Category Archives: making things

i knit so i don’t kill people

Stress is the new smoking.  Or maybe sitting is the new smoking.  Or sugar.  Or, like, murderous rage. That’s probably it.  Anyway, we all feel stressed out in these stressful-as-fuck times, I know I do.  And there is nothing like twisting strands of sheep-fibers around sticks to really decompress, you know?  Therefore, I thought I would—and this is a bit confessional, like showing you my pile of chewed off fingernails, or my kitchen cabinets with all the labels face out, all 3/8″ from the shelf edge, in alphabetical order, no, actually I would never do that—I thought I would reveal my completed knitting pile for this last, very stressful, year.  Don’t judge me.

You might recall that I rediscovered knitting back in January 2016. It turned out that knitting was just the mind numbing relaxing hobby I needed to get through the next 365 days.  I vowed in that post to finish all the abandoned knitting projects in Ye Old Knitting Basket by year’s end or die trying, and well, I did some of that. Cough. In addition to the Lopi sweater of that post, I did, indeed, finish the green sweater that only needed a sleeve:

modeled here by the lovely Sophie.  And I finished the Koigu merino socks I’d left languishing on their needles:

so sweet and colorful, I had to add some candy to the photo.

But then…honestly, I wandered off into new yarn territories, tripping starry eyed through mountains of color and fields of fiber, grabbing the stuff up, drunk on it, rolling around naked on it when no one was looking–wait, did I say that out loud?

But seriously, knitting whilst listening to an audiobook, or watching tv, or waiting for the kids to get out of aikido—it does help calm the mind.  My stitches, at least, they will obey me.  I can exert some small control over this tiny portion of the world, just by playing with string.  Which is kind of amazing, really.  And weird.  Mental health is an uphill battle sometimes….

Anyway, next I knitted some bunnies for Sophie:

and some birds for Luc:

(forget the sweater, his braid is a freaking work of art, isn’t it?)

and a honeycomb thingy for me:

(what the heck am I doing with my hand there?)

and a manly, traditional Icelandic yoke for supercoolhusband:

such broad shoulders, oh my….

Oh, and one more pair of socks, as a kind of stripey chaser: Oh, my pretties, my precious, so much yarn so little time….

Now listen, knitting is just following instructions, really.  The people with the talent are the designers who come up with all these detailed, mathematical, structurally engineered knitting patterns for twisting yarn into these specific body-hugging shapes with these pretty decorations and colors.  I don’t deserve any kudos except for following instructions.  Well, maybe a bit for actually finishing projects (because that can be hard, when there is so much delicious yarn out there, calling one’s name and one’s wallet…).

Knitters get a fair amount of shit, knitting often portrayed as the boring past-time of old biddies, etc. But I think we should focus on the acts of violence NOT being perpetrated by angry older broads due to the fact that they had the courtesy of turning all that rage-at-life into a productive, warmth-preserving, hobby.  Be grateful we knit!  It’s for your own good!

But beyond its inner-calming properties, knitting can also be a powerful act of generosity and kindness!  Like these woman who knit massive sweaters for elephants at an abused elephant sanctuary that has cold winters.

How amazing is that???  They knit sweaters for elephants!!!  I can’t get over this, it is so wonderful.

And of course, knitting can be political.

Every one of those pink pussyhats was hand made by a knitter who gives a shit.  Three of them were knitted by me.  That is, after an exhaustive search for pink yarn which, by the time I started my quest, was sold out EVERYWHERE. I lucked into the last skein in the back closet of a Hobby Lobby, I was so pleased to find it.  Tenacity!  Nevertheless, she persisted!

Knitters of the world, uniting for world peace!

I am continuing on with my knitting in 2017.  I’ve mostly finished a muted grey and bronze sweater for myself and am already eyeing the sweater porn online for ideas for the next one.  I just love this Lettlopi, the lighter version of the Lopi I started this story with.  Icelandic yarn that is tough and also beautiful, made from Icelandic sheep that are the same sheep they’ve had there for a thousand years!  I just love the yoke sweaters that are done all in one piece and last for decades.  So, I sort of followed through on my knitterly promises of last January by finishing a couple of projects from the basket, but I did move on to new things…with the injunction that I must FINISH WHAT I START.  So far so good.

If I become a really peaceful, well-balanced human I may not need to knit anymore.  Until then, lettlopi and addi turbos are my medicine.

apparently i’ve forgotten more about knitting than most people ever learn

Muscle memory is an amazing thing.

