Thursday, September 27, 2007

Picklestorm II: Revenge of the Cucumbers

Dear Loyal Readers,
We are happy to present you with the second installment of the pickleventures of Mason, our roving blogger from the Great American Northwest. Please enjoy.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em!


Smoky Pickle Breakdown


The Empire Smokes Pickles


Insert Oral Sex Joke Here
Everyone has a dream. I have two dreams. Sadly, both of them involve pickles. This past Saturday, I made one of those dreams come true. I actually lived out a dream. Fuck. YES!
While I won't divulge the second of my two dreams (for fear that some clever bastard will steal my briny thunder) I have documented the events surrounding my quest to impart a smoky flavor into a dill pickle. And I did it. I have made smoky pickles and now my place in the annals of human history is secured.
Let's get cracking…
Here are some of the more basic ingredients. The usual suspects (note the addition of mustard seed):
Since these are going to be smoky pickles, we'll need a special ingredient. How do you get smoke into a pickle? Easy.

I'm kidding. Obviously your basic cigarette will never work.
Here's what you really need:

Filterless cigarettes. A little harsher, but more natural.
OK, I'll knock off the lame jokes and extremely lucrative product placement. Here's where the smoke flavor really comes from: smoked salt.
This stuff looks like street drugs - and costs almost as much - but it smells smokier than a house fire.
Things are starting to come together. The phone calls have been made to the Enemies of the Enemies of Crispness and they are en route.
Time to get the pickling music fired up.

Who's good at keeping secrets? OK, no one tell my dad that I bought dill from a store:

This dill lacks the flowers that I made such a big deal about in Picklestorm I. I hope I haven't made a grave error. We'll know in a few weeks. Let's press on and not allow ourselves to get bogged down in details.
Sweet! The Enemies of the Enemies of Crispness are here!

L –R: Hart and Jason, musician friends of mine. Jason does pull-ups. Me? I'm a push-up man. When the two of us hang out, we sort of complete this weird, muscular circuit. That came out wrong. Again, let's press on.
ERIC! You devil…
You guys remember Stacey. She coined the term "Picklestorm" and took many of the pictures in this series that feature me and my hairy arms.

Meet Chelsea . In this photo she is demonstrating the proper foot position for cucumber scrubbing.

She was the Rookie MVP(ickler) on Saturday:
Take a bow, Chels.
To be honest, the dudes didn't do a ton of work. What you can't tell from these pictures is that the living room crew provided excellent vibe that sustained the efforts of the kitchen posse. Like it or not, that vibe will be evident in the flavor of the pickles.

Here's a quick, inappropriate aside. See that lamp? It's from my mom's old house. It had been in my parents' bedroom from my earliest memories. I'm pretty sure this very lamp was present at my conception.
We've got a much larger gang for Picklestorm II, yet we're making exactly half as many pickles as we did for Picklestorm I. If this trend continues, next summer I'll have 50 people crammed into my place and we will produce a single pickle of such extraordinary vibe, flavor and crispness that it will possess the power save or destroy our planet. Imagine!
Enough fiddlefucking around. Let's make some smoky pickles…
Brine time! Forgive the smug look on my face. That is the expression of man who is living out a dream.

Note the painted portrait of meat on my kitchen wall.

Let's talk hot liquids. Really hot liquids, along with obsessively well-scrubbed cucumbers are the foundation of successful canning – especially when you don't double-boil the finished product. Double boiling has got to be the chief enemy of crispness. I'll trade safety for crispness all day long. To keep everything hot, my own father pioneered the foolproof Three Pot Method.

1. A pot of boiling water where the lids remain sterile while they await their final home atop a jar of pickles.

2. Mother brine: the big pot of boiling brine which feeds…

3. Baby Brine. Keep Baby boiling, too. Baby is much easier to handle than Mother. You pour the contents of Baby Brine into the packed jars.


Loading the jars… We used small (pint) jars, due to the HIGHLY EXPERIMENTAL nature of this batch.

