Monday, August 22, 2011

New York, End of Summer

Here's something I love about New York. One day, on the familiar street that you walk down every other day to get to the farmer's market, this dress arrives on a fire escape. It's this perfect corally pinky red, and you can tell even from five floors down that it's a little too long to be practical for a normal night on the town, so you come up with a story in your head about the person who is airing it out in order to wear it to a party that night--it could just as easily be a jokey costume party as it could be a gala event--and you feel lucky that you were able to catch that moment when it hung outside on the fire escape, against the brown sooty bricks and the wrought iron. 

And then the following week, as you walk to the farmer's market, you look up wistfully to re-live that moment when you saw the perfect corally pinky red dress,'s still there. And you begin to realize, it just lives there now. Through last weekend's torrential rainstorm, through exhaust from traffic racing by below, the dress still hangs, and no one's bringing it in any time soon. Why, exactly? Who knows!

That is, literally, my way of describing the kind of things that happen in New York.
And not that we don't love us some New York, but Robb and I are going to take a little vacation. To Hawaii in fact! So far away. So completely different from our normal lives. Right? I just can't imagine I'll find any vintage dresses hanging against sooty brick buildings in Kona.

Last week, it dawned on us that when we return from our trip, it will pretty much be September. Which is, incidentally, pretty much fall. And with chagrin we realized we hadn't had a single picnic in the park all summer. So we made a big dinner and walked it over to the park with a bottle of bubbly. The old man neighbor who sits outside every single night during the summer made his compulsory joke--"Dinner for me? You shouldn't have!"--as we smiled and laughed and kept walking with salad bowl in hand. As we set up picnic, I took this photo of Robb, above, which is quite possibly the cutest photo of him I've ever seen in my life. 
And then he took this photo of me. (Nice one, I know.)
After I practiced my Ariel-from-Footloose impersonation ("Daddy hates it when I wear these boots"), we watched the sky get dark and the lights come on and we became amateur sociologists, watching the neighborhood children play.
See these two kids in the background in the photo above? They were playing with a little girl and each of them had a stick, and then they took the girl's stick away and told her to GO AWAY and she did this sort of sulky wandering/stomping by herself thing for awhile as the boys continued to stick fight--one with TWO sticks, the other with one--until they broke the extra stick. I swear to you, I hated those boys! So mean!!!
All at once, it seemed, the sky became tinged with purple and the branches slowly swayed.
And sometime while we were talking about what a cicada actually is--what do they look like? Are they big and fat like a grub? Or brittle like a grasshopper? And why are they making that noise??--it started to get dark.
And then, as we were laying back, pointing out stars as they appeared in the sky, it got really really dark. 

And then we went and got some ice cream.

And this, my friends, is what New York looks like at the end of summer. I hope your end-of-August is full of similar scrambles to soak it all in.

To find out what Hawaii looks like at the end of summer, you'll have to tune in next week. For now? Aloha!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DIY Wrapping Paper

I just want to clarify that it's not like I HATE wrapping paper. I just don't tend to use least not the stuff that comes on rolls.

Oh, except at Christmas when Robb and I pack all of our gifts into our suitcases and fly to his parent's house or my parent's house, and then we do the mad scramble the night before Christmas to wrap it all up using whatever shiny reindeer paper and sticky bows we can find. On that occasion, yes, I definitely use wrapping paper.

All other occasions? Eh...I just don't. Not really sure why! There are so many pretty boutique wrapping papers available (though often with a high price). And I'm a total snob about gift bags (especially if there is no tissue in the bag). Aren't I the worst?
But I DO love the magic of a wrapped gift. The mystery of it all. The bequeathing of the gift! With a pretty bow on top! And perhaps I've seen The Sound of Music a few too many times, but the one type of paper I tend to keep around the house for wrapping (other than using "creative" sections from the newspaper) is a roll of kraft paper. In a pinch, it can by gussied up with some braided yarn or a pretty ribbon I've hung on to for some reason (I call that kind of hoarding my inner "depression-era grandma").

