August 2005

For the first time since the practice roving that came with my first spindle, I’ve used up a whole batch of roving. I stayed home sick today, and I finished off the wool-mohair that I bought from Three Waters Farm at Maryland when I couldn’t sleep.

how I prep my singles for plying

about 120 yards

on the niddy-noddy

Unsurprisingly, the most accurate color is in the top picture, which was taken in full sun.

In response to Jen‘s questions:

Overall, I enjoyed the Eat Local Challenge. It was good to make myself eat fresh produce and, you know, have to actually wash and chop the veggies. With the exemptions I gave myself, it wasn’t terribly difficult. I still have a lot of food (grains, frozen stuff, etc.) in my pantry and freezer from before August started… And I really love the presence of a farmers’ market across the street from my house.

The thing I’m most looking forward to tomorrow is letting myself buy some decent cheddar. The local dairy people who used to come to my local market haven’t been there this year, and chevre, while tasty, doesn’t quite work for cheese toast.

Fun new products? Well….I tried the local chevre, which is tasty, and the local tofu, which is excellent. I haven’t actually gone out of my way to find new sources of local foods, what with the easy accessibility of more than enough food and the fact that I don’t have a car or a bike (for going to slightly-farther-away farmers’ markets).

The challenge has changed my eating habits in the direction of “what I like to do when I take time to cook real food”, which I’d like to continue. I won’t be teaching this semester, so I’d like to think I’ll still have time to cook for as long as there’s local produce. I’ll probably do the challenge again next year, assuming I hear about it again, although I’d like to think that there won’t be much to challenge from by then.

This has been a relatively good week for cooking, with two different things cooked and another thing prepared without cooking. (Sad, isn’t it?) Anyway, I made some rice noodles and peanut sauce with squash and peppers on Tuesday, and I’ve still got some left. On Friday, I used the rest of the package of rice noodles with squash, eggplant, half a pepper, and some frozen (shelled) edamame, in my generic Southeast Asian sauce. Quite tasty, as it turned out, and then we made cinnamon-allspice ice cream. Mmmmm….

Yesterday morning, I made my weekly trip to the local farmers’ market, and I bought something from every stall except for the guy with flowers. I now have corn, hot peppers, an eggplant, summer squash, tomatillos, wax beans, mottled red-and-green peppers, chevre, ginger gold apples, blackberries, and banana bread. And “seven grain” bread that’s really five-grain-and-two-seed bread, sunflower seeds and buckwheat not being grains. I’m thinking either apple crisp with blackberry ice cream or apple-blackberry crisp with just some of the existing cinnamon ice cream, and something vaguely Mexican for the tomatillos. Maybe a black bean soup? We shall see.

Apologies to those of you hoping for fiber content; the flower basket shawl and second wildfoote sock have both grown a bit, but they’re not worth new pictures. I spent yesterday helping friends move, and I was too tired to knit or spin when I got home. I did have energy to stop at the co-op yesterday, though, and I special-ordered a few things, including a bunch of big glass jars for dry-goods storage. I hope they come in soon!

I took a couple of hours off yesterday afternoon to go downtown and run some errands. It’s been beautiful this week (if all of summer were like this, I’d like summer), so it was great to get outside for a while. My first stop (and, really, the only purchase worth a photo) was on Fabric Row, where I was intending to buy some quilting cotton for a dpn case. None of the cottons called out to me, so I wound up with this:

dupioni silk, with different-colored warp and weft. mmmm…

When I got back to lab, I found out that a few other people were planning to go to a free concert of bluegrassy music in Rittenhouse Square and decided to join them. It turned out to not really be bluegrass, but it was okay folk-rock. At least, if one of the singers had cut out the screaming (kinda like he’d really wanted to be in a metal band) and the occasionally singing flat. Dissonance that doesn’t sound intentional just isn’t fun to listen to. But, hey, it was free. And a lovely evening to hang out in the park with friendly coworkers.

cement columns are not only good seats but also good tripods

And here we have a bonus cat picture, because Mel is cute.

did I hear a bird outside the window?

