Monday, July 26, 2010

Tour de Fleece 2010: Day 25

Not to be a bragger, but VICTORY IS MINE!!!


Ahem. Sorry, I got carried away for a moment. I am so impossibly proud of this yarn, that I might be carrying it around with me. For more than just the regular [knitting] reason; I might be admiring it as I work, and it *might* be obscuring my wedding picture. (Andrew totally understands.)

I love this yarn. I love it so much, that I wrote a haiku for it:

I love this blue yarn.
Smells so good and feels awesome.
Fills my sink with joy.

Things that I have learned (or confirmed) during the Tour de Fleece 2010:

- If it's easy, it's not as fun.
- Good planning can't prevent the unexpected, but it makes the recovery easier.
- You don't need to know anything about the event that parallels with the Ravelympics/Tour de Fleece to have a good time competing. (PS, the best part of the 2010 Olympics was Michael Bublé.)
- Wearing biking gear is always fun, but spinning on a bike seat? Super uncomfortable.
- SOAK? Amazing for your woolens, and makes your jewelry sparkle, too!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tour de Fleece 2010, Day 21: Everyone loves clean laundry

Between dealing with jerky-scented packages and today, I swatched up my singles:


One is a four-ply, one is a five-ply. The four-ply matched gauge, and frankly, the math on mixing the Lorna's Laces merino and the Susan's Spinning Bunny BFL worked better for four anyway. It looks like I'll have seven or eight skeins (which translates roughly into "More than enough yardage for my cardigan").

While I'm plying, I'm using my good ergonomics skills that I learned in the inimitable Carson Demer's class. I'm not stretching every 20 minutes, but I *am* multitasking when I stretch every 52 minutes.

"Why every 52 minutes?" you might ask.

Because that is how long it takes my washer/dryer to do its thing. I saw that Stephanie has decided to shear time off her day by opting out of laundry and housework, but I have found a way to do it all. To have it all! To spin and ply like a champion, and use the laundry and housework to extend spinning time. Lest you think I have lost my mind and allowed the Donna Reed dresses,epic fake pearls, and heels-made-for-vacuuming go to my head, give me a second to explain.

So, here's how it goes:

Step 1: Start a load of laundry. Set the kitchen timer (or in my case, cell phone timer) for the length of your wash cycle.
Step 2: Spin/ply until the alarm sounds.
Step 3: Move the wash into the dryer. Move a fresh load into the washer. Reset timer.
Step 4: Spin/ply until the alarm sounds.
Step 5: Unload dryer, move wash into the dryer. (If you have more laundry, use the timer and continue the rotation.)
Step 6: While the laundry is still delightfully hot from the dryer, lay it out flat. Once the pieces have been flattened and stacked, fold, using big mock-yoga movements. (Bonus points if you put the laundry away once it's folded.)
Step 7: Spin/ply until the alarm sounds.
Repeat as necessary.

This system has served me well, no repetitive stress injuries, happy back and shoulders, and clean laundry. Because let's face it, everyone loves clean laundry:

Clean laundry

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tour de Fleece 2010, Day 20: Beef jerky and bearings

At the beginning of the Tour de Fleece, I had a massive equipment failure. Schacht, having the stellar customer service that they do, promptly mailed out the replacement part on 7/19- it was postmarked the *same day* I called them with a call of utmost urgency. The "RIDER DOWN!!!" hail.

For a brief moment, I thought, "Maybe Schacht has failed me. Maybe they're not as amazing as they were before. Maybe the gal who answered the phone MOCKED my distress, when I declared 'RIDER DOWN!!!' when I called." Ridiculous, I know. Frankly, I'm pretty sure if they could financially manage to send a live tech out to fix each and every problem, they would, given my previous experience. But that's Schacht.

Imagine my surprise when I fetched the mail today and noticed the "apology baggie" from the post office. You know, the one with the preprinted, "Ooops! We damaged your package!" (By the way. The bags being pre-printed has me convinced that this happens more often than it should.)

