Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm a lucky girl

Dear Steve Jobs,
I know you have used Star Trek as a source of ideas in the past and don't lie to me boy iPadd=PADD. You didn't even change the name. My primary interest lies in a cupcake-transporting device wherein one might beam cupcakes or other baked goods to other points across the world or even into outer space. I'm pretty sure we can assume that astronauts like cupcakes. In fact, please consider the following images and how tasty they might be if only I could beam a serving to your office.

Item One: Badass Soufflé

Look at this badass soufflé and tell me you don't want some. See how fluffy and bouffy it is? Locally grown eggs topped with locally made goat's cheese and home-grown oregano. I have developed mad soufflé-making skills and while they do fall, such is the nature of the beast and I'm not bothered by it in the least. This bit of culinary success was gone in 3.2 seconds and you could have had some if you were to develop the cupcake transporter.

Item Two: Best Biscuits this side of the Mason-Dixon

My daughter and I made drop biscuits today from organic butter, White Lily flour, and local goat's milk. Before I descend into praises regarding the quality of the aforementioned goat's milk, I would like to say that biscuits and the making therein are serious business to a woman such as myself. My heart was broken when I found out that Three Rivers Cornmeal had been bought and done away with, such is the seriousness with which I take my baking. So when I say these were the best biscuits this side of the Mason-Dixon, know that I am not messing around, sir! You could have had some if you were to make a cupcake transporter.

Please keep me updated.


The aforementioned locally-made goat's cheese and goat's milk were bought from the lady that I affectionately refer to as the Goat Cheese Girl, Mrs. Justyne Noble from Noble Springs Dairy. I cannot sing the praises of her goat products enough and may the Theoi bless her and all of her goats with, y'know, whatever they'd like to have because dang. Those were some damn good biscuits. I'm planning to pick up some local butter to further improve upon biscuit quality. The goat's milk was unexpectedly delicious and much easier on my stomach than regular cow milk from the grocery. My previous experience was with stuff that tasted like goats smell and it was not pleasant, I tell you what. Not so with this stuff. This stuff is good.

Much of today was spent in fiber processing, washing this alpaca from Legacy Acres. The picture doesn't do it justice. I had such a good time spinning this and can't wait to show Tom & Linda the end result. It's a soft and beautiful chocolate brown that was an absolute dream to spin.

I also worked on some of this, flinging llama schmutz everywhere as I carded some of this beast. Given the amount of dust and crud that I have apparently inhaled from the carding of same beast, I'm considering wearing something over my face next time, lest I inhale something really unpleasant. I carded up four batts, spun one of them, and still have quite a ways to go before I'm done. This particular beast has a staple that can only be described as "really darn long" and there's a bloody lot of it. I am not complaining, mind you, because blessed is Jenn the Llama Fairy who sent it. I chose to spin it dirty and because of that, there was a frakton of dust kicked up by the carder, much of which went into the garden and some of which went straight up my nose.

Speaking of the garden, it's been a bit cold lately, down to freezing some days, so I've brought some of the plants in until the weather warms up again. At the top left is a Dieffenbachia that I got at the grocery store for a buck fifty. I also got a couple hyacinths that I plan on planting in Bekah's yard next Friday. When I have a yard of my own, I'm going to plant so many bulbs and there will be hyacinths forever and irises all over the place and daffodils and lilies and...

Even Avel the Manequin is excited about spring. Usually his reactions are a bit... (dare I say it?) wooden.

I think I'm funny. 
Here are the most recent hankies. The picture is crap, but I'm so far pleased with both. The one on the right is the pink stars in progress. I'm thinking about doing some kind of border around the edge, just for kicks. The one on the right is an interpretation of Inachis io, the European Peacock butterfly that I caught while in Poland. These are eventually going up in the shop and I've got a third hanky blank that I haven't decided how to decorate yet. Perhaps I'll embroider a disease or some other interesting motif.

What say you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Growing Joy

This last week has been pretty nice. Aside from the fact that I spent most of Thursday sleeping off a cold, the weather has been great and it's been the first long stretch of days that actually feels like spring. There is a thing that happens every year about this time of year. I get the fever to start planting things, even though I know the danger of frost has not yet passed. So, I buy a packet or two of seeds and take whatever I've collected from flowers and vegetables from last year and toss them around into the pots on my balcony. And then I wait.

