Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No pictures just now, I'm afraid, but I did want to check in and let you know I'm still alive. I'm at the Entomological Society of America meeting in Reno right now and not on my laptop proper. I did manage to get some pictures with Bug Girl, so I hope to post them when I get back. I've also managed to get lots of video of entomologists sending messages to the high school kids I'm working with, so I'm excited to post those as well. I'm wondering, having been inspired by Bug Girl, if it would be a good thing to start an entomologically-themed blog. I'm not sure my attention span is good enough or what my message is, but I do like bugs and I do like science outreach. I'll give it a think anyway. I've connected with so many people at this meeting, not only through entomology, but through knitting as well. I'm working on a pair of socks, as one does at these things, (okay, as I do) and have been able to encourage several people to pick up the craft or pick it up again. I've talked about the benefits of knitting and the devaluing of traditionally female crafts. I didn't want to go to this meeting at first. There's so much I could have gotten done at home, but this really has been valuable for me. All the same, I can't wait to get back.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Proud, but not prideful

You can tell this isn't Kansas because it's in color.
One of the first full garments I ever sewed by myself was a Wednesday Addams dress for Halloween one year and I still have it in my closet. Mom helped, of course, but she claims it's all my work and I can't help but be a little proud of it.

I made the above dress for Iris in '04 and the pattern is more fiddly than it looks, but that there is Dorothy Gale's dress. It's a licensed pattern, so it's the official Wizard of Oz Dorothy dress. I even compared it to the movie to make sure it was right and not some half-baked approximation.

There's been a Halloween costume dry spell the past few years and I've partly been thankful for it. Grad school occupies my brain like the 99% on Wall St., only it's been going on for much longer and I'm more willing to give into its demands. She's been wearing the costumes from her dance recitals and it's great she gets some additional use from them, but every year she doesn't ask me to make something for her, I feel a little bit like a kicked puppy.

Maybe that's silly, but in my head Mama is supposed to make the Halloween costumes. That's part of what a good mama does and it's one of the parts I really like. I like making something for the offspring that she's excited to wear and while I've made her lots of clothes, a Halloween costume is special.

Anyway, it's that time of year again and much to my relief, she's asked me to make her a fairy costume. She wanted a skirt and I suggested a vest to help hold up her wings. First, she wanted to be a woodland fairy and I'm thinking, "Browns and greens - no problem." I even found a camo that might have worked very well for such a thing. Unfortunately, she changed her mind in the fabric store. She wanted to be a rainbow fairy instead and no, there was no way to change her mind.

We got the last bit of a rainbow striped quilter's cotton and it was perfect. In fact, I think this is some of my best work. The black panel has a black lace layered in front of the cotton to give it a little opacity and it makes the other colors really grab your retinas and smack 'em around a bit. Both of the black fabrics were stash. Pro tip: Children grow. Measure them before you cut fabric to make a garment. Sure, you may have measured them last week, but they probably grew last night. I must admit to inserting this panel because I failed to measure the kiddo before cutting. It turned out to be a happy accident.

The closure is an invisible zipper and hook-and-eye, but the waistband has elastic in it to allow for growth of said kiddo. She should be able to wear it for a couple more inches of tummy growth. That might be a month or a couple years-- it's hard to say. Anyway, it fits perfectly, drapes well, the zipper looks great, and it the whole garment is the exact perfect thing for her. Not to mention that she loves it and is excited to wear it for Halloween. The part I'm really proud of is that I made this entirely without a pattern. I made it with maths from my brain.

I feel like a good mom again and that here's something that's as it should be. I feel talented and competent. I feel proud.

...but not prideful. I thank Athene for granting me skill with a needle, I thank Bekah for being a good influence in the use of references, I thank Iris for asking me to make this for her, I thank the Kindergarten teacher who suggested I learn to sew, and most of all, I thank my mom for teaching me.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

It's not because I don't love you

Support Public Radio: They don't yell at you in the morning.
I'm continuing apace with handkerchief production, having finished one with a pine branch, one with the chemical structure of serotonin and the words "Serotonin: get happy!" and another one with initials on. I've got another with initials in the queueue...ue..ue and have plans to coffee dye one and stitch the chemical structure for caffeine in brown.

Anyway, I hope this ennui passes, though with October being fully itself and November looming on the horizon, I remain unconvinced. At least some stitching of some kind is getting done.

I've also got a Halloween costume to sew for a little girl and more presents to make than I really have time to make. If you don't get anything from me this year, it's not because I don't love you.

In other news, fall break for Iris and the school I'm working at has ended, so it's back to work for me tomorrow. Additionally, I just got the window on my Volvo fixed and it cost nearly as much as the car. (Say it with me: "Cheaper than a car payment. Cheaper than a car payment..." It's the cash-payer's mantra.) I managed to fix the fuel door myself and the head liner is high up on my list next to the trim piece that came unglued. That is, barring any unforeseen circumstances (Hephaestos forbid!). Lastly, husband's birthday is on Tuesday. Incidentally, it's also National Coming Out Day.

Monday, October 03, 2011

There's a lot going on here

Last night, Bubby and I went to a show on campus for an evening of free entertainment. We were up a little later than usual, so she's still sacked out in bed, but we had a grand time. She has had a deep fascination with China for some time now, so when I dropped her off for Chinese lessons last time, they gave us tickets to Song of Silk. The show was a mix of dance, music, and theater from many different regions of China, including a yak dance from Tibet. Her favorite part was the fan dance, but they had a demonstration of several instruments that was also very cool. There's one called the suona that can, apparently, hold its own with a set of bagpipes.

No lie. They didn't need a microphone for it. There were, sadly, no bagpipes or men in kilts last night, but we did see a dude in a fabulous hat.

