Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tomatoes!!!

Ok, just one tomater.

Modeled here by the lovely Rosie the monkey in a picture taken by Chunky.

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Chunky and my mom exchange pictures in the mail of their stuffed monkeys doing weird things. After her surgery he received a packet of pictures of mom’s stuffed monkey playing nurse. Too damn funny!

I picked this tomato off the vine when it was more orange as opposed to red. I figure it will redden up a bit more after picking. I didn’t want to leave it on there much longer in fear it would catch the blossom end rot that plagues my tomatoes.

Many of the older tomatoes on my plants look like this.

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Soon it will be time to put the pot garden to bed.

Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve learned my first year of honest pot gardening:

* Remember to pull out the drain pluggers in your pots. If you don’t, your nasturtiums will catch mold and start attracting flies.

* Store-bought potatoes CAN be planted!

* The marigolds you get for mother’s day, no matter how funky and worm-eaten, will still bloom in August.

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* If you put an empty pot where you can’t seem to get any seed to take next to the aforementioned mother’s day marigold—you’ll get another marigold plant.

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* Green onions/scallions are easy to grow in a shallow pot.

* Tomatoes should only be planted one plant to a pot.

* Sunflowers can bloom in teeny pots.

* Calcium carbonate (lime) can be purchased at the Dollar Store in the form of generic antacids.

Once September is over and I “turn” my pots and store them for the winter, I want to try my hand at small-space composting. I’ve found a couple of decent articles online on how to build a teeny compost bin. Once we get some good leaf matter going on in the front yard I’ll be able to start a good base for my compost.

I’m also hoping that if I can compost throughout the winter, I’ll have some decent stuff to mix in with my soil next season. My white whale next summer will be beating BER!!!

In other non-knitting news, we have a celebrity living with us:

Mouse Slayer

You can tell the weather is getting cooler. As soon as dusk starts to fall Squeaky starts patrol in front of the kitchen cabinets. The good news is is that it appears the mice are no longer living in our stove but have moved the space where the cupboard nearly reaches the wall. I’m sure at one time it may have touched the wall, but it’s an old house and this upstairs was converted to be rented out.

Squeaky’s up to two kills in two weeks. After we sort through this IRS mess, I’ll have to buy some more snappy traps. I had five kills last winter. Squeaky had one. She’s gaining on me!

Springs is kind of like Squeaky’s Xander. He’s well intentioned, but he doesn’t have the skills to hurt a mouse.

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Squeaky has claws and no problems seizing the mouse in her mouth.

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Can you see the tail coming out of one side of her mouth?

Springs is declawed in front and is just too prissy to bite the mouse. He just delicately bats it around. But he's still my sweet little meatykins*!!!


*C’mon, you know you have goofy names for your pets too!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Girls Gone Wild!

Ok, not the kind you're probably thinking of, but finally the tide of baby boys is turning and I’ve got some baby girls coming down the pipeline I can knit for!

First up, a coworker of mine is expecting her first December 1. I’m sort of hoping she goes early. That’s only because I have a soft spot for late-November babies.

Apparently she's having a very modest little girl because she finally figured out it was a girl late last week. I immediately I cast on this little number this weekend:

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Can't tell what it is? I'm trying to knock off this beautiful baby jumper that Jennifer recently knit.

Oh geeze, I’m even knitting it out of the same color! What can I say? It’s a stunning baby dress!

I think mine needs to be bigger though. It’s been a while since I’ve spent a lot of time around a newborn!

Second, an old coworker of mine in Lansing emailed me to let me know that her daughter figured out the sex of what she was having—another girl!
I’ve only met her daughter a few times and we’ve hung out at work functions. I don’t really know her as well as I know her mom. That’s a good enough excuse to knit her something though, right?

I’m going to have to brainstorm something kooky to knit that little girl. Mom and Grandma will appreciate a nice weird handmade baby gift!!

Thanks for your kind words, tips and links from yesterday. Many of you offered to donate the September KAYE prize--but don't worry about it. When I unveil it next month, I'll give you the story behind the yarn. One thing I vowed when I started this contest in January, was that no matter how tight things got--the prize was not something I would scrimp on! Besides, it still allows me to shop for yarn without actually keeping it. I get to enjoy buying stuff I normally wouldn't buy for myself guilt free!

My accountant is off getting his kids back to various Michigan universities for the fall but will examine our IRS notice more when he gets back tomorrow.

He says from first glance it appears that the IRS decided to take Dr. Mad Scientist’s 2005 pay and add it to my self employment wages. How the hell they came up with that I have no clue. He was paid under a fellowship (that came down ironically through the US government) where no withholding taxes were taken out. However, trust me, we paid quite a bit on taxes in 2005 to the IRS to compensate for that (which is fine—I expected to and they were entitled to that money).

Last time I checked working for for a University where you had an annoying committee of bosses didn't really qualify one as "self employed."

My self employment wages came out of some freelance work I did for The Man after I quit and some bonuses she paid me for working 34 days straight in July for a big due diligence project.

We’ll see how it turns out. I’m not holding my breath. I’m gearing up for Operation Eating Rice and Beans In The Dark regardless.

Oh and because I've been on a big knock-off binge lately--we received our bill today from the power company. Remember what I was saying about them charging us too much for one month's worth of gas when they "estimate" what we'd use?

A picture ala Magatha:

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That's right PSE&G jackholes--what you estimated our meter to read on July 25 was actually what it read a month later. At least that's how I interpret it to be.

Thank god all I have to pay this month is $6 to deliver that poorly estimated gas and $30 for electricity. Whew!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

There Are Starving Kitties In Iraq

Which is my latest catch-all phrase to remind myself that others have it worse off than I do.

But first some knitting! Well not really. Just finishing.

You might remember my trials with the Beyond The Grave Sweater that my grandma sent me when she was cleaning out her deceased sister’s stuff and came across a fully knitted, but not seamed together sweater. Mom told her that I knit, and it was soon shipped off to me.

