The hook

So as I am sure I’ve mentioned here before, Sherman is a bit of an escape artist. After all, my little sister didn’t get us this doormat for nothing.


Anyway. Tonight, we were leaving the house to go hole up at Panera for some dinner and some Nanowriting (because it is, after all, November, and that is what we do in November), and as the front door swung open, Sherman came tearing out from under the couch, where he likes to lurk for EXACTLY this reason, and the person who came in the house last didn’t get the screen door shut (names withheld to protect the guilty except it wasn’t me, and okay, to be fair, his hands were full of groceries, but I digress), and despite some lunging forward on my part and some shouting on both our parts, the wily little fuzzbutt made a break for freedom.

So we both flung all our Nanowrimoing stuff onto the front porch and dashed down the stairs, trying to catch a small grey fluffbrat who does not want to be caught because this is the Best Game Ever and possibly there was some swearing and also some laughing, and then, then, the most wonderful, miraculous thing happened.

A woman came by, jogging along the sidewalk. A woman Sherman had never met before in his life. A stranger.

Here is the thing about Sherman. Unlike most cats, Sherman loves people. I mean, he really, really LOVES people. He has never met anyone who is not his very best friend. Regardless of whether they might actually want to meet him, he will be right there, in their face, saying hi, demanding attention. We like to joke that he is shy. Hah. Anything but.

Thankfully she quickly figured out we could use her help and she stopped and held out a hand. Sherman, needing no more invitation than that, stopped his gleeful dashing around the front yard and immediately trotted over to say hello. One head scritch, and ten seconds later, and she’d picked him up and he was purring his little head off, even after she passed him off to me, with a laughing comment of “it’s okay, I’ve got an escape artist too.”

So now we know. The next time Sherman manages to slip out the door, there is no point in wasting any time trying to chase him down. Nope, clearly all we have to do is find a stranger.

Because the one thing in the world Sherman absolutely, positively cannot resist, is a stranger.

Weird little cat.

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I have been, lately, in the mood for knitting lace.

This hits me from time to time, usually when I am already heads down in the middle of one or more important projects, such as a test knit, or something complicated that has a set deadline. But ignoring the urge doesn’t really help because then I just don’t knit anything at all, so it’s always better to just go with it, until the feeling passes.

All this is to explain why I whipped these two things up in the span of roughly two weeks last month.

The first one is Artesian, and I used MollyGirl Diva sock yarn, which arrived at my house via the magic of Yarnbox.


Oh, what’s that you say? It’s hard to see the actual knitted item when there are cats on it? Yes, yes welcome to my world. It is also hard to *knit* when there are cats on it. But I digress. Here is a better picture I managed to take in the 0.3 seconds that a cat was *not* trying to actively sit on it.


This is actually the second time I’ve knit this; the first, however, was for a shop sample for a Verb for Keeping Warm, so I didn’t get to keep it. I really liked the pattern, and the yarn I used (Even Tinier Anapurna), so when they gave me store credit, I bought a skein for myself. However, when I started knitting it with the yarn I specifically bought for it, I realized I’d rather use that yarn for something else. So I used the sock yarn for Artesian, and used the yarn from A Verb for Keeping Warm to make Golden Orchids instead.


You probably can’t tell from the full view, so here’s a close-up. This project happens to be my very first foray into knitting with beads. Verdict – working with beads is tedious when you have to stop and put them on each individual stitch with a tiny crochet hook. Also, working with beads when you live with cats is very nerve wracking. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to why.


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On gossamer threads

September 29, 20–

Dear Paisley,

It was so great to talk to you yesterday. The new job sounds fantastic; definitely a better use of your skills than your previous employer. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it as you settle in.

Edward’s settling his new job as well – I think I told you that he recently took a position with Global Chemicor. It’s all hush hush work of course; isn’t that always the way with corporate research? He seems happy with the new position, although I do wish he weren’t working quite so many hours per day, but I suppose that’s what comes with the higher level of authority in the company. .

