Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Forget the Drive-Thru, I Want Slow Food

Slow Food Show Haul
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Whew! We're almost done with today's photo expo. I've been so busy with preparations for this past weekend's Halloween party (I was suckered into planning this sort of kids' even for our local American women's group) that I haven't had much time for anything else. It all went off without a hitch, and it's all over now, so I can relax and tell you all about it.

Actually, that's what I did in those last few posts (take a look, if you haven't seen them yet).

This post is about yesterday's fun. We all know what Fast Food is. Can't escape it, in many places, really. Do you know what Slow Food is, though? And, no, it's not when the teenager at the Wendy's drive-thru window seems a bit too slow, mentally for the task and takes forever getting your fries in that cardboard thingie.

Slow Food is a movement. An anti-fastfood movement, to be exact. It was started in Italy and is no known world-wide. Ironically, with all the fastfood to be found in the US, the largest number of Slow Food members is in the US, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, the whole idea behind the Slow Food movement is to promote small producers of diverse foods around the world. One of their biggest concepts is the idea of supporting biodiversity. The more big business takes over the food world, the fewer varieties you find for each type of product. Tyson Chicken, for example, undoubtedly breeds only one type of chicken, and that'd be the one that makes the largest, most uniform chicken breasts. Big companies want uniformity in their products. They want to be able to count on consistency. Problem is, when big food companies do this, it eventually eliminates all the wonderful variety that could once be found in the human diet. Were you aware for example, that hundreds of varieties of apples exist in the world - not just the Red Delicious, Gala and Granny Smiths?

Anyway, to shorten this ever-lengthening story...

They have shows where they... well... SHOW all kinds of yummy foods off to the world. They have workshops where you can taste all sorts of good stuff like chocolate, hams, cheeses, wine and apples, just to name a few. And, there are the stalls where producers of these goodies let you taste their products and even buy them in some cases. It allows people from diverse parts of the world to make unusual foods known to others. It's lots of fun for an exotic food junkie like myself.

In the picture here, you can see a bit of the stuff that made its way home with me. Up front is the best Mozzarella cheese you'll ever put in your mouth - straight from Italy. Just in case you weren't aware, mozzarella cheese is traditionally made from bison milk (or some such critter whose name is bufle in French - may be an ox), it would win any competition with cow's milk stuff hooves down.

Then, you've got some apples and bananas. The bananas were just there to feed the kids something when they got hungry. The apples are freebies from the workshop we attended - a local variety that's hard to find these days (though, it's not my favorite, anyway).

A little further back is a huge chunk of parmesan - again, straight from Italy. Soooo good. You could easily eat this stuff all by itself. A little pricey, at 25 euros per kilo, but having been aged for 36 months, it's well-worth the price. Behind that are two sacks of dried corns from Argentina and some wild Irish smoked salmon.

My husband is convinced that I bought the corn for the cute little purlap bags (we've already established the fact that I'm a sucker for old-fashioned packaging), but I swear it's for the food itself. I've even cooked some up in a soup for lunch. It's just an added bonus that I can string a pretty ribbon on them to make nice draw-string bags.

And, that salmon there - almost as delicious as the cute Irish guy who sold it to me. Ooops! Did I say that? Only kidding, sweet hubbie of mine. Seriously, though, the salmon was smoked for 30 hours and has a wonderful flavor you don't usually get in smoked salmon. Once again, a bit pricey, but the chance to chat with the vendor eat such yumminess was well worth it.

The other thing I purchased that didn't make it to the photo session was some fish soup. It's a delicious regional specialty, served with toasted bread and a special mayonnaise sauce named Rouille for its rusty color (rouille means rust in French). The lady I bought it from makes it herself from the fish her husband and father-in-law bring in on their own boat. It's got that homemade flavor, and since I find it to be a bit time-consuming to make, I was happy to pay her for it.

For more information about the Slow Food movement, check out this website here (notice their cute little snail logo).

And, there are specific sites for each country. You can get them with a quick little google search.

Halloween Pizza

Halloween Pizza
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I didn't actually make this, but I absolutely had to share it with you all. It's a Halloween pizza brought to our Halloween party by a friend. Her son is really into spiders at the moment, so she finds any possible way to slip them into dinner. This would be so easy to make. The spiders are just black olives chopped up and arranged just right. The red dots are tomatoes. I'm thinking they may have been cherry tomatoes cut in half, but they could have been sun-dried tomatoes.

So, who's having pizza for dinner this Halloween night?

Nurse, Give Me Two Candies - Stat!

Here's Lambchop #2 in his costume. I'm particularly happy with this one, because of the low cost. I was going to use my own white button-down but was lucky enough to find one for 1 euro at the store the other day. It was a strange cut, and nobody else wanted it. Served our purposes quite well, though. I added a red electrical tape cross on his chest with a white electrical tape name tag on the other side, and he was good to go. We already had the toy stethoscope, so this was a really easy costume. It actually took me longer to hunt the stethoscope down than to make the costume itself (a very sad statement about the state of our home, indeed).

So, Witch Is It?

So, Witch Is It?
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Here's a our big lambchop in her Halloween costume. I'd much prefer something sweet like an princess or a fairy, but here in France, since Halloween is an imported holiday, everyone thinks you must be something scary. They've already got their own general dress-up holiday in the Spring, so they go for scary in October.

She's still a cutie, though, but check out the scary red-eye. Something must have come over her when she hopped on that broom.

And, just for the tightwads among you, this costume cost me all of 2 euros. She's wearing my black t-shirt, my tights (they're just above knee-length on me but go all the way up to her butt), a pair of her own black shoes, and I got the broom and hat for about a buck each at the store. Not bad, if I do say so myself (and, I do). Best to save this kind of throw together costume for the little ones, though, since if the shirt and tights were any shorter she'd have been able to compete in some sort of Halloween Costume Contest with Hugh Heffner's girls. I'll have to spring for the real dress in a few years!

