Friday, December 30, 2005

The End of 2005.

Kindergarten -- 1969 Posted by Picasa

I came across this photo while looking for another picture on my computer.

The memory that accompanies this photo is a precious one. My parents had separated and were in the process of a very bitter divorce and custody battle. My mom had moved out, and my dad was, I know now, struggling under the responsibilities of working full time and managing four boys -- one with special needs and another just starting kindergarten.

The day before picture day -- my first -- I was insistent that the only shirt I wanted to wear was the shirt in the picture. Unfortunately, the shirt was dirty, and this was before wash and wear fabrics -- it would need to be washed, dried, starched and ironed before I could wear it, and it wasn't likely to happen in time.

My brother Mark, who would love fore people to think he is a big, bad mofo, stayed up late washing and drying the shirt. He then rose early and ironed it. I can still feel the warm fabric slipping onto my arms and smell the fresh scent.

Mark is an incredible person. For more than a decade he cared for our father who had had several strokes. When our mother became ill, he and his wife went above and beyond the call of duty for her -- especially given the 35 years of distance in their relationship. Mark has a highly developed sense of duty and loyalty.

It might sound sappy, but in the New Year, I resolve to be more like Mark.

May 2006 be filled with Joy and Blessings.

And pudding. Pudding is good too. Joy, Blessings and pudding.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Holiday Knitting...Noshing... and other Noble Stuff.

I've been having quite a good time...more fun than any decent person deserves.

My firm showed their tremendous generosity in my bonus check this year, and with a portion of said bonus I bought myself a little toy...a 60gb iPod with video! (I've named it Baby!) I love it! I loved my iPod mini, but now I can not only download and watch every episode of Desperate Housewives, but, with the expanded memory, I no longer have to take something off of the mini so I can add something else!

I gave the mini to Myfanwe and Norbert -- Myfanwe will use it for working out, and Norbert is completely addicted to it already.

I am appreciating Brenda Dayne's Cast On podcast more and more with each new episode. She has great taste in music, and, having listened to every other knitting podcast out there, I feel like hers is the perfect one for me. Listening to her latest episode on Christmas Eve, I was pleased to hear that in the new year she plans to publish weekly instead of every other week! It was like getting a Chanukah present early!

Over the long holiday weekend I spent a little time knitting a sweater for Baby...well, I actually knit two, but the first one didn't fit. That wasn't much of a fits a mini perfectly. I'll put the pattern on-line sometime soon.

On Christmas Day we did what many American Jews do on Christmas -- we had Chinese food and a movie. But we did it a little differently this year. Myfanwe and I chaired an activity at our synagogue with a choice of 4 movies, then we all had Chinese food after, followed by the lighting of the Chanukiot and the eating of sufganyot – traditional fried donuts filled with sweet jelly. The event was a huge success -- we had 25% more people than reservations! But we made the food stretch and everyone had a great time.

I got a wonderful gift from Norbert for Chanukah -- Mangoes & Curry Leaves : Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid, which contains recipes and stories of food from the Indian sub-continent. Alford and Duguid wrote my all-time favorite cookbook -- Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet -- which is takes readers (and cooks) on a Southeast Asian adventure of epic proportions. I can't wait to get a chance to really crawl into this book and start cooking.

I ordered the yarn and the pattern for a wrap which I am going to knit as a donation to the silent auction held at my son's school at their annual fund-raising dinner. The design is from Wrap Style by Pam Allen and Ann Budd. I'm going to knit it in a worsted weight natural (undyed) wool...I think the natural, irregular cream color of the natural wool will be beautifully accented by the asymmetrical shaping of the wrap. I checked out the pattern at Border's Books before ordering it (on sale) from, and I will admit that finishing -- never my strong suit in knitting -- is key to proper shaping. I may need to bring in professional help!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Holiday Monday Night Stitch 'n Bitch

I was not at my hosting best. I had been away Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Wisconsin, attending our Congregational retreat. Great fun. And Norbert impressed me so...he lead the congregation in the Ashrei, not a small feat for a reserved 8-year old! I'm so proud!

OK -- so back to the SnB. We rushed home from work, I made a quick pot of tom yum soup for dinner, then raced around to set things up. I quickly discovered the big package of Trader Joe's Bay Blend Decaf had gone a.w.o.l. -- I still haven't found it -- so I only had tea to serve my guests.

I had, before going to bed Sunday night, thrown together a batch of mincemeat bar cookies -- most delectable -- so I had that to share. Everyone else brought things to eat as well, so nobody died of hunger.

We ate a lot, we knit a lot, and we laughed more than anything! Everyone was in a good mood, and we didn't have to be quiet, as we normally would at Border's Cafe.

We listened to Franklin Habit's contribution to the Cast-On podcast, which resonated with many of us.

