These are a few of my favorite things

I’ve been busy the past few days, getting my Christmas stuff ready to go. I actually did wind up making some fabric bags to put my presents in.

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I think I made 6 altogether. I thought they came out pretty decent, and I used up about a yard and a half of fabric. It was nice to take the sewing machine out for a drive, too – I’m looking forward to doing more sewing in the next year. I’ve taken about a 2 1/2 year hiatus from sewing and quilting, which I think I needed to do. Now that I’ve had some time apart, I think I have a new perspective and different goals regarding sewing than I had in the past. But more about that after Christmas.

I started knitting a pair of socks out of the Amysbabies yarn that I got from her Etsy shop. Here’s the yarn, but no in progress sock picture because I’m going all drama queen and extending the anticipation. 🙂

amysbabiesyarn

I also spun up the fun roving ball set I had combed up the other day from the miscellaneous fibers Travis and I picked out.

JD 2

It’s called Juvenile Delinquent. It’s spun, for the most part, really low-twist, and has fun random mohair locks trying to escape from the skein. I had over 6 1/2 ounces and about 200 yards of it. I say “had” because after the yarn was finished blocking, I immediately got a warp on my loom and started weaving with it. About 4 hours later, I had a new scarf! It’s very glam rock – the mohair gives it these nice random shiny areas, and the scarf is almost ridiculously wide – 11″. I love it.

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Scarf detail

Ellie loves it, too. When I had it on the table to try to photograph it, she kept jumping up and laying on it.

Ellie is trouble

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Also, you can’t really see it here, but I’m wearing a new shirt Travis got me for Christmas.

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He got it from an Etsy buyer called Look For Fiddleheads. Here’s the design on my shirt. I love it. I am all about Etsy and am going to try to honor the Buy (or make, in my case) Handmade pledge as much as possible next year.

Travis and I leave for our Christmastacular family adventure tomorrow, so probably very little (if any) blogging for the next 4 or 5 days. Hope everyone has a happy holiday season!

PS – Wish me luck – god willing, I’ll be hitting Mass Ave Knit Shop’s post-Christmas Sale. All yarn is at least 30% off. Travis and I accidentally found ourselves in the midst of it 2 years ago – I had no idea there would be a sale going on, and I think Travis died a little bit inside. But I’m prepared this time, and my only goals are Malabrigo – lots of it – in almost-solid colors (for colorwork!) and some new needles. Let’s see what actually makes it home with me.

Profiles in Courage: Bucky Bear

I found myself cleaning out my fabric closet today (yes, sad to say, I have enough fabric to justify having an entire closet devoted to it). I’m culling the fabric herd, so to speak – my mom is going to start quilting again after the holidays, and I offered her a bunch of my fabric, since I’m currently not using it. So that’s part of her Christmas present. Anyway, I’m going through the fabric closet and pulling stuff for her, and after that’s done, I kind of get carried away and start going through the little bit of non-fabric stuff that’s in that closet as well. And who do I run across but Bucky Bear?

Bucky Bear

Travis and I, in our non-married life, wound up accumulating a lot of stuffed animals. A lot were ones that I had from when I was a kid (I never played with dolls, only stuff animals), and we’d randomly add another to the club – mostly turtles or manatees, it seems. But we both wound up having similar creepy stuffed animals from childhood – mine was a bear that I think originally belonged to my brother, and Travis’ was a beaver. At some point, the creepy bear and creepy beaver met, and we dubbed them “Bucky Bear” and “Bucky Beaver,” respectively.

Both animals were creepy and odd, yet still somewhat endearing. We figured they were responsible for some creepy and odd events, and we tried not to piss them off. It was kind of like an “Anthony is going to wish you into the cornfield!” situation. We’re sure Bucky Bear and Bucky Beaver hold mysterious and strange powers, and I want to keep on their good side.

