Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Terms

I did something the other day that was done kind of out of an angry place, but has really made me happy in the long run. A week ago I turned off the auto-email check on my phone, and I don't miss it at all. Now I check in on my email when I feel like it, instead of being alerted at random moments of my day to emails that I largely do not care about.

I won't ever take the email app off of my phone, because there are days that I don't sit down at a computer and some of these emails do need a response. I don't think that I'll ever go back to pushed email notifications though. Even just the way that it's worded bugs me now. I don't want the phone to push my email to me, it can fetch it for me when I am ready to see it.

That's pretty much the approach I have with all the various apps and things now. I don't even like it to give me little number badges over an icon to pester me into looking at it. If I feel like checking on it I will, until then it should just sit there and be quiet.

The exception I make is for actual phone calls. It is a phone after all. So my phone is allowed to let me know when people call, but that is all.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Got around to washing the big grey amoeba that hangs out on the couch this morning and pinned it out to dry on the floor. As much as it's still a crazy blob of weirdness it would look so much worse if I skipped this step. Pardon the lousy photo, but rainy grey weather does not help indoor photos of grey blobs on tan floors.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Big World of Warcraft Sale

Remember when I said that I regretted not telling you about the sale on WoW a while back? Well, now the sale is back and directly from Blizzard. No having to track down the various expansions through other points of sale.

This was just posted about the sale a few minutes ago. The sale is only until August 27th, so if you are interested now is the time to pounce! Even if they end up releasing a bundled version that includes all of the previous expansions up to Cataclysm I don't think the price point will come down below $20 for a long time. Since it isn't one big bundle you can just pick up the pieces of the game you need, if you have an older account that didn't upgrade to Cataclysm yet.

Here is a direct link to the Blizzard Store to purchase the games.

You have the choice of having the physical game delivered to you, or opting for a strictly digital version. The digital version of course means no waiting or paying for shipping.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Time to Play

I don't talk much about playing World of Warcraft. I think I'm still a little embarrassed by it, which is kind of ridiculous. I've been playing off and on for over seven years. It's a little late to feel shy about this game that I like to play. Also? I'm 35 damn years old, so really I should get a hold of myself.

The reason that this has come up is that there is a new expansion coming, Mists of Pandaria, and I think it looks really great. I've played around on the beta server a little bit on a lower level character, and that starting zone is beautiful. I haven't taken my higher level characters to the new zones because I'm waiting to explore them for the first time once it goes into the actual game. Here is a zone preview for Pandaria that I saw linked to today. It's so pretty.

When the pre-expansion patch (5.04) comes on Aug 28th they are making  a pretty nice change to the game. It used to be that if you wanted to try out any of the new races then you had to have the expansion pack that brought them into being. If you wanted to be a space goat draenei or blood elf then you needed to buy Burning Crusade (which now comes in the Battle Chest box), if you wanted to try out goblins or worgen then you had to buy Cataclysm. Looking forward to playing pandaren then you would need to be prepared to purchase Mists of Pandaria when it comes out on Sept 25th. Now any account at any level of activation will be eligible play any of the active races. You should be able to create a free trial account and as of Aug 28th be able to see if any of those added races grab your interest. You won't be able to try pandaren yet, because they aren't in the game, but according to this post by Blizzard you will be able to once the expansion is live September 25th.

I think that's really cool. Not that it matters for me, but I could see how it would suck to be someone new coming to the game and you really want to try out one of the races that weren't packed in the original game but you have to financially commit first. Now I know I should have mentioned a couple of weeks ago when you get current up with the game (minus the coming expansion) for only $20. I'm really sorry that I didn't, because that was a pretty awesome deal. (See above re: shyness over my gaming and there you have why it didn't come up.) You can still look around and find some decent deals, but nothing that approaches that level. However you can still dip your toes into World of Warcraft for free. You can only level to 20, out of the current max of 85, but it gives you a chance to experience the game with zero monetary commitment. It will let you see if you like the game at all. It will let you know if your machine can handle the graphics.

I play on both a PC box upstairs as well as my MacBook Air. I use slightly lower graphical settings on the laptop but it still looks pretty. My biggest hinderance to playing on the laptop is lack of ergonomics. I usually end up with a hurt wrist or back if I try to play for any length of time on the laptop. If I took it to my desk I'd have zero problems with it. I played on it exclusively when my desktop machine was out of commission for a while.

So maybe I'm a big ol' dork, but I really like this game, and if you were ever considering it then I'd say go for it. I know it's annoying to pay for software and then also pay a monthly fee to continue playing the game, but for me it's been worth it. There are times when an expansion has been around for a while that I've run out of things to do, or things that I care to do at any rate, and then I just cancel my subscription for a while. All the characters and items are still there when I come back to it, so it's really not a big deal.

