Sunday, February 12, 2012

Write Good or Die

Today I'm using a book title for the blog, although I haven't read it, it seems strangely appropriate.  And the writing quote that came up on of my gadgets was "Ass in the chair" - Nora Roberts.  Now given the level of output that woman publishes, I think it's good advice.  I'm not saying that Nora Roberts is high art.  But the woman writes and writes a lot, and I still read her stuff now and again, even though she's not the best writer.  Her stuff is mind jello.  It's like watching the Cartoon Network.  Her writing is not going to make me think or show me any universal truths or wisdom, but the stories are engaging and it lets my brain rest a bit.  And she has published a holy ton of books.

Today I didn't feel like writing.  But it was on the schedule so I did it.  And I think what I got today works, and got me much further down the road towards being done.  It might need work, but now I have stuff to work on and fiddle with, and if I hadn't put my ass in the chair, and waited until I had inspiration, I wouldn't be any further along.  Maybe someday, I could write a novel that's heading a little more towards literature, but I don't think I need to be a Writer with a capital "W".  I think I just want to tell a decent story.  So that's the road I'm on for now.  Does anyone know where I could buy a seat belt for an office chair that would work on a timer?  Because that would be cool.

So anyway to the numbers.  I hit 150,051 words and 492 pages this morning.  Given that my original goal was around 100,000 words and 300 pages, this is a little frustrating.  But there's only about a day and half left in the novel, and the wrap up. And then of course, the months that I will spend revising, but that's another topic for another day.

In knitting news, I finished the Absinthe socks last weekend during the sports event that shall not be named.  (Not because the Pats lost, but because the sports event annoys me, in general, and in specific, now that it is in February instead of January where it tends to interfere with my birthday frequently).  Not that I watched the sports event, I pointedly watched Pride and Prejudice instead.  Colin Firth version.  He's a total hottie.  In any case, I've started the sweater I'm designing with short rows.  I'm using Creative Focus Cotton from Nashua Handknits.  Adding in the yardage for the socks and the first skein of this sweater, I'm closing in on my having knitted 10 miles of yarn.  I'm at 9.77 miles as of this morning.  Yes, I know, just ignore me okay?  I think my next project will be the Sipalu bag from Knitpicks, because it will get rid of boat loads of yarn in my stash, because partial balls do not count and I think there's like twenty separate colors of Palette listed in my stash for that kit. Then I can use the leftovers towards either the dragon taxidermy project or the knitted marine aquarium project. And it will count as a kit that I owned prior to 12/31/2011, which is a requirement of the 2012 Yarn & Fiber Stash Reduction Plan. Woo hoo!

In spinning news, I have 17 ounces of romney fleece dyed in cochineal and logwood grey (varying tones of purple and grey) from the Copper Moth that I'm working on.  I'm flick carding it and getting a lot of waste and a lot of broken tips.  I'm not sure how much I'll actually net once the process is over.  It's actually got so much stuff coming off of it, that I have to put something down to catch it all while I flick card.  I've managed to card my fingers quite a bit which is annoying.  Once I had a full pan of flick carded locks I started spinning it to give my fingers a break.  It's not quite the effect that I had hoped for, but I think that the colors are more separated that it would be if I had simply run it through the drum carder.

I haven't done as much as I would have liked on the cookbook, but hopefully, I can manage that soon.

I think that's all for now.  Between working on the novel and writing this post this morning, I've been stuck in this chair for three hours.  Time to go get ready for knitting guild.  Stay tuned for further updates as they occur.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Crazy Game

In honor, or disdain actually, of the Superbowl, I've used the Indigo Girls' song title as my blog post. (Oh, and I don't know if I mentioned this, but I'm changing the naming conventions of my blog.  A while ago I decided to use only song titles as blog titles, but I'm expanding it to book titles too.) In any case, if you don't know me, and weren't already well aware of this, I am not a fan of professional sports in general.  If you want to hear me blather on about why our country has its priorities profoundly out of wack, that professional sports stars should make less than janitors and teachers ought to get paid a living wage, and that our focus on professional sports is a distraction of the masses by the leading elite just like the Roman emperors distracted the masses with the gladiators to avoid dealing with problems in that society before it fell, and that we're on the edge of the fall of western civilization, then let me know, but that's really not the purpose of this blog.  Suffice it to say, that I am not a football fan and that all this hype over a stupid game annoys the crap out of me.  But anyway, moving on, as I take a deep breath and get off my soapbox again, while making  rude hand gestures at the NFL with both hands.

