Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Makes Me Happy

The birds are singing.

It feels like Summer.  We've gone from 45 degrees to 70 degrees in a matter of days.  I'm wearing a skirt and flouncing around the house.

The birds are singing.

I feel domestic.  I've got bread in the machine for the third time this week (and today's Wednesday).  I'm making burritos for dinner.  I've hung a load of wash to dry, and it won't take long with the sun still out.

The birds are singing.

I'm drinking a gin and tonic, listening to the birds, the crickets, and the families wheeling their grills out of storage for the first time this year.

The birds are singing.

And someone is even happier about it than I am.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Distraction

I got a new fun thing!!!

Thanks Amazon!  Which I just accidentally typed as "Amazin", because that's what you ARE!

I watched the season last Summer when it aired on TV, but now I have the added benefit of a) HD, b) no commercials, and c) my friend at work can finally watch it, so I can start with the "could you BELIEVE..."

Best show ever.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Treasures!

Today my mom and I braved the cold rain for something new and exciting - an estate sale!  Neither of us had ever been to one, but this one promised many vintage items, so we went to see if we could sort out the treasure from the other stuff.

We started in the kitchen, which was upstairs with a million dollar view of the ocean.  After we managed to look away from the windows, we found many well loved and well worn items, from glasses, to casseroles, to even a pressure cooker!  There was nothing in especially good condition or that we loved, so to the next room we went.  That's where I found the key.

A lovely living area, with shelves along the wall and many art pieces throughout, most of them strange and probably acquired on traveling.  Wooden cats, a stoneware owl, 3 sizes of wooden piggy banks (which were very cute).  I picked up 2 daggers and turned to my mom - "this looks like something you would see on Pawn Stars!"  I tried to remove them from their sheaths and found them to be rusted, the salt air had gotten to them and the blades hadn't seen light in years.  I couldn't see more than an inch of the blade and I've watched enough Pawn Stars to know that that's...not good.  I left them behind for someone else.

On that same shelf was this amazing skeleton key.  Keys are fascinating.  What does this unlock?  How long ago was it last used?  Is there still something valuable on the other side of its matching lock?  Does the matching lock still exist?  Is the key's size directly proportional to the importance of the thing it protected?  I'm tempted to carry it with me at all times, just in case I come across The Lock.

This same room had a large trunk, and another woman opened it up and discovered a stash of yarn, all from many years ago.  I yelled "YOU FOUND THE YARN!" and came running up beside her.  I picked up one skein to find it coated in a thick layer of dust.  I picked up another and found odd spots, probably caused by moisture and mold.  I wasn't sure how long this yarn had been ignored, but I suddenly thought of my own stash, and that I didn't need so much as for it to be collecting dust.  I vowed to go home and love the stash I had, and backed out of the room as the other woman continued rummaging for the perfect vintage skein.

Downstairs we went, passing a jewelry case with more treasures acquired at home and away.  I didn't see any jewelry that was especially interesting, but was more interested in the pocket watches and these specs that were in the front of the case!  The watch turned out to be $75 and was broken (I didn't like either of those things), but I was so drawn to the specs!  The label in the leather case is just...remarkable, and I love the old handwriting.  The pieces that clip on to the nose are on hinges so as to keep on the face (since they don't have the ear-holder thingies), and the craftsmanship is amazing all these years later.

We headed to the last couple rooms, one of them being a second kitchen (I want two kitchens!), with an even BIGGER pressure cooker, 25 or so ash trays from old Las Vegas hotels, and more glasses and kitchenware.  I picked up a small Santa mug, one of a pair, with a name on it.  I felt sad for a moment.  These were childrens' Christmas mugs, I would guess from the 1950's by the style of them.  They had been saved for all these years by a mother.  Her children didn't want them, they were being sold to the general public along with so many other things.  I wondered what kind of relationship they had, where they were now, what their families were like.  I wondered what items they had saved of their mother's, and how they decided to part with these things in the house.  Maybe it was just the energy of the kitchen, commonly where families gather on holidays.  I didn't buy anything out of that room.

On the way back to the living area to purchase my key, we poked around a little more, finding some records and other neat things, and sitting on a chair was this cute little box!  It was undoubtedly picked up on a Canadian vacation, and would be perfect for holding things like crochet hooks and needles and beads!  It was too cute to leave behind.  Under that, was something more - my favorite score of the day.  It was a newspaper.  I LOVE old newspapers.  It could have been from Any Date, 19diggity2 and I would have taken it home.  But it WASN'T from Any Date, it was from July 21, 1969.

I picked it up, wide eyed, and held it in front of my mom.  She took a moment to see what it was, then said "NO WAY!"  I couldn't believe this find!  There it had been, just sitting on a chair, the only newspaper in the whole house and it was something from such an important date. 

