Saturday, December 27, 2008


Giftmas turned out pretty okay over all. A few days after the snow, a friend called to say that she had rescued a 4 week old kitten from outside her apartment, and since she was heading out of town over the holidays I of course offered to kitten-sit.

I mean, it's not like she is an adorable ball of fluff or anything, who requires constant cuddling and gratuitous amounts of photos taken of her.

I mean, that would be ridiculous. In other news, though, I'm really getting a lot of wear out of those Beetons I made!

I actually thought about making a third, since one of them seems to be occupied.

I also started some socks, Bayerische socks by Eunny Jang, made from Malabrigo Sock that I got when I was down in Houston last - I met up with some ladies from Ravelry, and it was good times.

And then of course there was giftmas. The soaps were a hit! I was really pleased with how they turned out, but what I think did it most was the presentation. I had some really bitchin' presentation.

So, you know, all in all? Good holiday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Goodbye, About

Out and About came into our lives on May 13th, 2007. On October 23rd, she showed signs of being ill, and we treated her for a middle ear infection. She seemed to have recovered, though she kept the head-tilt that had first tipped us off.


On December 18th, she passed away. She does not seem to have suffered, as she was happy and cuddly last night when we went to bed. She is in the freezer right now, and will be buried in the front yard under a rosemary bush, which she would have liked because it has a smell and is food-related. As far as we can tell she was born around April 20th, which would make her 1 year and 9 months old, and the average lifespan for a pet rat is 2 years. She had a good run. She will be missed.

Out seems to be doing fine. We have moved her to the smaller cage, and will probably be moving her into the living room so she can interact with us more through the day, which she will need now that she is by herself. We considered getting another little girl for her to bond with, and maybe naming her In or Down, but decided that with the dog and cat we have our hands plenty full.

Goodbye, my little girl. Mama loves you.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Moar Soap Pics Plz

The rose soap, in all it's glory! (see that nice log shape?)

The strawberry soap did not fare as well. It looks like it didn't gel right, or didn't trace right, or some other more different thing happened. I will try rebatching it tomorrow, see how that goes.

And for that classic feel, here's some (very small) pics of MANANA! soap:


Tiny kiwi-seaweed pics:

And because it makes everything better:

Monday, December 08, 2008

3 Batch Night

Yup, tonight I made 3 whole batches of soap! I know, I'm still behind, but considering how nice the Manana and Lemon Poppyseed are right now, after only a few weeks' cure, I think I'll still be okay so long as I get the rest of them finished as fast as possible and give a generous water discount.

The kiwi-seaweed, not so much with the nice. That seaweed smell really overpowers the kiwi, and while it's at it it overpowers the manana that's drying across the room, and gives the cat a run for his money. It smells like Galveston, and not in a really great way. I may give it out at work. I would never be asked to make soap for anybody else.

So yes - soap! Made tonight! 3 batches!

I started setting up for the first batch and realized that hey - I had all my basic ingredients, but I was missing some of the things to differentiate the batches. I had cocoa, but no peppermint. I had coconut powder, but no milk. Instant coffee and beans to grind, no espresso. That sort of thing. So I got what I had and went to town.

The first one went perfectly, and I'm really glad it was this one that did. I used my basic Bastille recipe (80% olive, 10% coconut, 5% each avocado butter and castor, 7% superfat, 50% water discount), and as my liquid I used rosewater from the mini-mini-mini mart, which is the best place in town to get indian groceries, let me tell you. The rosewater you get from the international section of the big grocery stores just does not compete. For scent, I used a few drops of some Rose Absolute that Mr. Sweetie's sister gave me a few years back - the real shit, that comes in 1/2 dram bottles for like $50.

I do not use this stuff lightly.

I tried something new with the rose soap, the first of which was that I put a liner (read: plastic bag) in the crockpot first, and poured my oils into that. It worked out really well! The cleanup was crazy easy, and I wished that I remembered to do that with the other two batches, but I didn't, so when I'm done with this it's time to clean the kitchen again. But for the future, I'll bear it in mind.

The second thing I tried new was dissolving some silk into the lyewater right after mixing it up. It took longer to dissolve than I'd thought it would, and it looks like nothing so much as when you kill your hair trying to bleach it*, which I guess makes sense. That's basically what you're doing.

This batch traced really fast, but I still got it into the mold easy, same one as I used for the lemon-poppyseed bars, which I like because it gives a very nice classic shape. It's the closest I've got to a loaf mold right now, and I appreciate that about it. I think it's going to turn out great.

So the next batch, right?

I wanted to do another shaving soap, so I fiddled with my bastille base a little. 75% olive oil, 10% coconut, 10% castor, 5% avocado butter (man I love me that avocado butter, and you know I still have a bunch of it left!). I used the rosewater again, because I had already opened the bottle, but I forgot to put a liner in the crock pot before I poured the oils so oh well. There's that. I also did the silk again.

That batch traced FAST. Like, less than a minute fast. Starting to set up in the crockpot fast. You don't have time to dig out a mold and shouldn't you have done that earlier anyways fast. I managed to spoon it into some old coffee mugs, which I guess I'm now giving as gifts! Comes with 6.4oz of soap per mug, if I divided them evenly, which I don't think I did. I'm not sure if the bentonite clay I added actually mixed in at all, or if it's in chalky streaks in the soap somewhere - my money's on the latter. Luckily, there will be other parts to these gifts.

So on to the third batch, right? I'm really proud of this one. So proud, I'm calling it my Holy Trinity Soap. That's right, bitches - strawberry, balsamic vinegar, black pepper soap! Depending on how nice this turns out, I may keep it all for myself. Because I love it. And the family won't know.

I went back to my basic bastille, this time with a 5% superfat because I wanted an ever-so-slightly harder bar, and because vinegar is basic. I added a cup of pureed strawberries, vinegar, and black pepper for the entire two pound batch, and it again traced VERY fast. Did I mention I used the rosewater again for this one? It was in a handy new container, right next to my other supplies. I didn't use silk, and this batch didn't seize. I'm thinking the rosewater may be what's speeding my trace up so much. I got this one into my original molds, which I was not as pleased with but again I forgot to grab molds before I mixed the oils and lye, so I took what was near to hand. It was at a really heavy trace when I poured it, so I scored the top of the soaps like they were peanut butter cookies - crosshatching forkmarks. It was really cute.

And now those 6 lbs are insulated and in the soap closet, hopefully going through a happy little gen phase while I prepare for bed. And oh, I will be happy to be there.

* Okay, so was I the only kid who tried to use straight bleach to color their hair when they were too young to buy a proper dyeing kit? Jeez, I'm glad I tested a little strand separately, or I'd have been one bald-ass chemically burned child.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

19 lbs of Cheesecake

So I learned to make cheesecake this thanksgiving - boy did I ever! I used the recipe from Cooking for Engineers, which worked fine except for the actual cooking temperature/times. I'm still trying to find a guide to how long/how hot I should cook the cheesecakes so they end up toasty brown on top and creamy and DONE all through the middle. So far little luck.

We always go to FavoriteAunt's place for the holidays, and this year was only a little different - this year, being a newly married woman, I was invited to participate in the Midnight Drunken Baking that happens the night before. This is usually reserved for married ladies and single ladies (i.e. no unmarried ladies living in sin with their SOs, FavAunt wants none of this under her roof), with the one notable exception of FavCousin's now-fiance being invited when she was his then-girlfriend. Now-fiance lived nearby, and she didn't sleep over, so it was okay.

ANYWAY. Midnight drunken baking. I offered to make a cheesecake, and FavAunt contemplated making two. I was directed to make two crusts, and did so, thinking they were both for cheesecake and that a third crust would be made for FavAunt's sugar-free pumpkin cheesecake (made for FavUncle). She thought I was making one crust for me and one for her. I made two cheesecakes' worth of filling, filled the first pie tin (which was not so much a pie tin as a giant tall cake tin), and started filling the second.

She stopped me and asked what the crap I was doing. I explained, she explained, the misunderstanding was soon made clear. I poured the filling back into the bowl as best I could, and she filled it up with her pumping cheesecake filling. It was about half-full, as was the first pie tin, and I still had me a bowl full of uncooked cheesecake goodness.

So, of course, we topped off both. One only-cheesecake, one half-pumpkin cheesecake (in layers!). Good times, right? Who doesn't love more cheesecake?

Well, the baking directions said to cook one pie for 10 minutes at 500 degrees, then two hours at 200 degrees. FavAunt was dubious. I wanted to stick to the recipe. We compromised, first cooking both pies together at the times and temperatures directed, then when they were clearly not done like at all turning it up to 350 like FavAunt wanted and cooking them until they were actually done. We didn't get a clear time on how long that took, since we were also opening the oven every 20 minutes to put in other things to bake, like TwinSister's apple pies, coconut almond tartlets, and apple caramel tartles that we made from all the leftovers of the other desserts (which were delicious, btw).