Months ago I messed up seaming it. Yesterday afternoon I ripped apart the sleeves and shoulders and re-seamed it.

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Chunky’s getting better at his photography skills don’t you think? He hasn’t discovered the zoom button and therefore you don’t have to see how awful I look in this sweater.

I’m starting to think that Great Aunt was on to something by not finishing this sweater.

It’s very bulky, the 2X2 ribbing hugs all the wrong curves (I think it makes me look four months pregnant! I’m not, and I know I haven’t put on any weight because all my clothes still fit!). And the shoulders are just weird. There’s no way you could wear that sweater and not have the shoulders slip down.

I take that back. This sweater would look great on a svelt broad shouldered girl with no c-section induced pooch for the ribs to cover.

Ok, onto starving kitties.

We received some shitacular news in the mail this weekend.

The IRS says we owe them $2400.

I’ve forwarded this notice to my accountant, but I’m prepped for the worst.

If you’ve been reading, you’ll surely remember listening to me whine about still being in debt from our stupid dual moves seven months apart.

With my recent raise, and trying to pay $600 a month on both credit cards, things were looking decent--we were on schedule to get out of the red by Christmas.

Obviously this blow from Uncle Sam and his butt monkeys (no offense to any IRS beancounters—I know you’re just doing your job, you’re just the messengers, not the ass clowns that make the tax rules) sets us back to about April when we’d start seeing the light. And despite the fact that I have the maximum amount of deductions taken from both our paychecks, I can just see Uncle Sam telling us to grab our ankles come April tax time when we are free of our credit card debt.

After emailing my accountant, I immediately went online to see what belt-tightening tips I could find.

Most of them I do already.

We never eat out. I pack the boys both a lunch as well as one for myself.

I don’t have an air conditioner and the appliances I can unplug during the day are already attached to power strips to turn off completely during the day when we’re at home and school.

I don’t have a mortgage.

I only drive my car to work, the train station, and to school. Well OK, I take that back. We drove to the car twice to the shore this summer. No more of that.

I already bundle my cable, phone and internet. I pay $100 a month for all three of those combined. That’s a real deal. And that’s unlimited long distance calling in there too. I was easily paying $60 more a month for those three services when I didn’t have them bundled.

What to do?

First off I put Netflix (that I had just reinstated a few months ago after cancelling due to Dr. Mad Scientist’s Texas unemployment!) into hibernation until Thanksgiving. There’s $12 a month I can save.

I cancelled an old email account I had from back when we had dial-up service and had been paying $6 a month to keep the email addresses active because I had been using it as one of my core emails that family and friends used. Stupid I know. But now there’s $6 I’m saving a month.

Third, I’ve started “line” drying our clothes. I have been “line” (I use quotes because I don’t really have a line, I just dry it around the house) drying the jeans and bath towels for about five months now. Now with Uncle Sam not providing any Vaseline with his violation of our finances—I’m “line” drying my whites and colors. You should have seen our apartment on Saturday night—there were shirts hanging from the chandelier, underwear on the windowsills, and pants draped on chairs. I was pleasantly surprised that despite it being very freaking humid Saturday night, by Sunday morning the clothes were pretty much dried and could be put away. It took a little bit more time to hang everything up, but I saved 75 cents drying our clothes. That’s $3 a month I’m saving there.

Fourth, I had Dr. Mad Scientist hand me his credit card and debit card. I also relinquished my cards. No more charging gas, I’ll have to figure out how to pay for it in cash. Dr. Mad Scientist will get his credit card back at the beginning of the month to pay for his monthly subway pass. He does get reimbursed for those expenses up to $100 a pay period pre-tax through his work though.

Fifth, I’ll be giving up my Sunday paper and bottle of Snapple that Chunky gets when he walks up to the corner store with me each Sunday. That’s $3 a week saved, or $12 a month.

Sixth, it was also time to purge. On Craigslist I’ve got Chunky’s old Gymini playset for sale, on Ebay I’ve got some yarn and an old vintage (at least I think it is) dress I bought a few years ago and wore once to a wedding for sale. I’ve got plans to sell off the bike trailer (Chunky’s getting too big for it), the high chair, and probably the sewing machine that my mom gave me that frightens me so much.

I also did what had to be the worst part of this. I decided I can’t go to Rhinebeck. Which really freakin’ sucks. Part of moving to Jersey was the excitement of going to Rhinebeck with the NYC and NJ knitters. Sigh.

What I would really love is to get second job. But with Dr. Mad Scientist working at least one, if not both, days of the weekend as well as sporadic evening hours (many nights we don’t see him til midnight), a second job out of the house is kind of out of the question.

Chin up though right? I’ve actually proposed to Dr. Mad Scientist a radical plan.

Call it Poverty Challenge 2007.

$2400 is one two of our bi-weekly paychecks (actually a little bit more, but go with it for now). That sounds like a lot of money to be making in two weeks doesn’t it? But keep in mind our rent is $1200 a month, daycare is $600, gas is…well you get the idea. Living in New Jersey is much more expensive than it was in either Texas or Michigan. Therefore, the pay is relative to the expenses.

My Friday paycheck will go towards September’s rent, and then I’ll budget out $450 to go to daycare.

The first two weeks of September is where it will get interesting. I’ve proposed to Dr. Mad Scientist, that we take those two paychecks and we pay off fuckin’ Uncle Sam in one fell swoop. (I believe the notice said we had 30 days to do it if we agreed to the amount they determined.)

I will pay the minimum amount due on the credit cards for September, and on Dr. Mad Scientist’s student loans (which honestly isn’t as big as you would think they would be for a PhD—these are his undergrad student loans we’re paying off.)

Luckily September will also be a month where our power bill won’t be “estimated” either. I just paid $100 to them for a wildly inflated estimate of what our gas usage should bee for this month. Keep in mind we use gas for cooking and heating hot water (showers and dishes only—no laundry done here!) There is no way that 95% of my utility bill should be going towards cooking, showers, and dishes when the last month they actually read my gas meter the bill was only a total of $38. Jackasses as PSE&G. But what they’ll do is subtract what we did use from what we overpaid last month and charge us that—if at all.

