Sunday, July 30, 2006

Icarus again

Back to Icarus and going much better the second time around.

Yarn: KnitPicks laceweight, handdyed with Koolaid
Needle: size 3 circular
Pattern: Icarus, Interweave Knits, Summer 2006
Designer: Miriam Felton

I've been working on More than Circular, but didn't want to take it with me when I went away last week because of its size and difficulty. So I decided to give Icarus another try.

This time it is making much more sense. Seven stitches between pattern areas, yarnovers after the edge stitches and on either side of the center stitch, and slowly building up the sides until you have enough stitches to start the next chart.

I've made two mistakes but am going to live with them.

El Colonial

Most of my travels become Trips about Eating.

Interspered between meals are lots of walking or taking public transportation about, trying to do as much as possible to feel like a native and not a tourist, and sleeping late or taking naps.

But the meal is definitely one of the high point, or, in a pinch, a sightseeing expedition that invariably relates back to food. In Minneapolis, Mickey's Diner. In St. Paul, the Mill City Farmers Market on Saturday morning. In Boston, a desert place where, as my daughter puts it, you can get cake with cake with a side of cake. (It's sort of the Chez Panisse of desert places, where each selection comes with cunning little side dishes that amp up the flavor of the main choice. )

Best meal in Florida: El Colonial: a Cuban restaurant about 35 minutes north of Palm Beach, in what probably was a pancake place in an earlier incarnation. Almost no atmosphere; almost perfect food. The tables are white formica, the booths are black pleather, and through the use of occasional pieces of fabric, some red is introduced into the mix. Clearly a place with regular customers, and a good sign was the number of cars in the parking lot. We'd been noticing how empty all the restaurants looked, and so it was reassuring to have to look for a parking place when we found the place.

The menu was direct and light on the description. You could choose grilled, fried, or another category I can't recall. And within the grilled choices, you could opt for types of meat or shrimp or fish chunks. Honest.

I chose "Shrimp on the Grill." When I ordered "grilled shrimp," the very nice waiter reiterated "shrimp on the grill" ? I agreed, and then chose as my three sides mixed rice, boiled yuca, and fried plantains. The best part was that I had no idea what any of these tasted like, and I was still ready to try them.

On one plate I had several perfectly grilled shrimp resting on a bed of red pepper, iceberg lettuce and croutons with some oil and wine vinegar that mized with the smoky juices from the shrimp and turned into a salad. The second plate held a mound of onions on top of the yuca; rice mixed with black beans and spice; and carmelized, sweet, slightly chewy banana-like plaintains. The yuca tasted a bit like a slightly nuttier, slightly firmer, white potato.

And this is my favorite way to eat: many different flavors, really fresh and clean tastes, lots of little tastes and choices of texture and color and kinds of foods. A bit of adventure, a bit of reassuring familarity. Comfortable environment, great service, no pretensions.

Sangria to drink, but next time cold beer.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Dancing on the top deck of a yacht streaming along the Intercoastal Waterway near Palm Beach is one of the best ways to bring a group of colleagues together.

Seventies disco is the best dance medium for strangers; "I Will Survive" and "Vogue" the best cuts from that era. And as cheesy as line dancing can be, doing the Cha Cha Slide with a crowd of laughing people is one of the best ways to feel a part of a group.

I love to dance. I'm somewhat shy and self-conscious in large groups, not really a cocktail-conversation kind of person. But when you dance, especially in a big group where no one has a partner, you get to join in, do your own style of dance, find that spot in space to focus on, and enjoy.

For a moment, you forget yourself and just join in. People smile, clap, shimmy, sway.

What a great party. It was like being at a really good bar mitzvah, where everyone, from the tall gawky girls and short boys to the tiny little grandmother, get up together to dance.

Perhaps Condoleeza Rice should try to introduce dancing at the peace talks. Dance as the ideal equalizer, and the endorphin-effect couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

at the beach

Taking a walk early in the morning.
Watching the pelican divebomb into the ocean for a fish.
Drinking cold white wine with lime.
Noticing how good the air feels on your skin when you move from airconditioned inside to outside.
Listening to the ocean.
Watching the ocean.
Walking in the ocean.
Appreciating how much better the linens are at a really good hotel.
Appreciating that same hotel offers a choice of which morning paper you would like to receive.
Sitting still and watching the ocean.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

off to the beach!