IMG_20151031_195633791Halloween is coming and I’m having so much fun getting the house ready. I am putting out the usual silly ghosts and pumpkins and such. Edward, the dear, brought home this horrid spider and gave it to me with such an excited look on his face that I didn’t have the heart to remind him that I really cannot stand spiders. Look at this thing – it’s ridiculous. But I suppose it’s the thought that counts. Maybe if I just tuck it off to one side on the porch no one will notice it. Mitzy, by the way, absolutely hates the thing – she barks and barks at it every time she catches sight of it, and has tried several times to tear it to bits. I admit I’d be tempted to let her, except that Edward really seems to adore the wretched thing.

Your friend,



October 3rd, 20–

Dear Paisley,

IMG_20151031_084235901It was lovely to see you and Roger yesterday – feels like it’s been far too long since we were able to meet for lunch and chat in person. I’m sorry Edward couldn’t make it; this new job has really started to consume every single moment of his time. The only time I ever see him is at night, when he’s in bed, and even then he’s mumbling in his sleep about the strangest things.

I’m so glad your girls liked the nut bread. I’ve been doing a lot of baking; now that Hemworth and Bertram are off to college, I feel as if I’ve too much time on my hands. And it doesn’t help that Edward’s barely ever home.

Remember that horrid spider I told you Edward brought me a few weeks ago? It seems like everywhere I go they’re selling these things. I know it’s Halloween season, but really, there’s more to Halloween than giant spiders. I was looking for orange and black crepe paper for the party and I couldn’t find it anywhere; but apparently if I was willing to decorate with tacky plastic spiders, I’d be all set. Ugh. I mean, look at this. Does no one have any other way of decorating?

Anyway, I am off to meet up with my friend Cecily. She has three darling little Corgis, and they and Mitzy all get along so well that we’ve been going on walks together around the neighborhood. She hates those spiders too.

Your friend,



October 13, 20–

Dear Paisley,

I see from the pictures you sent that the spider craze isn’t just here. Just the other morning I was out walking and nearly every other house has at least one or two of the horrid things hung in a tree, or perched on a wall. What ever happened to the decorating classics? Some nice tombstones, or skeletons or even just an array of tastefully decorated pumpkins? But no, nearly every house is festooned with spiders. It has become something of a nightmare, taking little Mitzy for her daily walks. She lunges at barks at every single spider she sees.

Paisley, I have to admit, I’m starting to worry about Edward. He’s looking awfully pale the past few days, and at night he talks in his sleep, something about sphingomyelinase, or some such nonsense. I’ve asked him about it but he just tells me it’s nothing, and then rushes off to the lab. I’m beginning to think that perhaps transferring to Global Chemicor was a bad idea.

your friend,



October 20, 20–

Dear Paisley,

Thank you so much for your phone call and flowers. I am sure that when Edward awakes he will greatly enjoy them. I am not sure, however, when that might be; the doctors seem a bit baffled. I am still in a bit of shock about the whole situation. Global Chemicor hasn’t been very forthcoming on details; all I know is that he collapsed at the lab, and they did not even bother to inform me until hours later when he was at the hospital. You can be sure that when Edward recovers, we will be having a hard talk about him finding a new job.

Meanwhile every time I turn around there are more of those wretched spiders. This was in Cecily’s front yard yesterday morning, which surprised me because it wasn’t that long ago she was telling me just how much she hated them. I’m getting a bit worried about her because she asked me to meet her yesterday but she didn’t answer the door and I haven’t heard from her at all. IMG_20151031_092326339

You know I love Halloween, but I admit this year I cannot wait for it to be over. With Edward in the hospital, I am home alone, and I just keep getting this sensation that I am being watched. I woke up the other night and could swear I heard skittering, but when I turned on the light there was nothing there. Mitzy was growling at the walls though, so perhaps there are mice. Oh, I wish Edward was here!

your friend,



October 31, 20–

Dear Paisley,

I pray you receive this before it’s too late. I did try to call but the phone lines appear to be down, and I dare not go outside because, well, I suspect you already know.

