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WIP Wednesday: Release the Kraken September 26, 2012

Posted by J. in Sticks and String.
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I know what you’re thinking: what happened to the green sweater? Answer: it’s been shelved for awhile. It’s too late in the year for a summer sweater now, so I’ll pick it up again this winter and hopefully have it ready for Spring. Custom work has been taking up most of my time and I’m not even really into holiday knitting yet.

Currently on the needles is a squid hat. Or an octopus. Perhaps a kraken. The jury is still out. My friend Mary of Dead Pony Hat fame has commissioned another chapeau for herself, this one of a squid. Or an octopus. Could be Admiral Ackbar.

The eye will be knit as well and stitched on, and if you see the bottom of the hood–the part touching the desk–that’s where the scarf will attach. The scarf will be tentacles, of course. I’ll begin casting on for that today. I’m trying to decide between octopus and squid. I’m leaning towards octopus at this point.

Or Admiral Ackbar. IT’S A TRAP.

Mary’s also got me working on a couple of other things, but because they’re secret squirrel gifties, they shan’t be discussed.

But we can talk about the ponies.

I have just finished and mailed the worst pony yet. Worse than Inverted Pony.  Did I show you that? I don’t think I did…

I said, “An inside-out rectally inverted pony is impossible, both anatomically and in the context of the medium.” I was WRONG.

My friend Bill–not St. Joseph Bill, a different, sicker, more twisted Bill–said he wanted to see a pony that had had its head pulled out of its ass.

I said it couldn’t be done.

He said, “Just DO IT.”

I sighed and got my hook out but I was dubious that it would work. I was three-quarters of the way through it still doubting it was going to work. Then, I needle felted the inside of the eyes, and I knew it was going to work. And it was going to be the grossest thing I’d ever created.

You ever needle-felted an optic nerve? I have.

And it was the grossest thing. Until someone said the words “centipede pony” and I heard a sound in my head like a needle being pulled off an LP.

If you’re not familiar with the movie The Human Centipede, I was going to say Google it, but then I realized if those words don’t bring a mental image to mind, you’re lucky. What has been seen cannot be unseen. You can follow the link if you want a visual of what I was compelled to make, but for the faint of heart (and how did you sneak in here if you’re faint of heart?) know that it’s a horror movie in which three people get surgically joined rectum to mouth.

I know. I told you not to look.

And the friend of mine who bought the original Decapitated Pony placed her order for Centipede Pony.

Now feeeeeeeeeeed her…

I wish I could say I don’t feel good about this, but this tickled me pink to make. It has been suggested that I could use a bit of therapy if creating such truly disgusting things is fun for me, but I say PFFFFFFTTTTT. It’s cheaper than therapy.

Oh, and I finished the snowflake mittens I was showing off last week.

Wool of the Andes in Coal and Wool of the Andes Tonal in Gypsy, my own pattern.

Okay, that’s all that’s cooking and hooking over here this week. Now, I must return to my creature of the deep hood/scarf hat thing. Octopus? Squid? Cthulhu?

I probably should decide pretty soon…

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Gilded by Gaslight September 24, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius.
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As part of Reader’s Choice Monday, Lenny asked what I could do with the phrase “Gilded by Gaslight.” I went to college in Newport, Rhode Island and the phrase made me think of the Cliff Walk and of the Gilded Age mansions that served as summer cottages for the social elite.  I came up with this bit of short fiction. 

*****

Alice slipped out of her room, her bare feet gliding noiselessly over the highly polished wood floors.

The house was still and quiet so close to midnight. The grandfather clock in her father’s library chimed the quarter hour, its deep, sonorous ring echoing out into the great hall and disappearing into the painted fresco high over her head.

She pulled her dressing gown of fine, white cambric around her and crept down the long hall without a sound, for she knew that while the house seemed to be sleeping, a squadron of workers—both live-in and hired for the occasion—were toiling away behind closed doors preparing the house for her wedding the next day.

She paid no more attention to them than she would have the gentle horses in the stable or a hive of busy bees in the back garden. The closed doors she passed on tiptoe were packed to capacity with out-of-town relatives and close friends who would be scandalized to see the bride-to-be courting bad luck by slipping out of her room to see her fiance before the ceremony.

Alice didn’t fear bad luck. But as she lay in her bed with the eiderdown tucked up against the omnipresent Newport breeze, she struggled to breathe, her chest growing tighter with each tick of the mantle clock. She had opened the window and leaned on the sill hoping the music of the ocean and the fresh, salty sea air would calm her nerves, but the call of the waves crashing and breaking over the rocky cliffs that surrounded their summer “cottage” grated on her nerves and the smell of sea spray on the wind made her feel jumpy and unsettled.

She paused outside Richard’s door, her slender hand on the polished brass doorknob. She knew he was likely sound asleep and would be cranky at being waked at so late an hour. He was fastidious in his personal habits and a slave to schedule and she hesitated to wake him. She knew he would likely be short with her for waking him, and as dismissive of her nerves the night before their wedding as he frequently was with anything he waved off as mere “womanly concerns.”

