Lists give me the illusion of control.

Things are a little chaotic, but they always are and I’m not even going to try to play catch-up.  I have a toothache that goes to 11 (actually, its an 8) and a million things that I’m procrastinating about, so have a list.

1. Jason and I celebrate our 5 year anniversary on Friday.  We’re going to Cancun and staying here and I am really, really excited.

2. My brother and SIL are expecting another baby, and this time they were nice enough to make me a niece to knit darling, frilly things for.  I just finished her baby blanket and will bring it to the hospital when she arrives on Wednesday.  I want it to be a surprise for them, so I’m only sharing a tiny preview.

It is (in my completely biased opinion) wonderful and perfect, and, I think, the exact right balance between classic, elegant and functional.

3. I’ve knit lots of other things, and even taken pictures of a few.  (I kind of hate how Flickr has changed their system so that its so bloody hard to link to photos.   Why do sites insist on changing things that aren’t broken?  I’m looking at you, too, Gmail.)

There’s a laceweight alpaca shawl designed by my friend Trisha.

There’s also a sock designed by my friend Allison.  Its just the one, for now.  The second one is coming.  Eventually.  Probably.

4. I got an email today from Marie at Underground Crafter.  Among other things, she mentioned that she read about my Physical Wellness for Handcrafters classes in Yarn Market News.  I had no idea, so I was super grateful that she pointed it out!  I checked it out, and sure enough, the May issue has a blurb about how The Yarn Spot has been working with me to offer seated massage and self care classes, both geared towards knitters.  Hooray for nice surprises, and for feeling a tiny bit famous!

5. Kombucha brewing continues.  I’ve been through three or four batches now, and Sammy the SCOBY has grown from a thin, yeasty little guy to a Serious Business kombucha culture.

This is what he looked like when I started my first batch of tea.

And this is what he looks like now.

Actually, this is more like Sam IV, since its one if the babies that grew on top of Sammy as the fermentation process went on, but I still think its super cool to see how the SCOBYs are changing from batch to batch.  Each one has been a little less yeasty and a little more opaque.

Weird Science

I have been knitting exclusively on a secret test-knit shawl for Trisha, so no new knitting pictures to share, but I do have pictures of Science.

Remember this?  The wee little ort of kombucha culture in the top right?  It just looks like a dark, whispy blob.

 

I covered the dish with a towel and put it on top of the refrigerator and forgot about it for two weeks, and when I came back to it, it had turned into a proper SCOBY.

Meet Sam.

(please ignore the following: random water bottle, crumpled paper towel, ugliest green countertops ever in the world)

 

He’s still young, so he’s pretty thin and translucent, but if I can get him to work through a few batches of kombucha, he should grow up and get big and strong, and won’t look so flimsy.

For now, he’s living in a big jar or sweet tea, nomming away at the sugar and fermenting the tea.

(please ignore my messy counter)

 

When I first put him in, he sank to the bottom pretty quickly, but within a few days he had floated back to the top.  About a week into the process, I took a long-weekend trip to visit Christine (yay!).  Before I left, there was a thin film on top of the tea, and while I was gone, Sam must have been hard at work, because there is now a pretty impressive baby SCOBY growing on his back.

I’ll give the tea another 5-7 days to ferment, since I want Sam to eat as much of the sugar as he can so that the end result will be a nice, tart kombucha.  At this point, it looks pretty promising that it will turn out!

Turning Things Into Other Things

Thing the first:

A week or so ago, I turned this (4 oz of 80/20 BFL & Silk top from the Pulling at Strings fiber club)……….

 

Into this………

 

Its about 250 yards of sort of unevenly spun, reasonably balanced yarn that is soft and yummy and drapey, and I don’t actually love the way the colors plied together.  The fiber, though, was wonderful–I think BFL/Silk is a new favorite.

 

Thing the second:

Today, I spent some time playing mad scientist in the kitchen.  Over the next few weeks, this (two bags of Tazo’s Joy tea steeping in two cups of water with a bit of sugar, that will be mixed with a bottle of plain, raw Kombucha)……….

will (hopefully), grow a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, also known as a Kombucha “mother”) so that I can brew the stuff on my own and stop spending nearly $4 a bottle at Whole Foods.  As I understand it, the little bits of culture living in the bottled Kombucha will feast on the sugar in the tea that I made, and when I uncover the bowl in two weeks, instead of the wee amoeba-looking thing that was in there when I covered it up (visible here towards the top right)

I’ll find a big pancake-looking culture that I can transplant into a jar of sweet tea.  They’ll ferment together for awhile, and in about a month, I should have a drinkable batch going.  I’ve made home-brewed Kombucha before, but I’ve never tried growing a fresh SCOBY from scratch.  Whether it works or not, I’m excited to see what happens!

If I blog about vegetable stock, does that make me the most boring person alive?

Because I haven’t updated this blog in a month, and vegetable stock is all I’ve got.

I decided sometime last year that I was tired of spending money of stock that was loaded with salt and full of things I couldn’t pronounce, and started making my own.  To make it manageable, any time I prepare vegetables–which is nearly every day–I toss the scraps in a ziplock that lives in the freezer.  Within a week or two, its full and I have enough veggie bits to make a huge pot of stock.

