With love from Chateaux du chapeau
Sunday February 05th 2023, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift

I couldn’t just sneak a new one for it because it had been worn too much for me to get away with that.

At eleven, he was bicycling over to my house during Christmas break to cover and uncover the baby mango tree night and morning while we were out of town. He protested that I was paying him too much (I wasn’t) and got one of the first mangoes ever to come off that tree.

Two years ago? I think? I knit him a hat, to his great delight, in the oft-repeated Malabrigo Mecha in Teal Feather, as soft a wool as you could ask for and washable.

Two weeks ago at church his mother asked me if I could repair it.

I’m guessing he didn’t want me to think he didn’t take good care of it. But it’s okay. Things happen.

Last week I showed them a bag I’d found of all the little balls of leftover Mecha in that color: I had saved them for future hat stripes but really just in case of an emergency like this. I asked them to help me find the best match because my cataracts mess with my perception of blues.

They decided the mom could do this and took the bag home, while I was left thinking, but I wasn’t trying to put that on you!

This morning the young man himself came over, pointed to the darkest mini ball in the center of the bag, and said decisively, We think that one.

The hat was back in the bag.

I was delighted–I’d really wanted to do that for them and had been a little sorry at the misunderstanding. I knew it would be a much easier task for me than her.

Got home from church, and thought, Do not get distracted. You know they’re waiting. You know he had to wait this extra week during a cold snap to get his clearly loved hat back–do it now.

So I sat down with it.

Oh. This wasn’t just the cast-on end working loose, now that I looked closely, that yarn was torn. (Their cat maybe?) This was going to be more than I thought. Okay, that and that are the torn ends and there, in between, it no longer has its cast-on-row stitch. Hmm.

The dad is the grandson of Ukrainian refugees. I told them later, The irony is that what I did is called the Russian join: I took the new yarn (leaving a dangly end) and ran it through the interior of the broken yarn to catch it and hold it in place.

(I didn’t bother them with the detail that the full term is the Russian spit-splice–they didn’t need that visual in his clothing.)

I reworked a few more stitches on the wrong side to try to really tack down those random fibers, and then I ran the two ends up the edges of the purls in the ribbing. I could do it pulled tight so that it looked good–tried it, went nope–or looser so it felt good. Definitely looser. As you can see, but won’t when he wears it with the brim down.

The kicker is that where the yarn had broken was in one of the lightest spots because the dye hadn’t fully penetrated the yarn. But I think, yes I do think, it came out quite okay.

I emailed the parents to ask when I should bring the hat by and my doorbell rang so fast before I even got around to looking up their phone numbers. Mom, dad, son: they all wanted to be there to see it come back to life.

I said to Eli as they leaving, Thank you: that hat is clearly well loved and worn and I never know if people actually use them. You made me so happy. Thank you!

It made his day and he walked down my walkway after his parents with the biggest smile on his face.

That, I tell you, is a young college-bound man who is knit-worthy. His parents raised him well.

National Ukulele Day
Thursday February 02nd 2023, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Someone far away from her was flipping idly through TV channels. And happened to catch that the local news was, in honor of National Ukulele Day, re-airing a video from ten years ago–and she immediately grabbed her phone to tell an old friend.

I told the story a few years ago of a friend I hadn’t seen since high school who posted on FB that she was at SFO and her luggage had gone missing and what was she going to do for the presentation she had to give the next day?

And that is how she found out I lived halfway between where that was going to be and the airport. I offered her my closet. Take anything. Don’t worry about getting it back to me. She thanked me, did a fast trip to Macy’s instead–but allotted two unexpected hours out of her travel plans to spend catching up with me in person. We had such a good time. We had made such good choices of friends when we were teenagers forty years earlier.

She had finally found the love of her life while living in Maine. Frank was a one man show: a lawyer in a small town, the public defender, the reporter for the one-man newspaper: all community service all the time.

When he wasn’t being a roadie for the university’s ukulele band. I wish I could have met him.

Then the pancreatic cancer. The local station covering that group’s coming to play for him while he was in hospice. Her gratitude. All caught on a video she thought she’d never see again.

She lives in Virginia now to be close to her elderly mom.

And then this old friend in Maine went, wait–that’s–!!!

My widowed friend called the station, and they were as thrilled to hear from her as she was to hear their response: they sent her a copy so that she could see it, too. So that she could have it.

