Pink P-hats
Friday January 20th 2017, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knit,Life,Lupus,LYS

I love that yarn stores across the country were reporting shortages of pink yarn, and that Malabrigo dyed extra due to the demand, sure that it could not arrive in time but people were asking for it anyway.

I laughed at reading that the chunkier yarns went first. Well, yes, you can knit those faster.

The original pattern, for which the New York Times said Malabrigo Rios was the recommended yarn, was as simple as it gets: knit a length with ribbing at the ends, fold it in half and sew the sides and let the ends of the square stick out for the ears once you fit it over a round head. The beginneriest beginner can do it.

I loved the photo someone posted of a planeful of women on the way to the march in DC, some with their hats on for the camera. I grew up in the DC area. I remember the marches and the hitchhikers along the roads afterwards, the sense of being part of history even as an onlooker. I fervently wish I could be there, heck, I wish I could be at the local one but I just cannot risk the sun time with my lupus.

Not to mention that my friend Diana’s memorial service, saved for after the holidays so that people would be able to come, is tomorrow. Diana herself would have changed the date in a heartbeat had she known about the march but it is what it is and I will be cheering her on her way and her loved ones in their grief. And that is how we create the changes for the better around us: one person at a time in each moment as it comes and to the best of our abilities.

I love that Kate at Dragonfly Fibers, in my husband’s hometown of Kensington, MD, posted a picture of 1,500 donated handknit hats, many of them with a note from the knitter to the wearer. She had volunteered to be a distribution point. These had filled her van and she had that many more to put in.

Every single one has been spoken for now.

I love that the project has sparked an interest in knitting nationwide. I love that some entrepreneur designed one fast and got it out there with more realistic ears, mass produced, even if it was $35 and they’d forgotten in their rush to even say what the fiber content was. (So, probably acrylic.) The more hats made, the greater the chance that everybody could have one.

I just couldn’t quite love the idea of putting the Donald’s worst denigration of women on my own personal head. But after the marches tomorrow, I imagine every one of those handknit hats (and maybe even those manufactured ones) is going to be a treasured family heirloom and a proud story for the great grandkids to come. I imagine the knitters of the donated ones and the wearers finding and befriending each other, having already together promoted the ideals our country stands for.

I just so much love that everybody’s doing what they’re doing.

I got requests, and then more requests, and then I would have had to make three for those guys and then for these other guys too and and and there just seemed to be no way to do it right–my heart was with them but if I stopped knitting the afghan I might never return to it. It was a little overwhelming, knitting-wise. I bailed.

I finally wish I’d at least made one, too.

Don’t have any chunky pink but I can double the strands…

At Green Planet
Thursday January 19th 2017, 10:29 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Friends,Life,LYS

Green Planet Yarn had a meet-and-greet today: TNNA, the Stitches-type get-together for wholesalers and yarn store owners, was going to be here this weekend and thus the owners of several yarn dyeing companies had agreed to come to Beth’s shop with samples of new lines and just to get to meet some of the people who actually use what they create.

My going would mean being at least an hour and a half late picking Richard up from work. He encouraged me not to worry about it and just go. (A co-worker offered him a ride home in the end.)

It wasn’t just that I wanted to see the yarns: I specifically wanted to thank the folks at Blue Sky Fibers. I’m sure I’ve told the story here before, but not recently I don’t think, so here goes.

I was in the early stages of working on my lace shawls book. Meantime, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was coming to Berkeley for her first-ever book signing in California–Stash, I think was the name of the place–and Jocelyn and Cris and I carpooled together to go. After knowing Stephanie via the Knitlist since our kids had been little, I finally got to meet her for the first time.

Stash did a brisk business in books and yarn that night, and I came across some Blue Sky baby alpaca/silk that was both new and like nothing else out there. Wow. SO soft. Luminous, too, just gorgeous (and it is still one of the nicest yarns I know, all these years later.) I snapped up two skeins but definitely needed more to make a shawl.

Please, they told me: we know we have more of it in the back. We’re swamped. Can we just mail it to you in the morning?


I got a very embarrassed phone call the next day: no, actually, they did not have any more, and there was about zero chance of getting an exact match on the next order. They were so sorry.

