Sunday, November 30, 2008

Like I was saying

As it turns out, running in the snow is excellent.

I mean, not like KC BBQ ribs and homemade borracho beans and smoked brisket excellent, but it's good prep for that anyway.

Also, I am changing the official meal of Thanskgiving from turkey to smoked ribs. Because at least then I'll be helpful with the leftovers.

Day old cold gray turkey is gross and I will not be responsible for doing anything with it other than escorting it to the trash.

Happy whatever number of shopping days are left till Christmas, everyone. Try not to get trampled to death should you chose to ignore the internets and shop in a store. Sillies.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

You can't tell, but it's snowing.

I've been begging Bubba's mom to make it snow during one of our visits since forever. And it never has.

Not until I planned to go running, of course.


People run in the snow, right?

Happy Frozen TurkeyN y'all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Best Vegetable Beef Soup Ever. Yep.

OK, so I know that the rest of the Internets is (are?) all aflutter about Thanksgiving and turkey and wearing a pie on your head (wuv you Lady Lino!), but here at Finny's house, we're still all caught up in the 80s and pot roast and crockpots.

So, forgive me if I don't share my favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you and instead tell you how to make The Best Vegetable Beef Soup Ever. Yep. from that leftover pot roast.

Also, I've never really made Thanksgiving dinner before, so I doubt I'm to be trusted with such a traditional, anticipated, this is no time for abominations in the kitchen kind of meal. You want fabulous Thanksgiving, you go see Ree at Pioneer Woman Cooks and she'll set you up. She's fancy like that.

Meanwhile, if you want a very efficient and FUH-king delicious soup recipe that'll use up your leftover pot roast and every other random thing in your freezer/fridge, you stay here with Finny and I'll tell you my ways with the pot roast.

Just so you know, these are not the "sexy" kind of ways, so don't be afraid or feel like you need to close your office door from the prying eyes of your young ones or dog. (I get afraid of traumatizing the dog. Is that weird? Anyway.)

Let me first also tell you that this is not a fancy recipe. Nor did it appear all brand-new and original like in my brain. I started to make it from a recipe on, but then realized in the comments that every single person that commented (there were a lot, I was surprised) had made it a different way.

SO - because of that, I'm not crediting them with much except giving me the idea to use tomato juice. Which was a good idea. An idea I immediately bastardized when I decided to use vegetable juice instead because that is what they had at TJ's.

ANYWAY. About that soup.

Yeah, I'm using the same photo twice. Wanna fight about it?
Finny's The Best Vegetable Beef Soup Ever. Yep.
From my own pea brain + the tomato juice from
My changes are the whole thing, so no bolding this time.


Whatever's left of your Simple Pot Roast (I had about 1.5 lbs left from the 3 lb roast), chopped into bite-ish sized pieces
1 medium celery root, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 bag of mixed frozen vegetables from the bottom of the freezer drawer OR Trader Joe's OR wherever. (Mine had peas, corn, green beans and carrots in it. In case you wanted to know.)
2 head's worth of broccoli florets
1 quart of vegetable juice (again, I used TJ's Garden Patch Vegetable juice)
1 can of beef consume
Whatever's left of your Pretty Fucking Good Gravy (I had about 1 cup)
4 cups of water
1 T dried oregano
1 T ground thyme
Lots of fresh ground pepper

To make

In a big stock pot, pour in your vegetable juice, consume, gravy leavin's and water. Then add in your chopped meat, celery root, frozen vegetables, herbs and broccoli. Stir it together well and cover.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to low to simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Before you serve, give it a taste and add as much pepper as you like. We like a lot, so I added a good bit. You may be surprised that this recipe doesn't call for salt, since I LOVE salt, but with the vegetable juice (I don't say "veggie" because it sounds stupid. To me.) and gravy and pot roast, it's PLENTY salty. But, if you must, go ahead. I won't laugh and point when your fingers swell into hot dogs.

Serve with a few challah bread rolls which you also got from TJ's thinking they'd be AWESOME but actually turned out to be meh.

I don't think that goyim understand that challah is egg bread. And egg bread should have a yellowish hue which is the direct result of having lots of EGGS IN IT and if the bread is not all yellow-hued, we all know you're barely using any eggs and the bread isn't going to be as good as it should be. Also, it should have poppy seeds on top, but I'm not going to push my luck.

I'm just saying is all. Because I'm barely a Jew anymore, but I know my challah (thanks mom for making it every Friday when I was a kid!) and this is not challah. Someone else tried to pass off some very white and unpoppy seeded bread as challah recently and it made my wee inner Jew soul very angry.

So, please, don't call your bread challah unless one of the main ingredients is eggs. And if you're looking at the package of challah bread rolls and "eggs" are one of the last ingredients, save yourself the pining and wanting for challah and just, in your head, remove the "challah" part from the name so that you can eat without sadness.

Or perhaps you're less dramatic and attached to things as bizarre as egg bread, in which case you won't have these issues and will just be able to enjoy your dinner without hysterics and swearing.
Some good parings with this meal are, from my experience, a 10+Diet Tonic and A River Runs Through It.

We're at least into the 90s on this one, folks. What's next? High Fidelity anyone?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Early Yearly Ritual

Normally I wait until we get our first holiday card in the mail to start the tearing down of The Card Holder Thingee, but the Thingee has begun to fail pretty catastrophically whenever I try to pin a new card to it, so I decided that the Thanksgiving card I got from my mom suddenly counted as our "first holiday card".

