Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Portland Tree Lighting + Pirates

So, the Portland Tree Lighting ceremony became the subject of national news this year. We were there and there was no evidence of anything unusual going on. The Mayor didn't even know about it, and he was there too. I think we were all busy trying to text-enter a contest to win a Tiffany charm bracelet (which we didn't win) at about the time the guy thought he was detonating a bomb with his cell phone, which is a little...eerie. But the FBI knew what it was doing, so anyway...

       The Tree

It was a fun event, lots of families around. One of the sponsors passed out flashy green pins, which had three settings: rapid annoying flashiness, slower annoying flashiness, and just green without flashing. Chuck made sure mine was set to that last one. It really wasn't so bad from afar, the sea of flashing green lights was kind of cool, but for the wearer and those close to you it was a little much. But the kids liked 'em.

There were sing-alongs, the Mayor, Pink Martini, the Pacific Youth Choir were all there, but my favorite part had to be the pirates. What is christmas without pirates, afterall? After posting my pictures to flickr the other day I found out this was part of "Pdxyar" and the pirates pictured are Captain Ragnar McHaggis Redgoat and Captain Whitebeard, Commander of the Sleigh!

Friendly Pirate      Pirate Santa!

Portland loves pirates! 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving/Tempeh Loaf Day

With Kitty Corner Windows & Table

Some pre-food prep. preparation went on before Thanksgiving this year over the course of the preceding week. This involved finally agreeing to locations and arrangements for the cubbies and poster pictured above on the left, hanging the ork posters, buying some chairs at Ikea and quickly making a tablecloth and runner (pictured above on the right) on thanksgiving morning. 

Cookbook and Moulin Rouge Shredded Tempeh and Mixed up stuff

Holiday preparations usually put me in the mood for watching old movies and/or movie musicals. While preparing our food we set up the laptop so we could see it from the kitchen and watched Moulin Rouge & Funny Face. Funny Face is one of my favorite movies. After having a really odd dream the night before involving carrying Lucy around Paris, witnessing a murder and being chased down the Seine, I was really in the mood for it. (Charade, another one of my favorites, might have been a more appropriate choice, but we'd watched that much more recently, and I prefer watching musicals on holidays.) 


I decided to make the Tempeh Loaf from the Real Food Daily cookbook this year. We've done Field Roast and Tofurkey in the past; I think last year I insisted on Tofurkey since it was really the only time of year we have it. I like it alright, but this year I just felt like making something myself rather than using a prepackaged item was more fun, more adult. I am officially old now after all. Chuck roasted veggies that we bought last weekend at the market, mashed some sweet potatoes. We found a package of stuffing this year from a local bakery, which did not have the typical vegan-unfriendly enzymes, etc. And we made up Golden Gravy, also from the Real Food Daily Cookbook. 

We had a very nice, cozy thanksgiving! I'm in the mood for the holiday season to start, and we're off to check out the tree lighting ceremony downtown later today. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Card Display Stand

Card Display Card Display

I had the idea for a card stand the Christmas before last when I think I made up a less pretty, all black version. Since I had some birthday cards laying around, and with Christmas coming up, I thought I'd give this project another try. And I took pictures along the way so I could try out writing up a tutorial for a change! Just before thanksgiving seems like the perfect time to try this out.

So, should you wanna make one too, you will need:

Cutting mat
X-acto Knife
Circle Cutter
24" Metal Ruler with Cork Backing

Strathmore Paper - for the pictured size a 12.5"w x 26"l piece, & width can be adjusted based on preference.
Chipboard - At least a 5"x8" scrap will be needed.
Pretty Paper - I used 1 12"x12" sheet, cut into 4 2" wide strips


First I cut out the supports, one for each side to stabilize the "bleachers." I cut out a 5"x8" piece of a chipboard I happened to have lying around. (It's handy stuff!) I decided on a 1" rise (height)  and a 2" run (depth) for each step. The 2" was based on taking a look at how much space an open, free-standing card takes up, and the 1" rise just looked right to me.

Paper for Supports Support
I wanted these to look a little nicer this time around, so I also cut out some decorative paper and glued it in place. Note in the picture on the left, I actually have two pieces facing in the same shape, facing out in the same direction. This is incorrect, one needs to be an opposite. I corrected this later, but didn't manage to snap a shot. Put these under a heavy book or something similar and let them dry a bit. 

 Glued down strips
I pulled out my sheet of strathmore paper and marked fold lines on the backside. Again something I had around, and happened to have a rectangle about about 12.5" width and 40" long. It's a little hard to see in the picture, but the first horizontal line is 5" up (for half of the bottom plus a little overlap,) then 1" up from that, then another 2". The 1" and 2" pattern is repeated until you have four repeats of it. Then there are two more lines, one at 4" (the overall, end height.) and then the last one at 5" for the other half of the bottom. That comes to a total flat length of 26". 

