Monday, January 31, 2011

Finally, progress!

I have the next dew days off, so I should be able to finish the rest of the squares and most of the borders by Friday. Then it's eight thousand ends to weave in, some embroidery, and tying the bows on and then I will be finished finished finished finished and I will never have to make another one of these ever again.

And I can go back to my regularly-scheduled crafting of things like mittens with weird designs and impractical scarves.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Hairs.


Apologies for the weird lighting. Matt uses energy efficient light bulbs, which I am pretty sure cause blindness if you stare at them directly for too long. They also flicker in a seizure-inducing fashion and sometimes make noises. I dislike them.

Also, taking a self-portrait with a netbook webcam is fairly difficult. 

Last, I am pretty sure I will never have not-cowlicky bangs, no matter how old I get.

I'm going to be carded forever. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A minor-ish setback

Running out of yarn is an ongoing problem of mine. I have an unfortunate tendency to underestimate how much yarn a given project will consume (this is why I am on my THIRD attempt of knitting an aeolian), sometimes patterns are wrong, and other times the crafting gods simply don't smile on me. 

The problem with this particular project is that my aunt wanted all of the Hello Kitties to have pink collars and pink bows, and there wasn't enough yarn to do seven pink squares, pink collars, and pink bows. In order to do all of the pink bows, I would need to unravel the seventh pink square, which led to changing the order of the squares, which, in turn, resulted in me having to pull apart all of the squares I'd already sewn together and start over. 

Other than that, progress has been steady. I have completed sixteen squares: six pink, three aqua, and two each of lavendar, blue, and green in addition to the central multi-colored square. I still have a lot more to do, but I have four days off next week, and will hopefully be able to knock out the rest of the squares and start the border. I've finished all of the kitty heads and collars, and should complete the bows tonight.

Obligatory project picture:



Not shown: five pink squares, fifteen pink bows, twenty Hello Kitty heads and collars, and the pink-square-that's-being unraveled.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I cut my hair off.

Up until two days ago, I had very long hair. When it was wet, it hung almost to my waist. Since it's wavy/curly (varies by the day), it was a fair bit shorter when it was dry: just below the bottom of my bra strap. I really liked having long hair, but it eventually started to wear on me.

First and foremost, long hair is a royal pain to maintain. Especially if it's curly. Curly hair is prone to dryness and breaking, which means speshul snoflayke hair products that cost a fortune and a maintenance routine that is, frankly, ridiculous. Neither of these things guarantee that your hair will cooperate, either. Sure, the $25 a bottle hair conditioner plus silicone-free products improved my ratio of good hair days to bad, but I still had enough bad days to where my hair spent most of its time in a bun because it looked like crap wavy and I couldn't be bothered to straighten it (long hair takes forever to flat iron, and doing so repeatedly can damage curls and make them more likely to look cruddy the next time around). Air-drying is another necessity, which can really suck when it's cold out and you don't have the two to three hours it takes for your hair to dry all the way.

Second, as I hinted above, keeping one's hair long is expensive. If you keep your hair shoulder-length or shorter, your hair gets cut faster than it gets damaged by less-than-ideal product. If your hair is long, though, the $25 a bottle conditioner is necessary. You also have to spend more money on haircuts since you're supposed to get it trimmed more frequently, and a lot of salons charge extra if your hair is that long. Apparently cutting long hair is also a pain.

The third and final reason why I decided to cut my hair, is that chlorine and other pool chemicals really accelerate the drying and splitting process. I didn't fancy adding another set of steps to my already out-of-control haircare regime in order to keep the pool from frying my hair, so I decided to skip merrily down the path of last resistance, buy a hair dryer, and get the length taken off.

