Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I'm now thinking that my first expedition into the outside world should not have been a Target After-Christmas sale. I started coughing about 20 feet inside the door, and after about 5 minutes Myfanwe thought I was going to pass out.
Then, while Norbert, Myfanwe, and I were standing in the check-out lane, we witnessed a woman about 10 lanes from us beating a little girl with a belt. The little girl was screaming and fell to the floor, where the woman commenced kicking her. People actually looked away, as if it witnessing this crime were embarrassing rather than mortifying.
No one sprang to the girl's defense.
I called 911, but the woman left the store before police got there.
And I can't help but think that if that woman had put an eighty-five cent candy bar into her pocket, Target would have called the police. Do you think they have a policy not to intervene when someone beats their child with a belt and kicks them in the abdomen?
Somewhere there is a little girl whose mother beats her and kicks her. I can't do anything for her. And this realization makes me crazy.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
My Grandmother, may she rest in peace, always said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, come sit by me."
When I received a pre-publication copy of Michael del Vecchio's Knitting With Balls: a hands-on guide to knitting for the Modern Man, I was prepared to love it. I'm a guy, I'm (fairly) modern, and I live to knit. So I fixed a tea tray, changed into my comfy jammies, and plopped myself in an overstuffed chair to read.
After three months of looking for good things to say, I still haven't come up with one. So I'm just going to have to go with the truth.
First, there is the title. I'm not a prude, but I think the title is course. Yes, it is clever -- hands-on balls and all -- but it is also vulgar.
Next, the cover illustration has to be addressed. The well-composed photo of a man's torso in a crew-neck sweater, needles and yarn clenched in each manly hand. The problem? The crew-necked sweater on the cover is not in the book! Really! Well, ok, it is, but for the cover photo the model is wearing it backwards. BACKWARDS! I couldn't make this up! The pattern in the book [With the manly name of Bootcut Sweater] has a plunging neckline that would make Elvira blush.
And once you open the cover, it's straight downhill.
I really don't have the patience to outline every ill-conceived or poorly-written pattern -- there are just too many of them -- so I'm just going to give you the highlights.
The first pattern in the book is for a Knit Wallet & Business Card Holder knit in bulky chenille yarn. I've had backpacks that weren't this thick. I don't want to think how it would feel in my back pocket. I'm pretty sure it would leave a divot in my ass.
The Chu'llu Hat and Scarf. An attractive green diamond brocade patterned scarf with coordinating hat (with an unfortunate long flap in the back), both with an absolutely awful key motif in white and black which has absolutely no relationship to the rest of the pattern and looks like an afterthought. The result is abysmal.Medallion Mitts. Cabled fingerless gauntlets knit in variegated merino in shades of electric blue, lime green, and chartreuse. I am not a fan of variegated yarns, even when they are used well. And it seems like Mr. del Vecchio has never met a variegated yarn he didn't try to wrestle into submission. He is not, for the most part, successful.
The Casual Fridays Vest is actually attractive. I would have knit it in black instead of slate blue, but that is a matter of taste. The proportions are nice, the stitch pattern gives interest without being fussy. But there is absolutely nothing casual about this vest. It is the most formal piece in the book.
Now we come to one of the most problematic patterns in the book. The Hooded Alpaca Parka. Notice the light shining through the hood. Oh, and the thumb-ie things, which I am sure are very athletic and butch. Honestly -- I can't for the life of me, imagine who would wear a gold lacy hoody.
Oh, wait. I know:
Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, I turned the page to see the Knee-Length Coat.
As advertised, it is a knee-length car-coat, the body of which is knit in four panels with an all-over cable pattern knit in Noro Ino. Had this been knit in a solid color, this would have been an entirely different sweater -- not necessarilly attractive, mind you, but different. As it is, it looks like the Noro rep gacked up a giant hairball.
I'm too tired to write about the Home Accessories chapter of the book. Suffice it to say I am not going to be knitting any beer bottle cozies. I also can't comment on the Utility Cloth... this is a family blog, for Dog's sake. You'll have to look through the book and see it for yourself.I guess my deepest disappointment about this book is that it wastes the opportunity to discuss the differences between designing knitwear for men and to seriously set forth designs that were both tasteful and wearable. This is a pity. I hope that there is someone out there who can write such a book, because there are men and women would benefit from reading it.
It is possible to write both "cool" books about knitting that are both tasteful and attract the younger generation. Debbie Stoller and Stephanie Pearl McPhee have managed more than one each.
This isn't technically MY recipe. It was given to me about 10 years ago by my friend Kate, a.k.a. Monkeyballs. I tinkered with it a little, but not much. She knows a good cookie when she sees one.
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300°.
- In a bowl set over simmering water, combine chocolate and butter. Stir often until melted and smooth. Remove from over the hot water and allow to cool slightly. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the walnuts and stir just until combined. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Shape into balls using a small scoop or tablespoon. Roll each ball in confectioners’ sugar and place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake for 18 to 21 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing carefully to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container with waxed paper between layers.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Ready to pack up and send to my nephew and his fiance. I decided on cables for them because they are making plans to intertwine their lives and families. (His fiance, the Viking Lily, is a wonderful addition to the family and everyone loves her to bits!)
Also finished are a lovely green scarf for my brother from Irish tweed my brother brought me from Ireland and a felted bucket hat for my Sister-in-Law. I will post pics once the scarf is washed. (It's a little scratchy -- I'm hoping a soak with a little fabric softener will help.)
I still need to finish a felted handbag for one niece, a long silk decorative scarf for my niece in Thailand, and a cabled hat (from the remaining tweed) for my other nephew. Oh, and Norbert wants a cabled hat as well.