I cut my decorative paper into 2" strips, based on the smallest size my circle cutter would make. I cut out 4 of these strips, so they had to meet in the middle. I measured to make sure that happened on one of the 2" runs/horizontal portions so it would be less visible. I made a few marks to keep them spaced one inch off each side and glued them in place.

Circular cutter

Once these dried, I started cutting circles. Circle cutters are fun. Since the marks for the folds were on the back/inside side I had to make a few marks on the front to make sure these started in the right place. I kept those marks on the decorative paper where I felt they'd be less visible. I cut only a half circle, which was cut entirely out of the 2" run/horizontal. I then took out my X-acto knife and ruler to cut a straight line, starting at the end of the cirlce, and going into the rise of each step 1/2", although in retrospect, the cards would stay up a little better and I would reccommend 1/4" or perhaps less. Just enough for the card to be gripped  between the flap and the paper. In total I cut 8 of these flaps: 

Completed Flaps

The next step is folding. Flipped the paper over to see my fold lines. We (Chuck came by and started helping me) scored the folds that needed to be folded on the front/decorated side using the backside of the knife. The for the rest of the folds we used the ruler to help keep a straight line. Be careful of the flaps, they do not get folded. This (on the left) is what it looked like before it all got glued down.:

Then Chuck helped me run a bead of glue along the edges of the support pieces. We decided to set these in a little bit, about 1/2" so they didn't have to be too precise and wouldn't ooze out glue at the edges where it would be visible. It's handy to have two people for this (but I think, doable with one) pushing in all the folds into the steps of the supports, giving it structure.  The bottom is a bit tricky, we ended up using a bit of tape to make sure it stayed down. If you happen to have a dowel or something tall and pokey (a poking stick!) you could maybe use that to make the glued overlap stay down, but we were alright with the tape.

Card Display Side

Additional pictures, in order are in this flickr set.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dress Progress, Scarf & Ideas

Glam Knits Dress in Progress Glam Knits Dress in Progress
I figure this knit dress is still going to take me a while more, so I will do another post about it. For a brief moment I tried to convince myself I could actually get it done on or by my birthday this week, as a sort of present to myself, but that was a little far fetched. I figure since the sleeves are still to come I've got another good week or perhaps two (weaving in ends!) to go before it's completely finished. I am pretty happy with how it's turning out. I've cast off the body already, although I may come back to add some length once I've finished the sleeves, if I have enough yarn to do so.

Scarf Scarf
Once I cast off the bottom of the dress I had the urge to take a break, so I grabbed some organic cotton yarn I've had in the stash a while. I thought it would look cute if I made a scarf with a different color fringe on the bottom. I like making fringe, but I haven't done it for a while. It's a pretty simple way to make the ends of your scarves look a little more decorative than they otherwise would, and it has a nice feel to it, fun to play with and run your fingers through while you wear it. I'm considering putting this one in my etsy shop and/or making more similar to this one. I haven't decided yet. Ah, if only I had unlimited access to yarn and could knit really really fast, I have lots of ideas I'd like to try!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me!  Happy Birthday to me!
Just a quick post, it's my birthday! I'm turning...old, or at least not young anymore at 31. Anh, it's no big deal. And I get homemade cupcakes - Chocolate Stout with Buttercream icing, recipe from Vegan Cupcakes take over the World (of course!) I can't wait to try them...after the nice dinner Chuck is also making me!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Movie Time: Mary & Max

Last week we watched the animated film Mary and Max after I was reminded (by a fellow tumblr) that I really wanted to see it after seeing trailers for it some time ago. When I saw a post about it I immediately went to look for it on Netflix, and it was even available streaming, so we watched it right away!

I've always enjoyed claymation movies, probably because of all the shorts on Pinwheel on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. Not too long before watching Mary and Max we watched $9.99, which is also an Australian film. Both films are very gritty, well, as gritty as you can make animated clay. Although both films are a little dark in subject matter, $9.99 is much more clearly an adult/art house film.

To quickly summarize Mary & Max,  it's about a girl in Melbourne who picks someone at random to become pen pals with since she has no friends. She ends up corresponding with Max, a New Yorker with Asperger syndrome. The move covers about 20 years of their life, starting in the 1970s. One feature of the film that has me considering rewatching it sometime soon is the fact that although it is claymation, a typically colorful form, it's nearly black and white. There are only occasional splashes of color, usually red, and otherwise if there is any color it is very subtle. I noticed this early in the film, and I intended to pay some attention to the use of color throughout the film, but I got too wrapped up in the characters and story to check when and if some portions of the movie were more bright and colorful to correspond with the plot points. At the very least I noticed that Mary's Melborne seemed a little brighter, perhaps sepia, than Max's New York, which is black, white, and red. But I still think it warrants another viewing. The only thing we weren't really crazy about was the soundtrack, which I thought was a little overbearing.

