Wednesday, December 28, 2011

vacationing and knitting and flowers galore

I am on a writing roll, and am waiting for my salted caramel sauce to heat up for tonight's decadent dessert (ie, poured over vanilla ice cream) and uploading pictures from my camera; surely the slowest process in my life these days. Creep, creep, anticipation...just came back from knit night at Starbuck's, where I worked on the latest of my smalls - a pair of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Mitered Mittens.
Look, Ma! No thumbs! EZ suggests we knit these without thumbs, and then add an afterthought thumb by locating the location and snipping a stitch and unravelling a thumb-sized number of stitches and picking up and knitting on. I am trying to cultivate fearlessness and faith, in equal measures, so I am going for it. But not without a stiff drink in hand as I snip.
Isn't this Kureyon pretty?

We are enjoying the quiet aftermath of the holiday, with the tree still up for a couple days more and nice things being eaten, like salted caramel sauce, and bison flank steak, and a truly lovely Amador County Barbera to drink. Knitting and dog frisbee and the reading of Olive Kitteridge at a leisurely pace.

There were plenty o' flowers for the holiday, both the show-stopping amaryllis,
and the more subtle beauty of the white tulips contributed by my sister:
It's been so warm outside this fall that the paperwhite narcissus that I planted out in the backyard are starting to bloom, about 2 months early. Grrrr, what to do? Enjoy them, I suppose, as Winter is finally here, and our morning temperatures are in the 30's now, with frost on the ground. Brave narcissus.

My sis and I cast on for our long-planned knitalong of Aidez, which is the French word for "help" I think, which means we'll be helping each other along. It's a fun aran cardigan, knit up in plump Cascade Ecological Wool - mine in brown, my sis' in grey. I was quite stressed in the beginning of this project, as I ripped and re-knit the beginning cast on and the set up rows a couple of times before I got it right. I think I angst too much over cables, and how they play out in a left-handed knitting scenario. In the end, I decided not to reverse my cables, but to knit the whole thing as written, and just let it twist and fall where it may. I did drop a needle size, based just on "feel", as I cannot see this thing being knit on US 10 1/2, even though Brenda's looks great and plushy. We shall see how it comes out. Here is a bit of detail. Apologies for the washed out picture. The brown is a much richer, sable-y color. I think it's called Java, but I'm calling it Walnut.
I think this is product knitting, as opposed to process knitting, as I want this cozy cardigan very badly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

a little bit of history

A funny thought...many long years ago, I was sitting up in my office, on a snowy December evening. We had just moved to Virginia that summer, and I was surfing the web on my spiffy new laptop - a little blue clamshell iBook. I did not have a blog, though I had kept a paper journal since high school. The year was 2000.

I was trying to figure out how to force an amaryllis bulb to bloom indoors, and I came upon this site Waking the Amaryllis, which was essentially, a page out of someone's blog. It was the first daily life online journal I'd ever seen, and I was dazzled and inspired. I raced over to a free journaling site, the now-defunct-but-then-all-the-rage Diary-X and started The Secret Beaver World, which became my online journal for 6 years, til D-x crashed and ceased to be. The rest is history, as they say, but the Waking the Amaryllis page is still up there, and I am growing an amaryllis under my skylight now.

The holidays have floated by in a happy cloud of ham, visiting relatives, cold rain, gifts and friends. I am ready for the comparative austerity of the new year and a return to the good habits of more sleep, longer walks, doing some work and new knitting projects, which will be documented here tomorrow. Along with the amaryllis.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

full moon fever, not so much. I am completely lacking in firepower, due to a Flexeril I took last night to combat a tension headache, aching shoulders and back. I always gloss over how badly this drug and I get along, even though I am loose and relaxed today, with the headache banished. I'm just not very animated. Damn the halflife of chemicals in my system! I'm feeling a nap right now, and it's taking everything I have to do a blog entry instead, but I've got things to say, so sleep, especially unnecessary, chemically-induced sleep, will have to wait. Besides, it's the full moon, and I heard owls in the woods tonight, so that's reason enough to stay awake.

It's all good, though. My district is hiring me back as a substitute teacher, so there's a possibility of money on the horizon. This means I have to go to a most-of-the-day training next week, in order to hear the lectures on dress code, professional conduct, ethical behavior, etc. that this employer likes to lecture on. I have heard it all before, twice before from these very people, in fact, so I may bring along some knitting to do surreptitiously whilst it's going on. Subbing means that I'll have to do some pavement pounding in order to drum up my own work, so I'm getting psyched up to go out and sell myself at my neighborhood schools. I'm grateful for the upcoming possibility of working, though, particularly at a job that leaves me some flexibility.

This past summer, I knitted Ysolda's Rose Red beret in some Madelinetosh vintage. I was so ambivalent about the FO that I didn't wear it for awhile, and threatened to frog it - it just seemed waaay too big for my already-big head. I felt like I needed some dreadlocks to tuck into it to justify All That Hat. But I blocked it out instead, and decided, once it got cold, to give it another chance. After all, I don't like frogging things, and repurposing yarn is something I just never quite get around to taking care of. Blocking made Ms Rose look a lot nicer, and I think I might just let her hang around.
Apologies for the no-makeup look. I was playing around, and then realized that I liked the way the hat looked in the pic - rather Green Beret-ish, no? But seriously, I could have used some lipstick! The pattern is very well-written. I knitted the size medium, but think it produced a gi-normous hat. Might have been the superwash nature of the yarn that contributed to that; all I can say is that it is generously proportioned. But the yarn was lovely, and the Tart colorway is just gorgeous.