Taking a deep breath to compose herself, she rested her forehead against the door. She knew this oppressive, caged in feeling was probably nothing more than bridal jitters, and she knew once she saw Richard’s face and heard his reassurances that they would be happy together forever, that she would be able to sleep soundly.

She knocked softly and turned the knob, opening the heavy door and letting in a sliver of amber light shine on the large mahogany bed.

Richard seemed to be tossing restlessly beneath the rumpled white sheets, his legs kicking and twisting, and she could hear his breathing coming labored and deep.

Richard?” she said softly, her face contorting with worry for him.

A face turned and looked at her, but it was not his dark head and glittering eyes staring back at hers. A young girl, clearly a housemaid by the uniform draped carelessly over the foot of the bed, sat up and turned her head to stare wide-eyed at Alice. Her blonde curls tumbled down her back and she gasped, grabbing the sheet and covering herself and she slid cowering out of Richard’s arms and off the high bed. Alice watched, horrified as the girl fumbled into her dress and ran from the room, leaving her shoes and stockings behind.

Richard said nothing but sat up with a bemused smirk on his lips, reaching for the cigarette case on his nightstand. He struck a match and lit the tip, extinguishing the flame with a stream of smoke. He lay back comfortably against the pillows, his manhood swollen and purple and she put her hand over her mouth in digust. “Can I dare hope you were coming to take her place?” He asked, raising one eyebrow rakishly at her.

How could you?” she stammered. “We’re supposed to be…”

Married. Tomorrow. Yes, I know.”

Alice’s eyes filled with tears and her voice seemed small in the large room. “I thought you loved me.”

Richard inhaled deeply making the tip of the cigarette glow red in the dimly lit room. “That’s the problem with letting girls read,” he said, breathing out another thin stream of smoke. “You fill your heads with romantic drivel and waste your time on childish fantasy. Surely your mother sat you down and explained how marriage works.”

Alice said nothing but felt a hot tear run down her cheek. Her mother had explained in very terse, very hushed tones what was expected of her as a wife. She alluded to men and their animal needs and how they would need, on occasion, to debase themselves with lower class women, but that a gentleman would never allow that to interfere with his duties as a husband and impressed upon Alice that a lady would never allow his extra-marital necessities to interfere with her duties as a wife.

She never believed it of Richard. Whether she was in his arms, stealing kisses beneath a rose-covered arbor on one of their late afternoon walks, or on his arm, his eyes full of pride as he displayed his future wife, she felt certain of his love for her. She was as sure as the sunrise over Narragansett Bay that he only had eyes for her.

To see him with another woman—scarcely a woman, even—on the eve of their wedding was bad enough, but that he would show no remorse, no shame; that he wouldn’t even attempt to hide his animal lusts from her was more than she could process. The fist that had been squeezing her heart all evening tightened so that she thought she would cry out from the pain.

Her mind reeled and she felt faint, and turning unsteadily on her heels, she bolted from the room, running down the hall towards the grand staircase. She heard him behind her, and looked over her shoulder to see him pulling on a dressing gown and following her. “Don’t be a damned fool!” he called after her in a harsh whisper. “This changes nothing.”

A strangled cry escaped her lips, a primal sound of pain and shattered dreams. As her feet hit the parquet of the great hall, she pivoted and turned to the mirrored ballroom, running through the great doors into the room readied for their wedding ceremony. The gilded plaster shone in the gaslight and the heady smell of orange blossoms and gardenia assaulted her in a wall of cloying fragrance. The sight of everything white and gold and shining, so full of promise and joy swam before her eyes, her tears making the images smear and run together.

Richard was behind her, breathing hard. “Alice,” he said sternly. “That girl meant nothing to me. She is nothing. You will be my wife and mistress of a house every bit as grand as this one…”

His hand was on her arm and she pulled it away, tearing the fine fabric of her gown in her disgust. “Don’t touch me.”

Richard grabbed her again, his fingers digging into her upper arm. “You will be my wife and I will touch you whenever I want.” His voice softened slightly, but his hand remained firm. “I am fond of you and will do my best to make sure you have everything you want, and you will do the same.”

Alice turned her dark eyes to his. She felt her lip tremble as she spoke. “All I ever wanted was your love.”

She jerked her arm away and ran for the French doors, throwing them open and running out across finely manicured lawns. The grass was soft and cool beneath her feet and she heard the roar of the breakers in the distance grow louder as she ran. She ran toward the ocean, toward the high cliffs and salty, stinging spray.

Alice! Stop!” Richard shouted after her as she ran out onto the exposed rock and felt her way across the cold, slippery surface. Her foot slipped and she felt the salt water sting and burn as her flesh was laid open by a jagged piece of sea stone. The pain felt real and she clung to it like a lifeline. She picked her way down over the face of the rock, following a well-worn, steep path across the cliff face worn irregular by the incessant pounding of the tides. Her thin gown was wet with spray and she shivered as it clung to her body.

