Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Updates and Upcoming

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 1:12 pm on Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Christmas Knitting frenzy continues. We had a minor setback yesterday as I realized I had incorrectly reported the status of one item, thinking I had done more on it than I actually had. But that’s been fixed now.

Here’s where we stand. As before, changes in status are indicated by italics:

  1. Bag from cotton yarn – status: All pieces knit, ends woven in. This was the part I discovered wasn’t done – I thought all the ends were accounted for, when in fact, not even half of them were. Now, though, this status is true. Next steps: steam blocking, then assembly.
  2. felted bag – status: Felted – needs handles stitched on.
  3. felted bag – status: Awaiting felting.
  4. bead knitted bag – status: Body of bag knit. Must sew together and create strap.
  5. Spinning project – Dropped from list
  6. unnamed object to include felted bowl – status: Completed, though I may choose to add some embellishment
  7. mesh shopping bags – status: Learned that some of the yarn colors I had chosen for this (which was cannabilized from an 80’s era sweater kit) wasn’t enough to make a bag. With this style, you really need to be able to knit a single bag from a single skein – some of the skeins from the kit were short, being all that was needed for the sweater pattern included. Bottom line – I have colors to complete two bags, but must buy a third to make the set I envisioned.
  8. same as #6 in different colors – status: Felted bowl in progress, scarf-like parts continuing.
  9. same as #4 in different colors – status: String beads before knitting.
  10. “We Call Them Pirates” hat for Gryphon – status: Needles arrived from KnitPicks. Just need to knit it now.

Big Knitting Around Doings Tonight

I mentioned at the start of November that our Thursday night “Knitting Around at Panera” had been going on for a year. It’s worth noting that it wouldn’t have been possible to have such a pleasant, long term, weekly gathering if it weren’t for the wonderful, helpful, and oh-so-friendly staff at our local Panera Bread Cafe.

Sometime last summer, I conceived of a plan to thank everyone at Panera in a special, knitterly way. We found out how many people are typically on staff at the restaurant at any given time. We did some stash-diving. We started knitting. And, well – let’s just say that there are exactly 50 hand knit scarves carefully folded and tucked into this holiday be-ribboned laundry basket!

Basket o' Scarves

Tonight’s the night we present them, along with a special card expressing our thanks to everyone who works at “our” Panera for making it such a great place to hang out.

Why so early with a Christmas gift? This way, they have time for everyone on all shifts to have a chance to pick out the scarf they want and enjoy it during the entire holiday season. We’ll also be letting them know it’s okay to donate any leftover scarves to a charity of their choice.

It’s been quite a project, turning out this many scarves. But it was a lot of fun as well. We had a chance to experiment with a number of simple, quick-to-knit patterns. And we did some stash-busting at the same time. We were so on top of this project, in fact, that the actual knitting of the scarves was completed almost two months ago!

X is for…

Filed under: ABC - Along,Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Television — folkcat at 2:10 pm on Wednesday, November 29, 2006

xena12 logo_edited.jpg

I can’t believe I’ve been fretting over what to do for “X is for…!” At least I remembered in time that, in addition to the Connie & Carla movie props and costumes I wrote about before, I own several costume pieces from the popular television series, Xena.

Xena Cotume Pieces on Display

This is how they were displayed in my bead store, back in the fall of 2004. The cropped jacket and the belt are the costume pieces here, and the piece of burlap hanging in back with rattan is actually a prop window covering used on the show.

I never was able to pin the jacket down to a specific character – more likely, it was worn by an extra someplace in a crowd. I did find that the Gabrielle character, Xena’s co-star, wore a top made from the same green beaded fabric in one season.

The belt is the best documented item I was able to acquire. It was worn by a savage warrior character in an episode called “The Price”.

Still from "The Price" showing costume belt

Here we see Gabrielle showing mercy to a dying enemy warrior on the battlefield. If you look at the bottom right, that’s the belt.

The other two costume pieces I have from Xena are these bracelets.

Bracelets from Xena, Warrior Princess

One is strung with simple pressed glass beads on elastic. The other? Even more anachronistically than the first, it’s made of beads strung on safety pins!