Oops -- I almost forgot to show off the wee giftie I bought myself! It is the perfect knitting bag...very sturdy fabric, washable, and the draw-string closure at the top keeps your yarn from jumping ship, but doesn't catch or cut the yarn the way zippers can! The bag is part of an environmentally and politically "a-wear" line from InSolidariTee Inc. I bought it at a Hanukah fair at my synagogue. I don't see this particular bag on the website, but I bet you can e-mail and ask. ( I would also love a black bag with a simple Om on it...wouldn't that be cool?) Anyway, check out the site. If you don't like pinko-commie-tree-huggin'-hippie-buddah-lovin'-liberal-crap, then don't bother. But then again, if you didn't like pinko-commie-tree-huggin'-hippie-buddah-lovin'-liberal-crap, you probably wouldn't be reading this blog. So Peace Out, my Brothers and Sisters.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
After services at synagogue this morning we came home, took a wee nappie, then hied ourselves to Target to battle the holiday hoards. You see, Daddy needed a new digital camera. One that actually took pictures.
After Target we drove to Chinatown, where we had a pleasant meal at The Noodle. The bones of said meal can be seen below, utilizing the camera's sepia setting.
The bakery found us back in color, ordering three different kinds of coconut bun. I think the woman who waited on us was thinking "Damn! Who would have thought while people liked coconut so much!" We do. And, given their beauty, who wouldn't?
Friday, November 10, 2006
Mac for a Mob
5 pounds macaroni, uncooked. (I use a mix of rotini, farfalle, and radiatori, but elbow macaroni
will work just fine.
1 3/4 pound (7 sticks) butter
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 ½ gallon whole milk, heated almost to the boil
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 ½ pounds grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 large bag potato chips (or more -- you can always eat the rest, right?)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two full-size aluminum hotel pans and set aside.
Cook macaroni in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water to al dente as directed on the pasta packaging. Drain, rinse, and drain again thoroughly. Divide between 2 prepared pans.
In a large pot, melt 1 ½ pound (six sticks) butter. Add the flour and salt and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the curry, mustard, cayenne, and pepper and stir for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add the Worcestershire sauce and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and let the sauce cook at a slow boil for 3 minutes to fully cook out the starchy taste of the flour. Taste for seasonings.
Add 3 pounds of shredded cheddar. Stir until cheese is melted and incorporated. Pour half over each pan of pasta, stirring to make sure pasta is throughly coated. Don’t worry if the sauce seems thin. It will thicken.
Melt remaining stick of butter. Sprinkle each pan with 1/4 pound shredded cheddar. Crush the potato chips and sprinkle generously over the top. Drizzle each tray with half of the butter. Sprinkle with paprika to garnish. Bake at for 45 minutes until heated through.
Note: I often make this up all the way up to sprinkling on the extra cheese on top, then refrigerate or freeze. When I am ready to bake it off I top the (defrosted) mac and cheese with the potatoe chips and butter and bake in the oven. From a refrigerated state it will take at least an hour, maybe even 1 1/2 hours to heat.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
(I hope Dolores liked the Coward reference!) Anyway -- MARVELOUS party! A party which will be talked about for some time to come!
The occasion? Franklin's Knit In to benefit the Dulaan project! And everybody who is anybody was there! (Except for Kwiky, who had to work selling yarn, poor dear.)
Anyway, in addition to my beloved Dolores, there were scads of people...approaching 1oo..knitting and laughing and eating and talking and eating and knitting and laughing and eating!
Jonathon & Meg brought a pumpkin cake with yummy icing. J&M: Norbert asked me to ask for your recipe...he'd very much like me to make it for him. (High praise.)
Majors Domo for the day were Buzz KnitNot and Sean. (Sean, who manages a lovely yarnshop in Boston, came out for the weekend! Now that is a great friend!) My lovely Myfanwe worked keeping the kitchen and dining room running smoothly and looking good. (Patting myself on the back, my huge tray of mac and cheese was all gone after only an hour!!) Norbert accompanied us, making him the youngest knitter there!
Norbert won Franklin's "Sheep on a Plane" drawing in the door prizes...we are shopping later today for a frame so we can hang it in his room! I won alovely handmade shawl pin, which means I probably have to start work on another lace shawl to go with it!
Bonne Marie of ChicKnits was there -- we got to sit and talk about her patterns and her website. I like her site because I can download a pattern for like a very reasonable (small) price, I don't have to pay tax, shipping, handling, and I don't have to wait a week for it to be delivered. (And, since I loose things very easilly, I always -- first thing -- e-mail the pattern to my personal computer where the pattern resides in archive but from which I can pull it up and whenever I want.
When I wasn't eating or knitting, I was talking...having an absolutely great time! Such nice friends Franklin has!
Karen, a very thorough blog reader, was there -- despite having to negotiate a neck brace! And she donated 10 balls of CashMerino to the door prizes! Now THAT's generosity!?
I want to do a special shout out to Amandacellist! Hey! Amanda (wink, wink) lives in Printers Row with her husband. She has a great sense of humor, and except for her trapsing off into tech geek speak with a few others for a few minutes, there is little she said that didn't have me laughing! (I think her first conversation with Jonathon will go down in knit-in history as the equivalent of "Who's on First". And Meg stepped in to end it with the polite equivalent of "Please don't mind him...he's special." My sides still hurt from laughing.
I was working (and ripping...and working..and ripping) my second Baby Surprise Sweater for the Dulaan project. The pattern is Elizabeth Zimmerman's, which I am knitting in a claret colored Lamb's Pride worsted weight. It is knit in one piece and, for the majority of the process just looks like a placenta strung on needles. I could not, for the life of me, understand how the pattern worked and how it could ever actually become a sweater. I had a love/hate relationship with the pattern for the first three quarters of the way through...it was both an adventure and an exercize in self doubt...but when I finally just let go and just knit, without needing to control it and without allowing myself to doubt it, I had an epiphanal moment and viola! There it was -- a baby sweater! Pictures later when the finishing is complete.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
First, I am still a bit disabled. The booboo finger turned out to be a fracture right by where a ligament attaches. It's going to be slow healing...at least another 4 weeks. And I'm not able to knit at all -- at least not for a couple of weeks. Arrgh! (But when I do return to knitting, I'm planning to finish Socky and to start a Baby Surprise Sweater for the Dulaan project.) Do you have any idea how much you use your index finger when you knit? I didn't.
