Wednesday, May 30, 2007


As you may, or may not, know, I've been having difficulties with my roommate. It has never been an equal partnership. She doesn't contribute to any housechores, claiming that she is too busy. It got to the point where I said that we couldn't live together anymore.

At first, she acknowledged that I was the one who had found the apartment, and who had stronger ties to the neighbourhood. She was willing to move. Somehow, though, it came to the point where she dug in her heels and wouldn't move.

So, we had to bring our landlady into the matter. The landlady expressed to me that she would prefer that I stay, since I had a new roommate who would be willing to move in, and we would keep the apartment in a nice condition. With her reassurances, I turned down offers of several apartments. My new roommate, Whitney, extraordinarily sympathetic and patient, waited to see how things would work out.

Well, my 25-year-old roommate had her mother come to speak for her, to me and to our landlady. I was completely speechless. Yes, my mother, too, would come to my defense at the drop of a hat. But I would never allow her to fight my battles for me.

Inexperienced and trying to do the right thing, my landlady was intimidated by the seniority of my roommate's mother, and didn't come through for me. Therefore, I will be leaving this apartment and this community that I have loved from the beginning, and which I have been the only one take care of. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I feel bad for my landlady because I won't be here to make sure her lovely apartment is given the proper care. But I have fought as hard as I could, and now I have to accept the outcome.

Farewell, my home. Farewell.

Monday, May 28, 2007

First Signs of Snow

I've been busy with finals and apartment hunting, but I did manage to swatch for my Sockapalooza 4 socks with the Cascade Fixation yarn, and I started on the first Snowflake Lace sock. I haven't been able to spend a whole lot of time on it, and knitting with Fixation does take some getting used to, especially in a lace pattern. My only concern is, the sock seems a little wider than I would have expected. But it is a mostly-cotton yarn, probably not as stretchy as wool, even with the elastic content, so perhaps it's supposed to be wider-looking. And, when I actually measure the sock, the measurements around the leg (unstretched 7.5", stretched 11") seem reasonable. What do you think?
Inspired by the stitch markers that Terri Lynn sent me, I bought some basic beading supplies (an inexpensive set of pliers and cutters, some wire, head pins and beads) and made my first ever, handmade stitch markers! It was a fun thing to do for a study break, and kind of necessary. With the shawl that I've been knitting for Moocow growing, my need for more stitch markers seems to grow exponentially. I definitely foresee more stitch marker-making in my future.

Soon Dubu

Final exams, papers, and the qualifying exam have kept me busy. Also, in the midst of all that, looking for an apartment and a roommate. But I finally have time to draw a breath again. Last night, I gave in to my craving for some Korean food (I still haven't been able to find a Korean restaurant up here!), and went to a little Korean grocery about 5 minutes away. I found this wonderful site with some simple recipes, and decided to try to make my all-time favourite, Soon Dubu Jigae, a silken tofu stew.
It was really simple. I browned some marinated beef, added water, kimchi and frozen seafood mix, and then added the tofu. I think I needed a little less water and a little more salt, but it was very satisfying. Since I get cravings for this particular dish all the time, I'm going to get plenty of practice and I'll tweak the recipe until I get it right.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


OK, so I disappeared off the face of the planet for a few months. I was recovering from massive insomnia, moved house, got a bike, started yoga lessons, got another parrot, and wrote a book on constitutional reform.

Which I just finished this week. Just in time for the deadline. Last Saturday, I spent 12 hours straight reformatting footnotes.

To celebrate, I decided to make cake. I don't know about you, but I really like ordinary, plain, vanilla, non-iced, non-marzipanned, non-covered-in-overly-sweet-goop regular old sponge cake. I adapted my recipe from a microwave Chinese Ma Lai Goh recipe. It's really moist and spongy. I figure I've altered it enough that I can post it without violating copyright; it's not even steamed anymore.

