Friday, December 28, 2007

Disappointments and Tribbles

Poor Dad. A few years ago he got into watercolor painting and started taking classes where he lives in Minnesota. There are few paintings in frames at his apartment, and this year he decided to paint his Christmas cards by hand instead of sending out commercial greeting cards. When he told me, I kidded him about the old episode of Fibber McGee&Molly, in which Fibber also decided to paint cards and ended up with disaster at every turn. Anyway, dad sent out his cards after scanning them--a smart move in my opinion--and waited with baited breath. And no one bothered to even acknowledge they'd gotten a card that was any more exciting than the usual commercial crap. Poor Dad. When I talked to him this afternoon, I thought to myself, "Now you know how it feels to put a lot of effort into something you make with your own hands and do the absolute best you can, and then the recipient doesn't appreciate the result."
I'm not sure if that's a reflection of living in a culture where everything is disposable and it's all about being acquisitive instead of appreciative. Everything is done as quickly as possible, then used quickly, and thrown out to be replaced with something newer, better, faster than the old model. It's disheartening; I know exactly how Dad feels. But, sometimes the best things are the ones without the expensive designer label slapped all over them.

This wasn't as fibery a holiday as it was last year, but I'm fine with that. How many of us are heretical enough to admit that we're actually running out of space? All the soup tureens are full, all the boots and blouse sleeves are stuffed, all the sofa cushions have miraculously turned into cleverly disguised bags of yarn, and you're getting the feeling that you're somehow caught in a taping of "The Trouble With Tribbles"? Something like that, right? Naaaaaah. There are lists and books and magazines and catalogs dedicated to the notion that there is never, EVER enough yarn; the keeper of MochiMochiLand certainly proves it with her photo of the world's biggest yarn stash.
So, while I got neither yarn nor roving to spin more yarn among my holiday gifty things this year, I can definitely say I'm pretty happy with what I've got and that I've been able to pass on at least a little of what I've learned about stash management and stash manipulation (i.e. knitting) to two whole people this year. Not only did I succeed in corrupting one of my childhood friends, but I've also succeeded in corrupting my poor, unsuspecting mother. So many victims, so little time. :P That in itself is a gift that does in deed keep on giving. At the same time, my knitting library grew a little bit because mom gave me a couple more books; one was the Best of Interweave Knits, which does include a couple of nifty sock patterns. She's also gotten me a subscription to that marvelous publication as an early birthday gift. I's a happy kitty, I is.
And, at the same time, I'm knitting myself a pair of extremely fuzzy, warm socks out of the Lopi Lite I snagged from eBay earlier in the year. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and that your stashes grew by leaps and bounds, and that your houses are full of warm, happy, woolly tribbles.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


You Are a Gingerbread House

A little spicy and a little sweet, anyone would like to be lost in the woods with you.

Twelve Step Program

The Girls came over this afternoon, and somewhere between all the cookies, the EVIL fast food, and the giant cups of tea and cocoa, Frances and Barb came up with a nifty idea for a twelve-step program for knitters. This is in no way connected with the Knitters Anonymous website, however, and everything listed here is the product of three imaginations hopped up on lots of sugar and caffeine. The Committee of Three (i.e. Barb, Frances, and me) will consider and ratify any and all suggestions and contributions made to this list. Many thanks to The Girls for getting the ball rolling with this. :P

Twelve-Step Program For Knitters:

Mission Statement: Subscribers will knit obsessively under threat of penalty to be determined and ratified by a committee of less than three people, i.e. The Committee of Three.

1. I will admit you have a yarn addiction, that it will never go away, and that my knitting needles will be by my side at all times.
2. I will pay my dues in the form of finished products not to exceed:
A. Five balls of yarn for beginners
B. Ten balls of yarn for intermediate knitters
C. 15+ balls of yarn for advanced subscribers
3. Steps 3 through 12 to be determined and ratified by a committee of not less than three people, i.e. The Committee of Three.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Zenia Cardigan

Yay! It's finished, it's finished, it's finished! I had to tweak the design for the sleeves a little but, on the whole, it actually came out the way I wanted it to. And, best of all, it fits Zenia perfectly; she seems quite pleased with the end result, which makes me feel much, much better. So, without further ado, 'ere eez zee pattern.

Gauge 6 sts/inch
Materials - Knit Picks Swish DK in Cornflower (MC)- 12 balls
Knit Picks Swish DK in White (CC)- 1 ball
Size 6 circular needles -36" and 70"
Size 3 DPNs (for the I-cords)
Tapestry needle, stitch markers, safety pins

Back: CO 120 sts. Work 5 rows of garter stitch; work 2 rows of stst, then begin working Fair Isle pattern (see chart below). Continue working in stst with MC until piece measures 12" from CO edge, then place markers to indicate the beginning of the armhole; continue working until piece measures 19" from CO edge--the armhole edge will measure 7" from marker. BO all stitches, placing markers to indicate first and last 40 sts.

Left Front: CO 60 sts. Work 5 rows of garter stitch; work 2 rows of stst, then work Fair Isle pattern. Resume working with MC until piece measures 12" from CO edge, ending with a WS row. Place marker. Begin decreasing 1 st at neck edge on every RS row 16 times-there will be 44 sts left; decrease 1 st at neck edge every 4 rows 4 times-there will be 40 sts left. Work evenly until piece measures 19" from CO edge. BO all sts.

Right Front: Work as for Left Front, but decrease at neck edge on WS rows.