Secondly, I'm been swamped at work. High stress, lots of pressure, and when I leave the office, the last thing I'm thinking about is tapping at a keyboard. (Don't for a second take this as a complaint about my job. I am the luckiest guy in America. My boss is first rate. I'd crawl through broken glass for the man.)
Thirdly, we are only 1/3 through the Jewish High Holidays...or at least we will be after Yom Kippur, which starts at sundown. "Now how can that be an excuse?" someone out there is asking. And the answer would be because the dominant Christian culture makes countless accommodations automatically for the Christian holidays. Off at noon on Good Friday, off early on Christmas Eve, always off on Christmas, and an almost empty office for the week after Christmas. But nobody would ever contemplate closing early on Eruv Rosh Hashanah, let alone Sukkot or Simchat Torah. And I have to use vacation time for my holidays. I'd love to see the look on my smarmy, smug, fat-ass co-worker who always acts like taking time off for the High Holidays is some kind of perk I don't deserve yet have somehow managed to slip by the partners if she suddenly had to take vacation time to get Christmas off. I'd like to see HER -- the woman who Christmas shops for a month -- leave the office at 5:00 and have a holiday dinner on the table at 6:00 and be finished in time to be at shul by the time services start at 8:00. Bitch.
I'd really better change the subject before I say something about her I'll need to atone for.
THE BENEFITS OF BLOGGING
So SARAHHB! What a woman! What a GENEROUS woman. What a SEWING generous woman!
Everybody, this is the bag Sarah made for me and for Socky.
Bag, meet Everybody.
I think everyone knows Socky already.
And guess what! It's reversible! Sarah -- thank you. Thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart. I can't wait to get knitting again. Socky is already comfortably ensconced and awaiting my return!
GARAGE SALE FINDS
1) Nifty folk-art planter with a naked screaming bearded man. $2.00. Looks a lot like my old Rabbi, Doug, except that my Rabbi wore clothes and didn't scream. Since I couldn't keep a plant alive if you paid me, I've put this to use by the kitchen sink to hold all the things I never know what to do with. (I mean, wher DO you put the aquarium net?)
Thai Bird Angel sculpture. Free! (It was a friend's garage sale...she insisted I take it.) I love it.
3) A large, heavy, solid wood cutting board. $5.00. And a bargain at that. This thing will last me the rest of my life. I'll pass it on to grandchildren. I can imagine my family gathered around my deathbed, arguing about who gets this cutting board. (If they don't watch out, I'm going to leave it to charity...the ungrateful bastards.) For perspective, the marble slab in the foreground is 1 inch thick.
I hope to have more interesting stuff to report next time. Keep your fingers crossed for the finger.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Julie and I exchanged e-mails today. She is happilly employed doing what she loves -- working in a yarn shop and teaching people to knit! (I'm not saying which yarn shop, since I didn't ask her permission.) Best news, though, is that she's coming to Chicago at the end of October and I am going to make good on my promise of a Moroccan feast! (I'm thinking couscous with a lamb tagine! My Moroccan carrots. Olives. Homemade pita. And I don't know what for dessert. With tea.)
E-mailing felt just like the old days when we would talk and talk and talk. And laugh. Myfanwe's going to laugh at us...again... 'cuz it's just like old times.
Oh, happy day.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Imagine my happiness, shock, and tears when this morning these words appeared in the comments to a blog entry from last February:
"Aidan! It's me! Julie! Julie Pack. The one and only. (not the other 51) No, not the cattle roping Julie Pack. No, I would never do those things... but you might be surprised at what I AM doing... I've missed you too!! You have a son??!! Let's catch up! How do I get ahold of you? This is crazy- I thought of you also and wondered what you are up to... I feel very lucky to have found your blog! I'm trying to think of a way to contact you, I don't have any of your info... I'll keep watching your blog for an update! I love you! I'm hearing Tchaikovsky themes in slow motion right now! What a day this has been for me. The planets are really linin' up big time!"
I am so very, very happy. I can't find words. Except possibly...
JULIE: aidanknits AT gmail.com. (You probably know the spam-bustin' score -- replace AT with @) E-mail me RIGHT NOW!
Today is going to be a great day.
And to those of you out there -- Brenda Dayne not the least among them -- who assisted me in my search, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
I've tried knitting. I can knit about a row of my lace or two rows of a sock before my finger starts hurting. I'm supposed to keep it taped to the next finger to give it support and protection, and when I do that, knitting is slow and tedious. I'm going to see an orthopedic physician who specializes in hands in about 10 days. He's supposed to be the best in the world, so I'm sure he'll get things in order. Until then I'm doing more or less what he told me to do...buddy tape, regular ice packs, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
In the absence of knitting to help maintain my sanity, I've been making more sausage. Today I put up 6 pounds of chicken sausage with chipotle pepper, cilantro, and dried cranberries. Delicious! Norbert helped my by cranking the grinder/stuffer, and it really turned out to be the best job I've achieved to date. Not overstuffed so that it bursts, yet firm enough to hold its shape and have a nice firm texture. What you see in the picture is approximately 5 pounds -- we had a little bit for lunch -- which I have frozen in anticipation of a trip to my brother's in a couple of weeks. I figure a fry-up is a nice treat.
Isn't this pretty? I saw these toadstools growing outside Norbert's school. They were so beautiful, I had to snap a pic.