What will Poverty Challenge 2007 mean for us?

Well lots of things.

It will mean eating less at dinner so we can have leftovers to eat later in the week.

It will mean instead of going meatless once a week, we’ll have go be doing it more than once.

It will mean eating what we have in our pantry and freezer instead of buying groceries. I will however go to the grocery store to buy Chunky his yogurt for lunches (but maybe a tub of yogurt that I can put in a washable cup instead of those cute little cups of yogurt). I will also stock up on rice, beans, and potatoes. Nice cheap staples.

It will mean no more $40 a week allowance for me. We’ll see how much money we bring in from the sale of this junk. I’ll use that money to give Dr. Mad Scientist his $40 a week allowance. Maybe less if the junk doesn’t sell too fast.

It will mean no more peanut butter sandwiches using 2 slices of bread for me. I can get by on just folding one piece of bread in half. That will make a loaf of bread stretch longer.

It will mean no more soda for me and Dr. Mad Scientist. I don’t drink a lot of it, but it’s like coffee for me—there’s nothing more satisfying than that morning diet soda on the drive into work!

It will mean timer-showers. No more enjoying myself in a hot shower.

September will be very lean. Very lean indeed.

But it will be fun right?

Like I said at the beginning of this post. Life could be worse. One of my bosses called in today with unborn baby issues. Gah. I’ll take being $2400 in the hole to Uncle Sam over that crap any day.

Of course any ideas for scrimping money or making money you’ve got—lay ‘em on me. Chances are a lot of them don’t apply or I’m already doing them, but more often than not, you guys come up with something I hadn’t thought of.

Poverty Challenge 2007! Woo!! Stay tuned! Will we make it?

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another Local Summer Post

Sweet mother of Fatzah! I guess technically I've got two local component meals to show you this week--and lots of rambling about food!

First up, the Great Urban Potato Experiment came to a delicious close.

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Wednesday we had some of those Philly-made knockwurst and my experimental harvest in the form of homefries on the side.

I nuked them for 60 seconds, sliced them up thin, fried them up in some olive oil and seasoned them with some grill spice.

I think they taste even better when you grow them yourself. Maybe its the Irish Palmeranian in me, but I could live off of taters.

Moving on to our second quasi-local meal--we had spaghetti last Sunday.

Ok, so I didn't make the noodles. I had leftover noodles in my cupboard from before this challenge happened. Nor did I make the tomato sauce I used in the sauce. It was from a can.

Sadly my tomatoes aren't doing as well as my potatoes did, and I won't be fulfilling my dreams of future spaghetti sauces made 100% from local tomatoes.

However, normally I just toss a can of diced canned tomatoes in my spaghetti sauce--but not this time. I chopped up two fresh tomatoes from the office farm stand. This was probably a bad thing. It tasted so good, I might never use canned diced tomatoes again!

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I believe I've figured out why my food pictures have lately looked horrible with odd casts to them--compact florescent bulbs. Save a dime, sacrafice a good food picture I suppose.

Along with the chopped fresh tomatoes, the sauce features my own oregano and some unlocal garlic.

Even though my local food offerings don't anywhere near the greatness of Wendy's, I do share her sentiment that a local meal isn't really all that local if the core ingredient isn't from somewhere closeby.

To me the core ingredient in spaghetti is the sauce, but more importantly the MEAT in the sauce.

I fried up some pork sausage and added it to my sauce.

I couldn't bring myself to buy the expensive Bob Evans sausage next to the rest of the sliced and diced dead piggies in the meat aisle of Shoprite. Instead I stumbled upon--below the lard--no where near the other meats--rolls of Parks Sausage for waaaay cheaper than the Bob Evans crap.

I did some investigation online and found out that Parks Sausage is made in Baltimore, MD--3 hours and 12 minutes away from us. This falls in the "comfortable day's drive" criteria for this challenge.

Parks, a small East Coast company, started struggling when their main customers Dominos Pizza and Pizza Hut turned to larger companies to supply their sausage.

I read this quote that described the predicament Parks found itself in and laughed:



"Today, fresh products can be transported across the country, eliminating the niche that small companies like Parks once filled. 'In addition, food retailers are using fewer suppliers because it's more efficient for them to have only two or three brands on the shelf instead of six or seven. National brands like Jimmy Dean, Bob Evans [and others] tend to get that shelf space,' [Kurt]Funderburg says." citation here


How funny that Parks found it's product in my shopping cart because it was cheaper than one of those national brands.

They were bought out by a larger company but kept their name. They still manufacture their sausage in Baltimore.

And finally, I can't forget our quasi local dessert that night--apple crisp featuring local apples (and not much else!) from the tree in the front yard. Chunky and I had a grand time whacking the apples we couldn'treach out of the tree with his Star Wars light sabre.

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The force is strong with this dessert!!!!!

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

North Star Tam O'Llama

I stayed up late last night and this morning finished the North Start Tam O'Llama.

Keep in mind these modeled shots show it unblocked.

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It kind of looks like a giant knitted uni-scrotum keeping my head warm.

Here's a better picture of the back of the NS Tam O'Llama where you can see the "North Star" as I'm blocking it on a dinner plate.

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It's still kind of hard to see. As are all the little lace north stars on the sides of the tam.

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Can't really see 'em can ya? I'm not sure how I'd block the sides of this hat without stretching it to the point it would be unwearable though.

Here's the rundown:

Pattern: North Star Tam from Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas.

Yarn: 90% knitted with 100% handspun llama spun by prize winning spinner Sarah. 10% knitted with some mystery eBay 100% handspun llama I bought two years ago.

Needles: US 2

Comments: Even though I'm not happy with the way the side stars are pretty much unseeable, I feel that this was still the pattern for this special yarn. The pattern was meant to be knit from laceweight yarn, but they also had a picture of the tam knit in a heavier weight yarn, so I went for it.

