BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Sweet Easter Sunday

Ranking just below Halloween, Easter is one of the most lucrative times for candy makers and sellers, beating out the sales from both Christmas and Valentine’s Day combined.  On top of that well-known fact, it’s also been proven that in times of economic hardships, just about the only thing that is truly recession-proof is candy, so you can image how much of the sweet, sugary stuff is flying off the shelves right now.

Surrounded by such temptation at every turn, it’s hard not to indulge just a little bit… And the risk of overdoing that little sugar fix is so great, even the Easter bunny himself would struggle to maintain moderation.

Just try not to get sick to your stomach today! Mr. Bunny here is looking rather green now, after pounding down piles of chocolates and marshmallows, and may very well need the next couple of months to sleep off the impending sugar coma. No wonder Easter only comes around once a year!


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It’s Electric!

Finally, now that the sun has decided to take the chill off the earth and it suddenly feels much more temperate all around, it’s the perfect time to take a stroll along the beach.  Why wait until it gets unbearably hot, when the tourists creep out of hiding and pollute the shores, and even the bugs and bees seem more ferocious?  Just as winter breaks, and the sandy shores are still quiet, that simple strip of undulating water feels like a refuge from the craziness of everyday business.  For a brief time during this off-peak season, dogs are still allowed in as well, so it’s a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your canine friend(s).

Not a soul in sight, a peaceful breeze is the only thing we meet on this brisk March morning.  Isis romps happily to examine the debris left behind at low tide, being careful not to actually touch the water’s edge.  She hates baths and walking in the rain, or just getting wet in general, with a fiery passion, so it’s understandable that she’s wary of this strange mass of moving water.

Trotting out onto a freshly unearthed sandbar, striated with gentle waves that mimic the ocean’s caress, it was there that she paused, and suddenly let out a low growl.  Typically easy-going and certainly not aggressive like this, I rushed over to see what she had found.

Laid out nearly straight like an emerald green arrow, I could scarcely believe the object of Isis’s fascination was in fact an electric eel!* Sure, there may occasionally be the odd jellyfish or two that washes up on our beach, but never an eel- They usually stick to the bottom of the ocean floor anyways, so what was this guy doing all the way out here?

Fearing that it might be stuck, and more importantly, that Isis might try to eat it soon if I didn’t do something, I thoughtlessly reached down to scoop the overgrown worm and toss him back into the blue-green waves when…

ZZZzt! Like sticking your fingers in an electrical socket, a jolt of electricity surged through my arm, thoroughly shocking me both literally and figuratively. All the while, that beached little creature looked so innocent and helpless… What a joke!

Quickly putting Isis back on a leash and marching away, I can only wonder how many other poor passersby might have tried to “help” had it been a little bit later in the season, when the people come in droves. I guess it’s a good thing it was just the two of us- But what an electrifying experience!

*Yes, I know that electric eels look different, just humor me here, okay?


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Not Quite Duck Pins

In the frozen depths of the arctic, very few creatures are equipped to survive the severe conditions by themselves. If you think the weather is bad where you live, just imagine the creatures that have to deal with snow storms that continue to dump frozen precipitation for weeks at a time! Polar bears have their thick fur coats to stay warm, seals have comfortable layers of blubber… but penguins? Though they lack the same degree of insulation, penguins are unique in that their communities are able to band together- Literally- And share body heat to stave off those subzero temperatures.

All squished up close together, penguins are certainly not claustrophobic. The more I thought about this arrangement, though, I couldn’t help but wonder if they ever get bored of the same extreme togetherness. What do they do for fun? Would one ever try to lighten the mood or play games in the midst of that tight circle? Imagining all sorts of ways that a restless penguin might try to make the situation more enjoyable, it suddenly hit me that there was one perfect past time that some penguins would undoubtedly enjoy…

Bowling! Just as your neighbors begin to nod off, one mischievous bird might excuse themselves from the group and wake them up with a lighthearted roll of the bowling ball!

Strike!

The only thing that might prevent this game from catching on is the risk that the rest of the colony might get tired of your antics, and march off into the sunset without you.