My hair is currently right at shoulder length. All said and done, I lost somewhere between eight and ten inches in length. I'm still getting used to it, but mostly, I like it. It's nice not having to use two handfuls of omgexpensive conditioner every time I wash it, and I can wear it straight guilt-free, which means no more leaving the house with wet hair during the winter! I also don't have to worry about my ends not matching my roots (I don't dye my hair, but it does change colors seasonally) or obsess over whether a given activity is going to damage it beyond all repair. It's a pretty nice feeling. I'll post a picture sometime tomorrow, once I have enough daylight to get a decent shot with the webcam/cell phone.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Review: Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Kicking off my contribution to the 2011 Victorian Literature challenge is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguse, a collection of sonnets she wrote for her husband, Robert Browning. Unlike Swinburne, who I'll be reviewing next, I was quite familiar with Barrett Browning before reading this collection. The professor of the Victorian Literature course I took in college was a big fan of the Brownings, and we spent several weeks studying their poetry. Much of it was taken up by Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth's eternity-long, semi-autobiographical rise to a nationally-recognized poet (she was apparently short-listed to become Poet Laureate, but Tennyson got it instead), but we also read a number of her shorter works, including one or two of the Sonnets.

I admittedly have something of a love/hate relationship with Elizabeth Barrett Browning. On the one hand, she's an obviously gifted poet and many of her works are quite enjoyable. On the other, I hated Aurora Leigh with a passion, which is why I'll not be re-reading it for this challenge. My primary objections to it were twofold:

  1. I hate reading works involving Mary Sue (or Larry Stu) characters. If you want to write about yourself, fine, but don't pretend that you're perfect while doing it. (Fake flaws, like being too good are doubly annoying.)
  2. That my professor presented it as a feminist work when Barrett Browning spent a good bit of the narrative elevating herself and her writing at the expense of other women. It's one thing to write that women writers can be great because of how awesome your writing is; it's quite another to say that you're a uniquely awesome woman writer while not-so-subtly trashing on other female writers as well as other women of your social class in general. See also: Mary Wollstonecraft.
I also have little patience for lengthy poems, epic or not, in general.

I nevertheless decided to read all of the Sonnets from the Portuguese since they were said to be a huge departure from her other works. That assessment is quite true. In most of her poetry, Barrett Browning radiates confidence (often to the point of being abrasive and arrogant), both in terms of her own poetic ability as well as the subject matter upon which she was writing. Like many female poets of the Victorian Period, a lot of her early works centered on addressing social evils, namely slavery and the working conditions of the poor. While Aurora Leigh was more autobiographical, it nevertheless featured a lot of (heavy-handed) social commentary.

In light of that, the introspective, conversational, and personal tone of Sonnets from the Portuguese is quite jarring to those familiar with Barrett Browning's other works, especially those of us who found them overconfident and irritatingly superior. Barrett Browning lays her insecurities about herself and her relationship out for all the world to see in the Sonnets, and I found the display almost uncomfortable, as though I was reading her personal diary. The poems were nevertheless very enjoyable, and I'm glad I read them. I feel that my view of Barrett Browning as a poet and a person is much more complete. I also think a lot of people who aren't really into poetry would like it, as it's fairly short and the language is easy to understand and not overly difficult to parse or dense, as is often the case with poetry.

I've decided to not use the stars rating system on poetry, as I feel the act of reading poetry too subjective to evaluate the poetic works themselves fairly.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recipe of the Week 2011 #4: Oven Home Fries, Tofu, and Fancy Ramen

As regular readers have probably noticed, I have a multitude of food addictions. One of the worst is my persistent cravings for spicy ramen noodles, which I have a devil of a time finding here in Asheville. We don't have a lot by way of international grocery stores, unfortunately. I did manage to find a tiny Asian grocery that carries my favorite brand of noodles: shin ramyun. 

They're quite hot by themselves, so I always cook other stuff to add in. I usually go for eggs, tofu, and potatoes, but I do sometimes add veggies if they're in season and I have them on hand. Since most veggies aren't in season right now, I'm making the scaled-down version. 

I used this recipe for the home fries (minus the onion and pepper) and this one for the tofu. Both are super-easy and take practically no time at all. I scramble the eggs, usually one per package of ramen. I sometimes add in an extra one, though. I LOVE eggs.

