Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hot chocolate and Oreos? Another UFO bites the dust.


Here's another UFO hitting the finished object pile.  It's the end of January and I have many of the Christmas 2010 preosents ready. Yahoo!  I love this UFO  method.

This is a lovely soft scarf (the kind that pokes thru itself) in yummy soft wool sock yarn from  Feather and fan stitch.  The colorway is called something like hot chocolate and Oreos, if I am remembering right. No, I found the ball band (miracle).  It's Smores.   It's been discontinued now.  I have one more skein, so I'm making something to go with it.  I haven't decided just what yet.

I've been working on a Buddhist meeting, an SGI  Women's Division Kick-Off Meeting.  It was today and it went great.

Just in case you missed it, here's what I said for the welcoming  words: 
"I want to welcome all my beautiful Myoho Sisters to this meeting, the Central Area Women's Division kick-off meeting. We women rock! And especially I want to welcome our guests today. Thank you so much for coming and checking out this incredible practice. Give it a try, stick to the person who brought you, and soon you'll know why we are all grinning so much.

What are we kicking off today? The wonderful women-led 4-divisional district meetings for February, 2010. They're going to be great!

The February meetings are traditionally a great time for us to introduce so many of our friends to this wonderful practice, so I hope you brought  your friends to this meeting. And I hope you are all chanting to be able to bring ALL your friends to the February district meeting, too, for this will guarantee their absolute happiness in life. The women's division have such tremendous power of faith and abundant joy that the meetings you are planning in your districts are sure to be rousing successes.
Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with conviction and joy, looking into the future with confidence, setting goals and reaching them and helping each other do this all along the way, this is a most wonderful way to live. This is what it means to live the vow we made as Boddhisattvas at the Ceremony in the Air, practicing together with our mentor, President Ikeda, creating the greatest possible benefit for ourselves and mankind in this precious lifetime.
This practice is the best medicine for whatever the karmic illnesses of mankind are. So let's share the wealth, and let everyone know about this wonderful practice of the Lotus Sutra, let's tell them about chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to the Gohonzon to make all our dreams come true and help others do the same. Nichiren Daishonin said in “Letter to Niike”, “When one encounters this sutra, one will overflow with happiness and shed tears of joy. “
I have a long list of things I am chanting for, do you? I hope so. I keep crossing things off the list as I accomplish them and I keep adding even more to it. The list just gets longer and longer. Isn't that how it's supposed to work? Chant, joy, benefit, appreciation, repeat. Chant, joy, benefit, appreciation, repeat. It works like the shampoo.

When I was a new member I had a very short list. I had lots of problems, but my natural nature was so negative, I could not imagine any of my issues being solvable by chanting, or by anything else for that matter. So I thought I had nothing much to chant for. My sponsor told me to make a list, but I could not think of a single thing to put on it. With time, as I chanted more I developed more and more hope and I thought, “Well, maybe that problem is something I could chant about. Gee, maybe this other one, too. Oh, how about this one...” As a result my list grew and grew and my benefits began to pile up like purple flowers drifting under a Jacaranda tree in the Spring. “U mandara ke”, like it says in the 16th chapter of the Sutra that we chant during Gongyo, right? The Boddhisattvas of the Earth receive benefits like abundant mandarava blossoms floating down onto their heads under the tree, right? Every time I see a blossoming Jacaranda tree with heaps of purple blossoms underneath it, I am reminded of this image Shakamuni chose in the Lotus Sutra to describe the tremendous benefit we derive from this practice. We don't have mandarava trees in San Diego, but we have Jacarandas.
President Ikeda said in Words of the Week for this week of January 25, 2010, “The SGI is the hope for humanity. Let's continue to sow the seeds of peace of the Mystic Law for the sake of the future. The accumulation of steady efforts will cause the flowers of victory to bloom without fail.”

So get your lists fired up, girls, get your firey determination in gear, chant abundant, joyful Daimoku and give this upcoming February meeting your very best shot. Then, you'll be calling me, to tell me all about your great benefits. And we'll both be lovin' it.  I hope you enjoy today's meeting!"

