Friday October 16th 2009, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Family

My daughter wanted to go on a shopping trip to the new Nordstrom outlet and wanted a little company; sure, why not.

We were three blocks from home heading out when I exclaimed, “I don’t have any knitting with me!”

She was dumbfounded. “How could YOU not have any knitting with you?”  I mean, were we talking about her mom here! Seriously? But it was true, I hadn’t yet started the next small throw-in-the-purse project, and there you go.

Talk about role reversal from her still-recent childhood.  I looked around at all the utterly unwearable clothes and the marked-down-to-only-$200 handbags and the like and found my inner child: I got a laugh out of finding myself wanting to whine, ‘Shel. I’m BORED.  Can we go HOOOOoooome yet?’

I wandered through the aisles. Down past all the shoes.  Imagined an overhead announcement: “Attention. There is a Lost Mom in aisle six. Will ‘Shel please report to aisle six? Again, we have a Lost Mom. Thank you.”

And then, on our way home with her at the wheel, as I was glancing over towards the Bayland marshes, suddenly a flock of pelicans appeared, fanning out in a circle in the water, fishing, brightly white against the soft colors of the water and the cattails, the water waving in small ripples before them.

And Solomon in all his glory could never be so arrayed. I’m glad I went.

Dancing for joy
Thursday October 15th 2009, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,LYS

Driving to Purlescence tonight, I caught something on the radio that surprised me and I thought I’d come home and blog about it: a Beethoven piece that I’d always heard as a very solemn piece, very introspective, even slightly mournful.

But here, instead of an orchestra, it was a single piano playing, and the pianist was–playing. He was having a good time. Matter of fact, that left hand started getting jumpy, progressing to a full-blown pogo-stick effect. Let’s dance!

It took me a moment to get past my “that’s not how you play that!” response and sit back and just listen to what the guy was doing.  And you know? It was really cool!  It was very creative. I found I liked that.

So that’s what I thought I’d be talking about, about being open to a new take on things.


At the shop.  Somehow the subject of blood donations came up; how, exactly, I didn’t hear. One woman said, Oh, I’ve been a platelet donor for some time. Then another chimed in, I do that too.

I had no idea you did that! I was exclaiming, Platelet donors saved my daughter’s life!

It was their turn to be surprised.  It all suddenly became very personal.

And then, to the one who didn’t know, I told her, And blood donors saved MY life last January, and I told her the story of the man in the hardware store. (Looking back over the January posts, I see that I didn’t mention at the time that I’d lost half my blood volume before the surgery, and they had to replace it then as well as what was used during the colectomy itself.)

Every now and then I get another chance to tell a donor thank you.  It was so cool.  SO cool.

So yeah, I had this blog post I was going to write. But life opened it up into a whole ‘nother direction. And it left me wanting to just dance for joy.

Let’s do lunch
Wednesday October 14th 2009, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

When they first put me on a chemo drug for my Crohn’s in ’03, I thought I would lose all my hair. And then I started to wonder about what hair I would have if I could buy anything I wanted–hey, this could be cool!

And thought of my friend Mona Jo, who moved away several years ago in retirement.

Mona Jo once told me, with great delight, the story of when her husband turned (was it 4o or 50? Been awhile.)  She decided it was time for him to have a midlife crisis.

So. She had short black hair; she went out and bought a blonde wig, long, too, if I remember right. Then she called her husband at work and invited to meet him for lunch.

She showed up early at the restaurant and sat down to wait for him to come in.  He came in, glanced around–no Mona Jo. The clock ticked.  Where WAS she? This was her idea, and he had to get back to work!

She watched him get antsier and antsier.  Finally she said his name softly and he jumped!  They got their table, sat down to lunch, and Mona Jo was all sweet and lovey-dovey as they ate, while, as she tells it, he was absolutely petrified. Mona JO! What are you *doing*! What if someone SEES us! They’ll think I’m stepping out on you!

Not that he was planning on it anyway, but, he never did.

In the end, I actually didn’t lose my hair on that chemo drug the six years I was on it, although I did lose a great deal of it after my flare earlier this year.  I look in the mirror and think, wow, it’ll take three years to get it back to where I want it.  Patience, patience; it’s growing.