Braver souls can add in Sambal or Sriracha, but I wouldn't recommend it without trying the included seasonings first. I have a pretty high tolerance for spicy food, and if I don't add enough water, shin ramyun's too spicy for me. 

Lastly, in keeping with the "Why do I bother making complicated things when this is your favorite thing to eat?" theme in the kitchen here, this is one of Matt's favorite foods. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

The first book in the 2011 Classic Feminist Literature Challenge is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. It's one of those books that I've only read in excerpt, and had been meaning to read in its entirety, but didn't because I knew that I wasn't going to like it. I knew that it was going to be over-wrought, heavy-handed, and, of course, that the author would spend a good portion of her time hating on other women to ingratiate herself with her male audience.

I blame the Victorian literature class I took at Vanderbilt in 2004. The professor assigned a lot of literature that had been produced by women, and much of it involved acts of self-justification predicated upon proving the author's obvious superiority to those other, lesser women. See: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh. I understand that it was necessary back then, as the literary establishment didn't generally see merit in most women's writing. It's why so many women wrote novels under masculine pen names, and why those who chose to publish under their own names felt the need to either preface their work with or include within the work vitriolic excoriations of their more feeble-minded sisters. It nevertheless annoys me, especially since hating on other women to get in good with men is something that continues today, though it's largely perpetrated by right-wingers like Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin, who are not feminists.

Wollstonecraft's thesis is, in essence, that depriving women of education and rights is morally wrong because it renders women petty, ignorant, and filled with vice, and unable to properly raise their children to be productive citizens. She sees many of her fellow middle-and-upper-class women as little more than overgrown children: coddled and vacuous, and is offended by the notion that women are intrinsically made to be that way. This brings me to another thing that tends to burn my biscuits about early feminist writing (and this is something that goes right up to the present, frankly, we've just gotten slightly better about it) is the focus on class-privileged women.

We'll blame this rant on my Marxist feminist Women's and Gender Studies 201 professor: Wollstonecraft yammers on and on about spoiled, coddled, petty women in their gilded cages, and that's all well and good except for the fact that most women in England during the Industrial Revolution didn't have the luxury of flitting from frivolity to frivolity in overpriced dresses. They were too busy pulling seventy-hour workweeks in the textile mills (with their children!) for a pittance while living in squalor in unsanitary, overpopulated slums in the fast-expanding cities. They were probably too busy worrying about having a place to live and not dying in one of the multiple cholera outbreaks that happened during that period to obsess about whether or not their moral development was stunted. While I can definitely get behind her distaste for Rousseau (who, let's face it, was a misanthropic creep), I nevertheless have a hard time shedding tears for the intellectual plight of the affluent women when the poor had it so much worse.

Beyond that, Wollstonecraft never actually argues that men and women are equal. In fact, she frequently acknowledges that men are superior due to their larger sizes, and fallaciously asserts that since these differences appear to be replicated in nature (in fact, Vindication is filled with pseudoscientific nonsense, though I'll give Wollstonecraft a pass since her observations were likely on the cutting edge of that time period), it is, of course, natural that women remain subordinate to men. I found it pretty irksome that she spent so much time arguing that men and women ought to be equal in terms of education and moral development but not economically, socially, or politically, and she never adequately explains why. The bit about masculine women being the result of a woman having a male brain had a similarly grating effect on me.

All criticism aside, though, Vindication was nevertheless very important. Wollstonecraft, for all of her faults, was one of the first to stand up for the cause of women and their rights. I have to appreciate it in light of that, even though much of it is eye-rollingly awful. I'm looking forward to the next few books we're reading. Hopefully, they'll be a bit more enjoyable.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

The last book I read was so bad, I decided to cheat and skip ahead of finishing The Wisdom of Whores and Norwegian Wood and read my reward book: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. Being an avid YA novel reader, I was excited to read this book after seeing many glowing reviews on the blogs I read. Better than that, I wasn't disappointed! This book is really excellent, and its 470 pages flew by.