Now that the weather has turned, I've been all caught up in cooking "cozier" foods. I roasted a chicken last weekend, with the intent of making several meals from my effort. I've been really trying to eat cleaner meat, so this was a Springer Mountain bird, bought on sale, and roasted over a bed of root veggies: potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips and rutabagas. Rubbed with a mix of olive oil, garlic, chopped rosemary and thyme and roasted at 400 for 1.5 hours.
Amazingly delicious. I read somewhere about letting the bird sit out for several hours before roasting, so that the skin dries out a little, and so that everything comes to room temperature, and I did this. It ended up being the crispiest bird I've ever made, and yet the meat was actually quite moist.

From the leftover chicken and veggies (after a dinner, some meat nibbling and broth making) I made a chicken pot pie, using Chelsea's biscuit recipe (with some modifications) for crust. I used some of the broth to make a gravy to mix with the meat and veg and covered it all with rolled-out biscuit dough. A serious dish o' comfort food, and one that will be revisited around here throughout the winter. Super easy, once you have the meat, veggies and broth available to assemble the whole thing, too. I roasted the chicken with that plan in mind, and I think that's the way to go; I couldn't see myself as being organized enough in the kitchen to just whip one of these puppies out with stuff laying around.

Remember when I was going on and on about this being a mast year for acorns? Well, here are some new ones I came across yesterday, on a walk with Cricket. They are about an inch in diameter, with a rather rough, prickly cap. The acorns seem smaller and very tightly embedded in the cap. I'm fascinated by the variety of oak trees in our area. I suppose this will all mean a huge spike in squirrel population around here next year.

Blogging, and hearing the owls have given me a little bit of energy, so I'm going to go make some tea and watch my new Netflix dvd: Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

November into December

November roared by; a beautifully warm, acorn-and-leaf-filled haze. Before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving, and I loaded up the dogs in the CRV and drove up to VA, to hang out with my family, and meet up with P for Thanksgiving.

My mom and I went out for lunch at a rural German restaurant. Fantastic sauerbraten and wonderful dark beer, in this cozy place on a cool foggy day.
I loved the fog. Everything was so hushed, in this blanket of mist.
Our family went out to Thanksgiving dinner at the Hotel Roanoke; yummy buffet, too much food. Our family is very small on my dad's side; neither my sis nor I have kids, and my one cousin on this side of the family is single, too, so it was me, P, my mom, my 80 year old auntie Lucille, my sis, and cousin Chuck. Nice to do things with these folk, and I feel we need to be together more frequently, which should happen after I move back to VA next summer.

My trip to VA also included getting together with a high school friend, hiking with Mr. Cricket on a rails-to-trails trail in Rockbridge County, where he saw his first cows - something he did NOT like in the least. Lots of outdoor time, lots of knitting, and coziness over the week. My sis and I fit in an all-night Lord of the Rings movie marathon, and we went out to hear David Wilcox in a small club in Roanoke. It was nice to hang out with my husband for a few days, too. I am suffering from not living under the same roof with him, this fall. This house seems too quiet, too overwhelming at times.

Last monday, I drove from VA back to GA. An 8 hour drive, 6 hours of which were made in a hard rain. Not fun. I left late, and arrived home late, and just released the dogs from their car prison (or so that's how they described it to me) and came upstairs and fell into bed. Nice to be back, even if it is in a too-cold, too-quiet house.

Some frosty leaves in the front yard yesterday.
The oaks are nearly bare, now, and it seems winter is upon us! I have managed to do a little Christmas shopping at craft fairs, thrift stores and such, and am knitting along on gifts for P and my mom.
This little village, being set up at the German restaurant, added to the wintry coziness.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Some nice fall things going on around here, new colors, new endeavors and surprises abound!
I have been taking a daily early morning ramble with Ella; she is good off-leash, and relatively harmless, unless you are a bunny or a squirrel, so we walk a little loop of hiking trail back behind the house. She is more often than not a little limpy these days, but being outside in the crisp autumnal air livens her right up! We have returned from our stroll and in spite of being a bit sweaty out on the trail, I am now chilly - enjoying the last of the coffee.

Here are the current colors in the woods right now. November is Georgia's October, I've decided. It really doesn't get going around here, leaf-wise til November, which is kind of a treat for those of us who like to take things slowly.
There's been some knitting - more than a little, most of it for Christmas, but I am sneaking a little mindless sock action in there for me. I taught myself the Turkish cast-on and started a new toe-up sock. My gosh, where has this cast-on been all my life? So easy, so unfiddly. I am going to experiment with an afterthought heel, as well, as one of my knitters assures me that this, too, is an uncomplicated thing to do. I love these fall colors! The yarn is Spirit Trail Fiberworks basic sock yarn, marinatating in stash since 2006, and the toe is done in Knitpicks Stroll. I am renewing my commitment to knit socks for myself this winter; slowly but surely.
Finally, a seriously surprising surprise.About a year and a half ago, I grew some shitake mushrooms on a log from a kit I gave myself for Christmas. This was an easy little project, and I kept it up for a few months, and then, last fall, as the job ate my life, I harvested the current crop of mushrooms off the log, and put them down under the bed in the guest room to rest (the log has to have a period of dormancy for a couple of weeks between fruiting cycles) and simply forgot about them. The 2 little logs lay under the bed collecting dust and dozing for a solid year. This weekend, I was cleaning the guest room in an attempt to set it up as a sewing room, and discovered them there, with a fresh (though dehydrated) crop of 'shrooms!! Nice to know that Nature goes on doing her thing, even as we are sometimes oblivious to it.
I've harvested my dried-up shitakes, gonna rehydrate them for some miso later on, and have soaked and set up the mushroom scheme again. The logs are springing a new coating of mycelium even as I write this. I can't wait.

