Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Big Guy

I don’t know how the husbands in your corner of the world are, but here, in this house, the husband is one big guy. My husband is a towering 6 foot 5 inches tall, taller, if he needs a haircut that day. If you saw him in person you would agree, this makes him one big guy. Navigating light fixtures and doorways you and and I probably never think twice about, is a normal part of his everyday life. Small old ladies ask him to reach for stuff off the high shevles in the grocery store all the time. When he eats cereal for breakfast he prefers to eat it from a mixing bowl than a regular bowl. The regular bowl needs too many refills for him. Airplane seats and many "average" car seats can be nightmares. Someone on the New York Subway once saw Vinny in his New York Jets jacket and told him he’s been playing well. Obviously, the person was a little disoriented.

Yes, the husband is a big guy, he’s a big guy with a big heart. And I love it. First of all he gives the best hugs in the world ever. Everyone always agrees. He has big arms and when he hugs you he really pulls you in and hugs you and instantly your day has improved. Second, he makes me feel safe. Vinny is friendly and funny, but a lot of times guys who first meet him sometimes look him up and down and may laugh a little nervously. Seriously, who is going to mess with this guys wife? But really most of the time, everyone who meets Vinny ends up loving him. See what happened at a friends wedding we recently attended? That's the groom getting mushy all over my husband.

And I also love that he’s a big guy because I am a big girl. And in a society that makes women my size feel pretty lousy a lot of the time, next to Vinny I can feel somewhat small and more feminine than that dumb old society would have me believe. Although don’t worry, most of the time I am woman hear me roar!

So what am I going to do about making this special guy some special Christmas gifts? The knitting gets interesting here. It’s a relief that he doesn’t like sweaters. Sweaters don’t always look great on big guys anyway, they can look kind of lumpy and soft. It might sound cruel but the truth is I've really only knit for my husband once so far. I made him a pair of socks last winter. Just one pair. And they were boring, k2p2 ribbing white acrylic. Why haven't I made any since? Well honestly, the things I knit for him can take longer than others...

The magazine is provided for scale. Vinny wears a size 15 shoe. That sock I'm knitting? 80 stitches around. At 80 stitches around the leg takes a very, very, very long time. There are times I knit for hours and look down to discover that I've added on a whopping quarter of an inch.

So since we're not doing sweaters, and he refuses to wear scarves (he thinks they're too girly) the other thing I'm trying to make is a hat. How big is the hat? Well, I measured his head around. It's 24 inches. I have a pattern book I like to use for hats. It only goes up to 23 inches around. Only slightly smaller than those large stone ones they've unearthed from ancient times on Easter Island. This means the hat that I am knitting for him is a lovely 120 stitches around.

I know it's all curly and flouncy now. The white yarn is the provisional cast on I'm using. I knit the hat and the pick up then live stitches and basically knit the hat again, and put one inside the other for a double knit hat. I know it sounds weird, it's a pattern I've used before, I'm told it's based on an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern. Don't worry, I'll show you how I do it, I'm sure there will be other progress photos since this may take a while. Let's just hope I can make it before the holidays. I have other people to knit for too you know!

* One more thing- did you happen to catch the little kitty butt in the doorway of the first picture? Yeah, he loves Vinny too, they're pretty much a pair. He follows him everywhere. The cat at a very un-graceful 18 pounds is a big guy too. I should try harvesting the cat hair to knit with shouldn't I? I'd probably get skeins and skeins and skeins!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Of Purses and Pasta

Purse Assembly Take One- Today I gathered my materials, sat myself down and began trying to make this

Look like this

Well, it's looking better than it did the last time we saw it with all those pink strings and yarn clumps hanging off of it right? So the knitting part is done, but these last parts, the embroidery and the assembly I am taking very, very slowly. First of all I knew the embroidery would be tough, I'm a former cross-stitcher and the chart that came with this for the pink argyle part, in my opinion left a lot to be desired. Basically as far as the black x's go I was pretty much on my own. But I muddled through, and I think I'm starting to get somewhere.

I know it doesn't look just like the picture but I think it's passable. After all the trials I've had with this kit so far I'll be happy if I just have something that I can carry in public without being mocked. Oh did I mention I completely ran out of white yarn right in the middle of that section? It's a good thing the directions said it was Takhi Cotton Classic so I could order more. Because I haven't been able to get in touch with the company that makes these kits. It seems they have gone out of business which is ok. So I don't have to feel bad not giving their product a good review because you couldn't buy it if you wanted to anyway. Right? Right. So I finished the embroidery part so far, I'm not happy with the middle of the x's but I'm guessing they didn't like theirs either, that's why they sent the little charms for the middle. I'm going to try to find something else to use though, I'm not so excited with the little purse charms in the kit. They're just not me really, so I have some beads and stuff I'm considering. Next up is sewing the parts together and the form and lining into the inside. That's the black and white flowery thing at the top of the first picture.