Richard’s voice was growing louder, and higher in pitch as nervousness began to creep into it. “Alice! What are you doing? Please stop and come back up here. We can talk about this–”

A wave crashed against the rocks and forced her back against the cliff face, slapping her with an icy hand. She inhaled sharply from the shock and felt the iron fist in her chest release and slip away with the tides.

She was free, here by the sea. The crashing and rushing of the waves, the cold cleansing baptism of the Atlantic meeting the shore, the fathomless depths called to her and promised her a life outside of her gilded cage. No marital duties to be performed. No loveless eyes ignoring her over breakfast every morning only to rake over the housemaids and scullery girls in appraisal. No need for being concerned over manners and deportment and remaining calm and unflappable in all circumstances.

The ocean was wild and untamed. Free.

Calmly, she stepped to the edge of the rock and leaned towards the dark water, smiling as a wall of water broke of the rock. She gave herself over to its cold embrace, falling with it, letting it pull her into its bed.

The last thing she heard was a crunch and saw a blinding flash of golden light as her head dashed against a sharp rock.

As Richard watched her white clad body carried out with the tide, her dark hair in a bloody fan around her head, she felt nothing but the warm peace of deep sleep.

WIP Wednesday: Norwegian Mittens September 19, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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Currently on the needles is a special order pair of Norwegian mittens. She wanted a pair to match this hat:

The pattern for the mittens is my own design. As you can see, I make these a lot and my pattern has seen better days.

I’m using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in “coal” and WOTA Tonal in “gypsy”.

They’re coming right along! Show tunes are turned up loud and the knitting progresses!

Happy Wednesday! What do you have on the needles today?

 

Get Off My Lawn September 17, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI, Genius.
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You know, when I was a girl, things were different.

Cookie Monster went apeshit over cookies. I mean, he’s a cookie MONSTER. He’s sane and rational until he gets a whiff of cookies and then BAM. He’s a junkie. A total crack-head. He’s plowing through a plate of snickerdoodles like there’s no tomorrow and he isn’t stopping until he’s spent, his eyes swirling around in his head, crumbs all up in his fur.

But Cookie’s been to rehab, man. Now, cookies are a once-in-a-while treat. Cookie eats vegetables now. He probably does yoga and sees his therapist once a week.

And when did Big Bird get so whiny? Maybe when I was a kid I didn’t notice it so much, but now that I’m a grownup, I can’t help but notice that Big Bird whines like a bitch every time he opens his mouth. If there’s someone on Sesame Street that needs to see a therapist, it’s him. I have never wanted to slap a Muppet so much in my life.

Yes, that includes Elmo.

Image

At least they’re getting something right.

They tell me that Mr. Rogers is getting a reboot of sorts, featuring the puppets from the show. Or at least one of them. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is going to be a thing.

My friend Beeby is rage-stabby about it. I’m…nothing. Maybe they’ll manage to keep the spirit of Fred Rogers in it, but I don’t know. I’d rather watch re-runs. I found out he died while I was on the stationary bike at the gym. I tried very, very hard not to cry. My mother hated him, but to this day, I appreciate his kindness and gentleness. I loved him.

I can’t be too hard on PBS Kids. Honestly, my kids learn nothing from me. Nuh. Thing. They hate it when I try to teach them anything. It’s why Emma learned to tie her shoes at the neighbor’s house and why Mary learned to swim from a friend. It’s part of the reason I could never homeschool. They just don’t listen to my instruction. The other reason is that I would kill them if I had to spend all day with them. I really don’t like being a parent all that much. I’m just putting that out there.

If my kids went into school knowing their letters and numbers and how to count things, it’s because of PBS Kids. And Nick Jr. God, I miss Blue’s Clues with Steve. Not Joe. Joe sucked. But Steve had a Mr. Rogers thing going on that I loved. I watched all the episodes over and over again with Buggy and we both enjoyed them.

As the kids have gotten older, Nick is still a mainstay in our house. I have to admit that with the exception of Big Time Rush, I don’t mind it so much. I like iCarly. It’s Dave’s favorite show. We all like Spongebob, especially the older episodes.

But the Disney Channel? Fuck them. I don’t mind Playhouse Disney for the really little kids. But anything that involves actors sucks and should be killed with fire. There isn’t a child character that isn’t an obnoxious asshole and the story lines BLOW. If there’s a station that’s raping my childhood dreams, it’s Disney.

I grew up on Disney movies. Every Sunday night we’d watch The Wonderful World of Disney and it was magical. We watched movies, made-for-TV movies, cartoons and shorts and they were…well, wonderful. I miss the variety of the programming and how my parents would watch too because the shows were good and entertaining for the whole family.

I have hope, though. I was sitting in here the other day and I heard Dave change the channel in the other room. I heard the buttons stop clicking and the sound of him pulling my grandmother’s rocking chair up to the TV. He was watching Bugs and Daffy argue over whether it was duck season or rabbit season and belly laughing at it.