Like Father Like Son

I've noticed that all over knitblogdom, people have been celebrating Socktober Fest. I didn't actively participate, but that's only because I'm lazy. I did actually finish up some socks, though.

My husband, after several years of faithful marriage and living with my fiber habit, finally has his first finished knitted object. Well, that's not really true, because he grew up around knitters. He's long known the joy of hand-knit socks, for example. All the more reason to want some from his very own wife, right? That's what he has been telling me for quite some time. Luckily for him, all the nagging has paid off in the end.

And, the best thing about them is that I actually had enough yarn leftover to make a pair for his boy. We have already decided that Daddy's got his own little Mini Me with Lambchop #2, so why not add to the father-son resemblance with a pair of matching socks? Ain't dat tweet? Lambchop was all too proud to lay is foot on Daddy's to pose for this shot.

By the way, the yarn is Knit Picks Sock Garden in Daffodil. It knits up nicely, but a little warning about this yarn - it'll felt really easily. I say this because the leftover center-pull ball that I have has fused itself together just from the friction of being in my knitting bag. It's not dramatic, and I think I can pull it apart from itself, but that means care should be taken in washing these suckers, I'd say.

Friday, October 28, 2005

If Memory Serves Me Right...

What an expression, huh? I mean, when was the last time memory served me right? Memory is such a strange beast, really. It may do a lot of things, but I think it rarely serves me right. Like most people I have problems with all the little things I forget to do or say, but what about all the big stuff - the stuff I'd rather not recall? Just when you think you're having a good day, it broadsides you like a semi, jack-knifing on the freeway, instantly crushing you between all the twisted pieces. You haven't thought of something in years, and the most innocent of circumstances will bring back the nastiest of memories - like with me yesterday. Just carefully turning onto our dirt road off of a dangerous blind corner brought the sensation of crushing metal to mind. For anyone who doesn't know that sound, it's horrifying, and when you can still hear it in your mind 13 years later, well, it's just horrifying all over again.

I've actually been really lucky with cars. I've only been in one real, bad accident. I was a teenager and was sleeping while my then-boyfriend accidentally took a little nap, too - while driving (I can't really recommend this). We were extremely lucky that it was so late, and no one else was on the road. His truck was totalled, but both of us came out of it with just a few bumps and scratches. So, why can I vividly remember every dreamlike detail of it 13 years later?

Most good memories need the use of pictures or other physical reminders to really get them playing out in your mind. For bad memories, though, all you need is a tiny sniff of a long-forgotten odor or a glimpse of a certain color, and the tears are sliding down your cheeks and your lips are quivering like a two-year-old's. I have actually had quite a bit of experience with this phenomenon since my grandparents' deaths earlier this year. It's truly amazing to me how many parts of my life the memories of these two people are wrapped up in. Despite the many, many miles that separated us throughout most of my life, they were a very important presence in it. Though neither one of them were very educated, they were a vast source of practical wisdom that I have missed every day since they died. Grandpa and Grandma were my very own chicken-raising, gardening and auto-mechanics gurus. There are so many wonderful moments we shared over the years, so why is it that it takes some amount of effort to drag those out of the cob-web covered corners of my mind, while the most mundane everyday detail can easily whip out the painful scenes of watching my frail grandmother take her last gasping breaths with the help of a ventilator? Memory is kind of funny that way, and dare I say, it doesn't seem to be serving me right.

I'm not a negative person, and I realize these thoughts do seem pretty negative, but to me they are just observations of how my mind seems to work. Just something I felt the need to express in words instead of just feeling the pain the memories can cause when they pop up so unexpectedly. I'm not even sure how to end this post, except maybe to say that I've got a hankering for some great cinnamon rolls - one of Grandma's great specialties. I may just have to make some in her honor.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rainbow Yarn

Rainbow Yarn
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
First, I should apologize for the bad lighting. We've apparently up and moved to England without knowing it, because we don't get sunshine anymore around here. October is actually the rainiest month in these parts, so it's to be expected. Look for decent pictures on this blog next spring.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share this, because I found it cool. I slipped the yarn right off the spindle before wrapping it around a toilet paper cardboard dealybob to make a center-pull ball. This is what I saw when I did it. I'm really loving these colors!

I'll let you know when I've got some actual plied yarn to show.

Hideous Kinky

Hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Because I am a good blogger - ahem, no comments please - I will give you a quick peak at my spinning up of that KoolAid dyed roving. Here it is on the spindle.

The title of that Kate whatshername movie came to mind when I saw all the kinks. It's still not too bad for a new spinner, I think. So, maybe the hideous part isn't exactly accurate.

I did a little test ply, and it's looking like it'll be about a fingering weight two-ply. I can deal with that.

Random Triviality

Roaming knitblogdom this morning, I came across a meme. Since I have little else to show this morning (dear husband of mine seems to have wandered off with the digital camera - who does he think he is anyway? Just because he pays the bills around here, he thinks he can just...), I'll share some random thoughts about myself with you.

