Radio Static

I failed at Nablopomo.

This, in the wake of everything else that has happened recently, is of extremely small consequence. I am nevertheless disappointed.

My brother-in-law, Matthew, passed away on Wednesday quite unexpectedly. He had just turned twenty-two and was my husband's best friend and brother. He was also recently married and had an infant son. I didn't know him well, but it has hit me hard. It's also been difficult for me to know how horribly I feel and try to imagine how his mother, wife, and brothers are feeling. I simply cannot fathom how deeply they hurt.

All of this is to tell you that I'm here and I'm thinking about blogging, I just can't right now. Maybe I will be back soon, maybe I'll be awhile. I will, however, be back.

Apparently This Exists.

I have to share something with you that just blew my mind.

The Band from TV.

Apparently, many of the people that I like to watch on TV (Teri Hatcher and James Denton of Desperate Housewives, Greg Grunberg and Adrian Pasdar from Heroes, and Hugh Laurie from House, among other people I don't know) are in a band together.

Freaking weird. (And don't ask me to explain why, I don't know. It just seems strange to me.)

Discuss.

Graphic Design Fail

People, I need a revamp. This blog design is tired.

I am having difficulty with my elementary graphic design skills. My problem is that I'll see something that looks simple, which my mind translates to easy, and then suddenly I'm knee-deep in wedding invitation designing and making millions of tweaks that just look wrong.

This happens to me over and over again: "I don't want to PAY for that. I can do it myself!" It's been said many times while visions of invitations, wedding programs, wedding activity books, etsy banners and avatars, blog banners, and blog buttons have danced in my head.

It's not as easy as it looks, is my point. And I am just anal-retentive enough that I will spend all day playing with the spacing of letters or trying to achieve perfect symmetry with an image and text. Most of the time, it takes so long and is so frustrating that I would have gotten off cheaply to have paid someone else to do the dirty work.

It's time, I think, to solicit help for my blog and for my etsy shop, the banner and avatar for which I have created several iterations of and subsequently tossed out. It kind of kills me to admit it, but this is something that I'm just plain not good at. And while my wedding invitations and programs and activity books and zillion other pieces of paper turned out fine, people only looked at those things once. And I spent so much time on them. So I requested a quote for someone to revamp my blog, and possibly my etsy, too. I just hope I can afford her.

Present Progress Rundown

Recently, in a quest to make headway on my Christmas list (cheaply!), I have finished:

1) Stenciled t-shirts for my brother

I downloaded a couple of wingding fonts from DaFont.com and printed choice "letters" onto cardstock, then cut out with an exacto. Add some paint, then presto and voila, custom t-shirts. I bought the blank shirts for $2.50 apiece, and already had the printer ink, paint, cardstock, and textile medium.

2) Socks, attempt #2, for my mom

Knit using Silver's Sock Tutorial and Vanna's Choice acrylic yarn (so mom can toss these into the washer). These were less than the cost of one skein, or about $2.

3) All three crayon rolls for neices and nephew.

I used Skip to My Lou's Crayon Roll Tutorial and some scrap fabric for these. Combined with a pack of crayons and color book from the dollar store, these are pretty economical gifts at $2.50 apiece (not counting fabric, interfacing, and ribbon I already had).

4) Personalized onesie set for the littlest nephew

Ready for their close-up...

Rolled up in their box...

Wrapped up and ready to go.

These were achieved through much trial and error using 10 onesies from Target (yes, there are only four in the package! Key words: trial and error), some stretchable transfer paper, Microsoft Publisher, several colorful strings of words, lots of help from my husband, and another wingding front from DaFont. Oh, and a plain wooden box. I quite like the finished product, even if it took ages and many failed attempts. A set of three similar onesies on etsy costs $32, but we made four for about $23 (imagine the savings if we'd gotten away with all ten!).


5) Started the steeping process of 4 sets of cooking extracts for my stepmom, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and friend

L to R: Vanilla, lemon, and orange

I am making four sets of one bottle each vanilla, lemon, and orange extract. I used 4 vanilla beans, one orange peel, one lemon peel, and about 4 cups of vodka. I mis-calculated and accidentally bought a big jug of it, over half of which we're pondering other uses for (by which I mean, choosing what sort of mixed drinks we'd like to make). I also ordered 2 ounce amber glass bottles from E.D. Luce Packaging, and bought long tins from the dollar store to package them in. For tutorials, I used this one from Chickens in the Road for the vanilla, and this one for the orange and lemon. They need to steep for about a month, during which time I'll also design some labels. These will come to about $11.50 apiece when it's all said and done - actually, less, if I don't include the mass amounts of vodka that I purchased put didn't use for this project. If I take that away, it comes to around $9 per person, which is a pretty sweet deal for homemade "gourmet" extracts, and for a crafted gift that's not very labor intensive.

