Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tidings of Cashmere and Joy

Master of Deception

That's what some boarding school contemporaries called me this fall when we got together at an impromptu mini-reunion in Berkeley and we swapped stories of adolescent misbehavior. They'd had no idea I'd been up to such deviant things - but the only difference between me and them was that I never got caught.

I used that skill while putting together a Christmas gift for my husband. It was a stealth project all the way.

Purty, huh?
Jasmin (stealth-enabler of the highest degree) did the actual fiber purchase - it's cashmere roving from Crown Mountain and the exchange reminded me of a crack sale (or so I imagine - I misbehaved in high school but it never involved crack) - she slipped me the fiber only after I slipped her the cash - unmarked bills, dark of night, etc. She also taught me how to spin cashmere which isn't easy as it has a really short staple. Step one was to try spinning cotton - which really SUCKS. I did that for an hour at which point she switched me over to the cashmere and in comparison that was pretty easy.
For the next 5 weeks or so it was all lies, lies, lies. 'I'm going to knit night', 'The knitting's going slowly', 'I'm knitting at Jasmin's house' - well I really did go to the places I said I was, I was just hauling my wheel all over town and spinning instead (which is why the knitting was going slowly - I wasn't doing it). Fortunately my husband left for a week-long business trip in early December, which allowed me to finish the spinning before April '08.
To make a strong yarn, I cabled it - I made two strands of two-ply, then plied them together . Here's the finished yarn - about 300 yards of worsted-weight:

And a close-up:

It took me 6 weeks to spin the yarn and one day to knit this:

Just a simple knit one row, K1 P1 on the next. I ended up with about 6 feet of heavy, soft luxurious scarf.

Things I learned about cashmere:

1) People will try to steal it from you in any form - non-spinners will even attempt to walk off with roving, it's that soft and fabulous. Watch your cashmere at all times. And be very suspicious if one of your fellow knitters suddenly appears to have grown an extra boob.

2) Even the damn dog will try to steal your cashmere. When I finally sat down to knit, Riso hopped on the couch next to me, grabbed the cake of cashmere and set it between his paws. We had to have a little talk after that one. Apparently he likes the scarf too:

3) Even I try to steal the cashmere. Brian wore the scarf all day yesterday - but I did manage to lift it from him a few times to 'make sure it worked'. He had to ask for it back. So apparently I can't even be trusted.

You know what's really too bad? I have a little roving left over - I might be able to make myself a neck warmer or something. Poor me.

So the Christmas Deception was a success. I just hope he doesn't start worrying about how freakin' easy it was for me to hide something from him. (Nope, those aren't shallow graves in our back yard, they're gardens, I swear!)

Trouble apparently got all stressed out by the underhanded goings-on in our house:

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas or whatever it is you do/don't celebrate! Here's another one of my holiday traditions - Orange Hazelnut Biscotti. It's Brian's recipe but lately I've been the one doing the baking. Some of them will get a little chocolate coating as soon as I can make it back into the kitchen.

Brian made those for dessert when he had me over to his house on our first date. I had just started chemotherapy, and he sent me home with some extras, telling me that they had healing powers. Four healthy years later, I do believe he was right about that.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A New Christmas Tradition

I found this on Norma's blog. I may of Jewish heritage but I'm totally making this my new Christmas tradition:

Tequila Christmas Cake


1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle tequila
2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the tequila to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the tequila again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

At this point it's best to make sure the tequila is still OK.

Try another cup... just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the lequita to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the tequila.

Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the tequila and wipe counter with the cat.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ho Bag and Schwag Hag

There's been plenty of blog fodder recently (probably interesting only if you're a knitter and either read the same blogs or hang out with the same people I do). But there hasn't really been much time to actually blog about it. I don't have a lot of time now but I'll give it a shot - drive-by-blogging:

Ho Bag

Last weekend I spent the day with TMOTPS (The Minions of the Pointy Sticks) celebrating the holidays at Jasmin's (otherwise knows as TPD - Tiny Persian Dictator) house. 'Twas tons of fun. There was a gift exchange, lots of good food, Christmas stockings and a lot of goofing around. Gigi made these for everyone's stocking - look! A Ho Bag!

