Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cocktail Wednesdays: The Leap Year

Leap Year Cocktail

(Sorry for another iPhone photo. I've got to remember to buy those batteries!)

The Leap Year Cocktail comes to us tonight from Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book. Go take a look at the 12 Bottle Bar post on the subject to find out what the leap year had to do with the creation of the Savoy Bar. A hint: it has to do with a cheerful fact about the square of the hypotenuse.

Leap Year

2 oz Dry Gin
0.5 oz Orange Liqueur
0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 Dash (tsp) of Lemon Juice

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The verdict: Despite the inclusion of orange liqueur and sweet vermouth, this drink is decidedly not sweet. I would say that it is sharp. Even though the Bluecoat Gin that we used is not as strongly flavored as, for example, Tanqueray, the gin and its juniper are the primary players here, with the orange and the vermouth feeling like notes within the gin. For me, the lemon was really in the background. Scott could only take one sip, as he immediately felt like this drink would give him heart burn. This was especially striking to me as I know that he has had more lemon juice in the past without this much of a problem. Something about the flavor, in addition to the acidity level, contributed to his issue.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nessie Toy Finished

Nessie Amigurumi

Just last night, I finished the Nessie toy that I am knitting for my cousin's baby, who is due at the end of the month. I knit him in purple EL. D. Mouzakis Butterfly Cotton yarn from my stash using the Loch Ness Monster pattern from Amigurumi Knits, by Hansi Singh, which is also available online as a single pattern download.

The cotton got to be a strain on my hands whenever I was knitting something at a sharp angle to everything else, so I had put off making the flippers. Once I got my petticoat and my cardigan done, though, I was in the mood for tackling and finishing things. As these sorts of things usually are, it turned out not to be so bad as I had anticipated.

Nessie Amigurumi

I had trouble getting the color right on my iPhone camera (which I'm using today because I ran out of batteries for my regular camera and I don't want to put my post of any longer), but here's the best color adjustments I have. Hopefully you get the idea.

Nessie Amigurumi

He's in the wash now. Hopefully, he comes out all right!

Scandinavian Cardigan Finished

Scandinavian Cardigan - installing the zipper

This week, I managed to finally work past my aversion to hand sewing and install the zipper in my scandinavian colorwork cardigan. I've worn it several times, intending to photograph it, but when I finally got to it today, my camera batteries were dead, and we have no additional batteries left. Therefor, please forgive the iPhone photos. I think that if I don't go ahead and post it, it will never get done.

Scandinavian Cardigan - installing the zipper

I think that with hand knitting, it's really best to hand sew in zippers, because I'm afraid the garment could easily get deformed and stretched unevenly while sewing on the machine. I even attach a ribbon on each side of the opening as a stabilizer before adding the zipper. I sewed two lines of catch stitch on each length of ribbon to secure it.

Scandinavian Cardigan - Zipper installation

On the zipper itself, I sewed a line of catch stitch and a line of backstitch right next to the zipper teeth.

Scandinavian Cardigan

Now, it's ready to be worn, but I may finish it later with another layer of ribbon over the inside of the zipper.

Scandinavian cardigan

I designed this cardigan using the Classic Raglan Cardigan formula from Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top and stranded colorwork patterns found in Traditional Scandinavian Knitting by Sheila McGregor.

Cocktail Wednesdays: The Daiquiri

The Daiquiri

Sorry for the delay in posting. This week, we had a bit of a tropical Wednesday evening, with tacos and daiquiris. We're not talking strawberry daiquiris, or other stereotypical frozen fruity variations, but the simple, elegant original.


2 ounces white rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Lime wedge for garnish

Shake over ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

The verdict: It was fresh, tart, and intensely lime flavored. Scott and I both liked it. I was surprised by how much it reminded me of Roses Lime Juice typically used in a gimlet, but it was more elegant thanks to the rum, and of course the fact that it was fresh.

See Kenn's post on Cocktailia with some variations using aged rum, bitters, and other old-school ingredients.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Flooding: Update 10 - Bar Demolition

Basement - behind the walls in the bar

The other thing that happened this past week and weekend was that we hired a dumpster and threw out almost everything from the old bar into it, including huge, heavy pieces of tiled countertop. Once we had the cabinets out, we pulled out the damaged wall behind them as well.

Basement - behind the walls

Lo and behold, a lot of the construction behind there was crazy, and I'm not just talking about the layers of dryer lint covering everything. I did remove most of that before these photos were taken. The water and gas pipes weren't properly secured. The wiring was a rat's nest, and we already learned earlier in this process that some lights are actually on two breakers.

