Sunday, July 31, 2005

Local Food Challenge

Today's shopping list had me doing a lot more homework and planning than usual. For the month of August, I will be doing as much as I can to eat locally - that is, foods that are available within 100 miles of my home. I have a small family of four and a rather limited budget, so we won't be eating entirely locally. My big goal for this month is to be aware of where my food comes from and increase the amount we purchase locally. I make almost every meal my family eats, so any change in where our food comes from will be a large one, percentage wise. Southern California has such a bounty of farmland and agriculture of all kinds, surely this should be easy, right?

Not so. Since I shop once a week, on Sunday, I started a day early. I went to my usual round of stores this morning: Ralphs for coupon savings (lots of non-food purchases here), Trader Joe's for hormone free and organic dairy, eggs, frozen goods, breads, and nuts, and our local Asian market for produce of all sorts. Started really looking at the produce when I began at Ralph's. Just finding fruit grown in California was difficult. No apples from this state at all. Bananas, of course, were grown outside the U.S., which I expected. Didn't buy any produce here, but trying to find anything grown in this huge, fertile state was more of a challenge than I expected. Trader Joe's had more of a selection of California grown produce, though there's no way to tell where in CA any of it was grown. All of the lovely dairy I usually buy? "Distributed and sold" in Monrovia, CA, which is 17 miles away. That doesn't tell me much at all. Still trying to get an answer on where the dairy actually comes from originally. In the meantime, I visited a nearby Alta Dena drive through location and bought milk, butter, cottage cheese, and cream cheese. Next, to locate a better farmer's market than the one we have locally (a few stalls of produce, kettle corn, and soap and that's it here) and work on getting more locally grown produce.

It's a small start, but it is a start. I love a challenge, and trying to buy locally while staying within what we can afford will certainly be that. It's something I can do for my community and for my family. Like the sound of that.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Ever had a week that just knocked you flat? This has been one of those weeks. Hopefully things will start to get better soon, or at least some of what we have put into place this week will help. Living with Autism is just plain hard sometimes.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Just call me magpie

Ah, pretty sparkly things. I love them all. Goes right against my usual Birkenstock wearing, no makeup, wash my hair and comb it as a "style" self, but there you have it. A shiny, sparkly bead will turn my head every single time.

I've been lusting after beaded stitch markers for quite some time now, so I decided to do something about it. Bought some beads, jump rings, t wires, and borrowed Dan's needle nose pliers and went to town. Soon I had a set of stitch markers and a pile of beads remaining. Some rummaging through my craft boxes revealed earring wires, so I made a set as well. So sparkly! So shiny! Must. Make. More.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Seven hundred and four*

* Number of stitches to bind off around the edge of the baby blanket I just finished. This after 9 rows of seed stitch that were almost as long. Solid proof that I am either insane or truly lousy at math. But in the end, it came out well and is off to wrap around a yet to be born little one, so my job is done. Sorry for the lousy picture - I'm learning that white yarn is hard to photograph well. Tried it in full sun, but all you could see was an odd, glowing white spot. Then I tried inside, but it looked flat and boring. Went outside into the shade, but the ground was soaking wet from the thunderstorm we had last night, so I had to balance it carefully on the grass and couldn't smooth things out. You can see the basic shape, which is enough for me.

I promised basic instructions, so here they are. It's a really easy blanket that can be made from any yarn you like - just adjust needle size accordingly:

double pointed needles, size 6
29 inch (or even larger) circular needle, size 6
Dk weight yarn of some sort
Twisted drop stitch: knit, wrapping yarn around both needles then around right needle before pulling yarn through.

Using a provisional cast on and waste yarn, CO 2 stitches. Knit 4 rows in stockingette stitch. Pick up 2 stitches from each side and original cast on side.
Row 1: *k1, yo, k2, yo, k1, place marker* repeat around.
Row 2: *k1, yo, k3, yo, k1* around.
Row 3: *k1, yo, k4, yo, k1* around.
Rows 4-9: Continue adding two yarn overs at each corner with each row.
Row 10: *k1, yo, twisted drop stitch across all knitted stitches, yo, k1* around.
Row 11: *k1, yo, k across all drop stitches, yo, k1* around.
Row 12: *k1, yo, twisted drop stitch across all knitted stitches, yo, k1* around
Transfer to circular needle when it starts getting larger.
Repeat these 12 rows until you are close to the finished size you want, then do 9 rows of seed stitch after the last set of drop stitch rows. Bind off loosely, and you're done.

