Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas with Al

Alpaca, that is. Two weeks before Christmas I realized, much to my horror, that I did not have a big gift for my father. Big as in significant, not size. This is a tradition in my household. Everyone gets one "big" gift and one or two little gifts. With two weeks to go, I was sure I could knit him a scarf so off I went to the Stash of DOOOOOM. I picked out some lovely black Alpaca I bought last spring at Maryland Sheep and Wool and started a modified basketweave pattern.

I was into the second ball when tragedy struck- a hole. My own fault, as I had joined in the middle rather than at the end of the row. No problem, thought I, I'll just rip it and start over, this time using a simpler pattern (3x3 reversible rib). I still have a week to go (I'm not the fastest knitter).

On December 23 I snagged the scarf pulling it out of my purse. ARRGH!

Now I had a serious problem. I cannot knit a scarf in two days. I can, however, crochet a hat in that time if it does not have a major pattern.

I forgot that last bit.

I ran to my newly-purchased book on Charted Celtic Cross-Stitch, chose a twisted rope design and got to work. The design is done using tapestry crochet technique where the contrasting yarn is carried behind the main yarn and brought forward for the design. I used Alpaca and some other soft vintage yarn from the DOOM stash.

Here is the finished result:

Here's a shot of the hat being blocked on tupperware. Note my arm. I am wearing my bathrobe because it is CHRISTMAS MORNING and I have not finished weaving in the ends. I think the pattern turned out nicely. I would have enjoyed it more had I not been working so feverishly.

Note to self: start making Christmas presents in JANUARY.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

No Casino for Gettysburg

The Pennsylvania Gaming Board has decided not to award a slot license to Crossroads. This means there will NOT be a casino in Gettysburg. You can find a link to the story on the New York Times site here.

*begin soapbox*

I am THRILLED there will not be a casino in Gettysburg. Yes, LeVan et al. said the casino would not have been visible from the battlefield (what, it's invisible?) and yes, there probably would have been a short-term increase in revenue/jobs for Adams County. IMHO, the resulting increase in crime, traffic and loss of ambiance would not have been worth the short term gain.

Honestly, I really could not have imagined a worse place to put a casino- except perhaps Salt Lake City (my apologies to Salt Lake City). A casino right next to Gettysburg, a major civil war battlefield. Imagine- Pickett's Charge Keno! Confederate 21! Union Penny Slots! 55,000 dead!


*end soapbox*

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

December birthdays are a tricky business. They are often lost amid holiday preparations and bouts of the flu. Case in point: last year's birthday was a washout. This year, however, was glorious.

Mr. Brewguy took me to the Flag House Inn in Annapolis for a parents-only overnight adventure. My parents (who ROCK) babysat the little brewers overnight. Mr. Brewguy spends quite a bit of time photographing politicians at the State House in Annapolis so he was eager to show me around. Ireland seems to be in vogue these days - there are at least 5 Irish pubs (I can recommend both Sean Donlon's and The Galway Bay) and two stores carrying Irish goods.

The best part was my knitting book score. One of Samurai Knitter's book recommendations was Charted Celtic Designs. Finally! I have some old celtic design sourcebooks but have been incredibly frustrated trying to figure out how to make my own charts using celtic patterns (that twist goes where???) I was thrilled to find two celtic cross stitch books at one of the aforementioned irish gift store (should have written down the name!) on Main Street and promptly bought them.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fear not!

This is the lesson I try to pass along to everyone I teach: do not be afraid of the knitting. I am not sure how this fear of knitting got started. I myself had this fear when I first started knitting: the fear that I would make a mistake and as a result, ruin the whole piece.

You cannot ruin the whole piece. You only need start again. Sure, it can be frustrating if you are twelve inches into a complicated lace pattern only to discover you've dropped a stitch at inch #four. This is why lifelines were invented. And yes, it helps if you use reasonably-priced yarn until you are comfortable. This is why Red Heart is $1.99 a skein.

In the beginning, however, you have to be free to experiment. Work out how to hold the needles in a way that is comfortable for you (continental, american).

Experimentation is how I stumbled across my current scarf pattern, a reversible rib. I was sitting in my car, killing time before my doctor's appointment. Having learned my lesson about not bringing a project, I had needles and a nice dk weight varigated merino in my purse. "Let's try a drop stitch pattern!" I thought to myself (I had just finished re-reading the Clapotis pattern after seeing the photos on Franklin's blog). Ok, that looks yucky (rip, rip, rip). Now what? Cables would not show very well on the stripes. I had already tried a straight stockinette. This yarn was recovered from another scarf I made in stockinette that rolled like a stack of quarters no matter how much I blocked it.

