The Turducken of fruit
Friday December 01st 2023, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

Andy’s Orchard sent out a note saying their holiday figs stuffed with dried peaches mixed with honey and candied orange peel and nuts were available.

I wait all year every year for those. Coming!!

The woman manning the register was the one I’d seen most often all year. About my age, quiet, and since my cane leaves me one-armed with the groceries she is always quick to help out.

She looked a little tired. She rang up my fresh-picked persimmons and Comice pears and stuffed figs, and it wasn’t till she was done and payment made that I reached into my purse again.

There was a dark dull purple and a much more vibrant purple, and I had more color choices waiting in the car if she’d rather. (Zoom hat knitting for the win!)

Her face lit up in surprise as she went for the lighter brighter one, and then so was she. It was a treat to see.

It’s wool, I told her.

That surprised her all over again: But it’s so soft! she told me. I have a wool hat (as she looked upwards as if to see it and patted her head) but it’s scratchy. Scratchy, she said again. This is soft!

I told her that it was machine washable but would fuzz out if it went through the laundry; her choice. But something not to have to worry about if it does.

She offered to carry my filled box out to the car, didn’t ask to see the other colors, loved the one she got, and I loved getting to see her so happy.

Richard and I each had one of those figs when I got home. Clearly, I need to go buy more before they close down for the winter. They are so good!

And they have more employees I’d love to say thank you to.

In deep teal green
Monday November 27th 2023, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I had yak/silk lace weight in my hands.

But it’s such easy, brainless knitting for travel and makes big enough stitches that you don’t have to worry about seeing them in bad light–so I packed three skeins of Malabrigo Mecha and the needles to match, along with that yak, with the Mecha skein in browns (Piedras) going into my purse to work on first.

Right before we left for the airport the next day, though, something went, no, not that one, and I switched it for a Teal Feather.

I started the first hat in the airport, and given that it was the busiest travel day of the year we got there two hours early. I did the ribbing… And then decided to put a little more effort into this one. Seventy stitches: knit eight, knit two together, yarnover, repeat, then a plain row, then repeat those to make slanted and dotted lines chasing each other all the way up.

Once we got onboard there was a woman at the empty-nest stage next to me and we got to talking–always a little difficult with me especially in such a loud environment, but she was patient and we made it work.

She kept studying my hands carefully. She told me her grandmother had crocheted. She’d never learned either craft. It was clear she wished she had, and she asked me questions about knitting two stitches at once like that and the loop around, and did I go into it like this?

No, like this; otherwise it would twist the strand and close up the hole the yarnover makes and you can do that but that’s not what I want. (With a hat, since I was taking away stretchability with the doubled stitch I wanted to hold onto the stretch the yarnover gives it.)

She lived in San Diego and was flying to visit her son in Tacoma. (For those not familiar with California geography, San Diego sits on the border with Mexico. Tacoma, WA is in commuting distance of Seattle.)

I instantly thought of my friends Mel and Kris‘s description of a guy who called 911 in Oregon after getting stalled out in a snowstorm as he was driving through; they had way too many people to get to, but he explained he lived in San Diego and didn’t *own* any long pants, and he was shivering in his car in shorts. They made a beeline and rescued him.

A warm wool hat. She was so going to need that in Tacoma. It was going to hit the upper 20s. The Teal Feather went beautifully with her jacket and the brown would not have at all and I found myself silently marveling.

I mentioned to her–and my memory was totally wrong, so I’m typing this in hopes that somehow she sees my abashed correction–that how far your thumb and forefinger can stretch equals the length of your foot. It doesn’t. What my friends who love to knit socks (I am not one) actually told me was that across the top of your arch to your big toe equals that measurement of your hand. It’s a way of getting the length of someone’s foot without telling them what you’re up to with those needles of yours.

But back to the scene.

