Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fresh Food, Old Books.

I'm not (and never have been) the biggest fan of summer, as a season.  The heat is not my friend.  I do, however, heartily appreciate the fact that the heat makes things like this possible:

Green beans! Green beans so fresh that when you steam them, they squeak against your teeth!

Mint for my tea (or tabbouleh, or beet salad...), growing just steps outside the door!
Giant, amazing, some-of-them-are-almost-black cherries on sale at the supermarket!

And an unexpected squee for today:

Sometimes people just leave boxes or bags of books outside the door of my local library, and even though I have no time or space for the books I already have, I can never resist nabbing one or two.  Today someone had left several grocery bags of classic books there, and I sat down on the pavement to sift through them.  When I came upon this copy of A Tale of Two Cities, I decided to read its famous first line.  Imagine my surprise when, following best of times, worst of times, bla bla, there was more and it was droll and sharp and actually quite funny!

I should maybe explain that I have a stupid lingering suspicion about "classic" books.  I didn't grow up reading older literature, for the most part (except when they made me in school, which gave it a sour taste), so the more antiquated language of all the things you're Supposed to Read isn't something I was ever accustomed to or had the patience for.

I'm getting better in my ever-advancing age, though, and earlier this year I finished and loved my very first Jane Austen book (Sense and Sensibility), so I was thrilled to really like the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities and find that Dickens, too, might be readable and enjoyable to me now. 

And as an added bonus, the book's former owner, Mr. William Garrigan of Brooklyn, New York, circa 1927, was nice enough to sign and date it and give it some added awesomeness.  While I myself hate to write in books, I love books that other people have written in, so I was doubly happy to carry this home with me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Owl Formerly Known as "Rusty."

Who, thanks to a suggestion from Stephanni, is going to be called "Sunset" instead.  Which is especially fitting since I was rushing to finish him before sunset yesterday so he could get photographed, since I knew I wouldn't have time this morning.  And now it's raining, to boot, so for once my timing was actually good.

Stephanni also flattered me by asking if I had a pattern for these, so I may try to write one up, except I think it will be more of a...tutorial type thing, since these owls are made with the most basic-ever crocheted shapes and really come together through yarn choices and assembly.  So it's less about like...shaping and the number of stitches and stuff and more about the overall process.  Which is actually a good summation of how I look at making amigurumi overall, now that I'm typing that out.  I'm looking forward to trying to put this together, I've never done a how-to before.  

Anyway, here's Sunset's profile...

...and back view.  His wings were done in the also-discontinued Lion Fancy Fur yarn, which had alllll the annoyance-factor the Tiffany yarn lacked.  I actually trimmed the yarn on his wings a bit once he was all sewn together, the eyelashiness was sort of out of control!

And here he is hitching a ride in the pocket of my Laundry Dress, a dress I got in the little girls' clearance rack in Target almost solely because it had these great pockets, which are A+ for clothespin storage and thus higher efficiency while I'm hanging up or taking down wash.  Clearly, they can also store amigurumi, which is definitely going to come in handy.  I already have the next two owls planned, with names and colour schemes to give a nod to some of my TV-lovin' geekery.  And it's just occurred to me to maybe do a sort of gothy-vampirey owl in black and red...

Check out other people's Friday projects at FO Friday and Fibers on Friday!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Progress of Several Varieites.

So one of my WIPs this week is making a different kind of progress right now, as it's progressing through the mail to Sharon of witchyknits!  But here's a nebulous preview.

And here's the next owl-to-be, who will hopefully be finished (and not terribly different looking, I'm afraid, since these things are so simple) on Friday.  For now, he is dubbed "Rusty," which is really unoriginal and stupid and if any of you guys can think of a better name for him, I'd be thrilled to re-dub.  :D

It's interesting that while currently-Rusty and Tiffany are the same basic number of stitches and are both worked in Loops and Threads Impeccable ombres, the colour pooling is completely different.  Tiffany ended up with more blots and flecks of colour, where Rusty is coming out much more evenly striped.  ...It's a good thing I wasn't at all invested in these things being symmetrical, I guess!