*For a usable set, you will need to make at least 6 penguins, stomachs, and beaks, and 1 bowling ball.

Penguin:

With a F hook and worsted weight yarn of any color, Sc6 in a circle using the magic loop technique.
Sc twice into each st (12)
Sc 1, sc twice into next st* around (18)
Sc 2, sc twice into next st* around (24)
Sc 5 rounds even
Sc 2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc 1, sc3tog* around (12)
-Insert eyes and lightly stuff head-
Sc 2 rounds even
Sc 1, sc twice into next st* around (18)
Sc 1 round even
Sc 2, sc twice into next st* around (24)
Sc 3, sc twice into next st* around (30)
Sc 16 rounds even
Sc in back loops all the way around
-Stuff the body, and for extra stability, insert a yogurt lid cut to size into the bottom-
Sc3, sc2tog* around (24)
Sc2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc1, sc2tog* around (12)
Sc2tog* around (6)

Gather the remaining stitches together and tie off, burying the knot and excess yarn inside.

Stomach:

With an F hook and white worsted weight yarn, Ch4
Sc into 2nd ch from hook and once into remaining 2 sts (3)
Turn, ch1, sc twice into first, sc1, sc twice into last (5)
Turn, ch1, Sc even
Turn, ch1, Sc Twice in the first st, sc3, sc twice in last st (7)
Turn, ch1, Sc3, sc twice into next st, sc3 (8)
Turn, ch1, Sc even* for 8 rows
Break the yarn, leaving a long tail to sew with.

Beak:

With an E hook and sport weight orange or yellow yarn, sc3 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (6)
Sc even for 2 rounds
Break yarn, leaving a long tail to sew with.

Bowling Ball:

With an F hook and grey worsted weight yarn, Sc6 in a circle
Sc twice in each st (12)
Sc 1, sc twice into next st* around (18)
Sc 2, sc twice into next st* around (24)
Sc 3, sc twice into next st* around (30)
Sc 4, sc twice into next st* around (36)
Sc 5, sc twice into next st* around (42)
Sc around for 4 rounds
Sc 5, sc2tog* around (36)
Sc 4, sc2tog* around (30)
-Insert a tennis ball, and while holding it in place, continue to crochet around it. You may need to pull your finished work tightly to get it to cover to completely-
Sc 3, sc2tog* around (24)
Sc 2, sc2tog* around (18)
Sc 1, sc2tog* around (12)
Sc2tog* around (6)
Gather remaining stitches together, break yarn, tie tightly, and bury the knot and excess yarn.


36 Comments

Counting Sheep

Quiet settles over the kitchen like a soft blanket, as the hands of the clock continue their journey around to the AM hours. The gentle hum of the laptop is the only sound, punctuated by rapid spurts of key-tapping when the words begin to flow again. In the dead of night, with fewer distractions to get in the way, I tend to accomplish much more work and brainstorming is possible than in the daytime which most other people spend their waking hours. Allowing my mind to wander, following random lines of thought and then coming back to a focus once more, this is the only way that I can truly write with ease. While the rest of the house is fast asleep, that light in the kitchen keeps me company.

By the time I begin to wrap things up, I wonder how many bakers are beginning to wake for their pre-dawn shifts. 3 AM, 4 AM; the times that average people would be loathe to think about opening their eyes at. An insomniac with an excuse, I no longer try to fight it or count sheep to lull myself into a tired state… And while I may have given up on those fleecy animals, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on me.

Try as they might, coffee at the ready so that they might be able to outlast my restlessness, I can always see them fading as the hours creep onward. Eyes closing, flickering open, and struggling to stay that way, it’s clear that this poor little guy got stuck with a tough job indeed. When my stream of thought finally runs dry and it’s time to head off to bed, it’s then that I notice that this diligent worker has actually beaten me to it.

It really is getting late when even the sheep give up.