So, here you have 20 bits of random information about me (and, I'm not passing it on):

1) I don't have a list of 100 things about myself, so I'm using this moment as an opportunity to talk about myself (but, luckily for you, not endlessly).
2) I sucked my thumb till I was two (edited to add: Mom so kindly points out that I was, in fact three), when my mom put some nasty stuff on it (it worked).
3) She never did succeed in getting me to stop "twirling my hair" (it's a nervous fidgeting thing I do for comfort).
4) Knitting is about the only thing that stops me from twirling my hair, though I often do it when I stop knitting for even a moment.
5) I speak three languages fluently, but I wish it were more.
6) I have a master's degree but have never had a "real job".
7) I don't even know what "real job" my degree qualifies me for.
8) I am an obsessive researcher (I look up any and every little thing I may possibly be curious about - this is why I love the internet).
9) I didn't want kids until I met my husband.
10) My husband would love to populate the universe with his own offspring (hmmm, that's not really about me - the part about me would be that I am not there with him on that one).
11) I'm a housewife who is very bad at her job.
12) I love to cook but can't stand to clean up the aftermath.
13) I regularly bake my own bread.
14) I've been baking my own bread long enough that bakery-bought bread (and we're in France, here) doesn't taste that good to me anymore.
15) I'm a sucker for organic foods and anything with "old-fashioned" packaging.
16) Sometimes I think I would love to have lived a Century ago, but most times I know I'm too lazy for it.
17) I was a child bride (okay, well I was 19 but that was too young) (edited to add: now that I think about it, my 20th birthday had just passed - still to young).
18) I was a very young divorcée.
19) I owned a home by the age of 22.
20) I always seemed "mature" for my age (now I'm happy to be immature whenever the mood strikes me - kids are great for this).

Well, there you go. And, soon, I hope to have some not-so-random pictures to show. They're actually knitting-related, because - well, this is a knitting blog. They will feature some of that KoolAid dyed yarn spun up (not yet plied, though). They will also feature a finished pair of socks, which means I now must go and finish them. I'm on the toe of the second one, so chances are, we'll be celebrating a finished object very soon. Ooh, and we'll take pictures of the make-shift, thrown-together Halloween costumes for this year (got to do that while they're young and don't realize they're wearing electrical tape).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
So, this afternoon, we all went to the carnival. We had a blast. The kids rode the merry-go-round, and we stuffed ourselves full of disgusting carnival food. I even won the largest stuff animal for the little Lambchops.

Uh huh, yeah, and I've got the extra cotton candy hanging in my shower on a plastic hanger. Not gonna happen. But, seriously, doesn't that freshly-dyed fiber look like strips of cotton candy? Those KoolAid colors sure are bright. That's pretty much what I was looking for, though, so I'm happy. The best description I've got for that stuff is fun. The colors just look fun to me.

I'm so excited about them that I have started spinning like a madwoman in order to free up my spindle. It's still got some fiber on it, and I want to finish that batch before starting on something else. It'd also be good to get a little better at it before starting in on this stuff.

So excited, though! And, hey, who needs the carnival, anyway? Those big stuffed animals are a ripoff, the rides'll make you nauseous, and the cotton candy'll rot your teeth and possibly give you cancer with all the artificial flavors and colors it contains. I'll take brightly-colored fiber over that any day.

A Fruitful Morning

Fiber Dyeing
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
This morning, I set about cleaning the kitchen with the sole purpose in mind of having enough space to dye fiber. I am aware that most normal people like to have their kitchens clean so that they can eat in them, or perhaps even cook. I do those things. I just somehow seem to work around the mess (though, preparing dinner may or may not frequently include me tripping over toys and other objects strewn about the floor).

Anyway, back on subject...

Over the summer, I purchased some unspun wool at a local craft shop. I have no clue what it is, though my guess would be merino or some other short-haired critter. According to the salesgirl (who looked at me like I was crazy when I mentioned spinning it myself), it's purpose is needle felting. That may be so, but I have no real need for those little felted pumpkins. What I do need like a hole in the head is some fiber to practice spinning on. So, when I saw this already prepared (and practically predrafted) roll of wool, I jumped on it. Best thing about it was that it was that it was plain, ole natural color wool (well, that and the fact that it was pretty cheap). That, of course, allows me to have even more fun dyeing it. Yay!

...which brings us back to this morning's cleaning. I'll admit I only cleaned enough to fully access the table and sink, but, hey, my purposes were served.

And, here you have the fiber, in all its dyeing glory, spread out on the table. I used various colors of KoolAid (Flavors? Nah, who are we kidding? I wouldn't drink that stuff!). It's hard to tell here, but there are two lengths (two rolls) of fiber laying side by side to get an equal dye job. The plan is to spin each one and then ply them together so they change colors approximately in the same places. The hope is it will look good.

Now all I have to do is actually get good at spinning.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Cable Baby Blanket Pattern

For those of you that were interested in knitting the Cable Baby Blanket that I finished recently, I finally got the chance to sit down and write out the pattern. I need to make a separate page for patterns, but since I spent most of my day just trying to make the pattern look pretty and get it small enough (photos and all) for you do download in less than a month, that'll have to wait till another day.

So, for those who want it now. Here you go. It's a pdf file, and it's your for the taking - for FREE!

Cable Baby Blanket Pattern

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Double Your Pleasure

Double Your Pleasure
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Since I am fully determined to finish that Toddler Cable Sweater as fast as possibly so that my baby can be warm, I, of course, cast on for a brand new project. It's shameful, really, because I've still got my husband's striped sweater (from last year) and his socks to finish, too. The sweater has mostly been frogged. Did I mention that? I got in the mood to undo old projects a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't hurt so much when you've forgotten how much time you spent knitting them in the first place.

The stripey sweater really had to go. Not the idea. Just the sweater itself and not even the whole thing. Just the entire body. You may remember I finished a good 85% of it only to realize I wouldn't have enough yarn to make the whole thing (unless I wanted to do that whole Fame-I-want-to-live-forever, off-the-shoulder look for my husband - nah, didn't think so).

As it turns out, my husband doesn't have a size 50 waist, after all, so it really was a bit too large. He doesn't really need a sweater he can swim in. It just needs one to keep him warm. And, somehow, planning for a future when he'll be enormous with all sorts of fat-related health problems doesn't seem like such a good idea. So, I frogged it. Problem is, the yarn's all kinky now, so it needs to be fixed. I've done a portion of it, but I can't start reknitting until I finish the rest.

