Chan’s cap
Saturday May 14th 2011, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Now she has it–now I can say it.

My friend Chan, whom I’ve not yet met in person–we tried last time I was back East but we didn’t quite pull it off–listened to me agonizing over knitting that cotton chemo cap I made for the in-law who does not wish to be named (there are two, actually, and their diagnoses were three days apart; it was not a fun week. Only one wanted a cap.) It was so terribly slow in the making–my hands could only handle a few rows a day. Cotton just has no give to it.

Chan made the trek to her not-close yarn store after carefully asking me about colors and came home with some very soft cotton yarn. No, she would not let me pay her back for it. Yes, she was determined she was going to do this, for a woman she’d never heard of before. (And isn’t that just the coolest construction?)

I got an email this morning from the recipient, exclaiming over her new hat, saying it fits well, saying how perfect it is as their weather has been getting hot, and saying that she believes that knitters are loving people.

My words are terribly inadequate but they’re what I’ve got: thank you, Chan. Thank you for being  in this life thing together with us. We feel very blessed.

Spring is in their steps
Friday May 13th 2011, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,LYS,Wildlife

The baby peregrines at City Hall have discovered that it’s fun to sit on the lower ledge and watch the world go by, and now they’ve started flapping their wings up there, not willing to just sit and stare anymore.  Their white fluffy down is almost gone. They’re not quite ready to fly, but it is possible to get caught up and over by a burst of wind doing that–it happened a few years ago.

Somehow, though, (watching one step around his brother by holding onto the outer edge) birds just don’t seem to be very afraid of heights.

Meantime, my friend Karen of the Water Turtles shawl fame (OOP but Purlescence has copies) was told by her neighbor that a small bunny had been eating the neighbor’s flowers and then had gone into Karen’s yard to hide.

She went out to see, and there it was. Smaller than her fist. It froze when she came near, letting her get it into a box; she released it by a pond and grassy area nearby.

Knitter’s notes re the falcon-colored hats: needles size US 5, loose gauge, 68 stitches, 2×2 rib, one entire skein each very soft Di.v’e Autunno merino wool bought at Purlescence.

Definitely okay
Thursday May 12th 2011, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS

Funco the Jinch/hybrid stopped by again several times today. Cute little bird! Energetic and spunky and fun to watch: there is no fear in him, only the necessary prudence.

Meantime, Michelle from the other room heard a Rubbermaid box thwacking against the door of the closet as it tumbled down at me and called out, Are you okay, Mom?

I was just starting: going through boxes, taking out yarns, assessing yarns, you stay, you go, you maybe, I debated, I consulted. Old plans vs new.  Not quiiiiite the right shade… If I haven’t been inspired enough to use it or overdye it in how long and it still doesn’t call to me? Well then? (Being able to buy yarn in person at the store has its definite advantages over online sometimes.)

And yet. A cone of 35/35/30 cashmere/silk/merino from got hanked and scoured in hot soapy water in happy anticipation–their yarn with all the mill oils still in is a lot of extra work but the price had been sufficient inducement to get past that. Definitely. I’ve used it before; it is luminously soft. Dry, dry! I want to play!

Some cashmere/merino that I’d plied years ago on my wheel from infinitely thin up to a workable yarn finally hit its reality check: I was still never going to use this one. Wrong color and too dark to overdye–it’s going where it needs to, out.

I was in hyper-busy mode without an actual project to make me sit down and hold still and catch my breath. Organize, choose… Hamsterball time, where you can’t make yourself stop running and bumping into things.

I needed my knit night. I took two balls of yarn and two pairs of needles and decided I’d let them duke it out once I got there–I still hadn’t granted myself time to think out what I was actually going to start making right now today.

It was so nice to just sit down at Purlescence and decompress. For once, the group was very small; it was easy to hear. Perfect.

The Dive’. Their soft merino won, because there was only enough of it to knit it simply while I listened. A hat is in progress. The fingers did the walking while the knitters did the talking.

And hey, there’s one last cone of that 35/35/30. Don’t look at the clock, I could go hank it up right now… (Stop!)

Not all the hybrids around here are Priuses
Wednesday May 11th 2011, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Wait, what on earth was…? (Consulted Sibley, Google.) I tried several times to get its picture and failed.

Remember my male junco/female house finch couple last year? Turns out they do occasionally mate and rear hybrid offspring.

There’s nothing else it could have been. Curious.  Given that it was molting a bit but only on one side, I’m assuming it’s a yearling from that coupling last year.

I saw it come in three times today. It was small, like its father; it stayed on the ground and never flew up to the feeder, again like the junco.  It was bolder than either parent’s species, perfectly willing to scoot under the wooden box for the bit of food I put under there for the wrens in the mornings so that they don’t get bullied away by the bigger birds, a place where normally only the wrens go . There was room for it to stand upright, too, just barely, and the towhees and finches never do more than a nervous reach and grab with their beaks while standing as far outside as they can manage.

But this one, having been different from the others on the patio from its first moment, didn’t mind doing the job properly of taking care of life, even if it meant thinking underside the box. The best food is worth the effort!  It danced out a moment later with its prize, then hopped back in fearlessly for more. Cool.

What would you name such a bird?

Meantime, the Malabrigo Rios watchcap in a dark Solis colorway is done; it took 46 g of the 100g skein. On to the next project!

Full speed ahead!
Tuesday May 10th 2011, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Finished that project, blocked it, wound a hank of Malabrigo, went looking for my other size 5s for it…

And found the second pair in a UFO.

Abandoned projects are often handy things when you want knitted gifts fast. I looked it over, saw what had stopped me, figured out a work-around, and an hour later, bam! Done! New FO!

That one had just needed a little motivation, is all.  Wish I could do everything that fast.  (Casting on…)

On the second skein now
Monday May 09th 2011, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

So many people to knit for all the sudden. Two weeks. No idea re favorite colors. The result today was my spending way too much time dithering: this yarn? (Digging through bins.) No, this? Started to wind one–no, that won’t do, not soft enough. My friend Robin sympathized with the dilemma and I guess that’s all I really needed: some other knitter who knew well what it was like.

And with that I grabbed the odd skein of royal baby alpaca that I’d knit two congresswomen’s hats out of , declined to be bored with it, and started in on it, figuring red was good for a lot of people and supersoft was great for pretty much everybody.

No way will I be able to do all that I want to do in the time that I have, but I’m far happier doing what I can do.

And Michelle at last saw a raptor above the house today. My camera zoomed outside.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Sunday May 08th 2011, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Kids called home.

We remembered that we were kids, too, and called our parents–and our daughter-in-law, to thank her for being such a good mom. We video-chatted baby noises and I love you’s at Parker.

A hummingbird hovered outside the kitchen in the afternoon, seeing the red and pink roses on the table and trying to figure out how to get through the glass, wanting its Mother’s Day feast–so close.  Too far.

I discovered, over at the Washington Post, the ospreys’ pictures: DC and the Park Service had begun to build a bridge for a nature trailway over the railroad tracks near the Anacostia River.

High? Isolated? Above the river? Perfect! And so the crane operators came to work one day to find a nest of those fish-eaters at the top (that’s an awfully straight stick, is that a piece of rebar in its talons incoming?) and there it will be till the young have fledged. That delights me no end, that they were trying to make nature more accessible and nature got in the way by making itself more accessible.

Meantime, Michelle greeted me with hot chocolate with extra chocolate melted in, first thing in the morning; later, she cooked the dinner. She called her father for help with the veggies and he came chop-chop. She made a blueberry and raspberry tart from scratch.

I’d told them not to buy me any presents, though, because I already had a really big one.