Thanksgiving could have been *the holiday* I was talking about before, so I'm choosing not to be picky here. At this point, I'm just looking to keep us out of the ER with hard-to-explain head injuries and a thousand evil paper cuts.

Now, historically, I've taken these cards down, rifled through the pile looking for ones with decent patterns, and then made gift tags from them with my underpowered, mini-tag producing Sizzix Sidekick "machine" or, when the "machine" fails (read: tests my patience to its breaking point), I use my handy scissors and a vague idea of what a gift tag looks like to turn these cards from recycle bin filler to repurposed gift-tagging.

And, historically, these methods have produced some interesting results.

Sometimes the tags come out OK - meaning that they have a useful design across the entire tag and don't have writing on the other side. Sometimes the tags come out all jacked because the opposite occurs and I have my Aunt Ginger's penmanship scrawled on the reverse side of half a Christmas tree or something. And then there are those tags that I have cut "freestyle" into the shape of a pointy pile of dog poo.

It would seem that my freestyle abilities with regard to gift tag cutting are somewhat limited.

Well, this year, a very dorky thing occurred that will save this year's cards from being turned into useless pointy hole-punched recycling. My coworkers gave me a Sizzix Big Kick Machine for my birthday AND the gift tag die-cut.

And I will admit right here to being mildly ashamed of my dorkiness when I opened it. I mean, all my crafty nerdy dorkiness was just right there for everyone to see and here I was holding a die-cutting machine like it was my first born.

Hi, loser.

I'm choosing to think that perhaps they were all horrified by the looks of the tags that accompanied their gifts last December, and were just trying to right my previous wrong. And when I used this machine yesterday to cut tags from all these cards, I reassured myself that what I was doing was practical and environmental rather than Supah Dorky and shameful.

I wasn't very convincing.

HOWEVER - I did get some good gift tags out of the project and, because I'm obviously a dork, I will show them to you now:

These were my favorites because they came out the way I envisioned instead of like a pile of poo.

Here are some holiday-type ones.
Here are some general purpose ones that I might force to be holiday ones.

I will just have to write a very small thank you note on the back I guess.

I don't know why these are in their own category.

These are the medium and small (read: Small and Xsmall) tags that punch out next to the normal size tags. I predict that these get recycled later because they are mostly useless.

And so, the yearly ritual has been completed and the Thingee is free to accept any holiday cards (or otherwise) we receive so that I don't have to stack them all haphazardly on the mantle and wait for Bubba to exhale deeply, thus sending them all to the floor.

Also, we turned on the heater yesterday, so it must be winter or something. Good news is - we all have our eyebrows.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who does the crockpot think he is anyway? [RECIPE]

Two days later. BUT WHATEVER.

I guess I thought the 80s din-din theme was fun and that I wanted to relive it some more, because I busted out the crockpot this week in the name of Pot Roast.

Now, I realize, neither the crockpot or pot roast are really inventions from the 80s (in fact, I'm pretty sure the crockpot came out in the 70s) but since *I* was invented only in the latest years of the 70s, all my memories of crockpots and Pot Roast and shit cooking all the live long day on my mom's kitchen counter are from the 80s.

And, looking back on it, I'm not 100% sure that my mom had a crockpot. Or ever made pot roast. Where do these memories come from? Maybe brisket? Maybe the pressure cooker? We had those things for sure.

Anyway, whatever. I busted out our Supah Old Crockpot the other day and proceeded to make Pot Roast.


Yes, it would seem that our Supah Old Crockpot, when set on "Low" as directed in my not-at-all complicated pot roast recipe, really means "Off".

So, when I went merrily on my way to work on Monday, with the crockpot all full of beef rump and carrots and the leftover boiling onions I found at the bottom of the freezer (score) set to "Low", I was setting myself up for some incredible disappointment.

See, I fantasized all day about the fabulousnessocity of walking into my house after a long day at work to the waft of a warm beefy dinner waiting just for me to slice it and make some Mix Mash and plate it all Supah Quick Like.

I mean, isn't that really the allure of slow-cookery? The ability to have both a full time job and a decent dinner. I think it is. I mean, yes, it tastes good, but it's friggen slow and if I didn't have a FTJ to go to everyday, I sorta doubt I'd mess with the thing.

Anyway - that's not important right now - the fact that I came home to the smell of NOTHING in my kitchen IS important - and also the most disappointing thing ever.

Here I was thinking, "Sweet! Dinner is going to take me, like, 10 minutes to make, but it's going to be ruuuully good and Bubba will love it and, in so doing, will love ME extra and WOO! Plus, we're so getting rid of those old onions and that one random potato and that celery root. Score."

Again, I know my life is small and weird, so you know - no need to bring it to my attention because it's already there.

But, alas, my big dreams of crockpot roast were not to be. Because our crockpot is lazy. Or a communist. Or old. Or an annoying combination of these things that amounted to a very-lightly warmed rump roast waiting for me in the crockpot.


Thankfully, I don't give up that easy.


I don't really recall what we had for dinner on Monday, but I do clearly recall cranking that fucker up to 300 degrees and letting it crock until we went to bed. And then, in the morning, I cranked it back up to 300 and let it crock all day long.

So, Tuesday night, after I worked all day and then got my hair done, I got to walk into the wafty house.

