Monday, February 28, 2011

In case no one noticed:

I am participating in the WNC (Western North Carolina) Local Blog Network. I added a widget to the sidebar, and it should link to other blogs in the network. So, if you have any time to kill and want to look at blogs that aren't related to book reviews, knitting, and cooking, that's the place!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why I Stand With Planned Parenthood

One of the reasons that I have been relatively lax about blogging these days is that turning on my computer and logging into facebook leads to me to a veritable flood of articles detailing the multitude of ways in which Congressional Republicans have declared war on women. I dislike using extreme language, but there's no other way to describe the concerted effort that these politicians have made to make the lives of women difficult poverty-ridden end in childbirth or illegal abortion complications hell on earth. I am also not generally a fan of escapism, but seriously. I'm past the land of moral outrage and well into the realm of resigned depression at this point, and seeing yet another story that sends the unequivocal message that  I am a uterus with legs isn't exactly ameliorating my state of mind.

Nevertheless, I think it's important to talk about why Planned Parenthood is so important, and how de-funding it is a really, really bad idea.

Planned Parenthood provides healthcare to millions of men and women, many of who are poor or un/underinsured. I am one of them. I was kicked off my father's insurance policy in January, having turned twenty-six in November. Since I am a woman of reproductive age, private, self-pay insurance is absurdly expensive. A decent policy involves spending upwards of $300 a month (slightly less if I electively forgo maternity coverage) before I walk into a doctor's office or hit up a pharmacy. Then, there's the $1000 (at least) deductible. In short, I would have to pay $4600 before the insurance would even kick in-- and I'd still have to pay for an assortment of co-pays and any treatments or tests I'd undergo are, of course, subject to refusal if the moon is full on the third Saturday of February and my doctor didn't sacrifice the goat properly.

Given my income, private insurance simply isn't an option. I instead opted for what I refer to as the "Oh, Shit! My Appendix Just Exploded!" Plan. It's a high-deductible ($7000), low premium ($35/month) insurance that will enable me to not go eighty bajillion dollars in debt should I get hit by a car or contract the ebola virus and have to go to the ER. It works out fairly well, as I don't get sick often and have no chronic health issues that would necessitate regular doctor's visits. The problem, of course, is that policies like mine do not cover any kind of preventative care, and there's no prescription coverage, either. So when it comes to routine care like pap smears, STD testing, physicals, vaccinations, etc., I am, for all intents and purposes, uninsured. The same goes for acquiring birth control. No prescription coverage = I get to pay the full sticker price at the drugstore, and, thanks to America's absurd drug patenting laws, my birth control of choice (the nuva ring) runs about $75 a month. It should go without saying that paying out-of-pocket for doctor's visits and screenings is just as cost-prohibitive as spending $75 a month on birth control.

That's where Planned Parenthood comes in. Since they receive Title X funding from the government, they can provide services, screenings, and birth control at cost, or even below, depending on your income level. That means that people who are uninsured (or have cruddy insurance) can get a pap smear or an HIV test without killing their wallets. The same goes for birth control. Due to its size, Planned Parenthood is able to directly negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical companies, thereby allowing them to sell birth control at or below cost (or give it away for free). The nuva ring, which is $75 a month at Walgreen's, is only $33 a month at Planned Parenthood, which was approximately what I was paying for it back when I had decent insurance. If it weren't for Planned Parenthood, I would be unable to obtain regular reproductive care and I wouldn't be able to use birth control because both would be too expensive. There are a lot of people out there in my position. Millions, in fact.

De-funding Planned Parenthood will inevitably lead to an increase of STDs, cervical cancer, and unintended pregnancy. People who lack access to reproductive care are not going to stop having sex; instead, they'll be more likely to spread diseases (because they will be unable to get tested) and get pregnant (because they no longer have access to the most reliable forms of it and have to resort to less-effective contraceptives like condoms or sponges or, worse yet, nothing at all). Untreated STDs can lead to a host of health problems on down the line, from insanity (syphilis) to cervical cancer (HPV) to infertility (most bacterial nasties can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which, in advanced stages, makes women sterile) to certain, painful death (HIV). Obviously, the more untreated people there are out there, the faster these diseases will spread.

Beyond STDs, unplanned pregnancies cost a lot more than cheap birth control. Even uneventful pregnancies can run up medical bills in the tens of thousands of dollars, and women who qualify for free or reduced birth control with Planned Parenthood will almost certainly qualify for medicaid.There's a reason why every dollar spent on Title X funding saves four dollars in medicaid costs. Birth control will always be cheaper than prenatal care (and the savings grow even higher when you factor in how much WIC, food stamps, medicaid, free lunches, HUD housing, and TANF will wind up costing over the course of the ensuing eighteen years).

