Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Something's Buggin' Me

I've spent a week working through the worst stomach flu I've ever known. Terrible. I'm completely wiped. And, as if my wasn't feeling bad enough, it weakened my immune system enough so I could be trounced again by the rear guard -- this time a hacking cough that prevents me from sleeping any way but sitting up.

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."

I try to live somewhere in the middle, leaning --– when I can --– to saying nice things.

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 i’s the title. I'm not a prude, but I think the title is course. Yes, it i’s 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 a’m 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 a’m 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.


MC asked for my recipe for Chocolate Pixies, a chocolate cookie dough rolled in powdered sugar which, when baked, creates a beautiful crackled black and white relief. I made a batch and took them to the Chicago observance of World Wide Knit in Public Day, and people remembered them!

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.

Chocolate Pixies

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

3 eggs

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°.
  2. 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.
  3. Shape into balls using a small scoop or tablespoon. Roll each ball in confectioners’ sugar and place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets.
  4. 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.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wee Gifties.

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

No Excuse, Really.

I have absolutely no excuse for having failed to post in a month. Well, except for trying to juggle a greatly increased workload and very stressful deadlines at work and a very busy family life. But aside from that I have no excuse.

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?