Saturday, April 30, 2011

Technology Rocks!

Last night, we took the kids out to a celebration dinner for their awesome math contest finishing scores (2nd and 5th out of 150 kids - obviously they take after me!) While waiting for them to finish playing games in the gameroom of their favorite restaurant I was playing on my little Droid phone while simultaneously knitting on another square (I multitask). I decided to buy the MLB app and WHAM! Now, I can get games on my phone!! I mean, like the entire game!!!!!!!! AND I can plug my phone into the carjack thingie and LISTEN TO THEM!!!!! This is so totally better than when we lived in Missouri and following an out of state team meant going out and tuning the AM radio in hopes some radio waves made it your way, or watching the scores tick by on Headline news. I also consider it a hopeful sign that I will soon be moving out of this frozen wasteland, because now that I have this, I am slightly more content. I sincerely love listening to ball games in the car, and having a local team I could care less about is depressing to say the least. Now I can listen to My Mariners any time they are on through the magic of my little Droid. It is kinda like always having R2D2 around..

Today, we spent the day running errands, buying 100 cans of cat food (the cats are very content now that they possess cans in the triple digits), and meeting people to sell them fish tanks from Craigslist. Which is another way technology rocks. I love Craigslist, and I love being able to get rid of my junk to someone who wants it. Even better, is being able to get someone else's junk. I am not selling the big tanks, just clearing out some old small tanks I have no use for. It's fun to get someone started off in the hobby, and the kid who bought one today was so excited. It's a great feeling. Now I am listing off furniture, slowly moving from one end of the garage to the other. Hopefully someone has a real need for some desks and end tables somewhere out there..
You better not be selling MY desk..

We also built the new 2X8 garden bed. I'm thinking of planting tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, and flowers in it. I figure with the frigid temperatures I'm still nearly a month out from planting anything though, so this plan could change at any time.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easy As Pie

I bet a lot of people don't realize how easy pie really is, but that's another post when I might reveal our pie crust secret (which isn't really a secret).

You know what else is easy? These little squares. I have always wanted to make a quilt. My mom and my sister are champion afghan makers, but I lack their skills with crochet (my blankets, or actually scarves end up strangely shaped to say the least) and used to churn out complex afghans and baby blankets on a practically weekly basis. Now, I hate HATE acrylic yarn, I can't stand the squeak, and before I got into luxury yarn, I thought that was all there was (what a dark sad world I lived in..) So while I was still spinning but not knitting, I briefly tried quilting. I have no idea why I thought this would work because I hate to sew. You see, when I was little, my sister was in dance, and drama. Our weekends and evenings were spent sewing outfits for her, her friends, and anyone else that needed an outfit RIGHT THEN cause the play starts TOMORROW! I associate sewing with hot brightly lit rooms, lost pins and needles we'd step on, and ripping out seams for hours. I also associate it with cutting out and pinning patterns, typically incorrectly so I'd have to redo it. I was especially good at cutting off darts that just seemed like stupid pattern errors. I can sew, but oh how I hate it!

However, for some reason I thought quilting looked fun, easy, and artistic. Uh huh. Now I did get fabric (along with sewing I also detest fabric stores, and have a panic attack within 20 minutes, speed shopping is necessary, so this was a feat in and of itself) purchased along with a rotary cutter, and even a few squares completed. In this attempt I found out a couple really important things: 1 - I am not a perfectionist when it comes to crafts. This is an issue with such things as quilt squares, where everything has to fit right. 2 - I seriously do hate to sew. Now, I still have around 20 pairs of jeans, plus a bunch of cut out (into random sizes of course) pieces of denim and someday when my sister and I have time, we're going to make a denim quilt. She for some reason likes to sew, probably because she was at play or dance practice while I was locked in the room with mom sewing.

This knitting squares though is right up my alley - I like to knit, I love Noro, and they just appear. I finished the first one in just a few hours of knitting, and the 2nd one I got done yesterday while watching my nephews fill out math papers (another story for another day). I realize these are 2 different sizes, this was one skein and I was experimenting. I am now, either going to use both sizes in the same quilt, OR, I am making 2 quilts. I am not sure which, I am letting my knitting zen control this, and just knitting for the sake of knitting.

