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July 30, 2006


  Sangria is like pizza or risotto: there are hundreds of variations. I should probably call this "Sangria, my way". For one thing, this is my variation of a Spanish drink that I learned to love in Italy, so who knows what the real thing is? Well, after a couple of glasses you won't care, so what's the fuss?

What you need
— dry red wine, a bottle
— brandy, a few splashes (optional)
— fresh fruit, in season, ad lib
— sugar, 3 teaspoons

I tend to make sangria in summer, so I often use peaches and apricots, but you can use all sorts of fruit. Things I tried and don't use anymore are bananas and kiwis, because they take on a yucky color after 2-3 hours in the fridge and, although I don't go to extremes to make things look pretty, I don't want them to look unappetising. Peaches — both of the hairy and nectarine variety — work particularly well because of the color contrast between peel and pulp.

  1. Wash the fruit and cut into chunks.
  2. Today I found some good looking champagne grapes. No need to cut those.
  3. A couple of spoons of sugar goes a long way. Better not overdo it.
  4. Pour the wine. Add a splash of brandy if you have it handy. Mix gently, cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. That's all there is to it.
  5. When it's time to serve, pour the sangria in big transparent glasses making sure everybody gets both wine and fruit. You can add a couple of ice cubes per glass. I like my sangria with some punch and most of the time I don't add ice.

Why start with dry wine if you have to add sugar?
Two reasons:

  • It's easier to dose the sugar content this way
  • In the $5-$10 price range, dry wine is better quality


July 27, 2006

SP8 package delivered

  My July package to my buddy in the UK has arrived, and she posted imemdiately to her blog. I really appreciate that, especially since I know that she is very busy with work and household renovations.

This time I sent her a Lantern Moon needle sheath and a needle case for her circulars. I had thought of other things to sew, but didn't feel confident trying something for the first time. Since I had already made two needle cases, I decided to play safe.

I modified the proportions of my second needle case slightly. I really like the provençal fabric.

No, I didn't include the needles! I only put them in to see the effect.

It took me a while to find a button I really liked and I was undecided until the very last moment between this button and another one. I think this was a good choice.

And now, I'd better start thinking of the August package.

July 26, 2006

Multiple System failure

The past two weeks have seen a dead digital scale (not repairable), a broken digital camera (repaired), two power outages, and my G5 choking and sputtering. Now, my old Honda Civic has broken down twice in a day.

On the way home from physical therapy, I stopped for groceries and the poor thing refused to start again. Called AAA, went to a mechanic, got battery replaced, went home, and it happened again. Back to the shop. The engine was overheated to the point that the mechanic needs to let it cool off overnight before he can even attempt a diagnose. Oy. Not good. I've had the car since 1992, and it's starting to look like this might be curtains. And did I mention that AAA kept me on hold so long that my cellphone batteries died?

I sure hope the technology gods have been appeased by this household's sacrifices and leave us alone for a while. Just to be on the safe side, though, I think I am going to have my G5 retrofitted with a hand crank. How 'bout that?

July 25, 2006

Black & White

Today I got up in black & white. Maybe it's the restlessness of a lingering night leaking into morning. Maybe it's the ennui of summer. Maybe it's the heat messing with my brain.

Everything feels slightly off, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

It's going to be another long hot day and we may lose power again. I am keeping all the blinds closed and trying to use as little electricity as I can. My G5 is on its last legs; the fan has been in overdrive for days now. Half the time the noise from under my desk resembles some kind of taking off. I am fastening my seat belt. Our connection is sluggish, too, with every online activity taking 3-4 times longer than usual.

The boys are conserving energy.

Only Pipie comes up to me every couple of hours or so, as if hoping I can fix the weather. I do fix his meals and clean the litter box, so he thinks I can do anything. I'll try, baby. Tomorrow. When things are back in color.

July 23, 2006

The Power of Babel

My Intro to Linguistics class has turned out rather disappointing for me. We spend a good chunk of class time doing phonology expercises I am really not that interested in, and the rest of the time is spent in rather uninspired adherence to the textbook. I had expected a livelier environment with more discussion of ideas and a better sense of the big picture.

