Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pre-baking check

My sourdough starter seems to still be going strong. Barring unforeseen problems, I'm going to try to make a loaf of homemade sourdough bread for the Oscar party, and it occurred to me that I should wake up my starter and say hello. I got it out and fed it earlier; it bubbled a lot, and still smells like apples, so I'm happy. It weirds me out a little bit that it smells like apples, because there are, of course, no apples in there. However, given the choice, I'd rather have it smell like apples than paint (another thing that a mature starter can smell like).

I don't know about you, but I've always wanted to make a mini-fondue "pot" out of an Altoids tin... Seriously, I have an empty Altoids tin sitting in front of me just BEGGING for this.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I couldn't take the dots any more

Ok, there's been a slight redesign, finally. Nothing hugely drastic: some different colors, a different background, made things a little wider.

If the layout looks weird or isn't lining up, or if the whole thing is just unsightly, let me know. I checked it in a couple of different browsers and everything was working for me, so I'm hoping everything's ok.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mmm, tv disaster movie

For some reason, the SciFi Channel persists in putting out original made-for-tv movies. They're never good, but occasionally, one looks so mind-blowingly horrendous that I absolutely have to watch it. Such was the case with this evening's "Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York".

First off, I saw this movie in 1997, when it was called "Volcano". Someone at SciFi apparently saw "Volcano" and thought, "What we need is a much crappier version of this, with almost no recognizable stars and really awful special effects." The lava effects looked like a 10-year-old drew them with crayons. And I'm no volcano expert, but I'm pretty sure that lava flows a lot slower than water... Not that I'm going to get into any of the factual puzzlers, like how a house could fill up with lava and not catch fire, so then a guy could open the front door and have a big wave of lava sweep over him... that scene was awesome.

If you've seen "Volcano", you've seen "Disaster Zone". A geologist tries to tell everyone that there's a volcano building beneath the city, nobody believes her until it erupts, and they end up routing the lava through some tunnels to get it to the ocean. It's the SAME MOVIE. A bunch of the main characters were tunnel drillers, and I thought, "They wouldn't use the exact same resolution that 'Volcano' had, would they? Using the tunnels to reroute the lava to the ocean? They're not THAT lame, right?" And then, so help me, they did it.

This movie made me laugh so hard I was in tears. Thank you, SciFi Original Pictures. Don't ever change.

Yes, that's certainly "peacock".

I have minor yarn porn that I should post, now that I'm not preoccupied with the Knitting Olympics:

That's 6 balls of Elsebeth Lavold Cable Cotton, color 7 "Peacock" that I got during an outing to Stitch DC. I don't know what project they'll end up being; nothing huge, because it's only about 600 yards.

I got two new cookbooks yesterday, I'm in a mail-order cookbook club, and most of the time their featured selections (you know, the ones they send if you don't tell them not to) are books that I don't really want. The February selections, however, were Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals, and The Best American Recipes 2005-2006. I'm absolutely in love with the Best American Recipes series (for starters, my standard cheese cracker recipe came from the '03-'04 book, as did a fantastic gingerbread cider cake recipe). As soon as I saw that the new one was available through the book club, along with the new Sara Moulton, I was quite happy. They showed up yesterday, and after looking through both of them, I want to make almost everything (nothing with nuts or fish for allergy reasons, of course).

Friday, February 24, 2006

Cue the anthem

It's February. Who wouldn't want to wear a kicky tank top in February?

Here are the specs:
Pattern: Ribbon X-back from Knitty
Yarn: Katia Cindy (main color), TLC Cotton Plus (stripe)
Needles: Size 3
Total stitches: 26,148
Total time: About 25 hours

Did I learn anything? Well, it was my first time doing something in the round with no seaming, and I used a three-needle bind-off for the first time. And there was the matter of adjusting the pattern to match my yarn gauge. That part went really well; the measurements are what the pattern says they should be, but the problem is that I should have built some negative ease into the thing. Duh. I spent some time fixing the size problem this morning, and now it fits. It's officially, for real, no kidding, DONE.

Now, I just need to wait for warm weather. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Knitting Olympics update: DONE!!

