Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snap Happy (The Geekend That Was, 1/29)

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The weekend was BEAUTIFUL. Saturday after morning chores (Michael had to run sound), we went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens armed with my spiffy new camera to give it a real test run.

Of course, we had to start with lunch. I love the cafe they now have at the Gardens. It's a bit on the expensive side, but I expect overpriced food at any event arena. And this stuff is not only REALLY GOOD, it's also healthy.

Chicken and barley soup; chick pea, yellow squash, and orange salad with citrus dijon dressing and coconut-pecan cookie
If you're a Garden member or go often, they actually have a "frequent buyer" card that they don't really advertise. Grab one next time you're there! It's also cool that since we're in a garden, they use compostable plates, cups and utensils. The plate is actually made from banana leaves. And yes, that clear plastic cup is also compostable!

The sky was a brilliant shade of blue.
I'm a little worried that many of our flowering trees are going to bloom too early an then get frozen next week when we're supposed to get down into the 20s (F)! But I guess I'll just enjoy them while I can!

I've always loved the trunk of this tree. The camera lets me do fun things like shoot everything black and white except the blue sky. =)

Winter is a great time to really capture the shape of this awesome cedar tree. (I should know its genus and species by now, but I've sadly forgotten!) When the leaves are green, you can see its cone sticking up above the other trees, but it's difficult to see the whole thing.

We enjoyed seeing all the yummy-looking Winter greens.

This recipe fascinates me...
...what do you think, would you try it??

It was fun to wander around outside, but I was really excited to hit the Fuqua Orchid Center. Next weekend it's going to be really spectacular, since Orchid Daze begins, but it's awesome at any time.

Here I was playing with the "pop color" filter on the camera.
It makes these just a little "purplier" than normal. Purplier. Yes, I'm quite sure that's an actual word. ;)

And now on to Real Photography. The kind where you play with ever-mysterious concepts like Aperture (not to be confused with Aperture Laboratories), Shutter Speed, Metering Mode, Depth of Field...!!!

Let's just start with Aperture, okey dokey? That's how much light the camera is letting in (how wide the lens is open during shooting). Also related to f-stop. I used to have a coworker that, when asked what an acronym containing an "F" stood for would tell you what all the other letters stood for and then say, "And, of course, the 'F' is implied." I'll let you figure that one out on your own. But! In this case, the "f" stands for "factorial". Oh, OK, that's all perfectly clear now. =P

Wikipedia tells me the f-stop is the focal length divided by the aperture. What I understand is that a smaller f-stop (larger aperture) makes the background defocused while keeping the foreground in focus (because, though I don't understand it...yet...a smaller aperture means a greater depth of field). For instance, this picture...
...was taken at a smaller f-stop (smaller aperture) than this one...

I tend to like my backgrounds a little defocused.

Here's a more dramatic example. F-stop cranked all the way down, i.e., I REALLY WANT YOU TO JUST LOOK AT THIS ONE FLOWER.
And the same flower in more of "hey, look at this pretty flower in the context of its background foliage" mode.

Of course, this camera is pretty smart and does very well if you just let it pick its own settings. =)

In all the times we're been in the Orchid Center, I'm pretty sure we've never seen this particular bloom. That's one of the things I love about it; there is always something blooming, and it's different every time you go. We've been before when a volunteer has pointed out a bloom and said, "This one only blooms for two days!"

I love the shapes of this one!

Here's a shot showing the roof of the Orchid Center.

I took around 120 pictures. I discovered a lot of things about my camera in the process! It has several methods of focusing; one of which allows you to move the focus spot wherever in the frame you want it. (I used to try to cheat this with my automatic by centering what I wanted to focus, then holding the shutter button halfway down and recomposing the shot.) It's got a panoramic mode (which we played with but I wasn't thrilled enough with any particular result to share). It's even got a timer! So now, you can see both of us at once!