So, in addition to providing people with free or reduced cost healthcare and sex education, Planned Parenthood also saves the government millions of dollars in unpaid benefits. Cutting their funding would ultimately lead to a less healthy population (both literally and figuratively), as well as perniciously increase government spending. So let's all be sane about this and acknowledge that Planned Parenthood provides important public services, and stop trying to screw women over in the name of responsible (lulz) government spending.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Take Two

Here beginneth my second attempt at the Love Bytes mittens (which will be replacing the ones my evil-ass cats destroyed a month ago). Now with new yarn and 75% less patience!

I'll be in Nashville all weekend, and I doubt I'll have time to update until Sunday night or Monday. Have a good one, all!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Dear Abby,

I made you a scarf-y/shawl-y thing for your birthday. I know, I know, it was two months ago, but hey! Better late than never. Hopefully, the purpley awesomeness will make up for the tardiness.

There is a catch, though: you have to come here to claim it. This is your shiny new incentive (apart from French food and wine tastings) to come see me!

Miss you and love you,

PS: About the shawl:

Pattern: Pogona, by Stephen West
Yarn: Purple Mystery Yarn
Needle: US #6
Finished Size:  14" deep at the longest point. Not that long, but it's meant to be a neck wrap.
Notes: Blocking was an interesting process due to all the angles.

Overall, I am really happy with it. I'm going to make one for myself next.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Back to normal!

Catastrophe finally got her staples out today. Her incision was 100% healed and everything in the vicinity looked good, so the vet didn't need to do anything else.

She's been acting more and more like herself over the course of the past four or five days, once the painkillers wore off, we removed the Kitty Collar of Shame, and her incision started to close up all the way.

Cataclysm has returned to his usual happy-go-lucky self as well and is acting normally around Catastrophe.

The only way you can tell anything happened is that Catastrophe is still a little bald on her right front paw and stomach. Her fur has started to grow back in, but I think it may be several weeks before it returns to its former glory.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My ongoing obsession with dystopian novels led me to borrow this book from the library along with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Leviathan, and Broke, USA (see? I do read serious stuff occasionally). I'd heard good things about it from friends (who didn't like Twilight-- I keep saying this because all of the people who recommended I read that awful book are barred for life from giving me reading advice), and am always a fan of dystopian novels. That it centers around characters from Appalachia is an added bonus. People from here tend to be portrayed as ignorant hillbillies in the popular media, and even serious novels tend to treat us as pathetic and helpless children who need to be rescued.

Needless to say, I'm a big fan of Katniss, the heroine. She is strong, brave, and absolutely committed to not dying, even in the face of extreme moral ambiguity. I also enjoyed the world of The Hunger Games which, although dystopian in nature, manages to highlight inequalities that currently exist in the United States. All told, very well done.

I give it a 4 out of 5. I can't wait to read the next two installments (hurry up, other library patrons!).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is one of my favorite Young Adult novelists. I've enjoyed his work ever since I picked up a copy of Uglies several years ago. He has a knack for interesting characters and world-building, so I was excited to see a new series when I was browsing at the library last week.

Leviathan, the first installment, depicts an alternate-reality Europe on the brink of the first World War. Europe is divided by technology: Darwinists (France, Great Britain, Portugal, and Russia), who use genetically modified animals to conduct their military campaigns, and Clankers (pretty much everyone else, but notably Germany, Austria, and the Ottoman Empire), who prefer coal- and steam-powered machinery and believe that the Darwinists' creations are godless abominations.

The main characters are Deryn and Alek. Deryn is a poor girl from Scotland, who disguised herself as a boy in order to join the military. As a result of a series of accidents that occur during her first training flight, she is separated from her brother and base and winds up on the Leviathan, a gigantic biomachine that is primarily composed of whale DNA. Alek is the son of a certain infamous Archduke whose assassination kicked off the War. When his parents are killed, his father's advisors and loyal men spirit him out of the country in a walker machine (that bears a certain resemblance to the battle machines from Star Wars). The plot centers around bringing the two together and setting the stage for the second two books. As such, it's mostly world-building and backstory and, apart from a few incidents, there isn't a lot of action.

I'm giving this one 3.5 out of 5 stars. While it's very enjoyable, engaging and creatively produced, much like the rest of Westerfeld's work, it's pretty cliched and predictable in a number of ways. Between the memes of cross-dressing girls, royalty on the run, mysterious scientists (who are women! shocking!), and steampunk (ohmygodwillthisirritatinganachronismEVERend?), I don't find the characters as intriguing and original as the ones in Westerfeld's previous work, and, yeah: steampunk? Kind of getting old.

