Saturday, February 27, 2010

Udolpho, Wine, Sock of the Day

 I sort of wish I'd read The Mysteries of Udolpho when I was 12. That's how old I was when I first encountered Jane Eyre and Rebecca. Back then, I was romantically enchanted with brooding, passive/aggressive heroes. These days, I want to tell Jane and The Second Mrs. DeWinter to run like the wind, and find themselves someone previously unmarried, with a sunny disposition. That's how I feel as I listen to TMoU (and listen and listen and listen- I'm on the 19th audio file, each running from 20-40 minutes long, and we're just now getting to some mildly foreboding stuff).

We're supposed to love Valencourt, and root for his and Emily's eventual Happily Ever After, but really- his passive is annoying (accusing Emily of not loving him because she won't elope), and his aggressive is worrisome (he's more than a little stalkerlicious). And he's massively stupid, sending letters openly to Emily, begging her to sneak away from her cruel Auntie, knowing full well that Auntie Cruel, and her ooky new Italian husband, both hate him, and that they inspect every piece of paper that comes into the palacio.

Of course, sweet, faintable Emily seems short a few bricks herself. And if she thinks that Valencourt isn't skulking along behind them as they travel The Alps (gorgeous scenery), she's even dimmer than I think she is.

But they're in Italy now, and I think we may finally be getting to some mysteries. And maybe we'll finally meet (or at least hear about) Udolpho.

On to less mysterious subjects (though so far, nothing could be less mysterious than The Mysteries of Udolpho). The 3 gallon batch of Chablis is in the carboy for secondary fermentation.

And we started a 3 gallon batch of Barbera, which is sort of an underdog red varietal. I'm more of a white wine person (and a sweet white wine person at that), but I like the occasional red, and we like to have it on hand for company, and for gifting. This is the first time we've tried Barbera. I'll be curious to see how it goes (and tastes, of course).

Next in the primary, a 5 gallon batch of Gewurtztrauminer, one of my favorite wines. And for the record- we don't make this many wines every year, just when we're in the mood. Evidently, we're in the mood.

We get all of our wine making supplies, including grape concentrates, from Northern Brewer, btw.

Sock of the Day- my friend Melanie gave me the yarn for these socks a few years ago. It's Marks & Kattens Clown cotton/wool sock yarn (and it took me about a dozen searches to find it- I lost the bands long ago, and didn't remember the name exactly enough for Google). The good: the socks have worn pretty well (I had to repair the heels, but I have to do that with a lot of my socks), they machine wash and dry easily, they're not quite as warm as wool/nylon socks so they're nice for spring and early fall, they look good.

The bad? These suckers bled like a dying animal. The yarn was deep red and pure white when I knitted the socks. They're pink and pinker now. And for many months, I had to wash them alone because it took forever for the excess dye to wash out.

I'm perfectly happy to have pinkish striped socks that I can wash with the rest of my laundry, but that's not what I expected when the yarn arrived.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

AI Season 9- Top 24 Elimination

Black and white angle shots, worried lineups, angst, tears, Simon's criticism... your 24 million votes are in.
This. Is. American. Idol.

Ryan reminds us that four kids are going home, and that Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen will be part of the padding tonight, helping to stretch 10 minutes of purpose into a full hour of Ratings Giant.

Ellen is wearing a white shirt, a black sweater vest and a blue gingham tie. Randy is in a red cardigan with a black armband, and I think he's wearing the same beads that he had on last night. Kara has a plunging pewter neckline and a shiny necklace that is very busy. Simon is in another half-unbuttoned white shirt- this one collarless.

No matter how squicky all of the Kara/Casey stuff makes me feel, I can't imagine that anyone seriously thinks anything is going on between them, but someone still must have thought it necessary to showcase Kara's new hubby in the audience.

And here's our first Group Sing of the season. They're singing American Boy, with which I am not familiar (I suspect I'll be saying that a lot this year). The girls all sound good together, harmonizing nicely (though they use backing tracks, so who knows if what I am hearing is them, or piped-in backup singers). Omigod- Haeley is wearing short, shiny pantaloons and another really large and stupid head ornament. Katelyn looks nearly as odd, rhythmically squatting to the music in a gray shortie romper.

So, with a minimum of preliminary fluff, we're down to the reason for the show. The girls are arranged on the bleachers, and Ryan has the top row stand.

Siobhan is safe. Haeley is safe (which disappoints me, though her outfits are sure to bring The Amusing. Or The Crazy. In either case, she'll be interesting). Michelle looks worried, but she's safe. Katelyn, of the big hair and little rompers, is safe too.

Which leaves Katie and Janell, neither of whom I expected to be in danger (not that The Other is actually in danger, they just want us to think so). Katie looks more and more like Tatiana del Toro. She also looks like she's going to faint or throw up. Janell, wearing possibly the cutest outfit I've ever seen on this show- a blue and yellow twinset, holds up admirably, even when Ryan announces that she's going home.

Wow, I didn't see that one coming. Oh that's right- she sang Heart, a fire through which only Carrie Underwood can emerge unscathed. Janell is extremely gracious, and as usual, her singout is better than Tuesday's performance, though there are still a couple of wobbly notes.

Side Note: Does Zach Braff voice over every commercial that John Krasinski doesn't?

I loved Allison Iraheta last year- her talent was natural (as in: totally untrained, and a bit wild and unpredictible), and she made it a lot further than I expected her to. She's looking good, with long, blue-streaked tomato-red hair, black lace hose and mitts, a little black mini-dress with a bustle (or a bow- some kind of unwieldly WTF? butt decoration) and boots. She's singing Scars, her new single, and it's a pretty ballad. I meant to buy Allison's album when it came out, but I forgot. I'll have check it out.

Allison makes fun of her awkward interviews with Ryan, and then has a totally awkward interview with Ryan. I do love her.