Aaaaand, that'll be my excuse for casting on for this scarf. Well, that and the fact that Christmas is coming. This'll be a gift for a family member. I can't say who, because we draw names, and it's supposed to be a big secret. I'll surely end up telling my husband by the time the big day comes around, but for now, it's a secret.

Pertinent Info:
85% wool/15% cashmere yarn (so soft)
Black is from Anny Blatt (see most recent stash enrichment expedition)
Grey is from Phildar.
Pattern: I'm making this stuff up as I go along, as is often the case around here.
Idea: came from Spring 2005 issue of InKnitters, which has an excellent article on double knitting.

It's pretty simple. Just double knitting, which seems complicated till you get the hang of it. The best thing about it is the fact that I get to knit with both hands, which I haven't done in a really long time. I've been wanting to do some fair isle, because I love that ambidextrous feeling you get from working with the yarn from both hands. I just didn't have any fair isle-suitable yarn. But, hey! Who needs it? We'll do some double knitting instead.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Have You Been Drinking Again?

Toddler Cable Sweater Front
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
That's whisky I smell on your breath, isn't it? I mean, that's the only explanation for why this picture is so blurry. You're obviously drunk! Don't try to give me excuses. And, don't even think about telling me that maybe I moved while snapping this shot. Because I didn't. That kind of thing just doesn't happen to me.


So, squint a little with me and maybe we can admire the finished (well, all except the neck band that'll be added on once the front and back are sewn together) front to Lambchop #2's cable sweater. So far, so good. It looks like it'll even fit him.

Funny thing is, stretched only a bit, it looks like it'd fit his sister, too (she's 2 1/2 years older). He's got his daddy's body shape. Dad's about 6'1" or so, and it's all in the torso. Lambchop #2 is almost two now. He's about 6 months ahead in the height curves (at least for French curves), but he still fits into his 18-month-old pants just fine. Basically, I've given birth to a chimpanzee. In a year or so, his arms will have lengthened, and they'll be scraping the floor as he runs. He'll look really cute in his sweater while he does it, though. And, dagnabbit, isn't that what it's all about: looking fashionable even if your knuckles drag on the floor.

Oh, and for those of you observant enough to have noticed... no, you aren't crazy. This is not the same design I had originally shown you a week or so ago. That one had all cable rib stuff and was just way busier than I wanted. So, I frogged it all (I had gotten up to the arm hole decreases) and started fresh. It still has aspects of the busier one, but I added more stockinette style ribbing and the diamond pattern. I like it much better now. It actually looks much more masculine than the other attempt did (you may remember I was worried about that).


Nobody ever passes these little meme things over to me, for which, most of the time, I am extremely grateful, by the way. Today, though, this one just struck me as funny, so I'm going to share. I've seen it on a couple other blogs, and here's how it works. You google your own name with "needs" after it. Then, you marvel at the bizarre results. Results like these...

Krista needs help with her sunscreen.
Krista needs to practice her wise-girl accent with someone.
Krista needs to have someone tell her to straighten her act out...
...when Krista needs to leave.

AAAAAAAAAND my personal favorite (drumroll please)

Krista needs to give up tv and go back to porn where she belongs.

That's right, I seem to share my name with a porn star. Really, this meme is better than horoscopes to figure out what you need to do with your life. I mean, this has given me such direction. Excuse me while I go call my agent. I believe I have a film to star in.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Trip to Lyon = Yarn

Stash Enrichment
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
The trip to Lyon was a quick one. Overall, it was a success, unless you consider the torture Lambchop #1 was subjected to by her 8-year-old cousin. Are all 8-year-olds that mean to little kids. She really was just down-right malicious, and with no real provocation. I'm starting to think it was paybacks for some jealousy this summer where their grandmother spent more time caring for my four-year-old than for her self-sufficient, 8-year-old cousin while on vacation.

The rest of the little trip was good, though. As is always the case while I'm there I forgot to take any pictures. But, really, who wants to see touristy shots of beautiful architecture when there's yarn to chat about? So, without further ado... I present the newest members of my stash.

There were some good deals to be had at the factory outlet sale. Some yarns didn't have enough selection for my tastes. There was absolutely no merino on sale, and there was only a bag or two of the lovely cashmere/wool blend. It happened to be in black, which will nicely match the plum cashmere I got last time I was there.

You can see the black in the photo there. To its right is some light grey baby superwash (and to its right is its darker partner). It will be used hopefully to make Arisaig from the most recent Knitty. Right in the middle is a ball of some yarn I wished I'd been able to purchase last time I was there. It's 70% wool/30% silk and lusciously soft with a gorgeous sheen. I got tons of balls (24, to be exact) to be sure to have enough of this dense stuff to make a full sweater for my husband. Whatever's leftover will get made into something else I'm sure. Then, up front there are two balls of a wool/mohair blend. There's a light grey one not tagged for any specific project and the light green one should be for the Greek pullover in the last IK issue. Again in the middle, is a ball of cottony/tencel stuff in a bright blue. And, lastly was a really good deal I got on 70% angora/30% wool blend. It had a slight yellowy tint to it, so they were selling it off at 5 euros/bag of 9 balls. I bought two bags, which should give me enough for a sweater I've been wanting to design for ages. It should be fine dyed black, I would think. I'm actually very excited to be able to experiment with that stuff for so cheap.

That's it for our yarn store trip. It was way quicker than I wanted, because my husband had work to finish up before leaving here. He successfully got me there with 15 minutes to spare before they closed. A little mean, I'd say, but he claims it was his tightwad husband scheme for saving money on yarn. I say it didn't work all that well. He pulled the same trick on me on the way back from Lyon where we were stopping by an organic dried goods factory outlet. I had about 3 minutes in the store to snatch up whatever I could. I don't like to shop that way, and I know there were other things I should have gotten but couldn't. I did calculate, though, that we saved 33% off the normal price we'd pay for those same products around here. So, even in three minutes, it was a good deal.