Grape leaves, dill, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, cucumbers…

And now, the special ingredient is added. This is an historic moment. We used about 1/16th of a teaspoon of smoked salt for each pint of pickles. I wanted to use more, but Stacey kept me from going apeshit. And she was right, OK? Let's move on!

A little swig of whisky to help beat the heat (the kitchen was a sweaty, vinegary environment):

My parents must be thrilled right now.
Yes, this is my pickling shirt. It was a gift from my big sister who lives near DC (and who was probably not conceived in close proximity to the lamp from an earlier photo).
Back to work. We've got the seasonings and the cucumbers in the jars. Time to hit 'em with hot stuff from Baby Brine. Note the right hand: use a butter knife to fish out a lid from the boiling water. Do not touch the underside of the lid with your filthy fingers.
This is what it's all about, right HERE. This is an Enemy of the Enemies of Crispness in full glory.

Heaven, for me, will look something like the above picture.
Screw the neck down on the lid

And just like that, we're done. Let the jars cool upside-down and wait for the real world to come creeping back into your kitchen, supplanting that magical, pickle-making, dreamy feeling.

But let's not allow ourselves to get maudlin. WE MADE SMOKY PICKLES!! VICTORY OVER THE ENEMIES OF CRISPNESS!
Many thanks to my corporate sponsors and the participants of Picklestorm II.
Again, the basic recipe:

3 qts water
1 qt vinegar
1 cup salt [plain]
Boil water, salt and vinegar together 1 minute
Pack cucumbers in jars with garlic, dill & peppercorns, mustard seed, (this is where you can get experimental) with a grape leaf on top.
Pour boiling water, salt and vinegar over and then seal.
Suggestions: use a scant cup of salt [3/4 cup].Use apple cider vinegar.
PS: Since this was an experimental occasion, we made just seven pints. I'll pop open the first jar in about a month and post the results. If you hear nothing from me, it will either mean that the experiment was a total failure (.0003% probability) or that after taking a single bite, I sublimated into a being of pure delight and left the physical world in a briny, smoky flash.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Anyone want a free cat?


I love days off! I spent all morning Sunday reading The Hobbit in bed (nerd!), and then I got up and made coffee and knit on the porch. Then, I cleaned my whole house and worked out and danced around to some music. Here's a picture of the puff sleeve cardigan guy:

I'm really happy with the way the decreases worked fits me really well around the waist. (considering it started out a litttle big...what a surprise) At this point, the pattern calls for a couple rows of purl bumps around the waist, and then some lacey decorative stuff for the last couple inches. I don't know, it's hard to explain. I think, instead of calling attention to the "spare tire" region of my abdomen with a lot of extra bulk and decoration, I'm going to change it up a little. I'll try and finish it by this weekend so you can see it! Pictures really don't capture the color of the yarn AT ALL.

Here's a closeup of the sleeve.

And Oscar's ass.

I gotta go, Oscar keeps trying to catch a yellow jacket, and he won't leave it alone even though he's already gotten stung once.
See you Friday,

Friday, September 21, 2007

You never outgrow being a madwoman.


Here's a story about my morning.


2 Weeks Ago

“Hey Boss, I really enjoyed that meeting you asked me to go to. If you don’t like going to them, I’ll continue to go in your stead, cause they’re way interesting!”

“OK, Libby, you can keep going to them for me, just take notes!”

“Thanks, Boss Lady!”

Yesterday, 5:10 PM

I’ve had a long, busy day. I’m getting outta here! Don’t forget about that meeting tomorrow morning. No, I won’t write down the address now, I’ll look it up on webmail tomorrow morning before I leave the house. Golly, it’s nice to have remote access.

Today, 8:10 AM

“Matt, can you go to for me please?”

“Sure…um, it’s not working.”


“That website doesn’t exist”

“Yes it does. It does too exist. It exists, I’ve used it before.”

