My Mom's Garden


It’s been half a year since the Bearded One and I last visited our families. At the end of June, we changed that and spent a week and half catching up with family, hanging out with friends, and eating as much barbecue as humanly possible (didn’t realize how spoiled I was with good barbecue until we moved to LA). The thick blanket of humidity aside, it was a good trip. I got to annoy my parents in person which is so much easier and fun than doing it over the phone. The Bearded One and I got to watch 4th of July fireworks from a boat on Logan Martin Lake. Somehow, I squeezed in 2 visits to my favorite yarn shop. Plus, I was able to spend time with all my friends in the area. 

Before we got on the plane, a week and a half seemed like a long time but the trip seemed to fly by. Wish I’d been able to spend more time there which means I’m already looking forward to the next trip.


The neighbor’s cat is a frequent visitor and never one to turn down attention. 

Wander the Web 22


Back home from the holidays and settling into the familiar routine along with a few changes for the better. One thing that hasn’t changed is my lovely fiber stash and I’m looking forward to spinning my first yarn of 2014. The Sidekick is clean, oiled, and ready to go. Let the weekend begin!

Sometimes you just need a cat gif. Then another one and another one…

Incidental Comics: Resolution

Kris Temmerman turned his front window into an arcade game.

365 Grateful

Tips for New and Experienced Knitters

Miniature Edible Scenes by Pierre Javelle and Akiko Ida. So fun and cute, the photos make me hungry. 

Breaking the Rules: A Guide to Successful Yarn Substitution 

March is for Photography: Recap


Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Hundreds of photos. Untold megabytes of hard drive space filled. Hours spent reviewing photos. Even more hours spent editing. A few dozen photos that I’m proud to show. My incremental project studying photography in March went pretty much how I thought it would. Except that it didn’t. I thought I’d read up on photography terms, learn about ISO and f-Stops, peruse photography blogs, and study lots of technical details. I didn’t even crack open the manual for my camera. Shame on me. I thought I was going to do all all those things because I thought they were what I really needed to become a better photographer. 


Almost a month later, I’m sure that I still need to learn more about the technical side of photography. I just skipped over an important first step during my planning - becoming comfortable with my camera. I was fine taking photos on the back deck or the porch during the day, areas that I had decent control over, but I was really self conscious outside of those spaces. So, I started hauling my camera around everywhere I went. Didn’t always bring it out but I got used to the idea that I could snap a photo if I wanted to. 


Always having my camera at hand has led to some of my favorite shots. During spare moments, I’d look around for the small details, the Everyday Magic as Tammy Strobel calls it, and try to capture the moment. I started to document my days like going to knit night or doing late night cross stitch. I’m seeing things that were passed over before, like this tiny and therefore adorable pinecone, because I wasn’t paying attention.


There’s still a lot for me to learn about photography but I’m happy with the first step I’ve taken. Maybe I’ll finally get around to studying some of the technical details in these last few days of March.


Previous March is For Photography Posts

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3


Double Meow


Now that both of these frisky felines have gone to their new homes, I can finally introduce them to you. First up is the daring Ninja Cat with his glowing green eyes and stealthy paws. Second, is the striped and inquisitive Bumblebee. It was hard to let them go since they both looked so cute lounging on the furniture.


I knit them both with the same yarns, the same needle, and from the same heavily-modified pattern. The only difference was that I made Bumblebee with stripes. Even though I’ve been knitting for years,  I still find it amazing how small changes can drastically affect the finished object. Ninja Cat grew to be short and round while Bumblebee turned out tall and narrow. Both are stuffed with a few pebbles at the bottom to help them sit up. See the pattern, yarns, needle, and modifications on the public Ravelry page.


One of the neighborhood cats stopped by for a visit and just had to check out the newcomers. After the initial stare down, Ninja Cat and Bumblebee were deemed worthy of her attention. Then she had a fine time knocking them over. They mostly landed on their feet.


Summer Mint Sun Tea


How is it already June? And how was Memorial Day a week ago already? What’s the rush 2012? 