The only modifications I did was that I did not knit as many rounds between the end of the stars and the K2tog, YO eyelet round at the bottom. I fear if I had knit the 13 rounds the pattern called for, it would have looked even more scrotal that it does now.

It was the first tam I've ever knit and it will probably be the last. Not that it was a pain in the ass to knit, it's more that now that I've knit one, I have verified that I don't like this style of hat.

I think this one will find it's way back to the Homeland where it can make a life for itself in Alaska where it belongs.

You want it Mom?

She looks better in tams than I do. I look like a supreme doofus in a tam.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to hell for modeling an "Alaskan" hat wearing a Don't Mess With Texas t-shirt.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Der Frawd!

They're done!

Don't ask me when I started 'em, but they're done.

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Der Frawd socks!!!

Pattern: Der Frawd. "Der Frawd" is "Red Dwarf" spelled backwards. These are total knock offs of Turtlegirl's Red Dwarf sock pattern.

Why a knock off? Because real Red Dwarves are knit toe up. These are knit cuff down. Real Red Dwarves are knit on two circulars. These are knit on DPNs. Real Red Dwarves have ribs on the sides that separate the fish scale (front) pattern from the fish tail (back) pattern. Mine don't.

Yarn: Socks that Rock "Love In Idleness" from the MIA, but still lovely, Cpurl. We suspect she might be being held ransom by a pair of Gangsta Kitties. But as no one I know has received a frogged ear in the mail, I think she's just been wrapped up at work too much to blog.

Needles: US 2

Comments: I've been holding on to this yarn for a long time waiting for just the "right" pattern. When I saw Turtlegirl's pattern, I knew it was just the pattern for this yarn.

I considered learning to do toe ups on two circs for about 2 seconds before I decided to just adapt it to cuff down and dpns (Why fix your style if it ain't broken? That and I didn't want to mess up and hate the socks and yarn!). I decided to omit the side ribs because I was knitting with Socks that Rock yarn. I like to keep a bit of stockinette so I can get a good feel for the prettiness of the colors.

I also continued the back fish tail design all the way down to the base of the heel. Not the smartest idea. I'm sure they'll wear out and hole up. But it was just too sexy looking not to do!

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Requisite Fat-Ankle-Sock-Shot

I like 'em. Even though they're technically backwards, when I look at them on my feet, I see them the way people are meant to see the pattern from their viewpoint.

And if you're into folklore, thanks to I believe it was Amby, you can read about the creepy little Red Dwarf that haunts Detroit. Yick. Thank god my socks are Der Frawds and won't have a chance of leering rudely at anyone!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Muffinhead

I am such a muffinhead.

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Dear Springs: Please stop sleeping on Mommy's chest at night, you're keeping her from getting her beauty sleep. Look at those dark circles under her eyes!

But not because of this picture…

Tuesday it was raining pretty hard, and I became a true New Jersey driver.

I nicked a guy making a right turn. In true Jersey fashion*, I edged left to go around him as he was halfway complete in making the turn. And I got him.

It wasn’t a major accident. There’s a scratch on my car but it’s not as bad as the scratch on my back bumper some jackass in San Antonio at Sam’s Club left. He ended up with a small dinner plate sized dent on his back bumper.

This is my first time ever hitting anyone—so I wasn’t 100% sure what to do. I met him in the road and suggested maybe we were to call the police.

When the word “police” left my lips, the driver became extremely agitated and explained in broken English that he didn’t have the registration on the car, all he had was his license. He told me that he would take the car to a body shop and have me pay for the repairs.

Hm, yeah, when he suggested that—it was my turn to get agitated. I don’t pay $583 every six months to insure a couple of cars to be paying for minor repairs out of pocket. Isn’t that the POINT of insurance??? There’s no mother freaking way I was going to go with that idea.

I told him I was going to call my insurance company. I ducked back into my car (it was still pouring rain) and called them. They walked me thru what needed to be done and I gave Mr. F. Focus the claim number, my insurance company name, the phone number he needed to call, my phone number, and my name.

It took about 10 minutes for me to explain to him which phone number on the slip of paper I gave him was the one to call to get his car fixed—he kept thinking he had to call the claim number that I had written down.

I noticed this wasn’t the first dent on his car either—his front bumper looked like it had been repaired. It was sanded in some spots like someone had hammered out some dents or something.

Now here’s the part where I’m a muffinhead (aside from the original act of actually hitting him): all I got was his name.

However, when I was on the phone with “Craig” at the insurance company, he assured me they really didn’t need that info. However “Donna” who called me this morning, was politely miffed (she was a good sport about it, I get the feeling I’m not the only muffinhead she deals with) that I didn’t get more information from Mr. F. Focus.

Given the language problems I was having with Mr. F. Focus merely trying to explain that he was not to phone the claim number but the phone number I wrote down, I’m honestly not sure I would have gotten much more information out of him. Add in the fact that I don’t think he was quite on the up and up with the mere fact of even being able to drive the car given his reaction when I mentioned the po-po.

His daughter called me today and left a voicemail for me looking for my policy number. I don't think Mr. F. Focus understood what I explained to him. Oh well. I've got her number now.

Lucky for me, the cell phone message she left sucked butt in the quality department and I couldn't understand what her name was. When I called her back she's got one of those "You've reached (the phone number, not the name of the person who has the phone number)" voicemail messages.

Grr.

However, it was a pretty minor accident. I've got $15K coverage on hitting other people's cars. I should be OK.

Of course my rates will probably go up.

Ah well, there are starving kitty cats in Iraq (at least that's what I tell Squeaky and Springs when they won't eat the crunchkas they spill on the floor before begging me to feed them). My life could be worse.

On the knitting front, the progress on the North Star Tam O’Llama is still going slow.

I can knit about two to three rounds per one episode of Buffy. I’m normally not this slow of a knitter, but I’m having to look at the chart for every other round and I’m such a tight knitter that the k2tog tbl are really slowing me down. I think purling is faster than knitting two stitches together through the back loop.