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Safety First

Little is ever thrown out in this household, and as you might expect, most of us here have tendencies towards hoarding and collecting. For me, I can’t bear to let go of even the smallest scraps of yarn or fabric, because you never know what sort of projects they may prove to be useful in. Frogs figurines seem to strike my mom’s fancy, and have taken over an entire cabinet in the family room. These collections are more or less normal, if you ask me, but my sister’s attraction is much more inexplicable. For reasons unknown to me (and perhaps her as well,) she feels compelled to accumulate traffic cones.

Rescuing those that are forgotten, run over and caked with dirt on quiet streets, as well as picking up new pylons at dollar stores or Home Depo, that’s just what she enjoys stockpiling. It has nothing to do with their purpose or symbolism, so why she would be so drawn to these florescent orange cones, or why they must all be named “Toby,” I have no idea.

Seriously, who knew there were so many different types of safety cones? Big and small, striped and plain, reflective and dull, there must be more cones then there are days in a year. With a vast array like that, it’s hard to imagine where this collection might be stored if it should continue to grow!

At the very least, it’s easy to know what would make a good gift for this sister of mine… And my contribution won’t take up nearly as much space as a full-sized road block.

I have to admit- When something as mundane as a safety cone can be this adorable, I can almost see why someone would want to amass as many as possible!


45 Comments

Cookie Monster

Dark, overcast, and rainy days always seem to propel me into the kitchen. Seeking refuge from the threatening clouds, there’s no place I’d rather be than in from of a hot oven or warm stove. These conditions demand comfort food to ward off the gloomy feelings, so it’s never fancy fare, but it tends to soothe more than just an empty stomach.

On a gloomy evening such as this, I had just taken a sheet of fresh chocolate chip cookies out of the oven and set them on a rack to cool. Their sweet scent filled the air, pushing out that damp, chilly feeling invading from outside, and brightened up the whole house. Still, there was some ominous feeling that I just couldn’t shake. Wind rattled the window panes, creating an eerie sound far too similar to footsteps for comfort. Every now and then a stray acorns would drop onto the roof with a *plunk!* as squirrels scurried about collecting them. Creaking floor boards seemed amplified amidst the cacophony, and boy, was it ever noisy for one quiet and nearly empty house!

Somewhat rattled, I instinctively sought out those warm cookies, hoping to sink into a cozy chair with one or two and forget the disquieting sounds. Reaching out to grab one, my hand grazed something entirely different…

Drawing in a sharp breath, a moment of sheer terror enveloped my mind, freezing me in place. This is one malevolent-looking creature that I did not want to mess with… But there it was, stealing homemade cookies right off of the rack! Creeping slowly around to get a better view and assess the situation, it was a matter of moments before this monster was looking me straight in the eyes.

Smiling ear to ear (or horn to horn, perhaps?), this was not the face that I expected to see! Perfectly content to eat a few cookies and leave in peace, there was no need to ruffle any feathers; he must have been simply trying to escape the ugly weather as well. Although I was thankful that this monster was only after sweets, I still wish he hadn’t broken in and stolen baked goods right out from under my nose.

So let that be a lesson to you; Keep a close eye on your treats, because there are some ravenous cookie monsters out at large…

Happy Halloween everyone!


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Friendly Reminders

Caught up in ten thousand and one different projects at once, it’s become incredibly easy to forget to wrap up the loose ends of one venture before starting on the next. Debris strewn about the kitchen from the last photo shoot and baking experiment, the last thing that this kitchen needs is more clutter… But naturally, I’m here to add to the mess. Although I tend to be a neat-freak by nature, my quickly waning attention span has led me to forget to straighten out the chaos at hand, and before I can get my bearings, it’s time to run off to work or start on the next issue before the daylight fades out. Worst of all are the foods that get left out, inviting in bugs or even worse, the dog to go to town.

Living with my thoughtful family, they’re quick to give “friendly reminders” to prevent spoilage or further disarray, and it seems like the biggest issue as of late is closing up those bags of chips, or other bags that are left yawning wide open.

No, the bags may not close themselves, but luckily I have some helpers in the kitchen that have offered to take care of that for me. Hanging on tight for as long as necessary, not a single vermin nor canine has dared to sneak a treat for themselves since they started lending a hand.

