Sunday, September 18, 2011

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

It's a beautiful September day here, with cool air that will require my wearing my favorite heavy woolen sweater when I venture out this afternoon.

I am now coming to the last hours of my glorious time off.  It's been a grand week filled with lots of relaxation, creativity, and fine visits with friends.  Some of these visits involved celebrations of my birthday at a cafe and included very rich chocolate cake.  

Cafe Lalo is a charming neighborhood place that provides an expansive selection of cakes, tarts, and other pastries and various beverages.  There are also various light meals on the menu, but I've always concentrated on the baked goods.

Although orange is not my favorite color, I admit that I do like the look of the large cups in which coffee is served at the cafe.  And the little cow might be sitting down, but is always ready to pour a bit more milk or cream.

My photo does not do justice to the density of the dark chocolate in this slice of Chocolate Satin Cake.  The helpful waitress asked if I would like it heated slightly so that some of the icing would melt a bit.  Oh yes, I replied, and did not regret my answer.

The friend who was treating me to this birthday fun chose a much more modest pear tart, but seemed to enjoy it!

I do wish that the music played at the cafe would be kept at a bit lower volume, but that is being too picky when such cake is available.

Other friends also treated me to another visit to the cafe later in the week and I tried the tempting chocolate caramel mousse cake with toasted pecan topping.  Bliss!

All was not chocolate this week.  I also had fun visiting Casa Barilla, a promotional event by the pasta company that was set up in a vast tent in Central Park.  One could learn from master chefs how to prepare unusual, and also familiar, pasta dishes, see the latest kitchen products, consider buying some Barilla products not usually available over here, of all, sample a wide variety of pasta dishes and complete that meal with your choice from various Lavazza coffees, made to your order.

Everyone received a recipe booklet to take home, and I also held on to the clever little multi-functional fork/spoon/knife with which I gobbled up my pasta variations.  I was surprised that the event did not seem to be too well attended, and amused that when I handed in my complimentary entry ticket I had my hand stamped with a Barilla blue farfalle design...the closest I will ever get to a tattoo.

Let's see, what else happened this week.  Ah yes, I ventured out of Manhattan (aka New York) to the Borough of Queens to visit a friend I had not seen in far too long.  We had lunch in a lovely restaurant where the owner and staff really knew how to treat patrons well.  Our multi-course lunch, accompanied by wine and  lots of catch up conversation, lasted almost three hours!  

The food was delicious and plentiful, and there was certainly no need for me to have more than an omelet for supper that night!

I visited the Union Square farmers market and brought back some beautiful little apples, that I may get around to sketching before I gobble them up.

These pretty vintage cups and saucers were amongst the lovely birthday gifts I received.  I have already done some sketches of them and want to get my watercolor paints and brushes out soon.

I also did a search through my stacks of fabric remnants, left over from long ago when I used to sew most of my clothes.  I found some beautiful cream colored silk, cut it up into large sections and have tea-dyed those sections various shades.  My plan is now to use the clever little gizmo in the following photo to make up a bunch of gathered silk "yo yo" circles, that I will then attach to each other with silk embroidery threads and superimpose on some other fabric, probably either linen or silk velvet, and make up cushion covers.  It is typical of my to really get into full creative flow just as I come to the end of my free time!

Ah, here are some other projects that I have worked on this week.  The knitted checkered cushion has been completed.  Its striped reverse side is done in a knit-every-row garter stitch,  using two-row repeats of the various colors used in the squares.  Its envelope styling closes with three buttons and has its front and back connected by a few rows of single crochet.

The giant ball of cream colored Cascade Ecological Wool is being transformed, cable by cable, into a very long scarf.  (I have two more hanks of this wool available!)  The pattern is from last autumn's Debbie Bliss magazine.  It is very easy!

I've also enjoyed lots of walks over in Central Park, and have managed to read several books, including several mystery novels, and my current book, La Seduction by Elaine Sciolino.  I've also found lots of time for daydreaming.

It's been a grand week of self indulgence.  However, when the alarm clock beeps tomorrow morning, I will have to heed its insistence that it will be time to get ready to return to work.  Perhaps this is the time to remind myself that it's the working that allows me to have these enjoyable breaks!

I hope that you all have also been able to enjoy the current changing of the seasons.


  1. It's good to hear that you had an enjoyable week off to celebrate your birthday. The cake you had sounds delicious and looks it too, especially slightly heated up. Your teacups and saucers look great and so does your knitwear. I hope you won't feel too bad going back to work. It does probably make you feel very useful.


