Thursday, December 31, 2009

Store Stuff Update: Bing!

Not much going on with the store stuff. Made a few sales, but mostly I've been waiting to do anything with Etsy since I figured out I'm going to try to put together some patterns. I have a rough draft of a sock pattern, and some sweater ideas, so here's hoping I don't procrastinate my way into oblivion.

The secret writing project is still forging ahead. Hubby read a rough draft of the first three chapters and was decently encouraging, to my surprise. He keeps saying the main character is me though, which is exactly the kind of thing I was afraid of, and will make it hard to write love scenes with the main male protagonist later, who is definitely NOTHING like my husband. We shall see.

I want to start putting together some cute jewelry and stitch markers for Valentine's day, but I keep looking for the money fairy to arrive and she's late as usual. Well, not late, just what she does bring has been spoken for through advertising and listing fees. I wonder if there are Bill Gates grants for struggling businesses who use Windows? Heh.

Anyhoo, a Happy New Year to all you folks, and I hope it brings you good things.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Knitting: Moving into the lead...

... is the Sophia cardigan from French Girl Knits. It's the one pictured on the cover. I had three skeins of cream-colored Knit Picks Gloss in heavy worsted-weight left over from the failure that was the Blanket Coat. The three skeins got me through the right half, and a portion of the left half. The unravelled sleeves from the blanket coat ought to get me through the rest of the left half and the twisted trim. I'm working the trim right now. Yep, I'm near completion. Have I done a stitch on my husband's late Christmas socks? Heck no.

I LOOOOVE sock yarn, hate knitting socks. Go figure.

The shawl has also been hibernating, but then that's in my TV watching spot, and the holidays make for bad TV.

Next in the queue is a cute kid's hoodie in blue for my daughter. It should be a fast knit. If I have still not done anything on the socks by the time that's done, I will buckle down and do them. He's constantly complaining that his feet are cold... he needs some good warm socks.

After that, I may do Wrenna from French Girl Knits. I did warn you a few months ago that when it arrived in the mail I wanted to knit every single thing in it. I may do it yet. I certainly have enough yarn.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gaming: One MILLION dollars...

Steam has been having huge sales over the Christmas holidays... sometimes 80% off titles. I'm ashamed to say instead of buying the luxurious yarn of my dreams (Yes, cashmere and Noro are on that list) I bought games. Several games. Some of them I owned already on disk... which seems stupid until you realize that if you can pick up a title for $1.99, it's worth the "upgrade" to disk-less game playing.

One such title I picked up that I already owned was the brilliant masterpiece that nobody played, "Evil Genius". It's a resource/building simulation in which you play an evil Bond-style villain who is setting up his/her evil lair in a mountain on a remote island. You recruit minions, build specialized rooms in your base, commit acts of infamy in the world map, and try to keep the "good" agents from coming in and wreaking havoc by placing ingenious traps around your base. No shark tanks, unfortunately. It's still on sale for $1.99, so if you're into time-management or strategy titles, it'd be a good time to pick it up.

I also finally broke down and got "Torchlight" while it was half-price. After the obsession with Dragon Age, I really didn't want to get into another RPG, but this one is different enough that I don't feel badly about it. It's like a strange cross between "Diablo" and the old arcade game, "Gauntlet". I like it alright, but I'm sort of disappointed that in order to play a female character, I am stuck with ONE class. That just bites.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some missile silos to build into the side of my mountain-island lair.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Food: A Nice Brisket

Christmas dinner went well... mostly because (in my opinion) I didn't have the super-duper extended menu I have every year. I went simple, with a nice pre-seasoned brisket, two kinds of potatoes (sweet and not, mashed) and baby carrots. Yeah, I had two kinds of orange vegetables, and no greens except for the side salad, so it may not have been visually stunning, but it was delicious. It was a sizable cut of beef, and we only left about a third of it.

Leftovers mash-up the following day was a kind of improvised taco/fajita thing with the leftover beef on flour tortillas. Throw in some sauteed onions and salsa and sour cream, and you seriously feel like you're in heaven with the first bite.

Had there been more beef left, I would have gone the orange beef lo mein route, but... it was not to be this year I guess.