Myfanwe has found the easiest route to getting me to do a little extra around the house. Bribery. She made a deal that if I cleaned out and organized the family room closet, she'd take us out for Korean. The closet is clean, and there are fried mandoo in my future.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I just can't. Every time I hear the name or see a picture of Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad I start to hear Patsy Cline singing "Crazy" in my head. Over and over. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes I hum along. Sometimes I sing backup.
By the end of Mike Wallace's 60 Minutes interview I was doing a full-fledged drag number in the family room, complete with choreography. (Does anyone have any size 12 white cowboy/gogo boots I could borrow?)
Wond'ring what in the world did I do?
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you,
I'm crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I'm crazy for loving you.
Do you think they make medicine for this?
Sunday, August 27, 2006
When we got back from New York I wanted to try to make a nobblewurst sausage like that they serve at Katz's on 2nd Avenue -- full of garlic, moist, full-flavored beef.
So I made a nice beef sausage, using a moderate amount of suet, plenty of chuck I ground coursely with the fat, cayenne, curing salts, lots of black pepper, and a whole head of garlic. I'm still not good at the stuffing and twisting part, but it all tastes good.
I let the sausage mature at room temperature (cool -- in front of the air conditioner) for 3 days, then moved it to the refrigerator. I think this might have a different effect in winter, when the room can be cool but more humid. The air conditioner drys out the casing, which I think makes a difference. If I have to do it again in the summer, I'll probably mist the sausages down once a day.
Anyway, Friday evening I poached the sausage, then crisped it on the grill and served it with the best sauerkraut I've ever had. I made the saurekraut Julia Child's way -- soaked it in water, squeezed it dry, sauted some onions, carrot, and (beef) bacon in oil, then added the saurkraut and chicken broth au fleur -- until almost covered -- and let it braise for a couple of hours. Man, it was good. I served it for my friends Ben and Nancy and their two boys.
Today we were at Costco, and I was looking at the chicken sausage, which is delicious, but is $13.85 for 3 pounds. Right across the aisle was boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, 6 pounds for $15. So I decided to make my own.
When we got home I put up a small (2 pound) batch of chicken and apple sausage, trying out a trick I had picked up using ice cubes to keep the sausage moise instead of additional fat. Not only is it beautiful, but it was among the best sausage I've ever had. (Tho you can see the unfortunate air bubbles. Oi!) It was so good, I decided to makie it for Rosh Hashanah dinner. (The apple thing makes it work.) I'm thinking with a gratin of vegetable maybe and a waldorf salad? Suggestions, anyone?
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
LET'S START AT THE VERY BEGINNING...
We flew to New York towards the end of the most restrictive of the new carry-on guidelines, so we were well prepared and had absolutely no problem getting through securityin a timely manner. Of course it was 5:30 in the blessed morning, so there weren't any people around.
So -- uneventful flight, arrive in Newark, AirTrain, New Jersey Transit, and Boom! We are in Penn Station. The cab ride ($15 with generous tip -- oh, I feel just like Andy Warhol) to the hotel was a bit slow because of noontime traffic and because the cabbie took 44th St. instead of taking 42nd to 1st...anyway, we got there, checked our bags, and dove right into our first day in New York. Unfortunately, we did it sans camera, as I had forgotten to retrieve it from a bag we left at the hotel.
Even without the camera, though, we still had a great time. We had a slice of NY pizza at Pizza Rustica, a block from the hotel, then walked to the NY Public Library, which isn't, we found out, open on Mondays. We went down to the Empire State Building, then to Habu Textiles, which had been one of the top things I wanted to do.
I've got to say, Habu was a major disappointment. I had apartments in New York that were bigger, and I lived in studios. The yarn was hung on rods in a sort of walk-in closet (maybe walk-thru is better?) and I seriously had a bit of claustraphobia set in. And their yarn just didn't feel as softr and luxurious as I had expected. The bamboo and silk yarns all felt a bit like butcher's twine to me. Oh -- and the teensy-tinesy showroom was hot...something I can't excuse. Myfanwe and Norbert ended up laying down in the hallway outside the shop. There was a lovely group of women visiting from California who were shopping at the same time as I was -- they were so nice to refill our water bottle in the ladies' room for me-- and they didn't buy any yarn either.
I'm sure I am forgetting something, but the next thing I know, we are back at the hotel.
So -- our hotel was located directly across the street from the United Nations. Which, if I might remind you, was still up to its ears in the situation in Southern Lebanon. There were a lot more people booked in the hotel than they expected, methinks,because they couldn't give us the kind of room we booked. It was, actually, significantly different. Smaller. Without a kitchen. And the A/C running full-tilt didn't get the temp below 72 degrees...and, being the hottest man in America, I sweat more in the hotel room than I did in outside in the sun. I didn't sleep well at all.
(They did, eventually, move a refrigerator into the room, which increased the liveability for us. But they never could get the A/C running so that I was comfortable.)
Anyway -- we do the pool bit and showers and hop onto the 2nd Ave. bus, headed to the B&H Dairy, one of my favorite restaurants from my days in New York. The B&H is a little...and I do mean LITTLE kosher dairy restaurant with cabbage soup that is out of this world! I had the spinach blintzes and cabbage soup, Myfanwe had a whitefish salad sandwich on challah and cabbage soup, and Norbert had the macaroni and cheese and gazpacho. Oh -- and I splurged and had an egg cream. Divine! Dessert was obtained from the (unfriendly) kosher bakery two doors down from the B&H. As far as I was concerned, we could go home that night...I done what I came for!
After diner we walked a bit around the east village, then hopped on the 1st Ave. bus, which dropped us off in front of the United Nations. Nothing makes you feel safer than getting off the bus in front of well armed, well trained guards.