Snacks of all sorts and bags of every size are no match; As soon as they are abandoned on the field of battle, one of these swift little guys is on it like jam on toast.  They’ve even learned to work in teams for the bigger cargo.

Sometimes though, it does get to be overkill…

Especially when they’re trying to close bags that haven’t even been opened yet!


75 Comments

Dam*ed Beaver!

Living in the suburbs, I like to think that you get the best of both worlds; the convenience of the city isn’t too far away, and yet you’re close enough to nature that you might get to cultivate a garden, or get close to the native wildlife. Depending on the circumstances though, it can easily feel like the opposite. Got loud neighbors? Rowdy kids who bash in your mailbox overnight? Well, welcome to the city my friend! Worse, however, is when nature doesn’t know when to stay in its place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tree-hugging, plant-loving vegan, but I don’t take kindly to an invasion of ants or aggressive weeds consuming that carefully planted garden. That cozy little home of yours right on the fringe of modernity and tradition is far more precariously perched than one might care to believe, in fact. It’s pretty hard to ignore this when the elements try to evict you every time the rains come pouring down and turning the basement into a swimming pool.

Shockingly enough, it wasn’t a downpour that flooded the lower level the other day when I ventured down the winding staircase to retrieve an old book. Having experienced a string of crystal-clear, sunny days, puzzlement and alarm sent me charging back up those stairs to investigate. Nope, no burst pipes or overflowing bath tubs to be found, so what on earth was going on? Inspecting the perimeter of the house in a last desperate effort, the problem quickly became much clearer. Mysteriously, our shallow little puddle of a swamp had become swollen and was now seeping into every open pore in the siding. Following the trail of soggy earth back into the woods, it was there that the source became obvious. Towering over the diminutive creek sat a newly forged dam, solid as a rock and built of fallen trees and debris. Who could possibly be responsible for this monstrosity? Who would be so malicious, so uncaring, so…

Cute. Damn it. (Forgive the pun!)

Even Isis couldn’t believe it, sniffing around with trepidation.

Clearly, some serious discussion was in order. Reluctant to move his masterpiece, I could understand how much work he put into his dam, but something just had to give. Explaining the situation back at home, he eventually agreed to move further on down the river, but on one condition: That some other family would be kind enough to let him take up residence in their babbling brook or lazy stream. So I implore you, dear readers, to open your doors (or at least yard) to this sweet little critter and take him in. Just make sure he knows where the run-off from his blockades are going!

Head and Body:

Using an F hook and worsted weight yarn in dark brown, sc6 into a loop
Sc twice in each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc4, sc twice into next st* around (36 sts)
Sc even for 4 rounds
Sc4, sc2tog (30 sts)
Sc even for one round
Sc3, 2tog* around (24 sts)
Sc2, 2tog* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc4, sc twice into next st* around (36 sts)
Sc5, sc twice into next st* around (42 sts)
Sc6, sc twice into next st* around (48 sts)
Sc even for 6 rounds
Sc6, sc2tog* around (42 sts)
Sc5, sc2tog* around (36 sts)
Break yarn

Bottom:

With light brown yarn, sc6 into a circle
Sc twice in each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc4, sc twice into next st* around (36 sts)
Break yarn, leaving long tail to sew with

Muzzle:

With light brown yarn, ch6, sc into 2nd ch from hook, sc into remaining sts (5 sts)
Turn, ch1, sc1, sc2 into the next st, sc1, sc2 into the next st, sc1 (7 sts)
Turn, ch1, sc2, sc2 into each of the next 3 sts, sc2 (10 sts)
Continue around and sc into back posts of first row of sts, and sc remaining even (15 sts)
Sc even for one round
Break yarn, leaving long tail to sew with

Ears: (Make 2)

Sc5 in a circle
Sc twice in each (10 sts)
Break yarn, fold in half, sew around edges.

