Tuesday is for Tile Trivets

Tiles and Tiles

Tiles and Tiles

Because I said so, that’s why. (I don’t have kids, and saying that to cats has no effect.) I mentioned some tile trivets I made a few years ago, and a friend encouraged me to take some pictures and share them, so I did. And then I thought, you know, that was a lot of fun. I should do some more tiling. So I’m looking into where to buy tiles, tile cutters, grout, and other exciting things, with plans to cover the top of the ugly water-stained end table. The sad part is that tile mosaics aren’t really my “style” as such, so I may not enjoy the end result as much as someone else might. But whatever. The process is purest joy: Tactile sensation (cool smooth tile, rough unglazed backs, like running your hands through the bag of Scrabble tiles) and OCD sorting and placement. Really, I don’t know what more I could ask for in a craft.

So here’s the less exciting of the two trivets, which I never actually use; I think of them as pieces of table art, mostly because the frames are really shoddy and they would probably fall to bits if I actually set something on them.

Sand and Sky

Sand and Sky

And the other, which I am still unreasonably proud of. Note the colors to indicate ground vs. sky. Also note that, when I made these, I had no access to a tile cutter and only a limited selection of tiles, so getting this result was quite an achievement.




Mushroom Sandwiches and Menu Plan Monday

Because, if I’m not mistaken, you all want to know what I’m going to be eating. Right? Right. I’m once again trying to follow Weight Watchers, but am totally failing at the anti-inflammatory diet. It was too much for me to keep up, and so I’m taking a small break and then will work my way back to eating like a… I don’t know, like a Greenosaurus Rex or whatever. For now I will content myself with cooking dinner at home every night, and not having fast food, and remaining within my points values for a given day. If I get all my fruit and veggie servings in, so much the better. It’s the time of year when I want to eat lettuce and fruit, so that helps.

Here’s the menu for this week; dinners only. Leftovers for lunch, and generally I have smoked salmon, spelt toast, and fruit for breakfast.

  • Monday: Chicken korma, basmati rice, green beans, salad, raita.
  • Tuesday: Ham, au gratin potatoes, more green beans, salad.
  • Wednesday: BBQ chicken salad with corn, black beans, and chipotle ranch dressing. Maybe cheese if I’m feeling craaaaazy.
  • Thursday: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, mixed vegetables, salad.
  • Friday: Mushroom sandwiches* and… yes, salad.
  • Saturday: Chili-roasted pork, corn tortillas, pinto beans, grilled onions and peppers.
  • Sunday: Leftover party day! which will probably involve making Leftover Soup, and eating more salad.

* Let’s talk about mushroom sandwiches. I do not mean the possibly-construable-as-healthy grilled mushroom masquerading as meat kind. I mean the ones that are served at the May Market in Pittsburgh, for which you wait in line for an hour. This recipe is from the Woodland Garden Club, circa 1958, so you can imagine the general lack of concessions made to healthful eating. These are so. good. and for me they are a herald of spring. Now I just need some fondant-covered strawberries and a half a lemon with a mint stick. Sarcastic commentary in recipe below is courtesy of me, not the lovely women of the 1958 Woodland Garden Club.

Mushroom Sandwiches — Six of Them

  • 1lb. button mushrooms, chopped fine
  • 1T onion, minced
  • 2T butter
  • 2T cream
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of paprika (smoked Spanish is neat for this, or sweet Hungarian)
  • 12 slices of sandwich bread (Pepperidge Farm’s white sandwich bread is great for this; it is of optimal crumb and thickness if you ask me)

If you feel lazy, you can chop the onion and mushrooms in the food processor, although then you have to wash the thing, which is kind of a bother. Melt the butter in a medium saute pan, over a medium sort of heat, and saute the onions. You want them to take on a nice golden brown color. Add the mushrooms and saute another minute, then add the cream, salt, and paprika. Cook for about two minutes, until it thickens up and the mushrooms look toothsome.

Normally at this point I try to let the mixture cool, as it thickens up and is easier to use, but also normally I cannot wait to eat my sandwich so I just deal with the sloppiness for the first one and then make the rest later. Butter your bread slices (inside and out, if you’re living on the edge), fill with the mushroom mixture, and grill them in a pan in the same way you make grilled cheese.

Ideally you would eat these while walking around outdoors, but I understand if you just chow on it while standing at the counter. I’m not sure I’ve ever put one on a plate. That might be pushing things.

