Friday, August 27, 2010

I feel so very domestic!

I also feel sweaty and very, very tired....

I've just completed Adventures in Canning, Parts 1 & 2. Part 1 was a resounding success, but took a mighty long time. Wild Plum Jelly. Starting with a slew of wild plums. Washing and inspecting each and every one of those little buggers took much longer than I'd anticipated. I don't actually know how long, but the flour sack towels I bought to strain the mush made it through the entire wash cycle before I'd gotten half way. Gently cooking and not-so-gently mashing the little spheroids took just over an hour. Then stirring and stirring and stirring. Plum juice, sugar and pectin. Boiling and stirring and boiling and stirring. The friendly sheet of paper in the pectin package said I'd only have to boil hard for one minute while stirring continuously. Yeah. No. The stuff was nowhere near setting after a minute. After about six minutes, it finally started "sheeting" off of the spoon (aren't you proud of me? I now know official jelly-making terminology!). Twelve half-pint jars are cooling in my cupboard. And, of course, the hot water bath canner I bought only held nine. And it seemed so wrong to can just three jars of jelly.... So, Adventure in Canning, Part 2A: pineapple preserves spiced with Poudre Fine (or Poudre Douce, if you prefer)(officially "conserves d'ananas avec la poudre fine"). One 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 teaspoon poudre fine. And another spat of boiling and stirring and boiling and stirring... Then the preserves began to set. Two and a half jars. Yeah. No. Adventure in Canning, Part 2B: another can of crushed pineapple, sugar, spice. Unfortunately, I was getting so very tired of the whole boiling and stirring thing that I rushed the second batch. I'm not sure that it's going to be pineapple preserves. It might be vastly tasty pineapple syrup. But, it's canned. And cooling in the cupboard.

Just in case you wanted to know, the coolest part of the canning process was gently lifting the jars out of the very hot water, coaxing them in to place in the cupboard without actually touching them, and hearing the "ping" of the lid going concave as I turned to get the next jar. Which means the seal is good!!

So, yeah, I have 12 jars of great jelly, 2 jars of great preserves, one jar that's half great preserves and half possibly-not-preserves, and 2 jars of possibly-not-preserves. And they are all perfectly sealed! And that means success! And I'm looking forward to tasting the stuff when it's cool enough not to burn my tongue (yes, jelly and preserves are quite hot after being boiled hard for much more than a minute... oops!)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

In Praise of Ol' Reliable

Subtitle: My machine can kick your machine's butt.

Why the name? Well, Ol' Reliable is old... The copyright dates in the manual start at 1915 and end at 1950. The largest gap between any two is 3 years. So, Ol' Reliable is probably born no later than 1953. Ol' Reliable is reliable. Like no other electical device I've ever owned.

Ol' Reliable is a Singer Featherweiht 221, and is the sewing machine I use for just about everything. Why? It's a workhorse. It sews and sews and sews. Sometimes it gets a little cranky, and I have to clean and oil it very well. Usually, I just oil it from time to time.

How reliable is Ol' Reliable? Well, see, I'm working on repairing one canvas tent and changing the door design in another. "Canvas tent?!?!", you say. Yes. Canvas. Tent.

Now, Ol' Reliable does have limits, and I'm not actually doing all of the tent work on it. That would be cruel and unusual punishment for a wonderful machine. I'm going over to a friend's house, and she had an industrial machine that I'll be using to finish everything, like sewing through the places where there will be 9 layers of canvas. But, I didn't want to spend days on end camped at the Shaw residence. I like them; they like me; I don't think they want me invading their home for days and days and days. So, I thought I'd do some work in advance.

