Stone aged
Sunday September 09th 2018, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I had a favorite blouse I was going to wear to church today. It’s a cheerful reddish-plum color and I was looking forward to it.

I could not find it this morning for the life of me. Not in the closet? Not in the ironing. So strange. I searched both places multiple times wondering what on earth was wrong with me that something so obvious could somehow just not be found like that.

Eh. I gave up and wore something else. Something in a deep teal blue. (I took a photo to show you but the blog ate it.)

Something that…hey, yes, definitely matched the lapis and sterling necklace Frances Begay made me a number of years ago. I realized in surprise as I took it out that I hadn’t worn it in several months despite how very much I like it. This other blouse was the perfect thing to wear it with. Well then.

There was a new face at church, there just for the day as it turned out, a woman my age and style both in hair and clothes and we found ourselves out by the water fountain after the main meeting at the same time.

She looked at that Navajo necklace and exclaimed how much she liked it; she had a squash blossom one, herself. She reached tentatively with a “may I?” to hold it up for a closer look at the details.

The design was “Basket of Blessings,” and my daughter had commissioned the pendant for me, and I, the silver-beaded chain from the artist.

That focal point created a connection on the spot, and we two women of the turquoise generation found ourselves swapping stories and laughing together as the clock ticked on as if we’d known each other our entire lives.

She was in the middle of the stress of helping a kid move while tending to other family while being away from home.

I was so glad she’d come. She was so glad for those moments. We parted friends, even if I never heard her last name.

It hit me a little later: I was suddenly so glad I hadn’t been able to find the blouse that would never have gone near that necklace.

Twist my arm
Friday September 07th 2018, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

So after two weeks of cabin fever and after a one-mile test run to Trader Joe’s last night, I decided today was the day to set myself free.

Or maybe not–after all, by this time last year they were all gone. But this has been a longer, cooler season.

Andy’s, on the phone: Sure, we’ve got lots!

And so I drove down to Morgan Hill and bought a case of Cal Reds for me and one for my friend Catherine. I got a bag of Fairtimes and one of Rio Oso, I think the other one was? They were so big that only two peaches fit in each.

I dropped the bag of Fairtimes. At least it wasn’t the cases and at least I didn’t drop them till I was already home and it was an easy problem to fix. What you can’t see in that picture is the juice that’s already puddling on that small plate, reminding me of James Beard’s description of how to eat a good mango: in private and in a bathtub.

It would not wait until I could share it. Despite its size, it demanded to be devoured alone.

So be that way. 

Both root and branch
Wednesday September 05th 2018, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Life

Ya gotta love that purplish-pink.

The tree people, whom I thought were coming first thing in the morning (but that could have been my bad hearing), didn’t get here till the afternoon. The house across the street had people at work there, too, by then.

Which means when the plumber came the poor guy had to haul his heavy equipment down the block to get to us.

All three men were at it for several hours. When the FedEx guy couldn’t get past all those tree branches on the ground to deliver my twenty pounds of cocoa, the tree guys brought it up to my door so I wouldn’t have to lift it with that broken rib.

Bernie, fighting roots, went back to his truck to get something. The tree guys seemed to be wrapping it up. The guy I commissioned the job through (and whom I’ve worked with for years) showed up, took a look around, and told them that that big limb swinging an elbow over the roof had to go, too.

Bernie came around the corner and up the walkway just then.

Chris, in surprise: “Who are you?” It was a friendly blink.

I explained.

Chris headed out, his guys cut that limb, and one was sweeping up as the other was working the chipper.

I stepped halfway down the walk and looked up at that towering oak and said, It can’t be over the house. From that vantage point it looked like it was, although looking at it later from the street I wasn’t so sure it had been.

But the young guy wanted me to be happy with it: “I will cut it back for you.” (Photo taken afterwards. Sorry it went sideways.)

They went at it for twenty more minutes and did just that and it looked great. I met them with fresh apple cider after all that hard work, with refills.

It is going to take some time to get used to how bright the kitchen is now. You still see green leaves out the windows, but the house is no longer in shadow. It felt this evening like we’d added extra hours of daylight and gone straight back to summer.

Today we run, tomorrow we pay
Tuesday September 04th 2018, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Her first appointment was at seven across town and then she came back to get us, mine was right after we dropped Richard off at work. Her next one was at ten, my audiologist at 11:45 five cities south, and she drove drove drove to give me another day off from having to do that and to get me where I needed to go.