Sleeves: Make 2. CO 110 sts. Work 2 rows of garter sts, then 2 rows of stst; on the next row, dec 1 st at each end of the needle (108 sts remain). Dec 1 st at each end of needle every 6 (work the decreases on RS row) rows 9 times more (90 sts remain). Continue working evenly until piece measures 19". BO all sts.

Finishing: Block pieces if you feel it's necessary. Sew shoulder seams; sew side seams to the markers. Sew sleeve seams and attach sleeves to the body of the sweater. Pick up stitches around the neck and front edges of the sweater using the longer circular needles and knit 4 rows of garter stitch. BO all sts. With DPNs, make 2 I-cords about 12" long; sew these to the bottom corner of the neckline, one on the front and one on the left.
Weave in ends.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Monster Cookies

Davros has really been earning his keep since I got him last winter. The dough hook is invaluable and has been working overtime because of endless loaves of bread and batches of bagels; the beater has also proved useful for things like fudge and cookie dough. Okay, enough rhapsodizing about the virtues of Davros and his nifty attachments.
Today was a cookie day, you see, because it's so close being Yule. Mother seems convinced my increased crabbiness stems from me being an Artiste, and this is the reason I chose to do one of the most complicated types of cookies. I just like challenges.. what's wrong with that? See, this is what happens when mom subscribes to magazines like BGH. It's worse when PBS airs its regular Saturday schedule of cooking shows.
Rather than going completely vanilla and doing my usual chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and ordinary sugar cookies, I decided to do something more complicated. The cookies in question were a sugar cookie version of linzer cookies, complete with raspberry jam and a dusting of powdered sugar; mom called it the Pastry Chef Challenge and was surprised when they came out as they did. I tweaked the recipe a little by changing the spices and omitting the ground nuts (sugar cookies, remember?), and adding some lemon oil along with the vanilla extract. Here's the recipe and a picture:

5 cups flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, softened

2 whole eggs plus 3 yolks
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp
lemon oil
powdered sugar for sprinkling
about 1/2 cup raspberry or other jam for the filling

Beat the butter, eggs, yolks, sugar, vanilla and lemon oil until fluffy, then start adding the flour about a cup at a time, then add the spices. Scrape the bowl down once everything is combined and still fairly fluffy. Divide the dough into quarters and wrap it in plastic to chill for about two hours before you roll it out. If it gets too warm and starts to get sticky, use cornstarch instead of flour on the board or whatever surface you're using; extra flour just makes the dough heavier. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and switch one of the racks to the middle position. Bake the cookies at 350 for 10 minutes, then let them cool before you start assembling the little sandwiches.
While they're cooling, put the jam in a small saucepan and warm it over low heat until it's melted and slightly thickened; put a small blob on the bottom cookie, then add the top layer. If necessary, add a little more jam to the cut-out opening, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Get creative! Use nifty cookie cutters! Get messy!
Happy Yule, kids. :P

Friday, December 14, 2007


We're supposedly gearing up for a big storm, which means the grocery stores and such are absolutely packed and people are going nuts trying to buy eggs, milk, and bread. Today, the weather was surprisingly mild, so I took advantage of the sunlight--the first in about a week--to go take pictures of the great outdoors. Rather than have this be a photo-heavy post, I'll just share the link to the folder where the pictures are stored. It was a lot of fun, but I found myself wishing I had a telephoto lens for a couple of the shots. Still, I'm pretty pleased with the way they turned out.
Otherwise, Zenia's sweater is much closer to being finished. I just have one sleeve left to do; mom's being nice and doing the nasty job of seaming things for me--she does a much better job than I do. The sweater pattern will be posted as soon as the second sleeve is finished, and then I'll be able to go back to working on Evil Ambition. As usual, I procrastinated, so the holiday knitting idea has pretty much gone out the window. I haven't even got my Christmas cards in the mail yet, and I'm really running out of time. *sigh* Sorry, guys. Maybe I'll be able to do a better job of scheduling things next year. I hope.
Well, here's a picture of Zenia's sweater, modelled by its recipient. Like I said, it still needs its sleeves; I'll take another picture when it's finished, so you can get a better idea of what it looks like and how it fits.
Also, tonight, dog and I surprised a group of deer in the yard. There were four or five of them, so when they took off running, dog was very excited and didn't know quite what to do. Poor dog. I think she thought they were dog treats on the hoof.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Fall

It's about 26 degrees and it's snowing--obviously. First snowfall of the year for us, though I hear a few towns in the surrounding area have already gotten their first flurries long before we did. It's definitely a good day to stay in, knit, and drink lots of tea. The wind has finally died down, but it's still a good idea to stay in. The cats are in and the dog refuses to go out; if I succeed in getting her to go out, she rushes back in and goes to stand next to the wood stove until I'm sure she needs to be basted. Smart dog! Motzie is hiding in the liquor cabinet--I wonder if cats get drinking problems--and staying warm. And I just finished the body of Zenia's sweater. Picture forthcoming, as usual. Now just the sleeves and i-cord are left, as well as the band around the front edge and the weaving in of all those little ends. I should finish well before the Dec. 22 deadline. Yay!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kitty cheesecake

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I'm lucky to have gotten the one of her napping. She usually wakes up and runs away as soon as she hears the camera turning on. Cats.. who can figure 'em?