My Ribbon X-back is done!!! Woohoo!

Ok, "done" is kind of open to interpretation. At the moment, it's about 4" bigger around than I am, so it's not exactly wearable. I'll need to take it in a bit, but I'm not worrying about that right now. It actually looks fine for pictures; because of how the straps are, all the extra fabric gathers at the back, so it looks fine from the front. Weird. Anyway, there will be pictures tomorrow (just not from the back). :)

There's a thread on the knittyboard about senior pictures, and I figure, if I'm going to scan in some of these gems, I might as well get as much embarrassment as possible from them.

Photographers of the world: don't have people look this far off to the side in pictures. They end up looking like dorks, and if they're like me and are wearing a shirt with a fake vest sewn to the front of it, they don't need any help looking like dorks.

Sadly, you only get an approximation of how godawful the pattern on the vest is because the picture cuts off most of it. It's hideous.

For anyone who has laughed when I told them I played bass drum in marching band, I give you evidence that I wasn't kidding.

The awesome thing about being in the percussion section (besides the general disregard for rules and the unspoken agreement to stir up dissention whenever possible) was that we didn't have to wear capes because of the drum harnesses.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A link for the Firefly geeks out there

TWoP has posted a recap of Serenity. It's 35 pages long, and written by Jacob, the same recapper who blessed us with his gut-bustingly hilarious recap of the Wonderful World of Disney's A Wrinkle In Time tv movie. He gets into some analytical stuff (an awful lot of it sounds like a paper for a film class... I'd guess. I've never taken a film class), and there's almost none of the typical TWoP snark or humor present, but it's a decent read for the fans out there.

In the next day or two, I should have a finished x-back to take pictures of! Amazing how much faster it goes when you're working 20 stitches at a time, not 180...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Knitting Olympics update #4

Presidents Day was a very productive knitting day for me, and the only reason I'm not still knitting right now is that my left pinky was starting to lock up. I figured I'd give it a rest before I end up with carpal tunnel. However, I reached the armhole bindoff! That leaves the upper front and the straps left to finish. I'll probably also pick up an edging along the bottom, because my cast-on edge where I had to drop the stitches back... not pretty.

I got the best phone message today. 10 seconds of silence, then the guy says his name and phone number, and hangs up. Oh, and there was a pause when (I think) he forgot his phone number in the middle of saying it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Yummy. Chocolate. Muffins.

Last night, I had this terrible brownie craving. It was awful. I needed chocolate, and I needed it right away... I love chocolate and all, but I very rarely get full-on chocolate cravings that will not be denied. I pulled out my copy of I'm Just Here For More Food by Alton Brown... ah, Alton. Every single thing that I have made from this book has been awesome (the "Superior Saltine" is a personal favorite). I turned to the "chocolate" listing in the index, and saw that yes, there was a brownie recipe... but there was also something called "Chocolate Muffins #7". I looked over the recipe for the muffins, saw that I had everything on hand (a big plus), AND saw that it was ridiculously easy and would have my chocolate fix handled in under half an hour... that was it.

These things are really good. I used Hershey's Special Dark dutch-process cocoa powder, which resulted in muffins that are almost black. I haven't loved this cocoa powder in hot chocolate (which tends to be my main reason for buying cocoa powder), and to be honest, I've been trying to find ways to use up what I have. The stuff would be perfect for making faux Oreo cookies, because that's what it tastes like: Oreo-cookie chocolate, which is apparently a result of being dutch-processed to death (thanks, Google). The Special Dark worked well in this recipe. The muffins came out dense and moist and chocolaty, not too sweet, with a nice texture... I can't imagine how fantastic they would be with a higher quality cocoa powder. Oh, and they freeze well... I'd assume. I totally did NOT just have one that I froze last night (*brushes chocolate crumbs off her sweater*)

Let's see: easy, fast, and really good... I'll be making these again, no question.