So when they were finally done, we chilled them as we were able and for the hell of it, weighed them. They were each 7 lbs. Not a crumb remained by the end of the night, except the slice I saved to take home to some friends who had to work thanksgiving.

Later that weekend, we were scheduled to meet up at mom's house on sunday doing HER thanksgiving, so I decided to make another cheesecake. I only made one, and I cooked it as per the recipe (10 mins @ 500, 2 hours @ 200) before cranking it up to 350 for another half an hour. This one was only 5 lbs, but I figured that was okay. It was also a hit, but as mom's gathering are much less massive than FavAunt's (15 people vs. 40 people), by the time I had to leave to drive home there was still half a cheesecake left - and you best believe it went home with me.

So basically this is the recipe.

1 graham cracker crust (make your own or buy it, however you like)
1 really tall cake tin, or 9-10" springform pan.
2.5 lbs of cream cheese at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract.
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
6 eggs
(Optionally, 3 Tbs flour (I did not do this))

Mix of cream cheese at room temperature until smooth.
Mix in salt.
Mix in sugar, in thirds. Optionally, also mix in the flour.
Mix in lemon juice, and vanilla extract.
Mix in heavy cream.
Mix in egg yolks.
Min in 3 eggs, then 3 more when those first ones are all mixed in.

Pour it into the crust, and bake. Honest, at this point, I would just go right to 350 and cook it until the puffing has almost reached the center, maybe 30 minutes, then go down to 200 for like two hours. Cool very slowly once it's out of the oven - put a big bowl over it for a few hours until it's room temp, then stick it in the fridge for a few hours. The slow cooling is supposed to prevent it from cracking, but if it does crack (and mine did), it's still delicious cheesecake so who cares?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Possible Logo?

I was just going to do text at first, then I did a little doodle that I thought was cute, and I might use it for my soaps. It would be fun to do. What do folks think?

I've got a bunch more ideas for soaps, just waiting on more lye now. I might take the opportunity to infuse some of my oils with herbs and such. I know I have rosemary, lavender, vanilla and dragon's blood running around somewhere, and it would be interesting to see how the infused oils work with the soaps.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lemon Poppyseed Soap

Today I finally succumbed to the cold Mr. Sweetie has been fighting for over a week now. I felt like ass warmed over, fevery stuffed up, headachey and tired, so I called in and went back to bed. Ended up sleeping 14 hours total last night, getting up at 2 p.m.

Once I was up my usual sick-mode kicked in, and I started to clean up around the house. I'm not entirely sure why my cleaning instincts kick in when I'm not feeling well, but I guess if I'm going to be staying home I might as well mop up the kitchen while I'm there.

Once it was clean, I did make a batch of soap, so the whole day wasn't wasted. I made a lemon-poppy seed soap, used both of the 1 dram bottles of lemon oil I picked up from Hobby Lobby. I was going to make more, but realized that I didn't have enough lye left over for another batch.

So, 2 lbs lye = 16 lbs soap. Good to know! I'm going to need another 4 lbs of lye before the end of the month, which is just where I thought I'd be anyway.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Had to go to the store for more castor oil, to make this batch. Thought it would do better as a creamier soap, so used some lard instead of mostly olive oil. This one doesn't smell nearly as strong (it hardly has a scent at all - of course, I might just be so used to it I don't smell anything? Happened with the peppermint, and that was strong as hell), so next time I may try adding, I don't know. Do they make banana juice? Banana concentrate? Banana oil? Or maybe just scent it with something completely different.


50% Lard (16 oz)
30% Olive oil (9.6 oz)
10% coconut oil (3.2 oz)
5% castor oil (1.6 oz)
5% avocado butter (1.6 oz)
8% lye discount (4.15 oz)
75% water discount (6 oz)
2 bananas, pureed
Enough clove powder to make it all speckly. Maybe a tsp? Didn't want to go overboard on the clove.

Mixed my cold oils in the cold crockpot - lard is a LOT tougher to mix this way than mostly liquid oils. Next time I should nuke the lard. Mixed my lyewater, added it to the oils - still bits of unmelted lard, oh noes! Stir stir stir. Hooray, no more lard lumps! Stickblend stickblend stickblend. Yay trace! Have some bananas! Stir stir. Still tracing? You bet your ass, this shit's almost pudding. Crap! I forgot to get the mold ready. Tape tape tape the opening shut. Oh wow, that sure is a strong trace. Spoon spoon spoon into the mold. Tap tap the air bubbles out. Spoon spoon spoon. Oh look! The 2" pvc pipe fits just exactly 2lbs of soap! That's awesome. Tape tape tape it shut. Stick in closet. Note that two taped-up pieces of pvc pipe look a hell of a lot like bombs or something. Get paranoid that now that I've typed that someone is going to beat down my door and try to detonate my soaps. Man, I wish they were hard enough right now for me to unmold and cut. I want to show them off at work tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kiwi-Seaweed Soap

Whohoo! So, remember how I was saying that you can put fruit in soap? Well I did it, baby! I made the hell out of some fruity soap! This one I made off the same bastille recipe as the peppermint and chocolate soaps:

Kiwi-Seaweed Soap (RTCP)

80% Olive pomace oil (25.6 oz)
10% Coconut Oil (3.2 oz)
5% Castor Oil (1.6 oz)
5% Avocado Butter (1.6 oz)
3 kiwis, pureed
1 tbs powdered kelp
7% lye discount (4.15)

This time I tried Room Temperature Cold Process (RTCP) soapmaking. I mixed my room-temperature oils in the cold crockpot, then made my lye-water. After waiting a sec for the fumes to disperse, I added my lye-water to the oils and began to stickblend them. The temperature went to like 115, which is not bad at all! Trace was pretty quick, and that's when I added the kiwi and kelp. I was worried that it would mess with trace, but it still seemed plenty thick after I stirred it all in, so I figured it must be okay, and molded it.

The part of the molds will be played by the GIANT fucking tubes of PVC that I got at Lowes this weekend - I seriously need to get these cut down to size. There is no way I can fill these things, even if I do two separate batches of soap per mold (which I may do tonight, depending on how much lye I have).

Next I'm going to try the banana-clove soap. I am so excited by this, I don't even have the words. Well, okay, I have one word: MANANA!

Down to the Wire

Well folks, today is November 17th, and it's time to face the facts: If I want to get the soap ready by Christmas, the time to make it is NOW. My bastille soaps are still falling to bits and they're what, two weeks old now? At least? So I'm going to switch up my recipe a little, and instead of 80% olive oil, I'm doing 30% olive oil and 50% lard (which sounds gross, I know, but makes good soap).

I picked up some PVC pipe to use as molds, as well as all the cardboard boxes I had been using, so now I can make round soaps as well as blocks. All that's left to do now is figure out which 12 or so kinds of soap I want to do, and then do it. I picked up some olive pomace oil and much-cheaper-than-krogers coconut oil up at the Farm Patch this past saturday, so I should have enough to last me at least until the paycheck arrives.

I've heard that you can add fresh fruit to soap and have that turn out okay (LUSH, I'm looking at you), so I'm going to try that tonight. I think a banana/clove soap would work pretty well, and I could call it something silly, like MANANA. One down, right? I should make a list.

1. MANANA. Fresh banana and powdered clove. Some kinda milk?

2. COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE. Espresso, coffee grounds, instant cappuccino.

3. LEMON POPPYSEED. Lemon EO, poppy seeds. Pretty straightforward.

4. HOLY CRAP COCONUT. Creamed coconut, vanilla bean, orange EO.

5. THAT'S HOW YOU KNOW ITS FANCY. Rose buds, rose absolute, rose water.

6. LIQUID BREAD. Guinness extra stout, oatmeal, some kinda milk.

7. GOOD FOR YOUR FACE. Tomato juice, carrot juice, yogurt. Honey?

8. AUNT SKELETOR. FavoriteAunt's fancy soap <3 Yogurt, frankincense/chocolate/bergamot/other thing (why can I not remember the last thing?) FO, silk protein.

9. SHAVING SOAP. Extra castor oil, bentonite clay, dad's fancy scent (silver buttonwood/teak/other thing FO in sweet almond oil). Second batch in peppermint?

10. RED DIRT REVIVAL. Red clay. Something else is probably needed. Pomegranate?

11. EAT YOUR FACE. Cocoa powder, peppermint EO.

12. MINTY MINTY MINT. LOTS of Peppermint EO, poppy or vanilla seed scrubbies

13. HOPE THIS WORKS. The elusive 13th soap, which will be strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. I have no idea if this one will work at all, but I've got to try.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finally Success!

