Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

I honor our fallen every day. I honor their families, who are grieving. I honor the soldiers who are still fighting and their families who are waiting for them to come home. My family has its own fallen to grieve today. We have our own loved ones who came home safe from Iraq very recently, and we rejoice in their safety while at the same time we are sad because they came home wounded in ways we can not see or ever understand. We are still waiting, hopefully, for others, who say that they will not come home until the very last of "their own" have returned safely, and we honor that choice. That's what family does.

I do not now, nor have I ever supported this war. I do not honor the men in power who chose to wage it from afar, using honorable young men and women as cannon fodder. And I think that's all I have to say about that. This poem is one I post every year because it just says it better.

Dulce Et Decorum Est
Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A week of living dangerously

It was a week of houseguests, playing hooky from work, ballgames, eating in restaurants every day and fiber therapy. It was a week in which I totally blew my yarn diet and my budget and I am so totally not sorry!

My houseguests and I went out to eat a lot, like you do, and this week I discovered the delights to be had at mi ranchito on Washington Blvd. in Culver City. This was a really cute little place that is deceptively small looking on the outside but quite large and comfy inside. Some of the best Mexican I've had in LA, Veracruz style so heavy on the seafood. I've heard people complain that the portions are small but c'mon, Americans supersize everything and I definitely walked out of there more than sated without feeling stuffed to discomfort. I've been driving past this place since about 2001 and wondering if we should try it. I wish I'd gone sooner. I know I'll be back.

I also introduced everyone to my favorite breakfast spot, Sam and Woody's or the S&W as everyone around here calls it. The linked post has some awesome pictures - I didn't have my camera so can't offer up the eye candy. Suffice it to say, if you ever go, get Sam's Hashbrowns and an order of homemade hash, you won't be sorry.

I visited the Fluevog store. I did not buy these:
though I was sore tempted and they do have lay-away. These just beg for gloves, a vintage looking tea gown and hat to wear out for a nice cuppa and some cakes, don't they? Did I mention they come in black? shoes. [video link contains bad words and shoes]

I bought some Noro Cash Iroha at A Mano Yarn Center while I was waiting for the shuttle to the ballgame.
I'm not sure what I'm going to make but I have 3 skeins so maybe some cute little mitts.

The postman also brought me some roving from Zero Markers

And then the UPS man brought me a new bbq grill that I'd ordered off of last week. When Mr. YP moved out in January, he took our old gas grill with him. I didn't mind, it was old and HUGE (too large for our patio) and I hated dealing with the huge tanks of propane that you had to wrestle with periodically. So I got this cute little apartment sized number:

It is the Weber Q100 and it's very cute. Small and I have to get used to cooking on it because the grill part is cast iron and heats up quickly, and the flame is closer to the grill than I'm used to. I think it looks like a little spaceship.

I got it all set up on the patio and had a bit of a panic about the propane. That was something that the ex Mr. YP always dealt with and I was a little iffy about hooking it all up. Seriously there was this total Man+Meat+Fire mythos going on at our place, ever since the time I set the patio fence on fire while forgetting about some chicken. So actually buying a grill, assembling said grill, getting the right propane for the grill and working up the courage to deal with it was somewhat of a major triumph for me. Then I had this thought. OMGFIREBALLSwhat if it leaked??? I put the canister on twice and then took it back off and decided to order takeout before I worked up the courage to actually turn the grill ON. Once I got it on, I felt a little more confident about the whole meat+fire thing. Then I turned some sausages to charcoal and had to eat leftovers.

Obviously, there's a little more finetuning needed with meat+fire. But at least my bbq grill is cute, right? And the patio fence did not go up in flames, which I think is a definite improvement.

I am so back on the budget and redoubling my efforts at frugal fu. We are Chez Beans And Rice for a while, alas.

And last but not least, apparently, flying in England really will give you bees.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I promised pictures and a recap. But it would take too long. I sum up. There was yarn, there were Dodger dogs, there were nachos and there were a lot of knitters. Also, hello, my name is Inego Montoya. You killed my fa..... er. Never mind. I digress.

I have never been so excited about anything in all my born days as I was excited to have both a Dodger dog and nachos with toxic yellow cheese. Perhaps someday I will learn moderation, but last night was not it. It is very hard to knit with toxic cheese in one's lap, I will say.

