Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There Will Be Socks!

I have a lot of socks to make. A lot! And it's mine own fault because I have created monsters. You see, I feel compelled to prove to anyone who tells me that hand knit socks are no better than store bought that they are totally and completely wrong.

I've discovered that it's like giving a junkie their first taste of heroin. The next thing you know, they're lurking around barefoot saying things like "just one more pair, a pretty one, maybe with a little cable--and then I'll stop."

This is the basket of sock yarn that needs to get knit up relatively soon. Surprisingly, that's not even all the sock yarn that is earmarked for current knitting. Last night I was on the phone with a friend who told me she couldn't make it to an upcoming party. Rather than tell her how much I would miss seeing her, the first thing out of my mouth was "thank God! That means I don't have to finish your socks." I swear, I'm usually a much better friend.

Since I took this photo, a pair of plain gray socks have been completed.

These are my basic sock pattern knit on 60 stitches with a plain heel flap. The yarn is KnitPicks Stroll in Ash and the needles are US 2 for a gauge of 7 stitches to the inch. Although they look very boring, they were lovely to knit. You see we had several plain gray days while I was working on these and they made me feel at one with nature.

Right now there's a pair of beautiful green Trail Socks on the needles. They're almost done so I'll wait to show them to you.

I think you'll really like them.

I am holding out on the border on my SummerSwatchMe sampler until I finish a few things. By this time tomorrow, I should be picking up stitches.

P.S. It's 98 degrees in the Y.O. again and the compressor crapped out on the a/c in my car. Damn! Damn damn damn!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Help

I swear to you, I was planning to blog about some knitting today but I just finished the book The Help and I am too consumed by it to think of anything else right now.

You see, when I was a very young child, my grandmother had "help". Her name was Inez and I called her Nezzie. And I worshiped her.

My grandmother was what would come to be known as "new money" and, I must add, it was very short term money. Which I actually admire about her. She spent her shekels on things that made her happy. She loved fast sports cars and she loved to move. I think that, in some ways, a new home was always a new beginning for her.

But this post isn't about her. It's about Nezzie.

Nezzie was the first black person I ever met. Actually, I never didn't know her. As a young child, she was always there--always a part of my life. She was my grandmother's housekeeper but to my sister and me, she was so much more. I can still hear her voice every time we pulled into Nanny's very long driveway in Pelham laughing and shouting "Lord, here come Bonnie and Clyde" (my sister and I were not criminals but we were certainly quite lively). Nezzie is one of my earliest memories and, at the most, I was just barely pushing three years old.

Most of my early memories are incidental. I remember the green rug in the study in Nanny and Poppy's house. I remember sitting on Grandpa's lap in his chair in the window in Brooklyn. I remember the hard, little, stuffed Pekingese toy dog that someone gave me as a child that I carried around everywhere (having very originally named him Pekie).

But my memories of Nezzie are like movies. And to this day, they stir all of my senses. I remember her carrying me up the stairs for a nap and sitting with me until I fell asleep, which, of course I fought because I didn't want to miss a minute of anything. I remember going to visit her and her husband Willis in Mount Vernon. The lived on the second floor of a house and there was a small gate at the top of the stairs to keep their mean little dog Brutus in the house. Brutus probably wasn't really mean. He was probably old and tired and didn't appreciate a four-year-old who wanted nothing more in the world than to play with him but I do remember him barking at me. He never even so much as nipped at me but I was pretty well convinced that he didn't really like me.

And Nezzie had a princess phone. A white one. With gold trim on it. And it didn't have a coiled plastic cord like our phone at home did--it had a long, straight, woven canvas covered cord and, to this day, I think it may be the most elegant thing I've ever seen.

