Ruth and Margeret
Saturday April 14th 2012, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,LYS

Ruth and her friend Margaret drove two hours each way from beyond Sacramento to come here for a visit, something we had long hoped and planned for. Ruth is the friend who gave me her treadmill. (Here–read way down in the comments for the huge surprise she gave me at the end of the post, and then here. I’ve used it very nearly every day since.)

The moment I laid eyes on Margaret I exclaimed, Oh of course! I’d met her many times at Stitches West over the years with Ruth. Ruth brought me dark chocolate, Margaret gifted me with some Avon goodies, lovely of both of them and the start of a wonderful day.

After chatting, knitting (well, they did, my projects were both ones that command attention), and lunch with Richard joining in, we went off to Purlescence.

There was a table set up for people to offer up stash yarn they didn’t want and for others to take it. I’d had no idea.

Ruth found two skeins of a lovely heathered gray and asked me, wondering, Aren’t these handspun?

Sure looked like it to me. I told her I thought it looked like it had some silk in there, too.

She hadn’t known and she hadn’t brought anything and she left them there. But they were soft and quite pretty and she kept wishing and going back to them.

There were plenty of people in the store but nobody took them, so at last, when it was time for us to go, she picked them up again.

I asked Sandi if she knew who had spun those. Her face lit up and she said that she had, about ten years ago, that they were merino and silk and had just sat there in her stash unused. She wanted them to go to someone who would actually create something with them.

Oh, I’ll knit it! Ruth assured her, clearly thrilled.

So now it wasn’t just nice yarn, it was a gift from the heart from Sandi, and as I mentioned to Ruth later, those two skeins had sat there all day and nobody else had claimed them. (And I knew several people in there who would have loved the colorway.) This was for you all along.

We got back to my house, I opened my freezer, and they headed towards home with a chocolate torte and a blue-ice pack in Ruth’s insulated bag that she just happened to have in her car. I’d been telling her for two years that if she ever came to my house I was going to give her a torte.

And I sent her home with a box of Kara coconut cream, which for me is available locally, so that she could experiment with it for her friend, who, like our younger daughter, is allergic to dairy. A box of that and dark chocolate gets you a good ganache; the larger box, you’ve got enought to make my chocolate torte recipe, which makes two. The coconut cream substitutes straight across for extra-heavy cream and it can sit on a shelf.

Unless someone really enthusiastic about it gets their hands on it and uses it all up.

The violinist
Friday April 13th 2012, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

Karen Bentley Pollick and the Albany Consort played in the Bing Series at Stanford Hospital today.  She lives on the East Coast now and it was rare and good to see her again. And the music!

I could have laughed out loud for joy at the first piece: they had no way to know that WMAL, I think it was, would play that piece to announce that it was time for the 5:00 news; my mom and I would be on our way home from my piano lessons. I had them twice a week. Those violins to me mean me learning music–and spending time with my mom with no competition from siblings. When I got old enough to drive myself, I missed that one-on-one (after Kathy moved away).

The one thing that had had me holding my breath over going today, though, was that the walk from the parking lot at noon is not lupus-friendly. I said a prayer of, I know there are a lot of people worse off than me around here… but if…

And so it was that one of the few handicapped spots next to the door was open. I motioned to an elderly driver to take it but he instead pulled ahead and parked illegally right at the door and ran in.

Nobody in view coming up behind, which is very rare there. Huh. I guess I can’t feel guilty. And so, very gratefully, I got to go enjoy with only having to take a few steps in the sunlight. That helped more than I can say.

Ran home, grabbed a really fast bite, back out the door and to the endocrinologist. (Underground parking.) That Reclast infusion I had a few months ago? “I’ve never seen this, I’ve never even *heard* of this!” The followup tests showed it had done absolutely nothing. My bones are still melting:  hips, 29% in four years. I asked if it were a new autoimmune manifestation? He just shook his head; too soon to know why on earth.

Came home, grabbed a small bite again, answered my email. Saw a small raptor buzz through the porch so fast that I had no idea what it was, then I was back out the door yet again.

