Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knitting: Rock-em Sock-em

Well, I'm back on a kick of wanting to knit socks.  I guess a week of 40° temperatures and cold feet will do that to a person.  So now not only am I working on a Bridgewater shawl (collectively decided by knitters on Ravelry to be one of the more difficult Jared Flood patterns) I have decided to try and create my own toe-up version of the Spot Check Socks.  They are colorwork, so they are very toasty with the double strands running behind every row.

This is KnitPick's Stroll yarn (of which I have an entire tub FULL of just that... sock yarn) in Canopy (green) and Cartoons.  When the Cartoons strand hits a green section, it gets a little difficult to tell which strand is which.  There is also more tonal variations in the canopy than I'd like.  The line of the single main (toe and heel) color that's supposed to run up the sides?  You can barely tell it's there because the "solid" green is a different shade every single round.  But they are turning out rather striking despite all that, and it makes it more fun to work on to see that they really will be attractive in the end, despite all the frustrating bits.  I started these on Saturday, and I'm already close to starting the heel.  For being a colorwork item, these socks really zoom along.

In fact I haven't touched the Bridgewater since starting these socks, and didn't think to take a picture of it while I had my camera out, so you can tell I'm enthused.  :D

Monday, November 21, 2011

Food and Cooking: The Plan

It's the week of Thanksgiving!  If you're cooking this year's feast, then I know you're already planning.  The bird takes three days to thaw in the refrigerator.  Making the sides, getting out the good china, heck... par-baking the dinner rolls... all takes a few days of prep.  You're probably knee-deep in it and don't even have time to read this!

Relax.  No, I don't have some solution for you that will magically let you eat bon-bons for the rest of the week.  Relaxing is just a good idea in general.   I'll tell you about it on Friday when I review a documentary on Stress: Portrait of a Killer.  If I don't post about it on Friday, it's because I'm exhausted.

Meanwhile, we have to get through this week without pulling our hair out, yes?

My husband's pay schedule is annoying during the holidays.  He gets paid every other Friday without fail... except during the holidays.  Then it's hit-or-miss.  We may get his paycheck direct-deposited this Wednesday, or it may not show up until Saturday, it's anyone's guess.  If he's getting a bonus, that might show up on Wednesday as well, or it could be there right now.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I started planning three weeks ago.

Timing is everything, too, because the really good sales on hams and turkeys don't really start until a week before the big day.  So here's what we did.  Setting a little money aside, we went and got a turkey breast on Sunday, along with a dozen eggs and celery.  I already have a dozen eggs, why am I getting more?  Because older eggs, kept in the fridge, are easier to peel for deviled eggs than really fresh ones.  The older eggs are going for that purpose, whereas the new eggs are going into the Wild Rice and Onion dressing, pies, and various other items.  Not to mention they will make fantastic omelettes and frittatas later in the week when we're sick of turkey.  I still have two bags of fresh cranberries, but I would have bought those as well.  At this point it should be all about the cooking... the shopping should be done.

Today I plan on par-baking two pie shells made from scratch.  I will also make the dough for dinner rolls, shape and place them in their pan, and then freeze them.  They'll go into a low oven after I've pulled the turkey out to rest about a half an hour before dinner.  They should be done in twenty minutes.  From a thawed or refrigerated state they take fifteen minutes, but honestly I won't have room in the fridge.  I may get crazy and chop the onions and celery for the dressing, but it's a little early for that.

Tomorrow I shall bake the pies.   More room in the fridge lost.

Wednesday night I will cook the wild rice, boil the eggs, and that would be the best time to chop all the onions, celery, etc.  I may assemble the dressing, but I hate to do something overnight with raw eggs in it, so I'll probably just get the components ready and assemble Thursday morning.  I'll boil the cranberries for the jelly.  I may leave the skins in half of it, or I may strain the whole thing.  (Cranberries are an excellent vegan source of calcium, I recently discovered.  Go nuts!) 

Thursday's plan will depend on when you want to serve.  We aim for noon or one pm.  Everybody gets to see the parade (or listen to it while they're in the kitchen) and then we can eat while the dog show is on afterward.  This is the time when you thank your lucky stars that there's a dishwasher on the premises.

The planning doesn't stop there.  There's food safety issues to deal with.  No food should be in the temperature "danger zone"  (above 40°F and below 140°F) for more than four hours TOTAL over its lifespan.  Don't leave the bird sitting for six hours while people pick at the carcass.  Pack it away immediately.  Same goes for the sides.  I planned ahead a month ago and got some very nice professional-grade food storage totes.  These will easily fit a fully-carved large turkey, or the remains of a small turkey and a ham.  They're also low-profile enough that they will fit in your fridge, and leave room for several small containers on top, providing a level base.

Have a safe, happy, and flavorful holiday everyone!  And remember, if you didn't cook, then you should offer to help with the dishes.  I'm just saying...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Knitting: A Little Late

Well I'm a few days late for my normal Wednesday knitting post, but I think you'll agree it's a neat edition.

The Lusekofte sweater is finally done.  The instructions on KnitPick's pattern for the collar and facing were a little unclear... what I had following their instructions looked nothing like the pictures.  No, correct that... the collar was fine, it was the steeked neck slash above the placket with the initials.  Basically I took it upon myself to pick up and knit the whole thing, doing the main part before putting on the collar, then going back and picking up stitches from the wrong side (creating a "turning" row without the purling) and knitting the facing.  Worked out great, and will make a stable foundation for the three clasp closures I've had since I started this project last year.

Also, I'm very glad that I used the last row of the cuff bands to pick up and knit on the cuff facing, as I think I ended up with a much neater result than sewing it down later with a mattress stitch.  I still think the pattern should have been written more traditionally, with the occasional white dots in the body of the sweater, as the feel of the fabric between the cuffs, shoulders, and body of the sweater is quite different, and expect my midriff will be cold by comparison with the colorwork sections.  Oh well, at least it fits well, and looks very professional.  Finally, one of the few sweaters I put a ton of work into that I actually think I can bear to wear.

I would like to see a wedgewood blue version of this.  If I'm ever in the mood for something intricate and complex again (figure the odds!) I might have to make one.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ABF: The Story of Us

This week in honor of Veteran's Day I have been watching "America: The Story of Us" on Netflix's watch it now service.  It is narrated by Liev Schreiber, an actor I love, though his voice is hard to recognize in this work... I think they did something to the pitch and timbre of his voice electronically.  It doesn't have the richness in the deep notes like his voice does in, say, "Kate and Leopold" or "Xmen Origins: Wolverine".

This twelve-episode mini-series is a look at America from its first days.  I have so far gotten halfway through, from the landing of the first settlers, to American cities like New York in the early 1900's.  It tends to skim or gloss over some areas, such as the witch trials in Salem, but some condensing of the information is to be expected... otherwise this would be a never-ending saga.  Other areas, I was pleasantly surprised to learn new things, such as the story of Prussian general von Steuben.  Had never heard of him.  Looked up from my knitting and went "Huh?  Who's that guy?" when he was mentioned.