I was sitting next to this lady during the game and she got a picture of me over at her blog, blogging my nachos. It was a very silly night. I guess that's what you happen when you get a couple hundred knitters up so high the oxygen is thin, give them free knitting swag and then pump them full of nitrates and overpriced beer.

tiny men in tights
Baseball players are very tiny.

I am very shiny. Please note, finished Baudelaires. Finally. Since like, last year. They're done. I'm the worst. knitster. evar. I swear.

A lot of knitters. A very steep incline. I didn't get a picture, but there was a security guard standing next to me saying to one of his buddies, "Oh yeah. Tonight, I got the EASY section. I got the KNITTERS." to which I say, "Oh honey. You have NO idea."

And our lovely hostesses who have the mostesses (yarn), the A Mano ladies!

I have to confess that I didn't catch too much of the game, I was having too much fun watching what was going on around me with all the knitters in the stands. But I caught some. We won, yay Dodgers! I had such a blast and am totally going next year. Yay!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stitch n Pitch was not horrible or lonely at all! I met a "buddy" for the night, someone who was also there solo and I think we were both relieved to have someone to talk to and laugh with at everything that was going on around us. I shouldn't be so afraid of people, so consumed with shy, but I am sometimes. This was really pushing the boundary for me but I'm pleased that I did. It feels like a little personal victory. I chatted a little bit with some of the other knitters on the shuttle and I really think I need to start getting out to the A Mano events more often. What a great group of knitters. I have pictures. And a recap. I just have to get them off my camera.

I finished my Baudelaires! You may recall that I was one repeat and some ribbing from finishing the second sock when I LOST the first sock. And there was much gnashing of teeth and maybe I hurled the unfinished sock into my Project Gulag bag and bitterly said some shocking bad words. And the other night when I was going through some boxes of old family pictures, I discovered the first Baud in an unexpected place and there was much rejoicing and also some more bad words while I tried to find the #4 'working' dpn that had NOT been hurled into Project Gulag with the sock but maybe used as a hairstick instead. Dpn was located and the Baud sock went to the Dodger game with me.

I was sitting directly behind Crazy Aunt Purl! I did not actually attempt to engage said knitter in conversation because I knew that if I did, I'd just squeak something like bees! at her.

What I wanted to say was, "Wow, it's so crazy cool to be sitting behind you! I am so excited about your book, go you! And thank you for your gift of writing because it is so comforting and helpful. There seems to be a little parallelism of structure with the too many cats, wine, divorcee thing, and I take a lot of reassurance from what you have to say some days. I have enjoyed your blog so much! Also, bees!"

Instead, I think I made a joke about nachos.

Go me. My celebrity fu is obviously still going strong.

Recap and PEEKTURES, hasta pronto.

Friday, May 18, 2007

There is much squee. I can has a cheezbuger have a ticket to Stitch n Pitch! I'd pretty much decided I wasn't going to be able to afford to go, but then today I got a "last chance!" email from A Mano Yarn Center and decided what the hell, I'd dip into the cat food fund and go knit at the ballgame. So next Tuesday will find me on the shuttle with a bunch of knitters from all over LA. This is somewhat terrifying because for all that I'll be on a bus full of knitters and I am acquainted with at least the gals at A Mano, I am basically going "alone." I'm not going with a friend and I don't know if I'll have anyone to talk to when all is said and done. It might be lonely and horrible. Well most likely it will not be horrible, but it might be lonely. And that scares me a little. Then again, it'll be a lot of knitters and Stitch n Bitch ladies and the wonderful A Mano gals, and it might not be lonely. Maybe it will be a jolly social time. I don't know. It's a risk. Going out is risky. I hate going places alone. I like to take a friend, but the sad thing is that I really don't have any local knitting friends who would want to go. The LA freeway system is a very isolating thing. It's like, if I have to drive there and take a freeway? Forget it. Also, what if nobody likes me or I say something stupid about bees? Better to stay home, at least, that's what I often tell myself, here comes the whaaaaambulance.

This could quite possibly be a self defeating attitude on my part.

Anyway. Stitch n Pitch. I am going and I am going to attempt to finish That Damn Painter's Scarf at the game. I think I will bring along a back up project or two just in case.

