Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Granny square T

Ugh, can I tell you how much yarn I have in my back bedroom upstairs? I have it STUFFED into this giant drawer in one of my dressers, plus several "Pounds of Love" (who names this stuff?) hidden strategically in baskets and boxes around the house.  I have two baby (girl) birthdays in April--Reese and Vienna--and while Reese was not having a party, she lucked out with a free gift because I have GOT to use up some of this yarn, people.

Memory refresher: Reese's baby blanket.  I still had four skeins of that aqua yarn up in the big drawer, so I dug it out to work on something new: this granny square T.  Long story short, it was super easy.  I did one side in one night, the second side the next night, and the third night I "sewed" them together.  Done.  One problem: Does anybody know how big a two year old/one year old is?  I don't.  This required me to text every woman I know who's ever given birth to ask them how many inches long a two year old's/one year old's shirt should be.  The final result was everyone telling me, "errrr, not sure. Take a guess?"  A few weeks later, I got to see Reese try it on (over a sweatshirt no less) and it miraculously fit.  (I also got to receive one of Reese's killer scowls which made the whole thing REALLY worth it.  I love a kid who scowls ... Reese will have to go a long way to beat me, though.)

The only change I made to the pattern?  After I sewed the two side together, I single crocheted around the bottom hem twice to really finish it.

To go with Vienna's gift, she received both "Kiki and Coco in Paris" and "Lulu and Pip."  Reese already had the former, so I made sure she received the latter to go along with it.  I didn't think any children's book could be better than "Kiki and Coco" ... until I read the same team's newest story.  "Lulu and Pip" starts in San Francisco and includes a camping excursion in Big Sur ... does it get better than that?


I look that happy when I'm in San Francisco.  No, really I do ... unless I'm begging Ron to find me the N Train in the Sunset District. Yeah ... then I look a little different.

Ok, so seriously, you will never EVER get me to go camping. Ever.  I can't even imagine the circumstances that would have to transpire for that to happen.  There is not enough alcohol in the WORLD to trick me into agreeing to go camping. With anybody. Anywhere.

However.

You might get it happen--maybe--if you presented me with a camp that looked like this, plus a donkey:

You know what Lulu needs? What every hippie in the Bay Area needs: a crochet T.

MAYBE.

(But not likely.)

(BUT maybe?)

(Nah.  But come on, how gorgeous is that??)

The Gruener/Rausser/Brown team is genius. That's all I can say. And that is why I keep buying their books for every daughter my friends have.

So there you have it: gorgeous books and a granny square T.

I really want to make myself a granny square T ...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Back to school

The entire month of April, the only place I wanted to be was my alma mater.  Something happens when the weather turns after March, and it's like I'm twenty again.  I can still imagine the smell of all of my classrooms (ancient hardwood floors and plaster walls ... unless you're in Bartley in which case the smell was fresh paint and MDF furniture), and I still know exactly how the light slants across the floors depending on which room you're in at different times of the day.  I still know how the paper in each of my books felt, which ones have tons of notes inside and which ones don't, and I always hear my Italian prof talking in the background--I can never hear what he's saying, I just know it's him talking.

(Very sadly funny: The other night, I had my first dream in Italian. I have waited since 1996 for this to happen, but it never happened ONCE in my decade of studying the language. Not once.  This means that, technically, I have never been fluent. I'm fluent enough to tell you that nobody speaking Italian in The Godfather speaks that well--horrendous mispronunciation all over the place--but other than that, no.  Another way of putting this is, I NEED the subtitles when Christoph Waltz is using Italian in the movie theater at the end of Inglourious Basterds--I can't understand him to save my life. Also, his accent sounds pretty good to my ear.

