Thursday, December 31, 2009
Among the tricks I've picked up while hanging out in the Spindlers Ravelry group, there's a neat video demonstrating a ply-on-the-fly technique. As far as I can tell, it's sort of a modified (?) Navajo plying technique that gives you a three-ply yarn without the necessity of fiddling with three spindles at once. Or four, counting the one doing the actual plying. It's still a little fiddly since you have to stop every so often, loop the yarn, ply it, then wind the plied yarn around the shaft before resuming with the single strand. It makes more sense if you watch the video, though. ;)
So that's what I've been trying to do after I did such a crummy job of spinning the mulberry silk. Poor silk. It deserved better treatment than being used to relearn the art of drop spindling. I've progressed, though, and have two spindles with fiber on them. The fire agate has some of SallyInWales's hand dyed BFL on it, and I'm finding out that having a notch in the whorl really does help. Even if I choose not to take advantage of it, having it there feels better--sort of like training wheels, I guess--because, if the single slips, the notch will probably keep it from getting away from me.
The cedar spindle does have a notch, and I've made more progress with it--it's starting to fill up, which means I'll have to figure out how to move the cop from the shaft to some other storage thingy before I can keep going. The Mountain Colors Targhee is really, really easy to spin (for some reason I'm finding the BFL a little more challenging.. go figure).
I've been considering expanding my collection and, after dithering, I picked a Dragoncraft spindle with gorgeous blue swirls and a moon embedded in it. It took a little wiggling to get the whorl really tightly in place, but I think I've got it on there well enough that it won't come off without a lot of abuse... which I certainly don't intend to dish out. This one weigh just a tiny bit less than the other two (the fire agate weighs 1.48 oz and the cedar weighs 1.44 oz) at 1.3 oz, but is still considered a mid-weight spindle. I've been operating under the assumption that lighter weights produce lighter yarns, but a number of people have suggested that this is false and that an experienced spinner could probably use any size spindle to make even very light yarns. I'm not sure that's true for, say, a 2 oz spindle, though, since some people recommend using heavier ones for plying. It's a puzzle. O.o
It was purely coincidental, I'm sure, that the package arrived on a day that, while also the day of New Year's Eve, falls on a blue moon. In view of the utter blueness of the day, I picked up the blue Corriedale/bamboo blend--I gave up after having been frustrated by its quirky, slubby nature--and took another stab at spinning it. It's going better than my initial attempt, which may well be due in part to my practice with the other two spindles. The picture doesn't do the spindle justice... or the fiber, for that matter.
There are all kinds of little white and brown hairs in the mix. It seems I wasn't as thorough about cleaning my cards as I thought I was, so there's a little bit of alpaca fluff still stuck in there, and it's giving the yarn an interesting texture.
All this fiber! Combined with the sock yarn mom gave me for Christmas, I may never surface except to blink blearily at the outside world and make Grinch-like comments before I disappear again. Now it looks like I really do need a bigger jar to stash my spindles in... *sigh!*
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This leaves me with a dilemma: the burnt mitt has unsightly brown scorch marks on it, so do I somehow frog what remains of it and knit the yarn into something else, or do I toss it and knit another mitt--assuming I can dig up another ball of yarn in the right colorway, or do I toss them both and knit a new pair with some wonderful new yarn?
The options for the latter will likely not include Malabrigo. I've found that it pills quite badly after less than two months of wear; mom's mitts are in bad shape and either need to be plucked or shaved to rid them of all the little bits of fuzz. Otherwise, the list will probably be something like this:
1. Frog Tree Merino Worsted. This is iffy since it's a softly spun single that might well pill as badly as the Malabrigo. The upshot is that it's soft and probably won't itch.
2. Noro Kureyon. Doesn't pill horrendously, even after two years of heavy winter wear. It does, however, itch a little.
3. Patons Classic Wool. Not too itchy, not too soft, and probably won't pill as badly since it's plied.
4. KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Worsted. Also plied and neither too soft nor too itchy. It does pill, at least in the form of sweaters, but might be well suited to something like mitts.
5. Bartlett Yarns Fisherman 3-ply. This might be too itchy for mitts...
Wow. I have less in the way of worsted yarn than I thought I did. Lots of sock yarn, lots of lace yarn, but where did all my worsted go? O.o
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
3 chicken breasts cut into bite-size-ish pieces
1 tbsp peanut oil (or other, if you have allergies)
3 oz Pinot Grigio or other white whine (yes, I know it's misspelled)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp coarse dijon mustard
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp flour
1/2 tsp spice blend (see below)
salt and pepper to taste
1 8 oz bag of shredded carrots and broccoli, or other shredded vegetables
Sautee the chicken over medium-high heat until it's cooked almost completely; season with salt and pepper. Whisk the wine, lemon juice, and mustard in a small bowl and use the liquid to deglaze the pan. Add flour, butter, and spices, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and add the vegetables, tossing to coat with the sauce. Put the lid back on the pan for about five minutes to let the vegetables steam.
Spice blend: Equal parts ground ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, chimayo pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg, and pimenton dulce. Mix the spices together and store them in a jar. This goes pretty well with just about everything from fish to soup.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Then came the Sockdown challenge. First, it was yellow, then it was men's socks (like I know enough men who deserve handknit socks *snort*), and now it's mosaic knitting. The yellow challenge wasn't really a challenge as much as it was an experiment to see if I could knit in a color that wasn't my usual blue/green. Coinciding with the yellow sock, there was the sock with little lace cat footprints marching up the leg; one sock is finished, the other hasn't even begun. I tried twice to do the October Sockdown and failed completely with Nancy Bush's Gentlemen's Socks With Lozenge Pattern.