Peace out

Look what came in the mail yesterday! Some lovely Peace Fleece in Kamchatka Seamoss. Isn't it beautiful? I was the lucky 6000th commenter on Norma's blog, so she sent out goodies. I knitted up a swatch last night (see how much I love this yarn? I even swatched!) to find out what it does when it's been washed. I had heard that it softens and blooms quite a bit. This would be a good thing, since the yarn was a bit rough at first. I also wanted to see what happened to the colors. It isn't obvious in the picture, but yarn is heathered with all kinds of subtle color changes, rather like the color of waves or moss.
It knitted up easily and quickly, then into the sink it went with some Dr. Bronner's. Even as I was washing it started to open up and soften tremendously. The 30% mohair made its presence known as a slight fuzzy halo over the increased softness of the yarn. The color might have gotten a bit lighter and brighter, but there isn't much difference. I ended up with a guage of 4.5 stitches/inch and 7 rows/inch. Wondered if I could get away with a Rogue out of this, but the fuzz factor would diminish the cables too much. I'm thinking a matching hat and scarf, something with a good amount of texture to really show off the color and softness of this lovely stuff. Thank you, Norma!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Five more rows of seed stitch. A paltry five rows. This should be easy, quick, simple, nothing to write about at all. I should be finished. But these rows somehow stretch out miles wide, flaunting the very laws of geometry. Well, perhaps proving them. The center was so easy to knit, only four stitches per side, but now I'm up into numbers that don't bear counting. Still, this should be done tonight and in the mail tomorrow. Picture and a simple pattern soon to follow.

Any last guesses? Anyone? Bueller?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Knitting marathon

I'm working like a mad woman (wait, I am a mad woman!) on the white blob mentioned below. It needs to be done in the next few days, and I still have a skein and a half of yarn to use up. Will be burning the midnight oil to get this done so I can relax and get some reading done. This kind of reading, to be exact.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I scream, you scream

It's hot. Very hot. Perfect for ice cream, especially one that can be made on the fly. The boys love getting up on a stepstool and watching as this whirls in the blender.

Blender Ice Cream:

1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
20 ounces frozen fruit (berries, peaches, cherries, etc.)

Put cream and sugar in blender or food processor and blend for one minute. Add frozen fruit, a little at a time. If using frozen strawberries or peaches it helps to cut them into smaller pieces first. Blend until the ice cream turns thick and smooth. Serve.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Simple pleasures

  • Sunny skies, a breeze, and just enough warmth to know it's summer.
  • Belting it out with Queen when Bohemian Rhapsody comes on the radio on my car.
  • A quiet house, curtosy of my MIL who has taken the boys to the park.
  • A brand new Knit Picks catalog to thumb through in said quiet house.
  • Juicy, fragrant ripe white peaches that tempt as I walk by the kitchen counter.
  • Holding hands with Dan at the end of yoga class.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I've never been so happy to see a long line

This morning I went to Trader Joe's with more than shopping on my mind. They sponser a Red Cross blood drive every year and give donors 10% off all groceries purchased that day. I arrived armed with a big bottle of water and my shopping list for later, only to find a line of people ahead of me. I wasn't the only one who reserved a spot - they were full up for the rest of the day and had to turn several people away. Warmed my heart to see so many people out there, even if it meant waiting a while longer. I walked out with a bag of Cheez-Its, a red compression band on my arm, and an unexpected t-shirt.

For anyone who hasn't donated blood, give it a try. It's easy, it doesn't cost anything, and you can save a life and get free cookies at the same time.

