Category Archives: and so on

The trip against which all future trips will be judged.

0AXuANpTuKjpfwAG60wybzzGRsTpDshzDg0nIj1ibms,PC5F0DIy67OOTgvL5I4joosGpMGg2FE_tR8VX3Nmyt4,My89ULVudsPsmlWiUwh9xxYuurj_Fim6oiL_m9uL5GM__1446690643_76585Last week, Rob and I came home from a truly amazing trip to Iceland.

We rented this little cottage in the city center with Rachael (whose excellent writeup of the trip is here) and Lala and used that as a home base for trips outside the city as well as exploring Reykjavik itself. We probably spent a little less than half of the time together, and it was really fun both to hang out with them and to go our separate ways and reconvene to compare notes. I doubt I’d have gone to the very cool Settlement Museum without Lala’s urging, and I definitely would have been too intimidated to go to the neighborhood baths, which ended up being some of my favorite things to do, without them.

We did some touristy stuff, like the Blue Lagoon. We ate lunch in their fancy restaurant while wearing bathrobes and drank prosecco from the swim-up bar while floating in the water.
We ate the famous hot dogs, which were, in fact, delicious.


We saw unparalleled natural splendor, like the black sand beach with basalt columns at Vik:
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DOiTPeTuPeRgj9Kbe_2eSH7ZVJCQ5m59lMV7ujF7nw4,nlCk4MQcJztfxeoQn4fE6tx0TvLL4lEi3ytCHq31l_I__1446691742_39594We saw the northern lights twice and hiked on this glacier:




I ate a different kind of fish at almost every meal, went to a number of the excellent public geothermic hot baths, saw a couple of good bands, and danced to deep house music in a subterranean nightclub in the wee hours. Iceland is lace curtains on the windows, tiny backyard greenhouses, house cats prowling the sidewalks, knowing that a freaking volcano heated the water you’re showering with, streets named after Norse gods, sheep and horses everywhere, a deservedly legendary nightlife, and traditional sweaters worn without irony by people of all ages. It was a stunningly easy place to visit; everyone speaks English, every business happily takes debit cards for even the smallest transactions (we never took out any cash; I never even saw any until our last day there), and Reykjavik is small enough to navigate without much difficulty. Dried fish spread lavishly with butter turns out to be delicious, and chocolate-covered licorice is my new obsession. I never tried the fermented shark, but I tasted both whale and guillemot and genuinely loved Brennivin, the caraway-infused “black death” liquor, which is best ice cold and served in tiny glasses.

A word for the year

Other years, I’ve thought about choosing a guiding word for the year the same way I think about drafting a fantasy sports team or having birds as pets: good for you, not for me, as Amy Poehler would say. I preferred an extensive list of specific goals and resolutions and Things to Do for an Excellent Year. I haven’t abandoned that approach, but for 2015, I’m adding a word. And three weeks into 2015, I’ve decided that I’m committed enough to it to make it public.


It’s a reminder to avoid distractions and focus on actions that support my core goals and values, a reminder, in fact, that I have core goals and values: developing and maintaining strong relationships, focusing on health, continuing to build the business, supporting and producing good design. I have a weekly resolutions chart with such goody-two-shoes-y entries as “dust,” “use slow cooker,” and “bring breakfast & lunch to work 4+ days” that seem a little dull/dreary, but support my larger goals of living in a clean, orderly home, making and using a meal plan, eating healthfully, and spending less on unimportant crap.

CORE is a reminder to keep plugging away at knitting projects I’ve chosen because I really, really want the finished item, and not to cast on for things that would be quick or easy or a good way to use up some yarn I have on hand. It’s also a reminder about paring down. I don’t have a way to quantify getting rid of stuff, so don’t really consider it a goal as such, but it’s basically my favorite activity at the moment. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up recently and her approach, to discard everything you own that doesn’t “spark joy” and to assign a specific location in your home for every item you own, resonated very strongly. My other guiding principles include William Morris’s admonition not to have anything in your home you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful and the idea, whose source I don’t remember, that my home is not a museum of my (our) life. One or all of those will address pretty much any item under consideration; I can’t say for sure that a container of baking powder sparks joy necessarily, but I know it’s useful. The not-a-museum principle is particularly helpful when I’m confronting things like a frog-shaped perfume bottle that I loved when I was little and have been hanging onto without considering whether I care about it now. (I don’t.) I’ve gotten rid of a lot of clothing and shoes too. I’m not officially doing Project 333 or a capsule wardrobe, but that’s the direction I’m leaning.