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
4 tablespoons fruit juice (I used peach)
3 eggs (separated white and yolks - keep yolks)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. - (sorry, Fahrenheit people)

Sift flour and baking powder together. Set aside.

Whisk egg whites and sugar until they they form stiff peaks (builds muscles!)

Add oil, milk, juice, and egg yolks to flour mixture, mix into a sloppy paste.

Fold the egg whites and the sloppy paste together using rubber spatula. Don't overdo it and squish all the air out. It should look pillowy.

Pour into long rectangular baking tin (one the size of those Sara Lee cakes). Do not grease the baking tin! Do not line it with baking paper! Do not slam oven door! Do not shake baking tin! Do not open oven door until cake is completely done!

Yes, I have done almost all of the above in the past. That way lies flat cake.

Bake for 40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Cool upside-down on wire rack, then pry cake out with butter knife.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Small Packages

I was reading Treva's post about some stitch markers that she'd made and was going to be giving away. I've been thinking a lot about making my own stitch markers because the ones I've seen are always so pretty, but buying them in the quantities I seem to need them in seems a bit expensive. I wasn't sure how to go about it, though, so I commented to Treva that I would love to learn how to make some. She sent some to me so I could examine them for myself!

So, coming back from my final exam for GIS last night, I found a pretty, little lilac envelope in my mailbox. For a moment, I couldn't imagine who had sent it. Inside were these two perfectly packaged stitch markers, held by a miniature wooden clothes pin.

And aren't the markers themselves wonderful? You know when you're a child, and something is so wonderful that you just want to wriggle with happiness? That's how I feel, looking at these markers. I'm definitely going to try making some for myself soon. Thank you, Treva!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Would You Eat?

Well, it's been in the works for a while, but I've finally made an appointment with my orthodontist to get my braces put on, and with an oral surgeon to remove the 2 wisdom teeth and 4 premolars that my orthodontist deemed necessary. Six teeth out, all at once! It's all happening in late June.

After my teeth come out, I'll be on a liquid/soft food diet for a while. And, for the next 2 1/2 years, I won't be able to eat things like corn-on-the-cob and toffee, or bite into a whole apple.

I'm going to make a list. A list of all the foods that I will enjoy with gusto and without reservation before I have to give them up for a while. I have a couple of weeks to put my list together, but I think I need help. After all, I don't want to miss something important!! What would you eat if you were about to get braces?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Yarn Dance

Yay! Yay!! I have yarn! The little box was sitting on the other side of my screen door when I got back from the oral surgeon today! It's been a trying couple of weeks, and no doubt things will continue to be difficult for a while. I'm looking frantically for apartments and/or roommates, my advisor seems to have dropped the ball, leaving my research for this summer and next year uncertain, and it looks like I'm getting 6 teeth (two of them wisdom teeth) taken out at once in preparation for braces. But that little package just brightened my day. I practically danced up the stairs to my apartment with it!

Oh course, I must be strong. I have an exam tomorrow, and I need to study. That means I can't swatch with the turquoise (it turned out to be more turquoise than light blue) Cascade Fixation for the Snowflake Lace socks, or the burgundy Lang Jawoll for the Bayerische (both for my Sockapalooooza pal). I can only stroke the pewter Lorna's Laces, and squeeze the bouncy lilac Panda Cotton, dreaming of a time when we can play. And the little teaser sample of Meilenweit Cotton Stretch that Simply Socks Yarn Co. sent me is such a temptation. But surely, I can be strong for just another day?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Orange and Lavender

I finished the back of the Arwen and have started the left front. I think I've got the cable pattern down; I can't wait to get to the sleeve! This cardigan has a very interesting method of construction. Once I reach armhole height, I will cast on more stitches for the length of the sleeve, and knit the sleeves horizontally, up and over the shoulder, as one piece with the front. I also tried out a new soup recipe; I copied it down months ago, but I think I got it from AllRecipes. It's a leek, sweet potato and pumpkin soup. Here, it had just begun to simmer gently. After all the vegetables were tender, though, I pureed it. It's now a beautiful pumpkin-orange colour, and tastes great. Getting the skin off of the pumpkin wasn't much fun, though!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Waiting for the Mailman

Well, I finally took the plunge and ordered the yarn for my Sockapalooza sock pal. In the end, I decided to order everything from Simply Socks Yarn Co., because I'm knitting Bayerische and the Lang Jawoll seems to have the slightly finer gauge that is necessary, so no Brown Sheep Wildfoote. I'm getting the Jawoll in a deep, burgundy red colour (#84).

For the cotton Snowflake Lace socks, I bought 3 balls of Cascade Fixation in a light blue (#5104).
Then, to make my total more than $50 so I could qualify for the free shipping, I got two skeins of Lorna's Laces in pewter (I've always wanted to knit with Lorna's Laces, and I think I'll make some gentlemanly socks for my father) and some Panda Cotton (it contains bamboo, which is supposed to be good for wicking away moisture from the feet) to try out, in a periwinkle colour.

I can't wait until it all arrives!!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Have Patterns, Need Yarn

I have to thank everyone who left comments here, and on the Sockapalooza pligg; I have finally decided on two sock patterns. I even know which yarns I'm going to use.

A number of people said that they really liked the Snowflake Lace socks, so they emerged a definite winner. For these, I think I will order some Cascade Fixation (cotton with some elastic content) from the Simply Socks Yarn Company. I like their website, and their selection, so I'd like to try ordering from them. I was thinking either a pale lilac, a light blue, sage green, or this muted plum. And, because I've been wanting to knit Eunny's Bayerische socks and because my sock pal deserves my best effort, I am going to take on the challenge of knitting them. I have a reason for deciding on Brown Sheep Company's Wildfoote sock yarn, but I think that telling would be too revealing. I recently bought some from a LYS, but it's completely the wrong colour (grey, white and pine green). Instead, I was considering Vinca Minor (deep purple), Blueblood Red (a nice, rich red), Peasant Blue or Little Lilac. I guess, if I knit the Snowflake Lace socks in lilac or light blue, I shouldn't knit Bayerische in those colours.

Slowly, but surely, I'm moving closer to actually starting to knit my socks!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My Various WIPs

Yes, I've been busy, busy, busy with school. And, yes, I should be putting together PowerPoint slides for my group presentation tomorrow. But the knitting must go on! I have been knitting and, while I ruminate on sock patterns and yarn for my sock pal, I thought it was past time to show some pictures of my progress. First, here's my progress on the Victoria Tank I've been knitting from the Summer 2004 IK. If I'm good, I may get to the armholes soon!
Then, I swatched for a cute sweater in Keitodama (a Japanese hand knitting magazine) using the sport-weight Frog Tree Alpaca I bought at The Yarn Tree.
I'm always late to the party. The Cardigan for Arwen knit-along is over, but I've just started my own Arwen. I did a gauge swatch and found that my gauge was slightly off. And I wanted a longer cardigan. I ended up doing some calculations and, after studying the pattern, I realised that I could knit the smallest size, but add slightly to the circumference of the cardigan at the sides without affecting the shaping. I'm also going to add about 1 1/2 inches to the length.
This is what I had on May 1st.
And this is what I have now. That's practically the whole back piece, knit with one skein of Cascade 220! I hope this means that the one extra skein of yarn that I bought to lengthen this cardigan will be enough. I love the heathery colour; I can't wait to get to the cabled parts! I don't mind mindless stockinette stitch sometimes, and the yarn is a nice one to work with, but the the back piece really is just a rectangle.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

More Mess

Because dirty fieldwork clothing that she had left (on the floor) in the laundry room had begun to stink, my roommate took a day off work on Wednesday, "to catch up on things." I hoped against hope that that would include some housecleaning.It turned out to include just laundry. Weeks and weeks of laundry that she must have been hiding away in her bedroom. From around 9 a.m. to past midnight. No housecleaning. Instead, here is the turtle station, with more used cotton swabs and dirty paper towels strewn all over the place. She squeezes herself in there to check e-mail, but it doesn't occur to her to clean some of that up!
And, on the other side, more piles of field equipment. I suggested that maybe she could move things out to the porch, since the weather has warmed up considerably. Apparently, that's not acceptable because she doesn't want to contaminate the wild turtles with anything her pet turtles might be carrying. Great. And it's okay to contaminate the house, the carpet, the kitchen? (The doorway to the kitchen is right next to the turtle stand.)

The First Cut

I think I've narrowed down my choices to two patterns for each pair of socks. For the wool socks, I think it's either going to be Eunny's Bayerische.................. .....or Cookie A's Baudelaire. For both these socks, I think the lovely, textured stitches would show up best with either a solid or heathered yarn, don't you?
And, for the cotton pair, it will either be the Rainy Day Socks (with the changes in yarn weight and gauge I mentioned before).......
......or this pair of Snowflake Lace socks. I think this pair would be nice with a subtly variegated yarn in a single hue. I'm still considering which cotton yarn would be good. Perhaps something with bamboo, as one, kind reader suggested. I think it's supposed to have anti-bacterial qualities; a good thing for a pair of summer socks, n'est-ce pas?
Thank you, everybody, for your comments!!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Look What I Found!

This post could also have been titled, "Manifestations of Stress." My roommate is stressing me out so much, it's giving me grey hairs. Or, in this case, white hairs. Two of them.

I found them, near the part of my hair in the front, this morning. Below is photo documentation. And, in case you were wondering: I'm Chinese, I have never dyed or permed my hair, and I'm 25.

Too Many Choices

Some sock pals, I know, have selected their pattern, bought the yarn, and have started knitting their socks already. I'm not out of the gate yet. I haven't even gone into the gate yet!

Here's what I'm thinking. My sock pal lives somewhere in the South. Although, through stalking her on her blog, I know that it snowed there this past winter, and she regularly knits woolen socks for herself, I can't help thinking that, perhaps, some cotton socks wouldn't go amiss, so that she can wear them as soon as she receives them in August. But then, wool socks just feel more loving, don't they?

So, I've been considering making two pairs of socks for my sock pal. One pair in wool, for when winter comes round again, and one pair in cotton, for immediate enjoyment. Below are all the patterns I'm considering, in black and white so your comments aren't influenced by the colour. First up are the wool sock possibilities.

These are the Best of Show socks from the book Socks Socks Socks. After seeing a pair of similar socks that Eunny knit, I've been wanting to knit something like this. But I'm a very slow colour knitter......and with the strands, the socks would be much thicker and warmer. Possibly a disadvantage in this situation. I don't know if my sock pal likes to go skiing! I've also been anxious to try knitting a pair of socks, any pair of socks, designed by Cookie A., because they are so spectacular. This pattern is called Baudelaire.
And here's a pair of socks designed by Eunny herself, Bayerische. Aren't they lovely?
Another, more complex pattern by Cookie A., the Pomatomus socks.
Queen of Cups by Nathania Apple.

And next are the cotton sock possibilities. I really think a pair of lacy socks would be best.

Leaf Socks, in Socks Socks Socks. Overkill, perhaps?
Feather and Fan socks, also in Socks Socks Socks.

Snowflake Lace socks, by Melanie Berney. I like this pair's delicate simplicity.
And this pair of Reptilian Lace socks, by Sivia Harding. The white dots you can see winding their way down the front are beads!!
Rainy Day socks, designed by Yuliya Sullivan. Aren't they cute? I think they're written as indoor socks, so the gauge is looser, with thicker yarn. I might need to change that for a tighter gauge and thinner yarn, to make a more durable pair of socks for regular use.
And last, but not least, Falling in Love socks, by Anniken Allis. My concerns with this pattern are that the foot looks a little baggy (but that is easily fixed), and I'm not sure how well the leg of the sock would stay up, because there isn't any ribbing.
I would appreciate any comments, because I still need to buy/order my yarn before I can start knitting! I've pretty much decided that I will go with solid colours, or very subtly variegated or heathered yarns in a single hue. But, oh, which pattern? Should I be ambitious and knit two pairs?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Catching up

