Even if it doesn’t have Christmas lights in palm trees
Tuesday July 31st 2018, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Non-Knitting

Ugly Christmas Sweater season is coming (but is still far enough away that prices haven’t risen yet) and my 20+ year old one was handed down several years ago to a teen who wanted to wear it in a play and then she found she loved it so I gave it to her. It was as formal a one as I’ve ever seen.

I happened to find this on swap.com, the screaming opposite of my previous one, and for $3 it was mine. It is both tacky (why are the tree and the wreath sunk down in their diamonds unlike all the centered motifs?) and bright and, well, pretty, in a way, and best of all it made me laugh. The beads are bright and big and glittery and a certain baby who will be nearing three months by then will want to try to reach for them all.

It was in near-perfect condition–just let me steam that one side that wants to curl under. There are even Christmas bells and holly on the back.

Swap.com’s mission is to keep good clothes away from the landfill. The commission paid is low enough that nobody’s going to steal from stores to sell there, as has been known to happen on Ebay; this is where you send good stuff out of your closet that you hope will find an appreciative home because it deserves it. Basically, it’s a national garage sale, hence the classic crewneck silk/cashmere sweater I got for $2.30 and the deep green cashmere tunic-length perfect sweater for $7. Which I’m actually more likely to wear holding the baby: they are definitely snuggle-worthy, and hand washing is easy.

Prices sag on things that stay too long. Sales happen. Shipping is always $5.99 or free.

Well, look at that: Ugly Christmas Sweater has its own search on Swap. Someone creatively listed a plain red crew as an “Ugly Christmas Sweater kit.” Go to town!



Overheard at her birthday party
Monday July 30th 2018, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

It’s late, I’m tired to the point of silliness, this is what happened, so here goes.

Phyllis was telling about a trip to Australia, where the guide on the tour bus had told the group, Now, we don’t have a bathroom on this bus. We don’t have a water closet. We don’t have a rest room. We don’t have a double-v-c. We don’t have a dressing room, and don’t get dressed in it! He went on to use various other words for it.

But we DO have… pointing at the back of the bus. I didn’t quite catch what she said his word for it was, but hey, whatever works.

This prompted her friend who grew up in Russia to tell us what her mother-in-law had called such places. Only, it wasn’t just her MIL’s Russian accent (not to mention her own) even though that’s pretty much how they would pronounce it anyway, it really was what the MIL thought she was supposed to be saying here in the US: the buttroom.



Katie S
Sunday July 29th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Huh. I guess I never did take a picture of it–sorry. There was this really pretty cowl I’d been taking to church but that had just kept coming home with me. It just hadn’t found its person yet.

Today I was walking in and–Katie!!!

She and her family were back for a visit. I’d had no idea they were coming. I looked at her oldest, a little shocked at the change (they haven’t been gone that long. Have they?) and rather than the old-person boring line of, you’re getting so tall, told her, I’m shrinking!

She laughed. She doesn’t tower over me like her mom yet but she’s real close.

And I knew. Katie got swept up in friend after old friend who wanted to exclaim over her and the kids were finding their old friends, too, and it was other people’s turn.

After the meeting she had a moment to herself where the conversation was drifting to her husband and someone else and I happened to be walking up.

You guys moved away before I started doing this, right? (I explained about the cowls for all.)

And so out came a sandwich-sized ziplock with the thing folded and squished inside. Light ecru, merino/vicuna 98/2, so soft. I told her I’d brought it and taken it home three weeks running: it had been for her all along. I’d just needed to wait to find that out.

The stitches were a little finer than some, the pattern a little more involved; she had no basis for comparison but I silently did. I’d done right by that yarn.

She opened it and her eyes got huge and she gasped. “I LOVE this!”

And that, thank you Katie, is why I’m suddenly not bored with knitting cowls anymore. She couldn’t have known I’d needed that.

Just let me get this little baby blanket project out of the way….



Two months left and siblings that came early
Saturday July 28th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Another 60 grams, and by my calculations I’m 20% of the way there.

