Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Octo-Ratties!

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 9:11 pm on Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two weeks ago today, Isabella came home with us.

One week ago today, I did what I always wind up doing. I abandoned my “slow and cautious” approach to integrating her with the other ratties, in favor of the “rip the bandage off fast” method.

All eight ratties spent a couple hours together in the bathroom last Saturday afternoon. Gryphon and I cleaned and redressed the main cage during that time.

The Seven Little Ratties and Isabella, having spent the time in the bathroom not killing each other, were placed in the cage together. Isabella soon took up residence in one lower corner of the cage.

She defended her spot, and her right to be there, vehemently. All who approached – and they all did, really – were met by a white rat with bared teeth, reared up on her hind legs and squealing. She did not hide, she did not run. Nor did she attack in return. Merely insisted that she was there now, and they could deal with it.

Isabella rapidly gained confidence over the next few days, expanding her defensive perimeter, finding quiet moments when she could get to the food dish unchallenged, and approaching other rats first, instead of waiting for them to come to her. After a year and a half of living without ever seeing another rat, she was now in a cage with seven furry beings like herself, and she was determined to stay.

By Monday night, Leo was seen intervening between Laurel, Laura, and Isabella. By Tuesday, ‘Bella was going where she wanted in the cage.

Wednesday afternoon, Isabella was seen curled up in a hammock along with her greatest enemy, Lola.

Sadly, I have no picture of that moment. But I did take photos today as all the ratties gathered around the fruit-and-veggie dish.


l. to r.: Lily (almost off screen), Laurel, Isabella, Leo, Laura, and Lola

And there’s Isabella, right in the center of things, making sure she gets her share.

Isabella has already decided that some spots are the most fun. Like this dryer vent hose we’ve attached in the lower levels, so that it snakes around the cage.

Dryer vent hose is:

  • cheap (under $5), so you can replace it as often as the rats rip it to shreds
  • Easily mountable in the cage (we use zip-ties. Poke holes through the plastic of the hose on either side of a wire, and attach to the grid of the cage. Use sturdy pliers to turn the bare ends of the wires into a loop for safety.)
  • Lots of climbing and nesting fun
  • Can be arranged differently every time you replace it
  • And is easily remodeled by the rats, as you can see from the window that Isabella has created above.

For the record, that’s Lola lounging in the hammock below the hose.

The other ratties have been enjoying themselves lately, too. This hammock was a gift from the adopter of Brynn and two of her girls. As you can see, Lola and Laurel find it quite comfy.

Leo has found the addition of Isabella to the harem has made all the girls look fresh and interesting. Here he canoodles with Trixie beneath a child’s plastic step stool the rats use as a hut.

He’s in the true lap of luxury here, as we can see in the end view of the scene. Trixie is giving him a loving, attentive, all-over grooming.

Lola has stood down from being ever-vigilant about Isabella’s intrusion into the cage, and in addition to the sleeping above, she is spending time with her other favorite activity:

Eating.

The other rattie not seen in these photos is doing well, too. He’s just a little more camera-shy. Yuri is intermittently sociable, and most often prefers to stay in his little hidey-huts. Rattle the treat tub, though, and he’s a speed demon coming to get his share of the goodies! The trick is that it’s almost impossible to control a large, hungry male rat, hold a treat, and operate a camera at the same time.

In our personal reality, Gryphon and I are doing as well as can be expected. Gryphon has another change in his medicines to endure, and the transition is being difficult. We’re doing things to improve our diet, like actual meal planning (gasp!). Just a loose plan for dinner, mostly, with me planning my lunches, too.

I’ve always resisted meal planning, because I couldn’t imagine deciding today, for instance, that I’d be in the mood to eat spaghetti on Thursday. What if Thursday came, and I didn’t feel like pasta, but wanted tuna salad instead? So much for the meal plan!

In practice, however, I’m finding it works. Some of the things it’s improving:

  • We won’t be “shopping for shopping at home” anymore. This is where we don’t plan meals, but rather, just buy things we know we like to have in the house in case we feel like eating them. Meal planning then becomes a matter of looking in the cupboards and deciding “what looks good tonight.” Sometimes something doesn’t look good for a while, and it sits idle in the cupboard.
  • In relation to that, we don’t spend time wondering what to have for dinner and simply settling for something because it’s easier than making up our minds.
  • We can know ahead of time how much personal energy we’re going to need for meal preparation. If Sunday night is a more complex meal, we can relax and schedule other chores to happen on other days, saving ourselves for the effort of cooking.

