Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cuz you gotta have friends.

This post is about friends, and about how I'm blessed to have them, whether in person or through the internets. I know it's been said before, but I'll say it again--knitters are the most generous people on earth. Over the past week, I've been given two presents; one I won through Lolly's Guess-My-Mom's-Name contest, and the other was completely unexpected, from Heather. Just because she's wonderful like that.

Lolly asked people to guess her mom's name, hinting that she and a well-loved knitting brand had the name in common. I guessed Addi, because let's face it, Susan Bates doesn't inspire rabid devotion in people. And I was right! (Except she spells it Addie.) Pretty ironic that I'd win this contest, seeing as how I don't own any Addis, being a ghetto knitter and all.

Lolly didn't just send me stash, neither. She asked me my favorite colors, went shopping, and got me this humongous skein of Trekking sock yarn (top right), in a lovely marled blend of black, red, and gray. She also thoughtfully included an adorable little journal for projects, and a fun post-it pad, perfect for sticking into library books (ah, Lolly. Fellow grad student. You know me all too well.)

And Heather, well. I'm just speechless. She just finished a gorgeous pair of lacy knee highs for her grandma, knitting at the speed of light to get them done in time for her birthday. When I admired them, she offered to send me the pattern, and included this stunning skein of handpainted merino ribbon from Mountain Colors. I couldn't believe it! I consider Heather to be my blogging godmother, because she posted my FO pictures when I had no blog of my own, and was my earliest cheerleader. She rocks.

Ah, ha. Speaking of FOs. I wish I had an FO to show you. And when I tell you about the weekend road trip I had, you will hold my feet to the coals and demand to know why my Broadripple socks are not. Finished. Yet. I don't know! I'm the slowest sock knitter ever! I'm almost there, but I decided to spare you all any work in progress photos, since I know that Ashley is skeeved out by naked feet on the internets (that would be Quirk #4, y'all). Next time, I promise, I will be doing a happy dance in those socks. Just wait and see if you can even catch a still shot of my socks!

Jennifer, who is my roommate and partner in crime, and I went down to South Padre Island this past weekend for a mini-break. The drive from Austin, fyi, is six hours long. Plenty of sock knitting time, I know, but of course there was also plenty of talking and laughing and taking of magazine sex quizzes, too!

When we finally got down there, it was Friday night, so we just went for dinner at Bluebeard's, and turned in. The next day, we went for a long walk on the beach, collected some shells, and took some pictures.

It was pretty overcast, but warm and humid. I love that kind of weather, so I was entirely content. Why go to South Padre in January, you ask? Well, you avoid the spring breakers that way, for one. And it was in the 70s on Saturday--perfect!

We thought these shells looked like they were in love. :-)

That afternoon, we drove across the border into Matamoros. Feeling very brave, we ventured into the city without a map, and followed the signs to el Centro, where the plaza and the cathedral are. We parked in a lot, and set out to find some tacos. Sadly, we weren't going to find them on the plaza--the place was dotted with American fast-food places, like Domino's, Subway, and Church's.

Walking a block or two away, we found an outdoor mall, and quickly zeroed in on a taqueria: Riko Takito! We ordered the exact same thing--one al pastor taco, and one carne asada taco. These tacos, they were like manna from heaven. Y'all, they just don't make them like that here. Garnished simply with chopped onion and cilantro, they came with a side of onions swimming in grease, that were the best thing ever. And I don't even like onions. We polished them off with grapefruit Joya soda.

On our way out, I saw a clown hurrying down the street, in full makeup and costume, probably on his way to a gig. It was such a strange and weird and beautiful thing, this clown...his makeup perfectly done, his head down as he rushed by. No one else paid him any mind.

Jennifer and I needed a little pick-me-up, so we ventured into Cafe Aroma for some coffee, and discovered their lovely little patio garden, tucked away in the back.

Since it was mid-afternoon, we had the entire place to ourselves. We listened to the bubbling water in the fountain, laughed at the pigeons, and shared a piece of flan.

We finally left to try to make it back across the border within a reasonable amount of time. You know how you can just cruise on into Mexico? Well, they like to give you a bit of a harder time getting back into the States. Go figure.

