Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yes, I Cried at the End of Ice Castles

I just sent Robby Benson an email. Yes--that Robby Benson. It's a long story which I'll explain if he emails me back. Until then--he gets no props from me. I am hoping that he emails me back on the third of June (another sleepy dusty delta day) because I'll do anything for an Ode to Billy Joe reference.


There actually has been some knitting going on around here. I knocked out a baby sweater but quick. This is my favorite pattern. A friend of mine gave it to me in 1993 and the copy that I had got so tattered and torn that I finally typed it up about 10 years ago. I believe I've made dozens of these and every mom I have ever given one to has called me a few months later to tell me that it is absolute perfection in a baby sweater.

Thanks to the world wide web, I recently was able to track the pattern down to an out-of-print Pattons book that some kind person somewhere in the U.S. sold to me on eBay. I swear to you, this is the best baby sweater ever and if Robby Benson has a baby any time soon, I will happily make one for him.

I don't particularly care for colors that are too "precious" on a baby. They're skin is so delicate and translucent that it makes me want to wrap them in much more grown up colors. For this new baby I picked a sweatshirt gray that I had in my stash. It's plassard merinos and I really like the stitch definition it gives. (This picture is the one with the truest color).

I do, however, need someone to explain to me why I had 36 (yes I counted them) ends to weave in on a cute little tiny sweater.

But then I found these cute cute cute buttons. Found them at Hartsdale Fabric and bought two cards but then when it was time to sew them on, one of the cards was gone. Had to schlep back up Central Avenue and buy another card.

I believe that Billy Joe McAllister may have thrown the second card off the Talahassee Bridge.

P.S. I still think Robby Benson is hot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Not To Be Confused With A Three Hour Cruise

Those castaways always wanted to go home but, believe me, after the four hour meal we had on Sunday, no one wanted to go home. It was just too damn good.

Earlier in the week some old family friends had called and we all decided to get together for a nice big Sunday dinner at Patricia's in the Bronx. Have you been there? If you have, then you know and you can stop reading this post. If not, get in a car, on a train, on a ship or on a plane and get yourself there as quickly as you can.

They have a great menu but they also have the meal of all meals--yes kids, they do a big old fashioned Italian family style meal. Which is what we ordered.

It's epic.

You start out with super thin crust pizza. Then come the meat and cheese plates--prosciutto, mortadella, sopprasetta, smoked mozzarella, fresh mozzarella and, of course, some olives for color. Here come the platters of fried calamari that is so damn fresh and delicious you swear that you're never ordering it anywhere else again. Then the big steaming bowls of eggplant, goat cheese and sliced steak in a gorgeous gravy arrive. While you're staring at that and wondering if these pants were such a good idea, along come the big steaming bowls of shrimp and hot peppers. Oh God--I'm in heaven. It's hard to suppress the desire to ask for bread to dunk in all of the gravy but, like any good marathoner, you dig your heals in and don't break your stride. What's that smell? Is it? Could it be? Outrageously gorgeous bowls of mussels steamed in tomatoes and garlic.

Whew. That was delicious. I'm going to pour myself another glass of wine (by the way--the wine is included in the price) and take a rest before we go home.

Really, who the hell did I think I was kidding? We were nowhere near done.

After a little break, along came the platters of cavatelli with a roasted cherry tomato sauce and shaved parmesan cheese. Then comes the beggars purses--arguably the best part of the meal. Little lovely pouches of fresh ricotta cheese in the most delicate pasta with wild mushrooms, peas and a nice light pink sauce. Outrageous. And just in case there hasn't been enough protein in your meal, please pass the plate of grilled lamb chops. Oh and yes, you might as well pass the grilled beef tenderloin while you're at it.

Cappuccino anyone? Espresso? You'll need it to go along with the cinnamon zepoles and Nutella puffs that they just put down on the table.

I think Pop and John were discussing just how they were going to be able to unbutton their pants and still make it out to the car.

Needless to say we had leftovers. The mussels went to New Boy since he lives and breathes for seafood. The eggplant ended up tossed with some ziti and served for lunch at Greyston Bakery on Monday. The cold meats, cheeses and cavatelli have been being picked at all week and are, sadly, almost gone.

