By CATcash advance


April 27

After last week's nor'easter and the unseasonably hot weather that followed, I was begrudgingly ready to welcome an early summer (I'm more of a fall gal myself). In fact, I was so confident that the freakishly warm weather was going to continue, I retired my jeans to under the bed and broke out my sandals and a couple of my favorite summer skirts. But I wake up this morning and what do I find out my window? Chilly winds and a complete downpour, swelling up the Passaic River all over again and closing up a few of the local highways. Le sigh.

As much as I might like the idea of getting some mileage out of my cowl afterall, I could do without the dreary skies and all the rain. I was just getting used to hearing the Mr. Softie truck make its nightly rounds up and down the streets of S's neighborhood and once, a few nights back, I even ran out into the streets, trailing S in my pajamas, in the hopes of snagging a double-dipped cone. Unfortunately, all my trips and stumbles over my own feet and half-pulled-on shoes were to no avail, as S and I stood mid-block, watching the ice cream truck as it sped off and disappeared around the corner, its tinkling rallying cry of Mr. Softie fading off into the sound of traffic.

Ever since then, I've had the strongest urge for soft serve ice cream, or better yet, Pinkberry.

Pinkberry itself
An ode to Pinkberry

Now, I'm not sure how many people outside the LA & NYC metropolitan areas know about Pinkberry. I myself first heard about it only a few months back while prowling one of my favourite celebrity gossip websites (yes, celebrity gossip is a guilty pleasure of mine, and one that I indulge in --guiltily, mind you!-- on a daily basis). It featured a picture of Reese Witherspoon and one of her sons "enjoying the new yogurt craze, Pinkberry", which was puzzling since I'd never heard of such a craze before, and wasn't that the very nature of a craze -- something people heard of and then went crazy about?

I finally got the opportunity to have Pinkberry last month during a family trek to New York City; my brother-in-law's parents had driven out to New Jersey from Illinois on a visit, and to celebrate, my sister negotiated Korean Barbeque as the best way to satisfy both Mike's standards for good food and my father's determined pickiness when it came to eating anything that wasn't my mother's cooking.

the condiments of a Korean barbeque experience

I remember clearly it was a terrible weekend for travel since a heavy winter storm hit that Friday, making a mess of all of the roads and the local airports. Regardless, we weathered the slow traffic and the uncleared sidewalks to make our dinner date with the Lakes at the restaurant (one of several Korean barbeque places dotting the block). After a couple hours of pushing kalbi (short ribs marinated in a mix of soy sauce, garlic, sesame, ginger and sugar) around our personal table-side grills, feasting on various types of pickled condiments served in tiny side bowls, and sharing good conversation, we emerged onto the slushy New York street full and satisfied. Despite the weather, both my sister and I were determined to take part of the craze and after some finagling with our parents, were able to convince them that such a great meal demanded dessert.

the Lakes (top), Mike and Iko (bottom) at the Korean barbeque place

More after the cut »


April 25

the completed cowl

Rejoice, my cashmere bamboo cowl is complete!

It knitted up faster than I thought it would, even taking into consideration the simplicity of the pattern, though I could have gone much longer with it, and made it even more cowly. The beauty of the pattern is that the same concept can be taken and adapted for other stiches, yarn weights, and sizes. I'm thinking of doing at least one other one, but instead of the bamboo, using a more decorative or lighter yarn and knitting on larger needles and to a larger circumference to give it more drape and a lacier feel. The result, I'd imagine, would be a much lighter dressier looking cowl, compared to the straight-forward utility of this one. One option I'm considering is trying to find a way to adapt the pattern so that I can use some of this Habu yarn I bought a couple weeks ago.

Habu yarn

Pictures don't do this yarn justice; it has just such an unusual texture and subtle richness to it. It is, however, a tough yarn for a newbie like me to knit with and gauge since its weight varies from what feels like worsted all the way down to fingering or lace. The one swatch that I did try was on smaller needles than suggested, which ended up making a really beautiful surface texture but was extremely stiff. Some more experimentation, a little research, and maybe some pow-wowing with Iko will yield a pattern and gauge that will work well for a the cowl.

Since it's my first completed knit project in a long while, there's nothing I would like more than to venture outside with it tucked in the neck of my jacket or sweater, keeping my neck warm from a blustery wind. Unfortunately, before I could finish the sucker up and take advantage of the recent cold front that had all of the magnolias and forsythias bristling at the unexpected frost, the climate decided it was springtime after all and traded 30s and 40s for highs in the upper 70s.

Alas, the cashmere bamboo cowl's April debut was not meant to be. Until the evenings get cooler again, the cowl will make its rounds in an over-airconditioned apartment.

Now that it's done, I can focus on my other work-in-progress. To make sure I don't burn out with knitting like I did last time, I've restricted myself to only two projects at a time (three if one is a long-term project like an afghan), and while I hit mid-stride with the cowl, I snatched up some more of the Rowan bamboo to start a free-form project.

The Button Scarf

My ultimate plan is for it to be one of those scarves that wrap and then button closed very tight to the neck (inspired by this Mike and Chris scarf design). I'm thinking large red buttons to contrast with the cream colored yarn to make something very graphic and striking. The stitch is really simple and taken from my sister's desk calendar and involves alternating staggered rows of knit/sl1 wyif with purls.