We’ve been at it for most of a week now, and so far, so good. Gryphon’s going to cook a nice baked white fish dish we found in our local newspaper for our Sunday dinner tomorrow. Next week, I’ll figure out what’s good in the cupboards and cook something. The rest of the week, we rotate among dishes that use the current meat specials and things in our cupboard. Some nights we plan for minimal effort – there’s a frozen entree night in the schedule, for instance.

All in all, life is finding its way to work out. Things are still rough, but we’re taking our new reality much like Isabella took the challenge of turning the Seven Little Ratties into the Octo-Ratties. We’re facing it down, refusing to let it overpower us, and taking our rightful place in the new paradigm.

Good Things

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Rats! — folkcat at 1:59 pm on Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fresh Homemade Thing:

Blueberry Bread Pudding

Blueberry bread pudding, made with a basic microwave bread pudding recipe. With all the bread I bake these days, we cut the heel ends of the loaves in cubes and keep them in the freezer for bread pudding. Blueberries went on sale at a very good price this past week. I simply mixed about 3/4 of a pint of fresh blueberries with the bread, then added the custard mix and baked in the microwave as usual. It came out very well.

Happy Melted Rattie Thing:

Happy Lola

Lola is getting older – about 1 year and 4 months now – and has a greater appreciation for simply snuggling on your lap. This is nearly impossible for me to capture in a photo, usually, because snuggling for Lola involves getting cradled close to your body by one hand, while you stroke her endlessly with the other. Since I’m most often snuggling with her when Gryphon is at work – well, you see the problem.

I was lucky yesterday that she decided to snuggle with Daddy while he was home before work, then. As you can see, when she gets into it, she fairly completely melts in complete and utter enjoyment of the experience. Happy Rattie!

What good things are you enjoying this summer?

Rainy Monday Random Bits

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Games,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 3:24 pm on Monday, April 28, 2008

Pretty cold and dreary today. It’s been raining for goodness knows how long, certainly since sometime last night. Good thing I don’t have anywhere else to go today, I wouldn’t enjoy going out.

No progress to report on any of the knitting. Weekends are turning out to be mainly for EverQuest 2. That’s when Gryphon has time to play, and we really do enjoy playing together. We’ve given up on trying to play the regular servers on the weekends, though, because enough people are online that the lag in the cities gets unbearable. So Saturday and Sunday are for running characters on the test server, and what play time we have during the week can be on our regular server.

The Ratties have accepted the Ruffled Rattie Nest, but I can never seem to get the camera in at a good angle to take a picture of them in it without someone (*koff*Lola*koff*) wanting to come sniff the lens. So no pictures yet, but I am watching for an opportunity.

We baked a large loaf of the Honey Nut Oatmeal bread from the Donna German book over the weekend. That’s become our current go-to loaf. We’ve also been gathering the heels of various loaves in the freezer – one of these days, I’ll be making bread pudding again.

I finally cut my hair last night. It’s been over long for, well, too long. I like it at a length that’s too short to pull back in an elastic, which seems to be the only way I’ll wear it when it’s long enough to do so. Since I don’t go anywhere to have it cut for me, it was just a matter of getting around to grabbing the scissors and chopping away. I must have hit some threshold last night as I watched television before bed, because I decided at 2 a.m. to do exactly that.

In other news, the part time job that Gryphon started at two Thursdays ago ended last Friday. The owner of the company decided a couple days in that he really wanted someone full time for the position. In spite of the fact that the department head he was working with really liked Gryphon and felt the job was adequately covered by his part time presence, the owner ultimately had the power to make this change.

Gryphon’s co-worker/direct boss is quoted as saying, “lessons will be learned.” ‘Nuff said, I think.

So the search is on, again, for the next job. Whether another part time gap-filler, or the full-time replacement job we really hope for. Fingers crossed, everyone!

Surprise!

