In a jam
Wednesday October 15th 2008, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting
This picture just doesn’t quite capture it.
The best homemade jam ever is ripe white peaches done half and half with mangoes, preferably the Champagne variety, which is to mangoes what Scharffenberger is to chocolate. Champagnes have a very short season and are long gone now, and so when I went looking for mangoes, I came home with these instead.
I haven’t made jam in several years.Â These might make me.Â There were six in the box.Â I ate the first mango, a little early, but quite good–took the whole day, and still, I had to call for reinforcements at dinnertime, and still, there were leftovers for awhile yet after that.Â It was the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival of mangoes at 2 2/3 pounds. That’s a proudly-large apple doing the cheerleader tower with it, not some shy little thing.
The kicker is that you know all five mangoes still in that box are going to go dead ripe all at once.Â Not a peach in sight. I think they’re going to be on their own, because, with the kids gone, so are we.
Egrets and no regrets
Tuesday October 14th 2008, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Knit
The designers’ version of the swatch, swatch, gauge, gauge mantra is, don’t swatch a new lace pattern mid-shawl; if you want to run off with a new idea on a tangent from what you’ve figured out and written out beforehand, do it across a few stitches somewhere else first.Â (insert whiny voice)Â P l e a s e ?Â Four hundred stitches across just doesn’t quite qualify as a swatch.Â Ah well, live and learn.Â (The former is more likely.)Â There’s nothing terribly wrong with it as it was, I just didn’t happen to like it, and I’m the one I most have to make happy with it or it would never get finished.Â Now that it’s back on the needles, it’s ready to hum along happily and is feeling all the better for having been held to a standard of perfection.Â Not to mention, better four rows ripped than forty.
The good part is, taking those needles out, I went and found a UFO and checked the size of their circs, just to see; I thought I’d been doing that project on 10s.Â Nines! Holz and Steins!Â Not my sentimental pair, but hey!Â I switched them out, as long as the slick ones were unencumbered for the moment.Â Yay!
I got an errand run in the afternoon, noting how few miles I’ve put on my car in the last month; it felt good to get out.Â I pulled off to the side of the road and tried to capture the snowy egrets in that center shrubbery, knowing my camera could only do so much, but hey. I share what I can.Â I’ll get a better camera someday soon, since this one is held together by scotch tape; something to look forward to.
A bicyclist came down the bike path between me and the brownery there, saw me perching against my car door with my Pentax in my hands, and shot me a big grin on his way past, clearly glad to see someone else appreciating the day out there.
I can’t wait to see how this shawl is going to turn out!
(It wasn’t till I posted this that I realized how much the clump of stitches looks like an inverted version of the egrets’ perch.Â Cool!)
In teal life
Tuesday October 14th 2008, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Knit
This yarn is a lot greener of a teal in real life.Â I finally just grabbed the Knitpicks 9′s on hand and used them.Â They’re too slippery-slick for my taste: my hands have gripping problems so they tire more quickly holding onto these tightly so I don’t drop anything, and I was avoiding them.Â But I finally sat myself down and realized, they’re not perfect. But I have them. And time is a finite gift, and while I have the time to knit this for the person it needs to go to, for goodness sake, knit it, fer cryin’ out loud!
Holz and Steins they may not be, but it was a relief to see this project finally starting to grow. I hope to get this shawl done before the weekend.
A lengthy discourse
Hmm. My usual take on shawl lengths is that the heavier the yarn, the longer it ought to be knitted to come off feeling like the proportions are right.Â This is a fingering weight baby alpaca (what else?)Â It seems to be about 20″, maybe 21″ long; I’ll know after it’s blocked.Â Each repeat is 3 1/2″, and I’m thinking one more repeat.Â If I left it as is, it would come out like how the pink Julia shawl looks on the model in “Wrapped in Comfort.”
I’m thinking yes, one more repeat. I would put it onto two circular needles to hold the stitches over a greater length, dampen it down and let it dry to get a more precise measurement before stopping, but I have lost my other pair of size 9 Holz and Steins.Â Let me repeat that.Â I lost my Holz and Steins.Â The rosewood 32″ circs I knit every size-9-needle shawl in my book on.Â The not-sold-in-the-US-anymore, best-tipped, best needles on the (not on the) market, made from leftover wood from making musical instruments, irreplaceable Holz and Steins. The last time I definitely remember seeing them, I packed them in my knitting bag along with an extra ball of yarn to go hear Stephanie, just in case I should run out of my Sea Silk project.Â (Fat chance, especially with my then-sore hand, but knitters understand.Â That extra ball of yarn happened to weigh a pound.Â Of baby alpaca.Â Of course.)
I am writing about my acute sense of loss in the hopes that Murphy will smack me upside the head and instantly taunt me by finding them.
Meantime, I thank you all for the respectful discourse on my Why Vote post.Â I photo’d our holly bush and captioned it “prickly subject,” and I’m pleased and relieved at the reception the post has gotten, even from those who quite disagree with me.Â I think I’m going to keep it to that one entry and just let the comments continue, should anyone feel so inclined.
Return from the hunt
Saturday October 11th 2008, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family
Got to love a man who, late of a beautiful Saturday evening in the crisp fall air–(okay. Jennie. Don’t laugh. I know it’s California. I know calling 60 degrees crisp and putting on a sweater and a fleece vest over it is a total wimpout.Â Crisp?Â Yeah, yeah, I know, my birkenstocks won’t know what hit them when I see you in Vermont)–takes his wife out on a dark-chocolate-hunting date.Â And those almonds are beyond dark.Â Perfect.
Two childhood memories:
President Johnson threw a party on the White House lawn for all the children of all the US Senators.Â We were the grandchildren of one, and we lived close by in Bethesda; we got to go.Â Â The crowd of kids walked in a careful line through a small part of the White House first, and just before we exited into the Rose Garden area, we were handed an extremely cool official plastic white pen with blue and red retractible colors and the words “The White House” printed on the side.Â You better believe I took that one to my elementary school to show off.
There was a small Ferris wheel set up on the expanse of lawn, which looked a lot bigger as a kid than it does to me now, and rides on the small ponies being walked in circles.Â No way no how was I getting on that Ferris wheel, but I was in heaven with those horses.Â I’m sure there was cotton candy and the like, but I remember nothing about the food–just the fact that I could ride all afternoon, and did, and only briefly once did anybody tell me I had to get off to let some other kid have a turn. They had enough ponies to make every child who wanted one happy for just about as long as they wanted.
I came home and told my mom how cool I thought President Johnson was, and that I hoped he would run and win again.
I saw the look on my mother’s face in speechless response, and had no idea what to make of it, other than that, clearly, this was not the great desire of her heart.Â But I wanted more pony rides!
Memory number two:
It was the Fourth of July, the late 60′s, and our baby boomer family with six young kids was going with my aunt and uncle and their little ones to watch the fireworks together on the Mall in downtown Washington, DC, the grassy stretch that runs between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.Â The crowd was already huge in the late afternoon as we arrived, the best spots taken hours earlier and more people pouring in by the minute.Â Soon there was hardly room to move.Â There was a sit-in of war protesters going on a little further down, with families on their picnic blankets edging right up against ours and a kind of a temporary no-man’s land in between us and the protesters that was rapidly filling up. There were a lot of people there. There was a strong smoke smell going on over thataway that I didn’t recognize at that age; it wasn’t cigarettes.
A number of Park Police on horseback started an ambling pace towards the protesters.Â I noticed–I liked the horses.
And the protesters started running.Â En masse.Â But there was simply no room.
My aunt’s youngest was an infant, and in the sudden terrifying confusion of the stampede, there was a moment of instant clarity: she had pulled a young man down to the ground in front of her and was screaming into his face at the top of her mother-bear lungs as the surge of feet continued around and over and straight through us, “YOU STEPPED ON MY *BABY*!!!!”
He was suddenly more scared of her than the cops or horse hooves and wrestled himself away from her and took off amongst the others still running through our picnic blanket.
That was it. All the adults announced we were out of there, and while the older kids were half-protesting, what, no fireworks, it was a relief to leave. I’m sure we had seen enough fireworks already in my aunt’s face. The baby was okay.
Watching McCain stepping back out of reach and deliberately away from Obama’s outstretched hand and smile, it hit me that here is a man who does not know how to be friends with his friends. How on earth then can he wage peace in an unfriendly world using the skills of diplomacy he does not have?Â “Bomb bomb bomb Iran.Â Who cares? The Iranians?”Â (I’ve seen the video, sir, it was not the one-on-one joke you claimed in the debates, it was before a crowd.)
Imagine the good we could do if Iranian parents (and others), their leadership aside, felt that the mighty US wanted to make the world a better place for their children, too, rather than they worry that our leader wants to trample them personally out of mob-like fear.Â Imagine the American President telling them that he, too, had gone if only briefly to a public school in a Muslim country; that he knew personally that there were dedicated teachers there and here’s how he’d like to help them improve their educational resources.
Amy Goodman, the syndicated columnist, wrote this article after being violently assaulted by the police for trying to interview protesters at the Republican National Convention.Â Along with her fellow reporters, her press credentials were ripped off her neck for telling the cops who she was and who her fellows were, and then *she* was charged for it and hauled off, along with her fellows, who were bleeding. They were told after they were beaten that they had the right to cover the police’s work only if they were embedded with them, ie only if they went where they were allowed to go and saw what they were allowed to see.
Alright. Voters?Â We have been through this before.Â We thought Simon and Garfunkel’s protests, “I said be careful, his bowtie is really a camera” were quaint old songs now.Â Back to the future?
Or do we choose a better one?
My ballot says mark it with blue or black ink only, don’t use the red.
Thursday October 09th 2008, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Family
(Scroll past this paragraph as desired…Â Again, remember that “Wrapped in Comfort” is on sale at Knitpicks.com and cheaper there right now than the used copies on Amazon; I might have a vested interest in saying so, but hey. Signed and inscribed copies are available as always through Purlescence.Â Thank you to so many of you for buying copies these past few days, as well as everybody else who has, and thank you, Stephanie!Â I’ve been harlotted!)
These are Nathania’s felted wool pumpkins; I photo’d them, with Kay’s permission, at Purlescence’s knit night tonight.
What a difference a year makes.
Our last winter in New Hampshire, our older children were two and four and terrified of the weird-to-worse-looking people that knocked on the door come Halloween night.Â It was unusual enough there for people to knock on the door at all; people in upper New England very seldom dropped by unannounced.Â It was a cultural thing, as far as I could tell as a newcomer–but then, it’s true that there was an awful lot of snow in the winter getting in the way.
All my prepping the children beforehand as to what to expect, even the bribes of candy as part of the trick-or-treating deal just didn’t do it for them.Â They shrieked and screamed and stayed far from the door and didn’t want me to open it–and they weren’t going out there either, no way.Â Mom! Don’t you know what’s OUT there?!
The next year, we were here in California, and even though I again talked to my little ones about Halloween and about playing dress up for it, and remember, don’t forget about that candy part, candy being a highly unusual treat in our household, I worried how they might react this time around.
There was a tall narrow window to peak out of alongside the front door, and back then, people had to come up the walkway past the kitchen windows, so you knew when they were approaching.
My little girl said in great glee to her younger brother, as they craned their heads to try to see down the walkway, “Here come trick-or-treaters! Let’s be scared!”Â Pretending to be afraid had magically, at age five, become part of the thrill of pretending for the night to be a witch.
Strawberry freezes forever
Wednesday October 08th 2008, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Family
Turn on Cuisinart. Drop in frozen strawberries one at a time, watch them pulverize (does not work well if you start with a full bowl all at once). Add a few tablespoons of sugar.Â Taste, add strawberries, add a spot more sugar, repeat.Â Add a few glugs of milk, preferably with some fat content to it; process for several minutes.Â Remember to turn hearing aids off first.Â (You did read through the recipe first before starting, right?)
Ah yes. The good Mormon man comes home from work, and his wife hands him a cold one.
(Notice there wasn’t any left to include in the picture.)
“I’m all shook up”
Wednesday October 08th 2008, 9:57 am
Filed under: Knit
Making progress… Sorry about the fuzzies; I knit better than I photograph, this was my fourth try.
Did anybody else see this? We were watching the debate last night via MSNBC, and McCain and Obama were shaking hands with the crowd afterwards, the thing still being aired.Â Just before the cameras cut out–and I’m guessing McCain must have thought they already had–the two men happened to find themselves next to each other again, and Obama reached out with a warm smile to shake McCain’s hand again, not as part of the debate performance but as two colleagues.
And McCain stood there stone-faced, absolutely refusing to.Â Cindy McCain finally shook Obama’s to cover for her husband’s gaffe.
(Edited to add: with the help of Momo Fali, this is the scene from a completely different camera and angle to what MSNBC showed.Â In this one, you can see McCain patting Obama on the back, but when Obama turns in response and reaches his hand out, McCain steps back away from him and waves him towards Cindy McCain.Â I would say that that was still rude, but it definitely is far better than standing there arms stock still like it had seemed. Thank you for the link and the clarification!)
I am knitting again: one row across, rest.Â The hand’s doing reasonably well.Â What is coming off my needles as I go is so compelling to me that it’s hard to make myself take those breaks.
One of the things I did in Wrapped in Comfort was to give the stitch count for each lace pattern within each shawl, so you could swap out other ones if you want to just use the pattern as a template, or so you could do so many repeats across and make a scarf for a faster project to test-drive that lace pattern.Â What I’m doing right now, just because I was curious how it would play out, is, I did the Kathy’s Clover shawl through the yoke. That’s a 10+1.Â Did the increase row.Â Then I flipped the page to Nina’s Ann Arbor; that’s a 20+1, and 381 for the Kathy divides into 20+1 with no group of ten left dragging.Â It worked.Â This also gets me a slightly smaller-around finished product than if I’d just done the Nina’s, 381 stitches vs 421.
My record is two of these shawls in a week.Â One is a more leisurely pace. We’ll see how well I keep it up, but fingering weight yarn and size 9s, it really won’t take long.
(Edited to add: Knitpicks has books on sale, and you can get it there for cheaper than the used copies on Amazon.Â Just sayin’.)
How to get there from here
Monday October 06th 2008, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Life
After a conversation with a friend last week, I wanted to put this out there.
I was born with a gift for music.Â One day, several hours after we’d returned from a jazz concert, I asked my son Richard, who takes after me that way and who was then in middle school, to sing the start of a song we’d heard there that was totally new to him, “Bedtime for Bigfoot.”Â He nailed it.Â He not only remembered it, he had the exact right pitch from the first note.Â That’s my boy.
When I was a teenager, I was told I had a progressive hearing loss that had taken the uppermost frequencies and now was impeding my hearing speech. They had me take sign language and lipreading lessons.Â Finding out that it was all an allergic reaction to aspirin was way in the future.Â (Here.)
And I bottomed out.Â It’s hard enough being a teenager, much less an aspiring musician going deaf.Â I gradually pulled myself out of it, with much prayer and a lot of daily exercise to clear the brain, but it was a long, hard, slogging, two year process.Â My first college roommate, upon meeting me, lasted two hours before she ditched me.Â (The one I ended up with became a lifelong friend.)
I’m actually glad now that I went through all that: it taught me compassion. It taught me to keep my eyes open for people in pain.Â I can’t fix everything for everybody or even everything for anybody, and in some cases, anything at all, but I have to be my best self and try. It is important to me never to inflict any pain on any soul for any reason if I can in any way know, and to help if I can.
So I was quite interested when I read Dr. Rachel Remen recounting having counseled a fellow doctor, who was terribly depressed, to write down five things every day that surprised him.
Me, where I am now, all that part of my life being long in the past, I would say that the thing to do is to look for things to be grateful for.Â But I have come to realize that Remen was right; her patient had gone into an emotional lockdown where he was just trying to defend himself from being hurt any more.Â He wasn’t ready to fathom gratitude; he was a cancer surgeon, and he just couldn’t handle the unending sense of loss.Â He didn’t see that that loss was because he so deeply cared about his patients, whether he knew them well or not, that it represented the good side of him.
She writes of his begrudging reaction to her challenge.Â And yet, slowly, trying to dutifully fulfill her assignment, he starts to notice things. At first, it was a tumor that shrank rather than grew.Â Then came the day he had a lovely young mom in his office, where he knew how ill she was, with her small childrenÂ cuddling up shyly with her as they spoke.Â Despite the intensity of the fatigue he knew she must be going through, their hair was washed and their clothes were clean, and being with her in a strange place, they felt secure.Â And it hit him.Â He told her that clearly, her children were well loved: he saw a great strength in her.Â He told her he felt that that love would sustain her and pull her through this illness.Â She was surprised, and thanked him then, deeply moved.Â As was he.
And it had surprised him that he could see that and be that kind of a doctor to her.Â He was surprised at how much it meant to his patient.Â He was surprised that he had somehow become a doctor now whom a patient would think well of.Â He was surprised to see: he’d had it in him all along.Â It was just waiting for him to see it.
And he was grateful.
Our losses become our strengths by which we can bless others, especially with the gift of time added to them.Â They are still losses.Â Sometimes it takes a great deal of time.Â Sometimes hearing aids, in whatever form they may come, be they electronic, be they friends, be they circumstances, be they God, are necessary.
I promise you this: it is worth going through what we have to go through to get there.
Thank you so much to everybody for all your support and kind words.Â They will be monitoring Michelle’s counts carefully; she’s doing fine.Â And Richard feels good about how he did on that test.
We went!Â Gigi and Jasmin aka The Knitmore Girls and No-Blog-Rachel and I carpooled up to Santa Rosa to see Stephanie. We left early and came home late and had a blast.
Stephanie gave her talk; the bookstore sat me where I could lipread, which was wonderful, but I’m afraid I still missed far too much.Â But what I did hear was thoughtful, inspiring, insightful, and very, very funny.Â I love that one of our own got Barack Obama to hold her sock on her needles.
Stephanie announced it was time now to sign books–and then instead, came around the table and first threw her arms around me.Â Then she turned back around the table again to her seat and started, pre-boarders first.Â We hung back and visited.Â When it was my turn, she asked me to grab my book for her picture to be taken with, and I went for hers while my friends went, No, she means yours, silly!Â I’m not convinced, but either way, look what picture I got!Â I had to crop it way down to get WordPress to take it.Â Hmm.Â Given a choice between slicing her off at the forehead or slicing my book, um, yeah, I don’t think that would be the help with her hair she was talking about.
Laura came!Â She told me she always keeps spare needles and yarn at the hospital where she works, just because, well, you never know, right?Â (I see every knitter reading this nodding yes.)Â She’d recently had a patient who’d been brought in under emergency circumstances, no chance to pack, whom she was talking to–and…
…Hang on a second.Â Stephanie, in her talk, mentioned the satisfaction of knitting a particularly nice pair of socks while at the same time knowing that most of it was going to spend its life unseen inside some shoes.Â I’ve got an answer to that: Laura’s patient saw a flash of color as Laura was leaving the room, and called out after her, hoping Laura would hear. She did.
Only another knitter would have instantly realized that those were handknit socks.Â Only another knitter would have realized that that means either Laura was a knitter, or Laura was dear enough to a knitter for that level of effort and that if so, that knitter also knew Laura would appreciate them.Â (Laura had made them.)Â Only another knitter, or perhaps someone deemed worthy to be knitted for, would get how dire the patient’s need was.Â Yarn!Â Oh, please, anything, do you have any?Â Laura ran down the hall and got her size 7s and some Encore and gave her patient a promise of more in that dyelot as needed.
Now that’s my kind of medical insurance.
(Hey, Jasmin–I wasn’t really kinnearing you. I was just being a klutz as I turned off the camera, and guffawed when I saw the result.)
Santa Rosa tomorrow, Stephanie, Stitches East; my life suddenly played Fifty-Two Pickup on me in the late afternoon today, everything thrown in the air.Â I have never been so glad to hear that child of mine on the line.Â She sounded like I felt: a small voice, hesitating, “Mom??…!!”
And then we threw our arms around each other across the phone lines.
I wrote a blog draft during the two+ hours I waited to hear, two. long. hours. that were longer than being in labor, needing desperately to do something and dealing with it by addressing it sideways, talking about how, when a kid turns 18, they’re not covered under the family health insurance anymore unless they’re a full-time student, and if they get sick enough to be forced to drop out, then what the heck do you do?Â They can’t get employer-funded coverage themselves if they’re too sick to work, and even then, as grad students, once they hit 23 they are dropped from the family coverage by the insurers: yours, mine, anyone’s.Â I wrote that that’s part of why I’m voting for the man who wants to offer to all Americans the same health insurance plan that members of Congress get. Go Obama.
All that doesn’t really matter so much to me right now, and I’m debating deleting that part entirely from this post.Â No arguments, please, not today.Â All that matters to me is that my daughter was able to pick up that phone herself and call home and talk to me.Â After a few minutes, relaxing, she put on her best Monty Python imitation and joked, “I’m not dead yet!”Â And she told me how grateful she was to her brother and sister-in-law for taking care of her. I am so glad they’re at the same university.
The on-campus student health center had sent her to the hospital, fast, thinking she had a blood clot in her lungs.Â What Ruth Schooley died of.Â We have known for the past year that there was a risk of that.Â Turns out it wasn’t that; the CT scan indicated a virus inflaming her lungs.Â But there were those hours this evening where I’d gotten the simple message from my son of, I’m taking my sister to the hospital for a pulmonary embolism, more later.Â Â And all I could do was wait and pray hard.
And he had dropped everything on the spot to help her be okay, despite the fact that he’s taking the LSAT tomorrow.
Kaleidoscope Yarns in Vermont
I will be at Copperfield Books in Santa Rosa tomorrow to see Stephanie, and this time we’re not getting caught in traffic on the way.
I will be signing books, hanging out, and generally making a cheerful nuisance of myself at Kaleidoscope Yarns in Essex Junction, Vermont, on Friday, Nov. 14th, starting at 1:00 pm, and signing any copies on order as well as for those there in person.
Twenty-one years ago, after our moving van got done unloading our belongings, billing for 3333 miles for the trip from New Hampshire (a memorable number, that), the elderly retiree across the street sauntered over to introduce himself by way of saying, “I saw them taking a snow shovel off that truck.Â Whaddya think you’re gonna need THAT here for?”
He was right. It made a lousy spade for our new Californian garden, and I know because I did try it once because that’s all I had. I figured, well, if it ever does snow, I’ll rent the thing out for a hundred bucks an hour.Â Not a snowplow in hundreds of miles, I’ll make a killing.
My husband’s offer letter on the job here promised, in writing, “No home delivery of snow.”
I could get all wistful and say I miss real weather and that I’d be hoping to make snow angels for nostalgia’s sake while we’re back in New England, but you know?Â The last time I said any such thing about visiting the East Coast, my flight was the last one allowed down at Dulles airport–five minutes ahead of the tornado that likewise touched down at Dulles airport, and we skidded sideways for a moment there on the runway.
Boring weather isn’t so bad after all.
Besides.Â I wear Birkis now.Â Snow angels in Birkenstocks is just too Calif—well, now, wait a minute, this IS Vermont we’re talking about…
I’ve done a number of booksignings around here where people knew me well already and it mostly seemed an excuse for friends to come see each other, where I didn’t do the typical author read-from-the-book thing; it would have meant interrupting lots of conversations to get started and people were clearly having a fine time already, which to me is the point of any get-together.Â So we kept it informal.
Last night at Green Planet (where I utterly forgot to pull out my camera, this is an older photo), Beth introduced me and it was a more formal set-up this time. I both keenly enjoyed it and felt I rather flubbed it; I tripped over myself, forgot names, was a bit of a ditz…but I have to say that it was definitely great fun.Â With my deafness, I kind of wanted to ask Beth afterwards whether the questions asked and my answers had had connections to each other often enough.Â Heh.
Beth had draped a shawl across the back of each chair and encouraged people to try them on.Â One woman asked, when I said I’d knitted one shawl for a friend and then a duplicate for the publisher, over and over, “How do I get to be your friend?”Â I was totally charmed, and thought, well, hon, that was a real good start.Â And what was your name again?…
Except, today, don’t expect anything any too soon.Â I hit my left hand on the edge of the metal towel rack on the shower door this morning, hard.Â I’m usually pretty impervious to pain, but wow.Â The doctor told me to gently exercise my hand, demonstrating hand-moving motions, and I immediately chirped hopefully, “Knitting?” She laughed; she got it.Â She has knitters in her family.Â She allowed as how it would set back my recovery if I did too much of it, and she will call me with the x-ray results when we find out if I broke it or not.