My other little project today was Pasta e Fagioli soup. Pronounced pasta fazool, my husband affectionately refers to it as Pasta Fangool. (Pasta Fangool means something bad in Italian- don't repeat it to your kids.) I made us a big double batch and divided up to freeze it for later. You would not believe how nice it is to come home after a long cold day, and heat some of this up for dinner. It is comfort food that warms you down to your toes.

Anyway, I've been told Pasta e Fagioli translated literally means just pasta and beans but this is a soup a lot of people make a lot of different ways. I started with a recipe from I forget where years and years ago, and changed some things and added some others and ended up with this version. There's not an Italian bone in my body, but I just adore this soup. It's got sausage and beans and tomatoes and (gasp!) spinach! Normally I like to use fresh, but I found out thanks to the lovely e. coli outbreak that frozen does just fine in a pinch.

Pasta Fagioli
1 ½ cups canned white cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 pound sweet italian sausage bulk, or links with casings removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium size onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with roasted garlic
3 14 1/2-ounce cans chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces ditalini or tubetti pasta (1 cup)
½ 10-ounce bag spinach, roughly chopped (feel free to substitute frozen, just drain it and squeeze out the liquid)
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. In a large soup pot over medium-high heat heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add sausage and cook until browned, breaking up meat with a spoon. With a slotted spoon remove meat to bowl.
2. Reduce heat to medium. In drippings and remaining tablespoon olive oil, cook onions until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their juice.
3. Add chicken broth, salt and beans. Over high heat, heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add sausage, heat through.
4. Meanwhile in a saucepan, cook pasta as label directs. Drain pasta, set aside.
5. Just before serving, stir in spinach and cooked pasta. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Freezes beautifully. Or make large batches and share with family and friends. They might just swoon and try to impress you with generous gifts of yarn and fiber... Ok, that's what I would do, but other people will still really enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Weird Renaissance Faire!

Warning nice people who read my blog- this post contains lots of Jersey sarcasm, and unfortunately little knitting content. If things get too snarky I completely understand and agree that you are totally entitled to think I am both snobby and paranoid. Feel free to hang in for a few days and I promise there will be nice knitting posted again shortly. However, if this Jersey sarcasm rings familiar with you and you have often wondered about some of the similar issues raised here, then by all means read on. I just didn't want to bring it up without warning you:)

This past weekend I went with the lovely Tracy of Lefties K2 and her friend and sometimes knitting group guest Natalie to a local Renaissance Faire, pretty much out of curiosity. I had always wondered what they were all about, and it was a beautiful almost fall day so we figured, why not? Well, we had a really fun time even though I think we were a little surprised that this faire was not as, shall we say authentic as I think we had originally thought. I'm sure there are bigger and better faires all over, but you'll now find out what made this faire just completely appropriate for where we live here in sometimes tacky, sometimes interesting, always endearing, lovely central Joisey.

First of all, there were bellydancers. Which kind of surprised me. I don't normally think "Oh yeah, kings and queens, knights and ladies... and bellydancers..."

But that's ok, the dancers seemed to really enjoy themselves so that's cool. Live and let live I suppose. I'm just not so sure these were so much professional bellydancers as maybe they are just 'people who bellydance.'

And then... there were the gladiators. Again, I don't normally think, "Oh yeah, kings and queens, knights and ladies... and gladiators." And yes, I am fully aware that I am probably the furthest thing to a proper scholar on these subjects, but still, even if gladiators do fit into this whole theme-the ones we saw weren't so much "gladiators" as they were just a bunch of teenagers beating each other while wearing football helmets and shoulder pads.

Yeah, it was kinda dumb.

And then, then there was this guy...

Tracy made me have my picture taken with him. Thanks... See that look on my face? Can you see it? Look close. Yeah, at first it appears to be laughter but I promise you it's completely inspired by something coming close to sheer terror. I know I'm a scaredy cat, my husband always teases me that I'm scared of pretty much everything at times. But is it me? Isn't that just a little weird? The entire time we posed for the picture he didn't make a single sound. And it was just kind of ... eerie. I feel bad, he's probably one of the few authentic looking knights we saw that day, but still it just scared me. The way clowns scare a lot of people you know?

