Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1.30 The wind is here

And so is the snow. The wind arrived early this morning, from the WSW as advertised, and it is positively roaring through the trees. It's a constant background sound for the day, sometimes rising to foreground noise. We lost power about 7 am and finally got it back about 12:15 p. The house temperature had dropped about 7 degrees F in that time and I had moved all the frozen goods from the refrigerator out to the garage. I can't imagine how much heat we would have lost had we not been a new house with modern insulation.
The snow is filling the air, horizontally. Patches on the roads are scoured clean and, in other places, it is starting to drift deeply. The snowflakes are the tiny things spawned of frigidly cold air, squeaking underfoot, and blinding to the driver as they are tossed in huge clouds across the road. School was in session, which was just as well as the school had heat and we didn't.
My office at work was sans electricity as well, which ordinarily wouldn't matter as I don't work Wednesdays, but in this case I intended go in for an extra hour or two to work on setting up my new computer. I went anyway, as I didn't know whether there was electricity or not, and I would have just stayed and read my homework papers there, but the fire alarm box was distressed at not having electricity, so it went "beep-beep" every 30 seconds. I stuck it out for 20 minutes and then went grocery shopping instead.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

1.29 The weather is weird...

Today the high was 46 F (in sharp contrast to about 3 days ago when the high was 25 F) with rain and thunderstorms tonight. Tomorrow, the temp is to fall to 21 F and we're to have high winds with gusts to 65 mph, with snow (on top of ice, oh boy). It just sort of boggles my mind.

Monday, January 28, 2008

1:28 B is for...

bread slicer guide
Bread slicing guide. I picked this up last summer at a rummage sale for 75 cents US. It's been one of those things that has rattled around towards the bottom of my wishlist for many a year. I've never been certain enough that I wanted one for it to rise to the heights of paying whatever the real going price is. Seventy-five cents was a good price for trying it out.

I should have bought one years ago.

I have always been rather in awe of people who claimed they made all their own bread and actually used it for sandwiches. I love making bread (and eating it too), but have never mastered the art of slicing it by hand in even slices such as one would want to use for sandwiches. A thick slab, toasted with melted cheese? Yes. A thick slice, hot from the oven, with melted butter and jam? You bet. Two reasonable slices with a sandwich filling in between? Not so much.

Enter the bread slicing guide. Using this puppy, I can make reasonably even slices which even my family will admit are good for sandwiches. Add to that my recent desire to greatly reduce the amount of HFCS I and my family are ingesting, and suddenly I'm making bread three times a week. We're eating quite a bit more bread than we were before, but on the other hand, I've noticed that the snacks are diminishing at a much slower rate. More bread (made at home with no preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or other additives) ; less potato and corn chips.
honey buttermilk bread
That's a tradeoff I think I'll make. 7 minutes to put the ingredients in the bread machine. 5 minutes to heat the oven and shape the bread into the loaf pan. 1 minute to slice what I need when we want to eat it. Not bad.

Oh, and the marmelade?
It came out just fine.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

1.27 A day of rest

Having finished my homework yesterday, I got a chance to ignore it today. (Whee!) Today's task was making orange marmelade. I only made two batches of jam last summer (peach and plum). Changes in my bread baking style (and the concommitant bread eating style on the part of my family) have lead to us going through jam at an alarming rate. Last year, two batches was quite sufficient; this year we're going to run out about the end of February.
I only make orange marmelade once every five years or so (it take that long to forget the tedium of its manufacture). I haven't made it, actually, since I had oranges to pick off our own tree, when we lived in California. I used organic oranges and lemons, but I still preferred having our own to use.
Having gotten wrapped up in making marmelade, I forgot to make the bread until it was too late this evening. We'll see how well I remembered to use the timer on the bread machine.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