How could they get away with that on Xena? The suspension of disbelief, for one. Plus, it was probably worn by an extra in the background somewhere, and if visible on screen at all (I’ve never managed to spot it), it was for only a fleeting moment and probably in motion. So it would look like crude metal and rough gems, if anything.

So there we have it – I was able to come up with a personally meaningful “X”, without resorting to “Xmas” or “X-treme” or anything like that! Yay, me!

Holidays in Review, Part Two: What Gryphon Did

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Gryphon,Holidays — folkcat at 4:24 pm on Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Perfect Turkey
Perfect Turkey

Gryphon Carves the Bird
Carving the Beast

Gryphon took complete charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year, and considering he’d never roasted a whole turkey before, he did a wonderful job.

Okay, there were some slight hiccups. For instance, since he opted not to cook the stuffing inside the bird, he really should have remembered to at least make the stove top stuffing a little later on. Oops.

Lack of stuffing aside, though, we had a wonderful dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and two kinds of pie for dessert. (That’s how we each get our favorite.)

As for the bird itself – Gryphon used a brining method (as suggested by a faithful reader of this blog – thanks!). The brine recipe was one of many brown sugar and salt variations found at www.recipezaar.com. For the actual process, he followed the steps in the All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking (the 1997 edition), where we found a recipe for Roasted Brined Turkey. This involved cooking the bird breast side down for the first couple of hours, then turning it over for the last hour or two.

The bird, let me tell you – so tender, the drumsticks simply pulled off with the slightest tug. Juicy, flavorful breast meat. Not a bit of it dry or flavorless.

If and/or when we do this again, it’s absolutely going to be a brined bird. And if it works this well, Gryphon might even get me to help out!

The Holidays in Review, Part One: What I Did

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 2:23 pm on Monday, November 27, 2006

What did I wind up doing last week? Lots of Christmas Gift knitting. Here’s an update (status changes are in italics):

  1. Bag from cotton yarn – status: All pieces knit, ends woven in. Next steps: steam blocking, then assembly.
  2. felted bag – status: Felted – needs handles stitched on.
  3. felted bag – status: Awaiting felting.
  4. bead knitted bag – status: Body of bag knit. Must sew together and create strap.
  5. Spinning project – Dropped from list
  6. unnamed object to include felted bowl – status: Completed, though I may choose to add some embellishment
  7. mesh shopping bags – status: Test bag knit, am halfway through first of three gift bags now.
  8. same as #6 in different colors – status: Began knitting scarf-like pieces for this one as car knitting the other day. Also still needs felted bowl.
  9. same as #4 in different colors – status: String beads before knitting.
  10. “We Call Them Pirates” hat for Gryphon – status: Needles arrived from KnitPicks. Just need to knit it now.

As you can see, I continue to make good progress. One of the reasons this is important is that at least half of this list needs to be mailed to the various recipients. Lessee – that would be that one, and this one through there. Yup, half the list. So I have less time to get those completed – I figure, another two weeks at most.

The rest of the gifts will be presented in person, some to friends here in New Hampshire, and some to family. Item #10 is an open secret (Gryphon knows, even helped pick it out), and can be completed after Christmas if need be.

There will be pictures after the holidays, don’t worry. I’m pleased with how these are all coming out, and I’m not going to miss the opportunity to record the FOs before they fly away to their end destinations!

Coming in Part Two: What Gryphon Did

Happy Turkey Day

Filed under: Announcements,Blog Admin,Daily Life,Holidays — folkcat at 6:03 pm on Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gryphon and I aren’t going anywhere for the holiday, and I originally thought I was going to continue blogging just as usual. But we both seem to be having an extremely tired few days, so I’ve decided to take myself off of the blogging hook until next week.

For those of you who celebrate it, have a great Turkey Day tomorrow!

Wayback Wednesday Comes on Tuesday This Week

Filed under: Folkcat's Fotos,Knitting,Wayback Wednesday — folkcat at 3:12 pm on Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Year Ago Today

I had completed what I called the Inverted Cloud Hat (so named because it was my top-down version of the original cuff-up Dulaan Cloud Hat), and Gryphon and I went to a local park to take pictures. The ones I put in the blog post that day were cheerful and bright, as we posed him in his Berry colored hat next to a shrubbery full of bright red berries.