But there’s a wig store near Purlescence, and every now and then the thought offers just a touch of temptation.

Danger danger, Will Robinson
Tuesday October 13th 2009, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Okay, that phrase dates me.  But boy does it fit: Lost In Space. I’m writing this for the sake of the million other people who own one of these in case they haven’t heard yet.

Seven years ago, my husband’s co-worker stood in line on University Avenue in Palo Alto to be one of the first when the doors opened to buy the hottest new gadget: a cell phone that actually did web browsing, email, IM, calendar and calculator functions, and even had a camera.  This was unheard of.  He brought his prize into work to show off, with the upshot that my husband stood in line the second day the thing was out, after some discussion with me, and proudly brought one home too.

“You bought that for me, didn’t you.” It was not a question.

Well, no, not really…

“You’re going back to buy one for me, aren’t you.” Still not a question.  Now, normally I don’t aspire to owning electronics, I really don’t. But a phone where someone could reach me where I didn’t have to hear it?! Honey, that was mine.

And it turned out to be a really good idea for both of us to have one, of course, because that way he could reach me from wherever he might be without having to have a computer at hand.

We went back together.  What was really amusing was when the clerk handed me the box with mine in it: there were two young adults photo’d on it, Having Fun!

It was a ‘you know you live in Silicon Valley when…’ moment. I had a few years previously sat next to the mother of one of those two at his and my daughter’s high school graduation and had told the woman what a nice kid she had.

And the reason I mention all this. Those phones are Sidekicks. We still have them. (I’m on my second, Richard’s on his third; we’ve dropped them enough times, etc etc.) T-Mobile sells them; Danger manufactures them.

One of the selling points was always that all the information on your phone, your contacts, your emails, etc etc, is sustained offsite as well as in your phone, so that if you ever lose the thing, you haven’t lost all your information, it’s right there online ready to be tapped into again.  Again, this was revolutionary at the time.

Danger sold out to Microsoft recently. Microsoft, whether as an act of deliberate sabotage or complete incompetence and indifference, did not support what it had just bought, and the end result is that all that online backup has suddenly and utterly vanished. If your phone battery dies before you recharge it, if you reboot your phone as their service people were completely wrong in advising when people first started having problems, EVER (or till further notice, as they frantically try to undo what they did)–poof: everything in your phone is gone.  All your contacts information, sorry, you don’t have it anymore. It’s gone.

My stars.  No more forgetting I’ve left my phone in my purse and not recharging it overnight. I can’t remember my own parents’ new phone number without that thing.

I guess the good part is, if we wanted I-Phones now instead, well, our contract’s been broken by them and we can leave without penalty.

But by golly I’m a bit antsy about my info. Enough to go blog about it to warn others with Sidekicks.

(Oh, and this shot is just to show that the leaves here are trying their best to turn while it’s actually Fall.)

Having one’s cake
Monday October 12th 2009, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Friends

(I stole his photo. Yes, this is a cake. You really want to embiggen this one.)

Now, I’ve enjoyed the Cakewrecks site for some time, and Jen and John, who write it, are currently on a book tour. One of their stops is supposed to be in Bethesda, Maryland, my hometown. I so wish I could go!

That tour, if you’ve been following them, recently got upended. John thought he had the flu. He went in the bathroom to barf after four hours’ sleep and, as he later wrote in the comments, he now pictures his guardian angel, sword held high, bringing it down hard on the seat parts. Jen heard him cry out, ran to him, and found him half passed out on the floor with a growing egg already on his forehead.

What do you do in a strange town?  She called a cab and took him to a local walk-in clinic, where they got dismissed–eh, the flu–but one doctor didn’t like the looks of it and came out while they were waiting for a cab back to the hotel and threatened to call an ambulance.

The upshot is, because of that head injury, the ER took the guy seriously. And it turned out it wasn’t the head injury that was making him having a hard time staying conscious like that, and it wasn’t just the flu, and it wasn’t just the pneumonia he actually had, it was a blood infection that landed him in the ICU for days, lucky to be alive, lucky not to have lost any limbs.

