Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Stitch Bible

“The Step-by-Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches” by Tracey Todhunter
Interweave, 2019
I’ve been crocheting most of my life. I knit too, but prefer crochet. While crocheting, you can really SEE your stitches, you only use one hook not two needles, so mistakes are easier to correct. Also, crocheting is faster than knitting. One row of double crochet stitches equals about 5 rows of stockinet knitting. I’m impatient and like to see my project take shape quickly. Crocheting a project offers almost instant gratification. 
Once I mastered the single and double crochet stitches, I was on my way. However, soon after learning the basics of crochet I started to crave slightly more difficult challenges as well as wanting to have a larger variety of crochet patterns and designs to choose from. I started buying crochet stitch dictionaries. My yarny friend and knit designer, Brenda Castiel asked me to review “The Step-by-Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches” by Tracey Todhunter. This book is packed with plenty of new techniques to master. It's an amazing source of inspiration. Paging through this book is like exploring a whole new world of possibilities! This collection includes both written instructions and a chart for each pattern. I love being able to see the chart and how the pattern comes together at a glance. 
Every pattern includes a clear photo with yarn as well as the chart and written instructions.  The patterns are broken into sections to make them easy to find and there’s even a visual table of contents at the beginning of the book. 
There aren’t any projects in the book, but suggestions are given as to what each stitch would be suitable for. There are recommendations of yarn weights, colors or yarn types that would work for the different stitch patterns. There are sections on Tunisian crochet and also edge stitches. Crochet basics are at the end of the book with a section on symbols and abbreviations.

I am an extremely visual person and I need pictures. “200 Crochet Stitches” gives me a general idea of how the stitch looks once worked. There are so many wonderful stitch patterns included in this book. I already have sticky notes on about 50 of the ones I want to try.

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Cooking Again

During work days, I would usually just steam some fish and veggies, nuke a bag of frozen rice. Larry often makes a green salad. Dinner is ready in 20 minutes!  Other nights, we might grill something or just eat some take-out food. Eating like this does get boring and really isn't that healthy.
I like to cook when I have sufficient time. With my upcoming retirement, I will have more time to really plan meals. My last day of work is this coming Friday, March 29th, but I anticipated my freedom with a nicer meal for Sunday night dinner.
This Chicken Parmesan recipe is supposed to look like THIS!

I recently saw this easy recipe online. Basically, it's just breaded and fried chicken filets, topped with spaghetti sauce and mozarella cheese, baked in the oven to brown. I used to make this dish all the time. I had almost everything on-hand, so this is what we had last night for dinner. We have leftovers for tonight! My version didn't look quite as camera-ready as the photo above, but it tasted great!
Sunday Night Dinner
Time to get out all of my old recipe books and start planning! We might have to do some kitchen re-modeling soon!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Faux Sophie

Scarf by Sophie Digard

I've been enamoured with the knit wear of Parisian designer, Sophie Digard for years. Her crocheted pieces are definitely works of fine art. This description is from the French Needle website: Sophie Digard is a Parisian knitwear designer, and above all, a colorist. She began her enterprise in 1999. Fibers made and dyed to her specifications in France are shipped to her workshop in Madagascar where they are hand crocheted, knitted and embroidered into unique works of art.

This Sophie Digard retails for $350
Because of the intense labor and all of the piecework, these scarves are quite expensive. Click on this link to read a wonderful description of Digard's work.

Wool design inspired by organic elements, by Sophie Digard

Sophie combines wool, silk, linen and other natural materials to create her wearable works of art. The colors that Sophie dyes some of the yarn is exquisite. She often blends two or three colors in a strand for a marled appearance. Usually, her colors are very subtle, but sometimes, like in the organic piece above, she chooses vibrant colors.
One of my knitting friends, Lee, said that she had seen a Sophie Digard designed scarf at a boutique on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. We immediately googled all of Digard's designs. Lee was amazed at the breadth of Digard's work. She was inspired to go through her stash of yarn and start knitting modular squares to join into a scarf.
Of course, I've admired Sophie's work for a very long time, but being impatient and not inclined to do fine, teensy crochet work, I thought it might be best to find a self-striping yarn in soft colors to make little granny squares and combine into a scarf.  I ran over to Wild Fiber in Santa Monica on my lunch hour and picked up two skeins of Lang Mille Colori Baby Merino to pair with some lovely neutral yarn I purchased at last year's Yarn Crawl at Twist, Yarns of Intrigue in Manhattan Beach. I'm just making small granny squares with a size G hook, throwing in an occasional daisy flower square every so often. It's not quite a Sophie, so I call it my "Faux Sophie."
Ellen's "Faux Sophie"

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Monday, March 18, 2019

How Many is Too Many?