I waved goodbye as her ride took her off for the airport, started a load of laundry, walked in the bathroom a few minutes later at the other end of the hall–and stumbled into this reverse-direction Niagara gushing upwards out of the bottom of the toilet all the way up to the seat and flooding across the room and down that part of the hall. I had never seen anything quite like it.

Showers, faucets…everywhere else in the house was fine.

I managed to turn the washing machine and the water to the toilet off while thinking, I guess I just mopped my floor with laundry detergent. Got my money’s worth out of that load, didn’t I?

I was soaked. The towels still are. But at least all this had waited till our daughter’s weekend with us was over–and, I’d run the underwear load first and it was done. Go me.

The plumber told me to call the city, the city told me to call the plumber, the tree guy got a dial tone in edgewise to say they were coming first thing in the morning to trim away anything overhanging the house like the homeowner’s insurance demanded (I’d been hoping they could squeeze me in this week and they were making it happen), I called the agent, and then the city’s plumber showed up after all.

By this time it was about six.

His truck was blocking my car. No problem; I was pretty sure I could get around him to go pick up Richard. This time, there really was no choice but to get behind that wheel, broken rib or no broken rib.

As he watched me come up next to my–it turned out, dud of a car, I was befuddled–and then suddenly burst out laughing, laughing that was the antidote to the intensity of the day, so much so that he laughed, too. It was so unexpected, because she always, always remembers, even when I don’t.  She’s so careful about it. But she’d gotten up so early.

It’s quite my fault. After a dozen years I still have never gotten a back-up key fob for that car. They’re too expensive (something like $250 last I checked) the car’s too old to bother and I’m too cheap.

Richard Ubered home.

Hey, I can splurge all that fob money I saved on the plumber now!

At 16 and 17 and ’18
Monday September 03rd 2018, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I was in a discussion group Sunday where the subject was, what do you do to fight off depressive thoughts?

My rather long answer was this. (In retrospect, hey, it wasn’t even about knitting!)

When I was a teen, my aunt had twins. She complained of pain for several days afterwards and was dismissed. She said, But I’ve had children before and it was never like this.

Oh lady you’ve never had twins before.

With the end result that her appendix burst on the operating table after they were finally listening to her. It was a very near thing.

Her doctor then sat her down and told her that he’d seen too many patients with so many responsibilities–she had six kids including those newborn twins–after serious medical circumstances go spiraling downward and downward and downward and he did not want it to happen to her. He prescribed her an hour a day of exercise. Go join a gym. I don’t care how you do it, do it. You must.

Which is how my then-sixteen-year-old sister with the brand new driver’s license got flown out to California for the summer to help out. I was seventeen; I had a summer nanny job I was committed to. I tried not to be jealous, and by all accounts it sounded like Anne had the time of her life. The greatest human need is to be needed and boy was she ever.

But I never forgot that lesson. I was already in the habit of race-walking several miles a day and that cemented the idea for life: exercise isn’t just to stay in shape or control weight, it’s to help a person be in charge of how they feel about their life.

I am typing this just after getting off the treadmill that was a gift from Scrabblequeen Ruth some time ago. (Thank you, Ruth!) I’ve been experimenting: if I hold my right arm by my side will it bother my rib less?

I did put off using it for several days after the break, and rightly so, but when I finally used it again the rest of me felt so much better that it seems to me to be worth it.

We’ll see what my doctor says tomorrow. If there’s a better way to follow my aunt’s old doctor’s counsel, then I’ll do that. But I think we’re good.

Saturday September 01st 2018, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

There’s a new chocolate shop in Santa Cruz and we wanted to check it out. How would it compare to our old favorite? We had to go to both on the same day to know, right?

What better way to celebrate having our daughter in town?

Given that seven million people live in the San Francisco Bay area and that there are only three routes over the mountains between San Francisco and well south of San Jose and two of those are two-lane roads and what beach traffic on a holiday is like, we hit the road before nine, and only had to do a little stop-and-go. We knew it would mean we’d have time to kill when we got there, but spending that time parked on the freeway vs walking around in our favorite beach town, hey.

Downtown parking before ten, no problem.

