BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Late Nights, Froggy Days

Gone are the days of “summer vacation,” the merciful cessation of homework and responsibilities. Once that final bell rings on a sticky late-June afternoon, kids bolt out the door, released from their bondage of books, not a second thought to be devoted to learning for the next 6 to 8 weeks. Making a clean break with the world of school work and taking the time to reset the mind, it still seems like an excellent model for preventing stress and burnout when it comes to most jobs. Unfortunately, as we all know, rarely is that the case when the days of grade school are behind us. In fact, my schedule has perversely flip-flopped to the other extreme, and I now find myself mired in the knee-deep sludge of a full-time summer semester. Rather than being kinder and gentler than the usual course load as one might imagine, this intersession study is twice as intense, attempting to pack in the full material of each class in half the normal time allotted. Needless to say, it’s rather demanding.

Already feeling the additional strain, passing the hours studying, writing, and pounding away at the keyboard, it’s easy to lose touch with the outside world. Beautiful clear skies stay safely obscured by the drab white ceiling directly overhead. Sweets remain unphotographed and recipes languish in unsaved files, half-written. All that matters are the quizzes and assignments, discussions and commentary, that all weigh so heavily on my mind. Time stands still, until I finally come to and watch a whole day elapse in just an instant. By then, any number of things could have happened without my conscious knowledge. I got a first-hand example of that when I went to take a sip of my water… and was jolted firmly back into the land of the living by quite a shocking discovery.

Unbeknownst to me, a tiny green frog had taken up residence in my glass while I had been tuned out! Looking quite comfortable perched upon his flat lily pad, bobbing up and down amongst the ice cubes, I can only imagine how long he had been sitting there before I noticed. Enjoying the cool little oasis I had constructed on this hot summer day, he didn’t seem the least be disturbed to have caught my attention, but kindly hopped out as a courtesy to me. Such a thoughtful fella, willing to share this treasure he had found without any prompting.

Though still disturbed about where exactly my new friend came from, and how long he intended to stay, I restrained my alarm and resisted the urge to fling him straight out the open window. How could I be so selfish to kick him out into the harsh elements outside when I could just get another glass of water, anyway?

Now staring at me with those dark, thoughtful eyes, possibly waiting to see what my next move would be, I thought it might be best just to get back to work. Clearly, the heat and long hours of study were beginning to get to me. Maybe this is why most kids go on summer vacation.

[Tiny frog pattern by Anna of MochiMochi Land]


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The Secret Life of Woodland Creatures

The imagination of a child is truly a precious thing. Before the ways of the world and common sense are stamped into those malleable brains, they can come up with some pretty amazing ideas, far beyond the grasp of someone accustomed to assuming the obvious answers. The greatest tragedy is that we can’t see our surroundings through such a creative lens as we grow older and “wiser.” For example, I know full well that the stoplights are set to change either at fixed intervals of time, or according to sensors that detect traffic flow. When I was much younger, however, I was convinced that it was someone’s job at every single intersection to keep an eye on traffic, and switch the lights manually. This person might also know if you had been good or bad that day, and speed up or delay the lights as they saw fit. It made perfect sense at the time, and I would always breathe a sigh of relief when the light finally turned green, proving I had been a good little girl that day.

Another thing I always wondered about was where the forest creatures went at night, or when it suddenly turned chilly or rainy. Did they have their own little blankets and umbrellas hidden away, to be removed from storage only when nobody was looking? Even that idea was a little far fetched for me to believe, but I had my own theories…

In the cover of darkness, deep within the woods where no one was looking, every night the animals would convene for big slumber parties. Together, they would share each others warmth and company, instantly becoming the best of friends. All would return to normal in the morning, the circle of life and survival of the fittest back into effect, but just for the evenings, animals large and small would act like family. From the birds to the mooses, it didn’t matter the species, there would be peace and community within the animal kingdom. I could practically picture it: Birds of all colors would flock to the safety of outstretched antlers, and nestle in for the evening, perfectly warm and cozy. Like a trusty mobile home, surely the moose could move to take shelter from a storm if needed, and danger could easily be outrun.

Looking through the eyes of a child, doesn’t that scheme tie up the unknown, loose ends nicely and make good sense? I’d sure like to hear you propose a better idea!

[Knit moose pattern from Knitting MochiMochi by Anna Hrachovec]


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Love is in the Air

It’s a highly contagious ailment that has no cure and no one is immune to. Spreading like wildfire once exposed to any considerable population, it could take down all of civilization as we know it in mere days. Don’t be alarmed, but there’s no sugar-coating the fact that we’re all at risk for this ruthless malady. Identifying those affected is an easy task, however- Just look for the glassy eyes, goofy smiles, stuttering, rapid heart beat, and lack of coordination. These people are to be avoided at all costs, because they’re likely to spread their affliction in the blink of an eye, without even knowing it. Sadly, most are far beyond saving by the time their symptoms become evident, as they’re often head-over-heels… In love!

