Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer cinema: The Birds

One thing I noticed for the few days I was able to spend in London is just how much of a theater town it is.  I already knew this, because my childhood summers usually included going to see one show.  As I grew up, I checked a lot of classic musicals off of my list: Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago.  I also saw some Shakespeare, both at the Globe and in Stratford.  But being in London again, everywhere you look there's a poster advertising the latest, greatest show on billboards or a passing bus.  And there are plenty of theaters to house them all, around every corner.

Here in Austin, we have just a handful of theaters, including of course the Paramount.  Before I left, I caught my final summer classic film, The Birds.

It's interesting when you watch classics like this, because you have to remind yourself that what you've now seen many times over was being done for the first time.  When we watch these kinds of movies now, we're coming from a place of awareness and cynicism that audiences just weren't back then.  So you end up mentally shouting at the screen, 'Don't go in there!' while the blonde wanders into a situation that should be obviously avoided.  You have to appreciate that this is the foundation of what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer so cool, and just enjoy the show.

While others did it for decades after him, no one does it quite as deftly as Hitchcock.  Because you still end up with moments, like when the crows gather on a school playground, when you are still totally, uncynically, scared of the birds.  I found myself eyeing the pigeons of London very suspiciously, I can tell you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wind-swept and interesting, the traveller returns

'Ello, 'ello, 'ello!  I'm back, jolly blog readers!

I was already back last week, but between wicked jet lag and possibly having caught a bit of a bug, I felt lousy and decided to extend my blog vacation past my real life vacation.  I'm feeling better now, though, so it's time to try and get back into the swing of things.  My trip gave me a lot of ideas for blog posts, plus I have some drafts of things I didn't manage to put out before I left.  So there should be plenty to talk about for the next few weeks.

I'm not sure where to start, though, so I'll keep this a fairly lazy Sunday and tease you with some highlights from my trip:

  • A few walks in the park, and a visit to a stately home with a rose garden
  • Lots of culture, as absorbed from the National Gallery and Tate Modern
  • Several cups of tea, but even more cappuccinos
  • Some essential shopping on Regent Street
  • A delicious journey through Borough Market
  • Two DIY presents finally revealed in a birthday celebration
  • Delicious food from cuisines across the globe, from a full English breakfast Indian curry takeaway to Korean steak tartare
  • And of course, a couple of yarn stores!

Friday, August 29, 2014

London calling

I kind of feel like I've been holding out on you by not mentioning something for the past few weeks, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up.  Okay, that sounds ominous, but it's not.  I just need to tell you that I'm going to be in London for the next week.

It's been about six years since I was over there, so I'm counting down the hours (literally, I fly out later today) to my return.  I probably won't be posting any blogs while I'm away, but I'll try to come up with lots of fun things to post about when I get back.

I hope everyone has a happy Labor Day long weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Game, set, matching mitts

You think you've had a productive week.  You think you've accomplished a small something worth feeling good about.  And then you watch a player in her grand slam debut upset the #12 seed and you hear that she was born in 1999.  And suddenly you feel just a little bit lazy and unambitious.

That's what happens when you watch sports as you get older, I suppose.  But I'll leave the tennis prodigy-ing to CiCi Bellis and watch her as I make progress on my knitting and spinning.  And I have made progress.  I finally blocked my Mittacles, so now I just have the pesky task of weaving all of the ends in:

My Vlad Helsing is moving along as well.  I've gone through the chart nearly three of the prescribed four times:

Aside from the momentary confusion with the placement of the repeat on two of the rows, I've really enjoyed this.  My only worry is that it won't use up enough of my yarn to get to the color change in the skein that starts a little late.

So, do young upstart athletes, movie stars, or other random celebrities ever make you feel lazy?  Or are you confident in your awesomeness?  For more WIP Wednesdays, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Coffee Crunch Chocolate

Have you ever gone through the stages of weird food?  Like:

Stage One: Disgust.  You hear about some new thing, and you just think, 'Why would anyone ever want to eat that?  Gross.'
Stage Two: Curiosity.  You start to wonder just how bad it might taste.  And really, why would they make it if it really was so horrible?
Stage Three: Connecting.  You think about some other foods that you like that might have similar traits.
Stage Four: Craving.  You decide that you must try this thing.  Maybe it will be horrible, but by this point you start to believe that maybe, just maybe, it could be good.  And you wouldn't want to miss out on that, would you?
Stage Five: Tasting.  You actually get to taste it, and from there you might either fall in love with it, or perhaps you were right in the first place and it is the work of a flavor sadist.

I went through all five of these stages with the new Lays chips, specifically the Cappuccino flavor.  Coffee potato chips?  Huh?  But then, I made some intriguing connections.  After all, salty and sweet is an intriguing combination.  Kettle corn, for example, is delicious.  That thought, and stumbling upon the chips in an end cap at the grocery store, fulfilled the destiny of Stage Five.

The result?  I wouldn't say I'm obsessed, but they were good.  I found that while eating the chips themselves was intriguing, I preferred them with just a little bit of peanut butter.  I happened to have a jar of Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter, and it was the perfect 'dip', if you will.  It might also be yummy with one of those cream cheese fruit dips, maybe with some instant coffee flavor.  Something to round out the slight sweetness and bitterness of the chip.  And nut butter is great because it also has a complementary saltiness.

