Sunday, September 30, 2007

and so, the season comes to an end....

it's only fitting that today, the last day of the regular season, it's raining and gross and i feel a bit gloomy and wistful. rooting for the mariners this season was quite a ride. there was a stretch there in august where it really looked like we could make the playoffs. september came and went, and i have to admit i didn't watch most of those games, mostly because i couldn't experience a heartbreak every other night.

this texas series gave me a chance to see some new guys in action, giving me hope for next season, not to mention some stand-out performance from that little bowl-haircutted jamie burke. at the same time, i dread the decisions that will occur this winter to determine the line-up for next year.

i beg of the front office in seattle: please don't trade yuni or beltre. i'm fine if you get rid of sexon. i actually encourage it. seriously.

despite the ups and downs, it was a sweet, sweet summer of baseball. until next year, my favorite mariners...

PS: go rockies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

finally, the FO i've been waiting for

last night, i finished the new zealand blanket.

finished. seams sewn. ends woven. fringe embellishment added. finished.

so, for any reader who's new here, this is the blanket i started last february during our trip to new zealand. instead of buying souvenirs, i bought a skein of yarn in most of the spots we stopped at during the trip. i had managed to purchase all but three skeins by the time my granny died and we had to come back to the states, so i purchased yarn in denver and in oregon (on our last day off before going back to work after a month).

i've been knitting off and on ever since, and it seemed like i would never finish. and once i did finish, i dreaded sewing the thing together.

but all of a sudden, before i realized it, i was finished with all the squares, and the sewing took no more than two rugby matches and an episode of globe trekker (translation: about 3.5 hours, max, with some stopping in between). fringe took another hour. and voila.

it's not perfect. i made mistakes. but i love it still.

gratuitous close up of the first square i started knitting, in the rain, in kaikoura

for all the knitters, here are some details:

pattern: design source collections "four seasons throws" for 12 squares, misc. patterns for 8 squares
yarn (not in any order, including location purchased):
  • utiku wools perendale ("iris", utiku; orange "traffic", utiku)
  • shepherd colour 4 me (light blue, dunedin)
  • cleckheaton country (maroon, dunedin; black, whangarei; sage, taupo; olive green, whangarei; heather grey, dunedin; butter yellow, kaikoura)
  • cleckheaton country naturals (oatmeal, greymouth; grey tweed, dunedin)
  • rainbow pure wool (teal, blenheim; red, greymouth; navy, greymouth)
  • crucci, clan stewart perendale (cream, blenheim)
  • ashford tekapo (rust, whangarei)
  • lamb's pride worsted (blue magic, denver; mottled red "prairie fire", hillsboro)
needles: my granny's hand-me-down metal needles, u.s. size 10
started: approx. 2/8/06
finished: 9/19/07
modifications: pattern blocks measured approx. 11.5 inches, vs 13 inches, as called for by the pattern. i also increased the blanket size by adding 8 squares, which required the addition of different patterns than what design source called for. i found these online in various sources, plus made up a couple.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

how it's made: pre-beer

saturday mickey, our friend karen and i had an amazing opportunity to tour a hops farm, thanks to an amazing woman, friend and former coworker of mine, amy. karen, mike and i are big beer fans, not to mention homebrewers ourselves, so this was a great chance to see how our beloved beer starts out.

located outside keizer, amy's family farm supplies an insane amount of hops to anheuser-busch, as well as to a local hops distributorship which supplies hops to local microbrewers. her family has been farming this land for three generations. incredible.

amy gave us a complete tour of the working farm, which is in full swing these days, harvesting and drying nugget hops. the tour started in the field, where we watched the hops vines get cut from the tall wires where they've been strung for growing. the hops vines are transported by large red trailers to the processing building.
hops cutters in the field

to start the processing, the hops vines are hooked on large meat hook-like devices and run up to a machine that essentially rubs the hops cones from the stems.

hops being strung for processing

through a series of conveyor belts and sorters, the cones are separated from the vines, and run across the road to another building. here, the hops are left to dry in heated swimming pool-sized compartments for nine hours.

the sorting process
mickey, karen, me and a pool o' drying hops

after drying, they're moved to a huge warehouse, where they settle for another day. then it's off to be bagged, and finally the hops are driven to the local buyers, where they're sold to make yours truly her favorite beer of choice.

we (loosely) calculated the following:
  • each bag of packaged, dried hops holds 200 pounds, or 3,200 oz
  • at roughly 2 oz of hops per home-brewed batch of beer, that means that each bag has enough hops to produce 1,600 batches of home-brewed beer
  • our 5 gallon batch of homebrew produces 52 beers each, so conceivably, the hops in each bag are used to make about 88,000 bottles of beer.
but wait, there's more.

we saw at least 50 bags in the warehouse, waiting to be driven to the distributor. that tallies to 4.4 million bottles of beer. !!!