As you can see, this horrible, gruesome affliction turns mild-mannered folks into certifiable hug monsters. Especially dangerous as Valentine’s Day approaches, one suffering from the disease is liable to latch on to the nearest person and simply hug and squeeze until they turn blue. Their system overwhelmed with more love than they can handle, hugs are the only way to release any of the otherwise painful tension. It’s such a terribly sad thing to see.

So guard yourselves, cross Valentine’s Day off your calendar, and stay away from anyone you care about, or you too might become an unwitting victim! I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but left unchecked, I’m afraid this thing called “love” might just take over the world, if we sit back and let it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Make sure you give a hug to everyone you love!

[Pattern available at MochiMochi Land]


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A Hundred-Year Old Monster

Lurking in the depths of the darkest shadows imaginable, just beyond the tips of our very noses, lay a beast, hiding, waiting, biding its time. For nearly a hundred years it remained patiently and quietly stalking victims, becoming all the more incensed at having been forgotten in the first place. When at last the monster could hold its silence no more, back into the daylight it burst with teeth bared and mouth stretched into a wicked smile, ready to destroy any unfortunate onlooker that stood in its way.

Look out, run for you lives! It’s…. It’s…

A really, terribly old picture. That Godzilla look-alike up there? He’s a gentle giant, take it from me, and wouldn’t hurt a fly! The monster is the photo itself, having somehow slipped between the cracks of my hard drive for nearly 2 years. And seriously, that’s got to be close to 100 in photo-years.

Renewed efforts at cleaning up my mess of a computer opened up a whole treasure trove of forgotten projects, this lovable brute included. It would just be a shame not to share him, so please, forgive me for posting such fiendishly bad photos, and just be mindful not to make any loud noises and spook the old devils.

Made for a friend who loves Godzilla, I started with Knitty‘s Norberta, and modified it accordingly as I went along… The details, I can’t remember the foggiest bit.

But ahh, it feels so much better to get that demon out in the open. Now, about the rest of this junk I found… I can’t say for sure it will fare so well!


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Technical Support

Fingers tapping nervously, eyes on the clock, the whole day was slipping by while I remained completely stranded. Trapped at the same point, seeing the same depressing sights over and over again, my mind was furiously trying to work out a solution to no avail; it was only a matter of time before absolute insanity set it. Here I was, in the middle of no where… And I couldn’t get into my email. Oh, horror of horrors, how can one survive for any amount of time without being able to check your messages? Especially while waiting to hear back on some critical and time-sensitive issues, each minute that passed as the same error message flicked across the screen felt like a whole year, my anxiety building in leaps and bounds.

Finally giving in and admitting that this was a problem beyond my reach, the frantic phone calls to technical support at least yielded progress; A computer expert would be sent to help, and should arrive any moment. Prepping the entry way as if expecting an ambulance, I cleared a path to the ailing patient. On pins and needles when the “expert” showed up, my heart sank at the sight before my eyes- There was no way that this little guy could possibly help here!

After all, what do penguins know about computers? Still, he seemed somehow familiar, so I graciously accepted his offer to investigate the problem, desperate to just get back to business as usual.

Quickly stepping in and getting right to work, it was only a minute or two before the screen glowed with my inbox again, displaying dozens of new messages in need to responses. I was so elated, I hugged my helper tightly; I was saved! A day without email has become akin to a day without food or water, sad to say, and this guy had come to my rescue just in time.

Perhaps you’re experiencing some computer troubles yourself? It happens to the best of us, so be prepared, and have some technical support on hand just in case. You can easily make yourself a computer-savvy penguin just like this guy who came to my aid, too!

Linux-Like Penguin

Body and Head:
With #7 US DPNs and black worsted weight yarn, CO3 and distribute among needles
Kfb into each st (6 sts)
Kfb into each st (12sts)
K1, kfb* around (18 sts)
K2, kfb* around (24 sts)
K3, kfb* around (30 sts)
K4, kfb* around (36 sts)
K5, kfb* around (42 sts)
K 8 rounds even
K5, k2tog* around (36 sts)
K 1 round even
K4, k2tog* around (30 sts)
K3, k2tog* around (24 sts)
K 2 rounds even

-Lightly stuff the head before continuing-

K3, kfb* around (30 sts)
K 1 round even
K4, kfb* around (36 sts)
K 1 round even
K5, kfb* around (42 sts)
K 1 round even
K6, kfb* around (48 sts)
K 1 round even
K7, kfb* around (54 sts)
K 5 rounds even
K8, kfb* around (60 sts)
K 5 rounds even
K9, kfb* around (66 sts)
K 10 rounds even
K9, k2tog* around (60 sts)
K8, k2tog* around (54 sts)
K7, k2tog* around (48 sts)
K6, k2tog* around (42 sts)
K5, k2tog* around (36 sts)
K4, k2tog* around (30 sts)
K3, k2tog* around (24 sts)

Stuff the body, break the yarn and draw it through the remains stitches, tying tight.

