Anchorage Afghan 2.0
Monday December 09th 2019, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Scratching that itch again to get something finished and finally off the needles.

It had needed a dozen rows of seed stitch to top it off. That’s all.

I don’t love knitting seed stitch; I just like how it looks when I do.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

(A detail I added this time: on the first round of pines, I started each tree one right-side row later than the one to its left in order to give a sense of the hilly topography. I liked how it came out a lot better than the original flat-across version.)

 

 



Thank you, Daddy
Monday December 09th 2019, 12:01 am
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family

My dad mailed me amaryllis bulbs every December, and sent me home with six monster bulbs a year ago November when we were there celebrating my parents’ anniversary.

It would be his last time.

The first of those just opened up again today despite being outside while the nights are cold. It is white, and planted in a red pot, one of the nicest I have.

It’s like a bright wave hello from him every time I look up.



Such a simple pattern
Saturday December 07th 2019, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Sherry asked if my Christmas knitting is done and I wanted to put my hands over my ears and run away yelling, I can’t HEAR you…!

Yeah.

So.

I had this hat I started over a month ago, y’know, the little project stashed in the purse for whenever. Only, instead of the cookie-cutter plain-jane quick-knit stockinette Malabrigo Mecha hat, I thought I’d jazz it up a bit. Besides, I was a little bored with those.

Mistake number one: using, and continuing to use, two longer circular needles–and black ones at that!–to work it on because I couldn’t find my short size 7 bamboos.

Well, not really a mistake, but, two, the choice not to do a plain row every other row, which meant the constant needle switching with decreases and yarn overs running into the changes was a pain twice every single row, and helped make k5 k2tog yo forever and ever not a fun knit. Add in that it was a steep mountain switchback all the way through meant that knitting for an hour had the tape measure claiming I’d knit not one quarter inch at all–the thing was a Slinky that kept compressing downward.

There was only so much yarn in that single ball.

I had other hats I wanted to knit but they couldn’t start till that one was done, because I’m stubborn like that. It didn’t matter anyway because I had those baby afghans to do, right? They were my priority, and still are.

But come on. A month on a hat and it’s not even done? This was ridiculous.

So, and it’s all Sherry’s fault, today I knit a full 16-row repeat on that lavender afghan because I’d promised myself I would, and then I sat down with that hat AND I FINISHED IT. I thought I’d surely be done by nine pm and it took till a little after ten.

You have no idea how huge this feels. The relief, not the hat. I don’t have to do it anymore, it can’t guilt me anymore! (After I work the ends in.)

And then I went over to the mirror and for one last time, no four needle ends in my face this time, tried the little stinker on.

It looked nothing like the surly teenager it had been on my needles. It had gone to college and turned into a lovely adult and you could just see it riding its skateboard down those long, steep, curving lanes all the way down.

I really like it. I’m glad I made it. Believe me, it’s one of a kind.



Not seen on their Wish List
Friday December 06th 2019, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

There was some discussion here of Lego/not Lego with a too-young younger sibling–we had a memorable case of Lego Stomach and x-rays when our own were going through those stages–so I took a look around Amazon to see what they had in the way of larger ones but ended up ordering none. Just not our choice to make for their kids.

About an hour later, I noticed my gmail had a new message: Target, offering me 40% off on many of their Lego sets.

They don’t miss a beat, do they?



Wrapping it up
Wednesday December 04th 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Life

Christmas shopping, numbers crunching, did I get everyone, wait–what was that notice? No that’s not supposed to be being shipped here! Nooo!

In the middle of all that, this popped up for me, and if you didn’t see it you really should: every Christmas season seems to produce at least one really memorable, wonderful ad, and this is it.

Although I’m guessing the two year old is probably two and ten or eleven months old. But two is two. And adorable. He’s manning the store here.

(That’s a CNN link with the story behind it. If you want just the video, and of the previous years’ so you can see their baby growing up between them, go here.)



It’s just a little thing, but it will grow
Tuesday December 03rd 2019, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift

The afghan is finally in the fun to knit stage, but I wasn’t about to tote those two cones I’m working from to the baby shower tonight–one time of having everything tangle in the bag was enough.

Suddenly gauge swatches have a whole new meaning. That trip all the way through the laundry offered a realistic view of what the finished blanket will feel like and to a lesser extent how it will look.

The mom-to-be held up the swatch with a laugh and I held out my arms: “It’s this wide–and it’s going to be” as I swooped my hand down over my feet. “I figure every baby needs a blanket that keeps the mom’s toes warm on a cold night.”