I got to the decreasing at the top at long last and ditched the yarnovers while keeping the knit two togethers at the same place and the every other row thing. My usual is to continue till I have five stitches left in each repeat and then no further plain rows–but we were pretty far along in that flight. At seven or eight left I went straight to decreasing every row from there, knowing that missing those last plain rows would make a flatter, somewhat gathered top and in effect shorten the hat by drawing it in more tightly. That was fine. Worst case would be that the ribbing couldn’t be folded up much at the bottom.

The silent please please let me finish this runrunrunrunrunrunrun became a soft, I did it I did it! under my breath. I worked in the ends as best I could with the knitting needles. I’ve done better. It would do, though, it would definitely do.

I turned to her with, Happy birthday! as I put the hat in her hands, telling her she was going to have to snip the ends off herself.

Her eyes got huge. Then she squeezed them shut tight. I could just feel her grandmother nodding with a smile of joy–yes. Yes. And so knit worthy. You taught her well, Grandmother.

I’m Alison, I told her, what’s your name?

She probably said Lisa but for the life of me I heard Larisa, which is my sister-in-law’s name and a well-loved one.

She told me that her son had planned on taking her shopping after she got there because she needed a warm hat.

I thought about it (I think we were coming in for the landing at this point) and reached back into my ziplock and pulled out the very small ball of remaining yarn I had just put in there, looked at it–you know, just a little bit more warmth, right? –and found myself declaring with a nope out loud, I’m not going to make a pompom.

She exclaimed in delight, *I* can make pompoms! and took the ball of yarn and left us both laughing.

Whoever she is, I think we both felt like we came away with a best friend for life. I hope she had a fabulous Thanksgiving with her son.

She got me
Sunday November 19th 2023, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

A friend wished out loud for one of my chocolate tortes for Thanksgiving week and offered to pay for one.

I waved that away with I’m going to make you one because I want to. Because for that friend, always.

Her husband showed up at our door this afternoon to pick it up and he held out a box in return; I protested, You didn’t have to do that! He grinned and headed for his car–it was like a mutual doorbell ditch.

Inside were her homemade jams, with flavors like gold plum/cardamom/blackberry/lemon/honey (she really should open a business. Her stuff is exquisite.) Fig sauce. Tomato sauce. All from their garden, and honeys labeled by the season from his hives, seven jars in all. I kept unwrapping more and more in there.

It took much much much more work to make all those than any chocolate torte of mine ever did. Wow.

And I thought I was done writing this post but it wasn’t till I took this picture just now that I saw that there was a card tied to the box under those ribbons. It took some doing to pick them open to get at it.

Inside, she’d written a thank you note. With a $20 bill, too, the little stinker. I laughed. They totally win this round.

Two Roads Home
Thursday November 09th 2023, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,History

A surprisingly few years ago for all that has happened since, my friend Nina was telling me of her efforts to help her mom close out her house to get it on the market. It had taken so. much. work.

In the far back of where some old stuff had been stored for many decades, she came across a box she had not known about.

Inside were old handwritten letters. A lot of them. But they were in Polish so there was no way to know what was in them. (Possibly others in German, too; I did not know when she was telling me about them after her trip to her childhood home that I was someday going to want to ask.)

She’d lost so much family in the Holocaust and there was so much she had wanted to know of who they had been–and how the ones who had survived had done so. She was suddenly so close yet so far.

And then one day it hit her hard: of course she knew someone who could translate those! That lady at the pool was Polish!

Tonight, flipping from page 69 suddenly to the Acknowledgements at the back of the book, the lady at the pool has a name to me.

Nina connected with cousins all over the world and one is a journalist in Britain and those letters became the backbone of his new book, and if you’ve heard of “Two Roads Home: Hitler, Stalin, and the miraculous survival of my family” by Daniel Finkelstein that made the front page of the Washington Post, well, my one little hanger-on claim to fame is that the first lace shawl in my book in 2007 was designed and named for the author’s cousin who found those long-lost letters.

So if you are reading this you are three steps removed from Mr. Finkelstein yourself.