Updated: I made a couple of recipe alterations that I should own up to. First, AB calls for buttermilk. I have never had buttermilk on hand EVER, so I used skim milk. No adding vinegar or lemon juice, just plain skim milk. Also, I left out the cup of chocolate chips AB calls for. It turned out to be a good move. Not only did I have 12 muffin cups filled to the brim with muffin batter, but I also had enough batter leftover to have easily filled another muffin cup. So, another cup of stuff in the batter would have simply resulted in another cup of batter that wouldn't fit in the muffin tin. Yes, it would leave more to lick off the spoon, but trust me, there was plenty of that already. Not that I'm encouraging that kind of behavior...

Work continues on my Knitting Olympics project. I have another 2" to do on the body, and then I can start binding off for the armholes. Yay! Binding off--something different! Round after round of 180 stitches of seed stitch... [knit 1, purl 1] 9,090 times (total of 18,180 stitches so far). There have been some moments where it's been mind-numbing, and now there are only another 20 or so rounds left to go before I can start doing something different. Woohoo!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dropped stitch has been fixed. Yay.

There I was last night, looking at my in-progress X-back for the Knitting Olympics, and I started thinking, "How hard could it be to add in the stitch that I dropped?" So, I dropped two stitches back to the cast-on row, and picked up three to pull up with a crochet hook. And after a few hours, some expletives, and a few "I've made a huge mistake" moments, I now have the correct number of stitches, and no more weird jog where the seed stitch doesn't match up. In the long run, I'll be happier this way, but... wow, that was a pain.

In between fighting with stitches, I made a "Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf" from The Bread Bible. I had been making mostly crusty hearth breads, and thought it would be fun to try something softer. Everything was going just fine, and then I put it in the oven. At that point, it decided that it was done with rising, and was going to fall completely flat. It might be because I halved the recipe (the recipe makes 2 loaves, and I really only need one). Ok, so I pull it out of the oven, and I have an absolutely flat loaf of bread. To make things even odder: other than the flatness, it turned out fine. It tastes good and has a decent texture (probably a little denser than it should be, but definitely not doughy or unpleasant). Weird. If I try this again, I'll probably make the full 2 loaf recipe and freeze one.

By the way, this Guinness ice cream recipe makes me wish I had an ice cream maker.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My Valentines Day

So, I was productive last night. I:

1. Baked a loaf of my biscuit bread (so named because it tastes exactly like the Bisquik drop biscuits that my mom makes, but in bread form). I'll have to post the recipe once it's been absolutely perfected--it's in the tweaking phase right now.

2. Watched my DVD of the "I Love Lisa" episode of The Simpsons... I was in the mood to watch it after nabbing the screencaps.

3. Roasted a red pepper on my gas burners. If you've never done it, it's really cathartic and fun. There's something awesome about purposely charring something beyond recognition, not to mention the general 'yum' factor .

4. Made dinner.

5. Did a load of laundry.

6. Worked on my Knitting Olympics project. When I last left off, I was just a little bit under 4.5". I knit 5 rounds (which should give me another half-inch or so), measured again... still 4.5". Poor stunted growth knitting project. After another few rounds, it started growing again, and NOW it's at 5".

Tonight, I'm not doing anything but knitting and watching Lost and Project Runway. :)

I had to laugh at the "Johnny Weir is totally a badass figure skater" spot that they showed last night. Johnny, maybe you shouldn't declare that you're not the typical "sparkly" skater when, in the short program, your left arm is covered with an intricate sequin design (sequins are sparkly, Johnny). Seriously, has he actually done anything controversial, or is he just trying to make himself sound anti-establishment? That whole segment was hilarious.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

When I think "Valentines Day"...

...this is what springs to mind quite often:

It's a lovely sentiment, isn't it? It says 'I Choo-Choo-Choose You', and there's a picture of a train...

I choo-choo-choose you, everyone!

For fun, two more seasonal Simpsons screencaps (ooh, alliterative!), including one for the bitter folks.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Knitting Olympics update #3

A couple of WIP pictures:

I have just a smidge under 4.5" done. This is good. If I can keep up a pace of around an inch (or a little more) per day, I'll have the main body done by 2/20. The upper part should go more quickly, what with there being fewer stitches, so I should almost definitely be able to get that done by 2/26.

Numbers-wise so far: 51 rounds completed = 9180 stitches, somewhere around 9.5-10 hours total knitting time.