My friends who do not knit do not understand how social an activity knitting is -- or how much fun people can have talking about knitting.

If the true meaning of Christmas is that of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, we did our part to make peace in Hyde Park. That has to count for something. Of course, I'm Jewish, so it probably doesn't count. But it feels good nonetheless.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hyacinths to Feed the Soul

I finished the scarf I have been knitting for my nephew, Sean. I breathed a sigh of relief -- it took a very, very long time. (At least it was a long time for me -- two weeks.) Sean is one of my favorite people, so it was totally worth it. Worsted weight on size 7 needles. Nice and dense with garter stitch panels which make it nice and warm and an open-braid cable for show.

I immediately started a Mobius scarf for my sister-in-law, Laurie, who teaches high school chemistry and physics. She'll get a kick out of showing it to her students. I wanted to knit the scarf using a provisional cast on so that I could graft the ends together, but no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many times I viewed the video, I couldn't get it. So I cast on with my regular knit-on cast and I will graft the ends together when I am done.

Laurie's Mobius has a reversible pattern, so the twist won't be too obvious, and it is knit in more of the Wool of the Andes Peruvian wool from -- in Hyacinth. I love the name of the color because my mother, z"l, always used to recite the following poem:

If of thy mortal good thou art bereft
And of thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Words to live by, without a doubt. And for me, my hyacinths come in skeins!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Knitting Weather

We are currently smack-dab in the middle of my favorite season -- winter in Chicago. Last week we had a significant snow storm, followed by some serious cold. Wonderful weather for puttin' on the flannel jammies, slipping the feet into fleece-lined slippers, ploppin' down in an overstuffed chair with a pot of tea, a bit of chocolate, something interesting on the iPod, and knitting the evening away.

If asked to describe life in heaven, I think that would be it. Except that in heaven I am buff and don't have to worry about the price of yarn!

I have been listening quite a bit to knitting podcasts as I work furriously on my last-minute projects. I am quite fond of Brenda Dayne's Cast-On, which is both informative, entertaining, and relaxing. A native of the U.S, but a resident of Wales, her wistful piece on Thanksgiving in Wales is reminiscent of Truman Capote and Bailey White. Brenda's third episode included an essay by a Chicago knitter, Franklin Habit, which was very well written and wickedly funny. (And I loved hearing another man talk about knitting! I hope to meet him someday!)

This coming weekend Norbert and I are going to Wisconsin for out synagogue's annual Congregational Retreat, which is held at OSRUI, the Reform Jewish camp. He is over-the-moon excited about it, I less so. Myfanwe is not going with us -- she's going to stay home with the puppy and get some work done. She has never enjoyed the retreats as much as Norbert and I do, but I will miss her. Oh well.

I'm taking a braided-cable scarf in grey Peruvian wool to finish, and probably enough of the grey to start a matching hat -- gifts for my nephew. In the wings I have 1000 yards of black wool for a scarf and hat for me, and 800 yards or so of a rich royal blue for a Mobius scarf for my sister-in-law. Plenty to keep me busy for a few weeks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's A Girl!

And her name is Mitzi!

The newest addition to our family is a lovely 8-month-old dachshund mix -- mixed with what, we don't know. She is a sweet-natured little girl, a bit on the timid side, but really, really loving. We got her from a family where the 3-year-old had severe alergies to the dog. I fear that she hadn't gotten very much affection from her first family, because she seems a bit afraid when people pet her. When people pet her, she cowers and urinates a little to show she is submissive. I hope very much that we can show her enough love that she can get past her early months.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Here a Bitch! There a Bitch! Everywhere a Stitch-n-Bitch!

I haven't written anything since Sukkot -- mostly because I'm a bit intimidated by the whole blog thing. Every time I think about writing, I question whether what I have to say is worth being written down. It occurs to me, however, that if I only write "worthy" material, I'll never post. ANd I don't think this blog should be accompanied by guilt. Consequently, I will write and post when I damn well feel like it -- and I don't expect it to contain anything profound or noteworthy.

I was reading the Chicago Tribune last week and happened on to an article about how popular knitting is. It mentioned two things of interest to me: a new knit shop in the South Loop named Loopy Yarns and a reference to Stitch-n-Bitch Chicago, which connects people to knitting groups in their area.

I only had a few minutes on Saturday to stop in at Loopy Yarns, but I was there long enough to make theses observations:

When they say "One of our goals is to be the friendliest and most helpful yarn store you've ever been in" -- they really, really mean it. I think every female knitter I know has a story about yarn shops which offer begrudging service or rudeness to their customers. I find that it is even worse for me. But Loopy was a different experience altogether.

The store is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. They have a nice assortment of fibers. Everything has a clearly marked price. There are several comfortable places to sit and knit -- and Shirl, who assisted me with my purchase -- was quick to invite me in to knit with them.