Fix-It But Forget It

Fix-It But Forget It
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Lambchop #1 is constantly ripping holes in her pants these days, and we just can't justify going out and buying more pairs for her to shred. So, I got out some extra fabric and placed it over the mended hole (by hand, mind you). I was quite proud of myself, thinking it was pretty darn cute with that little girl on her behind. Not so, according to our little lambchop.

Apparently, she was expecting a near-exact reproduction of the pant fabric itself. So, of course, like every other piece of clothing I've ever lovingly made for her, she now refuses to wear them. So ungrateful. *SIGH*

Mon Artiste

Mon Artiste
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
This, believe it or not, is the work of a four-year-old. Our four-year-old, to be exact. Can you tell I'm proud? She told me she wanted to make a bird house with the pieces of wood that were lying around here. I told her I'd be right back to help her, but when I returned, the masterpiece was finished. I was so impressed that I had to take a couple of pictures. It looks like some modern art sculpture you'd see in front of some building or in a museum.

So, it has led me to wonder: What happens to all that uninhibited creativity we have when we're little? I know I don't still have it. Do you?

Monday, October 10, 2005

And, They're Off!

I don't have a lot to post today, except that I felted a nice alpaca sweater today. It was one of my favorites, too. Don't be sad for me, though. I did it on purpose (whew! I had you going for a second there). Those of you who've been reading this blog since the very beginning (Hi, Mom! Glad to have your loyalty!) will remember back to one of my first posts about the should've-been-hubbie-sweater. I must have subconsciously wanted it for myself, because it was way too small for him. Thing is, though, it was a bit large on me and continued to grow over time. Fed up with the enormous sleeves and shoulders, I lightly felted it today. I was too nervous to do that before. Today, though, I bit the bullet and went for it. The operation went perfectly, and I'm hoping to be able to wear it tomorrow. It should be perfect now, because it'll be a bit more wind-proof, which is something we could use around here (it's not for nothing that they've put up windmills at the neighbor's).

The only other things I can think to mention are the trip we're taking to Lyon tomorrow (and the Anny Blatt/Bouton D'or factory outlet store we're passing by on the way there - ANNUAL SALE!!) and the ridiculous amount of time/money it takes to drive our kid to school. I've got SEX on the brain today, my friends. I know, you're thinking this comment is totally out of place here, but bear with me. We're talking yarn porn, here. Sex, as in Stash Enrichment eXpedition. Gah! What were you thinking I meant?

First, the trip to Lyon. The harvest YARN is over YARN, and we're going YARN to visit YARN my YARN husband's family YARN and YARN YARN YARN deliver some wine YARN to a customer there. Did I mention the factory outlet store that's having their annual sale? I know it's been on my mind a lot lately, but I could have forgotten to mention it. Anyway, I've already armed myself with the yarn requirements for several projects I'd like to make. I'll be looking for equivalent yarns to substitute. Wish me luck on that one. I really would like to be able to stock up some some inexpensive goodies to get me through the year. I've got tons of yarn but not enough of each kind to actually make, say, a full sweater. We'll be aiming to fix that problem tomorrow. Yay for me (except hubbie will be there to keep me in check - you think he can be bribed with promises of soft, cozy sweaters???)!

Then, there's the time/money it takes to drive my daughter to school each day (because we don't live in the village). I've calculated this, because if I want to send her all day, I'd have to pay 3,30 euros for lunch each day (that's right, a four-year-old eats that much food!!!). So, I've done some calculations for this. I drive 5.5 kms per one-way trip to the school. Since she only goes in the mornings for now, I do this two times a morning. My two options are giving up my right kidney to an organ harvester so I can afford the lunch 4 days a week (they don't have school on Wednesday) or bringing her home for lunch and taking her back for the afternoon session. I already spend about 40 minutes each time I go to take her and pick her up. That four times a day doesn't appeal to me, but I thought I'd do the math to find out the price difference.

So, we'll just pretend I actually explained all the math to you, because neither of us really want to go through all that here. Each time I drive to the school (or home from it), I'm spending 44 cents. I already do this four times, four days a week. If I took her in the afternoon after bringing her home from lunch, I'd be doubling that. Ouch! So, now it costs me 1,76 euros per day, but bringing her back in the afternoon would cost me twice as much. If we consider the amount of food she would have eaten at home, plus the cost of gas and the time I waste going a second time, it'd probably be cheaper to send her to the cafeteria. What really irks me most, though, is that sending her with a bag lunch isn't an option here. Ahhh, the downside to France.

So, in case you're wondering, we probably spend about 250 euros a year just to take her to school. That doesn't even factor in the cost of the little supplies the request and the fact that I'd be looked down upon if she showed up without shoes. Kids aren't cheap around here, are they? Okay, I'm a bit depressed after that. I think I'll go do some knitting and dream of the yarn I'm going to fondle tomorrow

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ground Whatleseed?

Paper Bark Trout
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
My brother and sister-in-law recently spent a bit of vacation time in Australia. They had a great time roaming the city of Brisbane and its surrounding areas. Apparently, in their travels they stumbled upon some wonderful finds, which included a nice little yarn sale (a good vacation necessity), exotic foods, and excellent cappuccinos.

They couldn't very well package up the coffee and ship it to me, but they did the next best thing. A little while after their trip, I received a surprise package in the mail. It contained some lovely wool yarn, all the way from Switzerland. So, the yarn traveled from Europe to Australia, then over to the US and then, finally, back on over to Europe again. We're happy to have it back home. As a way of celebrating its homecoming, I believe it may become a Christmas gift scarf for someone in my family.