Neptune just believes in blankets. Preferably the heated variety.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meat Is Mental

Actually all food is mental, but meat, really, really, is mental.

I was thinking of this last night while watching Top Chef Masters, where Suvir, an Indian chef cooked a veggie burger instead of a bacon cheeseburger. Now granted, I don't think it was the right texture, (he's a vegetarian afterall, and has never had meat, hard to mimic a texture you don't know), but I was surprised by the negativity about taking the meat off the table. Sure, he could have used turkey, but is turkey really that much better than beef? Furthermore, do we really need meat?? Let's deconstruct this bacon cheeseburger for a moment.

Actually, before we do that, let me preface it, by saying that I worked at a burger restaurant for a long time, cooking, serving, and getting covered in burger grease I know of what I speak.

So the first thing, that you have on a typical bacon cheese burger is the bun. Nope, not the burger the bun. A caramelized toasted bun, not buttered is standard. Caramelized because it helps keep the bun from getting soggy, and also brings the sugar profile to the front. So we've got that. Now, you're a lot better off, if you switch to a whole grain bun, which adds fiber, a little protein or whatever, but it's bread.

The next thing you have is the toppings? What - no burger? Nope. Think about when you eat a burger, what do you taste first? The sweetness of the tomato? The tang and bite of a pickle? The buttery mayo? The snap of fresh lettuce or the pepper of an onion? These vegetables are the main flavor profile.

Next is the bacon. The smokey flavor, imparts a big punch.

The salt of the cheese is the 2nd to last flavor, and why a bacon cheeseburger is so delicious. It makes a blend with the bacon.

Finally is the burger itself, generally a ground beef. What you get in flavor from this, is the salt and seasonings placed on the meat. Taste hamburger on it's own, it isn't the most flavorful substance. What you DO get from this though, is texture. Your mouth responds to texture and it expects the chew that meat has. I repeat, it's not the flavor, it's the chew, and the texture.

Now, instead, let's imagine we take our bacon cheeseburger. We leave on our favorite veggies, but put them on a multigrain bun (which gives more texture and bite). Taking the time to caramelize that bun completely. Then, we take a mushroom cap, a round of eggplant, a patty of black beans, and heat it with some olive oil in a pan. Before we do this though, we add a little crushed garlic, fresh ground pepper, salt, smoked paprika, and a bit of cayenne. We then carefully saute our meat replacement (or grill it if you'd rather), and layer it onto our toppings. We leave the bacon off, the correct seasoning, especially the smoky paprika will replace that. If you must, top it with the cheese, but try it without, you won't be missing much..

Would you be willing to do this? What are your first thoughts? Not enough protein? You won't be full? You just won't like it, what's the point in having a bacon cheeseburger without the bacon or meat? Now examine this thought. Is it a true worry? Will you be full?? Yes - you're going to be eating a ton of veggies, fiber and yes, even protein. And what's the point? Watch this clip of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution..

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Playing To Our Strengths

When you think about it, playing to your strength, or other people's strengths is a key part of life. Whether at home, or in your workplace, if you can determine what someone is good at, and maneuver them into a situation where that skill is a strength, you'll have a better result. This has been proven over and over to me in a work environment where I had to constantly be evaluating people's strengths and put those to use. I've never found that their weaknesses (or 'opportunities') are as optimal to know until you have built their confidence up by setting them up for success in life, whether or at home or work by letting them succeed using their strengths.

It's no surprise then, that in the fiber world, we also have strengths we can play on. And each time we set up our projects to use these strengths we improve by being positively reinforced by our great results. If we ignore these strengths, we are frustrated by our failures.

For example, my Mom, who is an amazing crocheter, and has been reteaching herself to knit. Her strength is hats. She can make a hat, any pattern, any style quickly, easily and effortlessly. (I on the other hand have only attempted one hat which ended up looking like a yarmulke because I decided to reduce it too early. It's a cute yarmulke, but I have yet to determine whether it's politically correct to wear a multicolored yarmulke, religion notwithstanding.) However, I have yet to see her finish a scarf. They make approximately six inches before she gets frustrated with the pattern she has tried, which is inevitably some difficult lacy thing that I can read but not do. I am now steering her toward lacy hat patterns, so she can succeed with them and end up with more confidence.

