Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Things That Make Me Ecstatic

Not just happy. ECSTATIC.

1. chocolate truffles from Trader Joe's: Okay, that goes without saying.

2. unagi sushi: HOLY CRAP why didn't someone tell me about this stuff years ago?!

3. Ysolda Teague's pattern Vine Yoke Cardigan: I know it's creepy, but my blog is a place of safety where I can say this: I have never had a rush of endorphins quite like the one I felt last night as I worked the right front of this sweater. All those things people keep saying about Ysolda's patterns? True! All of it, true. They are both pretty and absurdly pleasing to knit.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be disappearing for the remainder of this sweater.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

FO: Emergency Stocking!

My family does stockings at Christmas. Always have. Growing up, my mother made each of our stockings. Now, there's a bit of a split in there, rather like geological strata can explain a past seismic event -- and not all of them match. I imagine she'd rather me not betray the detailed reality of our unmatching stockings, but here's the thing: she made them all, and they're all quite nice.

So it's ingrained in me that you make stockings. You do not purchase ready-made stockings at Target or anywhere else. Christmas stockings must be hand-made.

I got married last summer. The two of us will dash around the Central Time Zone for a total of four Christmases (five counting our own), and for the Christmas with my family, he'll need a stocking.

Thank goodness I had 4.5 balls of bulky green yarn in the form of SWTC Gianna (great stuff, bummer they discontinued it). I'm also of the belief that small amounts of novelty yarn can save your hide from time to time. This is one of those times.

Now, I'm the first to admit that this stocking is perhaps not the most beautiful stocking ever made. I can personally identify at least three major flaws, and as my husband pointed out, "The toes are stumpy."

Dude: That matters not when finishing a Christmas stocking days before it is to be put to use. I will probably frog it after it's done and put the yarn to use again on a better version some other December 14 when I realize suddenly that we are, as ever, a stocking short of a full-fledged Christmas.

pattern: Ann Budd's On Your Toes Socks (well, one of them, anyway)
completed: December 19, 2009
yarn: SWTC Gianna (discontinued, alas), a wool-soysilk blend; and Bernat Baby Boucle in white, an irritating yarn due to the tufty boucle bits but it worked for this.
made for: my fella
needles: size 11 for the Gianna and size 7 for the Boucle

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

FO: Giganamous Gloves

I want to start by saying I have very long fingers. In school, music teachers would see my hands and stare longingly at them, and mention how useful it is to have long fingers when you play the [you name it]. Store-bought gloves never fit me quite right. My index finger is 3" long, and according to the glove sizing in Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, that gives me man-sized hands.

This is how big I had to make my most recent pair of gloves:

The gentleman who asked for them has hands that are so big, they're literally off the chart. I had to work my own math to get the thumb gusset right.

As requested, the gloves have articulated fingers but no fingertips. (Thank goodness - fingertips are a pain in the rear to work.)

Here's another scale picture with the most recent pair of fingerless gloves I made, the Monet Mitts, in a women's M:

The new owner of these gloves happens to be an ENT surgeon, which is very impressive - although I'm not sure how he gets his fingers in there to do his stuff. You have to wonder, does he ever get one of his fingers stuck?

pattern: Basic Glove Pattern from Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.
completed: December 13, 2009.
yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted. I bought this yarn at a trading post on the Navajo Reservation where they were selling it cheap. It's not locally spun, according to Brown Sheep - the store just doesn't mark it up much for whatever reason. But, the store was selling it in loose skeins, not wound up with ball bands like you see it everywhere else. That means, among other things, I can't be sure of the colorways. I used about 115 yards of the MC (Brown Heather?) and about 50 yards of the CC (Blue Blood Red?).
made for: a giant.
needles: size 7 dpns.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Negative Stash Flow

I am just so clever sometimes, I could squeal.

I'm thinking of knitting resolutions for the New Year, and I've decided to try something new. The Happy Points experiment has worked beautifully, as I've described elsewhere. Now I'm adding a new layer: I want to achieve Negative Stash Flow.

For 2010, I need to have more yarn going out than coming in.

I will evaluate this on a month-by-month basis. I'm going to try out this counter to keep track.

I do believe a movement is in order. I don't have anywhere near the readership to start one myself, but if anybody out there feels like helping to make this viral, post away.

Happy Point Count: 80 flat. About to go down sharply to support my new idea for a sweater design.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Big Step

I've gone and changed my Rav name. Given what a remarkably active dork I am on that site, this was not a decision taken lightly.

I'm now MightyGoodYarn, to match this blog and everything else.

If only changing one's legal name were as simple.

More to come.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Accidental Rainbow

I honestly didn't mean to come up with this:

But there I was, knitting blue, then the yarn when all pink and red on me, and before I knew it, in less than three days, there was practically a whole ROYGBIV thing going on in my lap.

It's enough to keep you up all night with suspense, just waiting to see what comes up next.

For my own re-edification (for the next time I make one of these cowls I will have forgotten how I did it the first time):

CO 73.
Work 4 rounds in seed stitch.
Work almost the entire ball in St st.
Work another 4 rnds in seed stitch.
Cast off using a stretchy bind-off. (Russian is my fav.)

Finished product is 7.5" by 10.5" (when laid flat).

Disclaimer: I'm sure someone else has published the above, so I hereby take no credit for reinventing a wheel.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Headlines Were Never My Thing

A tad scrambled, a lot late. Life, it turns out, is consuming.

In brief:

1. We live in a top-floor apartment that somehow doesn't get any light except in the late afternoon, which during the winter means between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Today I was home during those hours, but it rained cold rain and the skies were dark. Ergo, please excuse the utter lack of pictures.

2. I have finished many knitted things lately. Four items, to be exact, including one sweater. Do you think I could use a sick day so I could stay home and blog about them?

3. I do believe someone is pulling a prank on us. I-35 has been under construction as long as I've been aware that there was a highway called I-35 - like, 15 years? - yet it remains two lanes wide for most of the distance one has to travel on Thanksgiving weekend. (That is good for finishing socks, as it happens...)

4. Why is writing a cover letter to a resume such a soul-crushing job, when the goal is to say only nice things about yourself?