On my way to a business trip in Florida for a few days, then a few more days just to sit on the beach, stare at the ocean, read, drink gin and tonics, knit, and sleep. Knitting plans are to tackle Icarus again, this time with a laceweight wool from KnitPicks, Koolaid dyed in what I think of as karma colors: pink and orange.

Hope to be able to post while I'm away, and send along pictures of the ocean. ahhh. . .

Sunday morning yoga class

I usually try to think of a focus for the class when I teach yoga: either a type of pose, say hip openers, or a theme, such as quiet.

Today I decided to link the class through a series of twists. And it flowed nicely, from a simple seated twist in the beginning phase to Matseyandrasana at the end, lunge with twists and Parsvokonasana coming toward the middle of the practice.

I also threw in a more challenging balancing pose, just to try. My teacher calls it Crow. It's what we called a tip up when we were in grade school gym. Kids can do it with no effort at all. Some adults, especially those with upper body strength, also can move into it fairly easily.

But for most of my students, it is a new pose. I try, particularly when teaching a more complicated pose, to remind my students that yoga is a practice. My hope is that they will try something new, even fall, realize nothing bad will happen, and try again. Hmm, is yoga a metaphor? Beyond that, I hope that they will laugh and have fun.

I demonstrated how to get into the pose by crouching on a block (my Iyengar teacher's method), then tipping forward and bringing the shins onto the forearms. It's all about spreading the fingers, bending the elbows in a straight line rather than akimbo, and creating an invisible tripod with your hands as two points and your gaze, or dristi, as the top point of the tripod. Then you tip forward and suddenly the body seems light, the gaze has space in front of it, and even for a millisecond you're free of gravity.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Making Friends at the Grant Park Symphony

I hope the gentleman sitting beside me and my husband last night at Millennium Park doesn't mind my calling him a friend.

The word friend has manifold definitions, and one certainly is in reference to someone you know over time, confide in, grow with.

But the kind of friend I have in mind is that happenstance meeting with a new person, someone who you would probably not have encountered if you weren't sitting next to each other in the rain at the Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park. It is an incredible Frank Gehry structure that is home, in the summer, to the Grant Park Symphony. Free music in the midst of the city, amazing architecture (see photos by Tanaka here )that mimics an indoor space through an interwoven canopy of steel arches, and a crowd more diverse than the homogeneous audience one frequently encounters at other classical music performances.

Behind me were sitting a group of teenage boys, focusing their manly man competitiveness on who knew which piece of music to be played ("you mean you've never heard Scheherazade???") In front of us, a grey-haired older woman, waiting for her children to join her. When they arrived, she gave up the available seats to them, after carefully drying each off with her kleenex, and then she disappeared, hopefully to find a seat for herself. And her children were adults, but still she wanted to ensure that they had seats even if she did not.

And beside us were three men, two of whom were wearing gold medals from the Gay Games. And one of this group became a friend. We talked about how he won his medal (this is a blog that wants to allow privacy, so I'm not going to mention the event), where he was from, modern music, my daughter's writing, how to telephone solicit for arts organizations without alienating your audience, and dogs.

We sat in the light rain, waiting for the concert to start or the intermission to pass, and had a conversation. So un-Midwestern. I felt lucky. I felt part of a community, sitting in the rain, umbrellas sticking up here and there, people out on a cool summer evening enjoying music, the city, and friends. Even new ones, that we might never see again.

Friday, July 21, 2006

More Color and the Almost Best Knitting Word

More color: lovely Koigu and the amazing Nalbinding scarf at Mostly Knitting, which I found when I was looking for old knitting words.

If I had a better Viking accent and a keypad with umlauts, this blog would be called Nalebinding instead of Pegotty. Don't you want to try it?

Red Shoes

Color is increasingly important to me.

