Monday, January 28, 2013

Dropping In

My good friend Igor dropped in on me Saturday afternoon.  And when I say, "dropped in", I was rolling around on Ravelry looking at fiber being destashed, and he waltzed in, dropped on the couch, and I asked if he wanted anything to drink, he said some hot tea, and I got to work. It is really nice having friends like that who not only don't care what state your house is in (he does have a 3 year old, after all), but just feel comfortable flopping down for a bit before they go on their way to the thrift store across the street.

Things would have been better if I had not eaten a sizeable bolus of gluten earlier in the day.  As my trainer says, "You've either got to stop eating gluten or move to Europe." or figure out how to smuggle their flour back into the US.  I managed to hold it together for most of Igor's visit.

I digress...

I met Igor on a blind date via back in early 2006, after I had moved to Seattle from Baltimore. I decided to go on a date with him because he had willingly posted a picture of himself in a cow costume, and I enjoy men with a sense of humor.

We met at Two Bells pub down in Belltown, about a block from my old apartment building, The Centennial.  As it happened, Igor had already met his current-girlfriend/baby-mama-to-Zach Tori, and apparently was just honoring prior committments, which included meeting me and another girl named Kate. Regardless, we had a nice time and I didn't talk to him for about another month and a half.

I invited Igor to my birthday party in 2006, and he asked if he could bring his girlfriend. "Sure!" Well, I fell in love with Tori at first sight. Any woman who can weld has my vote.

And, coincidentally the world only gets smaller... Kate ended up being sisters to Jenn, who is the girlfriend and prego-baby-mama of my friend Jill from the gym.

Anyway... Igor is an engineer at Microsoft, and also has some interesting ideas in his blogs:

I wouldn't say I agree with all of them, but he is very enthusiastic, and that's the great thing about this world. You can appreciate others' ideas and musings even if they aren't according to your taste.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Back on the Horse


I am back in the Primal saddle. It's true. After starving myself on HCG for a month and losing 15+ lb, I looked great. It lasted 6 months, then I gained all the weight back plus a couple of pounds. Last weekend sometime, I became mad at myself for "letting go" and hoovering so much crap into my mouth. Cake, waffles, pancakes, cupcakes... About once a day I was eating some sort of bread and/or dairy product. This resulted in (TMI ALERT) nearly-instantaneous stomachaches and subsequent diarrhea. I know. Weird. Most people who have food issues may not get hit so quickly, but I have some sort of Instant Karma Alert.  Usually within about 20 minutes of me choosing to eat something 'bad', I'll start feeling it & start thinking about looking for a bathroom.

I knew the GE-sponsored Christmas party was coming up at the Museum of Flight this last week, and so I dug in. I started keeping a food diary with the goal of "Today, I will not get a stomachache", which really means: "Today, I will not eat bread or dairy".

The last straw came when I went to put on my Navy ball dress from April for the Christmas party, and ... it wouldn't zip at the top. UGH! I don't mind saying that I cried for a couple of minutes because I was so pissed at myself. But, crying never got anyone anything except red eyes and maybe a free taxi ride, so I got out of the dress and into my gym clothes and went to go lift with my friends.

And I probably had a much better time at the gym than I would have wobbling around in heels at the Museum, trying to avoid hors d'ouevres wrapped in crusty delicious evil bread.

So far, I've lost two pounds, probably mostly deflating from the bread inflammation. Last night, we had takeout Chinese food, so I think the inflammation is back for a bit.

The other day, I also discovered that dairy and/or coffee are stomach-triggers for me. I made a mocha with one shot of espresso, a cup of steamed half-and-half, a tablespoon of Dutch cocoa powder from Penzey's, and a tablespoon of sugar.  A timer could have gone off at 20 minutes - ding! Off to the loo.  I still have one possible ace in the hole, though - Teeccino + coconut milk.  Teeccino also has some fun holiday flavors - some are better than others. I love the Hazelnut and the Vanilla, but the Raspberry Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice flavors taste artificial and cloying to me.

As far as calorie analysis goes - for those who care - I seem to average about 2700-3000 calories a day, roughly 50% fat and the rest split between protein and carbs. Some days protein is higher than carbs, and some days it's the reverse.

I know there will be naysayers who will exclaim that You'll Never Lose Weight Like That.  But I believe that calories from cupcakes behave differently than calories from a ribeye and broccoli (which was my dinner after the gym on Anti-Party-Day), and that has seemed to serve me well.


