Friday, May 20, 2011

Humming Birds and Phone Calls

Today I noticed that the humming bird feeder was empty.  Well, actually I noticed earlier it in the week, but today is the first time I've done something about it.

I put the water in the microwave to boil.  I'm not sure that this step is necessary, but it does help the sugar dissolve really quickly, so I do it anyway.

As I measured out the sugar, I thought of my mom.  Every time she wanted to make humming bird food, she called me for the recipe.  I repeat, every time.  I even wrote it out for her and stuck it on the side of her microwave.  She still called.  "Two cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar, Mom."

I don't think it ever occurred to me at the time that the hummer food recipe was just an excuse to call and talk to me.  I'd love to be able to pick up the phone and call her and say, "Hi, Mom.  Have you fed your hummingbirds lately?  Let me tell you how to make it."

Wrist Warmers (as promised)

I have been holding back on using any of the alpaca wool Mr. H brought me from Peru. 
I didn't want to waste it on something that I wasn't up to the challenge of doing well. 
Now, I have used some of the darker gold alpaca to make some wrist warmers.

Even though I wasn't following a tested pattern, I was pretty sure that what I was doing would work out.  And I was pleasantly surprised!

If you've never knitted in the round on double pointed needles, there are lots of videos on the web.  Here's one from a site that has lots of helpful info.

Here's the materials list:

  • No. 8 (5.0mm) double pointed needles
  • 1 bundle of Medium yarn (I used alpaca that didn't exactly tell me the weight -  Peruvian yarn isn't labeled the same way as yarns sold in the U.S.)
  • a stitch marker
  • a tapestry needle for weaving in loose ends

  1. Cast on 28 stitches.  I used the "knitting on" method because I read somewhere that it's stretchy.
  2. Divide the stitches between 3 needles (8+8+12), then join to begin knitting in the round.  Lots of patterns call for putting a stitch marker where the round is joined, but the tail is always right there on mine so I just use the tail as the marker.
  3. Work in K2P2 ribbing until work measures 1 inch.
  4. Next round and following, knit every stitch until stockinette portion measures 2 inches (3 inches including ribbing.) Stop at your maker.  Now you will begin to leave the open gap for your thumb.
  5. Instead of joining to the next needle, turn your work and purl this row across all 3 needles until you reach your marker.
  6. Turn your work and knit this row across all 3 needles until you reach your marker (the gap.)
  7. Repeat the previous 2 rows until the gap is about 1 inch high. (about 6 rows)
  8. When the gap is tall enough, on a knit row (not a purl one), rejoin across the gap.  This is just like the initial joining in line 2 above.
  9. Keep knitting every row for at least 2 inches above the top of the thumb gap.  It depends on how much of your fingers you want to be covered.
  10. Bind off loosely. (You can use a needle a few sizes larger for binding off to make sure the edge isn't too tight.)  Using tapestry needle, weave in yarn.
  11. For a different look you can switch back to the ribbing for the last inch at the top or skip the ribbing at the bottom and have uniform stockinette all the way from wrist to fingers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Learning Lessons

Warning:  This post is about knitting!!  If you aren't interested, now is the time to abandon ship.  Don't say I didn't warn you....

Recently, I've become addicted to knitting.  Just ask my family.  I've made scarves, neck-warmers, and what I call a couch potato blanket.  These are all basically rectangles.  I learned to make button-holes for the neck-warmer.  But in the end, they all called for simply the basic ability to knit or purl back and forth.  I wanted something more challenging . . . . more creative.

Then I discovered double pointed needles, which give one the ability to knit seamless tubes (like socks and hats).  I've made a couple of socks (not a pair, mind you, just 2 different socks out of yarn left over from other projects!) I think I've got the hang of the heel-turning technique.

This weekend, I was reminded of how double pointed needles came to my attention in the first place.  There was a review of a pattern that I saw on-line for a pair of open-toed socks.  The pattern called for the socks to be knit flat and then seamed  at the back to make the tube shape.  The commenter said that she liked the pattern, but she had made hers on double pointed needles to eliminate the seam.  I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded good to me.  I found that I could order a set online and get them delivered in my mailbox quicker than if I waited until the next time I was in Mobile.  (See my first project)

