Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More knitting endorphins.

I said I would show what I'm making with the beautiful MANOS del URUGUAY Cotton Stria yarn. If you're interested keep reading, if you "could care less," go stalk somebody on Facebook.

Again, keep in mind this color is not a great representation. I tried to change what looked like baby blue to the real color, a bright, happy, summer-day turquoise. Now it looks like something psychedelic from the '60s. No hallucinogens needed.

This is a new stitch for me--it's an elongated, airy stitch created by doing multiple yarn-overs between regular stitches.

This photo at least shows the texture and color variation in the yarn. I'm using the stitch pattern from a free Berroco online pattern for a wider scarf ("Fascinate")  to make myself a narrower one. I'm hoping to have plenty of yarn to make a cute little tam out of the same type of open stitch. We shall see.

Cast on loosely the number of stitches you want for width--mine's about 30 stitches on size 10 straight needles, making it about 7 inches wide. My yarn is heavier than the one used in the pattern and has more texture, but it's still a great look.

The stitch pattern goes like this:

Row 1: (Right Side) Knit.
Row 2: Knit.
Row 3: Knit 1, Yarn-over twice, Knit 1, yarn-over twice, keep repeating till you hit the end of your row, ending with the knit 1.
Row 4: Knit 1, drop the yarn overs, knit 1, drop the yarn overs, and repeat, again ending with the knit 1.
(that was the interesting new bit for me--took me a few repeats to get the hang of it without dropping things I did not intend to drop.)

Repeat these 4 rows till you have the scarf long enough for the look you want. The Berroco pattern calls for 66 inches. It all depends on how long you want the scarf to look on you (or whoever) and if you like it doubled and the ends stuck through, or just hanging with a half knot.

Once you get the hang of the whole yarn-over and dropping business, it's a relaxing and simple pattern to knit while watching a movie. I'd just hold off on the buttered popcorn. Icks up the yarn.

Skimmer's Recap: Yup, I'm a wild thing--just tried a new knitting stitch. Feeling a little mavericky.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Knitting endorphins.



Any of a group of peptide hormones that bind to opiate receptors and are found mainly in the brain. Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain and affect emotions.


I've never been one to get an endorphin rush from running/biking/mountain climbing/skydiving--mainly because I lack the drive  to get out of the starting gate, let alone the endurance to reach that awesome endorphin high I've read about. And yet, according to the definition above, I've been an endorphin junky from the start. Since childhood, I've found creating, thinking about creating, collecting ideas for creating, all create me a happy place. That's a place with positively affected emotions that over-rule mental, emotional, or physical pain, without the nasty side effects of an opiate.  And knitting is only one of the forms of creating I enjoy.

Perhaps I should market a bumper sticker that says, "I Knit for Endorphins." It could catch on.

One of my favorite things about searching the WorldWideInterWeb is seeing this sort of thing pop up:

Find Endorphins
Huge savings on Endorphins: Browse a large selection 
& grab a bargain!

In all honesty, I would love to "browse a large selection of endorphins and grab a bargain" but you and i both know, does not carry them. So why tease me?

Anyway, back to knitting and endorphins, I bought some beautiful yarn when I was in Alabama,

at the store below, "In the Making." Great name, eh? The yarn is really a bright, beachy turquoise, but apparently there are limits to my iPhone's photo capabilities.

And once inside the store,

the sight alone of bins full of yarn starts the endorphins rolling for me. 

The particular yarn I purchased has a great story as well--

for beyond its cool name and tag, there's a great back-story to the yarn. The company is MANOS del URUGUAY, which means Hands of Uruguay. It's a "non-profit organization that assembles over 400 artisans in cooperatives scattered throughout the countryside of Uruguay. The aim of the organization is to bring economic and social opportunities to rural women." The yarn is hand dyed in large kettles, creating the striated effect.

I think life is hard if my economic status says I need to cut back on my lattes, and here's a company making an amazing product that is helping women even have an economic status.

I wish the photos could show the reality of the color, texture, and marble-like shading.  The yarn is a Peruvian cotton of wonderful softness. It came in a hank, typical of the nicer (translate: "spendier") yarns. When initially untwisted from the hank it looks like that first picture above, a big loop of loveliness. (And in a new experience, these hanks were tied with the devil's own knot--likely offered to me by God in the interest of teaching me that I may need patience, even in my happy place.)

