Calla called, cowl could
Saturday August 18th 2018, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Lupus

Afton (should I say Other Afton, or Local Afton) told me last week she’s about to move to Denver.

Denver is going to be awfully cold to a Californian. So I made it to Green Planet on Thursday (while I could still buy this yarn), started Friday night, got right back to it first thing in the morning and by this afternoon had two skeins of Chalet in this cowl and called it done. (It was densely knit, too, before water touched it, but I still think it’ll give her some good warmth. The photo is less than half of it.)

Ran to Trader Joe’s this evening, where they had small pots of flowering plants out front; I did a quick visual skim so I could keep going and ignore them–but that darkest-pink-to-purple calla lily jumped up and down and refused to let me not pay attention to it.

Wait. That’s IT!

I’d been looking for it for a long time without quite knowing what I was looking for–and with my sun sensitivity, it’s hard to go browsing at nurseries.

I’ve had a large chestnut-brown ceramic pot near the front door ever since my friend Sheryl gave me several when she moved. Two have long been used. The third was very heavy, and when we found it had a crack in it it seemed like an announcement of, well that’s where that goes, then, and it’s a good thing that’s a good spot because even empty it was too heavy to safely move it again and it was far too nice to just toss it because of that.

I just never came across anything that felt like the right thing to put in it. It seemed kind of dumb to have this big empty gorgeous pot just sitting there, and it was, but if I was going to put the effort into keeping anything alive it needed to be something that constantly drew me to it.

It was pretty dark by the time I dragged the bag of soil from the back yard and got this all tucked away in its rightful new place, where it will bloom and the bulb will spread out to fill the space for years to come.

I’d been waiting for it for a long time.

 

 



Two and new
Monday August 13th 2018, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

He was two. And he was determined to be shy.

His baby brother, newly walking, let me read him a book twice and let me vroom vroom with a hot wheels car–that he promptly wanted back. He could give it to me but then I had to give it back to him: that’s the rule.

That’s okay. I know that rule.

His big brother watched from his ride-on toy and turned away when I tried again to engage him. I might look like a grandma but I was not *his* grandma.

Tough crowd.

Singing softly, though–wait, he knew that one. “The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.” He watched me intently. I got to the verse of “the driver on the bus says move on back…” and suddenly he found his ride-on bus moving backwards from under him.

He laughed! I totally got him. Forward again on the wheels going round and round, backwards on the move on back, again and again and again.

And with that we were finally friends.



Simple pleasures
Saturday August 11th 2018, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I’d been really wanting more of that berry cobbler all week but given that I like to add two tablespoons more butter than the New York Times version, I really needed to have people around to help the two of us eat it. Four+ cups of fruit only excuses the indulgence so far.

This evening was our friend Phyl’s annual last-Saturday-before-school-starts pool party so I had my excuse.

I used unsweetened Kefir (a type of pourable yogurt) this time instead of whole milk.

The cobbler came out less crunchy on top than the first time but the sour better balanced out the sweet.

Any chance at leftovers disappeared pretty fast.



Paul Kalanithi. And Jason.
Thursday August 09th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Life,Lupus

A book or the baby blanket project…

“When Breath Becomes Air” won. Written by Paul Kalanithi, whom I first stumbled across in a New York Times article. He trained as a neurosurgeon at Stanford alongside our friend Jason, which I knew was going to make the book feel very personal. I watched Jason’s family go through that hard long slog; when Jason’s training was finally over, he took a job in upstate New York and his wife Sheryl, who loved to garden and did what she could while living in a rental here, gifted me with several large flower pots when they left. I have raspberries in one and a squirrel-surprise fig seedling in another to remember them by.

When Kalanithi wrote of going out with his wife to a great barbecue place, I thought, I just bet you that was Armadillo Willy’s. California does not do barbecue like the South does but that’s the one place I know of that tries.

Kalanithi wrote about what it’s like to be diagnosed with stage four lung cancer at 36 when you’re so close to achieving all that you’d hoped and worked towards but then life flips the tables over and everything spills off.

I remember Jason coming into church once, which was always notable because during those residency years he so often couldn’t take the time off to. He looked down, and it could have been just the endless hours of it all–and yet.

So I asked him.

And he, knowing that I knew the inside of Stanford Hospital well, just spilled: he’d had a patient, a lovely woman, cheerful, happy, healthy all her life, (and it was clear he really admired her and loved her) and all the sudden there she was needing brain surgery and bam just like that despite all his training, despite all his years of preparation to be able to help other people in moments like this, there was suddenly no more they could do and to his great surprise she was gone. Gone. How. It had just happened and he hadn’t had time to process it yet. He wasn’t sure right then that he could process it–it just didn’t compute. Sixty years old–so young.

