Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

First of all, I'd just like to point out that this is a real card that you can buy. Why did I not know this months ago??? (Click to embiggen)

It's been a nice and quiet Christmas Eve here in Beer Town. I mostly listened to the radio while I knit and crochet, made some more shortbread, had nice visits with a couple of people who live in my building, and surfed the innernets without guilt of any kind. Wonderful.

Now that the gift-related handwork is done for another year, I started right in on a couple of projects I'd been itching to get at. Gator gets a new pair of socks. I've started the heel flap:

I've also started another Seraphina shawl, this time made with Joann Sensations Rainbow Boucle in an awesome chocolate brown/robin egg's blue stripe. So squishy and yummy! I wish I'd found this yarn a long time ago!! I also wish this colorway was not apparently discontinued. I think I'd make about four dozen things with it!

Aside from the card I featured above, the other TOTALLY AWESOME thing I discovered today on the 'net was the Droidel. Oh yes, kids, your eyes do not deceive you -- that's "dreidle" spelled like "'droid". As in 'droids. As in R2D2. It's things like this that make me almost not hate George Lucas anymore. Almost. I had to print it, cut it out, and glue it together POST HASTE!!!

Then I had to spin him and scamper about my apartment singing,
"Droidel, Droidel, Droidel!
I made you out of paper!
And when I'm good and ready,
with Droidel I will caper!"
(apologies to the real dreidel song and anyone who thinks I'm making light of a significant tradition. I'm not, I swear. I genuinely think dreidels are cool. I just happen to think that just about anything can be improved by the addition of R2D2. And it makes me ridiculously happy. Happy's good, right?)

Another happy Web-related Christmas bonus: Amazon has a bunch of free MP3 downloads and right now that includes a bunch of really great Christmas music. Another thing I wish I'd know about a lot sooner. But better late than never!

Tomorrow I'm going to my friend Rachel's home for the day to eat, play Wii with her kids, eat, watch movies, eat, and possibly pass out in mid-crochet. And I'll probably call Gator every fifteen minutes or so. I love you and miss you, honey. Merry Christmas, my darling. :)

I wish you all a wonderful holiday full of peace, love and laughter. Merriest of Christmases.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Baking for the holidays

The end of the semester and the beginning of the holiday season has left me little time to blog -- sorry! I have been doing some knitting and crocheting, but as this has been all gift-related, I can't show you anything until after they have been received. But I can show you this:

Spritz cookies -- recipe straight from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook -- just like Mama used to make!

And classic shortbread using the recipe that came with the super-cute shortbread pan.

There will probably be more shortbread on Christmas Eve. I forgot how simple it is!

Hope your Holiday prep is going well!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

It was a gray, cold day here in Beer Town, but not as bad as it has been. But my Saturday Sky (I know! I haven't posted one of these for ages!) is not much to look at. I included some pretty church for interest.

Thursday was my birthday (39, if you're wondering) and I had a fabulous day! There were presents, food, and lots of cards! I almost ran out of room for all of them on my sideboard!

It's a bit humbling, really. I'm not sure I'm a good and thoughtful enough friend to warrant the outpouring I received. There was some serious love I was feeling. So nice, though! Many, many thanks!!!

Yesterday was laid back, but today was another fun day. V and I went shopping, then we had a terrific supper at County Clare, then we went to the Marquette v. UWM basketball game -- a cross-town rivalry that was a really good time. Marquette won (we were heavily favored) so I got to cheer a lot. We were pretty sloppy and high-strung during the first half, but we calmed down and got the job done during the second half. Especially the defense, but the offense really improved, too. Nice playing.

Then I came home and found this on Wil Wheaton's blog. HILARIOUS.

And now I'm going to bed. My life is very good right now. If Gator lived with me, it would be freakin' perfect.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Ways in which I'm stupid

Well, I'm sure there are many, but let's focus on how this stupidity translates into bad knit blogging, the most potent stupidity known to knitters with connections to the innernets everywhere!