Finally, already. Geez.

This isn't a great photo. But it's hard to take a flattering picture of beef rump.
You understand.

And, I'll say it, it was pretty damn good.

Pretty damn good because I also made gravy.

Now, if you ever want to watch a Midwestern boy swoon, move him to California for a decade, where we don't have things like dinner rolls or gravy or pork sausage or fried chicken on our menus all the time, and then give it to him.

Then you can watch his eyes roll back and knees buckle and hands clasp at the bosom and what not.

I wish I'd taken a picture of Bubba's face when he realized that, not only were we having pot roast AND mashed potatoes (+celery root) AND homemade rolls for dinner, we were also having homemade gravy. It was priceless.

I really don't know what I was thinking when I registered for a gravy boat.
Who do I think I am?

Oh the gravy, it is the glue that holds together some marriages. Mine in particular. Sausage gravy, beef gravy, chicken gravy - it matters not.

And, to hear Bubba tell it, my gravy is "pretty fucking good." And since I will take my compliments however I get them and then share them with all the world because I'm very self-involved, I will share my recipe with you in the event that you decide to make pot roast from this recipe and then want the accompanying gravy to pour over the top from the gravy boat you registered for when got married five years ago and have only used twice. Including this time.

Those mashed potatoes and celery root are my new favorite thing.
Finny's Pretty Fucking Good Gravy
Recipes made up by Finny based on limited gravy knowledge and supply on hand.

Drippings from Simple Pot Roast recipe
3 T cornstarch
Fresh ground pepper
Kosher salt

To make
First, make your Simple Pot Roast according to the recipe instructions and don't forget to include a little wiggle room in your schedule for Supah Old Crockpot needs like mentioned earlier. Just in case, you know.

Put your roast on a cutting board (cover with a foil tent, of course) and remove the carrots and onions and whatever other veggies to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl and pour the drippings from the pot through the strainer and into a bowl.

This was ruully gross before I strained it. Ew. Beef globs.

Then sprinkle about a tablespoon of cornstarch over the gravy, whisking constantly until incorporated. Do this with the remaining cornstarch until the gravy becomes opaque.

In a small sauce pot, bring the gravy to a low boil, stirring constantly until thickened. Add fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

The low boil on this gravy was highly satisfying.

Then pour it into your favorite and mostly unused gravy boat and savor the results of a happy husband.

We usually use this gravy boat to pour water into our iron.

Plus, it's pretty fucking good - so you can have some, too, while perhaps trying to recall similar childhood events that may or may not have actually happened.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This pattern is such a joker.

Well, that took a while. The knitting of the body of this sweater.

This was totally a Step 1: Remove engine process and I really couldn't be happier to be on the other side of that one line in the pattern.

The line that was like, "Once you've increased to X point, continue in garter border pattern until piece measures 37.5 inches" or something like that.

Oh really, is that all? Just, like, knit 37 and AND ONE HALF inches of this one billion stitches per row pattern? Well. That will be lovely. I can't wait to go to the grave knitting this sweater. By then perhaps it will have become one with my lap and we won't have to worry about burial undergarments.

Whoa. Morbid.

Anyway, in honor of my finishing the body of this sweater, I'd like to take this opportunity to amend the pattern to read, "Once you've increased to X point, just knit forever. And if you run out of yarn, which you probably will, buy more yarn in increments of one half ton and continue until your finger bones poke through the skin. Make 2."

Ha haha ha!

Sorry, that whole "Make 2" bit is my other favorite knitting pattern punchline. Jerks.

So, it's obvious that this sweater is driving me ever closer to official insanity, but the good news is that I am done with, what I imagine (and enthusiastically hope for godssake GEEZ), is the most mind-numbing part and can now move on to more bite sized parts of this project like sleeves and a belt and some belt loops and some seaming business with the hood.

I may have to reorder yarn in the mean time, since I only have 1 1/2 skeins left somehow (yes, somehow indeed - SWEATER THAT ATE A FIELD OF COTTON - you know who you are), but I'm deep down hoping that, by some miracle, I can eek out the rest of this monster sweater with what I have on hand.

Because wouldn't that just suck the bag to get down to, like, the last belt loop and be like Whoopsy, I'm all outta yarn and now of course this yarn is back-ordered or doesn't come in this color anymore and gee I wish I woulda bought more when I thought of this...

Yes, that would suck. Not that I'm going to do anything about it, like order more yarn NOW, because that would be silly. What if I got to the end and DID end up having enough and then suddenly had EXTRA? What then?!

Horror, that's what. I don't like waste. And sometimes Extra = Waste in my pea brain, so of course I have to cut it close and inevitably piss myself off. But that's later.

For now, I can just worry about what if I'm putting my heart and soul and finger bones into knitting a sweater that turns out looking like horse shit when I go to try it on. And believe me, I worry about this pretty much constantly from the moment I cast on.

I'm telling you, folks, being inside my head is not always fun and gin cocktails.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Adopt a Crop: Let's call it Rocket, then.

I guess all y'alls voting fingers are still primed from the recent election because, even though I was expecting a much lighter turn out for the Winter Edition adopting, a good amount of voting still took place.

You love lettuce in the winter time! I knew it!


66 votes came in total (vs 101 for the summer crop adoption) and the majority went to Arugula/Rocket/Roquette/Whaddyacallit.



In winter time!

