Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Letter to Retailers

During this time of Holiday gift-giving, socializing, children's activities, and family obligations, there is plenty of stress and distractions to go around.  I don't know if the landscape of retail sales is changing, or I'm older and therefore more aware, or both, but this year I have noticed a disturbing trend that has been building over the last five years.

1.  We consumers are not fooled by your "Friends and Family Discount" proclamations.   I could not pick any of you out of a lineup, so do not presume to call me a friend and then offer me a paltry 25% off.  My true friends and family get wholesale prices, so spare me the patronizing emails.

2.  We consumers are not fooled by idiotic "Choose Your Discount" sale prices.  $10 off your $100 order, $20 off your $200 order is still 10%.  $40 off a $400 order doesn't make me feel any more special, and 10% off during the holidays is barely worth my time to open the email.

3.  "Last Chance to Save!!" would mean a lot more if I wasn't getting the same email, slightly changed, every week for the last two months.

The week after Thanksgiving, my unread emails waiting in my inbox every morning was double what it normally was.  It took two weeks to taper back.  I don't even read them anymore, just tick off the boxes next to the headers of the worst offending senders, and delete them unopened.  I finished my holiday shopping in October, mainly because anything that's a "great deal" during the shopping season will not be in stock to ship in time for Christmas.  I am not lured to your website by these great deals, therefore I do not impulsively buy other items to round out my list.

Stop relying on one month a year to make your profits.  If you can barely survive the other 48 weeks a year, then maybe you need to look at scaling back or diversifying.  All retail entities need to stop being greedy, stop trying to take over the market share.  What ever happened to being content with what you have?  Whether you're a consumer, or a retailer, stop trying to expand and grow quite so much.  In retailers it leads to spreading your resources too thin and going into debt during the year, prompting sleazy, desperate tactics during the holidays.  In consumers, it leads to a hollow feeling of dissatisfaction once the holidays are over, an attitude of ravenous consumerism, and a house full of junk you barely use.

And any good you do during the rest of the year to reduce your carbon footprint is done away with in shipping pollution, wrapping paper, and power usage.

Be content with less.

I am pledging to not spend any unnecessary money until January 1st.  Pay the bills, buy food and fuel to get to work, but no gadgets, gizmos, movies, etc.  Handmake gifts out of things you already own, if you need any last-minute additional items.  Giving your hostess a loaf of Cranberry bread is just as welcome and meaningful as a bottle of wine in wrapping paper.  A knitted scarf for your aunt is just as thoughtful as a CD, if not more so.  If the recipients do not seem to appreciate these gifts, that is the fault of the receiver, not the giver.

I could keep going on about how I think advertising has ruined this country, brainwashing our citizens into feeling worthless unless they buy certain products, or that they're not really being good parents unless they give their kids a million things, or that they will suddenly be happy and fulfilled if they only buy THIS item.  And I will look like a hypocrite because I have advertising on my web page, not that I find web advertising all that effective, but it's the principle.  I will stop now, but my main message to retailers this holiday season is this:  I am on to you.  And I refuse to be manipulated anymore.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Food and Cooking: Great Deal

Today only, Amazon has a deal on Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal for the Kindle.  You don't have to own a Kindle to take advantage of this offer... they have a free reading app for your PC or Mac, Android phone, iPhone, and other electronic gadgets.

I don't have to tell you how passionate I am about this nation's food situation, and knowing where our food comes from, and in what condition it arrives on our plate.  Books like these outline the history of America's food industry, and open our eyes to just how things got this way.  I highly recommend everyone educate themselves about food.  You are what you eat.... and that's not just a saying, that is literally and inescapably true.  You supply the building materials for your body's cells to repair and maintain themselves.  If you feed them crap, or worse, poisonous crap in the form of genetically modified or highly processed ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup or agave (which is processed in an eerily similar fashion as HFCS, yet is touted as a "healthy" alternative sweetener), then your body can only repair itself with the meager materials it finds.  If it can't find enough hidden in all the junk...

Lets just say I don't think the rise in autism, food allergies, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and a whole host of other ailments is due to better diagnostic techniques.  We're being poisoned by the industrialized food system, and while I believe they didn't set out to poison us on purpose, they are ruining the food supply in the interests of making a buck.

The old ways of making food are certainly not fast, and they are NOT cheap, but if you have to eat five times as much food to get the same amount of nutrients, then what's the better bargain?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Food and Cooking: Unintentional Success

Over-eager transylvanian garlic

 Okay, my new thing (besides apparently being really good at growing garlic) is sprouting.  I bought a sampler from Sprout House through Amazon a couple of paydays ago, and we have been sprouting fools, trying the different mixes.  Radish sprouts are a really, really concentrated kind of spicy.  Like putting ten radishes in your mouth and chewing them all at once.  But it's sooooooo good on a sandwich.

It's so darn easy, healthy, and tasty, it's unbelievable more people don't do it, especially with all the contamination recalls of store bought sprouts lately.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Food and Cooking: Manna

Next year in September, I'm going to hear a "thunk" and roll on the roof, and instead of thinking "Aw crap, branches fell on the roof."  I'm going to be thinking "Pie!" and race outside with a rake and a bucket.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Food and Cooking: Making Lemonade... With Ketchup

The garden beds are re-dug and my fall garlic has been planted.  Two rows of Transylvania garlic, and two rows of Roja garlic.  I have yet to plant my shallots, since I ran out of room.  I have a row up the middle of the garlic bed, but it is hard to reach from either side without trampling the outer rows, so I'm not sure I want to use it for planting.  I may throw some seeds in there that don't require the precise planting that bulbs do, like greens or something.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to get another condiment out of the house that had

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Food and Cooking: Not Sexist at All

The main excuse I hear for not going to all natural, real food after "It's too expensive!" (which is a fallacy after counting in the factors of nutrition, and healthcare costs from eating crap) is "I don't have time to make so many things from scratch!".

This *is* a real problem, because good food does take time.  My solution?  Single-income households or switching to local produce and meats exclusively.  Some of us can't switch to local, because the support structure just isn't there after decades of factory farming.  I have also worked out a system of once-a-month cooking, but that's not the topic of the post today, and doesn't completely solve the problem.  There's no getting around the fact that if you want nothing but nutritionally sound food, one person is going to have to stay in the kitchen full time, figuratively speaking.  Most time is spent planning outside the actual room.

Before my colleague feminists complain, I did NOT say that women should stay in the kitchen.  I said we need to switch back to a single income family model.  If that means the man stays home, that's okay too.  For single parents without domestic help, I feel for you.  Feeding a family with good, wholesome food, staying away from additives, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, mono-sodium glutamate, hydrogenated fats, and the rest of the nutritional pitfalls is a FULL TIME JOB.  They will benefit most from a plan-ahead, cook-it-all-in-one-weekend-and-freeze-it approach.  But that's another post.

