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October 2, 2008

Q&A: Knitting Bag, Books, Cat Litter... all the basics

Today it's Email Day here at Chez Blabsalot. But before we get to the important stuff like books and cat poop, I just wanted to chime in and say I know that the world has gone completely ass over teakettle and all we hear about right now is gloom and doom and crisis and crunch and bailout and collapse and on and on. Trust me, I hear it all day long.

But getting upset about it or cowering in fear or obsessing over it every minute of every day has pretty much zero effect whatsoever on the outcome and only makes you grumpy. Same goes with the politics stuff. And even though there is Crisis! And spin room! And insanity! There is an awful lot of good stuff, too. Like cheese. And cats. And yarn. And there are so many good inventions like hulu.com where you can watch TV shows and movies for FREE! (I don't work for them, they don't even know me from Adam but I like free, so I am a fan.) And the weather forecast says it will cool down tomorrow which is a blessed, joyful event not unlike the time I found the last box of chocolate truffles at Whole Foods and I almost wept in appreciation. That is how I feel about it cooling off, which also coincidentally is FREE. So there are good things happening you just have to look for them. Sometimes they come at the bottom of a box of truffles, but whatever.

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Now for correspondence! Which I am SO GOOD at that I think some of these emails are from forty-six months ago. Reader Karen who has just re-taken-up knitting emailed me and asked:

I have decided to find a knitting group in my area which brings me to my question. What do you transport your knitting stuff in? I don't recall you showing a knitting bag. I want something hip rather than grandmotherly. Could you recommend a source for cool bags?


I have a few different knitting bags, and which one I use at the time usually depends on whether or not I am toting around a bigger project (giant scarf) or a little project (roll-brim hat.) I take mass transit, so my bag also sometimes doubles as the transportation not just for knitting but my lunch, a book, and whatever assorted papers and bits I'm carrying to and from work.

The bag on the left is an old Isaac Mizrahi find from Target, that superpink and cute bag was a birthday present from Drew. It's a Lantern Moon tote which I love. And the green shapeless sack is a big ol' freebie bag which I got from the book expo and it has been carrying around my most recent project, plus my lunch and assorted work stuff:

Click for big pictures.

Sometimes I use my envirosax, too. But the most important bag in all my knitting is the oh-so-awesome ziploc baggie, which I use almost all the time even if it is then carried around inside a knitting bag. (See: lunch and knitting sharing same bag, accidents averted via magical ziploc.)

That's the glamorous right there.

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Reader Allan from Newcastle (my favorite beer!) said:

Enjoyed your house reformation. It has inspired me! But where do you keep your books and can we have a photo of them? They give an insight into someone's zeitgeist.

I cannot resist emails with the word zeitgeist! So, part of my no-shop has been easy (not buying clothes has been VERY easy, since I've been feeling uninspired to see myself in trying-on room mirrors) and buying less stuff for the house has been easy. But about a month on into my no-shop I decided books were an essential. I love and support my local library but having dipped my toes into the murky waters of royalties I want to buy books now, more to support the authors I like than anything else. It just feels like the right thing for me to do, though you know of course I don't expect others to abide by my little quirks and roadsigns, this just works for me. So I have been buying books, the best of which recently are by Kate Atkinson -- she was recommended to me by Karin Slaughter and I have fallen in love with her books, my favorite being Case Histories.

But you asked about storing books, not about buying and reading. Right now my books are spread all over the house. One day (one day! always one day!) I want to get a big huge bookshelf with closed doors to keep the dust out and the clutter in, but until then I have my books on many shelves.

My little house has a built-in below the main window in the living room:


I arrange the books here mostly by color, with exceptions for piles that go together in my own insane filing way. (I also enter people in my address book by first name, a practice which makes my mom crazy.)

Another view:

There are books by my bedside and books in the office, these books are my knitting/craft/project books:


There are books in piles, too, because not everything has been filed away by color just yet and I have unread books in one area, my goal is to put all the books I haven't read on one shelf so I have my own mini-bookstore-library at home and that way when I want to read a new book I can go shopping from my little cache of unread litterchure.


Books everywhere! I love books. They make me happy.

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Reader Courtney writes:

I recently discovered the joys of knitting, and subsequently the joys of your blog. :) I was wondering, since I'm still figuring out how to navigate this site, if you knew of an EASY two color scarf I could knit. My brother has his first college football game EVER in about three weeks, and I wanted to whip out a super cute scarf in the school colors for his game. Any recommendations?

