Friday, October 28, 2011

I meant to do my work today…

I meant to do my work today,

But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,

And a butterfly flitted across the field,

And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,

Tossing the grasses to and fro,

And a rainbow held out its shining hand,

So what could I do but laugh and go? -- Richard LeGallienne

Which would be awesome. But I’m not getting anything done because, sensing that I had the day off work today so I could get OTHER things done, my stomach immediately decided to pull the ‘every time you stand up, I am going to threaten to purge everything you’ve eaten for the last three months!’ gag.

(Actually, I suspect it is either a protest against the higher dose of Motrin my doc has me on lately, or possibly that I should not have eaten dim sum for lunch yesterday. Or both.)

I’m really starting to suspect a conspiracy, though. It’s becoming highly suspicious to me, the way that whenever I plan a day off work-work so I can finally!!! get around to {task list items}, some part of my body will immediately kick up the complaints. My back goes out, or my sinuses get infected, my stomach starts roiling around or my hip does that thing where when I walk it’s all like, “{pop!} CRACK! hobble-hobble numb leg! tingling toes! {pop-pop-pop!}” until I’m forced to sit down and kvetch about it – with many obscenities – for, like, three solid hours or something.

This seldom happens on regular work days, you know? (Possibly because by the nature of my work, sitting down for three solid hours is kind of, um, well, what I do.)

I could understand it if I didn’t really wanna do {task list items}; if it was all like, “Oh, MAN! {heavy, long-suffering sigh!} {dragging of feet} why me, why me, OH ALAS, my life is haaaaaaard…{gnashing of teeth}!”

Because then, well, my body is just helping me out, right? It gets that on the whole, I would rather be playing video games or writing long-winded rants about nothing in particular (what?), or reading long-winded rants about nothing in particular, or giggling at silly cat pictures, or watching anime while finishing something that has been languishing in the ‘too complicated / big / whatever for train knitting’ bucket for six hundred years or whatever.

But these are things I’ve been looking forward to doing. Things that are, to me, either themselves pleasant and peaceful tasks (like being outside in the lovely children-are-in-school quiet tending my garden), or are things that I really-really want to do in spite of their not-so-much-fun-ness because the result of having gotten them done means that the rest of my life is made easier and more pleasant.

So it rather irks me when the long-awaited Day of Not Work-Working arrives, only to be bogarted by something random like a wickedly upset stomach, or back muscles that have chosen this of all days to act out, or Flu of the Gods +10 now with more sinus infection, or what-have-you.


NEW SUBJECT!! Have you ever seen a sweet potato blossom?


Unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to get a shot of one when it’s all the way open – they’re beautifully showy, like morning glories.

Also, you want to see something crazy? Remember this? My ‘found object’ teepee thing?


Um…it worked pretty well.


…I got two small but beautiful pumpkins (still waiting for my bumper-pumpkin year, I guess), and some lovely sunflowers from this patch…


…but the vast majority of all that is Christmas lima beans. They kind of like to hide under all that greenery, so when you’re just looking at the vines you’re thinking, …meh, they aren’t producing much, are they… but then you lift up their skirts a bit and OH. There they are!


Something I really appreciate – as a crazy person with a crazy commute who keeps working crazy-long days because she is crazy – about growing shell beans is…you can pretty much ignore them. Just make sure they’ve got water and let’em go. They are ready when their pods are brown and they rattle when you shake long as conditions aren’t getting too damp, you can leave every last one of them out there on the bushes until you’re good and ready to deal with them.

Which is a nice change from zucchinis and tomatoes, which go from ‘perfect size’ to ‘HAHAHAHA, I DOUBLE-DOG-DARE-YOU TO DEAL WITH ME NOW!!!’ overnight for the former, or end up eaten by Something for the latter.

This wild tangle is all kidney beans. Same thing – just keep them happy until their pods are all browned up and the beans inside rattle, then pick a day to deal with them.


The tomatoes are going nuts with the ripening thing. Finally. I was starting to think they were simply not going to get there, and that I was going to end up either having to do that thing where you pull the entire bush out and hang it upside down in your garage to let them finish reddening or something. But instead, I’m getting to deal with the sudden onslaught of tomatoes, right when I have the least time possible to actually deal with them. (Um, yay?)



