Bear and more bears
Monday September 30th 2019, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Here’s the obligatory Anchorage Airport bear picture taken on our way out. Sweet little Walmart greeter, isn’t it?

Coastal brown bears are 25% bigger than the inland grizzlies who don’t have access to salmon.

Here’s the National Park Service’s take on the bears.

And here’s the Brooks Falls bear cam if you want to watch them fishing.

Sunday September 29th 2019, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Family

(Picture taken mid-August as he was grabbing for my phone.)

This little cutie pie turned one today. In the birthday festivities his other grandmother was throwing he had so much fun that he forgot to take a nap.

His daddy Facetimed so we could see him chasing a ball on all fours at top speed. He missed catching it as it came back to him, and finally, losing steam, he was just a bit slower on the rebound.

His cousin Hayes ran over and, bouncing up and down, offered I didn’t quite get what other option but no, Spencer wanted his ball. Recharge! He scooted right after it again.

I alluded out loud briefly to the old family story of how at 15 months his daddy had crawled across the grass at our old house, gotten to the driveway, found it too rough on his knees and had stood up and walked that part as if he always had, then gotten back down and crawled again over there where there was grass again and it was greener.

While I exclaimed, You CAN do it, you little stinker, you just don’t want to!

I guess he decided the word was out now, because he walked after that–now that within a day he could run rather than walk. But then speed had always been the point.

Spencer crawls fast, too. Spencer was tired. But it was a happy-baby tired.

Goodbye Alaska
Saturday September 28th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Around 7:30 a.m., Anchorage, a few miles apart. The trompe l’oeil lake at the foot of the mountains turned into this thick band overhead as you drove closer, with the thin band in echo below.

The morning before, the clouds and the peaks had looked like blades of pinking shears, zig zagging in surprisingly precise tandem but never quite touching, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can rather than just having the tops disappear up there.

How did they do that? I’d really love to know. I’d never seen clouds before in the pattern of Charlie Brown’s shirt.

After seven trips, we were getting good at finding our way around.

I’m grateful the kids took us to feed the reindeer, to tour the Palmer research station where the project to bring the musk ox back from extinction in Alaska began with a small imported herd, to the four hour boat ride up Prince William Sound and back: whales, seals, sea lions, mountain goats, the intrepid crow harassing an eagle (always carefully from behind.) The log cabin of the Oomingmak Cooperative selling hand spun and hand knit qiviut–unexpectedly plunked between the high-rises downtown because, hey, tourists.

The ear warmer I bought my daughter there had the name of the artist and a tiny circle within a picture of that big state to show where the knitter lived: far from where we stood, with the remote village’s name given. The card offered forevermore that she would mend it should anything happen to it. I read the pride in her work in those words and wished we could sit down together someday with our yarn and needles and swap stories.

The conversation where I tried to persuade the guy at the reindeer farm that if his animals’ undercoat was soft, and he said it very much was, that he had a product on his hands that hand spinners would love to pay him for.

He did not believe me. He said he’d been told the staple length was too short to spin and he was very insistent about that. I wondered if he just couldn’t fathom that all that potential funding of his farm had been allowed to blow away in the wind–his description by word and hand motion of what happened to it every spring.

I said you blend it with merino to hold it in place and that I hereby volunteered to spin him samples when the animals blew their coats.

Which of course for all my wistfulness never happened, and yet–a few weeks ago I stumbled across an Etsy listing in Palmer, Alaska that said that as far as they knew they were the only people in the world spinning reindeer undercoat. Blended with 80% cashmere because it had to be to hold together.

I haven’t asked yet but it has to be them, it just has to be. I was about giddy when I found it. You DID it!! Let me save up a bit after this month’s trip so I can buy some but I very much need to buy some to cheer them on. You GO guy!

The intense height of those mountains. The unspeakable cold of the Bay with a late November wind blowing right through the down coats and the way the water’s edge looked like rock candy as just enough water made it in under the frozen surface in the relentless tide, pushing it up, breaking it, flashing it like diamonds in the always-late sun as more came in and more froze and we did, too.

The moose that walked right up to the hood of our car and stared in at us, like, What ARE you? It was huge.

Sarah-freaking-Palin in the grocery store. Recognizing with a start on a different day that that was her house and instantly knowing where the Time Magazine photographer had stood to take his cover photo as our car went over a bridge and wondering what it must be like that people can do that. Fame is so weird. But that picture is surely long forgotten by anybody else now.

I knew they use bright and happy house paint colors south of the border but till I traveled north I did not know that Alaskans often do, too. You grab what color you can against the endless months of white.