Friday, November 23, 2007

My Goose Is Cooked

And stuffed, but it wasn't really a goose, it was a chicken. Since about 2002 or so, I've been in charge of handling some of the holiday cooking. This usually means coming up with something to do with fowl for either Christmas or Thanksgiving, and this usually means stuffing and roasting fowl for those holidays. My usual standby is a recipe adapted from an 1950s episode of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Richard Greene; the episode in question is a Christmas one involving Robin Hood's rescue of a goose named Matilda. Hollywood, as usual, does a wonderful job of romanticizing the serf/noble relationship; even with as many flaws as the story has, it's worth a look for its amusement value. If you can't find it, keep reading for the "spoilers".

Davie, a serf boy, gets caught harvesting mistletoe and holly in the woods; the new lord of the manor decides he doesn't want his serfs doing any such thing, no matter if it's an established tradition, and orders that Davie be seized and thrashed for thievery. Davie's pet goose, enraged at the perceived threat to her companion, flies at lord's horse, which rears and deposits His Lordship on his posterior; the lord of the manor promptly orders Matilda's arrest, which the seneschal effects with the aid of a burlap sack. O.O Poor Davie!

Friar Tuck happens along and finds Davie, sobbing under an oak tree; he agrees to visit the manor to see if he can persuade His Lordship to spare Matilda's life. His Lordship, however, has already decided to try the goose--yes, try the goose, as in putting the goose on trial; Friar Tuck, in dismay, insists on defending Matilda and calls several character witnesses to testify on her behalf. Naturally, His Lordship has plans for Matilda, and he sentences her, ordering that she be roasted for his Christmas dinner. Ouch. Friar Tuck, in a last desperate attempt to save the goose's life, takes the man aside and suggests that there's a proper way to cook a goose: First, he says, she must be given wine, and once she's properly drunk, then she can be killed. Afterward, rather than simply roasting her, she must be stuffed with a mixture of bread, apples, mushrooms, honey, and egg. This, he assures the duke, is the only way to prepare a goose. The duke unbends enough to consider this new option, and orders his seneschal to take the goose to the kitchen; in the meantime, the good Friar hastens away to find Robin and ask for his assistance.

Robin agrees to visit the manor and see for himself what kind of man the new lord is. In the guise of Sir Roger of the Dell, he arrives at the manor and, after getting the duke's version of the story, suggests that the Christmas celebration be held as usual, with the serfs being permitted to come for their feast and present their new master with "gifts". The duke agrees, but asks, "What if they won't come?"

Robin replies, "Then make them come!"

The following day, the serfs arrive, and with them come Robin and Friar Tuck; the latter makes a bee line for the kitchen and begins plying the goose--and the cook--with wine, saying that if the goose won't drink on her own, then she must learn by their example. I don't think anyone but the cook gets the full benefit of the French wine, and he eventually dozes off in a cozy corner. In the meantime, the duke's guards herd the serfs into the great hall for their compulsory gift giving, mutton stew, and "enough Wassail to wet their lips on"; the duke points Davie out to Robin as the troublemaker responsible for his undignified tumble and the erstwhile owner of the goose.

Robin, crafty fox that he is, advises the duke to flog the boy and make an example of him; the duke demurs, leaving Robin to take charge of the flogging behind a folding screen. Robin, of course, whispers to Davie to scream as though he really is being flogged; the duke, overcome with remorse, rushes to halt the beating and, in the process, knocks over the screen and reveals the ruse. Robin explains the reason for it, and the nobleman offers to make amends by giving Davie whatever he wishes. Davie, of course, would like nothing better than to get his beloved pet back; the duke, however, is unable to give the boy his goose, and tells him so... and Friar Tuck appears in the door with the goose under his arm, alive and well.

So, where is this going? Friar Tuck's recipe for stuffing fowl didn't include any standard measurements--surprise--so I wrote down the ingredients and did some tweaking. Since this isn't what I did for Thanksgiving this year, the recipe for the other stuffing will be posted under separate cover. :P

Friar Tuck's Stuffing:

  1. 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 4 cups bread cut into cubes
  4. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  5. 1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
  6. 2 eggs, beaten
  7. 3 tbsp honey
  8. 2 tsp chopped sage
  9. 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  10. 1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
  11. 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cheesecake... yeah.

Tomorrow is the big day, which is why I started today. This meant making the cornbread for the stuffing and the cheesecake. It's a pumpkin-bourbon cheesecake with graham cracker-walnut crust. This is my first attempt at making a cheesecake from scratch, so it really helped to have a recipe to go by--Cooks Illustrated rocks most amazingly. Naturally, as with everything else, there were a few substitutions, like chai spices for cinnamon. I ran out of cinnamon when I made cinnamon buns last week, and I forgot to buy more when I went to the store yesterday. I also couldn't find the allspice, so I didn't add any; I'm not sure if we actually have any in the pantry, but if we did, it was doing a really good job of hiding.
So, there it is, Mr. Cheesecake in his tinfoil suit and bain marie just about to have the oven door closed on him. It certainly did turn out well, but tomorrow we'll be able to see if it tastes as good as I hope it does. Mr. Cheesecake will be preceeded by roasted, stuffed chicken, something with red potatoes, and something with greenbeans. Other than that, I'm not sure what else will go on in the kitchen.
In the meantime, I also got my flu shot today, so I'm not sure how much I'll be up for tomorrow. *sigh* It's made my shoulder quite sore, which is unpleasant when I have to reach for something like that naughty little knitting needle that's rolled under my chair. Speaking of which, I finished the back of Zenia's cardie. Yay. :P

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

If the shoe fits...

I found this on a blog that belongs to a friend of Norma's. I couldn't help but shriek with laughter in proper witchy fashion when I read the results of the bar graph. As they say: if the shoe fits...