Anyone want to meet me there this Sunday?

P.S. On a totally unrelated subject, it always amazes me just how much damage you can do to your knees without ripping your pants. If anyone is looking for the world's greatest uneven sidewalk, I found it last night and would be happy to take you on a tour. Just make sure you wear knee pads and a helmet.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Curse Continues


Yeah, I finally finished both fronts of the Hey Teach! cardigan that I have been working on for waaaaaaaaaaaay too long when I noticed that I had somehow lost the ability to do a centered double decrease on the first one--which by the way has been finished for ages and I've looked at it about a million times.

I ripped the whole damn thing out and now it is right.

I only have one little sleeve left to do, sew it up (which is going to be a freakin' bear), add the neck edging and the button bands but guess what.

There is no way in hell that I have even close to enough yarn to finish it. I think I found some online but I'm sure they'll sell out of it in the next 30 seconds.

Because guess who this sweater is for?

And don't even ask what the cat did to it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Greetings from my Daycation

Last week was bleh. It was hot--which I hate--and I was wingie (for lack of a better word). But hey, Wednesday was Cinquo de Mayo and who can complain about a reason to drink margaritas, eat some good food and celebrate with our friends south of the border.

Except I got sick. Really sick. Like high fever, can't keep a thing down, my whole body hurts and I'm going to the Emergency Room because I don't feel like dying alone in my apartment and getting eaten by the cats.

And New Boy had a root canal so he was wingie too. (P.S. He took very good care of me when I was sick.)

So by Saturday we were both ready for a daycation. Jersey Shore--here we come.

First things first--what are we going to eat? Ever heard of Pete & Elda's? I had never been but New Boy keeps talking about it so we hopped in the car and off we went.

It was a positively gorgeous day! I woke up to thunder in the morning (which by the way wouldn't have stopped us) but the tv said the afternoon would be pretty but windy--perfect. Over the bridge (hello Hudson River) and onto the turnpike. True confession--we didn't even make it onto the turnpike proper before we stopped for a snack. I'm not a big fast food person but I do love me a Nathan's hot dog. Luckily, we got on line just before a few bus loads of girls basketball players arrived.

With our first hunger pangs satisfied we continued on our way. Gotta tell you--the turnpike is still pretty icky but once you get on the Garden State Parkway it's a gorgeous ride. After one big wrong turn (not too dramatic) and a call to K who is all-things-South-Jersey, we found our way to Pete & Elda's and the best thin crust pizza I have ever had. Just writing its name makes me crave it. The place was casual and comfy and we sat at the bar and didn't say a word to each other until we had just about finished the pie. Again, we were followed by a group of girls basketball players but they weren't sitting at the bar so they didn't cramp our style.

After a few hours of lounging and eating it was back into the car to go exploring. I haven't been near the Jersey Shore since about 1979 and I had no idea how pretty it could be. Point Pleasant is beautiful and all the little villages that you drive through as you go down the island have their own little characters. I don't know how I would feel about it during the height of the season but on a gorgeous Saturday in early May, it was paradise.

After a quick stop for a doughnut (New Boy has quite the metabolism), we drove all the way down to the State Park where they very kindly let us make a u-turn and head up to the Seaside Heights boardwalk. It's exactly the same as it was some 30 years ago--loud, garish, tacky and wonderful.

The place was crawling with prom kids who all looked so tired but they were determined to have a good time. Oh--and did I mention the wind? It was wild! By this point, I was completely wind blown and didn't care one bit. We found a place to sit down, have a drink and stare at the ocean for a while. I was on Diet Coke all day--thank you antibiotics--but that didn't bother me one bit either. New Boy had a dozen and a half clams on the half shell that he was crazy about (see my note about his metabolism) and we watched the rides on the pier just north of us and stared at the waves coming in.

Look at the way the water is blowing back off the tops of the waves.

That's how strong the wind was. And yet, some crazy people were still going on this ride.

Now you wouldn't get me on that thing for a million bucks on the best of days but in 45 mph winds, you would have to knock me unconscious and strap me in. If you can't tell by the picture, it's about 8 stories high and has a cab at the top and the bottom of that long metal thing and then it spins around. And around. And around. And when people are getting off at the bottom, you just sit at the top like it is in the picture. Definitely not for me.

