Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate it! Happy Holidays!

My Christmas so far has been very good. I wasn't expecting very much so I was very happy to receive so much. As many know, I was recently pickpocketed and my camera was stolen. For me that was a huge blow as I have my Etsy shop and had gotten used to taking pics of things I saw during my day. I felt almost naked without a camera. Imagine my great surprise when my aunt gave me a camera for xmas!!!

Another huge thing I've wanted is a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch. I'm planning to do another marathon this year (at least 1, maybe 2) and maybe some half marathons and so having this watch is great! I also got a portable external hard drive which I really need. My laptop is on its last legs and I'm slightly worried that it might die on me soon so having everything backed up will be a huge relief. I def can't afford a new computer right now so I'll keep with my 4-year old laptop till it dies on me.

In return, everyone received handknitted gifts. I need to photograph all the projects and upload them here. For my mother I made an Alhambra scarf, my aunt - Forest Canopy Shawl, other aunt - fingerless gloves, brother - knitted beanie and the first of the Septimus Heap series, and my cousin - the book 'The Hunger Games' and a crocheted bookmark. I think everyone was happy with their gifts. I ended up knitting till the last minute. I didn't manage to finish weaving in the ends of the fingerless gloves, so I wrapped them, gave them to my aunt and once she opened it, told her I'd weave in the ends and give them back to her later. Better than an IOU methinks. :-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank goodness for friends with spare keys!

Tonight was a crazy night and definitely the worst night ever to get locked out of your house. According to NY Times, around 9 inches of snow has fallen though it feels much worse. Expecting this storm, my mother came home and parked her car under a bridge hoping the car won't get too buried in snow. Despite the storms, Christmas is a coming and we are woefully behind in our shopping. So we decided we'd take the bus to Queens Center Mall for some shopping.

I was pretty disappointed with the mall. My xmas gifts consist of knitted items and books and can you believe it?!? there's not one bookstore in that mall. In my mind that makes it the worst mall ever. Also since my camera went walkies, I was hoping to take a look at some cameras at the mall to get an idea of what I will get myself. Not one decent electronics store there either.

I ended up buying no xmas gifts, just a winter coat for myself (a definite need! especially with all that snow coming down) and I also got some silver hoop earrings (60% off at JC Penneys). I'll have to schlep to Borders next week sometime to pick up the books necessary to complete my gifts.

So we get home and snow is everywhere.

My mother immediately gets the shovel to start shoveling and I go for my key. I have just the one key and I always keep it in the little front pocket of my jeans. The key was not there. I checked my coat pockets, not there. I throw everything out of my bag and go through it slowly - NO KEY!. My mother keeps plugging away with the shovel as I tell her I have no key. I'm trying to figure out what could have happened and then remembered that I'd stopped at The Gap and tried on some pants. I'm guessing the key fell out of my pocket.

As we hadn't taken the car, my mother had left her car keys in the house on which was her house key. She remembered that one of her friends had a spare key for the house so she called her and told her we were locked out and mentioned that she didn't even have her car keys (by this meaning that we couldn't go into the car to stay warm). Anyhow, the friend shows up 30 min later with her spare car keys thinking she was locked out of her car. While waiting for her, our pizza arrived. We had ordered pizza when we were around 10 min from home on the bus for dinner. So we were stuck standing in the cold, eating our pizza and watching cars stall in the drifts outside . When said friend showed up without the house keys, we all had to bundle into her car, drive back to her house for the house key and then come back home (we didn't take my mom's car as that would mean cleaning the car, shovels, etc). Our feet were wet and frozen and we were pretty miserable.

So that was my evening! Now I'm enjoying some Will Smith in Enemy of the State and I think I'm finally feeling warm enough.

Up to my knees in snow:

Outside the mall:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Knit, Wine and Mexican

After a hum drum Friday, I bundled up and went to Gotham Fine Yarn for Knit and Wine night. I'm so not ready for this crazy cold. After years of mild London winters, this piercing cold is going to take lot of adjusting. I was bundled up in layers, coat, big worsted weight Clapotis and chunky weight mittens and I was still freezing.

Today we're experiencing the first snow storm of the season and I'm really excited. I haven't seen a proper snow storm in years and I'm looking forward to it.

