Sunday, February 27, 2011

Westerwick Cardigan - Completed!

We were busy this weekend finishing, washing and blocking our Westerwick Cardigan.... and now, here it is!

Ann Feitelsen's Westerwick Cardigan from her book, "The Art of Fair Isle Knitting"

Here's a close up of the buttons:

And here's a photo of the stranding underneath:

We have plenty of yarn left over - I'm going to take Ann Feitelsen's Westerwick pattern, and make a vest for Man Yung!  Not only is Man Yung not afraid of pink, he actually requested it.  Back to the knitting needles...

Monday, February 21, 2011


I know, I know.... we complain a lot about Toronto Tango.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), at times it is endless inspiration for tango blogging - which, if you are the intrepid few who have been following along with us since the beginning, may not always be a good thing (at least, not for the Fabios that we are making fun of!)

Well, picture this:  Sunday night at La Cachila.  It's past midnight, but since it's the milonga before a holiday Monday, there are still plenty of couples on the dance floor.  The lights are low, the music is pulsing in that mellow, nostalgic, tango way... and I'm sitting on the sides munching on half a bag of T.G.I.F.'s very savoury Bacon and Cheddar flavour potato skins.

That (and I mean the bag of chips) in itself is a little bit of heaven in the books of  La Casa de Irene and Man Yung - but what really made the moment special was happening on La Cachila's dance floor. 

When did tango dancers in Toronto get so good?  I swear, the Toronto Tangueras and Tangueros dancing out there (well, ok, 90% of them) are absolutely fantastic!  The ladies were like angels with their sweet embraces and soft, smooth footwork; the gentlemen danced with reverence and style.  There was musicality and feeling, they all danced for themselves and each....were unique.

It was beautiful, really beautiful - just like we had stepped into a traditional milonga of Buenos Aires. 

I was so happy...and the ones who were dancing, I could imagine that they felt happy too.  Because it was Tango...y nada mas.

It is a blessing that Tango is evolving this way in Toronto - I suspect thanks to many people who have their hearts in the right place, whether they are dancers or organizers.  They're the people who truly love tango. 

If Toronto tango keeps this up - we'll have to move to a different city to dance!  After all, with our heroes and heroines being the Hokey Pokey Ostrich and the Crazy Chicken Lady (didn't we say once, for your own personal safety, LOOK AWAY when we are dancing in your vicinity! Who did you think we were talking about, of course we were talking about ourselves), I think it's only time when they turn us away at the door!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fair Market Value

Late one night at Viejo Correo, Nina Balbuena came over to tell us something amusing that she had heard.

"One of the ladies over there just said something very interesting," Nina said, gesturing to the ladies section at the other side of the room.  "She told me that she really admired Man Yung's dancing.  In fact, she said she is willing to PAY to dance with Man Yung..."  Nina paused dramatically -  "IN DOLLARS!"

We thought it was pretty funny to find a woman willing to pay to dance with Man Yung. Usually, it would be the other way around - you know, women willing to pay not to dance with Man Yung [Just joking, honey!] Naturally, the prospect of earning dollars for Tango is completely and utterly irresistible - how else can we justify the droves of qualified and unqualified tango professionals invading all corners of the globe? Unfortunately, Man Yung hadn't incorporated his own taxi dancing company yet to take advantage of all his tax deductions for tango shoes, trips to Buenos Aires, etc.  He just went over to dance with the lucky lady, free of charge!

Thrilled with the opportunity of turning Man Yung into a Tango Taxi Dancer Cash Cow, we asked our teachers for an opinion of Man Yung's Fair Market Value.

Cash Cow:  It does everything except dance Tango

When we told Alberto about what the lady said, he immediately frowned.  "No, no, no, Man Yung!" he said, wagging his finger, horrified by the idea.

"But isn't it a good idea to make some money to cover our tango expenses?" we pleaded.  "How much do you think Man Yung could charge?  Twenty dollars?  Forty Dollars?"

Alberto thought for a moment, and then laughed out loud.  "Man Yung should charge no less than ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS per hour!  If they won't pay - he must say no way!"

Darn.  Is he joking?  Much younger and handsomer taxi dancers with better fitting suits and impressive teaching credentials are charging only twenty dollars an hour! Surely a rate of ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS would price Man Yung out of the market.  We needed a second opinion.

When we asked Osvaldo and Coca , Coca started giggling and Osvaldo raised his eyebrows so high they disappeared to the back of his head.  "No, no, no, Man Yung!"  they said.  Wagging fingers and horrified looks ensued.

Nevertheless, we pushed them to tell us a figure.  All our future tango budgeting (and the number of pairs of shoes I was going to get at Comme Il Faut this trip) depended on their advice.

