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:
UXpxyNc2bqn_v4aUtU_u0cBTXfuljqMJ7X5Di8zj18I__1446691379_76856_eJEGImcq6jXX8kiJZw2X_ODX51_jBmvIJrgIJTVR_c__1446691619_25043and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon:



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.

Made up my mind to make a new start, or, apparently the denizens of LA are all old friends of Rob’s

I went to California mainly to hang out with friends, read in the shade near water, and cast my eyes on things I hadn’t seen before. I’d only been to the Los Angeles area for work

unnamed-1We spent the first night in Santa Monica where we walked around on the pier and along the water, ate at The Misfit, and were asleep by 8:30. We stayed at the Seaview Hotel, which I’d chosen because of its convenient location, retro vibe, and relatively gentle price. While it turned out to be rather short on amenities—I had to wash my hair with soap because it hadn’t occurred to me that they wouldn’t provide shampoo—it was extremely long on charm. Rob and I both tend to get up early anyway and with the time difference factored in, we had hours to spend out on this deck the next morning before driving out to the desert.

unnamed-2Since we bought the tickets, I’d been daydreaming about drinking fruity drinks by the Ace Hotel pool. For years, I thought I hated sunshine and tropical anything, but it turns out that when there’s consistent shade available, it’s bliss to stare out at the mountains or float in the water or read with a fruity drink at hand. Who knew? (Everyone. Everyone knew.)

unnamed-3The other reason I wanted to go to Palm Springs, though, was to visit Joshua Tree. It was, unsurprisingly, spectacular. My only regret is that we didn’t camp out there, but that wasn’t in the cards for this trip. Just thinking about what the stars must look like out there though…swoon.

unnamed-9unnamed-8unnamed-4unnamed-6unnamed-5unnamed-7Then we went back to Los Angeles for the rest of the week. We spent a couple of days with a high school friend of Rob’s and his family who live in Eagle Rock. They took us to an unassuming strip mall in Burbank where I ate the best sushi I’ve ever had, to the Griffin Park Observatory, and for my first In-N-Out. (Confession: I kind of didn’t get the hype. It was perfectly good! But nothing special? But I’ve always wondered and now I know.) They had another old friend over for dinner one night and while everyone’s kids played, we drank wine and watched the sun set. It was magical.

unnamed-10Then, keeping in mind Benjamin Franklin’s words of wisdom about fish and guests, we took off, had dinner with a college friend of Rob’s and spent a night at a chic hotel in Koreatown, which has a gorgeous greenhouse-styled restaurant on its roof and concrete walls in its rooms that I was obsessed with.

unnamed-12IMG_4946.JPGOur last full day was spent running around indulging our various interests. We made a trip to The Fabric Store for me, where I got some spectacular material for a few projects, and visited Amoeba and Meltdown. We had been planning a trip to LACMA, but put that off since another old friend of Rob’s called in a few favors and got us on the guest list for an outdoor Van Halen show, which was fun and ridiculous—David Lee Roth had to stop the first song (“Panama,” for the record) halfway through because he somehow cut his nose on the microphone and had to go get taped up. The friends-of-friends section we qualified for was far enough back that it was easier to see what was going on onstage by watching other people’s phone screens.

unnamed-13(Fun fact: that hand belongs to Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali.)

Then, in a fitting LA-ish end to the trip, we met another old friend of Rob’s at the Chateau Marmont for a drink before crashing at an airport hotel and getting up early to return the rental car before heading home. Much like New York, Los Angeles is the kind of city that outsiders think is another, likely uninhabitable planet, but also like New York, millions of completely normal people live completely normal lives there. Everything everybody says about the traffic is true though.

Making jam on a perfect summer weekend

It’s a tricky thing, wanting to make jam when you live in New York City. Good fruit in jammable quantities is expensive, far more expensive than buying an equivalent amount of really good jam. But without a car, you can’t get anywhere to pick your own. And we don’t have a car. So I go on wistfully reading preserving sites and books and continue to buy the jam we eat.

But this weekend the stars aligned. A vacationing friend lent us his car for a week, the weather was gorgeous, and it’s peak strawberry season in New Jersey. Using this site, I found a place about an hour away (Sunhaven Farm, Hillsborough; no website) that seemed to function exclusively as a farm, rather than an activity-packed family fun day destination. I get why those places exist, but I don’t need to pay the bouncy-castle surcharge when I just want to breeze in, get my berries, and GTFO.
20140623-071140.jpgWe brought home just under eight pounds.
20140623-071150.jpgSince we had the car, we took a little detour to Princeton so one of us could pay homage at the Record Exchange and the other could indulge at The Bent Spoon (blood orange sorbet and sour cream ice cream = best creamsicle ever).
20140623-071202.jpgI washed and prepped all the berries when we got home, setting about ten cups aside for jam, and leaving the rest for eating. Then we headed up to Prospect Park, where Dum Dum Girls were playing a free show. One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, The Farm on Adderley, has the concession at the park’s free music series, so I was able to get some really good food, which I needed pretty badly at that point, having had mostly strawberries and ice cream so far that day: a codfish sandwich and crisp-tender garlicky broccoli.
20140623-071212.jpgI made the jam Sunday morning. It was my first time using Pomona’s pectin, and I’m converted. The amount of sugar you have to use with traditional pectin is just staggering, typically equal to the amount of fruit. Pomona’s jelling isn’t sugar-dependent, so I just used 2.5 cups with 10 cups of fruit and it was plenty sweet.
20140623-071228.jpgI got five and a half pints in the end.