And that set off the great yarn hunt. I needed more and it needed to be that dyelot. There weren’t as many yarn stores online then nor that carried that particular yarn, but I called a few and emailed more and did what I could.

I’d seen ads in Interweave magazines for a particular shop back East that seemed to have a good inventory, and they said they would check and they asked for my phone number.

It did not occur to me to mention to them that I was three time zones away.

And thus the infamous story within the family of their starting the day by making sure I knew before I should head out for work that I had to keep looking.

Richard groaned awake in the dark, one of many times when being able to take my ears off at night has been nice for me but for him, not so much, and he reached over my head for the old Princess phone placed there on the small chance I might hear it ring if I really really had to.

“It’s your New York City boiler-room yarn pushers,” he growled as he shoved the handset my way at 5 a.m. “They want you to know they don’t have your dye lot.”

At that, I gave up and appealed to Blue Sky directly: did they have it? I was quite sure they didn’t do retail, but could I buy it from them anyway?

They actually had an exact match. I asked for two, they sent me three, and they refused to let me pay them a dime. Even when I protested.

I thanked them but it didn’t seem enough. Today was my chance.

Linda, the owner, was not there, but three of her staff were. As I found them one by one in the crowd, I showed them the shawl that had come of their generosity and gave them each an autographed copy of Wrapped in Comfort. Each one, independent of the others, asked to see what page it was on. They let me tell them what a difference they’d made to me and were delighted to take a fourth copy home for Linda.

Ran into old friends–including Jocelyn and Cris. Caught up a bit, had fun…

And noticed that one guy had been standing off by himself for awhile now and nobody was talking to him. Well that wouldn’t do, these things are supposed to be fun. Turns out he wasn’t a knitter. Turns out he was Michael, a businessman who was the husband of the Mrs. Crosby of Lorna’s Laces fame.

And as we talked, old friend and Green Planet employee Laura came by with a bag and offered me my pick. She worked the room and then came back towards me with another bag.

“It’s not my turn!”

She laughed. “Goodies for all! Take one!”

The first was a skein of Woolfolk from Blue Sky. The second was a bluegreen one-off dyeing of Shepherd’s Worsted from Lorna’s Laces, and I exclaimed to Michael over his wife’s beautiful work.

One brown hat and one bluegreen cowl as the next carry-around projects. (I had my oversized afghan project shoved halfway down into my tote, where it did not want to stay. It was a little ridiculous. But it did prove that I do like blues and greens together.)

And then the event was officially done and it was time to beat it home quick before the next downpour.

Grateful for power and heat
Thursday January 19th 2017, 12:02 am
Filed under: Life

Forty to forty-five mph winds and a total deluge of water all at once. It sounded very much like being back East when a hurricane is coming at you. The water in the street was a fast river, rushing wave upon white-crested wave of water–and we’re on a dead end street. That had all come straight down from the sky. Whoosh! What looked like a tiny tornado touching down made the water suddenly twist and kick up high in one spot and it splashed back down in a twirl.

So I wrote about it on Facebook and within twenty minutes it was like a toddler with his fingers in his mouth looking up with a half-innocent smile, going, Who me? It was still raining but nothing like that.

The resident former Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer says that a third of an inch of rain in an hour causes flood advisories here. We’ve had close to an inch today with half of it dumped out in that one big fast blast.

We have four more days of heavy rain and two after that of the storms petering out.

Remembering the storm of ’98 when Richard and Sam manned the Red Cross shelter, where a friend of mine was after having woken up in the night to find her bed at the ceiling. When kids boogie-boarded down the street.

We are happily on a rise, outside the flood plain nearer the Bay, and not close to a creek.

(And this is why I tried to get the pruning all done yesterday.)

Peach tree notes
Wednesday January 18th 2017, 12:02 am
Filed under: Garden

(Photo added in the morning: first round of pruning done, probably need to do more.)

Something this newbie learned this past year (I should have asked Al first): don’t put birdnetting over a standard-rootstock fruit tree. That’s what my Indian Free peach is because that’s all that variety came in from the grower, which means it gets very tall very fast.