That’s right, Sonny. That’s when they knew how to make a cartoon. Now you kids get off my lawn.

Badass Saint Joseph the Worker September 16, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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St. Joseph the Worker by Badass Saints

I made this Badass Saint for my dear friend Bill.

He asked me awhile ago if I would make a Badass St. Jude for his godmother because Jude is her favorite Saint, and of course I took the commission. But while I was working on St. Jude, I got a clear idea in my head that Bill needs a Badass Saint of his own, and the Saint that was perfect for him was St. Joseph. It came to me as a fully-formed thought in a moment of complete clarity. I had no doubts. I didn’t need to do any research of other Saints. I knew St. Joseph was for him and that I had to make it. I believe I was divinely ordered to do so, and I don’t often argue with God. Well, I do, but I usually lose, and in this case, God and I were totally on the same page.

“Poops.” Sometimes God calls me Poops. “You need to make a St. Joseph doll for Bill. He needs a little reminder in his life that when things are hard, I’m with him.”

“I couldn’t agree more, God. That’s an awesome idea.”

“Thanks, Poops. I do have them from time to time, you know.”

St. Joseph doesn’t fit my usual mold. He wasn’t a martyr. He was one of the non-showy Saints. He was very much a supporting character, but his martyrdom was of the everyday, quiet, strong, caring kind. He gave his life for Jesus by being a dad, a provider, a husband, and a protector. He was by all accounts a good and humble man, and if there was ever a perfect intercessor for Bill, it’s St. Joseph.

So I crafted him up and when he was all done, I sent him to his new home in the Pacific Northwest. Bill sent me pictures of St. Joseph at home on his shelf, probably for the first time in his life not surrounded by his Holy Family. I imagine like most hard-working family men, Joseph appreciates the peace and quiet.

While St. Joseph was never listed in my Badass Saints shop, he still got a write-up of his own because he’s awesome.

St. Joseph the Worker

In the entire Communion of Saints–and make no mistake, that’s an expansive group–few are as widely and devoutly venerated as St. Joseph.

He was a different kind of Badass.

We don’t know much about Joseph of Nazareth. When we meet him, he’s just been made the most famous cuckold of all times, by no less than God himself. He’s just found out that the sweet young thing he’s betrothed to is preggers, and has friends all around him pestering him to stone the whore. Because that’s what you did back then. But Joseph didn’t roll that way. He was planning to break off the betrothal, call the whole thing off and just forget about it.

But then he talked with an angel. Discussed it. The angel told him to calm the fuck down and marry the girl. No, the baby’s not his, but God’s got big plans for that baby, and that baby needs a daddy. So man up and get in the game. And Joseph did.

We all know what happened next. Joseph takes his very pregnant wife to Bethlehem and by all accounts she rode his ass the whole way. She gave birth in a stable, there were shepherds that stopped by with a casserole, and three wise men from afar followed a star and came with some very expensive and impractical baby gifts. Only they weren’t that wise, because one of them forgot to update the star charts or something, and they had to stop for directions.

“So, where you all keeping that new king? We’re ready to make with the worshiping and such.”

Herod was understandably confused. “Don’t know, man. But…uh…I’d sure like to give him a bit of obeisance as well…yeah…so when you find him, let me know where he’s at, okay?”

“Cool! Okay, see ya!”

They go, they worship the Messiah, and then as they’re packing up their travel Scrabble games and filling the cooler for the ride home, an angel tells them to go back by a different route. Avoid the king. Trust me on this one. So they do.

King Herod is bullshit. He isn’t about to let some pissant upstart peasant baby take over his kingdom, so he does what any rational, sane sovereign would do: he orders every infant in the kingdom under the age of two be put to the sword. Think on that for a minute.

I know, right? Fucker.

Another angel knows what’s up and sees which way the wind is blowing. “Joseph. Dude. Wake up. Take your wife and baby and get the fuck out of Dodge. Go to Egypt where you’ll be safe. Herod’s got a wild hair across his ass and shit’s about to get fucking REAL in Bethlehem.”

Joseph does what he’s told for the second time, and again, he protects and shelters his little family and the rest, as they say, is history. Or theology, in this case. Baby Jesus grows up and fulfills his destiny, and St. Joseph’s legend ends. No gory death. No chance at martyrdom. No amazing, miraculous, badass feats. Just a word from a stranger taken to heart and quietly obeyed. A life of hard work and gentle care, of faith and love, kindness, and quiet bravery.

Joseph reminds us that most angels aren’t invisible, and they usually leave their wings at home.

St. Joseph’s feast day is celebrated on March 19 and he is the patron Saint of the whole Catholic Church all over the world. He is the patron of fathers especially, and of families, and workers. He is invoked in all matters involving home and hearth, jobs, and against doubt and indecision.

A different kind of Badass.

For our fathers and our families, for job security in an uncertain world, for a peaceful home and a happy marriage, St. Joseph, pray for us.