I haven't even begun to play with the flash yet! I also have a wide-angle lens (which is what I'll use the most when we're sight-seeing, as it's nice and small and then the camera fits in its spiffy case). It lets you get the entire Fuqua Conservatory in one shot. =)

New camera = lots to shoot and lots to learn. Imagine how many pictures I will have after Orchid Daze starts!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Theme-a-licious Jardin January Wrap-Up

Wrap-up day for Theme-a-licious is the 31st, but again, I'm posting this a little early so everyone can check in while it's still the 31st for them. And also to give those of you who may have forgotten a chance to whip a post together. =) By the way, should we be doing these posts on the first instead of the last day of the month? What do you think? Leave me a comment if you have a strong opinion. Or even a weak one. ;)

So let's recap my plan for Jardin January:
  • Shakespeare's Garden
  • Convents Herbal Garden
  • Sanctuary
  • Rose Red Hat
I worked on Shakespeare's Garden and Convents Herbal Garden the first part of the month (see recap here). I stopped on Shakespeare's Garden because I was missing one fiber. Fortunately, the wonderful Kris saw my plea and sent me several yards! It arrived Saturday, but I was busy trying to finish Helena so I could cast on Rose Red! I managed to finish all of Helena except the front ties!!! Michael looked at the wee sweater and said he was amazed at what I could do. =) I'm pretty happy with it even though I can see some imperfections. But when it's on a sweet little baby, no one will see those. ;) I did JUST cast on Rose Red, and I'd show you a picture, but since I only did four rounds, it doesn't look like much. =)

Sanctuary fared much better thanks to IHSW! (Really, mainly due to Burn Notice and its vice-like grip over my spouse. =)

And for good measure, I worked on Les Rubans. Because it totally has flower-like things on it. See how this works? It's all up to you how strictly (or loosely) you apply the theme. ;)

Now it's time to talk about...
Fangirl February

Send a Valentine to your favorite designer...or at least work on his or her designs for the month!

I'm having a little bit of a hard time making up my mind here. I have so many favorites! But I think I'm going to concentrate on three: Teresa Wentzler, Moss Creek Designs (Rae Iverson) and Mirabilia. Here's what I'm going to do:
  • Teresa Wentzler: Peacock Tapestry. It's in progress, but just barely, and is a great candidate for the upcoming Amazon April
  • Moss Creek Designs: Blackwork Band Sampler...or maybe Ye Shall Prosper. They're both on my WIPocalypse list!
  • Mirabilia: I should be good and work on Autumn Queen (in progress AND on the WIPocalypse list). But what I really want to do is start Dancer, since Dasher needs company. And since it's my birthday this month, that's probably what I'm going to do. =)
It's hard for me to pick a favorite knitting designer since I have so little experience. But since I love every sock pattern Cookie A has cranked out of her genius brain, I'm going to add Bex (WOW that sock has been in progress for a while) to the list. Besides, how am I going to get the opportunity to work on one of the socks from my self-made sock club if I don't get some free needles up in here?

So how did your Jardin January go? What are your plans for Fangirl February? Please add your link below (to your wrap-up post). And despite what Mister Linky says, you don't need to comment after linking, though of course I'll always appreciate it. =) Our next check-in post will be on the 15th, when we'll share how Fangirl February is going! And don't worry if you haven't posted before...just jump in whenever.

1. Jan
2. Roses' Crafts
3. Ruth
4. Sue
5. Measi
6. Topcho
7. Daffycat
8. Paula
9. Cathy
10. Shannon
11. Annette
12. Blu
13. Loretta
14. Valentina
15. Joanne P
16. Sherry
17. Shebafude
18. Karoline
19. TeresaB
20. Sherrie
21. Lucie
22. Terri
23. Julie Vila
24. Jan Part 2
25. Jackie
26. TheDailyMel
27. Mindi

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Les Rubans Update

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I was waffling on what to work on after IHSW, since I managed to wrap up one of the four gardens in Sanctuary (you'll see pictures in a couple days with the Jardin January wrap-up =). So I decided to pull out Les Rubans, since that post got so many comments! In fact, I'd had a vague idea for a while that the first time one of my posts got 20 comments, I'd do an unannounced giveaway. So there's going to be a little something coming to one of the commenters on that post (picked by my randomizer...aka my hubby). I'll keep it a secret until it gets there. 'Cause I'm sneaky that way. ;)

Anyhoo, you wanna see some pictures, doncha? Well, here you go!
This is an in-progress picture of the first ribbon that we worked on in class (also first in the instructions). It's also the smallest, which just made it seem like a fabulous place to start. By the way, this piece TOTALLY fits in with Jardin January, for those keeping score at home. It absolutely has many flowers, and flower-like things on it, though I may or may not be working on them at the moment. This picture is the laid base of the background filling stitch plus the first (horizontal) path about halfway done (the pink).