Which is the right religion for you? (new version)
created with
You scored as Paganism

Your beliefs are most closely aligned with those of paganism, Wicca, or a similar earth-based religion. You may also follow a Native American religion.

Paganism 85%
Satanism 75%
Confucianism 70%
Agnosticism 65%
Atheism 55%
Buddhism 55%
Hinduism 40%
Haruhism 30%
Islam 25%
Christianity 20%
Judaism 0%

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Winter-weave Knits

Normally, I would post a summary of the current Interweave Knits, but since mom filched it before I got a chance to take a good look--hard to read and drive at the same time, after all--I won't be posting my summary for a while yet.
Otherwise, I've managed to cast on for the Zenia. It drove me nuts last night because I hate casting on; I know it's impossible to knit without doing it in some form, just like it's pretty damned hard to build a house without laying a foundating. I think I ripped it apart three times before I got the situation under control, and I've just finished the snowflakes across the back. I'm pleased, but I think the gauge may need to be tweaked because it's not at all the same gauge as the swatch(es) I knitted before I got started. Swatch Number 1 on size 5 needles ended up being 7.5 stitches per inch. Swatch Number 2 on size 6 needles ended up being 6 stitches per inch. And now the project is started, it's decided to be 7 stitches per inch on size 6 needles. Grrrr!
I know swatching is important. Say it with me: "Stay within the swatch. The swatch is your friend."

Monday, November 12, 2007

La Zenia

I kept saying I wouldn't do it. I really, really meant it, and then I felt guilty, and now I feel like a friggin' doormat. I hate disappointing people, and when I say I'm going to do something, I try to do the best possible job until it's finished. So, what's the big deal? I don't feel I'm at a level of expertise that I can do what's being asked of me, and I don't know how say so. Okay.. that part's finished now.

So, now it begins, the mad scramble to finish a sweater approximately a month. Zenia's a dear. She's petite, with masses of thick blonde hair, blue eyes, and an infectious laugh that makes people feel very at ease. She's also asked me to knit a sweater for her. The yarn arrived on Saturday--twelve balls of Swish DK in Cornflower and two in plain white--so now I get to get started on it. The easy part will be writing the pattern, though I have to figure out how to do the bell sleeves she's asked for. The other easy part will be the color work. It's the same chart as the one I used for dad's sweater, just with different colors--obviously. The yarn is nice. It's superwash merino, which means the itch factor is practically nill and it's machine washable. :P Yay!
So... cropped cardigan with no buttons, a v-neck, bell sleeves, and an i-cord tie somewhere at the neckline. Again, not terribly difficult, but the bell sleeves will probably give me a little bit of a headache because I have to figure out where to do the decreases so that it flares out the right amount and is still the right width the for the rest of the arm. We'll just have to see how it goes, but for now Evil Ambition has been set aside in favor of the new project--something I don't really want to do, but sometimes these things happen for good reasons. The downside, though, is that I'm really behind on my holiday knitting. Grrrr.. why, why do I procrastinate so! Pattern will be posted as soon as I finish the sweater. Same goes for the Evil Ambition.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Evil Ambition

The Evil Ambition sweater is progressing well. I just finished the back today, but I realized belatedly that I'd cast on the wrong number of stitches. Oopsie! How do you correct this? Gussets! I'll have to knit two little strips of fabric to correct the miscalculation; these will then be sewn to the sides of the back, and then, when the front is finished, I'll sew the front to the gussets. So far I haven't really made too many mistakes, which is encouraging.
I only screwed up the cable panel once, and that was at a place I didn't even notice until I was already several inches past it, so I decided not to frog it and start over. That, coupled with the fact that the cable panel is off-center by a few stitches probably means I should have frogged it and started over, but I was feeling stubborn... it should turn out okay since it's not that noticeable. This is an experiment, after all, which means it's all a giant learning experience. It's fun, especially since the yarn is so nice to work with.
I'll try to post a picture once the gussets are finished and attached.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Do ya feel... lucky?

I've been talking and thinking about it since September, and today is the day. That thirty-five pound pumpkin is now gutted and in lots of pieces in preparation for being cooked, peeled, and pureed. This is what he looked like before:

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And this is what he looks like now:

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That's what I call carving a pumpkin. It's not nearly as much work as I thought it would be. The hard part was actually the peeling, but after that, the food processor does all the icky stuff for me. That's not cheating, is it? I'm looking forward to using this stuff in soup and bread. I left some unpeeled; we're going to roast it with some olive oil and have it with rice and meatballs. Yums. :P

Monday, November 5, 2007

More Stashie Stuff

The last time I won something, I was in ninth grade. Where I went to school, it was a junior high covering grades seven through nine, and then we went off to the high school for tenth through twelfth. The first day of the school year, they herded us all into the gym and arranged us by birth month, presumably so we could get to know other kids who shared the same month; I didn't know anyone else in my month, so it was quite daunting. Once were were arranged by month, a teacher came by and distributed raffle tickets. Eventually, my number was drawn and I got a box of crayons. I was astonished.
So many thanks to
Kathy for making my day on Halloween. It was a really nice surprise, which arrived in the mail today. I's tickled. :-) Thanks, Kathy.