Serious Gryphon in Berry Hat

Here, however, is another great shot of Gryphon from that session. A much more serious look, but a nice portrait nonetheless.

I promised a year ago that I’d be doing a PDF of my top-down version of the Cloud Hat, but clearly, that has never happened. I think it’s safe to say at this time that it never will, so I hope none of you have been holding your breath waiting for it!

Did I Do (All) That?

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 3:39 pm on Monday, November 20, 2006

It’s a funny thing sometimes. All weekend, I felt over tired and unmotivated. If you asked me outright what I got done, I would have sat a moment, gazing stupidly at nothing, before coming up with “not much” as my best answer.

But the fact is, I actually got quite a lot done. I kept myself moving steadfastly along, albeit at a slow pace, and I can feel pleased with the results.

A Complete, Start-to-Finish, FO

First up, on Friday afternoon I had a papercrafting session. I went for a much simpler model than my first one (the Maneki Neko). This one had only seven parts, and they all fit on a single page of cardstock paper. It was so easy, I actually did the whole thing at one sitting!

And so, here’s what I’m calling Little Blue Penguin.

Little Blue Penguin Papercraft
Little Blue Penguin

If you want to make one of your own, you can find the PDF to download here:

Little Blue Penguin 3-d Paper Model

You’ll need Adobe Reader to open the file – it’s available free here. Once you open it, please don’t be alarmed at the funny text – the document is in Japanese. But the instructions are well illustrated, and the assembly is pretty obvious once you get started.

If you like the Little Blue Penguin, you might like other models by the same artist. His name is Ryo Tokisato, and the entry page for his models can be found here. Again, the page is in Japanese, but it’s fairly easy to navigate. Just click on the links on the page, and you’ll be taken to the various model pages. The bottom most link is for e-mailing the artist, you can probably skip that – unless you do want to ask him about his work!

If you decide to pursue his models at a later time, fear not – I’ve added the link to my sidebar under Papercraft. I also added a link to the excellent papercraft models at Yamaha Motor – yes, that’s right. The company we know for making motorcycles has a wide assortment of detailed, realistic, and free paper models on subjects ranging from, of course, motorcycles, to endangered species and holiday decorations. This site will be easy for you to navigate – it’s all in English, and well organized.

Thanksgiving’s First Shot

The first bit of Thanksgiving cookery happened on Saturday afternoon. I made a double batch of jellied cranberry sauce.

Cranberries Boiling
Cranberries Boiling

The recipe is right on the bags of fresh cranberries you can buy in your supermarket. And it’s ridiculously easy. There are only three ingredients – sugar, water, and cranberries – and all you do is boil them together for the specified amount of time. If you want whole cranberry relish, you’re done then. If you want the jellied variety, you take the boiled berries and press them through a mesh strainer to remove the skins and pulp.

Piece of cake.

At that point, you can select the mold(s) of your choice to let the jelly set up in. If you personal holiday traditions demand that your jellied cranberry sauce come in a big, ridged cylinder, then you might want to save a can to pour your homemade stuff into. If you are able to be more flexible about the shape, though, there are any number of items you can use.

Finished Cranberry Sauce
Finished Jellied Cranberry Sauce

The three low, flat, copper molds at the front are actually family heirlooms from my mother’s side in Sweden. Goodness only knows how old they are – could be a hundred years. I have four of them, two with a sort of fleur-de-lys looking design, one with what I believe is a dragonfly, and one with a simple daisy-like flower. At the back left corner, you can see one of the unused copper molds sitting upright.

The remaining cranberry sauce will be shared with friends, so it’s been cast into four little Glad storage cups. They give a useful, attractive enough shape to the jelly when unmolded, and they’re cheap enough that I don’t care if they come back to me or not.

Christmas Knitting

I made a lot of progress here – let’s copy and paste the complete gift knitting list in from another post and give a rundown. You’ll find the new status information in italics.

