April 26, 2010

The Friends and Family Plan

The past few weekends have been jam packed with fun and loved ones. First, my Aunt Anne and Uncle Leon came out from Minnesota to celebrate her birthday. He’d been here once before, for my law school graduation, but it was her first time coming to the Big Apple.

They’re both fun and relaxed people and they had done a fair amount of preparatory investigation before they arrived, had some ideas about what they wanted to do, so I didn’t have to do a ton of planning for their visit. Still, I wanted them to have a good time, so I stressed out, making back-up and double-back up contingency plans for everything we did. I wanted to be helpful, but not bossy; open, but not aimless; available, but not smothering. In short, I wanted everything to be perfect, which it pretty much was.

They saw a lot (including John Waters), and did a lot (including ice skating at Rock Center on an 80 degree evening), visited Jacques Torres (see below) and we had a bunch of fun, so yay! And I found it really touching that they would make the effort to come out here and spend time with me.

After Anne and Leon flew home to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I laid super low for a few days, resting in anticipation of the arrival of my friend Rochelle.

We've been friends since 1986, but hadn't seen each other in five years. I knew her visit would be easy, though.  I practically lived at her house our sophmore year of high school, and became quite close with her parents.  We made our first college visit together, and she came to Minnesota for my college graduation.  Her dad was responsible for my fall from the wagon of vegetarianism (how could I say no to that gorgeous hamburger  topped with with Tillamook Cheddar?).  It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that we were like family.

As expected, she was an easy and delightful houseguest who was happy to do whatever, which was great.  We went for a run in Prospect Park, ate soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai and I got to pop in to the newly relocated and revamped Purl Soho store.

The new space combines their yarn and fabric stores under one roof, and is much bigger than the old space.  It's light and white and lovely.  Although she's not a knitter, Rochelle found the fibers and fabrics (she gravitated towards some beautiful Liberty of London prints) enchanting.

So did I.

I wasn't the only New Yorker who was excited to see Roach.  She and Megan go back even farther than she and I do, and played soccer together for years.  The three three of us spent a lovely, if chilly, afternoon together, first touring the Highline (twice in two weeks for me) with my godson, Bruno,

and then supping and drinking vino with my little friend, Margaret. 

The next day I made scones and we embarked on an ambitious walking tour of inner Brooklyn. I'd never realized how many churches and public schools are in my and the surrounding neighborhoods until Rochelle pointed it out.  It is kind of weird.  I mean, I know that we're population dense, but it almost seems as though I live in the middle of some sort of educational and religious breeding ground.  The walk ended at Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwichs, where we enjoyed spicy Bahn Mi with Sricha before scurrying back to mine to indulge in a little Jeni's Spledid Gravel Road Ice Cream. A sweet and salty end to a wonderful couple of weeks.

April 19, 2010

Too sweet to be sour, to nice to be mean

I made a couple of purchases the other day.

Totally accidental, I swear.

I bought the yarn Friday afternoon at the new Purl Soho store on Broom.  Their new space is beautiful and roomy, and while I wasn't intending to make a purchase, the Koigu was 40% off. And those pinks and yellows were begging to be paired with a solid and turned into a pair of striped socks.  I cannot wait.

I'd also had it in  my mind that I needed a pair of walking to work shoes, something cuter and zippier than my white New Balance, which give me a distinctly Working Girl vibe when paired with a work outfit, rather than  running shorts as intended.  So into store after store on lower Broadway we went, searching for something with the right vibe, and low and behold, we found them. The last pair, in my size, discounted by $110.  Yes, all that lovely for $29.99. They're loud and crazy and intergallactic and I love them.

So: pink and orange in full effect.  The heart wants what the heart wants.

On a discinctly less springy tip, I made this lovely a couple of weekends ago:

I started it the night that I returned from the mondo yarn swap and finished it the next day. The yarns are all worsteds and aran weights, so it wasn't too much work, but I did work pretty furiously.  I think it was a means of coping with the overwhelming amount of yarn I found myself staring at.  I wanted something that would eat up a few skeins immediately and make me feel as though I'd made a dent towards stash reduction.  I'd also been wanting to make a granny square inspired shawl for a long time, so this was kind of perfect.

Pattern: 106-40 Shawl by Drops/Garn Studio
Yarn: Misasol Miski, Ístex Plötulopi, GGH Bel Air and several others
Hook: 5.0mm/H

I'd estimate that this took me 6 hours total, so not too bad.  I wet blocked it, as I do with almost every thing I make, and it grew by about 10%.  The fabric is neither stiff nor flaccid, so I'm happy with the tension I used.  And it's the slightest but rough, but I don't mind.  A little texture makes it feel old-fashioned and traditional, which I like.  The colors put me in mind of both a cold Scandinavian winter morning, or a rainy Portland fall day. Cozy.

Speaking of Scandinavia, Iceland has been much in the news this week, so I thougt I would take this opportunity to remind you of what is probably that nation's most famous export.  More enjoyable than volcanic ash, that's for sure.

April 14, 2010

Let The Sun Shine In!

We had unusually warm weather last week in New York.