They’re everywhere. I’m not sure what they were doing at Global Chemicor, but clearly things got out of control. I took this picture out my front window, before I nailed boards across it. I am doing my best to block every entrance. I suggest you do the same.


I have already killed too many of them to count. Turns out I’m pretty good with a butcher knife, and Mitzy is a terrier, so she’s really coming into her own. But there are far too many of them out there, and they just keep on coming.

There is skittering in the attic, and screaming outside, so I had better close for now. Stay safe,

all my love,


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Don’t blink

Somehow it is nearly Halloween, a fact which didn’t quite hit me until a day or two ago. Yes, yes, people have been decorating their yards with various graveyard paraphernalia, and giant spiders have been popping up all over the place, and there are pumpkins everywhere we go, but still, wow. Almost Halloween. Where did October go?

Halloween means parties – the neighborhood one, and then the ones at work – and parties means I have to come up with some kind of appropriately themed food. In years past we’ve done Litter Box Cake for Richard’s work party, but it’s kind of a pain to make and one recipe makes a LOT of cake, so we always have a ton of it leftover. I’ve also done ‘finger’ cookies (cute and tasty) and cat poop cookies (disturbingly realistic, and not really tasty enough for the effort) and so on, but this year I was pondering ideas and then remembered that I now possessed a set of food color pens, and then I figured out immediately what I was going to make: Monster Eyes.

I started with a basic almond cookie. I have been making almond cookies for years and years (it’s something my mom used to make). If you do a Google search for ‘Chinese almond cookie’ you’ll find a bazillion versions of the recipe so I’m not going to bother posting all the details here (although if you really want to know, I used this recipe primarily because the recipe I normally use uses shortening and I didn’t have any in the house). Also, although most of the recipes online don’t call for it, I rolled the dough into logs and tossed them into the fridge to chill for a couple hours, because it is then *so* much easier to slice them evenly so you end up with exactly the number of cookies you need.

Usually I do not bother to use blanched almonds because we pretty much always have a giant bag of raw almonds in the freezer (handy for baking / snacking), but if one is to decorate cookies, one needs blanched almonds. After consulting Google (all hail Google), I discovered that it is stupidly easy to blanch almonds yourself, so armed with 120 almonds (because yes, that’s how many cookies I churned out in one day – three dozen per party, plus a couple extra for….uh…quality control testing), and some boiling water, and two huge batches of cookie dough, I baked up a huge batch of Monster Eyes.

I am quite pleased with how they turned out. Decorating them was extremely simple (which is good because my artistic skills when it comes to food decorating are pretty much nonexistent), and consisted of waiting for the cookies to cool and then drawing a little black oval ‘pupil’ onto the middle of the almond. Poof. Monster Eye.


In retrospect, I could have really had fun and stirred in some food coloring, but I didn’t actually think about that until after the third batch was in the oven, so ah well, maybe next time.

Posting for Horrordailies. Boo.

Posted in Baking, Life | 1 Comment


So for the past who-the-heck-knows how many years Richard and I have been hosting Holidailies, which is a daily blogging thing that runs during the month of December. It was started by another couple entirely, but then we took over when they decided they didn’t want to run it anymore, and this past year they decided to sign the domain over to us and hand it off completely.

Richard’s been talking for years about how he wanted to someday give the code an overhaul (this is in no way a reflection of the quality of what the original folks created; it’s just that any system starts to get a bit clunky after more than 10 years, especially as the rest of the internets kept on updating around it). This year he finally decided to give it a go.

We tossed around a couple of ideas for things we’d like to incorporate, and one of the ideas was to open the portal up for more than just the month of December. I came up with the idea of Horrordailies for October. Admittedly I was a bit vague on how that might actually work, but Richard’s preferred style of fiction writing tends to be horror or comic horror so I figured it might give him something to play with.