Now I have to figure out when I'm making the extra turkey I picked up at Thanksgiving time for super-cheap. It's taking up a lot of freezer real estate, and I'm going to need that space before the Easter ham extravaganza. I'll probably roast it off for New Years, package the extra meat, and maybe can a couple of quarts of turkey stock from the wings and carcass. I like having a pressure canner again... makes for more versatile canning.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blogging: Holidays

Just a reminder for those who might not have occasion to remember, I take time off from the blog on the holiday vacations where the little moppet is home from school. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the inability to hear myself think. :D Ever tried to compose your thoughts with the Disney "So Random" Check-it-out girls in the background? Oy.

I'll be back. It may not be for two weeks, or it may be in a week, it depends on how much television is blaring in the background, and how far away my sanity ends up. 'Til then, if you are travelling, be safe, and we'll see you when I get back.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Television: White Lie

With the holidays hiatus going on for most of the shows I watch, I have very little to talk about. There is one shining, adorable exception, and that is the mid-season finale of "Lie to Me".

The Lightman Group offices ends up in a kind of "lockdown mode" when a possible bomb threat comes up a few blocks away... sometimes terrorists wait for mass evacuations before setting off devices, thus maximizing casualties.

Unfortunately, a group of third-graders and their teacher played by Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible, Buffy) was taking a tour of the offices at that time.

What results is the most adorable scene I've witnessed on the show yet, the singing of "White Lies", a song written by (according to the plot) Lightman's assistant and a third-grader who overheard them discussing the bomb, and was asked not to tell his classmates what he heard to keep them from being scared. The lyrics go something like this:

I say that I'm ten when I'm nine and a half,
My uncle tells a joke and I try to laugh,
In gym I fake a headache when I want to quit,
I say I love the sweater that my grandma knit,

But that's a white lie (white lie)
That's the kind you want to tell, a white lie (white lie)
So your mom won't have to yell, a white lie (white lie)
Everyone does it cause it feels alright,
and it's more polite, but
A lie's still a lie even when it's white.

I pretend I'm asleep when my dad walks in,
I said I ate my chicken when I just ate the skin,
Your face can say you're lying when your mouth says you're not,
Your pants are on fire but they're not too hot when

It's a white lie (white lie)
That's the kind you want to tell, a white lie (white lie)
So your dad won't have to yell, a white lie (white lie)
Everyone does it cause it feels alright,
and it's more polite, but
A lie's still a lie even when it's white.

While it might be hard to say what's true,
Would you want a white lie told to you?

But that's a white lie (white lie)
That's the kind you want to tell, a white lie (white lie)
So your mom won't have to yell, a white lie (white lie)
Everyone does it cause it feels alright,
and it's more polite, but
A lie's still a lie even when it's white.

Okay, the lyrics go exactly like that, cause I did a pause and play number with my Tivo Desktop software.

Awesome singing all around, although Felicia's harmony on the last two verses stretched the limits of credulity. I mean, supposedly this song was written five minutes ago and she's not the music teacher, so what the hey? But it was very, very cute. A high point in what could have otherwise been a grim episode.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Knitting: You want *what* for Christmas?

Well the socks are not happening. Not unless I turn insanely obsessive and spend the next four days on them. Hubby is getting a WIP for Christmas.

I really haven't worked on my knitting much. I did make a tremendous amount of progress on the beginner's scarf from my daughter's "Learn to Knit" kit (I'm making a pass through it so I know what's going on when she tries it). It's about halfway done. Honestly, this is one butt-ugly scarf. I'm sure the design team thought the alternating squares of stockinette and reverse stockinette divided by a ribbing section in the middle was "funky" or "hip" but to me it just looks like a sloppy mess in very large yarn. I mean, I think I'm going to have to tell people my kid made the thing for me.

Not much in the way of new TV shows, so the shawl has sat untouched.

As far as Secret Project goes (writing) I seem to have hit a wall. I started writing it in First-person perspective, since I've been out of practice for a long time and I didn't want to set myself up for failure, so I was trying to make this endeavor as easy as possible. I write in first-person perspective every day, like now, so I figured that would make things simple.