So when I left off yesterday I had two batches of soap made, both adequate but nothing to write home about. Certainly nothing good enough to give the family for christmas! So I decided to bite the bullet, and try CP soap. And moreover, to do it right.

This is the recipe that I used:

80% olive oil
10% coconut oil
4.5% castor oil (I had meant to do 10, but I ran out)
5.5% avocado butter (subbed this for the rest of the castor)
8% lye discount
8oz water for a 2lb batch of soap

I set up a 2lb vat of oils, in my crockpot that was turned OFF. I mixed my lye-water, then left it alone while it cooled. I played warcraft. I knit. I read a little. Eventually, it was 110 degrees, and I mixed it. I decided to try scenting it, with peppermint like I'd done the first batch, and then thought about adding some cocoa powder to it as well - andes mint soap! Mr Sweetie was kind enough to head out to the store while I stirred. He even got more castor oil <3

Only thing was, the soap did not want to wait for him to get home with the cocoa powder. It hit trace FAST, and did not play around. I had to go ahead and add the peppermint oil without the cocoa powder, so to cheer myself up from not making andes mint soap, I added color! I was trying to recreate the coloring of this awesome Plum Blossom soap I saw on Etsy, layered pink and undyed soap, but I forgot to add the layer of... whatever that is in the middle. Probably really-darkly-dyed soap.

So instead I got this!

Something that amused me when I unmolded: I used plastic grocery bags to line my molds. And by molds, I mean cigar boxes! Yay recycling. As it turns out hot soap is like silly putty, and can pick up print.

Please imagine that my entire house is not as yellow as this picture makes it seem. I mean, yes, our walls ARE yellow on that side, but not THAT yellow. The soap is yellow-white and pink, and got hard very quickly! It's been curing for about a week now, and I had trouble breaking one of the bars in half so I could wash the dog with it (mmm, peppermint dog).

So then Mr Sweetie got home with the cocoa powder and the castor oil, and I had already made the soap. What else was there to do, but make another batch, with the same recipe? I even remembered to add a layer of cocoa powder in the middle.

For this batch, I used 12floz of water, since I was impatient (again) and trying to cool down the lye. 4oz of ice cubes does not make a huge dent in those kinds of temperatures, as it turns out. I can REALLY tell the difference in the finished soap, though - the chocolate mint soap is still very pliable, and tears more than cracks when I break it (btw, guess what I've been using in the shower? I smell fabulous). When I do another batch with this recipe, I'm going to try mixing the lye with only 4oz of water, and either subbing out some milk or yogurt for the missing liquid, or just seeing how it does with a 50% water discount. If it makes it cure faster, then I am ALL FOR IT, because it is halfway through november and Go Time for presents is NOW.

And I don't feel at all prepared. I have too much family, and too little soap.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Freaking Out About Christmas (and other updates)

First off: Mask was a success! Hooray! I do have pictures of me in it, but as folks should have guessed by now, I don't do self-portraits. The pictures that I do have of him are not with him entirely completed - imagine the horns are dark grey, drybrushed with black. And someone is wearing it. That's all you're missing.

(the second one has accurate colors)

Now, on to other news. Soap! It exists, and it is fabulous. I finally figured out that Cold Process soap is a million times easier than Hot Process soap, and that CP soap works best when you actually pay attention to the temperature of your ingredients.

The first batch, which I posted about last month, was eventually saved. Turns out that the little crock pot I got from goodwill to make soap with has 3 settings - off (duh), low, and high. And by "low", they mean "not hot enough for HP soap". So when I was cooking my first batch, it was not getting hot enough for the gel phase to complete. Easy fix though! One 30-minute jaunt through the high setting, and it turned into real, honest to goodness soap.

Now, at that point you might think that I would do more research on this whole soapmaking thing, maybe fill the crockpot with water and see exactly what temperatures the different settings give (holy crap why did I not think of that until just now I totally need to do that), and not just assume that since the high setting worked on the rebatch, it would work on the initial batch. You might think that I would have forethought!

Clearly, you would be reading a different blog. I think I've established by now that I like to live dangerously, craft first and ask questions later! Even when those questions concern things like how do you dispose of 2 lbs of very-lye-active monstrosity. But I get ahead of myself.

Well, not terribly far ahead. Let us tell this story.

So the first batch had turned into real, honest-to-goodness soap. It didn't burn my tongue, it lathered, and it felt really nice to shave with (which was, you may recall, my goal. Mr Sweetie loves it). I was riding the high that comes with learning something new, doing it yourself, and it turning out well enough that you can show it off to your friends (and show off I did!). I decided to make another batch that weekend, and since the shaving soap was just a touch drying (33% coconut oil, 10% castor oil, and bentonite clay will evidently do that to you), I wanted to make sure this next one would be nice and rich. Shea butter! Honey! 9% lye discount! The world was my oyster.

Now, experienced soapmakers will have raised their eyebrows right when I said honey. They know, as I thought I knew, that honey raises the temperature of soap, and so you have to be careful when you add it. You want to make sure that your lye-water and your oils are nice and cool, so that it doesn't overheat.

You especially want to not add your honey TO your water, before you add your lye. This makes your lye-water turn a lovely shade of burnt orange that would be GREAT for your brother who goes to UT, except that it also means your lye-water is CRAZY HOT. Well over the usual 200 degrees that you normally get when this reaction takes place.

Smart people would wait until this cooled down to 110 degrees. Smart people would make sure the oil in the crockpot was also around this temperature, and that the crockpot was not set to high. Smart people would definitely not google just enough shady websites to convince themselves that 150-degree orange lye-water and oils that are probably in the area of 200 degrees themselves could make soap - and you're fucking Mensa smart if you didn't mix your oils and lye, AND THEN ADD MORE HONEY. You know. Because that's totally going to save that giant vat of burning caustic oil.

Fun fact: burnt soap? Smells like roux. This is A Sign.

So, yeah, that batch didn't turn out like at all. It did solidify, but was nothing you'd want to rub all over your body, much less pets or children. It was wrapped in a plastic bag and thrown out. Mr. Sweetie came home and I denied that it had ever happened.

So the new "batch 2"! Same recipe as before, only I didn't add the honey to the lye-water, and I let it cool down to 120 before impatience demanded I mix it to my (set on low) oils. It looked great! I achieved a very clear trace, and if I was a more rational person I would have molded it then and there.

Instead, I added honey. Yup. And two cups of almond meal, to make it scrubby, but I think that the almond meal I bought is more like almond flour than almond ground up bits that can remove dead skin, so it's only very mildly scrubby.

This one also heated up too much, but didn't burn like the first Batch 2 did. Hooray, it's soap! I didn't scent it, and it ended up smelling like what I think must be a combination of unrefined shea nuts and cooked almond flour. It's not necessarily bad, but it IS strange. This is what we're using at home now, because I'm not putting 'toasted almond and shea nut' soap in my christmas gift baskets.

Although that's not a bad name, now that I think about it.

This batch was also made using the silicone ice cube trays that Hastur and the Library Overlord gave me for my birthday, which was very sweet. They also gave me a candy thermometer and an egg timer, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

Oh, you say, that's all grand, but what about the successful recipe? Where is THAT in your cornucopia of despair? Haha. Soon to follow, that's where. Soon to follow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making a Mask!

And it's fun, fun, fun. I saw the stuff on Goblin Art and thought, hot damn, that's pretty and really out of my price range. So the Library Overlord and I got together with some plaster strips, and made base masks of each others faces. It was good times.

A little fun foam, duct tape, and paper mache later, I have this handsome fellow:

I'm letting him dry one last time overnight, then tomorrow we enter the fabulous world of acrylic paints. I may spreay him with a primer first, especially on the horns, which are awesomely ridged via wrapped elasti-cord:

It's going to be a good year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

About OK

Thursday night Mr. Sweetie called me and told me that one of our rats, About (of the infamous Out and About) was acting funny. Her left eye was droopy, and she had no balance. He thought she might have had a stroke.

We talked to Hastur, who has more experience with rats than us, and she recommended a good vet. We weren't able to get time off on Friday to drop her off, but we called the vet that evening and she said to go ahead and drop them both off - she'd see them the same night!

So it turns out that what happened is that About got a middle ear infection somehow. She's got antibiotics to take, and in about a week should be fine.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I learned how to move pictures from my phone to my email! It's good to know I am not entirely without hope in technological matters. Here is the first batch, which will of course be pictures of Maggie, since I know yall have been dying to see them.

As you can see, she is a beautiful, smiley-as-hell dog. Who gets into trouble, and also into Rudder Fountain.