I'm replacing each and every stake loop on a Panther Pyramid tent. Did Panther put the loops in poorly? Oh, heck, no! Panther rocks. And if I could afford a brand new Panther Primitives tent, I would buy one in a heartbeat. Sadly, I cannot. So, several years ago I bought a used one. From someone who abused the poor baby. The stake loops are rotting, several have ripped and been repaired (btw, if you're camping in an old canvas tent, bring along a really big needle, some nylon webbing, and some dental floss... minty fresh repairs that last quite a while). I thought about getting Panther to do the work. It would be more convenient, but more expensive. I did chat via email with them for quite a bit, and they said they've switched to using canvas rolled around nylon webbing. I bought some canvas that I needed for the other tent (doors and fly), but I cut a bit off the walls of that other tent and had spare canvas. And some regular nylon webbing from an old ratcheting tie-down. And some tubular nylon, which is like regular webbing on steroids.

So... I knew Ol' Reliable could sew through 2 layers of butch tent canvas. I hoped it could sew through 3. I was right. I hoped it could sew through 3 plus one layer of wimpy nylon webbing. Ol' Reliable laughed and said, "Bring it on!" 3 layers plus one layer of tubular nylon? "Oh, please, I'm a Singer Featherweight, not a Singer wimp!"

Ol' Reliable can sew through 3 layers of relatively fresh tent canvas, one layer of tubular nylon (which is actually two layers), and two layers of old tent. I had to oil the needle frequently, and I swear I heard Ol' Reliable panting and saying, "Are we almost done? I would really like to take a nap... No? Okay... IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan..."

Oh, heck yes!, Ol' Reliable is reliable. I have ripped out each and every one of those rotting stake loops and basted its replacement in place. Perfectly.

I love this machine!!!

(And now, I'm going to go oil it and thank it for working so very hard for me, then put it away in it's nice box and let it sleep for several days...)

Monday, June 28, 2010


Okay, so I admit I'm addicted to nicotine. And, yes, I am trying (and failing repeatedly) to switch from analog to digital....

But, socks. I am fabulously addicted to knitting socks. Easy socks. Complicated socks. Socks loosely based on a pattern but with wildly different yarn. Socks, socks, socks. I can knit socks 24 hours a day if permitted. Alas and alack, life generally does not permit me such luxury. But!! Socks are also the woolly equivalent of Valium (I think... never actually had a Valium...). So, when life through me a "you have to switch to Plan B" (and there was no Plan B... Ever optimistic, I figured Plan A couldn't possibly fall through), I picked up needles and worked on socks.

First up was the second sock of a pair of Skew in worsted yarn. No, the pattern is not written for worsted weight. But I successfully completed a pair in sock yarn, so I had a ready guide for diving in at the deep end. I called them A Leap of Faith - I had faith that I would be able to suss out what to do, and successfully translate the first left foot sock into the second right foot sock. Took notes and everything! And althought there are a couple of things I might do differently, I managed to produce a pair. And I love them. And they made me happy for a few minutes.

But, then that joy wore off. Sorta like the way they say you need bigger fixes more frequently for really nasty addictions (again, other than nicotine, don't know what those are like... Knowing that I have an addictive personality makes it very easy for me to say "NO!" to bad things... except cigarettes... and socks... but, I digress).

So, I whipped out another pattern I've been wanting to try (Zombie socks) and some yarn I picked up somewhere, and oo-ee, am I happy again!!

And just to keep me on my toes, I have to finish these bad boys in 2 more days so that I can cast on commissioned socks when the yarn arrives. Shipping from New York state tomorrow. And probably arriving on Thursday. Maybe Friday.

Socks, socks, socks.

I think just about everyone is getting socks for Christmas this year. Even those folks with wool allergies, because bamboo is really quite spiffy!!!

Socks, socks, socks.

Love me dem socks!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Has anyone seen my brain?

Well, if Skew didn't teach me that my brain is not functioning at full capacity, the Abbey (by Lisa Grossman) is apparently going to. I love the Tsock Tsarina, and the tsocks usually are so abundantly clear that I just jump right in and happily knit along.

I finished Skew. I made so many mistakes. I knit the foot too long, and ripped back. Past the foot, there are two mistakes in there somewhere that I decided to just leave. At one point, I would have had one too many stitches if I had done the increase that should have been done. So I skipped it. At another, I would have had one too few if I'd done the decrease. Skipped that. And, yes, the worry that I wouldn't have enough yarn was correct - I couldn't do 1.5 inches of ribbing. But .675 inches works for me. I need to tighten my kitchener and weave in ends, but they look fine. As long as you don't look close enough to find the two mistakes, which I didn't! I'm incredibly happy with the end result, but they took way too long. Way too much struggle. (Of course now I can pretty much recite the pattern from memory...)