Along with the yarn there were two cute little stuffed animals for the lambchops. A sweet little koala and its friend the wallabee, both decked out in Outback-wear. And, all of it smelled of lemons. Why? Well, inside with these goodies, there were spices and funky Australian cooking stuff. The lemon scent came from some Lemon Myrtle. Then, there was some ground wattleseed. Ground whatleseed? No, ground wattleseed. It smells a bit like coffee, and is apparently the seed from a species of acacia tree. They toast and grind it and use it to flavor all sorts of cakes and other yummies. It apparently adds a coffee/hazelnut flavor. I've yet to try it, but it sounds delicious. Incidentally, it's the main ingredient in the world famous? wattleccino (yeah, go ahead and google that, will ya?).

Then, there was a huge roll of paper bark. It is apparently used to wrap around meats or even veggies to give them a smokey flavor when grilled. This is really cool for me, because you can get that grilled flavor without even actually grilling over hot coals. I have one of those faux-grill stovetop pan things. I love it, as it nicely cooks steaks, fajitas and all kinds of good stuff without the hassle of starting a fire outdoors, which, depending on the time of year around here, can actually be dangerous as well.

Eager to try this stuff out, I wrapped some trout filets in it. I had doctored them up with salt, pepper and some of that lemon myrtle powder. Delish. I'm telling you. If you've got a chance to get some paper bark, it's good stuff. I'll be needing some more of that when it's all gone, I think.

I got a little picture of it smouldering for you. It's supposed to be black when the food is fully cooked. I suspect, though, that it wasn't supposed to catch fire from the fish fat dripping out the side. It really is a shame I didn't get a shot of that part, because it was quite spectacular. I was a tad bit busy clanging pot lids over the top to squelch the flames, though. You'll forgive me, I hope (and I can proudly say I didn't even lose my head in the face of danger).

Good eatin'! Thanks B and J.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

No Way!!!!

Really, NO WAY! That can't possibly be the Cable Baby Blanket actually finished and blocked in time for a little trip to Lyon (where the recipient lives). Actually, it's not. Looks can be deceiving. If you look really closely, you'll see it's not entirely finished, even if it is washed and blocked already. With the sun shining through it, you can see a few spots where I did my Russian joins and there is a string visibly hanging from one. That's all that's left to do, though. Just have to weave those ends in.

I've found this Buttermilk color to be a bit bland, and I know how important color is to my sister-in-law, so I have given her permission to over-dye it. I did a little test on some swatches and depending on what color she decides on, it should work fine. Since the yarn is machine washable, it should work out fine dyed in the machine.

I know it sounds weird to say that I gave her permission, because once I give it to her, it's no longer up to me what she does with it. But I want her to actually use it, and if she's afraid I'll be offended if I see it's gotten a new do, she may never touch it. She seemed happy to have the suggestion come from me. We'll see what she chooses. Hopefully, I'll be around to get a picture of it.

I'm just proud it's finally finished. And, it was my first real success at making up a pattern. Could this be because there was no decreasing and increasing to shape it? Mmmm... could be. If anyone is interested, now that I've finished it, I'd be happy to sit down and figure out the pattern, which was pretty simple.

Silly and Happy

Silly and Happy
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Or Happy and Silly. It's all the same, really. No, I haven't been drinking. We've just been naming cats. I know they look a bit old to be unnamed still, but since they don't let me close enough to inspect, I haven't known their gender.

They fixed that for me the other day by play-chasing each other just outside the livingroom window. I spied on them till they caught me and ran. In their frollicking, both of them lifted their tails, and I'm about 96.236% certain they're females. It actually might explain the disappearance of the third one (remember, there were once three?). It was possibly a male, and the daddy got rid of the competition. That's my theory, anyway.

I'm not much of a feline behavioral scientist, though, so, back to the naming. The other day, I sat down with my daughter and asked her what we should call them. She came up with Happy. Why didn't I think of that? I could have just gone for gender-neutral names in the first place. You know, name them Pat and Terry. Anyway, so we then needed a name to go with Happy. I thought Silly might work out okay. So, the one on the left is Silly and the one on the right is Happy.

I really should have named them Hungry and Thirsty, though, because that's all they seem to want from me. But, hey, I've got my new socks, so what do I care if the cats don't let me pet them?

After: Happy Feet

Gift Socks
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
(see before shot in previous post)

Don't my feet look so happy in their new socks? They're are so lovely (the socks, not the feet), aren't they?. Amanda made them for me. It's a sock I've seen on other blogs before. Comes from an Interweave Knits issue I don't have, so I'm so excited to have a pair now.

They're comfy, too. You can tell by how relaxed my feet look compared to the before shot.

It's not really warm enough to warrant wearing them in my shoes yet. But, it does get pretty chilly at night, and I do believe I've found a really good reason to break my husband's neurotic no-socks-in-bed rule (by the way, I think it's only fair to insist on a no-underwear-in-bed rule to go along with it). So, my feet will be toasty warm tonight! Thanks, Amanda.

Before: Drab Feet

Plain Ole Socks
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
We've all seen those before and after shots in magazines, trying to convince us that we, too, can lose 100 lbs in two weeks on the Certain Death Diet (all the Hollywood stars swear by it).

Well, that's not what this is. This is soooo much better. What can be better than watching the pounds melt away way faster than is healthy? Hand-knitted socks, of course. And, what's even better is having a brand new pair of them without having done any of the work.

So, look closely at the sad feet in the picture. Feel sorry for them, for they are clad in ancient, store-bought, mystery fiber socks.

But, wait! What's that I see? A package in the mail? Hmmm. Let's see what might be inside, shall we.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Waste Not Want Not Soup: A Recipe

Anyone who has been reading my blog lately will know that we're making every possible attempt to eat well for cheap. Today, not being in the mood to really cook lunch from scratch, I was still able to decrease possible waste and feed the family.