Back to last night. Knit night was great! The people were really cool and very interesting. I'd tried out knit night at Yarntopia and I just wasn't feeling it. There were a couple of dominant personalities and they talked over everyone else and sadly what they were saying just wasn't that interesting. In this group, the chat was interesting, everyone was allowed to share and you were also able to have a chat with the person next to you without being talked over. I worked on my xmas knitting. I'm still a long way from finishing but my projects aren't too bad and I'm not working so I know I'll get it all done in time.

Gotham Fine Yarn is also pretty awesome. The prices are very reasonable (not so at Yarntopia) and Rebecca, who runs the shop, is really nice and approachable. I think I'll be adopting Gotham Fine Yarn as my LYS. Plus I love the location. Lots of cool stuff to do in that area.

After knitting, Angelique and I went in search of a Puerto Rican restaurant. It was so cold though that we gave up and ducked into a Mexican restaurant: El Maguey Y La Tuna (321 E. Houston St). This was my first Mexican since arriving back in the states and I was fairly excited. I went for a boring chili con carne burrito as I just wanted warming, comfort food.

My burrito:

Overall, the burrito was tasty but nothing special. Angelique's food was pretty disappointing. She got something adobo and the serving was fairly stingy. She was still hungry after finishing her meal which is fairly sad for a Mexican place. I then got some flan for dessert and got the stingiest dessert serving every. Also it wasn't that tasty. Check this out:

So, final analysis, Knit and Wine night awesome but skip El Maguey y La Tuna. We had wanted to go to Katz's deli but it's cash only and we were both cash poor.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Meet Oliver!

Monday night I went to Etsy Craft night and we were taught how to make plush toys. I had brought my own crafting stuff thinking I could pass on the plush toys and do my own thing instead but everyone was making toys so I jumped in. We were given toy shaped paper; we place the paper over two layers of fabric (mainly old shirts) and cut out our toys. Then we had to add the eyes and nose and use embroidery thread to sew the mouth. I had to then learn to use a sewing machine to sew up my toy. I was a bit tense during the sewing - had the machine set to the slowest possible and managed it.

Here's a pic of the toy sewn up. Note that for sewing up, you sew the two pieces together inside out before turning it right side out for stuffing. However, before sewing up it’s necessary to add eyes, nose and mouth.

Then we stuffed our toys and sewed up the bit you left open for stuffing. I decided I'd name this little guy Oliver. Here's Oliver and Jay-Z:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Amazing Race

I spent most of last week feeling absolutely ill on account of The Amazing Race (TAR) finale party. Last week Sunday, a rav friend came to NY to go to the TAR finale party. She invited me along and despite the fact that I'd never seen the show, it sounded like good fun. The only thing is that this was an expensive party ($75 for 3 hours with open bar) so being the economist I am, I planned to get my money's worth. BAD BAD IDEA!!!

I met up with Duncks and we first completed knitting transactions, I had a traveling scarf to hand off to her plus a wee prezzie and of course knitted items to show off.

Me and Duncks:

Then I joined the cocktail ordering. Normally I'm a G & T girl but at $75, I thought I should try out what was on offer. Duncks had started off checking cocktails off the list as we order so I joined the fun. Our favorite from the evening was 'Lingerie', yum! We were happily throwing back cocktails and I was not feeling it so I thought I was handling it all fine; then it all hit me all at once; I think around the time they aired the finale of TAR I was pretty wasted.

You might think looking at that picture that those were drinks for like 10 people. Nope, just four of us. It was nearing the end of our 3-hr open bar so I started ordering multiple drinks so we'd have another hour of drinking (I did say I was an economist) ;-).

Moments of note:

1. Besides the drinking, I managed to make out with a girl. At the beginning of the evening I joked that I'd wasted my college years as I'd never even kissed a girl (cue Katy Perry in the background) and at a point of being wasted I did kiss one, tongues and all (I'm not naming names). I think I'm still very heterosexual but now I guess I'm not a complete square :-).

2. Random funny moment during the evening: Keisha (from the last season's TAR) was tossing back vodka red bulls and they were served in pint glasses. Anyhow, she asked Duncks and I to get her a napkin so she would wrap it around her glass cause it was cold. So Duncks whips out a cup cozy from her bag and says that’s what you get when you hang out with knitters. Keisha found it very funny but went on to use the cozy for the rest of the night.

3. By the time the finale of TAR came on I was already a number of sheets to the wind and had no clue what was going on. Then the finalists showed up at the party. I thought the winners were brother and sister so was totally throwing myself at the guy but he was like he’s been with the girl for 5 years. Way to make a fool of myself :-).

4. Sad moment: While being drunk and flirting inappropriately with the few straight guys around, kissing girls, oh and hanging outside chatting with a homeless guy (Jerome) for a while, I managed to get pickpocketed. My bag was hanging off the back of my chair (yes, I know...) and my camera and wallet were taken. The camera was especially sad as I had so many pics of the evening. Luckily, Duncks has tons of pics so all pics in this post is thanks to her.

Lots of pics of the evening:

(Have no clue who she is and she is not the girl I kissed. I think she's TAR related somehow)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NY times

On Thursday I had one of those awesome NY evenings. I met up with Angelique, my new friend. I met her through ravelry when I started a thread saying I was looking for friends in NYC. She's here from Denver for a couple of months and so was also looking for friends and so we've been having fun exploring the crafterly side to NYC.

Knit Shops

First, we met up and hit a couple of knit shops. We stopped at Wool and the Gang. The yarns are gorgeous and the colors lush but the prices, way way way too high with very little yardage per skein. Also, the people at the shop were super trendy but weren't the most informed on knitting. Some of the yarn did not have the yardage on it and when we asked, one of the women was like, "yeah, people keep asking that..." imagine slightly clueless voice but with a British accent. She did look lovely and trendy though.

Then we hit Purl Soho, gorgeous place again though tiny and ridunkulously expensive. I found the prices a bit intimidating so while I admired, I quickly made an exit. We tried out Purl's fabric shop which was a couple of shops down. Again, gorgeous but wow, expensive!!! I considered buying some fat quarters but prices started around $40 for very few fat quarters, so I just said no.


After checking out these lovely but expensive shops, we hit a gallery which was showcasing gorgeous plushies; the NY Holiday Plush show at gallery hanahou. There were some absolutely lovely plushies there.

Check out the lovely birds! (More pics on my flickr)

Bulgogi Hot Dog

After our crafterly activities, we met up with some of Angelique's friends at Blind Tiger on Bleecker. Can I just say what an amazing street Bleecker St is? OMG! The restaurants!!! We wanted to eat everything! There was pinkberry, Five Guys, Qdoba, and then tons of cafes, pizzerias, bars, etc. And of course, each place sold the best x in NY. On the way to the bar, Angelique and I saw this hot dog spot that sold the best hot dogs in NY and in their window, they had cool plastic models of their hot dogs and they sold bulgogi kim chi hot dogs. Angelique is half-Korean and we started fantasizing about the dogs.

We met up for drinks with people at the bar and could not stop talking about wanting to try these hot dogs. So when the idea of food came up, we HAD to go there. The others went to get pizza (at I'm sure the best place to get pizza in NY and we went to the hot dog place).

Bulgogi kim chi hot dog with fries:


So I must say, the hot dogs lived up to the fantasy. They were delish! So it's a hot dog with bulgogi and kim chi on top. So so yummy!!!

Afterwards we went walking in search of a new venue. But, Angelique and I abandoned the search to head for dessert. Next door to the hot dogs was a dessert place and the cheesecake looked amazing. Plus cookies, cakes, etc etc. So we ran off from the ground and went back to the cafe. See above for picture of yummy desserts.

What a fun evening!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Cup Runneths Over

Tonight, I joined a new NYC friend for Etsy's craft night which takes place every Monday. For some reason I never considered that of course Etsy has a headquarters and how cool that it's in Brooklyn. Anyhow, despite a rainy day I headed out to the craft night and how fun was it. Tonight was just an open craft night so I brought my beads and made tons of stitch markers for my Etsy shop. I'll photo and upload them to my shop tomorrow:

Well I got home and both my Eat, Sleep, Knit and Malabrigo Swap package had arrived. I'm one of those who likes to save the best for last so first I opened my ESK package. All was as expected but there was a bonus. I scored $5 in credit from the ESK scratch card. Yippee!!!

Then on to my swap package: Oh my!!!

Here's a pic of all the items together:

And the details:

The theme of my package was in honor of my return to the US: Red, White and Blue. All items were wrapped in red, white or blue tissue paper.

At the top was a huge ziploc bag of homemade choc chip cookies. I’d confessed that I’d never had homemade cookies and so Eva made all these for me. I then got some gorgeous red and white PJ pants. I also got the Knitted Lace of Estonia book which I’ve been hankering for for ages.

Then I saw the most beautiful tote. I love Totes and Eva had her mother make me this lovely Tote (these bags are sold on Eva’s mom’s Etsy shop; her Etsy name is 1000pinesneedlearts). Then Eva ingeniously packed a number of awesome surprises in the bag. There are these awesome pockets inside the tote and each pocket had a surprise for moi :-)!!!

Inside the tote was:

- the yarn: Two skeins of Mal worsted in Tuareg and 1 skein MadTosh worsted in Baltic.
- Buttons: Blue, red and some ecru-ey, creamy colored ones
- Red journal and blue post-it notes with cutey birds
- Green and Blacks white chocolate
- Bing Cherry chocolates (w/ real fruit inside)
- 500ml bottle of Eucalan w/ eucalyptus oil
- And if all of the above wasn’t enough, I received an IOU for a knitted item which I’ll receive soon.

Bigger pics can be found on my flickr.

What an awesome way to end my day!!! :-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Luck of the Draw

Happy Thanksgiving all!!! (a day late...)

This was my first Thanksgiving celebration in years as I've been abroad for so long. It was nice. My mom cooked the turkey and then we headed over to my aunt's house. We had tons of food as per custom though our meal was very non-traditional. Being Caribbean folk, we add some homecooking. We had the requisite turkey but also oxtails, ribs, and fish. Then we had mac n cheese, veggie lasagna, rice and peas and mashed potatoes - all a bit strange. We are so non-traditional that we didn't even have cranberry sauce or gravy. There was dressing however. We stuffed our faces then sat and chatted, watched some TV.

Then dessert - lemon meringue pie, apple pie plus some Caribbean style fruit cake. Plus ice cream. There's this place in NY called Taste the Tropics and the ice cream is amazing - you have to show ID to get the rum raisin. The rum raisin was perfect alongside my fruit cake. Then a lovely game of scrabble. My aunt and I are scrabble obsessed so that was fun!

So my crazy mother is a shopaholic and at 10pm had packed bedding in the car and was off to the Black Friday sales. Her plan was to park outside Walmart and then sleep until the sales began to get in first. However, due to last year's tragedy, they had everyone go inside immediately and then stand in lines for the ticket for the items they want (so she stood in line from around 10:30 until 5am when they could actually get the sale). Luckily my mother had a sidekick. Her excuse for shopping was that I needed a TV for my room (though I've told her it's unnecessary). She accidentally ended up in a laptop line and so her sidekick had to go in the TV line. So now I have a new 32" LCD TV and I'm hoping to talk her into giving me the laptop as mine is 5 years old and on the fritz.

Today I wanted to partake in the Black Friday mania and Eat Sleep Knit had the following sale (info provided for any knitters reading this before the end of today):

How it works: Starting at 10 AM ET, visit the store and fill up your cart. You’ll go through the checkout process as usual, enter your billing information, and click on “Complete Order.” Your order confirmation page will then display your personal surprise discount and your order total will be adjusted accordingly! All orders will receive a discount of at least 10%, all the way up to 100% (that means your order could be free!). You could win half off, 30% off, 75% off, but no matter what, you will receive at least 10% off, and the odds of getting more are quite good! The sale ends at 5 PM (Eastern US time), and all orders transmitted after that time will be charged at regular prices. Gift certificates and club memberships are excluded from the sale and will not be available for purchase on the website during this time frame.

I only got 10% off, so my luck wasn't strong. However, the other people I chat with on rav got 15% or 25% off so I was just unlucky; not necessarily that it's a hoax sale.

Anyhow, Happy Thanksgiving all!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye 20s!

Today is my last day as a twenty-something. Tomorrow I officially join another decade. I'm actually excited. I feel like it's a new beginning. My 20s were long and I faced many challenges. I had lots of fun but at the same time my stress levels were always very high. I feel more in control of my life now. And while I'm in a strange place at this moment: just moved countries, living with my mother, unemployed and single - I know in about 6 months things will be different and better. This is my blank slate for the moment and I can determine the next steps.

In January I made a huge list of things I wanted to get done by 30 and I didn't get most of them done. But I'm completely ok with that because I got some of the most important things done.

- I got out of a job that made me really unhappy
- I got out of a somewhat unhappy relationship
- I ran a marathon
- I raised a goodly amount of money for charity
- I designed my first knit pattern
- I taught myself a new craft (beading) and hope to start selling stitch markers on my etsy shop soon

And now I still have lots of other things to do but I'm hopeful and I look forward to my 30s.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Marathon Experience

It's weird to think that this time last week, I was still running. Well I'll go back to the beginning...

It took me a while to fall asleep Saturday night but after about an hour I fell asleep. I woke up promptly at 5am though my alarm was set for 5:30 (it was nice and convenient that the clocks changed that night as we all got an extra hour's sleep). The night before I had readied everything I needed for the morning and put it in a corner. Check me out in my gear. I loved those arm warmers. Even when I no longer needed them to keep warm, it was great having them on. There was something cozy and comfy about having them on. It felt like a hug the whole time.

My mother nicely drove me to the Staten Island Ferry which I would take over to the start line; ferry left at 7:30. Once we arrived in Staten Island, there were these buses waiting for us to take us to the village until the race where we would hang out until the race start. I was in the 3rd wave which didn't start until 10:20 so there was a lot of waiting around to do.

Luckily, I was meeting up with a friend there. I actually ran my first half-marathon with her on the Isle of Wight in 2004, we were housemates back then (living in London). She's an American who was living in London and now lives in Geneva. At the marathon expo, we were both asked where we were from as I guess we have a British overtone to our American accents. It's a bit funny.

That's the two of us. I wore a million layers and my Arsenal FC scarf. All clothes that you leave behind is picked up and given to charity so I went through my mother's pile of clothes to give away and found some things to wear. Susan wasn't as well prepared but luckily she had a big garbage bag which was the uber fashion of the day and Dunkin Donuts was giving out free hats to the runners so she was set.

Also check out suitman in his Dunkin Donuts hat. He goes around running marathons wearing his powder blue polyester suit. I hope he never runs wearing that in summer. Ouch!

Finally around 10 or so, we went to our corral. Though, just prior to that, this guy had missed getting into the corral for his wave so decided to jump the fence. Anyhow, some NYPD SWAT guy goes running after him and yelling at him. The guy explained that his race was about to start and the SWAT guy was having none of it. He tore off the guy's number and we all gasped as we thought he wasn't going to be able to run. It was so OTT and sad because the guy had on his vest showing that he was running for autism and all he did was jump over the fence to try to get to the race. He wasn't a threat to security or anything. It also freaked everyone out as by this time around 4 other SWAT members had shown up. I mean, really?!? I guess they were desperate for some action but it was too much. They finally let the guy go to the race, he was visibly shaken though, and they didn't let him have his number back. When you think of how far and wide people travel for the race and the training necessary, it was pretty sad behavior on the part of the SWAT guys.

Blurry photo of the incident (runner in trouble is in blue):

We managed to put the incident behind us and get ready to start. The start was amazing! They had Frank Sinatra on the speakers blaring New York, New York and it was just a blast. I was so excited!!! Susan was pretty stoked too. Best start to a race I've ever had. Then slow jog to start line and then off we went. As you can see, we didn't start until around 43 minutes after the first wave had gone.

Crossing the Verazano Bridge was not fun. One of my many quirks is that I love walking across bridges. But with London bridges, a quick skip and hop and you're on the other side. Not so with NYC bridges. They are long! And also, the designers were concerned with function and function only. No pretty bridges here. And finally, the wind. Oh the wind was terrible. It was freezing across that and every other bridge we had to cross.

Once over the bridge, we were in Brooklyn and the spectators and support were amazing. I wasn't out to break any time records so I high-fived every young child, I even hugged this guy who had a sign saying he was giving hugs to the runners. It was great, and I thought, this is going to be easy. I was lovin' it.

Then mile 8 hit. Every single race I've ever done has been hilly. But big steep hills. You see it ahead, you run up and you run down and it's over. Not so in NYC. Here it's the gradual incline that goes on for over a mile. I was halfway through mile 8 and I was just like, this is going slowly. Then I realized that I was running up a gradual incline the whole way. But with every incline comes a decline? dis-incline? Usually with steep hills you have to be really careful not to do in your knees going down but here with such a gradual decline(?) I could run happily.

And so the race progressed well. I reached the halfway point and things were still OK.

Here I have to make a confession. I trained quite poorly for this marathon and so reaching the halfway point for me was huge as I'd never run longer than that before. During the summer with Ghana, moving around, planning to move back to NYC (lots of excuses I know), etc, my training suffered and during training my longest run was 12 miles. I'd done a couple of half-marathons in the past so I knew I could run 13.1 miles but could I run 26.2? One thing I knew with running is that it is 90% mental and I knew I was strong enough mentally, but physically?

I kept going. At this point I had to run/walk. Running to the water stations, then walking to the next mile marker. Running again until next water station and so on. I was doing fine until mile 15-16. The whole time we were on the Queensboro bridge. No spectators and it's one of those bridges where the cars are below and the trains run above. We were below and it felt cramped and dark, horrible and never-ending with trains going overhead every once in a while. It was probably my worst mile.

But after that I was OK again. I had this thing about getting to mile 18. I felt that if I made it to mile 18, everything would be OK. Mile 18 to 19 was fairly jubilant. The only bad thing about mile 18 is that they hand out the energy gels there. OMG how horrible are those!!! Taking it down wasn't horrible but the aftertaste! I'd brought Clif Shot Bloks with me and those were yummy. Very tasty stuff and I'd recommend it for all future long runs. Gels - yuck!

Then I got to mile 20 and I thought, now this will be cake. I'm nearly there. And I was WRONG! The last 6 miles were horrible! At one point I thought I was nearly to mile 24 only to see it was mile 23. That really took the stuffing out of me and I could no longer run. I just kept thinking that I had nothing left. I kept walking though. By this time, my legs were killing me. Around mile 10 the toes on my right foot had started hurting. I think my shoes were a tad small on the right foot and with the swelling that occurs from all the running, there wasn't enough toe space and two of my toes seemed to be falling asleep/becoming paralyzed or some such (not fun!). Then around mile 15 my knees started to ache a bit. Luckily that went away. At no time was I out of breath but I could feel my body abandoning me a bit.

I made it through mile 23 and then mile 24. At this point, there weren't too many spectators but there were still people cheering us on; telling us we're nearly there. At mile 25, I got about my 5th wind and started running again. Then I saw the sign saying 1/2 mile and mentally I just told myself, this is 2 laps around a track, you can do it. Then a sign saying 400 yards, and I was like one lap left. Then I saw 200 yards and I was like, I used to sprint this in high school. I was surprised with my finishing group that many were content to walk across the finish line. I decided I'd power through and I sprint that last 100-200 yards. And then, yay!, I'd done it. I'd crossed the finish line. 6 hours, 15 min and 11 sec later. I almost burst into tears. I couldn't believe I'd actually done it.

Here's a fuzzy finish line photo. I was too tired to be able to hold my phone still (remember I started around 43 minutes late).

Now I'm pretty excited at the prospect of running another marathon but this time I'll train properly. It was an amazing experience and all the support you get from people. I don't know what inspires so many people to stand out in the cold just to cheer us on but it's so amazing and it's true, during those points when there were lots of people cheering you on, you forget that you're running and you just run on the force of the applause and the cheers. :-)

One really cool thing was that my friends could track my run the entire time online because of this cool orange thingy on my shoes called a D-tag.

Every time I ran through a mile marker it would record where I was. It was awesome to go on ravelry the next day and see that I had an online cheering squad on one of the forums. A couple of people kept track of my movements and shared it with the group and everyone said the loveliest things. It was cool having my phone on me as well. As it was a blackberry, whenever I was in a really bad spot, I would open it up and there would be a few emails or facebook messages with people cheering me on. Isn't technology just amazing sometimes?!?