Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our Week

Dan took a vacation week last week and we used the time to do some home improvements.

First on the list was the master bedroom.

Before:

Master Before

After:

Master After

This one wasn't a huge project - mostly just filling some holes from the previous owners, fixing some nail pops, giving it a (matching) coat of paint and getting in a new light fixture. We do still have to figure out what we are going to do with the windows - we are debating between wooden blinds and Roman shades - but other than that (and the eventual house-wide carpet replacement) we are done!

Next up, the guest bathroom.

Before:

Guest Bath Before

In process:

Guest Bath During

Originally were were just going to paint, but then we decided maybe we wanted to go ahead and replace the vanity sooner rather than later and things just snowballed from there.

This project is, naturally, going to take a bit longer than the bedroom as we are pretty much gutting and redoing the room. We still have to finish taking up the floor tile and removing the fiberglass tub/shower combo thing. But we already have a vanity and mirror purchased and new tile picked out for the shower so we are making slowly moving forward!

Dan also got some beer brewing done this weekend; he made a golden stout and an kind-of imperial stout. No pictures of that, but the kitchen in the midst of the brewing looked very similar to the in process picture of the guest bathroom above.

Yay for productive vacations!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Book 14: Success!

Previously, I expressed some difficulty in attempting to read A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. It took me a little bit, but I was able to get past the wonky (and, in my view, occasionally illogical) made-up slang and actually figure out what the heck was going on in the book.
Our pockets were full of deng, so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting any more pretty polly to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood while we counted the takings and divided by four, nor to do the ultra-violent on some shivering starry grey-haired ptitsa in a shop and go smecking off with the till’s guts. But, as they say, money isn’t everything.
What?

At times, getting past the slang was easier said than done, but I found as long as I picked the book up fairly regularly, I could keep in the mindset that allowed me to not get tripped up on the slang.

Once I got past that, the book actually ended up fairly interesting. The main point seemed to be about choice and yeah, it was a bit heavy handed with that.
A man who cannot choose ceases to be a man.
Thwack.
Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some ways better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?
Thwack.
Goodness comes from within.... Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.
Thwack.
They have turned you into something other than a human being. You have no power of choice any longer. You are committed to socially acceptable acts, a little machine capable only of good.
Beat that dead horse, baby.

No, but really. It did bring up some interesting things to think about and it came at a good time for me, so thumbs up on that. But honestly, I think the end kind of fizzled and it left me wondering what the takeaway was supposed to be.

Apparently, the last chapter (SPOILERS: where Alex gets bored with his youthful life of violence and decides he'd like to be married and have a child and effectively grows out of his thieving, assaulting, raping and murdering ways in one night), was originally removed from the US versions of this book. (It was this edited version that Stanley Kubrick's movie was based on, which is probably why watching the movie didn't help me resolve any of my issues with the book.) I can understand that because, to me, it ends the book on a confusing note. It kind of messed with what I saw to be the strong choice-related themes of the book.

I think if the book had ended differently (the last chapter particularly, but I think it started to decline when Alex ended up in the hospital), I might have actually enjoyed this book. As it is, I'm left with kind of a "meh" feeling about it all. It was interesting and provoked some interesting conversation with Dan, but it could have been more.

Anyway, I'm apparently still on my weirdly violent (violently weird?) book kick. And I've just started reading a Haruki Murakami book, so I don't think the kick is done yet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sock Repair

So I messed up. I'm (slowly) working on a pair of socks right now for Dan and I was attempting a short row toe. Only thing with a short row toe - you have to know how many total stitches you will use for the sock and then you have to do a little math and accurately count to make the short row toe work. Well, apparently I forgot the whole "accurate" part of the counting thing and ended up with way-too-pointy sock toes.

At times, I'm okay with minor mistakes in my socks. But something like this? Not so minor. And the fact that the socks are for Dan made it doubly important to do it right. Which means I had to fix the too-pointy toes. I could rip them back, but one sock was past the heel - half way done! - and the other was almost as far.

So I took a deep breath, braced myself up and unravel the toes.