Friedrich von Steuben was a former Prussian military man who was brought to General Washington's attention by Benjamin Franklin.  He trained the men at Valley Forge during the day, drilling them in maneuvers, and at night he wrote military training manuals, some parts of which are still in use in the American military today.  His changes in uniform cleanliness saved the lives of our soldiers who were dying of diseases running rampant through the camp.  His improvements to marching and discipline made our men more imposing and effective on the battlefield.  He pretty much saved our forces at Valley Forge.  Why had I never read about him in my high school text books?  Oh... rumors of him being gay forced him to resign from the Prussian army.  So my Puritan high school text books wrote him out completely?  Crap.  (If any of my fellow C-I HS survivors remembers reading about him, let me know... I'd be interested.)

Most of the things that have surprised me so far have been the inventions and circumstances that had a huge impact on the character of the people that make up America.  Like the fact that the only reason the Statue of Liberty is in New York instead of some other city is due to thousands of New Yorkers donating money in pennies and nickels to build the structure she stands on.  That a fire in a New York sewing factory is responsible for the work safety measures still in use today.  That Sears and Roebuck got its start from a railroad telegraph operator who needed a watch to coordinate with other stations on his railroad line.  That barbed wire was invented by a farmer who wanted the Texas cowboys moving their cattle north to keep the trampling mass out of their crops.

It's a fascinating look at what makes us Americans what we are.  I look forward to the second half as we move into the early 20th century and get into the world wars, the nuclear bomb scare, and the turn of the millenium.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Knitting: Glutton for punishment

I finally finished CC's Tempest sweater, except for putting on the buttons, as I still haven't found any that I like.

Instead of diving into a new project, I decided to go back to one of my hibernating projects.  It's been getting chilly enough that the red Lusekoft I started last year around this time would be a great addition to my wardrobe.  I'm just glad I put my initials in the customizable placket section instead of the year as is sometimes traditional, as I'm pretty sure I won't finish it before it turns to 2012.

I'm a lot farther than this now... That row of motifs you see above?  I have three of them now.  I've just started binding off and decreasing for the neck opening and the shoulders.  I wonder if it would be silly to try and work a hood onto this thing.  :D

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ABF: Food Matters

When I was in High School, one of my best friends, Kim, had a mom who was a nurse.  She was also a holistic medicine practitioner.  At the time, I was pretty self-absorbed like a lot of teens, and didn't take the time to learn what it was all about.

So earlier this week when I was watching "Food Matters" I thought of Kim's mom, and wondered what she might think of the movie's assertions.  The "experts" were very confident of what they were saying... but was it accurate?  Is basic nutrition as a preventative measure in illness being ignored by the western medical  community?  Can a lot of common (and not so common) illnesses be alleviated by an improved diet?

We already know from history that a lack of fresh food containing vitamin C can cause scurvy.  I seem to remember something in the Little House on the Prairie books saying something about boiling pine needles to make a tea to ward off scurvy during the winter.  It was a common ship-board ailment for sailors.  We also know that a lack of calcium intake can lead to brittle bones and teeth.

What would a lack of other vitamins do during any stage of development in a child?  What would this lack do to an otherwise healthy adult?

The documentary asserts that cooked food is treated by the body the same way as an infection... with a reaction of the white blood cells.  This is based on a study by Dr. Paul Kouchakoff done in 1930.  What they never tell you is why this is a bad thing.  Or even if it is a bad thing.

My friends and long-time followers of my blog know that I am an advocate of eating foods that are industrially processed as little as possible.  I would rather make a scratch pizza than buy a frozen one, if I can get my picky eater to eat it.  I'd rather grill a chicken breast and put it on a bun than have one of those chopped meat patties they call chicken.

However, I never claimed that my method of cooking and eating was a cure-all for disease.

"Food Matters" asserts that a raw-foods diet has cured cancer.  That it has pushed leukemia into remission.  They show dramatic before and after photos (some of which are quite gross, but they do warn you ahead of time) that "prove" this to be the case.  They claim that following a proper raw foods diet supplies vitamins and natural enzymes that are missing or destroyed in cooked food.  And that this is the cause of all our ills.

Certainly there are vital nutrients that are diminished or destroyed by cooking.  There are, however, also nutrients that can only be "unlocked" for the body through the process.

At least they advocate only a 51% raw foods diet (or most of the experts in this film do).  I have no problem with that, in general, because I think that the fiber and nutrients of such a change would be beneficial.  I *don't* think it's going to cure my uncle's diabetes.  I don't think it's going to cure someone's dystonia, or heart disease.

But hey, as long as you're not pregnant or immunity compromised, it certainly can't hurt, so long as you're watching that all the nutrients make it through your food rotation.  Bananas all day every day isn't going to cut it.  You have to mix it up a little.

I also believe that one of the few pills you should take is a good vitamin supplement.

"Food Matters" brings up Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and claim that at one time he wanted to add nutrition and vitamin supplements into the program.  Niacin, also known as B3, they claimed helped alcoholics with their depression.  The film also claims that mega-doses of niacin, taken daily, helped cure and maintain against the chronic severe depression of an elderly woman.  They also claim that HUGE amounts of vitamin C are completely harmless.

I am skeptical of these claims.   But I see no harm in taking vitamin supplements as directed.  A good "once a day" type should suffice.

The best thing I can say about this film is that it made me think and do some digging.  I don't think it should be taken as gospel.  I do like their attitude that watching your nutrition is better than throwing pills and medications at diseases.  I do like their ideas on farmers growing some of the "superfood" crops, such as Acai berries, that are rich in many nutrients, not just a few.  Can such crops be sustained in this climate?  

I don't know, I may have to do some research.

Some websites:

Alternative Brain Food: New Segment

It seems as though no-one has time or the inclination to read.  I know for myself I start to feel restless and un-productive if I'm just sitting with a book while at home.  Stuck at the dentist's waiting room or waiting for a band concert to start is a different story.

So lately at home I've been watching a lot of TED videos and insightful documentaries.  Of all the "reality programming" out there, it's the type that is the most thought-provoking and informative.  As I watched each one, I realized that there were people in my life I wished were watching it with me. I realized that I wanted to share the experience and the information they contained, even the ones I thought were full of it or biased.

So I decided to start a new topic segment for my blog called "Alternative Brain Food", hereafter abbreviated as ABF.  I'll name a video or documentary I've watched, and my thoughts on it.  Most of them are going to be available for free on the internet, or through Netflix's "Watch it Now" service.  Occasionally I might watch one through Amazon Prime.

The first post in this segment will be up some time later today.  Even if you don't agree with the thoughts in the videos, or my thoughts after viewing them, I hope at least that it will make you think about the topic, and perhaps go learn more on your own.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food: Fruit Punch?

Over the weekend I turned two peaches, three papayas, and fourteen Habanero peppers into this:

I found the name a bit unwieldy, though, so I'm just calling it Habanero Peach Hot Sauce in my head.

I did not get any in-progress pictures of this hot stuff, though... it was all I could do to keep breathing.  It's wickedly potent.