I wasn't a fan of it to begin with, as I detest anachronism as well as viewing parts of history that are undeniably crappy through rose-tinted glasses. Life in the Victorian Era sucked. Economies were unstable and the majority of urban populations of Europe and the United States lived in destitution and squalor. When they weren't pulling eighty hour weeks in pollution-spewing factories, they were at home dying of cholera, typhus, diptheria, and the usual assortment of childhood diseases, of which there were numerous outbreaks due to crowded living conditions and poor sanitation. Oh, and syphilis. That was a big problem then, as well. Things were even worse for you if you were a woman, and you had to deal with awesome things like corsets (which could deform your bones, screw up your internal organs, and, oh, yeah, kill you), high rates of mortality associated with pregnancy and giving birth, a standard of beauty that glorified looking like a tuberculosis patient, and, of course, a complete lack of social, economic, and political autonomy. Yep, that's definitely a time period I want to romanticize. Bring me some goggles and copper spray paint!

My disdain for steampunk aside, I'm still going to read the next two novels in the series. They're good fun reading, and since I can kill an entire one in an afternoon, it's not like I'm wasting much time on them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

When I was younger, I thought that becoming a high school English teacher would be a practical application of my love of books and Literature-degree-in-progress. That brilliant idea survived all of three weeks into the intro to education class that my alma mater required all potential teachers to take, in which I learned all about banned books and curriculum battles, and how I would be having to go to bat for literary classics like Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird because frank language and accurate depictions of racial issues make affluent white people (who evidently exist in a profound state of denial wherein their teenaged children do not curse, do drugs, drink, or even think about having sex) uncomfortable. No thanks, said I.

And then I spent the next several years waiting tables.

My impressive moral victories aside, I had been meaning to read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian ever since it came out. I'd never read his works before, but he came highly recommended by my friends who didn't like Twilight and the subject matter resonated with me. Growing up, I often felt like a Part-Time Indian. When I visited my dad and grandparents, I would often travel with my grandfather down to the Cherokee reservation because that's where he got his medical treatment. Sometimes we'd stop off at Oconaluftee Village and visit the museum or watch the dancers (we would also go to Santa Land), and he would tell me old stories from his people. I loved my Papaw dearly and was proud to be his granddaughter, but I never knew what to say when I would go back home to Knoxville and hear people make ignorant comments about Indians.

I look white enough to where people feel comfortable letting their ugliest opinions out, not realizing that I was one of those alcoholic, casino-owning injuns what was out to cheat white folks out of their hard-earned money, because we all know that Indians are really raking it in from those casinos, that they hold guns to white peoples' heads and force them to gamble there, and, of course, that the white people don't have it coming in the first place. Sometimes I would speak up and inform people that they were being ignorant, but others, I didn't have the time and energy to bother people who were that intentionally ignorant. Especially since, as I got older, those conversations inevitably devolved into the other person ranting idiotic about affirmative action and accusing me of taking their spots in the universities and jobs. Stupid.

Alexie's protagonist, Arnold Spirit (aka Junior), is a fourteen-year-old Spokane Indian who has lived on the reservation his entire life. Born with hydroencephalus and prone to seizures, he is everyone's favorite punching bag. He only has one friend: a bigger boy named Rowdy who protects him from some of the rez's meaner denizens. Arnold's frustrations with the crappiness of reservation life build throughout the first couple of chapters. He is sick of getting beaten up by thirty-year-old men. He is tired of never having enough food to eat. He is depressed by the fact that nearly every adult in his life is a raging alcoholic. Finally, he is infuriated at watching smart, high achieving people like his mother and older sister succumb to the rez's alcoholic malaise. His rage builds until the first day of school, when he discovers that he has been assigned his mother's (who hadn't been in school in thirty years) old math book. At that moment, he breaks, and throws the book across the room, unintentionally hitting his teacher, Mr. P in the face. He is suspended.

Several days later, Mr. P shows up at Junior's house. Rather than yell at him or punish him, the teacher apologizes to Junior for the way that he has treated Indian students in the past, and begs him to switch schools and make something of himself. Junior decides to transfer to Reardan, an all-white school twenty-two miles away. This decision costs him his friendship with Rowdy and causes his relationship with other tribe members to become even more hostile. They call him a traitor and an apple (red on the outside, white on the inside), and shun him. The book chronicles Junior's adjustment at his new school and the evolution of his relationships with his white and Indian friends, as well as his family.

I enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. Junior is a frank, believable character: he swears, makes fart jokes, and waxes poetic about the sex he isn't having-- in short, he acts like a typical fourteen-year-old boy. Sometimes crude, always astute, he is an entertaining and compelling narrator. Through him, Alexie shows the reader precisely how much like sucks on the reservations along with the strong familial and community bonds it fosters. Junior's conflict over leaving the only life he's ever known is heartbreaking, and leaves the reader outraged that things are so bad that he has to choose between his family and community and the possibility of a decent life. While it wasn't exactly eye-opening for me, I imagine it would have a profound effect on students who are unaware of the realities of life on the reservation, much like To Kill a Mockingbird gave me a cold, hard reality check about how bad things can be down here in the South.

