addiction starter-set...

it was warm around here for a whole couple days, so now people are  dancing through the streets, burning their insulated coats, and singing songs about Spring.

however, as it looked like this just a week ago, i am (decidedly) still not convinced.

truth be told, i had a really rough Winter, so i am definitely looking forward to Spring... once i convince myself that it is finally here. i have no idea how people handle life at even higher latitudes, as that 'Winter gloom' is really hard to bear, especially when your mood tends toward gloom on even the best of days. so, while there is a lot of rain in the forecast (it rained all day), there should be plenty of sunshine ahead.

it occurred to me recently that i have a habit of mentioning stuff in this forum, with the claim that i will talk more about it "next time around"... by which point, i am on to some wholly unrelated topic. so, i want to make a concerted effort in the next few posts to revisit some of that already-forgotten stuff. that is, if i can remember what i intended to say in the first place. this will not end well. trust me.

last time around, i mentioned that i had been drinking Turkish coffee. well, that part remains true. i have been drinking Turkish coffee...

and drinking Turkish coffee...

and drinking even more Turkish coffee.

it is his mom's preferred hot beverage, so she is most enthusiastic to get me addicted to the stuff. she even gifted me the pair of handmade mini cup-and-saucer sets she bought back when they lived in France (where my favorite animator was born). so, like many many... manyyy years ago.

note the checkered coat of arms from the Croatian flag on the side of the cup. i thought Caribbean folks were ridiculous with the constant need to display flags on everything, regardless of where we may have drifted to in the diaspora. turns out Croatians are just the same.

me: i thought she got them in France.
him: she did.
me: but it has a Croatian flag on it.
him: everything has a Croatian flag on it.  
me: that is true.

it should be noted that i usually drink hot beverages from my bucket-sized mug of wonderment, so this little cup is like something to rest the teabag in after a good steep.

so tiny. so cute.

the cups and saucers have only ever lived behind the glass doors of a china cabinet, so you know it was a big deal for them to be placed in my care. i used them exactly TWO times before nerves got the best of me. so now i mostly look at them from a safe distance, with admiration... and with fear. 

as a result, most of my Turkish coffees have been sipped from either one of the small glass cups we got as free gifts inside packets of tea from the Middle Eastern grocery store.

or, from one of the several Batman mugs knocking around our home. everyone i know has a few of these things. Batman Forever may have been a train wreck, but boy do i (still) love these mugs! this particular one is The Joker.

the hardest part of making Turkish coffee is developing that lovely creamy layer on the top. this, according to all of the You Tube videos i watched on the subject, is considered to be an essential part of the drink. there is no dairy involved, so it takes a bit of practice (and patience) to figure out that part.

luckily, my favorite animator—who, i might add, does not drink coffee—was most supportive in encouraging me to make as many cups as was necessary to get it right. the early efforts were pathetic. the cat is closing her eyes in shame.

getting better, sorta.

i eventually got the hang of thing. i actually had to blow a little opening in the creamy layer to show the contrast with the coffee.

it should be noted that Turkish coffee (left) is ground super-fine and has a texture approaching cocoa powder, while the coffee i use in my French press (right) looks more like burnt coarse cornmeal. random aside: i have been on a super-dark-roast kick of lately, so my "regular" coffee looks like pulverized charcoal.

additionally, the ground Turkish coffee is usually added directly to the water. they even make special pots for it. they look like metal corn cob pipes. this one was part of my addiction starter-set. note the pen for scale. my starter-set also included a bag of her favorite ground coffee. the woman is thorough in her enabling.

water, sugar (totally optional), and the ground coffee are added to the pot, which is placed on the burner. when the coffee is ready to go, the whole thing is poured into the cup. the fine grounds settle at the bottom of the cup, so you leave that bit behind when drinking the coffee.

so, now i am back to being hooked on coffee... again. last time around, it took a couple years to break the addiction, and i managed to develop a few even-more-absurd habits along the way. but that is a story that i will save for some other day.


new gnus...

me: i want to add a banner to my blog. can you draw a picture for me to use?
him: ooh... that's a good idea. what did you have in mind?
me: i don't know. something cute. maybe some cartoony gnus doing all the random pointless stuff i like to do.
him: that's a really good idea.

that was three years ago.

i did offer the occasional friendly reminder, but he is usually rather busy, so i did not really press the point. then, one day, about this time last year, i asked again.

me: uhm... sweetie... you... uhm... remember those gnus you promised to.... uhm... draw for me like... uhm... two years ago... uhm...?
him: i didn't forget your gnus. i've just been so busy.
me: i know, which is why i didn't keep asking about it.
him: well, i was actually thinking about taking a break this Summer. i have a bunch of new drawing software i want to play around with, so i can use your gnus as a test project. 
me: sounds good!

that was a year ago.

