27 August 2006

Where'd the Weekend Go?

Ordinarily this week would have been my "off" week. I work a three week rotation that gives me 5 days off every third week. One of those is generally spent catching up on sleep from working the night before, but it's a nice chance to recharge my batteries. This week, as a consequence of working an extra shift, I only had three days, which have gone by very quickly.

They've not been idle days. Some of it has been spent doing some alpaca work for the landladies, which has been fun. I've also been doing a bit of spinning. I got another skein of the Junior plied, and last night I started spinning up some brown merino that I bought over a year ago.

The merino is fun. I can see how it could be confounding to people who are used to doing long draw and working with long staple wools. Drafting certainly takes more attention than the Junior. This particular roving has a fair number of neps in it, which are making it slubbier than most examples of merino I've seen, but I kind of like a tweedy yarn and am not bothered by it. It's also still got quite a lot of lanolin in it, so I'll be interested to see what it's like once it's skeined and washed. I'm spinning it to be about fingering weight once it's plied.

Weighing In

For my Friday weigh-in I was down 6.5 pounds from my starting weight. Only 25 pounds to go (actually 24 - I'm down another pound since then) and things are going well.

22 August 2006

'Pacas at High Noon & a Ghost Story

First, some photos. This was the scene in the sideyard of my house today.

082206Yard_Pacas

They get lush grass, and I don't have to mow. I call that a win-win situation.

And one of the avocado pits I planted has finally sprouted.

082206Avocado

The other appears to have bitten the dust, but that's how these things go and I'm just happy the one decided to spring forth, as I was beginning to have my doubts.

and now....

A Ghost Story

I left a comment on Sean's blog the other day about having had "ghostly guardians" as a child. Naturally, and probably helped by the fact that he's a horror freak, he asked me to elaborate.

It's not a particularly detailed story, but as a small child - probably until the age of 7 or 8 - I used to have ethereal "guardians" at night. I can't give a good description because they were always vague and never really did anything, but at night I could often see two shadowy figures flanking the doorway to the room I was sleeping in.

I've always been fairly certain that this wasn't an illusion or trick of the moonlight, partly because I've had a fairly rational mind from a very early age and partly because they weren't restricted to a particular place. I have very distinct memories of seeing them in multiple rooms and in multiple houses in multiple towns. I even remember one instance of sleeping on a sofa bed in my grandparents' living room in Charleston, SC, which had two arched entries on opposite sides of the room. I woke up needing to pee and could see them by one entryway. When I turned my head to see if the other entryway was clear, they were there also. When I worked up the courage to go to the bathroom, they vanished as I neared the arch.

As I said, they were very vague figures, but I had the distinct impression that one was male and one was female. Beyond that they never moved or spoke or gave me insight into what they were or why they were there. I'm confident they weren't a dream creation, as I was often afraid to go to sleep with them there. When I tried to tell my parents they would laugh it off and tell me that it must just be my guardian angels - assuming, most likely, that it was the fertile imagination of a young child - but it never made sense to me that they would frighten me so if they were there to protect me. So they remain an enigma, and why they stopped appearing makes as little sense as why they were there in the first place.

So that's my ghost story. Since then I have only seen one other ghost. That instance happened during the daytime and it was a very solid-appearing entity. My parents, though once skeptics, have come to believe in the 19 years they've been living in their 175-year-old farmhouse. There have been multiple sightings in the house - one of my baby brother's high school friends was so scared that he refused to set foot in the house again. As to the nature of ghosts, I don't try to speculate much. I just accept that there are things beyond our understanding and leave it at that. It still gives me the heebee-jeebees sometimes, though.

Addendum

My tomato cravings have been momentarily sated. My friend Kit invited me to harvest her tomatoes while she and the wife and child are away on vacation this week. She is truly a wonderful person. I came home this morning with three smallish but perfect tomatoes, two of which became sandwiches for my dinner. Norma took a picture of hers, but my tomato-starved soul had no time for such niceties, so her pic will have to suffice. I go to bed a very happy man.

