Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of the year again! Before I go on to this year's, let's review how much of last year's resolutions I kept.

  • Entrelac: Just finished the entrelac portion of a pair of socks. That counts. Yay, I got one!
  • Two at a time socks: No, didn't do it.
  • Knitting more non-sock objects: Some were knit, but more than the year before? No. Too preoccupied with socks, I guess.
  • Shrink the stash: Uh... didn't happen, in spite of yarn diet. Stash actually grew. I swear I didn't buy that much yarn! Now, if I could only figure out why there's reddish light coming from my stash closet at night... and I swear there's some giggling, rustling, and I can faintly hear Barry White playing in the background... Hmmm. Mysterious.
  • Sell non-fitting clothes on eBay: That one's a yes. Anything that wasn't insanely expensive got donated to charity. I only have one more box of clothes left to sell on eBay, and that's it.
  • Work out regularly: Uh... well, I've been walking more, 3-6 miles a day. But I still have to get my butt to the gym.
  • Spend more time running games: Didn't happen. Got sidetracked by other stuff.
  • Start my holiday knitting early: Kind of did that. Then ended up with last-minute orders, went from done to not done. So... this one sort of worked, then didn't.
  • Cross stitch and do some spinning: I've been doing both. So this one's a yes.
So, some of these I did, but most of them, I didn't. I think this year, I have only one resolution. But it's a big one.

No Yarn. January 1, 2010 till January 1, 2011. No sock clubs. No sock yarn. No yarn purchases. Not for gifts, not for projects, not for any reason. No get out of jail free card. It easily turns into excuses.
Needles are OK, patterns and books are OK, fiber is OK if I run out.
No yarn. For an entire year. There, I've said it. It's official. Now, excuse me, I have to lie down.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FO's, WIP, and a New Toy!

I'm taking a week off from work, and it's 20 F outside -- and windy. We decided to stay inside, rather than go out there and... well, not be sticks in the mud. But on the bright side, lots of knitting is getting done.

The Cowgirl Slipper Socks, which were supposed to be a Christmas gift, are finally done and blocking. Here is a pre-blocking picture -- they're dark, purply fuchsia in real life, not washed-out red.

Pattern: Cowgirl Slipper Socks
Needles: US #5
Yarn: Frog Tree Superwash Worsted... something
Color: Frosted Fuchsia
Comments: These can be knit in a few hours. Not when you're sick and end up ripping back 3 times, then frogging back the toe of the first slipper sock... but in general, it's possible. They are cute and comfy. I think I'll make myself a pair too.

In other knitting news: How many times have I said I'd try entrelac? Look, I'm actually doing it! This closeup makes it look all bad and holey, but really, it's quite pretty, and I'm happy. It's loads of fun. If the socks turn out pretty, they're for my sister. If they turn out hideous, I'm keeping them.

Speaking of hideous, please ignore the green fiber with orange, yellow, and pink slubs. Focus instead on my new toy, my new spindle! The fiber is less than an ounce of free fluff that came with it so you can try it out right away. They know their customers.
This is Maggie. She is made of maple and weighs 4.6 grams/1.6 ounces, and she spins like a dream. Around and around and around. Doesn't want to stop. I bought a smaller version from Carolina Homespun and fell in love. I just had to have the bigger one... so here she is.

Merlin also has a new toy: His cat fountain. He now takes it apart for fun. Look at the basin and the top part... they are completely crooked, and no water is flowing. Poor Morgana doesn't know when she's going to find it in working condition, and when it will have been disassembled by her fuzzy brother.

I'm starting to think Mr. Engineering Cat has fuzz on the inside of his head, not just the outside!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Fun with Cats

Yesterday, we had Christmas fun with the cats. Merlin had his eyes on the package from Mr. Batty's mom ever since it came in the door. We were joking that it was catnipped. This is him digging through packages to get at the cat stocking.

They found it. Cats with new cat toys, happy, happy, happy. Morgana in particular is a toy cat -- when she has a toy, she zooms all over the place. Hence the tail shot, she's too fast. The combination of black and incredibly fast, therefore hard to see, has gotten her in trouble more than once.

There was some unwrapping of human presents, which included bat stuff (hmmm... I guess I'm a bit obvious about the bat thing, they've started showing up at work too).

This one had me laughing. On Wednesday, I was making egg nog, lamenting its grainy consistency, and blaming it on my bent whisk. And in my stocking, I find... a pasta server, which we don't have, a brand-new whisk, and a potato masher you can use in a nonstick pan if needed because it's plastic. Yay!

I also got an all-purpose knitting book that has fabulous illustrated instructions for entrelac. And then, there was the package of baklava from Mr. Batty's Dad... combine this with the pumpkin pie and egg nog, and I'll be rolling to work.
Or getting a gym membership. Yeah, that's what I'm going to do -- as soon as my cold goes away, I'll get my butt back into shape.
In the meantime... I hope you have lots of rest and fun and knitting. It's what I'm about to do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

To all who celebrate, I wish a merry Christmas! At our house, this is another occasion for playing console games, petting the cats, and cooking. Look, pumpkin pie! And this time, I didn't accidentally fry the crust!

And... Quorn (myco-protein turkey replacement... tastes better than it sounds), cranberry sauce, little potatoes, and stuffing. Yummmm, stuffing.

