Go Steve!
Wednesday May 16th 2012, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Politics

A few years ago I bought several skeins of Cascade’s Eco Alpaca at Purlescence, a very soft undyed baby alpaca for a project that was never to be.

Heading out the door tonight for the Mountain View meeting to defend the continued existence of Milk Pail–for the record, it was the Environmental Planning committee meeting in the council chambers, not the city council itself–I decided I needed a mindless project for it and I didn’t have one. Needed two circs in a size I didn’t have available–well, then, 8s it would have to be, what goes with 8s?

And so I grabbed two leftover half-skeins of that baby alpaca and decided to knit them doubled, hoping I would have enough. I weighed them: 50 and 52 g. Sounds okay.

I cast on as the meeting began at 7:00 sharp. Hmm, too short, rip. Started again, guessing at the eventual size and give of the ribbing; it wasn’t a gauge I normally knit hats in. Sixty stitches. Okay, hope, go.

The seats in the chamber were filled. There were people along the walls and a few sitting on the floor, the place was packed–and you know which side they were on.

The meeting started out sounding really bad, though: the developers went on and on and didn’t seem to get challenged much. Gradually, though, I started to breathe as person after person got up to speak from the audience when it was our turn. (I didn’t; not being a resident of that city, I didn’t think they would allow me.)

The thought came to me, you know, this yarn is about the color of Steve’s hair, I bet he’d like it…

One elderly fellow had to be told he couldn’t speak again, he had to let everybody else have their four minutes. He waited patiently till all were done and then he came down to the podium a third time, and this time a gentle chuckle went around the room. The subject at hand was only the commissioners’ first of the night and we were well over two hours in, but they heard him out.

Dang–in my town they’d have cut the mike. They never did.

I had no scissors, I had no sewing needle, and even individually, those two strands refused to break for the amount of effort I was willing to put into it.

Well then. I wound in the first end with my knitting needles and somehow managed to get a tie-off, and then a second tie-off on the top of the hat. Turned it right side out, done, with the two almost-gone balls of yarn inside still attached.

Afterwards, Steve let me catch him for a moment. I apologized for the lack of scissors and told him he’d have to snip the yarn but it was ready to go, done. There’d been a lot of cold wind blowing his way of late, and… I hope it fits.

We won! The worst round, and there will be more rounds to come, but, we won!

Tuesday May 15th 2012, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

After two years of 100% mortality rate at fledging, the San Francisco peregrine falcon nest has two young males getting good at this flying thing, one female starting to get the idea, and the second female–Amelia (see her fledge starting at 7:29), who had seemed reluctant to go out there, I’m sorry to say didn’t survive today’s attempts.

In the busy middle of downtown, volunteers were trying to follow the birds’ movements to protect the little ones. They take off not only before their flight feathers are fully in, but the feather shafts are still full of blood for that growth, adding weight for extra clumsiness. They have to learn to land with wings as well as with the feet that have been all they’ve really manuevered around the ground with before then.

One male found himself sliding sideways backwards and about to fall off a skyscraper, when his mother came zooming in and body-checked him back up into the gutter where he had a chance to straighten out and fly right. And after catching his breath, he did. Thanks Mom! That was on Mother’s Day.

While the parents kept close watch but were being outnumbered, each of the four eyases took a turn at being rescued: put in a box, taken up in the elevator to the nestbox on the 33d floor of PG&E, doused with water to slow their heart rates and calm them down, and given a second chance.

Here and here are Perry a few days ago, the first to try: he chipped his beak hitting a building and was on the ground stunned, but now he is enjoying this whole airborne idea. And beaks grow like fingernails.

Last year that nest and the San Jose one were in sync, but this year ours was delayed a week by males fighting for Clara and territory. The eggs sat there waiting, which is fine, and incubation only began after things were decided and the new male had taken over. The count to hatching starts not from laying but from when the parents start keeping them warm.

So our fledge watch is about to begin. The males, who being smaller don’t have to put as much time into growing, tend to go first, and ours are getting antsy to try.

And I have old falcon friends to see, too. Friday evening I’ll be there!

Can’t keep’em down
Monday May 14th 2012, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends

Last week Nina gave me a box she’d been meaning to get over to me for months.

Inside was an amaryllis bulb–not the pink and white one pictured there, but one that had sent up a shoot that bloomed red in the dark, then another stalk that didn’t open and that stayed ghostly white.

