Thursday, June 28, 2007

Addicted to Blogthings

Hi, I'm Natalie and I'm addicted to Blogthings. It's true, I could probably spend hours on there, if it wasn't for the knitting. Whenever I see one on someone else's blog, I have to click it and take the test too. Invariably, I start taking more of the tests. Since I was accused of being prude and prissy as a kid, I thought I'd check to see how far I've come:

You Are Not Prissy

You're the furthest thing from a princess - and you probably stay far away from any princess types you know.
You have an easygoing approach to living. It doesn't take a lot to make you happy.
And when life requires it, you're ready to get your hand a little dirty.
There's no problem you're too prissy to tackle!
Yay! Now that's settled, I can go out and have some fun (I'm going to see Joan McGowan-Michael of Knitting Lingerie Style fame.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pride's On My Mind

Sunday was the big Pride parade in the city (San Francisco). I tend to avoid the downtown area on parade day, since the time I got stuck in traffic, having forgotten that the parade was going on (I still have the vision of a guy's posterior in a gold lame thong seared into my brain. I only wish my hiney looked that good!) Consequently, I spent most of the day hanging out with my sister and finishing up my sock class. We did manage to catch some of it on t.v.; what little I saw of the parade made me happy that I live in a place that honors diversity -- be it ethnicity or sexual orientation. (And how cool is Elizabeth Edwards? She took a big risk for a politician's wife.)

Yesterday, I was reading my favorite Contessa's blog and she mentioned the post on the Knitty blog about pride. Amy blogged about having pride in who you have become and how she changed her photo icons after seeing A Fat Rant by Joy Nash (a very powerful video about this country's attitude toward plus sized people).

Why do I mention these things? Simply because having pride in yourself is important and sometimes, the hardest thing to do. It has taken a long time for me to be comfortable in my own skin; there have been times in my life that people have tried to take my pride in myself away from me.

Back story #1: I am hapa-haole. My mom's Japanese and was born in the Territory of Hawaii. My father was a South Dakota farm boy of German descent. Anti-miscegenation laws almost prevented my parent's marriage; part of my dad's family never accepted my mother (or, by extension, my sister and me). It seems that we were always fighting for acceptance or standing up to bullies who couldn't deal with the fact that we were different. In the mid-1970's, we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, right behind Oral Roberts University. Those four years were really a challenge! (No offense to you Okies out there, but Dad called those years our first foreign assignment). My sister and I were often called "half-breed", my sister was physically bullied by a teacher (luckily the principal witnessed it and took action), I was suspended from riding the school bus after defending myself against a boy who beat up on me and ripped my clothing (lucky for me, my mom raised holy h*ll and the suspension was pinned on the boy instead).

Our saving grace was a transfer to Brazil, where we attended an international school. It was a different world, in more ways than one. We were taken into a special family that is unique to international schools; our peers and the Brazilians (warm and friendly people) accepted us without hesitation, or questioning what we were.

I can tell I'm about to get all preachy on 'ya. Suffice to say, whatever your ethnicity or sexual orientation, surround yourself with people who love you and accept you without question (or move someplace where they will!) As a teacher I've learned that everybody has a redeeming quality; find that in yourself and take pride in it. Here endeth the sermon.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Swaps and Socks

I've been a little swap crazy since I started this blog. This week, I received two sets of stitch markers direct from Canada, as part of the Summer Stitch Marker Exchange. Robyn sent me these great blue stitch markers. I wish my camera took a better close up shot, so you could see the detail in the larger bead (Notice I blame the camera; it's certainly not my fault. Ha!) Thank you so much Robyn, blue is one of my favorite colors!

I also received a set of stitch markers from Leigh. The central bead has a little flower with white heart petals. The white and red combo made "Oh Canada" start playing in my head! Thanks so much Leigh! These markers will certainly dress up my knitting!

On the knitting front, I was a little impatient for my sock class tomorrow, so I just charged ahead. Whoopee! I turned the heel! I put in life lines all over the place, just in case I made a mistake and have to frog back. By the way Tina, thanks for the advice on the sock book! I'll probably end up getting it, for as you so wisely stated, I can never have enough books!( I found that out this week when I packed up my personal classroom library -- twenty 12 gallon flip top crates. Yikes!)In addition to the knitting, I spent part of the day knee deep in laundry. Look what I found on my freshly laundered mattress pad. You turn your back for a second......