Then I tried a 3x2 rib pattern on an even-number of stitches. I have lately become enamored of even numbered patterns on odd-numbered stitches. I thought this would make a nice crumbly nap but it turned out to be much more interesting.

Brewgal's Reversible Rib Scarf
Cast on 34
Knit first row (I find starting with one knit row is easier than starting the pattern off the cast on row.)
Slip 1, knit 1 (edge stitch). *Knit 3, purl 2* repeat 6 times, knit last two stitches.
Repeat this row until scarf reaches desired length, knit last row, cast off.

Nothing fancy. I used #6 needles on dk weight yarn. This makes a cute little 2-stitch-wide rib on both sides.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stash Rambling

My yarn stash is filled with all sorts of unusual yarn. I have a habit of picking up stray skeins from many places: yard sales, thrift stores, my parents' basement. None of it is in sufficient quantities to make a sweater but I can always go stash diving for emergency scarf yarn.

I have yarn that has been around longer than I have. Yarn trucked back from my mother-in-law's house in Los Angeles. Yarn inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother. Yarn in bright skeins, yarn in half-finished projects. Yarn that is on the verge of turning into yarn zombies. How appropriate for the Stash of DOOOM.

I don't know why I've been so hung up on zombies lately. I certainly wouldn't want to meet one. Maybe it's because I recently watched
Shaun of the Dead. At least, I almost watched it. Stupid TiVO didn't record the last 10 minutes of the movie.

Then I came across
this. Some clever person has recreated Dawn of the Dead using knitted characters. Wow.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


In times of plenty, it is not the food we are most thankful for,
but the friendship and love of those who care for us,
and those we care for in return.

And the pie.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I need more bookshelves.

The problem- where to put them? The current bookshelf layout is thus:

  • covering two walls in the family room. Brewguy won't let me cover the back door. Stupid fire codes.
  • covering one wall in my study.
  • lining two out of three hallways
  • in the corner of the living room
  • covering three walls of the basement.

And they're all FULL! Full of books on almost every subject: old Time-Life science books, children's books, fairy-tale books, knitting books (not nearly enough of those!), homebrewing manuals, psychology journals, textbooks on statistics and psychology, reference books, cookbooks, science fiction fantasy books, and the occasional trashy novel. For those of you who would suggest I simply get rid of some to make room, BITE YOUR TONGUE. How can I choose between the merits of Cognition: Theory and Application versus The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook? Ok, I'll admit I probably no longer need The Official X-Files Compendium, seeing that the show is off the air, but giving away one book will not make the space I need.

Why can't I give books away? I blame my parents (how convenient!) I come from a household where books filled every corner of the house, where my mother went to escape into a little "me" time. We had so many books my aunts and uncles used it as their own personal library. [Much to my mother's dismay. She started losing so many favorites she began putting her name and address on the books so that when she visited *them* she could take books back.]

Anyway... my current master plan involves moving all the clothes from the closet in my study and installing bookshelves there. That should give me enough room so that all the books have their own space, instead of having to sleep two-deep like workers in tenament housing during the early 1900's.

Next problem: what do I do with the clothes from the closet? I need more closet space.

Friday, November 03, 2006

My synapse in living color

I drew this cartoon of my synapse flying back from the math section. Note the flames.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why advance planning is good

Sometimes events sneak up on you. A few days ago I had the following exchange at dinner.

Brewguy: Yeah, they did a sonogram and moved her due date up from November 10 to November 1.
Brewgal: November 1? Thats....

(pause while my synapses rush across town to the math section. Typically my synapses take a breather after work by relaxing at Cafe Homebrew, where they are seen sipping Belgian Ale with the nightie-clad pirates scheduled to appear in tonight's REM spectacular. The synapses are VERY annoyed at being asked to do MATH after 6pm).


Brewguy: Yeah.
Brewgal: But...but... I have to make a hat!
Brewguy: You'd better get on that then.
Brewgal: You couldn't have told me this last week?!? {Actually, I only thought that. What came out of my mouth was} Eeep! Grrrr.

Brewguy offered to do the dishes (he really is a sweetie) while I dashed down to the Stash of Doom. I grabbed a ball of Patons Look At Me in Jewel Tones and I got to work.

16 hours and an arm cramp later, I had these.

The mittens were an afterthought. I've never made mittens before so I just created a pattern in my head and went for it. As you can see, I ran out of the Patons and had to supplement with some other remnants.

Note to self: make more hats. In advance. The synapses will thank me later.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Little Victories

Ha! And again, Ha! The laughing Cable Pixie has laughed her last. I have tackled the cable beast and I am victorious.

