Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jessie

She is our guest dog for the day. Jessie lives in all over the USA
since she is an avid RVer. She peed on Mingus's head twice. I was told
that means she likes him a lot.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Such a Typical Photo

The Secret Love Child poses with hippy flowers. (Those are actually
two paintings my MIL is working on.)

Popcorn Blouses

They were all the rage at the flea market, as were visors with fake
hair on top (to cover your bald spot?) and dried fruits and nuts.
These blouses are space savers because in resting form, they look like
they fit a toddler.

Everything is bigger here

There must be something in the water.

Lutes Casino

They are "famous" for their special hamburger that consists of a beef
patty underneath a butterflied hotdog. Although I consider myself an
adventurous eater, I did not order this special burger.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Different Type of White Christmas

It's in the mid-60s, and next week it will be in the 70s. Yeah, I can
get used to this. Just get me out of here ASAP once it is on the 90s.

I think snow and cold is way overrated.

My Running Partners

We ran three miles in the desert, and when I stopped to snap this
picture, I lost all of our run data.

Yep, my gadget works, but once again, the biological interface is
defective.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Mini Mitten Weather!


Pink Argyle has a fun little pattern posted for mini mittens. I decided to make a couple pairs of mittens to give away!

Because I dislike the fiddliness of small DPNs, I knit these mittens on 2 circular needles. I also made the following modifications:
  • Using the cable cast on, CO 18 sts on one circular needle, and placed 8 sts onto the other circular needle (needle A).
  • Knit 3 rounds of 1x1 twisted rib
  • After the thumb was knit, pick up 2 sts using needle A, and then knit the remaining 6 sts. Now, both circular needles have 8 sts each.
  • Knit all stitches after Decrease Round, and then repeat Decrease Round before cutting yarn tail.
The nice thing about mini knitted items is that you can pop them into an envelope with a card, and off they go to their new home! Standing in line at a post office during this time of year makes me a little batty, so I try to avoid it when I can. I figure that the time I spend knitting these is equivalent to going out and buying someone a gift, wrapping it, and then delivering it to the post office. In this case, I probably saved time since each mitten took about 30 minutes.

Of course, Vespa had to model these for me. Look at how the mini mittens are eclipsed by the enormity that is Vespa's Schnoz.

And, just because...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Roast-O-Rama

Yesterday's high temperature was 49°F, and since our house has virtually no insulation, the temperature inside was practically the same. Mingus is the only happy one when the temperature dips. The rest of us pile on clothing, huddle together, and in my case, roast.

Roasting is the silver lining to a cold house. I crank the oven up, and then let it produce braised meats, vegetables with lovely caramelized bits, and breads. I do minimal prep work, too, and the pace is so slow that it's easy to clean as I go, knit, and read a book (all the while huddled up to the oven).

Sadly, I have no pictures of the braised lamb shoulder I made last Saturday. The braising liquid contained mandarin zest, ginger, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and some honey. It was falling off of the bones - so good! If someone can inform me how I am supposed to carve a lamb shoulder, though, please do! It was so pretty in the pot, but since it had no structure after being braised at 300°F for 5 hours, it fell apart if you just looked at it funny.

I took better blog notes on Sunday so I could share with you a typical roasting day. I was able to pick up all of my produce from the Riverdog Farm booth at the Berkeley Farmers' Market.

Happily, the produce that is in season - Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, winter squashes, beets - is just begging to be roasted. I started my roast-o-rama by heating up the oven to 450°F. Once the oven temperatures was stable, in went the halved Brussels sprouts for 40 minutes. Since I had some leftover lamb fat from the night before, I decided to use that fat instead of olive oil or bacon grease to coat them. I also gave them a generous sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper. They turned out delicious!

Next was the cauliflower, roasted for 35 minutes. Roasted cauliflower is a treat I enjoy almost year round here. This time, I coated them with my favorite Bariani olive oil, course sea salt, and ground pepper.

