Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Poinsettia in their natural habitat...

...my front yard.

This bush is taller than me, and the flowers are wilder and tougher looking than they come at the flower shops, where these probably came from some decades ago. Must be all that tender loving care they get around here from me.

I'm still feeling crappy - having this cold over Christmas when I couldn't relax and get well has kicked my butt. We lost one more chicken, but the others seem to be doing a lot better. And no, I still haven't fixed that shower.

Monday, December 19, 2011

sick day

Somewhere between the husband's company party Friday night, the Yule party at the Green Man on Saturday afternoon and the Penthouse Pet of the Year party on Saturday night, I started to feel that tickle of a cold coming on, but I powered through it all anyway. I mean, come on...someday when I no longer live in LA I'd be kicking myself if I passed stuff like that up. Culture Diving is my favorite sport.

Anyway, the guy playing Father Yule at the pagan party had to leave early for another gig playing Santa at the Playboy Mansion, and I took off to clean up and dress up to look like someone who ought to be on the guest list at the Roxbury
. We sipped some free cocktails, watched the flock of cute little Penthouse models run around for a while, then walked home. I love my neighborhood.

Sunday I stayed in jammies and spent the day reading bad novels and drinking hot toddies, and I feel like doing the same today, but this holiday gift just ain't gonna sew itself, and I'm running out of time. Feeling grateful for small gifts, like happening to have two spools of thread in the right color so that I don't have to leave the house. Wish me speed and luck, and the same to you in whatever giftmaking you are indulging in.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stormy Weather

The chicken-lighting experiment is on hold for a while. The entire flock has come down with some sort of nasty respiratory illness, and I lost three of them in three days earlier this week. This is what I get for taking in a stray!

I sent one of the deceased off to UC Davis for testing...they have an awesome free service to test backyard poultry and find out what killed them. Betty (one of several production reds who are all named Betty because I can't tell them apart) seems to have died of a bacterial infection, though I'm still waiting on further testing to find out exactly what. A chicken carcass, double bagged with frozen gelpacks and newspaper insulation, has to be the strangest thing I've ever sent via UPS.

The rest of the flock is on antibiotics and extra vitamins, along with an intense coop-cleaning regimen, and I'm hoping they will pull through. Since I won't eat the eggs while they are on medication, I shut off the light timer to get them some extra rest. I'm still getting about one egg a day and boy I hate throwing them in the compost.

On the brighter side, I'm getting ready for the holidays and making a few presents. I love Christmas/Solstice/whatever-mas, with all the parties and singing and decorations. We've got the tree up, stockings hung, and the mannequins who watch over our living room are dressed up like Christmas elves with ornament bandoliers. One of the gifts I made is the feltboard playset above for one of my cousin's children...hopefully they have as much fun with it as I did.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Rust Age

This is what I found when I opened up the damp, crumbling paneling and plaster (because I'm sure you're all dying to know) -
I think I see where the problem is.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let there be light!

This year, for the first time, I decided to start adding winter light to the chicken coop to see if I can get a few more eggs out of my girls. When the light went on, all the girls immediately jumped down from the roosts and started eating! So funny. I hear it will take them a few days to get the new schedule, but hopefully soon their days of freeloading will be at an end. I know there is a lot of controversy about this topic, but my hens are not exactly pets...they're here with a job to do, and buying crappy store eggs when I have 17 slackerschickens in the backyard? Silly.

A few days ago I got up (well, to be honest, I hadn't gone to bed yet) before dawn to hike up to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sun come up over LA. Sadly it was a little too clear that day for an amazing sunrise, but the view was nice and the air was good.

Now, back to the plumbing fixing...which seems to involve tearing out the drywall of the ceiling below next. Fun! But maybe I'll get a bathroom that works for Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Madness Season

Some of the madness from my Thanksgiving weekend...

A green baby dress, made with Knitpicks Essential sock yarn and the ever-loved bone hook. So sweet, so tiny...0-3month size.

A little jacket, made with recycled natural wool singles from some thrift store sweater. This was some of the oldest yarn in my stash! Again, made with the tiny hook. This one is probably more like a 6 month size.

Another baby dress, made with some leftover dark blue fingering wool/acrylic blend. At least, that's what I think it is...I bought this stuff for 100yen a ball from a shop in Japan, quite the bargain for the amount of entertainment I've gotten from it! I used the same yarn to make a dress for a cousin's baby last year, and I still have one ball left that might make a hat. The bone hook was also implicated in this madness.