Beak:
CO3 with orange worsted weight yarn
Kfb into each st (6 sts)
K1, kfb* around (9 sts)
K2, kfb* around (12 sts)
K3, kfb* around (15 sts)
K 1 round even
K4, kfb* around (18 sts)
K 2 rounds even
BO

Wing (Make 2):
With straight needles (these are knit flat) and black worsted weight yarn, CO4
Purl first and all odd rows
Sl, k3
Sl, kfb twice, k1 (6 sts)
Sl, kfb, k2, kfb, k1 (8 sts)
Sl, kfb, k4, kfb, k1 (10 sts)
Sl, kfb, k6, kfb, k1 (12 sts)
Sl, kfb, k8, kfb, k1 (14 sts)
Sl, k all for 8 rows
P one more row before you BO knit-wise, leaving 6 inch tail

Finishing:
Print out the template for the details, and cut the appropriate pieces out of the specified colors of felt. Color in the pupils for the eyes with fabric markers. Sew into place with invisible thread, or thread of a matching color. Embroider the beak, lightly stuff, and attach. Never worry about computer problems again with this clever penguin on your side!


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A Sweater is Forever…

…But not in the way that you might think.  Whereas diamonds last forever, sweaters just take forever to make!  Once upon a time, many months ago, one eager knitter poured over catalogs of yarn and various patterns, picking out the most appealing colors and flattering shapes.  Those eight skeins of yarn came quickly with rush mail, and were soon wound into balls and set onto needles.  Brilliant lavender strands, soft as could be, and organic cotton no less!  They were a joy to simply cast on with.

However, no matter how many stitches were knit and purled, progress was almost impossible to see, and it became abundantly clear that the sweater would not be finished for a birthday celebration only days away.  Luckily, the incredibly patient and understanding recipient merely suggested that it would be just as nice as a Hannukah present, too.  And so the knitter continued, metal needles clacking together late into the night… But alas, there were still two sleeves and a collar missing by the time the whole eight days of the holiday had elapsed.

Still undeterred, it sounded like this sweater might make an excellent mother’s day present instead.  There was plenty of time until then, right?  For most focused people, yes, but this knitter became forgetful, and the sad scraps of sweater remained untouched that whole time.  Trashing the whole project was an enticing idea, but as the weather grew cold once again, a warm garment really did sound like a wonderful gift… And when else would I have enough free time to make such an involved project? It was now or never.

Down to the wire and a mere hour or two before it was time to light the final candle of the menorah, a real Hannukah miracle occurred:  The last stitches made, seams were sewn, and ends were buried in.  And so, over one year later (practically forever, if you ask me), a sweater was born!

Happy Birthday, Hannukah, Mother’s Day, Birthday, and Hannukah, Mom! Hopefully this thing lasts, because I have a feeling that it I won’t be making many more sweaters in the future.


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Christmas Countdown

Not a day goes by that the approaching holidays can be ignored or forgotten. “Only x days until Christmas!”, newscasters cheerfully chirp every night, as this stationary date is clearly more important and exciting than any breaking news. Even driving down the highway, those fancy electronic billboards scroll past screens wishing us a happy holiday, right before turning back to some ad for a multipurpose nose/ear/facial hair trimmer (the perfect gift?) It’s absolutely impossible to escape these reminders, and with every last mention of the holidays, I can feel the pressure mounting. Only so much time left to make gifts, figure out desserts for the family feasts, and most importantly, post recipes for all of you to have time to make yourselves!

Trying to get my priorities straight and taking one step at a time, I figured that the best plan of action was to start at the beginning: Put up the decorations, get into the “holiday spirit,” and then take it from there.

In a matter of minutes, my sparkly one foot tall plastic tree was assembled and decked out with the standard blue bobbles, and it was starting to feel a lot more like Christmas indeed. Standing back to admire my handy work, something caught my eye at the base of the tree…

Impossibly fast, a pair of tiny elves had already spotted my festive shrubbery and descended upon it, installing perfectly wrapped gifts in mass amounts. Do they have Christmas tree radar or something?! Of all creatures that might be feeling some pressure about the looming celebration, they certainly weren’t letting it show. On top of their game, they simply buzzed around like pollen-hungry bees until the job was done, knowing that there would be much more work to do before the day was over. If only I could bottle that enthusiasm and efficiency, I might be able to complete my to-do list in time!

Even this tiny guy, no bigger than my thumb, could pull my weight and then some when it comes to this holiday business. Instead of stewing over it though, I had better get back to work…!

[Knit elf pattern from Mochi Mochi Land]

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