Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Announcement!

Hear that hush? The storm has passed. The gale-force winds of Christmas have quieted, leaving behind colorful debris of wrapping paper, tinsel strands, and cookie crumbs. New Year’s is still upon us, in all its cork-popping glory, but it’s a mild rain compared to Hurricane Xmas.

I, for one, had a lovely holiday. We had our first official Bay Area Xmas--my folks made the trek up from SoCal--and there was much merriment and feasting. I think the highlight was playing Rock Band until 3 a.m. with my entire family, and hearing my Mama sing Rob Zombie’s “Superbeast.” These are the precious moments holiday specials are made of.

But now, the parents are on their way home, the fridge is stuffed with leftovers, and it’s time to settle in and get ready to welcome the New Year.

New Year’s is both about reflecting on the events of the past 365 days, and looking forward to the clean slate of the next year. I, like many other folks, already have some goals set out for 2011, but there’s one in particular that got a bit of a head start this week: that thing I announced that I was going to announce.

Thank you for being so patient, dear readers. I can finally tell you what it is I’ve been sitting on for the past couple weeks:

I’m a new contributing writer at Geek Crafts!

I’m super-excited about this new gig, seeing as it’s the fusion of three of my favorite things: writing, geekery, and crafting. I’ll be combing the interwebs to find some of the best in geek craft to share with the world. My first post went up yesterday, and I’ll be posting every Tuesday and Friday.

This is not to be confused with my Crafty Bytes column over at Electronic Wasteland, which is all about interviewing video game crafters.

So, if you have any geek crafts you’d like to see featured, send ‘em my way!

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Oh no! Old Man Winter!"

It may not be snowing, but Old Man Winter has definitely moved into the Bay Area. It's cold and drizzly, Club Mallard down the street has put up its giant Christmas-light logo, and Professor Lefty is giving his last final today.

So, why am I smiling? Could I have contracted a case of holiday cheer? Could I be looking forward to the end of the semester even more than my husband is? Could it be that I have exciting news to share?

Well, yes. But it's also because I can finally break out all my warm n' fuzzy knits!

Fiery Scarf (detail)

This is my first foray into using those fancy-pants yarns that cost substantially more than my usual, newbie-friendly cottons and acrylics. It's Aslan Trends Del Sur in Scarlet, 100% Merino. Translated into plain English: It's pretty red and soooo very soft.

I picked up two skeins of this yarn over a year ago when I was visiting my sister-in-law in La Mesa, CA, and pawing through her local yarn shop, Two Sisters & Ewe. I instantly fell in love, though I knew a yarn this scrumptious was far beyond anything my needles could produce. So, I held onto it, knowing one day I'd have the skill to make something worthy of the yarn.

The day came last month, born out of a combination of impatience and inspiration. I'd hoped to make something a little more snazzy than (another) scarf, but then I spied an ingeniously simple pattern on Ravelry, courtesy of Twilightgirl. It's seriously the easiest knitting project I've ever done, and yet looks like one of the more complex.

Fiery Scarf

On a side note, this picture also marks the last appearance of the black-rimmed glasses, both in this blog and on my face. Though I do love the new glasses I got today (hooray for no cracks!), I will miss those glasses.

Through those lenses, I saw New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Portland for the first time. They helped me read countless books, see hundreds of movies, and play dozens of video games. They survived a car crash, numerous baby grabs, and years being toted in my messenger bag on contact lens days. I'll miss you, old friends. You've earned yourselves your retirement.

As for my news...well, you'll have a wait a day or two. But I promise. It's awesome and exciting. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Mystery of the Glowing Calavera

Sugar Skull Embroidery

Okay, so maybe it's not much of a mystery. I took some nifty glow-in-the-dark floss, a scrap of fabric from a pair of torn trousers, and an awesome pattern from Sew Lovely.

Sugar Skull Embroidery (close up)

The results? A spooky-yet-festive embroidery, perfect for scaring your spouse in the middle of the night.

Seriously. Wouldn't it freak you out to wake up to this?

Sugar Skull Embroidery (in the dark)

Tee hee. I'm mean.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo madness and Halloween recap

It's been a little quieter over here lately, I know. This time, I have a genuinely good reason, beyond the excitement of Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos, the thrill of the Giants winning the World Series, and the turmoil of the election season.