Oh, and one other thing: It does have the ugliest animated cats I've ever seen. I still love them, because yes I am a crazy obsessed cat lady who loves cats and all representations of cats. Although I will admit these are some pretty ugly cats, they are still cute, you know, in a cat way. All cats are cute by default.

Speaking of Claymation, when we moved here I picked up a brochure for the Northwest Film Center and found out they have a class in stop motion animation taught by Will Vinton who is famous for coining the term claymation and also for developing the California Raisins! I used to love their Christmas special.  Anyway, it's rather expensive but I did read in The Finder (a magazine Willamette Week puts out each year as sort of a guide to Portland) that one of the things you should do to become a real Portlander is take some classes there, so this might be on the horizon, eventually! At least I hope so.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chuck's Pot Pie & Vegan MoFo

Chuck's Vegan Pot Pie Chuck's Vegan Pot Pie

Look what Chuck made us for dinner this week! It lasted us two nights since there were 4 total. He's been very interested in playing with crusted/stuffed baked meals lately. A few weeks ago he made us pasties, pictured below, (and not to be confused with the other kind of pasties.) I think we had been watching something British, in which Cornish Pasties were mentioned, and ever since he's been interested in the idea. Personally, I was a little more excited about the Banoffee Pie I recall being mentioned on one show (The Old Guys, which has a great theme song) and I'd love to try a vegan version sometime soon.  But meanwhile I certainly can't complain about Chuck's experimentation with yummy filled crust dinners. The crust on these was great! I asked him about posting a recipe or something here, but he says he's still experimenting.


Meanwhile it is the Vegan Month of Food (or Vegan Mofo, heehee) which means there are great images of vegan food, recipies and all sorts of yumminess appearing on blogs all over the internet. I'm not doing it this year, though I did a few years ago and it was great fun. One great way I've found to sort through the posts is using google's blog search. But of course the official blog is also a great way to get a round-up of the best posts. Ooh! these cranberry-chocolate tarteletts just caught my eye. Please excuse me while I go make a new bookmarks folder... 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Knitting

Debbie Stoller was in town yesterday to promote her new book, Superstar Knitting. It covers more complicated techniques like cabling, lace and colorwork. I'd had a chance to look it over since my parents got me a copy when they were in town, and I've been eagerly waiting for projects to be added to ravelry so I can at them to my queue!

So yesterday afternoon we headed to Powell's where Debbie Stoller would be talking about the book. (Yeah, I took Chuck along. I've tried several times to get him into knitting, but I think it's pretty official that it won't be happening. But he did enjoy the event well enough anyway.) I could not miss this event, since I've been a long-time reader of Bust Magazine, which she is the editor of, and her first knitting book was a big part of what got me motived to knit in the first place! Debbie talked about her background in knitting, covered the layout and techniques in the book, and passed around several of the projects.  

Steeks and Stones, pictured on the left, was among the projects presented.  Debbie suggested every knitter try doing steeks. This project involves cutting your knitting, which still sounds scary to me. I was eager to take a look at that piece up close & Chuck really liked the weight of the garment, the zipper and the overall shape...although didn't quite see himself in the skull pattern...but it is pretty cute. Next time I'm up for a big gift project for Chuck...it sounds like I may have to consider something with a zipper. 
There were also two  designers from the book in attendance at the event, Serena Murphy who designed The Life Aquatic Sweater (not yet up on ravelry, but it's a really cute stranded colorwork yoked piece) and Jana Pihota who designed the Baby Corn dress pictured on below on the left. 


Overall Debbie was very encouraging, and was happy to explain techniques using her legs and volunteers from the audience to discuss how the yarn should be sitting on the needle, much like she does in her books. I was motivated by her struggles with intarsia, and how she had struggled with getting the edges to look perfect. I have had the same issue with it, but may now be willing to give it another try. My mom enjoys colorwork, and was partial to the lotus bag, pictured on the right above, when she flipped through the book. 

Although I left feeling motivated to try new things, there are several projects that use skills I have experience with already which I was really drawn to. The Sea and Surf Sweater was there, and it's going right into my queue as soon as it's up on ravelry. It uses Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton and was inspired by Cookie A.'s Pomatomus Socks. The Beatrice Gloves (left) were also there, and technically that would be learning a new technique, since I've never tried adding beads to a project before. 