The laugh-out-loud delight at the airport at discovering a vending machine from–my friends Ron and Teresa of The Buffalo Wool Co! A wall of glass looking out towards the snow on those peaks to the right and to the left, an innocent query to the effect of, Did you pack enough warm things? Buffalo socks, hats, scarves, ours will really keep you warm.

I can attest that they really do.

Ron told me later at Stitches that I’d seen it just a few days after they’d set it up that week. We’d been in Anchorage at the same time. We’d almost crossed paths.

And then.

As Sam put it a few weeks ago, “Friday morning I went in for a normal day of work and by the end of the day I had a new job and a new baby.”

Copper River salmon fishing will no longer be a 25-minute trip away for them. Their tea-party governor is cutting university funding by 41%, etc, etc, so that he can lower the taxes on the oil companies, and they have two kids now who will need to go to the de-funded schools.

They’re moving.

Time to get that head warm again
Friday September 27th 2019, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,LYS

The newborn size hat on the right was the one I made on the plane from the Plymouth superwash merino I bought our last full day in Alaska, knitted as a twin to what the white one had been.

I took these to Fillory Yarns today. One employee, when I described what had happened, said, well with the 50% silk content on the one you could maybe stretch it.

I guffawed and showed her the one on the upper left, saying, that had been my thought too till I saw it.

So my question of the day was, which wool could go through the washer *and* the dryer? Because it’s going to. And I don’t mind but I don’t want the kids disappointed again.

We read labels together. We both swooned over a particular superwash merino/silk/yak mix in the most gorgeous shimmering deep red, such perfect softness for a new baby, but there was just no way to know.

Finally she reached over to one of the less expensive lines and said, My grandsons do everything to the sweaters I made them out of this and they’ve come out okay.

It was the same Plymouth wool. I guess I lucked out up north after all. I touched a few skeins and somehow the bright red, a color my daughter loves, was softer than the white, which felt like my skein of white: certainly not bad at all, but not like cashmere. Huh. Usually it’s the dyeing process that diminishes the softness ever so slightly; I have no idea why this was the opposite, other than that red just got luckier in its choice of individual sheep?

A skein of it came home with me. I should already have mailed the white hat. I hope to get two to the post office come Monday.

Boxed in
Thursday September 26th 2019, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Neighborhood Fiber Co’s Studio Worsted in I’m sure the Georgetown colorway, knitted for Mathias two years ago, wrapping Lily now and somehow he didn’t mind.

I remember the pattern as being both simple and annoyingly requiring constant attention, but you almost can’t tell what it is now after all the trips through the washer and dryer. But for an Alaskan baby it’s perfect: fulled and dense and warm and pretty soft. I was pleased with how the depth of color and the blanket have held up, so I thought I’d give a shout out to Karida Collins and her work.

Meantime, yesterday I went to get the mail. I put the heavy giant-burrito-shaped box (Huh. I wonder what that is) on top of the big one full of bottles of soap that I got lazy and simply ordered because hey, Prime, and then while balancing those reached for the envelopes in the box at about the same time I turned to go back up the walkway.

Burrito Box started to roll off.

It wasn’t mine and I could only assume it was highly breakable. You don’t want those resistors coming off that motherboard, or something. I jerked the lower box upwards to save it.

And instantly thought, No you didn’t.

No. I was being firm about this.

You did NOT just break your rib getting the mail. (Idiot.) Who DOES this??

I ignored it–till I admitted to Richard what I’d done, and later that every deep breath on the treadmill hurt.

We should go in?


Woke up this morning, rolled over, and felt some kind of snap. OH. Okay then.

And that is how I got to spend time with my new doctor today. She pushed and considered and ordered x-rays, and the verdict is that I managed to skewer the edge of that thing right into where the joint in the rib is–but I did not break it.

So no sharp ends poking around in there?

Nope. Bruised the cartilage, and it’s going to hurt for a few days.

Yay! Fire up the treadmill, I need me some walking time!

And (note to self after finding that the first of those bottles of soap had the lid almost entirely unscrewed, with the predictable mess) next time just go out and buy the stupid soap at Target, lady, willya?

Socks in box
Wednesday September 25th 2019, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Knit

(Carefully) rolling the box he’d climbed into made him giggle.

So the computer did it to my picture. Sorry, Mac, you’re just not as cute.

Full-ly expected
Tuesday September 24th 2019, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

The forgotten Blue Moon Fiber order from Tina Newton’s dyepots arrived the day before we left, a cheerfully vivid 50/50 merino silk. Not real practical for kids but a lot of fun and it would at least last a little while. Lily got a hat, and on hearing the next morning that Mathias had insisted on wearing it yarmulke style, I knit him one, too, fascinated at how differently the yarn played out in the two sizes.