5. Why have they stopped making thermal blankets? There was nothing wrong with them.

6. Tomorrow, I go to a bar to report on mixed drinks as a professional journalist. This is, in fact, the second time I have been given the assignment of reporting on bars. Now, I had some good times in my early 20s, but overall the whole notion of me being positioned as an expert on Bloody Mary mix and mojito rankings is a bit funny when you realize that my idea of a nice evening is to cuddle with my honey under a thermal blanket finishing a pair of socks as it rains cold rain and the skies are dark.

One does what one can.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Name That Cardigan

There's a point in your schedule at which having a whole lot of fulfilling activities suddenly becomes overwhelming, and those fulfilling activities lose a little of the appeal that made you sign up in the first place. It's like hitting peak oil: you're drawing more energy out of yourself than you can produce.

A sign that I have hit peak oil would be that I have been waiting three days to finish the final two inches of a shoulder seam on a cardigan I'm designing. I have a Netflix movie that has been sitting on our table for 9 days. The bathroom sink doesn't want to get undressed if the lights are on.

It's those final two inches that are bothering me the most.

Here's my original sketch of the cardigan:

This is my first sweater that I've designed, and it's actually gone very well, when I've had time for it. I don't have a name for it yet; I'm calling it a "Honeysuckle Cardigan" on my Rav page, but seems like there ought to be something more alluring than that.

If you're thinking of designing a sweater, here are some lessons I've learned as a first-timer:

1. Draw a sketch, even if you think you're a bad artist.
1(a). You're probably not that bad of an artist.
1(b). When you're halfway in and you're trying to remember how wide a lace panel you wanted, look back at the sketch. Things will change from start to finish, but this is how you record your original inspiration.

2. Read up on sleeves before you get too far. I am shocked that these sleeves appear to have worked out. (There's still a chance they'll fail - remember those two inches.)

3. Reduce bulk. Make a half-inch seam allowance instead of a full inch; do a three-needle bind-off at the shoulders.

4. Seam in bits and pieces to see how things are going.

5. Keep it simple. Someone (maybe Michelle Rose Orne?) said that you should focus on one inventive design element, and everything else should support that. That doesn't mean everything else is boring, just that you're creating an essay of sorts, and you need to remember what your thesis statement is.

6. Make thorough notes on your swatch. I did it on an index card which I'll probably staple to the swatch after the sweater's done, so I can have proof that it lied to me.

7. When all else fails, study the Anthropologie catalog. Those sweaters are genius.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

FO: Fishens

Before we get down to business, I'd like to bring up something. There ought to be a special word for the kind of person who plays his television at top volume early in the morning while he's in the shower and therefore can't see said television. How about... "douche-waster"?

Our downstairs neighbor has decided he'd like to be a douche-waster. So that's why I'm up this early.

I also have a list of FOs and WIPs that is beginning to make me feel guilty. That right there is not a good sign. I just started contributing to a for-profit blog (hard launch next week, I'll tell you about it then), one that requires five posts per week, and the last thing I want is for this project (slightly paid though it may be) to start gouging into this blog and my knitting time. I may not have a choice.

Quick projects are good in a stressful time, and a couple weeks ago, I finished up these baby mittens, which I'm calling Fishens for now:

I suppose the pattern is mine in that the concept is mine, but it's really a Frankenstein of two patterns, neither of which originated in my brain: Baby Mittens (which I've made before) and Wishy Washy Fishy Tawashi.

They took about two weekend days to complete, which doesn't count my false start after I decided I didn't like the colors I was using before and frogged the first attempt. In fact, if I had scrap sock yarn that was machine-washable, I would certainly have chosen brighter colors, but this is what I had, and given the state of the current embargo on yarn buying, I went with it.

I started these Fishens without a recipient in mind, but then the fella pointed out that he's subbing for someone who's on maternity leave from work, and it was a good opportunity to make nice. Turns out, she adores them and now wants pairs for all her friends.

I sure don't have time for whatever number "all of her friends" turns out to be, but it's nice the Fishens are appreciated.

pattern: Fishens, a combo of two other patterns (see above).
completed: October 25, 2009.
yarn: The Woolen Rabbit merino/nylon sock yarn (colorway: Rosemary and Thyme) and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Solid (colorway: chino)
made for: professional advancement
needles: size 2 dpns

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Multiplication Tables

Last night I cast on for a pair of men's gloves requested by a friend. This friend has enormous hands. His wrists are 8" in diameter. His knuckles are 9.5" in diameter. (A woman's medium is usually about 6"/7.5".) There is no one in my household with hands like that, so I am making these gloves somewhat blindly, with only my hasty measurements to guide me.

Here's the math: at a gauge of 20 sts/4", an eight-inch wrist means 40 stitches, minus the standard 10 percent for ribbing.

(Did you know you subtract at least 10 percent on ribbing, to make it snug? You do.)

I decided to cast on 36 stitches. What's 36 divided between 3 needles? Why, 13 of course.


In other news, tomorrow I'll be returning to the third grade, where we learn things like multiplication and division.

Happy Point Count: 63. I have my next yarn order all picked out, but oddly enough, we have no money. I appear to have discovered a flaw in the Happy Point system, wherein previously I had assumed that I would have least that much money to spend on yarn once I'd earned the points. In fact, income has proved to be an independent variable, and long story short, we're damned poor right now, thankyouverymuch RECESSION. (Yeah, I'm talking at you.)

But good golly, Molly. If and when things turn around for us, can you imagine the colossal box of yarn that will arrive at our doorstep? Not just yarn: books, clothes, the entire stock of Anthropologie... A dresser from Pottery Barn... My sweetie wants a PS3...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Adventures Abound

We're trying new things around here.

First, I had a coupon for Greenling, an organic grocery home delivery service. They offer a lot of local foods, which are hard to find when you start looking.

Turns out, local foods really are better -- it's the freshness. On Saturday, we had my usual "throwpot pasta" (throw whatever you have into a pot and put it over pasta) with half a pound of ground beef from a cow who lived in nearby Bastrop and ate a lot of grass. OH MY GOODNESS. You could smell and taste the difference -- absolutely fresh meat, bright red when it was raw, that tasted superb. Also, meat from locally raised livestock may still involve the death of an animal, but the animal lived in better conditions and the negative environmental impact is drastically lessened by the reduced distance the meat has to travel.

We also got a half-dozen fresh eggs form a local farm in the same drop-off box. Four of them did their part in a key lime pie:

It didn't last long enough for a virgin photo.

