Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Another Easter, another 42 pound weight gain.  Ugh.

I made another batch of cinnamon rolls on Friday night/Saturday morning and they were just as delicious as last time. I didn't have any cream cheese on hand, so I found a recipe for an old fall back that I remember my mom making a version of - butter, vanilla, and enough powdered sugar and milk to make it the desired consistency.  I based mine off of this recipe.  Some said it was better than the original cream cheese icing, but don't tell Alton.

I had a giant group of extended family in town, so of course we had appetizer and drinks, dinner out and wine, and dessert and more booze after (and the amount of noise we created steadily grew throughout the night. None of us are really quiet people).  There were two kinds of pie from the Seattle Pie Company, marionberry and strawberry rhubarb, so of course I had to try a little bit of both. And what's pie without a scoop of ice cream on top? My vote went to the rhubarb.

And on Sunday, I made chocolate pumpkin muffins (cupcakes, really) with German Chocolate cake mix -my preferred cake mix for those, and fair scones from a mix to put homemade lemon curd and peach butter on. Followed by a huge dinner and a homemade strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert. Again with the pie. I can't say I minded too much at the time. It was really good.

So in conclusion, two days and 42 pounds later.... I'm going to go home and eat that leftover piece of strawberry pie I have sitting on the kitchen counter.

Right after I go running.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Projects

With Easter near on the horizon, and today being Good Friday and all, I thought it was time to post my most recent crafting experience. Easter Eggs!

I used the classic Paas egg dye, where you dissolve tabs in vinegar, then add water.

I tried to keep it nice and clean, but dying eggs always makes such a mess.

Supposedly dissolving the tabs in vinegar before adding water makes the colors brighter. I'm not sure I believe it. Somebody needs to show me the science on that. Or maybe I should just perform an experiment after Easter when all the egg dye kits go on sale. 

Aren't they pretty? Don't they make you hungry?

.... for chocolate? Yum, Easter.

I only dyed nine eggs. I thought more than that wouldn't get eaten in a reasonable time period. So, what to do with all the dye after it's done?

Dye yarn!

I found this article about how to do it successfully and followed it pretty closely.

I started with a light cream colored yarn that I thought would take the color nicely.  When dying yarn you should always use natural fibers - acrylic yarn does not accept dye.  Unfortunately, this AlpacaWare Blended Alpaca is 50% acrylic, 30% alpaca, 20% wool. I didn't know what to expect, but I have 10 skeins of this stuff, so I decided if it was super ugly I wouldn't mind tossing it. And what fun would it be if the yarn turned out with 1 ply white and 1 ply dyed??

To prep the yarn, I re-wound the skein into a hank to make sure all of the yarn had equal access to the dye.  The first ball I used the backs of two chairs, but that was a bit tedious.  For the next two I used my Handmade by Rich yarn swift, and that was a bit quicker and easier.  Next, you soak your hanks in water for 20 minutes.

As far as color goes, I really wanted to use purple and gold for obvious reasons, but I have heard from various sources that purple dyes are really hard to get right. They often turn parts of the skein red and parts blue, or just make them splotchy and not very attractive.  So instead I chose blue, green, and red. 

I drained the water from the soaking bowls, poured in the egg dye (the very same stuff I used on my eggs earlier in the day), and filled the bowls with water until the yarn was just covered.

The instructions say that, depending on the yarn, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple hours for the dye to soak in, and you will know it's done when all of the dye is absorbed and the water runs clear. After several hours my water still had color, so I left the hanks soaking overnight.

The next day, I gently poured out the water and rinsed the yarn.  Surprisingly, the blue dye had all been absorbed while both the red and the green still tinted the water.  Once rinsed until the water ran clear, I hung the hanks on hangers in my tub to dry.

The resulting colors were Easter pastel spring colors. How fitting! If I had to make a guess, I would say that more dye would have been absorbed and the colors would have been much brighter had I used 100% natural yarn.  But I like the end result, and now have to find suitable projects for them. Maybe I'll have to find a baby project that only requires 150 grams of fingering weight yarn.

Next I'm going to try dying yarn with Kool-Aid!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Butterflies, Wars, and a dry Valley

 I may not have been blogging, but I've been busy, trust me. I've been knitting, playing, crafting, working, and traveling. I have a couple of finished knitting projects, but they're just going to have to wait until later due to a lack of images. As it happens, I have too many pictures and not enough time to post about all of them, so collages it is.

