Thursday, March 16, 2006
Let all know that this Lemon Tea Cookies recipe sucks. It does. I tried it last night. The dough is mostly butter infused with a bit of flour and powdered sugar; it becomes butter again when you chill it, and is horrible to work with. The edges melt all over your hands and the solid butter doesn't form well. Then the whole cookie flattens when you bake it, which wouldn't be a problem except that you went to the trouble of doing a thumbprint in the middle of each ball (I use the term loosely) of dough, and when the cookies are baked it's gone, and there's no place to put the filling.

The filling itself never sets, so even after a thorough cooking and chilling overnight, it still dribbles off the spoon and gets all over the place, including flowing right off the top of the cookies, despite my best attempts at re-creating the thumbprint by pressing with a spoon while the cookies were still hot. Upshot: I have two dozen misshapen, crumbly, buttery cookies and a filling that can only be paired with them if you're willing to use it as a dip. I had a plate of them this morning, and it resembled nothing so much as a salad of crumbled floury buttery cookies with a lemon dressing. Life is too short to make this recipe again, despite the fact that it tasted okay and was very quick to make. It wasn't worth even the time it took.

Hi! It's me and you can see that I'm still ornery, as I was during my last post. It's this winter thing, I think. I don't like it. It started snowing in the early morning, and it's still going, albeit lightly. And of course I left my car outside, so in order to go to Jara choir tonight, I'll have to go clear it off. Grumble, grumble, sigh.

I've had yesterday and today off work, because I'm now working half-time but I need to be there all day Friday to handle the sorting for a co-worker who's on vacation. How weird to have two weekends in one week. I've gotten quite a bit done: took my sewing machine in to be serviced, did dishes/laundry, attempted the aforementioned cookies, made doctor and eye-doctor checkup appointments, pre-registered for upcoming SCA events, made spare tokens for the Bardic Madness patron alternates, corresponded with patrons and teachers (as well as Coronation merchants), and kept the BM website updated.

There has also been much knitting of the Blackberry Ridge scarf. The Mer-Made, in variegated pink, has proven to be wonderful to work with, esp. after the slightly more businesslike Regia Nation I used for Her Majesty's socks. I love knitting socks and I love sock yarn and all its color possibilities, and I also love the resulting socks in a nice small-gauge knit. But sock yarn isn't always soft on the hands, and lord GAWD it takes a long time to knit socks at 7 stitches to the inch. Anything bigger delights me because it seems to go so much quicker. I can do an entire repeat of the scarf's lace pattern in half an hour...and it adds two inches to the scarf! Maybe I should plan on alternating for the rest of my knitting life: 7 st. socks, something else, 7 st. socks, something else, etc., to give me a periodic rest from the loooong small-gauge projects.

Brief unrelated aside: I joined not too long ago, and forgot to mention it here. Here's a link to my bookmarks. I'm not very pleased with the way they're organized on-screen, but it's an interesting experiment, and it does make my bookmarks available to me anywhere. I tend to use "view as cloud" when I think of it, since I have a LOT of key words, and viewing them as a list tends to make them march right off the main screen where I can't see them. Honestly--when will web designers learn what newspaper publishers knew 150 years ago: what's above the fold is easily accessed, what's below takes effort and is less likely to be seen.

I took in my sewing machine partly because it needs a tune-up (hasn't had one since the first year I lived in La Crosse), and partly because, in attempting to remove the burnt-out lightbulb so I could go buy another one, I inadvertently screwed the glass bulb out of its metal collar, leaving the collar behind--and inaccessible--in the sewing machine. It'll be gone for two weeks. Meanwhile I'm making this corset, on Iohanna's advice, to go under both my pseudo-Elizabethan that I got at Pennsic this past year, and the German gown that's been lurking in my closet waiting for me to alter it for three years (it's the last gown on this page). I'm skeptical that either gown will be small enough to look right on me with a corset, but they certainly don't look right without one, and with a correctly-fitting corset I can wear types of garb I haven't been able to even consider before now.

So I'm corseting. But as you may have guessed, I'm corseting by hand. We'll see how this works out. I'm using quilting thread and backstitching where I can, but I still worry that the first day I wear the corset, several bones will worm their way through my hand-stitching. I keep telling myself that in period, they didn't have sewing machines, so their hand-stitching had to be sufficient for heavy-use items like corsets. But they had servants with tough hands who sewed half the day, and were available whenever repairs were needed; I'm a librarian whose hands don't do much that's more stressful than knitting, and that only a little bit each day. And I don't want to make an occupation out of mending (or replacing) my garb. I would rather it stood up to regular use.