Since it's a project that I'm kind of making up as I go along, I'm not totally sure how it will turn out; right now I've already got a good five inches of scarf, but the more I think about it, the more I think the scarf should be wider and maybe even two-toned. But, then I think that maybe less is more, and I'm better off sticking to my original plan. I suppose we'll see where this lands.

In the meantime, I'm biding my time, trying not to start a new project, because next weekend my sister, mother and I will be heading on a roadtrip down to Maryland to see what there is to see at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.


April 22

Saturday was laundry day, which meant a few spare hours sitting in the local laundromat with not much else to keep me occupied but spanish MTV and my latest knitting project. S was there too but he was too distracted by Philip Glass and Ender-verse to make for good conversation, so I settled in the only booth the laundromat had and worked on finishing up the last few inches of the cashmere cowl I had started a couple weeks prior.


Now, let me start by saying that I am not a knitter -- not by a long shot. When it comes to being crafty, that's more of Iko's thing. She's the one versed in sock-making and skirt-sewing; come the holidays, she embroiders placemats and cross-stitches bookmark stocking stuffers with dainty little flowers and ivy leaves. Me, I'm more of a Martha-Stewart type, with an eye toward presentation. Give me some artisan yarn and some linen and I can wrap a present like it's nobody's business; give me the same stuff and ask me to make a skirt out of it -- you'd better believe I'd be giving my sister a call.

The more I think about it, the more I think out interest in crafts and homemade things must come from our mom. Growing up, she made us more than our fair share of church dresses and Halloween costumes. She was the daughter of a tailor and, back in the Philippines, had made a lot of her own clothing. To this day, whenever someone asks about her wedding, she announces proudly: "My wedding dress was a pink suit that I made myself!" I've seen the photos myself and it's appealing to me to think that something I made may find its way into the fabric of my memory and possibly into the collective memory of my family.

Getting into the actual nitty-gritty of crafting was the first challenge.

I had tried to pick up knitting a few years previous, again at the proddings of my sister, but had ended up with little more than a trunk full of disused yarn and a dozen aborted projects. Only two scarves emerged from the whole affair intact -- one of which was a much-loved gift, misplaced at a club somewhere in New England, never to be seen again. Since then, I've only watched from the sidelines as my sister kicked out project after project. Felted bags, Ron Weasley hats, and lots and lots of shawls later, she may have finally won me back over.

The secret to her success? Bamboo.


More after the cut »


April 20

One afternoon, many moons ago, my job as the Creative Lead for a small dot-com brought me to the doorstep of delicious days. I had been scouring the web for some design inspiration and had stumbled upon the link on a site that collected examples of excellent design. I gave the page a quick once-over, took a screenshot for later reference, and then moved on to the next URL. There was one thing, however, that gave me pause -- so much so that I had to return to the site later on for a repeat visit.

Perfect grape tomatoes -- lusciously photographed -- bright red and still on the vine.

Now, as a woman who'd rather have tomatoes off her burger rather than on, I was surprised that it was this photo that had me coming back for more. There was something about it, something so delectable and appealing, that I had to take another look and dig a little deeper. What I found was a treasure trove of delicacies -- images and recipes that stirred the senses and inspired me for the first time to wonder, "Hmm, I wonder what that'd taste like."

Links off of her page sent me scrambling in all different directions -- from Boston to France to Japan, I globe trotted my way through the culinary world by reading the words of her fellow bloggers. I found myself trying to imagine the various recipes I came across, mentally piecing together individual memories of the various ingredients to form completely new and foreign experiences.

Eventually, playing mental culinary hopscotch wasn't enough and I decided I had to try some of the recipes on my own. I had tried once to survive a wintersession at college with only my culinary skills to feed me, and by the end of the month, I had mastered the art of making mashed, grey omelets but not much else. In this latest venture into the kitchen, I took up watching shows like Good Eats and America's Test Kitchen to help ease me into it. Things progressed slowly. Under the watchful eye of the Food Network, Julia Child, the food blogisphere, and even Martha Stewart, I found my confidence in the kitchen. It was never anything too elaborate or sophisticated, but it gave me a simple sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to be able to cook. The sizzle of garlic hitting hot oil and in the seconds that followed, the delicious smell that rose from the pan in warm wafts. Leveling off flour, smelling herbs in the produce aisle, tasting madelines straight from the pan for the first time -- these were the kinds of things that made me fall in love with the act of cooking.

So my original plan was to start a food blog.

It's a process several months in the making, but, the more I thought of it, the more I realized that there was more to life that I wanted to talk about -- more dialogues I wanted to take part in. After a few years hiatus, I've just recently re-took-up knitting, much to my sister Iko's glee. My fiancée is an avid gamer and I started playing World of Warcraft way before he did and yes, I'm actually excited that Grand Theft Auto IV is set in New York City.

So yeah, my original plan was to start a food blog. But instead, what you get is a strange mélange of things that, when taken all together, make the fabric of my life. There will be yarn and orla kiely handbags and the occasional Final Fantasy reference. There will be milk and eggs and sugar and a preposterous number of scarves. There will be color palettes and photographs. There will be Etsy and Design*Sponge and Kotaku. Oh, and of course madelines.

Remember that, folks. No matter where life will take my interests and this blog from here on out, there will always be madelines.