There were a lot of young moms in that room and there was this resounding “YES!”

 



Lavender cachet
Monday December 02nd 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

After an inextricable (I tried!) tangle for reasons of utter stupidity the lavender afghan got ripped back to nothing this afternoon for the–I think third time. I don’t think that halfway time counts.

So that was fun.

Just. Let. Me. Get. Past. Two. Inches.

The originally planned bottom edging that I’d tossed after changing the stitch count (too wide the first time) and didn’t want to hassle with the math to work it back in is now back in the game and halfway finished.

And then, only then, did it at long last hit me: there is a lace pattern going into this project whose name includes the maiden name of the mom-to-be. THAT’S why my brain had been so insistent that it had to be in there.

I am marveling at just how slow I was on the uptake.

And typing that, I just pulled out the tape measure: 2.25″. Alright!!



What those pretty little Apple Corps boxes are great for
Monday December 02nd 2019, 12:03 am
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

I like that my mango tree is in its greenhouse and doesn’t need me to hire the now-teenager to cover and uncover it from the nightly cold when we travel. Which he can’t do when school’s in session anyway, so, there’s that, too.

But he is quite fond of that unlikely tree, having gone to some effort to help me keep it alive and thriving on numerous occasions.

I saw him sitting before church today and his dad was just then walking a few steps away. I told him, “I made two chocolate tortes for Thanksgiving and was asked to bring one; would you like the other one?”

His sat up straight super fast as he exclaimed, “YES!!!”

His dad stopped right there, laughing, “That would be a yes.”

Alright then. (They’ve had it before. They knew whereof they enthused.)

After we got home I got a note from his mom, checking to see what time would be good to come by to get it, and by the way, what was the name of that variety? She mentioned that they had a little gift for me, too.

They didn’t need to do that!

And so Eli and his mom came over–and to get a peek at how the tree looks a year later.

It’s grown like crazy under the extra warmth of the Sunbubble, perhaps also in part because it didn’t fruit this year; it budded but at a time when we went out of town during a cold front so I’d left it zipped up for five days, whereas usually it gets air movement during the warmth of daylight.

It had gotten black spots and the fruiting growth had died back. It fully recovered after a few months, but there would be no crop this year.

Which means I haven’t had to keep it quite as warm this fall because the most cold-tender parts aren’t there, except for one branch that has started to bud but then didn’t die but didn’t progress, either; it’s simply waiting for warmer days. I’ve apparently kept it just warm enough. So far so good.

I’m not doing the heater thing, I’m just doing the Christmas lights–they’re so much cheaper to run, and two strings gives me a good ten degrees or more in that enclosed space.

We went outside and he walked in the greenhouse to give it a good look. It really is coming along, and our next harvest should be not three fruits but many. Those new shoots are just waiting for the signal.

Eli had gotten one of those first mangoes. He’d earned it.

The gift.

I opened it and laughed in delight for joy and for knowing how great an offering this was. It was his. It was his possibilities. He knew how much I would appreciate it.

Some mango varieties, and I think this is one, produce seeds that are clones of themselves and always grow true.

If I can get this to sprout, and I really hope I can, I’m going to quietly ask his mom if they have room for a large pot and wouldn’t mind the hassle of taking care of it. I already know how much Eli would love one of his own. But let’s see if it does grow first.

But I so love how they made this into a museum display. So much love and meaning in that small package.



Turkey spinach mango barbecue soup
Saturday November 30th 2019, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

Yeah, sounds weird. I would show you a picture but it all disappeared too fast.

Richard’s aunt always asks at the end of Thanksgiving whether I want to make stock out of the turkey bones or if she should toss the carcass. There’s only one answer.

This afternoon I shredded the most obvious meat off it and then boiled it down, stopping when the broth tasted good about two and a half hours later. Note that it had been stuffed with mandarin orange slices, and they went into the pot, too, along with a bit of pepper.

Good thing I had an extra large strainer–it had been a big bird.

I had some small yellow mangoes that had been picked too early to be very sweet; they were okay, but even after ripening for a week they were still more cooking mangoes than the dessert type they’d been raised to be.

Which would be perfect, right? I debated, standing looking around my kitchen, and then thought of my father’s description of my more adventurous mother’s cooking: “You’ll never be bored at Frances’s table. It might be INTERESTING,” and he would laugh his big laugh for sheer joy and pride in her.