Somehow it came up the other day that I love Icelandic knitting.  Sophie was all, whazzat?  So I did what you do in 2016 when you want to explain something, I google-image-searched it.  Because a picture is worth a million words and a million pictures pretty much says it all, only don’t scroll down too far, because that’s where things get weird.  Here is what we found:

knitting remembered 1Oh, pretty, she said, but I pointed at one moody, Nordic dude (see arrow above) and said, “I know that sweater.” And then, “Seriously, I think I’ve knitted that sweater.”

“What?” said Sophie, doubtful.  “No way.  That’s like, a really fancy sweater.”

Off to the depths of my closet and the basket that some part of my brain tells me holds my old knitting stash (like a druggie’s stash, only with more yarn).  “No, I think I did, that sweater is strangely familiar, I’m not kidding—”

And sure enough, rooting through the bags of wool and abandoned projects, I find:

remembering knitting 2

That very sweater.  Completely forgotten by me.  And abandoned only five rows from completion.  Five rows!  Okay, five rows of fancy, double-stranded colorwork knitting, but yeah, a tiny—nay, insignificant—amount of knitting left.  This poor sweater sat in the closet nearly done for probably ten years.

That is so….lame.

I decided on the spot to finish it.  Only, I had no idea how to do double-stranded colorwork anymore.  This entailed digging through many bookshelves to try to find the book I learned it from.  Which I did find.  (I don’t know why I didn’t just go to youtube, I guess it was a moment of returning to one’s roots.)  The diagrams in the book were cryptic.  I looked at them and though this is hopeless.  But then, I picked up the needles and yarn and INSTANTLY STARTED KNITTING.

Just so you understand, I’m talking about a different color in each hand, weaving them in as I go, fast knitting.  I was watching my hands do this thing that my brain had zero conscious knowledge of.  It was magic.  I finished the sweater in about an hour.

It is ENORMOUS.  Which reminded me how gauge used to really be a problem for me. Cough. Here we are, reunited after all these years (and I had to really search to find the pattern book, but find it I did).  This guy and I have traveled far together:

remembering knitting 3

Okay, I tried to take the picture with me making the same expression that Sweater Guy is making, but man oh man, Sophie and I were cracking up so hard she couldn’t get the picture. Really hooting, that gut-level laughter, you know what I mean, totally incompatible with me trying to look like Cool Blue Steel Dude.  Now that was fun.

Look at that gorgeous colorwork though!  I can’t believe I ever knitted that. Mad skillz!

But listen, I pawed through the rest of the yarn graveyard knitting basket and found:

  1. green chunky alpaca sweater done except for one arm.
  2. two attempts at knitting red wool into sweaters (a cardi and a cabled cardi, yes I could once knit cables) both abandoned mid-body.
  3. THREE sweater starts in a black silk/wool, 1-plain 2-cabled, and 3-SUPER AMAZING CABLED.  That section is GORGEOUS.  I have no memory of knitting it.  All abandoned.
  4. An entire indigo rayon sweater in pieces, waiting to be sewn together, yes, that’s an entirely completely knitted sweater, just waiting for finishing (that’s what you call the last bit, the blocking, sewing, buttons, that sort of thing).  So sad.
  5. A pair of Koigu socks, knitted to the heel flap, because I apparently, at one time, knew how to knit two socks at once, which is just a magic trick, if you ask me.  Abandoned, just these colorful toes, waiting for their heels….

It’s like the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi or Roanoke Island or the rapture, all these projects just left behind and forgotten.

Until now.  I’ve decided I’m going to finish all of these or die trying.  2016 is going to be the year I BUST MY STASH.  I am not allowed to buy any yarn or start any new hobbies.  If I don’t finish a green, a red, a black, and a blue sweater, plus a pair of handpainted Koigu socks by Christmas 2016, I have to GIVE ALL THIS YARN TO A MORE DESERVING KNITTER.

To that end, here is the NEW new start of the red sweater, one for Sophie, a top down fitted pullover.  We’ll see how it goes.

remembering knitting 5

It’s funny though, how much my fingers know about knitting that I can’t remember.  I’ll say, “I think there is some way to close off this armpit hole, but I can’t remember how you do it.”  So I go poke at youtube, think I’ll give something a go, it sounds vaguely familiar, pick up the needles, and BOOM my hands start going crazy, Kitchener stitch, no problem!  Long tail cast on, no problem!  My hands are flying and I’m watching them, bemused, saying, “I think I may have done this before….”  I really feel the current-me can’t take credit for anything I knit at this point.  It’s all previous-me that figured it out, trained my fingers, and installed the Knitter Software(TM) into my brain that apparently runs without any intervention from the current finger’s occupant (me).  I plan to take advantage of this, none the less.

