Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas crafting

The 30 hats in 30 days craze was a sudden urge of a project that ended up in failure (which is okay!); Christmas crafting is usually on the chill side in these parts --  intentionally so, so as to enjoy and concentrate/contemplate the Reason for the season.

I try to write Christmas cards each year, but don't stress out too much over them.  I still had a few purchased cards to use, a hodgepodge mix of designs bought on sale here and there over the years.  I supplemented those with some simple handmade ones, using a single stamp (picked up on a whim), my usual cardstock, and a shimmery ink I'd received years ago as a gift.  I was quite pleased with the results:

[xmas postcards]

When I ran out of those, I dove into my stationery stash and found some Crane's letter paper with a blue border.  I folded the sheets in half and stamped them with blue ink.  DC helped me out a bit and I realized that I should have enlisted him much sooner, because he did a great job!  It was a nice treat to take my time to write the cards --  60- or 70-something all told -- until Tuesday of Christmas week, under twinkle lights and with glasses of tea or wine.

[cardmaking station]

I also took down the leaves and, with DC's assistance, put up the crocheted snowflakes that I'd made a couple years ago


The only other truly crafty thing I finished was a crochet project that actually got done in time to gift to our friend in Phoenix (so it doesn't really count for Christmas).  The pattern is Drops' crochet collar with bobbles, which I worked up in doubled Malabrigo and my largest (size P?) crochet hook;  I omitted the crocheted edge (which I didn't know was there at all from the picture, because it's the same color as the model's shirt!). The inflections in this Cinnabar colorway gave the collar a lot of depth and texture, and it looks lovely on our friend, who has a snow-white complexion.  Sadly, this is the only photo I have of it:


Thanks to limited Christmas crafting, the holidays remain devoted to faith, family, and friends -- the way I hope to always make it!  Hope you had a great Christmas!

Christmas knitting

Hope all your Christmas knitting got done in time, and that their recipients are enjoying them!  

Knitting For Me came to a halt as the idea to knit hats entered my mind, oh, somewhere around October.  I vastly exagerrated my knitting prowess and decided that I could knit 30 hats in 30 days.  I scoured the Internets and Ravelry and had an entire army of patterns lined up in my mind and on my shelf.  The dream faded quickly as it took me five days to knit the first hat (Stella's).

I plugged onwards, to see just how many hats I could churn out in a month's time.  Next up: Urchin.  I'd been saving up a skein of thick-'n-thin(ner than usual) Malabrigo in a lovely teal color -- purchased two (three?) Thanksgivings ago at Imagiknit in San Francisco (how and why do I remember these things?) -- for something special, and it turned out just how I'd imagined:  lovely!

[urchin -- to keep or to give?]

I frogged and made some mods, so Urchin, too, took me nearly a week to complete.

Then it was on to a simple hat in a purple yarn my parents had acquired for me.  I wanted to use up as much of it as possible so there was some frogging involved here, too, as I went back and forth with the when and how much of crown increases and decreases.  Another week gone by...

[three weeks = three hats... (x_x)]

I hadn't intended on knitting the Turn A Square hat, but in a quick moment pulled out a skein of Noro Kureyon and some leftover Patons Classic Merino.  It only took one day to knit one, and in a fraction of the time it took to knit the above, I had four hats!  If only I'd started with this pattern!

Some modifications were made: decreasing the number of stitches cast on, elminating the additional stitches made after the ribbing, knitting 2x2 instead of 2x3 stripe pattern.  I used the entire skein of Kureyon in three hats and knit up the leftover solids (pea green, olive, gray) into a fourth.

[four squared]

It was an awesome stashbusting experience!  Another cool tidbit:  the grey came from the leftovers of my Forecast sweater -- whose buttonband was reknit ages ago but never blogged -- which I've been wearing practically nonstop the entire season.  It now looks like this:

[finally finished forecast]

So: seven hats total (one claimed by DC, two by *ahem* moi-meme!).  A lot less than I'd aimed for, but, on the flipside, a bit of a head-start into next year's gift giving.  Now: back to KFM!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Successful succulents

Despite the hectic nature of most mornings (I love those five extra minutes before getting out of bed, but I sure do pay for them in the frenzy to get to the bus stop), I take a couple minutes here and there to water, groom, and check the progress of my plants.  I'm happy to report they're doing well these days!

[easter cactus]

At about four years, this easter cactus is definitely the oldest of the plants of my modest potted garden.  Last April, when I moved into my apartment, I had to move it inside, and had quite a scare when all the leaves withered up and fell off!  I brought it to my mom's and repotted it there.  And though some of the  main stems dried up and died (background), a couple have survived and are producing new baby leaves!  Hope lives!


I saved some stems from pruning the mother kalanchoe plant at DC's in November, and merely six or seven weeks later, my cuttings are blooming!  Hooray!  I just found out that my mom has red and orange ones, so I may be taking a few more cuttings in the near future.