I am still working on the list, which includes some choice things like 3 pairs of mittens, a very specific photograph, a handbound journal, a scrabble pendant, and some felted clogs. I'll keep plugging away and will post more once I've completed a few projects.

Curse of the Matching Pair

For one of his Christmas gifts this year, I wanted to knit some mittens to match Chris' beloved Jayne Hat, as seen here:


I had never knit mittens before, and had major difficulty with previous attempts, always resulting in frogging of the entire project. I finally finished an entire recognizable mitten, and was ever so proud. It was much, much too big for me, but figured that the size was correct because I was using a pattern for Men's M/L mittens. So I knit another, and was excited when I finished it, because it was My Very First Pair of Mittens. The excitement continued until I compared the two individual mittens:

I'm not sure if you can tell by the picture, but something is Very Wrong with the mitten on the left. It is jumbo-sized, house of mirrors, oven-mitt worthy large. No man would be able to wear it comfortably, except maybe Paul Bunyan.

I have no idea how I skewed the pattern so much, but the second and third mittens I have attempted have turned out much more ordinary-man sized. I'm currently looking for uses for the odd mitten, however, because I don't want to frog it. Using it as an actual oven mitt is out, because the yarn is acrylic and would melt on contact with hot items. Any ideas?

To Knit, With Love

My "To Knit" list has blown up as of late. I owe this entirely to Christmas shopping, but in two parts: 1) Some of the knits are gifts for others, and 2) while searching for gifts to make others, I find gifts that I would like to make for myself.

Currently, I have one half of a pair of mittens (more on that tomorrow) finished and another 2.5 pairs to go. In addition, I want to make a ribbed scarf and pair of felted clogs or two. Those are for other people.

For myself, I'd like to try a knitted ripple blanket, a stocking each for Chris and me, and a Comfy Raglan Sweater.

Priority goes to gifts, but obviously we need stockings if we're going to fill them, and if everything went happily, I'd like to wear the sweater on Christmas day. Maybe. It's kind of a hefty list, but I'm really hoping that I'll be able to get a lot done this weekend and over Thanksgiving, particularly because we have a long, boring drive to make wherein I'll have eight hours to knit merrily in the passenger's seat. Wish me luck!

Trumpy Love

Remember, a long, long time ago, when I promised pictures of the puppy? Well, he's not so little anymore, put here's one of him from when he was a wee bit smaller:

The day he came home, sitting on Chris' lap.

People, I love this dog. Seeing him jump around and act like a crazy person makes all of my troubles melt away. Except when, in his craziness, he is causing more trouble for me. He is always causing trouble for me. My puppy is a hellion.

Ruby, our 4-year-old Chihuahua, had a big box full of toys that she never touched before Trumpy arrived. Now, all of the toys (which clearly belong to Trumpy and are only allowed to be played with or handled by him by punishment of very scary growling or pitiful yelping) are scattered throughout the house, and the tiny king moseys around at his leisure and chews on each of them in turn. He also has developed a fondness for shoes, anything wooden, and any clothing items light enough that he can drag around behind him. In short, he keeps us very busy. He also, very recently, figured out how to jump up onto things:

video
Please excuse... uh... everything.

I sense that things just got more complicated. Please send help.

Gloating

Our landlord installed a new showerhead today. It massages, or sprinkles, or drizzles like rain. It has multiple settings, is what I'm sayin'. I tested it out this afternoon and I honestly don't know how I ever showered without it.

...And that, friends, is a completely empty post for the purposes of Nablopomo. I'm sorry, I'll have more to tell you tomorrow.

Currently... 11/18/08

Knitting:
Country Wool Basic Mittens

Watching:
Ugly Betty, Season 2

Eating:
Andes Peppermint Crunch

Lusting Over:
Gap V-Neck Crazy Stripes Sweater

Smelling:
Panache French Vanilla Body Lotion

Christmas Creepy

While we're on the subject of Christmas, I have to tell you that I made my Christmas list today. While looking back over it, I had to laugh, because apart from copious amounts of candy, here's what I've asked for:

-yarn: Noro & Cascade 220
-books: 1 novel, 1 craft
-an underwear/sock drawer organizer from Ikea
-Chef soap (brings your hands back to their original non-stinky state after handling garlic or onions)
-a glass head
-a set of alphabet cookie cutters
-(more) argyle socks

It occurs to me that I may be the slightest little bit strange.

