“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
Friday April 12th 2019, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Mango tree,Wildlife

I sent Dani (the original instigator of the planting of my mango) a new picture of the tree and he sent me this article.

Who knew that Alphonso mangoes were helping to keep the last wild group of Asian lions in the world alive?

The little old lady on the plane
Monday April 01st 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

So much to say, but let me start tonight with the knitting. I’m too tired to stay up and edit this so it’s straight stream of consciousness but I feel like I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I don’t write this down.

I took four balls of Malabrigo with me: one Rios worsted weight, three heavier in Mecha, and picked the slightly orange red with black specks one for the trip there.

Our flight was very delayed, so much so that I cast off just before the plane took off on the runway. So that was done.

I got another hat knitted while sitting quietly with my dad.

The third one got a goodly way along the same way, but then it was time to go.

We got on our plane after sunset tonight, and the flight attendant put a notice on the seat next to us that nobody else was to sit there. What was that about?

Soon an elderly, tiny woman from I’d guess Central America was escorted to that open window seat next to me on the first row, where she didn’t have to walk far.

I had that third Mecha hat in my hands and she sat and quietly watched my hands like a hawk for a long time, but at last adjusted the small pillow she’d brought on and tried to rest.

She missed the attendant offering pretzels, then something to drink; I saved my pretzels for her and tried to get their attention when she woke up.

She went back to watching my hands. The show had changed now: I was into the decreases at the top of the hat. I finished it and turned it so she could see the seven-point star it made at the top.

“It’s beautiful!”

(I may be deaf on a plane but I sure got that one.)

It was bright royal blue–and I had knitted it sitting by my daddy. But that red!

The seatbelt sign was off and I got up and reached into my purse in the overhead and it was right there at the top waiting to be grabbed, a little to my surprise. I sat back down and showed it to her under the light to get the best view of the colors and her whole body exclaimed with the word, “Oooooooh!!!!”

And just like that it was hers.

She was stunned. “For ME?!” She reached for my hands, looking into my eyes and my smile: yes I meant it.

She could have danced. Her eyes certainly did. She reached up to feel it, and when I said it was wool she said, “Wool?” just to make sure she’d gotten it right. She motioned to it and her blouse to show how very very well they matched. She was so happy!

The flight attendant interrupted her with some water; I grabbed the last ball I’d packed, Rios in Ravelry Red, and cast on a lace cowl.

The hats had been stockinette. This was something new. She watched my hands avidly again, right up until the city lights below started getting closer.

I talked to her daughter later as we waited for our luggage, her teenage son with them. They’d been uncertain about having Grandma sitting alone away from them but that’s what there was at that point in boarding.

Turns out her mother told her afterwards that for awhile there she’d had a hard time breathing.

That would have been when she leaned against her pillow and closed her eyes and hoped hard to be okay.

And then I gave her that hat.

That little old lady being wheeled away in a chair owning her second hat now was definitely happily okay now. I don’t even know her name but we are best friends for life.

Milk Pail
Saturday March 23rd 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Milk Pail is closing. Forty-five years an institution in the community, a place where CEO types can find (or ask for) some exotic cheese no one’s ever heard of, where the family just scraping by can go to find produce for far less than anywhere else; I once noticed I’d been charged fifteen cents for my single zucchini. I did a double take once when I realized that the guy who’d just helped me reach something I’d dropped was the co-founder of Smugmug; he was the brother of my late and much-missed friend RobinM, but I’d recognized him a moment too late.

Steve was able to buy the land under the business all those years ago, and with the distortions from Proposition 13 across the decades, that meant his costs have been very low and he could pass that on. Which he didn’t have to do, but he did.

But his brother-in-law who’d helped manage it died, it’s hard to find retail workers at our local cost of living–although there is one who is, literally, a rock star who loves his day job. Steve’s daughter interrupted her college to help manage the place after her uncle’s death but in the end keeping tabs on a business that was open seven days a week for forty-five years, while the big developer was raising high-rises all around him and cutting off his customers’ parking, wanting his land too, it became just too much. They were tired.

Nobody sells vanilla extract like their vanilla extract and nobody sells it at that good a price. Michelle and I were going there anyway, so while we were at it we asked what a case of those bottles would cost.

Steve’s daughter laughed and said, Well actually we fill those from the gallon jars we buy.

So that would be…? It lasts, right?

She laughed again, envisioning All. That. Baking. It was four gallons to a case and she didn’t know how much they would charge, she would have to find out.