Which also means it quickly got caught up in and strangled and twisted by that birdnetting, and getting to the branches without destroying the netting before harvest thus defeating its purpose proved impossible. And then the tree kept growing like crazy, lifting the black mesh well out of reach.

So the tree didn’t get its summer pruning but it needed it more.

The larger critters tore the netting open in the night and got my peaches anyway. So much for that. The plastic produce clamshells worked much better so I am definitely going back to them. This year I will staple paper bags over them to hide sight and smell of ripening fruit with a little hot pepper at the bottom in case they try anyway. Thwart one, thwart two, thwart three.

My pruning shears were not enough for this one–I had to get out the pole pruner. I didn’t think to take pictures before, and after over an hour at it the sun was too far gone. But I do have that tree Ground Hog Day’d to a year ago. More or less. It looks much more robust than then.

To prune, you have to look at each branch: there are tiny buds, and where they are on the limb shows you which direction the tree will take it after you cut right above one. You want it to go left? That one pointing left. Right? The one down here. None facing exactly the right way? Probably not quite as much sun that side.

What I wanted most for it to do was to grow over the fence towards Adele, even though I cut off half of several branches that were already close to doing just that. But they were too young and too flimsy; they needed to thicken before getting too long, otherwise, they could break from the weight of a single fruit. I voted for Most Likely To Succeed and trimmed them back by half. I also wanted there to be ones far enough down, height-wise, for her to be able to get to when they’re laden with ripe peaches dripping with juice. Off with its heads. Out not up.

Two trimmings in particular, I was curious and stood them upright on the ground. They came up to my nose.

Here’s the story of my planting that peach for Adele. And wow, that picture, it was so little two years ago.

I know what you’re thinking
Tuesday January 17th 2017, 12:15 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

Conversation at dinner tonight with a completely random interjection, not even looking at them:

“That’s not pussywillow, you know.” (Suddenly envisioning pink feline hats with long fine hanging strands of knitted green leaves as a visual pun, but never mind.)

“It’s not?” He was surprised.

“I told you I pruned the peaches.”

Y’know–saying scion-nara to the overgrowth and all that.


(Side note to LynnM: I tried sending to you from my Gmail account and it too elicited the rejection message saying your server doesn’t accept messages forwarded from other addresses. But that wasn’t one, it was straight from Google’s own servers, and thus the resident geek says that the problem is with your email server. Hope this helps some?)

Look! Squirrel!
Sunday January 15th 2017, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Side note: 35F vs 67F under the frost cover layers: a new record for those Christmas lights tonight.

The day we got word Al had passed, I was outside setting up the covers over the mango tree for the evening when I looked up: two hawks were courting, soaring, circling on the wind together above my next-door neighbor’s and the home beyond. I hadn’t seen one here in awhile but I knew it was about time for them to start preparing for a family and there they were.

I wished for a closer look. I got my closer look. I just had to wait a little.

Yesterday a black squirrel was just starting to climb the fence not far from the bird feeder and my window view when he realized what was perched right there right next to the top of that board and he suddenly froze where he was.

It was pretty clear to me it wasn’t Coopernicus, the male Cooper’s that had tolerated my presence for years. I know that featheration changes over a year’s time, but this one seemed, if I were to guess, to be the young juvenile of last summer with its stripes faded out to the white chest of an adult. But at that size, male, definitely.

He let me watch him awhile. He wasn’t skittish about it. I remembered to blink and occasionally turn slightly away so I wouldn’t be challenging him, while thinking, just like your dad? He was, right? Raptors like to come back home to the territory they grew up in to claim as their own when they can.

Meantime, after awhile that little squirrel’s nose stopped pointing straight up. An oxalis plant that wasn’t quite blooming yet had caught its eye. Maybe it had a tasty bug in it. It completely forgot about the hawk right above its head and hopped down and buried its nose in among the clover-shaped leaves, sniffing around.

While the hawk craned its neck over the edge to take a good look at that potential easy meal and his good fortune.

Nahhhh… The big wings spread wide and sciurini tartare was off the menu for now.