Aaand, we're back to the Ladies- front row standing: Paige is the first one Ryan highlights, so we know she's safe. Lacey, wearing an abomination of stripes, knitted rosettes, and flowers that makes Haeley's shortaloons look sensible, is safe. Lilly is going to cry even though she's safe. I hold my breath, but Crystal is safe too. Which leaves Ashley and Didi, which means that we'll be saying good-bye to gorgeous and quirky, and fragile Didi. Wait. Whoa, really? Ashley, who I figured was Top 12 Fer Shure, is going home. And as surprised as I am, that's nothing compared to what Ashley is feeling. She's saying the proper words to Ryan, but her face is telling a whole other story (and it's confirming every thing I thought about her). Poor Didi. She's probably more devasatated than she would have been if she'd gotten the boot. She isn't going to survive this process.

And now it's time for the Guys, though we see a rehearsal clip of Tyler in a bathrobe first.
In the Back Row, Mike is safe of course (though there's no of course about it, after Ashley's elimination). John is safe, and I'm glad. I know there is talent in there, and I hope he lets some of it out next week. My granddaughters dialed Aaron to safety. I have no idea who dialed Todrick in, but someone did.  We're down to Tim and Joe. Tim looks genuinely stunned when Joe is sent packing (as well he should).

I'd feel bad for Joe, except the show didn't let me get to know him, so I have absolutely nothing invested. His singout sounds fine, though I still can't understand anything he's saying.

Ryan announces that Idol Gives Back is coming back on April 21. He lists the corporate sponsors, and begs for more, and then introduces Kris Allen, who is singing for Haiti (in that proceeds of his download will go toward Hatian relief). Kris is lightly bearded and still very pretty. He sings Let It Be over a video made of equal parts devastation, and beautifully smiling children.

The guys in front stand- Casey is safe (duh), Jermaine (my brain sings hat to the side, lookin' like a foo...) is safe. Lee looks sick, and he's sticking around too. Andrew better be safe. Yes! So it's down to Tyler and Alex, who is extremely pale and may well be AI's first onstage vomiter. Simon thinks Tyler's getting the boot, and Simon is right. Alex nearly collapses, and Tyler blames the judges for not telling him how to sing better.

And I am 0 for 4 on predictions, with Ashley's ouster being an actual shocker. It's going to be an interesting season.

Thursday Tab- More Danish Ploufman Dolls

More Danish Ploufman dolls from the 60's.
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

AI Season 9- Top 24 Guys Performance

So, we're going to separate the men from the boys, eh? That shouldn't take long.

Ellen is in layered tees, Randy's in argyle, Kara is wearing studded chainmail, and Simon is sporting an unbuttoned white shirt.

Looks like Todrick Hall has his own little scandal going. I hated his audition (the original song all about Todrick), and have not found a reason to change my mind. He's wearing a black and gray leather jacket, black jeans and a gray sweater. He's singing Since U BeenGone, and this is definitely not your granddaughter's Clarkson. I suppose it's competent, but it's also everything I dislike about Todrick. Randy is right- there's changing it up, and there's rendering it totally unrecognizable.

Aaron Kelly is this year's Archuletta. He's wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, and I suspect that The Grands will love him. He has a nice voice, but he needs more stage presence. Or any at all. I didn't catch the title of his song, but it has a country twang to it. Oh, hello Glory Note. Long time, no hear. Aaron is truly wee- he's even shorter than Ryan.

For some reason Jermaine Sellers is wearing a cutaway jacket that is several sizes too small, over pants tucked into boots. He's this year's Stupid Hat Guy. His version of Get Here is total boy band, except for the screechies. Jermaine, I'm only going to say this once: Don't wink at me.

Tim Urban was cut in Hollywood, and then brought back at the last minute to replace Chris Golightly. The switcheroo wasn't mentioned last week, but Ryan makes a point to bring it up tonight. Tim's jacket is very zippery and his hair was beamed in directly from 1976. He's singing Apologize. I don't know if it's the song that sucks, or if it's Tim. Or both. Either way, Tim may very well be outta here.

I think we saw a bit of Joe Munoz in Hollywood, but not enough to get a sense of him or his talent. After his Jason Mraz, I'm still not sure. I thought at first that he was singing in Spanish, but even when I knew he was using English, I still couldn't understand one word in ten. He does have a nice tone, but his enunciation needs work.

Tyler Grady looks like the unholy child of Shaun White and Roger Daltry. He's wearing subtly tie-dyed purple shirt and scarf, and leather pants. The audience seems to be enjoying his American Woman, but it doesn't sound quite so good to someone who was around to hear it on the radio (yes, I am that old). This is not just karaoke, it's bad karaoke.

Lee Dewyse is up next. Is it time for my annual lament that critics might have liked Taylor Hicks better if he'd been allowed to perform with his guitar? No? All right then. Lee (interesting name for one so young) is wearing layered tees over artfully ratty jeans, and singing Chasing Cars. Yikes. This is really pitchy, dawg. He does have a nice tone though, especially when the tone is in the same general place where the notes are supposed to be.

Ah, John Park. The show kept him hidden during the Hollywood rounds, so I've been waiting a long time to hear him sing again. He's chosen God Bless the Child. This oughta be interesting. He's wearing a purple tee and a nice suit jacket, and I'm paying extra attention to the clothes so I don't have to listen to the voice. I had such high hopes for John, but this is really awful. He wobbles and warbles and lounge-lizards the whole way through. I'm afraid that John is in the running for the Sundance Head Audition-to-Competition Flameout Award.

Michael Lynche, in a plaid western shirt, dwarfs his guitar. He's singing This Love, though I can't understand most of his words either. I like his voice, but I think he started this one too high. However, he's totally comfortable onstage, and great fun to watch. Kara is right- if the calibre of tonight's performances had been better, Michael would not have sounded quite so good. He definitely gained by comparison.