...and wait.

...and watch.

...and wait some more. I watch this bare earth as though plants will emerge from its depths fully formed like Athena. I keep watching and waiting and watering and then one day, little green sprouts emerge as though they were waiting for me to walk away for a moment.

I think these are the lettuces, though I also tossed some parsley in with them. I figure that if we get even a little bit out of the pots on the balcony that goes into our dinner, that's pretty good. I may live in the city, but that doesn't mean I can't grow something to eat.

I've been working through stuff that we got from the farmer's market last summer and I'm planning to raise the grocery budget somewhat so that when beans, corn, peaches, berries, tomatoes, and so on are ripe and in season, I can buy some to preserve and have over the winter. I'm so excited about summer and have been missing all the good stuff that I took the very last batch of peaches that I froze and made them into pie. I even made the crust. Good quality local organic peaches deserve a made by hand pie crust. There is something infinitely satisfying about creating a pie such as this. You can buy a frozen pie and that's pretty good. You can get a can of fruits and a crust from the grocery store and that's even better, but this was culinary excellence. It's not so much that my baking skills are any better than any other person, but rather that the difference between truly homemade and mass-manufactured store-bought is huge. Even Husband, who doesn't particularly care for pie, had a piece. I think he remembers how good the peaches were last summer and, like me, wanted a little of that memory in pie form.

I thought the little peach on top was pretty brilliant.

Come Thargelia, we'll start seeing more fruits and vegetables in the market and I cannot wait. That will be the end of most of the preserved and shipped-in food and the beginning of the good stuff. As good as that pie is, fresh peaches are going to be so much better.

I've got seedlings growing on the windowsill in my office and daffodils on my dining room table. The sun is shining, the tank is clean, and the newness of spring has spurred on a great deal of activity around these parts.

My sister says that I make still-lifes. I don't know what she's talking about. If this were a painting, I'd put the bowl of apples a little closer to the flowers or something. It would be completely different.

Anyway, I've started to walk to the lab (when I'm not down with a cold) and I've even been knitting lace. I started the Echo Flower Shawl (Ravelry link) last weekend and it's the first lace I've knitted in a very long time. Here I am two repeats in and I actually feel like continuing. My head doesn't feel like it's going to implode. Little bit is under the impression that it is for her and feels as though that because she helped pick out the pattern and the yarn that she is entitled to the end result. We shall see, young one. We shall see.

There's not much to see just yet, but I'm having fun with it. I don't often knit just for the process, but I feel like challenging my skill set, so there you are.

The socks I'm working on are totally product knitting. I want the socks at the end and even though the pattern is interesting to me, it's not really a challenge to knit. I've made this pattern before, liked it, and decided to make another pair in a different yarn. They're moving along just fine and since they're my dice-and-paper game/take-along knitting, they won't take any longer than any other pair of socks.

I still haven't managed to get a picture of the butterfly hanky I finished, but I have seen the first butterflies of the year. Yay spring!

I'm working on another star-themed hanky, this one in pinks because I happen to have a lot of pinks. I don't actually care for pink that much, which is probably why I have a lot of it. I use up the other colors. Anyway, I think it will be nice when it's done and maybe someone will enjoy it when I put it up in the shop. Which, by the way, will be donating half the proceeds to Doctors Without Borders, in light of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan.

I hope that as the days grow longer, joy can increase. That's all I really want.

Happy Equinox!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is this "week-end" you speak of?

I've discovered this wondrous thing called a "weekend." I don't know if the rest of you have heard of this thing, but there are days in the week where you can pretty much do what you want to. It's crazy! I mean, you can do things like watch television and knit lace. You can even vacuum the living room!

Oh! Oh! Do you know what I did today? Get this:

I made my bed.

I didn't change the sheets or anything, but I saw that the blankets were messy and then straightened them. Things are wild at the deBugs residence, I tell you what. I finished an altar cloth that I'd originally planned to sell, but decided to keep, and then spruced up my altar and did some praying - mostly for Japan because damn. I am impressed, however, with how many lives were saved by their preparedness. I bow to the awesome in that.

