BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Bubble Bath Therapy

“Work” seems to have become synonymous with life these days, and it’s hard to deny that both the business and academic world are both moving at a break-neck pace. Everyone can identify with the frustration that there are too few hours in a day, and that “to-do” list that continues to grow faster than kudzu, no matter how many things are actually accomplished. At the tail end of those busy, stressful days when it’s nothing short of a miracle to have survived the pressure without cracking one bit, it’s usually the most that I can do to just dump my exhausted body into bed, lest I end up shattering at the last minute. Of course, with so many thoughts swirling around my burned-out brain, the sleep that follows is never restful, and then the following day is only that much more difficult to face. Seeking some way to unwind a bit to prevent that whirlwind of ideas from stealing away my sleep, I recently decided to turn away from the inviting bedroom, and instead toward… The bathroom.

That’s right, the old childhood joy of a bubble bath can also do wonders for the weary worker. Engulfed in warm, soothing water, it’s almost as if the stresses that would haunt me day and night are popping just like the bubbles before my eyes. Tucked in under that blanket of sweet-smelling foam, it’s like a dress rehearsal for the main act of somnolence, preparation and practice before trying the real thing. Strange as that may sound, I suppose I really had forgotten how best to drift into dreams at night, and this drill is a welcome reminder.

Rinsed clean of the endless stream of critical thoughts, constant worries, and nagging assignments, I emerge from this first bed of water, ready to stumble into the other one of fabric. As I stumble off to find my resting place, sleep has already begun to steal away at my consciousness. Taking one final glance back at the simple fixture that has set my mind at ease so effortlessly, I could swear that it was actually smiling at me.

But perhaps that was just a dream.

[The pattern for "Tubby" will be available on MochiMochi Land very soon, so stay tuned!]


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Just Peachy

Sunrise at 7:30 am, sleet, snow, hail, sunset at 4:30 pm. Rinse, repeat. While winter is one of my favorite times of year, jam-packed full of holidays and festive events, my patience with the terribly short days and gloomy weather runs short long before the season’s run its course. Enthusiasm melting along with the slushy, dirty snow piling up along the roads, I find myself yearning for summer, for the first time I can remember. Ask me about my favorite times of year, and summer will not appear on my list (Too hot, humid, and totally devoid of specific annual celebrations) and yet… It’s those seasonal fruits and veggies I yearn for in these cold, dark days of winter. Apples are always good, pomegranates are definitely a delight, but what I wouldn’t give for a handful of plump, juicy raspberries, or crisp, sweet corn, or…

Peaches! I swear, looking at my stash of hum-drum apples just now, I would have bet anything that I saw a peach poking it’s fuzzy head out from the crowd… But it simply couldn’t be; Peaches haven’t been son store shelves for months now, and still have months more before their triumphant return. No, it must be the lack of sunlight finally getting to me, scrambling my brains and fraying my already stressed nerves.

Hoping to put this crazy notion to rest, I poked back through the pile of round fruits to prove that no peach could possibly be hiding amongst them… But far from perishing the thought, lo and behold, there it was!

Really, I think that my cravings just might be getting the best of me, placing this radically out of season peach into my produce without my conscious knowledge of it! While I fear it may be about as soft as brick, I guess it does go to show that anything is possible!


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Color Me Surprised

Perusing through my local yarn store for the first time in months, I was horribly distraught by the sign posted on the counter immediately inside the door. 25% off everything!, it screamed. Normally this would be cause for rejoicing, but not this time; This time, it was a final sale, and my only source of high-quality local yarn would be going under in less than a month. Prepared to weep on the floor, I turned my attention to the remaining skeins of fiber and channeled that crushing sadness into some serious retail therapy. Already the once abundant piles of yarn were looking diminished, but as luck would have it, there were still a good number of choices that suited my taste for cool colors. Hunting high and low, I managed to scoop up three balls of the most beautiful variegated blue/green/brown yarn, and it was immediately obvious that these last remnants of a favorite craft store would need to be made into a beautiful but somber winter scarf. It would definitely get plenty of use, and I would be able to remember this landmark every time I put it on, long after the shop itself had closed its doors.