Stardate Tuesday, August 20
Up and at 'em bright and early -- ok, we were bright, but the skyline was not. At least not yet. We got our only rain of the trip, and it was while we were still in our jammies.
We ate quickly -- yummy cheese danishes from the unfriendly bakery -- then hopped on the 2nd Ave. bus to the end of the line at Battery Park where we stood in line, went thru security, then got on a ferry to Libery Island where we stood in a line to stand in a line to go through even more and more stringent security to stand in a line to get into the museum. Oi. Norbert loved it, tho. (He says Liberty and Ellis Islands were the highpoint of the trip for him.)
To be perfectly honest, while it was cool to see the replica of Lady Liberty's big toe, it wasn't really worth the cost and the wait. I would have been happier taking the Staten Island Ferry for the view and saving $40 or so.
Ellis Island was, at least to me, much more interesting. I ws taken by the beautiful architecture and moved by the stories of people who had entered America through this awesome portal. (My favorite quote, from a film at Ellis Island, was an old Jewish man saying "And the white bread they were having in America, it was like cake already." Oh, my, I love that.)
I was saddened, though, by the condition of the majority of buildings at Ellis Island. One would think our government would be able to put them to good use.
As you can imagine, we were pretty tired after all those lines...oops, I mean after so much activity, so after swimming and showers at the hotel we ate at The Oriental Noodle Shop on 45th near Lexington, which is my friend Joel's favorite noodle shop. Norbert ordered chicken lo mien, Myfanwe ordered a green bean and beef dish, and I ordered the crispy beef. It turned out rather peculiarly, in that I liked Myfanwe's dish better than my own, Myfanwe liked Norbert's more than hers, and Norbert liked mine more than his lo mien. But in the end we were all happy.
Since I've already blogged most of Wednesday for you, next time I will pick up with Wednesday dinner. Until then, peace out.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
But a few things must be put down while they are fresh.
While in Boro Park completing the multi-year quest of finding oval challah pans...don't ask...we had lunch at an (un-airconditioned) Israeli restaurant on 13th Avenue called Amnon. We didn't find many of the people to be friendly. To be honest, with only one exception I found the people in Boro Park to be rude, condescending, and dismissive. But there was an exception.
This is Bronia.
Bronia -- I won't use her last name -- approached our table and spent a very pleasant few minutes in conversation with us. She wanted to make sure we felt welcome -- it was pretty obvious we were outsiders -- and to tell us about the Museum of Jewish Heritage, at which she volunteers.
Bronia is originally from Galicia, in Poland. She was born about 20 miles from the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Her parents were exterminated there. So were her mother's 10 siblings.
Bronia and her sisters were sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis when Bronia was only 8 years old. She was originally chosen for immediate extermination in the gas chambers, but snuck into the line her sister was in and began 4 years as a slave laborer. She exited the camps at the age of 12 when the camps were liberated. Only she survived.
Bronia made the infamous Death March from Auschwitz through the snow, pushed onward by the Nazis, who shot anyone who stumbled or slowed. She walked past bodies of people she knew, dead in the snow with bullets through the head. She says it took her 25 years to laugh again, and that she still hasn't cried.
People did this to her. To her family. To humanity. And I don't know how to process it. Now, none of this is news to me...I know all this. And I've met survivors before. But I don't understand it and I can't understand it and I don't want to understand it. I want to cry. Loudly, and unashamedly. I want to give voice to the grief and pain and longing and disbelief.
But I can't cry enough.
So I am going to say Kaddish. For Bronia's mother and father. For her sisters and aunts and uncles. For all of them. And I promise not to forget. I will never be able to understand, but I will remember.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
...OR ARE YOU HAPPY TO SEE ME?
A couple of weeks ago, on Myfanwe's birthday, a group of us (Myfanwe, L'il Myfanwe, Gale, Jules, Honora, and Elle) decended on the annual book sale at Chicago's Newberry Library. (We all went out afterwards to celebrate Myfanwe's birthday, too.)
If you aren't familiar with the Newberry book sale, it takes up almost all of the public areas of this rather large (and lovely) library. Thousands and thousands of books on almost every subject, all reasonably priced.
As we assembled at the library, I mentioned to 'Lil Myfanwe that my fondest wish was to find, amidst the hundreds of books on cookery, a book on charcuterie -- the art of sausage making. 'Lil Myfanwe thought this was a very funny thing to wish for, and got an even bigger chortle out of the word charcuterie.
'Lil Myfanwe thinks I'm a bit odd*, I suspect, but that's niether here nor there. I didn't think the Newberry book sale was an odd place to look for a book on sausage making, and, indeed, I did find a perfectly lovely book on pates and meatloaves. But, alas, no book on sausages. I was bereft. And the brunt of ridicule.
Now this is as good a place as any to explain my almost cellular love for sausage. I like making my own sausage. It is a very enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours. And I can't think of a better lunch than a really good sausage, a little mustard, and some warm potato salad. But there is more -- my great-grandfather was a butcher and sausage maker; my family in Germany still make sausage professionally. And when Norbert helps me make sausage, I feel like I am passing on a rich heritage to the fifth generation (that I know about) of sausage makers in our family.
Now -- to make a long story even longer.
This morning. the first of our vacation, Myfanwe expressed a desire to take a break from packing and organizing for vacation to attend a sale of discarded books being held at the local branch of our public library. Immediately upon entering the sale I fell upon the tables containing books on knitting (only two -- one I had and the other was filled with such ugly sweaters it came near to turning me off of knitting) and cookery. I picked up books on Turkish cuisine and Hungarian cuisine, but there were no books to be had on sausage. I didn't exactly sulk, but I wandered around the room a bit dejectedly while Myfanwe and Norbert looked for books. I picked up a book on The Troubles in Northern Ireland while I roamed the room.
