BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Alarming Events

Completely uninterested in the work at hand, it took a lot to summon up any motivation to even skim through my growing list of assignments soon to be due. After procrastinating for as long as my workaholic disposition would allow, I finally settled in before the glow of the computer screen and began plunking down words. Getting into a groove, it seemed as though my trepidation was for nothing, as the sentences began to flow freely in no time and I was working up a steam, moving towards completion at the speed of lightning. All was looking good… When suddenly a shrill buzzing noise pierced through my concentration, shattering any thought process that might have been useful to writing a comprehensive article. Shaken right down to my toes, I hurried over and opened the door, only to discover that the rude buzzing became louder than the sound of a jet engine cranking at full speed. Seeing other residents rushing out of their rooms and toward the stairwell, it finally clicked that perhaps this was indeed the fire alarm going off, and maybe, just maybe, I should exit the building before I actually saw flames.

Of course, having gone through the mandatory fire drills every month throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I felt no need for real alarm… Until I passed by the second floor on my way out. Thick, grey smoke filled the air and the smell of burning timber permeated through every pore. Moving a little bit faster now, I reached the green courtyard outside to discover that the firemen had already arrived.

Standing tall with his hose at the ready, this strong, brave fireman rushed ahead of the crowd and into the building. Watching his yellow uniform disappear into the smog within, it was then that it hit me; This could be for real. What would happen to my computer, forget about the document still open on the screen? What about my camera? What about my yarn?? Thoroughly immersed within my own panic, only snippets of conversation from the girls around me filtered through: “…happened three times in three days last year…”, “…burnt onions…”, “…oversensitive smoke detectors…”

Regaining some degree of composure, I assured myself that this sort of thing must happen all the time in college dorms, especially when there are 3 kitchens on every floor. Forcing those panicked thoughts down into the pit of my stomach, I waited impatiently for the fearless fire fighter to emerge once more and tell us about the damage.

Exiting the doors with a mischievous smirk on his face, I couldn’t help but be puzzled by what he might find so amusing in all of this. Many girls rushed up and asked him to give it us straight: What was destroyed? Which floor got it worst? But above all, what caused this potential tragedy?

…Turns out that someone just reheated some leftover pizza for a little too long and took it into the “extra crispy” stage, finishing with a nice black exterior and plenty of smoke.


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Drunk Punk Bunny

As someone who could be described as the polar opposite of a social butterfly, having so many other people within such close proximity is a new and somewhat disturbing thing. Having a friend drop in with no notice is a wonderful surprise, something I had never experienced before due to a home that was located smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, USA. This would all be well and good, but it seems as if these good friends might be hard to come by, and all too often it’s the inconsiderate jerk who shows up at your door instead.

Come midnight, I tend to enjoy sleeping, but I seem to be the odd man out on campus. Without curfew or parental guidance, I don’t blame these kids for wanting to run free, doing as they wish without a care in the world… But that doesn’t mean that I condone the wild antics I’ve observed in this short week or so. Crazy parties with music blasting out all windows at these typically quiet hours of the night are not such a nice thing, but even worse is when someone goes out of their way to be a nuisance to those who would prefer to actually get some rest. Such was the case when a knock on the door came last night, making for quite a rude awakening.

Oh, look who came by to visit, an old “friend” of mine! Already plastered and looking a bit unsteady on his feet, it might not have even occurred to him what day of the week it was, let alone what time of day. Caught red handed with the bottle of beer still adhered firmly in his iron grip, he burped out a half-way coherent invitation for me to come join the party down the hall. Enticing as that sounded, I gently refused and started closing the door, but this “friend” wouldn’t hear any of it- Who wouldn’t want to party all night and get completely smashed, after all? Settling down as gracefully as a sedated elephant right where he had stood, I couldn’t very well slam the door with this huge, flabby obstruction- I mean, body, right there.