So it was with some dismay when I came across Bucky Bear at the bottom of the closet, appearing that he had somehow contracted the mange. I don’t know if he had gotten damp at some point and there was mold on him or what, but it was quite disturbing. And kind of gross.

I didn’t want him infecting anyone else, and since Bucky Bear is probably older than I am, I didn’t think he could hold up to the washing machine – I know I probably couldn’t. I didn’t see any other option besides to finally throw him out.

But as I was standing at the trash, diseased creepy bear in one hand and the trashcan lid in the other, I realized I couldn’t do it. I had to at least try. If Bucky Bear was game, then so was I. I decided to try the washing machine, chucking Bucky Bear into a lingerie bag and washing him on gentle using the hottest water and the strongest detergent.

With much joy, I looked upon the now disease-free Bucky Bear! He’s heavy like a brick, and I’m hoping his innards dry all the way through (fortunately, the humidity in the house is low right now), but providing that happens, he should pull through. Here he is with his comrade, Bucky Beaver:

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So kids, when faced with your own real-life Bucky Bear predicament, remember what Parappa said – “You gotta believe!”

In less surreal news, I finished up the third Christmas scarf:

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I’m going to start getting presents wrapped and bagged tomorrow, so I’m not sure if I’ll get the last two scarves I wanted to weave completed. If not, no big deal. I happened to find some of last year’s wrapping paper in the fabric closet, so I figured I could try to use that up first (in order to be environmentally friendly – no good in not using something I already have), and then start making bags for the gifts I have left.

Oh, and here’s a pic of a few of the sloppy mess roving balls I combed yesterday:

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I think I’ll start spinning this when Travis gets done plying.

My, your balls look terrific!

My Bloody Valentine

Even though I need to be finishing up Christmas stuff, I took a mini-break from it this morning and had some fun combing up roving balls.  I didn’t spin at all since Travis had heisted the Louet, but that’s fine, since I was just kind of in the mood to play with fiber.  Last night I went through some of our fiber stash and pulled out a selection of red, pink, and lavender fiber – mainly wool and mohair, but with a bit of hot pink tussah silk and some maroon sparkle fiber and this morning I combed them all up.  The balls all look orangey-red on the outside, but they gradually fade into the other colors as the roving strip goes on.  It should be pretty cool when I get a chance to spin it up.

Travis and I also picked out a bunch of weirdo fibers at random, and tonight after he went to work I combed up a bunch of really funky roving balls (I’ll try to get pics of them tomorrow).  These have some chunky mohair locks and some other bizarre bits and pieces in them.  After spinning up the Hanukkah Joy and the Peach Fizz blingy sock yarns, I’ve been in the mood to spin something really artsy and shaggy and messy, so I think this set of roving balls will meet those requirements quite nicely.

The last fibery thing we did today (well, Travis spun pretty much the whole day) was to get out some horrible wool roving we’ve had hanging around for a bit.  The fibers are really short and the wool is not soft at all.  Anyway, Travis had the idea to try and comb it out on the hackle, so we got some of that fiber out and managed to make the wool at least spinnable (even if it still feels a bit scratchy).  So I think an ongoing project is to eventually comb up all of this crap roving, and spin it into some big chunky yarn, and then I’ll weave rugs using the yarn.   It’ll be nice to use up something that otherwise would be junk.

Besides enjoying Ball Day, I finally finished up my Christmas knitting.  Hooray!  I wove in the ends of the last hat I was making this evening.  I’m not completely happy with the hat, mainly because I’m not sure if the recipient will like it, but there’s only so much I can worry about.  I’ve got my third Christmas scarf started (again, I’ll try to get pics tomorrow – hopefully, I’ll get the scarf completed tomorrow) and it looks really nice.  So there shouldn’t be any problem in me getting that scarf done before my deadline, but weaving two scarves after that is starting to look pretty ambitious.  Not sure what I’ll be able to get done, since I still need to sew my Christmas bags.

