Sunday, January 25, 2009


Geez, where to start?

Well, let's pick up where we left off a couple of posts ago. My KnitPicks needles have arrived in all their speedy, non-kinky glory! I LOVE them! What a difference they make in ease of knitting. I mean, holy cow! Well done, KnitPicks! Buh-bye, Susan Bates -- you will be relegated to stitch-holding and little more. I have struggled with your horrendous kinky cables long enough!

Forest and Frills Shrug by tiny owls knits

In the meanwhile, as much as I was enjoying making the Nicky Epstein Roman Holiday Shrug, my mind started wandering and I've started making this Forest and Frill shrug by tiny owl knits instead (her completed version is above and the section of mine in progress is at the top of this page). It is the very definition of easy-peasy, and I need me some quick gratification. And if that ends up being a stashbuster AND involves some pretty crochet edging to boot, so much the better. I'll get back to Nicky later.

In a topic switch, I have been thinking about my parents a lot lately. Part of it is how I miss them, part of it is how I am having a harder and harder time mentally conjuring my mother (she passed in 1985, so it's been a while), and part of it is how much like them I am turning out to be. For instance, my mom was a knitter and crocheter and made up a lot of her own patterns. I remember this beautiful blue crocheted coat she made me when I was about 12. It had Juliet Sleeves, a particular favorite of mine, and was long and oh-so-hip. She loved to garden, cook and to experiment with new foods, spices, herbs, and cooking techniques. So I know where all THAT comes from!

My dad, on the other hand, was an ideas guy. Nothing charged him up like a book that challenged the standard notion of world. During my daily visits with him, we'd talk about ocean exploration, outer space, history, homeopathy, radionics, dowsing, and alchemy. He loved to surround himself with books (and he did!) and was at his happiest immersed in ideas or tinkering with his experiments. To the very end of his life, he never lost his enthusiasm for his books and ideas. So it should be no surprise to those who knew him that I am afflicted with this same disease. I am surrounded with books (though of a different nature than my dad's), and am happiest when immersed in them or tinkering with my needlework, jewelry work, arty, foodie, or costumey pursuits. Oh, or traveling.

All of which is a long-winded way of getting to talk to you about this week and why I'm so excited about it.

First, I received a book this week that I'd ordered from a Dutch bookseller called "Zelf je kleding haken," by Lis Paludan, author of the wonderful "Crochet History and Technique." I saw one of the projects in it on ravelry and thought the book was a little unusual in its design approach. And kids, it is positively filled with wonderful ideas for those weilding the hook! Is it dated? Yes, absolutely. Are the ideas big enough to be translatable into more contemporary versions? Again, yes. Is it in English? Hell, no. But it is beautifully illustrated, complete with clothing patterns in the back of the book, so the savvy hooker should be able to glean the ideas needed into their next project.

For example, these mittens look fresher than a lot of new stuff out there:

And this jacket, while clearly dated, is a fascinating shape that could be easily updated:
Also, I bought the new issue of Vogue Knitting, which has some extraordinary patterns in it, including Elizabeth Zimmerman's amazing Snail Hat, Jared Flood's cabled gloves, and the amazing work of Sandra Backlund. I love almost everything in this issue, and only wish I had the time and talent to make all of it.


While shopping at KnitPicks for my needles, my fingers accidently added Wendy Bernard's
Custom Knits to my shopping basket. I have no idea how that happened! :-) But what a fantastic book! I cannot recommend it highly enough! I love Wendy's website, Knit and Tonic, and her senses of humor and style. As a result, I'm once again trying to figure out how the hell I'm supposed to grow the limbs needed to do all the projects I want to.

Sigh again.

Clothes. I love clothes. I've worked for years as a costume designer, and I adore weird clothes, new clothes, old clothes, you name it. But I have this crazy predilection for buying the most boring clothes imaginable. In my youth, I'd come up with the craziest outfits. In my old age, I'm two steps away from buying jogging suits for my husband and me to wear to the mall. It's sick. So I am looking to change up what I've got,
creatify, if you will, my existing wardrobe into something new and distinctive. Except that I'm not starting with my existing wardrobe, I'm taking a pair of grey striped pants that my husband wants to chuck and turn it into something adorable for myself. Here they are as they currently exist. I'm thinking skirt (so bloody obvious, though, isn't it?), possibly jacket (saw something like that in a Roman boutique last month), but think I'll try for the thing that will likely have more wearable results. So skirt it is.

Back to books for a minute.

I mentioned the new old book from the Netherlands before. Here is a book from England that I am enormously fond of. It's dated, yes, but positively brimming with ideas and techniques that are literally crammed into its pages. Lookie!

So this week's loaf is in the oven (is it just me or does that sound like a euphemism?), a seeded rye, and it's heavenly scent is teasing my nostrils as I write. Later today, I'll make apple bread for the man to enjoy for the week.

