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What I found out this week in Azeroth (ok, in Pandaria):

It doesn’t matter how many friends you have…
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I will admit, it’s been a little hard to blog lately. Every time I open up the page, there’s Serge staring back at me – I miss him terribly, and it’s a little heartbreaking to look at him there in that picture. But also, it’s been everything else too. I’ve been really sad about what’s going on in the world this month, in a hard-to-bear-up kind of way. So in a proactive move toward self-preservation, I’ve decided that I cannot listen to the news for any kind of extended period anymore. I used to come into work in the morning and turn on NPR to keep me entertained while I pushed around the paperwork, but lately that only leads to soggy paperwork. I’m limiting that business to while I’m driving – which means half an hour a day at most.

Which, I think,  is helping. But more than the moratorium on news shows, so is the little stuff that just involves physical doing: getting on the yoga mat for twenty minutes every day, making things with my hands, cooking, cleaning all the things stuff. And trying new things. New things keep my head in the good-space game as much as the physicality of making stuff is soothing by dint of keeping my hands busy. So here’s what I’ve been up to:

For my birthday a couple weeks ago I was gifted with a bookstore gift certificate, so I went kinda hog wild in there – after grabbing some sweet sweet Ursula K LeGuin paperbacks* I headed over to the crafting section and pored over the needlework books. I picked one out for its lovely pictures, only to find out at home that the pictures weren’t terribly detailed, and some of the descriptions of stitches were off. Luckily, I am privileged with internet access, and so YouTube, and dude, I learned some really cool stuff! Look at this pretty thing:

It’s called a broomstick stitch,** and it’s crochet, but it also requires a knitting needle. A huge knitting needle – size 50! So basically, you make loops and hold them on the knitting needle, and then you go back at the end of the line and single crochet them together in groups. I’m kind of in love with this – so far I’ve made two Christmas gift scarves, and a smallish scarf for myself.*** I plan on making a few more for the Etsy shop in the coming weeks.

Also, over the weekend I got busy with bread. Last year (the year before, maybe?) I tried to make a challah, and was unimpressed with the recipe – there were, like, a dozen egg yolks in there, the dough gummed up my stand mixer in a terrifying way, and the finished product was meh with a side of dry. The only redeeming bit was that it made marvelous french toast after everything was said and done. So I’ve been hesitant to make another one. But then the cookbook showed up. Omigod, the cookbook. For Hanukkah, Will Dearest got me a copy of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook , and, seriously Sister, it’s ON.  Deb Perelman  is one of my all-time favorite bloggers, and I cook a lot from her website, so this book has me head over heels.
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Pets are hard, sister.

The general maintenance isn’t, on the whole, so terrible – it can be work for sure (housebreaking, for example. Walking the dog in the blizzard. The ubiquitous cat vomit), but that’s part of living with another person.* It’s what you do in exchange for close companionship – we meet each others needs: Your kid needs sneakers for spring soccer, your shaggy doggie needs a haircut for warmer weather. Your spouse likes meatloaf, your cat (who also likes meatloaf) needs good kibble. You prefer to sleep in soft sheets, your rats like to dig snoozy spots in that grainy cage fluff  that looks like Dippin’ Dots gone weird.  You prefer the ultra-soft quilted 2-ply in the bathroom, your ferrets prefer the comfort of corner (any corner, but especially if it has a rug under it). You and your luvvy like sexytiemz together, your cats like to watch the show. It’s how we live with each other, and that’s where the delight of being together dwells. And sometimes a houseplant or two suffers in the process, but I try not to ruminate on it too much.**

It’s the end part that just dismantles me. There is no elder care or reliable palliative treatment for this – it’s all hands-on, you and your pet, and there are no last words. If it’s ok to say, I will admit that I get more attached to my pets than I do to most people. No one humors my fuck-ups and foibles like my pets. And very few others sit on my lap for extended periods of time making happy noises about just the fact of being there. Humans I struggle with regularly, pets much much less.

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I love multi-color batik work, but I do mostly single color stuff. The only reason that I generally do single-color work is that I haven’t found a great way to apply the colors. In the past I have mixed up small batches of the same dye that I use in the tub bath and hand-painted them onto the fabric, but those need a soda ash solution under them to make them colorfast,* and that means that the wax outline has to be applied first, and even then, sometimes the colors travel outside of the lines anyway.

I tried out dye markers next, for a less complicated way to get the dye onto the fabric, and I love the control that a marker provides. But, in honesty, I haven’t yet found a marker that I really love. All the markers that I’ve tried so far seem to start drying out on me midway through the project, so I wind up with bright colors in some places, and then dull colors where you can see the streak lines in other places.

And then I picked up some markers a few weeks ago that I really had hope for – they have squeezy barrels, so when you start getting that dry, raspy effect, you press them for more ink.** The only problem is that the tip on these dye markers is so wide that they turned out to be impractical for the detail work I was trying to accomplish.

But then I realized something – the tip of the markers actually comes off \o/ Meaning that I could pour some of the dye off and use it to hand-paint the design.*** So let me show you how to do it:
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Fish was on sale!

Omigod, we love fish in this household. The biggest issue is that fish has been really expensive* lately, and so therefore we haven’t really been eating fish as often as we like. But anyway! On Tuesday when we trucked up to do the grocery run, we found that halibut was on sale for super cheap. So we got a pound.

And then really had no idea what to do with it. I usually make tilapia or cod. And I usually have something in the cupboard to simmer that business in. This week I did not. Luckily, I actually knew about that while I was still at the grocery store (bonus!) and started poking around for something to simmer with. But then I got distracted by the idea of shepherd’s pie, and everything went sideways. What developed from this was a meal so yummy, I didn’t even get pictures before it was all gone. So let me tell you about it.

Full Disclosure Part 1: there is a lot of butter in this. If you don’t approve of butter, you will not like this dish. Full Disclosure Part 2: There are almost no precise measurements involved in this recipe, as I was putting it together on the fly. Ok, now that that business is out of the way, here’s the dish:

Fishy Shepherd’s Pieserves 3 (no leftovers**)

most of a stick of butter
1lb halibut fillets
juice of 1/2 lemon
some panko bread crumbs
4-6 small potatoes, sliced to 1/2″ rounds
Montreal Steak Seasoning
garlic powder
red pepper flakes


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December 2012