The white: I had Shibui with me in I think baby alpaca/merino, when some cotton with a little silk is what I’d intended to grab. Again, at least Lily would get to wear it for a little while before it would have been outgrown anyway, right? I had time. I had needles. I had this yarn. Go.

I did know that everything goes through the laundry there; to knit with anything not machine washable was to know it would have a very short life. And that was okay.

I realized afterwards that I buy enough coned yarn that I deliberately preshrink that I hadn’t actually realized just how much laundering could affect yarn-store wool. It wasn’t going to just go down a single size or so.

They really did love them while they lasted and even though it was okay with me, the kids hurt that they’d felted them down to iphone-6 cozies.

Our last full day in Anchorage, then, Richard and I stopped by Far North Yarn and bought a skein of by-golly actual superwash merino. Their Rios shipment wasn’t in yet but I just needed a little something simple to start.

The replacement white lace hat, identical to the original but not quite as soft (hey Plymouth), was finished by the time the first plane touched down in Seattle on our way home Saturday.

Now I need to stop by the local shops to try to find a washable rainbow. Bright. It has to be bright.

It rained every single day we were there. There had been thousands of fires across the state and the air had been record bad, to the point that the doctors had been reluctant to send Lillian and Sam home into it and you could even smell the smoke from inside the hospital.

Rain, blessed rain.

We got to see the biggest rainbow ever, stretching across parkland from mountain to mountain and towering over the one in between.

Mathias and his baby sister need rainbow hats now that hold up to the elements.

Baby pictures
Monday September 23rd 2019, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Life
That newborn stretch that you never quite see again after they get just the littlest bit older.
Several days after we got there.
At four weeks.

Five and a half pounds and they nearly readmitted her, to eight pounds one ounce 17 days later and thoroughly healthy.

She’s perfect.

That and “C is for Cookie”
Sunday September 22nd 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

No is, at two, his favorite declaration. It’s like the color black: it conveys and claims power unto oneself.

No picking up the toddler for six weeks.

Hey, we could help with that part.

Three airports
Saturday September 21st 2019, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Knit

We just walked in the door. The earthquake was in Alaska. My laptop was dead and I couldn’t access my email till we got home, but I can now. After 19 days I’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do–and pictures to share.

Crashing for now. Type to you tomorrow.

Yes it does
Friday September 20th 2019, 11:51 am
Filed under: Knit

Sunday: I startled her into a laugh, and it was a warm, welcoming laugh that left me wistful that I couldn’t stop right there and chat and become friends for life, because it instantly felt like we were now.

Up to that moment I had been a bit consternated, and the rain wasn’t helping any. Church was over, the building was emptying, and I was glad to have found someone still there I could ask as she finished clearing things from a children’s classroom.

“Excuse me–we went outside looking for our car and it wasn’t there; is there another parking lot on the other side of the building?”

I’m sure no one had ever asked her that before, and the chance to so easily make my day easier delighted her.

“Yes, there is,” she nodded as she laughed in surprise.

Richard, meanwhile, was already ahead, determined to find that car without having to be out in that rain any more than necessary. You have a problem, you apply logic, you solve it. Which is fine.

But I wouldn’t have missed that moment of mutual delight for anything.

Five and change
Wednesday September 18th 2019, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Knit

A massage chair, not too hard a one. I looked up at their big screen and had this brief moment of, I didn’t know those could ripple.

5.1 or 5.2, depending on whom you ask. We like our earthquakes at entertainment-only level like that.

Don’t let it get you down
Tuesday September 17th 2019, 10:31 am
Filed under: Knit

We were heading for a pizza picnic at the park where there was a playground designed for 2-5 year-olds, and before we left I grabbed my ready-for-anything jacket. After all, it was 5:00 and it gets cold fast at sundown, right?

Oh wait. Sundown takes several hours in September in Alaska. There is not that precipitous drop from 63F there would be at home.

Sam grinned and said to two-year-old Mathias in the back seat, Grammy’s a Californian.

Clearly this was meant to be an in-joke between them, even if he had no idea what it was about.

Grammy is uh Caff Phone uh!

Sam laughed and said it again.

So he did too. They were having a great time.

We got to the park, I looked at the kids playing in t-shirts and my sweater and left the down jacket in the car.

Side trips
Monday September 16th 2019, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Knit

For the record: the lemon mousse topped blueberry compote tarts at Fire Island Bakery were worth several trips there. I’m going to have to figure out how to make those.

Just by way of apology for the radio quiet these last two weeks.

Tuesday September 03rd 2019, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Life

It’s weird to get ready for one season when I haven’t let go of the old one yet. Turtleneck, anyone?