One more way to stay in touch
Monday February 19th 2018, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Knit,Wildlife

There! I said in triumph, done with it for the night. I octopused it.

You what? He wasn’t sure he’d heard that one right.

You know how octopuses can squeeze into anything? I got 61″ of afghan and that ball into that ziploc. (Warning: great National Geographic video in that link, annoying announcer–you might want to turn the sound off.)

Meantime…

I was talking to a friend yesterday who has just bought a house a half hour north of us and is getting ready to move into it. This is a rare and marvelous achievement around here these days. I was wondering out loud if she’d like a fruit tree as a housewarming present.

Because I know how many times I’ve wished I’d planted mine when we moved here, rather than most of them at 25 years later when my kids were newly grown and I needed to still see something grow up year by year under my care. Plus I wanted the fruit. Plus I think they’re pretty trees.

She instantly knew exactly what she wanted and she was ecstatic–was I serious?

Absolutely! As I thought, my late father-in-law is the one who encouraged me to start gardening, and that would be the best use I can think of for some of the birthday check he gave me in December just before he died.

I checked the Dave Wilson site and they said the Blenheim (Royal) was the #1 apricot in California and the top-rated one in their taste tests. But also, as I said to her yesterday, one good thing about apricots is that they’re a little tart and squirrels don’t like tart.

It turns out she knew her apricot varieties and Blenheim was her favorite. Well then.

Yamagami’s, my favorite nursery, had the Royal variant in stock. Perfect.

She helped me get that big thing out of my small car this afternoon, exclaiming, I can’t believe you did this! I can’t believe you already did!

Take pictures for me when you get it in?

She couldn’t wait to.

And I came away thinking, how often do we get to spend money on something that will last the rest of the recipient’s whole life? That tree will keep giving and giving and giving, and you learn with the first one and who knows where it’ll take her from there.

I could hear one of my favorite doctors in my head, an avid gardener, when I asked him about the squirrels, answering happily, I have MILLIONS of apricots! They hadn’t touched them.

I said a little prayer for Jennifer’s tree to grow and thrive along with her three little kids. They need to wait a little while before they climb it, though.

A bowl of them (cupping my hands for size) in five years? An excuse for a visit.

She’s looking forward to it.



Made my day
Sunday February 18th 2018, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I put down the afghan and came over to the computer to try to figure out what to write about tonight and an email had just come in: Jerry and Vivian, with her saying she’d stolen one of his hats for the picture that they were posing for.

With the most radiant smiles.

I tell you.

I described to them what Stitches West was, that it was this coming weekend, and to let me know what colors or fibers they’d like next and I’d be right on it. And I wished they could see how big the smile was on my face too right now.



Two-thirds
Thursday February 15th 2018, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Yay for the postal employee yesterday who checked that zip code before letting my package go into the system: I had two numbers transposed. The rest of the rather unusual-sounding address was a match so it was clearly going to the right place now.

I drove home after Jerry’s two hats went on their way feeling grateful beyond anything I could begin to say that I could do something that could actually help–what do people do who don’t knit?–and I pictured their surprised faces as they opened the box. I really should make the whole family matching hats in solidarity with their dad, but, at least there’s a start.

Then I dove back into the waiting afghan.

Early last week I was at eight repeats and wanted sixty and I was fighting the sense of, how could this ever be done?

So just do it. After nearly seven hours’ work on it today I hit forty. (I am alternating typing with icepacking.) My yarn planet has gone from Saturnine to Martian, with Pluto a little too wishful thinking quite yet but I am going to have to scour more off the cone soon. That’s a very good problem to have.

Like the hats I just wish, really really wish, I could deliver it in person when I’m done. Which won’t be too long now.



Love by chocolate
Tuesday February 13th 2018, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

My friend Karen dropped by today to pick up the amaryllis I’d promised her (thank you, Dad!) and we ended up chatting awhile.