Looking at this love of a human being himself, my reaction surprised him. I was in my early fifties, so an endpoint that seemed so close to him in his thirties was a lot closer to me. But still, I was going, Sixty. She made it to sixty in good health. How would it be! I marveled rather than ached, and told him, That’s really cool, I’m so happy for her. I’m sorry she’s gone but I’m glad she had such a good life!

I was picturing all the things one could do if, say, one could be a normal person who could be out in the sun. No lupus. No Crohn’s. You could travel. You could go to the beach and not just right at sundown. You could play with your grandkids on the grass at noon, you could celebrate in any way and at any time you wanted and the fact that she was such a good person while living that life… And then blink and it’s over and you don’t even have to do much of the suffering part in between.

To have that reaction out of someone so close to his patient’s age–that was exactly what Jason had needed. The gratitude. And towards him, too, for having been there for her when she’d so needed him. It turned it around for him completely. He had done his best and he had been there for her and what he could do and be had been enough.

I think both of us will never forget that moment.

Today, at long last, I read his friend Paul’s posthumously published, beautiful, heartbreaking book, a love letter to the daughter he would never get to see grow up, and wished Jason and Sheryl were still here to talk about it with. About their friend.

But life changes and people move on.

This I know: we will see each other again.



Pound plus per
Wednesday August 08th 2018, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Andy’s was open for business, said a sidewalk sign put right there just for that, but the flag man said no as the two-story truck and the smaller soccer-cleated truck behind it chugged and beeped. (The grandsons would have known their names.)

Now I understood why Catherine had raved over the kindness of the woman who’d offered to meet her with her peaches two weeks ago: that woman hadn’t just been willing to walk out to the road carrying everything but down to the next block across the length of the orchard.

Go back out to the main road and then right on Peach, the flag man told me, nodding yes over the noise when I repeated it back to him to be sure.

Can I get in that way?

Yes you can.

Peet, actually, it turned out. Coffee not fruit.

There was another orchard turning into housing. Beautifully landscaped like the others around there but it still broke my heart.

Down near the end, Peet too had a Road Closed sign across my lane. I considered briefly, thought, well he told me to and there’s nobody there to tell me not to so I can. I’m going.

The road curved towards Andy’s.

I waited for the men driving those trucks in front of his orchard to at least notice me so they wouldn’t back up over my car, then scooted down his driveway.

Where his guy retrieved a case of Angeluses from the back for me and raised an eyebrow at my request for a second. (I know they try to make sure they have some for every customer who makes the trek out there so that nobody comes away disappointed.)

I explained that I was buying for two; I’d been commissioned by a friend who was a regular, too. (Ever since I’d told her about the place, and now she’s joined the Rare Fruit Growers Association that Andy is so much a part of and talked to him herself. I didn’t say all that.)

Alright, then. And he let me have another for her.

I was just about to hit publish right there when my doorbell rang. At 9:30 at night? I flipped the outside lights on.

Andy! (Or rather, Other Andy.) Catherine’s husband, and not only did he pay for the peaches I’d dropped off (you should have seen the look in their teenage son’s eyes at the sight of them this afternoon) but he was bringing us some honey from his hives in thanks for making that trip after they’d run out.

He let me send him home with two more of the biggest peaches I had in thanks. But only two.

Some friends just never let you keep up. And that is a wonderful thing.

 



Snail mail
Thursday August 02nd 2018, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Two new repeats on the baby blanket, three hours+ work.)

I’ve mentioned this story before: when our oldest arrived at her then-new job in Anchorage a few years back, she got introduced to her co-workers, who did the usual where-are-you-from chit-chat.

Karol: Oh! Where in California… Wait. Where on…  !!!

They’d grown up two doors apart. She’d just left for college when we’d moved in.

We were very fond of her parents over the years; we nicknamed their enormous orange Persian, who loved to hang out with our kids, Blob, and the name stuck, to Mrs. F’s amusement (and at the vet’s when she couldn’t remember his real name, a bit of chagrin. She laughed when she told me they’d asked and she’d hesitated but then in a can-you-believe-it tone with a laughing wince, had blurted, Blob…)

When Blob was old and ill, we combed his fur, I spun it and made a pin out of it with seed pearls on toothpicks for knitting needles for the little knitted rectangle to hang down from; Karol’s mom loved it and kept it on her fridge as long as they lived here.

We adored them.

They sold their house about four years ago to be near their grandkids. (Eastward rather than northward.)

But thanks to the smallness of the world, that Alaska connection is how we got word.

The mailman arrived at my driveway about the same time I did today coming home from errands, and–okay, I’m invoking Thumper’s Admonition here. We’ll just say I wanted him to have a reason to bother with taking good care of that two-stamp envelope he was picking up.

That’s going to the couple who used to live two doors down, I told him, motioning to the house his truck was parked in front of. They’re in assisted living now and he’s in hospice care.