I'm also pattern testing a slouchy hat pattern.  So far, so good, except for the part where the yarn I initially wanted to use was a nightmare to work with, so I just grabbed a random skein of Simply Soft (the yarn the pattern designer used for hers) in a colour that I'm not crazy about the idea of wearing, necessarily.

And a WIP (of sorts) which I'm anxious to get back to...Deborah Wiles' Each Little Bird That Sings.  I've been devouring Ms. Wiles' (wonderful, quirky, emotionally true) novels slowly since I read Countdown, which was a really innovative and sharp piece of historical fiction set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and features both amazing graphic-art interludes and a great POV character and tone that sometimes reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird or Mary Downing Hahn's Stepping on the Cracks, a book otherwise known as "the source of most of my knowledge re: life on the home front during World War II."

But enough book reviewing. Go see what everyone else is up to over at WIP Wednesday!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Finished Feathers, Etc,

Oh, the nudge-tastic powers of FO Friday, without which I would have left this little fluffball in pieces for weeks rather than dragging out my needle and thread.  Meet Tiffany the owl (and how excited was I that you guys knew she was an owl on Wednesday, when she was wingless and beakless? very!), so named because her feathery wings were done in Lion Brand Tiffany yarn, which sadly looks to be discontinued.  It was much easier to work with than other novelty yarns I've used (e.g. Fun Fur), it's really silky and just...slipped right along.  Of course, it helps when using any novelty yarn to do something really really small---these wings were about...sixteen stitches apiece, total.  So even if the yarn had been annoying, it wouldn't have been annoying for long.

Here are her side and back views.  When I sent stuff to craft fairs with my mom last fall/winter, both of us had made some amigurumi owls, and we couldn't keep them on the shelves table, so I'm hoping that will be true again this year.  And for once I'm thinking ahead and starting them now and not uh, the week and/or night before the craft fair(s).  So more owls of this type will be popping up.  I think the next one will be in more traditional owly browns.

I also made a couple random motifs from the ever-enticing Beyond the Square.

...I think there's something smudged on the upper left bit of the lens of the camera I used for these photos.  I should check on that.  I made these to hang around in some negative wallspace, but someday I'm going to do a project with actual joined motifs, I swear.

And here's the amigurumi puppy from last week, all nestled into the quilt (actually it's a "quillow"---a quilt that rolls/folds up into a pocket to become a pillow, one of my mom's go-to gift projects) he was made to match.  He has his own pocket on the front of the pillow-bit.  You can't see it very well in this shot, but he now also has a little fleece bone dangling from his mouth with some yarn.

Go check out out other projects on FO Friday and Fibers on Friday, which are awesome ways to enjoy pretty yarny projects without actually having to touch any yarn in the summer heat.  (Unless you're in the southern hemisphere where it's not summer, in which case I'd love to come visit you.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

(Works In) Progress, At the Speed of Summerwarm Sloths.

I'm a little short on time today (so I'll be catching up with everyone else's amazing WIP Wednesday posts tomorrow, I guess), so I'll mostly let the pictures do the talking. 

Things in the works this Wednesday include:

A small sewing project... (Have any of you guys heard of Dotee dolls?  I've been intrigued by them for ages, and this will be my first one.)

A small crochet project which, sadly, has reached the point where it's now a sewing project...

And the latest installment of Tiniest Dye Lots Ever!  This little hank of yarn (about 17 yards worth) is going to be a surprise for Sharon of witchyknits4ewe, and she likes pink and purple, so I broke out the rose, Christmas Red, and purple Wilton dyes and a helpful tutorial about microwave dyeing and got to work. 

I wanted to do this yarn in the microwave rather than the stovetop saucepan-baths I've used previously because I wanted little blotches of colour, and I was afraid to muddy it.  So into the teeny tiny dye pots and the microwave it went for its two "zaps"...  (I love that the tutorial used the verb "zap.")