We'll see...

I mean, I planted the arugula this weekend, in addition to the much anticipated fava beans, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up even though I think I did a pretty amazing job not keeling over as I turned the garden from this:

To this:

Also, please keep in mind that I ran 6 miles first and it was annoyingly warm for no good reason. Yes, The Weather has been trying to fool us into thinking that we took a really long nap and woke up back in summer time. It was 80 degrees here over the weekend and, while that normally would make me super happy because I can wear my flip-flops without ridicule, it did not.

It did not make me happy because I got up to run at a normal hour (read: not 5am) in the "cool fall weather" and then had plans to work in the yard in long sleeves and got foiled on both counts because it was friggen summertime this weekend even though the calendar clearly says, "November".

Damn lying calendar.

But I forged ahead. I was determined to get the garden ready for winter even if it meant that I had to sweat like it was summer to do it.

So, still wearing my sweaty sports bra and some short sleeves (despite the ickiness that I JUST KNEW was going to touch me AND THEN DID touch me - ICK), I set out for the back .40 to tear me down some tomato plants.

And then the pumpkin plant.

And then all the basils.

And then the beans.

And then the wall of marigolds (UGLY).

And finally, the crown jewel in my tear down: The Chard.

Goodbye The Chard. You are a fucker and I will never grow you again. Plus, you had a lot of icky bugs on you that touched my nekkid arms. BLECH.

Whatever. After all the tearing down, all that was left was the nasturtium in the two tomato beds (which will turn to compost after one hit of frost) and the strawberries. And also - the best part of the tearing down - the final harvest.

We are the Last Mohicans of the 2008 garden:
2 dozen green tomatoes
A lot of basil
A big bouquet of nasturium (not shown)

Once the final harvest was taken inside and given a hose down, boring things had to happen in the yard about which I will not bore you.

Basically, there was some turning of soil, some amendment adding, some compost piling, some wrestling down of wire cages that tried to poke out my eyes and the filling of the yard waste bin to beyond printed weight limitations.

Also, there was Winter Sweating, which is totally unacceptable.

By about 1pm though, there was this:

Hi, I'll be your lettuce for the winter. Nice to me you.

Beneath this very technical Anti-Frost device (a sheet of weedblock gets thrown over the top when The Frost comes), your delectable and peppery arugula is planted safely and according to packet instructions. Or close to it anyway.

And let's all begin hoping that the weather cools off around here so that I don't have to explain to this half packet of cool weather arugula seeds why November = Bikini Weather in Northern California.

Really, now.

35 days to harvest - start your timers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Like it's 1984 in our house. Plus Leavin's.

When I was a kid, Shake 'n Bake was all the rage.

Now, whether my mom did the Shake 'n Bake, I don't recall - but I do know that I never helped. Not that I cared, the Shake 'n Bake on TV never looked that good, and you know if they can't even make it look good on TV, it's gotta be nasty in real life.

I mean, if TV can a McDonald's cheeseburger look good, they can make anything look good, is how I see it anyway. And since that Shake 'n Bake chicken looked like hell, I saw no reason to divert my wanting away from other seemingly delicious things like, well, McDonald's cheeseburgers that I wasn't allowed to have.

Thank you, mom.

Anyway, in my deep rooted desire to conquer the Leavin's the other night, I managed to make a meal that nearly screamed, "It's 1984 in this house and I helped!" And, well, I'm all proud of myself and wanted to show you how I turned back the clock in my kitchen while also getting rid of the Leavin's known as a bunch of random shit laying around that needs to be eaten before it goes bad.

Leavin' #1: Those carrots.

See, I had about 6 carrots of varying size left from the farm share last week. That's too few for two servings or just enough for one greedy serving. But then I unearthed half a sack of frozen organic peas from the bottom of the freezer basket (wuv you, TJ's!) and couldn't resist the urge to have Peas and Carrots so that we could recall the entire dialogue of Forrest Gump at the dinner hour.


Leavin' #2: Celery root that I thought was something else.

Ok, I'll admit, when this thing showed up in the farm share last week, I was at a loss. I thought it was something else. And now I don't remember what that something else was. Anyway, the newsletter that we get with the share said "Celery Root" and also that it can be prepared just like mashed potatoes. Which was handy given that I had three small red potatoes sitting around with it in the basket from last week just awonderin' what was going to become of themselves.

So, I decided on a Mixed Mash of celery root and red potatoes to go with the Forrest Gump peas and carrots. And then, I realized a sad, scary theme.

Our dinner was about to become 1984.

Leavin' #3: Frozen chicken breasts

We don't eat a lot of chicken in our house because we're sick of it and now Bubba only likes it if it's fried and I think you know I don't do too much frying around here unless it's eggplant and covered in the Best Tomato Sauce Ever. Yep.

But we had the beginnings of Dinner from 1984, which practically screamed FRIED CHICKEN NIGHT IN AMERICA. But I couldn't fry chicken, that's nasty. I mean, it's GOOD, but nasty for when we try to wear clothes without elastic waistbands. You know.

And then it dawned on me, what is more 1984 than fried chicken?

Shake 'n Bake chicken!

But that's gross and I don't have Shake 'n Bake in the house and I'm not even sure if they make that stuff any more (as it turns out, they do). But EVEN MORE 1984 than Shake 'n Bake is Oven Fried Chicken with Cornflake Crust.