I have finally plunged off the deep end and straight into the vast, blue waters of National Novel Writing Month. It's something I've always wanted to do, but have always had some reason or other that I couldn't. Mostly work-related. Well, this year, little unemployed ol' me has run out of excuses.

I'm knee-deep in my first real novel, and I have to admit I'm loving it. I'm also having days of hating it, to be fair, but all in all, it's been amazingly freeing to sit down and just write every day.

All I can tell you now is that it's officially a high fantasy story of sorts (and here I thought I'd be writing a nice, marketable romance), which is as daunting as it is exciting. I never thought I'd be one of those people who wrote a book with a map in it (seriously, this was the reason I never read fantasy books when I was younger. I hated the idea of having to use a map).

But before I set out on this mad writing crusade, I did manage to squeeze in some holiday-related baking and crafting!

Usually for Halloween I go all out with the decorating and cooking, but this year I decided to mellow out a little. I'd put a lot of energy into some different holidays this year, and I felt like I deserved a bit of a respite.

So rather than baking a passel of cookies, I focused on one new recipe: quince turnovers.

This marks my first successful attempt at making pie crust, as well as with cooking with quince. An interesting fruit, that. Looks like a big, green apple, but once cooked becomes a lovely pink color.

I also finally, FINALLY finished stitching up the Halloween Ghosties I was working on last year from a free Annie Oakleaves pattern.

Here's a close-up of the brand-new one:

Last, but not least, were the touches I put together for the spouse's and my Halloween costumes.

I decided to be Maryann Forrester from True Blood, the wicked -- yet classy -- Maenad who plays the big bad in season 2. Considering my costume was mostly just a long black dress and hippie jewelry, I thought a little human heart would get the point across that Maryann is not to be trifled with:

I whipped it up in an evening out of felt and embroidery floss. I figured it'd be much more fun to have around than an ugly rubber heart.

There's one more project I have to share, but I feel like it deserves a post all its own. Not to mention, I should get writing! That book isn't going to write itself.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Giving credit where credit is due

EDIT 4/5/11: I wrote this post before I made my decision to make this pattern available for free online. Now that I read it again, I cringe a little inside. I'm leaving it up because I feel its important to be honest with what I was feeling at the moment.

I’m having a bit of a weird morning.

Last night, when I was working on my portfolio, I came across a few people who had made their own versions of my Han Solo cross stitch.

They’d re-created it, stitch by stitch. I didn’t see it for sale anywhere, but it still made me feel really strange to see it out there…especially without my name on it. I emailed the one I had contact info for, asking her to please credit me with pattern design. I tried to explain that it was a labor of love, and that I had received no payment. That I was fine with her stitching it up.

Now I’m starting to wonder if I did the right thing. I was polite, friendly even. But I’m wondering if I’m not blowing a tiny thing out of proportion. I’ll admit, there’s a part of me that feels weird seeing other people stitch up my work. I didn’t share a pattern, mostly because I couldn’t find a software program that worked on my Mac, and now I’m too poor to buy one for my new PC. So, in my mind, it was more “art” than “craft,” a one-of-a-kind creation. Now I see that other people have gone and re-interpreted my work, as crafty folks are wont to do. I’m both flattered and…and well, jealous.

I don’t know if I have the right to feel that way. The crafty community is all about sharing. I myself have enjoyed stitching up free patterns that have been made available. But, the difference is, the designers made those patterns available. I wouldn’t dream of re-interpreting someone else’s design. But that’s just me. I’m also really careful to always attribute the patterns I stitch up, even if I’ve paid for them. I don’t know.

Is this something I’m just going to have to let go of? The spouse reminded me that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I guess I should feel honored that they chose to stitch up one my designs. If nothing else, this is lighting a fire under my butt to get that pattern out there for free.

I’d love to hear what other folks out there think of this, if they’ve ever dealt with something like this. Is this something I’m going to have to learn to live with, or am I right in asking people to credit me for the pattern until it’s available?

[Note: The image was one I found on If I knew who had stitched it, I would have credited the photo.]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Futurama has me in stitches

Sometimes I fear we are cute...
Continuing on my sci-fi stitching kick after the Adventures of Rocketgirl, I decided to turn my embroidery needle to something a little simpler, a little softer, a little...cuter.

