Thursday, January 31, 2008

Uh, you can have that raise back, thanks.

I just did my taxes. Yes, I am totally on the ball. Last year I owed. Year before that, I owed. This year I was determined to get money back, so I lowered my exemptions to 1 and crossed my fingers. I'm getting a whopping $230-something back from the feds, and I get to send the state a check for an additional $15 that they can't live without.

I think I'd rather go back to two raises ago before I owed so much, when I actually got more than $500 back from the feds and usually at least half that back from the state. Actually three raises, since I just had my annual review and got another one.

No, I don't care that they're supposedly going to be sending us all checks this year just out of the goodness of their hearts. Economy boost, my ass. How many of you will - like me - be using that money to pay bills that are piling up because you're living check-to-check anyway? Oh yeah! I've got an extra $600 to spend! Rather than pay last month's cable bill and this month's car payment, I'm going to go buy an LCD TV! Woohoo!**


**Ok fine, I admit it, I would LOVE to spend that rebate on more yarn. But my priorities are not always the same as the rest of my household. And a happy wife (or at least one who isn't stressed out about money) is sometimes more important than my yarn stash. Sometimes.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

This is a test...

This is a test of the mobile blogger system. This is only a test. If this had been an actual blog entry, I wouldn't have been sitting at a Starbucks in Troutdale for over 3 hours waiting for Annie to be done at the darkroom. Oh well, at least I've been productive. I taught myself cables! I was hoping to go to the knittin' kitten to buy some dpns but it looks like they'll be closed by the time we head back to Portland. There is a very gay man at the next table talking about going fly fishing, which is a little funny. Coffee should not take longer to order than it does to drink. I wonder why Starbucks doesn't sell steamers or italian sodas. They're a little evil (Starbucks, not steamers and italian sodas). I wonder if I could fill up all 2521 characters I have left with random thoughts about my day. Probably.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Woohoo, look what I can do!

Nope, you're not seeing things. That, my friends, is KNITTING! And I did it! Woohoo!
So it's not greatly pretty, but I'm happy. I can't knit to save my life but I am bound and determined to learn. I even picked up Knitting for Dummies. This is definately a start.
It's Lion Suede, which I picked because A) it's chunky, B) it was in my stash, and C) I won't be able to insert my needle between plies. And I'm using acrylic needles, size US 10.5. Just knit stitches for now, but once I get the hang of it I'll try some purls. The hardest part has been tension. I was keeping the yarn WAY too tight at first. Now it feels a little too loose, but that's better than tight. Practice, practice, practice!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

My friend Sally bragged yesterday that she and her (going-to-be) husband Phil were going to have Shepherd's Pie for dinner. It got me thinking. I had only tried to make Shepherd's Pie once, several years ago, and at that point had only a very vague understanding of it. Meat. Potatoes. Cheese. How could you screw it up? Well I didn't, but it wasn't anything to write home about either.

So I decided to give it another shot for dinner last night. What follows is what I did. Not a recipe, per se, but a general guide. My methods might be a bit odd, but I got the job done.

I started out by washing what was left of a bag of potatoes. I'd guess there were maybe 3 pounds. We like us some taters. I then used the mandoline that Jen got me for Christmas to slice them. I learned that my mandoline would rather cut long strips of short vegetables, than short strips of tall vegetables. Potatoes went in a pot with water and a handful of salt and left to their own devices.

Next up I melted some butter in my big happy pan and added some garlic-in-a-jar. Rinsed off the mandoline and used it - this time with the "julienne" blade - to chop up half a sweet onion. It turned out more grated than chopped, and I would have done the whole onion but I was getting a little ticked off at the mandoline. But it was fine. With those softened a bit, in went half a pound of pre-cut baby portabella mushrooms, plus a generous pinch of salt and several shakes of pepper. Let them be at not-quite a sautee for a few minutes, stirred once in a while, til the shrooms started to give up some liquid. Then in went two pounds of ground beef. Stir stir, smoosh smoosh (that's a technical term), sit sit. Repeat until ground beef is almost nearly done. Then I added what was left of a bag of frozen mixed veggies we had in the freezer and let it all come back up to temp and let the beef finish cooking. Finally, added two cans of undiluted cream of mushroom soup, mixed well, and turned the stove off and the oven on. About 350.

