Wednesday, March 30, 2011

EX-WIP Wednesday: Say goodbye to my little friend

Dudes, I have no idea what happened, but the sweater I've been working on for 2 months or so is a goner. Say goodbye, sayonora, arrivederci, we knew ye well. I got the arms long enough and figured out how to attach them to the body, and finally FINALLY tried it on.

Crud-ola, it does not fit.

I'm doubly frustrated because I did a gauge swatch. Then I cast on what should be the right size. And after 15 rows it seemed like it was going to be WAY too big.. so I decided to rip it out and start over, following the directions for the sweater 2 sizes smaller. And guess what? yeah, it's just about 2 sizes too small.

So now I have to rip out and wind 5 or 6 balls of yarn. Then I have to stomp my feet and tear my hair a bit. Then a good long sulk is in order, and only THEN will I consider casting on again. maybe.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Under pressure

I've signed up to learn to scuba dive. Eep! Should be fun, though it was never on my Life List. However, I'm going to Honduras in May to celebrate my friends' wedding, and it turns out that's a prime spot for diving! I've got a good bit of free time now so I'd rather get certified here and be able to just enjoy diving while I'm there.

California's dive certification requires 40 hours of instruction, so the class runs over 6 weeks. It starts mid-April so I will barely squeak in the certification before the trip at the end of May.

I'll certainly let you know how it goes! I've already started practicing breathing only through my mouth - I find it surprisingly hard not to hyperventilate! (I suspect I'm being rather dorky... but I can live with it)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recipe: Skillet granola

Waffles are grand but admittedly a bit messy. An easier and still delicious-smelling weekend breakfast option is Skillet Granola!
It's very easy and quite flexible:
- melt some butter in a pan
- sprinkle in the oats and toast them a bit
- sprinkle on a little salt, and some flavoring - you can never go wrong with cinnamon!
- add a little liquid sweetener. I use agave nectar; honey or thinned molasses would probably do quite well.
- near the end, if you want, add texture with nuts or wheat germ. I added both this time.

Once it's yummy-smelling and lightly toasted, let it cool off. I like it with plain yogurt.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

extra-culturey me!

Well reader, I bought the membership to SFMOMA and spent a very pleasant 3 hours enjoying the exhibit Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870. I passed briefly through the (not so great) exhibit on wine and design, and took off. I still want to visit the Eadweard Muybridge exhibit in the next few weeks so we'll see! It was really nice not feeling pressure to maximize my ticket purchase by seeing absolutely everything, that's for sure.

I also went to a magical land called Cheese School - yes indeed, paradise is at hand when such a thing exists! I first heard of Cheese School at least a year ago, but they post classes a few times per year, and all of them sell out. Also, as you might imagine, paradise is not cheap. All in all it took a while for the stars to align. I had to be willing to spend the money (thank you, Mad Money account!) and had to remember to look at their classes while some were available, AND coordinated attending with a couple of friends.

The upshot is I attended a class called Fundamentals of Flavor: How to Taste Cheese. yeah, it was awesome. Our teacher reviewed how to analyze cheese using most of our senses - sight, smell, touch, and taste. We had 12 cheeses to taste, two each of six varieties: fresh cow's milk cheese, young goat cheese, slightly aged sheep cheese, aged Dutch cheese, washed-rind stinky cheese, and blue cheese. We ran well over our 2 hour slot and I could have stayed a lot longer. I am not good at identifying what I am tasting and smelling but oh my - I'm willing to learn!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Two-fer

Still working on the sweater. I've put it down for a moment to whip out a baby hat, since I never did get around to seeing a high school friend who's been pregnant for nine months now. Oops. Well, I'm sure that baby is here and I'll make an effort to go meet it - I'm making the hat a little large to buy myself some time.

But here is where I am with the sweater.  You may recall that I got the torso done as far as it was supposed to go, and now I'm doing the sleeves. Both of 'em at once. Yep, I'm cool like that:

They're knit from the wrist up, and at some point you attach them to the torso and keep going. At some point near the end you go back and sew the sleeve-seam, turning these rectangles into arm-shaped tubes. I'm fuzzy on the details but will be sure to share!