“Well, explain that to the internet, because it didn’t get the memo.”

Trying every possible variation on the website. What can it be? How? How? What?

8:25 AM

“Well I don’t know what I’m going to do, I should have left 5 minutes ago!”

“Here, what is the name of the Org. you’re meeting with?….google their address! Here’s directions!”

“You are a remarkable person. Goodbye!”

9:05 AM

I guess they don’t have their meetings at their office.

I think last time I went to this meeting, it was over on Mass ave. walka walka walka walka…..

9:15 AM

Huh. Guess not.

Walka walka walka walka walka……walka…..wal….ka…wal…k…a….Oh my god, If this man in front of me doesn’t walk faster, I will punch him in the back of the head. Hm. I think this rage is a sign that, late or not, the lack of coffee has reached a critical stage. Fortunately there is a Starbucks every 15 feet.

Hate you line! Hate you stupid pretentious Starbucks sizing system.

“Large coffee please”


“May I have a Large Coffee Please?”

“Um….OK…a venti coffee will be $2.15.”

9:25 AM

I’d better call someone to find out this address.

“Hi, this is Libby, can you transfer me to Karida please?”


“I’m sorry? “

“Your last name please?”

“This is Libby. It’s Libby. I work there.”

“Hold please.”



“Um, hello?”

“Hold Please”



“Karida? What?”

“Hold please.”


“Karida speaking”

“Oh my god, that was so hard. So. Hard.”

“Yeah, there is a new receptionist. What’s up?”

“Please go into my e mail and find this address for me.”

“OK! Here it is.”

“You are a remarkable person.”

9:30 AM

Walka walka walka walka, oh wait I’m going the wrong direction, walka walka walka walka….

9:45 AM

Um…Huh. This meeting ends at 10, and I’m still about 6 blocks away. I think I officially missed the meeting.

“Taxi! Take me to my office please.”

And that is how I spent my morning!



Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gets My Goat!

OK, Brax and I decided some time ago to introduce a regular feature to our blog. We decided it would be called "Gets My Goat" and that, on some kind of regular schedule, we would write about what gets our goat and accompany it with a funny picture of a goat.

Well, we never really got around to it.

But today, something totally Got My Goat. So I am starting the feature.

If you see my mail carrier around, punch him or her in the head. I can't tell you if my mail carrier is male or female because I have never actually seen him or her. He or she usually doesn't show up until 8 or 9 PM. One time I saw a guy in a Washington Redskins Jersey and jeans delivering the mail around 9:30 PM, but I am not sure if it was the mail carrier or not. I sort of suspect that my carrier is contracting out to crackheads and spending his or her days watching Passions.

On no less than 7 occasions, I have not received a package for no discernible reason. Correctly addressed packages have disappeared into the ether for 6 weeks and then arrived back at the sender's house. Often, if I track a late/missing package online, the tracker will say that the carrier "Attempted delivery, left note." This has happened when I was home all day waiting for the package. Whoever this person is doesn't even bother to knock on the door.

On the 11th, I ordered some items and paid for express delivery because I had an express kind of need. NOTHING! I called the vendor, he says it was shipped but he got no delivery confirmation and he can tell me nothing else. He apparently doesn't bother to get tracking numbers when he sends out his merchandise. So now I have to take time off work to go to the post office and ask them at the little door where the hell my package is.

I have had to do this multiple times. Let me tell you about the last time.

I waited for 20 minutes for a 19 year old who couldn't even be bothered to take off his headphones to tell me unapologetically that my package didn't exist, in fact he'd never heard of these packages I kept going on about. Some time later the package, correctly addressed, arrived back at the sender's house. So I am not really excited about this little journey.

Especially since I no longer need this item at all! I needed it last week!

So the people at the customer service desk at my local post office had better get ready, because I am about to eat all their faces for breakfast and then MAIL the faces back to them. Then they'll have to track the package and try and get the mailman to deliver them and they'll have to holler over the music in that kid's headphones, and they'll probably have to yell at themselves just to get their faces back.