Last but certainly not least, I used two balls of Knitpicks Wool of the Andes to make a little Red Riding Hood cape, because that's what all the cool babies need. I had to use a bigger hook for this one, and I just sort of made it up as I went.

I'm working on one more little brown sweater now, but I think the compulsion is starting to wane, as I'm not feeling the need to stay up all night working on it. Maybe I'll even make a full-sized garment again soon!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Good Tools, Tiny Garments

I'm in the throes of a Tiny Garment Problem. This happens to me now and then, the strange compulsion to create little tiny things. It would make more sense if I happened to have a tiny person to make them for, but I don't. I tell myself that by the time I have a tiny person, I will be way too busy/tired to make Tiny Garments, so I'm really planning for the future. It's probably bullcrap, but at least I can console myself that Future Tiny Person will be fabulously dressed until they outgrow the Tiny Wardrobe. It will be a fun three months.

Anyway...lately it's been all about the tiny crochet sweaters, and I blame this crochet hook.
I bought it at an antique fair in Santa Cruz, out of a whole box full of these gorgeous polished bone hooks marked $3 each. This was the biggest of the lot - some were so tiny the hook was barely visible. It is perfect for fingering weight yarn, which I just so happen to like very much. It is so smooth and nice from so many decades of use that making things with it is a tactile pleasure. I'm on my third tiny crochet sweater of this weekend's crafting bender.

My other favorite hook is a hand-carved wooden one, very plain, but also smooth and well-worn and good for worsted weight. My grandmother picked it up in a box of things at an estate sale when I was in junior high, and gave it to me. I learned to crochet using that hook, and if I ever lost it, I would be so sad.

I can't stand the feel of plastic or metal knitting needles or crochet hooks. Occasionally I try to make something using them, because I don't have tools I like in that size, and pretty much always end up frogging the project in frustration. If I'm not enjoying the process, and I don't desperately need the object I'm making, what's the point?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Little Red Sweater

Every once in a while I actually finish something!

All the details are on Ravelry.

Last week I had two births, both rather difficult, one lasting 48 hours...so I worked 30 hours straight one day. By the time I got home, I was so incredibly tired that I couldn't go to sleep. Does that ever happen to you? Plus, hospitals are gross and birth can be messy, so after each one I need a bath and some whiskey. For an easy birth, a little bit of something lovely. For a hard birth, a finger or two of some stiff bourbon. Drinking whiskey in the bathtub is one of the greatest small pleasures in life.

Now that those two are done, I'm not on call until after Christmas, and this weekend I have the house to myself. I'm planning to spend as much time as possible in my pajamas, with some good knitting and some bad television. Vampire Diaries, anyone?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rain outdoors good, rain indoors bad.

This morning I went into the basement to grab a flathead shovel for chicken coop cleanout, and it was raining in there. Some critical plumbing failure in the bathroom shower above was sending water leaking everywhere and the plaster was buckling and crumbling. Sigh. There's always something new with an old house.

I've pulled out all the bad plaster and garbage (according the the newspapers stuffed in there as insulation, this bathroom was last worked on when Mondale was running for president) and now I'm procrastinating on finishing the job. Plumbing is such a gross messy job, but I'm the plumber of the house so I get to do it. Time to pour another cup of coffee and gird my proverbial loins.

Since pictures of my bathroom's undercarriage aren't going to be pretty, I'll spare you the gory details. Come back soon and I'll show you all the pretties I've been knitting instead.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It Rains, It Pours

It is so wet out that I've been putting off chicken rounds all morning, hoping for a few dry minutes to grab eggs and throw out some scratch. On the plus side, the new chicken coop is staying dry inside, the girls seem happy, and I no longer have to slog through muck and chicken poop to gather eggs. We also haven't had any predator attacks since the Heneplex was built, and the peace of mind is fantastic.
The Heneplex holds my 16 (16! How do these things happen?) chickens very comfortably, and has all sorts of special opening doors to help me clean it and take care of them from all sides. It is really nice to not have to worry about locking them up at night when I'm out at a birth, though they do miss terrorizing the whole backyard.