Their grandfather pleaded the Jews’ cause in a meeting with Goring himself, while he still thought that might make any difference. Wow.

Trick or Treat
Sunday November 05th 2023, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

Somehow a third cowl is now done. (And wet because I forgot to snap the photo first.)

Last Sunday there was a potluck lunch after church; I took some pumpkin almond flour muffins in an old Tupperware pie-taker. I’ve found it to be exactly the right size for putting three rings of cupcakes in.

My friend Gail, who is old enough to be my mother, saw me carrying the now-empty container afterwards and her eyes lit up: that was perfect! Could she borrow it for Tuesday night?


I had all week to muse on that; in all her years only now had she found the best thing to hold out to trick-or-treaters? But I could see it, though: big but fairly flat so that all the candy showed rather than being in a pile, so that kids could see what they were choosing. Wide enough to put space between a small shy child who has to reach in for their goodie and a grownup they don’t know well.

It took someone well aged to help me see the potentials in that piece of plastic through the eyes of a little child. I will always think of Gail now when I use it, and next Halloween (insert a Please? sent upwards) I will offer it to her before she even asks.

She wheeled her walker up to me today, chuckling, and held it out for my reclaiming. I laughed too and we thanked each other.

Can you just see it?
Wednesday November 01st 2023, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Politics

He checked the date: Nov 1 last year, Nov 1 today. Aargh.

I was supposed to come in tomorrow, I told him, but the front desk called me to cancel and said they could move me up a day.

? -Oh that’s right there’s a seminar tomorrow (leaving me thinking, Which you really don’t want to go to.) He explained why that reschedule was a goof: it doesn’t matter that it’s a year apart–the insurance company requires that eye checkups be a year *and a day*, even if they don’t tell you that, or they won’t cover it.

I said, Why don’t we just have a national medical system and get it over with?

He, having recently returned from several weeks in Germany, thoroughly agreed. He said, It’s not a perfect system over there. But it’s a whole lot better than ours.

And so I have a new appointment in about six weeks.

All the more waiting-room knitting time, right? And he did manage to get me a badly-needed new glasses prescription as long as I was there, because, he said, They don’t cover that part anyway.

Haunted house
Wednesday November 01st 2023, 11:38 am
Filed under: Friends

When we moved here, we had a woman next door, also new to the neighborhood, who had had a lot thrown at her of late and kept to herself. We went out of our way to smile and wave hi when we saw her, and gradually Sandy thawed; eventually we would become great friends.

Our last Halloween in New Hampshire, our oldest had shrieked in fear every time I opened the door no matter how much I tried to explain that those were children in costumes just like her. Our first Halloween in California, she looked out the window next to the door in great excitement and said to her toddler brother, Here come trick or treaters! Let’s be scared!

It was a few years later. The kids had so been looking forward to the day. But on the worst morning it could possibly have been, they (and I don’t know how many of their friends at school) were all down with stomach flu and there was absolutely no way.

Meantime, Sandy had decided she wanted to convey just how much she enjoyed our little kids and had driven to the local Mrs. See’s chocolate shop: she had bought a cute little cardboard haunted house filled with candies for each of our kids. Just our kids. She was going to exclaim over their costumes and tell them how cute they were.

She had waited in great anticipation for that doorbell to ring, and waited…and waited…and ours hadn’t come.

The next morning she saw me and asked why not. I told her about the kids being sick.

She confessed what she’d done and brought over the four little haunted houses with a fervent get well soon wish.

And that is one of the first memories I told Sandy’s daughter the day she rang the doorbell to let me know her mom was gone.

Halloween will always remind me of a neighbor we were so lucky to have.

Sunday October 29th 2023, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Friends

I did some more hairdryering after writing last night’s post and hung it over a rod near a vent and by morning it was dry. Next time I won’t cut the timing so close.

I didn’t find her till church was over.

“Last week you reminded me of me when we first moved here years ago,” I told her–“and so I did this this week. It’s silk,” as I handed the cowl to her.