1.26 A day of frustration

I am currently working on my master's degree - software development. It's been very good for me - mind stretching and getting me into new areas in my field. It's also very frustrating at times. Today for instance. The particular class I'm taking is widely held to be one of the most difficult in the degree I'm working on, requiring a lot of coding.
I haven't found the code to be particularly difficult. What is difficult is the fact that to date, we've had three sets of homework. Each homework assignment lasts about a week; each homework assignment requires us to download, install, and learn to use one or more software packages, at least in a rudimentary fashion. Once we do all that, we can then write the code that's needed, which (trust me on this) by this time is a piece of cake.
This week's homework is being done simultaneously with the planning of our software project. After this homework is turned in, we have a generous two weeks to finish a group project, coding, testing, etc.
The homework this time warned us that if we chose well, it would be easy. If we didn't choose well, we would be sweating. Up until the point that I forgot a step after moving away from the computer, things were moving along pretty well. I then spent an hour banging my head on the desk before I figured out where I'd screwed up. However, as of this precise moment, my homework is working. A week early. I guess I chose well. And I don't think I'll take advantage of his generous offer to give an unknown amount of extra credit for doing it again the hard way. Moving right along to my spinning wheel, I'm going to work on getting my blood pressure back under control.

Friday, January 25, 2008

1.25 Chicken marinade

I wanted some grilled chicken (tabletop grill) for dinner and I haven't been able to remember to get my favorite marinade the last two times I've been to the grocery store. So, I threw something together and it was rather tasty:

Chicken marinade

1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c canola oil
1/4 c water (just enough to make everything covered)
1 T minced garlic
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 light sprinkling salt

For about 2 pounds of chicken breast, marinated for an hour before grilling. It would probably be even better if left to sit longer. I put it with lightly sauteed in butter and then covered to steam broccoli and sliced mushrooms. Yum.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

1.24 Haiku

Fragmented, frazzled
Too many eggs in the air
No egg on face, please

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

1.23 Cinnamon Shortbread

Every time I make cinnamon shortbread I am reminded of how much we like it. It disappears overnight. Somehow, I don't think we need to have it that often.

Cinnamon Shortbread

1 c butter
3/4 c brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon (I like using the Ceylon cinnamon for this)
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
sprinkling of nutmeg
2 c flour

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and blend well. Sift dry ingredients together. Mix into butter/sugar, at low speed. The result will tend to be crumbly. Press evenly into a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden at edges. Allow to cool for 10 or 15 minutes, then score into squares or diamonds approximately 1 to 1.5 inches across. Cut apart when completely cool. Store in a sealed container, if your family allows you to get that far.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

1.22 There are times I really dislike blogger.

It checks to see if I have cookies enabled every time I try to log in from the main page. About one in three times, it decides I don't and gives me the no-cookies page instead of my login page. Nothing changes on my system in-between times. If I log in from my blog, it doesn't do this. I hate software bugs, particularly when I'm not in a position to go hunting them down and shooting them dead.

We have whiteout conditions at the moment - lake effect snow that is swirling wildly around in the front porch eddy and blurring the lamppost across the street. The neighbor-across-the-street's house is invisible. I have cinnamon shortbread cooling on the stove and honey-buttermilk bread rising in the bread machine. My homework is done for the day. Time to go turn on the fireplace and finish (maybe) some Rogue sleeves.

Monday, January 21, 2008

1.21 Another fabric book

A second book my mom forwarded to me, this one is of less sentimental interest to me. I'm not interested enough in playing with fabric to want to spend the time it takes to do batik. It strikes me as being too fiddly. (And don't bother pointing out the fiddly stuff that I do spend time on - I'm interested in it, so it doesn't seem fiddly. It's one of those things that makes each person's hobbies incomprehensible to others.)
batik book

I am interested in batik enough to want to read the book, though, before I'm positive that it will need to find a new home.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

1.20 Chilly weather

It's been a fairly bright sunny day, but a stiff breeze and a high of 14 F does not make for weather I like to go out in. It's supposed to be all the way up to 20 F tomorrow - oh goodie.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

1.19 Divesting oneself of things

Getting the clutter out of my house is a common theme on my wishlist. With four packrats in the house, it's a problem. When we got married, my husband still had every piece of clothing he had had since high school, mostly because, many years later, they all still fit. How can you get rid of things that still fit? (Never mind the fact that he's never going to wear orange polyester double knit again.) I'm not just pointing the finger at him - I'm just as bad, just not about clothing. I hate spending money on something I've already spent money on once before. If I may ever want to use it again, I want to keep it. Never mind the fact that we've now spent three times as much money in moving it twice between times of using it.

