Thursday January 10th 2019, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Details in the mouseovers.

What it looked like from my driveway at the start of the day. I did not know yet how much it had wrapped around the fence; I knew it was pushing through it.

That photo with lots of small trunk pieces? That’s where the tree had split into multiple weak areas at bad angles.

Around 8 a.m. the crane arrived. There was no other way to take on such a giant. I tried not to get in the way, but I did get some pictures to document the redwood’s passing. The neighbor behind us walked over, saying he could see the top of it go from his house and had come to see, too, for awhile.

Section by section it came down, and the workers on the ground would trim the branches off so it could fit in the chipper, which looked very small by comparison. When they finally got to that monster section at the bottom hours later, there was no way; another truck showed up to haul that part off and the crane lifted it in.

I asked the worker nearest me if they were going to put the lumber to good use on that one, or?

The guy’s face conveyed, “I wish,” but he said no, it would just be chippered like the rest.

I went inside for awhile and when I came back out to check on the latest, another neighbor from down the street the other way was talking to Jim next door. The truck with the bottom section was gone, and when I regretted that out loud they went no, no–and she told me that she had asked them to drop it off in front of her house. Her husband would love to work with that wood.


I have no idea how they got those huge pieces off the truck and in place–the crane hadn’t moved yet I don’t think. But they’re there now.

I’d been looking at that tree for nearly 32 years and yet the size of its footprint surprised me just the same in the end. They went at that, too, cutting away and down and through, trying to prepare it for the stump grinder people, but in the process removed this small fairly flat piece that, with the neighbors nodding yes, I took home.

If only I were a woodworker. But I couldn’t let all of it just be gone forever. Maybe I’ll get to learn something new. (Hey, I know whose door to knock on now.)

Alright, here are the highlights.

What the guy is cutting in the last picture is around where what I took home came from. 

Oh I can definitely do that, too
Wednesday January 09th 2019, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I was at my lupus group meeting today for the first time in months. I don’t go when I’m contagious: it’s too dangerous to the others. Which means I missed September, October, November, and December. Been awhile, and I’ve been missing my friends.

There is someone there whose story is not mine to tell, but let’s just say that the hat I knit her awhile ago was both quite needed and, it turns out, better received than I had any idea: she told me how warm it kept her, how much she’d loved it all winter, that she wore it practically every day.

And that she’d lost it.

She was wearing a purple jacket as she was saying this and I knew in that instant that what I had would match it perfectly. The hat that had bugged me to finish it, that my elbow had yelled over, that had already taken three days when normally it would have been done in one, that I finally made myself just sit down and do after Anne’s box came so that it would be finished and I could be done with it and go on to Anne’s yarns (which I did). I cast off with both satisfaction and frustration: why had this commanded so much of my attention, at a gauge that’s painful right now, when I didn’t even have a recipient in mind.


“I just finished a purple one,” I told her, and her face lit up and she sat up a little straighter right then and there.

I handed her my phone at the Add Contact page so that I would know where to mail it and she wouldn’t have to wait till mid-February for the next meeting to get it. We do not live close to each other.

I got home from that meeting with just enough time to run in the yarn ends (oops–hadn’t done that yet, it was just a stash FO), drive to the post office, and get it in the mail before it was time to go get Richard.

Knowing some of the things she’s gone through, and knowing now how much what I’d made had meant to her, you bet she was getting another hat. And in a different color in case she ever finds the first one.

Man, that felt good.

The other thing she asked me?

To teach her how to knit.

Birthday girl
Monday January 07th 2019, 12:04 am
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

For Christmas a year ago, our chocolate-enthusiast youngest (wonder where he got that from?) gave his sister some cocoa butter in powder form that had been crystallized so as to properly temper chocolate. She wasn’t sure what to do with it at the time, but it still seemed fine yesterday as far as we could tell and would be a shortcut method to getting a proper temper, so we tried vigorously stirring 1% worth into the new chocolate as we poured it out of the melanger.

