January 31, 2012

almost in bloom

I'm not, in general, hankering for spring.
It's been such a mild winter, cold enough to wear scarves and hat and mittens galore, but not so cold that you just can't go outside. It's the kind of winter I love, so I'm really in no hurry for it to end.

But I couldn't resist this little pot of hyacinths this week, and looking at them, nearly there, taller and closer to blooming each morning, has brought spring to the edge of my mind.
Just around the corner, almost in bloom, who knows what's to come.

And you?Are you thinking of spring yet?

January 30, 2012

happy (lunar) new year

After a lazy Saturday that consisted mostly of Lego building, stop-motion movie making (Evelyn's first on her own) and kitting a good four inches of Will's sweater only to realize I set the sleeves too close to each other - which led to much ripping out of stitches and some, ahem, unladylike words on my part- Evie and I were ready to get out of the house on Sunday and headed down to Chinatown for a girls afternoon.

We walked up the steps of the subway with just enough time before the parade to buy a few confetti tubes and then found a spot to watch the neighborhood ring in The Year of the Dragon.
I've never been to a parade where the watchers throw things at the marchers, but it seems that's how a Lunar New Year parade rolls. Confetti, poppers and more and more confetti were tossed at Insurance sponsored floats, congressmen and lots of dragons. I'm not sure I'd like to have those exploding popper things thrown at me if I was walking along with a giant dragon puppet on my head, but it didn't seem to startle anyone else.
Walking the long way back to the subway, we stopped and bought some unidentifiable"treats" at a stand where everything seemed to be $1.24, big or small (one turned out to be a tasty cake like thing, the other is some kind of doughy-jelly like substance that tastes of bananas, sort of) and then stopped at a tea shop I love in Soho to warm up.
Evelyn has only recently come over to the land of tea drinkers and she loves the Spiced Plum (decaf) tea that I get at Harney and Sons. Mostly, I suspect, because it's red, which means that with milk, it's pink. Go figure.

I know its trendy and overly cool and hip and all that, but I love SoHo. One of these days I'd like to spend a whole day down there without kids just wandering in and out of the stores. Not that I'd be able to buy much, unless I go back to the $1.24 stall in Chinatown. But just looking would be fun. Ahhh, someday.

January 27, 2012

snippits of the week

This morning it is wet and rainy in New York. The sidewalks are shiny and slick and crowded with umbrellas. I'm always surprised to see that, in a city where winter outerwear is almost exclusively black, black and more black, umbrellas and rain boots are almost obnoxiously colorful. Polka dots and leopard prints and rainbow hues.
We've had every sort of weather this week. Saturday's snow is long gone, one day it was warm enough to go out in just light sweater.

It was frigidly cold and ferociously windy, but today is just a typical rainy day.

Soup weather. (I'm in love with this cookbook currently. Winter veggies. Yumm. This soup is the Ribolita and it was delicious!) I like typical rainy days, even when I've accidentally word my pants that are just a leeeeetle too long and are only a micro-inch off the ground. Which isn't a problem except when it rains and the water seeps up my ankles.
Because the weather has been...variable...this week, we've spent a lot of time inside playing.
And making stop-motion movies. Between the box of Will's old transformers that arrived this week from his mom and their newly established rolls as director and assistant director, the post-homework/pre-dinner hour have resulted in many, many, many films.
In case you're wondering what happens when you let a nine and five year old loose with stop-motion software and a built in isight here you go.

I picked the music :)

Briton and I spent yesterday exploring the Brooklyn Museum. We're going through a serious Rick Riordan phase here, with one of the Egypt books being read and the other being listened to (over and over and over) on an ipod, so the Egyptian Wing over in Brooklyn has been high on his list of things to do.
Smaller than the exhibit at the Met, it was a nice, manageable amount of things to see. And other than a class that wandered through for a few minutes, we were just about the only people in that part of the museum which meant that Briton could hop from statue to canopic jar to papyrus scroll and I could actually read the signs without wondering if he was in someones way.

The other part of the museum that we loved was the visible storage. I remember seeing this kind of museum storage when we were puttering around one of the museums in Dublin and I find it fascinating. The Brooklyn Museum had mounted ipads scattered around the room so that you could find out more about the objects but we really just wandered. And I found my next bike.
Today is library day. We have picked up our old Charlottesville habit of hitting a cupcake shop and then the library after school every Friday. It's not quite the same, mostly because neither the cupcake shop owners nor the librarians are particularly friendly, but it's a good tradition. This is not our library. In fact, the library we go to is a shabby 1950's building that has been under construction since we moved here. But this building is a block away from it and we pass it on our way to the bus each week and I love it. It's prompted many discussions between Briton and I about what a privilege a library system is.