But sometimes I want to kick up my brown-paper packages wrapped up with string, and in those cases I get out the stamps. I know, this isn't terribly groundbreaking news--stamps on kraft paper make things pretty. But it's true! And actually, it's really really easy. And in the girliest of ways, it really seems to delight the recipient. So in my opinion--even though they're just gonna rip and throw out the paper the second they open it--it's totally worth it.

For this particular gift, I did a repeating flower design in cream and green, and then I tied it up with two straps that I had leftover from a Heyallday Handmade bag (they were too short, so off they went!). And whamo, that's how you use the things laying around your house to wrap up a sweet little gift. 

And yes, I am totally a depression-era grandma hoarder who uses her "saved scraps" to wrap gifts.

So, any guesses as to what's in the package?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Winners & One Big Weird Loser

When things go wrong in the garden, it's hard to explain the disappointment. It's not quite like if your child or even your dog were suddenly ill. No, nothing like that at all. But it's not quite as insignificant as a failed pie crust or accidentally overcooked fish. Those are easy disappointments...simply pour your guests a little more wine and all will be forgiven (if not forgotten). No. When something goes wrong in the garden, it's somewhere in between. It's like ruining the pie and then being told that, as a consequence, you can't have pie for another year. Mild horror could ensue (depending on your sweet tooth), followed by a heaviness that feels better, only momentarily, after stomping your foot a few times. Then there's a mad dash to research books and raid the internet, trying to find out what you did wrong, how you can fix it...can you fix it?...And you try to save it, but sometimes, the opportunity is just gone.

That's how I feel about my tomatoes. It seems that there is something wrong with the soil. A bacterial wilt issue. How? Why? When? It's not the end of the world...the plants aren't dead. They're just SLOW. And a little brown. And not all that happy. And we can't plant tomatoes in that patch for 4 to 5 years. So I will not be presenting my coworkers with any three pound heirloom tomatoes this year, or leaving little paper bags full of cherry tomatoes for the neighbors. I will savor each one of my skimpy bounty. I will supplement with the farmers market and try not to feel bitter. And in the meantime, I will celebrate what IS working in the garden.
Speaking of which, these hollyhocks are WORKING. For the last three years, I've tried to grow hollyhocks from seed. And they've sort of worked. Sort of. Except for all the weeds surrounding them, tangling their roots, preventing them from ever getting much taller than my knees. This year we decided to mulch the flower beds and it was a life changing experience. Mulch is a miracle that keeps weeds from growing so that your plants can actually, just, GROW, and not get all buried in the ivy monster like they have in previous years. And this year they are growing and growing, taller than the broccoli, taller than the rhododendron...
And they are just getting started! Just look at all these future budlets, just waiting to burst forth with their papery fuschia petals and mesmerizing stamens.
Taller, of course, than the hollyhocks is the single mammoth sunflower that has taken off like a rocket. It's currently about 6'5" and still growing, its stem as thick and strong as a tennis racquet (the handle part anyway). It's funny...there's another mammoth sunflower on the opposite side of the yard, but it's only at about 4 feet. It's in a slightly shadier patch, but isn't it interesting what a difference an extra hour of daily sun can make?
And here it is from down below, all overexposed so that you can see the large leaves against the sky. In this photo I especially love that you can't see the top, so it's easy to imagine it just keeps going and going, like Jack and the Beanstalk. (Cue Sondheim theater nerd reference: There are Giants in the Sky....)
Is Sondheim a good transition to melons? Why not! In the photo above I present to you the most darling thing in our yard right now. A tiny little watermelon! It's so darling, in fact, that I'm honestly scared that jackals are going to come steal it at night. Or someone will step on it or hit a croquet ball right into it and there will be some sort of Humpty Dumpty-esque accident. It's just so....cute! And it's the only one, and we've never successfully grown watermelons before. So, you know, I'm feeling protective. Say a little fruity prayer for this one because we really like him.
And here, a major success story...the pepper plant that we brought indoors last year. It's alive in a BIG way. Look at all of these peppers! It's laden with them! Although I must point out that we tried to eat one earlier this week and it was a little...funky. It smelled hot but it wasn't. The skin was a bit chewy. It was a bit bitter. I dunno, but something wasn't quite right. So, Frankenpepper lived to tell the tale, but he was never quite the same. (I feel like there's a lesson to be learned in this...maybe about cloning. Listen up, future! Some things are better left un-messed with!)