Here's what the motifs looked like before the filling stitch was started:
SEE! Completely and utterly flower-like.

And another shot to show how dimensional all this is!
I think it's hard to tell now that the filling stitch is in there.
Aaaand, this is the horizontal pass done and the vertical pass halfway done. Most of that blue metallic grid is covered up now, but it's still under there lending structure and dimension.

Totally flower-like.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Eat Your Vegetables

A couple months ago Michael and I took my sister, brother-in-law and niece to YEAH! Burger, and the side of the month was roasted Brussels sprouts with goat cheese. YUM! Well, anything with goat cheese is fantastic. But what amazed me was that my sister went completely gaga over the Brussels sprouts themselves. She'd never had them prepared by roasting! That got me thinking...there must be a lot of people who've never had them that way. Well, if that's you, and especially if you hate slimy, mushy, boiled Brussels sprouts, you owe it to yourself to try it. They're not mushy, they're not slimy, and you can make them as crispy as you like by stripping off more leaves (more loose leaves = more crunchy bits).

This recipe is from Cooking Light. I've changed it just a little bit (doubled so it's for four and changed some things around).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apples

modified from a recipe in Cooking Light

1 cup diced apple (about 1 apple)
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (with as many leaves pulled off as you'd like)
1 1/2 T apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 t dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss all ingredients and place in one layer on a cookie sheet or baking stone.
Bake for 25 minutes. Serves 4.
Easy peasy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Geekend That Was, 1/22 (Winter Blues)

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After Friday, when it was yucky and rainy outside and I didn't leave the house, I belatedly signed up for International Stitch and Hermit Weekend. I had hoped to go for some outdoor photography, but the weather was supposed to be disgusting all weekend, so I thought I'd have lots of stitching time instead. The hubby went to judge a pinewood derby Saturday morning, which I should have gone to with him, but he had to leave soooo early that I couldn't make myself conscious in time. We may have also stayed up too late watching Burn Notice (THIS SHOW IS SO ADDICTING!)

So there I am, stuck at home, with thunderstorms raging outside, and what am I doing? Am I curling up with a cup of tea and stitching? Noooo, I'm still trying to beat stupid Dance Central (with intermittent power outages), I'm doing laundry, I'm getting myself ready in case we go for a movie later, I'm doing chores...what the heck?? When the hubby got home, I continued to do more of the same. I did do some stitching, but most of it wasn't very showy...I figured out how to sew Helena's hem, I did a test stitch on Shakespeare's Garden to determine if two yards of begged and borrowed flower thread would do (result: TWO GIANT QUEEN STITCHES, and that's all). Late Sunday night I stitched some satin stitches on Les Rubans. So most of what I have to show is from Friday night's Burn Notice marathon:
I'm not showing you the whole thing because I'll save it for my Jardin January wrap-up (SUCH A TEASE).

The mail man did deliver some mini-skeins I bought from Tami at Candy Skein. Omigosh, these colors are AWESOME!!
I played with the camera a while, but it was impossible to capture all the ranges of blue and teal. Some of these are too bright; the one second from the right in particular is actually a deep turquoise. And because I am a total weirdo, I used my new swift to turn one of them into a wee yarn cake. Yeah, it's pretty much not very useful in that form! =)

Sunday we did go on a shopping trip and got lots of good bargains. My best one is this down jacket (550 fill!!!)...it was 70% off, so only 30 dollars! It's so warm, and I don't look like the Stay Puft marshmallow man in it. I love it!

Winter blues are OK as long as they are yummy yarn colors or keeping me warm!

Meta post: Comments

Just a quick note...I enabled threaded comments (which means you can "Reply" to a comment), and to do it I had to change my comment form from being pop-up (in a new window) to embedded (in the same window as the post). If you have any problems commenting, PLEASE email me at heather at lottloft dot com and let me know. If this causes a lot of trouble (I know the embedded comment form has had problems before), I will switch it back. TA!

Al the Orts that are Fit to Report (January TUSAL)

(What's a TUSAL?)

Here's a month of orts (scraps). My yearly jar is getting washed out, since it was emptied from last year's orts. This jar (i.e., votive candle holder, but let's just pretend it's an actual jar) is fairly full this month mostly due to winding all the yarn for my own sock club.