And then. A third (!) stalk. It had not yet shriveled. It had a foursome of white leaf tips pointing up next to it.

Now, amaryllis buds are begun in the bulb before the next year’s season, so this one came from a superb grower for it to have had three sets: one is normal for your average Christmas-gift kit, two from a bigger bulb is wonderful, and three is the best your average nursery will have.

The bulb was still alive. The case over the buds inside had opened, just like the first stalk, but like the second there was no color.

Just four tiny white flower buds, open to the world in the darkness, waiting, sure that light and water must be out there somewhere.

I planted it. I watered it. I put it in the window.

That was Thursday. The tiny leaf tips poking out have tripled in length and gone from white to barely green yesterday to deep green and red by this afternoon. The first flower started to open this morning–and by afternoon and to my surprise, its vivid red had a white-to-green center. Had I not been running errands I probably could have watched the color flow in in slow motion. Glorious!

The other three buds have already doubled in length and started coloring up.

Sometimes you just have to get a good thing started and then, as they say, it takes on a life of its own.

(Speaking of which. For those who want to advocate on behalf of Milk Pail, you can write to Mountain View City Council via the left column, six down, here. )

Parker time!
Sunday May 13th 2012, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Family

When we went to our son Richard’s law school graduation last month, his little Parker did a doubletake, studying us intently and then breaking into a grin that got huge when we spoke–that WAS the Skype people! Cool!

Today he saw our faces on the screen and he knew exactly who we were and that we were real. We had a great time playing with him, clapping with him, cheering him on and even got a “Hi” and “Bye”!

Seventeen months. Next thing you know he’ll be on the soccer team.

Here’s him riding with his cousin coming up close behind. (Go for the nose, kid, and your dad cuts off the video quick.) We think he’s cute.

Saturday May 12th 2012, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Life

It was THE Jose! Jose Ibanez!

Richard was sick and grocery shopping had to be done, bashed foot or no–someone had to do it. And so, by force of habit and size of juice consumption at our house, I went to the nearby Costco.

They had recently repainted the parking lot: what had been a long stretch of handicapped parking was no more. Now the spaces were scattered around and much closer to the door, easier to walk to but far harder to drive on a Saturday. That ten-minute-a-row dance? Yup. For each two already-filled spots–I hadn’t thought that oh yeah, it was the day before Mother’s Day and an hour before the store closed (duh!)

I finally got around one turn and was heading back towards the building, thinking, if there isn’t something soon I’m just going to have to give up, when suddenly I saw a man at the far end of the row, waving his arms.

The second spot from the end was open. The best I could possibly have hoped for. With nobody between me and it, he had spotted my plates and wanted to make sure I got that one up close rather than taking one in outer darkness.

And when I got up closer, it WAS him! It was Jose!

Years ago, when Richard wanted someone to come work for his group, he interviewed him at Jose’s restaurant to make a good impression on him and I guess it worked; the guy took the job. But when Jose’s rent went from $4,000 a month to twenty-four-screaming-thousand dollars a month in the first big dot-com boom–it was about a block from Stanford campus–there was just no way, and he was forced to shut down. The community mourned.

I found this article about him, and that smile on his face is pure Jose. Everybody adores him. We still buy his empanadas at Milk Pail; fabulous food, and it’s a way we can tell him that.

And here he was making sure whoever was in that car way back there got the spot she needed. Because that’s the kind of guy he is. He clearly enjoyed being able to help.

I wanted to do more than just smile and wave back, so I, without thinking, said, “Thank you” in sign language as I went by.

Which I realized only instantly after the fact looked like I was blowing him a kiss.

No worries.

Happy Mother’s Day!

(Ed. to add.) I just got a note from Steve at Milk Pail, and the locals need to know this. He said:

Alison, this Wednesday there is a City of MV meeting where the Phase II plan
for the San Antonio Village project will be shown at City Hall at 7 pm.
The initial plan effectively will flatten the Milk Pail.  This won't happen,
but the Milk Pail will need strong community support in the next couple of
Spreading the word would be good.

Pay it forward
Friday May 11th 2012, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

It seems so obvious in hindsight.

The other thing I did yesterday was…

I came home slightly sunburned and tired: I was a klutz, no, but I mean, even more so. I smacked my head hard into the metal birdfeeder, of all things–it’s not like it had moved from its usual spot–and my foot into the corner of the treadmill hard enough to wonder if I’d broken it. Jammed my thumb just to keep it in threes.