One neat thing we did find was "Ye Olde Knitting Tent." Ok, they didn't call it that but a big chunk of our fun that day derived from walking around calling everything "Ye Olde whatever." And it was there at "Ye Olde Knitting Tent" that someone dressed as Maid Marion showed Tracy how to spin.

And now she will be hooked on spinning and will spin and spin and spin lots of yarn for all of us in the knitting group to knit with all the time right? So we hope.

Oh, and were you wondering about the food? Well, yes we feasted, but again, I just wouldn't call it an authentic medieval feast. Not when it consists of "Ye Olde Jalapeno Poppers" and "Ye Olde Butterfly Fries." Do they have Butterfly Fries where you're from? Just in case they don't it's basically a potato sliced into a curly ribbon (it sounds weird but that's really what it is) and deep fried so it looks like this. You can either put your own ketchup on it, or if you like the vendor will coat it in cheese from a can! Now that is classy!

I know, I know, I'll probably have a coronary in a few days, but it was delicious. Even though some guy completely interrupted our conversation during our feast:

Natalie: Jana, you're dropping butterfly fries all over Ye Olde Ground.

Me: I know, I know, they're messy. Hey, give me a break, in medieval times they didn't have plates. I'd probably be eating these from a leather satchel or something.

Obnoxious guy: They had plates back then! They were made of clay... or maybe ceramic. But they had them. And they ate off of them! What do you think they ate their food off of?

By this point we had kind of stopped listening and backed away a little. Just so you don't think I'm a dope or something, of course I know they had plates back then, it was just a dumb joke. And just for the record, this person was not in medieval dress, he was in jeans and a t-shirt and "Ye Olde Rayban sunglasses." And don't you think it's ironic that he was offended by my ignorance towards the existence of plates yet says nothing of the Butterfly Fries! Which I'm sure they didn't have either!

Huh... (pouting)... Whatever. It's a tiny, little Renaissance Faire in tiny olde Lakewood, New Jersey. Next time we're going to go bigger, to the real Renaissance Faire. Where they'll serve me the real Butterfly Fries on authentic clay plates.....

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. -Rosa Parks

Yarn: Schaefer Elaine in the Rosa Parks colorway

Pattern: Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf Pattern

Needles: Size 13 clover circulars I dug out of the stash from somewhere

And oh my goodness, so much fun! This scarf went fast fast fast and is pretty pretty pretty and warm warm warm. So different from the other scarves I did this summer huh? But I love it, fun pattern, gorgeous yarn, near instant gratification. And the yarn is that yarn that comes in one big fat skein so I just love the simplicity of it. One skein of yarn, the pattern you can memorize in just a few rows, very cool. It would be totally ideal for a quick but very impressive handknit Christmas gift. Only problem? I already knit my Christmas scarves for the scarf people! Now I need to do socks. Oh well, I guess if I want to make this again I'll just have to keep it for myself! :)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Star Wars! Knitting with Star Wars!!!!

I have no idea why but for some reason Star Wars keeps coming up a lot in my life these days. Yes, I do suppose I have always been somewhat of a Star Wars-nerd-wannabe. Yes my face lights up at random references to Admiral Akbar or Uncle Owen. But I am still wayyy lacking the knowledge it would take to be a true Star Wars Nerd. Nevertheless, for some reason these days Star Wars is everywhere! First, there was the time we went to see Clerks and I met my friend the storm trooper. Then- I breathlessly followed the progress of this hat on the blog So Much Yarn, so Little Time!

How cool is that!!! Then I saw a commercial the other night for a new Star Wars Lego video game. Ok I know what you're thinking-you're thinking boy that's pretty random-Star Wars and Legos in a video game. I'm not into the video game stuff myself but I did find that they have actual Star Wars Legos and you just have to agree that these things are completely adorable!!! Look-there's a little Darth Vader!

And here's Chewie fixing C3PO after he found him in the trash!

Sigh... Only thing is there's no way to purchase just the character mini-figurines. You have to get like whole sets where you put the Death Star together and stuff like that, and the little guys come with them. And the sets are beaucoup bucks, way more than I can pay for little plastic guys right now, so we will have to see, maybe Santa will find some for me.

Oh and of course there's the knitting/Star Wars reference that came up today. I havent listened to the latest episode of Cast-on yet but of course I noticed the pattern for this in the show notes

It's a Princess Leia Hat!!!! Neat-O!!! You have to agree again- totally, totally dorky but-will definitely keep your ears warm! Sigh...