This is the new bed the husband built for me a couple weekends ago. I loaded it up with spinach, which is sprouting nicely – and the groovy thing about this kind of bed is, I can easily tent it with some clear plastic in the entirely-likely event that our temperatures start dropping too low even for spinach all of a sudden, creating a kind of greenhouse for the plants in it.


I am contemplating turning this into a small wheat field over the winter; I wouldn’t expect to have massive quantities of wheat from it, but I’d kind of like to try growing the stuff, just to see what happens.


I think that’s about it right now; I just planted some brussel sprouts in the front box, because they are all weird and alien looking and I love to keep the neighbors on their toes, but for the most part the garden is starting to get sleepy as the nights are getting colder and colder. I haven’t gotten around to planting the colder-weather stuff yet, or winterizing the beds that are going to just sit there all winter, waiting for the return of the warmth.

There’s a lot I haven’t gotten around to yet.

There always is.

But I suppose when you’re a person who is going to become enamored by everything, you’re just going to have to get used to the idea that you are never, ever going to get everything you wanted to do, done. The best I’ll ever be able to do is to keep plugging at it, one task at a time, and enjoy the heck out of whatever I’m doing right now.

Which is OK. Because I do enjoy the heck out of whatever I’m doing, most of the time. Plus also I think the tummy-settlers I took a while ago are starting to actually do something.

Woo hoo! I might actually do something today, instead of spending the whole day complaining about what I wanted to do and rambling about what I already did for a while before swerving back to complaining about what-all I didn’t did.

Which is terrible grammar, but I don’t really care. Because when you suddenly realize that your stomach has stopped threatening to kill you if you dare get up from your chair has a way of making you all giddy and daredevil like that. GO AHEAD, JUDGE MY GRAMMAR, I DON’T CARE – BECAUSE I AM (PROBABLY) NOT GOING TO THROW UP TODAY! WOOT!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A knitter's way of saying "ummmm..."

You know how sometimes, you find yourself confronted by so many appealing choices that you just stand there with a blank, possibly drooling, expression going, "Ummmmm..." for, like, a YEAR?

That always seems to be when I make the daily-useful little things, knitterly 'ums' that end up being worn All The Time.

These are fingerless mittens. Which I wear (and lose just one of) pretty much night and day, all winter long. I'm one of those 'always cold' types, and in recent years (ahem), SANG, but the cold makes my hands ACHE.

Man...laptop rebooted...back to work I go...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The distracting power of the powder

Today, I had the first really tedious day at work in a good long while; the kind of day where I found myself eyeballing the clock a bit and mentally counting up the hours and minutes between right now and quitting time. It was intellectual enough to require that I keep paying attention (dammit!), but at the same time mindless enough that my mind kept wandering.

And then I’d have to pull it back to what I was trying to do. Wait. Did I note ALL the columns, in the joins too? or did I JUST pick out the ones in the SELECT statement…?

It’s like getting to work and then wondering if you’ve left the garage door open…only way to know for sure is to drive back home and check. (Or call a neighbor who happens to be home, I suppose, but that has never worked out for me.)

I was working from home today, which ordinarily is a tremendous help when I’m dealing with things like this. Our office has an open floor plan, no cubicle walls to provide even an imaginary sense of privacy, and a lot of the people right around me spend their whole day on the phone; add one highly distractible database analyst and you’ve got a recipe for never being able to focus on any-oh look, a squirrel!

I spend so much time actively trying to ignore conversations around me, it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.

But today, being home didn’t help that much.

Because I kept thinking about tomato powder.

I know.

That is quite possibly in the top ten most random things I have ever said. What the heck is tomato powder, you are probably asking yourself. And, does this woman need psychiatric help?

#2: Probably.

