Yarn bombing

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Yarn bombing has finally come to NYC. I jumped off the bus on the way home from Macy’s just to take a photo of this tree in front of El Museo Del Barrio on the east side of Manhattan.

Rhinebeck 2013

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Last week was the weekend of the annual knitter’s pilgrimage to Mecca, officially known as the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival, but you all know it as Rhinebeck. Due to scheduling difficulties at work, this trip almost didn’t happen. Unless I’m on vacation, it’s one of my only opportunities to get out of the city, and I already missed a previous yarn festival I found out about too late. Despite my already existing stash, I’d have been disappointed if I didn’t get to go to at least one knitting related event this year.

This year I went on sunday instead of the usual saturday, and it was considerably less crowded at the stalls. I didn’t have a list, but I decided to be more selective of what yarn I would buy, since I’m still working with yarn that I bought from the previous two years of festivals. Rhinebeck also features shows with farm animals which I don’t normally pay attention to, but I did take notice of this angora hair rabbit one stall had on display. As cute as it is, I can’t imagine having to deal with all the shedding of hair that rabbit does.

After a few hours of shopping, I ended up with this…..

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If you’re wondering why there are wine bottles amongst the stash, know that yarn shopping can be a strenuous activity that can drive you to drink, LOL. But on to the details of my stash…..

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts “Woobu”, 60% merino/40% bambu, colorway: stumpton brown.
Blue Moon yarn has become one of my favorite booths at Rhinebeck. I had the experience last year of buying their yarn for a specific project and it turned out not to be suitable for that pattern. But their wool has a wonderful drape that if knitted into a garment will keep you warm without feeling heavy. It’s hard to see in this pic, but the yarn is a grayish brown color, I bought the 5 skeins to knit a sweater they had a display sample of and bought the pattern. God willing, I will have it done by the next trip to Rhinebeck.

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Fessler Spinning and Weaving, 2-ply hand-spun yarn, purple
Fessler has also become another of my favorite booths. I realize I have a liking towards hand-spun yarn and theirs does not disappoint. Last time I bought some bright orange chunky yarn I knitted into a couple of hats, this time I found this lovely purple worsted weight hand-spun. All of their yarn is hand dyed and and hand-spun, and prices are very reasonable too for the quality of yarn they make, another reason I love them so much.

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Briar Rose “sophie” sport weight yarn 100% wool
I’ve never heard of this company or their yarn. It’s another booth I came across one of their patterns that had a sample knitted that looked appealing and I wanted to knit with it. It’s another one of those yarns that provide warmth, yet are lightweight. I fell in love with the color of the yarn and though it wasn’t suitable for the shawl I wanted to knit with it, I found another of their patterns that will work beautifully.

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These notions remind me of real amber & jade stone. Stitch markers are something I don’t usually think of until I need them for a project. But these I couldn’t pass up, they were just too beautiful.

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Crooked Lake Winery, Finger Lakes “Niagra White”
Made with niagra grapes grown in NY State, I sampled some and it had a semi sweet taste. Good for eating with light fare like seafood or pasta. The winemakers produce 4 different wines including a red and 2 varietal blends. The only disappointment was that the makers produce small batches that are neither sold in stores or online.

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This wine also has a semi sweet taste. Unlike the niagra wine, this one is available in stores or online according to the vendor.

A good day was had. Whether I will return to Rhinebeck next year remains to be seen, I’ve been there three years in a row. Depends how much of my stash I can work through.

Rhinebeck 2012: The Results

Once again, we came, we shopped, we bought more than we probably should’ve, and we had a blast doing all of it. Of course I’m talking about the annual knitter’s pilgrimage that is Rhinebeck, or formally known as the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival.

There are three reasons I do this: 1. It’s a great opportunity to spend a day out of the city without going too far and spending too much money. 2. I get to indulge in my hobby, which incorporates bargain shopping and 3. My (self) appointed task each year to encourage my friend Nikki to give into her temptations to impulse buy yarn.

I’m not one who enjoys getting up at the crack of dawn to catch a train, but that’s exactly what I did to make the subway trek to the Penn Station to meet Nikki. The journey, in this case a 2 hour ride on Amtrak along the Hudson river is as relaxing as the destination. There was evidence of some rainy weather the night before. One moment, there was mist and fog above the river:

and in the next moment, the sky was crystal clear:

The train ride reminds me of the annual car trips my family took to visit my dad’s relatives in North Carolina. The countryside was full of miles and miles of pine forests. How can you not help buy enjoy those views? Autumn is in full effect up in this area, with trees completely covered in red or yellow leaves. I’m born and raised in the city, but everyone needs a bit of country to spice up their brick and mortar life.

Like I said in my last post, I didn’t have any specific projects in mind to buy yarn for. I was just winging it, buying whatever yarn I liked. I was on the lookout for some fancy crochet hooks similar to the ones that I found on eBay a while back. While I did see some hooks, nothing came close to the beauty of these.

I didn’t keep receipts, but I believe I spent about the same as I did last year. Bought slightly more yarn this time. I passed up the opportunity to buy more “sexy needles” in favor of spending on some more fancier yarn.

This year’s stash:

Clockwise from top:

Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Sport 100% Blue Faced Leicester, Colorway: Bittersweet. I had to google Blue Faced Leicester to find out it’s wool imported from English sheep. It’s very smooth, doesn’t feel heavy at all despite the gauge calling for a size 8 needle. I didn’t buy enough skeins for the original pattern I have in mind but found a shawl substitute from one of my old issues of Vogue Knitting that should work perfect with this yarn. Can’t wait to knit this one up.

Bittersweet hand dyed DK weight yarn 40% Merino, 40% Baby Alpaca, 20% Silk. Color: Dark Heart I’m not really a big fan of alpaca because of it’s tendency to shed, but this yarn looked very tempting and the variegated purple color combination looked fabulous, plus the price was great. Spotted a couple of knitted clapotis scarves at the fair and thought this will work well. I bought all 5 skeins they had in stock that should be enough to knit the scarf as well as a matching hat.

Oasis Fiber Farm Mill: These yellow skeins were on sale. Not much info on them except that they’re a combo of 50% merino wool and 50% nylon. What I will do with these, I don’t know yet, I’m taking suggestions.

Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd’s Wool, worsted weight in Turquoise A nice lightweight wool that I may make into a hat or scarf depending on the yardage required. Or maybe a couple pairs of gloves or gauntlets.

Angoraonline.com handspun, hand dyed, handpainted angora yarn. 80% merino, 20% nylon sock weight. Initially I had in mind making some gloves with this one, but since the yardage is so great, I may work these two skeins into some type of shawl or coverlet. I also like that the wool feels light and won’t weigh you down.

I’ll leave you with more photos of the picturesque scenery we were surrounded by during the day.


View of Hudson Valley north of Rhinecliff Station Way in the distance is the Kingston-Rhinebeck bridge.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

A friend of a relative recommended us to visit this place while on vacation in New Orleans. I heard a little about the historical significance of the restaurant and decided to give it a try.

Dooky Chase's Restaurant

We took a cab since the restaurant is not located convenient to public transport. It’s a nondescript building with a small sign that could easily be missed if you weren’t looking out for it. The menu features a mix of soul food and creole cuisine. We opted for the $18 all you can eat buffet which gave us a chance to sample many of their entrees, including their famous fried chicken. Also featured were red beans & rice, mac & cheese, salad, fried catfish, andouille sausage & seafood gumbo.

Despite the modest decor on the outside, the inside is quite colorful with lots of beautiful paintings from local artists. There’s a main dining room with smaller rooms for private functions, each painted in bright colors.

Dooky Chase main dining room

private dining room

salon area

Some of the beautiful local artwork..

local artwork

The food was delicious. I was looking forward to the peach cobbler, but they had run out and were served pecan pie with ice cream instead. Only drawback is that the restaurant is open only for brunch on weekdays. We briefly spotted the owner, Leah Chase walking through the restaurant to greet patrons.

It’s not the best photo, but I managed to get a shot of this picture of President Obama with the owner.

Obama & Leah Chase

Afterwards, we decided to walk back to downtown. The surrounding neighborhood is a residential area that is still recovering from the effects of hurricane Katrina. We passed some newly built houses as well as those still boarded up. Spotted this t-shirt at a local souvenir shop that was quite appropriate.

make levees not war

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
2301 Orleans Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 821-0535

Tastes of New Orleans Pt. 2

So while walking the streets of the french quarter we unexpectedly stumbled across an african spot, Bennachin restaurant located towards the eastern end. Surprising to see such a place in a city that is mainly known for creole & cajun cuisine, I was eager to try out New Orleans version of african cooking.

The decor was bright & colorful, lots of african artwork on the walls that matched well with the exposed brick of the walls. First thing I noticed when I browsed the menu was that I was not familiar with most of the dishes offered on the menu. Most african restaurants I’ve tried in the past featured Senegalese cuisine. According to the waitress who served us, the restaurant was started by two women, one Cameroonian, the other Gambian. “Bennachin” is an african word that roughly translates to an african version of Jambalaya.

Bennachin restaurant

Bennachin restaurant

We started off with an appetizer of Akara which are black eye pea fritters served with a chunky spiced tomato sauce for dipping. They were light in texture, not greasy, the taste is relatively bland so adding the sauce jazzes it up.

Akara from Bennachin

For the main dish, my mom ordered the Chicken Yassa. It was different from the versions I’ve seen from Senegalese restaurants but still delicious. It was chicken in a light sauce with cabbage & carrots served over couscous.

Chicken Yassa

I ordered the Sisay Dourang Boneless chicken with roasted peanuts served over rice with a thick brown gravy. You can order all dishes mild, medium or spicy. I like spicy food so I chose medium which was a dash of chili powder to garnish the dish.

Sisay dourang

Portions were huge, we both ended up bringing home the rest of the food which made for a second meal. Service was on the slower side as all dishes are made to order. Using the restroom required having to walk through the kitchen so I got to meet the two women that were cooking. The restroom is shared with an Italian restaurant next door, but the courtyard looked pretty.

Bennachin courtyard

If you’ve never tried African food before definitely give it a try. For me it was a departure from the typical New Orleans fare as well as the typical african cuisine I’m used to. For the non-meat eaters, they also offer vegetarian options. They don’t serve alcohol but you can BYOB from a wine shop across the street.

Need a second opinion? Click the link below & check out this video review.

Bennachin Restaurant, New Orleans

Bennachin Restaurant
1212 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 522-1230

Tastes of New Orleans, Pt 1

A couple of months ago I got back from a cruise that sailed out of New Orleans. I’d never been there before but I’ve always heard about the food being so good. The locals were quite helpful in giving us tips on what to try while there.

At the top of my list was beignets from Cafe Du Monde which so many people say is a must do. I substituted hot chocolate for the coffee.

The beignets were good, though mine were a tad on the greasy side. It was a little messy eating it with all the powdered sugar. On the other hand, my mom who was with me was not impressed. I decided it was something I could try making myself and bought a box of their donut mix to try at home.

We did the tourist thing and walked up and down the streets of the French Quarter, enjoying the unique architecture and the landmark sites.

historic house & carriage

This building, The Cornstalk Hotel was once the home of the first Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. It’s now a lovely boutique hotel.

Cornstalk Fence hotel

Canal Street with it’s lined palm trees reminded me of Miami.

A local recommended we check out Deanie’s Seafood for their po-boy sandwiches. It’s a casual atmosphere with an inexpensive menu in the heart of the french quarter. We went there on Halloween night (which was crazy with all the folks in costume) and tried their po-boys. I got catfish, mom got crawfish. Washed it down with a hurricane cocktail which was strong but hit the spot after a long day touring the city.

catfish po' boy

crawfish po' boy

Halloween is a serious affair in New Orleans, as indicated in this well decorated house. The cat in the middle of the photo is live.

Halloween house

Folks in halloween costume:

Vampires in costume

Spotted this painting of Marie Laveau while walking down Royal St.

Marie Laveau

Way too much seen to be done in one blog. In the next post, I’ll talk about some more sites and restaurants I discovered.

A week at Martha’s Vineyard

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post. Between vacation, hurricane Irene and just living life, it’s been a busy time.

First, my mom and I just got back from a vacation to Martha’s Vineyard a few weeks ago.  One of the reasons we went is because we missed the stop on a previous cruise a few years ago due to rough seas. Another was to attend the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival that happened to fall on the week of my mom’s birthday. I thought it’d be nice to take a vacation & see some independent black films at the same time. I’ve heard of Martha’s Vineyard many times, but I didn’t know much about it except for it being a place where wealthy black families owned homes & vacationed, a haven for the Kennedy clan and an obligatory vacation spot for every US president.

We stayed in a town called Oak Bluffs at the north end of Martha’s Vineyard. This town is the center of activity on the island, featuring restaurants, shopping, movie theaters, a carousel, bike trails, fishing, sailing, and beaches. It’s also known for these cute “gingerbread houses” a neighborhood of cottages that were built by members of the methodist church in the 1800s. Each having their own name like “shrimp house”, “The cat’s meow”, “the purple lady” etc.

gingerbread cottage

one of my favorites, named "the purple lady"

Oak Bluffs is also known as the town where most of the african american families lived on the Vineyard. There’s been an black presence on the island for generations. Some arriving as slaves, others as free blacks. Over time affluent black families purchased land & homes on the island. Except for famous african americans, mostly writers & politicans who lived or visited here in the past (i.e. the Obamas) or have vacation homes on the island, the african american presence is not well publicized.

While shopping we ran into a gallery that exhibited artwork and these beautiful quilts for sale by artist Faith Ringgold, whom the owner told me was scheduled to make an appearance. They would look great in my apt, but with prices starting at $2500.00 it’s way out of my budget. The last 2 are my favorites, they remind me of my childhood.

Some of y’all might remember that movie The Inkwell from the ’90s directed by Matty Rich about a couple of affluent black families on Martha’s Vineyard. (whatever happened to Matty Rich by the way?) While shopping at C’est La Vie, a black owned shop on Circuit ave that sells african diaspora products & clothing, notably “Inkwell” t-shirts, I asked the owner about the Inkwell beach, which was prominently featured in Matty Rich’s film. He showed me it’s location which happened to be only a block from the inn where we were staying. I then asked how it got its name and he said that back in the day, (I’m assuming during the Jim Crow era) it was thought by whites that when African Americans stepped into the water at the beach, it would turn black, into “ink”. Hence, they had their own beach, via segregation to an extent I’m assuming.

Inkwell Beach at Oak Bluffs

The beach is formally known nowadays as Oak Bluffs Town Beach. And it’s also pretty integrated though you still see lots of African Americans sunbathing there. I had to step my foot in the water just to test that “theory” and as I expected, the “ink” remained invisible.

dipping my feet into "The Inkwell"

Though we were based in Oak Bluffs, we did make daytrips into Edgartown, where the atmosphere is a lot more formal and upscale. The homes there more uniform in style and color, mainly white or gray, compared to Oak Bluffs, where each house was artistically unique & reflected the owners style & personality. Also Vineyard Haven, where the African American Film Festival was based, reminded me of a fishing village. Not as lively as Oak Bluffs, but not as stuffy as Edgartown either. It’s also the major entry port for folks coming onto the island via ferry. It also notable that with the exception of Stop & Shop which there are only 2 on the island, Martha’s Vineyard has no chain stores or restaurants. That sucks for the folks who love McDonalds  & the like, but the mainland is a short plane flight or ferry ride away if you just have to have that Big Mac.

The Vineyard is a great getaway spot, especially in the summer. I understand why people come here every summer or buy vacation homes or live here year round. The next time I come, I’ll probably rent an apt or a room with a kitchen to save money, as eating out nightly gets kinda expensive, and Martha’s Vineyard isn’t exactly a cheap destination. The best part of coming is the flight, only 30 minutes from LaGuardia airport.

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