19 August 2006

In Case You Were Wondering

The diet so far is going well - 4 pounds in two weeks, which is a healthy (and hopefully sustainable) rate of weight loss. I know the mention of the "d" word caused consternation among some, but this is really more of a readjustment of my relationship with food. Growing up in the South, there are three basic food groups - fat, salt, and sugar. Well, four if you count starch, but that practically never occurs without at least one two of the first three. Actually, they're kind of like the Holy Trinity of Southern Food - one does not exist without the other two.

To be sure, I ate an awful lot of fresh garden veggies and fruit growing up - Norma has given me cravings for fresh tomato sandwiches, which is one of those quintessential summery foods I have been missing, due to my conspicuous lack of garden. Still, most of my life has been spent in thrall to fat, salt, and sugar, so the bulk of my diet plan is to make a conscious effort to change that.

The biggest thing I've done, really, is to avoid the junk food that invariably shows up at work. Skinny twenty-something techs bring in bags of chips and cheesy poofs, big boxes from Dunkin Donuts, and all sorts of things that make me lose control the moment my hand touches them. So I've made a point of not starting, and it seems to be working well so far. Otherwise I'm eating quite well, just a bit better and a bit smarter. Only 27 more pounds to go.

The Other Kind of Fiber

The wrists are still complaining, so no knitting. I tried crocheting up a mouse to felt and stuff today - need to crank a bunch out before Rhinebeck, as that's where my yarn/fiber money comes from. It went okay, but I noticed that my wrist did tire quickly, not painfully as the knitting would do right now, but enough that I'm just going to lay off that, too, and concentrate on spinning. I've been spinning more of the Junior tonight and will do a bit more before I head to bed.

Even though I'm not picking up the pointy sticks, I'm still thinking of potential projects. One thing I want to do is test drive both the J & S Shetland jumperweight and their Shetland 2000 yarns for the Schoolhouse Shetland Pullover, so I think what I'm going to do is order a little of both and do up hats in a sort of shortened dubbelmössa design using one of the pullover patterns and a simple crown design like "tree of life" for the increase/decrease sections. That should give me some idea on gauge and the hats can then go to Dulaan.

Speaking of Dulaan, Ryan is having people vote on a logo design for Dulaan 2007. Personally, I prefer the 2006 design, which seemed to be the favorite when I placed my vote, but if you want to have your say and haven't voted yet, then go over there now and do so.

17 August 2006

Savory Seitan Stew

Since we're getting back to cooler nights and since I wanted to make an easy one-pot dinner, I decided to throw together a beef-less stew using seitan for the "meat". It turned out so well, I thought I'd share.

Savory Seitan Stew (3-4 servings)

8 oz. (240gm) seitan in traditional broth
1 can (12 oz./360gm) of whole kernel corn (maize)
1 medium-sized onion
½ of a green bell pepper (or a whole one if you prefer)
2 carrots
½ - ¾ cup (maybe 150-175gm?) of sun-dried tomatoes
2-3 Tablespoons (30-45mL) of extra virgin olive oil
Approximately 1½ cups (360mL) of water
thyme, sage, coriander, black pepper, bay leaves, or any other herbs/spices to taste

First, the disclaimer: I don't generally measure when I cook. I've been cooking most of my life and do most of it on the fly, as I did with this stew. The measurements above are mostly rough approximations, not absolutes. Results may vary, but variation is a beautiful thing and should be embraced.

My original plan, in the interest of expediency, was to use a can of tomato paste, but we were all out, so instead I placed the sun-dried tomatoes along with the broth from the seitan and the water from the can of corn into a blender and pureed. I chopped the onion and bell pepper into smallish pieces (chunky would be fine, if you're so inclined) and sauteed them in the olive oil. I sliced the carrots thinnish (to cook them faster, but again, it's a matter of preference) and added them to the pot along with the corn once the onions were translucent. Then I added the water and seasonings and brought everything to a boil. Then the seitan (chopped into chunks) and finally the tomato puree. I then simmered it until the carrots were tender (approximately 20 minutes). Preparation & cooking took all of about 30 minutes. We ate it with toasted multigrain bread, and it was yummy.