Continuing to plead his case in attempts to pry me out of bed and into the disorienting mix of too many bodies, too much alcohol, and too loud music, things were looking worse and worse by the minute- For the both of us. Eye staying closed for a little bit longer than the standard blink, the booze appeared to finally be getting the best of his already compromised brain. Still, holding on to his previous threat of taking me to the party, I feared there would be no polite way to refuse. Truly, I do still care about this guy… He just needs to learn some manners is all. Lest I lose more friends than I make, I slowly began to put on socks and shoes just to see what all the commotion was about, all the while prepared to make a wild dash back to the safety of my bed after a maximum of 5 minutes. Securing buckles and shoe laces, I looked back to my “friend” to announce that I would give into his pleas just this one time… Only to find that the issue had already resolved itself.

Flat out on his back, he was clearly unfit to do more partying tonight at least! Thankfully for me, the alcohol had gotten the best of him this time- I just hope that he can tone down his voracious appetite for beer next time the am hours roll around.


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Extinct, or Just Elusive?

Although it may seem fairly straightforward and simple, I’m finding that heat is a relative term. At home, lounging in my comfortable air-conditioned bedroom, I thought it was terribly hot out- Sweltering, even! God forbid I actually venture outside and subject myself to the full force of that brutal, heartless sun! Now, enclosed in a dorm where my only “air conditioning” comes from a tiny, desk top fan that only moves hot air around, those “hot” summer days before were truly more like a temperate summer dream. With few options to aid the situation, I’ve been tempted more than once to squeeze myself into the mini-fridge at night to sleep. Opening a window at night lets in more sounds of drunken partying than cool air, and when morning comes it seems as though I must have gone sleep-swimming, judging by the pools of sweat surrounding me.

Truly, it’s inconceivable that anyone would actually be able to suffer through this sort of heat on a regular basis, and even more impossible that it might be an ideal habitat for some. Even ice cubes frozen solid don’t last long in temperatures such as this, but unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of sitting in front of the freezer all day; Eventually, it becomes evident that I might actually have to attend classes.

Marching outside to find the correct building, the bag slung over my shoulder becoming heavier by the minute, I can feel every follicle screaming under the sun. Eyes glazing over, it’s hard to know where I’m going, even if I had known the campus well in the first place. It must have been some strange mirage or the result of sun-stroke, but glancing over from the paved path, I could have sworn that a sandy desert stretched out before me, and it truly seemed appropriate to find in this sort of heat. Now, while the sudden change of landscape didn’t alarm me in the least, sitting serenely on a rock was the strangest creature I had ever seen.

Not only was it strange to find any sort of wildlife on campus, brave enough to walk alongside rowdy students, that dodos were completely extinct in the first place! If only I had any wits about me I might have been able to make more sense of this, but simply writing this odd sight off as a mirage or figment of my imagination, I gathered up what strength remained in my over-heated and tired mind and pushed on towards class, mopping the sweat of my brow and squinting just to see through the sun’s glare.

At this point, I could have seen a dirty puddle and imagined it to be a clear, cool oasis of drinking water and tried to slurp it up, so perhaps this dodo had been no more than common pigeon in real life.

A real dodo in Massachusetts, back from extinction? I guess we’ll never know…


8 Comments

Basic Blunders

Before I just launch into another strange and perhaps absurd story, I’d like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for commenting / emailing / pre-ordering a book. I can’t possibly respond to every single comment, no matter how much I’d like to, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think that they’ve written to me in vain- Even if my time for blogging and corresponding via the internet may become seriously limited, I will still always read anything sent my way, and I’m trying my hardest to keep up with everyone else’s blogs. It’s no small task to keep tabs on almost 200 different blogs!