I am making a scarf for Brewguy featuring teeny cables on a 4x4 rib. Put 2 sts on cable needle and hold to front, knit 2 from back needle, knit 2 from cable needle, purl 4. I pulled the yarn out of my stash, a lovely burgundy wool blend, probably Plymouth.

My stash... Let me rephrase that: my Neverending Stash of DOOM. (that's pronounced DOOOOOOOMMM, like a zombie who's drunk one-too-many bottles of Chateau Dura Mater)

This is scarf #9 since September. I am SO BORED with making scarves. My next holiday gifts will be wristwarmers.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Broken links

I've just discovered the links to my free patterns are broken. I'll work on fixing them. In the meantime, click on the following archives to find the patterns:

Seedy Border Town Scarf = November 2005
Grandma D's Heirloom Crochet Cape = June 2005
Olivia's Knitted Baby Bonnet = August 2005
Brewgal's Crochet Hat (an award winner!) = January 2005

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Le poèt en dedans*

I am constantly stunned and humbled by the creativity of the little brewers. Yesterday, while Brewguy was cooking dinner (spaghetti accompanied by a lovely Spanish temperanillo), Little Brewer #1 sat down at the dinner table and wrote a poem. I will spare you the misspelled words (she is in 1st grade, after all).

The leaves blow
The trees whistle
The birds sing
The shoes tap
The shirts wiggle
The socks wobble
The hands touch
The wind blows
and you are the best

[*French translation provided by BabelFish]

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lessons learned

Wherever you go, there you are. And you better have your knitting with you. (after Buckaroo Banzai)

Little Brewer #2 is an airplane nut. At 3, he can spot the difference between a 747 and a 737 in flight. So Brewguy thought it would be a great idea to go out to the Montgomery County Airpark to see some WWII bombers, the B-24 "
Witchcraft" and a B-17. These two old planes were in town for the Air Force Memorial dedication. It is not often that planes of this type show up in Gaithersburg and Brewguy wanted to shoot some video for the newspaper so we trundled off to the airpark. The B-17 was on the ground (tours for $10!) so we gazed at it for a while through the fence while waiting for the B-24 to show up.

And waited.
And waited some more. Finally, THREE HOURS LATER, the B-24 arrived.

The Little Brewers passed the time wrestling each other into submission. I stood there, watching the geezers ooh and aah over the aircraft, mentally cursing for not bringing my knitting. I have 12 scarves to make for holiday gifts- I could have knocked out at least one or two sitting there next to the tarmac.

Learn from my misery. Always take a project with you wherever you go.

Friday, September 08, 2006

End of Summer Haiku

Summer turns behind.
Her verdant smile fades slowly
Seeing Autumn come

Monday, September 04, 2006

Homebrew Day

Happy Labor Day, everyone! Brewguy is homebrewing today. He is making a Belgian-style ale entitled Little Belgian #3. This is the second round for this batch of yeast.

I love waking up in the morning to the smell of the mash tun. There's something wonderfully earthy about the smell of brewing beer. Later, the tangy aroma of hops will waft up. When you brew, you quickly discover who likes beer and who does not. Those who can't stand the smell of the brew typically do not like to drink beer. There also seems to be a correlation between dislike of beer and dislike of coffee. Perhaps the two flavors excite (or dismay) similar taste buds.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And the winner is... Me!

Feeling totally retro, I entered the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair in fabulous Gaithersburg Maryland. They had online registration this year (good) so I dutifully filled out all the paperwork in advance and brought it to entry day.

Long lines to register. I was handed number 61. No problem! I thought, I've already registered online and told the number distributer that fact. Number 61 taken away, number 8 handed to me. Ok, now we're getting somewhere!

Wrong. Number 61 came and went. Number 80 came and went and still I sat with my pitiful online 8. A fellow clutching online number 9 started to get angry and I pieced together the situation from the conversation. Apparently online registration is all and good, but there was only one person working the online registrations on entry day. And she was tied up with a scoutmaster who had registered online and was entering pieces for her ENTIRE GIRL SCOUT TROUP. So the entry judge was forced to look up each girl's name individually. Yay Girl Scouts and all that, but after 45 minutes of waiting I was starting to get pissed.

When I did finally get to enter the pieces it took about 30 seconds so online registration is worth it, if you get there when it isn't crowded.

I entered the knitted orange shrugigan and a crocheted blue child's hat. The cat design on the hat is done in tapestry crochet.

First prize! To be clear, first prize in the child's crochet hat category. The shrugigan won third. I received the premium check today, a grand total of $6.50. That almost covers the $7.00 fair entrance fee.

I am totally doing this again next year.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thrift Store Score

Thrift stores are hit-and-miss. They can be a great source for yarn (if you don't mind partial skeins and balls that have lost their band) and needles, especially the old aluminum Susan Bates and Hero variety. Sometimes the store has a dry spell that lasts months.
Other times, JACKPOT!