Which has to be where the speckles came from? But the swirls on just the one…?

Our bars came out of those molds not looking like anything we’d seen before nor expected but that chocolate definitely had the shine and snap of a good tempering, no matter what they looked like. I think the marbling pattern on the one is pretty. Just don’t ask me to reproduce it–I have no idea how we did that.

Wrapping them in aluminum foil was a bit of a comedown, but hey.

Tonight we were celebrating our friend Betty’s 94th birthday at church: a choral group sang for her, Russ and Jim played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as a duet on the pipe organ and grand piano, and Phyllis told stories on the life of the woman she thinks of as her adopted aunt. (She works near Betty’s nursing home and drops by often.)

Betty’s been blind since birth. We noted that Phyllis did not tell the story of the time Betty decided her late husband was too drunk to drive them home so she was going to do it, and did. Betty loves music, and tried learning the piano as a kid but found the accordion easier to find where her fingers should go and so that was her instrument. The lady is a kick, and she is fearless.

She had guide dogs for 71 years till old age caught up with her and she misses them.

She is mostly bedridden now but she made it through the evening in a wheelchair.

Richard had tucked one of our brand newly made bars of chocolate in his pocket on the way out our door.

Betty did like dark chocolate, she said, but couldn’t eat any more tonight. So the ironic thing is that it got shared in small pieces with just about everybody but her, but she and they had a fine time and that was the point.

One person had gotten her a birthday present: a long soft stuffed dog to hold across her lap in memory of all the dogs she’d loved, like a lap blanket to keep her warm on this cold and rainy day. She stroked it and then rested her hands on it and loved that her beloved dogs were thought of, too.

It had a face with the colors of a Saint Bernard but in the shape more of a German Shepherd.

I told her about my grand-dog the (mostly) Saint Bernard. She answered that German Shepherds in her experience were smarter and she liked those; I laughed and agreed and said that our Ludo is very sweet to our oblivious toddler grandson whose parents are working to teach him how to be nice to the dog, but she is emphatically not overly bright. (As I pictured Mathias’s gleeful, “PupPY?”) She’s good with him, and that’s what they need.

I hope someone brings a real dog by sometime for her to pet. I do know we need to stop by with some chocolate for when she can eat it. Maybe not quite so dark on that batch.

Lot and lots
Thursday January 03rd 2019, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

I know she didn’t do it to be thanked but I’m going to out loud anyway.

A little Anniversario, she offered? I’m never going to use it.

If you’re sure? I’d love!

And so a box showed up today that was big enough that I thought it was something entirely different that I’d been waiting for (more on that to come.) There were three and one dyelot-wise skeins of that Rios colorway, the prettiest rendition of Solis ever, an experimental Malabrigo run in merino/cashmere picked up at Imagiknit, and another in baby merino, spun thick… Yarn, yarn, more really good yarns–that photo just shows the top layer.

Wholly cowed–can I even do justice to all this? So soft. So pretty. 

So blown away. Thank you, Anne!

(P.S. And then she told me not to knit it for her but for other people. She’s on to me.)

At the returning of the light
Tuesday December 25th 2018, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

Dinner chez Nina, then home and FaceTime with kids and grandkids. Books and chocolate, lots of chocolate, and some very good yarn. Who knew the Japanese knitting stitches book was in English now?

Merry Christmas and every holiday celebrated and may the peace of goodwill be with us all.

Christmas Eve Eve
Sunday December 23rd 2018, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

The email went out this morning and it noted that that lack of prior notice was deliberate: they didn’t want people to feel stress about it. Just joy in each other’s company. Food was going to be provided. If you wanted to add something, sure, but no need, and please to know that they were not seeking sweets.

Which might explain the variety and number of bottles of shelf-stable juice.

We brought several pounds of grapes snipped into small bunches.