Last Sunday, I finished Inga's Haekelbeutel and was so excited to felt it. I'd never felted anything before! So I looked up instructions for machine felting on this here innernets (I'd read it all before, I just wanted a refresher before taking the plunge), gathered up my stuff, and headed up to the laundry room. I pinned it up in a pillowcase, selected a few pair of jeans to keep it company (and help with agitation in the front-loader) and set it going. Yay! Now all I had to do was pray that it felted well and shrunk up a lot, because it was SO very large and in charge, you guys were just going to laugh when you saw --



Hmmm. Yep, that's what I forgot to do. Take a picture of it before I put it into the machine so I could show before and after felting pics and you could see the dramatic difference. If there was one, you know. And, as it turns out, there was one. A big difference. Not that you'll truly appreciate the difference what with not being able to see it and all!! D'oh!!!

Well, anyway, here it is after two rounds in the washer and dryer and some shaping with the trusty steam iron (which you may notice I would use on everything if I could). I'd still like it to be a little more even, but it's terribly difficult to work with. Suggestions?

It's all thick and squishy and yummy and the stitch definition is nowhere to be seen. I still intend to line it, but I couldn't wait to start carrying it anyway!
Inga's Haekelbeutel by Inga Joana Mertens
Patons Soy Wool Stripes in Natural Navy
US size I hook

I've already purchased yarn to make a spring/summer version...

...that I will photograph before felting!!!


Thursday, November 13, 2008


I've mostly recovered from my sickness -- just a little bit of coughing and sniffling left. But much better!! I no longer have that hit-by-a-truck feeling! This is a vast improvement!

So, since Anne and Andy have gotten hitched (and Anne successfully defended her dissertation on Tuesday -- Yay, Dr. Anne!!!), I can show finished pictures of their wedding gift. I had showed some of the in-progress photos because I wasn't sure it was actually going to be their gift for a while there. Here is the funky fresh ripple afghan in all its glory:

I made it as long as my sofa so it would be nice and big for cuddling up under. I also tried to photograph it with an artful drape like they do in the pattern books, but I think I ended up with more of a "here's what it looks like wadded up on the couch" vibe:

I attended Anne and Andy's gift opening brunch, so I got to see them open it:

I hope they cuddle under it to many a rousing football game this winter!
Pattern: Easy Ripple Afghan by Susan B
Yarn: worsted weight stash acrylic of many types
Hook: size US H

I also started on a Christmas gift for my MIL, that I'm calling the Waterlilies Scarf. The Easy Dropped Stitch Scarf pattern looks really nice in the Monet colorway of Red Heart and really does remind me of his waterlilies paintings. If the sun ever shines here again, I'll get a nicer photo that shows off the color. But for now, this will have to do:

Much catching up to do in the lab -- hope you're all having a fun and productive week!


Monday, November 10, 2008

In which I try to distract myself from sickness

I'm home quite sick today, but as the medicine hasn't kicked in yet and I can't sleep for the coughing, I thought I'd make a quick post. I'll mostly let the pictures do the talking today.

Nov. 1 was my friend Anne's wedding. It was a total blast.

Aren't they adorable? It was an autumn-themed wedding with different rich shades of brown as the main colors. The (cheese)cake was stupendous:

I was a posing fool. I posed with Rachel:

I posed with Veronica:

And I posed with the bride herself:

I wore the Maui shrug that I crocheted (mostly) during the Olympics. I liked it. It made my little black dress more festive. You can kind of get a sense of it, but the photos that really featured it didn't come out. I'll have to just play dress up one day and have a photo shoot. Someday.

The wedding was awesome and I had a great time. Congrats Anne and Andy!!

Then Tuesday night, while I watched election returns, I finished all the blocks for my Inga's Haekelbeutel:

Yesterday I pieced them, but I'll save photos of that for later. Can't blow all my news at once -- you never know when I'll have news again!

Okay, I think maybe I can try sleeping now. ::cough, cough:: Well, maybe not.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Olfactory delights?

Since I live in a high rise building with 108 apartments, there are always many aromas mingling in the hallways, especially during mealtimes. But the elevators usually smell like one of two things: pizza or cologne.