I, on the other hand am a great scarf and shawl knitter. I can whip out a scarf in a couple hours, and estimate by the time that I actually succeed in moving to a warmer climate, I will have a scarf or shawl for every day of the year. Maybe they'll make nice belts. I am successful with things where gauge and tiny needles don't exist. Why therefore, have I tried to make socks? Which are gauge worthy, and tiny needle heaven (or hell). I am hereby RELEASING MYSELF FROM MY SOCK DRAMA! I have blogged about this, matter of fact I started this blog because of socks. I WILL NO LONGER BE A PRISONER TO SOCKS! If I want handknit socks I will pay one of you to knit them for me (Or trade a nice scarf with you.. Quid pro quo?) No longer will I sheepishly say 'yeah, but I can't knit socks' I will display my 2 mismatched, air conditioned socks with pride - I may even frame them.

Instead I am moving on to projects that I will enjoy, and love. Never one to shirk from miles of garter stitch, I am now working on The Log Cabin blanket. By working I mean I have one square done. Wanna see a complete blanket? Go HERE. Of course mine is being made out of Noro Taiyo, will be bigger, and have a crocheted border and edging. Buy anyway, it's kind of the same. And, I got my first square done today. Yup. One down, who knows how many to go. I am assuming that upon the completion of this, I will be ready (read thin enough) to knit myself a sweater. On big needles, probably a pullover. I can feel the positive reinforcement of playing to my strengths already building my knitting mojo. Yes! I am a knitter! And who needs socks anyway?

Ahh rows and rows of garter and Noro....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One of Those Days

I got up this morning, happy to see rain instead of snow falling outside, (really I am easy to please), but happiness at seeing the rain was dampened a little bit (ha!) when I realized I had left my driver's side window open. Hello wet van seat. Oops.

Undaunted I skipped into the kitchen where I carefully measured out my Kashi Go Lean cereal, determined to eat healthy today after 2 days of iffy eating around Easter. I found my organic blueberries and selected my 1/4 cup of fresh plump berries to add to the cereal, coated it with a packet of Splenda (hey, I'm a child of the 80's, I like sugar cereal - so sue me), and realized we had no rice milk in the fridge. I went to get a container from the pantry and while opening it managed to knock my cereal all over the floor. Neptune came running over and started eating it (he likes sugar too), while I went to get a broom. Of course our dustpan has evidently been stolen by someone who broke into the house specifically to steal just the dustpan, so I had to pick up the pieces of cereal and blueberry by hand after sweeping them into a pile.

Still, optimistic, I refilled my dish with remeasured cereal, and replaced the plump blueberries with slightly less plump ones. Ecstatic over my success I swung the refrigerator door open to put the rice milk away, stepping back at the same time, onto the toy mouse that Neptune had abandoned in his sugar quest. Except it was one of those real fur ones, and I thought it was the cat which made me jump up, slam my ankle into the door, causing a cascade of jam to rain down all over my foot and the floor.

10 minutes later I limped upstairs to eat the overly sugared soggy cereal. My foot is only slightly sticky.. It's only noon, I wonder what the next 12 hours will bring!

I vote for going back to bed - NOW!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Around the World

In food anyway.

Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates! In any case happy Spring Sunday.

While multiple family members went to church to sing, or run the media, the kids and I made a lovely mess with Easter Eggs and food coloring. Each year the eggs get more detailed, and the methods more difficult. This year using food coloring was a great success. I'm sure the dye will come off of our hands someday.

