Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What are YOU doing New Year's Eve?

Unlike many people I'm not going to use the last post of 2008 to review the year's highlights. Most of it's there for anyone interested enough to scroll back and read.  Suffice to say that 2008 was substantially better than 2007 (indeed it would be hard for it NOT to be) and I have high hopes for 2009.

I've been running around and having fun with friends I don't see very often (more on that another day), but although I love 'em dearly, the New Years Eve bar scene is just not for me anymore.  So after an active day I was happy to wish them a good evening out on the town, and head back to my tiny apartment for a quiet New Year's Eve at home.  I have a stack of DVDs, warm flannel pajamas, wine & tasty snacks, and if I get real wild I might even bake some cookies and paint my toenails. Damn near perfect.

So what are you doing New Year's Eve?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

So about the soup...

What's not to love about about this combination?

I'd actually heard of beer and cheese soup and tried a few different versions before making it myself.  In the last few weeks I've gotten a sudden urge to cook, and rediscovered my crockpot, so I use that, but I'm sure you could make it on a stovetop also.  There is actually more in the soup than just beer and cheese, although not much!  So here it is:

Beer & Cheese Soup

1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 can (14 oz) chicken broth
1 cup beer
6 ounces American cheese, shredded or diced
6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup milk

Combine the onion, garlic, thyme, chicken broth and beer in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Turn to high and stir in cheeses, paprika, and milk.  Continue to cook on High 45 to 60 minutes or until soup is hot and cheeses are melted.

That's all there is to it! Goes great with rye bread.  Mmmm.. hot cheesy oniony goodness! Perfection on a cold rainy day, I can't think of anything more it could need except...



Ohmigawd I am SO making this again in a few days!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dreaming of a Wet Christmas?

Apparently this year I fell into the "nice" category, Christmas morning arrived and no lumps of coal were discovered in stockings, nor was there any sign of reindeer poop. (As for other animals, as usual around here.)

In fact, this year I truly scored, starting with a most marvelous set of Knitpicks cable needles, reported to be the bestest cable needles evah!  An item I could have used during the holiday stealth knitting (more on that another day) but will definitely be putting to use soon. To add more joy to my knitting experience I now have a brand new digital scale.  I'm sure some people use these for weighing food, or calculating postage, but in a knitter's mind this is for weighing yarn. This marvelous thing will help ensure that my skeins are evenly divided, tell me how much yarn I have left over, and how much yarn a project really used up. If there is any one knitting toy tool I could have asked for, this is it.  You can keep your ball winders, swifts, etc. I have my digital scale and life is good.

I also received a nifty device that when affixed properly to the outside of one of my windows, will tell me just how freakin' cold it really is out there. I have already decided to place it on a window by the head of my bed.  That way I can tell if it's even worth leaving the warmth of my bed, never mind leaving the house.  Sensible, eh?  And just in case I should be foolish enough to brave the cold of the living room outdoors, I have a nice new navy blue fleece pullover to use as one of my eleventy bajillion layers of clothing.  (Seriously - the "layered look"? I totally have it goin' on. High fashion baby!)

While others got a White Christmas, Southern California got a Wet Christmas, which along with high winds and swell, on my tiny island means that what little tourism traffic we might get on the holiday was nonexistent. I zipped across town early in the day to take care of my pet-sitting duties (or would that be doodies?) and observed a couple of restaurants open, always a liquor store, and a few bars, but other than that, the sidewalks were rolled up for the day.  Not a bad thing really.

Christmas day passed by quietly and pleasantly, watching tv and finishing the last of the holiday knitting projects, while kitties napped and a pot of beer & cheese soup simmered, and outdoors, rain fell periodically through the day.  At the end of the day, the soup was united with a fresh baked loaf of rye bread and a green salad to make one of the best Christmas dinners I can remember.

Hopefully this weekend I can deliver that last little holiday knit gift and finally share the details and photos of this year's holiday stealth knitting! As for now, I think the leftover soup is calling me...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Christmas Wish

I've never been fond of traditional Christmas carols, for some reason they just don't bring out the warm fuzzy feelings in me like they seem to do for others. And the way Christmas music is relentlessly played on every radio station and in every opportunity for the entire month of December genuinely drives me batshit. I have an old Celtic Christmas CD that I find appealing and listen to that instead, along with a few new tunes that have caught my interest.

Earlier today I was at a friend's house, visiting with his cat while he visits his family far away over the Christmas holiday.  Standing in his home I'm surrounded by reminders how dissimilar we are, and thinking again about the lengths we will go to in our efforts to maintain a friendship, finding a common ground despite our differences. And one of those more recent holiday songs came to mind:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Silver and Gold

Yesterday's planned blog post was rescheduled due to my distraction at the sudden arrival of...