She just kind of stared at it a moment. Then, wordlessly, she held it out, looking it over, folded it in on itself, then back out, exploring the essence of the thing, trying to take in something she would never ever have imagined happening.

“Tell me your name again?” I half-apologized.

She had to say it twice because the room was fully of happy chatting people drowning it out for me the first time: “Liz.” Nice and loud, now that she knew I needed her to.


He enjoyed that so much
Friday October 27th 2023, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Friends

Last time I saw Joe a few years ago, he had just recovered from a major heart attack and spent some time in the hospital and was now, carefully, back to work. And I had just had the symptoms for four hours in the middle of the night of a heart attack but had stupidly not gone to the hospital: by the time I was sure I needed to, all I could do was hang onto life. Any exertion towards so much as reaching for the phone to call 911 or waking up my husband had gone beyond me.

And then, lupus-like, it let up, and at 4:00 a.m. I finally went to sleep.

So they’ll never quite know, though they’ve documented previous lupus inflammation in one heart valve but that’s long been in remission.

Richard’s aunt whom I adore who’s a nurse said to me later, And you want to wake up next time, too–call 911! Don’t wait!

Yes ma’am. (And I meant it. Don’t wait for it to become painful. Now I know.)

Meantime: Joe was working on a job in our neighborhood, he told me when I called him yesterday, and he’d almost almost stopped by just to say hi but was afraid it would sound like he was just trying to drum up business, so he hadn’t. And here I was right after that calling to say hey Joe could you check out our furnace for us! He laughed and went, Meant to be. Sure, see you tomorrow.

Which he did. I told him Richard thought it smelled like burning coffee and we joked that the roofing guys must have left a cup on the unit. We all agreed it was probably just accumulated dust, but he went up there to be sure and spent a good half hour going over everything and also checking out the ductwork he’d installed awhile ago.

Might want to turn the furnace on full blast and open all the windows the first cold day every year to let it air out, he told us.

All was good. He came back down, we chatted briefly, he satisfied himself that he didn’t have to worry, his heart nor mine nor the furnace, we’re doing great–and then he picked up his ladder to leave.

I was going, Wait. What do I owe you?

He turned back with the biggest grin. “Nothing!”


But-Joe! You spent the time, you, I mean… !

He answered that he was doing this job right around the corner so he was right there so, hey, there you go.

All I could do was call, “Thank you!” after him.

7 a.m.
Thursday October 26th 2023, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Hey. Hey! I bolted upright. “Richard wake up I smell burning.”

Checking out electronics all over the house–they felt cool to the touch, they were fine. Everything looked fine. Normal.

He didn’t think it was anything but the furnace waking up for the season. Maybe. I pointed out that the furnace had already been running some nights.

Sitting under one of the vents tonight, he smelled it again.

I thought our HVAC guy had moved out of the area during the pandemic, but it felt like who else could I possibly call? and went looking. He’s here now, anyway. Yay! And he’ll be by tomorrow to inspect that furnace for us.

Joe is the guy who came off our roof white as a sheet some years ago and asked, Are you guys okay?! when he found the previous furnace pumping carbon monoxide down our vents. The CO alarm helpfully went off five minutes after he took it out of commission. Lesson learned: never let your alarms be 20 years old. Replace them at five even if they look like they’re working.

We were not okay, and now we and our doctors knew why. We will forever owe him so much.

He’s on it. So much better than worrying about it. See you at noon, Joe.

The Maine idea
Wednesday October 25th 2023, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

One of my hopes this year had been to fly home to Maryland to see old friends, and I was telling one of them tonight that I was sorry it hadn’t happened yet.

Turns out Karen just bought two acres near her daughter, has the house plans all drawn up, and is planning on moving. Not now, but in about two years. She’s done her homework: utilities available to the site, confirmed, etc, etc. She was thinking out loud to me, should she add this feature, and maybe that…

…And I, knowing that she could and that it is way easier to get all the construction stuff done before you move in than to add it after, urged her to do it. Do it all. Make where you want to be what you want it to be.