The good thing about finishing up my Christmas knitting is that I get to start on a frivolous project for me – you know, something I can work on while I’m watching TV.  So I think I’m going to cast on for a pair of socks knit out of some wonderful sock yarn I snagged from Amy’s Babies’ Etsy shop.  I never posted a picture of it because the one I took was on a horribly dark day with no good light whatsoever.  Anyway, the yarn is gorgeous – the deepest shade of black striped with this awesome turquoisey green vibrance.  I can’t wait to cast on!  I may do it when I’m done with this blog post!  Like, right now!

The 21st century is when it all changes…

It snowed quite a bit today, and now I guess it’s sleeting or something? Who knows. The weather forecast keeps going weird, but altogether I don’t think it’s been as bad as it was made out to be. I took some snow pictures earlier, but they were all pretty lame, so I’m not even bothering to upload them.

I got the one sock finished that I wanted to get done (yay!) and also finished weaving another scarf.

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So, I’ll be starting on the hat next and hopefully get the loom warped again tomorrow to do scarf #3.

I do have two pieces of news regarding TV. First off, as you may know, the Writer’s Guild has been on strike for a while now. Scripted shows, including the late night talk shows, have stopped producing new episodes, and the networks are getting set to roll out new winter shows, consisting primarily of competitive reality crap and new shows that weren’t good enough to be picked up during the fall season, but had some shows already filmed and sitting around, ready to be shown. The two good pieces I had heard before today is that there are some episodes of Jericho (yay for apocalyptic cheese!) and 8 episodes of Lost ready to be shown. So, that’s some small thing to look forward to.

As the strike continues, I’ll probably be watching more shows on BBC America, including season 2 of Life on Mars, which just started last week., and Top Gear, which I watched for the first time last week and was pretty damn fun. But the main event is the debut of season 2 of Torchwood, which begins January 26th, I think, on BBC America. The neat thing about this is that season 2 of Torchwood debuts in England only about 10 days earlier, so US audiences will only be a little bit behind the UK audiences, instead of having to wait a year or more to see it.

Torchwood is a Doctor Who spin-off, in case you didn’t know, and features the wonderful Captain Jack Harkness, who is omnisexual and also can’t die. There is a *lot* of Captain Jack love in this house. But too be honest, I actually thought season 1 of Torchwood was pretty much a hot mess, as Tim Gunn might say. I think they were trying too hard to make Torchwood an adult Doctor Who, but it seems like their interpretation of “adult” was all of the main characters having sex with just about everyone, except for Captain Jack. I understand that Jack has to be more hard and bitter than he was in Doctor Who, but did they have to make his character almost entirely joyless? And did he get to shag anyone last season at all? Poor Jack.

What’s encouraging is that the makers of Torchwood seem to have realized that things went horribly wrong during season 1, and apparently have worked to address a lot of the issues. I’ve read a few early reviews of the first new episode, and they’ve all been really positive, which was a bit of a shock. I think one even said that the first episode was one of the best hours of TV ever featured in any series of the Who-verse. So here’s to being able to watch Torchwood that’s actually a good show!

Getting back to the Stateside in TV news, I read something tonight which, if proven to be true, would be awesome regarding the writer’s strike. Apparently David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, is rumored to have started separate negotiations with the Writer’s Guild. To date, the AMPTP has been negotiating en masse, and the Writer’s Guild is going to try a new tactic of divide and conquer, trying to convince smaller companies to be reasonable instead of dealing with all production companies at once. Letterman’s in a good position because his show is actually owned by himself, instead of being owned by the networks. Also, Letterman happens to be an all around decent guy (and, he’s a graduate of Ball State, just like me! It’s not often that you hear about someone from Ball State being a success!).

Anyway, here’s the post on Deadline Hollywood that goes into what’s going on with the WGA and Worldwide Pants. I really hope that they can work out a working agreement, because it’ll be nice to have something interesting to watch at night, especially since the Daily Show and Colbert are off the air (and man have they been missed in this primary season). What I’m looking forward to most is having Letterman go back on the air and be able to just rip the networks for the crap they’re pulling with the writers. I can almost smell the snark already.

