For naturalizing at home
Tuesday October 15th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life
The surprise from Afton: a gorgeous Calla lily in memory of my father, for which I am very grateful.

I chuckled over my little sister’s demand on Dad re waiting till after her son’s wedding was over with.

It occurs to me that he’d also waited for my family.

We flew to go see him in April, sure then that it would be our last chance. Even with the oxygen generator that was always attached to him, the ten steps it took him to go from his favorite chair to the kitchen table plunged his oxygen levels down below 80%, even to 70%, and he would shudder working so hard to get air into his lungs.

I was the one close person he knew who had been through oxygen levels like that and knew what it was like–but I’d been in a hospital bed, and I’d had it set off alarms with nurses coming to the rescue. He was doing all this on his own, and upright (getting down as soon as he could), and it was just unfathomable to me how he could do it. There were a number of times I simply held him as he wheezed.

I told him he amazed me. Because he most certainly did.

He spent more time in that chair after we left, and eventually Mom started bringing his meals over there.

I didn’t put it together but I should have: Sam was expecting, Sam was very high risk, and he wanted to see her through it with his prayers added into the mix and he wanted to see pictures of her baby alive and here and well and both of them having made it through. He wanted to be part of that.

And so he quietly held on for them, too.

Dad’s obituary.

Going out. Way out.
Monday October 14th 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Dad was the original foodie.

My mom always delighted in his ability to find his way back to a restaurant he’d last/first stumbled across years before.

I can remember twice when I think she was the one who started the do-you-remember, he did indeed with great delight, and then he had to find it. He was a homing pigeon for great food–and always made a point to exclaim over Mom’s cooking too, for that matter. She’d helped take over the kitchen at twelve years old when her mother had broken her hip: she’d learned early and she’d learned well.

But you can’t eat at home when you’re on the road.

One time was when my niece Emily got married in Seattle. My folks, my brother and I were in a car together afterwards and there was this wistfulness back and forth between the folks about that seafood place from that trip from the time when I was I think two.

Dad said it was on the waterfront.

Mom said You’re right it was.

Dad started off that-a-way and after awhile my brother and I were…a little doubtful. That did NOT look like anywhere you’d find a restaurant.

We went over a drawbridge. They still have those?

Dad used the Space Needle as his mental compass, which means it would have to be…wouldn’t it be that building over there?

Ivar’s! Yes! Tadaaah! And it was still there!

I’d never seen a restaurant before with an indoor–hill, for lack of a better description, with a sidewalk/aisle rolling upwards and down to match.

Canoes hanging from the walls. Pacific Northwest Native art. And the best clam chowder I’d ever eaten in my life.

Another time that comes to mind: we were way down South somewhere (that was the trip with the camper where an armadillo raided our marshmallows in Florida) and Dad said there was this barbecue place we had to go to. He found that one, too.

It was put together by lots of hard work: the tables were just picnic tables, nothing expensive at all.

But they had been sounded down so fine that they felt like velvet. Seriously. And they trusted us kids with sauce near that? I was nine that trip, and we were all marveling and running our fingers back and forth on the perfect surfaces. How had they done that?

Sand paper and a whole lot of time and elbow grease, Dad said. And then had to explain that no, not grease grease, elbow–and expanded my vocabulary.

And then that barbecue!

If anybody has any idea where that restaurant is or what its name is I’d love to be able to give them a shout-out for the happy memories all these years later.

The trip when I was sixteen to see the last Apollo lift-off in person. Dad found the place again that had the old-time jukeboxes and Brunswick stew so good that years later I realized I just had to learn how to do that. (Although they and I went with chicken, the traditional squirrel meat being hard to come by these days.)

I’m with Dad: I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Just like he did.

Celebrating his memory.

So now you see how I got this way (I flatter myself)
Sunday October 13th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My 37-year-old daughter was in I think middle school when I bought a cotton Christmas sweater at Costco that my mom liked enough that I bought her one, too. Or maybe I just thought she would and then she did, I don’t remember: a white goose wearing a blue scarf inside a Christmas wreath with sparkly red plastic beads, cheerful and vivid to celebrate the season.

The tag said dry clean only, so I did–but those beads came back melted right into the fabric. The owner of the little shop was horrified at ruining it and said it was the manufacturer’s fault for mis-tagging it, it should never have come there, take it back for a replacement; I waved away her worries by saying, a) it was a one-time thing at Costco, I can’t replace it now, and b) it was only $15, c) she did her best and d) it’s not like I’d be wearing it every day all year anyway.

I quickly warned Mom, though.

She hand washed hers.

I hadn’t seen it in years, but then I don’t live there.

She put it on it for their Christmas card picture this past year.

The goofy tray-holding butler bear (the tray serving as its platform heels in the shot)? That’s totally on Dad.

My dad
Saturday October 12th 2019, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Family
One of the amaryllis bulbs he sent me for Christmas last year.
Dad last November.
Not sure when this one was.
Dad in April this year.

My sister posted a picture on Facebook last night of Dad after having visited the folks and I instantly felt the time was short.

But he’d hung on for so long and surprised us all, I reminded myself, not wanting to hear it.