I also had a bottle of Wolaver's brown ale. This was an impulse purchase the other day from our local supermarket. I had never seen it before and liked the idea of organic beer - two great concepts in one product - so I bought their sampler, which contains 4 each of their brown ale, pale ale, and IPA. It was tasty, and I'm looking forward to trying their oatmeal stout come October.

16 August 2006

Wretched Wrist

The tendonitis has decided to flare up, so I'm taking a hiatus from the needles for a little bit. The sock can wait, as can the hat I started for Dulaan. Besides, I need to be in good form for Sock Wars.

Of course, that doesn't mean a hiatus from all things fibery. I can still spin, so Monday night I sat down for a bit and spun a bit more of the Junior roving. I got another pound of it from the farm, but I have yet to get an invoice and suspect that I'll need to remind them to send it along so that I can pay them.

Tuesday's mail also brought 4 yards of double-width grey wool twill, which I would like to make into a non-tartan, modern-yet-fairly-conservative kilt (I just don't see black vinyl or patent leather kilts in my future, though if I were ever to do a drag act, I do have this one idea....). I have a pattern. There are also plenty of online resources. Now I just have to figure out where I have can make space to drag out my sewing machine.

Work tonight has been fairly busy with some demanding & difficult clients. Unlike Sean of the Dead, I can't hide in a cubicle in a drug-induced haze. At least it's settled down enough that my headache's gone away. And it looks like it'll be a bright sunny morning for the drive home, which is always good for the soul.

12 August 2006

11 August 2006

Photos and Such

I've been a bit tardy about downloading a few photos from my camera, so I thought I'd share a couple things from this past week I haven't blogged. Firstly, last Saturday David & I took a drive up the coast and a tad inland to pick up fresh blueberries from a blueberry farm where I've been getting them for the last few years and my mother's been getting hers for several years. I also picked up a flat for the landladies. This is what 20# of blueberries looks like all ready for the freezer (actually, nearly all - I saved a little for eating fresh):

080506Blueberries

I love living in Maine.

After leaving the blueberry farm, we stopped at nearby Hope Spinnery, which is a small wind-powered spinning mill. We got a tour of the production area and had a nice chat with the owner about the industry. Maine actually has a fair number of small spinning mills doing both custom work and their own small lines of yarn.

On Tuesday, I went over to see Juliette, now 5½ weeks old, as I hadn't been there for a few weeks. She's recently had her first haircut. The baby fleece is generally clipped a few weeks after the cria is born, as it is otherwise prone to get matted and felted at the tips by the time of their yearling clip. So now I have a bag of butter-soft, chocolate-brown fleece waiting to be spun (someday).

080806Juliette_First_Haircu

Lastly, I was talking to David tonight, and he pointed out that I never posted any photos of the tattoo he got touched up just before we left Hawai'i. So a little belatedly, here is the before:

072206David_Tat_Before

Not so pretty, eh? So here's the after:

072206David_Tat_After

Much nicer.

Future Project?

Today I've really had Fair Isle patterning on my mind. I've been reading Sheila McGregor's Traditional Fair Isle Knitting and contemplating Meg Swansen's Schoolhouse Shetland Pullover from Knitting in America, which was republished last year as America Knits.

I've actually been contemplating it for several months, but today I even went so far as to e-mail Yarns International, who are apparently the sole US distributors for Jamieson & Smith's Shetland 2000 yarn, which is a line of naturally-colored, undyed Shetland jumperweight. I'm thinking it might look nice in moorit & mooskit.

Of course, that assumes I'd ever manage to finish it, but one must be optimistic about such things.

10 August 2006

They All Look the Same, Right?