This was not a newspaper in brilliant condition.  It had obviously been read and read again, showed to neighbors, talked about, folded under the arm and brought outside to read.  The pages were yellowed and bent in strange places, some of the corners had tears.  Because of this, I didn't have that irrational need to keep it pristine, to keep it in plastic, hide it in a dark closet, and never touch it.  I read it!  The coverage on the moon landing dominates the paper, of course, but other features include a young Ted Kennedy killing a "pretty blonde" in a car accident, an article regarding the good work of "Negroes" in casinos, and ads for suits, 2 for $55, including all wool sharkskins AND wool houndstooth!  Amazing how so much of the newspaper seems to be so far set in the past, yet the moon landing still feels like the future.

It's interesting to think that if something incredible and history-changing were to happen tomorrow, there wouldn't be someone 40 years ago finding an old newspaper to read about it.  They could just look up the video on the internet, or pull up a hologram of it, or something.  I wonder if they'll find YouTube as charming as I found this old newspaper?

The guy didn't even charge me for it. It was my favorite find of the day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Project!

I got bored of all my other projects (as I often do), so I cast on something new and pretty today!

The yarn is a Squoosh sock yarn in Sapphire held doubled, and the lighter color I plan on streaking throughout.  I'll share the pattern a little later, since right now it doesn't look like much of anything, being only 5 rows in!  But I will tell you that it plans to be a cowl!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fun with Photoshop

My buddy Amber is learning Photoshop, and asked to borrow a picture for her assignment.  Specifically, this one:

You're probably LOLing and wondering "WHAT is the story behind THAT??!"  I had some leftover yarn, I made a beret for my cat, she was pissed, and I still laughed and laughed as I put it on her.  The hat hides the ears that are pinned backwards and indicating that she hates me so much sometimes.  I'm lucky I did not get murdered in my sleep that night.

But it's still cute, and man does it get a lot of comments.  It's a cat hat - everyone has something to say about that!  ;P

Anyway, after completing her project, she decided to play around some, and sent me this:

I received this after getting home from a 12 hour workday, and it was JUUUST what I needed.  Through the laughter and the tears, I replied with "It would be even more incredible if you made the monster very big and put him stalking around behind Sundae."  I don't know anything about Photoshop, so I wasn't sure if I had just said something along the lines of "make it 3D, make Sundae look super happy, make her stand up and do a kittycat jig, and I dancedancedance, and I dancedancedance".  I don't know how complicated the things are that I'm requesting!

It didn't take long, but I got this response:

It's almost a week later, and I still can't stop laughing!

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Does One Fail with a Bread Machine? OR Sometimes I'm a Poor Planner OR the Ugliest Loaf in the World

The faint of heart should look away.

Bah!  Oh...ugh...make it stop!!  Gah, could that get ANY uglier?  It makes my head hurt.  This photo is actually being nice, and is hiding the ghastly pale color.  It looks like an undead loaf.

So last night, at 11 o'clock, I decided that I would load up the bread machine with an olive loaf recipe, and it would be ready for me all bright and sunshiney early when I got up.  I've done this before and have had great success, once I'm asleep I don't hear all the whirring and beeping that makes it sound like a a robot is eating a washing machine.

Surely you see where this is going.

Last night I had an IMPOSSIBLE time getting to sleep.  It was too warm, I had stayed up too late all weekend and couldn't get back in to going to bed before midnight, my brain was thinking about my crazy schedule this week, I was trying to position myself around the cat that had plonked herself right in the middle of the bed, not wanting to wake her up because then it's time to knock stuff off the tops of the dressers and jump on and off the bed like she's stuck in an endless loop.  Yeah yeah, my life is hard.  I know.

I tossed and turned, and at 3:15 in the morning, hear "wheer!  wheer! wheer! whirwhirwhirwhirwhirwhirwhirwhir".  Wuuuuuut.  Are you serious right now?  I can never hear it if I'm already asleep, but since I'm awake it is ALL I hear.  I try to tune it out.  I try to ignore it.  I try to pretend that it's not remarkably loud at 3:20 in the morning.  I flash forward to 10 minutes in my future, when the bread machine will tell me "hey! come! add! nuts! or! some! thing! now's! the! time! right! now! so! you! should! make! use! of! this! beep!"  Actually, those are all beeps, but the only reason I could think of that it beeps 20 times (yes REALLY) is that it thinks it's speaking English and is trying to talk to me.

I hate beeping.  I never set my snooze alarm for that very reason, because I HATE beeping.  Why would I create more beeping?  So I do exactly what you would do - I got up and unplugged it.  After 10 minutes of trying so hard to pretend that I could sleep through the racket - bread making was over for the night.  I was then kept up by wondering, what would happen to the loaf?  It had been roughly mixed, would it rise?  Since it would sit for another 3 hours before getting any more attention, would it rise TOO much?  Would I come in to the kitchen, only to be forced out by a living, breathing, angry lump of dough?  Should I not get it wet?  Should I not feed it after midnight?

