Got warmth?
Thursday November 30th 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I instantly recognized the logo and stopped in my tracks and guffawed at the sight: I tell you. Best. Product. Placement. EVER.

It was right at the edge of the walkway between the airline gates going off to the left, while, to the right, a long wall of plate glass windows let arriving passengers boggle at the immensity of the heights of the mountains that Anchorage backs up to, a world of deep, white snow and ice coolly indifferent to the needs of mere humanity.

Here, let them help you with that part.




All in a vending machine ready for you to choose your size from. (Just don’t think about those $numbers up there too long.) Whatever you packed or forgot to, you could walk out of that warm building knowing that now you could handle what you were about to face.

The little white plaque down there says, “YES. It really is made from bison fiber.”

Warm warm warm, soft, machine washable stuff, and if I hadn’t been on my way out of Alaska I might even have been tempted (heck, confess it: I was.) I know the owners of the company from many years at Stitches West and they are good folks. I bought my son-in-law some of their socks on sale last year. I surprised them with a copy of my book and they surprised me right back with a skein of bison/silk and when I protested at the difference and that that wasn’t fair to them they laughed and enjoyed doing so all the more. I like Ron and Theresa.

But I was going home to California (where the 39F on my thermometer right now is 43 degrees warmer than where we were a few nights ago), so I left it all for the incomings. They’re the ones who need it right now anyway. Winter is only just starting.

Shutter at the thought
Wednesday November 29th 2017, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A group of one would guess Native Alaskans was taking pictures after Thanksgiving was over and they were about to leave the hotel, taking turns as to who was out of the picture working the shutter at the moment we happened to walk through the double sets of doors (those are everywhere in Anchorage, stamp the snow off your feet and shut out the cold before you enter) and into the lobby.

I stopped and asked, Would you like a picture with everybody in it?

They did not respond at all nor glance my way. I couldn’t be talking to them. I was a complete stranger.

I repeated the offer. I meant it.

There was a two-heartbeat pause, then a, Wait–what did you say?

Would you like us to take a picture of all of you together?

A one-beat hesitancy and then the decision was made, YES! Yes, please! An iPhone was handed over and they all squeezed in together. They had decided to trust us with that expensive piece of equipment after all, and after we handed it back another one got passed to me so that that person could have pictures on their phone, too. The second phone did the small whoosh sound with each click of that shot being sent somewhere (and I’d love to know how they pre-set it like that because my ancient 4S can’t do that. As far as I know.)

Happy to help. And we handed it back. Actually, I had Richard take them all and in hindsight… Everybody looks better in photos where the photographer is looking across or slightly up rather than way down, but ah well, the deed is done now. Now they get to remember that really tall guy and his pointing of view.

In those moments they had become downright bubbly in their unexpected inclusive new last memory of the moment and we were all friends as we continued on our way with a smile and a wave.

With me remembering a hike in the redwood forest of Muir Woods with our family and my sister and her boys years ago, when complete strangers stopped us where a dead mossy limb hung suspended over the trail and asked if we could take pictures of them. They handed us all their cameras both expensive and not and climbed onto or next to that limb in a happy lineup. Ride’em cowboy! They had so much fun posing in those shots that they turned it into a memorable celebration for us all, and I never even asked them their names.

It felt great to be able to pass that happiness on.

Tuesday November 28th 2017, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

We went to the chocolate shop. Twice, actually, for Sam and me, the second time on our way home from the yarn store, where I looked for the softest wool and asked her which color her husband would pick out if he were there.

I took home skeins of something new to me but that I am definitely looking for again: Fourteen (referring to the micron count in the merino), by Juniper Moon Farm.

I did the ribbing that started a hat and then surprised him by saying I had a design question: beanie or cables?

Say what? Double take. I was knitting this for him? We confirmed that cables meant like on his wife’s sweater; “Cables would be nice!”

Alright then!

We played, we giggled, we wore ourselves out.

And we marveled at how gorgeous the landscape is. I remember the unending snow of New Hampshire as being dirty and gray at the roads’ edges as you go by, but everywhere in Anchorage was just enough, not too much yet, of the purest white everywhere, with the towering mountains the most perfect of all. I understood now how one could love this place in winter.

And why a few of the homes here and there are painted in cheerful tropical colors.

They took us to see the edge of the bay and our son-in-law pointed out the textures in what in summer were mud flats; now, though, the tide relentlessly brings in waves of crashing ice under the ice.