P.S. Just noticed that I actually blogged about the two-sock knitting thing about three years ago.  I do kind of remember this.  The Icelandic sweater though, that’s from some other lifetime.

aranzi aranzo’s awesome cuteness is cute

I’m having my annual existential crisis, yay, hooray, not.  Why bother, what is the point, am I doing the right things with my limited life span, who cares.  Maybe I’m just tired.

So!  On that cheery note, what to do but hang out with the kids in my cupcake pajamas, drink coffee, and make tiny, felt animals of excruciating cuteness?  I feel like I should have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth while I sew these puppies.

Wait—isn’t this what everyone does during an existential crisis?

It all started when I gave Sophie some fabulous manga-style comic books for Christmas called Aranzi Machine Gun, Vol 1-3, by Aranzi Aranzo, a pen name for a two person creative team who make kawaii art, which is that style of Japanese cute that is personified most famously by Hello Kitty.  I didn’t get Hello Kitty for years, but now, perhaps because of Sophie’s influence, I can kind of see it.  Except that Hello Kitty can be somewhat saccharin, whereas Aranzi creations manage to have a just enough dark in their sweet to help it hit some perfect storm of adorable.  At any rate, Sophie just about had a seizure from the high intensity cuteness/dark humor that is Aranzi’s version of kawaii, and we immediately began manufacturing small cute characters from the books.

Because, it turns out, in addition to their several volumes of Machine Gun, Aranzi also offers a few DIY cuteness books called, what else, The Cute Book, The Cuter Book, and Cute Stuff.  So, following their adorable and sometimes hilarious instructions, Sophie and I have been cranking out the cuteness, until we can’t stand it any more and then we go for a walk with the dog just to get some air.

This isn’t our first Winter Cute-Fest.  You might remember the  flower fairies?

Anyway, our first effort was White Bunny.  See how tiny they are?  That is Sophie’s little hand holding her, WB is only 3 or 4 inches tall.

Our second effort was Lizard.  His head came out a little bit crooked, entirely my fault, due to my a little bit crooked thinking while I sewed his parts together.  Next came the elegant Black Kitty, made entirely by Sophie.  And then Bad Guy.  Bad Guy is my favorite.  He does bad things, on purpose.

Lizard, possibly because of his slightly crooked mouth and pensive expression, became Questioning Lizard, clearly a creation sprung whole from my current state of mind.  Questioning Lizard asks questions, perhaps one might even say he is stuck in a vortex of unanswerable riddles.  Why am I living this life?  What is it for?  Do I matter?  Why am I working so hard with so little effect?  Did I descend from dinosaurs?

Questioning Lizard has a theme song, Sophie told me about it.  It is super peppy, like the song from one of those early 90s anime where everyone can turn into a giant robot or a super ninja in color coordinated spandex.  I wish I could sing it for you.  It goes, “Questioning Lizard!  Questions everything!  Pow!”  Short, catchy, energetic.  It is completely the opposite of Questioning Lizard’s quiet, introspective personality, which I find hilarious.

White Bunny, on the other hand, according to Sophie, is largely concerned with her collection of tiny accessories.  For example, her ear-bow, or her small purse with it’s darling flower applique.  White Bunny knows what separates sentient beings from the lesser animals.

Black Kitty merely blinks her large eyes mysteriously and says nothing.

I highly recommend making tiny cute characters as a therapy for existential crisis.  You sit there, sewing tiny cute things, wondering why you exist, why bother, why am I doing this, and, at least the to current activity which is clearly absurd, the answer is obvious.  There is no reason to make tiny cute animals out of felt except that it is amusing and makes your kid laugh.  Which is as good a reason as most and better than many.

Questioning Lizard is questioning whether or not he likes my blog.


how to make your very own plush bear hat that will slay you with its cuteness

Look what we made!

OMG it’s SO CUUUUUTE!!!!!!!!

But seriously, here’s how we really feel:

It all started because I wanted a hat like Lain from the anime, Serial Experiments Lain. Here’s the hat in question:

It’s a bear hat.  That’s right, I wanted a fucking bear hat. What are you looking at?