See, early in my son's life, we were given a steamer/blender contraption called the Babycook. It's very expensive, but remarkably handy for making fresh baby food. The mistake here is that he developed a taste for quality, fresh ingredients from the time he could wield a spoon. Sure, some may see that as a good thing, but you just try to feed a kid like that a jar of strained peas in a pinch. Nothing doing. So, now that he's been off a puréed foods for a long while, I was waiting for a foodless baby to drop by so that we could pawn the leftover jars off on him. No such luck. It seems that parents come prepared with their very own jar of tasteless muck to shovel into their kids' mouths.

Rather than waste those suckers (who were nearing their expiration dates), I came up with a little soup. Not all that bad, really. Here's the recipe for those of you rich in jars of baby food but poor in tasteless babies. You no longer have to let them go to waste (the food, not the babies).

1 jar strained carrots (or whatever you happen to have on hand)
1 baby meal with chunks (chicken and rice, for example)
1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube
enough water to obtain desired consistency
plain yogurt or sour cream
If you're really feeling crazy add some spices like curry.

Mix the chosen baby foods together with some water in a small pot. Add bouillon cube. Heat to boiling. Add yogurt or sour cream and stir. Serve with chunks of day old bread you were thinking of giving to the chickens.

I swear they actually ate it. For adults, this is best served really hot (burn the ole taste buds to render them inefficient??). Really, it's not that bad with the bouillon to flavor it. The best part was watching my dear hubbie try to identify the ingredients. He never would have guessed baby food!

Monday, October 03, 2005

You Wanna Piece a Me?

Put 'Em Up
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
This has to be one of my all-time favorite bugs. They're just so funky. It's a preying mantis (or some cousin), in case you can't tell from the picture. Besides the really cool fact that the females eat the males for nourishment just after getting to know each other in the Biblical sense, they're just funny little creatures.

I found this one lurking on a coffe can in the sink area around lunchtime today. I imagine it came in through the ceiling "vent" that is no longer. Before putting it back outside, I took a little picture.

What's really cool about these little doodads is that no matter how big you are, if you get too close, they'll put their little dukes up and come out swinging. You can see this one is not too happy with the papparazzi shoving a camera in it's face. In fact, it's probably a female on the lamb after having consumed her most-recent lover.

Can't you just hear the squeaky little voice... "Come on! Put 'em up! Put 'em up..."


Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
So, what's this a picture of? Any guesses? No, it's not a badly wrapped gift. Anyone else? A storm door? Not far off. This is what happens when a wife takes things into her own hands.

Explanation: We're white trash. I don't like that expression, because it somehow implies that some other race is always trash, and that we need to specify when white people are. But, it fits here, and I've got no other expression to describe our circumstances.

See, we live in a prefab house that dates back to the late 1960's. The French government housed Syrian refugees in our home back in the day. My father-in-law got two of them for a song. Can you believe his good luck!? They weren't built for luxury, and, well, I'm sure you can imagine they haven't exactly stood the test of time, though, in their defense, I'm thinking they weren't designed for longevity.

Anyway, before we moved in here, it was pretty much unliveable. A previous tenant of the not-so-bright persuasion thought it would be a good idea to use a wood stove (or set a fire or something) in an unventilated room. We painted over lots of black, sooty walls. We got it pretty much inhabitable when forces beyond our control made us have to move in before finishing the "remodeling".

And, since it's been "temporary" for the last three years, we've not made much effort to fix it up. We just kept telling ourselves the new house would be finished in the next few months, and we'd better spend our money and energy there.

One of the things that didn't get done is replacing rotted ceiling tiles in the kitchen. We got rid of the worst ones and replaced them with wood, which was intended to be painted to match the rest. Anyway, to shorten this long story... one of the less-rotted-but-still-not-great ones fell to the floor (insulation and all) one day while we were out. Since we had gotten home at midnight to see this mess, we cleaned it up but didn't actually replace it. Besides, it was spring-time and it didn't make much difference.

Fast forward to October. It's freezing in this room! I warned my sweet but very busy husband that if he didn't get to it soon, I would, and the results wouldn't be so pretty. I believe I even threw in the words "trash bag and tape". This threat appears not to have prompted him to act. So, today, I got to work. And, tada! Whaddaya think? Yep, did that all by myself. It actually matches the fly paper on the other side of the room really well (more about that another day, because it's a lovely story, as well).

So, husbands beware! If you don't get around to those household upkeep chores, your wives may be force to rise up. Yep, we're a talented bunch, and we're not afraid to do it ourselves. I mean, just look at me. The proof is in the pudding, people.

Now, let's just see how long it takes for him to notice (and, incidentally, it's A LOT warmer in here now).

Comment Tease

So, we've often seen people accused of being a "comment ho". Oh, you haven't? Well, it's a blogger who goes out of their way to try to get people to comment on their site (presumably because the normal content isn't worth commenting on). They either post ridiculous things that someone is bound to comment on, but that have little real merit, or they do a contest (the rules of which insist that you leave a comment).

The term comment ho seems so derogative, but, you know, what's so bad about being a comment hound (surely "ho" must stand for hound, right?)? So many people want approval from their peers (or at least to know that their existence is acknowledged). What's so wrong about not being afraid of going after what you want (comments, in this case)?

It's certainly better than being a "comment tease". That's me. I got so excited when I found Haloscan's comment program. Unlike the one offered by Blogger, you can actually respond to comments you receive on your site (have they changed that?). That seemed like a pretty desirable feature at the time. But, do I use it? No. I just lead my commenters to believe I care and then drop them after they've shown interest (I really do care. So, leave comments, please - Jeez. See what I mean?). So to all those who've ever commented on my site but to whom I've never responded, I'm sorry. I'm just a comment tease. I can't help myself.