I guess it goes without saying that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian hasn't gone over well with concerned parents' groups. It does hit the Banned Teen Books Trifecta by containing:

  1. Teenagers who act like teenagers and do things like drink, curse, drugs, have sex, think about having sex, get into fights, etc. etc.
  2. Racial commentary that isn't warm and fuzzy.
  3. A narrative that does not conform to the Great American Dream of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps.
This is probably why it's so gritty and real; even though it's fiction, it tells the truth. I give it five out of five stars.

Friday, February 18, 2011


The Pogona shawl is coming along nicely. I have another inch or two to go, and then I'll be ready to start the edging!

I wish I had a longer needle. It's not supposed to be that lumpy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Internet Killed the Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore

A lot of people have been posting about Borders' bankruptcy woes and the inevitable closing of many of its locations. I think that what has happened to Borders is unfortunate, but not because I feel sorry for Borders. Sure, I feel badly for those who will be out of a job, but I reserve the greater part of my sympathies for all of the individuals whose locally-owned bookstores were run out of business by Big Box retailers like Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million, and for all the people out there who are now left without any nearby bookstores.

I know that bookstores are going the way of the dodo anyway between's substantially lower price points and the rising popularity of e-readers (and I've certainly done my part in ensuring that, being a devoted member of Team E-Reader), but a nostalgic part of me can't help but feel sad about it. When I was growing up, visiting a bookstore was my favorite part of an otherwise soul-deadening trip to the mall with my mother. I could (and did, if I could get away with it) spend hours in those stores, flipping through books and admiring covers, wondering if I'd ever have enough time to read them all. I wasn't generally allowed to purchase any, though, because I would finish them too quickly and discard them (this is why much of my early reading material came from the library). I always looked forward to birthdays and Christmas because it meant I could finally buy books that I could keep, and my parents can both attest to the fact that I spent the vast majority of my birthday and Christmas money in those bookstores.

These days, I find myself rediscovering the joys of the library. This is partly because my current financial situation doesn't leave a lot of discretionary income for book-buying at Amazon's prices, much less the full sticker price they charge at brick-and-mortar stores (though I am still known to trawl Books-A-Million's sale section for cookbooks). The main reason I've largely abandoned buying books is that I have finally admitted to myself that books are Stuff. I consider myself something of an anti-hoarder. I'm constantly downsizing and getting rid of things, and my ever-expanding book collection of books I was only going to read once was really getting in the way of the realization of my minimalist aesthetic (also, the getting of my stuff out of my storage unit and my dad's basement). Much as I love reading, accumulating an insane amount of books that I'm not going to re-read and won't need as references in the future simply doesn't make sense.

From here on in, I'm checking books out of the library unless I know I'm going to read them more than once or will need them in the future. Most of my sociology-type books fall into this category (they're invaluable for winning internet arguments, after all), as do my cookbooks. And we all know you can't have enough of those. The only time I intend on purchasing books is if the library doesn't have them, and then, I'll be acquiring them in e-book format. Evidently, my commitment to not being overwhelmed with stuff outweighs my childhood love of going to bookstores. I'm mostly okay with that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: The Book of Snobs by William Makepeace Thackeray

It's hard to go wrong with a solid Victorian Era satire. While Oscar Wilde claimed much of the spotlight where that genre is concerned, there are many other satiric writers from that period who are worth reading. Thackeray is absolutely one of them, and I am very pleased that I took a chance on him (this is the first of his works I've ever read).

The Book of Snobs reads like an amateur naturalist's field guide to the various species of Snob that plagued England during the Victorian Era. In detailing his interactions with various Snobs, Thackeray's narrator (who happens to self-identify as one of the club-going, wine-drinking, country-house-hopping Snobs he derides) highlights the various social anxieties that plagued the up-and-coming merchant and educated classes as well as the cash-poor, overgrown-land-rich aristocracy as well as a series of social problems and difficulties that resulted from these tensions. It's a very real and interesting look into what life in England was like back then, and it was funny. It's a shame it's been largely overshadowed by Thackeray's other work.

Interesting fact: this book popularized the modern use of the term "snob."  It originally referred to uppity social climbers or students of poor origins; Thackeray graciously extended it to the wounded aristocracy, which resulted in the definition morphing into a description of someone who puts on airs and looks down on others, regardless of their class of origin.

All told, I give it a 4.5 out of 5 because there were so many unexplored genres of snobs!

I'm actually looking forward to reading Vanity Fair now. I hope it's as good as this one.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I bet you're all really tired of hearing about my cats, huh?