Embossed Leaves Baby Hat and Sock Questions

Thank goodness my colleagues keep having babies (at least four more due by the end of the year). It will give me a chance to knit this hat. It's hella cute! The hat was based on the embossed leaves sock pattern from the winter 2005 edition of Interweave Knits. Hmm.. I have that issue...maybe I'll knit the socks too.

I've become a little sock obsessed, even though I have not finished my first pair yet. I have some more sock yarn, but I'm not quite sure what to knit next. I don't think I want to knit a plain sock again - maybe a simple lace pattern? Any advanced beginner/intermediate pattern recommendations?

I have a few sock books in my library:

Knit Socks by Betsy McCarthy

Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles by Cat Bordhi

Socks by Rita Buchanan

I have heard this book recommended on podcasts. I'm wondering if I need to buy it (Or do I have enough books? Does anyone ever have enough books?) Opinions?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Your Trip to Hawaii is Just a Click Away

An article in today's Honolulu Advertiser said that the Pakele Lounge in the Ala Moana Hotel was going to be streaming their summer concert series. You can find the concerts here (5:30 Hawaii time, Wednesdays through July) and here at LavaNet. I'm listening to it as I write and it makes me want to eat local food and just hang out.

What kind of hostess would I be if I didn't offer you food, too? This is my standard mainland luau for homesick Hawaii folk.

First, the Kalua Pork. I don't have space to dig the pit for the pig, so I just use the slow cooker. You will need:
  • 1-2 lb slab of boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
  • 2 Tbsp Hawaiian salt (it's red)
  • 2 Tbsp liquid smoke
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apple cider

Slash the meat all over and rub the liquid smoke and Hawaiian salt into the meat. Put the pork in the crock pot and add the water and apple cider. You can set it on high and cook it for 6-7 hours, or cook it on high for the first few hours and turn it to low and cook it overnight. I usually turn the meat over a few times during the first hours of cooking. Sometimes I add a little more liquid smoke to the pot about halfway through. The meat will start to fall off the bones when it is ready. Pull the meat apart and shred it. Keep warm until you serve it. Serve with short grain white rice (not Uncle Ben's!)

Vegetable: I also serve spinach with the pork as a side dish. Take about 1/4 cup (or more) of the cooking liquid and use it to cook down one huge bag of spinach.

I always make chicken long rice as part of the meal. The recipe I use is from A Taste of Aloha(p.329), but this recipe is very similar to it.

We love our Jell-o in Hawaii. We eat it with the meal, not as dessert. My friend always begs me to make Confetti Jell-o; I got the recipe off the Aloha Airlines recipe page years ago, but they no longer have the 2002 recipes archived. Since it's no longer there, I hope it's o.k. to put it here:

Confetti Jell-o by Robyn in Aloha Airlines Marketing

  • 3 packages (3 oz.) flavored gelatin (lime, strawberry, orange)
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 can (12 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

Mix each package of Jell-o with 1 cup hot water. Pour into separate bowls. Chill until set, then cut into small cubes. Mix 1 can sweetened condensed milk with 1 1/2 cans hot water and 1/2 can cold water. Stir until dissolved. Mix 1 cup hot water with four envelopes of unflavored gelatin (until dissolved). Mix into condensed milk mixture and let cool. Place cubed Jell-o into a 9x13 inch pan (I use a tiki man mold I found on eBay), then pour the cooled condensed milk mixture over the cubes. Chill to set.

My mom is usually visiting when I cook this meal and she manages to put more stuff on the table. Supreme Japanese hostess that she is, it's usually sushi and an assortment of Japanese pickles in pretty little bowls.

If that wasn't enough food, there's still dessert! Mmmmm...haupia cake. I love this recipe, but I don't add the gelatin/coconut milk mixture to the frosting as per the recipe. It gets too gloppy. I also lightly toast the coconut before chucking it onto the frosting (it looks like sand & I can plant my plastic hula dancers on it!)

There. That's my once a year cooking extravaganza. There are 364 days left to work off all the calories in this meal.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Summer's Here - Let the Knitting & Reading Begin!

In between the concert-going and report card writing, I did find some time to knit...OK I knit while I procrastinated! But hey, it's stress reduction!