It starts with halving the peppers, removing the seeds and white membranes, and roasting them in a dry dutch oven for a bit, stirring to keep them from sticking.  Dice the peaches and papayas, and add those as well.  Then it's a cup of cider vinegar and three-quarters of a cup of *fresh* lime juice.  Yes, squeezing that many limes is a pain.  When you're canning, though, you can't go around making substitutions to the acid ingredients unless you feel like contracting botulism.  Just get a good citrus juicer and stop complaining.  (It took me about six whole limes to get that much, but it's going to depend on the size of your fruit and how aggressive you are with getting every last drop.)

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the peppers are tender.  At this point, the recipe calls for the careful (and foolishly dangerous) transfer of the hot liquid to a blender, and pureeing it until smooth.  The combination of steaming hot liquid and the agitation of the blender can and will blow the top off your blender, splattering you with hot, sugary mess.  Don't do it.  Get yourself an immersion blender (also known as a stick blender) and use that directly in the pot.  There's enough liquid that it processes up with a stick blender nicely and quickly, and you're not going to give yourself second degree burns, either.  Not to mention an eyeful of what is the same ingredient in pepper spray, more or less.

This may sound like a lot of effort and risk for hot sauce... a substance you can find easily in many varieties in the grocery store.  You can't find this, though.  Fresh ingredients, that zippy tang of the vinegar and lime that hits your tongue first... and then the kick.  That punch at the back of your throat that has you reaching for the water glass.  There's very little sweetness to it at all, but it's delicious.  I'm not a hot sauce connoisseur, but I've eaten a third of a jar already, it's that good.

No, I'm not eating it straight out of the jar.
 If this sounds like something you'd like to try, then check out the "Canning for a New Generation" cookbook, and follow it exactly (food safety is paramount when canning!) and you'll be amazed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gaming: Why I won't be buying The Sims 4

Almost 15 years ago, while flipping through a "Games" magazine, I came across an interesting article about Will Wright and a new game he was developing called "The Sims".  What few pictures accompanying the article made it look cute, the description of Maxis' ideas for development sounded promising (it's your SimCity inhabitants, but up close!!), and I thought that I had finally found the game for me.  I waited eagerly for its release.

How little did I know it would become a decades-old hobby.

I now have a strange relationship with The Sims franchise.  On the one hand, I simply must buy all the expansion packs, because each one carries a new bit of functionality that wasn't present before, such as pets or college life, and I used to buy all the "stuff" packs because one can never have enough kitchen appliances.  Since The Sims 3 came out, however, I do not buy all the "stuff" packs... who could?  The content released on The Sims 3 website alone would guarantee I would be broke every single payday, not to mention the releases on disk.

They disguise the cost by using "points" instead of currency, but it's not hard to figure out that if 2000 points costs $20, then a themed bedroom set priced at 1,750 points costs you $17.50.  We're not stupid.

So now I sigh at the content I can't have, and then grumble when I need to find a book to read while my game loads.  I recently took out all the content I *did* own that I never used, and it did not speed up the load time one bit.  What's more, since the addition of The Sims 3: Pets expansion, my game has started locking up (sort of... the animations for water and tree movement still happen, but I can't click anything and my Sim stops moving) UNLESS I Alt-Tab out of the game.  About five seconds later, I hear it resume, go back in, and it locks up again, to be repeated ad nauseum.  I looked up and installed a new graphics driver, no fixy.  The last time this happened, I discovered that at a certain intersection in the town, very very far from my sim's house, there was a spawning problem with the NPC's cars near one of the places of business, and the "traffic jam" was freezing up the entire game.  I had to go in to the City editor to fix it myself, but this time, I really don't want to go through the entire town, looking for sloppy sidewalk placement, one inch at a time, because that's all the farther it will let me go before re-locking up.

EA has started shirking on customer support and quality control, and gotten greedy with several micro-transaction schemes (Dragon Age on Facebook?  REALLY?  And you want us to pay real cash for something we can gain by being patient and waiting?  Get real.).

So, basically, I will not be buying The Sims 4... and it will be coming soon.  You can tell when they're about to jump ship to a new version, because the "stuff" and expansion packs start getting unwieldy after a while, and people like me with gaming performance machines start having trouble.  They just bloat it out, until it's about to reach critical mass, and then they start over again with a stripped-bare base game that does nothing but let you watch your sim eat and sleep and sit on the toilet.  And the expansions start all over again.  I can see it now:  "Oooh, look... an expansion pack that lets you add the "Personal Trainer" career and allows neighbors to visit each other!  Neato!"

Gimme a break.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Food: Picklepuss

One may be confused by my blog.  Was I not, just a few days ago, saying I was going to be eating more healthy foods?  Why then all the pickles?

Weighing cucumber slices.

It's true that modern, pre-processed commercial pickles can be problematic.  Commercial picklers add all kinds of additives to make them crisp and bright.  Their source veggies are of questionable quality.  You have to worry about sodium content, sugars, and any pesticides on the veggies.  However, even commercial pickles can have beneficial effects.  The pickled vegetable is usually high in fiber, which is good for the digestive tract.  Vinegar, often used in the pickling process, is a good source of magnesium, and has been shown to boost the body's fat-burning metabolism.

The cucumber, a favorite among American picklers, is not the most nutritious vegetable you could be pickling.  However, with proper recipes, well-chosen organic produce that's free of pesticides, and a variety of vegetables, you can have nutritious, guilt-free pickles in your pantry.

Bread and Butter pickles, with a few jars of dill pickles peeking out in the back.

Take the turnip.  Tiny little root vegetable with a copious, leafy top.  Their raw flavor and texture is not unlike a radish crossed with a carrot.  Pickled with a little cumin, and they are delicious and nutritious.  You can also blanch and freeze (or dare I say... pickle? Pickled greens = delicious) the tops for a very healthy serving of greens.

Turnip roots, quartered and sliced, being brined in salt water prior to being rinsed, and pickled.

Right now I'm loving a new canning cookbook I bought for the Kindle I will soon own (I have a Kindle Fire on pre-order, but there's a reader app for PCs and other devices like Android).  It's called "Canning for a New Generation" and it's split up by seasons, so whatever time of year you find yourself with a bumper crop of something, it's a great place to start.  Her choices are a bit limited though, so if you find yourself with, say, a bushel of Okra your neighbor gave you, you're going to have to find "The Ball Blue Book of Home Preserving" or "The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving".  The first is out of print, which is a shame, because it was a more no-nonsense, comprehensive list of fruits and vegetables and how to preserve them the same way your grandmother did.  The "Complete" book has been updated to be more modern, and has recipes that are more... how do I say this?  More cosmopolitan.  Still a very good resource, and easier to get a hold of.

The healthiest, most nutritious pickled foods, however, are some of the Japanese pickles that are out there.  My next pickling session, I am definitely going to be getting something like a Tsukemono cookbook, full of healthful Japanese pickling recipes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Food: Special Blanching Edition

Sorry, but I won't show you the inside of my freezer.  :D  Oh, and edited to add that this is only one bunch down.... three more to go.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Food: There's Gonna Be A Change

My best friend in the whole world, who has been my buddy since we were thirteen years old (and that was longer ago than I care to admit), is in the hospital with seizures and complications related to a condition she has called Dystonia.  It made me realize that even though I am in good health (generally speaking) I squander that health with sedentary living and poor eating habits.