I followed the recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and the ingredients roughly include the following:

  • 9 Graham crackers
  • sugar
  • LOADS of butter
  • the yolks of four farm-fresh eggs
  • a little bit of lime juice
  • later,
  • the four egg whites
  • confectioner's sugar
  • a pinch of cream of tartar and salt
  • a call to my mother to ask if it really takes that long to beat meringue: "It's faster if you have a mixer." / "Yeah, I don't think we have one."
  • a plea to my husband who generously turned his arm to the meringue when mine threatened to fall off, followed by, "You know we have a mixer, don't you?"

Lastly, I finally found the time to unpack my brand...
sewing machine!

Thanks to Kara and Consumer Reports, I settled on a Brother Innovis-40 machine, and this weekend I tried it out on a simple repair job. It ain't pretty, but that's one sports bra that'll have another few years of use left. I've got a skirt pattern and some cotton-hemp fabric waiting for when my courage rises.

By the way, I put money down for all the products mentioned here. Just in case anybody's wondering if Brother decided to send me a free sewing machine. (Say, that's a pretty good idea, now that I mention it...)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lace: How to Read a Chart

Tonight, I tried to pick up where I left off on my Traveling Roses Scarf:

I had the chart in front of me, and I stared and I stared for minutes and minutes. Dinner was on the verge of burning, but I couldn't tear myself away from that chart until I deduced properly where I'd left off. I began to mutter, to curse, to squint. How could I be so lost? How could it be this impossible to find my place? I'd only put it down less than two weeks ago! Confoundit, that stupid, mother-effing piece-of-crap pattern written by the biggest b--


I was holding the paper upside-down.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Navajoland: Come for the Unemployment, Stay for the Dust

(Which is not to be disrespectful to the Navajo. I think most Navajo would in fact appreciate the dark humor. And to be fair, there was an awful lot of dust.)

As I mentioned, the other week I went on a volunteer trip to the Navajo Reservation. We worked on the roof of a house that was about ten minutes from town. Behind the house was a view like this:

Next door to the dorm was a trading company with a wall like this:

I accomplished many things.

Happy Point Count: 52. It was significantly higher, but see that picture? These folks are selling Brown Sheep Top of the Lamb for $4.25/skein, and Lamb's Pride for $4.50/skein. Plus I was lonely, and I'd like to point out that some people shoot heroin when they get lonely.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

FO: Selbu Modern, DK'd

The list of items I am intending to showcase here is sort of appalling, in that it's very long and I have the attention span of a turnip this week. That's what happens when you endure five and a half days of dust storms in rural New Mexico, much of it from atop the roof of a house where your cell phone just looks back at you and blinks rather than attempt any meaningful contact with the outside world.

Just sayin'.

Where was I?

I finished this a few weeks ago in September:

Apologies for the bathroom-mirror shot. I try to avoid those, but the odd part of finally living in a nice apartment is that there is no direct light against a bare wall anywhere in here.

This yarn is unbelievably awesome. Soft, soft, soft, and the colors behave excellently together, precisely in the opposite way of a dust storm and my sinuses.

pattern: Selbu Modern, by Kate Gagnon Osborn.
completed: September 28, 2009.
yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca & Silk (1 skein each of 127 (blue) and 132 (yellow), 146 yards each).
made for: me.
needles: size 1 and 3 circs.

Permit me to show off like your Cousin Buster last Thanksgiving and tell you about my mathematical prowess. See those decreases at the top? There are seven repeats in there. Yup, seven. Pattern calls for eight. I used a DK yarn instead of light fingering, and all my calculations (many of which involved the quantity pi) turned out righty-right-right. I'm just sayin'.

This pattern is a super one if you're not sure about your colorwork skills; there are only two strands throughout. Plus, it's beautiful. I've got my eye on Jared Flood's Beaumont Tam next!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sock yarn prizes are awesome.

I've won a prize in the House Cup for my Monet Mitts!

I'm terrifically excited about the prize, too: my pick of one of pacasha's sock yarns from her etsy shop. I've already told her which one is my favorite, but it was a hard decision. Can you guess which one I chose?

Thanks, vberry, for nominating those mitts for a prize. I'm very flattered, and I'm having an excellent time so far with the Cup!

Another update soon, I hope. I just got back into town and I'm leaving again for a week on Friday, but in between wondering where all my white socks have gone and imperfectly timing the depletion of groceries, I plan to post some more pics.

Today's Happy Point Count: 56. Unpacking my suitcase right after I return home has always been such a challenge... until now!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bylines: Interweave Knits

I just got word in the comments section that Interweave Knits Weekend has arrived in a few mailboxes. If you've got an eagle-eye, you'll notice that I contributed the Ravelings feature to this issue!

The column is about how I combine motivation to finish housework and my yarn addiction to great effect. Seriously -- great effect.

I employ what is known around our household as the "Happy Point System." (To learn more, pick up a copy of the magazine.) I've been itching to write about Happy Points since I first started using them for myself, and now I can mention them freely. To that end, you might even start to see the occasional Happy Point counter at the bottom of a blog post.

Welcome, new readers. Thanks for visiting.

Today's Happy Point Count: 45. Took a big hit on our honeymoon in June; still recovering.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Design: Monet Mitts

Strong color variegation and color pooling make for two of the trickiest challenges in knitting, in my book. I love the sight of bright blues and muted browns in the same skein, or bright pinks and subtle greens together. Yet when they are knit up, often I am disappointed in the awkward color pooling or a muddy mix of the shades in the colorway. True, it’s a personal-preference thing—lots of knitters love that look—but I know many knitters who sadly turn down a creatively dyed skein because, like me, they’re worried about how the end product could ever be something they’d enjoy.

After shopping at a professional dyer’s studio on vacation this summer, I walked away in possession of two skeins of yarn with sharp contrast: deep blues to lime green, and bright pinks to yellows. For me it was an unusual choice, but an idea occurred to me. What if you use a particular stitch to deliberately pool the colors and highlight certain shades?

The colors of the blue-to-green skein put me in mind of Monet’s Nymphéas series of paintings - you know, the ones with the water lilies. The inexact nature of impressionist depiction is helpful, because it concentrates more on how light hits objects at a particular moment in time rather than sharp, clear lines delineating each object.

From this concept, I created the Monet Mitts.

