Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crawls out of hole and *blinks*

That thing I do to pay the bills has been hectic. Sure, I'm sitting here at home in my pajamas, but I assure you that I've been working most of the morning!

In a week, I can post my super secret project - unfortunately, since that is the main thing on my needles, I don't have any pictures to share.

However, for you local yokels, I can recommend a good, upscale Vietnamese restaurant: Bui (1647 Solano Ave, Berkeley). They have a smoked eggplant dish with diced chicken that reminds me of a cross between baingan barta and gai krawpow. (Huh, did I just write that?) Um, it's good. Very good. Eat there.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My first date, by Mingus

Today, my mom set me up with this really hot chic named Riva.

Note to the players: a little lamb treat warms up the honeys. They'll even sit right next to you!
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I told Riva some funny jokes and pretended to be a reindeer. She thought I was the cat's meow.
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As she warmed up to me, I suggested that we continue our date in the pool (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). She thought that was a great idea. I had a chance to show off my impressive water tricks.
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Then, I played it cool. I stepped out of the pool, dried myself off, and posed by the bushes. After all, I didn't want her to know I liked her!
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It worked! She came racing after me. I love a woman who takes charge!
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Until we meet again, sweet Riva. Wow. What a dog!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Making progress!

The tangle sock has grown up! It is no longer the bane of my existence now that I finished working the heel. That leaves, um, only 7 more inches of 2x2 ribbing to go (or until I run out of yarn)!

See how big his foot is? His foot really is a foot.

While I was working the heel, the boy finished balling up the secret project yarn. Now, it's time to do some serious knitting! There will be no more pictures of this stuff until it is in the recipient's hands.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Last Pickle Standing!

I just ate one more of my precious pickles, leaving one more left. Now that they have been steeping with all those serrano chiles for months, these pickles will make you cry. I usually take one bite, the suck my breath in and flap my arms a bit before I can continue to the next bite. And the sick part is that I don't think they are hot enough - the next batch is going to steep with some habaneros.

These pickles were lovingly crafted in my Harsch crock. If you like fermenting things, well this is the vessel for you! The downfall of the fermentation arts is that you can end up cultivating the wrong thing. For example, if you read traditional instructions for making sauerkraut (and doesn't everyone?), you'll read about the importance of skimming the white, mucousy scum off the top of the bucket, this same bucket which is sealed off from its environment by an old pillowcase. No thank you! I have pets! I spend enough time cleaning up myserious mucousy scum! This is where the Harsch comes in - it has a water gutter that prevents outside air from contaminating your goods.

One of these days, I'm going to throw a fermentation party. We'll drink beer and wine! We'll eat yogurt, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, and pickles! We'll feast and give offerings to the fermentation gods!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Booze stealing bunny on the loose!

A rare knitted bunny finger puppet is running loose in my house. It is bugging the cats, taking mug shots with the dogs, and taking stealth sips of my wine. It must be captured and returned to its creator, harleymom.

Fifty-Fifty is in charge of capturing the loose bunny. She wears her super fly baby hat (Blue Sky Cotton in Azul, 68 stitches, size 8 needles) so she can be undercover. Who will win this battle? Fifty-Fifty or the bunny? Remember, Fifty-Fifty sees all. She knows all. You must believe.

Shhhh! It's a secret.

Guess what's cooking? The boy and I spent part of our weekend over the dye pot, but since this is part of a surpise, I cannot divulge anything else.

Oh, you twisted my arm. Okay. One more picture, but that's it. No more.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Texan Stitch Markers

Before I show you the goods, check this out:

This is the view from my main window. Don't you feel sorry for me? It's like I'm a fish stuck in a dirty tank!

Okay, I digress. I wanted to show off my lil' stitch markers that I made while I was in Fredericksburg, Texas, a small town west of Austin. Since it was snowing during our trip there and the boy and I brought only short sleeved shirts and shorts (April is supposed to be warm!), we spent our free weekend exploring Texas by car. Why Fredericksburg? Because the boy, seeing the German name, automatically had a Pavlovian reaction and started thinking about, you guessed it, German beer. And he was not disappointed! We found at least two beer gardens to pass some of the time.

