Saturday, November 19, 2011

Animal behavior, human version

I have made some interesting behavioral observations recently.

1) The giant leaf blower is FUN.
2) It's almost as Zen as raking leaves, more so if your brand of Zen involves having a roaring two-cycle engine strapped to your back, jetpack style.
3) There is a sense of omnipotent power in moving leaves around without actually touching them
4) Those who usually operate this piece of equipment make it seem like a mighty and difficult chore, which requires several weeks of steeling oneself to face, is always accompanied by much groaning and weeping and gnashing of teeth, and results in extended recuperation time involving the TV or better yet, napping.
5) Perhaps point 4 is designed to steer us away from the fact of points 1-3, in the hopes that we will not catch on.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Raveling, raveling

I have finally gotten around to really using Ravelry. I decided it was time to do a stash purge, since I am way beyond SABLE and would like to have a little more breathing space around here. So I pulled out the sock yarn bins (yes, plural, my name is fuzzyfrog and I am a yarn ho), grabbed the camera, and went to town photographing yarn. I discovered that I totally lack any stylistic capabilities, and that once you get started, it's hard to stop...

"just one more skein, please, and then I'll stop, really." (mmm, Schaefer Lola, sadly discontinued...)

But the socks is done and I'm in the process of adding it all into my stash area. Next I'll do the laceweight, then the Noro (a category all its own!), then the sweater amounts, and finally, the WIPS. Maybe I'll get a wild hair and actually rip some of the poor devils out of their misery. I have somehow lost my enthusiasm for the slip-stitch cat blanket knitted out of acrylic mohair-y stuff. I think it last saw action in 2003?

One thing Rav does is really rev up my enthusiasm for all things fiber, especially knitting. I spent a whole lotta time at the wheel during the fall and not so much knitting, and have another big spinning project to get done, but I am rediscovering the joy and meditation of the needles rather than the wheel. Funny how that goes round; gotta jump on it when it does.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

fat tuesday

Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent -- a time for reflection and quiet, and of pondering deeper things. I am not sure what I plan to do for this year, not sure where the journey will take me. Last year, I had some incredible experiences during Lent, very private journeys that really rocked me to the core, while at the same time giving me hope and direction in a very difficult time. Things are better and worse this year, and while the only constant in life is change, I'd love to have stability and a measure of security. Maybe in the middle of this state of change and growth and flux, this Lent will lead me to the anchor line, to the firm path ahead. Maybe I should try to emulate these holly trees -- bend without breaking under the load of snow, remain green even in the deep of winter, and when cut down, give rise to four more saplings in the place of one tree. And as nothing remains the same, the instability cannot stay forever. I have faith that something better will come.

Meanwhile, tonight we are going to eat pancakes. Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Monday, February 15, 2010

snow event(s)

Wow... that's about all that can be said about the past couple of weeks around here. Snow and more snow -- more than I've seen since we moved here from Mass. in '03. Beautiful drifts, piles of snow everywhere. But we don't seem to do the snow thing very well here in the DC metro, as the rest of the world now knows from the endless news reports about "Snowmageddon". And in a two week span, the guys only went to school for a day and a half! At least none of us had to go anywhere, so we just holed up and did a lot of sledding and igloo-building. Sometimes I really do love working from home. And I have to give it up for Comcast, who kept the internets humming during the whole thing, at least for me.
Below is the back yard in the beginning stages of Snowpocalypse #2; the light was eerie and gorgeous at about 7 am, before the blizzard really started.
But there has been a flurry (ha!) of activity around here indoors, too. I used two whole weekends at home to clean out boxes of junk from the storage closet (biochem notes from grad school, anyone?) and to help the guys find the floors in their rooms again. The fiber room is next, and then the bedroom. Clutter makes me nuts, but I seem to be my own worst enemy in that department. I leave things out because I plan to get to them next, and then n life happens, and they remain out as a constant reminder. This is fine if it's one or two small projects, but it's easy to let stuff pile up, and then it starts to nag like an old codger. And some days it seems like I'm running a nursing home of whiners around here, with all the unfinished business lying around... but that's a post in and of itself.
Spinning has continued apace, as well. The huge blue basket of loveliness that I posted about a little while back has become this:
I spun the singles on a Woollee Winder, and they were full... but neglected to remember that even the mighty Lendrum plying head might have a problem with all that yarn...(hark back to the 70's -- can you say "rollin' a fatty"?) It just barely fit, and ended up being just over 1000 yards of something between laceweight and fine DK. Absolutely gorgeous! I am inordinately pleased with myself, since this is one of those projects than turned out even better than I'd imagined it would. The wool is Targhee or Dorset, and the mohair is local from a now-departed goat named Jasmine. I dyed all of it in batches in the crock pot, then carded it so that the colors graded from light aqua to purplish-blue. It looks like the sea in the Bahamas, and the angelina sparkles look like sunlight flashing on the waves. Here are a couple of shots for scale:
Hangin' loose on the coat rack... it was perfectly balanced, too!! And on the laptop, for further scale.

