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keep austin weird I’ve always had a fondness for Austin, and it’s not just that I lived there for several years and attended UT-Austin. There’s something very special about this town. As with the world, nothing is static and today’s Austin is quite different from the Austin I knew. However, there’s still a fundamental element that is very Austin-like, much like the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan.

Thus, when I found out that there would be a Ravelry event at The Knitting Nest in Austin through my friend Sarah, and she invited me to tag along, I decided to make an impromptu weekend rendezvous that involved 3 very loved things on my list: knitting/yarn, friends and Austin!

Sarah, her hubby and her cute son were kind enough to put up with me and give me a ride to/from Austin. I wasn’t sure how transportation would work out while I was in Austin, but I did have a car rental planned. In the end, my dear friend Tedd insisted on driving me around whenever I needed/wanted.

The Knitting Nest, Princesses of Ravelry & American Cancer Society

The event at The Knitting Nest was to honor the “Princesses of Ravelry,” Mary-Heather (rainydaygood) and Sarah (onestitchshort) and a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society via a silent auction with items donated by yarn companies, designers and local Austin businesses.

I donated two $25 gift coupons for Crafty Diversions patterns and a copy of my Liberation book. All of the donated items found great homes and I can’t wait to see the knitted items by the winners of the silent auction!

Overall, I had a great time hanging out at the shop, bidding on the silent auction and meeting lots of new knitters/crocheters!

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L – R:  (1) Mary-Heather and Sarah, the Princesses of Ravelry wearing the most awesome personalized crocheted crowns by the very sweet and talented Allison of CraftyisCool; (2) local spinner doing a demo and selling her handspun Buena Suerte yarn; (3) very cool wall in The Knitting Nest illustrated by Franklin Habit

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L-R: (1) Stacey (owner) and Sarah having a nice chat; (2) shoppers checking out the silent auction items; (3) yummy chocolate princess cupcakes

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L-R: (1) Lots of Longhorn yarn (Cascade 220, Lorna’s Laces and Cacade Luna) for future gifts for my UT fan friends; (2) Hank, one of the 2 adorable Knitting Nest mascots; (3) Shoppers checking out the knick-knacks at the checkout desk

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Clockwise: (1) Silent auction table featuring my donated items; (2) Shoppers checking out my section of the silent auction; (3) Super fabulous knitter Debra won the silent auction for the Liberation e-book showing off the yarn she bought to make Alice Paul for her lucky niece.

Out and About

I spent my evenings hanging out with my good friend Tedd, who knows how much I love to eat! One evening, we ate at the trailer at The Liberty Bar. All I can say is NOM! (Tedd and I met the summer after my freshman year at college. Even though we don’t see each other or get to talk much, I still regard him as one of my best friends and as much closer than even the brother I never had. Tedd is a musician/former and best DJ ever/graphic designer, and he and his wife are the artists behind Lucid Eyes.)

The rest of my time with Tedd involved catching up and lots of drinking and staying up until 6AM, though I cannot hold my liquor the way I used to, nor can my body handle the staying up all night thing well anymore either. I also was able to meet up with my second cousin Elena, who I had not seen in over 10 years! Right before I left Austin, I was able to lunch with another good old friend, Eric, who is the lead singer behind his indie band Johnny Hi-Fi. (I really love their newest LP: Love Sold Me Out. One of the songs in the album was written for and used in his gf’s documentary on domestic violence, Recovering Irma.)

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L-R: (1) Super yummy food from the trailer in the yard of The Liberty Bar. I forgot the names of all the dishes, but they were all yum!; (2) Tedd and me; (3) With my cousin Elena, vet extraordinaire

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L-R: (1) Enjoying a Chocolate-Espresso martini at Halcyon bar in downtown Austin; (2) Later that night, we went to some club where Tedd’s friend bought me a very strong apple martini and made me do a shot of Crown Royale. Notice the drinking theme?; (3) With Eric, photo taken 1 month ago when his band played at The Key Club in L.A.

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Tedd, Elena and I took a bicycle ricksaw from one venue to the next. I was amazed our bicyle-driver managed to pedal the 3 of us in one cart up a mini hill!

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Last week, I had a sudden urge to bake ginger snaps.  However, due to a freaky heatwave where the temperatures out here jumped from the comfortable mid- to high 70’s Fahrenheit to an astounding high record temperature of 112F.  Now that the temperature has dropped, I spent this weekend on a ginger snap baking spree.

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I love ginger snaps, but I prefer to make them because they just taste better homemade with quality ingredients and because I really haven’t found any on the market that have the kind of ginger punch that I desire. I want my ginger snaps to be really gingery and enjoy biting into candied ginger bits.