Basement - behind the walls

Finally, the dryer vent was not only held up with duct tape wrapped around the studs, but also insulated with what looks like fiberfill. Not only does a dryer vent not need to be insulated, but it's not a good idea to insulate a hot duct with flammable material. Finally, the ceiling and wal had been cut out to accomodate and expose all of this unnecessary insulation, and the wall had been "patched" with a ceiling tile. Classy.

Having this wall open should give us the opportunity to fix the wiring and other craziness, so we know it's built right before we close it up and finish it off.

Steampunk Petticoat

Steampunk Petticoat

Just the other day, I finished a project that was on my goal list last month, and has been in my stash for a while -- a steampunk petticoat.

Steampunk Petticoat - detail

This project was involved a lot of sewing detail. Each seam was sewn multiple times. I made french seams on the woven oatmeal fabric, and overstitched them with a decorative vine stitch that is pre-programed in my machine. On the tulle, I overcast stitched all of the seams, then sewed them down. I actually thought that the back side of the overcast stitch looked almost like a decorative lace, so I chose to face that side out. Thanks to my detailed finishing, and the way I made the buttonholes for the waistband tie, the petticoat is reversible. The side you see in the pictures above emphasizes the construction and inner structure, and the other side has a little contrast stitching to keep the solid fabric interesting.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cocktail Wednesdays: Chocolate Lady

Chocolate Lady

Today's cocktail, The Chocolate Lady, apparently a bit of an accidental cocktail creation, which the creator says is similar to two drinks we have yet to try: the White Lady and the 20th Century.

Chocolate Lady

1 oz Gin
1 oz Triple sec
1 oz Lemon juice
1 oz Crème de Cacao

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

I had two yellow citrus fruits to squeeze, but the trouble with that is that they were old enough that I wasn't sure what they were, since they had been there for a few weeks. You may not know, but limes ripen to have yellow peels just like lemons. They are simply sold unripe in American grocery stores for easy identification. Once they've fully ripened, the only way to tell them apart is to cut them in half. As you can see in the photo above, I had one of each. I used both and mixed them in order to have enough juice for two drinks.

The verdict: I think it was a bit heavy on the lemon/lime juice. Otherwise, pretty good. One wouldn't necessarily think gin and chocolate were a good combo, but it works.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cocktail Wednesdays: Monkey Gland

Monkey Gland Cocktail

This week's drink was another offering from Harry's Bar in Paris, which also brought us the Sidecar. After reviewing several different recipes, and given that my homemade grenadine is as sugary as rich simple syrup, I settled on the following recipe:

The Monkey Gland

1.5 oz Gin
1.5 oz Orange Juice
1/2 tsp Absinthe
1/2 tsp Grenadine

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain.

My other recipe choice would have been to double the absinthe and grenadine, but I figured that if it didn't work out, I could add more.

The verdict: The response to this drink was really mixed, though everyone finished their glasses. I thought it was decent, somewhat fruity, with the absinthe being the primary flavor. I didn't want it sweeter or more absinthe-forward, so I thought I had made the right recipe choice, however, others disagreed. Two of our guests felt that the orange flavor was primary. Maybe they would have enjoyed more absinthe and grenadine. All three of our guests thought they liked it better as they continued to drink it, and one thought it got sweeter in that time, which made him enjoy it more. Another felt it wasn't sweet enough. The third guest simply liked it better as he got used to the taste and potency. The one who found it sweeter as time passed felt that the flavors didn't blend well. Scott felt that they blended particularly well, and it made his top 5-10 drinks. See what I mean about mixed response?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Spinning Silk and Buffalo Down


I have not been very interested in knitting lately, but I think this is largely because I've been feeling much more like spinning instead. I pulled out this silk that I had gotten from another handspinner's guild member who was giving it way at retreat. It was stiff and stuck together, and I had been kind of scared of spinning it and unsure how I should prepare it for spinning. I believe it was dyed with indigo and the process may not have gone so well, resulting in a seemingly miserable-to-work-with mass of fiber.

Silk Rolags

I tested the fiber length and found that it had already been broken up into shorter fibers. It was not reeled silk. I ended up carding it with my wool hand cards into these beautiful, fluffy rolags.

Silk singles

From these, I was able to spin thin, smooth singles, which I have wound into a ball and still need to ply.

Buffalo Down

Instead of plying the silk singles, I pulled out the buffalo down roving I won from Surprise Ewe at a guild meeting. I remember putting in a ton of tickets for the down to increase my chance of winning it, and the strategy worked. This was some of my "precious" fiber that I was too scared to spin because I wasn't experienced enough to "do it justice".