And, for Rachael, I promise not to gloat because I'm more Capricorn than she is. :P

You are 80% Capricorn

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Holiday Interweaves

Well, since we only got two trick-or-treaters last night, I was able to sit down and do a more thorough job of looking at the Holiday Gifts issue of Interweave Knits. I'm not much for matching mother-daughter sweaters--I'm not for matching anythings, to be honest--but the snowflake design for the yoke of the ski sweaters was very pretty.
The technical parts of this issue revolve mostly around needle felting and Fair Isle. The former isn't something I pay much attention to since, especially after watching some Turkish felt makers going through the agonizing heave-thump of squashing rolls of wool with their bodies. True, there are no needles involved there, but... you never quite think of felt the same way again.
Most of the projects in this issue are good ideas. There's a teddy bear, and of course there's the ubiquitous Chistmas stocking to be hung by the chimney with care; there are also a few gift ideas that left me with raised eyebrows and a "What the heck is that for?" feeling. Specifically, the boot toppers. Knitted boot toppers. I'll say no more because it'll probably be a more profane version of what I've already said. Still, I suppose such things appeal to some people, otherwise they wouldn't make it into the magazine.
At this time of year, my hands and feet get cold and never really thaw out until the weather becomes warmer; I burn my fingers on mugs of cocoa and wear my Fetching mitts pretty much full time. What could be better than a mug cozy? I like the idea. I really do. And I can see myself knitting some for the folks on my list. And I can see some of the folks on my list raising their eyebrows and saying "What the heck is this for?"
Hats and scarves abound, and there are even a couple pairs of nifty socks, one of which uses a cable pattern very similar to the one I'm using for the Evil Ambition design. It makes a lovely pair of socks, really, and I can SO see them being knit as knee-high socks to wear with my big boots. Without knitted boot toppers.
Now the only problem is finding time to knit all this stuff... grrr. It's never easy when you have a cat on your lap, and the cat is biting and slobbering on your yarn while you're trying to knit. Distractions, distractions, distractions.

Click here to create your own painting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Samhain

Happy Samhain.
Blessed be.

Revellin' in Ravelry

I is gleeful. I gots my Ravelry invite. Yes, I know that is grammatically incorrect, but that doesn't matter because it gets the point across. So far I've succeeded in getting my stash photographed, organized, and labelled properly; I'm working on getting pictures of WIPS and finished projects similarly organized and labelled. This is trickier because I don't always take pictures while I'm working on things and I occasionally forget to take pictures of them after they're finished.
So far I'm impressed. It seems like a decent tool for networking and organizing, though I don't suppose you actually need an entire database to do that since there are message boards and forums filling a similar need--Yahoo groups, for instance. Still, it looks like the anticipation was worth it; I hope everyone who's participating finds it a positive experience. Now I just have to worry about getting my library sorted out.
Speaking of which, I got the holiday issue of Interweave Knits. I haven't actually had a chance to sit down and look at it yet, but I leafed through last time I was at the store and decided I needed to buy a copy when I wasn't on a deadline. It looks like it has a lot of good projects in it, so I'll post a more detailed analysis in a couple of days. Still lots to do--projects to finish, eye exam on Thursday (fun), and now I have to get organized for a commission... and two more down the road.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Le Stash

Hee! It's nice to catch the post office on the fly. I got there before they'd even stuck the yellow card in the mailbox--yellow cards always mean either a telephone book or a parcel--and made a bee line for the counter.
"I think I have a package," I said to Sandy. "Wanna guess what it is?"
Sandy chuckled, pretended to look thoughtful, then said, "Wait. Could it be... wool?"
"It's my sock yarn!"
And indeed it was. Sock yarn and the replacements for my little birch 1.5 DPNs. Doesn't take much to amuse me. Just... yarn.

I've finally gotten around to taking pictures of my stash in preparation for Ravelry; my conclusion is that it's relatively modest when compared to what I think of as hard-core knitters. I'm really, really, REALLY a novice. But that's okay. My 50 gallon tub has run out of space, and I've vowed to actually use some of it before I buy more. Or, at least, I thought I'd be able to do that. And then I ordered sock yarn. And needles. Did I mention the needles? Hee! See stash below, cleverly disguised as a cute little Terramundi pot.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Got it from Rachael

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

This is so, so, so me.

Also took the Nine Muses quiz, according to which I am Calliope, Muse of Epic Poetry. I'm honestly not much for poetry, and I sound more like a rusty gate than a blackbird when I sing, but maybe Calliope does give me a discreet nudge now and then when it comes to the pleasures of the paper and pen. :P

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Bit More Autumn Whimsy

It's cold and rainy, I couldn't find the Bisquick, and I wanted something warm.

Cheddar-Pepper Biscuits:
  • 1.75 c flour
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 c soy milk
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the dry ingredients together to aerate, then cut the butter in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cheese and fluff things so the cheese is coated with flour; gradually add the milk and stir until everything is well incorporated. Drop heaping spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake on the middle oven rack at 450 for 10 to 12 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Autumn Whimsy

Finally got busy with crayons and graph paper, and this is the result. Depending on what gauge you feel like working with, this could easily be used for either socks or a sweater, or even a scarf. Take it, use it, share it. Just make sure to show me pictures of what you do with it! Oh.. and don't forget to cite your sources like good little kiddies. :P

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, October 22, 2007

A bit of auntumn whimsy

It's just the time of year, I guess, that makes me do silly things. The weather is cooling off (not really, but it's supposed to be), the smell of autumn is in the air, the leaves are turning, and it's just that much closer to the end of the year. We got a glass pumpkin, which was supposed to be a candy dish, but I decided to turn it to other, better uses.... It's a very cooperative model, especially since the yarn is mostly in autumn hues. I think it looks better filled with yarn than it does with candy corn. Feel free to use the little icon-sized one, provided you save it first.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chili and Socks

After many struggles and much fussing, and one broken needle--thank the goddess it was from a set of five needles and not a set of four--I've finished the first Nordic Lights sock. In case anyone decides to knit these, they are very small and narrow. I wear a size 8 shoe and it's a tight squeeze getting the heel over my foot; the pattern is probably written for a size 6. Anyway... pictures below.