The colour spread out rather more than I wanted, which I probably should have guessed would happen, especially once I added some water to the pan because I was afraid of it getting burnt in the microwave.  So where I wanted a mostly-natural  yarn with blots of colour, I now have a mostly-sherbet yarn with blots of natural.  All part of the learning process.  That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

And now it's hanging out to dry in the (too hot, gross, get it off me) summer sunshine.  It's going to be a little fussy to crochet with since the microwave fuzzed it up a bit, but I think it should be okay.  I'm so excited to see how it works up, I'm going to go and check and see if it's dry again even though it's only been like, ten minutes since the last time I checked and clearly, uh, a watched skein of yarn never dries. ;)

Next dyeing project: using Kool-Aid!  I bought some packets to try this months ago and haven't gotten around to it yet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Squeet Simplicity.

Because being squee-ful is awesome, and today is a beautiful Sunday, here are a few photos (and, fortunately for us all, very few words) of some things that are making me happy:

Ridiculous $1 perler bead kits, to be ironed momentarily.

Freshly-washed (and quickly-drying) hair and hydrangea bushes.

And the existence of hammocks, the best place on earth for reading.

Go share your own Sunday-squee over at Rip It Good. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sprouts and Friends, Take 2.

It's been one of those weeks (...or two) where I've been using most of my could-be-crafting time for other stuff like cooking and reading and walking around, so my sole FO to show today is this puppy, made from a pattern in the always-wonderful Amigurumi World.  This was a "commission" from my mom (quotation marks present because I obviously cannot charge my own mom real money for crafted items), who's making a puppy-patterned fleece blanket for a friend's son's second birthday and wanted a cuddly thing to go with.

He's got a contrasting eye patch, which I always think is a really adorable design feature.  This is one of those projects that I think is cuter in real life than in photographs.  It was a super-simple, came-together-nicely pattern, and I worked on it while watching a few episodes of The Walking Dead (which I'm lukewarm about.  I read the first volume of the graphic novel a couple months ago and I think I like it better than the show.  But zombies aren't really my Thing to begin with, so.) and Game of Thrones (way more riveting to me, and oh my gosh, marry me, Peter Dinklage) and Sleepless in Seattle (I hadn't seen that in yeeeears, and I'd forgotten that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks's characters don't ever speak or correspond before they meet, which seemed so odd! I think I wasc conflating the movie with You've Got Mail, in which they...have mail.). 

The traditional amigurumi big-head shape makes this guy tip forward hilariously if you don't pose him on an incline. 

I rarely manage to take pictures of the food I make, because I'm a novice cook and bad at time management and by the time something is finished I'm just so happy it's done and eager to eat it that I don't want to pause (and let it get cold!) to do photos, but I do have a couple.

These are my fourth of July seitan kabobs.  I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm trying to eat less meat, and I can't resist new and interesting food.  My forays into various non-meat proteins have been fun and tasty so far.  Seitan is a mock meat made from wheat gluten, and it chars or browns up gorgeously, and also really soaks up whatever you marinate it in.  (And the best part about marinating non-meat?  You can use the leftover marinade as sauce instead of throwing it out because it's full of raw meat germs!)

And my sprout-growing project continues on, here some of my FO sprouts from last week's batch are prettifying this salad.  My new, not-so-secret sprout-related dream is to buy one of these fancy-shmancy sprouters.  Or figure out a way to make one so that I don't have a jar dripping water onto a pile of newspapers on my floor, which is an unfortunate side product of the sprouting process.  This salad featured some carrot-ginger dressing from this recipe, which I definitely recommend.  I made it without the sesame oil because I didn't have any sesame oil, and it was delicious on everything---salads, crackers, frozen green beans... (I have a thing for frozen green beans in the summer.  I eat them out of the bag still frozen.  Yum.)

And just because I want to share his cuteness, a turtle who visited my yard on Tuesday evening.

He was considerate enough to pose in so statuesque a fashion that he almost looks fake!

Also, because I promised a bitty giveaway!  The random number generator has selected witchyknits4ewe as the winner, so an email is headed her way as I cackle over some Ideas about what to send her... :D

I like that wants me to subscribe to their newsletter.  I can only imagine what kind of news it contains.  GUESS WHAT? NOW THE NUMBERS ARE EVEN MORE RANDOM!!