We've been working on divesting ourselves of things we don't need. However, unfortunately (fortunately?) other members of our family are going through similar divestiture attempts. My mother is taking a serious look at the items she thinks she will no longer use, and ridding the house of them. Things that she thinks we (her three offspring) may want to use, she's sending to us. When what she's sending me is something I want, how can I turn it down?

<fabric dyeing book
This is one of a stack of books she has recently sent me, and of all the books it's the one I want to keep the most. I had a copy of this book two moves ago, and either it is somewhere in a box I haven't opened yet (which I can't quite believe) or it disappeared somewhere along the way. By the time I missed it, it was out of print.
I miss the old Compuserve fibercrafts forum. There were several nice things about that forum that I've not found duplicated anywhere else, although the blogosphere comes the closest. Once of the things I miss is that other related fiber crafts were just a click away from the ones I followed, and there were volunteers who pruned the chat lists, not by telling people to stay on topic, or, worse, letting them babble unrestrained, but by moving the thread into Unraveling Threads, a chat section where eventually everybody got dumped for offtopic content. There was only one Unraveling Threads, so if you followed threads there, eventually you wound up meeting people who only hung out in sections other than your own.
I am not a quilter, but I met a bunch of quilters there - I'm not a fabric dyer, except that after a while I dabbled in it, trying the things other people were chatting about. (I wasn't a spinner either, only suddenly I was and things have never been the same.)
One of the things I dabbled in was baggie dyeing with fabric. There were a number of recipes floating around just then for low water immersion dyeing of fabric; right about the time we were playing with it, this book came out. It was sort of a cross between several of the recipes and the instructions were pretty clear. I'm not a fabric dyer nor a quilter, so I played with it for a while and then set it aside, not bothering to keep the recipes because I had the book. And then I didn't have the book and the Fibercrafts forum dissolved, killed off by the growing email lists, and I moved on into spinning and knitting from the embroidery which had led me into the C'serve forum to start with.
But now I have the book again. And it's going on my shelf, not yet to be passed on to someone else.

Friday, January 18, 2008

1.18 Sock Intentions

One of my intentions for this coming year is to learn more about knitting socks. I've knit socks to a pattern; now I want to understand about knitting socks at a more detailed level.
Given the reviews I've seen, I don't think that Cat Bordhi's sock book is the way I want to go. With all due respect for Ms. Bordhi's methods, I'm really interested in learning about the detailed design choices to be made in knitting socks the traditional way. At least at the moment.
My MIL got me this for Christmas.

socksbook And I got myself some of this:

from the January online sale at Woodland Woolworks. I thought perhaps K might like the purpley/red but she still wants the green I'm spinning. (I'm not trying to keep her from the green, I was just surprised at the choice.) She's been telling me the green should be sock yarn ever since I brought it home.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

1.17b Picky cats, Orchestras, and Living in a town rich with higher education

More randomness for the day:
1. We got a kitten when our old lady cat was very old. She was highly reactive to anything with chicken in it so there was no cat food in the house with chicken of any kind. Our kitten grew used to foods without chicken and, now, two years later has grown into a very picky cat. Unfortunately, his first favorite food was discontinued by the manufacturer. His second favorite food was superceded by his third favorite food (the previously second favorite food is now anathema, apparently) and his third favorite food has now been bumped by a new favorite. Salmon and rice is apparently the only food worth eating and since we have a bag, and a half a bag left of his previously second and third favorite foods, we are somewhat annoyed with him. He's also getting quite svelte turning up his nose at various cat foods. Since this manufacturer has already shown that they think nothing of discontinuing brand lines, I am really reluctant to allow him to dictate one kind or nothing.
2. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is giving a free concert. It's pretty cool that the offspring have apparently been sufficiently brainwashed into appreciating music that they are telling me that they have got to go see this.
3. One of the really nice things about living near a fairly large urban setting with several large centers of higher learning is that it is entirely possible to get the whole family out to reasonably priced cultural activities. So far this school year we've been to the theater ($20 for 4), been to the opera ($35 for 3) and tonight, we're off to see the orchestra ($0 for 4). We can, if we choose, go see much more expensive things as well, but it doesn't have to break the bank, for which I am extremely grateful.

