today is brought to you by the letter 'S'

[Damn, I miss Sesame Street. But that's not a good enough reason to have kids, though, huh?]

S is for Sock!
Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Colortweed.
Pattern: a tweak of the "On Your Toes" toe-up sock pattern from the Summer 07 Interweave Knits (again).
Needles: 2.5mm (US 1-1/2), which was all I had with me at the time… now that I'm home, I think I'm in for a re-knit with 2.25mm (US 1) instead, so they won't shred in the first 15 minutes.

Cast on for the toe in the train(s) from Stade to Amsterdam.
Started with the heel flap and finished it in the plane (10-1/2 hours, ho, hum)

S is for Sleeve!
Yarn: Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK
Pattern: Unpattern 'Simple Sweater'.
Needles: 3.75mm (US 5).
Doing the sleeve on 2 circs … and I'm noticing that my needle stash is totally puny in the 1/4-millimeter increments like 3.25, 3.75 … hence the sock conundrum above.
And in case you were wondering: no, they DON'T SELL those 1/4-millimeter increments in Europe! Trust me: I looked.

S is for Spreadsheet!
Okay, this is where I may lose some of you.
I mean, you all know that I'm a geek, right? But I came late to the Excel party: I mean, I spent a dark decade of my adulthood not knowing the fun that a sorting-calculating-daughter-of-an-engineer-and-a-librarian kind of girl could have with such a toy!

So I spent the dark and silent hours between 3 a.m. (d*mn that blasted jet lag) and 8 a.m. building a killer diagnostic tool…
and entering all the information about our home-heating expenses into a rager of a 3-pager.
• Propane expenses, by price per gallon, gallons billed, and total amount of bill;
• Oil expenses (for the years when we were heating the main house here with fuel oil), ditto;
• Electrical expenses, by KWH per month, average KWH per day, and total amount of bill as well.

Of course, I would highly recommend this exercise for those of you geeky enough to like to spend your time building spreadsheets – and I KNOW there are a few of you out there! But it's also an amazing eye-opener for anyone in the U.S. right now. It's all too easy to let your bills go through auto-pay, or just write the check every month and shake your head a little …

But to see in black on white how much things have gone up in the last 4 years? It outta be enough to make Cheney sign up for a membership in the Audubon Society. I mean, really.

In our neck of the (out-of-the-way) woods, we have no natural gas piped in, so we rely on propane for gas stoves, etc.
Price of a gallon of propane in Feb. 2004? $1.60
Price of that same gallon today? $2.80.

Now for us here at Casa Akabini, it's not just about the cost of the bills (though they're important, of course); it's becoming more and more about efficiency: how many btu's do we burn through to heat the house, and which method is most efficient?

Boyhood spent much of our vacation researching heating systems and solar energy (yeah, we WERE made for each other, as a matter of fact!), and here's where we're headed:
• Electrical heat is 100% efficient, as compared to our current forced-air propane-fueled system, which we peg at 60-80%.
• Electricity, as a public utility, is subject to more regulation in:re price increases than propane (which is why our KWH cost only went from 6 cents to 10.5 cents since 2004).
• Electricity is a form of energy which we can ultimately generate right here on the property, with photovoltaic solar arrays and solar hot water heaters.

The result of 3 weeks of research? We're using our forced-air propane-fired system as little as possible (it's the Harlot's Furnace Wars all over again around here), and relying on electrical space heaters. 100% efficient, and used as little as possible, translates into big energy savings for the planet and for our pocketbook.

You see, we loved witnessing the European approach to home heating: standing radiators under windows, each of which can be turned on or off as you need them. That means you're thinking about which space you're in, how long you're going to be in there, and whether or not you need to heat it. In Germany, my relatives keep doors to rooms shut when not in use, and the hallways and storage rooms are always unheated. (The stairwell in our apartment building had the exact same smell I remember from all unheated storage spaces in Germany … funny how nostalgic that made me feel.)

The bottom line? We did a "Carbon Footprint" survey online, and the results were naturally sobering. We live in a small-by-American-standards home; we drive fuel-efficient diesel cars using biodiesel; we live within walking distance of all sorts of amenities; we grow some of our own food … and yet, if everyone on the planet were to live to our standard, we'd need MORE THAN FOUR PLANETS to provide everyone with our resources.

So here's my hope for the new year:
May we all become more conscious of what resources we use;
May we all start to savor and appreciate everything that we have;
May we all begin to notice where resources are going to waste;
and may we all start taking steps to redistribute what we don't need so that others can enjoy it.

This post has taken a long arc from knitting projects; thanks for staying with me. (S is for Sermon?)
See you in the knitting studio – (I'll be the one with the warm sweater and the fingerless mitts).
As the immortal Brenda Dayne says: "If you're cold, put on a sweater. That's what they're for."