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).