1.17 Software headaches

I really enjoy programming, for much the same reasons that I really enjoy knitting. Knitting complicated lace has a great deal in common with programming, although many people who knit wouldn't believe it, being self-declared computer-phobes.
The problems in programming that most often give me headaches are the kind that arise from trying to put different people's work together. Picture a piece of lace knitting handed to you already started by someone else. They give you a bunch of live stitches and a verbal description of what the lace pattern already done looks like. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to knit some more lace pattern onto the shawl already started and make it look like it belongs there.
I've been wrestling with a problem for the past couple of days that turns out to stem from the fact that Person A wrote some code that Person B wrote some more code for and I have to make my stuff work with Person B's code. But there's a bug in between Person A's and Person B's code. AND, it wasn't obvious that I was dealing with a Person A at all - that part wasn't specified. So, it turns out the answer is to ignore Person B's code, go back and only use Person A's code, and voila, my code works with Person A's code just fine. It only took two days of wasted effort to get to this point.
There is a reason why I don't wait until the last minute to do my homework assignments. If I were looking at this on the last day before it was due, I'd be hysterical at this point.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1.16 Alphabet soup

What do my days look like at the moment?
Alphabet Soup.


My head hurts.

Pass the knitting, please.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

1.15 A is for Amaryllis Again

The (first) amaryllis is blooming. The second and third ones are now planted.

Monday, January 14, 2008

1.14 Greens

The top is the BFL, spindle spun and chain plyed. The bottom is the Tussah silk, wheel spun and two plyed. The BFL will probably become K's socks at some point; she's trying hard to claim it. The silk is mine. All mine.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

1.13 Plying again

I got green plying done this weekend. Green silk, green BFL. Pictures to follow when it finishes drying. I got homework done this weekend too, but not enough.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

1.12 Saturday blather

It's been a busy day. Grey, occasionally drizzly, sometimes extremely windy, it seemed a good day to do housework. It's also been a good day to go pick out items for indoor gardening.
I'll spare you the details on the housework, but just say that it went well, even the part where I harassed the kids into doing their share.
The indoor gardening also went well. Insecticidal soap should take care of the critters brought indoors with the pot of mums. New plant stands will allow me to put the pot of mums where it will a. stop cluttering up the kitchen counter and b. get more sunlight, thereby becoming a more robust shade of green. Right now it rather resembles someone who has been rather ill for six weeks - that "interesting pallor" that develops. I also got larger pots for the last year's poinsettias, new pots for the new amaryllis bulbs (after Christmas sale at White Flower Farm) and more potting soil for the African violets who haven't had any for a good while.
That should keep me busy tomorrow.

Friday, January 11, 2008

1.11 Charcoal grey, skein 3

This is the last of the skeins I finished plying up over the holidays. The third skein of the charcoal grey merino/silk, this is where I got totally bored with grey.

Skein 3, charcoal grey merino silk
My guess, based on weight, is that this falls between the previous two skeins and is therefore probably 400+ yds, giving me a total of approximately 1400+ yds. I have at least half of the charcoal grey merino/silk left and about two thirds of the tussah silk in copper/purple. I could make more yardage of this, but I'm bored with it.
I love spinning laceweight worsted, particularly in silk or merino or... The problem with spinning laceweight worsted is that it takes forever to go through any amount of fiber at all. I used to be in awe of those people who sat down and ripped through 4 oz or 8 oz of fiber in an evening, spinning and plying and finishing. I would look at my miserable evening's output and sigh and wonder why I was so slow. It eventually dawned on me (ok, so I'm slow in things other than spinning) that these people were not producing laceweight spun worsted style. I went through a period where I played with longdraw, played with woolen spun yarns, played with worsted weight and chunky and super bulky. I proved to myself that I can spin this way, I can even produce useable and reasonably well spun yarn at these weights. I can rip through amazing amounts of fiber in an evening. I almost certainly will do so again in the future, though not right now.
I really like spinning laceweight yarns, and I really like knitting lace shawls: a perfect match if there ever was one. But... (you knew there was a "but" involved here), spending hours spinning 2 oz of laceweight yarn means that I get rather bored with the same color(s).
Having gotten bored with grey/copper/purple, I have allowed myself to drift off to other things. Green, for example (I'm sure you'd never guess). I have a small enough amount of the green that I'm hoping it will allow me to get over my boredom with grey. If not, I'll be looking for something to do with about 1400+- yards of merino/silk in charcoal grey with purple and copper accents.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

