Soggy serial
Sunday February 19th 2017, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Three and a half inches of rain due in the next 24 hours and more after that. It’ll be interesting to see if we get any peaches off those early blossoms.

Michelle is home for the weekend and talked me into trying out this almond cake recipe. I used a tablespoon less butter (because it seemed so much), a little more almond paste because why not use it all up, and added a half teaspoon of almond extract after taking a poll and getting two enthusiastic votes yes on the extract.

She was right–that one is definitely company-worthy.



Boots me
Sunday February 19th 2017, 12:00 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Non-Knitting

Okay, this is silly.

Wait–back up a bit. When I was home from college over Christmas break when I was 19 or 20, my dad surprised me by telling me he was going to take me shopping for a pair of boots for Christmas; he knew it would be my first pair ever. It was cold and snowy where I was going to school and he wanted my feet nice and warm. Besides, hey, boots!

Took me a moment to get over the shock. My dad. Wants to take a daughter. Shoe shopping. Brave man.

What I ended up with was inexpensive waterproof synthetic ones. One, because I knew the folks had three kids in college that year, and two, because trying to buy my feet anything was hopeless anyway, so once I found something, anything, that I could at all get my feet into I knew that was as good as I was going to get and the fact that these were waterproof seemed practical. Finding something that actually fit my 6.5EE and high arch was completely out of the question.

Back at school, I found my feet hurt pretty fast wearing those and I only wore them to get from my apartment to campus. And only a few times, with regret at not letting my dad push me to try harder. I should have skipped getting those altogether, which I’d known all along but I just couldn’t let him completely down.

Fast forward to when I had kids in elementary school. The PTA in our school district ran, at the time, a wardrobe exchange in order to pass clothes on to those less well off, while covering for their pride by presenting it as a way to offer warm clothes for those going to Tahoe who only needed to rent snow clothing those few days out of the year. Wash them, bring them back, done.

So anybody could rent outfits for their kids for a few bucks and anyone in the school district could buy them for about that who needed to. The funds went to cover the rented trailer they ran the operation from.

So I brought in some warm outgrowns for the cause one fine day.

Someone had donated these shearling-lined horsehair boots that look like a Westie terrier about to be told to get down off that chair. I thought they were hilarious and tried slipping one on, and then the other, and by golly I could actually get my feet in them! What a great Halloween costume! Besides, my oldest was getting to the age where it was my job to embarrass her, right?

The woman was incredulous. You LIKE those?! Nobody checks those out. They’ve just sat there forever. You want them? Take them!

Well, that wasn’t quite fair, so I went home and got those old tall rubbers and exchanged them pair-for-pair. They were happy, I was happy. The fact that I wear European 37 and these were stamped 39 40 on the bottom–US 8-9.5–three full sizes too big, no wonder I could get them on.

But those polyurethane ones from back in the day left a lasting impression: I don’t do boots. Period.

Although I sure wished I did when I was in DC January a year ago and it was five degrees out with a strong wind and we were trying to hike the C&O Canal in the cold (not for very long).

And then there was my younger daughter’s enthusiasm. “Boots! Cute Boots! You need cute boots!”

As if. Come on, they don’t exist now any more than they did then.

But we had that conversation every so often these past few years and I always wondered if that was actually so.

Recently, she needed some cheering up. And I knew how much she would love it if…it couldn’t hurt to look…

I went to a specialty shoe store that advertised wide widths. No dice. I searched Birkenstock’s online store. Their American importer? Nope.

And then I found a German Birkenstock store. They had a few pairs left of a now-discontinued style. I knew that ordering from Germany was going to cost me a whole lot in return charges if this didn’t work, I had no idea how they would handle it if I did, the cost was in no way cheap but I thought how much Michelle would love it. I thought about getting to tell my 90-year-old Dad that, hey, Dad! I did it! I finally got those boots you wanted for me all that time ago!

And so I took a deep breath and typed what I needed to type.

They came yesterday.