Filed under: Announcements,Blogfriends,Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Knitting — folkcat at 4:45 pm on Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wow…it’s three years since I started this blog. Not sure where to go with that otherwise – I’m not doing contests right now or anything. So I don’t think I’ll do much celebrating beyond saying how very much I appreciate every single one of you! I never anticipated when I began a blog that I’d make so many – and such good – friends. Thank you!

Knitting

I hinted on Monday that I might start on the next pair of socks, and that’s exactly what I did last night. The yarn is SRK’s On Your Toes, a standard 75/25 blend of superwash wool and nylon, with aloe vera.

SRK On Your Toes, Color # ON223818

The colorway you see is ON223818. I bought this ball of yarn while visiting my family in Syracuse over the holidays, and ever since, it’s been sitting on the corner of a crafting table in the living room, taunting me. I love the colors, they’re so happy! I’m glad I’m finally knitting with it.

This pair would be, in my jargon, Socks for Folkcat: Pair 5 (SF:P5).

Edited to add: Correction! I was just looking at my projects on Ravelry, and realized I skipped a number above. These would actually be SF:P4.

SF:P5 - The First Toe

I decided to cast on yesterday, and pulled out my KnitPicks Harmony DPNs. I grabbed the needles I usually use for sock yarn – the equivalent of US 1.5 – and was immediately struck by the feeling that they were huge. Go figure! So I went to the next size down, the US 1’s, and worked a gauge swatch.

A couple of calculations, the results plugged into my plain vanilla sock formula, and I began. I’m getting 10 stitches to the inch, making these the tightest knit socks I’ve ever worked. And yet, the resulting fabric doesn’t feel all that tight. I wonder if the On Your Toes is a little thinner than most yarns? Or if I’m just knitting differently?

In the Kitchen:

The Honey Oatmeal bread from the Donna German recipe (in The Bread Machine Cookbook) was a success. Tasty, nice texture, a little chewy, and full of flavor. The loaf size for the medium recipe was a little small to our taste, so I just pulled out of the machine today’s baking – the same recipe in the large size. It looks great, I can’t wait to try the bigger slices for a sandwich.

Dull Can Be Good

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Crochet,Daily Life,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 2:22 pm on Monday, April 21, 2008

Not anticipating anything very exciting today. It’s Monday, and that’s enough sometimes.

Our lives have shifted again. Gryphon very quickly got a new part time job last week. As in, we saw the listing Monday night, he dropped off his resume Tuesday, and Wednesday they called to say “how soon can you start?” The answer was “tomorrow”, and so he’s been going each day to a part time job before going to his full time one in the afternoon.

It’s a lot of work, yes, but this time he A) doesn’t have to go in at 6 a.m. after working until midnight the night before; B) is working for a small, locally owned company (less than 20 employees), so the atmosphere is very different; and C) isn’t having to get up for a 6 a.m. shift after working until midnight.

Did I mention he doesn’t have to get up as early?

My morning wake-up now is happening without Gryphon, since he’s already at work by the time my 10 a.m. alarm goes off. Our baking this weekend included some preparations for the new reality. Morning routines have always included homemade breakfast sandwiches, prepared by Gryphon. Without him around, that’s not doable.

So we took our filled pie concept, based on refrigerated biscuit dough, and made a breakfast sandwich version. I scrambled up 8 eggs with some chopped green pepper and tomato. Divide into 8 portions onto the biscuit rounds (rolled out to at least 6″ diameter). Add strips of Canadian bacon and some American cheese. Seal, poke holes in the top, and bake following the instructions on the biscuit tube.

These keep well in the refrigerator, and re-heat nicely in the toaster oven. I had one this morning, and it was tasty. Also far better as a breakfast than what my bleary-eyed morning self would be likely to prepare. Which might just be nothing, because that requires the least thought.

In other baking, we did homemade pizza with fresh dough from the bread machine again Sunday. And the latest loaf of bread from the machine is a Honey Oatmeal recipe from The Bread Machine Cookbook by Donna German. Haven’t tasted it yet – it’s for today’s sandwiches – but it smells great. The loaf is a little on the small, dense side, for all that I used the medium recipe. This version includes some whole wheat flour, along with the bread flour and oatmeal, as well as using a smaller dose of yeast. I might just make the large loaf next time, just for a bigger sandwich size, assuming we like the taste of this bread.