[christmas cactus]

Finally, the most pleasant surprise.  My mom gifted us each a christmas cactus last winter.  After my move I noticed that the leaves on mine stayed limp and wrinkled, even while the other plants improved. I'd given up hope ... and then glanced at it a week or so ago to find that it'd produced buds -- which is huge, since the easter cactus above hasn't done so the entire time I've had it.  I snapped a quick shot this morning: they're starting to get their color!  Looking forward to blooms soon!

That's the story of my gardening adventures.  My succulent terrarium and other cuttings are doing well (though they're suffering a bit in this cold weather and gloom), as are the spider plants, ivy, and geraniums (will I get flowers anytime soon?).  It's such a wonder to observe the tiniest change in these plants -- news leaves appearing, old ones falling off; buds forming, growing, blooming -- I feel like a proud mother indeed!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pho Ever

My cousin opened up a Vietnamese restaurant!  In Gardena!  It's called Pho Ever -- which will never cease to make us smile!  We went for my mom's birthday!  It was funny to see him and my dad nearly fighting over the bill!  I think my dad won!  We ate tons!  Check it out!

[goi vit = duck + pickled cabbage salad]

[cha gio = fried egg rolls]

[com bo dai han = korean beef + rice]

[pho tai gan = beef noodle soup w/ rare meat + tendon = my favorite]

The restaurant is entirely run by my cousin, his siblings, and their families.  The guys are waiting and bussing tables; the ladies are working the kitchen.  This is family cooking for reals.

I checked out the reviews on Yelp.  It's interesting when you know the person that everyone's talking about (they all say he's nice).  That's especially meaningful to me because not only is this cousin someone who used to live with us when I was very young (I barely remember), but he's the cousin who totally took care of me when I went to Vietnam a few years back.  He made me move to his house, loaned me a computer, and even gave me his mobile phone.  At the time, I thought, So much for my grand plan of independence, but even then I was truly grateful.  And will always be.

But enough of the emotional aside.  My parents have tried a bunch of dishes and totally vouch for them (and you know that family is the most critical of critics!).  If you're in South Bay area, give it a shot!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Locks lost

I randomly decided to grow my hair out to donate it to Locks of Love, and have not had it cut since March 2008.  As 2009 draws to a close, I want to start the year off with a new hairstyle.  It came down to a matter of availability:  when I realized that Dec. 12th was the only free Saturday I had until the end of the year, I made the appointment and went off to my stylist -- with no idea of what kind of cut I wanted.

Just a coupla shots before heading off:


And the following day, still getting used to it:

[meet my new bob]

It's been over a week, and I'm mostly used to the cut, but not yet the time at the blow-dryer each day.  I like it, though.  Especially with some dramatic eyeliner and red lipstick.

As for the locks: they're still in a plastic bag on my living room table.  Sometimes I take them out and pet them; they're very soft.  Naw, I'm not holding on; just being lazy.  I'll send them off soon!

[10 inches]

Friday, December 18, 2009


I first read the letters "CSA" on Marsha's blog, oh, maybe a couple summers ago. Though I had no idea what it meant, the accompanying photos of vegetables was *kind of* a clue.  I went to Google and discovered this whole community supported agriculture thing, which I think is pretty neat.  I've been meaning to try for a while -- especially since some friends started buying a weekly box to share amongst their housemates -- but didn't get to it until last week.

The South Central Famers Cooperative has a ton of pickup points, so I chose to get my box at the Downtown farmers market.  Let me tell you, it was quite a sight to see me walking those four or five city blocks, in office attire (and 2" pumps -- I'd forgotten!), lugging an 11x11x17 box of vegetables.

I split the goods with G'zilla and Jax, who also kept all the beets, radishes, and the entire head of lettuce.  What you see here is my portion -- still quite a bit!

[csa innards]

There wasn't a whole lot that I recognized, outside of the green onion (purple, in this case), spinach, cilantro, and daikon.  Thanks to the Coop's website, I discovered them to be varieites of kale (Red Russian, Black, Blue Dwarf), collard greens (curly, purple/red), swiss chard, and more.

I sauteed all the kale in butter with mushrooms, onions, and garlic, mixed in some penne and alfredo sauce, added grated cheeses, and baked into a casserole.  It was a hit at our Christmas potluck party.  Last Monday, Jax sauteed her portion of black kale to go along with dinner (bowties w/ salmon, peas, pine nuts, mint leaves, and feta -- delish!).

It's been a week, and I'm still not sure what to do with the rest of the CSA haul!  I should have reread Marsha's last CSA post before I purchased, but I'm glad I could give it a test run by getting just one box.  Such a large quantity, though very inexpensive at $15, is simply too much for three mouths.  I have a lot of hope, though, and believe in the idea of CSA.  So I may try again in spring or summer, when the harvest is different, I have more time to be experimental, and the harvest is more suitable to my palate.  For now, I think we'll just stick with a bunch here and there at the farmers market.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Friends in Phoenix

The first week in December we made a weekend jaunt out to Phoenix to visit friends and watch a Suns game.  It was a short-but-sweet getaway, much-needed and much-appreciated.