This is the tree that fell on Mr. Sweetie's parents' house, after some handy chainsaw work. The stumps are not all of the slices - the stumps are all of the slices that were of a given size (large enough to be sat on, small enough that the chainsaw blade could slice all the way through the tree), and ALSO level enough to be chairs, which is what they're going to be. They're drying them out, and then they'll lacquer them and have 'Furniture courtesy of Hurricane Ike' burnt into them. I love my in-laws. Also, that tree? Farther away than it looks, as I was standing WELL OUTSIDE the garage when I took that picture.

Ok, this was just awesome. We were driving PrimaryBrother back to Austin, and stopped by a pecan store on the way (if you have made this drive, you know the one I mean - it has a sign you can see for miles) so I could go to the bathroom. In case people drop by (giant! sign!) after hours, there is a vending machine, WITH A GODDAMN PIE IN IT. It's a pie machine!

This is Dr. Icthys, who lives up at work and keeps me company. He is a grumpy, grumpy fish, which people tend not to believe until they meet him, and watch him try to beat the shit out of stationary objects like my inboxes, the wall, and his food container. And speaking of the walls!

Them's my walls. Covered in art, my favorite pieces drawn by friends. I am very proud of my walls, and the effort that goes into finding work-appropriate stuff that's still actually funny.

My sister's tattoo, that she got not knowing it was a logo for something or another, and would like for me to figure out a way to change into something different. Specifically, a peacock, that "looks persian", and doesn't suck. I haven't drawn in years. No pressure or anything!

This is where we're going for my birthday this weekend. It is a happy, happy place, where I can get this:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Maggie OK

It's been just about 24 hours since her seizure/faint/whatever on Sunday, and she has been her normal self the whole time. She got into trouble while I was in the shower, chased rabbits while snoring on the couch, cuddled up next to me and then farted, and tried to knock over my soda and claim it for herself. All is well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holy Crap, Maggie Had a Seizure?

Today Maggie and I walked to the dog park for the first time (she’s been before, but I thought the walk would do both of us good). We hung out for a while, I brought a book, she jumped in mud puddles and loved on people with her muddy self.

Then after a while I saw her walking up to me, but she kept falling forward, like her front paws wouldn’t support her. I thought maybe she had burrs on them, and went to go see, and when I got to her she fell over and was twitching - almost vibrating - and her heart was beating really fast, and she wasn’t able to focus her eyes, and seemed disoriented. My first thought was Holy crap, seizure!

A very nice lady from a local vet clinic came and helped me hold her while Mr. Sweetie was on his way (and dude, we have found a new vet, let me tell you), and by the time he got there (maybe 4-5 mins?) she had stopped trembling and was starting to recover, and by the time we got her to the car she was normal again. We took her to the A&M Small Animal Clinic (only place in town open after 6 on sunday), and got her checked out.

The doc said that from the symptoms she had, it was probably either a seizure, like I had thought, or a hardcore fainting spell from a sudden drop in blood pressure. They did an ECG for her heart, and tested her for heartworms just in case, and everything came up fine. Mr. Sweetie is sleeping on the couch with her tonight, and I’m staying home with her tomorrow, in case anything else happens, but she will probably be just fine. We just got home, and gave her a bath (she was still really muddy), and hopefully won’t have to worry about anything more tonight.

Everything is probably fine. Worst case scenario she has some form of epilepsy, and having had that myself it doesn’t freak me out too bad. She’ll eat anything softer than her teeth if we let her, so I don’t see a problem giving her pills if that’s what she ends up needing.

So how was your sunday?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

It's Been A While Since Massive Failsauce

So I made my first batch tonight, which may or may not be a failure.

I ran my recipe through a lye calculator, with an 8% superfat, melted my oils in the pot and added my lye water (and HOO BOY they do not joke about the fumes - had the fan on & front door open, would’ve opened the back but didn’t want the dog running around). It didn’t start getting creamy, but it did start getting bits of opaqueness floating in the clear, with a texture like applesauce. Then, all of a sudden - BAM! - it’s like pudding. I did my happy trace dance, and added in the clay I wanted as an additive, put on the lid and turned it to low to cook.

15 minutes later I came to check on it, and instead of a hard solid mass, it looked like vaseline. I wasn’t sure if this meant it had gelled or not, so I decided that it must not’ve, and added about a cup more water (2lb batch).

15 minutes after that, it still looks like vaseline, only more… fluffy? By this time I’m running around panicking, so I added a 14 floz can of coconut milk and a dram of peppermint EO, because I am an idiot. Some of it mixed in with the soap, some did not, so I don’t even know what’s going on now.

Another half hour after that, it’s mostly still vaseline, a little creamier, and with a good bit of excess liquid in the pot. I panicked again, because I have somewhere to be tonight, so I just prayed the liquid stuff is liquid soap and not just slightly brown coconut milk, and molded the lot of it. I figure it’s either going to be funky soap, soap that I need to rebatch, or I will know that I need to watch it like a hawk next time and get a better scale and a thermometer.

It feels waxy when I touch it, but it still zaps my tongue, and now I don’t know if it’s the peppermint or the lye doing that. I feel like I missed a vital memo somewhere in my research, but I don’t know what.

Making soap RIGHT NOW!!!

And OMG I has Trace!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hooray, Dangerous Chemicals!

I like to make my family their gifts for christmas, but let's face it, there's only so much knitting I can do, and there's only so much appreciation for that knitting that my family has, and aside from TwinSister and LittlerBrother, I'm about tapped out. So I started thinking about it, and hey - SOAP! People like soap. And you make it in fairly big batches, so it's not like they're getting a tiny gift or anything, and you can personalize it! So I decide to make my family some soap.

Thing is, though, that I have no experience making soap, like at all. So I get to be completely self-taught, hooray! Well, self- and internet-taught, but you get the idea. I ordered some lye on the internet, and spent entirely too much on additives (hello, powdered seaweed and fancy clay!)

The lye came in today, and now I really, really, REALLY want to make a test batch. I should probably wait, since I don't have stuff like a pot to cook it in, gloves, goggles, and all the other stuff that I'll need, but the desire is there, and that's good. I think I should spend today working up recipes, and getting supply lists together, and getting my house in order so that I actually could start working with dangerous chemicals like lye, without worrying. I still need to work out where I'm going to keep the soap while it cures, and dig out my food scale, and maybe figure out what I'm going to do for a mold. But it's exciting, and I hope to be able to share this with the blog soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Changed Over my Accounts

FYI: Changed my blogger account so that it's the same as my gmail account. Same bat time, same bat channel, different bat email address.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Goodbye, My Purse

Grargle grargle grargle.

So I did not succeed in Ramadan this year. I started getting dizzy, weird scaly spots showing up on my skin, and I was just not able to eat enough during the evening to keep me going through the next day. Then I stopped and thought about, you know, why I was doing it. And I realized my primary reason was weight loss - and there are healthier ways to do that. So I stopped.

So THEN, I went out to lunch, and took with me my purse from Schrodinger and my Henry scarf that I've been knitting out of white angora. It was 4 rows past 50% done, and I was feeling really psyched about it. Honestly, it was the first project since Galveston that I've felt really good about, and I was excited to be so close to being done.

So I go back to work, and I forget it, because I was reading Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show (which, by the way, was a very engrossing read, but disturbing in parts). I leave my lovely little Schrodinger bag and my knitting in the cafeteria, and go back to work.

When I was getting ready to go home, I noticed that it was missing, and realized what must've happened. I checked in at the cafeteria, and it's not there. I check the circulation desk and the lost and found, and it's not there either. It was only later on, as I was riding the bus home, that I remembered that my ipod and my f*$#ing engagement ring were also in my purse. The ipod was free, and I still have my old one, so that doesn't upset me as much, and the ring is (thankfully) insured, so it will be replaced. The only thing that I can't get back is the month of time and love I put into that scarf. Well, that and the actual scarf. And my addi lace needles. And my goddamn purse.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Last Weekend

Mr. Sweetie and I went into Houston last weekend, searching for a spinning wheel. I currently have the Babe DT Production wheel, but I had diligently trolled Craigslist in hopes of finding a cheap-ass used wheel to add to the collection.

I found a handful of folks who had wheels they'd sell for $100, but either they didn't have pictures, or they couldn't guarantee they were in working order, or they were in Dallas, so no luck there. Then, I started talking to a guy who said he had one that he'd sell for $15. Sweet! He even lived near my dad's part of town - double sweet! We'd drop by while we were in the neighborhood. Good times. He didn't have any pictures either, and couldn't guarantee it worked, but for $15 I was willing to check it out anyways. I brought more, on the off-chance that there were other spinning goodies available.

So we head out, and like usual we dropped by Half Priced Books and picked up an audiobook for the ride, and as sometimes happened we picked a dud. Seriously. It was like bad teenage poetry-style writing, very floury, with long sentences that went nowhere. We talked instead.