Thus church was one single 70-minute meeting that was mostly Christmas music: the choir, the children, the congregation–and then we adjourned to where long low tables were set up for the little ones, adult-height tables for the grownups, and chairs around the perimeter for those who just wanted to sit a moment while doing their mingling. That way, the brownian motion of small children was kept a little away from the frail elderly.

Fruit and more fruit. Rolls. Sliced ham. Vegetarian options. Condiments. Fruit juice, milk, everybody welcome. Go talk to someone you haven’t had a chance to before.

A homeless man I’d never seen before showed up and was welcomed to join in. It could well be that the regular attenders in that situation had let him know about it. Cool.

Richard got so caught up in talking to somebody that he downed the mango juice in his hands that actually happened to be mine, and was suddenly quite sheepish. Oops. (I’d run out of hands with the cane.)

That’s okay, there was plenty more.

Saturday December 22nd 2018, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

It is a recipe I will wish for forever and can never have.

Our daughter flew home from Europe via a stopover in Istanbul today. Or her yesterday but our today–“Is it Sunday here yet?”

No, still Saturday.

She was tired.

An older woman got on her flight at that airport who spoke maybe five words of English. She needed help. It took about five minutes of pantomiming between them and trying before it became clear: she needed to borrow a cable to recharge her phone.

Oh! Sure!

Turns out she needed help figuring out how to actually use it, too. No problem. Turns out her phone needed a new battery to take that charge better and faster, but at least they got it halfway there. You need it to work when you’re landing in a strange country trying to reach your family over at park and call.

And in profuse thanks the woman tried to shower her with good food.

She didn’t want to be rude but there was no way they could find enough words in common for her to be able to make sure that she wasn’t allergic to every bit of it–and so she accepted the tiny wrapped bites of good chocolate and the clearly freshly homemade biscotti inside that white napkin and brought it home to us for it to be properly appreciated.

Definitely butter in that, yes.

A nibble, one for him one for me, was the plan: the rest would go towards breakfast in the morning. But no, once we’d tried that perfect taste and texture we devoured it all. And I’m not usually someone who cares for biscotti–why break a tooth over something so dry and tasteless?

But THIS. Wow!

I’ve been trying to deconstruct it ever since. Probably superfine almond flour for most of the flour; the nuts were chopped fairly small and roasted to perfect crispness and flavor as if they’d just cooled from the oven. You had to have a hand under the result to catch what crumbled when you bit because you didn’t want to miss out on any of this. It might even have been made this morning–whatever day however many hours ago this morning started out as over there.

But then, you would expect a woman presumably from Turkey would know how to make this right. And boy did she. And I can’t even thank her.

I hope she gets her phone taken care of while she’s here.

88 and eight!
Thursday December 20th 2018, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Happy Birthday, Mom! And Parker!

And to Hazel B. in Pittsburgh and Lisa B. from knitting and Sterling A. and cousin Frances named after my mom after being born on her birthday and Carole K. And hey, Mom, Wendy B-B. who with her sisters grew up on Green Twig had her daughter on your birthday, so Jessey B’s on the 12/20 list, too. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday December 18th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

Tom Perriello is a good man. The mother could see that in his face in her moment of desperation, he could see how loved that child was when she approached him–ie, no, this wasn’t child trafficking, and wow what a story.

The Washington Post doesn’t say why the mother couldn’t fly home too right then. But in that moment that US citizen had to get her five-year-old daughter out of Sierra Leone. Fifteen years later, due to yet another chance meet-up, the woman found the man who had saved her daughter.

My old high school friend Katherine is in Sierra Leone now, working hard at providing schooling and medical care to girls there. I worry for her safety as she worries for theirs. She found that some were leaving classes because they could not afford food–so she’s got a fundraiser to pay for their lunches, here, if you’re interested. She takes zero overhead.

If you do or don’t I’ll never know and the amount doesn’t matter: every stitch in the sweater keeps it together. And a dollar goes a lot farther there.

How often do we get a chance to directly help girls in Africa who could not otherwise stay in school?