I put one foot in. I put the other foot in. Walked a few steps. And then just about shouted to the rooftops, THEY FIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They’re not high boots, they’re more like high top sneakers, but wearing something above the ankle is a whole new thing here as it is. The doctor who treated my broken bones in November wanted me to be wearing something like this instead of clogs, and there you go.

I keep laughing at the name of the boot: I have a Bartlett pair.

We heard a thunk this afternoon, and opening the door, I found a box: it said New Balance. The mailman hadn’t even driven his truck away before I read the label, laughed, and started walking next door. He saw me and was startled–Did I–?

No problem, I laughed, it just helps me keep in touch with the neighbors.

Jim opened at my knock and I handed him his box. “Those aren’t my shoes, mine came yesterday,” pointing at my feet, and he laughed.

I wonder if he was as excited about his as I was about mine. I mean, you just don’t want to miss out.



Adagio
Friday February 17th 2017, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Since he still wasn’t feeling too great that day, Wednesday I drove Richard to what I assumed was going to be a half hour, an hour at most at the doctor’s.

I got in three and a half hours of knitting in two different waiting areas. (He’s fine, no worries.)

Near the lab, there was an antsy little boy of about two and a half, three at the most. Trying to be good. Playing with his dad’s phone for entertainment, small and portable, but a real toy is always a good thing so I offered them a finger puppet and told the little boy, “Happy Birthday!” So that his daddy would know it was for keeps, too.

And we waited.

There seemed to be some uncertainty at one point and I said it again to the little boy: “Happy Birthday!” This time he gave me a great big smile back and did a little leap for joy.

And I knitted.

The afghan spilled all over me and my large chair and onto the floor, greens and white and teal, and every now and then I would get to the end of a row and turn it over, showing more of the other side of the work. The front and back are so different. But of course the strands would tangle on each other every time, and sometimes I would reach into my knitting bag and move the balls around right away, sometimes, eh. Wait till they refuse to let the others go past. And then I’d turn again. In between, I would get to where it changes from the plain edging to the patterned center and have to track down which strand was an end being woven in upwards and which was the next working one, a little bouquet of yarn stems to choose from here and then again down here.

They got whom they were waiting for faster than I did: an older man was wheeled out from the lab. The younger man got up and walked over to him and then spoke with the receptionist behind him while the little boy danced around. Grandpa, if he was the grandpa, looked like Carlos Santana and one could almost expect him to whip out a guitar and start playing into the quiet. But the towering ceiling seemed to swallow all sounds.

Mostly, though, I was just focused on the work in my hands and letting them be. I’d been at it for long enough at that point to wish for an icepack break–not too fervently yet, but since I’d forgotten my phone and anything else to read there was simply nothing but knitting to do. Besides, I wanted to get this thing finished this week anyway.

After about a minute I finally realized I had been feeling eyes upon me for awhile and glanced up.

And there was the man in that wheelchair, all of them still there, waiting. No word had been said. He wanted my eyes, and once he had them he held them a moment.

He took in that afghan. And in no more hurry than one would take to knit such a thing he gave me a slow-motion, deeply affirming bow of the head and then, reverently, a thumbs-up, holding my eyes again. It came so closely from his heart that to emphasize that point he slow-swooshed that thumb forward and up a second time, like a conductor extending the symphony’s note and holding it out there in space. He wanted me to know that. He could not leave till I did.

Whoever he was, however he’s lived his life, this was someone who knew the creative life and understood the time and perseverance it takes to become good at what one does. He wanted me to know he knew I was there.

I’d never met him, we never spoke a word, and yet the next day it was still such a powerful experience that while I was finishing those last patterned rows I nearly cried. I couldn’t write about it immediately because I was still trying to process how to say it.

That man radiates love. I want to be like him when I grow up.



Spring begins
Thursday February 16th 2017, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Finished the last multicolored, multi-yarn row tonight at long last. Plain edging to go. My thanks to the elderly volunteer at the clinic who watched me work as I waited for a prescription to be filled this afternoon and told me, appreciatively, That’s a big project!

