Last year’s sweater design and various catching up

IMG_0014.JPGIt’s cold enough to pull out the bulky sweaters. I am modeling last year’s design- I find it is best to put away sweaters for six months after I make them so I can look at them without seeing only the flaws. This was an experimental sweater – I learned to steek for adding the sleeves, it was worked bottom up instead of topdown and I also created the colorwork patterns from a few I found in books. In addition, I decided I only wanted to work on thin #6 circular needles so it has the heft and hang of chain mail.

I can’t face frogging it to make something else, but I also can’t imagine wanting to wear it, unless I become a winter fisherwoman or urban park ranger as it is way too heavy for climate controlled office wear. So I’ve hung it in the closet to contemplate for the season. Next up: a light wool cardigan, not of my own design.

On Saturday I fulfilled my spring wish of canoeing on Newtown Creek. I joined the North Brooklyn Boat Club in April but then I read (part of) Tom’s Riverand got completely freaked out about cancer clusters and the fact that the club is in a Superfund site. Then, the club managed to catch some evil doers who were using the creek as a dump. And now, it is a beautiful fall and I am redirecting my longing to get out into nature in the Lake District toward our local environment and I felt silly I hadn’t been brave enough to visit the club.

I saw a kingfisher and cormorants and mussels, making a go of it in our polluted neighborhood. The boat club is made up of four shipping containers and there is one boat building one that smells and feels like my father’s shop. The volunteers cookout by their tiny dock, and they host classes in an education hut. One woman about my age told me she joined in March and has been out on the water 4 times a week since. Not a bad way to spend the season. Maybe next summer.

Also, in tree news- our tree is doing great, no thanks to me. I only watered it three times all summer, but my lovely neighbors set up a roster and we had a good summer for rain so all the new trees fared quite well. And, due to all our complaints about trash on our block, our city council man allocated funding for workers to clean up our avenue and install fancy tree guards. Gentrification at work!

Autumn Equinox = Time to brew

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Yup, my apartment is finally just about cool enough to consider boiling wort on the stove for over an hour. This is a one gallon batch of cream ale, easy brew and cleanup, to get back in the brewing habit again. My dad is drying the hops he grew this summer for us to use in experimental brews, but our biggest challenge is basic temperature control during the initial fermentation. This makes your beer taste weird. As a new brewer I am amazed that I can make anything marginally drinkable in a bucket in my living room, however, my human cohabitant feels we could do better.

I watched several episodes of Wartime Farm while we boiled, feeling inspired by the hardships of the British archaeologists recreating the WWII homefront hardships. I think this nostalgia for selfsufficient work is many layered for all viewers. Many of the tools, tractors, and tasks are familiar to me from some part of my eighties childhood in a New England farm town. So I watch longing to be canning with my mother in our kitchen, dogs staring in through the screen door. I also think of my grandmother Jean, who found a real purpose and escape from a difficult childhood by signing up for the Army in Britain as a 16 year old. The work and adventure ended up taking her around the world and setting a course for her children and grandchildren that she never could have predicted.

And I am planning my next trip to northern England, where my ancestors tended hogs.

Lake District Planning

I am still (after 3 weeks! I know!) on a Coast to Coast walking path trip planning tear. I have my guidebook and I’ve picked out some likely pubs and B & Bs. I’ve emailed my English cousins to see if they might be available for a visit before or after our walk. I got on my bike this week and did a long ride up to the Bronx for the first time since the spring. I’m critically analyzing my wardrobe for travel readyness.

There are a few big questions to sort out.

1) Will it rain every day and make me miserable and hate the walk? (I check the weather at the starting point in St. Bees each day- today is predicted to be 61 and partly cloudy.)

2) Should I try to camp? It’s so inexpensive! If you bring your own “kit” and carry it, it is only 5 pounds a night per person. We haven’t used our tent since the 4th of July, which was one night, and we were quite happy to abandon our campsite for the Franklin’s nice cabin after that 8 hour period of “roughing it”. I’m imagining a stranger reading this and thinking there is no way in hell that whoever is writing this will survive 15 nights of camping. However, in addition to the cheapness, camping is the only way to give your walk flexibility as far as accommodation goes. It is a popular walk and all b&bs and hostels need to be booked far in advance. On the other hand, why not keep it simple and stay somewhere nice and convenient for a little extra money.

3) Should we try to do the whole walk at once? At a ten mile a day pace, this will take 20 days. Alternatively, we could split it up into weeklong sections, sacrificing some of the triumph of long distance pilgrimage for the ease of spreading the expense and difficulty (and fun planning) over several years.