That’s okay, I can make more
Monday December 17th 2018, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

So the moss green Diamante found its owner yesterday, that Piuma did, too.

And I had one more with me.

It had been my last two skeins probably forever of the discontinued 70/30 baby alpaca/bamboo Chalet in a gray just slightly on the earthy side. It had worked up quickly while I’d waited for the next green hat yarn to arrive, it was soft and warm–and it had not yet found its home.

During the last meeting there were four of us sitting on our row on the side and as I looked across I knew that it would look so great on her. I debated: if I got up and went around to her at the end, it would be when the meeting would be over (since it was just about to start), everybody would be rising and talking and I wouldn’t hear a thing. If I just passed it down the row right now quick before the meeting, my ears were stuffed and she was far enough away that I wouldn’t hear a thing.

Not that it’s about me anyway. Okay so that settled it.

The woman next to me had just gotten one of my cowls in October and the woman next down had long since gotten hers and knew what I was up to, so no feelings were going to be hurt: I got it out and asked the other two to pass it on down.

The woman at the end was new and had not the slightest idea what was up as it was handed to her with grins on the others’ faces.

“It’s my favorite color!” she exclaimed once she got that no, this really was for her. Her next thought was, “Oh, my daughter’s going to steal this!”

I do have another good yarn that is gray…

Name redacted
Sunday December 16th 2018, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Friends

Last night had me waking up in the morning going, I didn’t cough! (Once or twice right at the beginning is all.) I can go to church! But we wore face masks, which was a good thing because if nothing else there was plenty in there that didn’t need a germ to make me cough when my lungs are primed to, and I did, and yeah, I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to think I was.

Face masks R Us.

I’d wanted to knit her a cowl for a long time. But time after time for like a year now, a frustrating time, it had just felt like, no, that’s the wrong color, or no, that’s the wrong yarn, or it just didn’t feel right for whatever reason. Even though I made several towards being for her, they all ended up going to other people. Too small, too wool…

Was it something wrong with me? Was it something wrong with my timing? If that, then, y’know, I *can* make her two, it’s not like it’s against the rules…

A couple of weeks ago I really wanted to get past whatever was stopping me and I said a prayer for her, asking for help getting it right whatever that might be because I sure wasn’t succeeding at it on my own. I mean, you almost cannot go wrong with…but I wanted to know.

And then I knit what felt right after that. I knit it. And this was right, I knew it was hers. At last.

My usual offer of a knitting project doesn’t usually start with the exclamation, “Finally!…” in relief and apology but today it did and it turned out that’s how it felt for her, too, and it was so needed and she so loved it and no I didn’t have to overdye the winter white to anything else, she liked this the way it was.

She’s a quiet observer. She’d seen other people with handknit cowls.

Nothing else would do for my needles on this one but Piuma cashmere: softest of the softest, knit generously in stitch count and length so as to be flattering on her size–there would be no second cowl from that 150 g cone, it’s a remnant now.

She cried. She was trying not to. They were not all happy tears but they were trying to be and there was so much I didn’t know and wasn’t about to ask and it was enough and we gave each other a hug (at a bit of a distance, I was really trying not to breathe on her even with the mask on).

And now she had a cashmere hug.

I know she’s been through a lot of late. She’s got three sons, newly grown, really good kids who are everything you could ask for them to be because they’ve got the best Mom but they’ve got relatives that have made life tough. They’ve had to move recently because of that.

Cashmere doesn’t fix everything but it says she’s not so quiet that she’s not noticed. She matters.

Their gift back
Friday December 07th 2018, 12:25 am
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I got word back about the undyed cashmere/cotton blanket that I knit awhile back, going beyond baby blanket size because I had the yarn and I could and that I told the parents they could use it for their new daughter or as an afghan on the couch–it was whatever they wanted it to be for.

Turns out it has gone through the laundry any number of times (shed a bunch of fluff in the process I have no doubt) and has done fine.