Unless I use those two skeins from a different dyelot. They were a close match to the nine in the bag. Let’s see how much the fabric stretches from the weight of the wool as I get further along–it’s a ribbing-based pattern, so it relaxes by closing in on itself for now.



Cian-aura
Friday July 27th 2018, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Baby blanket. The first 100 gram skein of Cian blue: done.



Blueberry vanilla lava cake (it was supposed to be a cobbler)
Thursday July 26th 2018, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Recipes

In their picture, using an iron skillet, the fruit still shows in the center when they took it out of the oven. 

For mine, using an 8×3 (interior measurements) round stoneware pan by Mel and Kris, the last of the blueberries disappeared beneath the waves sometime between the 35 and 40 minute mark, and I probably should have gone to 45 to get it solid like their video. Although note that I didn’t have any whole milk and substituted half 1% and half heavy cream.

We got a crispy-edged vanilla lava cake with blueberries and goodness flowing from the center. Which is setting somewhat as it cools–what there is left of it.

I might tone down the amount of sugar slightly next time, but this is definitely something I’d feed to company.



Thank you, Meagan
Wednesday July 25th 2018, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Sometimes a friend asks the very question you’d been silently asking yourself and instantly there’s your answer, front and center.

I was describing the baby afghan and all the ocean features slowly going into it and my worry that I could never finish it in time.

She considered. “Do your other grandkids have an afghan like that?”

Mic drop.

No. No they don’t. Pretty, and patterned, but solid colored. The fact that the older boys in that family got sweaters with cars and trucks is irrelevant, isn’t it.

And that is why I called three yarn stores within driving distance yesterday till I found more Malabrigo Rios in the Cian colorway I wanted. The baby’s still going to get that bright oceanic blue I love so much–it’s new this year and the shops say it flies out the door.

Unless he comes way early this one will definitely be done in time.

The sea blanket can come along in its own good time and purpose after that.



(And then I explained what qiviut was)
Tuesday July 24th 2018, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

How to make people laugh in church:

We were studying from the Book of Psams in Sunday School, and after a goodly discussion, the teacher handed out paper and pens and asked us what we would write for our own personal psalm. After giving us a few minutes, she asked if anybody wanted to share theirs?

She got one taker. Here goes.

“The Lord is my knitter.

I shall not unravel.

He increases my stitches in cashmere and qiviut and broadens my hem

His purls shall sustain me forever.”

(Because, you know, the front is the flat stockinette side and the purls mean He’s got your back.)



The quiet one in the back who is always helping
Sunday July 22nd 2018, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

(The ends are run in now.)

Collecting and delivering packaged healthy snacks for the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford: that’s her. She used to manage the volunteers who brought soup to their kitchens but when the place got expanded new health rules applied that didn’t let us do that anymore. Dumping split pea soup out of the crockpot onto the passenger side when avoiding bad drivers, that’s all over. (So was the soup.)

So she found out how we could still help the families who stay there while their kids are in the hospital and convey the support of the community in their times of stress and worry. Individually wrapped portions? For people facing huge medical bills, some of them away from their jobs while trying to will their child to live, that at least is something we could do for them.

I reached into my bag and gave her her choice of three ziplocs of knitting, not telling her that I’d made this orange one specifically with her in mind. I also told her she didn’t have to choose any of those if she’d rather I made her something else.

She said this was definitely her favorite and exclaimed how many things of hers it would go with before she even knew that it was cashmere/silk or what it felt like. I’d taken it to church last week but she was away so I’d brought it home: even if she were to choose a different one I had to give her first crack at it.

She confessed she didn’t know what a cowl was. So I took it out and put it on me for a moment and did a little ta daah! It was generously sized and wider as it went down.

“Oh! It’s like a scarf!” She was completely blown away, and it was clear to me that not everybody had caught on that I’d been ever so gradually doing this for everybody.

She was concerned about the cost to me of such a yarn and I described Colourmart’s mill-ends and a sale on top of that and not to worry. For my part, I confessed that the gauge had come out looser than I’d expected, having knit it pre-scouring, expecting it to shrink up and it hadn’t. That concerned her not in the least: it was beautiful.