I woke up in the morning with a conversation with Richard about booking a flight without delay to go see him again.

And then the phone rang.

My sweet father–nobody could laugh like my dad, nobody loved a pun or any kind of fine wordsmithing like my dad, nobody cheered on their kids like my dad–had quietly slipped away from those scarred, broken lungs some time in the night. At home.

I’m so happy for him that he doesn’t have to fight for every breath anymore.

But. But. But… I never was going to be ready.

The funny part is that my little sister married off one of her sons last weekend and had told Dad that sorry, he was not allowed to die till that was over, she just could not handle one more thing right now and too many people’s travel plans were too set in stone for that.

He’s the kind that would enjoy a good guffaw over that and then say with a twinkle in his eye, Yes, dear. And then crack up again.

And now they’re all freed up.

And so is he.

Love you forever, Daddy.

Florida native
Friday October 04th 2019, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,Life

And…38F again at 7:30 am.

After posting about the cold mornings last night, I finally got up the gumption to go email a friend who’s gone missing. This is someone we’ve had over while finishing up a batch of chocolate level of friend. I told him he had said I didn’t even remember what anymore but that it had left me thinking, This guy needs a hat.

So I’d gone through my small stash of Malabrigo Mecha and knitted him a simple beanie.

Didn’t see him at church the next Sunday, so I thought, good, because sometimes his friend comes too and I wouldn’t want to leave him out. If both come, they both get one, if not, then he gets to choose. Not that anyone’s really going to get excited about thick wool in the heat of the summer.

No sign of either.

I had a good laugh at myself as I went down to Fillory that Friday for my informal knitting group, and this time I went through the skeins, razzing myself that he didn’t come because he was avoiding having to tell me he didn’t like them. This time I was going to get the color right!

Mottled browns, this time in a pattern with more pizzazz.

No sign of him.

And then we went off to Alaska for the new baby and we sure didn’t see him there, either.

I wrote that quick post about our unseasonably cold mornings and then it nagged at me: so, at long last, I sat down and sent him a note. Tossed the idea of any kind of surprise and simply told him the story of the three hats.

I had no idea.

He wrote back that he’d spent the summer out of the country and that he’d just come back Saturday–with a knock-out case of the flu, while home was cold cold cold compared to where he’d been and he was freezing.

I read that and thought, and none of your friends knew to come help.

He ended it with his gratitude that God knew he needed that divine ‘hey you, I know you’re there’ just then.

On a side note but on second thought it was clear it was not, Richard happened to mention this evening the same thing I’d been thinking: we’re overdue to make another batch of chocolate.

I know who could use a bar of the good stuff.


(Edited to add: After he got home from his ham radio meeting we did indeed get that batch started tonight. For my records, it’s Madagascar 2018 Organic Trinatario-Sambriano Valley from Chocolate Alchemy. The kitchen smells divine.)

Honey, honey, baby
Wednesday October 02nd 2019, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life
Lily on our last day in Anchorage

It was some peach baby alpaca spun loosely to keep it as soft as possible, with a bit of bamboo thrown in to keep it together. I saw it at Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco in August and my instant thought was, the Honeyladies owner recovering from being shot at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: she’s a redhead. Surely that would be a great color on her.

So I went home and sat right down and knit it into a cowl and didn’t take a picture yet and then forgot all about it in the drop-everything-and-run-to-Alaska-tomorrow thing after Lily arrived early.

I came home to a spoonful left at the bottom of the first bottle of Poison Oak Blossom.

Trying to avoid more fattening desserts, I’m again dipping a fresh fork in there several times a day. Skip the baklava and go straight to the heart of the thing. It’s less sweet than many types and darkly caramel and thick and lovely, but I’d only bought so many bottles at Andy’s Orchard.

The second one was going down fast. This called for reinforcements.

So after making sure I had the right place, today I went to the Honeyladies’ part-time store and bought a half gallon of the stuff because there is no honey like that honey.

I didn’t quite ask it right and the person who let me in didn’t quite understand why I would be asking so she didn’t get what I was asking and so maybe that was my answer. To, essentially: you guys rescue bees and property owners who suddenly find themselves with an uninvited swarm. Is the Poison Oak Blossom a one-time run and done with the bees now removed from there, or are there honeybees currently employed amongst such?

She answered in terms of seasonality.

That implies repetition from year to year, which is great! But I’ll ask more clearly later to be sure.

I waited till the woman had run my card through before saying I had a get-well card for Wendy.

In yarn. I pulled out the ziplock that had that cowl, said what I’d knitted it out of and wished them all my best.

I’d been a stranger and there’d been just a touch of wariness up till that moment, fully understood because a very different stranger had done them so much ongoing harm and pain.

But in that moment I saw it fall away from her as she looked forward to giving and making someone she cared about happy, just like I’d just gotten to do.

We are all in this life thing together.

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?

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.

He’s taking this well
Monday September 02nd 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

When you have a new baby sister you love and you get to go with your best friend and you get to run outside and you get to find blueberries and pull them off of bushes and you get to eat them and your fingers turn purple this is how it feels.

New and two
Sunday September 01st 2019, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Family