Friday, July 08, 2005

And there was much knitting

I'll start off with my poor, long neglected Kiri. By now I have the pattern memorized, so it's pretty simple knitting. I've been saving it for taking along to the doctor's office (had a bit of that lately), car rides, and other places where something more intricate wouldn't quite work well. Though progress has been meager, it is getting bigger, slowly but surely. Looks like I'll need another skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock to finish it up. This offends my ever frugal soul, but I dearly love the colors and the pattern. Besides, I will most likely wear the shawl many times, thus decreasing the overall cost per wearing until it is almost a bargain. At least that's my current rationalization. Note my youngest who really, really wanted to "help take pictures, Mommy!"

Next is this amorphous white blob. Will it be a hat? A broach? A pteradactyl? Any guesses?

Last, but certainly not least, is my first sockapal2za sock, almost three quarters of the way done. The top, one side, and half the heel are done, and I'm up to row 73 out of a total of 96. It's starting to take on a rather sock-ish shape thanks to short rows and increases at the point of the heel area. I decided to make the sole and heel area flat stockingette rather than continuing the seed stitch as the pattern directs, since it seemed rather bumpy and uncomfortable if worn with shoes. Also gives me a nice stretch of plain knitting, which is a welcome relief at the end of a row. I have loved watching this sock emerge - it has been very unlike making a sock from the top or from the bottom. I'm tempted to try making up slippers in a similar fashion. Why? Because I can.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why is it I always finish projects at midnight?

I was pondering this last night....oh, around midnight. My sister leaves for China tomorrow morning, so I wanted to get her gift ready so Dan could drop it by after work today. I started this a week ago, then set it down as I did other things. I've got *lots* of time, I kept telling myself. Finally realized on Sunday that I did not have much time left, especially since there were other things I needed to do this week besides sewing like a mad fiend.

Enter in Kathy's patented midnight sewing spree. Usually saved for the night before Christmas or perhaps an important birthday, but useful any time there just aren't enough hours in the day to finish something. Who needs sleep, anyway? I close the door of the closet so Dan
doesn't hear the sewing machine and go to town*. I think my best creative thinking is done late at night when everything is quiet and I can get really into a project with no distractions. Either that, or I tend to procrastinate a wee bit.

First, here's the finished messenger bag, complete with goodies**:

The denim
fabric was left over from trivets my sister made for her classroom volunteers at the end of the school year. There are tiny hot pink flowers here and there, and I topstitched with matching pink thread that you can't see in the crappy middle of the night picture. The lining I found for $2 a yard back in the bargain section of Joanns. I love me a good cheap fabric hunt - there always seems to be something that will work back there, and the price soothes my frugal soul. There are pockets for magazines, pens, scissors, decks of cards, and a special pocket for her plane ticket (a real, honest to goodness printed ticket - in 2005!) hidden behind the magazines. I tried to get a shot of the inside with all the pockety goodness, but it came out really, really bad. Trust me here.

Next come the goodies:
That's a portable game board with backgammon on one side, checkers on the other. Beside it is a pouch full of pink and yellow buttons to use as markers. I used a narrow pink grosgrain ribbon to tie both.

Checker board
This started out well and ended up being a huge pain. I ironed fusable web to the two colors of fabric then cut out 64 squares, all 1 1/4 inches per side. So far, so good. Then I placed them on the muslin backing and ironed them down, alternating stripe sequences. Things were looking good at this point. Then I started to stitch down the edges with a narrow zigzag of pink thread. Ploink! Broken thread. Grumble, rethread, keep on going. Ploink! Another broken thread. This time I noticed that there was goo of some sort building up on the needle, which was pulling on the thread and breaking it. Allrighty, I'll just keep the needle clear of adhesive gunk. No problem. Ploink! Evil, evil web with plasticy stuff that makes sewing impossible. Grumbling quietly so as not to wake Dan, I carried on. Took forever, or quite close to it. I won't say how many times the thread broke, other than it was too damn many times. But the end result looked really good, so I'm not complaining. Much.