In writing news, basically, I haven't done any this month yet, because I have a word credit from January, and I was behind on my spinning goals.  But the plan today is to write a mission statement for the cookbook, and grind out as many words as I can on the novel, before I post it to the Misplaced Modifier's group site for next week's meeting.

In fiber news, I didn't quite meet my January goals by the end of the month, because in my twisted little brain the singles have to be spun and plyed (if I intend the yarn to be plyed) before I will consider it complete.  I was working on about 4 ounces of cormo roving I bought a hundred years ago (well, probably five or six years ago)  but I didn't finish it up until February 4.  But with what I had already spun up in January, met January's goal and gave me a 1.01 ounce credit for February.  Next I have 17 ounces of romney fleece dyed in cochineal and logwood grey (varying tones of purple and grey) from the Copper Moth that I intend to flick card to keep the color variation and then spin.  Of course, the flick carding process will be miserable, so I am again being a masochistic idiot.  But I think that's what the fleece wants to be, so be it.
 In knitting news, I finished one of the Absinthe socks, and I'm almost done with the other.  I have about 80 rows left and I'll be finished.  I may be able to do it today at guild. The yarn is Miss Babs Yummy in Iris and the details of the project you can find here on Ravelry.

I need to work on doing the up-sizing of the Flower Power dress set that I designed for Kate S, so that's next on the list, but in the meantime, I think I I'll be able to start knitting the short row shaped hourglass v-neck 3/4 sleeve sweater for me that I've begun designing.  The hard part of writing that pattern will be including all the short row calculations for all sizes and busts.  But I've set up an excel spreadsheet to run calculations so hopefully I can manage it.

In other news, this is the last day of my thirties.  I don't seem to be having much of a reaction to it, other than the hair thing (see my whining in my last blog post).  Also I want to give a shout out to Mary T for the Shaun the Sheep.  I found a Timmy at Target, and asked on Facebook for people to look out for a Shaun and I'd pay for it.  Mary T instead found one on Amazon and had it shipped to me as a surprise.  Thanks Mary!!  

This week I had dinner with a friend I grew up with, but had not seen in twenty years.  Which, in and of itself, makes you feel crazy old.  I think the last time we saw each other it was 1992, which was my sophomore year at Wellesley.  How is it even possible that 1992 was twenty years ago?  Of course this means that it logically follows that my twenty year college reunion is only two years from now.  Sigh.  And of course, the novel was supposed to be done by my 40th birthday, which it isn't.  Sigh.  But I had a great time and I'm really happy that my friend was willing to hang around Manchvegas for a bit before heading to Maine so we could get together.

I'm putting a gratuitous picture of Kiwi in because I was testing the new camera, which is, of course purple.  But it's also 16 mega pixels with an 8x zoom and about 18 scene modes.  Check it out here. Yes, I am a strict point and shoot kind of girl.  There's only so many hobbies I can realistically pursue, and photography just isn't going to be one of them.

I also got a set of the new 16" circular interchangeable needle sets from Webs this week.  They run from US size 4 to 10 in the set and come with two sets of end caps and keys, and a set of size markers, and two 16 inch cables in addition to the tips.  I'm quite happy with them so far, as I haven't used them yet. However, I have used their regular size interchangeables and did like them very much. They are similar to Knitpicks needles being made by the same company, but the cables seem more pliable and I like them better.  You can check them out here.

I think that's it for today's update.  Stay tuned for the continuing story of a type A personality and the Quest to complete the 2012 Calendar of Doom.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On the Road Down

Since I generally try to post at least twice a month and I said I'd be better about things this year, I thought I'd better get my rear end in gear. 

Let me do the numbers run through first. First up, writing. Good news: I made my 8,000 word goal for January on the novel, and I have 1,259 words towards February.  Bad news:  It's still not done. I have 146,320 words and 481 double spaced manuscript format pages, but it is still not done.  Good news: There's only about two to two and half days left of stuff that happens in the novel, and I got another sex scene in, as it is supposed to be a trashy novel.