Behold, Lord Nibbler the Nibblonian from Futurama!

He may not look very regal in this pose, but make no mistake, he'll vaporize you with his kitten-class attack ship (unless you can fight him off with a folding chair).

His likes include devouring hams (and live animals) whole, being scratched behind the ears, and messing with the space/time continuum. His dislikes include intergalactic pet pageants, flying brains, and high-velocity mail.
He's stitched up with back stitch, satin stitch, long-and-short stitch, and french knots. Click the picture for a closer look. He stands (well, sits) around three inches tall, and is mounted in a four-inch frame.
I wish I could take credit for the stuffed ham in the first picture, but alas, I am not that crafty a sewer. That delicious-looking plushy is from Sweet Meats, which gets extra points for wrapping their fuzzy creations in deli paper.

I'm contemplating more Futurama-themed stitching projects, since the art style lends itself so well to it. I have an image of a scuttling Zoidberg that would make an interesting piece, as well as some funny Bender pictures. We'll see, though. I'm 1/3 of the way through an involved Dia de los Muertos embroidery project I would like to finish by the end of the month, and then the holidays loom near. Which I'm so not thinking about right now, not with Halloween around the corner!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Letting go of "Someday"

I’ve been a crafter my whole life. I may not have labeled myself as such, but my hands have always been busy with one sort of creation or another. My bedrooms, dorm rooms, and living rooms have been stuffed with boxes full of magazines for collaging, art supplies ranging from acrylic paints to pastels to air-dry clay, fabric fragments, yarn skeins…you get the idea.

I’ve hoarded art and craft supplies the way squirrels do nuts in a tree. Though I diligently purge books, clothes, and knick-knacks, I hold on to every magazine, every ball of clearance-bin yarn, every glass bead and block of Fimo clay.

What’s worse is that I add to this cache constantly. I swing by the craft store to pick up an extra bit of floss for a specific embroidery project, and leave with charms for beaded necklaces, colored felt for softies, and fat quarters for future quilting projects.

Never mind that I haven’t beaded in years. Never mind that I don’t have a specific softie in mind for the felt. Never mind that I have never made a quilt, and my sewing machine is more of an heirloom than an actual tool. Nope, none of that matters. Because, I’m sure I’ll need it someday.

I fall in love with the idea of projects so quickly, with the Martha Stewart-esque fantasies of 100% homemade gifts, holiday decorations, clothes, and more. This infatuation leads to spur-of-the-moment purchases…which in turn leads to expectations once I get the supplies home.

Sometimes I start the intended project soon after I make the purchase. Most times, though, the felt/yarn/fabric/Fimo sits in its store bag for days, until I deposit it in its proper place among my crafting supplies. Where it sits. And sits. And sits.

The longer the materials sit, the more obsessed I get with the idea of using them when I come across them again. I’ve held on this long, why give up now? Why relinquish the potential that these supplies hold? I might as well be throwing away the finished quilt/scrapbook/necklace/softie.

What I keep forgetting, though, is those two tiny things that turn beads and wire into necklaces, paper and photos into scrapbooks, and fabric segments into a quilt: time and energy.

I may not be employed, but I’m a busy woman. I write regularly, and am crafting a freelance writing career. I go to swimming classes in Berkeley and into San Francisco weekly. I do the bulk of the chores and shopping for my household. In my free time, you’re as likely to see a game controller in my hand as a set of knitting needles. I don’t have as much time and energy as I like to pretend I do.

Why am I sharing all this? Because I came to a difficult decision last night: it’s time for my first honest-to-goodness de-stashing. I’m going through ALL my supplies -- especially the ones I’ve had since childhood -- and getting rid of everything I really and truly will never use.

These supplies I will donate to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, so I know that they will be used and loved -- not someday, but today -- by children, teachers, artists, and other crafters.

These items will still reach their potential. They will still be made into clothes, paintings, necklaces, and more, but by people who can put the time and energy into making it happen. I’m hoping that in letting go of these supplies -- of letting go of the potential -- I can let go of my own crafting expectations. I can focus on the crafts that truly make me happy, and that I actually want to make, rather than feel like I have to make.