The story is essentially Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls: Samantha Kingston, an attractive member of the in clique, re-lives the day of her death seven times. As the days go by and she makes different choices, she learns more and more about her family, her friends, her boyfriend, her enemies, and, most importantly, herself.

There's a lot to like about Before I Fall. Not only is it very well-written (Oliver's descriptions are vivid without becoming over-wrought or space-devouring), the characters are beautifully drawn. Even (especially?) the mean ones: Sam and her friends. One weakness of many YA novels is that they're told from the perspective of the unpopular kids, the outsiders, and the cool kids are rendered in a stereotypical, two-dimensional fashion. Oliver doesn't fall prey to this; even Lindsay, the queen of mean, is depicted sympathetically. While a lot of reviewers found it grating as a result of their high school experiences, I found it a breath of fresh air-- more than likely as a result of mine (Confession: I was one of the mean kids in high school).

There are a lot of reasons for why otherwise decent teenagers go mean, and Oliver explores them without getting preachy or sentimental. Lindsay, Ally, Elody, and Sam are easy to hate, sure: they're shallow, self-absorbed, and gratuitously cruel to anyone who doesn't meet their exacting standards. At the same time, though, they have endearing qualities and obviously care deeply about one another. The way Sam grows and changes as her last day/week goes by is incredibly moving.

I also really loved the ending.

I give this book 4.5 stars. I can't wait to read Oliver's next book, Deliriium, which will be out in February.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Recipe of the Week 2011 #3: Baked Macaroni

This week's installment of Shiny New Recipes is coming in a day late because someone in this house drank all the milk on Friday and I lacked 1) sufficient quantities to make a decent bechamel sauce and 2) the will to go buy more after a particularly exhausting day at work.

I modified this recipe. I used regular sharp cheddar instead of white, and left out the nutmeg. I added extra cayenne pepper, black pepper, and paprika. I also used packaged breadcrumbs instead of making my own (yep. I'm lazy.) and added a few cups each of broccoli and cauliflower so that I could delude myself into thinking I have remotely healthy eating habits.  It turned out very nicely.

Tomorrow, it's Matt's turn to make dinner. He has promised me Diet Cheerwine and frozen pizza. It's a good thing I eat an orange every day; otherwise I'd be concerned about my imminent risk of dying of scurvy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

2011 Blog for Choice Day

This is NARAL's sixth year of putting on Blog for Choice Day, and the topic is "Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?"


Obvious answer is obvious: Yes. I still remember what happened when the Republicans controlled Congress under Bush, and given how wishy-washy Obama has proven to be when it comes to abortion rights, well...


Had Blog for Choice Day happened last week, I would have posted a few snide remarks about how Republicans were probably going to make attention-seeking, partisan jackasses of themselves and waste everyone's time by introducing a bunch of anti-abortion bills and attempting to repeal health care reform, neither of which would ever clear the Senate, much less the President's inevitable veto. On the upside, I was right. On the downside, well...I was right. 


Sometimes being right about (almost) everything kinda sucks. In cases like this, it really causes you to lose faith in your fellow man. 


Admittedly, I wasn't a huge fan of the health care reform bill that ultimately got passed. Like many progressives, I feel that it didn't go far enough in some ways (no public option, which means that I'm now rocking the "Oh crap my appendix ruptured!" insurance with a side of riding the sliding scale at Planned Parenthood plan), and actively worked to my detriment in others (allowing states to bar insurance companies from providing women using public funds to purchase insurance policies that cover abortion). I maintain it was better than nothing, though, and it did get me about six month's worth of decent coverage on my dad's insurance. 