Enough for the Whole Lord’s Congregation September 15, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
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The Knights of Columbus are having a chicken barbecue today down at St. Joseph’s and Jeanne and I are the official baked bean makers. We make some damned fine beans. I say, if you want good New England baked beans, ask the French kids to make them. We KNOW from beans.

LOOK AT THESE. A thing of beauty.

You say you love good homemade baked beans but think they’re too much work? Pshaw. Here’s my recipe. A dull chimp could make these.

I usually make mine in two pound batches because I have a big crock pot and I tend to make them for a crowd. Plus, they keep a long time in the fridge and they freeze well. The recipe can be halved or doubled or whatever. It’s very flexible.

Before you go to bed the night before, put two pounds of navy beans into a big pan and cover them with water. They will expand, so use lots. In the morning, dump out the old water and put in fresh and set them to boil. Boil them for…oh, about half an hour to an hour. It depends on the bean. The fresher they are, the less time they need. You’ll know they’re ready when you scoop a few out and blow on them and the skins split and curl.

Here’s what you’ll need. For a big-ass two-pound batch, you need:

2 pounds of navy beans, 2 large onions, a package of salt pork (~12 oz.), 16 oz. of molasses, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper.

While they’re boiling away, into your big crock pot you put in your chopped up onions, your cubed up salt pork, a couple of big squirts of ketchup, a couple of big squirts of yellow mustard (or a couple of heaping tablespoons of coarse fancy mustard or a couple teaspoons of dry mustard–it’s all good here) and salt and pepper to taste. It’s all about eyeballing the amounts. The ketchup and mustard have a tang that cuts the sweetness a bit, the salt pork and onion add a savory, smoky flavor, the bit of salt (not too much) accentuates the molasses and the pepper gives it some bite.

All of this is variable! Bean cooking is not a science–it’s an art! If you like a tangier bean, add some tang: vinegar or lemon juice. If you like a sweeter bean, add a bit of brown sugar. If you like more savory, add onions or garlic. Some prefer a bit more of a tomato base and add condensed tomato soup or tomato paste. Polish style beans use different kinds of beans like kidney and white beans and include ground beef.

When the beans are cooked, use a slotted spoon to scoop them into the crock pot. Add 16 oz. of molasses and then add some of the bean water to just cover the beans. Not too much. Stir all that shit up.

“Cover me, Chief. We’re going in.” All mixed up and ready to go in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for four hours or low for 6. The beans are done when they are to your desired softness level, depending on if you like a firm bean or a mushy one. I like mine on the soft side.

They pair with so many things. Hot dogs, of course. Ham–oh, God, ham. Smoked ham from the Fox Country Smokehouse. *homer drool*  Sorry, what was I saying? Oh, they go good with any grilled meat. You can eat them like the old Frenchmen do and spread them cold on some buttered bread. They are great with eggs and any and all breakfast meats and you’ll usually find baked beans as a side option on most breakfast menus in restaurants up here.

That’s it. It’s literally a mix this stuff up and forget it all day kind of thing. Chop a couple of things and dump ’em in a crock pot. Easy peasy.

You wish you had a scratch and sniff monitor, don’t you?

The last double batch is boiling away on the stove as I post this, and six pounds will be delivered to church this afternoon. Enough for the whole Lord’s congregation!

King of the Doodles September 14, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius.
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Morgan Carmichael is a genius and I want the world to know it. His wife Erin makes some truly badass signs that I covet pretty hard, and not for nothing but she’s a pretty hot little trick in her own right. But I confess: I’m in love with Morgan’s doodles. In LOVE. LURRRRRVE.

First though, a little backstory. I thought for sure I’d blogged about this, but apparently I did not. Bad Poops. No biscuit.

So back in the Spring, during the Easter season, my Emmy Bo celebrated her First Eucharist. It was kind of a big deal.

Emma was chosen to bring up the gifts.

One of the things our First Communicants do is they make a personalized pew banner to hang on the end of the family pew. It’s made of felt and hangs by a ribbon. They put their last name on it and some imagery of their choosing that has to do with the Eucharist. the way we do banners in my house is that the kids will sit with me by the computer and I’ll work up a draft of what they want in my print shop. They pick the images and where they want them to go, and then I print it and use the paper as a pattern. We go to Joanns and pick out the felt, trim, and assorted bling and then we sit at the table with scissors and felt and glue and put it together.

Well, as you know, Fr. Albert left our Parish late last October. We all took it kind of hard. Okay, really hard. Emma kind of freaked us out a bit. She didn’t have much of a reaction. For awhile, she didn’t seem fazed that he was gone. It was making us concerned. Of all my kids, she really spent a lot of time in his back pocket. She was his young padawan. He was her biggest fan.  But there were no tears. No concerns. No, “I’m going to miss him” before he left, and after he was gone…just nothing. I was getting worried that she was going to act out on it in an inappropriate way, and so was he. Every time we spoke on the phone, he’d ask if there’d been any reaction and there wasn’t.