The guy’s English is good but he seemed unclear, so I clarified: He’s dying. That card is to thank them for being such good neighbors to my kids while they were growing up.

Oh! I think I remember them! They were old, right?

I was pretty sure he’d just started on this route when they were moving away, so I was glad he knew who this was for.

He looked at the address, wanting to know where they were now. Ohio?

That card is on its way.

 

Postscript:

And the thought occurs to me, having written this: maybe that moment helped that mailman find a sense of purpose to his job today. That card meant something to him.

The choreography of his timing and mine that made all that happen was a small thing that wasn’t.



Even if it doesn’t have Christmas lights in palm trees
Tuesday July 31st 2018, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Non-Knitting

Ugly Christmas Sweater season is coming (but is still far enough away that prices haven’t risen yet) and my 20+ year old one was handed down several years ago to a teen who wanted to wear it in a play and then she found she loved it so I gave it to her. It was as formal a one as I’ve ever seen.

I happened to find this on swap.com, the screaming opposite of my previous one, and for $3 it was mine. It is both tacky (why are the tree and the wreath sunk down in their diamonds unlike all the centered motifs?) and bright and, well, pretty, in a way, and best of all it made me laugh. The beads are bright and big and glittery and a certain baby who will be nearing three months by then will want to try to reach for them all.

It was in near-perfect condition–just let me steam that one side that wants to curl under. There are even Christmas bells and holly on the back.

Swap.com’s mission is to keep good clothes away from the landfill. The commission paid is low enough that nobody’s going to steal from stores to sell there, as has been known to happen on Ebay; this is where you send good stuff out of your closet that you hope will find an appreciative home because it deserves it. Basically, it’s a national garage sale, hence the classic crewneck silk/cashmere sweater I got for $2.30 and the deep green cashmere tunic-length perfect sweater for $7. Which I’m actually more likely to wear holding the baby: they are definitely snuggle-worthy, and hand washing is easy.

Prices sag on things that stay too long. Sales happen. Shipping is always $5.99 or free.

Well, look at that: Ugly Christmas Sweater has its own search on Swap. Someone creatively listed a plain red crew as an “Ugly Christmas Sweater kit.” Go to town!



Overheard at her birthday party
Monday July 30th 2018, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

It’s late, I’m tired to the point of silliness, this is what happened, so here goes.

Phyllis was telling about a trip to Australia, where the guide on the tour bus had told the group, Now, we don’t have a bathroom on this bus. We don’t have a water closet. We don’t have a rest room. We don’t have a double-v-c. We don’t have a dressing room, and don’t get dressed in it! He went on to use various other words for it.

But we DO have… pointing at the back of the bus. I didn’t quite catch what she said his word for it was, but hey, whatever works.

This prompted her friend who grew up in Russia to tell us what her mother-in-law had called such places. Only, it wasn’t just her MIL’s Russian accent (not to mention her own) even though that’s pretty much how they would pronounce it anyway, it really was what the MIL thought she was supposed to be saying here in the US: the buttroom.



Katie S
Sunday July 29th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Huh. I guess I never did take a picture of it–sorry. There was this really pretty cowl I’d been taking to church but that had just kept coming home with me. It just hadn’t found its person yet.

Today I was walking in and–Katie!!!

She and her family were back for a visit. I’d had no idea they were coming. I looked at her oldest, a little shocked at the change (they haven’t been gone that long. Have they?) and rather than the old-person boring line of, you’re getting so tall, told her, I’m shrinking!

She laughed. She doesn’t tower over me like her mom yet but she’s real close.

And I knew. Katie got swept up in friend after old friend who wanted to exclaim over her and the kids were finding their old friends, too, and it was other people’s turn.

After the meeting she had a moment to herself where the conversation was drifting to her husband and someone else and I happened to be walking up.

You guys moved away before I started doing this, right? (I explained about the cowls for all.)

And so out came a sandwich-sized ziplock with the thing folded and squished inside. Light ecru, merino/vicuna 98/2, so soft. I told her I’d brought it and taken it home three weeks running: it had been for her all along. I’d just needed to wait to find that out.

The stitches were a little finer than some, the pattern a little more involved; she had no basis for comparison but I silently did. I’d done right by that yarn.

She opened it and her eyes got huge and she gasped. “I LOVE this!”

And that, thank you Katie, is why I’m suddenly not bored with knitting cowls anymore. She couldn’t have known I’d needed that.

Just let me get this little baby blanket project out of the way….



Blueberry vanilla lava cake (it was supposed to be a cobbler)
Thursday July 26th 2018, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Recipes

In their picture, using an iron skillet, the fruit still shows in the center when they took it out of the oven. 