To find out more I started looking at books, and I am now reading The Power of Babel by John McWhorter, an associate professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley. So far (I am at page 55), I find it enormously enjoyable and informative. The only thing I have issues with at this point — and it may be addressed later in the book — is that the author assumes the existence of a proto language from which all existing languages derive without providing a context for me to make up my mind about the validity of the theory. Since it is a big assumption, I'd like to be convinced of it before I read all sorts of interpretations that are based on that assumption. Regardless, it's a very good read and I am fascinated by the explanation of how languages transform. McWhorter is careful about using the term transformation instead of evolution, and I like that. I hope the rest of the book is as interesting and entertaining as the first 55 pages.

The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
by John McWhorter
Harper Collins
ISBN 0-06-052085-X

Quarter anniversary

Fluffbuff is three-month old. Who would have thought when I started this blog just so I could take part in Secret Pal 8 that it would become so much fun? The best part for me has been connecting with people with similar interests all over the place. It feels like an extension of my local group of friends (my spinning guild) but for all sorts of things, not just crafts. And the other great thing has been reconnecting with a long lost friend in Italy. If it hadn't been for this blog, I doubt we'd be in almost daily contact now.

So, happy quarter anniversary! No, I refuse to say 3-month anniversary; that's just wrong. I didn't study Latin for six years for nothing, right? Hm, now that I think of it, I really can't remember much of all that study. Bit of a waste, I guess. Anyway, I was already feeling in a celebratory mood and then, after breakfast, I emptied the sink drainer (yup, not everybody in California has a food grinder) and looky what I got… a little tea garland with a leftover from last night's salad in the shape of a heart. It does look like a tiny garland or a nest, doesn't it?

July 22, 2006

109° F = 43° C

As I was driving home from our guild meeting — fortunately in good company (thanks Theresa!) — I swear, my tongue and eyeballs were sweating. We had been without AC from 8:30AM to 2:30PM. It is now 4:30PM and the temperature in Glendale, CA, is officially 109° F. I saw people I really wanted to see today and I am glad I did, but I can't imagine wanting to do this again in August. Right now, that prospect is about as appealing as a root canal.

But it was lovely to see people I like and we had new members today, including a lot of guys, which is quite unusual because so far the ratio of men to women in the guild has been very low. Show-and-tell was pretty good, but I forgot to take pictures. I blame the heat.

I had my stranded-color sweater with me hoping to get some advice on how to handle the neckline from more experienced color knitters. I got lucky. Pam invited me to follow her home after the meeting, where she looked at my pattern and then some Alice Starmore books, and gave me just the advice I needed. She also invited me to borrow one of her books: Fair Isle Knitting. I am really excited about it, because the book is hard to find and only available at collectors' prices. Thanks Pam for lending me such a rarity!

At Pam's house I got to meet two adorable Bearded Collies, seen here in front of their own private fan.

I finished the green Antique Patch socks when the camera was in the shop and forgot about them until today. I haven't even washed them yet. Here they are next to a sock in progress that will never be worn, because I worked it too tight. I used the same needle size and yarn thickness as for all my other socks, but my tension turned out completely different working with two colors; it's only 2/3 of what it should be. I also don't have enough yarn for two socks, so this one will be a Christmas sock. For the first time, I made a picot edge instead of the 2/2 rib and I can't wait to see what it looks like when it's finished.

The temperature is now down to 108° F. Hey, things are looking up. Kelvin has found a relatively cool spot and is not relinquishing it.

Although he is changing position from time to time.

Everybody should have ceramic tiles to put their butts against. Hope you are staying cool out there in the rest of the world.

July 19, 2006

Alien in LA

  Moving from Italy to Los Angeles? (Pluto, this is for you). Here are a few notes that I hope will help you. Some of this may be useful even if you are moving from another country or another part of the US, but mine is an Italian perspective. When I moved to LA from a small town in Romagna, I had no idea what to expect and I certainly underestimated the culture shock factor. I've been away from Italy for so long, though, that I am a little out of touch with the way things are there now, so some things that struck me as odd fourteen years ago, may be familiar to you now.