I was really nice today, though and actually responded to a few of the more recent comments. I'm feeling pretty good about myself. You know, maybe "once a tease, always a tease" just won't apply to me. And, I have been known to roam other blogs and leave a comment or two, so I'm not a complete jerk.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The New Kid On the Block

Toddler Aran
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
It's been getting pretty cold around here the last few days. And, with the strong winds we've been having, I thought it was about high time I made a toddler sweater for Lambchop #2 (any decent mommy would). He's got nothing these days. Darn kids grow so fast.

So, what do I do? I've been asking myself that question for the last few days. I just couldn't come up with anything. I've got plenty of lace yarn, but somehow I just don't think lace would be his style. Then, I've got several rather nice, expensive skeins of yarn, but who wants to make a toddler sweater for a high price just to have him grow out of it in a month or stain it beyond repair? Besides there wouldn't be enough of any one yarn for a full sweater, anyway. Then it hit me. Well, it didn't hit me actually. I knew I had leftover aqua yarn from my Noro sweater (haven't forgotten those pictures, I swear). I was just a little worried that it would be too girly. I'm still not sure, but my husband assured me it was fine (translation: If you think you're buying another bag of yarn when you've got a whole wardrobe full, you'd better think again).

And, of course, I cast on. And, I'm really hoping I've got enough of it. We all know my troubles with lacking yarn. Anyway, I wasn't in the mood for a plain aqua stockinette job. I needed some more interest than that. So, I searched online for inspiring toddler aran sweaters. None to be found. Or, at least nothing that appealed to me. If there is anything out there that suits my tastes, I guess I just didn't stumble across it. So, I whipped out my hand-dandy pen and paper and went to work on the calculations and the swatching.

I'm happy to say that it only took me three cast-ons to realize I can't calculate - actually, I knew that, but I was hoping luck would be on my side this time. I finally beat the thing into submission, though, and away I went. And, what I've done so far on the front of the body is what you see in the picture.

It's kind of a cable rib thing that I came up with. That's not to say that it's never been done before, but I just sat down with the needles and let my fingers do the walking. I kind of like where they went. We'll see if they continue to steer me in the right direction. Incidentally, I think I really need to invest in a stitch dictionary. So far, I've gotten by with my Reader's Digest Handcraft book or whatever it's called. It's got lots of stitches in it, but not as many as I'd like. I'm realizing that more and more as I learn to knit better.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Ready... Set... Eat!

Homemade Bagels
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Mmm. Fresh from the oven with a layer of cream cheese. So good. They're a bit "wonky", as many a knitter would say (what with their little bubbles) but oh, so tasty.

Unfortunately, they didn't last long. Sure, that's a good sign of success, but where's my fair share?! I baked them, I should get to eat at least 3/4 of them, right? Then, one for each of the rest of the family seems fair enough to me. I'll have to make that clear next time. Or, better yet, I'll make a batch of cinnamon/raisin bagels and send my husband fleeing. He, like many French people, doesn't understand the love affair Americans (and Germans and British, I believe, as well) have with cinnamon. He'll force himself to eat some of my less cinnamony creations, but he won't do it with a smile.

Well, that concludes our behind-the-scenes look at "The Making of a Breakfast Bread". I hope you all enjoyed our program, and we sincerely apologize that we were unable to capture "The Devouring of a Breakfast Bread." That process flew way to fast for the average camera to capture the action.

And, lastly, I'd like to thank the caring readers who sympathized with my headache the other day. Thing is, though. I didn't really have one. It was just my way of saying that I just wasn't in the mood to blog. That's what one says to a lover to hold them at bay, and since the blog is like a lover (can't get enough of each other in the beginning, bordering on obsession, then later tapering off to a steady, consistent relationship, only to end up feeling like you have to work up the energy and desire to find a good reason to even touch anymore - incidentally, I'm not at that last stage, I just wasn't in the mood) I thought the headache lie would fit the circumstances. It was only after such sweet readers expressed concern that I realized that my sense of humor is one that only my mother can truly understand.


Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Nope, I'm not talking about some dead body being found in a nearby river. I'm just continuing my photo essay of The Great Bagel adventure (which really wasn't all that much of an adventure, even if the end result sure seemed like Nirvana).

I know that some people are aware that bagels must be boiled before baking, and that turns them off from making them. They're just too complicate, or so many people think. If you're used to baking your own bread, they won't seem complicated at all, really (and, they're not that bad if you aren't used to bread baking).

You just make a sponge (a pancake batter consistency mixture). Let it rise for 2 hours or so. Then, you add more flour and knead like normal bread. You let that rise 20 minutes before making little balls. Let that rise 20 minutes and form your bagels. Then, I think you let them rise a bit again and they're ready for the boiling (I may have added an extra rising in there. I don't recall exactly).

So, back to the boiling. Complicated, right? Well, that's what I'd have my husband believe, so that I can take credit for true greatness. Really, though, it's just 1 minute per side. If you've got a large (but not very deep) pot/pan-thing like I do, you can fit four at a time. Then you sprinkle them with whatver you want and slip them in the oven for about 20 minutes (if I remember correctly).

Of course, you'd need a more exact recipe than that to do it, but I wanted to give you an idea of how it's done. The recipe I used is in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which is an excellent book. I haven't been disappointed by anything in there. And, yes, these bagels did taste authentic.

Now for the photo of the finished goodies...

Retarded Bagels

Retarded Bagels
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I know what you're thinking - retarded certainly isn't very P.C. these days. Well, what did you want me to call them? Mentally challenged bagels. That just doesn't sound right, especially when retarded in the baking process means that you have put the little guys in the fridge after they rose in order to "retard" the rising. You can leave them for quite a while if you don't really have time to deal with them right away. It keeps them from over-rising. Cold air is cool that way.

So, these are my retarded bagels all ready for their jacuzzi bath.