Tail: (Make 2)

Ch 12
Sc 10, sc 3 times in last st, continue around, sc into the back of each st (23)
Turn, ch1. Sc 5, sc 2 into next, sc3, sc 2 into next, sc 3, sc2 into next, sc 3, sc2 into next, sc 5 (27)
Sl st 7, sc2 into one, sc1, sc2 into one, sc1, sc2 into one, sc 3, sc2 into one, sc1, sc 2 into one, sc 1, sc 2 into one, sl st 7 (33)
Sl st 7, sc 2 (sc 2 into one, sc 2) x5, sl st 7 (38)
Break yarn and tie off

Limbs: (Make 4)

Start with light brown yarn and sc 5 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (10 sts)
Switch to dark brown, sc into back loops
Sc even for one round
Break yarn and tie off

Assembly:

Embroider the muzzle with black worsted weight yarn. Cut small rectangles out of white felt for the teeth, and sew them on by hand with invisible (clear) thread. Lightly stuff, and sew the muzzle onto the head. Insert safety eyes and secure tightly. Stuff both the head and body with a gentle but firm touch, and sew the bottom to cover the open hole. Tie off and bury the knot.

Embroider one side of the tail as per the picture above, in a grid-like pattern with a mid-tone brown yarn, and sew the two pieces together. Sew the tail to the bottom of the body. Lightly stuff and attach limbs. Press the ears together and sew them on with a slight curve, so that they appear somewhat rounded. Enjoy your new friend, but keep an eye out for flooding!


23 Comments

A Little Help From My Friends

‘Overwhelming’ doesn’t even begin to describe the amount of thoughtful comments, emails, and other little notes I’ve received lately. Really, I can’t say thank you enough for just watching the video and not quietly vomiting on your keyboard, so I wish I had time to actually answer each and every little note. There are few times that it’s such a wonderful way to be overwhelmed, but this is perhaps the best source of ‘stress’! To help ease the pressure of replying to emails, I’ve called out the help of a friend to act as a secretary for a bit.

While she’s been a huge help thus far, I can’t help but be concerned about letters falling through the cracks. It’s tough to hit all the keys for her, so typos are unavoidable, and I can’t say she’s the most computer literate… This arrangement is still on a trial basis, to say the least.

In case you still haven’t heard back from me, I’ll try to sort through things asap… Although I kind of have a feeling that my secretary here is actually making a bigger mess than I started with. Sorry for the delay, it might be a while!


26 Comments

Losing my Mind, and Socks

Waking up a half past ten, my eyes flicked open in panic upon learning the bad news from the digital clock near my head. Stumbling hurriedly out of bed and flinging some clothes on, I knew I would have to seriously rush if I was to make into work on time. Although it’s so close to the house that I could practically walk it, it seemed as though every minute was speeding past in a matter of seconds. With the clocks conspiring to make me late on my first day back on the job, my mind was still filled with sleep sand that I couldn’t quite see through the haze. I need to brush my teeth! Why hasn’t the coffee been made yet? Where were my socks??

Of course, I have more than one pair of socks… It just didn’t occur to me that there was a second option. Wearing only one knee-high, striped sock with my disheveled ensemble and rat’s nest of hair, I would have passed as the village idiot far better than someone on their way to work at a restaurant. Now bordering on panic, drawers of shirts and pants and even stationery were torn out of their dressers, ravaged and taken apart, and yet the match to my sock was no where to be found. Realizing how ridiculous this was as the coffee began to kick in, I hastily graped a mismatched sock to cover my bare foot, and gave up on the hunt.

Running out the door with my heart pounding, it’s surprising that I even found the car in the garage. One leg in the vehicle, it was then that something in the bushes caught my eye. Perhaps it was just a stroke of madness thanks to an overheating brain, but something about it beckoned to me. As I walked closer, I could hardly believe what I had found…

Indeed, my missing sock wasn’t just stuck inside some old sweater or languishing underneath the bed, but it had taken on a whole new life as a nest! Dumbfounded, I could only laugh at the insanity of it all.

And since this sweet blue bird seemed so comfortable in her self-made home, there was no way I would reclaim my missing garment… I went into work that day wearing two very different socks, and was even happy knowing that the mate was with this well-meaning thief, too.

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