I keep saying it isn't the pattern designer's fault, and it's really not. I crave challenges and colors to test my knitty mettle; most challenges aren't insurmountable, but when the pattern offers only one option as far as size goes, I start to get annoyed, especially when my meagre math skills end up going completely out the window. Funny.. I can do enough algebra to tell you how far it is from the corner of the house to the other end of the solar system, and to figure out the rate of speed of a ballbearing falling from Point A to Point B, but I can't for the life of me adjust a sock pattern from a men's 11.5 to a men's 6.5. It sounds simple to subtract stitches, but is it really that easy?
Okay. So October Sockdown was a complete failure. November is obviously in progress, and so far I'm doing fairly well with the mosaic knitting. My only problem, however, is that the yarn I chose--of all the glorious indie-dyer yarn languishing in my basket--the two shades of brown KnitPicks Palette are utterly and completely blah! In ball form, there's enough contrast to show that yes, they really are two different hues. Knit together, though? It's too subtle and neither color pops enough to do the pattern justice.
I'm knitting more slowly than my fellows, some of whom are knitting amazing socks that look like little pieces of knitterly Op Art without the headache inducing stripes, so it's pretty likely I won't finish my November socks during the month of November.
Holiday knitting? There isn't much this year. Last year's knitted gifts ended up crammed in the backs of people's sock drawers and were never used or enjoyed. That takes a big chunk out of my to-do list, really, and means there's more yarn for me to be selfish about. Not that I don't still have good-sized to-do list: Mitts for two different people, a pair of socks for someone else, and a scarf for someone else. This all hinges, however, on whether or not I can find patterns appropriate to the people in question, yarn appropriate to said patterns, time to knit the objects, and enough swallows to dispatch as couriers.
This, naturally, begs the question "What... is the velocity of an unladen swallow?"
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
We're having company tomorrow to overnight, so for the past couple of weeks, things have been moved around, rearranged, taken upstairs, taken downstairs, shoved into storage space, or otherwise removed from the house in an effort to make things tidier. Last week, though, it rained almost all week and was about 40 degrees during the day. That meant there firewood needed to be hauled into the house, the stove needed to be cleaned and the ashes dumped in the garden, and then more cleaning because ash and bits of bark go everywhere. The wood got soaked even through the tarp, which made starting the stove a bit of a struggle.
Then we found out our elderly friend died, which has made us feel even less like doing house-related stuff, let alone have company in the first place. *sigh*
Then there was the Night of the Butter Peeps, which was pretty damned scary, especially since I was outside when the thing was making that terrible racket. 11:30 at night, raining, pitch black outside, and no visible source of unearthly wailing screams would probably be enough to make a few doughty souls flee, which was exactly what I did. I dragged the dog into the house, slammed the door and leaned against it, then fell on the couch and sniffled. I'm not given to hysteria, but I was frightened enough to cry. I still have no idea what the source of the noise was, but after all my research I have a pretty good idea what it wasn't--foxes, deer, owls, raccoons, black bears, rabbits, and possums don't produce such a sound, even under extreme duress. That leaves some twerp pulling a prank or some other animal heretofore unidentified. Mom, in an attempt to cheer me up, decreed that October 15 will henceforth be known as the Night of the Butter Peeps, and that we will celebrate by making a s'more cake with some sort of marshmallow peeps as the decoration.
There have been other annoyances not really worth detailing here, but I'm really ready for October to be over, because hopefully November will be better.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I remember being about eleven or so when my parents went to Europe for a vacation; since there were no relatives to babysit, I stayed with Frances and her parents, and also with Madame. She would walk me to school every morning and, as we walked, she would talk and I would listen; among the things she spoke of was the complete account of the achievements of Charlemagne, encapsulated to fit the fifteen minutes it took to walk from her apartment above the bakery to the elementary school. After school, she would help me with my math homework and mutter the calculations under her breath, always in Hungarian, while she checked things using a little slate and a piece of chalk.
Years later, we would talk about books and current events; she was scandalized because I revealed I had no idea who Charlie Rose was, and that I didn't watch his show. She would issue forceful pronouncements about the behavior of this president or that politician, daring me to debate with her. I would lend her books on mythology, and she'd suggest something more popular like The DaVinci Code.
About eight years ago, she suffered a stroke that left her partially paralized; she went to a convalescent home and, with the help of physical therapists, was able to regain some of the abilities she lost. Later, she moved elsewhere, and then moved again, this time to Switzerland. She came back for her birthday a few years ago. It was difficult for me to see how much she'd changed from the vibrant, outspoken, strong person she'd been all through my childhood. Her daughter, in the meantime, kept us updated through letters with reports of both progress and decline; other friends who went abroad to visit her at the nursing home in Switzerland also told us how she was doing.
Today we got a phonecall telling us she's dead. Mom took the call and, somewhere between the birth of her friend's first grandchild and a bouncing e-mail, there came the news.
Through her life, she was a dancer, a swordswoman, a nurse, a physical therapist, and a teacher. She was a traveller, a reader, an avid witness to the changes in the political climate. She wrote letters, read books, took long walks every day, and took the time to help an eleven-year-old learn long division. She loved coffee ice cream, tulips and white carnations, believed strongly in the benefits of charcoal tablets, and enjoyed watching sunsets from the window of her apartment above the bakery. She was gracious, generous, a wonderful storyteller and listener, and enjoyed friendships with people of all ages and walks of life.
I'll miss you, Madame.
Monday, October 12, 2009
This being said, my I Covet You list now consists of the following:
1. Dream In Color's Smooshy in Butter Peeps (I'm completely obsessed with this colorway for reasons I'm at a loss to explain.)
2. Enchanted Knoll Farm's fingering weight in Dragon's Blood.
3. Pagewood Farm's Alyeska in Ireland.
4. Black Bunny Fiber's Blue-Faced Leicester in How Now (which does not, apparently, come with a brown cow.. go figure.)
5. The Alpaca Yarn Company's Heels and Toes in Purple Rain (No, I'm not now and have never claimed to be a fan of you-know-who. I just really like the interplay of purples in the yarn.)