The biggest thing I did this weekend was to update my stash in Ravelry. Now all the yarns are actually the yarns that I have. Here's a picture of the whole kit and caboodle. On the left is the kit and in the middle is the caboodle. I think that bamboo is dead.

(please ignore the box behind the basket. nothing to see here. move along, move along)
The basket has all the partials in and the shelves are arranged in some logical order that I forget right now. I think the really nice stuff and lace yarn is at the top and it looks like cottons and plant fibers next. There's a sock yarn shelf, to be sure, but I forget how I chose to arrange the rest. I assure you, it's very logical and straightforward. Much like this:

Though it looks like a weird kind of sudoku, this is actually a data matrix. [Insert The Matrix Trilogy jokes here.] Anyway, this is what it looks like when puny humans try to make sense of biological organisms and arrange them into groups so that we can give them names. It kind of mostly works and, really, that's the best we can do. We phylogeneticists talk about species concepts all the time, but I don't think there's really a "right" one. Species are a human construct, an attempt to put organisms that refuse to conform to our ideas into neat categories. Once you think you've got it figured out, Nature shows you that you either forgot about something or that she's got a trick up her sleeve that you didn't even know about. For example, Ernst Mayr once described species as being:
groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such groups
This popular species concept kind of glosses over the fact that there are a heck of a lot of organisms that don't reproduce sexually. Also? How do you really know if two organisms can "potentially reproduce." Really Ernst? Really? He was bird guy, so never really had to deal with the complexity of say, insects or algae. What does he know anyway? Birds. Bah.

You know what's better than a whole passel of species concepts? (nice transition, Jess)

Circle socks by Anne Campbell, knit in Regia Silk (Ravelry link)


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Life is good

Right very now, I have a tummy full of spaghetti after a very busy day and am feeling like I'm living the good life. I've got a warm house, a roof, a pantry and a tummy full of food, a husband and offspring that I'm rather fond of, a cat that isn't actively evil, and nobody is shooting with guns outside my house terribly often. I call this the good life.
I spent most of yesterday wearing comfortable clothes, watching a movie nobody but me would be interested in watching and taking pictures of yarn and other things string and fiber related. I call the first one "Vegetable Curry" because it was dyed in the wool with bits of cast-off vegetable bits (carrot tops, onion skins, and the like) and some cheapo curry powder that wasn't very good but makes for a nice yellow color.

The next one is Cherry Kool-aid. I'm sure you can guess why. The color is fantastic on this one, if I do say so myself (and I do). Most of the rest of the pictures were for my Etsy shop. I'm thinking I might work on some stash photos next week so that I can update my stash on Ravelry. I also got a scale and a yarn meter, so look out, world! I can more accurately measure my string!

I haven't decided if I'm going to sell these or not. I dyed the wool by hand, used a hand-crank drum carder to process the fiber and spun them myself. I'm not sure I can accurately price that.

In other news, I've switched my focus temporarily from knitting to embroidery. I've got three projects in the queue that should be all finished fairly soon. The most recent butterfly hanky is done but for washing, the four elements napkin/hanky thing is almost done, and the star hanky is sewn but neither marked nor embroidered.

I also finished the Libya flag:

The picture is a bit crap because by the time I got to it, the sun was going down, but it's all done.

I've started a weaving project, too. I'm making either one or two ritual stoles, I'm not entirely sure yet. I'm still learning how to warp efficiently and I'm learning how to use the whole loom in all its capacity to make patterned fabrics, but so far, so good. I don't have pictures yet, but my selvedges are looking much better. One of these days, I'm going to make a badass huge blanket of awesomeness. It's a thought, anyway, or a goal or something.

So, today was spent talking about "What is a Pagan" which took me at least 20 minutes and I only barely touched on the subject and after that I went to a baby shower. I'm tired, but tomorrow I shall code characters like a mofo and get this parsimony business underway. I'm rocking the phylogenetics right now and eager to get back to assigning numbers to character states in a data matrix. I find this activity rather fun, really, and I'm convinced that this is how I know this is the right profession for me.

All in all, life is good.