The Grinch Who Loathed Christmas

I have spent many days recently planning for Christmas, actively shopping for materials and packaging for presents, and being generally merry. Contrary to previous years, I have not yet griped about Christmas music appearing in stores (already) and am drawn to the holiday aisles of stores instead of avoiding them.

It is slightly surprising to me that it isn't closer to Christmas. I've gotten a lot done already - I wrapped SEVEN presents today! - and when I start to tally up what's left, and how many days I still have to finish... well, it's a long time. I could do nothing for the next month and be alright. I have heard many people remark on the "Christmas creep" this year - the earlier and earlier start to the holiday season. It has been early, yes, but for me, it has been welcome.

You see, I have always been what you might call a "Christmas hater" or maybe even "Grinch." It's not that I hated Christmas itself, or what it represents, but the forcedness of the "holiday spirit" and the family gatherings that no one really wants to be at, not to mention how grouchy people seem to be when one goes out in public all really bother me. Oh, and how busy everyone is trying to shove as many events as possible into such a short time, the Christmas music everywhere, and the all-consuming Christmas-theme. In the past, my main complaint was, Christmas is one day. Why do we need to draw it out over two months?

Now, though, it seems welcome. I'm not sure why, but I'm suddenly yearning for a blazing Christmas tree, baking, my mom's Christmas fudge, the music, wrapping presents, everything. Even those little Cutie oranges, which I don't even like. I want those, too.

I am a little afraid, though, that being so gung-ho about the holiday now means an early burn-out. How long can one really sustain excitement about Christmas, particularly when it begins a month and a half early? I'm hoping that mine lasts until December 26th, at least.

Amanda's Big Adventure

Today, on a whim, I went to Seattle. Four hours away, alone.

And aside from getting lost constantly, I had a very good time. I went to Ikea, Archie McPhee, and Cupcake Royale. I bought some things for stocking stuffers, a couple of little treats, and of course, some cupcakes. And it was good.

What did you do today?

Wallet, Meet Noro.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I am a real, live knitter.

That's right. I have made my first purchase from an actual yarn shop (or LYS, if I'm feeling decadent) rather than my usual haunts of Michaels, Jo-Anns, Craft Warehouse, et al. And that wonderful, wonderful purchase consisted of two skeins of my very first Noro. Behold:

Photo from here - same color and dye lot, though!


This is what my preciouses will look like once knitted up - photo from here.

Previously, when going into Local Yarn Stores, I balked at the prices, thinking, "This is insane! I can get yarn for TWO FIFTY A SKEIN at Michaels!" But that was before I knew that there are differences in fiber and quality, and before I had done any research on what "good" yarn costs. The Noro Kureyon, Kureyon Sock, and all of the Rowan brand stuff I saw was actually cheaper than anything I had seen online - even Ebay. And it's soft and lovely and I can spend as long as I want visiting it all before I chose what to take home.

I am thrilled with myself for getting to this point in my knitting, but also because I've stuck with it for so long (and there's no end in sight). However, now my problems are two: What am I going to do with this scrumptious yarn, and how am I going to afford buying the entire stock of my new favorite yarn source?

Sew Craft Blog

Woo hoo! I was just accepted into Sew Craft Blog. It's a community that features other crafty blogs and has a growing repository of general craft, sewing, fiber arts, scrapbooking (and more) blogs to read. Check it out!

Currently... 11/12/08

I'm going to introduce a new "feature" tonight. I'm going to call it "Currently..." and model it after notmartha's "Up to" posts. It'll be done... periodically. Whenever things change, I suppose. It's gonna go something like this:

Re-reading:
The World According to Garp by John Irving

Drinking:
Starbucks' Peppermint Twist Mocha

Playing:
Mobsters on MySpace

Eat the Meat.

My grandfather is a... well, he... he does something with cows.

What I do know is that he usually has one or two in his yard, sometimes including a calf that he dotes on, and subscribes to catalogs from which you can order bull sperm. I also know that periodically my family has a boon on beef. My dad, grandparents, and aunt get ground beef, steaks, roasts, stew meat and bones. Everyone is happy and their freezers are full.