We bought books at Bookshop Santa Cruz in thanks for their being open for us. I tried to remember exactly what it looked like before the ’89 quake destroyed the original; there’s a plaque on the building saying they’d reused the iron balconies from the old on the new to try to keep some of the history of the place. I remembered an upstairs restaurant, I think in that building, long gone….

The doors were open on the sock store across the street, too. They had a pair that pictured cats playing on stacks of books: for $8, I’d found the one thing that most describes my friend Constance. Hey. That’s a splurge I could do.

We ate an early lunch at our old favorite, which is a restaurant as well.

They did not know the competition they were in, and turns out they were definitely not having their best day. The service was good but the food and the chocolate both were surprisingly off. Sipping chocolate as grainy pudding? Michelle’s no-dairy version was problematical, too. We felt bad for them.

The second chocolate place had had a note on the door apologizing that they would have to open late today, or we would have eaten there first. Dessert and life being uncertain and all that.

That’s okay. Mutari was definitely worth the wait.

The address listed on a news article someone had linked to that had clued us in to their existence turned out to be old and wrong but we found their new place via our phones.

Having just had that other sipping chocolate, one small spoonful of Mutari’s and I gasped, Oh WOW! Wow. What chocolate! What a difference. This is seriously the best.

We tried their fruit confection. It was hard not to buy a whole lot more on the spot.

We tried their truffles.

We agreed that there was no place but this place that we would go to for chocolate in Santa Cruz from now on. These guys truly know what they’re creating.

The proprietor asked if we wanted to sample their bars, too?

We were stuffed but we weren’t going to turn that down. Curiosity had been the point of the whole expedition. Sure!

She brought out four jars of broken bits with the names of each on top and a board with matching rows of the same laid out, one of each for each of us.

Just behind us as we tasted was a long row of 50 Kg bags of cacao beans stacked on each other, the origin of each stenciled on the burlap. As they said in the store, sometimes there’s a different flavor at the top of a hill than the bottom of the hill of the same variety of cacao and they make micro batches that let you try them individually.

Some of those definitely were coming home with us.

The woman was such a delight that had the cowl project in my purse been done I would have cast off and handed it to her on the spot.

Mutari. If you can go there, go there.

Changing lanes
Thursday August 30th 2018, 7:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A full-size Bugatti made out of Legos. No glue. Holds two. It actually runs. Frankly, in the last picture, where they’re shown side-by-side, the Lego one is a lot cooler looking; they need to paint the real one to look like that if they want to have a really hot car.

Of course this means instant inspiration and aspiration on the part of the Lego enthusiasts among the grandkids that they won’t outgrow any more than the folks who built this did. Talk about a dream job.

Wednesday August 29th 2018, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Life

Trying to do my usual treadmill time for a few days after last Thursday’s fall made it increasingly clear that there was some damage that had to be looked at.

I got two tentative steps in last night and went, Nope. (Hopping off.) Too soon.

I set the thing to 1.7 mph tonight and took the tiniest, quickest little baby steps, desperate for more than the doctor’s “take it easy” and to get at least some kind of exercise while that bone’s healing. I was even fine till about five minutes in. I kept going for another two because I’m kind of stupid like that.

It was worth it.

Don’t tell on me. (Oh wait I just did.)

p.s. The fig needed one more day, so I let it have it. Tomorrow!

Every day is okay that starts with a fresh fig right off the tree
Tuesday August 28th 2018, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

It is a wonderful thing to walk outside first thing in the morning, find a fig drooping from the weight of the sugar and juiciness it attained to bird-free and to bring it inside to share. There was one yesterday, too, and there will be another tomorrow.

Also yesterday: my new doctor said he didn’t think anything was broken because I didn’t react strongly enough to his prodding around for the sore spot. I told him that one thing he needed to know about me was that my ability to feel pain is diminished (which…can be nice…) and that’s why having this hurt like it does when I move the wrong way was a surprise.

Thus the x-ray.

The report came today: “Slightly displaced fracture of the right anterior ninth rib…”

He gave me a prescription for a few nights’ worth of Lidocaine patches, not enough to get me through till I see him again next week but I figured I’d gone three nights with this already on my own, so no big deal. He assured me they did not cross-react with the categories of painkillers I’m allergic to.

I’d never used them before. I put the first one on right before bed.