She’s even already priced elevators for her coming old age to keep it accessible and found the price quite reasonable in the overall context of building a house.

Yes of course. I reminded her that our old classmate who’s been fighting Parkinson’s since his late 30’s added one to his.

And I’m left now going, wow. Wow. I so wasn’t expecting this. It’ll be beautiful up there. And cold. She’ll love it. She’ll have space with all that land to garden to her heart’s delight but still have neighbors close by, along with her daughter and son-in-law. They are all the family she has left.

I told her, I’d better get a move on on my plans before she gets a move on out.

I’m finding this odd exuberant mixture of being so happy for her, of loss as one more connection to home peels away for me, and like she’s going away to college all over again. While I’m not this time.

Trying to sort it all out, I thought, y’know? It sounds like there’s going to be another New England house that’s going to need to be knit. Good thing I got in some practice at it. Don’t you think?

In a year or two….

New here
Sunday October 22nd 2023, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Someone was having a hard day today and she came into the meeting room and sat down by herself. Behind me. With an expression that both said, Nobody talk to me, and, Please someone talk to me and get me out of this funk.

She’d moved here in September. Church is a good way to make new friends fairly fast–but it can also be a place where you see other people having friends like you had where you just left and now you’re stuck knowing nobody, and it can feel at first like you’re never going to know anybody, either.

I remember….

The woman running the meeting has worse face blindness than I do, and tried to explain that as she invited new people and visitors to introduce themselves.

Then she walked up to the woman behind me. With hesitation. She held out the microphone questioningly, clearly wishing she could remember, and the woman shook her head a sharp no.

She wanted to feel like she belonged. She wanted to already be recognized.

And I suddenly knew why, as I told Richard tonight, I’d had a nagging feeling all week like I ought to put everything down and go knit a cowl.

Silk ribbon yarn in a soft white, 5.5mm needles that’ll take it up quickly: soft, shimmery, warm for cool days and cool for warm ones and almost impossible to be allergic to–I didn’t start it earlier because I had no idea where to go with that feeling, which yarn, how would I know what color, who what why. But I know now.

Here’s the part that’s quietly blowing my mind: I can picture her face.

I used to never ever forget a face. I was very visual. It was part of what I thought made me me. Till a head injury made it so it was impossible for me to remember one till I’d seen the person three times and not always then. It taught me a whole lot of humility. Particularly about what matters.

But now, I’ve totally got her face in my mind and I can’t wait to see it light up next week.

Bigger and boulder
Friday October 20th 2023, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Part of it is me dithering because the moment I add all those strands across that ribbing, there’s really no going back, only forward whether I like how it’s coming out or not. And I’m very good at going, after the fact, oh–that’s how I should have done it.

But part of it is, I really do need that hazelnut brown for the tree trunks. Once I got all the other colors together they showed me they needed their best friend. (As in, no not that brown.) And it’s not here yet.

USPS has been telling me for several days that it would be delivered today. It was not. And since it’s to be in the foreground of the picture, I can’t just run off without it.

Unless I move that boulder over here, and those trees over there, and…

Nah. I’m just not that good an artist, no matter how much I want to be. I can riff from my friend Steve’s photo; I can’t make up a new photo in my head.

So hurry up, yarn. The world’s on fire and I need the distraction of creation.

This is the thing that I really want to do next. I just want to start. It’ll happen.

Authority figure
Sunday October 08th 2023, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Scene: a Saturday at church about twenty-five years ago. Our son was playing basketball; the teams were a way of getting kids from different wards to meet each other.

I was cheering him on when I suddenly realized that I was, yes I was, I was actually seeing it: a teenage girl over there was watching the boys going up and down the court. She had a small gun in her hands pointed at the opposing team as they moved. Including my son.

She was big, I was not, and my immediate instinct was to note the tall older dad with the deep voice who was in the building and I quietly got up, ran once I was out of her sight, and explained what was going on.