I was even *more* surprised to find that it was ... sticky. And brown. As one is wont to do when there is a mysterious sticky substance, I walked to the sink and - after a brief internal debate- smelled my hands. Don't act like you wouldn't have. Nobody wants Mysterious Sticky Substance to go unidentified. Because then it becomes the Unidentified Sticky Substance, and that is a thing we don't want.

It was a familiar smell. Sweet, salty, and ... meaty? Beef jerky. Somebody tossed their bag'o'jerky in with the mail and it LEAKED!

I don't want you to think that I'm some sort of Beef Jerky Egomaniac, but every time I had a beef jerky incident, it was only the contents of my *own* backpack that got jerkified in Teriyaki marinade.

Fortunately for everyone involved, it was merely the bag that got jerkified, and my rear flyer bearing housing/bearing (the "ball bearing thingie"'s real name) is made of metal and not wool, a quick rinse, dry, and it took me less than three minutes to take British Mary's off of my wheel, put my new one on, and then reassemble her wheel. I'm ready to ride!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tour de Fleece: Day 12

Every day when I drive home, I pass an orchard. Today, they had apricots:


(See, everyone wants one. Including Elphie.)

I love apricots. I love the flavor, I love the color, I love the texture, and I love that they're a "two-bite" fruit. When I'm looking for the flavor of summer, it's a tie between apricots and watermelon.

I was so inspired by the fresh apricots (Blenheim and ... the other kind that the orchard had), that I had to work on something apricot colored. Víola!


I knew I had something close in my stash, and as you can see, I had to cast it on RIGHT away.


Mmm... tasty yarn, tasty apricots. You'll have to excuse me, I don't want to drip on the laptop. I also need to get my full apricot fix so that I can get back to my spinning wheel. (Let's face it, other than blueberries, blue food isn't as inspiring as apricots. It's also not in season.)

Oh, and just for good measure, a glamour shot of Niki. I wouldn't want him to feel unloved:


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de Fleece 2010: Day 11

The frustrating thing about the project I have chosen for Tour de Fleece is that my spinning looks the same, except that the bag of fluff is rapidly emptying and turning into the more-compact-and-promising tiny bobbins of singles.


The fiber is spinning itself, but I've hit a snag along the way:


For those of you not familiar with the mechanics of a Schacht Matchless, the bearing has flipped itself backwards. My mother-of-all can't sit in there. I can't flip it myself, and this happened on Saturday afternoon, on Day 7 of the tour.

Fortunately, I'm a resourceful competitor and was fortunate enough to have a friend's (British Mary) Matchless in my living room, waiting for a new driveband so that Mom can start spinning again. I cannibalized the part I needed from British Mary's wheel, and made a note to call Schacht tout de suite.

Despite having the "ball bearing thingie" issue bridged, I found myself restless and full of project ennui. I learned a new way of tying drivebands (thanks, Mary!), and replaced Miss Kalendar's. I think this is the cleverest, least crazy-making way of tying a driveband, and will have to roadtest it a bit more before offering a visual featurette for the technique.

This weekend, we went high culture with our movie choice, and watched the most recent Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. While I'm fond the good doctor and Sir Patrick (he was knighted, but sadly not with a bat'leth), I found Doctor Hamlet breaking the fourth wall by speaking directly to the camera *incredibly* uncomfortable, but got used to it. Also, David Tennant is adorable barefoot.

The one thing that really struck me was how *young* the character of Hamlet is supposed to be. I've read the play a zillion times, and it was just this week that I realized that Hamlet isn't an adult. He's eighteen or nineteen years old. This is a hard concept to grasp if you're used to seeing Mel Gibson's Hamlet, or Kenneth Brannaugh's Hamlet.

I don't think I've ever seen Hamlet played by an appropriately-aged actor; my first onscreen Hamlet experience was with the charming-but-lipless Kenneth Brannaugh. As it stands, David Tennant is the most youthful Hamlet I've seen so far.

I think the part would be more poignant played by a younger actor, but can't think of who I would cast. Maybe Michael Cera or Ken Baumann? (Sorry, Zac Efron, you're too old for this role.) After all, Miss Kalendar pointed out that Hamlet *was* the first emo.