According to my friends, who cross back and forth often, it's not usually a big deal; they just ask you if you're an American citizen. You say yes, and you're on your way. (Although our friend told us the story about her uncle, who spoke little English and who was so used to saying "yes" to that question that he was totally thrown off when the Border Patrol asked him instead where he was born. "Yes." "Where were you born???" "Yes!" His brother finally had to step in and say, in Spanish, He's asking you where you were born, pendejo!"

After letting the car ahead of us cruise on in, we got stopped and guess what we were asked? Yep, the million dollar question. Now, some of you know that I was born in Mexico, but was naturalized later on. I always get nervous when crossing the border, though, thinking that they're going to revoke my papers and ship me back! So, without thinking about it, I said to the Border Patrol, in my best chipper voice, that I was born in Chicago. I guess I was subconsciously thinking that if I admitted to being born in Mexico, I was opening myself up to all kinds of interrogation. And of course because I sound so American, I thought that he wouldn't even give me a second glance.

Well, he did. He asked us both for our IDs, and ran them through the system (what comes up on their system, does anyone know? Felonies? Unpaid magazine subscriptions? The black mark on your grade school record from when you got caught cutting class?). Then he asked us to open the trunk. Of course, we had nothing in there--no food, no liquor, no undocumented family members.

Unable to nail us for anything, he eventually let us go. We have no idea why he decided to keep us. Do these look like the faces of shady characters to you?

Next time: Broadripple socks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What a difference a day makes.

I am overcoming my fear of knitalongs. I am famously unable to commit to a deadline for a project (unless it's a gift for someone, but then I reserve the right to gift-wrap a picture and a skein in lieu of a finished item).

Cover Your Head was my first dip into the pool. No deadlines, no pressure, just merrily knitting hats all day!

Today, friends, I signed up for TWO knitalongs! (And sort of signed up for a third.) This is how my day went:

11:01 PM, Central Standard Time:

Refresh, refresh, refresh on Alison's blog until the sign-up link showed up. What a freak I am!!! I can't even pay my bills on time, but I had to be the first one to sign up for Sockapaloooza. Laura's such an instigator...I hadn't even thought about doing this, but as soon as she mentioned it, I knew I had to do it. I'm a lemming, watch me jump! Even though I'm still a slow-poke when it comes to socks, the idea of having someone else make me a pair was just too tantalizing to pass up.

10:30 AM, Central Standard Time

Taking a break from work and checking bloglines, and finding this....Lolly's brilliant new idea for a knitalong:

This is the perfect way to start experimenting with colors, to find pleasure in unexpected combinations, and to look at the whole process more organically. You can knit, crochet, sew, take pictures, bake...anything you want! Well done!

7:30 PM Central Standard Time

My roommate and I have this weird social/asocial thing where we sit together in the living room and check our blogs simultaneously on our laptops, courtesy of our wireless hookup. (Can you just see it? Someone should take a picture.) So we're sitting here, with the Gilmore Girls in the background, and I find this. The perfect knitalong, tailor-made for me: The Homer Simpson Olympic Knitalong:

Where, if you're too lazy to sign up, you've already got the spirit of the thing.

Friday, January 20, 2006

You Spin Me Round Round Baby Round Round.

For all you spinners out there, didja see the New York Times article on spinning?

FYI: you may have to create an account to sign in.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

One meme, two meme, red meme, blue meme.

I've been tagged with a couple of memes recently (thanks, Chris and Karen and Nancy!). I needed to think about the "what are your quirks" meme for a while, but was pretty psyched to fill it out. And then I wondered, why is it that I want to reveal to the entire blogosphere the reasons you may not want to get to know me? The reasons you may decide I'm a little (or a lot) OCD?

Well, because it's fun to talk about yourself! Part of the reason I love blogging (and I know you love it for this reason too) is for the chance to be a voyeur, even if it's not the naughty kind. (Although some of that yarn porn does give you a little thrill, tell you what.) But, of course the opposite side of that coin is that you also get a chance to be an exhibitionist. And who knew that I ever had a secret desire to be one of those? But of course, everyone loves to share, and to know that everyone else is as bizarre as you are.

Anyway, overanalyzing things as usual, that's me. Maybe that should be Quirk #1.