Believe it or not, my most recent thrift store trip was prompted by a dream. In my dream I was trying to make my way through a sea of people to get to the yarn bin, which was filled with yarn and hooks of every variety.

You know those dreams, where no matter how hard you try you are moving if you are made of molasses, and you can't seem to get to your destination as you watch others paw through the booty. Muuussttt.....reach......yaaaaarrrrrnnnnn......

Then I woke up. I went to the store at lunchtime. Lo and behold, they had set up a brand new box for needlework tools and it was filled- FILLED with needles and rug hook tools. There were also some skeins of yarn on the shelves below.

I cleaned them out. Fourteen pairs of needles including two pair of Crystal Palace and one circular. I left only the rug tools and one pair of bent size 2's. No doubt that pair had been used to hold a project that never quite got done, it's neglected weight sagging lonely until the needles themselves bowed in sadness and shame.

Uh oh. Better check my UFOs.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Science for science sake

“I believe in scientific inquiry for its own sake. I think the history of science gives ample examples that pure investigation has enormous benefit. I can’t tell you what this might be good for, but learning about nature is important. And lovely things turn up.”

--James A. Van Allen (1914-2006), discoverer of the Van Allen radiation belts.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Beer Review: Zwaanendael

In celebration of Lewes Delaware's 375th anniversary (the first town in the first stateTM), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has brewed Zwaanend'ale. This is a limited release beer available primarily in Delaware. DFH describes it as "old Dutch-style Rye Bokbier brewed with honey." I'd describe it as a slightly sweeter version of their belgian-style beer, Raison D'etre. It's wonderful! It has everything Brewgal looks for in a long-drinking beer: slightly sweet, malty, medium golden red in color, low on the hops. We consumed one bottle while on vacation and brought one home for later.

It's Wednesday, and Brewguy and I were out for a swifty. Swifty? It's a term for a quick drink. What were YOU thinking? Imagine my delight when I discovered the Gaithersburg DFH had the Zwaanend'ale on tap! I had previously only seen it in large 750ml bottles in Delaware. Yet there it was, top of the list on the draft brew board. When we inquired, the bartender said they had been sent 15 kegs. Brewguy and I exchanged puzzled glances. This was supposed to be a beer that was only available in Delaware, and then only in bottles. Where had the kegs come from? Had DFH decided to send out the last of the run to the franchise DFH?

It started off well. The color of the beer in the glass was the same golden red, slightly lighter than the Raison. Then the taste. The taste was way off. In contrast to the wonderful beer of my memory, the tap version at DFH had a distinct sour upfront taste, almost as though someone had poured lemon on top. This is a characteristic sign of bacterial infection. Brewguy noticed it as well. We soldiered on, hoping this was just a passing phase. Ugh. The sour taste continued, more pronounced as the beer warmed to room temperature. This is the first beer in a long while I have been unable to finish due to flavor. The bartender deserves kudos for offering us another beer as a replacement and not charging us for the Zwaanend'ale. Well done, sir!

The question is, why? DFH is usually pretty good with quality control. Had the kegs been mishandled in shipment? It has been very hot in DC these last few weeks. Had the beer turned in the barrel prior to kegging? Surely there would have been sampling prior to kegging. More sinister is the possibility that DFH knew the beer was substandard and chose, instead of bottling, to send it to their franchise in Gaithersburg.

My suggestion to DFH: get a bottle and taste the Zwaanend'ale then taste those kegs before you put them on!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Orange FO

Finally, an FO to report! I've finished the orange mohair-blend sweater. That's jumper to those of you across the pond. More of a cardiagn, really, if cardigans were 3/4 length sleeved and didn't have buttons in the front. Come to think of it, it's actually more of a shrug. Cardishrug? Shrugigan? Shrugijump? Jump-and-shrug?

Here's a photo of the shrugigan on the bed.

And one of Little Brewer #2 modeling the finished product. Note the pouty model face. Watch out Zoolander!

For fun I'm going to enter it in the Home Arts division of the local county fair.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Restaurant Review: Fish On

I’m blogging from the beach in Lewes, Delaware!

Fish On opens at 5pm, which works fine for the early bird crowd and those with small children. They do not take reservations. Fish On has the distinction of having both a good chef and a welcoming attitude toward children. This is an absolute must when traveling with the Little Brewers. Not everyone with children wants to eat in McDonalds 24-7.

We were there on two nights, Tuesday 7/11 and Friday 7/14. Dinner starts with a serving of homemade bread. It’s a lovely white bread with a slightly sweet crust, the kind I could sit and eat for hours with a good red wine on the porch of my small summer cottage. Ahh….

