26 October, 2009

Finally, Some Progress!

Things have been galloping apace here at Chez Tika. My dad came to visit for a week and a half and just left earlier this afternoon. In the last week, I've also attended the new student orientation for grad school and gotten registered for all my classes through next spring. That's right, kids - this school allows registration a semester in advance. Needless to say, I am chuffed at that little perk!

I start up school again on Wednesday evening. I'm a little nervous, but it feels good to be traveling in a specific direction again. Also the potential to meet people who could be friends is exciting. My brother's friends are all well-and-good, but at 25 he's among the oldest in the group, and I find that I've outgrown a lot of the drama that ensues in the under-25 age bracket. I am not interested in who has slept with whom, or why So-and-so refuses to go out to a bar at which What's-Her-Name might be. I am also not interested in the martyrdom that goes along with undiscussed, unrequited love - but that's another story for a different day (it has nothing to do with me principally - I am a mere observer and Passer of Judgement).

What DOES have to do with me is the Return of the Knitting Mojo, and just in time if I do say so myself! I finished some socks today in a yarn that one person here at least will recognize:
Vanilla Rib Socks in Wildfoote "Brown Sugar"
292 yds.

These fraternal socks are a simple 60-stitch, top-down pattern that I winged (wung?) based on my toe-up Santa Fe Socks. Maybe I'll toss this pattern in a .pdf; I have narrow, petite feet for my size and it's tough to find sock patterns that are small enough to fit me properly. Sixty stitches over size 1 needles seems to work best, but apparently 60 stitches is a difficult number to work with; 64 is much more usual, and that extra 1/2 inch of fabric all around makes my socks just a little bigger than I'd like. I'm thoroughly pleased with these socks, despite their fraternal nature. About an inch into the second sock, I double-checked the skein bands to see if they were actually the same dye lot. The bands say yes, but the color pooling coupled with a few random forest green flecks in the not-pooling sock say differently. I toyed with the idea of ripping back to the drawing board and knitting 2-3 rounds from each skein, and then decided I didn't care that much. Score: Tika, 1; OCD, 0. At least this time.

It's a good thing I have regained my patience for knitting. I realized last night while cruising down the foot of Sock #2 that I leave for Portland in a week and a half, at which I am celebrating two birthdays (one only 4 months late!), and I had NONE of the planned gifts even considered, much less started. Sarah, your socks are coming, I swear! I have the yarn picked out and everything!

So that's the State of the Knitter. I'm a little concerned about the 12-Mile Quest, but if I even manage to get closer to completing it than last year I'll be pleased. For those interested, I do intend to participate in National Sweater Knitting Month by finish my neglected Salina sweater. Once I return from Portland, I'll pull it out and get restarted. That one should afford me a good chunk of mileage at the very least!

In terms of the 101 in 1001 update, I have completed the following things this week:

Lifestyle: I tried a fish I've never had before: barramundi fish from Australia. It is a flaky white fish with a smoky flavor, and I wasn't super-fond of it. But still, it was worth trying and I'm always interested in new seafood! I also tried a ratatouille, which it turns out is NOTHING like what I thought it would be. Eggplants remain on my not-preferred list of vegetables. And lastly, I tried a new kind of tea: a honey-pear tea that had the cloying taste of roses on the first taste and then resolved into the expected sweetened pear flavor on the second. It went perfectly with my brownie-and-cinnamon-gelato sundae, and perfectly ended the evening's dinner at McCormick & Schmick's with my dad, THB and our friend Karly.

Education: I finished "reading" Jane Austen's Mansfield Park in audio format. This book is not my favorite of Austen's 6 major works, but I did enjoy the familiar story and the narrator was excellent. Next up is Persuasion, then Northanger Abbey (my favorite) and I'm done with Austen for awhile.

Entertainment: I got my priest up to level 80! /geekflag

Craft: I finished one pair of socks (see above).

That's about the size of things at the moment. A few tick-marks toward the larger meta-goals of foods, books, and knitting; and an actual strike-out in the Entertainment category. Not too shabby!