Food suppliers have made it very, very difficult to find out exactly what's in your food.  They like this obscurity.  It means they can cheapen their product without damaging its perceived value.  So we parents/spouses/partners who are responsible for what goes on the table have mountains of research to do if we want to buy national brands.  Who puts "All-Natural" on their label, when in reality their cows are kept on feed lots, wallowing hip-deep in the filth of a thousand other cows?  Who claims to be organic, even though they lost their certification a year ago when they increased their herd size?  Who feeds their pigs anti-biotics and growth hormones?  You can't find that on a label, at least not in any standardized, accountable form, and if you think how the animal is treated while it matures doesn't affect what the meat is like, think again.

You know the old saying "You are what you eat"?  Well, consider that you are what you eat eats, too.  How nutritionally valuable do you think the milk will be if the cows that it came from were fed gummy worms AS FEED?

Or think of the example of the grocery store tomato.  They look pretty and red, thanks to ethelyne gas, even though they were picked way too early and were grown off-season with too little sunlight to develop their true flavor.  That tomato is going to taste like cardboard.  You may have even noticed a trend lately in NON-organic produce... it's gotten less pretty, more blemished.  I even found a bug in a head of non-organic lettuce recently.  A really big one, too.

I'm not sure if this is non-organic producers cutting costs even further, by relaxing their quality control standards to let more produce pass through, or if it's a deliberate attempt to make their product look organic, even if they can't claim it with certification.  Or a simple response to a growing consumer trend to prefer something that is less than perfect.

They are certainly on the ball if that is the case.  People are getting fed up with factory food.

I can remember opening a bag of Ruffles potato chips when I was a kid, and being delighted by the snowy white, crisp and tasty, perfectly ovoid contents.  Have you opened a bag lately?  (Considering the oil has changed in the last thirty years, and quite possibly the genetic structure of the potatoes themselves, I'm kinda hoping not)  Now when you open them, you see more misshapen chips, more "accidental" brown peels left on, more green spots... when there used to be none.  Why?  Is it a response to the economy, or a response to what is (hopefully) a growing consumer acceptance of something less-than-picture-perfect?

Since I've gone on for the length of a novel already, I'll wrap this up.  But please consider... is it worth upgrading to that shiny new car next year, and having to have two incomes coming in to afford it, if you have to switch to nothing but fast food and take-out dinner because you're both too exhausted to cook?  And then, because you're eating crap food, you get even more tired, get sick more often?  Is it really worth it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Food and Cooking: Making Your Own

Wow, with the start of the new school year and leap to Senior High for my daughter, I totally lost track of the time.  That, and the disappointing results of my garden due to unspecified pests of some type, have kept me from posting.

I have loved Stove Top Stuffing ever since I was a kid.  Something about the flavor and texture combination made me really, really happy.  I rediscovered this joy recently when I bought some on a sale-inspired whim.  I was shocked and saddened when, AFTER I brought it home, I read the ingredients list and found out that it contained High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Not only that, but it was the SECOND ingredient on the list, obscured by the long sub-list of ingredients for the flour.  I know, I should have read the label in the store, at least to look for semi-expected bad ingredients like MSG (which is also in there, dangit, along with a crap-ton of hydrogenated fats).

I know it didn't have these ingredients when I was ten.  Okay, I don't *know* for sure, since I wasn't a label reader then, but I'd be willing to bet it's changed a lot.  It certainly doesn't taste the same.

So I decided to scour the internet for a clone recipe to make my own mix, and make it healthier.  I've seen many, over the years, in books like "Make Your Own Groceries" (now sadly out of print and selling for over $50 per used book on Amazon) and I knew it could be done.  I found several, including this one on, and another on a blog titled "Feeding the Crew", but I didn't like either one.  The recipe used bouillon cubes, which to me seems odd, and unnecessary.  Just use granules in the first place!  Plus they don't go into the dried celery part, which might discourage some people as it's not readily available in all grocery stores.  The blogger's version was good, but adds a small amount of sugar to the mix.  The less sugar you feed your family, the less they expect it, and the less they crave it.  I don't think it's necessary to add sweetener to a stuffing.

I had a batch of baguettes that hadn't turned out right because I missed a crucial step (that basting with water and blast of steam when they enter the oven is very, very important to the classic crackling crisp crust).  I decided it was time to attempt the mix, but I'd use a modified combination of the two recipes to make something I would be happy to use.

Stuffing Mix

1 1/2 baguettes, sliced thin and cubed -OR- 6 cups cubed bread, dried (see below)
2 stalks of celery, finely diced and dried (see below)
3 tablespoons dried diced onions (I use an organic store brand)
2 tablespoons dried parsley (purchased organic, or home-dried organic)
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
6 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules, optional (you can omit if you plan to use home-made chicken stock for prepping the stuffing)

Place all ingredients in an airtight container and shake vigorously to combine.  To use, combine 1 2/3 cups water and 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan, -OR- 1 2/3 cups chicken stock in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add 2 cups mix.  Stir and cover.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Fluff and serve.

*Notes:  You can dry your own celery and bread for this recipe easily, and without fancy gadgets.  Take the finely diced celery and spread it in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Place the cookie sheet in the oven and turn the oven on to as low a setting as you can manage where it still kicks out a bit of heat.  My oven has a digital readout, and will only go down to 170°, so if you have digital, I recommend that setting.  My old dial stoves had something like 120° on the readout, but I swear the heating element wouldn't come on until I set it to at least 150°.  So use your judgement... you know your equipment!  My celery dried in about three hours.  The goal here is something that won't spoil if you leave it in the cupboard, so make sure it's dry.  My celery shriveled to 25% of its original size, and even though the pieces started out the size of pencil erasers, they were teeny-tiny after dehydration.  The same procedure will work for the bread cubes, although you don't need the foil.  The foil is in case the celery sticks, and there's not enough natural sugar or moisture in the bread for that to be a problem.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

HtH: Death and Destruction

The moving in is done, but the unpacking is just beginning.

Currently, our new garage is not being used for its primary purpose.  At present, it is a storage space for our stuff, a labyrinth of boxes and containers that rivals the warehouse the US government placed the ark of the covenant in at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.  Quite frankly, I am comfortable with the amount of stuff we have in the house now, and could probably live without the metric ton of crap I still have to sort through.  Oh, there are a few missing items... MY KNITTING NEEDLES, for example.  I have a few pairs I can access, (the ones in my current works in progress, of course) but not the shiny daytimer filled with interchangeable tips and cables that make up the rest of my set.

