Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Taken Down By A Burp

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting — folkcat at 4:07 pm on Monday, March 10, 2008

Slow but steady, I’m making progress on the Adult Surprise Jacket:

Adult Surprise Jacket - Still Decreasing

Very slow. But then, I didn’t knit much this weekend. More on that later.

In the category of my bread baking – that loaf I made on Friday was a worthy beginning, but not really very good. Still, Gryphon had no trouble eating it. My assessment of where it went wrong? I’m pretty sure I should have kneaded it more to work up the gluten, and I should have let it rise longer. The texture was a bit off, and the loaf was denser than I thought it should have been.

Gryphon and I also used my sourdough starter on Sunday to make a pizza dough. Quite successfully, this time, though I think for the size pizza we like we want to scale the recipe up a bit.

All in all, the beginning of my efforts at bread baking are encouraging enough that Gryphon and I made a rare decision. We took the one credit card we have, and ordered a bread machine from Amazon. One of the Breadman models. It’s well-reviewed, doesn’t cost too much, has free shipping, and promises to do all sorts of things. It even has settings for sourdough that will proof your starter before you add the other ingredients. And, it makes a horizontal, fairly traditional bread loaf. (I know, we can always take the dough out and bake it in pans. But letting the machine do it will be so convenient!)

I’ll continue feeding the starter and baking loaves by hand in the meantime. But I’m looking forward to the machine arriving!

Now, back to my weekend, and why I didn’t knit much. I had a small “incident” Friday night that left me ill all weekend. If you don’t like reading about illnesses, or if you find talk of bodily functions a little TMI (too much information), then you might want to skip the rest of this post. I’ll put the details after the break so you can avoid them easily. Don’t worry, I won’t mind if you just move along!

(Read on …)

Friday Quick Takes

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 8:36 pm on Friday, March 7, 2008

Gryphon Socks on Gryphon Feet:

SG:P4 - Done and Modeled!

Adult Surprise Jacket Begun:

Adult Surprise Jacket Begun

Leonardo Dreams of “Outside”:

Leo at the Window

While Yuri and Lola Snuggle in the Sweater:

Yuri and Lola in the Sweater

A Loaf of Bread Rises in the Oven:

Bread Loaf Rising

Have a great weekend!

The New Post

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Crafting Miscellany,Knitting — folkcat at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New Socks

Mere minutes ago, I finished weaving in the ends on Gryphon’s second sock (Socks for Gryphon: Pair 4(SG:P4)).

SG:P4 - Done!

Pictures of them being modelled by actual Gryphon feet next time!

New Projects

Now that Gryphon’s socks are done, I’ll be starting on my Adult Surprise Jacket. I’m going to make this from acrylic worsted weight yarns I have in stash – and believe me, there’s plenty of that. It will be a scrappy jacket of many colors, which suits me just fine!

New Pets

Sourdough Starter
My First Yeast Colony

Mere minutes before writing this post, I stirred up this batch of sourdough starter.

I’ve been wanting to cook more real foods. But with Gryphon working second shift, and not home for dinner 5 days a week, there’s little incentive. I almost never get to prepare a dinner and set it on the table for everyone both of us to enjoy together.

We usually manage a special meal of some sort on the weekends. But I want to flex my cooking muscles more than that. It finally hit me – bread! We use bread regularly, it’s not that difficult to make, and it doesn’t need to be consumed the moment it comes out of the oven. (Though I’m sure that, until the novelty wears off, much of it will go that quickly.)

My favorite is a good sourdough bread. I know I could have thrown caution to the wind and hoped for a good yeast species floating around in our air – here in downtown Wilton, right on several main roads, in an old apartment complex where I doubt anyone has made real bread in decades. I decided that sounded a bit chancey, though, and went for the Fleischmann’s Sourdough Starter that I found in the recipes in MasterCook. (Once I can figure out why my FTP software isn’t loading, I’ll be able to provide a link to a TXT version of the recipe.)

Basically, it’s a big pot of glue – warm water and flour – with a packet of yeast mixed in. Put on the lid and leave it alone for a bit, and theoretically, I’ll have a sourdough starter I can keep perpetually alive to make bread from.

Fingers crossed!

New Crafts

This is a lucet:

Homemade Lucet
Homemade Lucet

It’s a homemade one, at least. A proper one would be nicely hand carved from wood, with aesthetically pleasing curves, a nice grain, and a soft sheen. This one is made of 18-gauge steel wire with a plastic coating, a piece cut from an empty supermarket gift card, and a bunch of blue self-adhesive grip tape. (The tape is usually used to wrap fingers and/or hands to protect them from injury in sports or manufacturing jobs.)

MacGyver would be proud, don’t you think?

A lucet is an ancient tool, used to make a flexible, non-stretchy cord. As you can see in this detail, the cord made with the basic technique is square. There are other techniques I’ve seen on the web that produce flat cords, and one very advanced luceteer (not sure if that’s a real word, but it should be!) that I found in England has discovered ways to make buttonholes and lacy trims on her lucet.