Maybe Hamlet is more like Doctor Who; your first is always your favorite. (Don't worry David, you're still special to me. You're my first Doctor, after all!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tour de Fleece 2010: Day 4

Today's spinning looks like yesterday's, except that the bag is S-L-O-W-L-Y getting emptier as tiny blue bumps are being replaced by even tinier plastic weaving bobbins that are full of blue singles. I spun a little over 1 oz today, which keeps me delightfully ahead of schedule.

Given that athletes need good nutrition, so I made my favorite Texas Beef Chili. The recipe comes from a Williams Sonoma cookbook that I picked up at the Recycle Bookstore in Campbell, my favorite place to buy used cookbooks. It's delicious, and has taught me a few things in the kitchen.

Today alone I have learned useful things like:

- Cubing frozen meat is easier than trying to thaw it out, then cube it.
- Meat sears better when I'm multitasking; if I'm not multitasking, I'm only making the meat dizzy by pushing it around the pan. (Mom pointed this out.)
- No matter what, I'm going to get spattered. Even if I'm not cooking.
- Mise en place. Do it; it makes your kitchen run like a well-olive-oiled machine.
- Even if you're a tidy chef, if you've mopped the floor today, you are going to drop more on the floor today than you have in the last year. (We'll call this Jasmin's Law.)
- No matter how good your dish is, if your dessert isn't just as good, you may as well have served generic dog kibble.

On that note, I have learned that a beautiful dessert is something we all can enjoy, and that watching Top Chef, Ace of Cakes, and Cupcake Wars results in this type of dessert and presentation:

Mango split

Mango Split, by me: (Serves 2)

1 fresh mango
4 scoops vanilla ice cream (my favorite is the Low-Fat Treat Vanilla)
1 basket fresh raspberries
Handful of fresh strawberries
Mint for garnish (not photographed)

Halve the mango along the pit. Porcupine it carefully, making sure not to puncture the skin. Shave the porcupine; waste not, want not, give that porcupine the Brazilian treatment! Slice the strawberries thinly. Put 2 scoops of ice cream in each empty half of the mango skin, generously dress the ice cream in mango cubes, raspberries, and garnish with sliced strawberries and a mint leaf.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Tour de Fleece 2010: Day 3

That's right, teammates! It's Day 3 of the Tour de Fleece and I am making *tracks* on my goal of spinning up 16 oz of Susan's Spinning Bunny BFL (in "Jeans") and 8 oz of Lorna's Laces mystery roving (same color name, I think) to be plied together and cast on to be a Garter Yoke Cardigan *before* July 25th.

Ambitious? Perhaps. But what fun is it to set a goal that is *easily* achieved? For me, if it's not a real challenge, it's just not fun. Fortunately, the launch of the Tour de Fleece lined up with a long weekend, giving me the chance to earn my Yellow Jersey for Team Sasquatch.

While we were working out breakfast on Sunday, Andrew and I were listening to "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!", and it turns out that the 35th anniversary of JAWS was a couple of weeks ago. (They also did a game where the caller had to pick the real movie out of a list of titles, which I aced and was incredibly proud of. Andrew, on the other hand, sighed with what *sounded* like disappointment at the fact that I've seen every bad creature feature involving sharks, dinosaurs, snakes and combinations of all three.)

While I do have a special place in my heart for sharks and all things JAWS (along with a funny childhood story, which I'll tell later), I thought the Tour de Fleece would be a *great* time for a JAWS marathon- especially since all of the movies were available on Netflix Instant Watch.

I called BFF Erin and she was up for it, and we spun, and watched JAWS, and spun, and watched JAWS 2, and spun, and watched JAWS 3, and spun and watched JAWS: The Revenge. By the end of Day 3, I ended up with 8 ounces of my wool spun:


Did you hear something?


DSC_0007 copy

Ahem, sorry. Habit.

Watching JAWS really took me back in time- and I was surprised at how graphic some of the scenes are on a large, HD television. (For your reference, my first JAWS experience was on a TV screen that is smaller than my 15" laptop.) I also found the clothes and hair endlessly entertaining, and the fact that from movie to movie there was *no* plot continuity for the characters.

