Category Archives: sometimes I leave the house

BiblioCraft

Last night, I ventured into north Brooklyn (just a few blocks from where I lived a few years ago, but a bit of a trek from my current south-of-the-park neighborhood) for the release party of Jessica Pigza’s fabulous new book, BiblioCraft. Jessica is a rare-books librarian at NYPL and a life-long crafter and her book combines these interests in an innovative way, offering dozens of ideas for ways to use library holdings for inspiration.  She got a rock-star list of contributors (Natalie Chanin, Grace Bonney, Liesl Gisbon, Gretchn Hirsch…) to offer their own beautiful library-inspired crafts, but also writes a lot about using online image sources and how to effectively and efficiently deploy your local resources, library or otherwise.

I had the pleasure of visiting her at work a few months ago when I was interviewing her for Library Journal. She had pulled out some of her favorite items for us to look at. That’s a hand-drawn book of fern specimens open in front of her.

It’s a little hard to tell, but all of the motifs in the example below (a marketing tool for a man offering his penmanship services) are drawn in a single line without the pen being picked up—ideal for embroidery. Apparently I didn’t photograph them, but the NYPL has a number of books of watermarks that would make exceptional embroidery motifs since they’re necessarily so simple and graphic.

These wood-type specimen books are a treasure trove of typographical goodness.

And this wasn’t precisely craft related, but it was fun: a card game to learn semaphore, hand flag, and morse code signals.We think this spells out Klose. Many of the signals were very similar; it’s a little difficult to imagine transmitting a message this way to someone on a far-away ship.

And now I’m 37.

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We put off taking our honeymoon until now since our birthdays are only a week apart and this way we could combine occasions for one big honeymoon/both birthdays/Valentine’s extravaganza. I think today is going to be the absolute best of what’s been a string of amazing days: I’m kicking off the first day of my 37th year by waking up in a treehouse in the Hawaiian rainforest and will close it out at a chic hotel in Honolulu where there is apparently a bookcase in the lobby that leads to a secret cocktail bar. I’m feeling absurdly lucky and extraordinarily well positioned to give some thought to what I want the rest of the year to hold.

First though, I’m going to go have my coffee out here:

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Foggy thinking

I went to see Her yesterday, which I liked a lot (in contrast to the elderly couple sitting next to me, who openly scoffed at every plot development and half the lines of dialogue). I’m a sucker for movies that take a slant-wise approach to human connections, and I thought the movie was beautifully designed; the color palette (corals, lemons, grassy greens, azures, and taupes) was fresh and pretty, and the way it mixed vaguely futuristic design with the openly nostalgic (that initial shot of the beach could have been a photograph from the early 60s) was very effective and appealing. The extremely long rise on the men’s pants was a bit jarring while I was watching, but the thinking behind that choice makes sense.

Then I walked home through Prospect Park, which was the foggiest I’d ever seen it. It was a little eerie and very, very lovely.

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Start as you mean to go on

I rang in the new year last night at the Andrew WK show at Irving Plaza, where Rob’s punk/metal karaoke band was one of the opening acts. Here, our friend Aaron is onstage with them doing MC5′s “Kick Out the Jams”

20140101-112610.jpgI have to confess that I didn’t really know anything about Andrew WK before they booked this gig. I mean, I knew that he existed and that he was kind of a party dude; I saw people retweeting his “party tips” from time to time. Between that and the photo he uses as his avatar, I’d somehow gotten the idea that he was a DJ who was sort of a bastard child of Russell Brand and Mark Ronson. Once Rob stopped laughing long enough to show me some videos, he described him as a very positive, earnest rock n roll guy. And he is. He’s all about joy and happiness and he puts on a hell of a fun show. He’s a sweetheart and all of the musicians he plays with are really lovely and friendly. I have all the warm feelings in the world for him. [sidenote: I've been relistening to the audiobook of Tana French's Faithful Place, which is set in Dublin, and I've been charmed by the way some of the characters refer to sweet people (those they dote on) as "dotes," which I love ("ah, he's a little dote, he is.") but don't think I could ever pull off--I'd be afraid people would think I was calling them dolts. Still, Andrew WK is a dote, sure.]

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Later in the set, there was a guy in a gorilla suit playing some kind of percussion instrument that involved hitting a block with a stick.

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And now it’s New Year’s Day, which is my favorite day. I love thinking about the year ahead and what I can do today, right now, to set the tone I want. More live music. More writing here. We’re heading out for brunch at a favorite neighborhood spot in a minute, then I’m going to spend the afternoon doing a bit of work on all of the knitting and sewing projects I currently have in circulation, probably while watching some BBC crime dramas. I bought myself a rotary cutter and its accoutrements for Christmas, so I’d like to teach myself how to use it. I’m going to make some hoppin’ john later and work on a couple of proposals for projects I want to do this year, some of which are writing and some of which are knit design projects. Maybe we’ll take a walk around Prospect Park. I’ll paint my nails (increased fanciness in 2014!).

Another New Year’s Day tradition for me is to cast on a new sweater. This year, I think it’s going to be an Alga out of my recently finished ombre handspun. I swatched the yarns a few days ago and am really happy with how they look together.