I am almost done with my second hat for the Charmed Knits knit-along. This time, it's Slytherin. I hope to send the first two off by the end of the week. All this Harry Potter knitting makes me want to reread the series before the last book comes out in July.

Thanks to some inspiration I've found in other knitter's blogs, I've decided to jump in and try to become a sock knitter. My progress so far:The yarn is actually a lot greener than the picture shows, I think the flash washed it out. To the naked eye it looks more like a green teal, instead of bluish teal. I'm using Cascade 220 Superwash (color 859-Lake Chelan Heather); they should knit up quickly. Why am I using worsted weight and not the Regia that has been calling my name? Because I am taking a sock class so the instructor will hold my hand and talk me through turning the heel. I could have probably figured it out from a book, but I like the social aspect of class. It's always nice to be around other knitters!

Knitter's Tea Swap

My package for the Knitter's Tea Swap arrived. I was so spoiled by Carol! My package seemed to have a blue & brown theme to it.
First, the treats: Stash Tea Double Bergamot Earl Grey Black and Creme Caramel. Stash Teas come from my old stomping grounds in Portland, Oregon. I got through many a rainy day, thanks to that company! I also received a package of Nonni's chocolate coated biscotti, a package of Creme Savers candy-the Dessert Collection (I broke into the back of the bag before I took the picture), and Creme Caramel mix (I'm getting my hand torch ready for that one!). Carol also sent me some kitchen towels, and a glycerin soap made locally that smells like apples.
Shall we get to the knitting portion of the package? Two skeins of Rowan's Tapestry yarn. It is a wool/soy blend. It has a wonderful sheen to it, probably from the soy. I always like to try new fibers -- especially if they're soft. I think I will use it to knit this pattern; I learned about it on her blog (fitting, isn't it?)
Perhaps the best part of the package was the knitting basket she sent me. Lantern Moon! I was so excited to see that! I love their products and have always wanted to buy one of their baskets. Now I can keep the grey monster's paws out of my knitting!
Carol, thank you so much! I love it all.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It Was a Very Good Night Indeed

It's four days later, and I think I am still in a haze from last Wednesday.

It started out normally, for the end of the school year. We had field day, I got hot and sticky along with the kids, a couple of them called me "Mommy"(the highest compliment), and one of my students asked me if I wanted to have kids (to which I replied, "Why, do you want me to adopt you?" ) Normal, everyday school stuff.

But then I ran home, hosed off, and went out on a school night(oooh). My sister and I traded text messages for half an hour while I waited for their BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train to get to the Coliseum. She wanted the play by play of my people watching (who's there? there r deadheads here. what else? some middle age, some young, some that didn't age well) Sorry-that last comment is a direct offshoot from a girl's school education! Actually, the people watching was fun. It really illustrated how music can be a great equalizer. There were people of all ages, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes. The Deadheads came in their tie-dye and people bought their kids. It was nice to see.

We finally got in and sat down just as the first opening band started up. They were o.k., but we pretty much tuned them out, apart from clapping at the end of each song (ditto for the second opening act). Before long, my sister and I were playing with our phones again in order to amuse ourselves (we just got new ones). She taught me how to take pictures and then took mine. I really hate pictures of myself. I have one of her, but I'd be dead meat if I put a picture of her sticking her tongue out online! (Besides, Mom would be mortified).

Finally, after sunset, a light show started on stage and the sounds of Message in a Bottle blasted through the air above the applause. It was a different experience than when I was 17 (as it should be). Songs had new arrangements to compensate for the changes age makes in vocal ability; but I think it was also a reflection of how they have grown and changed as musicians over the years. What had once been raw and frenetic is now a little smoother and jazzier. Nonetheless, I was mesmerized. Sting looked great and Stuart Copeland did an amazing job (making me pout, once again, because my mother made me take flute instead of drums).

My only complaint is aimed at the section I was seated in: "People, we had great seats, why were you in them?! Dontcha know that you're supposed to dance at concerts? Instead you sat like bumps on a log, feeding your faces, and drinking beer!" I wanted to tell them to save that for an A's game and get off their duffs and dance. Every section to the left and right of us was up and dancing, but my section was the only one sitting still. So we sat there, dancing in our seats, because we didn't want to block the view of the little kid behind us (but all bets were off during the encores).