And they paid serious attention to him in the ER and caught it in time only because they were worried about that head injury.

Thus his mental image of that guardian angel. As she went back and forth between the hospital, the tour appearance, the hotel, and the hospital again, Jen describes her tears at having a cab driver surprise her by knowing her situation and telling her that the drivers in town were all praying for her husband.

John is now out of the hospital and they are getting back into that tour. And that’s their story.

Meantime, and the reason I mention all this, is, I got a note from LauraN that quite surprised me. Now, Laura’s an old friend whose cousin married my sister, and she was roommates in college with Richard’s cousin, so we call each other cousins-in-law in great delight.  What I didn’t know, was…

Well. Cakewrecks posts funny pictures of professional cake goofs, but on Sundays they post what they feel is the best of the best out there, the most delightful, the most intricate, the most creative cakes.  If you go here, at the end of the post is a cake Jen describes as “my absolute favorite” that day.

Now go here and you’ll find it on the second page, but don’t miss the pear balancer on the first page, which is MY absolute favorite. And for which the baker won a well-deserved blue ribbon.

That baker is LauraN’s brother.

Small blogworld.  And very, very cool.  Well done, Bill!

Leaf Erickson explorers
Sunday October 11th 2009, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

(The lighter areas on the towhee are flash artifacts.)

LynnM says that that order of Superballs would be enough for all the employees at the Pentagon, but that they probably don’t play at work like that.

I told her, of course not; those would be weapons of mass distraction.

Meantime, I got a nice dose of October in the mail yesterday, a surprise from Margo Lynn: the best of the bright red autumn leaves around her in Connecticut, with just the slightest touch of dampness to them (perfect!) as I pulled them out of the package, thundery storms and blustery days and all the color the trees celebrate the season with all right there in my delighted hands.  Very thoughtful and very cool, thank you, Margo Lynn.

I wanted to see the reaction of the locals to this cultural event.  It took a moment. The patio didn’t look quite right, or maybe it was that Feederfiller/Godzilla hanging around with that camera.

The towhee checked things out first and decided to play leapfrog over the offerings to get at its dinner.  The black squirrel thought about it but hung back along the fence a moment, thinking things looked suspicious; a few minutes later, though, there he was, sniffing out each leaf one by one.  It went back to the long, narrow leaf, the first one it had gone to, and took a few thoughtful bites before deciding no, it didn’t want to eat its veggies after all.  Back to the sunflower seeds. It nosed around and under the bright maple leaves, while the mourning doves looked on and debated.

Watching them awhile, I didn’t get any knitting done…  Code Red!  Alert the Pentagon!

A ball-anced life
Saturday October 10th 2009, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Slinkys and Lanafactrix’s comment reminded me of someone my husband worked with when we first moved here, back when our children were quite little.

Call the co-worker Tim.

Tim put a quarter in a gumball machine on a whim in some random grocery store–do any of them still have such things on the premises?–wanting to buy a superball just like the ones he’d gotten as a kid those times when his mom had given in. A nostalgic impulse.

Turn the knob.

No dice.

Turn again. Nope.  Dang. The thing had ripped off his quarter.

Well, hey, that’s no good.  While trying to figure out the thing and if there were still some way to make it work, he noticed the very fine print at the bottom of the machine: if you have any problems please call 1-800-xxx-xxxx.

So he did. Turns out it was the number for ordering more superballs for refills. Hey! Cool! What’s the minimum order?

A gross gross.  144 balls to a bag, 144 bags.


So next thing you know, some co-worker is typing away, engrossed (sorry) in their work, and Tim leaps into their office and yells, “Bouncy bounce!”  ripping open one of those bags, arms held high. Superballs!  Then in the next guy’s office.

Their then-employer was trying to be Silicon Valley-er than thou, with a pool table for break times and a yoga instructor coming in: Ohmmmmm… Playtime was taken very seriously.  It feeds one’s creative juices around other electronically-creative types, good for the employees, good for business.