There's going to be a change.

I've always been a fan of eating foods that are as close to what nature made them as they can possibly be... fresh corn on the cob instead of commercially canned creamed corn, or poached chicken breasts instead of chicken nuggets.  I love to cook, but even so... I will take shortcuts.  And some nights when I'm bone tired or my back is bothering me, I'd rather order a pizza.  And sometimes, a PB&J sandwich just doesn't taste right unless it's on that squishy, non-bread bread.  You know which one I mean.

I fill up my Thermos coffee mug every morning, sip it slowly (hence the Thermos) and at noon I'd switch to soda or lemonade, depending on the heat and the season.  That's a crap-ton of caffeine, processed sugar, and the general sludge that comes from coffee.  Ever worked in a restaurant and had to clean coffee gunk from the carafes?  Yeah, that's in you too, baby.  That's in ME.

I'm not going to deprive myself so that I end up rubberbanding back to worse habits than before, but some stricter guidelines are going to be gradually phased in.

I'm digging out the Google Map I printed two months ago for a "pick-your-own" (though that only applies to their strawberries when in season, but they sell their other produce) organic produce farm, and we're going sometime this weekend.  I'll probably go overboard, get the stuff home, and go "Holy crap, where am I going to store all this?!"  At least I have a decent supply of canning jars, I just need to find new lids.  Right now, not only do they have Satsuma oranges, but Meyer lemons, two kinds of greens, turnips, kumquats, pecans, and of course, pumpkins.

Friday nights we usually order a pizza.  Tonight instead I made boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Lay them in a pan, put a thin layer of mustard over each breast, then add some chicken stock around the breasts and cover tightly.  Depending on the thickness of the pieces, cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the thickest part reaches 165°.  Serve that with rice and a green vegetable or salad, and it's not too bad for you, depending on the sodium content in the broth.  We'll put a little orange marmalade (home made) on the side.  Very tasty.

I've also cut down to one soda a day, and replaced my intake with at least two sixteen ounce cups of herbal tea.  Good detoxifying teas are chamomile, peppermint, and raspberry leaf.  Not only does it help with your fluid intake, but they can be chock full of anti-oxidants.  Nothing like squashing some free radicals with something that's tasty to boot.

So take a look at your lifestyle.  Think about whether you're doing enough, or whether you're squandering your health.

Next up... more exercise.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Knitting: Almost there...

Bound off the right front of Caitlin's "Tempest" sweater last night and cast on both sleeves.  They are knit flat, so I am doing them side-by-side on my circular needles.  I just have to watch out for twisting.

I didn't notice till just now, but I like the way the light color pooling on the variegated yarn makes something that looks like angel wings on the back.  The back is curling horribly... I assure you all the pieces are roughly the same length.

The alpaca is making a soft, warm fabric.  Should see her through the winter months.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Knitting: Chugging away

Still plodding along on the Tempest sweater for my daughter.  I finished the back and am about halfway through the left front.  It's going very slowly because a) I've been distracted by other crafting disciplines and b) I find it hard to get excited about my knitting project if I'm not excited about the TV I'm watching while I knit.

Sure, there are new shows on, now that the new seasons have started, but half of them I have to save until the rest of the family can watch them with me.  And an episode or two isn't enough to get much done.  So then I'm stuck with the old stuff on Netflix.  Like... "That 70's Show".  Ugh.

Don't judge me.  I've pretty much watched everything else.

I've found that the nice thing about sculpting (one of the distractions) is that I do NOT require TV in the background to work on a piece.  I'm currently working on a 12" Cthulhu figure for my husband to put on his desk.  I was going to save it for Christmas, but it's hard to hide that kind of project in this tiny place.

I'll post about the other things I'm working on later this week.

Monday, October 3, 2011

AoA: Well I'm from Emily Minnesota...

A new Anecdote of Aspergers.

So back when I was married to my second husband, we went to Vegas.  I forget why... honeymoon trip?  Three day pass from Army MOS school?  I don't remember.  Anyhoo, we were there, and it was fun.  I won $400 bucks playing electronic Keno and some game based on Monopoly.  I can kick ass at computerized Monopoly... the computer becomes incredibly predictable about trading property.

So we're walking out to our car in this huge parking lot that's the size of three football fields.  It was really, really dark too.  Had this resolved a different way, I would have had grounds for a lawsuit.

So this skinny blonde kid stepped out in front of us.  I remember I didn't feel like I was in any kind of danger.  He didn't have a weapon of any kind... I think he was just trying to intimidate us.  Husband Two and the kid have a bit of a verbal exchange, but this is the gist of what was said.

"So... I'm from Chicago." the kid says.

Husband number two laughs.  "Well I'm from New York." he said, putting on his thickest accent.  He's actually from Long Island.  He's short, and cocky, and insufferably arrogant.  We just kept walking.

Here's the thing... I had no idea what was going on at the time.  I just thought it was just another example of people being weird and incomprehensible.  Homeless dudes in the parking lot?  Whatever.

It took me ten years of remembering that little bit of weirdness to realize he was probably trying to mug us.  Probably lost all of his money and was trying to get back to the tables, or cover it up before his wife found out he'd drained the savings account, or something.  And I had no idea.  I just stood there, waiting for my husband to keep walking.

This is the kind of thing that, when I remember it or figure it out, makes me afraid for my daughter who has been diagnosed with Aspergers.  I put myself in a crap-ton of dangerous situations, and had the people involved in those situations been just a little bit different, I would be dead or worse by now.

I will do my best to surround her with kind, caring, neuro-typical people, so at least if I can't be there, someone will.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Knitting: Pushing On

Despite the fact that several shows have returned for the fall (Helloooo "Castle" and Nathan Fillion... I missed *you*) I haven't gotten the revitalizing kick from it I usually get every year.  Not even the hour and a half epic series premiere of "Terra Nova" with its dinosaurs-a-plenty gave me a kick in the pants.

I think I'm experiencing an artist's slump.  I have no enthusiasm for anything anymore.  More on my artist's slump later in the week, right now we're talking about knitting.

Here is the meager progress so far on my daughter's Tempest sweater.  Wow, that's a lot of color huh?

You can't tell because it's curling up on all the edges, but I've just finished the waist shaping on the back piece and moved towards the arm holes.

I didn't realize it when I was letting monkeypants pick her colors, but I did NOT steer her towards machine washable yarns.  *sigh*  So this will be a hand wash sweater.  I just have to make sure it doesn't get dropped in the laundry basket, because Barry *will* wash it and turn it into a doll-sized creation.  :/

This yarn is very nice and soft to work with, though.

Friday, September 23, 2011

PolyClay: Newest hobby obsession

Title says it all.  I'm back into sculpting with polymer clay.  Made a little dragon for Caitlin:

Hubby requested one for his desk at work, but it ended up looking more snake-like or dinosaur-like, if dinos were legless.

That would actually be a great head for a brontosaurus.  I may have to throw a couple wings and some head frills on there or something... give it that dragon feel.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Knitting: Can't You Read My Mind?