6. Earthly Hues' Seedling in Foxfire.
7. Fly Designs's Cashmara Sock in Blood Red and Brick.
8. Lisa Souza's Sock! in Wild Things.
9. Three Irish Girls' McClellan in Rhiannon and Kieran.
10. Slackford Studio's Pathway Sock in Pesto.
11. Abundant Yarn's Larrisa Brown Sock in Jules Verne.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Appetizer: The pumpkin fondue thingie with appropriate bits of things to dip.
Soup: Pumpkin soup with cream, sherry, and sausage. Annadamma bread, while not made with pumpkin, tastes vaguely pumpkin-y, so that or some sort of brioche.
Main course: Pumpkin lasagne with Italian sausage and mushrooms. And salad.. I'm not sure there would be pumpkin there, but you need salad... right?
Dessert: Pumpkin cheesecake with a molasses-spice cookie crust. And coffee. Have to have coffee.
The whole pumpkin thing is really making me want to make these, which means I would need to either roast my own pumpkin seeds or find a good source for fresh pumpkin seeds.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The first recipe I tried was this one. The texture was a little lighter, but I made a couple of mistakes; I forgot the baking soda and used too much milk. Somehow, though, they turned out pretty well. The second I tried was this one, and somehow, the texture came out very dense and cakey, and I don't like it at all. Turns out I forgot to add baking soda again, which could have something to do with the problem. They're okay, I guess--everything goes better with a bourbon-nutmeg glaze, doesn't it?
I'd like to try one of the King Arthur donut mixes at some point, but I don't really want to pay UPS shipping for one package of donut mix, no matter how good it might be!
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup powdered sugar
about 2 tbsp bourbon
Friday, September 18, 2009
I've got some Susan Bates needles in sizes 1, 2, and 3, and the smaller sizes actually hurt my hands. They work perfectly well to knit with, but using them is never comfortable. I also have a couple sets of Clover bamboo needles, which are fine for knitting socks; they grip the yarn without being sticky, they're comfortable to handle, but the tips are a little on the blunt side for my tastes and they tend to chip over time. Next on the list, I've got two sets of KnitPicks Harmony needles with which I have a love/hate relationship. The tips aren't extremely stabby, but they're sharp enough to slide through stitches easily; the resin impregnated wood is comfortable in my hands, but it can split apart at the ends, which results in yarn snags and occasional sharp edges that can snag my fingers as well. I have one set of KnitPicks nickle-plated needles, too, but I rarely use them because they're so cold to knit with and the seven inch length is a little tricky for me to fiddle with. They're smooth, of course, and rather slippery--metal doesn't usually grip yarn, does it?
Last, I've also had (no longer, alas) a set of Brittany birch needles in smaller sizes. After a while, these also chipped at the ends and I had to smooth the edges with sandpaper to keep the yarn from snagging; the smaller sizes made me feel like I was knitting with toothpicks and, yes, I did break one of the needles while I was trying on a sock--that's how I ended up with my first set of Harmony needles.
I now appeal to my knitterly buddies: Can you recommend double-pointed needles that are comfortable to knit with, slightly stabby-sharp, and of a more economical price range than the Signature needles?
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
The Rivendell socks are going fairly well; I finished the first one a few days ago and it fits. I made a few minor modifications, like going up a needle size and using a different type of cast on than the one suggested. My go-to cast on is usually the knitted one, but it's pretty un-stretchy and doesn't work very well for sock cuffs because I tend to do it too tightly and then knit through the backs of the stitches on the first row. This means that I have to learn a new cast on besides the evil backward-loop.
When I first learnt to knit about twenty years ago, my elderly neighbor taught me the backward-loop method. The problem was that because she was left-handed, she taught me to cast on as though I were also a southpaw, so I've always done a reversed-backward-loop and never learnt to do it the right-handed way. For me, the backward-loop always produces a long gap between the next loop to be worked and the right-hand needle, which generally means I use the dangly yarn between the needles to cast on extra stitches and take up the slack. As a result, this is my least favorite method to use; that's why I started using the knitted cast on.
The lack of flexibility in the knitted cast on is fine for things that don't really need a lot of give, like shawls or potholders, or maybe even a sweater--if you're one of those people who does it loosely and hits the gauge dead on without having to swatch, maybe it matters even less--but it's probably not your best bet for a nice, stretchy sock cuff. Since most patterns seem to call for the long-tail method anyway--which I've mistakenly thought was the backward-loop for the last five years... oops--it's probably better to stick with what the pattern suggests unless you just don't care.
After consulting a number of sage souls on Ravelry, I headed off to YouTube to see what the twisted German cast on was all about. Rumor has it that it's super-stretchy and is about on the same level as the long-tail cast on. I skipped the long-tail videos altogether and, after watching the same video (KnitWitch, your video is to blame for my new brand of delinquency) about fifteen times to make sure I knew what I was doing, I cast on the second Rivendell sock. And the cuff is way more flexible than the first one I did. The downside is that I misjudged the amount of yarn I'd need to do the required 63 stitches and was left with a tail about a foot long even after I finished. This, I've been told, probably isn't uncommon since there's a lot of trial and error involved calculating the exact amount. The first time I tried to cast on, I didn't leave enough extra yarn to make a 63 stitch cuff. Needless to say, I frogged the cuff and had to start all over; my sock now has a little blob of blue yarn hanging at the beginning of the round.
I said the sock was going well... and it really is.. or will be if I can figure out where I made my mistake. I've finished the first chart and am two rows into the second, and it's that second row that's got me puzzled. I have the right number of stitches, but for some reason I can't seem to get them arranged the right way so the twisted stitch does what it's supposed to. Since I obviously finished the first sock and got something that actually vaguely resembles the pattern in the book, then I should be able to manage the second one just fine. Right?