We’re likely going to move out of the city within the next two years, maybe sooner, and I’d like to jettison as much as possible before then. Plus, we have a pretty great apartment and we’ll enjoy the rest of our time in it a lot more if it’s filled only with things we love. It can be hard though. Things can develop so much emotional weight that it can be really hard to shift them. I love Rachael’s thoughts about what to do with gifts; there’s a lot of stuff in our place that falls into the category of Items Given With Love That I/We Do Not Love.

But the core is not a hollow space and my focus on it is not all about less. I’m focusing just as much on making room for more in some areas: seeing friends more (I have brunch plans this weekend with a friend I haven’t seen in a year), learning more (tonight is the first in a planned series of weekly dinner-and-Photoshop-tutorial get-togethers with another friend I haven’t seen much lately; figuring out how to use the loom that’s, uh, looming over my bedroom; getting more comfortable with bookkeeping), traveling more (we’re headed to Florida for a long weekend next month to visit Rob’s dad and stepmother and to Los Angeles for a week in March to kick around the city—ideas welcomed!—and spend a couple of days hiking and hanging out at the Ace Hotel pool in Palm Springs), putting more thoughtful energy into my full-time job, and physically moving more (packing those breakfasts and lunches has already saved me enough money for weekly yoga and dance classes).

It’s going to be a good year, guys.

Sunday morning


Not where I am right now

I’m up early today and sitting out on the deck listening to the birds and watching lovesick squirrels chase each other around the trees. A collection of old rusty rain gutters are leaning over the fence from our neighbor’s yard and the peaches on the tree next to them are the size of ping-pong balls and sparser than I remember them being the last few summers.

I got a few plants again this year; the best thing I can say is that none of them seem to be dead yet. Apparently plants like sunshine? And being watered regularly? I’d like to have a real garden someday, but it won’t happen at this place.

I’m thinking about sewing projects and what I’d like to make for the summer and fall. Another Washi Dress or two, at least one of those Simplicity dresses I fit on myself in Liesl’s workshop. I’m out of range of our wifi out here and don’t feel like checking. I sorted fabric yesterday and rehoused it. There isn’t much of it, relatively–a small plastic bin of old sheets and pillowcases and black and charcoal prints for a quilt idea I’ve been noodling around with; a small bin of [the alarm on my phone went off just now; there’s something so ensmuggening about being up with coffee before one’s alarm] leftover fabric from completed projects, nothing big enough for a whole garment on its own, plus muslins [what do you do with completed muslins? I’m tempted to take them to the fabric recycler at the greenmarket today, but feel like I should keep them for reference or something]; and one small bin of fabric that’s enough to use for garments, whether it’s earmarked for anything yet or not. I don’t want to start hoarding/stashing/stockpiling fabric. I want everything that comes in to be assigned to a project and used quickly. I’d like to be smart about sewing.

That cabled sweater I just finished needs to be ripped out. I probably should have taken a picture, but I got started on that last night. I’d done a sizable gauge swatch before I started and figured out all of my numbers to account for the fact that the fabric would grow a fair bit in width but not much in length after it was washed. Turns out: not so much. The garment behaved exactly the opposite as the swatch and left me with too-tight sleeves and a too-long armscye and neckline that was just plain peculiar. It happens sometimes and it’s inexplicable and discouraging and there’s nothing to be done about it except start over.  It’s lovely yarn; I’ll enjoy working with it again, I guess.

These squirrels must have been this spring’s crop of babies. They’re awfully scrawny compared to the well-fed monsters that I usually see waddling around the neighborhood, the ones that are barely able to scramble up a tree when the landlady’s cats are in the yard. And too energetic. Squirrel life seems like it’d be pretty easy around here; it breeds lethargy.

Introducing Fuzz Ferdinand

20140331-084036.jpgWe got a cat this weekend!