Anyway. All of this is to say that the site has been revamped, basic functionality is working (fingers crossed) and we’ve opened it up to beta users with the hopes that they’ll poke at it and play with it and let us know what isn’t working. If all goes as planned, Richard will have time to get all the (major) bugs smoothed out prior to the official launch in December, but in the meantime some of us really ought to be posting stuff to it. I suppose some of us also includes me.

Technically I ought to do a recap of everything I’ve been up to in the past several months, but I don’t really feel like it quite yet, so instead I shall share a short little story about Azzie.

Azzie is sixteen years old, with long black hair that tends to mat if you look at him cross-eyed (naturally, since he HATES being brushed with the fury of a thousand angry suns) and big round eyes and the brain power of your average overripe avocado. He is cute, but oh, he is dim. Here is an example.

Our house is 100 or so years old, and as is the way of old houses, some of the doors don’t quite hang true anymore. The closet in the office is one such door and we gave up long ago on trying to keep it shut. The latch doesn’t actually latch; the door itself just swings slowly open. The only thing that keeps it (mostly) closed is the fact that the door to the office itself opens into the door to the closet, so since we keep *that* door open all the time, that at least keeps the closet door mostly shut. There is still, however, always a bit of a gap. It is important that you keep this in mind, that there is a gap. Plus neither door is heavy and the cats all figured out that they could go in and out at will, just by pawing at the closet door.

All the cats, that is, but Azzie.

I was downstairs dealing with laundry and heard him start to holler. He’s gotten noisier as he gets older, so at first I thought it was just his usual ‘where are you?’ yelling, but then I realized it was getting more insistent so I came upstairs and went looking for him.

And by now possibly you have figured out where I found him. Somehow he got himself into the closet. But then, unlike every single other cat who has ever lived in this house, he couldn’t figure out how to get back out. So I saw him, through the gap, yelling at me, because he was stuck.

I reached out and poked at the door. It swung open with the power of one finger. Clearly he could have managed it himself if he’d tried.

Poor little Azzie. Sometimes the world is awfully hard for those who have very little brain.

Posting for Horrordailies. Boo.

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T is for Travel

The week has been far busier than I had anticipated, and today capped it off. I had an all day meeting in Merced, plus a ton of follow-up work that needed to be done once I got home from the meeting. So at this point I’m pretty much wiped out and really looking forward to this month being over.

On the plus side, a trip to Merced means I get to pass my two favorite billboards on Highway 99 – the one advertising headstones, and the one for a furniture store that proudly proclaims “Come check out our stool samples.”. Some day I am going to pull over on the side of the freeway and get a picture of that one. And also on the way home, I was toodling along one of the back roads out of the city, and happened to glance to my right and was a bit startled to see camels. Or maybe dromedaries? Whatever it is that has two humps, there they were, ambling lazily around in a paddock. See, sometimes there are perks to business travel.

Anyway, in more excited travel news, tomorrow morning I’m off to Monterey with a friend to go to the Knit Wear Love (opens pdf) retreat in Monterey, and I won’t be back until late Monday. We get to take classes with Clara Parkes, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Fiona Ellis, and Amy Herzog. For those of you non-knitters, I realize those names mean nothing to you. Just substitute those four names with some high profile names from your hobby / sport of choice, and then you might get a small understanding of why there was a lot of excited squealing when we got notification we’d been able to get in.

We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, and this week there’ve been emails flying back and forth as we try to figure out what to pack for the trip, and other critical logistics. No, I’m not talking about what to wear (my intention is to grab all my knitting-related nerd shirts and some pants and call it good). I’m talking about the *important* stuff; namely:

  • What yarn stores will we be going to on the drive down.

  • What knitting projects are we bringing with us.

Alas, as I write this, I have yet to pack a single thing. I have tracked down a sock-in-progress project, and found a pattern or two on Ravelry that might work, but that’s as far as anything’s gone. Possibly I am starting to panic just a wee bit. Possibly. But I am good at quick packing – years of business travel trained me well on that one. And we are doing a yarn crawl on the way down so if I, for some bizarre reason, fail to bring something important for the classes, I will have ample opportunity to pick it up on the way.

