Thursday, December 21, 2006

Two Memes

Why? Because I am endlessly fascinating.
Alternate answer: My ego demands it.
Real answer: I'm bored (because I'm boring--yes, yes, I know.)

One-Word Answer Meme

I found this meme on Lilith Parker's blog. The rules are one-word answers and no explanations.

1. Yourself: off-beat
2. Your significant other: husband
3. Your hair: long
4. Your mother: unbalanced
5. Your father: uninvolved
6. Your favorite item: paper
7. Your dream last night: bizarre
8. Your favorite drink: tea
9. Your dream car: dependable
10. The room you are in: computer
11. Your ex: forgettable
12. Your fear: litigiousness
13. What you want to be in 10 years? healthy
14. Who you hung out with last night? husband
15. What you're not? extroverted
16. Muffins: homemade
17. One of your wish list items: audiobook
18. Time: nighttime
19. The last thing you did: breathed
20. What you are wearing: clothes
21. Your favorite weather: cool
22. Your favorite book: un-determinable
23. The last thing you ate: soup
24. Your life: wasted
25. Your mood: glum
26. Your best friend: husband
27. What are you thinking about right now? waste
28. Your car: reliable
29. What are you doing at the moment? shirking
30. Your summer: humid
31. Your relationship status: contented
32. What is on your TV? nothing
33. What is the weather like? rainy
34. When is the last time you laughed? today

Forty-two Questions Meme

1. FIRST NAME? Suzanne.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? Don't remember, but tears came into my eyes during last Sunday's mass; they often do during mass.
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? If I could get to know me, yeah...probably.
7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? [looking around furtively] Who wants to know?
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes and no; I have part of one.
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No. Well, maybe if my or my husband's life depended on it.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Old-fashioned oatmeal for hot cereal, raisin bran for cold.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Not always. I'm not proud of it.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, I'm a pack mule.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Chocolate. Haagen-Daz for a preference, but I don't say no to store brands.
14. SHOE SIZE? US women's 10.
15. RED OR PINK? Red!
16. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? I am not as icy cold as I'm told I sometimes appear to others.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? I don't miss anyone; it would be nice to see my sister more often.
18. WHAT COLOR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? I refuse to answer this question on grounds it would make me sound like a slob.
20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? I was listening to EWTN audio, but I turned it off, so now nothing except ambient noises.
21. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Dark purple; what do they call that crayon--Royal Purple or Deep Violet?
22. FAVORITE SMELL? My husband. But coffee is a pretty good smell too.
24. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? Hmm, people generally? Something about their manner, I guess; I think I'm quicker to notice things that repulse me. But if it is men particularly and it's attracted, instead of attracted, then it is whether they are tall and have a big build or not.
26. FAVORITE SPORT? I don't care for team sports, either as a viewer or a participant. I don't watch sports, period.
27. EYE COLOR? Green.
28. HAT SIZE? I don't know, but I have a big ol' head.
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Not now, but I have done.
30. FAVORITE FOOD? Depends on my mood. I love lots of different foods. I feel best--i.e. most energy, fewest mood swings--when I eat meat or eggs with non-starchy vegetables.
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings, but they don't have to be syrupy and bittersweet is fine. I don't watch slasher movies at all, but I am not averse to "psychological" scary.
32. SUMMER OR WINTER? I live in a *!%&#!% swamp, what do you think?
34. FAVORITE DESSERT? Whatever it is, it involves chocolate--possibly more than one form of chocolate and one of those forms preferably dark. It's hard to beat a warm walnut brownie with a scoop of ice cream, and hot chocolate sauce. I love cheesecake, even when it doesn't have chocolate and I must note it is the only dessert that remains delicious even when it is sugarless.
35. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? P. D. James' Original Sin and Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King.
36. WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I use a trackball.
38. FAVORITE SOUNDS? It's hard to beat my husband's heart.
39. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES? Who cares? Really, I don't have a preference.
40. THE FURTHEST YOU’VE BEEN FROM HOME? A town just across the Mexican border.
41. WHAT’S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? I am very good at biting back words, although I'm not so sure that is a natural talent so much as decades of practice. And some people might justifiably point out I'm not so good at it as would benefit me.
42. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Mississippi.

My Simple Knitted Cotton Kerchief

I've crocheted kerchiefs in the past, but I've not been entirely happy with them. I think a filet crochet (which I've never yet tried) kerchief has potential, but in the meantime I prefer the knitted one that I finished a few days ago to the crocheted ones.

Although when you get right down to it, I should probably just have fabric ones; I don't because I have trouble finding scarves I love that are the right size, because I haven't actually undertaken to sew any yet for no reason I can fathom, and because making something relatively practical out of all that yarn keeps seeming like a good idea.