My friend Johnna was having a birthday: her first as a single mom, her marriage having recently been yanked out from under her with her house about to be too.

An email circulated a few days ago and the plan was made. A bunch of us took her out to dinner together tonight, good food, good friends, good times made.

She loved my hat. I asked her re colors. She told me. I think I may still have some Malabrigo in that, and now I know something I can do.

Karen, meantime, got a piano hat; I haven’t figured out yet how to do violin hats.

(p.s. Purlescence has a new supply of copies of Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls. Just sayin’.)

Well so I guess I will
Thursday April 12th 2012, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Knit

Took it easy today. Didn’t go to a couple of places I’d planned on; I put my feet up and got some serious knitting done.

If I were making that silk shawl for me (um…)  it would just need casting off.

It keeps telling me it wants to be longer. I put it down and started on the next project while it argued, with me going, but then, who? I know that women who are larger than me need more length, but…

It needs to be longer. It’s been steadily louder as I’ve gotten towards this stopping point; clearly, I am not in charge here.

Well okay then. But for the pattern to look right I have 13 rows to go, then, and a full day’s worth of work.

And then it will be perfect!

Well, we know which one’s next
Wednesday April 11th 2012, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

Paraphrasing there.

An intense day: a noon lupus meeting–and I couldn’t find a place to park without a lot of sun time.  Which I cannot risk. After driving all the way over there, I simply had to bag it.

Which was okay–I was going to have to leave early anyway, because I got an email last night that a friend needed a ride to her eye doctor three towns away. Dilate and wait, rush hour traffic coming back.


I had promised to bring dinner to someone else at six.

I drove her, I waited, I knitted, I dropped her off at home, I went straight to Costco. It was past 5:30 when I got out of there with a rotisserie chicken and enough extras to keep them happy, apologizing for the lack of creative input thereto. Done.

Sat down finally at home with some Costco pizza, my first meal in seven hours and all I could do at that point–sorry for not waiting, Richard–and collapsed into a chair at last.

And saw the bottom half of a hawk swooping past the very top of the window.

Nobody on the bird feeders, sorry; my pepperoni’s too salty and really not what you’d like. I walked out of the room. Back a few minutes later, in time to see what I at first thought were falling olive leaves and then realized were feathers. Somewhere the Cooper’s had found its favorite, a dove.

But wait. Trees. Angle. Distance. Wind? How were they falling exactly there?

I wasn’t the only one who was fascinated. A young black squirrel on the patio didn’t run for cover, didn’t duck under the picnic table at the last second and hide on the chair legs like I saw one do last year–it loped over to the center of the grass and then stood on its hind legs, stretching upwards, sniffing as far as its nose could reach, staring, clearly, at the hawk. (My view up there was hampered by the awning.)

I remembered the one last year that liked to taunt the Cooper’s and how predictably that eventually turned out.

Then this one took off up the tree to get an even closer look.


Didn’t your momma ever teach you not to get in a tree with strangers?

Good as gold
Tuesday April 10th 2012, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

The first fledgling of Spring landed on my patio today: a baby goldfinch, very small, with a strikingly short tail (so far) and able to flutter to the ground for fallen sunflowers, but not even trying landing on those birdfeeder perches up there yet. Especially with that crowd around it.

What delighted me all the more was two house finches, usually an argumentative group and usually fighting for the highest spot up there, down with the little one, acting like they were showing the young cousin around to make sure she got enough to eat.

And more silk
Monday April 09th 2012, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

A few more Parker pictures…

I finished the first cone of the dk Colourmart silk and got two stitches into the next row with the next and stopped. Tinked that little bit back and walked over to the kitchen scale, curious.

I had bought two 150 g cones. Now that I could measure one empty piece of cardboard, I could subtract that from the other to see how much yarn was actually on the second cone.

One hundred seventy grams. Thirty-six for the cone, 206g altogether. And I remember the other as having been 206 too before I started. That means I got 40g more than they charged me for. Someone else mentioned something about that on Ravelry, and the owner just smiled and said she liked happy customers.

They posted a lot of new colors today. Said the happy customer.

News flash: three peregrine falcon eyases hatched at San Jose City Hall’s 18th floor on Easter Sunday with the fourth trying as hard as it could to join them, a big hole visible at the top of its egg. By morning today it was being fed with its new siblings by mama Clara.

And a new season begins.

Behold the lily of the field
Sunday April 08th 2012, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The doorbell rang yesterday afternoon.

It was a man holding out a blooming Easter lily in a beautiful basket with a white ribbon tied just so, with a card: “Happy Easter, Grandma and Grandpa, love, Parker!”

And its perfume is exquisite, too. Our great thanks.

We got a second surprise today at church: Shane and Stacy were in town with their kids. They moved away 13 years ago and the then-teenage son came with his wife to show her off. He did very well–and so did she. I am very happy for them.

Shane and Stacy are the ones who, before they moved, told me I had to read this book I’d never heard of, and when the next week or so I had not sought it out yet, they told me no, you really do, you *have* to read this: “Kitchen Table Wisdom,” by Rachel Remen.

I did; it made me think. It comforted me. As a doctor and patient both, she gets to the heart of what it means to be human, and when a nurse saw me with it in Stanford Hospital three years ago, she smiled, nodding, “Oh yes. THAT one. I love her books!”

I read Dr. Remen’s second, “My Grandfather’s Blessings,” as soon as it came out. Bought my dad a copy. He read it and immediately bought six more to give away.

And I met her once at a booksigning.

As we spoke, I referred to one of her stories and told her briefly of a friend and why this story was exactly what this friend needed to comfort her in a profound and unexpected grief. To know that someone else out there somewhere knew what what she was going through was like, when I could only offer my unknowing best–I had prayed and felt strongly that this was the right thing to do, only now I needed to pray to know…

And Dr. Remen, eyes to my eyes, said in unison with me, “When.”

Months later that time came.  It was just right, as I knew it would be. It was a profound blessing to us both and has been ever since.

And none of that would ever have happened had these good friends not told me of Dr. Remen’s writing, and I will forever be grateful they did. And that they lovingly nudged me some more till I knew why.

I reread them every year or two to remind me what kind of person I want to be when I grow up.

And to take the time to pause and enjoy the lilies while they bloom. And then care for them so they will again, year after year to come.

And all was well
Saturday April 07th 2012, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

More Parker at the zoo photos.

First the knitting story, then the knitter story.

I have this silk shawl I’ve been working on. I’ve put a ton of time into it and it only needs a few more days. Note that the needles are 3.5mm, US4s–quite small.

And to accommodate that, I changed the neck a lot from some of my earlier work.

There was this nagging feeling that kept telling me, as it grew steadily, slowly longer, that, you know, you might want to doublecheck that beginning edge, because if the V-neck goes down to your belly button…

So any number of times, hampered by the length of the circ, I stretched and measured it every way I could think of–except one.

Today it finally got to me. I have often told people to rinse their lace still on the needles, let it dry overnight, and then it will show you how it will look when it grows up.

I didn’t want to wait that long, and for the length of the rows I was knitting it would have taken two circular needles to do it anyway.

So. I went hunting for another #4 and for needle stoppers. Found two; needed four; used rubber bands as a makeshift and hoped they would be wide enough. I knew there was a great risk of ruining days’ worth of work, especially given how loosely I knit–the stitches could slip right over those and off. Maybe. But I needed to know.

And so I knitted halfway across the next row and carefully to a point where there were no yarnovers, only smaller stitches, switched to the new circular, attached a needle stopper to the end of the first and continued on across while trying not to snag the silk with the stopper; then at the end of the row I added rubber bands and the other stopper, making both circs endless and hoping they would hold.

The moment of truth.

I carried it all carefully to the bathroom. Put the cone down. Wished for Richard to hold the two points at the center just to be sure–but he was napping.

Well, then. And I put that shawl carefully over my shoulders–great, I snagged it on my hair clip, I should have remembered to take that out first, but mercifully they came back apart without grief. The covered brown needle tip hung down on one side, the green the other.

And then I looked at the shawl itself shining back at me.

You know that feeling when it seems like you’re knitting the most glorious thing you ever knitted in your life?

And the shawl was perfect. Generously sized to fit others well, too.

Story of the day number two:

It was Easter Eve and everybody was doing last minute grocery shopping at the same time.

I was at Trader Joe’s, where the lines tend to be close together, and after I got checked out I said to the next clerk over, a tall young man, “Did you knit your hat?”

“YES!” he exclaimed in great delight that someone had noticed! It was plain stockinette in a heathered gray, the ends curling slightly, with three or four decrease lines at the top. (Being a lot shorter than he was, the number was a guess.)

The woman he was checking out said the yarn looked so soft. Notice: not hat. Yarn. And their conversation was off and running and I was out and away.

I was so glad I took the risk. The whole place got happy.

I wish a blessed Easter and Passover to all who observe them, and joy to all.

Make its day
Friday April 06th 2012, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

With a few tiger pictures for Lene among the others, courtesy of Kim, Richard and Parker.

A bird day here.

Everybody scatters, even the squirrels, when a jay flies in; they have long sharp beaks and bossy tempers and they’re happy to use them. I’ve seen them threaten a cowed squirrel, hopping after it, neck outstretched. Like their cousins the crows, they will steal and eat the young out of other birds’ nests.

I have endangered Bewick’s wrens. Find another yard. Although, the hawks’ presence does seem to have encouraged the jays to nest further away these days.

One flew in to the wooden box yesterday.

Not your suet. Scram.

It came back and I opened the door and it veered off. And again (as I stood there, curious). And again, like a game of hide and seek.

I did not expect what happened next: a fight among the leaves as it attacked a towhee in a tree, and suddenly the towhee fell straight down to the ground.

I don’t know if the robin-size bird was defending its nest or just itself, but to me it was a shock–birds just don’t go that direction that way.

Stunned, it couldn’t believe it either–and then it picked itself up and flew for freedom. Oh good.

What was clearly that same towhee showed up a few hours later, to that wooden box, where its favorite was: the suet cake crumbles. Maybe the jay attacked it out of jealousy: it has seen who’s allowed where.

But the brown bird was clearly hurt. It was trying to scoot on its belly and one foot, using the other only if it really really had to, and when it flew it looked a little tilted and I thought, well, that one’s hawkmeat, poor thing.

It came back today. It was trying its foot out gingerly from time to time, actually using it a little. Hop? A little lopsided, but doable.

A few hours later, it looked even better.

Cool. I wish I could heal that much that fast. Plucky little thing.

And then suddenly another towhee flew in.

The first immediately planted both feet flat on the box and started doing the I am a studly puffball! routine of Spring, pouffing its feathers, wiggling its wings and craving attention.

Okay, I guess I don’t have to worry about that one so much.

And then in the afternoon it was the doves’ time to put on a show. Mourning doves produce young pretty much all year round in our climate, a food factory for the predators, and one was small, I’m guessing barely fledged.

And yet it bossed the other two larger ones that showed up with it. They played leapfrog twice to scramble away from it.

Triumphant, it sat down on the narrow wooden plank separating two blocks of the patio floor, surveying its domain, and then after awhile simply blending in with the concrete.

It didn’t notice or didn’t know enough to note that the squirrel had gone. The birdfeeders were empty. Nobody was there but one very young mourning dove, claiming the world as far as it could see.

I knew what that means even if it didn’t. I looked around, hoping to see it–and then suddenly felt I was getting in the way of dinner.  After all, the female’s pretty shy.

Oh, okay.

And so I went off out of sight to the other end of the house for a few minutes and came back.

The bossy little dove was gone.

Soft little dove feathers decorated the top of the box and below it.

And the peaceable towhees lived to tell of the one that got away.

Look, Mom! Is that the Three Billy Goats Gruff!
Thursday April 05th 2012, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

One of my earliest memories is from the summer I was three. We were driving across the country, and a cable snapped and wrapped around an axle: we were on the freeway doing 70 when suddenly one wheel wasn’t turning. We spun out–Mom remembers we missed a gasoline tanker by inches, I just remember going airborne and bouncing around and around the far back–and down we went, over an embankment.