Christmas Cupcakes!

These aren't just any old cupcakes, mind you - these are Santa's favorites,

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

Let's just say that once these bad boys arrived, we needed a little private time together, 'kay? (The word is "mouthgasm")

This past weekend I received an early Christmas present from a new friend, someone I connected with through the wide and ranging blogiverse.  She found a unusual treasure she thought I might appreciate, packaged it up with another little booklet and a pin bearing her "signature symbol", and here it is:

McCall's Needlework & Crafts - Spring/Summer 1962

Proclaiming itself to be the "Biggest Spring/Summer Issue Ever!" and full of patterns "Fun to Knit for the Whole Family!" along with "Helpful Household Hints", and ads that just make me giggle.  I'm betting if you already passed through that era in your adult years this isn't quite so funny, but for those of us who missed it, this is great stuff. 

Of course, at this point a lot of the fashions pictured have either come back in style or have achieved that oh so fabulous "retro" status. Plenty of these items could be knit and worn today and look just fine, if not downright stylish, I fully recognize that.  But it's the magazine photos themselves that crack me up. 

Here's a few of my favorites:

Cute dresses but lordy I do not want to know what that man is doing or why he is dressed as a genie.  If there were a police officer in the photo we'd think he was "assuming the position" but otherwise? He's on his way home from a costume party and stopped to...nevermind. Just get your three wishes granted and move along.

Okay - so who ever does THIS with a friend watching?  And fully dressed?

"Marge, I told you not to take that last slice of cake!"
"Oh shut up Betty, I'm feeling bloated and I'm sure it's just water."

And one of my favorites, 'cause anyone's who's traveled by air in the last few years can get a kick out of it.  Please note however, that all these ladies have their shoes on.

"Miss, did you purchase this ginormous bottle of Chanel No. 5 at the duty-free shop?"
"Oh that little bitty thing?  I forgot all about it!"

In the same mail delivery I also received one of those family holiday newsletters, the kind that usually just either bore or annoy me.  But this one was from a very old friend, someone whose life was intertwined with mine for many years and during that time we shared a lot of laughter, and no small amount of tears.  Our lives took very different paths and I think we struggled to understand each other's choices, even as we accepted and defended them to anyone else who dared to question.  Receiving that letter brought back so many memories, and as I read her words and saw photos of their family as they've grown, I realized how rare that is, to survive the years and distance of miles apart, and still keep some fragile connection, a precious essence of friendship. 

Something to ponder as I look toward a new year, and new choices.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I guess I just have to do it

So what I'm getting from the response to my last post is basically this...y'all really do wanna see me make an idjit of myself.  I shoulda known.  If there's anything that'll draw folks out more that a basket of kittens, it's that! Okay, well I've made an idiot of myself before when it was worth it. Life is just too short. And besides...if I do this and it works, I'm thinkin' you're going to try it too!

A few years ago a friend and co-worker was going through an excruciatingly bad time in her life - identity theft, a car accident, a horrible boss - the hits just kept on comin', one after another.  Prior to those days she was such a different person and as a former comedy writer, she knew how to find the humor in just about anything and kept everyone around her laughing.  But when things started to turn from bad to worse she had a hard time finding much to laugh at.  Except for every other Friday morning, when immediately after picking up my paycheck I would walk past the accounting department and around the corner into her office. Where I would then stand in front of her desk holding my paycheck in front of me and do a little booty-shakin' dance, chanting, "happy friday, happy friday". Every single payday, for at least a few months.  She called it the Happy Friday Payday Dance. I don't think there are any witnesses, but I never really cared.  Because THAT made her laugh!

So I probably will go ahead and give my "lino-innovation" (as Lisa coined it), a shot in a couple weeks.  Especially since my good friend D. was kind enough to volunteer to officially record this tomfoolery when she visits the island for New Year's.

D. is also my former downstairs neighbor, and the one who started my practice of stringing up lights along my balcony every year:

Aren't they pretty?

Amazing what you can do with icicle lights and zip ties!

But the most important part of the holiday decor? The absolute must-have, can't live without item?

Christmas Mousies!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So I had this wacky idea today

Now I don't know if this is wacky like "oh how funny I'd totally try that if I were you" or wacky like "oh my god, apparently she's gone off her meds". But perhaps you can tell me.

See I was cleaning the kitchen floor today...never mind why, I just was - okay?  And no, there will not be any photos of my squeaky clean kitchen floor because quite frankly, there is already enough ugliness out there on the internet and I don't believe I should contribute more.  Suffice to say that in its youth I suspect that the flooring coordinated nicely with the Harvest Gold stove that also exists in my kitchen.  Knowing that, you can probably guess the approximate installation date of the flooring, or at least to the decade. At this point, what little pattern remains is limited to the edges and corners of the room, along with the no man's land under the refrigerator and aforementioned stove, because - and I shit you not - the pattern is actually completely worn off in the "high traffic area". 