So I was pleased to see that ChicKnits thought to link her readers with the Pantone fall color forecast. I recently shelled out big bucks at the Whole Foods in St. Paul just to read about Pantone and color. I've thought many times that the best job in the world would be to be the person who names the colors each season.

I used to buy an entire wardrobe in black. Not punk, or goth. Just all in black, because it was easy, a bit academic, a bit big-city. I didn't even have to try things on. One of the few perks in my day job is the clothing discount. I could walk the store, pick out a few black tops and a few black pants and skirts, and I was good to go. Then I graduated to three colors. I noticed, one day, that my closet was full of black clothes, white clothes, and blue jeans. Still calm, still easy and quick to get dressed in the morning, but starting to exhibit different shades of color. Be sure that I did not organize it by color. It's just that I looked closer one day, when I was doing one of my favorite things (throwing stuff out), and noticed the presence of three different schools. That's how I thought of it: as groups that coexisted but retained their own personalities. The same thing was happening in my dresser drawer. Tshirts had evolved to white, black, and sky blue, marine blue, teal. But no navy blue, because navy blue smacks of preppiedom, and I wasn't going down that road.

Two springs ago, I began to have this odd sensation: that my eyes needed to see color, in the same way that I crave sun after a dark February or feel restored by the sight of the ocean. Instead of wanting to wear white or black as a respite from the confusion and overly numerous choices available, I started to enjoy color as something restorative. How can you not smile when you look down and see red shoes on your feet?

I like the surprise of odd colors placed next to each other: a purple camisole underneath a bright lime-colored sweater, a petal pink shirt worn with a moss green skirt, anything orange with anything pink. And I like the happy quality of color: combinations that don't take themselves too seriously or match too well. Yesterday I wore a black tank with my favorite skirt: white, mismatched buttons along the bottom, a hem that is longer on the sides than in the center. Over the black tank, a soft brown linen shirt. On my feet: black Mary Jane Earth shoes in the morning, heavy black Keen Mary Janes in the afternoon, with a yellow triangle at the edge of the toe.

All day long, it felt right. And that's the most important thing, after all. Not what's on the outside, but how it makes the inside recognize itself, and feel good about it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Knitting More than Circular is requiring single-minded concentration.

If I try to listen to a television show or a podcast or music, my mind wanders from the task. And suddenly, there I am in knitting hell again, having lost count or mistaken the order of the stitches. It's like awakening from a daydream. One moment I'm conscious and focused, the next moment I blink and realize that I've gotten off track again.

Since I don't yet have faith in my ability to rip back vertically, I rip repeat by repeat, hoping to find the spot where my mind wandered off.

A smart knitter would count the stitches in every repeat. Also smart would be to check the stitches as I work my way around on alternate knit rows: that the yarnovers are where they should be, that I counted correctly, that the last ten stitches at the end of the repeat, which have a strange syncopation of SSK, YO, K1, SSK, YO,K2tog, K1, Yo, K2tog, have been executed in correct order.

I've given in to this extremely detailed process in the last few rounds. I was getting tired of ripping back, and the relaxation factor of Just Kntting was being overwhelmed by the frustration of mistakes and ripping.

In case this point got lost, I am enjoying this project.

I'm learning something new: to knit a circular shawl.
I'm learning to love bamboo. The fiber is perfect for this 90 degree humidity. A shawl will rest on your lap as it grows, and do you really want a wool blanket at this time of year?
And I'm learning a tiny, tiny bit of patience and attention to detail.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Pegotty

According to John Seymour in The Forgotten Arts and Crafts (Dorling Kindersley, 1999), the pegotty, or "knitting Nancy," "was a wooden gagdet that had pegs protruding, either all round it, or from its corners. It was used for knitting long, tubular strips of wool" (347).

Why make this the title of my blog?

First, because I love the word. It has hard corners and protrudes out into space, with the sharpness of the initial P and then the rhythmn of the g's and the t's. At the same time, it has a nice line to it, rambling along like a creek finding its way through the hillside.