  • You can survive in LA without a car, but it'll crimp your style. You need a car, and you need a car with air conditioning.
  • At a red light, you can (and should) turn right after checking for oncoming traffic. If you don't, people will honk. This is not true throughout the US, so if you are moving to a state other than California, check the local laws.
  • Get an international driver license before you get here so you can start driving right away, but get a California driver's license as soon as you can. It does double duty as ID card and it'll be the document you use the most.
  • Auto insurance is very expensive. Your premium will be a factor of your age, your driving record (you start handicapped since the record in your country of origin doesn't count), the kind and age of your vehicle, and the zip code you are living in. Different parts of LA have different premium rates depending on how dangerous they are and other factors I am not really sure about. The $ difference can be significant.
  • If you park your car in a parking structure close to a restaurant or shop you are going to visit, ask them if they validate parking. It may save you a few bucks.
  • Some abbreviations you should know about:
    FWY = freeway
    HWY = highway
    CYN = canyon
    ped = pedestrian
    xing = crossing
  • And talking about pedestrian crossings (le zebre pedonali), in a few selected places — such as Old Town Pasadena — you'll encounter diagonal crossings. Most people still get those wrong, so proceed with caution, but this is how they are supposed to work. When the little man turns green, all pedestrians can cross in any direction, including in diagonal in the middle of the intersection. Then when the traffic light is green in one direction, the cars facing that direction cross. Then it'll be green light for the cars in the opposite direction. Then again all pedestrians. In theory it's a good idea; practice… well, that's another thing.

  • Houses are mostly made of wood. A friend of mine visiting from Italy kept tapping on houses and restaurants and couldn't get over the hollow sound. They didn't feel real to her and she called them "le case dei puffi" (Smurfs' houses). They go up in smoke at the slightest provocation, and rot because of water and insects. BUT, if you find yourself in an earthquake, you are not going to be crashed by tons of bricks. I lived in North Hollywood at the time of the Northridge earthquake and by the strength of the jolt I thought I was going to die. Then I remembered that I wasn't in Italy anymore.
  • The vast majority of houses and apartments have wall-to-wall carpet (la moquette), a mystery to me to this day, given the climate. They also have uncomfortably low ceilings. On the bright side, they come with built-in closets and kitchens so you don't have to buy a wardrobe and most kitchen appliances every time you move. And chances are, you will move.

  • Acronyms and abbreviations can be puzzling at first, but you'll pick up on them fast.
  • You'll be asked "How are you?" several times a day. It doesn't mean "Come stai?"; it's just the local version of "Hi" or "Good morning". Trust me, no need to tell people about your high blood pressure or your student loans; they couldn't care less. Instead, say "Pretty good, thank you. How about yourself?". And if they ask "What's up?", answer "Nothing much" and that'll be the end of it.
  • British vs. American English — There's probably a booklet you can pick up that points out the differences between the queen's English and American English. While you look for one, you could start reading this article on Wikipedia.

  • In General — Things are looking up compared to the early nineties, but you shouldn't expect to find all the things you have in Italy. For example, most "mozzarella" here wouldn't even be allowed to be called that way back home, as it's made using vinegar. You can find real mozzarella and even mozzarella di bufala in a few places. It's rather expensive and nothing compared to the real thing. Although Trader Joe's has a decent one at a reasonable price. Things like prosciutto and parmigiano are also easy to find these days, but lower quality. I can think of two reasons for this:

    a) Italians tend to keep the good stuff and export (slightly) inferior quality goods (we like to think that we are the only ones capable of appreciating the difference)

    b) shipment and storage conditions at destination often hurt perishable food. This is especially obvious with wine.