 Next, fiber.  I have spun 1.11 ounces of fiber this month, and I've knit 392 yards of yarn thus far (I only count stuff I finished).  I finished designing and knitting the hat and dress set for Kate S, and I made some matching booties for it too.  I've written up a cruddy first draft of the pattern, which Mary S has generously decided to try to slog through.  The general consensus is that I need to provide a range of sizes, but I think it's going to be a lot of math. (Duh.  Understatement of the century.)  So I'm putting it off for a bit, but I will get to it. 


Cashmere or Vicuna before spinning
Cashmere or Vicuna after spinning
In spinning, I finished up spinning the ounce of camel I had.  And by the way, I do think I'm allergic to it.  Same reaction as I had two months ago, so I put on a dust mask and slogged through it.  Will not be spinning with camel again anytime soon.  I also had a fifth of an ounce of something which was wrapped in tissue paper.  I didn't keep the any record of what it is, but it was so soft and luscious and there was so little of it, that I'm guessing it was either cashmere or vicuna. I don't know what I'll use it for, but it was fun to spin, and I'm slowly working my way through all my little random sample lots of stuff.

I'm still working away on the Absinthe sock which you can see here on Ravelry, but I haven't taken any pictures of it lately.  I just finished turning the heel and will be starting the leg (it's a toe-up sock).  I've been working on it awhile, but the pattern is intricate, and I'll been futzing around with deadline knitting a lot lately.  I also began designing my plus size, hourglass figure, short row shaped front, close-fitting, three quarter sleeve sweater that began as a twinkle in my eye in Shannon Okey's Sweater Map Class at Stitches.  Talk about freaking math, I spent 4 hours just in the initial writing up the first size for me thing.  But I think I've figured out a way to do it, that I can generate all the numbers for everyone for short row shaping so I can actually publish a pattern and have it work for a lot o' people.

Also, quick product review.  I got some blocking wire from Inspinknity on Etsy, the regular ones and the Deluxe Ultra Fine Lace set.  Can I just say that even if you have other blocking wires (which I did), you need these wires?  I got the Ultra Fine Lace Set first thinking that I already had regular blocking wires, so I just needed some lace ones.  Once I got them and tried them out of the package, I immediately ordered the regular set. Run, as fast as your little fingers can type and get these.  I was able to bend them in a curved u-shape to block the hat I made for Kate S's soon to born munchkin, and they popped immediately back to straight.  When you take the wires that are curved in a circle out of the package, they immediately pop back to straight.  These are so cool, and can be stored in what looks like a gallon size zip lock that it came in.  I can't wait to have some really crazy lace to block.
Cashew Ranch Dip and Chips and Salsa
Mexican Layer Dip
Fried Fake "Cheez" Nuggets
Chicken Fingers, Hominy Salad and Ginger Bok Choi

In cookbook news, Mary Kate and I had the allergy dinner event. This was our first go at serving food that neither Mary Kate nor myself is allergic to. This was a good dry run to test some recipes. None of the dishes served contained milk, eggs, soy, wheat, gluten, or any of the other things that Mary Kate and I are allergic to. The cookbook we are planning will be free of dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts, which are the 8 most common allergens. We served a ranch dip made of cashew nuts, which was awesome, a hominy salad, chicken fingers, ginger and garlic bok choi, a chipotle butternut squash soup, my crazy hot Italian pea soup, a gluten free sponge cake with rum caramel sauce, date cashew truffles, and a cranberry apple crisp.
Hot Italian Sausage Pea Soup
Gluten free sponge cake rum caramel sauce
Cranberry Apple Crisp
Date Cashew Truffles

 Now, we can't use the recipes using cashew for the cookbook, but we wanted to try them because neither of us are allergic to cashews and the recipes sounded good. I think everything was a success except the chicken fingers (which still need work) and the cake.  By cake, I mean the cake itself, because the caramel sauce was killer.  The cake, not so much.  But it was also my first attempt at gluten free baking, so not the end of the world. 