We gave her a phone number and she’ll get back to us. They’ll be open for several more months. But the land is sold and the deal is done. The city okayed an eight-story office building going in there.

As we headed out, there was Steve himself and he and I threw our arms around each other, remembering those hearings at city hall together. He’d been so gratified at the outpouring of community support, yet again–and the number of people who’d told him they were just glad he hadn’t died of overwork in his store. Yeah him too.

It was time.

There were so many people trying to get into his small parking lot that traffic was backed up into the next block as we left. Nobody sells the stuff Steve sells. Nobody. You want newly-picked Violette de Bordeaux figs? In their season he has them. Locavore heaven. The place is a treasure.

Michelle and I each came home with an 8 oz bottle of that double-strength vanilla, just because.

She’ll need warm things there
Friday March 22nd 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

My friend Laura is moving away so I headed over to Green Planet yarns to meet up with her. (And with Anne. Hi Anne!)

Which means I really need to get to work on that cowl I cast on because I needed a carry-around project; no particular planning went into it, whatever yarn would do. Cameleon, in Malabrigo Rios. Summer in a ball. Cheerful stuff.

It wasn’t in Anne’s colors, but Laura swooned.

Which means I made sure I have her forwarding address now. That worked out well.

Meantime, the blueberries are blooming.

Done right at last
Tuesday March 19th 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

What last week’s trip to Santa Cruz to buy the Frost variety was about:

The effects of peach leaf curl disease are cumulative. It needs a combination of rain and cold and newly growing leaves to spread across a tree and we have had twelve atmospheric rivers this winter with another just starting to let loose as I type.

My Tropic Snow always bloomed in January with leafing starting as the petals fell right at the middle of our cold rain. It took the hit year after year, sprayed with copper or not. And you don’t want too much copper build-up in your soil or it kills the good organisms.

When I planted it, there was a patch of lily of the nile and a stump (correction 3/20/19: it was still a small tree at that point) that kept me from centering it between the lemon tree and the fence and it ended up right by the lemon, a very lopsided look, not even close to centered. But there was no way I could tackle those. It frankly looked terrible and I always regretted that.

Now, nearly every leaf on the thing was shriveled and brown and unable to produce food for the tree; the single peach that set from all its flowers was diseased and would never be edible. I didn’t even have to prune it this winter–it spent all its energy last year growing a second set of leaves, and after it rained again, a few more. It had been in sheer survival mode for some time now.

Given that it was one of my earliest learning experiences in fruit tree growing, I didn’t do a good job pruning and shaping it its first year or two and too much of it had grown above picking reach–which is one of the reasons I chose the tree last week that had the lowest branches. I’ve learned how to envision what these will grow to look like if I prune them right, and that you start from as close to the ground as you can.

My Indian Free does not get curl disease but it was the only resistant peach I had and the only one that needed a pollinator. Timing-wise, the also-resistant Frost variety could be that pollinator. And it is on Lovell rootstock, too, meaning it will grow strong and it will grow fast. (It will take some work to keep it to a reasonable height.)

Their production time is staggered. Perfect.

That’s the Frost in bloom above and the Indian Free below.

Today was one of Elio the gardener’s Tuesdays. I asked him if he could do this extra project for me, not sure he had the tools nor the time for it. Of course he did. He dove right in.

The stump that has defied me and kept growing back for five years now (never ever let a eucalyptus sprout in your yard) has much less to it now.

The lily of the nile cluster has been dug out to two feet deep and transplanted to the bare spot beyond the mango tree that really called out for it and it makes my heart sing to be able to, for the first time, see it out the windows. Beautiful plants. I can’t wait to see them bloom.

But the Tropic Snow.

Was I sure? Elio asked.

I was. We looked at that poor sad peach tree together for a moment as if in eulogy. It had tried so hard.

He not only took it out, he went below ground level working away at the stump, which I didn’t expect at all.

A large gopher-proofing wire cage highly recommended by the Garden Company went into the new hole.

I wanted to plant the new tree myself.

And now it’s in there, near the Indian Free, right in the spot where that lily of the nile was this morning. I will buy new and sharp shears in its honor and get that done.

I got the help I should have asked for the first time around, but I’m rather glad I didn’t–this is much better.

This will be a healthy tree. And now Adele will have peaches reaching over the fence towards her in July as well as September and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.



