Thursday, August 25, 2005

Everything but the Purl

Laura recently asked me about the progress on my drop stitch shrug. Shrug? Was there a shrug I was working on...??? Oh, yeah. It's in Austin. And I'm not!

Being new to this blogging gig, I don't know the protocol for letting people know you're on vacation and stuff. When you're working in a grown-up job, you turn on the nice little "out of office" autoreply that sends out those weird, impersonal emails to your friends who sent you their latest jokes or random pictures of polar bears. (And if you're the person sending it, don't tell me you don't get that initial thrill of seeing that you have a new message in your inbox, and that someone is already chortling over your funny and had to email you about it...and then you realize with disappointment that it's an Out of the Office autoreply.)

Anyway, I happen to be on vacation in Chicago, where I am staying at the wireless-free, Internet-free zone that is my parents' home. It's also cable-free, but that's OK, because I discovered this neato channel (23, I think) that shows round the clock reruns of The Monkees, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Bewitched, Get Smart, Batman...oh, the list goes on and on. Better programming than any cable channel! Even TV Land! The second day I was home, I sat mesmerized for a solid three hours, needing only a PB&J to complete that after-school experience.

So, needless to say, I haven't been able to catch up on emails, or blogging, or anything computer related, in more than a week. And there are tons of things to blog about...more than I could possibly fit in here right now, since I'm stealing some morning time to do this at my brother's house, but have to run home soon since my sister's coming to town today with my adorable, endlessly amusing 3 year old niece. Hurray!

Before I left Austin, my friends and I took a little road trip to San Antonio for a reading/performance hosted at JumpStart Theatre, and organized by (I think) Sandra Cisneros's Macondo writing workshop and the Esperanza Center. This was the second time in about a month that I've been to San Antonio, and in close proximity to La Sandra, and you can't call it stalking. You can't! Because I was there legimitately both times, see? Once to present at a conference, and once for this reading.

It was super cool. They called it Noche de Mil Recuerdos (see Jennifer's blog for another recuerdo of it), and rigged the theater to look like a smoky cantina, with a mirrored bar behind the stage, and a dance floor, and little cabaret tables scattered about. My friends and I were only able to get standing room tickets, which worked out well, because we ended up standing in close proximity to the real bar, and snacking on nuts and beef jerky. The performers, and some of the patrons, were outfitted in retro-seventies-hippie-bohemian gear, and the whole effect was to create a world straight from Denise Chavez's novel, Loving Pedro Infante. There was a great performance of Cisneros's The Marlboro Man, which is essentially a dialogue between two women discussing the fate of the fabled mustached bloke, but here it was brilliantly peformed by two gay male characters. There were a couple of women singers, belting out classics like "Volver" in a raw, sobbing voice (as La Sandra might say...or has said) and getting the whole room to wail it out with them. La Sandra read of course, and Denise Chavez also shared a couple of pieces from her new work, The King and Queen de Comezon.

Here are the divas of Chicana literature, Denise Chavez and Sandra Cisneros:

Sandra had this hee-larious outfit on, with bell-bottom jeans, an embellished caftan top, hoop earrings big enough to hitch a horse to, and a crocheted cap and trenzas (braids) to top it all off.

One of our dear friends who participated in the writing workshop scribbled out directions for the afterparty, somewhere close to downtown San Antonio. The directions were eminently clear. But the streets? Sheesh hamaneesh. The general rule for road planning in Texas seems to have been, let's trick em. Roads curve, turn into other roads without warning, and when you're faced with a particularly befuddling intersection, there are three signs suspended overhead that all seem to be claiming the same street. We were like, we get it, we're not from here. WE GET IT. (Although Lyle Lovett claims that Texas wants us anyway. :-)

We circled for a while before finally finding our way, and even got to see the Alamo in the bargain.

We arrived at the party, where La Sandra herself was standing out front, directing guests around to the back. With a lot of chutzpah, we marched in (after I threw all the names of my friends at her that she would recognize, hoping that she wouldn't call us out for the crashers that we were, and her shrugging it off, saying that it wasn't her house anyway). We got to hang out for a few hours with our friends and have delicious tamales and lamb biryani (thank you to the nice host whose house it was and who provided the spread and who was very nice to us). And although we didn't exactly mingle with Sandra and Denise, we hung on the periphery, much like the new kids in the school cafeteria, sitting next to the cool table and occasionally stealing sideways glances in their direction.