Went to All About Yarn today. They were having a sale on all red yarn... so of course, I didn't buy any red yarn. Last summer, I had picked up 6 skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in "Shocking Pink". Got it home, did a bit of a swatch, and realized that I don't have enough to make a sweater (which is what I want to do with it). The last couple of times I've been to AAY, they've had the same color in stock, but I can never remember the dye lot of the stuff I already have. I decided today to go ahead and pick up a couple of skeins; I thought the dye lot number sounded familiar, and if it ended up not being the same, I'd just alternate rows. I got home and checked--it's the same dye lot! Yay!

Sunday, February 12, 2006


I was going to go yarn shopping today... and woke up to discover a decent amount of snow on the ground (at least 8" here). An actual snowstorm, woohoo! Unfortunately, this killed the trip to Stitch DC. People around here drive like morons in the snow; a staggering amount of them believe that four wheel drive gives you magical tire traction so that you can stop on ice and won't ever skid at all. They don't think they need to drive any slower if it's icy, which leads to me sitting in my car hoping nothing hits me, while I watch SUVs skidding across multiple lanes of traffic.

Some snow pictures:

This is the front of my building. Note the already-shoveled sidewalks. The maintenance staff here is awesome about snow removal. There was somebody outside shoveling the sidewalk at 2:30 am... it would have been neater if I hadn't been woken up by the sound of a shovel scraping pavement, but it was still quite nice of them.

Look at this cute little tree, photographed from my balcony. Last year, for reasons that are still unknown, the apartment complex planted a line of 5 little pine trees behind my building. Yes, BEHIND the building, so that nobody can see them. As if that weren't weird enough, there are woods about 10 feet away from these trees, so the planted pine trees get totally lost. I didn't understand it when they were planting them, and I still don't understand it now.

Woods. Pretty.

More woods.

See the three little pine trees in front of the woods? Are they the most ridiculously pointless pieces of landscaping ever?

My car, looking very much like it doesn't want to go anywhere.

About 30 seconds after I took this picture, the really long icicle in the middle broke off. One of my favorite lines from A Christmas Story ran through my head: "Those icicles have been known to kill people."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Knitting Olympics update #2

I have 2.5" of my Ribbon X-back done, and have just finished my first ball of yarn. For those of you playing along at home, this means that I probably don't have enough yarn to finish the whole thing (if I do have enough, it's going to be very close). However, this was something I anticipated as a possibility, so I'm ok with this happening. I need to decide whether I want to do a random 2" stripe of another yarn somewhere on the body (probably just below where the armhole bindoffs start), or if I want to do the entire body in the ribbon yarn, and then switch to another yarn for the top section. I don't have to make the decision on that for another few days.

It feels like it's going quickly, considering that it's seed stitch on fairly small needles. I'll try to post a picture either tomorrow or Monday.

Every time they show the big Olympic torch, all I can think is, "Gandalf's staff." And then I start laughing.

Ah, local news

Thank you, local news, for always providing a good laugh:
Anchor: We're getting reports that Anne Arundel County is already seeing snow accumulations of an inch. Let's go out to Reporter X in Anne Arundel with more on that. Reporter X?

Reporter X: Actually, there's no accumulation here.

In other news, the luge competition makes me knit slower. I think the luge is just about the coolest thing ever; except for fearing for my limbs, I think it would be fun to try it someday. Anyway, I was averaging 11 minutes per round while watching the cross-county portion of nordic combined, and it went to over 12 minutes while I was watching the luge (it's the Olympics, and I feel like I should know my lap times). I enjoy watching really fast sleds... you know how it is.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Knitting Olympics update #1

I was off from work today, so I got to cast on at 2:01 (my computer clock was behind by a minute!). My personal Opening Ceremonies included TNG. It was the two-parter with Spock... which has nothing to do with knitting at all.

I have already completed one major hurdle: joining something to knit in the round without getting anything twisted. At some point in the first 4 rounds, I did purl something I should have knitted, or knitted something I should have purled, so my seed stitch isn't matching up exactly. I looked for the suspect stitch for 10 minutes, and then decided that it's just not that visible and nobody but me will ever notice it, so it's staying. It's a design feature now. :)

Watched the final 4 episodes of Arrested Development tonight... if the show absolutely has to end, I'm glad Fox at least gave them a chance to wrap everything up. Yay for DVDs! And possibly having AD picked up by another network!

