Mar 31, 2010

Better Than Ramen Almost-Instant Noodles

Don't tell anyone, but I like ramen. I like ramen a lot. The same stuff college kids are supposed to subsist on, except with tofu and bok choy and chilis (and I don't drain the broth — that's the good stuff!). That said, I know there are better ways to make the same thing — and to make it better.

Sooo ... This isn't strictly crafty, but I did make it, and I did NOM it:

Better Than Ramen

And it IS much better than cheap flavoring-packet-type ramen. Om nom nom nom. Why did I wait so long to finally make my own Asian noodle soup? It takes the same amount of time as "normal" ramen and it's uber-better. Want some? Here's how to make your own. It's darn easy. :D The hardest part might be finding the ingredients — if you have a local Asian market, you should be able to find all of them there.

You need:
  • Asian noodles — Whatever kind you want should work; I used Vietnamese wheat noodles, but at some point I'll try it with soba. However much you'd like to eat is the correct amount. ;) I used about 4 oz of noodles, but I'm a bit of a noodle pig.
  • A soup base — Chicken, beef, fish or vegetable bouillon would all work, or you can use something fancier, like miso paste (though actually, you'd have to add the miso paste later in the recipe than I say to below, after the boiling is over, because boiling it kills the flavor quite a bit). I used tom yum (Thai hot and sour soup) paste, because I am obsessed with tom yum. You could also use pre-made stock or broth of whatever kind you favor.
  • Vegetables — I like to use leafy greens, particularly bok choy/joi choi. You could probably use spinach or kale or even watercress. I used joi choi for the noodles in the photo.
  • Tofu (cubed) — or you could use pre-cooked meat or a meaty thing that cooks quickly, like shrimp.
  • A smallish cooking pot with a lid (mine probably holds about four cups of water at best), a bowl, an eating utensil (fork or chop sticks), a stove, and maybe a hot pad to rest the burning hot bowl on. ;)
Make it so:

  1. Put water (or stock/broth) in pot. I use two cups or a little less, which is what fits comfortably in the type of bowl I use; your mileage probably varies. If you're not going to keep the broth, you just need enough to cook the noodles.
  2. Put noodles in pot, and pot on stove. Turn burner on high setting; you want the contents of the pot to reach a boil quickly.
  3. If using a bouillon or soup paste, stir the desired amount into the water. (Yes, before it boils.) If you care to know, I used two big spoonfuls of tom yum paste. Your chosen additive should have directions on the container. Any other seasonings you want to add (salt, pepper, herbs) should go in now.
  4. Put cubed tofu into pot. Cover pot and leave to reach a boil.
  5. In the meantime, prep your veggies. Wash and chop your greens.
  6. If your stove is like mine, the pot will boil probably before you're done washing and chopping. When you can pause in what you're doing, open the lid and stir the pot a bit, making sure everything is evenly distributed in the water so it cooks and seasons evenly. Turn the heat setting down to medium and put the lid back on.
  7. When veggies are ready, throw them into the pot and put the lid back on.
  8. When the veggies are cooked to your liking, your noodle bowl is done. I usually limit the vegetable cooking time to 2-3 minutes so they and the noodles don't get soggy/mushy.
  9. If you're draining the broth off (Noooooo! Well, okay, if you must ... but that is the good stuff...), do it now, and serve. If you're not draining the broth, carefully pour the contents of the pot into your bowl. I usually use the "put the bowl in the (clean) sink and pour quickly while guiding food with fork" method, then move the bowl to the hot pad. You could probably use a spaghetti ladle for the noodles and then a soup ladle for the rest, too.
  10. Eat, enjoy, live, be happy. NOM.

Pink and white and everything light

Still shaking off the effects of last week's craft malaise, at least as far as mood goes. All hail Silver Grumpyhead. ;) Grumpy or no, I made myself craft yesterday. There's another art yarn off the wheel and waiting to be photographed; I started spinning a new yarn with the last of a batt from Spazzy Yarns; I knit a couple of rows on the Wandering Woman/TwitKAL shawl; and I wove a square on the long-abandoned SharpTooth frame loom. (We really need to file down the nails on that thing. The Brian snipped the heads off them thinking that would make it easier for me to slip the yarn off the loom ... but it also makes it easier for me to scratch the crap out of my hands. Yayyy.)

