Pop-up add
Wednesday April 30th 2014, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,My Garden

The tomatoes were untouched and the cinnamon seems to be, too.

And the 52″ bird netting pop-up tent arrived at the store and we picked it up this evening. We’re a bit too tired and it’s too dark to set it up tonight, but we have it, along with a monster bag of potting soil for the seedlings that are coming.

And best of all I heard back from Janet’s (the UCSF researcher’s) mom about her cap. She loves it. I had said that if it turned out to be too big, wet it down and put it in the dryer for two minutes. It was, she did, and she says now it’s perfect.

And who knew–she’s a knitter! I wish her all the best on her journey forward however it may go.

Green tomatoes
Tuesday April 29th 2014, 11:08 pm
Filed under: My Garden

Bought some tomato plants at Costco a month ago, and given the half a dozen or so green globes on them by now it seemed high time to finally, y’know, plant them in the ground….

Spurred on by the fact that someone is bringing her surplus heirloom seedlings over on Saturday for me to grow a bit bigger and then share around the neighborhood. Well then. (Speak up if you want some.)

And so I did tonight. Knowing full well that even though squirrels don’t even like tomatoes, in our dry climate if not others they’ll steal every one for the juice inside–and then helpfully put the leftovers on top of the fence so you can have the rest, right?

I have a 52″ bird-netting tent on order via Home Despot.

Once I had the muddy soil packed back around them (always plant tomatoes a little deep–they’ll grow new roots from wherever the stem touches dirt) I poured cinnamon powder in a long circle around them.

In the morning we shall see if there are any paw prints. Or, hopefully, not.

Monday April 28th 2014, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

One project at a time. Happy anticipation.

He looked at me, sure he’d heard that one wrong, repeating the word back to me so I could correct it. “Cobweb?”  One could just picture a spider-phobic kid reacting to a project with that thought attached to it.

“Yes, cobweb,” like, everybody knows, I mean, right? The thinnest weight of the superfine laceweights, the barely-theres: “It’s a technical term,” I grinned.

I was telling him about the little package of 70/30 cashmere/silk that had come today from Colourmart2.com, the site where the Colourmart folks sell the very last of their mill ends. There were just under 300 yards of that blue softness, just enough to pair up with a strand of something else for a cowl project to add a pop of blue and a strokeable depth to the hand (technical term alert) of a good merino. Including postage from England, the mini cone had cost me all of $5.

And it’s gorgeous. (And lighter and brighter than that nighttime photo shows.)

And it got me to sit down and make myself get 6000+ stitches closer to finishing up the current project, not a technically difficult one but still a slog because it involves paying attention to every single stitch on the needle and on the paper as I fine-tune a pattern that was not quite as perfectly written the first time as I’d thought it was. Which means I’ll have to knit it again after this before publication and probably again after that to be very sure there are no. more. errors. –but I’m that much closer to it now.

Worth the five bucks right there.

Sunday April 27th 2014, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

I now know what an amaryllis stalk looks like after being mowed down by a hawk in pursuit of a finch: bent hard but still holding on tight. Stretched to its limit but not broken. There was no way to straighten it up and have it remain connected so I just let it be.

Within two hours after I first saw it this morning the two buds at the top of the stalk had moved and were no longer prostrate, and by the time the sun set they were pointed straight up. The light came from thataway now and they could not be stopped from reaching for it.

Leather or not, it happened
Saturday April 26th 2014, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

I lucked out.

Thursday night, quite against my better judgment but knowing that medically I must keep my fluid intake up, I tucked a small water bottle into my oversized purse cum knitting bag to take to Knit Night. Usually I just hand-carry it to the car and stick it in a cup holder but I was juggling things and trying to simplify.

I forgot to do the cupholder part. I completely forgot it was in there, period.

It’s a great little water bottle, prettier than the photo gives it credit for, very well designed, very water tight. (The upper brass-colored part is reflecting the room on the right side but in reality the form flows smoothly and simply.) My daughter was paying for it as a souvenir of her business trip to Japan last year just as an earthquake struck, but the cash register apparently kept right on working as the place shook hard around her. She had quite the story to tell.

It is if you have the lid on right, anyway.

I drove my hubby to work Friday morning. The Prius runs remotely via the fob, no need to put a key in, just throw the purse in the back seat and out of his way and go.

When I pulled back into my driveway, though, I fumbled to find that keyring so as to open my front door.

Wait. The keys were–wet?

And yet the fob had done its job and my car had not become stranded. (You can take it apart and have an actual key if you have to, if you can get it to separate; my hands have found it difficult enough before to have had to ask for help.)