This is what happens when you leave the packing to husbands.  I would have placed items in indexed boxes, color coded with dots for each room, and a spreadsheet listing each box's contents.  He takes everything and throws it all into plastic totes and garbage bags.  "We'll find it all when we go through it."  Ha!  Granted, it took us right up to our time limit to get everything out of the old apartment, and my way would be much slower, but at least I would have known for certain that nothing would be lost in the shuffle.  I'm still kicking myself over $300 worth of DMC embroidery floss I accidentally donated to Goodwill twenty-five years ago when I moved out of Utah... how do you think I'm going to feel if we accidentally throw away two sets of KnitPicks interchangeables (Harmony and metal) and a set of WEBS bamboo interchangeables?  My collection of fixed circulars has, fortunately for my husband, already been located, but were all my books containing my needles together in the same container?  Heck no.

It's quite maddening.

Also, the pea plants did not make it.  I don't know if it was the soil quality, the heat, or a combination of the two, but they were looking pretty ragged.  So I tore them out.  I'm still holding out hope for the cucumbers, but they're not thriving as I'd hoped.  The scarlet runner bean and the Three Sisters garden are doing really well... proof to me that the bag garden system does NOT work very well.  Oh, it keeps the weeds down, but the soil in the bags has to be very, very good.  You cannot rely on the roots making their way through the drainage holes if they need further sustenance.  Also, the rank amateur planting the garden needs to read the soil labels much more carefully.  It may say "garden soil" on it, but you have to really look for the fine print that says "must be mixed with equal amounts of local soil".  I'm about this close to tearing it all up, redigging, and calling it a day until next spring.  Arg.

So how's your week been?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Knitting: What schedule?

Ever since we moved, I have been letting my blog schedule slide... a lot.  It's partly legitimate, and partly procrastination (the roots for which I'm still trying to figure out, I mean, it's not like I don't enjoy posting... I do.)  I think it's misguided perfectionism... don't want to post when the pictures/subject/situation isn't perfect.

So even though this isn't the day I normally post about knitting, we're going to give it a go and try to get out of this non-productive rut I'm in.

Before the move, I had five knitting projects in progress.  Since the move, I have only been working on two of them, and have now started a completely new project (although it was *seriously* not my idea, but when your kid actually ASKS you to knit something for them, you kinda have to do it).

The two prior projects are the Bohemian sweater from a booklet written by Berrocco (in their super-expensive yarn, naturally) and a pair of plain ribbed socks I was making up as I went along.  I was nearly done with my socks (since they were toe-up socks, and I'd already turned the heel, I was just knitting the cuffs until the yarn ran out) when the spudlet asked for her own pair of socks in the somewhat bizarre combination of blue and orange, specifically a sky-blue kettle-dyed Stroll yarn, and Knit Picks Gloss yarn in Marsala.  She wanted a pedicure toe, which is to say no toe at all, but ribbing where the toes should be.  The child pattern I'm following claims that a 7" circumference foot should be 64 stitches.  Since most adult patterns are the exact same number of stitches, and are large on me, these claims fill me with skepticism.  I have four inches done and am building up the stitches for the gusset.  She's tried them on while on the needles, and they seem to fit, although loosely, so I'm forging ahead.  If she wants to wear big floppy socks, that's her business... especially ones that can be seen from space.

The Bohemian I am taking a break from, as the Berrocco yarn is so splitty it makes me crazy.  I am also angry with myself that I splurged and bought the yarn exactly as specified in the pattern, because while half of it (Borealis) is soft, silky and lovely, the other half (Campus) is nasty and scratchy.  When I got sample skeins of both yarns, I should have gone with my gut and gotten alternate skeins of the Borealis to replace the Campus yarns.  Since this is a very large, oversized cardigan, I'm hoping I won't be able to notice the fluctuations in texture while I'm wearing it.  We'll see, especially since each piece starts with the scratchy yarn, and means that the cuffs will be horrifyingly coarse right at the wrist.  Maybe I'll pick up and knit some facings in Borealis that I can turn inside.

It's like the designer just picked the yarns off a list, and never actually felt them, the difference is so striking.  Or this might be my Asperger's sensitivity to texture again.  If there were  a career that called for sensing texture changes in fabric or yarn, like a wine taster or coffee roaster judges changes in their products, I'd be a natural.

Monday, July 16, 2012

HTH: Slow Progression

Things have slowed down, now that we have the basic necessities here at the new house (like internet, all my pots and pans, and my blender).  We do not quite have everything moved from the apartment, but there is very little left except furniture, and a lot of that we are donating to a charity, along with the enormous TV sets that we upgraded a long time ago, but never got rid of.

I know this doesn't have anything to do with homesteading, but we purchased a new living room set, consisting of a love seat, couch, and armchair.  Something I can vacuum under, finally, and doesn't fold out into a bed, or come in icky beige.

(Excuse the mess, I still haven't installed the speakers properly, or neatened up the cabling.)  I am not too sure about the armchair, which matches the sofa pillows and has a rather 60's retro feel to the fabric pattern.

We've placed it next to the fireplace, but are still undecided about the coffee table going there.  It received some damage during moving, so I'm either touching it up later, or replacing it altogether.

Now on to the even more fun stuff, gardening.  Something nibbled my pea plants... not all, but some of them, and some didn't sprout at all.

  I'm more concerned that most of my plants seem to reach their second or third "true leaf" stage, and then seem to stop thriving.  It has been raining every day for the past week, and doesn't show signs of letting up for the next three days, so perhaps they are suffering from over-watering.  I punctured all the bags at least sixteen times as per instructions, for drainage, but that IS a LOT of rain.

The bean plants, however, seem to be thriving.  One plant in particular has climbed spiral-fashion all the way to the top of the support teepee I put up.  These are scarlet runner beans, and they will have beautiful red flowers when they blossom.

I did not train it around the pole like that, it took care of it itself.  Mother nature is very cool.

And lastly, I (perhaps foolishly) decided to try a "three sisters" planting this late in the season.  It is an old Native American method, planting corn, beans, and squash together to work in harmony.  I skipped burying a fish at the base of each corn planting, however.  I suppose I could have cracked open a can of sardines, but hey...

It is planted in three stages.  What you see here is the first stage, corn (red heirloom popcorn, to be precise), planted in a circle with the plantings six inches apart.  I put two seeds in each hole, but have pinched off any extras that sprouted, leaving one.  The beige pellets are slow-release organic fertilizer bound with a plant starch.  I plan to work those into the mounds around the corn when they reach ten inches (the signal for the second stage) right before I plant the beans.  The way the corn is growing, I might not have to wait too long  for the second stage.