We make it in to Houston, and poor Mr. Sweetie has all the navigational sense of a lemming, so I'm directing him with my handy map. We get to the house, meet the seller dude (who had awesome dogs!), and get our first look at the wheel:

To call it a spinning wheel is a technicality. It is wheel-shaped, in that it is a hub with spokes. It does rotate. But it is not a spinning wheel. The guy reveals that it is from his mom's estate sale. We buy it anyway, and don't mention that it's not what we expected.

At this point, we decide it's a good time to go visit my dad. Aaaand he's not home! Good times. We talk with him on the phone for a bit, then prepare to head back out. And backing out, we hit a car parked in the street, right across from dad's driveway. Son of a bitch. Track down the owner, exchange information. Apologize profusely. No damage to our car, but her door doesn't open so good now. Call dad again, he laughs, because he has almost hit that car like a million times.

So we head home, and while we're about to get to Navasota I ask if we can stop by the yarn shop there, since the spinning wheel wasn't what I had expected. We track down W. C. Mercantile, a very nice little shop with lots of spinning fiber, dyes, Malabrigo and Lorna's Laces. I pick up 4oz each of tussah silk and red camel, some red Malabrigo, and some green Malabrigo laceweight, with which I plan to make another lace scarf. On the way home, Mr. Sweetie and I stop by a little diner in Wellborn, and enjoy late-afternoon-omelettes.

By this time, we have spent most of the money I brought. We go by the bank to put money into the joint account, and take out what we need for rent. Surprise! We are overdrawn. It's not the $300+ in fees that made me quit using checks (thought I had $30 in the bank, wrote a check for a gallon of milk, another for dinner, another for gas, etc etc, each one with a $30 overdraft fee), but it's enough that we're in troubles. We pay rent just fine, have a few hundred left, but not enough for the power bill and student loans that are both due before the next paycheck. I start putting yarn up for sale on Ravelry, Mr. Sweetie talks about selling plasma. We buy peanut butter, bread, ramen and totinos pizzas to eat for cheap on. We cash the money order that we took out for Maggie (which btw, still no word from the foster mom).

Eventually, we call parents, and Mr. Sweetie's agree to help us out. God I love them. It must be awesome to grow up with parents like that. I want to make his mom something awesome for christmas, but nothing I can make is something she's into, so I'll have to buy something instead. It's weird to think of it, but this year I'm probably going to go with store-bought presents, and actually be able to afford to do so. This minor hiccup aside, our budget is working, though I'm tweaking it now so that we put more in per paycheck, to get a savings built up, but it's essentially good. Even after all the crazy, I really like where my life is going right now.

*Edited to add: The rotating wheel we bought? Turns out to have been a Spinner's Weasel, or Clock Reel. Bitchin!

Yarn and Ramadan

So, it's Ramadan again. I kinda forgot to look up the date until yesterday, and it started on Monday, so I'll be making up some days (again). I was totally unprepared for not-having-lunch and not-snacking-at-my-desk, so I had to call on Mr. Sweetie to smuggle away all of my usual munchies and then hand him all the cash in my pockets ($3!) so I wouldn't have a moment of weakness walking by the soda machine. The sacrifices he has to make, I swear.

We had some financial troubles this month, which sucked, and we had to ask the in-laws for help. We asked my parents too, but they weren't able to spare what we needed. It happens. PrimaryBrother is evidently getting a lot of speeding tickets that Dad ends up paying. I know I for one would not have been able to get away with THAT shit. I've had two tickets in my life, once for speeding (paid myself), and once for being in a wreck (now I wear glasses!). Long story short, bills draft out of the joint account. We had the money, just in the seperate accounts, so got hit with massive overage fees, which means that after we put the money IN the joint, we're short the overage amount, and need help paying bills and buying food. Have I mentioned that I love my in-laws?

So I'm taking some advice (thanks, Library Overlord!) and re-working our budget. We're going to be putting in more a month, so that we can get a buffer of savings for emergencies and stuff, and then pouring damn near everything that's not already a bill or food into Mr. Sweetie's credit card. He's been paying off the same balance for the 4 years that I've known him, and that principal has never gotten any smaller. I may consolidate my student loans, and use the difference in my monthly payments to get that credit card gone. In two years, I want my (admittedly, MUCH larger) student loan to be the only debt we have, and I want us to have at least three months' worth of rent/bills in savings. This may or may not be possible, but I'm going to try.

So in that theme, I'm going to be putting myself on Yarnadan, as well. No new roving, no new yarn, for three months. I did it all through May, but I bought patterns then. No more of that. If I want to make something, I can damn well write the pattern myself, or get something equivalent through the library. The only thing I will allow myself is needles, and only when I don't have them. No getting 4 sets of size 4 circs so I can do 4 hats at once - I can learn to finish projects like a normal person. Do you realize that I have finished like nothing this year, despite having started a million things?

And speaking of starting things, I sketched out a new shawl. It's one that started as a doodle for a lap blanket, then got embellished, then got simplified, then embellished again, etc, etc, until now it's something that I don't think looks like total ass. Provided I can get it to work, anyways; there's really only one part I'm having trouble with, so I'm going to have a lot more swatching to do this weekend. Ah, the weekend. I will make another post, to tell you about this past one. It really deserves to stand alone.

My day so far is probably pretty spot-on to what the rest of the month is going to be like, though I hope it's going to get easier as my gut gets used to the new schedule.

6:30 Wake up, not hungry
6:30 - 8:00 Get ready for work, not hungry
8:00 - 10:00 Work, not hungry. Could use a coke though. Drink water instead.*
10:00 - 11:30 Work. Hungry, but tolerably so. Drink more water.
11:30 - 1:00 Work. Hungry. Trick lizard-brain by telling myself I'm just waiting for lunchtime.
1:00 - 2:00 Lunchtime. Watch Mr. Sweetie eat a sandwich. Read a book. Knit. Walk. HUNGRY.
2:00 - 4:00 Work. Trick successfull - stomach not used to being hungry after lunchtime. Write blog post.
4:00 - 5:00 (projected) Work. Get hungry again. Chew face off co-workers.
5:00 - 8:00 Go the fuck home! Play Warcraft and/or Oblivion, perhaps take a nap. Walk the dog.
8:08 Nom like there's no tomorrow, prepare breakfast for morning.

* I'm giving myself an allowance, for unflavored water. This is because (a) bitch gets thirsty, (b) I am not muslim, nya nya nya, and (c) I am giving up buying yarn and roving until DECEMBER. It evens out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

Here is a meme from Very Good Taste, called the Omnivore's Hundred.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

Bold I've had, Italics I would not consider.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I am smarter than this)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear (there are actually some growing not too far from the house, I should go pick some today)
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (I do not like burgers)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (like I have that kind of money!)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Update on Maggie & Heed

I thought I'd post this right quick, since I was looking over the archives and realized that I hadn't said anything about Maggie since that last post about her growling at Heed. Since that post sounded dour, and things in fact are awesome, I thought a little update was in order.

Maggie is doing great. We still make her work for her rewards, and she is listening to us and learning words and signals very well (like walk, wait, and come). We are learning what her different moods mean, what different sounds in the house mean when we are not in the room with her (for example, the sound of paws on the kitchen table is now clearly identifiable), and we're getting the hang of how much exercise she needs to have to keep from going stir-crazy. She has lost weight, maybe as much as 3 lbs, which doesn't sound like much until you see the before and after photos. It's about half of what the vet recommended she lose, so that's pretty awesome.

She is much more affectionate towards us now, and shows a lot of personality. She's lost pretty much all her food aggression so far as I can tell - her and Heed drink water out of the same bowl, and once she figured out that Heed has no interest in her food aside from smelling it, she stopped growling at him about it. They not only tolerate each others' presence, they interact, curling up on the same couch cushion for a nap, touching noses, and when Heed has his fugnuts-o-clock race around the house, Maggie is right behind him, trying to initiate a game of will-you-freaking-chase-me-already. She still doesn't have a big interest in toys, but will occasionally romp around with her squeaky hedgehog or the mysterious lime green mittens that turned up in the living room and no one remembers where they came from. They are ugly and fit for dog chewings.

She still sleeps in her crate at night, so Hastur and the Library Overlord totally lost a bet there, though they were right that I do feed her more people-scraps than I probably should. She doesn't get them every day, or every week, and she has to lay on the floor and wait for me to bring the food down to her nose and THEN wait for me to say 'Okay', but she does get them. We've even given her treats around other dogs and had her do tricks and not show any aggression, so that's awesome. We need to get ahold of her foster-mom, though, because I lost my phone at a wedding like a month ago (seriously, so many weddings) and we still need to get the paperwork all done up in our names. I wonder if it's rude to just drop by?