20 October, 2009

The State of the Knitter 2009

There has been... very little knitting going on. For whatever reason, I have been Not Feeling It, nor have I been feeling the spinning bug. What I have been feeling is the World of Warcraft bug, so I've been feeding that particular obsession regularly. But despite the lack of knitting, there has been some.

I started my Norfolk Rambler Socks for the Gives Good Knit KAL and made it to the heel of the first sock before I broke down forgot how to knit took a break. Whew, that was hard work! But I'm looking at the bag containing 25% of a pair of socks and thinking that maybe I can do this. It just takes not being quite such a knitting flake as I have been lately.

But Tika, you say, what do you mean, "knitting flake"? Well, dear reader, I mean that I have in the last few days started TWO other pairs of socks. One pair will be the Mingus socks by Cookie A with just a little modification on my part to make them a wee bit bigger (my first iteration was much too small) , and the other will be a plain top-down k3p1 rib much like my Vanilla Santa Fe socks (Rav link) - although I think the linked socks were toe-up. But still - k3p1 rib. Those will be my purse knitting, as apparently anything beyond the said rib pattern is beyond my powers of comprehension right now. I wonder why that is?

In terms of the 101 in 1001 project, I've tried a couple more recipes - two, to be exact. I know that puts me behind, but I've been researching recipes and watching Julia Child on YouTube, so I'm considering this to be the "research" phase of my project. Hee. But seriously, because of the lack of finances, I'm thinking that baked goods might be the order of the holidays. THB and I are having Thanksgiving at the house this year with (so far) just the two of us, so that'll knock out a good chunk of attempts as well. And there is a pile of pumpkins at the grocery store just begging to be turned into pies, breads and waffles...

In other news, I am still unemployed and that might be the reason for my lack of focus. I originally decided that if I couldn't find a job before March, I would start looking into graduate schools; however, I ended up attending an informational session at the beginning of October for Chapman University, and I was pleasantly surprised by their attentiveness and willingness to get me out of school as fast as humanly possible. Tonight I attended the new student orientation, and I start classes next Monday. By this time next year, I will have my California single-subject teaching credential, and by the middle of next spring I'll have my Master of Art degree in Teaching. That should set me up nicely to start teaching class in the fall of 2011; hopefully by then the economy will have recovered somewhat and I'll be able to find a good place in a Portland-area school. My plan is to move up there once I'm done with my degree to start the job-seeking process, but as I haven't even started my first class yet, that's always open for debate.

Let me tell you, I'm not 100% sanguine about starting classes again. I was hoping for a longer break between educational facilities, but it's nice to have a plan again. Especially a plan that eventually involves summers off!

So that's the update. One of these days I'll blog during the day and actually give you pictures of how little I've gotten done! But for now, Mr. Darcy is stretched on one side of my desk and begging for pets, so spare a tiny good thought for my knitting mojo and I'll come back with better, more energized news soon!

14 October, 2009

CogKNITive Fiber Retreat '09

I've learned that it takes me a few days to settle after a big event, no matter how long said event is. Stuff needs time to percolate down through my brain, which means that my blog posts and podcasts about events are usually put up later than those of other people. However, I console myself that mine are just extra-awesome because they remind people about something they had begun to forget. See what I did there?

Last weekend was the CogKNITive Fiber Retreat in Tehachapi, California. This tiny little town is highly amusing, and was in turn highly amused to have 50+ knitters descend upon it. We had a fabulous time.

I met some lovely people, got to hang out with Jasmin and Gigi (always lovely to see familiar faces!), and once again took only pictures and left only footprints. That's right, kids; I bought NOTHING at the market, despite the combined temptations of Bee Mice Elf and Red Fish Dyeworks. Somehow I missed Red Fish at Stitches this last year, and I'm highly disappointed that my first experience with them was when I'm financially impotent. But I was assured by the adorable purveyor that they are getting what will probably become my Forever Yarn by Stitches '10, by which time I intend to have more money even if I have to steal it. It's that amazing, y'all.

