16 December 2018

Ornament Swap 2018

I won't go into a long explanation of why I haven't updated the blog for nine months, but it has nothing to do with giving birth or anything interesting like that.  Inertia, not having a very interesting life, not wanting to sit in front of the computer any more when I work in front of one all day.......

This year, I participated in an ornament swap and we all are supposed to blog TODAY about what we received and what we sent.  Tricky for me because I've been out of town.  While supper simmers (braised radishes and such, based upon a japanese recipe for braised daikon, which is in there along with celeriac and purple radishes and.....I digressed) I am getting a post together.

When I received my swap partner, I was excited and nervous.  It's someone I have known for a loooong time, so I was glad to have a friend - but she is an exceptionally skilled bead artist and teacher, and artist in other areas, so I knew that what I made would be nowhere in her league.  And here it is:
It's a very simple knitted sock in a sparkly cotton yarn with a few beads added.  I had gift deadlines, and lots of travel, and then flat-out forgot.  So while I received something very lovely:
Which included a handmade box, and handmade card, AND luminaria (because it was supposed to arrive during Hannukah, but I was traveling and didn't pick up the package until after), and TWO beautiful beaded ornaments.  Here's a better photo of them:
Yep, exquisite.  And all she got was a sock.

A couple people asked about it.  The basic pattern is - a sock.  I found a cable in Donna Druchunas' Spiegel Socks pattern that looks something like a Christmas Tree, although it doesn't show up as well as I'd hoped on the sock I knit:
That shows it just after I finished the cable, before I went into the plain foot (due to lack of time, and my hands starting to hurt from doing fiddly things in stiff cotton yarn on US#0 needles), to which I added an afterthought heel (because I didn't want to have to do math or a gusset), and yes, I made a goof but luckily this sock is not to be worn by anybody:
One handy thing I learned, since I was doing this whilst traveling, is that airplane tray cupholders are very good for corralling beads while you string them:
To summarize the materials:  Aunt Lydia #10 crochet cotton, used double, in gold (because I had to run out to get more and the shop didn't have silver) with silver (left over from a weaving class I took from John Mullarkey at last year's DFW Fiber Fest) ribbing at the top, toe, and heel.  Shown with the beads is some metallic gold sewing thread I used for attaching beads.  The red and green were knitted into the toe and heel; the pearls and blue bugle beads were sewn onto the sock:
The beads are from my stash, and are old, and except for the pearls are appropriately sparkly.

Because I don't have cardmaking skills, I included a card from Hartford Prints! which I purchased last year or the one before.  They do really lovely letterpress work and it shows a stylized Hartford skyline:
Apparently my package has not yet arrived, although it was promised for yesterday.  You can see what Karen said about the items she made on her blog.

14 March 2018

Pi Day 2018

I decided to celebrate in proper style today, as I am working at home (in part because we are between snowstorms, and I'm not traveling) and I have some new tart pans to inaugurate.  On the other hand, it's our busy month, so I don't have a lot of time to fuss, even subtracting a commute.

I made a basic short pastry in my new mini food processor, using a cup of whole wheat pastry flour, and proportionate amounts of butter and water.  Rolled out and tucked into the tins:
Lid for the apple pie also rolled, and a tart's worth of extra dough.
Then I filled one with a tart apple, cut thinly and mixed with five-spice mixture, a bit of ground ginger, and splashed with (not enough, it turned out) honey: 
Of course, they have to be trimmed suitably for the day.  After adding the lid to the apple pie, I cut the steam slit.  And I pricked the other all over, to bake it blind.  In the following photo you see it filled with parchment paper and beans: 
Then a bit of baking, I took out the shell, and left the apple pie in to cook through.  How does this not violate what I've given up for Lent?  First, because my life and my rules.  Second, because it's not too sweet. And third, because it's breakfast.
 As Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry might say, you can see from the photo of the bottom that it is "a good bake".  The crust is a bit thick, since I was rushing, but the filling tasted quite nice.  You can see how well the apples cooked down, and got darker with the spice and honey cooking into it:
I finally got to finish the open tart for a very late lunch.  I'd sliced up the sprouts of some onions I'd overlooked and which had decided to go into another generation.  Since this is a tiny tart, I used them as if they were miniature leeks, and sauteed them with oil, salt, and pepper:
You can see the "π" in the piercings.

I forgot to get a picture of the finished onion sprouts, or the pie before baking,  I was hungry!  This is the final result - I used a bit of trimming to decorate the top:
There's a sprinkle of shredded cheese, and just one egg.  It was tasty, but showed the effect of my trying to squeeze a recipe down to the tiny size.  The dark spots are all the onion bits I'd cooked down, some of which got a bit took cooked.  But I like the crispy taste that onion gets that way.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the death of Stephen Hawking earlier today.  As some people pointed out, other that being a few years apart, he "was born on the day Galileo died and died on the day Einstein was born."  He threw a party for time-travelers (in part to prove whether time travel exists); spoke to astronauts in space; had a wicked sense of humor; and was part of a trio of the hottest brains ever:

Time to wrap up the day with some jokes (the dark side may have cookies, but the nerd side has pi) and listening to the Fugue on Pi.

18 February 2018

Brilliant Midwinter *

We had quite a lot of snow last night, so I skipped going to a friend's show (final weekend - I thought maybe I could go on Friday, but work went very late, probably people trying to have Monday as an actual work holiday per our skimpy USA holidays schedule; I didn't want to go last night and risk driving in a snowstorm in the dark on a trip that's almost an hour in good weather; and today I have a cold) and while it looks quite pretty out there, the temperatures are well over freezing so it's melting quickly.  One of my neighbors was out with her dog trying to play with a flying disc, which the dog would let land then dig out of the snow, and run around for a while with it in her mouth until my neighbor snagged it back and skimmed it again.