From when Frank was still alive to hear his love coming back to him in the faces and music of his friends as his wife held his hand and, briefly, lifted his arm to carry the beat like he would have done had he still been able.

Their story starts at 2:12.

Freeze watch again tonight
Tuesday January 31st 2023, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Man, it’s been cold. And so this finally got finished.

Camelspin yarn, 54 leftover grams from stash and done. Gorgeous to eyes and hands (when they’re not dropping slippery stitches.) It’s ~15″.

And how did I celebrate? By checking that Colourmart still had that 66/34 dk cashmere/cotton and ordering a discounted kilogram towards future baby blankets.

Because the long longed-for baby of friends of my daughter that I used up most of my cash/cotton for was announced today. It’s a girl. Name to be announced.

They finally got to have their daughter!

Tell you what, I’ll decide
Wednesday January 25th 2023, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

I took my tachycardia med, I did. I took it. So stop it, I argued half-asleep at myself for hours last night, willing to call 911 if need be but it never quite got to that point, thankfully.

It is fair to say I woke up tired. I called my cardiologist, wanting to know the unknowable: should I come in or could I go about my day as planned? (I.e., would it be okay for me to drive to the airport to meet up with a longtime online friend during her layover? Would I even ever get the chance to again if I didn’t?)

But all I got, after a very long time on hold, was the chance to leave a voice mail message. I was not called back.

Well then. That’s permission, right?

As the morning went on, a pattern familiar to all systemic lupus patients became manifest: feel like h*** when you get up, feel better and better as the day goes on and at the last indulge yourself in half-wondering what all the fuss was even about. Because it feels so good to be able to.

So at quarter to noon I hopped in the car and at long last got to meet ccr in ma, as her online signature has called her for forever.

She texted that she was walking to baggage claim and if I wasn’t feeling up to it that was okay; I texted back that I was sitting at baggage claim, black skirt black vest burgundy (actually more a deep deep rose but who’s quibbling) sweater, knitting.

We bought ourselves lunch without too many people around us and in a mostly pretty quiet spot for an airport–and swapped stories and laughed and laughed like the old friends we both are and are beginning to be all at the same time. We had so much fun. SO much fun.

Have a great time in Hawaii, friend. Wish I were there. Glad I got to go where I did.

Sunday January 22nd 2023, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History,Life

The day began with the news of the unspeakable horror of the mass shooting at a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in southern California.

I kept thinking of my friend Jean’s 90th birthday party a half dozen years ago where her grandkids brought out a long elaborate paper dragon, bright red and yellow and held high to celebrate properly as they waved it up and down racing around the room in sheer joy. Their grandmother had survived Pearl Harbor as a teen. And so they themselves had come to be. She is with us yet.

That is what Chinese Lunar New Year should be about: a shared celebration of all that is good in life.

This afternoon, the doorbell rang.

It was our newest neighbors across the street, the mom and her two young kids–with her daughter holding out a tray covered in little things that were inviting but unfamiliar to me.

I was having a hard time hearing and I did not want to get this wrong.

It was Chinese New Year, they explained, and it seemed they wanted me to pick one of these. We are going around to the neighbors, the mom said; this is what we do on this day.

I said that I was unfamiliar with the tradition and wanted to make sure I got this right (while thinking, Richard, come!)

He had heard the bell and the voices and he did just that, he came up behind me and I got to introduce him.

Her little boy made a point of moving a step to the side to be right opposite my 6’8″ husband and looked up and up and up at maybe the tallest man he’d ever seen up close and thought it was so cool and they both enjoyed that moment together very much.

Pick one, they explained. And they thanked us for the pomegranates I’d brought them from my tree a few months ago.

I briefly touched a package holding what seemed like a baker’s rendition of a golden sand dollar and asked the daughter holding the tray, Which one would you pick?

The mom picked that one up and the two others like it arrayed like a set and held them out: I saw your daughter! Does she live here?

A few cities away but yes, in this area.

(Of course, my mother always taught me anyway that it’s good manners to take the one you touched so it felt just right that she wanted us to have those for each of us.)

Because this is what they do on Chinese New Year. They visit their neighbors. They share sweets. They made sure we had plenty.

They offered love and connection as a way of being in the world.

There were two wonderfully crunchy cookies in that first little packet and we can both attest that they were delicious.

Merry Christmas!
Saturday December 24th 2022, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

The car is running fine while we need it to.

The Kitchenaid arrived and I didn’t even tear open the box a day early to make sure they sent the right color; I know you’re so proud of me.