  • Wine — You have access to wines from all over the world, but they all suffer from the same long shipments and often poor storage conditions at destination as the wines from Italy, unless you can afford the specialized stores. You should try the California wines. I don't like the ones you find at most stores because the are way too oaky, but I know that there are better ones; you just have to get to know them. I haven't tried very hard. What can I say… give me a glass of Sangiovese or Barbera any day.
  • Food places — I am big fan of silverware and ceramic plates. Sadly, most coffee places will serve drinks in paper cups and offer you plastic utensils. Paper, I don't mind so much, as it doesn't alter the taste of food. Styrofoam, I loath.
  • Portions — gigantic. Think the opposite of nouvelle cuisine.
  • Coffee — When asking for coffee, keep in mind that it's not espresso, but rather a dark watery drink that comes in many sizes, all BIG. They used to have small, medium and big, but that was too easy. Now they have grande, tall, and venti. Don't ask; I have no idea. But trust me, they are all big. Oh, and by the way, latte does not mean milk here. It's a fancy name for a kind of coffee drink that has some milk in it.
  • Espresso — It's hard to find really good espresso. In my area, the best espresso is at a Cuban bakery called Portos' that has locations in Glendale and Burbank.
  • Pizza — When ordering pizza at a restaurant or delivery service, don't be surprised when it comes already cut in slices. It's just the way they do things here.
  • Ice — If you ask for water, it will come with ice, unless you specifically ask for water without ice.
  • Restaurants — One of the advantages of living in LA is that you have access to a lot of variety. Restaurants are no exception; you'll find Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, Korean, Cambodian, Italian, French, Mongolian, and so on. Try them all and find what you love.
  • Doggy bags — Everybody does it. You'll get over it. It took me a while, but I have been assimilated. I now take home leftovers (well, it depends on the kind of leftovers).
  • Before you get homesick and go looking for an Italian restaurant, you should know what to expect. Some tips in an older entry: Faux Italian.


Grocery shopping
At supermarkets, someone standing next to the cashier will ask you "Paper or plastic?" and bag your groceries for you.

There is no intermission in movie theaters; pee before the show.

Taming the beast
I don't know how much of this is only LA and how much is widespread American, but there is a strange preoccupation with making everything look and behave "tame". Some examples:
— Compulsive shaving
— Declawing cats
— Removing thorns from roses
I should perhaps explain that declawing is not nail clipping. No, it's an amputation, where the poor cat loses body parts for the convenience of its owners. So inconvenient to have your furniture scratched… Have all those people vaporized, I say!

I pointed out a lot of things that may puzzle you at first, but there's a lot of good stuff, too. For instance, when you do your tax returns in April, you get your refunds (if you are entitled) in a matter of weeks. That's right, weeks! Weeks! No, really, weeks! Try to do that in Italy.

There's so many things that are different that I could go on for a week, but I just wanted to give you an idea. And now, Buon viaggio!

July 18, 2006

Initial & Monogram

  The last of the books I bought on Saturday in Little Tokyo is Initial & Monogram. Even though this is a Japanese book, it's entirely inspired by the European tradition of applying initials and monograms to house linens. You won't find any examples of Japanese monograms, either original or adapted. That said, it is a beautiful book with both photographs and charts. All in Japanese, apart from the occasional headline so if you don't speak Japanese, you will at least know that a pillow case is a pillow case and a covered button is, guess what? a covered button!

Judging from the books, magazines and sationery at Kinokuniya, Japan's love affair with all things French is at an all-time high. I started noticing 2-3 years ago that a lot of Japanese stationery had French quotes and now I see a lot of life style books about France. My French is very rusty, but it seems that they are doing a better job at quoting French than English. What's with the funny English in Japanese products and publications? Can't they get native speakers to proofread? I am starting to believe that the occasional English headlines in Japanese books are not for us clueless gaijin, but rather a way of adding flavor to the product for the Japanese audience. Tha would explain the lack of concern with accuracy and translating the only things that don't need translating. In the end, it doesn't matter to me. It'll take more than some funny word choices to dampen my enthusiasm for Japan.

Initial & Monogram
ISBN 4-579-11034-X
84 pages

Kitchen Cloth Collection

July 17, 2006

Almost ready to ship (SP)

Today was a hugely frustrating day. Because of construction work in our street, we were told that we'd be without electricity all day. As it turned out, electricity never went away, but we had our computers unplugged to be on the safe side. A client of ours got his laptop fried for not being unplugged during an outage.