It’d be hard for me to believe it was already Summer if not for the humidity, the 85°+ temperatures, and the frequent, passing rain storms. On Memorial Day weekend, I made sun tea which counts as my official declaration of Summer. It just isn’t Summer without a glass of tea close at hand or a jug of it sitting ready in the fridge. 

The Bearded One and I used to drink our tea sweet. While the tea was still hot, I’d stir in a sizable scoop of sugar and revel in the sweetness. After so many gallons of sweet tea, I started adding less and less sugar to every batch until we drank it plain. Then, on a lark and my longstanding love of spearmint tea, I threw some mint into the mix. Haven’t looked back since.


Summer Mint Sun Tea

  • 1 Gallon of water in a covered Jar
  • 2 “Family Size” black tea bags
  • 2 bags of of Spearmint tea
  • A few hours of bright, uninterrupted sunlight

On a sunny day, put all the ingredients together and find a back porch, driveway, or doorstep in the sun to let the tea brew. I’ve even put the jar on a windowsill so it will get the most sun and it’s really easy to keep an eye on it that way. A few hours later there will be strong, dark, tasty tea and you don’t even have to turn the stove on to make it. 


 On another Summer note, naps. Shadow has the right idea on this one.

Shadow, My Shadow


This is Shadow, the resident cat here at Chez Strategos. He is a complete the task master and fancies himself quite the creative director. He’s talkative, friendly, and quite fluffy. One could even say that he’s quite a handsome cat. Never mind the extra fluff on his head. If he looks a bit freaked, that’s because...


...when I went out to feed him this morning, he was on the roof!

This is a cat that generally comes when called and meows at your feet when he arrives. He meowed when I called his name alright. I didn’t find him though until I looked up and behind me. After I got the expletives and required photographs out of the way, it was time to get him down. 

Next to the backdoor, Shadow has a little house of his own with wobbly, uneven legs and a wide flat roof. I climbed on top and could get my hands over the gutter. He wouldn’t come close enough for me to grab him. The next step up was the porch railing. (Note to self: get a step ladder.) Running through my mind at this point was that scene in Dead Like Me where the woman is trying to coax a cat out of a tree with a can of food while standing on a fence post. Spoiler Alert, she slips and she dies. She was also dressed far better than I was in my hoodie, pajama pants and sock monkey slippers. All I could think was:

Oh God, I’m going to fall and die or be horribly injured and they’re going to find me hours from now wearing sock monkey slippers.

Then I climbed up on to the railing. I could actually reach Shadow now and he came over. Happy as he was too see me, he wasn’t particularly pleased when I grabbed him and lifted him over the edge. There was plaintive meowing and mad scrabble to latch his claws onto the gutters. You’d think he didn’t want to get down. After my third attempt to unhook him, I succeeded and stepped back down to the porch. Once Shadow was within a few inches of solid ground, he started purring instead of crying for his life. 

Then we both had breakfast and all was right in our little corner of the world. Still, I can’t help thinking that I could’ve died while wearing sock monkey slippers. Truth be told, I’m still wearing them. They’re comfy, warm, and rather cute. So it wouldn’t have been all bad, you know, except for the dying part. That would suck.

Puff Phase 3

The Giant Hexipuff continues to hold power over me. Friday night, I stayed up late to finish the decreases. Saturday morning, the puff had a luxurious bath while I assembled my blocking tool kit: pins, blocking wires, a yard stick, and a sheet of pink insulation sheathing.


Saturday afternoon, the puff came out of the bath and moved to the sheathing which has more than made up for the aggravation it took to get home.* Blocking wires made the whole process really easy. I just poked a wire from one corner to the next and let it pull the edges straight from the inside. Adjusting angles and measurements was a piece of cake. Plus, none of those annoying points from using just pins.

Sunday, the puff dried.

Monday, I made a pillow form which I’d never done before. Flew by the seat of my pants for the whole thing too. After I unpinned the puff and removed the wires, I pinned it back down on top of 3/4 of a yard of black cotton. I completely eyeballed the cutting of a half inch seem allowance. Unpinned everything again and re-pinned the fabric together to roughly mark where the seams should go.

