Friday, December 30, 2011

Dimsum Steamer Head

I think this is the best knickknack ever! The boy has returned from his business trip, and before he collapsed from exhaustion, he gave me this dimsum head magnet from Din Tai Fung in either Hong Kong or Taiwan. While this still doesn't make up for having to walk Mingus for 10 days, it's a start.

The New Year is creeping up, and since I detest all the listicles going around the web, I'll spare you any type of year end round up or any resolutions (which I never make since I believe in fixing things I want to change right away instead of once a year). However, I do want to finish my neverending afghan. And soon! I have 2 more balls of yarn left, and so far I've crocheted 101 stripes. The picture above is old. Now, when I hold up the afghan, it covers my head, so that makes it just over 5-feet high. Dreary and cold weather, old episodes of Being Human, some episodes of Ice Road Truckers, season 1 of Portlandia (which is so, so Berkeley), Manhattans and martinis, and horrible congestion that is keeping my energy level diminished has made for record breaking crochet marathons. 

Funny, but I don't have anything on the needles. Everything I'm working on requires a hook.

Happy New Year, blogosphere! See you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reds and Orange

The first red is from these felted tree ornaments I made using the Cocoknits tutorial. Since I was using some Styrofoam balls that I had earmarked for a different project, they were a little too big for felting (2.5-inches across). I made a huge mess in the kitchen between all the yarn bits, boiling water, and copious amounts of detergent. Out of the 4 I made, 3 were good enough to give away. The wool yarn scrap coating on the 4th ball just wasn't thick enough and it kept on breaking as it dried. Will I make these again? Perhaps, but if I do, I'm going to use 1-inch balls instead.

The second red is from these watermelon radishes. Although they were delightful raw (crisp, peppery, and slightly sweet), I still gave them a toss with some heat and a little pancetta fat. They were delicious, but then again, isn't everything more delicious with pork fat?

The orange is this hot off the press looped scarf. The stitch pattern was modified from a sweater I thought about crocheting until I realized it was just the stitch pattern I adored. The scarf is made from my stash yarn, Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. I have a few more hanks of the stuff, and since the one pictured is already looped around my friend's neck, I immediately casted on (chained on in crochet-speak?) for another.

I've been on my own for a little over a week, and the meals I've been putting together for myself have been strange and frugal. Besides pancetta, I haven't cooked any meat. Red quinoa, hummus, and pan roasted radishes was lunch. Dinner from a few nights ago included an avocado, one bunch of kale, and pasta with a slow cooked, fire roasted tomato sauce. It feels foreign to cook such small amounts, but I'm not a fan of eating the same thing over and over again.  Lest you think it's all been healthy, the holidays have also brought parties filled with butter and sugar laden goodies and booze. Hm, maybe that is why I am eating more simple fare when I cook for myself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

International Cat Hat: North Pole

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

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! Santa Cat gives presents to all the good kittens and puppies, although today he's more inclined to give lumps of coal to everyone. If you want to spread the cheer, knit one of these for the special cat or dog in your life.

Don't forget to check out my other patterns listed on the sidebar!

• 30 yards of Cascade Eco Wool (white)

 • 40 yards of Cascade 220 (red)
• 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
• 4.5 stitches = 1 inch on US size 7 needles in stockinette stitch with Cascade 220

• 3.5 stitches = 1 inch on US size 7 needles in seed stitch with Cascade Eco

Finished Measurements
Finished hat circumference is 15 inches at the brim. Please note that my cat has an enormous head! 

[ ] repeat instructions between bracketsco cast on
k knit
k2tog knit two stitches together

pm place marker
sts stitch(es)

Loosely CO 56 sts on one circular needle (needle A) using the white yarn. 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. Since my cat has an enormous head, you can create a smaller hat by casting on less stitches in multiples of 7 (example: cast on 49 stitches or 42 stitches).

Round 1: [k1, p1] to end
Round 2: [p1, k1] to end
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 three more times for a total of 8 rounds.