Hers was way overdue. She’d earned every stitch of it long since. Just ask the families at the Ronald McDonald House.



Pork in, pig out
Saturday July 21st 2018, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Re that Instant Pot yesterday: I got a 3 qt Mini on Black Friday last year and had enough Target gift cards that it cost $11 cash. Note that Target is increasingly giving out small gift cards with purchases of multiple items to entice people to come shop in their physical stores.

Costco sells sets of individual pork sirloin tips. I’ve learned they’re perfect in an Instant Pot–if, but only if, they’re thawed when you put them in; frozen ones come out really tough. (Or at least mine did.) Thawed, it came out as tender as you could ask for even though there was practically zero fat in that dish.

So, recipe: one chopped onion. A bunch of small apples (I was trying to use up the last of my tree’s Yellow Transparents) or one or more big ones, peeled and chopped. A cup and a third to a cup and a half (somewhere in there) of fresh apple juice from Trader Joe’s or any variant thereof. And here’s what totally makes it: cherries on top. The more the merrier. I used (frozen) sweet cherries and sour apples. Note that all this went into my little Mini. It was tight, but it made it. Meat setting, 19 minutes.

I’m no great cook, and I’m sure there is some spice blend out there that would make this fabulous, but this made a good throw-and-go main course that had us coming back for seconds.

And it can cook your dinner on its own and then turn itself off and keep it hot but not too hot while you sit under the trees locked out waiting for help.

I replaced my spare key today. Horses and barn doors and all that.



Hold on tight
Friday July 20th 2018, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

I had been thinking about what the shoe repair guy had said and found myself agreeing that just making that bag pretty was the way to start; maybe that would prove to be enough for me.

He had been thinking about what I had said and what that beautiful piece deserved to become again and more and he was all ready to work out the design with me and get going on the challenge, and seemed a little disappointed when I agreed with what he’d said yesterday. Clean and dye to start.

Holding it in his hands now, he admired the quality of the leather, feeling it as a knitter would a good yarn and then looking up into my eyes, appreciating what this was. This one was worth the effort.

Later, long dreaded but for the first time ever, I managed to lock myself out of my house because the keys had slipped out of the smaller older purse I’d switched my stuff to; I was taking my knitting out because that cone halfway out the top meant it just did not fit in there. At all.

I did not hear them fall onto the carpet. I usually obsessively check that I have them before stepping out the door but I’d made Richard wait while I got the Instant Pot loaded for dinner and I was distracted and in a hurry and realized too late.

This locked me out of both the house and the car and stranded me in the sunshine. Thankfully at six pm, when the UV was nearly–but not all–gone, or I would have been so brazen as to knock on the neighbors’ doors and begged for help. Sunshine can kill, and that is so weird, but they know me and they understand.

Instead I sat on the bench under the lacewood elm’s deep shade and read the Time magazine I’d grabbed to make up for the lack of knitting. At least I had my cellphone so I could clue him in. He found a ride home.

A zippered pocket where no keys can fall out, rather than only having that broken plastic half-sleeve that holds nothing and a magnet-snap top that things can fall out of….

You see where this is going, right?



It’s purse-onal
Thursday July 19th 2018, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Life

When my mom worked in the English department of my high school, there was an assignment of vocabulary words that the kids were to put into sentences.

Which is how on one kid’s paper a damsel in distress cried down from the tower to the knight in shining armor, Frugal me! Frugal me!

(Frugal, the dictionary said: to save. The kid hadn’t read past that.)

Um..

So. This has seen newer days.

But the cheap black leather purse I had bought at Costco for my father-in-law’s funeral (because this one just would not do), the one whose strap edges frayed badly at ten days (the price sank to $20 after reviews piled up), had one strap rip out altogether a few weeks ago.

I went back to my favorite. The one embossed with those knitted cables on that soft, substantial leather. The most awesome big purse a knitter could ever hope for. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been missing it, shabby though it had begun to look.

My longtime dry cleaner was landlorded out last month (a developer had made the owner a better offer) and I needed to find me a new one.

I deliberately chose the one next door to the shoe repair place halfway across town.

But did not go in.

