Hello. I'm back from my whirlwind tour to New York to visit Nicky, to New Jersey to visit my parents, and to Massachusetts to visit my nephew. Taking 11 days off of work in a row took its toll on my workload, however, so here it is, a full week later, but I am just now getting the chance to tell you about my travels! I should get caught up at work by Valentine's day, just in time to get on a plane to visit my sister Susan in San Francisco.
I flew in to NYC around dinnertime on Saturday, January 12, and took a cab to meet Nicky at an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, arriving just in time for dessert (tiramisu - yum!).
Nicky's best friend, Jo, was visiting from Pennsylvania. They have been friends since girlhood, and Jo is Nicky's right hand in so many waysm from assisting with her books (Jo both crochets and knits and has made many samples), helping with her website, etc. Jo told us a story at dinner about her daughter's pet turtle, which her husband has sort of ended up adopting as his own. Louise is an African sand turtle who started life out much smaller than her present weight of about 45 pounds (!) As it turns out "Louise" is in fact a boy turtle, so now she/he is formally known as "Mister Louise." Jo had us in stitches with stories about Mister Louise's adventures; once he got out of the house, found his way to the highway, and was "kidnapped" by some people who ran a booth at the state fair. Joe ended up getting him back, but had to pay ransom money! Here is a picture for you - amazing! Mister Louise evidently has a vibrant personality, likes to be petted (it makes him wiggle his behind!), and spends his lazy days sunning on the sun porch and eating catcus from which the prickers have been removed:
That night, while Jo was finished crocheting a sweater for a "Knit Red" compilation book, I worked on finishing a baby surprise jacet for one of the dozens (literally) of new babies at work. However, Nicky's niece just had a little girl, so I gave the sweater to her to give to her tiny new relative. Have you ever made one of these? This pattern, a classic from Elizabeth Zimmerman, is the darndest thing - when you are working on it, it doesn't appear to be taking the shape of anything like a jacket:
The next few days at Nicky's were really busy! We had a lovely brunch on Sunday morning with Nicky's wonderful husband, Howie, and their handsome son, Scott, who was recently married, at one of their favorite local restaurants in Greenwich Village called Walter's. I felt very spoiled! Then we were dropped off at the Lion Brand Studio, where we scoped out yarns for Nicky's new book. I always enjoy visiting that shop. The store's window was incredible, as always, filled with knitted and crocheted wonders:
Here are some shots from the interior, and some other NYC window shots:
A great stairway wall decoration at Anthropologie (blue and white, my favorite!):
Extreeeemme high heels...
Staying with Nicky makes it abundantly clear that she works really, really hard at what she does, with multiple books and projects always under way, and future ones percolating in her mind. I had such fun helping her pick out the yarn for an upcoming book. Since I brought my iPad along, it was really easy to just go to various yarn company websites and look at colors and types of yarn. I helped her order some yarns to sample for her new books, and am going to help her with some of the knitting, too (Yikes! Everything has to be done by the end of March!) Can you imagine, just calling up yarn companies and having them send you anything your heart desires? The benefit of having one of your yarns featured in a sweater knit by a prominent designer is well worth it, I'm sure. But for me, it was SO much fun to have Nicky ask, "What yarn do you really like using?" and then go pick out the right weight and color and just order it! Nicky had some of the yarn mailed directly to my home so it would be there when I got back, and the yarn companies sent more than she asked for, I guess to make sure we wouldn't run out of the right dye lot.
So far the first project with which I'm assisting is nearly finished (of course it is all really secret, so I can 't show you any pictures, but the yarn is pure silk with tiny paillettes which catch the light, and the piece has a sort of roaring-twenties,"Great Gatsby" feel to it... whee!).
Since I arrive home, I have almost finished the first piece, knitted a swatch for the second piece, and mailed it to Nicky to make sure the fabric and gauge will be just right. It was really a treat to watch Nicky's creative process, and to see how she plans out both individual patterns, even using the walls to post up planning sheets for each project to make sure that the whole book will "hang together" with colors that complement each other, without repeating a particular color or texture too much, etc. FASCINATING! We would get so into it, while watching old movies and laughing, sipping tea and knitting swatches and samples, that I don't think we got to bed once before 1 AM.
Another big treat in staying at Nicky's house, is getting to see a little of New York.
Here's a view from Nicky's balcony of the new Freedom Tower being built in the location of the former Twin Towers.
A wonderful residential tower with walls that almost appear like they are billowing in the wind, like sails.
It was very balmy in New York, over 50 degrees! Which felt heavenly. It has been really, really cold since I returned, with some below-zero days, so I was extremely lucky to experience just a touch of springtime.
Nicky lives on the tip of Manhattan near Chinatown. I miss Chinese food dreadfully in Minnesota; it was plentiful in San Francisco, but there isn't much in MN. After I looked in the windows of the myriad Chinese restaurants with such yearning on our way home from little Italy that first night, Nicky spoiled me with Chinese food for the rest of my trip! We had dim sum, roasted pork, dumplings, pork buns, noodles, rice dishes, you name it! Even my favorite, garlic eggplant (which my sister and her son, Eric, used to call "Slimy Eggplant!")
Ahhhh bliss! There is this little bakery down the street from her apartment that has these honey-glazed pork buns that will live on for centuries in legend and song --I am sure of it... YUM!!!