So, of course, I trip on over to Youtube to find out how to make one and Sophie and I end up watching this:

It isn’t a Lain hat, but damn if it isn’t cute. And Sophie apparently agrees because she looks at me, wide eyed, and says “THAT HAT. I MUST HAVE IT.”

To the sewing machine! Actually, to the fabric store, first, where we also purchase brown for my (upcoming) bear hat and slinky black for a cloak for Luc. That place was seriously overwhelming.

So we made most of the hat, the ears, the fur outer layer, plus the pink fleece Sophie picked for the inner layer, and then we realized it was too small. Seriously too small. No no no, the crushing defeat of sewing FAIL.

What could we do then, but MAKE A SECOND HAT.  As Fire Lord Zuko says, even though you will probably fail, over and over and over, you have to try every time.  So we did.

Success!  The second hat is the hat in the photo, much much better. We gave the first hat to a friend of ours who has a two year old. She is adorable in it.  Take that, too small hat!

But here is the main thing about making a plush hat: FAKE FUR SHEDS. A LOT.

We were simply covered in silky, polyester fibers, all stuck to us with static electricity like that fur was in love with us and was going to hump us until we were dead. All over our faces, in our eyes, our noses, all over our clothes. It was SO TICKLY. And itchyitchyitchyitchy.  AAAAAARRRRRGGGG!!!!!  Did you know that fake fur fibers have been banned from use as a torture device at Guantanamo, by International Decree? We were coughing and batting at clouds of the stuff in the air, trying to sew through a blizzard of sticky, tickly fibers like EPIC FUCKING HEROES. There was no relief because it was hopeless to try to get it out of my mouth or eyes because I just ended up putting more on. We used wet wash clothes and then DUCT TAPE to lift it off our noses so we could push on. “Save yourself!” I said to Sophie at one point. My black pants were completely white and furry by the end. If I ever tried to do it again, I would wear protective gear, I am not kidding even one little bit. CRAZY.

But.  We survived.  And lived to tell you about it.

In case you want to try this at home….

1) As I mentioned, our first hat was TOO SMALL. I realized that the gal in the video doesn’t add seam allowances to the side pieces. We added several inches to each of her measurements on the second hat and got a shape that works.

2) Wear a mask and maybe goggles.  Possibly a haz-mat suit.

3) We had to reset the ears twice to get them where Sophie wanted them, so pay attention to how they stick out when you are putting them in to avoid extra steps.

Sophie and I took a big bubble bath to get the fibers off, each of us wearing a too-small bear hat.  That was pretty much fun.

Tub Bears Unite!

I wonder if this photo is too much for the internet.  I mean, all you have here are a couple of little heads.  But there is this idea that behind that cast iron tub, we’re totally nekkid!  What do you think?  Should I take this down?  I can’t decide.

Later that evening, after the bath, I asked Sophie—who was still wearing the hat, eating an apple on the bed, watching tv, basically basking in Post Hat-Making Glory—to help me clean something up and she said, without looking at me, “I’m a bear and I’m not going to do it.” HAHAHAHAHAHA!  I see it all so clearly now.  The hat was all part of her devious plan!

What is it about hats that makes them so cute?  We may never know.

Full Questionable Content strip here…and don’t miss the previous two strips where Hanners and Marigold first fall under the sway of the little hats….

none of the kid’s clothes fit–must be fall

Time for some tie-dye!

Get out the dye!

Fold, twist, tie, and dye…


Here’s one Sophie did…

Action shot!

Awww, Luc is so pretty.

Honestly, we’re terrible.  We make all this stuff to put into our Etsy shop, Rubyfish, and then we keep it all.  Pathetic.

Two at once!

The one on the right is this sun pattern t-shirt:

(She’s got the citrus colored long sleeve shirt under it that is the first image in this post, the orange/yellow/green spiral.)

And here is the one on the left, another of Sophie’s creations:

How about some yoga pants?

Action shot!

Wait, what about the purple fold over?

Here’s another one, I think I did this one…

My colorful, wild haired, forest children….

Okay, enough of that!  On to the next thing!

in which i knit two socks at the same time and live to tell the tale

Look what I made!