Catastrophe went to the vet yesterday morning to have her IV port removed. The vet was pleased with her healing progress, and said that she doesn't have to wear the Cone of Shame as long as someone is watching her to make sure she doesn't try to pull out her staples. He bandaged up her IV leg and sent her home.

She was quite pleased to finally have the opportunity to groom herself and spent the better part of half an hour bathing herself. Of course, as soon as she finished, her attention went to the removal of her staples, so I had to put the Cone of Shame back on her. She was not amused.

Cataclysm is still acting like a weirdo. He hissed and swatted at her even when she wasn't wearing the collar, so I'm not sure what's up with him. Maybe he's afraid of the bandage and staples, too? Or he finds her spectacularly bald belly disconcerting? Either way, I'm starting to worry about whether they'll re-adapt to one another after the staples come out. They were besties before the surgery, and I don't want to have to keep them separated all the time after this.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Now that THAT'S over...

Since the Hello Kitty Blanket of Doom is finally finished, I can get back on track with all of the things I haven't been working on. Like my reading challenges (er, reading in general) and all the other knitting I've been working on. I have a few things I'd like to complete before the end of February:
  1. Mystery + Manners mittens
  2. Pogona shawl
  3. Noro Sekku scarf
  4. The Hunger Games (It's finally my turn to check it out of the library!)
  5. The Subjection of Women
  6. Something from my Victorian Lit Challenge
It's all doable; I just need to spend more time being productive and less time screwing around on the internet (damn you, Chrome apps!). 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

If I find a gray hair in the next few months, I'm blaming the cats.

The last few days have been interesting, to say the least.

Cataclysm (the one who didn't have surgery) is afraid of the Kitty Cone of Shame. This means that every time Catastrophe goes near him, he freaks out and hisses at her, and then either runs away or swats at her. Catastrophe, who has spent the better part of the weekend stoned out of her gourd on painkillers, hasn't been too upset by this. She's too busy laying on things and cuddling with us to notice how weird her brother's been acting.

(Speaking of weird, Catastrophe letting us hold her? And cuddling? Yeah. She's really high.)

So while I guess it's good that Catastrophe seems to be coping well, her hatred of taking her medication notwithstanding, I'm sort of worried about Cataclysm. We've been keeping them separated when we're not around to supervise them just in case, but when they are around, he still acts like a jerk. She's had it on for three days now, and he hasn't gotten any better about it. We still have another week from tomorrow-ish of her wearing it, and I'm really not enthused about having to constantly run interference between the two of them. I'm also afraid he'll continue to act all hostile and antsy around her even after the cone comes off. That would be bad.

Catastrophe is going back to the vet tomorrow to have the IV port removed and her staples checked. Hopefully, we'll get a good report.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

FO: Hello Kitty Blanket


Pattern: Baby Hello Kitty Quilt Afghan by Monarae
Yarn: Yarn Bee Baby Bee Something Something in an assortment of pastels.
Hook: US G
Notes: Pattern was well-written and it turned out fairly cute, all things considered.

We'll call these items 3-39 of 111. Given the amount of effort that went into each square (two-three colors for each, tons of ends to weave in, and then the matter of sewing them all together) and the giant border, I've made the executive decision to count each one as an object. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Aftermath

She's so pitiful, isn't she?

We dropped Catastrophe off at the regular vet about thirty minutes ago. They're only going to keep her today because she's doing so well. She needs to get a few more bags of IV fluid and have her incisions monitored before she comes home, but other than that, she seems to be in good spirits (if a little tired and definitely not loving the Collar of Kitty Shame). She was purring and trying to cuddle with us, even though the collar kept getting in the way.

There are a lot of aftercare instructions for her. The staples will be coming out in ten days, but until then, we pretty much have to watch her 24/7 (luckily, all three of us keep pretty different hours). We're probably going to move her into Matt's office so that she doesn't run around and rough house too much with Cataclysm. Remember, this is the cat who ripped open her spay incisions by playing too vigorously after the surgery.

Moral of the story: don't let your cat play with hair ties. Kitty abdominal surgery is not cheap, and it looks like I'll be the one paying the bar tabs for the foreseeable future.


So, Catastrophe is out of surgery and will be fine. The vet says there is no damage to her intestines at all. Her only problem appears to lie in her compulsive eating of hair ties.

Matt and I will be waking up extra early to take her to the regular vet so they can keep an eye on her while she recovers.

I will be placing all hair ties except the one(s) that are actively in my hair in the car or the yarn closet.