This is actually a few days old now, but in the wee hours of Monday morning I happened across a link on Google that led me to this:

FoxNewsStory

I thought, "Those poor people. And they just got hit with another tsunami, AND an earthquake." But then I started reading the article and realized that all the names of people interviewed sounded very Filipino, and it referenced the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, which seemed very odd for an article about Indonesia.

Turns out, of course, that they had put the wrong country in the headline. And even though it had an Associated Press byline, it didn't say who had authored the article - probably because they also made apparent alterations to the original wire story, which was published on several other online news sources (with the correct country in the headline) along with the reporter's name and AP's standard copyright disclaimer stating that the story was not to be altered in any form.

It is Fox News, though, so I suppose for their readers it only matters that they were brown people on an island somewhere. Actually, their readers probably never even bothered to look at it at all. Just for the record, they did manage to correct the headline within 24 hours, but it's still found under the "Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia" section of their World News.

Bachelor Life

I'm on my own until next week, as David's off at this trade show in Salt Lake City. All the big boys and girls are there - Woolrich, Patagonia, Columbia. How much you wanna bet Gert Boyle spikes the punch bowl?

Actually, I'm just kind of worried I'll call and David will be off somewhere slamming down shots with Jimmy Osmond (Is it just me, or was Jimmy really going for the Rosie-O'Donnell-on-Star-Search look in this 1985 TV appearance?). So far, though, he claims he hasn't seen any Mormons. I'd say they only come out at night, but I've been to Salt Lake City and seen them, in the daytime - families with 7 or 8 kids, all blond-haired and blue-eyed. I have to say, though, that it is the most desolate city I've ever been in - avenues 6 or 8 lanes wide with no traffic in the middle of the day. It's like they built it and then forgot to fill it with people (Maybe that's why they're having 7 or 8 kids).

We apparently managed to find him a room in the seediest motel in Salt Lake City, a Super 8 only 4 blocks from the Convention Center and Temple Square. When he arrived Tuesday night, he called and said, "It's a shithole." The elevator is apparently held together with blue masking tape, and he couldn't bring himself to use the stairs because the stairwell smelled ungodly. And after he turned down the sheets on the bed, he called me back to tell me that he'd found a pill in the bed, which of course makes one wonder if they actually bothered to clean the sheets between guests. I was able to look said pill up in the PDR here at work and it's a generic version of Ativan. Maybe they put it there so he wouldn't worry about sleeping in a shithole motel on dirty sheets.

On the Knitting Front

Work progresses on the practice sock. I've figured out why hand-knit socks so often have such a short band of ribbing at the cuff. I prefer more ribbing on my socks, so I started about 1.5 inches above the heel and things immediately slowed. way. down. Of course, it didn't help that my hands were complaining for a couple days, meaning I'd manage two or three rounds and have to set it down. It looks as though there are at least a few novice knitters signed up for Sock Wars, though, so I might have a chance in hell. With my luck, I'll probably be felled in short order by some badass sock slinger.

05 August 2006

As the Heel Turns

Okay, it's a dumb heading. It's 4AM & I don't care. I turned the heel tonight while David & I were watching Billy Elliot (Somehow he'd managed never to have seen it, even though I've had the DVD for a few years. I can't hear Swan Lake now without bawling). So now the sock looks like something you might actually wear on your foot.

080506Sock_progress

I may even be able to finish a sock before I get killed off in Sock Wars. I had to stop after I finished the heel, though, as my left hand was hurting. It's usually the tendons in my right hand that start screaming at me first, so I'm not quite sure why the left was bothering me so much more. It may behoove me to go down to size 0 (2mm) needles to do the heel in the future, though, so I can knit more loosely and save my hands while maintaining gauge.

On the Diet Wagon


Today's mail brought me results of bloodwork I had drawn in Hawai'i at the conference. The AVMA has their own group health plan, and the company that manages it always sets up a health fair where AVMA members can get a lipid panel and some other basic bloodwork done at no charge (Otherwise, they suck, but that's beside the point). For $10 we can also get our rabies antibody titers checked (mine are high, as always), which is a very important thing to keep tabs on in this profession. Most of our staff are currently receiving boosters after treating a wolf-dog hybrid while I was away that turned out to be rabid.