They are standard fingerless gloves with 2x1 ribbing at the cuff and top edge and a gusset for the thumb. Wherever I encountered three or four inches of lime green in the yarn, I made a daisy stitch to bring out the color. After, I used bits from the pink-to-yellow skein to embroider small blooms on the lily pads.

Here is an image from Monet’s Nymphéas (1904), for comparison:

This concept could be made to work with a variety of colorways to create the impression of clouds against the sky, wildflowers sprinkled across a meadow, or any other irregular color patterns occurring in nature.

What follows is more of a tutorial than a pattern, because it relies so heavily on a specific type of yarn that may not be widely available.

I used Sweetgeorgia Yarns Superwash Sport in the Lake Park colorway for these gloves; again, it’s not a mass-produced yarn, so keep your eyes out for another yarn that would work. You’ll know you’ve got a good yarn if the contrast color (the one you want for your “lily pads”) appears in sections of about three or four inches for lighter weight yarns, and up to six inches for worsted yarns. The contrast color should occur roughly once every twelve to thirty-six inches. I don’t possess enough skill as a dyer to create my own yarn for this sort of project, but for those dyers who do, this is the basic look you want in your yarn.

Here's a picture of how long a stretch of contrasting color you'll be looking at for this stitch pattern:

I’ll write up the directions for these exact gloves at the bottom, but keep in mind that the technique can be applied to most any knitted project you please: gloves, hats, cowls, even sweaters if you’re so inclined. Refer to designers such as Ann Budd or Elizabeth Zimmerman who have provided reliable basic templates for knitted garments.

For gloves, cast on the required number of stitches, and knit the first round in regular ribbing. After that first round, you can begin with the daisy stitch each time you come across a section of contrast color.

Daisy stitch: k3tog but keep stitches on left needle, yo, and k3tog into same three stitches.

On the following round, when you get to the daisy stitch, just knit across the tops of all three stitches. If you’re in the ribbing section, still knit across the top of the daisy stitch; wait until the following round to return to the ribbing.
Don’t work any daisy stitches on your bind-off round.

Now, not to be confusing, but to make those little blooms, take a yarn in a sharply contrasting color and do what cross-stitchers refer to as a "lazy daisy stitch." Yup, daisies all around. All you do is make a loop, and before pulling the yarn all the way through, you catch it with the needle.

You know what? Here's a tutorial. :) Main thing is, do two of them overlapping.

Here’s a close-up of the (lazy) daisy stitch(es):

Here are some “special situations” you might encounter:

The yarn has me lined up to knit a daisy stitch directly on top of another daisy stitch. You can either knit across and let the contract color blend in with the daisy stitch below, or you can go ahead and k3tog into the lower daisy stitch. The result of the second option will look messy, but it might also be something that works if you’re looking for an impressionist-like effect.

The section of contrast color is too long for the three stitches of the daisy stitch. Try wrapping the yarn around the right needle an extra time on your YO. That will create four loops from the daisy stitch; when you come around again on the next round, treat that middle loop as you would a drop-stitch, and only knit into one loop. Let the other go loose, which will in turn loosen up the entire daisy stitch.

Here's what the four-loop stitch daisy stitch will look like, while the loops are still live:

If you have even more of the contrast color to work with, then you can k3tog, yo, k3tog, yo, k3tog, which will create five loops from a single daisy stitch. This increases two stitches, so on the next round, knit the rightmost loop of the daisy stitch together with its neighbor to the right, and do a ssk with the leftmost loop of the daisy stitch and its neighbor to the left. That will decrease two stitches, giving you the correct number overall.

Daisy stitch makes my knuckles hurt. Mine, too. Sorry to hear it. Put the project down for a day and go work on some therapeutic lace instead.

For those looking for a basic glove pattern, here is what I did, in plain English.

I cast on 36 stitches and knit one round in 2x1 ribbing. I knit 2.25 inches of ribbing, then increased one (to get to an odd number) on the first round of stockinette.

After that first stockinette round, knit halfway around (in my case, 18 stitches). Place a marker, incr 1, k1, incr 1, place a marker, and knit to the end. Knit two rounds.

Now increase one stitch at each marker every three rounds until you have a total of 49 stitches. This creates your thumb gusset. Knit more stockinette until the gloves are long enough for your hands—usually another three rounds—and put the thumb stitches on some scrap yarn. Knit the hand in stockinette until it’s 6.75 inches, increasing every three rows until you have 39 stitches. Knit six rounds of 2x1 ribbing, and bind off with a Russian cast-off, or another loose or stretchy bind-off technique.

Go back to the thumb and pick up the 13 stitches, plus a few on the inside of the thumb to close up the gap between thumb and hand. Knit four rounds of stockinette, decreasing once each round until you have 15 stitches. Knit two rounds of 2x1 ribbing, and bind off as above.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

FO: It's disgusting. I'm warning you!

I never in a million years thought I'd go this far.

The House Cup has begun (Go Ravenclaws! Woot!). We have six classes, a Quidditch tournament, and optional OWLs. It's quite a workload -- and a positively stupid amount of fun. Stick the House Cup blog in your readers if you'd like to follow along!

I have already turned in my first assignment, this one for Defense Against the Dark Arts, along with the required essay. (Note: It's disgusting, and you've been warned.)

Every summer for wizards and witches living in Texas features at least one battle with the infamous cockiroaccus villiferous (common name: evil cockroach). A close cousin to what is more commonly known among muggles as “just a plain old cockroach,” the evil cockroach does in fact possess disturbing magical properties, despite all the jerks out there who keep claiming, “What? It can’t hurt you.” Little do they know.

The evil cockroach is found in Texas, Mexico, and the equatorial region of the Western hemisphere (unlike its non-magical cousin, which is more widespread). It is approximately two inches in size, not counting the antennae, and moves at short bursts of speeds up to 30 mph (48 kph). Known magical properties include causing the human skin to crawl (see endnotes re: documented case of Miss Garabella Gordon, whose epidermis crawled four meters to the left before returning to its proper place upon vanquishing the evil cockroach); flight; psychic devastation, or the dementor-like removal of all coherent thought from any sentient beings who catch sight of it; and, on occasion, a bite that causes chronic nightmares in the victim for years to come.

The evil cockroach primarily lives outside and feasts on basically anything. Because of a serious overpopulation in the Texas region, they often encroach on wizard and witch habitats, appearing underfoot at the absolute worst possible time.

