We Are All Simpsons

Maybe it’s because we don’t have anyone in our household in the correct demographic for the Harry Potter phenomenon, so we didn’t get caught up in all the hype.  At least not the HP hype.  NO, we are all about the Simpsons here.  Tom has always loved the Simpsons.  So naturally, every gift-giving opportunity, someone gives him another Simpson novelty gift.  We are covered up in them. 

There’s the Simpsons Chess game where all the chess people are Simpsons characters. 

There’s the Simpsons action figures beside his recliner in the living room (complete with his personalized ass-groove permanently embedded in it). 

There is the figurine on his office computer terminal (in the background is Tom’s childhood collection of matchbox cars).

There’s even a pair of Homer Drawers he got for Valentine’s Day (okay that one is from me, but it was supposed to be a gag).

Somewhere on the VCR rack are several important season collections of the show.

So when I ran across this over at the David Erwin’s Flickr account, I couldn’t resist the temptation to blow some of my valuable time playing with a web app.

Yes, We are all Simpsons.  Go play!


New Project, New Magazine, oh and it’s raining again

Woodsy Back_done I started this last week, the back is done and the front is cast on. The yarn I got from Jenny Check‘s stash sale, Patons Classic Merino in Winter White.  It’s an uber simple pattern and I like the nod toward aran and gansey even though it’s neither really.  I have really missed knitting with wool.  It’s from the Creative Knitting magazine, September 2006.  I don’t like every issue of this mag, but sometimes there are some hidden treasures in them.  I am not a snob about pattern mags anymore.  This sweater is in the same issue and I definitely want to make it.Cardy  I calls for Galway yarn and I’ve never knit with it, but it’s very Woodsy_closereasonable and has a lot of colors to choose from.  I actually like the color in the mag though. 

I also bought a Knitter’s magazine this week.  The Spring 2007 issue.  Again, not everything strikes my fancy, but more than most of their issues.  Now, if I could just do without sleep…

Cover Cotton Eyelet L_sleeves Lace

Jam Session – A Taste of Texas Summer

Mustang_clusters There is a native grape in Texas that can be found in most areas of the state.  It grows wild along fence rows, power lines, oak mottes, you can see them all over the landscape while driving the back roads.  They were here when the Spanish missionaries arrived in the 1600′s.  And they are mighty hard to kill.  Much better to just accept them and perhaps enjoy their bounty.  On the good years that is.  This year is a good year.  Tons of rain this spring has resulted in an awesome crop of wild Mustang grapes and they are ready right NOW!  They are large, they are abundant and they are early.  If you are in Texas and go looking for these grapes, beware, their acid level is high, they can cause irritation to skin.  I can handle them pretty well, but the six year old tried to help last night and had to stop because of the itching that the grape juice had caused on her hands.  Also, don’t try to eat these things.  They are practically inedible right off the vine.  They are extremely tart.  But, they make great jelly and wine.  I don’t make wine, I make jelly.

Grapes I picked these on Friday evening and had so much fun making the jelly, that we went back for more grapes on Sunday afternoon.  It took a mere 5 minutes to pick 8 quarts of grapes.  The Mustang grape (vitis mustanensis) makes a dark almost black grape with a tough, thick skin.  They are great for wildlife, lots of birds and mammals eat them.  The leaves and teh vine are not as pretty and iconic as the cultivated grapes, but these hardy vines survive heat and drought like no other. 

Cooking_grapes After removing all the stems from the grapes and washing them, I mash them with a ‘tater masher.  Once they are all souped up, I add about a cup of water and cook them over medium high heat about 30 minutes or untill the skins are soft and the pulp has broken down, stirring often to prevent sticking ans scorching.  The juice becomes more purple as it continues to cook.  Then I strain the juice through a wire mesh strainer, mashing the pulp and seeds with a wooden spoon to squeeze more juice out.  8 quarts of grapes yields almost 8 cups of juice.  I cover the juice with plastic and put it in the fridge overnight.  No need to hurt oneself.  It’s nice to get up and be able to go right to the jelly-making. 

  • 4 cups mustang grape juiceJar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 pkg. Pectin (Sure Jell, or whatever)
  • 7-8 cups of suger

note: Because Mustang grapes are so tart they take over twice the sugar you would use for concord grapes.  It isn’t too sweet.  It’s a balance thing.

Bring grape juice, lemon juice and pectin to a hard boil (can’t stir it down), add the sugar and bring it to a hard boil again, stirring constantly, boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

(While you were boiling the juice, you were sterilizing the jars and lids, so now is the time to fill the hot jars with the hot mixture.  Leave 1/4 inch head room.  After placing all the lids on and screwing them down securely, invert the jars for a few minutes to kill any fungus or bacteria that might be on the lids.  Turn them back upright and allow them to cool slowly, checking on them to see that all the jars "pop" when they seal.  Wipe the jars off and label if you like.  I made 9 1/2 pints with the first batch.

I have 8 more cups of juice in my fridge waiting for more sugar and jars.  This jelly bears practically no resemblance to concord jelly, but it is grapey and tasty and there are Texans who were brought up on this stuff that crave it with a big love.  If you’re here, find some and try it.  If you aren’t in Texas, or aren’t inclined to make your own jelly, you can buy it
Norma, I’ll bring you some when we come up to Vermont in August.