I made good progress last night, though I still have the bulk of my magazines and paper scraps to go through. That may be my hardest challenge. But seeing those squares of felt, tubes of old beads, and hunks of yarn all neatly packed away is very encouraging, and extremely liberating.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Independencia" Dinner: The Conclusion

"Still Life with Parrot and Flag" by Frida Kahlo (1951)

[Note: You can read the first part of this culinary adventure in my previous post.]

When it comes to my memories of "authentic" Mexican cooking, I don't have much to pull on. From my childhood trips to Mexico, I remember mostly delicious homemade soup and restaurant food (including a Christmas Eve dinner of El Pollo Loco).

During the holidays, my mother would sometimes pull out all the stops, slaving over dishes like chiles rellenos with red sauce, bacalao (salted cod), romeritos (a rosemary-like herb) in mole, and flan napolitano. I would invariably reject these dishes (well, except the flan), wishing my Mama would make a roast or ham or some other nice, normal American dish. Now I wish I'd been able to appreciate it more.

We still sometimes do the "traditional" Mexican-American Christmas dishes of tamales and pozole (pork and hominy soup), but time and taste has keep these old-world dishes off the holiday table for years.

So, it was with a real sense of adventure that I embarked on my mole-making quest. I'd rejected the 25-ingredient black mole recipe from Frida's Fiestas, figuring the red mole would be a little more manageable.

A quick note about mole: it is not "Mexican chocolate sauce." Almost all mole recipes are chili-based, with a mish-mash of ingredients that can include a bit of chocolate. This red mole recipe didn't incorporate chocolate at all, instead relying on cinnamon, allspice, and cloves for its spice, and roasted tomatoes and plantain for its base. It also included boiled pork loin, along with some potatoes and masa-based dumplings.

It was a deceptively complex recipe, full of roasting, blending, straining, and stirring. In other words, a lot of steps that I could mess up. I soaked the dried chilies for 20 seconds, not 20 minutes. The dumplings dissolved completely into the sauce. I even burned the sauce, leaving chunks of blackened potato at the bottom of the pot (we transferred pots, though, so it didn't completely ruin the mole).

The results:

Okay, mole doesn't photograph well at all. Just image the scent of roasted chilies, pork, tomatoes, spice...yum. I'll admit, all the little errors added up to a dish that didn't quite blow my mind, but it was definitely not a failed meal...

...especially when it ended with delicious flan.

Even after dessert, there was still one last thing to do to make our Independencia celebration complete: we had to hear the Grito de Dolores.
It's not a song, but a speech that is made every year on the eve of Independence. It's the battle-cry that the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave in Dolores in 1810, to rally the people to rebel against their Spanish colonial government. This rebellion became the start of the full-on war for independence. Or so the story goes.
The Mexican president makes the speech from the National Palace in Mexico City, with thousands of people coming out to hear. This year's was extra-special, being the bicentennial, and was followed with an incredible fireworks display. Even if you don't speak Spanish, take a peek and see what I'm talking about:

I have to admit, I got a bit misty-eyed. Even sitting in my Bay Area apartment, with only a few loved ones, and even a day later, I felt a deep connection to my birth-country like I haven't in a long, long time. I suddenly wasn't worried about making "perfect" mole or representing my culture "correctly." I wasn't thinking about immigration reform in the US, or the drug wars ravaging Mexico. For one moment, I was just another Mexican, proud and free. It was...powerful.

So, all in all, it was a successful celebration. Mama has promised to show me how to make better mole when I come home for Christmas, and I think I may try some simpler dishes from the cookbook before then. It should be fun.

I hope ya'll enjoyed my culinary adventure/history lesson/trip down memory lane. Food is famous for bringing up feelings and memories, and this meal was no exception!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Viva Mexico! Viva la Independencia!

I was born in Mexico, to a Mexican mother and an American father. We came to the States to stay when I was around one year old, so I've spent over 99% of my life in the USA [EDIT: My husband the professor informed me it's more like 97%]. We only went back to visit Mexico a handful of times, and I remember my motherland with a sort of fuzzy nostalgia.