MLB were wonderful hosts, as always.  Their guest bedroom is as nice as a hotel (L has impeccable taste and mad decor skillz), which made sleeping in hard to resist.  Homemade blueberry muffins and pancakes and eggs finally roused us from the room, though.  And in addition to that, fun eats in Phoenix.  We lunched at The Parlor (lovely mushroom pizza and salad!) and went to Alice Cooperstown before the game.

[fun wallpaper at the parlor]

[suns vs kings -- 115-107 final]

We even had a little time on Sunday morning for a visit to the Phoenix Zoo.  The desert is a natural habitat for lots of creatures, like giraffes, elephants, and these guys:

[flamingos; legs up = keeping warm]

['look, i found more rafikis,' said the boy next to us]


It was nice to head out to warmth, even though I'd been enjoying the unseasonable chill in So Cal.  Thanks, MLB, for a great time!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oh, and camping

After a full day with families and two Thanksgiving meals, DC and I packed up our gear for my first ever camping trip.  Since it was my first time, we decided to go for just one night.  Which, I noticed, outside of food, was just as much packing as a longer trip would have been, since we still needed sleeping bags, a tent, etc.  But better for me to start slowly:  I have to like it the first time for there to be a second time.

[packed and ready to go!]

Friday morning we set off for San Diego to meet up with our friends, before driving out to the campsite.  Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is under an hour's drive east of San Diego.  We went from beach to woodsy in hardly any time.

Once we arrived, we decided to go hiking first, to make the most of the daylight.

[golden oak leaves]

[stonewall peak hike -- elev 5,700 ft]

[view of lake cuyamaca below]

[back to camp]

After a good 90 minutes, we had enought light left to start making camp.  Good thing DC and I had a practice session with pitching the tent the previous weekend.  Being more experienced, he really did most of the work, though.


My brother, who's done a lot of camping in the last year or more, gave us a bunch of firewood.  He told me that he'd given us much more than one night's worth, but we found ourselves having to forage for more fire fodder.  Big bro did most of his camping in summer, where the fire didn't get started until after 8:00.  We had to start ours at 5:30!

Once the fire got going and we'd changed -- rather, added on layers -- it was comfy-cozy going.  For dinner we had curry udon, and for dessert there were cookies, s'mores, popcorn, and we threw some yams into the fire:


We discovered that yams are a delicious substitute for the chocoloate in s'mores (especially when the person doesn't like chocolate), and putting a roasted marshmallow directly on the yam is quite nice, too.

We'd known of a 30-40% chance of rain, so made sure we cleaned and packed up before turning in.  The wind began to pick up, and clouds raced over the clear skies, obscuring the moon and stars completely in an hour.  DC made me sleep in the car because he didn't think I could handle the tent + wetness, and I obliged.

Here's what we awoke to:

[snowy leaves]

[snowy ground]

[breakin' down]

Yes, SNOW, people.  Myko enjoyed it, snapping pictures and drawing on my windshield.  DC got busy breaking down camp, urging me to stay in the car and keep warm.  We cancelled campside breakfast and headed back into San Diego to find a diner or something.

[clear + gray skies]

Despite the unexpected weather, it was a fun trip!  I do look forward to camping more in 2010.  I'll stick to car camping, though (no hard-core backpackin' roughin' it for me -- yet)!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lights + leaves

In a rare moment of being ahead of the game, I brought home an old bag of twinkle lights (found in my storage unit, aka my folks' house) and spent some time before Thanksgiving putting them up.  I slid three strands through a binder ring and hung it from my ceiling.  Ceiling hooks are da bomb.

DC and I had some free time before his mother's birthday banquet last Sunday, and we took advantage of it by going for a nice, long walk.  The liquidambars are finally coming into their peak of coloring round my parts, so, inspired by Rachel's (she must live in a different part of SoCal to have had them so early!), I collected a bouquet.  Tucked them into the wiring of the lights.  Et voila.

I will enjoy these for another week or so until I they are replaced with the ornaments and snowflakes which I am still preparing.  For now, autumn leaves are perfect.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Banquets and birthdays

It's been Celebration Central round these parts lately.  The past week and a half, in a flash:

[last wedding of the year]

[a 21st birthday]


[chinese banquet birthday dinner]

The fridge is full of all kinds of leftovers!

Phew!  We're all caught up!  Upon the suggestion of M+M I've reformatted the memory card on my DSLR and am now able to upload pictures without the USB cable.  Makes life loads easier.  Which will affect my blogging.  For the better.  I hope.

Water leak


This is what happens when I don't tighten up my water bottle and carelessly throw my  bag, so that it lays sideways, on the passenger seat.

Twice I've even done it with my coffee mug: dripping and nearly ruining my Bible (which now looks antiqued); and later, on the bus, leaking out onto my trousers. And quite ruining a pink suede jacket.

You'd think I'da learned my lesson.  But this morning I opened my bag to a similar sight, only in pink.  I'm totally mad at myself.  At least it was only water.

I will console myself by writing Christmas cards and sending them off before they have an opportunity to become waterlogged. And vowing -- yet again -- to finish liquid contents before returning to bag.