I baked Saturday and Sunday using 2 different base batters. On Saturday, I made a base batch using a basic molasses cookie recipe I found a while back. Taste-wise, that first double batch turned out great – I made half plain, and half spiced. The only problem is that they were a little too fragile for shipping, because they’d break with a simple light jostle. I wanted to send some to my sister and a friend and having the cookies turn into crumbs en route just would not do (though I suppose they’d make a good ice cream topping).

Thus, I reworked my recipe on Sunday to make it a better cookie in both taste and hardiness for shipping and transport to my knit night. The result is a quadruple (!) ginger cookie that is great for hoarding all to myself gifting and sharing. I think altogether from both baking days, I made about 5 dozen of the Super Gingery Ginger Cookies and about 4 dozen that are spiced with a clove mix.

And because I’m so nice, I converted my own chicken scratch and shorthand into something readable and am sharing my recipe with y’all! 😉  The following recipe has the option for you to make a spiced version as well.

Super Gingery Ginger Cookies

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Ingredients
¾ cup organic unsalted butter, softened
1 cup organic brown sugar
1 organic cage-free egg
¼ cup organic molasses, unsulphured
1 ¾ tbsp fresh minced ginger
2 ½ cup organic whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger powder
¼ tsp sea salt
¾ cup chopped crystallized ginger
¾ cup chopped non-crystallized candied ginger

Variation: Spiced Super Gingery Ginger Cookies (optional)
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp cardamom

Directions

  1. In a  large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together with hand or standing mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, egg and fresh ginger.
  2. In another bowl, combine and mix flour, baking soda, ground ginger and sea salt. If you are making the Spiced version, also add in the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. With your spatula or a large wooden spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in chopped ginger. Chill dough, covered, in refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Shape dough into 1” balls and place approximately 2” apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies have flattened a bit, browned and starting to crack on the top. Cookies should be slightly crisp at the edges and soft and chewy in the center.

Additional Cooking Notes: To prevent the pieces from sticking together when chopping the non-crystalized candied ginger, which has the texture and stickiness of gum drops, toss them with about 1 tbsp of organic granulated sugar. If you want a softer, chewier cookie, shorten the bake time. Conversely, if you like your ginger snaps to have more snap, bake them a little longer. And of course, if you want them extra gingerly, but not super, reduce the chopped crystallized and candied gingers by ⅛ to ¼ cup each. If you can’t find the non-crystallized candied ginger (I got mine at Trader Joe’s), you can substitute it with the crystallized ginger. If you can manage to make your cookies last longer than a day, the ginger flavor tends to strengthen more after 1 or 2 days.

gingers

L-R: Non-crystallized candied ginger; Crystallized ginger; Grated fresh ginger.

Enjoy!!

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While I’ve been to several TNNA trade shows, I’ve never been to the one in Columbus until now. (For those of you who don’t know, The National Needleart Association (TNNA) holds 4 trade shows a year. As far as knitters, crocheters and the yarn industry is concerned, the 2 big ones to go to is the summer show in Columbus, OH and the winter show held either in Long Beach, CA or San Diego, CA. Columbus is the biggest one.)

When I attend TNNA, I usually go wearing 2 hats: retailer and designer. This time, I went wearing those 2 hats, plus one of an exhibitor since I am now a member of Stitch Cooperative.

I Scream for Ice Cream

One of the first thing everyone who has been to Columbus tells me is “Go to Jeni’s ice cream!” It’s like a mantra. Even non-knitterly folks who’ve been to Columbus tell me to eat at Jeni’s. While I may be quite smare sometimes, I’m not stupid not to heed that kind of advice!

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My virgin Jeni’s experience consisted of Meyer Lemon Blueberry with Gravel Road on a cone. It was actually my second breakfast. I love being an adult! Having ice cream for breakfast really is not bad at all because my selection met all the important food groups: fruit/veggie, protein, grain and dairy.

Stitch Cooperative

Stitch Cooperative is a pattern distribution company comprised of several top indie designers. It’s designer owned and run. Yarn shops can buy hardcopy patterns from Stitch Coop and also get involved with the digital affiliate program (basically, just sign up, add a link and get money when customers buy pdf patterns!).

Stitch Coop members recently decided to add a few new designers and yours truly was included in that new member group. I was floored and so very honored and flattered to have been selected and  invited to join such an esteemed group of designers such as Shannon Okey, Annie Modesitt, Stefanie Japel, Kristi Porter, Miriam Felton, just to name a few!