At the same time, watching coverage of the debate over the abortion provision was nothing short of rage-inducing, so now I'm really looking forward to (at least) two long years of watching a bunch of old, wealthy men who probably haven't had sex with a woman of reproductive age since the Carter administration hand-wringing about how abortion is just awful. Of course, now it'll be with an added side of and cutting social programs will help balance the budget (and single mothers are bad for society, anyway). As irritating as I find anti-choice Democrats, they at least support social safety nets that would (in theory, anyway) provide for children born to women who can't afford them.* They're also generally on board with comprehensive sex education and widespread access to birth control-- you know, the things that actually prevent abortions. 


Anti-choice Republicans, on the other hand? I refuse to listen to a lecture on morality from anyone who will wail and moan about how horrible abortion is on the grounds that all human life is sacred while doing everything in their power to kill social welfare programs that are aimed at ameliorating the condition of poor children. The American child poverty rate hovers at around twenty percent. That's one in five children that is poor. Denying them food, shelter, and healthcare because of a Puritannical need to punish single mothers** is bad enough, but doing that while actively working towards the generation of even more unintended, unwanted children who will almost certainly be born into deprivation? Reprehensible. 


It's going to be a long way to 2012. I can already tell. 


*According to the Guttmacher Institute, over two-thirds of women who have abortions list an inability to afford an(other) child as a reason for terminating.
**I assume I don't need to get into how screwed up and wrong "I don't believe in rewarding bad choices" rhetoric is when it inevitably leads to punishing children for their parents' behavior is.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Swimming Lessons

Now that I'm finally over the month-long head cold from Hell, I've been able to start up one of my New Year's Resolutions: get better at swimming so I can take a boot camp-style class with Matt. We've been to the Y the last two days, and will probably go again tonight and tomorrow. Whether or not we'll go on the weekends is unclear because the pool closes earlier than when I typically get off work and Matt disapproves of getting out of bed before noon.

So far, it's going about as well as I expected it to. I'm not a very good swimmer. While I can keep myself from drowning (or so I hope), I lack good form and coordination. This makes swimming any distance longer than fifty yards or so very difficult. I'm also not a big fan of swimming with my face in the water. All of these are things I'm going to have to deal with if I'm to start swimming any substantial lengths without using a killer-leg-cramp-inducing kickboard. Seriously. I had a hard time going up stairs today because of how sore my legs are.

I'm optimistic, though. If I can handle people who are twice my size chasing and tackling me (rugby!), I can learn how to swim with my face underwater.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Short List of Recent Accomplishments

AKA, why my updates have been sporadic, late, and generally short these days:

  1. I have finally, finally, finally finished my applications for graduate school. It took several weeks of stressing out to finish the personal statement, because I hate writing those with a passion. Every time I sit down to compose one, I start having flashbacks to when I was in high school applying to undergrad and start to feel crushed by my anxiety-fueled Fear of Failure and Ruining My Life Forever. But I did it! It's done! And odds are good I'm never going to have to write another one ever again. (Now I get to spend the next month or two freaking out and worrying about whether or not I'll get accepted.)
  2. I am even more finally over the incredible cold/sinus infection that knocked me out flat for about three weeks. Proof that there's irony in the universe: my head want from kind of stuffy to full-throttle sick the day after I got kicked off my dad's health insurance. 
  3. I am also finished applying for the CASA program here. I got my manual and the training starts in February. That's probably the first and last I'm going to be able to write about it here, mainly because of the super-strict confidentiality rules that go with the territory of anything involving children, crimes involving children, and the courts. I also don't want to jeopardize any case I'm working on or my credibility as a guardian by blogging about it publicly. Nevertheless, I'm really looking forward to it!
I don't have as much free time this month as I thought I was going to, though, which is also affecting my ability to churn out entries. When you live in a tourist town, you get used to being semi-unemployed between January and Whenever the Flowers Start Blooming in March or April. You save as much as you can during the busy season (by working an insane number of hours) and procrastinate all of the stuff that you should be doing (applying to grad school, writing that novel, making a dent in your enormous yarn stash, reading all of those books) by promising to do it in the off-season. I was planning on doing all of those things and blogging quite regularly, but I'm working a lot more than I thought I would be so all of the stuff I put off and my ongoing obligations (like not living in squalor, which is an uphill battle when you live with anywhere from 2-4 dudes) are putting the squeeze on my blogging time. 