Summer came, and we put the studio on pause and went into relaxing-extra-hard mode. then, as Summer was drawing to a close, the phone began to ring every day with Producer/Director/Coordinator-type people planning for the season ahead.

still, there were no gnus.

then, one day, when he had just gotten off the phone, and was scribbling down the details for a meeting, my patience/sanity finally broke.

me: i hate to sound like a pest, but you promised me gnus by the end of the Summer. now you're signing contracts and going to meetings. what about my gnus?
him: look. i was seriously planning on working on your gnus, but it's really intimidating.
me: what in the world are you talking about??? you are a professional artist. you literally get paid to draw all day. 
him: i know. i know. but it's different.
me: how is that possibly different?
him: well... that's not a big deal. that's just for television. this is for you, so it has to be special. 

then he gave me a smile that said he knew he had just charmed his way into an indefinite extension on the drawing of the gnus.

thus defeated, i gave up too... until one day, when inspiration struck anew.

me:  i know how i can get my drawing of some gnus.
him: how are you gonna do that?
me: you know those flyers you see everywhere for local artists advertising their services? and they're usually art students trying to make a bit of money by drawing logos... that sort of thing?
him: yes...?
me: well, i'm gonna hire one of them to draw my gnus. i'll advertise for a first-year art student, and hire the WORST one of them i can find. then i'll add that gnu picture to my blog, along with a note that says, "i asked my favorite animator to draw me some gnus"... and i'll leave it at that.
him: then everyone will think i did it.
me: exactly!
him: you wouldn't dare.
me: oh, we both know that i would. 

and just like that, ladies and gentlemen... i got my new gnus!!!

he recently had a couple weeks of down time between projects, so he managed to squeeze them in... somewhere between gaming and watching a marathon of k-dramas with me. [we watched Joseon X-Files and Vampire Detective, if you need all the details.]

we also ate lots of tasty things, like his dad's walnut strudel. there are no words to describe how much i enjoy this stuff.

and he made me many cups of his mom's favorite Turkish coffee, so now i am back to being a caffeine addict. thanks again, sweetie. there is a story to the coffee and the cups, which i will save for next time around. as for the fluffy, grey kitty... she was keeping me company.

then, he called me into the studio one day, and i was gobsmacked to see a gnu!!!

me: it's lovely... but... uhm... i thought you were going to do something more... you know...
him: ... cartoony? well, i decided to go for something different. let's see your first-year art student do that!
me: i am definitely not complaining. 

so, thank you, sweetie... finally. and i am guessing i should put in a request now for the next drawing, which should be ready in a decade or two.


pathway to joy...

true story: i took my laptop and a nearly-finished knitting project to bed with me yesterday, vowing that i would have the item completed before i fell asleep. needless to say, i did not knit a single stitch in the hours that followed, which made perfect sense when you consider the list of cryptic notes i had scribbled down for finishing the thing.

instead, i ended up sipping multiple cups of tea while watching a live-stream of sheep giving birth somewhere in Wales. you know... that place with all the Welsh people.

this sudden burst of lunacy can only mean one thing. it is (technically, but not really) Spring, when my fancy lightly turns to thoughts of sheep. Tennyson may be rolling in his grave at that last line, but it is true. as soon as the gloom of Winter starts to lift, i start harassing farm-type folks with questions about their sheep.

this (naturally) resulted in time spent re-visiting info about some of my favorite breeds, which (naturally) lead to inquiries being sent to a handful of farms regarding the purchase of a fleece for spinning. i am fairly certain most people do this sort of thing in the wee hours of the morning. virtual sheep-stalking is just a bonus activity.

the current focus of my viewing is the birthing barn at St Fagans National Museum of History, which is one of the seven institutions that form Amgueddfa Cymru (the National Museum of Wales). if you are even a little bit curious about watching sheep give birth, i urge you to check out the live-stream on their lambcam or their You Tube channel (where they also save the stream footage in chunks of about six hours each).

the barn was packed with heavily-pregnant ewes just a day ago, but now they appear to be down to about a dozen or so who are still waiting to give birth. their flock includes three rare breeds of sheep (more about that on their blog), and boy are they ever productive! every single birth i have witnessed so far involved either twins or triplets. the birth count was approaching two-hundred last time i checked. as my favorite animator put it, "they're almost as bad as cats".

i only wish i had discovered this lambcam earlier, but i should get a couple days excitement out of it. hopefully when the birthing is all over, they will shift the focus to the new mamas and their lovely little lambs. i also have a list of other lambcams to keep an eye on in the coming weeks... which sounds about as sane to me as people who look forward to watching grown men run around a field, chasing after a ball. besides, one (wo)man's "crazy" is another (wo)man's "pathway to joy".


how not to "don't freak out"...