Since the dinner, I've been trying to research 1 hour a week as per the Purple Calendar of Doom, and try one new recipe.  I'm still trying to test mayo recipes.  So far, not good.  I have one that came close-ish but the texture was really off. 

In health news, I have five visits into the gym this month and only need three more by the end of the month. I haven't gone as much as I've scheduled myself, but we've had a lot going on, and the weather has also not been helping. But I shouldn't have a problem getting that time in by the end of the month. 

In being almost 40 news, I only have two weeks left.  On Friday, I'm dying my hair auburn red.  Not because I have a ton of grey, but because the color is starting to fade out, and I can't tell you how much that is ticking me off.  So I've been watching it get lighter and an ashier brown blond in places for about a year, and I've had enough of panicking that it will turn this awful washout out tobacco stained yellow color before it goes white.  So, I'm all done, no more waiting to see what horrors the ticking clock of time has, they have freaking dye for that.

I think that's about it for this installment.  Seriously, go buy those blocking wires.  I'm not kidding. (Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with the seller, nor have I been provided with any financial remuneration for making these statements).

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of the Game, Part II

Okay, this is where I'm supposed to catch you up on everything.  I'll try, but I make no promises. Stitches East at  the end of October was amazing again. I took The Sweater Map and Aspiring Designer Bootcamp  with Shannon Okey and Stashology 201 with Christine Bylsma.  I took the Aspiring Designer Bootcamp class to see if I wanted to make independent knitting pattern designing and possibly submitting to knitting magazines a priority in 2012.  I found the class really interesting and I learned a lot about resources and services available for independents, but I'm not ready to put that level of dedication into my designing yet.  But it was fascinating and it was worth every penny.  I also found the Sweater Map class really interesting.

 The Stashology Class was fairly simple, but I liked the idea of it. You took 10-12 different stash yarns, and used them to make about 14 inch strips which you selected at random to knit a swatch. It was interesting as to what you got. She also showed us a method to make your own fun fur. I might not use it for an actual project, because I'm not a big fun fur person. But it might make a nice algae or sea anemone for the knitted aquarium diorama I'm planning.

I'm not sure I'd make a sweater out of it, but I think it'd make some fabulous throw pillows out of my odds and ends.  It was fun class after all the hard thinking classes I took.

Yarn I won, Malabrigo, woo hoo!
 This year we also went to the student fashion show.  There were some really fabulous things, and some that were not so fabulous.  The dinner was not great allergy wise, I could only eat the appetizer, prosciutto wrapped melon and the piece of prime rib.  But it was fascinating and I won a prize, and it was yarn.
Socks that Rock

Steampunkery Sock kit
Bashful Sparkle Lace
Madeline Tosh
It seemed like there were less vendors at the market this year, but given my stash reduction plan, that was probably better.  I bought little yarn, which was good, but the stuff I got was good yarn, and I got a sock kit for the Steampunkery Socks in pale purple instead of white. I got some Madeline Tosh in a single ply which is luscious in person.  The Socks that Rock I got to make another scarf.  The colors are muted for me, but I can get away with them at work.  The Bashful Sparkle Lace has a bit of bling in it that you can't really see, but I like it.
I also got a beaded purse kit with a really cool hardware for the handle.

At Webs I also purchased some of their new interchangeables.  I got a set of their Cubix tips and the new nickle plated starter kit.  I know they are produced by the same people as Knitpicks, but I just like the cables better for some reason.  I think I'm going to get the tips to make 16" cables when I'm not broke. I didn't like knitting with the square Cubix tips, which is just as well because I stepped on one during the Halloween power outage and snapped it in half. 

Since I was restrained in buying yarn, I picked up some books.  I stopped by to see Allison Sarnoff and pick up the next Knit Princess comic book.  She cracks me up.  I also got the Knitwear Design Workshop book.  Even just paging through it, it appears to be very complete and a great resource.  If you want to design, this is a very good book to have.

I also got the Custom Fit Knit Jackets by Jean Frost.  Heather took her lining class and I think I'll find it really useful.  There's a couple of jackets in the book that I could actually wear to work.

I also got a new little tool that's to help you fix dropped stitches in garter more easily.  It's cute.  Probably not necessary but certainly faster than flipping the fabric a million times.