The Shirt That Would Be Socks

Square_play_done I finally finished the oldest UFO/WIP I had.  There was a lot of picking up stitches on this, but it wasn’t a difficult pattern and was fairly easy to pick up again after allowing it to marinate for over a year.  This might be interesting in a different sock yarn too, say a handpaint with a really slow progression of colors.  Each square of the top is 24 stitches by 30 rows.  I love the fit of this thing and considering it was just a bunch of squares, it fits nicely after the 6 rows of armhole and neck edging.  Oh, and blocking.  This one I blocked with some brut force.  It was a two pronged attack; soak, pin out, dry, steam, dry.  That was what was needed to get all the corners to lie down flat.  I am making a green skirt to go with it and bought some beads to make a beaded belt, but have not mustered the courage to try to put it together.

Square_play2_2 Square Play by Rick Mondragon
Knitter’s Magazine 75, Summer 2004
Lion Brand Magic Stripes in Bright Spring, 3-4 skeins
size 2US and 4US circular needles

I bought some Patons Classic Merino yarn from Jenny’s stash sale and it arrived just in time.  I dug out a pattern and I’m ready to cast on.  I still have two other sweater UFO’s that I will be finishing at the same time.  I just really needed a new project.

Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag

A rainy Fourth of July and all I’ve done today is cook and sew.  I made this bag today.  I cannot tell you how much I love it!  I first found this cool silk tweed at Hancock’s on sale 50% off and bought a couple of yards.  It was too heavy for a garment but it was perfect for a bag.  Then when McCall’s patterns went on sale for 99 cents each, I got a whack of them and one was for this bag – M5198.  It called for metal rings, 1 3/4 in. in diameter.  I could NOT find them in any store and I went to them all.  I even tried the hardware store.  I looked online at purveyors of bag hardware, nope, nothing.  Purse_detail
Finally a Google search led me to an eBay merchant and I bought 4 (just in case I wanna make another) and they were like 49 cents each.  I think the shipping cost more.  Anyway, the rings came yesterday and I decided the holiday with no plans was the time to whip this puppy out.  Purse_lining
It is lined with a lighter colored cotton.  I don’t like dark linings because I can’t see the damn things if they are dark.  It has a couple of pockets inside.  The zipper is a left over over-ordered custom zipper for my Mariah – I couldn’t make out colors online, so I ordered two to be sure.  This one had no other job to do so it was perfect.  The pattern calls for wrapping a tab of the fabric around the ring joins, but I thought that was too much of the fabric and it was really thick when folded over that many times.  I broke several needles trying it.  Silk_bag2
Finally, I hand stitched the fold-overs and decided to use some elk hide I had(what?) to create the contrast tabs and secure the ring joins.  I really like the way it came out,, though my hands are sore from punching holes in leather.  I was going to make a beaded zipper pull, but couldn’t find the right beads, then remembered I had this key ring that I bought from a hearing-impaired peddler.   

I am nearing the finish of the Square Play sock yarn top – only about 5 more squares. 

The rains have been phenomenal this year, there is no county in Texas that remains in a drought – I cannot remember when if ever that happened before.  Yesterday it rained so much our little creek by the house that drains into an ephemeral pond left it’s banks.  Storm_water_2
This is normally a path across the tiny creek which often runs completely dry.

Happy 4th Y’all!

The Greatest Show on Earth

Elephants3 We took Abby to the circus on Saturday, The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, that is.  It was her first time, we felt she was ready.  It was a little scaled back from the last time I went which was the 1998 retirement tour of Gunther Gebel-Williams, now that was a great show!  Man, he was hot, even as an old man.  Unfortunately Gunther passed away in 2001. 

Elephants For all those out there with new babies this year, or any on the way soon, you can register your child to receive a certificate good for a free ticket for their first visit to the circus.  They don’t expire, we have been hanging on to Abby’s certificate until we felt she would really appreciate the circus.  Our tickets were 25$ each and hers was free.  Go sign up!  And if you come early to the show, you can see the animals and there is always an interactive pre-show on the Auditorium floor with the clowns and acrobats.  And if you know when the circus is actually arriving in your town, you can meet the train and watch the parade of animals down the street to the stadium or event center where the circus will be held.  OR, if you attend the last show in a city, right after the show they walk the animals back to the train and you can watch that as well.  Strangely, this year, they had a couple of alpacas in the show and all they did was put a halter on them and parade them around when they were doing the grand entrance and the finale.  Not sure what that was all about, but perhaps they are easier to manage than camels, which I did not see this time.

After the circus on Saturday, Abby spent the night with her Grandma Shirley so mommy and daddy could have a date.  We grabbed a burger and a beer at the biker bar down the road, Cindy’s Gone Hog Wild – It’s a pretty interesting place.  They have pool tables and tables inside as well as stools around the u-shaped bar and an outdoor area where they have live bands at night.  There’s no AC, the walls are just garage doors that can be raised for good weather and lowered for bad, but there was a fair breeze coming through and it wasn’t bad even on a hot day.  It’s a good place to relax and visit and throw back a beer or two and pretty much get left alone if you wanna be left alone.  And pretty friendly too if you like to sport leather, gray ponytails and tattoos.  The menu is pretty broad for such a place, though most of it is frozen before it’s fried, still, the prices were good and honestly there aren’t a lot of places to eat out in our neck of the woods that are any good.  After the meal we went back to the house to watch the movie Tom got for Father’s Day, Letters from Iwo Jima.  Good movie, however, subtitled movies do not allow me to get a lot of knitting done AND follow the movie too. 

I’ll close with a few pix from the garden.  Okra soon!

Beans_2 Eggplant Squash Sweet100 Spider