Anyway a few nights ago, I had this dream that Leslie and I were in Rome and we had to catch a plane, connect somewhere in Germany on a Lufthansa flight, and then home to Philly.  I told Leslie to start packing, and I would go check us out of the hotel.  The guy at the front desk was a real jerk and started insisting that we owed him an additional $700. I wasn't having it and started telling him--in Italian--to be real and that I'm no idiot and we're not paying him ANYTHING.  He kept using broken English, and I kept at it in my horrible Italian--I was not very good but I definitely conjugated stuff so it counts!--and I finally I opened my wallet, took every remaining bit of paper money I had--$250--threw it at his face and told him to get lost.  Then I ran back upstairs to get Leslie because this convo had taken too long and now we were LATE.  Problem: Leslie never started packing! She was putzing around on her phone, and now I'm yelling, "WE ARE NEVER GOING TO MAKE THIS FLIGHT! WE ARE GOING TO MISS OUR CONNECTION IN GERMANY AND WE CAN'T STAY HERE ANYMORE!" And now Leslie's crying because I'm yelling and we are just SHOVING stuff into suitcases. And there is SO MUCH STUFF. I keep finding stuff everywhere.  And so many suitcases!  And there is no way we can get all this crap home, and so much of it is breakable.  And I'm literally having a heart attack and just shoving crap into suitcases and yelling at Leslie to go faster. I keep looking at my watch.  The plane is taking off at 6:39pm ... the sun has set already, and it's 5:40pm ... and then it's 6 ... and then it's 6:10.  And I finally give up and start crying in a heap because we are not going home that night.  At this point, I heard my own voice in my head say, "YOU KNOW THIS ISN'T REAL, RIGHT? IF YOU WANT THIS TO BE OVER: WAKE UP." I snapped my eyes open so fast.  It took nearly twenty minutes for the adrenaline to metabolize.

But technically I used a language other than English! It counts!  Ten years too late. Oh well.)

I literally can't remember the point of this post.

Viburnum, I think--smelled wonderful.

School.

The whole month of April, I wanted to stop by and I just didn't have time.  Too much stuff to grade and lots of nasty weather too.  I finally made it over on the last day of the month.  All of my finals were done, but classes were still going on here.

I love this chapel--this isn't THE church, but one of the smaller chapels scattered around campus.


I guess the darker panes are replacement pieces?  Also, this school has the money to do stained glass all around ... why haven't they gotten around to it?


So here you go: I literally had to lecture on this the week before I took this.  St. Augustine (in the middle) is shown here with his mom, St. Monica, on the left and St. Ambrose on the right.  Ambrose was the bishop of Milan back in the day (the 4th century ... not 14th, 4th) and Augustine was going through a pretty tough time--think insano existential vortex of the worst degree--and nobody could help him, not the Manichaeans, and not the Christians or so he thought.  Augustine hears Ambrose lecturing in Milan, has his Come to Jesus moment, and decides to convert to Catholicism and turn his whole life around.  Then he goes on to write his Confessions where he outlines what a jerk he was for the first few decades of his life before changing his ways; when he's not telling that story, he's investigating the problem of evil and trying to figure out stuff life the nature of time vs. eternity (if you hate yourself, read that part).  Then he dies, and he and his mom and Ambrose all get canonized. The End.  I promise if you take my Intro course, I do a much better job of teaching Augustine in class.  You cannot graduate from this school without getting an unofficial minor in Augustine.  Like, even the engineers and the business students have to read him. (Whether they actually do is a different story.) I was a PHILOSOPHY major and guess what? I have never read the The Confessions one complete time ever.  Only Raleigh Katherine understands how stupid that is.

Technically, I think she's supposed to be on the other side of the altar, but there's an organ over there so I guess that's why she's on the right and not the left.


I've been in here a bunch of times and I never noticed the organ.  Not once.



Then I went to check out the new fountain in the renovated Grotto.

I love it.  I wonder if you get yelled at if you jump in it Logan Circle style?  At the very least, are you allowed to dunk your feet in?

This is how great this school is: You can leave your crap on a freakin bench outside--totally unattended--for as long as you want and nobody will touch it.  I walked by an hour later and it was still there.  (That made me wonder, "Did somebody steal that stuff and ditch it there?? ... naaaaahh."  Somebody'll be back for it.) Now, my graduate school? If you looked away from your things for 3 seconds, somebody would steal them while you were blinking.  I still haven't readjusted from life on that campus.

Mom, see that tall, skinny, pointed window?  THAT is the staircase I could not climb after doing The Firm.  Third floor.  Couldn't do it, but I did it anyway and it took me so long that I was ten minutes late to class.  And then I couldn't sit down when I got there.  Fun times.