My first pair of socks!  Supersoft merino wool, a bit chunky for warm winter footsies.  For the knitters in the crowd, I knitted them toe-up, using magic loop, but the real trick was, I knitted them both at the same time.  That’s right, both socks on the same, super-long needle, appearing beneath my flying needles like I’m granny on Bugs Bunny.  I have to say, I’m deeply impressed with my badass knitting self about this.  Go me!

I learned how to do this amazing feat via some cool on-line videos made by Liat Gat.  I highly recommend her extremely clear, cheerful videos for all your Knitting Education needs.  Soooooo much better than trying to learn from a book.  Sell all you’re How To Knit books and get Liat’s videos instead.  She makes it super easy to learn tricky things.  I knitted these socks and didn’t have to scratch out my own eyes, not even once!  Go Liat!

Regular readers will remember that the original plan was to knit a pair of Koigu socks .  This is still the plan, but I thought I would perfect my technique on some larger yarn first.  Which I have now done.  So, I’m on to the fingering-weight Koigu (fingering weight is thin yarn, like embroidery floss), it is such beautiful stuff.

But something has become quickly obvious: if you love to knit, but can’t afford much yarn, knit fingering-weight yarn because it takes FORFUCKINGEVER to finish anything.  I might be finished my Koigu socks sometime before I turn 70.  Maybe.  Seriously, you knit for an hour in front of the tv watching Death Note or Samurai Champloo, your needles are flying, stitch after stitch, and then you look down and you’ve advanced your socks by, say, a quarter of an inch.  Sigh.

BUT I WILL FINISH THEM.  And when I do, I’ll post pictures. If there are still blogs by then, if the internet hasn’t become an implant we all receive at birth, if the coming zombie apocalypse hasn’t ended the World As We Know It.

I gave these pretty teal socks, my learning socks, to my cousin who is an all around awesome person.  She deserves some hand-knit socks.

Two socks at once—check that bad boy off the bucket list!


the knitting mushi want me to knit a scarf

So this thing happened that was kind of weird, not eye’s popping “HOLY SHIT” weird, just, eyebrows lift “Huh!” weird.  My life is full of that second kind of weird.

You might recall the kids and I got into an anime last month called “Mushishi” about a traveling mushi master named Gingko.  Mushi are these strange semi-supernatural creatures, that have a strange semi-parasitic relationship with humans, Gingko is a mushi master who has a strange affinity for them, its a very cool show, you should watch a few.  Anyway.  I was doing an image search for Gingko and was scrolling down page when I notice something odd.  There is a nice pic of Gingko in his winter gear:

And right above it on the results page is a picture of this lovely, purple yarn:

Huh?  The juxtaposition leads my brain inevitably to think: is this the very purple yarn that Gingko’s purple scarf is knitted from?

Okay, I know Gingko is an animated manga character, no actual yarn was used in the making of his scarf.  But, I mean, it’s the exact same color, is it not?  Why is yarn turning up on a Mushishi search?

Turns out there is a yarn made by Plymouth Yarn Co inexplicably named “Mushishi.”

I found some yesterday in the local yarn store.  That’s right, I was in the local yarn store, I didn’t buy anything, it was a super human effort.  But back to the mushishi.  Wool and silk, very soft, comes in giant hanks…just the right size for making a traveling mushi-shi master a scarf.

I feel the boundaries between art and reality thinning sometimes.  It can get confusing.

“Mushi” means insect in Japanese, as in the wonderful art/game Hanamushi (“insect flowers”) that the kids and I played last year.  I wonder why an American yarn company named their yarn Mushishi?  Is there a secret anime-lover in the naming department?  Is there some other definition for the word mushishi in Japanese besides “bug master”?  I am oddly curious about this, like having a song stuck in my head that I keep returning to.

And how about that exact color of Mushishi yarn showing up right over Gingko with his purple scarf?  I have now contracted an obsessive desire to knit Gingko’s scarf out of Mushishi yarn and wrap it around my neck this winter.  Even though I know yarn and show are unrelated (probably) I can’t help but feel some kind of weird link between the two, a link (or the illusion of one) created by the google search algorithm devas who put these two pictures next to each other in that image search.  Maybe it is a sign.

But I can not purchase yarn at the moment.  I have a sweater nearly knitted up out of stashed Donegal Tweed in hunter green, done-but-for-the-sleeves.  It is top-down, raglan, in the round, with negative ease.  Lovely yarn.  I must finish that first.  I also have a pair of worsted socks, toe-up, two at a time using magic loop almost at the mystical Turning of the Heel stage.  I told you I was going to learn how to do that.  AND I’ve got my Koigu all lined up for the needles when I finish these worsted puppies. I’m doing straight-up, vanilla, stockinette toe-ups on the Koigu.  It will be a dream made manifest.  So you see, my knitting dance card is full at the moment.  No room for a mushishi scarf.