Today was when the dry cleaning was to be picked up and I told myself, okay, now or never. You need to know. (I think the bigger hurdle was that I was going to have to do without it for however long.) I went in that other door.

I’m a knitter, I told the guy, putting my purse on his counter so he could see that side, and I love my old purse. I even wrote a knitting book. I’ve been using this for three years. It’s me. Can you rescue it?

He saw those cables and thought it was a really cool piece of leatherwork.

And see here? The only inner pocket it has is this plastic one and it’s broken. If I wanted to have you make it a new lining with a zippered pocket on one side and open pockets on the other, could you do that?

Now, I know this guy has a bit of a reputation for being gruff but in that moment he was anything but. Yes, he said with great pride, wanting to do this for me, he could. He would clean it and touch up the dye, too; that would be $45 and then we could talk about the other.

I think he wanted to see my reaction to that number. I was already figuring a complete reconstruction of the interior and fixing of the exterior was probably going to run me about what I’d paid for the bag in the first place, but there is no replacing it. As Richard said to me later, He’s got to charge $100 an hour in this town just to break even.

I didn’t have anything to put all my stuff in, I told him, but I would be back. And I meant it.

Sometimes you just gotta do right by an old friend.

And if you ever hear of a good leather purse with knitting designs embossed in it, please tell me. I know this one will someday go the way of all the earth after all I can do.



Quoth the raven, Nevermore. Nor a first helping either.
Wednesday July 18th 2018, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

I did a doubletake this morning: how on earth did THAT get there?!

Maybe it was a possum or raccoon hunting a mouse hiding under the frost cover?  It had been dragged a good way across the patio and was chewed on and peed on where whatever it was had finally freed its leg from it.

Or maybe its dinner.

Meanwhile, over at the August Pride tree with ripening peaches, I had bird netting pushed in on one side (I’ve learned not to put it on top of a growing tree–peaches have scrawny limbs and they grow too deformed with the netting) and frost covers that had been dragged to catch as many burr-type weed seeds as possible, tucked around the trunk to keep critters from having firm ground to stand on much less any kind of comfortable. Lots of stabby acanthus stalks for good measure.

It ain’t pretty but you can barely see it from the windows, so there’s that (or so I tell myself. Don’t look.) Note the (stuffed) crow standing guard, no longer ‘dead’ but perched on top of the, um, valance. The squirrels have definitely been avoiding its threatening beak even though it hasn’t moved for days. They don’t even want to run down the fence line in its direction: a few steps and then a freak-out and a leap towards the neighbors, again and again. It’s very gratifying. There are no peck marks in the fruit, either.

Clearly a living dead crow works better than a dead dead crow.

One frost cover there had been trampled last night, too, a branch broken most of the way off the tree–but all thirteen peaches are still there. It’s a small crop on a small tree but I’ve worked hard for it.

Rock a bye baby… Something probably did not have fun landing on those stalks. They are the porcupines of the landscaping.

I added a lot more acanthus and some of the dog fur my friend Kathy had given me a few months ago for nesting birds.

The peaches took on more yellow today. I even gave one a slight, wistful tug, but no, August is their name and August is what they want. They’re supposed to look like this.

Two more weeks. Wish me luck.

—-

p.s. Pachelbel’s Canon played with rubber chickens. Because of course.



Take your time
Tuesday July 17th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I had nothing ready. No portable project. My doctor appointment was in 40 minutes, c’mon, just pick something! I grabbed my one-and- only-ever cone of now-sold-out lavender Piuma and needles–no stash hoarding for you! Use it!

I got there early, signed in and cast on.

They apologized that the doctor was running 45 minutes late; I motioned towards my yarn and said, You’ve got twenty hours before I get antsy. For that matter, if someone’s appointment is after mine but they’re in a hurry they’re welcome to go ahead of me.

The guy laughed and clearly his day was suddenly a whole lot better.



It was just warming up to us
Monday July 16th 2018, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Life

I glugged two gallons of milk down the sink and threw out the fresh wild salmon. (With apologies to the fish that died for that non-meal.)

Note to self: check the fridge before bed every night to make sure that silly door didn’t bounce open again.