I just realized that I forgot to post that I finished my "Catkin" shawl.  In my defense, I was trying to finish it before the "Knit's Watch" Game of Thrones group knitalong deadline.  I squeaked it in by a day and a half, finishing all three projects in time.  (The steel Clapo-ktus, the Sylvi Coat, and the Catkin)  It was fun.

I have finally sat down to knit my daughter's "Tempest" sweater for the new school year.  I'm using Alpaca Sox yarn in red and cerise multi, so it's going to be brilliant... in every sense of the word.

I also have a stash-busting afghan started that I keep by the bed to work on when I'm relaxing for sleep.  It's a simple double-crochet in straight-line rows, one for each color.  I'm using Knit Picks Palette yarn, double stranded.  I *almost* use up an entire ball for a row.  Seeing as how I have one of those lawn and leaf bags FULL of palette yarn that I will never use, since it's useless for socks, here's where it's going.  I could probably make about five of them.

I am thinking about going ahead and making up all of them that I can, and selling them.  I would have to market them towards people with more money than time or patience.

I also similarly crocheted a black and red scarf in a worsted-weight cotton/silk blend, but since I'm planning on giving that to my next "True Blood" swap partner, I will skip the pictures for now so as not to ruin the surprise.  :D

I do love the *speed* of crochet.  I can knock out things in a flash.  However, I think the fabric looks chunky, bulky, and cheap, so I would not wear a crocheted garment.  That is not to say that someone out there does not think differently than I do, or that they wouldn't buy such an item. 

I shall have to re-think my policy on never making anything I wouldn't want for myself.  I have seen people purchase, adore, and wear some of the strangest things... who am I to judge?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Food: Banana Mania

Caitlin, who loves Doctor Who, has been on a banana kick (along with celery, it's a Whovian thing that would take too long to explain here).  Last time hubby took her to the grocery store, he came back with two huge bunches.  They were slightly green, so he planned well, she just did not have the fortitude to plow through quite that many bananas before they went to mush.

So enter frugal mom and her banana bread.

My grandmother had an awesome recipe for banana bread that used sour cream in it, and had some kind of sugar/nut mixture for the top.  It was always the moistest, most delicious bread I ever had, but when we went to visit her on vacation, we couldn't find it in her big old archive of recipes.  Bummer.

So I went digging on and I found this one.  I doubled the recipe.  It's very close, but instead of the sour cream, I added two six-ounce containers of greek yogurt.  Instead of the creaming method to blend, I melted the butter and mixed everything all at once.

I have a large number of silicone cupcake cups in various shapes, and this would easily fill several dozen of them.  However, I only made 12 of the muffins and used the rest of the batter to fill four mini-loaf pans.  This way I could freeze two of the loaves, and save the rest.

I baked the muffins for 15 minutes, the mini-loaves for 40.

No pictures... sorry Iggystar, I *am* trying, but I'm just not a food photographer.  :D

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Knitting: Sylvi Finished

The Sylvi coat is finished.  It took four hours to backstitch all those knitted-on flower petals.  It probably doesn't help that I did large petals on the shoulder, when I should have done small.

The Catkin shawl is annoying me.  I'm in section two, where it's a K2P2 herringbone pattern, but the increases make it just screwy enough that I can't ditch the chart and just *knit*.  It's frustrating.  I'm about ten rows from the end of that section.  Hopefully the next section, with its alternating rows of color and slipped-stitch design will be easier.  *Imagine* that.

I've also been crocheting some stash-busting items when the Catkin is just making me tooooooo crazy.  I managed a many-colors scarf in single crochet rows in about a day.  Daughter promptly glommed onto it and declared it hers.  I'm now working on a double crochet afghan, using the many, many skeins of Knit Picks Palette yarn that I have.  One color per row.  I've been thinking about selling the resulting items, but I always get this doubtful feeling when I contemplate selling my handmade yarn goods.  It's so easy to make, who'd buy it?  People with more money than time and patience I suppose.

My husband and Teresa want me to sell fish hats.  I'm conflicted about that as well, since it's not my pattern, and some designers are tricky about that sort of thing.  I could contact her I suppose, but she's not from this country, for one thing, and for another the pattern was published on Knitty, and those of us in the Ravelry community know they've had a billion problems with unscrupulous brick and mortar knitting stores stealing their designs, printing them, and using them to sell yarn in their shops as part of unauthorized kits.  It's disgraceful really.  I don't want to be perceived as being a part of that kind of behavior.

How funny it is when a term like "bootleg knitting" pops into your head.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Knitting: Flower Petals

Well I am THIS close to finishing the Sylvi coat.  Everything has been knitted and pieced together, I just have to pick up the stitches for the bazillion flower petals on the back and hood, knit those on, and it's done.  So far I've done four petals.  They don't take long, they're just going to be a pain to sew down.  And I have already knit one completely backwards... ie. the wrong side is facing up.

I am very tempted to call the bobble clusters holly berries and forgo the petals altogether.  But I won't.

I have not touched the Catkin since before I left for vacation, but as soon as I'm done with the flower petals on the Sylvi, I will dive in.  The chart is not complicated, per se, it's just convoluted.  The pattern isn't common-sense enough that I can just ditch the chart.  I guess that's the kind of thing that bothers me.

After THAT is done, I'm diving into my daughter's annual school sweater.  Yes, I'm late.  She hasn't outgrown the last two years' worth by very much, but it's getting to the point where she's going to have 3/4 sleeves soon if I don't do something.

When THAT's done, I'm either FINALLY knitting the Dogwood Blossom Cardigan kit I've had from Knitpicks for over a year, or I'm going to try and do some serious destashing projects.... like grabbing a handful of yarn and crocheting a row of an afghan and repeating ad nauseum.

THEN... socks. Lots and lots of socks to destash my sock yarn.  I shall be sick of socks.  But I hear Chris Bauer's character Andy Bellefleur is complaining no one ever knit him socks.  Perhaps I shall donate some.  :D

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Knitting: Winter is Coming

Not just a line from the explosively popular show "Game of Thrones", winter truly is coming.  And I'm behind on my knitting... again.

I'm currently involved in a knit-along (or KAL for the uninitiated) with a group of gals from the Ravelry website who are "Game of Thrones" fans.  We choose three thematically appropriate items to knit and try to get them done by September 19th.  I forget why that date is important.  Hmm.

My three projects are the Clapo-ktus shawl, the Sylvi coat, and a Catkin shawl.  I had intended to finish the Clapo-ktus for my class reunion dinner almost two weeks ago, but it took me about a week longer than anticipated.  Mostly this was because I did not knit as much in the car on the way up there as I thought I would, nor did I knit as much sitting around visiting with my grandmother as I thought I would.  That woman is close to 90 years old, and she never sits still.

However, I did finish it.  I started in on the Sylvi coat before I'd even left for my trip, and gotten one sleeve finished.  I cast the second sleeve on in the car on the way home (181 miles into Iowa, if memory serves, because that's where I finished the Clapo-ktus), finished that sleeve in about four hours, and cast on for the back.  That lasted me the rest of the way home.