I had multiple plans for the evening but that foot wasn’t going anywhere.

I wound balls of yarn, not sure what to knit next, needing to feel useful while station-nary. I had several people right at the top of my list but with no idea on the color for one coming from out of town next week nor whether she should even be first in line. I met her in person two years ago, briefly; I just had no idea. (Although, Afton, her sister has your hair, in case yours ever goes missing.)

So I did what I do, I said a prayer. This ball? Eh, could be okay. This one? Not interested. This one? Definitely not!

And then after quite a bit of stash diving, I happened to see some that had not and would not have occurred to me and it leaped out at me anyway and stamped its little feet and demanded. Nothing else had felt remotely like that.

Pink? A light pink hat? Seriously? (Truth be told, it was fragile laceweight mink that must be knitted at least doubled and I’d done several things in that stuff of late. I was quite ready for something else. Although, slick Addis rather than my usual rosewoods, like these here, probably would have helped.)

But it knew even if I didn’t. I surrendered. Tripled strands. I worked all this afternoon and evening on it, my feet propped up as needed, and now it just needs the ends run in.

I found as I knit that I kept thinking of the hat a friend knit me while I was so ill, how warm it kept me at night, how grateful I am for its pink-and-gray-striped warmth–three years later, I still wear it on cold nights.

If my friend getting this one should ever need a warm super-soft hat, whenever the time, well, she’ll have it, then. She doesn’t have a major illness–but her husband does: slowly, slowly progressing, and in the end he will not survive it.

Just because it’s not new news doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. My goodness, what could I have knitted her but that mink!

Thank you, Nina!
Thursday May 10th 2012, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Lupus

It had been too long since we’d gotten together. And the Malabrigo Superfine Merino was a one-time run from the mill, delivered only to Imagiknit, and when it’s gone it’s going to be gone.

It is really hard for me to go to that store alone: parking is non-existent and the walk in the sun can be very long if there isn’t someone willing to drop me at the curb if need be and then take a hike. The fact that it’s down the block from a popular park in the City doesn’t help.

And so my old friend Nina, bless her, who loves to knit, too, threw an unexpected afternoon free at me and we  drove to San Francisco today. We actually got a spot within the block.

At Stitches West back in February, Antonio, one of the Malabrigo owners visiting the show from Uruguay, told me about that mill run and that the micron count was 14.5 (wow!) He fervently wished there were more of it, but there just wasn’t, and so…

…I went straight to the Imagiknit booth and talked to Allison about it. Went home and ordered that Solis colorway.  Gave up petting the thing and actually knit it up this past week: because I needed to work with it and I needed to know what it was like running between the fingers for hours before letting myself be tempted to buy more.

And the answer is? It is glorious.

So. The woman running the shop today was surprised when I told her the shawl I was wearing was one skein of that SFM; the stitches looked too thick to her to be that.

Bingo! She noticed! It’s 100g and 336 yards, but off the ball and onto the needles it somehow relaxes and widens out as if it were a worsted. It is airy and light and soft as fur and perfect. It’s still wool, which still has scales, but still!

There was one skein on their high wooden table of the stuff in a color that wasn’t on their website. It was the most perfect thing I could have asked for, so, that and two skeins of Malabrigo Sock came home with me.

A few minutes after I got home, it suddenly dawned on me that the Abril Sock I’d bought… Wait, let me get it knitted and done before I tell the story, but, it matched with something that has waited three years for me to finally get with it. Now I know.  Perfect. To be continued.

So close
Wednesday May 09th 2012, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Knit

There was a two-cone large silk shawl I got most of the way through before our travels, and it was bothering me that I hadn’t finished it–so most of the last seven hours have been spent on those 3.5 mm needles and now it just needs to be cast off. The pattern is an experiment and I really want to see how it turns out.

I did take a break to run to Trader Joe’s to buy more hazelnuts

(Ed. to add: finished the cast off, and going wow, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever knit. I am very pleased.)

Fresh hazelnut chocolate cookie recipe
Tuesday May 08th 2012, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Food,Knit

The hawks haven’t (as far as I know) flown through any of the amaryllis stalks. Yet. The hummingbird did check them out but didn’t stay long.

The Malabrigo yarn in Solis: I finally finished it.