Switch to the red yarn.
Rounds 1-5: knit all sts
Round 6: [k5, k2tog] to end. 48 sts
Rounds 7-11: knit all sts
Round 12: [k4, k2tog] to end. 40 sts
Rounds 13-17: knit all sts
Round 18: [k3, k2tog] to end. 32 sts
Rounds 19-23: knit all sts
Round 24: [k2, k2tog] to end. 24 sts
Rounds 25-29: knit all sts
Round 30: [k4, k2tog] to end. 20 sts
Rounds 31-35: knit all sts
Round 36: [k3, k2tog] to end. 16 sts
Round 37-41: knit all sts
Round 42: [k2, k2tog] to end. 12 sts
Rounds 43-44: knit all sts
Round 45: [k1, k2tog] to end. 8 sts
Rounds 46-47: knit all sts
Round 48: [k2tog] to end. 4 sts

Cut yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail.

Using the tapestry needle, thread the yarn tail through the 4 remaining sts. Pull closed. Weave in ends. Make a 2-inch pom pom using the white yarn and sew it to the top of the hat.

Here goes my usual plea: if you knit this, I'd love to hear from you and see your finished objects and your grumpy cat! Email pictures to wildtomatoknits (at) gmail (dot) com. I'll feature your finished cat hat on my blog.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fifty is a Spooner

The combination of soft bed and a cold house leads Fifty to ignore her survival instincts.

She's a heat seeking napper.

As cute as she is, I'd much rather her spoon with the dogs than, for example, my head. It's hard to sleep with claws so close to my face and an extra loud purring machine in my ear. The cuteness factor fades fast. My dogs, however, are equipped with fur to protect their sensitive skin and she normally doesn't purr when she sidles up next to them. I think even she knows that purring in their ear would be pushing it. The suppression of natural instincts is a precarious balancing act.

Any aspirations my crew may have about running for office will never be realized. I have too many incriminating boudoir pictures of them.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Mingus is blindingly white in  sunlight. If he sparkled, he'd be a vampire.
Although these two have lived as a family now for 6 years, I am still awed that they get along so well. Vespa came along first, and she was not happy when we "fostered" Mingus, a big brute of a malamute. Mingus was bossy, humpy, and generally out of control. We didn't even think we'd keep Mingus when we pulled him from the pound. We planned on teaching him some basic manners, and then help him find a home.Yet, he mellowed with training, age, and stability. Now, even though they can be anywhere in the house, Vespa and Mingus prefer to be together.

The cats are siblings and we adopted them together, so from day one they've been the best of friends, but I never had such high hopes for my dogs.

Vespa and I walked on the trails near our house today. The weather during the day has been sunny and warm instead of the usually gray and wet I expect in December, so we savored this walk.

I have a hard time believing that Vespa is 8- or 9-years-old. Sure, she has a gray muzzle now, but she still seems as inquisitive and playful as a puppy. Greaseball and Fifty are still her elders, but they seem like crotchety old cats. Vespa and Mingus seem like pups, but this probably shows that it's been a long time since I've been around a puppy myself. I do recall a fair amount of gnawing going on when we fostered puppies, and I do remember being really excited when it was their time to go away.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No More Plastic Bags

Blue Avocado Produce Bag
Looking for a stocking stuffer for just about anyone? Reusable produce bags to the rescue! It always bothered me that trips to the produce stands always meant getting a plastic bag here and there. Sure, I have numerous grocery bags that I use to tote everything home, and things like clementines and onions can be bought sans bag, but what about the bulk arugula (for this fantastic green smoothie) or the Brussels sprouts?

Although I did a fair job bringing old plastic bags with me to the store to reuse and some bags got second life as a vessel for dog poop, my pile of spent plastic bags kept growing. Since this has been a change I've been meaning to make for some time, I finally stopped making excuses and bought a set of 8 reusable produce bags. Although I wanted to buy cotton bags, I thought it may be annoying for the cashiers to have to open up and peer into each and every bag, so I ended up with sheer nylon bags. True, they are another form of plastic, but hopefully I can keep using these for a long time.

