Dyeing more socks

At sibling C’s request, I dyed more socks. The dyes have been sitting outside for a year and the labels have all worn off, so I’m not quite sure what I used.

Yellow onion skins?
Either avocado skins and pits, or prickly pear fruits (tunas). The dye is a dark maroon-brown color.
And we pulled these oddly organ-esque growths out of it. One looks like liver and the other looks like brain. I’m pretty sure both growths are scobies or mothers, symbiotic growths of fungi and bacteria. Specific species appear in the scobies used to make kombucha.
The resulting socks (the colors are slightly brighter in real life…). I boiled a pair in each dye for several hours, then left them to sit for a couple days at room temperature. These socks are made of nylon and cotton, neither of which is particularly easy to dye.
It looks like onion dye sticks better to nylon than to cotton.

I’d love sibling C to grow some native indigo for me. The only problem is finding plants or seeds. If anyone has a source, let me know!

Fall foraging

There are some good foraging opportunities near my apartment. The best is a pear tree – I believe it is ornamental since the pears are small. It wasn’t clear to me if the owners were interested in the pears, so I just collected ones that had fallen onto the sidewalk, and made pear-sauce! I strained the cooked pears through a mesh strainer, and used the remaining fibrous matter to make alcohol.

There are also a ton of sugar maples. If I had tapping equipment, I could make maple syrup.

And lastly, there are a ton of chestnut trees. Unfortunately, they are horse chestnuts, not true or sweet chestnuts, which were largely killed off in the early 1900s by chestnut blight. The only trees that survived were those far enough (about 10 km) away from other chestnut trees.

Horse chestnuts contain high levels of naturally-occurring saponins, which make them taste really bitter. Apparently, they are also poisonous. Before realizing this, I collected a bunch. I was super excited to find chestnuts since they’re pretty expensive to buy.

Horse chestnuts really look quite similar to true chestnuts. The main difference, besides taste, is the lack of a tassel on the tip of the shell. True chestnut husks also have more closely-set spines.

As far as I’m aware, horse chestnuts only have one use: making liquid soap! You can soak the nutmeats in water to dissolve the saponins, and use the soaking liquid as liquid soap or detergent.

Advancements in hair-cutting

I’ve been cutting my hair for a while now, since it’s so hard to get a good and not-expensive professional haircut. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to do with just scissors and no helpers! I’ve tried to train J to cut my hair, but he has no experience and isn’t confident enough to learn. I would be willing to have a few months of bad haircuts in return for years of free grooming services (:

Soooooo, I decided to invest in an electric hair trimmer, the type with guards. Only $25 used on eBay, about the same cost as a single mid-tier professional haircut!

Unfortunately, in the first attempt, I received an alarm clock.

At least it’s a fancy alarm clock?

It took some finagling, but I eventually got the hair trimmer, and the alarm clock buyer got the alarm clock. (The boxes were almost exactly the same size and shape; I can see how they got mixed up.)

The trimmer works well! I’m not sure if my haircut is good, but at least it’s even.

Sichuan Hotpot

I went bouldering yesterday with Friend A. After we finished, we happened across Friend B at the gym, and the three of us planned to have dinner together.

Unfortunately, Friend A has decided as of late that his diet must consist solely of Panang Curry Chicken from Siam Royal. After much protest from Friend B and I, we managed to grudgingly convince Friend A to have homemade hot pot instead.

I haven’t been using my Sichuan seasonings at a fast enough rate, so I decided to make Sichuan-style hot pot. Here’s the recipe.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a table-top burner, so we had to make due with eating around the stove in the kitchen.
My kitchen isn’t so clean. Maybe a B health rating.
Friend A and B, shown here eating hotpot while critiquing r/MachineLearning (apparently it’s trash or something).

Overall, it was pretty good. And much cheaper than the Sichuan hotpot at Haidilao.

After hotpot, we watched the heartwarming new show Goblin Slayer. Interestingly, it seems like it’s a show about slaying goblins.

Infestation?!!

Back when sibling C was visiting J and me in the Bay Area, C started off one day with CPR training (and took the light rail there!), and we were supposed to work on food or crafts afterwards, but… all other plans were overshadowed by fear of bed bugs!

Right before visiting J and me, C stayed at a hostel in Boston, where she got some bug bites. The bites weren’t particularly bad, and it isn’t that common for pests to be carried on people or luggage, so we weren’t worried (at first!).

Unfortunately, a couple days after arriving at our place, C got another bug bite! (While our first worry is always bed bugs, fleas and spiders are also possibilities. In any case, bed bugs are particularly safe – they don’t carry human diseases.) So we went on an emergency search for boric acid (couldn’t find it) or diatomaceous earth, which we proceeded to liberally sprinkle around the apartment.