Anyhoo, this knitted one is nice enough. It is easy to make, drapy, lightweight, and doesn't look too hokey (a highly subjective judgement, obviously).

Aunt Lydia's Fashion Crochet Thread (a size 3 cotton thread);
size 6 knitting needles (personally, I'd go a size bigger before I'd go a size smaller);
crochet hook or hooks (I used an E and an F, I think)

Cast on two (2) stitches.

Rows 1-2: Knit across.

Row 3-4: Knit across, increasing one stitch on each row by knitting into front and back.

Row 5: Knit one, yarn over, knit across.

Repeat Row 5 until kerchief is the size you want. Bind off, but do not cut yarn at the end.

Take crochet hook and chain about 50--more or less depending on size needed. Turn and in second ch from hook, slip stitch across chain. When you get to the body of the scarf, single crochet across the top of the kerchief. When you get to the other end, ch 50. Turn and begin slip stitching in second chain from hook. When you get back to the scarf, slip stitch and bind off. (Where the two crochet hooks come into it, is that you, like I, may prefer to use a smaller size hook on the ties and switch to one a size larger hook for the finishing on the body of the kerchief; this makes the ties a bit tighter-looking.)

OR, if you'd like a more finished edge, you could at that point single crochet down the side of the kerchief, do an extra couple of single crochets at the point, sc up the other side, and ss shut when you get back to the first tie.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Mini-Update

I mentioned not quite two months ago that I'd just learned to knit. Well, after doing a number of practice swatches that I immediately frogstitched, I now have completed three dishcloths (with increasing and decreasing--yay!), a pair of Mary Jane slippers from directions on Craftster, and a "non-rolling boyfriend scarf" that is about as long as I am. Okay, so the first dishcloth was really lopsided--I was trying to loosen my tension as Elizabeth Zimmerman recommends in the Knitting Without Tears I'd skimmed and I guess I started to have success with that on the decrease side--and the next two aren't perfect. And I still haven't sewn the buttons on the Mary Janes, so it's not really honest to say they're completed, and I can point to several imperfections in my scarf.

But so what about those imperfections? For me it's not about the finished objects, it's about the pleasure. Knitting is pleasurable. Much more so than crochet. For some reason I can't explain, I find the motion of knitting--and even purling--to be more pleasurable than the motion made in crocheting; now when I crochet I like it far less because I'm comparing it to knitting. I also like that I can really watch TV when knitting; there's much less looking down than there is with crocheting. The main thing I want from either of these handicrafts is something to occupy my hands with while I watch TV (actually DVDs, as I almost never watch TV anymore), and knitting does the job better than crocheting--or for that matter, better than handsewing, which was the previous thing I'd tried.

I'll never be a really accomplished knitter--or crocheter--because, well, my main goal is just to have something to do while I watch TV, nothing more. But I am going to keep up the knitting at some level because I like it. And because I don't plan to stop watching DVDs anytime soon.

Speaking of DVDs, I recently got around to watching Firefly and Serenity. Finally. I'd sort of intended to try it when it aired--UP actually caught an episode or two--and since then I've seen a number of eye-catching references to it or crafts made from it, John Derbyshire commented favorably on it, and there was this:

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would
you best fit in?

You scored as Serenity (Firefly).You like to live
your own way and don’t enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should
do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you. [from]

I liked Firefly a lot and am sorry it didn't last longer; I would have liked to see how the characters' stories developed. The ship's crew were likeable and interesting and the interactions were fun to watch, but I think the world itself was what I liked best. The Asian-Western fusion felt right for the future, I liked a future of multiple frontier worlds rather than a lot of highly polished ones, and it was all refreshingly different from other science fiction shows that have been on TV.

The movie, Serenity, wasn't as good as the TV show, but I'm glad they got to do it.

For both the TV show and the movie, I'm glad Ron Glass was getting work; I liked him on Barney Miller. (Here's how warped I was as a little girl: he was a close second to the character I liked best, the over-educated, intellectual guy.) As for younger men, Jayne was attractive in a purely physical way and a fun character. The captain was attractive; I think that's not just the character as written, but the actor, because he had a certain masculine charisma even when he was playing a thoroughly disgusting villain on the final season of Buffy. And, although I shouldn't admit it, I liked the one-shot character Jubal Early. He was clearly warped in the kind of way that leads to very bad things, but, God help me, I liked him. Jubal Early is the kind of man that some writer once said you can use to gauge the level of the society by--primitive societies kill men like that, societies in the second stage make use of men like that as torturers and executioners, third stage or advanced societies try to rehabilitate them, and really advanced fourth stage societies kill them.