After cleaning up the table, and the drips of dye we had dinner. I was extremely proud that I only cooked enough food for 16 people, versus my standard 24, and I DID NOT make 8 side dishes this year, simply 2 salads. Each meal I make, I kind of run a theme. This year, we had food from all around the world - though it was tied together through ingredients and tasted delicious together too. We had Teriyaki Salmon, Hawaiian glazed ham (for the sake of tradition), American potato salad (old family recipe), baked salmon (for the unadventurous fish eater), English Pea salad, Pineapple salsa, Scottish scones, and New York Cheesecake. The cheesecake was sugar free and lower calorie and a big success, which is great as it was the first time I've ever made cheesecake (yes, I always try new recipes on holidays - doesn't everyone?) I made a blackberry topping, and a pecan caramel topping, for people to choose from. Yum!

Now I am sitting here spinning cormo while watching a Pictionary death match. The guys are playing Rock Band. I love laid back holidays at home.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Yesterday, and today, we redid the playroom.
Neptune helped a lot Mainly by guarding the roving

The kids were home from school and surprisingly agreed to help us sort through toys, and helped clean out their closet so I could move their stuffed animal collection inside. Then I moved 2 desks, a TV table, and a huge horribly heavy TV downstairs where I threw them into the garage (I'm cleaning that out later - really I am!) Up came the new wire shelf, along with the old yarn shelf to sit beside it.
Spot the Cat

Then came the yarn brigade with people bringing in armfuls of yarn to dump in a pile on the floor and I started to sort it out. The first problem was that 80% of my handspun yarn wasn't labeled. When I started spinning, I used to keep records on the computer or on pieces of paper, but that requires me to actually remember what it is, and match up each skein with the info. My memory is surprisingly good, but it's not super user friendly. I finally hit on using tie on tags, that are cheap, and have 2 sides to write on. It loops onto the yarn, and so anyone can pick up a skein and see the yardage, and material. I know a lot of people keep really detailed spinning records, I am not like that. I am an artistic spinner, not an analytical one. Anyway, so I went through, separated the commercial yarn and organized that by weight, and then I went onto labeling (which meant counting) the handspun yarn. My saving grace is I skein in 1 yard skeins so they're fast to count with no math!

Finally the room is finished into Yarntopia. And I am tired!

Two of the Handspun cubbies

The other 2 handspun cubbies

The whole setup On the shelf on the left are finished items,
buttons, art supplies, and my cricket loom
The lowest shelves are my soon to be spun roving (versus the stashed roving in the closet.)
Time to relax

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sock It To Me

I am going to knit socks again. Note; the lack of the word try. The problem is, that just like schoolwork you don't really want to do, there are so many ways to avoid knitting you don't really want to do.

First, I determined I needed smaller needles. I knit as loosely as is humanly possible. This is partially due to the fact that I detest taking time on knitting, and I expect to see progress almost immediately. Now I successfully made items on smaller needles, so I am not completely opposed to them. But it was with difficulty I gave up my size 2 needles and procured size 0 needles instead. Even with those, the stitches are still slightly loose, but the idea of moving to a negative needle size just seems wrong.

Now the other option is to move to a heavier yarn done on smaller needles. But then, what yarn do I use? Actually this is a problem overall. I own a large quantity of beautiful handpainted sock yarn (impressive considering I actually have never knitted a matching pair). My problem with that is I don't want to waste that yarn on my sock knitting. It's being saved for shawls and such. The other problem is that I do have some Malabrigo superwash worsted weight. But really, do I want to waste that on socks? Of course I could get cheap yarn but who wants to knit with cheap yarn? See where this is going? So right now I have 4 rounds of sock done made out of a lovely (but not hand dyed) self striping commercially available yarn. Of course it'd make a really cool scarf especially woven but anyway.

But every time I pick up the sock, I get a sudden urge to do something else. Some of these are really good things, like clean my bedroom (which is always an abyss), clean out the car (another good thing), or delve into my pile of marinating roving to actually spin a bunch. This has the self rewarding factor of making more yarn, which I can add to the pile. Of course the ever growing yarn stash (that Shop Hop was a really bad idea) is an issue in and of itself. Everywhere I look I see yarn. Every bag I open I find a skein of stashed yarn. I am simultaneously delighted and yet slightly overwhelmed. Add to this the fiber stash, which is overflowing the closet, and I need to do something about it.

