Friday, March 31, 2006



I finally got my camera back, so I am able, at long last, to share a pic of the Baby Cable ribbed socks from Sensational Knitted Socks. Knit in Regia 4-Ply Banner.


And I'm almost to the toe on my next sock, the Mock Croc Sock -- free pattern from KnitPicks. I'm knitting it in Essentials (Ash color) from KnitPicks.

I feel like I should be farther along on this sock, but I've had a couple of busy days, and yesterday I hardly got a row knit. I expect I will have the first complete and the second well under way by the end of the weekend.

Weekend. My, there's a word with a very pleasant sound to it. Say it out loud. Doesn't it sound nice?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Fourteen years ago today I married the lovely Myfanwe in a brief but beautiful ceremony at Emmanuel Congregation here in Chicago.

I have never seen a more beautiful bride. I can close my eyes and see the smile she smiled and the hear the laugh she laughed.

Right after we were married we paid a visit on my brother Dennis and his wife, Laurie, who had a newborn baby boy. It seemed to us then that D & L had been married for a very long time -- 14 years! Myfanwe asked Laurie if she had any advise for a lasting marriage. Laurie thougth about it for a second and gave us a very valuable piece of advise.

"I wish someone had told me this when we got married. No matter how much you love that man, there are going to be days when you wake up and look at him sleeping there next to you and think 'My G-d, I hate him!" Some times those days will stretch into weeks, but they always, always pass."

Like every married couple, we have our good days and our bad days, but I have never doubted that she is the only woman in the world for me. And the things I loved about her then -- her commitment to the poor and disenfranchised, her love of Judaism and living Jewishly, her ability to laugh at herself and with others -- she's still got in spades.

Thank you, Myfanwe dear, for your continuing faith that bad days will pass and that we will live to laugh again. I am the luckiest man in the world.

Friday, March 24, 2006


My digital camera has been missing for a week now -- I finally found where I left it, but I have not been able to pick it up yet. So today's post will have to rely on description and links rather than photos.

I'm feeling much better today -- I actually had half of a solid meal at dinner last night, and feel quite like myself today. Thank you to the person who so thougthfully wished me a speedy recovery.

the many things i'm complaining about today

I finished the ribbed socks from Sensational Knitted Socks, and they are really great looking. Since I finished one pair of socks, and socks are so incredibly addictive, I immediately started another pair -- this time the Moc Croc Sock pattern. (The pattern is free for download.) I am knitting this pair from KnitPicks Essentials in Ash.

I have some reservations about these socks. I really, really like the way this yarn knits up. It looks and feels beautiful. But it is very, very twisty, and it twists up on itself a lot, which slows me down. I also am worried that they aren't going to be large enough. The guage in stockinette is right, but the socks seem awfully small in the pattern stitch. And I made the larger size!

I also am not enjoying the needles for this pair of socks. I bought the shorter, 5" Brittany dpns (size 1) instead of the 7.5" needles because my LYS was out of the 7.5". I feel like I'm knitting on toothpicks. My manly hands are just too fat for to use these needles comfortably -- though I do like how well they fit into my GoKnit bag. (I really, really like my GoKnit bag. But, since I'm complaining today, I wish it came in black! I mean, hello! Hasn't anyone in the company hear the phrase "basic black" before?)


My brother Mark sent me this joke, which had me laughing so hard I think I may have wet myself just a little:

A man is lying in bed in hospital, wearing an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose, still heavily sedated from a difficult, four hour, surgical procedure.

A young student nurse arrives, to give him a partial sponge bath.

"Nurse", he mumbles, from behind the mask. "Are my testicles black?"

Embarrassed, the young nurse replies, "I don't know sir, I'm only here to wash your upper body and feet."

He struggles to ask again, "Nurse, are my testicles black?"

Concerned that he may elevate his vitals from worry about his testicles, she overcomes her embarrassment and sheepishly pulls back the covers. She raises his gown, holds his willy in one hand and his testicles in the other, lifting and moving them around. Then, she takes a close look and says, "There's nothing wrong with them sir.

"The man pulls off his oxygen mask, smiles at her and says very slowly,

"Thank you very much. That was wonderful, but, listen very, very closely...

"A r e - m y - t e s t - r e s u l t s - b a c k?"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cover the mirrors...

too sick to knit.
call the undertaker.
i want a wicker casket.
wrap me in plain cotton shroud,
drop the box in a hole and fill it in.
would someone make kugel for shiva?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Too Short...and Not Enuf Knitting

My weekend...