Toeless Socks

It took about two hours to do the first (short row turns apparently can't be simply frogged when unraveled counter to the direction knit) but the second one only took an hour. Then I got all the now live stitches back on the needles and I reknit the short row toes (making sure to pay attention to the whole counting thing).

Repairing the Toe

Then, a little kitchener stitch and ta-da! Sock toes that aren't too pointy and another knitting merit badge!

I'm so relieved that I was able to fix Dan's toes. There was a lot of nervousness involved in the fix since I had never done such a dramatic fix before. But now that I've done it once, I have the confidence to do it again if it ever pops up. Win all around!

Of course, too-pointy toes aren't the only sock-related things around the house that have needed fixing lately. Dan's first pair of socks had a spot that had begun thinning out so I set up to reinforce the thin spot with some duplicate stitch. Unfortunately, when I started to repair the thin spot, the worn yarn gave way creating a honest-to-goodness hole.

Sock Repair

Now, I don't love getting holes in my socks, but this hole did present me with an opportunity. A while back, I picked up a Speedweve from eBay and an actual hole gave me a great chance to give it a try.

Basically, the Speedweve is this little mini-loom contraption that you hook up to your sock to create a woven patch.

Sock Repair with Speedweve

You create a warp between the Speedweve and the sock then use yarn as a weft and weave it back and forth (attaching it to the sock on each edge) to create a little patch.

It was pretty easy to do and it worked great!

Sock Patch

Dan even wore the socks the other day and said that he couldn't even notice the patch. I'm so pleased!

Holes in hand knit socks still make me sad, but it is a bit of a fact of life apparently, so I'm really pleased to have a way to fix them that's pretty fun. (I do have a small darning egg that is great for doing some duplicate stitching for reinforcement, which I used for a pair of my socks that hadn't gotten to hole-level yet, but the darning egg isn't as fun as the Speedweve!)

I'm now flying pretty high on my mad sock repairing skills. Go me!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Knitting Has Happened!

This post is a little delayed (I've been a bad blogger (and knitter!) lately, but I'm trying to catch up) but I've finished sock pair number 22 for the year!

Birthday Socks

This pair was made as a birthday present for my aunt's eightieth birthday - eighty years old definitely deserves hand knit socks!

Aunt Grace's Socks

I think they were a success!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cidering (Part Two of ??)

Woodchuck Hard Cider Private Reserve Pumpkin Cider

Woodchuck Private Reserve Pumpkin Cider
3.5 our of 5

It smells like apple candy but with a little extra. The taste is kinda different - apple, yes, but there's the extra in there that is obviously gourd. I was expecting more pumpkin pie with sweetness and spices but this is really more straight raw pumpkin. It does add a nice depth of flavor which I am finding I like in ciders but I'm just not sure if I'm a pumpkin girl. As it warms, I get a sweet vanilla note and I quite like that. I think I might have to try the second bottle closer to room temperature to see how I like that.



Woodchuck Hard Cider Cellar Series Mint

Woodchuck Cellar Series Mint
3 out of 5

The smell is champagne and mild feet. I don't think I get mint on there other than a note that transforms apples into champagne. It smells very dry.

The taste is very bright and, yes, there is mint. It's sweet but not over powering and gives a nice tingle on my tongue. This does hit the sparkling white grape juice note more than apple cider but I do like it, especially the sweet yet slightly earthy mint at the end.

It's not my favorite cider but I approve of its uniqueness. I prob like the cheese flavored cider more but this is similar in style/sweetness/lightness to the Crispin so yeah, I like it well enough.

Magner's Irish Cider Original

Magner's Irish Cider Original
2 out of 5

This one smells of apple, good funk, crackers and some fermented fruit that isn't apple. Almost a prickly pear.

Taste is interesting. It makes me think of rotten rubber band fruit. There's something in the aftertaste - it's so fruity and sour - that all I can think of is rotten fruit. Which is a shame because the first part of the taste seems like it would be a good beer substitute as it isn't overwhelmingly fruity or wine cooler, but rather something with a little funk and personality.

Great potential, but disappointingly not for me.

