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.
Regrowth-Full

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

Regrowth-Closeup

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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W is for Waylaid

I often make a lot of plans for what I am going to accomplish in an evening after work, or on a weekend.

And then I come home and I sit down at the computer to do a quick catch-up on my email, or on the couch to do a few rows of knitting and…I am waylaid.

Sometimes it is only one cat.Waylaid5

Usually it is two.
2015-04-25 Waylaid1
2015-04-25 Waylaid2
Waylaid4

And every so often, it is three.

2015-Waylaid3

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

Posted in Baking, Cats | 3 Comments

K is for Kittens

It has been a really long week, and I am dealing with some frustrating things at work.

So it is really nice to be able to come home, go into the spare room, sit down on the floor, and play with these.

Kittenpile

They all have their eyes open now. When they’re awake, they are constantly active – squirming around in a pile, or in the case of a few of the orange ones, shakily exploring further and further away from the safety of their mom.

rufus1

This little one in particular has been extremely exploratory. He is usually the one furthest from the nest, and of all the others, he’s the one who seems the happiest with being picked up and snuggled. Which is good. Especially this week.

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

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Z is for Zombies

First, I will state the obvious. I am a fan of zombies. I like (mostly) the entire genre. And it is really not a huge surprise that they’ve become so popular. Zombies cross every boundary – they can be any race, any religion, any gender, any species. Anything that can die can become a zombie.

There are, of course, a lot of different interpretations of zombies – from the mind-controlled not-really-dead ilk, to the rage-virus type (which technically isn’t a zombie, since those infected weren’t actually dead, but eh, I’ll let it slide) to the most common iteration of ‘dead person reanimates due to and wants to eat your brains’. It doesn’t really matter *how* the zombies came about; what is most important is that underlying commonality. They were dead. Now they are ‘alive’, in some form or another, and without proper control, they are very, very dangerous.

There have been a few recent shows on TV whose premise relies on zombies. Let’s start with Walking Dead.

We started watching it, when it first came out, and I admit, the first season was terrific – the story arc following this desperate band of survivors trying to figure out what to do with themselves, now that the world as they knew it is over. The zombies themselves primarily serve as background material throughout the show. The rag tag band of plucky survivors could just as easily have to battle giant mutant killer bunnies, or oncoming swarms of rabid hamsters. It’s just in this case, it’s zombies, and so they have to work around that.

The problem I have with the show, and the reason why eventually I stopped watching it, is because after a while it stopped being a show about people working to survive a desperate situation, and instead morphed into just another a show about people being horrible to each other, with the occasional zombie thrown in for dramatic tension. We stuck it out through the second season, but by about midway through the third, we were done. Even zombies couldn’t make it appealing anymore.

In contrast, and at the urging of a friend, we watched something from across the pond called In the Flesh, which takes place after a zombie apocalypse has happened, and after a cure (of sorts) has been discovered. In this case, the viewer is experiencing the plot from the point of view as the former zombies. As is often the case in shows from the BBC, the characters, and the plot, were allowed to develop slowly. If people were being horrible to each other it is because there were good, understandable reasons (unlike in Walking Dead), based on what had happened during the early days of the zombie uprising. The show allows the characters to work through all the emotions of having to now reconcile and reintegrate with people they had once been fighting, such that even when horrible things happen, you as a viewer can still sympathize with the people doing those acts. The last episode of the first season was done so beautifully that I was crying by the end. Naturally this show has not lasted nearly as long as Walking Dead, because alas, people being horrible to each other for no apparent reason always manages to be more popular (see also pretty much every ‘reality’ show on TV).

And finally, I want to mention a brand new show that is currently in its first season – iZombie. Technically it’s based on a graphic novel series, although having read the first book in that series, I will state for the record that the TV show is a bazillion times better. It’s made by the same people who did Veronica Mars, so if you liked that show (we did, a lot), you’ll likely love iZombie. The basic premise is that a young woman has been turned into a zombie, so she ends up working in a morgue (to gain access to her primary food source, of course), and also helps solve crime. Since she works in a morgue, and because she is not the only zombie, there are occasionally people being horrible to people (because that is usually how someone ends up murdered), but that is only a minor backdrop to the rest of the plot.

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

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U is for University-ish

One of the awesome things about the internet (all hail the internet) is that it opens up all sorts of opportunities to take classes online. Occasionally I sign up for something that would be useful for work, or because it seems like something I *ought* to learn how to do to enhance my existing skills, but lately I’ve been signing up for MOOCs, purely for the fun of it. The best part about them is that you can take the tests, or not, based on how you feel. You can cram all the coursework into one week if you don’t have time to do it spread out. Your level of involvement in the discussions is entirely up to you (and if you don’t post a single response, no one will care). And if life gets in the way (like with the Mobile Game Programming course I had to sadly let slide a couple months ago), eh, you just stop logging in.

In January I went through a really interesting course called Introduction to Forensic Science, which was offered by the University of Strythclyde via FutureLearn. Over the course of six weeks the instructors posted lectures (via video) and links to articles and other related reading material, and hosted lively discussions. Each week they provided a high level overview of some segment of forensic science (which is, of course, far more time consuming, and far less accurate than CSI and all of those other crime-of-the-week shows would have you believe), and throughout the course, we were also considering one particular murder case, and using what we learned to assess what we could now know about the evidence collected. As I’ve got a science background (as rusty as it is), most of what was covered wasn’t difficult for me (although I admit to being surprised by how many people seemed to struggle with DNA – didn’t everyone learn about Mendel and his peas back in grade school?). And what I appreciated most about the course is that the case study they used did *not* have a clear cut verdict. Our class poll was pretty evenly split; at the end, the ‘guilty’ votes only won out by a percentage point or two over the ‘not guilty’ votes.

Currently I am taking two separate ethics classes via EdX (a rather amusing coincidence, as I signed up for them at two completely separate times). The first is The Ethics of Eating (put on by a couple of philosophy professors via Cornell University), and if the first week is any indication, it’s going to be an interesting class, since we’ve already tackled Food, Inc. (hint – the film has a NOT REMOTELY SUBTLE agenda), and read an article that, if I hadn’t already been extremely uncomfortable with how they were prepared in the first place, would have been more than enough to convince me to never eat a lobster again. The second course is an Introduction to Bioethics, put on by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown, and it also looks like it’s going to be really interesting. As of the first week we’ve discussed bodily autonomy; the slippery slope ethical discussions around patients making decisions to refuse treatment without which they will die, and the issue of doctors who do (or do not) honor those requests, and from the syllabus, it looks like we’ll be tackling some even more contentious issues later on.

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

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F is for Focus

I picked up my new glasses last Tuesday.

Normally when I get new glasses there’s a brief moment when my eyes try to work out that something is new, and then it’s all good. These, however, are bifocals. So the transition has been a lot more rough. Do I look straight ahead? Do I look down through the lower half that is meant to be used for close-up work? Which one should I be using for when I’m on the computer. How about for when I’m knitting. Or trying to read music.

I was really, really aware of the bifocals the first couple days (driving after switching to bifocals is certainly an interesting experience). At this point, however, most of the time I don’t even think about them anymore. But every once in a while, like during tonight’s rehearsal, boy am I reminded that I have to look at things in a new way.

– – – – –

Mom and kittens are settling in just fine, by the way. It’s clear Ruby isn’t going to transition to lap fungus right away, but she leans into our hands for head rubs and neck scritches and she deliberately shifts her body so she can get closer to the front of her box for more attention. So it’s really only a matter of time.

I set up a Facebook page for them, so you can keep up with how they’re doing here.

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

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