So there's a further Stage Six that I go through with these things, which is then to want to put them into a treat for klatch and share them with the world.  Combined with my almond butter, I thought that some kind of bark would be a simple way to keep the chips recognizable but turn them into something new.  Plus, I thought dark chocolate would play nicely with the other flavors.  And it did, this is just as good as all of those crazy chocolate bars I've seen all over the place, and everyone was very amused at my strange potato chip find.

This isn't a recipe that I expect a lot of people to recreate exactly.  But it's something you can certainly play around with.  Maybe just with plain potato chips and creamy peanut butter.  Or pretzels and cookie butter.  Whatever you find that intrigues you.  Push it all the way to Stage Six!
Coffee Crunch Chocolate

Ingredients

  • 36 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup nut butter (I used a Vanilla Espresso-flavored almond butter)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons strongly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • About half a bag of Lays Cappuccino potato chips

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix together nut butter, coffee, and powdered sugar.  Mixture will be crumbly, kind of like the inside of a Reese's cup.  Set aside.
  2. In a large glass bowl, melt a third of the chocolate chips by microwaving on medium power for about a minute at a time, stirring until totally smooth.
  3. Spread the melted chocolate onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  4. Sprinkle crumbles of half of the peanut butter mixture and crunch handfuls of chips onto the chocolate.
  5. Repeat the melting of chocolate, spreading, and topping sprinkling. (Note: You could also choose to do a single layer of 'toppings' if desired.)
  6. Melt the remaining chocolate and spread carefully.  Sprinkle additional potato chips as desired.
  7. Chill in fridge completely.  Break or cut into pieces.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: The wheel keeps on spinning

Tomorrow morning I'll be going to the last of three sessions in my Intro to Wheel Spinning class.  It's been a lot of fun, and I've been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I picked it up.  It certainly was a great help that this wasn't my first experience spinning, just a new tool.  Though the mechanics are a bit different, the principles of drafting and twist are the same.  So here are some pictures of what I've been spinning up on Sundays and with a little practice every day in between.

The first week, after figuring out exactly what the parts of my wheel were and all that, we started out with some silk hankies and Corriedale.
I am now in love with silk hankies.  It feels like cheating, spinning with them because they work up so easily.  The Corriedale was nice as well, and the gray against the bright colors was fun.

Once I got home, I just grabbed some of the random fluffs of fiber that I had gathered over the years.  Roving samples and things like that, anything that wasn't a complete and labeled braid that could be a project in and of itself later.  And with those, I added to my bobbin's collection:
And then, last Sunday we ventured out into batts.  Sparkles!
This was a lot of fun to work with, and I tried spinning woolen, which was interesting.  I might do more of that for a particular project, but I think for the most part I'll be sticking with worsted.  I brought some of my fiber scraps and continues to just mix and match.
I filled up an entire bobbin very early into the class, and now my second is also basically full.
The crazier the colors the better, I think.  So now I have two bobbins ready for tomorrow's session of plying.  And then I have to decide what to knit with my newly handspun yarn.  At the moment I'm thinking perhaps a Danger monster?  I'm open to suggestions!

And check out Woolen Diversions for more spinning inspiration, she's done some great stuff!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WIP Wednesday: I vant to slip your stitches...

I had a terrible shock on Friday afternoon when I was about to head out to my usual Friday froyo and knitting session with nothing on my needles.  Not that I had actually completed any FOs that I could blog about that day, but all of my WIPs were at a stage where progress could not be achieved while sitting in the froyo shop.

Because it would have been weird to try and block my fingerless mitts with thumbs there on the table.  Although despite having had the whole rest of the weekend to block, I still haven't quite gotten around to it.  Why is it that sometimes the easiest things take the longest to get done?  Then again, I kind of deserve a break after fiddling with the DPNs and few stitches for the thumbs, so I don't feel too bad about that.

I've also handed off responsibility for sewing the mini fox's head to my mom, so that remains in the same state as before.  But here's a picture of the first ear I knit up which ended up too big for my fox's head, so it's become an impromptu hat for a wooden duck:
So for Friday's crafting, I had to quickly grab something form my Ravelry queue, and I cast on my Vlad Helsing Shawlette:
The pattern comes from the What Would Madame Defarge Knit? collection, and this shawl is inspired by Wilhelmina from Dracula.  Since my yarn (a gradient from Heavenly Fiber that goes from red to black with sparkles!) is called Vlad, I decided to go with a Van Helsing reference from the same novel.  It feels like it's been a while since I've done a lacy shawl, but it was comforting to go back to what I think is probably my favorite type of project.

I did have a bit of an issue today while knitting because I thought I had an extra stitch somewhere.  Let's see if I can describe this...so, the 10-stitch repeat in the chart ended on 2 knit stitches and started back again with a slip 1, k2tog, psso (represented by a single icon at the start).  But when I reached the end of the 2 knit stitches, instead of meeting with my stitch marker, I found another stitch.  After much (and I do mean much) hemming and hawing, I believe I have determined that, in fact, that last stitch is meant to be the initial slipped stitch, but because it's something that happens over 3 stitches represented by a single icon, the chart has issues making that clear.  It took me so long to come to this conclusion and mentally knit the row that I haven't been able to actually knit it and be sure, but I think that's it.  It was, at least, a good exercise for me in reading lace and understanding what is going on beyond just blindly following the directions.

So, crisis averted, I have an active WIP to take along with me wherever I go, along with other WIPs I still need to make progress on.  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.