Anyway, although there are some problems with the show--most notably the Alliance not being depicted realistically enough--it was highly enjoyable and I am giving it the official Auntie Suzanne Seal of Approval. Okay, I'm actually just recommending it, but that sounded more impressive, didn't it?

As long as I'm at it, I'll recommend a movie I meant to recommend when I watched it a two or three months ago: Tristan and Isolde (or is that Tristan + Isolde, like Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet?) I have never particularly cared for the Tristan and Isolde story, and I dislike movies and books about adulterers as a rule. But I saw Card's review when this was in the theaters in--what?--January, and was interested enough to get the DVD from Netflix. I still don't approve of adultery, but this movie shows their adulterous relationship causing problems and it does what it can to make the temptation understandable. What I most liked was that they made Isolde's husband likeable. How easy it would have been for the moviemakers to make him a brute who deserved to be cheated on, all to make some point about how adultery is okay, because "the heart wants what it wants" or some such nonsense. Instead we get a more complicated and better story. Good for them. We are also given some really good acting and some great costumes and scenery. This movie deserves to have more of an audience than it had in its theater run. Rent it.

Oh, and we--it's probably congenital stupidity or something--acquired a new cat a while back. Maybe I'll do a "Meet Mr. Foofy, the Cat Who Lives With Us" post later.

We lead decidedly uneventful lives--a blessing really, when you consider that most events worth relating are disasters of one kind or another and adventure is just another name for trouble--so that's really about it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Reduced Sugar Gingerbread Muffins

If you've ever had gingerbread and wondered what the attraction is, you need to find a copy of Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking (which I've recommended before on this blog) and check out the chapter called "How to Make Gingerbread". The Gingerbread Cake in there is delicious. It tastes great plain, dusted with powdered sugar, served with a little applesauce or whipped cream, or--believe it or not--iced with the chocolate icing recipe the author includes. It tastes great warm or cold. It is also easy to make and fills the house with a smell that is better than any commercial air freshener or, for that matter, any other baking cake I know.

This recipe is adapted from that and I freely admit it is not as good as the original. But it cuts the sugar some, it makes a smaller amount--always good for one or two person households--and muffins are a bit easier to carry along for breakfast on the go than cake. (Yeah, I'm re-e-a-ally health conscious.) And it smells just as good baking.

Reduced Sugar Gingerbread Muffins

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/4 Cup Splenda in the bag
1/4 Cup Steen's Cane Syrup
1 egg
3/4 Cup plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/8 Cup dry milk
1 scant Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 slightly rounded tsp ground cinnamon
dash ground cloves
dash ground allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 Cup water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 6-muffin muffin tin or spray with non-stick spray. Cream butter and Splenda together. Beat in cane syrup and egg. Add dry ingredients and mix. Stir in vanilla and water. Pour batter into muffin tin and bake until a knife or toothpick comes out clean--about 20 minutes.

Notes: I think Steen's Cane Syrup is a regional brand, so substitute some other cane syrup or molasses if it's not available to you. You can regard the vanilla as optional; I've accidentally left it out and it was fine, due no doubt to my using so much ginger.

Also, if you like try this and like it--or even if you don't--buy a copy of Home Cooking. It's available on Amazon and its writing has given me much pleasure.

Making a Snood, a Lackadaisical Quest

(What is a snood, you ask?)

I posted previously about sewing a snood from mesh fabric and doublefold bias tape: One Way to Make a Snood

As I haven't found additional mesh fabric since then, I figured I was going to have to crochet my own. (Well, either that or order from the no doubt excellent Lady MacSnood whose definition is linked above.) Online searches this summer revealed a scarcity of snood patterns. Of those, half were ballet-type bun covers, a couple made weird little purses that sat at the nape of the neck and strapped over the top of the head, and the few that were left either weren't appealing or didn't have photos. One or two patterns were for knitting, which I hadn't learned to do. I also found some directions for solid fabric snoods, which, while they might have history and might serve a purpose for some women, weren't what I was looking for or even what I think of when I think snood. But despite this lack of suitable patterns, I was not energetic enough to make my own pattern.

Then in The Golden Hands Complete Book of Knitting and Crochet (ISBN 0394485696), I found a pattern for a simple crocheted snood. I made it and, as I suspected, it was only a bun-cover, but I jotted down adaptations to make the pattern a full-size snood. By the time I'd bought new size 3 cotton thread and dyed it to the colors I wanted, I was out of the mood for snood-making, but recently in a spirit of winding things up for the year--and maybe getting a purple snood for Advent--I got out my yarn and pattern and went for it. Or at least I went for it after I spent ten to fifteen minutes deciphering my jottings; apparently I am past the age when a couple of cryptic notes are all I need to recall something entirely to my mind. A couple of versions later, I can provide a basic pattern to anyone who's interested and is willing to read poorly written instructions.