Blink. “How fast are these supposed to kick in?” I asked Richard. “Because, wow.”

I woke up amazed at how much of a difference a good night’s sleep makes.

I’m looking forward to that next fig in the morning.

A rib-ayyyy! stake
Monday August 27th 2018, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Life

I tried to drive Richard to work, made it one block, bailed and turned around and he later left work early to take me in. Passengering, it turned out, ie getting to sit still, was much easier.

“If it’s broken we treat it with painkillers. If it’s not broken we treat it with painkillers. Do you want the x-ray anyway?”

I flashed back to the pediatrician telling us it was going to take a year for our child’s damaged muscles to heal, and it did, and the idea of that vs. a broken rib healing in six weeks or so? Yes, definitely I’d like to know which one I was in for while it hurts to cough or breathe deep.

My doctor retired a few weeks ago and I got assigned to the new guy and life gave me a chance to–or rather, demanded that I–scope him out to see what I thought.

Young, Asian, tall, hipster with a man bun and an easygoing manner and a quick sense of humor. Okay, I think he’ll do just fine. I’m not an uncomplicated patient medically, but he struck me as someone who, if he didn’t know would happily go and find out. He went over the list of painkillers I can’t take and assured me that my history of liver lesions from the Crohn’s should not stop me from taking Tylenol.

“You gotta quit falling.” A good-natured, half-pleading, fully-understanding statement.

“Working on that,” I grinned.

(Still waiting for the reading on that x-ray.)

If only I could clone mine
Sunday August 26th 2018, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Yesterday I mentioned to Richard that I’d been thinking I ought to call my childhood friend Karen. I just really needed to. It had been awhile. Right then happened to be when I was on my way out to pick up the drycleaning and groceries but I wanted to remember to do it. I almost just stopped right there, and wondered why on earth I wasn’t, but it turned out later worked out better anyway.

Because a few hours later, as we were getting ready to go out with friends, he said to me, Were you going to call…

Oh! Right, thank you!

She happened to be celebrating our mutual friend Kathleen’s birthday with her when that phone rang. We three have been close since high school and I make a point of seeing them any time I’m back East. They live about 45 minutes apart.

Kathleen needed someone celebrating her right now.

They just didn’t quite know how to pick up the phone and cheerfully convey the news that hey, guess what, Bob cheated and we split and how was your day?

Kathleen needed me to know, and I think she needed to be with the close friend when the far-away one mourned what was by now old hat to both of them but no less intense a source of pain. The virtual hug and the real one came together in those moments.

I had no way to know. I’m so glad Richard remembered to remind me to call.

Sinking feeling
Thursday August 23rd 2018, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

There’s some construction going on next to my husband’s commute with a lot of digging and we found ourselves going over a set of steel plates set on the road across from all that. Well, okay, there’s a utility-undergrounding project going on on that road but why the half-mile gap?

The plates were a bit wet last week.

Our water table is high enough that you can’t build basements, and I figured it was just displaced water from the construction work. Although, this was at a high enough elevation that it surprised me that it would happen there.

Then there was standing water.

Then there was an actual, splashing puddle this week, and he was Not Happy about driving over those plates and wondered why the city hadn’t gotten on this pronto.

The things you learn after being married 38 years….

Turns out that when he was a teen, growing up in a house that was about halfway down a steep hill, there was a water leak next to the road at the bottom there. A crew came out to try to patch it but they couldn’t find the source and while they looked, the amount steadily increased. Not good. They had the road blocked off to traffic, but finally had to ask the neighbors to move their cars off the street altogether so they could test further up.

So Richard U-turned the family cars and got them out of the way–this after having run various errands and having parked in front of the house a few times.

The guy jammed some kind of pole through the roadway to test what was underneath.

There was no longer anything underneath. Where my in-laws’ cars had just been, there was nothing but a huge cavernous sinkhole below the roadbed starting at the upper edge of their property, going the width of the street, about twelve feet deep, and thirty or forty feet long and he got to see just exactly how close he’d just come.

He definitely did not want to be driving over those steel plates.

Yesterday and today there were men standing in the hole he’d been sure was being created there. The men’s heads in that pit were at street level and it took up two and a half lanes of traffic (no bike lane for you!) with several flag men to keep people from driving into the abyss or each other as westbound diverted into eastbound.