I broke down and ordered more sock yarn. *sigh* Just two skeins, but that's enough to set my fingers twitching at all the possibilities. It should arrive tomorrow, and that's not quite soon enough for me. The CraftsMeow's proprietoress does gorgeous work.. it's going to be tough to decide which pattern will go best with which yarn.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Last year, before her first book came out, I found--and I don't remember how--the pattern for Nordic Lights on the Spindlicity website. My attempt at knitting the socks wasn't a complete disaster, but it probably would have been better if I'd gone up a full needle size instead of just half. That wasn't the author's fault at all, but it was certainly mine since I didn't--as usual--do a gauge swatch or periodic checks to see if the sock would fit. I liked the pattern so much, I asked for a copy of the finished book for Christmas, and I'm just now getting around to tackling one of the patterns from it. The rest of the patterns in the book are amazing. There's colorwork, there's lace, there are cables, cuff down, toe up, sideways... something for everyone, really. I have plans to knit a certain pair of socks for a certain scientifically-inclined friend if I can track down some yarn worthy of the task. Ms. Laidman's thorough descriptions of the necessary techniques are covered in the index... with pictures, no less!
The subtitle "Socks For Adventurous Knitters" definitely fits. I don't really consider myself an expert knitter, but neither am I a novice, so when I read through the instructions for the Rivendell socks, I thought I'd be fine as long as I stuck to the directions and remembered to go up a full needle size. I'm still progressing through the leg of the first sock and it's taken me three days, two different types of yarn, and three frogs to figure it out. Even with pictures, I had some difficulty with the concept of wrapped, clustered stitches, and it took the assistance of several people on Ravelry to get it sorted out--thank you ElvaUndine, Greenethumb, et al. Once I succeeded, however, I felt quite sheepish because it's really not as difficult or confusing as it seems at first glance.
Rivendell's complexities are best served by yarn with subtle shading or a solid color and not, as I found out, the wildly shifting colors of something like Kauni or Patons Kroy Sox FX. Thank the Mother of All for the two balls of Dalegarn Daletta hiding in my stash, though I find myself fantasizing over knitting another pair in something like this...
Saturday, August 29, 2009
3:30 PM: It’s absolutely quiet. Even the cicadas seemed to be snoozing, perhaps anticipating the impending flood of unnatural noise.
4:30 PM: Noise from the park is audible over the box fan, air conditioner, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. It appears I crowed prematurely. If it continues to increase in volume, I shall unearth headphones and continue to listen to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar while knitting.
7:56 PM: Now clearly audible over air conditioner, box fan, and Johnny Dollar. Mom and I have to shout at each other to be heard from five feet away. Forget the headphones, I want earplugs.
8:48 PM: A brief lull, followed by throbbing bass and someone who clearly can't sing wailing into a microphone. Supposedly only another twelve minutes of this nonsense.
In an attempt to do something constructive during today's... lovely activities, I cast on for a pair of Rivendell socks and was promptly stymied by the third row of the pattern. I understand how to do the clustered stitches, but I'm not quite sure what to do at the end of Row 3. Theoretically, you can divide the cuff of the sock into three needles of 21 stitches, and after knitting two rows of the ribbing, you start working Chart A (or Chart 1, if you prefer). Row 3 goes something like this: Cluster four stitches, follow the pattern for the next 14 stitches, cluster seven stitches, work 14 stitches, cluster another seven stitches, and so on until you get to the end of the row. But what happens next? Is it cluster three stitches or is it cluster seven by picking up the first four stitches of the following row? I'm so confused! I'll refrain from speculating on whether or not the volume of the Awful Din has affected the way my synapses work....
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The blurb on her blog explains the award thusly:
Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know that feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt award is all about: feeling warm inside!
Put the logo on your blog/post. Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside. Be sure to link to your nominees within the post. Let them know about the award by commenting on their blog. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.
My nominations are:
Christybelle of Confessions Of A Misplaced Southern Belle
Rachael of Modo Vernant Omnia
Clara of Purly Everlasting
And everyone else whose blogs I read faithfully.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I've made several recipes from our copy of the book and every single one of them had to be tweaked one way or another to account for either modern equipment or modern ingredients--like 1975 is somehow medieval and cooking is really alchemy. Such examples include the muffins. Muffins? I like my muffins a little to the cakey side, not as bread dough cleverly shaped to resemble a slightly pyramidal muffin. Waffles? I like my waffle batter to be a little stiffer than runny yogurt, which is exactly the consistency I got when I followed the recipe to the letter. Shortbread? The jury's still out because the dough is stashed in the fridge to chill, but the recipe did require quite a lot of tweaking to get a consistency more like the results I got last time I made shortbread.
The untweaked recipe calls for a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, two eggs, two and a half cups of flour, sour cream, and a teaspoon of baking powder. I took one look at the glop in the mixing bowl and shook my head. And this is somehow supposed to be rollable-outable? I don't think anything short of a stint in the freezer would have made such a thing possible, and even then it would probably have been like the Blob oozing around on the marble slab.
The tweaked recipe is below:
Almond Coconut Shortbread
1 c unsalted butter
1 c granulated sugar
3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
shredded coconut (enough to make things interesting but not enough to end up with macaroons)
4 oz slivered almonds (toasted, if you want a more intense almond flavor)
1 tsp vanilla
Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla, salt, and eggs until smooth, and add flour gradually. Add almonds and shredded coconut and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Divid dough in half and roll into a cylinder using waxed paper; chill for a couple of hours or until firm. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4 inch slices; put on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet before moving them too a cutting board or cooling rack.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
There's a rock concert planned for the little park in our neighborhood. Forget planned! They've been actively promoting it. From what I've been told, the town sprang for electrical hookups in the park and this will allow any and all to use amplifiers for their music.