#1: Tomato powder is, um, well…powdered tomatoes. And as it just so happens, I am starting to have a tomato problem. It’s like, now that the nights are getting no really colder and the days are shortening, the tomato plants suddenly went, “HOLY CRAP, THAT’S RIGHT! We’d better get these babies reproducing, and FAST!!” and now I’m walking out there every other day to find another dozen or so have gone from queasy-looking green to firecracker red.

Or purple with faintly green tops.


black krims…which aren’t actually black but rather a kind of funky pink-purple

Which reminds me: wanna see some funky-lookin’ tomatoes?!


accordion tomatoes

These are called “Costoluto Genovese” tomatoes. They’re an Italian heirloom tomato, and they are IN-tense in flavor. Like, wow. Like, I don’t like them on a salad because they overpower everything else around them so that you’re just sitting there going, Dang. I thought this was a spinach salad, but no! It’s a tomato salad, with extra tomato and tomato dressing and tomato sprinkles on top.

So after having decided that they were a little much as a slicing tomato, I said to myself that they would, however, make an unbelievable sauce tomato.

And then I read about tomato powder (you see how this is coming full circle now?), which is basically making a thick puree, pouring it onto fruit leather trays (or plastic-wrap lined regular trays), drying the heck out of it and then grinding it into a powder using a mortar and pestle (because who doesn’t love repetitive fine-motor activities that just keep going, like, forever?!) or a food processor (for those of us with lives they’d like to get back to).

So having brought in approximately three million pounds of tomatoes (or twenty) (details), and having cored and quartered them (which took about three years), AND having swept all the quarters into my next-biggest stock pot, I had this.


which does NOT look all that appealing, actually, but it smelled amazing…99.5% Costoluto with a couple Black Krims that didn’t duck fast enough and about five Romas that waggled their tongues at me and I do NOT put up with insolence from tomatoes…give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, guys.

And then I put that on the stove for about fifteen minutes – just long enough to heat things up and get the skin loosened a bit from the flesh and the juice ready to come out.

Meanwhile, I did battle with set up the food mill. This little contraption separates the pulp and juice from the seeds and skins. It’s like a magic trick.


pulp and juice in one bowl, skins and seeds in the other

skins n seeds

hi, my name is Compost!

And then begins the really long and tedious process of boiling down the juice. What you want is something that looks like…ketchup. What you start out with is something that looks like really cheap tomato juice.

juicy juice

but the flavor of this stuff is like a punch in the face…these are some REALLY tomato-y tomatoes!

{fast forward about five hours (!!!!) of gentle-simmering time}


I have fruit leather trays, so I used those – the puree gets ladled and spread evenly at about 1/8” depth.


and it looks almost exactly like strawberry fruit leather…you can imagine the Denizen Disappointment™ when this bright red substance turned out to be a VEGETABLE thing instead of a FRUIT LEATHER thing…

Then the dehydrator goes on its highest setting and then…well. You wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It takes about fourteen hours to get to the first “flip” – where you gently peel the leather off the tray, turn it over, and put it back on.

Then another fourteen hours of drying.

Then, if it’s still not powderably dry…another flip and yet more drying.

Then, you break it into pieces and give it another four hours or so.

I’ve flipped it twice, and I think it should be done by the time I’m leaving for work tomorrow. From what I’ve read about it, it can be used as a thickener in soups, or in lieu of ‘regular’ canned tomato paste – add 2-3 parts water to each part tomato powder, until you have the consistency you want.

I tried a nibble of the leather that had broken off while I was flipping it, and man…it’s going to be good no matter what I use it in. In general, when you dehydrate things they tend to intensify in flavor; I’ve used dehydrated tomatoes all year from last season’s harvest and they’ve been killer flavor-additions to otherwise boring foods.

Which of course means that I will be spending the whole day tomorrow thinking about what-all I can make using tomato powder. Instead of thinking about what-all columns we're using from which-all sources in wherever-all processes and procedures.

The distracting power of the powder: it is mighty, yo.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So many words, so little time

Life is barreling forward, as it likes to do, without any regard for my feelings about it. I have tried to explain to life that this is rather rude, but it just stares at me for a brief moment, then blurts out, “So anyway…!” and proceeds to continue rattling along at breakneck speed, as if I had said nothing at all.