So anyway, I’m finding that the basics are the only thing that can be counted on in this transitional period. Even things that seem so obvious end up getting left behind, and it’s hard to compensate for their absence. Take for instance, potholders: Sure, you could always use a towel or your roommate’s clothing, (kidding!) but I don’t know about you, but fuzzy terry cloth bath towels and sweaty garments aren’t exactly conducive to good eating. That’s why despite earlier hesitation on my part, I’m now certain that my housewarming gift to a friend will come in handy. A month ago now, this friend moved out into a place of her own, and I sent her along with just this very kitchen staple, and a very fitting rendition if I do say so myself.

My only regret is not being able to visit before shoving off for school, and I can’t say for sure that they’ve been put to use yet. It’s the thought that counts, so even if my friend isn’t terribly interested in handling hot pots and pans with this gift, I’m just happy to give her a token that might be a reminder that I’m thinking of her. And if only I had been thinking about myself I might have remembered to grab my own set of potholders, in this exact pattern but in black and blue, I might have a few less unsavory meals, speckled with towel fuzz.

[Skull Holder pattern from The Happy Hooker]


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Packing Up, Moving On

Moving forward in life sometimes moving away, leaving the familiar behind in attempts to grow as an individual, and face incredible change, both good and bad. I for one have immense difficulty for change- As a creature of habit, I’m not a fan of surprises or the unexpected, be it in tiny details or huge differences. To be completely candid with you, I’m fairly terrified with change. The unknown always seems ominous in my mind’s eye, promising struggles and malaise, while I can clearly see how non-threatening the present is, contented and at ease in my comfortable home with my loving family. Of course I know that nothing last forever, and that I would undoubtedly tire of the same old routine sooner or later, it’s just hard to be handed this deadline, a deadline to grow up. Packing up my belongings for the trip up to the college campus that I can now call my own, I can’t be entirely certain that I really did make the cut off date.

Storing years of accumulated junk away in the closet and selecting only the most important craft supplies, I can’t help but come to terms with the fact that I am scared. I don’t know what to expect, and that terrible, empty, black hole where experience should be just sucks me in and absolutely petrifies me. Maybe it will be fine, maybe it will even be fun, but there’s no saying what might happen. Knowing only what I’m leaving behind, it’s hard to understand why so many other kids my age are simply chomping at the bit to leave for school. My kitchen, my parents, my dog… There’s just no way to take any of that with me, and certainly nothing to replace them with.

Letting a few pent up tears slide hotly out of tired eyes, there’s simply no way to delay this natural progression any longer. I’m ready to go, but only because I’ve run out of excuses as to why I’m not.

Please bear with me in the coming days of transition- I promise the crafts, patterns, and recipes will keep on coming, simply because there’s no stopping that endless flow of ideas no matter what’s happening in my life, but the next few weeks might be rough. The posts might be short, the crafts might be quick and dirty, but change happens… And hopefully, I’ll adjust to that change in short time. Thanks for reading this far and letting me vent today.

College, here I come…!


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French Toast

Springing out of my cozy bed at the crack of dawn, I raced downstairs to start preheating my oven and assemble my mise en place for about a dozen new recipes. Time is running short in terms of my summer vacation, and I’m really feeling the pressure now. So many things are left undone, so many recipes left untested- This would be my last chance to just bake my heart out in the comfort of my own kitchen. Banging pots and pans to create the most wretched orchestra one could hope to hear before 8 AM, such a cacophony of cookware was buzzing right in my ear that I didn’t even notice a surprise visitor sitting at the table…

An old friend who must have just flown in from France, he certainly had a way about showing up on short notice! Disappointed that I was not the early bird this morning, beaten by the friend who was now eying my baking preparations hungrily, I figured that I might as well slow down a bit and chat with this unexpected guest. However, it was immediately obvious that this guy was not here for the conversation, as evident by his rumbling stomach and insistent questions about my plans for those sweet ingredients on the counter. Wielding a fork nearly as tall as himself, it was almost comical to think that he hoped to use it just as someone about ten times his size would! Nonetheless, far be it from me to refuse a friend in need, clearly my baking spree would have to wait until his appetite had been taken care of. Searching around in the pantry, there were many shortcuts that I tried to employ, offering frozen waffles, cereal, and fruit salad alike, hoping that this picky guest would be satisfied with an easy, ready to eat meal.