We also saw a lady play the pipa, which I have dubbed the Chinese banjo. This video is of the lady we saw playing the same song we heard last night.

I would love to hear the pipa and the banjo together. That would make my day.

In other news, I haven't been doing much knitting lately. My knitting mojo has wandered off to Bermuda and is probably sipping mojitos and making a lovely scarf. If you see it, send it home, willya?

I did manage to finish a pair of circle socks (Ravelry link) and have been doing a fair bit of embroidery as well. I finished a couple of for-sale hankies and have lately been working on gift hankies for the menfolk I know and am related to. This is in preparation for the winter holiday season and I fear that I'm just not going to be able to finish all my making this year. I'm not sure I ever do, but I've been quite busy lately and having difficulty finding time that isn't occupied by something - mostly somethings that are not conducive to knitting. I've also lost my needle gauge, which makes the whole process a little more frustrating.

I'm sure that my knitting mojo will eventually miss me and come back home, hopefully with my needle gauge, and I can commence to knitting again. In the mean time, here are some pictures of recently embroidered hankies.

This one is just some freehand vines and leaves. I'd planned some kind of trumpet flower to go with, but decided to leave it as-is.

To the left we see poppies, a fairly common theme in embroidery. To the right and on the opposite corner of the same hanky is the chemical structure for morphine.

The biggest trick lately is balancing all of the things and doing them as well as is reasonably expected. I think I'm doing okay at it, actually, but I do miss knitting. I am deciding to take comfort in the fact that I'm not unproductive, I'm just productive in different areas of my life.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Relax, Cupcake!

Kirk's Cupcake
So, this is not actually a picture of my husband. It's not far off, though.

I know this will come as a shock to all of you, but Husband and I are pretty big in the Star Trek geek department. One of us writes fanfic, one of us plays STO, and between the both of us, we could tell you just about anything from TOS to the most recent movie.

There's nothing sexier than a big nerdy guy who's trained in take-down techniques and knows what you mean when you say your gaming group is going to be on an Akira-class ship in the new Trek campaign. Yeah, that's nerdiness to the nth degree, I tell you what.

My Cupcake
This is Husband. You'll note he's got more hair up top. I kinda miss the beard, which he has since shaved off. sigh What a handsome guy.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense. The stress that always comes this time of year when school starts and there are a hundred different things gearing up has finally begun to subside. It's also the middle of Birthdaypalooza here at the house, mine having just passed, the little one's being tomorrow, and the big man's coming up in October.

Making cake is fun and it's not often that I decide to really do it up bigtime. Really, Chekov/Sulu-related fic fests and Bubby's birthday are about it. Now, I'm not a gourmet cupcake-making person, I don't have much in the way of specialty equipment, but my artist's heart likes to come out and play with color, no matter what the medium may be.

We started with Pillsbury "Funfetti" cake batter because that's what she wanted and then dropped in some food coloring until it was just the right shade of pale blue-green. Now, I never can get quite two dozen out of a box mix and, being that there are 21 kids in her class and her teacher deserves a cupcake, too, I had to make the full two dozen. I ended up cracking open my trusty Joy of Cooking and flipped to a quickie cake recipe. In this case, "quickie" means that we used the 'lectric mixer. Y'know, like "quickie" mashed potatoes.

With food, it can be good or it can be fast. Rarely is it both.

Anyway, I whipped that up and voilá! More than enough batter! I actually made sixteen more cupcakes than were needed. They were slightly flatter than their box-cake counter parts, but that could have been easily fixed. I think I was a little batter-stingy toward the end, there. I'm particularly pleased that when I tried one of the surplus, it was soft and fluffy and cake-like where my previous homemade cake attempts had been...


Birthday Cupcakes

Those are cupcake-flavored goldfish on the top and I was quite pleased how the combination of blue and green decorating spray made a lovely sea green/ocean blue. That stuff is amazing and I feel like a dang genius.

In the interest of full disclosure, Little Bit did most of the box-cake mixing and baking, reading the instructions, measuring, and putting the first batch in the oven. The only thing I did was mix while she very carefully added food coloring and measure out batter into cups. Bedtime came before decorating time, but she could have done all of this herself. I'm proud of how self-sufficient she is becoming and while baking cupcakes isn't an essential life skill, knowing how to read and interpret recipe directions (or any kind of directions) is. With these tools, I don't have to worry whether she'll be able to feed herself good food when she grows up. Whether she chooses to is another matter; at least she'll be able to.

Today has been quite relaxing, as was yesterday. I actually spent some time on the Echo Flowers shawl (which Little Bit is convinced is going to be hers) and carding and spinning some hand-dyed wool. It's beet/curry flavored, which makes for an exciting orangey color. I'm a little excited to try out some cream of tartar/alum mordant for my next batch involving some shriveled-up beets in my crisper. I had intended to try to make a further dent in the llama, but did this instead. I needed the break.

I needed the break from school and from all the responsibilities that seem to pile up quicker than compost at a commune and I had that opportunity today. I hope this will allow me to face the coming weeks with renewed strength. I think it will.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I did it myself

Yesterday was lovely and relaxing. I spent most of the morning with good friends, then went out with the offspring to get a couple zippers and to look at birthday-related things. Though I'd planned to finish up at least one of the skirts I'd started to make for her, I got on a crayon-making kick. You see, I've wanted to make new crayons from old since I was a wee one and when Crayola finally came out with a crayon maker, I was thrilled and went right out and bought one. Unfortunately, the mold wasn't very sturdy and crumbled after a while (several years, I think) and there aren't any replacements, so I can't make crayon-shaped crayons anymore. I had an idea that one might take candy molds instead, so I thought I'd give it a try. Blending colors is a little different with this process and in order to get the streaks and swirls that the original crayon maker made, you have to start with a base color and add shavings and other bits of color after the hot wax is poured into the mold. It helps if the wax is good and hot so it melts the shavings on contact. If you were to try this at home, only use low heat and good crayon pieces. Crayola and Rose Art are fine, but I wouldn't use anything else.