My package of boning/busk/lacing from Grannd is on its way, so we'll see whether I've ordered the right lengths of boning. This is all new to me--bodices don't need more than a half-dozen pieces of boning, and the placement is fairly prescribed. This corset needs about 36 one-quarter-inch bones, but I'm free to place them, which was harder than I thought it would be because you have to coordinate lengths with placing. I did the calculations for the order without marking the corset, then placed my order, but once I went to put the markings in, things didn't work out the same as the order. I think it will be okay; I'm just leaving out the 10" ones under the arms, which will leave one side of each of the side tabs without boning, but I really don't care, I didn't want them digging into my hips anyway. So half of each tab folds up. Big deal.

This will be my first time wearing a busk. Basically, in period, this was a piece of wood or bone, wider than boning, that slipped into a pocket in the front middle of the corset, giving the flat cylindrical look that Elizabethan corsets need to provide. Once it's slipped in, you fasten it with a ribbon through two little holes in the busk and in the corset, then tie it in a bow. This is the origin of the little ribbon bow that decorates the center front of many bras, did you know that? Little fashion trivia bits like that are so fascinating.

I have no one to drive to Bardic Madness with, unless my friend Clara decides to come with me. She is still deciding. She's relatively new to Wisconsin and to winter, as to the SCA, and has never taken a long trip to an event. So it's possible she will decide against it, in which case, I'm all alone. I refused an invite from Dahrien on the grounds that, with car trouble/accidents a main cause of people in the SCA not arriving at events on time, especially in the winter in Northshield, the Provost and her Drop-Dead Deputy should probably not ride together. So he'll be riding with Breddelwyn.

I'm not upset at the prospect of driving alone, but I wonder if I should be more social these days. I find myself staying at home a lot, knitting, watching movies, reading, hanging out, and turning down reasons to go out. Now that I'm working less, the tendency is even more pronounced. I have always liked being alone, but this is starting to verge on the anti-social. Maybe I should give this more thought...well, I'll have plenty of time to think on the way to South Dakota.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Since I got back from San Francisco, I've felt vaguely guilty because...ahem...I didn't love it. Yes, I admit it: I didn't farking leave my heart in San Francisco (tm)!
Why not? Mainly because it never got above 52 degrees the whole time I was there. The rain wouldn't have bothered me, truly (there were only a few hours of that) but I was always cold, no matter what I did, because nobody heats anything there. It's California, right? Cold weather can't last for long. People kept apologizing to me and saying, "It's never this cold, it's freezing, I can't believe how cold it is!" Storekeepers were leaving their front doors wide open, while they sat behind the desk swaddled in five layers of sweaters and parkas and hats. I felt like pointing out that they could close the doors, for just a few days--people would probably still figure out that they needed to open the door to shop there.

I also didn't quite get that the hills were THAT hilly. The first day I was there, I followed Polk St. (the fun shopping street; my hotel was right off of it) down almost to the water, then tried to walk back up Hyde St. The first few blocks were a real eye-opener. I haven't worked myself that hard in years. The cable car was right next to me, and I would have taken it, but I hadn't yet bought a transit pass, and without it, every cable car ride is $5. My, I'm cheap....Of course, later in the visit, I ended up having to walk up various hills merely because I would miscalculate how to get someplace and decide against the bus/cable car, then find myself three (uphill) blocks from my destination, with no other way to get there than walking. Why don't they mark the hills on the map? (I know, I know, they'd be misread as one-way streets.) My legs hurt from Wednesday to Monday, pretty much.

Good stuff about San Francisco: good boutique shopping, Chinatown (now I wish I'd bought a few of those silk jacquard purses they were selling--I didn't bring home enough presents for friends), Japantown (smallish though it is), and amazing food (largely Italian, in my case, but I had the impression that the quality would have been as high with anything I'd chosen). (I had carpaccio twice, just like I did in San Diego. I do believe I have a genuine California tradition going.) I liked the Castle Inn--quiet, clean, economical, great location, friendly desk staff, handy fridge and microwave, and the heat in the room worked well. I spent my evenings knitting and watching the Olympics, which was fine with me, with the jetlag factor and my aversion to going back out in the cold.