Anyway, due to its advanced age and general decrepitness the only way to clean this floor is the old fashioned way, with a scrub brush.  Mopping does nothing, it just pushed water back and forth across all the pits and crevices, resettling the dirt in new places. So scrubbing is the only way to go. Mind you, cleaning that kitchen floor is not something I do very often because it's not particularly rewarding since it doesn't actually look any different or any better when it's clean.  I just know in my head that it IS clean, and that has to be sufficient.

So there I was today, down on my hands and knees, scrubbing away at the floor with a curious kitty peering around the corner, and I noticed that the scrub brush I was using is a sort of elongated oval, about the same general size as the pair of slippers I had left sitting nearby. And then I thought - well, what if I had two of these scrub brushes? (Do you see what's coming next?) Because I have two feet. And then well...what if I attached a couple of scrub brushes to the bottom of an old pair of slippers or sneakers, put on some loud music, and just sorta got my groove on?

So is that a completely freaky idea?  I admit it may not be original, I might have seen it in a movie or read it in a book and maybe it just emerged from my subconscious today.  But could it make cleaning that craptastic floor a little more fun and therefore a more frequent occurrence? Or is it just too ridiculous for words? And it is even do-able?  How would I go about attaching the scrub brushes? All I can think of is big rubber bands or little bungee cords!

Please by all means, tell me if I've completely lost my marbles.  And yeah, if I tried something this wacky I might even be nutty enough to provide photo or video evidence, but no promises! I can think of a couple of people who are close enough to do it and would seriously enjoy it too. That is, assuming the camera can be held steady through the laughing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not THAT Noro scarf

"If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?" Did your mother say those words to you sometime during your teen years?  I can't remember if mine did or not, but I'm sure she'll mention it if so.

I know that friggin' scarf pattern has been around for at least a couple years. I mean, Jared Flood posted it in the spring of 2007, admitting that it wasn't an original design, just his version. And then as everyone saw The Harlot decided to knit a few of them, and you know how that goes.  At last I checked 2,659 people on Ravelry either had knit or is currently knitting one of those scarves.  This however, is not a selling point for me.  Why would I want to knit something that everyone is knitting?  Wouldn't it be more fun to knit something that only a few had? My resistance was strong.

But then along came Didi with her scarf, and then there was Tammy with her scarf too.  Couple of wild wanton women, trying to seduce me with all those pretty colors and tempt into jumping on the bandwagon.

Noooooo!!!!! Keep away from me with that kool-aid! I will NOT knit that Noro scarf!

I will knit this one:

It's the Check-ed Neck-ed Scarf, by Angela Roberge. Designed for a single skein of Noro Iro, which I happen to have in my stash.  The thing is knitting up insanely fast, and is an excellent pattern for showing off the colors of Noro and the somewhat, errr...."organic" or perhaps "rustic" nature of Iro. When it's done I'm going to block it just the teeniest bit, but not much.

And lastly, it's Carolyn's birthday today!  She always manages to see the bright and humorous side of things, and is amazingly supportive to her fellow bloggers.  So take a moment to check out her blog and wish her a happy day! She also has a certain signature symbol and that makes me think she might appreciate this: 

Whether or not people agree with all the images used, (and there were a few that raised my eyebrows), I can't see anyone finding fault with the sentiment.  So kick off your shoes and dance to it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays

Do not suck in the slightest if you don't actually HAVE to go anywhere. Perhaps this is the payback for all those years of slogging out on stormy mornings, putt-puttting to work in an open golf cart through the pounding rain, just to huddle over a space heater in a cold office until the need for a bathroom required going back outside and getting drenched again.

I realize how fortunate I am to be able to spend the morning lingering in a warm bed with an equally warm kitty, a second cup of coffee and knitting. Yes, I am blessed.  I know it and I DO appreciate it. Tomorrow, I'll tell you what I was knitting on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How could I not have known about this?

Since I'm basically doing the equivalent of home-schooling myself to a college degree, and I'm doing it alone, I have become the Queen of Flashcards. As I've mentioned in the past, most of what I'm studying my friends and family don't really want to hear about and/or are completely sick of hearing about, so I use flashcards to study.  Definitions of key terms, assignments, quizzes, practice exams - all of these are sources of material to copy onto index cards, which are then reviewed and reviewed and reviewed - until I'm sick of them too.  I go through stacks of index cards. But it works for me.