After the cauliflower was roasted, I cranked the oven temperature down to 350°F and popped in the pumpkin, pumpkin seeds (tossed with olive oil, cayenne powder, cumin, and salt), and whole garlic. The pumpkin seeds were done in 30 minutes and the pumpkin and garlic took about an hour.



I'll scrape out the pumpkin flesh and make either gnocci, ravioli filling, or a soup, the roasted garlic will go into just about everything this week - vampires (and friends) beware, and the seeds will probably top our salads and be useful for snacky moments.

We put up some red saurkraut yesterday, too. Since the organic red cabbage was on sale for 1/2 the price of the green ones, we decided to experiment. I'm really happy with how it turned out! Shades of crimson are my favorite colors, so hopefully I'll get tired of looking at the canned kraut soon and will use it for a meal.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Local Bread

My ongoing personal eating challenge has been to eat local, naturally produced foods. I'm not super stickler about it - I won't raise my arms and form an X across my mouth if I'm offered something not locally produced - but if given a choice, I do choose the product with the smaller environmental footprint. I even go out of my way, relatively speaking, to make sure I have that choice.

Enter local flour. Especially when the temperature dips below 60 and I'm freezing (remember, I'm a wimpy Californian!), I bake bread. However, after reading articles like this, I wondered if I could hold my flour to the same standards that I hold my produce and meat. My flour of choice is milled locally, however the hard red wheat is not grown in California.

Yesterday, I was delighted to come across local flour from Full Belly Farms at a cool grocery store, Star Grocery. It's a tiny store, but it really kicks ass! The meats are top notch, the prices are reasonable, and the booze selection is swoon worthy.

The flour needed a bit of coaxing to become bread. It lacked a lot of gluten in comparison to my regular flour, one reason for this being that it is made from soft red wheat instead of hard red wheat. Initially, I tried making a pain au levain, but my levain didn't have enough oomph to raise the loaf. Consequently, I had to add some commercial yeast and honey to my dough. I also had to use a loaf pan since there was no way that my bread could be free form - I would've ended up with a pancake!


The results were good, although not what I initially anticipated. The boy has requested sandwich bread for awhile, and I've always been too intent on making the perfect pain au levain to oblige, so he was quite the happy camper.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mini Stocking Hat Pattern

The Tilden Park Scarf is an easy ruffled and ruched infinity scarf that adds a feminine touch to any outfit.


Why do your fingers need hats? Why, for the same reasons that your cats need hats! I wouldn't think about this for too long if I were you...


Although I saw other miniature hat patterns out there, none of the ones I could find were fingertip sized to accompany my mini sweaters. (The mini sweater pattern is by Everwhelming Liz.)


Materials
• less than 4 yards of sock yarn
• 2 US size 1 16 circular needles
(US size 1 DPNs may also be used instead of 2 circular needles)
• Row counter
• Tapestry needle

Special Skills Needed
• Knitting in the round using two circular needles
• Making a pom-pom

Abbreviations
[ ] repeat instructions between brackets
bo bind off
co cast on
k knit
k2tog knit two stitches together
sts stitch(es)

Directions
Loosely CO 16 sts on one circular needle (needle A). Slip half of the stitches to the other circular needle (needle B). Join to knit in the round, placing a marker at that point so you know where the round begins.

K 1x1 ribbing (k1, p1) for 2 rounds.
K 3 rounds.

Decreasing Rounds
On needle A, k1, k2tog, k until end of needle. Repeat for needle B.
K next round.

Repeat Decreasing Rounds until 4 sts remain. Cut yarn, leaving a 5 inch tail.

Make a pom-pom for the tip of your hat. When I make the pom-poms, I wrap scrap yarn around two size 1 needles, pull out one needle, and use a tapestry needle to thread the yarn tail through the scrap yarn and tie a knot. Once the knot is secure, I extract the remaining needle and cut the scrap yarn loops at the top of the hat. Admittedly, this is a little fiddly, so if you have a better method for making mini pom-poms, please share!