Garter stitch in a bulky knit is not just fast and easy but can be more boyish, too, less refined -- I love a simple garter stitch scarf. That's where you knit every row. Or, how about a knit 3, purl 3 rib stitch? I'm sure more folks will have suggestions for you, too. If you're reading you'll have to let us know what style you picked...

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Reader Elizabeth writes:

Dear Laurie, A friend of mine recommended your website to me because she said you might have a suggestion of a good cat litter to use. One that won't make my asthmatic (seriously, she takes pills) picky female cat poop on my bed when the litter box (one of TWO) has a little bit of stinky male kitten pee in it. Basically that means I'd need to change the litter box everyday and I can't/won't do it! Help! I read on your blog that you used Clump n' Flush but it is no longer sold in CA. I live in Oakland. What do I do? I mean the cats love each other, evidenced by their playing together, cleaning each other, etc, but SHE has litter box needs. Please help!


So those of you who have been reading about my exciting world for some time now know I had a big Kitty Litter Crisis (!!!) a long time ago when the stupid people who manufacture stupid Clump 'n Flush decided to stop selling it to California rather than put a sticker on the bag with a disclaimer about sea otters. And even if they started selling it again in California now I wouldn't buy it just on principle. (It's all too much to get into here, you can read this post and this one, too.)

At that time my cat Roy, rest in peace and I MISS YOU, had all sorts of problems including asthma. I discovered mostly by trial and a lot of error that he responded best to litter that was NOT scented and NOT made of wheat (people aren't the only animals with wheat allergies!) I know a lot of readers rhapsodize about World's Best Cat Litter, but I didn't find that it worked for my cats or for me. (It's made of wheat, as is Swheat Scoop.) Plain ol' Johnny Cat unscented works great, though it is not scoopable. Some folks love Feline Pine -- bottom line is I think you have to experiment to see what works for your cats. What I used to do to find out if a cat litter would work or not was to use a "test box" for the new litter. I would buy a cheapo plain old plastic litter pan and place it near the other litter pans and fill it with new litter and see how the cats responded. It was like science, with more poop. This whole website is an excellent resource about cats and their litterboxes. I found it really interesting and helpful!

Normally I try not to give advice about catboxes and cats in general since it's a pretty personal topic. But since you asked.... here's what I would recommend:

1) Have your cat checked for any infections or illnesses. This is the standard thing folks tell you when you have litterbox issues, especially if they are recent changes.

2) Start with the litter box itself. I used to use a Booda Dome and the cats HATED it. It's too cramped and dank when enclosed like that. In fact, many vets will tell you that while humans prefer the enclosed litter boxes because they seem more sanitary, cats prefer a nice open pooping surface like a plain ol' basic cat pan. Speak with your vet or do some reading online about this. But I can tell you as soon as I switched to unenclosed cat pans, we had much better litterbox behavior in Chez Poopsalot. This is what my catbox set-up looks like and you can read what I wrote about it here:


3) I scoop twice a day. Yup. It is very exciting being me, what with all the poop scooping. I scoop once in the morning and once when I get home at night. This is because Queen Sobakowa will not use the box properly unless it smells like sunshine and unicorns. Scooping twice a day eliminates pretty much all problems for us in this area.

4) Clean the box when you change the litter. I use some unscented cleaning wipes that are safe for use with pets and I wipe down the box inside and out before replacing the clean litter.

5) Discourage the alternate pooping by removing the place it's happening. This means for you closing the bedroom door when you're away since your cat seems to like that room as her alternate loo. Also, you might want to try laundering all offended linens with enzymatic cleaner (get this at any pet supply shop). It removes the scent so they don't keep returning to that spot.

Eventually I switched to Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract litter, and I have found it works great for us. I purchase it at PetSmart, and each bag comes with a $1 off coupon inside so your next purchase is a little cheaper. Keeping the pan VERY clean is really important, and luckily I am a little OCD with the cleaning so it works out fine for all of us. I hope you're able to find a solution that works for you and your felines, and I'm sure the comments will have all sorts of helpy advice, too. We are cat crazy around here!!

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Thank you so much everyone for your emails, I know I am weeks behind as usual but I do eventually get to them all and I really appreciate your notes and questions and hellos. Even the poopy ones!

Posted by laurie at October 2, 2008 9:16 AM