Right now, I'm doing my biennial ritual of watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and counting how many times the words, "Shut up, Bob Costas" or some variation thereof come out of my mouth (current count: 12, and I've been watching for about 15 minutes). Seriously. Shut up, Bob Costas. The sad thing is that he's actually doing BETTER this year because Katie Couric isn't there. There are extended periods of silence lasting 15-20 seconds. Katie doesn't do "silence", so when she's there, they talk over EVERYTHING. However, this year is still far from good... well, for example, the Japanese team came in, and Bob's genius comment is, "They had a really disappointing showing at the last Winter Games." Bob, could you not think of anything remotely NICE to say???

"Madagascar, known by most children as an animated movie..." I was a weird, nerdy kid, so maybe I was abnormal in this respect, but when I was in elementary school, I sure as hell knew what Madagascar was. Let's not assume that the kiddies are morons, 'k?

"Mongolia... they always wear those hats, and people always say things about the hats, but they keep on wearing them in every Opening Ceremony." Gee, you mean the ones that I'm pretty sure are TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN HATS, you idiot?

I would enjoy the Opening Ceremonies so much more if they'd do away with the commentary. I can't even snark; it's too frustrating.

Sorry. That was a rant. I didn't know a rant was coming when I started typing. Here's something funny to make up for the rant: (Fake) Star Wars Valentines. I'm particularly fond of the two at the top of page 3, and the one at the bottom of page 5.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I'm such a class-A moron

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Good news from swatching

My swatch for my Knitting Olympics project is so obnoxious (in the best possible way). I'll have to post a picture; the main color in the yarn is a shiny blue, with a variegated non-shiny thread that's every other color. There's yellow and orange and green and bright pink... and somehow, the seed stitch still shows up. I'm a little surprised (pleasantly so). I figured that the yarn was so loud that it might make a stitch pattern less noticeable. Another piece of good news is that my gauge is exactly twice what the pattern calls for, so I should be able to just double most of the numbers and have it work out... no extreme mathematical manuevers. Per the rules, I'm not allowed to cast on until Friday, but I want to cast on NOW. I won't, of course, because that would be cheating... but I hate having to wait.

We had a Girl Scout troop or some similar group of little girls come in for a tour of the branch where I was on Monday. After their tour, a couple of them came over to check out some books. I was checking out the stuff for them, and they were JUST tall enough to be able to see the top of the counter. If you're 7 years old, there's a lot of very neat-looking stuff on top of the counter (scanners, desensitizers, printers...). These two girls were pointing to everything, asking, "Wow, what does THAT do?", so I was explaining what everything was for and showing them what I was doing. They were absolutely fascinated... it was so adorable. :)

Updated: I have a swatch picture...

I never do a full 4" x 4" swatch. I usually go with a 4" x 2" (which is what this one is). This is normal for me... I'm not just being lazy with this one.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No drug testing needed

Well, I've joined the Knitting Olympics.

I'm making a Ribbon xback with the ribbon yarn that I just got last week. This will require me to rewrite a lot of the pattern to fit the gauge of the yarn I'm using (to give you an idea, the pattern calls for size 11 needles, and I think I'll be using size 3's). I just started a swatch, and this yarn is SO fantastically obnoxious when knitted...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sweater pictures

Photographic proof that I made a sweater:

It was supposed to be a v-neck, but even after blocking twice, the "v" wasn't very defined. I took that as a sign that it didn't want to be a v-neck, so it was modified into a keyhole neckline.

