when hobby becomes obsession

I spent the vast majority of Friday evening at Chez Delobi doing things so depravedly nerdy that I don’t dare to mention them, even here.

Saturday morning’s class at Cassandra let out at 11:30, and I was home by noon.

I didn’t leave the house again until 4pm on sunday, and that was only to restake the tomato plants that did not fare well through Saturday evening’s storms.  My first journey off of my property in almost 48 hours was my drive to work this morning.

What was I up to?

  • It wasn’t catching up on Infinite Jest, which I’m about 100 pages behind in (btw, that thing with the Skydome… it actually happened.  I was in middle school, we giggled… a lot).
  • Nor was I catching up on the 5-a-day challenge.  I owe my “to go” box about 55 items.
  • I wasn’t doing laundry or yardwork or cleaning the fish tank either (all of these are also, woefully behind).

What I was doing, was fulfilling a promise I made to myself last year:  That after my stunning 2nd place (out of a field of at least 4!) finish last year, I would be entering the MN State Fair again this year.  Not really to win, but just so that I’d challenge myself to make something competition worthy again this year.

The problem with these year-long promises of course, is the procrastination factor.  It took me months to decide on the right project, and once I had project and yarn, it took me longer than it should have to start it.  Still though, I was proud of myself for starting over Memorial Day weekend this year, and I figured I’d have plenty of time to finish (I was even planning a second project, to be eligible for this year’s Bohus sweepstakes).  But I didn’t take into account the summer knitting slump.  It’s hard to stay inside and focus on cable charts and tiny yarn when it’s beautiful and sunny outside.  Not to mention other indoor temptations like Infinite Summer, and Ulduar.

So, even though these were the only thing I knit on this summer, they took me almost 90 days to finish.  And the final work my fingers to the bone sprint  (to finish, ironically, the fingers of both gloves) took almost exactly all of my free time this weekend.  But you know what?  I kind of feel like these were worth it.

click to embiggen!

click to embiggen!

This photo was taken pre-blocking (hence why they look a little claw-like here).  They are currently blocking between two layers of sham-wows (shut up) in a cat-free zone in the house, and they need to be dry by Wednesday at 8am, so I can deliver them for judging… so, any dry thoughts you wanna send my way would be greatly appreciated.

My thoughts? I love them.  I loved the pattern when I first laid eyes on it, and the yarn, when it first showed up in the mail (it was part of Sundara’s Season’s collection… yes, I was in a yarn club last year… shut up. again).  These may not strike the fancy of the state fair judges (who, I, in my sexist and ageist fashion imagine as little old ladies who will decry my break from knitting tradition by daring to do cables in dark, variegated yarn), but they are warm (too warm to wear to model for pics even), and probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever knitted. So, besides certain Nerd-related events this fall and winter, putting them on is the only thing that makes me look forward to the cooler weather this year.

So yeah, that’s this year’s State Fair.  Next year… I tackle the homebrew competition*!

*maybe.

wheeee weekend!

This weekend was all about screwed up sleep schedules and startling efficiency.

For starters, I crashed at about 10:30pm on Friday night, which is not like me at all. I usually turn into a small child on weekend evenings — crankily refusing to admit that I’m tired, desperately pushing to stay up as last as possible because I don’t have a bedtime dammit! — and it usually works, I’ll hit a second wind around 11 or so, and I can say up until 2 or 3am without feeling too out of it. But this Friday my body wasn’t having any of it, and when I was too sleepy to play videogames before 11, I decided to call it quits early.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and after about 10 hours of sleep, I got up to check on work stuff, and kick off my download of the Battlestar Galactica finale. (2 Second Review: I’m glad it’s over). TV watched (and mind totally frakked) I procrastinated about actually going into work by extracting Beauty (my SV650) from her winter home at the back of the garage and taking some time to remember how to start her.