A friend stopped by. Every year we give each other socks as a semi-gag, semi-not-a-gag gift for Christmas, and we always like what the other picked out. We did it again.

Only, she threw in a little bottle of pomegranate juice from a local grower and I gave her a little¬†granulated maple sugar from a not-local grower. (Ohmygoodness they’re selling spray-can maple syrup now? Can you just imagine what the littlest kids would do if they got into that? Spray straight into their mouths and then need their hair washed and then run off to see what they can gleefully zap with it. Add the spray whip cream and their heaven is complete.)

She happened to ring the doorbell as I was just about to put some pumpkin muffins in the oven so she got to watch me shaking my jar of the stuff over them, and they will be served at the lunch after church tomorrow for any taste testing.

Felt so great to see her.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, all the best of the season to all at the returning of the light in the world.

…Oh, and, a random comment on a news story about dressing warmly had me going, the say what fiber? I rabbit holed. So far I’ve found out that deer are farmed but highly invasive exotics in Australia, red deer are producing 20 g of fiber per animal per year in New Zealand and it’s a reliably 13 micron count. Cervelt, they call it.

And if your deer escapes in Australia and you phone your neighbors they have to wait seven days for you to retrieve it but if it does and you don’t notify the neighbors they are required, not requested, to shoot it or to notify official shooters to come do so. Deer eat a lot and the feral ones’ counts are exploding like rabbits.

Okay, so now you officially know the Next Big Thing in fiber arts before just about anyone else. Merry Christmas!

For Ezra
Thursday December 22nd 2022, 11:09 am
Filed under: Friends

Our daughter and son-in-law have dear friends back in Alaska who have a child, an identical twin, with cancer, and the dad broke his back. They have a GoFundMe that I offered to pass along.

On beyond quilts
Tuesday December 20th 2022, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Happy Birthsday to my mom and grandson!

Meantime, there was a potluck at church for the women’s organization and I got to meet the mom and her two daughters of the family for whom we tied those quilts last Friday.

Sometimes you both need to talk about it and you need to have a chance to get away from it and as Ruth joined me and them at the table, we tried to offer both as the conversation flowed.

Have you seen the Stanford Museum?

Didn’t know there was one!

It’s got Egyptian artifacts collected by the young Leland Stanford Jr before he died–looting archaeological digs for the rich was in style in the late 1800s. It’s got a Rodin sculpture garden: you know The Thinker? (and I mimicked the stern face and hand on chin.) It’s there. And you can walk there (from where they were staying.)

Do you need anything, I asked at the last, thinking, because I would do anything. The mom crochets so I’d already, I hope, made clear that my yarn stash was wide open for them.

She looked at her daughters and how do you answer such an open-ended question, which I knew it was.

So then I said to these good folks who’d driven a long hard day’s drive to where they knew no one for medical care for her son, What you need though is a local number. Someone you can call. Here’s mine.

Just between you and me
Monday December 19th 2022, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

An old and dear friend was admiring my dandelion gerdan in church yesterday, exclaiming over the design and how well the beadwork¬†was done, explaining to me that it takes years to get up to that level of skill in the weaving where the piece lies perfectly flat and even. (I’ve seen a few beginner-ish looking pieces and I don’t doubt it.)

She was wistful a moment but caught herself and tried not to let it show. (While I thought, I know… It’s so expensive to live here…)

She is one of the most empathetic people I know and I knew how much it would mean to her to be able to reach out visually in solidarity with our Ukrainian ex-pat community. I know how much it’s meant to me. I could just picture the random happy moments to come, that I’ve had, that she could have.

UCSF has me in a long-term lupus outcomes study and every year they give me a small VISA gift card for my time, and so often I forget about them and never even use them.

So I had an excuse: I would now, finally, and see, it almost wouldn’t even cost me anything and it would keep me from wasting it.

Oleksandra was thrilled when I came back today, and even more when I told her why I had just bought more of her artwork–the woman who made my really big sunflower that lies perfectly flat with the edges and every bead lined up just so, whose work goes well with my friend’s admiring eye. That it was for passing the blessings forward.

So now there will be another sunflower in the wild, smaller and more her style I think; above it, daisies, red poppies and blue cornflowers. At the top to either side is a stalk of golden wheat sparkling against the black background.

For Marnie. The woman who brought her daughters and a comfortable swivel chair to my house and washed my hair over the sink after my discharge from the hospital years ago with a PCC line still in, utterly unable to manage the energy of the thing and absolutely forbidden to get water near my heart where the line went into but desperate to finally have a clean head at long last.