I got dragged to the Pacific Science Center earlier in the month to go see the Star Wars exhibit. Little did he know that it was just an excuse to get him into the warmth of the Tropical Butterfly House! Temperatures are kept at almost 80 degrees with a high humidity. It felt fantastic after the wet and dreary "spring" Seattle has been having. At least the moss is liking it.

The Star Wars exhibit was well executed, with lots of original costumes, models, and interactive computer games and stations to build your own flying car, R2 unit, and something else... The place was packed with people, and I felt bad body-slamming a 9-year-old to get supplies to build things.  I was a little sad we didn't get to do it, the kids looked like they were having a lot of fun, and learning at the same time.  Too bad the big kids didn't get to play.

I just spent a week in California working on hatchery reform. I get the nerve-racking task of taking notes while my computer screen is projected onto a wall for everyone to see. Unfortunately, that means that everyone knows I can't spell worth crap. I mean, who can spell Ceratomyxa correctly on the first try? Not to mention all the other parasites, diseases and viruses fish can get. Sheesh.

We were conducting our interviews right in the middle of Johnny Cash-land. Our first interview was very close to Folsom Prison, then we sang "I'm going to Jackson" all the way to our lunch spot.  The next day we were "stuck in old Lodi," just like Creedence.  Who knew the outskirts of Sacramento was so musical?

Lodi happens to be right in the center of wine country.  Vineyards seemed smaller than in Southeastern Washington like I'm used to, but they sure were packed in anywhere they could.  We drove by some grapes that I'm not sure I'd ever seen before.  They looked like old craggy witch's hands coming up out of the earth.  Later, we found out they are zinfandel vines. 

Note: this picture was shamelessly stolen from Google Images. I didn't get the chance to take my own picture, but this is basically what they all looked like.

Luckily, we finished up our interviews early when we were in Merced. Merced happens to be less than two hours away from the Yosemite National Park valley floor.  We had heard that flows are really high currently and the waterfalls at the park were amazing.  A guy from Renton, randomly met at the In-N-Out Burger, said that seeing Half Dome for the first time was like the first time you saw Mt. Rainier up close.

All that excitement really set me up for disappointment. Holy crap. I was thoroughly not impressed by Yosemite. Sure, there's a vast elevation difference between the valley floor (4,000 ft msl) and the valley rim (7,000-8,000 ft msl), but shoot, it's just a bunch of granite. Cool when you first see it, but then... well, it's just a hunk of rock. It doesn't do anything.  And Half Dome? Not that thrilling. Really.

And the waterfalls! It's like these people have never seen water before! Oh... wait... they're from the Central Valley. Water is hard to come by. Sure, Bridalveil Falls is tall, and it puts out a lot of spray, but if that's a lot of water, I'd hate to see what it looks like in the summer of a drought year. Bridalveil ain't got nutthin' on Multnomah. Or Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon.  Now that's some water!

There. Now you've seen Yosemite.  No reason to go now, unless you want to climb one of those big pieces of rock.

Okay, okay, I need to qualify my opinion a little bit. I'm spoiled by the beauty of Western Washington. It's green year round, there is always water, and you can hike for days and not run into anyone. Definitely spoiled. First of all, when people told me it was a high flow year, I was expecting WATER. A whole lot of water. That alone skewed my expectations. Second, we stayed on the valley floor. There is a sixteen mile loop, and we drove that, stopping to take pictures. We didn't do any hiking. I'm sure if we had been up on the valley rim it would have been fairly awesome to look down on the floor and look out at the Sierras. Third, there were already people there, on a late Thursday afternoon in April.  If it's that busy now, I can't even imagine what it will be like in the summer.  Add people, noise, and garbage to the heat of summer and you can assume I will not be there.Lastly, I'm no rock climber. I look at El Capitan, Half Dome, the Cathedral Spires, and the Royal Arches and just see rock (obviously, from my previous statements). I'm sure if you are into hanging off of cliff faces for days at a time while climbing, this would be mecca. Maybe the kid from Renton was into free climbing, and that's why he liked Half Dome so much.

So, in summary, I'm glad I went now, in April, while the park was somewhat still green.  It was a good way to spend an afternoon and evening, and it checked a park off my to-do list. More importantly, now I don't have to go back when the hordes are there.

I got some knitting done in the car and the plane, but that will have to wait for a knitting post.