Well, Friday night went just as planned. We had friends for Shabbat dinner -- corned beef, cabbage, steamed carrots, scallion champ, and chess squares for dessert.

I am rarely one to boast openly about my cooking -- though I would admit to having accomplished much in the kitchen -- but corned beef is one of those dishes I make better than anyone I know. It was so tender, so moist, so flavorful. Yum. The only disappointment at dinner were the chess squares. The recipe comes from Miss Mary Bobo's Boardinghouse Cookbook, which is usually right on the mark, but these were disappointing. They were buttery, they were sweet, but they were bland. They reminded me of blondies.

Saturday. Not much acutally accomplished, but not a bad day. I had just put a pot of leftover bean soup on the stove to heat slowly for lunch when our friend Leora called to say she was dropping by some stuff for Myfanwe. I asked if she would join us for Shabbat lunch, which she accepted, and then I sprang into action. Leftover challah might have been good enough for just us, but company deserved better. So I pulled out Miss Mary Bobo again...and did what a good cook is never supposed to do. I rushed into things. I looked int he index for a cornbread recipe, opened the book and started mixing.

I didn't read the recipe all the way through. I didn't even read the list of the ingredients all the way through. I just started grabbing and sifting and measuring. And then I came to a packet of yeast. And I knew I needed to pause. I had screwed it up. But I still needed something to serve! So I winged it. I looked at what was already in the bowls, made a few calculations, and formed a new recipe in my head.

And it was great. Everyone agreed, a keeper. Right out of the oven it was almost puddinglike -- I ate it with my soup spoon. Next day it was great split, buttered, and broiled.

NoNo Cornbread

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt 3 T. butter in a 10" cast iron skillet over medium heat until bubbly. Swirl to coat inside of the pan. Set aside.

Dry Ingredients
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Wet ingredients
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 c. vegetable oil

In a large mixing bowl, sift the dry ingredients, then whisk well. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients. (At this point place the skillet back on the heat to re-warm.) Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a whisk, stir to combine. Do not over-mix. A few small lumps are fine. Pour into the pan, still resting on the heat. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday. Sunday was occupied by the normal stuff -- errands. We took Norbert to Target to pick out a scooter, we went to the grocery store, etc. Then, in the early afternoon, while Norbert and Myfanwe headed to a playdate, I drove up to the North side of town to hook up with my nephew, Sean. Together we saw Fellow Travellers, a new play which was really well done. I won't say anything about the plot, but I will say it was compelling and full of surprises. Lilly, Sean's Significant Other, was the stage manager for the production -- her Chicago theater debut -- and did a spectacular job with a fairly complex production.

Yes, it was a full weekend, but I don't feel like I got a lot of knitting done. I'm about an inch still from starting the toe on the 2nd mock cable rib sock. I hope I'll get to finish it at the Stitch 'n Bitch tonight. And then maybe I'll start some Mock Croc socks for Myfanwe. My, socks are addictive, aren't they?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Two Fluffing Days.

I haven't been able to post for two fluffing days because of a "bad filer" at Blogspot. What seems crazy is OTHER people were able to view it now and again, and I even got in once, but I still couldn't publish.

Not that I had anything interesting to write anyway.

Well, except that Tuesday night was another successful meeting of Stitches in Britches, Chicago's group for Men Who Knit. We had a very entertaining guest in from New York, Mr. Joel Derfner, who is not only a knitting blogger, aerobics instructor (we say his abs -- whatever he does works), and bon vivant, he's also an incredible writer and composer. I've listened to one of his songs, Home Again Soon, a hundred times, and it still makes me cry. HAS is from Joel's work in progress, Terezin, which recounts events in the notorious Nazi death camp. As more and more survivors pass into memory, artists like Joel play an important part in communicating the unimaginable horrors to new generations.

Of course, Chicago is very lucky to have its own creative force -- the incomparable Franklin Habit -- who was also in attendance at Stitches in Britches. His roommate/alter ego, Dolores, is taking the town by storm. This fluffy broad is very much in demand. (I ordered MY Dolores mug today, and I'll tell you -- it can't arrive soon enough to suit me! I'll have to wait a bit to order the t-shirt. But it comes in a 4X -- big enuf to serve as a summer nightshirt. I'll be able to sleep with Dolores every night! (Really -- hurry up and order. We must spread Dolores throughout the popular culture! Dolores deserves it!)