And she had the kindest hands. I think that may be the one thing that I still have of Nezzie's is the lessons she taught me, without actually teaching me, about what your hands can do. They were never cold. They were always strong. And I think that they may have set a very good example for me. The only other person I know with those kind of hands is my father. So I think my own hands are the product of both nature and nurture. Like both Nezzie and Pop, I can soothe a crying baby. Calm an upset child. Rub lotion just right on the burn that Nanny had on her back from the radiation treatments after she was diagnosed with cancer. I'm proud of my hands but am also humbled by the knowledge that I learned how to use them from two of the best. And, after a really cool moment with my wonderful friend Lori a few years ago, I learned how to appreciate and acknowledge the passive satisfaction (not sure if that is the word I am looking for) of using my hands--with kindness and love--on other people. You see when you give someone a massage or scratch their back or carry them to their crib, they are experiencing an active sensation. But at the same time, your fingers--as they rub or scratch or carry--are experiencing a passive sensation that, if you pay attention to it, is quite lovely.

The thing that I remember most about Nezzie is her smell. I can smell it sitting here tonight at my computer as if she just left the room. It was an earthy smell with a little bit of cocoa butter to it. I've never, ever been able to identify any of the other elements of it. And, as a small child, I thought that that was what black people smelled like.

Now please don't think that this has anything to do with race. My mother's mother (Nanny) wore Miss Dior. So I assumed that that was what everyone's mother's mother smelled like. My father's mother (Grandma) lived in a row house in Brooklyn that always smelled vaguely of gas stove and gravy. So I assumed that that was what everyone's father's mother smelled like. I thought the song Crocodile Rock was about my sister because she was the only person I knew named Susie.

I was three years old so my universe was really limited to less than a dozen people. Several years later I learned about racism. That is my first memory of being righteously indignant but that's another story.

As all good children do, we grow up, a little bit more every day. And our world expands. And, because of Nezzie, I used to surreptitiously sniff black people. By the time I was five, Nanny and Poppy had moved to Florida and Nezzie had retired and I missed her smell. Billy Collins tells the story of the disappointments a child experiences as they grow older in his poem "On Turning 10". And learning that I may never actually smell that smell again was a tough lesson to learn as a kid.

About a dozen years ago, I was on line at a clothing store at Cross County and there, right in front of me on line, was that smell. And it was paradise. And I inhaled deeply. And grinned. And the women in front of me turned around and looked at me like I was a lunatic. But I was so taken by her smell that I told her the whole story and she started to laugh--in a good way--and we were best friends for five minutes until we took our clothes and left the store.

On the Sunday night after Thanksgiving in 1999 my Aunt Kitty died. She was Nanny's sister and lived right downstairs from me. On that Monday, I took my key and went down to her apartment to find her address book to see who needed to still be called. Aunt Kitty was old and most of her friends were gone but there, in her leather address book that she had for her whole life, were Inez and Willis. So I called to tell them that say that she had gone. Willis answered the phone and when I told him who I was, I could hear his grin through the line. He said "Hello Bonnie, how's Clyde?" and laughed.

I cautiously asked if my Nezzie was still alive and he told me yes, she was still with us, but her mind was gone. But he did promise that he would tell her that I had called and that Kitty had passed over. I hope that she remembered that way that her hands felt when she carried me up the stairs in the same way that I remember the way that my body felt being carried in her lovely hands.

And I hoped that she remembered my smell.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I am lazy! Sometimes I watch the shows Hoarders or Clean House and realize that it would be totally humiliating for any of them to come to my house because I would just have to admit that I'm not really a bad housekeeper, I'm just lazy.

Clean the bathroom vs. turn a heel. The heel will get done.

Wash the dishes or watch that episode of Law & Order that I have seen 8000 times--L&O it is.

It's a funny thing about living alone. Yes--on the upside, you don't have to deal with anyone else's crap. On the downside, you have no obligation to keep the house clean for anyone but yourself.

And I find that I weigh the value of a vacuumed rug or a shiny tub against spending time with friends, family and knitting (not to mention Chris Meloni on L&O SVU) and I'm always going to take the latter.