A half a bag of spinach (grocery store size, not Costco’s) rinsed and nuked for two minutes.

I poured three+ cups of that broth into the blender, followed by the drained spinach and several glugs from a bottle of smokey Trader Joe’s Apple Bourbon Barbecue sauce and let’er rip.

I poured my green soup into a large bowl and added one of those mangoes, diced fairly small.

I nuked that for two minutes or so, added a bunch of the turkey, and put it back in for about 20 seconds.

And then came over here to write it down. Because that was very, very good and I definitely want to do it again.

Maybe thicken it next time. Or not.

Right now there’s more of all of where that came from. Yum.



Designed it mentally all the way home
Thursday November 28th 2019, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Over the river and through the woods and up to the top of the mountains.

Where we saw snow and ice as we turned onto their road and along the switchbacks coming down. Only at the last house, at the bottom of the hill, did it clear up. (Turns out they’d had hail earlier, too.) The redwoods towered over us. We pulled in.

His aunt was hosting.

I like to surprise people, but colors are things people have strong feelings about, so I showed his cousin who grew up in that house the photo I posted here yesterday.

Motherhood had been a long time coming for her and I’ve particularly wanted to celebrate with her and her husband.

She pointed out the lavender and said she really liked that one.

You like lavender?

I love lavender!

I told her I’d put all those others together in part because I only had that much of each–except for the lavender. Colourmart had had a closeout on it (in a different weight, but, same yarn.)

She didn’t quite want to hope out loud for plain lavender until I made it clear that that was totally what it was there for, and then Yes! Please the lavender!

Note that I had certainly not needed more yarn at the time Colourmart had put it on sale this past summer but that color and only that color had felt compelling–that someone was going to need it. It bossed me into it, and when it showed up here there was this unfathomable sense of joy and a certainty of purpose that mystified me because, I mean, it’s just yarn, really; I wanted to know what that purpose was, and why was I so excited about this? Ever since, it’s made me happy every time I see it.

Now I know why.

The mystery that she didn’t have any way to know anything about (and still doesn’t) has been solved for me.

Her baby’s due at the end of January. I need to get a move on.



The cache’s out of the bags
Wednesday November 27th 2019, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

Four white afghans out of six in two years. Because you can’t go wrong with gifting someone with 50/50 pima cotton/highest grade cashmere, and it came undyed.

But my brain, my brain. Colors! Save me!

Some of these looked better together here in the sunlight than they do now at night, so not all these will go in. The orange got ripped back out. But these are way more fun to look at.



The grandparent years
Tuesday November 26th 2019, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Family

Southwest: There are three seats left at this price…

Me: Book’em, Dano.



And because their pecan pies are good ones
Monday November 25th 2019, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I looked at the weather forecast–we’re finally supposed to get some rain, and a ton of it all at once–and decided to make a run for a gallon of milk and such while it was dry.

John’s a guy about my age who’s been working at the nearby Trader Joe’s probably since about the time it opened twenty years ago and has been a favorite for forever. He’s got a son as old as my younger son and we’ve occasionally compared notes and cheered each other on in this parenting gig.

And he likes to check up on how my health’s doing, having seen me when things were quite bad, but for awhile now I’ve been able to cheer him with my gratitude for how good it feels to have it how it is now.

Hadn’t seen him in awhile. I’d wondered if I just kept coming in at the wrong times?

But there he was and I was glad to see him; I deliberately got in his line even though it was a bit longer.

Once it was my turn, the first words out of his mouth were, “How’s the new grandbaby?”

His smile was as big as mine as I exclaimed, “So cute!”

He was moving a little slower as he worked. I only noticed (not out loud) because I knew him, but then he told me he’d been on medical leave these past four months. He looked in my eyes. While his cardiologist had worked out his meds regimen.

A quiet unspoken ohmygoodness mixed with understanding passed between us.

I didn’t know I’d needed to say that oh, and, the baby was a girl.

He had told me because he knew I was someone he could say it to. And because he knew I’d want to know.

I asked after him while trying not to probe: the Monday before Thanksgiving is not uncrowded at a grocery store, and he didn’t have to tell anyone he didn’t want to. I was feeling quite protective of him. I did say that I’d had a cardiologist since I was 32 and I’m still here, so… (So he had to stick around, too. Because I said so. To myself.)

But he’d let me know the basics and I’m grateful for that. John of Trader Joe’s just went onto my prayer list.