Anyway, above-pictured (the person, not the yarn! That's Red Fish.) is Eileen, whom I would like to have as my constant genius female companion. She reminded me of the kind of woman I want to be: confident, elegant, and strong. You can't see it, but she's holding an extra glass of wine in her other hand, just because. Yep. My kind of woman.

This is Dr. Gemma: Everyone needs a little Floating Crane in their lives!

Eileen, Jasmin and I stopped at this aMAZing little coffee house called Mama Hillybeans. The whole place was just one significant glance after another. They have a great menu, a community garden in back, a koi pond inside, regular shows with big-name bands, the occasional wedding in the garden, a to-scale teepee outside that (were we living 150 years ago and also Californian Indians) would have been our homes, and this:
Yep, that pretty much sums up Mama Hillybeans, except that I forgot to mention that the coffee was also very, very good. Double bonus.

I got to meet Laurs from Bee Mice Elf (Hi Laurs!!!), who apparently did really well at the show despite my neglect of her wares. I'm so thrilled!

Other than shopping, drinking wine and visiting coffee shops, I took a class from Jo in drop spindling and taught a class on Judy's Magic Cast-On, which was really easier than it sounds. The thing practically teaches itself; I took a leaf out of Cat Bordhi's book and taught it to groups of 5-ish people who stood behind me. It worked out well.

I also got a BUNCH of prizes! Some gorgeous lavendar soap/bath stuff for being a podcaster and a teacher (I knew podcasting would get me something someday! Hahah!), a book that I traded for another book that I then traded for some Freckleface Fibers roving in the just-for-the-retreat Tehachapi colorway, and 3 skeins of Noro Kureyon. I know; quite the haul, eh? None of which I have photographed, but trust me: awesome.

I have other stuff to talk about, like the KAL socks being 25% done, very little crafting going on, and starting grad school at the end of the month, but it'll have to wait for another post. In the mean time, here're the rest of the trip pictures. Enjoy!

07 October, 2009

Food is Love

I started working on #22 of my 101 in 1001 list last night. #22, for those keeping track (pretty much just me) is "try 100 new recipes." Number 23 is "try 100 more new recipes," and number 24 is - you guessed it - "try 100 MORE new recipes." So if I'm to try a total of 300 new recipes in 1001 days, that's roughly one recipe every three days. Yesterday was the 6th, so I'm already behind a little; however, Christmas is coming and I am broke-ass, so there might be a lot of recipes in my very near future.

But back to the recipe trying itself. I am a fairly accomplished amateur cook. I don't pretend to be good at baking, but I can cook pretty well, and I enjoy throwing things together without much rhyme or reason (hence #36, "take a cooking/knife techniques class"). Generally speaking, when I cook I start by reading a recipe or watching Good Eats, then I modify based on what I have on hand and go from there. Thus I have a bunch of "base recipes" in my head that can be changed or altered depending on my mood or what's in the fridge - usually the latter. About a week ago, I decided it was time to add a recipe for Brandy Cream Sauce to my repertoire; I'd seen it on the Good Eats episodes called "Tender is the Loin," and it just marinated in my head until I ran across a sale on brandy at Rite Aid. Surely cheap brandy is appropriate for cooking, if not for drinking!

So I looked up a recipe on Epicurious and tried it out. Having never made a cream sauce before, I went out and bought some heavy whipping cream for the base and made sure I was Doing It Right. It was, as most foods full of fat and alcohol are, delicious. Sadly I started playing with the sauce before my 101 in 1001 re-started.

But last night, oooh. Last night I went off book for the first time and just cooked. I figured for my first attempt, I should start with a bang - or at least a big ol' fire. Have you ever cooked with brandy? It's great fun; you get to set it on fire. Yea.

So here for your cooking enjoyment is my recipe for


Blue Cheese Brandy Cream Sauce


Your favorite steak. The sauce will make enough for 5-6 people if you're not stingy like me.