What I didn't count on was the fact that my main character is NOT omniscient, so every other character remains a mystery. I mean, she's a sharp-eyed, savvy cookie, but she's not going to know what the other guy is thinking. Or feeling.

So now, forty-odd pages into this thing, and I may have to totally start over in third-person omniscient. Blech. I get hives just thinking about it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gaming: Finally!

Well I'm off the Dragon Age: Origins obsession. At last. I guess the fourth and fifth playthroughs are not meant to be, eh?

Although I think the dimming of my enthusiasm had more to do with the somehow inexplicable and sudden deterioration of my machine's ability to render the gamplay at any faster than one frame per second.

I have the Steam version of the game, so it's possible that some new patch was invisibly applied, and they somehow broke the game. Or it may be that my video card is dying. I may never know. But waiting five seconds to watch your guy make one sword pass at an enemy is just four seconds too long, you know?

While looking for my next gaming obsession, I have tried once again to introduce Monkeypants to the fun and excitement of the "Back to the Future" movie series. We've been watching one a night. This time, it was no longer boring for her, and it was intensely gratifying to hear her laughing at Doc Brown's antics, and hearing her try to describe the clock tower scene in part one(easily one of the most nail-biting inducing movie sequences of the last fifty years in cinema) is hysterical.

I do like it when I'm right about stuff. :D I think I have to try to hold back my enthusiasm, and wait to show her the stuff I think is neat until she's ready to appreciate it. It's pretty hard though.

More gifts are wrapped and placed in the pile. Almost everything has arrived, with a few exceptions, but it looks like they'll be here later in the week, so Christmas is in the bag. So to speak. A full accounting of the gifts for MP and Barronius will be forthcoming after the "shredding". I'd call it the "opening of the gifts" but I'm trying for honesty, here. :P

Monday, December 14, 2009

Food: New Traditions

Last Christmas, I tried something new. Living in Texas, we are now exposed to a lot more Mexican-American culture, just as we were exposed to a lot of traditions in New Orleans when we lived there. Ingredients being cheap and abundantly available, I made tamales last Christmas, and despite the fact that I had to use foil instead of corn husks (one "ingredient" that was hard to find last year) they were a big hit with the family. Done right, it's the kind of food people can munch on all day while waiting for the big meal to finish cooking.

So yesterday I simmered a huge pork roast for the filling. This was a true beast of a roast... there was still skin on this sucker, and it was quite disgusting to remove. Had that side been visible in the packaging, I think I would have skipped the whole idea. Let me put it this way... in the back of my mind I worried some concientious trash collector would find this piece of... hide... and call the cops, thinking a murder had been committed. Yeah. It was that gross.

However, I roasted it, then simmered it in water with spices, and added a can of red chiles in adobo sauce for the last half hour. I now have the whole works in my dutch oven sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to skim the fat off the top, shred it, and package it for the freezer. That's the red filling. I'm thinking poultry and green jalepenos for the green filling, but I may not bother.

I already have new masa flour, and a package of husks... whether I've purchased enough is beyond me, but there's always foil for the extra.

Normally, we have our "Christmas" on the first day of school vacation for monkeypants. The reason we've done this for the last three or four years is two-fold. One, Christmas usually really falls at the end of the vacation, so I end up having to fend off skillfully pleading comments of "I'm bo-o-o-ored" for a week, get one day of pleasantness, and then she's back in school. Two, my husband gets off from work only two of those days she's home. By opening the presents at the beginning of vacation, everyone in the family gets to spend their entire time off enjoying the gifts, instead of waiting.

Since the son of the Big Guy was actually born sometime in the early fall (I'll have a post on my sources on that sometime... but that's a whole post unto itself), and my early gift opening program is all about promoting peace and harmony during the holiday, I'm pretty sure he doesn't mind.

However, this year our normal Christmas is being delayed because of snow. In Texas. Last week my daughter was supposed to perform in a Christmas band concert/Chili dinner (don't ask me, I don't make this stuff up... maybe the audience is supposed to join in with the wind section). The Saturday this was supposed to take place, though, it was snowing. I kid you not. So the event was postponed. Now this Friday MP gets early dismissal at one, but we have to take her back in the evening for one performance, then the chili dinner performance is Saturday. So most likely we will be having our Christmas on Sunday, hubby will work a few days, and then we have the four-day weekend where the "real" Christmas falls.