The results were great! The only difficulty I have now is that I haven't got enough crayon pieces. If ever there was an indication that I need to color more, that's it.

 My other Sunday project was to finally replace the taillights on my car. Generally, I like to have someone else do car maintenance and repair for me, but I had the utmost confidence I could do it. The hardest part was remembering which wires went where and putting the bulbs back in. They're a little fussy, but I eventually managed. It turns out that there's this vast underworld of people who restore Volvos. Who knew? At any rate, this means that I can the parts I need and short of anything that requires me to take parts of the engine out, I can fix things on my car. Woo! Next on my list is the head liner fabric and any of the bits of missing trim I can find. I can even get a replacement hinge for the little door that goes over the gas cap.

Look at that butt

I'm certain there are professionals that could have done a much better job of it, but the brake lights and turn signals all function and it looks a hundred percent better than before. Throwing out the old lights was cathartic and I've been walking around with my head a little higher ever since. Sure, it wasn't a major job, but it was my job and I did it myself.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I don't look good in yellow anyway

So, the Tour de Fleece is over and while I didn't finish the llama, I did make a decent-sized dent in it. Mind you, I haven't been as gung-ho about the Tour de Fleece as I get about the Olympics and I've been distracted by shiny objects, but I did participate.

I think that, for the rest of the month, I shall focus on WIPs. I've got several now that are just kind of waiting in the wings for me to work on them. To be quite truthful, I've been neglectful of almost everything lately. I haven't been exercising, working in the lab, doing housework, or doing very many of my fiber-related projects. I'm only just now catching up and starting to do housework again and I'm planning to go into the lab today. Right now, I think I'm going to wake the sleeping offspring and knit some lace.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Running to Stand Still

The past couple of weeks I've been doing training for the fellowship I'm on and it's left me pretty much wrung-out and exhausted. I hadn't seen my family much and haven't been doing the things I love to do, let alone the things I have to do to maintain the upkeep of the house. Let's not even talk about the research. My poor butterflies remain neglected in their drawers.

Also, my keyboard and mouse are acting up, but I can't get a new one 'til next paycheck. Pff

I did manage to finish the watermelon socks and get started on sock #2 of the circle socks. I forget who I'm making them for, but it's not for me. I think they're for a women's size six, but I'm having trouble remembering who wears that size shoe. The solution will present itself, I'm sure.

As for the Tour de Fleece, I think I might be starting to make a dent in the llama, but I've not been spinning or carding every day. It's a little bit catch as catch can, but I'm finally getting through the lightest part of the fleece and will be moving on to the brown bits. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the finished product, but I'm thinking woven blanket.

I did get my iPad in the mail last week and I'm absolutely loving the thing. I have no fewer than three ways to take notes or make lists of things and a game with cutie little froggies that I've been obsessively playing.

With any luck, I'll update again this Sunday - maybe even with pictures!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Love imposes impossible tasks

As you may or may not know, we have just begun the Tour de Fleece and the challenge I have chosen to accept is probably on par with a 3600km bicycle race. I have decided to card and spin the box o' llama, heretofore known as "The Beast." I will tackle the Beast, carding and spinning until I have defeated it and it has become yarn. I'm not sure I'll make it, but I've got to try. The fate of... uh, The fate of all future yarns depends on it! (Yeah, that's it!)

A challenge is no fun if it's easily done. This is why I participate in the Knitting Olympics and with the volume of fiber in my possession, joining the Tour de Fleece was only necessary to tackle the Beast. Whether I finish or not, I'll at least manage to make a dent in the thing and that is worth it. It's a good thing I love spinning yarn.

I recently set forth a challenge for people to post their positive interfaith stories and so far, so good! Here in the South, it is a particular challenge to have positive conversations about religion, but it is possible. No matter where you live, you can be an agent of peace and awesomeness. You can reach out your hand to another person and if you proceed with love and peace, you'll eventually find someone who will shake your hand.

Love imposes impossible tasks,
but no more than any heart asks

Spin wool, talk to people. Exceedingly simple, yet surprisingly difficult, but by rising to meet these challenges, we become better people. We find that impossible tasks can be overcome and that they're not so impossible after all.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Many will enter, only one will win

I have no pictures today because yesterday was spent running around in my best friend's backyard and I'm sure everyone is sore today. I know I am, but not as much as the ones who did the three-mile walking race, then the sprint shortly thereafter.

Pro tip: stretch before and after.

I've been slacking off a bit in the needled arts in preparation for this weekend's Midsummer Games and hopefully I can get some pictures to share. I was busy refereeing, but that's fun for me. My favorite is the part at the end of the day when everyone falls over, exhausted, and says "Man, that was fun!" The prize was just a cheesy plastic gold medal, but there are bragging rights that went with it. Amongst this lot, we had eight pies and six cooks who thought his or hers was the best one. Eight pies enter. One pie leaves. The Twister competition was just epic and even the kids had a great time. Iris did very well and the best friend's middlest child also did quite well. Her youngest ended up not winning anything, but he did finish the three miles and I'm very proud of him for that. He's not quite there when it comes to being okay with his personal best, but he's got good parents that will help him get there.