Wonky hand stitching go!


Stitching the entire form didn’t actually take as long as I thought it would. I was imaging the process taking place over a few days. Probably didn’t even take an hour. I even flipped it inside out, put it in the puff, and started stuffing it. If only I hadn’t run out of stuffing halfway through. Retrieving more stuffing will have to be Phase 3, I guess. 

If you decide to follow in my footsteps, this last step is entirely optional. When you’re ready to start sewing, move half your work to a table in another room. Return and find a cat requisitioning the rest of it. Like I said, entirely optional.


*Back when it was time to block my Hemlock blanket, I had to find something big enough to pin it out on. The sheer number of blocking boards required were a bit out of my budget. That’s when giant sheets of foam insulation came to mind. The next day I was hauling two 4” x 8” sheets of the stuff out to my car in a Home Depot parking lot. Not that they even remotely fit in my car. So, on a 90˚ day in the middle of summer, I’m slicing giant sheets of foam into quarters and trying not to stew in my own juices. Still, the heat wasn’t as bad as the high-pitched ‘nails on a chalkboard’ sound that came from dragging a knife through foam. Just thinking about that sound makes my head hurt. 


I came across the The Beekeeper’s Quilt and the tiny little hexipuffs while searching for the perfect project to use up 20 yards of bulky weight yarn. Still looking for suggestions by the way. I don’t know how long I looked at mods people made to the puffs - fair isle patterns, Star Trek uniforms, Nintendo characters, flowers, animals, etc. What really intrigued me though were the puffs that people made into giant pillows and I just had to make one.


In the perilous depths of what I like to refer to as The Deep Stash, I had two balls of Lion Brand Fettucini. They were a gift and I had no idea what to do with them...until now. I would snag the two other balls that my mom had to a make a giant pillow. Plan in hand, I cast on and happily used up two balls of yarn. Turns out, Mom had, not two balls or even three, but four balls worth. Too much yarn* and too many increases for the puff to be proportional and shapely. I did the only thing I could do - ripped out and did some math. Also, there was swatching. With the help of a friendly spreadsheet, I figured out how many stitches I could get out of one ball and multiplied that by six. The next step was determining how many stitches were in an ordinary hexipuff and how many stitches would be in a hexipuff if I cast on 40 stitches, or 50, or even 60. 50 turned out to be the magic number and I cast on once again.


More than 3 skeins later, here’s what I have: a Giant! There are still 2.5 balls to go and I’m a long way from 50 stitches but the decrease rounds give me hope. 

Here’s Shadow for scale. He only looks mostly put upon by the whole thing.


And here’s me wearing the hexipuff as a giant, oversized hat. 


Note to self: make a giant, oversized hat/hood for next winter.

*First world problem, I know. 

The Other Side

I’ve spent the last few days trying to finish up just a few more projects so I can start 2012 with a clean slate. This has only really worked with the last of the cookie dough.


Normally, this would be the time to show off some artfully arranged photo with cookies stacked on top of each other or neatly arranged near a hot, tasty beverage; however, I just didn’t feel like it. Also, they were too tasty to sit around that long. We were woofing these things down as soon as they were cool enough to not burn away our palettes. 

The recipe: Gingersnaps from the Smitten Kitchen. I first saw this recipe in November and immediately put it on the list for Christmas making. The dough eventually becomes four dozen cookies so I just baked half to take to various holiday gatherings. The second batch I made yesterday didn’t last the afternoon. Somehow, I can see these cookies becoming a regular occurrence around here which is the greatest recommendation I can give. The Bearded One concurs.


Christmas has been good to us this year. Lots of food, friends, family, and happy times. There was one last bit of knitting on Christmas Eve but making a tiny stocking hat before bed was just fun instead of frenetic. 


Shadow got a ball of catnip and a new bed (which he has since ignored) for Christmas. Also, all the boxes he could stand to sleep in. Hilarity ensued. Didn’t take him long to get back to his normal self though.


