Quaking in our boots
Tuesday March 31st 2009, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Family

imgp7372Mom was wondering how stuff had magically appeared on her cosmetics travel bag in the bathroom.

Her first earthquake. And we didn’t even feel it, although Richard did at work. Granted, we much prefer quakes when they only reach entertainment level, and this one had created a mystery for her: where did this old contact case come from? How did this small packet get here? Why would her daughter have put them there?

A Goldilocks quake:  this one was just right.

The other California experience I wanted Mom to have before she flies home tomorrow was a trip downtown to Coupa Cafe.

So I took her there last week.   I wanted her to have the best hot chocolate anywhere ever.   I had all these associations with the place, so many positive memories: of Sam bringing the wondrous stuff home to surprise me with while out with her friends, of Richard and me enjoying a good tall mug’s worth on a cold evening in that beautiful old building.  Of the incredible Coupa dessert he and Sam bought me that was so rich it took me two days to eat it.  The photograph of a lush hilly greenness going across the wall of the rainforest farm where the owners’ beans come from.

When Mom and I walked in, the first person we saw was Sam’s old high school French teacher, who immediately asked me how she was doing these days.  I love this town.

imgp7358Mom confirmed that that hot chocolate was really quite good.  But I got the distinct impression she could just as happily have been sipping away anywhere else as well; what she was enjoying was how much I was enjoying taking her there.  And being with me.

For a moment I felt just slightly let down, and then I inwardly guffawed at myself: well, of COURSE!  She’s your MOTHER!  What did you *expect*?  Or want, fer cryin’ out loud, woman.

I’m half tempted to try out her suggestion that we could create a similar mug’s worth if we were willing to put straight half-and-half in our morning cocoa.

But watch out for the aftershocks and keep away from the scales in the bathroom if you do.

Earth Hours
Monday March 30th 2009, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Politics

imgp7336(Taken through the skylight.)

I haven’t mentioned the outcome before over here, but back in September–you know, back when the economy seemed okay, back when we didn’t have thousands in medical bills and co-pays, etc–we decided to go for an old and very large dream of ours: we signed the papers. We were going solar.  Bigtime.  (Now if the car companies would only fall in line so we can charge a car from the house.  Can’t afford a Tesla…)solar panels

And then we had to wait for our panels to be manufactured.  Others who had tax breaks elsewhere with a January 1 deadline got theirs ahead of us, and we were okay with that.  But finally we got word that our panels were ready to be delivered and installed.

…The week I got home after nearly three weeks in the hospital with my total-colectomy surgery.  With all those skylights, dead center in one bathroom and above the sink of the other (but with a strategic door at least). Oh joy. Hi guys.

The owner of the company, who knew, told each of his workers they had to knock on the door and ask permission each day before doing anything or making any noise up there, that they were not to interfere in my recovering.  I was quite surprised.  And each day, they got told thank you for asking, and hey, go right ahead.  Work progressed nicely.  (I wanted it OVER with!)

It was worth every moment.

My cousin Dan and his family who came over last night–turns out they got the same panels a year ahead of ours.   Cool.

Now, this being California in a drought, if only we could do the same produce-your-own with water.  Suppose we could build a pipeline and help out those folks in Fargo?

Double amaryllis
Sunday March 29th 2009, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

Dancing Queen amaryllisMy second Dancing Queen of the season has opened up.

Company coming.  My cousin and his family. The chocolate torte is ready (recipe in the comments.)   Happy Sunday!

New needles
Saturday March 28th 2009, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

Lisa Souza's Mardi Gras

Yarn: Lisa Souza‘s Mardi Gras in merino, a gift from my Purlescence friends’ gift basket when I was so ill in January. Now I finally get to play with it.  My Carlsbad Scarf is a good pattern for showing off a busy colorway.

Thursday evening I ran off by myself to the once-a-month South Bay Knitters’ meeting at Green Planet Yarn down in Campbell.

Where half the room burst into clapping when I walked in, and the other half had no idea why I hadn’t been there since October.  I explained.  I got quite a few hugs, and Beth, the store owner, couldn’t get over how good I looked–the best she’d ever seen me, she said.

But I didn’t buy her rosewood needles over there that were calling to me.  I was trying to be frugal. (We won’t mention that silk cashmere  that did come home.)

Now, the last time that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was in northern California, Jasmin and (formerly) no-blog Rachel (go see her new dress!) and I road-tripped together to see her. I took my knitting project and a backup, just in case; it was going to be a long day.

The bag with that backup had in it my pair of Holz and Stein rosewood size 5.5 mm (US 9) I’d used for all the size 9 projects in my book.  It was a particularly beautiful pair of needles, made from the leftover wood from making musical instruments,  a needle not sold in the US anymore, and that particular pair had been much loved for many years.