Things You May Not Want to Know About Me

I had to bounce some of these off my roommate, since few people know me better than she does. And then we had a discussion about what constitutes a quirk. Is it something unusual about you, or something just plain weird? And where is the line(it's fine, ever so fine) between a quirk and OCD behavior?

Ahem, once again:

Quirk 1: Tendency to overanalyze everything. A sub-quirk of this would be my inability to make decisions. Cereal, yarn choices, books, you name it. (Making sub-quirks would probably also fall under Quirk #1.)

Quirk #2: I alphabetize my CDs, but I categorize my books by genre. Fiction, Art, Theory, Books I Worked On When I Was in Publishing, etc.

Quirk #3: When I pour my coffee, I always leave a little bit in the pot, even if there's room for it in my mug. When I eat a Snickers bar, I always leave a little bite in the wrapper, intending to save it for later but then getting it all over the contents of my purse. I guess it must be the thing about limiting your calorie intake and controlling your weight, but I swear, I don't know where I got this from or when I started doing it (my mom raised me in the clean-your-plate school of dining).

Quirk #4: I still fold my clothes Banana Republic style. You know how everything is always stacked just so, with the edges even and matching? There is a brainwashing technique they use that involves a folding board, and I'm not allowed to tell you more, but I worked there for two years and eventually you get so good at folding that you don't need the board anymore and even if you haven't worked there in years, you are compelled to fold your laundry...just so.

Quirk #5: I save every box that any major appliance has come in. I suppose I believe that if anything malfunctions I will be glad that I have the box to return it in, but even if months have passed and it's clear that the new alarm clock is doing A-OK, I still save the box because it makes it easier to pack all that stuff when you're moving. The one snag in this plan is that the boxes take up the precious storage space that you could be storing, well, your stuff in.

OK! Y'all still with me? Here's the second meme.

4 jobs you have had in your life

typist for a directory publisher
sales associate for Banana Republic
assistant editor for two New York publishers
assistant instructor for the University of Texas

4 movies you could watch over and over

Gone With The Wind
The Godfather
The Wizard of Oz
When Harry Met Sally

4 places you have lived

my parents house in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago
58th and 1st, Manhattan
30th Ave and 31st Street, Astoria, Queens
French Place, Austin, Texas

4 TV shows you love to watch

Sex and the City (still)
Friends (still)
The Bachelor (I don't know if I love it as much as I am bizarrely compelled.)

4 places you have been on vacation

Grand Cayman
Los Angeles
Guanajuato, Mexico

4 websites you visit daily

Yahoo Mail
University of Texas

4 of your favorite foods

Breakfast tacos from Mi Madre's
Home Run Inn Pizza
Italian beef sandwiches

4 places you would rather be right now

Grand Cayman
I'm actually pretty happy where I am, right now.

4 bloggers you are tagging

Jennifer, Talitha, Ashley, and Elizabeth: OK, ladies, I say that either of these two memes are up for grabs. Do one, or both...and make it good! Our inner voyeurs can't wait to see what you've got.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Good God, so many things to tell....

First of all, thanks to all y'all for counseling me on the best way to dispose of my Borders 25% off coupon. I am famously indecisive (Honey Bunches of Oats or Banana Nut Crunch? Susan Bates or Boye DPNs?), so having you to poll was kind of like dialing my lifeline on Who Wants to be a Millionare.

Popular opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of Weekend Knitting (which I suspected would happen), so on Sunday, I traipsed over to the store and once again stood in front of the cornucopia of knitting porn they have there. I leafed through Vintage Knits again, but you all were right--WK has a broader, more varied array of projects. And there's recipes! I do love the books that Melanie Falick has been producing (like Handknit Holidays), that extend wholesome, homespun luxury and goodness into a lifestyle. Without knitting a thing, you can still participate in their lovely escapism.

Anyway, I grabbed WK off the shelf, not because my mind was totally made up, but mostly to stop the voices in my head (buy the book, so many cute patterns, you know you want it, go to Borders, what about those fingerless mittens, etc. etc.) Feeling somewhat more sane, I then stopped in at Joann Fabrics to get a pattern for some pajama pants.