After a while I began wishing Myfanwe and Norbert would hurry up. As I worked my way across the room to where Myfanwe was looking through boxes, I happened by the cookbooks again and thought that it wouldn't be a bad idea to look through them a second time...I might want to pick up a battered copy of Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America for my friend Nancy Claire if it was still there.
Sitting there on the table -- obviously returned to the table by someone who had changed their mind -- was a copy of Jane Grigson's "The Art of Making Sausages, Pates, and Other Charcuterie"!! This is the out-of-print Holy Grail of American sausage books! Julia and Craig and James ALL said so! (OK -- they hadn't read Ruhlman's new book, but niether have I and I can't at this time, afford to buy one, as much as I would like to...and if I go off on an even bigger sausage-geek tangent this post will never end...)
Anyway, Grigson's book has dozens of different formulae for everything from bulk sausage to Saucisses au Champagne (which calls for pork still warm from the slaughter...all the better to absorb the champaign)! And all for the reasonable price of $0.75! I was all verklempt...my heart was racing and my hands were shaking.
I grabbed book, held it tightly to my my chest to protect it from the pushy lady who had already tried to take a book on the Truman Doctrine right out of my hands. Myfanwe knew something was up -- by the time I reached her I was pale and clammy and my voice was breaking when I asked if she was almost finished. When I showed her the book she understood immediately. Her first response was "I can't wait to tell Myfanwe!"
So, my dear friend, I hope you are reading this. Because I think you should know...
YES, MYFANWE, THERE IS A SAUSAGE GOD!
* While at dinner after the Newberry book sale, Myfanwe slipped off to the powder room, giving 'Lil Myfanwe opportunity to ask me what I had gotten Myfanwe for her birthday. When I told her I had purchased a new book on the 1918 influenza pandemic, 'Lil Myfanwe said "No, really -- what did you get her?" I then explained that I had knew Myfanwe wanted it, had purchased one, but then had to return it...I had purchased the wrong one. Myfanwe already had THAT book on the 1918 flu pandemic and wanted a different one. (I am glad I checked the bookshelfs at home!) She thought I was making it all up...until Myfanwe opened her gift, clapped her hands and said "Yeah! This is exactly what I wanted!" 'Lil Myfanwe REALLY thinks we are wierd!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
SORORITY GIRLS FROM HELL
I think I'll go as Irma Munson for Halloween. Hmmm. Do you think wearing a pin "...through her skirt, through her leg, and back through her skirt again..." hurt?
I'm going to go home and practice wearing pantyhose backwards.
... EVEN WHEN THERE'S NO ONE SITTING THERE.
Picture it: I was early to the Argo Tea Cafe last evening in order to lay claim to a little space for my fellow Stitches in Britches knitters. I sat at a table, and put my bag on the chair opposite me to ensure at least one chair for my friends. I then brought out the lace and commenced knitting.
A few minutes later, as overdressed tourists sought some way to kill time until the theatre next door opened their doors, a woman in High Uptight Episcopalian Drag walked up, tilted the chair so that my bag slipped to the floor, and started away with the chair -- without so much as a howdydo.
Lucky for me, the chair was close enough to me that I could reach out and grab it before she could wisk it away. Now, normally, if someone had asked if they could use the chair, I would explain that I was being joined by someone and they were welcome to use the chair until my guest arrived. Usually another chair has been vacated before anyone shows, so the issue is moot.
But this woman didn't ask nicely. And that got my Irish up. I grabbed the chair and said, "I'm sorry, that seat is taken." She replied, with a snear and a sickly-sweet Southern drawl, "Where I come from, a chair isn't in use if no one is sitting in it."
I kept my hold firm, and met her snear with a wilting look that would have made my mother proud. And I said, in a volume certain to attrack the attention of at least a few of the people around me, "Well, that may be how they do things in Bugtussle, Honey, but here in the big city we ask politely and say please and thank you."
She increased her snear and say, in a mocking tone, "Please?"
And I met her mocking tone and said "No."
Still holding tight to the chair, she said loudly, "Well, I never!"
And all I could think to say in reply was "Believe me, Honey. It shows."
People in the near vicinity laughed out loud. She released her grip and slunk away. I felt like I had lost ten pounds.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
9 LIES AND ONE TRUTH
Can you guess which one is true?
1. I am much taller and thinner than I appear in person. People seem to doubt me when I say this, and it really hurts my feelings. And I say verily unto them, “Blessed is the one who believes, yet does not see."
2. Fred Phelps wants me. Even with the protective order, I never know when he’s going to turn up, asking me to please, please stick my tongue in his ear. Last week I came home and found him on my bed, buck naked, smelling my boxer shorts. Does anyone know where I can get a duvet cleaned?
3. I was once young enough and in good enough shape that I went to a Gold Party at a nightclub in
4. I once considered a career in banking, but I thought my juvenile conviction of shoplifting from my local yarn shop might hold me back.
5. I once snuck into a fundraiser at a hotel in
6. I was once detained and questioned by the secret service for grabbing President Clinton’s ass. All in all, it was worth it. How many people do you know who have goosed the President of the
7. I once found a presentation at work so boring that I fell asleep. My embarrassment was only magnified by the fact that I was the one giving the presentation in the first place.
8. I have a not-so-secret crush on Stockard Channing. I have naughty dreams about shooting the “Women of The West Wing” calendar.
9. Ever since reading an article about how body hair was a remnant of our caveman past meant to trap pheromones (i.e. odors) to help attract a mate, I have shaved my underarms, legs, and chest. I would shave my back, too, if I could reach it.
10. I once went to synagogue dressed as Monica Lewinsky. It was the 90’s. You had to be there.
Monday, July 24, 2006
OK, I was going to try to write this entry in rhyme to match Peter Yarrow's wonderful song, but I only got the first line written before my creative juices failed me.
and beautiful silk spun very fine.