Atop the Ho Bag are/is? Fetching - slightly modified - for a co-worker as my Secret Santa gift to her. I made them in about 2 days and that includes some frogging when I decided to get rid of the picot edging and cabling at the top and just go with the 4x1 rib. They're made of Cashmerino left over from my first knitting project ever. Yay for stashbusting! I'm going to make myself a pair too - you don't need much in the way of warm clothing around here, but these are perfect for those raw, rainy days that make up winter in the South Bay. It's a nice pattern and a super-quick knit.

Schwag Hag

I got an IM from Jasmin the other day "Dude! You're on Schwag!". OMG I am! Franklin made some more 1000 Knitters goodies and I'm on the bag. Not half-in-the-bag (shut.up.), on the bag. Bottom row, next to the last picture on the right. I'd seen the shot but didn't recognize myself. I commented that I'd like to think my picture was chosen thanks to my sparkling conversation and witty repartee while chatting with Franklin, but no such luck. But I'm glad the random number generator liked #247. As soon as I pick up some Christmas cash, I'm going to place an order.

More fibery fun:

A couple of weeks ago I went to Margit's house for a spin-in. Cindy was there, working on her first wheel-spun yarn ever. Isn't it nice??!!

I think it's BFL but I'm not sure - Cindy, correct me if I'm wrong, will you?

We all celebrated the occasion.

Some people get tipsy from sparkling wine. Apparently I just grow branches with birds on them out of my head.

Thursday, I went to Purlescence to help celebrate the impending arrival of Baby Boo, Nathania and Kevin's little girl, to be born in the very near future. I can't decide if I'm more amazed at the wonderful and thoughtful gifts Miss Boo received or at the large number of wonderful and thoughtful friends that Nathania and Kevin have! It was a really nice time and I was happy to be part of it.

Nothing else to report - but I did want to put in one last picture - my last post I blogged about a roasted vegetable recipe, but I only showed the dish pre-cooking. Here it is completed.

Yum again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Really Random Wednesday

First - Happy Chanukah to those of you who celebrate!

I'm suffering from a severe case of Startitis:

Miminalist Cardigan (Fall IK) - I'm actually farther along than this.

Mr. Greenjeans from the fall Knitty. I'm using Malabrigo in Stonechat. I've had this in my stash for nearly a year - what was I waiting for? It's FABulous!

The beginnings of Twist by Bonne Marie Burns. I joined the Purlescence Twist Knit Along. I'm doing this in Paragon from The Yarn Place. It's a heathered 100% wool - it's much prettier knit up than in the skein - and it doesn't look too shabby in the skein either.

This is the Zig Zag Lace Shrug by Ava Coleman - I'm making it for this LYS - with beads. What. Did I not have enough to do? Oy.

Heading Toward the Random:

Isn't it nice how my animals leave so much room on the couch for me?

Easy dinner: squash, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, garlic cloves. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast. Yum.

Ok, that's it. I've got some knitting to do. Hopefully on something I've already started.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bark Like a Dog!

Remember my alpaca roving?

Perhaps not, but there it is. Anyway, I've sporadically been working on this:

Last night, I turned it into this:

This is 3 1/2-4 oz. of 3-ply (about 185 yards), and a little under half of the roving I have in that color. I'm pretty pleased with it.

Alpaca is so easy to spin! And it's soft. And fuzzy. And not super-expensive either.

My best friend raises alpaca in Vermont - I got the roving from her. I'm insanely envious and want some alpaca of my own. But I live in suburbia and while they won't let us have 'livestock' here, no one seems to care if you have a dog that barks constantly. So. Do you think I could train a couple of alpaca to bark and sneak 'em into the back yard?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Do You Wanna PIF?