There was a three-story indoor atrium in that building.  Look out below…!  Superball!  Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

As long as they were careful, management pretended not to know about that last part.

Bouncy bounce!

A slinking ship
Friday October 09th 2009, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,LYS,Wildlife

At Purlescence I reached back towards some of the baby alpaca on the sale table behind me and got caught wincing. I admitted I’d had a recent near fall and someone had grabbed me on my way over and had saved me. I’m glad they did, but my shoulder’s been begrudging it.

“You need to come with airbags,” one knitter opined about my balance issues.

I hesitated just long enough to almost have some sense of propriety before I opened my mouth and went straight for it and answered her, “I do, now.”

So.  ‘Hem.  Meantime.  I read somewhere that a Slinky toy on a birdfeeder pole will send the squirrels and their ex-seed-ing greed back down to earth.  Curious.  That could be entertaining, along the lines of the kid I saw trying to run up the then-World’s Longest Escalator (the downward side, of course) at the Montreal World’s Fair, Expo ’67.  I was in third grade at the time and stunned, stuck between being awed at his having gotten halfway up–IF he’d started running at the bottom, good and honest–and the idiocy of the idea. I remember looking up at whichever parent was closest and half-asking if I could try that or was it as dumb as it looked.

They quickly affirmed it would be stupid.  And don’t.  I think they could just picture all six of their offspring suddenly taking off trying to beat each other going the wrong way through a crowd unhappy at being pushed at long narrow heights, and somehow that idea just didn’t appeal.

Dunno if they make Slinkys wide enough for my awning poles, but, hey.  I thought it would be worth checking out; we were going to Target anyway.

Ever try to find a low-tech toy these days?

Online later, I did find them. And variations, including–now wait a moment.  I’m assuming someone placed a special order and that they had to make so many and now they’re just trying to sell off the rest of the stock.  (Tell me this isn’t in their normal line!)  How about: 14k gold-plated. Slinkys!

This is so begging for CEO jokes.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around and around and around and…but I think it’s flipping out.  Can you just picture it? A golden pawshake for the high-fliers.

Shepherd’s is milling it over
Thursday October 08th 2009, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

The good news is, the shawl came out worth every second of the ripping back and of the not knowing; I am very, very happy with it. It’s hard to believe I got that kind of length and width out of 82g worth of laceweight. (Anybody need a little extra white Fino for theirs?…)

The bad part, of course, is that I can’t show it yet.  All in good time.

And now that the lacy days of summer are over, I went looking for what to do next. After all, what’s the worsted thing that could happen, right?

I had a project in mind, and found, as I looked through my stash today, that I’ve been knitting so much lace for so long that I hadn’t noticed I was virtually out of any heavier weights.  It’s not that the wool had DK’d… It just got a little loopy.

Shepherd’s Wool puts out a new-to-me merino so soft one could go in-skein, and Purlescence tonight helped get me all wound up about it.

Nice stuff.  I am going to have a ball with it.

Shawl or vaporware?
Wednesday October 07th 2009, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Knit

He came home from work tonight, looked at the work in my hands as I was finally casting off, and proclaimed, “A cloud!” Have I mentioned I love that man?

Over dinner last night, I had explained to Richard why I had knit a few scarves while having a shawl in progress, something I normally avoid: I’d had a new design idea, had tried it out, and…

…Ripped it out, he added helpfully.

Yup. Back to the yoke. (Swatch? When you’re so sure it’ll be perfect?)

So when the scarves were done, there was nothing for it but to dive back into that shawl with a new new idea (Swatch? What is this word, swatch?) and simply see, again, how it  would work out.  I threw in yet another tangent as I went along, writing down each change exactly so, hoping not to be drawing thick black lines through those instructions later.

In the blob, it looks good this time.


Amazing how I managed to finally get those two scarves blocked tonight, isn’t it!

Brick-a-doom: plays once every 100 years
Tuesday October 06th 2009, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Okay, so it’s not much of a brick.  I remember when I lifted it to put on top of the tomato netting my moment of surprise at the thing’s being quite lightweight–but still, it seemed to do an okay job of helping fence off my now-fading plants.