I'm very thankful that I am able to work, of course. I had enough in savings to where I wouldn't have to work at all between January and mid-March, but it would have sucked my accounts dry. Now that I have some extra cash, I can put it towards useful things like getting my car a few steps closer to paid off and taking a beginner Spanish class this summer. And possibly more yarn. And books. And kitchen gadgets!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cataclysm not in motion.

AKA, his usual state. It's sort of hilarious that he continues to sleep in that basket when he's waaaaaaay too big for it. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Catastrophe in motion.

I know I take a lot of pictures of the cats, but I think this video is a little more representative of Catastrophe's personality. Sorry about the sideways-ness. Blogger wouldn't let me fix it.

video

Sunday, January 16, 2011

SGS: Second Glove Syndrome

Much like Second Sock Syndrome, Second Glove Syndrome affects impatient, easily bored knitters everywhere and ensures that there are no fewer than three single gloves/mittens/armwarmers in my WiP pile at any given moment.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: The Psycho Ex Game by Merrill Markoe and Andy Prieboy

One of the reasons my posting has been a bit off-schedule of late is that I've been reading and digesting The Psycho Ex Game. What I thought was going to be an amusing he said/she said war of words over whose ex is the craziest ("She threw my clothes off the balcony of her apartment!" "Well, he called my mother and gave her the lurid details of my sex life!"), it turned out to a fairly depressing descent into the consequences of dating alcoholic and/or drugged-out narcissists who are less crazy and more abusive. Which is fine, I guess, but the book probably should have advertised itself as such. The book jacket and online reviews led me to the former conclusion; reading the book, the latter.

The premise of the novel is simple: two showbiz careerists (Lisa, a writer for a comedy show, and Grant, a musician-turned-playwright/performer) meet randomly at Grant's current gig, a musical about the lives and love of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, and exchange e-mail addresses. The topic of insane exes is broached, and a contest is born. Grant, as it turns out, spent years involved with a semi-functional, slightly-less-famous-than-him heroin addict. Lisa spent a similar length of time with a much-more-famous-than-her actor/director whose magnetic charm causes most to overlook the fact that he's a malignant narcissist.

The novel centers around a series of e-mails they send one another that detail the suffering they experienced at the hands of their psycho exes, which they end with an itemized list of points they've earned for each humiliation. Whoever scores the most points wins the game. As the game progresses, though, the e-mails begin to detour into more and more personal territory, causing friction between Grant and his girlfriend (who may be a Psycho Ex in-the-making in her own right) and Lisa and her job. When Lisa's ex appears on the scene wanting to make Grant's musical into a movie, all hell breaks loose.

At the end of the day, I wasn't terribly impressed with The Psycho Ex Game. While the idea behind the book was interesting, I nevertheless feel that it was executed poorly. The e-mails don't always sync up well with the "real lives" that the two main characters are living, and the supporting characters are never really fleshed out. The reader hears precious little about the characters outside of their developing obsessions with one another, so the whole thing feels pretty flat and wooden. It's also very predictable; the ending is obvious from about page fifty or so, which made slogging through the subsequent 367 pages more than a little unpleasant.

The only place where this book shines is the e-mails, which are a very well-rendered portrayal of what it's like to be involved with a narcissist. Having been there myself, I can say that it rang true in a number of ways (which is why it took me so long to read. Unpleasant memories right and left). In fact, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is looking for insight on that particular subject. Like if you have a friend who's dating a total asshole and refuses to dump him, or if you're looking for an explication for my admittedly wacky behavior circa late 2006-mid 2009.