  1. Bag from cotton yarn – status: All pieces knit, ends woven in. Next steps: steam blocking, then assembly.
  2. felted bag – status: Ends woven in, awaiting felting
  3. felted bag – status: Same as #2
  4. bead knitted bag – status: materials gathered, pattern chosen. These only take a day or two (at most) to knit.
  5. handspun and dyed yarn – singles partly spun. Stalled due to boredom with undyed pencil roving. May be replaced. Status: Will certainly be replaced. Probably with a purchased gift.
  6. unnamed object to include felted bowl – status: Experimental pattern for felted bowl has been felted, and is a success. Now must knit simple, scarf-like piece to go with it.
  7. mesh shopping bags – status: Test bag knit, am halfway through first of three gift bags now.
  8. same as #6 in different colors – status: Having confirmed pattern for felted bowl with #6, must now knit one for this gift.
  9. same as #4 in different colors – status: Same as #4
  10. “We Call Them Pirates” hat for Gryphon – status: Needles arrived from KnitPicks. Just need to knit it now.

I’m feeling eerily calm about this knitting list. It’s such a lot – and yet, it’s going so quickly. Gifts that need to be shipped to their recipients in other parts of the country could well be done by two weeks from now, and at the same time, I’m making lots of progress on those that will be handed directly to friends and family. I’m resisting temptation to add another knitted gift or two…or three…don’t want to mess with apparent success now!

W is for William

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos,Gryphon — folkcat at 2:35 pm on Saturday, November 18, 2006

The love of my life. The reason why I can do it all. The reason why it’s worth doing it all.

W is for William
Gryphon at his computer, 1998

Other than our wedding photo, this is the oldest picture I have of my husband. It’s taken at least seven or eight years ago; as you can see, his hair is darker and still long enough to put in a ponytail.

I know I call him Gryphon on the blog, because that’s his “alter-ego”. Much the way Folkcat is mine. But his actual name is William Louis Kubeck.

When his parents were expecting him, they thought they were having a girl, so they had no boys’ names ready. Then, he suddenly arrived, born on his father’s birthday. It only seemed natural to name him after his father. As he grew to adulthood, he appeared to be very like his father in every way – physical appearance, mannerisms, etc. Gryphon has often told me he considers himself and his father to be “twins born 32 years apart.”

How the Monsters Get Into My Refrigerator

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Gryphon,Special Events — folkcat at 4:38 pm on Friday, November 17, 2006

It’s happened again. Just like last year, there’s a monster in my refrigerator. (You can see a picture of last year’s monster there – scroll down a little.)

For the unitiated amongst you, here’s the story: here in New England, many small manufacturing companies still take a very paternal approach to their employees. One of the ways that manifests itself where Gryphon works is in the annual handing out of 20-lb. Thanksgiving Turkeys to every single employee.

And I mean, 20 pound Turkeys. To every employee.

Even the single ones who live in studio apartments with hot plates.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a very generous thing that they do, and we’re grateful for the bird.

It’s just that, it’s only the two of us for Thanksgiving. We’ll be freezing a lot of leftovers.

At least we have an actual oven. And a freezer.

Last year, I did the roasting of the bird. It was certainly something I’m capable of. But I don’t find much joy in spending my entire day tending a 20-lb. bird in the oven, basting it every half hour, etc. I’d rather be watching the parades and eating a Swanson Turkey Dinner. (At least, the way they used to be before they updated everything a few years back. Don’t mess with the classics!)

This year, I got to go along for the monster pick-up.Unlike many companies which hand out certificates you can take to the local supermarket, Gryphon’s employer actually collects a small truckload of the turkeys themselves. For second shift workers, that means going in a few hours early and bringing the bird home.

A Truckload of Turkeys
The Truckload of Birds

Not only that, but the birds (still in the original wholesale packaging of two birds to a box) are all directly labeled with specific employees’ names. So when you show up for your turkey, they have to hunt through the truck for your turkey.

The Monster Hand-Off
The Hand-Off

Phil was doing the searching when we arrived, and he poked among the boxes until he found the one labeled “Bill Q”. Which I guess is their way of saying Bill Kubeck. But we knew it had to be ours because, oddly, Gryphon is the only Bill working anywhere in the company.

Gryphon and the Turkey
Gryphon Gazes in Wonder

Now, after last year’s turkey, I had declared that I wasn’t going to do this again. But Gryphon, bless him, decided weeks ago that he enjoyed the whole thing enough that he would take responsibility for cooking the turkey and preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year.

I suspect the look on his face here comes from the realization of what he’s gotten himself into.

