Sunday, September 30, 2012

Presidential Brew

I got to brew for the fist time in ages today.  I was going to post all about the process, and choosing to do the White House Honey Porter recipe, and how cool it is that beer is being made in the White House using honey grown on the grounds.

Then I got out my stash of beer ingredients and discovered that my various partial bags of grain had been infested by insects.  Awesome.  Strangely enough, because of poor planning I had gone to the beer store without checking my own supplies first, so I had bought new bags of everything needed for the recipe, thinking I had been foolish and wasteful.  In truth, I had accidentally saved the day, because the home brew store is closed on Sundays so without the new bags I would have been screwed.

So, disaster averted, I present the ingredients for White House Honey Porter, including local honey and 2oz of my own homegrown fuggles hops.

getting ready to brew the White House Honey Porter

It's now fermenting in the corner of my kitchen.  We'll try it in about a month.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Deer Proofing the Garden

A few days ago as I weeded I removed the covers from our broccoli plants.  We cover them while they're young and tender so that the rabbits don't eat them to the ground. The day after removing the covers, this was what I found:

Deer decimated broccoli

This isn't rabbit damage, all ten broccoli plants were decimated by deer.  Both Chris and I were raised by fathers who garden.  Each of them are still gardening, about 5 miles away from us in either direction.  Neither of them have deer problems, so we didn't have any immediate idea what to do based on the Dads' advice or experience.

We're big softies about animals, so we don't want any solutions that would harm either the rabbits or the deer.  I started looking into garden fencing online, and it's EPENSIVE!  Somewhere between a car payment and a house payment to protect our little garden.

So on the advice of an employee at  our favorite garden store, Menne we did several things.  We spread Milorganite, a stinky and apparently deer repelling fertilizer, we hung white plastic bags around the garden to startle the deer as they flap and crinkle in the wind, and strung old cds around the perimeter which shine and flash quite impressively in the sunlight.

The upshot?  No sign of deer visits last night or this morning, and our garden now looks and smells like it was landscaped by a homeless guy.

 deer and bunny proofing, 1st attempt

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guess the Fiber

Here I am at the farmhouse working at the festival.  I found a new "local" fiber I've never spun before.  It has spun up fairly soft and looks like it will bloom into a bit of a halo.  Any guesses as to what it is?  Please guess in the comments.

mystery fiber

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Mistakes

The wise are not wise because they make no mistakes.  They are wise because they correct their mistakes as soon as they recognize them.
--from Xenocide, by Orson Scott Card
As a kid, school work came fairly easily to me.  I could usually get a B on my first effort, which left me free to go outside and play.  In high school I worked harder on the first effort and got A's, which left me free for drama club, odyssey of the mind, scholastic bowl, and other geeky fun.  It wasn't until college, where there weren't grades, that I was expected to go back into a project and turn in a second draft, or sketch, or sewing sample.  I was also expected to take risks and experiment.  If done correctly, true risks and honest experiment lead to failure, or at least unexpected results, half the time or more.  That means going back and trying again with new variables.  At the time, I hated making mistakes.  I saw them as failure.  If I had done better or known better, I would have gotten it right the first time.

After college in my professional life I still hated mistakes.  They felt like failure and I beat myself up over them.  This is a tough attitude to live with in technical theater.  In theater we experiment.  We also adjust the work on our little part once we see how it fits into the whole.  We get to a finished product in steps, and we definitely correct our errors.  So every time I got to dress rehearsal and got "notes" on my work, listing all the little problems that needed to be fixed for the next night, or changes that would make the costumes look better under the lights, or help the performers wearing them, it felt like failure.  If I was better at this I wouldn't get notes.

Luckily, I have come to understand mistakes better.  They're not failures.  They are part of a process, and only 1 step along the way.  The best thing about mistakes is that they can be corrected. It has taken a long time, but I now take joy in identifying the mistakes so that I can correct them.  I had to let go of the idea that a first attempt is the only attempt.  It is the first step, and it's purpose is to give me everything I need to get to the second step.  At work, I make things differently now, with the idea that each step is not being done to finish, but to put me at the best advantage for the second step.  And in aiming for a good process rather than an immediate perfect result, and being ready for mistakes, I make fewer.  Go figure.