So my confession is done. Mea culpa mea cupla--I suck at tidying up.

Unless it involves yarn.

Right now I have a beautiful wooden box full of a boat load of different Brown Sheep yarns. They are a go-to favorite for me so they get their own box. I actually vacuumed the 18 x 24 spot on the living room rug today so the box would have a nice, tidy place to sit.

There is a lovely, Heidi-esque (not Fleis--get your minds out of the gutter--I'm talking about the blond with the grandfather) basket full of all the options for SummerSwatchMe.

And there's another really pretty green and tan woven basket full of sock yarn.

I would post some pictures but I'm too damn lazy to get up and get the camera.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Granny and Pop are Cool!

Do you remember that song from the album Cheap Trick at Budokon that had the line "when I woke up mom and dad were rolling on the couch"?

I do, because I never understood why that was shocking. My parents were totally cool. In so many ways. Now don't get me wrong--they weren't hippies. They weren't all free love. They didn't smoke pot or swing but--damn--they were fun.

You see my Mom is really, really smart. Yes she's book smart but she's also street smart. Which is somewhat surprising because she doesn't come from a world that valued street smart.

And my Dad is funny. Really, really funny. In a great Jackie Mason, Shecky Green (sp?) kind of way--my dad will always crack you up.

But it get's cooler. My parents met in the early 1960s and, by anyone's rules of the time, they should never have fallen in love. My mom was a deb. My dad was a carnie. And they were both straight up gorgeous. And they found each other and totally busted the curve!

By the time I met them, my dad had become a NYC cop and my mom was a housewife.

I'm bringing this up because I'm always amazed at how things come together.

Remember when I was crocheting the other day (scroll down on the blog posts if you didn't read it--it's the curious one).

I had a minor interpretation question on the pattern so I dropped a note to the designer. And she was so lovely. And we started chatting. And her street address was on her email. And it was right down the block from Pop's station house and, don't you know it, my parents were old friends of her husband's.

Really? I'm crocheting a sun hat and find a person that my folks have known for 30 years?

I love this yarn thing. It really does bring us all together.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'll Tell You How!

I just saw a TV commercial with a very beautiful woman in her underwear saying "how do you know when you're wearing a really good bra?". She was about a 34 B and had no need for a bra--never mind a good one!

So here's how you can tell:

1. It cost more than the sum total of everything else you are wearing. Including your jewelry and whatever your parents paid for orthodonture.
2. It hurts a little.
3. It only comes in beige. And the 5 foot tall sales lady with the tape measure around her neck looks at you like you have 10 heads when you ask if it comes in red. And you realize just how easy it would be to strangle her with that damn tape measure.
4. Your left boob is no longer under your right arm.
5. You paid a surcharge to the Ironworkers Union for crafting the underwire. Which you know is going to pop out at the most inopportune moment. Which was funny--once.
6. It doubles as a catapult. (I was going to say slingshot but honesty is the best policy. Slingshot implies that it would fit in my pocket.)
7. It doesn't fold in half.
8. It was designed by McGuyver.
9. When you put it on, you find that number 2 double point that you stuck under your right boob so you wouldn't lose it while you were turning a heel. And then forgot where you put it. (Let's not talk about the good scissors.)
10. People stop staring (and pointing and laughing).
11. It has the ability to unbalance your washer and make it thump across the basement floor when it is in there by itself.
12. When you put it on, you don't have to manually line up your nipples (which you do have to do with a bad bra).
13. It has it's own alphabet. There is no double D in the alphabet song.
14. If you fall asleep in it, you dream about boa constrictors--and not in a good way.
15. When you unhook it your entire body shivers with relief.

I've decided that boobs are like corn on the cob. They're really great for a very short window of time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

10 Things That I Know For Sure

1. This is the best make out song of all time. If you don't believe me, go grab a friend, put this song on and make out. You'll be a believer.