But not to hog all the glory and fun. The animals were fun to watch as they all dealt with the weather in their own ways. The dogs were ecstatic with the snow, and many icicles were eaten;
Happy mastiffs! And the boys spent most of their days off outside doing things like this:

Yes, there is a six-foot-tall fourteen-year-old in there somewhere.
Jake, the boss cat, still likes snow at age 16, but preferred to spend his time in front of the wood stove, or hanging with his buds on the sofa. Buncha couch potatoes. Good thing the sofa is long.

Jake actually sharing the beanbag with Willie, who is really stressed out by all the snow, as you can tell from his posture here to the right.... and below...
And the mysterious Ellie found an elusive patch of sunlight on the kitchen counter and deigned to pose.
Willie says, "Me, too!"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cruciferous goodness

Mmmm... I made the BEST dish the other day... a friend gave me a seasoning packet a while back for gobi, a spicy Indian dish made with cauliflower. I finally decided to make it, got everything assembled and was at the point where the spices needed to be added to the skillet, and opened the cardboard outer wrapper to find taht there was no spice pack inside! So I checked the list of ingredients, and went to the spice cabinet to sort of wing it with what I had on hand. I added curry powder too, which wasn't on the list, but sounded tasty. It turned out fabulous! The curry may have nullified the intended flavors of the dish, but it tasted so good that it didn't matter.

Here's the recipe:

1 large head cauliflower, cut into small flowerets
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh sliced ginger (about one large chunk, peeled)
1/4 c. chopped green chilies (one small can)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped (i used about half a pint of cherry tomatoes)

1/2 - 1 t. cumin
1/2 - 1 t. turmeric
1/4 - 1/2 t. red chili powder
1 T. minced onion
2 t. curry powder
(these are estimates -- I'd say do them to taste)

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add ginger, green chilies, tomatoes and stir for 1 minute. Add spices and stir for 2 minutes more. Add cauliflower and cook approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Can add 1/2 c. water at end for extra sauce, but I didn't.

Delicious! And it's one of those meals where you can hear your body going "Ahhh" when you're done, from the goodness and curry heat. I had it all week for lunch over mixed brown and white rice, and found myself looking forward to lunch every day. It would be really good with a little farmer's cheese or some other mild white cheese on the side.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A spinning world

It's been quiet around here during the holidays and since, and I've finally made time to get into the wool room and try to impose some order. I came to the conclusion that I did indeed have a boatload of fiber, and that it was really fun to use the carder to make more. This leads to a dilemma, however -- fluffy fiber takes up more room than fleece, and the ramifications of this on the already-tight storage situation was becoming dire. What to do? Well, it means more spinning is in order.

I'd been neglecting my poor wheel for ages, since it was hidden behind the loom, but before Christmas I moved it out of the living room, uncovering the wheel. I've been trying to make a point of spinning a little bit each evening, with the goal of spinning a pound a month this year. But choices, choices -- what to spin first?

This basket o'heavenly blue had been sitting around for some time, winking and fluttering at me, so it was the first to come down for a little Lendrum lovin':
Dorset (or could be Suffolk, I am not positive) dyed in the wool in the crock pot, then blended with mohair dyed the same way. Both fibers (if it is Dorset) are from local animals. A little angelina in different blues/purples makes it sparkle like the ocean on a late, sunny afternoon. This picture is washed out a bit, but the batts grade from aquamarine through blue to purple. I'm splitting them in half and spinning them in order, and plan to ply the two halves to keep the colors together for the most part, but to allow some barberpoling where they meet. It's just lovely to spin, and I'm spinning it long draw to keep it woolly and lofty. There's nothing like spining from your own batts -- they are so soft and draft like a dream.