Tuesday is half-price wine night, which brings the prices down into the reasonable range. Clearly the locals know this because the place was packed by 6. On the advice of WineGeek, we chose a Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel. It was very enjoyable.

My order:
Appetizer: Pan Roasted Sea Scallops
Main course: imperial stuffed lobster

Brewguy’s order:
Appetizer: Spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette
Main course: Pan Roasted Scallops with spinach, roasted mushrooms and ham

The sea scallop appetizer is still the highlight of the menu for me. Three scallops, seared round with sea salt and pepper, served skewered on a sprig of fresh rosemary. The balsamic reduction sauce is sprinkled with chives, and clearly made by someone who knows sauces- a chef after Brewgal’s own heart! The sauce was scraped artfully across the plate in lines. It’s exactly the right amount if you use it sparingly. I could have used a tad more.

For main course I ordered the broiled imperial stuffed lobster. It was a good sized lobster, larger than I expected, served with a small side of melted butter and potato salad. The potato salad was topped with about five whole green beans, which I believe had been blanched, but I’m not sure. Disconcertingly, they were cold, as if they had been just removed from the fridge. This may have been on purpose- it’s hard to tell. The potato salad had a gentle flavor of potatoes, with bits of fresh corn mixed in. Good job there. The lobster was cooked just right, not to the point of being mealy, which is often a problem in large-scale, serve ‘em quick restaurants (
Phillips, are you listening?) The crab imperial was nothing special. In fact, I could barely taste it. Crab imperial at its best is a fluffy concoction of crab, flour, milk, and mayonnaise where the crab sits lightly inside its poufy mound, broiled to perfection. This was a light mixture, but did nothing to bring out the flavor of the crab. Perhaps they were trying not to interfere with the taste of the lobster, which can be easily overwhelmed. If so, why combine the two?

Here is where the service and the food fell flat. The lobster arrived without a claw cracker. The waiter failed to reappear to ask if I needed one so I was reduced to digging out what meat I could from the claw using the seafood fork. The spinach salad probably saw a bit of dressing in the kitchen but seemed to have lost it by the time it reached the table. It lacked flavor in that regard. Brewguy felt the scallop main course was oddly paired and overwhelmed by the Smithfield ham.

I found Friday’s dinner to be superior to Tuesday’s.

Friday we chose the Acacia Pinot Noir. Brewguy raved about it.

My order:
Main course: Crabcakes

Brewguy’s order:
Appetizer: Pan Roasted Sea Scallops
Salad: Mixed green salad with sherry vinaigrette and bleu cheese

The crabcakes were meaty and shell-free, served with green beans almondine. The tartar sauce was homemade, with a bit of tang and complemented the crabcakes quite well. Tartar sauce is usually nothing to write home about, at worst just mayonnaise-y. Here again you can see the skill of a chef that knows how to make a good sauce.

I compare all crabcakes to ones I had at
Jakes in 1997. Those crabcakes will live forever in my memory. Not so much Jakes itself. I got food poisoning there in 2003 and have never returned.

Brewguy rated this salad much more highly than Tuesday night’s. The sherry vinaigrette was tangy, with a bit of sweetness evident on the back edge. The greens were fresh, with no limp hangers-on.

Highlight of the dinner for Brewguy were the corn dogs we ordered for the Little Brewers. The batter was light and slightly sweet around a plump beef hot dog. It arrived, like Tuesday’s chicken tenders, on a mound of French fries. Honestly, I don’t think so many fries are required, but I guess they’re trying to make sure you feel you get your money’s worth. The Little Brewers barely touched them.

Final notes: the Swedish Fish at the door are a cute touch. The Little Brewers just love them.

Score: 3 1/2 out of 5 for Tuesday, 4 out of 5 for Friday. Recommended? Yes

Fish On
Village of Five Points
Lewes, DE

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy Birthday USA!

The Fourth of July. A time when we all come together to remember the brilliance and sacrifices made during that hot, tiring summer in Philadelphia, 1776. And to eat large quantities of flame-broiled, nitrate-laden meat products.

July 4 weekend also means...reenactors! The Gettysburg battle was fought July 1-3, 1863 so this weekend typically sees the invasion of present-day Gettysburg by hordes of reenactors and tourists.

[sidebar: Why anyone would want to reenact a battle that killed more than 50,000 people is beyond me. Brewgal doesn't understand people who are nostalgic for wars.]
[other sidebar: They also scheduled Gettysburg Bike Week for the same weekend. Can you say culture clash and traffic jam four times fast?]
[other, other sidebar: Brewgal thinks Harleys are cool. ]

Except this year. The torrential rains that pounded the East Coast have flooded the Redding Farm, site of the reenactment. Check out the photos here. They've postponed the event for a week, hoping the waters will recede. Good luck finding a hotel reservation next weekend!