The evil cockroach is vanquished in one of a few ways. The swift, heartless application of a shoe is effective but leaves a mess that can have almost the same effect as the live organism. Pesticides derived from the magical raidius spraecano plant are effective, if applied with good aim. Curiously enough, the summoning of a patronus also banishes the evil cockroach with little mess, thus proving the oft-preferred method among wizard and witches. Researches speculate that the patronus works on this dementor-like creature because of its ability to instill irrational fear; studies are forthcoming.

My own recent experience includes an encounter with an evil cockroach. Despite unflagging efforts at cleanliness in my home, one such creature was found in the kitchen.

As I am particularly susceptible to the evil cockroach’s dastardly powers, I called for my husband to come kill it. He came to my aid.

“Is it a boggart or the real thing?” he asked. He is aware that boggarts typically appear to me as an evil cockroach.

“I don’t care!” I screeched. “Just do something about it.”

“Expecto patronum,” he said with a flick of his wand. His patronus, a big orange cat, appeared at the end of his wand, took one look at the evil cockroach, and in a fit of disinterest, went to the couch where he promptly started grooming himself.

“That stupid cat,” I grumbled.

“What? He’s cute,” my husband protested, and went over to play with the cat, who eagerly received his behind-the-ear scratches until he dissipated.

“Fine, I’ll do it myself,” I said. I pulled out my wand, and I summoned my courage. “Expecto patronum!” I shouted. (Shouting the spell in a blind rage can often increase its strength against the evil cockroach.)

My patronus appeared, a cute little chimp.

He ambled over to the cockroach, picked it up, and smashed it on the counter. The evil cockroach turned over onto its back and began wiggling its legs, a sign that it is close to death.

My patronus didn’t want to wait, however; with one hand, he pounded the bug into many pieces before eating the remains and then vanishing.

Though I still shudder at the memory of this spectacle, I hope my account will add to any efforts to help the wizarding world avoid any further encounter with the evil cockroach.

Epilogue: If I see it out of the corner of my eye, this FO still gives me the willies, and I’m the one who made it! Fortunately, an editor I occasionally write for enjoys a fascination with insects and spiders. I have already sent it to him.

kitty pic used with permission from martinimade.

ETA: I forgot the real project info!

I free-formed this little critter. In fact, it was a disgusting experience to make him, once I had to sew together the body to the back. (No, I'm not going to look up scientific terms for cockroach anatomy, because that would involve looking at pictures of real ones, nothankyou.) I used Knit Picks Shadow (laceweight) for the body, legs, and antennae, and Plymouth Yarns Encore DK for the body and head.

I was going to describe the process I followed to make the thing, but you know what? Not gonna! There are enough of the real ones in this world without anybody else going and knitting up a fake one.

I'm off to play with lace before dinner -- something that doesn't have legs!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Romantic FO: Storm Water Scarf

Sunday evening I finished my Storm Water Scarf, precisely one year after I cast on.

Funny story, that: my then-boyfriend and I were set to leave town for a quick trip down to San Antonio. Like any good knitter, I was scrambling to prepare a project to take on the road. As many others have found, winding Handmaiden Sea Silk into a ball with a swift can be disastrous--and this day, it was. I called my fella in a panic, telling him, "Don't worry! I'll be there! It's just, it's the yarn, it's all screwed up!"

Here's the funny part: my fella was at his (now our) apartment, waiting for the third hand-delivery of an engagement ring. It was the third delivery because the shop screwed it up twice: first they ordered the wrong ring. The second time they forgot the engraving. By the third time, my fella made it clear that they needed to bring it to him, in time for him to take it with us to San Antonio on THAT DAY. It was ten minutes before we were to leave, and still no ring.

Mind you, I had no clue about any of this. I did not take him ring shopping at any time. Total surprise, all around, and very sweet.

"Take all the time you need," he told me calmly.

"Thanks," I said. "You're the best."

Fortunately, the ring arrived. We had a beautiful, lovely time, and I can't think of any time ever in my life when I've enjoyed such a beautiful surprise.

Oh, and the yarn? I got it worked out, too.

I wore it out on a sort-of anniversary date last night to El Chile. After, we went to the Amy's Ice Cream where we met, and wow: the gal serving us asked me about it, and a couple in line liked it so much she asked for my card to see if I could make one for her, too. Not bad for a fresh FO!

pattern: Storm Water Scarf by Nancy Lobban.
yarn: Handmaiden Fine Yarns Sea Silk (fingering; 70% silk, 30% Seacell; color: Pale Autumn).
finished: August 30, 2009.
needles: size 8 bamboo circs. The yarn is slick enough that the bamboo made a difference.
mods: I ignored the direction to alternate between ends of the skein every other row. I think that's to prevent bad color pooling, but I didn't have a problem with it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Design: High-Temp Hemp

I'm pleased, proud, and all-around excited to introduce a new pattern to the online knitting world: High-Temp Hemp, a special celebration of the summer heat.

Hemp fiber is an ideal match for Texas summers, when temperatures regularly hang out at 103 (39.5 Celsius). It’s tough and lightweight; it softens to the touch after a good wash; and it has a memory to rival that of wool. Unfortunately, hemp isn’t a fiber that gets a lot of design support outside of market bags and washcloths. What’s needed are patterns that take advantage of hemp’s unique qualities but can still converse with current fashion trends.

This triangular shawl consists mainly of a loose stockinette, which compensates for hemp’s rough texture on your hands while knitting. The regular, narrow stripes create an even visual structure to balance the uneven look that hemp naturally gives stockinette. At the edge is a modified feather-and-fan stitch pattern whose gentle curve softens the overall look. I chose neutral colors with low contrast as an answer to the harshness of the summer heat.

I am testing the waters of pattern sales, and here's my experiment: the first twenty-five downloads will be free. After that, the pattern will be available for only $1.99 through Ravelry. Tell your friends! But first, grab yourself a free copy before the weekend hits.

EDIT: Holy smokes! Those free twenty-five went FAST! I'm flattered and thrilled, and I can't wait to see what folks come up with when they start to knit.

Leave a comment if you run into tech/knitting problems, and I'll respond straight away.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

FO: Cozy Hand Warmers

aka, More Stash-busting!