Thanks for reading and sticking around through 2011! I’ll see you in 2012.

Just a giant bit of awesome

Technically, this bit of awesome comes to us from September but I feel no shame in still basking in the glow of a completed 5 foot square blanket in October.


This blanket began about a year ago when my Mom gave me a bit of yarn she wasn’t going to use and my Dad got a new chair. The large part of my brain dedicated to knitting decided that Dad should get a nice new blanket to go with this chair. It also decided that Christmas would be a fine deadline. The remainder of my brain thought the Christmas deadline was insane and couldn’t we aim for Father’s Day instead? It was outvoted 51 to 49.

Now the 51% of my brain devoted to knitting, started sketching, plotting, researching, and even doing a little swatching. Then I bought what I hoped would be enough yarn (spoilers:I’d have to buy even more) and cast on. The center square and the first few stripes went quickly but when my knitting brain figured out this wasn’t going to be bound off by Christmas, it went into hibernation. Once the holidays had passed, I’d knit a few rounds every so often before getting bored and shoving it back into a bag.

After a few months I got tired of the giant, bulging knitting bag mocking me every time I sat next to it. So, I knit stripes at knit night. Then I knit more stripes through several seasons of Buffy, lots of movies, and who knows how many podcasts. When the last grey stripe took almost 4 skeins of yarn, I decided it was big enough. So, time for the border. It wasn’t till I was half way through that I had some idea of how large this blanket really was. My calculations predicted 60” but I was still shocked when it covered most of a double bed. In the end, I didn’t bind off by Christmas 2010 or even Father’s Day 2011. It will make a lovely birthday present though.


 Sometimes, when I finish a project that I designed, I’m ready to move on to the next big thing; however, this giant blanket still intrigues me. The beginning criteria - knit in the round from a center point, no picked up stitches, stockinette and garter stripes, and a “knitted on” border - are still things that intrigue me. I’m tweaking all of these details and making the pattern better. A bit of this process and the swatches will be popping up over the next few weeks because I just can’t leave it alone. It makes my knitter’s brain and my problem solving brain (which are really the same thing) happy.


Shadow seems pretty happy with it all too.


At first, I thought the red, itchy bumps covering my skin was an annoying case of poison ivy. This was bit odd since I hadn’t pulled any from the flower beds. What I did pull was up a lot of was Sumac. I can very distinctly remember thinking, “I have no idea what this is but what pretty flowers. Shame I have to pull it.” 5 days worth of insane itching later, I no longer agree with that statement. Just in case you don’t know what Sumac looks like either: photos and info. End PSA.

When the bumps were poison ivy, I tried cortisone cream and a flour paste. Both of these things helped but the itching persisted. When the bumps were upgraded to Sumac, I caved in and went to the doctor for a cortisone shot. Should have done that 5 days ago. It’s barely been a day and the itching is almost gone. I also came home with oatmeal soap and oatmeal bath soak. Just in case.

During those 5 itchy days I did everything I could to keep my mind occupied and my hands busy: playing Hoard, knitting secret things, deciding which book to read, even folding laundry. Anything to keep myself from scratching. So, I decided to work on one of my goals for this year explore different crafts. On that list is Kumihimo, or japanese braiding. It’s perfect since it keeps my hands occupied without being too complicated. Like knitting, it’s a simple set of movements that are easy to memorize and allows for great variety with a little practice. There’s also a meditative quality I rather like. Kind of like garter stitch. Also, I can watch Netflix at the same time.


So, this is Kumihimo and what I’ve been staring at since early June: a loom, 4 skeins of embroidery floss, and bobbins. When the mood struck or it was too hot to knit, I’d pick this up and add an inch or two. 45” later I was ready to tie it off.


When I bought the floss, I just liked the color combination and wanted to braid until I used it all up. After a few inches I liked it enough to wear. I ended up back at the store for crimps and a barrel clasp. The finished piece has become a necklace, a choker, a bracelet, and an anklet. Since it’s braided so densely, it has a nice structural quality and it seems like there’s a thin piece of wire inside. I am utterly smitten.