I found out about this on Norma's blog (if you don't read it yet, check her out - she's funny and fabulous and it kills me that I moved away from VT before I got a chance to meet her). And as I wasn't in time to sign up over there, I followed the links in her comments to KT's blog, and signed up. Here's the deal:

I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days. That is my promise. The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

This should be fun - I already have lots of ideas. And I don't have to finish anything by Christmas! 2007 anyway.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

No idea...

So my husband owns a soil restoration business. My son (21) has a design background and came up with the logo a few years ago. Brian (H) recently asked Jess (S) for some more design help for his web site. Here's his first go:

I am at a complete loss as to how my kid could have developed that kind of smart-ass behavior...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Road Trip!

Do you guys know about Franklin? If not, you've got to give him a read. Easily one of the best and funniest blogs out there. And weekend before last, I got to meet him!

I joined the Minions of the Pointy Sticks on a road trip to see Franklin and to take part in the 1000 Knitters Project. We rented a big ol' church-group-type van and with Jasmin at the wheel, headed over to Sacramento. We made it there in good time, and had lunch before going to meet Franklin. While we were eating, someone let the restaurant know we were celebrating Jasmin's birthday. The perpetrator had better hope his/her identity is never revealed - can you see the daggers in these eyes?

Once lunch was over, it was time to go meet Franklin. We filled out our model release forms (now that's something I never saw myself doing being so tall and willowy and all), and waited for our turn to go see Franklin. Here's the man in action:

Here's Jasmin and the scarf:

The Minions got to pose with the man of the hour. In case you're wondering, we're not short - Jasmin's husband Andrew is just very tall...

Franklin and yours truly:

The whole thing was so much fun. I really dislike having my picture taken but he did an awesome job of making me (and everyone else) feel at ease while he was shooting. I can't wait to see the completed project!

If Franklin ever decides to switch teams, Jasmin and I claim him. And we may be shorter than you but we're meaner, so back off.

I've been spinning a fair amount. This is some roving I got at Purlescence partially spun up and Navajo plied:


I've also been knitting! I finished this:

It actually came complete with little red heart-shaped buttons, but I took the pic before I sewed them on.
And I have started the Minimalist Cardigan from the Fall issue of IK. It doesn't look like much yet, but it's getting there.

And, as I took a business trip to PDX this week, I got some work done on some socks. Pictures of them when I can get to it.
I Just Can't Wrap My Head Around This:

Look what's starting to bloom in our yard. In freakin' November! I know a ton about plant habits in New England but I just don't get how it works in CA. Too weird! Not that I'm complaining. But things like roses in November and Iris in January just freak me right out.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So, how was YOUR earthquake?

That's the question our nieces asked when they called us a few minutes ago. 'Our' earthquake was small by some standards, but the biggest I've experienced. Until this evening, the earthquakes I'd been through in Vermont were much bigger than any I'd felt in CA since we moved here 18 months ago. This one happened a little after 8:00 pm, and registered 5.6. The epicenter was in or near Alum Rock, which is about 12.5 miles from our house.

It sounded as if someone were dumping a truckload of rock on our roof. Luckily we didn't have any damage. The animals were a bit freaked out - as was I - but we're all fine now.

So, how was YOUR earthquake?

Monday, October 29, 2007

San Jose's Next Top Model

Riso insisted on modeling the finished Shapely Tank:

I had spread it out on the guest bed to take a picture and he immediately leapt up and announced he needed to be a part of it.

This is his orignal pose - he felt more comfortable modeling it like this:

I've also been spinning. This is some Merino/Tussah from Deep Color Studio near Berkeley (they don't do retail any more - therefore no link). I finally figured out that the secret to spinning this stuff is to not pre-draft it. I was pre-drafting at first and kept breaking it because I couldn't control it at all. Second try was much better. I've got about 188 yards of this stuff, and I have no idea what to do with it. Any suggestions?

Riso suggested serving it with Fava beans and some chianti. I'm hoping someone else has a better idea.

Next WIP - a baby sweater. A friend just had a baby girl, and her husband announced, before the kid was a day old, that she was already a Yank-me fan. So I HAD to make this for her. I'm sending with a note: "Dear Bella, I know your daddy loves the Yankees but I thought you'd rather dress like a winner". Hee...