Osvaldo smacked the table with his hand. "Tell the ladies that you will not accept anything less than ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS."

Double darn.  Not even Fabio is charging anything near that!  How could we possibly compete in the wild wasteland of the Tango Taxi Dancing Marketplace?

As a last resort, we asked Martha and Manolo.

Martha smiled when she heard our question.  Manolo wasn't listening to us (it takes too much effort to keep up with our silly jokes, so he just zones out).  Only when we were finished with our gabbing, did Manolo turn sedately to Martha and ask her, "What the hell were they talking about?"

Martha explained to him.  We waited patiently for a few seconds while Manolo digested our query.

Mini explosion. "Nah, don't be ridiculous!" Manolo said.

Maybe the vision of having Man Yung doing his best Tasmanian Devil impression on the dance floors of Buenos Aires - for money or no - was a little too much to bear.

"But surely, after seven years of dancing, Man Yung's dancing skill must be worth something. Five dollars?  Ten dollars?"  we offered, hopefully.  We're crossing our fingers here.

Manolo shook his head.  "You have got it all wrong.  There is no dollar amount to be set for the privilege of dancing with Man Yung. No tiene precio - it's priceless!"*

* Oh, so that's what all our teachers were talking about when they set all those exorbitant prices!

** We bumped the Dollar Paying Lady (a Portena, in fact) again when we went to Maipu 444 with Alberto and Paulina. She actually exists!  We didn't make it up!  And Man Yung went to dance with her again - for free, grrrrrrrrr....

*** We also bumped into the Elbow Dancer when we went to Salon Canning with Osvaldo and Coca.  This proves:  1) Tango = Small World, and 2) None of this was imaginary, we have witnesses.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Every day they dance better

2xTango posted on Youtube this video of Osvaldo and Coca performing at Porteño y Bailarin on February 1, 2011:

Osvaldo and Coca dance to Orquesta Tipica Victor's "Carillon de la Merced" at Porteño y Bailarin", February 1, 2011

Osvaldo and Coca's exhibition was among the many that night by a spectacular line-up of tango luminaries such as Nito and Elba, Miguel Angel Zotto and Daiana Guspero, Ernesto Balmaceda and Stella Baez...and it was all done for benefit of the children's charity,

What caught our eye was the caption that 2xTango put beneath the video.  "This couple is like good wine, every day they dance better...."

2xTango concludes, "It is happiness to see them dance."  We agree.

Friday, February 4, 2011

There are no Crazy Chicken Ladies in Toronto Tango (really!)


"Hey Man Yung, did you see the Crazy Chicken Lady at the milonga tonight? I think it will be swell to write about her in our next post!"

Man Yung frowned.  "Irene, that's not very nice of you to say that!  I'm sure that she can't help it.  Beside, it's not nice to make fun of ladies and hurt their feelings," he said. 

So here I am, telling you, officially -

THERE ARE NO CRAZY CHICKEN LADIES IN TORONTO TANGO.  They are purely a figment of your imagination.

Therefore, you did not see the Crazy Chicken Lady at the weekend milongas - certainly not at the milongas we went to, ha ha!  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find her, flapping up and down and squawking with glee, even at the Happy Jolly Tango!! Association, where presumably she and many of her kind could have been hatched by the horde in the warm, fuzzy, inviting, non-judgmental atmosphere.

In addition, the Crazy Chicken Lady, being fantasy, did not explode in a cloud of feathers (and a fury of automatic ochos, high voleos, jumps onto laps, drops, spins and ganchos) when dancing with the intrepid (and equally insane) Tangueros who asked her to dance.  Exploding feathers connote extreme, uncontrollable excitement, and the Crazy Chicken Lady could not possibly be that excited, since she does not exist. 

If you thought that you were gored by the Crazy Chicken Lady's chicken feet while she was doing show tango moves on the crowded dance floor, you were mistaken.  The Crazy Chicken Lady would not spread her legs wider or kick her heels higher irregardless of what she was actually being led to do, because I swear, no-one was leading her - and she wouldn't follow what was being lead anyway.
The Tangueros Deserving of Their Own Nicknames did not have a field day that night.  They had no chance to draw attention to themselves and their dangerous and reckless moves, because they did not dance with the Crazy Chicken Lady who is like the cherry on top of the big crazy idiot show tango pie, no sirreee, she wasn't there.  And the high pitched delighted screeching and giggling you thought you heard - it was merely an auditory hallucination.  Stop smoking whatever it is you are smoking!

I'm absolutely certain that the Crazy Chicken Lady did not thwump into Man Yung that night while we were dancing - not when she was paired with a Crazy Tanguero, and certainly not when she was zig-zagging from side to side in sheer hilarity on her way to the washroom.  I know this because I was dancing with Man Yung when the thwumping and thwacking occurred - as I had my eyes closed, I didn't see anything. I'm sure Man Yung just tripped over his own shoelaces every single time.