All this, before leaving for Chicago! I have to say it's been great being on vacation, not checking my school email account, leaving any student emails languishing in my box while I knit and read Vogue and watch 70s nostalgic television. (I am making progress on Orangina, but sadly have no picture. Imagine...more lace.) I did make it downtown a couple of times this week, once to go for a dentist appointment that I ended up late for, and the second time, to make up the dentist appointment that got rescheduled because I was late. Story of my life. But am I complaining? Nooo, ma'am. Look at my beautiful city:

The infamous "bean"--this is the newest sculpture to Chicago's collection (which includes a Picasso in Daley Plaza and a Calder in the Post Office plaza). Just added last year, I think, it's actually called "Cloud Gate," but since Chicagoans have to redefine everything on their terms, it became popularly known as the Bean. (It does kinda look like Elsa Peretti's bean for Tiffany, I gotta say.) Anyway, it's been obscured behind scaffolding so that the seams between its metal plates can be polished away, but if you walk behind it, you can see that the work is progressing nicely.

The Frank Gehry bandshell in Millenium Park.

The Chicago River (where ER likes to pretend that their doctors have time to take strolls, but in reality is nowhere near Cook County Hospital).

The lovely, limestone water tower that survived the Great Chicago Fire.

The Presbyterian church on Michigan Avenue, tucked away among glittering high-rises.

The much-underappreciated John Hancock Center.

The first day I missed my appointment, I wandered up to Oak Street, and wandered right into We'll Keep You in Stitches. Oops! It doesn't have the presentation of other yarn stores, but who cares when you walk out with the kind of loot I walked out with the other day? Their sale section is basically a large cardboard box. Everything was half off! I bought five balls of Adrienne Vittadini Paloma, a soft alpaca blend boucle in a lovely deep turquoise that will maybe be enough for a smallish shawl, or a nice scarf, and some Katia Sonrisa, a cotton yarn plied with a multicolored ribbon that I am going to knit up into a tank top for my niece! (Friends, this will be my first real foray into design, and while it's not gonna be anything complicated, I'm really excited to try it!)

What would a stroll down Michigan Avenue be without a lil' bit o' shopping? I walked into Filene's Basement, where I HAD to show you the atrocities hanging on the clearance rack. These were all 75% off, I believe, which still required a not-insubstantial chunk of change to take 'em home with you.

This is a Miu Miu top made out of some weird football jersey fabric lined with a stiff interfacing so that it could, literally, stand up by itself. I believe the "inspiration," if you can call it that, was taken from whatever football garment the players wear over their shoulder pads.

This is a knitted tube on a hanger. No joke. No label, either. Just a price tag from which I do not recall the price, but guaranteed to be at least $50. Hey! I'll knit you a tube! For half that price!

I honestly do not believe that I have any words that could possibly add anything to this picture. Except that it's Gucci.

OK, I do have some words: MC Hammer? Filene's Basement's got your pants! And they want $100 for them!

I have a rant about high fashion that I have planned for this space. Watch for it. But for the time being, let it be said: Women of the world! Make a stand against the tyranny of fashion designers on crack! For the love of GOD!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

House House House House Music

So I caught up with my Chicago girls last night and went to see the premiere of a documentary on Chicago house music, called The Unusual Suspects. Made me nostalgic for those days of music so loud that it throbs through your body from the inside out. Oh, and you liked it.

Trouble with growing up with this kind of music is that you listened to mixes on the radio, and each one was different and unique, so you can't really recapture that experience now just by shopping the "oldies" section of the record store. (makes me shudder to even think of my music qualifying as an "oldie"!)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I just wanted to share a picture of Alison wearing her new One Skein Wonder:

Isn't she gorgeous? The OSW...a little sheer, perhaps, due to being knit up on needles too big for the yarn. But it fit her perfectly, which is probably the most important thing. It was a good learning experience to work through that pattern, because even though I am scared as sh*t of altering any pattern and hang onto the written instructions like a life raft, I think that this may be a good one to try out different yarns on (and therefore different gauges). What's the most I have to lose? Maybe a couple of hours of knitting. Big deal! I have some ribbon yarn left over from the
Ribbon Xback tank that might make a cute shrug, if'n I don't run out of it.

Anyway, we had a great time at the Bitter End, which is a fantastic microbrewery and restaurant here in Austin. I had a delicious salad Nicoise, but the real attention-getter on the menu was the antelope. Antelope? One of us did order it, and pronounced it very good. And not too gamy. Hmmm. We then got together with a fun group of people from the English Department at the Long Branch Inn, on the east side. I must be getting old, because I failed to close the bar down like I have been known to do in the past. I stayed till a respectable 11:30, and then headed home.