I chose Hidasta Shield beans, mostly because they are a Native American heirloom variety, and the seeds do look like they will cook up into a tasty dish once harvested.  They look sort of like large pinto beans.

I chose an heirloom variety of squash, the third "sister" plant, but I'm going to have to look it up again to give you the name.  I remember it bears a bright, red-orange fruit the size of an acorn squash.

I am starting to despair over my tomato plants.  Any that I left still in their pots are still a healthy green, but the ones planted in the bag garden are yellowing and wilting.  I am wondering if their roots, once reaching past the barrier of the bag and into the lawn, are hitting some old, leftover herbicide and it's making them sick.  My habanero plants are not thriving either.  I worked in a goodly amount of the organic fertilizer, but perhaps it's either the herbicide thing, or this endless rain is just too much for them.  I'm hoping once the rainy period is over, at least the peppers will bounce back.  There's not a lot of shame in failing with tomatoes... they can be finicky... but peppers should grow like weeds.  We'll see what happens.

Monday, July 2, 2012

HtH: Insect City

Well it's a good thing I did the easy care bag garden from my gardening book, otherwise I would be screwed.  A cloud of mosquitoes has descended on our house, blocking all exits, and generally making life very unpleasant.  I make two (very quick) trips through the garden, morning and night, and that's all I could manage.  I think my ankles haven't swelled this much since I was pregnant with Caitlin, only now it's some kind of mass attack through my socks.  Anyhoo, no real weeding needed yet, although the planting mix in the bags must have contained some kind of mushroom spoor, because they've popped up every morning so far.  I go kick them over, they pop right back.

This is the garden three days ago, post-planting.  I have not gotten new pictures since the peas and cucumbers came up (in the bags with a trellis), but I will be braving the cloud of insects later.  In the top picture, the five bags have my tomato plants, and the top four bags have my habanero peppers.  If I ever get a peach tree, I want to be ready to make my habanero-peach hot sauce.  It's deadly, but delicious.  Plus the big guy likes pickled peppers on everything... so lets try something a little hotter than a jalapeno and see where that takes us.

And one important photo...

My new fridge.  Sigh.  I did not know it had its own built-in water filter... and that makes me love it even more.  We had to take off pieces of trim and baseboard to fit it in the space, and I don't even care.

Edited to add:


Snap Peas

Scarlet Runner Beans

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

HtH: Transferrence

We finally closed on the house and took possession of the keys.  The signing date was pushed back to June 8th, and then we didn't get our keys until a week later, because the assessor kept adding a boat storage building that belonged to our neighbor to the assessment, screwing up the property value for the insurance and wonking up the totals.  Idjits.

We spent the first weekend shuffling low-use belongings... my yarn stash, winter clothes, mountains of books.  We shopped for appliances that either didn't come with the house, or were too dilapidated to continue using.  My husband spoiled me (this video is NOT us by the way, just shows the coolness) by ordering a fridge that cost more than my first car, thanks to a timely appliance sale and a new line of credit with a big-box home improvement store.  We also picked up a Maytag washer-dryer combo that was less fancy, but will pay for itself within the first year since we were paying about 5$ a load to do laundry here at the apartment complex.  I think they purposely refused to repair the dryers so that they'd double their income.

My garden plan, the easy bag garden, requires 11 forty pound bags of soil for the Year 1 portion of the plan.  Both Barry and I were concerned about transporting 440 pounds of dirt in the car, so we've been picking up one or two bags at a time and schlepping them to the house with loads of our stuff.  This Friday we are hanging out at the house all day, waiting on delivery of our appliances, and plan to both paint the daughter's room and set up the garden.  I know, it is really late to be setting up a garden, but the Texas growing season is very long, and while I'll have pretty poor yields on some of the heat sensitive crops, I'm thinking we'll still be okay with all of the seedlings I have here in containers.

Hubby kind of prohibited growing corn, but I'm going to see if I can sneak in a three-sisters planting of popcorn, regular corn, beans and squash without his noticing.  Although now I'm wondering if planting the two types of corn would be a hybridizing nightmare... hmmm.  Maybe I'll do the sweet corn in the back, and popcorn in the front flower beds camouflaged with sunflowers on the other side of the picket fence, heh heh.  Who's going to complain about red popcorn??  I mean how cool is that?

I picked corn types that were both heirloom varieties, AND had short growing cycles.  We don't hit freezing temperatures around here until December or January, but I can't imagine temps in the fifties is terribly good for yields.

I have way more tomato plants than the plan calls for, and pepper plants which aren't in the plan at all.  However, I know we can use a ton of both, so we're picking up a few extra bags of soil.  Plus a few extra more so that Caitlin and Barry can both plant something they'd like to tend to.

After the all-day house-a-palooza on Friday, sometime Saturday or Sunday we are finally going to hit Froberg's nursery and pick up a couple of fruit trees.  I won't get to get all the ones I want, but I want to at least get the citrus I want since you can't legally get citrus shipped in from out of state.  That means one or two lemon trees (the pink variegated lemon looks too interesting to pass up despite my love of Meyer lemons) a Persian lime, and a Satsuma for Caitlin, since the fruit was mentioned on Doctor Who and will make her year if I buy one.  And I might sneak in a peach tree and an apple if I can manage it.

I plan to espalier the citrus... a form of pruning that is akin to bonsai or topiary, but on a much larger scale.  Farms in France create living fences out of fruit trees, with the trunks as posts and the branches as the cross boards.  They continue to bear fruit, and sometimes at better yields if trained against a wall that shelters it from inclement weather or provides warmth in the winter.  The idea of having lemons and limes in my backyard instead of buying the cardboard ones from the grocery store is just too darn appealing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

HtH: A Few Weeks Later...

I don't have much to report, because we still haven't closed on the house.  The repairs are done, but apparently the assessor's office is swamped, though our agent says that we're still on target for signing on the last day of May.

All I can show you for right now is the growth progress of the plants (or lack thereof).

The tray of seeds that I started, now that I removed the larger type plants and replanted those pods.  A very nice bunch of cherry tomato seedlings on the left.  I have two columns of parsley, a column of dill, habanero, one lonely beet plant that was the only sprout of the column, and columns of sage, thyme, and oregano.  Germination was kind of spotty.  Nowhere near what I expected, except for the beets, which were really experimental and not meant for transplant anyway.

The cucumber vines.  They shot up, and then stopped.  They're kind of yellow, and something nibbled on a leaf of one before I noticed and went in with the kelp spray.  I'm thinking they should have been transplanted a while ago, but I don't have the yard yet.  They are trailing very long roots out into the tray.

The bean plant, and two pea plants.  They are doing very nicely.  The bean has several flowers already, and the peas are reaching out with their grippy little curly-q tendrils.  I hope everything can hang on until we close on the house and take possession.