I think I'll keep my knitting just a little bit more simple for now... The Schaeffer Elaine I had purchased a few weeks ago is on the needles

It's the Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf Pattern by Karen Baumer. It's really fun, it's going so fast on those size 13's of course. And I think it will come out nice. I really like the simplicity of it, one big skein of yarn, simple pattern, big needles, very relaxing...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Punk Rock Gift Exchange Questionnaire

In which you learn more about me than you ever wanted to know...

1) How long have you been spinning/Knitting/Crocheting?
Both crocheting and knitting since I was very, very young. I’m a total nerd and I’m not putting the number of years, it depresses me too much.

2) Do you consider yourself a beginner, novice, or experienced Yarn Artist?
I would say intermediate. Some days maybe advanced intermediate, but I still have those days sometimes where I feel like I’m definitely back to being a beginner.

3) What type of fibers have you worked with?
All types, I prefer the basic wools and cottons, etc to eyelash-y, novelty stuff. As for what I use and buy the most it would definitely be like Cascade 220, Brown Sheep, Knitpicks stuff, sock yarn. Oooh, I also love to knit dishcloths and washcloths so I love the Lily and sugar and cream stuff too. It comes in like a gazillion colors and you can make something really cool and useful for $1.49.

4) What types are you dying to try?
Hmm. Well, I’ll try any sock yarn once, especially koigu, I’ve never tried it and I hear it has magical properties. I also love Knitpicks and have not puchased anything from the new fall line yet and it all looks pretty good to me.

5) Are you allergic to anything, (Fibers, Food, Smells that make you want to puke, etc.)?

6) Do you have any Disorders, ex: Diabetes?
Not at the moment. My job really, really sucks, does that qualify?

7) What is your Favorite Time/Style period, ex: Romatic, Grecian,Metal, Goth,etc?
Wow that’s a tough question. I really, really, really love black and white photography from any era. I’m just a big vintage photo person, not sure why. I really like art deco stuff, but then again I also always really love renaissance paintings and sculptures too. I also graduated high school in 1993 and I’m always nostalgic for that alternative/grunge era. I miss seeing jeans and flannel shirts being worn on the red carpet at awards ceremonies.

8) What fibers do you dislike?
Fun Fur!!!! Old crunchy acrylics like the kind people find from 20 years ago and give you. But believe it or not I find new, nice acrylics (plymouth encore, and lion brand wool-ease) absolutely a-ok.

9) Name some of your favorite Artist, Movie wise, Television if you watch it ex: I heart Keanu, some things cant be helped, and Rachel loves Mike Ness !?
I guess movie wise I like a lot of dark sarcastic stuff like the Coen Brothers and Woody Allen. I also tend to like a lot more serious (some would say depressing) movies like The Hours, Truly, Madly, Deeply, pretty dark, depressing stuff. I’m from jersey and I fly that freak flag high often much to the embarassment of my ex-New Yorker hubby. As for tv I have an unhealthy relationship with the Food Network, I know enough to work there I swear, I also love Amazing Race and omigod The Office (the American version) is like the funniest thing I ever, ever saw. Love it, love it, love it. And a lot of the Comedy Central stuff I love too.

10) Whos your favorite Character ex: Jack or Cpt Jack?
Cartman on South Park. Yep, I pretty much have the sense of humor of an 11 year old boy.


11) Do you prefer natural colored fibers, or handpainted/dyed fiber?
I’m really like if it’s yarn I’ll knit it honestly. That handpainted stuff gets pricey, as long as it’s not bright cheery colors all is well. I do prefer natural stuff over synthetics if I have a choice, but I can usually find something to knit with most stuff.

12) What are you favorite colors? Jewel tones (dark reds, purples especially) and earth tones like browns & greens. Of course black.

13) What colors do you dislike? Yellow. Bright pinks and pastels. Orange.

14) What projects are you currently working on? Just finished some kids hats for charity in pastels so I guess I’m contradicting myself... Been doing lots of scarves lately, and I always have a pair of socks going.

15) Do you have a wishlist? On Amazon and I used to have one on Knitpicks but I can’t find it lately for some reason.

16) Do you have any other favorite hobbies? Cooking is a big one. And eating out and talking about eating out. We’re major foodies in this house. Travel. Sudoku. Crosswords. Is tivo a hobby?

17) When your birthday? 3/20/75 Told you I’m old.

18) What is your favorite food, candy, scents that you love!! Etc.? Chocolate. Pasta. Carbs. Cookies. Brownies. I’m really into different teas a lot too lately. Not a big scent person really. Not a perfume/candle person at all.