Angry Orchard Hard Cider Apple Ginger

Angry Orchard Hard Cider Apple Ginger
4.5 out of 5

The smell is very sweet and apple-y, like candy. It's very nice. Candy sweet can have its place.

The taste is interesting. It very apple-y on the front end and very ginger-ale on the back end. The ginger gives it a nice balance to the sweetness of the apple so it's not just candy sweet. It also gives the flavor just enough earthy funk to make it super tasty.

This one is one of my mom's favorites and I can totally see why. Nice flavor, great balance. This is up there with the Woodchuck Belgium for me. Definitely going to have to buy more of this.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Means...

It's time to decorate for Christmas!

Of course, not everyone can wait until after Thanksgiving. We saw this guy last weekend; apparently he wanted to get a jump on his Christmas decorating.

Festive Driving

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Win!

Dan and I have NHL Center Ice, so we end up seeing a lot of commercials for St. Louis and southern California while we watch our teams' games. A season or two ago, the California station played this particular casino commercial a lot.


Please play the commercial for theme music while reading the rest of this post. Because apparently, that song fits my yarn experiences this month.

I have won two yarn prizes! The first one was a random drawing for those in my 12 Socks in 2014 sock group that completed socks in October. For that, I won this delightful pink bamboo and wool sock yarn, which I can't wait to try out!

Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Wool

Then last week, I won a prize package in a drawing for participants of October's DFW Yarn Crawl. I won a ton of yarn - 10 skeins of an aran superwash wool and two skeins of a lace merino and silk wool. And, if that weren't enough, the prize also included a lovely wooden crochet hook!

Ella Rae Extrafine Heather Swans Island Merino Silk Furls Crochet Hook

Of course, now I have to find a place to put all that yarn! I am going to need to rearrange my craft cabinet to free up an extra shelf for yarn! (Not that I'm complaining, of course. Because yarn!)

Yay for yarn winning!

HUUUUGE!

It's no secret that I love Le Creuset enameled cast iron. All the joy of cooking with heat-retaining cast iron, none of the worry about tomato-based recipes killing the seasoning. I am particularly in love with their round French ovens - they are my go-to pots and I have a fair number of them. My favorite one has always been what we called "the big orange pot". It's a nine quart pot (the #30 size, for those non-quart people) that has pretty much been my daily-use pot ever since we bought it. It spends more time on my stove or drying on the counter than it does put up in its cabinet. There's only one problem with it - when we make soup we get really close to boiling it over.

So last weekend, we happened to be near a Le Creuset outlet. And that outlet happened to be having a sale. You see where this is going? Yeah, we bought a new "big" pot. How big? Well, here it is next to our previous big-boy, the 9 quart.

Le Creuset #30 & #34

The new pot is a whopping 13 quarts (#34!). It's HUGE. And heavy. It barely fits in the sink for washing. And I love it. In the first two days we owned it, we used it twice, once for a triple recipe of applesauce (we had a ton of apples) and once for soup. Fabulous.

Of course, I don't think it will replace my beloved orange pot for daily use. But it will be our go-to soup pot, which is the whole point of it.

Part of me knows how ridiculous it was that we got this pot - I mean, it's HUGE and nothing Le Creuset is cheap. That being said, don't think we actually paid anywhere near full price for this. I've wanted this pot for ages but could not justify paying what it sells for. But knock a couple hundred off the price? Yes please!

And now I must return to the kitchen to pet it and tell it how fabulous it is.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Try, Trying, Tried

Has anyone read A Clockwork Orange? Because I tried to start reading it last night and couldn't get past page one. Rassoodocks, mesto, skorry, veshches, moloko, vellocet, synthemesc, drencrom, mozg, peet... Seriously? I get made up words, especially when you have a dystopian or post-apocolyptic or in-some-way-massively-different world to create but your readers also have to understand a little bit about what you are trying to say.

I tried reading page one three times and even tried out page two before I realized I couldn't as I was completely distracted by the words I didn't understand.

Does it get better or should I just give up now?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book 13: What Just Happened Here?