I tried to go on, but I couldn't find anything appropriate to match up with "canned ass", "f***ing yarn overs", and "three-thousandth dropped stitch".
BUT IT IS DONE! And it is blocked! And it is such a fealing of accomplishment, I can't even begin to describe it! (Three sentences -- three exclaimation points! Oh, dear! I need a tranq!)
I first thought learning to knit lace would be the hard part. Then I though blocking would be the hardest. Now I realize the most difficult part of the process...waiting until Chanukah to give it to its intended recipient!
I blocked it within an inch of its life, and I still was not able to get the shape of each candle perfect, but I think it is as close as one might expect for first lace. (You never forget your first time, do you?)
Thank you everyone for all of your encouragement, advise, spankings, and diversions. I couldn't have done it without you!
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
(L to R) Gale, A Boy Whose Name I Forget, and Lil' Myfanwe
An attorney (and DEAR friend) who works with Myfanwe, also named Myfanwe -- what are the chances of that -- and her partner, Gale, are both accomplished trombonists and members of Lakeside Pride, Chicago's LGTB band. Through "Lil' Myfanwe" and Gale we have come to know and love several band members. (Norbert's trombone teacher and her partner are also in the band, though playing percussion, not trombone.)
The concert was most enjoyable -- I particularly enjoyed Charles Ives' Variations on America. I appreciate how the piece encourages the listener to view things -- music, tradition, history...maybe even war -- from a different perspective. I think, in this day and age, people need to be encouraged to look at things from every angle. Intolerance is, after all, the inability to find worth in alternate beliefs.
Speaking of intolerance, we can talk about mine. There were three -- count 'em -- THREE protesters at the concert last night. (I'm sure more wanted to attend, but they were busy blowing up abortion clinics or subjugating women.) I almost didn't post this picture -- anyone who knows me knows I wouldn't agree with this schmuck on anything, and I hate to publicize his message of hate. So if anyone can photoshop something clever like "I have a very small penis so I have to take it out on the world" into the sign, I would be happy to post it and be forever grateful! [Editor's Note: Rachel, bless her heart, provided me with a censored photo so as to prevent helping this guy spew his hate. Thanks, Rach!)
This guy kept shouting about how G-d is killing off queers. "The average lifespan for a homosexual male is 40.4 years. The average lifespan for a homosexual woman is 42.4 years." Where does he get this shit? If this is true, two-thirds of the audience was living on borrowed time! And 'homosexual woman" -- has anyone used that phrase in the last 50 years?
I would have pictured the other two hate hatemongers, but they desperately needed baths and I simply can't abide dirty people. Didn't they know they were going out in public? Weren't they hoping to get their picture taken? Didn't their mothers ever teach them the importance of good grooming?
Concert pianist Tatsuya Nagashima (who also was competing in the Games in tennis) performed a 15 minute set which included a lovely Chopin piece -- I couldn't hear which one -- and closed off his set with a classy response to the protesters. He played a beautiful (60 second) arrangement of "Yes, Jesus Loves Me". The crowd was on their feet!
THE COWS GO "MOO"
As always, the audience was positively teaming with people who had no idea a) that there were other people in attendance who came to hear the concert, b) that their never-ending, high-decibel chatter might possibly prevent others from hearing the concert, and c) in polite society, it is important to think about how one's actions affect other people.
Chicago, the city that gave the world Cow Art, also produced these three Bovine Bores -- who, while 20 feet away from me, all managed to talk loudly enough that I could hear everything they said quite clearly. (This is a rather remarkable achievement, since I am deaf in one ear and usually have to concentrate to hear one person in a quiet room.) To add insult to injury, every ugly and bitter moo and low was delivered in nasal Southwest-side, white trash, Jerry-Springer-Audience twangs that can only be compared to taking a rake across a blackboard.
I came very close to moving my chair really, really close behind them so that, when they asked what I was doing, I could tell them I moved closer so they wouldn't have to shout for me to hear. I wish I hadn't chickened out. Maybe next time.
And, if history is any indicator, the next time I go to a concert, there will be more cows.
OFF THE NEEDLES!
Yesterday I completed the Candle Flame Shawl! Hooray! It only took me about 7 weeks, but it seems like longer somehow.
It is going to be beautiful, I can tell, but no pictures until I have it blocked. In its current state it still looks like a pile of canned ass!
I'm anxious about blocking. It is 80" long, and I'm worried about having dimples on the sides from the pins.
I've read several different ways to block lace, and can't figure out which is the best. In the past, I've blocked things by soaking them in room-temperature water with a drop of detergent (to ease the surface tension and allow the water to soak the fiber, I think), then rolled the piece in towels to soak up excess moisture, then pinned the piece out. I'm thinking about pinning the piece dry and wetting the fiber with a spray bottle of water. Any opinions? Don't be shy -- I wouldn't ask if I didn't want to know!
P.S. ASK AND THOU SHALT RECEIVE!
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Yes, I am ready to admit that I have fallen under the lace spell.
Ted asked in comments what my next project was going to be. As the Candle Flame shawl nears completion, I have been giving it some thought and have decided to knit Rachel Schnelling's Rectangle Cover Shawl. I've ordered the pattern from KnitPicks, along with 4 skeins of Alpaca Cloud (100% baby alpaca) in Midnight.
If you are on the KnitPicks mailing list, you can see a closeup of the pattern on the back cover of the June/July catalogue. The pattern has diamonds set within diamonds set within diamonds. It is a large shawl -- 84" x 27". I chose the black alpaca over the greenish-blackish-grey pictured because I thought it would be elegant and versatile. It goes with everything, after all! Black is the new black, Baby.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I'm enjoying it now. I've hit my stride, and am able to relax a little more. Not to say I could knit the lace at the circus, but I am now able to knit it with the radio on in the background. And last night I watched two episodes of Without a Trace while making fine progress. (Though I did have to set the knitting down when Samantha was being held hostage by the murderous drug kingpins.)