A little water is like a little kindness: it can quietly move that stubborn mountain out of the way all by its little self.

Do the Twist
Sunday August 19th 2018, 9:57 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Spinning

I laughed out loud when I read it: it was like the Smithsonian guide all over again.

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged this before but I’m not finding it, so here goes.

We were in DC visiting family back when the kids were growing up and took them to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Where I noted that they had a walking wheel and a jacquard loom but no gossip wheels, no treadle wheels at all for that matter, no knowledge of what distaffs were used for, just a complete lack of information on what a part of our history those all played in colonial America.

The book “No Idle Hands” relates the story of Old Ma Rinker during the Revolutionary War. Her family owned a tavern the British thought was loyal to the Crown, so their officers would gather there to discuss strategy. The word would be passed on to her in a note, she would wind a ball of yarn around it, then take her flax up the hill for the day to lay it out to rett, waiting for George Washington’s soldiers to ride on by below while she sat and knitted. She would toss the ball of yarn down to them (not the one she was knitting from) and helped save the day at Valley Forge. (Where other women delivering supplies nearly got shot at because as they rode in on their horses, their petticoats showed. And petticoats were always dyed red in those days. Redcoats! The British! Shuddup, Fred, it’s me, Irma.)

A distaff is what you attach to your spinning wheel to hold the retted flax while you turn it into linen yarn.

So here we are at the museum, and a man walks by holding what looked like a small glass aquarium. Inside was white fluff and–chaff?–and some kind of mechanical something and a handle. He told us that it was Eli Whitney’s actual cotton gin; did we want to try it?

I would never in a million years have pictured it as being something that small. Tractor sized, or rather horse-pulling-sized, but look at that!

I asked him, May I?


I picked up some of the ginned cotton and began to draw it: hold the wad in the left hand, pull slowly, steadily but firmly with the right hand, twisting as the left lets a little out and a little more and a little more, twist, twist, twist. Voila! A single-spun yarn! Not very long, but hey. (Hope that doesn’t wreck your exhibit, sorry, as I handed it back to him.)

The docent was dumbfounded. “How did you do that?! I’ve been trying to do that for years!”

You can’t just twist, I told him, then it just untwists back to the way it was. You have to draw and twist both. Pressure with the twisting.

You ply going one way, spin another strand going the same way when you’re done, then ply them together twisting the other way to create a balanced yarn that hangs flat so the fabric you make from it doesn’t skew sideways.

(With an unspoken, Hey, buddy, you want more info for your exhibit? Call me.)

So. Someone got an Ig Noble prize for figuring out why dry spaghetti noodles always break the characteristic way they do and someone else was intrigued and wanted to know: is it actually possible, then, to break dry spaghetti into two equal halves?

And the answer turned out to be yes.

But you have to twist it just so as the pressure is applied for it to work.

Kudos to Kooba
Friday August 17th 2018, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

Back in January, I needed a black purse for my father-in-law’s funeral. I found one at Costco that, well, I wasn’t sure it would hold up well past a year but it was certainly not expensive given that it was leather and it was big enough for traveling. Good enough. I needed one immediately. I was glad to have it.

There was some fraying on the straps ten days later.

One simply came unglued at five months.

All the more incentive to get my Charlotte Ronson knitting bag rehabbed, and I did that, but meantime out of curiosity I looked up Kooba. One of my daughters had a Kooba bag that was a very nice leather, well designed, which was part of why I’d bought the one I did. Hers was similar to this one and it was made to last a long time.

Their website said they warrantied any bag bought at a full price outlet for one year.

So I sent them a question: did Costco count as a full price outlet? (I mean, I’d paid a tenth of the list on that other and I’d expected going in that I was only going to be getting what I’d paid for.) My guess was the answer was going to be no, and reasonably so.

The person who usually dealt with such customer inquiries was out on a medical emergency. Which I found out when the vice president of the company personally stepped in after a few weeks and asked if anything had been done yet?

Actually, no it hadn’t (but then I hadn’t been expecting anything.) He explained the delay, apologized, followed up with several emails–

–and today this showed up in the mail. (Picture taken after the paper stuffing came out.)

It is the same as the one I bought–except that the leather is better.

They really didn’t have to do that. But I’m very very happy they did.

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.