I’ll be doing my share. Something I actually enjoy is making the jellied cranberry sauce from scratch. I’ll do that this weekend, and between now and T-Day I’ll be deciding what we do about a pie or pies for dessert. If I get really ambitious, I wouldn’t rule out making one.

Mind you, we’re going to thoroughly enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. It’s actually something of a special holiday for us – we celebrate it as an anniversary. Way back in 1992, we had known each other for two years online already. But it wasn’t until he came to Syracuse to have Thanksgiving Dinner with me and my family that we ever laid eyes on each other.

So we like to have a nice Thanksgiving Dinner, and the Monster currently thawing in our refrigerator will be the centerpiece of the celebration.

Still and all – once again, there’s a Monster in my Refrigerator!

Refrigerator Monster, 2006

Storing Japanese Beads the Folkcat Way

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Knitting — folkcat at 4:04 pm on Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yesterday I stayed home and concentrated on a couple of different projects.

More Beads

First up was spending a bit more time organizing and sorting the Delicas and seed beads I already owned.

I like this roll-around six-drawer unit for storing my Japanese beads. The flip top boxes I favor fit precisely in each drawer, 9 columns across and many, many boxes back.

Bead Storage

The top two drawers look a little different because I’ve modified them a little. As molded, the fronts of the drawers don’t go straight across on the inside. Left alone, this leads to the flip tops sliding around at the front and messing up your orderly number sequence.

Inside Drawer Fix

To fix the problem, we purchased some flat strips of balsa wood at the local hardware store. Around 2 inches wide, we cut the strips to length to fit the front of the drawer. They’re not glued in or anything – the natural shape of the drawer holds them in place. This gives us a flat, even surface at the front to line up the flip tops against.

We only outfitted two drawers this way so far, because, well – the volume of beads I’d properly put away only needed that many. Now, though, I’ll be picking up some more balsa wood so we can fit out the rest of the unit to match.

As you can see, I store the flip tops bottom side up. This way, I can see the colors. A tiny white label from the office supply is marked with the type or size (DB, 11, etc.) of bead, followed by the color number assigned by the manufacturer.

Delica Drawer
Delicas

11/o's Drawers
11/o Japanese Seed Beads

The drawers are sturdy, and will hold flip top boxes up to 3 inches long. It makes it very easy for me to find the beads I want to work with. Or it will, as soon as I finish marking more of the boxes with those little white labels.

If you want to replicate this system, be careful what type of drawer unit you buy. Look for one where the drawers will pull completely out of the case without catching on anything. Some styles have “catches” on the outsides of the drawers that are meant to keep the drawer from falling out. Since you have to squeeze the sides in to get around that, it won’t work if you have the drawer full of little boxes of beads.

Be sure that each drawer is fully supported, not just hanging on a pair of grooves on either side. Without support under each drawer, the drawers themselves will flex under the weight of the beads, and fall out of the tracks.

Drawer Supports

As you can see here, not only does my drawer unit badly need dusting, but each drawer is supported by an open platform that will keep it from flexing and falling out.

I still have some beads to locate in various storage spots around the apartment before I’m done with this part of the project – the “organize what you already have before adding the new stuff” part. By the time I’m done, this drawer unit will be a little over half full. I’ll probably be buying a second one to accommodate the new stock.

Knitting, too

I also did some more work on the first Christmas Gift on the list, this time using my new Knit Picks Options needles to pick up stitches around a couple of pieces to knit a piping trim. I gotta tell you – these things are awesome! As the stitches slid along the needles, you’d never have known they were screwed together where cable and needle met, the join is that smooth. And the tips – I also employed an Addi Turbo circular in the same size for the project (we’re talking piping around the edge of some fairly big projects), and side by side, the Knit Picks were clearly more pointy.

Given the ease of use, the incredibly good design, and the affordable cost, I’ll be buying into a lot more of the Knit Picks Options needles in the future.

I made a lot of progress on this particular knitted gift, but you know what? Picking up hundreds of stitches in cotton yarn around all four edges of a cotton-knitted rectangle is hard on the hands!

Ack! More Cotton Knitting!

Tonight’s take-along project for Panera is another Christmas Gift knitted with cotton yarn. This should be easier on the hands, though – it’s on size 13 needles instead of size 4!

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