Next, because I am trying to find a way, by using a high tech medium like a blog, to create a community. It's a lovely paradox: 21st century technology to rebuild something like the guilds of the Middle Ages. For me, a blog is a way to connect with others. That's not to say that I am unaware of the ego at work here. In searching for a title, I became all too conscious of the hordes of writers presenting the minutiae of their thoughts and lives as Great Literature. Even more painful, to my mind, are the overly clever efforts, the semi-amusing word play, the titles that pun on every term imaginable. It was not out of the possibilities that I would choose to name my blog "Does the World Really Need Another Blog?" But, having admitted that I like the idea of others noticing me, I truly put my toe into the blog pool in order to meet other knitters, amateur writers, and to give myself a reason to have to sit down and write on a regular basis.

Creating something is good. And that's another reason that I chose Pegotty as my title: because the point of view of this blog will be a focus on the reclamation of neglected arts. Knitting's resurgence illuminates our culture's desire to reconfigure craft for our own era. We want to sit still occasionally, make something tangible, and then share it with others. The crafts that I ponder may be domestic, such as weaving or cooking or dyeing yarn, or they may be literary, or they may be about yoga. But the predominant plan, at least at the beginning, is to pause, let the mind relax, and make something, whether it's a shawl or a note about teaching yoga. I like the chance to create something on my own, and then stand back and admire it.

One other reason for the title: it is silly. Hopefully, I won't be taking myself or my writing too seriously. Life is short, laughter important, absurdity a given. My new favorite DVD is "Dead like Me": an odd but compassionate look at the life of an 18-year-old grim reaper who died when she was hit by a flaming toilet seat falling out of the sky. It's good to notice how little sense life can make, but how we continue to make friendship and compassion and community ways to negotiate the ridiculousness of it all.

That's it - got to go eat my breakfast and get ready to teach my Sunday yoga class.


Friday, July 14, 2006

more than circular

I'm trying to set aside a decent block of time to work on More than Circular today. I did manage to get myself to stay in one place for an hour this morning. Took out my iPod, set it to shuffle, sat on the porch, and knit lace.

As the shawl grows, each row takens infinitely longer to complete. I seem to hit a time warp around repeat six, when I'm convinced that the next stitch marker will be the blue one with the saftey pin attached, which signals the start of a new row. (I'm very low tech, and it's easier to find it at the bottom of my knitting bag each time it falls off).

I'm pleased with the way that the handdyed yarn turned out, and the shawl is beautiful. Plans are to do more with this.

Once I figure out how to download pictures from my wonderful new digital camera (a small, inexpensive version from BestBuy that works great - plenty of bells and whistles without a scray pricepoint), I can post some pictures of the Beauty that is Jeannine's shawl.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

the title

Ah, the pressure of coming up with a title.

Sad to say that I dscovered another blog on knitting today that is wonderful, graphically interesting, and also called "whimsy." I searched for a synonym for the word, but it's a circular loop: whimsy sugnifies something whimsical, and something whimsical is of the nature of whimsy.

Trying to name my blog gives me the same sensation as when I play Scrabble. Despite my years in academics and the fact that I've always been an English type versus a math type, it is as if a garage door comes down and closes off any Words from access to my active mind. Crossword puzzles have a similar effect, as does anything involving addition or subtraction in my head.

I may sound a bit batty, now. But it probably has something to do with thinking too hard, and cutting off any creative sources in the brain.

I did come across a wonderful title as I was reading Close to Home, by Peter Robinson. One of the police investigators recalls labeling a map in grade school with the words "fanciful sea creatures." A great phrase, but what in h### does it have to do with knitting or writing?

I'm resisting temptation to be cute, though I do love names that play, cleverly, with the word knit. (Knitche in Downers Grove is the best yarn shop in the western suburbs of Chicago, bar none.) And I'm also resisting the urge to play with the word yarn, as in story as well as fiber, though I love Yarn Harlot and a bunch of other variations on the theme.

The best approach probably is to let my mind chew away at this on its own terms. But patience is a big one for me.

So, send all those ideas my way: we're looking for a blog name that suggests happenstance, capriciousness, a love for language and handicrafts, and has a nice, poetic ring to it.


A nice, steady rain is falling: a perfect day for knitting and reading.