My sister and I are in agreement that this concert was better than the one we went to twenty-four years ago. Then: they were on the verge of breaking up, they were sick of each other, and they played for only about an hour. Now: they played for two hours and gave us two encores. To me, they still have it -- photographic evidence here and here (wouldn't you want to be doing that at 65?) Disregard the review, it's baloney.

All in all, it was a very good night, indeed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

So Excited

Twenty-four years ago, my sister, her lousy boyfriend, and I had just completed a road trip from Salt Lake City to my family's home in Portland, Oregon. What occasion would make us get into my sister's VW Rabbit (aka The Great Pumpkin) that vibrated once it hit 55 mph? This magazine that was taped to my door as a homecoming greeting held the answer:

We were en route to the Tacoma Dome to see one of the last Police concerts. The Police were the soundtrack for my high school and college life. At one time, my roommate and I even had a wall of Sting up in our common room. I didn't know that I would have to wait so long to see them perform again. But tomorrow night, I am taking my sister and her stellar husband to McAfee Coliseum to hear them play again. I hope it was worth the wait!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Slow Knitter

I finally finished the Gryffindor hat. In the end, I decided not to frog back to the beginning of the colorwork. Another participant in the knit along suggested I just block it, and pass it along with some good mojo. It's not perfect, but the jog is much less noticeable now. I've already started on a second house hat -- this time, I think I'll try either TECHknitter's method or Meg Swanson's jogless jog. My thanks to the knitbloggers who offered advice!

I really should be writing my report cards, but I'm procrastinating by reading blogs and posting here. Even Zoey stalking her kibble for soccer practice is a welcome diversion.
Could my procrastinating mean that deep down I don't want the school year to end? Nah! 3 and 1/2 days to go!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Knitter's Virtual Vacation Swap Questionnaire

My first experience with a knitting swap was so good, I signed up for another one. The questions:

1. If you could visit any state in the US, which would it be and why?
No question - Maine. From what I've seen of it in pictures and movies, it's beautiful. It has all the things I appreciate: old-growth forests, a rugged coastline, lots of water, boats in the harbor, and plenty of places to hike and fish. Then there's the food: blueberries, lobster, maple syrup, plus other things I've yet to discover.
2. If you could visit any country in the world, other than your own, which would it be and why?
England. The England I got to know through books. I want to see all the places that I've read/dreamed about over the years: London, the Yorkshire Dales (James Herriot, the Brontes), the Lake District (Beatrix Potter).

3. Have you ever driven across several states/ providence/ countries?
a) The U.S. - My family moved and "road tripped" a lot, consequently I've driven through every state west of the Mississippi River. I've also driven through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
b) Canada - Back and forth (repeatedly) to British Columbia from Washington state.
c) Europe - Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and France.
d ) Brazil - The states of Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro. Road trips while living there.

4. Have you ever visited someplace you consider exotic? Where was it?
Yes - Brazil. Although I lived there, I didn't get to see it all. I'm going back one day and dragging my sister with me!

5. What was your favorite "travel" vacation? Why?
In 1980, my family went to Peru. From Lima, we flew to Cusco, so we could take the train to Machu Picchu, where we stayed in the "new" hotel. We had altitude sickness, the train had big gaping holes in the floor, and there were spiders in the shower. We laughed so much; I was fourteen and thought it was fantastic! Machu Picchu was amazing and humbling. There were alpaca, vicuna, and llamas everywhere. I wish that I still had the alpaca sweater I bought.
Added: Then again, there was the summer of '88, when I backpacked through China. I climbed up to the top of this (there were stairs...lots of them!). I also saw these. Oh, but I also caught mono when someone on a bus coughed on me.
On the other hand, maybe the week spent hanging out with friends who lived in Lugano, Switzerland, was a better vacation!

6. Have you ever played tourist in your own home city/state (if international, country)?
It's my favorite thing to do. When you are going about your day-to-day living, you forget about the things that make your home a great place to live. Playing tourist helps me remember the things I take for granted and why I live where I do.

7. Are you a museum visitor, beach comer or an amusement seeker?
I'm a museum visitor (minored in art). I also like going to the beach, but I prefer rocky beaches with tide pools, places to dig for clams, and things to climb on.
8. What's your favorite type of yarn?
Anything soft, especially wool or alpaca.