After we checked out the town, all three blocks of it, we stopped into a bead store. I didn't like the selection of available stitch markers I had seen at LYS (local yarn shops) around my town, so I decided to make my own. The friendly bead lady had no idea what I was talking about, but she pointed me to a wall of hardware and, with wire wrapping help from her, I ended up with these:

That middle charm is a Texas Rangers logo. I thought it was a football team, the boy thought it was a restaurant, but it turns out that they are a baseball team. Go figure. But since we saw stars everywhere in Texas, it made the perfect souvenir: small and useful.

Go Texas Rangers, whatever you are!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Live from the Insane Asylum

Our house is being changed from "help, I'm in trouble!" yellow with a puke green trim to a suave, oh so sophisticated villita (grayish green) with a carbon trim. We've lived for three years in this house with its nauseating colors. Although we've always wanted to change it, things like vacation, kitchen remodels, and backyard landscaping get in the way. This summer, though, the boy had it and proclaimed that yellow made him sick and depressed. I told him that existentialism is a weak excuse for paining a house and that if he's inside the house, he wouldn't have this problem. In the end, though, I had to admit that our house, whose colors were picked by a 10-year old girl (no joke) would be much better if it wasn't used as a landmark by all our neighbors. "Just go up the road until you see the YELLOW house, and then turn left."

So, now we're going to be living in a villita and carbon house. How chic! But before that, we get to spend two weeks in a house where all the windows are taped up. It's an insane asylum here. Add to the the occasional burst of paint fumes that infiltrates the house during the day, and the drone of the compressors and sanders, and you have the perfect place to conduct interrogations and torture people. Unfortunately, though, this is also my workplace most of the time. And since I actually love my job and I do not associate work with torture, this is no good at all. Not having windows is killing me. When I complained about this to the boy, he said that existentialism is a weak excuse for not getting work done.

Ahem, so this is a knitting blog, right? Back to our regularly scheduled program for all 4 of you who actually read this. So, this is my newest project, a feather and fan lace pattern scarf. It's a surprisingly easy pattern for such impressive results. This is the same yarn I had originally earmarked for the bamboo lace, but I think it looks much better this way. I cast on 38 stitches and am working them on size five needles. The pattern is from Scarf Style.

Oh, and for those of you who don't believe I have a cat, here she is. Fifty-Fifty sees all. Fifty-Fifty knows all. You must believe.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Made in France Warehouse Sale

At least once a month, Made in France opens up their warehouse to the public. Although the name implies that it only carries French delights, there are actually treats from all over Europe and even parts of Asia. I buy my bomba (paella rice) and Spanish chorizo here because it is significantly cheaper than at The Spanish Table. The last time I went, I also found Volvic, the flavored water that I had been pining over since we left France. Unfortunately, only the lemon and the orange flavors are available here - my favorite is pineapple. Gawd, I miss it! My two liters of allowable liquid I brought back to the US almost ended up being pineapple water instead of wine.

Tip: if you go on Saturday, they have samples available! Oh, and this is not your crappy Costco samples, no siree! They have petit fours and duck liver mousse with port. I actually contemplated circling around a few times so I could sneak another bite. Surely, with all the other people there, the sample people wouldn't notice, right?

Another tip: bring a sweater. The walk-in refrigerator, which houses all the cheese and yogurt (fig yogurt, pistachio yogurt, OMG can I live in that refrigerator???) is, um, cold. You'll want to browse. Trust me. Oh, and if I see you taking the last pistachio yogurt, because they always sell out, I will fight you for it. Buyer beware...

It's here!

The huacaya alpaca fiber arrived today! The boy and I worked on carding and spinning it tonight.



Now, I need to think of some projects for the stuff. Perhaps a felted bag or two?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Oh, the lengths I'll go to procrastinate!