Other things not photographed, but worth mentioning: I've been applying for jobs, with no real movement forward, (merely notes from school districts saying "hey we've got your application - be patient") I've made homemade pizza, I went to the apple orchard with Jessie again, to get some Arkansas Blacks, a favorite apple variety. The orchard had harvested all the apples, so the only picking we did was picking up the bag of apples off the shelf, but still, they were locally grown and a good keeping apple, or so I hope.

Even though the time has changed, and our days are ending an hour earlier, I'm trying to take full advantage of this Indian summer, it's been in the high 60's this week, and is just glorious. Planting bulbs, long walks with Mr. Cricket, who is back in his boot camp-esque training class on Tuesday nights. Project Z is more or less successful; the real challenge will be whether or not I can sustain it if I were to find work. I am feeling good, though, and not napping; in bed around 10 most nights, and up around 6 most days. Much easier to do with an early hour of daylight!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

moving forward

Fall is most definitely in full swing, now, with leaves turning golden, and acorns raining down upon us. I have never seen so many acorns as this year - a "mast" year, I believe they call it. In truth, this pic was taken at the Atlanta History Center, but our front yard is much the same situation, and all over Atlanta, we are covered with the bitter nut. I wish I had some pigs to fatten up on my little 1/2 acre. Though Mr. Cricket enjoys munching a particular tiny acorn from our Willow Oak in the backyard.

Ms Acornbud's visit to The Atomic Lodge was a blast. We managed to do a lot; thrift shopping, eating Indian and Korean food, a trip to Asheville,NC to meet up with my sister and fellow Atlanta Knitter Jessie for SAFF and general Asheville joy. There was a visit to the Atlanta History Museum, and plenty o' spinning and knitting. And probably a lot that I'm forgetting to mention, including a Malabrigo hat that Ms. 'Bud whipped up in no time and left for me to enjoy. I will post SAFF pix (mostly llamas, alpacas and sheep) later. Project Z was slightly abandoned for the week, though I think I got a fair amount of rest; didn't really suffer. Now I'm back on the horse, though, and am feeling fine as frog's hair with all the sleep.

I ended my physical therapy a couple o' weeks ago, and am on my own with my mostly recovered knee now. It is pretty much back to normal, though hours on my feet, and a change of weather causes it to flare up with shooting pains, and I can't do Virasana or any of its variations, without putting a rolled up towel behind my knee for support anymore. It was never my superstar pose, but I was always working hard on it, and now I'm just a lot more careful. I made my physical therapist some fingerless mitts. She's also a "Game of Thrones" fan, and we spent a lot of therapy hours deconstructing "A Song of Ice and Fire" so I thought some black fingerless mitts to wear on The Wall would be appropriate.
This was such a quick knit. I used this pattern, and a skein of black Cashmerino Aran, and whipped them out in about 3 hours. A short snort for a gift, and equally important, that grrroovy FO feeling that seems to be so rare in my life these days.

And now, something from the "Weird Stuff in My Woods" category:
An appropriately named Bigleaf Magnolia leaf. For the record, I wear a size 7 1/2 shoe. Supposedly, this tree boasts the biggest flower in the USA, as well, though I have not seen it bloom.

As part of the upgrade of The Atomic Lodge, we ordered some Adirondack furniture, which I had the pleasure of assembling. I do love to build things - easy things, mind you. I wish now that I had taken wood shop in high school instead of art, even though I was an art major in college for a whole year. I think shop might have gotten me farther in my self-sufficiency path, whereas I can reasonably assure you that I didn't learn a whole lot that I didn't already know, in my high school art class. Which made being an art major in college something of a challenge, though I did okay - changing my major more because of changing interests and the desire to take a whole bunch of psychology and anthropology and other -ology classes in hopes of getting a job in my field. Anyway, I digress, and here is one of the chairs, modeled by the handsome Mr. Cricket, who really likes to hop up on things.
I am starting to do a little agility with him, not because he has had a renaissance in temperament that will allow him to enter a trial, but because he is a smart dog, who needs to learn things beyond barking and aggressing.

More good times, and I am creaking along in my job search for flexible, part time work, being told by 2 school districts that my subbing application is "in progress" and I should hear something soon. Gah, these people are slow!! Meanwhile, I'm still enjoying not working (I saved a LOT of my salary last year in preparation for the possibility of unemployment) and doing the domestic goddess thing. Dog training, cooking, decluttering, yardening and knitting take time. Still, it will be nice to see a paycheck again, someday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Project Z redux

A couple of years ago, I started working on the lifestyle habit of getting more sleep. I called it Project Z. I went to bed by 10pm, and got up at 6am or so - if I deviated from that, I tried to make sure I got 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. The change in how I felt and functioned at work was dramatic. I managed to maintain it for about 9 months, and then, it spun out, maybe because of my crappy job last year, maybe because I got slack, less vigilant, who knows? My hypothesis is that because I worked long days, I was staying up later, sometimes to do schoolwork (especially during grading periods) but sometimes to catch up on life, or pleasurable downtime; knitting, reading, watching tv. Then summer came, the knee dislocation came and I got less exercise, which further screwed up my sleep; less tired, I sleep less, but become more tired, if that makes sense.

So I'm taking it back!! Project Z will ride again!! I've been a fervent reader of Leo Babauta's Zen Habits blog, and have been struck anew by his emphasis on making small changes that turn into big changes over time. I did a lot of reflection on what needs to improve right now in my life...more exercise, less internet surfing, better eating, more knitting, cleaner house, more time outside, finding a job I like, getting a better handle on Cricket's behavior, daily yoga practice, fewer cupcakes, more consistent spiritual practice, reading more, spinning better, blogging, being better at composting from the kitchen, saving more $$ for retirement, oh the list is endless! Leo wrote that in his experience, picking ONE THING to work on til it became a good habit - about 4 to 6 weeks, and then maintaining that one, worked better than making a lot of little changes that don't really stick, because you spread yourself too thin. I think that's a good point. I think the change in the way I felt a few days into Project Z was SO big that I really want to reinstate this positive practice.