So, despite the fact that I didn’t get home ’til 10 last night, I couldn’t wait any longer to wind off and set the twist on the fresh batch of two-ply. It wound up being about 64 yards, and it’s a lot heavier than the first skein (on the heavy side of fingering to maybe even sport, rather than lace-to-fingering). When I took these pictures this morning, it was early enough that there was only a little slice of sunlight in my living room–a rarity for me.

pretty well balanced, no?

kinda like a waterfall

all nicely twisted

So, I’ve been trying to figure out why the mohair-wool from this blob seems so nice when it’s on the spindle and then gets lots of wonky-looking kinked bits once I’ve set the twist. Any ideas from you veteran spinners?

Yup. I’m good at getting to bed early. Sure am. Hey, I’m leaving this as a two-ply on the spindle instead of winding it onto the niddy-noddy and setting the twist…


Those are the flavors of berry in the jam I made last night. It was my first attempt at jamming by myself (i.e., not in my dad’s kitchen, with his supplies and assistance), and it went quite nicely. Really, the hard part was acquiring such things as tongs, pectin, and canning jars, none of which are available at my local farmers’ market. (The pectin did turn out to be from my co-op, though, and I figured it was a fair exception to the local-only rule.) I also got a nice reminder of how long it really takes to boil a huge pot of water…

So, the jam. I used about 3.5 cups of blueberries and two cups of blackberries (each measured by the cardboard pint containers from the farmers’ market, so really approximate), about 2t powdered pectin, and about 2.5 c sugar. And then I added a slosh of key lime juice, probably about a tablespoon. Judging by the taste and gelledness of what was stuck to the wooden spoon, I think it came out pretty well…I love the fudgeability of cooking.

4.75 cups of jam

Mel gets curious

methinks the pectin worked nicely

One thing that’s amusing me about the size of this batch of jam is that all of the jars are assigned to recipients already. The not-really-full one, of course, is mine.

Yesterday was the August PhillyKnitters SnB. I brought the flower basket shawl, and I did knit about a row and a half, but I spent most of the afternoon spinning and plying more of the green merino-silk.

about 52 yards

Ella and I, with our spinning, were apparently rather impressive, and we got lots of questions. Maybe there’ll be more people spinning at the next SnB…

1. So, what do you think of my new color scheme? I’m not sure it’s quite perfect, but it was about time for a change. I still think it’s time for a change, but I noticed that this new template really wasn’t ready. Oops. Okay, new colors are up.

2. Mel is especially funny-looking when he’s squinching himself flat to the ground so the laser-pointer dot won’t notice him getting ready to pounce.

3. I’ve started the tenth repeat in the flower basket shawl. The rows are definitely getting longer.

4. V. has brought her knitting to work to ask me questions. It occurred to me that I should’ve told her to get a crochet hook when she bought her needles and yarn. And it hadn’t occurred to me that it wouldn’t be obvious how to wind a hank of yarn into a ball. After that, I remembered how one of my flatmates spent a few hours untangling a skein for me a few weeks after I learned to knit, so I suppose it wasn’t blindingly obvious to me, either.

This hasn’t been a week for lots of cooking, what with the sticky weather and lots of work events. I made a not-very-local millet and quinoa salad for a lab party on Tuesday, and I’ve still got leftovers… For this week, though, I got corn for dinner last night (yum!), a few peppers, and some local tofu. And more apples, of course. Unfortunately, there were no more blueberries or blackberries. I prepped most of last week’s for jam that I’ll make sometime this week, hopefully Tuesday; I’m glad I did that before they all disappeared.

I did manage to bring myself to cook some tonight, so I can have food to take for lunch tomorrow. I used last week’s summer squash, one of this week’s peppers, some carrots that had been in my fridge, and the rest of last week’s tofu, plus Indian spices. Talk in the car on the way home from the beach last week reminded me that it’d been way, way too long since I’d made Indian-ish food. I pulled out my new, exciting cookbook, plus an old favorite, and discovered that I don’t have the key ingredients for any of the recipes I wanted to make. So I fell back on my standard: I sautéed my veggies and tofu with the spices I had on hand, namely mustard seeds, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper, plus a smidgen of cayenne. Fortunately, unlike last time, it stayed a smidgen, and it turned out to be quite tasty.

Next up: sorta East Asian eggplant and the aforementioned jam.