Tuesday night it hit me like a bolt of lightening! The kids are no longer using their playroom. They play in the living room, after all, they're 11, they don't spend hours with toys, they spend hours online or playing games. So, we don't need the playroom anymore! The playroom, (which actually used to be an office/workroom) has a lovely futon, and great light. It's right off the living room. To sell the idea, I told them we could keep a card table set up in there permanently, and said it was going to be an 'art' room. By the time I had one of them at Target picking out shelving, they were so sold on it, they even ignored the fact that the shelving was to be for yarn - except to suggest we buy more of it (shelving, not yarn). Of course this project is just in the starting phases, but I can picture it in my mind. Yarn displayed lovingly in labeled shelving, sorted into colors, and weights. A work table in the corner, and I'm thinking even a way to organize needles. I might even be able to move a spinning wheel in there (if I can figure out a way to get the kids to organize their stuffed animal stash, that's a total go).. And this is a great way to procrastinate on my sock - again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If Nature Won't give you Color - Make the Color Yourself!

This is the scene that greeted me this morning.
We are back to the gray, light gray, and white colorscheme outside.

It's going to be awhile before I can get things growing.

So I made myself some yarn flowers..

Using 3 skeins I spun last night.

If I stare at it hard enough, it will make me forget the snow outside..
Or not. Sigh.

Thanks to the yarn models: Superwash Corriedale in Party Dress (blue green red) from Spunky Eclectic (a very old club color that had been hiding at the bottom of my stash) - Fresh Cut from knittyandcolor, the pink and green. And Hollyhocks from a local dyer - alpaca/silk blend in pink and yellow.

Hopefully I won't run out of spring colors before we actually get a week without snow..

Monday, April 18, 2011

Let Me Sum Up

This is the spring project. A small patio, and another raised bed.
We got this much done on Sunday. Now, who knows when it
will be completed - Snow is coming again.

This is the raised bed, waiting to be planted
(ignore general yard detrius also waiting to be cleaned up)
It will continue to wait. - Snow is coming again

These are the empty pots, lined up waiting for new inhabitants
(and a tree which I think survived the winter and is ready to be planted)
but they will continue to wait - Snow is coming again.
This is the shrub rose bush with buds on it.
Brave soul, it should have waited. - Snow is coming AGAIN.

It will be May in less than 2 weeks. And we still have freezing temperatures and snow in the forecast. It is just so wrong on every level.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words..

Photo taken 4-16 by my friend Vania.
Yes, that is snow. Yes, it is here. Yes, I hate it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finally Friday

It's been a long week at the office

But it's finally Friday

Time to sleep in

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spinning Zen

Sometimes when you're creating art, everything comes together. 
  • The right fiber
  • The right tools
  • The right colors
  • The right mentality
 Completely a zen state. With beautiful results.
Falkland from Knittyandcolor..

I can't put this down! Must spin more!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Depression

It was 70 degrees here today. Yes, you read that right, ok, maybe it was 66, but the point was it was warm, the wind was mild, and it was lovely. Except for the lack of flowers. But the grass is turning green. I got outside and got the rest of the garden plot here turned over, and pulled up some weeds. I also planned a new little patio area, and another garden plot. Hopefully we'll get this done soon. Of course, this might be hard because, it is supposed to snow. Yes, you read that right, s-n-o-w. And back to low 40's. AUUUUGH! Why can't it just stay warm??? This makes me so depressed. To live somewhere, where I can't even live in the present, because it just starts a countdown to winter again. I know it's silly, but it's how I feel. I need to get out of here. 9 weeks before our EPIC ADVENTURE. I can not wait.

To cheer myself up, I made shrimp barley risotto with garlic, onions and spinach mixed in. Oh, so so good! I love risotto, I think I am Italian in reality (not really). It's my 4 week anniversary of not eating meat besides fish. I am so happy with this decision, especially as I'm watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. He is an amazing chef, and that is a great show. Check it out, but you'll be a little shocked by what you see. It might be enough to turn you off of meat, or at least off of processed food..

Speaking of food, did you know that the average American eats over 3,700 calories. That is a huge amount for a sedentary lifestyle. No wonder there are so many issues with obesity, and health problems. Food is your fuel, are you fueling your body with junk, or with high octane?