Saturday January 14th 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

A footnote at the beginning: yes I asked her directly probably twenty years ago and she said he was fine but it was clear that being reminded of his illness was not something she wanted brought up, or at least not just then, so I respected that and never did again.

Today we gathered ’round to say goodbye to Lorna. Two weeks ago she was still playing the piano in church at 91. She had a stroke last weekend and held on a few days so her family could arrive to say goodbye, and then she was off to be with her long-missed George.

I was talking to one of her sons after the funeral and mentioned her elementary-school grandson who had lived with her for a year while fighting cystic fibrosis. (Having Stanford Hospital nearby was a good thing.) I had always wondered. Had he lived?

That’s Jeremiah, and he’s my son, the man said, surprised and gratified.

Yes, Jeremiah! He was a grade ahead of my oldest. She was in fourth and he in fifth that year.

The man thought a moment. He’s 35–he corrected himself without having been wrong the first time: He’ll be 36 this year.

Will be is a wonderful thought all unto itself, and in the context of why we were where we were we both knew it. I told him, Please tell him that Sam’s mom asked after him; he may not remember me but I imagine he’ll remember her.

He was very touched. It meant a lot to him.

I did not say that I remembered Jeremiah going through such a terrible emotional struggle with his disease that year and how he’d needed all the support he could get, as did they all. Now, whatever all else life might throw at him, he can always remember that someone remembered him from so long ago and that that someone still cared. Nor am I alone in that.

I’m so glad I went. We never know all the ways in which we might be exactly what someone else needs right then.

Or the dad, for that matter.

Well, you do need it warm in Alaska, right?
Saturday January 14th 2017, 12:04 am
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Thank you all for the kind words about Al. Much appreciated.

Meantime, here is the Montagnais snowshoe side of the afghan. (It really is, isn’t it?)

As of now, it will use three 100 gram skeins of Malabrigo Rios in white, five in Solis, and five in Teal Feather and to really get it to the length I want I need to scrounge up another skein of Solis from somewhere–or even two.

This means it will weigh more than the baby till he’s, I dunno, twelve or so.

As for dyelots, I’m already alternating sections 1, 3, and 5, which match each other, with sections 2 and 4 from a second dyelot, and right now I’m nearly done with 3. Which matches 2 much more than 1, even though 1 and 3 are supposed to be the same and 2 isn’t. So I figure at this point just throw in anything.

If I can find it. I want to see it in person before I buy. If nothing else, Stitches West is next month.

Al Jensen
Thursday January 12th 2017, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I am suddenly realizing I have no pictures, only memories.

My oldest was a new 6th grader and had enrolled in band. She needed a clarinet, and a place that rents them to kids like her was starting off the school year by selling some of their old stock over the weekend. Buying used, if at all possible, sounded a lot more cost-effective than renting endlessly and less worrisome than having a kid be responsible for something expensive someone else owned.

We knew Al had been in a band in the Army so he seemed a logical person to ask; Richard called him that Saturday morning and asked, How do you tell a good one?

Al, surprised: Why, you play it!

Richard: (oh well).

Al: Where’s the store?

Richard: Oh, it’s way down in San Jose…

Al: I’ll see you there in thirty minutes.

He must have walked right out the door.

Richard and Sam and Al all met up in that music store, Al picked out the best of the lot, and then asked what we were doing for lessons.

Richard, a little on the spot: The school…

Al: That won’t do. And he turned to Sam and made her a deal: if she would bake him bread every week he would teach her a lesson. But she would have to practice. He told us he wanted her to be personally invested in those lessons and if she had to work for them then she would value them.

And that is how Sam learned to bake bread in sixth grade. Some batches, well, Al told us years later, he took his little granddaughters to the duck pond and let them toss crumbs to the mallards, a tradition in town since the 1930s when what was envisioned as a small pool for kids, un-chlorinated because it was right next to the Bay, quickly turned into one for the birds and that was that.

Grandkid time. It’s all good.

Al had no way to know at the time that Richard’s then-employer had been laying off workers by the thousands during what was the first dot-com bust and his group was quite sure that, even though they were actually bringing in revenue, they didn’t have much time left. We were cutting all expenses to the bone. (With reason, as it turned out.)