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Visitation

Ok, I'm a total loser. I just discovered I can change the font on my posts.

ANYWAY, the big news is my MIL is visiting. Two and a half weeks worth of visiting. For the uninitiated, she looks great on paper. She cooks, cleans, organizes, and has helped with major demolition projects. She's a wonder Mom, including taking care of Little Brewer #1 during the week when there is no camp.

But in reality....
I have learned to hide things so she won't organize them out of existence. I check the garbage cans to make sure she hasn't thrown away treasures under the guise of "It's just cluttering up the place. They'll never miss X,Y,or Z." I rescued two pieces of Little Brewer artwork this way.

She was a great help when we had to move suddenly from Gettysburg. But she packed by size, not type. Who knows what is in that box, lurking in my basement with the carefully hand-lettered sign that says, "Small box of small things." That describes nearly everything in the house!

The other problem is the breakage. Every visit brings a broken dish, plate or glass. I've lost a bakelite handled knife (she was using it to remove wallpaper), a unique retro serving dish (knocked it off the counter), an antique plate decorated in the pine cone style (banged into the dishwasher), and countless glasses. This visit it was my 9x9 square clear glass Pyrex baking dish. Hide the Roseville!

I realize I should be incredibly grateful I am not saddled with a MIL that is hateful, spiteful or a substance abuser. Every night I try my best to think of good things and be thankful for what I have.

I spend a lot of time "working on the computer" in the office.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bye Bye, Bob

My high school drama teacher retired this week after 27 years in the school system.

Yes, Brewgal is that old. Stop snickering!

It was a warm and fuzzy affair, held in the high school theatre. There were speeches, jabs, and more than a few tears. I even took a few photos.

Here is ...well you can't really tell who that is.

Here's another photo.

Darn, too much flash.

Maybe if I hold it on my knee to steady it...

What the...? What the heck is that?

Alrighty, let's try the knee trick again.

No, he's moving too much.

Was he always running around like this in high school? Stand still, man! One more time: balance camera on knee, flash off, hold breath...wait for it....


Ok, Brewgal is not a photographer. She'll leave that up to Brewguy.

It was fab to see everyone. Capt. Scott, Amy, Allyson, Jimmy K., Linda, and of course, Mr. M-- you all look great!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Yarn search, Galway

I did my homework. I researched yarn stores on woolworks before I left. I Googled. I read the helpful tips on Being without a car, however, I was limited to what I could find within walking distance around Galway City.

I did find one shop, aptly named Yarn (in the Mill on O'Brien's Bridge Street). Here I had my first encounter with what Mr. Professor calls "the Irish way." The shop was closed, albeit temporarily, with a sign on the door saying "Back at 2:30." Ok, that's only an hour, I can find something to do. So I visited the second-hand shop nearby, walked to Sheridans Cheesemongers for a little window cheese shopping, and walked back to the store. 2:30, but no one around. So I walk back into town (it's raining at this point), check out the "Everything for 1 Euro" store, buy some trinkets for the Little Brewers and walk back to Yarn. 3:15. No one around. Well, at this point I was feeling rather annoyed, footsore and damp, so I gave up and walked back to the University.

I did finally find the shop open a few days later. It is quite small. Their main inventory is devoted to Debbie Bliss, with a selection of other knitting acoutrements such as handmade buttons. I picked up some interesting red tweed wool called "Killcarren." I don't know yet what it will be but it looked interesting.

There may be other shops within a drive of Galway but I did not have access to them. We took a drive out to Connemara one afternoon. On the way back we passed through Clifden. Around the bend of the road, rising like a lemon yellow mirage, was the Connemara Woolen Mills. Heaven! I thought. Alas, it was closed.

There are numerous shops in and around Galway City selling traditional Aran sweaters, some handmade, some of uncertain origin. I found the one in Clifden to have a more interesting selection and picked up a sweater in a lavendar wool/silk blend with overall simple cabling and a zipper up the front.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pub Review: BXL

BXL is a belgian pub in New York City (on 43rd, near Times Square). I was there on May 10, 2006. Nice woody ambience, especially given its location. With the one-time tourist traffic, you never know if the restaurants near Times Square are going to be any good.

They had seven beers on draft: two Leffes (one was the blond, not sure about the other), Karmeleit, Stella Artois, Chimay, a Lindemans, and a Cuvee BXL (house beer). I can't resist a Karmeleit, so that's what I ordered ($7).

It was served cold. *sigh* This is the big disadvantage to ordering a beer in the US. They're all too darn cold. This is not a lager, people! As a result, the overwhelming flavor was a yeasty bite, when I know this particular beer has a nice sweetness to it. It was served in the proper Karmeleit glass.