For actually knitting, an evenly wound ball is much better to pull from and less tangly, so you use one of these:
a yarn swift,
and one of these:
a ball winder, to make these,

lovely cakes of yarn, with the yarn pulling from the inside all neatly and efficiently.

In case you don't know what swifts and winders are, here's a quick explanation. The swift (which looks, I realize, like a badly designed umbrella) serves as the hands to hold the opened hank of yarn so it doesn't tangle--while the winder turns and rolls the yarn into the adorable (yet sadly inedible) cake. The  "real" type of yarn store (one that is all about the fibers and doesn't really offer non-fiber related products and has a cool fiber-related name) usually has the swift and ball winder on hand so they can do it for you if you don't have the equipment at home. Me? I love gadgets. My winder is a simple hand crank while the ones at yarn stores usually use power. Mine was cheaper, and surely cranking by hand must burn off a calorie or two as well?

Next time I'll show you what I'm making with this reminiscent-of-a-summer-day yarn, just in case you're interested.

But getting back to the endorphins, I think I can use knitting--all parts of it from the yarn store to the finished product--as natural pain relief and more balanced emotions. Shouldn't that make it payable by my insurance? Hmm... I need to check into that.

Where do you "browse" for endorphins? What's your endorphin-high of choice? And let's keep it legal, and not too embarrassing, okay? ;-D

Skimmer's Recap: i browse for MY endorphins at the yarn store!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adventures in gluten-free baking.

I have a friend who also loves to write, and we like to get together for tea (she has gorgeous china.) She also has celiac disease. She's not one to adventure into the land of alternate flours and fussy baking while I love to, especially so we can share a treat with our tea. And if you are experimenting, nobody blames you if it doesn't turn out perfectly, right?

Personally, I had no idea how many foods and condiments had wheat in them. Like soy sauce! Silly me, I always assumed it was made of soy. And my family disagrees with any attempt I make to use a Lesser Noodle than one made from wheat flour since the alternatives have a Funny Texture.

My friend has seen the extent to which wheat rules the Western world, as she can't even eat at some restaurants like Texas Roadhouse (to which I always want to add the word "massacre") because everything has something wheat about it, even the marinades. So bringing pleasure to a friend with a sweet tooth? Right up my alley!

Know anyone with a gluten issue? Here is my more than acceptable recipe for:


1 Cup Sweet Sorghum Gluten-free flour
1/4 Cup White Rice flour
4 Tablespoons Agave Sweetener 
1/2 Cup room temperature, softened butter

the how-to:
MIX all ingredients until fluffy
PAT dough into 5 inch x 8 inch rectangle on rice-floured counter 
     (if the dough is too sticky, sprinkle rice flour on top of the dough to pat)
CUT into 12 fingers. I like to use my pizza cutter, and usually I feel the need
     to poke a design into the cookies with a fork. Makes me feel all bake-y.

See? Pizza cutted. And fork poked. And very irregularly shaped.

BAKE at 325 F for 20 minutes. I'm assuming you know to put the unbaked
     cookies onto a baking pan first.
COOL on pan before removing, since these cookies are very tender and 
     fragile (like me) before cooled.
Remove gently, eat, enjoy.

tasty variation:
Substitute 1/2 Cup almond flour for 1/2 Cup of the sorghum. Nice, nutty taste.

Didn't I almost sound like I knew what I was doing? So redemptive in my cooking world.

Skimmer's Recap: Seriously? It has what, like 4 ingredients?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More on "More"

Picking up from my last blog post about reading magazines, I had read one article in my copy of More that didn't entirely cause guilt. It was about a woman who had feared cooking, and had never really even tried cooking. But she decided to learn, and even with fear and trembling became a good cook. I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that, much like the models in the magazine ads, I will never be that person.

Yet hope springs eternal for me in the cooking department. I am always certain I will be able to cook like my grandmother did, never measuring but turning out perfect baked goods and casseroles. More certain for me is the failure waiting at the end of the baking. Again I decided to take a stab at it. Seeing a recipe online that intrigued me, Cornmeal crepes with sausage and egg filling, I decided to try it on for size.

I measured carefully--well, kind of carefully, one of my biggest problems--and made the crepe batter to chill ahead. Since my dear hubby is suffering through a year of the midnight shift and sleeping till around 3 pm, I'm trying to think of meals that appeal to the fresh-out-of-bed person as well as the ready-for-dinner person. And the tiny picture online of the finished recipe looked good. And who doesn't like a good crepe, even perchance a cornmeal one?

After all, aren't crepes just little disks of deliciousness?