He’s a very sweet adult Russian Blue that we adopted through a rescue organization in Brooklyn that I’m not going to name because I would never recommend them. They’re doing good work, but they really don’t make it easy or pleasant. Adopting a homeless adult cat should be a no-brainer. They should say, oh, you’re willing to do that (and are not a pet hoarder or vivisectionist)?  TAKE IT PLUS A MEDAL YOU BEAUTIFUL SAINTED ANGELS. Instead, there are stacks of paperwork and references and a home visit and the pre-visit phone call I had to field while I was at work because I stupidly answered honestly on the form where it asked if the cat was going to go outside and I said well, we have a deck so maybe, sure.  It’s true, first of all, and I’d think it would be a positive thing to let the little guy get some fresh air sometimes. This one doesn’t strike me as a bolter, but I can always get a leash and tie it to a railing so he can’t run.

She started ranting at me about how terrible it is to let cats go outside just because I dream about watching it chase butterflies (er, what?). Some of her points were valid (cars, contact with other cats who could have FIV), some of them were LUDICROUS (she actually mentioned COYOTES as a possibility—she lives one neighborhood over from us, so she should know that there aren’t any coyotes in south Brooklyn), and she just wouldn’t stop talking, even though I kept saying “It’s okay, we don’t need to let it out, it’s just an option since we have outdoor space” over and over. She got super wound up and was talking faster and faster and I could practically hear the spittle flying from the corners of her mouth. And she was really condescending—at one point snottily asking if I’ve ever even HAD pets before (because I clearly care so little about their welfare, you see). I finally had to interrupt her and say that I’d give my husband her number so they could schedule a time for the home inspection that would work for both of them and said goodbye and hung up. (I didn’t mention the leash option, since I couldn’t handle a lecture about how the cat will strangle himself with it or a hawk might get him or a sniper might use him for target practice or or or.)

The visit itself was fine—apparently she was perfectly nice to Rob and said she hoped she hadn’t offended me—and the only issue she pointed out was a possible toxicity risk from the HANGING PLANT in our living room. (Because he’s secretly a flying cat? I mean, I guess it’s somewhere within the realm of possibility that it could launch itself from a piece of furniture, pull down a few bits of plant, and eat them, but I just don’t think it’s likely. He’s not a small cat and, frankly, doesn’t seem to have that kind of ambition.)

It’s all worth it to have him home with us though. Cats are such a nice warm presence in a house and I’ve missed having one. We had decided to wait to name him until we’d spent a little time with him and in those early days, Rob started referring to him as Our Fuzzy Friend, which has since morphed into Fuzz and Fuzzy, with the official full name of Fuzz Ferdinand. He’s still hanging out in the closet some of the time, but he was snuggling on the couch with us the first night and even let me clip his claws yesterday morning.

Why I suggest letting Mötley Crüe pick your honeymoon destination

Our original honeymoon plan had been Scandinavia: Sweden, most likely, with a stop in Iceland. But when we figured out that we’d be going in February, that was less appealing (for one of us, at any rate — long nights, hot saunas, and the chance to see the Northern Lights all sounded pretty good to me, but I’ll go another winter) and we started looking into tropical and Southern Hemisphere destinations. We picked Hawaii for a number of reasons: neither of us had ever been there, it’s far enough away that it’s unlikely we’d go another time,  and, as my friend Karen pointed out, no one ever comes back feeling lukewarm about Hawaii. One of Rob’s old friends, an indie musician whose tastes run pretty counter to the sort of cheesy resort experiences I wanted to avoid, had told us that he loves it so much he’d live there if he didn’t have family obligations keeping him in their hometown. Additionally, Rob had just finished rereading The Dirt when we were tossing around destination ideas, and he pointed out that the Mötley Crüe guys were always running off to Hawaii to chill out when rock-star life got to be too much. So we figured that any place beloved by people as different from each other as this indie guy, Mötley Crüe, and my Aunt Yolanda had to be a slam dunk.

And it was.

We spent a week on the Big Island with a few days in Waikiki on either side. I approached the planning with an eye to having a few different kinds of experiences: the remote-natural-splendor kind, classic-Hawaii-tourist kind, the read-a-book-a-day-while-sipping-umbrella-drinks-by-the-pool kind, and the eating-things-I-don’t-have-regular-access-to kind. We got started on the classic-Hawaii-tourist kind immediately, having beachside mai tais our first night…

Then jumped into the eating-things-I-don’t-have-regular-access-to kind the next day, taking a Hole-in-the-Wall food tour of Honolulu. It was a solid half day of being driven around town and eating things (maybe 15-20 different items, all told) from places I feel pretty confident we never would have gone to otherwise, and it was great.

