Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Quizzy Stuff

Your sphere is Guardian (Person of great Love and Altruism), and your class is Defender (Peaceful, yet Potent).
You are a Warden.
To be a Warden is to be the ultimate Guardian. Whether a physical Guardian or an essential Guardian, is up to you. You may be both. To be a physical Guardian is to be a living, breathing testament to the love you carry for a person, or people, whose lives you will always defend if you possibly can. To be an essential Guardian is to be a living, breathing testament to the security that your wards seek, and will look to you for your always kind, always nurturing support.

What Kind of Warrior Are You?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

This doesn't belong in the "Miscellaneous" category, so I'm going to leave it label-less.

Dad called a little while ago. It's been a couple weeks since our last conversation, during which I got some updates on Grandpa's condition, which was declining more rapidly than expected. He's in Fargo right now and was calling to tell me Grandpa died at 2:33 this morning. No pain, he said, and no suffering, due no doubt to the morphine the hospital was giving him. I'm upset and have been crying a lot. Dad's sisters will probably be making the trek back to North Dakota to complete arrangements for funerals and such; dad will probably e-mail the rest of us with details and a copy of the obituary.
Mom said, and I agree with her, that Grandpa was just ready. I suggested we go out and plant a tree for him because, right now, that's the only thing I can think of to do. I'll go downstairs and light the candles when I feel like I can do anything without crying myself hoarse, and when Samhain rolls around again, I'll do something more.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

As The Mountains Cry

Movie you must see: Songcatcher. Not because it's popular--I'd never even heard of it until a few years ago--but because it makes a point about preserving who we are and what should be important, and because it's seriously relevant to the present. I won't say too much about it, but I seriously encourage you to find it and watch it.
It's almost done! Still have a bit to go on the bottom before I fold it and sew up the sides, but it should definitely be done in time for Beltane. The town's May Day celebration--alas!--falls on same day as the first day of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Tough decision. Tough, tough decision. Do I stick around and watch the local Morris Dancers do their thing, or do I go fondle woolly things and look for more ways to advance my fiber addiction? Tough decision.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Before and After

I really ended up not liking the way the "Crocuses" plied. As a single, it was fine; it looked awful.. well, see comments in previous post about the way it turned out. I didn't take a picture of the "before" stage, when it was plied and left in all its yellow/purple awfulness, but I took pictures of the "after". The "after" turned out pretty much the way I was hoping, though the colors are a little more intense than I expected; sunlight always makes things look a lot.. er... more intense. I've renamed it "Blood Oranges" even though I think the actual fruit is quite a bit redder on the inside than the yarn turned out. There's a lot of interplay between the shades of orange, while the purple turned more brownish than becoming a deeper purple. That's fine, 'cause anything is better than the yucky yellow/purple ick it looked like before. It's a nice warm color combination, which will lend itself well to to some nifty colorwork like this; I'm thinking my brown Cascade 220 will go with it quite nicely. I haven't done the WPI test yet, but I will... just in case.
That was about the end of good stuff today, I think, other than Rachael getting her package and me getting the yarn photographed--yay for sunlight! We mowed the grass for the first time this year while several other people in the neighborhood were busily engaged in similar yard reclamation activities. I dubbed the noise "Symphony For Two Lawn Mowers and A Barking Dog". The trees are leafing out, so there was also much sneezing to add to the din; I noticed the car now has a light dusting of--eek!--pollen on the hood, so I'm going to buy stock in Pfizer or whoever makes Benadryl (just kidding...) and thus be prepared for allergy season. Oh, and the ticks are starting to come out.. double Grrrrr: I found one in my hair when I came in from mowing and grubbing in the garden.
On top of that, the refrigerator door decided to start throwing things at me while I was getting my yogurt this morning. You know those little rails inside the door? The ones designed (supposedly) to restrain the enthusiasm of bottled products and pitchers of iced tea and filtered water? The one in the middle, which contained two bottles of beer, a bottle of ketchup, a pitcher of water, one of iced tea, a bottle of double black soy sauce, and one of vanilla extract, decided to throw all of the above at me when I opened the door. Argh! I jumped back and cried, "Fork!", which made mom laugh. After I got the bottles rearranged, mess cleaned up, and the rail reattached, I took out the trash and said, "Sorry I dropped the F bomb..."
"That's all right," mom said. "I think it was justified."
And this is only Tuesday.. I wonder if there's a correlation between taxes falling on a Tuesday and some alignment (or misalignment) of cosmic forces all coming together to cause these relatively minor catastrophes? Yes, I know it's an oxymoron....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Slacker R I