Now practically speaking, this is a tough week to start such a thing. For one, Ms. Acornbud is headed my way in just a couple days. No way are we not gonna stay up late, and even though I anticipate her jet lag might make her sleep in, I can't guarantee that. For another, we're headed to Asheville, NC for SAFF, and rooming with my sis and Jessie, and I don't see the four of us tucking in early in a hotel room this weekend. So I'm gonna just try and focus on being well-rested in a catch as catch can way, and then, next Tuesday, when I'm home alone again (and this will be a sad thing) I'm gonna put my ass into bed at 9:30, with the knowledge that I certainly won't sleep at 9:30, but will probably knit or read instead. I think, for the time being, I'm not going to let myself nap, mostly because I think it contributes to the further jacking up of my circadian rhythms. So this Project Z is the thing I'm gonna focus on from now til about December 1, to see if I can reset my sleep. I forsee some bumps in the road, with P's returns to the ATL, and Thanksgiving and such, but overall, I spend most of my time home alone, and most of schedule is my own to control.

I feel like I needed to write it down here because I want to hold myself accountable for actually starting to make this change, but reading other peoples' writing about personal changes can be dull, so I offer you a couple of other things to contemplate:
Autumn is coming to Georgia, ready or not. I am ready to dispense with the heat, and have been really enjoying our 80 degree days, as opposed to our 95 degree days. Tomorrow, it is supposed to be only about 60, though, so that will be a fast forward into fall. Not sure I'm ready for that.

Behold the amazing thing that is Hanami. Completed, blocking in my spare bedroom. What a long strange knit that turned out to be. I love it, but am honestly not sure how much I'll wear it. It seems too fancy. But still...Hanami!!

Time for oatmeal and some laundry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things...

I have been productive this past week, in spite of the fact that P has been home, and we've spent more than a little time just goofing off doing little in the way of productive activity. Eating out, watching silly tv, grilling meat, walking the dogs...

On Ravelry, I have been taking part in a KAL of knitted objects inspired bythe book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" " called The Knits' Watch. I knitted the Peaks Island Hood, re-naming it the Green Dreams Hood. I'm very pleased, though you wouldn't know it from this silly, overly serious photo of me. But dang, the ultra alpaca in my favorite shade of dark green is soft! The tea-dyed antler buttons are the perfect crowning touch. This is a knit I will wear and love.
Also made for the Knits' Watch, because I was trying for Ranger status, was the Riverrun Shawl, which is actually the Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl, for those interested. This is knat from my handspun, about 350 yards of corriedale, from Maisy Day Handspun, overspun and then overplied, so not a very soft knit, but pretty. I edged it in my handspun shetland, because I ran out of yarn a bit early. I wish it were bigger. I wish it were softer. That said, I am enormously pleased to be knitting my own yarn!
Tonight I made sushi. I had some Nova lox in the fridge that needed eating, and some cutiecumber, avocado, green beans and carrots on hand, plus some old nori sheets, so I decided to whip up a few mixed up rolls to munch on. A quickie omelet fried up to add more protein and we're in business. Ugly rolls, but I can't complain. Sushi is a rare treat around here, after several years of eating it as a go-to snack food in Hawaii.

I spent the afternoon at the vet's office with Miss Ella, whose right back leg went out this afternoon. I feared neurological problems as it was jerking and she was unable to walk, but it turned out she had a very deep, infected cut between 2 toes on that paw, which she'd helped along by licking it into a hot spot. A thorough irrigation, a plethora of antibiotics, pain meds and an Elizabethan collar later, and she should be on the mend. My poor good girl... she is not happy, but I am relieved.

I am off to knit with my knittahs, this evening.

Monday, September 05, 2011

slow progress...

...on all fronts. Knee is getting more bendy, by a few degrees each week. I'm more active and able to do things, now, but there are fresh accompanying aches and pains. I have gone, in the space of about 3 weeks, from 60 degrees of bend to about 105. I can now drive a stick shift car again, and make a full revolution on the physical therapist's bicycle, though I have yet to dare to get on my own bike for an actual ride. Sleeping comfortably is still the hardest thing to do, as everything I do with the knee in bed seems to make it hurt. I am off all pain meds, though, as I wanted to hoard a few for emergencies.

In other news, our crazy backyard reclamation project trundles forward, with boulders, gravel and mulch in varying states of application:
(click to biggify the photo) We took out 7 trees, which provided a little more light, and have designed a lawn-to-be for some shade tolerant grass to grow. That's the dark composted area, which will be tilled and planted next week. Did some grading to prevent some of the dramatic erosion that's been happening on the property since we tore out the half-acre of ivy 2 years ago. The gray gravelly area will be the site of the firepit - probably just a bowl or barrel to contain said flames. We splurged and bought some boulders from Tennessee to shore up some of the erosion and define the firepit further. And most importantly, just because I like rocks and wanted them around. The boulders are definitely my favorite part of the project; each has its own face and personality; some have lichens, some have mosses on them. Our shed is in, and waiting for all the tilling and dustmaking to die down so it can get its fresh coat of paint - "Tea Leaves Green" exterior latex, by Valspar. I will probably paint (read this as "have painted" as I am not a house painter) the house this color next summer, as well. The current plan is to renovate and beautify, and probably use this place as a rental house, til the market improves or until P retires and we move back to the ATL. It feels a little mixed, to be doing work on a place that I love and have loved living in, for someone else to occupy, but the yard HAD to be improved; it was eroding away to weeds and mud, and I am having fun with it. Moving to the DC area will be a happy thing, whenever I do go, though I am enjoying being here thoroughly. I am currently researching shade tolerant perennials to put in the yard, and welcome all suggestions. Trying to focus on workhorse plants that will spread, wild natives (besides poison ivy and greenbrier and blackberry) and flower for birds and insects.