i had TWO glasses of "emergency" red wine at like three o'clock this morning. true story! my kitten spent yesterday at the vet having her lady-parts disconnected, and my favorite animator prefaced her returning with the phrase, "don't freak out", before  handing the carrier bag to me. her belly was shaved, which i expected, and her head was encased in a plastic cone-of-shame!

there were no cones when the other two girls got the "snip", so this is new territory for me... and i am not handling it well. the first hour or two were especially painful (for me, that is). she was still incredibly groggy from the anesthesia, but she refused to remain in the "comfy spot" i had established for her, on the sofa next to me. i had the brilliant idea to give her a small bowl of milk, which she drank enthusiastically, before (thankfully) falling into a deep sleep.

of course, when she came through the other side of said sleep, she was far-less groggy... and far-more determined to get her head out of that piece of plastic. so, naturally, she has spent every waking moment running around like a lunatic, trying (and failing) to break free. it was equal parts amusing and cringe-inducing to see her back up and attempt (repeatedly) to run into the long, skinny cardboard box we left in the hallway for her to use as a "tunnel".

it contained the rails for our bed frame, and the other cats are both too big to crawl through there, so it has been her personal cat-cave. i fully expected to wake up and find her wedged cone-first in the entrance to said space. these two weeks better fly by rapidly, because she is one intensely-overactive kitty, and that cone is getting in the way... which is why i found myself experiencing a minor panic-attack at three in the morning.

him: i don't understand why you're freaking out. she'll be okay.
me: she is a lunatic, and i don't want her to do anything that might rip out her stitches, because i would probably pass out if she starts bleeding anywhere.
him: why would that bother you? you used to do surgery on animals.
me: yeah... that was like two personalities ago. this is my cat. she's not supposed to be bleeding for any reason.

then she started running around again, banging cone-first into every surface along the way... then i went searching for a bottle of wine. do not even get me started on the acid re-flux, tingling in the left-hand (a.k.a., "the heart-attack hand"), headache, hyperventilation, and tears... and all of that before the three AM wine-emergency. it is going to be a long two weeks.

(and... yes... that is a Santa stocking hanging over the fireplace. i will muster enough caring to move it... one of these days.)


unreasonable request: many long-exhales...

i spent most of the past few weeks trying to shake a bug that absolutely refuses to leave my system, which had the net effect of turning January into one of the most miserable months i have experienced in a long time. i got out of bed at around five (PM, that is) yesterday, helped to prepare a truly spectacular dish (my first non-toast-and-tea meal in more than a week), watched a couple episodes of Crème de la Crème with him, refilled my hot water bottle, then climbed back under the blanket and proceeded to fall back into a deep sleep. i woke up again shortly before sunrise this morning to find my pillow and the sheets around my body damp from what was yet another night of feverish sleep, so it would seem that i am still fighting this thing. however, i started today feeling more energized than i have all week, so i am hoping that the end is in sight.

i used some of that 'waiting for death' time to fulfill an unreasonable request on the part of my favorite animator. he has a birthday coming up in a few days, so i made the mistake a couple weeks ago of asking what he wanted for said occasion. i should point out that i prefaced the question with an audible long-exhale of the kind that usually indicates that something unpleasant is about to happen, because i already knew what the answer would be, and i already knew it would be long-exhale-worthy.

me: uhm... sweetie, you know how you have a birthday coming up soon...?
him : [after a pronounced pause] oh... yes, i do.
me: i'm gonna pretend that it didn't just take you that long to remember your own birthday, but... uhm... do you... uhm... know what you'll.... uhm.... want for your birthday?

at which point, he lit up like a Maglite® with fresh batteries.

him: YOU are gonna make ME a pair of hand-knit socks for my birthday!

and then i long-exhaled again.

it is not that i do not like knitting for him. he is incredibly knit-worthy, as he actually wears the stuff i make. he wears the mossy green sweater over a t-shirt quite regularly, and the sweater with the wrath-of-khan collar is his favorite extra layer on the coldest of Winter days. he has not worn the grey cardi i made for Christmas, mainly because i still cannot locate the suede patches that need to be sewn on the elbows, but that will eventually join the rotation of warm, wintry things. but, most of all, he loves that heck out of those socks i made for him a year-and-a-half ago... and THAT is the problem.

he keeps talking about how much he loves those socks. every... single... time... he puts them on, he has to comment about how comfy they are. he refers to them as his "lucky socks", and he wears them every time he has to go meet with some Director/Producer-type-person of whatever show he is working on.

me: do you realize you always wear those socks whenever you have to go to a big meeting?
him: i know. they're my lucky socks.
me: what is possibly lucky about a pair of socks?
him: they just help me feel confident when i say "no" to whatever stupid change they want me to make.