It was a great meeting.  Everyone had such a great time.  So, after a nice nap I was ready to take on my project of finishing up all the unfinished things, one at a time. 

Lilo came in from her evening adventure in the cold and now she wants to play with me.  She's getting feisty about it, since I am busy blogging.  Good night , Lilo.

Good night, All.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday means Mexican Soup

Hi, Everyone,

It's sunny but cold here in San Diego.  So, it was time for some yummy Mexican soup.   I still have a cold so it is my "Mexican medicine".  My first mother-in-law was Mexican and this is a variation on her soup.

Memo's soup

2Tbsp bacon drippings or EVOO
8 oz ham, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced (I could have also added carrots and green peppers, but I did not have them on hand)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1Tbsp crushed red pepper (like comes with pizza)
4 big chicken thighs with bone, cut into thirds
1 large can hominy
1 med can tomatoes with peppers
1 tsp salt
1tsp leaf oregano, crushed in your hand
4 cups water
1/2 Cup red wine vinegar

Saute the onions, celery and ham in the bacon drippings until they begin to brown.  Add the pepper, cumin, red pepper and the garlic.  Cook until you smell the garlic.   Lift the onion mixture into the crock pot.  Brown off the chicken in the remaining oil.    While it cooks, add the hominy, salt and the tomatoes to the crock pot.   When the chicken is brown, add it and the oregano to the crock. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, also the water.  Scrape up the fond (the brown bits) real good, as they add so much flavor to the soup.  Add the resulting broth to the crock.   Set the crock pot to low and cook 4 hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning.   Serve with quesadilllas or cheesy toast.   Add a salad or fruit and you have a great cold day dinner.   I had fruit with mine.   Yummy.

I gave my freind Barbra a bowl of the soup when she stopped by today to knit and talk.  She is studying fashion and is using me as a model for her plus size swim suit line.  I hope she makes a mint.   This is an area that needs more young designers to make the suits fun.

I finished a shawl from the UFO collection.   Purple and magenta.    7 feet long and about 15 inches long.   Crochet, mixed patterns.

The yarn was from Mexico.  A few years ago (like maybe 4) Dan and I went to LA to attend his sister's graduation.  We stayed at the Miyako Hotel in Japan-town.   We got a great deal through AARP.   We had so much fun.  They have Japanese style rooms, too.  They were so Japanese, the breakfast menu included natto, super stinky fermented soybeans.   The neighborhood included great Japanese food, jazz clubs and a fun local micro- brewery.  We had a blast.   I'd do it again in a New York  minute.

Anyway, in the neighborhood was a yarn shop that specialized in yarns from Mexico, and I bought this yarn.  Good thing Dan speaks Spanish.  Great colors.  And now it's done.  There are leftovers of the yarn, plus some of the other purples I bought at the same time.  So now I'm working on a new one where the colors shift gradually.

Enjoy my soup,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reviving the languishing UFO's

Hello, Friends,
I hope you are warm and dry. It's a cold, wet, stormy and windy Friday night here in Southern California. We should not complain, as the rest of the country gets this stuff all the time, but for us it's unusual. I know, I know, it's called rain...
It's good to hear back on some of this stuff. Glad you liked the free baby leggings pattern. I'm going to do another one in a solid color. I'll post when it's done.
Today I finally put the buttons on a cute toddler bolero that has been a WIP for a very long time. It's my own design, the yarn is some simple washable stuff from Michael's, size 3 needles.
I got frustrated with the lace at the sleeve hems, put it aside and there it stayed in the bottom of my WIP stack by my chair for a long time. My knitting chair has a nice heated massage pad in it that Dare got me for Christmas a couple of years ago, so I was motivated to sit there today, warm up and dig through the stack. The lace is right side up on the bottom edge, but would be upside down on the sleeves as they are picked up from the armhole and knitted down. I finally found it and pulled it out and the answer to the lace problem was so easy I finished it up in no time. Funny how that works. Answer? I just let it be upside down. It looks great that way. Only 4 rows of lace. Now, I just finished sewing on the cute green triangle buttons and we're good to go for my niece's birthday this spring.  I think I'll make a plan to resolve (either finish or rip) one UFO a week in 2010. 
The baby I originally started this for is in kindergarten now, but who's counting. Babies are like buses, if you miss one another one will be along soon. So if I can't finish a baby gift in time, I give something else and finish at my leisure. I have a couple of pairs of cute baby booties made up in my gift drawer at all times for emergencies. Let me tell you why.   My daughter called me late one Wednesday and said she was going to a baby shower for her boss and could I make something homemade, it's so much more special than store bought. “Sure”, I said. She replied, “OK, Mom, the Shower is Saturday and she's having twin boys, so it needs to be 2 cute blue things.”    I did a hand crocheted contrast edging on 2 store bought blue blankies.   Cute and fast. LOL.
I also want to show you a couple of fun slippers I designed. I wanted cute turned up toes like Turkish slippers and enough fabric in the back that they'll stay on. Pull on loops to help me get them on quickly.  Enough foot coverage to keep me warm. Sexy would be nice, too. I think I got the requirements all covered but the last one, sigh. I'm still working on that. Warm and comfy seem to be in conflict with sexy ... Story of my life?
The pinks are a ladies small and the grays are a ladies medium. Hmmmm.... I wonder who fits these?