I went on a super quick ride around the block, just to get the feel of things, but I knew that I’d feel guilty doing too much riding when I still needed to go to work/get a workout in. So the bike got parked, and I drove into work (wherein heroics were performed), drove to the gym (wherein I was confused by the layout of the Roseville LA Fitness), and then rewarded myself with a roast beef sammich from Maverick’s (which I was maybe a little too shaky to actually enjoy). Note to self: maybe lifting weights on an empty stomach is not the best of ideas.

After the necessities were taken care of — BSG, work, fitness, food — I headed to Northern Brewer in search of ingredients for a new batch of beer (since I bottled my last batch in December, and I’m running dangerously low). I went with the Scottish – 80 kit, since I’m currently on the hunt for a base recipe for the Chez TPH “house beer”. Ideally, a session beer with a little bit of flavour interest, and just enough kick to remind you that you’re drinking with a pro. The last batch I did was a recipe adapted from Palmer’s How to Brew (Lord Crouchback’s Special Bitter) which was definitely a contender for the title, but I’d like to try something different. Which ever recipe I do end up perfecting for the house beer will probably end up being what I start kegging, whereas the “specialty” beer experiments (like the Sleepytime Porter) will stay in bottles (the better for cellaring and giving as gifts).

After NB, I still had daylight on my side so I decided that instead of brewing right away, I’d take the bike out for a real ride. I’m still afraid of the freeway (Morpheus always told me to stay off the freeway. Said it was suicide), but there is a road near me with a 55mph speed limit and some serious corners, that just happens to lead to Nerd 2’s parent’s place so I decided I should visit. I made it there and back in one piece (and without any of the palm sized kittens in residence there ending up in one of my saddlebags…it was tempting). And celebrated by falling asleep. At 8:30.

12 hours later, lunch and Watchmen watching were the primary orders of business for Sunday. After which there was laundry and Netflix and knitting, and I managed to say awake until 11. So I might be back to normal again. At the very least, I’m back to work.

November is masochism month.

There. I’ve said it.

October is the month for fun really, with its fests and its dress-up parties and its winter squash and its giving of thanks and all. November, however, is when things tighten down. It gets cold out, the clocks roll back, and you really have no excuse not to winterize the yard or prep your car for winter. November is the month for doing things, productive things, useful things. Preferably for/in a month.

Yep, it’s Na[syllable][syllable]Mo. I had considered trying my hand at National Novel Writing Month this year, I even started a gdoc with rough plot ideas, but I remembered the garbage that I produced in creative writing in high school, and realized that even I wouldn’t want to read 50,000 words of my own writing. Then I remembered my attempt and failure at National Blog Posting Month last year, and pondered why I shouldn’t just try that again, 2007-style.

So that was the deal, NaBloPoMo, plus rake the leaves and look into getting snow tires. A nice, not so painful masochism month. I could handle it… Then, during a very suggestible week back in September, two things happened. First, a friend informed me that both he and his wife would be doing NaNo, and that NaBlo was lame and too easy (peer pressure, my constant nemesis). And secondly, KnitGrrl announced her second annual National Knit a Sweater Month. And I had a sweater just barely started, that I knew was going to take me months unless I focused on it. So, here we are.

I’ve got a jump start on the sweater, since I’ve already done about 40 odd rows on it (and I’ve decided to knit it straight to pattern instead of embellising it too much), and here’s my first post of the month, so maybe this will be too easy after all.

Do you think I should add a 30 minutes of cardio a day goal too?

5 day week

I haven’t worked a five day week since November. This coming week is going to be rough.

In preparation for a week where I have to work for a living for at least a whole 40 hours, I’ve spent a lot of time by myself this weekend, which has been a very good thing. Friday night, I went skating and then for drinks with representatives of 3 different groups of friends – I’ve determined that one of the things that a potential partner-type person needs to be able to do is to fit in with the diverse groups of people who I associate with. I don’t like feeling like I’m babysitting. Saturday morning, I slept in until 2pm, despite getting to sleep before 2am. There’s probably a reason for this, but not one I’m going to write about here. I watched Good Night and Good Luck (finally!), and was impressed, but also scared, given humanity’s inability to learn from history and the current situation vis a vis wars and “enemies” and the media and such.

