Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy Dog

I took Chester for a walk on Sunday. He was the sole object of my attention. Just Chester--no Therapy Dog (Gus), no Goof Ball Dog (Clyde). Boy, was he happy about that. Click on the picture to better see his smile.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another Finished Project

Yesterday's ABC Baby Afghan was not the only project I finally got finished. This week I finally finished a mosaic for myself.

A few months ago my sister wanted me to make a mosaic for her based on our phony baloney sheep's cheese label I put together quite some time ago. At that time my sister was mostly making mozzarrella, one of the easier cheeses to make, and this is the label I came up with.

She said she wanted the sheep, the words "Ewe La La Cheese Co" and something similar to "artisan sheep milk cheese and yogurt". She insisted the sheep had to have the all the curlicues and cuteness of the original. As I worked with the design I realized bigger would be easier and my first board was too small.

I put that board away to be used later for some other project and started over. This time I made the board a little bigger and left plenty of room at the top and bottom for the words. I shortened the first part to simply "Ewe La La" and changed the bottom around to a more aesthetically pleasing sounding (at least to me) "Artisinal Sheep's Milk Yogurt & Cheese". I really wanted to make the letters in the same curly font and wasn't sure if I could pull it off.

Then I remembered my handy dandy Rotozip with all it's marvelous attachments. I did a little experiment with the flex shaft attachment and a tile bit. It worked! I copied the letters as best I could from the original, then used tracing paper over the copied letters. Then flipping the tracing paper back and forth over a tile I was able to copy the letter to the tile. The Rotozip tile bit cut through the tile and I was able to carefully carve the letters out. For the bottom letters I used some already printed out letters that we had gotten when Carli was in 4-H. They were the right size and I just had to trace around them on the tile with a china marker pencil. The curly letters would have been way too much work on the bottom!

One of the hardest things about the sheep was the tile I used for the main body. Not just hard as in difficult to do, but hard because it was a porcelain floor tile and very hard texturally. The Rotozip didn't work well on it, and in fact is not supposed to be used on that type of tile. Those pieces were all broken or cut by hand with the tile nippers.

I decided to do the background with a sort of subway tile look. I cut the tile with a tile cutter into strips. At first I was going to make the strips all the same size and stack them, but I quickly realized that wasn't going to work for me. I changed it to more of an irregular running bond pattern which made it easier.

I got this one finished at the end of November and I liked it so much I decided to use the first, smaller board to make another for myself.
By this time I had the brilliant idea to go and buy carbon paper to copy the letters. I also managed to play with the computer a bit and figured out how to make the letters print larger (by making it "landscape" instead of "portrait"). I decided my mosaic didn't need the bottom words so that would further make it a little easier. The only other change I made was that I decided to play with the colors and go with something a little brighter.

Eventually everything but the background was done. I had been playing with the idea of making it in a sort of fan cobblestone pattern but was unsure of how "busy" it would make the whole thing look. Finally I just decided to go for it and bite the bullet and "just do it". Well I guess I had to make something a little harder for myself!As always there was a learning curve involved. It turned out good enough for me and I am actually pleased with the results.

Now I just have to figure out where I'm going to put it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ABC Blankie

While I was in Cambria last week I was finally able to finish my ABC baby blanket. Boy was that an everlasting project! I started it in November of 2007. What didn't I do wrong?

Way back in November 2007 I was once again in Cambria and stopped into a yarn shop. I found some yarn that was a little different than the usual variegated pastel baby yarns. It was yarn by N.Y. Yarns, the Parfait colors, in a pattern called "Bright Baby Mix", a mix of vibrant blues, pinks, and yellows. It was on sale for only $3.00 per 50 gram ball. I bought the remaining 8 balls. Never mind that I didn't yet have any patterns for it; I was sure I could find something.

Once I was back home I found a fairly simple pattern. It's called Baby's ABC's Afghan. It's apparently originally from Caron Yarns according to the website I got the pattern from. The instructions say the materials to use are 5 skeins of Caron Simply Soft and a size D crochet hook. I have no idea how much one skein of the Caron yarn is because it doesn't say (yards or weight). The N.Y. yarn was actually kind of thick and I was using a size I hook.

The blanket starts at the bottom and you work your way up. I got the X Y Z blocks done and knew I was going to have to get more yarn. Michael's doesn't carry N.Y. Yarn. Neither do any of our local stores. Did I forget to mention the reason it was on sale in Cambria was because that shop wasn't going to carry it any more?