I also have one bonus chicken in the house in quarantine...so I guess you could say I have really have 17 hens, but I'm not sure if she will make it. She's a stray rescue hen found in a Burbank backyard, and she seems to have a nasty respiratory thing going on. We're keeping her warm and well fed with some antibiotics, but other than that, we can just wish her luck and hope she can get better and enjoy the good life with all my other spoiled chickens.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hungry like a Wolf

We've been saving up our pennies and waiting for the day we could return our cheap gas stove to Craigslist and get a real stove. I wanted more burners and a bigger oven, and so we ended up with this ridiculous commercial-style beast. It's used, of course - we hardly ever buy new things, and why would you when well made things with no electronic parts last forever? I'm in love.

We're still ironing out some details - for one, the stove didn't fit through the door into the kitchen, so I had to knock down some trim to make it go. I haven't put that back together yet and it reminds me of those old commercials where the Kool Aid Man breaks through the wall. I'm still adjusting my cookwares and cooking times to compensate for the firepower, and I still need to get some oven racks so I can start baking...but it feels really satisfying to have something I use so much really, really work.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Homemade Tortillas

Once you have tried these, flour tortillas from the store will taste like starchy napkins. This recipe makes a lot of tortillas, but in my house we manage to use them all up in a couple of days. You will need a good rolling pin for this. I got mine at an antique store and it is a burly piece of hardwood.

Flour Tortillas

4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp - 2 tbsp salt (adjust to your taste)
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups water
Some extra flour for rolling

Mix all the ingredients together. The dough will still be a little sticky. Pinch off balls a little bigger than a golf ball, and roll it out dusting with as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking to the pin or the counter.

My mom always cooked these in two cast iron pans, assembly line style, so that's what I do. If you adjust the heat just right, the first tortilla will cook on one side in the amount of time it takes you to roll the next one. Flip it over in the second pan, and put the next tortilla in the first pan. Once you get the hang of the rolling, it goes very fast.

Let all the tortillas cool down for a while before you wrap them up, so that the steam won't make them soggy. I keep mine in a gallon size ziplock in the fridge, though they'd probably be fine on the counter. When you want to eat them, you can warm them up on a stovetop or in the microwave...but you have to eat at least one hot off the press with butter and cinnamon sugar. It's the rules.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

RIP Sourdough Starter

It seemed like we were meant to be together, but alas, in the end you were just another mouth to feed. Our relationship was complicated, but I think we both failed each other. You failed to produce good bread, so I failed to feed you. Maybe we shall meet again in another life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scenes from a week

This week has been kind of crazy - lots of paperwork stress, court, taxes, and other worries. In the mean time, I try to keep sane and happy. Life is still pretty damn good, even with the madness. Some random thoughts from this week:
I found a seed sprouting thingy for a couple of bucks at the thrift store. The chickenses are very pleased. I even ate a few myself.
Knitty Kitty reclines in the sunlight. She's about seven years old now, and still looks great. Occasionally Sasha Cat hides her in the laundry and she gets felted a little smaller, but she takes it like a champ.

I am not exercising nearly enough for the amount of bread I am eating. There is a problem with this whole baking thing that I'll have to work on next week. Meanwhile, I made an awesome batch with brown sugar and raisins rolled in for this morning's meetup of Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts.
Orangina can't even lay an egg in peace. Damn paparazzi.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In which I become a baker

I've always wished I was a baker.  It seemed mysterious and crazy to me that you could just bake bread, any time you felt like it.  My mom made a lot of tortillas and a lot of biscuits, and on very special occasions yeasty dinner rolls and even sometimes homemade donuts.  The donuts had grated potato in them.  I haven't had anything like them since.

Many times have I tried to bake good bread, and many times have I failed.  A lot of the flops were still tasty and still eaten, but it apparently took me ten years of grown-up life to figure out that bread flour was really good for baking bread!  Anyway, I just turned 30 and now I am a real grown-up and I bake real bread. 

 I make a lot of messes along the way too.  That bread flour is really excitable.  My favorite bread so far has lots of garlic and thyme worked into the dough...it smells like pizza crust while it bakes. 
 Since Roxie asked, weather in Southern California is sunny, t-shirt weather, cooling down in the evenings with a strong chance of chickens, cape honeysuckle, and angel's trumpets. 
Off in the distance, behind the pretty flowers (I almost typed flours, bread on the brain) is my looming pile of junk to take to the dump. Our home renovations are piling up, even though I'm trying to reuse and recycle as much of it as possible.