Things have just been relentless lately. It’s been the kind of quarter where one Drama piles on top of another, where noise and rush and Crazy just swarms like ants on a neglected piece of chocolate left on the floor.

Things are breaking (like my ovens and the minivan’s windshield). Things are rotting (the roof) (because nothing says ‘getting ready for winter!’ like discovering dry rot in your roof – awesome! let’s sing another round of the Happy Homeowner Song, LA LA LA LA LA!).

Work is bat poop crazy. Just…insane. Which on the one hand is, um, well, nuts, and sometimes I feel like standing on my desk and screaming, “WILL YOU ALL JUST PIPE DOWN A DAMNED MINUTE AND LET ME THINK ABOUT ONE (1) THING AT A TIME?!?!?!”

But at the same time, I’m much happier in that kind of environment. I thrive on challenge, and on being challenged. I need to be off-balance, to have heavy demands placed on me, to have high expectations – to have people looking at me expectantly, saying confidently, “Tama can figure this out. Tell us what’s wrong with this. Why is it doing that, and how do we make it not do that any more times? Oh, by the way – four people have spent the last two months trying to figure this out and really didn’t get anywhere. Think you can have it done before we run tomorrow?”

Where most people would be howling with frustration, I find it exhilarating; the constant onslaught of Stuff That Needs Figuring Out Immediately keeps me brilliantly entertained.

My brain spends most of its time in Park. It’s kind of cool to actually run it through all its gears.

And of course, I also have BART. Good old BART. Where would we all be out here in the Bay Area, without BART? Our very own mobile Petri dish, where every imaginable disease comes together in a glorious symphony, and we can all rub elbows with each other and contract The Crazy, in ways small and large.

My latest BART story: Last week, I sat amid the tumultuous ruin of peace, steadily knitting on my Halloween tam. It seemed that by some common will, every other soul on the train was determined to be heard in one way or another – shouting Baby Daddy Drama into their phone, yodeling news of the day to each other across the aisles, shouting to comrades far and near, blasting their music through earbuds that utterly failed to keep the beat within the personal space of the listener.

Having spent the majority of the ride twisting back and forth between her five companions, airing opinions on everything from politics to religion to Young People Today™, the lady across from me fell into a brief moment of contemplation, watching as I twisted yarn back and forth. Then suddenly she leaned forward, tapped me on the knee and, as I popped my earbuds out of my ears and assumed a posture of listening, demanded to know if it was legal for me to be knitting on the train.

{insert expression of huh-wha-now? here}

Seeing that I was not catching her drift, she began telling me that seeing as how it was illegal to knit on planes, she assumed it was likewise illegal on trains, and that she was very, very surprised to learn that it was not illegal for me to be wielding such dangerous weapons with such careless abandon, in public.

I gently informed her that actually, knitting was once again allowed on planes, blah blah blah TSA blah blah blah discretion of the screener yadda yadda.

And I did not point out that the Young Person Today™ slouched in the seat beside her had, at that very moment, a knife tucked into the sock on his left foot. Which I had only noticed because as he had sat down beside her, I was pretty sure I’d seen the hilt of…something-not-gun-but-definitely-weapon-ish…jammed into the waistband of his underwear…which naturally was way, way above the top of his jeans, which were damn near around his ankles.

Somehow, I rather suspect that my #3 circular needles and folding scissors are the least of the BART security team’s worries. Just sayin’.

Speaking of…I finished this on the ride home this afternoon.


It’s stretching over a plate now, which is amusing the Denizen no end.

Also, I am going to have to fight Danger Mouse for it. She has been circling it all night, looking for an opportunity to make off with it and squirrel it away in her ever-increasing hat-stash.

She’s also after this one, which I finished a while ago.


This is Rabbitch’s “Pining for the Fjords” from about a million years ago (she doesn’t have any in her shop at present...I also have a couple other things of hers from Stitches in my stash, one of them a fingering weight in ‘cornsilk’ [I think it was] that was purchased even though I had sworn with many solemn oaths that I was NOT going to buy ANY MORE fingering weight yarn, pretty much ever, seeing as how I already had enough to shawl the entire Eastern seaboard but then this blue was just so…compelling…and I had to buy it).