So, two happy pieces of TV news for you – potential Letterman return without screwing the Writers Guild and potentially good Torchwood. It’s more than I could have hoped for!

We need emergency Chex Mix, stat!

I’ve been spending the past few days working on Christmas presents. I’m in the homestretch now – I have 1 sock (well, less than one sock, really, since I started it last night) and 1 hat left to knit, which is doable. And I’m going to try to get a few more scarves woven, but since weaving can make my back hurt if I overdo it, I’m not going to freak out if I don’t get them all done. So, I’m in pretty good shape. I still have my little fabric Christmas bags I need to sew, too, but I’ll probably start working on those in the later part of next week. Here’s a scarf for Travis’ grandmother I finished up weaving yesterday:

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It turned out kind of long, like 84″, but hopefully that’s okay.

We got some freezing rain the other morning.

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Apparently this is just a preview of coming attractions, since we’re supposed to get Major! Sloppy! Blizzard! of DOOOOM!! today. We’re right on the line we’re we’re supposed to get not only substantial snowfall, but some more sleet and ice as well. It’s supposed to start late morning here as snow, change to sleet in the afternoon and early evening, and then change back to snow and blizzard all day on Sunday. So that’s exciting. Travis went to work yesterday evening, and if the weather is as bad as they claim it’s going to be, I probably won’t see him for a few days. When he goes to work he’s normally gone for about 36 hours anyway, but the way it’s looking like right now, he’ll be getting off work when the weather is supposed to be at its worst, so he may wind up just staying in Columbus instead of trying to drive home in a blizzard. When we were living in Indiana, he was at work when a huge storm hit, and he wound up being on duty for something crazy like 54 hours! Holy overtime, Batman!

We did a little bit of storm prep yesterday. We went out and got kerosene for our kerosene heater in case our power poops out on us. Later on in the day I had a mini freak-out and we wound up going to Kroger’s for emergency storm rations. Specifically, we bought supplies to make Chex Mix. Because if we’re going to go through Major! Sloppy! Blizzard! of DOOOOM!!, what better food is there to snack on?

What was weird is that Kroger’s was sold out of Rice Chex, of all things. Maybe everyone else had the same thought that I did? So I wound up doubling up on the Corn Chex. It’s all good.

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Toby really, really wanted some Chex.

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We’ve gotten some fun mail the past few days. We got some fun Christmas ornaments from my Aunt Dor that I need to take pictures of, and we also received a package of beer and fiber related goodies from Yarn Love Katie. Travis blogged about the beer (he hasn’t tried any of it yet, but I’m betting after he finally gets home, he will :), but here are pics of the lovely merino/tencel she dyed for us. Here’s Travis’:

Wild grapes

And here’s mine:

Strawberry crush

I’m trying to be good and finish up my Christmas stuff, but I keep sneaking over to the fiber stash and fondling the braid.

I also got the Hanukkah Joy handspun shipped off to Sarah Lou. I’m really pleased with the way this skein came out, although the pictures aren’t really accurate in terms of the color and bling-age. It’s a lot more blingy in real life.

Hanukkah Joy Close Up

What I noticed when I was knitting the Peach Fizz socks is that I wound up liking the way the yarn looked in sock form better than it looked in skein form. So I can’t wait to see what Hanukkah Joy looks like knit up. Have fun, Sarah Lou!

Finally, here’s the best picture I could get of the Red Planet Blue scarf knit from handspun spun from Dianne‘s Creatively Dyed roving. (And hey, I see on her blog she now has gift certificates available! Just a thought for anyone looking for a last minute yarny/fibery Christmas gift!)

Red Planet Blue scarf

This scarf is really sproingy and bouncy. I may wind up wearing it today when I’m shoveling snow!