My bedroom is the best place to be on a rainy day. It's right under the eaves, so you can hear the rhythmn of the rain on the roof. There is a crab apple tree growing on that side of the house, so a good view of branches and leaves and the occasional critter. And it has, to be honest, a really nice energy to it: there's something relaxing and restorative about the space. If you are lucky, the cat will come and visit you there, letting you pet her or just hanging out on the window cell looking serene.

Plan for the day: get my hair cut, then try to come home after a brief set of errands and do Nothing (translation: read Close to Home by Peter Robinson while lying in bed and listening to the rain).

Sunday, July 09, 2006

things to recommend about the Twin Cities

I am on row 43 of More than Circular, from Knitter's Magazine's book of Best Shawls and Scarves. I love this yarn: it's a fairly thick, but not too thick, bamboo that I hand dyed a few weeks ago. The shawl is for one of my assistants. She is such a warm person that I have seen her break a sweat while leading a mary Kay makeup group in an air conditioned house.

Most of the knitting was done on the way to and from the Twin Cities, to visit one of my daughters. And this is doable lace in a moving car. I followed the designer's suggestion that you separate each repeat with markers, and I'm working my way up from double pointed size four needles, to a 16 inch circular number 5, to a 2 inch number 5. The pattern calls for you to increase the needle size by two about every quarter of the way through. But, for me, the 5 creates a very open structure, and I'm thinking that anything larger would lead to a shawl that looks more like a fishing net than lace.

We stayed with my daughter, who was housesitting for the weekend for a colleague. The house was eerily reminiscent of ours: the bedroom was the same color blue as my study and upstairs bathroom, their study was the same color as our bedroom, same watering can on the front porch, and same mailbox. Very odd. Maybe that's why I found it such a restful house. While my husband and daughter took the dog for a walk, I sat on the front porch and knitted. Ahhhhhh.

Things to recommend about St. Paul and Minneapolis: Dunn Brothers coffee shops (so much better than you-know-where - the lattes here have about an inch of foam on top),the farmers' market at the Mill City Park, fresh basil in summertime, meeting your kids' friends and enjoying conversation with them just for your own sake, seeing your children grow into amazing young adults (well, I guess that's not limited to a geographic region), going to see an outdoor showing of "PeeWee Herman's Big Adventure" at the Bike Film Fest (in the middle of the movie, which is awesome, I had a University of Chicago moment and suddenly thought "fetishization of objects"), and the wide streets with actual bike lanes that are actually for bikes and runners, and not just an excuse for a wider car lane.

And I'm pleased to be writing again.

Here's my first attempt to put a picture in my blog - let me know if you can see it!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In a state of total tiredness after a very long day at work. Off to visit my younger daughter tomorrow and hope to get lots of knitting done on the way there and back. Highly recommended: Jim Dale reading Harry Potter, especially his Professor McGonagle, Dumbledore, and Draco Malfoy.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'm trying to warm up my writing "muscles" after a long time away. I was a reporter many years ago, then went into academics and spent too many hours at home writing my dissertation, then taught for a while. For the last several years, I've been a retail manager. I'm very good at it, but I miss reading and writing and conversation about books.

Thus, I've decided to try to spend a little time each week writing. Not for anyone else, necessarily, though, like all writers, I'm enamored of the idea of my writing being read.

One of the things that I love about blogs is that they are a democratic vehicle for writers. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of blather out there, nor to claim that I have not, or will not, contribute to the chatter.

But I do think it's fantastic that we've taken a technological apparatus - the computer - and turned it into a giant book. Each blog is a selfpublished piece of writing, often more fictional or imaginative than (whatever this is) real.

I also love that blogs try to look like books. There is a wonderful template on Live Journal that looks like an eighteenth-century manuscript, down to the parchment colored background, the flourishes in the font, and the grace of each chapter heading gently introducing the next chapter.

The most difficult element, for me, is coming up with a title. This blog will begin its life as Whimsy and Cobweb: because I believe in the mercurial, because I want to write about the fiber arts, because I was looking for a name reminiscent of the shop names in Harry Potter, because someday I hope to have my own shop. And just because I like the sound of the words. And that's what this blog will be about: finding pleasure in even the smallest elements of life.