Speaking of winding, I finally spent some of my Christmas money on a swift! Now I no longer have to tie hangers together with elastic and put them in my giant, weirdly square fat separator to wind yarn! (No idea what I'm talking about? Check out the cheapest DIY yarn swift ever. I'd been doing pretty much the same thing.)
What the...? Hey, how did that book get in that box from Knit Picks?? Well, guess I'll have to keep it. ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dancing Queen?

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For Christmas, I got Michael a 5-pack of tickets to Georgia Tech basketball games. Since our coliseum is being remodeled, some of the games are being held in Philips Arena. Thursday night we went to the Georgia Tech - UVA basketball game, and we found out our seats are pretty close to the court, which is awesome. Close enough, in fact, that I had great hopes of actually catching one of the T-shirt bombs they hurl into the audience. But we all know how that is ultimately going to end up for the short girl: No T-shirt for me.

BUT WAIT!! What's the guy who's normally throwing the T-shirts doing up in the crowd? (And by "up in," I mean at row 10 where we were sitting.) He's recruiting people for some crazy half-time stunt! HOW CAN I SAY NO TO THAT??

I think they mean, "UN-LIMITED"!
As I made my way out on the court, trying to avoid being kicked in the head by the dance team, I wondered what I'd have to do to get my T-shirt. Probably something vaguely athletic, trying to throw a ball through some small hole from very far away, causing the crowd to chortle with mirth and raise a rousing chorus of "AIR-BALL, AIR-BALL!" Or perhaps something involving a blindfold, where I crawl around on the floor towards targets to win FABULOUS VALUABLE PRIZES while the audience helpfully yells, "TO YOUR RIGHT!" "STRAIGHT AHEAD!" "FASTER!!!" simultaneously?? (I've seen it done. NOT pretty.)

What? Musical chairs? Oh, well, that's OK then. Wait, why is the guy holding four of us back? What are WE going to do?

Hmmm...*sniff sniff*...smells like a dance contest. I'm afraid I didn't win (the old guy got the sympathy vote), but I'm not afraid to admit that I busted out some Dance Central moves during the competition. =) At least the crowd cheered for me! But most importantly, I GOT MY T-SHIRT. And it was even a medium (a rarity in the sea of XXLs they were showering into the crowd).
(I am hoping that 11-12 is for 2011-2012, and not the record we're shooting for, although things honestly aren't looking so good right now.)
I love the back!

Speaking of Dance Central, I am in a total grudge match with it right now. I'm trying to get my very last achievement, "Something to Prove," which involves getting 100% on all the teaching recaps. If anyone knows how to conquer "Dip It," hit me in the comments. =(

Apparently, I will do almost anything for a T-shirt.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Geekend That Was, 1/15

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Soooo, my eyes are dilated right now, so this is going to be a short post! I'm still way behind on blog reading (even the Theme-a-licious posts! =o) but I will get around to it!

Friday night we had friends over to play Settlers of Catan. There was good food, good wine and probably the closest game I've played. Also the strangest distribution of resources, ever. I spent a couple minutes playing with my camera before the evening started, because I saw this out the window:

The night went extremely late, so not a lot happened the next day. ;) We did watch a lot of Burn Notice on Netflix. Have you seen this series?? It's about a CIA contractor who gets "burned"...that is, he's fired, stranded in Miami, and all his accounts are frozen, and he has no idea why. He narrates over some of the scenes, and it's hilarious. He's like the MacGyver of spies because he has to make his equipment with very little cash. And it costars Bruce Campbell!

Sunday we saw Beauty and the Beast in 3D. It was so great to see that movie on the big screen again, although I will admit that for most of the scenes, I could have done without the 3D. There was one scene where Gaston's leg looked like it had been deflated! I managed to avoid singing along to all of Belle's parts. ;)

Monday we had planned to go to the Botanical Gardens so I could play with the new camera, but Michael wanted to go shopping first. We got a bit of a late start and never made it to the Gardens. Oh well, there is always next week. But we did enjoy our pre-shopping brunch, and since I had the camera you can see my Pumpkin Pie Chai...
YUM. And also, the Red Velvet Pancakes...
...with some random semi-healthy sandwich in the background. ;)

I find my lack of stitching pictures disturbing. Also, it seems this is the closest I can come to "short".