My mother and I joined an enjoyable yarn crawl in the fall of 2007 that toured several shops around Central Texas. She and I also amassed quite the collection of random, one-ball freebies. This ever-so-seldom, rarer-than-a-bloody-steak urge I'm having right now to stash-bust lead me finally to finish off one of these freebie balls.

pattern: Cozy Hand Warmers by Joelle Hoverson, in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, also found here for free.
completed: August 16, 2009.
yarn: Tahki Yarns New Tweed (silk, cotton, rayon, merino; 92 y; color 036; 1 ball).
made for: a silent charity auction, to benefit a group participating in the Four Corners Native American Ministry of the UMC (basically, building repair on the Navajo Reservation). They brought in a whopping $5, but since the yarn was free...
needles: size 5 bamboo DPNs.
notes: I went down a needle size for a more snug fit. Also note that I changed the direction of the ribbing for the second glove; the light hits it funny here, but it's all just 2x2 rotating ribbing.

In order to kill off an entire ball of yarn, I knit down from the top on each, stopping the first glove when I got to half the ball (thank you, kitchen scale) and knitting the second glove until I polished off the ball. It wound up being I think 30 rows after you close up the thumb opening. The yarn is vanquished.

Oh, and do you like these glove-blockers? They actually weren't for blocking, I just decided I needed something to show shoppers at the auction what on earth these things are (they don't look like much on their own). I used the cardboard backing from a legal pad, traced one hand, cut it out, then used that as the pattern for the other hand reversed. I stylized them a bit by intentionally cutting inside the lines on the first "hand."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sorting Hat Cometh

And not quickly enough!

I have a new obsession. It engages my unavoidable competitive spirit in a fun atmosphere, offers the possibility for (limited) fame and glory, and... involves knitting!


The Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup Group (hereafter referred to as the HPKCHC Group) is gearing up for their fourth term. I only just learned about it on Wednesday and I joined right away.

It took me a couple days of studying the FAQ and asking a few questions to figure out which way was up, but here's the gist: You sign up with a Google form and state your preferences for which house you'll be sorted into. (Cross your fingers for me: I come from a long line of respectable Ravenclaws.) Sign-ups end midnight on August 28, and some remarkable volunteers will take care of the sorting.

Some other remarkable volunteers are acting as teachers of the six classes to be offered for the next three months. Each month, every teacher assigns a project along a theme relating to their class. (For example, the Herbology professor might assign a project made out of bamboo one month. You pick the pattern, etc.) You earn points for your house by posting a photo of a completed project before the end of the month, and after looking through some FOs from past "terms," I gotta tell you, there are some very creative knitters playing this game.

Teachers nominate projects for special recognition, and you can even win actual donated prizes from this.

The term starts September 1, and I am so excited that I'm crazy-stupid-excited.

Go sign up if it interests you! It offers an excellent stash-busting opportunity and a great chance to show off your creativity to what looks like a very fun sub-sub-sub-community.

(Plus I want more people to dork-out with.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Great Stash-Bust of 2009, pt. 2

I have about an hour to burn after work before I meet a friend/fellow playwright for dinner. I decided to complement my current stash-busting craze with a handwritten list of all projects from my queue for which I currently own all required supplies -- no yarn purchases allowed.

I have 44 projects on my list.

If you eliminate the overlap (only one skein of Seasilk available, but two patterns that call for it), that number only goes down to 40.

Dear. Me.

I'd better get crackin'.

Here's a sample list, along with their yarn-buddies:

Tangled Yoke Cardigan with some Rowan Felted Tweed (Thanks, Mom! Love you!)
Honeybunch with a skein of pale blue Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud
Winecozy from some old Gedifra Fashion Trend Stripe
Yellow Ladders Purse (in blue) with some novelty yarn frogged from an old scarf
Habitat from a skein of Malabrigo Worsted

In other news: I decided the Knit Picks Palette in Mint was valuable enough to warrant an actual ebay auction. If you're interested, check it out here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Design: on the horizon

Look at what I'm cooking up.

The pattern is written up and needs a quick edit, a quick layout, and some pictures. I'm releasing it myself, and I'll offer it free for a limited time.

I'm excited to show it to you. I finished blocking on Friday, and I've worn it out three times since. Easily the most useful FO in my collection!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Great Stash-Bust of 2009

Last night I felt the powerful urge to sort through my stash. My husband was safely ensconced in a series of Call of Duty II death matches, and I thought it would be safe.

Wouldn't you know it, but the guy just had to get up and get a drink of water and then decide, "Wouldn't this be a nice time to throw away this crumpled-up paper towel, which will take me within view of the doorway to the room where my wife is sorting through her stash?"

Crap. Now he knows. He even let out a yelp when he saw it all spread out on the floor.

Fortunately, I was already trying to figure out what bits need to move on. Click here for the Flickr group of stash yarns for resale. You can also check out my page of trade/sell yarns on Ravelry. Below is a sampling of the wares, including some Knit Picks Palette and a couple hand-dyed yarns:

I'm hoping to expand this list and hopefully add some more quality yarns to the batch, so please check back in the next few days, and email me at lizcobbeATgmail-DHAT-com if any of these look attractive to you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Day of Small Victories

You know how I love my lists.

1. At roughly 2 p.m. this afternoon, my s9 Travian alliance smoked a regular attacker who was trying to farm my village. And when I say smoked, I mean to say we lost 800 troops and he lost 1500 troops, plus catapults, in the first round, and catapults in two successive attacks with a total of 37 catas lost, and over 400 cavalry lost. I even made the top 10 defenders of the week. Am I a dork? Sure. Did I get a thrill akin to sniping an ebay auction for a handpainted lace merino-bamboo blend? Heck, yes.

2. This evening I attended Scottish Rite Theatre's opening night of As You Like It. I wasn't assigned to review it (good show, guys!). But I was specifically invited to attend, so I thought I should go anyway. Beforehand, I was sort of mopey about it -- it's like going to work voluntarily. But then I showed up, I saw that they had free wine, and I realized the bonus that comes with attending a show but not reviewing it.

Boy, oh boy. Shakespeare is, like, totally backwards when you're buzzed. If you're sober, it takes 15 minutes of confusion before you understand the verse; then 15 minutes of sort-of-understanding; then you're pretty much good to go. If you've had a lot of cabernet sauvignon beforehand, you're brilliant for 15 minutes, sort of confused for a bit after that, and the rest of the show... Huh?

3. Also a bonus of not reviewing a show: I knit on a sock almost the whole time. Did they think I was rude? Perhaps. But I sure did have a nice time with my cabernet sauvignon buzz and my chino cool sock. And I've always liked that Rosalind speech to Phoebe about her market value.