This doesn't surprise me, since Peter Benchley only wrote JAWS (which is a phenomenal read, by the way) and they treated the characters the same way the writers of First Knight treated the whole King Arthur legend in their "adaptation". (FYI, in the JAWS 2 through The Revenge novels, the shark is a self-aware character who *really is* hunting the Brody clan. Yes, I read them; No, you don't need to.) They even say, during the credits of one of the films that the characters are only loosely based on Benchley's.

However, I didn't let a little thing like character inconsistency or the shark in JAWS: The Revenge GROWLING when it got shocked get in the way of my intense enjoyment. Instead, I spun away and asked questions like "If the shark bites through an electrical main line, and it sinks into the water, how long would it take before folks could get in the water?" and "How far would the water be charged?" and finally, "Where is a physicist when I need one?!"

What I thought was most interesting is that JAWS hasn't been remade. They've remade many of the classics, and I am genuinely surprised that JAWS hasn't yet. So, from our couch, we re-cast JAWS. For your enjoyment:

JAWS 2010 (directed by Yours Truly):

Chief Brody: Patrick Wilson
Matt Hooper: Ryan Reynolds
Quint: Hugh Laurie

This casting (which Andrew asserted was all about the abs), led to a few sillier casting decisions:

JAWS 2010, a la Star Trek (directed by Yours Truly):
Chief Brody: Chris Pine
Matt Hooper: Zachary Quinto
Quint: Bruce Greenwood

JAWS 2010, a la Supernatural (directed by Yours Truly):
Chief Brody: Jensen Ackles
Matt Hooper: Jared Padalecki
Quint: Jim Beaver

...and finally, JAWS 2010, a la Muppets (directed by Yours Truly):
Chief Brody: Kermit the Frog
Matt Hooper: Gonzo the Great
Quint: Rowlf the Dog

(Andrew wanted to cast Animal as Quint, which I declared was stupid, and then *may* have said, "Andrew, I am trying to cast this seriously", to which everyone dissolved into hysterical laughter. Also, wouldn't a muppet shark be ADORABLE?)

Bon chance, teammates. Remember, it is clearly *never* safe to go back in the water...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oh, Canada!

I'm celebrating Canada Day this year, by awarding my first ever Favorite Canadian award. The nomination process is rigorous ("Really? X is Canadian?"), and the voting is done by a panel of incredibly discerning judges (read: me). It's really the best way of making good decisions.

The 2010 Favorite Canadian Award goes to, drumroll please...

Michael Bublé!

I saw him for the first time on the Graham Norton show this past fall, while Mom was indulging in a little daytime TV. He was cute enough, but it was when I heard him sing that I was *instantly* transformed into the giggly 13-year old girl who had just heard Frank Sinatra sing for the first time again. Since it was between November 1st and December 25th, I couldn't rush out and buy his CD.

(I'm - evidently - pretty hard to shop for, so the family has requested that I not make purchases just before my birthday through Christmas.)

At some point after Christmas, I picked up his CDs. All of them. He's covered most of my favorite Frank Sinatra standards, and a few songs from other folks that I really liked. I may have played the Bublé playlist a thousand times in a week. If it was a record, it would have worn out; if it was a cassette tape, it would have spaghetti-ed. All hail digital music!

Andrew, ever the sly one, bought me tickets to the Bublé concert in Oakland, which he gave me for Valentine's Day. Michael Bublé is the ultimate performer, and even after four encores, I was left wishing the concert was just a *little* bit longer. Might I add that seeing him dressed as a Mountie during the Olympics wasn't bad, either. Just saying. Who doesn't love a man in uniform?

What really locked him in as the winner of the 2010 Favorite Canadian award was his appearance on SNL. (If you haven't seen it, check out the Hamm and Bublé sketch.) Well done, Michael!

Not to be forgotten, but the Honorable mentions for the 2010 Favorite Canadian award include The Savvy Girls, Ryan Reynolds' abs, and Alanis Morissette (for her performance on Season 5 of Weeds).