On the diet front, for those keeping score, I'm down around 4 pounds. Not a huge amount, but respectable. I know from experience that the slower losses tend to take hold a bit better. So slowly I go...

Till later!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Special Edition

Holy radial pattern, Batman! Check this out!

I want one of these!

Bread and Breasts

This week's carb report will seem familiar, but looks are somewhat deceiving. Yes, there is a loaf of bread, but I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to make it whole wheat, with wheat germ, oatmeal, and pumpkin seeds added for good measure. And it is deeeeeeeelish!
The muffin things are actually weightwatchers banana oatmeal bread in a muffin format for portion control purposes. I snuck in some whole wheat flour there, too, for a slightly richer flavor and a bit more nutrition. Again, a successful output for a Sunday.

But where do the breasts come in, you may well ask?

They don't, at least not in the bread.

But here's the story.

Every year since I started getting mammograms, I get crap results. There is ALWAYS something wrong. There have been awful surgeries, repeated squishings, needle biopsy this, lay face-down with a boob in a clamp that. You get the picture. On the plus side, it's always benign. On the down side, well, I've described the down side. Plus, no matter how low your risk factor is (and mine is low), it is terrifying to go through. Even on the odd occasion that they said all was clear, I always receive a letter within a couple of days saying, "uh, not so much."

Another plus: I have a doting husband who recognizes that, though he is powerless to allay my fears, he understands that retail therapy is a great start. So when I had my mammo last Thursday, complete with repeated squishings to get the earlier surgical markers in the picture, he knew exactly what I needed: SHOPPING!

Now, as you know, I've been diving face first into this knitting thing. And I like to perform my needlework in public, say, on the subway. With a hook, this is no problem, but needles are tricky at best. So as all public knitters realize, circular needles are the way to get around the elbow space problem. Unfortunately, I have been buying cheap-ass circulars with cables made from unyielding plastic. It is unpleasant to use them under the best of circumstances and impossible in most others.

So, connect the dots.

Yep, as my breast appreciation gift, I ordered a brand new set of hoity-toity interchangable circular needles (plus some accessories) from KnitPicks (couldn't quite splurge for the Addis)! I cannot wait for them to show up! I have such plans for them, I do!

Ah, but I did not finish telling you my story, did I? So on Thursday, I got squished, again and again. I was already scheduled for bilateral sonograms immediately after the squishing. But the technician came out and said to me the words I hoped to hear, "You don't need the sonogram. Everything looks good."

I was joyful, but guardedly so. As we know, this is always followed days later by that ominous letter from the radiologist. And it showed up, on schedule. But this time, it said my results were normal.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Passing the Torch

In last week's post, I mentioned the lovely Half-Moon Shawl that I whipped up to shield myself from the cold in my office. Since said whipping, the temperature in said office has improved, and the shawl has been largely a decorative
objet across the back of my chair. So it's not really gotten a lot parading around the corporate environs at all. But that does not mean it has escaped the notice of some of the friendlier eyes that have been cast upon it.

One colleague who'd stopped by to announce her engagement literally grabbed it off of the chair and wrapped herself in, stopping when she realized that she hadn't even asked before putting on my clothes! She loved it, and as you all know, that is a gratifying moment indeed.

More gratifying still was when another colleague (just about half my age, btw), told me she'd been eyeing the shawl for days and asked to try it on. So taken was she that she wants to take up the hook! We spent probably more time than we should have, all things considered, talking about yarn basics, hook basics, and how best to start learning. I mean, how cool is that? I've been hooking since I was a young'n, having learnt at my mother's knee. But for someone to spontaneously take it up in her 20's? I'm charmed beyond description!

In other news, my work on Nicky Epstein's Roman Holiday Shrug continues largely unabated. It looks so hard and complex, but it is much easier than it appears. My wee portion of it is riddled with errors, but in all seriousness, I have learned tons about knitting by sticking with it, frogging some, and keeping Stitch N Bitch nearby as a reference.

Years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and I was in college, I was taking piano lessons as an independent study course. Though I love music, I don't think I could be mistaken for "musically inclined." But I soldiered on, learning to read music and pounding out infantile tunes on the keyboard in the teeny practice cubicles at my school. Then one day, it happened. I was no longer looking at the notes on the page, thinking about where my fingers should go, carefully placing my fingers on those keys and playing the notes. All of a sudden, that magical short-circuit happened where my eyeballs saw the notes and my fingers pretty much knew what to do. For you Helen Keller fans out there, it was my W-A-T-E-R moment. And as all you hookers and knitters know, there is a world of difference between having to follow each bloody notation on a pattern and being able to suss out the next stitch by simply looking at the textile in your hand.

This is the point I'm getting to on the sticks. I may struggle with the printed pattern, but the fabric being created is starting to make a whole lot more sense than it ever did before.