This time, my dad and stepmom ran out of freezer room and offered us as much of whatever kind of beef we wanted. Woot! Free food! ...Right?

Normally, yes. I have to admit, though, that this particular beef squicks me out a bit more than usual.

See, I'm not really a meat-lover. In order to eat meat, I have to actively concentrate on something other than the fact that this used to be alive and have eyeballs and fur and maybe I would have petted it or thought it was adorable and now it's all mashed up into this burger, oh gross I can't eat it. Otherwise what happens is I fill up on whatever vegetable or starch is being served and claim to be full because I'm too disgusted to eat the rest of my entree.

So this, getting meat from a cow that I probably maybe saw hanging out in grandpa's yard, was led out to the pasture to see how well it's walking around or its coloring or how big it's gotten, cooed and blew it kisses... that kind of makes my head explode. Now that cow is grown up and slaughtered and in my freezer.

Sloppy joes, anyone?

Maybe I'll eat it, but it's more likely I'll let Chris do the honors while I fill up on french fries or mashed potatoes and pretend like I'm bursting at the seams.

Nablopomo Update

Nablopomo is kicking my ass. I just can't be as interesting as I usually am when I have to post every single day. I don't want to be posting daily "what I did today" lists, but that's about what I'm down to. Although, when I have the time, I do want to write about the following topics:

-Myself, the grinch
-Eating the meat you know
-Puppy love
-Symmetry

So... I'll leave you to wonder what that means.

Weekend Update

Perhaps resolving to knit an entire pair of socks in a weekend was a bit unrealistic. I got through most of one sock, but I also:


Baked banana muffins...


Made rice krispie treats...


Received, bought frames for, framed, and hung our wedding prints...


Cut and interfaced pattern pieces for two crayon rolls...


Finished one crayon roll.


So it wasn't all for naught. I hope to finish the socks by the end of next weekend, and will show them off when I have them done.

Deadwood.

Chris and I just finished the first season of Deadwood, and I think I'm addicted.

My favorite part, I think, is that it's based in reality and one can go wiki all of the characters to find out more about them, including the parts they've shown on the series. ...Not that I've done that, or anything.

Anybody else watch this and want to gush?

$%@#!

Very little is as annoying as a botched craft. Last weekend, I started knitting a mitten three times and had to frog all three because the shaping or sizing was weird on each attempt. After the third time, I swore off knitting for good.

This evening, after having solved my printer issues, I decided to print iron-on transfers with designs I made. Then I started ironing them onto onesies for our nephew, and suffice it to say that it did. not. work. So I did what any crafty wife would do: I passed the project off to my husband.

We began with five onesies. We currently have three failed attempts and one in progress. I'm hell bent on one of us getting this right, but even if we figure out how to improve our success rate, I'll have to go out and buy another package of onesies. Grr.

UPDATE: Chris wins at crafting. He got pretty close with the "in progress" onesie discussed earlier, but he triumphed over the last attempt.

No Much Soup for You!

Y'know those days where you know you have about eight kabillion things you need to get done, but rather than get motivated and start moving, your ass drags even thinking of getting started?

That's me, today. I have homework, I have a ton of projects to finish at work, I have Christmas gift progress to make, and I have errands to run. All I really want to do is go back to bed.

This weekend, however, I am determined to be productive (and that may also bleed over into today, once I am fully awake). I will:

  • finish one pair of socks (for a Christmas gift)
  • cut the fabric for crayon rolls (for three Christmas gifts)
  • solve the problem of how to print onto iron-transfer paper without a suitable inkjet printer
  • cut out and affix said transfers (to a Christmas gift)
  • do any and all homework
  • clean the shit out of my house - deep clean, organize, beautify
  • decide when and where we'll be for the coming holidays
  • make egg flower soup
I have been very into making homemade soups lately. Last weekend I churned out a huge batch of turkey chili, and a regular sized batch of corn chowder, most of which has been frozen for future quick meals. I'm planning to double up on the egg flower and freeze some of that, too. It's a real challenge lately eating at home - three nights a week I don't get home until 8:30ish, and by then I'm usually past the point of being tired and not in any state to cook. I did keep a couple of small containers of soup in the fridge for lunches or quick dinners this week, which has worked out really great (and fast - 2 minutes in the microwave takes care of it) so far. Anybody have suggestions for other soups to try?