I remember being mad at my daddy. What was he doing?! I didn’t LIKE it!

This was long before carseats, or even seatbelts other than in the front.

My older siblings remember that there was a petting zoo at the bottom of that embankment and that we got to pet the animals while waiting for help on the car, the owner taking us in on the spot. This was an unexpected fun adventure, a lot more fun than sitting in some dumb old car forever.

Meantime, the truck driver had found a farmhouse and pulled over to call the police, saying a family had just died back there.

Actually, not so much, but the help was much appreciated.

B a a a a a a ah! Petpetpet.

I wish I remember that part. But I’m glad I got started on appreciating fiber animals at a tender age–and Mom was always knitting on car trips. Go Mom! I love these pictures of Parker discovering wool on the hoof, too; maybe he’ll be a spinner some day. Here, have some lion mane to cement the deal.

Car car c-a-r, stick your head in the jelly jar
Wednesday April 04th 2012, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Now, if you ask someone to open up and tell you all about their childhoods, they’d likely go uhbuhduhbuhduhbuduhhhh…

Narrow it down. One of my sisters emailed all of us siblings out of the blue today and asked for memories of the cars we had growing up–particularly the limo.

My folks once needed a new car that could haul six kids on long trips and handle a camping trailer as well. Guess what car, in Washington DC in 1972, was cheaper than a new station wagon? And in the days of shoddy auto work, was designed not to break down?

Yup.  Dad bought a three-year-old used embassy limousine. (Link is to Scott’s strawberry pie story.)

There was the time Mom, turning right at a blind intersection, stopped a school bus that had lost its brakes on a steep hill. Just a dent to the limo. The thing was nineteen feet long and a tank.

The irony is that my brother once was stopped and someone roaring up behind rear-ended him so hard that the nose of their (MG, he thinks it was) went right underneath, all but totalling their brand new car. The guy got out ripping mad, screaming that it was all my brother’s fault.

Um, hello?

The cop admitted that he could write the guy a ticket, and certainly would–except that the MG guy would just rip it up in front of them.

The guy worked for an embassy.  Diplomatic plates. Defense de parler au chauffeur. (That was a sign one of us bought for Dad one year to hang on the back of his headrest.)

And when I mention shoddy auto work, from back before the Big Three had competition: my uncle once bought a brand new station wagon that, the first time he raised the hood, one corner near the windshield simply crumpled. As Walter Cronkite used to say, And that’s the way it was.

When he moved away from the DC area, he sold it to my folks.

Years later, I decided I wanted to drive it to college. Mom thought this was a really bad idea but didn’t tell me I couldn’t. She did (clearly) set an older sister from a family we were close to on me to tell me how much her college life had revolved around working to pay for car repairs and how much she regretted buying hers; a $200 VW bug was anything but $200, and college learning kind of dropped by the wayside, missing the point of why she was at school.

So. The wagon needed a lot of work and Mom wanted an estimate on it (probably to tell me sorry, couldn’t be done). I still had some hopes. We were going to leave it at the service station across the next town. I was driving the other car, Mom was following in the old battered battleaxe–and that hood suddenly twisted upwards and hit the windshield!

We finally pulled into the gas station. Mom asked where we should put it.

The guy looks at it, looks at her, looks at it in a long slow wondering stare and answered, What do you want ME to do with THAT, lady?!

I should add that that was after it had sat in the driveway unopened undriven for two weeks and someone had left their wet bathing suit in it. In July. In 100+ degrees, 100% humidity, windows rolled up.

I had scrubbed and scrubbed in anticipation of being able to have a car… Because not only did it stink worse than rotten eggs, the seatbelts were a thick fuzz of inch-high poofy white tendrils.

I did not know before that mildew could do that.

I still thought it was salvageable.

I don’t think anyone ever drove that car again.

Because every boy needs a dog
Tuesday April 03rd 2012, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Wildlife

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a plane! It’s a bird!