Knitting two at a time is not that hard - you use a different ball of yarn for each piece and have to make sure you don't forget and use it across the whole row! It doesn't save any time of course - it really is six of one, half-dozen of the other - but the efficiency pleases me. Here's a closeup:
Just about 9 inches done and about 5 more to go. I might go a bit longer; we'll see! You're supposed to increase every 8th row and I use that green string to the left of the tape measure to help me track my rows. I learned that trick from some clever knit-bloggers I read, called The Rainey Sisters

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are you a member?

I've lived in cities my entire adult life, but I haven't spent a lot of time taking advantage of the cultural offerings. I went to the SF opera a few times, but the affordable-ish seats ($28 at the time) are insanely tiny and high-up, and much as I would love to love opera, I haven't found the right one for me. Better seats are 3 and 4 times the price of the cheap seat, and I really don't want to drop a hundred bucks on an evening at the opera!

A couple of different friends have memberships at SFMOMA but so far I haven't successfully coordinated going when they go so that I can get in free. A few years ago I gave some thought to buying a membership to the Fine Art museums in San Francisco (the de Young and the Legion of Honor offer joint membership), reasoning that it would get me in to some upcoming shows that looked pretty cool. Well, I didn't buy a membership and I didn't go see the shows, so there you go. Also, it's a right pain in the neck to get to those museums, which is a factor in my deciding to visit.

I'm thinking of trying a membership - the point of this post! - and I think it's going to be the modern art option. They have two shows on right now that I really want to see; the museum is convenient to transit; and I guess I can call it an experiment - will it be worth my while? I'll have to go five times to break even - I wouldn't ordinarily take a friend and pay their admission, so even if I get people in free that isn't saving money I'd have otherwise spent. (Though certainly it's a very nice benefit I would use.)

Should I do it? Are there unexpected perks of membership? Will I become a smarty-pants egghead (even more than I already am)????

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Project Bedroom continues. I spent a year fretting about how to get rid of my bed frame and mattress, and managed to do both (with the help of friends!!) in November and February. I spent a lot of time between July and February getting rid of the other non-bed bedroom stuff, so after the mattress was gone I was pretty close to a clean slate.

Next was buying a new mattress - I opted to buy a latex foam mattress from a local shop that has some rather old-school notions of doing business: no deliveries, no returns. Again, with the help of friends I got the mattress up the three flights of stairs to my apartment.

Finally, I bought and assembled a bed frame - I got it from the same place I got my mattress, and got just the four-sided no-headboard model, figuring I can upgrade and get a headboard some other day.  No matter my pangs re: headboards and lack thereof, it IS a delight to be in a bed again, after a couple of months of sleeping on a mattress on the floor!

I've had some cause to regret my lack of method in mattress shopping. I am a very decisive but also somewhat lazy person, and part of that means I make a choice and move on, rather than comparing a number of options for a period of time. In other words, I didn't bother shopping around. Instead, I bought a mattress that was very comfy in the store but hasn't been perfect at home. I think it is slightly too firm and will relax over time; for the meantime I've purchased a mattress topper to soften it up for now. My back is still not 100% happy but at least I've stopped thinking about it obsessively! (I'm sure my friends are happy not to hear about it daily.)

I ordered an area rug from Crate and Barrel in early February, but it's back-ordered until May, which is a huge bummer. I haven't really gotten to thinking about curtains and artwork. Actually I HAVE thought about artwork - I'd love to hang my GGB picture above my bed, but am too paranoid in this land of earthquakes to have a heavy glass-covered object over my head at night.

Anyway, the next thing to conquer is bedside tables - right now I'm just piling stuff up on the floor by my bed! I felt a bit like a sociologist this morning, when I examined the pile and thought about what it might say about me. Currently my bedside heap consists of:
  • book of crossword puzzles & mechanical pencil; 
  • two books from the P.G. Wodehouse series Jeeves & Wooster; 
  • two library books; 
  • a container for earplugs (even containing a pair of said plugs); 
  • box of kleenex left over from when I had a cold in February; 
  • two or three magazines that I've finished reading but want to write down some information from before passing them along to my friend. 
  • and a lamp, of course!
I spent over an hour in IKEA today and didn't find what I was looking for, bedside-table-wise, so I might just borrow from my living room for a while and figure it out later. But my parents are visiting in April and I'd like to have something on each side of the bed by then!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WIP Wednesday: body!