It started with mana pua, which are sort of like a meat doughnut with char siu or roast pork or whatever else inside a sweetish dough. They’re baked, so they’re not greasy at all, and I think it’s insane that we don’t have them in New York. Call the place Meat Doughnut, don’t sell anything else, and you’re golden. Bonus for me: if you’re savvy about marketing, I bet you could siphon away all the cronut business from Dominique Ansel and then I could finally start getting breakfast there a couple times a week again. I miss the croissants, but not enough to wait in those lines. Man, this idea just keeps getting brillianter.

We had bakery items, like these chocolate-filled “cocoa puffs,” from Liliha Bakery:

And visited a rice noodle factory in Chinatown where everything is still done by hand and almost entirely without electricity; the lights and those fans are the only powered items, the noodles themselves are steamed.

Here, one of the guides, Bill, is handing out samples of some of the rice noodles above (plain, with bits of shrimp, and with bits of char siu), along with some pan-fried noodles and Korean bbq chicken:

A number of the items were dim sim style. These buns use the same chicken filling in both a steamed rice bun and a flaky pastry crust:

Roast pork and crispy pork belly:

Some kind of smoothie:

Spam musubi and poke (in the container). I know Spam takes a lot of flak, but I grew up eating it occasionally and don’t have an issue with it. These rice, Spam, and seaweed creations were surprisingly tasty. Later in the trip, we took Spam musubi on hiking trips a couple of times for a quick, filling, protein-rich snack. I don’t think I’ll seek it out here, but it was the right food at the right time. Poke is seasoned, cubed raw fish. It was available inexpensively almost everywhere, it ranged from great to transcendent, and I really wish it was more widespread here.

Some sweets: coconut tarts and carmelized bananas.

That night, on the advice of one of the guides, we went to a Hawaiian restaurant, since the food tour had been local foods rather than specifically Hawaiian foods and I thought we should have at least one traditional-ish meal.

I had chicken long rice, which is basically chicken soup with rice noodles, and Rob had some kalua pig. Both of the meals came with lomi salmon, which is a salmon and tomato salad; a sort of beef jerky; coconut custard; and rice or poi. I’ve had poi before (I had a native Hawaiian roommate at one point) and have never been moved to have it again; it’s not terrible, but it’s basically just a bland mush. There are plenty of other bland mushes I like better.

Bullet journal

And with this tweet, Kim Werker changed my life.

The bullet journal system is one of those things that’s so simple and so straightforward that you almost can’t believe it hasn’t always existed. As much as I rely on email and Twitter and various other online tools, I also keep a paper calendar, a Moleskine weekly planner with days on the left and a blank page on the right for groceries lists and weekly goals, plus tabbed notes pages in the back that I’ve used for a list of the books I’ve read that year or to keep track of DIY wedding projects. This has generally worked out really well, but I’m also constantly making notes on scrap paper–lists and thoughts, things I’d like to cook, outfits I’d like to wear, schematics for sweaters I’d like to make, plots for books I’d like to write, menus for parties I’d like to throw–that the planner doesn’t have space for. The bullet journal is a way to corral all of it, a flexible structure for keeping all of your written notes in one place. I’m only the tiniest bit abashed to say that it makes me swoon. The video explains it all better than I could:

I’ve been using it for, oh, about four days now, and I’m completely converted. It feels natural and works really well with the way that I think and how I break down tasks. I had already been planning to do monthly goals this year instead of my normal long list of resolutions, and the bullet journal system is ideal for that: at the beginning of each month, I’ll think ahead about what I want to accomplish in the next 28/30/31 days/what would make those days more joyful and go from there, rather than doing that at the beginning of January for the next 365.

At this point, my paper calendar is still in play, since the only drawback of the bullet journal is that because the daily entries vary so much in length and there’s no way to figure out how many other kinds of notes I’ll be adding, it’s hard to use it to plan more than a month ahead. I may switch over to a digital calendar for appointments and the bullet journal for everything else, but I’m not quite there yet.

Also, I finally got around to joining Instagram, ostensibly so I could play along with #yearofmaking, but I can see that I’ll be having a lot of fun with it. I’m stephanieklose on there, should you want to play along.