I woke up to find a barely risen lump of pitiful dough, with not nearly enough gluten or air worked in to it.  Figuring I had already created a sad pathetic monster, the least I could do was bake it.  Let it believe that it was going to grow up to be a real, honest-to-goodness loaf of bread, and not a pathetic faildough.  I started the "bake only" setting and walked away, going back to bed.  I was tired, after that night!

An hour later, I finally dragged myself out of bed for good, still not having achieved much sleep, and looked in the machine.  It was so pale and awkward looking, that I was actually surprised to find a hard crust when I poked it.  I mean, it made sense - I had just baked it (I actually felt silly being so surprised).  I shook it out of the pan, taking no care to keep it pretty for pictures.  I cut in to it immediately.  If it were truly terrible, perhaps I could chuck it at something more interesting than itself.  Which wouldn't take much.  I mean, just LOOK at it!  I could chuck it at my kitchen floor and improve it, right?

Funny thing...

It's actually quite good.  I've already eaten half the loaf.

Banana Cinnamon Chip Bread

It came out good, which means I can share the recipe with you now!

I couldn't get the color in the photo quite right, it's actually an AMAZING orangey color from the cinnamon chips.  It's so cool looking!  Now, those of you that know me, know that I HATE bananas.  Hate hate hate, cannot eat them, they are the one food that I just can not stand.  However, the kneading action of my bread machine made it so there weren't any slimy chunks of bananas and they were spread evenly throughout the dough, leaving the sweetness behind without compromising the consistency of the bread.  I wasn't too thrilled about hand mashing the bananas, or how it smelled when it was in the mixing phase.  But then, I'm in the minority in my feelings on bananas, so let's move on!

For a 1.5 pound loaf:

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (1 banana yielded this for me, and when it has some brown skin it's perfect for baking!)
1/2 cup Hershey's Cinnamon Chips (chocolate chips would also be amazing)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, cut in to pieces
1 cup bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 and 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Select the whole wheat /whole grain cycle on your machine.
Note that I put the cinnamon chips in first - I did this because my whole wheat cycle preheats the the pan before it mixes, so it made my chips all melty before mixing.  There are no chips left, just the cinnamon sugary flavor throughout.   If you would prefer your chips to stay intact, you could put them in last (which is what the recipe called for in the first place), or put them in after your bread is partially kneaded.

I had a hard time finding the Hershey's Cinnamon Chips in stores, but finally had success from Amazon!  I had to order several bags of them, but I'm sure I can figure out what to do with them!  :D

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Busy Sunday!

The title is a SLIGHT misnomer, as I technically have been a busy bee in the kitchen since I woke up, I only woke up at 11:30.  So take that for what you will.

As of right now, sourdough starter has been...started (it's already getting all bubbly and weird, it's very cool!), eggs are hardboiling, and I have banana cinnamon bread in the bread machine!  Once that comes out successfully, I'll post the recipe.  If it comes out as failbread, then that will be a blog entry too.  :D

Today I am also frogging the shawl on the left.  I still love the pattern (Transatlantic by Stephen West), but the color combo is not working up to be what I had hoped.  I really think the yellow needs to stand on its own, or at least in a way that it's the dominant color.  Plus I've had people ask when they see this combo "oh, do you like Harry Potter?"  No.  No I don't.  It's something that won't get worn so I'll reclaim the yarn for something else!  In the mean time, Transatlantic goes back in to my queue, and I'm back to shopping the stash.  I have some socks on the needles right now, but I'm not sure what to make next.  If history is any indicator, probably more socks.  :D

In conclusion, I leave you with this:
 LOL WUT.  I want to note that the ingredients also list "natural flavors", which it should be pointed out, are not very natural.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I've Finished Things!

Whew, last week was LOUSY.  I spent all of it being ill, and could rarely stay awake long enough to make any progress on knitting.  When I could stay awake, everything was hard, and I often found myself zoning out in front of What Not To Wear.

It is even more amazing then, that I have completed THIS:
I know it's not the best picture.  I just pinned it out and was too excited, I had to share.  And it has BEADS!

Isn't that pretty?  It's all sparkly and stuff!  This is Juneberry by Jared Flood, and is a generally clever pattern.  It took some concentration, but I'm pleased with the final result (that the cat is now rolling on...c'mon, I don't roll on her stuff).  Anyway, now that I've got that off the needles, I can focus on socks!  I just cast some new ones on last night when I wasn't having any fun with this Juneberry!  XD
This little guy is complete, too.  He is ridiculously cute.  I can also turn his mouth upside down for hilariously distraught face.  D:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I've been collecting ideas for blog posts for you to enjoy, and then as of Sunday was stricken down by the flu.  Complete sentences aren't happening, but I was sad my blog wasn't updated, so I leave you with THIS.