Mine? Disk? Maybe amoeba, or paisley run amuck.

Some simply defied description at all...though the second one reminds me of a brain.

They were also every imaginable shade. Kinda like trying to pick a yellow for painting the walls.

The online photo of the recipe was taken from more of a distance. I, however, can't back up far enough for the distance mine require to look good.

But my guys assured me they were very tasty when filled with sausage and eggs and cheese, so I guess I can count it as a Taste Success. Presentation? Fail.

Skimmer's Recap: Possibly my hidden culinary talents are simply buried too deeply to mine.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Is it just me? or: The importance of picking encouragingly titled magazines.

Seriously, I don't know when guilt first got its hold on me, but I do remember feeling guilty as early as kindergarten. The incident? I mixed up the names of two of my fellow five-year-olds.

The reason I bring this up is because I can't even read a magazine without becoming guilt-ridden. I was having a lovely Saturday coffee and magazine morning, reading the July-August copy of More magazine with Kyra Sedgewick, the lovely star of television's The Closer on the cover. 

I'm a pretty polite reader. I start at the first page of a magazine and work my way through to the last page. (I was raised to be polite and not leave anyone out.) I smile to myself as I read something amusing or just interesting: "Japan, where the country's second-largest airline, ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS, announced it would offer designated women-only toilets on its flights." I smile, remembering my last flight where I used the restroom right after one of the pilots, distressed to find he'd left the nasty, heavily used toilet seat up.  

I skim the list of summer reading suggestions, even skimming the full page ad for shoes adjacent. 

The book list makes me talk to myself: Now why are you not writing something? You love to write, you should try to get something published. You spent all that money going to Mount Hermon's Writers Conference, and still you are not writing. What is wrong with you? The shoe ad for Sketcher's Shape-Ups merely causes me to mock, it's gonna take a lot more than a shoe to shape YOU up! 

I look at the page of "must-have" handbags. Again, my Guilt-Voice interrupts. Why do you have all that stuff to make handbags to sell on Etsy and still haven't done it?

I see an ad for feminine protection telling me "What you're wearing is so last year." This at least is a choice I can feel no guilt about, I tell myself, thanks to that handy emergency hysterectomy back when I still wanted to have more kids. Then I notice the "protection" is for bladder leakage. Crap--I really  should be doing those Kegels...

Why do I do this to myself? The article on "This is what 55 looks like," picturing a low-jean wearing lean woman my age(ish) causes me to berate myself for being overweight; the article on women who after 40 started second (and of course incredibly successful) careers farming olives, or organic meats and vegetables, or sheep to sell the fleeces, only serves to make me question my own lack of risk taking and dream following. Even the name of the magazine screams at me: "MORE" i should do more!

For this reason I think I shall avoid magazines named things like "SHAPE" and "SELF." Waaay too much to feel guilty about there.

Skimmer's Recap: When predisposed to feeling guilty about your life, your looks, your health, look for magazines with names like "GOOD ENOUGH."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Alabama bounty.

I've always been a West Coast girl. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, went to school in McMinnville, Oregon, and now live in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

There was one brief stint spent in Vail, Colorado while working as a housekeeper in a hotel. Did I learn to ski? Not so much. The idea of downhill skiing terrified me, so I took a lesson in cross-country skiing. The teacher said, "Wow, I've never had a student fall down so much." Um, thank you? It was much harder and wetter than walking, which I did in abundance, rarely falling down. Thus ended my relationship with skis and poles.

What I'm thinking about while analyzing my choices in coasts and my obvious lack of skiing ability is that I've spent most of my time with plentiful fruits and berries and vegetables. Amazing berries growing wild in the empty lot next door when I was a child (I also tried picking berries for money with a friend, but again, HARD and way too early.) And the nuts? We had two walnut trees growing in our yard that provided so many nuts that my mother became quite creative in their use. I've only been able to face walnuts again in the past 10 years.

California also is an amazing land of plenty, fruit, nut, berry and vegetable-wise. I can casually plant a squash in my flower garden and enjoy fresh squash for months, heck, I've even had volunteer tomatoes grow from the compost I made before I learned not to put anything that might grow from a seed in the mix.  Every street I go down has lemon trees.

But I've always been able to recognize the vegetables.

Aren't these the prettiest things? New to me!