Buffalo down singles

I turns out to be very lovely to spin, and easy to make a fine, even thread with. I feel like I've spun miles, and I'm not even done with my two ounces yet.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Debt Claims and the Purpose of Government

I am a very political person, but I don't intend to make it a focus of my blog. However, I have been thinking a lot recently about the core issue that nobody talks about underlying politics, and I wanted to share some questions with you and see others' opinions on the subject. What follows is a slight expansion of something I posted on Facebook earlier:

Both images from

Today I saw an info-graphic about that directly contradicted another chart I had seen recently, and it made me want to look into the matter. Part of the issue is to find reliable, politically neutral sources, but I think PolitiFact and are probably both good. In fact, the latter has an article on exactly this issue, though I found some of PolitiFact's information about how these things are calculated to be more elucidating: comparing Obama's debt to previous presidents and comparing the percentage of debt increase from Regan to Obama.

There certainly is a lot of political mud slinging about whose fault the debt is, and about what the relationship between tax policy, the economy, and Federal debt.  I also read an interesting article about the relationship between taxation rates and revenue rates as a percentage of GDP.  But is anybody really addressing the meat behind the competing claims?  Now, what I find most interesting is thinking about what matters most when it comes to debt.  Is anybody explaining what it means to pick one method of calculation over another?  Which is most important?  Is it the amount increase or percentage? What about inflation and GDP?

Once we've figures out what kind of debt increase is most fiscally impactful, what about the type of debt?  Do we worry about gross debt including Social Security, etc or "public debt"?  Who do we owe? Is it other countries, or is it citizens buying government bonds.  Is it better to issue bonds with a percentage interest paid or to tax to get the money?

At heart, what is the real issue with federal debt?  One way to make federal spending approachable is to compare it to household spending.  We all know that as individuals spending more than we can afford is really stupid.  This is why everyone is concerned about the debt, isn't it?  On the other hand, we consider certain types of personal debt to be good, such as home loans and student loans. Going into credit card debt in an emergency in acceptable (though not ideal -- better to have a savings fund), but the same debt over frivolous spending is not.  Additionally, the size of our "good" debt (such as the house and car we buy) has to be dictated by the size of our salary. Obviously, there is a correlation in how the government should operate, except that it is in some ways more like a business than an individual because the government provides services and charges rates. The question really is: what services should the government provide and what rates should it charge to do so? When is it ok for the government to make a long-term investment or take on emergency debt? Which services and expenditures are frivolous and which are necessary?  Shouldn't these be the questions we are asking?

What nobody really seems to be talking about is the core reason for the existence of government. Everything you tack onto it must be justified by this core principal, and politicians platforms are only talking about the satellite issues. What do you think government's core mission should be?

Motivational baking

40's hair

Yesterday, I did my hair up using this tutorial from Casey of Elegant Musings, which I found on Charlotte of Tuppence Haypenny's post about hairdos for wearing hats. It was surprisingly easy, and I was feeling motivated. I also made pizza from scratch, and chocolate cake.

Chocolate sponge cake fail

The cake, on the other hand was a bit of a failure. I made the chocolate sponge cake (Marquis) from Julia Child's cook book and the first buttercream icing (menagère). Unfortunately, the cake didn't rise and crack as expected, and I left it in the oven too long, so it got a bit of a cracked crust on top, and for some reason, it wouldn't turn out of the pans. Maybe it has something to do with the oven being lower temperature than it should have been. I only found out when I tried to turn it up. Stupid thing won't automatically adjust the heat when the oven is opened, and I rearranged the racks. Under the cracking crust, it was still moist and spongey, so at Scott's suggestion, I iced it in the pan like a brownie and we ate it out of the pan.

Cocktail Wednesdays: Newton's Special

Newton's Special

This week's cocktail was Newton's Special, a drink from the Savoy Cocktail Book. I had been interested in trying it last week, but I was dancing at a Burns Night demo last Wednesday, and circumstances led to not being able to get together and try a new cocktail later in the week, either. Poor Scott has been working until very late at night recently. Fortunately, he's gotten to come home at a reasonable hour for the last two days.

Newton's Special

2.25 oz Brandy
0.75 oz Orange Liqueur
1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass

The verdict: One reason I was interested in this cocktail was that I thought it would be a nice fall/winter drink, and I was right. I found the bitters rather forward in this drink, and the brandy and orange nicely balanced. We both liked it. Although it might not be a top choice, it does have the advantage of being easy to remember and to find the ingredients at a typical bar.

Bitters - Angostura and Orange

The one issue last night was that I wasn't really paying attention when I grabbed the ingredients and I accidentally made the first batch with orange bitters. It was an easy mistake to make, since we bought the Angostura brand orange bitters and the packaging is similar. I decided to add the actual Angostura bitters to the drinks as called for, and expected the drink to be extra orangey, since using orange bitters has seemed very orange-centric in the past. Interestingly, the main effect of having both bitters was a too pronounced bitters flavor, with the orange further back. The drink I made after that, which followed the recipe more closely had reduced bitters, and as a consequence, more orange.