The black planter has all of my survivor tomato plants... as in, these were planted a year ago and survived the winter on the balcony.  Interestingly, there is a new tomato plant in the pot, along with the original survivor.  No fruit dropped on that soil last year, and it was transplanted out of its original situation, so it's not an old seed that sprouted.  That's just really weird if it's sending shoots up from the roots.  I'll see what's going on when I go to transplant at the house.

Oh, and I got the name wrong last time... this planter/system was made by *Fertile Earth* and not Simple Earth.  It *is* the Simple Garden starter kit though, so it's just my brain rearranging things again.  I've pinched back the basil once, and you can see the survivor tomato is trying to steal the FE tomato's sunlight.

Here you can see my bay laurel.  The extra shoot is thriving nicely and sending up new green leaves since I pruned it back.  I stuck the trimming branch into the other side of the pot, but it doesn't seem to be rooting, more's the pity.  I didn't have rooting hormone, so there you go.    You can barely see the chives at the lower left, and the rosemary is still chugging along in the upper middle/right.

I can't wait to report on garden stuff from the house!  I am having throat surgery tomorrow, so I may be silent again until we actually close, because recovery for a woman my age is typically two weeks, though I'll be doing it at home, and it should only be knocking me flat for the first week or so.

Monday, May 7, 2012

HtH: House to Homestead

I'm starting a new segment in my blog called "House to Homestead".  In it I'll be featuring the little things... weekend projects, big projects... that we're going to be doing around the new house once we close and take possession of our new house this month.

It's a 2,000 square foot house situated on a third of an acre.  We are very close to a river that runs out to the gulf of Mexico.  The lawn itself has been mono-cropped to death... the soil is dead and mineral-like.  There's an ugly chain-link fence around the perimeter of the back yard, while the front yard remains open.  There are a few trees on the lot, but they are non-edible trees, and are thickly choked with Spanish moss.

Right now, while waiting for the paperwork and inspections to get done, I am trying to get my gardening plan worked out so that I can hit the ground running when we take possession.  I've already started seedlings in coir pots on the balcony, but I really wasn't prepared for how quickly they'd take off.

This is one week's growth.  What you're looking at is six cucumber plants, and two pea plants, started originally in my aerogarden seed-starting tray, but when I realized how large they were getting so quickly, I carefully separated the roots from the growing sponges and replanted in the coir pellet pots after three days.  If we don't close before June first, I think I might have an overgrowth problem, lol.

This is six bean plants and two more peas.  Bugs might have gotten to these, but since their brothers and sisters are growing like gangbusters, I might wait until we're in the house before I plant replacements.  It will stagger the harvest that way too.  And since our growing season is so VERY long, I'm not worried about freezing in the fall.

This is a tomato plant from LAST year.  It survived the winter on my balcony with absolutely no extra attention from me, and it is already growing one fruit.  That's probably all it will grow, but since the plant was so winter-hardy, I will try to save the seeds from this little gem and use them in next-year's garden.  I figure I'll be starting seeds indoors in January.

This is a square-foot planter from Simple Earth that I planted... hmmm.  I want to say I planted it in March.  It is supposed to be a single tomato plant surrounded by basil, but the day after I planted it and placed it on the balcony, it rained a LOT... and unfortunately my building maintenance crew has not cleaned the gutters since we've lived here, so a sheet of water poured directly into the planter before I noticed and went out to move it.  After the seeds came up and the true leaves began to show (so I could tell what was what) I redistributed the sprouts in the container, but I had to be really careful not to destroy the tiny roots.  Two tomatoes came up.  I should probably snip down the smaller one, to let the larger take over, but I haven't had the heart to do so yet.  They seem to be growing really slowly, and I'm not sure if that's a fault with the coir soil medium that came with the planter, or the fact that the seeds got sloshed and buried the day after they were planted.

The Christmas rosemary tree did not survive being indoors with us.  At one point, my daughter and I both noticed it was dry and both watered it on the same day. I think that and lack of light might have been what killed it, so we set up a watering plan and are keeping this new one outdoors.

I did not take a picture of my Bay laurel plant, but the original plant sent up a new shoot at the edge of the pot.  I waited until there was significant leaf growth and snipped the top of the shoot off to promote bushy growth.  I'll plant them close to the kitchen (shading my new workshop, perhaps?) when we get to the house.

As far as the vegetable garden, I am going to be following a plan from Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens which I hope will contribute to my success.  You start small, and over the course of three years, increase the size of the garden.  I debated long and hard whether to go with the Easy Bag Garden, where you plant right into bags of organic soil instead of the intensive digging needed for regular yard dirt (especially with the dead stuff under our lawn at the moment) or go with a raised-bed system and try the Family Food Factory garden, which should supply a family of four with enough to eat for the year, with a continuous year-round growing cycle.

On the one hand, I am tired of eating genetically modified, crappy food from industrialized farming, and I want to feed my family as much organic produce as possible.  On the other hand, I know that I can be essentially lazy and/or hard on myself... I don't like doing things and failing at them.  Doing too much all at once seems like a recipe for failure, to me.  We have a good, locally grown produce farm that sells to the public, but they are really expensive, and last-year's drought  was very hard on their crops, and I noticed chinese garlic, california avocados, and other non-local produce for sale in their bins.  I just can't be assured that what they will offer will be the good stuff.

I think what I'll end up doing is going with the easy bag garden plan, try it for the three years, and then if I feel I can tackle the food factory, year-round growing plan, I'll try it then.  Now I just have to convince hubby to buy me a gazillion fruit trees, and I'll be set.  :D

Friday, April 20, 2012


Okay, I haven't posted in over a month, but then I haven't even been knitting in the last two weeks.  TWO WEEKS!  NO KNITTING!  It's unprecedented.  We're buying  a house and moving, but right now we're in a holding pattern with the paperwork side of things, so I have plenty of time, I just don't have the desire to do it.  And I just know that if I start packing away my knitting crap early, THAT's when I'm going to want to knit with an uncontrollable urge.

So what have I been doing?  Well at first I was scouring real estate websites, looking at the market and house features, trying to find THE ONE.  After we found it, I alternated between looking at the online pictures (which are getting harder to find now that our offer has been accepted, lol) and reading gardening books and websites.  Sometimes I'll just sit back and dream of fresh peas, tomatoes, celery and greens from the garden, all while maintaining an eco-friendly compost pile.  Sometimes a small dream of a dairy goat or beehive or chicken coop will sneak in there, but I don't know if we're zoned for such things yet. 