It also became a major laundry and cleaning day. C and I ran her sheets and the mattress cover for her mattress through the dryer (high heat kills bed bugs), and we froze all the pillows for a few days. All of our efforts seem to have worked, ’cause no one got bites after that. I hear you have to go a year without any bites to be completely sure the pests are gone… Wish us luck…

And C is now using the rest of the diatomaceous earth for gardening!

Unsubscribe from Xfinity marketing emails?

I have Xfinity (Comcast) internet and, unfortunately, part of signing up is getting sales emails that are impossible to unsubscribe from. The emails include an “unsubscribe” link, but it sends you to a webpage with an “unsubscribe” button that doesn’t actually do anything. Maybe if you click the button a bunch you’ll forget that you’re getting unwanted spam…

I contacted Customer Service to try to get unsubscribed (and told multiple representatives that the Xfinity unsubscribe tool doesn’t work) – we’ll see how that turns out. I figure I can just keep bothering them until they finally get it fixed.

Let me know if you’ve managed to fix this particular problem! I’d be glad for tips!

Goats on campus?

This morning, I saw a (small) herd of goats on campus. I was quite taken aback for a moment, then figured they must be there for landscaping purposes. I don’t know what exactly they were eating – this particular hill is mostly covered with vines and invasive-looking trees (which the goats were chewing the bark off of…).

It turns out there was a news feature on the goats!

CMU Goes Eco-Friendly, Brings In Goats To Landscape Overgrown Hillside

Apparently this particular hill is too steep and weedy for easy landscaping, hence the goats. I hope they get used for milk or meat!

Sock update

On sibling C’s socks, I had to redo the bind-off around the cuff. The previous edge was so tight I couldn’t get the sock over my heel! I redid the edge using this bind-off. It works great!

Tonight I washed and blocked the socks, so they should be ready to go tomorrow!

Pittsburgh apartment updates

I’ve been without a microwave for a few weeks and it’s been difficult! I like making a lot of food and eating leftovers for a few days afterwards, but not many things heat up well in a pot or skillet. I am of course loathe to buy anything so I was lucky to find a free microwave beside a dorm dumpster. It works! It was even pretty clean inside.

I found the university’s free pile, where you can leave stuff and take stuff as you please. It’s pretty small considering the number of students. Maybe people don’t know about it. I’ve already gotten some good stuff! Handmade doilies, sunscreen, earbuds (they need a little glue, but still).

Currently being washed. I even found a matching pair, several weeks apart.

The apartment is a little less neat now. I got started on a craft project, so knitting supplies are (sparsely) strewn around the room. I’m making a pair of socks for sibling C! It’s my first pair of socks and I have to say they’re not as difficult as people make them out to be. Socks are certainly fast to make. The main difficulty is getting the two socks to be the exact same size.

See? The bottom sock is slightly larger (although not so large as it appears in this picture; some of that is from perspective). Usually your gauge relaxes as you knit more, so it’s to be expected. Hopefully the difference in size isn’t noticeable when wearing them. They look like they might also be too big for C’s feet, although they’re too small for mine. The yarn was a freebie from friend S.
The heel flap construction.

Sibling C wanted the socks to be around 11″ tall, but I wasn’t sure I would have enough yarn so I knit the socks toe up using these instructions, with some modifications due to differences in gauge (see sock calculations). I used the Middle Eastern cast-on, gusset-heel flap for the heel, and bound off in pattern using 1×1 ribbing. If the cuff isn’t stretchy enough, I’ll have to use a different bind off.

My goal this year living alone is to produce as little trash (meaning stuff that isn’t recyclable or compostable) as possible. I’m doing well so far. I scouted out a few compost bins in the area, so I don’t need to pay for the local compost service, Shadyside Worms. It costs $20/month which, while reasonable, provides much more service than I need. They pick up 5 gallons of compost every week; I produce maybe a half gallon on a cooking-heavy week.

There are a number of bulk stores in the area, so I’m all set on that front.

My first bulk haul. From left to right, bread flour, soy sauce, olive oil (Mediterranean, unfortunately), tahini, almond butter, castile soap, kipper snacks (bad! don’t buy that brand), local cheese (also bad, it was really bitter, like it was going bad even when it was fresh), and local butter (in compostable paper).

I picked up a few more kitchen items from Goodwill: a non-aluminum pot for tomato sauce (I only brought an aluminum one with me), a wooden cutting board, glass jars for food storage, and a mesh strainer. Goodwill has 25% Tuesdays for students 😀

Since J and I only have one chef’s knife, I was planning on buying a new-to-me knife for using here. J wanted a cleaver to make processing meat easier, so it seemed like a good idea to get a cleaver to use as my everyday knife. Before committing to a purchase on eBay, I “shopped” my parents’ house for knives. I turned up a couple of really dull, low-quality cleavers that didn’t seem worth salvaging. I sharpened one anyway and it’s been pretty good! A bit uncomfortable to hold, but good enough for a year.