Have a warm and cozy weekend!

January 25, 2012

on the subway

Yesterday I rode the subway all day long.

Ok, not all day. But pretty much all afternoon. I like having no car. I love public transportation, but three and a half hours and seven transfers is a bit much, even for me. It was a fluke. A badly timed class for Briton that had me dropping him off in one corner of Manhattan, heading all the way up the the opposite corner to pick Evie up from school and then turning right around and going back to get him before coming all the way home again. It won't be repeated. There were too many tears from tired children to try to pull that off again. Somewhere in the third hour I realized why people allow their kids to ride the subway on their own. It's the same reason that I started carting my younger brother to soccer practice as soon as I had a drivers license. Schlepping one kid from activity to activity is hard work and when a second child's schedule gets added to the mix, well, the logistics can get a little hairy. I can't even imagine what would happen with, say, five kids. My grandmother is a saint to have lived through that (and she didn't even drive!)
On the plus side, I realized, right about the time when everyone was getting a little overemotional, that we were five short blocks away from our favorite ice cream store. And that saved the day. That and the giant sparkly unicorn painted on the wall of the store which Evelyn decided was there just for her. "I like this place. They like unicorns!" Indeed they do.

Also, I saw a guy dressed EXACTLY like this.
Down to the trailing hair around the face. I kid you not. Yet another moment that I wished I had a camera inside my eyes. I would have taken a photo except, well, I was carrying two backpacks, a bag, three coats, and a five year old at the time, so, I couldn't quite get to my camera.

The subway can be exhausting and crowded and frustrating, but at least it's always entertaining.

January 24, 2012

washi washi keyboard fun

It wasn’t until I was about halfway thought this little “Pimp My MacBook” project that I realized I had, inadvertently also given one of our ongoing homeschooling lessons a little boost. Will pointed it out, actually, when he looked over and asked “Do you know what’s on all those keys?”

Of course.

Duh, I can type with out looking.

I’m sure I know them all.

Ummm, maybe not all the little ones on top. But I never use those.

Except sometimes.

OK, the top ones may have to go. But otherwise I’m set. Briton, however, is going to have to step up his typing skills now that the letters on the keyboard are mainly obscured. His response when he saw it this morning was “Oh noooooo. Now I have to learn them!”

Yes grasshopper. You do.

Sometimes my craft projects seem to be a matter of fate, or worlds colliding. The big crafty god in the sky wants me to do something, so all the embossed stars and foam sticker planets align.

This was one of those projects.

A happy meeting of me spotting keyboard decals in a shop, but deciding they weren’t quite my colors, an article I’m writing about washi tape that had prompted me to buy several rolls of said tape off of a seller on Etsy.com and then an image of someone else's pimped out computer on Pinterest ended with me spending an hour last night carefully covering each of my keyboard keys with wee bits of brightly colored Japanese masking tape while watching a five year old episode of Inspector Lewis (I love that Hathaway).

To be honest, I’m not sure how long they will last, it is tape after all. But I love it. It’s just the right amount of zing on my otherwise rather grown up and proper looking computer. Hopefully it will make my computer feel fresh and new and maybe it will stop acting like it needs a walker to cross the street. (Sloooooooooowwwwwww, I must get that new external hard drive and clear things off!

If you, too, feel that your computer might need a little pick me up. Here’s what you need to do.

First, you’ll either want just one or two tape patterns OR lots and lots of different patterns in order to get the right look. I ordered four mini rolls and three larger ones that had multiple patterns on each and really, I could have used one more I think. At least one (and probably more like three) of your patterns need a mostly white background, this is because while most of the keys are the perfect width for the MacBook keys, the bottom row is taller. For the Fn, control and option keys this doesn’t matter because they are narrow enough to just turn the tape vertically. The Command keys and the Space Bar, however, are just plain too bug, so you want tape that will blend on the edges. The wavy lines and polka dots worked well from my stash and that was totally unplanned. But it’s worth a think when you order your tape.

Next clean your computer keys well. It probably needs it anyway, mine did. This way the tape will stick well.

Now you can start sticking, You’ll also need a good pair of sharp scissors. Its easier to place the tape along one edge and then cut it while still attached so that you don’t have to deal with re-sticking and or the tape loosing it’s stickiness from peeling up and cutting and putting down and peeling up because it’s not quite right and then trying three more times before, ah, finally, there’s one key done. That being said, it’s pretty easy to reposition this stuff. It is, after all, masking tape. It’s sort of made for that kind of thing.