I think I'm wearing it to work this afternoon. :)

Edited to add:
Duh... this might have been helpful information to include. It's the basic set-in sleeve pattern from
The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, done in a K4-P2 rib. The yarn is Gedifra Cashmerino, in color 4868 (green). And yes, I wore it to work... so comfy.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Folks, we have a sweater

Seaming is done, ends are woven in, and I have a wearable sweater! I'm unbelievably happy with how it turned out. Pictures are coming tomorrow, when my hair looks better. :)

*happy finished knitting dance*


Well, after a marathon of my season 4 24 DVDs, I have completed all of the actual knitting on my green ribbed sweater. I've been working on this off and on since September, and knowing that there's nothing left but some seaming makes me giddy. Absolutely giddy. However, part of the giddiness could also be attributed to the fact that it's 2:30 AM and I've spent all day watching 24 and staring at green yarn*. Yes, I'm open to the possibility that this is just some form of delirium.

Now I have to face a life where I no longer have to work on my green sweater... what project should be next? Definitely NOT another sweater, at least not for a little while. Heck, now that I have this thing all but done, I may think about doing the Knitting Olympics. I hadn't been planning on it, because I didn't want to stop work on the sweater to concentrate on another project, but with the sweater thisclose to done (the only way this thing won't be done by Friday is if I fall into an untimely coma)... I'm pondering some 'next project' options that might be Olympic-worthy.

Anyway, for the record: Whee!

* When I say "staring at green yarn", I'm not kidding. Right now, the only thing that my eyes can focus correctly on is a space about 10" in front of my face. Everything else is blurry, and no, I'm not kidding. This also happened when I read Harry Potter 5 straight through... kind of an odd feeling, but for my first sweater, I'll go with it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Phil says: 6 more weeks of winter

My sweater sleeves are coming along nicely. I've finally realized that, since I'm doing both of them at once, I have a lot more stitches on the needles than I did with either of the body sections. A-HA! That's why it feels like they're going slower than the body pieces went. I got over 2" done on the sleeves tonight, though. When I actually work for a couple of hours without stopping, I can knit pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I get distracted by shiny things really easily, so I usually don't work for a couple of hours without stopping.

Tonight's Office was classic. I used to work in an office exactly like the one on the show, complete with the attached warehouse. Our boss liked to occasionally go out in the warehouse and "help" with unloading trucks, and this always resulted in him driving a forklift around. When that popped up in tonight's episode, I was on the floor in hysterics. If they ever have a storyline where Michael decides that caramel popcorn has an offensive odor and he goes nuts trying to get rid of the smell by using half a can of economy brand "citrus" air freshener, I will know without a doubt that they had cameras planted at my old office.

Other than Earl and The Office, I had designated this evening as a Movies and Knitting night, with the hopes that my setting aside official knitting time would result in me getting a good amount done on my sleeves. It worked pretty well--over 2" done. Movie-wise, I watched Groundhog Day... on Groundhog Day. Does that make me "that guy"? Then, I popped in Serenity. I should have realized that there are large parts of that movie that I can't knit through, because I want to WATCH THE MOVIE. If only I had watched something else, I would have sleeves that are closer to being finished. :)

I can't help it, though. If my geek side and my knitting side get into a fight, the geek side will win. Geek Me has been around much, much longer. I've only been knitting for a little bit over a year... actually, at this time last year, I had just finished my long sweater coat, which was my first successful project that wasn't a scarf. It made its debut at a Super Bowl party. This sweater is purple-ish and has sparkly bits, and I probably looked kind of silly wearing it at a Super Bowl party... I didn't even care, I was just so proud of myself for having made an actual wearable garment.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Happy February!

/me does a dance in honor of her training being done. DONE!! Today was definitely decent. I was at one of the larger branches, and after my supervisor watched me handle a couple of transactions, she told me that it seemed like I had the basics down and she didn't feel like she needed to watch me. So, I got to spend some time without direct supervision, which was nice. I know they need to make sure that things are being processed correctly, but I'm looking forward to being able to work without someone watching over me. Also, there's a possibility that I had my first patron hit on me today, but I'm going to assume that he was just being really, really chatty.

So, my sweater... no, it's not done, even though I had thought it might be done by today. I got a good amount of sleeve work done during 24 on Monday, and then I didn't do anything yesterday... bad, I know. Normally, my knitting time takes place while I'm watching TV, and last night I didn't watch much TV because the State of the Union was on 15 channels and pre-empted all of my Tuesday shows. Yes, I swear, 15 channels. I counted.