He made my day. It’s funny how much unexpected little moments like that can help.

Meantime, some peach flowers: the August Pride tree and its wide-petaled blossoms just starting to open and the Tropic Snow with its deeper pink, slightly frilly ones.

And looking at my phone, I forgot to post this! I had some of my friend Kathy‘s dog’s fur out on the patio for nest-making material and snapped this Bewick’s wren right after it gathered a beakful.

In the shape of a heart. It was on Valentine’s day. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my phone.



Yes you can
Wednesday February 15th 2017, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

A friend of mine went up to Lacis in Berkeley for the first time. Lacis is both a shop and a museum of all things lace; it was founded by Kaethe (I was told, as best as my hearing could tell, to pronounce it Katy) Kliot. Who as a refugee from post-WWII Germany funded her ticket to America by resurrecting old doily patterns to make cotton tablecloths for American soldiers to send home.

And then she spent a lifetime finding and publishing and selling every lace book title you could possibly hope to find. When she couldn’t find fine enough knitting needles for certain types of work, she manufactured her own.

Ruth marveled that she’d missed out on discovering such a marvelous place earlier and wanted to know if any of us had ever been. This is what I told her:

Years ago I bought, from Kaethe Kliot herself after she helped me find it, a book on Shetland lace whose price was marked in British pounds so I had no idea what it was going to cost me. (It was not inexpensive, as it turned out, but I had been able to find it nowhere else.) But what it gave me was the memory of talking to Kaethe herself before she passed. One of the things I was there to look for, I told her, was a musical treble clef and base clef done in a lace pattern; was there such a thing?

She glanced upwards and searched mentally through her vast library for several long seconds, then was quite certain as she looked at me again and said, “No–but it wouldn’t be hard, here’s how you do it…” and she was quite excited to be part of an unexpected collaboration here. Excited for me, clearly knowing how much I would love the discovering in the process.

At the time, though, I was barely started at being self-taught on doing lace and there was no way. But what she did was make it so I had hope, or at least wanted that hope, that someday, maybe, I could live up to what she believed I could do.

I actually still haven’t ever knit such a thing, but now it’s only because I haven’t bothered to. By now I know I can.

But I loved her for her faith in me and I loved, too, that there was an entire warehouse of knitting books and a woman who knew every pattern in every one of them. Who wanted everybody to be able to do anything they wished they could do.

Edited to add: I just found the Lacis tribute to Kaethe, here, with pictures of her work and of her. I have visual memory damage specifically for faces and yet I recognized hers instantly. With great fondness.



Doesn’t have to be pink
Tuesday February 14th 2017, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

A quiet day, a bit of knitting, a sick husband, here, honey, drink some juice, drinking some myself while trying not to catch his bug…

And with all that is going on in politics I happened to stumble across this: a cooling treatment that helps chemo patients keep their hair through it all, and the study was done right here at UCSF.

Well, huh. If you can’t afford the cooling scalp, maybe a plain icepack or two? You know, we could definitely design a hat with a giant pocket to hold them in place, and you always want a layer of fabric between you and the colder side of the pack anyway to keep the skin from freezing.

Those sewn-square pussy hats would be about the right shape to add to.



Silly stuff
Monday February 13th 2017, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Life

For years I’ve parted my hair a certain way because of the way the divot in my scalp from the skin cancer removal made the hair go wonky otherwise. Straight up, it used to be. (Note to self: next time don’t wait nine months to get that spot looked at. I could have kept a lot more hair.)

This morning I thought, y’know, it’s been awhile since I’ve tried; I’m curious. And I parted my wet hair on, wait for it, the other side. Thrills! Chills! Excitement!

And it works now, too, if I want to keep it that way; the divot is much less than it was.

The only problem was that all day long, any time I walked past a mirror it was startling to see my face on backwards.