I imagine the Lake District will look a bit like this-

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Groundswell, Olana Hudson, NY

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Another weekend upstate- this time with two events to attend and autumn weather to match the atmospheric music.

Running around

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The weather is turning and the light is changing to suit. Yesterday morning when I took Caper out for her 6 o’clock walk, fall struck me with the urge to lift my umbrella and see where the wind is blowing. Thrillingly, I am grounded here in Queens, enjoying the feeling of security that come from not moving house in over three years. What makes a home base? What creates refuge amongst the strivers and struggle of this city?
I’m reading Essentialism which is one of these self help/business books that takes several hundred pages and many charts and graphs to reassure the reader that a) you have free will in all realms of your life and b) you’ll probably be more successful if you use it. But we all need bolstering on the free will front now and then.
And I’m following this blog, The Frugalwoods, written by a funny couple in Cambridge, MA who are saving up for their escape from the working world and illustrating their blog with excellent photos of their dog being put upon. As someone who just weeded my dog’s closet of the half her clothes that she refuses to take one step in, leaving only those that cause her to waddle in shame, I salute the Frugalwoods dedication. Caper terribly needs a haircut and is the worst photo subject-

IMG_0087.JPG but maybe I will submit her financial advice to their ongoing segment on Frugal pets.

Pasta Machine Time- another sign of Fall

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Learning how to do my new job is difficult. To take my mind off the challenge of work I took out the old Atlas 150 and made some fresh linguine for dinner. It was delicious and easy and I watched two episodes of Rick Steve’s travel show while methodically making my noodles. It takes time and effort, unlike ordering delicious tacos. But look, that is the point. And my pasta machine has earned its real estate in our 400 square foot apartment.

When I find something I like I really dig in and read a lot about it and try to figure out how it works from as many angles as possible. Sometimes I discard an idea, but usually I incorporate it in some form and then move on to the next interest. For a surprisingly long period of time last year I was fixated on the Tiny House Movement. This is strange because I actually live in a tiny home, but without the hype. I wasn’t thinking about my home and how to improve it, i was shopping for a new luxury trailer. I have since decided that is a waste of time because I live in very nice small home in New York City. That’s some people’s entire goal. So to spend a lot of time pining for a smaller home somewhere else is basically erm, dumb not productive.

How about digging in to my own home for sanctuary?

Italian food was another topic I studied a few years ago. We’ve been on a low fat diet at home so I hadn’t picked up my Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking in a few years. Time to dig in.

Look at Caper, it’s like a Where’s Waldo photo.

Coast to Coast Walk Planning

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A few months before my wedding I went on my first walking holiday to Hadrian’s Wall in Britain. It was wonderful. We were only in England for a week and we had many folks to visit so we spent only two nights on the National Trail and only one real full day of walking. My memories from that day are vivid. The meal we had at the Old Repeater Station after Les, the proprietor, had tracked us down lost in a sheep pasture on our first night, was one of my top ten dinners of all time. When you walk long miles in the wind, food tastes better, beer is more euphoric and a warm bed is transcendent.

Lessons from that trip:

Buy Bigger BootsI had bought very attractive discount hiking boots online and it was obvious after two days of walking that they were at least one size too small. Fine for one day, but one’s feet swell right up after two.
Don’t buy the pack that the Brooklyn fancy store recommends Nick’s backpack was twice as big (and likely twice as costly) as he needed and he was carrying clothes for going out in London as well as adventure clothes. That can slow a person down.
Don’t be deceived by maps A mile or two when you are tired, wet, hungry, or disoriented is a very very long way. I trusted the guidebook’s optimistic opinion on my fitness and walking speed, based on nothing. What I like about walking is going at my own pace, stopping frequently to drink tea and local beer and eat rich pub food, and visiting museums, houses, and scenic viewpoints.

Nick’s wonderful sister Alex sent over the Wainwright guide as a gift. I know people who read cookbooks in bed as fantasies- I read guidebooks. I love costing out imaginary journeys, choosing this hotel over that one, plotting journeys from airport to beachfront. My own life as an adventure story! So I picked up the highest rated practical guide, Henry Stedman’s Coast to Coast Path (Trailblazer Guide.) Happily, there is a travel book store left in New York City and it is walking distance from my office- Idlewild Books.

I am thinking of breaking the 20 day walk into three weeklong sections spread over the next few years. That way I can try out my equipment, see how I like the accomodations, and maybe go camping on one leg, but on another go for B &Bs so we don’t have to walk so far with heavy bags. Have you done this walk? Please advise in the comments!