BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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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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Heart-Felt Holidays

Cold as the frozen, snow-covered ground itself, there was but one friend who I simply couldn’t reach out to all year long. Unfriendly at best, this “friend” never seemed motivated to keep in touch, or give me the time of day to hang out for one lousy minute- Eventually, not even birthdays would warrant a good reason to actually get together. I simply couldn’t understand, it was as if he was a robot, made of metal and without any feelings to speak of. Frustrated and disappointed in our capsizing relationship, I regretfully decided it was about time to walk away… When all of a sudden, he surprised me.

Reappearing into my life out of thin air, it was obvious from the first word that he wasn’t the same heartless jerk I had become accustomed to. With a big hug and many smiles, he wore his heart right out on his sleeve and tried to mend things between us.

I can only guess that the holiday season finally got to him. It does get to all of us eventually… That infectious spirit that makes you want to spread good-will all through the streets, bake for hours or days or weeks for every person you’ve ever met, or decorate the house so thoroughly that it looks like a store’s window display? You know what I’m talking about. Luckily, this friend of mine didn’t go over the top like otherwise normal folk occasionally do, but it was all he needed to reach out and prove that he really did care.

…And that was the best gift I could hope for.

To all who celebrate, Merry Christmas.


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Un-Zen

If you were to listen closely, I bet that right about now, you would be able to hear a faint crackling sound coming from my direction- No need to worry though, that’s only the sound of my brain shorting out and hemorrhaging from both my ears. Ah, the stress that has left me without words to share through the blog and emails alike sent me back into hiding for a little bit there, nursing an intense headache and a terrible case of procrastination. Thanks to this brilliant [Read: Moronic] tactic, there’s only more to stress over, with essays approaching their due dates at light-speed and emails coming in faster than I can hit the “refresh” key, and I’m feeling just a little bit… Overwhelmed. That’s where the brain explosions come in.

Hoping to salvage at least part of my remaining grey matter, I thought it might be helpful to take a deep breath and try to relax a little bit, without completely absconding from my duties. Easier said than done, right? Figuring that there was no harm in trying to soothe aggravated nerves in any way possible, the first issue to tackle was the clutter overflowing from every nook and cranny of my work space. There’s only so much room in a dorm, you know, and I’m already storing a medium-sized pumpkin under my bed! (It’s a long story…) Once there was enough hidden away in closets in draws to at least pretend that the room was clean, it seemed only right to do a small bit of re-decorating in a way that would perpetuate my new “zen” approach, and lucky for me, I found a cute little pot of bamboo to adorn the window sill with while putting off my school work again.

That was all well and good, but in no time at all, I noticed that this bamboo did not come alone. An incredible and preposterous situation it would seem, but there was no denying it- Some small creature had bummed a ride and smuggled itself into the greenery!

As if my mind wasn’t frazzled enough, how do you expect me to explain the presence of a panda here in New England, in the brisk days of fall, no less!? Preparing to go hide under the covers of my bed again until this mirage had disappeared, I was struck by how deep his blue eyes were, staring intently and purposefully at me.

What was he trying to tell me? If only he would say. Remaining stone silent, he simply clung close to his bamboo and watched me from afar, looking neither happy nor sad. Since there was no way that I would get through all of this work with a cheerful smile plastered on my face, I realized that perhaps his approach might actually be helpful, if I could just take it all in, get through it, and save my intensity for later. So I guess it’s thanks to that black and white critter that I’m back on the blog and about to dig into those essays at last- Just don’t expect me to slog through it all in one go, feeling “zen” or not!


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Mushroom Madness

Right about this time of year, most people are starting to think about what to do for the approaching Thanksgiving celebration, and the ominous threat of Christmas in the near future, Halloween already long forgotten. While I’m certainly on that same track as well, there are definitely other important seasonal events to think of, such as the arrival of fresh truffles. No, it’s not a holiday or even a particular day, if you must be so picky, but the notion and excitement over these dirty fungus is rather hard to ignore, frequently popping up in the news, and I can’t help but wish there was a way I could partake in this autumnal joy. Truth be told, I’ve never actually tasted a truffle before – Not even truffle oil – But some day when my funds come together, (Ha) I can still plan and hope to put them on my menu eventually.