As it dawned on me, I was going, wait, where did that… oh no…

I pulled out my Iphone and it was covered in water droplets. I wiped it carefully, I mean I hoped it was carefully is there a more right or more wrong way to do this, off on my clothes, standing there outside in the sun, stunned at the enormity of what I had done to myself.

It worked peachy fine. No we would not be stuck with not only replacing it but losing our grandfathered cheaper family plan that Verizon is itching to ditch.

I unlocked the house, got in, took everything out of my purse and held it over the sink and poured the water out. I examined the leather on the outside of the purse, y’know, that beautiful new-this-Christmas one that has the knitted cable pattern embossed into the leather, the one I’m so inordinately proud of, that I can never replace….

It was dry! The lining had held it all in, and the lid on that bottle must have just then on that trip been knocked loose or the not-tight bottle turned sideways–either that or I was somehow *really* lucky if the lining had held it in like that all night and without the electronics being submerged enough to be ruined.

And I had taken my $150 hearing aid’s bluetooth unit out to charge in the afternoon before Knit Night and had utterly forgotten to put it back in and had grumbled at myself over that.

Everything was fine. The handknit fingerpuppets were dripping wet. Y’know, I think I can handle that…

That could have been an incredibly expensive mistake then and on into the future and yet all it was was the small nuisance of stuffing a succession of towels in and out of there to help my purse dry, with mental thanks in my mother’s direction for teaching us kids from when we were little how to take good care of wet leather shoes so they wouldn’t shrink nor get too stretched out as they dried.

And so I spent yesterday with that box to mail looking forward so much to Janet’s mom knowing I wanted to be there for her and her daughter the best I knew how. I wanted to give that sense of being loved to the whole wide world.

Because even though it was all such a little thing in a life, still, there was definitely this unshakeable feeling that someone up there knew and cared and was looking out for me.

And it’s on its way
Friday April 25th 2014, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

Among the UCSF questions: “In the last twelve months, have you had trouble getting your insurance to cover a medication that was prescribed because of your lupus?”

“Yes, I have,” I started to answer, “actually, including right now”–then I stopped myself with, “Oh wait–they must have gotten it through finally, because I’m scheduled to have that shot tomorrow.”

So today was the day.

And against all this season’s odds it rained, a long and at times hard, glorious, much-needed bout of rain, briefly down to a drizzle so I decided it was a good time to head out the door for the clinic. It was why I decided to go to the post office with the hat after, though, rather than before, a little reluctant to leave a warm dry house with quite enough leeway time. (Rain is always cold here. Always. It was a revelation to me when we moved to northern California that the very concept of a soothing warm summer rain simply did not exist in this part of the country.)

And I wanted to give myself enough time for backups on the road: people here too often do not drive well when there’s actual weather, not to mention it would be when the high schoolers would be getting out as I went by and they definitely do not have much driving experience in such conditions.

But all went well.

So I had waiting time. Then the shot. Then twenty minutes’ more of a wait to make sure there was no reaction to it.

Which means I sat and knit, the desperately-needed rain in view from the second-story windows and people coming and going to their appointments around me, each one getting a smile and a nod if they wanted to see it.

Because throughout all that, as I added green stitch to green stitch in a lace pattern my hands knew so well I barely needed to look at it, the happy thought of that little box waiting expectantly in my car and the love I got to hear in a daughter’s voice for her mother and my own anticipation of her mother, fighting for her life, cheering her on, her opening that box and the card and the note and hearing that someone out there loves that she raised her daughter so well, loves them both, whoever they are….

Maybe the baby alpaca that was growing in my hands as I sat would in its own time go to someone someone around me right then knew. We are all connected somewhere. It made me happy for them, too.

And I caught their eyes and silently wished them well on their way into their doctors’ offices, whatever may have brought them there, or on their way home.

Banded together
Thursday April 24th 2014, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

There you go, that’s a better picture of the color of the hat: the morning sun bouncing off the San Francisco fog with the trees below.

Meantime, the cinnamon sticks disappeared. No crumbles, no shards, gone. Huh. The cinnamon branch against the peach tree was left untouched but above it one of those sticks had been jammed between clamshells where the squirrels couldn’t reach it even if they’d suddenly stopped avoiding the stuff. No sign.

I finally got it: birds’ nests.

I wonder if they had any way to intuit that the non-native cinnamon would keep mites and ants away from their babies? Squirrels will line their nests with bay leaves to keep fleas away if they’re lucky enough to find any.