To say I hate music is absolutely incorrect. Once upon a time, there was a man who went up to the park to play his bagpipes. As it turned out, he was preparing to perform at a wedding. Then there was the elderly man who took his fiddle to the park one spring afternoon. There was also a classmate of mine who went up there to play his banjo, and I suppose there have been other people who have gone to take advantage of the quiet to practice penny whistles. None of them used amplifiers and none of the residents were bothered. So it's really not the music that bothers me, but the fact that if it's amplified, it's impossible to escape without actually fleeing town and/or buying earplugs.
I question the wisdom of the coordinators' choice of venue. A 1.5 acre park at the end of a dead-end street is hardly the right place to have a charity event for a number of reasons--parking, inability of emergency services to get through if needed, impact on residents who may not necessarily want to hear a garage band blasting at top volume, impact on the wildlife who may be terrified, not only of the noise, but also of the people tromping all over their habitat without any thought for what might be living there. The promoters had a number of other options: the university football stadium, the university concert hall, the university's new theatre building, the big park outside of town. All of those have electricity ample parking which would not only allow the tourists to fall out of their cars and into the venue without having to walk two or three blocks through August heat while perspiring and carrying picnic baskets, toddlers, and whatever impedimenta required to enjoy a concert. And yet, the promoters chose the park here. The only reason I can think of is that the venue, if you can call it that, is a mere stone's throw from the commercial district.
For about twenty years, dad's said that the town government's main aim is to further the interests of the two-block commercial district. None of the merchants will benefit from the concert because they're all closing in protest--which I say with heavy irony. Nor are they the ones who are affected by the problem since--surprise--most of them don't live locally, let alone in our neighborhood. Of course, if asked, most of them would probably say it's a wonderful idea to have a steady stream of people listening to a steady stream of amplified noise because it's for a good cause. I think there's a flaw there somewhere. Ahem.
The whole thing reminds me of a scene in As Time Goes By. Lionel has gone to Norwich to plug his book and is unaware that the publisher has presented it as a gritty, nonfiction adventure in which a coffee planter hacks his way through the Kenyan wilderness while slaughtering elephants. In response to the publicity, a number of students attend the lecture in the hope of protesting the apparent atrocities committed against the elephants of Kenya by Lionel-the-elephant-killer. One of the students stands up and says, "Because of you, my children may never see a wild elephant!"
There may not be any wild elephants here, but thanks to the thoughtful people downtown, there are generations yet unborn who might never see an oriole or a bluebird in an urban setting, or hear the foxes barking or the woodpecker knocking. Dramatic? Maybe, but definitely apropos.
Edit: 12:30 August 13- Found this article. Am in total sympathy with the citizens of Prague but doubt that Madonna will cancel her concert just because three thousand people are against it. I wish them luck in their attempt, though!
Friday, July 31, 2009
Summer has been relatively cool here. It’s a rare day that the temperature breaks 90; the norm is usually somewhere between 80 and 85 on most days, and the humidity hasn’t been too bad. Today, however, it’s actually cold, which means it' must be somewhere between 60 and 70. I’m wearing a sweater and fuzzy socks, which is definitely weird for the last day of July. There’s so much moisture in the air that there’s no point in baking—not even cookies!—and it feels like my hair is never going to dry. The plants are getting a good drink, though.
My knitting has been sadly neglected for the past couple of days, and that bothers me. I’m on the third tier of the Forest Path, steadily heading toward the fourth, but things have come grinding to a halt because of the beady stuff. You’d think I could do both at the same time, really, but for some reason I find myself eyeing the box of beads on the dining room table and thinking, “I wonder what interesting things I can do with this, that, and the other?”
Forest Path, I’m sorry I’ve left you to languish on the wing chair. Your purple silkiness is a delightful challenge and you deserve better than to be neglected. I hereby promise to resume working on you as soon as possible so you can be finished and blocked by summer’s end.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The size 3 needles are giving me a tighter fabric, but it's still open enough to allow the lace patterns to come come through; the color doesn't seem to be obscuring the lacy parts, either, which helps. I have a feeling I may have quite a bit of yarn left over at the end. This doesn't surprise me since I rarely bother with--I know, I know--gauge swatches before I start a project. I'm into the second tier and still haven't checked to see how many stitches per inch there are. Who knows what the finished dimensions will be even after it's blocked. I'm a long way from blocking yet, though.
The diagam in the book is a little frustrating, as are the nupps. Much discussion of the nupp problem has been had--there's that blasted passive voice again--on Ravelry. Some people suggest leaving them out altogether in favor of putting a bead in the spot where the nupp would have been; others suggest using a smaller sized sock needle to fish around and snag the working yarn. Among the more interesting tidbits of information on the subject is this: Estonian women were paid for their finished pieces by weight and nupps were a pretty, unobtrusive way of adding a little weight to their knitting. Incidentally, I had no idea at all it was really pronounced noop. As for the diagram, however, the arrows are merely there to indicate which direction the tier is being worked in and not actually pointing to the tier it appears to be beside. Tier 1 with its accompanying left-pointing arrow is really worked from right to left; Tier 2 is worked from left to right, as indicated by the right-pointing arrow. I guess the assumption is that at least a few people who want to start something that complicated already have some familiarity with the ins and outs of entrelac and don't need an explanation.
I, being a noob, took one look and nearly threw the book out the window. That was shorly before the mimeograph-purple ball of fuzz ended up as packing material. Since then, I've succeeded in making it as far as Tier 3 (that's on the ungodly heavy Attempt Number 2) without making any enormous mistakes. I don't know that anyone else would notice--or even care--that I transposed two of the blocks because I wasn't paying attention to the diagram. Attempt Number 3, however, is proceeding smoothly. For now, at least. Chances are I'll transpose a few more blocks after I finish Tier 2 because Tiers 3 and onward are relatively uncharted (ha-ha) territory.