But, I did get something done. Since I couldn't work, I decided to prepare my second gift for my Secret Pal buddy. I am almost done; only need a little detail that I hope to take care of tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. No pictures until the package is shipped and received, this time. I screwed up in so many ways with SP8 (my first Secret Pal ever) that it's 10 to 1 that my buddy has found me by now.

July 16, 2006

Aranzi Aronzo

  I love the Aranzi Aronzo books. They have the most adorable patterns for soft toys and small objects.

Kawaii Mochimono (all in Japanese)
by Aranzi Aronzo
ISBN 4-579-11076-5
80 pages

These tissue holders crack me up. If I don't make anything else from this book, I'll have to make one of these.

Japanese embroidery books

  Yesterday I spent the day with a friend that will soon move out of LA. In the morning we went to Little Tokyo where we spent some time at Kinokuniya. I didn't find the sewing books I was looking for, but we didn't leave empty handed. I bought two embroidery books and one Aranzi Aronzo book of sewing patterns, and Andrea bought a book on basketry and a knitting magazine. Just outside Weller Court there was a small Farmers Market, so we also got a bunch of fruit and vegetables. Back to my place we had lunch and spent most of the afternoon taking pictures of an Italian knitting cast-on technique. The gran finale was a huge bowl of strawberries marinated in sugar and red wine. A very good day.

This is one of the embroidery books: One & Only.

One & Only (all in Japanese)
ISBN 4-09-310377-1
80 pages

This is my favorite page in the whole book; I especially like the maps.

Table of content, page 1

Table of content, page 2

July 15, 2006

Tubular cast-on without the waste

  Tubular cast-on the Italian way is done without the extra yarn in contrasting color. It's no better or worse than the way it's done in the US. The result is identical: only the process differs. I like it because there is no unnecessary waste and you don't have to worry about finding a sacrificial yarn in the same weight, but different color. Here it goes (video clip of the cast-on and first row at the bottom of this entry).

You'll need an equal length of yarn on both sides to cast on the stitches, so leave a tail as if you were doing a long-tail cast on.

Holding the yarn with both hands, place it under the needle, keeping the tail in your right hand. NOTE: I keep the needle under my armpit so I have one less thing to worry about while I cast on.

From now on, you will alternate between using left and right hand, moving the yarn with one hand and holding the last stitch in place with the other hand.

Let's start. With the left hand, bring the yarn over the needle left to right, while the right hand keeps the bottom part of the yarn in place.

Now hold the yarn in place with the left hand and with the right hand bring the right tail from right to left under the needle.

Left hand: bring yarn over the needle left to right.

Right hand: bring yarn under the needle, left to right.

You have just cast on two stitches. Repeat this sequence until you have cast on the desired (even) number of stitches.

To recap the sequence:
1. Left hand: yarn over needle L to R
2. Right hand: yarn under needle R to L
3. Left hand: yarn over needle L to R
4. Right hand: yarn under needle L to R

Basically, the left hand will always perform the same action: bring the yarn L to R over the needle.
The right hand will always bring the yarn under the needle but alternating between L to R and R to L.

When you have the desired number of stitches, make sure you hold the last stitch in place as you change hands.

Knit the first row like this: *knit one, slip one as if to purl keeping the yarn in front of the work.* Repeat those two stitches for the rest of the row.

Knit three more rows like this. (Actually, you could do just two rows instead of four. It's a matter of preference).

This is my sample with four rows of *knit one, slip one as if to purl* followed by two rows of *knit one, purl one*.

This is what the edge looks like at this stage. And now the fun part. Removing the thread from inside the "tube".

Stretch the edge to see which thread moves inside the tubular part and with a needle or your fingernails pull out a piece of that thread just enough to make sure you got the right thread. This part is the only tricky step. I usually pull out the thread at several intervals to make sure I really have the right one. Obsessive, moi?

Now pull.