Knitting Crocheting

Yup. Didn’t knit a stitch this weekend. But I’ve crocheted 2 1/2 utilitarian rugs for the Rattie Palace. With Stinky Boys in the house, we’re changing out the fabric pieces more often, just to keep the area habitable for humans. We’re running through rugs at an alarming rate sometimes, and barely have enough to get us from one laundry day to the next.

The knitted ones hurt my hands too much, and take too long, so I decided to crochet some simple rectangles from the same Sugar ‘n Cream yarn. Ch. 32, *work 30 half-double crochet (American terminology) across, ch. 2, turn and repeat from *. Easy-peasy, and good television crafting.

As for the Ruffled Rattie Nest, no pictures of mobs of Ratties crowding into it yet. It is, however, sitting in a dishpan with warm soapy water getting cleaned. They may not have accepted it as a nest yet, but apparently, it’s a perfectly good object to pee on!

For the rest of this week, I’m going to finish the current crocheted Rattie Rug, then get back to work on the Adult Surprise Jacket. By Thursday, though, I’ll probably begin the next pair of socks. Thursday is Panera night, and the ASJ has gotten too big to carry with me. The lucet is portable, but I’m beginning to itch to do something small in the knitting category. And we always need more socks! Ooh, just checked, and the last socks were for Gryphon. My turn next! I’ve got a fun yarn I picked up when we visited Syracuse that I want to see knitted up…

Catching Up With Monday

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Braiding,Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Knitting,Movies,Rats! — folkcat at 3:05 pm on Monday, April 14, 2008

I know, I didn’t post on Friday! Sorry about that, but you know how somedays you just don’t wanna? And I mean, don’t wanna anything? Friday was one of those days.

So, let’s get caught up. I didn’t wanna anything on Friday, but I’ve been keeping busy enough every other day! My apologies to anyone on dial-up, there are a lot of pictures in this post. And that’s even after putting several after a page break!

Lucet Work:

Thursday night at Panera, I spent my time frogging some eight to ten of my earliest prototype socks. Yes, that’s a lot of time I spent knitting them. But none of them came out fitting well, some of them are knit from Sockotta, which I have learned I don’t like the feel of on my feet, and I just wasn’t wearing any of them. Better to reclaim the yarn and put it to other uses than have space taken up in the sock drawer with dead weight!

I’ll be working on turning most of those yarns into lucet braids rather than new socks. Maybe some of them will wind up like this:

Silk/Angora Beaded Lucet Necklace

That’s a necklace I made on the lucet on Wednesday. The yarn is the same thrifted silk/angora that I showed a cord of the other day. The beads are Japanese 6/o seed beads, white with a pearl finish. I pre-strung the beads on the yarn before braiding. I wasn’t sure how many I’d need, so I just counted out a hundred and went from there.

I began the cord with an inch and a half of plain braid. Then I began introducing the beads, one every fifth stitch. The bead would be slid down after pulling the right hand loop to tighten the previous stitch, but before placing the right hand loop over the horn of the lucet. Once the bead is in place, you must hold it with the fingers of your left hand (if working right handed) so that it doesn’t get caught in the loop you’re picking up over the horn. You want it staying right next to the braided cord at the center.

When you turn the lucet to do the next stitch, pulling the right hand loop to tighten the stitch you just made will lock the bead in place. It’s not going anywhere now.

By working a bead in every fifth stitch – with four plain stitches in between – each bead is placed on the opposite side of the cord from the previous one.

When I had the length I desired, I worked another inch and a half of plain braid, then finished off the cord. I added some lace end crimps (used to attach a clasp to a thicker cord, like a leather or waxed cotton lace – or a lucet braid!). Then, just a matter of a jumpring or two on either side, and a spring ring clasp. (I chose a spring ring because that’s what I had. I would have preferred a lobster claw.)

Silk/Angora Beaded Necklace Close-up

The resulting necklace is pretty, lightweight, and makes very economical use of beads. In the end, I think there were only about 80 to 90 in the finished necklace – the “gauge,” if you will, was about four beads to an inch of cord.

The current lucet braid in progress is made from a sportweight cotton yarn. Red Heart, to be exact. I have had this one skein in stash for, oh, at least twenty years, with absolutely no memory of where it came from. It’s making a nice cord, almost like a heavy cotton twine or small rope.

