Donnerstag, November 29, 2007


Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
'Twas sad as sad could be;*
That square-ribbed joke is pretty dumb,
But it's how they look to me.

Or maybe it's a horde of bats nesting in the ceiling.

Of course this isn't everybody. Socks with holes are in the sewing room waiting to be repurposed. I am wearing socks. There are a couple left in my drawer.

One repeat of monkey lace:

Edit:Yes, this is four little sock toes on Magic Loop: Cinderella socks for M1 and E.

Just a few months ago I was complaining that I didn't like Magic Loop because I got a too-tight column of stitches where I started each new side of the needle. Now I am doing all my socks on magic loop. I discovered that since the needle and the cable are almost the same size, I don't have that problem with the first stitch becoming either too loose or too tight.

  • Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus--or is that Saturn?

  • You Are From Saturn

    You're steady, organizes, and determined to achieve your dreams.
    You tend to play it conservative, going by the rules (at least the practical ones).
    You'll likely reach the top. And when you do, you'll be honorable and responsible.
    Focus on happiness. Don't let your goals distract you from fun!
    Don't be too set in your ways, and you'll be more of a success than you ever dreamed of.

    *Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Montag, November 26, 2007

    Thanksgiving at Darth's

    Paul was on call for 36 straight hours over Thanksgiving holiday, beginning Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. This was at the biggest new hospital in the intermountain west. Big, and when it opened three weeks ago, not fully functional. Not enough nurses. Not enough cleaning staff. Supplies misdelivered, or not delivered at all.

    When I went down on Thursday afternoon for the cafeteria's Thanksgiving dinner, Paul took me on a tour. Peering down a corridor that looked as if it were at least a mile long, I commented that it reminded me of a space ship.

    looking north

    looking south; or vice versa--I'm not very good at directions

    Paul said, "The residents call it The Death Star." Uh huh. Really big, and did I mention not fully functional?

    I think they're getting it under control. Paul says things went very smoothly last week. Now that they have the life-threatening issues taken care of, I hope they'll figure out a better way of assigning holiday call.

    Oh, by the way, I had a chance to use "Death Star" in a sentence. Paul was talking with one of the residents after church. I casually threw out, "Are you talking about The Death Star?" The guy said he was, and went on with the conversation. Just because the elevators work now, doesn't mean the nickname is going away any time soon.

    Also in the not fully functional category:

  • Baby Surprise is too small for Meagan. Will Wiggles and Waves go the same way?

  • BSJ Photo not available, sorry

  • Lenore does not work toe-up. The cuff turns into garbled mess.

  • Sometimes I have trouble with my legs getting garbled, too

    I knitted a cuff the correct way and grafted it on.

    Lenore is from STR's sock club, but Rauen and Pallas Athena are somewhat similar. The Stephanie Pearl McPhee pattern will be available some time next year.

    One down, one to go.

    Oh well, Grafting makes me feel powerful. I ordered another skein to knit myself a top-down pair, with bigger needles on the very top. This pair is going into the Christmas gifts. When I get done grafting.

    Lots of excitement coming up. I will be picking up my parents on Sunday for more visits by mom to the memory loss clinic on Monday and Tuesday. Ruth Ann will take them home on Tuesday afternoon, I think. And then Howard and Amber hope to move back into our basement Tuesday night. They finally sold their house. Howard changed jobs back in August and has been commuting 45 miles each way since then. Their new house that's close to his job will be finished the first part of January. I hope they will stay here until then.

    A week before Christmas Sharman and her crew are coming for three weeks (Chris will leave sooner since he has an opera role).

    I am hoping that somehow this week, along with helping Amber get ready to move, I can get the upstairs bedrooms de-toy-roomed and de-computer-roomed to the point where my parents will feel comfortable in them, and then Sharman's family while they're here. That way Howard and Amber can stay in the official guest rooms downstairs and won't have to feel like they have to keep moving around on a weekly basis. As Sharman pointed out, they have a new baby (even if she is too big for my Baby Surprise, she is only 3 months old) and could use a break.

    Sharman's boys will like sleeping in the computer room. Webkinz will be just a click away.

    P.S. Not everyone grows as fast as Meagan. Here's Baby Aeowyn in the jumper I knitted for her back in March:

    Donnerstag, November 22, 2007

    Snobbing it with Chocolate


    I think I mentioned that Laurel and I were going to the Utah Chocolate Show last Saturday. It was a lot of fun, but as far as I'm concerned the high point was a chocolate tasting with Matt Caputo.