Ha, as if I needed to even ask! Nothing but the best for this breakfast connoisseur. Turning up his nose at the mere thought of eaten something out of a cardboard box, he seemed to become a less gracious guest by the minute. How was I to know what this French bear would want to eat? What do the French typically eat for the first meal of the day anyways? How about something like…. French toast?

As if I flipped some invisible switch with those two words, my friend at the table instantly perked up and grinned madly at the thought of sweet, sauteed toast with some spice and a soft custard-like texture in the center. Forget saving time and my own personal agenda, this French toast project became my one and only focus, my trial recipes temporarily forgotten. Slowly the sweet, cinnamon scent of my tried and true recipe filled the air, and my friend’s eyes grew the the size of saucers, imagining his luck at having such an easily manipulated personal chef, no doubt!  He’s just lucky that this very recipe happens to be one of my favorites, and is also included in my upcoming cookbook, so I’ve had plenty of practice making it.

Hot out of the pan and onto his plate, he didn’t even give it a moment to cool before cutting in and taking a huge bite. Grinning contentedly, I was just relieved that my duties as hostess could be considered fulfilled, even if I wasn’t a willing hostess to begin with. As much as I love having friends drop in like this, I wish he could have warned me in advance, so that I didn’t fall so far behind on my own agenda!


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Bake Me a Cake

I’ve certainly knit my fair share of cupcakes since the start of my crafty adventures, but when time is short and I get orders for a half dozen yarn-based miniature cakes, pronto, the last things I would look for are my knitting needles. My blog is now becoming dominated by crocheted objects, but don’t get me wrong, I still love knitting- It just takes much more time in general, and who has any time these days? Why not just bust out that crochet hook and be able to finish off a full dozen in a day’s time?

This rendition is nothing new, special, or unique, but it’s getting harder and harder to follow ready-made patterns, as my hands tend to deviate so rebelliously that I usually end up with something entirely different by the time I cut the last thread. Instead, I figured it would be safer to start from scratch and write my own pattern, simply for my own convenience. You’ve got about a million other cupcake patterns to choose from on the wonderful web so be sure to check out all of your options, but here’s how I do them…

Cake:

With brown worsted weight yarn and an F hook, sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc into back loops of each st
Sc around
Sc11, sc twice into next st* around (26)
Sc6, sc twice into next st, sc12, sc twice into next st, sc6 (28)
Sc13, sc twice into next st* around (30)
Sc around
Break yarn

Frosting:

Sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc around
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc around for 3 rounds
Skip one st, 5 dc into next st, skip one st, sl st* around
Break yarn, leaving a long tail to sew with

To assemble, simply sew bugle beads or embroider multicolored “sprinkles” on top of the frosting as desired, stuff, and sew the cake to the edge of the frosting just inside of the scalloped edge. Now wasn’t that easy? Go ahead and make a baker’s dozen; You undoubtedly have enough time!


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Rotten to the Core

If there’s anything worse than watching a favorite fruit slowly passing its prime and going out of season, disappearing from store shelves until next year, it would be the way that some markets completely ignore seasons altogether. You would think that harvest times would be an important factor in what to stock a market with, but apparently this is of little interest to many mega-marts, supplying an endless stream of the same fruits and veggies all year round. Thanks to a consumerist culture that gets what it wants, when it wants, I turned 16 years old before I figured out that apples don’t actually grow all year round! But why not, if they can always be found shiny and polished, ready to be purchased just a short 10 minute drive away? Really, it makes me sick to think of how long those edible time bombs have been sitting in cold storage, just waiting to take the place of fresher specimens. At this point, the humble apple that you might find waiting patiently in the store could be almost a year old, picked in the cool, crisp autumn of 2006. So far from the proper season, I usually avoid such dubious suspects… But sometimes, I can’t help what ends up in my basket by the time I reach the check-out line.