The magnolias on this campus are beautiful--I missed them this year by nearly a week. Not even close.



The building on the left is where I had my Italian film class senior year--if I could go back and sit through a class all over again, it would be hard to pick between that one and Italian Civ II.  Nothing in the film classroom had been updated since the 60s, the windows were HUGE--floor to ceiling, and the ceiling was at least two or three stories high--and it had this enormous movie screen.  You haven't lived until you've seen Sophia Loren's face on a huge movie screen, and unless you time travel to 1960, where else are you going to do that?  I still can't figure out her eyeliner. Or her hair. Omigod, her hair.  A few summers ago (actually, it was the day of Ellie and Anna's christening) I made Ron watch La Ciociara with me--it was on TV and I managed to catch it.  The final credits roll up, and Ron turns to me and goes, "Well. That's the most depressing thing I've ever seen.  You watched a whole semester of this stuff for your major?"  I can't imagine doing anything else.  If Vittorio DeSica is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

They really need to get to work on the dome of Alumni--it's not shiny gold anymore, and I think that's a pretty horrendous travesty.  The spires belong to the main church--I didn't make it over there this time.

There is no better place to be on earth in the month of April than a college campus.  It is THE fountain of youth.  Every cosmetic and skincare company is trying to find the formula, and the truth is that we already have it.  You want to lose ten or twenty years from your face? Work at a university.  (Also, try to avoid assigning graded material as often as possible for full benefits.)

I remember reading this story years ago, maybe in the New York Times, about this older couple who were both profs at Harvard and lived in Cambridge.  Something was going on--I think their kids were harassing them about retiring and moving somewhere else already--and the wife explained to the reporter, "My kids don't get it: I'll never leave Cambridge. All these ponytails keep me so young.  If you don't live here, you don't get it."

Oh trust me, I get it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Return to NYC with Annie (and Leslie!)

I finished finals LAST WEEK--huzzah!!  The earliest semester of MY LIFE.  Finals and everything done before 5/1? New record.  I guess there IS a perk to starting school on Jan 8 (when NOBODY else in the collegiate universe is in class).

Nothing updated in two weeks because of said grading and whatnot, but I did squeeze in another trip to New York to see Annie and Leslie joined in at the last minute.  While the weather was good (no rain), it was also really chilly (good or bad depending on how you look at it ... I hate sweating so I'll take a 60 degree day over an 80 degree day pretty much any time ... which is why I love San Francisco so much).



Annie couldn't meet us at Penn Station this time, so Leslie and I had to travel south on our own.  I figured we would take a cab, but Leslie was determined to use the subway. I still had my pass from last time and I knew we only rode the train for one stop to get to Annie's, and then we come above ground and turn one corner to get to her door ... but which train? and which stop? and which corner???

I have no idea how we figured it out so quickly (without Ron--shhh! don't tell him) but we did.  Leslie later said to me, "Oh, I never would've done it on my own--I only did it because YOU were here."  To which I replied, "But I only did it because YOU were here." And then we both said, "huh ... oh well."  There's probably an important lesson in there somewhere.

It was so exciting to knock on Annie's door because ...


Miss Gemma answered!!

Annie's mom sent me up there with this mat for wet paws.  It was immediately tossed on the floor whereupon Gemma started chewing it like crazy.  "She destroyed my bath mat. Gone. [shrug]  This one is clearly going to meet a similar fate."

Leslie and I were STARVING so out we ran for brunch.

I have walked by this guy in Annie's hallway maybe a hundred times, and I forgot this time and he scared both me and Leslie.

Ok, ready to walk with us to Monument Lane? let's go:




A word about Annie's coat: I said to her halfway through the day, "Take me to where you bought this because one of my students was wearing it the other night, and now you have it, and I'm buying one." She replied, "I bought it last year next door to my nail salon. [shrug, ie, it's gone]"  A few nights later I caught up with that student: "WHERE DID YOU FIND THAT COAT?"  "Oh, that thing? People make fun of it all the time--you really want one? I found it for $5 [FIVE DOLLARS] at the Exton Mall--they had a zillion just last month because who would wear it, right?"  An hour later I showed up at that store: Gone.  This coat is nowhere to be found, people.