4. At intermission, I was stretching my legs past a table with lots of attractive goodies on it. Someone in charge walked by and asked how many raffle tickets they'd sold.

"Only three so far!" said the lady.

"Three?" I reviewed the table. The tickets were only $2. I had $2.

Mind you, I never win raffles. Ever! Do you know how many knitting blog contests I've entered? Do you know? I have entered so many contests. I never win any of them. I never win poopy poop poop. No lottery tickets (obviously), no door prizes, no drawings, no nothing.

Guess who won tonight?

If the odds are good enough, even I apparently stand a chance of winning a $40 gift certificate to Botticelli's and a $20 gift certificate to Downstairs Apparel. Date night!

5. To round things up, here's a picture of the sock. No, that's not As You Like It, of course. That's a husband-preferred viewing of Die Hard II as John McClane voluntarily leaps into danger. "Nobody sends out McClane!" he informed me tonight. "McClane sends McClane."

Yipee-kie-yay, Mr. Finch.

So not necessarily my triumph, but the fella tells me he wanted so much to watch a Die Hard movie tonight, and there was one. Plus, he bought a peach pie from Whole Foods.

A rather nice day, don't you think?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Confessions: A Queue Problem

I know how this must sound, but...

Do you ever get to a point where you look through your Ravelry queue of 356 patterns and think, "I have nothing to knit"?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Married Life: The Male Sense of Humor

I married the fella knowing full well that he loves to tell the kind of jokes that are designed to make me roll my eyes and swat him on the arm. Whenever I do, he starts giggling like a little boy, and his shoulders do this shrug-thing that boys do when they are oh-so-happy.

Part of me wants to follow my mother’s grade-school advice: “Ignore them, and they’ll stop.” But it gives him so much pleasure, I’m not sure what’s worse: the fatigue of swatting him on the arm 17 times a day, or the strain of ignoring his ribald humor.

Example: I can’t say the word “balls” at any time without incurring said ribaldry. Soccer balls, tracker balls, pinball machines, ball bearings, fancy-dress balls, ball-and-socket joints... Can’t say it without him talking about his own. I am pretty sure he holds back at work, and I get a double-dose at all other times. He loves it.

Or another example: Yesterday he asked how much an article I’m writing will pay. “I’m not sure,” I said. “They do it by column inches.”

Maybe you have the imagination to figure out what he said next.


So I was talking to my parents on the phone the other night, and my dad made a comment that I am so not going to repeat here, but I can tell you he wouldn’t have made that comment if my mom hadn’t been on the phone. And that little sigh of resignation she gave after? Yeah. He freakin’ loved it.

Last weekend, the fella and I drove to Mississippi to visit my grandparents. At dinner on Saturday night, the fella made a joke at my expense. Not exactly gross humor, and not mean-spirited. But at my expense. My grandmother rolled her eyes.

My grandfather smiled at the fella with the biggest, most beatific smile.

This means that, among other things, I am most definitely screwed.

This is the magnolia tree in my grandparents' front yard. Its branches have been summited by many a cousin.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Sometimes, events take away every bit of what little power life grants us.

A member of an active Ravelry group in which I have participated for the past year recently gave birth. The baby died less than an hour later. There was no indication in advance that this would happen.

They named her Schuyler.

In response, several Ravelers in the group and some beyond have knit blanket squares. A big-hearted soul in Toronto will seam them together and send them to Schuyler’s mom.

As I worked on a square, I began to wonder what I was doing it for. Yes, to bring some comfort to Schuyler’s parents. Yet, is there perhaps some bit of superstitious selfishness at work, too? In knitting one, then two, then three squares for this blanket, isn’t there a small part of me that hopes if I knit these squares as best I can, then perhaps this sort of tragedy will pass me by?

But then, on each square as I approached the cast-off, I decided that no, that would not be the reason I made these squares. That would not be why we are all feverishly working to churn out a huge blanket as fast as our fingers and the post office will let us.

Death leaves us with so little ability to say or do anything. Let’s do the very best that we possibly can, and let the universe know.

Schuyler lived. She was loved.

That cannot ever be changed.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Raccoon: The New Squirrel

I'm working through a shallow backlog of posts. Upcoming: blanket squares, Mississippi travels, sock ribbing.

For now:

This is a picture taken just outside the rental office of our apartment complex during the day. One night a few weeks ago, we saw a raccoon taking a drink from the fountain. Then, he blew our minds.

He hopped up on the pedestrian rail. Then, he proceeded to climb up the vertical stone column and onto the wooden beams above. He didn't scamper like a squirrel; he painstakingly chose each handhold and foothold and, just like a human rock climber, made his way up about six feet of vertical wall to where he wanted to go.

And you thought you were safe in Texas.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Best of Blog Blackout Excuses

Whoopsies. I had such a good stream going there.

I'll tell you what got in the way. Here's the culprit: Lists of Bests.

If you sign up for a free, spamless account, you can keep track of all the Great Books you've read, the movies you've seen, and the music you've heard. You can even create as many of your own checklists as you please.

I'm right up there with most of the planet in objecting to the "authoritative" best-of lists of world literature, since somehow it seems to be only WASPy men writing originally in English who dominate every single one of those lists.

But come on. Objections aside, who out there doesn't adore a little checklist action now and again? All you Ravelry fanatics?

It just so happened, however, that a sudden wave of reading lust overcame me when I learned that I've only consumed 26 percent of the MLA's 30 Books Every Adult Should Read Before They Die list (note the ungrammatical heading, can you spot the error?) and 15 percent of Penguin Classic's 101 Best Books Ever Written list. So I tore through Pride and Prejudice, finally finished Alan Moore's Watchmen, and have just begun Zadie Smith's White Teeth. Not a lot of knitting going on.

I did however rebuild my knitter's self-esteem after frogging the attempted triangle. Might just come back to it yet.

Let me know if you go nuts on the best-of lists like I did. I'd love to compare!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Knitting Geometry

So I had this idea to design a triangular scarf. It was a seriously good concept, people. You would have loved it.

I measured as I went, I checked all kinds of things, I wrote down things and charted in advance. I compared it to other triangular shawls. Tonight, I was so psyched. I finished the border, cast off, and set aside the needles.


This is not a triangle.