My mom and I were moving our woodpile the other week, from below the firepit to the far side of the shed. We found many, many snake skin remnants on the wood. Apparently, the pile had been a nest of snakes - I had only seen the family of chipmunks that lived in there, but they must have provided incentives for the serpents to move in. My mom saw a snake wiggle off the tarp I used to cover the wood with, but she was rather matter-of-fact about it. When one is in the Georgia woods, there are going to be snakes! The only snake I've seen around here (in my patio doorway, to be precise) is the feisty Northern Ringneck Snake. Of course I imagine the snakes in the woodpile to be all copperheads and rattlers, but that's just that stinkin' thinkin'.

On the knitting front, I just finished the 7th repeat of the hated Hanami basketweave chart. My love for this pink alpaca is undiminished though, and I look forward to finishing this, and getting out to see some cherry blossoms in it next spring! Here is a progress shot of my shaky little basketweave. Please disregard a couple of obvious visible errors. You'll hardly notice those from the back of a galloping horse, I assure you!
I am also knitting on a couple of other projects. On Ravelry, for the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire forum's Knit's Watch KAL, I am working on Ysolda's Peak's Island Hood in dark green Berrocco alpaca, which I have renamed the Green Dreams Hood, in honor of Bran Stark's shamanic dreams. I LOVE this pattern, LOVE the yarn and am so looking forward to finishing this so I can wear it this fall. I ordered some antler buttons for it, to enhance the rustic appearance, because the Starks would not really be wearing foo-foo scarves, what with living in the harsh northern reaches of Westeros, and all. End of my fangirl geekiness for this entry, I promise.

P is home, and we've been enjoying the long weekend, doing at-home projects, errands and going out to eat. The man is coming here for pho, which I think is silly, as there is excellent pho in the DC area, but whatever... We checked out a new-to-me brewpub yesterday, and I had a most excellent scottish ale, which made me a little nostalgic for my homebrewing days, but just a little. I think the presence of good brewpubs in my area are the reason I DON'T homebrew anymore. That and the fact that I am only a pretend beer drinker. I like brewing, as I like all chemistry experiments, but I never drank enough to justify the gallons I brewed. Yes, friends will graciously take gifts of homebrew, and there are parties to go to, but I am done brewing for now. But not done with the sweet, strong wee scots ale, let me tell you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

the long hot summer

It's been 2 1/2 months since I've last posted, in a summer when I fully intended to blog regularly. Sigh. Admittedly, I have been writing in other venues, but I've fallen off keeping this here chronicle up to date. Perhaps the most important event of the summer is the one that would have given me the most time to blog; on July 15, I fell, due to a rubber slipper accident (slippah + puddle o' watah = trouble) and dislocated my knee. A trip to the emergency room later, and I was in an immobilizing brace for 3 weeks, and now am doing 2x weekly physical therapy. I can bend the knee about 80 degrees on a good day, but am working hard to get it back, learning to walk like a normal person again, drive (automatic transmission for the time being) and generally being careful around the house and yard. My job search has been put on hold til I can get through the PT, and figure out driving.

Meanwhile, P moved to DC for his new job. He'll be back the week of Labor Day. So far, we are weathering the long-distance thing okay, though of course I will be thrilled to see him, and feel it's been to long a separation. I will try and visit him once a month, starting in September/October, and it will be nice to visit my old stomping ground of the DC area again, as well.

I am working on the landscaping project in a revised fashion; I had a shed put in and had 7 trees removed from the yard. Next step, to grade and till part of the yard and sow a mixed cover of grass, clover and various shady wildflowers on the flat part of the yard. Then Leslie, my landscaper and I will work on a firepit design, and I'll put in some more perennials later this fall. I'm not really pro-lawn, but our yard has gone from ivy jungle to dirtpatch wasteland in 2 years, and it's time it had something better and prettier; we're suffering from erosion and thorny noxious weeds are getting a beachhead in. I have to move our woodpile over the next few days, and I'm not looking forward to it; seeing as how I know this process is going to reveal far more spiders and snakes than I really want to encounter, and I am phobic of neither.

My mom came in from VA to help around the house during my lamer days, and she'll be here about another week. We've gotten along well, relatively few political/religious arguments and harmony for the most part. I will miss her when she goes home, though I will also certainly rejoice to have my own house back.

There was knitting: Ysolda Teague's Rose Red Beret; a fun, easy knit in luxurious Madeline Tosh Vintage. I also finished the Amelia sweater, spun up a whole bunch of polwarth wool (my treadling leg being the uninjured one) and read 2 more books from the "Song of Ice and Fire" series. I am taking a break from those books now to catch up on my slow trundle through Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" books.

My sis came to visit at the end of July and helped me to start the beaded cast on for the Hanami Stole. I'm knitting it in some pinkish mauve Misti Alpaca. This will be a pretty shawl, though I'm not sure how much I will actually wear it. I'm envisioning it softening up a chocolate brown or grey dress.