I’ve tried to loosen my stitches on the knit rounds, but I invariably forget to and go back to knitting really tight. This makes stabbing the stitches through the back loop a pain.

About six rows before the chart ended, I ran out of Sarah's llamaspun. I was hoping that I could have at least ended the chart before having to use my ebay llama.

Yesterday I finished the charted lace pattern using the ebay llama and I don't think it looks half bad.

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I can’t wait to this to be done! I want to cast on a lacy scarf but can’t until this is done!!!

But maybe I can--I finished the GirlTurtle's Der Frawd socks this morning. I might replace my normal lunch knitting of socks with lacy scarf knitting.

Der Frawd pictures will be coming tomorrow.

*I'm not getting in a pissing contest with anyone about how your state's drivers are worse. I'm willing to bet your state has shitty unpredictable weather too, right? I'll bet your state's weather motto is "Don't like the weather? Wait 15 minutes!" Ha ha, that was soooo funny the fifth state I heard it used in.

I'm just going off of my own limited experiences that in the five out of fifty states I've had an address in, New Jersey drivers are by far the worst. They take stupid chances, they honk for no apparent reason, and are just generally jackasses behind the wheel. Now that's not to say all New Jersey drivers are bad, just the ones on my commute--well except for that green-blue minivan that drives down Claremont Avenue in Montclair and turns on Midland Avenue around 5:30ish everyday. That person has one of those K2Tog magnets on their bumper. They're automatically a cool person.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Веселое Рождество!

Which means "Merry Christmas" in Russian, if Babelfish can be trusted. Ha ha!

Christmas (or your winter holiday of choice should you be celebrating it in the Northern Hemisphere--summer holiday of choice for those down below the Equator) is right around the freaking corner.

Maybe it's me jumping the gun because it didn't break 70 degrees today, but I can't wait for snow and Christmas!!!

But where am I going with this? I was cleaning out my bookmarks and came upon an online yarn store that distributes yarn spun by a Russian mill.

Talk about a great price! Check out what I scored:

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Mmm..the ball on top is 100% alpaca (208 yds for $4.55), the two light blue balls are 50% "goat down"/50% wool (246 yds for $4.75--and don't let the word "goat down" make you think its rough--it's soft!) and the balls of dark blue and black are both 50% angora/50% wool (328 yds for $4.95).

I've decided to make a pair of lacy scarves for Chunky's teachers for Christmas out of the dark blue and black angora. As corny as it sounds, and keep in mind I had the plan to make them lacy scarves already, they're both Russian immigrants so finding this yarn was just too perfect!

Now I just need to find two lace scarf patterns. And yes, I checked The Place, and was disappointed to find most of their patterns were from books. I'll probably just pull something outta my butt. It's a lace scarf, not rocket science.

The two light blue "goat down" balls will become a Wisp for yours truly.

I originally bought the brown alpaca to make Dr. Mad Scientist a winter hat for when he's walking home from the train station at midnight and 1:00 a.m. this winter, but it's a really fine yarn. The needle size recommended was US 5-7. I interpreted that to mean it would be at least sport weight. But it's pretty much fingering weight. No worries, it's still a beautiful ball of chocolatey brown alpaca goodness.

I'm very hesitant to share where I bought this stuff. Maybe some of you know. But judging by how many other people at The Place have yarn from this company, I don't think many people know.

It's kind of a small-time website. But very good--I ordered this yarn on Friday. It came TODAY. I did upgrade to the two day shipping...but do you know how much it cost to upgrade to the two day shipping? Ten cents!!!!

It's kind of like a secret fishing hole or a recipe for peanut butter cream filled brownie bites---too good to share!

But I'll share.

If you go to a website that is the word for the land used to describe the vegetation found mainly above the treeline, add the word yarn to that and then throw a dot com in there, you'll find my secret yarn fishing hole.

Muhahahahahahaha!

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

One (Sorta) Local Summer

It's Sunday, which (every other week) seems to be the best day to post about our local summer meals.

This week it was another simple salad/dry salsa.

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Gah, my food porn abilities HAVE got to improve. The picture makes this salad/dry salsa look nasty!

I was getting kind of sick of corn on the cob as the only way we were eating the fresh corn I've been picking up each week from the stand across from the office. I decided to make a version of a black bean "salsa" I remember someone in my old Michigan law office bringing in for a potluck one year.

Again, in true baby-step style, this salad features a few non-local things:

Black Beans (which may have been local when I bought them down in Texas and later brought them with us when we moved to New Jersey--the bag was long gone)

Olive oil and my infamous cross-country-hauled rice vinegar.

But locally the salad/dry salsa has local tomatoes, onions, and corn.

It was easy to whip up on a night after working that I didn't feel like cooking much. Plus I'm getting Dr. Mad Scientist hooked on these "thinking beyond the lettuce" salads. He loved this one and has asked I make it again.

Despite this meager offering to our efforts to eat local, when I checked the mail on Friday, I was pleased to find that my issue of the Michgian Environmental Council's Summer 2007 Newsletter was a special "Food" issue.

I got on their mailing list two years or so ago when I donated some back wages my old evil boss, The Man, begrudgingly paid me. She's an oil and gas attorney and I figured donating money to the MEC was a perfect passive/agresssive way to get back at her for trying to screw me out of two days of pay. Donation for spite--muhahahahaha!

Anyway, the issue was mostly things I had already knew about the price of eating mushrooms from Uraguay but there were some good articles in there as well as some great websites that I'm sure I would have loved had we been living in Michigan doing this challenge. There were some great nuggets of info that I hadn't been aware of either. However, the best piece was an article written by a person who I know is one of The Man's arch enemies. Hee hee!

If you're interested, the whole issue can be read here.

We've got plans already to make another One (Sorta) Local Summer meal tonight: spaghetti.