Listen to me dork out on the knitting-speak!  I feel so quirky!

But it’s just too weird a coincidence, don’t you think?  Maybe I should buy this yarn anyway.  These are the stash-increasing-excuses we knitters employ when needed.  Like this: maybe I’ll buy the yarn and knit it up and something really cool will happen to me while I’m wearing that scarf.  The knitting-mushi must want me to have that yarn!  That’s the only explanation.

Sometimes I like to go all magical-thinking on my purchase decisions.  Don’t you?

Okay, okay, I’m going to stop stalling and go get my 1000 words on the nightmare book.  Have you noticed I’m up to 32,000 words?  Progress is happening!

moka pot madness, or, mastering the glorious cafe cubano, or, coffee as sweet as my husband

I’m back on the sauce.  Coffee, that is.  Glorious, aromatic, black and tan COFFEE.

I had given it up by accident when I started drinking green smoothies.  I would drink the smoothie and just not want any coffee right then (coffee + smoothis = yuck), and then the day would get on and before I knew it, I wouldn’t have had any coffee all day.  I thought, hey, cool.  I guess I gave it up.  So I walked around feeling all virtuous and pure.

Then I was finishing up Children of the Fallen, and getting up super early to do it, and Paul had coffee and I would just take a sip of his… Just a little bit wouldn’t hurt me, right?


When I worked in South Beach Miami, there was this grubby, fantastic Cuban cafe down the street and I used to stop in there and get the works, black beans, fried plantains, blackened fish, and these tiny shots of super sweet espresso that would blow the top of my head off.

Cafe Cubano. O. M. F. G.

So yeah, a couple of weeks ago, stealing sips of Paul’s coffee and pretending I was just a social coffee drinker, I could quit any time, I found myself combing the internet for info on those tiny, mystical, Cuban Coffees I used to down like sweet shots at every single opportunity.  Surely there was a way to get such syrupy coffee goodness here in North Carolina?  Surely I needn’t buy a ticket and fly down to Miami just for a hit of the good stuff?

I understand now it was all just exactly like picking back up a drug habit I thought I had kicked.  The obsession, the glassy eyed look, the talking about your works, your drug-making gear, the shakes when you have to wait too long….

Bit of backstory: before I had kids, I was a HUGE COFFEE WHORE.  I had the income of a migrant cucumber picker but I had a Rancilio espresso machine, and a high-end burr grinder.  Hell, I modified a popcorn popper in which to roast my own beans that I bought green on the internet.  This is not unlike saying, “I can carve a bong out of a carrot.”  Shamelessly I pursued the God Shot, that perfect shot of espresso, with a daily, ritualized prostration over my stainless steel espresso machine and I was happy, I tell you, happy.  It was god damn beautiful.

I gave it all up when I got preggo.  And then I nursed for years and you do NOT want a caffeinated baby.  I only started back because I was a freaking zombie, nursing two babies and getting four hours of sleep a night, and my Uncle Jamie said, “Why not drink coffee?”  “Oh, it will give me headaches, I’ve been off so long…” “Naw,” said Jamie, “Just power through.  You’ll be fine.”

I remember staring at him, like the smog had just been cleared from my sleep-deprived brain and the sun had finally burst through—it was all so logical.  Just Power Through!  So, I started drinking coffee again, just pour-over drip, nothing fancy, but OH how I loved it.  I didn’t have the time for espresso and God Shots, but that was okay. Instead of demitasse cups I did Alice In Wonderland boat-sized mugs of the stuff full of double sugar and triple cream….

Fast forward to the green smoothies, then to the novel, then to me fiendishly rubbing my hands together as I pulled the trigger on an ebay order for one of these:

The note is from Sophie, who was answering my, “do you want some coffee with your toast?”  Relax, I only make her decaf.

Because, if you’re going to make Cafe Cubano, you have to have a moka-pot.  Or, as they are now called, a stove-top espresso maker.  Whatever.  I would have done it with my old Rancilio, but I discovered, much to my horror, that the boiler has cracked at some point in the last eight years of being in storage.  SOB.  I then discovered that it will cost over $200 to get it fixed.  DOUBLE SOB.  Well, I don’t have the counter space for it anymore, anyway.  Best stick to the traditional moka-pot.  They’re only $20 or so.  Bang.