I'm so, so proud of when he tried and I hated seeing him upset, but not everyone can win. It's more important, really, to do your personal best and if your personal best is better than your competitors' personal best, then great! If not, that's okay, too. You're not going to get a cheesy plastic medal for it, but you'll know you put forward all you could and really, there's so much you can learn from loss. There are those parents who would hand out trophies to their kids for just showing up, but the truth is that this just makes adults who expect rewards for having a pulse. We don't become skilled without challenges and without learning how to win and lose, we won't learn how to deal with both gain and loss and we lose our impetus to increase our skill. Why become skilled if you're going to be given a trophy for showing up?

Anyway, I have ideas and plans for next year. We raised about $10 for the National Kidney Foundation to honor a dear friend of ours that passed this time last year. It isn't much, but it's $10 more than there was before, so that's a win, too. One of my biggest hopes is not only that our local community strives for the best of what they can do, but also makes a habit of charitable giving. After all, what you give really does come right back to you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Focus, dude.

I finally managed to make my blackberry cobbler. I almost don't want to eat it, it's so pretty. I don't know how it tastes yet, but for a first attempt at cobbler, this looks pretty darn good and my confidence is high for the peach season. I have very fond memories of blackberry cobbler and I can't help but think of my Mamaw. She had blackberry bushes upon which the best blackberries on the planet grew and would sometimes make a cobbler from them.
This one consists of a little over a quart of blackberries from the market, sweetened with a little honey, and a little cornstarch and water added for thickening. On top is a basic biscuit dough, made in the manner of drop biscuits so as to be a little more fluid and less stiff than roll-em-out biscuits. Combine fruit, honey, cornstarch and water, and pour into 8" baking dish. Make up biscuit dough, drop onto the top of the berry mixture, and bake at 425ºF for 30 minutes.
I try to live my life in bits and pieces, taking it not one day at a time but one moment in time. It keeps me sane and keeps me from getting too wrapped up in thinking about the future or the past. There are times when I get distracted from this and last night was one of those times. Caught up in my own thoughts last night, I locked the door and turned off the lights to get ready for bed and instead of giving my eyes a moment to adjust to the dark, I just walked toward my bed like I knew where I was going. I walked smack into a wall so hard that I saw stars and fell on my butt. I'm pretty sure I did some damage to my nose, which bled some last night, is bruised today, and hurts when I chew. We can make pretty dumb mistakes when we're distracted. Last Thursday, I backed into a dude's truck and busted out my taillight. He was parked illegally, but I was once again caught up in my own thoughts and not paying as close attention as I otherwise would have. It's the typical absentminded professor schtick, caught up in thinking so much that worldly concerns such as the location of giant red trucks and solid walls tend to fall to the wayside. Such was the case with the accidental blueberry pie as well. I try not to dwell on these mistakes too much because doing dumb things is a part of being human. 

Moments come and go. They're transitory by their very nature, but they can be pretty awesome as well. Here's another example of pied beauty from the balcony garden and it's not going to be around for very long, but I'm sure enjoying it while it's here.

I've mostly got plain orange ones in the garden, which I enjoy, but I'm also loving how each of these yellow and red ones is completely unique in size and color pattern. I have no idea how many or which genes are at work here, but the result makes me clap my hands in giddy exaltation of the wonders of nature! This one seems to be somewhat dwarfed at about half the size of a normal bloom, but the colors are bright and cheerful. We'll just call it "fun sized," shall we?

Lace knitting is one of those things that requires concentration, but that can still be taken in bits and pieces, moment by moment, stitch by stitch. This is not an easy form of meditation, but I am told that meditation is best when it doesn't work perfectly. I finished another repeat today and had to tink and adjust more times than I care to admit, but still managed to get through the several rows to earn my "finished a repeat" sticker. This was a case of concentrate or completely mess up; there was no in-between. Do or do not; there is no try.

Even though I've lost my focus several times this week, I don't fear that I'm losing it completely. It's just work to keep it up, is all.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Today I'd intended to make a blackberry cobbler, but ended up making a rather soupy blueberry pie. I'd meant to blanch the blueberries for a few seconds so that I could freeze them, but instead steamed the crap out of them. I recovered them as best as I could, made a crust, and put them into a pie. It's not my best work, but it still tasted like blueberry pie.

Iris was helping to make biscuits this morning and too much goat milk went in, so we ended up with drop biscuits instead of roll-'em-out biscuits. They turned out very fluffy and good.

Many people say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I say that lemons are inevitable. Learning to make lemonade from them requires a bit of time and effort, but it's well worth it. So I overcooked my blueberries instead of steam-blanching them. Maybe next time I'll pay better attention. Okay, so this blueberry pie wasn't my best work. Maybe I can make the filling thicker next time. So my biscuit dough wasn't firm enough to roll out. So what. We had tasty drop biscuits instead.

I've decided that "Inevitable Lemons" is our next band name.

"Screaming Names" is also a pretty good band name and behind it is a pretty good band as well. (Nice segue, Jess!) I went out with Husband to a show at The Pond in Franklin and was delighted to see our dear friend Randy, the one responsible for helping Husband and I get together. We saw Randy's good friend Miss Lolly Pop as last night's MC for the Saturday Night Special, a "Brolesque" show by Meat and Three, and the comedian, Mr. Peter Depp. A good time was had by all. I wish I had more than a Facebook page for the event, but there it is anyway.

I did manage to turn the heel and start the gusset on my watermelon socks during the show and, of course, Randy sniggered at my knitting the whole time. If I'd have been clever, I'd have brought my camera to take pictures of the sock with these wonderful performers, but no. I was not so clever. The sock, the Husband, and I had a fantastic time anyway.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Glory be to God for dappled things

Pied beauty
One of the most fun things about my garden is that it's a genetic crapshoot. I collect seeds wherever I might find them and then see what comes up the next year. Each flower that blooms or plant hat bears fruit is a surprise and I can see why Gregor Mendel would be fascinated by how this works. Sometimes I'll get plain orange or yellow ones and sometimes I get funky blotched or striped ones. Who knows what the progeny of this flower will look like! The marigolds are starting to really bloom now and I get giddy over every one of them.