A last pic, taken earlier this summer, before I got my "sporting injury", taken while hiking along the Chattahoochee river: I didn't expect to catch her, she never really stood still.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

summer thoughts, summer things

So school's out. And I seem to be managing okay with one post per season, but since I'm in summer mode, I shall try to step it up just a wee bit here. First things first, some shots of Amelia in progress, just to show you how Cricket-colored she really is. Cricket is looking very sweet in that pic, sniffing the dirt and being all puppy-like. Dogtor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde every day, in every way.
And also a pic of my newish Birkenstock clogs (because I can't wear boots all the time) which caused a mild disruption at work.
See I got them thinking I could wear them to work. And I got away with it for weeks, wearing them with black pants, dark socks, like they were traveling to my repressive school incognito. But one day, I wore them with some brown corduroys, and my boss, she of the power suits in every color of the rainbow, was in the classroom watching us teach. And I could tell by the look on her face that something wasn't going well, even though the other teacher and I were working hard and the kids were relatively well-behaved. The next day, she followed me into the copy room and said "I need to let you know that those shoes you were wearing weren't professional." Arrrgh. I will not rant and rave about this now that I've quit the job, but damn, lady, neither are your 3-inch burnt orange acrylic nails either. Especially that chipped one...

But now it's summer and I'm happily unemployed, and figuring out my next plan in a life that's gone all crazy here. In spite of my two degrees and multiple credentials and lengthy years of teaching, I can't seem to see any joy in the thought of returning to a classroom next year. Not sure if this is temporary or permanent, and so I'm hesitant to launch myself full-on into the search for a full time job just yet. Lucky for me no one's hiring yet anyway. I am thinking my dream work would be a part time teaching job or maybe just a lot of tutoring or working in a learning lab or something. I'm also in the process of applying to GA State University to do some coursework to get certified to teach English as a Second Language, but the program is competitive and I'm late to the game, so it might not happen this fall. All this is complicated by P being offered his dream job in Washington, DC. My husband and his nomadic career are a challenge to me at times. Fortunately, he is indulgent to me in other ways, and so we are going to manage this thing slowly. I don't really have another move in me just now. In spite of the fact that I despise the educational system I've found myself in right now, I despise more the fact that Work causes no small amount of disruption in a life that I otherwise quite enjoy. So P is going to take the job, we're going to keep the Atomic Ranch, because we both love living here and it's a better investment this way and there will be a long-distance marriage for the next year, which we have survived before and will survive again. I will be spending some time in DC (this makes me happy) and he will be spending time in the ATL - and then after the next year is up, we'll figure out what we want to do with the Atomic Ranch, and whether we want to move Lock, Stock and Barrel. P thinks he's found a condo that works okay for the new job, walkable and bikeable to work and dog-friendly, in case I should drive up with the beasts. So this summer is one of a lot of uncertainty and figuring out the New Normal, a process which will go on for some months, at least. Even if we were to sell the Rancho, it would be months before we could put it on the market anyway, and so this approach makes more sense. I love the DC/Northern VA area a lot, and would happily go up there again, just not yet. I'm not ready to face that Beltway Buzz of energy, the extreme population density, and the cost of living. Atlanta seems somehow softer and easier right now. The Atomic Ranch works well for the dogs, and of course the dogs are what we keep first and foremost in mind when we go a-house hunting.

Project Spectrum Red Month of May came and I started Kiri, which, right after I blogged it, a few weeks ago, dumped me hard. I could NOT get the stitch count right to save my soul, and so it was hurled into a corner and I am finishing up Ysolda's Rose Red beret in some lovely Madeline Tosh yarn that my knittah Debbie inspired me to buy at Stitches. The yarn is ALL THAT, as everyone had been telling me, though my stash of other things is substantial enough that I won't make a habit of it. I will blog this as soon as I cast off and get some pics. I'm hoping desperately that it fits, and that I have enough yardage to finish it, so dear readers light a candle for me and hope along with me.

Even though life "feels" insane right now, I am pretty positive and happy at the moment. I did what I set out to do, which was to survive the year from hell, and I am looking forward to the changes and new adventures coming up. And hopefully more blogging.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

project spectrum kickoff: lace brain

For the resurrection of Project Spectrum, I am knitting a project which I began some years ago - Kiri, a shawl by Polly Outhwaite. I must admit a fascination for this rather simple leaf lace shawl, knit big in my favorite yarn ever, Kidsilk Haze. I started this back in 2007, in some Jo Sharp Rare Comfort and the project was too hard for me, or I didn't have "lace brain" or something. It totally dumped me, causing me no end of grief and fretting. Now, resurrected, on a whim, about a month ago, and brought into the forefront, for Project Spectrum, the color study that is the brainchild of Lolly, but has become a huge thing, with a facebook page of its own. The color for May is red, and I figured this would fit the bill nicely. It may be more pink than red, but is pleasing nevertheless. The yarn is Rowan Kidsilk Spray, in Vino. The knitting is pleasing and I am not being dumped by it anymore. What can I say? Lace brain.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

my new boyfriend

I figure if I'm not working hard on this house cleaning project, I might as well post about my favorite new/old thing...

Chris got me all excited about Mr. Bento, the handy dandy lunch carryall while I was still living in HI. So upon my arrival in GA, I acquired one. But the nature of my work (part time, coming home for lunch) didn't necessitate it til this year, when all I did was work and found myself with not a lot of time to eat and not wanting to go into the teacher's lounge to heat food up. Enter, Mr. Bento, my new boyfriend! A handy dandy way to serve a multi-course meal at work. The only thing missing, as far as I can see, is the glass of wine that I was able to enjoy last year when I was working part time. sigh...the compromises we make. It DOES necessitate some advance organization to use this setup. The little bowls stack into a main container, and the bottom two are thermal, so if I heat food up it keeps them warm. I usually layer the bowls as such, starting from the bottom: soup, rice or quinoa w/ veg n' meat, a salad or fruits, and the final smallest bowl holds stuff like nuts, cheese, hummus, or on rare occasions, yogurt and granola. Once the food is organized, it's a cinch to eat a decent meal at the desk. I never thought I'd be so spun about being shackled to my desk, but Mr. Bento is soooo cool. Another co-worker has one, and she is equally thrilled with him. It has helped me to keep my food portions reasonable, as the bowls aren't tremendously big, and has also forced me to keep it interesting. Mr. Bento can be acquired at Amazon, or in your local H-Mart or other purveyors of Japanese innovatia. He is not cheap, for a lunch box, alas, but love has its price, and anything that keeps me eating leftovers and out of the school cafeteria or off the vending machine porkskins (no kidding, I love them) is a significant life improvement.