Organic cotton square

Organic cotton square

For some reason, I have a pastel thing going on right now, hence the title of this post. I'm not really a pastel person, which is probably why that stuff accumulates in my stash — what pastels do enter my crafty sphere of existence stay there because I don't really want to use them. DOH. Then when I'm experimenting or practicing, I DO use them, since I don't care about it if I mess them up a bit ... so my practice stuff all looks insipid. I need to not do that. ;) Note to self: Put pastels with brights, not with other pastels.

At least it's spring, so my pastels are in season.

By the way, for those who do like pastels, rock on and power to you. I'm not saying they're Morally Degraded or Soulless. They're just not very me. Maybe I should donate my pastels to people who like them?

Mar 28, 2010

Craft or Bust Week 12 Check-In and Roundup (March 21-27)

Notes & Announcements

Quarterly CoB awards ceremony poll officially over, "tally of achievements where everyone wins" and "tally of achievements PLUS nominated and voted-on awards" are tied, so we'll try both this quarter and see how it goes. Details on that to come in the next update, when the quarter will officially be over.

In the meantime, you can prep your stuff! It'd make sense to nominate projects that show up in the Flickr pool, so that I can access the photos to post them here on the blog, and so people can see photos of what they're voting on. Meaning, make sure you go over and put photos of anything you want to potentially be nominated for a quarterly CoB award into the Flickr pool. :D If anyone has some objection to that, drop me a line and let me know!

Also, I'm not thinking of limiting the number of nominations one person can make, you can absolutely nominate stuff you made yourself (though it would be nice if you nominated other people's stuff, too ;)), and even if you've never checked in, if you're on the roster, you can feel free to nominate something.

If you have an idea for an awards category, either leave it in your comment or e-mail it to me. :D

Roundup of Week 11: What We Crafted From March 14-20

  • Elabeth put up gobs of paper flowers and stuff for her shop sale, took pictures of the grandbaby, made bobby pin button-things button and talked about my circle punch too much. (Hee. ;)) She also shares with us the secret of how she has a grandson at 37, but not the secret of her eternal youth (dang ;)). Read about it on her blog.
  • Jessica made a washcloth from a pattern stitch in her stitch-a-day calendar, was inspired by food-named patterns in said calendar to do a Knitting Linguist Cooks series with patterns plus recipes on her blog (so cool!), made peach and oatmeal cookies (which sound interesting, and better than oatmeal raisin ;D), started making mini Weasley sweaters for Christas ornaments, bought her cap and gown, made more oatmeal cookies and posted the recipe on her blog, bought yarn for some fingerless gloves for her "son" Yong (is this something else that might prompt secret sharing? ;)), and mostly finished her Harry Potter bag.
  • Sarah made 3 new necklaces and a bracelet, improved her brass patina-izing technique, and discovered that a sketch pad and persistence make good weapons in banishing her creative blocks (awesome! You should do a blog post! ;)) and the resulting bald patches. ;)
  • Velma made "the world's hawtest SOCK" using her own hand-dyed yarn. Read about it on her blog.
  • Halloweentango (Michelle) worked on her inspiration book/journaled, and worked on a crocheted hat from her very own handspun! Read about it on her blog.

Check-in for Week 12: What Have You Done Lately? (March 21-27)

What I did this week:

This has been the year's most appalling week. Five out of the seven days have been marked by people being amazingly rude, insulting and irrational toward me — several different people, even. It's like it was all stored up to unleash on me this week. ;) The rest of my time has been filled in with finishing my final projects for two out of the last three classes for my Web design diploma. So I literally didn't get any crafting done except for a tiny, tiny bit that I squeezed in at the last second on Saturday: I knit a single row of my TwitKAL Wandering Woman shawl. I've been reading a little bit of a book that arrived this week, too: Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns, which is great for neat knitting stitch patterns and their behaviors. I think I'll be drawing on it a lot in my future pattern designs, but I haven't worked on any of them this week ... so Saturday stands alone as my crafting day this week. Serious ugh this week. (At least I'll know which week was the crappiest this year if it comes up on a quiz, unless there's another waiting for me out there. ;))

What did you craft this week?

(Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page! And don't forget to post any awards category ideas you have for the quarterly CoB awards!)

Mar 26, 2010

Safe space and creativity: a little taste of a big idea

Funny how just when I was thinking Hey, this Craft or Bust thing has really been working out for me, surprisingly well! I hit a wall. This week has been probably my least productive of the year. And it has a lot to do with something else I can't get out of my head this week — the recurring theme of safe space being connected to creativity. Because I'm not feeling so mentally hot right now, I won't try to go into great detail. I'll just say this: For me, if for no one else, and I think probably it isn't just me, being truly creative requires safe space. Not a space that's insipid and sheltered, but a space where I feel comfortable expressing what's truly me. Sometimes this space has to be created through rebellious acts — defying convention and taking that safe space, come hell or high water, no matter what anyone thinks of you — and sometimes safe space is a gentle thing, a retreat, like an obscure clearing in the woods with a little brook and softly falling leaves.

forestThe bottom line, though, is that I can't create well without a safe space. I can create haphazardly, in a way that doesn't satisfy me, in a way that I look back on and see the holes in where I didn't fill in everything that I was thinking or feeling at the time, that make the piece feel incomplete or false. But to create anything that resonates with me, I need safe space.

And this week my safe space has been pretty nonexistent. No gory details, I promise. Just that little note, as an explanation of why I have been largely silent and unamusing on virtually all counts.

On the other hand, before my creative lines went dead, I was brewing a few new ideas that should help my rock my shadow artist to sleep, if I ever get out of this shattered-safe-space-induced funk. More on all those things later. For now, send positive vibes. Send geeky ideas. Send your belief in me and my creativity and intrinsic creative weirdness. My safe space is now under reconstruction. (And I will get my weekly craftiness in. I know I can work on just one thing before Sunday. And that's the beauty of Craft or Bust.)

Mar 21, 2010

Craft or Bust Week 11 Check-In and Roundup (March 14-20)

Notes & Announcements

We're nearing the end of the first quarter of the year! We should do something to mark the milestone, and I have a couple of thoughts (uh-oh ;)). Take my little poll here and let me know what yours are, okay?

The poll will close at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern time) Saturday, so I can work with the results in next week's CoB update. :D As far as I'm concerned, anyone on the roster can vote (and nominate projects, if we end up doing that), regardless of whether they've checked in at all so far this year.

Roundup of Week 10: What We Crafted From March 7-13
  • Meredith M posted to her lonely blog after two weeks — hurrah! — about mixed goodness and not-so-goodness. (Welcome back, too. ;)) Knitting Olympics = not-so-goodness, but she made some awesome baby stuff to make up for it, and cast on a bright aqua lacy vest. Read about it on her blog.
  • Jessica finished the good Mr. Richard's hat (fanfare!) and knit some more of the Harry Potter bag, built a blanket fort (now I want to, too), wrote a Harry Potter fan fiction, made a buttermilk cake (mmmm), and invented a new recipe for muffins with strawberry yogurt in them. (That reminds me that I need to try the muffins-with-yogurt recipe I have stuck on the fridge with a magnet...)
  • Halloweentango (Michelle) did more yarn-spinning (obYay!). And that's enough. ;D Read about it on her blog. (BTW, glad you like the CoB tab. Still haven't figured out how to get it to be colored, obviously...)
  • Velma made art yarn, recapped her Ravelympics, started and abandoned socks (yay/awww), stashed lots of yarn, did a shop update (woo!), and started yet more socks (more??? ;)). Read about it on her blog.
  • Elabeth made a ton of paper flowers to decorate her yarn store (ooOoooo — photo here), put together shelves for the shop (photo), taught a dye class (oooOOoo!), got a circle punch, which is not as painful as it sounds and in fact warranted great excitement ;), and took a photo of her grandson as the Bubble Pope. LOL! Photo here. Although the "grandson" part has me stymied. Elabeth. You look like a 21-year-old friend of mine. Seriously.
Check-in for Week 11: What Have You Done Lately? (March 14-20)

What I did this week:

Qilin yarnSunday, I started spinning the recently-carded bright blue Texel wool with silver BOMBits from Velma's shop, learned how to make custom brushes and swoosh graphics in Illustrator, and created some side-of-logo graphics to keep the white space from looking so friggin' white on the Star & Crossbones Web site. Monday was last week's off day. Tuesday, I created a resources page for my hairpin lace group on Ravelry, photographed two custom chain mail bracelets Brian made, finished spinning the Texel/BOMBits, rescued a UFO handspun, i.e., started spinning it again (a some-wool-breed/Bombyx silk blend that was gifted to me), weighed out fiber for a new handspun yarn, wound off some singles remnants that were occupying a bobbin for no particular reason, and spun two yarn samples to send to some test-knitters. Wednesday, I photographed some handspun for the Etsy shop and worked on redesigning the crafty biz Web site. Thursday, I took some arguably lame computer-cam photos of myself for the bio page on the Web site, photographed some more handspun for the shop, spun a little more of the rescued wool/silk fiber, and worked a little bit on my semi-abandoned TwitKAL shawl in hopes of preventing it from taking on true UFO status. Friday, I sorted through a random pile of craft supplies taking up space in the craft room, created some databases for behind-the-scenes admin functionality on the S&C site and hid the admin pages behind a password wall, and wrote a super-rough draft of a blog post containing thoughts on CoB so far. Saturday, I did some final tinkering on the Web site and finally got it uploaded. I also spun another whole skein of yarn (gasp!) for the shop, started spinning a new art yarn, sketched some ideas for knitting patterns, and knitted a little on the Silken Scabbard sweater, also in hopes of keeping it from getting sucked into the UFO pile.

I guess I did okay. ;D

What did you craft this week?

(Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page!)

Mar 17, 2010

What peeves you off as a customer?

Spelling errors. Crappy coupons. Slow customer service.

What are your customer peeves?

Everyone has them. We're all consumers (unless we're hermits with self-sustaining farms, to whom, if they exist, I say: power to you!), so we've all had less-than-sterling customer experiences. And while some people use their peeves to get goodies out of big corporations (dear, dear book store customers who complain when special-ordered books can't arrive next-day...), the rest of us, we nurture our secret annoyances, share them with select family and friends, maybe write a blog post or two — or tweet — about it, and just try to avoid putting ourselves in a place where we have to deal with that crap.

For myself, I have a few mini-peeves that don't really count — things that I notice, but that don't make me avoid doing business with a person, place or thing again. You know. Typos on product packaging. Useless, placeholder Web sites with nowhere to click and not even a pretty picture to look at. Offering an e-mail link but never answering my (admittedly usually non-imperative) e-mails.

And then there are the Real Peeves. Things that make me avoid a business — things that inspire me to complain about that business when people mention it in my presence. Like treating your employees badly. Blatantly caring more about sales numbers than about customer satisfaction. Using cheap, non-sustainable, toxic or unhealthy materials just because it increases the immediate profit margin. Acting friendly to lure customers to your site, but then hitting them with promotional pitches as soon as they get there. Using gimmicks that follow the latest trend, without actually believing in the values behind the trend (e.g., selling products labeled "organic" just because they're popular, or using pop-culture words or names just because it will garner more search engine hits). Wasting people's time and devaluing their business by inviting everyone to your party (i.e., Web site, shop, whatever) just to increase visits, and then catering mostly to a select group of customers that could easily have been targeted in the original advertising.

Basically, I'm willing to forgive unintentional human flaw. (Nobody's perfect!) Heck, I welcome the occasional minor human flaw in a business, as long as it isn't unethical. Seeing the flaws keeps the business looking like it's run by humans. A business can even earn bonus points with me by noticing a flaw or mistake and fixing it — that shows goodwill and a desire to make improvements, and if it's based on customer feedback, all the better. If a business is willing to learn from mistakes and take real action toward positive change, they get points, and enough points translates to my support and/or my business. Simple and positive. :D (And it even holds true for big mistakes.)

But I am so NOT willing to forgive purposeful disrespect of humans or resources. I hate it when people and businesses behave selfishly, not out of fear or ignorance, but purely for personal benefit, and I especially hate it when they think they can be fake and fool people into trusting them anyway. Ugh. That's an easy way to lose me as a customer and gain me as an outspoken detractor.