Et voilà, les jeux sont faits. You have your tubular edge and you didn't waste any yarn.

NOTE: This cast-on is rather elastic and sturdy and well suited to sweaters, particularly when using 1/1 ribs. It's not indicated for thick yarn.

Special thanks to Andrea who put up with me all afternoon taking pictures and even videos. I may have a video clip to add to this entry tomorrow.

July 16, 2006
You can now watch a video of the cast-on and first row. NOTE: You'll need QuickTime to play the video. Sorry, but I didn't have time to convert to a variety of formats and QT is a free download available for both Mac and Windows.

July 14, 2006

Birthday chicken

Everybody is pooped; the heat is taking a toll. Even the birthday chicken was a non-event, with both Kelvin and Piper barely nibbling a juicy chicken leg.

I dread the idea of Monday, when we'll be left without electricity between 8AM and 3PM for repair work on our street. We may have to get out of the house with the cats like my friend Andrea had to do today, even if for different reasons.

Tomorrow I am going to Little Tokyo, where I haven't been in a while. Maybe I'll find some good Japanese sewing books. I've seen several book covers on other blogs and there's a couple I want to check out.

Nikon rocks!

My camera is back. Happy dance, happy dance! Nikon received it last Friday and shipped it back to me repaired yesterday. It just got here. At least one of my boys will get a birthday picture. :)

The first thing I was planning to do was to document a cast-on knitting technique that I haven't seen anyone use in the US. I tried to take pictures of myself casting on, but couldn't. I need someone else to take the pictures while I hold the yarn and needle. No way around that. Maybe I'll get some help tomorrow.

July 13, 2006

Emmer or spelt?

I goofed. I thought farro translated as spelt in English, but it seems that that is not so. I was looking for the exact translation of farro perlato and, in doing so, found that spelt may actually not be farro after all. Some sources say that farro is spelt and others that farro is emmer. Since the package of farro perlato I bought yesterday has the scientific name on it — triticum dicoccum — I thought that would be a safer starting point for my research than farro. Based on wheat taxonomy, triticum dicoccum is emmer. No wonder my farro soup made with spelt didn't taste like the zuppa di farro in Maremma! Duh, duh, and triple duh!

And the Italian farro products contribute to the confusion by using the word spelt on their packages, but how can we expect Italians to know the English translation of farro when there doesn't seem to be a consensus in English speaking countries? For me, the solution will be to buy only farro from Italy, regardless of translation. Hopefully, they know what they are growing.


  The trip to Newport Beach was a nightmare: 1h40' in a car without air conditioning in the middle of the day under the LA sun. It was stop and go most of the way. We missed the first ten minutes or so of An Inconvenient Truth, but it was definitely worth seeing. We came out of the theater feeling all galvanized and ready to spring into action. What action, we still don't know, but I hope we do't lose the energy.

After that, we went to Caffè Il Farro where we had a very enjoyable dinner that included zuppa di farro invernale (perfect for July 12th, don't you think?) and a farrotto. Farrotto is like risotto in the way it's cooked, but made with farro insted of rice. Finally an Italian restaurants with Italian staff. Great service, great food and I did find farro perlato. That alone was worth the trip.

As I found out last year, the other kind of farro — farro decorticato — requires soaking overnight and at least 90' of cooking, and even then my zuppa di farro was way to chewy. According to the instructions on this package, farro perlato requires thorough rinsing in cold water and then only 20-25 minutes of cooking. I'll test for myself soon.

In case you wonder, farro is called spelt in English, at least in the US, but if you find farro at Whole Foods or other such places, it's more likely to be the kind you need to cook forever.
Correction: farro is emmer!

July 12, 2006

Birthday boys

  It's a week of birthdays. Today is Ben's birthday and we'll have a short working day. We'll finally go see An Inconvenient Truth and then we'll go to Newport Beach to an Italian restaurant called Il Farro. The name bodes well and I think that in addition to the restaurant they have a deli section where I am hoping to find farro perlato.