And now, as the official end of April (at least here in California; can’t speak for the other time zones) creeps ever closer, I think it’s time to sign off and go to bed.

The letter T is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

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L is for Lace

When I start a lace project, I usually get really obsessive about it and finish it pretty quickly. Except when something goes horribly wrong, and then the project goes into time out and sometimes never gets touched again (Heere There Be Dragone, I’m looking at you).

I started my most recent project back in March, eagerly diving into lace after spending February knitting nothing but test projects and dishcloths. I picked Regrowth as the pattern primarily because 1) it is really pretty, and 2) it is adjustable at every step, and I had a skein of gradient yarn that I wanted to make the most of.

Things were going along swimmingly until I was in the final section of the project – the edging chart, at which point I had a few billion stitches on the needles. Okay, possibly I exaggerate; it was only a couple hundred, but it sure *felt* like a few billion by that point. And then disaster struck. My interchangeable needles unscrewed just enough so that the stitches caught on the join, and as a result I dropped a whole bunch of stitches. Worse, when I tried to pick them back up again, a couple of them laddered down. I tried undoing just that small section a few rows down, but that only made things worse. By the time I finally gave up, I’d come to the realization that the only way to fix it was to unravel at least six rows back; maybe more. I stuffed the project into my bag and decided it (and I) needed a time out.

This month, however, a friend and I have come up with our next knit-along project (another Niebling pattern that is likely going to involve no small amount of swearing due to the size and complexity). I knew I really wanted to get the current lace project finished before I cast on for a new one. So I finally pulled it out of the bag and grimly spent several hours undoing row after row (final count – 8 rows, several thousand stitches) until I’d gotten back to a point where everything was okay. Ugh.

Thankfully, though, once I slogged through the worst of it, finishing it up was quick. I did a quick block (ha, ‘quick’) tonight with judicious use of the blow dryer because due to the fact that our spare room is occupied by kittens, I have nowhere with enough floor space to block a project of this size that is safe from certain grey cats who think it is oodles of fun to flop around on my lace and pull pins out with their teeth.

So here it is, in all its gradient glory.

And here is a closer shot that shows the actual motifs in the pattern.


I had a rough idea of how much yarn each row would take and by the end of it, I was weighing the remainder every 2 rows, so I could make sure I’d have enough to finish. As it was, after I bound off, on a whim I decided to weigh what was left. Less than 1 gram. I’m not sure I could have cut it any closer if I’d tried.

The letter L is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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X is for Xeriscape

A couple years ago we ripped out the front yard and replaced it all with drought tolerant plants and a couple citrus trees, and a whole lot of mulch. And by ‘we’, I mean we hired someone to come in and design it and then do all the work, because as I have noted previously, yardwork is not our thing.

I freely admit that one of the primary reasons for doing this was sheer laziness. A grass-free front yard requires far less maintenance, and no more lawn meant we didn’t have to keep remembering to drag out the stupid sprinkler and keep the grass (or rather, the weeds) green primarily so the neighbors wouldn’t hate us for having a crappy yard. Now, with the blissful lack of lawn, and the drip system installed, mostly all the plants just sit there and do their thing and sometimes if we’re lucky we get some fruit out of the deal (although I suspect it will be a few more years before the citrus trees really start to produce). But the other reason we did it is because drought-tolerant yards require far less water and it has been clear for years now that water is one of those things we really needed to find ways to conserve.

Should you not already be aware, California is currently in a serious drought. The annual rainfall has been dwindling for years, the reservoirs are scarily low, and whoever thought it was a good idea to encourage everyone to have water-greedy lawns in the middle of a desert climate was an idiot in the first place. So it has been encouraging to see that slowly, more and more people are ripping out their front lawns and replacing them with far more drought tolerant landscaping. It is nice to see, as I travel around my city doing errands or heading to work, that new little patches of native plants are starting to spring up.