Until one day she was sitting here at my computer and all of a sudden I heard crying. I asked what was wrong, what happened, and she started sobbing, “I miss Fr. Albert so much!”

Oh, thank GOD.

But then as she began preparing for First Communion, it occurred to her that he wasn’t going to be here to give it to her. “I want Fr. Albert to give me my First Eucharist,” she’d say. I explained why he couldn’t. And she insisted that she wasn’t going to do it, then. I played the white dress and big party gambit. Nothing. I played the “But you’re Fr. Paul’s first Communion class–it means so much to him!” card.

“I don’t care.”

Hmm.

Finally, we hit on a plan. She would make First Eucharist here with her Parish family and friends, and then the following weekend we’d travel down to his new Parish and she’d receive her second Eucharist from Fr. Albert and we’d go out to dinner with him to celebrate. Or as she called it, “Her REAL First Eucharist.” I didn’t argue.

Sweet. It flew. We had a plan. And we needed to make a pew banner. Fr. Albert was full of suggestions.

“I think Emma needs to have Jesus riding a dinosaur on her pew banner. How’s this one? Can you work with it?”

I made the “mistake” of joking with Emma that Fr. Albert thinks she should have a dinosaur on her pew banner. Ha ha. He’s funny. So we sit down to design hers and pick a great picture of a lamb laying down in front of a cross. Jokingly, I say “We can make the T-Rex looking out from behind the cross! Ha ha! I’m funny!”

So we’re in the car on the way to Joanns and we’re making a list of colors of felt we need. “What color is the dinosaur going to be?”

“Sweetie, I was just kidding about the dinosaur.”

She got very quiet. I looked in the rear-view mirror and she’s puddling up with tears. “But I want a dinosaur on my pew banner,” she said in a very little, very sad voice. “That way it will be like a little bit of Fr. Albert is still here with me.”

Well, how do you say “no” to that? You don’t. You put a goddamn dinosaur on her pew banner is what you do. “Emma….googly eyes?”

“Yeah!”

Fuck yeah!

And that, my friends, is how your daughter winds up with a dinosaur on her First Communion pew banner.

But that’s not the end of the story.

See, when Mary made her pew banner, she and I sat up at Tanta’s house and made her banner all together. When it was done, I had a bunch of big pieces of felt left over. We were sitting there chatting and we asked what we would have put on our banners if we’d have had to make them back in the day.

Now, one of the things we always joked about with Fr. Albert is what the state of religious education was when we were all growing up. “Jesus and Balloons” he calls it. A lot of nothing. Content with not context. Hot air, as it were. So we said we’d put Jesus and balloons on our banners.

Then the muse struck. “We should make one for Fr. Albert. As a joke!”

She found me a picture of South Park Jesus and I started cutting and pasting felt, gave him a bunch of balloons and put his name on it. He said, and I quote, that he loved it so much he was going to have it stitched into a vestment. It hung in the sacristy for ages until he moved it to his office. He placed it carefully and it still has a place of honor in his new digs.

So when we were planning Emma’s banner, I got the idea that he needs another banner in honor of the occasion. But I had to ramp up my game. I could top South Park Jesus and Balloons.

It’s no secret that the man is a Family Guy fan. He can and does quote it often and freely. And I was stuck with inspiration, but I cannot draw to save my life. So I contacted my favorite doodler.

“Can you make me a rendering of the Last Supper, but with the cast of the Family Guy?”

Morgan can, and he did. It was the best ten bucks I’ve ever spent.

Click here to order a custom doodle of your own. Seriously. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

I got out my felt and started cutting and almost immediately, I knew it was going to be magical. And needless to say, he loves it. It also hangs in his office and he said he couldn’t wait for Monday to show it to everyone.

Yeah. Fiber ARTIST. That’s right. ARTIST.

I’m crazy proud of how it came out, but there’s no way in hell I could have pulled it off without Morgan’s mad talents. He took what was in my head and doodled it. I was impressed when I got it and I still am.

Support your local artists, friends. Like their Facebook pages. Tell your friends. Spread the love. Thanks!

(This PSA was brought to you by The Jennifer “Poops” Lacey Fiber Arts Empire.)

WIP Wednesday: The Never-Ending Sweater September 12, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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One of the drawbacks to being a Woman of Size is that when you knit a sweater for yourself, you realize it takes three times as much yarn as it would to knit something in, say, a size 8.

You realize once you start the task of casting on those stitches that are at the largest side of the pattern instructions that this might not work up as quickly as you thought it would.

As you burn through skein after skein of good yarn and you haven’t even reached the armpits, you begin to wonder if your summer sweater will actually be worn any time before Christmas.

WIP #1: my cotton, short-sleeved summer sweater that should be ready to wear around mid-February at this rate.