Heed is still Heed. He sleeps on you, or near you, or if he picks a really uncomfortable spot instead of you, and he's gained back some of his weight again - I'm eyeballing him at around 18 lbs, so he's gained about what Maggie's lost. People always tell me that he must be a really fat cat to weight so much, and you know, he IS fat, but we compared him and the dog, and from shoulder to butt they're just about the same length. Heed is shorter by a small bit, and he's about half as wide, but he's still essentially a beagle-sized cat. Living with him, it's odd for me to see normal cats, because they always look so small. He still won't go to bed until I do, so I think I'll let him get on that.

Truly Reversible Entrelac Scarf!

So, I started spinning my Mediterranean batts from Loop! on Etsy, and fell in love hard. Like, really really hard. I sampled like 25 grams of 3-ply light fingering weight yarn from it (navajo plied, of course), and have since been alternating between spinning up more singles, and furiously swatching with my sampled yarn, trying to get a fabric that didn't look like ass.

First I tried lace. 3 ply, too round, poor pattern definition. Then I tried the start of the Clapotis - which worked, but I got bored like 20 rows in, so not so much. I pondered tiny cables, but then I've already got my Irish Miss scarf going on zeroes, and there's only so much patience I have for tiny cabled scarves. Plus, with the color pooling, it would look like ass. I pondered some more.

Today I tried some entrelac, on a whim. I like entrelac, it's surprisingly amusing to work and the front side looks very impressive. The back side, though, looks like ass. Not only like ass, but like crazy asymmetrical ass, which instantly withers the impressed stares of passers-by (and you know I loves me some impressed stares of passers-by).

So I got thinking. Entrelac. Reversible. Entrelac. Reversible. Ribbing? Would ribbing work? I did a quick search on Ravelry, and yes, someone has done an entrelac scarf in ribbing, and it is reversible... but it kinda looks like ass. Each of the squares draws in towards the middle (like ribbing does), but the ends flare because of the picked up stitches. In short, the squares are, well, NOT.

So, I got fiddling. In the end, I worked up a pretty simple solution for the whole pulling problem - don't pick up so many damned stitches. If you have a square of 16 stitches, pick up eight, then increase in each stitch as you knit them (you should also twist the picked up stitches, to prevent holes, but that's what I always do when picking up stitches so I don't know if that's like special instructions or not). If you do that, you're picking up about the same width of fabric as you'll get with your ribbing, which is pretty damn awesome in my opinion. So, yeah, I'll be finishing my little 25 gram reversible entrelac swatch, and hope to post pictures. I may even write this up as a PDF and post it as a free Ravelry download.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Fail Hard at Tour de Fleece

Yeah. That's what I did there. I spun the Sedona merino all to singles, then navajo-plied about half of it (and immediately started playing with it to the exclusion of all else), and I spun one of my eight ounces of the Plum Possum. One. And that's it. So I fail hard at Tour de Fleece.

I did, however, order some Tagua nut slices, and some whole ones as well. Tagua is also called "vegetable ivory", because while when fresh it is edible and has the consistancy of jello, when it dries it is very, VERY similar to ivory. It has a grain to it, it cuts easily if you know how to cut things, and it's really, really pretty. So I got those in today, dug the dremel out of some boxes, and went to town.

I ended up making two tatting shuttles out of two of the four slices I had ordered. They're both teardrop shaped, though one has channels reaching towards the tip of the shuttle, and one has channels going straight out to the sides, and the one with the channels going up keeps catching on the ring thread, like every stitch, so I'm scrapping that plan and chalking it up to a learning experience. Since that one's "spare" now anyway, I doodled a little bit with some henna on it, so we'll see if that takes at all. If this is something that works out, I may start making them fairly regularly, and putting them on etsy. If there's even a market for this kind of thing. Do people still buy tatting shuttles, even? I know I hadn't hardly touched mine since I started knitting.

Anyways, that's all the news for now. The Sedona yarn is destined to become a few of Hansi Singh's patterns (octopus, squid, garden snail, maybe Nessie), and if all turns out well, I should grab a few pics of a hand-carved, hand-hennaed tatting shuttle!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Love Navajo Plying

It is so true. So, today I was on Ravelry, reading the forums, and someone linked to a YouTube video about how to do Navajo plying - which, if you're not familiar with it, is a way of making a 3-ply yarn out of ONE bobbin of singles at a time. I had always heard it described as "making a long crochet chain, and adding twist". Now, I ask you - if that's all you know of Navajo plying, doesn't it seem like doing just that - crocheting a chain, then going back and adding twist - should work? And yet it does not. I could not figure it out.

Well, as the video clearly shows, there's one bit of information missing in that sentance. What you do, is you make a long loop and grab the free end of the yarn, like you're going to do a crochet chain, only instead of tightening it down into a chain, you slowly allow twist to go into that loop-and-end piece that you're holding. Having a loop means you're working with three strands at a time, then when you reach the end of your loop, well, you just pull that free end through some, to make another big loop! I tell you, a lightbulb went off in my head when I saw it. Ihad to do it. As soon as I got home.

And so I did, with one of the 2oz bobbins I've spun up of the Sedona roving. It does mean that I'm working with mostly one color at a time, now, instead of plying them together than I had planned, but I don't care. It's beautiful. It's the most even, lovely yarn that I have created. It ended up a light fingering weight yarn, and reminds me of nothing so much as the base yarn for Lorna's Laces. It's still definately thicker in some spots more than others, but overall I'm very pleased. I think I'm'a make me some socks.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tour de Fleece!

Today was the first day of Tour de Fleece, and I for one find that exciting as all get-out. I've fired up the Babe, and spun maybe a half-ounce of merino hand-dyed in the Sedona colorway by Freckle Face Fibers (she's on etsy, check her out), and then in the mail today came the merino-bamboo roving I ordered from Fat Cat Knits (colorway Plum Possum, also on etsy - I loves me some etsy). I'm almost insanely excited about the Plum Possum. There's a half-pound of it, so I'm going to try and spin it up a little thicker than I normally do, and hopefully 3 or 4 ply will make a DK to worsted weight, because I saw this awesome sweater on Ravelry that I really want to make with it:



Words. They fail me. Her sweater is based off of the Cobblestone sweater from IK, but in my opinion is much nicer - from what I can tell, those wonky garter ridges down the sides are gone, the yoke ends at a much nicer place for people with boobs, and the use of color is just fabulous. So, of course, I'm going to shamelessly steal her idea :) This will be my first sweater since the Stupid Bobble Top (was that two years ago? holy crap!), and I think I've learned a thing or two since then. I'm hopeful

So, let's formalize this, shall we? My Tour de Fleece Goals:

1. Spin ALL of the Plum Possum roving (8 oz)
2. Finish spinning the Sedona roving (~2.3 oz?)
3. Finish spinning the Sandstone roving for the Irish Miss scarf (~1.7 oz?)

And since I'm a firm believer in extra credit, these goals would be nice to reach, but I won't be as sad if they have to happen later:

4. Ply and set the Sandstone yarn, same as the first two batches.
5. Ply the Sedona yarn, 3 ply
6. Ply the Plum Possom yarn, sample 3 ply and 4.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Et Tu, Obama?

So I saw on Bitch Ph.D today that Barack Obama doesn't think mental distress is a good reason for an abortion, and I have to say, I'm pissed. It's a slightly-documented fact around here that I vote my Uterus - basically, for whoever I feel is most likely to leave it the hell alone and protect the rights of others to have theirs left alone as well, so that the women attached to said uteri, knowing their individual lives as I never will or can, can make their own damn decisions about their own damn plumbing. Obama had a pretty good record so far of being pro-choice and protecting women's rights, and I really really liked him for that. So this? It makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

Interestingly enough, reproductive rights is something that Mr. Sweetie and I were talking about earlier today (happy July 4th, right?). He was pissed because of an interview he'd heard on overpopulation, and how the arguments being used were entirely too focused on how the poor/brown people/3rd world countries should stop having so many babies already! He was especially ticked at how people who ARE poor/brown/not from around here get so much crap whenever they do have children, as if just because the current mismanagement of resources is mismanaged, they are horrible people for becoming parents - specifically, he was mad at how it's not the people having kids that is the problem with world hunger et all, but the sharing of resources into the hands of the few. When folks start saying that poor people shouldn't have so many children, they should be saying, 'what can we do to alleviate poverty?' When folks start talking about how people in 3rd world countries should stop having babies, they're often afraid that these people, often giving US vast amounts of their labor and resources, might actually start using those resources for themselves, which of course Would Be A Bad Thing For America. And when folks say that brown people shouldn't be having babies, well, then they're being racist fucks and should shut the hell up for a whole horde of reasons.