My photography assistant. I think he tries to look evil in every photo I take.


Eventually, he got bored. You know, when I stopped petting him. 

You’re still here?

Is it really July?

July had a fun time sneaking up on me. I kept thinking it was June right up until I was prepping for our second annual 4th of July party. The party went off without a hitch and then the Bearded One and I spent the rest of the weekend doing as little as possible. Also, fireworks. And food. Lots of tasty food. All told, it was an enjoyable weekend and I hope your 4th was just as nice. 


Now that the weekend is over and July is officially in full swing, I’m trying to find my rhythm and get stuff done. The house got a thorough cleaning today so that’s a start. Plus, I’ve got big plans for the blog - starting with regular posting. Still trying to figure out the rest of my goals though. Any suggestions?


Just so this isn’t all text, here’s a photo of the cat doing what he does best: looking sullen. You’d think he never purred at all. Don’t believe him. He’s the noisiest cat I know.


Nice Weather We're Having

Earlier this week, everything on my to-do list seemed to be coming up all at once. So, I did what any sensible person would do and completely ignored everything for the next hour and a half. I grabbed a book and headed outside to enjoy weather and last weekend’s handiwork. After all, who wants to be stuck inside when it’s a sunny, breezy 70 degree day?


Last Sunday involved lots of putting plants into dirt. The Bearded One and I planted herbs, flowers, and vegetables. I can’t wait for the first crop of cucumbers and bell peppers. Right now though, I love dragging my fingers through the chocolate mint. Just can’t resist.


Also planted was a rose bush given to us by a friend who moved north. It only has a few blossoms on it so far but they’re so pretty.


Eventually, I ended up on the newly hung swing and finished my current read. The Codex turned out to be a pretty fun book and Shadow proved himself to be good company. Taking an hour and a half off turned out to be the best decision of the day. 


In other news, I’m going to Stitches South on April 15th. It’s my first time going and I’m so excited. Maybe I’ll see you there?


I am forced - quite happily, by the way - to admit that Spring has finally arrived. The first clue was the appearance of newly hatched rubber duckies in my house. They’ve been cheery company and like sunbathing. Soon, it’ll be time to introduce them to the rest of the flock.


The second sign was that the leaves have started returning to my plants. I’m especially pleased that all of the Japanese Maples survived the winter. When I got them, they were wee little saplings from my parents’ tree. Now they’re almost 2’ tall and a beautiful red. I wonder how tall they’ll be next year.


Those 2 signals aside, the most conclusive sign of Spring is all the pollen. Everything has a yellow tint. The Maples already have a good covering and so does my fluffy, black cat. Sometimes, he looks more like a giant bumblebee than the fluff ball he is. Other times, he’s wearing yellow “socks”. It’s definitely bath time* for Shadow.


Of course, Spring also brings rain, hail, and tornados. At the moment, I’m hunkered down on the couch with the Bearded One and a cat waiting for all three to pass overhead. It’s been uneventful so far and, hopefully, it’ll stay that way. Maybe Sunday will be sunny.

*He is definitely getting a “bath” by which I mean getting wiped down with a damp towel. He gets cleaned up and I get to keep my fingers. It’s a win-win.

It's a hat!

You can blame this one on a freezing, early morning. A few weeks ago, I was working an early shift that had me out of bed at 4:45 AM and out the door an hour later. I had a hat, a heavy coat, and a pair of fingerless gloves. These things were not enough protection from the 19º temperatures. After a 5 minute drive to work, an altercation with a security guard that I’m not going to go into, and walking into the building, I was freezing. My hands were so cold that it felt like my fingers were burning off. It was at that moment that I decided to make that pair of convertible mitts. This particular pair had only been in my queue since before Ravelry.