L-R: Ohana Concert Long Neck Uke, Ken Bloom Custom Uke, Larry's Parlour Guitar
I've been on a bit of a ukulele acquistion binge lately. How many ukuleles is too many? At this moment, I own six ukes. All of them are different with different sounds and personalties.
My first uke was a Fluke. I traded in this ukulele for my concert Ohana with the long neck. I truly love this ukulele that I purchased at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. It's plain, portable but with a big, warm sound. My brother built me a custom ukulele when I started playing seriously, about 12 years ago. I also like this little uke. It's a cross between a soprano and a concert size with a custom tiki head, made out of koa wood. Ken inlaid my nick-name, L.A. Ell, into the fret board!
Ken Bloom-custom built Ukulele, 2010
I've been playing those two ukuleles for years, until finally I saw the Kala Salt and Pepper, Doghair tenor ukulele in "Ukulele" Magazine. Oooooooo!  I'd been wanting a tenor uke for a bigger sound. I could not pass up that black and white, shiny finish! This was a special order from the Kala Factory in Northern California. I play the Kala most often in class and for performances.

Salt & Pepper, Dog Hair Kala Tenor Uke (photo by Cali Rose)

Last year we were going to Hawaii for a few weeks. I definitely wanted to take a ukulele with me. I thought it might be easier to take a soprano with me on the airplane, so I zoomed down to U-Space in Little Tokyo and consulted with expert, Jason Arimoto. I ended up with a sweet little pineapple Kamoa soprano ukulele. For such a small uke, it has a surprisingly big sound. I love the little oval shape.
Kamoa Pineapple Soprano Ukulele
Since purchasing the little pineapple, above, I've been on a bit of a buying binge.  Just before Christmas I tried out the Magic Fluke "Firefly" Banjolele, concert size at Boulevard Music in Culver City. I loved the twanginess of it. It's super light-weight and easy to play. It was on sale!  I hinted to Larry that I sure would like to have that banjolele for Chanukah. I've played 5-string banjo since I was a teenager, but I'm kinda' rusty on those banjo techniques and chords. The banjolele is a ukulele, so you can use the same strums and chord configurations as a regular ukulele! Larry is a doll, so he bought me the banjolele. It is rather loud, so half the time I play it with a damper cloth stuffed into the back.
Larry and the Magic Fluke Firefly Banjolele
A few weeks ago I was browsing through the Mim's Ukulele website. I'd read about Mim in UKULELE Magazine. She claims to be an expert at setting up your ukulele. I noticed a very vintage-looking ukulele reproduced after the Portuguese ukuleles made by Manuel Nunes in the late 1800s. These were the first ukes introduced to Hawaii. The slim waist body shape has been reproduced, along with the rope binding. Ohana extended the rope binding feature to the back of the uke as well as across the center of the headstock, down to the middle of the finger board. I first saw this ukulele model at the Torrance Ukulele Festival this past summer. One of Natalie's friends, Mary actually won the drawing for this sopranino model....so cute!
Mary's Sopranino Nunes Ohana Ukulele (with Nataie and Cher)
When I saw a larger version on Mim's website, I decided to order it. I LOVE this ukulele! It came to my doorstep within 4 days of ordering. Mim really is an expert at uke set-up. I swear, it was almost in tune after traveling all the way from Floyd, Virginia to Los Angeles! Thanks for the speedy and excellent service, Mim!
Ohana Nunes "Portuguese" Ukulele

So, really, how many ukuleles are too many ukuleles? I don't think that six are too many to own. I'm keeping them all...for now!

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Ebell of Los Angeles

On Sunday Larry and and participated in the Los Angeles Conservancy's Women's History Event at the Ebell of Los Angeles. What a glorious collection of furniture, costumes and art! The Ebell of Los Angeles was founded in 1894 by women, for women. It was their goal to educate women and to help the community. This particular building was built in 1927 in the Italian Renaissance style, architect, Sumner Hunt; garden design by Florence Yoch.
Read more about the purpose and history of the Ebell Women's Club HERE
We started our tour in the central garden. There was a docent at each stop on the tour. The garden is lovely, spacious and classic in design.

We toured many of the grand spaces, theaters and ballrooms downstairs. The ceilings are magnificent!
The carved and painted ceiling in this grand salon

Musicians were rehearsing for a performance later in the day sponsored by the Da Camera Society
We walked to the Wilshire Boulevard entrance to the building. The wrought iron gates are most impressive.
Main Entrance

Close-up of wrought iron entrance gates
We were taken upstairs to view the solarium more auditoriums and various suites. The Library was cozy. I was really taken with the collection of antique furniture. Our family owned a few pieces of this Japanese, Gothic Revival furniture. It was made during the late Meiji Period, 1880-1915, for the export market.
Asian Carved Furniture

LOVE those dragons!
Upstairs Library

I would like this linoleum in my 1928 kitchen, please
The Curator of the Ebell Costume Collection showed us a few spring ensembles
We concluded our tour downstairs in another grand ballroom. I must say, the stonework, paneling and other details in this Italian Renaissance building are exquisite!