And so, with a hot cup of tea at my side and rain drops slapping the roof like a torrent of mournful tears, I set to work on my memorial scarf. Going back to a pattern that I had already made, loved, and given away, I decided it was only fair that I finally make it for myself. Knits followed purls and yarn-overs like clockwork, but all was not as it seemed. Slowly the ball of yarn unwound, and I found myself moving lengths of different colors that seemed to come out of no where. How had they hidden themselves so thoroughly at the center of that skein? Before I knew what was flying off my needles, I had a long length of scarf sitting in my lap, and hardly an inch of that lustrous blue could be found!

To say that the results were surprising would be like saying that the moon is kind of big. Taken aback at first, I can’t say that it was love at first sight like it had been with the original state of that yarn… but no matter, I dutifully knit through all three skeins and bound off, figuring that at worst it could become another holiday gift. After blocking it out, the colors still didn’t quite strike a chord with me… But I couldn’t deny it, it was slowly growing on me. Surely, it’s not such an ugly scarf in the first place, and moreover, it’s the thought that counts. I know, I know, it’s a corny sentiment, but it’s true- This may very well be the last thing knit with yarn from my one and only local yarn store, so as soon as it had dried and the pins were out, I found myself wrapping it around my neck at any opportunity. Long enough to pull up and hide my nose from the brutal winds that bite whenever I step out for a walk, I’m grateful for what it is, even if it wasn’t what I had expected.

Edit: Due to popular demand, I’ll let everyone know that this yarn is Love It Colors by Berroco, and the specific color scheme is called “Monday Monday.”


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Letter to a Friend

Dear Knitting,

Oh, how I’ve forsaken you, my original crafting passion! Days and weeks and months pass, and still those two needles are no where to be seen, locked away with the untouched skeins of soft, cotton yarn meant for clothing. You see, it’s just so hard to resist the pull of that crochet hook, what with all its promises of fast, easy projects and instant gratification. There just isn’t enough time for you, knitting, as much as I would love to while away the hours listening to the soft click click of the needles, watching the slow accumulation of piles of stitches as they slowly begin to take form. Just like the good old days, you could be there to save me from the tedium of slow classes, or the interminable waits between them. Sadly, we just haven’t crossed paths it seems, and those needles stay just as cold and disused as ever, tucked away in the dark depths of my closet.

Out of sight does not always mean out of mind, however, and as the afternoon sun fails to warm the earth as it once did in the summer, my thoughts return increasingly to the comfort of hand-knit cloth. Just like clockwork, just as so many food bloggers have noticed that seemingly out of no where, their appetites for hearty, hot, filling stews and rib-sticking meals has returned, so has my desire for knitting. Cued by the falling leaves and dropping temperatures, it just feels like the right thing to do, to return to you once again.

Sure, the going may be slow, but we’ll get through it like we always have in the past, and perhaps even create some comforting winter garb along the way. Scarfs, hats, blankets, socks; I want to make them all this year, and then curl up by the fire with my needles to keep on making more!

My dearest knitting, thank you for your patience- I just know that we’ll have a great time together this season!


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Summer’s Last Stand

If you do some traveling through the blogosphere, I’m sure you’re already well accustomed to the unified cry going up amongst food bloggers, bemoaning the changing seasons. Summer was too short, and I fear it always will be even if full days were actually added to it, simply because it’s the state of mind that one takes on during these fast few months. All that sun gets into one’s head, permitting a more relaxed approach to work and allowing for far more play. No matter whether school vacations are applicable or not, life just takes on a slower, more comfortable pace. Truly there’s nothing like the mindset I associate with summer, but what’s even more alluring when I think of the season has got to be the produce. As someone who adores berries, this is the harvest I look forward to all year, and mourn when it ends right about now. But you know, even if I could have raspberries and strawberries 365 days a year, I don’t think I really could. Why? Despite my undying love for them, it has something to do with that summer mindset I suppose.