It's definitely not the Mexico of today that you see on the news. My Mexico is a child's Mexico, with bright bugambilia flowers and tissue paper kites, rope swings in the summer and exquisite Christmas lights in the winter. It smells of bollios warm from the oven, car exhaust, and my grandmother's powdery perfume. It's making your cousins cry because you broke the Christmas pinata on your first swing, since you didn't realize it was made of clay and not paper mache. It's being chased by your aunt's posse of viscious poodles in your uncle's mechanic shop. It's watching your baby brother throw a fit in the lobby of the National Musuem of Anthropology, and pretending you don't know him. It's hearing both your parents speaking Spanish to everyone, not just amongst yourselves when you're at home. It's comforting and strange, familiar and alien. It's beautiful and dangerous and a secret part of you that no kids in your class at home know anything about.

Even as an adult, I almost feel like it's a sort of secret identity, a quiet other half that I don't tap into very much. I have been trying to lately, and what better occassion than Mexico's Independence Day on September 16?

It felt extra-important to commemorate La Independencia this year, since 2010 marked both the bicentennial of Mexico's independence from Spain and a century since the Mexican Revolution.

Since I'm not very big on crowds, a more personal celebration was in order. I decided to throw a little dinner party, just for my husband, my good friend, and the aforementioned baby brother who is not really a baby anymore.

Now, beyond the odd dish of enchiladas or batch of salsa, I've never tried any serious Mexican cooking on my own. My Mama gave me a gorgeous cookbook years ago, Frida's Fiestas, Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo, and I'd been itching for an excuse to break it in.

The menu consisted of Red Mole, White Rice, and Flan from the cookbook, supplemented with a green salad and roasted tomato salsa. Simple enough, right?


Now I know why traditional Mexican cooks spend all friggin' day in the kitchen. I thought it would take me about three hours to whip up this meal.

It took me six. With lots of help.

That doesn't count the hours I spent going to grocery stores, little Latino markets, and the farmer's market in search of all the ingredients. Who knew it would take me three tries to find both dried ancho chiles and guajillo chiles for the mole sauce? Not to mention, the failed quest my brother and I went on to find one little herb called acuyo. AKA heirba santa. AKA oja santa. AKA unicorn hair, 'cause it was just as impossible to find!

Regardless of the acuyo fail, it was still a grand old time. With Chavela Vargas and Pedro Infante serenading us from my new laptop, my brother and I broke in my new molcajete with a batch of Roasted Tomato Salsa.

It's super-easy to make. Just grill a bunch of small tomatoes (I used zebra tomatoes from the farmer's market), garlic cloves (not pictured) and serrano chiles on a comal or frying pan.

When they're starting to char and peel, and they feel soft and squishy when you squeeze them with kitchen tongs, toss 'em in your molcajete (or food processor). Be sure to remove the stems from the chiles. Add some freshly chopped cilantro, and a few dashes of salt to taste. Mush it all up real good.

Transfer it to a glass or earthenware bowl (I swear it tastes better than plastic), and let it sit in the fridge to cool and let the flavors "marry." Or just eat it warm out of the molcajete. It's awesome that way, too.

There's more to this, but I've already rambled on enough for one post. Next time: my Flan-tastic dessert and why you NEED to watch the mole while it cooks...

[The culinary adventure continues here...]

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's an "Electronic Wasteland" out there!

Though not as big news as the release of Halo: Reach, I too have my own small contribution to the gaming community to announce today.

The secret project I have alluded to in my past posts is finally up and running! For all you gamers and game-curious folks, I give you the Electronic Wasteland!

Created by my old friend Kevin Eno, "Electronic Wasteland" is a place to discuss all things video game related. It covers video gaming news, reviews, and lifestyle, embracing all forms of digital gaming, from big-budget console franchises to indie-made iPhone apps.

So far I've contributed two pieces, one about how to get your significant other to game with you and one about my Dragon Age II experience at Comic Con.

I'm really excited to have a specific place to share my love of games, and I hope ya'll take a peek. Kevin is also looking for writers who would want to contribute, so drop me or him a line if you're interested.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Culinary catastrophes build character

I should be working on a piece for my as-to-be-disclosed project, but right now my mind is swimming with images of melting butter, de-boned duck, vodka gimlets, and utensils being flung around a tiny Long Island City apartment. Yup, I just finished reading Julie Powell's Julie & Julia.