To help network, brand and just to have fun, Stitch Coop had a party at TNNA. The party was graciously and generously sponsored and supported by Bijou Basin Ranch and Buffalo Gold. The very clever Annie Modesitt had a decorative stamp made with our logo and our sponsors’ logos with which we stamped tables, napkins and gave ourselves and our guests “tattoos.”

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Photos, clockwise: (1) Kristi Porter and Miriam Felton. I love Miriam’s face!; (2) Shannon Okey was the only one daring enough to sampe her chest; (3) me and my arm tattoo; (4) party-goers and invited guests.

While the party was fun, we also had some business to attend to, which involved a meeting we had with Team Ravelry. Of course, you can’t have a decent meeting without a nice little bar, an adorable baby or some bad-ass toenails. I ended up being the de facto photographer, though I think I did a poor job if it (hey, it was a very looong day with little sleep the night before, and I had already drank half of my vodka tonic).

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Photos, clockwise: (1) You really can’t have a decent meeting without a bar, thanks to Annie and Shannon!; (2) a blurry picture of (L-R) Kristen TenDyke, Jess Forbes, Robin Chachula, Stefanie Japel and Mary-Heather Cogar; (3) Shannon enjoying her drink; (4) Miriam Felton, Dora Ohrenstein, Sarah B., and Casey Bobfather Forbes; (5) Mary-Heather, Stefanie with baby Olive (cutest ever!) and Kristi Porter; (6) Shannon and Stefanie found out that they had the same polish colors (unplanned!) when they shared the same ottoman. The other foot is mine.

TO BE CONTINUED….NEXT POST: TNNA-part 2

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Originally, our plans did not include Bali. Hubby talked about taking us to the mountainous regions of Bandung. So, I was not prepared or packed for Bali at all.  Well, I suppose, even if I did pack a swimsuit, I wouldn’t really have taken a dip in the ocean because we didn’t really have that much time and neither my dad or my stepmom really swim. (Stepmom is really afraid of water.)

Nonetheless, I was just happy to have gone! I do admit to having a little pity party syndrome in that we only went for 2.5 days — not enough in my book! At least this way, I can convince the hubs that I need to go back again in the future.

Our trip (flight, hotel and driver) was generously and graciously arranged by hubby’s sister. We stayed at the lovely Bali Dynasty Resort in South Kuta and hired a driver to chauffeur us around the island.

Upon our arrival, our first stop after a visit to the U.S. Consulate’s office regarding my stepmom’s passport “problem” was a non-Chinese meal. We were all happy for the change in cuisine and dined one some super Indonesian and Balinese food.

Tanah Lot

Afterwards, our driver took us to watch the sunset at Tanah Lot, a rock formation on which a centuries-old Balinese temple sits. Tourists and visitors are only allowed access up to the ocean temple after they have been annointed and purified. I didn’t make it up there since the line was really long and I was the only one who could cross the waters to Tanah Lot. (Both dad and Helman had open sores on their feet and stepmom didn’t want to cross the water.) Instead, I observed others getting purified, played at the base of the rock formation, and took some self-portraits. Luckily, my klutziness was kept at bay and I did not slip on the slippery rocks with the evening tide at my knees as I crossed the waters.

Sunset at Tanah Lot

After my frolic in the water and getting my capri pants totally wet (I didn’t hike them up enough), we walked up to a cliff area and sat at one of the cafes for some drinks and to watch the sunset.

I snapped away as the sun set. No matter how many photos I snapped, I still cannot capture the allure of the whole experience.  How do you capture 360 degrees of color changes around you as you inhale the warm ocean air and listen to the symphony of crashing waves?

Nothing can compare to the actual experience, but I did snap enough photos to remind me of the trip and to show the progression of the entire sunset, shown below in 2 composites and in chronological order.

Composition 1: Sunset progression at Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia

The first 6 images on the second composite were taken with the zoom lens.

Composition 2: Sunset progression at Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia

After the intoxicating sunset, we had not intended on stopping in the market area designed to allure tourists.  However, this large and scary critter caught our eye:

Yep, a large and ugly bat. I’ve only seen tiny and less intimidating fruit bats. This one by comparison is ginormous. The bat-owner was letting the bat climb on him and had the bat on display for tips.  Eww. Gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Luckily, our day did not end with the bat. We found another delightful Balinese restaurant and ordered up some local cuisine. Since hubby is “local” (relatively speaking), he ordered for us and we ate every. single. morsel.  Nom. Nom. Nom.

Indonesian food in L.A. is no comparison. In fact, I don’t think I’ll eat Indonesian food in L.A. ever again – it’s always too salty, greasy and contains too much MSG. It’s like saying Panda Express serves real Chinese food.

pping in the market area designed to allure tourists.  However, this large and scary critter caught our eye:

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My main purpose for going to Indonesia was to visit my in-laws with my dad and stepmom. We met my hubby in Jakarta. (I left first to Taiwan and flew from Taipei to Jakarta with my dad and stepmom, who flew there from Houston, Texas.) Quite a global journey, eh?