There was a stiff wind at the edge there, defining what cold could begin to really mean. We stayed just long enough for Michelle to snap pictures. We were well bundled but my hands were too cold to.

Home again
Tuesday November 28th 2017, 12:36 am
Filed under: Life

Left a little before dawn Anchorage time, got home 11:30 pm California time. Took a whole extra rollaboard suitcase stuffed mostly with that teals and white blister-stitch afghan that had been waiting so long to be delivered in person.

Bedtime for bonzo and more later. (Oh, and: it’s 40F out there. Normally I would find that quite chilly, but I made the friends who picked us up at the airport laugh when I exclaimed, No snow!)

The sweater that taught me to gauge swatch years ago (started it three times)
Wednesday November 22nd 2017, 11:29 am
Filed under: Knit

Bagged me a polar bear, I did…

Home delivery
Wednesday November 22nd 2017, 12:22 am
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

I had to go look up Whistler’s Mother to figure out why this photo reminded me of it. This one’s colorized, of course, a la Ted Turner after he bought those 1920s movies.

And that is 1420 grams of Malabrigo Rios, stuffed back into that ziplock and about to go poof and escape like an octopus

Goaty McGoatface
Monday November 20th 2017, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Food

(Title in reference to a certain research vessel.)

Milk Pail has every kind of cheese you could think of.

He came back with goat brie. Well okay, why not?

And so we tested that recipe. I generously buttered a pan, rolled a pound of frozen cherries in Bistro Blends fig balsamic (bought at Stitches back when one of their vendors was still selling there) and into the pan and threw it in the oven for about half an hour till tender. I covered the toast with the brie, shaved a little dark chocolate on, then covered every inch with half those cherries. Open face.

And back into the oven with you.

They came out bubbling and beautiful, just beautiful.

The remaining half pound of cherries in their–what shall we call it? Cherry gravy?–got thrown in the Cuisinart, where they turned into a fabulous marinade for I’m not sure what yet but trust me it will be. I’ll happily buy more cherries just to make more of that.

The sandwiches were not quite what I had originally expected given that extra tang in there. But yeah. We would definitely do that again. No artsy pictures here; they disappeared too fast.

To brie or not to brie, is that a question?
Sunday November 19th 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Food

Sweet cherries rolled in good balsamic vinegar and then roasted, then piled on top of brie with a bit of dark chocolate for your grilled cheese sandwich. At the end of this week you could probably tuck a bit of leftover turkey in there, too.

The pictures are prettier than any words I could come up with. (Let’s see, got aged Cabot cheddar, maybe tomorrow…)

Food! Fruit! The patient is clearly feeling better.

A thank you, 45 years late
Saturday November 18th 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

She found me via the high school reunion messages and friended me and sent me a message: she was looking for my book. Turns out she’s a new knitter.

I promptly responded with, It’s yours. Happy Birthday.

And then I explained a little.

We were in French 2 class in junior high, stuck with the same teacher we’d had the year before for French 1: a woman I now see as terribly depressed, but in her classroom, we kids simply kept our heads down and tried to dodge being a target and there were a lot who did not continue on.

I remember a kid in Fr. 1 who, on being called to read aloud, made what to the rest of us was an obvious mistake, y’know, the kind of thing the other kids might tease him for–but what happened is that the woman demanded that he leave right now if he was going to be like that! “If you have been in my classroom six weeks and still don’t know that in French we…!” He was not misbehaving in any way. It was our first semester in a new language–what did we know? I just remember sitting there stunned. Way to make him want to learn, lady.

So here we were across the hall the next year and she called on me to read something aloud. Now, my folks had had a French couple come stay with us for several weeks when I was two, and I think again when their daughter was two so I would have been six? (Mom, Dad, am I getting that right?) And my parents talked to each other in French when they didn’t want us kids in on the conversation, making us keen to learn.

So I had a slight head start at least on accent on the other kids, and that teacher tended to see me as being less trouble than the others.

She called on me to read something out loud.

Now, there was this phrase that I’d seen a few times before but had never known what language it was in and there it was–it was French. Okay, that made sense. Having been immersed in phonics in elementary school, I dove right into it. The v came after the r.

English phonics. Just like that other kid had instinctively done.

Horse DOOvres. With an h, no less. There is no h sound in French.