A pair of double-crested cormorants, as far as my friend Sibley and I could make out. I can only wonder why they were flying away from the Bay. Taking a vacation to the ocean?

Got 3200 stitches knitted in silk while avoiding working on the taxes. Finally put down the knitting, picked up the TurboTax, and made good progress.

Blog time! (Escape!)

So, to cut to the chase: Parker, letting Disney know they’re down to 100 Dalmations now: one went Up!

The possum couldn’t get a second date
Monday April 02nd 2012, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

New Parker pictures! (Don’t miss the captions.)

Curious after yesterday’s patio incursion, I learned more about opossums today. It says there that they stay in one place for two or three days, then move on. That they keep the roof rat population in check and we’re fortunate to have them. Seeing one in the afternoon in Spring means a pregnant female looking for extra food.

I would add, if the shed smells of possum then it would continue the eviction notice on the rat that scuttered into there a week ago.

The last time I saw our only marsupial species was when I was having a palm tree taken out, years ago. It was not a friendly tree to have around kids; the long fronds bent low to the ground and were sharp as a sewing needle–one of my kids had to go to the plastic surgeon after falling into one.

Having it cut down is how we found out that for years we could have hauled out a ladder and picked fresh dates and had had no idea. They were at the crown, hidden behind the orangey mossy-looking stuff at the top of the fronds.

But a momma possum knew, and she was fit to be tied at the sounds of the saws and the presence of people. Babies clinging, their tails writhing, she stomped off (and on them, they were pretty big) across the yard, climbed the fence at the far end, got to a three-way intersection, picked the yard that had the most fruit trees and dove out of sight.

Meantime, I’m back to the Colourmart silk project. It’s shimmery, it’s gorgeous, and the pattern on this fourth iteration is what I was steadily discovering and working towards all along. There’s a great sense of success. It’s hard to put down.

Well, they do live in trees. I wanted an owl.
Sunday April 01st 2012, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Finished a lace scarf in sheared unharmed mink, started another while listening to General Conference. Sunday knitting is give-away knitting.

The sessions ended.

Looked up.

What the heck was *that*?! Beige-gray scruffy behind and a lizard tail. I should have known–it just so took me by surprise. ‘Tain’t no cat.

It lifted its snout out of my metal cup of water that a chickadee had bathed in just a little earlier and grimaced back at me.

Opossums are ugly enough, but this one beat all. Its head was way outsized for its body, and I’ve seen possums before–I doublechecked that impression when it came back later, and yes, its head really was enormous for its species. Its tail and part of its feet are of the same structure as crocodile claws (scute! Shoo!) and as soon as I opened the door and clapped my hands for it to go away, it bared its teeth at me.

This is the land equivalent of staring at a shark’s face.

Richard asked me to please shut the door behind me when I do such a thing?

Stamping my feet and clapping and yelling, I got it to go away. Git! (And Richard was right, it had been ten feet away from getting inside, with me halfway between it and all the birdfood it could desire sitting right there if it had gotten past me.)

That was at 3:00. I was always taught, growing up in the woods, that if you saw a possum or a raccoon in the middle of the day to give it a wide berth, that it was a potential sign of rabies.

I saw it scuttle back cross the patio two hours later and then disappear on the other side of the box to a spot where to discourage it from staying I would have had to get between it and its escape.

This time I did shut that door, and this time I brought out the newly-reloaded supersoaker. Stand back.

It hustled across the patio (squirt again!) past the shed (squirt!) and back out the gate (squirt!) that was open just wide enough for it. As far as I can tell, it ducked under my neighbor’s gate and into their garden, but I wasn’t going to follow it closely enough to be sure.

I haven’t seen any of the neighborhood cats in some time, probably because I told one neighbor the size of the zone-tailed hawk (52″.) I kind of was hoping for an owl after seeing a rat trying to help itself to some suet in the late afternoon about a week ago, the first time I’d seen a rat in three years. Predators are the only means of controlling such things outside that are acceptable to me, and I’d much rather it were one native to the environment.

The rat hasn’t been seen for days.

I wonder if the possum shed crocodile tears over its tasty snack.