    If you love chocolate and live in the Salt Lake area, call Caputo's and find out when Matt is doing this class again. You'll learn why chocolates are not created equal and what to look for in fine chocolate.


    If you can't take Matt's class, here's the short form: We're talking dark chocolate here: 70%-75% chocolate mass, with nothing else in it except sugar. We only tasted monobean chocolates, meaning that each was produced from a single cultivar of cacao bean and usually from a single plantation.

    The most important fact I learned was that good dark chocolate is NOT bitter (OK, maybe a teensy bit). In fact, one of the defining points of really good chocolate is how much of the bitterness has been eliminated through breeding of the cacao trees and processing of the chocolate.


  • The beans:

  • Forestero: hardy trees, plentiful beans, but quite bitter, with few nuances; about 80% of the chocolate available comes from Forestero beans

    Criollo: hard to grow and therefore pricey, but the least bitter and filled with flavor nuances that vary from plantation to plantation; represents about 10% of chocolate sold worldwide

    Trinitario: a hybrid of Forestero and Criollo; also represents about 10% of chocolate

    Nacional: a sub-cultivar of Forestero which has evolved in Ecuador and produces a much better flavor of chocolate than original Forestero stock; a teensy percentage of chocolate production


  • The good stuff:

  • Amano: America's best chocolate. We tried their Madagascar, which had a bright fruity undertones. A blend of criollo and trinitario cacao beans. Note: we also tried Scharffenberger, another American chocolate which Matt considers acceptable, but it is very bitter compared to the rest of these.

    Pralus Djakarta: A smoky flavor with a slight leathery undertone (Laurel said "bandaids") from criollo and very high-grade trinitario beans. Any Pralus chocolate will be worth trying.

    Domori Puertomar: Grown on cacao plants cloned Jurassic Park-style from a dried sample of an extinct criollo variety, then grafted onto existing trees. Be sure to smell this one before you take a bite--it's wonderful!

    Domori Arriba: A little corner of Ecuador with its own microclimate produces the Nacional cultivar of cacao used in this chocolate. Some people detect a hint of banana in its taste. Be sure to let the flavors linger before moving on to the next chocolate; the banana flavor popped up for me as part of the "finish."


  • The best stuff:

  • Amadei Chuao. From the best criollo cacao, grown only in Chuao, Venezuela. You can only buy it at a few places in the US, and apparently shipping is expensive if you buy from the website. So I would say memorize the list of places you can buy it and when you visit those cities, seek it out.

  • The weird stuff:

  • We bought Vosge's Mo's Bacon Bar to try at home. Er, it is unique . . .

  • What to cook with:

  • Lindt Excellence 70% in the black and white lable (not the horizontally labelled candy bars) or El Rey.


  • A good story:

  • If you have time, read the whole story. But again, the short version is that until about 2002, the cacao farmers of Chuao sold their entire crop of beans--the best in the world--to the French company Valrhona. When the Tessieri family, who own Amadei, tried to buy some, Valrhona wouldn't sell. In fact, they told the Tessieri that Italians were not evolved enough to make or appreciate good chocolate!

    Not one to take an insult lying down, Alessio Tessieri went to Chuao. He offered the farmers three times what Valrhona had been paying them, promised to pay off all their debts, and agreed to establish a university where their kids could go for free. The farmers said, "OK." Apparently Italians can make good chocolate, because chocolate experts around the world have been giving the Amadei Chuao chocolate bar gold medals right and left.


  • Random Notes

  • The best time to taste chocolate is in the morning, 45 minutes after brushing your teeth but before you've eaten anything else

    Americans like Hershey's and other food products labelled chocolate because we've been trained from childhood to like them, but they're often only 4% chocolate mass as compared to the 70% we tested in class. The rest of it is cocoa butter and other fats, flavorings such as vanillin which mask the bitterness of cheap cacao, and other additives.

    That's why it's only dark chocolate that's considered health-promoting. There has to be a substantial percentage of chocolate mass to contain enough flavonoids to be useful.

    If you smell chocolate and the first thing you notice is a vanilla scent, you're not getting much chocolate mass.