Oh yes. And we have cornflakes. Well, more specifically, work has cornflakes. And I can bring some home to put on my chicken. I'll just have less cereal for breakfast to even out. I am not a thief, y'all!

And now I will admit to you that I went through my whole day being really proud of myself for creating a thematically amusing menu using random shit left over in our house. It actually made me happy. I believe I thought of the peas and carrots and smiled in traffic.

I know. My life is small and pathetic. Whatever.

So, after cutting my morning's cereal allotment in half and stowing some cornflakes in my bag, I proceeded to make 1984 for dinner. I even used the microwave and everything! You know - just so it'd be as authentically 1984 as possible. I wish I could have used mushroom soup somehow, but I don't keep that in my house for reasons associated with pork chop trauma (a story for another time).

And, even though I barely cared if it was edible, because HELLO it was getting rid of all this odd stuff, Bubba LOVED it.

I mean, cleaned his plate in moments and asked when we were having it again and also the chicken was SO good, kind of loved it.


Anyway, if you want to make 1984 in your house, whether you have these items laying around already, here are the "recipes".

Recipes made up by Finny out of desperation and limited supply on hand.

Oven Fried Chicken with Cornflake Crust
One whole boneless skinless breast of chicken, sliced into two breast halves
1 cup of cornflakes, crushed
1/3 cup flour
1/4 t cayenne
1/3 cup FF milk
Kosher salt

To make
Preheat the oven to 365.

Spray down an 8X8 glass dish with whatever cooking spray you like.

Tenderize the crap out of that chicken breast so it's not one big ball of chicken (GROSS).

Mix flour, cayenne and however much salt and pepper you like in a bowl. Then put the milk in another bowl and the crushed cornflakes in YET another bowl. (It makes a mess this stupid chicken).

Coat each chicken breast in flour, then dip in milk, then coat with the crushed cornflakes. Put them in the dish together and bake for 20-30 mins or until they are no longer pink inside. I do believe you want your poultry to a piping 160 degrees before eating so the cooties die. Double check on that to be sure. Finny doesn't want you to die.

Remove from the oven and serve with the other 1984 side dishes and a tall glass of milk if you want to be gross but authentic. We, personally, had cocktails, but we're heathens like that.

Mixed mash
3 small red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into same size pieces as your potatoes
2 T butter or margarine
Kosher salt

Bring a pot of salted water to boil while your chicken's in the oven and drop in the potatoes and celery root. Allow it to boil until you can easily prod a potato or celery root chunk with a fork. Drain the pot of water and return to the stove. Turn off the heat. With your potato masher, mash it all up and then add the butter. Continue to mash until the consistency is right (no lumps , damn you) and then add salt and pepper to taste.

If you choose to go the add hard boiled egg pieces route, please don't tell me because I'll have to hate you. That is gross. DAD!

Keep covered in the pot until ready to serve.

Peas and carrots
1/2 bag of frozen organic peas, thawed
6 or so misshapen and unsightly carrots (smallish to mediumish in size), peeled, cut into coins

To make
In a microwavable container, add about 1/4" of water and your sliced carrots. Cover loosely. Microwave on high for approx 2 minutes or whatever your micro recommends for "Fresh Carrots". My micro tells me what to do, so I just choose this from the menu on the screen, but if your menu is less bossy, I think it took about 2 minutes on high. Just so you know.

When the micro dings take the dish out, uncover it and pour the peas in there. Maybe stir it up a bit. Put the cover back on and put the covered dish back in the micro. Just leave it in there doing nothing. The residual steam and heat will warm your thawed peas so they don't get nasty.

When the chicken's done, plate it accordingly and watch the last half of Sixteen Candles, which just happens to be on Encore as though it were 1984 in the whole world for an evening.

Also, bask in the glory of your genius, etc.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's official - I'm a child.

Neckdown Long Hooded Cardigan
by Diane Soucy for Knitting Pure and Simple
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Organic Cotton in Graphite
Needles: Circular 9 (24"), 9 (16"), DPN 9 & 7, tapestry needle
Raveled here

So, I started another sweater.

Even after last time when I had an emotional break down with the Hourglass Sweater pattern that turned out like a pile of horseshit thanks to a bunch of different and evil issues.

I don't want to talk about it.

But, I went back into the water with sweaters anyway because I have always wanted to knit myself a sweater (like, a good one that I'll really wear, not a big fugly one that'll just be so I can *say* that I knitted a sweater - you know) and also because Philigry, who is chaperoning my re-entry into knitting, managed to knit up a sweater so excellent and allegedly so quick and easy that I felt safe getting back on the water skis for another trip around the harbor.

Or whatever. You've seen Jaws, right? You know what I mean.

So, with shaky hands, I went on to Jimmy Beans and ordered myself up a scary large amount of organic cotton (for my supah sensitive wool-hater skin) and then Yarnmarket for the needles I didn't have in my I'm So Anal Retentive Needle Case (I'll have to show this to y'all someday - it's silly) and then sat there on my couch and quietly freaked out about trying to knit another sweater.

Because of the Fear of Horseshit Knitting.

Don't mock me - it's a real thing. And I have it.

I then entertained the idea of what if the yarn doesn't show up and I don't have to tempt failure and maybe feel like a loser, but then the yarn showed up in, like, the blink of an eye, and by some miracle I'd also finished the Crazy Ass Knee Socks, so I had no choice but to dive in and hope for the best.