I don't know... that sounds complex doesn't it? I may just chuck our "tradition" out the window and join the rest of the world in celebrating on the 24th and 25th. Just as well, a few gifts might not arrive in time from Santa's workshop in the Amazon warehouse. :D

Friday, December 11, 2009

Television: Yummy Brits, Hiatus, and ARG!

Fringe this week was amazing, thanks in part to the yummy new addition of Sebastian Roche (Oddysey 5) as an evil scientist. Poor baby... it's typecasting.

The Dollhouse double-feature was amazing, also. Damn FOX and their squeamish, skittish ways. Only two more episodes and it's all over.

Stargate: Universe is trying to be the new "Battlestar Galactica" and in a way, that kind of ticks me off. The rest of the Stargate sagas were... well, like a half-way step towards Trek utopia. You know, the universe where everyone works toward the good of the planet, because we find out we're not alone? SG:U feels more like we're moving towards the corporate space travel in ALIEN... grim, gray and bleak. I don't like it. I get that no matter if they're here on Earth, or working in space, people are going to act human no matter what. There's going to be fights, and jealousy, and betrayal. But damn... no matter how much someone acts like a dick, you don't maroon him on an alien planet two billion miles from Earth.

It's just not done. Plus, with a guy too smart for his own good, it's gonna come back and bite you in the ass.

Enough cryptic for this week?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Store Stuff Update: Thoughts But No Action

While I've been inspired to do plenty of jewelry and other items in the metal areas of craftiness, I haven't acted on many of them. Mostly, a lot of planning... I can see cutting the metal, soldering it, rearranging pieces and making them fit, all in my head.

A jewelry hobby is an expensive mistress, though. Whether I need to buy materials, or already have the materials, it still makes you want to wince when you cut into a tiny piece of silver sheet that costs over $20 at today's prices. Even materials that can be rescued if it gets screwed up, like crystal beads, are not cheap at initial purchase.

A recent issue of "Jewelry Artist" arrived in the mail, and it has some wonderful articles about soldering and other types of joins. While I didn't care for the endless articles about Jasper (it's not my favorite stone), the construction of the pieces were interesting and informative. It made me think about cutting apart some soda cans just to play with the techniques.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Knitting: I'm at it again...

I can't seem to focus on one thing, lately. Well, besides Dragon Age: Origins.

I'm still working on the shawl from the Knit Picks lace sampler pattern that I started as a smokescreen for my husbands silk socks. However, the socks themselves have only seen one or two rounds of progress. He may be getting a wrapped WIP for Christmas at this rate.

I also cast on the Red version of KP's "Learn to Knit a Hat and Scarf" kit, mostly so when I give the kit in blue to my daughter I'll know what the heck is going on. For a learner's pattern, the instructions are really convoluted and drawn out.

Otherwise there is not much going on in the knitting department. I still have the free-form, simple shawl on the needles made from the one-ply bulky I originally spun up for a sweater coat. Have not done one stitch on that, at all.

Besides the game, and all these knitting projects I have going, I started a super-secret non-crafty project. All very hush-hush. Why? Because it's the one thing I've always been very sensitive about doing right... writing. In game-parlance, I took a crippling blow twenty years ago with my first husband's reaction to my writing, and it's taken this long for it to heal properly. Now I'm scribbling my way through a stack of (100% recycled) legal pads again, and the sudden resurgence has me a little stunned.

And it may turn out to be crap, but it will be MY crap and I will love it all the same.

The television hiatus during the holidays for most of the shows I watch certainly didn't help my knitting progress. There have only been a few times where I have been able to just sit and knit without the television, and both of them involved power outages during hurricanes.

Anyway, this long, drawn-out post is basically my excuses for not having any knitting progress worth mentioning. See you next week. :D

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gaming: Variety Doesn't Live Here Today

Okay, as far as gaming goes, I am still stuck on Dragon Age: Origins. I'm on my third play-through, and I show no signs of stopping. And even though most of the really cool advertising (right click and "Save As...")and videos are using rendered footage instead of gameplay footage, I still downloaded one or two and stream them to my TiVo for a quick bit of fun.