I first noticed the squirrel gnawing on it yesterday. Today it was at it again, and I noticed it had managed to move the thing over a bit, though it still couldn’t squeeze under the netting.

Rodents by definition have teeth that never stop growing, so they have to chew to keep them from growing right through their heads, but it seemed to actually be eating the darn thing. I watched it swallow, looking thoughtful. Yum? Tastes like chicken?

A brick?! Okay, well, beats chewing on the fence or the awning poles, I guess, for my purposes, anyway. No de-fence-iveness allowed, no pole-emics.

Maybe it’s trying to tell me my sun-drying tomatoes need a little calcium in the dish.  Maybe it’s just being bright-eyed and Bush-y-tailed: “Brick it on!”

Or maybe it’s just trying to collect some brick-a-brac for its collection.

Maybe the truth is, it just couldn’t make it as a Rolling Stone and a Slipped Brick was the closest it could come. I could maybe see it odd-itch-oning  (fleas!) if it were a chipmunk off the old block, but squirrels should strive for higher a-chew-ve-mints.

Hamster bald
Monday October 05th 2009, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Knit

So I needed to knit me up some autumn.  Calm burgundy over there…no. Didn’t want a leaves-turning-brown effect, I wanted bright red maples and blue blue skies! With a little bit of climbing blooming Californian bougainvillea thrown in–I love those flowers.

Looking around, I found some of Lisa Souza’s Mardi Gras merino kicking around and my Fibersphere to keep the yarn from running around, and hamster-balling it, I was off and away.

Liquid gold
Sunday October 04th 2009, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Recipes

“Oh, Mom, I haven’t had caramel sauce in six years!”

Not since her serious dairy allergy had surfaced. About time, then!  Okay, so this is what I did: for normal caramel sauce you mix one cup sugar with a half cup water. Stir on stove till it starts to boil; immediately stop stirring or you risk granules in your sauce.  Some will probably form on the sides of your pan; ignore them.  Watch carefully on medium or lower for, oh, five, maybe ten minutes-ish, depending on your temp and pot thickness, till the syrup starts to change color from clear to beginning to be golden.  If your stove is like mine, it’ll turn slightly on one side first, in which case, pick the pot just slightly up and swish it gently around. (No spoons in there yet!)

It will turn darker fairly quickly, again depending on the temperature, and how dark you let it get determines how intense a flavor you’ll get.  Do *not* let yourself be distracted at all during the turning, or I will have to tell you of a notable burning-pot episode that–well, maybe I won’t.

So then you turn off the stove and–wait, read this whole paragraph first!–pour in 8 oz of heavy cream, and if you use nonfat milk instead I promise not to tell but I guarantee nothing; stir fast with a long wooden spoon while angling your hand away so it’s not right above the hot steam erupting in there. Trust me on that one.

Thickens when cooled. Unless you go all non-fat on us like that.

I did two batches. One with the last of the manufacturing cream. The second, I poured in a 6-and-something-oz container of coconut cream from Whole Foods to find out if both that ingredient and the size it came in would work.

We had our friends Nina of Ann Arbor Shawl fame and her family over for dinner Friday night.   I have to tell you: more of that caramel coconut got devoured on that ice cream than the regular sauce.  It was good stuff.

The best part of it was seeing something much enjoyed but long denied now given back to my daughter. At last.  And it was so easy to do.

(Note re the picture: the sauce isn’t separated, just eaten.)

Olive with that
Saturday October 03rd 2009, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The last two years, we did a sideways migration and flew East for the fall, just enough of a pattern to make me wistful lately.  It’s been a long year and a good one for taking it easy, but I’ve missed my annual trek home.

I think the towhees (great pictures there, although the first two are darker than what we get) sum it up nicely for the season: Eastern towhees are splotches of bright colors. Californian towhees, however, are the ultimate drab brown bird, a little plump, their wings a little droopy, with no more color than a dry October hillside being watched cautiously by the fire stations before the rainy season starts up.

Autumn just doesn’t quite have the same visual punch of leaves turning across the hillsides en masse here.