I bought my sewing machine back in....wow. I think it was October. And I've successfully hemmed a skirt and two pairs of pants, and I made a pillow, but I have been chomping at the bit to make something a little more complicated.

For anyone who sews, the Simplicity and McCall's patterns are only $1.99 at Joann's right now! What a deal! I restrained myself from scooping up an armload (because, let's be for real, I still don't even know how to make a buttonhole or insert a zipper), but I did get a pattern for a summer dress and some pretty pink plaid cotton on clearance--two yards for $3.00! So, even if I make a disaster of it, the whole project will have cost me less than lunch at my favorite cafe.

You may be sensing a theme here...it's called post-holiday self-indulgence. Everyone, all together: LET'S SPOIL OURSELVES! Never mind that I did maybe only 1/16 of the holiday knitting that I saw everyone else doing. All that shopping for other people, all that knitting for my loved ones....hey! It took a LOT of self-discipline to not get myself a little something here and there (unless it was on mega-clearance, like the $11.99 dress I snagged at Banana Republic right before my holiday party!).

If I'm sounding a bit like a brat, well, it's because I am. I was feeling a little sorry for myself that I hadn't received any knitting-related presents from Santa and every blogger I know was getting loads of yarny goodness. I even complained on Chris's blog that I had to give myself these gifts, because who knows what I want better than me, huh? But lo and behold, the magic of Christmas came and shocked the shit out of me by bringing me this:

My sweet, dear friend Marie, who I dragged with me almost three years ago to the knitting class where the original madness began, got me the awesome Bagsmith that has a gabillion pockets and a little handle and a carrying strap, and the Little Box of Sweaters. And my friend Lili, who is not a knitter at all, gave me these fantastic Buddha knitting needles as a belated birthday present! Actually, all my Chicago friends got together to give me the box o'goodies they collected for my birthday back in September. Love you guys!

See, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus!

Hopefully, now I can quit being a brat and be satisfied with the stuff I have and put the brakes on all the post-holiday spending (good thing this ain't a clothes blog, is all I gotta say). Which brings me to my next point:


Here are the regular, non-knitting resolutions:

1) Try to spend less.
2) Finish my prospectus.
3) Use my electric toothbrush more often.
4) Exercise more.

Yawn. Bored yet? Me too.

Let's talk about the fun resolutions:

1) Knit more from stash.
2) Attempt to learn new technique (toe-up, two circ socks?)
3) Knit at least one pattern from every new book purchased within the last month, so as to alleviate guilt over throwing tuition money at non-scholarly books.
4) Try my hand at designing something. Anything.
5) Learn enough crochet to make that hot tank top from Vogue Knitting, Summer 2004.

I've decided that if I'm gonna have a knit blog worth reading, I need to have at least a couple of interesting projects going. Otherwise, you're all just here through the sheer force of my personality, and honestly, that makes me worry for the future of my readership.

Let's face it, I'm no Eunny (and is it heresy to confess that I just skip past all the current steeking business? those pictures just make me go all cross-eyed), but I do want to have ongoing projects that are challenging, stuff I can show progress on, and that will allow me to draw on the collective wisdom of all you lovely people.

Anyway, that Vogue tank was the first reason I got fixated on Cascade Fixation, which they don't carry at my LYS. I know! Makes no sense whatsoever. Once, when I asked for it, they suggested I substitute Classic Elite Star. Having bought both, I can tell you now that they are NOT substitutable (is that even a word?)! Fixation is way thinner, while Star is probably around a worsted weight.

I finally bought a couple of balls, which I then decided would go toward Petit Chou, since I hadn't quite mastered the crochet thing beyond a handful of granny squares.

But then I came to my senses. Knitted underwear? How practical would that be? Let alone the fact that I detest handwashing. Hmmm...socks? How about socks?

To most of you, this is a no-brainer. The entire knitting blogworld is gaga over socks. There are too many sock KALs to even count. There is even a celebrity sock, which, much like Madonna, doesn't need any explanation or introduction beyond its one-word name.

But to me, man. Socks are my Mount Everest. I always feel like I'm knitting on that cuff forever and ever, while my hair goes gray and my eyesight starts to grow dim. Is this because I'm in the knitting Stone Age, doing socks on DPNs from the cuff down? I knit and knit, expecting to look down and see the sock trailing behind me like Tita's afghan did in Like Water for Chocolate, but then I actually look and find only an inch's worth of progress.