Finishing
Weave in all ends. Leave the mini hats around your house. When people ask why there are mini hats around the house, you can tell them that they are for the fairies.

http://spindlesandspices.blogspot.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mini Hats... and Cats!

'Tis the season for knitting tiny things! Last year, we had a mini sweater infestation. This year, mini hats! Since I could not find any mini hat patterns tiny enough, I had to make them up myself. Last night, I was playing around with the hat decreases, trying to get the perfect stocking hat look on a small scale. I also attempted to make a mini ear flap hat, but it was a flop.


I prefer the shape of the stocking cap on the right. I took notes, too, so I can offer a pattern if there are any other tiny hat knitters out there!

Tonight, I plan on making more mini sweaters. Then, I'll be able to dress my fingers up even more! Someone pointed out to me that wearing gloves would be an easier way to keep my hands warm, but alas, practicality is not my strong suit. (Remember, I'm the gal who knits cat hats.)

The cats seem perfectly content to laze around the house these days, especially now that the temperature at our (uninsulated) house dropped to winter levels. It cracks me up that they usually have to sleep together, and oftentimes I'll spy Greaseball in very weird positions. Fifty-Fifty doesn't seem to mind, though. I suppose my cats have already proven that they can put up with a lot.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baby Hat Madness

I had recently knit a bunch of baby hats for my cousin's twins. The twins, affectionately and appropriately called the Mini JJs, requested hats with ear flaps since these little LA babies needed to be bundled up for their new digs in St. Louis.

The payoff for baby hats is huge! I get pictures like this:

and this:


Their mom added the ties to the ends of the hats since it turns out that babies don't like to keep hats on their heads. I suppose Greaseball is much more patient in this respect. Next time I make a baby hat, I will make sure to add ties!

The bunny ear hat also got a fitting home with Little RoRo. Ack! He's so cute!

Now, the boy has requested an aviator style cap just like the ones I've given to three babies. Unfortunately, his head is not so small (although, babies heads, I was surprised to learn, are really not super small), so it might be awhile.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Life, Out of Order

If my life were in order, that would be a first!

Since I have come to the sad conclusion that I'll never write a quarter of the blog posts I have in my head, here are some pictures explaining why this blog has been so silent.

We took the dogs backpacking at Snow Mountain. They like to leave us in the dust, quite literally.

Mingus usually take the time to sing us some blues.


And Vespa adds a little punk rock ditty to the mix.


I'll backpack for miles to a picturesque spot, only so I can sit on a tree and stare at my hands for a few hours. Hey, I like to sit and knit in nature!


We escaped to Pismo Beach for a few days to soak in some sand and sun time.


I experimented with figs after I was tired of popping them fresh into my mouth. This dish was chicken thighs braised with balsamic vinegar, red wine, and figs. It was so good!


We stayed in Nevada for a Halloween wedding and to explore. Here's the cutest wedding cake ever!

This is a little bit of Virginia City, which has preserved its Wild West roots. We stayed in a "haunted" hotel here. Want to know what is more annoying than ghosts? Ghost hunters! There was no insulation in this place, so we could hear the ghost hunters setting up equipment to catch whatever it was they try to catch and whispering whatever it is they think is cool to each other.



I observed my friends racing their Miata, and crossed my fingers that my other friends and the boy wouldn't go up in flames as they pit crewed. I had the oh so important job of changing the helmet cards and yelling, "1 MINUTE LEFT!"


New bike!

And here is some unexpectedly good road food in a little town between Williams and Clearlake. We had a hearty posole and one of the best fried fishes I've had since Mexico. I *heart* California and its unexpectedly good road food.


I've been busy gift knitting, too. But I can't show you any of those, so you'll just have to trust me.

I've been running, too. For those of you keeping track, I'm up to week 6 on the Couch to 5K program. Vespa and Mingus are on week 6, also.