  2. It is too late now to wish you a happy birthday, but never too late to wish you luck for the year ahead, which I do.
    Your scarf project looks very interesting (would love to see the revers side ) it may be easy to knit but you must watch don't you? ( so no reading or watching tv while knitting I suppose.

  3. Ummmm, chocolate and pasta... who could ask for anything more?
    My mother used to always call this "sweater weather" and personally, I love the switch from hot to cool--the air is so clean and refreshing.

  4. The chocolate cake looks divine! And funnily enough I was watching "You've Got Mail" this afternoon and of course Cafe Lalo popped up!

    We didn't have the opportunity to Visit the Cafe when we were there last year but we're hoping to return in 2012 and we will definitely be going then!

    I'm so pleased you've enjoyed your time off and done and made some lovely things.

  5. Such a lovely post and so many interesting projects. I am currently trying to finish a new (to me) sweater pattern that I am making for my 19-year-old granddaughter. Since I'm not exactly Kaffe Fassett, I may have to give it to charity when I'm done, but we'll see. So far it looks pretty good.
    So glad to hear that you survived the hurricane without incident -- and on a happier note -- a very very happy belated birthday. Your cakes looked smashing!

  6. Sounds like a pretty perfect week to me, Frances. It's tough to go back to the routine of work after a week spent in pleasant indulgence, but I guess maybe we wouldn't appreciate it as much if every week could be like this?
    And Cafe Lalo looks delightful. As a chronic chocoholic, your pic of the chocolate cake and description of the melted icing had me groaning out loud!

  7. So good to read that you thoroughly enjoyed your week of! May I wish you a happy birthday, albeit belately?
    I immensely admire your skills with knitting needles. The cushion and the cable-knit scarf are both oh so beautiful!
    Have a very good start into the new week,

  8. I'm soooo envious - your well deserved week off work sound blissful. The perfect balance of sybaritic indulgence and a little light industry.

    Hope the batteries are re-charged.

  9. Belated Happy Birthday!! That chocolate cake looks gorgeous.
    See that you're being very crafty as usual. Sadly mine has all been put on hold. See my new blog
    Those yoyo thingies are called Suffolk Puffs over here - sounds more like a cake!

  10. You certainly know how to treat yourself.A week like that is what every girl should have occasionally.

    Chocolatey interludes, friends, books, needlework, it all sounds absolutely delightful.

    You deserve it all, even had it not been a birthday week.

    Have a wonderful new life year, dear Frances.

  11. First, Happy Birthday. And it seems you did, indeed, have a good one. Treated several times, with moments to read and knit in between. And all the pasta you could eat (almost). Sounds glorious.
    I had a much quieter birthday this weekend, the subject of a post on my blog. Nothing quite as exquisite as yours.
    But now, you have to go to work, and I, well, I'll think tomorrow about what comes next, not tonight.

  12. Hi - a cottage hospital is a small local town hospital where they do mostly care and small procedures as opposed to the large district hospitals where they do the bigger operations and treatments.

  13. Frances, your week sounds an ideal mix of creativity and fun! Oh that chocolate cake!
    Your teacups are so very pretty and I can foresee another of your beautiful watercolours featuring at least one of the cups. I treasure my painting that you sent me some years ago.

  14. It sounds such a lovely week - I really enjoyed reading about what you have been doing - and your knitting is wonderful! Far beyond what I could hope to achieve. And your apples you bought would be fine in my muffin recipe - you can actually use the oldest rubberiest ones in your fruit bowl and they come out tasting delicious!

    Pomona x

  15. Happy that you had a lovely week to spend your time as you want. The cake looks delicious-I want some right now!
    Your posts are absolutely charming.

  16. What a very, lovely 'Frances' way to spend a week off - you sound so contented and relaxed, I do hope that going back to work is not going to undo all of that. Though with Christmas coming up (in retail at least) I fear it may!

  17. Dear Frances,

    Happy to hear you had a lovely birthday! I am not sure if I congratulated you already but if not I wish you a happy belated birthday :-) Love the teacups and saucers you were given. They are very pretty!

    Happy new week!

    Madelief x

  18. Glad you had such a lovely birthday. The teacups are beautiful. So is your cushion.

  19. Where do I begin? that all looks splendid!!!

    Love your knitted projects - especially the scarf :-) You're going to look so chic on a cold winter's day.