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Theme-a-licious Jardin January Check-in

Check-in day for Theme-a-licious is the 15th, but I'm posting this a little early so participants 'round the globe (omigosh, how cool is it that we're themeing 'round the globe??) can check in while it's still the 15th for them!

A quick graphic note...for those of you that put the original graphic on your blog sidebars (which I do appreciate!) remember that there's now a much prettier version available! (i.e., made by a real graphic designer instead of me ;) To change from this:

to this:

just change the last part of the "src" in your "img" tag to "themeButton.gif" (note capital "B") instead of "themeblink.png". Unless, of course, you just like my unprofessional one better. ;)

Now on to the update! So far I've been able to work on two of the four pieces I wanted to work on for Jardin January. First up: Shakespeare's Garden.
I kind of stalled out when I remembered that I was missing one color of Flower Thread. Measi was kind enough to check at her LNS, but they didn't have it. I'm now going to stitch it with another color to measure exactly how much I need and hope someone can give up a partial skein. You guys are loving this piece in the comments and making me really want to finish it!!

Awaiting a response on the Flower Thread, I moved on to Convents Herbal Garden. I worked on the upper right corner.
This piece goes really slowly for me for whatever reason! I was thinking I'd finish this corner, but now I'm not sure...

My third planned piece for this month is Sanctuary by Drawn Thread. And the fourth is a knitting project I won't start 'til I'm done with a certain sweater. But you guys also really loved Les Rubans. And it, you know...kinda has flowers on it. =)

So what do you say? What should I work on for the rest of the month?

How has your Jardin January been shaping up? Please add your link below (to your check-in post). And despite what Mister Linky says, you don't need to comment after linking, though of course I'll always appreciate it. =) Our next check-in post will be on the 31st, when we'll sum up Jardin January and make plans for Fangirl February!

1. Lucie
2. shebafudge (Sharon)
3. Joanne P
4. Daffycat
5. Julie Vila
6. Shannon
7. Sherry
8. Blu
9. Mindi
10. Cathymk
11. Valentina
12. cucki
13. Karoline
14. Sara (xeihua)
15. Jan
16. Sue
17. Measi
18. Loretta

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

WIP Wednesday

I am plodding along on Helena...
I've finished one sleeve (well, except for seaming it up). I'm somewhat terrified of seaming up the picot hem. But I think with a couple visits to TECHknitting, I can do it. With my nifty new camera, I was able to "warm up" the color so this is more true to the real yarn color than previous posts have been. <3 the new camera! Now I just need to conquer all its features....

I need to hurry up before the little girl is too big for the sweater!! I also want to be done so I can start Rose Red (or Silver Rose, in my case ;) for Jardin January!!

For more WIP Wednesday eye candy goodness, head over to Tami's Amis!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Geekend That Was, 1/8

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Thank you so much for all your kind comments on Les Rubans. =) I must admit that you all make me want to pull it out and work on it!! Gabi asked what I meant by "chichi" women...I meant women with a lot of money who are always "dressed to impress". Now, this is not to say that everyone at that shop has been anything but perfectly nice any time I've been there. It's just me being intimidated! Thank you also for the well wishes on my sinus infection. This week was wretched, but I am feeling like a human again!!

The big project for the weekend was taking down all the Christmas decorations.
The corner always looks so empty just after the tree comes down.

I did manage to do one thing that I wanted to do at the end of last year. I'd been so tempted to join different sock clubs (especially Cookie A's...I LOVE her stuff!) but I have so many sock patterns and so much sock yarn already. So I took a page from The Yarn Harlot's book and made my own.
There are only five bags here because I was going for six, but I already have two socks in progress. You can see one bag is different...after I made up the bags, I had Michael switch out the contents of that bag with another one so I wouldn't know which "kit" was in it. I'll probably pick that one first! =) Gee whiz, I wound a lot of yarn!

I think I win for owning the most Christmas ornaments...or at least for having the most pine needles on my floor!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

WIPocalypse Check-in #1

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So far, I've had great success! Dasher was finished (click here to see his beauty shot). I took another shot to try to capture HOW MANY BEADS (and other various assorted sparklies) he's encrusted with.

I've started working on Shakespeare's Garden (which is also my first piece for Jardin January).
But sadly, I remembered that I am missing one of the DMC Flower Threads...2358. Anyone have one they can trade or sell me??

Don't expect a finish every month...that's not really my style. ;)

Old Geek-outs