Don't you like the knitted in purple beads on the pink ones? I used short rows to turn up the toes. Yarn is more of the 60's WW stuff, size 7 needles.
Here are a few Warming Words from my mentor.  Something to warm the heart on a cold winter's night.    "The ungrateful feel that it is below them to show any kind of appreciation. They are under the delusion that showing gratitude to others diminishes their own worth. But it is this sense of appreciation that elevates, enriches and expands the human spirit. A lack of gratitude is actually a sign of arrogance"    - Daisaku Ikeda
Ta Ta,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Leggings to match the BSJ

Hello, Friends far and near,

You think you have Too Many Projects on the needles?  I tried to count my WIP's once, and stopped counting at fifty.  It's no wonder that after 40 years of knitting, I am still buying new needles all the time.  LOL.   I need to find a way to finish more than I cast on.  Casting on is so much fun...

I love to make Baby Surprise Jackets, the "geometric progression" baby sweater from Elizabeth Zimmerman, aka the "BSJ". The pattern is available from her daughter, Meg, at   Easy and fun.  They're like potato chips, bet you can't make just one.   I have even done them in my size, the ASJ.  Go buy the pattern, it's the best deal in the Internet.

Marilyn, one of the moderators of the "knitbabysurprise" group on Yahoo, mentioned that she had once made leggings that use the same method of double increasing as the BSJ, resulting in leggings that look matching.   I think this is a great idea, as I always wanted a matching legging to use when I want to give a baby set that looks good and matches.

I googled for the free pattern she mentioned, but I could not find her  "BSJ-esque" legging pattern, so after much googling around, I gave up and started experimenting based on Marilyn's recollections of knitting them.   I just finished them and they're cute and "go with" the BSJ.

Free Baby Leggings Pattern to match EZ's BSJ

The beginning is the grey part in the crotch and them the increases create the rest from there.  Same geometric progression idea as the BSJ. Fun to knit.  This is what I did to make them. Using a circ, I cast on 8, knit them, pulled the left hand needle out and picked up 8 stitches from the underside of the cast on. Now I am going round in a circle, much like the toe-up cast on of a sock. Knit front and back each stitch around.  Knit one round even.  Using 8 markers I set up to inc 2 (one each side of the marker) at each of the 8 points every other row. Just like the second half of the BSJ, but more so since it's 8 inc points.

I kept going until one side of the octagon (between any 2 markers) was 10 inches, since I wanted a 20 inch waist to fit my niece.  You can pick your own side length depending on the size waist desired. One side of the octagon is equal to one half of the waist measurement.  It's all proportional.   As EZ said, "babies are square."   Don't worry about the leg length, that is adjusted at the end.

Now comes the hard to describe part. I decided which segment was the back waist and short rowed a bit to give some diaper room. (5 pairs of short rows, if you catch my drift) This is optional if you do not enjoy short rows.  See the picture below.