Accomplishments from the past weekend include:

  • Made marlin steaks for the first time for – 4 minutes per side (about 3/4inch thick) turned out a little overdone. Marinated with soy sauce and lime juice which worked out well.
  • Ate a delicious rib eye as part of a fancy dinner made just for me. No marinade, just salt and pepper, 4 minutes on side 1, 5 minutes on side 2 = heaven. Seriously – I’d forgotten how good a simple homemade steak (accompanied by mashed potatoes and sauted onions and mushrooms can be).
  • Made a vat of chili today – fairly basic recipe – cook dry beans in crockpot overnight, in the morning, brown beef with cumin and chili powder, saute onions/garlic, deglaze with beer, add to crockpot with tomatoes, and every type of pepper you can find.
  • Made cupcakes – Cook’s Illustrated’s Dark Chocolate Cupcake recipe, frosted with Betty Crocker’s Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting, the cupcakes were orgasmic of course (I <3 Christopher Kimball and all of his minions), but I was also pleasantly surprised by the frosting - it had been sitting in the pantry for a while (came home with one of my roommates), and I was expecting it to be overly sweet and kinda gross (as most store bought frostings are), but it is actually fairly decent - I'd be willing to serve it in public, which is saying something.
  • Knitted and felted a swatch of malabrigo for a purse I was hoping to make. I don’t think I like it very much – i’ll have to confer with the ladies at knitting club on Tuesday to see what they think.
  • Found A’s xmas present at Borders, bought a new snail at Petsmart – though I need to go back there now, because I also bought a package of test strips and when I opened the box, it was empty…grr.

This next week I’ll be laying in preparations for Vegas next weekend. I have a camera to order, a fancy outfit to find/purchase, packing to do, and some blackjack basic strategy to study up for. Interspersed with that, I will be going back to the gym for the first time since last year (yes, i’ve been naughty), also knitting (of course) and best new bands of 2006 show at First Ave on Wednesday. Should be interesting. TTYL!

How I got my new slippers

Right around this time of year last year, I was living in the tail end of a failinged relationship. He had been making some progress with regards to fixing some of his issues, and I wanted to reciprocate, to do my part to show him that I cared. With the holiday season coming up, I figured that getting him something nice for Christmas would do the trick. At the time I was a bit of a hopelessstupid romantic, and I wouldn’t have bought him any of the “material” goods that he would have actually wanted (guns, another dog, etc), so I decided that I’d give him a present straight from the heart – I’d knit him socks. Not sock yarn weight or anything stupid like that, but big fuzzy warm happy almost-like-slippers socks.

Should be simple right? I mean, I’ve knitted scarves before – how hard could socks be? So, I went to the yarn store, Depth of Field (who I highly recommend) on the West Bank to be specific, I got me some nice, chunky, soft wool, and big, fat size 10 DPNs. The employee who helped me asked if I’d ever knit socks before, and at the time I didn’t really understand what the funny look she gave me when I said “no” meant (Thank you KnittingHelp.com!. She sold me a pretty awesome pattern for “knit to fit” cuff-down socks. Just figure out your gauge, do some math, and get to it. Armed with the tools required, all that I lacked was the actual knowledge of how to knit – I’d learned before, and churned out some pretty misshapen garter-stitch monstrosities, but a refresher was definetely in order. Luckily my local library had a copy of Debbie Bliss’ How to Knit, and with that obtained, I was good to go.