Apple of my eye, so red and round, could you blame me for coveting that lustrous red skin? There’s no excuse for this impulse buy and I know it, surrounded as I am by those lovely soft apricots and blackberries ripe for the picking, but, oh, how I wanted it! In autumn months I’ve been known to consume as many as three apples per day, so to show this much restraint this late in the year is quite remarkable.

Settling in to enjoy my apple, the first matter of business was to cut away a few sweet slices to dunk in a healthy dollop of peanut butter. Slicing horizontally, immediately I could sense that it felt wrong somehow, as if it were hollow inside. It was pure craziness to think such an absurd thought, but the further in my knife dove, the less resistance it met. Strange indeed, I proceeded to pop the top off, and discovered the most heart-stopping scene inside. Knife clattering to the floor, I stood back so quickly that my chair toppled over awkwardly like an unbalanced drunkard, and in the midst of all this racket…

…Sat the longest, pinkest, wriggliest uninvited guest that had ever joined me at the table. Black, beady eyes poking this way and that, examining this bright new space, he appeared to be just as startled as I. As he began emerging from the apple slowly, I recoiled further in horror, the childhood fear of anything creepy or crawly returning in the blink of an eye.

While I could have easily expected mealy, bland, or even rotten innards, I would have never suspected that I had purchased nothing more than the facade of an apple, only good for housing a worm!

That will certainly teach me not to buy out of season ever again!


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Puppy Love

Rising each morning to find a brightly shining sun already waiting to greet me, it’s hard to curl up on a chair with my knitting and stay indoors, let alone sleep in and stay in bed. While most people find summer vacation to be restful and relaxing, I’m discovering that I have even less time to just laze around, compelled by the energetic rays of sunshine pooling in through the kitchen windows, promising fantastic light to accomplish just about anything with. That’s not to say that all the light turns my brain only to work- Oh no, there’s nothing better than a mid-day berry-picking expedition, or a romp around the yard with good friends. As we enter these dog days of summer, the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit perfectly as I play catch with one of my canine acquaintances.

Youthful and full of spunk, I swear this young pup could chase after the same yellow sphere for days on end. Don’t let his size fool you either; When playing fetch with twigs, he’s been known to drag home enormous limbs that look like full tree trunks compared to him! Focused on the target, he faithfully returns whatever I throw his way, no matter the distance and mindful not of how far the mercury climbs as the sun continues to rise. Nothing could break his concentration. Nothing, except…

Momentarily loosing sight of the ball, he catches a glimpse of some ethereal beauty through the corner of his eye. What surreal apparition is this, this… phantom that managed to interrupt our game, despite all the enthusiasm this puppy exudes? Letting the ball drop out of his vice-like grip, it bounced dejectedly to a stop, becoming lodged in a perilously deep gopher hole. Forgetting that any game or play mate had ever existed, he turned his back on me to get a better look at this curiosity that so captivated his imagination. Watching helplessly, I could see my friend drifting away from me, both literally and figuratively.

But who could blame the young lad, faced by this dashing female dachshund with a gorgeous face and delicate ribbons garnishing long, curly hair? So love-stuck by this perfect pooch that he was practically drooling a river, I knew that he meant no disrespect by breaking up our fun, but was under the influence of a more heady desire. Bitten by the love bug a hundred times over, it was surprising that he didn’t barrel straight into her and whisk her off her four feet!

Unaware of all the attention being paid by my friend, the girl in question was occupied by her own feelings for this handsome dog she spied across the field. There’s no denying true love, and one look at these two confirmed that they were nothing short of a match made in heaven.