Moving on!  The moka pot I got is a stainless steel Bialetti, 6 cup size—one cup being 1.5 oz or so.  In American terms, that’s one mug (9 or 10 oz) of super strong stuff, or three demi-tasse very full (3 oz each), or 6 tacitas, which are the Cuban thimble-sized cups I used to get my Cafe Cubanos in at the aforementioned grubby Cuban cafe.

But wait, back up, does this mean I found out how to make the Cuban coffees?


First, Paul talked to a woman he knows who grew up in Miami and whose mother is Cuban and got the inside scoop.  It has to do with adding the first few drops of espresso that perc out to a fuck-load of sugar—I’m not kidding, it’s like, a heaping teaspoon per tacitas—and then whipping the coffee/sugar mixture into a frenzied paste while the rest of the coffee brews.  Huh?  What the heck was he talking about?  To youtube!  Where I found confirmation on several coffee vids, plus this excellent tutorial with photos.  If you do it just right, you get this sweet, syrupy black stuff with the caramel colored foam on top, the espumita, man oh man oh MAN.

I’ve been working on my technique.  Sophie likes them, too, so I’ve been making hers in decaf and we share tiny cups of coffee each morning, such a pleasant ritual.  We always clink the cups, like we’re at a tea party.  Clink!  Mmmmmm.

In this way, I started with just a little cup in the morning, easily justified.  The cup is so small!  I’m only having one!  But then…okay, well, I found I really, really wanted another around mid-afternoon.  But I don’t want to make a whole pot, not without Sophie and Paul to help me drink it, what to do?

So last week I got one of these:

Action fingers shows off her Vanna White skills.  You’re pointing the wrong way, Action Fingers.

A miniature, single cup (remember, that’s 1.5 oz), moka-pot!  It’s tiny.  It’s SO CUTE.  Meet my new Vev Vigano (which Paul can’t say with a straight face) which makes half a demi-tasse cup of espresso at a time.  It’s really more the tacitas size, which is just about perfect for a mid-afternoon shot of coffee goodness.

Unfortunately, it is SO small that it’s almost impossible to balance on the prongs on my gas-stove top thingy.  Indeed, yesterday, just as the black gold was percing through, I knocked it slightly and it fell over, spilling my espresso everywhere.

I wanted to cry.

Paul took one look at this mess and did his little, “huh,” sound and disappeared.  I was vaguely aware of him rummaging through the recycling, then of the sound of power tools outside, as I ground coffee beans for another miniature pot to replace my squandered one.  By the time I was ready to put it on to boil, Paul comes back in with this:

A DIY trivet made out of a flattened, drilled, can top.

Wow!  What a great idea!  What a sweet husband!  I have him a big kiss.  “You’re the best!”

It works!

Then I made him one of these:


(Excellent music in this one….)

witch wear, or, living the dream

Sophie has been making masks.

I love the individually cut feathers on the owl mask!  The wolf got a snout that I managed to miss in this photo, but its pretty awesome, all shaped and glued into place.  And drat, I couldn’t find the peacock mask, which is truly a shame because it is gorgeous.  I’m not sure where Sophie is getting the idea for these but I do know this: she is on a mission.  New masks have been appearing around the yurt every day for a week.

But perhaps the theme she is playing with is concealment and mystery, because what she really wanted was a cloak to go with the masks.  A big, swishy, black cloak with a pointy hood.  It was very specific.

Heck, said I,  now that we have a sewing machine, let’s make one! How’s that for instant gratification?  Three yards of cheap-o black fabric and we were in business:

We poked around on the internet for a pattern but nothing was quite right.  Finally we did a pattern mash-up, a circle cloak (I had to remember how to use pi to find a circumference from a radius for the neck line, whew, just barely managed it, couldn’t BELIEVE that after a bit of prodding my brain remembered that formula), with a squarish hood (for the pointed top, VERY important) slightly gathered to meet the neck, and she wanted a ragged hem for extra mystique.  I think it came out pretty well. Sophie did the sewing after I figured out the cutting and piecing.  Bottom line, she is pleased as all get out, wears her cloak everywhere now.  It’s like having my very own midget Nazgul.