So this got us talking about how the Right to Choose is the Right to CHOOSE FER CHRISSAKES, and how that does include the right to become a parent, if *you* think that *you* are able to bring up a child to *your own* standards. We talked about the single-child policies of China, the male hormonal birth control pill that is going through the FDA right now (he would be fine to take it, he says, but I would rather he not be in that first wave - new drugs often have bugs to work out that the smaller sample sizes just don't catch), we talked about surgical sterilization (we agreed that if one of us were to do it, it should be him, since it's less expensive, less invasive, and he's not the one terrified of surgery), and then we talked about things that are a little more difficult.

I have depression. This is something I choose to be open about, even though I'm able to hide it fairly well when I want to (for example, while at work yesterday, when I had a really bad episode that had me on the verge of tears for like 6 hours and only Mr. Sweetie and the Library Overlord knew what was going on), because I think that it's important that people be able to talk about these things. When it comes up in conversation, I fucking converse.

I have depression. Mr. Sweetie knows this, better than anyone other than me, and especially he's aware of how, were I to become pregnant, my depression could become a serious problem. I would *like* to raise children, one day. I am OK with adopting them, because there are tons of kids who need homes, and I would especially like to adopt twins (open adoption, get to know the mother, if she's young help her out as much as we can, always be upfront with the kids). If Mr. Sweetie and I concieved unintentionally, I would probably prefer to keep it, but I would want to start going to psych evals like right away please.

If I was pregnant, I would try to bear the kid to term. I would try really, really hard, to manage my depression, to overcome my insanely strong childbirth phobia, and to generally do right by the parasitic lump of cells filtering my blood for nourishment because I chose to turn to my husband rather than my vibrator at a given instance. I would try.

But you know what? I could still fail. I could succumb to depression, to my fears, to my mental discomfort, and it would be within my rights to take the bus to Planned Parenthood and un-have me one child. Mr. Sweetie acknowledges this, because he knows me, and he loves me. And because I know him, and I love him, I understand that were that to happen, it would be well within his rights to be hurt by this. It's no small thing, to be planning for a child, and then not. It's the kind of thing that can strain, or break, a marriage, and we both acknowledged that today, driving to Houston to go hang out with some friends. My mental discomfort with pregnancy could potentially end our relationship.

So it's no small thing, Mr. Obama. Not to the people involved.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Well, I did it again. Tendonitis. This time, my right hand is cold and tingly, especially around the fingertips. There's cramps up to the elbow, and occasionally beyond. Heat helps, as does medicine, but damn it's inconvenient. I suspect it's a combination of working on the computer 8 hours a day, then coming home and playing WoW for a few hours, before finishing with a night of spinning. Yeah. That's probably it.

Mostly I'm blaming World of Warcraft. I mean, if those folks at Blizzard hadn't put their danged Fire Festival at the same time as I got interested in spinning again, we wouldn't be having this sort of trouble, now would we?

I've been thinking of doing something different with the blog these past few days. I know this is a knitting blog, but to be honest when you're working on only one or two projects that are on tiny yarn and tiny needles (hello, Irish Miss scarf!) and your camera doesn't work for shit (still can't find that damn connecter cord), words are all you got. So I got thinking, around the time that I did the zombie post - writing fiction is fun! So maybe I should post some of my fiction here? All I've really got on me right now is my NaNo Novel from last year - would folks be interested in seeing that up here? I warn you, it's not edited AT ALL, and in my opinion it should get off to a much quicker start than it does, but I like it. It's 50,000 words, but that doesn't include all of the story. When I got to certain parts, I'd have to actually WORK on it, to make it go. It might be good practice, it might just be fun to do. Anyone interested?

As a teaser, here is the excerpt I posted last year:

an excerpt


Dr. Phillip Jennings scratched a flea in his beard. The sweet smoky smell of beans cooking over an open fire comforted him, and he leaned back against the concrete and lumber contraption he called home. It was nice living here, under the Bryan River bridge, not a care in the world. Once or two hours a week he’d go into town and help the poor little engineering majors with their homework in exchange for canned food, soap, bottled water, and a few packs of cigarettes. He didn’t smoke, and he told them so, but still they gave him the cigarettes. Once he tried to explain the difference in being homeless and being in prison, but the boys eyes (it was only boys he helped to study, the girls were too cautious of his dirty, smelly self) would glaze over, so he stopped. He shared the cigarettes with the other street people, and built up good will. The shelter let him shower there so long as he brought his own soap and wasn’t drunk, which he never was. He enjoyed life too much to drink; his was an existence free from care, and idyllic eden where he could sleep, read or think as much as he wanted, every day of his life.

So when he saw the stranger shambling up from the other side of the river, he felt no fear. He waved, and gestured to his beans. “Howdy, brother. You look hungry, want to share some beans? Maybe a smoke?” The stranger said nothing, just continued his clumsy, slow advance. Dr. Jennings scratched idly at his beard flea (he was considering naming it Irving, but thought that might make it harder on himself when the flea drowned in tomorrow’s shower) and waited. Maybe the stranger was a crazy – god knew there were enough of them in the general homeless population, and he knew quite a few of them himself. Most were harmless, but a few were unstable enough to merit avoidance. Dr. Jennings wondering if this man was one of those. “Hey now, brother,” he spoke softly, like to an unfamiliar animal, “There’s no trouble here. I got food to spare and a nice warm fire. Won’t you share it with me?”

The stranger crawled hands and knees slowly up the side of the embankment, putting a cold and dirty hand on Dr. Jennings’ shoulder to steady himself. He started to raise his face.

The eyes were empty, not filled with madness, but cold and glassy as a taxidermied bear’s. The mouth was bloodied and raw, flesh falling in strips from he perfect, white teeth. Those teeth terrified the good doctor more than anything, shining white and clean in that dirty, dead man’s face, the metal gleam of braces undiminished by the meat and gristle of Dr. Jennings’ shoulder and neck as it bowled him slowly over onto the concrete floor, a wailing moan starting somewhere in his belly and escaping through his mouth like steam from a kettle, rising to match that rumbling howling screech from the stranger’s own filthy, dead lips.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Roux the Day

So, Mr Sweetie has a new student worker who's vegetarian, and I wanted to cook something all vegetarian-y and impress her (because, you know, I'm a praise-based organism). She *does* eat milk and eggs, which gives me a little more wiggle room, though this recipe I made today doesn't use any milk.

I have said before, publicly, that I don't know how to cook. See the green onion incident.

I've been wanting to make pasta from scratch for a while - ever since the Library Overlord mentioned that yeah, it's just flour and eggs and a little bit of salt. Like, seriously. That's it.

So I gave basic pasta a go last weekend, and then I felt I was Truly! Ready! to cook something ovo-vegetarian.

Here is the basic recipe I use for pasta:

2 cups flour (more if you think you need it)
4 eggs (room temperature)
Pinch of salt

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs up good. Mix that shit together, until it sticks to itself enough that your hands are, you know, fairly clean. Like, you can move them independantly, bend them, see where the skin is, that kind of thing. Make it into a ball, then put that ball in the bowl, put some foil or damp cheesecloth or saran wrap on the top, then leave that shit alone for at least half an hour. It's done when it has a kind of glossy dampness all over. And is vaguely plump-looking, not that you really expect it to rise.

Flour the surface you're going to be rolling on really well, then roll it out (or, you know, buy a pasta machine). If you have limited space and/or are me, you can flour the top of the dough VERY well, the fold it, and the flour will keep it from becoming a big mass of dough again. You can make layers this way. Layers are nice. Roll it nice and thin, then cut it into strips, and cook them in boiling water with some salt. Use a LOT of water - and also? They cook FAST. Like, 2 minuntes fast. Don't leave thinking you have time to do other things. Drain the water out when they're done, and you have pasta. If you are me, you have ugly, uneven strips, but it's pasta and it's tasty.

The first time I made this, I forgot that I had thrown out the pesto I planned to have it with. They were good all by themselves. The second time, I had them with canned pasta sauce (spinach cheesy goodness). Even better.

So tonight, I Had A Plan, you see? I was going to make a meaty-tasting meat-free pasta sauce. It was going to rock. Here was The Plan:

1. Roux is thick. Make some roux. Medium to dark, but not too dark.
2. Walnuts are mellow. Toast some walnuts. Add them to the roux.
3. Portabella mushrooms are delicious and meaty. Sautee them bitches in butter.
4. Everyone loves green onions.
5. And salt.
6. And pepper.
7. Maybe you should add some water, so it actually forms some kind of sauce.

Somehow, I thought that roux was one of those things you could have a lot of, so I made a LOT of roux. I'm proud of myself that I didn't burn it, and I got it down to a nice dark peanut butter color (I have never made roux in my life), so I just dumped the entire goddamn cup of roux in with the walnuts, thinking thick = sauce.