In retrospect, I'm really glad none of those ambulances went off because it would've freaked Gemma out.




We had to wait for a table, and with Gemma it had to be an outdoor table.  So we walked around the block a few times and waited for something to open up.


Everything was so dead and ice-crusted the last time I was here.





These two really had a moment.  (Wait: do I mean the owners or the dogs? hmmm ... maybe both.  12th and 6th, Annie, 12th and 6th.  See? I put things away for everybody--a completely democratic memory!)  He looks just like Charlie, right Jess?

Waiting in front of the restaurant, I would say 80% of the passersby stopped and talked to Annie because of Gemma.  Every kind of person wanted to ask about her dog: old people, young people, men (lots of men! ooo la la!), women, rich people, not-so-rich people, white people, black people, purple people ... everybody.  And Annie talked with ALL of them.  People running for president don't talk to this many strangers in a day.

Too much to pick from: Leslie and I both had the grilled ham and cheese, Annie had the scramble, and there was a lemon poppy scone and carrot bread (ie, cake) in there too.

Of course, all the tables in the sun were seated with men (who are always complaining they're too hot).  All the tables in the shade were seated with women (who are always too cold).  Poor planning (on their part--not ours!  If Jess and I were in charge of the world, dumb mistakes like this would never happen).  We were freezing by the end.

Worst attempt at focusing ever, but damn that carrot cake was good.

Leslie's Bloody Mary (with amazing pickles) and the champagne lemony-thing that Annie and I both picked.


Such a good meal, but then we really had to work to warm up.

I had to buy a tea because my hands were numb all the way to my wrists.  That rose tea was really good.

So many tulips everywhere!







I've known Annie for half my life: I've never seen her so happy.  That's what animals can do for you.  Period. The End.








This lady was going on and on about her favorite pet store.


Inside Bond No. 9: this place is the size of my closet--which is not impressive--and somehow ten people are inside at any given moment.

EVERYBODY asked about Gemma and the guy who worked there basically talked to her like she was a real person (which is fine with me because that's how I talk to my cats).

So pretty much everything I wear is from TJMaxx and nearly everything I love there always happens to be Cynthia Rowley, so I went in her W. 10th store ... yeah, none of this stuff makes its way to TJMaxx, I can tell you that for sure.  I looooved this door, but the guy behind the register gave me the stink eye when I took a picture of it. Whatever.


Inside NARS again--Leslie was stocking up this time.


Black tulips--my fave

And of course, over to Paper Source ...


Now I don't have a picture of it, but moments after I took this shot, Gemma introduced herself to another bigger dog and while Annie was all, "Come on, let's go" down the sidewalk and Leslie was messing around on her phone, I was the only one who noticed that said dog had Andy Cohen (ie, Bravo's Andy) on the end of his leash.  Completely bizarre. I realized later that my mind did some math in that moment and concluded, "Wow, so people on TV are real and don't live inside my TV? huh."  Annie later remarked, "I didn't notice--I only saw the dog" and Leslie said, "Are you SURE?"  Yes, I am sure.



We dropped Gemma off and then headed right back out because Leslie remembered that you can buy $3 bottles of wine at Trader Joe's in NYC and there is NOTHING a Pennsylvanian loves more than buying cheap booze and smuggling it across state lines.  I bought two reds and a vinho verde for $11 (TOTAL, not each. TOTAL).  Pennsylvania: WHY DO YOU MAKE IT YOUR JOB TO SUCK SO BAD???????????????

Then it was off to meet one of Annie's friends at Morandi.



Finally, the four of us went off to dinner at L'Artusi.  I have never--in one single day--consumed so much amazing bread in my life.  Unfortunately, we didn't have much time here before Leslie and I had to dash for the train home.  Next time, I won't leave a minute before 9pm.  Annie, I think we need to come back here next time so we can linger without Amtrak breathing down our necks!

Leslie and I were sad to leave, and it felt too early. But then we sat down on the train and in less than ten minutes both of us felt brain dead--soooo tired.

What a great day--thank you, Annie, and we will be back!  I hope you come home soon with little Gemma.

* update * Do these photos look pixelated on your screen? I think I may have exported them incorrectly. Leave a comment if they look blurry to you--I'm still learning with Light Room ...