Monday, November 3, 2008

This is not a political blog

And for this reason, I am perplexed why some political ads quite contrary to my views were popping up. Until this election is done, I've removed the banner ads. Sorry for those of you who had to see those hateful ads.

And now we return to our regular cat, dog, and knitting program...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

International Cat Hat: Germany, Ein Prosit

The Tilden Park Scarf is an easy ruffled and ruched infinity scarf that adds a feminine touch to any outfit.


Near the end of September (yes, this cat hat is a little tardy), there is this little thing called Oktoberfest that happens in Munich. When I went a few years ago, I have fond, yet hazy, memories of drinking liters and singing the ultimate drinking song for all ages: Ein Prosit. Perhaps this is not the name of the song, but it was the only lyric I could sing convincingly in German. So, anyway, many liters later, I found myself wearing a hat. An Oktoberfest hat. Kind of like this hat that Fifty-Fifty is now sporting.

I believe I was clutching the floor in this exact position, too. Let's just say that drinking a "mass" at 9 in the morning is unnatural for this lady. Seriously, you may all think I'm drunk to post such silly things, but let me assure you that I do not drink and post with reckless abandon.

For those of you just stopping by just for this pattern, rest assured that this hat is not an anomaly. Don't forget to check out my other free patterns listed on the sidebar!


Materials
• 70 yards of Cascade 220 in gray

• 8.5 yards of Sugar 'n Cream in white
• 8.5 yards of Sugar 'n Cream in blue
• 1 US size 7 16 inch circular needles OR needle size needed to achieve gauge.
1 US size 7 circular needles, any length, OR needle size needed to achieve gauge
(US size 7 DPNs may also be used instead of 2 circular needles)

• Row counter
• Tapestry needle

Special Skills Needed
• Knitting in the round using two circular needles
• Picking up stitches

Gauge
• 6 stitches = 1 inch on US size 7 needles in stockinette stitch

Finished Measurements
Finished hat circumference is 10 inches


Abbreviations
[ ] repeat instructions between brackets
bo bind off
co
cast on
k knit
k2tog knit two stitches together

m1 make 1 stitch
sts stitch(es)

Directions
Loosely CO 60 sts on the 16" circular needle (needle A). Slip half of the stitches to the other circular needle (needle B). Join to knit in the round, placing a marker at that point so you know where the round begins.

Main Body
Rounds 1-20: k all sts
Round 21: [k4, k2tog] until end
Rounds 22-24: k all sts
Round 25: [k3, k2tog] until end
Round 26-28: k all sts
Round 29: [k2, k2tog] until end
Round 30-32: k all sts
Round 33: [k1, k2tog] until end (20 sts)
Round 34-36: k all sts
Round 37: [k1, k2tog, k4, k2tog, k1] twice
Round 38-40: k all sts
Round 41: k2tog until end (8 sts)

Cut yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail. Using a tapestry needle, thread yarn tail through remaining 8 sts.

Brim
Pick up 60 sts around the base of the hat using the 16" circular needle. Join to knit in the round, placing a marker at that point so you know where the round begins.

Round 1: k all sts
Round 2: [k3, m1] until end
Rounds 3-5: k all sts
Round 6: [k4, m1] until end
Rounds 7-9: k all sts
Round 10: [k5, m1] until end
Rounds 11-13: k all sts
Round 14: [k6, m1] until end
Round 15: k all sts
Round 16: BO all sts

I-cord Ribbons
CO 4 sts using white yarn
Knit i-cord for 20 inches
BO sts
Repeat for blue yarn.

Finishing
Weave in all ends. Twist blue and white i-cords together, and tack them around the hat. Place the hat on your cat, and guard your booze just in case Fluffy gets a hankering for beer. Oh, yes, and please send me a picture if you make this! Your pictures make this crazy endeavor worth it.

http://spindlesandspices.blogspot.com


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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