I have about twice as much of the back done now as when this picture was taken.  Bulky yarn is wonderful if you want something done fast!  I love that leaf detailing.  I have gotten past the first flower on the back, and I hope I am interpreting the directions properly about the flower petals.  In the pictures they look much larger than the area that is marked for the picked up stitches.

I hauled the Catkin all the way to Minnesota and back, and I never once unzipped the bag.  :/  The chart for that is just too intricate, and since I was using magnets to mark my place, I could just see jumping out of the car in Kansas for a rest stop and dropping something vital or losing my place by knocking the magnet askew.  No thank you.  I knit to DE-stress.

Monday, August 15, 2011

AoA: Plonk Plonk, Thump Thump

Another anecdote of my life with Asperger's syndrome when I didn't know I had it.

After I'd joined the Army, but before I shipped out, I had more than a month before I had to be anywhere.  So I rented a small efficiency apartment which was half the converted upper story of an older woman's house.  The parking was terrible, which ended up being a good thing because I hated backing my car in and out so much that I walked wherever I wanted to go a lot.  I ended up being in a much better condition for basic training.

Anyway, apparently my landlady liked to play piano.  A lot.  Normally I don't mind piano music, but this woman's piano was out of tune.  Not just "normal" out of tune, but that warbly, wavery kind of out of tune you hear on pianos in Wild West movies.  Like there's also a cat stuck in the string bed and it's sitting on a vibratory sander.  Now, I didn't know it was my landlady at the time, I just thought it was another tenant.

So it'd turn 10pm, and I'd start tapping on the floor for her to knock it the hell off.  Only I can't quite tell what direction it's actually coming from so I can really make my point, so I just start rapping on the floor in random spots that I think the direction might be.  She keeps playing, and I keep tapping, because the off-key plonking is getting on my last nerve.  (Aspies are very sensitive to pitch, and quite frequently have perfect pitch)  An hour (!) later, she finally stops.

She served me an eviction notice two days before the month was up.  I was leaving anyways, and I know she knew I was leaving anyways because my shipping out date was coming up, but she obviously felt the need to make *her* point.  It was probably against state renter's protection laws too, but whatever.

The funny part is, I don't remember her name, and probably couldn't find the house again if I wanted to, but I remember that the house was blue.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Family: We're Back!

Since I have a general squeamishness about announcing when we're going on vacation on the internet, it may surprise some of you that we were on vacation.  Well, we were, and now we're back!  It was, frankly, an exhausting trip.  I need a vacation from my vacation!

Between the three of us, we took 193 photos and two short video clips.  Three if you count the accidental one.  :D  I am currently uploading and tagging on Facebook as I type.

The exterminator visited the day after we left, so I came home to a lovely kitchen with a crunchy, dead bug over linoleum layer.  Just the thing to walk on when you're exhausted from two fourteen-hour days in the car.  Also, I think our air conditioning is broken for the fourth time this summer.  Lovely.

We SO need to move.

Surprisingly, some of my plants survived my absence.  One Italian sweet pepper fell off the plant and got munched by bugs, but the other one is still hanging in there and beautifully red and luscious looking.  My sage plant died, but the basil and thyme are still doing good.

I did put some of those water globe things in there, but the big stand where the herbs are sucks up about one of those bulbs a day, and I just didn't have enough of them, so I decided to try to save the smaller plants instead, and let nature handle watering the big guy.  It's a drought though, so whadaya going to do?

The trip didn't cost us as much in gas as I feared it would, thanks mostly to a sparing use of the AC in the car and the fact that we do get pretty good milage.  The trip over land was well worth the aches and pains of car travel, because you see some really wacky crap on the road.  Amazing bridges, cool graffiti art, and... get this... I saw a flatbed trailer hauling what looked like a giant head from Tutankamen's sarcophogus.  You can't make that crap up.  Oh, and another huge trailer hauling what looked like a blade from a giant wind turbine.  You know how a flatbed trailer is a certain length?  It took TWO of them for this single blade.  I never realized they were that huge.

It was exhausting, but worth every penny and minute of time spent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Knitting: Good Grief!

I started going through every single bit of my stash of yarn yesterday, trying to get a sense of what I have, what's been entered into my stash tracker on Ravelry, and to get an idea of what to take along with me on my car trip to and from Gramma's house this year.

Holy Guacamole.

I found two sampler bags of sock yarn and a sampler bag of lace weight yarn from Knit Picks that was never entered into the tracking system.  Yet another reason why boycotting them is a good idea for me.  I'll tack on a skein or two of sock yarn to my order since it's cheap, and now... I have an entire 50 quart plastic bin of just the *pretty* sock yarn.  And NONE of it was entered into the tracking system.  So I file it away in a bin, and promptly forget about it.

Well, I've entered it all into the system now.

So needless to say, the rest of my 2011 knitting year is going to consist of a combination of severe yarn diet and stash-busting projects.  I had several sock-weight projects in my queue already, but I'm going to add on a Many Colors Swirl Coat which uses eight different color skeins of yarn in addition to the Strata  Sphere Swirl coat I'd been planning to make to use up some of the Noro yarn I have that has that god-awful Mohair in it.

We're still trying to save for a house, although if we're moving this year, it looks like it might be to just a different apartment instead.  We'll have to see.  So it won't hurt to just sock away my "allowance" for a few months, and I certainly won't be hurting for yarn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Knitting: Hot Enough for Popcorn on the Sidewalk

... but I'm still knitting.  I managed to finish the Lily Cuffs in Midwinter Chroma.  I made them twice as long, changed to stockinette for the middle portion, and left off the ruffles.  I had enough yarn, I just didn't feel like having ruffles tickling my armpits.  There is eight stitches worth of increases between wrist and top, just enough for an additional pattern repeat on the rib detail.  They fit like very close-fitted sleeves.  I may capitalize on that at some point and create a cardigan or pullover if I ever decide to lift my Knit Picks embargo.

I am getting close to done on the Nantucket blue Azami pullover.  Since I rarely do a pattern in the yarn called for by the designer, I am disappointed in the lace panels in this thing, which for once cannot be attributed to my yarn choice.  The lace is blocky, muddled, and has no real flow from one section to another.  I see nothing attractive in having it at all, and I will be omitting it as much as I can from the hood and sleeves, which is all I have left to do.  I would imagine having a stockinette hood would be warmer for its purpose, anyway.

After finishing up the True Blood Vlad in Twisted Warlock for the knitalong, my decks will finally be cleared.  I have verbally (well, as verbally as you can on the internets) committed myself to the Game of Thrones group's "Knit Watch" knitalong, with two projects.  A Catkin capelet in some leftover Knit Picks gloss and other sock yarn, and a Sylvi in Valley Yarns Bulky Red.

I regret that I do not have any pictures of my finished and in-progress items, but my battery pack is currently (ha ha) charging and I wanted to get this out before midnight since I skipped last week.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Knitting: Summer Mania

Apparently this heat has made me nuts.  It wasn't enough that I'm working on the final draft of my first salable sock pattern, knitting a pullover, knitting arm warmers, have at least three blankets in hibernation, and a crochet shawl I'm working on for a friend.  No.  I join a knit-along for my favorite TV show and knit a practice one before casting on the real thing.  AND have at least two more pullover pattern ideas simmering in my noggin plus a blanket I'm dying to try and create.  Don't ask me how many cute things I have waiting in my Ravelry Q.