It's almost done - I did the neck today during lunch, and all I have left is blocking and seaming.

Next project: the Mimimalist Cardigan from the IK fall issue (though I hope I have a less sour look on my face than the model has here):

I'll be using Legato from The Yarn Place. It's 80% bamboo, 20% merino - the same stuff I used for the Twinkle Toes Socks I made this spring. Lovely stuff!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Remember this? It's some of the roving I dyed at Jasmin's. Out of the three batches I dyed it was the one I prefered the least. It just didn't grab me the way the other ones do, and I thought I might have used too many colors and they'd all mix together when spun and turn out kind of drab. Well what did I know?

I haven't spun the other ones up yet but oh MY, I think it just jump-frogged into first place. This was my first attempt at Navajo plying. Well actually my very first try was about 10 minutes before this, with about 20' of scrap. Once I got the movement down, I went for it with this roving and I love it! If I'd just plied this as I usually do with 2 strands from separate bobbins, I think it would have turned out kind of muddy. But the Navajo plying keeps the subtle colors clear. I thought it was really over-plied at first but a good soak and then hanging it to dry seem to have taken care of that. So YAY!

Another first - I love to cook but had never cooked Persian food (we go out for it when we can - I have yet to try a dish I haven't liked). This is from A Taste of Persia by Najmieh K. Batmanglij. The dish is called khoresh-e qormeh sabzi - a fresh herb stew with chicken and kidney beans - and is served on top of saffron basmati rice. It's easy to do, though it does take time - and that time is well worth it. Freakin' yum!

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Good Day To Dye

Edited to add: Oooh! Oooh! Go over to Rachael's blog first, read it, vote and then come back, ok? Go Rachael!!

Ahem. Where were we? Yes. Ok. Though I don't think the Klingons meant it the way I mean it. Or maybe they're secretly fiber enthusiasts and all that fighting was the result of one horrible misunderstanding.

Saturday I went to Jasmin's house for a nearly all-day dyeing session with the Minions. Not my minions (I have none, though a few around to do my bidding would be nice); they're a group of very fun, very funny and just a touch crazy people. Jasmin will have to tell you from whence the Minion moniker came; I have no idea.

Anyway, I had taken the Icarus Shawl to the yarn shop and received in exchange some lovely Bamboo-Wool blend (below) and a couple of pounds of soft, soft, SOFT merino roving.

While knitting at Purlescence I mentioned that I needed to dye it and was promptly invited over to join the Minions in their dyeing adventures. Yay! I'd never dyed anything before and while I'm perfectly capable of reading and following directions, it seemed as if it would be easier and a lot more fun to join a crowd.

It was a gorgeous day, sunny but cool, and we had the nicest time playing with fiber and color. I had brought 3 types of roving and decided to try a few different techniques and see what happened.

The first one was just a small blob (is that a technical term?) of Blue Faced Leicester that I'd bought for practicing when I got my first spindle last year. I put the soaked roving in a pan, chose a couple of colors, squirted them with various colors and just watched to see what would happen.

The second batch was some some of the Merino I mentioned before. This time I squirted the whole thing with Chestnut dye (unevenly on purpose), let that soak, and then tossed on a few spots of gold (Aztec Yellow I think). It's hard to see in the picture but the crimpy parts of the roving have a nice sheen to them that I really like.

Last, I used up some Corriedale I'd bought at Stitches. This one I dunked and soaked in a dye pot for quite a while. I plan to make socks out of this. They'll be great if I happen to get stuck upside down in a snowbank - anyone will find me if I wear that color on my feet!

I'm pretty happy with all of them and I'm interested to see how they spin up!

I finished up my stuff pretty quickly, so I spent the rest of the afternoon dyeing other people's fiber and generally having a good time. I don't know who owned what, but there was some beautiful stuff made, that's for sure.

He thinks I meant the other kind of die:

Is that the evil eye or what?
Fortunately, he changed his mind and decided to let me live another day.