Martha of Biblical fame washed Jesus’s feet with her hair. Marnie washed mine. Carefully.

Her gerdan is being created starting today. (Click on the “7 sales” if you’re curious, though the thumbnail doesn’t really do the beadwork justice. There are sparkles in just the right places.) It’s coming, and I can’t wait.

Don’t tell her.


(Edited in the morning to add, the 6.4 quake in Humboldt County was way north of us and I woke up to an alert on my phone but didn’t feel it. We’re fine down here as we wait to hear updates re those affected.)

We can’t cure cancer ourselves but we can meet them where they are
Sunday December 18th 2022, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Come to the ice skating rink on Friday, they said. A ward party. The place is rented out to us for two hours. Pizza and hot cocoa will be served and eight quilts will be tied for the incoming family.

Ice skates and nighttime outdoor quilt tying? Yeah, I did a double take, too.

Turns out there’s a family coming the week between Christmas and New Year’s from I have no idea where whose 13 year old son is being given a last-chance try at Stanford at stopping his brain cancer after five years of treatments. He is one of the younger children in a family of eight.

This was a good time to find someone who would be away visiting loved ones; a home was volunteered for them so they could all stay together at this time.

They would be long-distance driving in, one assumes with not a lot of room with that many people and space for surely only their most essential luggage.

It’s been below freezing at night this past week.

And so it was quickly resolved that we would make every one of them a quilt. Given how short a notice the whole thing was, those turned out to be two layers of soft fleece with snips made all around the edges and then those pairs of snips tied together, upper to lower: simple, warm, and easy for a bunch of people to work on together and finish quickly, no sewing, not even setting up a frame, just laid out on the picnic tables together–and go!

I admit my first thought was, man, it’s cold out here.

Of course there were no outdoor heaters: they have to keep the ice cold. The check-in booth is inside but there’s no roof to the rink itself.

I hadn’t been in that facility since before my ’00 car accident. Skating on ice with no sense of balance just doesn’t sound like a great idea, y’know?

But what intrigued me (as I played spectator) was the accommodations: now, they had polar bear chairs, designed for little ones to ride on while being scooted on the ice pushed from behind, with those chairs being strong enough that the teenagers got in on it too and the ice patrol was totally cool with it while they occasionally swooped in to scoop up a toddler, mindful of every person on that rink. What a great idea!

There was a kid in a wheelchair, and the older kids playing with the bear chairs completely normalized his sitting down as they twirled around him sliding on the ice, legs akimbo. He could look down to them, rather than his peers always looking down to him. So cool.

I have Reynaud’s and my hands get white and stiff in the cold. But I wasn’t skating, so after I ate my pizza and cleaned up the hot cocoa I spilled down my skirt (brrr) and off the concrete so others wouldn’t slip on it I got called over to hey, come help us with this!

I was amazed at how fast others were going at it and my cold fingers fumbled as I thought, I am not good at this.

But you know what? Once I actually got going, things did limber up and when someone new joined us, I was now the one at that quilt going at a good clip, and man it felt good to be doing this for that family.

I said to the person who organized it, They’re surely not going to have the room in the car to take all these home afterwards. We should offer to mail them home for them when they go.

That’s a great idea! You’re right!

So. Now, we wait. They are coming.

And they and their son and brother are loved already, whoever they are.

Dandelion beads
Saturday December 17th 2022, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Chocolate and pastries at Dandelion in San Francisco for the birthday celebration, by special request. I wanted that more than going out to dinner.

I thought I’d mentioned it here but I’m not finding it: in October I found a pattern for a dandelion gerdan being sold by its Ukrainian creator, but the only place selling a finished one anything like it was someone in India with scathing reviews warning would-be buyers away from having anything to do with the guy.

I only wanted to do it to support Ukraine anyway–that was the whole point.

Well, so maybe I should consider the idea. After all, I figure digital sales are safer than going to the post office there.

So I priced out beading looms and read up on various models and why and that led me to start wondering about the beads I already had and how good I might be at using them in a way I hadn’t previously considered, which got me to later ask the blog about what all those numbers mean, and thank you for the help.

But reality: moderate cataracts and corneal dystrophy. An inability to feel much in my fingertips. Chasing the really tiny beads around with a tiny needle? Thirty years ago, but not now.