I need to stop adopting animals that eat inappropriate things. Maxx, the pit bull I share with my sister, knocked a good three years off of my life between eating DVDs, Advil (this necessitated a trip to the vet to get his stomach pumped), yarn, an entire roll of dental floss (at least his breath smelled good after that), hair ties (...sigh), bras, swimsuits, socks, washcloths (or anything made of terrycloth, really), bedsheets, sham covers, and much, much more. Once I revive my dead laptop, I'll post the full list.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Kitty is in surgery now. It should take around an hour and a half, and the vet will call us when she wakes up.

Poor Catastrophe!

My kitty is sick. :(

As I mentioned earlier, she's been throwing up pretty regularly since yesterday morning (when I stepped in the first puddle of cold cat puke). I was a little concerned when I saw foreign objects in it; specifically, trash she'd fished out of the garbage can and hair ties she'd stolen from me. I had to work yesterday afternoon, and Matt's roommate said she'd continued throwing up.

By this afternoon, she was dry heaving and wouldn't drink or eat anything. She was also pretty lethargic. I called Matt to let him know after I headed out to my volunteer training, and he took her to the emergency vet as soon as he got home. She apparently did well there, purring and flirting with the vet techs. They took an x-ray, and there it was: a blockage in her intestine. Matt said the vet was optimistic since we brought her in so quickly and she's pretty young (eight months old), so it's unlikely she'll have scary complications like perforations or sepsis.

They still have to perform surgery on her to fish whatever it is that's causing the blockage out, though, and there are always risks with surgery. Even when the animal in question is in otherwise good health. They're giving her fluids right now (she's a little dehydrated from all the barfing), and plan on starting the surgery in about thirty minutes from now. They'll be calling Matt when the surgery starts and when it ends. If it goes okay, we'll be picking her up tomorrow morning and taking her to the regular vet to stay for the weekend while she recovers.

Needless to say, I am worried sick about this, and I am afraid this is all my fault. I knew that she liked to play with and shred elastic hair ties, but I didn't think she was actually eating them because I kept finding little elastic carcasses all over the house. I thought she just liked to chew on them and break them, and now I feel like the biggest idiot on the planet for not having kept better track of them or done a better job keeping them out of her reach. On the upside, if that IS what's causing the blockage, at least it won't be sharp (making a perforation and subsequent sepsis much less likely).

Cataclysm, the other cat, is doing okay. He looked pretty confused when Matt came home without his sister, though, and I'm concerned he'll get stressed out without her. Hopefully, she'll be fine and will be able to come home Monday.

I intend on worrying myself sick until then. Pass the antacids.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Scarf That Will Make Everything Better

Once I finished straightening my needles out (I took pictures and may post a tutorial at some point) after yesterday's frogging fracas, I cast on a Pogona shawl using some mystery purple yarn I uncovered in my stash a month or two ago. It's a belated birthday present for one of my friends. So far, it's going quite nicely. The pattern is very well-written and clear, and I'm really loving the design. Definitely worth the money, and I'll probably knit one for myself once this one is finished.

I'm only about six inches or so in, so I have quite a bit to go:

But I think I'll finish it rather quickly, as the Hello Kitty blanket will almost certainly be completed tomorrow.

Crafting aside, LOOK AT HOW GIGANTIC MY CAT IS. Matt took both of them to the vet last week to get their second round of vaccinations, and Cataclysm (pictured here) weighs 8.2 pounds and Catastrophe (off throwing up hair ties somewhere [seriously, I've stepped in cold cat puke TWICE this week and I'm about to give Matt permission to eat her.]) weighs in at 6.2 pounds. He's always had about that much size on her, even when we first got them, so my prediction that he'll be average-sized as an adult while she'll stay little is most likely correct. I still can't believe how much he's grown in the four months we've had him.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Putting my knitting in time-out.

I had to frog the Aoelian after a mishap involving a kinked up connecting cord that somehow wound its way through parts of the shawl I'd already knitted that managed to knock a bunch of stitches off the needles when I tried to remove it. Twenty or thirty stitches dropped in three different places, and I threw in the towel. There was no picking all of them up in-pattern, and since I stupidly didn't use any lifelines, I had to unravel the whole freaking thing. The yarn is rolled up in a ball and sitting in time-out in the back of the closet. I'll come back to it later.

My next tasks are straightening the connecting cord (placing it in boiling water and then straightening it under some big books on the countertop), casting on for a different shawl for a friend, and, of course, finishing up the Hello Kitty blanket.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rainbow Slinky Hat!

Note: I originally published this pattern on an old blog that I'm about to delete. 

I have a long-standing love of slinkies, hats, and sock yarn. I have yet to wear it public since it's SUPER COLORFUL, but maybe one day I'll dress up as Rainbow Brite for Halloween and it'll be the best costume ever.

