Friday, March 05, 2010

The Great Toy Purge of 2010

The children's consignment sale at my church is next weekend.  I, however, being on the committee, must have everything labeled, tagged and delivered by Monday.  I'll be working all weekend towards that goal.  Here's just a sampling of what I'm getting rid of:

I could start a toy store all by my lonesome.  You should see what is left up in the playroom!  I'm trying to get rid of the Youngest for a few hours tomorrow so that I do more purging.  The problem with having the kids here while I'm doing it is that I hear "But Mom, I love that toy!" even when they haven't played with it in over a year.  It kinda makes it hard to get rid of the overwhelming amount of toys that have come into our house over the years.  Stuff comes in and never goes out.  It must go!

Here's something rare that never happens around here.  I almost had a heart attack when I saw it because they really don't get along nine tenths of the time:

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My First Foray into Cheese Making

I attempted my first try with making cheese.  I won't say it was a total failure, but I only got about a half cup of cheese (maybe, that might be pushing it) out of the whole recipe.

Of course, it wasn't all my fault that things didn't go well, just partially my fault.

I used this recipe to make Fromage Blanc and that's where things went downhill.  The printed recipe is not correct, but the one on the video is.   So, guess what I didn't do?  Yep, skipped the video, printed out the directions (or destructions as we call them around here) and proceeded to the actual making of the cheese.  I could have saved myself a lot of grief by just watching the darn thing.

I used a half gallon of whole milk - the two quarts that the written directions called for, and only got a half cup of cheese.  Methinks that's very little return for the investment folks.

This photo is what I got when I didn't add enough buttermilk and lemon juice.  Do you see lots of curds forming?  Me neither.  I reheated it to the proper temp three times and ended up adding more of the buttermilk and lemon juice.  It helped some, but not lots. 

But.  I kept what whey that I had and used it to make pancakes and I'm going to use the rest to make some muffins. So, it's not a total loss I suppose.  Made the pancakes healthier too and the kids never noticed what went into them.

The little bit of cheese that I did make successfully, I used in a nice little lasagna.  I layered red sauce ( made from diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and some tvp (textured vegetable protein), lasagna sheets, spinach and cheese and baked it all for about 30 minutes.  It made for a great meal.

   The Hillbilly Housewife has a frugal version of a recipe that makes this kind of cheese as well.  I might give that recipe a shot instead.  Her recipes are pretty darn good.  I ran out of chocolate syrup and made hers and it was better than what I had been buying!

I'm going to try to make cheese again and this time I swear it's going to work.  Well, I hope it's going to work anyway.  :)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

SideWinders Discussion

Today I want to talk about the SideWinders Sock Pattern by Nona of nonaKnits

A while back I got turned off of the whole making socks thing.  Tiny needles, tiny yarn, same 'ol construction and it took forever to make a sock.  Meh.  For me, worsted weight yarn + bigger needles = quicker project, mainly with sweaters, which I needed, so that was a total win.

This pattern does have some of the things I don't like: tiny needles and tiny yarn.  But the cool thing about it is the construction.  This pattern is done flat, not in the round.  There are no dpns or two circs to deal with.  It very much reminds me of the Baby Surprise Jacket that EZ created.  It looks very weird as you are knitting it, but when it comes together,  you just have to say, Wow!

To be upfront, let me state that I have not finished the pair socks.  One sock is complete and the other is on the needles.  This post is both my notes to myself and to get your input on the changes that I want to make on these socks.

The completed sock above is done on US Size 1 needles in Malabrigo Sock Yarn in the Stonechat colorway.
When reading about how other people did this, I found that most were talking about how fast the pattern was to complete.  I was shaking my head in confusion because mine were not moving quickly off the needles.  Then I went back and checked.  Most people are using thicker fingering yarn and US Size 2 needles.  So, I've totally been doing this to myself by picking smaller yarn and needles.   That's okay, I'm still getting gauge. 

The pattern is well done.  When it was published, it was done serially with one section of the pattern being shown a day.  During the Olympics I tried to challenge myself to getting one section done a night and it was great fun doing it that way.  It didn't work, thanks to life and children interruptions, but I did try.

Each line of the pattern is broken down thusly:  Cuff, Leg, Heel, Foot, Toe.  I used a different color stitch marker for each section so that I could better remember the stitch patterns in that section.

Cuff:  Done in a Garter Rib
The cuff is probably the most difficult for me out of the whole pattern.  Evidently, remembering which row comes next, even though it written down in front of me, is too much of a mental challenge.  It looks fine from this view, but trust me, it's not.  It doesn't bother me enough to go fix it though.

Leg:  Has calf shaping:

There are three times that you must stop and put in some short rows to shape the calves.  You can see the shaping up above pretty well.  Probably the simplest short row technique that I've done in any pattern.

One odd thing about the leg section though, is that the back of the leg is done in garter stitch while the rest is in stockinette.  I would like to know why the author did it that way.  I'm curious.  The garter did an excellent job hiding all the grafting.  Ewww!  there's that word, "grafting".  More about that bad word in a minute.  On my next set of socks, not this pair, I would like to do the whole thing in garter stitch, just for fun.  But would the bottom of the foot catch on too much stuff? 

Heels:  Done only with increase and decrease stitches:

Notice anything different about the two sides of the same heel?  One is done with increases and the other with decreases.  This is my first issue with this sock pattern.  They look completely different.  Also, one side has major holes, especially when the fabric is stretched to accommodate a foot.  I am not a fan of the M1 increase.  I don't like the look of holes in my fabric.  I am considering using a kfb or pfb increase in the second sock.  I might even use Techknitter's invisible increase.  I haven't decided.  What do you think?  The two sides would still be different, but at least one side wouldn't have large holes in it.