Here is what grows outside my acupuncturist's office door. Prickly pear cactus, complete with its fruit, known as "tunas." They are edible, but I wasn't sure at what point they become ripe or how to eat them, so I didn't harvest, though I was a bit tempted.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

After a cold, rainy week, the sun is out and it's getting lovely again. This crocus pic is actually a few weeks old, but I'd forgotten that I had planted them last year, so they were a total surprise to me when they came up randomly in the yard.

The house is fragrant with banana bread; my knitter Kathy served the BEST banana bread at a little knit gathering a couple of weeks ago, at her house. I altered the recipe ever so slightly, by adding chocolate chips, but it is a fantastic version of a food that I am not known to love.

Spring break is on, and I am several kinds of happy, having had pho for lunch, and a lazy day of desultory kitchen cleaning and puttering. P is planning on grilling a steak later on, and we have the fixings for mango margaritas hanging out on the counter. I promised an update on Ameliaand the progress I had sorta made on this. I found the lost pattern, and realized that I had knitted waaaay past where the button hole shaping is supposed to begin. Okay, not that far. Like 1.5 inches. I am going to leave the length, and work 2 buttonholes, and then start the sleeves, raglan shaping, etc. My plan is to knit like hell over the break and the next few days and try to get this puppy off the needles, as the twisted rib is sucking my mojo out, and I just want to be done with it. Besides, I need a pretty Cricket-colored sweater.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

cooking quinoa

Happy Birthday to Chelsea! So if you happen upon this page today, roll on over and give her some love. In fact give her some love anyway - she's one of my favorite blogs!

In my effort to have interesting things to eat, during my week alone, I did some cooking tonight. I've been playing around with quinoa, and tonight toasted it up in a skillet, then cooked it in the rice cooker with broth. I stir fried some onions, shitake mushrooms, red pepper and yellow squash up and mixed them in. Added a shot or 2 of Bragg's liquid aminos for umami purposes, and voila! A nice pilaf for lunches, to go with my borscht and salads.
The pot o' grain, cooked in the broth:

Frying up the veggies

The finished product, ready for packing into Mr. Bento.

I also have my completed sock #1 to share. I did a contrasting heel n' toe on these because I was afraid of running out of yarn. I'm not sure it was necessary, but I think it looks nice. The yarn is a little pooly, but it isn't that noticeable in person - and I like its mossy, underwatery colors. The contrast is Knitpicks Stroll sock yarn in the Basalt heather colorway.

Next up, but not tonight, an update on my Amelia progress, which can resume progressing on, as I've found the pattern again. It had fallen under the bed, right at a crucial juncture, and so I quit knitting it for a couple o' weeks til I found it again. My goal is to knit HARD on this over spring break, and maybe come close to finishing it. We'll see.

Monday, March 28, 2011

blink and you'll miss it

Spring, that is. I can't possibly hope to catch up with the past 2 1/2 months in which I haven't written a single word that I didn't have to, not even a damn grocery list, so all I'll say is I hope that I'm back. And spring, too. Because it's turned cold and rainy here in North Georgia, and somehow, the cold of spring feels much worse than the warm of winter, even though, truth be told, the cold of spring is warmer than the warm of winter. Somehow, chill temperatures on still cherry blossoms just make me want to huddle for a few more weeks.

So I'm huddling now. In bed, or rather on bed, nursing a sore ankle, from an unfortunate stumble of the parking lot of my workplace this afternoon. Nursing a bowl of borscht, and a huge glass of water. Swatching some crazy Rowan Cork for my knitting group's KAL of the Shalom sweater. I'm in love with this yarn, which I got in a trade from Blogless Michelle. It's been marinating in stash for a year and a half, because I didn't know what to do with bulky weight acid-green soft fluffiness. Enter Shalom, and the KAL. Can't decide between needle sizes, though and I think I'm over thinking it, as the sweater isn't that fitted, and I am notorious for knitting things too big. So I'm just trying to find a fabric that pleases me.

When I'm not swatching, I'm closing in on finishing a pair of socks, the second of which I will share here: It's Lavender Sheep Superwash Merino, in a color called The Cascades. Gorgeous. My classic plain vanilla sock recipe; 60 stitches, top-down, stockinette, roll top, #2 needles. The sock I knit most often, the most utilitarian ones. This yarn is yummy to knit with, and the combination of divine yarn and lovable needles (the Kollage square DPN's again) may yet make me a sock knitter.

In other news, I did not renew my contract with my school district for next year. I have disliked this job since day 1, really, and figured that getting out was a smart thing to do. Too much paperwork, too much stress, not enough love for my top-down admin (hey, I like my socks top-down, not my bosses!!) or the lack of a positive, thoughtful work environment for anyone. I have about 8 more weeks of school to go, one of them being Spring Break, and one of them being Big Over-Emphasized State Test, and then I'll be free, free, free. Free to scramble around and hunt for a job, but this time, I resolve to try harder not to fall into the desperate spin of angst and fretting that the job hunt always triggers in me. Resolve to savor my down time, and do my research properly, so that I may feel love, not hatred of my life's calling.