Before They Pass Away

I’ve been completely mesmerized lately by the photo project Before They Pass Away, in which photographer Jimmy Nelson traveled the world to document extant indigenous tribes. The pictures are just gorgeous, and while I found a lot of Nelson’s rhetoric to be overblown and overly romantic, I particularly enjoyed navigating the site through the “journeys” tab, which lets you read about what it was like to move about in a particular part of the world, then see the people he met and photographed while he was there. This project has been getting comparisons to Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, in part because they both have remarkable books that came out around the same time, but mostly because both photographers take sensitive, celebratory portraits that manage to transport the viewer into the subject’s life, if only for a moment.

Vanuaru, Vanuatu Islands

Kazakh, Mongolia

Drokpa, India

Mursi, Ethiopia

Goroka, Papua New Guinea

A new year

2012 was a great year for me in a lot of ways, chiefly that I both shacked up with my lovely boyfriend and got a new job. But both of those things also had the deleterious side effect of  cutting my free time way, way down, which left me feeling rushed and frustrated and scattered a lot more than I’d like. I’m still making things, but blogging fell pretty far down the priority list, though that’s something I hope to correct going forward. (I have multiple sweaters I wear regularly that I have absolutely no record here of starting, working on, or finishing, for example, which seems ludicrous, considering that this is supposed to be my knitting blog. Anyway.)

I had great plans for holiday decorating and cookie baking and general merriment, but I was sick for about two weeks with the hideous crud that was making the rounds in New York–I honestly can’t remember the last time I stood on a train next to someone who wasn’t sniffling or coughing–and it was all I could do to go to work and feed myself a couple of times. Being asleep by 9 every night for a while does wonders for making a holiday season disappear. I did manage to do a couple of reasonably festive things before I went down though.

Hung some old ornaments in the kitchen window:

And made some magazine-page snowflakes and a paper chain garland:


Thinking about free time

I might see these ducks in Connecticut.

I went to the eye doctor today at lunch and now I’m sitting at my computer with dilated eyes, trying to knock out a couple of spreadsheets to help out the person who’s taking over my duties here starting next week. Because I got a new job! It’s a nice step up the masthead at a somewhat similar publication and I’m really looking forward to the change. Working at the computer right now is giving me a wicked headache though, and writing this post lets me just touch type and free associate instead of looking closely at some tiny-fonted print material and looking closely again at a tiny-boxed spreadsheet.

I don’t start at the new job until May 7, so have next week off and am going a little berserk planning how to spend the time. My boyfriend has a gig in Providence this weekend, so we’ll be roaming New England for a couple of days after that. Probably New Hampshire, since he’s never been there and I’ve only been to a friend’s family’s camp near Portsmouth and to the Nashua mall during my college-era mall retail management years. Suggestions for good hiking or thrift shops or the RI/NH equivalents of something like the Coon Dog Cemetery or the Belgian carrot museum happily accepted. I prefer my tourist attractions to be creepy or absurd or, ideally, both.

We’ll be back in New York mid-week, I think, maybe with a stop at his mom’s in Connecticut. And I’d really like to look back on my time off as being productive and fun. So I’ve been putting together a list of  “staycation” destinations: somewhere fancy for lunch (maybe Marea?), Ellis Island, Ft. Tilden, Bronx Zoo + Arthur Avenue, Habu… And I’m stockpiling books and thinking about writing projects, both freelance and personal, and planning a couple of sewing projects and some home organization and spring cleaning, plus movies I want to see (Snow White and the Huntsmen, Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, and, to my surprise, The Five-Year Engagement, which sounded asinine but has utterly charming trailers). So, basically, I’m planning for those three or four days as if I have a month or two at my disposal. It should be fun to look back at this post in a couple of weeks and see what I actually did. Watched tv and knit sporadically? Quite possible.

Blog lady

(via Michelle)

At a friend’s wedding this weekend, I got into a conversation about blogging with Vicky, another of the bride’s close friends. I was telling her how much I’d slowed down posting and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with the space, but that I definitely wanted to hang on to the domain, so I had to do something (I am very fun at weddings) and she said something so simple and smart and spot-on that I think it may have broken through my blog-writing block: that the nice thing about blogs is that they’re always there for you to go back to them. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been. It doesn’t matter what you’ve written about in the past. You can always start up again and write about whatever you want.

So here I am. And will be, much more frequently.