And that's what Got My Goat today.


September! Where have you gone?


Whoa! Halfway through the month already? I'm still reeling that it's not August anymore.

I'm so happy you decided to take Lucky Lucille. She is adorable! I hope she and Sister are getting along....she's a pretty personable cat, but you never know. Last night, I caught Oscar trying to climb up the screen of the living room window. You know, the living room on the third floor?!? I kind of freaked out on him.

I separated the sleeves on the puff sleeve cardigan, see?
Sorry about the "sepia tone." It's a night picture on my cell phone camera. But isn't it awesome? I think it's awesome. The fit is pretty much perfect so far across the boobs as it is. However, the pattern calls for a seed-stitch button band after I'm done. I'm thinking I won't put the button band on it, because I don't want to add another inch or so of width. I'm considering a crochet border or something so the stockinnette doesn't curl, and then doing little i-cord loops for buttons instead of the button band. I'm also starting the waist shaping early, because I'm short, and I think I'm going to TRY and bring the waist in a little more than the pattern calls for. We'll see if it works out.

Oh yeah! I dyed my hair red. I have an excuse to be a sassy bitch watch out!

See you in a week and a half!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Baby

Well, get ready, because fall is here. Fantastic. This summer was BALLS.

Fall means a new season and, in many traditions, a new year. I am going to really take that to heart this year, because I am ready to embrace that new beginning thing.

Since Honey died, Sister has been dividing her time between meowing around the perimeter of the apartment at the top of her lungs, following us around so closely that we are tripping over her, and sitting around looking sad.

See? Matt says I may be projecting imagined emotions onto the cat, but tell me that doesn't look like a sad cat to you. Right, it's a sad cat. It's also a cat who was keeping us awake all night meowing, and worrying us with her need for extra attention. It was undeniable that Sister needed a friend.

I wasn't ready. I was so sad and a part of me was convinced that if I got a new cat, somehow Honey would know, and would feel replaced, unimportant in my heart, even forgotten. But my living kitty was sad and lonesome, and was also really making my life harder by waking me up multiple times a night. So I bucked up, and we brung home a new baby.

Everyone, meet Lucky Lucille. How do you do?

Lucky Lucille is 6 months old. On 07/07/07, Tammy the cat mama stepped out her front door and heard a tiny little meow. She called for the cat, thinking it was one of hers, and a kitten jumped out of the bushes and trotted up the steps and right into the house. Tammy named her Lucky Lucille because she was found on lucky triple seven.

Tammy takes in lots of strays, and she takes them to the vet and finds homes for them because she is a good lady. Now, Brax knows this already because her little Freddie came from Tammy's collection too. Lucky cats to have Tammy, taking in the strays and getting them healthy and placing them in good homes! Lucky us too, because Tammy loves Lucy, and she loves us. So when we lost Honey, she offered Lucy to us, and we accepted.

Even though I had all those conflicting feelings, and I am still very sad about Honey, I also knew that once I had a new cat, I would love it. We love Lucky Lucille! She is very silly and snuggly, and she purrs pretty much whenever you touch her. She is still a kitten, so she plays a lot. Her balance isn't very good yet, and she falls off the back of the couch pretty frequently. She is a new beginning! A snuggly fuzzy baby new beginning.

Look at her crazy fur! I think she looks like a Frankencat. You can't see it too well in these pictures, but she looks like Sister if Sister lived in a coal mine. Like, you can see orange tabby, even some stripes, but it's like there are patches of gray on top of it. Frankencat!

The first meeting was tense...

But they are already getting along much better, and I think they'll be good friends in no time.

