Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

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?

What I’m Working On

Filed under: Downloads - Desktop Wallpapers,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 4:19 pm on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I did a bit of a teaser last week about some of the fiber crafting I’ve been doing. One was a picture of my Lendrum bobbin with some multi-colored singles spun on it.

Here’s what the same bobbin looks like today:

I’ve been putting in a minimum of 15 minutes a day at the wheel, and some days as much as 30 minutes or more. So progress is coming along nicely.

This is the first my wheel has been active in over a year. I haven’t lost the skill, I guess it’s like riding a bicycle. In fact, I think I’m better for having let the spinning hibernate for so long. It’s feeling very natural now, so natural I even find myself craving time spent at the wheel as much as I do time with the knitting needles.

One thing that has made it easier to spin – I finally picked a spot for the wheel that means I can sit down with very little effort and just start.

What you’re seeing is the corner of the living room where my desktop computer lives. The wheel is placed such that all I have to do is spin my chair in place, move the ball of roving to the left, and start treadling. Which is quite often exactly what I do after reading e-mails, posting to the blog, or other online activities. It’s amazing how it can add up when you remove obstacles like set-up time.

The roving I’m spinning is a hand-dyed merino. Purchased at the Dublin General Store here in New Hampshire over a year ago, where one of the owners is an avid knitter/spinner/dyer who sells her goods right there, one room over from the wine selection and across the main store from the deli counter. If I remember correctly (the tag is long gone), it’s about 6 oz. total weight.

I formed no plan for this when I sat down. I had pre-drafted the entire lot way back when. As I sat down to the wheel, I made a decision to move the belt on the flyer one notch smaller, upping the ratio a little. Otherwise, I’ve let the wool find its own weight. Thin, but not too thin. I haven’t done a wpi on the single, so I’m not sure.

To preserve the long color runs, I may make this my first chain-plied yarn. Or second – I have a partial bobbin of a non-descript blue single that I spun and have no other plans for, I am likely to practice on that first. Tripling this multi-colored single, I’m guessing from my quick tests, will give me something in the range of a fingering weight.

After that, I’ll just have to decide what to knit with it! If it turns out even enough, I may try for my first hand-spun socks.

Speaking of knitting, I teased this project the other day, too:

The pattern is called Autumn, and it’s an entre-lac shawl pattern published by the Jojoland yarn company. The yarn is their worsted weight variegated called Rhythm. Rhythm has very long stretches of color, making entre-lac a perfect way to display it. The particular colorway I’m using is number 023, which comes in shades of purple, orange, and yellow. I love the combination of both warm and cool colors, and of course, I love the purple.

Yes, I have abandoned both the Adult Surprise Jacket and my latest pair of socks to work on this. I was in the yarn store and she had a sample of the shawl knitted up, and I simply fell in love. I scored a copy of the pattern from her that day to be sure I’d have it. Then I developed such an eagerness to knit it over the next couple of days that I raided the piggy bank for part of the money, and talked Gryphon into the rest as an early birthday present (way early – it’s not until August).

I had my 10 11 balls of Rhythm that Saturday, and had cast on by Saturday night. (The pattern calls for 10 balls – we bought an extra as a cushion.) Today, I’m within a short distance of finishing the main body of the shawl, then I’ll cast on for the border. My goal is to finish by my birthday so I can enjoy my gift. I think I’ll have no trouble making it – and I hope those don’t become “famous last words”!

Someone amongst the commenters – you know who you are – has already hinted that the photo of the entrelac knitting would make a great desktop wallpaper. I agree! I do plan to take the image above and make all the proper size versions, add the copyright statement, etc. Since my personal monitor is now a widescreen one, I’ll be adding a new size/proportion as well, 1680 x 1050.

Until I actually get myself away from the knitting and spinning to do that, however, if you want to use the photo above as your desktop wallpaper, simply click on the image. You’ll be taken to the full size version (1600×1200), which you can then save to your own computer. Just do me the favor of doing so only for your own personal use, and don’t redistribute the image, okay?

Whew! I think I’ve said enough now. I want to get back to knitting the shawl….after I maybe spin a few minutes…the wheel’s right here…

She Did It!

Filed under: Blogfriends — folkcat at 6:58 pm on Monday, June 23, 2008

Our mutual friend, Leesa, that is! She rallied her family, friends, and Crafting Jen’s readers, and her entry of Amphibian in the “Name the Shards” contest at Avenue Beads finished at first place in the poll. Congratulations, Leesa! And a hearty Thank You to everyone who voted for her.