I enjoyed every minute of it.  Spring may be my favorite season, although it's got a strong competetor in fall.  A lot of people claim to like summer the best, but not me.  What I mean is that summer's nice, but it's obvious, and in some ways a little base.  As a season, it lacks subtlety.  Spring, on the other hand, is fresh, dramatic, a little unpredictable, yet you know how it wil end: warmly. 

One of the things that I particularly enjoy about Spring is that it affords me the opportunity to lunch outside again.  For most of the late fall and winter, I eat my lunch at my desk while cruising about on the Internet, so I feel absolutely liberated when it's nice enough for me to take my lunch and sit outside. 

A favorite spot of mine is the cemetery across the street from my office.  It's very old (Alexander Hamilton is buried there) and is set up more like a park than most American cemeteries.  It reminds me of a smaller version of Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen, where I once enjoyed a lunch of smorrebrod after visiting the grave of Hans Christian Anderson. There are paths to wander and lots of benches on which to rest, and while it's right on a busy street in lower Manhattan, it's really green and calming.

It makes me happy that it's so well utilized, by both New Yorkers and tourists alike.  The grounds keepers keep it up so well, and there are always different plants blooming and coming in to their own. Can you tell I'm a little in love?

In addition to eating and people-watching, I do a fair bit of knitting in the cemetery, including work on my most recent FO:

Pattern: Damson, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Okay Knits Sena & Muthoni
Needles: 3.75mm

I've got a little bit of a shawl thang goin' on.  I just counted, and this is the 12th one I've made since last May.  Wazzup?

(see bag of yarn purchased at Marias Garn in Stockholm last summer, lower left of photo.  Oh! That was some fun shopping)

Damson is the third project that I've made from Ysolda Teague's collection of patterns, Whimsical Little Knits 2, which means that purchase was officially a good investment.  One of the things that I liked about it was that it consisted primarily of garter stitch, making it a perfect project for subway riding and foreign film watching.  As with Ysolda's other patterns, it was clearly written and had both charted and written out instructions.  The mistakes that I made were entirely knitter's errors, and for once in my knittig career, I ripped back to fix them.  I decided I've been kitting for too long now to walk about in a garment with noticeable errors, and the yarn was sticky enough that I didn't have to worry about the entire thing unravelling on my.

And about the yarn: it was an unusual color choice for me, but I won it is a yarn swap and immediately felt very, VERY possessive of it.  Something about its speckled golden color made me happy (photo 1 is the most accurate representation of the color).  Easy to work with, Sena is 100% superwash merino that was soft while knitting, and it fuzzed up slightly and softened even more after blocking.  I'll most definitly buy more once I'm off this yarn diet.  Based on other people's Ravelry notes, I knew that I wouldn't have enough of the Sena to finish the shawl, so I worked the last three rows using Muthoni, another of Okay Knits hand-dyed yarns, that was leftover from my Spring Cable socks. I'm rather pleased with the result, if I do say so myself.

April 6, 2010

Recession Shopping

That's me, dressed like a milchmädchen and smiling like the village idiot.   But I've good reason to be so happy: all that brand-new-to-me yarn!

Last Saturday, Yarnydays organized a yarn swap for members of our knit/crochet group.  It might not sound like such a big deal, but it kind of was.  She's quite organized, and so it was quite organized, which made it both easy and fun. The general idea of a yarn swap is intuitive: bring yarn and leave with different yarn, but there's really a bit more to it than that.  I spent several days making piles of yarn to swap, then pulling yarn out of the pile because I thought I should keep it, then putting it back in the pile, reasoning that I'd had it for two years and it had yet to see any action, blah blah blah, so clearly I couldn't be that attached to it.  I later found out I wasn't the only one suffering from that back-and-forth anxiety.  It all worked out in the end, though.  See:

In fact, it was a little batshit insane.  We started the day with a delicious homemade Indian meal and some vino and then started swapping.  We were allowed to being whole and partial skeins, although partials had to be weighed so that yardage could be estimated and proper point values assigned (1 pt for $1-$5 dollar skeins, 2 pts for $5-$10 skeins, etc.). Clear and simple, so I would recommend the scheme to anyone contemplating a swap of any sort, but it involved a bit of advance work. 

Looking at and fingering all of the yarns, imagining how I might use them, was really exciting. Almost as exciting was seeing someone else fawn over one of my "discards".  It felt like "Oh, you have a new home with someone who will appreciate you more than I have.  Go forth and realize your potential!  Fly! FLY!!!

I juts went crazy  there.

Anyway, we drew names and took turns making our selections in rounds, so as to avoid the craziness that is the Barney's Warehouse Sale.  It was all very civilized. And fun.

When I got up on Sunday and came upstairs to make myself some coffee, I saw the pile of new yarn, I had a really unexpected reaction.  I felt a little depressed.  There was just so much yarn, an embarrassment of riches, really, and when combined with the rest of my stash, I was overwhelmed.  So, I sat down and sorted and bagged yarn for about 2 1/2 hours and hatched a plan that I knew would result in the immediate diminishment of my stash: I started crocheting an afghan.

The pattern is Ruby Hexagon by Novamade, and while I'm only 1/3 of the way finished, I can already tell it's going to make me very happy.