I didn’t know him well but I knew enough to expect him to be unflappable but firm, and he was. Given that I’d just ratted her out I stayed well out of her sight so he came and found me to tell me how it had gone.

You cannot bring a gun in the church. It needs to leave.

It’s not a church! It’s a gym!

This is a private church and guns are not allowed. It needs to leave.

She huffed and puffed angrily as denied teens do and then left.

I have been grateful for his courage and help ever since.

When we were flying home from the funeral three weeks ago, who should be at the window seat of our row but him! Truly it was a delight.

Except, after 36 years of our being familiar faces, he clearly had no idea who we were.

I named his daughter, to his slow-motion recognition and then delight and we had a little bit of a conversation at last, but he seemed uncertain of himself and it seemed kinder to offer his family my regards and require no more of this good man in his (it surprised me) old age.

It had made him happy that a stranger spoke well of his daughter, and that is enough.

Saturday September 30th 2023, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

I had this old Ashford Traditional spinning wheel that I’d bought used 30 years ago.

My tall older son in his teens walked across the family room in the dark because he didn’t want to turn on the light that would shine in his sister’s room and wake her up–and tripped over the wheel, his size 13 shoe breaking the maiden (the assembly above the wheel itself) and his tumbling leaving the rest slightly off kilter.

He said he was okay. I said that’s what matters.

I had been using that wheel for Colonial Days history demos at the elementary schools’ fifth grade classrooms and it was known around campus, and so another parent, an acquaintance but trying to help, heard about it and offered to repair it. He unscrewed the maiden (that phrase took a turn later) from the body of the wheel and he took it home and it took me several years to find out that the reason he didn’t just give it back when I finally asked was that it was lost in his garage somewhere. I was later told that that was not the only mistake he was making; I can just picture his ex discovering a what-the-hell in a box somewhere and pitching it.

Meantime, I’d spent the painful $125 that it cost at the time–more than half of an entire new wheel with bobbins, second guessing myself all the way but an extra hundred bucks is a hundred bucks–and bought a new maiden.

And a dear friend’s husband offered to assemble it onto my wheel for me. She’s a knitter and spinner and he got how passionate we are about what we do; he wanted so much to help.

He didn’t know that the uprights are not supposed to move. He set it up so that you twist one to help release the flyer. It’s damaged the wood, and the flyer tends to shake until it frees itself of the drive band and projectile vomits itself across the room.

Which is why you haven’t read much about the spin part of the spin dye knit thing here in a very long time.

Nor have I mentioned any of this to anybody in a very long time.

My friends Sand and Kaye, who were the owners of the much-missed Purlescence yarn/weaving/spinning store that closed about a dozen years ago, have been selling some of their old wheels of late. They are clearing out space–but also because of a serious injury. Sand is finding new channels for her creativity because she has to.

She reached out to me a few days ago. There was this beautiful Kiwi wheel they’d painted. It’s not finished. Finishing it now would be…problematic. Would I like it? She could throw in a Super Flyer if I wanted, though she’d have to charge me for it, but the wheel itself? Free. She really wanted it to go where it would be loved.

It is General Conference weekend for our church, with Saturday and Sunday sessions, but in between those we drove on down. I got to share hugs with my old friends. Oh, man, it had been so long, and with Stitches gone now…

Kaye brought out a box and I got it in the car and thanked her and we continued the conversation and I thought that’s all Sand and I were doing as Kaye disappeared–

–but this time she came back with this.

That’s a gorgeous wheel!! I exclaimed in surprise, and I guess my deafness had tripped me up because I didn’t get it, what were they doing with a second one–I said, You already put the box in the car!

That’s the accessories.

They’d gotten to see my reaction to their painting and just how blown away I was, and man that felt good.

I reminded them a bit about my old wheel and said, I’d almost offered to give you that one to sell–but I, I, didn’t want to inflict it on you.

They laughed.

I promised to send them a picture, and they can decide. There it is. Lovingly stained years ago by–Sand.