Sportweight Cotton Lucet Cord In Progress

I’ll be working to as long a length as I can. The purpose of this cord is for an experiment – can I cut lengths from a longer cord, and make finished ends on them just as if I’d braided to that length to begin with? I think it should be possible, with an understanding of the structure of the cord and how the cut ends will behave.

EverQuest 2

Lots of fun! My Ratonga assassin, Lolah, completed her betrayal of Freeport and endeared herself to her new home city of Qeynos. As part of the process, she had to leave her evil career as an assassin, and take a job as a ranger. That’s okay – the skill sets are much the same!

I’ve also been experimenting with new characters – a gnome defiler in Gorowyn, and an Arasai troubador in Neriak (Arasai = evil fairy). Both are evil characters, technically.

In the Kitchen

Mostly ordinary white bread coming out the machine, our utilitarian daily loaves. I’m also looking into some vegetarian slow-cooker recipes, with the intent of making more healthful foods for us to eat. And this weekend, Gryphon made another amazing pizza. Our toppings this time were fresh slices of plum tomato, strips of baby spinach leaves, and pepperoni. Yum!

Movies

I had the opportunity this weekend to see Across The Universe. Amazon Unbox was offering a 99-cent special to rent the download on your TiVo, and I’d heard such good things about it. They were all true! If you have the opportunity to see this movie, please do. Julie Taymor, the director (who was also responsible for the stage production of The Lion King, among other brilliant achievements), is an amazing artist.

On Ruffled Rattie Nests

Probably the only one that exists, I imagine. It’s finished! I worked on it while watching Across The Universe on Saturday.

Ruffled Rattie Nest - Finished!

It’s a little hard to see the real structure. It came out a little bit like a knitted version of a strawberry pot – you know, with a big round belly and extra openings on the side for more strawberry plants? My Ruffled Rattie Nest structure has two such side openings.

Ruffled Rattie Nest - Side Portal

Ruffled Rattie Nest - Two Side Openings, One Top

The picture on my hand shows the through-and-through nature of the openings, as well as giving some idea of scale.

If you’re thinking of asking for a pattern – sorry, there isn’t likely to ever be one. I knit this so much as a make-it-up-as-I-go project, with most of the decisions I made being reactions to how the shape was building. The best I can do is offer some guidelines to those decisions.

Ruffied Rattie Nest - The Bottom

The base of this project was a roughly oval piece that I’d begun some time ago. Shaped like a toe for a very large sock, it was always intended for a rat nest. Then I saw someone’s hyperbolic knitting project, and got ideas.

I began increasing a stitch on a K3, M1 pattern. Every four stitches became five – that’s a 25% increase with every round of knitting. The nest got larger very quickly, until it only fit on a 60 inch cable needle with a lot of crowding.

At that point, I began decreasing with a K8, K2Tog. This reduced 10% of stitches every round. It took longer to get small, but eventually I moved the stitches down to a 32 inch needle. I then worked even for a while.

I needed to somehow make a more bowl- or bag-like structure out of this heavily ruffled oval piece. I eyeballed a section along either of the straight edges of the oval, trying to make them roughly equal. On the nest round, I knit around the first curved end, bound off along the first striaght section, then repeated that for the other end and straight side.

After knitting across the first curved end again, I then joined the two ends of live stitches and worked in the round. I decreased a bit through the first few rounds – I think it was K4, K2Tog at this point, but I can’t be sure. Then when I decided this top opening was small enough, I worked even until I ran out of yarn. Well, I left enough to bind off the edge loosely.

At that point, it was finished. But how would the Ratties like it? You’ll find those pictures after the break!
(Read on …)

Decreasing and Betrayals, Finely Chopped

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Games,Knitting — folkcat at 12:51 pm on Wednesday, April 2, 2008

No progress on the Adult Surprise Jacket the last couple days. I’ve been mindlessly knitting away at the Ruffled Rat’s Nest instead:

Ruffled Rat's Nest - Into the Purple

I continue to work K8, K2Tog. Even though I’ve done many rounds of this – decreasing about 10% of the stitch total with each round – the stitches still bunch up on a 60″ cable needle.

I don’t think I want to decrease any faster, and this is turning out to be a decent stash-buster project. So I’m going to keep going until something tells me it’s enough. I may decided to join the edges together at one or two points when I bind off, to make more of a pocket. We’ll see.