Waiting for morning light
Sunday February 12th 2017, 11:53 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Been glued to the updates and saying prayers for the people below the Oroville Dam, where four counties are under mandatory evacuation orders as I type.

I remember the arguing over the need to reinforce the emergency spillway about a dozen years ago but the W. Bush administration refused, pronouncing it fine. With the Federal denial, there were too many owners involved to get them all to agree to pay for it on their own. The argument was made that water was too cheap and that there were real costs involved and that they needed to be paid sooner–or later.

Oroville Lake is where the water for the California Aqueduct flows from northern to southern California. It has the tallest dam in the country.

The main spillway broke wide open Tuesday and sent concrete barreling down the hillside.

Today, for the first time ever, the water went over the emergency spillway, which was simply an unreinforced hillside–at less than 5% of what it was certified to be able to handle, but instead with waterfalls churning down it it threatened to collapse from erosion from the bottom on up.

And starting Wednesday night that area will get 2-3″ more of rain.

The Sierra Club was right in suing to try to get that hill reinforced all those years ago.

This, this is the wall that needed to have been built.



It’s a toss-up
Saturday February 11th 2017, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

I sure don’t think the hawk dropped them, and the squirrels only tear an occasional one apart when they’re thirsty enough–when they do, though, you know from a distance that they did.

I was putting the frost covers on the mango for the evening when I happened to glance across the yard: say what?! My lemons aren’t that color and they sure don’t fall over there (or at all, until they’ve been hanging on the tree until the next crop comes in and there are none of those right now.)

I went and looked. I’d been outside earlier and they hadn’t been there then. I picked up one, more over there, finally six, a few of them cracked open from the impact. They’d been tossed a good toss.

Oranges.

Most people plant dwarf versions in their backyards; my Meyer lemon is probably older than I am but it’s not much taller.

But someone across the corner and down a bit at the fence line had planted a now-immense citrus that goes up nearly to the top of the power pole, and right now it is loaded, and since it was planted close against the fence, at least a third if not half the crop is accessible only to the other side. Free fruit!

And on that other side is my neighbor with early dementia whom I planted my Indian Free peach for. Our fig tree will spill over into their yard, too, when it gets bigger, if they want it to.

They’ve been anticipating those peaches and I have no doubt that Adele wanted to share back. She’s always loved knocking on my door in the summer and offering us some of her tomatoes.

I sent her husband a note telling him how loved it had made me feel that she’d made sure we could enjoy some of those oranges, too, if that was her–but I also mentioned still being in recovery from a serious head injury; maybe she could roll them gently over the top of the fence next time? (Hey, I could walk over there and visit with her and give him a reprieve for a moment, too.)

Just let me offer a gentle mutiny on the bounty, I thought. In the current delivery method, it’s the thought that klonks.

I think I need to go back to wearing that helmet in the back yard again, just to be sure.



Always the first
Friday February 10th 2017, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Garden

A few days up in the 60s and nights in the 50s, nice and warm, and the Tropic Snow peach tree declares it spring.

(Meyer lemon in the background looking a little waterlogged after all this rain. Today was the tail end of one storm and yet another is coming next Thursday-Sunday.)



Knitting diplomacy fail
Thursday February 09th 2017, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

I think maybe that was a mistake.

Yesterday we had our lupus support group meeting, and rather than have someone present info on some medical topic of the day it was requested that we come prepared to talk about our hobbies, our creative outlets, what we do that we enjoy.

I had no idea MR quilts, but wow does she ever. She brought some small ones to show us and I wished out loud that my mother, who also quilts, could have been there to see them.

The conversation continued around the room till me, the last in line. I said that if I took this out of its ziploc it was probably never going back in, and seeing the badly bulging bag coming out of my tote on that rainy day there was a chuckle around the room.

And so they dutifully admired the afghan project.

And then the leader of the group asked me the same question she’d asked the quilter: “How long did it take you to do that?”

“Well, usually an afghan takes me about an hour an inch but this one is taking two.”