I did get the new expansion pack to The Sims 3: World Adventures, and believe it or not I did play it for several hours. It's a cute addition. Basements, underground crypts, and other added elements make for an Indiana Jones feel whenever your Sim goes on vacation. It's quite charming, and had I not gotten side-tracked in Fereldin with my Mabari war hound, I would have a lot more to say about it.

If there's a Simmer on your list this holiday season, get them the expansion. They'll love it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Food: More Holiday Leftover Usage

There's another use for holiday leftovers I forgot to mention... pizza. Last week I pushed it to the envelope on the last day the food would still be good and made a ham, mushroom and onion pizza. It was divine.

A turkey pizza would be just as awesome, although I did not make one this go-around.

Here is my recipe for pizza crust (from memory, so if there are any glaring errors or omissions, speak up... I'll try to correct it). Directions should work for bowl, stand mixer, or automatic bread machine (ABM) set on the dough cycle.

My Pizza Crust

1 1/2 C Water, no warmer than 110 degrees
2 t sugar
1 Tbs. garlic salt
1 Tbs. instant yeast
4 C flour
2 t italian seasoning (optional)

Place ingredients into bowl (mixer bowl, or ABM) in the order listed. With a heavy wooden spoon, dough hook, or dough cycle on the ABM, mix until a soft dough forms and comes away from the side of the vessel cleanly. Knead (or leave in ABM dough cycle) for five minutes.

Cover, and let rise for one hour. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

After one hour, remove from bowl and press out into pizza pan or on cookie sheet to desired size. (You can also freeze it at this point by wrapping in plastic and placing the bundle in a gallon freezer bag. To use, thaw in refrigerator overnight and proceed as follows)

Top the crust with 4 oz. plain tomato sauce and one cup cheese. Then add your favorite toppings. Place pizza in oven and cook for 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let stand for two minutes. Cut and serve.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Television: Giving up on Blu

I was cautious about entering the HD disk wars until the battle between HD disks and Blu Ray was settled, but once it was I was fully prepared to embrace it whole-heartedly. Last Christmas my gift to the whole family was a Blu-ray player that also streamed Netflix play-it-now titles. I was sure it would improve our TV enjoyment. Two months later, I bought a blu-ray drive for my computer to play titles on while the main TV was occupied. I thought our future Christmasses would be filled with lovely (if slightly expensive) blu-ray disks, purchased because the format is so crisp and clear that any other format would be unthinkable for our favorite movies and tv shows.

Here it is, the following Christmas season, and ther is not a Blu-ray title anywhere on anyone's gift list. Why? Because BOTH blu-ray players died. I even purchased a replacement for the Netflix streamer back in APRIL (when it died) and that one is ALSO dead. They just stop reading disks. First, on the Netflix unit (made by LG, and quite the piece of crap, I might add) it stopped reading regular disks, but still read Blu-ray just fine, and was still streaming Netflix, so I thought "Hey, so what, I can still play normal disks on my Xbox 360. I really wanted it for Blu-ray." Then it stopped reading Blu-ray about a month later. Since by that time I could stream Netflix (the only function left on the LG unit) on the Xbox 360, the LG unit got retired behind the couch. A few months later, the blu-ray disk drive in my PC died (ALSO an LG product). The replacement Blu-ray player for the living room (NOT made by LG) didn't even last two months.

Ironically, the HD drive attached to my Xbox 360 has been working for years and is still our default disk player for normal disks. I wish I could go back and say "Hey, studio executives... I don't think Blu-ray really won, after all. Could you make HD again please?"

Nobody wants to adopt a format where you're going to have to buy a new player every year. If I wanted to rent, I'd go to Rent-A-Center.

So be careful this holiday season. Be wary of cheap deals on Blu-ray players... there may be a reason.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Knitting: 'Tis The Season

... for rushed knitting. There are always projects started with good intentions on Dec 1st, saying to yourself "I swear I will devote time to this every day so it will be done on time!" and then the obligation seems more like an annoyance.