True, I would hardly turn up my nose at a perfectly ripe berry in January if such thing were possible, but availability doesn’t always ensure edibility. Take for instance, the pineapple.

Impressive as a whole fruit and admittedly, rather intimidating to break down, but when fresh, these pointy yellow and brown ovals have the most amazing tangy and sweet flavor. I can’t say that it’s my favorite fruit, or that I would go out of my way to obtain it, but there’s nothing that could replace those brightly flavored and colored pleasantly fibrous chunks in a fruit salad. Now, were you to can the once fragrant, fresh fruit… That’s when things tend to go awry. Just like it’s impossible to can and preserve the summer state of mind, there’s no way to accurately reproduce summer fruits past the fact. Emerging from a tin coffin, dripping with chemicals and high fructose corn syrup, it’s enough to make anyone forget the happiness that real seasonal delights might bring.

So, is all lost for the cold months that are fast approaching? Never! In addition to the fabulous new taste sensations that are just about to become ripe such as incredibly crisp, sweet and tart apples, juicy pomegranates, and zesty clementines, just to name a few, I think I’ve found a suitable way to save the joy that fresh pineapple might bring…

…By turning it into head gear! True, this one is sized for the head of an infant or toddler, but just seeing someone, anyone wearing a hat like this would certainly brighten up even the darkest, gloomiest winter days, don’t you think?


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Foreign Exchange Students

Diversity is something of a buzz word here at my university, a feature that guidebooks, staff, and peers alike take great pride in extolling at any semi-appropriate opportunity. Even from someone jaded like myself, coming from a high school composed of classmates from very different backgrounds, the sheer number of countries represented in my dorm alone is awe-inspiring – 20, to be exact! Even so, I wouldn’t necessarily consider any student more unusual than the other, as I can tell you with great certainty that everyone here is extremely unique, even those that grew up mere miles from campus. Having seen so much of this… “uniqueness” on display since my arrival over a week ago, I didn’t think that much would come as a shock anymore. That, of course, was before I ventured into the library and happened upon a student from the most exotic locale imaginable…

Pouring over his books and appearing to be quite absorbed by the text, I didn’t dare break the silence that hung in the air like a damp blanket, muffling out all other sensory distractions. No, shyness not withstanding, I wouldn’t even have known what to say, as startled to see his brilliant green skin practically glowing in the midday sun that filtered through dirty library windows. Exactly where this unusual guy came from…? I couldn’t tell you if my life depended on it, to be honest!

Knowing how out of place I had felt early on, I could only imagine his angst, as it might seem as though he was in fact from an entirely different world! Undoubtedly we’ve all felt like aliens in new, uncomfortable settings, so I think I understand his quiet reserve, studying alone and out of the way.

Next time I see this little guy by himself, I will definitely pluck up my courage and reach out to him, as I wish someone else had for me.

To make your own alien, you just need a little scrap of black felt, #7 (US) DPNs, neon green worsted weight yarn and all you need to do is…

CO3 sts and distribute along your needles
Kfb into each st (6 sts)
Kfb into each st (12 sts)
K1, kfb* around (18 sts)
K2, kfb* around (24 sts)
K3, kfb* around (30 sts)
K even for 10 rounds
K3, k2tog* around (24 sts)
K2, k2tog* around (18 sts)
K1, k2tog* around (12 sts)
-stuff head lightly-
K even for 3 rounds
K1, kfb* around (18 sts)
K even
K2, kfb* around (24 sts)
K even for 8 rounds
K2, k2tog* around (18 sts)
K1, k2tog* around (12 sts)
K2tog* around (6 sts)
Stuff, gather remaining sts and tie tightly

Feet (Make 2):

CO3 and distribute amongst your nedles
Kfb into each st (6 sts)
Kfb into each st (12 sts)
K even for 2 rounds
K2, k2tog* around (9 st)
BO and leave a long tail to sew with

To assemble, simply sew the feet at the bottom of the body as desired, cut out little eyes from the black felt and glue them to the head. Embroider or glue on a little smile, because your alien should be happy to fit into its new home!

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