The Gray Slinky is coming right along though.  I have gotten past the ribbing on the second sleeve and am now into its stockinette section (I went for the long sleeved option, as I cannot abide sweaters with short sleeves.  What's the point if they don't keep your arms warm?  Nothing worse than having an overheated torso and chilly arms.)

I am well into the fifth body chart repeat on the Vlad scarf/shawlette.  I'm trying to slow down on it so I can keep at the same pace as my other True Blood knitting sisters.  Unless I want to go for a third one, which even by my standards is a little excessive.  The thing is though once you really "get" that pattern, it's a fun and quick little knit, and good for stockpiling gifts and using up stash.

I have not touched the crochet Dragonfly Shawl.  Now that I understand how its pattern works, I am less obsessed with actually working on it.  In fact, I may unravel it and try it again at a later date in the pattern's recommended crochet cotton, since my friend Iggy was nice enough to buy me enough for the whole project.  It actually sounds like a good project for the car trip in August, since I know from experience it will be hot, and there's nothing worse than 14 hours in a hot car with a large pile of wool in your lap.  Cotton will be better.

I do not have any additional progress photos since last week.  Sorry about that.  I know these knitting posts are pretty dry without them. It was either take photos and post this tomorrow, or post it now sans pictures.  Since I like keeping to schedules, here we are.  :D

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Television: Summer TV 2011

The lines are starting to become blurred, but there are two (for now) distinct seasons for TV watchers... Fall and Summer.  Some shows are trying to smudge things a bit by starting early.  Covert Affairs, my favorite from last summer's lineup, is already on its fourth episode this season, while Warehouse 13 hasn't even started yet.  And Rubicon, a sleeper from AMC last year, didn't even start until August 1st, and I don't expect it to change that.

So far this summer season, Covert Affairs is meeting my (rather high) expectations, considering it had quite a first season to live up to.  Teen Wolf, on the other hand, is disappointing.  I was hoping for lighthearted comedy with a supernatural theme, but apparently someone has passed a law in California that you can't have a paranormal teen show without a crap-ton of angst, midnight black sets where you can only see 50% of the action,  and child actors.  And with sixteen year old actors comes sixteen year old acting skills.  Bleah.  Sure, at sixteen I was no Lawrence Olivier, but then I wasn't trying to peddle my acting on a major network.

On the SyFy front, Eureka, Warehouse 13, and a new show I'm trying out, Alphas, all premiere on July 11th, while Haven will premiere on the 15th.  Alphas looks to be a combination of NUMB3RS and what Heroes should have been, a national special-human taskforce that takes on cases the FBI and other agencies can't solve.  They're not radioactive mutants or people affected by some weird eclipse, they're non-neuro-typical naturally-evolved humans who can do certain things better than typical humans.  This is something I can relate to with my recent Asperger Syndrome diagnosis.  Even if you're not neuro-typical, you can still function (and at some things quite well) and have an impact on society.  I'm curious to see how they play it.

There was a rumor going around that "The Walking Dead" had its premiere pushed up to July, but that has since either been changed or disproven, however you want to look at it, and we will not be seeing our favorite zombie apocalypse story back again until October, which I think sucks.  There is a ton of wonderful material in the comic books to cover, and at only six episodes per season, this is going to crawl along like a zombie geek with its legs missing.  Their only saving grace is the largely-confirmed rumor that Stephen King and his author son Joe Hill will be co-writing a script together whenever their schedules will allow.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Food: Container Gardening Makes it Possible!

Believe it or not, you can still grow a decent(ish) garden even when you're living in a dinky apartment.  Between the upside-down container planter and various 6 to 12 inch pots, I have a little corner of greenery going on my narrow patio/entry area.  Behold, not one but two six-inch Italian sweet peppers:

And they haven't even thought about turning red yet, so they could get much larger before that happens.

I am not very happy with the results of the upside-down part of the container planter, though.  The upright plants have far outgrown their topsy-turvy counterparts.  I don't think the tomato plant has even grown, much less blossomed.
This is my motley collection.  The only one not present is a cherry tomato plant that I moved into the sun before I was inspired to grab my camera.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

AoA: That feels like what nails on a chalkboard sounds like to you

My husband does most of the laundry.  Even if my back was in tip-top shape (which, having had two kids, it is NOT) he would still do most of the laundry... at least until we get our own house again and can stop hauling it up and down the stairs.  Why?  Because I can't train him to stop dropping his dirty shirts on the end of the couch.

Let me explain.  My husband is an IT tech for a major oil company.  So he has a nice-paying job, but he gets to wear golf shirts to work.  Once in a while, though, he wears something with long sleeves.  These shirts are the problem.  Several of them are made of some kind of fabric that makes my eyelids twitch... literally... whenever I touch them.  The feel of it makes me go "Eeeeeee" until I let go of it.  It just gross, gross, grosses me out.  I can't describe it any other way than the title of this post:  The fabric feels to me like what nails on a chalkboard sounds like to you.  I think I would rather stick my hand in a live bee hive than go digging in his pile of shirts and encountering one of the textural nightmare ones.  And they are sneaky.  Now, if we had our own washer and dryer, and I could train him to drop his shirts in the washer every night instead of the end of the couch, then all I would have to do is wait until it's full and push a button.  They do not bother me when they are wet, so moving them to the dryer would be no problem.

I probably sound like a big baby, huh?  For years I never had to deal with someone else's fabric choices, just my own.  And when he's buying shirts for himself, he has no idea what trips that textural trigger, so it's not like he can avoid them.  There doesn't seem to be any specific fabric type, except that usually softer is better... well, except for those faux suede things.  For some reason, that fabric also grosses me out.  Real suede is okay, but not man-made micro-suede, which is petroleum based.

I also think this is my *real* problem with mohair yarns.  For a long time I thought it might be allergies, but no... I've been on allergy medication and it still is hard to work with.  I think it's the roughness.  If I try to work with Noro Silk Garden, which has a significant percentage of mohair in it besides the silk, it feels like the fibers are wearing grooves in my fingers where it passes over.  It feels as rough as the bottom of a 3M scrubby sponge.  I've corresponded with a lot of knitters who love Noro, and mohair in general, and love its softness.  I used to think they were nuts.  Now I know we have different textural tolerances.

Knitting: Slinky and Lily Cuffs

The weeks are just flying by!  I'm going to be back in Minnesota before I know it.

Finished the body of the Gray Slinky and have moved on to the sleeves.  I am beginning to wonder about the wisdom of knitting myself a garment that will render me looking even more pear-shaped than usual, but I'm hoping that blocking and actual wear will make the ribbing less drawn-in.  Perhaps that and a good push-up bra will suffice.

I've also been trying to find ways to use up my Knit Pick's Chroma, since I've discovered they are disastrous as sock yarn.  I'm making a modified version of the Lily Cuffs from the "Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders" book, modified because doing two-stitch cables in sock yarn is completely maddening to me... so I did a stretch of ribbed cuff in pattern, and for the arm I've switched to plain stockinette.  I plan to do more ribbed cuff at the top.

