BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Island of Misfit Toys

…Or really, island of misfit pictures. Hopefully none of you have been there too often, as it’s a terribly sad place, where all the blurry, over-exposed, and badly framed photographs go to die. Having sworn up and down that none of my own captures would ever find their way into that forsaken place, my heart sank all the way down to my small intestine when I discovered just that nestled into my very own hard drive. Sequestered in a quiet corner of my computer, there they lay for well over a year, waiting hopefully for their turn to be featured on the blog. I’m saddened to say that now it’s just too late; They’re no longer up to my personal standards, and to foist such amateurish work upon you, my dear readers, would make me feel like a rip-off artist. Any story that accompanied such poor illustrations would be instantly cheapened, so bear with me through this post while I simply clean out the plushies in my closet.

Second photo ops are not an option, as all of these toys have moved on to other homes, but I’d like to take a moment just to remember them, and give a few of these photos their moment in the sun.

Sheldon

Pug and Chihuahua

Cat Keyboard Buddy

Simple Lion


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Honey, I Shrunk the Muffins

Peeling a ripe banana early one morning, it quickly became apparent that there just wouldn’t be enough to top even my modest bowl of cereal. It’s not that it had been half-rotten or already nibbled on, but it was just so small to begin with.

No, this just wouldn’t do. So what does one do with a tiny banana…?

Make tiny banana nut muffins, of course! Now, that’s a satisfying way to use up an otherwise too-tiny fruit!


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Hidden Treasures

Growing up in a household where nothing gets thrown out, you become accustomed to a good deal of clutter, and the frequent searches for items that become lost in the disarray. Most of the mess is hidden away in closets and beneath beds, but the clutter often creeps out from its hiding place and makes organization impossible. It’s certainly nice to have just about every craft supply I could ever ask for right at my finger tips, from piles of yarn right down to old glass jars and odd buttons, but the abundance tends to obscure that one thing I’m looking for. Want a certain book? Well, I can find plenty of old magazines and news papers, but it would seem as though this book had never even been put to print. Even things that are right out in the open can get sucked into the scenery, and a cell phone placed in the wrong spot will seemingly vanish.

The bright side is that more often than not, rediscovered treasures are found on a nearly daily basis. Poking through the bookshelves in our seldom-used family room yielded just such a surprise the other day, but it wasn’t just some odd trinket this time.

Standing no taller than an inch in height, this creature wasn’t just tiny, he was practically microscopic! Nestled in amongst books that were 10 times his size, this mini elephant was having one heck of a time trying to crack one open. I could tell he was book lover at heart, and would have poured over every last text in the house had he been able to reach them. It’s a good thing I happened to spot him and help out, otherwise it could have been ages before he got to even one book!

With all of the old volumes we have stored there, I’m certain that he’ll be able to find whatever it is that he’s searching for. However, with so many books to get through, I’ll know where to find him for quite a while to come!

[On an unrelated note, I've been having difficulty accessing my email, so I'm sorry I haven't yet responded to your emails.  Hopefully the problem should be cleared up soon!]


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Springing and Hopping

Just like that, it would seem as though mother nature has suddenly flipped a switch, and the days have instantly become longer and warmer. Although there is still a chill in the air, spring has definitely started to settle in, and it is a much welcome change. No longer is it necessary to bundle up in a half-dozen layers just to walk across campus, and there’s even light to dine by at dinner time. As much as I love winter, it had definitely overstayed its welcome this time around, dumping snow at the drop of a hat like a child throwing tantrums. One can only take these antics for so long, right?