Then I knit down one segment (to become the side seam of the leg later).
If you want to lengthen the leg, this is the place.  You can add as many rows as desired here to the next segment.  I decided the cuff was enough and did not add any more. 
Then I knit a 3 inch CUFF in K1, P1 ribbing, bound it off but did not break the thread.
I crocheted the sides of the ribbing together and then did 3 needle bind off until I had attached the 2 leg-side segments together and my live stitch was back at the waistband.
Put the live stitch on the right hand needle and knit across the next segment (front waist band), knit down the next segment (leg side seam again), another rib cuff, another 3 needle bind off.
Last stitch on the right hand needle.
Now I have only the 2 waistband segments on the needles plus 2 stitches.
I did 3 rows K2, p2 ribbing, one row with holes for the lacing (k2, yo, p2tog).
Two more rows ribbing and a suspended bind off. Thread in a lacing. All done.

The tie is a boot lace from the 99 cent store.   Ribbon is more "girly", but I like the rugged looking boot  tie against the rough texture of the garter stitch.

I alternated the colors every 2 rows to be able to see the construction, but I might not do that again. Kind of fugly in these strong colors. The yarn is from the sixties, acquired at a yard sale.  One of the ball bands actually had a date in 1961 stamped on it.

The back photo shows the 5 pair of short rows added for more diaper room.

Now I'm trying to catch up to the others on the KAL on the on the matching BSJ.  I will be able to catch up because in order to use this yarn and needles and end up with the size I want, it's cast on 120, knit 25, ddec, etc. The bulky BSJ. So it'll go real fast.  (The normal is 160, right?)  About half as much work.

Have fun with your leggings.  You're welcome.

See you soon,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coming back, Happy New Year

Hello, Happy New Year!

Sorry I've been away so long.  The holidays were a busy time for me.  I'm a Buddhist who was raised Christian.  Dan's what I lovingly call a BU-Jew.  Relatives of every possible combination.   So we just celebrate ALL  the holidays.  Even Hindu New Year with an Indian  friend, Kesh, some years.  Now that I think of it, not since his wife passed away.  Now that's sad.  This year I'll have to make a point to look him up.

Result of all this holiday foolishness?  About a hundred hand knit gifts.  And a bout with bronchitis that did not help.  But I'm back now. 

This year I'm pruning the gift list and starting earlier.  I already have 6 put away in the "magic drawer".  Sigh, I say this every year.   I never learn, do I?

Last night I finished a fun pair of slippers from yarn I got from my garage-sale-loving friend, Nhien.  The ball band of one of the balls was dated 1961. Great, intense colors.   These are very purple, darkly luminous psychadelic purple, even though they photographed more blue.  The pattern is from the same era as the yarn, very retro.

I also recently (since New Years)  finished a keyhole scarf with a ruffled edge.

And a pair of bright orange socks in a small women's size, with fufu  yarn along the top edge to trim the cuff.  In my mind, I have my friends classified by the size of their feet, LOL.  There are several who might fit these small socks.  Hmmm, I wonder who likes orange, I mean really likes 'em really orange. And has small feet.

And a Sutra case for an English language Sutra.  I like the floral lining.  The outside looks like Mexican tooled leather, but it's a suede-like fabric.

And another Sutra case sized for a Japanese language Sutra, much smaller.  This one has a piece of Guatamalan fabric from my friend Kim's mother (who is Guatamalan) in it.  The lining is the same pink and black floral that wraps around to the front flap: outside shot.

and inside shot. This one has an added extra inside pocket.  My Nam Myoho Renge Kyo card for scale.   I only had the one small piece of the great Guatamalan fabric, so I had to build up from there.

I have been reading Poetry in Stitches by Solveig Hisdal and now put colors together I never would have before, like rust and pink. The olde time fiber artists from Norway had a very different color aesthetic.   I'm beginning to like it.    I hope they would approve.

Tonight it was pouring cats and dogs, (winter in San Diego) so we decided we needed comfort food.  We're both getting over colds.  We went to the Souplantation in Point Loma.  Hot soup and salad and muffins, perfect for a cold rainy night... 

Keep warm and dry, where ever you are.

Lilo, busy reading the mail, looks up to say goodnight!

Ta Ta,