I've been having problems with my laptop, a VAIO, all semester. It's been blue-screen-of-deathing me a lot. I was hoping it would hold out until the end of the semester. Then, I was planning to work my backside off over the summer to get if fixed. Until the end of the semester, though, I couldn't afford to be weeks (or even just a couple of days) without it. I had GIS labs I needed to do, papers to write, researchers to correspond with.

Of course, Murphy's Law states that, if you just can't do without your dear laptop, it will decide to die on you. Right after staying up all night working on a paper, in fact. It made a strange popping noise, the screen turned black, and I couldn't get it to turn on again, even the next day.

This threw me into a positive panic. I had to work on a group paper. Already, another member of my group (unhappy with me because I was 1 day late handing in my section the last time) had told my advisor (who also happens to be director of our programme) that I was working outside of school. Since I'm a graduate student on an assistantship, this was a serious accusation, and I was called in to my advisor's office. Anyway, it meant that I just could not be without a computer. So, I went out to BestB** and bought a desktop. What was my reasoning? I was still determined to get my laptop fixed, after I had some money, and time, and had someone recover some data off of the hard drive for me. A lot of people don't know this, but there are an awful lot of hazardous metals and other materials used in the manufacture of computer parts. Dismantling and recycling computers is a toxic business which, unfortunately, the U.S. tends to foist off onto developing countries. There, children work in factories without any safety precautions, dismantling and handling these products. My laptop still has all the functions I need when I'm on the go. I don't need fancy sound or video cards or anything like that. If it can get fixed, I'll keep on using it.

On the other hand, my brother always tells me that my laptop isn't suited to constant, prolonged use. That's what a desktop is for. I didn't get one in college because I was moving around so much, but I figured that I could get one now. I used up my emergency savings to buy a Gateway. I don't know if you've ever been in the position where you've used up your emergency savings, but let me tell you something; it's not a nice feeling. With the way things have been going for me lately, I'm waiting for the next blow to fall.

All that aside, though, I am very pleased with my new computer. I got a nice, flat, widescreen monitor; a desktop with lots more hard-drive space and a 13-in-one memory card reader (so I can still just plug in my memory sticks to get pictures off of my digital camera); Windows Vista (still withholding judgment on that one); and an all-in-one Lexmark printer that will scan, copy and print. I didn't need a new printer, but it came free with the computer and, now that I have it, I think I'll enjoy having a scanner to play with.

Of course, the next part in the computer saga was the wireless internet card. At first, I bought the USB wireless card that the salesperson recommended. I brought it home and installed the software before I realised how poorly-conceived its design was. It's so wide that, if you try and insert it into one of the USB ports on the back of your CPU, it won't fit in if there's another USB device plugged in next to it. Since most mice, printers and other peripherals these days are USB, chances are that you will have another device plugged in the back. If you try and put the USB wireless card in one of the USB ports on the front of the CPU, it's so long that you're very likely to catch it and rip it out soon.

I returned it, and bought a PCI wireless adaptor instead. They wanted $40 dollars for installation, so I figured, "What the heck, I'll install it myself. It didn't look that hard when my brother did it." Famous last words!! Well, after about 2 hours, I finally had it working properly.
That's caught you up on my computer woes. I do sincerely hope that they're over!! Today, I also caught up on some cooking. I haven't done any real cooking, and have been living off of leftovers and sandwiches, for over a week. Today, in between my housecleaning, I made tortilla soup (with a recipe from Cook's Illustrated) and jam-filled muffins (from Beth Hensperger's book, Muffins). It's the first time I've used jalapenos and chipotles in my own cooking, but it made the kitchen smell wonderful!! I even toasted my own tortilla chips, instead of buying a bag of them.
The muffins were simple, too. You fill the bottom third of the tin with batter, put in a heaping teaspoonful of jam or jelly (I used apple jelly), and then fill the cup up to the rim.
Apparently, there's some technique involved. The jelly leaked out the sides in some of my muffins. Next time, when I'm filling the muffin tin, I'll have to make not to leave any spaces right around the jelly. They taste great, though!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bloggers rule!