Slow Burn Chili: You need a fairly big pot for this recipe...

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp ground Chimayo chile (thank you, Zenia!)
  • 1 tsp ground Pasilla chile (thank you, mom)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 glug of red wine (not an exact measure, but I'm guessing it's about two ounces?)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb dry pinto beans, cooked in about six cups of water (do this ahead of time and keep the liquid)
  • salt to taste

Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a large pot and throw in the spices--this allows the flavors and smells to bloom because, according to Cooks Illustrated, most spices are oil soluble. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's completely cooked through. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until there aren't any lumps of tomato paste left. Let the mix simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, then turn off the heat. If you've already cooked your beans ahead of time--they take a lot longer than the meat does--add the meat/tomato mixture to the bean pot and stir to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking, then remove from heat and serve.

Makes a nice complement to the cornbread, especially with a blob of sour cream on top, or some grated cheese.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mountaineers need their mountains....

Or they won't be mountaineers anymore.

Ultimately, it affects all of us. The mountains don't grow back the way replanted trees do, so consider the implications. It doesn't matter what faith you are, or what your beliefs are, but it does matter that there are people who do care and who are concerned about what's happening. Many thanks to Mr. Moyers and his staffers for permitting me to link to the archived transcript and movie.

Montani Semper Liberi.

Buttonish Business

Just 'cause I felt like being geeky for a good cause. And, yes, I will be knitting at least one scarf for these guys. Expect a pattern at some point. Not sure whether it'll be before or after that Evil Ambition sweater, or even if it'll be at the same time, but it will happen. Oooh.. the Evil Ambition Sweater.. that sounds like an interesting name for it. Now I just have to finish up those Nordic Lights socks, which will probably be on hold until I get my needles from KnitPicks. Maybe I should consider getting some nifty yarn while I'm at it.

Oh. And happy almost-Samhain.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ambitious... and nuts

I'm nuts to even consider this, but my yarn stash is making noises that I can't completely ignore. It's whispering about the lace weight merino yarn I got from knitpicks a while back, and about what can be done with said yarn. It's whispering about sweaters. Granted, lace weight yarn is probably better used for fuzzy shawls, or doubled and used for socks; it's still whispering about sweaters. This is a puzzle to which I shall apply myself after I finish puzzling out the stripey foot of that Nordic Lights sock.
I've hit a snag, which I mentioned in my response to Rachael's comment: My little Brittany birch needles are too short to do what I need to do. It's a problem, but it gives me an excuse to consider ordering some of those nifty new wooden Harmony DPNs from KnitPicks. There's a further problem, though, because apparently the demand for the needles has been so unexpectedly high that the company has run out... and they won't be in stock until 22nd of October. I'd so hoped to finish the socks by then! Doesn't look like I'll be able to do that, though--especially since I do need longer needles.
The other problem is a purely technical one: I have yet to figure out how the needles are numbered for the heel gusset, which makes it a hell of a lot harder to do the stripe pattern. Of course, I could just finish the sock with a plain foot and just work the snowflake diagram and the toe according to pattern and completely ignore the stripes. At present I'm considering it a frustrating challenge, mostly because I really would like to figure out how to finish the sock without taking any shortcuts. On the other hand, I'd really like to finish the sock... and then finish the other sock. Not because I want to get it over with, but because I really want to be able to wear them! I know, I know... they'll be under shoes, which means no one will actually be able to see them. That doesn't matter, though, because I'll know they're there.
And I still need to figure out my holiday knitting schedule. I know of one person who's destined for mittens, and I know what I'm doing for one other person, but that still leaves a few people to plan for. Somewhere along the line, I'll be working on ideas for this lace weight sweater.. assuming I don't decide to double the yarn and do it as fingering weight, which--using the requisite small sized needles--could easily take F O R E V E R.
See why I said it sounds nuts?

Dammit.. I broke one of my teeny-tiny little Brittany needles. Now I really do need to order some from KnitPicks.

Cornbread's a-poppin'

Another comfort food post. Not for me, this batch of cornbread, but for mom who's suffering sinus nastiness due to the amount of leaf mold and ragweed pollen floating around; while cornbread doesn't seem like comfort food to me, it's what she asked for, so here it is.

Comforting Cornbread:
1 cup cornmeal
1.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed and rinsed

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and move one the racks to the centermost position.
2. In a food processor, mix milk, eggs, brown sugar, butter, sour cream, and corn; pulse for a few seconds until things are evenly distributed, but make sure you don't overdo it, 'cause you still want corn kernels to be lumpy.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold until the ingredients are combined and moist. 4. Turn the mixture out into an 8x8, greased baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Out and About

Today was just so gorgeous: blue skies, sunlight, cooler air, the clouds of dust rising from the local soybean fields as harvesters go to and fro...
Between rounds of Nordic Lights sock, I drove mom around the countryside so she could take pictures of the landscape and other things, including combines harvesting fields of soybeans. Here be pictures:

And here be sock:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Struthio camelus mortuus est

"Miserere Dominus, miserere Dominus, Struthio camelus mortuus est."