Alex Lambert is rocking a mullet, and a tan jacket over jeans. Wow, I didn't think anyone could sound worse than John Park, but Alex has managed it. Somewhere, Mary Powers is laughing her ass off. And Ellen, I would not touch Alex's unripe banana with a ten-foot pole.

You know- there's nothing awful about Casey James's looks, but he's certainly not all that. He's doing Heaven exactly the way Bryan Adams did, and on any other night, he'd be slapped with the Big K. But given the competition tonight, he sounds just fine. Better than just fine, he's the best of the night so far.

Andrew Garcia is performing last, and normally that would mean we're in for something good. But Katie Stevens was last on Tuesday, so there goes that theory. Andrew has on a black shirt, big square earrings, and bigger glasses. He's singing some song that I don't know, by Fall Out Boy. It's a weird song, and not so much with the melody, but I like it. There is a sweetness to Andrew's tone that is pleasing. This isn't a crowd pleaser like Straight Up, but it should be enough to keep him in the running.

So- of the 12 performances tonight, 5 were flat-out painful: Todrick, Tim, Tyler, John, and Alex. Any of the 5 could, and should, get the boot, but it'll probably be John and Alex.

Best of the night: Casey and Andrew, though neither was stellar.

Tomorrow night- elimination, Allison Iraheta AND Kris Allen. It's a bit early in the game to be trotting out least year's winner, isn't it?

AI Season 9- Crystal Bowersox Top 24 Performance Video

You can get to the rest of the performances from this link as well. It's every bit as good this morning as it was last night.

And yes, I threw her a couple of votes

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

AI Season 9- Top 12 Girls Performance

Ryan walks the gauntlet on this, the first night of Season 9 voting. He introduces the 12 girls too quickly for me to list, and there are too many really bad outfits to describe them all (though I can't help noticing that Haeley is wearing a frothy white abomination).

At this stage of the game, it's 3 nights a week, with performances on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and elimination  on Thursdays, which means I'm going to have to set the DVR because I'm not missing Jim and Pam's baby even for AI.

Ellen, sitting at the far end of the judges table, is wearing a cream colored suit. Randy is in stripes. Kara is wearing a hair tumor, a messily foofy ponytail, and a blue satin, off the shoulder dress. Simon is wearing a gray sweater that looks like it's knit from a soft boucle. Simon badly wants it to be a Girl Year, and Ellen has a bit of fun at his expense.

Tonight, and for the forseeable future, the kids are singing songs from The Billboard charts, which means they can choose just about any song ever recorded.

I do not remember ever having heard Paige Miles sing. She's wearing a black lace romper with a wide satin sash, tights, and heels, and she's singing All Right Now. This is not very good, and though I don't have a timer on her, it seems like the song goes on forever (and not in a good way). I am not impressed. However, Simon thinks Paige has the best voice of all the girls, and the others agree. This mystifies me- they obviously hear something that I don't. Well, at least she can go and pee now.

Ashley Rodriguez, and her nose stud, and gold chains, and tight jeans, and white tee, and shiny silver jacket, are signing Happy. I don't love this song, but she has a good tone and is doing okay with it. What I really don't like, however, is how very very aware Ashley is of the camera. Ashley is not thrilled with the judges' criticism. She'd better get used to it because I doubt she's going home yet.

Pretty blonde Janell Wheeler is wearing a one-shouldered purple top over extremely skinny pants (which are not flattering from the back) and boots, with her 8' legs. She's singing Heart's What About Love, which is a risky choice. I like Janell's voice, but the song is way too big for her. The judges agree with me.

Lilly Scott is 20, but looks 40. She's wearing a green chicken-print dress from the 50's, and she desperately needs a new hairstyle.  She's singing The Beatles' Fixing a Hole, and accompanying herself on the guitar. I don't think she's quite pulling it off, but she's trying something really interesting here.

Katelyn Epperley carries on The Beatling, with Oh Darlin'. She's wearing a strapless black leather dress, flowered hose, and a bird in her very curly hair. She bounces up and down like she also has to go to the bathroom, and has absolutely no connection to the song, though Kara says that she improved on the original. Say what?

Speaking of Kara- she's quickly filling Paula's incoherent shoes, though even at her Purple Monkey Dishwasher worst, Paula never utterred the word "bitch" on air.

Haeley Vaughn lisps. And she graciously allows us to watch her nose being pierced. She's dressed like a 6 year old Birthday Party Princess in white tights, white shoes, row upon row of ruffles, and a big flowered headband. Oh, and a red guitar.  Lordy- it's more Beatles, with I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Oh, my, this is horrible on all levels.

Lacey Brown has major bed-redhead, and is wearing a belted toga made from Aunt Ethel's kitchen curtains. And more nasal jewelry (nose studs are rampant this year). She's singing Landslide on the Stool of Seriousness. This is a weird song, and Lacey is doing a heroic Stevie Nicks with it. I don't know what to make of the performance. Neither do the judges.

Michelle Delamor has a great smile which doesn't quite counterbalance the black satin top she's wearing (it has a bustle, fer gods sake). She's singing Alicia Keyes, and generally choosing a song that Big is a mistake, but she's doing well. In fact, she's the best one so far, except for that last note, which cut off abruptly.

Didi Benami (whose name I've misspelled throughout, I think) looks a bit like Christina Applegate. She's wearing a funky and colorful crocheted vest over black capris. She's singing The Way I Am, which I am not familiar (actual lyrics: I'll buy you Rogaine when you start losing your hair). Didi has a quirky voice and this is a quirky song, and I like it, though her last note was wonky.

Siobhan Magus has a huge flower in her hair, and is wearing a black dress and flats (rather than stilettos, like most of the others), and may just possibly have a Mary Poppins tattoo. She's changing things up with a nose ring, rather than a stud. Siobhan chose a Chris Isaak song, and does very well by it, hitting those high yodely notes perfectly. She has a good stage presence and is aware of the camera without trying to seduce it (Ashley, I'm talking to you).