Two of my sisters said they were going to fly across the country to celebrate our dad’s 85th birthday in a few weeks–it would be a few days early, but you do what you can when you can, one arriving from Atlanta, the other from New York City.

Then our sister who lives near Seattle said she was coming, too, then.

Then our brother in New Jersey.

We’ve been close but far too far for far too long. And so now I’m coming too. I can’t wait!

Hawk eyes
Saturday May 07th 2011, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

All these times I’d talked about my hawks and Richard had never seen them.

I was in the kitchen making my hot cocoa this morning when I heard a loud thump. Richard called out to me from the family room. What, dear–Oh!

His voice and my sudden appearing didn’t scare it away: there was the male Cooper’s, standing on the wooden box looking in the window straight at us.

It’s been clear to me for some time that not only do those hawks know precisely where the windows are and that they cannot go through them, but also that smaller birds can be panicked into trying to. Hey! No talons to deal with, no beaks fighting back, just put in your order at the drive-through and go on over to the pick-up window.

Except this prey hadn’t started off from the usual spot and he was going, Which window? I can’t believe I lost it! I know it’s around here somewhere, I heard it…

And so there was my inquisitive male again, hopping down from the box and exploring the L-shaped patio around where the doves usually go.

He hopped past the table. He went around the birdseed can. Over to the left a little, and peered around the earthquake-supplies can.  He didn’t mind that I’d come across the room to follow him, and he looked back at me as if to shrug his wings: I know it’s here–where IS it?!

He again didn’t spook (his mate would have) as I turned sideways across the room and got up on the couch and looked: there it is! Feet up.

And so I pointed at his waiting mourned morning dove on the far side of the box and looked back at the hawk.

Well now. Hmm. He couldn’t see around that thing. He hesitated just a moment and then half-fluttered half-walked over to where I was pointing.

So *there* it is! Breakfast! ‘Kthanksbye, and he grabbed it fast and flew off to the fence with it pulled up so close that I could not see from right there that it was two birds exiting, stage left (the dove was well past knowing). He put it down on the top board up there and started plucking.

And darn if a large gray squirrel didn’t start cautiously coming in close to watch: if that hawk lost its prey for a second that squirrel was going to go for it. They need protein for their young, too, but they don’t like to mess with actually killing something that could attack them back, that’s the hawk’s job. The squirrel got to about six feet nearly straight above with just enough sideways for the leap, tense, watching.

Another hawk flew overhead, I assume the female Cooper’s sneaking a peak at the day-before-Mother’s-Day buffet about to come in.  Hope he doesn’t forget the maple syrup or eat all the pancakes.

A pillowcase-worth of feathers floating in the air, and finally the hawk had had enough squirrellyness and removed all temptation, off to bring the now-ready breakfast to the waiting mother of his eyases. Raise the wings high and flap, Jack.

“It was quite spectacular,” said Richard later.

Lightening strikes
Friday May 06th 2011, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Life

Wait, what? It can’t be that late. It was light outside only just a few minutes ago!

(p.s. I want the dark wood one, fourth picture down. I’d need a second story for it, but eh, details.)

(p.p.s. Since I posted that they replaced the photos with links to the photos–sorry about that!)

Dry humor
Thursday May 05th 2011, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS

Laceweight (the darker turquoise blue) dries fast. This is a good thing.

I finished at 1:00 pm. Spun the shawl out in the washer (no spraying water) to speed it up, laid it out, about two hours later set out another white sheet and picked the shawl back up and laid it out over there now so the first, now damp sheet wouldn’t slow down the process. A hair dryer was tried and given up on.

They laughed tonight when I added, “So I didn’t turn on the air conditioning on a hot day to speed up the process.”

The lace pattern is a play on the recipient’s name, and since she enjoys the occasional bit of bird news, it looks to me like a flock of birds in flight.