Maryland Sheep and Wool is coming up at the beginning of May and I'm hoping to go. The only problem is I HAVE NO ROOM FOR MORE ANYTHING. My two plastic tubs are full and I have several cardboard boxes packed with roving--one less since I've now actually spun most of what I got at MSWF last year--waiting to be dyed and spun or just spun, depending on my whim. The past two weeks have been busy wheel-wise, but there's been precious little knitting going on. I don't know why, but when the weather gets nice and sunny, the wheel starts whispering to me while the knitting bag gets left on the siding. That Evil Ambition sweater is never going to be finished... sigh.

Here we have Exhibit A. Last summer, Barb came over to help get all dyed and dirty with wool, and after scratching our heads and trying to figure out what could possibly go with the brown/gray of the Navajo Churro wool, I chose green and yellow. The original dye job was fairly streaky and made the roving resemble a diminutive hay bail. After it spent the next two days hanging up in the bathroom to dry, I left it alone for eight months while I was busy knitting and being otherwise delinquent in regard to my spinning wheel. Last week, though, I fished it out of the cardboard box and.. well, you can see the result. This stuff is so fuzzy! Is that what spinners mean when they talk about a halo? I dubbed it "Leaves of Grass"; it reminds me of.. well, that sould be fairly self-explanatory..
And here we have Exhibit B. This, alas, did not come from MSWF. It's mill end roving from Sheep Shed Studio, which also got a nifty new dye job and sat in a box for eight months before I decided to start spinning it. It was a lot easier to draft than the Navajo. It was also considerably less fuzzy and didn't shed bits of itself all over the front of my clothes the way the other stuff did. The dye job was dark red and black on a white background. Spun into singles, it looked a little bit like the striations on some kind of jasper, which is what I named it. Plied with itself, it looks a bit less like the original striations, but to me it still looks like some kind of jasper.
And, last but not least, we have Exhibit C, which did come from MSWF and was part of the dye session with Barb. The roving, she thought, looked like lemon meringue pie smeared with blackberry jam. Spun into singles, it looks like crocuses, which is what I though I'd call it. Alas, however, when I plied it with itself, that lovely crocusy interplay was lost and now it looks pretty awful. I'm hoping to correct this by overdyeing it with red, which should intensify the purple and turn the yellow into orange. In theory, that is.
What I'll do with all this yarn, in addition to what's already in my stash--I've long since reached the SABLE stage and have jokingly told Barb I'll leave her my yarn in my will if I should happen to die an untimely death--is a mystery. Oh, I'm sure I'll actually knit some of it into something useful, but the rest might just end up being mailed off to parts unknown.

Something funny just happened. Queen Bean is old and cranky, and she barks for no reason at all, especially when there's nothing going on outside. She did that just now and I went down to investigate in case there happened to be a cat at the door or something. I threw open the door and--surprise!--there was a college student standing there. I really didn't expect there to be anyone standing there, so I screamed because I was so surprised. He was very nice about it and said his dog barks at nothing all the time, too. Poor kid. Probably had no idea he was going to get screamed at in the line of duty.
I is a cornflake  honest
see more crazy cat pics

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pocket Meadow Rides Again

Mr. Cheesecake needs no introduction, really, so I'll dispense with his fanfare and say only that he's cheesecake: cheesecake with a hefty slug of Bailey's and with a Nutella slathered over the top to hide the cracks caused by too much surface area and too much baking. He gave his life to feed hungry knitters, but no one seemed inclined to eat his boutonniere, which mom swears up and down really was edible.
Below, we have a variety of pictures of knitters being photogenic. I am absent from all of them because--obviously--I was the one taking the pictures. One of the others was also absent from the pictures even though I made every effort to include the top of of her head in at least one picture because she insisted on ducking below the lens every time I tried to take her picture. You know who you are, so I won't name names. *AHEM!* I'll just have to try harder at the next meeting.