Once you have the tape on, use your fingernail to smooth down the corners and edges and rub each key down well. It works better if you do the whole thing while the computer is off. Trust me. I started out watching the Finder on my computer while I was working on it but I kept doing strange things to the program while smoothing down the tape.

January 23, 2012

snow day in the park

I've been waiting for this. I know most people hate snow, or hate the complications that snow brings is probably more accurate, but in a city where I don't need a car to get around, where I have loud, hissing, but very warm radiators keeping me toasty warm and plenty of hot chocolate waiting to be made, I've been longing for the snow.

We were supposed to go to the grocery store that morning, and then Will needed to go over to the school to work. But instead we went out for breakfast at a diner and then spent the day in Central Park.
Today the snow is melting. Everything is brown and dirty and wet. The grey aftermath of a winter storm.
But I'll take that, if it means we have a perfect snowy Saturday to play.

January 20, 2012

snippits of the week

Cold. It's cold.

Stay inside and play board games after school cold.
The wild animals have had to resort to climbing fake trees. Poor baby jaguar.
Drink lots of tea cold.
This is my new favorite - it's not my usual thing, I've been a solid Barry's Irish Breakfast Tea and nothing else girl for years but Will brought home some mystery tea bags from a meeting and I feel in love. It took some serious googling to figure out who made it and where I could get more. As it turned out, it was local. Just a little jaunt (almost all the way) down Broadway in NoHo - where all the cool kids are.
It's so cold that this is what the fruit stalls look like at the local market. It's kind of hard to shop when they do this, but I guess even apples need their little cheeks protected from that wicked wind off the Hudson.
Did I tell you that we accidentally found the cafe from You've Got Mail? Well, we did. Stephanie and I were wandering around in the (absolutely freezing) cold while we waited for our knitting cocktail party to begin (I know, I know) to start and happened upon Cafe Lalo. See that table. That's the table. Awwww. Ok, I'm a geek.
I'm still giddy over my weekend of knitting and have been, if possible, even more obsessed with my yarn and needles. This was my favorite yarn at Vogue. Each color was named after the sheep/goat/combination that they came from. I didn't buy any and now I'm wishing I had because I'd like to make this out of some of this Mac and Lily.
Briton is taking a stop action film making class and loving it. It's not hard to understand why, they make things with clay and then, frame by frame, have their clay creatures battle one another to the sticky end. I'm sure it's educational, somehow.

Stay warm, my friends.

January 19, 2012

field trip: new york historical society

Shame on me. No, seriously, shame on me. Here I am, a history major, and not just a history major but someone who reads history for fun, living in New York for eight months now, totally avoiding the Historical Society.
As much as I love history, Historical Societies can be a little...dry. I'm good with wandering around halls reading plaques and looking at aged and ancient things big and small, but my children, and, ok, my husband too, they don't really love it. It's really not fun being the one who wants to read all those little plaques when everyone grows more and more bored and more and more impatient. And also, we visited the Museum of the City of New York in the fall and, to be honest, it was kind of a dud. Mostly because about 80% of it was under construction, but still.
The New York Historical Society, however, is one humdinger of a museum. It might be my new favorite museum here, although my old favorite, the Jewish Museum, is pretty awesome, hard to decide.
Briton and I spent the morning there. We're currently making the transition in our history studies from the Post Revolutionary Era (Continental Congresses and new monetary systems and the War of 1812 oh my) to 1800's New York and it seemed like a good place to go. The history highlight of the trip was seeing the original Stamp Act and looking at the various coins issued by the new states after the war. They also had a great exhibit on how the Haitian, French and American Revolutions were tied together, an excellent children's history museum and children's history library in the basement and an outstanding movie about the history of the city. I took notes for the rest of our history year.

So if you're in the city, and you happen to be bumming around the west side, go. It's not your average dry old Historical Society. It's worth it to see the movie alone but is also just the right size for an easy afternoon of museuming.

January 18, 2012

the boy, he blushes

Sometimes, walking through this city with a nine year old boy is a minefield of uncomfortable moments. Those things that you shelter your children from for as long as possible? Well, they tend to pop up here, right in front of you, when you least expect it. Like crazy people. Crazy people are everywhere here. Sure, there are crazy people in every city, but even Eugene, which (and I love Eugene, I really do) has some of the most colorful crazies I’ve ever run into (Hi Frog!) can’t really compete with New York in terms of numbers.