...You aren't me, though, and now I'm curious. Since everyone's different, I'm sure you have different peeves than I do. I'd love to hear your snark — so tell me, if you will! I'm not talking lawsuit material here — those are stories for another campfire ;) — although if you have a juicy story about a major mishap that you needed to haul out the lawyers for, and you're just dying to share it — have at! Otherwise, burn a few brain bytes and share: What annoying business practices make you avoid giving a business your money?

To those who are about to comment, thanks for speaking out. Together we can make the business world a less annoying place. ;)

Mar 16, 2010

Wool, transformed: from locks to roving, by hand

Anyone remember this wool?

2.2 ounces hand-dyed Merino wool

I started carding it in Week 7 of Craft or Bust. When I bought it last October, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it — you know. It was one of those fibery impulse buys. I liked the colors, I wanted to give the shop owner a sale ... and that planning thing is overrated. ;) (Some of science's most famous discoveries were accidental! And there's a story about how the therapeutic qualities of lavender were discovered, too. But anyway.)

After it aged in the stash a little, I decided I wanted to separate the colors. Of course, since the wool wasn't dyed in a way that produces neat, orderly little packets of color, there's a lot of variation and color overlap even within a single lock of wool. (This is fine with me, since it will produce yarn with a depth of color rather than one with a flat, even color.) There were only 2.2 ounces of it, and that's almost the amount I get out of one batt on my drum carder, so out came the hand carders. And voila:

Sapphire Merino

Each little ball was carded as a batch (a tiny batt, if you will) on the carders, then removed, rolled into a rolag, and pulled into roving. Looks a lot neater now, doesn't it? :D There's still some texture in the roving, a few slubs here and there, because honestly, I wasn't in the mood to make obsessively smooth spinning fiber. Some days, with some wool, it seems like too much effort. And I don't mind texture. The yarn that comes out of this will definitely have some personality. :D

Can you guess what the finished yarn will look like? ;)

Mar 14, 2010

Craft or Bust Week 10 check-in and roundup (March 7-March 13)

Notes & Announcements

No announcements this week. :D

Roundup of Week 9: What We Crafted From Feb 28-Mar 6

  • Jessica started a new pair of socks, almost finished Richard's hat, knit a few rows of the Harry Potter bag, did the light plot for a play she's lighting (cool!), made buttermilk cookies and buttermilk raspberry cake (whoa), and translated a Beatles song into Russian (funny ;)).
  • Halloweentango (Michelle) is still working on the Pine Forest Baby Blanket, spun some yarn for the VERY FIRST TIME!, joined the Colorbombers spin-along, worked on her Artfire shop, and made greeting cards with her artwork on them. Read about it on her blog.
  • Velma checked in for Week 8 AND Week 9 by saying she did a lot of Ravelympicing in Week 8, and a lot of dyeing in Week 9. Read about it on her blog.
  • LunabudKnits aka Stephanie Stratton finally finished her turquoise shawl — neverending no longer! It went with her Mom to Japan as a gift for her sister-in-law as she waits to have her baby. She also spun another skein of BFL and got ready to dye two skeins of alpaca yarn.
  • Elabeth used her Silhouette machine to make sale signs for the yarn store, worked on her February Lady sweater (see blog post here), and went to Hobby Lobby for RAK supplies (oooOOooo).
Check-in for Week 10: What Have You Done Lately? (Mar 7-Mar 13)

What I did this week:

Handmade stitch markersSunday appears to have been my day off crafting. ;) Monday, I weighed and separated some dyed BFL top for spinning yarn samples, finished laying out the Princess in the Wilds fingerless gloves knitting pattern, and put up the pattern for sale on Ravelry (yayyyyy!). Tuesday, I listed Princess in the Wilds in my Etsy shop, played with beadmaking supplies, and made six sets of stitch markers. Wednesday, I photographed the stitch markers and listed some of them on Etsy, and spun a tiny test skein of the Merino wool I've been carding. Thursday, I spun a BFL sample skein. Friday, I worked on the Star and Crossbones Web site redesign, listed some chain mail jewelry on Etsy, and spun one ply of a new yarn for the shop. Saturday, I entered a spinning fiber giveaway on the Spin Knit and Life blog (go check it out!), finished spinning and plying the new yarn for the shop, picked and carded the remaining blue Texel wool I started a while ago, and worked a little more on the site redesign.