2. My friends are really amazing sock models.

This is the Trails Sock from SummerSwatchMe. The yarn is Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Eureka. Delicious.

This is the Leafling Sock from Rockin' Sock Club that I finished ages ago but hadn't taken a picture of it yet. The yarn is whatever they sent to me.

3. Art is subjective. We went a saw a performance art piece by members of the Watermill Center this weekend. One in six of us got anything out of it. But it was still gorgeous.

4. Your condoms and your double points belong in different bags. They don't travel well together.

5. I can fix my own vacuum, thank you very much.

6. Franklin is funny.

7. The corn is really good this year.

8. You know you have a good man when he remembers that you're picky about corn and if it's really good you like it plain but if it's just okay you want butter and salt and pepper.

9. It's nice to be neighborly. My neighbor just did another neighbor a solid. That's a nice thing to see.

10. Even though I was sure I had it, I do not own a copy of the soundtrack to The Big Chill on CD. I bet there are a lot of people in the world who are sure that they own it but don't. On the other hand, I was surprised to find that I have the K7 song Come Baby Come in my iTunes three times. I was going to get rid of two of them but then I decided that it would be my Rosebud and I'll let some fedoraed newspaper reporter try to figure out why, oh why, I did that once I'm dead. P.S. I've met K7. He's more like K 31/2. P.P.S. The fact that I know all the words to this song is about midway on my list of things that I'm proud that I'm ashamed of.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Slide Slide Slippety Slide

I think my mother can probably identify with this video. My sister and I are less than a year apart and I'm sure that she spend a lot of time dragging one of us to the top of the slide while the other one slid to the bottom.

I, for one, love a slide. When I was a kid, we used to take these very nomadic vacations. We would just hop into that Torino (or station wagon or whatever the hell my dad happened to be driving), point the car toward the road and see what we found along the way. For the most part, it was a lot of fun.

But sometimes, it was just a little too stressful. When I was about six years old we where in the middle of Tennessee and I had just about had it. We had stopped at a McDonalds for lunch and the counter kid said to me (in perfect Tennessee Ozark English) "ya'll want yourself a piece of pickle?". Well this poor kid might as well have been speaking Farsi. I can understand the thickest brogue. I can deal with a guy from deepest Brooklyn who has no idea that the letter R exists. But I couldn't understand what this kid was saying. So naturally, I got my burger with a pickle on it and I was offended in the the way that only a six year old from Yonkers can be. I was indignant.

And the day only got worse. It was hot. Which I hate. My sister was on my side of the backseat and when I got mad we got yelled at and had to put our seat belts on (remember when that was punishment and not the law).

But then, just when I thought I wasn't going to make it, the sky opened up and the sun shone down on the most distinctive roof of all time--a Howard Johnson's Motel.

With a pool.

With a slide.

The gods smiled and the angels sang.

And I hopped out of the car with my dad and got on line behind the couple with the Jersey plates who had just finished filling out the paper work for........


And I lost it. Big time.

I wept. I threw myself on the floor and all I could do was wail through my tears that "they have a slide--I want a pool with a slide--I need a pool with a slide--all I ever wanted in my whole life was to go down that slide."

If I were Theresa from the Real Housewives of NJ I would have flipped a table.

Now it's not easy to mortify my father but he scooped me up off the floor as fast as could (not an easy task as I was apoplectic) and was carrying me down the driveway back to the car.

And don't you know, here came the counter clerk chasing us down the parking lot calling us back.

It seems that the couple who got THE LAST ROOM, could totally identify with an overloaded six year old and had given us the room.

It was the best slide ever.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hot Day, Cool Dinner

At the end of a ridiculously lovely day today (more about that next time), we ended up at the Irvington Farmers Market. I am a big advocate for local food and small farmers, etc. etc. and, yes, I know, they are more expensive than the A&P. But, hey, if we believe in something, we need to put our money where our mouth is. Remember those people who paid a ridiculous amount of money for a car phone 15 years ago. Well, I thank them for making their consumer investment so I can now get a free phone every year. If more people go to their farmers markets, the prices will go down. Supply and demand, baby. It's sexy.