Some people may be wondering how the hell I get away with sporting an Academics Knit button, since practically all of my posts have to do with distinctly non-literary pursuits. (I think that there may be ways to intellectualize knitting. But shoe shopping?) Well, the answer to that is that it's summer, and not much book learnin' is going on in my house right now.

I spent the summer teaching freshman rhetoric and composition to 20 just-out-of-high-school kids, and although it was really quite the grind, ultimately I had a blast. I was kinda scared at the beginning of the summer, because the boys outnumbered the girls 4 to 1. And yes, sometimes it did feel like Romper Room in there, but the students were energetic, funny, and at times, endearing. Thursday was our last day, so I brought in pizza for my bunch, and we played a few rounds of knock-down, drag-out Trivial Pursuit. Yeah, I'm gonna miss 'em.

Some of you may not know that I left grad school for an extended break, because I wasn't sure that a Ph.D. was the way to go for me. But after a while, I realized that I really missed the teaching. I'm glad I came back.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Shoe ho. And FO.

I seriously think that I have to rename my blog "Shoe Whore." Since it's turning out that the posts about shoes may soon outnumber the posts about knitting. Last time I posted, I wrote about the flirty pink wedges with the ankle ties. Didn't get those, but before I tell you about that, let me share with you my experience at Shoe Nirvana, aka Last Call Neiman Marcus.

This is the outlet store where all the overstock and all the over-handled merchandise from seasons of yore go to live out their last days. Bright Prada handbags co-exist next to satin Philip Treacy hats, all brandishing deeply discounted prices. I walked in there thinking that all I needed was a new bra or two. Ha. I started out in the handbag department, fondling the Kate Spades. Out the corner of my eye, I saw the aisles of shoes beckoning, but I did my best to ignore it. No matter how much the discount is on very expensive shoes, they will still run you about $50.

But soon, I gave in to the siren song, and began to cruise the size 5 1/2/size 6 aisles.

At first, I didn't really think that there was anything really that fabulous there. But then I saw the Manolos. Or rather, one single beige lace Manolo shoe with an ankle tie, looking extremely lonely in its box. Cradling it reverently, I lifted it out and turned it over to look for the tag. You know how I complain about not being able to do the math? When it comes to clearance sales, the fog suddenly clears and I am miraculously able to do basic percentages. This tag indicated that the price would be, well, somewhere around $50.

I slipped it on my foot. I have never, EVER in my life had a Manolo Blahnik shoe on my little peasant foot before. As cliched as it sounds, yes. I did feel a bit Cinderella-ish, despite my bright orange cargo pants and black tank top.

Pretty soon, I was trying on all kinds of designer shoes. Just for the feeling. Just to see if all the fuss and Sex and the City hype had anything real behind it. And I just have to tell ya...for some of these shoes, it's true.

I paraded up and down in the aisle in all kinds of shoes to check them out in the mirror at the end. A pair of Miu Miu bronze ankle boots with kitten heels put a spring in my step that made me feel like I was walking down a catwalk. A pair of Ferragamo buttery suede flat loafers made me Like WASPY, jodphur-wearing, country manor-owning kind of rich. And the black satin Guccis. Oh my.

Let me tell you about these Guccis. Size 5 1/2, they hugged my feet in a way that made me feel like a workroom full of little magic shoe elves had chiseled them just for me. They were probably about 3 inches high, enough to pronounce the curve in my calves, but not enough to make me wobble. Black stretch satin held the shoe to my foot at the toes and across and around the heel. Damn. That shoe was so sexy that I could have eaten my own foot. Chipped pedicure and all. No joke. If it's possible to have a foot fetish for one's own feet, that shoe would have made it possible.

But, they were too expensive. Out of the question. The only shoe that I might have afforded were the Blahniks. Or, make that, the lone Blahnik. I searched, people. I looked up and down the aisles for the mate. I looked underneath the racks. I wandered, disconsolately, until it hit me. Perhaps they were $50 because they were selling the ONE SHOE. Is it possible? Because the mate was absolutely nowhere to be found. I left sad, shoeless (well, I was wearing my flip flops, so not exactly barefoot), but not crazy enough to pay $50 for one shoe.

I more than made up for it later, though. After scaling the heights of Mount Olympus, I came back down to earth and went back to Rack Room Shoes. I decided those ankle straps on the pink wedges would tear off after three wearings, and instead got two other wedge heels, one cork, the other rope. They are very cute, and they make me taller. I am not that hard to please, see?