On Halloween of 2006, in a field in San Mateo County, Gaylord was taken from us when a pair of youths decided it would be fun to pester a dignified gentleman of middle years. Hatched in 1996, Gaylord attended Half Moon Bay Arts Academy and later went on to earn an applied arts degree in modern dance through the prestigious Ostrich Correspondence School, located in Los Angeles.
Well known for his curmudgeonly demeanor, Gaylord will be remembered for his grace and artistic approach to life, as well as the way he cared for his home and family, and for his love of local produce. A frequent shopper at the farmer's market, he was most often seen browsing through bins of tomatoes, apples, and brussles sprouts, which he greatly enjoyed sharing with his family.
Gaylord is survived by his two spouses, Apple and Tomato.
A memorial service is planned for November 10 at 1 PM, at St. James Cemetery; a small gathering will be held at the home of Apple and Tomato immediately following the service. Anyone wishing to honor Gaylord's memory may do so by making contributions to the Gaylord Memorial Fund.

Note: This obituary is in not meant to be offensive in any way. Sincere condolences and apologies to Tomato, Apple, their caretaker, and, of course, Gaylord. And shame, shame, shame on the young men who killed him! Further proof that gun control is indeed an excellent idea.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bagel Bread

What with boiling, cornmeal, shaping, and egg wash, baking bagels is a fairly labor intensive process. It's definitely worth the trouble if you feel like going through all the steps, but if you're a bit shorter on time and energy, it's possible to get good bread using bagel dough.

Basic Bagel Recipe:
3 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 packet dry active yeast
1 cup hot water (120 degrees) plus about an ounce to adjust the consistency
1 egg white mixed with a little water (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)

1. Mix the dry ingredients--including yeast--in a large bowl; whisk to make sure everything is distributed evenly.
2. In a measuring cup, place the maple syrup and oil. Pour in the hot water and stick a candy thermometer in, just to make sure the temp is where it needs to be. When the temp reaches 120, begin adding the liquid to the flour mixture and start mixing. I cheat and take advantage of Davros' dough hook, thus eliminating all the kneading and mixing.
Note: Bagel dough is sticky by nature, so don't panic if it seems stickier than normal bread dough.
3. When the dough is completely mixed, shape it into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl to rise. Make sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dishcloth. Let it sit for about an hour before you punch it down.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and punch down the dough. Shape it according to the dimensions of your bread pan, which you'll want to grease lightly with either cooking spray or a little bit of vegetable oil (not too much...). Put the dough in the pan and cover with the plastic wrap so it can rest for about 15 minutes or so.
5. Mix the egg white with water and use it to paint the top of the loaf, then sprinkle with sesame seeds (or whatever you happen to prefer).
6. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, then let it cool in the pan before you turn it out.


Monday, October 8, 2007


You appear to be a Knitting Guru. You love knitting and do it all the time. While finishing a piece is the plan, you still love the process, and can't imagine a day going by without giving some time to your yarn. Packing for vacation involves leaving ample space for the stash and supplies. It can be hard to tell where the yarn ends and you begin.
Take this quiz!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Snowflake Cardigan Pattern (finally finished)

It's turning into a big deal, this cardigan thing. So far I'm pretty pleased with the progress I'm making, even though the pattern is still in its beta-testing stage; I'm leaning on Ann Budd's "The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns" quite a bit, which helps. Set-in sleeves aren't particularly difficult, but there's some seaming involved--at the shoulders and along the sides, as well as making the sleeve seams before you attach the sleeves to the rest of the sweater. Oh.. and buttons, of course. Sleeves are optional, especially if you're after the oh-so-stealthy sweater-vest critter.

Snowflake Cardigan- 48" chest

Size 8 circular needles 32"; size 8 circular needles 60" to pick up those stitches 'round the front
Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Winter Night- 20 balls (MC)-- or whatever worsted weight wool yarn you care to substitute
Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Cloud- 1 ball (CC)-- same as above: substitutions welcome and encouraged, as long as it's worsted
Stitch markers
Row counter
Tapestry needle
Some safety pins to help with seams
6 buttons

Gauge- 5 st/inch

Back: CO 120 stitches. Work in 2x2 rib for two inches, then switch to stst and work for one inch. Work Fair Isle pattern with CC for nine rows, then switch back to MC and work evenly in stst until piece measures 16" from CO edge. Place markers to indicate beginning of armhole edges and continue working until armholes measure 11". BO all sts and place markers to indicate first and last 40 st.

Left Front: CO 60 stitches. Work in 2x2 rib for 2 inches, then switch to stst and work for one inch. Work Fair Isle pattern with CC, then resume working with MC until piece measures 16" from CO edge. PM to indicae beginning of armhole edge, then work until armhole measures 3". Decrease 1 st at neck edge (end of every RS row) 17 times; then dec. 1 st every 4 rows 3 times-- 40 stitches remain. Work evenly in stst until piece measures the same length as the back (27 inches from CO edge), then BO all sts.

Right Front: CO 60 sts. Work in 2x2 rib for 2 inches, then switch to stst and work for one inch. Work Fair Isle pattern with CC, then resume working with MC until piece measures 16" from CO edge. PM to indicae beginning of armhole edge, then work until armhole measures 3". Decrease 1 st at neck edge (beginning of every WS row) 17 times; then dec. 1 st every 4 rows 3 times-- 40 stitches remain. Work evenly in stst until piece measures the same length as the back (27 inches from CO edge), then BO all sts.

Sleeves: Make two. CO 54 stitches and work 1x1 rib for 2 inches. Start working in stst and increase 1 stitch at the beginning and end of the needle every 2 rows three 3 times. (This gives you 60 stitches.) Then increase 1 stitch at the beginning and end of every needle every 4 rows 30 times. (This gives you 120 stitches). Continue working evenly--if necessary--until piece measures 22 1/2 inches. BO all stitches and cut yarn, leaving a tail that's about three feet long; you can use this to sew up the seam. Turn the work so the wrong side is facing out and safety pin the edges together. Thread the tapestry needle with the long tail and use this to stitch up the seam, and weave in the end of the tail. Do this for both sleeves.