I've been trying to teach my students this, while keeping in mind that I wasn't able to learn it yet when I was them.  I definitely see myself in my honor students, for whom high school was easy.  Unfortunately, school isn't life, and it turns out that being able to recognize and correct one's own mistakes has much more bearing on successful adult life than being really good at multiple choice test.  That's been a real let down, let me tell you.

I knit this cardigan years ago, but thanks to weight gain and an accidental trip through the washing machine, it has gotten rather tight.  It's a favorite, my first sweater where I started the process with dirty wool, and then washed, dyed, combed, spun, and knit.  So I'm not going to give it up, even if the buttons do gap.

But boy does that look crappy--and it makes me look fat.  My friend Becky had mentioned a knitting blog that went step by step through sewing grosgrain ribbon behind your button placket to keep it from gapping.  You see this all the time in store bought cardigans, especially the vintage 50's ones.  It finally clicked that I could go back and do this to a sweater even though it was already finished.  And boy was it worth going back in and fixing that, even years later.

close-up of grosgrain re-enforced buttonband

This is the inside of each button band--buttons on the right and holes on the left.  I used a wide (about 7/8") grosgrain behind the buttons, then removed them and re-stitched them going all the way through the sweater and the grosgrain.  I used 2 narrow bands (1/4-3/8") on the buttonhole side running down either side of the vertical buttonholes.  Both were whipped in by hand and none of the stitching shows in front.

Cardigan With Grosgrain Supported Buttonband

Much better!  Whether you call it fixing a mistake, or taking the next step in a project, the improvement is well worth the time it took!  At some point I'm going to go back into a number of my cardigans and do the same.

If you're not making mistakes, you're not trying hard enough!

--Miss Havisham in "The Well of Lost Plots" by Jasper Fford

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Community's responsibility to Its Pets

The Buffalo News has printed the article I submitted to it's "My View" column. We're now up to 2 large animal shelters in the area who are in trouble for their practices. Since I've been volunteering at a really great shelter for the last 3 years, I wanted to use what I've observed there to shift the conversation back to the community's responsibility for it's unwanted pets. I see so many animals surrendered for the most specious reasons.

The article can be found here.

And thanks so much to everyone who has been posting it on facebook, too.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

I Tricked Out My MINI With Knitting

Hey, so have I mentioned that I got a new MINI Cooper?

I haven't posted in a while because we've been on our honeymoon. Not Chris and I, the MINI, Chris, and I. It's a bit of a debate about who gets to drive whenever we go somewhere.

MINI has always been a British car, and the new MINI Cooper definitely embraces that. Not just as a nationality, but also as a decorating scheme. You can order your MINI liberally sprinkled with Union Jacks from the entire roof top, to the rear view mirrors (all 3) to the valve stem caps, and everything in between.

Chris bought me the interior rear view mirror Union Jack for my birthday, before I even had the car. It was making the side mirrors look kind of naked and left out. I could have bought matching covers for them, but why buy what you can make yourself? I briefly considered paint, or glued on strips of ribbon, but then I realized that to really be MY MINI, they would have to be knitted.

In case you're not sure yet, I'm completely crazy. This is a completely crazy project, and you're going to be totally jealous of the results.

Let the jealousy begin:

Rear view mirrow cozies

note the stunning view of a garage on the Buff State Campus. What can I say, it's hard to find a picturesque parking spot most mornings.

rear view mirror cozy

As for crazy...the outer circumference is about 22" and a little over a hundred stitches. It's about 50 rounds of knitting, so really, a fairly small, seemingly quick project, except that I pulled out all the knitting stops for this one. In order to really get a good finished project, with a properly rendered flag that curves into 2 or three different parabolas, depending on what angle you view it from I used:

a fancy cast on for the center of a circle (don't know the proper name)
intarsia in the round
switching between round and flat knitting
non-euclidean geometry or the semblance thereof
short rows

rear view mirror cozy

and dorset buttons.

For any non knitters to whom that list means nothing, this is what the work in progress looked like:

the crazy mess of intarsia

Yes, it's just as frustrating as it looks.

But they're small, and I'm small and determined, and it was oh so worth it to trick out my car with knitting.

And if you're thinking, "Aren't you worried someone will take them off in a parking lot," just don't say it to me. I've already heard it and no, I'm not too worried because a) they're on there really tight to make sure there's no chance of them slipping and blocking my view, b) few people will recognize the buttons for what they are and c) the side mirrors on a MINI are rather unique, so they would be useless to a non-MINI owner.

My next project for the car will be a Union Jack blanket.