By then the potatoes were done, so they got drained and put back on the stove. Added a stick of butter and let it sit for a few to let the butter melt. Then I discovered that my potato masher was at the bottom of the pile of dirty dishes. So rather than wash it and mash them, I just went at them with some tongs. I know, not exactly the usual implement of distruction to use on potatoes, but it worked. Added a can of cheddar cheese "soup" to the potatoes, salt & peppered it all, and stirred til it was all the funny off-white color that the soup made them. Might be good to mention here that I did not PEEL the potatoes, because I'm too lazy for that and the skin won't kill you.

All this went in a pan - the ground beef mixture on the bottom and the potatoes spread on top, and then a layer of shredded cheese (I used mexican style pre-shredded because it was what we had) on top of that. Stuck it in the oven and crossed my fingers.

Five minutes later I realized the funny noise I kept hearing was the overflow of burger grease in the pan burning onto the bottom of our oven. Locked up all the animals and opened all the doors. Did I mention it was something like 20 degrees with the wind chill last night? Finally decided that the cheese was melted enough, pulled it out of the oven and let it cool for several minutes.

Annie and Shylent were impressed - Hell so was I. But next time I'm using the giant turkey roasting pan instead of the pyrex 13 x 9. And maybe some french fried onions on top.

Ok, Seriously? That's enough.

  • The father/step-father of two good friends of mine had a heart attack on Christmas

  • Annie's dad is having heart and kidney problems, and will likely be going on dialysis and having a pacemaker of sorts put in.

  • My own father was in the hospital for a weekend with what could eventually, if he's not careful, turn into cancer of the esophagus.

  • Annie's grandmother was in the hospital for her first three days of dialysis, which she'll now be doing three days a week.

  • My own grandmother has been having some health issues and won't go to the doctor.

  • Last night my dear friend Ben's great-uncle passed away.

  • Also last night, Annie's mom was admitted to the hospital with chest pain. She's had two heart attacks and 5 stents put in previously, and they'd be doing another angiogram as I type if she was stable enough, which she's not.

  • Plus the whole Heath Ledger thing.

Seriously. Enough. This is all since Christmas. NOT ok. Quit it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Baby Crochet!

Not for me though

My friend/co-worker Andrea is having her second child, due in September. I'm excited for her, of course, not only because she's such a great person, but because it gives me an excuse to do some baby crochet!

I did a blanket for Andrea's daughter when she was born, but... well ok, it wasn't very good. I had only recently become yarn-obsessed again. I used LB Homespun Baby and the long purple Knifty Knitter. Ok it was awful. Mostly because of the yarn.

Another co-worker of mine recently got her first grandbaby and I made a sweater for her. It turned out much nicer (even though she won't be able to wear it for another 6 months or so).

So this time I'm thinking about making the Through Any Window baby blanket. I love me some Granny Square. Picking yarn will be fun, now that I'm not obsessed with all things boucle. Andrea was pretty anti-Pink with her first baby, so I'll have to make sure there aren't color limitations for this one. Thank goodness I have so long to figure it out! Ok secretly, I'm hoping for a boy. I'm seeing blue/grey/green non-baby colors. Hmmmmm......

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Garden

I don't do well with plants. Never really have. This past spring, Annie and I planted lavender and sunflowers (started from seeds and sprouted in mini-greenhouses made of 2-liter bottles) and the sunflowers got about 5 inches tall before they died. The lavender barely poked their little heads out of the dirt.

But this is totally a garden I could get into:
**Yes, again with the crappy cell-phone pictures.
Have I mentioned how obsessed I am with this pattern? I think the lower left corner, with the black background, is the one I'm going to send to Krystal for her charity project. I don't get as excited about the black and white backgrounds as I do about the colors.

On another note, just want to give a shout-out to my dad, Mykall :) He was in the hospital last weekend, but he's home now and getting better. Poor guy doesn't get to have alcohol or spicy foods for a while (two of his favorite things), so have a drink and something with jalapenos in it for him. He's the only person in my family who actually talks to me about my blog so I know he reads it. So, Hi Dad! Love you!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Covet...