This has led to one of our “City Rules”, specifically, City Rule Number 2 – if you see/hear someone yelling and it’s not immediately apparent why, whom or what they are yelling at, cross the street or walk the other way. (City Rule Number 1 is never ever turn a corner so that you are out of sight, even if you are turning onto your own street while City Rule Number 3 is always use your city scooter manners – i.e. do not run over people or make them think you might run over them. They’ll start yelling if you do.)

Really, this is a good rule for everyone, everywhere. But it’s not really something I expected to have to drill into my kids at nine and five. Oh well, we’ll chalk that up to good life experiences.

A variation on this are the people who get one the subway and start yelling. This is an unfortunate situation because it’s hard to walk away on a moving train. The good news is that this is New York. And New York is full of New Yorkers. And let me tell you, these people, they don’t take any shit. So you can usually just keep your head down, your ear phones plugged in and count on the fact that someone else on the car will yell back. They might even enjoy it. I think it’s kind of a sport here.

We have streets where you DO NOT TAKE YOUR PHONE OUT OF YOUR POCKET, because people like to grab and run, and blocks where you MUST hold mom’s hand at all times even if you are nine. These are things that city kids have to learn. Along with why those people who “surf” the subway by hanging onto the outside of the door are idiots, even if idiot is a bad word.

And then there was yesterday, when we took a “shortcut” while walking from a class in the West Village to another in the East Village and ended up on a street that sold, um, interesting clothing.

It started out fine, three chess shops, some cool vintage clothing places, and then suddenly, we were heavily into small-bits-of-leather-sort-of-covering-the-privates outfits. I didn’t know Briton could walk that fast. I had a hard time snapping a picture, in fact, because I was trying to keep up with him. I think it was the nipple tassels that really threw him.

He has requested that we not take that street next week.

Well, OK. If you insist.

January 17, 2012

vogue, vogue, vogue, vogue

Vogue Knitting Live was, well it was delicious, wasn't it? Spending half the day wandering through yarn booth after yarn booth, familiar yarns, unfamiliar yarns (Possum yarn. Yes. Possum. And yes, I bought some, how could I not?) Crazy hexagonal needles, giant crochet hooks and even bigger knitting needles to work yarn thicker than my thumb, seeing The Crochet Dude swarmed by admiring ladies, finding a booth where the yarn is named after the sheep whose wool it's made from.
Or to laugh, belly laugh, at the Snowmen vs. Gnomes art exhibit. All done in teeny tiny knitting.
Don't tell the gnomes, but I think the snowmen have the advantage there.
And then spending the other half listening to a goddess of knitting, the protege of Elizabeth Zimmerman's own daughter swear up a storm while at the same time casting off pearls of wisdom I wouldn't have learned from a lifetime of trial and error. It was that kind of day. If your not a knitter, I give you full leave to roll your eyes and be bored by the though, if you are a knitter then, well, you understand.
I've often thought that, for such a social person, and I am a social (ahem, chatty) person, it's strange that my hobbies tend to be very solitary. I'm not a team sports person. I don't really love parties unless they are with my closest friends, I don't like to go clubbing or even venture into crowds of people that I don't already know. I like to read and write and knit and bake and am generally a great big homebody. This means that, unless something drags me out, I tend to get into the habit of being on my own (with my family, of course). And while I love "hunkering down", I can get a little down when I have too much alone time.

Knitting has, unexpectedly, provided a social outlet for me. I go out to knit. I hang out with knitters. It's my team sport, except instead of numbered jerseys and strange mascots and ESPN, we have different yarn blends, sheep and Ravelry. I realized, not long ago, that I have progressed from someone who knits to a Knitter with a capital K. It may seem like a strange distinction, but trust me, there's a difference. This realization came, I should add, when I found myself trying to stuff my yarn swift, five projects and ten extra skeins of yarn into our suitcase to take to my parents house. Because what if I finished all four projects and had to start a new one and there was no ball winder in the whole state of Missouri? That would be tragic! I did come to my senses and only brought two, ok three, knitting projects with me in the end.
So it's no wonder that spending the day with a swarm of like minded ladies (and a few guys) had me all in a dither. This, by the way, was not the best shirt I saw, but it was close. The best was on a man who was very gallantly escorting his wife (or perhaps he was there to restrain her from buying up the whole marketplace) I only saw him for a moment and didn't get a chance to take a picture, but the back of his shirts read "I work so that she can crochet." Which, you know, is probably pretty true. True love that.