I had the Hanger Steak with red shallot sauce ($19). Fastest hanger steak ever. I think it came out in 15 minutes, tops. Tender medallions of hanger steak, cooked properly to medium rare. Thicker fries than I'm accustomed to seeing as "frites." Nice herbed mayonaise.

For me, the highlight of a good bistro steak is the sauce.
Brasserie Jo in Boston makes an amazing steak with Roquefort butter that is to die for. Mmm, roquefort... At BXL, the red shallot sauce could have been reduced a touch more to bring out its flavor. As it was, it was tasty but not spectacular. It edged on the bland, with vinegar the predominant flavor. I'm known as the Saucemeister in my house, so I demand perfection from sauces.

That being said, I basically inhaled my dinner, pausing only to make notes and test the Karmeleit to see if it had warmed up.

More Ireland Photos

Enough talk! Let's just look at some scenery.

National University of Ireland

Some boats in dry dock on the Corrib River.

Why drinking and driving don't mix.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Ireland Report, part 2

I realized I had a lot of preconceptions about what Ireland would look like. I expected a lot of this:

but the reality was a lot different. The traffic was comparable to Washington DC. It took us 45 minutes at 6pm to get across town- we were only traveling 6 miles. The economic boom has brought with it a rise in the amount of auto ownership and accompanying traffic.

And tourists. LOTS of tourists. I can't really complain, since I was one of them. It's my own personal sport to try to spot the Americans in the crowd. After a while I got pretty good. The Gortex is a dead giveaway.

Yard Sale Spoils

It's Twin Oaks Community yard sale time again! This year was the most crowded I've ever seen. We had to go two blocks into the community to find a parking spot.

The spoils:
Miscellaneous costume jewelry for Brewgal
A light green Nike warmup jacket/windbreaker
A bag of baseballs for Little Brewer #2
A Furby for Little Brewer #1

When I asked the seller how much he wanted for the Furby, he laughed and said "I should pay YOU." That should have been my first clue.

This toy is creeping me out. When we put the batteries in, it woke up and said "Ooo, long sleep."

It hiccups, it purrs, it sleeps (a LOT), it says "Wheee!" and gets hungry. When Little Brewer #1 put her finger in its mouth, I had to look away. *shudder* It resembles a Gremlin much too closely for my taste.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Ireland report, part 1

Due to scheduling issues, Mr. Brewguy dropped me off for my flight about 3 hours early. I took this photo of the Ethiopian plane for Little Brewer #2-- he loves planes. The International terminal at Dulles has a Samuel Adams bar, a Gordon Biersch and a wine bar. I chose not to sample any of them, as I expected to get wine on my flight. Next time I'll definitely check out both Gordon Biersch and the wine bar.

Fun incident #1: The Austrian Airlines flight to Frankfurt was held up for nearly half an hour while they searched for two passengers. After many calls on the PA system, it turns out they were drinking in the Sam Adams bar, located RIGHT NEXT TO THE GATE. I now realize how good gate attendants are at hiding that "I'm going to kill you" look.

Transferring planes at Heathrow. Apparently there are SO many flights you don't even get to arrive at a jetway. They offloaded us down a stairway to a shuttle, one group at a time. I snapped this waiting for the next shuttle. It's about 6:30AM, London time. I've been up since 4:30AM EST (previous day).

Heathrow is fairly quiet at that hour of the morning, aside from the crowds of jet-lagged passengers. After going through security and immigration, I had a cafe Americano and a croissant at an express counter, sat down at the window and stared at the traffic. When you're on vacation, even London airport traffic is interesting. It felt great to be back.

My Aer Lingus flight. Or maybe a different one. At this point I was feeling a little woozy from lack of sleep. Note to self: next time, fly direct to Shannon. Heathrow is ok by oneself but I wouldn't want to deal with the transfers towing small children.

On the flight my seatmate was a house painter from Ennis who was returning from 6 weeks in South America. We chatted for a while and he advised me to check out "Knockton's" pub in Galway. At least, that is how it sounded to me (more on this later).

We're home! I just love the Professors' car. It's a Fiat. Look at that color!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


We lost Melba Toast today. Best cat ever. Mr. Brewguy found her this morning, curled up under his car. No visible signs of trauma, so we are unsure whether she was hit by a car and crawled back home or simply died of old age. She was 15! We gently wrapped her in a towel and buried her out back, next to the pine tree. The Little Brewers made a sign for her that reads, "Please do not dig here. Melba."

You were a good cat, Melba Toast. See you in kitty heaven!