The benefits to this are, I think, huge.  For one, its free.  I’m using water and scraps from vegetables that I’ve bought for something else.  Being able to use scraps that would otherwise go in the trash makes me feel better about not finding a way to compost them.  It gives me something to do with the celery that’s gone limp in the drawer sooner than I believe it should have, a way to get rid of that last handful of spinach that isn’t enough to do anything with, and a way to use the brussels sprouts that I just had to have but never got around to cooking.  I haven’t done any real scientific comparison, but it has to be more nutritious than the stock I would buy in the store.  Also, its fun to see what color the stock turns out.  The latest batch was bright orange, a product of (I guess) the red pepper tops, carrot peelings, swiss chard stems and beet greens.  The last batch, thanks to a ton of spinach and kale, was a deep, murky green.

There are downsides, though.  The most tedious is that once I make two gallons of vegetable stock, I have to find two gallons worth of containers to store it in, and then find space for those in the freezer.  The real trouble, though, is that inevitably I decide that it is time to make soup right after I use the last bit of stock.  What this means is that every time I want to make soup (which happens rather a lot in the winter), I have to first make stock, and the soup-making process turns into a multiple step stock making/cooling/straining/storing/soup cooking extravaganza in the kitchen when what I really wanted to do was throw on a pot of soup to simmer and then sit down and knit on my shawl.

Mostly, though, its worth it in the end.  Exhibit A:

Isn’t that just the happiest pot of soup ever?  Its spinach and white beans and tomatoes (based on this recipe) and looks like Christmas in a bowl.

And that’s what I have to say about that.  Its possible that before another month is up, I’ll find time to drag out the camera and take some pictures of knitting and blog about something topical.  Possible, but not probable.

A telegram from the chaos.

Careening towards Christmas. Stop.   Sick.  Stop.  To-Do list and house out of control.  Stop.  Finished/gave up all holiday knitting.  Stop.  Also finished  Botanic hat.  Stop.  Began matching scarf.  Stop.  Made quilt that still needs binding.  Stop.  Canned baked and made candy.  Stop.  Celebrating with in-laws tomorrow.  Stop.  Small Yule party Tuesday.  Stop.   Jones Soda procured for occasion.  Stop.  Still not finished shopping for my family.  Stop.  Consider sending reinforcements.

In Which I Am Not In Portland

Despite this being a perfectly lovely weekend, I have spent the better part of it wishing that I was at Sock Summit.  I knew the moment I heard about it, many months ago, that I needed to be there.  I had every intention of being there.  My husband even agreed that probably it wasn’t a bad idea for me to be there.

But then we booked a vacation to Europe.  One that we would return from only a few weeks before the Summit.  And I realized that I hadn’t seen my best friend in half a year and had scarcely spoken to her since the beginning of the summer, and that before we got too deep into autumn, I was due for a trip to Chicago.  Even within my narrow world view, best friends and ancient ruins and the Irish countryside trump knitting conventions–even very large, sock oriented, epic knitting conventions that all my best Ravelry friends are going to be at.  And so I decided not to go. It was the smart, responsible decision, but that has not stopped me from being absolutely green with envy or stalking the Twitter-feed for the Summit.

In an attempt to distract myself from the fact that I was not in Portland, I tried to fill the time with as many interesting things as possible.  Somehow, a great deal of that has involved food.  Saturday morning, we went to the farmer’s market and brought home a ton of produce that we added to what Jason had already picked up at the farmer’s market in Penn Quarter on Thursday.  (I have no idea what I’m going to do when they close for the winter.)  I also brought home three herb plants–rosemary, parsley and dill.  I’m taking bets on how long it takes me to kill them.

Then, we headed into the city to play tourist at museums that wouldn’t let me take pictures.  We hit the National Building Museum first, and I absolutely loved it.  I have no idea why I didn’t make a point to go sooner–its a museum about everything I love.  My favorite was the exhibit focusing on the history of DC, even if it needs updating and I think its remiss in not mentioning Ben’s Chili Bowl in the section about U Street.  We also made it to the International Spy Museum.  It was fun, but we thought it was open an hour longer than it really was, so we only had about 90 minutes to get through, and wound up really rushing.  I’d like to go back again when we can really take our time.

We wound up at Central for dinner, which was probably the only time I wasn’t wishing I was in Portland.  It was absolutely amazing.  I saw a Yelp reviewer mention that they would eat there every night if they were rich, and I think I agree with them.  I can’t say a single bad thing about it, except that possibly I drank too much wine, since I came home and promptly crashed.

Today was all about cooking.  We took the produce from the farmer’s markets:

And turned it in to ratatouille, a tomato cheese tart, and a salad of heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers.  I’m particularly excited about the ratatouille, which is delicious.  I would have liked to play outside a little, but it was sweltering hot.  We did head down to the pool for a little while late in the day.  I always forget that its there, somehow, and this was the first time I’ve been down since it opened for the season.

Ironically, what I did not do this weekend was knit a single stitch on a sock.  It seems like there’s something wrong with all my projects (even if its just that I can’t be arsed to wind another hank of yarn), so I’ve been keeping busy knitting tiny squares for my sock yarn scrap blanket.  I’m a square and a half from having the third row completed.  Assuming it really is as wide as I want it, which I’m still debating.

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