Nevertheless, socks seemed to be the best option for the Fixation that I had on hand, so back in October, I cast on for the Broadripple socks (which look just like that celebrity sock, if you ask me) from Knitty. By December, I contemplated binding off, calling it a wristwarmer, and crossing a name off my gift list. But then I'd have to explain what it was for, and why there was only one...naw. It was more trouble than it was worth.

The spark that finally got me going on the sock was Heather's blogging about her Flared Lace Smoke Ring, and what a drag knitting it was turning out to be. Now, I'm not really a competitive person (the only sport I was good at in school was Red Rover), but I imagined the two of us at the end of a block, tired after a long day at the playground, and realized that the best and fastest way to get home was to suggest a race.

She took me up on it (ready, set, GO!), but got sidetracked by, what else, socks! that she's knitting for her grandma. I kept going on my Broadripple, though, and finally finished one last night!

Isn't it beeyoootiful? I didn't want to take it off, and wore it the rest of the night as I cast on for the second sock and knit the first few rounds. It feels so good, so...sprungy! I don't know how else to describe it, but the fabric is nice and thick and springy, and it hugs my foot so well. Yum!

Y'all, I can't say enough good things about this yarn. I think that the reason I was so discouraged with my first pair of socks (pre-blog) was because I was using a cotton/wool Lana Grossa yarn and slippery metal dpns. Can you spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R? Well, in ghetto fashion, I'm too cheap to buy the Brittany, so I've stuck to the Boyes, but this Fixation yarn! just doesn't let go of the needles! Watch!

Isn't that fantastic?! Not a single dropped stitch! It's like magic!

The springiness of the yarn is so forgiving, too, that you can't even see the iffy quality of the picked-up stitches in the heel. Holes just disappear.

I encountered one little bump in the road, though, on my way to finishing the toe. I put the sock down a couple of nights ago, went to bed, and woke up in the morning to find my fourth dpn missing. I don't have kids, or pets, so the only explanation can be...gnomes. I don't need much of an excuse to go to Hobby Lobby, so off I went, and guess what? You all better get your hineys over there, because they are selling their knitting needles and accessories at half off! Woo hoo! I got three sets of needles, in sizes 3, 1, and 0, and paid about four bucks for the lot.

I must say, though, that I made a big mistake in buying the size 3s--I decided to try this Balene needle made by Boye, with some super-fancy, super-fast patented tip or whatever. Blech. I'm not sure what this needle is made of, but it looks like plastic, and it feels like knitting with a piece of al-dente spaghetti. It's way too bendy, and makes it hard to do any kind of decreases (k2tog or ssk).

On a final note, have you all seen the Aunt Martha embroidery iron-on transfers at Hobby Lobby? Many of them are cute and kitschy--there's little kittens doing the Monday through Friday chores, as well as chickens and teapots and Holly Hobby. I was leafing through them, and came across a set with, I kid you not, a Mammy illustration doing all the weekday chores. I thought, man, this is some crazy s*$#t--if I were African-American, I'd be pretty pissed. Was it supposed to be ironic, or merely racist?

Shaking my head, I kept sorting through the designs, and then came across...the Mexican designs! You know the ones--the sleeping Mexican under the cactus, on his donkey, etc. WTF?!? Seriously, are people buying these things? It's too ridiculous to take seriously; it would seem that these designs, taken from "yesteryear," are meant to be understood as products of another time. But honestly: can you see yourself stitching Laundry Day Mammy on a tea towel?

For next time: it's gonna be meme city around here!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Borders is evil.

No, no, not because of the whole megasuperstore-gobbling-up-the-tiny-mom-and-pop-independents (although there is THAT, too, but that's another post entirely), but because they keep sending me COUPONS, y'all, and every time I see one in my email account, my eyes glaze over and I begin to mumble...must go to Borders. Must go to Borders.

I will confess that I am a complete sucker for advertising (every time a Burger King commercial comes on at 11:30 at night, my stomach starts to grumble), but Borders is really hitting me in my vulnerable spot. This morning, I woke up and found a 25% off coupon, and decided to ask you guys a question.