    Oh... BTW we have square and round plates that match your pair of pink floral tea cups ;-)


  20. both the chocolate cake and the pear tart look scrummy, I would be torn!

    The the pretty china too, I have a bit of a collecting bug for them, but I could never draw or paint them as beautifully as you do.

    oh and even if it is late, belated happy birthday and many happy returns x

  21. Happy belated birthday and your holiday at home sounds divine bliss to me!!1

  22. Dear Frances,

    Your week sounds absolutely blissful! I am so happy for you. Those moments will carry you through the next few weeks.

    The cushion is a work of art somewhat reminiscent of a stained glass window my fanciful mind has decided. I love it.

    I adore café culture and having seen the places you have sampled coffee and cake makes me feel quite dreamy.

    Thank you for sharing and enjoy fall!

    Greetings from France.


  23. Happy belated birthday!
    We will celebrate when I next see you.
    Gosh, you have been busy but I'm glad you fitted in some suitable cake eating time!
    All sorts of thoughts --your scarf pattern looks bliss. I'm currently knitting an alpapca scarf for Claudia but it is not very interesting -just sort of horizontal ribs.
    I'm fascinated by your pale pink and gold lusterware cup.
    My parents had exactly that set many moons ago.
    I'm coming down to Soho soonest.
    Maybe even today.
    Buster misses you!

  24. Hello Frances, belated birthday greetings from me. I have read your blog infrequently for some time but never made a comment so today I decided to become a follower and will comment in future.

    Your birthday celebrations seem to have been just about perfect.

  25. sounds like so much fun..
    I wonder if I would know what to do with a week off?
    An evening off yes but a week is a lot!
    Bravo & Cheers

  26. This post is simply delicious. Chocolate, china, knitting and a menu with my favorite Matisse painting on the front.
    Your week must have been intensely restorative - I feel it.
    The knitted scarf looks beautiful - and not at all easy. It looks very complicated to me. I'd like to learn to knit cables - I'd need a week off to learn!
    I'm wondering what, in this year's collection, has caught your eye in the shop.

  27. What a delicious and beautiful post! I'm so glad to hear you've had a great week of celebrations.

    Thanks very much for your comment - it's great to hear that the advice I was given is being passed on usefully! I have just finished ironing some vintage linen which I've cut up to make Christmas presents. It reminded me again of the passion that goes into linen - I kept steaming my fingers as I folded down new hemlines, and yelping!

    I am interested in that yo-yo gizmo, as my yo-yos have been rather mis-shapen when I've tried them.

  28. It sounds as if you had the perfect week off to celebrate your birthday! So many lovely things enjoyed...many of them are things I love too. Your cups and saucers and knitting look lovely. The yo yo maker is something I haven't come across before, I must try and find one. And the cake looked delicious! Hope you feel fully refreshed aftter your week away from work, and are happy to be back now.
    Helen x

  29. Thank you all for your gracious comments.

    Floss and Helen, that little plastic yo you gizmo is made by Clover, and I bought mine from Purl Soho, a fabulous yarn and fabric store near where I work. Clover is a Japanese company (I think) and has some


    I expect that they might also be available across the broad Atlantic.

    Thanks to you all for the birthday wishes! It's not so bad to be crossing yet another border. Particularly when chocolate cake is in the mix.

    Back to work now and it is really busy...that's great in light of the global financial state of affairs.


  30. I enjoyed reading about your very busy week, you seem to have crammed it full of rewarding events, catching up with friends has to be one of the best pastimes ever.

    I can see that those pretty china cups will soon feature in one of your many projects.

    The arrival of autumn is all the more welcome as a contrast to hot summer days, I can only imagine the pleasure of strolling around Central Park at this time of year, lucky you!

  31. Frances, I am only now catching up. I have been away. Cake does look scrumptious. I am drooling. I find often if I asked for music to be turned down people turn to me and say 'I am so glad you asked for it to be turned down. We thought so too but didn't want to say.' So courage!

  32. Hello Frances,
    A little late but l send you my very best birthday wishes. Now I have read all about your enjoyable birthday week , I can see you have had a lovely time. And plenty of chocolate too, good for you.
    The knitting looks very nice , a wonderful cable scarf for the cooler days ahead. I also have been making the yoyos, mostly stored in a jar looking pretty until I decide what to use them on. I would love to make a large quilt but seems such a tall order.
    It is certainly cooler and wet here. Out comes some knitting and sewing. I hope you find time to paint your pretty cups.
    Best wishes millyx

  33. Dear Frances,

    So pleased to hear you had such an enjoyable week's holiday, and my what gorgeous cups, I adore them especially the pink floral ones. I would love to see your water-colours Frances to those fine cups.