Lucet Cord in Progress
Close Look at the Cord

I have known vaguely about lucets for many years, but had no clue how they were used. (The Wikipedia article linked above has several links to online tutorials.) When I needed a cord of some sort, and couldn’t just use a length of yarn, my practice has been to make a crochet chain. But that’s asymmetrical, and not very attractive. Using a lucet, I’ll be able to make symmetrical cords that are non-stretchy and nice to look at, and I can make them to go with any project.

Then I saw Dave at Cabin Cove posting about his lucets, and the cords he makes with them. I was hooked! He has a pair of beautiful, wood, hand carved lucets. Luckily, he also provided a link to the merchant who made them – Lynn the Weaver. Lynn is a Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) merchant and woodworker in the Pacific Northwest.

Let me tell you, I searched the web for the best lucets I could find, and seriously – I never found any as nice as what Lynn shows on his website! I’m going to call him with my order for a lucet made of Purple Heart wood later today. Meanwhile, I’ll continue practicing with my little homemade one.

That’s what’s new with me. Crafty endeavors of one form or another, mostly, and I’m enjoying every bit of it. What’s new with you?

Free At Last

Filed under: Books,Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 5:40 pm on Monday, March 3, 2008

The pictures from my phone camera, that is. The UPS guy was at the door today with my new USB stick, and it reads the micro-SD card perfectly.

So here are a couple of the pictures I promised. Maybe not the greatest photos. The shutter speed on the camera phone is like molasses, and rats are not.

There’s also an issue that anytime you hold up a camera, the Ratties have to come check it out, immediately. After all, you might be offering them something edible.

Yuri and Lola

Yuri is walking down from my shoulder here, trying to figure out what’s in my right hand. You can see Lola in the background. She’s doing what she often does – standing on the corner of the chair, staring off into the distance to see what’s out there. As in, is it worth jumping down to go get it? I think lots of rats do this, from what I’ve seen – Star and Sable often did.

Yuri Explores, Leo Burrows
Yuri Explores, Leo Burrows

How many pictures have I posted of a Rattie sticking their head out from this same blanket? I think most of the furry four-leggers have been shown in this pose. In this case, it’s Leonardo taking a brief break from his burrowing under the blanket to see what’s up. Yuri, meanwhile, wants to get to the little table I use in front of my chair to see what might be left in that bowl from my lunch.

In The Home Stretch

I took a break from knitting most of the weekend. I actually had cramps in my left hand after Thursday night’s knitting, and the hand and wrist felt a little weak on Saturday. Must have overdone it a bit!

SG:P4 - The Home Stretch

I dug out my Thera-Gloves and got back to work yesterday, though. Turned the heel on Gryphon’s sock number two, and now I’m in the home stretch, just knitting the leg until it matches the first sock.

And a Winner!

The pea soup that I was experimenting with on Friday came out pretty darn good! The only element that was missing was some ham for a slightly smoky flavor note (and a little extra protein). So Gryphon and I picked some up on Saturday. On Sunday, I diced it up, and cooked it with another half of an onion chopped up. I stirred these around in the skillet until there was some carmelization starting, then dropped it into the crock pot and added back what was left of the soup.

Four hours or so on low, and the soup was done. And it tasted even better than it had the first day, without the ham.

I’m going to work on finalizing the recipe and posting it. In fact, I’m going to be working on new formats for all the recipes I’ve posted in the past, and get them up under that “Link3” item on the top menu bar of the blog. Which will suddenly, at that point, read “Recipes”.

Amazon Buys

One thing that’s going to help with the recipes – once upon a time, I used to use MasterCook Deluxe v4.0 to keep recipes in. But that must have been several computers ago, and I guess it never got installed on newer systems over time. In fact, I found the CD and tried installing it on my current computer, and the software is so old it won’t even install. So I looked around, and found that the current version (MasterCook Deluxe v9.0) was only $19 on Amazon.

Of course, you know you can’t order just $19 worth of anything on Amazon anymore. So a copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac wound up in my cart, too.

I now have three of her books altogether – The Opinionated Knitter, purchased in Syracuse at Christmas from gift money; Knitting Without Tears, purchased along with my Harmony DPNs from KnitPicks to meet minimum order for free shipping; and now, Knitter’s Almanac. I’ve wanted to add EZ’s titles to my library for years, but couldn’t ever decide which one to start with. Finding The Opinionated Knitter at the yarn shop I visited in Syracuse rather decided that for me, and now it’s just a matter of filling in the gaps.

So does this mean there’s an EZ project in my future? Yup, it does. I’m looking at making an Adult Surprise Jacket as my next attempt at personal outerwear. And I’m planning to work from stash for it, making a coat of many colors and burning off lots of existing surplus.

In fact, this will probably be the very next project after Gryphon’s current socks and a nesting bag I’m knitting for the Ratties. So stay tuned, it won’t be long!

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