With this thought in mind, I ventured out on a walk one brisk morning, taking in the landscape and fresh fall air. Looking down to navigate safely across the cracked and perilous sidewalk, a peculiar display caught my eye. Just off the beaten path, a perfect little mushroom sat perched atop a rock, as if waiting for someone to come and snatch it up. So incredibly clean you would think it had never even seen the soil below it, I had a hard time believing what I was seeing.

It was certainly no truffle, mind you, but I was fairly confident this was a benign little button mushroom I had on my hands. Ordinarily I would never venture to pick something so potentially deadly as a random, unidentified fungus, but thinking of truffles and how treasure really could just spring forth in the guise of a humble fungus, I quickly came to the conclusion that I wanted this morsel of earthy goodness. Reaching out my hand to snatch it from its perch… The rock itself lurched suddenly away from my grasp! Shocked flat off my feet, I stumbled one pace before falling to the ground, coming face to face with the supposed stone…

Clearly, I had made a severe mistake in my assertion that this was just another bit of fossilized cement, but really, who would have guessed that it was actually a hedgehog? With such great identification skills, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t get to sample that seemingly innocuous mushroom- Who knows what poisons it might have truly held!

Backing up to give the startled creature space, I made my slow, embarrassed retreat as gently as possible so as not become even more frightening. Perhaps it was no truffle that the hedgehog held, but I’m sure that measly mushroom was easily as valuable in his eyes. I just hope that no one else happens upon his prize like… And that no one else is stupid enough to think that picking wild mushrooms wily-nilly is a good idea!


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Bewitching Gourds

Every single year, whether we chose to go trick-or-treating or just stay home and watch scary movies, there was always one required activity for Halloween: Pumpkin picking, and inevitably, pumpkin carving. Some of my fondest memories of the holiday involve gooey handfuls of cold pumpkin mush and seeds smeared all the way up my elbows, chunks of pumpkin flesh on the floor, and my dog going wild trying to “clean up.” More often than not, the carvings would end up as crude interpretations of the original sketch since I have never been skilled in carving, sculpture, or anything of the sort, but no matter- On to the front porch they would go, and come Halloween, we would light them up and display their wacky designs all the same. I suppose that this tradition has contributed to my love of all things pumpkin around this time of year, but here at school, the craving is more like an itch that I can’t scratch. Without transportation to the local farms or even supermarkets, there’s just no way to get a nice, round, orange globe, much less carry it back to the dorm and up 3 flights of stairs.

Still, the desire continues to flicker at every opportunity. Soon I found myself with a tiny little baby pumpkin in my basket while shopping for my standard pantry items, and I swear it must have simply jumped in on it’s own. Too small to eat or carve, this was simply a cute little friend to perch upon my desk. But then, out of the blue one day, I was bombarded by a whole pile of medium sized gourds, strewn about on the ground on the campus green, free for the taking. Well, you certainly don’t need to ask me twice, so stooping down to examine these lovely spheres, I scooped up the biggest one I could carry and paraded it right back to my room. And so my collection grew.

Now I have four pumpkins to keep me company; Still too small to carve, but charming decorations all the same. Looking at them all now, crowded onto my small desk top, I can’t help but wonder if these lovely squashes are really as innocent as they appear… Truly, I think that they must have cast a spell on me, because who in their right mind would just start collecting pumpkins, and especially those that can’t even be eaten or turned into jack-o-lanterns? Plus, that first little guy is starting to look a bit suspicious to me… Perhaps he has something to do with this whole obsession…

In case you’re pressed for spirited decorating options like I am, it’s easy to just draw or paint on pumpkins instead and perhaps whip up a cute little hat or two. This particular witch’s hat is a snap to make, and you could even use it to adorn a few bewitching stuffed animals as well!

Using an F hook and black worsted weight yarn…

[For the top cone]
Sc3 sts in a circle
Sc even
Sc2 into each st (6 sts)
Sc even
Sc1, sc2 into next st* around (9 sts)
Sc even
Sc2, sc2 into next st* around (12 sts)
Sc even
Sc3, sc2 into next st* around (15 sts)
Sc even
Break yarn, leaving a long tail to sew with.

[For the bottom]
Sc5 sts in a circle
Sc2 into each st (10 sts)
sc1, sc2 into next st* around (15 sts)
sc2, sc2 into next st* around (20 sts)
sc3, sc2 into next st* around (25 sts)
sc4, sc2 into next st* around (30 sts)
Break yarn, and weave in ends.

To assemble, simply sew the cone onto the circle so that it’s centered, tie off, and weave in ends. Have a hauntingly fun holiday!

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