We had omelets and hash browns for dinner one night last week because Bubby requested breakfast for dinner. She had originally requested omelets and eggs, but we decided that it would be redundant. I am happy to report, however that there are finally tomatoes at the Farmer's market! They're not as good as they will be in a couple weeks, but they were okay.

Along with Spaghetti Sunday, we've also been making biscuits on Sunday morning. I am, of course, teaching Bubby how.

Growing up, I thought that everyone knew how to cook and that biscuits were a basic staple food that every mother or grandmother could make. I had no idea that there were parts of the world that were deprived of fluffy breadly goodness and that biscuits would just always kind of be there.

Of course, in order for them to continue being there, we must continue to make them and I hope that this little one will pass on the skill at some point in her life. I'm not afraid of biscuit-making dying out or anything, but it does happen to be part of my culture and I would be remiss if I didn't pass it along. I'm still improving at it myself, partly because I'm using butter and goat's milk instead of shortening and buttermilk, but they turn out quite tasty.

It's a work in progress, but perhaps I'll get it by the time I'm a granny.

This week, I used Hatcher's Dairy unsalted butter and Noble Springs goat's milk. They were a little flat, but still good and I think that if I kneaded them a little less and rolled them out a little thicker, they'd have been perfect. It's possible they needed a skosh more flour, too.

All in all they were a biscuit success, in spite of their moderate flatness.

In other news, I worked on some piecing this week as well, mainly playing with color more than pattern. I ended up with twenty-eight six-inch squares, twenty-five of which I suppose will be about a lap-sized quilt when it's done.  I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but I think it will be pretty all the same. The other three squares were odds and ends that I'll make into potholders.

I am having some guilt over not having finished Iris's quilt. The only thing to be done about that, of course, is to work on it, but either my motivator's busted or I've just got too much going on. I suspect the latter.

Pot holders are my short attention span quilting and piecing. They use up scraps and I can make something quick, pretty, and useful. This is a series of ladybug pot holders all but one of which I'm going to put up in the shop when I update. Iris claimed the center one, which had a "flaw" in it. The red plaid square wasn't big enough, so I pieced one. I don't consider it a flaw, really because she ended up liking it because it wasn't like the other ones. Like the marigolds, it was funky and different, which made it cool and desirable. So, she decided she wanted this instead of her usual income for doing a good job on her room this week. I was happy to oblige. I am thrilled whenever she takes a liking to something I've made.

So, of course, she wants me to make her more things. This thing is not for her. This one is for me. I'm not even through the first repeat of the lotus blossom tank and I have a niggling worry about gauge and fit.

I tend to be a "product" knitter rather than a "process" knitter, so of course I want this to be functional and to fit. We'll see how it works out. I'm trying to be mindful about knitting this one in the hopes that I can enjoy the process as much as the potential product.

Nothing is perfect. My marigolds are splotchy, my biscuits are flattish, my potholders are funky, my quilt blocks don't exactly match, and my tank top already has mistakes in it that I'm not going to point out to anyone. Perfection is overrated anyway. Imperfection is far more interesting and within imperfection is the space to learn and grow. I'd much rather have a thousand splotchy funky marigolds than a single "perfect" one.

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A little of this, a little of that, and a mushroom shaped like a butt.

I've been having one of those couple of weeks where knitting has kind of fallen to the side, but I have actually been knitting a little bit and I've been doing some sewing as well. I'll come back with photos of my needled shenanigans later. I finished a set of ladybug-themed pot holders that are to be put up in the Etsy shop and did some cutting for a lap-sized or so quilt in purples and pinks and blues. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but it's going to be pretty. I may make it bigger than that since I went a little overboard with the cutting, but whatever it ends up looking like, it will be loved, I'm sure. I also embroidered an E. coli in a bluish green on a hanky. I've worked on my travel sock and I started my Lotus Blossom Tank (Ravelry link). I'm concerned about gauge. My swatches lied to me several times, so I just started knitting the smallest size in the recommended needle size and I'm really hoping that it's going to come out to be close enough. I'm also concerned about proportions because it's sized for average types and not for petite types. The straps on tank tops are consistently irksome to me because they're always too long. This makes the neckline lower than I'm comfortable and the whole thing ends up not fitting properly. With any luck, I'll be able to make alterations so that I don't have that problem.

And now for something completely different:
My spaghetti sauce: let me tell you about it.

I make spaghetti for dinner on Sundays. I also make biscuits for breakfast, but I'll get back to that later. Since I learned to make my own sauce, I've reserved the stuff from the jar for occasions when I'm just too tired to cook or too short on time or what have you. By and large, the sauce I make is pretty much homemade from what happens to be available. Sometimes, like last week, I'll have some mushrooms, so in they go. Here's a mushroom piece shaped like a butt.


This week I had some red bell pepper from something I decided not to make, some carrots that were starting to look a little sad, and a fair number of things from the farmer's market. I spent a little too much, but came back with some fantastic stuff. There were green onions and garlic scapes this week as well as wee tiny baby yellow squashes, so all that went in, too. I try to freeze some of the leftovers, which has served as an excellent plan in case there's nothing else to eat in the house and I can tell about what time of year I made it because of what's in it. Kale and carrots means winter. Zucchini, squash, and extra diced tomatoes means mid-summer. Grabbing a container from the freezer and finding late spring or summer inside is like an oregano-infused trip back in time.

Taste the rainbow!