EQ2

My Ratonga assassin, Lolah, reached tenth level in EverQuest 2 last night. She’s of an age where she can now, having questions about the values of the city she lives in and about her own career as an assassin, work towards improving her life. This will begin by betraying the city of Freeport, her current home, and eventually trying to convince Qeynos that she’s turned her back on her old life and would be a decent citizen of that good city.

While she works on this, I’m going to continue luceteering during the natural pauses of the game cycle. Here’s the current cord in progress:

Rainbow Sockotta Lucet

Yes, I’m unraveling a sock. One of the early prototypes of my Barefoot Diva socks (the ones with no toes or heels). This was a version that didn’t fit well, but taught me much that refined my ultimate pattern.

Since knitting it, I’ve also decided that I don’t care for the feel of the Sockotta yarn on my feet. On the other hand, a yarn that is almost 50% cotton is perfect for a nice, sturdy, colorful braided cord. I should get a good length of braid from this, too.

Kitchen Notes:

Yesterday I bought the ingredients to make Spanish Rice from scratch. The recipe came from a food supplement that appears in our local newspaper. There will be much chopping of onions, peppers, and celery, then time spent stirring it all as it cooks. Fingers crossed that it comes out tasty!

Today I’ll also be baking the next loaf of our basic, daily-use white bread. Tomorrow, another attempt at the Honey Oatmeal loaf for a friend.

ETA: Oh, yes…I also made a nice dinner for myself last night. Steelhead trout and sauted vegetables. Heat a non-stick pan on medium, add a bit of vegetable oil (I use peanut). One clove’s worth of minced garlic (I have the pre-minced jar) goes into the pan. On one side, place the trout filet; on the other, I put a large serving of frozen stir-fry vegetables. Put the lid on the pan, and walk away for a couple minutes.

Come back, turn over the filet, stir the vegetables. Cover the pan and walk away again. (I have sudoku on the computer that normally takes me about two minutes to play a game.)

Check the fish – the thicker parts of the filet are likely not cooked through yet. Move the vegetables into the middle of the pan to make a bed, place the filet on top. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and go play another sudoku game.

When you come back this time, the fish is probably cooked through. This is when I put the coins of frozen lemon-dill butter on top of the filet, then re-lid the pan while I get out my plate and fork and such. When I serve up my dinner, the butter has started to melt all over the fish and vegetables alike.

Yum!

Ruffles, Ratongas, and Multi-tasking

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Games,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 12:35 pm on Monday, March 31, 2008

It was an odd weekend for knitting. I didn’t work much on the Adult Surprise Jacket because my hands needed a rest.

The Ruffled Rat’s Nest, on the other hand, grew nicely.

Bigger Rat's Nest

I’ve actually started decreasing the number of stitches slowly, by working K8 K2Tog. I don’t know how many I had at the maximum, but this is on a 60″ Options needle, and even after two rounds of decreases (which reduce about 10% of the stitches each round), the needle is pretty crowded.

I also played a fair bit of EverQuest 2. Gryphon got me suckered in to this one when he played the free trial a few weeks ago. Now, I am so hooked that I even cancelled my EverQuest 1 account altogether. I just never wanted to go into the old game anymore.

I have several characters at the moment: a half-elf Guardian named Honneur (a re-imagining of my main character on EQ1); a Kerran Guardian named Kureyon (had to play a kitty!); a halfling Fury named Clover; and her brother, a halfling Troubador named Dijon.

I’m still feeling my way around the game, really. None of these characters is beyond 10th level yet. They’re all exploring tradeskills of one kind or another. Honneur will be a woodworker, Kureyon an alchemist. Clover is training to be a tailor, and Dijon, a chef.

EQ2, unlike EQ1, has a playable race based on rats. The Ratonga are an evil-aligned race, which made me hesitant about playing one. After all, I know rats to be good, loving creatures.

On the other hand, every good or evil city has lengthy quests you can perform that make it possible to change your alignment and defect to the other side. This means you’re not stuck with your starting alignment, even if it’s the only option offered to your race.

Obviously, I wanted to play a rat – er, a Ratonga. How could I not? So I decided to create one last night, with the intention that, as soon as I’m able, I’ll have her forsake her starting alignment and prove allegiance to Qeynos, the good city.