I should be:
  1. doing prep work for a big dinner I'm cooking tonight
  2. cleaning the house
  3. reading some stuff for a potential new gig
  4. finishing the stupid wrap

I am:
  1. blogging
  2. casting on a new project (I can't disclose it because it's a gift!)
  3. taking pictures of my cats and dogs
  4. admiring and counting all the bruises on my legs (climbing may keep me in shape, but it sure makes my hands and legs ugly)
  5. watching a cooking show (can Joanne Weir be any more annoying? I think not. It doesn't help that they use "Jesus cam" lighting on that show. Also, her students think everything is "wonderful, fantastic, delicious". If they ate something that tasted like dog puke, would they spit it out?)
  6. thinking of screenplays featuring Vespa, Mingus, Fifty-Fifty, and Greaseball that will make me rich and famous
  7. making up reasons why I need to buy some roving, despite the fact that I have 3-pounds (!!) of alpaca fiber coming any day
  8. lusting over the Addi Turbo lace needles
  9. trying, and failing, to come up with 10 things

A yarn-free interlude brought to you by Mingus and Vespa

Vespa: Yo, what up Mingoo?

Mingus: A little bit of this, a little bit of that. You know, I’m chillin’ like a villain. That’s how I roll.

V: Yo, yo. We’re supposed to go to the dog park tonight. I’m gonna get all hyfee up at the park.

M: Sah-weet! It’s about time I ghost ride the whip.

V: What? You foo', that didn’t even make sense.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tale of the Tangle Sock

Why why why why why?
You fought me when I wound you
into a tight ball.

You fought me when I
was almost done with the toe.
Hateful, spiteful yarn!

Damn the boy's big feet!
I would have completed two
socks if they were mine!

Damn this tangle sock!
It is like I am working
with novelty yarn.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Coffee Talk

For the past 5 years, I have been a home roaster. What's that? Well, that means that I have a serious caffeine problem, as does the boy, and that together we're such coffee snobs that we feel the need to manipulate every aspect of our morning coffee. Since the boy and I cannot be civil to each other, let alone our bosses and coworkers, without a cup of joe, we take our coffee Very Seriously.

My first forays into the world of home roasting began with the I-Roast. While it only took 7 minutes, the loud noise from the fan and the small capacity were tiring. I found myself having to roast beans every 3 to 4 days. Using the I-Roast was also a pain because I had to be very active in the roasting process - stepping away from the roaster meant that some beans would scorch, and even with my active participation, the resulting roast was never even.

By the way, any notions you may have of the sweet smell of roasting coffee should be dispelled - I learned that roasting coffee smells nothing like brewing coffee. Rather, it stinks and it gives off a lot of smoke. I usually had to change my clothes and take a shower after roasting!

For my birthday 2 years ago, MacGyver boy decided to make me a home roaster that I could use with our grill's rotisserie. He did a beautiful job on it - he put it together using 316 stainless steel mesh, rivets, and two measuring pots. Not only does this roaster have 5-pound capacity, but it is also quiet and I don't have to be actively involved! I can knit while the beans are roasting away. The downside is that it takes anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour to roast, depending on the quantity and type of beans, but the evenness of the roast and the better flavor is worth the extra time.

Since coffee is only as good as the beans you start off with, I buy green beans from my favorite bean pusher, Sweet Maria's. The beans pictured to the left is their Moka Kadir blend. Unlike knitting your own garments, you can actually save quite a bit of money by home roasting! We were spending about $15/lb for Peet's coffee, but a pound of green beans ranges from $4-$6/lb. Granted, those prices are for green beans, and therefore they are heavier than the roasted beans, but we still are saving quite a bit of dough. (Hooray, more money for yarn!)