While we waited to see the results, I did a bunch of spinning and knitting this weekend. More about that tomorrow!

Testing…

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 5:24 pm on Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just testing the image handling in my current blog software. And giving you a bonus image of the entrelac shawl while I’m at it!

Entrelac Shawl Close-up

Holy Salamanders, Batman!

Filed under: Blogfriends,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 4:12 pm on Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You guys just totally rock! When I posted about our friend Leesa’s contest yesterday, her entry stood at a tie for fifth place. In less than twenty-four hours, your votes have put her in first place! That is just totally awesome!

Voting doesn’t end until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 21 (Central Time – the contest holder is in Chicago). So we want to keep the action going to keep Leesa at the top. You can only vote once, but if you have any friends you think would vote, or a blog of your own where you can post the voting link, that would be absolutely wonderful.

The link to the voting page for the contest is:

http://www.avenuebeads.com/2008/06/15/name-these-shards-poll/

And the name to vote for is Amphibian. That’s Leesa’s entry. I didn’t mention before, but I like it so much because it suits the colors of the glass being named, but it’s not expectable or cliched. A lot of the other names entered are very pretty, but also a little too predictable. I can really imagine these colors in a frog or salamander, all wet and shiny and green!

I’ll post next week how Leesa does in the contest. If we can keep this momentum going, though, I think we can expect a good result!

Thank you all!

And in other news…

Entrelac Shawl
Entrelac Shawl

Handspun Merino Single
Handspun single, Merino Top

Yes, I’m knitting Yet Another Entrelac Project. And after being idle for over a year, I am spinning again. Details when I feel up to writing them up!

A Call To Action; and, a Funky New Yarn?

Filed under: Blogfriends,Crafting Miscellany,Rats! — folkcat at 4:22 pm on Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I’ve made a few good friends amongst you, my readers. You make me laugh, you’re generally there for me whenever I need you. Thank you!

It’s not often I get to do a little favor in return, but an opportunity arose today. Leesa dropped me an e-mail telling of a contest over at Avenue Beads, where they sell “Unique Handmade Art Glass.” Seems they have a new colorway of art glass shards they’re planning to sell, and they’re having a contest to name it.

Leesa made it into the final poll with the name Amphibian. Remember that name, folks, it’ll be important in a minute. Amphibian. There are ten names being voted on to find a winner, and Leesa’s is one of them. A M P H I B I A N.

If you would like to help Leesa, you can go to Avenue Beads at this link:

http://www.avenuebeads.com/2008/06/15/name-these-shards-poll/

and cast your vote. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. on June 21 (not sure what time zone that is), so don’t hesitate. Vote for Amphibian today!

(While you’re there, be sure to look around the Avenue Beads site – they do some really nice glass work!)

Good luck to you, Leesa!

A Rattie Yarn

This is a little fuzzy because I took it with my phone, but look at the new yarn that I found in my stash!

Rattie Yarn!

I wonder what size needles I should use?

Breaking News – Amherst, NH Plaza Fire

Filed under: Daily Life — folkcat at 10:13 pm on Thursday, June 12, 2008

I was coming home from Panera tonight about 8:20, when traffic was backed up fairly severely. A friend of one of my co-knitters had mentioned a large fire in this direction (west along 101A), and she wasn’t kidding.

I was able to see the column of smoke from some distance down the road as we crawled slowly in our cars.

Amherst Plaza Fire, smoke column

I thought I could guess about where it was located. Sadly, I was right. It was Amherst Plaza, home to several long-standing businesses in the area. Most notably, Covered Bridge Yarns, a craft store with a history going back a couple decades at least, and Amherst House of Pizza.

This is what’s left of the House of Pizza.

Amherst House of Pizza - Ruins

I pulled over into the parking lot across the street – as many others had – to stare in horror at the devastation. This was an l-shaped plaza, with Amherst House of Pizza anchoring the front corner along Route 101A. I saw blackened windows at least halfway down the length of the plaza. One of the ladder trucks was pumping water on the building all the way in the back corner.

The front end of the building, completely gone. Not sure what else was along the front face besides the pizza shop. But I think there was a beloved children’s clothing consignment shop down the burned length, and I know that Covered Bridge Yarns was there, too.

A police officer directing traffic chatted a little with us onlookers. As far as he knew, no one was hurt in the fire.

