Books and yarn are my friends

Again I am remiss in posting. And I had such good intentions! Case in point: I’ve started a new book challenge for myself, called 52 books in 52 weeks. I had hoped to post about each book as I finish, though as you can see, that hasn’t happened. I started on August 9. My initial inspiration comes from Sassenach, whose posts I’ve been catching when she updates on Plurk.

I added a widget-y thing in the sidebar to show my bookshelf on GoodReads, where I’m keeping track. I’m actually ahead right now, which is something. I almost feel as though I shouldn’t include re-reads, but there are some books I really love to read: the entire Harry Potter series, anything Neil Gaiman, and The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (which I got hooked on in high school, and I don’t know why. It’s a fascinating book about ebola).

The morning light hit this lovely spider web on my porch just right.

The morning light hit this lovely spider web just right.

As far as knitting goes, the House Cup on Ravelry has opened for the fall term, which means I’ve been working on lots of assignments. I finished my first assignment, “something to keep someone warm” for Potions, two days ago. It’s a test knit of a pattern that should be coming out in the next week or two, called Witch Warmers. The full pattern includes armwarmers, legwarmers and a neckwarmer, the latter of which I submitted for class. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Otherwise, I’ve just gotten my hair cut today by a fantastic stylist. I walked in the door, and Dewey said, “I know exactly what you need.” And he did, and it’s an excellent cut. It’s not shaggy any more, it has shape, and it’s a bit on the sassy side. I was in such a good mood after that I bought new shoes at Chez Target next door: a pair of Mossimo Odell flats. (I only wish they’d had the bronze in my size, but it’s difficult to find size 11 for women sometimes.)

Good times.

In the kitchen for a change

I got a wild hair Saturday morning, which sent me on an online treasure hunt. The booty? A recipe for challah. (I chose challah because it’s delicious. The bread thing struck me a few days ago, to celebrate the first harvest — Lughnasadh or Lammas to some.) I finally decided on smitten kitchen’s post, best challah. (Only the best for me, you know.) For wacky reasons I still haven’t figured out, I didn’t get to the actual dough-making until about 8:15 last night. Those of you who’ve made bread know that this might be a fool’s errand. Call me a fool: I made bread anyway.

Challah is a workout when you don't have a mixer.

Challah is a workout when you don't have a mixer.

Well, the actual baking took place this morning before I went to work. That was thanks to this gem at the beginning of the recipe: three risings always makes for the tastiest loaves, even better if one of them is slowed down in the fridge. Bingo! The dough’s third rising was indeed spent in the fridge; at 11:15 I didn’t think I could wait another two hours to go to bed, as my eyelids were already drooping. I fell asleep smelling pleasantly of dough.

Something I have learned: making a lot of bread without a mixer is work. I got a lot of good anaerobic exercise last night mixing that dough, and I’m pretty sure my arm muscles are a little achey. All for good, though: aside from having a slightly thicker than expected (and somewhat bland) crust, I’m very pleased with the results. I suppose I ought to have halved the recipe — I have two large, clumsy 6-braid loaves — but bread is good. It was a nice match with cottage cheese and an apple for lunch, which I consumed by watching Epitaph One on my newly-arrived Dollhouse DVD. (And for the record, Joss Whedon is a genius, in case you didn’t know.)

Steampunk is your friend

A while ago — perhaps a year or more — I realized that I am a fan of the steampunk genre. I love the old world, Victorian sort of style; I’ve been amassing a large stash of inspirational images, and caches of links all over the web (including the Werewolf Specimen and Hunting Kit and the lightning pirates on Stardust). I visit the Brass Goggles site occasionally (and lurk about their forums), and take part in a passive MMORPG called The Nethernet. I even joined Steamy Stitches on Ravelry. I’m that obsessed.

So instead of doing normal July 4 celebratory things, when I woke up Saturday morning I decided to get crafty. I got out the Rustoleum I purchased some months ago to re-paint these fancy fancy sconces I got from a friend of mine. (Her mom is a fan of garage sales and auctions, and I think they were some of the many odd items that were given to Bandbabe.) She wasn’t a fan of the olive green, and didn’t really care to make space for them in her home, so I took them off her hands. It’s only now that I’ve gotten around to making them a color less like my walls …

See? Contrast!

See? Contrast!

Since I had the Rustoleum out, I decided to tackle my cheap-o speakers as well. They used to be a silvery gray; now they look a bit careworn and much classier. I also got a few decor-type items at Michael’s on Friday: six small, empty bottles and a plain wooden box with a display top. You can see the box with the speakers in the photo below (set on top of my “new” Martha Washington sewing cabinet that my dad picked up at an auction).

Old world speakers?

Old world speakers?

I first gave the box a yellow acrylic base coat. After that was dry, I put some blobs of brown and gold in a cup with water, mixed them up, and painted over the yellow. I did a couple of layers of this, wiping it off with a used dryer sheet in between. (I didn’t want to completely cover the yellow.) The end result was a nice aged look. I popped a small faux butterfly in the display section. (The other three from the package are in the main compartment of the box for now; different colors for different seasons, perhaps?) At any rate, it looks neat. I might mount the box to the wall or something.

Yesterday after lunch, I decided to re-arrange the living room. I didn’t take any photos, of course. We’ll see how I like it. It seems a lot more open now; the biggest thing I shifted was the over-size shelf piano, which now has a short end against the wall instead of its back. It almost gives the impression of having a proper entryway now (except that generally I don’t use the living room door as an entry, as my porch steps broke some years ago. Now I use a fancy old tire. And by “fancy” I mean a boring old spare tire.)

And, very slowly, I’m getting things unpacked from camp. (Two weeks now I’ve been home; obviously it’s not like I don’t have the time, having spent parts of the weekend painting things and hauling furniture around.) Even slowlier, I’m decorating my house in a combination of old world and Steampunk style. I think my next endeavor might be to turn my styrofoam wig head into a phrenology head with the help of paint and markers (my painting hand isn’t very steady when it comes to lines and lettering, so I figure Sharpie over paint will be fine). What can I say? I’m a dork.