I am in love with summer and the wonderful things this Earth can produce. I love this place and the ground I walk on. So, to the people in charge of Tennessee state law, what is this? And this? Don't we have better things to concern ourselves with than restricting the rights of human beings? I believe we have a budget to balance, hungry people to feed, homeless to care for, streets to keep safe, and many other matters that are far more worth the attention of our legislature. I have seen it said more times than I care to count that Tennessee is stupid or that Tennessee sucks. No. WRONG. Tennessee is wonderful. Tennessee has things like alpaca farms and beautiful hills and Graceland and Johnny Cash and muscadine wine and Dolly Parton and Memphis barbecue and the nice lady that sells the goat cheese, and, y'know, me and this kid.

Ballet dancer and card shark

The clowns in office suck (clowns frighten me and so do these guys). They are doing stupid things. Tennessee is great. Do not malign my state for the terrible things that legislators are doing to it. Instead, watch George Takei being awesome and inspiring people as he calls out the jerkwalters up in Nashville.

That's right, George. You tell 'em.

And now, just so you don't leave here too angry, here's another gratuitous pic of the offspring.

All shall love me and despair!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

We interrupt your regular knit blog for these pontificating messages

This past year has been an interesting one for me and it's probable that both of you who are reading this have been with me for the entirety of this journey. I've been thinking a lot about my career path and my spiritual path as I continue to work on my thesis and move toward the end of the Master's degree journey. There's so much here that I've worked to build in my local community and so much more that I want to do, but it seems that my academic and spiritual paths are diverging.
I'm not entirely convinced that this is the case now. I'm going to have to leave the town I've grown to know as home and the spiritual community that has offered me support for so long so that I can pursue a PhD in my field of study. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love biology. I've been a scientist longer than I've been a Pagan and, in fact, became a Pagan because I'm a scientist. A religion based on the natural cycles of the Earth just makes a kind of sense to me that other faiths didn't.
Anyway, no matter where I go, I'm going to take my spiritual path with me. It's more portable than travel socks. I know I can do a lot of good here and I'm grateful for the friends I've made, the family I know, and the bridges I've built, but I'm now beginning to accept that the way in which my spiritual life is going to be turned upside-down as I reach for that next degree can but lead me to where I need to be as both a scientist and a priestess. My chosen career path lead me to where I needed to be to begin with, so there's no reason that it should be any different now.
With any luck, graduation is about a year away, but I'm hoping that coming to this conclusion now will serve to motivate me in doing what needs to be done for my thesis and whatever else I've got going on. It's going to be okay, no matter what. I don't know what the tapestry of life looks like or why it is that the Fates are weaving me in a particular direction, but I can go with it and be the best example of myself that I can manage. That's really all a gal can do.
...we now return you to your regularly scheduled knit blog.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

You can't be sad when there are Cheerios

Who needs milk?
 According to this picture, which is one I remember from a history textbook in my early undergrad days when I was still taking core requirement classes. This happy little family looks quite snug in their bomb shelter as they await nuclear holocaust and the end of days. They can't be sad, even though Washington D.C, has probably been turned to a field of glass, Oak Ridge is but a glowing wasteland, and every Air Force base in the country has been flattened. Despite the utter destruction of most of North America in this scenario, they're as happy as can be. Why?

They've stocked up on Cheerios.

How can you be sad when there's a happy yellow box of Cheerios to keep you company during total nuclear destruction?

 You can't.

I must admit that through the many layers of sarcasm and cynicism above, I actually have an honest to goodness weakness in my otherwise hard little heart for Cheerios. I'm convinced that in addition to whole grain oats and other such things that one normally puts in cereal, they also add some kind of habit-forming substance. I love plain Cheerios straight from the happy yellow box and I love them in milk with their can't sink 'em positivity and I love them with fresh strawberries.

Seriously, it does not get any better than this.

I'm hoping that all this rain we've been having means strong, healthy tomatoes and a bumper crop of strawberries. Anyone who knows me knows that fruit is candy when you are me. Yeah, yeah, Easter candy, whatever. Scoff! Bring me some mothafrakkin' berries and fresh peaches. That is the good stuff. 

Thargelia/Beltaine, heretofore to be referred to as Tharjellybean, went quite well. My only regret is that I can't process dairy as well as I'd like because this stuff with fresh local whipped cream and shortcake from Claire is probably the best thing since ever. You could initiate world peace with that stuff and not have to fire a shot. This is the best of half a flat of berries, most of which went into the freezer. Some of that will be saved for Tu B'Shvat in February and the rest will be conserved for eating in winter when there are no fresh berries to be had. I can't wait for the peaches, but I'm existing in strawberry space-time now and loving every gorram minute of it. I won't want to leave, but then there will be peaches, so that'll be okay. 

This seasonal eating thing has changed not only how I eat, but also how I practice as a Pagan. It's one thing to say that, as a Pagan, we love Nature. It's another thing to have a celebration because you haven't had any motherfucking strawberries in months-- and you know how I feel about strawberries. It's one thing to dance about and be happy at the change in seasons and it's quite another to thank the everlasting gods for when there's finally fresh tomatoes to eat because the grocery store ones taste like vaguely tomato-shaped styrofoam. It's one thing to celebrate the last harvests of the year and quite another to fall on your knees and weep because there's no more butternut squash for the year.

Our ancestors had no choice but to eat seasonally. That was the only way to eat and if you didn't preserve some food when it was there in abundance, the gods would smite you with starvation (unless your neighbors were kind enough to share theirs after giving you the look for being an idiot and not putting back beans). I think it's safe to say that most people don't have a connection to their food like this. Vegetables come in a can, meat is distributed on styrofoam trays, fish is primarily in stick form, and fruit consists of these long yellow things that people keep calling "bananas." Those aren't bananas. The four-inch-long nearly brown little things I had in the Amazon Basin? Those were bananas. The difference is like that between a Granger County or home grown tomato that's not been more than an hour off the vine and... whatever it is they sell in the produce department at Kroger's. It's huge.