Also -- most of my family was affected by the terrible tornadoes in my hometown, Springfield, Illinois. But, thank G-d, no one was hurt. Considering the devastation, it is an absolute miracle that no one was killed. One brother says his neighborhood looks like a war zone. A major commercial corridor is basically gone. The pictures in the media are chilling. (Note: It isn't difficult to find someone in Springfield who is related to me. The mayor [pic #44] is my double-cousin, and the eerie picture of the restaurant [pic #47] where the tornado took off the roof, but left tablecloths on the tables -- that belongs to another double-cousin.)

That restaurant, The Barrel Head, was where the family met to wake my mom, z'l, after her funeral last July. My mum liked to hold court sitting on an old church pew, sipping her Southern Comfort. Well, the pew survived, and I am sure Kevin will rebuild bigger and better.

My Uncle LaLa and Aunt Pete were supposed to hold court at Lunch today at the Barrel Head, but for some reason there reservation isn't being honored. So it looks like the kith and kin will split up -- half are going to the Fraternal Order of Police celebration, and half are going to the Knights of Columbus hall. But corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and beer are sure to be consumed, jokes told, songs sung, and, knowing my family, tears shed.

And, though 200 miles away, I'll raise a glass of (NA) beer and drink a toast to all of them.

OK -- maybe I did have important things to blog about after all.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I Couldn't Be Happier!

Yes -- it is what you are thinking. And I can't put into words what I felt when I heard the words. It's nothing but life altering. And I hope someday you all experience the joy I did when I heard the words "Pop, would you teach me to knit?"

Such joy! Such naches! I'm verklempt!

Yes, Norbert wants to learn to knit. So Norbert, Mafanwe, and I packed into the car and drove to our LYS, Loopy Yarns, to buy Norbert his first pair of knitting needles (Brittany birch, size 8). (Note: This is the first time Mafanwe hasn't grumbled about going to a yarn store!)

I pulled out a half-skein of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, cast on 20 stitches, and showed him the knit stitch, which he has been practicing for the last two days!

His first attempts were fraught with yarnovers and other odd mistakes, but I definitely see improvement. The first day I told him just to knit -- I didn't correct, I just offered encouragement. I wanted him to get used to the feeling of the needles and the yarn moving through his fingers.

Norbert is over the moon. He really loves it. He is already planning his first project -- we are going to kool-aid dye some of the KnitPicks worsted and he is going to knit a scarf. This is so exciting!

I took pictures of Norbert's first excursion into knitting, but Mafanwe isn't comfortable with posting pictures of Norbert ont he internet. So until I learn how to add a black bar across his face, we shan't have any more pictures of Master Norbert.

I worry about teaching him myself. I'm not a very good teacher with children who are not my own, and I fear that correction coming from me might be interpreted as criticism, which it is not. I don't want to squish Norbert's adventurous spirit by pointing out his mistakes. Oh -- parenting is fraught with peril!

Does anyone have any suggestions as to a curriculum I should use as I proceed with his lessons? Am I taking the wrong tack? I'd be greatful for any suggestions.


I've completed the first of the Baby Cable socks and have cast on the mate. The first one looks so good on the foot, I can't wait til I can wear the pair!

Tonight is Stitches in Britches™ , Chicago's premier group for Men Who Knit. I'm Looking into my crystal ball...and I see a stranger approaching...he's mysterious...he's...a blogger? Tune in again next time and find out more!

Thursday, March 09, 2006



…But it isn’t a verb.

In a previous post I mentioned that currently on the needles is a Baby Cable Rib sock from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks. I’m knitting it from Reggia 4-ply Banner in Slate. And I am really enjoying knitting this sock. At least I am NOW.

A couple of hours after the picture was taken on Tuesday, I distributed the stitches to center the ribbing across the instep as the book instructed (or so I thought) and began knitting the heel flap. Near the end of the heel flap I discovered that I had re-distributed the stitches incorrectly and my stitches were going to be all screwed up.

I was assured by more-experienced sock knitters at the monthly Stitch n Bitch at the Museum of Contemporary Art that I could fudge it and that I didn’t have to rip back. I kept knitting, telling myself that the socks were only for me and that nobody else would know.

Surrounded by the chatter of my cohorts at the SnB, I kept knitting and turned the heel.

But when Wednesday dawned, I picked up the sock and started knitting. And there, without the chatter and clamber of the SnB to mask them, I could hear very clearly…the Voices in my head.

“See – this proves it. Knitting isn’t really a Craft. You make a mistake and just keep going. You can’t admit your mistake and take corrective measures! Amateur! Loser! Poser! Republican! Isn’t that just like you, Fat Boy? FUDGE it! FUDGE it! Your mother always did like Dennis best!” (I know it seems like that last one is a non-sequitor, but the Voices always throw that one in.)