After a walk on the boardwalk and the requisite piece of fudge, it was time to head home. But daycation wasn't over yet. A quick stop at Fairway got us a big bag of beautiful shrimp which ended up stripped, steamed, chilled and then tossed with grated fresh horseradish and lemon juice. By this time I was hungry again so it was the perfect meal.

And, in perfect daycation mode, we spent the end of the day fantasizing about the pizza place we would open with wonderful thin crust pizza and lots of seafood on the menu.

It was perfect.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Climbing the Column of Leaves

What an amazing journey I've been on.

But let's start at the beginning. A few months back, I started to go to (another) knitting group. This one meets on Thursday evenings in a Greek restaurant and I will admit, I was a little intimidated the first time I walked in. I knew a few of the other members but only casually and, in the spirit of the 9-year-old girl I still am sometimes, I was afraid I wasn't going to fit in or that they wouldn't like me or that I would like them and oh-my-god what the hell am I doing here.

But I sucked it up, introduced myself and ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Here's where it gets good. These women are amazing! And not just amazing knitters but amazing people--they're all different from each other but they fit together like one of those ancient mosaics that you see on the History Channel and wonder how the hell they figured that out.

And can we talk about talented? No really, I don't mean just nice even knitting with good finishing skills. I mean these chicas pull things out of thin air and then actually make them. And they're gorgeous--both the women and the things they make.

And I am an acolyte in this group which is an amazing feeling. I've been knitting since I was about 9 (I was home sick from school and found my mother's copy of Knitting Without Tears and I've never turned back) and am often the go-to-girl for my friends but this is like being in first grade. Everything feels brand new to me and each week I learn something new and exciting.

So--now let's get to my journey. Jeri made a beautiful sweater in 2007 that she was finally peer pressured into writing up the pattern for. Are you ready for this? This is the great part.


True confession--I was a little terrified. What if I screwed up? What if I took too long? What if it was ugly? What if it didn't fit? Oh crap, what have I gotten myself into?

And like all good journeys, it was wonderful. Yes there were challenges but we were a team (the famous Margaret of the magical fix on my sister's Christmas mitts was test knitting as well) and we were all in this together so off we went.

The sweater is knit in one piece from the bottom up with some really beautifully subtle waist shaping. And rather than keeping track of a load of increases and decreases while knitting lace, Jeri was brilliant enough to just change the needle size. Sometimes the most elegant solutions are the simplest ones. I was knitting the larger size and, often, sweaters for we busty girls have very limited shaping and are very boxy. Not so in this case.

Once you hit the armpits, it was time to set aside what was now a pretty big piece of knitting and knit two sleeves. The original pattern called for three quarter length sleeves but I wanted a longer sleeve so I was planning more repeats. Uh-oh, the sleeve was waaaaaaaaaay to wide for me. It's supposed to have a bit of a bell shape to it but this was way too much (think 1970s hostess pajamas). Tried going down a needle size--nope. Tried going down another needle size--nope. So after several midnight emails, a bunch of phone calls, a trip to the studio and a bunch of trying on, the sweater has what is the perfect sleeve for me. Just belly enough and close enough to be so very comfortable.

Sleeves attached with a little pattern tweaking and onto the yoke.

And this was the part that really scared the hell out of me. It's a very unique and original method of shaping that involves reducing the lace panels and angling the leaves in to the v-neck. This is where I found out just how brilliant Jeri is. It was smooth, it was elegant it was a delight to knit and so different from anything else I've ever done (or seen for that matter) before.

Oh my God--am I really done? No honey, you still have a little bit more to go. It's time to finish the neck.

I don't even know how to describe this. If attached i-cord and a perfect gusset had a baby, that would be how you did the neck. Sorry--I can't describe it any other way.

I fell so truly madly and deeply in love with this sweater that I almost cried when it was done. Instead, I wore it around the house for about 4 hours (yes, over my nightie) and then summoned some really cool, damp weather so I could wear it out.

Want to knit it? Come on, you know you do. You can get the pattern here. And you can see Margaret's version here.

This is my rebound sock. I just couldn't get into another long term relationship too quickly.