Did I ever tell you that I absolutely a-dore the blogging community? I couldn't figure out how to make the Sockapalooza button on my page link to the Sockapalooza blog with the new Blogger format, so I typed in a whole long string of words on my search engine.

Coming across this site led me then to BlogU, a.k.a. Blogger University. I have so much to learn, but it's reassuring to know that there are people out there who actually know what they're doing. Thank you, thank you a million times!

So, yes, the button now works. Click away!

Sock Tales

Now that I've joined my first sock exchange, it has caused me to reminisce a bit about how I came to this point. Although I wouldn't classify myself as a new, beginner sock knitter, I haven't knit all that many pairs of socks since my first pair four years ago. Actually, it's been something like a pair a year. I learned to knit in grade school; my mother taught my sister and me the basics of a long-tail cast on, and knit and purl.

I knit an ugly yellow teddy bear. I don't know what happened to it. In high school, I knit a scarf for charity (the most difficult thing attempted was some bobbles), and had my first experience teaching others to knit. Imagine that! I barely knew anything myself!

The first time I approached knitting seriously was in college, especially in my senior year. I was taking 21 credits and writing my honors thesis, and sometimes it seemed I skirted the edge of insanity. Knitting was my sane-time.

Through books borrowed from the local public library, I taught myself how to knit in the round with dpns and circular needles and how to do colour knitting with yarn in both hands. I experimented with cables and lace and shaping. I also learned how to knit socks.

This pair of creamy white socks - following the Aran Sandal Socks pattern (by Lori Gayle) in the book Socks Socks Socks - is my first pair of socks. There were plenty of pretty, and perhaps simpler, sock patterns in that book, but my imagination was caught by the beautiful textures in this pair. Maybe I needed something that would completely occupy my mind, so that I wouldn't be stressing out. Maybe I thought, "Hey, what's one more thing to stress out and rip my hair out over?"
With this pair of socks, I learned the basics of sock construction. I learned about short rows (although I think I still have a lot to learn about them), I turned a heel, knit a toe, and learned to knit backwards from the right needle to the left so that I could see the right side of my knitting all the time as I knit the patterned heel flap. (That's a picture of the instep, below.)
I was very pleased with my first pair of socks, and gave them to Moocow for Christmas. She's never worn them. Do you know how they have been used? As cushions over her bed's headboard posts, so they wouldn't scratch the wall. What's a girl to do?

Several years later, I knit a pair of socks for my father. They were brown, and perhaps not from the best sock yarn. I still hadn't caught the sock-knitting bug yet. I also bought some self-patterning sock yarn from Knitpicks, because I was curious, and knit a pair of socks for my aunt.

Recently, I learned to knit socks on two circular needles. I love the ease of the technique! Other things came up, but I finished my pair of socks, and have knit a third sock with the same yarn (the Plymouth Sockotta has great yardage) for my LYS to serve as a store sample. I've decided that I really don't like self-patterning yarn. I needed to buy sock yarn that day for the class, and I liked the colours. I'm just not that fond of the effect. Variegated and self-striping yarns are fine, but I feel that self-patterning yarns lack creativity. Or, perhaps I'm just not very creative in my use of them.

Well, I've kind of had my revenge on Moocow. I brought her along with me to Eastside Weavers, where she bought some sock yarn that she's fallen in love with, and I've taught her the two-circular-needle technique. I think she's hooked now, too!

Now, I'm looking at potential sock patterns for my sock pal when I should be doing school work. Perhaps a lacy sock pattern, with beads?