These are also going to be extra-long, to cover more arm and use up the whole skein.

This Sunday is the premiere of "True Blood" season four, and I will be casting on my "real" Vlad scarf for that.  I'll be doing it in "Warlock" by Twisted Fiber Arts, which I think will be apropos for the season if the theme follows the books at all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Knitting: Practice Vlad Done, On to the Slinky

The practice run I did on the Vlad scarf was a surprisingly quick knit.  I may have mentioned I didn't like how this particular bamboo yarn I dyed myself had turned out, so after I knitted the Vlad I threw the finished scarf in my dyepot and over-dyed it in a thin layer of cherry red, letting the underneath variations in pinks and purples show through.

The top two photos are before over-dyeing, the bottom is after.  I'm not sure I like the lace blocking wires for anything that should be pinned out with sharp points.  I just couldn't get enough tension on the points to pull them out far enough without other things sliding around.  Using a pin on each point kind of defeats the purpose of using the wires, yes?  We'll see what I do with the "real" one.

Now that the practice Vlad is done, and we don't start the True Blood knit-along until the season starts officially on June 26th, I've moved on to a nice 2x2 ribbed sweater called "Slinky Ribs" from the "Custom Knits" book I got a while ago.  The Stripey Tang I did in my afghan leftovers?   Same book.  I've finished the shoulders and the front keyhole at the neckline, and am finally knitting in the round and working the rib detailing which does a slow shift transition from ribbing into stockinette stitch.  It's cute on the model in the book, lets hope I can pull it off with the same panache despite my smaller bust line.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Knitting: Girasole and Lanesplitter Knocked out!

In a finishing frenzy, I knocked out both the Girasole blanket and Lanesplitter skirt this past week.  Just in time, as the voting for the Ravelry "True Blood" knitting group's season four Knit Along has finished.  The Vlad shawl won (which was not my pick... I have trouble figuring out what to do with shawls).  And because I am contrary by nature, I will be knitting it twice... once immediately with some yarn I dyed myself that turned out less-than-stellar, and once in some lovely Twisted Fiber Arts Arial in the "Warlock" colorway, which is uniquely appropriate for the coming season of True Blood.  Witches.  Yep.

I actually started the practice Vlad yesterday, and it is a surprisingly simple pattern for a charted shawl.  Short charts, repeated several times, nice clean lines of YO's and k2tog ridges.  Pictures will be coming soon.  My photo area is once again buried in the crap that my family feels compelled to drop onto any horizontal surface with nothing on it.  It makes me want to put hedgehogs on the surfaces I want to be kept clear.   :D  Or cacti.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

AoA: Telling Tales

I've always wanted to talk enthusiastically on topics to the point of frustrating anyone who was listening to me.  This was brought to my attention two years ago when I was visiting my grandmother up in Minnesota.  My (now grown-up cousin) was visiting with his new baby.  He said something to me about how I always used to talk about Rick Springfield when we were kids, and how it was kind of funny.

I launched into a description of Rick's latest activities, new albums, the book that was coming out.  My cousin said, "I'm sure he's a nice guy." in a calm voice, like he was placating a mental patient.

Sigh.  I'm just more comfortable talking about what I know.

I don't think I'm very far into the Autism spectrum.  I think I got it just enough to give me the sound and smells sensitivity, the obsessive behavior, and the difficulty in relating to people.  I don't have the perfect pitch, or the eidetic memory, but I can visualize horrific things I've seen on the news or *heard about* on the radio with vivid clarity, sometimes making me wince at what I see in my head.  I can't listen to the radio anymore.  My husband's alarm is set to a radio station, and one morning it woke me up with a news story about a little boy who was killed at a reception for his own baptism by his father who was moving the parked cars around so all the relatives could fit their cars.  They hadn't seen that the toddler had wandered into the front yard and gotten somewhere behind one of the vehicles.

The mental images that news story conjured up in my head can still make me cry when I remember them, and it's been four years.  It's as vivid to me as if I witnessed it.

At least my condition has made me rather safety-conscious.  If a tall, narrow dresser is against the wall, I can see it tipping over and hurting someone, so I anchor it to the wall.  If we're in the car bringing a large purchase home, I see us getting into an accident and the item hurting someone even worse than the accident would, so I rearrange our seating so that everyone is safe.  Sometimes these imaginings make me wince, as well, but I take steps to avoid them and feel much better.  Power strip too close to the water cooler?  Find an enclosed one or move it further away.  LAN cables running across a high-traffic area because the cable company can't get permission to install a new outlet in the other rooms?  Tape them down under an area rug.

In the past, when I've said something, told a story, or made a comment, I've often heard the response "No one cares!" in an exasperated tone.  Not all the time, but often enough.  I'm getting better at telling when people are bored with me, or irritated, but I'm not great at it.  I have to do a lot of self-monitoring now.  If I'm bugging you with something, I will not be offended by a simple request to change the subject, or ease off the behavior.  It will help me learn.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Knitting and Crochet: Girasole Hanging On

So last week, I'm thinking "Oh, all I have left of the Girasole blanket is a one-inch wide border to knit on... I can finish that in a day or two."  Oh, foolish, foolish knitter.

This is my first attempt at a knitted on lace border.  For those of you not familiar with the process, you knit the lace across the width of it, using the last stitch on the right side of the work (on the left end of the needle, go figure) knitted together with live stitches you've left on another needle, one at a time, to join it to the main body of the shawl or blanket.  Basically, you're using one stitch from the main blanket every other row.

It's been a week, and I'm a little over halfway.

It doesn't help that I find this process so mind-numbingly boring that I keep distracting myself with other things.  Like games on Facebook.  Or crochet projects.  Crochet flies along at warp speed next to this thing.

My good friend Iggystar sent me a crochet book (Crochet So Fine) and enough Aunt Lydia's Crochet cotton to make the Dragonfly Shawl.  I was not getting the process at all.  Here is a quote from my Ravelry project page: 

"A friend bought me the book and enough Aunt Lydia’s crochet thread to make this shawl. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t getting the construction method. I knew I was making the side from the point out, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around the order of making the shells and SCing back across the top of the shell.

The written directions are worded very poorly in this regard.

Finally, I decided to try it in a thicker yarn, because I’m not normally a crochetter and my tension was looking all wonky and wasn’t helping. I’d ripped all the way to the beginning nine times or more.
Using the thicker yarn, and looking over some in-progress pictures here on Ravelry, I finally got it. You start with one shell (fan shape) and SC across. Then build the next row of two shells, then SC back across. Then three shells, etc.

The use of the word “row” in the written instructions is not helpful at all the way they worded it.
Since I only have the one ball of Chroma, but I like the way it’s turning out with the color progression, I shall have to purchase two more balls. Then I think I can tackle the version in crochet cotton."

Here is what the Chroma version is looking like now that I "get" it.

I love it, but this is going to be a warm version.  It's not nearly as slinky and sexy as the mercerized cotton version would be.  But at least crochet flies along, and I'll make all my mistakes on this yarn, which is fuzzy and forgiving, and will show fewer of them.