The book is about half and half technique and patterns, and it's thick. 41 patterns, a section on how to design your own sweaters, and covers lots of technique. There are still some more stops on the book tour (Seattle was next!) and you can find out about those here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Showing off Portland: Third & Final Day!

My parents wanted to get up into the hills on this short trip so they would have a good idea of the whole area and maybe get a nice view. This was a no car trip so we just used transit and stuck on the west side of the river (where we live.) Chuck and I have been up into the hills before, but we've only done it as a chance to get some exercise, on foot. So I wasn't familiar with how to navigate the transit best to get them up there with minimal effort. 

Fortunately it worked out pretty nicely. We all concluded we needed to take the MAX to PGE Park and catch a bus to the gardens. (It turned out to be the last day that bus was running for the season, so we lucked out!) So on our first try...we watched the bus drive by right as we got off of the MAX. We sat for a bit, then realized we were all hungry & the Hot Lips Pizza place across the street looked appealing. This is a great chain, they make their own soda, have lots of vegan and local options. And they were nice enough to let us wait around for the first pizzas of the day even though they weren't technically open yet. (I promptly gave them a glowing review on Yelp, for that alone!) I'm not sure we'd have found such a nice lunch if we had waited until we got to the park. We still had a little bit to wait for the bus when we were done, but we did some people watching and saw this:

Cat Guy!

That's a guy walking around town with his cat on his backpack, on a leash. I also saw a girl with a t-shirt that said "Vote Kitty." Portlanders, you are my (cat) people!

The bus ride up the hill was fun. Probably a little less fun for my parents was the hike up from the bus stop to the Japanese garden....which we later found out there was a conveniently located shuttle available for that purpose. Oops! We will know for next time. We did get to see impressive trees with huge leaves on the ground on the way up at least. There's my mom on the path on the way back down:

Mom in Washington Park Indigo
I'm now convinced fall is the best time to visit the Japanese gardens. Okay, so it was my first visit and the place is impressive all around, and I'm sure it's pretty amazing in the spring too. But it was full of fall color. I was also excited about the small exhibit in the tea house, pictured above on the right.

The Tree
This is a picutre of what is know as simply "the tree" at the Japanese Garden in Washington park, and mine doesn't do it justice. It feels like you've started living in the thing just by walking by/under it. There are tons of great details throughout this park. I loved the mossy flat garden, the fencing throughout the park, and the fact that there was no grass on the ground anywhere.

Willow at Rose garden International Rose Test Garden
From there we were pretty close to the International Rose Test Garden. I had noticed that there have been fewer roses around town since we first got here, but there are still a few. It also had a great view, and we were able to see Mt. Hood from both the Rose and Japanese gardens!

I think we were all pretty worn out from the weekend at that point, so we had dinner at a local McMenamins Pub and came back to the apartment to visit for the last bit of my parents' trip. They left in the morning and are now back in Chicago, until the next trip!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Showing off Portland: Day 2 (Saturday)

PSU Market Pepper Wreaths
We started our Saturday with a stroll through the PSU Farmers Market. It's still huge, and this weekend there was music and a pumpkin carving contest. It was great to see all the pumpkins and wreaths! After resting at our apartment a little we headed over (by transit again) to Old Town. We had a big lunch at the Peoples' Sandwich before heading to the Chinese Gardens.

Lan Su Chinese Gardens Pom
The Groupon for Portland on Friday happened to be 2 for 1 admission to the Chinese Garden, and we timed our visit nicely so we got there right when a tour was starting. It was a nice contrast to our last visit on their free day in honor of the 10th anniversary, which was a crowded sunny day. With overcast skies I felt like I was noticing a lot of fruit on the trees including pomegranate, persimmon and pears. 

The Seagull and Cormorant (3 of 3) Cormorant (2 of 3)
We walked by Voodoo Doughnut, and I had planned to be sure to take my parents there, but we were all still very stuffed from the Peoples' Sandwich and there was a fairly long line as usually when we walked by on our way to the Saturday Market. Wandering the market we saw a huge Marimba band at one stage, and there were street performers as well as a rock band on another stage. My mom found a hat she liked at one booth, and another booth provided us with an informational flyer on the Benson Bubblers, which he was selling on cute tote bags and t-shirts. We walked out to the waterfront and got to see some local wildlife, a battle over turf between a seagull and a cormorant. It was a little wet out that day and I think the cormorant was trying to dry off since he kept flapping his wings.

Day 3 will cover Pizza, our trip up the hill to Washington Park with the Japanese and International Rose Test Gardens!