One of the things she told me was something that in 30 years I’d never known about her: that her family had had an older neighbor who’d never married and had no family around and they with their seven sons had just kind of adopted him as their local grandpa and he loved it. They had had him over for dinner at least once a month for forever and made him theirs.

When he could no longer care for himself and needed to go to a memory care unit, they helped him with that move. He’s 96 now.

She was talking to someone who worked at the nursing home and that is how she found out that the residents got fruit for dessert: but no chocolate. Never chocolate. There was just no reason for it in the caretakers’ eyes, I suppose, nor for the expense.

“Not even, like, brownies?”

Nope.

Well that was definitely something she could do something about–she knew how much he loved the stuff and went to his room and asked him if he’d like some chocolate.

Now, he might have some dementia but he remembered chocolate. Definitely yes. Yes please!

So now she has something she know she can do to cheer him up, to connect to him wherever he may be in there, every time she comes.

And I thought I would pass the good word along. If you don’t know how to visit or what to say to someone in a nursing home–bring them chocolate.

And if it’s ever me in there, dark would be great, thanks.



Brown, blue, what else do you knit for a guy?
Sunday February 11th 2018, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

As of just now there is a second soft, washable wool beanie (Bobby Blue to go with the previous Stonechat brown mix) to mail to my friend with the massive skull scar curving widely from the top of his head and halfway down  in front of his ear. The good news is that it was a slow tumor, and there are treatments in trials for curing it. They couldn’t get it all, but they believe they bought him plenty of time before they have to face it again and there is great cause for hope. Thank you for all your prayers and good thoughts Jerry’s way.

The best news is that he feels completely himself again with it gone, and that was no sure thing going in.

(Note to self: Malabrigo Rios, size US6 needles for the body of the hat, 80 stitches was the right number in stockinette. I considered doing cables but thought, nah, he doesn’t need the extra warmth where he lives. He just needs not to look quite so Star Wars bar scene-ish while his incision line gradually recedes.)



Skyscape
Friday February 09th 2018, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I almost missed it. There was the most stunning sunset going on, deep pink and blue streaks as far as the eye could see from right to left and up to down. I walked out the front door to see if it reached clear to the east as well.

Which it did. But more importantly, an older neighbor was out front as well and I went over to say hi; I don’t get to as often as I’d like.

Turns out it was a day when things were going a little rough for her medically, and though she’s not one to complain, today she just needed a listening ear. But first she told me, It IS a beautiful sunset! And that set the tone.

Her triplet grandchildren are in college already?! How on earth did THAT happen?

She laughed: I know, right? Then she told me the suddenness of the empty nest was an adjustment for her daughter-in-law. “She’s a *good* mother.” A few minutes later she said it again, wanting me to know just how much she thought the world of the woman her son had married.

I’d caught her between her car and her front door, which when she went through a few minutes later, she no longer felt so alone.

And all because Someone had nudged me: Hey. You. Look at this sky I made–no, no, go, Look.



Redwood hat
Saturday February 03rd 2018, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

(Photo from Richard’s phone, since mine’s still on strike. It embiggens.)

I started to cast on with something else, but a ball from stash that I had not seriously considered got louder and more insistent with each stitch till I ripped the other off the needles and started again with this one. Why yes, my yarn is the boss of me.

Each row of Malabrigo Rios in the beautifully-named Stonechat was like a slow drive through an old redwood forest,  glimpses of light peaking through the quiet shades of brown.

And then there are the near-black stitches popping up here and there.

Redwoods can be hit by lightning and catch fire, as any tree might–but unless it gets to the canopy, the tree itself, I was told by a park ranger when I was a teen, gradually puts that fire out, even if it smolders for months. The flames simply don’t take them down.

The Stonechat was right. It was definitely the right yarn.

Note to self: size 6US needles in the body and 84 stitches. Kept to beanie length because it’s to cover the surgery scar on Jerry’s head rather than purely for warmth, given where he lives.