We went to Feng's again this year for dinner and it was fabulous.  I had a really great time with Roberta and Heather, and I'm looking forward to next year too.

 After I got back from Stitches, it was a crazy race to get a group blanket project done, which is part of the reason why I didn't post in November. The Concord Knitting Group and the Manchvegas knitters decided that we needed to do a group project for our friend Mary T who is having a bit a health battle right now. I had ordered the yarn, but it didn't show up until the night before I left for Stitches, so I couldn't get it divided and out to people. Upon my return, I divided it and got it out to everyone who was participating. Here's my square. We managed to get it together in record time, and I finished it the Saturday before I left for the cruise.  You will note that I choose another overly complicated edging.  Mary really appreciated the blanket and I want to thank everyone again, even though I've emailed you all :)

 Thanks to the Halloween power outage (4 freaking days...lost 90% of my fridge and chest freezer again...why can't we trim the freaking trees around power lines??), and having to replace some of contents of my fridge and freezer, I wasn't able to spend the money to go to the Manchvegas Retreat, especially with the cruise in December.  I'm still ticked off about that, and it was almost two months ago. 

In mid November, a long awaited event occurred.  I got to go a book signing of my friend Sally Hirsh-Dickinson's book, Dirty Whites and Dark Secrets.  Sally has been working on this book in some capacity, either as part of her thesis or getting it ready in this form for as long as I've known her. Which is really a long time now that I think about it, that I've known her, I mean. :)  She gave a really fabulous talk, and the book is really interesting.

Mary Kate and I have been working on an allergy free cookbook.  One of the things we've been working on is a dairy free fried mozzarella replacement.  I still have dreams about fried mozzarella sticks almost two and half years after been dairy free.  They're pretty good.  And I learned to fry without a deep fryer, so that's cool.

For Thanksgiving in Maine this year, I had to bring my own food due to the whole allergy thing.  One thing I made was vegan whoopie pies from My Sweet Vegan.  They were much, much better than Cafe Indigo's but they still need work.  I'm going to experiment with them a bit to see if I can get them a little closer to the real deal.  My cousin Andrew and his wife Katie were in Maine this year, and I got to meet their son, Nolan.  Nolan is really interested in my sister Debra in this picture.

In December we went on a cruise with my mom, and one of my BFF's, Laura V.  We went to Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan and Grand Cayman.  We had a great time.  In Cozumel, we took a ferry to the mainland, I drove a jeep in a convoy of other jeeps to a cenote, and we went cave snorkeling and then to the beach.  In Belize we did a tour of the city, and then went to the Altun Ha Mayan ruins.  In Isla Roatan, we went to Gumbalimba Park, went clear kayaking, snorkeling, and got a tour of the park including holding a macaw and Shawn got to hold a monkey. In Grand Cayman, we did a Sea Trek walk/thing under the ocean.  There are just too many pictures.  I can't cope.  So here are some public links to my facebook albums.  The first is here and the second is here.

Christmas was at the LaRoches this year and they were very kind to us as always.  I got a purple personal blender from Corey and Cole and we got a electric wine opener.  I will be testing that later today.  We also got a Le Creuset dutch oven which was very appreciated and unexpected.  I just wanted a cheapo one from Walmart, but I love the Le Creuset. It'll last forever. I also got the neatest wine stopper. It has a rock on top of it, and it's just my kind of thing.  I brought a lot of my own food again because of the allergy thing, and I made vegan sticky buns, from the Lusty Vegan's blog,  which were awesome, and vegan pecan pralines from Sweet Utopia, which were also pretty good.

 In knitting news, I finished the cowl I was making for Mary T and she seems happy with it. It's Jade Sapphire cashmere and silk and it's very, very soft.

On the cruise, I brought some Berroco Mini Mochi and did a little shawlette with that.  If you see the green safety pin, it's a place where I dropped a stitch and didn't notice it until I was blocking it.  I'll have to go back and fasten it down and duplicate stitch over it to hide it.

I'm now working on a secret baby project for Kate S, using some coned cotton softball from Webs from a hundred years ago.  It's a little girl and she requested fuchsia so this should do it.

And I think that's it.  I'll try to be more regular in blog posting in 2012.  Stay tuned for further updates as they are broadcast.