Pattern: Squares Squared Hat by Cosette Cornelius-Bates | ravelry |

Yarn: Mission Falls 1824 Wool - Curry, Heath, and Amethyst

Needles: US 7 (4.5mm)

Dates: Jan 14 - 17, 2011

@Ravelry (public link)

Obviously, this is a hat and not a pair of mitts. This is also a hat that matches those mitts. The hat came first since I knew how much yarn it would use and it would make a good swatch. Plus, two layers of wool is warmer than one. It’s oversized, slouchy, soft, and I love wearing it even on days when it’s not 19º outside. The Bearded One thinks it’s one of the coolest hats I’ve ever made and he’s not the only one complementing. I’m kicking myself for not starting this (and the mitts) sooner. 


When I finished the hat, there was more than enough yarn left for a pair of mitts. I’ve almost finished the first one too. It might be not be cold enough again to wear them this winter but I’ll be ready for next time.


My boss. He's a demanding taskmaster.


For the past few days, The Beaded One (aka: The Boy) and I have been debating which term is better: Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon? In my mind, Snowmageddon reigns supreme.


The storm that came through last night with its 3" of snow and sleet wouldn't meet my South Jersey definition of the term in any way. In Alabama though, Snowmageddon works. Shops close, highways shut down, and everything is quiet.* I plan on spending a quiet day inside with my knitting, podcasts/Netflix, and some hot mint tea.


We got a pretty even coating and, thanks to the freezing rain, it's formed a nice hard crust. Shadow found it a bit disconcerting at first but that didn't stop him from exploring. After spending most of last night and this morning inside, he was going a bit stir crazy. 


*Except for that ATV that keeps driving past my house.

I Can Haz Kat?*


Until about two weeks ago, my life was bereft of kitties and I was forced to rely on the internet for cute cat photos and antics. ICanHasCheezburger, Cute Overload, and I Am Maru were my favorite sources for all things cat and still are. Still, all the cute photos and videos on the internet weren't the same as actually having a cat. After having two wonderful cats for many years, I knew this all too well.

There have been several opportunities to take in a cat but it never worked out. This time, though, was different. Shadow's previous owners couldn't keep him anymore so the boy and I took him in. At his previous digs, Shadow was the consumate hunter and fought off the neighborhood dogs. Once he came to our house though, he hid in the basement for 2 days and wouldn't come near either of us. He came round eventually but it was still over a week before he'd go 5 feet outside the basement door. Every day, I spent some time with him and tried to get him used to his new domain. The effort finally payed off when he decided to go exploring beyond the yard. I didn't stop him and didn't follow. Just waited to see if he'd come back. Later that night boy and I went looking for him in the yard. Just as we were about to give up, he came running. It was finally official. We had a cat.

I've gotten to know Shadow pretty well since he stopped hiding in the basement. He's friendly, handsome, very talkative, and loves getting petted. He also comes when called and supplements his diet with the chipmunks that have eaten most of the tomatos in my garden. Plus, there are toe-hawks, million mile stares, and pretzel shaped naps. All told, he's a pretty awesome cat and I can't wait to spend more time with him.

*That's all the lol speak I can handle. For now...

The Holidays are upon us but only if you knit (or crochet)


I started my Holiday knitting early this year by accident.  If left to my own devices, gift knitting would have taken over in late September instead of late July.  I'm definitely not going to complain though since I might actually finish everything I have planned.  It's not just Christmas, there are also lots of birthday gifts to finish.  Almost everyone I know has a birthday in the next four months.  With all these deadlines, gift knitting has taken over my thoughts completely. The recipients have been decided upon as have the respective patterns and yarns. I even made up schedule of when things needed to be finished.  Yes, the battle plan is complete and hopefully there won't be too much revision.  Must resist the urge to keep adding to the list. 


One goal on the list that I can tell you about is the accoutrement gift.  Basically, it's a small knitted gift that I can personalize and give to everyone on my list. For 2008, it was ornaments using the Knit Ornament pattern by Leigh Radford.  The pattern was a wonderful base because I could easily make each ornament unique without taking up too much time. This year's gift has already been decided but I'm not revealing it just yet.  In the mean time though, I'm getting back to my Hemlock Ring and a few episodes of Dr. Who.  Just because it's gift knitting season doesn't mean I can't make something for myself.