After searching around on the internet for a while I finally found a place with the best price. I ordered 20 skeins, which came to $91.79 with shipping. I crocheted off and on and used about half those skeins before summer hit. I think your average knitter/crocheter like me knows that it's hard to get in the mood to crochet a blanket in the heat of summer. The blanket was set aside.

I picked it up again late this winter, knowing I would have to finish it now or it would never get done. I got up to the D-H row and realized I was going to have to order more yarn! The price hadn't changed but I was in a hurry now and I ordered it 2nd Day Postage ($22.25 vs. $4.29).

I could have saved myself $18 because while reviewing my work, I noticed a mistake that was a little more than a dropped or added stitch at the end of a row. This "U with a tail" was supposed to be a "Q". Remember I had gotten 2 squares above that, about 55 rows at least. I ripped it all out and vowed to pay closer attention.

Knowing I would be going to Cambria last week for a few days and knowing I would have lots of time in the evening to work on the blanket I brought it with me. And yes, I finally got the thing done, after a little over one year and about $186.97 worth of yarn!
My minor mistakes aren't visible and my major mistake was repaired. Because I used a different kind of yarn and a much larger crochet hook my blanket turned out a little larger than the 35" X 42" that the pattern advised. Surprisingly mine was not much larger at about 48" square.

In any case, I'm glad it's done and it looks half way decent. Hopefully the baby won't get too big for it by next winter (she's about 28" tall right now).

Monday, January 26, 2009


The weather people have been promising rain for a while now and last night we finally got it!

First we had a beautiful sunset.

Then around 8:00 we finally got some good rain.

I hope we get more because this area could sure use it.

Back From Cambria

I returned from my "mini vacation" in Cambria on Friday. We ended up staying one day longer than we had originally planned. It sure is nice to get out of town every once in a while. I did feel a little guilty about making my guys feed my animals for me while I was gone. Just a little.

Vicki and I didn't really do a whole lot on this trip. Cambria has some really nice walking paths and we took advantage of those. On one of the trails you are allowed to let your dogs off leash. We went there one day and several other people were out with their dogs. I secretly thought it was funny that all the dogs seemed to want to go with us and ignored their owners until we told them to go on back.

On our last night we went out to dinner and had a lot of fun, especially overhearing an older couple who were apparently on a first date. It was very amusing to hear this woman telling her date how special she was. She wove quite the tale about her coast to coast travels and how important she thought she was! Anyway, when we came home and pulled into the driveway this is what we saw. (Click on the picture to see an enlargement. What's interesting about them is their eyes are all glowing a different color!)I went out and tried to get a better picture but I didn't bring my tripod with me. I didn't want to get too close and scare them off so I thought this would have to do.

I managed to get my ABC Baby Blanket finished while I was in Cambria. I'll show that tomorrow. I've noticed that if I put too many pictures in one post they won't enlarge when you click on them and I want you to be able to see that first picture here.

So that's it for this post. I know, I know, my life is so very unexciting, unlike the lady from dinner! I just wish you could have heard her. I have to laugh just thinking about it now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm Off

Yes, I'm "off", but you knew that already!

Actually, I'm off to Cambria with my friend Vicki. I'll be back in a few days.

This is only possible because Marcus has been laid off work and doesn't have a new position yet, so it's good news/bad news. Bad for him, good for me. I am taking full advantage of my babysitting break!


Monday, January 19, 2009


One animal we've never raised is a pig. Several years ago my husband managed to shoot a wild pig which we then had butchered and turned into smoked ham and delicious sausage. But with my woeful lack of space raising our own butcher pigs was not something I felt I should be taking on.

What's the next best thing? Have a friend raise a pig for you. That is what we are doing now.

Our friend Greg, in Shafter, raised a pig last summer. His family was pleased with the results and he asked if we'd be interested in a pig when he ordered his next pig. Since he was willing to do the chores and he had the room we said "Sure!"

About two weeks ago his pig supplier brought two piglets to Greg's rurally located home. His pen was all ready for them.

Now we sit back and relax while the cute little piglets grow into big ugly hogs.

Then the big ugly hogs will be turned into delicious pork ready for the freezer!