P is traveling, to Mississippi and Alabama this week, and I'm holding down the fort at home. Life is good.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

dutch breakfast and a long-awaited fo.

Dutch marzipan stollen for breakfast is an idea I wholeheartedly support. I found this bread in a little dutch store in Helen, Ga, on our New Year's eve daytrip.

We got whacked with a ferocious storm this past Sunday, snow falling hard and fast and then a heaping helping of sleet, ice and freezing rain - the dreaded wintry mix. It's all conspired to close school for 4 days (I'm hoping for a 5th) and bring Atlanta to a screeching HALT! which of course is just fine with me. All this shut in time has enabled me to finish my long-languished Central Park Hoodie:
I knit it with 12 skeins of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed, purchased from Acornbud's stash. Acornbud, who enabled this sweater big time by hooking me on the Silkroad crack a couple of years before, just by ooh-ing and coo-ing over it in my presence. I gotta say, I adore this sweater, and its buttery colorway, Vermouth. It is warm and soft and squishy. It is a scoach too big, and I am having some misgivings about gauge, but everytime I put it on, it immediately cheers me and restores that "I am a knittah!!" feeling. Which is something, in the dark days of winter, let me tell you. The buttons are a grey and yellow vintage button donated by my knittah friend, Debbie.

So I've been off for a few days, with little else to show. I made some Guinness braised shortribs from a recipe I got from my brother in law, via Facebook. These were so good that I neglected to photograph them, but I assure you they aren't pretty, and they will be made again here at the Atomic Lodge. I played a bit in the snow and ice, and have been spending quality time with the dogs:
It remains seriously cold here, in the 20's, and so we really aren't outside that much, just to feed the birds and putter around in the yard. Our street is still iced in and our driveway remains treacherous, though of course we're taking the CRV out for necessities like pizza and milk. It's all supposed to melt away tomorrow.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

buh-bye 2010!

2010 was right up there with 2005 and 2007 as one of the more, ahem, challenging years of my life. It started off auspiciously and then just spun right out in a sea of sickness, stress and inertia. I am damned glad to see it good and gone, even though I was raised not to wish one's life away nor begrudge the time I'm given. Goodbye 2010, helloooo beautiful fresh new year!!

I like new beginnings. As pagan, I celebrate Samhain as the end of the Wheel of the Year. I celebrate the rebirth of the sun at Yule, and I will embrace the Year of the Rabbit when Chinese New Year rolls around. January 1st is one of my favorite days, in spite of the fact that the whole Christmas season generally feels like too much.

Good things, and generally successful ventures in 2010 included: good employment mojo, in that I found work that pays me well, which is something, in these economic times. I was successful in not drinking one drop of bottled water for yet another year, and in continuing to cook mostly from scratch, and carry my homemade lunch to work on a daily basis. I got the Louet wheel, and learned to spin, opening up a whole new world of crafty love. I knat mostly from stash, and didn't finish much; the Citron shawl, the Pink Ariann sweater which I promptly frogged, a few dishcloths and a couple of hats. I went to Stitches South with my sister, bought a lot of spinning fiber and fell in love with Kollage square needles. My Malabrigo buy-in venture rewarded me with a healthy stash infusion. I continued the Dog-A-Day campaign of working one dog each day, and braved the weather, hot and cold to get Mr. Cricket out and about, facing his fears. He is somewhat calmer and less aggressive, though we still manage him cautiously around strange people. I rode my bike a fair amount, and re-connected with my old friend Elena. Leah came to visit me, and I took a couple of road trips up to my Old Country. I did a whole lot of yoga. I found an acupuncturist who has done wonders for my health and stress issues. I continued my Project Z - the quest for more and better sleep, and am a healthier woman for it. I discovered dolsot bibimbap, which is my new favorite food. I bought a pair of Frye boots, which make me feel taller and tougher. I read a lot of books and I learned to use Promethean projection technology at work. I went to Boston for a week and hung out with my husband's totally fun family. I got a new digital camera and am having fun with it.

Not-so-successful things included knitting a sweater that, in spite of a gauge swatch, was astronomically big on me, taking a job that is just kicking my ass six ways to Sunday, and promises to do so until mid-May, when I leave it. I pulled an intercostal muscle that took a long time to heal. I got sick with every upper respiratory thing that crossed my path. My weight rollercoastered up and down - I swear, that same 10 lbs came and went 3 or 4 times. That isn't actually a bad thing; I've made peace with my body, for the most part. My altar got dusty due to my scanty spiritual practice. I did little to landscaping improvements and I pretty much failed at my housecleaning quest, except on vacation. Family weirdness abounded. I bought yarn which I didn't need, and am now at SABLE status for sure.

Resolutions? I usually make them for Mind, Body and Spirit, but this year, I'm not sure what to resolve. These are the things that are feeling like a logical next step, though:

1. Not buying yarn, and knitting exclusively from stash, including my handspun. Festivals excepted, but I mostly buy fiber when presented with a choice, these days.

2. Not buying new clothes: my job has required me to follow a dress code, and I'm just sick of shopping for nice clothes. I've built a decent wardrobe of 'business casual' clothes and now it's time to stop. Shoes excepted.

3. Yoga at home - I'll still take classes but I'll use more podcasts and dvd's to help me practice more regularly on my own.

I have a lengthy list of other resolutions which I'll spare you for the moment. These are the big 3. Somehow, it seems to be setting myself up to crash and burn if I lay the whole list out here. Something about that adage of "to know, to will, to dare and to keep silent" I guess...time will tell.

I leave you with an offering from my fabulous new blue camera:
These spider plants cast shadows that remind me of the Calder mobiles at the National Gallery.

Ella using Cricket as her pillow: