Wednesday October 26th 2016, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Playing a little with some Shibui Maai.

Photo two is closest to the color. Edit off left and right edges and what would remain reminds me of how in junior high we used to write on a piece of paper and fold it over and over till we had a numbered four-sided little toy you could pop over your hands.

Then you’d go ask a friend to pick a number. You would waggle the squares back and forth to the rhythm of your voice in answer; then stop, unfold the little flap that had the number they’d chosen, and there would be the great reveal as to what was written underneath. 1, 3? 4, 2? Life, the universe, and everything, there you go, the wisdom of our then-ages.

What did we call those things?

The decoy
Tuesday October 25th 2016, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

As the butternut vine grew it outgrew the birdnetted pop tent and so I had a series of them covering it along the way.

One had a single squash inside it apart from the others, and though the prickly acanthus stalks worked as a tent edging for some time, after it rained those turned soggy and the squirrels finally braved squeezing past them to get inside there. Chomp.

It was really too early to pick it then, and I knew if I removed it they’d go after the others. So this one became the sacrifice. But I made them entertain me for it–seeing a squirrel inside a cage while stealing the food I worked so hard for has a certain bemused karma aspect to it.

In the last two days they started in on the bulbous end and once they tasted that they went after it hard. Who knew squash guts were the best part? It looks halved and scooped now and the whole process fascinates me, seeing what they like and how fast they do what. Call it my science experiment.

The remaining three ripe butternuts were where the plant was basically over for the season and I picked them this morning. I left the mangled one uncovered now: Have at it, folks.

Meantime, this afternoon I filled the bird feeder, turning it upside first to shake out the last of the previous batch of safflower; you don’t pile seed onto that last bit again and again, for sanitation’s sake you always start over. It’s about to rain, the birds seemed to know it, let’s get a good meal out here for you guys, too.

McDonald’s for doves. No waiting for the finches up there to kick some down.

A minute or two later I looked up again to see them scatter, in flight each a strong gray rib along a suddenly-opened, invisible Chinese fan in the air, the finches below playing the part of the more colorful paper linking them together as the points at the bottom of each segment–and there was the Cooper’s hawk, doing that familiar tight U-turn mid-air, not before the window but in the center of the yard. It pulled its prey in tight at the far end of the curve, and so once again it knew where the other bird was going to be for him to reach behind it with his feet just so even at the moment he presumably couldn’t see it: he plotted his trajectory against the dove’s perfectly. Those big talons would tighten and that would be it.

The only proof it had actually even happened in that tiny blink was a small poof of feathers settling down right below that point.

Squash. Served.

Borrowing some happiness
Monday October 24th 2016, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

You know how, when you have a bad bug, things just kind of slide for awhile there?

Yeah, and it was getting to me. And so tonight the kitchen floor is scrubbed, the sink is scrubbed, the dishes are done, the mail is tossed, the yarn is more organized, the table’s cleared with a fresh tablecloth–oh oops, well, it was, and even some bathroom cleaning got done. And then I finished the cowl that was on the needles.

I think I’m getting better.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee announced the very happiest of news and I guess I just got hit hard with spillover nesting instinct. Works for me.

I can just picture the first time she gets to snuggle that little one. I am so happy for them all and it just makes me head over heels with my own grandchildren all over again. There is nothing in the world like a grandmother’s love for that brand new person. There is nothing like that moment when they’ll first get to see her eyes looking back into theirs.

Except for the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that, and all the years after that. To life!

Winter blooms
Sunday October 23rd 2016, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Garden

There’s a Dutch company that in the summer lets you pre-order monster amaryllis bulbs at far, far less than retail and the bargain is especially so if you check the box that allows them to choose when they want to ship them to you. Sometime in October. Or maybe November. I picture it as, Oh no, quick, they’re sprouting, get them out of the warehouse, stat!

Surprise me.

And so July browsing brought me a box Saturday and now I suddenly have to actually deal with it.

A pound and a half on the biggest–it’s as big as one of Andy’s peaches! Its first two flower stalks have already begun and another bulb is coming up right behind. They are begging to be planted.

I have a bag of good soil. I just need the flower pots: preferably good, sturdy, heavy stoneware ones to counteract the weights of all that they’re about to be up against. I had several that would have been perfect and I allowed them to be where the squirrels managed to pitch them off the outside table and shatter them. So there must be new ones.

One more reason to kick this cold to the curb fast.

Turning over a new leaf
Saturday October 22nd 2016, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Mango tree

Didn’t even know this was hiding under those leaves over there. More new growth and it happened all on its own.

I managed to get four inches done on a cowl before I had to let myself go rest, but it definitely felt good to accomplish something.

And today my sister Marian’s daughter Carole married her Josh. I would have loved to have been there, but it was just not to be, not with these germs. I’m glad we got to meet him at my dad’s 90th in June.

We’ve had a warm spell
Friday October 21st 2016, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Mango tree

Day two, growing, greening, and there’s a new batch of discernible leaf stubs sprouting out at the base of the ones on the left.

Across the fence, the neighbor’s oranges went from green yesterday to a soft yellow today.

This time, I want it to bloom in the spring
Thursday October 20th 2016, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

After much debate back in July, I pruned one last branch of the mango tree towards the end of its flush of summer growth, thinking it would play along and get right to it.

Nope. It just sat there, stumped.

It was the only one that had had flower buds and I hadn’t wanted to cut them off, but they were five months late and still unopened. I’ve since been told that heat was the thing and that the tree hadn’t had enough of it over the winter. I’d worked at keeping it above 40F, knowing that below that kills the inflorescence; 55F was actually what was optimal for production. Okay, I will try my best this year. Change that auto-setting.

But here it is now mid-October and the tree is finally responding to that pruning. You see that cluster of leaves on the right? It looked like those tiny sprouts above it just yesterday, and it will want to grow to an 8-12″ long branch to start, with the other sprouts coming right after it doing likewise. It’s doing just what I wanted, just not when. Tender growth is vulnerable growth. I have me a bit of a challenge here.

Those two curled larger yellow leaves on the left? Those popped out right before we left for DC, where the Christmas lights triggered on with the temp but there was no cover at night because we were out of town and looking at the weather reports I was hoping it should be okay, and I confess I neglected to start the covering process for the season during the first two days we were home again.

Seven nights of colder than they wanted and their growth is stunted.

Last year I erred on the side of getting the tree more sunlight in the morning. This year I’m putting the double-layer frost covers on at sundown and keeping them on till the day warms up more (we’re talking 19 degrees’ difference between 8 am and 9 am today, with sunrise at 7:21) and I just ordered what will be a third layer of frost blanket. Greenhouse-ing it on the cheap.

Still learning.

(Meantime, the bug has gone to my lungs but it’s still just a cold. I’m glad for the comfort of knowing I got my flu shot.)

Wednesday October 19th 2016, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Politics

The final debate.

After all the things that man has said, after all the times he’s been in-your-face dishonest, denying having said things he’s just been reminded are on video or tape of him saying, projecting onto all his opponents along the way anything that he himself is guilty of. Even after he encouraged his followers to assassinate, well, it wasn’t clear if it was Hillary or judges she appoints or both.

When Chris Wallace invoked the great power of American history being our peaceful transitions of power, that that has always been so, and asked the candidates if they would accept the results of the election.

He answered angrily, I’m not going to tell you.

I thought I had heard everything I might ever hear out of that man but in that moment my jaw hit the floor, stunned, and I turned to Richard: Did you HEAR that?!

When Wallace pressed him again, he snarled, I’m going to keep you in suspense.

That right there was a flat-out no. No he didn’t want to and no he won’t. Anything that wasn’t an immediate, stunned, who-do-you-think-I-am Of course I would! shows exactly what he thinks of the American people if they don’t give him everything he covets, all the power, all the prestige, all the glory that he so believes belong to him and him alone.

And in that moment he treated us all, every single American, the whole world, like he treats–all his accusers aside, we have heard it with our own ears from his own mouth–women.


(Note: post edited to banish his name from my space.)

Job offer: accepted
Tuesday October 18th 2016, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I can’t begin to tell you how nice it’s been having her a mere half mile away.

In the phone call between my middle children today after it became a done deal, Parker instantly caught on to what this meant: “You mean we get to see Aunt Michelle more often!?”

You got it, honey.

Early Halloween
Monday October 17th 2016, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

And now for some pictures.

Richard the younger and Kim threw a Halloween party for their friends’ and her sister’s kids and rented a bouncy house for while the grownups visited. Makes it easy to keep an eye on them all while keeping them happy. The costumes got shown off, with Hudson wriggling in and out of his several times.

We were warned before we left that Maddy has firm ideas and she does not allow her aunt to pick her up and not to be disappointed, that’s just how it was. So it didn’t feel quite so bad when I got in the car next to her at the airport when we arrived, hoping she would recognize us from our Skype chats, that she looked at me like how dare you and cried. When I offered her a flamingo fingerpuppet, she arched hard away and screamed inconsolably. A little bit of soft soothing singing? Okay, not so much. Time to focus elsewhere and let her have her space a moment.

She might not talk much but she understands plenty. So after lots of rounds of peek-a-boo after we got home that got her smiling, I asked her questions. Maddy? Do you want to…?

Do you want to…?

Do you want to…?

It wasn’t long before one of those questions was, Do you want to hold my hand? to go outside and inspect that newly-arisen bouncy house, and there was her arm reaching up towards mine. We walked out hand in hand.

Maddy? Do you want me to pick you up?

And she let me pick her up.

Do you want to go in the bouncy house? (Photo from the umpteenth go-round later.)

She wanted to try to climb in herself, but the entry leaked and sagged a little and made it hard to push off from. I helped her up.

And from there she let me pick her up quite a few times. Several of those times she asked for Ma Ma or Da Da and I took her straight to them.

She decided I was quite alright.

I kicked off my shoes and got in there with the kids for awhile.

After being bounced all over by the bigger kids, suddenly it was just Hudson in there with her (and me, but I was sitting down just then) and it became clear that Maddy had just hatched an idea. A personal challenge.

She stood up and walked careful step by uncertain step down one raised blue row that wobbled a little underneath her. Hudson bounced. She did not fall down this time when he did. I held still for her. On the other side of the wall the bigger kids were leaping onto and down the slide and it was a little like balancing on Jello.

She turned, wavered, almost fell but didn’t, and still staying in that one lane she walked back the other way faster. Then she turned at the end again without a flaw and without touching the walls and this time she ran joyfully back–she could do it! She could stay in the lane and stay upright! I mentioned it to Kim, who was just then coming over, so she could know why Maddy was so proud of herself and share in the moment.

Cousin Hayes (yes that Hayes, and he’s totally fine long since) is in the orange shirt. He and Hudson, three months apart, are best buddies.

What was amazing was how energetic Hudson was: he’d had a 103.5 fever and a trip to the doctor the day before, and the kids had warned us in case we wanted to cancel the trip.

Had it been anyone else, but no. I grinned, I don’t scare off that easy!

We’re both slightly under the weather today. We earned it, and we’d do it again any day any time.



Peruvian lizards
Sunday October 16th 2016, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Yesterday was a high-energy day that started two hours early and I’m still a bit wiped, so, just another quick airport story for today.

Waiting for the flight home, there was a tired young family next to us: a mom, a dad, a small infant, and an older brother, I would guess five. Or maybe he just got finished with being five?

The wait was long and the parents tired and that little boy needed a distraction.

I did a quiet dig through the fingerpuppet stash… Let’s see, pink flamingo, I don’t think so, a bright green lizard with white scales, yeah, that one. That’s just right. I leaned over to the mom and asked if it would be okay to give this to her son?

The three of them lit up (the baby, who was nearly asleep, was unimpressed) and as she handed it to him the little boy was as if he had waited his whole life to own this very lizard. Maybe he’ll grow up to study these? He was so taken with it that I wondered what his future self might become. Everybody has to start somewhere.

“Happy Birthday,” I told him, to make sure his folks understood that this was not a loan.

The mom blinked. Turns out it WAS his birthday, and they’d flown to Legoland for the day to celebrate it.  (And I imagine to make a big deal over him to try to make up for the sudden shift in the family dynamics with the arrival of his baby sister.)

“Oh cool! Really Happy Birthday!”

He examined it, he held it up, he wore it on his finger, he made it into a character. His playing was respectful of everybody’s space, from the baby’s to everyone in the crowded airport; he was a delightful little boy, and with just a little prompting from his mom he remembered to tell me, “Thank you!” And he watched my eyes to make sure that it really was his. It was. OH good!

And then I told his parents why our flight was delayed an hour, why the whole day’s worth surely had been after our first pilot had erupted the oxygen masks by accident. They did a startled ohmygoodness! and then the guffaw that that whole thing so deserved, one borne of the same thought I’d had that, hey, we’ve all done something bone-headed in public like that, glad to know we’re not the only one. And maybe a little glad that ours wasn’t quite to that scale.

And then they sat up a little straighter, chatted a little, and best of all didn’t seem so tired after that.

I wish I could tell that pilot that. And that it was okay.

Why your Southwest flight was an hour late on Saturday
Saturday October 15th 2016, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

It looked like a Cristo art installation, as we first few passengers came around the corner onto the plane: bunches of giant plastic buttercup flowers, suspended from black coils, set after set after symmetrical set all the way down both sides of the plane as far as the eye could see. It was actually rather pretty, as if the interior had been decorated for the holidays. What holiday, I couldn’t tell you.

It was a brand new plane and the pilot had hit the wrong button.

The crew herded us back out of there, their faces a combination of embarrassment and suppressed laughter. Almost too late one remembered, Don’t touch those! That makes it take a lot longer!

I don’t know how you scrounge up a spare plane in an hour, but Southwest did it. We asked the crew just before the replacement arrived, How long does it take to put all of those back?

Four hours, and then they have to recertify the plane.

Ouch… And you know that, given that that was at the start of the day, that would be a hit throughout their system or at least on the West Coast.

In other words, we took a very early–okay, not too early but we got up for very early–flight to go see the grandkids this morning. It will surprise no one that the last flight home tonight was likewise an hour late.

Singing, We all live in a yellow submarine
Thursday October 13th 2016, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Two hundred thirty-odd yards on size 5s in one day while running multiple errands. This was so not going to happen.

Then I got another email that gave me yet another reason (though the sender didn’t know it) exactly why it had to be finished *now*. So I started winding the ball into another ball, weighing it till I got it at exactly half, and after not having wanted to ply that yarn as a six-strand because that was too bulky, I ended up knitting it at eight: one strand from each half ball. Sixty-six stitches on size 9s was doable in the time I had, barely, but doable.

It was pretty chunky looking as I worked–but ohmygoodness that yarn was SO soft. More of that up against the neck, nobody would mind.

I kept going till there wasn’t enough yarn for another repeat.

It’s blocking. Hey tomorrow: ready when you are.

Knit nought
Wednesday October 12th 2016, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Didn’t knit a stitch, but at least I got one of the butter hanks wound.

And then suddenly I have an unexpected reason to knit it up by tomorrow night–or the next afternoon, if I want to block it with a hair dryer going.

That’ll teach me.

Coming along
Tuesday October 11th 2016, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning,Wildlife

I didn’t quite fill three bobbins before the white ran out.

Four-ply was surprisingly thick, so, two by two it was: 234 and 224 yards’ worth, with a bit left over on one bobbin that I then plied it with an end-of-bobbin of brown cashmere, making 78 yards. (Hmm. Baby hat?)

The yarns I was working from were very close in thickness and yet I used up 98 g of the merino/silk and only 67 g of the butter merino.

Now to go scour the mill oils out. The strands should bloom, fluffing out a bit with the wools felting together slightly. A little preshrinking is a good thing.

Meantime, yet another Cooper’s hawk sighting today–there have been several of late. Again it was one with its juvenile markings, which are starting to fade now; its chest kind of looked like that last hank. I think I’ve seen both a male and a female juvie in the past week.