I had TWO breakfasts of warm apple crepes with whipped cream and a Nutella drizzle. *pause for slightly dreamy remembering* And I don't even like breakfast food.

The tours I took were worth the money, but both would have been much more fun in better weather. The cable car trip, with the cold wind whipping at us from all directions, was just me and some German tourists, and the driver kept leering at me in the big convex mirror in the front of the car. His English wasn't very good and he was not very knowledgeable about the city--a new tour driver, perhaps? But he did stop often to let us take pictures. You get the best pictures from the vantage point of a cable car. I'll have to get mine off the camera and into some sort of gallery soon, so people can see them.

The bus tour to Muir Woods was not bad--the driver was infinitely better, with lots of little quirky ways of speaking, stories, trivia, and even poems. He claimed he was reciting poetry to us to distract us from the hairpin turns in the road to the Woods, and in my case, it actually worked. He seemed very intent on making sure we understood the geography of where we were and where we were going, pointing out landmarks, and I recall he definitely wanted us to know we were going to "Ma-RINN county, folks, we'll be entering Ma-RINN counteeeee."

Compared to him, the woods were almost a let-down. It was raining steadily when we got there, so I pulled up the hood of my hoodie and marched into the woods, figuring I would see the trees if it froze me. It nearly did. It must have been 40 degrees or so in the woods, and damp. At a certain point--I think it was when I saw the family of deer--I stopped reading the informational placards and just walked quickly. The bus was heated, and I can see deer on any highway in Wisconsin, all year round.

50 minutes is not enough time to enjoy Sausalito (wonderful boutiques, very pretty place) but that's all we had, and by stopping to buy a mocha to warm my hands/belly, I nearly missed the bus and had to chase it for two blocks.

I don't want to paint the trip as a bust, but the yucky stuff is what seems to be coming to mind tonight. It hasn't been a good week...and it's only Wednesday.

Finished one of Aesa's socks on the plane coming back. Guess what? It turns out that the seating preferences you so carefully choose during your Expedia trip session are for show only--they don't get transmitted to the actual airline. What a waste of some fairly intricate web programming, huh? On the way back I was stuck with the aisle for one flight, and the middle of three seats for another (all filled). Luckily such situations are conducive to tucking your head down and knitting like a fiend for three hours straight. So that made me extra-productive, at least.

Sock #2 is about 1/3 finished. Seems like the leg takes forever. Why is it that everyone but me seems to like knitting their socks toe-up? Sure you avoid grafting, but nothing else is different, and you have to do the long, boring part at the end. No wonder so many people knit orphan socks--no motivation to start the next one. Give me top-down any day. When you've labored days to get to the heel, the rest of it flies by.

I should mention, in case anyone was wondering about my employment situation, that the good folks at R&L came up with a half-time LTE position for me, for the next year. This starts March 13 and won't substantially change my duties, it'll just have me doing them for 20 hours a week instead of 40. I don't have a problem with this; to a certain extent, a job is a job, and also I'm happy not to have to leave R&L, where I'm comfortable and like my work. It also keeps me there for another year, in which time (cross your fingers) a "real" (read: with benefits) position might come up.
In the meantime, going to half-time is looking more and more appetizing. I'll still be doing the sorting on Tuesdays, so what I'll probably do is 12-4 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 8-4:30 Tuesdays, and off Fridays unless I'm needed for something specific. Just in time--this allows me to take Friday off before Bardic Madness.

On a completely different note, I've received several e-mails over the last few months from people who did a Google search on "corn parchies" and came up with one of my archive pages from 2002 (scroll down to the Feb. 5 entry) where I listed foodstuffs that I missed. Normally I don't mind writing back to strangers who e-mail to ask something about my webpage, but I'm getting tired of answering the same question. So, once and for all (or until the company goes out of business), here is where you can buy corn parchies: Barry Farm Foods, which has an online shopping interface where you will find "Sweet Corn, Roasted w/Salt" at the top of the Snacks page. It tastes just like every corn parchie I've ever eaten, including the ones I had to fry up myself using dried corn. So--all you corn parchie fans, go, enjoy, patronize a small family business.

And if you want a slightly more glamorous snack, I highly recommend Pocky Mousse Chocolat Chaud. Yes, it is different from regular Chocolate Pocky. Trust me.

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