And, though they don’t let her toddle around the house dragging it behind her, their little girl goes to bed cuddling with it every night. It is the lovie that every knitter aspires for their baby blanket to become.

Love your dear ones
Sunday November 18th 2018, 12:00 am
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

My friend Lisa Souza of ditched dinner tonight after she looked out the window: instead, she and her husband were grabbing important papers and pets and throwing everything in the car at the speed of life.

She lives in a town some of the Camp Fire people had evacuated to.

A car on the road beyond had hit a power pole and gone down the embankment as the sky lit up in fire. Hours later she posted a picture she’d stopped a moment to snap that also showed headlights well below, pointed upwards, like, what just happened??

She reported that somehow the guy inside was okay and that the firefighters had tamped down the ferocious brilliance and were only checking for hotspots now. Those guys are good at what they do and I for one could never ever imagine doing it. Wow.

Our AQI is down to 144, rain is forecast for Wednesday and it looks like everybody will finally get a break.

What I really wanted to write about was all the cool stuff I knitted today, but I just didn’t. As the lungs slowly find clarity I intend to have more oomph. Tomorrow would be good.

A key moment
Thursday November 08th 2018, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I ran some errands yesterday and the post office was high on that to-do list but I utterly forgot. Got some great Malabrigo at Cottage Yarns, though!

Which is a bit of a trek. Got back home, put my feet up a moment and had a bite, looked at the clock and suddenly realized what I’d forgotten, sighed at the rush hour traffic I could nearly have dodged but wouldn’t now, and headed back out to do that one last errand.

They say that in the last twelve years we’ve had the equivalent of ten cities the size of ours superimposed over the Bay Area.

But going back out again when I did means I happened to be right there when my neighbor was and she was clearly in a bad way. I stopped the car and asked how she was doing. (Another neighbor had seen her fallen in her yard a week ago and had helped her to her feet.)

“Not well,” she told me.

Turns out what she most needed right then was a ride to the car dealership to replace the key for her car. It was right on my way. She hadn’t been about to ask, but I definitely offered and not having to make that long walk right now was clearly a huge relief to her. Neither one of us thought she would have been able to, although neither one of us quite said that.

I’d never seen her using a walker before.

“I can’t take any painkillers,” she happened to mention.

“I can’t take any NSAIDs, my deafness is from an aspirin allergy,” I nodded. I knew what it was like to have to go without. As I put her walker in my back seat I mentioned that mine was in the trunk (even if I haven’t had to use it for quite awhile now.)

“You’ve been through everything.” She said it like it meant I was someone she could say stuff to who could hear it and not flinch. She wasn’t liking this instant little old lady stuff but she was trying to be at her best. She said it again. She was trying to keep her pain from turning her inward, as pain always wants to do.

I dropped her off, did my post office run, swung back on by and picked her up again and brought her home and made sure she was good as best I could. “Alright, my dear,” she smiled, waving me on.

Then into my own driveway.

And was so very very glad that earlier in the day I’d forgotten to run the one errand I’d had to do most. Or that I’d thought was the most important.

Hey, Dani, look!
Tuesday November 06th 2018, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Mango tree,Politics

Glued to the election returns, glad there will be some checking and balancing–always a good thing.

Meantime, the heat is working in the mango tree’s enclosure but, um, not so much in ours. Brrr. Hoping I can reach our HVAC guy in the morning.

So I thought I’d chill out by posting a bunch of tropical-tree pictures so Dani could see how what he instigated into being four years ago is doing. (Don’t worry about that dusting of cinnamon, that’s just anti-ant.)

I need to ask: are you supposed to let them ripen on the tree? (Why the traditional store-it-in-camel-dung method? All my camel comes in yarn form only.) I know pears have to be picked unripe or they’ll go mushy first, and every reference to Alphonso mangoes I’ve found (that would probably be two) said to let them ripen in warm temps, picked. How do you know it’s time to?

I love that I finally get to need to ask.