Giant hat transform in to cute!  He still needs arms and a mouth.  Please note how much hat is left.  There's still enough for like 2 hats under there!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

French Toast, and the Bread it Once Was

French Toast WEEKEND!!!  All of my photos of this event are kind of hilarious, as I tried to find a balance between not burning anything, taking photos, stuffing my face, and taking more photos.  Of the 10 photos I took, I'd say 2 are acceptable.  We won't even go in to "good".  I may as well take a moment up front and apologize for my haphazard use of capitol letters in French Toast.  For me it's like Chocolate or Where The Wild Things Are or The Queen; while I have an explanation, it's funnier to let you draw your own conclusions.

FRENCH TOAST!  I like mine to be savory - no maple syrup or added sugar for me.  Just one egg for every slice of bread, a splash of milk (which I actually forgot this time), a dipped piece of bread, thrown in to a buttery pan as you would a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  Flip when the cooked side looks like the photo (or when it looks like it's edible to you), continuing to butter the pan as needed.  Top as you wish.  I realize my instructions are a bit...lacking, I think part of that is with FrenCh ToAst, I always feel like "I'm doin' it wrong", that it comes out great and just how I like, but that even a line cook at a diner would say "really?  THAT'S you technique?"  Whatever.

So - I haven't mentioned the best part yet.  What kind of bread am I using?  ORANGE CINNAMON BREAD!  Yep, last night as we tore in to this for the first time, I realized it would make for perfect breakfast tomorrow.  Also, just a small amount of orange made my whole house smell like citrus last night.  YUM!

Put things in your bread machine for a 1.5 pound loaf on the regular white bread cycle:

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup water
a quick squeeze from an orange (this was a tbsp at the most)
1 egg
3 tbsp butter - cut up
3 cups bread flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp orange zest
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I used my new fancy stuff from Penzeys!)
1 tsp active dry yeast

Orange zest - take your cheese grater with the small holes, and grate ONLY the orange color.  Once you hit the lighter color and then the white - you've gone too far.  That's the pith, and it's gross and bitter.  As you're zesting the orange peel it should be very aromatic and nice.  I ended up using 2 oranges for that much zest, don't be afraid if you can't get it all in one!

Even if you don't make FRencH TOAST with it, it's still amazing by itself.  Yum, bread.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rip and Repurpose

When Winter was closing in, I got some new heavier weight yarn, with which I was going to make myself a toasty hat.  I was eager to try Malabrigo Twist - all the softness of Malabrigo now in a plied yarn!  I received my yarn, shown here in colorway Sealing Wax, and went to work on a very cute hat pattern.  A hat was a welcome, mindless break from socks and cabled sweaters.

So I thought.

GIANT HAT.  I have a big head, and as you can see here, it fits entirely in my big hat.  I even followed the instructions as written, AND I got gauge (I really did!).  I invited all my friends on Ravelry to bear witness to my hat-fail meltdown, which included such statements as "I can't even make hats right!" and "I might as well just BUY hats" (oh, the horror).  Anyway, this hat is not salvageable, and NO, it won't fit you, I have the biggest head of everyone I know, so at this point it's being repurposed in to something that doesn't HAVE to fit.  Crazier yet, I'm crocheting it!  I will have photos for you soon.  ;D

It didn't fit her either.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another One Off the Needles!

Last month I posted a project that I was working my way through, and that I'm returning to today to show you that it's FINISHED!

This is of course the Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos, who I got to meet at Stitches and who is absolutely LOVELY!  A friend and I talked about it afterwards - that she is an incredible designer and yet so humble and modest about her work, almost like she doesn't quite realize yet how incredibly talented she is!  Anyway, she is wonderfully sweet and obviously works very hard, so if you don't know who she is yet, take a look at her pattern store and see if you don't need a new pattern or 3.  :D

Back to business: blocking this thing was a bit tricky, as I've never blocked leaves on the angle before.  After a bit of a kerfuffle, I pinned out all the tips, and then stuck another pin near the base of each leaf, not stretching it too far so as to turn it in to a diamond shape, but just enough for it to lay flat and not roll under on itself.  It took a good amount of time, but even the cat knows that when I'm laying on the floor swearing at my knitting, that it's best to avoid me for a while.  With 2 pins in every leaf and nearly 40 leaves, I used nearly every pin I have in my arsenal.

It looks like I'm trying to run power lines!  Due to the lighter weight, the shawl was dry before I went to bed that night, and after the slightly easier task of unpinning, I have a pretty new shawlette/scarf for Spring!