Toe:  Look how pretty the top looks:

I love the look of the toe section in the top of the foot.  Look how clean and pretty that is!

But the bottom? 
Not so much.

In the toe part, the author has you use a slip stitch edge.  In a perfect world, each of those edge stitches would be exactly the same size and quality.  Not in my world.  Just look how awful that turned out.  On the second sock, I am omitting the slip stitch edge altogether.  When it comes time to graft the two sides together, I plan on using the Bickford Seaming Method.  I love it for making almost invisible seams.

Grafting:  Now comes the dirty word.  By the end of this pattern, if you haven't conquered grafting, you never will.  There is a section of seemingly never ending grafting.  You will learn it, learn it well, and never be fearful of grafting again.  There's nothing like repetition as a teaching tool.  I got to where I was saying "In down, Off needle, Out up, Now the other side!"  Tedious, but if you embrace the whole thing in a zen kind of moment, it's not too bad.

In summation:

I'm loving the pattern.  I love weird construction.  These are also, by far, the best fitting sock (soon I can say socks here in this sentence) that I own.  I have a very, very narrow foot. Most socks slide all around on my foot and slip at the heel.  Not these babies.  Nona breaks down the pattern into narrow, normal and wide and I absolutely love that.  I just paid attention to gauge and shoe size and now I'm a happy camper knitter.

One complaint that I have seen from most people is that it's too tight at the top of the foot while putting it on.  I found that if you point your toe the entire time you are putting the sock on, it's not bad at all.  If I put it on without that toe pointed though, yeah, there's no give at all.  Some people are adding a few stitches in that section to combat that.  I'm leaving it alone, I'm not messing with the perfect fit that I've gotten. 

What changes would I make?  I'm still going to change the increase section and I really want to do leg in garter stitch.  My Dad requested some socks and he may get the next pair like that.  I am also going to do the different toe graft on the second sock and I'll let you know how it goes. Other than that?  I wouldn't change a thing. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

We interrupt the regularly scheduled post...

We interrupt the regularly scheduled post to bring you SNOW!

Everyone down here in GA is shaking their heads this year.  We never get as many days of snow as we've had this year.  I don't remember a year like this one.  It's really freaky.  Whatever happened to the "Global Warming" that Mr. Gore had been telling the entire freakin' planet about? 

So much for that.  We got three inches (you northerners are laughing at that tiny number I know) of snow today.  The kids got sent home early from school.  Which was great for them.  The boys headed outside and started a snowfight that went from our porch and continued over the entire rest of the back yard.  Even the dog got in on it.   That would be the stupid dog.  The smart one stayed inside where it was cozy and warm.

Note the cute pirate sweater on the dog:

The Youngest even decided to eat a few snowflakes. 

Those were the voluntary snowflakes that he ate.  The rest that he ate were courtesy of his older brother throwing snowballs into his face.

Me?  I'm still working on socks.  The first SideWinder is finished and the second on the needles.  Changes are being made to the second one.  Update to resume at it's regularly scheduled time tomorrow!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Costumes for Less

It always amazes me when I see people paying outrageous prices to rent or buy a costume.   I can understand it if you are doing theater work and need a period piece for a renaissance play.  How else would you come up with something that looks like Marie Antoinette?

But it you're really going to do it right, do like the people in theater do and hit the thrift shops!  Most theater productions don't have two nickels to rub together.  Budgets are ridiculously tight.  In one production we needed costumes for the 1930's and where did we get them?  We combed the town and hit every thrift shop within  (and I'm not kidding here) a 50 mile radius.  It was a large production and we had about 40 people to costume. 

I took my own advice this weekend and hit the thrift shops to pull together a Paul Revere costume.  I started with this picture that I found on the web at the Paul Revere House Site:

What I wanted to portray was Paul as a working man, which he was, a Silversmith.  So, he had a blouse-y poets style shirt and a brown leather vest.  That's what I would shoot for.

I could have gotten a 1776 Revolutionary Patriot Kids Costume , but do you really think Revere was wearing a "please shoot me now" military costume when he went wildly riding around the countryside warning about the British coming?  Um, no.  It would have been an everyday outfit where he could blend into a crowd if necessary.  He wasn't a stupid man by any means.

So, off we (The Eldest and I) went on Saturday to canvas the thrift stores.  Can you believe it?  We got everything we needed in one store!

White blouse-y Shirt from the women's section?  Check.   Brown leather (suede) vest?  Check.  Tan pants?  Check.

Candlestick to use as a prop with the antiqued paper we made?  Check.

 I'm going to spray paint these candlesticks (I got the pair), but that will be for a later post and after the Eldest's project is over.

Total price for all this costume awesomeness?  $12.32

Think you could buy a costume for that price?  I think not.

The hat is actually a Captain Jack Sparrow Hat from Pirates of the Caribbean that we already had.  We pinned up the dreadlocks and tucked them in.  The boots are mine.  Can you believe a 9 year old boy has the same size shoe as me?  It's scary.

The really cool thing about this costume, is that it could easily double as a pirate one.  Same time period after all. Just add sword, hook, eye patch and beard and it's yours for the taking!  Aye, me hearties.

So next time you need a costume, rethink the whole "I'm going to go out and just rent or buy" thing.  Hit up a thrift store instead!  You'll be amazed at what you can pull together for a tiny amount of money.