Sure, I’m plenty jealous and disappointed that he would abandon the playing field just like that, but I know that it’s more than just puppy loved that compelled him. I can see in their eyes how happy they are together, and I would only wish them the best. Besides, there’s plenty more fun to be had in the sun, indoors or out, maybe next time, they’d both like to join in, too!


61 Comments

Bitty Babies

Any day now, a friend of mine will find herself in the hospital, but for the best reason that you could hope for; She’s ready to give birth to her baby, as evident by a belly so rotund that she’s practically bursting at the seams! Cozy in the womb, this unborn infant is already proving to be handful, standing everyone up on her due date. All I can think each morning is “It could be today,” and I’m sure my friend echoes these thoughts with even more enthusiasm. It is still a shock that some one this close to my age is about to have a child of her own, such a difficult venture and life-long commitment, but I certainly wish her the best for it. I would never have a kid of my own, for lack of patience and fear of failure, but I just know that this friend will be the most loving mother anyone could ask for.

So any day now, I’ve been expecting the call to come, announcing the arrival of a sweet, smiling baby girl…

Despite my short temper when dealing with children, I can’t help but be excited to meet this new bundle of joy. So small and innocent, seeing the world for the first time with wide open eyes, she could become whatever she wants. Every door is open and the possibilities are endless- Who knows what hobbies she might pick up, what she’ll want to be when she grows up, who she might fall in love with some day? To contemplate the beginning of life with no restrictions is an overwhelming prospect to be sure, but so inspiring at the same time. Watching a newborn grow and develop into a walking, talking person… It truly is a miracle.

Still, I’m more than happy to observe from afar, having heard all too much about the pains of childbirth and of the sleep lost for months thereafter. If only there were a way to have a baby that is only quiet, well behaved, and appears on time, in less than a few hours after conception…

Head:

With any skin-tone worsted weight yarn and an F hook,
Sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into 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 around for 10 rounds
-Embroider and insert safety eyes. Don’t forget the little curl of hair!-

Sc4, sc2tog* around (30 sts)
Sc3, sc2tog* around (24 sts)
Sc2, sc2tog* around (18 sts)
Sc1, sc2tog* around (12 sts)
Stuff firmly and leave a long tail

Ears: (Make 2)

Ch4, sc into second loop from hook, sc 3 times in next st, sc in final st (5)
Ch1, turn. Sc across, and then continue around and sc into backs of the first row’s sts (8)
Sl st into the last row to form an even oval, cut thread and tie tight.

Body:

In pink, Sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into each st
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc around
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc around for 5 rounds
Sc3, sc2tog* around (24 sts)
Sc around for 2 rounds
Sc2, sc2tog* around (18 sts)
Sc1, sc2tog* around (12 sts)
Break yarn and tie off

Feet: (Make 2)

Sc3 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (6 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st (9 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (12 sts)
Sc around for 2 rounds
-Insert stuffing-
Sc2tog* around (6 sts)
Sc around
Break yarn and leave a 6 inch long tail to sew with

Arms: (Make 2)

Starting with the skin colored yarn, Sc6 in a circle
Sc around for 2 rounds
-Switch to pink yarn-
Sc around for 4 rounds
Break yarn and leave a 6 inch long tail to sew with

Bib:

In white, sc5 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (10 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (15 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* 3 times (18 sts)
Turn, ch1, sc 14
Break yarn. Whip out your red yarn, and attach that to one of the top corners. Sc into each st all the way around, sl st into the corner that you started in, ch 18, sl st into the opposite corner, forming a loop (It should look like a little necklace.) Break yarn and weave in ends.

To Assemble: Positioning the bib on the body so that the loop goes around the opening up top, sew on the head. Done correctly, this should prevent the bib from ever coming off (as long as the baby keeps its head together!) Cut a smile out of black felt and either stitch or use fabric glue to adhere it to the face. Everything else is very straightforward- Sew on the ears, arms, and feet as indicated by the photos.

Take care of your new bundle of joy!

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