My Knitting Bag/Purse/Awesome Thing

Somehow, in spite of being on Ravelry and looking somewhat obsessively for a purse that would also serve as a knitting bag, I managed to miss the existence of Namaste Bags. Oops? When I saw the Zuma I sort of sat there yelling “ZOMG” at the screen for a few minutes. This is because if I invented a handbag, it would be 90% similar to this one. I’d probably add an interior divider and maybe a couple more interior pockets, but really, that’s easily remedied through the clever use of zippered pouches and whatnot. So I deliberated carefully for a few days, knowing full well this would be one of the things I would buy for myself, and then I went ahead and bought one (in Peacock) from the Loopy Ewe.

Sheri at Loopy Ewe must have like a shipping ro-bot or something, because my order arrived within three days, which is crazy fast. Just thought I’d mention that, in case you’re contemplating an order. I spent about ten minutes squealing with delight at the bag, because it’s just as fabulous in person. The vegan leather-substitute is really soft and has a nice hand, and I say this as someone who adores real, actual leather. The color is nice: It’s bold enough to be a statement, but muted enough to wear with pretty well anything. If you’re me, anyway. I am not good at matching. Plus it’s so utility-laden. But that part requires photos.

Zuma front pocket

Zuma front pocket

Here we have the front zipper pocket, which was possibly the thing that made me happiest. It actually will accommodate quite a lot of crap, as it’s gusseted. Plus? Accordion-style dividers, which means I can file everything in there in a way that is pleasing to me. You can see the annotated version of the photo on Flickr by clicking on it, but basically, I’ve got correspondence I need to return; knitting patterns and stitching charts; tea (you never know); my size 2 circulars for the socks I will knit with my poor tangled Casbah; and my iPod Touch, the USB cable, and its headphones and cleaning cloth. I feel the cleaning cloth has me covered as far as always carrying a towel, since it will cover both my eyes and hence protect me from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. Don’t Panic!

Zuma interior

Zuma interior

Moving along with our tour, here we have a rather poor photo of the inside of the Zuma, along with some random envelope on my floor. Again, an annotated version is available by clicking the image. The bag is like… bowling bag sized, which means it can hold a lot of stuff and still close. Plus, the snap is magnetic, and the two side wings also feature spiffy magnets, which means it pretty much closes itself. There are two open inner pockets; one is cell-phone-sized, but as I don’t have one I keep my knitting row counter in there. The other is slightly larger and may be handy for index cards with… I don’t know, stuff, on them. The other side has a zippered pocket, which is a bit shallow but holds pens, chapstick, gum, and other sundries. I put a bunch of stuff in it, and it accomodates it all without looking bulgy or stupid. I’ve got a scarf in progress there (the purple bit); there’s a set of Q-snaps and a stitching project I’m working on as well (the Ziploc bag), along with all its threads and charts. The shoddily sewn blue floral thing is my coupon file, which is in serious need of a redesign. I’ve also got my entire KnitPicks Options binder, the black zippered item, which provides further pockets and organization for knitting needles, patterns, a pen, etc.  A few weekly sales flyers and shopping lists, my sketchbook, and a Namaste Buddy (on which more anon) are also in there. I could still easily add a book, magazine, outgoing mail, and perhaps a very small kitten with no problem. It does get a bit heavy but it’s got metal feet on the bottom so it sits nice and level when I put it down rather than flooping every which way because of the uneven object weights.

Once I get the projects into zippered or snapped fabric bags, it will be even more awesome. My only complaint is that the straps sliiiiiide off my shoulders. I may try removing some things from the bag that I don’t actually require for, say, a trip to the grocery store, to see if that alleviates the issue. Otherwise I’ll probably sew some grippy stuff onto the handles and attempt to camouflage it.

Namaste Buddy

Namaste Buddy

This is the needlework side of the Buddy case, which you can see in the photo above. Also my spiffily-lacquered robin’s egg blue nail polish. The case is magnetized on the outer sides, which is super fantastic handy for, you know, needles and other metal stuff that gets lost all the time. So here I have an o-ring (from the hardware store) with the strands of floss I’m actively using for my stitching projects, and it sticks to the case! This really minimalizes tangling as it doesn’t bounce all around. Then we have, well, a Needlework Threader, and two petite tapestry needles. Then there’s a removable divider, which, if we move like so, reveals the knitting side of this clever device.

Namaste Buddy

Namaste Buddy

Again, the exterior wall is magnetized, which means maybe I won’t lose every large tapestry needle I ever buy. Probably not, but a girl can dream. It’s also large enough to hold a tiny pen, my stitch holders, cable needles, Options cable caps, stitch markers, and Options needle tighteners. I had heretofore been keeping my knitting things in a very, very cute frog case from Clover, but stuff tended to fall out and otherwise generally become inaccessible. He’s too cute to retire so I think instead I will now use him for… um… medications, mineral makeup, and chapstick? I’m sure I can find something.