Happy Fall! Happy New Year. May it be full of fuzzy baby new beginnings.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just a little knitting


I wish I had something exciting and new to report. I've just been plugging away at the puff sleeved cardigan. Here she is, all squished onto a 24" needle:
Hi, I'm the world's worst picture-taker. I love love love this yarn! It's dyed by Karida, of course, of Neighborhood Fiber Co, and it's the greenest yarn ever. If I had to name the color, i would call it Greeny Green. I tried to take a close-up picture so you could see all the stitches and the color, but it came out like this:
Oh well. I'm about 25 rows away from separating the sleeves. When that happens....look out!! I'll be trying this sucker on and taking more bathroom mirror pictures, you can be sure of that!
I'm excited to wear this sweater for the first half of know, when you can get away with wearing a short sleeved sweater. Hell, I'm excited for fall in general. You're totally right in what you said the other day...I don't think I've seen either of us so excited for a summer to end in our lives! I'm excited because I keep thinking of all the stuff you get to do in the fall. There's crunching leaves, pumpkin carving, cooking squashy/eggplanty things, and hot apple cider. There's also getting away with no coat, but wearing all sorts of things you knitted yourself.
Back when we lived together, I think fall was my favorite time of year. We were always so re-invigorated by the cooler temperatures and the start of school. Fall used to be when we'd do stuff as a house, like go to the corn maze or the pumpkin festival or just put in the soundtrack to Big Night and cook a big meal. I like to think that when we're old and living on our alpaca farm/bee colony/commune, that's what we'll get to do again.
The high today is 75. Hello Fall!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Series of Tubes

AAAAAhahaha! Check it out. The Tubey Sweater!

Remember that time I finished a project?

And, it has a back. That's right, a front and a back. And...sleeves. Just try and argue with those stripes.

So I finished this puppy about 10 minutes ago, and I couldn't wait 'til morning to post about it. As a result of le drunk evening photography, those bright candy colors aren't really showing up. But trust me, they're bright. I need to block it. And I need to weave in some ends...maybe about a hundred ends...

But whatever, no one has to see her guts. (Except I just put them on the internet. Shut up, jerks, I'm drunk!!!) Anyway, one thing I don't have to worry about is seaming. NO SEAMS. That is freaking right, no seams.

In celebration, here's Sister attacking the camera strap.

OK, I am watching the news and apparently there is some sort of device that attaches to your baby's car seat and, somehow, alerts you if you walk away from the car and leave your baby.
I don't mean to be an asshole, because I know no one would ever intentionally leave their baby in the car...but seriously. Seriously. I just don't understand how people leave their babies in the car. Maybe it is because I am a little...ahem...anal retentive. But I sure do check on the cat about 16 times a day, and make sure the coffee pot is off before I leave the house, and, you know. I just check on things all the time because I am always poised for disaster to strike. I pretty much quadruple check all security and safety procedures. Maybe people with babies are really stressed out and don't have time to quadruple check stuff.

I bet when I have a baby, I will quadruple check to make sure the windows are shut and the coffee pot is off and the cat is fed and the lint trap is cleaned out. Then I will march purposefully out the door and (because I will be a Designing Woman when I grow up), the camera will pan to my confused baby, hanging by its little foot (encased in a precious hand knit sock) from a slowly turning ceiling fan. The cat will be batting at it.

Did I mention I finished Tubey?

Later alligator,

Thursday, September 6, 2007


We have a guest blogger today! My buddy Mason is so sadly sadly blogless that he has apparently started blogging in MS Word and e mailing it to people. Anyway, when he sent me this I knew it was prime material for our blog. It's got it all--crafting, drinking, drunk crafting, and garlic. Enjoy....Picklestorm!!!!!!!!!!

p.s. stay tuned for actual knitting and vacation blogs from my end. Things have been nuts around here.
Edited 800 times for formatting. sorry if you just got this post 800 times on bloglines. 900 times. the ol' blogger, she is being stubborn today. Edited again so the pictures would show. Damn.


By Mason

This Saturday, I got together with my friends, Eric and Stacey, to make dill pickles with a 100 year old recipe (see bottom) that has been passed down dutifully from generation to generation within an Idaho farm family. I have unceremoniously ripped it off from them and am sharing the recipe with shady musician-types.