I've really wanted Vintage Knits for a long time (the pretty Sarah Dallas book), but I also really want Weekend Knitting. The last time I was at Borders trying to make this decision, it felt like Sophie's Choice and I just had to walk away.

Which do you all recommend? I have a feeling it might be Weekend Knitting--it just has so many different kinds of projects, that I think it might be a better all around book--but the Vintage Knits projects are so beautiful!

I am a wuss and can't make decisions by myself. Help!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Do you remember....?

Not only are those the words that begin one of my favorite all time songs (September, by Earth, Wind, and Fire), but it's also the meme that's probably one of the most fun and creative memes out there. I saw this on Karen's blog and had to join in.

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL MEMORY OF YOU AND ME. It can be anything you want--good or bad--BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you're finished, post this on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

So, shock me, rock me: what do you remember about the two of us?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

FO Update.

Y'all, I've been away from this blogging thing for so long that I forgot to put the pattern specs on the Flared Lace Smoke Ring. So I updated my last post with the necessary details.

I've had a couple of comments about the ass-kicking potential of the Smoke Ring that I mentioned earlier. Don't let this put you off, if you're interested in knitting this beautiful piece! It does take forever because it's lace and itty bitty yarn, but the pattern becomes memorizable after the first 1/3, because it doesn't change after that. Heather and I joked that we had to sit in front of the pattern, with no distractions, repeating the chart out loud to ourselves in order to stay on track. After I'd been knitting on it for a while, though, I just fell into a groove and didn't even have to look at the chart anymore.

So, go for it, if it's calling your name. Just don't start it right before Christmas!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sweet home, Chicago.

Yesterday, I saw the sun for the third time in as many weeks, and this only because I had to break through the clouds in an airplane, on my way back to Texas. Man! Nothing but gloomy days in Chicago, which the weather forecasters told us was a tradeoff--warm days (meaning upper 30s/low 40s) and so gloomy you'd think it was a nuclear winter, or sun and freezing temps. Well, I'll take the balmy days, but I get to leave before getting SAD.

I've rhapsodized about Chicago's awesomeness before, but that was in July, when everything was bright and shiny. But, underneath that thick cloud layer, it's still a fabulous city, and it will always have my heart.

Riding the L (Orange Line) the other day, I couldn't help but snap a few pictures, so you all can appreciate the view from the Southwest Side. Yep, folks, this is as bright as it got.

Near the canal, with the bridge raised.

On the canal...see how the city landscaped a tiny park, directly facing the big warehouses on the other side? This is in Chinatown, and there's a sweet little pagoda that didn't make it into the picture.

You certainly can't call it beautiful...can you? I thought about this as I rode. Being a city girl, I never put much stock in wide open spaces and rolling green hills. Beauty, to me, has always been about vintage skyscrapers (think Wrigley Building) and the hustle of pedestrians. Even the factories and train tracks and iron girders that crowd the Southwest Side, while not conventionally beautiful, embody a certain solemnity, an honesty, that feels very authentic to me. When I visit new cities, I look for this backbone of industry; if I see the familiar warehouses, I feel at home (like in San Antonio).

I must get this from my dad, who worked in factories most of his adult life. When he visited Austin, he looked around and wondered, en que trabaja la gente? How do people make a living around here? I tried to explain that Austin is home to some tech companies (and of course people work in retail, the service industry, not to mention education and the University), but I knew how he felt, that something was missing.

And of course, the Loop. You can't even see the top of the Sears Tower!

While I was home, there was another announcement to stab Chicagoans in the heart again. The first was the acquisition of Marshall Field's by Macy's, and you have to have grown up in the city to understand what a travesty this is. They're not just buying the stores, but they're changing the name!!! Marshall Field's has been around for a hundred years, give or take a few, and every Chicagoan has made the trek downtown at Christmastime to see the windows, which this year displayed the Cinderella story. If you were lucky, or wealthy, you got to go have lunch in the Walnut Room, underneath the Christmas tree. But you didn't need that much money to get in line to meet Santa, and have your picture taken.