Having freed up my 1's, what else was I supposed to do but start in on the tsocks with gargoyle on the tippy top? Yes, gargoyles. I must have gargoyles. First, though I have to grow a hyacinth and build a cathedral. No problem. Simple pattern stitch on the hyacinth. The whole foot is a hyacinth. And it all starts with a toe. A toe whose instructions should have been abundantly clear to me. And they weren't. I had to chart the darned thing. And I struggled to do the chart! Where is my brain?!?! If someone out there finds it, please send it home. Maybe feed it some chocolate chip cookies first. And then promise it I'll make it no-bakes when it gets here!

Friday, April 16, 2010

How many things can go wrong at once???

I guess I really don't want to know the answer to that one. Enough has gone wrong this week already, and more would be a bit much to handle...

My beloved miniature panther went walkies on Monday, and I haven't seen her since. I've just read some stuff about when I should be walking about and calling her, and that's 10pm - 2am, when it's quiet. Unfortunately, it's not a good idea to be wandering around alone then, so I'll have to recruit some help (and wandering around alone calling out "Evil" probably isn't the best idea either...). Tomorrow, I'll be doing flyers (finally managed to get to the store for printer ink...), and maybe someone will see her. I miss her most at night, when we go up to bed and she gets her 20 minutes of petting time. I find that I don't want to go to bed...

And Skew. Skew is killing me. The first attempt I was finding my brain saying, "Yes, this yarn is lovely, but it really isn't quite stripey enough..." When I got to the heel part and found that I had 2 too many stitches, I decided it was a sign that I should use a different yarn. Well, I had split some Lion Brand Magic Stripes yarn into two balls on the weekend, and so I figured that was a sign that I should use that yarn. So, I sallied forth. 3 rows left in the "heel" and then I noticed how very little yarn was left, and I panicked. I didn't think it was enough to finish the socks. So I pulled them off the needles. Well, having read the pattern, and realized that I'd be doing a bunch of short rows to fill in one side of the ankle, I now think that it would be close. So, put the socks back on the needles you say? Ah, no. I tried them on. I folded up the heel bit to see how it would look (because I will have a pair of these socks!), and found out that yea though I followed the pattern to the letter, yea though I had 7.5" pretty much exactly when I started the gussety bit, the socks are too long. By about 8 rows. So... I will be putting the socks back on the needles, but 8 rows back from the gussety bit. Which, of course, means I'll have more yarn when it comes to that short row section. But, darn it, this sock is being very annoying in the amount of "oops" that I seem to be having with it...

Some things have gone right, though. I remembered to file my state and school district taxes. With 23 whole minutes to spare, I finished the last bit. Oo-ee. The federal return was done some time ago because I was getting a refund. But, I owed Ohio, so I put off doing it. It's is done.

I also cut out the bits for a pigeon photo studio for Keith, and the plastic that I thought would just shatter in the table saw actually cut pretty well. A little wonky because the plastic could just barely slip under the fence at one point, but still quite usable. And since it cut so well, I cut out pieces to make covers for the fluorescent lights next to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom - the old ones were very yellowed and one was broken. Went to Lowe's to try to find something to make a corner out of, and found the perfect thing. For somewhere around $1.50. Perfect and perfectly affordable - that was impressive.

I even mowed the yard and didn't get a migraine afterwards! I did, however, forget to put on the mask I need to wear for lawn work when I raked the hay (the grass was awfully long...) later on in the day, and did get a minor headache. Which pretty much confirms the "I need to wear a mask" theory that I've been operating under...

Hopefully tomorrow will go better than today did...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yip... I'm so skewed...