When I was desperately ill two years ago, the folks at Purlescence gifted me with two skeins of Mooi buffalo blend as a mind-blowingly-nice get-well wish in that basket they delivered to our doorstep, full of other things too from various knitting friends pitching in to the cause. Being able to sit up and knit again was a dream at the time, but I have to tell you, it really did give me something to hold onto and look forward to: I couldn’t let them down. And that Mooi was such soft stuff.  What I would make with it someday, I did not know yet, but I knew I would.

One of the Purlescence women was in the hospital last week. You know I finally knew exactly who that yarn was meant to be for all this time–it had just needed the right time.

Delivered. Done. She loved it. YES!

Wiggled out of that problem
Wednesday May 04th 2011, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Knit

This link courtesy of LynnM: who knew that Prince Harry, handknit fingerpuppets style, would think to plan against a small royal meltdown? (I wonder if the growly-faced one wanted one too.)

(Let’s see, do I cast off here or do I do two more inches on this shawl. Graceful long length vs the practicality of not snagging it on everything, and it’s laceweight but fairly wide so that factors in too. I think it does need another pattern repeat. Hmm.)

In other words, if I dither over it some more than I don’t have to stay up tonight doing that cast-off.

City Hall fight, part two
Tuesday May 03rd 2011, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Politics

Okay, so here’s the long story.

Compared to some, it wouldn’t have been the biggest nor the densest, but it was so in the wrong place.

I had some friends visiting from out of state last Fall, who, driving around in their rental car, had to ask me this question a little later: why is it that California is full of the weirdness of dense developments in the middle of the strangest places?

And one of the answers is that California’s reaction to air pollution, traffic, etc, was to threaten and fine cities that had too many jobs relative to the amount of housing if they didn’t comply with the order to try to fix that. Didn’t matter if people took the Caltrain or BART or whatever commuter trains from where they could not only more easily afford to live but might prefer to live for being able to have more space–like my husband’s co-worker, who has a guard llama for his horses and… Yeah. In the city, not so much on the guard llamas.

So our fair town’s reaction to that was to open a loophole in their Comprehensive Plan (overused and now closed, I found out last night) to allow office buildings to theoretically be torn down for multi-family housing as long as it wasn’t near single-story homes, which is what most of the housing in the city is. The downturn came, a whole swath of those office buildings came down, and developers made a fortune. All of it at our end of town.

The kicker is this: from what I heard last night, by state law you could not consider the impact on schools when debating building that housing.

I have no doubt who wrote *that* law.

Meantime, back in the ’70s, you had a perfect storm of Baby Boomers no longer being in all those schools that had been built for them and the passage of Proposition 13, which gutted school budgets across the state. Many school properties were sold off to developers.

The school-age population has been rising, even in the unchanged properties as the older generation has been moving on, just like everywhere else.

You see where this is going?

The elementary playground that my kids used to run around on during recess not at all long ago is now, I’m told, having multi-story classroom space plunked on top–and I thought a few modular classrooms in front of the redwoods were bad our last few years there. To quote Cat Stevens, “But tell me, where do the children play?”

Next to our street is a business with a large field behind it, immediately next to a school that was closed but the building still used by the district. I believe that was their old field.

Anyway, the owner of that business is retiring and he wants to cash in bigtime. The would-be developer of the man’s two-plus acres told the neighbors with a straight face that the 26, then 23 houses they were going to build there after we argued, were going to have zero impact on the schools. We guffawed; their rep was immovable on that point–and I wondered what it must be like to have a job that required you to check your integrity at the door.

The school district badly wanted and needs that land but could not match the (undisclosed) price.

The main artery alongside our neighborhood is near a fairly-new Caltrain stop in the next town.  Which is why that town has been redeveloping, with plans for something close to 2,000 new housing units overall a half mile to a mile away from us. And remember our own new housing units on the other side.

It’s getting a little crowded.