In Alabama we had the pleasure of watching one of my hubby's cousins in action. And I see why I have my own personal energy crisis, since she had her energy, my energy, and possibly the energy of everyone living in a 5 mile radius. She's one of those people I can only sit back and view in awe: in retirement she heads up the local Chamber of Commerce, runs the local farmers market, takes tennis lessons, and in her down time she does HAND SMOCKING on dresses for her granddaughter. And that's only stuff I know about! And in retirement. I've not done that many things total in my life.

Hubby with his cousins, while he semi-patiently waits for me to be
done taking photos with his iPhone since my battery was dead.
It drove him a little crazy, but it's a mighty short trip anyway.

But the bounty of 'Bama! Oh--they have beautiful fruits and vegetables, things I've never seen in person. We went to the farmers market the Monday we were there, and I of course went crazy taking pictures. It was just so colorful, and the actual farmers themselves are the ones selling the produce, and that doesn't happen at home.
Sells honey from his farm, among other things. And only looks
mildly irritated that I'm making him pose. ;-)

Yum. Beautiful produce, and he didn't seem to mind
the crazy lady from California asking him to pose. :-)

Those are the actual farmers themselves--in fact, the market is held in the afternoon just so the farmers can bring their produce. And an extra added bonus? In this lovely small town, people didn't act like I was an escaped mental patient when I talked to strangers!

More produce loveliness:
More new-to-me vegies!

We bought that Ambrosia canteloupe--and that big melon
that looks black? Actually very dark green, and is a Sugarbaby 
(if i remember right) watermelon!

And oh, sweet summer fruit--don't you just want to dive into that
basket of peaches? Juicy wonderfulness...

Skimmer's Recap: OH. YUM. Alabama.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Colors and patterns.

Flying out of the Birmingham airport in Alabama, the sight of miles and miles and miles of green amazed me. Having grown up in Portland, Oregon, land of liquid sunshine and all things green, my spirit is always lifted by the sight of green growing things.

A swath was cut through the miles of lush, green trees--but what was it? From where I sat, far above, it looked for all the world like a casual path cut by a lawnmower through the green. On closer squinting, (these eyes aren't what they used to be,) I could see cars were traveling along a swath of highway.

Coming into Denver looked less like plush grass carpet and more like a crazy quilt, beautiful in a different way. Both places have an expansiveness not seen in the Bay Area where houses touch houses touch other buildings touch--you get the idea.

On the leg from Denver to Oakland, CA, I was part of a real-time demonstration of that whole Mars/Venus difference between men and women. The young man next to me (and mind you, "young" means pretty much anything under 50 to me now) asked the flight attendant if he could purchase two glasses of wine at once. She said, "Oh! I don't know if we can do that--let me go ask someone."

After she left I turned to him and said, "Well, you look like you could handle it."

He said, "Yes, I would think so! I weigh two twenty!"

Who but a man would announce that so proudly to a complete stranger?

Our time in Alabama with family was relaxing and fun and we laughed a lot and I got to go to a great yarn store, "In the Making," with my hubby's cousin. And why yes, of course I got a photo of the store.
All those bins of colorful yarns give me a tickle of excitement along with an injection of "I'm in my happy place." Life is good when I'm in a yarn store. A different sort of expansiveness and pattern that makes me smile. 

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Of fibromyalgia and vanity.

Unable as yet to embrace my gray hair, I continue to put myself through the annoying process of home hair color. In hopes of a quick and easy solution, I purchased a different brand than usual. The name, "Perfect 10," was compelling. I mean, 10 minutes away from at least my hair being a perfect 10?

I've often had friends available to do the deed for me while I sit, slipping into a hair-coma. Whether someone is cutting, styling, or even brushing my hair, I get so relaxed I could end up bald and not even care. Never mind that it's much simpler for someone with a view of the top and back of my head to paint my roots.

I launched into the usual scenario--pull out the instructions, put on the plastic gloves, line up the bottles and tubes to be used in proper combination. And all with the promise of only 10 minutes needed to cover those stubborn grays.

10 minutes to do the job, yet an hour later I was still trying to scrub the color from my skin and the area around my eyebrows that now looked like Groucho Marx. I was trying to bleach the color from the sink, the myself seriously raw patches on my face from the scrubbing... *sigh*

Then on to blow-drying my hair, then straightening my hair, because if I do those things it will last for days without doing more than passing a brush through it.

But how does fibromyalgia enter into this picture, you ask? Well, all that holding my arms over my head against the better judgement of my weary muscles leaves me very tired and achy--which can lead to a certain level of personal crabbiness.

Skimmer's Recap: Fibromyalgia and vanity make poor partners.