And also No Sharks, please.

Thankfully, this pattern started off super easy like Sunday morning. Cast on like a mutha and GO. And then, basically, keep going for a long time - making some INCs here and there, and do try to stick to your one cocktail maximum so that shit doesn't start falling off the needles as can tend to happen after cocktail #2. Or so I hear.

I was loving it a lot. I was moving fast. I had a HOOD, for godssake! Things were great - there wasn't any horseshit in sight! But, deep down, I was still worried. Eventually there HAD to be some snag. Some insurmountable disaster. Some pattern acronym unknown to man and inexplicable in the natural world.

Well, sorta.

So - I'm simple. Like, in the head simple. After knitting the hood and doing a jillion INC rows for the shoulders and back and starting to feel like HEY I'VE TOTALLY GOT THIS DOWN (I should know better, yes) I came to the increases for the armholes and nearly lost my shit trying to figure it out.

Again, I'll remind you that I'm simple in the head.

Specifically, the pattern says "Cast on 12 for the armhole and knit across the back stitches" or something to that effect, which is totally innocuous and not scary which made my sudden but complete failure to comprehend the process all the more alarming.

I started to Cable Cast-on, but it was leaving this bizarre connector thread dangling across the armhole that was

1. Wrong and
2. Wrong

Then I tried the so-called Knit Cast-On which produced similarly aggravating results. It's possible that I was doing both of these methods wrong, even though I've done them both before without issue.

My mind was boggling. Also, I was saying a lot of bad words and, in my last attempt at getting a Cable cast-on to work - I snapped the working yarn.


Oh yeah, I said it. Just like that. And I woke Bubba up in the process from the couch across the room. NOT a good moment for either of us. Thankfully the dog had gone to bed so she didn't have to be there for mommy's melt down. Rocket, however, looked up from her butt cleaning in alarm. How dare I?

Anyway. I knew it was time to get out the big guns and solve this once and for all. The sweater was going so well that I wasn't prepared to admit defeat with less than 1/4 of the sweater actually done. My only hesitation was that if I went for the big guns and found that they, too, were useless, I would have to go crawling on my knees to fellow Ravelers and beg for help due to my simplemindedness.

To be clear, Big Guns = My Big Vogue Knitting Book.

For those of you knitters who don't own this book, please stop everything you're doing (even if you're knitting at this exact moment) and go get this book. It will save you a lot of pain and suffering, especially if you refer to it BEFORE you overwork yarn to the point of snapping, like a normal person might.

And even if you do abnormal things like I mentioned earlier and only resort to it in a fit of anger and frustration, you'll be rewarded all the same with answers to your every knitting question. For instance, if your question is, "How the fuck do I cast-on 12 stitches with only one tail without creating a bizarre and unworkable connecting thread?" your answer will be on or around page 54 where it outlines the very simple process known as the Single Cast-on Method.


The Single Cast-on Method. The one that goes like this and only requires one tail and is the "best way to teach a child" how to cast on stitches as they "learn to knit" or something similarly insulting that made me not want to use it. In the end though, I tried it and HOLY it totally worked.

And just like that, I was back on track.

Albeit, I was a "child", but I was back on track all the same and didn't have to admit defeat to my sweater which is a wonderful and enlightening thing. And it makes it easier to go to sleep knowing that a ball of string hasn't triumphed over one's very soul.

So, yeah, I'm knitting a sweater and it's going pretty well so far, minus a short diversion in which I said every bad word. And I hope to have this enormous beast done sometime in the next decade because, despite its fast and easiness so far, it's still ruuuuuuuuuuully long and so will probably take some real deep down wanting in order to finish.

Wish me luck. Please. And also no sharks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oh right, a deadline. I'm silly. [Adopt a crop]

This pumpkin has a butt.

It's funny how I get all excited about something like lettuce choosing and then forget to put a deadline on the choosing so that you all just run amok voting for ever and ever.

Or so it would seem.

But not to worry, I just realized that even though I didn't get the garden work done that I'd planned to do over the weekend (pruning lavender and ornamental grasses shouldn't take so long and be quite so hard on my hamstrings, for reals though), I will be in the garden soon and when I am - the lettuce will go in.

But which kind?

Ah, right - and now we've come full circle. So, please accept this as your reminder to go vote for the lettuce you'd like to adopt during this winter edition of Adopt a Crop.

Do your voting by this Friday, 11/14/08, so that I can plant your lettuces this weekend when I hopefully don't have a full-scale hamstring failure and end up face down in the back yard where the dog does her doots.


Anyway, go vote. It'll be fun - promise. At the very least you'll get to watch me melt down trying to get the garden running smoothly during the winter months. Truth be told, I don't go out there once the rain starts. Even though that's where the firewood lives. And even though I love a rip roaring fire in the fireplace so that I may warm my buns while watching my 49ers play the worst season of football in recent memory.

Good times!

Also, let me take this opportunity to show you the close of the summer garden. Because this weekend I'm going to tear it down and prep it for your lettuce. That's right - YOUR lettuce. Which, at this point sorta looks like it'll be Arugula Rocket. Yay! - if you like that kinda thing. If not, go vote for something else. "Or keep your mouth shut and just take what you get." - Finny's mom.