And for dessert, since it's overcast and "cool" we might even bake up One (Sorta) Local Dessert using these beauties that Chunky and I plucked from the tree in the front yard when Zorba the Landlord wasn't looking:

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Mmmm!!! I can't wait! (Oh and that's local flavored seltzer water there too--161 miles from here!)

Before I end this--does anyone have any good potato recipes?

After I harvested my potatoes from the Great Urban Potato Experiment, I'm at a loss as to what to do with them. Since they're like my little golden babies, I want to make sure they get eaten in style. We normally bake or just mash our taters. I think these taters deserve to be something special--as a poetic end to the Great Urban Potato Experiment.

Yeah, maybe I'm overthinking this waaay to much. But like I said--they're my babies!!!

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Futbol Americano!

Ok, no knitting. So clicky-click if you're in it just for the knitting. That darn North Start Tam O'Llama is taking forever! Now I know why the only thing I knit on size 2 needles is socks. Oof!! Dedicated are those who knit sweaters on size 2 needles!!

Yesterday was the big pre-season game my boss gave me his season tickets to.

The Minnesota Vikings vs. the NY Jets at the lovely Meadowlands, New Jersey.

As an aside, I heard there's a lawmaker in Trenton (or maybe it's Albany) who wants to create a law about broadcasters being required to put a little disclaimer on the screen every time a New York sportsteam is broadcasted playing in New Jersey. Something to the effect of: "The place you are seeing is not New York! It's New Jersey!" That cracks me up to no avail. Growing up in Alaska, where you struggle to convince the morons you seem to always meet that Alaska is not a separate country and is part of the United States, I can feel New Jersey's pain in feeling kind of overshadowed by The Big Apple.

Anyway, after I picked up Chunky from school, the heavens opened up and it started raining, thundering, and even hailing.

Here's what it looked like from the car window while we were waiting for Dr. Mad Scientist at the train station.

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Luckily, by the time we hit the Meadowlands, it was just a small drizzle.

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That picture looked a lot nicer when I took it! What you're looking at is the practice bubble and the stadium behind it. And no, that's not the moon rising--that's just a raindrop on the lense.

We were on the first level, so we didn't have to ride a bajillion escalators up to the nosebleeds.

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Check out those seats! We were 13 rows away from the front row. Dr. Mad Scientist claims it would have been better had they not been basically in the end zone, but I thought they were pretty damn cool! See what perks going to law school will get you eventually?

We had a $35 stadium dinner and settled in to watch the game.

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(See Penny! Chunky and Pie have the same shirt! Ha ha!)

The poor Jets struggled terribly, but finally made their first touchdown in the 2nd quarter I believe.

Chunky didn't like the noise from all the cheering.

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It was a ton of fun!

In true Penny Karma photography form, I had to take a picture of this guy and his son.

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He was wearing a Viking's jersey and his son was decked out from head to toe in Jets gear. Too damn cute!!!

After the Vikings pretty much sealed the win. We left.

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The final score was actually Vikings 37, Jets 20.

Since we're not huge Jets fans, this doesn't hurt that much. And we honestly spent a lot of time looking for Vikings #61 Josh Day--a Colorado State alumni--who did a great job warming the bench for the Vikings last night. There was some Michigan State alumni playing first string for the Vikings too, but despite spending more time at MSU, Dr. Mad Scientist loves his undergraduate alma mater more.

It was an incredible experience to go to an NFL game if even a preseason game. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the crowd of a regular season game to be honest.

Chunky's one lucky kid. I think when I was his age, the closest thing to a major sporting event I ever saw was standing out in the cold to watch the start of the Iditarod. I vaguely have memories of this. But maybe we never did that and I'm just thinking of all the other times I had to stand out in the cold as a kid.

We also got to realize how close to the Meadowlands we live. It took us longer to walk from the stadium to my car than it did to drive home from the stadium to the house last night!




I closed the comments on my post a ways back. It was merely supposed to be my opinion of The Place. I didn't think my original post showed any disrespect towards anyone participating in and loving The Place. But maybe it was disrespectful and I didn't see that, I apologize if you felt that I was defecating in your Captain Crunch. I know I said a ways back that I was putting the subject to bed, and hypocritically I opened my big yap about it. However, when I was waiting in line trying to find out more about The Place and googling it, all I ever saw was one opinion of The Place. This itself speaks volumes of The Place and what it represents to a lot of people. I just wanted to speak up as someone who was on the less-populated, and apparently less vocal (at least that I could find when I was looking for opinions of The Place) side of the coin. I didn't want to stir up any trouble. Hilariously enough, one thing The Place has given me is something never listed as one of its features: the desire to become a more consciencous blogger. I'll work to make my writing a bit clearer in the future.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

And Onto More Exciting Topics Now!

I'm glad some of y'all are having fun at The Place. It's kind of like Disneyland, most people really love it, but for a small percentage of others, a person in a mouse costume is a little creepy.

And for the record, I liked Disneyland OK. Been there, done that.

I won't be spending time there trying to figure out the latest poop on their forums. I tried reading a few topics but found them incredibly hard to follow.

No Secret Agent Woman here.

Besides Secret Agent Women always have cool names and get laid by guys like James Bond.

Sadly my name isn't Ivanna Screwalot and Dr. Mad Scientist sure ain't no Bond!

If you're interested in touring The Place while you're keeping your spot in line warm, let me know. I'll gladly loan you my username and password and you can go poke around in there before you get your invite proper. I couldn't find anything in The Place rules that prevented that and I don't see the harm.

Just don't go changing my screenname (which I'm not advertising--it's not Bezzie) to Ivanna Screwalot and it's all good.

But cheerio! Onto, in my opinion, more exciting things to waste some typing about!

It's Friday, it's a few days past the middle of the month.

Hm, whatever could that mean?

Kootchie Awarness Yarn Extravaganza yarn time!!!!!!!!!!

This month you'll be competing for a skein of NON sock yarn! I'm so proud of myself for getting away from sock yarn as a prize if only for a month!