In knitting, I am plugging away on the drop-stitch shrug from IK, but I spontaneously decided to try the One Skein Wonder with some Takhi Cotton Classic in black. I had two skeins left over from the Mud Flap Girl Tank (don't ask me how I miscalculated so badly), so I thought I would give Stephanie's shrug a whirl. I realized, though, that the pattern is written for heavy worsted. My Cotton Classic is really closer to DK weight. Oh, well, what did I have to lose, really? I knit it up on size 9 needles (the pattern calls for 8) so that I could make gauge, and well. It's kind of lacy. But still very cute! What a fun knit this was! (Apologies for the lack of detail in the picture. I would model it, but since I'm gifting it, I would rather not give it away with deodorant smudges in the armpits.)

I started it on Friday, worked on it a bit on Saturday, and then took it with me to Winedale, where we saw The Taming of the Shrew. Winedale is a lovely little complex of 19th century buildings owned by the University of Texas, and every summer, a group of students, sponsored by the English Department, put on a trio of Shakespeare plays in a barn that was built in 1894. We were only able to get seats in the back, so between looking down at my knitting, and craning my head around the posts to try and see the actors, it's a miracle I didn't get whiplash.

Here are the actors doing their pre-show warm-up, or prayer meeting, or whatever it is that they do to get psyched:

Anyway, the shrug got done, and I've decided to give it to my friend Alison, who is leaving this week on a grand adventure: she will be living in NYC for a year (or more) to write her dissertation. Can I tell you how jealous I am? I remind myself how poor I was while I lived there, and how crowded the subways were. But then. You know, you can always feed yourself for a couple of bucks with a slice or a hot dog, and walk to where you are going, and you will be in there in the magic and craziness of New York City. (Clearly, this diet is not recommended for those trying to control their high blood pressure. But if that's your problem, you probably shouldn't live in NY anyway.)

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Is anyone else watching that "Hooking Up" show? I have to admit, it's my new guilty pleasure. Personally, I am really ready for the entire reality show onslaught to be over, but it only seems to be getting worse and worse. Being Bobby Brown? Hogan Knows Best? Who the bleep cares?

But once in a while, I do become intrigued. I've been tuning into The Real World over the past few years, and now I can say that I've lived in two cities at the same time as those obnoxious kids! Chicago (my beloved hometown), and now Austin. I never saw the Austin brats, and thank God for that. I did see the Chicago crew once, before the show aired. They were standing on State Street, posing in front of the Chicago Theater, filming the opening to the show. They didn't look like anything special, at the time. But that was before I (and the rest of America) had gotten to know their quirks and, um, foibles.

Anyway, this Hooking Up show. Having spent all my grade school years and some high school ones in Catholic school, I can verify that I will go to hell for saying this, but the fact is that I love this show, because I love to hate Amy. What is it about her that drives me nuts? She is such a bratty brat. Tonight, she completely skewered that guy she was dating for leaving silly messages on her machine, and acting crazy with his friends at karaoke. She was like, oh I can see it now, we could have kids, and no one would be helping me with the dishes, because everyone's out having a good time, etc., etc. Say whut? I don't think this guy is particularly virtuous, but come on. He was being himself and acting silly--not obnoxious, and not offensive.

To be totally honest with you, I think she did a complete turnaround from last week because she realized that he wasn't ready to lick her shoes, so she decided that she was going to find any little reason to hate him. So, while last week, she was quite upset that he was going to Costa Rica for business for two weeks or so, this week everything he did made her wrinkle her little snub nose and press her thin little lips together into a disapproving line.

And then she went and dumped that really nice guy that she saw so much "potential" in. She literally said, well, he emailed me to see if we get together, but I don't think I'm going to write him or call him back. I think he'll get the message. Yeah, well. All I can say is that karma's a bitch.

How do I know this? Because she is me. I am she. I will admit here and now that I own up to the total hypocrisy of this post, because I have never been able to break off a casual relationship to the other person's face. Long-term relationships, yes, well, you kind of have to with those. But someone you've only been dating for a while? I am suuuch a chicken. And you know what? I've had it come back and bite me in the ass. I've had it happen to me, but I've learned to accept it philosophically. It sucks when it happens to you, but I believe you get back what you put into the universe.

Anyway, the other reason I love this show is because I did the whole online dating thing myself for a whole year in Chicago. So, I can relate. I once wanted to write a book about it--kind of a cross between Sex and the City and Bridget Jones's Diary--but then I came back to graduate school and all I ever write now are seminar papers. So now I get to watch while other people get rich and famous by exploiting their dating experiences for mass consumption. Sigh. I coulda been a contender.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Scratching the itch.