One thing I forgot to mention about the Zuma is that it has an exterior zippered pocket on the back as well; handy for keys, wallet, and anything else you might need to access without digging through the month’s craft projects.

In case you can’t tell, Zuma and I are going to get married and run away to Fiji with El, the Migun massage table, and anything else we decide we like. If you need a purse anyway, and you want one that will hold your knitting and not look like some old lady faux-tapestry thing of horror, check these out. Yeah?

Cats + Yarn = Bad

Yarn, with culprit in background

Yarn, with culprit in background

Normally Audrey assists with my knitting by staring at the yarn from a respectful distance. For some reason I didn’t think about the fact that Noodle would be likely to want a more involved level of involvement, and so my precious and beautiful Casbah sock yarn from Handmaiden is a tangled ball of snaggly snags. Next time I shall wind yarn while Noodle naps. I’ve now spent upwards of six hours unraveling the mess made by one small kitten who got part of the skein in her mouth and ran; my husband’s put in a few hours, too, bless him. I’ve got enough picked back out to at least start my socks tomorrow, and this pleases me. At least it’s a very soft and luxurious yarn to have to untangle. I am trying to view this as an opportunity to spend more time with it; though, really, I’d rather spend the time with it on my feet in the form of socks. Alas.

Various Ramblings to Welcome Spring

I woke up in a great mood today, which is pretty unusual for me. Of course, I also slept in until 10:30. Daylight savings time and I do not get along, and I fear a return to my nocturnal schedule if I don’t straighten this out soon. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I see so much more of Zack when we keep similar hours.

I will (one can hope) be doing a nicer update later, with more pictures, but I feel like rambling, and so here we are. This week I’ve received lots and lots of stuff in the mail. As I may have said about 19 times already, I felt I deserved a few nice things for my 30th birthday, and since nobody else is likely to provide them for me I bought them myself, with tax refund money. We are trying to be frugal and sensible, but sometimes I just feel like I have to get over my guilt and allow myself to have some stuff. I am pleased to report that I made excellent stuff selections, and the guilt I felt between their ordering and their arrival is almost wholly assuaged. Except I still need a birthday/Easter/cousin’s wedding outfit, and I don’t want to spend any more money.

Catnap in the bag

Catnap in the bag

I promised El many photos and much discussion of my Namaste knitting bag, and so that presumably will come later. I will mention just now, though, that it rather neatly holds one Noodle-sized cat, for napping purposes. If the photo to the left is not the cutest photo ever, I am not sure what is. I shriek with cuteness overload every time I look at it, and then I run and swoop Noodle up and give her lots of kisses because she is just. so. cute. Sadly, when there is yarn in the bag, I find it’s a bad idea to also put Noodle in the bag. Maybe I need another one.

I’ve also got a lovely cherry wood tea chest for storing my Black Phoenix and other perfumes, which is also serving as a temporary Home for Jewelry. An iPod Touch, which is just so neat (and of course, which went up on Woot! the day mine arrived, for $10 less than I paid). Some yarn, which I’m still unraveling, some soap, some perfume… all, I think, things which sort of say “I am a Taurus who likes luxurious material goods, and these represent the sorts of luxurious material goods a thirty year old ought to have.”

Knitterly Alert: Interweave and Knitting Daily are having a contest wherein you can win the yarn to make the Blooming Scarf, which is on my to-be-knit list for the spring. You can enter here; just vote for your favorite colorway. Mine is definitely the Mango and Murex, the original from the magazine. The pattern is also available as a free download at present, so nab it if you like it. I’ve discovered lately that I adore wearing scarves and I feel it makes me look artsy and like I have style, and anyone who says otherwise can… I don’t know, probably be right, but it makes me happy so TOO BAD!

I also plan to make the Maude sweater for myself and had the idea that I might get a nice and luxurious yarn with which to knit it, but will probably end up with some KnitPicks or something (it could be done in Palette for less than $30 worth of yarn). And I just got distracted for a good half hour looking at yarn that might suit. Oops.

Stitching alert: The Papillon stitch along I mentioned earlier is now available. At current exchange rates it’s US$1.50 via PayPal for the first part; I got the US letter size specialty stitch chart and oh my word. The instructions are quite complete, and it looks gorgeous. The first part is the Formal Garden, and I’ve got two months to decide what color ground I’d like to stitch on, and to sort out my floral colors. And beads. And get it stitched. It’s really strikingly lovely though and I’m excited to stitch along with others. I get really overly enthusiastic about that.