In Unrelated News:

- I bought a loom. A Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom, to be exact. I got it from the Fiber Gallery in Seattle, and weirdly I had $20 in store credit there, so I went for it and basically got it for MSRP ($170) minus the $20 store credit. I warped it on Sunday morning, and have been weaving a scarf successfully!

- Daniel and I are leaving soon for our Christmas pilgrimage to the South. He'll be in Texas most of the time, and I in Louisiana. I'll be telecommuting this next week, and then taking two weeks off for glorious vacation in a place where cracklin's are for sale in a hut on the side of the road, and I can wear shorts most of the time (and "cold" is 68 degrees F)!

- My sister and brother-in-law bought a house in Baltimore and are slowly coming up to speed on what home improvement / repair projects require in terms of skill and equipment.  I am trying to counsel them over the phone and help assess what they feel they can do themselves and what they should contract out. As I told my sister, "You are qualified to put people to sleep for heart surgery, and wake them up again. I think you can drill some holes in your drywall and install window blinds."

- Our friend Jessie is going to pick up her new adopted daughter in Thailand today! Congrats to their whole family on the new addition!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I keep getting asked: Mel, what are you cooking for Thanksgiving?

... Okay, so I got asked that like three times, but I thought it would be good reference to write down what my plans were.

I'm cooking for myself, Daniel, our friend Jeanelle, and possibly one to two drop-in's.  Flying to Louisiana is too far for a four-day weekend, and besides, I'm going home in a couple of weeks anyway.

Between the recipe trove that is Serious Eats & my Bon Appetit & Cook's Illustrated iPad subscriptions, I feel ready for anything.

... Oh, and my gym-mates all made fun of me for making a spreadsheet for my grocery list, cross-referenced to what sales various grocery stores in the area were having. BUT ... I got all my shopping done inside of three hours on Saturday morning, so THERE. Engineer OCD wins again.

The first thought was to what dishes I wanted to cook. Daniel enjoys turkey, so that was in.  I decided to roast some turkey parts in lieu of a whole bird, because turkeys just don't appear in small enough amounts, and I don't want to be eating the same turkey defrosted 6 months from now. I just don't like turkey meat enough to justify that.  I did consider buying a heritage breed turkey, but they are usually on the large side, and while I wholeheartedly support eating animals that lived outside as they were intended to eating delicious bugs & whatnot, I didn't want an extra 17 pounds of turkey clogging up the freezer till my next birthday.  So, I compromised with myself and bought a Diestel organic breast (which is almost three pounds and roughly the size of the chickens I buy from the farmer's market) and a couple of legs on Saturday from PCC here in Seattle (PCC is one of our co-ops in Seattle).  I also bought some chicken wings to assist me in making gravy.

I found a raw cranberry / apple relish (read: ground in food processor) recipe via Serious Eats.

For veggie sides, I am doing roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar and pancetta (which is available pre-cubed at Trader Joe's), and roasted sweet potatoes with bourbon & maple syrup (the location of the recipe eludes me at the moment, suffice to say it is not topped with marshmallows).  The Brussels sprouts are easy - cut them in half, cut off the little stem if you so choose, toss in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and any spices (sometimes I add smoked paprika), add your meat if you're doing that, and throw into a 400 degree oven till they're soft & have brown bits all over them.

I am still debating on rolls, but this recipe might have my back.  I'm not a huge bread person, but everyone else is.

Dressing is from the November Bon Appetit issue.  I bought a loaf of "stuffing bread" from Great Harvest bakery in Ballard.

And I am making a homemade pumpkin pie, using a roll-out crust from Trader Joe's that swept a Serious Eats taste test.  The pie recipe is a little fussy, but it's Cooks Illustrated, and they know what they're talking about.

Also, whipped cream in my whipped-cream-dispenser.

As a funny aside, my coworker recently rolled his chair over to my cubicle and asked what in the world green bean casserole was.  He had seen it on a list of suggested dishes for an office Thanksgiving potluck party, and, being Canadian and apparently never having been subject to this American staple, he was intrigued as to what this dish could possibly be.  As I described how people "traditionally" prepare the dish, his face changed from one of mild interest to one of distaste and vague horror. Canned fried onions? Canned soup? Out of season green beans? Yes, yes, double-yes.  I said I was sure a homemade version would be somewhat better, but as I pretty much dislike all the ingredients in a GBC, I told him I couldn't personally recommend making the effort of cooking one unless he was forced into it.