And I never saw it again.

It still hurts.

Lantern Moon DestinysThere was a pair of Destiny rosewood size 8s from Vietnam at Green Planet.  They had a beautiful grain, but the tips and joins weren’t quite what I’m used to.  And they just weren’t Holz and Stein.  As if I could ever replace that one pair anyway.  I passed on the idea.

Coming home, it having been a long and very busy day, I found myself suddenly almost doubling over in pain and nausea–only for about ten seconds, but it was a complete throwback that told me to definitely take it easy.

So of course today, feeling well and having an hour to myself, because I could and in reaction to that episode, WHILE I could, (after all, you never know), I ran back to that shop to buy those needles.  I did like the grain.  I’m going to at least give them a try.

Where Beth again couldn’t get over just how very well I looked.  And you know?  I realized on my way home, it’s a comfort to be told that.  Her delight may have been the biggest reason of all why I decided to try out her needles and made the trip back down there.  Because now I will always associate them with her caring.

De-scruffing socks
Friday March 27th 2009, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

It’s pretty much a tie.

Appleblossom amaryllis under skylight

The one inside is an Appleblossom amaryllis.  Behind the outdoor one is a Dancing Queen getting ready for her Ginger Rogers number.Appleblossom amaryllis

Meantime, as an experiment today, I threw a microfiber cleaning cloth in the laundry with a pair of wool socks I once bought: they were supposedly machine washable, but I found that every bit of available lint in the load glued onto those socks like burrs from the first time through.

I wondered if that small cloth would do anything.   Worth a try.

The socks came out nearly free of all that had plagued them, aside from a few leftover pills.  The difference was pretty incredible.  So now having experimented with commercial socks first, I know it’s okay to put those cloths in with the handknit ones, and since it was so successful, I thought I’d mention the idea.  Most sock yarns wouldn’t need it, but I did once knit a pair of socks that had the same problem. (Okay, I’m waiting for Don to come up with some variation of his “Squaw burr-y Shortcake” pun.)imgp7295

Meantime, the view out an upper window. It snowed a foot yesterday where my brother lives in Colorado; here, we’re snowing Bradford Pear petals.

Spring sprints
Thursday March 26th 2009, 6:05 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,My Garden

imgp7275It’s a race, and the outside amaryllis is winning by about half a day.


But the azalea laughed and opened this afternoon and beat them both.imgp7285

Peeking outside the box
Wednesday March 25th 2009, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,My Garden

imgp72601The first picture is of a money plant, so called for how the seedpods look like a silver dollar; I sowed some inside that planter box 15 years ago, never again, and to this day there are a few upstarts. This year they’re growing on the outside of the box, just to be cute. I guess I got my money compounded with being interesting over the years.

Meantime.  Someone my husband works with stopped by last night, and I was all prepared: I’d found the perfect one.  Plastic pot–no ring of white growing on clay.  Needed watering–no damp spots on the floor of his car.  The stalk just starting–no top-heavy tipping over while he would be taking it home.

imgp7249We showed him the huge dark red amaryllis in the kitchen so he could see what this plant in this pot I was offering him was all about. Then the Hercules amaryllis in the living room. I told him I thought his was red but I wasn’t sure; it should bloom in about two weeks.

“I’ll stop by your house more often!” he grinned.  And he took it home in great delight, eager to show his family.

Tuesday March 24th 2009, 2:13 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Translation from yesterday for the hearing-impaired-impaired: “Would you like that warmed up with a little sour cream?”

Wombat was more fun.  Here’s a good link to lots of information about these down-to-earth koala relatives.  They are marsupials, but have the characteristic of rodents in that their teeth grow all their lives.

And a little onion
Monday March 23rd 2009, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

By the way, Sue, if you read this, my oldest goes by her nickname Sam on my blog, in case you read back a bit.

Sam happened to call Sunday night, and I told her I’d seen Sue.  Sam told me what I’d already written here, because it was so true, that Sue had held everybody and everything together during Theron’s illness; she would dearly like to see her again herself sometime.

I’m all ready to spring for her plane ticket from Vermont.

Meantime.  Being hearing impaired can be entertaining.

My mom is an excellent cook, as are my daughters; it skipped a generation, but meantime, Mom’s here and it’s fun to have her playing in the kitchen–and to her it is playing, like I play with yarn. Always a new idea or ingredient or recipe to try out.

Which is how I parroted back to her the phrase I’d heard tonight:  “Would you like that wombat with sour cream?”

I think every good punster needs a hearing impairment to help keep their skills up, don’t you?

Banding together
Sunday March 22nd 2009, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

When my oldest was in high school, a dozen years or so ago, there was a young band and orchestra teacher, Theron Pritchettimgp7246, in his second year there.  His enthusiasm for music and his love for his students was such that his classroom quickly became the place to be, and the number of kids signing up soared.

Then he found out he had cancer. When he said they’d taken a 15-lb tumor out of his stomach, everybody went, Where?  I mean, the guy was tall and thin to begin with, but afterward it was like his shirt could blow right through him in the wind.  Fifteen pounds!

But it was apparently self-contained, they were very sure they’d gotten it all, and he was relieved to be back at work with his kids.  Mine absolutely adored him.  He was a good one.

I was sitting in my daughter’s next concert at school when an unexpected mental image came to me. I’d been spinning some 90’s (Bradford count) merino.  Now,  I didn’t know at the time how rare it was to even find a wool that fine to spin.  Where I got it no longer has it.  It was seriously soft stuff–the micron count was finer than cashmere. I had a baby blanket in mind to make with it, but as I sat watching Theron conduct and the kids play up on that stage, I pictured a different project entirely and I absolutely knew that what that wool was for was for making him an afghan to wish him well with. To try to convey how important he was to all the parents in the high school music community as well as the kids.

I did a fair bit more spinning, two-ply skein after two-ply skein.  I wished fiercely that I knew how to knit lace.  Had it been a few years in the future…  I could picture exactly how I could have used lace leaf patterns and a faggoting stitch for a trunk to knit the idea of a Tree of Life, but at the time, it was simply beyond me.  That fervent wish later helped propel me to sit down, books and needles in hand, and start to make myself finally work through and learn what I’d needed to know then.  My first attempt at one repeat of Dutch Elm Leaves, in Theron’s memory, took me over an hour to do across 15 stitches with two mistakes I couldn’t figure out how to fix.

And look at me now.  But this story isn’t about me.

So, instead, for his afghan, I sketched out what I had in mind and knit up that tree in a combination of knit and purl stitches gansey style.  When I got done, you could see it if you saw it in light that let the purl stitches shadow across just a bit; otherwise, it was just a white blanket, but very nice.

I don’t have a picture of it. What I really wish is that I had a picture of Theron with it.  He loved it and was fairly blown away; and then the thoroughly delightful exclamation of disbelief I knew was coming: “You SPUN the YARN?!!”

Memory says that band enrollment tripled and that that was when the school hired a second teacher to help handle the load.  Who was Sue.  Whom I got to see last night at the concert.

Shortly after she arrived at the school, I spun and knitted her a scarf–triangle and in angora, if I remember correctly.

Theron was there when I gave it to her.  She was totally thrilled and stunned.  I got to watch the grin on his face as she exclaimed the exact same words he had, “You SPUN the YARN?!!”  He told her about his afghan in great delight.imgp7256

Then the day word came he’d relapsed; it was hard.  And yet I want to say: my daughter marveled to me at the time at how the kids across the high school came together, how they stopped judging each other the way teenagers do but simply saw each other as fellow travelers.  Life is short; treat each other well.  Theron had a positive influence far beyond what he knew as the kids reached out to each other in their grief.

Sue was one of the small group of friends who played a deeply moving rendition of  “Amazing Grace” at his funeral.

Where I met Theron’s partner and introduced myself as the one who’d knit his afghan. He told me Theron had asked for it and had kept it on the bed with him his last week.  I loved that.  I loved thinking that the love I had tried to knit into it had comforted him.  That comforted me.

I am so glad I got to see Sue last night.  I am so glad we went!

Peninsula Symphony
Saturday March 21st 2009, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Life

I should write about this tomorrow when it’s not so late and I’m more coherent, but… I didn’t think I was up to going to hear the Peninsula Symphony play tonight, so I tried to give away the tickets Don had given me.  Didn’t work.  I figured well, then, maybe that means there’s a reason I should go other than the fact that I would certainly enjoy the music.  And Mom, who’s a musician, wanted to go, and I wanted to take good care of her like she’s been taking good care of me.  So hey.  She and I went.

My kids had a band teacher in high school they adored, and it turns out she plays in that symphony.   I managed to snag her afterwards and catch up a little; it was so good to see her.  It’s been way too long. I am so glad I got to go and that nobody else accepted my offer of those tickets!

Which is kind of a different take on it than earlier today, isn’t it?  Good people make everything worthwhile.

And Don? Thank you for those. I pictured Amalie applauding and wished you could have heard it all too.  There was a tuba concerto and a bassoon concerto, and the players were clearly having the time of their lives; bravo!

Then again, maybe not
Friday March 20th 2009, 8:27 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Someone I was talking to sparked the memory of a would-be recipient of my knitting, a good while ago.