Yarn: 1 skein of Schoppel-Wolle's Zauberball, or any other fingering-weight yarn with long color variegations. I imagine Crystal Palace Mini-Mochi, Noro Kureyon/Silk Garden Sock, and Kauni multicolor would work well, too. You'll need 400-500 yards, depending on how slouchy you want your hat to be.
Needles: Size 3 16" circular, size 4 16" circular, set of DPNs in size 4.
Notions: One round stitch marker.
Gauge: 28 stitches and 40 rows = 10 cm or 4 in.
Finished Size: Approximately 23 inches around, but can be blocked wider if desired.


Cast on 160 stitches using smaller needle (preferably long-tail or tubular; the cast-on edge needs to be stretchy!). Place marker to mark the beginning of the row. Slip marker on all rows.

Work in k2, p2 rib, twisting all purl stitches, for four inches (forty rows).

Switch to larger needle.

Purl five rows.

Knit five rows.

Repeat knit and purl sections until hat is desired length, ending with a purl section.

Switch to DPNs for decrease rows:

Round 1: K 8, K2tog around. (144 st.)
Round 2: K around.
Round 3: K 7, K2tog around. (128 st.)
Round 4: K around.
Round 5: K 6, K2tog around. (112 st.)
Round 6: K around.
Round 7: K 5, K2tog around. (96 st.)
Round 8: K around.
Round 9: K 4, K2tog around. (80 st.)
Round 10: K around.
Round 11: K 3, K2tog around. (64 st.)
Round 12: K around.
Round 13: K2, K2tog around. (48 st.)
Round 14: K around.
Round 15: K1, K2tog around. (32 st.)
Round 16: K around.
Round 17: K2tog around. (16 st.)

Fasten off. Weave in ends. Block to desired dimensions.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The home stretch.

Behold! The Hello Kitty blanket (of doom) is ALMOST FINISHED:

There are only a few things I still need to do:

  • Finish the edging (four-ish more rows)
  • Weave in the bow ends.

I need to have it in the mail a week from Wednesday. I can do this.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recipe of the Week 2011 #5 and #6: Katy's Spaghetti Sauce and Stuffed Shells

I'm combining the most recent two weeks of my self-imposed 2011 recipe challenge for this entry. I'm not slacking off on the cooking (I swear! I cook all the time!) so much as I'm slacking off on the blogging.

Back in December, one of my co-workers gave me a recipe for a simple but tasty tomato sauce. I was quite eager to try it; racks and racks of over-sweetened, specialty flavored sauces at the grocery store have left me with a certain amount of sauce fatigue resulting from tastebud overload. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy complex flavors, but I don't think that eighteen varieties of red sauce are necessary, especially since most of them taste really unbalanced.

Katy's recipe is quite simple:


  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 small onion (or larger, if you like your sauce onion-y)
  • 3-6 cloves garlic (to taste, I like my sauces extra garlicky)
  • 2 14 oz cans PLAIN tomato sauce (use the unsweetened kind if possible)
  • 1 28-32 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, OR oregano, OR basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Froth butter in saucepan over medium heat until almost brown.
  2. Add onions and sweat until they're about 2 minutes away from being done.
  3. Add garlic, reduce heat to low (burned garlic is the worst taste ever!) and cook 2-3 minutes
  4. Add tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes, then raise heat to medium until sauce is hot.
  5. Add salt, pepper, and herb(s) of choice to taste.
  6. Reduce heat back to low/medium-low, and allow the sauce to simmer for several hours
It's basically idiot-proof. The next time I make it, I plan on leaving it in the crock pot while it simmers so I can leave the house without having to worry about it burning down. 

I wound up making two batches of the sauce. The first, I served with my favorite meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground lamb (Harris Teeter has it)
  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 2 cups bread crumbs, plus 1/4 cup extra
  • 2-3 eggs
  • cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 300F. 
  2. Grease a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
  3. Put the extra 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs into a small bowl.
  4. In large bowl, combine meat and eggs with your hands (or use a food processor if you're squeamish). You'll want one egg per pound of meat. I like to use more than that because I prefer the texture to be more eggy.
  5. Add 2 cups of breadcrumbs to the meat and egg mixture. Make sure that they're evenly distributed.
  6. Pinch off small amounts of meatball mix and roll them into a golf ball-sized ball. 
  7. Dust the meatballs with breadcrumbs by rolling them in the small bowl.
  8. Bake the meatballs for about 30-40 minutes. 
  • How thick you make the meatballs will determine how long they need to cook. Smaller ones will cook faster than big ones (duh). There shouldn't be any pink in the middle when they're done.
  • Using pre-seasoned breadcrumbs will give a nice flavor with no effort on your part.
  • They freeze very nicely, but don't freeze them in sauce. They taste funny if you do that.
In addition to meatballs, I also made stuffed shells. I followed this recipe, but I used half the amount of spinach the recipe called for and left out the meat (a vegetarian friend was having dinner with us that day) and onions (there were already onions in the sauce). They turned out really well! If I make this recipe using meat, though, I'll need to use more ricotta cheese. I'll also probably use seasoned pork or lamb instead of veal, which is sort of a pain to acquire around here.