I picked it up as the inaugural book for my Berkeley Public Library membership (about friggin' time, I know), and polished it off in just under a week. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. But it definitely struck a deep chord.

I know it's hip to hate Julie ('cause it's easy to hate people who become successful for doing what they love), and to be honest, there's a part of me that kind of does. But this is the part that recognizes the things I hate are exactly the same traits I find in myself. Which shuts me up fast and makes me appreciate her even more.

Here's the story of a depressed urbanite on the cusp of 30, who finds a direction for herself by taking a giant leap with her eyes closed. Is it easy? No. Is it sane? No. Is she trying to change the world? No. She's just trying to cook 524 recipes in 365 days.

She drinks too much. She has crying fits in the kitchen. She bitches about her job. Her apartment is filthy. She fights with her husband (a lot). In other words, she's a human being. Flawed, like the rest of us. Which is why I like her. She's no Martha Stewart. Thank god.

One thing that makes it easy to relate to Julie is her approach to cooking. She's not a kitchen goddess with eight arms, each coolly waving a gleaming gadget over her perfect culinary creations. She fucks up. A lot. But she's honest about it, and she keeps trying.

A lesson to remember when things like my Sweet Bean Pudding incident occurs:

This was supposed to be a delicious fusion of coconut milk-soaked rice and homemade black beans scented with orange, gently steamed in a fresh banana leaf.

What it was, was a friggin' mess:

I'd like to blame the vague cookbook directions, which lacked the proper instructions for working with banana leaves. But the cold, hard facts of the matter are that a) I should have known better than to substitute brown rice for white rice, and b) I didn't think about replacing the steaming water in the pot until after it had evaporated. At least, not until after the delicious aroma of steamed coconut milk transformed into the stench of scorching banana leaves.

And scorch they did:

It was so bad it took three days of soaking, plus a good working over with steel wool to get all the black funk off my best pot and steamer basket. To add insult to injury, I think this little mishap is what contributed to the burn-out of my biggest electric burner.

Did I cry? No. Did I throw things? No. Did I pour myself a big glass of red wine and whine to my lovingly patient mama? Oh yes. Yes. Yes. It still felt like a very Julie moment, even if it was Sweet Bean Pudding rather than Julia's Charlotte Malakoff.

Every cook has those moments. And every cook worth their Morton's knows the only thing to do is try again. And again. And again. Now that the burner is fixed, I actually can, and I will.

I'd like to think that Julie and Julia would approve.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Adventures of Rocketgirl, Vol. 1

It's been a while since I've dug my needle into some real embroidery. I've been getting my crafty ya-yas mostly through knitting, and even that I've kind of slowed down with lately. There's something about a warm summer day that discourages one from curling up with a skein of fuzzy yarn...or doing much of anything beyond lying in front of the fan serial-reading trashy vampire novels.

But then my pals at Sublime Stitching announced their Combo Contest, challenging stitchers to mash up three or more SS patterns. If there's one thing you'll learn about me from reading this blog, is that there's nothing like a contest to get me off my duff and get me creating! It's not the thought of winning that drives me, it's the participation, and mostly, the deadline. This was perfect.

I dug around in my hoard of patterns, and after a day or two came up with a concept that made my fingers itch to stitch. Inspired by my recent obsession with Futurama (what took me so long, anyway?) and my old love of Reading Rainbow, "The Adventures of Rocketgirl, Vol. 1" made it's way into the world stitch by stitch.

And I do mean stitches: backstitch, satin stitch, stem stitch, split stitch, French knot, as well as some funky, random fill stitch I used for the egg-shaped planet.

I have to say, my favorite bit out of the whole piece is the librarian. I'm super-proud of how her hair turned out. She reminds me of Amber Von Tussle from the OG Hairspray...but in a nice way.

I also love the colorful stack of books in her arm:

And her dainty little shoes:

I ended up using six different patterns in all: "Sexy Librarians", "Spaced Out", "Tara McPherson" (stars), "Craft Pad" (planet), "Lucha Libre" (lightning bolts), and "Chinatown" (cloud puff). I also played a lot with variegated floss, which added some nice effects to the more "natural" elements (stars, planet, lightning bolt).