The long-awaited day
Sunday March 17th 2019, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Mango tree

I had pushed leaves aside to see how yellow it was and it had fallen into my hand a little early, as that variety apparently does, but it was ripe now. I found a good box for it. I put small-bubble bubble wrap inside, then a paper towel, then nestled the homegrown Alphonso mango there, nicely cushioned for the short trip.

Eli’s mom and big sister were outside as I pulled in, along with their neighbor, who seemed to be helping with the daughter’s bicycle.

I told them what I’d brought.

“It IS?!” His mom and the neighbor both sniffed its fragrance and the neighbor did a little swoon. I explained to her that Eli had helped keep my tree alive while I was traveling when it was small and I’d promised him the second mango ever and this was it.

His big sister pedaled her bike in great excitement around my car and towards the front door to go tell him.

Chez Suzi
Saturday March 16th 2019, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

She’s someone else’s daughter, but I know how much it means to my own when someone takes her dairy allergy seriously: is chocolate made on equipment shared with milk, etc, okay to use in the ganache? She said yes, grateful at my asking her first without her having to say anything. Alright then, coconut cream for the cream, Earth Balance for the butter, and the chocolate torte just kind of melted in your mouth.

I sent her home with the leftovers.

And our mutual friend Suzi is a fabulous cook. If she ever opens a restaurant I’ll be first in line.

Ear doctoring
Wednesday March 13th 2019, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift

Sometimes a blueberry clafoutis just demands to be made and that’s that.

Meantime, I went to go see my ENT today. His wife got a handknit from me years ago but I’d never knit him his own something; it was time.

A Malabrigo Mecha hat, thick, densely knit, warm, and soft. He quite liked the dark teal green. He tried it on for size, very pleased.

Turns out he’s taking a week off starting tomorrow to visit his daughter’s family, and where she lives it’s been snowing a lot.

I heard that
Monday March 11th 2019, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

My Santa Rosa plum, a Mother’s Day gift planted by my kids maybe a dozen years ago.

The second Alphonso fell into my hands. It is ripening for a few days inside and then I’ll deliver it as promised to Eli, the young man who took such good care of my mango for several years whenever we were out of town. He’s earned it, by his enthusiasm for that tree as well as all the bicycle trips over here.

Already the aroma is starting to bloom.

I called around, and this late in the planting season, the place I love in Santa Cruz still has the peach variety I want: Frost produces when my others don’t, it blooms when my Indian Free needs a pollinator, and it’s a yellow peach with a worthy flavor by all reports.

There was just too much rain and cold this year for my earliest variety: the Tropic Snow’s greening-out starts too soon to dodge peach leaf curl disease, which thrives on growing leaves in those conditions, and sprayed or not it still always gets hit. The effect was cumulative. We’re losing that tree and I’d rather not lose a growing season, so, out it will go and in with the resistant Frost variety.

It’s too late for it, but I read last week on a gardening forum that the British a number of decades ago came up with a way of dealing with the problem. They plant susceptible varieties (and most peaches are) under the eaves of houses and espalier them there to keep them close, then cover the exposed side with wide rolls of plastic so the rain can’t touch them and the disease can’t make its way around the tree.

And the word for that method?

Eavesdropping. Yes it is.

The perfect blue
Sunday March 10th 2019, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

The cowl was just the right color for her. Cashmere and 14-micron merino: soft, soft stuff.

It came out the wrong gauge. The last time I used that yarn I was trying to make a hat that was Alaska windproof and I guess my inner yarnmemory wanted to keep it that way. I thought, well, at least it will stretch out a lot when it hits the water.

It only did a little. Assessing it honestly, it was pretty but it was pretty small: it needed a petite person for it to be flattering on, which she is not. And it was very warm, again begging for someone who needs it that way.

So it’s been sitting around for a few weeks, a little lost. Last night I felt like, I need that done and I need it done now. I found it and ran the ends in and put it in my purse, along with a project in progress to make up for it that was partly that same blue.

Which my intended recipient totally fell in love with. Malabrigo in the Whales Road colorway for the win! Deep-water blue, a little purple, a little teal, perfectly blended, in a much lighter yarn. The gauge and size are coming out perfect and she is very happy about it.

Meantime, very much to my surprise, John E showed up from New England to visit his mother, introducing his wife to all his old friends who were still around.

When we moved here in the late ’80’s, I was asked to teach the twelve-year-olds. Of which there was, for the first six months, one. Him. I asked if there was a manual for the class? I think so, the person in charge answered, but never got back to me despite being pestered a few more times. Well alright then I’ll just have to make do.