Thy Fellow Bloggers Projects!

Thanks to Susan, I have a new project to put on my list.

I want to make This out of This

(ok, maybe this instead - same yarn, different color)
This yarn was part of the first batch of Yarn of the Month that I got and I LOVE it. It's soft (softer than it looks in the close-up) and yummy.
I think I'm going to start buying myself $20 gift certificates each pay day to The Yarn Garden or another LYS that carries this stuff. That's the only way I'm going to be able to afford enough of one dye lot all at once. Unless I get visited upon by the yarn faerie.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No Swap For You!

Well, my first attempt at joining a swap has gone down in a burst of flames. Thankfully, not due to my own procrastination. For some reason, my swap partner deleted her blog, and is not responding to emails from our swap hostess. I'm pretty disappointed, since I really was looking forward to this. Oh well, maybe next month?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Daisy Geek

Ok, I SWEAR this wasn't on purpose. I got back to my desk from getting lunch and this is what was there:
Do we see a pattern here? A theme? An obsession? Hmmmmm

Not such a productive weekend...

I was going to be REALLY productive this weekend. Really, I was.

Here's what I didn't get done:
I didn't finish copying Interview with the Vampire
I didn't track the 45-minute chunks that I'd already copied
I didn't clean the kitchen
I didn't host 6 tournaments
I didn't exchange the pants from Catherines that I so desperately need to exchange
I didn't work on Mom's poncho
I didn't sit down with Annie and figure out what we're doing with what's left of her financial aid check.

Here's what I did instead:
I finished crocheting Mom's Christmas present (yes, I'm aware we're half way through January)
I blocked Mom's Christmas present (yay!)
I went grocery shopping (twice) on an empty stomach (not a good idea)
I finished two Daisy Squares
I visited my dad in the hospital (he was rushed to the ER late Saturday night, vomiting blood, but we think he'll be ok)
I visited Annie's grandmother in another hospital (twice - she was there Friday to Sunday for her first three days of kidney dialysis)

If you are NOT my mother, you can see a picture of what I made for her here. It turned out much larger than I anticipated, but I'm still pretty pleased. I am no longer scared of filet crochet!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Daisy Square

While perusing CPC several days ago, I ran across this Daisy Square pattern. The designer offers the pattern for free, and only asks that you send her at least one completed square, which she then joins and gives to charity. It's totally cute, so I decided to give it a shot. It calls for 4 colors: CA for the center color, CB for the petals, CC for the background, and CD for the border. I used only two colors (two very clashing, random, verigated colors) because I was on my way out the door for work and there were only two skeins easily grab-able. So my CA and CC are the same, and my CB and CD are the same. Oh here, see for yourself.

(Apologies for the green-ish picture. I took it with my cell phone, and for some reason everything I take with my phone turns out with a green-ish tint. I really need to get a point-and-shoot digital. Really.)

So yeah, it's pretty wild. But I'm totally in love with it! I decided to make a negative of it (using the darker yarn for the petals and border, and the lighter stuff for the center and background) which I'm nearly done with. Then I decided, why not make a whole bunch of them in random colors, in pairs (a positive and a negative), and make my own afghan out of them. So, last night I went through my stash (two giant rubbermaid bins) and separated out the worsted weight acrylic from everything else. I was surprised (pleasantly) to find that fully half of my stash is WW acrylic. I've definately got my work cut out for me.

The pattern is pretty easy once you get the hang of it, and it's a good carry-along project.

Oh and Krystal, if you're reading this - I promise I'll get a square out to you soon. My guage ended up with a 6.5" square instead of 8, but I'll do some tweaking and color picking this weekend.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Malakai Learns a New Trick

He ain't stupid, he's my puppy! =D

Saturday, January 5, 2008

First FO of 08!


I created this hook case for my brand new set (E through K) of bamboo crochet hooks. They are REALLY yummy and they needed a yummy place to live. This isn't the yummiest place I could think of, but it's a good home.

I used RHSS in the "Sunshine Print." I picked this up on Freecycle and wasn't sure what to do with it, and it was the closest yarn at hand when I decided to make this up.