Detail of columns, above
We've been to the Ebell Theater many times. I've also visited for weddings, graduations and other community activities.  If you have a chance to tour the Ebell of Los Angeles, definitely do it!

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Friday, March 08, 2019

iHeart Hearts!

Larry's crocheted heart necklace @ MONA, Glendale

Yes, I know it's corny, but I just love the HEART design. I'm almost ALWAYS wearing a heart pendant around my neck (unless, of course I'm wearing my excellent new Breeze Block pendant)! We need more heart in this world!
A few of my heart pendants
When the cartoon, "Cathy" started showing up in my daily newspaper in 1976 (written by Cathy Guisewhite), I immediately identified with the character. Cathy always wore a shirt with a heart on it. I wanted to be just like Cathy.
My idol, Cathy!
My heart obsession has carried over to my crochet and knit projects.  I've made dishcloths, potholders, hats, doilies and more with hearts of them.
Sunflower Daisy Heart
Baby Heart Fez
Heart Dishcloth
Halloween Costume, The Red Heart Queen of Crochet
Valentine Heart Doily
Intarsia Hearts
Last year I saw this heart blanket online called "Tune My Heart Blanket" by Magdalene Lee.  I was very taken with this design. It reminds me of an old-fashioned quilt. I'd recently mastered the triangle granny square in two colors, so I got all of my pinky yarns together and proceeded to crochet this blanket! I added a row of solid squares at the top and bottom to make the piece longer. I LOVE it! This blanket is going to be gifted to a special friend for her birthday!
"Heart Be Still" Blanket, modeled by Mr. Larry
I named my blanket, "Heart Be Still" after a favorite Billy Vera song!

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Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Mardi Gras 2019

Mardi Gras at the Farmers Market, 3rd and Fairfax

There have been Mardi Gras celebrations all over the City this past weekend. Tonight, Fat Tuesday, there is one last party at the Original Farmers Market. Eddie Baytos and the Nervis Bros. are performing right near the Gumbo Pot Restaurant. If it doesn't rain, it should be a fun event!
Mr. Gumbo Ya Ya, Chuck T.

Here at the office, we're more low-key. I'd heard that Whole Foods carried King Cakes, so Larry stopped by there yesterday to see what was available. They had lots of them, 4 different kinds. He picked out a cinnamon King Cake and brought it home. I like to bring some Mardi Gras color to our drab office on Fat Tuesday!
Whole Foods King Cake. Bleah!
This morning, I opened up the King Cake to give Larry a slice. It was SO DRY and STALE! It was like plaster dust! Oh well. I brought it to the office for show, but I stopped by Fred's Bakery on Robertson Boulevard in Beverlywood on my way to work and picked up an Alligator Coffee Cake for the office. I thought the 'gator was appropriate to celebrate Louisiana Mardi Gras in Los Angeles. 
Kevin "Lent is Almost Here" G.

My Jewish King Cake was far superior to the Whole Foods one!
Delicious Alligator Coffee Cake from Fred's Bakery
Bon Ton Roulet, y'all!

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Monday, March 04, 2019

Yarn Bonanza!

I was too stunned, TWICE, to take photos of the entire yarn bonanza that my ol' pal Ruth brought to two of my yarny groups this past week, but I did snap a photo of a shawl that I'm crocheting with Ruth's gift.
Crocheted shawl in progress. Lorna's Laces Hand-Dyed Yarn, "Haymarket"

Ruth has been knitting off and on for most of her life. She picked it up again recently and went a bit wild at some of the yarn marketplaces at knitting conventions. It seems, every time Ruth attended Stitches West or any of the other yarn events we have in the U.S., she picked up a few skeins here and there, not really planning what she would make with those skeins. We call them "orphan" skeins. Ruth decided that it was time to clean house. We are so lucky that she decided to clean house at our knit groups!
The members of the West Hollywood Stitch 'n Bitch at the Original Farmers Market last Thursday and the Ocean Park Fiber Artists at the Coffee Bean in Santa Monica on Saturday were the lucky recipients. One of our Ocean Park members was so excited to see such a beautiful pile of yarn that she actually started to hyperventilate! Yarn can be so exhilarating. The possibilities are endless. Ruth's request, in return for the donated yarn, is that we post photos of the items we create with her yarn. 
If we are lucky enough to have Ruthie donate some more yarn to our groups, I'll try to compose myself and take a photo before we ravenously dive in! Thanks again, Ruth for your generosity!

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Hiren's BootCD
hard drive recovery