Since I won't be able to take a picture of the birthday boy, here's the last photo I took of him when we were in Italy last year. The place was Palazzuolo and we were outside a restaurant where we had an exceptionally good meal, including an assortment of breads made following medieval recipes. I am getting homesick just thinking about it.

And July 14th, Bastille day, is Kelvin's birthday. Our big boy turns four.

July 10, 2006

Chibi, katcha-katcha, maneki-neko

  Another yellow package in the mail! I love my packages from Japan. I am still without camera (and will be for a while), but I was able to scan the content. :)

This time my SP sent me a very handy Chibi, a set of darning needles with their transparent container and closure in the shape of a pen cap, so I can hang it from a pocket. So far, I've been disseminating my yarn needles throughout the house. I usually pin them to a knitted swatch and lose the swatch. This is mucho much better.

The second thing is a katcha-katcha, a knitting counter by Clover. I'd never seen one like this. It has two wheels for counting tens and units manually, but you can also push in the top and it counts automatically. And it has a lock at the bottom. Perfect for Fair Isle and cable knitting. I love gadgets!

The third thing is a cute maneki-neko that I have to find a good place for. Maybe on my big postcard board.

SP-san, once again ありがとうございました!

July 9, 2006

Italy wins!

  Italy won! Good thing I live in California or I wouldn't get any sleep tonight.

We had planned on going out to a tapas place tonight — La Luna Negra in Pasadena — but maybe we should reconsider and do Italian. Although, between the game and the music I've been playing all day, I've probably had enough Italian for one day, even for me. She says… as Paolo Conte sings "Via con me".

Italy vs. France

  What's going on here? I am not a soccer fan — I don't even like soccer — but I've been glued to my computer "watching" the game as live text on the BBC website gobbling down some yogurt for lunch. That's not like me: I've been taken over by aliens.

This is the last minute of extra time and it looks like we are going into penalties. Sigh. But I am enjoying the BBC coverage; maybe it's the novelty. The language is as entertaining as the game (well, I am not really seeing the game, am I?):
"Florent Malouda nutmegs Fabio Cannavaro"
"Thierry Henry skins Gennaro Gattuso on the left"
"Zinedine Zidane… headbutted Marco Materazzi in the chest."

A quick search on Google found that "to nutmeg" means to "to push the ball through a defender's legs" (quoted from the USAToday World Cup glossary of terms). At least I am learning something.

Back to "watching".

July 6, 2006

Camera update

Went down to the UPS store and shipped the camera to Nikon's service place in El Segundo. It'll be delivered tomorrow, but there's no telling how long it'll take to get it back and if it can be fixed. Keeping my fingers crossed. Till then, I guess I'll make the most of my scanner. Those of you who can't stand cute cat pictures will be happy.

Anyone got a spare digital camera I can borrow?

and my camera died

In the past few hours I've had to deal with a neverending job, another trip to the vet and the death of my Nikon Coolpix 5700. Enough I say. At least Kelvin seems okay, although we'll have to wait until Monday to find out about the results of his blood test. He had to be rechecked for elevated levels of liver enzymes.

I tried to take a pictures of the two fuzzballs earlier and everything came out almost white with horizontal stripes. After some looking around on the Web, I think it's a CCD manufacturing defect and I'll have to ship the camera to a Nikon service center and hope for the best. This means no camera for possibly weeks. Aaaarrggghhhh!

July 4, 2006

Needlecase #2

Thought I'd better make another needlecase right away to fix the process in memory. It took a few hours and when I thought I was done, I realized that I had forgotten to stitch one side of the pocket trims.

Since I couldn't undo the whole thing, I did the stitching by hand with an invisible stitch.

Altogether, the needlecase is better than the first one, although the flap is not perfectly symmetrical. Oh well. What matters is that I was able to do the whole thing by myself. I am sure that with time and practice I'll get better.

And I finally used one of the beautiful buttons I bought last year in Rhinebeck.