1.10 Blue jeans

I don't remember what the original dyer had called this (it was a small baggie I picked up at guild one time) I think it was just labeled "Blues - Tussah". The vendor didn't have any other dyed tussah; I didn't ask if they had dyed it or picked it up from someone else; I don't remember which vendor. (Amazingly incurious about it, now that I look back). It was silk top in three separate hanks, two smaller and one larger (about 3.5 oz altogether, one bit was probably 2 oz and the other two split the 1.5 between them. One smaller bit was almost all the darkest blue shade, and the other two ran the gamut of the shades of indigo and all of it reminds me of blue jeans. This was another bit of spindle spinning that got stopped in midstream - the bag it was in got hastily moved to the guestroom/craft room as we were tidying the house one time, and then got hastily moved from the guest bed into the craft closet or maybe into the cupboard when we were tidying the guest bed for guests to actually sleep in it as opposed to using it as a flat surface for storage. When I finish the green BFL I think I'll find the blue jeans again.Blue jeans tussah

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

1.9 Tussah green

Not to be confused with the BFL green I'm spinning on the spindle, this is the tussah silk green I picked up at Fingerlakes Fiber Fest this fall, which I am spinning on the wheel. I've spun about half of the 5 ounces I bought, and am currently plying the first skein. It'll be a laceweight yarn, not sure of the yardage yet.
Green Tussah
I'm all caught up on my sleep from this weekend (well, sort of) and have a full day of homework ahead of me. I'm currently taking a lunch break and if the weather holds off (wind, rain, more wind, a little bit of sun at the moment) I may dodge out through the raindrops and do the grocery shopping. There are leaves and few branches on our back lawn, the gardening neighbor to the south lost his trellis, and the lights have flickered once or twice. I'm so glad we have the UPS, as I sit here writing code on deadline.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

1.8 This is what was left of the other end of the bump dyeing experiment. The navy blue end, this is also 3 ply sportweight or so, and originally should have been about as much yardage as the red, except that I set it aside to play with something else and then lost what was left before I got back to it. I'll probably wind up finding it again someday, long after it is too late to try to put it together with this. Isn't that always the way?
Navy DHF
K is feeling much better, thank you, and is back to school today. She was rather panting at the bit to get back; worried about missing too much and needing to catch up. I figure if she's got the energy to argue with me that she should go, she's got the energy to be there. There are worse things than having conscientious perfectionist children. My time is generally spent trying to get them to quit beating up on themselves rather than pressuring them to do better. Except when it comes to housework of course. Let's don't be silly!

Monday, January 07, 2008

1.7 This is another of the skeins I finished up over the winter break. This is from the DHF fiber that I had dyed in my bump dyeing experiment (dye the bump as a bump in one color [cherry red], then rewrap the bump so that what was the still white center is now on the outside, then redye [ navy blue]) The ends of the bump in fairly solid colors, I spun separately on the spindle. I have about 2 hundred yards of 3 ply here, about sport weight. Any suggestions for 200 yds sport weight in soft yarn?
Reds DHF
I usually spindle spin because I like the color and feel of the fiber. Picking something to do with it is usually down the line after I finish the yarn and admire it for a while. The answer to Cathy's question about the purpose of the Wild Raspberry is, I dunno, but making a sweater appeals - perhaps a t-top would be good.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