Otherwise here are pictures of the Pocket Meadow Farm Posse: K, daughter of the knitter who tried (and succeeded) to dodge the camera; Mom and J discussed something related to farming, with things woolly thrown in as well; Ellen, Mom, and J pretending not to mind they're being photographed. Next is M (not mother of K.. that's the other M) casting on something complicated by means of an equally complicated method of casting on; Mom, Ellen, and J (who is partly out of the shot yet again) survey the remains of Mr. Cheesecake and the success of J's llama/wool ruffled scarf.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I got another parking ticket today and I suspect sulphurous fumes issued from my mouth when I spoke to the young lady who so enjoyed writing it. I wished her a good day in as icy a tone as I could manage and took myself and my parking ticket to the police department to ask for an explanation, which was, as usual "I don't make the policy, I just enforce it." I seem to recall a number of nice German chaps who said similar things a few decades back... and it wasn't to do with collecting a $25-bloody-parking ticket! I was also told that I could either pay the ticket or appear for a hearing to appeal. WHAT?!
Just because the town government wants to push all the middle class people out by making the metered parking a dollar an hour and doing things like taking down all the "Free Parking" signs when college starts just so the students can't park on the main street and *gasp* take up the spaces potential customers might use should they choose to patronize the lovely establishments thereon, and by sending around bovine meter maids to collect yet more money doesn't mean it's right and good. I repeat what I said when I got my first parking ticket: Just because no one questions it? Doesn't make it right. We're not sheep, you know.
I wasn't rude. I was calm. I was bloody well furious that I parked in front of someone's--the person I happened to be visiting, thank you--house and was there for half an hour to drop off some tomato seeds and have a cup of tea before I went grocery shopping and--horror of horrors--because I didn't have a bloody guest tag on my rear view mirror, I'm slapped with a $25 parking ticket. Yes, those of you who live in big cities probably shriek with laughter at the thought of a $25 ticket being outrageous compared to the $100+ tickets that do exist, but the small town universe I live in is a different animal. Allow me to add, too, that parking tickets less than a decade ago cost a mere $6 on the college campus; they later rose to $11. Did anyone complain? No. They paid their cotton pickin' parkin' tickets and went on their merry way. And here we are with $25 parking tickets.
Bleh. Okay. Rant is now finished.

Say Something Latinish

Okay. During the last couple of quizzie things, Rachael and I have gotten identical results; this time, however, things turned out a bit different. Hers was blue and said "Magister Mundi Sum". Mine.. well, see to the left. I looked up the translation online and it was something to do with not managing, and government not being poetic. But I will bow to Rachael's Latinish abilities, 'cause she's qualified and online translations aren't always known to hit the mark. I wonder what the swing question was? The one about vampires where the answers were 1. run, 2. stake them, 3. Are they hot? 4. become a vampire. Or could it have been the next question where said vampires try to foist off religious pamphlets--I knew there was something odd about those door-to-door people...--to which the answers are 1. run. 2. Stake them. I'm irritated now. 3. Accept pamphlets. 4. Give them pamphlets of your own.
I was particularly amused by the answers to those two questions and had to read them to mom while I was taking the quiz because they made me laugh so hard.
Tuesday was knit-night at Pocket Meadow and I took pictures this time! Yay! Pictures of people, pictures of cheesecake, but no pictures of cats because they inevitably hide when a camera comes out (at least in my experience, they do... or they strike pornographic poses that show their least picturesque parts precisely because they know no one wants to photograph such things). I'll post the pictures as soon as I get them cropped and resized.
In the meantime, I've decided (and Kim from the knitting group agreed with me) that my Evil Ambition sweater will be a one-sleeve affair as an avant garde fashion statement. I'm not sure what the statement is, really, but I always feel this way when I get to the sleeves on a sweater: they never seem to end. Alternatively, I could do what Ellen suggested and just make them 3/4 length and just wear something with long sleeves under it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Taking Cuttings