I'm pretty happy with the turnout in the garden this year. We had a good crop of tomatoes, a few delicious little melons, loads of basil, pounds of green beans, enough cucumbers for pickles and whatnot, 1.5 beets (LOSERS!), a few radishes (vague losers), a single bell pepper (LOSERx2), a decent batch of snap peas, some strawberries, squash, a billion marigolds (UGLY), the best little volunteer pumpkin plant ever and OH MY GOD THE CHARD.

You know.

But now I'm going to tear it down and start almost all the way over. And I'm, like, so ready for this. So, bid your farewells to the garden as you've known it since March. From the way it looks right now, I think it's bidding its own farewell to us.

Mental note: You must not ever buy or plant nasturtium again. It re-grows with alarming ferocity.

I planted Thai basil just for this photo.

My compost heap plants the best pumpkins.

I still think marigolds are ugly which explains why they grew so well for me.

Repeat after me: Only grow Genovese basil. It is the best and can grow even under the most vicious tomato plants.

"PEACE OUT, PEOPLE. I need a nap" -Finny's garden

Monday, November 10, 2008


Finny's Crazy Ass Frankensocks
Yarn: Rowan RYC Cashsoft 4 ply in "Folly"
Needles: Clover #2 DPNs, Tapestry needle
Lacey leg: Lace Rib Knee Socks by Jennifer Fray (free)
Lovely heel/gusset/toe: Africa's Socks by Gina Doherty (free)
Compiled pattern and project on Ravelry

Hopefully you will forgive me for three things: the awful FLASH-y photo, the fact that my floors are about as gnarly and hairy (thanks pets) as can be and for my impatience, because had I just waited one day until our fabulous cleaning lady came, I could have taken this photo with nice daylight on clean floors and you could have been spared the horror of seeing how gross I let my house get.

But, it's out there now: I am lazy and nasty and also apparently not ashamed enough of these traits to hide them from the Internets.


Despite my now-obvious awfulness as a human being, I did still manage to finish the Crazy Ass Kneesocks.

These are for my mom who is the only person I know to wear kneesocks with such a heightened level of unabashed glee and pride. It is also her birthday soon and since I know she's already busted out her Crazy Ass bright orange kneesocks to wear around her chilly house, I thought she might enjoy a new pair of Crazy Ass socks with which she can distract the cat while also inviting the attentions of alarmed passersby as she goes out for the mail.

My mom leads a very glamorous and active lifestyle that, I imagine, involves startling strangers and the random aloof neighbor with her unconventional radness. She isn't one of bland taste, just let that be known.

That said, I'm hoping she appreciates the Crazy Ass-ness of these lacy socks, as well as the funky color, and at the same time doesn't think I'm poking fun at her very lovable penchant for absurd leg/foot wear.

I also hope that these socks fit her very sexy gams because, alas, I was not blessed with me mum's lovely legs, so I had to guess at the sizing here and do a good amount of hoping that they will be snug enough at the ankles while also being accommodating at the calf. It's hard to account for shapliness in the calf area when one is in possession of the chickeny-est legs in all the land.

But, thankfully, as I tried the socks on for this perfectly constructed photo I was left feeling optimistic, as they very easily slid over my twigs and left ample stretchitude for a future wearer with extra leg buffness.

According to spellcheck, I just made up half the words in that sentence.

Anyway, just please cross your fingers with me that these fit my mom's lovely legs so that I don't have to bear the embarrassment of giving an ill-fitting gift while also feeling very inadequate in the limb department.

I may be a lot of things, but leggy isn't one of them.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Adopt a Crop: Winter Edition

What? Crops in winter? Why do I tease?

No, really. I'm doing some winter crops this year. Not a full garden's worth, but a few to get us through to springtime without having to (hopefully) go without our nightly greens. Also, I've been jealous of my neighbor's winter fava bean garden now that I've learned to love the fava, so now I must have it, too. And also arugula because HELLO it is awesome.

But what about the Forever Chard That Won't Die, what else could I possibly need?

Um yeah, aside from a bludgeoning shovel for the chard, I need some arugula, or maybe red leaf, or what about we see how the Black-seeded Simpson does in winter, or how about some random mix called Fordhook?

Well, people, you know I can't decide by myself, because that's when my garden starts to fill up in every open spot and no soil gets to rest and then terrible things happen that make me swear.

And we don't want that. Really now.

So, won't you join me in a toned down winter edition of Adopt a Crop? Now, I'm not sure how I'll be able to send any looseleaf lettuce off on a Lettuce Visit, but if you live close by, I might drop it off on your porch. That'd be fun! Like a Lettuce Stalker!


First, though, you vote - and then we'll work out the details later.

Details like which bed this lettuce is going in and when, exactly, I think I'm going to have time to clean, amend, compost, sow, cover and care for these lettuces. And then we can talk Lettuce Stalkers from those who choose the winning variety.

Go now! Vote on your lettuce and let Finny do the rest.

Which lettuce would you adopt?
Arugula Rocket
Red leaf
Black-seeded Simpson
Fordhook mix
Free polls from

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Sometimes it really is me and I just have to deal with it and move on.

In the case of this sock pattern and my knitting skills, the fact that the ankle decrease kept coming out fucked up was decidedly a me thing.

So, I did what many reasonable and mature women do in times of failing relationships, I sought comfort in the arms of another.