he punctuated the last sentence with an implication-filled grin, and i responded with an extra-long-exhale, because i know that means that he wants me to make more of the silly things. why is that a problem, you ask? it is not like i have an aversion to knitting, or that i do not own enough sock yarn to getting him started on that all-hand-knit drawer of socks he keeps demanding. heck, i hand-dye yarn that rivals all that indie-dyed stuff people gush about in the knit-o-sphere. and, between Ravelry and my hard-copy library, i have enough sock patterns to keep me knitting for a few years without making the same sock twice. problem is... i just cannot get excited about knitting socks.

show me a sweater or cardi covered in intricate colorwork or cables, and my fingers instantly start twitching, while my brain goes to work selecting the perfect yarn from my stash to make it happen. i once knitted a large lace shawl in yarn the thickness of a newborn's hair... just because i was curious about making the thing. i have NEVER worn or used it for anything, and it has sat folded in a box for the past few years, waiting for me to re-purpose the yarn into something a bit more useful. point is... i do honestly, genuinely, absolutely enjoy knitting... just not socks for some odd reason.

so, there i was in my Winter-illness-riddled state, contemplating a list of things i could suggest to him as alternative gifts. more art/animation books for the studio? another limited-edition maquete of some comic/horror character to add to his multiple display cases? me sitting (relatively) still for a marathon of bad movies of his choosing... and not complaining (too much) through the whole thing? i even considered making that skull-fabric shirt he keeps hinting at every time i pull out the sewing machine, as he always manages to squeeze some unreasonable request into all of my crafty endeavors.

however, it was what he wanted for his birthday, and it really was a minor request in the grand scheme of things—plus, he never complains (too much) about the bags, buckets, and boxes of yarn all over our home—so i long-exhaled again and started planning. i began by presenting him with about a dozen different socks yarns (some purchased from the yarn shop around the corner, some my own hand-dyed offerings) to choose from, then i sat him down in front of a pre-selected (by me) assortment of sock patterns on Ravelry. he settled on the Mistletoe Socks by Verena Cohrs.

after casting on in the yarn he had selected, i made the executive decision to start over in a different yarn of my own choosing. with his (shall we say) rugged feet in mind, i skipped past the merino yarns and opted for a sturdier Blue-Faced Leicester (my all-around favorite sheep breed) blended with a bit of nylon. i dyed this yarn a few years back, after an afternoon of reading and daydreaming under a large tree in our local park. i was captivated by the little pops of color as the sunlight filtered through the leaves, so i went home and dyed a couple hanks of yarn and some fiber for spinning. i call the colorway Old Orchard, after the name of a street that borders our little park.

this yarn seemed to be an appropriate match for his choice of a botanic-themed sock pattern.

i like the way the pre-spun yarn (left) dyed up, but i was head-over-heels with how the colors played together once i spun up the dyed fiber (right). this may be my favorite of all the yarns i have spun to date. it was always my intent to turn it into a hat for him, as it would be delightful next to his green eyes. however —and i realize that this sounds a bit self-absorbed before i say it—this is possibly my best spinning effort to date, and i am inclined to hang on to it as a testament of sorts to my progress as a spinner.

so, there i was, tormenting myself for days on end with the knitting of socks on insanely tiny needles that keep stabbing into my fingers, when i arrived at a series of conclusions:
  • birthdays mean that you get an automatic pass on an unreasonable request (i need to start contemplating one of my own for my birthday in June).
  • love means that you are required to honor said request (even if it causes you physical pain... and many long-exhales).
  • (but, most importantly) the act of knitting something that you really dislike means that you get to buy more yarn... totally guilt-free!!!
yep... that sounds like my kind of selfless sacrifice.

[i will talk about the finished socks (and the many restarts) in my next post.]

there was also that night, when i was on the sofa, tucked up under a fuzzy blanket, complaining about... well... everything. i was restless and cranky and thoroughly sick of feeling like the universe's punching bag. in the midst of all that crotchetiness, i was overcome by a sudden urge to bake something... at like one in the morning. so, i enlisted his help in making a small batch of kiflice, the lovely walnut shortbread crescents rolled in powdered sugar that his parents usually make by the hundreds during the holiday season. [random aside: the word kiflice refers to multiple baked treats in hrvatski, which leads me to question the creativity (or lack thereof) of the Croatian people.]

we have a bag of walnuts in the fridge that were ground using his dad's old-school grinder, so i have been experimenting with small batches to find the perfect cookie. 

look at that yummy, nutty, crumbly texture.

i will document the process and share a recipe in the near future. for now, i am intensely close to walnut-crescent-cookie nirvana. the Little One seems to agree, as i had to hold the plate over my head while i ate to keep her away from my cookies. i did leave her some crumbly bits, which she licked up happily. there is something so extra-adorable about the tiny pink tongue on a kitten. and, speaking of nirvana... if you squint a bit, it almost looks like a creator-view of the cosmos. i always suspected it was a small cat.