Her name is Lolah. I couldn’t get Lola without the “h”, but Lolah works for me. She’s a gray Ratonga, with large ears placed low on her head. That she’s something of a rebel is demonstrated by the lip ring she wears.

Her class, for the time being, is Assassin. She’s proven herself a kick-ass killing machine so far.

Her trade, in the long run, will be Harvester. Most people would consider that only half a trade, since it’s normally done to obtain the materials to use in tradeskills. But this is Lolah, after all, and she’s modeled on a real life Rattie who’s dearest wish is to take anything edible or useful she finds, and drag it back to the nest.

Lolah will probably sell most of what she finds. Or pass it on to others among Gryphon’s and my characters to use. Unlike Lola, who would hide the goodies away for her own use and then go hunting for more.

I discovered while playing Lolah last night that I can do a lot of luceteering while playing EQ2. Every time I had her harvesting something, I picked up the lucet and some leftover sock yarn. Three stitches, then click the mouse button to start the next harvesting round. By the time the evening was over, I’d done all this:

Luceted Sock Yarn

The finished length of braid at the front is a full yard long. The piece on the lucet is about six inches. All accomplished while playing the game.

I think I’m going to be making a lot of cords. They’re simple, and luceteering is obviously a good companion for other activities. If there’s a market for them, I may put them up on etsy. Or make drawstring bags. Or something.

We’ll see where my whims take me!

Kitchen Notes, March 31, 2008:

  • Baked a loaf of honey oatmeal bread last Thursday that came out badly – I accidentally set the machine to “Medium” when it should have been “Light”.
  • Made a batch of bread pudding in the crockpot Friday from half the loaf of failed honey oatmeal. Over-measured the bread – the pudding came out extra thick and dry. Still edible, but less than ideal.
  • Made a new batch of bread pudding yesterday (Sunday), measuring the bread more carefully. Creamy, custardy, tasty.
  • Baked white bread yesterday for general use.

A White Bread, Luceteering, Knit-Twit…ter

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Knitting — folkcat at 2:01 pm on Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Commercially packaged and sliced white bread from the supermarket is usually pretty blah.

White bread baked at home where you can select the ingredients and control the process is pretty durned tasty.

White Bread in the Breadbox

That’s the medium sized loaf of White Bread from The Bread Machine Cookbook, which arrived in the mail yesterday. This is a loaf of more “normal” dimensions than the monstrous Honey Oatmeal bread I had been making. And the taste! Rich flavor, good texture. This is going to be a regular for sandwiches.

The loaf is sitting inside the new bread keeper we got. That white thing is a slicing guide, to help us get good, even pieces. Admittedly, I’d been getting better at slicing evenly by eye, but this will help. And the keeper will mean we don’t have to struggle with trying to squeeze a loaf into a gallon-sized zipper bag anymore.

I still have a chunk of the last Honey Oatmeal loaf sitting around. Time for bread pudding in the crockpot, I think!

Fiber Craft Updates

The Adult Surprise Jacket continues to re-grow. I’m still not quite to where I was when I ripped so much out. That’s okay, I have no deadline on this project.

The Ruffled Rat’s Nest that I’m knitting grows slowly.

Ruffled Rat's Nest

This is going to be really hard to get a good sense of, even when it’s bound off and free of the needles.

I started with a nest bag that I was already knitting for the rats. Similar to a sock toe, it was probably 40 stitches across. When I converted it to hyperbolic knitting, I wanted a lot of ruffling to happen quickly. So I picked a pattern of “K3, YO”.

The project gained stitches quickly. I started on size 7 dpns, and had to switch up to Options circulars early on. Only thing is, because I started with a roughly rectangular shape, I have a narrow dimension at either end that is a tight squeeze to get the Options tips around. So the knitting at those points is hard on the hands.

Then, there’s the sheer rapid growth of stitches. They became so crowded on the needles that I moved up to, I think I’m using the 40″ cables already, and switched over to using the two circulars method, just to fit the stitches.

But because this many stitches were created over a fairly small number of rows, they simply can’t spread out on the needles, no matter how much I want them to. Knitting stayed tight, even along the straightaways on the long sides.