It was slow going at first. Getting used to knitting in the round is really not trivial when you don’t really know how to knit well yet, but I stuck to it. I’d knit during lunch breaks at work, I’d knit in front of the TV. I knit so that we wouldn’t have to talk and therefore fight, and when we did fight, I’d hide in my office and knit more. We went up north to a friend’s farm for a weekend (against my wishes) and I knit there. I knit when I went home for Christmas, on vacation from work and from him and the hell my life had become. I guess that you could say that much of the anger and frustration that I felt during that last couple of months got put into those socks, but they got done. We exchanged presents on the 26th, after I got back. I rolled them up and put them in his stocking (congratulating myself for my cleverness). We had essentially broken up by the 31st – that night, during one of our fights, he threw the socks at me, yelling at me that he didn’t want them – which was fitting, since I no longer wanted him. By the time I came home from work on January 3rd, he was gone, but the socks remained.

I’ve worn them lots over the past year. They are, as I had hoped, super warm and fuzzy and happy and slipper-like. But they were still in a sense “his” socks. They remained in the form for which they had been created for him, and as much as they were a symbol of the fact that he neither appreciated, nor deserved what I did/gave for/to him, they just didn’t seem right. I don’t know when I first decided to felt them – maybe it was over the summer when I was looking at so many cute felted purses and slippers, and hats, etc. Maybe it was earlier, when I was fighting with the urge to destroy all that was still his. Either way, the idea has been floating around in my mind, and this week, I finally had that magical combination of time and motivation that allowed me to get them done.

I followed the basic instructions in Knitty’s Fuzzy Feet pattern.

The original socks

original

from the aforementioned knit to fit pattern. Yarn – Ironstone Yarns Harmony , needles – US size 10 DPNs.

Hot water, towel, socks and a little detergent. Agitate for 10 minutes, or until desired size (I might have overdone it a little)…

after washing

Pull socks out, rinse, GENTLY wring dry, and wear for a while to block to the perfect dimensions of your feet…

blocking

And tada! New Slippers!

finished product

.

So, now I’ve got a great pair of slippers, made by me, for me, and sized to fit me perfectly. Materials-wise, they were very inexpensive. Emotionally, they cost a lot. But I’m infinitely better off now than I was around this time last year. And if I have these slippers to thank for that, I’m grateful.

I always wondered why people complain about french food being heavy.

I understand now. Butter, chicken fat, bacon…mmmmm. The coq au vin came out quite well, I must say – though I didn’t expect it to take quite so long (the step with the evaporating water off of the pearl mushrooms tooks like 30 mins as opposed to the 5 I thought. And who knew you needed to boil pearl onions to be able to peel them? Bah!

SJ’s gloves did get finished on time by some strange miracle. By 3am on Sunday I never wanted to pick up a pair of knitting needles again. By 12:50pm on Sunday I never wanted to see another inch of ribbon again. But they did get done. She wore them to the show, and got compliments from random people about them which makes me happy. The only disapointment I have it that I didn’t get a picture to post here and on Craftster. I will do my best to pester her for a picture of her wearing them.

If you’re interested, I got the pattern from Ysolda’s blog. I had to cast on 32 stitches instead of 20, and use 5 yards of ribbon total to have them sized for a normal person (Ysolda must be tiny!). I’ll post more details when I have pictures.

The Road to Coq au Vin.

So, D is coming over tomorrow night. The plan is to watch a movie or something (maybe I’ll be able to get him to let me watch the oscars), eat dinner, and fix his soundcard – actually it’s really just a wipe and reload of his OS, I’m sure I’lll find something to do with his soundcard as well.

So, is it silly to try to make a “classic” dish at home if you’ve never had it? Anthony Bourdain’s CaV recipe seems entirely reasonable – the only truly exotic ingredient is pearl onions, and it will give me a change to use the pork belly I got – chicken, wine, slabs ‘o bacon – how could this dish go wrong?

SJ’s opera gloves are about 51% done. Going out for game night last night was probably not the most responsible thing to do but damn it was fun*. I’m glad I finished the first one before I left. Given that it took about a good 6 hours of knitting to finish the first one, I predict a long night of knitting tonight (plus a long morning of cleaning tomorrow…yay!). My plan now is to leave school, go shopping, come home, knit until my hands hurt, start the chicken marinating, and knit s’more.

* remind me to post some day about that weird feeling you get when you feel like you’re being set up.