Well, wish me luck for this weekend! I hope the power stays on, but if not, I think we’ll be okay. I’ll just have to break out the knitting raft again. 🙂

The post about food

Welcome to part one of the Archer Farms Taste Explosion review! As I mentioned in my last post, I was blinded by packaging at Target and bought a bucketload of Archer Farms foods and mixes. Archer Farms is apparently the store brand of Target, and I’ve never had anything by that brand before. But the packaging is so appealing! So, I’ve decided to take everyone on a taste journey with me as I see whether or not these were actually worth buying.

The first Archer Farms product I made was the Vanilla Bean Shortbread Mix:

Archer Farms Shortbread

I’m not a big shortbread person. Travis likes it more than I do, but I was drawn to this mix not only by the packaging, but by the tantalizing beckoning of the Vanilla Bean. Love vanilla bean. It makes me happy. So I chucked it into the cart.

The mix cost $2.49, and the only ingredients needed were 2 1/2 sticks of butter. Ingredients contain actual food – seriously, here’s the entire ingredient list: Enriched flour, sugar, salt, natural and artificial flavor, and vanilla bean. Nothing weird or scary, except for possibly the artificial flavor. Yay! Instructions were a piece of cake – cream softened butter, slowly add mix, continue beating until dough forms, press into pan, pierce with fork, and bake. Piece o’ cake. Except I screwed up and just dumped the butter and mix in together without creaming the butter first. Oh well. It all worked out in the end.

Like I said, I’ve never been crazy about the shortbread. But oh my god, this was the best shortbread I have ever tasted. It’s moist (one of my issues with shortbread is how dry it normally is), the texture is crumbly and elegant, but the flavor is the star – the vanilla is definitely present. It doesn’t overwhelm the cookie, but adds to it, both in taste and aroma. It is a cookie that you take a bite of, and just close your eyes and sigh blissfully.

Travis agreed that this was a damn fine cookie. I don’t think he had the same out of body experience that I had, but he was definitely munching on them throughout the day and took some to work with him.

I would definitely buy this mix again and recommend it to everyone I know (seriously – next time you’re at Target, buy this mix). My only concern is that now the bar has been raised so high that none of the other Archer Farms products can compare. We’ll see – I’ll let you know next time I make one.

Summary – Archer Farms Vanilla Bean Shortbread Mix – 10 out of 10 points. This is the single best cookie mix I have ever made.

So I made those last night, and today Travis and I busted out a double batch of Hershey Kiss cookies, made from scratch. Nothing fancy, I just used the recipe on the back of the Hershey Kiss bag. First off, I unwrapped the Kisses, and discovered a disturbing trend – the Kisses now talk to you! At first, they’re friendly and benign.

Hershey Kisses say Hello!

Then they kind of start getting weird and nostalgic.

Nostalgic Hershey Kisses

They then morphed into scary stalker Kisses.

Hershey Kisses get kind of creepy

“You love me”? Really? Because that’s always a winning line.

Finally, I discovered the Hershey Kisses of angst.

Hershey Kisses are in pain

Who wants to eat a chocolate that’s in pain? I don’t understand this at all. Travis thinks it’s a secret message from someone trapped in the Hershey Kiss factory.

Mmm...

Anyway, the cookies came out awesome. For some reason, the past few times I’ve made these, the cookies have seemed to be too dry and crumbly – I really enjoy a smooshy Hershey Kiss cookie, so I get disappointed when I bake dry and crumbly ones. I’m pretty sure I used the same recipe. Maybe the difference has to do with the humidity today, where it’s not as dry as it normally is in winter. Who knows. They came out perfectly this time, and we have a big cookie jar full of them, so I’m happy.

Artsy Hershey's Kiss cookie

I’ve got some yarn and fiber fun stuff going on, but I’ll post about that stuff tomorrow. For a sneak peak, check out my Flickr photos. Got some awesome roving from Yarn Love Katie, shipped off the Hanukkah Joy yarn to Sarah Lou, and got started on a new weaving project. Not to mention potential Christmas crafting still on my list of things to do. Fun times ahead!