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November in Green-Wood

This past weekend, Rob’s band was playing out of town (at the bachelorette party for this wedding), which gave me the opportunity to do some of the things I used to do more when I was single, such as eat a pile of crepes with jam and sour cream at 3:00 in the afternoon or spend a few hours wandering around a graveyard by myself.

It’s no secret that Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is one of my favorite places , and I especially like it this time of year when the light is low and the shadows are lengthened and the fall colors are spectacular. I was re-listening to the audiobook of Gillian Flynn’s debut, Sharp Objects, while I was walking, which is not a particularly scary book, really, but it is intensely creepy and makes a deeply satisfying background narrative to feeling one’s way through the ankle-deep leaves on frost-heaved paths (is there solid footing under there or am I about to twist an ankle?) and filling one’s pockets with shiny, useless conkers, should you be looking for one this fine November.

The teeny-tiny speck in the sky is one of half a dozen red-tailed hawks that were lazily circling near the entrance where the wild parrots live

My New 52: Chicken and Dumplings

This one, I’m sorry to report, was a bust, pasty and pretty bland. I don’t necessarily want to blame the recipe since I tweaked it a fair amount, but it’s hard to imagine that any of the changes (no sherry in the house, so deglazed with white wine; no leeks at our grocery store, so used extra onion plus celery and carrots, for example) really screwed things up all that much. Still, it was warm and filling and I’ll be happy enough to eat the leftovers for lunch for a few days.

On the other hand, this caramelized onion dip was absolutely delicious. I didn’t even get a picture because four of us demolished it before I ever even thought to reach for my camera.

Bonus photos of this weekend: some pigs I visited and Will Shortz, who was involved in a crossword competition I was in on Saturday. (I did not distinguish myself.)

Raw milk

Last winter, my brother took me to a farm where he sometimes buys cheese for his restaurant so that we could meet the farmer, a woman whose hand, when she shook mine, was so calloused and beautifully used that my own soft and varnished paws made me feel like the last coddled and inbred remnant of a soon-to-be-extinct monarchy, and also to get me some raw milk. Apparently, when Geoff first brought the subject up with her, she asked him, a little suspiciously, why I wanted it, since it’s not really legal to sell and I could have been an undercover dairy inspector setting up some sort of very small-scale sting operation. But he just replied, “She’s from Brooklyn,” which, it’s handy to know, apparently will excuse any precious or outlandish behavior one cares to engage in in the Northeast Kingdom.

Up to and including taking photos of bottles of milk with one’s phone.

It was delicious.

Someone’s not quite living up to theirs

Over the weekend, I was wandering from the East Village to Chinatown (on a mission to visit this supermarket, which was quite nice, even though it didn’t carry the two things I was looking for, mochiko sweet rice flour and macapuno coconut strings, to make this) and this strangely elaborate, busted-up bench caught my eye.
And then I saw who had (made? arranged for? commissioned?) it:

New York day trip: Dead Horse Bay

I remember hearing about Dead Horse Bay ages ago and thinking it sounded interesting. Then this past Friday I followed a link from somewhere and ended up here, at which point I said to myself, Self, you should go there and see what that’s all about. So I did.

Dead Horse Bay is out on the far eastern edge of Brooklyn, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was home to a number of horse-rendering plants, where dead horses were taken to be turned into glue and fertilizer and whatever else one can turn a dead horse into. Post-processing, the bones were just dumped in the water. Once automobiles became more popular and there were fewer horse corpses to go around, the area was used as a landfill. The trash heap was capped in the ’30s, but exploded onto the beach a couple decades later and because of whatever tidal oddities go on there, a lot of it remains to this day.

It’s actually pretty easy to get there: take the 2 train to the last stop, then pick up the Q35 bus right outside the station. I asked the driver to give me a head’s up when we got to the last stop before the bridge, which he was nice enough to do after double-checking that I knew where I was headed. The trail leads off right from the bus stop and it’s about a ten-minute walk before you hit sand. I’d checked the tide tables beforehand to make sure I’d arrive around low tide, since there didn’t seem to be much point if everything I wanted to look at was under water. There were a handful of other people walking around, but few enough to really feel like I’d somehow managed to remove myself to a different place and/or time entirely.

Early on in my wanderings, I met a mysterious old man who gave me this clay pipe he’d just found. As I mentioned on twitter yesterday, there’s pretty much no way it doesn’t have magical properties.

Oui! C’est une pipe!

I’d read accounts of other visitors finding horse bones on the beach, but this was the only evidence of that part of the area’s history that I came across:

I did find a fair number of intact old bottles in the midst of all of those shards, but honestly, I don’t really have any use for old bottles. So the only things I brought home with me were the pipe and an interestingly calcified clam shell. I don’t know that I’d necessarily be in a hurry to return, but I’m glad I went. It was a fascinating glimpse into a little-known piece of New York history, as well as its potential future (hundred-year-old glass on the beach has a certain kind of charm; this much modern garbage decidedly would not), and gave me a chance to explore a part of Brooklyn I’d never visited. If you do decide to take a trip out there, wear your absolute sturdiest shoes. I was wearing hiking shoes and was fine, but I think walking over that much broken glass would have ripped normal sneakers to shreds.