And yet.  Where else on earth would I get to watch a small baby black squirrel trying to bury his cache for the winter in the ground–and it’s an olive?

That’ll teach me
Friday October 02nd 2009, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Spinning

A little bit of greed, a little bit of guilt, a lot of good done anyway. (Random ball of thick handspun dog fur to illustrate it now.)

It was years ago, but a chance conversation last night on my way out of Purlescence reminded me of it.

My audiologist‘s then-receptionist saw me knitting one time, waiting for my appointment, and struck up a conversation with me.  She was a weaver, she told me, although it had been awhile since she’d done anything. But she’d been really wanting to get back into it.

And what was inspiring her, what she really wished for, was some way of getting the fleeces from her four pet alpacas spun somehow so she could weave their fur into blankets.

Okay, you know she had me all ears at that point! I did tell her there were mills that would process the fleeces into roving for handspinning, and I could bring her my Spinoff magazine and show her their ads, but all the way into yarn? That service, I wasn’t sure where to find.


So, with a little trepidation on probably both our parts, we struck a deal: she would give me the fleeces, I would spin them up on my wheel, and I would give her half the resulting yarn.  Seemed fair.

Let me tell you.  Four alpacas? That is a whole lot of fluff.

The result would be a bit rustic–I didn’t have the energy nor the strength to card that kind of volume with my little hand cards, not by a long shot. Fine.

I could only guess what she was envisioning it coming out looking like, so I spun up the first skein from the black and drove down to the office to show it to her to get her reaction–because if she didn’t like it, I was going to hand the whole lot back to her and tell her she needed to find another way to get this done.  Soft and lofty, not fine, is how my wheel was going to produce it.

“Oh,” (and she exclaimed the animal’s name, which I do not remember.) “Look at this!” She held it against her face, she petted it, she stroked it, she told me about her pet that black came from, she was just absolutely thrilled.  It really could be made into yarn! This really could happen!

To me, touching those fibers had left me thinking, this is closer to llama than alpaca; clearly, her animals weren’t babies anymore. I realized, as I left, that there was no way any yarn I could make from her beloved animals was going to mean anything to me like it would mean to her.  She certainly wasn’t going to care about the micron count!

But I did.  If I spun up half for her, agreement or no agreement, the rest would sit around my house, taking up space and accusing me of my own selfishness.  I had other fibers waiting their turn at the wheel that were softer and finer, and I knew I would never get around to using hers.

It took me a month. I allocated an hour of kids-at-school time a day to it, while keeping my knitting projects going for my own sense of gratification at doing what I enjoyed doing.

Pick up a wad of fiber. Pick out the really short random bits where the shearer had hit the hair twice. Fluff it out, don’t get annoyed at wadded-up half-felted parts, spin spin spin.

Spin spin spin.

Spin spin spin.

Absolutely endless.

And I confessed to John-the-audiologist afterwards, I actually did keep one little bit of golden fleece for me, about two ounces’ worth. The very best, the very softest, I was selfish and kept it for all my work.

I felt terrible about that later.  It would have meant so much more to her than me. (I don’t think she ever knew anyway, but still. I cheated myself out of that one last bit of thrill.)

When I at last hauled a large black trashbag full of yarn to John’s office, it turned out she wasn’t there that day. I explained the whole thing to him, and he promised to get it to her.

What I didn’t know was this:

She was in the middle of a terrible, messy divorce.

Oh, poor woman! I asked John, will she be able to keep her alpacas when they get done dividing the property?

He didn’t know. He didn’t think it was working out that way from what he knew.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I never saw nor heard from her again.  She had a terribly long commute, and I guess it got to be too much and her job changed along with the rest of her upended life.  But I was assured she did get her yarn.

And I was so very glad I had given her the whole of it. Almost.  It’s a little thing, but I will always regret that one little bit held back. Those two ounces taught me a lot.

(Added later: she might well not have had any address to send a thank you to, especially at the upended time of life that must have been.   I should have passed on saying I hadn’t heard from her.  To me, the point was, I learned I should put my all into doing something for somebody because you never know what they may be going through, and it feels better by far to give of oneself whole-heartedly anyway.