A row or two back – about where the red yarn ran out and I added in the green – I switched over to straight knitting, no increases. The goal is simply to get some distance from the center line, some length of fabric from the cast on edge, so that the stitches have room to spread. The nest should be easier to knit then, and I may go back to increases. Maybe not as frequent, though.

I dabbled a little with another thread on the lucet. This time, the fiber choice is a Size 8 perle cotton.

Size 8 Perle Cotton Lucet Sample

This is a graphic demonstration of how the lucet can be used with any size thread or yarn. Because the yarn itself determines the gauge of your stitches, you can use the same tool.

I wanted to expeiment with the size 8 perle cotton because, along with size 11/o seed beads, that’s what’s used to knit a bead knitted amulet bag. (On size 0000 steel dpns, for the curious.) I’ve never found a method for making a neck cord for those bags that pleased me. Working on the lucet could do the trick.

I’ve been carefully studying how the stitches form, too, to see if I can figure out a method for working beads into the cord as I go.

Online

For what it may be worth, I’ve signed up at Twitter. I haven’t added my Twitter to the public feed, I just don’t think the whole world needs to know what I’m doing at any given moment. I have picked up the application Twitbin as a Firefox add-in that lets me constantly monitor my Twitter feeds, as well as pop in my own update easily whenever I want.

Feel free to look me up there, and follow along. You’ll get to see all the boring details of my life as I go through the day – what I’m watching on TV, what I’m eating, if the Ratties do anything cute. If you’re on Twitter, too, let me know and I’ll follow you!

Rattie Ruffles

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 3:39 pm on Monday, March 24, 2008

Is this not the most beautiful pizza?

Bread Machine Pizza

The dough was made in the bread machine, with this recipe: Eazy Peezy Pizza Dough (bread machine pizza dough). I put the ingredients in and set the programming on the machine for the Dough cycle. When it was done, Gryphon, who several decades ago worked in the comissary for a small chain of pizza shops in New Jersey, took over and formed the final pie.

Our toppings are basic pizza sauce (one of the bottled types from the supermarket), packaged shredded pizza cheese, pineapple chunks, chunks of ham (purchased as deli-ends), and green pepper.

Tastiest pizza I ever ate! I am positive I’ve never had as good from the best pizzeria, even.

We also baked a utilitarian loaf of the Honey Oatmeal Bread on Saturday, just to keep our supplies up.

The Bread Machine CookbookFor future baking, sometime this week I’m expecting Donna German’s Bread Machine Cookbook to arrive in the mail. This is one of the classics, and I own a copy – somewhere in the depths of the storage locker. But mine would be a couple of decades old, and according to the reviews at Amazon, the recipes in the latest edition have been revised and updated significantly. Which makes it worth buying again.

Recovery

The Adult Surprise Jacket is getting back on track. The re-do on the portions I ripped out is still short of complete, but I’m making good progress. And the areas I had issues with before are much better now.

ASJ - 3/24/08

Hyperbolic Rat’s Nest

Knitting such a large object can wear on the hands, so I’ve picked up a new, small project. Today at Craftzine there was a story about a knitter who has taken the concept of hyperbolic crochet, and converted it to knitting. You can read about it here – it includes a picture of two hyperbolic pieces he created.

Whether crochet or knitting, the concept is simple – you work in the round, and you make regular increases at regular intervals. The closer those increases are, the more ruffled your piece will be.

I looked at the very ruffled piece in the back of the photo on the article, and my immediate thought was that the Ratties would really love digging in it. And that’s why I’m now knitting a Hyperbolic Rat’s Nest.

Hyperbolic Rat's Nest

I started with an experimental rat nest bag that I was already knitting. Looked a bit like the toe of a very large sock. The yarn is Twilley’s Freedom Spirit left over from the Noragi jacket – the Ratties have already shown how much they love that by spending lots of time nesting in my sleeves. I’m working on size 7 needles – dpns at first, but now I’m onto a 24″ cable with my size 7 Harmony tips from KnitPicks.

It doesn’t look much ruffled yet, but that will get easier to see the more I do. I’m eagerly anticipating the end result here – I can just imagine the Ratties poking through a pile of ruffled nooks and crannies in their favorite yarn!*

*Yes, I will make sure there are pictures!

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