Category Archives: and so on

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.

Simple geometrics

Inspired by these coasters, I used some fabric I had around to make a bunch of light/dark squares. The red/white floral was a piece of flocked cotton, maybe half a yard, that came into my hands when my favorite cousin bought a house that had previously been owned by a hoarder. There was other fabric and yarn, but most of it had been gnawed on by little beasties, both winged and naked-tailed, and wasn’t usable. I’d wanted to use it for something special and had almost given up hope when I hit upon this idea. The plan is to put them together for cushion covers, but I haven’t quite nailed down which configurations I like best. I think these two may be the winners though. I like the strong graphic quality of the patterns and the contrast between the small pieces and the large motifs.
But there are almost limitless other combinations, not to mention the fact that I made a bunch of squares using the same striped fabric and a darker red silk paisley that used to be one of my favorites dresses in the late 90s, so that increases the combinations exponentially.
I have a crafting date with some friends this weekend, so I may pull them all out and see how everyone else puts them together.

Other things that have happened since I last posted:

  • I moved in with my boyfriend. We have the first floor of a rambling old house, complete with a deck, a bathroom that’s tiled on the ceiling, a sort of North African … mirror installation in the living room, and some truly ghastly 1980s wallpaper in the kitchen. The latter is not long for this world, but the rest of it is thoroughly charming.
  • I became obsessed with Homeland.
  • I became obsessed with Gillian Flynn’s latest book, Gone Girl. I actually almost regret reading it because it means I can never read it again for the first time.
  • I became obsessed with Draw Something.
  • I made this, possibly my favorite salad ever.
  • Knitting-wise, I’m plodding away on Effortless and Folded.

Resolve

I *love* New Year’s resolutions. Love them. I love sitting down on New Year’s Day with my fresh Moleskine day planner and thinking about what I want to happen in the next 12 months while shoveling as much hoppin’ john in my mouth as I can handle*. I believe in making very specific resolutions, ones that are going to be either FUN or in the service of something that I really want. (A good friend of mine from grad school made the same resolution every year: Drink more. That’s what I’m talking about.) Last year’s included making sure that I always had some wine around the house, reading all of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, a timeline for finishing, editing, and submitting my book, donating blood as often as I was eligible, and some goals for pursuing more freelance writing and self-publishing more knitting patterns. I let myself get derailed on some of the work-y ones, but I totally kicked ass when it came to booze and blood.

This year, I’m trying something a little different: more general goals for the year, specific ones for each month. The general ones all fall into one of two categories: ‘Learn’ or ‘More of.’ Among other things, I want to learn more embroidery and crochet — I’m decent at each as far as I go with them, but stay well within my very limited comfort zone — and want more of a lot of things in my life: music, having people over, houseplants, hiking, baking bread…

January’s specific goals are to finish the scarf I’m knitting for Rob, which is seed stitch and sportweight yarn and insanely boring but beautiful, knock off the blind stitching for the binding on this quilt, which is a task I find insanely tedious but one I need to do to finally finish this thing and be able to use it, and get back on track with writing. I have a big freelance proofreading project due next week, so the book will have to wait until after that (not least because I need my work table back to spread out all of my notes and research), but I’ll get there.

 

*Lots.