After giving it some thought--and serious googling--it seemed like a good idea. Mom, beast that she is, talked me into developing the idea a little further. The whole metaphysics thing, y'see, which means this is really a thoroughly, completely shameless plug for idea put forth in my last post.
I now direct your attention--if you'll excuse the plug--to Markedly Metaphysical, which is where further fruits of beady business will probably be displayed. In the passive voice, no less. *sigh*
Friday, July 24, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
About ten years ago, mom got the bead bug while she was trying to reconcile herself to being a writer who worked for commercial publications which she felt tended to take advantage of tragedies as a way of making a buck. Her brother-in-law sent her an e-mail asking her to interview people locally and write an article on the impact of a certain September tragedy in such a far-flung place as our semi-rural community; such a story, he said, would be of great interest to the Brazilian newspaper he worked for. Mom was surprised and, I think, a little appalled. How could people stand to capitalize on a tragedy of that scale? Instead, she decided to channel her creative energies toward something less likely to leave a foul taste in her mouth. And that's how we ended up with a hydraulic press in the living room. And a workshop full of beads from all over the world.
Mom's first show was in Pennsylvania, and it was memorable for a number of reasons not the least of which was the elderly Mennonite gentleman who approached us and suggested we would be enjoying a warm climate after we shuffled off the mortal coil. Shows, as it turned out, were hellish more often than not: the scramble to get ready to leave, get the car packed, the tent put up (which always required help), the endless flow of people who made nice comments like "But that'll snag on my sweater", the scramble to get things packed back up at the end of the show, get the car re-packed, and then drive home and unload everything until the next show rolled around. Of course, there was always a positive aspect to all that brouhaha, and that made the exhaustion worth it. In the end, mom decided to quit going to shows and opted for a quieter avenue for her pieces.
She recently changed gears again and went back to writing, though with a less commercial edge--and certainly one that's less likely to capitalize on grief. Which leaves us with a workshop full of beads and a hydraulic press in the living room. A few days ago, while she was taking a break from writing, I asked her if she'd show me how to make stitch markers. She rummaged around in the workshop and came back with a little pouch full of headpins, a little drawer full of glass beads, and several pairs of pliers, and, after about an hour, I'd succeeded in contracting a new hobby.
I'm not quite sure what to do about this, but here's photographic evidence of my labors.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Things have taken a turn for the better—after taking a turn for the worse—with the Forest Path Shawl. My initial attempt using the Handpainted lace yarn didn’t go very well. It’s not that the yarn isn’t nice. It is nice with its fuzzy little halo; the downside, though, is that for a project like this, the halo gets fuzzier with handling and the end result is that things start sticking together. What happened was really my fault. I picked up too many stitches for the first block of Tier 2 and didn’t realize it until after I’d knit about five rows; when I tried to unravel those five rows, things stuck together because of all that fuzz. Ultimately, the yarn broke and I was left with a big tangle. Attempt Number 1 was sent to Aubrey Kenworthy as packing material in a package containing a bottle of ink. Waste not, want not, I guess. She, clever creature that she is, adopted it as a piece of art for her craft room wall; that, oddly, makes me feel better about the FPS Debacle.
I decided, then, after my first failed attempt, that perhaps I might do better with some yarn that wasn’t just a single. Operating under the theory that plied yarn is stronger and has a little more character and self-control, I ordered some Gloss yarn from KnitPicks. It arrived today, along with a number of surprises from the admirable Mrs. Kenworthy (whose atelier can be found here) and a yarny murder mystery from a friend in North Carolina. In the interval between frogging my first attempt and the arrival of the Gloss—which is a lovely dark purple like a cross between J. Herbin’s Poussier de Lune ink and a purple crocus—I cast on for a second attempt with some yarn I found buried in my stash. I’ve since found out that Araucania has discontinued its Atacama line, so if I don’t finish with the yarn I’ve got, that’s the end of that. Atacama is DK weight, so size 6 needles seemed like a good idea. I’m not entirely pleased with the results thus far, but that’s mostly because handpainted yarn can sometimes obscure the intricacies of lace with its variegated, shifting colors. I am, however, very much enjoying the fact that, no matter how much I handle it, it doesn’t stick together and it doesn’t seem to want to get all fuzzy. In fact, when it came time to start a new ball, I had a terrible time getting the ends to splice… wow. Alpaca, by the way, just does not taste very good.
So now I have to decide whether I want to actually finish the remaining eighteen tiers of Atacama or just go ahead and cast on Attempt Number 3.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I love it. It's going to be my new voicemail greeting. Rachael, I blame you for this... :p
I'm almost finished with the Fountain Pen shawl. Just six more rows before binding off, but it's driving me nuts because everything seems shifted to the right by one stitch and I can't figure out where the mistake is. I have the right number of stitches (minus 32 since I skipped one repeat of the second chart); I'm not at all interested in ripping back 18 rows to the lifeline. Double grrr! I will finish this, though, because I want to move on to the next project on my list: the Forest Path Stole. As usual, I'm jumping in at the deep end by trying to learn entrelac in combination with a more complex lace pattern. I've got the yarn and a pair of jury rigged circular needles... so hopefully I can finish the last six rows of the Fountain Pen shawl without throwing the whole thing out the window in a fit of pique.