I digress a bit, but the upshot is that my total cholesterol and triglyceride levels are in the high range. They've been slowly creeping up - part of my paternal inheritance - and finally they're high. They're not horrible. They could be much, much worse. But this comes the day after my mother called me to tell me that one of her cousins had just dropped dead of a massive heart attack at the age of 47 - only ten years older than me.

So I immediately signed up with eDiets and went out to stock the larder with provisions that fit the diet plan. The only problem is that I don't do recipes. I also don't do pre-fab meals. I love to cook, but a recipe to me is a suggestion, a rough template that I can adapt to my needs and desires. A handmaiden to my palate, if you will. My hope, though, is that just the fact of weighing in and using a plan as a rough guide will assist me in sticking to a healthful diet on which I can lose some poundage.

I don't expect any miracles. I have never had six pack abs and will never have them, and I really don't care. Nonetheless, I don't want to end up on Lipitor like my father (who, at age 59, only has a little bit of a spare tire), or worse, dead before I hit 50.

03 August 2006

Sock Warrior in Training

It has been hot here. I know that's not a real news flash, and I know that there are folks in other areas who are even hotter, but it's still not fun. David tells me that the heat index got up to 104º today (That's 40ºC for you metric types). The highest I saw on our thermometer was 98.6º, which means it was as hot outside of me as inside me. Yuck.

So I spent most of the day hiding in the bedroom, which is the only air-conditioned room we have. I got David to knock off work early and join me, and we watched DVD's on my laptop. And I also worked on this:

080306Sock_training

I figured if I'm going to have a chance at being an effective sock warrior, I'd better get some training under my belt beforehand. Toe-up methods appeal to me more because I can't necessarily trust that a standard ball of sock yarn will actually last to the toes if I start at the top (Have I mentioned yet that I have big feet?). So I started it with Duffy's patch toe method, making the patch a bit wider, as my feet aren't terribly pointy. For the heel I'm planning on trying out the heel method from Widdershins in the latest Knitty. The yarn is Lang Jawoll. I had remembered it being a dark charcoal, but when I hauled it out I found it to be a nice staid navy. Either way, it's a color Franklin would like.


Utilikilt Is Here!


It arrived Tuesday, actually, before I made my way home from work and post-work errands. Because of the heat and because the pleats were a tad wonky after being folded and stuffed in a mailer, I didn't wear it terribly long. Instead, after returning from a trip to the beach with David's friend Katharine (the one on whose property David & I peed in Hawai'i) and her daughter Liz and taking my second or third cold shower of the day, I opted for the sarong I bought in Hawai'i because of the lighter weight.

Ted has already requested photos, though, and they shall be forthcoming. Unfortunately, the belt that I ordered to go with the utilikilt is on backorder and won't be here for a few more weeks. Kilts really call for a wide belt - thin ones just don't cut it. Of course, I generally try to avoid leather (It's not very vegetarian), but it is pretty much impossible to find a nice, wide pleather belt. I really did try, but I gave in and went for dead cow skin, so I suppose Ted will just have to deal with pics with me using my old thin pleather belt. My hiking boots, at least, are leather-free.

I'm a Dog

One last thing, which I have Liz to thank for.

Or maybe you are a mosquito, you certainly can't be human.

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 21.1kHz
Find out which ringtones you can hear!

01 August 2006

Heat

It's finally reaching the East coast. Even here in Maine we will be flirting with triple digit temperatures. I'm just praying for a strong sea breeze, as that'll be the only thing that saves us from baking. That and the little window a/c unit we have in the bedroom. Hopefully the 'pacas will do okay and stay in the shade.

I slept horribly yesterday and had a busy, busy night last night, so now I must schlep my very sleepy and very cranky ass home and decide how badly I want to make dinner for our guests.

Good night, Gracie.