Sunday, July 30, 2006

paperback rider

paperback rider
Originally uploaded by normanack.
From a pattern in Knitter's Magazine, summer 2006. It calls for a self-striping yarn, which I don't have. I do have lots of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted, so that's what I used.I followed the pattern except for adding three rows of single crochet around the top for stability. This is the bag before felting. It measures 16" x 11" x 4".

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Emily and the lake

Emily and the lake
Originally uploaded by normanack.
The dog who fears water decides it isn't so bad after all.


Originally uploaded by Lee and Robbin.
My cousin caught a lizard and is, I think, keeping it as a pet. He's the kind of guy (my cousin, not the lizard) who doesn't mind being bitten. Look how gently he's holding this little animal. What a guy, huh?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wish We Were There

Originally uploaded by Jozef Andrzej Bossowski.
From a re-enacted battle captured in Jozef Andrzej Bossowski's photostream on flickr. I love computers. I love flickr. I love Jozef Andrzej Bossowski.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Bit of Russian

You'd never know that I took four years of Russian language classes at university by the way I speak or read it now. I was never good enough to read a book or converse easily, but I could negotiate menus and signs and make myself understood on basic topics.

No more. But even lacking the most rudimentary Russian skills, I could enjoy this movie poster for The Matrix. Fun stuff!
(via Inner Bitch)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Knitting Fads, in a Good Way

Funny how, of the crafts I've tried, knitting is the one where we find fads sweeping across knittingdom. It can be a pattern, like the French market bag above, or the Clapotis shawl, both from Or how about Jaywalker socks, developed on a knitting blog and published in The Birch shawl also seemed to be on everyone's needles awhile ago. Some knitting books take on a life of their own: look at Mason Dixon Knitting. MDK is like a bag of potato chips -- you can't make just one project from that book. It has a thriving knit-a-long, and I'm betting that the makers of inexpensive cotton yarn are feeling an upsurge in sales.

I've been involved in quilting longer than knitting, and sure, I saw some fads there, too. Stack 'n Whack comes to mind. And crochet? I don't know the crochet world well enough, although Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'n Bitch: The Happy Hooker seems to have made a splash. It did have her previous books to give it a push (Stitch 'n Bitch, Stitch 'n Bitch Nation).

Are knitters more fad-conscious? Do they form a tighter community, simply more aware of what others are knitting? Or is the whole fad concept just my skewed perception?

On a different level, and without any market analysis to back me up, I'd claim that quilting was (and remains) a big craft phenomenon, growing throughout the 90s and continuing in the 00s. Knitting seems to have taken a bit of the excitement from quilting, and I hear that crochet is poised to take over in turn. But I haven't seen that happen. At my local stores, I see lots more knitting books than crochet. And the magazine market? Tons of quilt titles. A good handful of knits. And only a couple on crochet, and their projects often strike me as poorly thought out.

I'm glad that craft in general has found a renewed popularity. The process of making something both beautiful and useful (broad definitions on both those words) is so deeply satisfying, particularly when the object embodies a bit of our souls. I don't mean originality, exactly, although that's a part of any craft or art. The repetition of what so many others before us have done, the history of the action, also holds meaning. Your grandmother may have crocheted, or maybe Dad's old quilt is hiding in the closet. (Ooh! I should post a picture of my husband's childhood quilt. It rocks.) I love this aspect of craft.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Sand, water, a little bit of wind. These things keep the kids busy all day. My children are relative computer sophisticates, working with photoshop and powerpoint like seasoned pros. World of Warcraft (it's Jason Fox's fault, I swear) glues them to the screen for hours until I pry their hands from the keyboards with a crowbar. But sand, water, and wind win over all.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

How About a Craft?

The urge to create is strong, almost as strong as the urge to eat. I don't have a lot of self-knowledge, but know that I am happiest when creating something with my hands. It started with quilting, then expanded to knitting and recently to crocheting.

There's just something about fiber that appeals to me. It is tactile. While one can touch a painting, that's not what the painting is all about. (Surely there are painters who are all about the touch, but I don't know them.)

Quilting has an obvious visual element, yet remains very tactile in the making. I love running chains of fabric patches through the sewing machine, then blocks, then rows, then sections of the quilt. Maneuvering a large quilt through the sewing machine is nothing if not tactile .

Yet the visual element is huge, much more central to quilting than to knitting or crocheting. I love that about quilts. It reminds me of my favorite part of gardening: taking pictures of the plants that have bloomed for me. The picture makes the garden permanent, taking away the sorrow of time passing and flowers dying.