Confession: I've been posting my WIP pictures about a week after they're taken. This one is actually a couple of weeks old! I've been working on the sleeves (both at once) for a little while but still have quite a way to go.

Most of the torso is finished. I put in a lifeline (dental floss, actually!) in case I decide I need to rip back and make the body shorter, or add short rows, or make any changes at all. I devoutly hope I won't need to do that!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekend goodness

I'm sitting on my couch eating pistachios and mourning the lost hour - spring ahead is tomorrow! I've never learned how to remember the difference between daylight savings & standard time, or whatever it's called.

I went on a hike today up in wine country. I did the hike one other time, but this time my friends and I were in a super hurry and pushed to get to the peak and back down again in just over two hours (for maybe 4.5 miles round-trip).

It was a pretty day for it - and then we went wine tasting!  The rest of the weekend will be relaxing, I think, and I'll try to get more blog posts done for posting this week. If I'm ambitious, I will do something with Meyer lemons. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Retirement musings

It seems like every article I read on retirement, the experts say every generational group going forward is going to have a worse retirement than the previous group did. For example, the latest article I read says that people in my age group (30-39) should expect to receive a third or a tenth of the Social Security benefits our parents are receiving. None of these articles seem to want to be harbingers of doom, though: usually in the same breath/paragraph they say that currently working people shouldn't panic, they have plenty of time to change their behavior.

While it's true there is always time to do better, I'm  not really convinced it's going to happen. Whenever the subject of saving for retirement comes up it seems like few of the people I talk to are saving really aggressively (in my book, a minimum retirement savings rate is 15% and aggressive savings is 20% or more). I know that life gets in the way and expenses are steep, but I'm concerned. And retirement is definitely not going to just take care of itself.

I'm reminded of the housing boom when households making 70k were buying houses for 500k: on paper it looked like a bad, bad idea, and in the end it was. But whereas homeowners can walk away, or get an adjustment, or declare bankruptcy, where does the person facing retirement with less than 100k saved find relief?

I speculate we'll be reading a lot more stories about what actually happens when someone retires and has a cash shortfall. We've got people planning to (or having to) retire with no way to support themselves, but we're not hearing about what that actually looks like.

I sure don't know where we're going as a country and as a society, I've got serious concerns about our lack of a plan, and I think it's going to get really really ugly for a lot of people.

How's that for a sunny Sunday morning?

Here are some of the articles that got me going:  (free login seems to be required for the NY Times)
Making the most out of less - NY Times
Retiring boomers find 401k plans fall short - Wall Street Journal

Friday, March 4, 2011

Recipe: Bittersweet

Inspired by Orangette's blog post last week, I dug out my bottle of Aperol and invented a drink for the Oscars party I attended. I titled it: The Bittersweet (or, keeping a fixed grin on your face while someone else wins the prize!).

I am sure I got the idea from one of the links to her post, but in any case it was extremely tasty and I highly recommend you check it out.

I didn't use the club soda at all, in the end.

The Bittersweet:
3 parts prosecco/sparkling wine
1 part Aperol
splash fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice

I didn't measure when I was pouring, so feel free to do your own proportions! I think it all depends on how sweet the prosecco is.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WIP Wednesday: My abode

Sometimes I think I'm going to be renting forever but only have to look at all the great great things in my neighborhood to remember that it's okay to rent! Short commute, good friends, amazing walkable life - right. It's all good. Plus paying rent instead of a mortgage lets me save a lot for retirement.

But I've been in this apartment for 4 1/2 years - my longest duration ever! - and I'm doing a little redecorating. I've made passing references to the fact that I'm gutting my bedroom (SO many Goodwill trips) and starting over. Well my old mattress is gone and I'm on the couch this week until the new one (and a bed frame) is ready for me. And the rug that I had on back-order is finally in processing, I think - so this may get done sometime this quarter!

In the meantime I framed a couple of pictures.

I had a Groupon that let me save forty bucks on the frames. Let's ignore the fact that while using said Groupon, I got a parking ticket for, oh, forty dollars. That's not very fiscally sensible!