    The "finish" of a chocolate taste can take up to half an hour to develop. Eating a bite every half hour instead of gobbling it down should have some health benefits, too.


  • Personal Note:

  • About ten years ago I caught a sinusitis that left me completely without a sense of smell, and therefore no sense of taste. These senses returned gradually over about three months, but never recovered completely. For example, skunk and tuna both smell the same to me, although neither with their original smell. I can tell the difference because skunk makes my eyes water. I used to garden for scent, but now that lavender and patchouli smell the same to me (again, neither with their original scent), I don't. I can distinguish some of my dianthus and a few of my roses, and that's about it.

    Sadly, one of the flavors that changed was chocolate. I used to love Hershey's and M&Ms, but now they taste really terrible to me, like refuse. I found that I could still enjoy European chocolate, although it didn't taste quite the same either.

    Imagine my amazement at the chocolate tasting when I was able to detect all of the flavor nuances Matt mentioned! When we tasted the Domori Arriba, I asked if the reason we were tasting banana was because he told us we would. He said that he was told to expect banana when he first tasted it, and still had not been able to detect banana.

    So now I know that while some things were broken permanently by that virus, some important things are left. I can still be a chocolate snob. If I want to pay $12 a bar for it.


    Note: The cakes shown were entries in the wedding cake competition.

    Happy Turkey Day

    I hope you're having a lovely day with your family and friends, and thinking about all the things you're thankful for. I have a huge list but it's cheesy and private so I am not blogging it.

    We are celebrating our Thanksgiving on Sunday, so I am cross training today:

    The Rotation

  • 20 minutes cleaning.

  • Hey, it's a holiday. 20 minutes is enough.

  • 20 minutes knitting.

  • Baby Monkeys in Sheepaints "Cinderella" from The Loopy Ewe. I don't know why I knit so tightly that I need 64 stitches for socks to fit 2- and 3-year-olds. But 64 stitches means Monkeys.

    Monkey toes in Sheepaints Bambulaine "Cinderella"

    Note: Today's photos are all in Flickr so you can click to biggify.

  • 20 minutes writing music.

  • I am still feeling sad about the death of my Walther piece, so it's been hard to get motivated on the next project. I told Paul that I hate writing music and am going to drop out of school. He said, "You should finish what you start" and went off to be on call for 36 hours, so I can't argue with him.

  • 20 minutes knitting.

  • I need red socks for the holidays.

    Red socks

  • 20 minutes wrapping presents.

  • Yes, friends, Christmas is coming, and the elves have been dropping a few things off at my door.

    Santa's elves stopped by

  • 20 minutes knitting.

  • It's time to put the edging on Wiggles and Waves.

    Wiggles and Waves in STR Gingerbread Dude

    STR Gingerbread Dude

  • 20 minutes cooking.

  • Just because there's no turkey in the oven doesn't mean I can't cook something else. I've started sourdough bread and apple pie to take down to the call room to surprise Paul. OK, it might take more than 20 minutes to get a pie into the oven.

    Mmmm--fermenting grain products!

    We haven't decided whether to eat the cafeteria's Thanksgiving offering or have me pick something up. But on the way back I'm definitely stopping by the storage unit to pick up the Christmas tree.

    Samstag, November 17, 2007

    That went well, thank you

    My piece is officially off the program for the Early Music Ensemble.

    Yesterday's rehearsal resulted in a total meltdown. One person stormed out in a rage and says I insulted her and her husband and don't practice enough. She was mad at Howard, too (my son came in to conduct). I was pretty upset, but the rest of the group was nice to me and said they liked it but just couldn't play it.

    So, maybe I'll hire some people from the SL recorder society to play it in the spring.

    Unfortunately the person who left in a huff is a key player in every number, so the second hour of the rehearsal was very lame duck.

    However! The whole unpleasant experience was somewhat mitigated by hearing Anthony from our group do the German rap portion of the piece. He was super. He could get a job with the German goth bands Cherry likes.

    I'm sorry it's not getting a performance; I'd love people to hear it. I've gained a lot more confidence in my work over time. I have faith in myself now that I didn't have when I started writing.

    And whatever, today is the Utah Chocolate Show, and Laurel and I have tickets. That makes up for the part of the upset that Anthony's German rapping couldn't wipe away.