The building itself is beautiful, with about 8 floors of retail, and a stunning mosaic Tiffany dome that you can see up close if you go up to the lingerie department. The clocks on the outside corners are instantly recognizable, and the store makes its own mint chocolates, which they've dubbed Frangos.

Have I gone on enough? Is it clear that my heart is breaking over this? Well, the news now is that the famous Berghoff Restaurant is closing after 107 years, because the owner is retiring.

It was the first place to get a liquor license after Prohibition, so it's got liquor license #1. I've never been there myself, but people are up in arms about it. Absolutely incensed, even though the food was so so and the service wasn't so great. One columnist called it a selfish decision, and initially I agreed. Why not sell the business, and keep the tradition alive? But a friend suggested that maybe if they sold it, the new owners would run the business into the ground, and it would carry the family name with it. I can see that point. But it's still sad.

As old, venerated institutions change or close down, new ones crop up. When I first moved to Ukranian Village in 2001, Division Street had a few shops here and there, but the gaps in between them on the street were long. Now, it's completely different. Fancy florists, home decorating stores, funky clothing shops, and sushi restaurants have popped up everywhere. There's even a new yarn store!

I had to take a picture of the store window, because the display just knocked me out. Nina's is probably the most visually beautiful yarn store I've seen, with a selection of hard-to-find yarns (I saw skeins of Japanese paper yarn that I've never seen anywhere else). Sleek and modern are the operating words here; there are other yarn stores that I love because of the overabundance of yarns, making you feel like a kid in a candy store. Nina's is more akin to a jewelry store, with delicate, precious yarns cleverly showcased, and clutter absolutely nonexistent.

There was not a bargain bin to be found at Nina's, but I did manage to scoop up some Classic Elite Star at 40% at Arcadia Knitting, and walked away with five skeins of Adrienne Vittadini Marissa at half off from We'll Keep You in Stitches. WKYS has the best clearance I've come across, made even better by the fact that they throw most of the stuff in a huge cardboard box. Rummaging around in it, you feel like you might discover a treasure.

I certainly thought I did...I found skeins upon skeins of Noro Iro, in a beautiful camel colorway, and a couple of skeins with reds and purples. Oooh! Visions of a mini Lady Eleanor floated through my head as I grabbed a skein and asked the saleswoman for the price. 12.50, she said. And then half off? I asked. She nodded. Delirious with joy, I bagged four of the camel skeins and the two red skeins, and made my way to the counter. She wrote out a receipt, totaled the column, and announced, 82 dollars.

Cheeks burning, I said, I thought it was half off 12.50. You said, and then I said...but no. Shaking her head, she ripped up the receipt as I meekly apologized, then retreated to find something a bit more affordable. Oh, well, the fantasy was fun while it lasted! I walked out with the Vittadini yarn, stash acquisition itch satisfied.

On my way out, I ran into an older Italian man with whom I rode up in the elevator. He asked me what kind of store that was, and I said, Knitting. Yarn. Oh! he exclaimed. That is very good! You never see young people following the traditions of the old country. You're Mexican (he had gotten this information out of me earlier), so you know! It's like Italy. I thought about explaining how knitting is the new yoga, and all the kids are doing it, but then he got a call on his cell phone, and I took that opportunity to wave and hurry away.

I wish I could say that I got tons of knitting done over the winter break! But the reality is that the Flared Lace Smoke Ring just kicked my ass. I knit for hours on end, seeing only a couple of inches of progress. I finally finished, the day before I left Chicago. My mom got her present, a full two weeks AFTER Christmas.

Pattern: Flared Lace Smoke Ring, published by Heartstrings Fiber Arts
Needle: Size 6 Boye circulars
Yarn: Peruvian Baby Cashmere, from Elann

Fortunately, I knit while watching the entire fourth season of 24 on DVD. Oh, my GOD! I am so completely hooked. And the fact that I've been hopelessly in love with Kiefer Sutherland since about 1985 only makes the show that much better. Kiefer, baby! I'm still here! Call me!!

Here's a picture of the Cupcake Hat I made for my niece, with none other than my niece modeling it.

Fast, easy, and fun. (Not me, the hat!) Such a great pattern!

Next time, I wanna jump on the blogging bandwagon about New Year's goals. I gots me a list!!!