same spot. The solution was to pull all the needles to E (hold) position for each row.
The body is a mix of stockinette and 2/2 ribbing. Main carriage on 7 and the ribber carriage on 4. It was still necessary to pull the needles on both beds to E position.
The collar, closed as shown by Jonathan Crafts: https://youtu.be/-kJ1QO_zSRs
There were several false starts before finding the solution of pulling the needles to E for each row. It was frustrating and tiring.
And then, having finished the first front, my shoulder froze. It wasn't the knitting that did it. It was the osteo-arthritis that finally finished its destruction after six years of destroying the cartilage. I had reverse shoulder replacement at the end of September. Within a week, I was hand knitting. And by the end if October, I was able to machine knit, a little, short back and forth movement to make tubes for socks to which I added the toes and heels by hand. In November, I was able to knit the socks entirely by machine. Once the 12 pairs were made, I took a break and didn't pick up the cardigan until January.
It was a harder doing the cardigan than the socks. The yarn was a bit more difficult to knit, not so smooth, the carriage had to go a greater distance, and I really had to put the needles in E position for each row. Doing it all left-handed would have been slow and counter-productive because moving the carriage and the needles was worked into my physical therapy routine. But not for long sessions.
In February, I made the back -- the first one. I made a mistake in the length. I made the sleeves and I made the back for the second time and added the collar. I sewed all the seams, thinking I would fix the little mistakes (tucks) here and there. I ruined the back. I took it all apart, knitted the back for the third time, put it back together, added the collar, again.. It's done.