And here was Al, saying he wanted to be paid in bread and that Sam had to make it and that was all the payment he was willing to accept.

The band teacher was so impressed at her progress that he asked her a few years later if she would take up the oboe for the high school orchestra come the next year? They needed one and he knew he could trust her to do the work to learn the instrument well.

She did, and Michelle started sixth grade and started taking clarinet lessons from Al. And saxophone. By this time we certainly had no problem affording lessons but he refused: he said Michelle had to learn how to bake bread too. For her own sense of accomplishment, and besides, he liked having homemade bread!

What we didn’t know was that Al had been putting in for retirement right about the time Richard called him that first Saturday morning and had been thinking that what he’d like to do next was to share his passion for music with kids. But he’d never taught lessons before. Sam fell into the picture at just the right time as his test case to see if he liked doing this as much as he thought he would. And he did. He ended up teaching a lot of kids. And a lot more than music–he was a deeply kind, compassionate man who taught my children what they wanted to be like when they grew up.

I got back at him, a little bit; I knitted for his wife and I sent my piano tuner to him a few times till he protested enough that I let go. But those two quickly became friends and I’m glad for that. Two very good people blessing each other’s lives.

Al grew up with a lot of fruit trees in the back yard because in the Depression his father wanted to always be able to feed his children. Plant the trees, do a little work, and let G_d help you help your own.

And so Al had a lot of fruit trees in his own back yard, which was not big but he packed a surprising amount in.

He told me something once about his peach trees and I was surprised: a neighbor down the street had told me right after we moved in here that peach leaf curl disease is endemic here and the fog and morning cool create the perfect conditions for the disease and it kills them just like it killed his, that you cannot grow peaches here.

Al roared with laughter: Of COURSE you can grow peaches here!

And that is how it all got started over at my house. The peaches, then the cherry, then the pear, then the sour cherry and the fig and the mandarin oranges and another apple besides the ones the house came with… Oh and yeah, the mango. Because if you can grow peaches, of course!

Al wasn’t in church on Sunday. He hadn’t been driving in quite some time but he always got a ride. But not this time; he wasn’t up to going.

Word came in this morning.

Al had quietly and peacefully passed away yesterday evening. It was not expected. It was not really unexpected.

He will be sorely, deeply missed. We are so much better off in so many ways for having had him in our lives. G_dspeed, dear friend.

Re Chugach National Forest
Wednesday January 11th 2017, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Which surrounded us as the catamaran floated across Prince William Sound last June.

Slowly, slowly, a glacial pace… And the interior portion will end with two rows of white just like that.

I tried to capture the texture of the thing with the camera; I’ve started to think of it as the bubble wrap blanket, although the intent was more towards an idea of tops of trees in the Alaskan snow. Even though it’s knitted pretty tightly, I think it will still flatten out once it’s washed but I am going to enjoy it like this while I can.

The back seems snowshoe-y to my eyes. (Scroll down to see their) Montagnais-style, perhaps.

If a tree falls in a suburb…
Tuesday January 10th 2017, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Mango tree

A few years ago an enormous old eucalyptus tree, one of many in a long line on the hillside, fell across the expressway near Richard’s office at morning rush hour and fortunately hit no one. We saw it from the other side of the divided road, which was heavily littered with smashed bits from the top. Meantime, southbound traffic doing 45 would just crest the hill and there it was right there–we saw the first few terrified drivers doing abrupt u-turns in front of it and heading back going the wrong way, knowing it was rush hour and the speeds and the danger and the cops got that direction shut down immediately. I was impressed.

I have kept a wary eye on those tall flimsy trees on rainy days ever since, and part of another came down at evening rush hour today: again, the authorities hadn’t gotten there yet when we went by, and since traffic could make it around that one it surely wasn’t on the immediate list this time. They are swamped.

We waited at the next light ahead just barely out of the reach of yet another, which was leaning hard over the lines of cars below as gust after gust threatened to javelin us all with it. It felt a lot like being in an east coast hurricane. That trunk was not upright anymore. I do not expect to see it still standing come the morning.