I know this because I have in the past taught geometry to high school and college students. For starters, I am fairly certain that a triangle has three sides. The sides, ideally, are straight.

It has to do with the increases, I think. I didn't want eyelet increases. I wanted another kind of increase.

So I've totally had my pride handed to me here -- and would be pleased to read all input in the comments section. I shall now frog two weeks' knitting and go back to the drawing board, which I hope will have lots of triangular shawl patterns on it for me to study.

I admit that part of me is holding out hope that there might be a market out there for people with strange shoulders, looking for just the right shawl.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

stash haul '09

What's a honeymoon for, anyway?

During our Vancouver trip, the fella was oh-so-nice and pleasantly accompanied me to a whopping three yarn stores, a button store, and a weaving store that had some knitting yarns in the back.

We started off a shopping day by stumbling across Button, Button, where I spent some small change on a few buttons that I hope will find their home on a cardigan I'm planning to design this summer.

I first heard about Button, Button from The Merry Blues, coincidentally a week before we left for Vancouver. And finding the store was also coincidental. See how neat things happen?

I later got some bragalicious yarns, especially from Sweetgeorgia Yarns. The very talented Felicia was so generous to let us visit her studio on an off-day. (It's not a store per se, but she'll let you visit to shop in person, and there's always the online option.)

Felicia was also patient -- even when it became clear I wasn't one of those rich knitting ladies who leaves with $500 purchases. I agonized over which of the beautiful colorways I loved best. The fella gave his input and I wound up with some neat stuff.

That green-blue variegated number is high up in the queue! Not pictured is the brilliant turquoise laceweight I bought for my mother.

There was another store that afternoon, but, well, they weren't quite as patient with me, so I won't link. Still, I did get some neat yarns, and from that I have learned that hemp yarn has wicked memory:

I look like Wall-E!

And I promise, I really was done by that point, but then we took a quick trip to Victoria in the middle of the week, and it was the fella (not me! honest!) who pointed out Knotty by Nature. The luggage was starting to complain, so I only bought one skein of Gaia's Colours (the brown one on the bottom below, the other two are from somewhere else). It's a unique colorway from a local dyer, and that's what I was after on this trip.

Besides, you know. Honeymoon stuff.

Now I'm on a yarn-fast until probably October. Completely worth it! Thanks, Canada.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

New Music for the Bum-Knuckle Blues

One of my knuckles hurts today. On my first day in some time to knit, knit, knit... I have to stop. Sad face.

Here's some other tidbits for you:

  • Beats Broke has released three new albums in the last month... plus the wedding. Dude, have you seen our living room floor? 'Cause I sure haven't. Upside: free album download if you're speedy.
  • Just finished reading Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched by Amy Sutherland. A fascinating book about exotic wildlife training and trainers. I also recommend her book What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage.
  • I'm still inspired by this Merlin quote on learning that Ms. Martini pointed out some time back.
  • Professional research: I'd like to know which is your favorite from The Canterbury Tales, and why?
  • I've discovered Farmville on Facebook. Love it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Honeymoon FO: Twilight Socks

Not to turn away readers or anything, but... these have nothing to do with the books or movie.

We enjoyed an awesome week of honeymoon fun in Vancouver. We're pretending we can just move there any time we want -- useful when you suffer from hyperthermia after a trip to the mailbox here in Texas in June.

I understand the Canadians might have an opinion on that, but we can always dream.

We did all sorts of nifty things like bike riding, whale watching, and my first trip ever to a casino. (Keep me away: far, far away. If I like Bejeweled this much, how am I supposed to avoid the poorhouse on video poker?) There was also a little bit of knitting.

That's the finished pair, and yes, it's on my wedding dress, which I need to get cleaned and I know how horrible it must seem to take pictures with your feet on your wedding dress. But dude: I challenge anyone to find another suitable white-ish, well-lit background in this apartment. We've got boxes coming out of our ears.

pattern: Twilight, from Two-at-a-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.
yarn: Seacoast Handpainted Superwash Sock. (colorway: raspberry mocha; 1 skein).
needles: size 1
made for: me
mods: Aside from the fact that I defied the purpose of the book and knit these one-at-a-time? None, really.

Take a close look at the heels, if you can. Totally different heel constructions. That's because I was enjoying a day-before-the-wedding knitting session with my mother when I got to the heel and could not for the life of me figure out how I'd done the first one. No clue. Mom, the ever-prepared superwoman that she is, had a copy of Socks from the Toe Up from she of Wendy Knits, so I just picked one and went with it.

That's how I was with most things the week before the wedding, really.

Most of the work on the sock was accomplished on the ferry to Victoria and back. I knit on my sock:

The fella found his own shipboard amusements:

We both had an excellent time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Married Life: My First Ruined Dinner

Let me step back. While visiting Vancouver on our honeymoon, the fella and I had several natives refer us to the restaurant The Foundation (including one recommendation from the friendly, talented, and soon-to-be-blogged-about Felicia of Sweetgeorgia Yarns). We were in the neighborhood, so we gave it a shot. I had the best meal of the whole trip there:

This is not the dinner I ruined.

This is a black beans, rice, and mango concoction with some of the best salsa I've ever tasted. Hearty, savory salsa with just the right kick.

Now, I'm from Texas. For me to compliment Canadian salsa is huge. I asked the waiter, a long-haired dude in an Iron Maiden t-shirt, what made the salsa so great. "Uh, what's in the salsa?" he asked the earth-mother type dumping tortilla chips into baskets behind the nearby counter. "Chipotle," she called.

"Chipotle," he told me.

The fella and I exchanged a look. But you don't get it, I was about to tell him. Between us, we have eaten Tex-Mex on multiple continents. What is it about this salsa?

"Special chipotle," Earth Mother supplied from behind the counter.

He looked back at us with a grin and a nod. "Extra-special chipotle."

Whatever. It was damn good.

I attempted to recreate the meal just the other night with some local Texas ingredients... and... I screwed it up. It was the beans, they should have soaked longer, I admit that now. This is not a cooking blog. "I'm a doctor, Jim, not an iron chef!" Truth is, I'm only sort of good in the kitchen.

"Darlin'," I said to the fella when I realized that it was 9:45 p.m., two weeks from the day we first wed, and there was nothing to eat. "I've ruined dinner."

"That didn't take long," he said, and promptly took us out to Sonic.

He really is very sweet.