But we all know I'm broke. Flat broke. Broker than broke.

But today I had some extra cash.

And here's my swag.

Gorgeous, isn't it. So dinner tonight was to die for.

The first market corn (at least for me) of the year. Actually, that's not true. We bought very young corn in June and it was pretty sweet for its age. Every few years, we have an amazing corn year and I think this is going to be one of them. This is five minute corn. Boiling water, a little salt and five minutes (use your timer kids) and out of the water. Fabulous. And I swear to you, this didn't need butter or salt and pepper. It was great as it was and thank God I had the common sense to make two ears.

See that pretty green tomato. Well it's gone. It doesn't exist any more. Because I ate it with a little sea salt, a little black pepper, a little olive oil and a tiny drizzle of the balsamic vinegar that I bought in Paris. I'm sorry you missed it. It was wonderful.

And that bag of scallops? Also gone. Gone, gone, gone. I finally learned how to sear the perfect scallop and you will be amazed at how easy it is. Put your black cast iron skillet over a medium flame. (We've had this conversation before. If you don't have a black cast iron skillet, get one NOW! You can get them anywhere and they are dead cheap. You'll thank me for this. I promise.) Now throw in about a tablespoon of olive oil. As soon as the oil starts to snap, pour off any excess so you just have a nice film on the pan. You've already had the sense to make sure your scallops are dry and that tough little muscle is removed so just pop them in the pan. Very lightly salt and pepper the top. (Be modest here). And set the kitchen timer for two minutes. When it rings, flip them. Set the timer for two minutes again.

Here's the part that makes them absolutely kick ass. When the timer rings for the second time, turn the flame off and set it for two minutes again and just leave the scallops in the pan. I swear to you, at this point, you will want to lick the pan. Don't do it. It's hot. It's cast iron. It's a bad, bad idea.

They will come out amazing every time. Beautifully seared on the outside and tender and sweet in the middle. (If you like your sear a little crisper, turn the heat up a smidge but keep the time the same. I promise. It's good.)

Tomorrow--roasting those beets and making salad with arugula, that gorgeous Chevre with horseradish, walnuts and dijon vinaigrette.

And more corn.

And more tomatoes.

And, did I mention, I have Rocky Road ice cream in the freezer.

But that's for later.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Curious Day

This morning I took a look at my blog stats and saw a big jump in readers entering the site through one, specific blog post. And it's an old one. So I pointed and clicked and checked it out.

It was a story of a wonderful happening and it made me smile to remember that incident. It was a very happy time for me and it delighted me for quite a while that it had gotten some attention. But then (you know there's always a "but then" moment in a story like this) I remembered just how badly things had ended up and my feeling that my happiness that day was based on something that didn't really exist.

Here's where the day gets curious. I realized--for the first time in a long time--that my feelings about the bad part were really ambiguous. I felt really good about the happy part and I guess that, FINALLY, I may be letting some of the bad stuff go. And that made me happy.

I know I've said this before but there is enough misery in the world (and I confess--I've been part of some of it) but age and experience have led me to realize that it's far more fun to avoid the misery. And today I did.

I looked it in the face and said "Hey Misery, that was a really happy day and it deserves to be recognized for that and not tainted by your bad breath." And it wasn't half as hard as I thought it would be.

This feeling seems very fragile to me so I'm going to cherish it and nurture it and feed it and hope that it grows up big and strong.

You may be asking yourself "Was that the only curious thing that happened in the Y.O. today?" The answer is a definitive no! That is not the only curious thing that happened in the Y.O. today.

Today (hold your breath) I crocheted.


P.S. Gotta love my digital camera. It's much more of a silvery sage green but this pea green was the best I could get.