I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and can gather 'round with people you want to see for an extended afternoon! :)


I love my beauty and fashion blogs (funny, since I normally dress like a frumpy engineer), but this cracked me up: RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream.  2.5 oz for $18.  Or you could get a pint of Tropical Traditions coconut oil for $25.

In lieu of actually talking about anything today, I thought I'd post some links to blogs that I, as a weirdo human, thoroughly enjoy...

Beauty / Fashion Blogs:

- Tom & Lorenzo - like their tagline says, "Fabulous. And opinionated".  Hilarious celebrity fashion critique.

- The Beauty Department - has interesting little makeup tutorials.

- Lucky Right Now - coming straight out of Lucky magazine's website.

Paleo Blogs:

- The Clothes Make The Girl - Melissa Joulwan is someone who I can identify with on the front of personal issues with health, exercise and body imagery. And she is awesome and has published one cookbook with her husband, and they are working on cookbook #2.

- Whole9 - the folks who created the Whole30 just keep pounding out the information!

- Robb Wolf - I find his podcast entitled "The Paleo Solution" is expletive-filled, hilarious, and informative.

- Mark's Daily Apple - Mark Sisson wrote "The Primal Blueprint", and has lots of other good information on Primal living, as well as self-care and good advice on perhaps not going balls-to-the-wall all the time.

Other Blogs:

- Yarn Harlot - a Canadian knitting humor author and designer; if you knit and haven't heard of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, you should check her out!

- Serious Eats - delicious, objective food blog. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt works there now (previously he was at America's Test Kitchen)

- Dinosaur Comics ... Pure Hilarity.

... There. That should keep y'all busy for a while.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Autumnal Update

I seem to not be as committed to blogging as of late.

I have had two work trips recently - one to England in September, and one to Dayton, Ohio last week.  England was beautifully old, and blustery. Driving on the left was only mildly terrifying, and I was thankful my friend was there with me to yell, "CURRRRB!!! CURB CURB CURB!". (I only almost ran into one pedestrian).  The Skoda we rented had amazing fuel mileage; two 2.5 hour trips plus a week of significant driving, and only barely half the fuel tank was used.

Regarding Ohio... it was flat. And cold. But sunny, and the streets were well asphalted. (My friend here says it's because the high temperature swings in the midwest cause lots of potholes, so roads are repaired a lot more frequently out there than in, say, Seattle). I still was amazed at Dayton during Election Day - there was some serious saturation of political ads out there! One colleague noted that, during one commercial break, he counted 6 political ads - and it was really only three distinct ones, as they repeated each ad! I am also amazed that it can take four days to execute and attend a 1.5 day conference. Ah well. I found a nice steakhouse while I was out there.


I took my Evendim sweater with me to Ohio. I made some decent progress, and am into the body increases. I am going to modify the original pattern and convert the raglan decreases into set-in sleeves in the round (courtesy of Elizabeth Zimmerman), and then think about a V-neck versus other options. Or maybe a wide crew / boat-neck style might be nice.

I have come to realize I don't look good in raglans. Most people with broad shoulders (i.e. me) would be best suited to a different shoulder style, even though it is super-easy to knit.


I spun and have started knitting a pair of socks for Daniel. I bought a bump of Blue Moon Fiber Arts' 75% BFL / 25% Tussah silk from Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival in "Spruced" (that is a link to my stash so you can see the colorway). I spun a two ply yarn that ended up roughly fingering weight after plying and finishing via a warm-water bath. I am knitting the Monkeymen cuff-down pattern adaptation of Cookie A's Monkey sock.  Basically, for the men's version you cast on 80 stitches, which adds a pattern repeat, and replace the yarn-overs in the lace pattern with make-1's. Not too bad. The pattern is a little less pronounced in these socks, though - I'll have to knit a little farther before deciding whether I am happy with it, or want to go another direction.


In other news... Daniel is hunting for a civilian job, and getting straightened out with the Navy Reserves. I have faith he'll find something great, it is just weird for me to watch someone with a sizeable savings account not outwardly worry about getting employed immediately; I would be getting very twitchy!  I can only imagine he's enjoying his long vacation, though!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Batts in the Belfry

A couple of weeks ago, I ran off to my parents' house in Louisiana. Well, more of a long, pedantic flight from Seattle to Louisiana, but you get the idea. 

My sister was there for most of the time, and we spent our time painting our parents' master bedroom and the hallway in their house.  My mom would have never allowed the painting to commence if Pia were around, since she was small and very sensitive to odors, but we went forward. I actually started developing headaches from the low/no-VOC paints we used. I suspect this was due to lack of ventilation (the A/C was on) plus the fact that I am now used to not only using a respirator, but also painting in a much shorter span of time, not dragging it on for days on end.