Speaking of fountain pens, I sold my Lamy Vista and got a Lamy Safari to replace it. It's red. It has an extra-fine nib. It's a delight to write with. The nib is a little more rigid than I'm used to, but I sort of expected it after consulting with ChristyBelle and reading up on them on Biffy Beans.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
A few days ago, I went out into the garden and picked the gooseberries which are, thus far, the about the only thing the stupid deer have left alone this year. Since mom's trying to grow things without using pesticide or other chemicals, that means the deer, the beetles, the worms, and other creepy-crawly things are having a nice time at the salad bar. The gooseberries have big, sharp thorns, however, making them less likely to be eaten by deer... but those thorns don't do much to deter bugs. I washed the berries, cooked them until they were mushy, and then started hunting for the food mill. Which I couldn't find. That left the food processor, which ended up creating a mix of seedy gooseberry pulp and shredded berry skins. I realized after I put the pulp through the strainer that--gak...--there were these horrible little white worms in the pot with the sugar, pulp, and butter. Thank goodness I had yet to add the eggs, otherwise I probably would have screamed. It was disgusting... O.o I abhor waste, but the worms gave me a reason to throw out the beginnings of what I'd hoped would be a lovely gooseberry jammy thing to have on scones or fresh bread. Ick.
So, after throwing out the gooseberry/worm mess, I decided to try making lemon curd. Well, about half the bottle of juice went into the gooseberry glop and, subsequently, into the trash, which left me with about 2/3 of a cup of lemon juice. Mom handed me three limes in the hope that I'd be able to make up the rest of the juice that way. Nope.
I get crabby when I'm tired. I get crabby and I drop things, which meant that after spending the whole day working on--and ruining--gooseberry curd, cheese, cleaning, and trying to figure out how stitches that slipped off the needles and the bloody lifeline were going to get back to where they were supposed to be, I dropped the bowl with the lime juice in it. And lost about half of said juice all over the marble slab. This caused me to deliver several loud expletives before I went looking for more citrus something. The citrus something ended up being frozen pineapple juice. I was not pleased, even though it wasn't wormy--I'm still upset about those stupid little worms...
By the time the lemon-lime-pineapple curd was ready to go into jars, I was further annoyed by the appearance of little tiny globules of egg white at the bottom of the saucepan. And this is after I was really careful and tempered the eggs!
And, on top of all of this, while I was putting away towels in the upstairs bathroom, a bottle of shampoo fell on my head and made me howl like a banshee. I swear.. I'm trying to keep my sense of humor. Really.
2/3 c lemon juice
1/4 c lime juice
1/2 c pineapple juice (or a total of about 1 1/2 cups of straight citrus juice)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 c sugar
a clean jar big enough to hold the curd
Mix juice, butter, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat; remove from heat and let cool to about body temperature. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and yolk; gradually add about half the citrus juice and whisk to temper the eggs. Add egg/citrus mix back to original pot and keep whisking while you warm the mixture back to 170 degrees to kill any potential bacteria. Cook over low-medium heat until thickened, then pour through a seive to make sure there aren't any lumps or other intrusive detritis. Pour into jar and let stand until it's cool enough to refrigerate.
Have I said how much I hate tempering eggs? Bleh.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Still in the process of tracking down a local source for unpasteurized goat's milk, which is tricky since West Virginia prohibits the sale of raw milk. The grocery stores around here tend to sell ultra-pasteurized or canned goat's milk if they sell it at all, and neither of those are suitable for what I want to do. The rennet should show up in the mail either today or tomorrow, but since we don't have any goat's milk to make cheese with--in fact, we're completely out of milk of any kind O.O--it's going to have to wait in the freezer until we do find some. Preferably from goats who are TB- and brucellosis-free.
Mom, I blame you for this! Like I need another hobby. Knitting, spinning, and making soap are all bad enough.
Anyway... here's a picture.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Turns out it wasn't that hard make half what the recipe which, according to the website she read earlier in the day, was for a gallon of milk and 1/4 cup of white vinegar. No salt, no herbs, no rennet, nothing. When the milk finally deigned to form miniscule curds, I sent Rachael a text message and she, in turn, directed me to the website for the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
Mom got a little discouraged when it looked like the curds weren't really doing what they were supposed to do, so it was a big shock when she unwrapped the blob of cheese this morning. Last night before I went to bed, I poured the curds into the collander and let the whey drain through a clean dish towel, and after they'd drained enough to form a cohesive mass, I hung the towel up to drain some more; the result was something similar to queso blanco. Since she wasn't really sure at which point to add the salt, she rolled it in kosher salt and hoped some of the flavor would seep into the cheese. I wonder if brining it somehow might be a good idea next time. Mom's got pictures up on her blog.
So, thanks to Rachael's suggestion, we ordered some packets of starter to make chevre if we can find some goat's milk that isn't ultra-pasteurized.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
1. Last night we dug out the ice cream maker and its accompanying instruction booklets. We have two: a Green Mountain hand-cranked one that takes advantage of brawny blacksmiths and an electric one that doesn't. Since we haven't got any brawny blacksmiths alongside the pasta in the pantry, we opted to use the electric one.
2. Examined the contents of the fridge and discovered that we. had. no. dairy. products. Can't make ice cream without dairy products of some kind, right? *sigh* Definitely hard to make ice cream without dairy products.
3. Went out to the store to acquire said dairy products and ask about rock salt. Was irritated to discover they only sell it in 25 lb bags. It's summer, which obviously means I don't need 25 lbs of rock salt to defrost the driveway. Went home without the 25 lb bag of rock salt.
4. Got home with assorted dairy substances and promptly left again to buy 25 lbs of rock salt. *sigh*
5. Spent two hours bringing 3 cups of milk, 1.5 cups of sugar, and 1 tbsp of cornstarch to a simmer, and fumed.
6. Spent the following half hour tempering the eggs and trying like hell to get them to be tempered and not scrambled. Mmph.. Successfully, at least.
7. Put the machine together and discovered the ice trays were half empty. Flat out refused to go out for a third time in pursuit of ice cream-related articles.