Now that I know how DPNs work, I decided I'd try to convert a flat, seamed pattern to one knitted in the round. I didn't want to try the socks, but I remembered some wrist warmers constructed the same way so I decided to give them a try.  I learned some lessons in the process that I thought I'd collect and pass along here. And the first 2 are for those of you non-knitters who, despite the "Knitters Only" warning, have persevered this far:
  1. (just a generalization to start off with)  Google is a wonderful thing!  For just about anything that you want to learn how to do, there is a video or forum on-line that will give you more information than you thought possible.  People love to show you what they know how to do. 
  2. (another generalization) Don't be afraid to try something new, just because you've never done it before.  If it doesn't work, see if you can figure out why.  Begin by expecting a learning curve.  Start small.  Start with a trial sample.  Start by using what you already have.  This applies to so many things in life.  (knitting, sourdough baking, and driving a standard transmission come most immediately to mind) 
  3. (now for some knitting specific stuff) When I first started knitting and had to lay the work down, I wasn't sure which direction to go when I picked it back up.  I've learned that after the 1st stitch, the working yarn always comes from the right needle.  At least in the Continental style that I use.  The best way to tell is to work some stitches and pay attention to which side the working yarn is coming from.  Remember what you see and know that it will always be that way in a regular row.
  4. Knitting in the round instructions always say to distribute the cast-on stitches evenly on the (usually 3) needles.  In the beginning, I thought that meant divide by 3 and come as close as you can.  I have learned that it is best to divide the stitches in a way that works with your pattern.  In the wrist warmers I made, I cast on 28 stitches and the first several rows were worked in a K2-P2 ribbing.  That's a 4 stitch pattern.  Instead of distributing the stitches mathematically evenly (9+9+10), I did it "pattern-wise" evenly (8+8+12) in multiples of 4.  That way, I always start a new needle with the beginning of the pattern.  No more "did I just K1 or K2 or P2?"  (ex: Your pattern says to cast on 30, and calls for a K2P1 ribbing.  You would need to divide the stitches in multiples of 3.  Not the obvious 10+10+10, but rather 9+9+12)
  5. The wrist warmers needed a hole for my thumb.  I had ignored this for as long as possible, but there came a point that I had to address it.  If I had been using the pattern as written, I would have simply left a gap in the seam.  Now, however they were seamless, but still needed a gap.  I remembered from my sock-making that when making the heel, there was back and forth knitting using the regular method.  After thinking it through, I decided that if I could knit all around using 3 needles, I should also be able to stop and reverse (i.e.turn and purl around using those same 3 needles.)  So that's what I did.  I turned the work and purled back to the marker, then turned again and knitted to the marker, then turned and ...You get the picture.  When the gap was about an inch or so high, and I was on a knit (rather than a purl) row, I stitched across the gap to close up the top of the thumb hole and was back to knitting in the round again.
I warned you that this was really a knitter's only post!!
And I realized that I started this several days ago and had never quite finished it.  It's time to get it out there and I'll follow it with the actual pattern I came up with for the wrist warmers and a picture of them.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Becoming Something Else

    Recently, a friend gave me a bread starter.  It was a Herman starter.  I made several loaves from this recipe and even made some cinnamon rolls.  I liked it, but I wanted something else. 
    When I think of sourdough, I don't think "sweet." And Herman is definitely a Sweetie.

    So I did some research and discovered that you can convert one starter to a different type of starter simply by changing its diet. 

    Now for those of you who aren't up on sourdough care and feeding, you probably aren't aware that "care and feeding" are even necessary steps to certain types of bread-making.  Sourdough starters are alive:  they eat and they breathe.

    So, I am attempting to convert Herman into something not so sweet .... something more .... what? 

    This called for a trip to the thesaurus

    And there, I found that the antonyms for sweet were not what I was looking for:  acid, bitter, salty, sour, mean, unfriendly, unpleasant, (it gets worse), malodorous, stinking, stinky, cacophonous, discordant, ugly.  I think I just go with "savory."

    Anyway, instead of feeding Herman sugar and spud flakes, he got a half cup of "highly fermentable" (according to The Bread Bakers Forum) rye flour with his drink of warm water.  We shall see what becomes of Herman.

    This made me start thinking:  Aren't we all defined by what we consume?  If you live on junk food, your body starts to look and act and feel like junk.  And that goes for your spirit, too.  Are you feeding your spirit what it needs to thrive?  Living Water and the Bread of Life are great spiritual health foods.

    Oh, back to Herman.  He may need a new name to go with his new identity.

    How about Harrye?

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Car Trick

    This is so WEIRD!!

    We are big Top Gear fans at our house.

    Not too long ago we watched an episode with this segment in it:

    Something about the way they filmed it made me think it was a trick.

    Tonight we watched another episode filmed after the one above.  People were writing in with possible explanations for the bizarre phenomenon.

    That did it.  We had to go outside and try it.

    Mr. H got the remote for the Speed 3 and the entire family went out into the yard.  He found the distance where the signal was apparently out of range.  Several tries and nothing.  He held it to his head and it worked!  Then he moved about half that distance again away  and held it to his head:  it STILL worked!  He took off to the edge of the road, which was about twice the initial out-of-range distance, held the remote to his head and IT STILL WORKED!!


    I dare you....

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Things That Make Me Smile

    I was walking over to the Education Building to put some GA material in the room they use.  That room got me to thinking:  there have been several things that made me smile this morning.

    1) There is a room at our church that is officially known as the "Zebra Room." (I just looked for a picture and I don't have one.)

    2) The smell of living in George County:  flowers, grass, hay, dirt, even the cows.  (you can tell that no one has fertilized a field lately!)

    3) As I was looking through family pictures for one of my mom, I came across this instead:

    4) Working with a bunch of folks who love the Lord and enjoy and take pride in their work:  Dr. T, Mark, Dusty, Nick, Mrs. Mac, the Maintenance Guru and the Housekeeper Extraordinaire.

    5) a family that enjoys being together (I hope we're always like that)

    P.S. If El's face and posture in the picture above don't make you smile, too, then you need to lighten up.