So every Sunday I had about 35 minutes one on one with this kid, trying to teach him what it means to try to live by the light of the love that seeks to guide our steps toward blessing others. That we make mistakes. We own it and apologize. We learn. We improve. We go on.

It was hard, since the planning and delivering were ad-libbing, but it was easy; he was a great kid.

I remember one time when he came home from college, watching him interacting with others at the ward Christmas party I think it was, and with my own kids being young I said to his mom standing next to me and with quite a bit of pride of my own directed his way, How does it feel to know you’ve succeeded?

He heard that and turned to face us from several feet away in the crowd, overwhelmed. It was a moment for all of us to live up to forevermore.

His hair is starting to turn gray.

His wife is quite petite, and a lovely woman who made you instantly feel like you were in the presence of a friend. Clearly John found the right one.

She was busy talking to someone else, so I motioned towards his jacket and asked if she liked that color?

Yes, she does! His eyes suddenly wanted to know where this was going, hoping/not daring to hope…

The next thing you know, she was swooning over the most perfect soft blue cowl and he was telling her happily, You know that really big warm scarf I have? She made it!

She threw her arms around me. I was claimed.

Awhile later, as people cleared out and they were off to his mom’s, someone who grew up here took me aside and asked, Who was that guy everybody was swarming around?

Then, That was JOHN?!!! Man, she told me, after not seeing him for 30 years I just didn’t recognize him.

Well, but that’s the difference between 12 and 18. He was just a little kid to you back then.

With one voice
Friday March 08th 2019, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Out of all the times I’ve cleaned out my inbox, somehow that one from eleven years ago survived and popped up in my search. It was a fairly stunning moment.

I lost my contacts list when Microsoft bought out the maker of the Sidekick phones and shut them down to get rid of the competition to their new phone (which very quickly tanked.) I was never able to get it all back. I lost my email contacts again when my data was supposedly being switched over from my old Dell desktop to my new Mac.

I had it!

The phone number in it was still valid. Assuming it still went to the same person.

I called it from the landline; it went to voice mail. Well, sure, I’m (most likely) a strange number. I texted it and identified myself again, thinking that surely these days everybody’s phone texts (if the number goes to a cell.)

I got answers both ways.

And now a daughter on the other side of the country is breathing a little easier, updated on what’s up with her elderly mom who lives alone and knowing she’s got someone now who can and is willing to help her and how to reach me. The mom needed a contractor but was reluctant to let anyone in the house? Call this guy, I said: he’s good, he’s kind, he’s honest, and when he could have sold me an entire water heater he replaced a simple part and did right by us.

And I’m happy to come over there and be there with her while he works. (She really needs that done.)

She filled me in on a few details, I filled her in on some observations she needed to know, including the event two days ago that had me trying to find her.

I think the last time I talked to her, she was a newly launched adult who had come home to take care of her mom when she’d just been diagnosed with two types of cancer–at the same time that I was with systemic lupus. That makes it 29 years ago. We’re all still here pulling together.

And man, does she have the voice now that her mom did then.

The extrovert
Sunday March 03rd 2019, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Such big eyes and not a shy bone in his body. He reached for me across the bench. His daddy let him come to me, carefully. He’s about seven months old.

He sat down. I was claimed.

Some babies instantly want daddy back, or mommy, who was the speaker and just a little farther away than he might have preferred; he craned his neck upwards to again see the face of the person whose lap didn’t quite feel like the familiar parental ones.

Still me up here, smiling back. Well alright then, I would do, and we played a little bit while everyone around us hoped to catch a moment’s shared grin with him, too. Which he gave them.

Then he crawled a few steps back towards his daddy, with both of us keeping an arm to the side of the bench when his curiosity and lack of fear of heights seemed a bad combination for a moment there.

A bottle! He snuggled into his daddy’s arms.

He looked over with one last big grin for me when it was done. We were friends now.

I need to remember to ask Kat her baby’s name.

You just can’t get ahead of them
Monday February 25th 2019, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life,LYS

So I was talking to Ron and Theresa of the Buffalo Wool Co Saturday morning at Stitches and after asking if they liked it dark and getting an emphatic YES! offered them a bite of homemade chocolate; I’d brought a bar from the second-to-last batch that had been made from some particularly good nibs from Chocolate Alchemy.

I picked up some of their buffalo/silk yarn, telling them that that in teal was my happy place: ten years ago when I was so sick, waiting for a hospital room to open up at Stanford, the good people at Purlescence had filled a large basket with cards and get-wells. There were hand knit gloves and a hat, oranges from Jasmin’s tree, all kinds of good stuff.