And this is not even a pagan hippie local organic woo-loo-loo "Is that patchouli I smell?" kind of granola thing. This stuff just tastes better. The end.

Maybe I'll get some new shots of the balcony garden once it stops raining. The lettuce is looking like you might could eat some of it and I've planted new things for Tharjellybean. 

I feel as though I should say something about current events, but really there's not much to say about it. The Buddhist in me isn't going to rejoice in another's death and is hoping for peace through peaceful means, but the flag-waving redneck in me is shouting "AMERICA! HECK YEAH!" I'm working on feeding the peaceful wolf, but I must admit that it ain't easy. Wah-wah, walking a Buddhist path is hard. Suck it up, Buttercup.

In other, other news, I was accepted for the fellowship that I've been stressing about for weeks, which I believe warrants the yay hands (this picture was taken about 4 months ago, but it's a great "HECK YEAH, SCIENCE!" picture).



Sunday, April 17, 2011

The bloomin' thing

I have had one thought and one thought only that colors every single thing that I see and do lately. I think about it day and night and the only reason I haven't dreamt about it is because I'm pretty sure I'm not getting enough sleep to actually dream.


I made an attempt at studying for the oral comps by going over the questions from the written exam and I got through a significant chunk before the avoidance began. There's nothing like an impending huge test of knowledge to spur on new projects and encourage me to work on the WIPs.

This is the second pink star hanky I've done in a row. It's not so much that I like pink or stars, but rather that I happen to have a lot of pink thread. I don't particularly care for it, so I tend to work with all the colors that aren't pink, thus leaving great amounts of the stuff in my collection of thread. I'm hoping to remedy the situation by using up what I have so that I can populate my collection of threads with colors that are useful and make me happy.

Here is an example of some of my older work that I came across at Kade's house. The threads are pulled too tight, the edging is machine done, and the design is too close to the edge, but even with its flaws, it's not a bad example of embroidery. I'm just better at it now than I was then. I gave this to Kade's sister years ago and it was found amongst her things only recently.

I hope that those of you out in the world who have some of my embroidery use it. Otherwise, what's the point of having it? This one didn't look like it had been used much, which is a little bit of a disappointment, but I'm glad to have it again.

I've made good progress on the Medieval Pouch as well and am approaching cast-off. I made some errors in the number of stitches to cast on and I'm going to have to block the daylights out of it, but I think it will be a fine thank-you to the lovely lady that passed on the llama. I'll have to line it, but that's no big deal.

You can see where I added spots to the cats and made them leopards. They are far more fearsome that way and reduce the long-ass floats somewhat. 

I even made progress on the Circle socks. I'm still on sock #1, but I'm nearly done with the gusset and the rest of the sock is plain, so it should go pretty quickly from here on.

The savvy among you will recognize these bricks. I stole your sock picture setting, Kade. I hope you don't mind.

(She doesn't mind. She likes it.)

I must bestow upon her many thanks, not only for the use of her front stoop, but for this weekend's whiskey therapy, for the strawberries and cookies she brought me from the farmer's market, and for going shopping with me. What would I do without you?

And now I must abed, but before I go, I shall leave you with one last gratuitous Iris picture. No pics of the girl this week. She's taking standardized tests this week and I know she's going to do great, but I'm wishing her good luck anyway.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Everything old is new again.

Spring is here! I know I've said this already, but I get stupid-excited about spring. Irises courtesy of my BFF, Jill's garden. The rest were flowers from the grocery store. I like to get the discounted ones that are a little old by floral shop standards, but still nice. I kinda feel bad for them and want them to be loved and enjoyed. Otherwise, it's the dumpster for them, and I can't be havin' that.

We've entered the part of the year wherein it is not yet hot enough for A/C, but just warm enough for iced tea. My Polish friend, Anna, would call this the dead of summer, but my people call this "spring." It's a bit warmer than usual, but the rain has been doing what it is meant to be doing in this part of the country-- "April Showers" and all that. I neglected to take a picture of the lettuces this week, but be assured that they're bigger than they were last week. I even considered taking a couple leaves off, but decided that this was but the product of impatience.

Strawberries have begun to appear at the Farmer's Market and I've had some plain and some cut up with a little goat's milk on top and some on top of vanilla ice cream. If I can manage it, I'm getting two quarts next week. One will be for eating and one will be for freezing. So many thanks to my dear K, who sacrificed her sleep to arrive at the Market before a reasonable hour in order to purchase and deliver said strawberries. I'd have taken a picture of them, but I was lucky to get them home and now they're almost gone. There's a bowl of Cheerios with their name on it tomorrow.

Instead, here is a picture of mints.

Where does the old mint go when the new mint grows in the garden? Answer: It becomes tea, is what.

I forgot to incorporate the last of the mint that was drying in the pantry into the tea last week, but perhaps I will do something with it come Thargelia. It would make a nice offering to Apollo, I think. Below is the new mint, slightly wilted but still fresh. The catnip didn't make it, but it will be easy enough to re-plant.

I've also had a wicked case of Short Attention Span Startitis. I haven't been knitting much on the things already on the needles and I don't think my brain has returned from vacation yet. I'm not allowed to knit lace 'til it comes back, so the shawl is taking a nap. I did manage, however, to get some of the llama spun and plied.

This is to be the Medieval Pouch (Ravelry link), but I put in a brick pattern where the ladder pattern was. This is pretty much all I did today besides make biscuits with Bubby. I straightened in my bedroom, too, and at the rate I'm going, I might even vacuum in there one of these days. It's astonishingly clean in there. My shoes are even lined up neatly in my closet. GASP! What is the world coming to? Not only this, but spending a paltry twenty minutes cleaning up in my office means that there's not a teetering stack of filing on the desk and the ironing board is actually put away.