1 c. beef broth
2 T butter
3/4 c. onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. chopped brown mushrooms
1/4 - 1/3 c. brandy
1 c. milk (I used 2%)
3/4 c. blue cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the steaks in a hot skillet (cast iron is best, DO NOT use non-stick) for 4 minutes on each side or until done to your liking. Remove to plate and cover with tin foil, then a towel to keep steak warm.

Put beef broth and butter into pan and deglaze by scraping little brown bits of steak off of bottom of pan. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add mushrooms. Cook until onions are soft - liquid should reduce by about 1/2. Add brandy, then remove pan from stove and (this is the best part!) light it on fire to allow alcohol to burn off. Don't worry, it'll go out by itself when the alcohol is all gone. Replace on medium-high heat and add milk. Continue cooking until liquid reduces by about 1/2 (7-10 minutes). Add blue cheese and cook until cheese has melted.

Pour over steaks and serve. Also goes well over vegetables and rice.

In other news, I encountered an interesting bit of my upbringing today. Most people whose origins are in Places of Color will tell you that they were required to have some form of food in their mouths at all times when they were young because "if you won't eat, something is wrong with you! Are you sick? No? Then just one more bite, mijita. Now just finish your plate, there's a good girl." Ahem. Anyway, THB had a really rough day today and was facing an even rougher evening. So while we talked a little, I offered to 1) get some beer, 2) open a bottle of wine, or 3) cancel the plans we had for Glee tonight. He rejected all three offers and then his phone rang. So what did I do? I left the room and went straight to the kitchen. He came out about ten minutes later, just as I was chopping the last of the onions into the slow cooker (put on high, a slow-cooker will finish chicken in about 2.5 hours. Perfect for starting dinner at 4:30!). He sat down at the counter and looked at me, then started laughing.

"What?!?" I asked, and held out my hands for him to smell. We both love the smell of fresh-chopped onions-and-garlic on a cook's hands (remember this, ladies...). He pointed at the Crock Pot and said, "I told you I didn't want anything, but I'm sad, so you came in here and started making dinner. For two. Because you didn't know what else to do to make me feel better, you started cooking."

And it's true, I did, because food is love.

05 October, 2009

Lambtown '09

Aija beat me to the post, but that's good 'cause it encouraged me to write about Lambtown, which I may have let slip by otherwise. Why would I have let it slip by, you ask? Well, because I did what you're supposed to do in the forest - left only footprints and (more importantly) took only pictures. Well, pictures, some kick-ass tri-tip, and garlic fries. When I arrived, the first thing I came across was the Sheep-to-Shawl competition:

I did a quick mental checklist of wheels and saw a good number of Lendrums, Sonatas and Joys; not a big surprise since they're all very decent traveling wheels. There were a couple of Schacht Matchless wheels, and even a 30" Schacht-Reeves (but that one was for sale). However, the big ARGH! of the experience was the Baby Wolf you can partially see on the left of the photo - the woman who owns it said she got it for $300 on Craigslist. I almost slugged her and ran away with her loom; I probably would have if Aija's boy hadn't been there. Have to keep up appearances for the children, you know.

When I first heard about Lambtown, I thought I wouldn't go because I have - as you may have noticed - very little self-control when it comes to wool and the purchasing thereof. Then I looked into it a little more and found out it was about 35 minutes from my house. THEN I looked at the classes and discovered the Stephanie Gustaud was teaching all day. I thought seriously about taking her long-draw class and ultimately ended up not doing so for financial reasons, but I thought briefly about bringing my Big Book of Handspinning just in case Himself was there with his lovely bride.

Well, I forgot to bring my book, and you know what that means.
I did take a picture of him - and not a proper Kinnear, just a picture for which I got a sidelong glance after the fact. What I did not do was walk up and tell him how much his book has (in the hackneyed phrase) changed my life, nor did I simply walk up and shake his hand and say thank you. No, ladies and gentlemen, I did what we in the fan business call Chickening Out. I took my picture and walked away, which is all well-and-good when it's Kinnear himself - celebrities deserve their privacy - but is rather stupid when the person in question is famous in a (let's face it) very small circle of people. Well, there's always next year I suppose!