Backgammon board:

I love how this came out. Had a hard time figuring out what to do for the center bar since I didn't have a third fabric. Then I realized that turning the stripes would make a nice contrast. By this time I knew all about the adhesive issue and went to find another stitch that wouldn't pick up as much of the nasty stuff in the first place. Blanket stitch to the rescue! The needle would only dip into that evil pool of goo every 3 stitches. As long as I kept clearing off the needle, it went just fine. Some topstitching and a ribbon tie, and the game board was done.

There are a ton of things I'd change about the bag and the game board, but they came out really well, especially considering I made it all up as I went along. It was done in time to send along with Dan this morning, and I think my sister will like the colors and get a lot of use out of all of it. I got a pattern out of it, so sewing up the next one should be much easier. Oh, and today I find out about Sewer's Aid, which keeps residue off the sewing needle so nothing jams up. Why didn't anyone tell me about this YESTERDAY? Agggh.

* Yes, I sew in my closet. It's HUGE - you could easily put a twin sized bed in there and make it a room, although the sloped ceiling would make getting around tricky. Perfect for my sewing machine, serger, fabric, yarn, the occasional small furry animal....
** Please forgive the truly crappy pictures. Note that they were taken in my closet at midnight.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4th

What a glorious day. The weather was just perfect - sunny, not too hot, slight breeze, with a few wispy clouds helping the view. The boys swam and dove and splashed in the pool, then spent the rest of the afternoon playing marbles and making spaceships out of Legos. We had an early dinner of hot dogs, corn on the cob, and salad. Not the healthiest meal, but Independance Day comes once a year. Then we all bundled up into the car with blankets and jackets and water bottles (and a secret stash of ice cream bars) to watch fireworks in the park.

This is where I love living in a smaller city. There's a free fireworks show in this small, sprawling park just a few miles away. People bring chairs, blankets, food, children, and dogs and scramble for the best spot on the grass to watch the show later that night. There was face painting, someone selling glow in the dark necklaces, and fresh lemonade and funnel cakes. The band was an excellent Beatles tribute group, done up in satin nehru jackets and sounding just fine. Children danced and ran and climbed on the logs by the playground while the grown ups tried to keep up.

Then it grew dark and people rambled back to their spots, eager for the show. The speakers weren't quite working, so while there was some kind of commentary and music as background, we only heard some of it. No matter. The fireworks were brilliant. Sparkling colors, the big flashy ones that take your breath away and the smaller rambling ones that have their own special beauty, they were all incredible. The boys jumped up and down and shouted out "wow! That's amazing!" and "oh boy, oh, boy, oh boy!" as their eyes sparkled almost as much as the fireworks before us. The finale was one of the brightest I have ever seen. Someone must have decided to take every shell they had on hand and set them all off together at the end, and it was huge. Then time to walk to the car and get home, sleepy boys drifting off to Cirque du Soliel in the back seat.

Days like these I want to bottle and keep forever.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Sometimes it pays to look at things from a different angle

After trying every stitch pattern that I could find, frogging the whole thing and starting over several times, and almost moving on to different yarn, I finally picked up my copy of Socks, Socks, Socks in search of Stephanie's pooling solution. Alas, it really was a lacey pattern, and my Sockapalooza pal doesn't want lace. I thumbed through the pages, ready to find an obedient non-handpainted yarn, when I spied the Sideways Sox pattern. It was beautiful, full of color running down the sock instead of side to side. I had skipped by this same pattern many times, chuckling to myself about how hard knitting a sock from lengthwise would be.

Never say never, right? Turns out the chart is very clear and easy to follow, and the pattern is pretty simple to adjust if needed. Figuring out where to place the heel took a bit of figuring, since my sock pal's feet are a bit smaller than the pattern, but I think it will fit well. It's hard to see in the picture, but there are short rows that make a gentle curve on either side of the toe (the picture shows the top half of the sock). The stitch markers near the middle define where the heel increases and decreases will go. I love the edging - it's small, but does interesting things with the stretches of rose and greens at the end of each row. The colors, spread out over a larger row, are glorious, especially with the bits of seed stitch to mix things up:

May well have to make some of these up for myself ;-)