Not pictured: egg nog. Lots of it. I made a whole bucket. Also not pictured: The slipper socks I didn't finish because I was sick. I'll finish them tomorrow or Saturday -- have to finish the toe on one and rip back the toe on the other. It came out too big.

Wishing you all happy, peaceful holidays. I'm going to bed now... it's the season of love and sharing and all that, but I'm guessing everyone at church would appreciate it if I kept this nasty cold bug to myself...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow and Cookies!

By popular request, I am putting up a picture of Sunday's snow. I've seen so many lovely pictures on people's blogs, but I didn't really want to go outside to take my own, so here is a shot from our bedroom door. Yes, our balcony goes off of the master bedroom. I think it's a New England thing. By the time all was said and done, we had snow up to my thigh on our deck, which I shoveled because Mr. Batty was coughing like crazy and I don't want him catching pneumonia.

I hadn't been feeling particularly Christmassy this year, but the snow did the trick. Here is the result: Egg nog cookies! Recipe below.

Egg Nog Cookies

2 sticks butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp nutmeg (the fresher, the better)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (or more... experiment!)
1 egg

2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 tablespoon flavorful light rum (or 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon rum aroma)

Cream together butter and sugar until smooth -- I use a hand mixer, but if you have the fancy standing kind... yeah, that works too. Add vanilla and egg, beat until incorporated. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and nutmeg, then add to the butter mixture. Mix until just incorporated. It's better to undermix a bit than to overmix. Roll dough into a ball in your mixing bowl, cover, and stick in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 F/180 C, put racks in lower third and upper third of oven. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes so it softens up a bit. Then, take a small ice cream scoop (80) or a tablespoon measure and make balls about the size of 2 tablespoon measures held together to form a ball. Put on baking sheets, leaving space for the cookies to spread.
Bake one tray on the lower rack, one on the higher rack, for 10 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Rotate the trays halfway through baking.
When they are done, transfer cookies onto cooling rack. Wait to cool before putting on the icing.

For the icing, mix confectioner's sugar, rum, melted butter, and milk in a bowl. Beat with mixer until thick and creamy, around 4 minutes or so. Spread onto cookies. Wait for icing to set before putting in a container -- the icing becomes harder as it sets and won't make a mess.

Have fun eating cookies. Take some to the office or you'll eat them all.

Morgana watched the baking efforts from her comfy spot amid the blankets. Yesterday, I was right there with her. Apparently, a round of snow shoveling was exactly what I needed to come down with Mr. Batty's sore throat disease.

Feeling better enough to do work, so I'll go do that now.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Still Knitting

It seems it has been forever since my last post! 2 weeks, or thereabouts... I bet you thought I'd abandoned this blog. But not to worry, I'm still here. I have been busy and work, and busy knitting. The socks below took forever. They are man-sized. They are almost exclusively knit in twisted stitches. They hurt.

A closeup of the little cable detail, and of the fancy ribbed gusset.

Now to finish one more pair, ship them off, and that's it for this year. Then, I can finish and send off my sister's birthday gift, which is over a month late. I feel really, really bad about that. But I expect to have plenty of knitting time tomorrow -- we're supposed to get hit with a major snow storm. I've seen what it has done to other parts of the country. We're ready for the big fluff of 09!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Weird Weather Saturday

I swear, it just gets weirder. Thursday, we had 68 F, which is about 20 C. Too warm for November. Oh, and winds so bad, I almost couldn't get near the building to get to work. Which then swayed until I turned green in the face.
Then, on Saturday, it got colder. I didn't think much of it until later in the evening, when there was... snow. Yup. From short sleeves to snow in 2 days. Weird, huh?

Also weird is the sock that just won't fit. I've knit the cuff for Ann Budd's Cowgirl Slipper Socks twice now, and both times, it came out ginormous. I ripped the attempt below last night. Today, I try again. On needles 2 sizes smaller than the ones called for.

The rest of the day, we watched The Fiddler on the Roof and played Arkham Horror. It's a fun board game about -- you guessed it -- the Cthulhu mythos. You're an investigator trying to close the gates that are popping up all over town and releasing foul cultists and dreadful monstrosities into the streets of Arkham. If you don't... worse things happen.
There are a lot of little chits and cards, but though it looks incredibly complex, it's actually fun and pretty easy once you get the hang of it. And there are expansions!

Of course, you can't play a board game with lots of little bits and pieces without feline interference. So we cat-nipped their scratcher, and they were pretty much busy the rest of the evening. Here's a picture of both of them having fun with a box.

Merlin sticks out because he's gray and white, but Morgana is quite the camouflage kitty. We've accidentally locked her in closets and other dark spaces because she blends in perfectly. Sometimes, this is great, other times... not so good. Fortunately, her brother meows until we let her out.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Gothic Charm School!

Jillian Venters is awesome. She is classy, she is witty, she is goth -- she is the gothic Miss Manners. She has offering friendly advice to goths and those who love them for years. Check out her awesome site here. The lessons are awesome.
And... now she has a book! I bought it today and can't wait to read it. Sure, I've been goth for... well, a significant number of years, but I still enjoy her insight. Because goths and regular people alike can always use that extra bit of advice on how to be a nice person.