I started knitting this sweater back in…hell, I don’t even know. Me and mah Knittahs took a road trip to Webs back in May so I’m guessing it was sometime towards the end of May. I snagged a bag of this lovely Classic Elite Premiere Yarn. It’s 50% pima cotton and 50% Tencel. It is soft and has a beautiful sheen to it. I knit Buggy a sweater out of this years ago and loved it, even though it’s cotton, which is not my favorite fiber in the world.

Oh, my God. She was so LITTLE. And I had SUCH an issue with rowing out!

I wanted to make the Petal Sweater from Knitty.  I thought it would be a great summer sweater, and I hardly ever knit anything for myself. So I printed it out and began shopping for yarn. And I did the math.

Even knit at its biggest size, that’s not going all the way around my ass . So I had to add inches and stitches. And I cast on. For the life of me, I could not get the lace pattern to fall into line.  I tried. God help me, I tried. I pulled it all out–hundreds of stitches–checked my math, and cast on again. Same thing. I knit swatches. I tried starting it at the regular size, not adding any stitches.

It would NOT work. I frogged it four separate times.

I’ll admit I got pissed. I don’t knit from a pattern very often. My problem is that I usually like one element or another but not the whole thing, so I start making changes, and by the time I’m done adapting it, it seldom looks like the original. I was thinking that I liked the overall lace, but that it might be too much in my size and that I’d look like I was wearing an afghan. I wasn’t crazy about the collar because it’s kind of twee.

And then I said, well, hell. Why not just knit the sweater you want? So I did.

I started with your basic top down raglan sweater and modified it to a v-neck. I divided for the armholes and added enough stitches to make it go around my hips and generously portioned backside and picked a cable lace pattern that I really like. And there you go. I got a good way into the lace before life took over and things got too busy to knit.

A close-up of the cable lace pattern. I’m also planning on putting a cable band all around the neck and front where the button band would go. Stay tuned. I should be ready for that by New Year’s.

Well. That’s not true. I put my needles down and picked up a hook and started making all kinds of weird things with my crochet skills. The sweater has been a WIP all summer long, poor thing. But special orders come first!

First, while not a WIP, and I am talking about special orders, check this thing out.

A special order hat combining dead ponies, soft sculpture, and it’s wearable. It’s my three worlds colliding, and I think this is the best thing I’ve ever made.

This was a special order hat for my friend Mary. She loves hats and my dead ponies and when she asked if I could make her a dead pony hat, I said yes. Honestly, it was hard to send it. I knew when I was needle-felting the bullet holes that I had nailed it.

This hat makes me feel not like a knitter, or a crocheter, but a true fiber artist. Also, that blue yarn is some of my own home-spun yarn. I am ridiculously proud of this here bad boy.

But special orders have begun picking up. It’s getting colder and people are thinking about keeping warm and looking ahead to Christmas. Smart folks getting their orders in early. *hint hint wink wink nudge nudge*

WIP #2: working the thumb of a pair of fingerless mittens.

This is a pair of wool fingerless mittens that will eventually be paired with a matching slouch hat. As I work on them, I wonder why I’ve never made myself a pair of fingerless mittens. Mostly because I’m sitting here with cold hands this morning.

A basic plait or braid cable, also called a “trinity” cable in some pattern books.

Fall has arrived in NH and it’s knitting weather!

Winnah Winnah Chicken Dinnah September 10, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Other People's Genius.
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It’s Monday morning, and that means my blog contest is officially closed and I have chosen two winners to shower with fantastic fun and prizes.

First of all, thanks so much to all the people who participated. Coming up with topics to write about is the hardest part of writing, I think. I know I’ve said before that sometimes I feel rather a lot like Pooh Bear.

First off, because you’re dying to know, the grand prize winner of this year’s Gimme Something to Write About Contest is Beeby! Her question wins both because it is near and dear to my heart, and because she sprinkled it with a dose of profanity. I do love me some sentence enhancers and applaud a dirty mouth whenever I can. She poses this topic:

PBSKids is raping my fucking childhood. For the second time, I might add. I was moderately okay with The Electric Company regurgitation because I was never big on The Electric Company as a kid anyway. But this Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has me unable to string words together about it.

I feel you pain, Beebs. And next Monday I’m going to write at length about how children’s programming has backslid into a swirling cesspool of unoriginal and uninspired regurgitation, then I’m going out on the porch to wave my cane at some kids and tell them to get off my damned lawn. I’m also going to send you something super special to put in a place of honor, and maybe a bar of soap or some Orbit gum for your dirty, dirty whore’s mouth.

My second prize goes randomly to a name picked out of a hat. For every question, I put a name on a piece of paper, so if you posed three questions, you got entered three times. I err on the side of generosity, too, because I like you guys so very much. Last year, Gary M. got a painted wooden cut-out of a goat eating a tin can that occupies a place of pride in his hosta bed. Did he get lucky two years in a row?

Let’s find out. Drumroll, please. And the winner is…

Krysstyallanthrox! God, I hope I spelled that right. She’s an overachiever and entered 7 topics, so she pretty much stacked this part in her favor. She’s gonna get something real purty too, once she sends me her contact information at jen (dot) poops (dot) lacey (at) gmail (dot) com.

