The taming of the flew
Saturday September 08th 2018, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

For the first time since spring, a Cooper’s hawk swooped around the bird feeder this afternoon and back to the trees.

I saw the new one try a couple of times back around March but it just didn’t have the pattern down of how to pick out one fat dove when it’s alone and scare it into going the wrong direction, where the windows offer up a take-out meal. The older Coopernicus knew exactly where that glass was and how to use it, to the point of coming and perching a few feet away and inspecting after I’d washed the windows, but not this one. And then there was this human that wanted to watch it, and it didn’t like that at all.

My aging friend in his day was content to preen nearby and to make eye contact with me, even following my gaze.

The new generation was having none of it nor me. I thought it had simply moved on to better hunting grounds.

But equinox is in two weeks and with it comes the need to make territorial claims visible again.

I had wondered if I would even get to see one here again. Well that answers that question.

Things are looking up.

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. 

The sounds of their voices
Thursday September 06th 2018, 10:59 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

I picked up a cowl project that had been abandoned early on in the push to get the baby blanket done and sat down to watch the Kavanaugh hearings, a little yesterday, more so, today.

When he said he grew up “around here,” with drugs and gangs and so he professed empathy for gun violence victims, I went, wait…what? Turns out he grew up in Bethesda. So did I. Let me tell you, no, he did not grow up in a violent neighborhood, not by a very long, well, shot, and there are no bad neighborhoods in my hometown. Gary Hart, one-time presidential contender, lived in the neighborhood. So did Neil Armstrong for two years. Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, in a house his grandfather had designed for his dad. Stephen Colbert’s family was across the street and in the house next to that, (a little later) Steve Rosenberg, Ronald Reagan’s cancer surgeon, whose kids I used to babysit on Friday nights. I’m name-dropping shamelessly to make a point: the house my folks built way out in the woods in the middle of, at the time, nowhere, turned out to be a town where you wanted to live if you could.

But here’s where it got interesting: the split screen was gone by the late afternoon and one could only hear the Senators now. The camera did not pan to them. So I don’t know who it was, although I’m guessing Richard Blumenthal? But after all the speechifying and talking at Kavanaugh, here was the quiet, calm voice of what sounded like a father figure of a man talking *to* him.

About what it was like to stand in Sandy Hook Elementary. To see the pictures. To see what such a weapon does to a child’s body, and why there is no place for it in a civil society. To grieve those first-graders who would never get to grow up, to stand in that place with and for their parents. The speaker understood Kavanaugh’s idealistic take on the Second Amendment, but there was this real life side of things, too, and real consequences to people, people who mean everything to other people.

He spoke with the respect that he clearly hoped Kavanaugh would grab onto and live up to from this moment on.

It was a moment of clarity offered amidst the bombast. I was impressed.

Kavanaugh, for his part, after nearly three days of being challenged and judged, clearly had not expected this. The issue, yes. Presented in a way that could not be argued against because it was offered with understanding of his point of view at the same time, no.

That’s when he used his hometown as his “so I get it, I know,” which, I’m sorry, was so far out in left field that one could only shake one’s head.

His questioner gently continued along the same lines.

At the end, Sen. Grassley puffed about how great a man sat before us and how much he had satisfied the inquiries of these last two (he later said three–maybe someone slipped him a note) days.

With the camera only on Kavanaugh, there it was: his eyes darted hard to the side and back when Grassley called him a good man. His jaw twitched and his face clenched when told he was a great judge. It was clear: he didn’t believe it.

Whether that was imposter syndrome or the tell of an actual imposter, I guess we’ll have to find out one way or another. But he did not look comfortable in his own skin in that moment when the praises were the most effusive.

Only when–Blumenthal?–treated him with not fawning but actual respect even in disagreement, that, his body language and voice responded to in kind. It was the only time I’ve seen it in him.

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.

Les fraises
Sunday September 02nd 2018, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food


We were going to make sorbet but found a small Rubbermaid in the back of the freezer with the last of the strawberry from last year. Done.

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.

You mean I can knit anything now?
Friday August 31st 2018, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

And in this section of the yarn museum we have the live installation by the visiting 5’11” granddaughter of an art dealer, illuminating the perception of the fleet-ing moment.

Of which there were not, however, a boatload.

Duration: thirty seconds.

Title: Long Drink of Water.

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.

Here let me show you what I did wrong
Saturday August 25th 2018, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

There’s a knit two rows purl two rows knit two rows sequence between the squares. When I picked the blanket up again after not working on it for a week while we had company, I somehow only did the first two rows of that sequence of six. I did not see it till I was more than that much further along.

So my choices are:

1. Ignore it. Carry on. Got a ball and a half left to go. (It’s very stretchy sideways, while the picture is with it kind of scrunched in at the sides, so you can definitely add more length, not to mention their kids are tall. But then their daddy is over 6’9″.)

2. Cut it just above the spot, carefully undo enough rows to have plenty of yarn to be able to cast off right there (and where you would want that to be in the pattern), rip out the eighteen hours’ worth of wasted work and have a do-over at the top.

3. Cut it and do all that but flip it over and kitchener (ie graft) the now-live stitches from the top of the bottom to the bottom of the top (only 210 stitches, who’s counting) after I finish those balls and ignore that the stitches will be suddenly upside down to the rest of the blanket. Like nobody will ever know.

4. Which brings us back to, well then hey, ignore it without all that extra work.

But if I just leave it It. Will. Bug. Me.

I think reknitting every one of those inches will be dependent on the baby hopefully refusing to be too much of a preemie, but it’s what I should do.

Like any kind of ribbing, it’s a slow-going pattern.

The thought occurred to me today that y’know, if I could find a match on the dyelot (wishful thinking) then I could actually come out of this with two afghans, after all, one’s a third of the way there already…

Although I think I’d make a plain wide border all around the shorter piece I’m going to cut off. One can only do so much.

Now, who has a full bag of Rios in Cian in stock in a lighter shade than some and with no green in it that I can buy?