    Oh, wait! I forgot to tell you my first Raven got here yesterday. It really is magic yarn. It looks totally black, but under the Ott Light colors begin to appear gradually and subtly. There is a sign over Tina's door that says "The Wizard is In." I thought it was a joke, but now I wonder.

    Donnerstag, November 15, 2007


    OK, so this is a National Murder Your Pets Month Blog Post.

    Yesterday I was picking up some balls of yarn that had rolled under a table. I was wearing my headphones, and all that yarn and dangling wire were too much for Che. He attacked, got entangled, and before I could help him he just burst out like Hercules. He ripped one earpiece right off the headphones. It was just lying there, with a stub of wire hanging off the headphone. And of course when I started knitting again I discovered that at some point he had also severed the working ball of yarn from the project.

    OK, he is still alive, don't worry. Those headphones were starting to die, anyway.

    Then tonight for some reason Trusty was really on one. He grabbed my poor, beleagured iPod and the substitute headphones off my nightstand, which he has never done before. Paul rescued them. Then he started ripping up a towel I had put down for him to lie on while he chewed a peanut butter treat. Then I shut him in the computer room with me, and when I turned around to see what he was chewing on I discovered he had destroyed a metronome. I wasn't too upset since it was a cheapo one. Then he started crunching again, and it was my GOOD metronome. I can't even remember why these things were in the computer room. I have been looking for the good metronome all week. So. Trusty found it for me. How can I get mad at that? And it even still works, as long as you want 180 beats per minute in 4/4 time.

    Oh well. It's my own fault for leaving things where he can reach them. I wonder where my camera bag with the extra battery in it has gone? I am just waiting for him to decide that cordless computer mice look like fun.

    Montag, November 12, 2007

    Adventures in the Objective World

    Facts which can be learned through experimentation

  • Guacamole survives freezing

  • Yes. If, upon realizing that you left your Rhodes rolls sitting in a grocery bag on the counter, you stick said grocery bag into the freezer without checking what else is in it, and then find out there was guacamole under the Rhodes rolls, said guacamole will be edible the next day after thawing out. Was that a good sentence or what?

  • Finishing always takes more time than you think

  • When I took a Lucy Neatby class in finishing, she said that you should allow two weeks to do the finishing work on a project because of the blocking, drying, sewing, button sewing, and procrastination involved.

    It is about the same on a composition project. Since we read through my piece in early music ensemble a couple of weeks ago, I have finally gotten around to the finishing. Last week I gave out parts with cue notes (it turned out that when four people bent down to pick up krummhorns everyone was instantly lost). I also lined up a conductor. On Saturday I spent a long day cutting and pasting the score so it could go to Kinko's and come back on 11x17 paper with a spiral binding. Now I am making MIDI files for people to practice with and for the conductor to use in getting an idea of the piece.

    In the case of knitting, it is the knitting I like the best. In the case of composing, it is finishing that makes me feel like a real composer. It is typing up the page that lists the instruments, catalogs any weird symbols used, indicates the duration, and show at the top the date and details of the first performance. In my case it hasn't happened yet, but we are hopeful. I can always change it later.

  • There is always one mistake you don't find until you do the final blocking

  • This works in composition, too. When I opened up the finished score after picking it up from Kinko's I saw a raging error right on the first page, at the top. I am pretending it is a performance note to the alto recorder player. I was positive I fixed it in her part, so I can't think why it is in the score. But since the software links the part and the score, she probably has a note that says "add tremolo." She's a good player. She can do that. It's called aleatoric music.

  • At some point Baby Surprise begins to make sense

  • I've been knitting sleeves! Who knew!

    Donnerstag, November 08, 2007

    Utah Stars

    No, I am not talking about Marie Osmond, although her YouTube video is entertaining enough. It's not the fainting that I find interesting, but watching a nearly-50-year-old woman jumping up and down in a foofy dress like a 3-year-old.

    I'm talking about our crop of famous knitwear designers.

    This morning I clicked on Knitty Reader and there was Miriam, already famous from having a knit on the cover of The Best of Interweave Knits. She has a wrap in IK Winter, too. Miriam has more patterns at

    And then there's Susan, with shawl patterns and sock patterns popping up around the internet everywhere you look.

    And we have Nancy Bush, whose classic books introduced a generation to sock knitting. How many people do you know who have their own private Yarn Harlot post.

    I'm sure there are more that I have forgotten.