The next installment of this series will feature me breaking one of my primary rules of relationships: I'll be preparing a recipe that Matt's mom gave me. More on that then.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Aeolian, Part II

I have completed the eighteen row Transition chart:

Not much of a difference from the previous photo, I know. Lace doesn't really look like much of anything until you block it. Non-knitters: blocking is soaking a finished item in water, stretching it into shape, and then pinning it so it will retain that shape when dry. When lace is blocked, all of the holes open up, the lumpiness vanishes, and you end up with a very thin, lightweight fabric that is surprisingly toasty.

It took me about five minutes to get this picture taken. Someone kept rolling on it in an effort to get me to pet her.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Aeolian, Part I

The first shawl that I'll be completing for the 11 Shawls in 2011 Challenge will be an Aeolian. I have around 900 yards of dark teal Lacey Lamb, which should be enough for a medium-sized shawl. Since the pattern is modular, it's relatively easy to adjust for different quantities of yarn.

The current plan:

  • Six Yucca chart repeats
  • Transition chart
  • One Agave chart repeat
  • Final Agave chart
  • Alternative Narrow Edging chart
I may add a second repeat of the Agave chart, depending on how the shawl looks and whether I have the time/yarn to do it. 

I'll take a photo each time I complete a section. Here's the first: six Yucca chart repeats, DONE:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

FO: Nunt's Cabled Wristwarmers

Pattern: Nunt's Cabled Wristwarmers, by Nunt
Yarn: Paton's Kroy Sock in Gentry Grey
Needle: US #2
Finished Size: Small enough to fit my elfin wrists and hands.
Notes: I wouldn't necessarily recommend using such small needles. I have tiny hands. I think most adults would need to use at least a size 3, if not bigger. 

Overall, I'm really happy with how these turned out!

Two down, 109 left to go in the 111 in 2011 challenge! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Debut Novels

I've decided to start intermittently participating in The Broke and the Bookish's weekly Top Ten Tuesday Meme. This week's topic is favorite debut novels. It required a lot of wiki-ing, because while there are many authors I enjoy, I haven't always liked their debut novels.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. This novel saved my sanity in high school, when my mother was forcing me to attend a fundamentalist megachurch three times a week and I was afraid I was losing my mind. There should really be an It Gets Better project for teenagers with parents who have crazy religious beliefs.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. Depressing as the subject matter of a teenager who commits suicide because she's lost all faith in humanity is, the novel is nevertheless a powerful reminder of the importance of even the smallest human interactions.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The Bluest Eye completely changed the way I view race, feminism, media, and beauty. Pecola Breedlove is one of those characters you never forget, and I think of her every time I go to the toy store to buy a present for my cousins or my friend's children and see rack after rack of blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby dolls.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. One of my book lover's bragging rights involves having read House of Leaves over the course of three days on a beach trip. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop until I'd finished all fiftyleven pages. It combined my love of language, postmodernism, poststructuralism, and specific literary themes (haunted houses, unreliable narrators) into a narrative soup that bears a frightening resemblance to my own headspace on a bad day. My copy is thoroughly underlined and annotated.

The Stranger by Albert Camus. I've read the stranger numerous times (in both French and English), and each time, I discover something new. I have it to thank for much of my formative experiences in learning and analyzing philosophy, though I don't consider myself a true existentialist.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Apart from the dystopian novels we all know I love, The Eyre Affair was my first foray into speculative fiction as well as the kick-off to my favorite series of novels. Interestingly, I've never read the regular Jane Eyre.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I didn't read Persepolis until after I'd seen the movie, which was a very faithful adaptation. I nevertheless enjoyed the English version, even though I'm not generally a fan of coming-of-age novels. I'd really love to get my hands on a French copy, but they're hard to come by in the US.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I read this novel as part of an AP English course I took in high school, a companion to Milton's Paradise Lost (which I liked much less). It was one of the first times I'd read a novel featuring a layered, multi-perspective narrative (a form that was quite common in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that has since fallen out of vogue), and I really enjoyed it. I've since read several novels from that period, but Frankenstein remains my favorite. 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I know I'm probably going to feminist hell for liking this book, but I could never get over how hilarious and true it was. Like Yossarian, I'm going to live forever. Even if it kills me.

Night by Elie Wiesel. It's more of a fictionalized memoir than a novel (much like Persepolis), but it was nevertheless very moving. It also gave me nightmares for months.

    Honorable Mention: The Book of Lost Things, which is John Connolly's first novel that wasn't a mystery. A wonderful re-imagining of fairy tales.