19) Are you pierced at all? Any tattoos? Can you/would you wear jewelry that isn’t real? I wish I was pierced and tattoed but I’m a total corporate sell out on the job by day. Most of my jewelry is not real, love the costume stuff. My ears are pierced, that’s it.

20) What do you like Culturally, ex: Celtic, African, Devil Worshiping, Kidding!? 80's stuff. New Jersey stuff. I know that probably makes no sense. Like I mentioned before I love vintage black & white photos/postcards. Things that have to do with travel.

21) What do you use to store your needles/hooks in? I have something I made for the straights. The circulars are in a freebie I got at Stitches last year which does the job for now. The dpns are in a ziploc bag. I know it’s pathetic.... They call to me in the night and haunt me...

22) What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD) I have an Ipod. Cd’s are good too. I’m just going to name a bunch of artists for this one-the Replacements, the Pixies, Weezer, Billy Bragg, Old Liz Phair (see name of blog), Bad Religion, The Ramones, Billy Holiday, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen (representing Jersey yo.), Beastie Boys, REM, Facetoface, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, NOFX, Operation Ivy, Sonic Youth, Johnny Cash, Moby, The Pogues, Ella Fitzgerald....

23) What's your favorite season and why? Fall because it gets cooler and I also love Sunday’s when my husband is parked in front of the tv to watch football and I cook and knit pretty much all day long.

24) What season do you abhor? Summer!!! I hate the heat and the partial nudity of others that is always inflicted on me unwillingly! Put some clothes on people!

25) How about Sports, any that you just cant get enough of or do they make you throw up in your mouth just a little? The husband loves the sports. I tolerate them. I like it when the hockey players fight. And the olympics were a lot of fun to watch this year. Yeah curling!!!!

26) What is your family situation Do you live alone? With the husband and the cat.

27) Do you have any pets? Allister the cat is 18 pounds and we pretty much do whatever he says...


28) Do you like handmade gifts? I think I probably would, I can’t think of any I’ve received lately come to think of it. Ooh, I like stitchmarkers though and I will use them.

29) What’s your favorite thing to make, knit/crochet or other craft wise? I really like knitting hats even though I don’t really wear them that much. I like to knit socks and wear them. And I like knitting the sweaters too...

30) Do you prefer straight or circular needles? I love both equally. They all make me so happy.

31) Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift? Both. I love them too.

32) Tell us how you learned to knit/crochet?Grandma taught me how to crochet first when I was 5. My godmother taught me to knit at about the same age. Told you-years and years...

33) Do you enjoy getting helpful hints from others or does it just piss you off? No I like hints. Criticism I can often do without but hints are nice...

34) How old is your oldest UFO? That would be the socks I'm working on now so only a couple of weeks old. I’m a get it done type of gal.

35) Is there anything that you collect? Yarn. Cookbooks. Photos/postcards.

36) Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? I really like what I’ve seen of the Fiber Trends patterns and I don’t own any of those at all. Sock yarn and Lily Sugar and Cream are usually easy, instant pick-me-ups.

37) What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have if any? Knitters and Interweave. I don’t think the Knitters is getting renewed though, a lot of the patterns really are crap.

38) Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn? I could do better with my fair isle and intarsia. I can do them but not that well...

39) Do you enjoy knitting socks? How big are yer boats (feet)? Yes I enjoy socks. Unfortunately the feet are boats. I wear a size 10 shoe, when I knit socks for myself I usually go for 8 ½ inches around.

40) When is your birthday? (mm/dd) Still 3/20/75. See #17.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The morning after...

The knitting group and co. came over yesterday for a barbecue. I have no pictures to share but that is ok because trust me it was a very fun time. We ate and laughed a lot. We had great weather and very nice red wine and terrific deserts. It must have been good because this morning I totally had to flake on the gym and I know a couple times I had to ask the husband to please talk a little quieter... Yes, very, very fun...

Between the quiet house and large glasses of water I did manage to finish these

Hats for charity. Hopefully to be mailed off sooner than later. Last Tuesday I finished the green one first and wanted throw the yarn that was leftover away. But the knitting group talked me out of it which was smart, because after I made the pink one I had just enough left of each other to make the one with the stripe. And now hopefully these will warm 3 heads and not just 2.

In gifty-swappy news you can see I have a new button the sidebar for the Knitters Tea Swap. I have to admit I've been stalking this swap forever waiting for the new round to start. We're big tea drinkers round here and this just looks so cool to me. Also to follow soon I'll be posting my answers to the questionnaire for the Punk Rock Gift Exchange. You will then probably know more about me than I want to know about myself. But that's probably what is going to make it such an awesome exchange. Looks like I better get to shopping! Yay!