For mine, using an 8×3 (interior measurements) round stoneware pan by Mel and Kris, the last of the blueberries disappeared beneath the waves sometime between the 35 and 40 minute mark, and I probably should have gone to 45 to get it solid like their video. Although note that I didn’t have any whole milk and substituted half 1% and half heavy cream.

We got a crispy-edged vanilla lava cake with blueberries and goodness flowing from the center. Which is setting somewhat as it cools–what there is left of it.

I might tone down the amount of sugar slightly next time, but this is definitely something I’d feed to company.



Thank you, Meagan
Wednesday July 25th 2018, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Sometimes a friend asks the very question you’d been silently asking yourself and instantly there’s your answer, front and center.

I was describing the baby afghan and all the ocean features slowly going into it and my worry that I could never finish it in time.

She considered. “Do your other grandkids have an afghan like that?”

Mic drop.

No. No they don’t. Pretty, and patterned, but solid colored. The fact that the older boys in that family got sweaters with cars and trucks is irrelevant, isn’t it.

And that is why I called three yarn stores within driving distance yesterday till I found more Malabrigo Rios in the Cian colorway I wanted. The baby’s still going to get that bright oceanic blue I love so much–it’s new this year and the shops say it flies out the door.

Unless he comes way early this one will definitely be done in time.

The sea blanket can come along in its own good time and purpose after that.



(And then I explained what qiviut was)
Tuesday July 24th 2018, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

How to make people laugh in church:

We were studying from the Book of Psams in Sunday School, and after a goodly discussion, the teacher handed out paper and pens and asked us what we would write for our own personal psalm. After giving us a few minutes, she asked if anybody wanted to share theirs?

She got one taker. Here goes.

“The Lord is my knitter.

I shall not unravel.

He increases my stitches in cashmere and qiviut and broadens my hem

His purls shall sustain me forever.”

(Because, you know, the front is the flat stockinette side and the purls mean He’s got your back.)



The quiet one in the back who is always helping
Sunday July 22nd 2018, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

(The ends are run in now.)

Collecting and delivering packaged healthy snacks for the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford: that’s her. She used to manage the volunteers who brought soup to their kitchens but when the place got expanded new health rules applied that didn’t let us do that anymore. Dumping split pea soup out of the crockpot onto the passenger side when avoiding bad drivers, that’s all over. (So was the soup.)

So she found out how we could still help the families who stay there while their kids are in the hospital and convey the support of the community in their times of stress and worry. Individually wrapped portions? For people facing huge medical bills, some of them away from their jobs while trying to will their child to live, that at least is something we could do for them.

I reached into my bag and gave her her choice of three ziplocs of knitting, not telling her that I’d made this orange one specifically with her in mind. I also told her she didn’t have to choose any of those if she’d rather I made her something else.

She said this was definitely her favorite and exclaimed how many things of hers it would go with before she even knew that it was cashmere/silk or what it felt like. I’d taken it to church last week but she was away so I’d brought it home: even if she were to choose a different one I had to give her first crack at it.

She confessed she didn’t know what a cowl was. So I took it out and put it on me for a moment and did a little ta daah! It was generously sized and wider as it went down.

“Oh! It’s like a scarf!” She was completely blown away, and it was clear to me that not everybody had caught on that I’d been ever so gradually doing this for everybody.

She was concerned about the cost to me of such a yarn and I described Colourmart’s mill-ends and a sale on top of that and not to worry. For my part, I confessed that the gauge had come out looser than I’d expected, having knit it pre-scouring, expecting it to shrink up and it hadn’t. That concerned her not in the least: it was beautiful.

Hers was way overdue. She’d earned every stitch of it long since. Just ask the families at the Ronald McDonald House.



The friend who always said, “Color is everything”
Monday July 09th 2018, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Michelle flew home yesterday, Constance drove the four hours home this afternoon and the house is very very quiet. Gotta give those belly-laugh muscles some time to recuperate–they got a great workout.

Constance had brought me a quart of honey from her hives. Bee barf, one of my kids used to call it after a biology lesson in middle school. Yum.

The green Malabrigo hat that came home with me from the trip to Salt Lake because it just hadn’t found out who it was for?

That shade of green? It found out who it was for.



From gold country
Sunday July 08th 2018, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Michelle’s flown home–and my old friend Constance arrived.

You know the kind of friend who is kind, who is thoughtful, and who keeps you laughing nonstop? Everybody needs a Constance.

One of the first things she said, was, I want to see my grandtree! She’s the one who had grown up with a Babcock peach, who when I was trying to figure out what to plant told me it was the best peach ever. My family had picked Babcocks at a pick-your-own when I was a kid, and between the two of us I was sold on the idea.

It’s my smallest peach tree but it’s a pretty one.

The critters beat her to the last of its fruit by two days, though; we’ll just have to make this an annual trip.