It’s the first day of spring, and I am woefully underprepared for this year’s garden, though we have about 2 months remaining until the last frost date here so I can still redeem myself if I start a lot of seedlings this weekend.

And now, enough talking about what I will do, and time to start doing some of it. More anon, I promise.

Stitching: Papillon’s 2009 SAL

I missed out, of course, on the 2008 stitch along from Papillon Creations, since I was not doing any counted thread embroidery. Fortunately, I caught on before it came down and have downloaded the gorgeous project to work on some other time. I also signed up for the designer’s newsletter, and this week we all got notice that the 2009 stitch along is about to begin — and it’s a big one. It will actually be a two year project, 311 stitches square, with 21 colors. There will be a nominal participation fee, and two versions of the project: One with specialty stitches, and one that is solely cross-stitch and suitable for Aida cloth.

Based on what I have seen of the designs from Papillon Creations, and my sort of endless desire to participate in stitch alongs (it makes me feel like I’m at a SnB, only, you know, at home!), I plan to sign up. I’ve converted the listed DMC colors to HDF colors (see below) so that I can stitch with silks; I admit that I am now spoiled. DMC cottons are so… tangly (and speaking of tangly, watch this space for some fun with kittens and yarn tomorrow). There are only 10 set colors, and 11 are up to your choice. The preparatory PDF is up, complete with printable floss cards with symbol and color number and name listed. Handy, right?

Go over to Papillon’s Newsletter Corner and sign up if you’re interested. If you do participate, I would love to hear about it. I like having stitching buddies.

Here are the conversions from DMC colors to HDF colors (and may I point out that, if you take advantage of detritus bags and forum participation, HDF silks are almost as cheap as icky DMC cottons):

807 / 2423 Nile Blue
3765 / 2425 Nile Blue
3766 / 2421 Nile Blue
610 / 4107 Bird Feathers (Kookaburra)
3046 / 4113 Oil of Amber (Dragon Oil)
3045 / 4111 Oil of Amber
310 / 5300 Basic Black
3072 / 5301 NightSmoke (Wisp)
white / 5201 White
317 / 5329
Nisse Grey

Vikki, dyemistress at HDF, suggested ordering a detritus bag and requesting it in “floral colors” — I may do that since, at $8 for 25 skeins of floss, it’s pretty hard to beat. I do think I’ll wait to see what the first part of the design looks like, so I can decide if I want to work it on the Bunny Brown linen or a different ground fabric.

Paws and Claws start

Paws and Claws start

Meanwhile, I’ve got Long Dog’s Paws and Claws sampler in progress. I’m stitching it one over one (that means one strand of floss over one thread of warp or weft), in HDF silks on a Charles Craft cotton ground I got on the cheap at JoAnn. It’s fairly slow going, especially since I did the part depicted here all in hand, but today I got my Q-Snaps and really, all I can think to say is wow. Tensioning the fabric is much easier and it doesn’t leave nasty creases like a hoop. Not to mention that working in a square area is preferable to working in a round one, since I don’t run into the frame as often. I got mine for $13 at the local needlework store. Two thumbs up. Of course, I miscounted some stitches and have to frog out half of what I got done this evening, but that’s OK.

Tomorrow I shall detail my new Namaste knitting bag, because I know you are jealous — I am almost jealous of myself, here — and tell you the story of how Noodle the Kitten tried to ruin my skein of Casbah cashmere hand painted sock yarn.

Hold The Phone

I’ve wanted one of those handy looking cell phone caddies for a while — you know, the ones Pottery Barn sells for like, I don’t know, $100? Of course, at the present time I don’t actually have a cell phone, but if I did, I would make this phone charging station, a project from Zakka Life. I’m sort of racking my brain to think if I have any electronics for which this would be suitable. So far, the best I can come up with is the Nintendo DS (and we have an old-school DS, so it’s kind of huge). I’ll probably give it a shot.

This is the kind of project I love to see — taking something that would have become trash and refashioning it instead into something that’s actually kinda neat. I mean, once you’ve got the basic functionality down, you could sand it up to even the edges, maybe embellish with Sharpie drawings or a little decoupage. Of course, the amazing potential of nearly any object is the reason my house is full of things that, you know, “might be good for some project.” Like the giant stack of takeout drink holders. But really, those make nice plant covers for hardening off. The question is whether I need the 25+ that I’ve accumulated. I hear you can line them with fabric and make nice jewelry trays, or something. I think I’ll make that my extra project for the week: Figure out something cool to do with the drink trays. Hold me to it, OK?