Apparently I was having a shy day because I walked by these lovely people
and also didn't stop to say hello. Dear reader, if you find my Social Graces walking the streets, please send them home immediately. They are sorely missed.

We watched the sheep judging, for which I refer you again to Aija's lovely post, and the sheep shearing which was slightly traumatic. The shearers nicked the sheep a few times, and the blood showed right up on that whitish wool, let me tell you. After that I got flirted with by an alpaca
and tried to get Little Man to pose for a picture of a different alpaca, but instead had a hilarious "which camera?!?" moment:
Towards the end of the day, full of garlic fries (Aija and me) and corn dogs (Little Man), we two grown ups sat on the grass and watched while he took in the bouncy house and the train. After a long day, I was super-impressed with how well he kept it together (I was promised tears and possibly a fit upon the exit of the bouncy house, but no dice. Maybe next time! ::wink::). Us grownups chatted about this and that, enjoyed the beautiful afternoon, and I took a parting picture of a fleece that the Little Man announced was Not Good Enough because it was only second place. But then, he likes the smell of unwashed ram and mohair fleeces, so obviously his judgement isn't yet as well-honed as ours:

03 October, 2009

1001 Days of Recap

Back on January 1 of 2006, I started this project. I worked on it for a few weeks, here and there, and then forgot about it (and the blog) for nearly a year. At the end of 2007, I revisited the project in a misguided whirl of New Years Resolution; I was relatively newly single, ready to begin a new relationship, attending the school I hoped would be my final step to my degree, and generally moving in All New Directions, most of which were Forward. After the last recap nearly 2 years ago, I half-heartedly attempted a few of the things on my list, but most of the ones that were actually completed were done so over the natural course of my long-term goals to graduate from college and get a grown-up job.

On September 28 of this year, my first round of 101 in 1001 ended. My participation has been spotty, and I've definitely achieved fewer goals than I have neglected; however, the Big Stuff actually has happened. I did, in fact, graduate from college (13), and I accomplished it without transcribing mysteriously mess Art History notes (6). I achieved all of my financial goals save one (40-44), got a spinning wheel (89), and finished a sweater for myself (52). I did not, however, go to Italy (80) or the dentist (98) or donate blood 8 times (18). Two of those things are going on the new list.

As I look over my previous 101 in 1001 list, I see some very specific goals that should have probably been more general, or visa-versa: "going to Italy" has become "visit 3 foreign countries," and "see Les Miserables live" has become "see 2 musicals." All of the goals that included organizing my college notes have been thrown out, and new ones added that involve trying new foods and books. I added one that involves me getting my California teaching credential, although that's an extremely new development and I'm not certain it will stay on the list.

But anyway, here it is; the new 101 in 1001 that began the day I started writing this blog entry (Oct. 1). It will end on June 27, 2012.

  1. Walk for 30 minutes 50 times (0/50)
  2. Design and find someone to start new tattoo
  3. Donate blood 8 times (0/8)
  4. Find a new form of exercise that I enjoy and engage in it 2x/week for 6 months (see #13, may extend beyond end of 1001 days)
  5. Lose 15 pounds and maintain that healthier weight
  6. Make a list of 100+ things that make me happy.
  7. Make a new 101 in 1001 list by July 1, 2012
  8. Take a multi-vitamin and vitamin C daily through one bottle of each
  9. Try 5 types/nationalities of food I have never tried before (0/5)
  10. Create an outside play area for the cat
  11. Donate 500 items to charity (0/500)
  12. Get geneology from mom
  13. Get health insurance
  14. Go to a museum once per month (0/30)
  15. Go to the dentist
  16. Leave someone a 100% tip (on a bill of $15 or more)
  17. 3-15-2011
  18. Rip big book of CD’s into iTunes
  19. Try 100 fruits/vegetables (3/100)
  20. Try 100 more fruits/vegetables
  21. Try 100 MORE fruits/vegetables
  22. Try 100 new recipes (5/100)
  23. Try 100 more new recipes
  24. Try 100 MORE new recipes
  25. Try 50 new foods (fruits/vegetables don’t count) (4/50)
  26. Try 50 more new foods (fruits/vegetables don’t count)