My children have a shiny new copy of Guitar Hero courtesy of Grandpa who was visiting earlier this week, and I am wondering if I'll ever have peace and quiet and the opportunity to sit on the sofa and listen to knitting podcasts ever again. 5 point surround sound is not always your friend. This is the same grandparent who bought them each shiny new kazoos when they were younger. I begin to wonder if there is perhaps an ulterior motive that I am missing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Second Verse, Same As The First

The first LL sock is done! So now I start the second, but have decided to do the toe in the Iris Garden LL and then the body in the violet colored Cherry Tree Hill yarn that I did the contrasting toe in on the first sock so that they're matching but opposite. Sort of. That is to say, almost but entirely unlike, er, tea. Er. Right then. Hey, it's been a long day slinging coffee to the illiterate masses. LA is apparently full of people who don't read and then a few surly baristas who are sleep deprived and cranky because they routinely stay up too late reading. I'm just annoyed because nobody guessed any of the answers to my literary trivia questions this week and am thinking that on Monday I'll simply put up something like, "In the popular novel See Spot Run, what was the name of the dog?" and see if anyone can guess that.

I've renewed my willingness to deal with That Damn Painter's Scarf and so have been putting in a few repeats here and there with some television watching. Sometimes, wanting to get something the hell OFF the needles and OUT of your knitting bag already because you're sick of looking at it and feeling guilty, that is better incentive than being all fuzzy and excited about knitting it in the first place.

I'm wondering if this lack of long term attention span is why I haven't yet finished a single sweater?

I should start the ADD Knitters Webring.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Frugal Fu Chez Yarn Pirate

Ever been on the food stamp program? Oregon's gov did just that for a week. There've been a lot of articles written about it, but this one I'm noting because of the comments, not the content. Why the hell do people think that folks on food stamps shouldn't be allowed to get "luxury items" like a thing of cookies or a bottle of soda water? I mean come ON. I was on food stamps once about 12 years ago. I tried really hard to economize, get the healthiest food I could, and frankly, I had kids, they liked cookies, so we'd get some. In addition to our veggies, our milk, our cheese, our grain food and our cheapest cuts of meat in the store. Sometimes, sure, I'd stick a few convenience foods in our cart as well. If I did, invariably I'd get nasty looks at check out, as people judged me for using food stamps for "luxuries." What always bugged me was that anyone thought they had a moral right to do so. A moral right, even imperative, to judge whether or not I and my kids were worthy of foods that were luxurious by their standards. Yeah, not so much with that. That still bugs me. The comments on that article really brought that experience back to me. I think what the gov did was important and good and I hope he keeps bringing attention to the matter long term.

I'm not on food stamps now, there but for the grace of god. I'm making it. But I am trying to economize, deeply. In light of the recent information that came out about melamine tainted wheat and rice in feed given to our meat animals. I've really cut down my meat intake and gone to organic as much as possible. We've done organic produce and dairy for a long time now, I'm just stepping it up. Organic is expensive, y'all and suddenly I'm on the food budget from hell. So here's what I've discovered for myself.

Here in CA, Niman Ranch meat products are available at Trader Joes. Good stuff, yo. They carry organic whole chickens, too. I also check out the meat counter at Whole Foods for bargains if I'm in the area and check the butcher at the Fairfax Farmer's Market where I work - I can have a discussion with him about where the meat I'm eating is coming from and I trust him to know his suppliers. Trader Joes also has a lot of reasonable organic dairy options, milk, half and half, cheese, eggs, butter, etc. Also soymilk and tofu. If I can't afford organic in a given week, and that does happen sometimes, I at least look for dairies that dont' use rBST - it's usually labeled that way. That's my compromise. I'm slowly working switching out to organic grain items as I happen upon them.

A lot of my frugal fu relies heavily on Trader Joes. If you don't have one, look around for a food co-op or reasonable health food store, but I don't know what else to tell you for those things because I've never tried to do this when I didn't have a TJ's close to hand.

These are some tips I've gleaned from various sites that I found really helpful.

1. If you can, buy in bulk. I don't have a lot of room and because my ghettofabulous building has a roach issue, I can't keep bags of food around. I also have a small beige menace cat who gets into everything. Therefore, bulk is a limited option for me. Most health food stores have bulk food sections though, for folks with room, no bugs and cats wot obey the rules of the house.