(And it's another one of those weeks where, looking back at it from the end, I did a lot more than I thought I did...)

What did you craft this week?

(Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page!)

Mar 10, 2010

New Help for Haiti knitting pattern available

My first for-sale pattern is up in the Etsy shop, and you can also buy it through Ravelry from my knitting patterns page (no need to be a Ravelry member, either)! Woohoo!

Princess in the Wilds fingerless gloves
Princess in the Wilds
(a Help for Haiti pattern)

75% of the price of any purchases of the pattern will be donated to Haiti disaster relief. I know I'm a little late to the game, but they still have a lot of cleaning up to do, and many groups are still taking donations, so I'll be donating most of the proceeds from this pattern indefinitely. I wanted to help more than I did, and hopefully I can do it through this pattern. If you didn't get a chance to donate before, or you missed out on most of the Help for Haiti knitting pattern stuff in January/February, well, here's another little thing you can do. :D Feel free to tell your friends, too, of course. I'd love to be able to make a sizable donation.

Mar 7, 2010

Craft or Bust week 9 check-in and roundup (Feb 28-Mar 6)

Notes & Announcements

Welcome to Month 3 of Craft or Bust. Onward...

Roundup of Week 8: What We Crafted From Feb 21-27

  • Halloweentango (Michelle) worked on the Pine Forest Baby Blanket for the Ravelympics. (Did you get your massages-and-wine reward?) Read about it on her blog.
  • Sarah had a sniffle delay, but still managed to work on greenifying her craftiness by taking apart flea market treasures. She made jewelry, started studying up on soldering, tried a new cookie recipe, and created a Twitter account. Hurrah! Let's everyone follow her! (As for the Craft or Bust presence on Twitter that you mentioned in your check-in comment, it's mostly my check-in announcements, but you can always use the hash-tag #craftorbust on anything you want to show off as part of the CoB effort!)
  • Elabeth has been working on her Shalom cardigan (link to her Ravelry project page), and it just needs a teeny bit of finishing. She finished a novelty yarn sample scarf for her shop (that stuff really sells like hotcakes still? For some reason I thought the knitting world was over that ... or maybe I'm thinking of a specific subset of it ... and hey, power to you. ;D) She also got a Silhouette die cutter and made a YARN ZOMBIE STICKER! OMG. So ridiculous. In a good way, of course. Totally make t-shirts.
  • Jessica finished her Ravelympics socks, made a Black Forest cake, and worked some more on finishing Mr. Richard's hat (I think I keep calling him that because I don't know him personally, or maybe I'm in a Regencyish mood ;)).

And that's it for last week. Where the heck did everyone go? Maybe everyone's fingers were frozen and you were hoping March would thaw you out? ;)

On the off chance that there's something wrong with my blog keeping people from checking in, do e-mail me at and let me know. Thanks, dear CoBers. :D

Update: Thanks to Elabeth and Jessica, I unearthed the two check-ins from last week that were languishing in my inbox. Duhhhh. I should have checked my moderation page before asking where everyone was. I just had this crazy idea that because I was actually watching my inbox for check-ins last week, I hadn't missed any. (I know, what was I thinking?? ;))

Check-in for Week 8: What Have You Done Lately? (Feb 28-Mar 6)

What I did this week:

Ravelympics 2010 WIPs dancing medalSunday, I wrapped up some test-knitting stuff for Princess in the Wilds and finished my Scrapilicious Mini Tote UFO (my final Ravelypics medal). Monday, I bought a digital copy of Interweave Knits Fall 2009 (which will become notable later in the week) and knit on my Silken Scabbard sweater (must ... finish ... before it gets permanently warm...). Tuesday, I tested and adjusted a new teeny tiny pattern, finished reading a book (creativity recharge!), and knitted more Silken Scabbard. Wednesday, I fixed the test-knitter registration form. Yayyy! I also did some of the writing exercises in Book in a Month and worked yet more on the sweater. Thursday, more writing exercises, more sweater. Friday, I bought some supplies for a new stitch marker project (shh, it's a secret for now ;)), spun a test skein of yarn, carded a bit of Merino wool, and knitted a buttload on the Silken Scabbard.

What did you craft this week?

(Don't forget to use the standard check-in format on the rules page!)
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