1.6 We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog entry to say that since I spent all night at the emergency room with K, I'm rather brain dead today. 4 hours sleep between 7:30 am and 11:30 am does not a good night make. The good news is it isn't her appendix or a bunch of other stuff that would require hospitalization. The bad news is they really don't know what the problem is. They sent her home with Motrin and advice. Oh joy.
I did take my spindle with me, figuring it might be a long night, and had the ER staff enthralled with how it works. I filled the spindle twice and wound it off on a core (I had only one tp core with me so I layered it). It's one way of getting time to spin, but I don't recommend it.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

1.5 I did finally get some plying done over the Christmas break. I haven't measured any of it yet, so I don't know how much yardage I have. Here's the set of Targhee skeins in Wild Raspberry.
Wild Raspberry

Friday, January 04, 2008

1.4 A is for Amaryllis plant

Remember this little baby?
I meant to take pictures once a week to watch how it grew. Good intentions and all that... Time and amaryllis got away from me. I remembered to take the second picture three days late, so I didn't bother and now it's a week and a half later than that.
I think I'm going to have to stake it before it finishes putting out the blooms. It's already leaning dangerously toward the light and it needs rotating every day. (This picture, obviously, is post morning rotation.)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

1.3 It's all Norma's fault. If she hadn't mentioned Blog365, it wouldn't have gotten stuck in my head. Yes, I know, I said I don't do well with group activities. And I don't. But once in a rare while, a group activity comes along that fits in with what I've already been mulling over... And then jumping on the bandwagon seems to make sense.
My personal intention for some time has been to blog more regularly. Doing NaBloPoMo in November proved to me that I can, in fact, blog every day if I give myself some motivation to do it. So, Blog365 is my motivation. I am promising myself not to beat myself up if I don't make it - but I am going to try.
And yes, numbering the posts is Norma's fault too (lots of things seem to be laid at her doorstep today), but labeling them month and day will help me keep track of where I am better I think.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

1.2 The air is cold today - it started out at 19 F and went down from there. We got 4 inches of snow over night - tiny flakes, light and fluffy, the kind that creaks underfoot as you walk along an almost cleared walk. It was still fluffy enough this afternoon to fly off cars in tiny blizzards as people drove down the street.
It's rather disconcerting to think that by next Tuesday (the 8th of January) in western NY, the temperature is supposed to be 55 F.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

1.1 Happy New Year! I hope that you all are having a good day. We're sitting inside by the fire, enjoying looking out at the snow. We've had two inches of soggy wet snow, perfect for making a snowman, and are expecting an unknown but large quantity of additional snow. It quit snowing for a while, but we now have big lazy flakes falling down, some almost two inches across.
I said that I don't make resolutions, and that is true, but several years ago (about the time I quit making resolutions) I started spending New Year's Day in making propitiatory intentions. I spend the day in those activities I wish to continue for the next year. (This can be both good and bad - I have spent the past two New Year's Days avoiding housework like the plague. My house looks like it.)
Today's activities have so far included:
  1. Knitting
  2. Spinning on the wheel
  3. Spinning on the spindle
  4. Baking (sticky buns, Yum!)
  5. Quiet time with my spouse
  6. Working on a jigsaw puzzle
  7. Laundry
  8. Listening to a book (Crocodile on the Sandbank)
  9. Reading a book (Talk Talk Talk)
  10. Taking a nap
  11. Writing on the blog
  12. Thumbing through the latest gardening catalog and starting a list

Further activities (as currently planned):

  • Excavating my bedroom (this is the site to which all loose items migrate)
  • Fixing dinner (spiral cut glazed ham, green beans and rosemary cheese potatoes)
  • Quiet time with each child

Working out my planned list of activities for the day is the mental activity of some days ahead of time, and while it doesn't have the "you must do this and you are awful if you fail" of "making resolutions", it does help me focus on what I find important and what I'd like to do more of in the coming year. Unlike a resolution, which I usual fail on in the second week, an intention is just that - if I don't do it today (and few things get done every day), there's always tomorrow. So... What's in your tomorrow?