Let’s get going...

Cucumbers! Smaller is better. You can find pickling cucumbers at produce stands from late July through early September.

About a pound of cukes will make a quart jar of pickles.

Scrub them with a stiff brush in cold water – no soap. Soap is an enemy of crispness.

Scrub them thoroughly, paying special attention to the flowering (non-stem) end which, I have been told, it chock-full of nasty shit. I suspect that is an old wives tale, but why not play it safe?

Garlic: peeled and with the tough bit at the bottom cut off. A small handful per quart is a fair
starting point. Some people like more. I am of the mind that you CAN have too much garlic in your pickles.

Notice the bloody mary on the cutting board: it’s good to reward the person cutting and peeling the garlic with a nice drink, for he is an enemy of the enemies of crispness, and your friend.

Clean your jars! A run through a dish washer (rinse them twice) works. We washed ours in the sink and boiled them for good measure. Say “Hi!” to Stacey, folks.

Ready for Brine Time! Here's a secret tip: use distilled water. Tap water contains chlorine and other additives which, while safe to drink, are also enemies of crispness.

You need apple cider vinegar and pickling salt, as well. Get this stuff boiling in a big pan. Note the grape leaves, more on them later.

Load your jars! Start by setting a clean grape leaf in the jar. The leaves are said to preserve crispness, but I'm pretty sure they’re just for aesthetics, and that’s OK. Aesthetics are important. By this point, we’ve already got the enemies of crispness on the run. Avoid the temptation to use marijuana leaves.

Dill is your main seasoning after the salt and vinegar. You can probably find it growing wild or you can buy it at a posh market. Use at least one flowering sprig as well as a non-flowering one. Again, avoid the temptation to use marijuana leaves. Have fun with the recipe, but don’t go nuts.

Next load your cucumbers, dill, garlic, and peppercorns. You can stuff all your ingredients in willy nilly, but why not take a moment and make a nice presentation?

My dad loads his jars to look like “an undersea landscape.” He’s an interesting guy.

Here’s Eric, also an interesting guy, loading a jar.

Here’s Eric, moments before the previous photo was taken, drinking with both hands. It’s OK, he’s in a band.

Two loaded jars, reporting for duty, SIR!

You want to have you brine mixed, stirred, and boiling by this point. Have a smaller pan that you then fill with the boiling brine and put that on a burner to keep it boiling. Key word: BOILING.

You want to the brine as hot as it can be when you pour it in the jars.

Also on the stove top, have your lids sitting in a bath of super hot water. Boil them first and then keep them hot.

Heat and cleanliness are the keys when it comes to sealing the jars and keeping them sealed.

I have no pictures of this part of the process because Eric kept handing me drinks. Fill the jars to within a ½” or ¼” of the rim of the jar then quickly place a hot lid on top. You can fish the lid out of the hot water with a butter knife. Then screw the neck on top as tight as you can (you may want to hold the now-hot jar in a dish towel) and place the jar upside down on the counter to cool for a few minutes.

If the jars do not seal (if the ‘button’ pops up), open it up, dump the brine back into the pot, reheat it and try again.

Label your sealed jars and let them sit in a cool dry place for about 4 weeks and you’ve got pickles!

This is a great way to spend an afternoon while doing something productive for a change.

L-R, The Enemies of the Enemies of Crispness: Stacey, Eric, Mason.

3 qts water
1 qt vinegar
1 cup salt [plain]

Boil water, salt and vinegar together 1 minute

Pack cucumbers in jars with garlic, dill & peppercorns, mustard seed, (this is where you can get experimental) with a grape leaf on top.

Pour water, salt and vinegar over and then seal.

Suggestions: use a scant cup of salt [3/4 cup] boil 1 min.-thoroughly.
Use apple cider vinegar.

Alright, go make some pickles, you crafty jerks! -Bruce