But now it's getting to the point where I'm bored out of my mind, and wondering WHEN we're going to move already.  I stopped spending.  I know there's going to be furniture and appliances that we're going to need for the new place.  I will finally have room on my counter for a food processor.  I'm going to want to re-do the kitchen backsplash to update the kitchen.  I'm going to need to re-do all the flower bed edging.  My veggie garden is going to be all raised beds, so we'll need stuff for that.  And probably a million other things I haven't thought of that we're just going to need money for.  Lawn mower.  Washer and dryer.  Someone to come out and check the chimney for birds and bats before cool weather sets in.  Possibly an exterminator... there's a bit of a pest problem where we're living, and we don't want to bring it with us.  If we do, I want to nip that shit in the bud.  I like nature, but not that kind of nature.  They can live in the sewers and garbage dumps, thank you.  Let them be natural over there.

I also want to find out of the fishing area that's within walking distance is any good, and if the fish there are edible.  It's a river that leads straight to the gulf, but who knows what's up stream?  And did I mention my infatuation with planting fruit trees on the property?  Peaches, plums, loquat, cherries, and even some species of apple can grow here.  It can take three years for a tree to be mature enough to bear fruit.

Sigh.  Just having enough room for all my empty canning jars is rewarding enough, but this is going to ROCK!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Knitting: Blah Blah Blah

Sorry about not having posted a knitting post for quite some time.  As we say in the True Blood knitting group on Ravelry, I've lost my knitting mojo.  I have been experiencing a serious case of the knitting blahs. 

It all started when the temperatures began to rise.  Here it is, the first day of spring, and we're consistently getting temperatures in the 80's all this week.  It didn't help that my current project, the Shipwreck Shawl, was such an absolute pain in my ass.  Section six, the third lace chart deceptively called Madeira, was kicking me up and down the block.  I ripped back to halfway through the chart on a Friday evening, and it took me until the following Monday evening to catch up to where I'd been before I ripped back, because I kept hating it and ripping back again.  I might need a shot of fortified wine after that.

Now, I'm at the very easy k2tog, yo section... with beads.  This is my first beaded shawl attempt.  If you follow the instructions exactly, you must pre-string the beads.  All 5,000 of them.  I have Asperger's, and therefore am incredibly patient and focused on tiny details, but that's just insane.  The required beads measure about a half a cup.  I started threading beads, and after two hours I had barely made a dent in the pile of beads.  I did some measuring and math, and I will have strung thirty-four FEET of beads onto the yarn by the time I'm done.  I don't even know where I'd put a thirty-four foot string of beads on the end of my couch.

I am also rather uninspired by my color choices.  I do plan on doing a fancy dye job when it's done, but right now it's just gray.

Friday was payday, so I ordered myself a battery-powered bead spinner.  It swirls the beads around, so you can just stick a curved needle into the bowl and they magically pop onto the needle.  It will arrive Tuesday afternoon.  Hopefully my mojo will come back with it, somewhere at the bottom of the spinner's bowl.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

AoA: Family Dynamic

This is less an anecdote about Asperger's, and more a "tale from the trenches".  And believe me, an Aspie mother with an Aspie daughter?  Sometimes it feels like war.

We had been having problems with CC lately in school, mostly related to procrastinating on aspects of her homework.  She'd lose a library book she needed for a report, she'd never say anything, I'd just get an email from the teacher a week later saying the project is late.  Or she wouldn't fill out a reading log for weeks.  Or she'd forget to print a report that's on her flash drive.

So her counselor at school said we needed to use her currency to motivate her.  Limit her computer time, and offer her more when she did good with her homework and chores.  I resisted.  This had been brought up at her last ARD review, and I didn't do it then because I knew what would happen if you imposed limits onto something that my kid has been using without restriction for pretty much all of her thirteen years... there was going to be a shit-storm of a meltdown.  Well I finally bit the bullet last Monday.

I was right.

I had wanted to discuss it with her on Sunday, and implement the parental controls (thank you Vista) on Monday, for the first school day of the week.  My husband, dear, sweet, non-confrontational man that he can be when it comes to his daughter, put it off and put it off until it was finally 9pm on Sunday and we still hadn't talked to her.  I warned him, and I was pretty angry that he'd procrastinated, because now I was going to have to tell her alone, right when she gets home from school, because she usually hops into her chair two minutes after she gets home.

"Expect tantrums and tears still going on by the time you get home," I said.  What I got was waaaaaaay beyond anything I could have imagined.

She cried, but she flopped on the bed sobbing, and got this weird grin on her face at the same time.  No, not just lips pulled back in a grimace, a true grin.  I was reminded of the fucking Joker-- not an affable Jack Nicholson Joker, either, more like Heath Ledger.  Tears rolling down her cheeks, big grin.  It seriously freaked me out.  This lasted about an hour, while I tried to talk her into a more stable emotional state. 

I was really calm, and composed outwardly this whole time.  I was quite proud of myself.  Normally her crying will eventually cause me to lose my temper.  I think I was able to maintain my cool because I knew it was coming, and I knew it would be bad.  I finally just went on with my day, knowing that eventually she would stop being upset.

By the time her father came home, she would still burst into tears every once in a while, but the freaky part was over.  She proclaimed between fits that I'd "ruined" her computer, and that she wasn't going to touch it ever again.  She began using my old laptop (which I'd forgotten about, duh) that she uses for drawing, but miraculously she was sticking to the imposed time limits on her own.  She'd power it down at 9 pm without being prompted.

I warned her that if she went beyond the limits, I'd put the restrictions on the laptop, too.

Wednesday, she went beyond the time limit by an hour.  She'd turned in a paper that had been weeks late that day, so I allowed it.

Thursday, I downloaded a game we both loved that was web-only up until then, and started playing it.  She kept wanting to hop on my computer and play.  I said I would buy her a copy and she could play it whenever she wanted... provided she used her own desktop computer.  She refused.  She said she wasn't touching it until "it was fixed".  Progress! 

Friday, I had a dental appointment, and was not a happy camper.  When she started trying to help me play my game, I again brought up the fact that she could play it herself, on her own computer.  She said "Yeah, but it's 9:30, I couldn't play anyway."  Progress!  I told her that non-school nights had a later cut-off time, and I'd log in the parental account and give her a little bit more time on Friday nights, for tonight only.  She played for an hour before bed, no tears when it was time to go.

Success!  It took almost a week, and there was a lot of moaning and crying and attitude all week long.  But it eventually worked out.  Here's hoping it's an effective tool towards her success.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Knitting: If a Plane Leaves Miami...

I'm still going on the Brown Bridgewater Shawl.  The garter stitch center square has taken me so long, and appears to have no end in sight, I decided to do some calculating to find out just how much time I've put into this thing.  I was not up to the task.