There’s more than that, even, like the already-inadequate sewer line that the City had put 30 years out on its schedule for fixing. Our part of town has been being shafted, bigtime. And the only way out of our side of the neighborhood is past that business and straight to what has to be one of the most dangerous intersections in the city.

To her credit, one of the council members drove it to see what the fuss was about and went yowza!

The one great thing in our favor was that that speculative bid was based on the hope that the city would rezone for it. And, traffic concerns aside, the proposal on the table included very little parking and a danger in terms of firetrucks trying to squeeze through the narrow proposed street because you know cars would be lining both sides of it.

The developer threatened the city with a lawsuit if their proposal weren’t passed. Now we’re talking playground bully.

The neighborhood association just north of our small one showed up organized and in force. They did an environmental impact study to a degree the city had not (as far as I could hear), pursuing facts the developer did not want mentioned. They had a powerpoint presentation and a stack of papers to be read off. Each person was only allowed three minutes to speak before the city council, so when their time was up, they would put their finger on the spot on the page and the next person would take it right from there, a relay team fighting our battle alongside us.

When the first resident to speak asked all the residents who opposed the rezoning of our area to allow for that redevelopment, I was one of about 30 who stood. Many who could not be there that night had already emailed the council. Not a one spoke in favor, and online likewise as far as I know.

My hearing stinks, I had a cold, I didn’t dare try to get up to speak when I was just missing too much information to do a good job of it–but they did a good job and I made a darn good guard llama. That I could do. Sitting through hours of meeting and standing together with the others to be counted. Our participation mattered. I’m glad I went.

Those horses did not get past that barn door.

You CAN fight at City Hall!
Monday May 02nd 2011, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Politics

It’s 11:30 pm, I just walked in the door, our issue was the last of the evening, every single member of the city council had to speechify and boy could some of them speechify, and my stars, it just went on and on and on.

And it was worth every minute it took–we literally stood up for ourselves and demanded, visually at least, to be counted. There were a lot of us.

I turned to the neighbors who’d been sitting next to me as dozens of us streamed out the doors at the end and said, “There are some times in my life where I really really hate being deaf. Usually I can handle it. This was one of them”–and I thanked them for filling me in at a few key spots.

I went in totally expecting our side to lose. The voting was unanimous.  We won!

More later. I’m still not over this cold. Time to go crash.

We’ve waited so long. Justice.
Sunday May 01st 2011, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Politics

Boy, was THIS not the post I expected to write tonight!

My brother was on the subway. He called our parents to say he was okay and they at first didn’t know why he wouldn’t be; “Turn on the TV,” Mom and Dad.

My sister-in-law had many students who lost their parents.

My cousin, not far from there, saw the first plane, thought it a terrible accident, went to the top of his building to watch, saw the second come in, and with his colleagues walked the long, long walk home.

My son saw the gaping hole in the Pentagon.

The Washington Post showed a live feed of the White House, and in view was a man in baggy, faded jeans and Cancun t-shirt checking out the sound system, talking intermittently to someone out of view. This went on for awhile till someone apparently realized they were live, at which point the picture cut out and a loud emergency-broadcast-system-type squeal substituted for the sound.

Uh, no. I switched to CNN.

A fair bit later than when the Post had guessed it might start, the President strode up to the podium and began. Waiting for it, I knitted out my nervous energy at full tilt, picturing the man who in his youth had debated trying to become a professional writer now somewhere back there behind the scenes, writing the speech he knew would reverberate through generations to come and societies throughout the world–knowing how important every word was, the consequences of a misspoken one, how solemn the occasion, how important.

The Leader of the Free World has spoken.

Well done, sir. And to our troops too: well done. And thank you.


Ed. to add Monday night: It is a solemn and a somber time. I just wish I had the humility of my friend Lyn S, whose instant reaction was to pray for his lost soul. And it is never right to be gleeful at the death of another.

But I do have such a profound sense of relief: at last the personal face of evil can of himself cause no more harm to any living thing.