They obviously want to make the shop convenient for the customer! (Now there's a concept!) Their hours probably vary a bit too much -- they might prove to be confusing -- but here they are:

Monday 11:30 am to 6:00 pm
Tuesday 11:30 am to 8:00 pm
Closed Wednesday
Thursday 11:30 am to 7:00 pm
Friday 11:30 am to 9:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Sunday 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Staying open 'til 8:00 one night and 9:00 another really makes it accessible to working people.

Last night I attended the Hyde Park Stitch-n-Bitch, which was a lot of fun. We met in the cafe of a bookstore and knit and talked and laughed for three hours. I was the only guy there -- no surprise -- and the women were welcoming, funny, and gracious. I enjoyed it very much. My only complaint was with the coffee -- not very good at all.

I'm currently working on a garnet colored cabled scarf for my sister-in-law. It is very pretty, and a welcome break from the tedious knitting in the round for the three Gryffindor scarves I made. Note to self: I still need to block and fringe the scarves if we want to wear them to "Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire" on Friday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I really, really want a donut right now.

I really would bite the head off of a live librarian for a glazed chocolate cake donut right this minute.

There -- that is off my chest. I learned in therapy that it is important to acknowledge how you are feeling. Some things are productive and others are not, but it is constructive to take ownership of your feelings and not to live in denial. There. You have it. I would canabalize a low-level civil servant (in a circus show, if need be) for a sweet and cakey chocolate pastry.

We had a very pleasant dinner in our sukkah for the first night of the festival. We had Norbert's classmate, Lena, and her family over. I served roasted salmon, rice, haricot verts, and a salad, with decaf and a cheesecake for dessert. We had a fire in the fireplace, which was a nice addition to the sukkah this year.

Tonight we will host Norbert's trombone teacher, Liz, and her partner, Melanie. Liz is a vegetarian, so I am making a 7 Treasures tagine with squash, sweet potato, green beans, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and carrots -- spicey and slow cooked, served with couscous.

Sukkot is one of my favorite of the Jewish holidays. Eight days spent entertaining and "living" in an outdoor shelter, lots of friends, lots of eating. I'll admit, it is a lot of work, but it is also peaceful and welcoming. One day of the festival we will host an "Open Sukkah" -- part of the Hyde Park Sukkah Hop. So we'll have lots and lots of people.

I still want a damn donut.

Monday, October 17, 2005

No Rest for the Wicked

It seems that, the older I get, the faster time flies, yet I must try to cram more and more into less and less time.

This weekend started peacefully enough -- we enjoyed a peaceful Shabbat dinner together: Yakitori (chicken maninated in rice vinegar and garlic, then grilled and brushed with a wonderful yakitori sauce I bought at Mitsuwa with my nephew, Sean, and his partner, Lilly) served with brown rice and cabbage stir-fried with green onion, garlic, and hot peppers. Desert was individual sweet kugels. After dinner we sat in the living room and listened to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the iPod. I continued work on the Gryffindor scarf I am knitting for Myfanwe.

Saturday morning I took the Element in to have a tire repaired. Or so I thought. Turns out the tire with the slow leak had an irreperable puncture and, because of my own stupidity, the it's companinon on the rear axel also needed to be replaced because I drove on it with a low tire. Crap.

After the tire shop, I stopped in Chinatown and picked up some of my favorite smoked chicken livers from BBQ King, as well as some smoked chicken leg quarters. I love the livers -- they are velvety, smoky, sweet.

I returned home and, after lunch and a bit of knitting, took Myfanwe to work and Norbert and I went to see Wallace & Gromit. Afterwards, the three of us ran to Target. Then home. Dinner was udon in broth with scallions, shredded cabbage and shredded smoked chicken. I was going to garnish by crisping the skin from the chicken and then shredding it. I put the skin under the broiler, but then forgot about it until it was nothing but carbon, so that didn't happen.

Sunday morning Myfanwe & I brought all of the pieces of the sukkah out of the basement, and at 11:oo Lil' Myfanwe (a.k.a. Wetzelwoman) arrived with her power tools and helped up put it up. Nothing was very strenuous, but my back is killing me today. After Wetzelwoman left, Myfanwe, Norbert & I ran up to Trader Joes on the North side for our favorite coffee, which they didn't have, and other various and sundry edibles. Then back home for dinner -- leftovers -- and knitting during The West Wing.

I imagine Myfanwe will be inconsolable when it sinks in that Toby was the leak and will have to leave the West Wing.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Beginnings are Important

It strikes me that beginnings are every bit as important as endings, and thought should be put into how you wish to begin anything of importance.

This blog, however, commences without the briefest thought to how it should begin. Oh well, like many a good love affair, it just happened.