The pinwheel toy
Friday February 02nd 2018, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

She loves orange, she told me last June. And blues. I didn’t have much orange in my stash–but I had this old ball in Lisa Souza’s Joseph’s Coat colorway.

I found the pictures. They were taken at night and by the bright light of day and the cowl was mostly somewhere in between, and maybe some of you remember it. I sure do. It came out so unexpected.

It started off with all the colors kind of melting together into an almost-purple, but then when I added a few stitches to widen it it changed the whole thing abruptly: individual colors stood out on their own and became like the brightest sunrise against the darkest clouds. I expected them to go back to how they’d been after I added a few more but they simply formed a new pattern altogether yet that continued off the second one.

No matter its quirkiness or even faults, of the three, this was the one she wanted to take away as a memento of the years they lived here.

I heard the news.

She’s a young mom.

Whose husband is now fighting a brain tumor.

That which they had gauged their plans by was suddenly thrown to the winds and what they are going through now is radically different from anything they’d wanted or expected. And yet there he is in his hospital picture, smiling, same as always.

In a hospital cap.

He needs a soft handknit one, stat. Even in San Diego.

If you feel inclined to say a pray or to Think Good Thoughts in Jerry’s direction and his family’s, it would be lovely. The G_d that I believe in honors either as love: and love is what we are sent here to learn and do.

May that great Love sustain them through all that lies ahead.



Yes you
Thursday February 01st 2018, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History

A story I got to hear my dad tell last week.

When Reed Smoot arrived in DC from the then-new state of Utah, his fellow Senators challenged him and refused to seat or have anything to do with him. And not only was he ostracized for being a Mormon, his wife was shunned, too, and she found herself very, very lonely in their new town.

Note that my grandmother’s book tells of how, in the early 1950’s when she was the new Senator’s wife from that state, her husband being a freshman, she was expected to put on white gloves, a hat, and go from home to home in order of seniority of each of the other Senatorial wives bringing her calling card. One was to comply with longstanding tradition. My Western-raised grandmother found it all very strangely Victorian.

The Smoots arrived nearly fifty years earlier. I imagine there were no such getting-to-know-yous–Mrs. Smoot’s presence was not wanted.

My parents as newlyweds attended the same ward (Mormon congregation) in DC as the Smoots’ son.

And this is what he told Dad:

The President was throwing a party at the White House, and when the President threw a party, the protocol was that no one was to leave before he did.

He knew full well what was going on.

(I should let Dad tell this, and correct me if I got any details wrong, Dad.)

When the time was fully spent, Teddy Roosevelt announced that it was time for him to head upstairs to bed. He then turned to her and her alone and pronounced, “Good night, Mrs. Smoot!” Then away from the crowd and was gone.

And that act of acknowledgement and kindness changed everything for her.



Chestnut
Tuesday January 23rd 2018, 12:10 am
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Awhile back, maybe two years? Colourmart had a dk 50/50 merino/silk in a cheerful chestnut brown, almost sold out, that I knew was exactly my friend Phyl’s color. So I hinted, and at the time she said she wasn’t into cowls.

Fair enough. But I bought a cone anyway while I still could because the shade was so perfectly her.

A week ago, I pulled it out of the stash and wondered out loud in her presence if that reluctance still held.

“Oh, that’s my color!” And yes, yes she would quite like a cowl out of that, thank you!

Alright then!

So yesterday, I showed her the project at the halfway mark: did she want me to continue going straight, or fan out?

“Is yours straight?” (Yes it was.) “Fan out.”

Okay, so I had to design how I would do that in that lace pattern…

…And it is finished and drying and I learned how much I like how that just came out and I intend to do that again–if nothing else, so that I can get it written down as I go, so that I can then test knit it from that written-out, etc etc.

The plain no-brain hat that I started after dinner, meantime, is well on its way.



Warmth that’s easy to put on one-handed
Sunday January 21st 2018, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I didn’t take this one to church last week. I couldn’t tell you why not, other than the passing thought of maybe I’d keep it for myself. The way the yarn was spun makes it look a little bit nubbly but it is marvelously soft and I love the color.