Oh wait, I realized, no I didn’t–those stretches of stockinette in the lace? The castoff curled there. Tink x 324, do k2tog, yo across and purl back and the only reason I didn’t do that in the first place is I didn’t think I had enough yarn. I did. Done! It is drying, and I can’t wait.

And that was going to be the whole post, till I went into the kitchen and saw the leftover toasted skinned hazelnuts in the fridge.

My usual peanut butter cookie recipe is one I discovered in an old hand-me-down cookbook given me in New Hampshire 25 years ago: one cup peanut butter, one cup sugar, one egg. (The Skippy type works best, the natural, not so much.) Great for celiacs. I do occasionally add a tbl of flour for a little bit of extra crispness at the edges, but it’s not necessary. 350, 8-10 min. That’s it.

What if…

So I buttered the cookie sheet. One cup hazelnuts into the Cuisinart. I let that run a long time, trying to get hazelnut butter, not meal, then added 2/3 c sugar, 1/4 c. cocoa, hmm… about 2 tbl butter, how ’bout a little more in there, possibly three, wasn’t measuring… 1 tbl flour just because, and 1 (extra large) egg. Trying to put teaspoonfuls of batter down, it was like sticky silly putty but soon settled down and behaved–ie, it held to itself rather than me after being on the cookie sheet a minute or so.

Which I figured out when I found some extra dark chocolate chips and pushed a half dozen into each cookie. Eight minutes at 350 again did the job, and there you go: the best cookie recipe I have ever come up with.

Toasting and skinning hazelnuts is a pain, but I totally just got over that.

(Ed. to add, if you prefer yours sweeter, go for the full cup of sugar.)

Bird yurts
Monday May 07th 2012, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Six more rows on that small shawl…

I headed down to Los Gatos Birdwatcher today to pick up some sunflower chips. I had a little time before rush hour traffic would hit going back, so just for fun in that very fun shop I looked around.

Felted birdhouses. I hadn’t seen them before (and you know I would have noticed.) They had delightful, colorful, felted wool birdhouses, with the holes just the right size–you don’t want cowbirds parasitizing the nests nor jays raiding them. The edges of the holes curved inward just so; these were carefully crafted.

I almost pulled out my phone to take a picture, but thought, nah, this is someone else’s artwork. I’ll just put the idea out there–I wonder if anyone else will run with it. I know I’d like to. (And then, I just found this page, but these too are different ones.)

Bird yurts. My wrens would love them.

(With a ps to the new teenage squirrel swaggering around today: let me explain. If I open the door, you run. If I raise the supersoaker, you run. If I soak you, and you didn’t like it, and you didn’t catch the connection between me, it, you, and being soaked, well–that’s why we had a do over.

Now do you get it?)

Sunday May 06th 2012, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The jays and I have it down to an occasional dance: they land, I tell them Git, and they show off their beautiful wings and flight patterns.

Only, today I told one “No!” instead and it hesitated: You didn’t say Simon says!

Oh okay, and I gave it the obligatory proper Git while trying not to wreck the effect laughing. There you go, and it was off and away.

Knitting: I picked up a project that someone’s mom has been waiting for me to make for her daughter, and it’s a perfectly fine lace scarf–in sheared mink, fer cryin’ out loud–but I had put it down to pack for our trips and somehow just hadn’t been getting back to it again.

Sunday seemed a particularly good day for knitting for someone else.

Well then.

And so. I haven’t cast off yet, I haven’t blocked it yet to see if it needs more length to it or not (I don’t think so), but for now, I’m calling it essentially done.

And it is so soft. Featherweight. Remember that story in my book? Don’t let the jays near it.

Almost half a new shawl today that way
Saturday May 05th 2012, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

You know how to get me really knitting? Really burning through the stash?

Dangle a yarn in front of me that I really, really want, that I could tell you all the reasons why it would be just the most perfect yarn for so many potential recipients, and to seal it, make it something that’s a one-time thing only and at an unbeatable price…

…While knowing there’s just no justifying it till I make decent headway on what I’ve got. Lots of sand on that beach grabbing at my toes.

Well then. Dive in!

Dem bones dem bones dem, dry bones
Friday May 04th 2012, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I woke up the other day to my Richard on the phone, talking to the nurse at 7-something o’clock. Where were those hearing aids? *fumble fumble drop* Wait-what? Ask her what the side effects are? What?

He did but didn’t get a real answer, because, as it turned out, she didn’t think there were any.