If you do want to begin playing with a paid account here are a few bits of information that you might find useful.

  • If you let me (or someone else who plays) know we can "Recruit a Friend" and you will get a leveling bonus for 90 days. There are added perks for the recruiter, so if I recruit you then you might want to recruit someone else. :)
  • You don't need to buy all the expansions at once. The Battle Chest contains the original game as well as the first expansion Burning Crusade and will allow you to level to 70. You can wait to get the other expacs once you approach the level caps.
  • If you did have an account and just haven't played in a long while you may want to go the route of the Scroll of Resurrection. You get a free character boosted up to level 80 and a free upgrade to the latest expansion Cataclysm. You will also be able to move a character on your account to the realm of the person who resurrected your account. Jeff and I have Alliance characters on Kilrogg, though he isn't actively playing at the moment.
  • There are lots of great websites out there for information on the game in general. I think WoW Insider is one of the most beginner friendly. Their 101 series tend to make it easy to pick up and play a new class. This seems like a great place to start for a new player.
  • Finally once you have money invested in playing please make sure you set up an authenticator. It is a second stage of protection, beyond password, for your account. There is a free app you can run on your phone or you can pay for a keychain that does the same thing.

So now you know my dirty little secret. I play World of Warcraft. (Yes I know it wasn't a well kept secret.) It's funny how I would never look down on anyone else for playing the game, but I still feel self conscious about my own playing. I'll work on that.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unexpected Gems

I'm a little behind on photo editing, and even further behind on posting to Flickr. Digging through photos taken over a year ago can bring some surprises. With it comes this Potato Abomination courtesy of Max.

P.S. - I know I hardly ever post anymore, but that's why they invented RSS feeds. Just forget about this blog until BAM surprise potato freaks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Catching Up

I figured I better take the chance to get caught up on my knitting here at the blog, since we are once again between rounds. The last time I mentioned Sock Madness I believe that I had just finished Round 1. Well... we've done a bit more since then. Round 2 has come and gone, and we even did an optional round over the Easter/Passover holiday.

Round 2 was a devil of a sock, Frick n Frack by Jenny Lee. The right and left socks are as close to opposite of each other as she could manage. One is knit toe up and the other from the cuff down. The cables cross differently on the right and left sock and on top of all that difficulty they both feature an afterthought heel. The pattern had you knit a tube then open up a slit to knit in a heel. It was pretty cool and I wish I'd taken pictures of the process. Both times it made me laugh like a monster mouth opening in the sock.
SM6 - Round 2 - Frick n Frack
The optional round was da' Treehouse by Adrienne Fong & Debi Woods is kind of an inside joke for the group. There is a thread in the forum called the Treehouse where knitters can hang out between rounds, or when they've been dropped from the competition but still want to chat. The stitches form a faux zipper (and zipper pull) and there is a decorative button flap at the top of the cuff. It was a fun knit even if the new stitches caused some of us a bit of confusion.
SM6 - Optional Round - da Treehouse
That gets us caught up on the Sock Madness front. Sometime in the next week they should drop the specs for the true Round 3.

Since I seem to be in sock knitting mode I actually joined up with yet another sock knitting group on Ravelry, Sock Knitters Anonymous (or SKA). Each month there is a set of challenge guide lines and you knit socks that fit into one of the categories. There is a random drawing for prizes among people who finish a pair of socks in the timeframe allowed and each pair you finish gets you another entry. I'm currently working on the second sock of my Achilles Heal for SKA's April challenge (literary theme).

I've also done some non-sock knitting this year, but this post is already getting a bit lengthy so I'll save that for another time.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Birthday Cake

One of Max's favorite things in the whole world is Birthday Cake. He has told me "Happy Birthday" out of the blue on occasion, and then asked for birthday cake. He's a funny guy.

If you want a really great birthday cake, might I suggest:
Make a Guinness chocolate cake
Make some buttercream icing
Make some cherry topping

Frost the cake with the icing and add some cherries upon serving. It is a tasty treat.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I should be posting garden stuff, but the yard is so yuck I don't want to be out there much. Also, we seem to have another rush of ants, so that's a bit off putting. Still, the tomato plants seem to be taking off, and we're going to have a decent number of strawberries if I can remember to get some netting up to keep the birds away. I think the mild winter really helped them get established since they were planted in the fall, the strawberries that is, not the tomatoes, those are new.