Crystal Bowersox is wearing street clothes and a lip-stud. Her dreds look a bit more sculpted than before, and I think she's been to the dentist. But none of that matters. She's singing Hand In My Pocket, a song I loathe, and I don't care about that either. She's good. So damn good that I forget to be annoyed that Alanis Morissette exists. Wow! WOW! oh yeah, and even more WOW!!!!!! She knows her own voice and her own persona,  and she's totally comfortable onstage. Outside of wishing she'd ditch the harmonica (not because I dislike it, but because I'd rather hear her sing), this performance is, hands-down, the best of the night.

17 year old Katie Stevens looks a lot like last year's Tatiana del Toro, only without the crazy. She's wearing a black strapless prom dress with a red rose belt, a red headband, and red shoes. Ryan says she's singing Michael Buble's Feeling Good, but I could swear that this is a jazz standard (in other words, Michael Buble may have sung it, but it's surely not *his* song). Katie has a powerful voice, but I agree with Simon and Ellen- this was totally a Pagent Performance.

So- worst of the night? Haeley, without a doubt, with a tossup between Paige and Lacey for the other slot.

Best? Siobhan and Crystal (big surprise there).

Tomorrow night, the guys. I can't wait to hear what Andrew Garcia and John Park come up with.

Will I vote tonight? Maybe.

Getting Caught Up, Sock of the Day, More Udolpho

It has taken me a couple of weeks, but I'm finally caught up on the paperwork (well- computer work) for the new book. I should slap myself upside the head for putting off the pattern writing and sizing until I had a whole stack of projects to deal with. I've been doing this for a long time, and I know better than that... whack.

But, I'm caught up now, at least for the projects that are done, and patterns are written for those projects that are currently going to other knitters. Tomorrow, there may be more, but for today- I'm done. Which means it's time to hit the needles. And some DVD's for entertainment- I have the Joss Stone Tudor Years to watch (historically speaking, Henry was a fool for not seeing that Anne of Cleves would have been a sturdy bearer of children, even if she did smell), and more discs of Harper's Island, which is pure fluff, but enjoyable.

It's only 4 degrees out there, but my tootsies are nice and warm in these Socks of the Day. Every book has a few projects that don't make the cut, and this yarn ended up being not quite right for Yarns to Dye For, which is okay since I've worn these socks for several years now. This yarn is superwash, but I can't remember if it's Henry's Attic, Mission Falls, or Brown Sheep. I do know that it's superwash (nicely so- these have been machine washed and dried repeatedly), and that it took the dye well (this was one of those 40' skeins).

I have had to repair the heel, but that's not unusual for 5 year old socks. And they pill a bit (I think there's some Mohair in there), but otherwise, they still look pretty good.

So, finally we're getting to something interesting in audio version of  The Mysteries of Udolpho- a selfish (and maybe cruel) Auntie has shown up, and she may well make poor, orhpaned, in-love Emily's life unbearable.

It's interesting to listen to the different readers pronounce things- I've heard Emily's last name said: San Oh-BEAR, Sant Oh-BEAR, Sanober, and Saint AW-bert. And one reader thinks that the leader of a team of mules is a mullah-teer.

But the 1500's French scenery sure is purty.(Side note: I don't ever get the sense that this story is set in the 1500's even though it's supposed to be- it feels and sounds exactly like the Austen and Bronte settings to me).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sock of the Day, Chablis, Udolpho

Sorry it took me so long to get to today's post- I hate when work gets in the way of playing online (which is so much more fun than working). Not that I have a whole lot to say today, but here goes:

These socks were knit with yarn hand-dyed by my friend Betty, from Betty's Loft. If I remember correctly, she only had one hank of this mauve/gold/brown variegated worsted weight wool/mohair yarn (probably Brown Sheep), which isn't enough for a pair of socks. But I fell in love with the colors and bought it anyway, and then happened to find a ball of solid mauve Brown Sheep wool/mohair in my stash, plus some solid brown for the heel and toe (gotta love big stashes). The cuff and foot were knit in stripes (which you can't see- that's one good accidental color match). I used my usual worsted weight pattern (48 sts, size 5 needles, short row heel over 24 sts, star toe).

These socks have held up very well (it's the mohair- that stuff wears like iron), and they're very warm, cushy, and comfy, and they have a nice halo (which didn't show in the photos). Betty often has one-of-a-kind hand-dyed yarns in her shop, and they're always gorgeous.

Since we're in wine mode in Taylorville, we started a 3 gallon batch of Chablis too. This one will be a lot less fiddly than the Chokecherry/Riesling, since there's no fruit-pulp involved (and therefore no straining through pantyhose). We began with a can of Chablis concentrate, and only had to add water and sugar, and the usual additives (acid blend, and yeast nutrient). I stirred the yeast in yesterday afternoon, and by this morning, it was bubbling merrily away. We get most of our winemaking supplies from Northern Brewer, by the way. We are very happy... hic... customers...

And The Mysteries of Udolpho are progressing, if progress is the word I want to use. Probably, it's not. But finally, something spooky happened: a doggie startled the heroine.  wooooooooooo

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island, Snow (still), and Udolpho

Unless it involves Fox Mulder, Harry Potter, or fantastic animation that will enchant The Grands (Cars, Up, Monster House), we rarely make the 100 mile round trip to see first run movies (there is a theater, and a functioning drive-in screen in my town, but the movies are usually second, third, or even fourth run). I make an exception for movies based on books written by people I know.

In fact, I've known Dennis since the mid-90's, when we shared an editor at Avon. I made the trek to see Mystic River when it came out (and was blown away). And yesterday, we went to see Shutter Island.

The story is complex and dark and heart breaking and intense, and still has flashes of wonderful humor (like all of his books). Martin Scorsese directed the film version of Shutter Island, and he did an excellent job translating the convoluted story to the screen.