Target owns me

Let’s get this out of the way first.

I am Target's Puppet

Seriously, what is wrong with me? I am such a packaging whore. In case you can’t tell in the picture, all of the products are by Archer Farms, who I’m guessing is Target’s generic food brand. And because the packaging is so appealing to me, I couldn’t stop putting more Archer Farms stuff into our cart. It’s a good thing there isn’t a Target closer to me, because I would not have any money, especially since Target started adding grocery sections to its stores. Anyway, I’m going to make the vanilla shortbread mix tonight as my first foray into Christmas cookie making (I know, it’s a mix, but I’m easing my way into this. Don’t judge me.). I’ll give you a review later. There’s a small part of me hoping that the Archer Farms stuff turns out to be bad so I won’t buy a ton of it next time I go to Target.

As much as I just threw my money down the Archer Farms food aisles at Target, I am also incredibly pissed at the store. Why? No frickin’ Legos (cue Elliot Reid: Frick! Frick frick frick!)! We went to two Targets yesterday and at both all they had was the same Spongebob set. I’m all about the Spongebob, but apparently my nephew Tyler (who is going to be 5 in February) has no clue what Spongebob is. Which leads me to the following – 1. Where the hell can one find a decent Lego selection in central Ohio, and 2. When do kids start watching Spongebob? Because I can munch on Krabby patties and watch that all day.

Travis and I had our Christmas shopping day yesterday, and as normal, I think we wound up buying more stuff for us than for others. In our defense, I’m making a ton of Christmas gifts this year. Mainly, besides the Archer Farms Taste Explosion, we bought some more books:

More new books

I haven’t finished the first Sherlock Holmes from a while ago, or started the Dickens yet, but my January is going to be spent cuddled up in a warm mess of yarn and words.

Unfortunately, both Travis and I pooped out enough at the end of the day, and we didn’t wind up buying our luxury food item for Christmas Eve. Of course, the one day I’m actually willing to buy the gourmet marshmallows from Whole Foods, their selection was awful. I almost went for the smoked salmon, but I think we’re going to be both better off to go to Trader Joe’s/Fresh Market/Whole Foods one day next week maybe and just concentrate on the food and not everything else.

In addition to the flotilla of knitted gifts I’ve made for Christmas, I also wanted to make some cookies (and yes, actual cookies will be involved, not just fake cookie mixes – although probably not on the scale of Katie’s cookies) and do a little bit of Christmas crafts. I’m going to try and sew up some fabric gift bags later on in the week, but today I made these. They’re kind of homely, but kind of cute, too:

Christmas Craft #1

I bought a pack of small ornaments at Target and painted people’s names on them. I’m going to be using them as gift tags.

I was pretty productive today, actually – got the laundry done, did a bit of dyeing which actually turned out pretty nifty, got some knitted items washed and blocked, made my little ornament tags, blocked some handspun (including Sarah Lou‘s Hanukkah Joy, which hopefully I’ll be able to mail tomorrow!), etc. I’m all excited because we bought some deli food from Whole Foods, which means I have instant meals for the next few days. I like cooking, but when I’m trying to get other stuff done, I forget to eat and then all of a sudden I’m starving – and of course then, I don’t feel like making anything that’s more complicated than opening up the toaster oven and sticking something frozen in it. So yesterday we got a bunch of good, no-effort foods – pineapple from Cut Fruit (Hi, Terry!  Sorry we missed you yesterday, Lizzie!), egg salad, blintzes, latkes, couscous, sushi – stuff like that.

Almost forgot to mention that I did knit a random garter stitch scarf. I used the Red Planet Blue yarn I had spun from Dianne’s Creatively Dyed roving. Here’s a bit of it (it’s still being blocked right now):

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It was fun and mindless to do.  Which is nice right now.