Thursday, June 26, 2008

Knitting and me...

I like doing handiwork and crafts, but have never stuck with any projects long enough to get the professional-looking results I wanted. But with knitting, I am determined that things will be different!
When I was growing up I learned to crochet from my grandmother who had crocheted outfit after outfit for my Barbie doll, as well as lots of decorative items that were sold at church bazaars . Crocheting was fun, but the things I made always looked...well....not very sophisticated I guess you could say. Unlike knitting, where the items always looked a little...less homemade?
I finally noticed one day that there was a knitting store not far from my home on Long Island (and if you live in America you may have one near you too as it seems to be a popular hobby now). She had beautiful, unusual yarns, wools, silks, bamboo, corn, hand dyed, thick and thin (no acrylics)...and lots of sample items she had made, displayed around the store. I was hooked, so I started lessons.
I quickly learned how to knit and purl, increase and decrease while making scarves and shawls(thought they'd come in handy in Italy and they have!) . Then I decided that I had to have a pair of hand-knit socks before I die. So I decided to tackle them next.
Now the method my teacher taught involved knitting on two circular needles instead of a few double-pointed ones, which would be the traditional way. This has the advantage of stitches not falling off when you lay it down or tuck it away to work on another day. I had time to make one sock before heading off to live in Italy.
In Italy I haven't found anyone yet who knows how to knit socks, especially on two circular needles, so when I got stuck while working on sock #2, I decided to start another pair with a different ball of yarn, from the beginning, following a book where the instructions were spelled out line by line. I got up to knitting the heel, but then thought I had dropped a stitch as I saw a hole forming as I was going around, but I couldn't find the stitch to fix it. So I put my knitting away and made plans to visit my knitting teacher as soon as possible when I came to NY on vacation this summer.
I stopped in and she needed about two minutes to get me back on track (let's hear it for competent teachers)! So I finished up the blue sock I had started in Italy, and I'm working on the second orange/beige one to match the one I made in class. I LOVE the yarn which is self-striping and has a little bit of aloe vera imbedded in it to soften your feet as you wear them (imported from Germany).
In July I look forward to taking lessons that seems PERFECT for me...knitting two socks at the same time on the circular needles. Making two cuffs, two heels, two gussets, two toes, etc should reinforce what I'm doing making it easier to learn, but more importantly: when I'm finished knitting, I'll have a pair, ready to wear (yes, it may take me until autumn to finish them, so my timing should be perfect, but even if I get them done quickly, they're small and don't heat up your lap while you're working on them if the temps are high).
So, what handicrafts do you do? Any crocheters, knitters, scrapbookers, embroiderers, etc. out there?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shopping heaven!

America is shopping heaven. Anything you want you can get, either at a nearby small or large store, or by mailorder. The prices are good too as everything is almost always on sale!

So far I've bought: Buttermilk powder, baking powder, bistro Crocs for a friend who works in a restuarant (1/2 the price I'd pay in Italy), sneakers (also half the price I'd pay in italy), a cookbook I couldn't resist, melodic wind chimes (gregorian chant alto)...socks and underwear for growing son. I'll also pick up some paperback reads as my book club has picked its books through December.

I'm also going for all kinds of check ups. Easy to make the appointment, docs are fitting me in quickly, $18 co-pay, and understanding what the doc says make it all worth while. Eventually I'll start getting them done in Italy (I'll be starting with a mammo this Fall).

Two more mornings of golf camp, then we'll head to Philadelphia for an overnight with my aunt and uncle and a quick visit to the historical center. Saturday morning we'll head back to Long Island. The weather is beautiful, sunny, not too hot (not even warm enough to swim!). We're having fun...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Oh Lucky Day!

OK, we arrived here in New York Saturday evening, and boy were we lucky!

Lucky that we arrived before the big thunderstorms that delayed flights up to six hours

Lucky that we arrived on time (which sounds like a repeat of the first lucky point, but we were flying Eurofly and we could have been delayed even if it were blue skies from start to finish).

Lucky that we had private tv screens, instead of having to crane our necks to see one movie for all.

Lucky they had a movie Dante liked (Horton Hears a Who) which he watched twice

Lucky we were near the rear which had 10 rows of empty seats. Dante and Pio both stretched out and slept for a few hours.

All in all, we had a great flight!

Yesterday I went into Manhattan to see my friend of many years, Lisa. Even though we speak often through Skype, there's nothing like actually seeing each other. We went to the City Grill near 73rd and Amsterdam and I had a chicken quesadilla with guacamole. YUM!

I've also started shopping (see Home on the Prarie post), buying two aquarium books for Dante, a pair of white kitchen Crocs for G (who works in a local restaurant back in Italy) and black "Capri" crocs for me. I also bought a quart of Rose's Lime Juice after reading in another expat blog (which one? did anyone else read it? Please let me know!) about how it's essential for all kinds of summer drinks (and can be added to our fave Gin and Tonic) but impossible to find in Italy (though they supposedly have an Italian distributor, I see on their website).

Lots more to look for...but tomorrow is another day! Actually, tomorrow we start with the doctor visits (annual checkups)and inbetween I hope to fit in a visit to my knitting teacher too (I'm still struggling to knit a pair of socks...somehow I get through the first one but get stuck on the second!)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Little House on the Italy.

Even though I'm in a rural area of Italy, we have stores. Even though gas costs $8 a gallon, I recently got my Italian driver's license. Even though these are the facts, I don't really shop that much.

Sure, we spend more than I'd like on groceries (local Sidis and Conad for the usuals, Panorama super-store when we want to browse around in a store with a larger selection of groceries and housewares and stationary and plants and electronics...). But other than food, I don't go shopping.
First of all, I'm not a shopper. I don't love going through store after store on a hunting expedition. I don't need the perfect pair of shoes to go with the clothes I wear around the house. Secondly, the weak dollar is killing us. Those 100 Euro shoes are $160. Expensive to start with, and just too much after converting the currency! Thirdly, parking is often inconvenient so I just don't bother to stop.

So, I make my list of what to buy while I'm in New York. I write it on the back page of our 2008 Diario so that it doesn't get lost and is always handy to add another thing. I spend little on extras all year while in Italy, but when I go to New York next week, I will buy: cooking ingredients (buttermilk powder and baking powder to make my favorite olive oil cake and buttermilk pancakes among other things, kirsch for my fruit sherbet recipes, Thanksgiving ingredients like cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin and evaporated milk), an indoor/outdoor thermometer with both F and C (so maybe I'll learn Celsius without even trying?) sunscreen, camp supplies for Dante, moisture-retaining beads for outside planters, spices and a good quantity of vanilla beans from Penzey's, tortillas, books, magazines, craft supplies, clothing for us all. The list goes on. While some of these things ARE available in Italy, I don't have the time nor energy to track down exactly WHERE to get them, or when I do I don't like the price/quality/currency conversion ratio. And of course when I try and close the suitcases, then weigh them, some things may get left behind to be retrieved on the next trip. (Hey Dad, don't you still have a big box of my stuff in your garage that I was supposed to bring back to Italy this trip when we'd be allowed six suitcases ? Gulp!)

I imagine myself like the American settlers who lived on the prairie, who once in a great while would head into town to do their shopping. A long period of frugality followed by a shopping spree. Now if only our six medium-size suitcases could hold all that a Conestoga wagon could!