The next time I get a slow clerk I’ll remind myself that maybe they’re working out how to live with a new heart condition, too. It can happen at any age. Well, hey, I should be patient even when every single one of us around is in perfect health.

You never know who needs it nor why.



Pisa
Sunday November 24th 2019, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We had to pick someone up for church who lives a good way off and we were uncertain how long it would take, and so with the cushion of time we’d given it we found ourselves arriving early.

Which made my assignment all the easier, the one where I provide the mother’s nursing lounge with several forms of chocolate–but just don’t tip off the little kids or it will be raided forevermore.

So. No crowds yet. The choir was still rehearsing in the chapel.

In the big multi-use room just off it there are always sturdy stacking plastic chairs with metal legs against the walls, ready to be set up for any size of meeting and heavy enough to stand up to any kind of abuse.

There was a mom in that choir on one side of the big doors, and out of her view there on the other in that big room, alone, was a girl of about seven.

As I went by on my way to that lounge she had pulled a bunch of those chairs away from the wall and was busily making two stacks of them right next to each other, one high, one low, alternating her construction with sitting on the smaller stack to see how high up she could see from now. While looking over at the higher pile and the even better Queen of the World perch it offered. It would be hers. But she had not quite dared its wobble yet. Not till she was sure it was done.

When I came back going the other way, she was holding a chair over her head, struggling to get just one more on that bigger tower.

She was a little leery of my noticing what she was doing.

She hopped up again onto the smaller stack, and it was plenty high for her. Clambering over to the other–she was so close.

Maybe. But I’d have to leave first, clearly.

By that point I’d stopped. I silently appraised her hard work with a smile (but I had not offered to help with that last wavering chair and she had had to set it down.)

I gave it another heartbeat or two. Then I beckoned her to come over and see them from over here where I was standing.

That big tower went upwards at first and then leaned a little, then leaned a little more, then a lot more, and just one more stress on the system and the whole thing would come crashing down should she try to get up there. And there would be quite a few of them coming down on her head.

I didn’t say all that. I just let her see it from this new sideways vantage point, a little further away, a better perspective. Any child who’s ever played with blocks as a toddler could instantly see it.

Oh.

Only then did I say, Yeah, those are ready to tumble, aren’t they.

She nodded at me, eyes big. She saw the problem.

But what really blew her away was that I hadn’t ordered her not to, I hadn’t told her it was dangerous, I hadn’t told her to put the chairs away where they belonged because they were in the way of where people walk and church was about to start, I had trusted her to take a good look and to see the problem for herself.

And that she was safe–because of the assessment she herself had made of the situation and the choice she’d made because of it.

I was very proud of her and went and told her mom that I was.



Sending Vera off with love
Saturday November 23rd 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Lorna Miser’s mom Vera was in my knitting group for years, till her Parkinson’s became too severe.

Vera’s funeral was held today, and Lorna (former owner of Lorna’s Laces yarns) asked her mom’s old friends a few weeks ago as her mother was slipping away if they’d like to share any memories.

So I told her my story.

My book had just come out.

Vera decided to ask everybody in the group to surprise me: there is a dinner and fashion show every year at Stitches West where people can put their name in to be called up on the stage and model their best project of the year.

Would they like to knit a shawl from my book and then ask Benjamin Levisay, CEO of XRX, to bend the rules just slightly so as to let the whole group go up on that stage together in them?

They would indeed. They did. They chose different patterns. Benjamin thought it was all very cool of them and it didn’t matter to him one bit that another publisher had put that book out; he’s a sweetheart.

And then when their sense of happy anticipation was at its peak, someone went, Wait–but is Alison actually *coming* to that dinner? We have to make sure she does!

Uh, actually I’d had no intention, why?

And so they decided they had to let me in on it a few days beforehand, and surprised does not begin to describe it!

Benjamin had me stand up before the large banquet room when they were done and take a bow, and then they filed off the stage and came over to me for more pictures as the room kept clapping.

So that was my memory of the kindnesses (and work!) Vera had instigated on my behalf to offer to her daughter, who’d had no idea.

I gave her a hug after the service today, and she told me that I wasn’t the only one who had told her; the others had, too. It had meant a lot to them, too.

So then I told her there was more: to congratulate me on being accepted for publication, they’d surprised me with knitted squares they’d pieced into an afghan, with labels on each telling who’d made it. I could have shown her her mom’s, except that it was just too warm today to bring it.

I didn’t need to. Lorna was absolutely beaming. Her mother’s legacy lives on.

.