Or maybe they just were attracted to the size and shape and color and smoothness and light weight.  I don’t know.

Meantime, after very rarely ever seeing a single one, (like, twice, I think) –but I don’t think it was the cinnamon that called them–today I had a flock of fourteen elegant birds crowding the patio. They dwarfed the mourning doves, who kept well clear. According to Sibley, band-tailed pigeons are 13 oz to our Cooper’s hawk’s 16 oz–they are big. Beaks with a bit of a curve downward with dark coloring at the tip rather like a hawk’s. Cool.

They were skittish and didn’t stay long (Don’t move! You moved!) and I got no pictures, but, wow, my birdfeeder has never seen the like. (And no you can’t land on it–one tried.)

The third thing. I got the call from the UCSF researcher and we finished up our annual lupus survey but just before she could go I told her what I had done.

She was stunned. She was thrilled, and she loved that the color matched where she worked. She was so excited for her mom to be getting that soft chemo cap made just for her and she completely made my day by how grateful she was–she has no way to know how many more people will get knitting done for them rather than just thought about after she so thoroughly fed my soul in those moments.

After I hung up that did it: I sat down and undid the last ten rows and redid them to take out that one single non-decrease row right there that was making the back poof out funny. Yes it did. Out it goes. Should have made them all decrease rows as of one step sooner. Now it’s nice and rounded off at the top the way it needed to be and now it’s good enough for her mom and now it’s reblocked and tomorrow, now that it’s perfect, tomorrow it goes out in the mail.

It’s amazing the difference one single step can make.

Water you think?
Wednesday April 23rd 2014, 11:15 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

Look! A clamshell tree in full fruit! Eighteen, I think, many covering more than one plum. It does give an interesting visual of the pattern of where the fruit set: the tree bloomed during a series of downpours and the center was clearly the most protected from washing out.

There would be just a few more clamshells if I had them, but the critters haven’t found all the uncovered fruit–yet. The diurnal ones will the moment a touch of color gives them away against the green background. For now, without sweetness to add to the temptation, it was probably an extra disincentive to have a few branches collapse and drop the raccoon to the ground last week.

XKCD shows how we could get young people with really good sound systems in their cars to helpfully distract the squirrels and crows away to the street.

Actually, what I really should do is buy a motion-detector-activated sprinkler system set to go off at night.  Our neighbors who once gave us 40 lbs of plums from their stately old tree before we planted our own say theirs works (and clearly, it does.) It’s just the $8888/pair/on sale hearing aids vs the chances of a good dousing that gives me pause there.  Not to mention I can just picture Richard waking up to the sounds of zapped scavengers at dark o’clock.

Hmm. Yes? No?

Dr. Wintemute
Tuesday April 22nd 2014, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Politics

I thought I was going to blog about picking the first two, so perfect blueberries of the season today. Instead I’m going to go political on you for a moment–but wait: there’s something for both sides.

Here is the interview from a year ago with the lead researcher from back in the ’90’s before the funding for what he was doing at the Centers for Disease Control got outlawed by Congress. He spoke with the reporter while it looked, ever so briefly, that his work might finally be a go again.

And here is the interview with the professor of emergency room medicine, a doctor who sees the results of our gun culture on the daily job, who had been one of those CDC researchers into the effects of guns on the American public’s health.

When his funding got cut off, rather than folding up shop, he used his inheritance and his doctor’s salary and by living simply he had the means to keep his team of four going. It was too important not to.  He won’t accept donations from anyone with a side in the argument: not the Brady folks, not the NRA people, not Michael Bloomberg, nada (the State of California, though, yes.) It’s too important to him to be able to offer up the findings in a way that nobody can claim is tainted.

You could take someone with a string of misdemeanors and he’ll keep committing nonviolent misdemeanors. But if he buys a gun, the chance that he will commit a crime of violence escalates.

Okay, that didn’t surprise me.

Closing the gunshow loophole would have not much effect.

Okay, that quite surprised me.

There are very strong emotions on the whole subject of gun control.  We desperately need an even-keeled voice offering a tallying of what is done–or not done–with the guns that are bought, stolen, or used however and in whatever circumstances. We think we know.  Perhaps, though, not so much.

This man’s whole life is about giving us the information we need to have rational discussions on the subject and as we plan for the future. I’ve never been quite so glad that someone had a nice inheritance. He is multiplying its value three hundred thirteen million times over.

Just add water
Monday April 21st 2014, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Can’t blog yet, gotta finish this… Fog blue, with the leaves of the trees peeking out from under the San Francisco morning cloud cover.