It's been established that I like weird books. And apparently when it comes to Japanese fiction, I like violent books. (I'm not really sure why I keep reading Japanese fiction where people are killed. Maybe that's just a lot of the Japanese fiction that gets translated into English?)
Basically people who love horror movies are people with boring lives. They want to be stimulated, and they need to reassure themselves, because when a really scary movie is over, you’re reassured to see that you’re still alive and the world still exists as it did before.
Earlier this year, I read a book by Ryu Murakami that started with a random murder and ended with the firebombing of a Tokyo suburb. It was weird and oddly entrancing, so I decided to read something else by him. I picked In the Miso Soup.

I'm not really sure if I can explain this book. Basically, a Japanese tour guide is hired to show an American around the seedy side of Tokyo's nightlife. The American ends up being a serial killer.

“He’s checking out a Print Club booth.”
“A what?”
“You know, that machine that takes photos of you and then prints them out on cute little stickers. I don’t think he knows how it works. He’s watching a group of girls posing for a picture.”
“I think you’re probably all right, then, Kenji. I can’t imagine a murderer making Print Club photos of himself.”
I’m not sure why, but that seemed to make sense.
It's a horrifically violent book. Do not read while eating. Most of it isn't gory, but there is one (long) scene that... You know, I have a strong stomach but I'm glad I didn't hit that part while I was eating lunch. For some reason, it was particularly gruesome.
Frank sighed as though bored and cut off his other ear as well. It fell to the floor soundlessly, like a slice of fishcake or something, and lay there among the loose strands of hair and cigarette ashes.
And that doesn't even get into the really icky parts. (Let's not discuss a man's face begin set on fire.) One disadvantage of particularly evocative writing style, I suppose?

But even before the real violence sets in, it's just such a weird book. There's something about the writing style - it really sucked me in even though I'm pretty sure I had a shocked-to-horrified expression on my face while reading 90% of this book.

On a larger scale, it touches on the issues of loneliness, the disconnect of younger generations (compared to post-WW2 folks; this isn't a teenagers-are-the-bane-of-our-society type book), cultural differences, who's to blame for society's issues... It's not exactly the most flattering towards Americans, but then it isn't exactly a glowing review of the Japanese either. Murakami is critical of everyone, apparently.
What’s good about Americans, if I can generalize a little, is that they have a kind of openhearted innocence. And what’s not so good is that they can’t imagine any world outside the States, or any value system different from their own. The Japanese have a similar defect, but Americans are even worse about trying to force others to do whatever they themselves believe to be right.
So yeah, this all probably really says nothing concrete about this book, but it's just weird. Did I like it? Yes, in a horrifying sort of way. The underlying issues were really interesting to think on and the actual plot was engaging in a rubbernecking-at-a-horrible-car-accident kind of way. I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone because if someone actually read it, they might think I had massive mental problems, but yeah, really fascinating read. I'm definitely going to have to read more Ryu Murakami books. Once I recover from this one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Things Have [Not] Happened

Okay, so I've fallen a bit off of the face of the earth the past few weeks. Mostly, I was sick. I ended up with a cold which I thought I got over really quickly until it came back a couple of days later. But now I'm finally over it and have been since this weekend. So yay!

Of course, two weeks being sick, you'd think I'd at least have some new knitting to share but not so much. I was so miserably sick that I didn't even have the oomph to knit. Now that I'm feeling better, though, I've started on pair number 29 for the year.

Dan Sock

This one is a pair for Dan, the lucky duck. I just started it last night and got in a good chunk of knitting it so I've gotten quite far. Of course, I haven't even started on the second sock yet so I have quite a ways to go. And hopefully these socks will be at least occasionally interrupted by my next project - a sweater for me! I've got to swatch and do a lot of math for that one though, so I've been putting it off because I'm lazy.

In other news, it actually snowed here a few nights ago. Just a light dusting, but still. Crazy. Especially in November! Shoot, we just turned our heat on about two weeks ago. But it turned cold quickly - one week after turning the heat on, we had to put the heated mattress pad on the bed. (Best. Thing. Ever. Seriously. Electric blanket fan? Get an electric mattress pad. It's so much better. I can wear my non-winter pajamas to bed comfortably even though we let the house get in the 60s at night.)