How I roast the beans:
  1. Using all three burners, heat the grill to 500 deg F for 10 minutes. This reduces the bits of last night's dinner to carbon, which you can scrape off with a wire brush.
  2. Shut off the middle burner and attach your roaster to your rotisserie. Close the lid and reduce the heat to 450 deg F. Remember to turn on the rotisserie so the beans are turning and heating evenly.
  3. After the beans reach first crack, increase the heat to 470 deg F. First crack is usually hard for me to hear, so after 20 minutes, I open the lid and peek at the beans. Look here for a pictorial guide of the roasting process.
  4. When the beans reach second crack, which I can always hear, I lift the lid to see how the roast is coming along. I prefer my beans to be between a Full City roast and a French roast. When the beans are dark enough, I turn off all burners, but leave the rotisserie on to aid the beans on their cooling process.
  5. Once the beans are at ambient temperature, I dump them into a colander. Now, it is time to separate the beans from the chaff. I take a cue from my ancestors and let the wind do most of the work. I scoop up some of the beans and lift them about a foot over the receptacle. Then, I dump the beans into the container, letting the chaff get a ride from the wind. If it is a still day, you can lightly blow on the falling beans for a similar result.
  6. After the chaff is removed, your beans are ready for grinding and brewing! I like to let my beans rest for at least 24 hours after roasting to let them degass (excess CO2). While it isn't necessary to do this, brewing newly roasted beans results in a lot of foam that needs to settle and be mixed into the hot water.
Whoa there, Vespa! I think you need to lay off those coffee beans!

Friday, May 4, 2007


I've been trying to finish my mother's wrap furiously since Monday. Alas, I still have three more balls to knit - I am only half way done and it has taken me two weeks to get this far. Unless I decide to pick up a nasty coke habit, there is no way I can finish this in time to give it to her on Saturday. Since I was lame and did not buy her anything for her birthday, I told her that she would get a hand knit wrap by me, her loving daughter. The reason it was not sent to her in time for her birthday was because it was, uh, too precious to send via mail. (Yep, in reality, it was not finished. Lame.)

Okay, so I could have held off on making my socks. I could have held off on starting the boy's socks. There are so many ways that this story could have had a happy ending.

So, now that I have totally given up hope, the dogs get to model it. That will lift my spirits a bit, although some might call it procrastination...

B: "Vespa, how did you get to be America's Next Top Dog model?"

V: "Well, Barbara, it's all luck. My mother had a penchant for posting photos of me on dog message boards and knitting blogs. I would've never dreamed I'd be America's Next Top Dog model!"

B: "Is it true that she posted pictures and blogged as a form of procrastination?"

V: "Oh, I don' t know if I would put it that way...."

B: "Vespa, you are just famous for working those knitted garments! It is unbelievable how you can pull of so many looks with the same outfit!"

V: "I have to give credit to my mom. She has the best treats and she really knows how to use them! Sometimes, she pretends like I'm not going to get the treat and I become sad or angry. Other times, she move the treat around and around so I look happy! Lots of times, she doesn't even have a treat - she likes to keep me on my toes."

B: "I hear that you have other siblings. Do they exhibit the same knack for modeling?"

V: "Well, Barbara, we are all adopted, so we don't share the same gene pool. Plus, two of them are cats so they aren't even the same species! My brother Mingus has tried to break into the dog modeling world, but he has had mixed success. Most agents say that he only has two looks: goofy and goofier. I tend to agree."

B: "Oh, well look who's joined us! It is Mingus. So Mingus, what is it like to have such a famous sister?"

M: "Lady, do you have any treats? Will you scratch my belly?"

B: "Um, no... No treats, but-"

M: "Later, lady."

[Damn, my wrap didn't just knit itself while I played on the Internet. Double damn!]

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Wok Haiku 1

Red snapper, tofu
and long beans stir-fried with a
spicy black bean sauce

Shallots and garlic
were sauteed to season the
smoking peanut oil

Lee Kum Kee is the
secret ingredient that
Grandma even likes

Let's just call it a potholder...

Do you ever have one of those projects that you just can't get into? I fell in love with a bamboo lace pattern and I just had to make it. After repeating the pattern 5 times, I decided that I'd rather claw my eyes out with dull nails than to do any more repeats. The yarn is Curious Creek kid mohair in the colorway Birches in Norway - pretty yarn, but it was not meant to be a bamboo lace scarf.

Let's just call it a potholder. A mohair potholder.


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