Yeah, I didn’t believe I would either–because I knew there was enough yarn left to at least make a smaller version. But still, that merino/silk stayed home.

Not today. Today it definitely insisted it was coming with me. I thought I was ready to head out the door to church but it called me back somehow. Okay. I walked halfway across the house and retrieved it just in time.

It was not picked out by the friend who went for the beige cashmere. (Whom I said “Happy Birthday!” to, having no idea it really had been her birthday two weeks ago.) It was passed over by the friend who picked the silver Classic Elite Chalet baby alpaca that I finished yesterday. (Yay for overnight drying.)

And then, at the last meeting, I saw Candice and what she was wearing and was suddenly pretty sure of myself. But first things first: ask, because you never know, and people should always have a choice and not just have to be polite at you. “Is this a good shade of blue?”

She exclaimed as I pulled it out, “That is the PERFECT shade of blue! Ohmygosh, is this for me?!”

Note that she is the mother of three small children. Note that this week, her husband’s been out of town and she’s been coping with the kids missing him as much as she has. (I saw one being weepy and remembered those days.) Note that this week is the week, it turned out, that she broke her wrist, while trying to hold everybody together in his absence.

I’d had no idea.

She didn’t need that cowl last week. She needed that cowl this week. It’s not just about the color.



Starry night with meteor showers
Tuesday January 16th 2018, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I sent a friend a note today after I ran the ends in: did he want a “Created with pride by…” tag in his? Or did he want to be able to wear it this way as well as the other way?

The advantage to the tag is its making the hat traceable and returnable should he lose it–a friend of mine got a baby sweater back that way.

(Like he would ever lose it, I figure.)

See? That’s how you justify procrastinating doing that last obnoxious little task of trying to stab and pull yarn through that small tight strip of fabric–you delegate the decision and then ignore your phone while you blog.

Worked for me.



He said the right thing at the right time
Monday January 15th 2018, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

I somehow inexplicably, completely and utterly forgot that you’re supposed to spray the dormant peach trees with copper to head off peach leaf curl disease. Which three of my trees got hit with hard last year with all the rain we had, even though I did spray then. The disease can only take hold at cold temperatures on wet, new, growing leaves, but it can kill a tree and it destroyed all the fruit on those three.

A friend who’s a master gardener happened to say something on the subject, with the end result that I hired him to come do it for me. I knew that if nothing else, he would do it right and after last year I was certainly not sure I had.

It’s been warm during the day the last few days and turns out those same early peaches were starting to come to life again. They hadn’t broken bud yet though, so the job could still be done. We just made it.

And only because he didn’t have quite enough copper to finish his own job and wondered out loud if anyone had a bit to spare, to save him the hassle of buying and storing a whole big thing of the stuff for a year when he only needed a few spoonfuls’ worth.

I responded with, Sure, I do–  and then–  !!!

And now it’s done.



One by one
Sunday January 14th 2018, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

She chose the black one.

Someone else chose the red one (quite blown away, having zero expectation that I would knit for her. Seems my cover is not entirely blown around there–I can still surprise people.)

And I took the beige home for now so that the next person would be able to choose from a selection of more than one, too.

Simple patterns, potato-chip knitting, but in yarns you want to reach out and touch. Here, let me finish this hat for Lee and I’ll start the next one.

(Hawk update: Richard saw it swooping in front of the toyon tree.)



Stash diving
Friday January 12th 2018, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Finished (except for running in the ends.) And now the one after this is about 8″ along; it’s about the color of the chair this one’s sitting on.

After several days of growling at myself that I *knew* I had some beige cashmere from that mill-end of the mill-ends sale because I used part of it for Lanae’s, this afternoon I finally found it and cast on immediately. Red, black, or beige–Eli’s mom will get to choose which one came out the most to her liking. (I found it I found it!)

I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to find other people who want one of those.