Sunday, April 23, 2006


13 degrees celsius, raining and a wicked wind. But who the heck cares? I was in IRELAND! No kids, no husband. A solo holiday with my dear friends the Professors (they both teach at the National University of Ireland, NUI).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'm Baaack!

A glass of Guiness at Sheridan's Pub. Just a teaser.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I'm headin' on a jet plane...

Yes, I'm leaving today for 9 days in sunny Ireland. What's that? You say it's not sunny in Ireland? Apparently I've been misinformed.

Nevertheless, gentle readers, I'll be gone for a while. To tide you over, a flying haiku.

Blackest black crow flies
In crowded skies wandering
Remarked from below

See you soon!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Girly Girl

Ponchos. Ugh. No one who lived through the 70's should be forced to make a poncho. Somewhere in a thrift store there lurks the angry orange poncho my mother knit for me when I was 11. I loved that thing, save for the fact that there were no arm holes and every time I wanted to, say, use my arms the front would flap up over my face, blinding me, which sort of negated the whole "I'm cool because I'm wearing a poncho" effect.

But when your little brewer asks for one and looks at you with those big, big eyes and says her favorite color in the WHOLE WORLD is purple (at least today it is), how could I refuse?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Unmaking

Visiting one's parents is great for many reasons, not the least of which is finding buried treasure.

When I learned to knit the second time, I made a sweater for El Jefe. Being in college at the time, and it being the '80's, I only had access to yarn from GC Murphy. I knew he liked blue so I paired it with a lovely shade of angry red. Did I pay attention to that little voice in my head saying "uhh, do these colors REALLY go together?" Nooo. Did I swatch? I hadn't even heard of swatching. I only knew I could knit in a straight line and that El Jefe was tall. So I made this monstrosity of a sweater. Note the giant stripe that accentuates the middle! See the long, long arms that dangle like unwanted bell pulls of terror! Observe the boatneck with fear!

But it was my first sweater and I had made it myself. No pattern, no help. And this is why I love El Jefe: when I presented this sweater to him, he tried it on, doubled the sleeves *up to his armpits* so they wouldn't drag on the floor, and promptly announced that he thought it was great. It was so clearly not a good sweater that even I realized he should take it off *immediately* so as not to interfere with his natural coolness.

I found it stuffed in a closet when I visited my parents at Christmas. So I took it home and promptly began to unmake it.

Maybe the little brewers need sweaters...

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Cable Pixy

I'm almost there, almost ready to try my first cable. My first project will be a simple cable up the length of a scarf. What could be easier?

Then I saw her.
The Cable Pixy.

Laughing. Joyous even. Taunting me with her needles and smug expression. Cables-HA! You think you can learn cables? Look at me, slim and fit with needles in my hands as I run the Boston Marathon! You cannot catch me, you non-cable-person you!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Good science cannot long persist in an atmosphere of intimidation. Political figures ought to be reviewing their public statements to make sure they are consistent with the best available science; scientists should not be reviewing their statements to make sure they are consistent with the current political orthodoxy."

--Sherwood L. Boehlert (R- NY) in a letter to NASA administrator Michael D. Griffin, January 30, 2006.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I have nothing against orange. I just feel it doesn't personally suit me. So why do I have five balls of this in my stash? Yard sale, of course. I can't pass up yarn.

To be fair, I have tried to use this yarn twice before, once as a sweater and once as a blanket. It *fought* me both times. Clearly it had something else in mind.

I am going to try again. I found a fabuous shrug pattern that looks to about my speed.

And here we go!

[Note to self: do not photograph orange on red background, even if it is the comfy sofa.]

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2006! Only 1,038 days until Election Day.

Time for some New Year's Resolutions. But first, let's revisit Brewgal's 2005 Resolutions.

1. Learn to cable. Yes, I’m intimidated by those hooky cable needle things but I desperately want to make a sweater with a celtic pattern braid. Oh, the torture! Uh oh. Didn't do this one.
Y. Spend more time knitting (well, duh!) Done!
Y. Use up my stash. Started this one.
Y. Replace old stash with new stash. Done!
5. Photograph all finished projects for my knitting archive. Mr. Brewguy takes pictures for a living but the cobbler’s children don’t have shoes. Working on it.
6. Teach everyone in my office to knit so they can accompany me on lunchtime stash building excursions. Heh heh heh. Working on it.

Not so bad. Let's look at this year's knitting resolutions.
  1. Learn to use circular needles. Carrying 100+ stitches on straights is damn heavy.
  2. Learn to cable. Get over the image of cable needles as tiny stockade devices for Barbies.
  3. Start Christmas gifts BEFORE NOVEMBER.
Only three. Either my standards are getting lower or my attention span is
Hey look! A birdie!