I asked a group of fellow Ravelry members (and True Blood fanatics) for help.  My friend did some astounding math for me, and figured that if my widest row took me ten minutes to complete (I'd timed myself) then by the time I get to the last stitch, I will have worked on the shawl for approximately 33 hours.

Here's the kicker... as you can see from the link, there's a six or eight inch lace border.  I would imagine by the time I'm done this will be a 60 hour shawl.  LACE ISN'T EASY.  It might even be 80 hours.  More if the pattern ends up being persnickety and I have to rip back.

This yarn, though, is gorgeous.  It is the exact reddish brown of a beloved teddy bear I had as a child, and far softer than that acrylic bear ever was.  Amazingly, it does not itch at all.  I may have found my new go-to yarn for lace weight projects with a slight halo (fuzziness) needed.  Goodbye mohair blends!!

Plus, the Alpaca is the greenest animal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

AoA: Way to go, Sherlock

Husband had been insisting that I watch the BBC production of "Sherlock".  The new one, created by Doctor Who show runner Stephen Moffatt.  Naturally I was intrigued; I love whodunnits and Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest, most admired fictional characters in history.  The reasons I hesitated are a) the instant Barry recommends something to me, I don't want to see/read/watch it.  Marital rebellion?  I don't know, but I immediately get my back up.  Ask him what happened when he insisted I read "Papillion".  I ordered it, but in French.  b) British television series have VERY short runs.  Full seasons containing only six episodes (compared to US seasons that average 20 to 22 episodes) are not uncommon.  Sherlock runs a miniscule THREE episodes per season.

However, since it was easily accessible on Netflix's Watch it Now service, I finally broke down and watched.  And watched.  And then tracked down season three since Netflix didn't have it yet.  Yes, it's good.

Moffatt's Sherlock is portrayed as having Asperger's syndrome.  It's never spoken of directly, except once in a line by John Watson, and it's said so quickly that you might miss it.  Sherlock is always on the verge of being profoundly bored.  He solves cases not to be of service to the public, but because he canNOT stand boredom.

I think our family is like this.

We are constantly on the lookout for puzzles and games, television and movies, anything that will stave off boredom.  The last time we took a trip to my grandmother's house, I loaded up my laptop with no less than twelve games, brought supplies for four different knitting projects, and of course a Nook e-reader with as many books as I could fit on the SD card.  I did manage to finish two knitting projects and make serious inroads on a third.

I think Sherlock's boredom stems from the fact that he sees so much, and already knows so much, that a mere glance can take in everything about a situation in a fraction of the time.  He doesn't have to converse with someone to get to know them, he sees it all in an instant.

Even though my husband, daughter and I all have Asperger's traits, we are not quite at that level, but our brains run at the same fast-paced speed.  We have trouble sleeping, because our minds are chewing through data.  I got distracted while making lunch today because I was building a new photography background support system in my head, and wondering if I could create a prototype and draw up the plans well enough to get a patent.  Assuming it's a new approach, which I think it is.

You'll have to ask Barry and CC to find out what data they're milling around.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Fun: Once again, it's MDO

I posted this in a group on Ravelry for a friend, and I decided that, yes, I don't talk about this enough.  Here it is, extracted from the group:

Let me once again extoll the virtues of my own, made up day called “Mom’s Day Off”.

We chose Fridays because hubby gets every other Friday off mandatory (something to do with work hours and overtime), but whatever day would work for you, go for it.

First and foremost, MOM DOES NOT COOK ON MOM’S DAY OFF. So dads must plan accordingly. It cannot be pizza every Friday, because frankly, who can afford that? It also cannot be Ramen noodles, or soup from a can. If he’s desperate, a broasted chicken with salad greens in a bag will do. NO FAST FOOD. If you can cook six days a week, he can manage one day.

Second, MOM DOES NOT GET THE KID ON THE BUS ON MOM’S DAY OFF. Mom gets to sleep in, or that was the plan. Unfortunately hubby is deaf as a post from the Navy, so I will wake up long enough to get him moving, but that is it. Since you stay at home and homeschool, you might be better off picking a Saturday or telling hubby to take the kids somewhere educational on a field trip on one of his days off, if he gets one. Like the museum. Or a waterslide park as long as he talks about fluid dynamics, gravity, or other sciencey stuff.

Third, MOM DOES NOT GET ASKED TO REFEREE ON MOM’S DAY OFF. No, there will be no “Mom, she started it!”. Hold up your hand and say “Take this to your father.” I do not have to deal with this one, but I’m sure you do, and I will tell you that it is essential to a successful MDO.
I also recommend having plans for your “Mom” time, such as a manicure, long luxurious bath with a LOCKED DOOR, or something similar that will make you feel human (or undead if you’re a vampire) again.

Just like with oxygen masks on a crashing airplane, you CANNOT take care of your family unless you take care of yourself first. You’re no good to them if you go bonkers or fall over from exhaustion, or snap from lack of privacy.

Sorry for the shouty bits, but believe me, MDO has saved my life and my marriage. Probably sanity too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Knitting: It's not subtle...

I *did* manage to finish my "Petunia" Erquy before Valentine's Day, imagine that.  Even with forgetting to do decreases seven or eight times (because I refused to use stitch markers for some strange reason) and having to rip back five or six rows by the time I noticed the mistakes.  This was all in one day.  I believe I actually broke down in tears at one point, because it was four rows forward, three rows back one entire day.  I should have taken the hint and tried a different project till I got my mojo back, but I was being stubborn.

Now perhaps my online friends will believe me when I tell them I have NO BOOBS.  Seriously.  All body fat has and always will be somewhere from the waist down.  I got seriously shafted in the genetics department.  Ask my sister Destiny... I believe she took my share.  :P

I'm now in one of those annoying "can't decide what I'm working on" project frenzies.  I started and frogged about five things since finishing the Erquy.  I'd cast on a basic shawl with some leftover Noro Silk Garden, hate the texture, and start a crochet cotton scarf, planning to add some flowers or something to the plain netting background, then get bored with doing the netting.  Got some lovely flowers done though.

It's not like I don't have three projects languishing in bags already.  Oh no.

See the problem is, since I decided to start trying selling finished knitting on my shop, I feel guilty if I'm knitting something that's for me.  I'm doing a twin sweater set IN LACE WEIGHT YARN.  It's a vintage pattern, absolutely lovely, but the shell and cardigan will take lifetimes to knit.  I'm using Knit Picks Shadow in Midnight on double 0 Addi Turbo needles.  I don't know if I wanted a challenge, or I just wanted to use up the eleven skeins of laceweight I had, but I am determined to carry it through.  It's just a LOT of knitting.