This week so far has been a catch up week. My house is still a mess (two weeks of not cleaning, bleck) but laundry is all caught up (in one day! My new washer/dryer set is fantastic and HOLDS SO MUCH) and now I'm working on getting actual food stocked in the fridge instead of just the ingredients for food. At some point, I'm going to make some applesauce, too, as we have a ton of apples. Gotta do something with them.

If the weather stays this cold all winter, I fully plan to knit and hibernate. Who knows how many pair of socks I'll get up to before the year is done!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

More Socks!

Pair number 21 for the year! This time, they are even taller - with calf shaping and everything!

Tall Socks
Tall Socks

The calf shaping was based on a template I made of my leg measurements. Because I am that ridiculous. It worked great thought! Perfectly fitted knee-highs!

Up next? Socks for Dan and a sweater for me!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book 12

I just finished my twelfth book for this year, The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde. Normally, I devour Fforde books, but not this one, at least not at first. That was totally my fault though, not the book's.
If you think fourteen is too young to be driving, think again. The Kingdom of Snodd grants driving licences on the basis of responsibility, not age, something that can frustrate forty-something blokes no end when they fail their responsibility test for the umpteenth time.
Lately, I've just been rather fidgety - I feel like I'm so close to normalcy (or my new approximation of it) but I keep getting little setbacks. So I'm just constantly feeling a bit distracted, like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. It makes it hard to sit down and focus on something like a book with plot.
...we stopped for a moment to stretch our legs, change drivers and make a short devotion at the shrine dedicated to the once popular but now little known St Aosbczkcs, the patron saint of fading relevance.
I don't enjoy this YA series from Fforde as much as his other stories, but I still do like it quite a bit. The humor is just as random and satirical as his adult fiction (there has to be another way to phrase that... it's not "adult" like an adult movie, just not YA), but it's not quite as smart. (Or else it is too smart and over my head so far that I don't even know I'm missing something. Always a possibility.)
Ralph said he’d not come either, as he had a peculiar allergy to ‘anything without legs, such as cats.’
‘Cats have legs,’ said the Princess.
‘They do, don’t they?’ agreed Ralph in a confused manner, but declined to join us anyway.
Once I finally forced myself to focus, I read this in about two days. And now I have to wait until next year for the next one to come out!
‘But listen,’ I said as the sandwiches arrived, ‘you don’t know the first thing about ironing. Hardly anyone does. The Guild of Master Ironers keep that secret arcane knowledge well guarded.’
Normally I detest cliffhanger books (which this sort of is). I've stopped reading an author I enjoyed just because of a cliffhanger book ending. It's a big hate. But I don't have a problem with how Fforde does his. The main plot story lines from the book are all nicely tied up and then, right before the end, something new is introduced. (Yes, there was foreshadowing, but it wasn't what the book was about so I didn't care that it wasn't unresolved). So even though there's a big issue hanging out there, it just means you know what you'll be getting in the next book - the current book doesn't feel unfinished. It's that unfinished, that-book-was-pointless feeling that I hate.

Though I also really don't like finally getting into something and then finishing it and begin left at a loss. Fforde needs to publish another book. I need something fun to read!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Part One Done!

I mentioned it before, but last week I finished my qiviut cowl. Now, celebrate! Because it is all blocked so it is officially finished!

Qiviut Cowl

I thought I had tons more to go because I had tons more yarn, but turns out it was very close to the length I wanted, so my one week sock-less knitting finished this puppy off. It was even blocking one day before my self-imposed deadline. Win all over the place!

Of course, I was sick last week (head cold) so I just let the cowl lay on my blocking mat well after it was dry, but I'm feeling better so I took (crappy) pictures and it is now officially done!

Qiviut Cowl

Since I do have a lot of yarn left, I have plans to make a matching hat. I have to do math for that first, though, so I'm working on socks right now. Here's a glimpse of my current project.

Pattern Markers

So yeah, gonna finish these socks, probably make some more socks and maybe a sweater, then I will work on the matching hat.

Yay for completed project-that-isn't-socks!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Embargo Over!

It is time for socks!

Socks In Training

Or at least things that will be socks after twenty five hours or so of work.