So how could I not have known about this site?  My peeps, I have found you at last! I signed up for the freebie account that allows you to access flashcards already created online and make your own, but since the full account lets you also print, export and create audio files for only $20, I think this could be a worthwhile investment! Especially since it looks like it could save me a fair amount of time and effort. In just a few searches I found card files others created when preparing for some of the same exams I'll be taking in the upcoming months.

After finishing Statistics (with a B thankyouverymuch!) I no longer have any classes required by my major and only 2 upper level courses needed, which hopefully will be satisfied by a couple of independent study classes, one already started and the other starting as soon as the books arrive.  Besides that I need to finish the Spanish class I started (and regret taking) and then all I have left is a stack of lower level credits to chew through.  My plan for that is to use an assortment of Dantes and CLEP exams. Pick a subject exam, get approval from my advisor, memorize a shitload of flashcards, take exam and BANG...3  lower level units done.  Then I just do it over and over and watch the light at the end of the tunnel get bigger and brighter!

As in the past, ending here with an end of the day Saturday Sky:

Friday, December 12, 2008

A kingdom where things make sense

Which creature of the night are you?
Your Result: Sorceror

Control is the name of your game. You are a studied tactician and scientist and you seek a kingdom where things make sense, damn the morals, even if you have to create it. You are cold, calm and calculating.

Cthulu Spawn
Which creature of the night are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Thanks to beentsy for pointing out this quiz.  But the results? I blame this on the stat class, and the last few psych courses.  I mean, I'll own up to the control label but since when do I have any kind of scientific bent?  I'm supposed to be the creative, artistic one.  The art student who changed her major to psychology just because it would be the practical thing to do. 

Hmmm...maybe that's where I went astray...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Traveling Scarf Project: update

Way back in June I explained the Traveling Scarf Project I signed up for, and a day or so later the group of 15 participants jumped to 17.  Thankfully, the group's moderator closed the group at that point or we might be knitting on these scarves well into the new year!

By the end of August I passed the halfway point and posted pictures of each scarf section I had worked on. The scarves continued to visit me through September and October, there was a bit of a break for a few weeks, and then at the end of November my "upstream partner" contacted me to let me know she had the last 3 scarves I needed to work on, and ask if I'd mind receiving them all at once? With NaBloPoMo ending that week, the timing was perfect so I told her to go ahead and send them.  Living in mostly sunny SoCal, my need for a scarf is minimal but I think the group members in other climates were ready for warm, colorful scarves. Plus, with the finish line getting so close, I think folks were starting to get a little anxious to cross it so I figured the least I could do was a little power knitting to help.

Scarf #10 belonged to doulton:

She's our most excellent group moderator and on her scarf I did one of my favorites, a waving cable design using my longtime fave yarn, Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in the "Turkish Olive" colorway, which to me looks like a nice forest green.

Scarf #11 belonged to yarnnymph:

I used the same yarn as in the previous scarf, but changed the cable pattern.  It didn't turn out looking the way I expected but I think I like it even better! Both this one and the one above had a garter stitch border also.

Scarf #12 belonged to notoriaus:

Yipes...stripes! The notes that came with her scarf suggested stripes as a possibility so that's exactly what I did. Alternating two great colors of Lamb's Pride in basic garter stitch.

Scarf #13 belonged to cjj:

She's the one who sent me the pretty row counter bracelet back in July! She also had a really unique idea and knitted the starting section of her scarf in a neutral color that had small colored flecks in it, and asked each of us to match one of those colors in the sections we added. I had a perfect blue, but since the previous section was also blue, I used a narrow border of green and yellow to set off my section, which was done in a Waffle Rib Stitch.

Scarf #14 belonged to phairisle:

Who is a far more experienced knitter and although my first impulse was to do something fancy, her notes explained that since she lives in a place with real winter weather, lacy stitches were not terribly practical. So I used Lamb's Pride to knit an alternating oblong pattern.

Scarf #15 belongs to deserthooker:

My downstream partner, the one I've been passing scarves on to for all these months! She seemed pretty open so I used two colors of Lamb' Pride in garter stitch stripes again, but this time used a Fibonacci sequence.  I hope she likes it and my house was that scarf's last stop, it's homeward bound now.

So I'm done knitting on other people's scarves now. There's nothing more to do until my very own traveling scarf arrives home from it's long journey!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

You are here (I think)

Today's Saturday Sky:

I shot that photo and several more on my way back from my monthly visit to the gas station. (Golf carts get amazing gas mileage, 'specially when you only drive them once or twice a week in a one square mile area!) I decided not to use the others because while I really like them, they did have one errr....interesting aspect to them. 

This might not mean much to anyone else, but to the folks living on the mainland in coastal Southern California...

Yes, that IS you under that brown line on the horizon.

At least I think it is.

Let me see...

Oh there you are!