Having the cold means I am not getting as much done in terms of household chores today as naps seem to attack on a semi-regular basis.  But with chicken soup, naps, a sinus-warming gel mask, and Vitamin C in quantity, I think I'm ahead of this.  I have to be well by Wednesday when we have dress rehearsal for a show we're doing on Friday and Saturday.  I have only two smallish bits, which is fine with me, but it's a fundraiser for three local organizations so it's the one time I get out from backstage.

In the meantime, I've done some work on this year's resolutions and have been meaning to post an update since the beginning of the month, but have been traveling quite a lot.  I did finish one of the three books on my list, Jay Rayner's The Man Who Ate The World, and found it interesting.  In addition to speculating about what makes a meal a true experience, and the cost-versus-value analysis, he mentioned concerns about offsetting the carbon footprint of foodstuffs flown in for some of the meals as well as his travels to experience them.

I've read some other books as well, mostly lighter things such as historically-set mysteries.  And of course magazines, newspapers, and so forth.  An interview of Scott Kelly particularly sticks in my mind.  And I'm doing another clearing-out of cookbooks and such.

I need to combine my finished items lists, which so far include a couple scarves for Knit Your Bit and two hat and mitten sets for M4A grads, into a single list of "completed items".  I also helped our assistant director knit a Valentine's gift for her girlfriend:
Who, by the way, absolutely loves them.  The AD wanted to make a scarf, and I told her it probably would not happen in three weeks, so this was what we created with the amount she achieved.  As it happens, the girlfriend is also in the show, so trying to sneak around and get this done without people wondering if we were suddenly creating a triangle was a bit of an adventure!  Once the wristers were delivered all was clear, but we had a few difficult moments!

Once these we done, we did cast on again and a scarf might be ready by Christmas.  Then I'll get the AD working on a hat to complete the set.  She chose the yarn and buttons herself and did a commendable job for learning to knit just three weeks ago.

I missed Mardi Gras because I was at a customer site in Portland, Maine, but the team lead brought in Dunkin' Donuts in lieu of paczki and I had a final red meat meal before Lent began.  This year I gave up red meat, pork, shellfish, and baked pastries and desserts.  Knowing my sweet tooth I could not give up all desserts, just knowing that I can eat something if I wish makes it easier to not eat anything most of the time.  Of course there are times I go the other way, such as during tech rehearsal when one of the actresses brought in a platter of tembleque that her mother made.  I was very glad that pudding is permitted to me and a nice wedge of it was my lunch!

* The title of this post riffs on a Christmastime poem by Christina Rossetti:
               “In the bleak midwinter
                 Frosty wind made moan,
                 Earth stood hard as iron,
                 Water like a stone;
                 Snow had fallen,
                 Snow on snow,
                 Snow on snow,
                 In the bleak midwinter,
                 Long ago. ”

01 January 2018

You say you've got a resolution..........

Back to my sadly neglected blog.  Another year, another resolution* to keep up with it.

And a resolution to record the things I have made - I started last year, then that fell away too.  I recorded some in lists of donations to charities, or in entries on KAL sites and the UFO-finishing group to which I belong, but not all in one place.  I'll see if I can do better this year.

I've finished one thing already:  A pussyhat I started while working at First Night Hartford last night, which someone commissioned after seeing one I'd made for a friend of hers.  Two of us were knitting while working at the wristband-sales station at the Bushnell Park Carousel, and it got very quiet so we had plenty of time to work.  Then I shifted to helping at the Maze Gallery, which kept me busier, and I was released once we cleaned up the venue.  Given the temperature, even with free entry at any other location, I decided to head home, where I ended the evening in a bubblebath with a dish of ice-cream.  I finished the hat this afternoon, will deliver it on Wednesday.

Other resolutions?

I read a lot, but I am going to read or re-read the following three books:

Why these?  No particular reason, except for the variety.  I have many other books I want to read, but for a resolution decided to set a very low bar so I have a chance of accomplishing it.  Maybe another resolution should be to track all the books I finish this year?  I'm sure it will be more than three, but I keep putting these off so maybe this year I'll complete reading them.

Looking back at things I wanted to accomplish last year, I wasn't good about keeping up the blog.  I did finish several UFOs, including a shawl of handspun, handdyed mohair I purchased during a class at the long-deceased Studio N111 in Hartford.  I am mostly finished with another, a shawl from a KAL with Marly Bird that I began when living in Madison a couple years ago.  I changed up the colours a bit, and so far like the result.  I've gotten to the third main stitch band, and then have the I-cord edging to finish.  I did complete this year's KAL and won one of the random prizes!  I haven't opened the box because I was on a yarn diet, and only finished one of the two shawls I was working on during the KAL, so I'll try to get the other one done this year.
This is the shawl that I finished, which is made with Red Heart Reflective stripes, so I show it with and without flash on.  In the lower photo you can see what the reflective thread does - a safety shawl!

Upcoming projects include finishing some paintings for the 6x6-4-peace project; some items for this year's Mittens for Akkol Grads project; and helping people make pussyhats (probably by sewing fleece, for speed) at MakeHartford's open house this Wednesday evening.  And of course I'll be making scarves for this year's Knit Your Bit collection at DFW Fiber Fest.  And I have a couple UFOs to finish for myself!

*Back in 1890, the Hartford Courant bemoaned that "the making of resolutions" seemed to have become an "old-time custom[ ...that] died out."  I wonder how the author of that comment would feel about the effective commerce in resolutions nowadays?