Not physically, anyway. The family that owned the Amherst House of Pizza, that shop was their entire life. They’ve been there for years. Gryphon and I used to go there sometimes, and he’d been going for many years before I even married him and moved to New Hampshire – and that was 15 years ago. Their kids grew up crawling on the floor there, and when they were old enough, they stood on step stools and boxes and operated the cash register. This place was their life.

I’m sure the owners of the other shops are in every bit as much turmoil now. I just didn’t have the same connection with them.

New Hampshire television news has some coverage of the story here: http://www.wmur.com/news/16592166/detail.html#

They take reader submissions of photos as well, I’ve sent in the two I posted here for their archives.

As I write this (10:08 p.m.), the fire is still too young to have any clue what happened. They were still pumping water on it at 9:00, when I decided to move on and get home.

Not much else to say about that, really. I’m going to go sit with my thoughts now.

How I Smote Scorch, the Burning Wizard

Filed under: Daily Life,Games — folkcat at 1:27 am on Thursday, June 12, 2008

Household chores as a dungeon game – Chore Wars

I’m terribly unmotivated when it comes to housework. I stumbled upon Chore Wars while passing by a blog the other day. Gryphon and I are trying it out. So far, it’s fun! If you want to see how I’m doing specifically, you can visit my character page here: Woolgatherer

Chores are Adventures or Quests. You earn XP for them, as well as (virtual) gold and random treasures. You might encounter monsters. Scorch, the Burning Wizard is one of the denizens of the kitchen that I might run afoul of when I am Baking Bread or Cooking Food, for instance.

So far, so good. We’ll see how well it works in the long run!

Big Changes and a Moment of Rattie Zen

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats!,Television — folkcat at 1:13 pm on Monday, June 2, 2008

Hi, everyone. I know it’s been a while. I’m not sure I’m ready to post several times a week yet, but I can deal with posting when there’s news to report.

A large part of why I haven’t been posting is that most things haven’t changed. Gryphon is still looking for part time work or a better paying full time job. We’re still struggling to find ways to get by more cheaply. This has all been going on for five months now. I find it a wonderment that we haven’t gone completely down the drain yet, but Gryphon is something of a miracle worker when it comes to managing the budget, and he’s kept us (barely) above water so far.

There aren’t many places we can cut the budget anymore. At least, not without changing our lifestyle pretty seriously. And, well…today we took a step that does exactly that.

We cancelled cable television. Which means that, in our little valley between two ridges with no TV antenna, I will not be receiving television programming over either the air or the cable wire.

What? you’re thinking. This is the woman with three TiVo’s who watches a lot of television programs, who’s a fan of the media in a way most people never imagine. How can she give up television?

The answer is, I’m not. I’m just giving up cable television. I’ll be cancelling one of the TiVo’s (which will be offered up for sale some way or another) that is no longer under a contract, and keeping the other two. I may not have a television signal coming in by either of the conventional means, but the remaining TiVos can still download movies and television shows from Amazon UnBox. It makes sense to keep them active, too, since they’re both still under contracts that would require a large cancellation fee.

Besides Amazon UnBox, we’ve re-activated my NetFlix account. There is a multitude of programming that I can get on DVD, and they also have thousands of hours of both television shows and movies available for instant viewing on your computer.

So I’m not giving up television at all. What I’m doing is becoming far more selective about what comes into the house. Instead of having to make my selections from the shotgun programming of cable television, the largest percentage of which I’m not interested in, I’ll be going directly to those programs that I know I want to watch.

Past seasons of shows I never got to see, such as those that were on pay cable channels, I can watch on DVD. Most of the better new shows these days either stream for free from the network website the day after they air, or are available for download from Amazon UnBox or iTunes very soon for a modest price.

I’m really very excited about this. I feel that it’s a vast improvement, an elimination of the chaotic input from cable and broadcast television that I had to filter significantly to get what I wanted. It’s like a music afficionado who gives up listening to radio stations and switches over to getting the good stuff on LPs and CDs.

We called the cable company today. The change happens….tonight!

Your Moment of Rattie Zen

One of the Rattie Rugs got shoved so that it hung over the edge of the middle shelf the other day. Lola decided it was a comfy place to snooze. And the lens on my camera phone was actually small enough to fit between the bars of the cage, so I didn’t have to disturb her by opening the door.

Comfy Lola

May we all find a moment in our lives as relaxing as this! Enjoy!