  1. Begin thesis outline
  2. Buy Wheelock's Workbook
  3. Compile list of vamp books for thesis
  4. Find 3 new-to-me authors and read everything they've written
  5. Get teaching credential in CA
  6. Learn to use Excel/Numbers efficiently
  7. Read 50 books (0/50)
  8. Read and notate vamp books for thesis
  9. Take a class at a community center
  10. Take a cooking/knife techniques class
  11. Take CBEST
  12. Work through Wheelocks

Friends and Family

  1. Send Christmas cards
  2. Throw a dinner party
  3. Write 5 letters to friends in 2009 (0/5)
  4. Write a card to both grandmothers every month [0/30; 0/30]
  5. Write 12 letters to friends in 2010 (0/12)
  6. Write 12 letters to friends in 2011 (0/12)


  1. Pay off one Alaska student loan
  2. Create a budget that includes savings and fun money and stick to it for 6 months
  3. Find a job with benefits


  1. Go on a cruise or to a retreat
  2. Travel to 3 foreign countries (0/3)
  3. Visit Malia in Portland
  4. Visit the Japanese Tea Garden in SF
  5. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium


  1. Buy missing seasons of Gilmore Girls (0/5)
  2. Attend a Gatsby Afternoon dressed up
  3. Attend a Renaissance Faire (dressed up!)
  4. Attend Dickens' Faire in costume
  5. Blog every week for 6 months
  6. Get a WoW character to level 80 before next expansion Completed 10/09
  7. Go to an opera
  8. Make a Dickens' Faire dress
  9. Play one computer game start-to-finish without hints or cheats (WCIII?)
  10. Play one video game start-to-finish without hints or cheats
  11. Play paintball
  12. Podcast every 2 weeks for 6 months
  13. See 2 musicals
  14. See 2 plays
  15. Watch 100 movies from my Netflix queue
  16. Watch all of AFI's 100 Greatest Movies (37/100)
  17. Watch all of AFI's Greatest Musicals (17/25)
  18. Watch all of BFI’s Top 100 Movies (0/100)


  1. Make a box of 10 gifts for spontaneous gift-giving
  2. Attend a sheep shearing at Sue Reyser's (Feb. '10)
  3. Buy chart/kit for Chatelaine Heirloom Chart
  4. Complete 1 embroidery project
  5. Complete 1 Sharon Miller Shawl
  6. Complete 1 stranded sweater that fits
  7. Complete 10 lace projects
  8. Complete 10 miles-worth of spun yarn
  9. Complete 12 pairs of socks (1/12)
  10. Complete 12 MORE pairs of socks
  11. Complete 3 sweaters total
  12. Complete Murloc’s Spidey Blanket
  13. Complete the 12-Mile Quest
  14. Deliver knitted Christmas gifts for 2009 ON TIME
  15. Design and publish a Shetland shawl
  16. Finish lantern quilt
  17. Knit 2 pairs of stranded mittens
  18. Learn to use sewing machine
  19. Make 3 skirts
  20. Make a quilt (start to finish)
  21. Order Sharon Miller's Wedding Ring Shawl when available (2010)
  22. Spin a balanced yarn with long-draw
  23. Spin a balanced, core-spun yarn
  24. Spin enough lace-wt. yarn for a TBD big lace project (1800+ yds.)
  25. Work exclusively from stash for 1 year (may only purchase items needed to complete a project, may extend beyond end date for 101 in 1001)
  26. Work through 1 of EZ's books
(Plus 5 To Be Announced)