Tempting me out of my quiet room with brilliant sunshine, it was literally a breath of fresh air to be greeted with the gentle midday breeze. Deciding on impulse to go for a stroll, winding paths unfolded before me, meandering along streams and brush and buildings alike. Enjoying the scenery so thoroughly, it wasn’t until 5 miles later that realized how far I had wandered or how limp my legs were becoming. I’m not exactly an athlete here, and my typical “walk” would be a quick dash between classes, plus maybe a lap around the building if you really push me. Starting to feel the distance in my throbbing feet, a nearby bench looked too inviting to pass by, providing a moment to rest my insufficient muscles. Sitting there with the blood rushing through my veins, who knows how long it took for me to pull my head together again. I have to guess that it must have been a good while though, because the next thing I knew, I found myself seated next to an unexpected newcomer.

Sitting nonchalantly on the bench as if he were just waiting for the bus, he must have hopped up there ages ago to get so settled in! Not wanting to make this slimy green visitor uncomfortable, I tried not to stare, but my curiosity only grew after getting over the initial shock. Where is his home? Will there be more frogs like him being born soon? A sign of good things to come, as creatures awaken from hibernation and wildlife returns to the budding trees, this fellow was even more proof that the seasons had officially changed.

It was hard to part ways and leave him there on the bench, but I took comfort in the knowledge that he is undoubtedly the first of many- I just can’t wait to see what other animals I might meet this spring!


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Cat Got Your Yarn?

Yarn is the most important tool for every knitter or crocheter, and invariably, what once was a simple matter of seeking out a new skein for a particular project or replenishing the stash when it got low becomes an all-out conquest. New fibers are plucked off the shelf without the slightest idea of a final product in mind, and ridiculous quantities of the stuff too. Don’t think that you’re above this sort of behavior, either! Even if you’ve never hauled bags of yarn out of your local yarn store yet, you may just discover one that that the skeins have piled up over time, and now all of a sudden that meager stash you started with has grown to embarrassing proportions. At least, that’s what happened to me.

Starting with the old scraps leftover from my mom’s knitting days, it was a while before I even had to buy yarn for myself. When I finally discovered all the different colors, fibers, varieties out there… Well, there was no turning back. A small bag turned into a plastic bin, which grew into a very large two-drawer fixture, which then needed another bin stacked on top. While its helpful thing to have so many choices at hand to start up new projects, it can be a bit maddening to search for a particular skein. I try to keep meticulous count of what I have so as not to waste, but sometimes it appears that yarn simply disappears into the cottony depths. Frustrated at losing my precious yarn, even with so much still in my stash, it was high time to investigate this mystery. Digging through the drawers first with both hands, it was quite a shock to discover a small hole in the back of the fixture! Could we have mice here? I wondered, fearing my craft supplies had already been used as nesting materials or even consumed. Luckily, a trail of unraveled yarn meandered away into the next room, so I took the bait and followed it… But what I found at the end was certainly no mouse…

Yellow eyes gleaming even in the midday sun, a cat no larger than my fist stood guarding his stash just as protectively as I might have! Startled out of a day dream or deep thought, he stood perfectly still, unsure of how to get away with the crime he had just been caught red-handed for. No way would I let him off the hook for this stunt, but as something of a pacifist, I was still more than willing to compromise. Seeing as he had more than enough of my yarn to keep him busy as it was, I proposed that he could act as a “keeper” for those errant balls of yarn that might otherwise slip through the cracks (never mind that he was the one who created the cracks.) Only when I needed one for a project, he was to relinquish it from his personal stash.

A reasonable and generous request by all accounts, since this tiny feline had been caught stealing mountains of fiber, he quickly agreed to my proposal. I was just happy to be reunited with my lovely yarn… and now I can let my stash grow even further, because I have this new friend to hold on to it!


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Deep Breaths

Our culture practically expects us to overload ourselves with work, live the most hectic lives possible, and quite simply stress the hell out of us. Work is the measurement of success, and while it’s true that nothing can be achieved without hard work, this never ending push to stay awake, keep pounding away at the keyboard even after midnight has long passed… It’s a fine line between average obligations and excessive drudgery. Thinking about it just now, considering the amount of sleep I’ve stolen away for myself throughout this entire week, it makes my head spin, and the most I can do is remember to keep breathing. Life is overwhelming for everyone, so I won’t make excuses; I’m sure you’ve already heard them all, anyways.