This was not long after I’d started spinning my own yarn but well before I figured out how to knit lace. I splurged on a closeout and spun up some angora, little bunny fibers flying all around me as the wheel turned.  Achoo!  (A side note: I was curious, having been taught that adding twist to create yarn means adding friction to the fiber to hold it together–and the answer is yes, you can spin enough twist into angora to make it feel as harsh as burlap.  Don’t.)

Other than the burlap bit, I spun it into a fine two-ply, enough to fill an Ashford bobbin to the max; then I knit it  into a simple triangle shawl.  Or rather, more a large scarf, done thus: cast on three, knit (or purl, as the case may be) into the front and back of the last stitch of each row till the thing is the size you want.  Use small yarn and big needles for a faux-lace look.  Tadaah.  Take a small hair elastic, crochet tightly all around it in the same yarn to completely cover the elastic, and run it up the long ends of the triangle to hold the thing on and in place in the front.

So. I was wearing it while we were out and about.  Fluffy, soft, simple, not fancy; I was quite proud of it.

And an old woman I barely knew saw it.  She announced I was going to make her one too. She was going to pay me. Twenty-five dollars. That was a lot of money, you know! When could I have it done by?

I managed to recover from my astonishment without bursting out laughing.  *I* knew it was handspun and the time involved, and knowing that pure angora at retail cost a dollar per GRAM in store-bought yarn…

She was adamant and would not be dissuaded. I offered to teach her how to knit.  She already knew how; didn’t want to.  Twenty-five dollars. That was a lot of money, you know.  When could I have it done by?

Waiiiit, waiiiiiiiiit, whoa…

We managed to progress to her offering me the (I could just picture old scratchy acrylic from the 60’s) aged gold yarn in her closet to knit it with. I reiterated my offer to help her knit it herself.

She did finally give up after she made it clear that I was impoverishing myself and really missing out. Twenty-five dollars. That was a lot of money, you know!

Part of me kind of wished–still wishes–that I had it in me to be generous enough to surprise her with her own scarf, and in angora, too; that was one person who I knew would like the thing if I did.  If only.  If only she’d shown the least humility. But she just didn’t have it in her.

And neither did I.

Back up!
Thursday March 19th 2009, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Knit,LYS

That’s both an exclamation of delight and a note to self.  Mardi Gras from Lisa Souza

Meantime, I was knitting something subdued and quiet and…suddenly I felt like, color. I need color! I put the one project aside and grabbed the Lisa Souza’s Mardi Gras merino that had come in the get-well basket from my Purlescence knit-night friends in January.  I’ve started it in the Carlsbad scarf, a simple pattern that is good for showing off an extravagant color display like this.

This is the yarn that, while I was in the hospital, I kept thinking how good it would look on that day’s nurse. Then the next one. And the next one.Hercules Amaryllis

There’s enough yarn for two scarves, and it’s a total toss-up where they’ll land, but at least this one will go to Stanford Hospital.

(Meantime, this Hercules amaryllis opened today, one of the bulbs Dad gave me this past Christmas.)

Status (From the web master)
Thursday March 19th 2009, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Alison’s health is not the problem right now, but our ADSL provider, Speakeasy.net,  is the problem.  They are  dropping a large percentage of all the packets coming to or from our house.  They are not willing to acknowledge the problem, but with this current level of service she can not get to any webpage, or email server.

Fixing requires them to first acknowledge that there is a problem.  We are still stuck at admitting the problem exists.

The blog is not affected, just her access to it.

Julia? That you?
Tuesday March 17th 2009, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit,Life

opened todayI’ve had the experience before of knitting something, giving it away, and then totally forgetting later that I’d made it.  I’ve found projects stashed away I’d forgotten starting, I’ve seen people wearing scarves that answered my inner question as to whether I’d knitted for them yet–oh, right, right, that yarn, I remember that.  Maybe not what I made with it or just who it went to, but the yarn, yes, I almost always remember working with whatever yarn when I see it.

But this one really threw me.  Some of the women at church were throwing a mystery-dinner party tonight, and Christina showed up wearing a gorgeous open-front circular shawl, borrowed from someone else for her costume. She didn’t know who’d knitted it and had just assumed I probably had.

whatever these areI was stunned. There’s no way I could have made that in that colorway and not remember it, but that was definitely my pattern.

Turns out that someone I didn’t know was now a knitter and that I didn’t remember they’d bought my book, if I knew, had made a sweeping, gorgeous Julia shawl from it.  And I’d had no idea.

But I couldn’t be absolutely sure it wasn’t something from my own needles till I’d eyeballed its yarn up close: that sealed it. Nope, I’ve never knit with that one. That’s someone else’s knitting.

Christina was trying to wrap her mind around the fact that I had to see the yarn to know that, at the same time I was wrapping mine around the covert knitter who didn’t tell me she’d succombed to my addiction.  It was pretty funny.