    Utah is a nice place to live. It's beautiful. The sky is huge. The trees change color. It's pretty safe. It has mountains. It has knitting.

    So there you have it. Utah.

    Mittwoch, November 07, 2007

    Surprise, Surprise.

    I remember Baby Sally saying "Surprise! Surprise" in my Dick and Jane reading book. It really dates a person, except that all the people who didn't learn to read in Dick and Jane don't remember it, so they don't know how old those books are unless you tell them.

    I have been knitting this:

    And this:

    I never knitted a Baby Surprise previously because I hated garter stitch. Only now I've gotten over that, and the BMFA kits are really cute. It's popular right now and there are helps online for people that think they might be lost even when they're not.

    It bothers me that you don't know what size you're going to get. I swatched and looked at the pattern and I think this one will be 17" around and hopefully fit Meagan. Although at the rate she's growing that's questionable. And at some point I'm going to have to change the color alternation. I'm knitting with the yarn doubled. They say I have enough yarn for two sweaters if I reverse the color combinations.

    Speaking of BMFA. Yes, I did order a few Ravens. I was not the first one on the site, since I was at a class and an evening workshop. I spent some time thinking and looking. I'll photo them when they come.

    And let's not argue about what a collection of Ravens is called. Both "unkindness" and "murder" are correct according to this website.

    Montag, November 05, 2007

    Odd Things by Night

    Another night, another headache. Sitting here with my heated beanbag (I think it has corn in it) on my head, I discovered this:

    Lolita fashion.

    Lots of pictures here (just click on the photo symbols).

    I think it is a Japanese fashion trend. Kind of reverse-named, since this is adults dressing as children and Lolita was a child forced to act as an adult.

    If you are in the Salt Lake area, there is a Chocolate Show coming up this month. Caputo's is doing a chocolate tasting at it.

    I guess I should have headed this post "One Odd Thing" since I have run out of odd things and the headache has backed off enough I can go back to sleep.

    Freitag, November 02, 2007

    Who would you share your toothbrush with?

    Me neither.

    At least not on purpose.

    But guess who I caught chewing on it.

    So I now have a new toothbrush, and I am keeping it in a drawer.

    Sometimes you just have to gag and get on with your life.

    I got quite a lot done on my Lenore socks while driving to and from Idaho yesterday. Well actually, Paul was driving. He even let me have a light on after it got dark on the way back.

    Lenore yarn and pattern from Blue Moon Fiber Arts; the October club kit; it will be available to non-club members some time next year

    I suspect the stitch pattern might not be way comfy in shoes, but I tried something less bumpy and it wasn't as cute. The Yarn Harlot rules.

    the Lenore pattern was designed by Stephanie Pearl McPhee

    My stay-on-the-couch project has been a lacy cardi for Meagan.

    Wiggles and Waves pattern not yet available apparently; I got one from a friend of the designer. The yarns are Blue Moon Fiber Arts STR mediumweight in Gingerbread Dude and (accent color) Brick.

    This is Blue Moon's Grinchy Grouchy kit. I am hoping to get two pair out of it. Celia definitely gets one, since she's married to The Grinch. I would knit a pair for him but I just can't see him wearing these colors.

    I also got a Baby Surprise kit to knit for Meagan. Doesn't it look cute with these little corduroy overalls?

    Baby Surprise kit from Blue Moon in sock candy; overalls from Hanna Andersson

    A few fall yarns have wended their way to my doorstep.

    From top: STR Leightweight, a Rare Gem I am naming "Bride of Cluckula" that L-B bought me at Stitches East; Strickstduschon Sockenwolle in "Indische Gewurze"; Sheepaints Bamboolaine in Autumn Forest; Strickstduschon Sockenwolle in "Goldener Oktober."

    I also got a haul from Wollmeise:

    Sockenwolle, clockwise from top: Zenzi medium, Granatapfel, Brombeere, Poison No. 5, Zenzi dark

    Despite the feeding frenzy when the Wollmeise shop reopened on October 1st, I was able to grab Wollmeise Lace-Garn in Spice Market.

    I got up early enough to catch the Harvest Moon setting through the trees before Halloween. It needed a better photographer. It was HUGE!

    And, finally, Paul did surgery on Trusty's favorite toy. Anyone interested in watching Paul do surgery, I've documented the procedure on my Photos site.

    No tickers