So for now, I’m trying to get through this stressful patch with as many brain cells intact as possible, and I hope that everyone else who can relate will do the same.

Just like this little lady, let’s all take a moment to smell the flowers, and breathe in deeply.


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Monkey Business

Smash! Crash! Bang! Howls of laughter erupted from the room next door, following the most incredible cacophony to ever reach my ears. After such destructive sounds, I could only imagine some macabre scene lay on the other side of the wall, desks and dressers splintered into irretrievable shards, much better suited as tooth picks than furniture. Eyes darting about in the darkness, I wondered if perhaps the whole building might in fact be collapsing, or maybe some bomb had just gone off in the hall. Slamming doors and merry shrieks continued to fill the air, well into the wee hours of the AM. Tossing and turning, jamming my head into the depths of my pillow, nothing would muffle the noise. Should a lull drift in and quiet the conversation, music would shortly follow, the bass pumping and making all the windows vibrate. My head spun, heart raced, and I could scarcely believe my feet would be met with the ground anymore should I venture out of bed.

The night broke and morning came, and yet the racket still carried on. Sun filtered in through the cracks in the window shade, prompting me to give up the fight; The day was here, and it was time to go meet it. Staring blankly out into the courtyard, I saw that one of my neighbors had relocated and was still partying away outdoors…

That crazy guy, monkeying about high up in a brittle tree branch. Still in a drunken stupor no doubt, he carried on with joyous shouting and slurred songs. The lack of sleep didn’t seem to bother him one bit, but then again, you probably could have cut off his arm and that wouldn’t even register in his addled mind.

So many classes await me now… And I am so utterly exhausted. It’s going to be a long day.


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Whale of a Tale

Busily racing through classes, homework, and more classes, all sense of time seems to fly out the window. Plans for today end up being bumped to tomorrow, and the clock strikes midnight earlier and earlier each evening. Really, it’s enough to drive one mad, what with all of the emails piling up like some horrific car crash, demanding attention and yet remaining unanswered for weeks. Speaking of piling up, that’s exactly what all the dirty dishes have been doing as well. Hasty meals come and go, quickly forgotten, but those darn plates and bowls stay soiled all the same. Returning from another “fun” dash through the rain (or hail, or snow…), the last thing I want to do is to submerge my clammy hands in water yet again and just take care of all those serving vessels, and so the stack continues to grow higher. Resembling a precariously built tower within just a day or two of this neglect, my laziness must be set aside in favor of keeping the mess to something more manageable; Broken ceramic coated in vegetable soup residue would not make a lovely addition to the decor.

Dishes in one hand and soap in another, relocating this whole balancing act was a task in itself. Prepared to thoughtlessly plop the mess into the nearest sink, I may as well have been sleepwalking up to this point. Glancing toward the stainless steel basin, as if awoken by a nightmare, I jumped nearly a foot in the air and came just inches away from dumping my entire load. Well, I was certainly awake now, after having caught sight of the most unusual creature perched atop the faucet.

A bizarre and inexplicable event? Yes, and I’ll understand if you think this is all just one big fish story. I wouldn’t believe it either, had I not seen the tiny blue whale with my own eyes. About the size of a field mouse and as friendly as any standard house cat, it was simply unfathomable from any angle. Perhaps the drain was connected to the ocean, and this miniature whale was just lost? Maybe someone brought him to school as a pet, but became tired of the maintenance work and tried to flush the poor little fellow. No matter, it was hardly a time to ask questions. Quickly rinsing out one of those food-encrusted bowls to a much more hygienic state, I scooped this new friend up and filled this make-shift tank with water. Safe for the time being, his smile appeared to grow even larger, though I doubt much would be able to shake his naturally cheery disposition.

