BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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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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Swept Away

Paying rapt attention to all things in the kitchen often means ignoring most things outside of it.  Sad but true, this limited focus creates an almost comical imbalance when it comes to keeping up with housework.  The pile of dirty laundry may be threatening to takeover the bathroom and I haven’t seen my bedroom floor in ages, but… Look, I baked seven cakes today!  Doesn’t that make up for it?

Alas, my parents don’t quite see eye-to-eye with this exchange rate, and so for their sake at least, I do try to turn off the oven every now and then to shift my one-track focus to these chores.  Considering how few times anything gets dusted or swept, I thought it might be nice if I took out a broom and started tacking those dust bunnies.

Swishing the stiff straw bristles over the brick fireplace and working through the living room, I was quite shocked when I did in fact find more than just soot and dirt, but in fact, an actual dust bunny! Peeking out from beneath the old sofa, it seemed just as startled as I did, eyeing that suspicious broom with a look of terror.

As if I could even think about sweeping this little bunny away- Who knew that this level of neglect would create such an adorable problem! If only dust bunnies were always so cute, I would be sorely tempted to swear off cleaning altogether.


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Pesky Pests

Another year, another laughable harvest. Too much sun, too little rain, invasive weeds, you name it, we’re battling it. This time around, however, we got a whole new problem to deal with; Bugs. Big, squishy-looking, purple bugs that really creep me out. Nibbling away at the tender green leaves of the unripe eggplants, it seemed as if yet another summer’s planting would be doomed, eaten away before it had even finished growing. Thanks to the kind folk who heard my panicked cries on Flickr, however, help came just in the nick of time. Who knew that by simply planting a companion plant that those malicious pests would instantly give up the fight and relocate? It was magical, I tell you! One day they’re munching away without a care in the world, the next, not a single buggy body to be found.

Of course, things couldn’t just be that simple… Now, we have a whole new cast of characters to contend with…

Slugs!

The good news is that these guys are at least a bit less voracious, and the leaves seem to be slowly growing back, but there’s just no easy fix, huh?

I can only hope that they leave one or two eggplants for us!


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Lobster’s Revenge

I can’t imagine the life of a professional chef, suffering from a case of the Mondays. Thankfully, I’m not in this position and don’t see it happening any time soon, but just imagine it: Every day’s same thing. Orders come in, food gets cooked, people get fed. Surrounded by such monotony, day in and day out, it’s easy to see how any chef can become jaded by working the line. Even the most delicate and difficult tasks don’t quicken the heartbeat like they used to, and the food is nothing more than another thing, not a meal, not a work of art, and certainly not something that was once growing or alive. The distance and apathy this creates can wreak havoc in the kitchen, especially when even the task at hand doesn’t hold any meaning for the chef.

Such was the downfall of the Uncaring Chef. Swaggering about without a thought worth two cents, he only goes through the motions instead of paying attention to every new order. Lobster was on the menu, and while he found the giant bugs more creepy than intimidating, far be it from him to break the routine and make a fuss over dispatching them. Hastily dropping the live crustacean into a pot, the Uncaring Chef turned his back on the lobster’s painful death, and moved on to more pertinent issues, such as puffing on cigarettes and cursing like a sailor.

But little did he know, the lobster had not met its untimely demise after all- In his rush, the Uncaring Chef had forgotten to put a lid on the pot, and that sea critter was not happy at all about being par-cooked. Crawling out of harm’s way, it wasn’t long before the lobster found much more effective implements than his already sharp claws…

Lying in wait for the Careless Chef to return, this lucky creature would make sure he didn’t meet the same fate as those others already served as the daily special. No, that chef had better be careful… The tables have finally begun to turn.


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A Column of Kittens

Space is at a premium in my shoe box of a dorm room. Barely larger than your average closet, I can pretty much touch each wall without leaving my bed- And believe me, I have very short arms! Mercifully, it is a single room intended for only one occupant, so it’s not as if I’m tripping over another person in these already cramped quarters. By the same token, it’s awkward to invite friends over when you pretty much need to sit back-to-back in order to be comfortable. The smallest of my companions are sometimes inconvenienced as well, but to my great delight, it seems as if some have adapted beautifully to the less than optimal conditions.

Peeking out from behind a row of text books and novels, three clever kitties took it upon themselves to conserve space on my bulging bookshelf. Stacked up in a tower of rectangular plush bodies, I was worried that they might be uncomfortable, or even worse, be at risk to topple over. After much reassurance and a day or two without incidence, they found that they actually preferred this arrangement, happily balancing close to each other. And with all the room that they’re saving me, who am I to argue!

Available at MochiMochi Land, you can now knit a set of compact cats for yourself. No matter how spatially compromised your home is, they’re sure to fit in perfectly!


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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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