**Well then. This is several days later now. I picked another of these skeins out of the bag, same print, and this one happened to have a label on it. Serves me right for guessing. It's actually 100% virgin wool Maypole Yarn by Oregon Worsted Company, and the color is called Indian Sunset. And I happen to have at least 4 more skeins of it, which makes me want to experiment with felting. I still don't like the colors much, but it's a little more cool now that it's wool and not acrylic :)**

I used a stitch pattern I found when I was making Holiday Dishcloths. Sc in 1st stitch, insert hook in same stitch, pull up a loop, insert in next stitch, pull up a loop, yo, pull through all three loops. After a few rows, I did a few slip stitches, then chain 2 and slip stitch in a few more stitches, rinse and repeat. I ended up with three chain spots, which I slip the hooks through to hold them. Next row I use the original stitch but the places where there are chain loops I just to single crochets under the loop so it pushes my loop to the front. I did that every several rows until I had enough loops for all 7 hooks, then a few more rows of the stitch pattern. Then I slip stitched until about half way across the row and did 4 single crochets, turned, 2 sc, turn, 2 sc, back and forth til it seemed long enough, then slip stitched back down the edge of the first tie to the spot where it split, then 2 sc back and forth for the second half of the tie.

Anyways, other than the color, I'm pretty happy with it. For your viewing pleasure.....

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year, New Focus(es)

While sitting around the brunch table yesterday morning (ok, early afternoon), we all shared what we hope to accomplish in the next year. Call them resolutions if you must, I prefer not to.

One of my big ones was to become a finisher. I love projects. I'm addicted to starting new things. But I really need to be more focused about finishing the projects I start. This morning, Dawn over at Crochet Compulsive blogged about the subject. Gee, thanks for the reminder Dawn!

So, here's my photo-less confession of the things that I need to $%*! or get off the pot about.

#1 - Mom's Christmas present, a filet piece I've been working on since about 2 days before Christmas. I'm on row 28 or 29 of 50, so it's close. And I have been working on it, sporadically. The goal is to finish it this weekend. Since it's a chart, it's mostly a sit-in-front-of-the-computer project. Just means I need to spend more time there.

#2 - Mom's poncho. Yeah, I started it, got several rows done even. Then Christmas came and I got to be drowning in the sea of dishcloths and it got put on the back burner. But I have all the yarn for it, so I really have no excuse. So when I'm done with #1, this is next. Though this is a spread-out-in-a-pet-free-room project, so maybe I can train myself to work on it for an hour each night before bed.

#3 - My shrug. I hate to say it, but I think this one is toast. I free-handed it, which was the first problem (oh why oh why do I hate patterns so much?). The second problem is that I used LB's Chenille Thick & Quick. Really chunky yarn on already really chunky arms - not a pretty sight. It's a cute idea - fingerless gloves that turn into sleeves, which are then connected to each other by a strip of three granny squares - but the yarn was just not right. I don't even think I'm going to bother frogging this one. It might just disappear into The Void.

#4 - The hook case for my bamboo crochet hooks. This is in progress, and is doing pretty well as a take-along project to carry in my purse. Freehanded, again, but turning out nicely. I just need to stick with it. This is my travel and at-work project.

#5 - Socks. Horrible, ugly socks. Made with really cute yarn (lime green with multi speckles, fingering weight acrylic I think?), but with the way wrong hook and pattern. Definitely frog-able. I'll revive them into better socks with a different hook size and different pattern, but in their current state they're not going to work.

#6 - Nancy's Mickey Mouse afghan. Annie's going to have a cow when she reads this, but I need to scrap and start from scratch with this one. I went though a phase where I was in love with LB Homespun and started it then. Now I've burnt out on it and don't want to touch the stuff. This is going to join my shrug in The Void, and I'll re-group. But not until I've finished #2.

#7 - My Hoodie. This needs more yarn, since I ran out. Well ok, first I need to FIND it. Then I need to buy more yarn and work on it. This comes after I've finished #2. But before I re-start #6.

So that's it, I think. I have two scraps, a frog, and three WIPs. One computer WIP, one travel WIP, and one spread-out WIP. I'm not going to allow myself to start anything else until I finish these three! But don't worry, I have plenty of things to tackle when these are done!

...Well, unless I make something up quick for the Swap