It would be difficult to impossible to locate his proper place, being that this is such a huge mass of people and the ocean is so far away… So this new friend will be staying with me, unless another caretaker comes asking. Instead, perhaps you’d like to adopt someone like him for yourself?

With an F hook and worsted weight yarn, ch 6
Sc into 2nd ch from hook, sc into the following 3 sts, sc 3 times into last stitch. Continuing around, sc into the backs of the next 3 st, sc 2 into the last one (12)
2 sc into first st, sc into next 3, 2sc into next, sc, 2 sc into next, sc 3, sc2 into next, sc (16)
2 sc into first, sc 4, 2sc into next, sc 2, 2sc into next, sc 4, 2sc, sc 2 (20)
Sc for 5 rows
Sc 2, sc2tog, sc3, sc2tog, sc 11 (18)
Sc around
Sc1, sc2tog, sc2, sc2tog, sc11 (16)
Sc1, sc2tog, sc1, sc2tog, sc 10 (14)

Embroider smile and secure eyes

Sc2, sc2tog, sc10 (13)
Sc1, sc3tog, sc 9 (11)

Insert stuffing

Sc1, sc2tog, sc7 (10)
Now crocheting flat…
Sc4, ch 1, sc2 into one, 2 sc, sc2 into one (6)
Sc even
Ch2, dc twice into 2nd st, sl st into next two sts, dc 5 times into next, sl st in last st
Break yarn leaving length to sew. Weave yarn back to opening and sew shut.

(And yes, I do still need to do this dishes.)


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Chilled in the Home

Brr, is it cold out there! Just the other night I watched as those heartless weather reporters on tv damned us all to temperatures of single digits, occasionally drifting down into negative numbers, just when we’re starting to adjust and thaw our frost-encrusted fingers. Too cold to even tempt the snow to fall, all that meets the eye outside is a desolate wasteland of naked trees and dead grass, looking none too inviting. If even the plant life can’t stick it out, accustomed to rude changes in atmosphere like few other organisms, then you can count this pampered, warm-blooded organism out. Hiding out, sheltered by my lovely abode, one would think that I’m safe from these harsh conditions… If only!

Certainly no where near as brutal as the conditions just a step outside these doors, it would still be hard to say that the temperature inside is ideal. Conserving energy is the name of the game, and if that thermostat mysteriously drifts up above 70, there will be hell to pay. 70 should be enough, you say? True, if it actually were that temperature all throughout the house… Too bad that meager breath of warm air gets sucked up into about a dozen large rooms, extinguishing any punch it might have had before ever making itself known to human skin. After racing around the frigid wilderness of downtown shopping centers, all I want is to warm my hands and peel off this thick layer of thermal padding, but alas, my room is its own icebox.

Now I don’t want to harp on the subject too much, as it has yet to kill any members of the family, but I can’t help but notice how much warmer everyone else’s homes are. Stepping inside feels like a warm embrace, enough that one might shed the protection of long sleeves even, and then returning to my own residence is more like a slap in the face. No, it’s not unbearable, so I might as well just bundle up, grin and bear it. Searching through piles of old, ragged quilts to protect my frost-bitten appendages, I just wish I had the time to finally make my own soft, cozy blanket to hide beneath, as I had dreamed of for so many chilly seasons now. The forecast doesn’t look so good on that one though, what with the endless to-do list that could keep me occupied for a good couple of centuries… But thankfully, I’m not alone on this quest.

Kind enough to take this project upon herself, this friend of mine has vowed to make a quilt to share. Judging by her slow but careful progress, I can’t say that it will be done anytime soon, or perhaps even in time to combat the elements… But I’m still certain that it will be done before I myself could find the time to make one. Silently stitching away while I take shelter in the toasty kitchen, heated thanks to the oven that is constantly cranking away, we both have our separate projects to keep us warm. Hopefully the season takes pity on us both, because while I do love baking for at least the first 4 or 5 hours, the constant work isn’t exactly my idea of a “winter break”!

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