Finishing: Here's the tricky part. I always hate picking up stitches; some people recommend using needles that are a couple sizes smaller to do it.
Button band-With the right side of the work facing you, start at the left-hand side of the neckline and pick up stitches all the way around the edge of the neckline and all the way down the right-hand edge (left front edge if you're knitting this for a woman). Work six rows of garter stitch and BO.

Note: If you want to do 2x2 ribbing, make sure to count carefully so that you have a number that's a multiple of 4.

Buttonhole band: Start picking up stitches the same way you did for the button band (this will be the left front edge for a man's sweater); this time it'll be from the bottom left end of the neckline.
Row 1- knit all stitches
Row 2- knit all stitches
Row 3- knit all stitchs, placing markers at intervals of 2.5" starting from the bottom edge. There should be 6 markers.
Row 4- *knit to marker, YO, k2tog. Repeat this for all the markers, then knit to the end of the row. The YO will give you a hole to use as a buttonhole.
Row 5- knit all stitches.
Row 6- BO all stitches and cut the yarn, leaving a tail about six inches long.
Use your tapestry needle and the tail to stitch up the gap between the end of the neck edge and the top of the buttonhole band.
Sew on the buttons at the appropriate spots on the button band, block the finished sweater, and enjoy it when the weather gets cold. Don't forget to sew a few pieces of yarn somewhere discreet, just in case your sweater decides it needs to have worn places repaired.

If anyone tries this and spots any problems that I've missed somewhere along the way, please let me know!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded into small pieces
6 cups chicken stock (rough guess.. you can probably use more if you want to make a bigger batch)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (IF you think it needs it; canned stock is probably salty enough as it is)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic, smashed
4 oz sliced mushrooms
4 oz sliced carrots
4 oz green pepper, cut into small pieces
8 oz mini penne pasta
fresh parmesan cheese for grating over the bowls when you're ready to serve it.

1. Put the chicken stock, salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic, and shredded chicken in a large pot and bring to a simmer.
2. Add the carrots and pasta, and let cook until the pasta is almost cooked through, then add the rest of the vegetables. Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender and the pasta is completely cooked.

Pumpkin Bread

Another recipe courtesy of the Tae-bean; once again, it's been tweaked and things have been added/substituted. I had fun making it, and even more fun eating it with some pumpkin ice cream. In my opinion there's no such thing as pumpkin overload. :P I'm looking forward to trying this again after the fairytale pumpkin finds its way to the blender.

4 cups of flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp chai spices (my own mix of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups cider, reduced to 1/2 cup
1 oz rum
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup raisins

  1. Let the cider simmer over medium heat until it's reduced to 1/2 cup, then set it aside to cool.

  2. Mix flour, spices, salt, nuts, and raisins in a large bowl and set aside.

  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, pumpkin puree, oil, rum, brown sugar, and cider until completely smooth.

  4. Combine flour mixture and pumpkin mixture, divide into four small loaf pans (or two full-sized ones).
  5. Bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nordic Lights

Now that autumn is really here, I thought it was time for another knitting challenge. Dad's cardigan is almost finished--I'll post the completed pattern as soon as I get a chance--and, while I still have mom's shawl to do, I'm pretty sure I can handle two projects at once. A few weeks back, I found a picture of a pair of socks called Nordic Lights. The pattern, which I found at an online magazine for handspinners, makes use of Scandinavian snowflake motifs and handspun yarn.
I'm not sure if it's really cheating, but since I'm not sure I'm a good enough spinner to do fingering weight without a huge struggle I've decided to use Mountain Colors BearFoot yarn instead. So far, it's going fairly well, but I wonder what size foot these socks were designed for! I wear a size 8/8.5, and these look like they'll be a bit smaller than that, even though I'm using needles that are two sizes bigger than those recommended in the pattern. We'll see how it turns out.
The colors aren't as bright as the picture makes them appear--Rosehip is a deep, variegated maroon/red combination, while Blue-green is more a peacock blue--so the pattern is turning out to be fairly subtle. It can only really be seen if the light hits it just right. Oh. Looks like I'll be able to write another yarn review once I finish the first sock!

On a more somber note, Doggie is getting old. She turned 7 in August; that's pretty old for a Dane. Now that she's in her twilight, she's begun having some minor problems. Not arthritis and diminished eye sight, as might be expected, but she's been having some digestive troubles brought on by a bacterial imbalance. Poor thing. It's something fixable, but it's uncomfortable for her--and for those of us *ahem* who are on duty in the yard.
For the past couple of years we've been feeding her cooked ground turkey, which the vet assures us is fine, as long as we don't overfeed her, along with her usual dry food. This has happened once before: she goes off her usual food and we have to jump through hoops to figure out what will be more palatable to her. Right now, by some strange quirk, it's canned dog food mixed with yogurt, served over rice cooked in chicken broth and.... Poor dog. I guess now that she's an old lady she deserves to be spoiled. But whoever heard of dogs eating chicken fried rice? It's not the oily kind of fried rice.. it's just cooked in a frying pan with a minimum of oil, a little bit of soy sauce, and shredded chicken, peas, carrots, and water chestnuts.
Of course, the cats are jealous because there's chicken involved. They'll almost commit murder to get bits of shredded chicken.