See, despite my four big tries at getting this ankle decrease to work out, I never NOT ONCE got the stitch count to shake out right. 47 stitches remaining? Um, not even close. Plus, it looked like the cat had dragged the sock off to her bed and had her way with it, so that wasn't going to fly. It wasn't working out.

The pattern was probably fine, but we clearly weren't meant for each other, so it was time to start putting some space between us and perhaps time for me to find some other pattern to love.

And so, I went back to an old friend for comfort. And by "old friend" I mean, the heel, gusset and toe pattern from Bubba's socks.

See, this pattern never wronged me. The stitch count always came out right. I never had any moments of doubt when I thought I'd made a horrible mistake and should head for the hills with my CD collection and toothbrush while he was at work. Or whatever.

As I dug my #2 needle out from under the sofa after my *very mature* temper tantrum that resulted in me having to reknit the bottom third of the leg, I turned my back on the Lace Rib Knee Sock pattern and brought the heel/gusset/toe portion of Africa's Socks back into my bed.


In less skanky terms, I swapped everything beyond the "Continue in pattern stitch as established until work measures 20 3/4" from beginning." from Lace Rib Knee Socks with everything starting with "Begin Slipped Stitch Heel" from Africa's Socks.

Sure, I had to do a little math, but I will say that in this one instance, it was the lesser of two evils. I was done trying to work it out. I wanted something familiar and predictable that didn't have a drinking problem or ride a motorcycle. I wanted my Africa's sock gusset pattern and I was willing to crunch a few numbers to make it work with the Lace Rib Knee Sock leg pattern.

Is this getting too obscure?


This is how the #1 Crazy Ass Frankensock came out with the Lace Rib Knee Sock pattern on the leg and the gusset/heel/toe pattern on the heel and foot:

You'll notice the lace pattern stops at the ankle, which is a little sad, but you might also notice how nicely the heel turns and the sock finishes without looking at all like a pile of horseshit. Nice!

Plus, you may also notice that the lace looks decent, which is the direct result of me reknitting the bottom third of the leg after I javelined the project and each of its needles across the room in frustration.

Good times.

I'm now on to Crazy Ass Frankensock #2 and having a fine time of it. I haven't slug it across the room yet or started drunk dialing another pattern in a fit of rage or anything, so I have a good feeling about the final outcome of the pair.

If you are somehow interested in creating your own pair of Lacey Frankensocks of the knee-length variety, the details of my Frankensocking are raveled here.

I am, however, poised to commit one of the most detrimental acts of knitting - I may be setting this project aside to begin another sweater in the event that my proper sized needles show up before I finish these socks.

Terrible, I know. And basically fraught with peril, too. My plan is to work on the sweater (which will take me one hundred years, I'm sure) at home and take the second sock in this pair on the road with me during the upcoming Turkey holiday when we'll be traveling like morons.

Will that make me a total yarn slut? Will I have to take up an organized religion in order to repent my yarn sins? What do you think the odds are that I will finish either project?

These are all questions for someone more sane of mind than I. Meanwhile, I will be carefully working through Frankensock #2 tonight while I keep an ear on the election results and try not to give in to any brewing tantrums.

Wish me luck.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Not at all like the pattern, but still

Dear Donk,

When I put this out there as our bi-monthly sewing project and said something to the tune of "just do whatever the hell you want but try to work in some sewing", I already knew what I was going to make.

And I also knew it had nothing to do with the pattern in the book aside from the fact that I was planning to sew on some paper. But there weren't going to be any stars or vellum or cutting out of shapes or anything remotely resembling the holidays in my final product.

My "Sewn Star Card" was going to be made of whatever color cardstock I had in the stash with whatever scraps of fabric I could exhume from the other stash with whatever semi-coordinating thread remained in the sewing supplies and stamped with whatever color ink from the other other stash and then done 8 times over and tucked into whatever notecard envelopes I had left in the other other other stash.

The only For Sure thing was that I was going to use a monogram and then gift the set of cards to whomever belonged to the monogram stamp I had on hand for the project.

Obviously my methods are very specific.

Regardless of my directionless take on this project and utter disregard for the pattern, the cards came out exactly as I envisioned them, which is to say that they are the shape, size and combination of materials I'd had in mind and no catastrophic failure was experienced.

Plus, I was glad I could find scrap cardstock and scrap fabric and scrap thread and scrap envelopes and a random monogram stamp and ink in the craft closet that could come together and not look like a heap of crap.

AND AND I got to use my sewing machine which was just freshly back from the sewing shop and greased like a young squealing hog. An awesome thing, that newly tuned sewing machine, I'll tell you what.

So, that's about all I can say about this project. I used up some treasured stash items, got out a stamp for once in a million years and came out with a nice little stocking stuffer for my MiL.

I guess I won't be bitching about the book this time which I'm sure will come as a welcomed change for some of you who are sick of my ranting. Or perhaps you, too, will be relieved that this wasn't a hopelessly tedious project for no good reason.

Anyway - YAY! We're nearing the end of this year's sew~along, so get your projects in (some of them are really impressive, BTW, and I should be getting used to your radness by now. Apologies. I'm slow.) so we can announce this round's winner on 12/1 and then the Grand Prize winner and also next year's ~along at some point at or near the end of the year.

Oh, and I should say, it's going to be pretty fun, so don't go resolutioning any anti-crafting behavior. I'm just saying that you'll regret it and I will not be responsible for any craft-induced depression that you may experience. I'm just not qualified for things like that.