Tonight, however, as I rode the elevator up to my apartment, I was assaulted by an odor that I had never encountered before. As I rode, I tried to analyze the scent and was unsuccessful during my journey. But as I turned the key in my door it came to me.

The elevator smelled like urine-soaked pine needles marinara.

Figure that one out.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happy Election Day!

I'm off to vote this morning, then I'm going to volunteer at my polling place this afternoon. Then probably crochet and knit like a fiend while listening to the returns tonight. I fear it will be a stressful day.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Those crazy kids

Just as I was sitting down to write this, I heard something that sounded like an oddly percussive motorscooter or something. I wasn't really paying attention. Then I heard it again and thought, "no, that sounds like a snare drum. Why would I be hearing a snare drum?" I live on the fourteenth floor* of an apartment building in downtown Milwaukee. This drumming seemed very odd. But I looked out my window and, sure enough, on the sidewalk across the street was a dude standing there playing a snare drum. Not like he got lost from his pep band or anything, but standing straight, playing his drum on a stand, while a girl stood facing him holding some sheet music. Two other girls stood off to the side as if in rapt attention. I watched as he played for a bit, then he finished. The girls clapped and jumped up and down, the guy picked up his drum, plopped it in a case, turned to the car parked right beside where they were standing, put the drum in, got in himself, and took off.


But then again, my friends and I once re-enacted the entire mad tea party from Alice in Wonderland in the middle of a Perkins restaurant. So it's not like I can talk.

But this isn't really what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to tell you about the awesome time I had last Saturday night once I'd recovered just a bit from my Very Long Experiment. As you may or may not know, Tuesday was the start of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights. The Indian Student Association is very active on the Marquette campus and they have quite a festival to mark the event. As some of my grad school compadres are from India, I accompanied them and had a terrific time!

First there was dinner:

I'm not a huge fan of Indian food, but I do love to try new things. Mostly I like hearing my Indian friends talk about the dishes I'm eating and telling me how they're made and stories about food and their families and their way of life. I guess I like the culture of food more than I like most food. But not always -- those big fried things are my favorite -- they're called samosas. They are pastries filled with potatoes, onions and peas spiced up just a bit and deep fried. Heck, it's practically Wisconsin food!

I got some of the required smooshy-face pictures. First, Radhika and me...

...and then Priyanka and me!

After dinner was a big dance program, which I couldn't get pictures of because my camera doesn't like to do that. It's very persnickity, that camera. The dances were wonderful!! Afterwards, I got a photo of a couple more of my friends that danced in the Bhangra -- they were amazing! Here's Anjali, their friend whom I don't know, and Jasvinder all decked out!

Don't they look gorgeous?

It was a great time and I'm glad I went, even if I should have been catching up on my sleep. It's been a crazy busy week and I'm still not caught up. So I think I'll just go to bed right now.

As long as there is no more random drumming outside my window.

*Since there is no thirteenth floor in buildings (just like there's no thirteenth row in airplanes), the fourteenth floor is really only thirteen stories off the ground. So, I actually live on the thirteenth floor, regardless of what they call it. I'm not fooled, I'm telling you. Not for a minute.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Warning! Boring! (it's what I do)

I spent all of Friday night in the lab. Yep, I'm just that kind o' party girl. As part of my "35-hour-experiment-from-hell" (well, it's actually much long than that, but the truly hellish part is only about 35 hours), I had a little slumber party with a bunch of ciliates. Oh, the fun! And, anyway, I got it into my head that some sick, bored person out there might like to see what kind of things make up long, drawn-out science-y things on the cutting edge of cell and molecular biology! (Actually, this is on the cutting edge like Kansas is on the ocean. But I digress.)

In short, feel free to skip this post.

It all starts on Friday morning, 5:00 am. I mix cells so they will mate and shake them around for a half an hour so they'll all mate pretty much at the same time (yes, that's really how we do that). Then I monitor the cells for several hours. Most of the late morning and early afternoon is spent making control slides and continuing to monitor the mating. I get to go home at 5:00 pm for a bit of a nap. Then the real fun begins.