The pattern puts the desired length at 70", but I am definitely going to have lots of yarn left over, so I was thinking of taking it to 80". Does anyone have any opinions on that?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
That said, I am pleased with the growth of the shawl -- currently 32", so I am almost half-way to the final 70". I think it will be beautiful when blocked.
Monday, June 26, 2006
The program was an innovative performance of Mozart's Requiem by the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus combined with a performance of Tibetan Buddhist monks invoking harmony, peace, etc. The weather was perfect and a great crowd turned out.
I love music, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to hear such incredible performances for free. What I can't figure out is why so many people have no respect for either the musicians or the people sitting around them. They act as if they are the only people there!
These horrible cows talked through the entire concert and didn't even have the presence of mind to lower their voices to a whisper...which still would have been annoying, but at last I could have tried to block it out. But no, they mooed at the top of their lungs. During the monks prayer for world peace I found myself praying they would spontaneously combust. Probably not the response the monks were hoping for.
On Saturday morning we went to a bunch of garage sales in the neighborhood. By and large the pickings were slim, but at the last one I saw a ghoulish face staring up at me from a box and I knew I had a find on my hands!
I call her Callie, and she is a glazed ceramic Day of the Dead doll. Her head comes off and swivels. She currently resides on the window sill in the bathroom, where I have her head positioned so that it looks like she's staring at anyone sitting on the toilet!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Today was an exceptionally good Father's Day.
Myfanwe and I were up at 6:30 -- not exactly sleeping in, but an hour later than we usually rise. Myfanwe and I drank our coffee and read the Sunday paper on the back porch, which, after yesterdays oppressive heat seemed positively decadent. Plus mornings like this feel kind of romantic to me...they remind me of when were were first together and would spend lazy mornings reading the paper, drinking coffee, and listening to NPR. (To this day, the Weekend Edition music makes me randy!)
When Norbert rose I made myself scarce -- Myfanwe clued me in that Norbert wanted to make a light breakfast. So I spent 20 minutes resting up from my strenuous paper reading while he and Myfanwe scrambled eggs, made toast, and cut up a delicious mango/pineapple/banana fruit salad. (And sitting there, next to my plate was a big present! A whole bunch of badly needed summer clothes! In sizes that fit!)
After breakfast I knit a little on the lace shawl...actually I un-knit the two rows I managed to squeeze into yesterday's tight schedule, corrected a mistake, then knit the same two rows again correctly. I then put a lifeline in place and viola! It was time to leave for lunch!
On Father's Day I get to choose what I want, and I chose dim sum. So we went to the New Furama on the (far) south end of Chicago's Chinatown. I meant to take the camera so I could blog the food, but I forgot, so you'll have to settle for a description.
We started out with a big plate of Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, steamed tangerine meatballs, and an order of curried squid. (The squid was sublime!) we added to that crispy corn and "meat" dumplings, roast duck, pickled cucumber, beef fun, fried noodles, and fresh silken tofu with a sweet syrup. I can't tell you how much I love dim sum.
The only drawback to the meal was that our server didn't give us a choice of tea. I wanted to try pu ehr, which I have read is good with rich foods, but instead she just brought us jasmine. But, if that is the worst thing that happened, I guess I'm pretty lucky.
After lunch we took a walk around Chinatown, which was exceptionally busy, to give the food time to digest and make room for dessert! Norbert had a cream cake, Myfanwe had a coconut bun (warm from the oven) and I had a coconut tart. Ummmm. Coconut.
The we came home and I had a luxurious hour knitting on the lace shawl while Myfanwe worked on packing Norbert's bags for camp.
All in all a really, really great day. We should do this again sometime.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Oh, what a sad, sad little man I am. I had no idea of the depths of my insecurity until I started knitting this wrap.
Now, I know that, until blocked, lace looks like a pile of canned ass. (See above illustration of canned ass.) SO I wasn't expecting the product as it slipped from the needles to look special. I expected to knit at a leisurely pace, chatting with my family, looking up on occasion to watch the cat bat playfully at a toy or the dog chew on a rawhide.
First, the chart, even blown up, was so hard to read it was useless to me. So I tried reading the written pattern, which worked well, if I managed to get through a whole row knitting only the instructions for that row... which didn't happen very often.
So I made this:
One index card for each row of the pattern (32 in all) written in thick black marker, with the repeat isolated with red asterisks. Punched and put on a big ring. (This card, and several others, got into the pile upside down, which I didn't' notice when punching. It was a blessing in disguise...notice how it stands upright! Woo Hoo!) It also is a really effective row counter! (I've always had trouble keeping track of what row I am on.)
Anyway, back to my poor self-esteem.
So I start knitting. And I rip back. And I learn my lesson about lifelines. And I start knitting again. I can't tell you how many times I've had to rip back rows. I think I must be closing in on a thousand.
Even though I've worked the 32-row repeat four times, every row is fraught with insecurity. I constantly doubting myself. If someone has the audacity to speak to me mid-row, Dog help them. "Can't you see I'm trying to RELAX?" I scream. Or I answer the phone with a very pleasant "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT FROM ME?"
I've found it is better to knit this one alone. No Myfanwe, no Norbert, no TV, no radio, no music, no cat, no dog. I'd appreciate it if the upstairs neighbors could move out, just for the duration.
I'd ask my doctor for a Valium prescription, but I'm afraid it would make me drop a stitch.
Pray for me.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Pictures tell it better than I can, but I want to once again thank all of the wonderful people who helped organize and promote the event. Their efforts resulted in a wonderful event. To quote Noel Coward, "I couldn't have liked it more."
This handsome schmoodle is my very own Norbert. He sat quite contentedly, knitting and whistling. My cup runneth over with pride.