Can I Say

...thank you?

I'm feeling really wonderful this morning as a result of the national election.

The outcome of local elections leave me feeling not so wonderful, and the probable passing of California's Proposition 8 leaves me downright angry.

However, at this point it's less about hating on other voters and more about focusing on the future.

...which, thanks to President Obama, looks really bright.

My Fifteen Seconds

Speaking of voting and getting free things for doing so, I met a friend for coffee at Starbucks (not the free variety, because I didn't have proof of having voted) today, and on the way out was accosted by a reporter asking if we knew that Starbucks was giving out free coffee to voters. We said yes and were asked to do an on-camera interview.

I was late for work, but I agreed. I was asked if I thought it was a good thing that voters were giving free coffee, and I said, "Sure, it's a good incentive."

She asked, "Do you think people should need an incentive to vote?"

I said, "No, I think people should want to vote, but if they don't and coffee gets them to, well, that's a good thing."

The end.

I feel all weird and self-conscious about it, but I'm kind of hoping that no one I know watches the news and I won't get any crap about it. I also admitted on-camera to having voted for Obama, the end of which I'm sure I'll never hear if any of my Republican relatives see the segment.

What a weird day.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow...

We find out tomorrow. I cannot wait. And though I sincerely hope my candidate wins, I'll just be glad when this is over and we can stop scrutinizing these people.

I voted last week. Now go do your part... we're only a daaaaay aaaaawayyyyy!*

*sorry, it was really dorky, but I had to.

The Office Swap

I am a member of Craftster, where they occasionally hold themed craft swaps. Though I have been waaaay to busy to swap for quite some time, when I saw that someone was organizing a swap based on The Office, I couldn't say no.

Maybe that was a mistake, because I had very little time to do the projects I wanted to do and as a result was insanely stressed over it for about a month. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I tell you that the package is finished and in fact was mailed out on Friday. Here's what I made:

A three-hole punch Jim t-shirt, based on this one:

The inspiration was screen printed, but mine was freehanded.

I quite like the way the collar turned out.

A Schrute Farms Beets tote:
Not as ragged-looking as it should be, but still good.

Some Dunder Mifflin personalized business cards, and a huge pile of The Office goodies from the dollar section of Target. And candy, of course.

Ready to seal and send, complete with a letter from Pam Beesley.

Pornoween.

Happy (belated) Halloween!

Every year since leaving high school, out of habit, I get excited for Halloween. This time of year always brings forward in my mind class parties with a variety of sweet treats, the careful deliberation of a clever and amazing costume, and also, of course, a crapload of candy.

It is unfortunate, then, that every year I'm excited for Halloween, only to realize a week in advance that I have no party to go to, no one to invite to a party of my own, and virtually no reason to dress up. And then I struggle to find something to do to make my Halloween not disappointing. ...and fail.

Until this year!

Though I celebrated in a different way, I had a really awesome day yesterday. First, on route to the movie, Chris stopped at his work, which is next to a used bookstore. I went in and browsed, something I hadn't done in ages and which I enjoyed probably way too much. I bought a few books and resolved to bring some back for credit and another contact high.

Yes, browsing a used bookstore really gets me hot and bothered. Nerd.

Then, we went to see Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Not Halloween-related, granted, but I enjoyed seeing all of the movie theater employees dressed up, and saw a manager-esque person in a Borat costume. Righteous.

And then there was the movie: different than I expected, more mushy than I expected (especially for something with the word "porno" in the title), less porno than I expected (see previous). Still good, still hilarious, still buying the deluxe edition when it comes out on DVD.

Afterwards, we ran a few errands and came home to prepare for the night. After donning a pink wig and way too much makeup, I helped rig up a chair and sign for our bowl o' candy to hang out on and wait for children.

And then! We went to a hockey game. And it was great fun, the likes of which I never expected to have in this very small, very boring place. We enjoyed it so much we discussed buying season tickets. I surprised myself by having such a good time - I'm a nerd, remember? - but man, do I want to go to another game tonight. We won't, only because Chris has to work early in the morning, but expect there to be more about hockey (not, like, a lot, because that would be boring - but I'll tell you if we go again).

After the game, we came home to find maybe a handful of candy missing from our bowl, but just as likely it was as full as when we left. I was disappointed for a few seconds, all "we spent twenty bucks on candy...why?" but then I realized, score! We get to eat it all. And that's a problem I like to have.