In retrospect it's a good thing they are out at Greg's, because I'm afraid it would be too easy to get too attached to them!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Asia Market

Some time last summer I promised you a little photo tour of my favorite Asian grocery store, surprisingly enough called "Asia Market". I first remember them being at the end of a smallish corner strip mall. It was a tiny placed literally crammed to the gills with all things Asian. Additionally there was a popular small take out restaurant inside that served generous portions of delicious Chinese food at more than reasonable prices.

Several years ago that corner got redeveloped and a large chain grocery store went in. Asia Market moved to some roomy new digs in the south west part of town. Today, the Asia Market is thriving and that chain grocery store had to close that location. To be fair, there's only one Asia Market and a million Vons.

Asia Market's new location is at least ten times larger than the old location. Although there is now ample room to walk freely through the aisles it is still chock full of every imaginable Asian grocery item, and most likely several you've not even heard of. It's really fun to just walk up and down the aisles looking at the brightly labeled cans, jars, and bags. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what's in the containers because the labels are in foreign languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) and the contents are unfamiliar looking.

Yesterday Carli was off so she and I, along with the baby, went to visit the Asia Market. I know some stores prohibit photographs and videos being taken inside their stores and it was my intention to ask before I started shooting. However, when we walked in the proprietess was busy cooking and I didn't see anyone else around at the time. Consequently the following photos were taken with the flash off. You'll also notice the camera level was at the middle of my chest, where the strap hung.

No rice shortage here. I don't know why but I brought home a 10 pound bag!

Oodles and oodles of all kinds of noodles. (You knew that was coming!)

Rows and rows of canned fish of every type (squid, sardines, tuna, cockles, etc etc!).

Look, Pepsi and... Sarsi?

The freezers were full of frozen fish of all kinds.

And other frozen stuff too.

Frozen coconut milk and frozen horseradish leaves.
Fresh veggies and eggs. Notice the quail eggs!
The baby's checking out the salmon heads.

Are you looking at ME? Are YOU looking at me? Are you LOOKING at me? (Catfish in the tank.)

In addition to the groceries there were also all types of dishes, bowls, and cookware.

I do wish I knew a little more about Asian cuisine, but for now it's just easier to order the take-out!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Tale Of Two Kitties

We have a new long-term visitor. Her name is Ollie and she is a very fluffy semi-flat faced cat. She actually belongs to Carli.

When Carli et al moved in to their small, but brand new apartment complex a while ago they naturally brought Ollie with them. Other tenants appeared to have cats too as there were always a few milling about. But that all came to a screeching halt when management wrote all the tenants a letter basically stating that cats were against the contract and anyone caught with one would be evicted.

So we now have a big fat fluffy kitty named Ollie. She'll be with us until #1: we move out of town; or #2: Carli is able to buy her own home.

It took Ollie a while to come around, but she knows where the food is. She gets on fine with the dogs but she does not like Kneadermeier and Kneadermeier does not like her. They are finally beginning to tolerate each other, but only so much.

My husband was just beginning to barely accept her when one night I forgot to put her out and she managed to kill one of our finches. From then on she became an outside only kitty, though she does keep trying to come in.

Ollie before she was banished to outdoor only status.

Meanwhile Kneadermeier continues to enjoy her status as Top Cat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shooting Grapes

Last week my husband and I went out for a little drive north of town to the canals. Mainly we just wanted to get out of the house for a while. While he was looking to shoot ducks, I was looking to shoot potentially interesting photos.

This actually turned into a two day thing for us. The first day was very dark and dreary. We saw a couple of ducks but they were too wary and out of his shooting range. I only took a couple of photos that day. But the next day was a little brighter and I wanted to go back, specifically to a couple of spots.

A snipe on the canal bank.
Here's a huge mass of starlings. They remind me of the masses of locusts you read about that darken the skies.

This was a pistachio orchard. I like the light trunks and how they are so perfectly lined up.
Besides the pistachios there were almonds and lots of vineyards. This was a more established vineyard. You can see how thick the trunks are.
Here is a younger vineyard. I found the different method used for pruning and the supports for the vines interesting. These vineyards were across-canal neighbors.
I was surprised to see so many grape clusters left on the vines.

There appeared to be three different varieties of grapes in this area. There were the big, dark grapes from the above photos, the green grapes shown below, and then a smaller, dark grape in the bottom photos.

I won't deny I had a taste of each type. I don't know what they were, but all three were very good, despite it being so late on the vine.

I wonder how the owner(s) feel about gleaning?