Anyway, other people have probably finished much more interesting things this week, go see them at FO Friday!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bothersome and the Dumplings not the name of my new ska band (although it probably should be, and I wish I could actually have a ska band).   Instead, it describes two thirds of this week's FOs.

First, here is Bothersome the Slumberless, so named because I made him beginning at like...five in the morning on Saturday, a truly stupid time to be awake, but if you have to be awake, why not make a monster, right?  He just hibernated for most of the week in pieces, but I pulled him together for today!.  I'm not a good sleeper to begin with, and for some reason on Saturday morning I woke up around 4 AM (to super-loud birds outside) and my brain just clicked on, I couldn't stop thinking about stuff I wanted to make.  The project that was really keeping me up was a pirate-themed stuffed bear---which I of course haven't actually started---but that wasn't plausible at the time, so I grabbed my hooks and yarn and began making Bothersome here.

He has googly hypno-bead eyes (the white bits are Model Magic that I molded directly into his eye sockets, and the yellow and black bits are plastic faceted and glass seed beads, respectively)...

And his maw is a teeny-tiny, inexpertly made pocket in which he'd be happy to hold a button or something for you.  Fond as I am of Bothersome, I'm a little wary of keeping him in my house, because I'm afraid he'll keep waking me up at odd hours on weekends (or any other time) and want me to make him friends or something.  More on that later.

First, on to the dumplings, another impossible-to-resist pattern by Trish of genuine mudpie, who is like, a veritable guru of tiny-cute crochet patterns.  I had to make a couple of these---they're so fast and the method for making them, which calls for just increasing every x stitches until the piece is a certain width, was novel to me, and it was fun and easy to not be counting rounds, too.  This is one of those dangerous patterns where you finish one and just want to keep making more...

Much like these trilobites.   This latest one is Chiffon (like lemon chiffon pie), and she's already in the mail!

I had the opportunity to visit the Lion Brand Store in Manhattan yesterday, and it is tiny and awesome and full of so much colour and tasty, tasty yarn.  They were having a knit-and-movie-watching night, and it made me so happy just to be observing it for a minute, seeing all these people with their laps full of printed-out patterns and yarns and circular needles, and listening to the lovely clicking-needles sound...I was wishing there wasn't a movie-night going on so that I could have told people I liked their colours and asked them questions! 

So in the spirit of sharing and how amazing fiber-crafting and all of you guys are, I am having a bitty giveaway---your choice of Bothersome the Slumberless (if you're feeling brave enough to chance his waking you up with craft ideas!), a dumpling (or possibly more than one dumpling...) or a trilobite!  Just leave a comment letting me know which you'd like if you win, and at uh, some point (my internet access is going to be spotty next week) a random number generator and I will pick a winner.

In non-fiber FO's, I took part in this June Photo-a-Day Challenge, and actually stuck to it!  So here's my June in pictures:

1. day one - hello, june. [self-portrait.], 2. day two - favourite shoes., 3. day three - hands., 4. day four - clouds., 5. day five - breakfast today., 6. day six - summer reading. [books], 7. day seven - high angle., 8. day eight - sunset., 9. 06.09.11 - day nine - fresh fruit., 10. day ten - animal., 11. day eleven - silhouette., 12. day twelve - sun flare., 13. day thirteen - something that reminds you of childhood., 14. day fourteen - someone you love., 15. day fifteen - action., 16. day sixteen - jar., 17. day seventeen - bokeh., 18. day eighteen - eyes., 19. day nineteen - summertime., 20. day twenty - water., 21. day twenty-one - macro., 22. day twenty-two - landscape., 23. day twenty-three - black and white., 24. day twenty-four - love., 25. day twenty-five - citrus., 26. day twenty-six - your favourite colour., 27. day twenty-seven: your weakness., 28. day twenty-eight - transportation., 29. day twenty-nine - trees., 30. day thirty - family.

For FOs with a less insane number of photos attached, head over to FO Friday!