I'm not going to review the movie (a quick Google will give you plenty of reviews, I'm sure), but I will say that it's not a horror story (despite the trailers), though there is plenty non-paranormal horror involved in US Federal Marshall Teddy Daniel's quest to find an inmate who has escaped from an island asylum for the criminally insane (it's set in the 50's- so we can say asylum, inmate, and criminally insane and not worry about the PC Police).

Leonardo DiCaprio, as Teddy, is wonderful, the setting is perfect, and the film is beautiful to watch.

Before we went a-movieing, I sledded down some man-made snow mountains with The Grands. I also wrenched my shoulder which reminded me that I may be too old for sledding (the ticket booth kid at the theater thinks so too- she gave me the senior ticket discount without asking. I checked this morning, and the discount kicks in at age 65... sigh...).

We didn't have to go anywhere to find snow mountains- we have plenty right in our own yard.

And finally, there are still no mysteries in The Mysteries of Udolpho, though I'm noticing vague hints of one, and Emily (our intrepid heroine), keeps fainting, so I think we may get to something interesting soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Udolphian Mysteries, and Chokecherry Progress, and Halfway There

So, I'm about 5 hours into listening to The Mysteries of Udolpho, and so far there's no mystery (well, maybe just a hint of one that could possibly turn into something sorta mysterious sometime), and there's no Udolpho. It's taken a good long time for sweet Emily to SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER become an orphan, and I imagine the real story starts from that point. It is good to know, however, that idiots with guns in the 1500's were every bit as stupid as idiots with guns can be now (more SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER: Emily's father rashly fires his gun through a closed carriage door in order to save them from robbers, only to discover that he has shot the future hero of the story- I asusme- instead). However, it's an interesting book, and I'll continue on. Lots of pretty scenery, fer shure, if no plot development.

The Chokecherry wine is progressing. The original mixture (the must) in the primary fermenter (the loosely lidded bucket in the corner of our kitchen) reached the proper Specific Gravity fairly quickly.

In order to transfer the wine to the closed glass carboy for secondary fermentation, we had to remove the fruit pulp. We very quickly remembered why it is that winemaking instructions say to put the fermenting fruit in a bag. We had to scoop the floating pulp out by hand. By the way, that pulp was fermenting furiously- we could have added it to more water and sugar, and made another batch of wine (which would have had a weaker fruit flavor, but would have been just as powerful) (we didn't).

Those bubbles aren't foam, they're from the yeast, which is voraciously eating the sugar and pooping alcohol (and releasing CO2- yeah, they're farting).

Our high-tech straining mechanism to get the rest of the pulp from the must (sanitized panty hose). Next time, we'll find the bag.

Racking the must into the carboy for secondary fermentation.

The first couple of days in the carboy- look at all the sediment. Turns out that pantyhose aren't very efficient strainers.

This morning, racked again, and already beginning to clear. It's still fermenting merrily away. Now, we'll put it in a dark, cool place, and let the yeast eat to it's microscopic heart's content. We'll check the specific gravity  every few days, and in a couple of weeks, rack it again. After that, it's a matter waiting for it to finish fermenting, before continuing to the next step.

And speaking of continuing to the next step- this  morning I send the remainder of the first half of my new book's projects to my editor. Wahoo!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Tab- Danish Ploufman Dolls from the 60's

My wonderful Anonymous Danish Paper Doll Friend has generously offerred to share some more of her collection with us.

For the next two weeks, we'll be seeing dolls from artists named Ploufman, who produced these dolls with an air brushing technique, in the 60's. I have a special fondness for the Glamour Girls, and the the ladies and outfits we'll be seeing are absolutely stunning!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

AI Season 9- Hollywood Week #4

We saw 7 of the Top 24 last night, which leaves 37 kids to fill 17 slots tonight. My guess is that the show will have no problem stretching out 14 reveals to fill the hour.

Janell Wheeler, whose original audition was not so great, but was good in Hollywood with a solo guitar, and then not so great afterwards, is up first. Ellen grins as Janell makes her way to the stage, so it's probably good news. Yep, it is.

Tyler Grady looks more like an Olympic snowboarder, or a Jay Leno impersonator, than a singer. I don't remember much about his singing, but he's in too. He pulls a fakeout for his family, and that kind of grandstanding always annoys me.

Lacey Brown is on her second Hollywqood trip.She was in the Top 50 of Season 8, but was dropped in favor of Megan Joy (and we all know how well that worked out... CAW...). I don't know if she had aggressively red hair last year or not, but she sure has it now. She's in.

Side Note: evidently no chunky girls need apply. Every one of the female finalists so far is tall and thin, and most have 80" legs.  I'm pretty sure that vocal ability isn't linked to waist size, but you wouldn't know it by this year's female finalists. Interesting that the guys aren't held to that standard.

In quick succession, Ashley Rodriguez, Alex Lambert (take that Mary Rogers), and Joe Munoz are put through.

Aah, here's Crystal Bowersox, my fave so far. She's not totally clear about the AI audience or demo, but she's good enough that I overlook her ignroance and facial jewelry. She's in, and I am elated.

Katie Stevens is in despite the flower in her hair.

We see a string of rejections, but we don't know these kids, so we don't care.

Angela Martin is on her third trip to Hollywood. First time around, she was dealing with the death of her father, and a handicapped daughter. Last year, she had to withdraw to do jail time (for traffic violations? must have been some badass tickets). This year, she's unencumbered by grief or indictments, and ready to join the Top 24, and yet Kara still gently delivers the bad news. Ryan is very sweet about it, and Angela swears not to give up.

Lilly Scott, all platinum hair, improbable earrings, flowered hose, and floppy boobs, is in.

also Paige Miles (who?), Siobahn Magus, Michelle Delamor, Jermaine Sellers, and John Park (yeah!).

So, we have twenty minutes left, and just two slots to fill. Think the show can stretch the proceedings out that long?