Surely my husband doesn't need a pair of hand-knit socks this year? He didn't ask for them, and I didn't tell him I was making them, so it doesn't count, right?

I am working on some brown, part-silk socks for him in brown, since he always complains of cold feet. I am also working on the lace-sampler shawl from Knit-picks, not because I want to but because if I wasn't knitting something in front of him it would look suspicious. So I cast it on one evening while we were watching V. However I must like the pattern, since I frogged and re-started it because I didn't like how it looked with the size needles suggested. I went down two sizes and it looks much better.

Tis also the season for drinking hot coffee in the morning instead of soda for my caffeine. The winds coming off the (praries?) empty lot across the street are mighty cold. If I wasn't sitting on concrete steps waiting with my daughter for the school bus across from a gas station, I'd swear I was a pioneer woman waiting for her man to bring home a deer for stew.

Last night I ordered some Ghirardelli chocolates and hot chocolate mix to appease the little moppet, since she has been told she does not get to drink coffee till she's much older.

"But I'm cold too!" she says. And goodness knows I never have any cocoa powder left in the house to make my own mix like I'd prefer. So I ordered some seasonal chocolates for Christmas morning and some of their cocoa mix.

Oh! And to get back on schedule, I also have some shop news... new jewelry items in the shop! I got a wild yen to do a chainmaille bracelet with sparklies embedded. My pictures, of course, look like crap again. I have ordered a new battery pack for my camera, so perhaps once it's installed I'll have time to fiddle with all the proper settings when I take a picture. There is also a two-needle stitched necklace of the crackle beads I used for the stitch markers for a knitter's retreat earlier this year. More sparkly goodness. It makes for a decently weighty necklace.

There probably won't be a TV post tomorrow, since the holidays have thinned out the new episodes of most shows. Just FYI. :D

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gaming: Dragon Age Addendum

(Knitting post will be tomorrow... if at all.)

Holy macaroni! Had I known the big names on this voice actor's list, I would have made sure to find it yesterday before my post... it reads like a sci-fi/fantasy who's-who.

Duncan - Peter Renaday
Alistair - Steve Valentine
Morrigan - Claudia Black
Loghain - Simon Templeman
Flemeth - Kate Mulgrew
Uldred - Barry Dennen
Howe - Tim Curry
Sten - Mark Hildreth
Wynne - Susan Boyd Joyce
Oghren/Gorim - Steve Blum
Leliana - Corinne Kempa
Daveth - Gillon Stephenson

Tim Russ (Tuvok, Star Trek: Voyager) is also the voice of one of the elves.

I feel really stupid that I didn't recognize Kate Mulgrew's voice. Her work in this is just marvellous.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gaming: Red Matter

As an early Christmas present, my husband got me a copy of "Dragon Age: Origins" on Steam over the holiday weekend while they were having a black Friday sale. This means I got the collector's edition for a little less than the normal price of the standard edition.

You may have seen the ads for this single-player RPG while watching TV over the Thanksgiving weekend. Some of them are quite moving, and honestly the game is just as exciting as the ads make it out. It's also one of those games that create a huge sucking time vortex while you play... I swear, yesterday I was getting myself lunch at 11 o' clock, the next thing I knew it was 4 pm and time to watch for monkeypants to get off the bus. As my Bioware profile will attest.

I also think I have a crush on one of my party members, Alistair, the bastard prince of Ferelden. He's just so... cheeky. His voice is also terribly familiar in a British way.

I have been desperately searching for credits on the voice acting in the game... I would swear that Morrigan, a female mage you pick up for your party somewhere along the way, is played by Claudia Black (Farscape, Stargate SG-1). Since Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver, Stargate SG-1)did some voice acting in Fallout 2, this would not surprise me in the least.

Speaking of great sucking time vortices, I also got myself an early present of the new Star Trek movie while Amazon was having a black Friday deal... I won't tell you the price, because you'll be kicking yourself at how cheaply I got it. Lets just say Quinto as Spock would have been worth every penny at the SMRP anyway, and leave it at that. It's every bit as exciting and moving on the small screen as it was on the large screen. I actually teared up when James Kirk was born... again. This time on the privacy of my own couch.