So, at that point I had a giant pile of roux, and my precious walnuts. I tried adding water in a frantic attempt to less-roux-ify it. I actually ended up straining the walnuts out, so I had a pot of roux and a pot of walnuts. I added the mushrooms, onions, salt, and pepper to the walnuts pot, and it was good, but it sure was.... thin. Maybe I should add back a little of that roux.

So I didn't want to add too much, but I did want a creamy consistancy, so I busted out the coconut milk. As it turns out, coconut milk is actually pretty good in savory dishes! I was starting to have a passably okay mushroomy-walnutty-vaguely-creamy-sauce-thing. But it was still a little thin.

Instead of doing the sane thing and quitting while I was ahead, I added more roux. After pouring the thin stuff off the top, which was mostly water. So I was adding almost pure roux again. Then I went and cooked the pasta, and by the time the pasta was done, you know what I found out?

I had somehow invented the vegetarian recipe for brown gravy. And not the good stuff, either - the instant kind like you get a Luby's, three hours after the lunch rush. Oh yeah.

At that point I did what anyone would do in my situation. I fed the dog what she would eat and put the rest down the garbage disposal, then sat down with a bowl of ice cream for dinner.

Friday, June 13, 2008


So I get up this morning at 4 a.m., because the cat would like to be in the window now. The cat is not allowed in the window, neither at 4 a.m. nor at any other time, because he is 15 lbs of fat-ass, who wants to sqeeeeze his way through the blinds (and crush them, and break them, and ruin our deposits) to sit on the windowsill... for maybe ten minutes top, then squeeeeze back through to the bed.

Have I mentioned that the window is right above my head? As in, the cat must walk on my face with his 15 lb self to get to and from said window? So yeah, I'm against the whole process. Why he only wants to do this first thing in the morning is beyond me, but I suspect it's an elaborate plan to wake me up, so that maybe I'll feed him early. Not that I ever feed him early, but hope springs eternal.

So today, I am awake at 4 a.m., because the cat has tried to walk on my face, and there really is a limited amount of cat-flinging you can do while prone and groggy and cranky as all get-out, but somehow it sinks into my lizard-brain that Heed is crouching down next to my face, hair puffed out all crazy, growling at something in the backyard.

He is not a growly cat, so this scares the shit out of me.

I woke up Mr. Sweetie before I looked out the window, and I thought I saw a dude wandering around the yard behind ours (see, this shit is why we need a privacy fence, I don't need to know what is going on in your yard, neighbor people!), stumbling around like he was drunk or stoned or something. Well, scratch that, you see a lot of drunks in a college town, and he didn't seem drunk, so probably on something. The dog started barking, Mr. Sweetie got out the handgun case from the closet but didn't open it - you know, because you never know, but you want to be safe. I guess I don't really regret him getting the gun now, hey?

So the dude wandered around for a while, then turned like he heard something (which he didn't do for the dog - weird, right?) then wandered off towards the highway. We were pretty goddamn awake at that point, so we started getting ready to go to work.

We had some extra time (like two hours extra time), so I figured hey - I'll make breakfast. Haven't done that in a while (try ever, but I was still freaked out and needed something to do), and we had some pamcake mix and chocolate chips, how hard could it be?

So I'm mixing up the batter, and Mr. Sweetie's on the computer in the living room, and next thing I know he's spouting crazy-talk about zombies and uprisings and oh god oh god we're all gonna die.

Honestly, it's like we don't plan for these things.

So, of course, I finished the pamcakes (they were delicious), turned off the stove, and grabbed the bug-out bags a friend had prepared for us last year. Supplemented with the 50 lb bag of cat food we'd picked up from the store the other day, the rain barrel from the yard and our brita pitcher, and we were good to go. It wasn't easy getting the Maggie and Heed into the attic, and let me tell you, getting Maggie's crate through that creepy little door did not help my mood one bit, but once we pulled ourselves up and busted a small hole through the roof, it was cosy enough. Mr. Sweetie made an amicable truce with Falafel Jones, the previous resident, regarding which sides of the roof were off limits, and we were able to last out the uprising without too much trouble.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Building Worlds

Well, the wedding we attended last weekend went along well, as did the godson's birthday party, though the whale went unfinished. We got him an Indiana Jones Mr Potato Head instead, and next time his mom is in town we'll give her the theoretically-completed whale.

In other news, Mr Sweetie and I have started working on our roleplaying game again.

It's something that we started talking about around this time last year, or maybe last fall. We both like classless systems, and skill-based systems, and really the more flexibility the better. We started building some mythology together, which with his background in religious studies and classical literature, and my lifetime love of low fantasy and how-did-they-make-that, it's turning out really interesting. We've got the general feel down, which is a lot more ... folktale-y than your classic RPG, but we're pretty stoked about it. I don't want to say too much about it, since nothing's really set in stone, but we came up with a really cool thing today that creates roads (a lot more important than you might think), plows fields, and ferries the souls of the dead. It's awesome.

So in short, life is good.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Henna OK!

Remember my freakout last post? Totally unfounded. As someone on the hennapage forums pointed out to me, "henna grows in the desert, is harvested in the desert, and sits is a warehouse in the desert until it gets to you. A few days in your mailbox won't hurt it."And right she was.

So I mixed up 100g of CCJ's Rajasthani henna, and let me tell you, it is NICE. I used only a pinch of sugar (it said I didn't have to use any, but I am nothing if not paranoid), and it is very stringy, but I think I'm going to go ahead and add a little more in anyways, to make it retain moisture a bit more. The unsealed paste, left on for maybe an hour or so, left a good B4 stain on the back of my hand (I drew a Murloc). I doodled on my palm as well, then almost immediately wiped it off because I had gone in without planning and the result, as happens, was not so great, but I'm getting about the same level of stain so I guess I'll have to live with that for a while.

In dog news, I'm starting to get a little concerned about Maggie. A few times now she's growled at Heed, once tonight, always around food, but while I know Heed doesn't really want to get to her food at all, I also don't want her to become food-aggressive at all, and don't really know what to do. So far we've yelled at her when she does it and sent her outside, where she can't do fun things like be pet and sit on the couch... but it does worry me. I've had Heed since the day he was born, so if it comes down to it, I know who we're keeping, but I'd really like them to be able to get along well enough to continue having them both.

Anyways, next weekend is my godson's 3rd birthday party, so even though I know I should be working on the Cuddlefish, I'm going to get started on a gift for him instead. No, he's not getting the Cuddlefish. Boy's too young to have a proper appreciation of cephalopods.

But he can get this really bitchin' humpback whale.

Monday, May 26, 2008


So, last week I ordered some henna. $40 of henna to be exact, which is not a small amount of henna. It got mailed on the 21st, and priority mail, and I kept eagerly checking the mailbox to see if the little flag was up, signifying that we had mail. A few days pass, no flag, so today I remember that I have henna coming in the mail and take a peek outside. No flag. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I walk out to the box and open it - there's the package, along with a week's worth of mail. The goddamn mailman didn't raise the flag. This shit is TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE, it's been sitting in my mailbox for DAYS, when it's been fucking NINETY DEGREES OUTSIDE. Son of a BITCH!!!

So, I put it in the freezer, and only time will tell, but I'm guessing I have about a pound of high-quality henna, that's been completely ruined because of our fucking incompetent mailman.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Variations on a Theme

So I've been working on the Cuddlefish's eyes, and it's been tricky.

First, I thought I would just, you know, do buttons or something. That looked like ass (so much so, that I didn't even sew them on, the ass was apparent from just holding the buttons to the unshaped head).

Then I thought, hey, what if I add in some short rows? Eh? Eh? Everybody loves short rows. So I sketched for a bit, got a W-shaped pupil going, made a chart, and got going on it. There were minor mistakes (such as knitting from the wrong end of the chart, and making M-shaped pupils instead), and I ended up redoing the knitting a total of 5 times, and the chart a total of 7.

So I start the 6th round of knitting using the 7th chart, and I'm following it, and it's going well, and then BAM. It hits me.

This eye? Is too shallow. It is an almond, and not a bulge. It's too symmetrical, and the W will be pointing to the butt-end of the mantle and not up to the sky, as actual cuttlefish eyes are oriented. Ergo, the sort-row eye has got to go.

So I started thinking, and I started sketching again, and I think I may have come up with something that will work. I'm going to be bringing back some of the color patterns from the mantle, but not in ways that you'll expect. It's going to work. It's going to be interesting.

It's going to be asymmetrical.

If you know me, you know that I have a really hard time with asymmetry. I'm not good at creating it, my gut naturally roils when I try, but dammit, this time I am going to do it. It's going to be awkward and counterintuitive the whole time, but as Dog is my witness* I will make this eye by monday!

* Seriously, Maggie. Time to step up.