Haeley Vaughn and Tori Kelly are both vying for the final female spot (which means that SD auditioners Audri Vargas and Mallorie Hayley are both already out. damn). I much prefer Tori, and Iwould have liked to at least hear Audri, which means that Haeley will get the nod.

On the men's side, it's down to Andrew Garcia (my other fave) and Thaddeus, who is rocking the Sleestack hair. Thaddeus is only 16, but his reaction to being rejected makes me wonder if he's eight. Mamma follows him into the bathroom stall to offer comfort.

Which means that Andrew is in, though he doesn't know it for a bit.

And finally we have our Top 24. Girls (who are mostly too old to be called girls, but we'll go with the show's terminology): Didi Benamin, Paige Miles, Lacey Brown, Ashley Rodriguez, Katelyn  Epperly, Michelle Delamor, Katie Stevens, Haeley Vaughn, Siobahn Magus, Janell Wheeler, Lilly Scott, and Crystal Bowersox.
and Guys: Todrick Hall, Tyler Grady, Aaron Kelly, John Park, Andrew Garcia. Lee Dewyse, Joe Munoz, Tim Urban, Michael Lynche, Casey James, Alex Lambert, and Jermaine Sellers.

Starting next Tuesday, it's up to us. Are we ready?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

AI Season 9- Hollywood Week Night #3

So, 71 kids remain. We see clips of them singing with the band, and of the judges mumble mumble mumbling together as they decide which ones to advance, which to send home, and which to torture (easy: all of them).

As usual, the kids are divided into three rooms to await their fate, but it's obvious that whatever group includes Andrew Garcia and Katie Stephens is a gimmee.

We get to see a few of the singers- Angela Martin has a good jazzy voice, and is wearing a one-shouldered animal print top, leggings and heels. Casey James (he of Kara's sexual harrassment) sings something very much in the style of Jack Johnson. While I don't quite see Kara's fascination with Casey's looks, I do like his voice a lot. Jermaine Purifoy has a good voice and Jermaine Sellers does not. Both, I believe, sing Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror.

We get another glimpse of the judges- Ellen is wearing a suit jacket, vest and tie. For some reason, Kara is wearing a horrible, strappy, skimpy gray knit dress that appears to have built-in nipples (or, as we say in Taylorville: her turkeys are done).

Sometime previously, Ellen commanded Siobahn Magus to youthen herself, which advice Siobahn implemented by wearing a shiny rayon mini-dress, leg warmers and a ratty denim vest.

We get a clip of Crystal Bowersox on stage, and ooooohhhhh, I love love love her. I assume Crystal will be part of the Top 24, and I hope she engages the services of a good dentist.

Alex Lambert survived both a ukelele and Mary Powers. He Jack Johnsons himself admirably as well.

New daddy, Big Mike Lynche plays his guitar and sings. He does both just fine.

Todrick Hall is equal parts attitude and boy band, neither of which is my style.

Thaddeus Johnson's momma is enthusiastic and supportive (and maybe just a bit of a Stage Mom- how old is Thaddeus anyway, that his mommy is here with him?). The band begins playing the wrong song, and Thaddeus rolls with the glitch, and then sings Man in the Mirror better than the previous singer(s).

Mary Powers ditched the pink highlights. Unfortunately, she kept the personality.

Charity Vance's voice is weak and not pleasing. Ditto Tasha Leighton's.

Dockworker Lloyd Thomas misses his family, so he won't be too sad when he has to go home, which I assume will be the case after his performance.

Brian Walker, police officer, got finger guns from Simon, which may or may not be a good thing.

Hope Johnson tempts fate by singing Home badly, in a tunic, black leggings and ugly shoes.

Shelby Dresser, she of the facial paralysis, has a much stronger voice than I remembered. She's nervous though, and has a hard time remembering her lyrics. My compliments to whoever is helping Shelby with her styling- she looks great.

Foster Home kid Aaron Kelly is forgetting Sarah Maclachlan's lyrics too.

Ashley Rodriguez has troweled the tanner on, and she's playing to the camera rather than performing for her audience (which, I suppose, is us, but still).

Lee Dewyze is a singing paint salesman. And Jose Munoz makes me hope that Man in the Mirror will be officially and permanently banned from American Idol.

Janell Wheeler is sick, and her journey through the Taylor Swiftian universe where Romeo and Juliet live happily ever after, is plodding and boring.

So Room 1 has Tori Kelly, Lilly Scott (sandwich maker with the platinum hair and huge crocheted earrings), Andrew Garcia, Katie Stephens, and Casey James. Room 2 has Mary Powers, which is all I need to know. I don't recognize anyone in Room 3, but since it doesn't have Mary Powers, I don't care.

None of the kids in Room 1 have ever seen this show, because they're actually worried when the judges enter. Of course, they're through.

Room 2, of course, is going home. Goodbye Singing Policeman, and cute, sad, little Hope, and... Mary Powers. 

Evidently Room 3 is far from the jubilation and despair of Rooms 1 and 2, so they don't know that they're safe, which allows the judges to yank their collective chains.

So we're  down to 48 kids, and have an hour of air time left to kill, and we're obviously not going to name the whole Top 24 tongiht because that would leave nothing for tomorrow night's hour.

But we have time to name a few. The next morning at 7:00am, the survivors file back into the Kodak Theater for the final cut before they're thrown to the voting lions.

Ellen is in pirate stripes, and Kara is wearing a ruched, ruffled, and gathered gold bubble top, which is every bit as ugly as yesterday's dress, but at least leaves the state of her chestal area to our imaginations.

First up, ushered into the theater and on stage- just him and the judges, is Michael Lynche. Michael feels just fine about his performances and chances, which Simon fixes in a hurry, undermining every bit of Big Mike's confidence before giving him the good news that he's in the Top 24.