AND: that doesn't include the bags they'd already taken to the distributor that morning; nor the 10x10x30 pile of dried hops waiting to be bagged; nor the two full swimming pool-size drying compartments; nor their entire harvest of willamette hops that had already been processed and shipped earlier in the month.

amy jokingly said, they're changing the world at their farm. she's not kidding. that's a LOT of happy beer drinkers. i feel drunk thinking about the magnitude.

in addition to growing hops, amy's family also is the largest hosta grower this side of the mississippi, and also grows thousands of other perennial plants for nurseries and plant sales. as we drove through their farms, amy was sweet enough to give us several plants to take home. oh, and we left with a bag o' freshly dried nugget hops that will probably allow us to make at least 5 batches of beer.
our hostess with the mostest, with her favorite flower on the farm

as if hops and free plants weren't enough to put us in a state of delirium, amy's mom had prepared us the most delicious lunch to enjoy on their swimming pool patio: the richest, tastiest chicken salad sandwiches served on croissants, homemade pasta salad, fruit, and for dessert, a pistachio cream cake that put me in a state of such ecstasy that i could barely drive back to portland.

i'm honored and extremely grateful to amy and her family for sharing her farm and its bounty with us. it was beyond anything that i could have expected when she invited us down.

truthfully, i can't think about a more perfect way to spend a september saturday. THANKS AMY!!!!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

All Blacks haka

the kapa o pango haka, just to get you in the mood for this month...

baseball or rugby? my teevee may explode...

as is evident on my blog, i'm a pretty serious baseball fan. this is my favorite time of year because the pennant races are in full swing, and every game counts. sadly, my beloved mariners are sucking it up, and thus, the fact that my second favorite sport is gearing up at this moment offers a delightful distraction from having to watch the m's lose yet another game.

yes, that's right: it's international world cup rugby time. and thank goodness for setanta sports, because i can watch all the games from the comfort of our basement! the all blacks from new zealand look good this year, but of course, i'm biased because as i've said before, i'm slightly in love with dan carter.

i received the best email all year from a girlfriend of mine who's married to a south african, and big springboks fan. he used to play rugby in SA, and they're equally excited about the world cup. she emailed to let me know she watched a special on dan carter, and just for good measure, attached a photo of the fly half.

to quote amanda, "well, yum"

i won't hold it against them that, should the all blacks and springboks match up, they'll likely root for that long haired pretty boy percy montgomery. :)

i also have a date this coming week with semaphoria and ivar forkbeard to watch a little rugby action. they're both former ruggers, so it's great time spent enjoying their company and learning about the sport.

i love rugby. i love that my friends like rugby. it's going to be a great month!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

back from the west

this weekend we spent a fabulous weekend with third base and her family in idaho, plus saw my ma and her husbot for a couple hours as well. it was a whirlwind trip that was far too short in terms of vacations, but still we got some QT in with my fam.

my lil sis is pretty amazing -- she and her husband study gracie jiu-jitsu. my BIL is already a blue belt, and this weekend, third base tested successfully to earn hers. apparently she's one of only a couple females who practice jiu-jitsu in their gym in salt lake city, and it was pretty impressive to see her kick some serious ass in class. she and her husbot were kind enough to teach us a few jiu-jitsu moves during class on saturday, and the good news is that neither mickey nor i broke our necks in the process.

probably the highlight of the weekend was spending an entire day playing games with those two, plus my nephew, who is such a delight and is a wonderful, smart and silly boy. we see them so rarely, and admittedly i don't always prioritize my family above other trips that we take, but this trip reminds me that time passes too quickly, and that people -- especially my nephew -- can change so much in just a year. note to self: see them more often, and be a better aunt.

as an aside, i was also struck by how gorgeous salt lake city is (we flew in and out of there). every time i head back to the mountain west, i feel slightly homesick for the bright blue skies and scrubby mountains. i love oregon, but can't help but ask myself where in the mountain west can i find an affordable, liberal, young urban city to park for the next decade. this is my dream....