I know we have a long way to go, yet. There are far too many people who cling stubbornly to their lush green lawns (because denial is a powerful, powerful thing, unfortunately). But it is happening. And it is nice to see that more and more people are finally catching on that xeriscaping can be a beautiful, wonderful thing, and that water is not an infinite resource.

The letter X is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

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N is for Noodles

Most of the time no one ever comments on anyone else’s lunch at work. People just tend to prep and stir and microwave whatever they’ve brought or picked up at a local shop, and eat without even noticing what anyone else has. But today as I pulled my lunch out of the fridge, a couple coworkers stopped what they were doing commented. Ooh, that’s so pretty. What is it?

That’s because my lunch was one of these, which we prepped yesterday afternoon. Layered all together in a jar, especially if you try to pick the more colorful veggies, it’s definitely an eyecatching lunch. And more importantly, it’s extremely tasty.

We’ve made them a number of times before – or perhaps I should say that we’ve made something similar to them. Pretty much the only part of the recipe we follow consistently is the peanut sauce (except for the sesame seeds because those just seem unnecessarily fussy). The rest – eh. Totally up to interpretation. Whole wheat noodles instead of soba. A sprinkle of peanuts instead of the edamame or the crunchy noodles. Skip the raw onions because neither of us is a fan. Whatever’s in season at the farmer’s market, instead of sticking to just the veggies listed in the actual recipe.

This week’s version includes shredded carrots, peanuts, chopped yellow bell pepper, and chunks of sugar snap peas. During the winter, sometimes I add shredded cabbage, or even some lightly steamed broccoli, and then heat it up before eating. But when the temperature is soaring over 90 degrees outside, and the farmers market has new things popping up on the tables every weekend, I prefer to eat it cold.

The letter N is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

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J is for Jars

In our house, you cannot drink anything cold out of a regular water glass. This is because in our house, we have Rupert, a determined grey tabby who has made it his mission to tip over any glass of cold liquid he can find. And it’s not as if he’s just trying to drink out of the cup and it tips; no, he will sneak up, hook his paw over one edge, and deliberately tip it over, just to watch the mess .

This has led me to a continual search for ‘Rupert-safe cups’ – basically any drinking vessel with a sturdy lid, in which cold liquid will be safe even if overturned.

As a canner, I own a rather large collection of glass jars, in all shapes and sizes. So I was thrilled when I discovered that canning jar manufacturers have come out with screw-on lids that include a hole into which you can place a straw, essentially allowing you to repurpose canning jars into trendy ‘hipster’ glasses. Of course, glass jars are heavy, and cold liquid leads to condensation, which leads to the need for a coaster for the jar. Also, a heavy, wet, glass jar is prone to slipping when you try to grab it off the table.

Pint-closeupSo back in February, in the midst of my Dishcloth-a-Day personal challenge, I noodled around with some dishcloth cotton and came up with these. I started first with the quart jar size, because that’s what I happened to be drinking out of at the time, and then made some adjustments and did the smaller pint jar size next.

Over the past month or so, I’ve had a coworker test drive the smaller version for me, and had a couple friends do some quick tech edits of the pattern itself. I’ve also been using both cozies on a regular basis, making sure that they worked the way they were intended.

Pint-handleshotOverall, I’m pretty happy with the cozies. The ribbing allows the cozy to fit snugly around the jar, while the handle provides some much-needed stability when you’re picking it up. The cozy is knit all in one piece; so there is no seaming, and the entire thing is knit in the round. Made out of cotton, they’re easy to toss into the washer and dryer, ready to be used whenever you’re in the mood for a cold (or hot) beverage. And bonus, it means I get to have a big glass of ice cold water near me at all times, without having to worry about tracking down a coaster, and also without having to worry about chasing off a persistent grey tabby cat.

Want to make some Hipster Jar Cozies for yourself? As of today, the pattern is now available for purchase and download via Ravelry. Enjoy!

The letter J is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

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