2. Shop local farmer's markets. The majority of the vendors are organic at mine, and it's all local food, at least "local" within 200-300 miles. It isn't always cheaper than the market, but the quality is higher and it's fresher. No farmers market on a day you can get to? Try a CSA if you have one available.

3. Eat what's in season. It costs more to ship food from Chile in December, after all. You'll save money, I promise.

4. Eat less. Seriously. Eat less. It seems like culturally we're in the habit of having these massive plates of food when we sit down. Lately we've been eating smaller portions at mealtimes. We're feeling better and wasting a lot less food. Nobody is going hungry. Frequent mini meals rock. I have to eat a wide variety of foods frequently because of my hypoglycemia. The other benefit of this one is, it makes the organic stuff go farther because you're eating less per sitting and mixing it up a little over the course of the day, which makes it all last longer.

5. Convenience foods. Er. yeah. Most frugal tips sites tell you not to use them. Well the freezer section of Trader Joe's is my friend and they have convenience foods that are tasty and frozen (sometimes even organic!) and I know I'd save money if I didn't buy them. I still buy them. I just buy what I can afford IF the money is there to have treats and when they're gone, they're gone. We don't get more until the next planned shopping trip, if there's money there for treats. But um, yes, it's good financial fu to avoid them. I'm told.

These are good ideas that I've read can save you money that I DON'T do at the moment, but might try to incorporate.

1. Track leftovers. Keep a list on the fridge of what's in there, the date it was made, and then EAT THEM.

2. Plan menus. I used to do this. I don't right now. These days, I just keep staple items on hand and rotate the produce and meats according to what's available and looks good at the FM. I'm not noticing a huge difference in my budget between planning menus and planning *staples* but the way I cook has changed too, drastically, from when I was married.

3. Check out Asian, Middle Eastern and Latino markets if you can. Produce, legumes, grains, spices, these can all be way cheaper and of even better quality than you might find at say, Ralphs.

The most important things I've done to get a handle on my finances overall lately have been tracking my spending, keeping my checkbook up to date in Quicken, and paying myself first every payday, so that my emergency fund is slowly growing and we have a buffer. I don't really have a budet yet. My plan is to do the tracking for 6 months and then see what Quicken has to say about it.

I like these websites for money fu:
Rebecca's Pocket has a good series on eating organic on a food stamp budget. Really enjoying that one.
I like The Hillbilly Housewife and just skip the religious overtones - it's a good site for useful tactics. I take some and I leave some. It's all adaptable.
I like Get Rich Slowly for just about everything, including some food related links.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Eve's Red Hat. Or more likely, Eve's Red Scarf, which is to say, one skein of El Dorado in the Red Hat colorway from Lisa Souza who always rocks the dyepot and makes me break my yarnfast. This is going to be a nifty scarf for a good friend, in luxe fiber because she deserves the best.

eve's red hat

This is my roving of the month selection from Spunky Eclectic, some corriedale all done up to look like spring strawberries:
strawberry fields fiber club

It looks delicious. I can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

The oldest wanted to help me model the LL sock. I just got to the ribbing and can't wait to cast it off and finish the other:
sock model

If you look carefully, you can see her birthday lip ring. Yeah. Scared of the lip action personally, so I'm thinking about doing an industrial. They're kind of nifty looking. Isn't that the way it goes? Big life change, get a piercing?

That. Damn. Painter's. Scarf.
damn scarf

Still. Not. Done. But getting there.

And last but not least, my new wheels:
pink bike

Sweet. I got a great deal on it, its' only a few month's old, custom built pink beach cruiser (alas, no fenders) with basket and squeaky dinosaur.

I have so much that I want to write about and I'm SO damn tired, I can't think. Some of the topics include:

1. Money. I'm saving some. I have financial goals. I'd like to share them.
2. School. I'm going there.
3. Work. People still tip for shit but it's getting better and I am making great latte art which I should put pictures of up here.
4. Whacky and amusing kid stories. It's like, All Gilmore Girls Moments All The Time around here lately.

I'm afraid that the teller at my bank thinks that I'm a stripper, what with my wads of crumpled one dollar bills that I keep bringing her every few days.

I'll write about that more later I guess.