Although I don’t think a Nazgul would be caught dead wearing these:

Five bucks yesterday for sparkly wizard sneakers, you can’t beat that! Sophie says they are Wizard of Oz shoes because in the book, the magic slippers are silver, not ruby red, and I’m down with that.  Literary references for the win!

But of course, to be really witchy and mysterious, you need a cat.

Mo-mo is only slightly willing to participate, but Sophie respects that.  A good familiar can’t be a push-over.

Although the cat is optional, and the various masks come and go, the cloak and  shoes are now permanently attached to my child.  I did make her take them off for sleep last night.  I don’t know the details of the story Sophie is living out inside herself as she wears her spooky, mysterious outfit day in day out, but I think its all pretty cool and it is my mission to help her do it.

An artist needs to be able to do her thing, I believe, free of bother and trouble of explaining her process to the rest of us.

the dark side of a lounge pants obsession

It’s probably the Katwise thing (see yesterday’s post), plus Sophie doing a bunch of sewing with her great aunt (who is a master seamstress) (I covet Sophie’s adorable new bag made from too-small favorite jeans with rhinestones and rainbow lining, by the way), plus Luc just got this rocking pair of pirate pajama pants at a yard sale and I WANT THEM only, you know, they don’t fit, plus, oh, I don’t know, I’m supposed to be finishing this NOVEL, oh yeah THAT. All of these things add up to my new total obsession with all things LOUNGE PANTS.

As in, I want to make some. A bunch of pairs.  And what’s up with that, calling what is clearly a single item a pair?  I know there are two legs, as in a pair of them, yada yada, but really, the whole pantS as plural thing makes no sense.  But I don’t care I want to wear nothing but lounge pants plural or singular, I want them in all colors, especially pirate. I’m going to wear them on my arms, too. And my head. The kids will wear them. Paul will wear them. I’m going to make some for the dog. I may have lost my mind. But  I’m sure wearing some lounge pants will help with that.

I love this photo I ran across when googling “pirate lounge pants.”

Some intrepid mom has made pirate lounge pants for her entire family! I’m totally going to do this.

I like stripes, too, still the pirate-y theme, sort of,

Or maybe horizontal?

Okay, maybe not.  (Does my fat ass make my fat ass look big?)

But really, don’t these pants look all loungy? Don’t they make you just want to lounge around?

Or, you know, maybe if we’re going to have men in lounge pants…

Uh, what was I saying?  Oh yes!  Lounge pants!  (You would not believe what google gives you if you put in “sexy man in lounge pants.” Ahem.)

And let me go on record right now against the controversial topic of words on the butt of lounge pants.  You know what I mean, pants that have “sweet” or “butter” or something that canNOT help but seem like a euphemism for something nasty when on someone’s (usually a pretty girl’s) bum.  I don’t know who started this but it’s just wrong.  Because, hey, if you’ve got a nice ass, you don’t want to mess up the view with some silly word.

Anyway.  I totally want some lounge pants with cupcakes on them.

Or a COMBO, pirate cupcake!

YES!  YES!  It’s perfect!

Oh, wait a minute, it isn’t even a picture of lounge pants.


There.  Whew.  I kind of got lost in the frenzy there for a moment.  But look at these lovely lounge pants!  I must have a dozen pairs of these at once!

Of course this means trying to locate my old Singer sewing machine in my mother’s attic (put in storage when we moved from the rambling farm house to the 700 square foot yurt) and seeing if it still works after 8 years of disuse.   It’s over 100 years old, purchased for $20 bucks at the thrift store, a FIND. I have made many, many things on that baby, skirts, quilts, halloween costumes.  No lounge pants, though.  Until now.

There’s a project for us!  Pack the kids in the car for a four hour drive to my mother’s place to find the sewing machine!  That should take DAYS.  And that’s all before I actually start sewing!

Because CLEARLY I have gone OFF THE DEEP END because what I am SUPPOSED to be doing right now is EDITING MY FUCKING NOVEL which supposedly is going to be PUBLISHED IN A FEW SHORT WEEKS WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING GOING ON AND ON ABOUT FUCKING LOUNGE FUCKING PANTS????  [tearing own hair out]

This is all totally par for the course, of course.  Procrastination is an art form, a CRUCIAL part of the creative process, and I stand by that.  While wearing lounge pants.

Fuck me.  Maybe I just need a vacation.

Where I do a lot of lounging.  In pants.

(I’ve typed “lounge” so many times now that it looks like a foreign language word and I’ve had to google it to make sure I’m spelling it right.  Twice.)