Overall, I give it 2.5 stars.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Recipe of the Week 2011 #2: Double Lemon Bars

It's been a rough week (lingering sickness, errand-filled days off, epic piles of laundry, work, and Hello Kitty blankets, oh my!), so I'm cheating with my recipe challenge by making something I've already made before: lemon bars. This time, however, I'm using the Smitten Kitchen recipe instead of the one from my Bon Appetit Cookbook. The two are fairly similar except the SK version calls for granulated sugar in the crust (instead of powdered) and uses more eggs, juice, and flour in the filling.

The end result is tasty (of course, I love all sour things), but I think I'll stick to my old faithful recipe on this one. The extra flour made the filling more creamy, as opposed to the gel-y consistency I get from my usual recipe. I also prefer the other crust; it's a little bit crunchier and less sweet. I'll still call this one a success, even though I doubt I'll use it again.

I saved extra zest so I can make madeleines tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Swatch!

In the interest of knitting up the yarn from Hell Sekku I purchased, I made a gauge swatch of the lace pattern I was planning on using. I don't generally swatch for scarves, as they're usually worked from top to bottom by casting on the width stitches and knitting until you run out of yarn. However, when you work from side to side, swatches become necessary as winding up with a scarf that's 84" x 4" is a very real (and very unfortunate!) possibility, especially when lace, which can expand unpredictably when blocked, is involved.

Behold, the swatch (using the ugly brown part of the yarn so I don't run short on the pretty colors):


From the swatch, I learn that I am getting about three stitches per inch, and that to get a scarf that is six feet (or seventy-two) inches long, I'll need to cast on 216 stitches. I'm not sure how much width I'll get out of it, but based on the length of the color repeats, it should be around six to eight inches.

I'll post the pattern once I'm finished. There seems to be a dearth of patterns for sideways-knit scarves, and I think this one will show off the Noro colors very nicely!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Off to a tedious start.

Presenting #1-5 of my 111 knitted crafted items in 2011:


I promised my aunt a Hello Kitty afghan for my cousin's birthday in February. It's...going. I don't crochet much these days because it makes my hands and wrists hurt, so it's going a little bit slower than I thought it would. The repetitiveness doesn't help, unfortunately; it's really aggravating the ol' startitis.


The crazy number of ends I'm going to have to weave in doesn't help
.

Neither does Cataclysm, despite his best efforts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Short List of Retractions

I am occasionally wrong about things:

  1. There are some acceptable pumpkin-flavored beverages. They are known as "beers" and contain alcohol.
  2. Naomi Wolfe, as my friend Lauren Riot said, has lost her goddamn mind. I always had a love/hate relationship with Wolfe, but now she's squarely in PagliaLand ("Where feminists who spend 90% of their time hating on other women go"). 
  3. Red and green can look good together. Evidence: the Hello Kitty blanket my stepmother made me for Christmas. I LOVE it. 
  4. It is possible to consume unsweetened tea without dying of the awful taste (but said tea needs to be hot).
  5. I may be wrong about Sarah Palin being as dumb as a box of rocks. No stupid person can be that effective at saying the most offensive thing possible in a given situation that consistently. (On the other hand, a Christian calling herself a victim of blood libel based on the way supporters of a Jewish politician are behaving? SERIOUSLY?)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yarn Review: Noro Sekku

In short, I hate it.

In long:

I noticed on Ravelry that Noro had launched some new yarn lines, many of which do not include mohair (which I can't knit with because my skin is sensitive), and was interested in trying them out. I've used several of Noro's products before, and, apart from my tragic mohair sensitivity, had always been satisfied. I picked up a couple of skeins of Color 08 of Sekku at Yarn Paradise a few weeks ago, intending to use it for a scarf. I wound up sorely disappointed for the following reasons:

  1. The colors are kind of "eh." While they still have the vibrancy and quirkiness associated with Noro, the transitions are awkward and jarring. Pee yellow, snot green, and poo brown should not be stacked on top of one another, especially not when scab red is involved (I hereby move we change the name of Color 08 to "Bodily Fluids"). The light gray was a much better neutral, and made the shift between the aforementioned colors and the teal, turquoise, and dark blue in the rest of the skein a little more natural. I found myself having to remove most of the brown in order to make the colors look decent together. While this critique is primarily directed at the specific colorway I purchased, I noticed that several other colorways had similar issues.
  2. While the "rustic," uneven spin of Noro works well for yarns that are fingering weight or heavier, it's a really bad idea in laceweight. Both the super-thin and the underspun bits of the yarn break if you look at them sideways. I wound up having to hold two strands together, which meant I had to abandon my original project idea. 
  3. It is really sticky and loves to fold in on itself and tangle into impossible-to-undo knots. This also makes frogging difficult. 
While I think the scarf I'm making out of it will ultimately turn out nicely, I hate feeling like I'm knitting with eggshells. It also took forever to extract the fugly colors from the ball. 

Verdict: 2.0 stars. Next time, I'm getting a ball of the sock yarn instead. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

You're Standing on My Neck

New favorite thing to do while knitting: watch old episodes of Daria, which was my favorite show for years. The only downside is that the DVD version of the episodes doesn't have the original soundtrack. Stupid pre-DVD music licensing issues.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wristwarmers!

My first project of 2011 is a set of wristwarmers. One of my goals is to make more items that I'll actually wear; while that rainbow multicolor may look good on the shelf, I will never wear the item knitted from it in public. Even though grey is a boring color by comparison, I'll probably get a lot of wear out of them later.

I keep my knitting in a cookie tin so that the cats can't mess with it. Because, as we all know, cats are jerks who destroy yarn and handknits.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Almost there!

I took a short break from blogging to finish up my grad school applications. They'll be done tomorrow, so I'll try to return to my slightly-more-regular updating schedule.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Recipe of the Week 2011 #1: Enchilada Lasagna

Now that my head cold is mostly taken care of, I can cook again without worrying about making Matt and his entourage ill. I decided to hold the inaugural New Recipe Challenge tonight.

I used this recipe and substituted MorningStar Grillers for the chicken*, used bagged Mexican blend cheese instead of queso fresco (because real queso is impossible to find here), and dumped an entire can of chiles in adobo sauce into the sauce mixture instead of just the chiles so it would be spicier. I strained the chiles out before I added the sauce to the casserole dish.

Overall, it turned out really well! The sauce was spicy without being overwhelming, and the whole dish came together very nicely. I'll definitely make this again.

*I hate chicken. I can't eat it without becoming incredibly ill afterwards, and it also tastes really bad to me. Blecccch.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My head is full of rubber cement. Still.

While Sudafed 12 Hour is a miracle drug that enabled me to complete a shift at work without keeling over, I am still too foggy to compose anything interesting or coherent.

I leave you with the song that inspired my blog title, courtesy of youtube.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Incoherent.

I thought that drinking wine would help the head cold. You know, that if I got a buzz going, it would matter less.

Not so much. Wine tastes really terrible when you have a head cold.

So now I'm waiting for Matt to come back with some sudafed and orange juice.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book Challenges: The Beginning

I am currently downloading books for my reading challenges for this year. One of the many convenient things about owning an e-reader is that you can download thousands of public domain books for free over at Project Gutenberg. All of the books that I am planning on reading for the Victorian Literature Challenge are on there, as are a few of the ones for the Feminist Lit challenge.

The Feminist Literature Challenge books for January are A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft and So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. The former I downloaded from Gutenberg, the latter I will be procuring from the library. (It bears mentioning that I am flat freaking broke, hence my choice of book challenges: all are easily obtained for free online or from the library.) I've never read the latter, and have read the former only in excerpt. Looking forward to both!


As for the Victorian Literature Challenge, I'm going to start off easy with some poetry. Poetry was always my strong suit as an undergrad; I made my best grades in the classes in which poetry figured prominently. I'm going to be reading the Brownings, Tennyson, and Swinburne. I was going to add in the pre-Raphaelites, but then I recalled that I've already read most of the siblings Rossetti oeuvre and didn't care for the rest. So that's that, I guess.