8. In spite of not having enough ice to go with my 25 lbs of rock salt, I got the machine going. Surprise, surprise.. the machine wasn't cold enough, so the ice cream didn't get hard. It's now in the freezer going through what the manual calls the "Home Freezer Method". I do not anticipate victory.
9. I now have an inkling as to why people buy ice cream more often than they try to make it from scratch. I also now suspect I'm not likely to attempt to make pots de creme since the process is somewhat similar.
10. I want ice cream....... meh.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Mom realized what had happened, looked stricken, and asked a bit hesitantly, "Is it all right? Will there be some sort of psychic disturbance?"
I told her I thought not and vacuumed up the spilled salt along with the bits of bark and ash from the wood stove--it gets EVERYWHERE even when the stove isn't in use and does it no matter how frequently you sweep and vacuum. Truth is, the salt isn't there as a barrier against things that go bump in the night (Rachael, I know you know what I mean!); it's just there to keep incense sticks from falling over and getting more ash everywhere. And since the top of the stove is now occupied by things other than my paraphernalia--except the little glass of salt-- it might be time to find a new home for it all. Mmph...
At least the vacuum won't suffer any psychic disturbances.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I've never attended this kind of event before, and was uncertain of what to expect. Mom took some of the first roses from our garden, enough for each of us to put one in the river, and Dr. Walker's caregiver brought the ashes. It was disconcerting to see Dr. Walker in a cardboard box; I couldn't not think of the ashes as her, and it's still difficult to believe that she's not present in a fleshly state. Mom pointed out that she'll likely not be forgotten because all her students will remember the throaty voice imparting the intricacies of American Federal Government and her dislike of driving in snow, and that as long as there are people who remember her, she's not truly gone.
The Caregiver invited each of us to take a handful of ashes to throw in the river, and mom gave roses to those who wanted them, and the roses went into the river, too. Afterward, everyone stood by and offered some little anecdote about Dr. Walker: How they remembered her being an exotic, feline beauty in her youth, how valued she was as a colleague, how she liked to buy things in large quantities rather, how generous she was. Before we left the riverbank, a pair of Canada geese came paddling upstream against the current, which must have been a difficult task considering how fast the river is moving after all the rain we've had recently.
An omen, maybe?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
1. to detain (v): detention (n)
2. to retain (v): retention (n)
3. to reprise (v): reprisal (n)
4. to deny (v): denial (n)
5. to despise (v): despisal? um.. doubtful, but it makes me laugh.
6. despicable (adv/adj): to despic? mmm.. probably not.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
1 tsp Manuka honey (yes, you can use regular honey)
2 drops tea tree oil
unsweetened peppermint tea to make a smooth paste
10 to 15 minutes to sit, knit, read, or do a crossword puzzle
Mix all of the ingredients in a ceramic or glass bowl and stir until it's as smooth as possible; smooth on face and wait until the mask dries. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
It helps to dissolve the honey in the tea while it's still warm, which I found out after I got started. Common sense, neh? Also found out it's quite difficult to get all the lumps out of the clay, so maybe using a small whisk might help.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I started working on the Fountain Pen Shawl from the Spring IK. So far, so good. Wait.. dammit, I forgot all about lifelines. *sigh* Well, at least I haven't made any mistakes yet, but since I'm only on the second repeat of the second chart, I might well be counting my chickens before they hatch.
Monday, April 27, 2009
In the meantime, I'm working on a re: view of the Kauni and will try to post it later this week.
So mom got her new laptop today. Her old one died a gruesome death and the replacement, much to her horror, was shipped from Shanghai. It was supposed to arrive tomorrow but got here four days earlier than expected, and FedHex sent it out on Friday while we were doing a bit of grocery shopping. Since no one was home to sign for it, they left us a cute little door hanger saying they'd try again on Monday.
This is Monday. Right? Right. Mom and I were both home this morning. We have a large iron doorknocker with a very authoritative voice and a very large dog with a very authoritative voice, both of whom are excellent at letting us know when someone is at the door.
Well, I went out with the dog at around noon, and when we came back to the door I discovered I hadn't seen the new little door hanger left by FedHex about two hours before I went out with the dog. I found this rather puzzling because we were both home, we have a doorknocker, and the dog usually lets us know when someone is at the door; mom was a bit put out when I showed her the note.
What does she do--indeed, what does any sensible person do--but call FedHex and let them know that 1. We were home, 2. We have a doorknocker that works at least as well as any doorbell, 3. We have a dog who barks when people come to the door. 4. The driver had our phone number and could have called to let us know she was en route, which is what UPS does if they can't find the house.
The response from FedHex was "Your doorbell must have been broken." Um. No. We don't have one! Repeat previous statements about dog and doorknocker.
Well, says FedHex, it's not our fault the package wasn't delivered. The driver, it turned out, was put off by our oh-so-scary carpenter bees, and she got close enough to the door to leave us a little hanging tag, but not close enough to use the knocker. Hmm.. very puzzling indeed since the doorknocker is obviously attached to the front door, not suspended in midair six meters away from it. Mom spent about twenty minutes extracting a satisfactory explanation and/or assurances that the driver would make another attempt to deliver the package later in the afternoon, and when the driver finally did appear, the dog barked and mom sent me outside to accept the package. She's under the impression that I have a slightly more delicate touch, and my first words to the driver were, "I'm so sorry you had such difficulty catching up with us."
No sarcasm there. Really. Really not. *ahem* She got defensive about the bees, so I pointed out that bees generally don't attack people unless they're being disturbed; I do admit, however, that the bees are pretty intimidating and do like to divebomb passersby (occasionally) while they're flying back to their burrows or out to look for floral fast food.
Bottom line: Mom will likely be cranking out a scathing blog post about bad service and an obvious lack of strong work ethic where as certain company is concerned.