I am including it here, although it is an adaptation, because 1.) the book it is adapted from is out of print; 2.) my understanding is that stitch patterns, nearly all of them being traditional, can't be copyrighted; 3.) my adaptation is a different size from the original, is arguably a different item (full-size snood v bun cover), uses different yarn, uses a different size hook, and is rewritten in my own words, although admittedly there's not a lot of ways to reword a stitch pattern. If you want to see the original bun-cover directions, find a secondhand copy of the book.

Honeycomb Mesh Stitch Pattern

Make a chain divisible by 4, plus 11. (Or so the original stitch pattern says and I've done, but you might want to try plus ten instead.)

First row: Work 1 dc into tenth ch from hook, *ch 4, skip 3 ch, 1 dc into next ch, rep from * until end. Ch 8 and turn.

Second row: Work 1 dc into first ch 4 space in the previous row, * ch 4, 1 dc into next ch 4 sp, rep from * until end of row. Ch 8 and turn.

Honeycomb Mesh Snood

Supplies for the basic snood: about 1/2 to 2/3 ball of Aunt Lydia's Fashion Crochet Thread (a size 3 thread); E hook; a length of either round elastic cord or narrow ribbon long enough to tie around your head (nape to top, not crown)

Ch 47.

Work the honeycomb mesh stitch pattern (there will be ten spaces in the first row), but increase one space at beginning of each row by working one extra dc and ch 4 into the first sp. Do this until you have a row with 18 sp, then work 4 rows without shaping; this will give you a total of five rows that have 18 sp. Then begin decreasing one space each row, by simply skipping over the first space in each row. Keep dec until you have a row with only 10 sp in it. Do not turn. Take your hand and smooth it out--it makes a shape like a Chinese lantern while flat--before proceeding.

Finishing: You will begin working your edging down the side right by where you made your last dc. * 2 sc into next sp, 1 sc into next sp, rep from *all down that side and around to wheere you started. (If when you get down to where you left a tail of yarn from the foundation ch, you pick it up and work it together with the working yarn, you won't have to weave it in later.) Join with ss to first sc. (At this point, you may want to try it on to make sure it will fit before proceeding.) Work two rounds of sc, one sc per st. Fasten off. Weave in tail.

At this point, you can thread elastic cord through the edging, or you can thread a ribbon through and tie your snood on; either works, although the round elastic cord is a bit more difficult to thread through, due to its shape and not wanting it to show. Alternatively, you could tuck the edging inside some doublefold bias tape or folded over velvet or ribbon and sew it down, leaving a small opening, then run some 1/4 or 1/8 inch elastic through the tube, and secure the ends; I haven't actually tried this yet, but there's no reason why it wouldn't work. You may want a few bobby pins to secure the snood while wearing, even if you use elastic.

Ideas for Embellishments. I like simple styles, but some possibilities for fancifying the basic mesh snood might include: adding some beads to your crochet; working with two differently colored threads held together (two strands of size 10 thread held together can substitute for size 3 thread, although it's actually a bit smaller); possibly holding a metallic sewing thread with the regular crochet thread; or stitching a crochet motif, felt shapes, or tiny artificial rosebuds to the mesh. If you'd like to use a wider, more decorative ribbon in the edge of your snood, you could try substituting a row of double crochet for one row of the sc to give you more space.

Notes on size: I have a big head and waist-length hair and this size snood just fits me; adding one or two rows at the maximum space-count in the middle wouldn't hurt me, but might be a little loose for people with average-size heads. My first version--foundation ch of 55, with 12 sp on the first row, and 27 total rows with 11 of them at the maximum space-count of 20 sp--was too big when I simply slipped it on, but when I added a ribbon, it gathered the excess to my head and fits nicely. The smaller size snood doesn't drape as I would like, but the larger one does; however, the smaller size might well drape properly on someone with a smaller head and less hair. The larger version took me about 3/4 of a ball of thread.

The "quest", lackadaisical though it is, goes on.

Although this snood pattern works and I like the simple look of the honeycomb mesh, I'm not 100 percent satisfied with it. I have about four ideas about different ways to get what I want, but I'm not keen to work on any of them. What I'll probably end up doing is just crocheting a flat, openwork fabric that is roundish and gathering it into a fabric band, as I did with the snood I made from purchased mesh fabric.