Although I didn't win the contest, I feel like I got something really important out of it: a reminder of just how much fun embroidery can be (cue inspirational music). I've already begun working on a little non-SS stitching project to keep stoking this crafty fire, and I feel like I'm finding my groove again. It's a really good feeling to have.

In Unrelated News
Thanks to Jeff over at Craziest Gadgets for featuring my cookies as part of his review on the Star Wars cookie cutters. Not to mention, for the rallying call for a bona-fide Death Star cookie cutter. If there's one thing we know for sure about the Star Wars franchise, is that they'll make it if enough people ask for it. Just look at the phenomenon that is the Tauntaun sleeping bag.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Come to the Dark Side...we have cookies!

May slips into June, June sneaks into July, July bowls into August. Now September looms around the corner, and almost an entire season has gone by since I last shared on this blog. That's what summer vacation is about, though.

This was my first genuine summer break since high school (which was back in the dark ages of the mid-1990s). As soon as I turned 16, I worked every summer and holiday. I always had a job (or two) throughout college and my summer breaks, and then right after graduation I jumped straight into the nonprofit work force. I've been very lucky that way.

But I have to admit, being laid off was a sort of a blessing in disguise. This was the first year the Professor wasn't teaching summer school, so we were able to spend two months just relaxing together. It was bliss. We took care of home projects, spent time with friends and family, and generally enjoyed the taste of sweet freedom...

...which tastes kinda like sugar cookies.

I actually made these cookies back in May, as part of my brother's college graduation festivities. These Star Wars cookie cutters were an early birthday gift from my folks, who had come up to the Bay Area for the commencement. On the last day of their visit my brother helped me roll, stamp, and sugar, which brought back a ton of happy childhood memories. Though, I have to admit, there was an extra bit of geeky glee in decorating Star Wars characters.

I think my favorite, though, is our DIY Death Star. Since there wasn't a Death Star cutter, I made my own with a round cutter and a toothpick. As you can see, it's ready to fire on a unsuspecting cookie planet...

Writing Update

So, last I wrote, I was awaiting the results for the NYC Midnight Screenwriter's Challenge. The good news is that I won third place in my heat, which held 18 writers. The bad news is that only first and second place advanced to the next round. So, that was it for me. I made a good showing, though, and I'm genuinely please with what I entered. I received some good, solid feedback from one of the judges, so overall it was a good learning experience.

Right now, I'm actually working on a secret project with a friend of mine, which I'm really excited about. It's not ready to be unveiled, but soon I'll be able to share more details...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May Madness

It's definitely been an action-packed few weeks. Between job hunting, hosting out of town friends, and helping keep the Professor (a.k.a. the husband) sane during finals month, I've had my hands more than full.

Doesn't mean I haven't found time to knit, though, and I actually completed a pair of projects, which makes me quite proud.

Coffee Talk (with Linda Richman)

The most recent is a classy little cozy for my French coffee press:

French Press Cozy

This was born of practical reasons, more than aesthetic. Though pressed coffee is awesome and delicious, it also gets cold really quickly. I found a quick and easy pattern on Design*Sponge, and within a couple weeks, I had a lovely little cozy.

French Press Cozy (rear)

I used a trio of random vintage buttons I had in my collection. I picked them out in dim light, though, so I didn't notice until the next morning that the bottom button was brass colored! I kind of like it, though. Non-conformist button.

Flower Power

I also whipped up another little dishcloth, as a Mother's Day Gift for my Mama.

Spring Dishcloth (detail)

It may be hard to see the design, but it's flowers in bloom. I'd seen this free pattern on Kris Knits months ago, and knew my Mama would love it. I was right.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Go Giants!

You may remember the Striped Scarf of Awesomeness, which I completed JUST in time for the end of the 2009 baseball season. Well, it's 2010, and last week was the Striped Scarf of Awesomeness' first field trip to AT&T Park.

It was also my friend Erin's (center) first foray to the stadium. He flew in from Milwaukee to watch the Giants vs. Padres series, and it became a mini film-crew reunion at the ballpark when Abena joined us for game 2. Garlic fries, $9 beer, and many laughs were had by all. Good times.

Writing Update

Last I wrote, I had entered into the NYC Midnight Screenwriter's Challenge. I'm still waiting to hear the results of the first heat, but I'm feeling really good about the script I wrote. I got lucky: my genre was horror. More than anything, it felt good to have a goal, a disciplined writing routine, and to come out the other end with a script I may want to produce.