This is not astonishing, really, except that I hardly ever put it away because I use it (see above).

These skirts are two of the Matryoshka series of gored skirts. Using little more than maths based on body measurements, I've decided to make these skirts in order to learn how to do it well. I started with Barbie and moved up to Rebecca because the smallness of the garment, especially at Barbie-size, amplifies any potential problems that may arise. Iris is next in line and then I'll make one for myself so that by the time I get to mine, I'll have ironed out most of the challenges (pun intended). I'm pleased with how both of these turned out. Barbie's kind of sticks out a little bit because the weight of the fabric is not sufficient to allow it to drape at all, but the shape is nice. Rebecca's is perfect except for the fact that I failed to allow a little more ease for the doll stand, which is not going to be a problem with actual people, so I consider it a success.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Rewards for Diligence

Yesterday, I went to pick Iris up from her Chinese lesson and the director of the Confucius Institute at MTSU gave her this as a "reward for diligence" because she worked so hard and is learning so fast and this got me to thinking about this concept in general. There are many rewards for diligence if you are willing to, well, be diligent.

Here's Bubby working extra hard to clean her room. She managed to get herself grounded for telling me she'd done what she hadn't done and since she was really putting forth all the effort her nine-year-old self could muster, she got herself un-grounded. With any luck, she'll take the lesson of "hard work pays off" into adulthood. A mom can only hope. This photo, by the way, was totally kinneared. Bubby will either hide or pose in front of a camera, so getting a good candid of her is darn near impossible. I do not give up easily.

Someone on Facebook said something about the "fruits of Islam." I assure you it wasn't a nice thing to say, but I did think about the fruits of one's faith and have decided that, in my experience, the fruits of Islam is hummus and those little cookies with dates in. Sometimes the fruits of Islam is baklava.  It's a plot to increase my waistline, I'm certain.

The fruits of Paganism, however, is fruit. Okay, so the picture is of lettuces (not vinca as the tag says), but I assure you that there will be fruits of some kind in the summer, just not from my balcony. Integral to what drew me to Paganism and my practice is the growing of things. Growing food is slow and difficult. It's easier just to go to the grocery store and buy a lettuce, but I don't grow things to eat because it's easy. I grow things because even in this city life of mine, I want to have a relationship with the Earth. I want to put my hands in dirt and bring out something made of sun, water, dirt, effort, and love. When I've eaten something I've grown, I know in the core of me that I've been blessed by my gods. I can't wait 'til the berries start coming in because I know no greater blessing than a strawberry grown in dirt I've walked on and still warm from the same patch of sun that shines on my face. I put love in, I get good food out. I can't think of a better deal than that.

Today, I finished making tea from last year's mint, hyssop, and catnip. These are the fruits of last year's labor and it's got me all excited about Thargelia. It's almost "clean out your pantries to make way for the new harvest" time. We'll share the last bits of last year's harvest and then we'll be up before Helios to pounce on any berries that might be at the Farmer's market. Then there will be dancing and a maypole and then planting. I am deliriously excited about this in the way that only one who eats seasonally can get.

And then there's the llama. 
The llama can only be described as a "hot mess," as the young people say. I washed it as best as I could, which wasn't very well, in a feeble attempt to get at least some of the dirt out and reduce the dust I was inhaling as I carded it.

I'll give you three guesses where the only cat-free space big enough to dry it was.

My car smells of llama.

Even though I've managed to spin some of it into singles, I'm not sure what the finished product is going to be like. It's a bit of an adventure and something of a mystery. I feel like I'm never going to get through this fleece, but I will persevere. I will be diligent and in the end I will have some sort of yarn.

The alpaca, on the other hand, is twelve ounces of camelid goodness. I managed to get a really nice picture this week that shows its lovely chocolate brown. I want to take it to the Market to show the nice people that sold me the fiber in the hopes that maybe they'd trade me for more fiber, but see above re: Chinese classes. Bubby's class happens to be at the same time as when the Farmer's market is open on Saturday, so I haven't been able to go as much as I'd like. I miss it. 

This is what I get for wanting to help the offspring get the most out of her brain doing something she enjoys and is good at.

The things I do for love...

There's a better picture of the Inachis io hanky, too, and I've finally finished the pink star one. I'm not in love with it and it's not my best design, but I like the border and I learned some new techniques.

I've been making progress in my weaving as well. I think it helps that I put down days that are for weaving on my calendar.
I'm thinking that one of these days, I'd like to weave a considerably larger project for a blanket or sommat (maybe with the llama?) but for now, this narrow little thing is doing up pretty nicely. It's certainly working the math portions of my brain. I'm still not great at warping, but again, I'm going to keep trying at it. I tend to learn best by a lot of trial, a lot of error, and a fair amount of observing others. With fiber arts, anyway, I'm not the kind to read and research before doing like some people. I just jump in and mess up a lot until I learn.

Extreme close up! Extreme close up!
That said, my selvedges are looking much better and I did a fair job of warping. With continued diligence, I'm certain I can become more skilled at this.

You wanna know something I haven't been doing much of?


This is what my Lotus Tank looks like right now - a pattern and yarn. At least the swatch has gone through the wash and lay flat to dry stage. Now, if I'd only figure out if I've got gauge and cast on, I might eventually have a tank top some day before I retire.

Don't even talk to me about the lace. I had comps this week and it completely short-circuited my brain for logic and lace knitting. I've been a babbling idiot ever since. I suppose that my last lesson in diligence for the week is the ongoing lesson of my thesis. Maybe when I'm done, someone will draw me a pretty picture of a panda.

I am hopeful and I shall remain diligent.