Friday, August 29, 2008

Park Down Under the Brooklyn Bridge

One of the wonderful things about living in NYC is that you never run out of things to see. On Thursday I went to a small park near the Brooklyn bridge where they were screening Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I think the concept of the activity is much cooler than the reality of sitting around and waiting for hours on the cold hard ground, surrounded by swarms of people! The highlight of the event was the amazing view - the viewing area consisted of a stretch of land sandwiched between two big bridges (Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge I think), in perfect view of downtown Manhattan - so pretty!

Note that the night view showcases the waterfall installation that the tourism bureau is hyping up. There is divided opinion on whether they are paragons of beauty, or plain eyesores...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Great Deodorant Recipe (Really)

I am so excited (maybe too excited?)! I had my much anticipated deodorant making party with one of my more tolerant-of-my-random-antics friends. The whole process took 10 minutes - so easy (I just poured all of the ingredients into a glass jar and heated it up, so there was zero transferring and zero clean-up)! The only thing that was surprising was the amount of essential oil I used; I ended up putting in a lot more than I thought I was going to. I kept smell testing it and putting in more and more... At first, all you can really smell is shea butter, which isn't bad, but isn't all that good either. It took awhile for the orange fragrance to come to the forefront. Once that happened, I left it to solidify. I was pretty impatient, so I stuck it in the freezer and voila! I am so giddy. So far so good - your body heat melts the deodorant pretty quickly so it's easy to put on, there is no streaking, and it smells awesome~

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homemade Lip Balm!

Oh joy! I finally got my shipment from Rose Mountain Herbs yesterday and I couldn't wait to get home and make a batch of lip balm - woohoo! I melted the following ingredients into my tin using the double boiling method - it took awhile for the beeswax to melt, but I think it came out pretty well:

4 tsp almond oil
1 tsp beeswax
2 tsp cocoa butter
1 capsule of vitamin E

Once all of the ingredients melted, I stirred it around with the end of a chopstick, then I added 5 drops of peppermint oil - and I was done! It smells yummy and there is a small hint of honey that you can smell from the beeswax. It's a bit glossier than I would like, so for my second tin, I added some shea butter in the mix to thicken it up and added less oil:

1 tsp almond oil
1 tsp beeswax
1 tsp cocoa butter
1 tsp shea butter
1 capsule of vitamin E
peppermint oil

I think the thicker version is longer lasting, but I really love them both! I think for future batches, I will try adding color, but I don't want to get too ahead of myself!

Deodorant party is tomorrow~

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Loose Ends

I have so many uncompleted projects, it's not even funny - I just started a new cardigan pattern, nevermind the fact that I have three more sweaters on the back burner, waiting to be finished. The reason why I have so many sweaters waiting is because I mostly knit on the subway to and from work (3 hours a day!), and there are certain things you can and cannot do on a subway. Knitting on a circular needle, you can do. Following a crazy cable pattern is sometimes possible (although you get a bit dizzy from trying to keep your eye on the pattern while the train is swaying and grumpy people are trying to squish you, hehe). Sewing in seams - I am sure you can do that on a train if you really wanted, but probably won't work out that well! Because there are so many small but important things that you can't do on the subway, my sweaters inevitably get neglected, although I have no excuse for ignoring my River Forest Gansey from Hand Knit Holidays (the red sweater at the top right of this post). I started this in October of 2007. It was the first time I ever followed a pattern of any sort and I was nervous - this created a problem for me later, because the back of the sweater is MUCH smaller than the front, the reason being that I was so tense that I was knitting much tighter than I usually knit. In the end, I managed to sew the pieces together, and I hope blocking it will fix the sizing problem. Oh, and I have to finish making the sleeves. Then there's the green Starsky (see left), which has also been sewn together recently. I'm on sleeve #2, but it's the first time I have ever picked up stitches for a sleeve, and I didn't know when/where I should start the decreases so I've had to put it on every couple of rows to make it look like something wearable. I've also discovered that when you pick up stitches for the sleeve, you don't get much room for the top of the shoulder, so it's a bit tighter than I would like - from this experience, I think that picking up stitches, albeit easier, does not make for a good fitting sweater, unless I'm doing something wrong... Then there's my second try at the Platinum pattern (brown sweater at right). I made it a size bigger than my previous attempt - this is an easy knit on the subway, except that I am getting to the point where I have to use two balls of yarn to do the front collar. One of these days I will get it all done - by the time sweater season comes, I hope!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Homemade Goodness

The rate at which I have started new projects has reached a new high as of late, and this was further enforced after reading Angry Chicken's Post on Homemade Deodorant. It was then that I decided to revisit the idea hatched in my head long ago about making my own beauty products so as to know what exactly I am slathering all over the largest organ in the human body - my very sensitive and highly irritable skin!

I ordered my products from Mountain Rose Herbs as recommended, and am currently waiting in anticipation for the crazy hippie party that will ensue (a faint shout-out to my long-gone Obie days). That is because I noticed when choosing my scents for the deodorant (orange and citronella) that those scents in combination with other scents could also work as a good mosquito/insect repellent. This is perfect for my apartment, as we don't have AC and just keep the windows open at all hours of the day... yes, I know that's a crazy thing to do, considering the fact that NYC is one giant and polluted sauna... nonetheless, I followed up on my impulsive thought by looking up recipes for natural insect repellent, and was happy to find a couple, all of which are pretty much the same:

2 1/2 teaspoons total of any combination of the following essential oils: basil, cedarwood, citronella, juniper, lemon, myrrh, palmarosa, pine, rose geranium and/or rosemary

1 cup 190-proof grain alcohol, rubbing alcohol, almond or some other kind of oil (or water, if you don't like or have any of those things)

Shake up the ingredients and spray/apply, once doing a patch test to make sure you aren't allergic to anything. Add a few drops of peppermint oil to fine-tune the fragrance if you don't like what you smell.

Sounds easy enough! We'll see if any of this actually works. The items are supposed to ship in couple of days... As usual, I got carried away and feel the twinge of buyer's regret - instead of making one thing that I set out to do (the deodorant), I have now expanded my purchases and ambition to also make peppermint lip balm, insect repellent, as well as use the excess oils to make moth repellent for my yarn and sweater stash! Yikes. Only time will tell. More on this at a later date~

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I've been on a cooking kick as of late, trying to expand my cooking repertoire so as to go beyond the 10 things that I have grown accustomed to making. The inspiration came from my weekend excursion to the ever-appealing Coney Island (only 30 minutes from the apartment), which ended in a girl-scout expedition of sorts, as I impulsively decided to walk the subway route home instead of riding the subway back. Perhaps it was the guilt from eating a Nathan's hotdog that compelled me to walk. Nonetheless, my plan was to follow the tracks all the way home, as I had zero trust in my navigating abilities. The plan was quickly derailed, as I discovered that I had to cut through people's junk yards, circumvent major highways, and wade through large thickets of random itchy looking weeds. The ever trusty boyfriend, who has supreme confidence in his ability to find his way around, got us hopelessly lost (of course)! When we eventually found the subway station, we found that we only travelled about three stops in a span of an hour (see Sheepshead Bay Station, on your left). We got onto the train, resigning ourselves as directionally challenged, and after two stops, discovered there was a malfunction on a station further down, and thus we were going to be held in the station for an indeterminate amount of time. Having gotten some renewed energy from sitting around and waiting, we decided to give it another go at walking, and ended up going all the way home without getting lost again. On the way back from the station to home, we passed by a lot of Russian bakeries and grocery stores. We walked into one randomly (I was getting hungry from all of the walking), when I saw the huge pile of beets in the corner. For one reason or another (probably hunger), I was inspired to buy 5 lbs worth, to make what else: Borscht! The only time I ever had Borscht was in the Jewish part of our neighborhood, where I ate a lot of delicious things that I will never know the name or contents of, as no one there spoke English well enough to explain the food to me! With my trusty Joy of Cooking book bought from the great book store in NYC, I went about making my soup. By the end of it, my kitchen looked like a murder scene from all of the beet juice flying everywhere, but for a first attempt, it didn't taste as disasterous as I thought it might possiblity be. Not that I am an expert on Eastern European cooking by any stretch of the imagination... And although it looks a little gruesome to look at, it is full vegetable goodness and makes up for the fact that I have been eating nothing but Dove chocolate squares when I'm at work...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Stilton with Mango and Ginger & Vinho Verde!

I am always weary of avid wine and cheese connoisseurs for their excessive use of metaphors and obscure adjectives, but was inspired to be a cheese and wine evangelist for a brief moment when I had Stilton cheese with Mango and Ginger for the first time yesterday, as well as some Vinho Verde a.k.a. "green" wine at a Portuguese restaurant for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Being the offspring of two chefs, I am admittedly somewhat of a food snob, but never really ventured into wine and cheese territory, as my real or imagined allergy to alcohol (chronicled here) has prevented me from drinking much, and my like for cheese has been limited to the very bland (pepperjack, mozzarella, cheddar, and brie come to mind, although I don't mind feta and Parmesan in small amounts). Therefore, I was surprised/horrified to learn that Stilton is well known for their blue cheeses, as that is one of few things that I am not jumping to stomach. Upon further reading, I learned that the mango and ginger cheese is a White Stilton, meaning that it doesn't have the blue mold that is characteristic of the blue cheeses, so I guess it doesn't really count as me eating blue cheese. Whew. Either way, I have to say that the Mango and Ginger is not anything I've ever tasted before - it was sweet, and really creamy - a bit like cream cheese but a hundred times better so I am not doing it justice. It also had big chunks of mango in it - yum! Not as exciting, but still good was the Vinho Verde; it was sweet, but also had a kick to it that was almost like carbonation. It reminded me a bit of Riesling, which most restaurants don't seem to carry very much. It didn't exactly go with my chicken gizzard appetizer, but that's a whole other story! Anyway, it's worth a try, even for the unadventurous palate.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hurray for MUJI and Neti Pots

Yesterday I was with a bunch of shopping enablers - we went to the SOHO location of MUJI, a store based in Japan. It is IKEA and UNIQLO all blended together, with each carefully made item coated in earth tones. My prior experience with MUJI was in Japan, so I was determined to stay away from the clothes; what I learned from recent US transplants like UNIQLO was that Japanese clothing designers had a hard time creating appropriate clothing sizes for an American audience. To them, Americans are huge fat monsters (evidenced by my buying a one-size-fits-all shirt at a ritzy Tokyo department during my freshman-15 days and being horrified to learn that it didn't fit!!). They overcompensate their small proportioned clothing by making the American version 10 times larger than it should be. This makes some people inevitably happy - those who normally wear larges can feel special by wearing smalls, but midgets like me are relegated to shopping in the kiddie section (as is happening more and more - is it just me, or are clothing sizes getting bigger to accommodate our ballooning figures?). My clothing fears were soon realized when my friend laughingly showed me the conversion size, which listed a size 8 as a Small, a size 10 as a Medium, and so on. I was not deterred for long, however, and ended up buying too many things, one of which included this travel bag:
Yes, it looks very utilitarian, phone-orderish, and not chic at all, but I insist on its coolness. That is because it is made out of a hard, shiny, water-resistant material, to hold my ever increasing amount of toiletries, the most important one being my porcelain neti pot. By the way, if you are not converts to the phenomenon of the neti pot already, I have to emphasize that it is a necessary survival tool for those who live in the city and/or have really bad allergies and sinus infections! Admittedly, the idea of putting a teapot full of salt water in your nose in not very pretty; just go to YouTube and put in "Neti Pot," to see the grossness, but those who survive the first or second go of it (it feels like you are drowning in the ocean the first time you do it, and absolute heaven thereafter) it becomes an absolute staple of one's routine. It is so much of an addiction that I have to take it with me wherever I go, including weekend excursions. Hence the need for a hard case to tote along my little snot pot, as I have lovingly named it. Please take my word for it - try it a couple of times, and you too, will be a believer. Then throw away the benadryl forever!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Central Park Hoodie

Although these are the not the best pictures (I did it without the flash to capture the real color, and my bf''s hand is not very steady...) the following is the final product of my Central Park Hoodie. It's slightly too big for my taste, but then again, I was wearing it during a heat wave so I am surely being biased! I have to say that I have been very productive to

date - the 3 hour commute helps tremendously. The pattern was easy to read, and I only made some small modifications. I knitted as much of the body that I could together on one circular needle; that was mainly to avoid sewing the two fronts to the back, which I did together up to the armpit area. I think it worked out, as my sewing will never be as straight or smooth as having no seam there at all! The only part that required sewing were the arms. If I were to do it again, I would definitely pick up the stitches in the armhole and knit the arms from top to bottom. I also contemplated adding some toggles, but I think I am going to keep it simple for once, and not make it too busy! I am hoping this is the first of many projects that aren't so obviously hand-knitted (sounds a bit strange for someone who wants to hand knit every article of clothing they own, but you know what I mean, right?). The actual wearability of this will have to wait until the weather gets chilly; until then, it will be hibernating happily in the cedar chest...