And we’ve got it easy. We have power and heat and no flooding. They’ve clocked winds at 173 mph and there’s water everywhere: we haven’t had this much rain from Oct 1 to this date since 1922. A mudslide on Highway 17 near Richard’s aunt took out the road and an ABC7 news van (and it amuses me that none of the other news outlets identified it as such, only ABC7 did, whereas it was very clear what it was. But I guess you don’t give a boost to the competition? I mean, that’s a heck of a way to get a scoop. I can just imagine, Here comes the mountain right there, do you see it Bob? Bob? Apparently nobody was hurt, so it’s easy to joke about.)

We are not near a creek and this is a good thing right now.

Tomorrow, when it hopefully stops raining for a bit, I will go put the new (it came! Yay!) remote-read temperature sensor with the mango tree and go back to my happy old habit of glancing up at the monitor on the wall every time I walk by to see how it’s doing.

At this point, the frost covers are doing double-duty as just a bit of protection from rain-overdosed roots. Yeah. As if.

And if the sky holds its breath long enough we’ll go up on the roof and see if we can find out what made that nice loud boom up there. No sign of fallen tree that we can tell from the ground, and besides, we already cut down all the ones that threatened to two years ago.

On our property, anyway.

Oh wait, there is that one last one that could have grown over the house again by now. Guess what it is? A thick trunk, but, a eucalyptus.

With strings attached
Monday January 09th 2017, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

A surprise gift from Holly Saturday had me trying to find out what this was called and a little about it. She had bought it from a Romanian craftsman and that’s all we had to go on; she didn’t know either.

My sister-in-law, whose family fled WWII-era Latvia, told me, “It is like the Latvian kokle. You strum it, holding down the strings that aren’t played.”

There are 16 pairs of strings–wouldn’t you run out of fingers? I imagine if I said that to my Aunt Joyce, who teaches harp, she would get a good laugh out of it.

With thanks to Deb for the name, pictures of kankles looked closer to what we had.

After those first two I started clicking on more things under the letter k on their Global Instruments List to see videos of them being played. There are so many variants there, and more to be discovered as I knit.

Listening to that music, Holly, are you sure you want us to keep this? Now that you know what it can do. Beautiful.


Edited to add, HollyI think I found it!

Sunday January 08th 2017, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Not much of a blog post, but I did get past the twentieth repeat tonight. At the rate I’m going, that’s about thirty hours of work so far.

Thirty-odd repeats to go and then the top edging.

Saturday January 07th 2017, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The forecast was for yet another major storm today–there were flash flood warnings for the entire Bay area, and the week to come will bring more. I remember our Hundred Year flood nineteen years ago, where I had to drive across the Bay and the water came right up to the end of the bridge (not to mention my windshield wipers died in the middle of the deluge on the freeway.) That night a friend of mine here would wake up to find her bed floating near the ceiling.

Plans were plans and we weren’t going to let go of happy anticipation that easy. We headed north to see Holly and George.

There was a little rain at the start and a little at the end but it was actually dry most of the drive there.

I am so very very glad we got to spend the time. (And I got to see Bill’s Hat before Bill did, whoever he is. He’s really going to like it.)

Gradually, looking out their picture window, those clouds were getting lower and darker–it was time to go.

There was a little rain at the start and a little at the end but it was actually dry most of the drive home.

I put a single cover over the mango tree just in case it got colder than expected–the rain itself is always cold here but it brings warmth with it–and marveled that I still felt no drops.

And then, with everybody safely inside for the evening, the sky really, really, really let us have it.

Playing de-fence
Friday January 06th 2017, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Wildlife

Yesterday I saw a squirrel racing down the fence line suddenly skid with a flip that threw it off into space upside down, nose and all four paws straight up and tail flailing hard to no avail as it dropped straight down like a roadrunner cartoon. It seemed as surprised as I was. And that was when it was just wet out.

I resisted the temptation to climb up to look down into the neighbor’s side: it was either fine, hawk-food take-out or crow sourcing.

This morning not a single squirrel was touching this. Not till it melted.

Meantime, inside, the latest amaryllis stem is no worse off for having toppled itself over.

And the baby afghan continues.