Including two skeins of their buffalo yarn from the owners of that shop. The most expensive yarn they sold in a color I love.

I had to get better. I couldn’t let everybody down. I had to do their generosity justice.

For two years afterwards I wondered what could possibly be a good enough use of that yarn, while feeling I was letting them down by letting it just sit there.

Till the day one of the owners had her own medical scare and her survival was no sure thing. She pulled through, just like I did, but there was no question: those two skeins turned into a shawl and came right back to her and that was absolutely what they were meant to be.

Ten years later, Purlescence is closed and I bought more from Ron and Theresa directly.

I told one of their customers who was looking at their gloves that I had rummaged through my cavernous purse in the dark in Alaska and come up with one of their gloves (these) and one fingerless glove to scrape a deep layer of ice off the windshield with. One hand was just dying, the other–amazingly fine. It could do this for as long as I needed to, no rush. And I have Raynaud’s.

I came by their booth again later, when the crowds had thinned, and told them that now that my husband has worn their socks nothing else lives up to them; I couldn’t buy me their yarn and not him more socks, so… And while I was at it I handed Ron more of that chocolate for the both of them, saying, “We don’t have the tempering perfect yet but we’re learning with each new project. It’s a little like knitting that way.”

Ron’s appreciative response, “It’s got a good snap to it.”

And then he told me to my great surprise that he used to work as a chocolatier.

No wonder I hadn’t had to explain to him what a melanger was!

I gave him the rest of that chocolate for the both of them. Stitches was almost over for me and there was no point in not sharing it with people I knew would enjoy it. (Margo Lynn’s allergic.)

He refused to ring up the socks and stuffed them in my basket.

!!!… I protested, partly at myself, because I should have known better to wait till after…!

He basically said just try to stop me.


Goodbye with love to my Uncle Wally, who passed away quietly with his local children by his side Saturday at 95.

Welcome to this beautiful brand-new world with love to Annabeth Joan, born to my niece Maddy and her husband Devin this morning.

This time she got me
Friday February 22nd 2019, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Friends

I mentioned my friend Afton getting the melanger.

Margo Lynn, whom she and I have known for twenty years plus, is the moderator of the online knitting group who made it all happen: she quietly suspended Afton for half a day without telling her, told everybody what our plan was and invited them to chip in a dollar or two if they so desired–and then deleted her note from the archives to make sure Afton wouldn’t see it and added her back in. Sneaky.

Margo Lynn collected the funds; I ordered the machine, nibs, book, and molds.

She lives in Connecticut. I live in California.

Today was the first day of Stitches West, and I was talking to some old friends near the entrance after lunch. Another woman walked in to my left and stopped.

And stayed stopped, so I wondered if we were in her way or if I was supposed to be recognizing her; she looked somewhat familiar, but after probably twenty-five years of going, everybody pretty much does, right?

She was grinning, and that grin was getting bigger. Then she held out her name badge because I wasn’t catching on.

And that is the first time I ever screamed at Stitches. MARGO LYNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We threw our arms around each other.

The convention center people told us we were blocking the doorway (which we weren’t really) and asked us to move along. I think that scream did them in.

I finally finally finally got to meet Margo Lynn in person! She is the BEST!

Scooting right along
Tuesday February 19th 2019, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

I got the chair down to Bischoff’s Medical and they got right to it. I was good to go for Stitches and the guy was as happy about that as I was. Good folks. I recommended to my friend Pamela that she rent a scooter from them so as not to miss out–she broke both bones in her lower leg a few days ago and one of her first reactions was, But Stitches!

Meantime, I learned something new about the melanger: even though you don’t want to run it more than a minute without something in it, always do turn it on right before you start pouring the cocoa nibs in, not the other way around: otherwise the bits mound up, caught beneath the arms and jam the thing. And that is a motor I want working for many years to come. I sent a note to Afton so that that wouldn’t happen to her too with her new machine and turns out it already had. Both of us had to stop, pour the loose stuff out and hack away at those mounds to free the thing–but when we did it worked peachy fine.

It has a lid but it’s off while you’re pouring the nibs in, so you do it slowly because, um, popcorn effects are entertaining. (Which is why I tried putting them in first this time and turning it on. Bad idea.) She reported that her kitten went after a flying bit of chocolate but after tasting it gave her this look of, What have you *done* to me!

(Second sign posted for my retired high school English-teaching mom. A rare spotting of double letter inversions in the wild.)