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It's kind of a dark picture, forgive me, but that's a skein of Hand Dyed Kid Aran from Fleece Artist. I believe the color is "Renaissance."

Wondering what I'm going on about here? Click the link above to find out. To the rest of you who have already entered--good luck!

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Looking Through A Glass Onion

Well my pretties, I looked through the bent back tulips to see how the other half lives and, despite my strong opinions made while waiting in line, I hypocritically and silently slipped under the velvet rope to the Place That Shall Not Be Named (hereinafter called “The Place”).

First off, I'll include the requisite: "Wow, the people who created The Place are very dedicated and talented and a lot of work must have gone into it, blah, blah. I'm not undervaluing their efforts in any way with this post."

That said, I can truly see the mass-appeal of The Place.

But I’ve never been one to enjoy a mass of any sort. They make me claustrophobic. What if someone screams “fire!” and the mass starts running—are you supposed to swim in mass of hysterical people? Or is that just avalanches?

I guess it’s moot since I can’t swim.

For shits and grins, I decided to put in my queue a knitting project I’ve been baking up (literally and figuratively--this knit involves cake) in the back of my head for a while to see how The Place would handle something that hasn’t been knit before.

Hm.

It’s very interesting when you don’t want to color in the lines at The Place.

It gives you all these pop-up warning windows if you try to enter a yarn or a pattern that isn’t in their database. It’s something akin to “Are you sure you want to color outside the lines?” “Would you like to redefine the lines (i.e. add yarn or link a pattern)?” Maybe these things will disappear once The Place chops down the velvet ropes and lets everyone in equally and more bizzaro materials and patterns are added to their master databases.

I honestly didn't feel like taking the time to redefine the lines in which to color by adding my bizzaro materials and patterns to their list.

Why not?

It's my understanding that the Place was set up to unite knitters/crocheters through the common patterns and materials they use.

So if you're doing the Twist on the dance floor and everyone else is doing the Boot Scoot Boogie, you are pretty much invisible.

However, that can be said about anything not just The Place. That's probably an unfair analogy.

The Place is definitely what you put into it. I didn't really feel like putting the effort in to justifying my dance preferences in adding them to the master list of dances (i.e. yarn).

You will freaking love The Place if can’t live without a detailed cyber catalogue of your yarns. Or you might be like me and think cold oatmeal has more personality than a giant list of your yarns (trust me, cold oatmeal has personality when you pair it with saran wrap and your dead pet goldfish).

The ability to catalogue your yarnly goods, or "stash" is a key feature being touted by The Place and it's members.

The word "stash" to me however still conjures up images of tiny elaborate wood worked boxes where one keeps illicitly obtained dried plants for smoking. I may have hung out with the wrong crowd in college though.

Maybe it's my office-monkey training, but I don't see the appeal of coming home to do data entry when more often than not, data entry finds it's way into my day to day tasks at work. Doing what I do at work for "fun" no matter what the guise has zero appeal to me. But then again my catalogue of yarnly goods isn't as voluminous as some--and it never will be. I can live with skipping this feature.

Are you feeling lonely? Misunderstood? The Place is perfect for starting an online group of like minded people with razor thin scopes of interest. You can totally find other right handed, Republican, pro-choice, bunny hugging but deer hunting, continental style knitting knitters that are allergic to wool. They'll even have kicky logo to match their cool group.

I guess I just don’t get what the big excitement is.

If you're still in line, will The Place be for you?

The answer is yes if:

* You don't mind having to color in the lines.

* You're feeling isolated and you want to find other knitters/crocheters like you that enjoy sporting a "W" and a "Pro-Choice" bumpersticker on their truck with the deer antlers mounted to the grill that you drive to SNB where you sit across the room from the people who knit with wool lest you break out in hives being anywhere around it and discuss the unethical treatment of bunnies by cosmetic companies with the others as you pick your stitches.

* Data entry is your next true love (besides knitting or crocheting).

There's nothing wrong with you if you love these things either in whole or in part.

I'm not defecating in your Captain Crunch when I express my opinions of The Place. I'm just saying The Place isn't my cup o'tea because I don't like tea and I don't like pissing in cornflakes.

My hypocritical nibble of the forbidden fruit was not to just taste an exotic, much-hyped overripe apple--I can now honestly stand by every preconceived notion I had before. The Place just isn’t for me.

I feel like a square peg being squished into a round hole when I'm on there. A better analogy is that I feel like a super chunky yarn being knit on size US 1 needles.

It's doable, but it's painful.

To those of you still in line: as I said, if you like data entry, cold oatmeal, and weird super-specialized cyber groups, keep drooling away as you wait in line.

For the rest of yas, don't let the hype overcome you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sick Days Are For Catching Up

On Saturday Chunky wasn't feeling well. He said he felt like hurling. But he didn't. He took a late afternoon nap and made a recovery.

Obviously Sunday he was feeling better as we hit the beach.

Last night when I was on the phone with my mom, he nonchalantly informed me he wasn't feeling well, asked for the barf/foot soaker bowl, plopped down in front of the tube with his blankey and monkey and vomited. I didn't realize he had until after I hung up with my mom.

I love my kid.

What other little kid is nonplussed by emptying the contents of their stomach?

Given the track record on Saturday, I thought it might be another passing thing.

However, as we were heading out the door to drop Dr. Mad Scientist off at the train station this morning, he went running for the barf bowl and he regurgitated what he could since he hasn't really eaten much since yesterday afternoon.

Can I just say how much I love this new job?

I can rest easy staying at home with my little monkey while a carefully organized group of back-up secretaries at work will take care of my attorneys while I'm out.

What a refreshing change of pace from the days where Chunky would have to come to work with me and I'd have to pray to Jeebus that he wouldn't hurl all over The Man's filing!!! (Although I secretly hoped he would just to get back at her for the fact I'd have to drag my sick baby to work.)

Where am I going with all of this disgusting talk of vomiting five year olds?

The loss of Chunky's stomach contents is your gain!