And that, my friends, is a wonderful feeling indeed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Hero

At 4pm yesterday, I was heading into a meeting with my new boss, who was at his office window looking out onto the Hudson River. "A plane just crashed into the river" he said. As we peered at the thin sliver of the Hudson still visible between the buildings, we could see ferries rushing south towards the site and helicopters hovering above.

As we all know by now, it was way more than that.

What happened was some sort of confluence of miracles, led by someone who is, in my humble estimation, a hero (as are the members of the flight crew and the many civilians who helped people in need). Capt. C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger is a man with the quick mind and skills I would want piloting every craft I fly.

As you all know by now, the plane, taking off from LaGuardia Airport, hit a flock of geese as they were taking off, shutting down both engines.

The New York Times reported: “There was just a lot of silence,” passenger Baretta told CNN. The big jet’s engines had died, and the plane was now gliding ominously over one of the nation’s most heavily populated areas.

After very quickly assessing the situation, the captain made a perfect landing on the Hudson's frigid waters, saving 155 lives. He and his co-pilot were the last to leave the flooding fuselage, making two sweeps of the plane before exiting themselves, ensuring that every passenger was out and risking their own lives in the process.

I know that lots of you are from outside New York and outside the US. So I want you to know this: my New York is the city you saw yesterday. When disaster struck, all the boats in the area rushed towards the danger to help the victims, not away. Commuters on the ferries helped get victims on board and tossed life jackets to those who needed it.

With the news flooded with coverage of the unutterable greed and avarice of Wall St., the banking industry and bastards like Bernie Madoff, it is heartening to know that there are still people who put the welfare of others before themselves, who use their knowledge and experience for the benefit of others and the greater good. Because of the Captain's actions, there are 155 people who have a chance to fulfill their own life's promise and 155 families who do not have to mourn a life cut short.

I am humbled by the actions of Captain Sullenberger, the crew of US Air, and the many people who helped save the lives of those terrified people.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cold? Hungry? Overweight? I have the answers...

The week got off to a less-than-stellar start. We came home Monday to a chilly, nay, freezing house. After trying to light the pilot a couple of times, I figured out what went wrong with the furnace, but was powerless to do anything about except call the plumber. An emergency call. Late at night. Is this adding up for you? Does $250 for a visit of under an hour sound about right? Yup, sure does. And the part, the thermocouple? Oh yeah, that's a $6.00 part.


So I started my swanky new (lateral move) job on Monday in my pretty new office with huge windows. And it's really cold. So I did what any normal person would do - started to crochet a shawl, mostly on the subway to and from work. As regular readers may have noticed, I have lots of yarn, so this also provided an opportunity to destash a bit. I frogged a dress I was making (with three strands of super bulky wool - speaking of adding up, that is a formula best used on the young and bulimic) to make this Half Moon Shawl from the Lion Brand site. While corporate, it's not, it is very cozy and oddly flattering.

Anyone hungry for some nice Healthy Banana Blueberry Muffins? They're made from whole wheat flour, wheat germ, fresh fruit and not much sugar, but the half stick of butter keeps it from tasting healthy, lemme tell ya. I got the recipe from the latest issue of Everyday Food, which happens to be a magazine I adore. Say what you will about Martha Stewart, her publications rarely let me down.
And what would the weekend be without a fresh loaf of seeded rye? Crappy, I say! So here is the latest weekly loaf.

Now, a recent step on the scale revealed a relatively minor increase in the ol' lard department, but my clothes have been feeling much more snug than I like, so I've officially rejoined WeightWatchers (the online version) with the goal of losing.......a few pounds. Okay, 25. Not a few, really. Quite a lot, in fact. So you may be subject to some whining over the next few months. But for the record, the muffins above are a mere 3 WW points each. Not too bad.

Do you think my excessive baking, buttermaking and cheesemaking have anything to do with my lardass? Nah, me neither.

Until next time....

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Ohmigod. This knitting thing is already waaay out of control. The hundreds of vintage patterns I have with knitting along with crochet suddenly make sense to me. (Way) more than half the patterns on ravelry suddenly represent possibility, not roadblocks. And I've spent more time than I care to admit downloading free pattern after free pattern.

Suddenly, the needles inherited from my mom have a new prominence in my workroom, which, by the way, is beginning to slowly look more and more like a place to create, not one to hide from prying eyes.

What's happened to me?

It's fun to be able to look at sites like brooklyn tweed and knitty with at least some crude understanding of what the hell is going on. And, with the help of YouTube and the many kind people who share their infinite knowledge and experience, it's possible for even a rube like me to learn a new trick or two.

Hot Damn!

But worry not, I've not given up the hook nor my hard-won title of SubwayHooker, but it is so, so, very sweet to be getting somewhere with a new old craft.