Picture it: Friday night, 9:00 pm. I open the incubator and am confronted with the solutions of mating cells I prepared eeeaaarrrllly that morning:

I add growth medium to one of the flasks:

Then I start taking samples from both flasks:

And put them in little tubes.

I put the tubes in the centrifuge and spin them so all the cells go down into the bottom:

Then I suck off all the fluid leaving a little ball of cells at the bottom of the tube.

Then I wash the cells with 3 different washes of methanol (mix up the cells in methanol, let them sit, spin the cells down and suck off the methanol, repeat, repeat):

And then I finally drop some concentrated cells onto slides which I will stain, photograph and digitally analyze later.

Repeat every two hours for eleventy million hours. (Oh, okay. Fourteen.) Then repeat every twelve hours for a week. Because this is how many slides I'm making:

I don't know right now. A lot.

And now I have to go make some more. Ta!!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

At least today's word is scientific...

A week ago Saturday we had an Anti-Bachelorette Party for my friend Anne who is getting married on Nov. 1. It was an "Anti-Bachelorette" party because, for some outlandish reason, Anne is not into barhopping while wearing a tiara made from replicas of male anatomy. Go figure, right?

So we congregated at Veronica's apartment, provided Anne with mimosas on-demand, played games, and watched The Wedding Singer. We did give her a bridal tiara and a magic wand, but we did not require her to wear them in public (nor were there any body parts of any kind represented therein).

Anne loves the game Apples To Apples, so we made a custom version of the game that contained words pertaining to her and her fiance, along with some standard wedding terms. It was a big hit.

Anne did not wear her tiara for the requisite smooshy-face pictures. Darn her.

An important thing I learned was that, with my hair pulled back and a sparkly tiara perched high atop my head, I look frighteningly like Toni Colette as she walks down the isle in Muriel's Wedding. Of course, my forehead (fivehead!) is even bigger...::shudder::

Veronica looked adorable, as always:

And we learned that Rachel's hair was not meant to hold such an insubstantial trifle of a tiara. She requires a full-on crown. Pity we didn't have one.

We ate, we drank, we made merry, we sang along to 80's music, and a grand time was had by all. You simply don't need a giant inflatable penis for that.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Yes, I said "doody"

There are two amazing things about this post:

  1. I'm posting two days in a row. This hasn't happened since sometime in July. I even think I have something to blog about tomorrow. It's like I'm on fire or something!
  2. I have a snowflake for Snowflake Mondays. (Judy! Lookie!) This hasn't happened this year. It's horrifying. Or, rather, it's going to be horrifying when the holidays come and I realize I have no snowflakes because I was a doody-butt slacker all year and didn't make any flakes. ::sigh::

But today -- today -- I am victorious! I have one cute little snowflake!

#15 from 99 Snowflakes by Leisure Arts
Design by Helen Milinkovich Milton
Made with size 10 Knit Cro-Sheen by J.P. Coats in White
and a #6 steel hook

Yesterday I also started a new fall purse. It's also the first time I've worked with Patons Soy Wool Stripes and can I just tell you how much I love using this yarn? It's all slick (though not in a bad way) and cooshy (another technical term) and doesn't ever split. Awesome! So, I'm making Inga's Haekelbeutel with SWS in Natural Navy and I'm gong to felt it when I'm done. I've never felted before but I have a friend who has and she said she would help me. So I'm very excited! I've only got two squares done (I'll need sixteen), but I like the way the yarn is pooling so far. I don't think any of the squares will be alike, which is just fine by me.

So I'm just flitting along up here and all is well. And now I'm going to watch my beloved Broncos play on Monday Night Football, knit dishcloths and stop obsessing about my upcoming experiments. Maybe this posting every day thing will become a trend!!

For Pete's sake, don't hold your breath.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shawl we dance? (I should be shot for that one)

Yesterday I finished the Seraphina Shawl and it was a lumpy, stiff mess. I had really hoped that the weight of it would cause it to smooth out and drape better, but those were pipe dreams at best, I now realize. Here, I'll demonstrate:

Ew. (And yes, it was a hat day, what of it??) It didn't even look much better when I smooshed it out (technical term) on the floor:

See? Even smooshing couldn't make it lay flat.