It's blog catch up day!

First up a knitting update. The North Star Tam O'Llama is finally starting to look like a tam:

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I'm a tad bit worried about how much yarn I've got left. I'm only on round 7 of 48 rounds total of the band pattern. Then there's the 1" ribbing to finish it.

No worries though. Way back when I was first starting to knit seriously (a whole what, two years ago?) I bought some 100% llamaspun off ebay. Can you believe I actually knit a scarf out of 100% llamaspun and eyelash yarn? And here I said I was getting away from the vomit-topic!

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It's not nearly as beautiful as Sarah's handspun llama that comprises the body of the tam, but I think the colors will match nicely if I have to use it.

Second up, a couple of reader requests.

Jo wants to know how my tomatoes are doing.

I posted earlier about how they appeared to be coming down with blossom end rot. I cut about three of the worst offenders off my plants, but despite my ghetto-lime tricks of Tums and eggshells...

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...they're not doing too much better.

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I've got no clue how to fix them.

But tomatoes were kind of an afterthought to the pot garden this year when my special container hybrids didn't arrive in the mail soon enough to plant this year.

Overall, I'm happy. The potatoes were a success and so were the green onions.

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The green onions were another afterthought and I am definitely planting them next year.

We only ever use one or two green onions at a time in our cooking and it's so easy just walking down the steps to pluck a few instead of buying a bunch of six of them and having them rot in the fridge before we can use them all up.

Before I leave the subject of gardening, Mag suggested I keep a garden notebook for next year.

I'm on your wavelength Mags--check this out.

Earlier this spring I knit my sister T. a little cover for her MP3 player/recorder. In exchange, she sent me a handmade (by her) journal.

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In true cheapass form, she used a printout of the Wrigley Gum Annual Report she had to print out for some school project to make the pages of the book.

I wasn't sure what I was going to use the book for when I received it in the mail. However once the pot garden started taking off I figured it would be good to keep notes for next year.

Every weekend I write down what's blooming, what's having problems, etc. I've even got my list of "must plants" already mapped out for next year!

Alright, moving on to the last request--Zanti wants to see my rack. In particular my burned rack.

Thankfully no nips were harmed in the frolicking at the beach Sunday, but I did burn my upper chest quite nicely.

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Yick. That grosses even me out. SPF 50--my ass.

Dr. Mad Scientist made a great point: if this is how burned we got using SPF 50, what would have happened if we didn't use ANY sunblock??? Eeeeeccch, I cringe just to think of it.

Finally, last but not least, I was tagged by the Knottygnome Sara as part of her sweater meme to flash my handknit sweaters.

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Going clockwise we have first up my Simply Soft Nip Strip Tank knit before I fully understood the concept of gauge.

Next to it is my Bad Penny knit from my beloved TLC Cotton Plus.

Under that is the infamous Tomato also knit from TLC Cotton Plus.

Next to that, before I realized I was twisting my stitches, is my Soleil knit from Sinfonia mercerized cotton.

Finally rounding out the sweaters is my "Cold Shoulder" sweater knit from Simply Soft as well. This was a pattern of my own "design" based on the Corded Yoke Pullover from I believe the winter issue of IK. I believe that pattern is found in the last issue where the format was still, in my opinion, readable.

From this picture I can conclude the following:

1.) I love me some cheap yarn. None of these sweaters cost more than $20 to knit.

2.) Green and purple seem to be favorite colors of mine.

3.) 2007 is the year of the sweater since the three true sweaters (garments with sleeves) in this picture were knit or finished this year.

Now you know I don't tag unless I create the meme myself.

But seriously, flash yer sweaters!

It's mid-August and hot! You know you want to pull those sweaters out of hibernation and fondle them lovingly as you yearn for a crisp fall day or even a bitter winter one where the cold cuts right through you and you can wear them again.

Ok, maybe I'm the only person that pines for a bitter winter day. (I can't wait!)

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

What a freaking great weekend!

Not much knitting.

Yesterday I was busy harvesting my potatoes from the Great Urban Potato Project.

The potato was starting to show signs of dying.

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Kind of sad huh?

I figured what the hey--I'd pull 'em up. August is potato harvest time in AK. These are Yukon Golds. Maybe it was time.

So I started pulling up the plant.

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And I dug.

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And I lined up my little lumps of "gold."

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I lovingly washed them.

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And check it out--I even got a mutated "Nixon" potato.

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I'm not sure if it looks like Richard Nixon, or maybe the Virgin Mary. It hasn't cried blood yet, so I'm leaning towards Tricky Dick.

Overall harvest: 7 edible potatoes; and 5 mini spuds that were about the size of marbles. I've saved the mini spuds to see if maybe I can't plant them next year.

I would say that the Great Urban Potato Experiment was a success! One store-bought potato sprouted and planted in a large tub of potting soil yielded a nice batch of taters. Enough for two side dishes of baked potatoes, or perhaps a large helping of mashed potatoes. We'll see.

Next year I'll definately leave them in longer. Those mini spuds could have really become something. I think I'll also plant them lower in the pot and mulch up like everyone suggested. I didn't have much room to mulch up this year because of the way I filled the pot.

Today was amazing too. We went to Sea Girt, NJ and frolicked at the beach.
Chunky played in the water.

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The boys built a sand castle.

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And they swam.

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I left my swimming trunks at home. Next time they'll be coming with me for sure! I read on my blanket, napped like a cat in the sun, and even did a little knitting (a nice mindless Hat for Alex).

What a relaxing day!!!

Even the traffic on the GSP wasn't half bad.

The only downside was that despite using SPF 50, I look like I'm auditioning to be a spokesmodel for Red Lobster. Ouch!

El Chunkito was spared though. I must have put it on him thicker than I did myself.

He only has reverse-raccoon syndrome. I neglected the slather up the round areas under his eyes (it's the part of my anatomy that I call the bags under my eyes!). I know it's not nice to laugh at sunburn, but it looks hilarious!

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