    Lovely knitwear and cushion, must be so enjoyable to make one's clothes, you are a very talented lady Frances.

    The melted choc cake sounds yummy.!

    Do hope your week back at work went well Frances, hope too the Autumn Collection is going well for you.

    Love Camilla.xx

  34. Pear tart with a cup of tea would be the perfect thing for me! I enjoyed your photo's so much. Just remember that each breath you take is always YOURS, no matter where you are when you inhale.

    :-} Lorraine

  35. A belated Happy Birthday to you!
    Here's wishing you a year of delights, good health, suffiency and a bit more, chocolate cake, fine china and all the finer things.

  36. Happy birthday Frances, i hope that you had a lovely day, The cafe looks lovely, and so does your scarf you are making. it has got really hot and sunny again here which is a shame for me as i love autumn, the jumpers, fires, cooler evenings, having little nature trails with Joshy! xxx

  37. Thanks for your warm comments about Les Soeurs Anglaises workshops - I have really enjoyed reading through your blog and lover the photographs! It would be great to meet you one day, either in NY or if you can make ift over to one of our workshops.

    Best wishes

  38. A belated happy Birthday to you Frances. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time, celebrating in style with satin cake, what a wonderful name for a cake, so descriptive. Your cable scarf is going to be so elegant and so divine, and I'm looking forward to seeing how your clusters of cream silk (sounds like a culinary confection doesn't it?!), turn out. I think you needed your week to relax and unwind, and it was because of that you were able to start getting a creative flow. I'm starting to look in my wardrobe, and seek out the heavier sweaters too, it's at the novelty stage, the heavier clothing, not yet become tedious! Love Vanessa xxx

  39. A very belated greetings Frances, and belated Birthday wishes. It was lovely to learn that we share the same Birthday week and I am glad you celebrated in such gastronomic style!
    Thank you so much for all of your lovely blog comments.. I do hope you can make it over here to the Vintage & Handmade Fair one day.. we look forward to welcoming you.
    Enjoy this golden Autumnal weekend.
    Michele x

  40. Hello Frances. I'm belatedly catching up with your holiday week which I do hope doesn't feel like too distant a memory to you now. I'm glad you had the time to meet up with friends, and to indulge in so many different treats (because reading about them is a treat for me - although I would like to do more than enjoy that chocolate cake vicariously!). The only problem is that, once again, it stirs my yearning to visit you and your city again and since Ma didn't win the Irish lotto, I'll just have to dream for now!

  41. Just playing catch up my friend; what a lovely week off! I love the knitting - couldn't read a pattern myself to save my life; I crochet [all out of my own pattern in my head] and that is as good as it gets! I love the vintage china!

  42. So that's how you make those yo yo circles ! A very Happy Belated Birthday too Francis. x

  43. Oh Frances how inspiring your blog is, all of those creative projects on the go. I love this time of year when we finally curl back up indoors and have time to do some crafting. The cakes look yummy too, I bet they tasted good, and I love the vintage cups and saucers, looking froward to seeing your paintings of them. Posie x

  44. How lovely - the cushions! I would love to be able to do such crafts but alas - I am not gifted in that department. Yes the seasons are a changing - here in North Yorkshire UK we have another dull cold day - winter is just round the corner! Brrrr a cold one too we are told!

  45. Dear Frances,
    First of all Happy Belated Birthday!
    It has been a while since my last visit to your lovely blog. I always enjoy reading it and all that is happening in NYC. I sounds like you had a nice week off with lots of celebrations. Love the cups and your craft projects.
    All the best,
    Ingrid xx

  46. It was so delightful meeting you in New York, and at Café Lalo which was an added pleasure. The time went so fast even though we were there for quite a while – but it was so much fun talking with you that it seemed way too short. I have a lot to report on New York and Long Island. Well, I never finished reporting on my last year trip to New York, so I may include posts on both visits. As soon as we were in the plane flying back to Atlanta my husband asked when we could return to New York – I am the same way – I love your city.

  47. How lovely to have a self-indulgent week for a change! And belated happy birthday to you. That cabled scarf looks so beautiful and looks like a very complicated pattern, no matter how easy you find it! I am just starting to learn how to cable, and yes, it's easier than it looks, and satisfying to get such a textured result.