TazzyTotes bag
My main concern about the reusable bags was weight. Would using them make me pay more for produce? To figure this out, I weighted my bags. The large TazzyTotes are 3/8 oz, the Blue Avocado are 5/8 oz, and plastic bags from Monterey Market are 1/4 oz. So, yes, they do weigh a little more. The Blue Avocado bags come in a set of 2, and the bag not pictured has a pouch sewn into it for easy storage - that bag is obviously way heavier than the others. My strategy is to put things that you buy per item, like mangoes and avocados, into the Blue Avocado bags and the other things into the TazzyTotes. I plan on buying another set of TazzyTotes (3 large bags and 1 small bag sells for $6.99) so I don't run out of bags. The Blue Avocado bags were $8.99 at Star Market.

If you buy a lot of bulk items, the TazzyTotes come with a plastic tab and a dry erase pen you can use to write down the bin numbers. Pretty neat! If I knew how to sew, or if the boy had more time to do my bidding, I'd make a set. But, I've been saying I'll make some for over a year, so clearly that was not going to happen anytime soon. I'd rather be knitting or crocheting! If you know of any reusable produce bags made in the Bay Area or even the USA, let me know! Both of the bags I talked about were manufactured in China, and I would have loved to buy locally.

Notice anything odd about the lemongrass? The ends are all torn up. After trying to catch the bugs doing it, I gave up and chalked it up to bad karma. However, a few nights ago, the boy said, "Mingus really loves that lemongrass!" and my head snapped up. "What did you say?" I asked. "Mingus really loves that lemongrass! He takes a nip at it almost every time we walk by that pot." Mystery solved. Mingus was the bug I couldn't catch in the act. What a weird dog. And what a weird boy for thinking it is fine for a dog to eat my lemongrass.

At least Mingus isn't eating my garlic shoots. These garlic shoots have the promise of being Korean extra spicy garlic that is perfect for kimchi. Ugh, this also reminds me that the seed potatoes I bought at the same time are still sitting on my counter. I don't know where I have space to plant them!

And another odd thing is this mask. Why are there feathers in its mouth? The boy swears that the cat toy just landed there during an especially vigorous round of "catch the fake bird" with Greaseball. I don't believe him, but in the meantime, we both think it's a dandy place to rest the cat toy when it's not in use.

Last weekend was beer bottling day. I watched my friend and the boy rack seven bottles of beer. It's an interesting process, although the boy is still complaining that it's a lot of work for just 7 large bottles of beer. He's already talking about his next 5-gallon batch, which would require two new stockpots and a whole lot of space that we just don't have. I think the 1-gallon batch is perfect, especially at this stage where he's learning the rhythm, but I think the compromise is that we'll borrow equipment from friends who have long ago abandoned beer making yet still have all the equipment in their basements if he really wants to make a huge batch. I may even help this time. I hesitated to help during this first round because he's a little anxious in the kitchen, and sometimes that anxiety manifests into petty arguments about the who left a dirty pair of socks under the coffee table that the dogs later ripped up and other stupid things. However, if he's working with a friend in the kitchen, he plays all nicey-nice. (Yup, I've learned a few tricks to keep the peace after 15 years of togetherness.) In two weeks, we should have glorious chestnut brown ale!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roasting Coffee

Now that I have a video camera, I can record all manner of interesting things to share. I should probably qualify that the videos I take are interesting to me since I can't vouch for how many of you are interested in listening to coffee beans crack.

This is what it sounds like when my roasting coffee beans reach the 2nd crack. It's quite loud, even over the noise of the rotisserie motor. Saturday's roast was French roast beans from my steadfast source, Sweet Maria's.

I've been a home roaster for 9 years, mostly because I can get a good quality bean at less than 1/2 the price. Total time, from heating up the grill to removing the chaff is about an hour, but only about 10 minutes is active time.  Ever a fan of multitasking, I usually take this time in the backyard to rake up coastal redwood needles and pick up dog poo, two chores that are neverending.


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