So I asked the artist if she knew of any of her fellow countrymen making her pattern for sale. I said a little about Bloom County, how a dandelion field was its solace and spot of heaven, and how I think one of the best chocolate makers out there likely took its name from that comic strip.

It’s the Pogo of our generation, but I didn’t go into that much detail.

She considered a moment and told me, Yes–yes I think I can do that for you, sure, I’d be glad to.

Saying it that way completely endeared her to me: every knitter out there knows what a great compliment it is to the person we allow to jump our queue, and how they often never even know they did, much less how much it means.

She warned me it would take her over a week to make and I responded, I am in no hurry–I’m just thrilled that you’re willing to do this for me, thank you. Whenever works best for you in your schedule, you come first.

I signed for the package less than a month later, and in terms of mail from Ukraine in the middle of the war, that is lightning fast. I certainly can’t say she’d manage that the next time but she did on that one for me.

And that is how I came to own a dandelion gerdan to wear to Dandelion Chocolate today, where one of the staff exclaimed over it.

And where, as it turned out, we ran into a former co-worker of Richard’s whom he introduced me to. Sam, if you’re reading this, I apologize that I couldn’t hear a word in the noise. I tried hard. Richard explained to me afterwards that your in-laws card and weave wool and you’ve read my blog from time to time and what I wouldn’t have given to know that while you were right there to talk to! So cool! But at least I got to meet you, and you really tried, and thank you for that.

To Mom with so much love
Monday December 12th 2022, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Oh. Wait. I spent my usual writing time not blogging but composing a thank you letter to Sola for making my mother so happy. (Typing fast.)

Mom got her package today (don’t look at the price tag Mom); her birthday is next week but I had told her don’t wait, go enjoy.

Once she saw it…!

She made herself stop and try on her new hand-embroidered vyshyvanka before calling me so she could say it fit–she knew it would and it did–and then realized that that intricate work was not even sweeps of blanket stitch but tiny X’s of cross stitch. Done by hand in Ukraine, all of it.

She ran to her friend’s apartment to show it to someone who would understand just how much work and how much love went into that and look at this!

Then she came back upstairs and picked up the phone and called me and was so happy I was almost in tears. This. This is why I did this. This is why Sola did this and what she was so looking forward to, too.

I didn’t get to go with Mom to her Christmas party tonight a plane flight away from me where she showed it off, but my heart sure did.

Peeps at the conversation
Sunday December 11th 2022, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

In tonight’s segment of, “don’t believe the captions”: one knitting friend in the Zoom meeting was mentioning how her son loved to put peanut butter and a few chocolate chips on his mushroom before putting it in the microwave.

People were going back and forth and chuckling and I finally found that one moment where it was safe to interject and went, because I just had to know, Chocolate chips and–mushrooms? So tasty. What am I missing here.

MARSHmallows! They howled.

Usually I guess such things in time but then how would I amuse my friends?

It’s pie time
Sunday November 20th 2022, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Knitter friends meeting by Zoom. Here on the other coast, I hadn’t had dinner yet.

Pumpkin pie? We were talking desserts, mostly chocolate, mostly chocolate cream pie, and man did I want to run go start baking.

Finally someone grinned, “My aching hips” and we all cracked up.

(Afghan: finished the ninth repeat. Six more to go.)

The fencing match
Saturday November 19th 2022, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends

To my neighbor’s chagrin, but I said no, no, it was funny.

I had my phone in my hand about to–I totally forget what because just then I saw movement out the window: the large dog from next door was sniffing the mango tree. He really wants to know more about whatever hides under that mango tree; the few times he’s gotten out of his yard he’s gone straight for it. It’s such a shame I planted it where I can see it.

I walked outside and the dog’s expression was a horrified, Busted!

He ran. But only to where he’d be just out of my sight. All! The! Smells! to be explored!

I was coming around the corner.

He ran. He stopped and turned. Nope, I was still coming.

At last he gave it up as a lost cause and ducked through the hole I now saw made by the wooden temporary panel angled just precisely so, and it shook and shimmied a moment after while I stood there wondering how that big dog got through that small a space.

And here’s the funny part. I’ve never had a dog and I could be wrong but so help me he clearly wanted me to get the blame for his shenanigans so he started barking at the intruder.

Which had been him.

But never mind that part, territories must be defended and so he barked some more till he’d convinced himself he’d done his job and kept me out. Or something.

Hours later it still makes me giggle.

We really do need to get those six feet replaced the right way once and for all.