The other two projects that have been sitting for a while are an Estonian lace scarf I had planned to give to my sister, and the Bridgewater shawl by Jared Flood.  Right now the Bridgewater is still in the garter-stitch center panel stage.  It's boring, and I'm getting tired of counting all those stitches to see if I'm DONE YET and can start decreasing.  Since the increases are on both ends, I can't mark off chunks of stitches so I can speed up my counting the next time through.   Well, I could, but the stitch markers would move, so I'd have to figure out where the center is, mark off say 100 in that section, and just count the ends.  Meh.

The Estonian lace scarf is complex, and I love it, but I worked on it for two days and have about four inches of scarf.  It's not just that it's in a fine yarn, but all those bobbles seriously slow me down.  That, and I think there HAS to be a mistake in the chart.  Some of the yarn-overs are not lining up properly.  When I looked up the errata, there WAS a revised chart, but the highlighted changes look exactly the same as the chart in my book, and do NOT fix the problem I have.

So I'm a little pissed off at that one.

Anyway, all this adds up to it being a complete mystery as to WHAT is going to be finished on next week's blog.  If anything.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Knitting: Like Candy Stripes

Okay, so the Wool Peddler's Shawl is completed.  I ordered and received (yesterday) the biggest one-piece but still compact blocking mat I could find, and it still outstretches it by a foot on either side.

Good thing I didn't throw away those puzzle-piece mats like I'd planned.  I am VERY disappointed with Knit Picks once again, as the wash water for this turned a bright pink in seconds.  I rescued it by adding hot water and vinegar, but I hate it when my stuff smells like pickles, for god's sake.

Instead of starting right away on another item for my shop, I decided to do a little something for myself when this little pattern caught my eye.  I still haven't received an explanation for what an "Erquy" is, but I assume it's an outpost in World of Warcraft.  Just kidding.  I think.

Since I already had a crap-ton of sport, DK, and sock weight cotton yarn, this was a no-brainer.  I think I could knit four or five of these with just what I have in my stash.  More if I decide to dip into my color-coordinated pairs of sock yarn.  Here is my Valentine themed one.  If I finish it in time, I will be amazed since cotton yarn seems to suck the very life out of my hands, but it will be soft and comfy.

I am, however, very pissed off about this pattern in one respect.  They have placed a "cannot sell items knitted from this pattern" restriction on it.  I wasn't planning on making things to sell from it, because I hate the idea of trying to make sizes to fit a billion different people, but at a $6 price point for what is basically a super-sized Jaywalker sock with some very basic feather and fan stitch on the bottom, and the lace pattern from a Mason-Dixon book that I already own, I expect to at least be warned about that restriction BEFORE purchasing.  It has certainly made me reconsider buying more patterns from this individual.  I also did not like that I had to go to the knit-along thread on Ravelry just to find out what actual bust sizes the "finished circumference" measurements fit.  If they'd told me there was two or four inches of negative ease, I could do the math.  But no, not there.  The pattern page says for more information to go to their website.  Not there either.  That's getting pretty obscure, especially for a measurement you need to know before you even start.

ETA:  Since I put a (slightly more polite) comment on the pattern, the pattern listing page has been updated to list the bust sizes.  Fabulous fix!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Knitting: Wool Peddler

I'm a day late with this one, mostly because I was nearing the end of the garter stitch section, and getting close to the fun lace part and was trying to hurry.  That, and I forgot it was Wednesday.  :D

It's only taken me a couple of days to do this much.  That is the beauty (and the curse) of garter stitch.  It's fast.  Unfortunately, anyone with one iota of knitting experience knows it's the laziest knitting stitch there is.  It does make a squishy, cozy fabric though.

A finished, modeled picture of the smart gloves:

Unfortunately I may have to revisit them to re-do the pop-top finger tips.  They want to stay popped, which is not good when you're just walking to your destination.  I toyed with the ideas of tiny buttons or velcro, but I think it's just a matter of the knitter trying to finish up in a hurry and making them too short.  What else is new?  At least the fingers turned out halfway decent, although I still had to fight with holes at the bases of the fingers.  And I feel the middle fingers are still way too fat for my particular hands.  I could easily take two stitches out of each finger and be just fine.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Knitting: Smart and Vintage

Ignore the weird expression.
The Red Thermal was finished last week.  I don't know if it was my math, or if the yarn requirements are way off, but I thought I calculated it would need six skeins of yarn, but only needed three.  This may be because of my switch mid-pattern from KP Gloss yarn, to KP Stroll yarn.  The skein sizes are different, although somewhere I was thinking Stroll was 400+ yards per skein, and the pattern calls for 1700+, but the yardage counts on Ravelry say the three skeins were up to the count.  I no longer have the labels, so I'm not sure where my error in thinking is, but hey.  I had enough, and still have enough left over for a pair of gloves and a pair of socks.

So I immediately started in on a pair of Smart Gloves by the Rainey Sisters.  They will have "pop-top" index fingers and thumbs so you can use your  smart phone.  Genius idea.  If they don't come out looking like franken-gloves (as so many of my glove attempts do) I may make a pair for my friend Teresa, who was complaining about mittens and phones on Facebook the other day.  These are the cuffs, but they get folded up over the hand so that those buttonholes fit over your thumb for an extra layer of warmth.  I like this seed stitch rib, although it is slow going.  The hand portion will be done in red... leftover from the thermal?  You betcha.

And the reason I have not finished the gloves yet is A) the whole family was sick last week, and I spent two days in a TV-fueled vegetative state.  I know I'm sick when I can watch TV and NOT want to knit.  B) I caught the crocheted doilies bug (totally different sickness) and got started on the booklet "A Year In Doilies: Vol. 1" by Leisure Arts.  What you see above is one partial day's crocheting.  I'd do a motif, go back to knitting, do another motif or round, go back to knitting.  It was nice to have something this complex to work on to take a break from the monotony of the ribbed cuffs.

Monday, January 23, 2012

AoA: Self Expression

This week's post under the Anecdotes of Asperger's heading is less an anecdote and more an observational essay about how my mind works and coming to terms with it.

In many ways, I am a frustrated artist.  It seems like for my entire 43 years of living, I've been seeing these beautiful images in my head, but have been struggling to find a way to make them external... to share them with others.  If I try to draw, my hands can't seem to re-create what's in my head accurately enough.  Asperger's people tend to have problems with coordination.  That strikes dance off the list as well.  If I try to write, I get bogged down in details... in doing it the "right" way.  Or I get overly technical, dry, and descriptive.  My knitting patterns are a disaster in over-explanation.  My novels never get off the ground, because I'm too busy drawing up floor plans for locations that we spend only five pages in, because how can I describe them to others in a way they can understand if I can't see them myself?  And I can't see the location unless I've created the whole thing right down to the wallpaper.

Basically, my whole life has been like this...  I see this in my head: