22 October 2006

Total Absence of Rhinebeck

So what have I been doing with my Rhinebeck-less weekend?

Yes, I've actually been working. Sad, I know. But it really did have to happen. For weeks, I've been back in the laborious early stages of a new chapter, going back through my sources for the bazillionth time [procrastinating], sorting [procrastinating], organizing [procrastinating], translating [procrastinating], panicking [procrastinating], being inspired [procrastinating], panicking again...[etc]. That part has finally been getting under control and now it's time to write, write, write 'til my head falls off. Or maybe that's just what it feels like. In any case, I hate all of this part...until I get to the point where most of the substance is on paper, and I get to revise. I love revising. I could do it all day long, day after day, and still think it's fun. Actually, that's just what I do. But it takes so long to get to that point, and the getting there is SO painful...sigh.

Anyway. So I've done a few rows on the sleeve of the Fair Isle late in the evenings, in an attempt to stop my brain from buzzing before bed, but it's not enough progress to bother posting about. But I've also started a little something new, to have something more portable to work on when on the train, or waiting for things to save or download, or when wandering across the hall to my friend's apartment to bitch about how the chapter isn't progressing.

This new, portable project should - I know - be the slippers I'm making for the in-laws for xmas.

But it isn't.

I'll get to the slippers any day now, I swear. I'm going to use Bev Galeskas patterns, but not the clogs again - I've done too many clogs. One pair of moccains, one of ballet slippers. I have the yarn, I have their shoe sizes. I have converted their shoe sizes from Russian to American. Any day now.

In the meantime, I'm using the Karabella "Breeze" that Cookie sent me to make a lacy scarf. I'm using the "little leaf" pattern I found free online, and it's going swimmingly (except for having to tink back a couple of rows two times, because I was talking and screwed up).

Here's a pretty picture:

And here's another, which shows the pattern better:

Yesterday, while across the hall bitching with my friend Aline about my non-progress issues, I also helped her get started on her own little leaf scarf, made from KnitPicks' Alpaca Cloud. She's doing it on big needles for this yarn, so it should actually look very different from mine. This is a major step for blog-less Aline, who has so far been exploring variations on the ribbed scarf. Any day now, she's going to tackle a sweater (right, Aline?).

On a completely different topic, Spider asked what Riga balzam tastes like. The short answer is that it's very strong alcohol with a lot of herbs added, usually the kinds that are used for mulling, and often many others, too. There are actually lots of different balzams, all of which I love, but I mentioned the Riga variety specifically because it's well-known and even available in the sort of American liquor store where they have a good selection of imports. It's of the same family as the fairly famous Hungarian Unicum -- which was supposedly invented for Emperor Franz Josef and cured his cold or something -- except that Unicum pretty much tastes like NyQuil. Not that that's a bad thing, but I like the various forms of balzam that I've found from the Baltic states and Russia much better. I had one that's made only on the shores of Lake Baikal, which was indescribably good. I had another, very unusual one, made in a small Russian town very near where I did my dissertation research (Shuiiskii balzam, for the connoisseurs among you). This one is vodka-based, with lots of berries added as well as herbs. It's very thick, like a syrup, and needs to be cut with soda or water (or, of course, more vodka). Most balzams, however, are more like a cognac, but with herbs, which usually include cinnamon, cardomom, cloves, ginger, often eucalyptus (a key ingredient), and many others. If you ever get a chance to try one, jump at it, but be careful, as it's very strong stuff. You either have it in a shot glass (but sip it slowly rather than throwing it back, because it's all about the flavor), or cut it with soda (Russians would of course scoff at this, but not many people care to drink like a Russian, and I definitely do not recommend drinking like a Russian and knitting simultaneously (if you're not sure on this point, ask Cookie).

Riga balzam, by the way, is named after the city of Riga, where I assume it's made. It's also sometimes called Rizhskii balzam, if you're buying it, say, in a Russian store in Brighton Beach (or your city's equivalent Russian neighborhood). I don't know what it is in Latvian.

It's also been in the news alongside hand-knitted mittens. Don't even get me started on the subject of the expansion of NATO, though.

And yes, I'm waxing all poetic about it because we've long since finished off the small amount of balzam we were able to bring home from our last trip to Russia.

Okay, everybody....I'm ready and waiting to hear all about Rhinebeck!!! I want details!!!!


Specs said...

That stuff sounds dangerous.

I've been waiting for Rhinebeck updates, too! I checked for some last night and then again this morning. Is everyone still out having a good time? Harumph.

Marianne said...

I am so completely charmed by the scarf pattern, so very pretty. The balzam (?) does indeed sound dangerous, hmmmmm. But I promise, if ever I have the opportunity I'll go for it.
I have to tell you, I hold you in awe...writing...just amazing.

cookie said...

Ok, that stuff sounds AWESOME. I'm going to have to look for it the next time I head over to BevMo or the Russian neighborhood in SF. I had a friend who was totally infatuated with Unicum. Did. not. understand.

I'm glad you're knitting the Breeze and that it's found a much better home than mine! I might have had another leftover ball should you need more, but I have no idea where it is.

Bliss said...

Thanks for posting the link to the little leaf scarf - I've been looking for a scarf pattern for some Christmas gifts, and I think that might be just the ticket!

spider said...

Thank you, Kate, for turning the clueless spider into one who will definitely be on the lookout for some balzam of any type. Sounds like my "cup of tea" - something with a kick!!

That's a very pretty scarf you're making.
Worth the sidetrack!

Beth said...

That little scarf is lovely. I think you'd better get going on the Christmas stuff though. Only a little over 2 months left and you have to ship them?