(My mom has a rather fatalistic attitude about the garden: when the daylilies bloom, summer is basically shot, and goldenrods are the nails in summer's coffin. I try not to view the succession of bloom this way, but don't you think it's scary that my very favorite time of year is just before the crocuses bloom? Then all the flowers are yet ahead of me. Pathetic, I know.)

Oh. The quilt. This is my favorite of the quilts I've made. I designed it for a sunny baby named Molly, whose mother loves brightly colored flowers. To me, this quilt sparkles with the little triangles of flower fabrics splintering off the main blocks. It matches the sparkle of little Molly's spirit and intellect.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fun Stuff for Friday

Klaus Kinski
Actor Klaus Kinski had this to say about director Werner Herzog:

Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep...he should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No panther claws should rip open his throat--that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes and gobble up his balls and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It's no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me.

from a David Jennings web page, David Herzog Quotes
via futuregirl's craft blog

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Independence Day

Yesterday I had the privilege of celebrating Independence Day with an extraordinary group of people. The retired Episcopalian minister (and former bishop) down the street invited some neighbors over along with a handful of friends from his church. Among the gathering were a beekeeper, a retired nurse, an accountant, a web site operator, a Canadian (I know, not an occupation, but I forget what he did for a living) and a stay-at-home mother (me). I struggled to keep up with the conversation, which ranged, naturally, over political issues and the state of our union, as well as its history.
We read the Declaration of Independence and mused over George Washington's character. Immigration was a central topic, and since the entire group had a strong left-leaning bias, the talk was not of halting, but of understanding it. Clearly, the United States promises a better living for the poor who come here illegally, and whose wages sent home (speaking of Mexico here) comprise a major part of their country's economy. Physically stopping them from entering the U.S. is likely impossible, and anyway, it doesn't address the issue of why they come. We agreed that spending our war money on helping Mexico solve its problems might be a better use of our resources, but how we, as individuals, could help brought a silence over the table.
It wasn't until long after the fireworks were over and I lay sleepless in bed that I realized that the answer was, quite literally, at that table. The beekeeper spends his winters on the Arizona-Mexico border picking up litter left by the stream of illegal immigrants. (It's not a small task: the culture of poverty these people live in has little regard for proper trash disposal. Literally tons of it is strewn across the landscape, and it is difficult work to remove it.) The web site run by one of the dinner guests is a clearing house for political action. The retired minister himself worked for years as a mediator, helping local people to solve stubborn disputes too expensive to pursue in court for those involved. The accountant works for an organization that resolves difficult Medicaid coverage cases too expensive for hospitals to pursue themselves.
These people left me humbled. What am I doing to address the problems Americans have with each other and with their world neighbors?
What are you doing?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Fake Flans

Since tasting and loving the flan at Cancun, the local Mexican restaurant, my kids and I have been making it at home.

At bat was a boxed mix from Mexico, about a dollar at the local supermarket:

It was very stiff and yet somehow slimy, and the caramel sauce tasted burnt. We gave it three thumbs down.

On deck was Royal's take on the same thing:

It was smooth and slippery, rather like a pared-down custard. The caramel was dark but sweet, toasty but not burnt. Two thumbs up (my daughter was put off by the texture). I didn't think it was quite rich enough to qualify as flan.

In the hole was a recipe based on eggs and sweetened condensed milk. It was easy to prepare and used ingredients I already had at home (which is why I didn't try the more authentic cream-based recipes -- no cream). I found the recipe at, where it was submitted by Jessica Dezendorf. She says it's a Mexican recipe from the late Iris Perez, and suggests substituting 8 ounces of cream cheese for two of the original 8 eggs, which I did, like this:

Put 6 eggs, 8 ounces cream cheese, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Melt 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a saucepan. I'd never done this before, and my kids and I were amazed by the transformation. It went from this

to this

Pour the melted sugar in a 9-inch round pan, then pour the egg mixture over it.

Bake in a water bath at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 70 minutes. How do you know when it's done? My most trusted source is the folks at Cook's Illustrated. In The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, they state that "if a paring knife halfway between the center and edge . . . comes out clean," the flan is done.
We loved it. It was dense and creamy, nearly like cheesecake. In fact, it was so close to cheesecake that my daughter said, "It's really good. But it's not flan." Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

Next we'll try a cream-based recipe, if I can still get into my jeans.