“Shut up!” I told the Voices. “No one will ever know! J. & N. told me so! No one will ever know!”

The reply, short but laced with threat, came back quickly. WE will.”

I knew I could ignore the Voices for a little while, but there are more of them than there are of me. I could just see myself in a week, huddled in the back of the closet, petting the unfinished sock, muttering to myself, “My Precious. We’s doesn’t like the nasty Voices, does we my Precious? Precious is perfect! Precious is beautiful! Yes, Precious! Perfect... Beautiful... Precious...

Given my dislike for living in dark caves and eating live fish, I decided to wrest my future from the control of the Voices and create my own destiny. I decided to rip.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I had not put a lifeline in place anywhere in the knitting. A real shame, as I had to rip back to the last row of the pattern repeat, which was – just my luck – a row in which the ribbed cable is worked. So I strung some fine cotton yarn onto a needle and tried to put in place the best lifeline I could, not knowing if I was picking up the cabled stitches correctly. Then, lifeline – such as it was – complete, the sock came off the needle and the yarn started flying.

To make a really, really long story just really long, it appears as if I picked everything up correctly. I knit a couple of rows of the heel flap while watching Project Runway, then set it down and went to bed. I think the combination of the voices and the stress of ripping back had taken their toll. I was spent.

I slept quite well, and this morning picked up the sock and was pleased when none of the nasty little voices spoke up. They are gone. At least for now.

And I have learned important lessons.

I am a Craftsman, and knitting is my Craft. Honing my craft, perfecting my skills, and expanding my knowledge of my Craft are important to me. I have as much, if not more, interest in achieving a well executed product as I do in receiving recognition for my work. It does not matter if no one else knows about a mistake. If I know a flaw exists, it is a fatal flaw. And no longer will a knitted article be “just for me”. I deserve the best.

Because, to quote Stuart Smalley, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me!”

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I am really swelled up with pride. My brother, Mark O'Brien, lives in our hometown of Springfield, Illinois and has been retired for a couple of years. Recently he started a non-profit, Pretty City - Springfield , to assist the elderly and economically challenged in poor neighborhoods of Springfield with yard maintenance and cleanup. The area he is focusing on was always working class, but has known hard times for about the last 30 years, since the Fiat-Allis plant closed. The population is also aging, which only compounds the problem.

(There is a Donations button on the web site if you feel like contributing!)

Too many people see refuse in a ditch or building up against a home and either judge the landowner uncharitably or wonder why "someone" doesn't do something about it. I am very proud that my brother looked at the problem and said "I could help these people."

Pay it forward, my friends. Pay it forward.

Monday, March 06, 2006


I finished the socks for Norbert's trombone teacher (in a blueberry color of Cascade Fixation) yesterday and immediately cast on another pair using Reggia 4 ply Banner in Slate, pictured above.

I decided to use the Baby Cable Rib pattern from "Sesational Knit Socks" because, while I wanted something textured, I don't know that I can keep track of more than four rows in a pattern. I loose track of what row I'm on, and when you throw cables in, it maked it even harder for me to count accurately.

I love how this is knitting up. I love the yarn, I love the color, and I love the stitch. Especially important for me is the color. I wear a lot of black and don't wear a lot of colors -- I usually feel like I'm letting my hair down if I wear grey! My first socks were a bit of a jolt -- wild colors and lots of them -- I wanted something a little more reserved for my next pair. (What I'd really like to find is a quality cotton sock yarn in black! No luck so far.)

I'm going to order some black wool from KnitPicks and see how it knits up. But, like so many of my brothers and sisters before me, I have fallen prey to the addictive qualities of socks. I just can't get enough!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sad, Happy, and In Between

Zichrana Livracha

1994 - 2006

Abe, who passed away on Wednesday after a brief illness, was a Dog among dogs. He was as good and loving and forgiving and appreciative a dog as anyone could hope for. He was generous with his affection, and he made everyone he met feel special.

Abe was not our dog, but his passing brought tears to everyone in our family. He belonged to our Rabbi and his family, but he came to stay with us regularly for "respite foster care" when his family went away on vacation or traveled to Israel. And in between his visits we relished every invitation to his house because it afforded us the treat of getting to see him.

Sharing memories of the departed is an integral part of the Jewish way of mourning, and everyone in our family felt that it was important to talk about Abe, who, because of his sweet and gentle nature, I always referred to as "Abralamb". I loved that the minute I climbed into bed, Abe could sense it from another room and he would rush to climb into bed at my feet -- feet which usually served as his pillow. His love for me was special, and it was quite common to be awakened in the night by his loving kisses...on my feet...or my legs...did I mention I was sleeping? Really, loving gestures one is not likely to forget!