If you happen to be reading this, rest assured that you are not the Crazy Chicken Lady.  The Crazy Chicken Lady has not, and will not read any of the posts on this blog, or learn from the wise and edifying lessons to be garnered therein.  If she had read any of this, she wouldn't be so crazy, would she?

Is there anyone else out there who is a fan of The Kids in the Hall?  Mark McKinney's Chicken Lady was such a hoot!

"The Chicken Lady at a Strip Show" from vintage The Kids in the Hall - what a fine piece of drama!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What a hand-knit sweater is made of

Since we are in the middle of "Snow-mageddon" here in Toronto, the wise thing to do here at Casa de Irene and Man Yung is not to venture out - not even for tango - and stay home!

Which is a good thing, since I'm knitting a Fair Isle sweater for a dear sweet amiga in Argentina and need all the time I can scrounge up to complete the project in time.  This time it's Ann Feitelsen's Westerwick Cardigan from her book, "The Art of Fair Isle Knitting".

I love this book.  I've made several cardigans from Ann Feitelsen's patterns - the sweaters may not have the glamour of the ones designed by Alice Starmore, another one of my favourite designers, but they have a practical, pretty quality that makes me want to wear these sweaters every day.  In fact, Man Yung and I wear two of the sweaters (see below) from Ann Feitelsen's book so much, that the strands of yarn have felted together in our sweaters, forming one cohesive fabric (you get this phenomenon a lot with fair isle yarn because of all their 'sticky' threads):

Hillshead Slipover and Lunna Jumper from Ann Feitelsen's "The Art of Fair Isle Knitting"

Once, I wanted to write a fan letter to Ann Feitelsen, and I even contacted her publisher - but they didn't have an address or an email for her.  Searching the internet, it seems that she appears once in a while to teach master knitting classes at major knitting festivals (yes, knitters have those, they have workshops and stuff, just like tango!), but there's not a lot of information about her out there.  I wish that she would write another knitting book - I'm sure it would be superb, I love her use of colour and pattern.

I'm really enjoying the process of making the Westerwick Cardigan.  Every spare moment in the morning before I go to work and in the evening when there is no tango, I'm knitting.  In between thinking about topics to post on our blog and plotting to kill for shoes, I even meditate.

What is a sweater really made of?

On the most basic level, a sweater is made out of yarn:

A whole box of yarn from Camilla Valley Farm, in fact.  God bless internet yarn retailers and fast shipping!

A sweater is also made out of work.  A clever acquaintance of mine found out that I liked to knit and asked me to make her a sweater.  "You enjoy knitting anyway!" was her rationale.  

Well, I estimated that at my regular rate of $350 per hour as a lawyer, the estimated 140 hours it would take for me to knit the darn thing would cost her $49,000 (plus another $250 for the yarn).  Did she want to give me a retainer?  Nope.

Even a sleeveless unfinished Westerwick Cardigan will set you back, oh $33,000.00 if you want me to make it for you

It's snowy and cold outside.  I'm sitting on our sofa wedged in between two purring cats, with a hot, sugary cup of Horlicks nearby.  Man Yung is giving me a foot massage and we are watching Chinese TV together.  The knitting needles are going clickety-clack, clickety-clack as row upon row of knitting materialize in my hands as if by magic:

 Each stitch is in the shape of a heart

What a hand-knit sweater is really made of is love.  If you look close-up, a sweater is actually made of a gazillion tiny hearts!  Every stitch is a heart* - a thought, a prayer for the person you knit for (yes, even for those who are paying by the hour!). 

We hope our amiga likes this cardigan - but I don't think we should worry. I sent her photos of the work in progress so that she would know what we were planning to make for her.  "We didn't want to give you an unpleasant surprise!  Maybe you wouldn't like it!"  we said.

"And why wouldn't I love everything that you give to me? Don't be silly!" she said.

She loves us, you know.

* No wonder why there's a sweater curse going around - and boyfriends of knitters all over the world running screaming for the exit when presented with sweaters made from the hands of their girlfriends.  They've just been presented with a garment MADE COMPLETELY OF FERVENT, BLEEDING HEARTS.

I had been warned about the sweater curse when I bought the yarn for the very first sweater I ever made for Man Yung.  "If you aren't already married, he's going to run away when you give him the sweater!" said the shop owner.

Well, I've been trying my darndest but no matter how many sweaters I've made, Man Yung isn't showing any sign of budging.  The yarn shop I bought the yarn from has even closed and gone out of business - but Man Yung is still here, bugging me to make him more sweaters!

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