So I blocked it.

"Now, wait a minute," you're thinking, "you said you were making this from acrylic! Acrylic doesn't block!"

Okay, so let me rephrase. I steam ironed it.

ACK!! Ironing acrylic???? I know, right? But I have this method, and it works pretty well, and I haven't started a fire or died of fume inhalation yet, so I'm going to continue to use it in certain circumstances.

Here's what I did:
  • Lay the shawl out on the floor, as smooth as it will get.
  • Fill the iron with water and set to "wool" (so it will steam).
  • Very Important: Lay a pressing cloth over the portion of the shawl you are going to start with! I use a clean flour sack dishtowel.
  • Make sure the steam is roiling out of that sucker.
  • Run the iron lightly! over the section of the shawl covered by the cloth, hitting the steam button for all you're worth the whole time. Do not put any pressure on the iron; just let it do a bit more than make contact with the pressing cloth. And steam. Really go for it. Your thumb should kinda hurt from pressing the button so much.
  • Set down the iron and remove the pressing cloth quickly. Pull and shape the fabric while it's still hot. You'll be surprised how much more supple it is now. Of course, that's because you just melted it a little bit, but we're not going to worry about that. Concentrate on the suppleness!!
  • Continue moving the pressing cloth to other areas and repeating the ironing and shaping.
  • Thrill to the sight and feel of your much less lumpy project!

It's ever so much nicer now! It drapes much better (and it's bigger now, too!):

And it lays out nice and flat:

And it drapes nicely on the sofa, too:

Seraphina's Shawl by Doni

TLC Heathers yarn in Blue Moon

Size K hook

So, yes! I am completely unrepentant that I ironed my acrylic project. I'll do it again, too! So there! Ppbbfftt!



Sunday, October 05, 2008

Festival farewell

It was another uneventful week in the lab (except for that annoying yeast infection in all my cell cultures, but I really hope I have that under control) and another fun and busy weekend -- thus insuring that I will not become a dull girl because of all work and no play.

Friday night I went with Veronica, Rachel, and Rachel's family to the Lakefront Brewery tour and then for a fish fry. Rachel's son brought a date for me -- a giant stuffed alligator to stand in for Gator, my DH. He was quite the star of the tour, too! He loved posing with me:

We had a ball. Rachel's kids have taken to calling V, Anne and I their "Crazy Aunts", which I absolutely adore. I try to live up to this as much as I can!! Plus, there's nothing like chasing 8- and 11-year-old boys down the street so you can hug them good-bye and give them cooties! Hee!!

Saturday was Party On The Pavement and Art Walk in Racine, WI. I went down with my neighbor and we had a great time. First we walked around part of the residential area down by the lakefront. At Gateway Technical College there stands the first statue erected of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln portrayed together:

We strolled past the Hardy House, a Frank Lloyd Wright original:

This crazy pink Victorian explosion was the second house in as many blocks to have a sawed-off classic Milwaukee Harp Street Lamp in the front yard. I love these lamps. Apparently there is a way I can get my own one day. That is good to know.

I love the cool facades found on many Masonic Temples:

It was a gorgeous day for October -- the sky and the lake were clear and beautiful!

Soon, we headed to the festival. There was awesome Spanish food and tasty beverages and quite a crowd down at Monument Square:

Most importantly, this crowd included Chewbacca!!! And he spoke Shyriiwook fairly well!

Yes, that was pretty much the highlight of this dork's day! :)

We only got to enjoy a little bit of the festival nightlife before we had to catch the last bus back to Beer Town:

Back home, I listened to the Brewers beat Philly only to listen to them lose today and end their season. It was sad, but I'm glad we didn't get swept in the series and at least had one post-season win. At least that's something.

After the Brewers lost I watched the play-by-play internet coverage of the Broncos game, which they won. Apparently the Brewers and Broncos are not allowed to win on the same day. I hope this means smooth sailing for the Broncos here on out.

It's been cool but pretty up here lately, but today it's been nothing but rain all day. I'm glad I got my partying in when I did. I fear it's the last festival of the year. :(