Bribes

We almost couldn’t get out of the airport upon arriving. I don’t want to go into too many details in such a public forum, but we were sent from one official to another for a “problem” with my stepmom’s passport. Since Indonesia does not have a great record when it comes to corruption, we suspected that all those officers wanted bribes and when we didn’t give them anything, they sent us to their “boss” and so forth. I really didn’t know how to give a bribe, nor did we want to offend anyone who was ethical by offering. I did communicated with the officer in English and hinted that we’d be open to giving him a bribe by asking if we needed to pay a fine. i think because we were women and a bit dense about all that bribery stuff, they let us go after a 2 hour cat-mouse game…I guess they got bored too. Besides, how to you slip money for a bribe? I am not that slick. According to many Indonesian residents, police and other personnel expect bribes and some of their actions are designed to solicit bribes. Lately, the government has been cracking down on that practice, so the officer probably was not bold enough to ask for one directly or respond to my question about a “fine.”

Afraid that we may encounter additional problems upon exiting, we did visit the U.S. Counsel in Bali, who inspected my stepmom’s passport and informed us that there was nothing wrong with it and all her passport pages were okay. We had no other problems and a pleasant experience after the airport incident.

Jakarta

The city of Jakarta is very urban, crowded, polluted and dirty.  The dispartity between socio-economic status is quite remarkable and wide.  My in-laws don’t really get out much and there are areas in the city that they felt were not very safe to venture into, so we mostly were limited to perusing giant urban malls.  All the malls and higher-end neighborhoods have lots of security personnel that check cars and purses for bombs and other dangerous items. However, the inconsistency in which all the checks were conducted does not really make one feel any safer.

Everywhere you drive, there are street vendors that walk between the cars selling everything from statues, water, fruit and snacks.

Other than visiting family and people-watching, I don’t find Jakarta particularly interesting.  I’m sure there are great foods and other finds there, but my FIL and MIL only eat Chinese food. Some of the restaurants we went to didn’t even have good Chinese food, especially the over-priced restaurant that served a tiny and scary-looking piglet (which I did not eat at all) and an overcooked lobster.

One thing that I did enjoy in Indonesia, whether in Jakarta or on the island of Bali, is the all the yummy tropical fruits. The 2 fruits indigenous to the archipelago of which I don’t like at all are durian and salak (also, snakefruit).

My favorites are rambutan, mangos, papaya, coconut (fresh ripe ones only) and mangosteen.

The photos above show the following, from Right to Left, starting with the top row:
1. Rambutan, star fruit  or carambola and banana; 2. Salak or snake fruit; 3. Mango juice; 4. Duku or lansa; 5. Pink Guava juice; 6. Salak or snake fruit; 7. banana, star fruit or carambola, and papaya; 8. papaya juice; 9. Mangosteen; 10. Duku or lansa; 11. Mango; 12. Coconut; 13. Jack fruit and rambutan; 14.  Mangosteen; 15. fresh Lime soda

While I love fruit and veggies, one thing that I did not want to try was this:

No Eggplant juice for me!

Dad, stepmom, MIL, FIL

Next post: Bali!!!!

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Contrary to what I thought, I actually have not had time to really upload and organize the bazillion photos I’ve taken, let alone sit down to write a blog post.

Here’s a peek at what I’ve done and seen so far, in no particular order….

Saw lots of cute monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest, Bali, Indonesia

Watched artisans make traditional batik. Bali, Indonesia

View from my hotel balcony. Sun Moon lake, Taiwan

Endured charted tour bus karaoke, albeit from a talented and fun bunch (my godparents' family & friends)

sunset at Tanah Lot where an ocean temple is located. Bali, Indonesia

Ate fresh and sweet mangosteen in Indonesia

Went to a few night markets, including this one, Taiwan's largest and most famous: Shilin Night Market in Taipei

And eating some delicious treats at the night market.

Nusa Dua beach area, taken from cliff off a mini peninsula. Bali, Indonesia

Wading through the shallow waters at Nusa Dua beach, Bali, Indonesia

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Have you ever what the heck to do with all those extra zucchinis in the garden? Well, here’s a solution:

How funny and creative is that? What’s next? Carrot spindle?

If you don’t spindle and want to impress you friends and guests at your dinner party, you can make some cauliflower and olive sheep!

How about a papaya or onion pig?

And I’m not quite sure how this tree frog was done, but it is certainly extra cool.

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