July 2, 2006


Today was a very good day. My friends Theresa and JoShell came by for a few hours and we got a lot of stuff done. Theresa had some Columbia fiber to card; beautiful white wool with bouncy crimp but some naps that we were hoping to get rid of. We tried hand cards, combs and flicker, but the naps resisted all attempts. Carding seemed the most effective method of preparing the fiber; still, I think Theresa has accepted that the naps won't go away. Maybe someone else in the guild will come up with a clever way of solving this problem. We'll see.

JoShell helped me figure out how to make a needlecase for circular needles. Actually, she did all the figuring out, pattern and measurements. She then cut and put together her piece and helped me cut mine and got me well on my way by the time she left. I was doing a decent job when I made a couple of mistakes that kept me busy for over an hour. If only the sewing machine had an undo button!

I did manage to finish my needlecase, though, and I am rather pleased with it, in spite all the imperfections. This was only my third attempt at sewing something in 7-8 months. The first time, I tried to make a soft toy following a Burda pattern. Of course, without any sewing experience (manual or otherwise) and having never seen a pattern before, I failed miserably and got myself in such a state that I thought I'd never touch the machine again. A few weeks later, around Christmas, Theresa came by and spent the better part of a day showing me how to sew a pattern that was stll a bit over my head (my fault again). So I am really happy that today I managed to make an object that I think I'll be able to duplicate on my own. Maybe this time I'll start sewing for real. I have many small projects that I'd like to make.

I still have to find a button for the closure. I made the loop too small; and to think that I had made it too long and hid the extra tails inside. Grrrr.

The flap came out skewed on one side, but I managed to fix it… I think. Seeing the project being done completely before or in parallel to mine was a huge help that saved me from at least two major mistakes.

I feel that I've learned a lot today. Now I have to make another needlecase soon, so I don't forget how.

Theresa had brought a small basket for her rollags and as soon as she put it on the table, our little pumpkin lept inside. He spent most of the morning napping in the basket.

I meant to take pictures of the rollags and also JoSHell's needlecase, but being the monotasker that I am, once I started sewing I was so stressed out about doing things right that I forgot. Next time.

Thanks girls!


Last Monday we went to the first meeting of our Intro to linguistics class at UCLA. It was interesting and at one point things got quite funny. Our instructor — Natalie — was talking about affixes and mentioned infixes. I knew about prefixes and suffixes (or prepositions and postpositions), but never heard of infixes. It turns out that in English there is only one and all 17 of us in class tried to figure out what it was and came up empty handed.

It's "fuckin". As in un-fuckin-believable, but I can also think of abso-bloody-lutely, so perhaps Natalie was thinking of American English. Regardless, it's interesting to see that even in the case of words created outside of academia, people instinctively follow a system. "fuckin" gets inserted at a syllable boundary, usually just before the stressed syllable.

Now I really should go do my homework for tomorrow. Or maybe not… It's Sunday!

July 1, 2006

Long weekend

  Tuesday is the 4th of July so, even though I'll be working on Monday, it still feels like a long weekend and I hope to get a lot of non-work stuff done. Yeah, I said that last weekend, too, and look where I am.

For those of you who asked, this is what I've been doing in the past few days.

Downloading music with FrostWire, mainly old Italian cantautori music that I can't find here. Searching for and downloading music per se doesn't take up much time, but if I find something interesting I click Browse Host and get lost browsing other people's files. I find it particularly fascinating to browse gay guys' collections. They have the best stuff: lectures from The Teaching Company, Pimsleur language lessons, great music and a lot of amusingly labeled gay porn. What can I say? I am easily amused.

Knitting a little; I just finished the sock I started on Monday. Not exactly a speed knitter, I know, but I think speed is overrated. I've heard of speed knitting competitions; they are as foreign to me as rap. Hm, maybe I'll start a slow-knitting movement. But someone else has probably done that already.

Reading the text for my linguistics class: Intro to Languages of the World. Still haven't done my homework, though.

Cataloging my circular needles.
The other day I received some circular needle ID tags I had ordered along with some Addi Turbo needles. Now I finally have a quick way to identify the size of my loose needles.

Planning my next package for my Secret Pal (SP8), but I've decided to be more careful about divulging my plans in case my SP has made her way to my blog, so I won't say anything for now.