I'm all about the herb gardening right now. I got several new plants to toss outside, and I think they're all doing well except the cilantro. Kind of shame that I managed to keep cilantro going all winter, but now that spring is here they are dying out. I've got few mint plants out front in the bed along side the house, bordered by concrete so that it doesn't take over the neighborhood. Looks like it's already starting to branch out and make itself at home, so that's happy. I've got another thyme plant, so that I don't fear so much when I harvest from the other plants, they've always been so tiny. I picked up a third chive plant, and some dill. Of course I've been chopping off chunks of parsley, rosemary, and oregano and chucking them over the fence because the plants are completely out of control.

Last time my mother in law was here, she wanted to grab some of the rosemary and try and grow it at her house, but it ended up left on the porch out back. I thought instead of chucking it over the fence I'd see if I could do anything with it. I've had 3 pieces of rosemary going for three weeks, but only one has started to root. I'm going to let it go another week before trying to plant it. The other two I've trimmed shorter and basically am starting over with them.

All the while I bought some basil at the supermarket for curry, but then managed to not make it until the basil was starting to turn. Since I already had the rosemary up there, I salvaged a few pieces of the basil and popped them in water on the windowsill too. After 2 weeks I have some nice roots, and I'm going to see if they will start to grow in pots. The basil has done so well that I'm keen to try some oregano too.

If these plants grow well in their pots then I may end up with some new rosemary and oregano plants to share with friends and family. That would be pretty cool, I think.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Betweeners - 8 Bit iPhone Case

I needed something to keep my fingers busy while I wait for the next pattern in Sock Madness to come out. I have several things that I could do, but nothing that I wanted to do. Suddenly on Sunday I remembered that I had the black iPhone case hanging around waiting for a design. I dragged Jeff and Max into the stinkiest Michaels I've ever been in so that I could grab embroidery floss. A horrible fake cinnamon scent seemed to be haunting the building.

I worked on it a little bit on Sunday. Then on Monday I got right on it just after a cup of coffee. I'd managed to knit most of the goomba before Jeff left for work. I didn't get a lot of time for progress during the day, as I'm a little leery of sewing with Max climbing in and out of my lap.  When Jeff got home I was plugging away when I realized that I'd misplaced the pipe and the piranha plant wasn't going to fit. I had to pick out all of those stitches. That was a bit disheartening, and I put it aside until after Max went to bed.

Then I couldn't get sleepy. Then Max kept waking up screaming, only sleeping for 45 minutes to an hour, and then I was so close to done that I just stayed up to finish it. I didn't go to sleep until 5 in the morning, and I'm not at all sure how I am awake right now. I'm a bit of a butter finger, but other than that I'm hanging in there.

I'm extremely happy with the outcome. It's already been pressed into service, and no, you can't have it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I'm officially IN the Sock Madness competition this year. Our first pattern of the year was for Dicey, by Colleen Miller. (Note the pattern won't be available for the general public until the competition is over.) In general the sock was a toe up pattern with a heel flap and cables. That accurately describes what happened, but completely misses out on the fun. The trick to Dicey is that you roll dice to determine where your cables go. It's completely stupid how this made the sock so much more fun to knit than just following a prescribed list of where to cable.

My socks are warm and cushy, made from Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the Thunderhead color. I knit them on US 1 1/2 (2.5 mm) needles and got a gauge of 8.75 sts and 12 rows per inch.

We have to knit to a certain width and length to keep things fair in the competition, so these are a little big on me. The cables draw things in enough that they aren't uncomfortably large, just not quite a snug fit. I am a little hopeful that after a trip through the washing machine they might be a little closer to my size. Regardless I will be keeping them and wearing them as much as possible. They are super cozy house socks if nothing else, and are serving me well this weekend during a cold snap.

I had two weeks to complete a pair, and was done in 7 and a half days. I didn't really buckle down and focus on finishing as fast as possible. In future rounds I will have to beat a certain number of people to progress, but this time I just had to beat the calendar. I took my time to keep from injuring myself. I know my wrist will hurt before I am done, but there is no reason to start off that way.

We had around 300 people sign up to compete this year and at the halfway mark there are only 66 who have completed their pair of socks. I'm curious how many more will come in over the next week. This weekend has seen a lot of completed 1st socks, and the 2nd does tend to go faster. I would guess that there should be near 200 people who finish, but only time will tell.

Meanwhile it is time to sit back and relax. I'm going to watch some Game of Thrones, and have a glass of wine.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hickory Dickory Doctor

Image from Knit Picks Catalog
When Knit Picks released the colorway Time Traveler in their Felici sock yarn, I knew that I wanted it. I also knew that I needed to use it to make socks for Jeff. If someone loves Doctor Who enough to knit a scarf for ages, they are surely deserving of a modest pair of socks in similar colors, yes?