I was a bit apprehensive about the idea of a lab beach trip. My preferred style of beachgoing involves weather no warmer than about 70ºF and a lot of wandering around and looking at/for shells and small animals and plants (and tide pools when possible), and I was pretty sure that at least the weather wasn’t going to happen at the Jersey Shore in August. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be the one person who didn’t go, because it couldn’t be all that bad, right?

It turned out to be fun, despite disgustingly hot weather and a lack of appropriate clothing on my part. Since I didn’t have a swimsuit, I stuck to wading and knitting and photographing. (Click the thumbnails for larger images.) Fortunately, my advisor brought a beach umbrella, so I got to sit in the shade.

Wavespeople2 Emptybeach
my labmates in the water; the beach

Horseshoecrab Sandcrab
horseshoe crab; sand crab

I took this photo for the texture of the shell, but I like the way the texture of my fingerprint comes through so strongly.

V_cutout Fbsonsandyskirt
V., knitting; the flower basket shawl at the end of the day

As you can see, I wasn’t the only person knitting at the beach, just the only one knitting lace. V. knit a square of about 2″ on a side with the cotton I’d had sitting over my desk for a year. It was waiting for me to be willing to finish the towel I was going to give my grandma for her birthday last August. Since I forgot to send her the present I bought her in Boston, I’ll just send them both–I cast off the towel so V. could learn to cast on. I didn’t get a lot knit on the flower basket shawl, just about two pattern rows, but I did get in a lot of gazing at the breaking waves. Eventually, when I settle into one place to live for many years, I want it to be someplace with both ocean and mountains easily accessible. (Okay, fine, one of the two can be merely visible, as long as it’s a reasonable day trip.)

I spent a while this afternoon helping one of my labmates buy her first knitting supplies. V. had learned some of the basics a long time ago, and then I re-taught her how to cast on, knit, purl, and decrease (to make up for a couple of stitches she’d accidentally increased) on Thursday, during our lab beach trip. I had been planning another trip to Loop, and V. wanted to come with me.

So, after some labwork, we headed downtown. I was looking for Eucalan, non-metal-non-Crystal Palace circs in sizes smaller than US3, and possibly some dark green variegated yarn for the Peacock Feather shawl. They didn’t have any of those, so I wound up with a ball of Douceur et Soie and a hank of Malabrigo.

not to be used together

I think the Douceur et Soie is going to become a thrice-cursed scarf, as a test to see whether I like knitting with this sort of yarn, and I have no idea what the malabrigo is going to be. Maybe a hat and mittens or something…but it’s really soft and has good yardage, so I bought it.

V. bought Stitch’n’Bitch, a pair of 8’s, and some Blue Sky cotton, with the intent to make some sort of rectangle as a baby gift. I don’t understand why people think that hats on circs are hard (and they sure take less yarn than blankets), but there was only so much I was going to argue. After all, I don’t want to scare her away from knitting. Or make her think I’m enough of a fiber freak that she shouldn’t come back to our lab after her fall rotation.

Last night and today were absolutely nuts. I spent all of last night cooking (quinoa-millet and corn salad, plus chocolate cupcakes with mixed berries), and then a couple of us went in to lab at 11:30 to drop off most of the food for today’s lab party. Then, this morning, the senior grad student in my lab defended his thesis. Fortunately, despite the chemical accident that meant we had to evacuate the building two slides before the end of his talk, he passed. After the talk, the rest of us hurried back to the lunchroom to set up for the party. Three and a half hours later, we’d fed people, eaten, socialized, and cleaned up, and it was time to actually start doing science. It was 3:30pm.

I was very, very happy to find this on my chair (nicely and securely packaged, of course):

my new Bosworth spindle

Rather than go to yet another party this evening, I opted to run errands, during which I at least wouldn’t have to be actively sociable, and then I came home to play with the new cocobolo spindle. I finished spinning the test roving that came with the spindle, and it’s now drying. I figured I’d leave it as a single and use it as a trim on the edge of something round, for which biasing won’t matter. (Sparklies are fun.) It’s a lovely spindle, and it is, as I’d wanted, noticeably heavier than the one I bought in May. It’s not, though, as different in color from my other spindle:

Funny how similar paduak and cocobolo are… I think my next spindle’s going to be one of the Golding handcarved cherry ones. Next May.

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