Note also in the above photo just how damn much is going on. There's a basil plant right below the peppers, a strawberry plant to its left, cucumbers behind it, a big sunflower leaf overhead...madness! Once again, we've let things get a little out of control.
And because it wouldn't be a KYP blog post without something shameful, it is now time to present to you the biggest weirdest loser of them all: this corn. I mean, jeez!!! What is HAPPENING here? It's like a vitamin deficient old man! One of those old skeezers that has like three strands of hair that he keeps real long and combs over his bald head...hygiene be damned, he's going out on the town!

Every year we check the seed packet to make sure we're not actually growing horse feed, and every year the corn still grows like this. What is UP with that?

Well, clearly we have a lot to learn. And we've been very lucky, despite our tomato issues and terminally ill corn. A cucumber beetle scare last week seems to have passed (knock on wood), and there's still hope for the carrots and the onions. But you never know what potential disaster or enormous success is waiting around the corner. Each day is so emotional! Such an adventure! It's really shocking sometimes--almost embarrassing--when I look out into our yard and realize how much I care.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Technology Crafts & Lace Knitting

So, a couple of months ago, Robb and I decided we wanted to throw an engagement party/barbecue for our friends Jess and Ryan. (Which is the occasion for which I made the individual ice cream cupcakes with homemade magic shell!). When it came time to create an e-vite, I trolled both of their Facebook pages looking desperately for a photo to include in which they are both eating hot dogs or hamburgers, a chicken wing, anything! But alas, there were no photos of them eating a thing. (Well, there's one of Jess eating bacon at bruch, but I thought that wasn't quite right.) So instead I decided I had to craft my own photo of them eating said barbecued foods. I found the prettiest picture of them I could--at our wedding, in fact, with golden light behind them--and I somehow figured out how to cut and paste a hot dog and a hamburger over their mouths. It looks, in a word, terrible. But I was delighted to have learned how to do something so lame and fun using basic Mac software (i.e. Preview).

Electrified by the possibilities that this new "technology" had to offer, I went wild looking for things that I could annotate, manipulate, or otherwise deface. One of my first practice rounds with arrows and annotations was this photo above, in which I wanted to point out how frumpy my butt looks in these particular cut-off shorts. (Here, all this time, I had been thinking that I had this cute little Daisy Duke butt...nah ah...these shorts are sad little droopers.)

But the REAL benefit of learning how to include annotations on photos is so that I can point things out to you people on this here blog, using precise arrows rather than elusive descriptions. How else, for instance, would I explain to you the mistakes that I made in the Feather Mitts that I knitted recently? These are from a book I edited, Loop-D-Loop Lace, and they were so so so much fun to make. A little bit challenging, but really quick. I finished nearly one whole mitt, in fact, while at jury duty. But it's funny how we learn as we knit. The one on the right is the one I made first, and you can literally see my learning curve. The picot stitch at the bottom (that's the pretty ruffled part) is made by purling the stitch on your needle together with the cast-on stitch several rows below. It's sort of hard to get the hang of at first, and I never know which loop to put my needle through when I'm picking up stitches, so I wound up with this seam line where you can see the pick-up. Note that in the second mitt, however, I'd figured out how to do's seamless!

And then, about 16 rows into the stitch pattern on the first mitt, you can see where I lost count about halfway through the row. (I was watching the Stonewall Uprising documentary on PBS--so good!--and I totally forgot what I was doing.) I looked down about two rows later and realized that my lovely feather-and-trellis stitch pattern was a little more wavy-gravy than feathery-trellisy. While many knitters would go back and fix this problem, I am not one of those knitters. Believe it or not, ripping out lacework is NOT my favorite activity. And so, when I sew up these mitts, I do believe that I'll just wear wavy-gravy on the palm side and flaunt my more polished patterns on the back.

Now aren't you glad I figured out how to use annotations and arrows in Preview? Otherwise, you may never have had this chance to judge me. And my frumpy butt.