Next is The Hub's favorite, Didi Benamin (one of my top 3 performers from last week). Didi is fragile, and prone to tears, and is scared because her other performances were not as good as she wanted them to be. Didi falls apart before, during, and after hearing that she's also in the Top 24.

Katelyn Epperly, whose sob story is that her parents divorced (which strikes me as not quite tragic enough to trot out as a sympathy-grabber). She's wearing a dumb hat and an ugly dress, and I don't think she's very interesting or talented, but she gets in too.

Shelby Dressel is next, and given that the first three shown move on, the odds are against her. Randy delivers the bad news, which Shelby accepts gracefully. I wish her well.

The judges don't bother torturing Casey James. He's in.

Aaron Kelly biffed his final performance, and had a hard time with that whole remembering the words thing, but he's in. I like his voice, so I'm glad for him.

Lee Dewyze struggled, and Simon was obviously bored during at least one of his songs, and I figure that Kara is breaking the bad news to him, but it's not bad. He's in too.

Todrick Hall annoyed the hell out of me in his original audition, and he hasn't done much else since. Reminding me that he's related to Fantasia in some manner isn't helping. He's in.

Jessica Furney made it to Hollywood in Season 8. She is certain that she is good enough for, and deserves a spot in, the Top 24. She reacts badly when Randy tells her otherwise, first begging, and then demanding a recount. Unfortunately for Jessica, the decision is final. She blames her failure on everyone and everything, except herself. Good riddance Jessica.

So, we have now met 7 of the Top 24. We'll see the rest, or as many of the rest as they allow us to see, tomorrow night. I have high hopes for Crystal Bowersox and Andrew Garcia, and the two South Dakota girls whose fate remains unknown.


Let's see, we have
1 (one): Very pretty sunrise lighting the snow

1 (one): Car that isn't going anywhere

1 (one): Pickup in the same condition

And 1(one): Knitting Blogger about to commence whining about the long winter

Monday, February 15, 2010

Six More Weeks? Hah!

We don't pay attention to Groundhog Day in these here parts, except for a ceremonial viewing of the movie, which I love unreservedly. If we only had six weeks of winter to look forward to from the beginning of February, we'd be thrilled. As it is, we could have snow on the ground until April.
This is what my world looked like last night, before sunset.

This is a 6' drift in our side yard, carved and shaped by the wind.
This was the path leading to my front steps, which is covered entirely this morning with new drifts. The Hub took the pickup up the half mile driveway (which is actually a township road), and got stuck near the end and had to be towed into town, where he will remain until the snowplow opens our road. Which may not happen today given that we're the only ones at the end of the road, it's not a through-street, and there are no children needing the school bus tomorrow.

So for now, and maybe for a couple of days, I'm here by myself. Just me and my computer, and lots of work to do. (well, I do have electricity, and plenty of food, and the TV and the Olympics, and a bunch of DVDs to watch... it's not a hardship, unless I continue to lop pieces off myself, as I did to my thumb this morning while slicing up a pineapple. Or I lose power).

Life on the Prairie- it's an adventure, fer shure.

In the meantime, I'm listening to The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, the gothic novel referenced constantly in Northanger Abbey (which I finished on the treadmill yesterday. The assorted readers pronounced Northanger in many ways, rhyming it with manger, anger, banger, and in one memorable case: lunger). Northanger is a wonderful book, smart, funny, and a delight from beginning to end, though I still harbor a bit of suspicion about Henry Tilney's true leanings (only falling in love with Catherine because she fell in love with him, and because his father treated her shabbily, not to mention his deep and detailed knowledge of fabric, fit, and fashion). Udolpho is starting slowly, taking its time to set things up, but I suspect they're going to become spooky soon, what with the avaricious uncle rubbing his hands in glee over the beautiful niece who could be married advantageously.  I'm looking forward to some plot, any plot, developing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines and Wine

The must (the mixture of mushed chokecherries, sugar, water, acid, and other additives) came to room temp a lot faster than we expected yesterday.
We couldn't find the mesh bag that we usually use for the fruit in the primary fermentation stage, so we just let the chokecherries float free. That won't hurt anything, though it will make racking to the carboy more complex.

I mixed up a yeast starter (Riesling concentrate, yeast nutrient, packet of wine yeast) and allowed it to percolate for a couple of hours, and then stirred it into the bucket.

Which started bubbling away almost immediately. This is what it looked like this morning- a thick layer of solids on top.

And this is the must after stirring- it's bubbling away merrily, yeast pooping alcohol all over the place. (The yeast eats the sugar, and emits CO2- the bubbles- and alcohol).

I participated in a couple of Valentines exchanges on Ravelry, both from the Knitting, Tea and Cookies group.

For one exchange, we sent a teabag and a valentine to everyone on a list. I got some yummy ones: Rooibos ,
Tazo Wild Sweet Orange, Stash White Peach Oolong, Bigelow White Chocolate KissesHarney & Sons Orange Pekoe, Organic Stash Premium Green Tea, American Classic Tea Charleston Tea Plantation, Eastern Shore Tea Copmpany Jack Frost Herbal Tea,   Eastern Shore Tea Company Victorian Rose,   and  Four O'Clock Organic Fair Trade Black Tea Chai (I couldn't find a link directly to this variety). The weather has been nasty, and I haven't been to the PO for a couple of days, so there may be more goodies waiting for me.

From the larger exchange (I sent tea and handspun yarn), I got a tin of Harvest Herb Tea Chocolate Chai, a lovely teacup and saucer, some adorable pencils, a heart ornament, and sugar free chocolates.

I know what I'll be sipping today. Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sweet Cherry Wine, Sock of the Day

Okay, not so sweet, I'm just in a Tommy James and the Shondells mood.