It's strange. Writing is like exercise to me. I bitch and moan about starting it, but once I have, I feel great. If I go too long without doing it, I start feeling weak and cranky. With all the craziness, I haven't had much time or energy for writing or exercise. But I've got that listless crankiness setting in, which means I'm overdue. For both. Gym today. Writing tomorrow.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

6th Circle: a comic for freaks and geeks (and the folks who love 'em)

Launched just this month, 6th Circle is a new weekly web comic set in a San Francisco tattoo/piercing parlor. The brainchild of stand-up comedian Jackson McBrayer and artist Xander Kent, 6th Circle is a blend of biting social commentary, geeky pop culture references, and metalhead shenanigans. In a word: awesome.

Full disclosure: Xander is my brother, who is a ridiculously talented artist, IMHO. Crafty folks, check out his blog post on his hand-printed stickers, which should be popping up in tattoo parlors and comic book shops around San Francisco.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Middle

I'm not a fan of the band "Jimmy Eat World," nor of their overplayed song, "The Middle." That being said, I've woken up with these lyrics stuck in my head every day this week:

"It just takes some time/Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride/Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright)."

I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.

Why do I need to be assured things will be alright? Well, my friends, I'm being laid off tomorrow. The organization I started working for 4 months ago is in a "transitional phase" of sorts, and this phase does not involve my position (or many other ones, to be fair).

There's been a lot of mixed emotions about this, from grief to optimism, from anger to relief. Today, though, it's time to stop dwelling in those feelings. I'm shaking off the haze that's engulfed me since I heard the news and sinking my teeth into the opportunities this change presents.

So, I got up with the spouse at 7:30 a.m., made some coffee, and am about to start a job hunt in earnest. Later today, I'm taking a trip to the gym (which is so very overdue).

I'm also using my newly-given free time to pursue something a little different: I've entered in the NYC Midnight 2010 Screenwriter's Challenge. I'll have eight days (April 16-24) to write a short script (15 pages or less) in an assigned genre, based off a given prompt. If I win the "heat," I'll have 24 hours to write another one (June 4-5).

I've never entered a competition like this before. I've always had excuses: I don't have the time, I don't have the experience, etc., etc. Well, now I've got nothing but time, and some real experience writing a short script that has been successfully produced. I'm out of excuses, and genuinely excited to be trying my hand at this. Even if I don't make it past the first round, at least I'll come out of this experience with another screenplay under my belt.

So, if I may ask, wish me luck as I claw my way out of this "middle" period. On to a new job, and new opportunities!

Oh, and if you know of any jobs opening up in the San Francisco Bay Area, please send 'em my way!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Knitted dishcloths galore

I'd like to say there was some big, important reason I've been absent from my blog for a few weeks. But I have to admit, it was merely a combination of work woes, lots of social time with good friends, and -- my main culprit -- a little too much gaming.

I've spent more free time with a Xbox 360 controller in my hand than knitting needles (damn you, Dragon Age, and your addictive ways), but I have managed to stitch up some lovely little dishcloths in my relaxed time:

Skully dishcloth

This was made using a free pattern I'd discovered online a few months ago. I wish she had more patterns, because this one was so much fun to stitch up. I used Lion Cotton yarn in Poppy Red.

The other project I was working on was a set of lovely blue dishcloths, requested by a crafty friend of my mama's:

Blue dishcloths

These are from Knit Dishcloth Corner, a bilingual French/English site with dozens of gorgeous free patterns for various skill levels.

These are "Petit Panier 1" (Little Basket):

Little Basket (detail)

and "Dunes de Sable" (Sand Waves).

Sand Waves (detail)

Both were stitched with Sugar n' Cream verigated cotton yarn (Shaded Denim and Swimming Pool).

I'm kind of at a loss for major crafting projects right now. I have materials and patterns, but I just haven't found one that makes me sit up and say, "yes! I'll spend umpteen hours on you!" So I've just been poking at these little things, which I'm finding surprisingly fun. I'm really enjoying making designs in dishcloths...though I refuse to use them to wash dishes! They're far too pretty to gunk up!