In the evenings, once the air had cooled off a bit, we would head to the lake (for which the city is named) and walk around for a bit, chatting and watching the local wildlife.  Ducklings were in abundance while we were there.

It was a great trip, and I hope one day I can convince my entire family that Seattle is the place to be! Especially when my brother and sister were both suffering through prolonged power outages in Maryland these last few days, coupled with high heat and humidity. Eee!

L-R: Rosanne, me, and our mom

On an unrelated note, I am thinking about opening up a new Etsy shop for selling, or at least destashing, some handspun yarn and fiber.  As a consumer, I think the most fun purchases are spinning batts, or carded masses of fibers.  Even better if they include textural elements such as mohair curls and Angelina (glitz) fibers.  To that end, I made some batts over the weekend on my drum carder.

A lesson I learned was that my carder only seems to effectively handle a batt that weighs in the neighborhood of 25g.  Most batts sold on Etsy hit around the 100g mark, so I had to combine a few batches till I got sets of batts that weighed in at or close to 100g.

Another lesson I learned in the past was to have a scale. One time, I destashed some raw (beautiful) alpaca fleece, and I honestly thought there were 2 lb in the batch. Well, I got an angry email from the lady who purchased it, telling me I had shortchanged her by a pound. I ended up refunding her half her money, but the funny thing was that my asking price was still fair for one pound of fiber, and ridiculous for two pounds.  The reason I sold it was that I discovered I had a severe allergic reaction to processing unwashed alpaca fleece. I suspect it has to do with the lack of lanolin in the alpaca fibers, and when I would start to tear apart locks and card them, the dust would fly into the air, along with whatever plant pollens the alpaca had in their fur. That was not a fun night.

Well, now I have a scale and I also have a pricing scheme based on other sales of batts of artists I have bought from on Etsy - roughly $0.23 - $0.25 per gram of fiber.  The astute among you will notice that, if you are selling a 100g batt, the price will be around $25.

Without further ado, below are some pictures of batts that I carded over the weekend.


 This first batt has plenty of kid mohair curls and some green glitz, as well as kelly green tussah silk (you can see a chunk of it in the lower batt on the right side).  "Summer Garden"?

This second set of batts is actually based on some dark brown Shetland fiber I have had stashed away. I love the interplay of the brown, violets, plums,and the occasional shot of yellow.  "Violet Storm"?

This last one is a pink indulgence.  After the blending with some other batts, it's final form is more of a mess of roses in different colors. This batt is based on some Bluefaced Leicester dyed fiber I had stashed away. "Roses"?

I have enormous fun spontaneously blending batts together in our second bedroom. I even dragged in the iPhone dock Daniel got me for Christmas so I could listen to music.

I'll update when I finally list some of these items for sale on Etsy! Till then, I kind of just want to spin the batts myself! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Sound of One Hand Ripping

I am facing a dilemma. Not moral or ethical, but yarn-related.

I knit up Evendim, wove in ends, sewed on buttons… only to fail in convincing myself that the sweater looked cute too-small (it didn’t), or that my sister would fit into the sweater (she would, but she wouldn’t appreciate the money I spent on materials or the time it took to knit).

So, I ripped out the collar. I ripped out the yoke. I ripped out the sleeves. I thought that would be enough, and I could salvage the body and pick up stitches at the bust and go back on my merry way.

Then I consulted Ysolda Teague’s “Little Red In The City”, as her measurement and fit-adjustment system resonated with me.

I made a spreadsheet with a cross-referenced diagram, because I am an engineer, if nothing else.

I discovered that I actually fit the size that was two sizes up from the size I had knit. And this is based on shoulder measurements. I could knit a smaller size for the bust and waist, though I’d be met with negative ease and would be picking forever at the sweater to get it to lay right. 

I looked at the cable and lace repeat for the waist. Oh, each 22 stitch repeat is 3.5” wide if gauge is met. I wanted an extra 2” of ease, but that eats over half a repeat and would mess up the overall look.

I relented and started calculating out yarn requirements.  It looks like I’d need an extra skein of yarn, which, as we all know, is dangerous and leads to Weird Stripes Where The Dyelots Converge (potentially).

OR… I could walk away from Evendim (for now), and start looking at a pattern that requires less yarn with a lesson well learned under my belt.

Plus, I usually don’t like to knit the same thing twice; I get bored.

I’m off to hunt on Ravelry…