We're starting a 5 gallon batch of chokecherry wine with the 18 lbs of chokecherries that we picked last summer and froze.
They have to thaw and come up to room temp, and we have to pick out bits of leaves that we missed last summer, but come tomorrow night, we should be able to add the yeast, and in 2 days, it should be bubbling away.
We have all of the ingredients, and will add a quart of concentrated Riesling juice (all of our fruit wines have a grape base). And since it's that time of year, we will probably also start a 3 gallon batch of Chablis. Expect many pictures (though not a lot of tasting, since the chokecherry wine won't be good until it ages a few years).

I can't remember what number this Sock of the Day is, so I'm going to stop numbering them. I do know that they were knit from Opal yarn, and I believe the colorway was called Bumblebee, which is now discontinued, and evidently hard to find (so hard to find that I couldn't locate a confirmation of the colorway name. I'm relying on my often faulty memory).

I made them with my usual generic sock pattern (2.75 needles, 60 sts, 15 rnds K2 P2 ribbing, 6" cuff, short row heel, 6" foot, Star Toe), and they've held up pretty well (a minor repair in one heel). Opal yarn machine washes and dries like a dream.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Settling back into a routine

It's taken awhile to get back into my normal schedule after all the traveling I've done in the last six months. The settling has been interrupted by good things and bad (good being a visit from Oldest Son, who needed to be ferried to and from the Sioux Falls airport, bad being more snow. again. still). We were snowed in for a couple of days (again. still), but we are once again mobile, and able to exit the premises for milk and bread. And my knitting group, whence I will travel today. I'm excited to see everyone since I missed last month's meeting. And I'm excited to get most of the first half of the Fair Isle book projects in the mail to my editor, right after I show them off at the Red Rooster.

In the meantime, I'm still listening to Northanger Abbey, which continues to delight. This recording was done by many readers (for Librivox), and while some of the readers are better than others (Kristen McQuillen, in particular, is very very good), none are bad. The story is quite funny, and I'm enjoying it enormously. It's interesting to hear just how many ways Northanger can be pronounced. Hard G. Soft G. And everything in between. Maybe next, I'll try one of those sensational novels by Mrs. Radcliffe.

And finally, look at these adorable boys wearing the bucket hat from I Heart Felt. The hats (and boys) were produced by Jessica, Twinknitting, from Ravelry. Thanks for sharing!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Tab- Miranda and her Doll

This is one of my very early original paper dolls, drawn back when I was still using pen and ink, and heavy watercolor paper. She's so early, that she's not even dated (my guess: low 80's), and I am pretty sure she was never published anywhere.

Also, I obviously didn't have a ruler at hand...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

American Idol Season 9 Hollywood Week #1, 02-10-10

So, it's Group Night, the most brutal episode of the season. 96 of the original 181 Hollywoodites remain, and watching them divide into clumps and decide on a song (it's not clear if they are given free reign, or have to choose from a pre-ordained list) is guaranteed to provide the drama which is the air this show breathes.

Mary Powers, rocker who tries too hard, was marginally annoying last night. I will soon learn just how annoying she can be. My first clue is her new, purely stupid hairdo. Next clue is how she runs roughshod over the rest of her group- adding and subtracting members, condescending all over them, being more and more stupid with her hair, and ignoring Michael Orland (never a good idea).

She's not the only one, of course. Everyone is forming tribes, peeing on chairs and posts to mark territory, and glaring meaningfully at rival groups.

In amongst the teapot tempests, Big Mike Personal Trainer is waiting for the birth of his first child. I don't have an opinion on whether he should leave the show in order to attend his wife and soon-to-be progeny. If they (meaning the couple) are okay with it, so am I.

We check back in with Mary Powers, who is really starting to grate.

And now we have some teary eyes (mine) as Mike welcomes his new daughter via long distance.

And finally, we get to the actual singing.

First group, Fate (or maybe Faith), is a trio doing Beyonce, consisting of Charity Vance, Ashley Rodriguez, and Michelle Delamor (a new face, methinks). All of them get the nod.

Team Awsome, consists of new daddy Michael Lynche, Seth Rollins (with the autistic son), Tim Urban (who we met last night), and Michael Castro (whose brother is not mentioned at all). Michael and Tim make the cut.

Neapolitan is feuding with Destiny Wild- they're rehearsing close to each other, and both are singing the same really dumb song in pretty much the same awful way. One of the groups stole the other's group's idea, but it's not really clear to me which one is at fault (or if there is any fault to assign). For some reason, all of Neapolitan makes it through. Destiny Wild (complete with a Rhianna-bee) sings marginally better, but are still annoying. They all make it through too.

We see a few more of the kids who get the nod, without hearing them sing. Crystal and her dreds, from last night, is in that montage (wahoo!)

Ahhhh- here's what we wait for on Group Night: forgetting words, pitiful begging, hugs from Ryan, young people thinking that their lives are over because they were cut from a game show. You know, the usual.

Struggling group, Phoenix lost a member at the last moment, when one girl bailed rather than fail. The last minute change threw the already shaky group for a loop, and they performed badly. Morea whined about having to do what every other group was asked to do (namely: perform), and paid the price.

A bunch of kids choose to sing that oooo-ooooh wheee-whooo song that my granddaughters loved a couple of summers ago from the Kidz Bop album, and only one girl gets the tongue twisting lyrics (which are very modern major general) right.

Middle C (Sea?), with Janell Wheeler, Jermaine Purifoy and Casey James, sounds wonderful, and I would be very surprised not to see all three in the Top 24.

Ditto Three Men and a Babe's Andrew Garcia, Katie Stevens and J.B. Ahfua (who is new to me).

And true to form, the show saved the Drama for the last- The Dreamers, consisting of Mary Powers and some others she bossed and pushed around, make an absolute mess of their song. and of course, Mary, who could not squash a smug smile, made it through.

So 71 of the 96 survived to sing another day. Or in our case, Hollywood Week #2, which promises even more drama. We still have not seen either of the South Dakota girls, and there's been no word on our local news about them, so I have no idea if they're still in the running or not. I guess I'll find out next week. Or the week after.