And then I made…a hat. With stitches.

Many stitches. And I did that thing where you do a turning row? And that other thing where you knit two together and yarn over all the way around, so you get that picot edging thing after you’ve turned it and tacked it down.

And then I made too much i-cord on top and stitched it down kind of flower-ish on the top. Randomly. I thought.


Didn’t notice until after I was done tacking it down that my “random” looping thing was pretty much always an over-under thing except that one (1) of the crossings is over-over.

And since I’ve noticed it, it now drives me nuts so I’m going to have to un-tack and re-tack it, in proper over-under fashion. Argh.

…and now I’ve just realized I have nothing to knit on the train tomorrow. HORRORS.

Talk amongst yourselves, people, nothing to see here but a crazy woman throwing stash yarn around at an hour past her bedtime…

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fickle knits

I am definitely suffering from a case of knitting ADD lately. I must have something like seven or eight WIPs lying around right now, not to mention all the things I've started, done a couple hours work on, then gone, "Nah..." and pulled out.

I get this way from time to time.

Unfortunately, the times when I get in a "finish ALL the things!" frame of not occur at a 1:1 ratio with my Start-itis fits.

In unrelated news, I think I may be catching the flu. And it may have been a grave tactical error saying, firmly, "For heaven's sake, girl, you're awake, you might as well just get going, you KNOW you'll be fine by the time you get to the office!"

Which is usually quite true. When I stay home because I feel a little seasick, I am generally 100% fine by 6:30.

Today, I seem to be getting queasier and queasier. And now I feel hot. Although of course, I'm also DWELLING on how I feel, which has a way of INVITING such things.

Like when I start whining about how my hip hurts, SO NATURALLY my back starts up too...OR DOES IT?!?!

...I strongly suspect my back is a gah-danged liar sometimes..

Anyway! I'm making another hat, everybody! Unless of course I get distracted by something shinier in the next five minutes...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Lady Bast...

…please welcome Dharma to your realm tonight, and give her a place of honor there. She was as fine a cat as any that ever lived, an example for kittens with eyes yet unopened to wonder upon.

She commanded reverence and respect from her humans. The phrase “I’m catted” was well understood as reason enough to not do anything - after all, to get up would disturb her regal repose.

She got what she wanted by whatever means were necessary; through cunning or charm, as suited the situation. She would act the adorable buffoon for ham, or creep behind distracted humans to lick ice cream left unattended. Who has been licking at my ice cream?! Not I, said the cat.

She fiercely protected what was her own. Invading cats would find themselves most severely hissed and gesticulated at through the sliding glass door, and would run with ears flat to their heads from her wild, would-be attack.

She loved her humans, poor bumbling things. She bestowed upon us her grace and benevolence, and made the house warm with the sound of purring and meowing.

She bore her final days bravely. True to the ways of her kind, she hid her suffering well – and she fought, she fought with the heart of a lioness, to the very last of her strength and beyond it.

The honor and love she earned in this house will never fade.

Please welcome her now, Lady, and give her honor in your house.

She was as fine a cat as ever lived, an example for kittens with eyes yet unopened to wonder upon.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Frenzy and Fatigue

Man, have I been tired lately. Which on the one hand is kind of like, "Duh, really?!" because expecting NOT to be falling flat on my face at the end of days like these would be excessively optimistic, even for me.

But still...geesh! It has been really, really, REALLY, excessively, crazily, seriously-did-somebody-slip-me-a-mickey bad lately.

Which is probably why instead of getting much accomplished this weekend, I made a hat. And now I'm making some wrist-warmers from the same yarn. BECAUSE I AM A WILD THING THAT WAY.

But I love the colors in's Pining for the Fjords from Rabbitch, which I bought approximately seven thousand years ago. It has been marinating in the stash forever, waiting for the day I needed a project in bright, cheerful, enthusiastic, energetic COLOR. (Hello, Today!)

(I am not using a pattern. I didn't use one for the hat either. I am apparently going completely undomesticated that way.)