On Tuesday, Nicky let me come along to a photo shoot for a knitting book! (It will come out in 2014, and it is a book of clothes for dolls, but that is all I can say...) For each doll or set of dolls, the art director and her assistant literally created a little set, with different fabrics or wallpapers being used for the floor and backdrop, and props galore. All the photography is digital, so the photographer would adjust the big white-umbrella thingies surrounding the lights just so, click a button, and the picture would appear on this big computer screen. An assistant who uses Photoshop and other programs to adjust the pictures was on call all day, and would examine each shot to determine what she could and couldn't change or fix in editing. Once the photographer confirmed that the empty "set" was just right, the art director and her assistant would add one of the dolls, whose clothing and accessories and hair had to be styled prior to the shot. The dolls were wearing Nicky's designs (many of which I would give my eyeteeth to have in my own size) and also had accessories including leggings or tights, socks, shoes, hi-top sneakers, boots, jewelry, hats, hair toys, purses... unbelievable level of detail and care taken with each outfit. The poor dollies had T-pins stuck in their heads which were connected to fishing line, and were tied up to poles to keep them in place for each shot. The photographer's assistant would use either mirrors, white panels or black panels held by the side of each shot to reflect the light, sort of "sculpting" the shadows just right, while the photographer snapped away to judge the effect of each minute adjustment. Needless to say, in an entire work day I think we only got seven or eight shots accomplished. I honestly had NO IDEA the level of attention to detail and sheer hard work that is involved to create each image in a knitting book. You not only have to have an interesting picture; the stitches have to be visible, as someone is going to be looking at those pictures very closely for guidance in how to make the finished piece! The art director said that human models were actually a bit easier because they can take direction and pose themselves; real-life models rarely fall over and knock down all the other delicately posed models (one shot with 5 dolls in it was insanely difficult!)
I can't wait until the book comes out; I mostly just sat there all day keeping out of the way, knitting and helping when asked to iron a ribbon, or organize the breakfast order, or untangle a necklace, etc. But I had an idea for the book's back cover that ended up getting shot! I thought the resulting photograph was really funny and charming, and I'm so hoping that the editors decide to use it!
There was a tile shop near the photographer's studio, with these two mannequins whose clothes were made entirely of tiles - amazing! I could window-shop in New York for months.
The three or so days at Nicky's just flew by in a flash; and then I took a car to the airport to pick up my rental car, to go visit my parents in New Jersey, and take them to Massachusetts. My parents still live in the same house where I did most of my growing up; it is such a funny feeling to be back there. I went on a little walk and took some pictures of the house:
And my best friend Amy Livermore's house (which used to seem so very far away, although it took me less than 10 minutes to walk there now):
And the playground and bikeracks (at least they finally replaced the playground equipment, but the bike racks, rusty and old, are the very same ones. And I am 50 years old now. Really, I think they ought to consider replacing them, too):
My parents are 80 now, and I'm concerned that they live so far away. They are really connected to friends in their neighborhood, though, especially their next-door neighbors. Mom has baby-sitted Ethan and Kelsie since they were tiny kids, and she taught Kelsie how to speak English before kindergarten:
I felt a little better after talking to their parents, Julio and Paiyee, who are also very attached to my Mom and Dad. Mom has taught Paiyee how to cook some of her American favorites (chili and banana bread, and all kinds of cookies!), and they have become very close. I now have their email and phone numbers so can reach them when I can't get a hold of Mom or Dad, and I'm going to try to do my best to honor their wish to stay in their own home for as long as possible. But it is hard; I worry, I don't get a lot of time off from my job to travel, and I wish I could spend more time with them or help them out more.
I was able to take them on a road trip to Massachusetts to see their grandson and my nephew, Eric, at Holy Cross in Worcester. We had hoped to catch one of his last basketball games (he is a senior), but unfortunately he was recovering from a bad fall and didn't get to play. (Although I really did want to go to VK Live in New York, it conflicted with the game, and I really didn't want to pass up the chance to have my parents see Eric play at least once. I'm still hoping my Dad will catch one of his upcoming games in Pennsylvania, which wouldnt' be such a long drive for him.
We all had a lovely dinner together. Since Mom and Dad were pretty pooped after the trip, so they went off to bed, and Eric and I went to see a movie (Silver Linings Playbook - we loved it!). He is a bit stressed about what comes next after undergrad; I'm hoping he can take a year to travel or at least live somewhere else and experience something unexpected. He's thinking of grad school in journalism or education, and is seriously considering Minnesota (YAY!), which he has always really liked. Maybe he can come to school for awhile out here and I can cook him lots of yummy borscht (his favorite!) Maybe he will hit it off with Anastasia and they can both stay here forever! Maybe I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself there...
Here's a cute picture of my parents with Eric:
I just got back from a really fun girls' weekend in Stillwater, MN with my cousin, Michelle and my friend Laurie. Next week I'll share some photos of the beautiful turn-of-the-century bed and breakfast where we stayed, and tell you a bit more about what's going on knit-wise!
(And no, I still have not finished project 50! And considering I've got some really crunching deadlines at work this week isn't looking good, either. But I am hoping to get it finished before I head off to San Francisco on Feb. 15 - we'll see!)