Okay, there I was with a pair of worsted toes on the needles, ready to be made into another pair of quick socks. But, I wanted to do something different with the heel. Something that was way out of the ordinary. I hadn't even decided what to do with the body of the sock, but I figured once I found my funky heel, I'd make that decision....

I found the funky heel! But not in a worsted-weight pattern! Enter "Skew"

OMG! Did I just die and go to funky sock heaven or what?!?!

So, now here I am with a pair of worsted toes on the 5's and I'm at the "mid-toe" section of Skew on 1's in standard sock yarn. And I am thrilled to pieces. The yarn I picked is not quite as stripey as I'd like, but it's still damned gorgeous. And I have learned two increases that were floating in the back of my head, just out of reach of ownership, and now they are MINE. And I like them so very much I don't think I'll ever use "make one left" and "make one right" on my toe-ups again. Nope. "Left-leaning lifted increase" and "right-leaning lifted increase" are the ones for me! So very happy!!

Now, if only my digestive system would come back onlne, I'd be golden!

But, at least I have the beginning of some really groovy socks!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It hasn't been a year!!!

Ha! For the handful of you who care to read this, I would like to point out that I have not let my blog go for a year. Oh, no! 363 days, but not a year! Ha!! So there!! Nya!!

So much has happened in my life. I lost my job. Which bit. Big time. And I will get another quite soon, I'm sure.

I fell in L-O-V-E. Big time. No holds barred. Even when I get angry with him, I love him. Keith Joseph Caserta II. I get all silly when I think of him. When he smiles, all kinds of worldly crap fades into insignificance. And he does this really cute happy dance... He rocks!! And he's affectionate. And he's sweet. And he cooks me dinner. And makes coffee in the morning (which he does not drink). And he holds my hand in public. And... well, HE ROCKS!

I rolled my Jetta. Das Vroom-vroom ist kaput. I got a big check from the insurance company. I meant to buy a very practical station wagon. I bought a 2000 Jaguar XJ8. It's dead sexy. Unfortunately, experiencing some technical difficulties right now, but I'm persevering on the repairs. Last week, I replaced an O2 sensor. And whilst the hood was up, I hunted for the battery. Ah, the battery. Nice big thing. Has cables connected to it. Right up front by the headlights in every single car I've owned. Except this one. Yup. The battery is... in the boot! (Gotta tell ya, love the "boot open" warning message...). I feel much better having found the battery, which is under a panel, right next to the spare tire. Always nice to know where it is. Really distressing to be hunting under the hood for what seemed like ages, tracing back to its origin anything that was remotely large enough to be a battery cable.

I am no longer absolutely commited to staying in Athens. That was a big one. Reference items one (job) and two (Keith). Keith breeds and sells pigeons (mostly homers and rollers) and dogs (beagles, German shorthair pointers), and it is helpful for him to be located near an interstate. Or preferable a bunch of interstates. And western Ohio fulfills that need (70, 71, 75). So, I'm actually okay with moving. Why? Because I'd be moving somewhere WITH Keith. He lives in Dayton, and it's rough. I like to be around my things and in my house (with my cats!), and he really needs to be home to take care of dogs.

His "personal" dog, Dingle, is the cutest darned thing! She's come with him to my place a couple of times. My two cats, Evil and Bertimus Maximus, had interesting reactions to the little Dingle. Bert hid. For 3 entire visits, Bert found a spot as far away from the dog and stayed there. Bert found ways to relax and not have the dog be between him and the litter box - he stayed on top of the washing machine. Bert tried his best to not notice that Dingle liked the cat food a lot. Evil, on the other hand, figured out after about the third time trying to sneak past Dingle that the dog would ignore her. Because Keith told Dingle to ignore her (yes, Dingle is that good!). And on the third visit, Evil actually got close enough to sniff the dog! Nowadays, Bert still tries hard to stay away from Dingle, but not to the point of not being seen when she's around. And now Dingle seems to be trying to get around Evil without getting close. Too funny!! And I bet Evil is just eating that up!!!

Well, that was fun. Hopefully, I'll get back in the hang of this blogging thing. As a perk for having read this blog, here's a pic of Keith and Dingle as a puppy...