I have a disease, people. A DISEASE. A dis. ease. Isn't it funny when you repeat a word often enough it either sounds completely bizarre, or its word origins become completely clear? Dis-ease: the condition of being uncomfortable. Or in my case, the condition of being ill at ease with the lack of funds in my bank account.

I'm talking about the shopping disease. (I know what you were thinking when you read the title of this post. You need to visit another site for that kind of content, you cheeky monkey.) You all remember my last post, yes? About the recent epiphanic experience I had at Target? Yeah, well, apparently that was merely a sign that the dam was beginning to burst. I had a myself a little visit to the mall and got some beaded red flats. Then, back to Target to buy two camisoles with lace trim that I had denied myself on the first trip.

And today. After the gym, I stopped off at Rack Room Shoes, because it was on the way to the car. Do you need a better reason to go into a store? Right. Anyway, they were having a Back to School sale, buy one pair get one half off! And, well, I am going back to school, aren't I? Granted, the shoes I fell in love with are not the crepe-soled earth shoes I had to wear in Catholic high school.

Once in the store, I felt my heart skip a beat. Remember that Sex & the City episode where Carrie spies a pair of shoes (Blahniks, to be sure), and seductively croons, "Hello, lover"? Well, yes, that was the scenario today, except that my scenario happened in a discount shoe store, not on Fifth Avenue. A pair of L.E.I. cork wedges beckoned. They have a pink suede insole, a flirtatious row of beaded satin flowers on the toe, and long ties to wrap around my short calves.

But then, heartbreak. No size six. As I pulled out the six and a half, a salesperson came and asked me if I was finding everything I needed. I was honest with him. No, I wasn't. Well, evil man that he was, he offered to call San Marcos for the size 6 that they have, get it FedExed, and I would be free to come in and try them on no later than Monday. No obligation to buy. My jaw dropped, literally, I think. Evil man! How could anyone say no to that?

OK, so I didn't buy anything today. Do I really need a pair of five-inch, pink satin wedges? Probably not. But I guarantee you that somehow, I will have discovered a need for them by Monday. And they are way, waaaay cheaper than Blahniks.

So...knitting content? Yeah, got some of that. I have been making some progress with my drop-stitch shrug. See? (What you can't see is that I am running out of flat surfaces in my apartment that are clean enough to take pictures on.)

I've almost gotten to where I mark the end of the sleeve, and begin the back. I'm really pleased with the way it's looking!

I had one of those lightbulb moments today. You can't see in the pictures, but the directions say to increase 13 times on both sides of the center drop-stitch pattern, and to keep the increases in a 2x2 rib, because the rib will become the border. Meaningless to me at the time I started it, but I looked at it today and went, aha! Now I can see how the back will look, with the ribs at the top near the neck and at the bottom. Can't wait to finish this one!

BTW, I increased by working a M1 each time, which is leaving little holes along the way. I'm not going to change it at this point, and since I knew the holes would be along the underarm, I wasn't too bothered by it. But does anyone have any suggestions for a better increase? Knitting into the same stitch twice?

Sadly, my Victoria tank is not faring as well.

This is exactly where it's been for the last week and a half. I
got cocky and didn't mark each pattern repeat because, hello? I would need 26 stitch markers. And I just don't have that many! Besides, I thought, sheesh, I can keep track of a simple nine stitch pattern repeat. Well, let me tell you what. When you put that knitting down and come back to it that night or the next day, you will not remember what you did last. I spent a good 45 minutes trying to figure this out, then knitting another two rows only to realize that it was all for naught. This project had gone south.

Dirty little secret: I didn't do gauge on this tank. Well, I measured it and it was turning out way too big anyway. So, no biggie right? I would have had to frog it eventually. But guess what? I've been wanting to buy Stefanie Japel's One Skein Wonder on the Glampyre site, so when I was there, I gave in to temptation (you see that I am very bad at saying no to temptation) and threw the Orangina pattern in the shopping cart as well. And you know? I think this Vintage Cotton Karabella yarn would work really well for Orangina!

The irony of course, is that it is essentially the same lace pattern as the tank. So I just dropped five bucks for something I might have worked out myself, but let's be real. I can't do the math. But I can check out my online shopping cart.

Finally, I just wanted to show you these little stitch markers I made:

This was when I thought I needed 26 markers for the tank, so I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a gross of jump rings. I have lots of bargain beads lying around from my jewelry making class from last year, so I decided to put some beads on eye pins, and then wrap the wire, and stick them on the jump rings. What do you think? I love them! It looks like my knitting is wearing earrings. My knitting is better accessorized than I am.