Congratulations to the big winners!

The Ghetto Barista September 8, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius, Other People's Genius.
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Iced coffee, man.

I love this stuff.

I could drink it all day, and don’t think I haven’t.

My friend, the inimitable and inestimable Yorkie posted a link to my Facebook wall from the Pioneer Woman blog about the making of cold brewed coffee. Cold brewed, you say? What is this sorcery? Yorkie shares my love of this crack in a glass and was wondering my opinion of it. I decided to give it a try.

All I know is that from the gorgeous, slick photos, I was sure it was easy and mess-free to do and I’d have iced coffee in no time.

It was kinda easy. It was far from mess-free. And it took so long to make that I got a caffeine headache waiting for it. It was also the best goddamned iced coffee I’ve ever had that didn’t come from the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru.

I tweaked a few things, and you can be sure there will be no high-glossy photos of a pristine kitchen, a large glass dispenser with a brass spigot, or special tubs purchased from the restaurant supply store. Cheesecloth? I’m not buying cheesecloth. We roll a little differently here in the Upper Village, so I used what I had on hand. You can, too.

Here in an honest summary is how I make the Pioneer Woman’s best iced coffee in the world. Trust me, I’m not luring you in with any false sense of marthastewartness here. It gets messy and it takes awhile. Know that. But it’s worth it.

The first thing you do is simple. You dump a pound of coffee in a big container and pour two gallons of cold water over it. Right here is where I digress. That is the ratio. I use a 12-oz. bag of coffee, so I add 1 1/2 gallons of cold water. Half a pound? One-gallon. You get the idea.  Some folks don’t need two gallons of iced coffee in the fridge. Sitting there. Tempting them. Luring them in with its dark, rich, beauty…

I’m sorry. Where was I?

I do this step before I go to bed. I also do this before I’m out of coffee. I mean this part. If you rely on coffee to get your brain and heart going in the morning, don’t wait to do this until you’re out of coffee. Don’t use you last bag of coffee to “give this a shot.” It’s dreadful. Trust me. Don’t starve the monkey.

I use my biggest mixing bowl, dump the coffee in and stir in the water. My bowl only holds 1.5 gallons of water, so it’s like it was meant to be. Cover it and put it in the fridge overnight. Or for 8 hours. A long time. This is not a quick project.

In the morning, you will have a lovely, thick, gritty, sludge.

Thick, gritty, coffee sludge. Steeped and ready to be strained.

Now, it needs to be strained. Gotta get all those coffee grounds out of there. There are many methods. Basically, you need something to act as a fine filter and something to hold that filter. After I posted this to my wall, people told me all the ways they do it. Cheesecloth in a strainer. Paper towels in a strainer. A doubled bed sheet put right in the container before mixing, then lifted out after steeping.

Me, I found the fastest way (because it’s all about shaving time off this step) is coffee filters. I have two tall pitchers and I set my coffee filter basket with a filter in it on top of the pitcher. I used to use my fine mesh sieve for this other pitcher but it didn’t work as well for some reason. However, just yesterday my old coffee maker went tits up so I kept the basket and now I have two. Sweet!

Picture me behind the camera tapping my foot impatiently during this step.

I use my measuring cup to scoop out a bunch of coffee making sure to get lots of grounds. I don’t know why, but the coffee strains faster if there are lots of grounds in the filter. I scoop up from the bottom so the filter is full of coffee grounds. This is also where you want to be careful. Make sure the steeped coffee with the grounds doesn’t go into the strained stuff.

Oh, the strained stuff. Black gold. Pure, strong coffee, already chilled and ready-to-drink. I don’t have a fancy decanter. I have an empty milk jug.  It’s not fancy, but it does the job.

Black, liquid gold in my “special coffee decanter”.

Now, to prepare it. You make it any old way you like your coffee. In lieu of having a central line put in just for my caffeine intake, I use a mason jar. Yes, it goes from a used milk jug to a canning jar for a glass. I told you, we’re not fancy folks here. I use what I have. And it’s genius. Here’s why.

Put ice in the mason jar. Add sugar. Pour in coffee. Add cream. PUT THE LID ON AND SHAKE THE FUCK OUT OF IT. Yeah, there you go. Your sugar gets mixed in completely. You can stir it in a glass until the cows come home, but you know you still get some gritty sugar through the straw at first. Tell you what, though. You shake it in a glass jar and you get the frothiest, creamiest, coldest iced coffee that has ever been though up.

Take the lid of and stick a straw in.

It’s heaven.

Getting to heaven is messy bidness.

And once your coffee has been consumed, you can tackle the mess. I deal with sloshed over  coffee, and grounds stuck to everydamnedthing. I’ve dirtied two pitchers, a measuring cup, a bowl, two coffee filter baskets and a mixing spoon.  But don’t worry. I will pay my husband the dishwasher off with a cold jar of coffee.

Cheers!