Well there you go. Now to block it and run the ends in.

The fog rolling into the city
Sunday April 20th 2014, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

A joyful Easter Sunday–and a birthday dinner at Michelle’s, shared with our niece and nephew.


For about 15 years now I’ve been in a lupus study at UCSF, the current focus being longterm SLE patient outcomes. There is an annual phone call of an hour to an hour and a half.

That call was scheduled for Friday, and we got through most of it–but the woman’s voice was giving out and you can’t talk softly to my hearing. She apologized that it had been an intense week and sorry about her voice and could we finish the memory testing part next week? Maybe Thursday?

Yes, sure, of course.

Then, with some hesitation, she told me why she was so stressed: her mother had just been diagnosed as being terminal.

Oh honey!

Which is why I found the ever-so-slightly-grayish-ice-blue Venezia merino/silk in my stash, very soft, and got right to it: the sheen of the morning light across the San Francisco fog for where the daughter lives, warmth and love to the both of them, whoever they may be.

A chemo cap. A little bit of knitting. It’s nothing and it’s everything.

Saturday April 19th 2014, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family

Tap. Tap. This thing on? The resident geek spent quite a bit of time stamping out the bug in the program and I’m trying again. Apparently there was an automatic platform update that got snatched back to a new-improved version almost immediately but we were stuck with the bad one and it did not want to let go peacefully.

HEY! Dad! (Photo taken Monday before I flew home.) There you are!

Okay, let’s try to link. How about to the pomegranate farmer I met at a festival whose products taste like the best fresh pomegranate you ever tasted, not that horrifically bitter stuff like most of the commercial juices.

Well now. So we do have our linking back. (Testing some more: unlink from the fruit spread page. Yup. Now go to Skylake’s home page that says free shipping through Monday, link up again–and it works. There you go.)

Okay, let’s try uploading the amaryllis picture.


Okay, folks, we are back in business here.

Cinnamon covered
Friday April 18th 2014, 10:50 pm
Filed under: My Garden

I’m dying to show some pictures but the latest blog-platform update doesn’t seem willing to do anything but straight text so far. But my amaryllises are starting to bloom–21 stalks’ worth! Something to look forward to, anyway.

Meantime. Last Christmas Trader Joe’s was selling ornamental brooms of branches of the cinnamon plant. They smelled heavenly, they were only a few bucks, and I bought one.

I didn’t read the tag till I got home, though–it warned not to let it touch the paint on the walls or this surface or that or that and I wondered how I got myself into this? But hey, cinnamon. I kept it.

I would later read that it’s a natural pest repellant: critters don’t like it and ants will avoid it.

I found ants crawling up my baby cherry tree a few weeks ago and as my friend Phyllis points out, they bring mites that damage the trees to farm them for food. When we bought this house it had an elderly cherry tree dying of an infestation.

I put that broom across the rim of the big plant pot and the ants vanished and did not come back. The tree looks great.

I wished I had more of those branches, although the obvious thing is that of course in effect I do, I have a big Costco thing of cinnamon sticks, that should do, too.

In the last two days I found two clamshells and six peaches downed around my early peach and needed to do something, stat, before I lost the rest. Oh wait, the cinnamon broom! Put it where there’s actually going to be a crop. So tonight it is resting against the peach trunk and I’m hoping that that skunk that announced itself last night (probably while arguing with the raccoons over my fruit) will think it has met its smelly match.

Anti-morcellation campaign wins!
Thursday April 17th 2014, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

Thank you, Drs. Amy Reed and Hooman Noorchasm. You did it! The FDA has now officially declared morcellation of fibroids a dangerous procedure that should not be performed. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm393689.htm.

And here’s the New York Times article (blog glitch still won’t let me link, sorry.) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/health/fda-tells-doctors-to-stop-procedure-used-to-remove-uterine-fibroids.html?hp&_r=0

Well done. And I was so relieved to read that the radical multi-organ surgery, as hard as it surely was and is, that was done on Dr. Reed gives her so much greater a chance of seeing her kids grow up. Wishing them all my best.

Eyas, eyas, oh
Wednesday April 16th 2014, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

And we are back in peregrine nesting season, with four one-week-old eyases (chicks) on San Jose City Hall and, as of today, four hatched in San Francisco.

Momma Clara feeding the little ones here.
Huh. Hmm. Blog’s being wonky after an updating, okay, the URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLBgR_GxZiE&feature=youtu.be and sorry it’s not linking.

We will find out the male/female ratio at banding.