If Abe had a fault, it was that he was completely oblivious as to his physical presence. If he had to go out and get a job, he could have made good money as a baricade, because no matter where you needed to go, it was certain that Abe would be squarely in your path, b
locking it!

Abe was a healing presence for Myfanwe after the death of our own beloved Spike, z"l, almost three years ago. Myfanwe enjoyed having Abe around to walk with and watch Law and Order with. And Abe's size was very reassuring to her on late night walks. Of course nobody knew that Abe would never have harmed a fly!

Norbert really loved Abe, and his passing has, I believe, been hardest on him. Norbert is not old enough to have grown, if not immune to the pain of loss, then accustomed. Abe loved
Norbert and was obviously protective of him. It was with Abe that Norbert took his first steps towards independance -- taking Abe out to water the grass and walking around the block without parental units hovering about. It was Norbert who suggested Abe deserved to be memorialized in this space, and I am indebted to him for his suggestion.

My old-fashioned religiousity may show through, but I believe I shall see Abe again. Screw Thomas Aquinas -- dogs do have souls. It is an accepted law of nature that energy is not created or destroyed, it mearly changes form. Abralamb was a definite force of nature -- a loving energy. And that energy lives on. I believe it. Right now he and our beloved Spike are reading their pee-mail and romping in a field, looking for some really good garbage.

My Little Goatheard

Norbert 's school play this year was "The Sound of Music" -- and believe me, the irony of a bunch of Jewish Day School students dressing up as priests, nuns, and Nazi's did not escape anyone. My favorite 3rd grader was a puppeteer -- the one on the left -- and I think I can objectively say that the Lonely Goatheard number brought down the house. It was very creative and well executed.

The Effing Wrap.

It is done. Thank Dog. I never thought it would be finished. And, in the style of a true procrastinator, with not a minute to spare. This afternoon I need to go buy a nice box and deliver it, then it is out of my life forever.

It looks ok -- it is hard to actually see what it looks like flat, since it relies on having a body inside it to give it its' asyymetry. It looks good. I just wish I wasn't so ambivalent about it. I don't know why I am. I was very excited to start it. But it just turned into drudgery. Oh well.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Last nights’ meeting of Stitches in Britches™, Chicago’s premier knitting group for men, was great fun. (Sorry for the lack of pictures…I’ll try to do better next time!)

In attendance were:

Jonathon, who worked on Fiesta Feet, a very interesting lace and bauble sock for his wife, Meg. This pattern creates lace hole through a series of bound off stitches and yarnovers…a bit more tedious than K2tog, but it makes for a more defined, structured lace. Check out his blog for a picture of the sock in progress.

Frankin, who worked on his beautiful Charles I scarf in FourPlay. (I doubt Franklin could ever become bored with this yarn!) In addition to his knitting and sparkling repartee, Franklin
served as knitting instructor and cheerleader for anyone in need. Franklin shared with us that he may soon be the proud parent of a spinning wheel, making more than one of us bitterly jealous.

Andrew. We had to get out the Snap Cup for Andrew who, having learned to knit many years ago, arrived at Stitches in Britches 7 weeks ago with a 20 year old UFO and a desire to relearn the craft. In 7 weeks he has learned a great deal, started and completed a couple of projects, and has even begun designing. The scarf he knit for his niece is beautiful.

I knit for a bit on the second sock for Norbert’s trombone teacher, and then, my spirits bolstered by my good comrades, I took out the dreaded Effing Wrap. The pieces were knit – I just had to sew the seam…something I am not good at on easy projects, but this was joining rows to stitches and to do a half-assed job would have looked half-assed. The seam is pretty noticeable. With only a half-dozen pauses to rip back and re-do, I finished the job in about an hour. I could not have done it without Jonathon’s help – so Snaps to Jon as well!

We had a new visitor to Stitches in Britches – Bruce, who learned to knit about 30 years ago. He recently moved and hadn’t unpacked his stash just yet, but he came, sans project, and sat and chatted with us. Welcome, Bruce!

Stitches in Britches™ meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at the Argo Tea Cafe, 16 West Randolph St., in Chicago. We could not have picked a more suitable location, and the Cafe could not be more welcoming. Each week they seem happier to see us than the last and the manager, Matt, regularly pops over to tell us how cool he thinks we are. So I'll get out the Snap Cup again for Argo Tea Cafe!