Choosing a pattern was tricky, because we didn't want to screw with the striping of the yarn, but Jeff doesn't seem to like the idea of me knitting a plain old ribbed sock for ages and ages. After looking at some pattern ideas on Ravelry, and then picking through my growing collection of pattern books we finally narrowed it down to some almost plain socks from The Knitter's Book of Socks, by Clara Parkes. The final two contenders were Hickory and Stepping Stones, and after some deliberation we settled on Hickory, designed by Jane Cochran. (I still think that Elm might have been pretty cool looking too.)

I had never used this yarn before so I actually did proper swatching, testing out different needle sizes and getting measurements before casting on. I wish I had thought to take a picture of that test swatch. The difference between the fabric knit with a 2.5 mm needle, and a 2 mm needle was dramatic. The larger needle made fabric that was loose and the stitches were uneven. When I changed to the smaller needle the stitches looked nicer and the fabric while still supple felt sturdier, which will hopefully help it stand up to the wear and tear a sock takes.
From start to finish the socks took about 3 weeks. Since I was adjusting a pattern to be larger there were some mathy bits to figure out between cast on, heel turn and toe decreases, but nothing too troubling. I did end up having to restart after knitting the cuff and a bit of the leg when I found it would end up far too big, even for Jeff. The first sock took longer since when I wanted to check the fit I would have to stop knitting and wait for Jeff to get home. [Insert funny pic of Jeff's toes poking out of unfinished sock.] With the second sock I just had to follow my notes and make it the same, so there were fewer long interruptions.

The other tricky part of this pattern was the colorway that I chose. Normally I don't worry about where the stripes fall, and if I want to make matching socks I just make sure that I start my cast on from the same place in each skein. However this time I had a few challenges. I used the cable cast-on so that I'd be able to start at the beginning of one color, and be consistent with the second sock. When I finished the heel and started to work across the top of the foot I realized that I had a choice to make. I could either have the color sequence uninterrupted on the bottom of the sock where no one would see it, and the top would skip from red to purple, or I could chop up my yarn. I decided that it was important to me that the top of the sock continue the color pattern, so I broke the yarn off and started with the red again as I knit across the top. I ended up having to chop it a second time on the first sock because there was a knot in it from manufacturing that left me missing a white section. So this is what I have left from three skeins after making the two socks.
Not much to speak of, but perhaps enough to mend the socks if/when they develop holes.
I've made further notes on my Ravelry page if anyone else is looking to modify the pattern to fit a man's foot, since the pattern is only in one lady size. If you have the pattern you should easily be able to follow my notes and get a larger sock without much trouble.

Aside from the one knot the yarn was quite pleasant to work with, and the pattern was easy to follow. It has charted and written instructions, and I didn't find any errors as I worked it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Turn

This is one of my favorite parts of the sock knitting process. You start off with a tube, and then you knit a flat flap on it that goes on the back of the heel. That's not the good part though, that's kind of boring.
Then there is some knitting hocus pocus...
Then you have a cozy little cup ready to wrap around your heel.
It's like a magic trick.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sock Madness Strikes Again

After taking a year off, mainly because I thought about signing up too late and missed the deadline by a couple of days, I am back in for Sock Madness this year. This is going to be the 6th year of Sock Madness and the 4th time that I've participated. I think SMII was my favorite so far. It was the first time that I was involved and there were a lot of fun pictures taken for the creative prize category. Between the adrenaline rush of new challenges, and cementing my love of sock knitting, it was such great fun that I keep signing up each year. But when I look back at the socks I knit each year I think SMIV has been the most my speed. I especially loved the Cool Beans I made.

As always I have no idea what patterns we'll be given as challenges this year, but we have recently received our list of supplies needed. One of the new ones to me are beads. I have made beads and used beads in jewelry, but I've never used beads on a sock before. At least I already have a decent collection of seed beads ready to go. I'm going to order a couple new colors of sock yarn, make a beading tool (I'll show you that later I'm sure), and keep knitting on Jeff's socks to try and finish them before the competition starts.

Poor Jeff, I complain about the size of his feet every time I knit him socks. It's not his fault that I have smallish feet and he has largish feet. You'd think that if you like knitting then having a sock that lasts forever would be a good thing, but one of the reasons that I like to knit socks because they are Quick. I did some rudimentary math and found that the reason it seems like Jeff's socks take forever to knit is that for each one I knit for him I could knit a pair for myself.

Not counting the cuff, heel or toe stitches, but just the main leg & foot rounds:
Jeff = 15,360 stitches
Tara = 8,192 stitches

On the bright side the competition socks ought to fly by, right? And all these extra stitches will get my wrists and fingers nice and limbered up by the time we get started in March.