20140623-071243.jpgSomewhere recently, I saw someone mention throwing their strawberries tops in a pitcher and steeping them with water. Turns out, it’s delicious, especially when you mix the strawberry water with a splash of elderflower cordial for the summeriest drink possible.
Sunday afternoon, while the jam was cooling, we took a quick trip to the beach at Jacob Riis Park and were back in time to watch the USA v. Portugal match with some friends.

Liesl Gibson workshop

This weekend I took an intensive, two-day workshop on fit and pattern modification in Liesl Gibson‘s studio in Bushwick. It was the first time she’d held a workshop in her own workspace, but she teaches this topic pretty regularly, I think. It was fantastic, of course. I learned a long time ago to choose classes and workshops based on the instructor, not the topic (I mean, if Judith Mackenzie McCuin taught a class on, I don’t know, spork carving or clock repair I’d take it in a heartbeat and I know it would change my life. I’d even take her class on cotton spinning and I HATE spinning anything that short and fine), and even though I hadn’t met Liesl before, I knew enough about her information-dispersing style from her online presence and the way other people talk about her teaching to know that it would be a really good fit for me. (Fit! Ha!) Happily, the subject of the class was something I was interested in anyway and it was a really, really terrific experience.

Everyone else in the workshop had come in from out of town and they all got together Friday night for drinks at Liesl’s apartment and dinner in the neighborhood. I had to miss that, unfortunately, but it was because Rob and his mom and I had dinner and went to see Hegwig (SO good) for her birthday, so I didn’t mind. I met up with them all the next morning for breakfast before we went to the studio. She talked to us about design ease versus fit ease and how to figure out how much you want and how they work together and she walked us through her favorite ways of tracing patterns and transferring the pattern markings, including all the seam allowances, to muslin. I got the impression that students in other workshops may have squawked at the admittedly time-consuming and fiddly practice of drawing in the seam allowances on all of the muslin pieces, but our group was pretty game and ready to get down to the business of sewing clothes that fit, regardless of whether that meant spending an extra 20 minutes marking the 5/8″ line around our pattern pieces.

20140602-200655.jpg Then we put together the muslins and Liesl evaluated the fit with the others weighing in. I learn best by doing a thing myself with an expert nearby who can help when I need it, so it was the ideal format for me. We’d each brought a pattern–we weren’t making the same thing–and I’d brought Simplicity 1652, which looks like crap on the pattern envelope but has really lovely, versatile lines. I did the full back and cap sleeve options. This is from their “Amazing Fit” line, which has separately drafted bodice pieces for different cups sizes. Mine ended up fitting me pretty well right from the get-go–I just had to take out a quarter inch on each side of the bodice–though Liesl did end up redrafting my sleeve cap a little taller and narrower. I’d gone in expecting to have to lengthen the torso, but the group was unanimous that even though the waist didn’t hit right at my natural waist, it was actually better that way since it added a bit of visual length to my legs and let the skirt gathers fall at a more flattering spot that lowering the waist would have.

The workshop was spread out over two days, which was really, really great. It meant that we didn’t have to rush to finish things by the end of the first day when we were all getting tired and that a couple of people even had time to fit more than one pattern. I didn’t–I wanted to make sure the skirt fitted too, so I put the whole thing together, but some of the others just worked up the bodices of their dresses or were just making tops. We all ended up learning from each other too; I’ve always had the hardest time getting gathers even, to the point where it’s been kind of disheartening (if I can’t even do this, how can I expect to ever do ANYTHING right? and so on; minor sewing difficulties make me oh so very dramatic), but two of the other students walked me through how they do it and it was the best I’d ever done (high fives, Lisa and Amy!).

I learned a lot of specific and/or technical bits of sewing-related information, to be sure, but one of the more valuable insights I gained this weekend, which blew my mind a little, is that I’m better at this than I generally think I am. When we were walking over to the studio from the subway that first morning, I said something to Liesl about not being very good at sewing, but I honestly don’t think that’s true anymore. I’m not advanced, certainly, and I won’t be making things I’m 100% thrilled with until I’ve logged a lot more hours of practice, but I’m going to stop saying that I’m not good. When I take the time to cut carefully and pin precisely and match marks and press properly, I am at least somewhere north of adequate. I may even stop being afraid of zippers by the end of the year and then I will be UNSTOPPABLE.

The only slightly unfortunate thing about the workshop was the timing, since it came right after I’d spent two days being ON and professional at BEA and another day doing same at LJ‘s pre-BEA Day of Dialog, so I was a little wiped out by the time Saturday morning rolled around. Day of Dialog was really great this year, by the way. I mentioned last week that I’d be moderating a panel on women’s fiction (does such a creature actually exist? do women want different things from the reading experience than men? is it all made-up marketing malarkey?) with a terrific group of authors–Chelsea Cain, Rainbow Rowell, Sophie Littlefield, Pamela Nowak, Lauren Oliver, Lisa Scottoline–and Tara Parsons, who’s the editorial director at Harlequin’s Mira line. I knew it would be good because the panelists are all professionals who know how to talk about their work and the larger world of publishing and books in front of an engaged audience, but it was even better than I’d even dared to hope. They’re all hilarious and supersmart and, not to mince words, I’m very good at moderating and providing a framework for discussion. I’m pretty sure there’s no video record, but if I can find any write-ups, I’ll add them here.


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.

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:


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.





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.]


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.


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.


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.)