Her eyes kind of bugged. “TWO HOURS an INCH?!” I could see any possible hope of interesting her in learning to knit instantly vanishing. Hard.

I knew that explaining untangling the balls of yarn and dropping and picking up every fourth stitch every sixth row down four rows certainly wasn’t going to help the cause, talking about five or six hour (or more) cowl or hat projects wouldn’t rescue it–I had already lost them all.

But hey, nice afghan.

(And now you have some context for yesterday’s tongue-in-cheek post.)



Have to use up all the yarn by then. All of it.
Wednesday February 08th 2017, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

One week and two days till Stitches West. Not that I’m counting or anything.

Edit alert: Lisa is right and I had it written down wrong in my calendar–it’a the 23d-26th, not next week. You mean I have to wait longer?



You’re grounded
Tuesday February 07th 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden

Two years ago, there was this space, tucked between the fence and the end of the house, where I really didn’t think there would be enough sun for a fruit tree. But visually for us and in terms of not shading the other trees it would be a good spot.

We hadn’t planned on buying one for back there anyway but, hey, there it was. (I had, though, wished for one enough to ask my friend Ruth, who grows multiple types, what the best tasting is for our microclimate.) We were at the nursery way over in Santa Cruz an hour away because they were the only ones that had my English Morello sour cherry, which was going in at the opposite end of the yard, we got a Gold Nugget mandarin orange to go in near it because hey, we were there, bags of soil, yes, and then Richard heroically said to me, Is there anything else you want before we go?

It was the tail end of bare root season and everything was half off.

Seriously? Could I…?

And then his answer, as I marveled over the $10 price tag, of, Yeah, I like figs!

Coooolll…

And so I gave my impromptu new Black Jack tree an edge: I propped it up two feet sunwards by way of planting it in a giant Costco planter. That way if all else failed I could move it. I told myself the roots would be contained to help keep the tree small, but the variety I’d bought was a small one anyway.

Fifty figs its second year says it definitely gets enough sun back there. And it can reach upwards all on its own now.

Man, it felt good to see that (ugly–I confess it now) brown plastic finally kicked out of the picture and that trunk surrounded by good, rich dirt. It had earned the right to be permanently planted. No, I didn’t dare risk something that awkward, heavy, and with all the potential to smack my head on–I got some help and then stayed out of their way.



More and more and more and then more
Monday February 06th 2017, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Matched Saturday’s record: four repeats. Put on enough Joni Mitchell albums and I can plow through anything.

But I found myself daydreaming of a baby blanket done like an *Amish quilt: plain. Flat. Stockinette. The color wheel rendered in rectangles peacefully pieced together afterward. No untangling balls of yarn every time you turn it over to start a new row, no worsted-weight pulled up in circles against the size 5s (they really are. And all that time I was wondering why those 6s were coming up so tight on both yarn and hands–it’s because they’re not.)

Given how heavy and wide this blanket is and that I had more yarn and could continue, the question settled itself: this one’s for the parents.

Which meant adding 22 more repeats. The tall ones have to be able to cover their feet and pull it up to their chins. A good rule of thumb for afghans is to knit it to match their height.

And yes, Holly, I know I talked about wearing clothing to match the project to make it easier to get to it, and I do that a lot, but after a week of dutiful greens and blues my inner purple screamed to be allowed to come out to play.

*p.s. And then I found this. And it describes it as possibly the most time-consuming. Well then. We have a match.



On the day the first peach bud showed the first bit of pink
Sunday February 05th 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Those huge wings doing a tight u-turn right in front of the window across the patio–even I heard the whooshing air from inside, a split second after the panicked dove hit the glass. The Cooper’s coming in caught it before it could so much as fall to the ground among the elephant ears and somehow then still headed out the other way again within that same space.

A cloud of prey feathers drifted into the yard as the hawk clutched its dinner tight and away. Those will disappear quickly, and have already started to. Nests must be built and babies must be cushioned.

Judging by the peregrine falcon reports coming in, our Cooper’s should be starting to lay and brood very soon.