I'm still having minor problems with the lining. It got crinkled, so while the corners are square at the ends, the edges aren't perfectly square. I know it's silly and that aesthetics don't have much to do with how the soap works as far as cleaning goes, but it's turned into a challenge and I have every intention of getting this mastered. Someone on Ravelry suggested getting sheets of heat proof mylar cut at the craft store, then trimming those down and sticking them into the mold. She says they probably won't need replacing or even need any spraying with any vegetable oil or anything to make it easy to peel it off when it comes time to unmold.
I must say I'm not mad about the color, but since this was supposed to be a shampoo-type bar, I didn't think adding any clays as colorant would be a good idea. I could have added something like calendula petals, which would have made it even yellower (the picture doesn't show it very well, but it's sort of a soft golden color because of how the lye reacted with the beer), but since the soap traced so quickly and I didn't really think about it before I got started, I didn't have time to add anything for coloring or fragrance.
Willow, who knows more about soap than I could ever hope to learn, suggests that it'll take more than four weeks of curing: the longer it cures, the better the bar and the bubblier it'll be, she says. So it may well end up being closer to eight weeks or so. Sigh!

It seems I've been tagged! O.O I've never done a meme before, but here goes:
Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules.
3. Share a 6 word philosophy of life
4. Tag 3 other people

1. Madame Melissa done it!
2. Rules.. see above.
3. Philosophy in six words? That's a toughie. I'm not sure I have a life philosphy... certainly not one I can encapsulate in six words.
3. Three people to tag... Rachael (of course!), Lyndsey-Jane (who needs another meme :P)... and I honestly can't think of a third person at this precise moment.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Here they is. I made one small change and used beer with honey in it instead of using soap and beer separately; I strongly suggest doing the latter because it gives you more control over how quickly the soap reaches full trace. Because I used Blue Moon Honey Moon ale the soap reached trace after about five minutes; I'll be keeping an eye on it for the rest of the evening to see whether I get the honey-ooze problem. The lye solution went into the oils when the oil was 125 degrees; the lye solution was about 100 degrees after I left it outside to cool. I'm not sure whether this had any bearing on how quickly the soap hit full trace. Mmph.. I need to consult the experts and see if they have any ideas. This will be cut into bars tomorrow and left to cure for four weeks before it gets used; I always have trouble waiting... must be patient.. must be patient... must be patient.

The mold's lid, for reasons unknown, refused to fit properly; after I finally got it stuffed into the top of the box, I wrapped an old bath towel around it as added insulation. Yes, I peeked. I always do when I'm making soap... how else would I know if it's going the way it's supposed to? :P The next phase after pouring shows the soap becoming opaque as the chemical reaction creates heat.

After the soap turns opaque, the reaction continues. I didn't take chemistry in college and I barely lived through it in high school, but in essence, the acids (the oils) and the base (the lye) use the water to combine and make little polymer chains. It's those little polymer chains that do the cleaning when you lather up in the shower: they attract and cling to particles of dirt and drag them around and down the drain. Something like that. The continuing reaction changes the appearance of the soap a second time during what's called the gel phase. No, it doesn't mean the soap is wobbling around like a jello mold; I have no idea why it's called the gel phase, but during this part of the process, the soap goes from opaque to transluscent as shown below. If you touch the outside of the mold during this phase you'll notice that the temperature is quite a bit warmer than it was when you originally poured the raw soap. This is why it's called "cold process": there's no external heat supplied to drive the chemical reaction, so all the heat produced is by the reaction itself. Nifty, huh? Anyway.. gel phase:The next twenty hours or so will allow the soap to continue reacting and end up with a nice, firm block of soap. After 24 or 36 hours (or even 48, if you think you can wait that long... I never can!), you can turn the soap out of the mold, cut it into bars, and put it on a paper-lined tray or table to cure. Four weeks is a long time to wait... must be patient... must be patient... must be patient....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

You shampoo, you!

28 oz olive oil
6 oz coconut oil
6 oz castor oil
4 oz wheat germ oil
5.83 oz lye
1 tbsp honey added when raw soap has reached light trace--honey speeds things up, so be careful.
14 oz beer

Pulled this together this evening after a lively discussion of shampoo-related bars on Ravelry; this is all stuff I have stashed in the pantry or laundry room. It's already been run through the Mystic Mountain lye calculator, so I'm fairly certain it's safe. I'll leave some beer out overnight to go flat before I take a stab at making it; pictures will be posted sometime during the week; if the weather is good tomorrow, I will definitely make this stuff. Frangrance oils are left out, though if anyone plans to add any, I wouldn't do more than about 1 or 2% of total volume of the oils (44 oz x .02= .88 oz, which is about 1 tbsp and 2 tsp).