The teacher roared in indignation, betrayed. The classroom was a mixture of loud relieved laughter that it wasn’t them and as much teasing as they dared say out loud in that classroom. This was the DC area and there were kids in that school whose parents attended embassy balls and political dinners and the like and were well familiar with such edibles, but not me at thirteen.

Charm, a desk or two over, whom I saw as one of the popular girls while I was not, rescued me with the quiet words: “Hors d’ouvres.”

Me, suddenly putting it all together, the sounds, the spelling–so that’s…! Oh! Then, brightly, helpfully, I echoed her. “Hors d’ouvres.”

The teacher grumbled.

I went on in French through my senior year in spite of her.

And horse doovres has been an in-joke with my husband for decades.

I’ve owed Charm a thank you for a long, long time now.

She marveled at my good memory as we typed, and I guffawed quietly and thought oh honey if you only knew. But on that one? I had been the target. And she had saved me from it. She was nice when she didn’t have to be, even risking bringing the wrath of that teacher on her own head for my sake back when we were all bratty insecure adolescents.

I owed her.

A candy-pink greenhouse
Friday November 17th 2017, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Garden

Now this is really cool: a greenhouse that is both solar-powered and still allows enough of the right colors of light through to let the plants inside thrive, while at the same time they require less water.

Someday our kids will ask us why we still call them green houses.

The Alphonso
Friday November 17th 2017, 12:29 am
Filed under: Garden,Mango tree

June bearing, said one site. Six months from flower to fruit, said another, with cooler temperatures triggering bud formation.

Well then this makes sense.

There are a whole lot of these; this is just the one at the top getting the earliest dose of morning sun and furthest along.

Each of those little brussels sprouts-y dots becomes a cluster of flowers (most of them male.) Hoping all goes well, we should get a fair number of mangos this year.

One for Danny, who inspired the tree planting, one for Phyllis, who aided and abetted and covered it from time to time for us, one for Eli, for saving it from the cold, too….

But it’s so soft and comfy
Wednesday November 15th 2017, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Spinning

The 93/7 merino/vicuna in a bunch of cones in cobweb weight: a joy to knit, a pain to have to spin together first. And it came in the color of earliest Fords only.

Black yarn, much less build-your-own black yarn was not at all what I was planning on working on today nor had I so much as thought of it but this morning those cones found me and bossed me around until I finally justified it on the grounds that a finished hank was an hour and a half’s project using three if not four limbs going at once: good gentle exercise for the recovering sick, right?

And thus 198 yards on the niddy-noddy. Now shrinking in the scouring, by design–better now than after the knitting.

Tuesday November 14th 2017, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

I found a project that should have been done several months ago. I just have to pick up stitches along the edge, and…

…leaning way over thataway and checking…

Buttons on the right, right?

He looks at me funny.

I need to add a button band. Buttons on the right?

And hearts on the left!

Me, envisioning that and doing a head tilt: Say what?

He pats his chest with a grin: Heart’s on the left!

OHHHH. Oh Okay. I was picturing you in an oxford shirt with little red hearts all over on just one side and not even on Valentine’s and it just wasn’t… And I definitely wasn’t going to add them to the sweater. It’s the apostrophe I missed. For once in my life I needed to add an apostrophe, not delete it like all those other superfluous ones running around out there indicating possession when the person meant plural, or substituting for the i in is. Heart is on the left. I. See?

Got it.

Glad to have Mecha
Monday November 13th 2017, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Knit

Finished the afghan yarn at hand but its next hank was scoured this morning and not ready yet despite periodic attempts at hairdrying.

I pulled out the hat I’d almost finished on the airplane home.

In the dim light there, trying to get as close to finishing as possible while the number of stitches left on only one circ (the other one had ended up in the overhead bin this time) kept getting smaller and tighter, it turns out I had goofed.

There was nothing for it. You never regret frogging when you know you need to. I did, finished the new top of the thing, got it right, and bam! It is done.

For dyslexics
Sunday November 12th 2017, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I actually made some noticeable progress on the afghan and it felt great. (After a four hour nap–not over this bug yet.)

Meantime, in case you know anyone with dyslexia, or just for sheer curiosity’s sake, I recommend this article. It says that the patterns of cones in the eyes (there’s a good graphic of them here* about halfway down) are supposed to be different between the two eyes so that the brain parses out the images via the differences. But the cones are lined up the same in dyslexics, so that mirrored images (think d and b) appear the same.

Fascinating. And they offer something one could do about it, with a simple flashing light. A little hope with your science.


*That would be at  but their website will not let me link directly to it.