This was spun between Thanksgiving and Christmas to try and meet a Christmas deadline... the spinning got done, but not the knitting. It's fur from my good friend's dog, and she asked if I could knit her son something from it. Miss Heidi (the dog) is and Akita mix, and this is both undercoat and guard hairs. I'd never spun dog hair before, and decided to just grab handfuls and spin it up on the chunky side. It turned out much better than I expected, and I'm going to knit Thorpe, an earflap hat. It should be perfect for keeping his ears warm though the Maine winter.
Nice and even, although very fuzzy, but soft and not scratchy. I am pleased.
This is superwash merino in my own colorway that has undergone a number of name changes... but thanks to my lovely guild friends, it is now called "Clown Barf". I was SOO tempted to order myself a Threadless tee shirt for Christmas that had a clown barfing a rainbow on it...
This is an experiment that I've been wanting to do for a long time. I took about 8 ounces of Suffolk fleece and dyed it in a roaster pan in the oven with a bunch of different colors of dye squirted on. Then I separated the colors as best I could, hand carded them, and spun them all into one long single that I Navajo plied. It's my Noro-esque yarn, and it really turned out well. I've wanted to spin COLOR ever since I started spinning (see clown barf above), and this is how I wanted to do it. It is a bit lumpy in spots (because my hand carding sucks, I am impatient), but it turned out exactly as I planned, and that makes me happy.
It's a worsted weight, and I haven't measured yardage yet. I am reaaly looking forward to playing with this techniques some more, especially with thinking of each batch of fiber as an individual unit of colors and how they will blend together. I have a bunch more of this fiber (this Suffolk is from a local farmer... and it was all free!) that I dyed in different colors to play with like this too. Now all I need is time.
This is the mohair/wool laceweight I whined about in an earlier post, but I am very happy with after all. 660 yards of creamsicle bliss. I am waiting for the right pattern to jump out and holler for this stuff.

And finally, the end of the fiber parade... this is the last of more than two pounds of Dorset I dyed and spun for a lady who was making a blanket out of it. She's a good friend of the farmer I got this from, and she didn't bat an eye when I told her what it would cost. The blanket was for the farmer, and it is stunning. I'm glad I got to see it while I was still spinning, because it gave me the incentive to finish! The only things that kept me going here are the fact that the farmer is a great fellow, and I love the colors. The money was nice too, and I appreciate it, but I am not sure I am going to spin on consignment again, at least for a while or for a project this big.

My next big project after the blue heavenly batts is a Suffolk fleece I got at MDS&W that I dyed with black walnuts and am carding through a second time to mix the colors better. I am thinking of knitting a sweater for myself out of it -- plan to browse through "A Fine Fleece" later tonight and look for inspiration. If I had to pick only one book of patterns, that would be it. I could knit every single item from it, and I've never found another pattern book that I could say that about.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Golden slumbers

One of the highlights of the year around here is the county fair. It's a small county, so the fair is small too. The midway is, of course, my boys' favorite part, especially the ping-pong ball toss game. You know it -- a table full of glass bowls, and you toss the ball to try and get it into the bowl. The prize is a goldfish, or sometimes a lizard, and you see kids and parents carrying little plastic bags around the fairgrounds with the hapless goldfish bouncing around inside. It's not a surprise that we've never had one survive longer than a day or two, even if we were very careful and had the game guy "hold" our fish for us until we were ready to go home. This has never been a bad thing, because I've never been a fan of plain old goldfish. I've had lots of fish, but always more exotic stuff, and every time we won a goldfish it was not exactly a great prize in my book -- just something else to feed and take care of. But because my younger son is a midway barker's dream and is a pretty crack hand at the ping-pong ball toss, we've had more than our share of fair goldfish. Finally, this summer, Nick won a goldfish at the midway, who we named Chaz, and who miraculously is still alive. Then at the fair this fall, we added two more, Rocket and Bob and they are also thriving. To be fair, he also won Patch, but he only lasted about a week. Still, a seventy-five percent survival rate is phenomenal when you've been zero-for-howevermany. We even went out and splurged for a real aquarium with a filter, since the fishbowl got too nasty too fast.

I live with lot of animals. I've learned to understand what they want most of the time -- when they need to go out, when they arere hungry, or want attention. The dogs and cats know when it's dinner time, and at bedtime they follow me to the bedroom and jockey for position. But the point is, they know; whether because it's dark outside, or from my actions, they have a cue that lets them know we're headed for the barn. But I have never had a non-mammal that did this, that knew when it was time for bed. Until I watched Chaz, Bob and Rocket last night.

I turned off most of the lights, except for their aquarium light, and worked at my desk for a while. When I went to turn off their light, this is where they were:

They were just sitting there, on the bottom. The two little catfish that share their tank were nearby, also just hanging out on the bottom (which is what they do most of the time, since they're catfish, but hey, they weren't moving around either). From left to right: Chaz, Bob (bright orange), and Rocket (white). Aren't they handsome? And then it occurred to me what they were doing.

They'd put themselves to bed.

They weren't moving, and didn't budge when I got up in their faces with the camera. I'd noticed that in the morning when I come out to turn on the lights and feed them, they're ususally in that corner near the bottom, but I'd never seen this before. And as I sit here typing this, I've been watching them swim around, but now it's 9:30 and getting near bedtime (we are an early-to-bed bunch for the most part), and they are in their corner again.

This just makes me smile. I'll never badmouth plain old goldfish again.