And so it was that today I got the latest and greatest to fight the bone damage from the useless steroids of my Crohn’s flare three years ago. I had to look it up: Prolia, ie denosumab, is indeed a monoclonal antibody as I thought it must be from the name. (Any drug name that ends in -mab.) And it’s less than two years past FDA approval–I lucked out.

On the last thing they tried, I was one of the unlucky hyper-reactives, sick for a week; six months later I went in for follow-up testing and got a note from the doctor: “I’ve never seen this, I’ve never even heard of this!” It had done diddlysquat. I asked him if it could be a new manifestation of autoimmunity? He said it was too soon to know.

This time, so far, so good, and he will absolutely not wait the standard time frame for follow-up testing.  Crossing my fingers. Having lost 29% bone mass in four years, and having had another year pass since then in which the loss continued at the same speed… (So yes, some of that pre-dated that particular flare.)

The Prolia works by blocking a protein that is a main instigator in shedding bone. Blessings on that doctor for fighting the insurance company while we were off having a good time for a few weeks. May the day come when providers can simply do the right thing because it’s the right thing and not have to go through all that.

Meantime, the bluejays went for the feeder twice in rapid succession while I was home (and got just as rapidly disabused of the idea) and were otherwise nowhere to be seen all day. Things are going back to normal.

And the yarn I grabbed on my way out the door to the clinic is, I’ve decided, not what I want to do next after all. Where are all my 7s…

Song sung blue
Thursday May 03rd 2012, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Thank you everybody for the kind words re Uncle Rosel.

Before we left for the graduations, I stuffed three suet cake holders, one new, one extra big, to try to feed the birds after the feeder would be running dry.

During those two weeks a lot of the new baby birds that were just starting to show up got a lot bigger, and again this year we have a junco/house finch hybrid, though I haven’t seen the parental pair this season (that’s an old picture); the little offspring is tiny with short legs and absolutely adorable.

But. There was now a threesome of Pacific scrub jays, and I’m assuming they were young ones just starting to look to find their own place, but that’s a guess. Gorgeous birds, but they are cousins of crows with the bad manners to match and they had totally taken over in our absence.

My beloved wrens had vanished. My towhees wouldn’t come up on the box where I can see them better–I didn’t even see one anywhere for the first few days.

Hey. Where was everybody?

A black-headed grosbeak showed up briefly. That helped.

I found I couldn’t put food out for the ground feeders or the jays not only would take it, they bullied everyone else away–even the squirrels are afraid of them. There’s always been a little of this, but not the constant bombardment happening now.

And so for the last two days, with a shawl project in hand that I wanted done fast, I set myself up in front of the glass door with a loaded supersoaker. I knitted. I kept my eyes up.

At first they were swooping in constantly, one after another, tag-teaming me, it seemed. I had set out suet crumbles and they wanted them badly: this was *their* territory.

Oh no it’s not! Let’s set that straight right now, folks.

They watched me all day: if I went out of the room, they were there the moment my head went around the corner. I could yell all I wanted but they knew I could not get that door open and that squirt gun raised in time to actually get them wet, that they had time to scoop up a beakful before running. Again and again and again. But I still squirted in their direction in a display of territory.

Gradually, though, the challenges grew further apart. They even stopped scooping the food, just flying in behind the tomato plants (temporarily near the end of the box) as if I wouldn’t see them and then giving up and flying after I yelled and approached.

We repeated that little bit of drama today, only, this time I pulled a magazine over the food any time I walked out. Should have thought of that sooner.

And today, for the first time since we came back, a towhee dared come back up on that box again. One of the Bewick’s wrens made an appearance at the far end of the patio. The Oregon juncos and oak titmice and chestnut-backed chickadees had a grand old time. And at about 7:30 I finished the shawl.

The biologist who writes for the local paper says that jays, like mockingbirds, are great mimics. He tells of one that sounded like a truck backing up, another that parroted speech.

I wonder which neighbor is going to hear one singing, Hey! GIT!

Instantly universal, instantly unique
Wednesday May 02nd 2012, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Family

Richard’s Uncle Rosel (pronounced RAW-zul) passed this afternoon. He was elderly but it was quite unexpected.

But–but–I wanted to SEE them again, both of them!

I am grateful beyond words that we got to see him and his wife several times in the last few years and that they made the effort to come to our son’s wedding four years ago. Where pictures were taken.