9. What's your least favorite type of yarn?
Novelty or acrylic.

10. What items do you like to knit/crochet?
Hats, scarves, washcloths, simple lace, and purses. I want to add socks to this list someday soon. Edit - July 2007: I added socks to the list! :o)

11. What do you pack, knit/crochet wise when you go on vacation?
Something simple with a pattern I don't have to think about too much.

12. What other crafts do you do/would like to do other than Knit/Crochet?
I make jewelry - wire wrapped, beaded, kumihimo, beaded loom work. I occasionally paint (watercolors), rubber stamp, and cross stitch, but not so much anymore (knitting and jewelry are my mainstays).

13. Are you allergic to anything? (Yarn wise or treat wise).
I'm not allergic to anything, but I'm not crazy about white or dark chocolate.

14. What is your favorite color? Least Favorite?
I like colors that are found in nature: autumn colors (reds, chocolate browns, & dark orange), ocean colors (greens & blues), jewel tones, and muted greens. I prefer subtle to bright.
My least favorite colors: khaki, pastels, and neons.

15. Sweet or Savory (Treat not personality)?
Savory, but sweet is good too.
16. Anything else we are forgetting to ask that you think your partner desperately needs to know?
Not that I can think of. If it helps, my other swap questionnaires are on the sidebar of this blog.
Just have fun! I'm pretty easy to please.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sometimes the Days Just Crawl By

biding time

Remember when time seemed to go at a snail's pace? The days just seemed to drag by and they felt endless? I haven't felt that way in a while; the last time was in fifth grade, when all I wanted to do was to get out of that classroom and be done with school.

I usually hate the end of the year...half the time, I want to flunk the kids just to spend more time with them. I've been blessed with three great classes during the last four years; all the kids got along, even the hellions have had a certain "bad boy" charm to them that just made me shake my head at them and grin. But this year..oy seems as though the last day will never come.

I wrote this last night when I was tired, stressed out from planning a class presentation, and evidently about to have a pity party for myself. Mothers with small children will surely understand the feeling - when the kids have sapped every bit of energy out of you and the only thing you want to do is curl up on the couch with a) potato chips, b) ice cream, c) chocolate, or d) fill in your comfort food here. I like my class, I really do. Granted, some of the kids make me appreciate the quiet in my house more than others, but for the most part, they are a sweet and funny bunch. However, every so often there are those days...

Monday, June 4, 2007

My Brain is Saying "Summer," But Nature's Saying "Spring"

I'm trying to get into the habit of carrying my camera around. You never know what you will find.A pink calla lily at my school.
This bird started nesting right outside my classroom. Hope the kids don't scare her.
Nature may want to hold onto spring, but I'm starting the countdown to summer. T-minus nine days and counting.

Friday, June 1, 2007

My Coffee Swap Package Arrived!

As I unlocked my front door last night, I saw a flash of pink out of the corner of my eye -- my postman hid my coffee swap package from Cece behind a potted plant! Good thing he did that, because I would have been seriously disappointed if someone walked off with such a great package. Everything in the box had a story to go along with it; as a teacher, I just love a good story!

She sent me two different coffees to try (her local favorites). The one on the left is from Equal Exchange; I keep sniffing the bag, it smells so good! The other coffee is from the Black Bear Micro Roastery. I can't wait to try them -- I just don't know which one to try first. :- )

There is also goat milk soap made by a friend of hers who has her own goat farm. It smells like summer...honeysuckle and roses.

Wow - a book! Knitting Lingerie Style, signed by the author. Not only is it great to look at, but there is a tank and some socks I might have to start knitting as soon as summer vacation starts.

Finally, the yarn. Handspun alpaca from Massachusetts Sheep and Wool! When I first looked at it, I thought it was dove grey. Upon closer inspection, there are shades of Wedgwood blue and light fawn. There is also what looks to be a strand of Kreinik blending filament running throughout the yarn. It gives it a subtle glow; the picture below does not do the yarn justice.
Funny, I have the perfect shoes to go with the yarn. I will be well accessorized, once I knit something!

Thanks so much for the awesome package Cece! This was my first swap and it was a pleasure having you as my partner!